Honoring the Life of Ky Ekinci
Ky Ekinci, co-founder of Office Divvy and one-time part owner of The Humidor cigar shop in European Village, died Sunday at the age of 53. According to his family, Ekinci suffered a sudden cardiac event.
A native of Turkey, Ekinci worked more than 20 years in the leisure travel and meetings and incentives industry. He combined his broad experiences and friendships around the world with an enthusiastic affinity for high-tech and finance and championed entrepreneurship and small-business culture.
Along with his wife, Lisa, and partner Sim Taing, Ekinci opened business accelerator Office Divvy in 2007 as the idea of co-working spread around the world.
In addition to his business ventures, Ekinci was a tireless advocate for building a vibrant entrepreneurial landscape in Flagler County and was the driving force behind the creation of Entrepreneur Night. The events were held at different businesses in Flagler, Volusia and St. Johns counties and offered budding entrepreneurs, small-business owners and startups an opportunity to network with peers and gain new insights and ideas for achieving success.
Mark Woods, owner of Fun Coast Bartending and Ekinci’s partner in their time at The Humidor, said he was more than a business associate.
“Ky was my friend before he was my business partner,” Woods said. “We collaborated for years before taking over The Humidor in 2013. I can be a bit of a hothead and Ky was always able to absorb and digest before responding. This is something he taught me in the years we were friends. The wisdom, the support, the literal cheerleading he gave over the years will not soon be forgotten by me or others who were fortunate enough to cross paths with him.”
Woods said Ekinci’s impact on local businesses and entrepreneurs was immeasurable.
While Ekinci’s presence at local events and in boosting entrepreneurship will be missed, Woods said what he will remember most is his friendship.
“I have so many stories and memories with Ky,” he said. “We both loved ‘Seinfeld,’ so I wanted to share a story that sounds like a ‘Seinfeld’ plot. A funny story about language and customs from when Ky first arrived in Boston from Turkey. When he would pass folks walking around on and around the Cambridge campus they would greet him with ‘How’s it goin?’or something similar. Ky would actually reply with a story about how he was doing that day. it took him a while to realize that ‘How’s it goin?’ or ‘What’s up?’ in this setting were equal to ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning.’Ky had good humor and was willing to laugh at himself. More people should have that quality.”
Helga van Eckert, Volusia County economic development director, recalled working with Ekinci when she held a similar position in Flagler County.
“Ky was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur.,” she said. “As an innovator, motivator and collaborator he always had time for a brainstorming session or consultation. The Flagler County small-business and entrepreneurial community lost a visionary. We all lost a friend.”
Howard Holley, CEO of TouchPoint Innovative Solutions (publisher of EVOLVE) shared, “As a leadership team we decided to close our offices in November of 2019 and we only considered one alternative – Office Divvy. All of us knew Ky and Lisa since they opened in 2007 because we were all in the same space – building entrepreneurship and economic growth. Over the years we counted them as friends. They both even attended our strategic planning session in January this year.”
Holley added, “I was at Office Divvy with one of our team members for a meeting with a client/partner when I learned that Ky had passed. I was devastated and I still am. Our heart and prayers go out to Lisa and the Office Divvy Team. He was without exception “one of a kind” who will be so missed by us all!”
A family service will take place in Ekinci’s native Istanbul. A celebration of his life will be held locally at a later date.
Remembering Ky Ekinci
For anyone paying attention to business in Flagler County and certainly for anyone covering the business community, it was impossible not to know Ky Ekinci.
A tireless advocate for small-business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, Ky always seemed to know what was going on in and around Palm Coast and Flagler County. And for me, he was a window into the wider world of tech and its potential for changing the business landscape.
The first professional video I ever shot was of Ky when The Humidor launched its own cigar brand. Ky graciously – and enthusiastically – agreed to do a tutorial on the proper preparations for enjoying a fine cigar. And he put up with my steep learning curve in videography.
It wasn’t just the joy of sharing the experience of a fine cigar with people, but the extra thrill it seemed to spark in Ky because it was for a digital audience as well. And his devotion to digital innovation as something to be embraced rather than feared made him the perfect ambassador to bring these new tools to the wider community.
My favorite Ky Ekinci story – out of a long list of really good ones – is when we first met.
Getting the first press release for Office Divvy, back when the idea of co-working was not as common as today, I was initially unimpressed.
“What is a divvy?” I thought. “And what is co-working?”
Setting the release aside, I went back to what then seemed more pressing matters.
But five minutes after meeting Ky, the lightbulb went off for me. I understood what he was talking about and started to see what it could mean for the business community in Palm Coast. And as a business reporter what a good story it was going to be.
Through all of our encounters – professional and social – Ky always brought an enthusiasm and wonder to the conversation. I would often get emails from him with story ideas, many of which turned out to be some of the best articles I ever wrote. And I always knew if I had a question about something or needed a quote, Ky would provide it in a thoughtful and erudite manner.
I will miss those conversations with Ky. I will miss getting an email out of the blue about something important I hadn’t heard about. I will miss following his tweets and adding a snarky comment every so often.
But mostly, I will miss Ky.
By Aaron London
Aaron London is managing editor of EVOLVE Digital.