They took the idea, got the number, and began putting up signs. Their first office was the back of a hair salon in North Miami Beach. "I met our first customer at a Pollo Tropical," Pichardo recalls. "He gave me $20. From then on, we just kept growing and growing."

Today, Pichardo claims, he has 18 handymen on his rotation. "Ten of them are paying between $300 and $900 a month to let us find them leads. The other eight are on the $80 trial period. We guarantee you at least four leads to start, but we don't promise you will get hired for a job."

After a few minutes, Pichardo and Devi take me to the company office. Earlier this year, they upgraded to a penthouse suite in an office building just a couple of blocks north of the Starbucks, overlooking Biscayne Boulevard. Pichardo employs four people who work strictly on commission. He also has a website that features a Vimeo video of Pichardo sitting at his desk while wearing a hard hat and an unbuttoned dress shirt that shows off part of his bird chest. "It seems I found the magic formula to find that work," Pichardo says in the footage. "I want to extend to you the opportunity to reap the benefits and rewards from what I have to offer."

Pichardo says he places 50 to 100 signs a day at least three times a week from Homestead to West Palm Beach. "Code enforcement officers take down our signs all the time. But the signs are so cheap that we can afford to keep putting up more. So not only are we keeping handymen employed, we are also making sure code enforcement workers still have a job."

(North Miami Code Enforcement director Alan P. Graham, whose city is plastered with road signs, says his department takes down 20 to 30 signs a day. Even though the signs are considered litter, Graham says, the city has no way of enforcing tickets against sign-posters. "The citations are meaningless to them," he says. "We've tried to call people in the past to tell them not to do it, but the next day their signs are back up.")

The son of Dominican and Jamaican parents, Pichardo graduated from Dr. Michael M. Krop High School in 2006. His entrepreneurial streak took hold as a kid playing computer civilization and strategy games such as Command & Conquer and Sim City. "Those games teach you how to build and strategize for life and building a business," Pichardo says. "Whether it's a game or running a real company or managing your personal life, you have to know how to pool your resources if you want to get ahead."

He attended Miami Dade College for a couple of semesters but dropped out to work for Nouveau Riche, a multilevel marketing company that teaches people how to buy and sell real estate. "I was 18 years old when I made my first real estate deal," Pichardo recalls. "I made $42,000." The transaction involved a Miami Beach condo at 1226 Marseille Dr. in which Pichardo owned an interest.

His mentors at Nouveau Riche also taught him about road-sign marketing. "That is how we primarily got our clientele," Pichardo says. "Two of my employees now were recruited by me to work for Nouveau Riche." During the first two years with the company, business was good, the aspiring mogul says. "I accrued a lot of cash, so I started giving people hard-money loans up to $40,000. I still do that, as well as buy and sell real estate at wholesale prices."

By the end of the year, Pichardo wants to have 50 handymen onboard, as well as bases in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He also wants to meet with British aviation and media impresario Richard Branson to share another one of his grand business ideas. Pichardo is very familiar with Branson's grandiose scheme for commercial space travel. "I want to talk to him about developing the first orbital hotel," Pichardo says. "I'm rather disappointed we haven't built one yet."

I ask him if he knows of any roadside signs advertising a dating service, since my chances of finding a woman on echatepaca.com are about as good as Pichardo and Branson in astronaut suits hobnobbing around a space station. Pichardo gives me a quizzical look. "No, haven't seen any of those. But it's a good idea."

On a muggy July evening, more than two dozen people congregate at the lobby bar inside the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. Dressed in a dark dress shirt with a black tie, black vest, and black slacks, Angel Taipale makes his way to the front entrance of the hotel's Arkadia nightclub to talk to me. The 25-year-old Cuban-American works six nights a week as a floor supervisor for Arkadia so that he can dedicate some daytime hours to his fledgling enterprise — buying and selling real estate at wholesale prices to investors. You'll find his number stamped on signs advertising cash for houses. He's also Pichardo's roommate and onetime Nouveau Riche employee. The pair lives in a luxurious two-bedroom condo in North Bay Village.

"I met Sam four years ago at a real estate class he was holding," Taipale says. "He is a really bright kid. He can flip anything. I started off doing leg work on some of Sam's deals." Two years later, he has been doing real estate transactions on his own, as well as partnering with his roommate to buy properties. "I sometimes use his capital to close deals," Taipale admits. "I've already done six transactions on my own this past year. That was my learning curve."

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25 comments
Jennifer
Jennifer

I seen one: " Why lie, I need a beer" so I gave him a dollar. Just cause he was honest.

J.R.
J.R.

He would have been happy with a crack rock. You just helped support his habit. Thank you.

Robert Reid Welch
Robert Reid Welch

What a wonderful article, the best kind of human interest story. You are a great writer, and to think (grin), you are a Nica! (I joke, I stepped foot in Nicaragua, once, only about fifteen feet).Frank, thank you for the fun story. I have a sign picture to send you, it's fresh and here in the Grove, not quite like your thrust, but it shows our local color.

John Mann
John Mann

I hope these fools take down some of those ugly signs. I live in Libery city and these signs are plastered all over the place. Liberty city already have issues with litter, the last thing they need is more litter. If this guy is trying to flip houses, does it not work against them to litter a place that they are trying to sell a house in. I don't mind a few signs but they are putting up hundreds of signs that are making our neighborhood look bad. CLEAN UP OR SHIP OUT!!!

Jlong005
Jlong005

Great Article. I have always thought about doing the exact same thing, maybe I should get a job at Miami New Times.

matador
matador

Funny article!!!! ...and mainstream America call us lazy, we are business people!!!

Trappedin Miami
Trappedin Miami

You really should do an article on how Hispanics in Miami-Dade County has made it so that nonSpanish speaking Americans and legal U.S. residents are unable to find gainful employment within the city limits. You should do an article on how inheretly racist Hispanic Americans in Miami-Dade County are and how they use and dispose of Americans and legal residents who speak only English. That is a story that would earn you a pulitzer. Tell the truth about what Miami Dade County is really like if you are not Hispanic.

Richard McDorman
Richard McDorman

So if you are living in Miami and you can't get a job because you don't speak Spanish, then why don't you just learn Spanish? It's not a very hard language to learn. I'm sure you could learn it if you tried.

Former Miami Girl
Former Miami Girl

We shouldn't have to learn spaninsh to get a job because Miami is not in South America. It's in the United States of America and we speak ENGLISH here. A hundred years ago my ancesors immegrated here and they learned English and so should all the people who immegrate today. We build a strong society and a strong country by having a common language. Things fall apart when people cannot communicate effectively. "Trapped In Miami" I really feel for you. My family escaped Kendall 25 years ago and it's only gotten worse since then.

Edward Anderson
Edward Anderson

We shouldn't have to. You live in an English speaking country. In fact this country was built on the English language and you should learn English and speak it. And if you don't like that then Leave.

Matador
Matador

Calm down! I have a lot of non-Hispanic friends that enjoy Miami very much....stop being such a sourpuss. 95% of Hispanics are very outgoing people, just make an effort to get to know them and stop being a racist!

smartone
smartone

Im in the same boat and i completely agree

Mike
Mike

Fantastic article. I was cracking up at the "biutiful" part- my girlfriend came over here when she was a kid and still pronounces it "be-a-YU-ti-ful." What was the guy's number again?

sanityplease
sanityplease

Frank has found humor in the daily drudge of Miami-Dade. Great piece, made me smile.

Rag191870man
Rag191870man

Excellent article. Goes to show how many scammers there are in South Florida. Hence the scammer capital of the world. Besides Nigeria. All we need now is to have people saying they have large sums of money overseas and need your help to take it out for a price.

Good luck with finding a woman on echatepaca.com. lol...

Casanovas0118
Casanovas0118

Excellent article! Depicts life in south florida so well..we are full of "inventors" all the time..congrats on this article. Posted to Facebook

Jrl Photog
Jrl Photog

Why do you mock a 32 year established Hialeah company that promises/offers to teach English in six months when the University of Miami promises to do a thorough course in teaching/learning Espanol in only seven days?

Maybe UM offers the formal, proper Spanish, which very few in South Florida speak or understand.

It is similar to someone from 'Ox-Bridge' trying to understand someone from the backwoods of Mississippi.

Otherwise, your article was fairly amusing.

Regards,

JRL

USA1
USA1

super article.

guest
guest

Why can't the author post their pictures!!!!

ooooo
ooooo

good one alvarado!

ooooo
ooooo

lol one fifty

 
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