Local business inspires, wins
‘Blue Chip’ honors at ceremony
Rob Lopez stood “in shock” and in tears with his wife Annette beaming by his side Thursday afternoon at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers as their Servicemaster-CCS cleaning service was awarded the Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award.
“I’m an emotional person. I was in awe; I was in complete shock,” Rob said Friday. “I was in tears the whole time. I couldn’t stop.”
He thanked his wife, “without whom I wouldn’t be here”; his children, “who understand what dad goes through”; and his employees, “who I care about so much.”
The award is given annually by BB&T-Oswald Trippe and Co. and BB&T Bank to recognize small-business owners who have overcome adversity and succeeded to “teach and inspire others.
Lopez, 38, of Port Charlotte, has been battling bacterial meningitis and hydrocephalus (water on the brain) for 12 years, necessitating seven brain operations, the implant of two shunts in his head, and countless other medical procedures. He has run the business at times from a hospital bed with a laptop and a phone, three times in the past year alone.
The Blue Chip judges reacted with their own awe. One judge, Frederick Nerone, chief investment officer of Hodges University, said in a statement: “Servicemaster-CCS epitomizes the spirit and resolve of America’s small businesses.” The company “illustrates everything that is right about our small businesses and their unique ability to overcome adversity and create jobs.
“The Lopezes are prime examples of this intrepid band of entrepreneurs. This, truly, is a compelling story.”
Annette said Friday that even after the ceremony, the judges approached her and Rob to tell them how taken they were with the couple’s accomplishments in the face of Rob’s medical problems.
“We thanked them,” she said, “but this our life. We don’t know what it’s like to be normal. This is our normal.”
Looking on, Rob added, “She’s my silent strength, my rock.”
The Lopezes, both Air Force veterans, left the service in 2007 and opened Servicemaster-CCS out of a garage in Port Charlotte without any experience in the field, or revenue, contracts or accounts.
He marketed the business through cold calls, sales letters and personal visits — selling by day and cleaning by night — wearing out three pair of shoes in the process. Annette left her job as a paralegal to join the two-person firm and run the office.
The business, based in Punta Gorda, now has 21 employees and has taken over the Servicemaster account in Lee County.
The company was one of five finalists in the 18th annual Blue Chip competition, along with Kim and Gerard Campanella of the Bicycle Center of Port Charlotte, who were finalists for the second time in five years for their efforts at rebuilding the business after it was blown away by Hurricane Charley in 2004.