Peter Burns said he's down about $2.5 million, and - get this - he did it on purpose.
Burns, founder and self-described "gray hair" of a networking and mentoring program for entrepreneurs called Club E, said that's the approximate amount he could have earned as a private businessman during the last 2 1/2 years. Instead, he's dedicated that time to helping less-experienced business owners dry the water behind their ears.
"I've got a hundred times that in satisfaction," he said of the lost income.
Club E - the "E" stands for entrepreneur - has drawn a lot of attention from small-business owners as well as those in the business community.
The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce recently formed a relationship with the group, with the goal to merge membership bases and jointly promote each group's services.
Kathy Langdon, chamber president and CEO, said she particularly likes the way the group uses the Internet to forge alliances among members of the business community.
"It's very much geared toward growing your business, not just the social side of things, and that's what attracted us," she said.
Burns started the organization as an adjunct professor at Arizona State University's honors college in early 2007 with 19 members. Since then, Club E's ranks have swelled to about 7,000 members and 10 chapters in four states. And Burns recently began establishing the first of several planned incubator spaces offering low-rent offices and meeting facilities to members.
Dubbed the eFactory, the program huddles small-business entrepreneurs under one roof, creating a sort of collaborative and creative stew that each member feeds from. They also get access to ongoing education, seminars and mentorship from Club E's more experienced members.
Burns plans to host an open-house reception Wednesday to christen the first eFactory in northeast Phoenix near Loop 101 and Cave Creek Road. The new facility will double as Club E's headquarters.
A second location is set to open in early October at Williams Field Road and Val Vista Drive in Gilbert.
Burns, who said he dreamed of starting a small-business incubator for a long time, recently partnered with the real estate development firm Green Street Properties, which owns numerous shopping centers ub the Valley. Green Street offered Burns some tempting financial incentives such as thousands of dollars in renovation work to convert tenant space into office space.
"I never really thought about a shopping center as a location for our eFactory," Burns said. "But the more I thought about it, the better it sounded."
Elliott Frutkin, vice president of marketing at AZBankruptcy - a firm offering bankruptcy services - was mingling at a Club E cocktail reception Wednesday at Oscar Taylor restaurant near Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix.
Frutkin, who joined Club E late last year, said the organization is not just a way to "bounce ideas" off his peers in the business community, it's also a way to break away from the responsibilities that engulf a new entrepreneur's life.
Jonathan Frutkin - Elliott's brother - runs his own law firm called the Accu Law Group, which provides legal counsel for startup small businesses.
He echoed Elliott Frutkin's comments but put it more bluntly: "Small-business people - they get lonely," he said. "Psychologically (Club E) is good. I think it's a great thing."