This post was originally published on Boise State’s Challenge Blog.
I am an entrepreneur, much like I am an urban beardsman. It’s a term that makes it easy to quickly explain who I am and what drives me. It’s a hell of a drug – oh what a drug.
See, living the life of an entrepreneur is nothing like your standard 9 to 5 job. With many of those jobs, you can show up, do an excellent job, then head home. You can turn off work and focus on your life, your family, and your friends. But with entrepreneurship, it never turns off. There is an consistent bug in your head to work, to build, to improve. It’s always there. Always.
I wasn’t always like this. When I was younger I had that 9 to 5 job and it paid well, but it was challenging for me. It wasn’t challenging in the tradition sense in that the tasks were difficult. It was challenging in the sense that I saw opportunities to improve processes, systems, or operations; yet I had no control to affect the business. The thing that drives me to be an entrepreneur is that sense of control.
As an entrepreneur, I have no one to blame but myself for the success or the failure of the business. The entire burden sits on my shoulders. It’s a burden that is easier to take when you are only supporting yourself, but as more people depend on you that burden gets heavier.
I have a wife and daughter; I have two founders; I have two full time team members; and I have close knit business partners that depend on our success, much as we depend on their operations. Man this drug is heavy. Maybe that’s why I can’t turn it off, that burden of support. It’s more than that though; it’s this vision of building something larger that me.
When you are an entrepreneur, part of you is connected to the very business you are creating. It’s similar to raising a child. You’ll see the business grow up, you’ll see how the personality matches yours, and you’ll be proud. The feeling of others recognizing your business is similar to the joy of your child becoming accomplished.
But with owning a business, the success rates aren’t nearly as high as they are with children. There are failures, and oh the failures. I’ve got an entire portfolio of failed businesses and projects – Wakomo, Stellar Group, Startup Spokane, Tarrango, SOLE, and Sovrnty all make the list. Good to great ideas without the success of my current business, Beardbrand. What makes Beardbrand different?
First off, Beardbrand makes the best damn beard oil on the face of the planet. Granted I’m a little biased, but it’s still true. What does Beardbrand have that all my other projects didn’t? A killer founding team and a deep passion for what we are building. It took me 10 years to figure out those two requirements.
In the past I would try to convert friends and co-workers into entrepreneurs. Sell them on the idea of freedom, control, and financial security. People would always respond that it’d be great to be an entrepreneur, but they were ultimately wantrapreneurs. People who say they want to create a business, but don’t do any the steps to start it. If you find yourself selling others on the idea of going into business, stop right now and change your strategy.
What worked for me was surrounding myself with other entrepreneurs. The best thing to happen to me was Startup Weekend. It’s a weekend long event where you try to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and compete against other teams. It was at Startup Weekend that I first worked hands on with my co-founders Jeremy McGee and Lindsey Reinders.
Both of them were entrepreneurs already and had their own businesses. When you start your business you’ll have a lot of failures, down days, and challenges. That burden I spoke about earlier is nearly impossible to handle by yourself, but when you have two partners you can share that load. When you are having a bad day, they can pick you up and vice versa.
When you are passionate about what you are building, those bad days are a lot easier to handle. I love the bearded lifestyle and I love what we are building. I’ve always considered myself a beardsman – whether or not I had a beard. I hated how beardsmen were perceived as lazy, unclean, rough, or outdoorsy. I didn’t feel like I fit the mold as the typical beardsman – I viewed myself as someone who considered himself as professional, stylish, and career driven.
It was at this ah-ha moment where I came up with the term “urban beardsman” and started to unite the community of like minded individuals. Through the rapid growth of Beardbrand, it was clear I was not alone. We were the first to speak about the bearded lifestyle and what it meant to be an urban beardsman. Our mission is to change the way society views beardsmen.
My passion for the mission helped me deal with all the negatives of being an entrepreneurship. The burdens listed above, the lack of pay, and the paranoia that comes with being an owner. I didn’t pay myself a dime for the first 11 months of the business, after that my pay was modest. If I stuck around in that 9 to 5 job, I would have been making 4x as what I was making at Beardbrand.
For me it’s not about the money. It’s about being able to do things my way and to have the freedom to define my life. The only one I consider my boss are my customers, and I love interacting with them. We have some of the best customers anyone can wish for – they are laid back, cool as balls, and have incredible stories to tell. They are the type of people I would go to the front lines for. Awesomeness to the highest level.
I want to be clear that starting a business is great, but it can also be dark and hideous. There is a success bias in that you only hear from the entrepreneurs who have succeeded but you rarely hear about the owners who have lost their homes, had their marriages destroyed, and had friendships dissipated. Chances are if you start only one business, you will be one of those failures.
The awesome thing about life is that there are options for everything. There are opportunities out there where you can be an entrepreneur but not have the risks that a business owner has. There are companies who are looking for individuals with that entrepreneurial drive. Owning a business doesn’t mean you are an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you must own a business.
My brother is an entrepreneur and he works for one of the largest computer companies in the world. He is part of a new division within that company and is helping to lead that division. The beauty of his role is that he can support his wife and three children and enjoy the perks of building a business. They are are many different paths in life, and only you will know what is right for you and which you should take.
I encourage everyone to build a bit of entrepreneurship into their lives, even if it’s not currently in your blood. Think outside the norm, and be more creative. Don’t blindly do as you are told. You will become a more valuable individual to society and ultimately make the world a better place. But don’t think that being a business owner is all roses and golden cookies – be sure to appropriately value the risks before you start.