Tag Archives: Entrepreneurial Journey

Starting a Company: When Do You Quit Your Day Job?

At a recent Charlotte Business Group event I moderated a panel on entrepreneurship. We hit various topics that provided the audience with a ton of value, so I wanted to share some of the key takeaways from the discussion with you. The event featured a great group of local entrepreneurs that covered a wide range of topics about starting, and running, a company.

Our panelists included:

To begin, as far as the “when do you quit your day job” question, there wasn’t a specific answer that fit everyone, as it’s a deeply personal situation. It truly varies for every individual. And in some cases, the answer is never. So, as you can imagine, most of the conversation surrounded providing details about what worked for each of the panelists, as well as them offering various ideas with respect to the way they thought about (act acted on) that at the time.

That being said, below are some of the key takeaways from the evening. There was a lot to unpack and share so I may come back and edit/add more in the coming days.

Ideas for businesses come from a variety of places. In some cases, you can innovate, break, and then reinvent the wheel. In others you can make small tweaks to existing business models that work elsewhere. Or you can find a specific niche and build from there. Business opportunities arise from a multitude of potential catalysts. One great takeaway that stuck with me was to use Bill’s “if you spend 30 minutes researching a problem and aren’t sold something (i.e. served ads) within that time frame you just might have a business idea.”

Just Start. You need to have a little bit of risk involved; you can never get rid of it completely so don’t let that keep you from starting. You don’t need to have absolutely everything figured out. The important thing is to take action consistently. Bill had another great gem; he created a list of 100 things/task and did 1 a day. By sticking to that he started his company in 100 days.

You don’t always NEED to quit your day job. It’s ok to keep your day job long term, keep it for a while as you get traction in the business, or “jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down.” Everyone has a different risk tolerance and level of resources available to them. Others like Chris just like and prefer continuing to keep their job as they grow their businesses and don’t feel the need to quit.

Know your target market. Learn about what they value, the problems they need solved, and what needs they need met. These are the fundamental elements of launching a business. Market fit is crucial to identify the initial opportunity. Scalability comes later.

Create systems to lean on. As you build your business you want to create systems, procedures, automations, etc. to make sure the business can (eventually) run without you. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology for this, just implement processes that work to help you stay on top of managing everything as things can get overwhelming quickly.

Delegate the things you’re not good at. Pretty much everyone mentioned getting a good bookkeeper/accountant to manage the finances (as that wasn’t necessarily any of their strengths). That’s just an example to reiterate that in order to grow your business you need help and need to be able to delegate the tasks that aren’t suited to your strengths. This may take time as resources are limited, you may need to wear many hats in the beginning, but make this a priority as soon as you can.

There are a variety of ways to fund your business depending on your goals. This is yet another personal preference. Some people bootstrap, building with sales and revenue as they go. That was Elechia’s preferred approach as she met with doctor after doctor, potential patient after patient and growing along the way. Others raise money from investors to continue growing and scaling. You can also leverage debt with SBA loans, etc. There is plenty of research out there about ways to fund and grow your business.

Know what your long-term goals are. While you don’t need to do this first, eventually you should try to have an exit strategy in mind (or the lack there of) as you initially build your business. Whether you plan to eventually sell it, build a business you want to work at for the long haul, or simply want a side-hustle, they’re all fine as long as you’re transparent and honest with yourself and your partners.

All that being said, it’s ok to just have a short-term side hustle that only lasts a year or two and provides some additional income along the way. There doesn’t have to be a long-term vision if that’s your primary objective. As was mentioned several times, each situation and individual is different.

There are many other things to consider when starting and running a business. This was just a small snapshot of a great evening filled with plenty of additional takeaways. What are some of the things you’d add to the list?

The Charlotte Business Group has a lot more educational events like this planned where we share knowledge and experiences from local professionals. We aim to continue nurturing the business and entrepreneurial spirit and providing opportunities for the community to do so. Make sure to keep an eye our for the upcoming schedule!

Small Business Week 2019

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From May 6th to May 11th, 2019, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2019 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2019 HQ

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Fundera Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)

WIMS Client Spotlight Robin Branstrom Fine Art

WIMS Client Spotlight: Robin Branstrom Fine Art

Robin Branstrom has been an art consultant for over eight years, working with both individual collectors and business clients. She was formerly a partner in Robin & Robbins Art Consultants before forming Robin Branstrom Fine Art. Her company primarily operates out of North Carolina (Charlotte and Wilmington) and South Florida (based in Palm Beach) however she often travels around the country for projects (she’s particularly found of New York of course).

Robin Branstrom Fine Art works with both individuals and their private collections, as well as in the corporate section, curating collections for commercial properties and businesses looking to add some culture to their office spaces. She also works with interior designers to find the perfect piece for their client. Events are another specialty of the company, whether they have a fundraising/nonprofit aspect or simply spicing up a corporate networker, adding fine art to the mix is always a hit.

Often times it takes a special eye to find a perfectly curated piece that cohesively fits with their new décor. From Site Review to Installation, Robin Branstrom Fine Art connects the client with high caliber art that suits their living space which often involves the following steps:

Evaluation

We schedule an initial consultation to discuss your project. Our aim is to understand your business, and your budget.

Site Review

We visit the site or review architectural drawings to get a clear understanding of the space and identify potential art locations.

Presentation

We provide a broad selection of art options: paintings, prints, sculpture, works on paper, textiles and photography… as your project requires.

Selection

We work closely with you and your design team to select the art and specify the placement.

Framing

We offer numerous framing, matting and glass options to protect and present your art.

Installation and Lighting

We will expertly and securely install your art with an eye for detail and suggest the correct lumens to bring out the best in your collection.

Documentation

Upon request, we can provide documentation for your collection, including photo images, media descriptions and valuation.

 

Robin Branstrom Fine Art is continuing to grow and evolve its focus and services. Check out https://www.robinbranstromfineart.com for more information about Robin and her company and to follow along in their journey.

Business Bootcamp: Entrepreneur

Weekend Business Bootcamp: An Entrepreneurial Prompt

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, whether as a full-time entrepreneur or as a side hustle, consider this your challenge, you call to action, the catalyst you may have been waiting for.

Maybe you’ve been procrastinating for seven weeks (or 1 year and 7 weeks) since making an entrepreneurial new year resolution. Or you’ve just been overwhelmed and stuck in a never-ending analysis paralysis loop. Perhaps you can’t find the perfect idea that best suits you and your skill set (yes, “imposter syndrome” is real and a dream killer). Either way, the best and only cure for any of the above is to take action and get started.

So, wherever you’re at in the process, I’ve pulled together some resources to act as your quick start guide, leveraging advice from experts across the internet, to help you kick things off and be ready to launch your business by Monday (no joke, it really can be done and isn’t as hard as you’d think).

Here are as many ideas as you can handle, along with some success stories for additional inspiration. After you settle on THE big idea, we move onto the initial steps to kick things off, including running some numbers and what you need to do to make it legit.

 

10 of the Highest-Paying Gig Economy Jobs of 2019

Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning – $115.06/hour, Blockchain Architecture – $87.05/hour, Robotics – $77.46/hour, Ethical Hacking – $66.33/hour, Cryptocurrency – $65.37/hour, Amazon Web Services Lambda Coding – $51/hour, Virtual Reality – $50.18/hour, React.js Developers – $40.75/hour, Final Cut Pro Editors – $37.12/hour, Instagram Marketing – $31.23/hour”

The 20 Hottest Job Skills in 2019 That Will Get You Hired (Editor’s Note: This list doesn’t just make sense for a job, but as an Entrepreneur as well)

  • “A majority of the 20 hottest skills in the US job market are tech-related, according to a new list from freelancing platform Upwork.
  • In-demand tech skills are changing rapidly: 75 percent of the tech trends leading to job opportunities are new to the list.
  • Demand for mobile optimization, the rise in cybercrime and increasing investment in big data solutions are driving corporate hiring.”

Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55

100 Businesses You Can Start with Less Than $100

15 Businesses You Can Start for $10,000 or Less

“Daycare, Lawn Care Specialist, Court Transcript Proofreader, Bookkeeper, Real Estate Agent, Freelance Writer, Natural Childbirth Educator, Retail Arbitrageur, Blogger, Photographer/Videographer, Virtual Assistant, Info Product Salesperson, Dog Walker/Sitter, Personal Trainer, Estate Sale Manager”

7 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

“Leverage the app economy, Use existing websites, Sell your own stuff, Sell as an affiliate, Start a blog, Email marketing, Webinars trainings”

9 Ways These People Make Money at Home with Nothing but Their Laptops

 

After you decide what business(es) you want to launch the next step is to read this article from Tim Ferriss and follow through on the exercises. How to Create a Million-Dollar Business This Weekend

Next, review this one: A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business, and follow it up with How to Start a Small Business Online: “Seven tried and true steps for attracting visitors to your small business’ site — and getting them to buy.”

 

After you get through your weekend grind session and you’ve taken one of the hardest steps in becoming an entrepreneur, give me a call on Monday and let’s start building your website, marketing plan, and get you some clients. By this time next week, you’ll truly have something to celebrate. TGIF!

Reflections on Linchpin by Seth Godin

 

I recently read Linchpin by Seth Godin and have some reflections and thoughts from the book which I want to share. Godin an author, blogger, and speaker provides the tagline Are You Indispensable?

 

 

This book is a perfect read for anyone who is interested in answering this question: In the ever-evolving world how can you stand out from the crowd?

 

I will highlight one section of this book which impacted me the most and suggest anyone who is interested seek out additional information

 

The section which I want to focus on discusses the concept of the American dream and how it changes as the business world changes. On pages 32-33 of Linchpin Seth Godin proposes the concept of The New American Dream which shows how the concept of the American Dream changes as the business world adapts. The most common aspects of the American Dream include having a well-paying job, living in a good house, and living a comfortable life. This idea is a byproduct of the post-World War II industrial American culture where corporate America promised workers a good paying job and a sense of security.

 

The Old American Dream:

 

  • Keep your head down
  • Follow instructions
  • Show up on time
  • Work hard
  • Suck it up

 

This shows how work during this era was built on showing up to the office or plant, following the rules, and not making any fuss. In this world, the role of management controls the decisions within the business world and access to a better life. A successful worker specialized in a certain task or a set of tasks where they could help the organization eventually provide a finished service or product. With most of the power held by managers the employees worked and had an understanding that they would be rewarded for following orders and not striving to become innovative.

 

The Old American Dream was around during a time when the workforce was defined by company towns and low employee turnover. An agreement was usually agreed on that when workers joined a company, they would not become burdensome to the firm by raising questions and would instead follow orders and receive payment and a means for a better life. As technology and society changed and evolved the world of work and the role the employee had in the organization changed. American companies faced additional competition from foreign competitors and technology changed the roles that employees did. Now merely showing up at work was not enough and employees needed to set themselves apart. Since the workforce has changed Godin outlined a new set of skills needed to achieve the American Dream.

 

The New American Dream

 

  • Be remarkable
  • Be generous
  • Create art
  • Make judgement calls
  • Connect people and ideas

 

These skills are increasingly soft skills and can not be written in a job description. These are the skills which the Linchpins possess. The term linchpin is the new class of workers Godin proposes between management and labor who create, bring people together, and help get the idea makers from their company into the same room. To become a Linchpin an employee needs to show their employer that they can create innovative projects and work well in teams. The changes in work shows how to become a successful employee it is necessary to have strong soft skills, be a good communicator, and work well in teams.

 

Are you a linchpin?

Do you lead others even if it is not in your title?

Take some time to think about how you can become a linchpin for your organization through creating and leading those around you.

Building Personal Growth and Development

The New Year is well underway and here in Charlotte the past week actually feels like winter. The warm Spring-like weather that started the year is a fleeting memory. The beginning of the year is a good time to think warm thoughts of a beach somewhere or the fact that spring is coming. It is also a good time to think about some goals and steps to make 2019 a more productive year.

I am sure many of you have seen your fair share of articles on life hacks and ways to increase productivity to make 2019 the best year of your life on social media, another blog, or an online publication. I think the best way to move through these articles is to focus on some smaller changes that can be made to improve your outlook on life, productivity, and health. I might suggest you check out “Your Future Self”, Fast Company’s series on improvements that can be made, some simple and others more time intensive to improve your life.

These articles are worth exploring since they include topics that are relevant to growth across professional and personal skills. For the entrepreneurial spirit, might I suggest reading “Your 12-month guide to building your side hustle this year” by Lindsay Tigar. Tigar uses this article to highlight some specific monthly calls to action over the next 12 months from building your side hustle. For example, January begins the year long journey with a period of Self-Assessment. The beginning of the year should serve as a time to outline and consider what exactly having a side hustle means for you and how it will affect your loved ones, taxes, and full-time job. Having a side hustle is hard work but by following some self-evaluation during the first three months of the year this will help build the foundation for a new side hustle or improve your existing strategy before heading into April and Q2 with an improved idea and the right attitude to succeed.

The final article, “How to redesign your days to give you back a few extra hours every week” by Elizabeth Grace Saunders outlines what steps to take to get more out of your time during 2019. While this sounds like a lofty concept, the steps to follow are quite simple. Saunders breaks down how to gain time into these categories quitting something, limiting something, pausing something, delegating something, adding something. I have chosen to limit my time on social media while filling that time with the addition of re-reading some of my favorite books to get a new perspective on them. I urge you to take a step back and see if there is an aspect of your life where you could add, delegate, limit, or pause tasks to make your overall week more rewarding and fulfilling.

As 2019 is already two weeks old which is hard to believe. In this New Year, taking a few minutes each day to focus on personal or professional development can reap many benefits. Instead of trying to stick to rigid resolutions see if making a few small changes will help improve your mindfulness and productivity going forward.

Reading List:

Tigar, Lindsay, “Your 12-month guide to building your side hustle this year” Fast Company. Retrieved 14 January 2019 from https://www.fastcompany.com/90279105/your-12-month-guide-to-building-your-side-hustle-this-year.  

Sounders, Elizabeth Grace, “How to redesign your days to give you back a few extra hours every week” Fast Company. Retrieved 14 January 2019 fromhttps://www.fastcompany.com/90280742/how-to-redesign-your-days-to-give-you-back-a-few-extra-hours-every-week.

“Your Future Self” Fast Company. Retrieved 14 January 2019 from https://www.fastcompany.com/section/your-future-self.

-Craig Oliver

WIMS, Inc.

Charlotte

Doing a Charlotte Deep Dive this February

While I’m fortunate that my business often takes me all over the country, every now and then it’s crucial to do a deep dive into my own HQ city, Charlotte, NC. I’ve made a lot of progress with growing my network here, but it’s still far from where I want and need it to be. And I don’t have nearly the client base that I’d like here yet either, and building it is one of my primary objectives for 2018.

Over the next couple weeks (while simultaneously continuing to run the business) I’m going to be back on the local networking grind with a vengeance. Below is the scheduled itinerary with links if you’re interested in joining me. Also, if there’s any events/organizations I’m missing please let me know!

February 7th; 6:00 pm – StartupGrindCLT

February 8th; 7:30 am – Bisnow’s 8th Annual Charlotte State of the Market (Commercial Real Estate)

February 9th; 8:30 am – Monthly BIG Ideas Exchange: Big Data (BIG – Business Innovation Growth)

February 14th; 8:00 am – PitchBreakfast

February 14th; 11:30am – Charlotte Chamber YP’s (CCYPs) Non-Profit Luncheon (Volunteer Matchmaker)

February 16th; 12:00 pm – Skookum TechTalks: Blockchain Technology: Uses Beyond Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

February 22nd; 4:00 pm – NextGen Charlotte Business Journal – 2018 Money Management

If you’re in Charlotte, and planning to attend one of these, I hope to see you and to get to know you and your business better!

Judging the YLAI Pitch Competition: A New Entrepreneurial Perspective

Last week I was fortunate enough to be 1 of 6 judges from the Charlotte entrepreneurial community to take part in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Charlotte Pitch Competition. In partnership with International House Charlotte, Meridian International Center, and the U.S. Department of State they’ve been hosting 9 incredible startup entrepreneurs (aka “Fellows”) from across Latin America. They started their trip in Atlanta before heading to Charlotte, and are currently finishing up in Washington D.C. before heading home.

We were asked to simply listen to each of them tell us about their business. They had 3 minutes to do so along with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. We were given a scoring rubric with which to judge them on, and we were also given 3 minutes for follow up questions. After they all went the judges deliberated and had to select the top 3. Afterwards the judges were given a certificate with “The title of Citizen Diplomat, in recognition of outstanding efforts in fostering cross cultural understanding.” Very cool, but the real takeaway was the education I received from this experience.

The creativity and resourcefulness shown by each of them was profoundly inspiring from an entrepreneurial perspective. The fact that they are building businesses with far less resources and infrastructure than we have here was mind blowing. Not to mention, their target markets aren’t as neatly defined or as accessible as they here either. Yet these people relentlessly march on, finding unique ways to monetize and scale their businesses despite the odds being against them. But what stuck out the most was their sheer passion for doing whatever they can to make their communities and countries a better place to live and work.

They knew all the buzz words and latest business trends, what business models work well, how to leverage social media and the internet to promote their business, etc. Even though each country has differing laws, tax structures, governmental support, and macroeconomic circumstances they all seemed to know how to play the game well in their respective countries too. It reinforced the fact that there is simply no excuse or justification for not doing whatever it takes to succeed in business.

I don’t mean to imply that these things are negative, on the contrary I think it presents a tremendous opportunity. The potential for further global growth is seemingly infinite, and the entrepreneurial spirit is spreading to every corner of the globe.

In case you’re interested in looking any of these entrepreneurial people and their businesses up (they would greatly appreciate any support, even if it’s simply offering feedback to help them improve) I’ve provided a list below.

The Potential ROI of Social Media

By now I shouldn’t have to articulate the value or justify the need for a social media strategy for your business. There are literally thousands of articles, white papers, and studies that have been written and distributed highlighting facts, figures, and metrics galore. Rather, I wanted to share a couple recent social media success stories and provide some tangible action steps for you to implement because that’s what this blog is for. As I’ve mentioned publicly, the new mantra is: Add Value.

LinkedIn Is Still King (depending on your target market)

I get referrals on LinkedIn all day long, but then again, I’m fairly active and present on the network. It’s my obvious preference with regard to the long game of business development. Every time I meet a new person at a networking event, or get introduced to a prospect or potential COI (center of influence/referral source) via email my first follow up step is to connect with them here. It just works and compounds.

Another tip: if someone asks you to introduce them to someone you’re connected to: do it. What do you have to lose? Sure, there are exceptions to this, but if you’re not comfortable with that then why are you connected to them in the first place? Even if I don’t know them all that well, I just disclose that fact in the intro and let that person make the call to follow up or not. This simple act often leads them to reciprocate when needed, and is a good reason to reach out to the other person too. Try this: “Hey I know it’s been a while, but so and so reached out to me and asked if I’d make an introduction, figured was a great reason for me to follow up with you too.” The answer is always no if you never ask.

However, you can’t neglect the others such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Sometimes you spend days and weeks shouting into an empty vacuum of time and space. The social media vortex swallows your content and garners little more than a like or two, and maybe a share or a re-tweet. You have great content but no one is really seeing it, so you get discouraged and post less frequently or stop altogether. BAD MOVE.

Now these results aren’t typical, but in addition to managing my company’s social media accounts along with a few clients, I also do it for some of my joint ventures. Recently, a life-altering event occurred when we received an inbound lead worth well into the high six/low seven figures. And this deal came in from a single TWITTER post. No joke, you read that right. Even if I never get another lead from Twitter again, that one tweet will pay for a life time of tweeting. The point is keep sharing, and sharing, and sharing.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Make sure to be very specific about what you’re looking for. When asking for a general referral, it’s often answered with crickets. It’s not that people don’t WANT to help, rather they just don’t know exactly how, or even what you have to offer. If they have to think too hard about it, you’ve lost them. Therefore, its best to keep things simple and specific.

For example, I recently posted that I was looking for a referral to accounting firms with annual revenue over $5 million. I have an abundance of experience in that space and currently have a gap in my client portfolio. Literally within 3(!) minutes of posting it on Facebook I was introduced to a dream prospect that would be a perfect fit for my business. And 10 minutes after that I was introduced to another one equally as good.

Action Keeps You Top of Mind

Even if you do nothing but share existing content from sources such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and others that regularly post timely business-oriented content online you could still see ROI. Take it a step further and curate it with a nugget of commentary and context and over time that’s enough to garner goodwill and establish yourself as a thought leader and resource. This really adds up and pays dividends over the long-haul. People in your network will appreciate your contribution to enhancing their education along the journey.

As always, if there’s anything I can ever do to assist you along your social media journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And don’t forget to check out the WIMS Blast Off Bundle: 10Kto10X if you haven’t yet.

WIMS: WHO is Mike Simmons? Part 1

“Look at what we did. Came a long way from dirty ghetto kids.” Lupe Fiasco

Not many people know much about my background. Aside from a few exceptions, it’s something I’ve mostly kept private. But since the purpose of creating The WIMS Guide is to sporadically document the entrepreneurial journey I’ve been feeling compelled to share the origins of my story lately.

It’s something I’ve thought about doing for years now, but have hesitated due to a combination of self-consciousness and fear. Will people judge or look at me differently? Or perhaps they just won’t even care at all? I’ve finally realized that regardless if it changes the way people think of me or not, if it’s able to help even one person who’s had a similar experience by encouraging and motivating them to keep pursuing their dreams it will be well worth it.

My journey started out growing up in a pretty ghetto neighborhood in Harrisburg, PA (if you’re skeptical and think I’m embellishing Google Earth: 2353 Logan St.) before later making a relatively lateral move to a trailer park in Mechanicsburg. To say I come from a poor and dysfunctional family would be the understatement of the century.

While I had a very rough start, oddly enough three events that seemed like tragedies at the time ended up altering the course of my destiny and changed my life forever. First, I was sent to a boarding school called Milton Hershey School when I was five years old as my mother just couldn’t take care of me on her own (if you’ve never heard of it, it’s fascinating). Soon after that when I was six my father passed away. And then shortly after when I was seven my sister (who I was closer to more than anyone in the world) moved to California.

At the time, each of these events devastated and shook me to my core. I felt helpless, alone, and extremely confused. However, little did I know at the time that they all would be the very best things to happen to me (later to be trumped by getting married and having a baby). Going through all that at such a young age set the tone for the rest of my life by making me stronger, more independent, and extremely hungry to change my life for the better.

Even though most of my childhood was rough I often say that I was blessed to have the “Michael Jordan of Guardian Angels” by the way things turned out. MHS fed me, clothed me, and provided a wonderful well-rounded education along with opportunities I would have never experienced otherwise. Not to mention I hit the jackpot with an incredible set of “house parents” that taught me so much about life and how to be a man. Going there also allowed me to be able to visit my sister in California three times a year which opened my eyes up to an entirely different world, one with infinite possibility.

Despite greatly improved conditions compared to what they could have been, I do still vividly remember many times of going hungry when I was away from school at home. The memory of that feeling, along with that of having to live in the places we did, sticks with me to this day and creates an incredible desire to be successful and never go back to that again.

Being broke all the time made me realize that I wanted to eventually be an entrepreneur so I could have more control over my life. Ever since elementary school I started countless businesses such as selling sports cards, beanie babies, Pokemon, Pogs, and just about anything else I could profit from. Unfortunately, I had to do quite a few things I’m not proud of to get by as well.

Because of these experiences I developed a sense of ambition, drive, and commitment to doing well in school and getting good grades. Well that and the fear of my mother’s wrath if I didn’t. Understanding the importance of good grades was crucial and ended up paying off big time. After graduation, I literally became the first person in my family to attend college. On top of that, it was with a full academic scholarship to the University of Miami, half from “The U” and the rest from MHS. While there I earned my Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing and Finance and a minor in Advertising.

If my story ended there I would still feel extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish given how things began. But fortunately, I was just getting started.

To be continued…