The Freedom Of Life’s Shackles: The Road Of Entrepreneurship

So the saying goes, that where passion exists, where a love for the work you’re doing and the mission you’re pursuing, the stress and strife and struggles of “working for the man” will not find a home. ‘Tis what I thought when I broke away from my job that paid decent money and offered “security” (after the many financial crises we’ve experienced over the last decade and bit, it’s safe to say that security is a myth and something I’d rather have in my hands than someone else’s). I thought it would be easy-street.

I was young, yes, but I’d seen some pretty meteoric rises in the entrepreneurial world in guys I know, so I went into my first venture expecting the world to bow and welcome its conquerer, and then I did the same when I started this site. Stupid, yes. Ignorant, by all means. I was willing to work, and I did, what I didn’t know then was what to work on or what to give my time to.

Though it took me a while, a long while, to figure out at the very least how to do things and what to give my time to (a process that continues today), I would change nothing about my journey. I learned so much being in the fire alone in my basement writing and working and hustling, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and make my dream my reality. Of course I’m not there yet, but one day I will be.

At its base, an entrepreneur is simply a problem solver trying to figure out what would benefit his clients most then give it to them in the most unique way or the cheapest way or simply the best way offered in the market.

When my family and friends – save one or two – told me it may be time to settle down and get a real job, the fighter in me rose to the challenge. The entrepreneurial road taught me so much and many of the lessons didn’t involve business or finances, copywriting or storytelling, many of the lessons surrounded my own being, the Self, what I could endure, how much energy I could manufacture, and if I could truly persist long enough to see something come to its fruition.

What it did teach me about money, it’s that no matter how much I lose I can always figure out a way to make it back, and that while money gives us freedom and it can help us help others, it’s simply a thing, a measuring stick. It’s a part of a game and it’s only true value is measuring how good you are at what you do.

The entrepreneurial road may not differ entirely from working any other job, maybe only in the consequences of failure as it’s not just you or your family, but everyone else involved in the venture that will feel the sting, or bask in the glory of its success. A lot weighs on your shoulders, and I think that’s very, very healthy and good for a man to experience.

The following article is both article and interview. I’ve asked a couple other entrepreneurs to give me their insights as to why they took the road less travelled. This isn’t a “how to start your business” article, we’ll do that in the near future, it’s merely an insight into a world you may be thinking of entering. You’ll hear from a couple guys in very different industries and discover what drives them, some of their struggles, and what service they’re offering the world.

A quick note on the 9-5er:

I have a deep respect for any man who has a job, any job, from CEO to garbage man, the respect is the same. A man who does what he must to take care of his family is the quintessential definition of manliness. In no way do I put the entrepreneur above the 9-5er in any capacity. So if you’re reading this and you’re taking care of your family, read it with a head held high and with pride. Come to think of it, this deserves an article on its own, alas, for another time.

Take pride in what you do and who you are and possibly most important, take pride in the work you do. This is your fingerprint. With that, I encourage you to think about doing your own thing if the idea or the itch is there. The reality is we need more entrepreneurs. They create jobs, they grow economies, even the mom and pop shops provide us with a service that the big chains can’t, and in today’s interwebz-run society, there has never been more ways to make a living doing what you love, if you’re good, and you’re willing to work.

When I think entrepreneur I don’t necessarily think of Jobs or Gates or Zuckerberg, I think of guys like the following, guys who may make very good money, but men who we can all relate to, with similar struggles and a desire to help and leave an impact. The guy who runs the local hardware store is an entrepreneur, as is the guy developing a vaccine Africa. They’re problem solvers, nothing less, nothing more.

First up, Adam from Bros Leather.

Some background on Adam. I reached out to him because I saw his bags, and they looked awesome, especially after I read the company’s motto. I ordered the dopp kit, loved it, and wanted to touch base with him. His company creates some of the best leather products I’ve come across. Bags, wallets, etc… I now have the dopp kit and the duffle bag, which I’ve taken with me on this trip. Check out Bros Leather. The prices are incredible, and the quality is unbeatable, and Adam is just a solid, everyday guy who saw a “gap” in the market, and a way that he could provide a service better than his competition could.

What drove you to start the company?

I just couldn’t find a bag that would wear the way ours do, and didn’t cost me a mortgage payment!

What sets you guys apart? 

Our prices and customer service. We respond very quickly and treat all customers as best we can. We also sell awesome bags at awesomer prices.

I have a bag, and love it. Tell us a bit about the leather?

It’s very different from anything else I have and have come across. It’s goat leather, which makes it far more durable. When it gets dinged up, it only adds to the character of the bag. It is tanned in Vegetable oil which gives it the look that it has. The color fades in time and in a few months your bag will look like its been with you for years.

Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, how’s the career move been thus far? 

I’m a new entrepreneur, only at it for about a year. I also run an Executive Search firm (www.magnavitagroup.com) and help companies find great people. I love running my companies and working for myself. It’s definitely challenging and somewhat stressful, but very rewarding.

I know you have a family, how have you been able to create balance with the new business and your family? 

It’s a work in progress. My wife works with me a couple days a week which is awesome, and when I get home I make an effort (I try!) to put the phone away for a few hours until the kids go to bed. It’s something I always can improve at. It’s really helpful having a wife who fully supports you. Additionally both my wife and I were raised in small business homes, so we understand how it goes from a time/family standpoint. Once the kids are old enough, they’ll be packing bags! I can tell you that!

Next up, Aaron from Capitalist Creations.

Some background on Aaron. I’ve known Aaron for most of my life now. I’m the godfather to his son, he’s one of my best pals and he’s been a big part of my success. We have a weekly call together where we go over our goals and to do’s. If you’re starting a business on your own or even if you want to get better at what you do right now, I suggest having a “success partner”, or someone that you have calls with, bounce ideas off of, and someone that kicks your ass if you’re being a baby. Aaron is possibly the only guy in my inner circle who saw the value in what I was building early on because he’d built something similar, although in a very different niche. We’ve both seen one another grow on a personal level as well as in business. Aaron’s done a few things in the business world that have been great to see, definitely a guy you want to keep your eye on. And check out Capitalist Creations, as you can tell by the title, it encapsulates exactly what we’re covering in this article.

Note: Capitalist Creations is the latest venture of Aaron’s, who’s already built a number of successful businesses in different realms. 

What drove you to start the company?

A few things did. First and foremost, I hate rush hour. Right out of college I went to go work for a big bank. Day in and day out, I would lose hours of my life sitting in a car watching pedestrians walk by me. Additionally, I can’t stand bureaucracies. Not that all large companies are bureaucratic, but seeing the politics involved in moving up the proverbial ‘corporate ladder’, at this bank, left a bad taste in my mouth. I loathe that environment. I want to be in control of my time and potential without having to brown-nose.

Anyway, I’ve always been a competitor and there is no better way to fulfill that competitive desire than by going out and hunting your own meat, so to speak. Entrepreneurship is a sink or swim lifestyle and that puts a fire in my belly. Once I realized entrepreneurship was for me, I started to really examine my passions – which, at the time, aside from basketball, was the stock market. From there, I looked for inefficiencies within the stock market – niches that were poorly managed or lacked competition. And that’s when I started my PR business for publicly traded companies.

What sets you guys apart?

We believe that less is best. In other words, don’t be a glutton. Take on less clients so you can truly offer them personalized service and your peak performance (this is applicable for entrepreneurs offering services). I strongly recommend this strategy when starting a business. You need to establish a reputation that sets you apart. If you do that, you’ll justifiably be able to charge a premium for your services, which negates the argument that you need to take on more and more clients.

In an era where service has been largely ignored for the sake of immediate growth, take advantage by offering exceptional service and develop a reputation within your industry for doing so. We embraced that strategy and haven’t needed to make a cold call since our second year in business. And our retention levels are through the roof.

Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, how’s the career move been thus far?

For nine of the ten years since I’ve been out of college, I’ve been an entrepreneur. I don’t look at entrepreneurship as a career. It’s a lifestyle and I love it, mainly for the fact that I’ve met some absolutely incredible people along the way, from all over the world.

I know you have a family, how have you been able to create balance with the new business and your family?

This has been a real challenge for me. I’m not a good person to listen to for this particular question.

Finding balance in life is the Rubik’s cube of entrepreneurship. Passion drives my business, and I can work a 14 or 15 hour day without even realizing it. This, obviously, is troublesome when you have a family. Thankfully, I have an amazing wife who reminds me when I’m circling back into my inherent workaholic mode. I am definitely getting better at finding balance, particularly in recent years as my faith has grown, but I still have a long way to go. I’ll figure it out though… by the way Chad, reading some of your articles is a great reminder for me of the importance of finding balance.

One thing that has really helped in trying to achieve balance is I no longer work on Sundays. No matter what, that’s a day off, strictly dedicated to the fam.

What’s the #1 reason as to why you are and will always be an entrepreneur?

Freedom to create.

Best part of doing your own thing?

Two things:

Being able to take my son to preschool almost every morning.

Meeting some incredible people and learning about their journeys to the top.

Myth about running your own business

There are a lot. One that stands out is that in order to be successful you can’t fail. Failure is inevitable. It’s all about learning from your mistakes and coming back even better next time. Successful entrepreneurs have perseverance, are great with people, are hungry to learn, set lofty goals and treat failure as a learning experience, nothing more.

Be Entrepreneurial in Everything

MLK has one of my favorite quotes,

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

No matter what you do, you are an entrepreneur if you’re constantly learning, aiming higher, further, going beyond what your compatriots are aiming to do. The mindset of these fine fellows should be your mindset in everything you do.

The best entrepreneurs often come from normal jobs, they simply work hard and pay attention. They see something that isn’t done right, or a product that would make an industry run more smoothly, and they create. They solve a problem and they innovate.

So pay attention. Keep your eyes open and your ears alert. Always be open to opportunities and always be improving.

Photo Credit: Tumblr.

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