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Monthly Archives: August 2013

7 things you will have to give up to become an entrepreneur

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Geico Made of Money

You’re not made of money, so don’t act like it. Especially if you want to start a business.

Unless you’re made of money, or are related to somebody made of money there is a lot you are going to have to give up to make your dream a reality. This is why most people with an idea never step out and pursue it. It’s not comfortable, it doesn’t make sense, and everybody is going to tell you that you are crazy. Society has this ridiculous idea that everybody who owns a business is somehow rich; well that simply isn’t the case. It can take years for a business to become profitable.

The multi million-dollar company, Duck Commander, was only making about $35K annually a few years into operation. Many businesses even operate at a loss for years, tech companies are known for burning investor capital faster than the latest meme goes viral. But, not every startup wants an investor, and most companies probably don’t need them.

In order to pursue your dream though, it’s going to take tightening down the purse strings on your personal budget for some time. This might be so that you can live on your spouse’s income, or for you to save your own money so that you have money in savings to live for a period of time without getting paid. So, here are a list of things you are going to have to give up to make your dream a reality.

  1. NetFlix, sorry, this is a frivolously and unnecessary expense. Besides, you are not going to have as much time to watch television or movies now that you are working on building a business. You know what else has to go? Cable television if you have it, and any other entertainment related subscription service. All are unnecessary weight holding you back from getting your business off the ground.
  2. Gym Memberships, lets face it. You can do the same thing you do at the gym from home. CrossFit exercise is all the rage these days with most exercises involving own body weight. Running doesn’t required a treadmill either, in fact running outdoors is better for you anyway, and far more enjoyable.
  3. Cigarettes and Beer, ok, I don’t actually smoke cigarettes, I just wanted to grab your attention. Items that used to be a mainstay on your grocery list are going to have to be cut out. Basically you are going to have to live on rice and beans! Maybe not literally, but you are going to have to find as many ways as possible to trim down. When I started Bearded Brothers I went from a $600 a month grocery budget (for myself alone) to only spending $400 a month for my wife and I.
  4. Travel, traveling is going to be out of the question for a while. No matter how hard we tried to fit a travel budget in to see our families it just wasn’t happening. The only way we were able to travel and see family is if we managed to use our allotted monthly gas money and grocery money. Sure, your family and friends might be bummed, but remember it’s only temporary.
  5. Eating out and concerts, this one was really hard for my wife and I. There were many days that we would come home after working and just want to chill out, not make dinner and go grab something to-go. But we had to say no, we also frequently had to say no to friends that invited us out to lunch, dinner, and concerts. Money budgeted for entertainment should be minimal!
  6. Giving gifts, this was somewhat embarrassing, but one Christmas we literally made all of the gifts we gave our family and friends. The dad’s got a BBQ sauce we made for them, and I think the moms got homemade bath products. Since we were already living off a small income we had zero dollars saved to buy Christmas presents. If you are used to buying all your friends birthday presents and gracing people with gifts at Christmastime you are going to have to put that on pause for a while, are at the very least cut back.
  7. All those expensive hobbies, ok you aren’t really going to have to give up those hobbies, but let’s face it, they can be expensive. If you are into running then you might not to be able to enter any more races. If you are a rock climber like myself, you can forget buying that shiny new set of cams. New running shorts are also out of the question, and you just might have to keep running past 500 miles in those shoes. But don’t let the lack of funds keep you from getting creative. If you run a business that sells a product reach out to smaller companies and embrace the barter system. This is how I’ve gotten new shoes for the past 3 years. Also, if you enjoy running races consider volunteering at the race in exchange for an entry to also run.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But it gives you a bit of an idea of the amount of sacrifice I went through to start Bearded Brothers, and the sacrifice many other entrepreneurs go through every year to start their businesses.  If anything, the lack of money shouldn’t keep you from starting the business. It only serves as motivation to become a sustainable business fast, and remain profitable from day one!

Learning to walk before you run

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Learning to walk.

Abigail (my first daughter) learning to walk.

Lately I have been really enjoying watching my daughter learn to walk. Just the other day she took her first few steps, and I just happened to be there to witness it (to my knowledge she hasn’t taken any others). She randomly stood up with a plastic necklace hanging out of her mouth and proceeded to take three tiny steps before plopping back down on the floor. Since then I have seen her attempting to take steps, but one step is about as far as she gets.

She also likes walking with a toy of hers that sort of reminds me of a walker for an elderly person, except hers has toys on the front of it. With the walker she glides around the apartment with ease and strolls down the sidewalk without a care, until a leaf, or sidewalk art distracts her.

Running, for little Abigail, is completely out of the question right now, but as she gets older and sees her dad run, I’m sure she will want to give it a try as well. But for now, she is still learning the necessary skills that will allow her to run one day, and once she does, she will be flying!

Running a new business is a lot like this. In the early stages of the business you are just starting to learn to walk. You learn the basics of what it takes to be successful, you learn to perfect your trade, you learn how to hire (and fire), you learn what does and doesn’t work, etc. You take everything one tiny step at a time until you are finally in full stride… propelling the business forward onto success.

For me, it has taken over two years to feel like I am finally walking. Even though we were constantly growing during those two years, it wasn’t until the two year mark I got my walking legs, end even now, 2.5 years latter I am still getting the hang of things. Running is still out of the question, yet I feel like it’s not far way.

Once the run begins, then things can get really interesting. Your feet begin to gain traction and propel you forwarded at paces faster than you could get while walking.  So many times I wanted to be running. I would look up and see similar competitors miles ahead of us on the course, yet we still hadn’t made it to the starting blocks. Thankfully though, business is more like an ultramarathon than a sprint! Runners that go out too fast will usually get passed later in the course by those that took a slow and steady approach.

There is no harm in walking on the course of business either. In fact it’s a good thing. We have actually turned away A LOT of potential business since we have started, all because we are pacing ourselves for the race, and weren’t ready to run. So, enjoy the walk, it’s a part of the learning experience that will help you be successful. Start running to early and you will burn out fast and have to drop out of the race.

Strategic planning in Arkansas

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Relaxing in a Kammok Hammock!

Relaxing in a Kammok Hammock!

After reading a recent post on A VC about strategic planning, I realized this was something we haven’t done much of since starting Bearded Brothers. Sure, we had a general mission. We knew the general direction we were going, but we had no timelines set for those, and had never discussed the how.

I had asked Fred (of A VC) in the comments of his blog what he would suggest for a startup like us that is “too busy” to take time for these meetings. His suggestion was to just take a weekend retreat and spend time hashing things out. So, we did just that.

Chris and I also thought it would be a good opportunity to spend time together not just as business partners, but also as friends and to relax a bit. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas was our destination of choice. We chose this because it offered Rock Climbing (my favorite activity) and Disc Golf (Chris’ favorite activity).

We spent our mornings doing activities, and our afternoons and evenings discussing the business. We not only got to have a bit of fun and escape the grind, but we also got a lot done in terms of planning the future of the company. The 10 hour drive from Austin was especially beneficial for this.

In some ways our trip was a parallel to our journey with Bearded Brothers. Our first day there, the weather didn’t cooperate. The plan was to go climbing, but rain was keeping that from happening, so we decided to go on a hike instead along the Buffalo National River. The result was discovering a 50ft triple spring fed waterfall! Pictures, and video of this can be found on our Instagram feeds: Caleb SimpsonBearded Brothers.

This was something we would have never seen if something hadn’t gone wrong. Similarly, throughout our growth when things have seemingly gone wrong, we are inevitably led to a waterfall. For example, we have been in several different kitchen spaces since we started, all of which were affordable and accommodating at the time. But, with every space something would go wrong that lead to us having to find a new space. Each time this happened we had to go through the frustrating experience of finding (very hard to find) kitchen space in Austin and repeat the required health inspection processes. But at the end of each hike, it ended up leading us to a waterfall – a new bigger space that accommodated our growth. Our latest move is to our very own 7,500 square foot production facility/office!

We also left our trip refreshed and recharged – ready to get back to the work of growing our business! I highly recommend startups invest time in strategic planning. But at the same time be careful not to turn this into a business plan, which I feel is not worth anybody’s time. The clarity you will gain from these meetings is amazing! Strategic planning will give you clarity of mind and help you set goals, which gives your business something tangible to shoot for rather than driving around aimlessly.

Fear is a liar: 6 lies fear feeds you when starting a business

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FEAR IS A LIARFear, it stops you dead in your tracks. It says, “You can’t do that.” It keeps people, including you, from realizing their full potential. Fear keeps you mediocre. It prevents you from being awesome. Here are six lies that fear feeds you when you are on the verge of starting something awesome.

1.  I have a secure job and a great retirement plan. I can’t leave and start fresh.
This is a very common lie that many people believe. It’s completely false though. No matter how secure you may think your job is, it’s never that secure. My first job out of college was the all-illusive “secure” government job. Well, three years into working for the City of Denton, they instituted mass lay-offs. Hundreds of people lost their jobs, and I bet you every single one of them thought their job was “secure.” Many of them probably even lost company matching with their retirement plan because they hadn’t been there long enough.

2. There are too many competitors out there.
Ok, lets just throw this one out the window right now. Anybody who has had a business class can tell you that competition is good. Competition essentially serves as third party marketing for your product. Just look at the energy bar isle at Whole Foods, there are TONS of bars to chose from and yet many of those companies have been in business for years. New competition brings awareness to the category and gives everybody selling energy bars a lift.

3. I won’t make enough money.
First of all, let me stay this; you can live on a lot less than you think. It’s going to take some sacrifice though. First of all, decide when you want to get serious about launching your business. After you do that, start making some life adjustments. Cancel all those frivolous monthly accounts such as NetFlix, Hulu, Satellite TV, and pointless subscription boxes. Revisit your budget and figure out what is truly needed and what isn’t. Be prepared to lower your grocery budget and live on rice and beans for a while. I used to spend $600 a month on MYSELF for groceries, but once I launched my business my wife and I BOTH lived off $400 a month for groceries. Sure, I had to give up buying everything organic, but eventually all of that will be added back into our budget. But for now we are making a sacrifice. Check out my recent post “living lean” for more thoughts on this.

Starting a business isn’t easy, and you will make less in the start, but once you make the switch into a job you are truly passionate about, you will reap the rewards. It just won’t happen overnight.

4. But I need insurance and benefits.
This is another lie that fear will feed you. Do you REALLY need it, or does it just provide you a false sense of security. I haven’t had insurance for over three years now, and during that time I have always managed to pay whatever doctor bill came my way. But I also don’t go to the doctor like I used to. When I cold comes on I suck it up and treat it with home remedies and wait for it to pass. No more Z-Packs (which never worked for me anyway).

Also, there are all sorts of individual health savings plans, 401k’s, and group insurance policies you can join. Insurance and benefits alone should not be a reason to not start something awesome.

5.    I don’t have the experience.
Again, this is another bold-faced lie! Experience is overrated. I can tell you from EXPERIENCE. You don’t need experience. All you really need is passion, the willingness to learn combined with the drive and determination to bring your dream to fruition. When I started Bearded Brothers I knew absolutely nothing about the packaged food business. The most relevant experience I had was working in the Sea Food/Butcher Block counter at Albertsons when I was in High School.

I am under the belief that if somebody wants something bad enough they can learn whatever it is they need to become an expert in that field. I’m still far from an expert myself when it comes to food manufacturing, but I’m in the heat of it, constantly learning and growing my skill sets. I learn new things every day; from improving manufacturing techniques to the proper way to price my product to distributors so it hits a good retail price on the shelf.

6.    The economy is horrible right now.
When will the economy ever be truly “good” again? Gas will never drop back down to .85 per gallon (the price I paid when I was 16). A gallon of milk will never drop below a dollar. The truth is, a bad economy is only a false perception. Even though prices constantly go up, people are still buying and the economy is still thriving. Using the economy as an excuse is fear bullying you into not starting.

Fear is the biggest liar ever, especially when it comes to starting an awesome, new business. Fear doesn’t want you to succeed. Fear wants to keep you right where you are. For the longest time fear kept me from leaving my traditional full time job and starting my own business. All of the excuses above where things fear whispered into my ear daily. But when I finally let go and stopped believing the lies, it was the best thing I ever did.