Clifton started in "show business" as a young adult when his father, owner of West End Marine, helped launch the New Orleans Boat Show. The New Orleans Boat Show became one of the leading shows in the country under his father's leadership and was eventually sold to a global event production company. Clifton purchased West End Marine from his father and grew the business into one of the top 10 boat dealerships in America by Boat & Motor Dealer Magazine. In the off season, the showroom at West End Marine was transformed to a magical holiday wonderland. Due to the unique approach, a separate holiday commercial decorating division was formed under Clifton's ownership and decorated hotels, casinos, commercial buildings, etc. Christmas Ltd. grew to locations in Metairie, the French Quarter, Slidell and Lafayette all in south Louisiana. Clifton sold the retail and commercial holiday business and moved to Houston in 2000.
Along the way, he worked with international consumer and trade shows assisting in floor management, move-in and event production. Due to his success, companies sought him out for consultation. He, along with his wife Constance, formed a marketing and consulting firm, VIA Growth, Inc. which guided businesses on marketing, branding, visual audits, training and advertising. Clients included Mail Boxes Etc., Smoothie King, UPS Stores, GNC, DMG World Media as well as private businesses. In 2002, Food & Vine Time Productions was launched to bring consumer culinary, wine and craft beer lifestyle events to the 4th largest city in America.