Archive for May, 2010

Entrepreneurs: Forget being Cool

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I just wrote about young entrepreneurs so I think I’ll roll with that topic a little more. I had said that many young entrepreneurs, and I include myself in this group, take the risk of starting a business because they are naive or “clueless”. I meant this as a positive. I also think that at a young age you may be more aggressive and assertive. There are times when dogged determination must prevail over ego or logic. I’ll give you a few examples from the Axxess early days.

This is how I often felt selling Axxess books

This is how I often felt selling Axxess books

  • Every Saturday morning, I would go the farmer’s market with a backpack full of Axxess Books and two cups of coffee from Roco. I’d stand behind a cement partition that runs the length of the parking lot on Santa Barbara Street and display the Axxess Book on top of it. I wasn’t allowed to have a booth at the market and I probably couldn’t have afforded one anyway, so this was my only option. I rarely even sold one book and more often than not left without a sale at all.  It was embarrassing to see friends, old school pals, and even girls I was trying to get dates with and having to stand there and peddle my “coupon book” as people called it. But I didn’t care. I knew that by standing there hundreds of people who walked by would at least see the product and heard (willingly or not) my 8 second pitch. Week after week I’d see many of the same people and eventually people either felt bad for me or thought I had heart – so they’d buy a book. I even landed an advertising client who was in the program for nearly five years. It was rough, getting there each weekend and putting on enthusiasm and a smile – but as I learned, combine that with persistence and that’s often all it takes.
  • After we published our first book in 1999 we realized we hadn’t’ given much thought to how we were going to market or sell Axxess Books. At the time, we honestly thought we just needed to make the product and the sales would follow. We created a brochure, put them all around town and waited for the phone to ring. And waited, and waited. With zero sales we were perplexed. We had seen other programs work with schools so we called a few and begged them to try our “fundraiser”. They’d never heard of us and unsurprisingly weren’t interested. Somehow, we ended up partnering with the local chapter of the Special Olympics. We agreed to give them $10 per sale if we could promote the Axxess Book as a fundraiser for their organization. The catch was that we had to do the door to door sales, and I say ‘we” meaning my partner Nate & I. So everyday, around 4:30 we’d put on our Special Olympics polo shirts (that we had to buy) and go knocking door to door. Now, this was miserable and we dreaded it every day because the last thing people want to deal with right when they get home from work is two Jackasses trying to show off their biceps in polo shirts while selling a book they’d 1) never heard of and 2) had very little in it. Plus, the Card concept was sort of new and for some reason people couldn’t understand why the pages didn’t have perforations on them (to tear out the offer) and what the card even did.  All we hoped for was a cash sale so we could get some pizza and maybe a few beers – and the payday rarely came. But in retrospect, even shortly thereafter we knew that those days pounding the streets were excellent training. For me personally, it helped me develop a thick skin and learn some true fundamentals about the sales game. And as I said, we definitely didn’t’ look or feel very cool, but we had to do what we had to do. My shareholders may not have received a check or a return on their investment for a few years but at least they knew we were trying!

Hopefully I can dig up some other stories to share in the future. If any young entrepreneurs are out there and reading this or anyone considering starting a business of their own – just remember, do whatever it takes (within reason of course!) no matter how embarrassing it may feel. In the end you’ll hopefully learn something, you may even sell something, and people will admire you for giving it your all.

I thought I’d drive a Ferrari by now!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Somehow I just turned 35 years old. For those of you my age or my senior I’m preaching to the choir – but wasn’t it yesterday that I was 21 and carefree? I’m not complaining, my life is still pretty carefree despite having different responsibilities and priorities. But time sure does fly. At 35 I definitely still have a lot to learn, but at 21 I sure was clueless. Or maybe I was just fearless, or better said – had less to lose. Starting a business at such a young age can be a beautiful thing because so little is at stake. Or at least that’s the way I figured it. We started Axxess with $30k borrowed from family. That was a huge number to me back then and I didn’t take it lightly, but I also knew that time was on my side and even if the venture failed it was a small price to pay (& if I did fail I promised to pay everyone back).

I was just reading something about how hard it is for people to quit a job and start or buy a business and it got me thinking about all the clients we have who simply grabbed their “you know what” and went for it. Here’s a few that did so under the age of 35 (and many of them under 30!):

Optomistic!

Clueless yet Brilliant

Sean, Pizza Mizza
Chanda,  Im=X Pilates
Bryan & Keri, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours
Christian, Oreana Winery
Steve, Cafe Intl.
Walter & Husam, Domino’s Pizza
Cari, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets
Jim, California Pasta
Kevin & Daniel, Green Star Coffee
Evan, WheelHouse
Alex, Ultimate Bagels
Tim, Gozzano Computer Consulting
Nick, Crossfit Goodland
Ryan, Absolute Events
Jared, Nutes
Jhonny, Jhonny’s Pest Control
Erik & Patrick, Movegreen
Carlos, Los Agaves
Grant, Dogtown
Ty, Carp Sports
Jay & Ron, Silvergreens

There are probably more, but that’s it for now…and none of them drive a Ferrari…yet!

Try something new

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

How often do you break from your normal routine and try or do something new?

Think about it. We’re all admitted creatures of habit that crave consistency. We have our favorite bike rides, hikes, reading spots, gas stations, etc.  If you eat out a lot you have your favorite places and within them, if you’re anything like me – you order the same thing 9 out of 10 times.

If you know me, you know that I can’t live without burritos and coffee (not together of course!).  At any local Mexican restaurant I simply can’t order anything other than a burrito. I try, but I can’t. I know the flavor and I know it’ll be good so I go with what I know as opposed to risking that goodness and trying something unknown.

I’m okay with this habit when it comes to my Mexican food, but when it comes to most other things I really feel it’s important to try new things.  For example, I recently went to the Montecito Farmer’s Market for the first time as opposed to going to the one downtown on Saturday morning. It was great, and I think I saw a celeb or two.  I admit that this decision was not anything crazy or life changing – but it need not be.  My wife & I also went to Lotusland for the first time. I’ve lived her 17 years and had never been there! And I’m really glad we went because it’s pretty amazing. Even my six month old was impressed…sorta.

One of the great things about Axxess is that it takes the risk out of trying new things because you’re paying less to do so. Also, Axxess has such a variety and quantity of activities and restaurants that the possibilities are endless.  Seriously- next time you’re looking to do something, break out your Axxess book and consider: going paddle boarding, wine tasting, to a show, the batting cages, the driving range, a Dodger game, bowling at Zodo’s, or just post up on State street and people watch while enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine.

It’s your call, but more often than not these new experiences will lead to new favorites and Axxess is just the right excuse!

Looking for something new to do? Try getting to the top of Kilimanjaro! This is me and my wife, almost there - 19,642 feet!

Looking for something new to do? Try getting to the top of Kilimanjaro! This is me and my wife (on our honeymoon!), almost there - 19,642 feet! No Axxess discounts available yet!