Jack Johnstone and Rob Downey leave the International Trade Division of the Ohio Department of Development, incorporate as Johnstone Downey Finance International, Inc. (JDFI) in Columbus, Ohio, "to focus on the introduction of trade finance to exporters." The founders thought, "JDFI would allow us to be good at something, have fun on a global stage, control our lives, and write-off the expense of international travel we both enjoyed."
In fact, the international travel part came later..... much later. For the first two years, Jack and Rob were not licensed as Property & Casualty (P&C) brokers, and failed in a half-dozen efforts to promote non-insurance solutions. For five years, Jack's wife, Zoe, and Rob's wife, Jacqueline, supported the payroll-free JDFI without complaint. The pair used Rob's Volvo as company car, and worked without overhead from the laundry room of the 50 Lincoln Hotel, a licensed bed-and-breakfast owned and operated by Jack and Zoe in Columbus' Short North Arts District.
Jack would show up to work at 8:30AM, take off a flour-covered apron -- after making breakfast for eight and putting that day's bread in the oven -- then insert a floppy disk into his computer. He and Rob would use the hotel phone lines and the 256 MB RAM in their computers all day long, six days a week, building a business from scratch. In the middle of each afternoon, one of them would walk six blocks to the nearest Kinko's to transmit the day's outgoing fax traffic, and pick up the incoming. With eleven clients after two years of labor, JDFI was off the ground..... sort of...... like the Wright Brothers' first bi-plane skimming just above the sands of Kitty Hawk.