What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I never thought I would start my own company. My father is an entrepreneur- He started an office records management company 30 years ago here in Nashville, TN. This is a large family business and I always thought I would take over the company with my brother and sister one day. About a year and a half ago, I attended a “young professionals” luncheon where the speaker (who is my dad’s best friend) told a personal story about how his daughter died at a young age from a staph infection a few short days after finding out. His overall message was that tomorrow is not guaranteed and if you were not doing what you loved, quit your job and follow your passion. I was unhappy in the industry I was in and decided to take a leap and start something I loved.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Money and a termination of partnership. I originally started the company with my best friend from growing up. After a few short months, we decided the partnership was not going to work and he stepped away from the company. Aside from trying to grow a new business, I also lost my best friend. We went about four months without speaking and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. This also left me with a small (in comparison to some) amount of debt because I had fully funded the company and never sought out investors or loans. I struggled to start something from the ground up all while having to pay my bills and expenses. Being alone in a company is scary. You don’t have other people to bounce ideas off of or give direction in areas where you’re not as knowledgeable about. I overcame these hurdles with the support from loved ones. I mentioned using my dad doubting me as a motivator but I strive on my family’s and friend’s support more than anything.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I did not leave my family’s company on good terms. My dad struggled to support my dreams because it was not easy knowing one of his children did not share his same passion. He verbally portrayed that I was taking a very large risk by leaving a comfortable life to venture off into something that would not be a guaranteed success. We went months without speaking but eventually, he overcame his doubt and realized the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. If anything, I used his doubtfulness as a motivator and did everything I could to prove him wrong. I also relied on the support, encouragement, and overall guidance my friends and mentors showed/gave me. I realized I was the only one within my company but I needed to rely on the people around me for guidance on how to be successful. Once my dad finally came around, he has since then big my biggest supporter and asset.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Perseverance. There were times where I couldn’t afford my mortgage, bills, health insurance, etc. and I had to find ways to make money outside of the business. I knew the business wasn’t going to be an overnight success and that it would take time. I drove Uber every morning from 5-8am, in between appointments, at night, and on weekends. I budgeted myself $35/week to spend on food. I knew that my business would one day be a success and I had to do everything I could to survive until that happened. I absolutely love what I do for a living and will do whatever it takes to make it successful.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
When being the only employee within a company, you have to wear every hat. You’re the president/CEO, CFO, COO, salesman, head of marketing, etc. I was so used to working in a company where I relied on the people responsible for each position and could just do my single job of selling. I’ve had to learn how to balance my time during the day so I can sell, market, and manage the company all at once. Also, it is VERY expensive to run a business.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Never give up on your dream. You’ll get knocked down and you’ll fail hundreds of times. My first year was filled with failures and mistakes. You can’t let that get in the way of fulfilling your passion. If you use mistakes and failures as learning experiences, then you’ll be fine. Also, never be too prideful. You can’t let what other people think affect you— I was embarrassed to drive Uber because I thought people would see me as a failure because I had to seek out supplemental income. You’re also going to have to give up most things that you love in order to be successful. For a year, I gave up my two favorite hobbies: golf and hunting. I had to cut out any extra expenses outside of what I needed to live. If the company you are wanting to start is truly your passion, you will find a way to be successful.