Today’s Business Pairs NFL Caliber Passion with Digital Expertise
When Tom Ottaiano entered the NFL as an offensive lineman three years ago, he had dreams of a long career in pro football.
But like many rookies, the New Jersey native soon had to change his game plan. Following three brief stints with the New York Jets, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings, he soon recognized that calling an audible in his career path would create better opportunities.
Undaunted, Ottaiano applied the same mix of resiliency and passion that drove his football career toward entrepreneurialism.
“You can’t have the fear of doing things on your own, because if you don’t try it you’ll never know what can happen,” he said.
In 2012, he joined forces with a former college teammate, Chaz Cervino, and a third partner named Bill Ash to launch a digital marketing firm out of a small office space a half hour outside of Manhattan.
The group was inspired after getting a lot of compliments for organizing and marketing a networking event. Recognizing the increasing demand for digital marketing specialists, they founded Today’s Business. The firm now serves a vast array of clientele ranging from small local businesses to pro sports franchises, capitalizing on some of their connections in the sports world.
Ottaiano said lessons learned from his gridiron days, such as time management skills and work ethic, have carried over into his new career.
“I still get to challenge myself on a daily basis,” he said. “Without playing college or professional football, none of what I do today could have happened.”
Similarly, Cervino said that his time as a wide receiver at the collegiate level helped instill the confidence and discipline needed to properly steer a fledgling business. “This is the same way I approached sports,” he said. “No one is going to outwork me in growing and building the business.”
That spirit of determination was essential for the first-time entrepreneurs in their 20s.
“Being so young, it’s been a challenge to know everything, and have that experience,” Ottaiano said. “But we have a great board of advisors to help us. Our families have also been a huge help to our success and what we’ve accomplished.”
Cervino said that while their lack of experience — and client base — was an obstacle at first, it also proved to be an asset. “Social media is an ever-changing medium, and as this industry grows and evolves, it’s the younger generation that is going to grow and evolve with it.”
The young entrepreneurs have also remained agile as their business has grown rapidly and found success. Initially supported by a small army of interns, Today’s Business has brought many of those early supporters onboard as full-time employees.
The company has developed satellite offices in both Lower Manhattan and Philadelphia, and recently it announced plans to open a Las Vegas office.
While the climb towards profitability began with a steady flow of local and modest-sized clients such as contractors and local shops, Ottaiano’s experience in the world of professional athletics helped secure the company’s first landmark account.
Last year, the company finalized a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. The firm is now responsible for optimizing the digital presence of not only the basketball franchise but also all of its properties — including Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Gladiators, Lake Erie Monsters and Canton Charge.
Asked whether he is satisfied with his post-NFL accomplishments, Ottaiano insists he is just getting started.
“I get hungrier every day,” he said. “We won’t let anyone ever stop us from retaining our goals.”