Failing My Way to Success

So why should you listen to what I have to say? What makes me credible? Simply because I’ve done this before. This isn’t my first rodeo…Or my second. Or third for that matter. I stumbled upon entrepreneurship about 7 years ago and I was hooked ever since.

I’ve tried over fifteen different ideas and ventures with varied success but I learned from all of them. It’s an invaluable education that I could never get in a classroom. They’ve helped put me in the position that I’m in today.

  • The most successful would have to be the vintage motorcycle shop that my dad and I ran. We opened up shop right in the thick of the recession so not the best timing in that sense but I picked up lots of survival skills and figured out how business really worked. We had a storefront for a year where we repaired and restored vintage motorcycles as well as sell apparel. We moved back home after that year and sold our left over apparel online and found out that there was a market for this. 3 years later, and we had over $100,000 in annual revenue.
  • Through that business we tried to become dealers of officially licensed products of Gulf Oil. They were a huge sponsor of motorcycle and car racing back in the day so we figured this would be a great brand to add to our portfolio. There were too many contingencies to keep track of and they got most of the profit for all of our work.
  • Also through the motorcycle shop, we started our own clothing line. Why? Basically because everyone else was doing it and we’d get higher profit margins if we did it ourselves. Turns out it’s harder to create a brand than it looks.
  • We went through a quick name change and tried to leverage our new status as a distributor of Brixton and Globe to increase sales and gain a larger audience and potential greater customer base. It didn’t work as we hoped. We had a shit ton of inventory because if you think about it, you have to have 1 style of shoes in like 4-5 different sizes so it adds up quickly. This killed our capital. We were also competing with everyone else that were also distributors of these brands so we were nothing special.
  • I met some awesome people through our business Tumblr who turned out to have small businesses of their own. We would end up talking about business and I started to help them with theirs. I was on the verge of making some income from this but this was the same time as when our online motorcycle shop started to go downhill. (Another story for another time)
  • My friend, Nick, and I met on Tumblr through the motorcycle shop’s blog. We came up with an idea to create the Riders Network with all the contacts we’ve met on Tumblr. People would be in charge of a certain geographical area and they would share the best spots to ride, best spots to eat, etc. We got some people on board but had a difficult time setting up the infrastructure for a website.
  • Also through Tumblr, I tried to create a joint venture with motorcycle shops in Ohio, England, and Australia to create a calendar that showcased all of our bikes. Everyone was on board but I never followed up and inquired how much it would cost to do such a thing.
  • Ever hear of Monavie? My mom did it and I got into it a little as well. It was a little shady and seemed too much like a pyramid scheme. They sold false dreams and suckered you into going on auto-ship to keep your “status.” You basically became their best customer and had a shit ton of product that you couldn’t move. It just wasn’t for me.
  • Soccer guides for people who wanted to try out for professional soccer teams in North America. I dropped out of college a couple of years ago because I gained 22 pounds in 2 months and my best friend suggested that I work out to get in shape and pursue my dreams of playing professional soccer so I did just that. I figured a lot of other people would want to do the same so I created a guide to help them. I didn’t know how to market it or set up a website at that time so I put it on eBay. It gained some traction but it only took a few days to have it taken down because it was intellectual property or something like that.
  • I love soccer and I’m sure a lot of other people do too. I’m also sure that a lot of people who are originally from Europe live in the United States and are fans of lower division soccer clubs but it’s not easy for them to get the gear of their favorite teams so that’s what I’d offer: apparel from lower division professional soccer teams in Europe. Turns out licensing is expensive to deal with and is a pain in the ass. No thanks.
  • I dropped out of college but I didn’t tell my parents for about 2 months. I went through the motions and went to school but didn’t go to class. I went to the bookstore instead and read anything I could get my hands on about business. This was a lot more educational that any lecture I had so I preferred this way of learning and I was sure other people would as well. I wanted to open up a business only book store but turns out its difficult to compete with the Barnes & Nobles and Amazons of the world.
  • One of the books I read during that time was the Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. I’d highly recommend reading it. Anyways, a later book of his is called the $100 Start Up which is pretty self-explanatory. I was inspired by this book and created a blog called the Micro Business Kid where I’d help people start micro businesses. It started to gain some traction but then our online motorcycle shop wasn’t running as smoothly as it used to and I had to spend my time doing odd jobs instead of blogging.
  • My dad has a Master’s Degree in Porcelain Painting so to say he’s a skilled artist is an understatement. We tried using his skills to create custom motorcycle helmet and custom motorcycle jacket artwork for clients. It was difficult figuring out the logistics to get a clients’ equipment to us and back to them. It was difficult to really showcase his artwork on the web.
  • A follow up to the above idea, we created A Winter’s Dream which was artwork that would help celebrate your favorite season. It was difficult to compete with other artists on Etsy, etc and it was, well, a seasonal business.
  • What’s something that everyone needs to do about once a week regardless if they have the physical capability to do so or not? Get groceries of course. I tried to figure out how to make money grocery shopping for others but it wasn’t easy as it would seem. How much would I charge? How would I charge? Per item? Would they pay me before or after I go shopping? How would I know exactly what was on their list? You see..logistical nightmare!
  • What’s something that people spend a lot of money on? Furniture! What’s something that’s a current trend? Buying hand-made things! Put them together, and I tried making an industrial furniture business. Turns out piping is expensive and heavy so it’s expensive to ship. Not good to start a small operation.
  • The Better Life Project was a blog I started to talk about all the positive things were happening in my life, both big and small. I hoped to inspire others with this. I ran out of steam on this one and it just slowly died.
  • I was a business consultant for a guy who wanted to create Spring Break packages and what not for students at a university up north. Our schedules conflicted and it was difficult to stay in touch. I wonder what he’s up to these days.

So as you can tell, I’ve tried a lot of different things and I’ve failed at most of them. Honestly, all that failing was the best experience and education I could ever get. It’s priceless. It’s my competitive advantage. It’s what makes me different and what puts me in the perfect position to be a consultant. I have the first-hand knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve failed so you can fail better and not as often as I did.

Do you have any business failures under your belt? What did you learn from them?