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Father-son team continues Osceola business legacy

Gem Osceola (Courtesy photo)

HOLLYWOOD – Seminole tribal members Gem and John Osceola have been busy these days. The father-son team are involved in several business ventures and said they stay inspired by the memory of family patriarch Joe Dan Osceola, who died in 2019 at 82.

Joe Dan Osceola is known for many achievements at the tribe. He was the youngest elected president; he helped to form the United South & Eastern Tribes (USET) and served as its first president; and he hit milestones in education and athletics among many other accomplishments.

Osceola was also recognized for his entrepreneurism. He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and later joined forces with then-Chairwoman Betty Mae Jumper to help create a business culture at the tribe. Osceola helped expand the tribe’s cattle industry into one of the largest in the U.S. and he operated the Anhinga Indian Trading Post at the corner of Stirling Road and U.S. 441 in Hollywood where it remains today.

The family patriarch went from being born in a chickee in the Everglades to building and selling chickees himself.

“We still hear about the things he accomplished,” Gem Osceola said. “He made such an impression on us and who we are today. It’s just amazing what one man can accomplish in one lifetime. I don’t know how to put it into words. He was a real family man all the way until the day he passed away.”

Gem Osceola said he and his son inherited his entrepreneurial streak.

John Osceola is now the owner of Florida Seminole Commerce, which was formerly the Seminole Salt Co. – a venture to sell salt and salt products to the general market. It’s an idea that remains in an exploration phase today. As Florida Seminole Commerce, Osceola has recently helped to advance the possibility for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations between Miami-based PositivEnergy and STOF Inc., Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International. He said Florida Seminole Commerce has already embarked on uninterrupted power supply (UPS) projects and other power backup solutions to service the tribe’s interests.

John Osceola (Courtesy photo)

Osceola graduated in 2021 with a degree in entrepreneurship from Nova Southeastern University. He said his company’s high-level goal is to help bring comprehensive, sustainable energy solutions to any tribal nation that’s interested.

“I’ve been helping out since I was a little kid when our family had this coffee shop off Stirling and 441. I helped bring people in with a sign that said ‘The World’s Best Coffee,’” Osceola said.

The family is still involved in the coffee business as a supplier. Florida Seminole Coffee distributes to Hard Rock Cafes across the U.S.

“It’s been hard work and John’s been there as a natural progression,” Gem Osceola said. “He’ll ultimately take over all the companies.”

In addition to Florida Seminole Commerce and Florida Seminole Coffee, other companies include Florida Seminole Chickee and Paparazzi Photography & Entertainment, which recently won a contract with the Jimmy Johnson Championship Fishing Tournament that took place the first week of March in South Florida.

“We’re pretty busy throughout the week, that’s kind of what we enjoy doing,” John Osceola said. “At the end of the day we want to be exhausted – that’s how you know you’ve done all you can in a day.”

Other family members are involved in the businesses too, including wife and mother Linda Jones-Osceola. The family has hired other employees to help – a bookkeeper, office manager, senior accountant and advisers.

“We have a litter of other people around that help us grow and make decisions,” Gem Osceola said.

Emre Erkul, a former senior VP of corporate marketing for Seminole Gaming and Hard Rock International, is an adviser to Florida Seminole Commerce. Erkul and the Osceolas have formed a relationship with Ed Wise, PositivEnergy’s founder and CEO. Wise believes, as the Osceolas do, that the Seminole Tribe could eventually become its own utility company through green technologies while also generating revenue.

PositivEnergy has worked with other tribes on sustainable energy projects.

“We not only believe in their projects, but their philosophy – the primary focus is not to make money – but to create a better world for generations to come,” John Osceola said. “We really love doing this and we love enriching the community with these opportunities.”

It’s one of many connections he said he’s been able to develop from years of networking and collaboration within the Hard Rock environment.

“I use a proactive approach when meeting people – I do one-on-ones with everyone we meet,” Osceola said. “I’ve maintained respectful relationships – and people always tend to remember us because we leave good impressions on them.”

The father-son team said they are just one example of other entrepreneurial-minded families within the tribe.

“There’s a lot of successful families out there in their field, the cattle and other ventures like that – and have been doing it longer and in many cases more successfully,” Gem Osceola said. “We stay in our lane, don’t look around too much, but run our own race and look at things that haven’t been done. We believe the business profile we have is an ongoing relationship we like to keep, for the betterment of the tribe and communities around us.”

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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