FSC’s Entrepreneur Tyson Lykes ’84 Comes Full Circle
H. Tyson Lykes II ’84 considers himself lucky to have found work that he loves.
“You talk to so many people who hate their jobs. I like agriculture. I like being outside. I can’t imagine spending all day behind a desk,” he said.
On a recent visit to the Florida Southern campus, Lykes reflected on a successful career spent in agribusiness, for many years working for his family’s far-flung companies and then pursuing his own interests.
Lykes is named after his great-grandfather, Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes, a South Carolina physician who moved to Florida in the late 1800s and founded Lykes Bros., Inc., with his seven sons. Today the Tampa-based company is one of the largest private land holders in the United States, and has diversified interests in citrus, cattle ranching, farming, and insurance.
Lykes grew up in New Orleans and worked in the family’s shipping firm. In 1980, he moved to Florida to work in Lykes Bros.’ citrus and cattle businesses in Dade City. Because of the College’s Citrus Department, the Lykes family had long been supporters of Florida Southern, and Tyson Lykes enrolled as a nontraditional student.
“I was a day student. I arranged my schedule so I could take classes and still work two or three days a week at our fertilizer plant. Occasionally, I visited our groves down in south Florida,” he said.
Lykes majored in business administration with a concentration in citrus science. He studied with legendary citrus Profs. Thomas Mack and Rubert Prevatt and was able to balance the theoretical and scientific side of the industry with the practical experience he gained outside the classroom.
“It made what I was learning in the field come full circle,” he said.
After graduating, Lykes continued working for Lykes Bros., in the citrus and timber branches of the company. In 1993, he struck out on his own, and for the past 20 years, he has started several enterprises, owning his own citrus groves and ranches. He sold his citrus businesses recently because of the canker and greening diseases that have plagued the industry, but he is looking into buying pecan-growing groves, an industry that is flourishing these days.
Lykes advises anyone who wants to start his or her own business to find the resources needed, even if it means starting small, and work hard.
“You can find venture capital. There are still people around who have entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.
Most of all, Lykes said, find something you are passionate about.
“Follow your dreams. I know it sounds corny, but a lot of people go to jobs they hate, and it makes for such a long day. I speak from experience. You have to find something that will make you love going to work,” he said.