Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Project: Be Kind To Your Garage – All Kinds of Things Can Grow in It

We hear of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google starting at home and in a garage - but we do not hear of Yankee Candle as much. A boy in 1969 could not afford a Christmas gift for his mom - so he determined that a melted crayon was better suited than showing up empty handed. And thus he would melt her heart.

The takeaway challenge is brief but deep and something we can learn from a sweet 16 year old boy: While times have changed, and the value of the dollar has changed the truth remains timeless – learn to hone the discretion between innovation vs. investments.

Before you invest monetary value into your venture, seek counsel and be proactive in research.  It took just one neighbor to see the homemade candle that Mike Kittredge of Yankee Candle would bestow his mother with - And so she ordered it for herself. The story goes that he sold it to her – and used the proceeds to make two more: One for his mom and one more to sell.   

Here are a few others who let loose their entrepreneur spirits and honed innovative enterprises in their garages:

Mattell: The face of the company may be more recognizable as Barbie dolls, Fisher-Price and Hotwheels (the list goes on) but this man-cave-garage quickly turned a cash-cave for Harold “Matt” Matson and Ruth and Elliot Handler. Circa 1945, this El Segundo Company steadily introduced the toy industry to revolutionized gaming for diverse ages and demographics. And it all started with picture frame scraps and dollhouses.

Harley Davidson: With their three piece suits and top hats, William S. Harley, at just 20 years old, and friend Arthur Davidson did not resemble the modern black, white and orange leather vested Harley riders we see on highways now. But from 1901 until 1905 they were able to take a drawing to make a bike and recreate the concept into a motorized model.

During the First World War, their ingenuity supported the troops surpassing over 10,000 machines. They gave new meaning to the roaring 20’s as the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. This success culminated because from their first failed experiment - they said it was a valuable learning experience.

Disney: We quote him; we watch his movies; we know his name is Walt, but it was his Uncle Robert’s garage to which we owe a portion of this blog’s symbolic gratitude. Along with brother Roy, Walt began his productions with Alice in Wonderland and since then every day has been a wonderland. With a high school diploma, family values, wild imagination and strong work ethic he created a world-renowned empire.

The Garage: Empty boxes. Overflowing boxes, unable to shut. Oil, paint and water spillage, rotted wood, rusty metal, roller skates, squeaky toys, loose bolts and was that a stray cat? We are lucky if we can park our vehicle in the garage. But for some they have used this storage addition, whether attached to the home or not, as a resource for their business dreams. Maybe it started as a means for survival, maybe a source or outlet for their brain to breathe. But their garages had just as much potential as their gutsy and they would use it. Did they know they would outgrow it? Did they know they would succeed? Did they know that we, the future would have a future for it?

So where are your origins? For some, it’s a garage. For some it’s their mom’s basement, some their living room, their college dorm room, their pressboard desk or their laptop or even a smartphone.  

For us, it’s The Couch and now wherever you are in your journey we welcome you to join The Project. We can help you get from the ground to the garage and get you on The Green Couch.

-The Green Couch

Friday, June 13, 2014

Project: An Experienced Entrepreneur

Many insurance companies say it takes two years to become an experienced driver.

It has also said that it takes at least two years to determine whether your start-up will maintain stable, encounter traction and have measurable growth. So what is your projection for becoming an experienced entrepreneur? How are you going to go from I want, to I will, to I did?

If you have a dream and you are a risk taker, welcome to the club of entrepreneurs. Here’s a club secret –the first 12 months are most crucial. We do not want to be back seat drivers, but we’d love to share some pointers to get you from point A to point Z.

#1 Believe In Yourself
We are going to be blunt. It is all in or it is nothing. Jump into the frying pan. That does not mean that you gamble all your finances into this new venture. It means that you have to believe that your dream is worth pursuing, that it will have a positive impact and that people can benefit from it. If you do not believe it, then who will?

#2 Moonlight Your Dream
Do not quit your day job, and do not turn your day job into a resource to pursue your dream. When it comes time to pull back from your current occupation, you will know. You will have this burning sensation in your stomach to the heart region. Do not pop any Tums: it is not indigestion. It is just a solid dose of gutsy, only satisfied by risk.

#3 Name That Baby
Name that brainchild of yours and begin nurturing it. At some point you are going to have to quit calling it “my idea,” “my dream” or “my baby.” Now you can confidently start referring to it by its rightful, legal name. Start by registering the company name.

#4 Research And Read About It
You have heart, now let us put some head in it. No matter how original your dream is, the market is saturated with companies that offer products and services that will always compete with your ideology. Focus on how your services and products will stand out, build on that platform and keep crunching numbers and jotting notes!

#5 Keep Your Ears Open
Jump. Fly. Figure it out on the way down. Yes, to all three. But you also have to let others help you out and hold you up for maximum wingspan. You see, there is always, always someone who knows something that you do not. We want to help you; we want to offer you advice, but can only do so because we are in constant contact with people who give us the same amount of insights. Established entrepreneurs will be happy to guide you towards your maximum potential, but sometimes we just have to reach out, invite them to lunch and embrace their leadership skills. Who does not like good food while absorbing food for thought?

But at the end of the day when it gets dark, you plan on pulling an all-nighter, you have to believe in yourself. You can read books or blogs, like ours, about being an entrepreneur, but the truth is you will only learn when you get out there and do it. The earlier you make your mistakes, the quicker you can get on to building a great company.

During those two years of driving, you will face adverse weather conditions. You will learn how to make left turns confidently. You will learn that you do need to respect the oil light, the gaslight and the engine light. You will learn how to read the signs of other drivers; whether they are experienced or not. And it often comes at the risk of your own inexperience and mistakes.

So it is with a new company as well: with a person who has a dream and builds a company on that idea. Passion will fuel your way on the road to success, but experience will steer you along the way. If you are told, “Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment,” you have been told the truth.

-The Green Couch