Do you have any tips or advice to someone who's starting or building an entrepreneurial venture of their own? And would you be open to offering specific advice in one-on-one discussion on such a thing?
I guess my advice would be to:
a). make sure you’re working on something you are in love with. I started a zine distro, because I loved the idea of writing something, photocopying it, and it being read by dozens or hundreds of people who all got a copy in the snail mail and could enjoy the low-fi page layout and design and story telling. Then I had the idea to start a record label for YouTube musicians, because I fell in love with music the day I bought my first cassette at seven years old. And all my YouTube friends were writing some great tunes and I thought I could be the next Quincy Jones, helping all this talent find a supportive place to grow and earn a living from their work.
Without that passion, you’ll give up before your project ever has a fighting chance.
b.) have a financial plan from day one. Sure, you can go the route of Zuckerberg and just make something cool for the sake of making something cool. But most of those projects fail. Without realistic monetary goals, your project will become a hobby, and hobbies cost money, they don’t make money. When Hank and I started DFTBA, I set up the royalty structure in a way that even with the artist getting the lion’s share of the sales, DFTBA had income coming in from sale #1. After starting and having to close many previous ventures, I wasn’t going to make the mistake of selling the company short again.
c.) be in it for the long haul/don’t be afraid to work. Most “overnight success stories” are YEARS in the making. But no one wants to hear about hard work and struggle and dedication. They want to hear about the 20-something CEO who sold his company for ten million last week. But if you get to the heart of that story, 99 out of 100 times that CEO started his project at 15, and grew it slowly in his parent’s garage, and wouldn’t sleep some nights working 20 hour days. You can believe in the early days of DFTBA when Charlie launched a new shirt, I had local nerdfighters, my friends from down the street, AND my 50 year old parents over folding shirts and stuffing shirt bags to get everything out. Ordering pizza at 10am and then again at 10pm to keep everyone fed and fueled That sweat equity is invaluable at the start. Sure now we can afford to hire a full warehouse crew, and temp labor when we need. But we sure as hell couldn’t have done that in the first two years, the resources just weren’t there.
Anything more specific than that I probably can’t help with. The only experience I have is in distribution and merch sales, so either I won’t be able to answer your questions, or you’ll be looking to launch a competing business, in which case I could, but wouldn’t want to, answer your questions. =)