News | April 24, 2018

AlumniCollege of BusinessCurrent IssueFGCU360 Magazine

The entrepreneur’s entrepreneur

Brad Cozza is a serial entrepreneur. The 2003 business management graduate has spent the past 15 years succeeding in three very different fields – modeling, real estate and now, the restaurant industry.

“I used to have structure in my life, and now it’s just mayhem,” Cozza said of juggling his time with four businesses: partnerships with the restaurants Society and Izzy’s Fish & Oyster and ownership of both Cozza Investment Group (a real-estate firm) and Evolution Model Management. “The good thing about it is, I enjoy it.”

Society, located in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, is Cozza’s main focus. It opened in fall 2017 after four years of permitting and construction hurdles. The 14,800-square-foot space includes a main dining room, patio and a “treehouse bar” on the roof. Cozza said the variety of features in the space appeals to a range of age groups in Southwest Florida, from older patrons who enjoy the restaurant to younger customers who enjoy the bar and live music.

“We wanted to do something with a big-city metropolitan feel, but ‘Fort Myer-ize’ it,” Cozza said. The restaurant specializes in local fare with a twist and is launching a “DJ Dinner Series” to give it the “little pop of excitement that you see in New York and Miami.”

That big-city culture is something Cozza is familiar with. While earning his undergraduate degree at FGCU, the native of West Warwick, R.I., worked with a Miami modeling agency on campaigns for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Perry Ellis. The work had him traveling between South Florida and New York City, and it was through those travels that Cozza’s passion for food grew.

“It (modeling) was fun. It just wasn’t too profitable,” Cozza said. “I definitely wanted to use my education.”

He put modeling on the backburner and began to work as a real-estate agent with Keller Williams Realty. In 2006, he left Keller Williams to open Cozza Investment Group. Cozza said the timing of the opening enabled him to take advantage of a booming market.

“We sold between 3,000 and 4,000 single-family homes, pre-construction, over a few-year period, and my firm was ranked No. 10 in the nation by the Wall Street Journal for volume produced nationwide,” Cozza said.

As Society becomes established in Fort Myers, Cozza also continues to work as a partner with Izzy’s Fish & Oyster in downtown Fort Myers, and in what he describes as a “supervisory” role with Evolution Model Management.

Dan Wise, a longtime friend of Cozza’s from their undergraduate years at FGCU, said Cozza likes to go in several directions at a time, but always with a clear plan.

“He’s the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur,” Wise said. “He’s always carved out his own path.”

Two projects Cozza has planned in the next few years include expanding Society into another Florida market and working with FGCU students through internships or teaching, so he can share some of his business experience. One piece of advice he has for student-entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid to fail.

“Take the risk,” Cozza said. “Entrepreneurship is all about risk – calculated risk.”