As Jim Leone mulled over the idea of starting his own company, he began to see encouraging signs. Literally. First, there were the inspirational billboards put up by The Foundation for a Better Life, lauding risk and determination.
Then there was that "For Rent" sign on a house converted into office space on East Tallmadge Avenue in Akron's North Hill neighborhood. Although Leone had never been in the building, he knew his grandfather had built it in 1925.
""I kept driving by thinking what a great location," Leone said. His homework later proved it: More than 15,000 cars pass by the site, near state route 8, each day.
The second time he stopped to look at the house, he brought his checkbook.
At the age of 58, Leone was about to become a business owner.
"It's like someone was trying to tell me something," Leone said. "It's awfully scary, but for a long time in the back of my mind, I kept thinking I could do this."
His roots here are deep. A graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High, he received a business administration degree at Kent State University and owned a home with his wife, Patty, in Stow.
"The first few months were scary," he said. But his sources within the industry didn't let him down. His first customer was a funeral director who wanted to pre-select a memorial for himself and his wife.