Many household names in business, from public relations and security, all the way to the underground utility industry, had paths that started within a half-block on Revilo Avenue in Shirley. Some of them touting the worst grades at William Floyd High School and youthful criminal records, and another scooping frozen yogurt after school – they somehow emerged self-made millionaires. What was it, that led these children of blue-collar workers to become successful entrepreneurs?
It all started in Shirley, New York – 65 miles east of Manhattan. According to bestplaces.net, a website that compiles salary and employment information across the United States, the average income of a Shirley resident is $27,267 a year. To gain perspective, the average income in Beverly Hills is quadruple that of Shirley, NY.
Who are these millionaires and what did they all have in common that led them down the path to financial success in life?
Our first pair of millionaires are Craig Anderson and Andy Costa, the founders of Protek Locating. Andy and Craig grew up about one-hundred yards from each other on Revilo Avenue. Both had to deal with adversity as young children; Craig the son of an alcoholic father and Andy who lost his father at a young age to cancer. The pair worked together for a company in Queens, when in the year two-thousand, they took a leap of faith and opened their own underground utility locating service. With colleagues and former bosses laughing at them, they departed from the guaranteed paycheck. They soon capitalized on a major contract, which opened doors to the company expanding. Dedication to the principles that were taught by their mothers is what kept them moving forward in a cut-throat industry. In 2019, the pair sold the multi-million-dollar company.
The next trio of millionaires created on the unimproved roadway in Shirley are the Evans brothers. Len, Michael and Jamie Evans were raised by their single mother, Janet – a sole proprietor of a two-chair hair salon in Bridgehampton, NY. The brothers describe their father as a sociopathic monster, who recently passed away from cancer. Michael and Jamie, who had arguably the worst grades in their High School and criminal records at the age of sixteen, emerged serial entrepreneurs – starting USPA Nationwide Security with their friend, Greg Mazza (another successful entrepreneur from Shirley), a company that has generated tens of millions in revenue since its inception in 2005. They also started Blueline Capital with their neighbor (another Revilo Avenue millionaire), a company that broke the million-dollar mark back in 2008. Len Evans started Project Publicity in 2002 with his High School best friend, Jeff Dorta. Len having worked for publicity moguls, such as Peggy Siegal and Jason Weinberg, and Jeff employed by Universal Pictures, started the New York City based PR firm. With a client list that includes Mathew Knowles (Beyonce’s father), music legend, Darlene Love and others, the pair grew their PR firm and hit their first million-dollar mark in 2012.
Then there’s the pair of self-made millionaire brothers who grew up with their parents and younger sister, a success story herself. One is the owner of multiple businesses and the other a corporate banker. They both learned their work ethic from their father, who could be heard starting his motorcycle at 5AM daily to head to work.
This small section of Revilo Avenue also produced several high-ranking police officers and a cardiologist. What was it about this block that created so many success stories? According to Michael Evans, CEO at USPA Nationwide Security and Founder of Kingsman, he gave the credit to parenting. “Many of us shared a common driving force; strong mothers.” He continued, “I would have to say that non-interference was also a big factor. We weren’t groomed to become some type of adult by our parents. We were allowed to fail, to fall and scrape our knees and experience life on our own terms.” Michael is talking about how he believes that children are being unsuccessfully molded into “honor students” and “3-sport athletes” all in the name of creating a certain type of adult. “As we’ve seen, that doesn’t seem to be working in our participation-trophy-generation of kids dipped in hand sanitizer and wrapped in safety blankets with fail-safes to catch them if they fall.” Craig Anderson attributes his prosperity to proving his doubters wrong and a self-motivated hunger for success.
When asked what advice Jamie Evans would give to a teenager, growing up in a blue-collar area, and how they can break the barrier of convention and pursue their goals, he said, “Risk pays. The ability to keep moving forward when nobody sees it for you. When you’re uncomfortable, failing and you can still keep going – you’re on your way to wherever you want to go.”