(WTNH) — A Connecticut native has some advice for the millions of Americans laid off in the last year. For anyone looking to start their own business, it can be a tough, but rewarding path.

Growing up in the middle of Connecticut in the ’80s, Chet Winnicki got to do some cool stuff.

“I was fortunate enough to enjoy the things like Caldor, Bradlees, and Lechmere,” Winnicki said. “You know, to the Hartford Civic Center when it was still called the Civic Center and go to Whalers games and UConn games and stuff.”

Growing up near the insurance capital of the world, he went to work for an insurance company. Then got laid off. Then he got laid off again. Then he met a girl and moved to Florida.

“I lost my job, I was laid off for the third time,” Winnicki said. “But living in Tallahassee, at that point in my life, I thought that was a great time to scratch my entrepreneurial itch.”

Which was all about those ’80s experiences in Connecticut.

“So, I figured maybe there were other folks out there, like me, who want to be nostalgic about the things that they grew up with that are near and dear to their heart, but aren’t known nationally,” explained Winnicki.

So, he created a T-shirt company called Local Vyntage. It’s got T-shirts for all those old stores. The Hartford Civic Center is a customer favorite. Local Vyntage has a shirt for the New Haven Coliseum, as well.

Winnicki and his wife started the business out of their home.

“We had been fulfilling the T-shirts and storing them there,” Winnicki said. “I was doing the customer service, my wife was posting on social media. It really was that kind of garage type startup”

That was in 2016. They now have a store and a staff. Both are growing.

“I’m very fortunate to have been able to hire during the pandemic and continue to grow the business since we’ve been here,” said Winnicki.

During this pandemic, millions of Americans have had their careers upended, just like Chet’s was five years ago. He says starting your own business can be great if it’s something about which you are already passionate.

“You want to start your business if you had that idea before you lost your job,” Winnicki said.
Also, be prepared for lots of work, which all has to be done by you.

“Being a Whalers fan, I liken it to pushing pucks down the ice,” said Winnicki. “I have all of these different jobs, which are the pucks and I’m inching each one forward. It takes a long time to get those pucks in the net.”

The good part is you are captain of the team. The bad news is, you’re also the whole team.