Ignorance, passion, luck and just enough skill is what brought LIFEAID to a reality. In 2010 I was a sports chiropractor in Santa Cruz, CA and constantly recommending my athletes get off the high sugar, high caffeine, artificially laden "sports" and energy drinks. The energy drinks had done a great job offering functionality (energy) and nailing the lifestyle "cool factor" but the reality is they're are not good for you. We knew there had to be a better way and that's what sparked the formation of LIFEAID, clean nutritional products for active lifestyles that brought together the cool lifestyle factor, functionality and health.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
My 4 year old son and I were walking down the beverage open air cooler at a local grocery store and he reached in and grabbed an energy drink. Appalled that he would reach for something so unhealthy, a light bulb went on at what a good job the unhealthy energy drinks were doing in marketing to our kids and what a horrible job the healthy drinks (think Kombucha, chia, etc) were doing at appealing to the younger generation. With the help of my business partner, Orion Melehan, then a certified financial planner we walked away from our lucrative "solopreneur" practices to push the chips all in in a category (beverage) that we knew nothing about. We knew we had a great idea and the passion to see it thru.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students (young and old) locally or internationally who want to become entrepreneurs?
1) Always play the long game....do this and you will always make decisions that are best for your product, company, employees and customers.
2) View everything from a customer journey perspective. Your customers are the only opinions that really matter (they are by definition the ones who keep the lights on) so look at every decision on how it affects them and their perceptions.
3) Make more emotional deposits than withdraws. Every interaction with our team, customers, suppliers, etc. we are either making an emotional deposit or withdraw. To minimize employee turnover and maximize customer lifetime value, you must constantly be making deposits to their emotional bank accounts. Occasional withdraws are inevitable but if you have built up a large balance then you can weather the storm when things don't go quite as planned.
4) bonus -- test small, listen to your consumers and quickly make pivots based on real world results.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
If you truly believe in yourself, your team, and your product / service then be guarded with your equity as equity is king. Keep as much of it as possible because when first starting up it seems cheap but it is the most valuable asset your business has. Also, don't hire out of desperation. Have a process that ensures getting the right people on the train because the wrong people will cost you 10x more in the long run
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1) Persistence against all odds. Your are going to hear a lot of "no"s. You will be doubted by your friend and family. Stay true to your objective and focus on getting traction no matter how small
2) Empathy - for your team, consumers, everyone. Empathy allows you to see things from others perspective which is invaluable when trying to get traction.
3) Nurture - Ability to bring out the best in everyone. People align behind passion and purpose. If you have that, your job is to facilitate everyone else to excel to the best of their ability.