What did Entrepreneurship Teach Me?

Hey again! Here’s another glimpse into my head as of late.

Maybe this is the perfect time to announce I’ve decided to leave Chesapeake Collection, a brand I started with my friend Matt, when we were juniors in college. I’ll get more into the why later, but to open, I want to say that while Chesapeake Collection wasn’t for me, it taught me lessons, and gave me perspectives on things in life that I’ve never been exposed to before. I wrote this blog to share some of my experiences. Maybe some of you have already learned these things, maybe some of you haven’t.

Now remember, the intent of my blog posts are never to lecture, they’re simply my thoughts, what I learned, and you’re free to do with them what you will.

Let’s go!

# 1: The Numbers Matter

“Yeah, no shit Kev.”….I know, I know. But hey, there might be some people out there who still haven’t realized it, or don’t put enough importance on it. But if you’re thinking of starting a business, and business wasn’t your major, that’s okay, just remember that cash is king. Anything you do when you work on your business, your mindset should be “How, and when is this idea or action going to generate sales?” If it isn’t, stop wasting your time. You could have the best product in the world, the best business partners and staff in the world to work with, the best mission and philosophy, but none of it is going to matter if it’s not going to be putting money into the bank account. The likes, the follows and the shares don’t matter. Only the sales that result from them do.

With that, remember to watch costs. Always be finding ways to decrease production costs, or make current costs work to generate more dollars (without compromising product quality, or brand identity of course). And yes, there are going to be times where you have no choice but to spend money to make money. But you must make sure that what you’re making is drastically more than what you’re spending, and that the spending will eventually result in increased sales. If it isn’t, head back to the drawing board.

#2: Stop Trying to Please Everyone!

Brand reputation is everything, and how your audience perceives you matters. However, if your goal is to please every single person out there, to make everyone happy, you’re only going to end up disappointing yourself. Not everyone is going to like you, not everyone is going to like your brand. It’s just a fact of life, and the sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.

Through Chesapeake Collection, we met so many incredible people; people we genuinely looked forward to working with. But again, as young entrepreneurs, we learned that sometimes, working with certain people isn’t the best possible thing we can be doing for the business. Sometimes their product or service is too expensive, sometimes there is just a better opportunity out there.

Aw, but gee, I really like working with ________, they’re really nice. Great, be their friend. But you run a business, you’re trying to make a living, and a lot is riding on how, and with whom you spend your time. In this case, it’s okay to put your interests above theirs, and say “no”, especially if it’s to protect the well being of your business, or you as a person. When did the word “no” become so evil?

The goal here should not be to please everyone, but to please as many as possible. The health of you and your business is paramount, and if it means that you’re going to upset a few third parties or customers, so be it!

#3: It’s Possible!

Since starting Chesapeake Collection, the two most common things I’ve heard are “how did you start this?” Or “I’ve always had a similar Idea, but I never knew how to go about it.” I don’t think people realize how incredibly possible it is to start something, from absolutely nothing, especially with the technology we have access to in today’s day…Nike was fathomed when Phil Knight was 24 years old, laying in his childhood bedroom, and he didn’t even have the internet. So many tech start ups you see, Apple, Google, Amazon, all began as just a bunch of guys in their parents’ garages, behind a computer.

That’s all Chesapeake Collection was at first. The very first thing it was, was just an idea, it was only something in our heads. But the difference between us, and the people who have talked to us, saying “I’ve always had an idea for something like this, but…” is that once it was in our heads, we turned off our televisions, we cancelled plans with friends, got together, opened Microsoft Word, and began typing up that business plan, that we would eventually be passing out to potential investors. In addition, we simply logged on to maryland.gov and filed for our LLC, and by the fall, we were an officially incorporated business.

I don’t think people realize how simple it is to get things rolling. It worked for us, and guess what? It will work for you too, which brings me to my next point.

#4 Take the Time, and Go For It, No Matter What!

Now this is where it’s gonna get controversial. But I have a favor to ask you people.

If you could, could you please show me where it’s written that you HAVE to have everything figured out by age 27? Where does it say that you have to have your career set, you have to be married, you have to be a homeowner by your mid to late twenties?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends who have found a job they genuinely love, have the financial means, and who have met the right person, and now that the opportunity is there, they should 100% go for it! I hope that what’s just been said, wasn’t interpreted as “nah dude, break up with her” or “quit your job” or “move back home”. If you have these great opportunities in front of you, please capitalize on them!

What frustrates me is that I feel like this is what our generation places value on now.

I feel like social media has created something now, where in order to be a person of value, you have to have your career and your love life figured out within a few years of graduating college.

News flash…you don’t!!!!

To anyone who is still in college, or just graduated: If your dream is to do what everyone else is doing, then go for it. But if it isn’t, don’t.

I’m just asking, what is wrong with moving back home for a while? What is wrong with taking your time and trying different things until you find something that makes you look forward to waking up early in the morning and getting to work, instead of only living for the weekend?

Because at some point in your life, you’re going to meet someone, or see someone on TV or social media, that has the life that you wanted. You know, the job/career/business you wanted to start…someone who had the idea you had, but the difference is they sacrificed and went for it, and you didn’t…because you were too scared to pursue it, because you felt pressure to do what everyone else was doing.

So many people these days are asking people my age “have you met someone yet?”…..”are you getting your own place soon?” ….”what’s your job looking like in the next few years?”

Not enough people ask …….”Are you chasing your dreams?”, “Are you exploring different things?” Or….”are you happy?”

So long story short…do you have an idea? Do you have something that lights a fire under your ass? Good, do it! Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing, get to your computer, and start that business, write that book, write that script, do that project!

Just make sure what you’re doing is meaningful/and that you at least have SOME kind of paid work, because no one wants to be one of those people that sits in your parents basement and paints and smokes weed, and watches porn all day. Using your time to be productive IS imperative.

But win or lose, I promise you that you’ll be happier you swung the bat.

Bringing me to my final point.

#5: Prioritize Happiness!

One of my favorite jokes of all time was told by Daniel Tosh during one of his stand up acts. He said “They say money can’t buy happiness. Oh really? Have you ever seen someone unhappy on a wave runner?” While funny, it’s true.

Money obviously cant buy the emotion of happiness, but it can buy the experiences which lead to happiness. So yeah, money can absolutely buy happiness.

But it shouldn’t be what you rely on to achieve happiness…

I’m going to do you a huge favor right now. Close this window, and go search “Gary Vaynerchuk” on Facebook. Follow him. Also go follow his Instagram account “@garyvee”. This guy is life changing. Trust me, you’ll be thanking me for this at some point, if you don’t already know who he is.

One of the most common lessons he expresses is happiness is the number one priority, not money. Some of you may disagree, and that’s fine, but I certainly don’t.

I’ve met plenty of successful people in my lifetime. Some of these people have even been millionaires. And some of these millionaires are great, but some are also miserable, and complete assholes to be honest.

Here’s just one of many articles that discuss this!

If your goal right now is to become richer and more popular than everyone around you, you’re only going to set yourself up for more disappointment. Haven’t you noticed by now, that there’s ALWAYS someone who has more money and more friends than you? It’s just how life works!

If you would have asked me a year or two ago how I loved Chesapeake Collection, I would have told you all the reasons why I did. I loved the fact that I was an entrepreneur. I loved the fact that I worked for myself and was my own boss. I loved the fact that I got to work with one of my best friends. I loved the fact I created something that was potentially going to make me a lot of money. And yeah, I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome to appear in newspaper articles, and on TV…

…however, I’m here to tell you now, that if you don’t love what do, none of that means anything!

Over this past summer, one of our new board members asked me “How badly do you want this? Do you LOVE what you do?” I immediately replied “yes”. But over the next few days, I started asking myself “Wow…is this really what I love doing?”

I hope you all know that the glory and media spots and all that stuff is just a tiny, tiny part of what being an entrepreneur is. The reality is that it’s mostly many hours of grueling work, heartache, stress, fights, late nights and early mornings.

In being an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to put the many hours in, and have to be willing to not be able to make much money, if any, for a few YEARS.

I know I have the drive and work ethic to do that, but ultimately, I realized that I didn’t have the passion for Chesapeake Collection, to put those hours in, that Matt did.

Chesapeake Collection is an excellent brand. Many people in Maryland, and elsewhere, identify with it. We’ve come up with some kick-ass designs, no doubt about that. If that wasn’t the case, our sales wouldn’t be increasing every year, and we wouldn’t have a constant influx of people wanting to do business with us.

However, if you know me, you know what I love. I love surfing, I love hunting, I love fishing, I love craft beer and whiskey, I love comedy, I love standing up, and being outdoors.

The past few weeks, when Matt and I would go into our retailers to field their spring orders, I watched Matt pitch our products, old and new. He is incredibly talented in this area. Because he has a genuine passion for Chesapeake Collection, and the products it offers. My head, sadly, was in other places. Matt deserves someone who shares the same piss and vinegar for Chesapeake Collection as he has. Now that he has that person, I’m confident he is going to take this brand to unbelievable heights.

When I prepared to announce my desire to move on to our board of directors, I was nervous because I didn’t know how they would react. After all, they’ve put their time and money into this. Not to mention, they are some of the smartest, most successful businessmen in the area, and I’d feel awful if I ever let any of them down. When I made my announcement, I was relieved to see smiles on each of their faces, instead of disappointment.

Each of them told me what I’ve been telling you. It’s way more important that you follow your dreams and your passions.

As Gary Vaynerchuk says, It’s not about the the end game, it’s about the process of getting there.

The titles and accolades of being an entrepreneur mean nothing if you don’t love what you do.

I know money makes everything easier, but I hope it will not be the number one thing that drives you. Because there will ALWAYS be someone your age who makes more money than you do.

Instead, try and find other sources of joy in your career, whether it’s loving what you’re selling, enjoying the work, or enjoying who you work with.

I can’t wait to begin this next adventure, of finding something that will truly make me happy, and I hope you will take the time to do the same.

Thank you!

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