Diary Of…An entrepreneur

Henry R. Woodman is a second-year master of business administration in entrepreneurship student. His interests include golf, movies and fine wine. He also enjoys traveling, conducting his business, being with his family, and practicing a healthy lifestyle. He is a member of the Strategic Forum Student group. His favorite quote is “Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.”

My journey as an entrepreneur began more than 30 years ago with an addiction. It was 1979, and I was a sophomore at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I was addicted to video games. My muse was PAC-MAN. One Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in a self-serve laundromat with a pocket full of quarters and two hours to waste jonesing for PAC-MAN.  I went to my apartment, grabbed the yellow pages — there was no Internet, computer or mobile phones — and called every laundromat in Tucson. By the time I graduated, I had a video game set up in every laundromat but six, only because they declined.

Using my skills from my degree in TV production and psychology, I formed a production company with a partner called WoodMark Productions to produce travel films. My first major client was Eastern Airlines, which at the time liked to brag that it was the largest airline in the free world.  I produced and directed travel films for almost a decade, and as surprising as it sounds, I got tired of traveling.

As luck would have it, one of the countries I filmed in, Chile, presented opportunities. When former dictator Augusto Pinochet left power in 1990, newly-formed TV networks needed content. I flew to Chile, pitched a few ideas to the new networks, and within two months, I had a primetime show on the air called “Machos.” There was a point where I thought I’d be in Chile the rest of my life, but I missed the U.S. — my friends, my family, the culture, the infrastructure and the bigger pool of opportunity. I missed traveling.

I moved back to my home town of Miami and contacted some old clients who asked if I could produce a CD-ROM. “Yes, of course,” I lied. Like any good producer, I surrounded myself with people who knew what they were doing. We convinced the clients to create a CD-ROM with new virtual reality tours. As a result, in 1997, I formed World Travelvision to produce digital content for the travel industry.

Years later, clients asked if we could help distribute that content. Being client centric, I naively set out to build an Internet Content Exchange Portal, ICE Portal, to solve our clients’ problem: how to distribute their visuals to thousands of travel sites. Once again, I had surrounded myself with a culture of digital aficionados and IT geeks, who helped create ICE Portal. In short, we put “heads in beds” by helping hotels, cruise ships and destinations create great visuals that are distributed to thousands of travel Web sites in nine languages. When you see a video or virtual tour of a hotel, like Sandals Resorts, on Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or other travel sites, you’ve seen what we do.

Three years ago, I was asked to present ICE Portal to the Strategic Forum, a group of business leaders in the community that meet monthly at NSU. The meetings include the Strategic Forum Student Group, a group of graduate business administration students who sit in and observe. Seeing the MBA students around the room gave me a thought: I ought to get an MBA. I love learning, and I’d appreciate it more than I would have 30 years earlier, when I had different priorities. After two years of procrastination, I enrolled in the MBA in entrepreneurship program. I love it, even as time constrained as my life is. As my grandmother, who was a concentration camp survivor, used to tell me, “The only thing they can’t take from you is the knowledge in your head.” I consider myself very fortunate, and besides working hard, I attribute much of my good fortune to luck — being in the right place at the right time.

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