When Austin Pugh started courses at Pensacola State, he never imagined his name would one day grace the wall of a College classroom.
However, Pugh knows you should “never say never!”
The PSC graduate is the inaugural Gene Valentino Entrepreneurship Practicum Champion. Pugh, the owner of Southeast Gutter Systems, was recognized at a plaque unveiling ceremony on Oct. 17 in the Gene and Maureen Valentino Lecture Hall in Building 10 on the Pensacola campus.
Southeast Gutter Systems is the result of a course assignment.
“I started at UWF (University of West Florida), but Pensacola State College really turned my life around academically,” said Pugh who earned his associate in arts degree in May 2020 and completed the Entrepreneurship Practicum in Spring 2021. “When I first sat down in Mr. Valentino’s class, it changed my whole perspective on life and becoming a business owner.”
As part of the course, students had to develop a business plan. In May 2021, Pugh’s business plan for a gutter installment company became Southeast Gutter Systems.
“I had worked for a small construction company – installing gutters, building screened-in rooms, etc.,” Pugh recalled. “But once I developed that business plan for a gutter installation company in the class, I decided to implement it soon after graduation.”
Southeast Gutter Systems initially started with two employees ─ Pugh and one other person. Today, the company has seven employees and serves customers from the Emerald Coast to Louisiana.
Pugh becoming a Valentino Wall of Champion inductee dates back a few years. In 2020, the Valentinos gifted over four acres of land in Chumuckla (appraised at $250,000) and an additional $20,000 to the College to support the Entrepreneurial Program. (The College will eventually sell the property and use the proceeds to establish an endowed scholarship and program support for Business Entrepreneurship students in the Valentino name)
To recognize the Valentinos for the donation, the Associate of Science degree in Business Entrepreneurship was renamed the Valentino Associate of Science degree in Business Entrepreneurship. Room 1015 (the lecture hall) also was renamed.
As part of the curricula, Business Entrepreneurship students participate in a head-to-head competition to develop a business plan. Winners can go into the CO-LAB at the PSC Downtown Center to build their businesses, and a plaque is installed on the Valentino Wall of Fame in the lecture hall.
Gene Valentino said selecting Pugh as the first Valentino Wall of Fame champion was relatively easy.
“I chose Austin as our first inductee because he was an academic standout and went out of his way to help and advise other students on his team,” said Valentino. “I’m glad I chose him. His business plan was compelling. It addressed everything ─ his team, payroll, staffing, and was designed for incremental growth.”
Dr. Michael S. Payne, Department Head of the College’s Business Department, said Pugh is a sterling example of the impact of the Business Entrepreneurial Program.
“Our entrepreneurship and business classes partner with the community to build companies, build minds and build the Pensacola family,” Payne noted.
“Pensacola State College’s confluence of brilliant and local entrepreneurs, like Mr. Valentino and Mr. Pugh, will continue to fill a nurturing and raging river of economic success for Northwest Florida.”
Valentino, a former Escambia County commissioner and successful businessman, added he is not surprised at Pugh’s success.
“I was so impressed with Austin’s company and his products that I ripped the old gutters from my house and had Southeast Gutter Systems install new ones,” he said.
Pugh, a 2016 Pace High graduate, is already looking toward the future.
“I want to expand into light construction, home improvements, or commercial maintenance. I plan to create a regenerative revenue stream and make my customer base wider,” he said.
Austin Pugh, second from left, shakes hands with Gene Valentino at his plaque unveiling on Oct. 17. Dr. Michael S. Payne, Department Head of the College’s Business Department, far left, and Nancy Johnson, business lecturer, is also pictured.
Gene Valentino, a former Escambia County commissioner and successful entrepreneur, speaks to students in the Business Climate Class on Oct. 17. Also pictured is Gerry Goldstein, the course instructor.