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St. James City octogenarians start new business

January 31, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

One day early last November, St. James City resident and octogenarian Cecei Whiteside asked her husband, Jay, what he wanted to do if he couldn't play tennis anymore (hoping to avoid knee replacement surgery, Jay underwent stem cell therapy the previous August in Oregon). It took Jay just a few seconds before telling Cecei, "I want to start a business that we can do from home."

The idea first took root six months earlier when their daughter, Sarah, an e-commerce manager in California, had awakened with a middle-of-the-night epiphany: a unique set of rules that allowed her at last to gain control of her husband's four children. On a big sheet of paper she wrote out a set of "rules" by hand, pinned them to the wall of their kitchen, snapped a photo and texted it to her father.

"The moment I saw The Rules," says Jay, "I saw something big. I immediately called Sarah and told her that her rules applied to absolutely everyone, everywhere, in every situation. I told her she should print them on a T-shirt and sell them. Sarah liked the idea but with her job and family she didn't feel she could take that on just then.

Article Photos

Cecei and Jay Whiteside.


But Jay could.

The first thing Jay did was order two dozen shirts of various sizes with Pine Island Tennis printed on the front and The Rules on the back. These he gave to his Pine Island Tennis Club friends, women and men alike. Satisfied with the responses he got from the tennis players - and with the Whiteside family reunion coming up the following month, Jay then ordered two dozen more shirts, this time with The Rules printed on the front and Whiteside Family Reunion on the back. Then he and Cecei went off to Oregon.

"All this time", Jay recalls, "the idea of turning The Rules into a profit-making business kept circling round my head. I wore my The Rules shirts everywhere I went in Portland and tallied the number of positive encounters. When the count hit 150 I knew I was onto something. I didn't do anything about it right away, though I continued to wear my The Rules shirts in public and found the same positive responses here in Florida.

"Then one day in Publix, a young couple, both teachers, asked if they could get shirts for themselves, and a banner of The Rules to hang in their classrooms. This is when the idea of an e-commerce business really germinated. Still I did nothing, until that fateful day in November when my better half stoked the fire with her question."

Since then, the Whitesides' daughter has come on board with her skills and experience in e-commerce. Sarah created their web site ( and secured their IP (intellectual property) rights. She markets The Rules through various online channels, develops designs and keeps the company records. Jay also works up designs, arranges production locally and, together with Cecei, maintains inventory and handles all the shipping.

"I am having so much fun!" Jay laughs. "I'm a fervent practitioner of Rule #1. Instead of sitting around all day reading and doing puzzles (we don't watch TV - and haven't for almost 30 years), I find my brain creatively engaged with new ideas for designs along with strategies for marketing and selling our product. And we are doing remarkably well for a start-up. Cecei and I own more than a dozen The Rules shirts of different styles and colors that we wear whenever we go out in public. We are walking billboards for The Rules. And we love meeting the people we encounter wherever we go."

So many people have stopped the Whiteside's to ask where to get a The Rules shirt that they now carry a selection of colors and sizes in their car.

"When people ask where they can get one", says Jay, "I ask them what size they wear. If we have their size with us and the color suits them, they will often buy a shirt right then and there. And it's really a good deal. Those who buy from us directly get free delivery, which saves them several dollars on shipping."

"Where do we go from here? Our current project is to partner with local businesses here and in California to place The Rules on their shirts and promotional items together with their own custom logo and branding. Meanwhile, we are developing other products on which to put The Rules such as fridge magnets, totes, banners, stickers, and more."

The Whitesides may be older in years but they are young at heart, young in mind and young in spirit.

"We all live from breath to breath," they say, "but as long as we have our health and our wits, we'll keep on trucking and be happy to die in the saddle."

Jay can be reached at:



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