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SPECIAL REPORT: Martinsville man risks it all, opens business during recession

Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:59:07 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 12 2013 11:25:31 PM EST

Life is all about taking risks, right?
When the economy tanked in 2008, a man in Martinsville knew he wanted to be in control of his own destiny.


Life is all about taking risks and one local man is proving that taking chances could pay off in the long run.

When the economy tanked in 2008, Stephen Edwards knew he wanted to be in control of his own destiny.

As hundreds of business owners were forced to shut their doors in Virginia, he opened a business of his own.

Edwards spent a few years getting his hands dirty and working long hours for someone else when he felt like he was in danger of losing everything he had worked so hard for.

"I was worried, but I don't think I could have done any worse than what I was currently doing," he said.

Edwards did what most people wouldn't do in an economic recession and willingly left his day job as an automotive technician at a local dealership.

"If I was going to go broke I was going to be in my own control with my destiny,” he said.

Problem is Edwards was making the jump during what many consider our country's worst recession in one of the hardest hit areas.

Edwards said he went out on his own, with no capital and no way to pay a lease.

“I actually worked two weeks with no electricity just during the daylight hours just so I could save up enough money to turn the power on."

Turns out, his choice to take a chance was the key to success, but it wasn't easy.

"The first year was horrible," he said. "The building leaked, it was a dump, I just pressed through a lot of nights until midnight and then we expanded to this building."

ERI Automotive now sits along Memorial Boulevard, in an area where so many businesses now sit in the dark.

"It's still horrible,” he said when asked if Martinsville was making a turn around. “It's getting better. I see improvements, but it's still horrible in Martinsville. People are still struggling."

Edwards wants his business to serve as a reminder that taking chances may be scary but can pay off in the end.

"I would not change anything. I would have done it a lot sooner if I knew it would have gone this well."

Edwards' friends and family thought he was crazy for trying to make a go of it when the economy was headed in a downward spiral, but looking back, he said the timing couldn't have been better.

The Edwards family is doing better than they had ever hoped and have embraced a new lifestyle. It’s one they hope will pay off in the end for someone else.

"I support local business now more than I ever have because I am a business owner,” he said. “Before I wouldn't think twice about it, but now I try to keep all of my income here. Keep it in the town so someone else can prosper here."