Sheltowee Business Network Blog

SPOTLIGHT INVESTOR:  Lessons Learned from Phil Mason, A Louisville Investor

SPOTLIGHT INVESTOR: Lessons Learned from Phil Mason, A Louisville Investor

Jul 05 2019

by Dawn Marie Yankeelov

A common question from entrepreneurs in Louisville is “Where are the angel investors?” Many, like Louisville’s Phil Mason, are hiding in plain sight. Phil Mason, an area angel investor, has been a regular attendee at area organizations interested in entrepreneurs for about 40 years. He currently attends Venture Connectors, the Sheltowee Business Network, and LEAP (Louisville Entrepreneurial Acceleration Partnership) meetups for angels, for example. He quietly takes note of entrepreneurs with new ideas as he travels the city doing his own business consulting, via MCO Business Advisors, LLC, which he founded in 1991. (He started his first business in August of 1973.) His background in business runs from retail to marketing to proprietary education, to modeling agencies to hotel brokerage to temporary employment agencies. The investments that he recalls quickly are those involving inventions, like underwater electrical tape, dry kiln operations, and ethanol production. Innovative companies that he worked with in recent years include: Frogglez Goggles , (Prospect, KY); Surclean (Brighton, MI), stripping paint from primer; and Berrycare Toothpaste Gum, for cavity prevention (Paris, KY).   

At this point, he has invested in almost every type of business, with more than 80+ startups crossing his path and actually receiving funding. He has been described as “quiet, friendly, and reserved,” and will take time out to speak to the dedicated entrepreneur looking for a path forward. While in hotel management, he performed valuations on limited service and full-serve hotel properties in several states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. 

And, for entrepreneurial ventures where he didn’t take an equity position, he has done business evaluations, management services and facilitated sales of the business. 

He says his lessons learned include the following, for fellow angel investors: 

  • He first started loaning money before he realized that he could actually own equity and become of part of a company, to assist in being active in operations. Taking an equity stake is a smart move financially. The ways to do this have expanded over the years, so learn about your options. 

  • Owning an operating a business leads to similar investments with the wisdom of the first round of investments. For example, he has been consistently active in hotels, liquor retail outlets, model agencies (incl. Glamour Shots), and career centers. 

  • Understanding what filings are necessary with the state is very important, dependent on the type of investment and company structure. Keep an open mind to new structures, ask questions and review annually. 

  • Take the time to understand the entrepreneur’s vision. Monitor activity regularly of the companies you are invested in, and offer counsel when warranted. 

  • Know when it is time to recommend a sale or restructuring. Evaluations and assessments are the backbone of success. 

  • You win some; you lose some. Missteps are part of being an entrepreneur and an angel investor. Be willing to be directive, and not just supportive. And, you learn by doing, not by abstract conceptualization. 

  • Look at a number of deals, before selecting your investments. Phil Mason says he looks at about 200 deals a year, investing in about 10 percent. 

  • You don’t have to be a long-term investor. You can structure your investments with the entrepreneur , so that he or she understands you will be in for only 2-3 years. 

For entrepreneurs and angels, he suggests they find classes and other education that show the types of fundraising. The Sheltowee Business Network will be holding its own Sheltowee Business Network Raising Capital Workshop for Entrepreneurs at the iHub Co-working space, 204 S. Floyd St., for its members on July 13, a Saturday. Register at or on Eventbrite. You must join (can be done online at their website) as a member to participate.