How do you measure success? For Tony Rodono it’s not about holding out until you find your passion project, instead he says, “be open-minded about the opportunities that come across your desk because those could become your passion too.”
After college, Rodono worked as a freelance designer, and he loved the flexibility. But when he and his wife were expecting their first child, they decided to move back to their hometown of Charlotte to be closer to family (“where we had a bunch of free babysitters.”)
Rodono is a make-it-work kind of guy. And to make it work in Charlotte, he and his wife started making art maps as a side gig. Not functional maps, but maps that look like abstract art. The local map shop bought a few of the City Prints maps and over time they and Rodono developed a good relationship. A few years later the opportunity came to take over The Map Shop.
Rodono is quick to say that running a retail store was not his passion but being an entrepreneur was. He discovered very quickly that “Life is just too short not to love what you’re doing on a daily basis, and being an entrepreneur allows you to have some of that control to make sure that your day-to-day is interesting and rewarding. And that’s when I decided this is for me and let's make a go of it.”
Rodono did make a go of it. In 2016 when he took over The Map Shop, he says there were maybe 20 or 30 other map shops across the United States. but today there’s only a handful left. He attributes his success to being able to pivot and not being afraid to fail.
“Marketing challenges, cash flow issues, hiring problems, legal scares. The recession in ‘08 wasn’t great. COVID. Time management challenges. I struggle with delegation. You name it.” But he says, “I learn by getting burnt and making mistakes. I faced all the struggles but that’s part of the game and that’s what makes it better.”
At The Map Shop, he saw early on that in order to grow the business he would have to focus on e-commerce before retail. And that would mean making his own maps, so manufacturing and custom development became a priority.
“We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. We operate like a startup even though the company is 30 years old. I’m proud of the team that we’ve built and what the future holds.”
The future is bright for The Map Shop. They still sell their original art maps, City Prints, and recently they added a new 3-D map under the brand Hubbard Scientific. The raised maps are very tactile and invite touch. They also just closed a new licensing deal to make educational pulldown maps, and last year they bought Pop Colors which makes themed packs of colored pencils.
“We’re on a 30% growth year-over-year and that's a good spot to be in. With these two opportunities, each one could double our revenue. I suspect over the next year we are going to be a very different company. For me this is a challenge of focus now.”
He admits he tends not to dwell on success very much, but he’s trying. “I hear from employees who say, ‘this is an awesome thing--can we celebrate for a bit?’” Ok, maybe for a bit, but then it’s on to the next adventure.
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