Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. One of the questions I have been asked often is why I became an entrepreneur and I wanted to use this podcast to give you an insight into what made me decide to start my own business. Even though I have always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I took classes over the years to get me to where I am today and some of the reasons that got me here is what I want to share with you. Now I started my business actually while I was working full time and when I got laid off, that prompted me to actually go and do my business full time because at that time, working part time and actually doing the business was becoming a big deal. I knew I had to commit to one of them. When I finally took hand of the company I took that opportunity to go out there and do my own thing. But the first reason why I became an entrepreneur is that throughout my life I have known that entrepreneurship or something was eventually going to be my life. I knew a lot of people have similar stories where they had lemonade stand or there were things people were doing there were newspaper rounds, people were landscaping businesses brought them to be young [entrepreneurs]. Some of us just know that that is what we wanted to do. For me it was the same thing. I remember buying my first car in college for $3000 from a domain name that I bought for $35 and I got a call from somebody from Germany who said hey, I want that domain name and I sold it for $3500. I have always been that person who has been looking for a way to track my own path and giftcardrescue just happened to be the first of many things that I ended up doing but at the bottom of it all, it is an entrepreneurial spirit that I have always had.
Another reason is that I have always been curious. One of the things that around me would tell you is that if you take my phone and you go through m y pictures, you will see that most of the pictures are taken with my phone about ideas. I am always looking at things where I am trying to see what people are doing and understanding how I could apply that idea or that process or that methodology to do something else. When I travel out of the country, I am looking at what others are doing in other countries. What are they doing there that I could bring here or what are they doing that I can learn to improve something we are doing here or what are they doing over there that nobody is doing here that I can adapt here. There are always opportunities around you. You have to look and I am one of those who are very curious. I could be watching television and watching the commercial and then it will trigger something and then I will take a picture of the screen because that would remind me of exactly why I took that picture. Curiosity has been a big part of my entrepreneurial journey and being curious means that I am always full of ideas and then the question becomes which of those ideas is worth doing. Experience then helps you pick those ideas.
Now, I said that I worked in corporate America and I think that I was a good experience for me because everything that I have learned there, the departments that I have worked in, the skills that I have developed have been applicable to my work. I worked in HR, in compliance, in operations, in marketing, all those places that I have worked; I have taken something that I can use my current businesses. Working in corporate America was a good training ground, but at the same time, I did not corporate America, I do not like the structure of it, I did not like the rules that I had to follow all the time, I did not like the fact that you have to pay your dues for you to rise. Even though you know what you are doing and you can take it as far as you can go, you have to pay your dues in most places and for me, staying in one company or trying to make a carrier where I have seen people who have been there 30-40 years or 20-30 years or 15 years to be able to get to where they get to just being to one company is great but it wasn’t for me because I did not have that patience to wait and wait and pay my dues when I know that I could do more when I could do better, that I could take home more but I just had to sit and be a team player and just wait. The structure did not appeal to me and also because there was something about the anxiety and uncertainty that came to me in corporate America that really frightened me. I got laid off during the recession that 2008 recession and our bank got bailed out by the government and 50,000 of us got canned and I was one of them. It wasn’t a pleasant period and that taught me a very important lesson.
I was nothing. When it comes to corporate America you may think about how much you mean to your company and I realized that at the end of the day you are just a number on somebody’s spreadsheet and you can easily get axed and that’s it. I remember feeling getting home after getting laid off and really feeling hurt by it because I had put in 7 years into this company. This was my life and when I was dedicated to it and then all of a sudden, I was just a number. Somebody needed to cut cost and splashed something and then they decided that I needed to go. Then you go start somewhere else and then you become somebody else’s number. For me, that was not going to fly because that uncertainty I wasn’t comfortable with. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of friends who work in corporate America who are very successful and enjoy what they do and the most important thing in life is enjoy what you do. No matter what you are doing, you should enjoy it. For me, that was not something I enjoyed because there were many things about it that did not fit my personality and one of them was just the uncertainty of the fact that I was nothing and somebody who just erase form the company just because they needed to cut cost. The odds of taking my own change with my own business, running my own company, appealed better to me than waiting for somebody’s good graces to determine my future. That is one of the things that I did not enjoy about that.
Those were the things that motivated me to go into business. But when I actually go into business then I discover a whole new set of things that actually made me see that this was where I belonged. I have told you what motivated me to go into it. Now that I have gotten into it and been in it for a long time, these are the things that keep me in business. These are the things that keep me motivated to keep me an entrepreneur.
- The process of building something. I just enjoy building companies and watching an idea go from just an idea to a business, a thriving business is one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. Getting from A to Z is going to take a lot of work and a lot of failure. You are going to fail several times along the way but that process of failing, tweaking-failing, tweaking-failing and then finally getting into the secret sauce and then being able to set up a viable company is one of the most rewarding things that makes me get up every morning and I want to do it again. The whole building process is one of the reasons why I remain an entrepreneur.
- I like being busy. I like being busy and I am involved in several projects now and I get a lot of questions about how do I do it all. I enjoy being busy. I know I can now run just one company, I just know that because once I get in to a point where it is self sufficient, I get bored. I enjoy the gestation of new ideas and the whole craziness of it all. That keeps me going. When I get home, my wife would tell you sometimes I am very restless because just sitting still and just doing nothing; I just do not know how to do that. I need to be active even when I am home just sitting and being still is a problem. I need to be doing something and find a reason to be active so it’s just my personality and I love being busy and entrepreneurship just fits into it.
- The freedom. Now this is one of the things a lot of misconceptions about. You can set your own schedule; you can do whatever you want. Freedom as an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you have time to just hang out or you can just sit home and just go with your laptop and type a few things and then go to bed and wake up. That is not it. That is not for me. Freedom for me means that I get to set my own schedule the way I want it and I enjoy that a lot. If today I feel like I want to put all my meetings at the later part of the day, then I come in at 10 o clock but I will leave probably at 8 or 9pm and then when I get home, I am still working. Freedom does not mean that I am not working. I am working probably 60-80 hours because I am always on. It is not a 9-5 thing or an 8-10 whatever. It is just you are working. If you talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, one of the most challenging things we have is how to maintain their work-life balance. There is nothing like that because everywhere you are, your mind is on, but the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship is that you can decide that tomorrow, you are going to front load all your meetings and then in the afternoon you are going to focus on just you and do things that are out of your schedule or you can decide that tomorrow, you don’t want any meetings. That freedom is very liberating because nobody tells you what to do. You decide what to do. Conversely, when things go wrong, it is all on you. That comes with the territory but the freedom is very exciting for me.
- As I have gained experience, as I have gained knowledge, as I have proven that I know what I am doing, as I have enjoyed success in the businesses that I am in, I have also been able to find opportunities to give back and one of the ways that I enjoy giving back is mentoring. Mentoring the would-be-entrepreneurs, I speak at a lot of universities around Washington-Baltimore area and that brings me a lot of joy talking to would-be-entrepreneurs, sharing my experience with them, what they should do and what they should avoid, all that is what I am about. I want to see a lot of entrepreneurs, I want to see who have the passion for it succeed and I am happy to donate my time to make sure that the people who are hungry for it are able to get a fair shake at it. Another area that I mentor and volunteer is make sure that people have economic opportunities so I work with a foundation that works in the inner city to try and create economic opportunities for people who would otherwise not have the means to do that. The freedom of entrepreneurship also gives me the opportunity to donate my time to be able to do this so that the projects will provide fulfillment to me as a person.
- If you are able to succeed, if the project that you are doing is a success, then there is also financial benefit in entrepreneurship. One of the things that I remember years ago, I was with one of my first employees that I hired. He asked me if I want to be rich and I said well I mean I want to have enough money to be okay without having to worry about my mortgage every month but one of the things that I look forward to is to go out to lunch and buy lunch and I don’t have to worry about how much I spend on lunch. That is my measure of entrepreneurial freedom. If I can go out and buy lunch and I do not have to worry about how much I spend, then I am good. The success comes with it but of course, as you can see I am not putting success at the top of it because it wasn’t about the money for me. If you are going to business for money, you will be disappointed because there is no guarantee, but if you go at it with the right mind set that you want to solve a problem that you have identified and you want to go again until you find a solution to it, the success will come with it but I did not go to business for money. I just knew that I wanted to get entrepreneur, I knew I wanted to do my own thing, I enjoyed the building process, I am very curious and you put all that together and that is where I am today.
I hope that this gives you some background about what motivated me to become an entrepreneur and I am curious to hear about your story, subscribe to our channel and listen to our next podcast. Thank you.