“I often have to force myself to put the work down and enjoy what brought us to the 30A community in the first place.”
Not everybody works a Monday-Friday, 8-5 corporate work week. C&IS alum Mike Ragsdale (B.A. in Communication Studies ’91 and M.A. in Advertising and Public Relations ’93) is the founder and CEO of the 30A Company, a beach community in Santa Rosa, Florida. His schedule has him sampling 30A cocktail recipes at distilleries in Kentucky one day and on a boat interviewing celebrities the next. As a ground-breaking entrepreneur, no day looks the same for Ragsdale, but one thing ties it all together: building his company has required lots of dedication and hard work, a trait he developed in his time at C&IS.
“I enjoyed the creative process, including copywriting and basic design. As a graduate teaching assistant, I managed the C&IS labs, learning a lot really fast, as it was my job to help so many other students with their assignments. That experience set the stage for my comfort level with an online world that would very soon flicker to life,” said Ragsdale.
During his time as a student, Ragsdale said that the most important lessons came from professors who had “side-hustles” going on. As a broke college student, he started doing freelance work to assist those professors and gain real-life experience outside of the College. This instilled in him an attitude of wanting to be the hardest worker in the room and an unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit.
“I coded tens of thousands of surveys. I designed charts for various textbooks books. I wrote newsletters,” he said. “Basically, I did whatever grunt work they needed done so I could pay my rent and have a little bar money on the side. And while the money was nice, it was that real-world work experience that taught me how to hustle and make things happen.”
In the world of entrepreneurship, there is no “typical” workday. Ragsdale works from home and starts his day watching the sun rise over the bay. To make the most out of his day, He tries to knock out as many tasks and emails as possible before any meetings or conference calls. He fills his afternoons with all of the fun aspects of his job, which can include anything from a photo shoot out on the beach, flying his drone over the Gulf looking for sharks, or just enjoying happy hour cocktails with friends at an old beach bar. These are just some of the benefits of being an entrepreneur.
“This job is really whatever you want to make it,” Ragsdale said.
“Keeping any business going is a daily challenge”, he said. “There are always deadlines, negotiations, cash flow issues… It’s never-ending. Being an entrepreneur is like strapping into a never-ending rollercoaster. It can be exhilarating, but it can also be scary, dizzying and nauseating.” With a typical 8-5 job, people have weekends off, get paid vacation and sick leave. This isn’t the case with entrepreneurs who carry a mental and financial weight with them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Aside from the pressure of working for yourself, there are many rewarding aspects of Ragsdale’s job. One story that reminds him of how he got to where he is and how important it is to have a connection to the coast is the story of a chance encounter at a conference.
“A few years ago, a man and his wife walked up to me at a local event and asked if I work for 30A (I was wearing a “30A” hat). When I told him I did, he shared the story of how he worked for a company in Alabama for 24 years. Reluctantly, his job forced him to move to Minnesota for the last six years before he retired, and he said it was the worst six years of his life. Thanks to our 30A page and our beach videos, he was able to stay in touch with his fantasy of one day moving to the coast, which he eventually did after retiring.” By spreading the message of 30A, Ragsdale inspires dreams in others and helps make them a reality, no matter where they are in the world.
Finding happiness is what motivates him, and international travel is one of the best ways to tap into an inner peace that only comes from living in the moment. Ragsdale and his wife, Angela, have visited 50 countries so far. “I’ve found I’m never happier than when my senses are overloaded with exotic new sights and sounds. When my mind is idle, I tend to worry a lot. But when I’m in some remote locale where everything is alien, it forces me to be present.”
“The stress of survival never leaves your mind,” said Ragsdale. Which makes his biggest challenge to practice what he preaches: Being happy. “I often have to force myself to put the work down and enjoy what brought us to the 30A community in the first place.”
Thank you, Mike Ragsdale!