Michael Fux was a 15-year-old boy when his family emigrated from Cuba. They moved to Newark, NJ, where Michael shared a 7-story, one-bedroom walk-up with his parents and brother. His father took a job pumping gas and the family struggled to make ends meet.
“I was going to high school, and I wasn’t doing really well”, Fux recalled. He realized that college wasn’t in the cards since his parents couldn’t afford it and he wasn’t exactly scholarship material. Then one evening, while hanging out with a group of friends, one made a comment that continues to fuel his desire to succeed. “I remember being in a parking lot with my friends, and they were all getting ready to go to college. One said to me, ‘You’re never going to amount to anything because you’re not going to go to college and we all are, so in the end you won’t amount to anything.’ And I never forgot. That comment gave me the push to say ‘You’re wrong, I’m going to be something. It doesn’t matter whether I go to college or not. I’m going to be something.”
Well, Michael Fux became “something” alright. He defied the odds by becoming a serial entrepreneur. By the time he was 17, he opened a used tire and battery store, where he re-purposed used and discarded tires and batteries for profit. He was later employed by several major retailers, eventually working his way up to Vice President of sales. He built one company after another; some more successful than others, but he always learned from his previous mistakes.
In 1996, he and his wife Gloria started Sleep Innovations from scratch. What began as a $3,000 investment in a foam bedding start-up, eventually grew into a multinational empire with annual sales exceeding $300M.
In 2003, he began hosting an annual star-studded Christmas party for sick and underprivileged children at Miami Children’s Hospital. Michael’s celebrity friends come out in support of this event ever year. There are gifts, live music, food, games and visits from the Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat cheerleaders and players.
The eventual sale of the company in 2005 provided the Fux family with the opportunity to give back to underprivileged children in a most meaningful way. “In the end I got so much money, and I felt so fortunate that I decided to help people who have not been as fortunate as I have.”
That same year, he established the Michael Fux Foundation, which provides financial support to the Children’s Cancer Caring Center, which assists families who lack the necessary medical funding. He built the Michael Fux Family Center at Miami Children’s Hospital. The center provides a home within the hospital for the families of sick children under care at the hospital. Families can wash clothes, use computers, eat dinner or take a break from the stress in the center’s state of the art movie theater.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Operation Smile, the Make a Wish Foundation and the Mourning Family Foundation (founded by NBA Hall of Famer and personal friend, Alonzo Mourning) have all benefited from Mr. Fux’s generosity.
A serious car enthusiast, Mr. Fux uses his collection of 152 exotic automobiles to raise funds and awareness for his charities as well.
“My grandfather on my mother’s side was a taxi driver. He was the first person that put me on his lap and made me believe I was driving his car. And I fell in love with cars from that moment on,” Fux recalled. “I have loved cars ever since. When I was young and could barely afford anything, I promised myself that one day I would have them all. Now I use my cars for charity. I send them to different events and car shows to help raise money for kids.”
Mr. Fux stores the vast majority of his cars on a 100-acre farm he owns in Milford, but says one day they will most likely be in a museum or on display, earning more funds and raising awareness for the charities that he so passionately champions. “My plan is to build my business even further and make a lot of money to help more children,” he concluded with a smile. “It brings me tremendous joy to help underprivileged kids. I want to continue to do a lot more of this same charitable work, because it’s a job that is never truly complete.”