Many of Michael Russo’s friends from college and high school are now working at big financial firms in the city.
Russo is working from home in East Islip.
But unlike his buddies, he runs his own business, answering only to the needs of his customers.
And his customers love him.
“It’s amazing what adding and sharing a little encouragement can do,” is just one of the nice things being said in reviews.
How does Russo do it? By inspiring people when they least expect it.
Through his company, Sticky Quotes, Russo creates sticky notes that are adorned with inspiring words, quotes and phrases.
People use them to inspire themselves, or surprise friends, family or co-workers.
“My boss used to write me all these miserable to-do lists on sticky notes,” said Russo, a 2012 East Islip High graduate. “And then one day he wrote me a quote and I thought it was a good idea.”
That was during a year-long internship at a financial services company in Nassau County, from May 2013 to May 2014.
“I just started writing one quote every day and sharing them with friends, and then also sharing them around the office,” he continued. “I was already doing short, motivational videos on social media and this sort of fit into what I was doing.”
Given his educational background in business, both at Molloy College, from which he graduated in May, and at East Islip High School, Russo began capitalizing on the notes.
But he ran into the same problem as many startups:
He lacked the right amount of funds to really get the fledgling business off the ground.
Rather than turn to online fundraising, he entered a business contest at SUNY Farmingdale last April.
He took first place, winning $5,000.
A business mentor of his invested another $5,000.
“I needed about $10,000 to get the company going,” he said.
He used that money to order plenty of product — after hooking up with the right printing company — and booked a booth at the National Stationary Show at the Javitz Center in May 2015.
He’s stuck with it ever since, full time. And the company has grown.
Fifteen months later, already gone are the days of Russo knocking on stationary stores’ doors across Long Island, hoping they might carry his product. Sticky Quotes’ steady stream of business is being done almost entirely through the website, mystickyquotes.com, and amazon.com.
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Russo traces the roots of his entrepreneurial spirit to a year-long program at East Islip High School, called Virtual Enterprises, through which he and 21 others students ran a virtual company called Mobile Revolution.
He served as the company’s CFO — it also had sales, marketing, accounting, HR and IT departments — and helped manage the books within a virtual, multi-high school economy across the country.
“Everything I did there translated into my college experience and now my business experience,” he said. “I’m a big advocate for the program.”
As for the quotes that appear on his sticky notes, we’re reminded of the words of French author and Noble Prize winner André Gide, who said:
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
In other words, Russo isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel here with his quotes.
“Some of them are mine,” he said, “but some of them are creatively spun off original, famous quotes and a lot of them are public domain, super-common and not copyrighted, like ‘Be the Best You.’”
“It’s all just positive, short affirmations,” he said.
Judging by the responses, it seems that’s all people need.
“Life can get a little hectic at times,” another customer wrote in a review. “These little sticky notes are a fantastic way to remember to stop and smell the roses.”