Bryan Boysaw once had a secure job at the Palm Beach County Attorney's Office where he was well-liked and respected.
But the regular paycheck didn't soothe his yearnings to be an entrepreneur. So the poker-playing Boysaw, 48, took one of the biggest gambles of his life. He quit his good-paying government job to go into solo practice — with only a secretary to help him work on personal injury cases.
Fifteen years later the Law Office of Bryan Boysaw and Associates has won million of dollars in verdicts and settlements for injured clients. He has worked on high-profile cases alleging negligent supervision in the Palm Beach County School System that failed to protect four mentally challenged students from sexual abuse.
"I believe that when you do excellent work, word gets out," Boysaw said. In fact, he said he hasn't had to advertise for clients since his first year of starting out.
His staff has grown to seven — with Boysaw anticipating he'll hire two more attorneys and four more staffers. His firm has painstakingly renovated the former building of Palm Beach County's first black pharmacist, Joseph Wiley Jenkins, in the historic Northwest District of downtown West Palm Beach.
For his entrepreneurial success and community involvement, Boysaw, 48, won the Sun Sentinel's 2014 Excalibur Award for Small Business Leader in Palm Beach County.
His firm has steadily grown even though Boysaw started his law practice just before the dotcom crash and two recessions, "A significant number of law firms have closed their doors as a result of our last economic down turn," Boysaw said. "We are proud that we are still here and thriving."
But it wasn't easy, said his secretary Deloris Johnson. "It was a lot of work," she said. But it helped that Boysaw is "really nice, down-to-earth and cares about his clients."
His success has allowed him to move from a 1,000-square-foot-office to renovating 4,500 square feet in the former Jenkins pharmacy building that also provided a rooming house for jockeys. He was able to obtain Community Redevelopment financing that allowed him to create "a recognized private sector anchor of the urban corridor," according to a letter nominating him for an Excalibur award.
Or as Boysaw says, ""I have sweat equity in Palm Beach County."
Cheering him to even more successes is his former boss, Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman. She said she still misses his ability to handle complicated cases.
"He's just a high-energy, can-do-it guy," Nieman said. "He wanted to learn new things. He would just jump in without complaint. He's a great role model."
Boysaw attributes his strong work ethic to his family, starting with his grandparents who worked into their 70s their Virginia farm that he visited every summer. Both his mother and father also worked hard. His dad, for example, was a butcher during the day, then ran his own construction business after hours.
But his family made time for him. His father accompanied him to look over Cornell College in tiny Mount Vernon, Iowa, where Boysaw was offered academic scholarships. He became the first to attend college.
His parents were also there to bolster him when Boysaw became disheartened that his dream of going to medical school might not happen. His mother told him that business school was the ticket — based on the number of applicants who got jobs at the company where she was working. Boysaw then took —and aced — a business class.
His father also suggested law school since troubled people see an attorney. "Son, people are always in trouble," Boysaw remembered his dad saying.
Boysaw took the advice. After graduating from law school at the University of Iowa, he returned to Palm Beach County, where he was reunited and married his childhood sweetheart, Traci, a teacher.
Their love of books and learning have encouraged Boysaw to focus his charitable work on helping educate inner-city children in Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach where he had went to school.
"I love nice things, but because of my faith I realize that they are temporary so I don't get attached to any of it," he said. "As such, it's always been easy for me to give of my time and money."