Meet John Degnan who founded a growing Florida language school in the latest epsiode of Content with Teeth's video pocast The Come Up

Florida Language School Does The Come Up

From a business analyst in one of Miami’s biggest firms to opening a one-room school in South Beach with one student …

Possessing a passport stamped with countries from all around the globe…

Watching the school grow with an intensive English program with thousands and thousands of international students …

40 different nationalities passing through its corridors …

Meet the man who triumphs over the Tower of Babel. Meet Greg Degnan in the latest episode of The Come Up, Content with Teeth’s short video podcast profiling the up-and-coming entrepreneurial scene in Southwest Florida.

The Come Up Episode 5 Highlights

English courses in Florida

Here is what to look for in our latest episode where host Scrappy Jackson interviews a dynamic educator and inspiring entrepreneur.

What does Greg learn most from his students? Because of the melange of different cultures and viewpoints in one room, you learn more from the students than the students do from you.

Is teaching English a dead-end career? The English language is still the PEOPLE’S language. Learn why the industry has a lot of growth potential.

What advice would Degnan give to his 12-year-old self? Follow your dreams but find out why it’s important to be a generalist instead of a specialist.

The future of a Language Center and an English Language Institute: Online, virtual reality and lost in the Metaverse.

What does Greg value most when hiring English teachers? Experience! Watch the episode to find out exactly why – the reason might surprise you.

In this episode, meet an interesting dude who started his career hanging out with Magic and The Dream Team in Barcelona during the 1992 Olympics.

About Greg Degnan and Content with Teeth

For UnBoring Content like The Come Up, contact Content with Teeth HERE. Find Degnan’s South Beach Languages school if you want to study English or a new language HERE.

Florida language center

The Come Up Episode 5 Video Transcript

Scrappy Jackson: What’s up, what’s up, what’s up, I’m Scrappy. And this is the Come Up. Entrepreneurs on the rise throughout Southwest Florida. We have ’em for you. They’re fascinating. They’re genuine. They’re innovative. Content with Teeth, a real innovative marketing company. They do content marketing. They’re our sponsor, and they’re doing it really big. Just like this fat head behind me. Today’s guest is an entrepreneur. That’s doing big things as well. His name is Greg Degnan. He’s from the University of Florida. He’s a teacher. He does really interesting things in South Beach, Fort Myers and Hollywood with his schools. Greg. Welcome.

Greg Degnan: Thanks, Scrappy. Great to be here.

Scrappy Jackson: Yeah, it’s really great for you to be here as well. And, uh, my first question is, you know, you went to the University of Florida. You got a great education. What did you do from jump right at the beginning?

Greg Degnan: Great. Yeah, go Gators. I’m a graduate. I’m a proud Gator graduate in 1991. I was there. I had, Emmitt Smith actually in one of my classes, but, yeah, as when I graduated in 91, the majority of my friends, and peers were going off to get jobs, you know, in Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, whatever city they could, but I really wanted to travel. So I took off, I got a passport and I started just traveling all over. I was all, I went all over Latin America to almost every country in Latin America, all over Europe. At that time they had the Interrail pass. So we traveled to other countries and I also hit Asia and interesting. My first job real job was with a dream team in, uh, Barcelona.

Scrappy Jackson: Oh, cool. Very cool. So tell us about the dream team. That’s amazing.

Greg Degnan: Yeah, it was awesome. I got to meet all the players. I mean, my job was nothing special. I was in logistics, transportation, kind of getting the players around. I wrote a short book about it called, chasing the dream team, but I had some great moments. You know, just speaking with Magic and Clyde Drexler and some of these guys. I actually was translating for them. Cause one of the things that, because it was in Spain, I had Spanish. So when the players would go out and try to communicate, I would help them. A lot of funny stories and, I just saw Magic has a documentary now on Apple TV, it’s called,  They Call Me Magic. It’s an amazing documentary and I’m, I have a little cameo in there. I’m younger. Yeah.

Scrappy Jackson: That’s awesome. So a lot of students, they go abroad. They wanna have some fun. Right out of college. They’re not sure what they wanna do. Do you do the same thing or you looking to find yourself or do you know exactly what you wanted to do with your career at that point?

Greg Degnan: Uh, yeah. Great question. I, I just want, I wasn’t ready to go to an office. I studied finance at UF at University of Florida, and I just really wanted to travel after being in school for so long. And in fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and what I found very quickly is the easiest job to get as you’re traveling is an English teacher. Because everybody, you know, in different countries speak different languages. And at that time, especially, they all wanted to learn English. So I would just ride the train in Europe, for example. And if a city looked nice, like I would stop in Budapest, get off. And within a day or two, I would have a job as an English teacher, which was really amazing. And it taught me, you know, to start to love teaching. Cause before that I had no experience teaching English, but I learned, you know, the methodology, teaching English to international students of all ages, different group sizes. And it really helped my public speaking and presence as well.

Scrappy Jackson: So you are in South America, you have a finance degree. How do you get back to United States and get a job?

Greg Degnan: Yeah, eventually I came back, just, I had my passport stamped a lot all over the world and I came back and I went to UM, University of Miami for my MBA. I wanted to get a little more serious on the business side and that created a lot of opportunities. I had a lot of great internships at Burdines, which is now Macy’s. And if you remember Burdines, that was a big store in Florida a while ago. I did some great things there. We would work on an algorithm, for advertising to find the best advertising mix. At that time, they had this huge budget for advertising. This was pre-internet. So they had to decide how much are we gonna spend in TV? How much are we gonna spend on radio? How much are we gonna spend in direct mail?

Greg Degnan: So we, I was part of a team that created the algorithm to find that perfect mix by product category. What will our budget be? That was a great project. I worked at, BACARDÍ in the liquor industry for a couple of years, doing projects. That was also amazing cause they’re based in Miami. At that time, BACARDÍ was introducing flavors. So in the past, they would just have, you know, three BACARDÍ,  file in the middle of the shelf on the shelf. Right, right. There was a hundred brands at that time. So what they did that was very smart is started introducing flavors. And that was part of the, the group that introduced BACARDÍ LIMÓN, BACARDÍ O, BACARDÍ Razz. And once they started introducing all these flavors, it took up all the shelf space.

Scrappy Jackson: Sure. Cause they had all the leverage. Right.

Greg Degnan: Exactly. So they kind of knocked out all these mom-and-pop, you know, rum companies and just kind of took over and got stronger and stronger at that time.

Scrappy Jackson: So you’re in the corporate world, but somewhere, international teaching, you know, speaking the languages. That pool must have come in somewhere.

Greg Degnan: Exactly. Yeah. I missed it. So even as great jobs that I had and experiences, and as an analyst, as a business analyst in Miami, working for these great companies, part of me still, you know, still in a cubicle, I still had a boss and I just kind of wanted to go do my own thing. So I had such a great experience teaching that I opened the one-room school in South Beach, called it South Beach languages. And at the beginning, I was the only teacher, you know, one room, one student and little. I remember my first place was on 12th McCollins Avenue paying $300 a month, you know, just for one little room. And then little by little, we grew it, we added students. And today we, you know, we have, we’ve got thousands and thousands of students,

Scrappy Jackson: You have a diversity of students. How many countries have gone through your corridors?

Greg Degnan: Um, I would say probably 30 or 40.

Scrappy Jackson: Wow.

Greg Degnan: Different countries at least, at least.

Scrappy Jackson: And just, how do you, how do you communicate to so many different ones?

Greg Degnan: Yeah, that’s a great question. Cause like, again, when I taught in Mexico I had a class of 12 Mexican students. Right. So they were all familiar with Spanish and English. Whereas in Miami Beach, we might have a class with one Brazilian, one Japanese, one person from Serbia, it’s all, all mixed. So that teachers only speak and teach in English. So they go slowly. they have methodologies to use. So it’s up to the students to learn. It’s kind of an immersion methodology.

Scrappy Jackson: Sure, sure. In your hallways, is there cultural diversity to the point where they need to assimilate?

Greg Degnan: Um, yeah. I, I’m not sure. What, what you mean exactly, but like the, for example, it’s amazing having all these different cultures in one class, right? So a lot of students come up to us at the end of their experience and be like, wow, you know, I’ve never had that kind of experience where I had conversations with a French person and a Brazilian person and a Japanese person and a somebody from Bangladesh. And what it does is this kind of a microcosm of the world. You see all these nationalities coming together, talking to each other. Of course, there’s a lot of arguments, you know, with different viewpoints and economics and politics and all these things. But the 99% of them go home, like, wow, that was, that was a great experience.

Scrappy Jackson: You have South Beach, you got Hollywood, you have tutoring in Fort Myers. If I’m somebody that wants to be a teacher at your school, what’s the first question you ask me.

Greg Degnan: Um, I value experience the most. So I would say how much, how many years of English teaching experience do you have? Obviously, if you’re a kindergarten teacher or first-grade teacher, that actually is pretty helpful because you, you know, you’re teaching people with at the beginning stages, which is what we’re doing. They don’t know any English, a lot of them. So we do take, English teachers all the time. New English teachers. Experience. And most of our teachers have to have a certificate depending on the course of teaching. An English, ESL certificate, TEFL, they call it.

Scrappy Jackson: So you’re a teacher. You become this incredible entrepreneur. What advice do you give teachers today as far as getting into this game?

Greg Degnan: Well again, I most teachers from what I’ve seen, aren’t going into it for money at all. Because teaching, you know, in general, and especially teaching English, not something you’re gonna get rich, you have to really want to, you know, be a teacher to connect with people and see that light, you know, go on in the student’s head when they learn something. In terms of business, I think it’s still a big opportunity. If people are business people are looking for opportunities, I think this industry still has a long way to go in terms of growth. The world is becoming a little more isolated now, so it’s becoming a little bit harder to get students from everywhere like we used to. But there’s still a lot of opportunity for growth and it’s still, English is still the world language.

Scrappy Jackson: I have visited your schools and there’s an incredible culture. It, it really is, you know, the students are immersed, the teachers are immersed, and throughout the hallways, you get a special feeling it’s really, really cool. The way you put it together. It’s almost a spiritual experience for real. So given that, what is it that you’ve learned the most from your students?

Greg Degnan: I think, yeah, it’s a cliche, but when you teach English, you learn more than you teach. It’s really fascinating. All of the different cultures, again in the world coming to USA to learn English. And they have they’re in awe and big respect for this country, cuz they’re here. They’ve chosen to come here. But just learning from them, their experiences. So we might go around and say, Hey, tell us the culture, uh, of your country. Like, you know, in USA we celebrate independence day in 4th of July, what’s going on in your country? And they’ll tell us the whole story.

Scrappy Jackson: You mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of opportunities in education. What’s your personal vision and where are you going with your career and your company?

Greg Degnan: Yeah, I used to think the answer was building more schools. For a while, we were kind of expanding in that way. But we stopped that and we’re basically focusing more on content. So we are a big school in South Beach and we’re trying to create more content because as the world is becoming more online, obviously, as education, what’s happening with COVID the last couple of years, there’s kind of a, more of a, a realization that the future of our industry and education, in general, is gonna be online. It’s gonna be virtual reality. It’s gonna be Metaverse, all these, all these things you’re hearing about. Right? Right. You put on a headset and be in a class you don’t really need to physically go somewhere as much. Right. You could still have that experience with a teacher with, or the classmates, but online. So at the moment, we’re working on more content, developing our technology as opposed to just trying to make a bunch of franchises. We’re trying to have more content. So, more students around the world can connect with us wherever they are.

Scrappy Jackson: That’s cool. That’s very cool. And as far as Southwest Florida goes, how do we connect with you as far as tutoring is concerned or online classes?

Greg Degnan: Sure. Yeah. In Southwest Florida. At the moment, we offer online, group classes, in-private classes, in English, and Spanish. So if you’d like, if you’re interested in learning Spanish, for example, or English, at the moment, you could still inquire about French, Portuguese, other languages. We may have a teacher available, but because it’s online, we can give you a, for example, if you wanna learn Spanish, we might have a great teacher in Miami that can just get online with you twice a week. It’s about, it’s reasonable. It’s about $40 an hour. The teachers will be flexible with your schedule, you know, best time for you. So yeah, let us know. Our website is like South Beach Languages, And you can come on our website and make an inquiry.

Scrappy Jackson: Okay. Finally, Greg, if you have to give advice to your 12-year-old self, what would it be?

Greg Degnan: That’s great. Yeah, one of my favorite authors is a guy named Scott Adams. He does the Dilbert cartoon and he speaks about being a generalist as opposed to being a specialist. And I really agree with that. And I found in my life by it’s more of like the baseball analogy of like being a utility player, as opposed to like the saver in baseball. Right. I think of myself more as a utility player, I can go in across different industries. That would be the advice I would give. Follow your dreams, but don’t be too specialized. Be open and try to, instead of saying, this is the only thing I’m gonna put all my eggs in this basket, I would say have a little bit of, have three or four strengths and develop all of them as opposed to just one thing.

Scrappy Jackson: So you gave great advice to your 12-year-old self.

Greg Degnan: Hopefully I did, right? Follow me.

Scrappy Jackson: Greg Degnan, South Beach Languages, South Beach, Southwest Florida, Hollywood, and incredible entrepreneur. We’re brought to you by Content with Teeth. Content with Teeth, a content marketing company, doing really big things, just like this logo behind me, Greg. Thank you so much for your time, man. We really appreciate it.

Greg Degnan: All right. Thanks.

Brad Cozza, Owner of a Florida investment group, is guest on the Episode 4 of The Come Up sponsored by Content with Teeth

Florida Investment Group Does The Come Up

In the latest episode of The Come Up, meet the guy every entrepreneur dreams of becoming.

He is owner of a thriving Florida investment group which means recently he has been printing cash …

He is one of Gulfshore Business’ 40 under 40

He is a former model …

Meet Brad Cozza.

Things weren’t always so rosy. In his earlier days, he took stock of his life after couch surfing in the Big Apple.

Now he is the founder of Cozza Investment Group which The Wall Street Journal named #10 in the country for volume produced.

The Come Up Episode 4 Highlights

The Come Up is a short video podcast produced by Content with Teeth that documents the up-and-coming entrepreneurial scene in Southwest Florida.

In Episode 4, Everyone Loves Brad Cozza.

Jumping between different companies and industries, from real estate to restaurants, you definitely want to follow this guy’s career arc.

Back in his school days: Brad was a hungry hunter for investment opportunities at FGCU when it was a lonely outpost with more snakes than students.

Cozza’s advice to entrepreneurs: Take risks, but calculated ones only. Learn how to adapt and NOT die.

Real estate success: learn how to work the genie to up your odds of being in the right place at the right time.

Watch the episode and learn the connection between Cozza and Pitbull and the ultimate advice on unlocking a real estate gamechanger.

About Brad Cozza and Content with Teeth

For UnBoring Content like The Come Up, contact Content with Teeth HERE. Find Cozza Investment Firm located in Fort Myers HERE.

The Come Up Episode 4 Transcript

Scrappy Jackson: What’s up? What’s up? What’s up? I’m Scrap Jackson, and this is The Come Up, a video podcast celebrating Southwest Florida’s most interesting entrepreneurs. We’re brought to you by Content with Teeth, a creative content marketing agency right here in Southwest Florida. They do all kinds of good stuff: copywriting, video production, HubSpot services, and based on this big ass Fathead logo behind me, you can tell they do it big, real big.

Scrappy Jackson: Our guest today is Brad Cozza, an FGCU grad who’s turned his business degree into a Southwest Florida real estate and entertainment empire. He’s done it with moxie, risk-taking vision, passion. It’s awesome to have you here, Brad. We really appreciate it.

Brad Cozza: What’s up, Scrap? Thanks for having me. How you been?

Scrappy Jackson: Good. Really good. Really good. Southwest Florida is alive with real estate entertainment. You’re on the cusp. But I’m thinking back in the day, when you were in West Warwick, Rhode Island, you’re playing shortstop for your little league team, in your wildest dreams did you think you’d be here today?

Brad Cozza: Well, everybody in their wildest dreams in West Warwick, Rhode Island in little league thought that they were all going to play for the Boston Red Sox, so that was, I guess, my dream back then. But no, I’m very blessed to have made that move to Southwest Florida, because it was just a golden opportunity and moved at the right place at the right time, and I was very happy to go south.

Scrappy Jackson: And then you went to FGCU. Tell us about your experience there with Business Administration.

Brad Cozza: I did. So I was one of the second, I think it was the second graduating class at FGCU. So back then, you would take a ride to your dorm room down Ben Hill Griffin. And I felt like Jack Hanna, basically looking for boar, for reptiles, for snakes. It was just before there was any growth pattern, that now you take a look to see Gulf Coast Town Center, you take a look at Miramar, it’s a completely different environment where it was 15 years ago.

Scrappy Jackson: If you only had one acre of Miramar land back, then you’d be pretty much set. Right?

Brad Cozza: I would have bought something, I just didn’t have any money.

Scrappy Jackson: So, you get involved in modeling. You go to Miami. Perry Ellis, Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger, you’re doing really big for the Miami modeling scene, but I read somewhere where you were stuck on a couch and you wanted more out of life?

Brad Cozza: So, the modeling industry was for the time being. It was one of those situations where you would go to the coolest parties, and I had a vast appreciation for fashion, but it’s one of those industries where you don’t make any money.

Scrappy Jackson: Yeah.

Brad Cozza: And I went to college and wanted to, obviously, use my college education. And I found myself one morning in Queens, basically living on a couch. I was like, “Okay. This was fun, now it’s time to actually do some work.”

Scrappy Jackson: But in many respects, it was the groundwork for your perspective today, because your real estate vision involves somewhat of a metropolitan, cosmopolitan feel. Right?

Brad Cozza: Sure, absolutely. So, definitely, the real estate investment arena in Southwest Florida has been what I actually focused on when I first got my license. When I was a licensed agent, typically you get into real estate and you do cookie-cutter showings and working with buyers. I knew right off the bat that I had a passion for ROI investment, development, and was in the right place at the right time during the market boom of 2005. And we started marketing to major metropolitan centers. We would run ads in the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New York Post. And it went from five deals to 10 deals, and in 2006, our company was ranked number 10 in the nation by the Wall Street Journal for volume produced nationwide. So it was a great accolade and definitely found my sweet spot with working with investor.

Scrappy Jackson: Foreclosures, pre-construction, flips, sales, what do you like the best? What’s the most exciting to you?

Brad Cozza: Depends on what the market is.

Scrappy Jackson: Really, because you’re a businessman. Right?

Brad Cozza: So, right now you read the market and there’s a housing scarcity. So what makes this market different from ’05, ’06 is back then it was just anybody could get a construction loan, state-to-state programs, everybody was irresponsible. It was investors buying from investors. It was all hyper appreciation, false appreciation.

Brad Cozza: In this market, the game changer was COVID. 2020, our governor, you never actually bring up politics in business, but you have to state the obvious. When our governor DeSantis basically said, “Hey, listen. Florida’s open for business,” it just really spiked our local economy, spiked the economy of Florida. And from 2020 to 2021, it was the largest economic boom that Florida has ever seen.

Brad Cozza: Now you’re seeing the drip, drip, residential effect, where there’s a huge demand for housing, because people are being relocated here from their northernly blue states. And you’re starting to see for the first time, you’re seeing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, you’re seeing New England, you’re seeing Washington, you’re seeing California. So it’s good to see that we’re now increasing the people that basically are actually coming to this area, in addition to the Midwesterners that historically come to South of Florida.

Scrappy Jackson: From a complexion standpoint, where do you see the demographic texture going here in Southwest Florida?

Brad Cozza: Major metropolitan, which is very diverse, and you’re going to see, which we love, we love a melting pot. We love different concepts. And especially to see that this market is very educated and metropolitan-oriented, it’s completely different where it was five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. This market is looking and feeling more and more of something you would see in the East Coast.

Scrappy Jackson: And you’re on the cusp, that’s for sure. Gulf Shore Magazine’s 40 under 40. And I was doing my homework on you, Brad, and I came up with this idea. Now tell me if I’m wrong. Modeling was an indoctrination, real estate, a foundation, food and entertainment, an avocation.

Brad Cozza: I think I might use that. That’s IG-worthy.

Scrappy Jackson: Yeah, man, because your avocation-

Brad Cozza: Yeah. Listen, hospitality has always been a passion mine, and I consider it a fun environment to be around. And I really think that Southwest Florida is ready for some major metropolitan ideas and some concepts that more and more we’re seeing that. We’re getting away from what historically would actually work in Southwest Florida five, 10 years ago, because it is so diverse and we are seeing such migration to this location, to Southwest Florida. So it’s getting that metropolitan vibe and we love it.

Scrappy Jackson: Yeah. You’re not satisfied with just real estate. Colleoni’s is a wonderful Italian restaurant. Tell us about that.

Brad Cozza: Yeah. So I was always one of their biggest patrons. I used to go there all the time. And COVID happened, and they have some family back in Milan, so they said, “Hey, Brad, would you be interested in promoting and selling our business?” So I said, “Well, how much do you want?” And we actually came to terms, and I said, “I’d like to take over the tradition itself.” So we hired a really good team, hired a really good chef that basically provided a little, had that whole Colleoni family recipe, but added a little modern touch to it. And it’s been great. We’re looking for expansion, and it’s been a tremendous opportunity.

Scrappy Jackson: That’s great. As an entrepreneur, you’ve definitely carved your own path. You’ve taken risks. You faced adversity. What kind of advice can you give a young entrepreneur today?

Brad Cozza: Take risks, but definitely diversify. Take calculated risks, do your homework. What works in one market might not work in another market itself. So just really dial into what market you would like to take that risk in, and take that jump in the pool.

Scrappy Jackson: Another piece of advice; I want Brad to give advice to his 20-year-old self.

Brad Cozza: Get in real estate before you’re 25. But again, the experiences I had with modeling and hospitality and so on and so forth, I like to be well-rounded, and I like to do numerous things at the same time. So I would not second guess anything, and I’m very happy and very fortunate to be in such a growing, explosive marketplace.

Scrappy Jackson: As ambitious as you are, how do you keep all these things, how do you keep them balanced, work/life?

Brad Cozza: That’s always the challenge. The challenge is I always like to work. I work when I’m basically not working if that makes any sense.

Scrappy Jackson: Yes.

Brad Cozza: I always, whenever I go on vacation, I’m basically looking at other concepts, I’m looking at other ideas. And so, it’s always churning in order to basically stay ahead of the game and ahead of curve, especially in a market that you can definitely actually take advantage of in a positive way, and basically actually impact some positive changes.

Scrappy Jackson: Cozza Investment Firm. Tell us about it right now, and how can we participate with you in future opportunities?

Brad Cozza: So, we’re working with some large institutional hedge funds, as well as individual investors. Again, we never want to basically overplay one specific marketplace, so we’re very flexible. There’s a huge demand for affordable housing, so we’re taking our investment group and our investors, our builders, and we’re moving north. We’re actually going to Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, North Port, Claremont, center of the state, anywhere where it makes sense where you can create affordable housing. That’s where the true demand is, and that’s where you’re going to have your exit strategies in a very safe, relative marketplace compared to what it was in that 2005, 2006 market. So we like to be flexible and we like to… Because the more investors make, the more they’re going to invest back with us.

Scrappy Jackson: Given your flexibility, do you still have a niche?

Brad Cozza: We do. We do. Pre-construction is definitely a huge niche because we’re in such a hot seller’s marketplace right now that the cost of reproduction is the only way that we can show an equity position for our investors. Because we give our builders such high volume, they can afford to scale it, and basically, actually reduce the price per square foot. So pre-construction is the niche now, but again, you never know. The market changes. Who would have known in 2008 that our sole business plan would be attending the foreclosure auction every day?

Scrappy Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve seen you on IG, family, fun, friends, entrepreneurship. You’re a good dude, and I really appreciate you, man. And one of the things that I kind of correlate with is Pitbull. He says, “Live life. Don’t let life live you.” And you’re certainly doing that.

Brad Cozza: That’s correct. It’s got to be a well-rounded lifestyle.

Scrappy Jackson: Brad Cozza, I appreciate you, bud, really do. This is The Come Up, a video podcast celebrating Southwest Florida’s entrepreneurs. It is brought to you by Content with Teeth, a creative content marketing agency right here in Southwest Florida. From copywriting to video production to HubSpot service, they do it really big, just like this Fathead right here, Content with Teeth. Brad, thanks again, man. I really appreciate it.

Brad Cozza: Scrap, you’re the man. Thanks, brother.