Hello, my name is Casey Henry. I am the owner and founder of South Tampa Paintball and here’s my story. The first time I played paintball I was 12 years old. I went with a youth group in Dade City Florida to a field called Hosers and Snipers.
Immediately hooked, I began playing paintball nearly every weekend and joined a team that travelled around the state to play tournaments. Playing paintball every weekend was expensive and my family couldn’t afford to support the level of dedication I wanted to put into this sport I had grown to love.
I took up a lot of odd jobs as a kid including mowing lawns, pulling weeds, cleaning pools, and working at a hog farm which led me to join 4H. The first year I raised a hog for the Pasco county fair I was about 14 years old.
Below is a picture of my team and I winning 3rd place at a tournament:
Two years into paintball, I found myself overwhelmed by work and advanced placement classes in high school. Between holding jobs, juggling high school, college classes, and discovering a new passion in playing the piano, paintball fell off the face of my world. I never dreamt of what would happen in the coming years.
After graduating high school, I attended Florida State University. A year later, I decided to transfer to the University of South Florida and pursue a degree in Finance. During that time I expressed interest to one of my friends about starting a paintball business. My friend at the time was also interested in making a monetary investment in real estate or something of that nature.
In my final semester at USF, an email from one of my professor’s caught my eye with the subject line: “Business Plan Competition with $15,000 Prize.” In a matter of a month or two, my friend and now business partner started working toward creating a paintball business to make passive income while our real estate investment appreciated.
I wrote a business plan for the paintball field operation and submitted it to the University of Florida’s Fintech Business Competition. Out of around 25 submissions, my business plan was one of seven invited to present in front a distinguished panel of local entrepreneurs. In April of 2013 I, the only undergraduate student presenting solo against six other groups of MBA students, won the top prize of $15,000 to help fund my paintball business.
The next month, in May of 2013, we closed on a piece of virgin property approximately 12 minutes from downtown Tampa across from the port and next to a railroad station in an area with very little restrictions. We bought a very valuable piece of property for a steal.
Then in August, I graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. From early 2013 until August 23, 2014, my business partner and I worked every day in addition to our full time weekday jobs. We built the entire field from scratch and bootstrapped all of the start-up costs.
I provided all of the intellectual property for the business as my partner hadn’t ever even touched a paintball gun until we started the venture. I also invested about $30,000 of my own money in addition to the $15,000 prize money I secured, which was quite a lot for me considering I was only 20 years old and a recent graduate with student loans.
The website, point of sale system, employee training, and operation systems were all designed and created by me. The paintball equipment, netting, field layouts, and most of the industry-specific requirements were completed by me. My business partner was largely the monetary investor who did a large part of the handy work, as well as getting utilities in place like electricity, a well, and other general amenities for the land.
We hand-planted the seeds that grew into the luscious green fields you see today. Every weekend during the summer I mowed for several hours straight several acres with a household push mower in flip flops, hence the green toes. I mowed so fast that some of the handymen working at the field asked me if the mower had an electric assist. When I told them that it did not, they would say “Wow, you could never pay me to do that.”
I weed-whacked, dug trenches, glued and buried pipes, post-hole dug, trimmed trees, painted, hooked up an electric fence, operated a trash pump every two hours during several nights of rain to keep our retention ditch from overflowing, wheelbarrowed all kinds of stuff across several acres of land, and made so many trips to home depot, I hope to never set foot in one of them again.
It was just like being a kid again, working a bunch of odd jobs to pay for paintball, except this time, I was working to build a paintball field of my own.
Since our grand opening, the business has outperformed even my wildest speculations and has been a great success. I worked every weekday at my full time job as CFO of the law firm, MattLaw and worked every weekend as a manual laborer and glorified cashier at my own business for the firs two years.
Every Saturday I worked 6AM to 7PM and Sunday from 8AM to 9PM. Every Monday through Friday I worked 8AM to 5PM. It was the hardest three years of my life. And as a 21, 22, and 23 year old, I missed out on a lot of fun opportunities to hang out with friends and family on the weekends. In my business plan, I created a three year financial projection report. Our three year anniversary is/was August 23rd and we have grossed triple my original three year estimations.
I’m so proud of what I have accomplished and the things I’ve learned along the way. However, it was not easy and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. South Tampa Paintball was and still is a major success. I wouldn’t trade my experiences and the people I met throughout this journey for the world. Here are a couple tips for all the young entrepreneurs out there:
Thanks for checking out the story of my first business venture. I hope you found it entertaining as well as enlightening.
Stay safe and have fun!
Casey L. Henry