Welcome to another episode of The Entrepreneurial Mindset Project.
Today, we’re joined by Chad Porter, a young, inventive entrepreneur who is well on his way.
While studying biomedical engineering at Ohio State, he noticed that students were hauling fewer books around campus, which required a new type of backpack. All he needed was a prototype that would enable him to test his idea on his fellow students.
Once he scraped up the money to buy a sewing machine, he went to work, experimenting with designs. By the time he sold 200 backpacks, he knew he was onto something that had the potential to grow. All he needed was the money to make it happen.
Yet he quickly learned that venture capital investment was not readily available to young black entrepreneurs. He had to figure out how to make his business happen some other way.
Like most entrepreneurs, Chad’s story is full of challenges and setbacks, as well as unforeseen opportunities. What stood out to me was the combination of passion, optimism, and persistence that enabled him to find a different path.
Listen to the podcast here
Making It Happen: From Dorm Room Prototype To Market With Chad Porter Of CHVD JUSTIN
Chad, welcome to the show.
I’m happy to be on.
You and I talked briefly last time and I’ve been thinking about your story the whole time. I can’t wait to jump into this conversation. Let’s start where I always start, Chad. What got you on this entrepreneurial path? You were in school and you got knocked off your path is what I thought I heard you say. I want to go back even before that. Were there people in your life who encouraged you to think and act this way, or are you out there on your own?
It’s an interesting story. My dad is a small business owner. It’s going to sound crazy, but he has been in business for 55 years. He’s an old guy. That initially did not inspire me to be an entrepreneur, ironically enough. The thing with small business is small business, meaning it’s a day job. You’re working hard, but you have the freedom that I sooner realized, “He has the freedom to do this. This is his own business.” You have to make certain cuts and things to support employees and there’s always a community factor there. I always saw it as a struggle thing. It wasn’t the echelon. I had always been interested in being an inventor first, but then entrepreneurship spurned that.
I went to Ohio State to study Biomedical Engineering. That was there. After getting a B-minus in a class, I was not able to apply and be in that major. I would’ve had to retake a class I got a B-minus in, which is pointless, but I do understand why people do it. At that point, I thought, “Maybe this goal is over.” I knew there were other opportunities.
I got into stocks. In my freshman year, I was introduced to stocks by one of my friends. We were day trading, doing all these crazy things, and learning how to short the market, stuff like that. In my experience in doing that, I’m like, “The next step of this and what got me on entrepreneurship is if you’re good at stocks, you can be a hedge fund manager or something of that nature.” It then was like, “I want to save up money to then open a fund to do this.” Obviously, you realize to make real gains. You need a considerable amount of money. In the research, I started studying businesses and studying markets. I then started studying businesses almost to the point where it’s like, “Maybe I can do this. Instead of being an entrepreneur investing, why not start a business?”
I then remember my dad and these different things I’m starting to see. How do you start a large business in that you can see success? The stuff I’m seeing on Shark Tank, the big-time stuff, how do you do this? I started studying brands. Lululemon, I remember, blew my mind. Their stock price is huge. This isn’t even a tech brand. For some reason, it all started with Rebox. I’m like, “Rebox is the crappiest brand. They’re outdated or lame. I did research and found out Rebox’s $4 billion a year. Maybe I’m missing something here. I then started studying. Having an international brand and a successful business looks way different than I originally thought.
You saw your dad grinding, but then it wasn’t growing and it wasn’t like it was a grind for him. He had some freedom, he had some autonomy, but it wasn’t blowing out big. You didn’t see it as a big-time success. Maybe that informed you but wasn’t inspiring to you. That’s super interesting.
It went to that and I’m like, “How do these basic brands and stuff like Rebox reach this stage?” One thing I found is international market. Once you are able to get market share in one market and then go international, you might have a business in the US, Africa, China, Mecca, or New Zealand. I was like, “If I can grow a brand or business to be international, that in itself will get me to a scale.” What’s next? Innovative product. You need something that differentiates you to be able to expand and grow a brand. That’s how brands and that’s how things are making. This got my mind already gearing and thinking about saving and entrepreneurship things.You need something that differentiates you to be able to expand and grow a brand. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting to me the way in which you responded to the defeat. You told me you were on a scholarship.
Yeah. I was on an academic scholarship for those different things, but missing out on that opportunity and different things had those grades wiggle different things. I was able to stumble across economics, which at the time was my lowest grade. Me having a thought with stocks and things, it was like a perfect trend sector to get into there. Switching to economics was honestly the best thing I could have done to be an inventor. I’ll get it from that.
Do you feel like that B-minus was the best thing that happened to you? It was like an intervention in some way.
Yeah. With that, an academic probation in a sense, can lose the scholarship based on these grades. Also, switching to a new major, something different, but also taking on a new variant, which is entrepreneurship. Essentially, that spurred me. I already had these thoughts ending of freshman year, coming in senior year, declaring for economics, doing these things. That’s when I stumbled upon Barnes & Noble. I’m already fumbling like, “There has to be a business idea. This is how you build a brand.” That’s when I walked into Barnes & Noble, spent a ton of money on books, and upset.
The next day, I left my electronics in my dorm room because I needed to get my grades up. I wanted full focus, a huge backpack going, and was running through class ready to get it done. When I got to class, they had switched to a digital curriculum. Meaning they had given students iPads and all these things. They wanted us to download apps and all this stuff. I left my technology in my dorm room because I wanted to focus, meaning I missed out on points on all those classes.
It hit me then as those budding entrepreneurship ideas and things hit me, “Is there a problem I’m seeing here? The world is changing. How we learn is changing. How we interact is changing. Why hasn’t this most essential daily accessory, the backpack, changed with it?” I did my research even from stocks. I studied the market and realized the backpack market has stayed the same fundamentally for the past 100 years. That design has been fundamental. Even though we’ve changed, we need technology. We need different things. Our lifestyles are different. People now are going from a jet to a train, to a scooter, to class, to phone. That’s not how it was 100 years ago, right?
Even 25, 20 years ago.
It hit me. “I found a problem. I found a solution. This is what big brands are built from.” It implored me to take it a step further. In one of my economics classes, as I was sketching, I had this idea. I had these things that were coming together. One of my economics classes was on the process of manufacturing. That’s something that I was hoping to learn in engineering or something, but then we’re starting to turn about the process of manufacturing and how I’ve done this. I paid attention in everybody, don’t get me wrong. However, I was very in tune with that class. That’s when I got the campus job and saved up enough money.
My uncle, who’s partnered with my dad, in a sense. One has dry cleaners and the other has one too. He taught me how to sew. He had a sewing machine. He taught me how to use a sewing machine. I went back to college with that campus job, bought a sewing machine, and then that’s how I started working on the prototyping for the bags.
It’s interesting also that it sounds like what you’re saying is your mind was oriented toward looking for an opportunity. I want to point that out to people. We could trip over five times a day over opportunities if you’re not attuned to them. It’s super interesting the way the brain works. Our brains are inundated with billions of bits of data every second that come into our five senses and we can only process a few.
Our brains filter out everything deep, non-essential, or non-threatening. If you’re not looking for a problem to solve or an opportunity, you’re going to walk right past it every minute of every day. I want to make sure we’re not skipping ahead too quickly. You got a job on campus. That was working in the cafeteria. Is that what you told me?
Yeah. I worked in the dining hall. It was interesting.
Why did you do that? Was that to make money or to do what?
It was to make money to bring my idea to life. Getting into the stocks, I almost forgot about this part. Let’s say I got into stocks beforehand and saw some success, but then I made a couple of risky decisions and saw some minuses or failure, which perhaps had a little bit of traction from my family like, “You need to give this a rest and focus.” For any other entrepreneurship endeavors, I knew I had to self-fund these things.
You’re a college student. Most college students are broke. I know it’s different for a lot of other people sometimes, but I had limited resources, so I had an idea that the only way to get there was to get a campus job. Even with getting that campus job to help pay for the supplies and pay for my initial sewing machine to get started, at first, I wanted to hire an engineering student, but they had no passion. They weren’t interested in it. Also, it would’ve cost me even more money. I’m like, If I can figure this out, learn how to do this, take the time. I would literally save myself so much money in startup calls.
Essentially, the only way I could do this is to be willing to take the time to learn how to do this myself and self-funded through a job versus most people, “I got this idea for a product. I need to pay $10,000 to get it developed and all this stuff.” Versus, “I want to take my time to figure out how to do this. Start from the basics, buy the simple stuff. I learned how to hand-sew in second grade at a random school program. The first bag hand sold it to, I needed to take what was on the paper and bring it to life. For some reason, even if it looks terrible, the simple fact told me that it was over after that.
Chad, what you said is super important because that’s not to be overlooked. That first minimally viable product, low fidelity product, you put it together by hand, but in your brain, that did more for you. People don’t get it. We train teachers a lot and we ask people to do some homework and come back with a little presentation about their ideas. Sometimes, they put together slide presentations that they put some effort into. You can see the presentations alone help them focus, they start to see it, and it becomes more believable or achievable in their mind. I also want to make sure I’m clear here, you got a job in the cafeteria, which I’m sure you weren’t bragging about that to your friends.
I’ll be honest, it was a little embarrassing. We’re making omelets for frat kids. It’s those things.
It felt demeaning.
Yeah, in a sense. Through humility, I was able to focus and assume different things because, at the end of the day, if I was too good to get the job, I would’ve lost the startup capital that got me here. In any entrepreneur’s journey, whether you come from a very successful family that can write you a large check to start with no idea and no product. At the end of the day, at some point, someone’s going to have to go against the grain and work hard and go against adversity. Once all that money’s gone, you’re out of business and you look bad and it’s going to be tough to do it again. At any point, there’s some adversary, there’s some humility that’s going to have to cause you to persevere and do those different things. Mine happened to be that.At some point, an entrepreneur is going to have to go against the grain, work hard, and go against adversity. Click To Tweet
Here’s my theory on that. I think adversity works to the advantage of an entrepreneur in the beginning. Having access to money allows you to leap ahead, build it, and they will come. The lack of resources forces you to get resourceful, build something, and try to sell it. It forces you into this feedback loop with your customer that if you had money, you could go start producing backpacks by the truckload and not know if people want it. Anyway, the thing that’s an important part of the story, but it’s also humility. I’m sure you’re not excited to see your friends or have your friends see you in a kitchen in the morning making omelets.
Yeah, but humility leads to different things because in learning those lessons and becoming humble, even working with my first employees, my first staff, the people that are helping me along the journey, they’re more willing to do that when they see, “This dude humbled us.” That first design helped me to bring on our intellectual property attorney. For my product, after inventing it, I was able to submit a trademark and submit a design patent application for a considerable pro-bono rate in the case. That was due to, “This dude is working in the cafeteria. A student trying to figure it out but putting the effort there.” People see that in different places and like, “I know he doesn’t have anything, but I see him doing the best he can. You know what? I’ll help.”
That’s another important point. If you’re in the trenches trying to do something, people are going to try to help you. Everybody’s got an idea. The ones that are attractive, it’s not even so much the idea. It’s like if the dude’s in the cafeteria at 6:00 in the morning trying to save up enough money to buy a sewing machine, that’s the guy I want to put my money on.
It’s in those cases, that work ethic and commitment stayed with me as this process started to continue to grow.
Was there something that happened? It sounds like you were looking to make easy money in the beginning, like day trading and stuff. It sounds like you flipped. In your mind, you got to a place where you decided, “No, this ain’t going to work this way.”
It has to be difficult.
You’re in the cafeteria. You sewed your first prototype by hand, but you’re trying to save up enough money to buy a sewing machine. That’s cool. You showed me a picture when we chatted last time of your dorm room with a sewing machine, drawings, patterns, and scraps all over the place. What was going on? That’s a fascinating part of the story. What happened? You got the sewing machine, right?
Yes. I got the sewing machine, and then I spent the next winter break and the rest of the spring semester developing the product and so on. It was more of going to class, sewing five hours a day, eating, going to class, work, and sewing. Basically, I did not get out much that semester, I will be honest, but it was good. My dad was going through chemo then, so I needed something to focus on and invest all my time and thoughts on, which turned into sewing five hours a day. When I tell people this, they’re like, “No, you didn’t.” Honestly, ask my friends. People would come in and I would be sewing and they would hang out to keep me company.
Eventually, once I got the system together, I recruited some dorm mates to come help me with some pieces because it was the end of sophomore year. I was trying to finish the last prototype before the end of school. I wanted to drop the bags before the end of college because I spent my whole year developing this product. I wanted to drop them, so I had to get the business account, EIN, do all that stuff, finalize it, submit a provisional, and these different things to get us ready. After developing the final prototype 15, that was the one, “We can bring this to market. I developed a full process of manufacturing and had the dorm room set up.
How did you get to prototype fifteen? Walk me through that.
Prototype one was hand-sewn. The first one was sewn with a machine, and then each iteration kept getting better.
How did you iterate? Were you giving it to people and getting feedback or were you just thinking that yourself?
In each phase, I had a small subset of my uncle and a few people to whom I would send each additional prototype. I’m like, “This is a new one. How is this?” “That doesn’t look good.” I kept doing it. “Someone can’t sell that. They can’t use that.” To the point in which I got on so good, started refining and started doing different things. The final one was like, “This is cool. This works. You do this well. Looks good.” That was the one I showed people, and they’re like, “This is the one.” I said, “We need to make twenty of these to sell to test if this works.” That was the longest three weeks of my life. Sewing ridiculous. Had to get some buddies, like, “We got to knock this out. Can you help? I’m trying to get this done before the end of the school year.”
I had some people helping with the process. That’s the thing about the process of manufacturing. Once you have the detailed 25 steps, almost anyone can do it. I would have to do the sewing work and different stuff, but there are different parts of the field where people can help in that process. We knocked it out in that last week of school. That’s where I sewed those twenty handmade backs. I got pre-orders and things, and we sold those. I was like, “We got something now.” That was the next step. After we sold those twenty handmade bags, I’m like, “If I’m hand making these bags, there is no way we’re going to grow this business like this. There is no way I could hand sew every day.” It would take me 2 weeks to make 10 bags.
What did that feel like when you started selling the twenty bags? That had to be a great feeling.
It was awesome getting that product out. Seeing it, at that point, I was in it to win it. I’ll be honest.
I was reading an essay by Karl Marx about why people are alienated from work because they’re alienated from their species’ essence, as he called it. He talked about the need to fulfill human needs through our own efforts is so powerful. How it was like an expression of who we are. That backpack became an outward expression or a manifestation of you. When someone else says, “This is useful to me.” That’s like a narcotic for the human soul almost.
Yeah. We did something.
“I built something and people see value in it.” That’s what’s missing from so many people’s lives.
Seeing the impact of what you do, I think that’s a part. I was one of those people. That’s who I am. I am a passionate person. I’m a creative person. I’m an inventive person. I truly felt that Chad Justin and the the Wearpack was my only opportunity to essentially live the life I’m living now, being a full-time entrepreneur and venture creator, doing what I love. That was even more passion-resolved. It’s like, “Wait a minute. This is possible. Now, I have to spend the rest of my time focusing on how I can get this to the next level.”
The one thing I also think of that’s lost on a lot of people is learning and work is supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be a source of excitement and energy, not drudgery or something you dread doing, or something that sucks the life out of you. You should energize you. People don’t get that. Once you have a taste of that, that genie’s not going back in the bottle.
Through the growing scale in different stages, that’s what the passion, love, and vision of what this could be. That’s what fueled me to do the different things. During college, this was not the last job I had to get. After that, it was Cordoba. I was a cook or chef. In between college, it was a little Amazon. I figured out a way in which I could do Amazon using my own car on my own time. It didn’t take away from my sewing. It’s been different.
The next part is to get out of the sewing. That’s when I realized investment capital, where can I go? I found a factory that could wholesale these, and that’s what everybody runs into. They’re like, “I finally got some money. I need to buy $1,000.” During that time, I was only able to raise $10,000 for a very reasonable evaluation and things. That’s what I used as my first lesson. What do you think I did? I bought 200 bags and focused. What I forgot was marketing, no budget. All these different things, I forgot that you need to market these different things. That was my first mistake.
It’s not friends and family anymore. You got to go beyond that.
In selling those 200 bags in my junior year through campus and different friends through the summer at the beginning of the semester, they are some of the biggest learning experiences I ever realized. I had to sell the bags. DM-ing, calling, popup shops, I was out there. Getting those grassroots customers to meet all 200 of the people who bought the bags. Guess what? I got some feedback. “Your hustle and drive were amazing. I see where the product is going, but you’re not there yet.” Some female friends said, “Love it, but it’s not adjustable. No water bottle holders.” I got a boot and something design stuff for a guy. I didn’t think about that, but if I want the innovation of the backpack, it should probably be a unisex innovative product.
I took all 200 people’s feedback, and instead of quitting, I’m like, “You know what? We’re close.” This was the test. I took all 200 of those feedbacks, sorted out the top 10 things, and then I’m like, “We need a Wearpack in the next one. We got to redevelop this. We’re close, but we’re not there yet.” That’s when I developed, took all the feedback, took the things, and introduced another feature of the bag. At the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year, I released the all-new Wearpack, a revamped version. The goal of this was to figure out how to go to direct-to-consumer and how to hit that.
We sold another two 50 of these, but then it was like, I can’t raise with this. It’s a consumer product brand. I wasn’t able to go viral and all these different things. How do I figure it out? At the end of senior year, that’s when we switched to B2B. If I can get a university to buy this product, then we can sell it to every university. I was already trying to start to see those wholesale channels. I guess going into that senior year summer, I graduated four and a half years.
Before my final semester that summer, I started reaching out to every university possible, even my own. In that, one university reached back out. That ended up being our first university client. We got the license. They introduced us to transparent bags. That’s why we have transparent bags. You reach out to a customer, when they tell you what they want, you can either say “No” or “That makes sense. Let me make some transparent bags.” That opened a whole new market for us.
Drucker wrote that in the ‘80s. When a business does succeed, more often than not, it does so in a way that the founder didn’t anticipate when he began. Products being used in a different way by different people, it’s never going to be the way you think it’s going to be.
No, it’s never. You have to listen to the client in different things, whether it gets on your nerves or not. That’s why we started developing different things because you test, “The client wants this.”
There’s another point to be made here. People try to figure it out and perfect it in their mind, then launch. You have to be in the arena. You got to get a minimally viable product, get out into the arena, and interact. I gave a talk at a college in LA last week. One guy comes into my talk and he’s an older guy, he wasn’t a student at school. He was talking about how he built some video games. He spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money, and no one’s buying it. He was all frustrated, but he had talked to no one. He interacted with no one. He built the whole thing, then launched it, and couldn’t figure out, like.
It’s not that simple. That’s the biggest thing around entrepreneurs. As an accessible entrepreneur, you have to be good at every facet of business. Meaning not necessarily to be good but willing to do the work.
You got to be able to sew and sell.
You can be as creative as you want, but if you can’t sell, you either need to partner with someone who can sell or you will be in a world of trouble. You can have the best products, but if they’re not marketed, if no one sees them, if they’re not in front of anyone. Unfortunately, you’re going to be in a world of trouble. Those are the things that you have to push every entrepreneur to do. It comes out with performance.
You started to get universities buying these things from you. Instead of selling individual backpacks, you started to sell wholesale. You then started to try to raise money. You went out and you tried to raise money. You proved the concept well enough. Is that what you were thinking?
I thought I was able to prove the concept enough so that after graduating, I could do it full-time. In this space, in Ohio, perhaps if I lived in New York or LA, I would’ve got that funding. “This is a dope consumer product. We see this. Let’s do it.” I’m in Ohio.
You’re in Cleveland, which is like a rustbelt town.
I had graduated from Ohio State, so I spent, after graduation, around eight months still in Columbus. That’s where I tried to raise. The resources were not there. It pushed me to say like, “Obviously, I have something that sells on its own, but I don’t have the marketing budget or the capital to launch it direct-to-consumer. I want you to cover me as an adult.” That’s when that B2B university model became much more serious, like, “If I can sell these things wholesale, this turns into a business.”
In that process, my worst fear after graduating was getting a job, which was one of the best things that could have happened. I got a job working at a nonprofit, which was remote at the time, as a business advisor. This taught me professional development skills I didn’t have and gave me a network that allowed me to be more successful in business-to-business sales. You need that type of professional work to see how to do these things, to see how to talk, and to get into that channel and learn that.
Consequently, I was only there for about five months, but by the time I parted ways we had closed some deals and we were finally moving. Through that, that’s when we turned into corporate wholesale as well. I’m like, “Outside of universities, corporate companies, those are one of the biggest of backpacks.” It hit me that I’m in a commodity industry. If I have the innovation of a commodity, all the wholesale channels are already set up. I need to find out where those channels are and figure out a better sales strategy.
After getting that job, getting those professional development skills, taking the time to grow my business, and find the right channels. After I turned over, I had figured out the means of growing a successful B2B business. It wasn’t difficult. I had to eventually move back home to Cleveland, in which I was able to win some prizes, some grants, and then that had a focus and figure out the right strategy. That set us on the track to where we’re at now.
Were you able to raise money? Did that work out?
Even at that point, not necessarily. I was able to win competitions. Investors said no, but I won a competition that said yes. We took that and ran with it. We took that and turned it into an actual six-figure business. That’s the thing about entrepreneurship. I could have given up, but I knew we had a solid business and I knew we needed some type of capital. Applied to every competition and won. Look where we’re at. At that point, it was the right strategy because, at first, we had a very capital-intensive strategy, because I was still hoping to raise and to be able to do some things. As entrepreneurs, and I’ll say specifically as entrepreneurs that are minorities or Black or any organizations, I have to be honest, you have to accept reality. Once you accept reality, you’ll become an entrepreneur and start raising capital.You have to accept reality. Once you accept reality, you will become an entrepreneur and start raising capital. Click To Tweet
What do you mean accept reality? I think I know what you mean, but could you lay that out for me?
You have to expect reality because why would I expect my journey to be like Steve Jobs’ or Elon Musk’s or Mark Zuckerberg’s? The difference between those guys and stuff is, there are a lot of different things. There’s early capital access that we have to accept that we’re not going to get in a lot of circumstances to bet on you being succeeding or to get those different things. It was even looking at the venture capital metrics, for Latin Black minority founders, they got was 1.8%. Eighty percent of that went towards women. Women are a minority.
As a Black man entrepreneur, you’re locked out basically.
In being cognizant of reality, I realized that it was not for me and I was okay with it. They kept telling me, “Go get a credit line. Go get a bank loan.” I’m a student entrepreneur. I have student loans. Outside of that, they don’t tell you that, “I’ve walked into a bank with 20 purchase orders.” Guess what they tell you? “No.” That does not work. None of that stuff they’re talking about works. You’re able to get loan funding by being able to show. They only give you money based on 30% of your revenue or earnings.
Once again, you would need six figures or I would’ve already needed at least a large six-figure investment that puts cash in my bank account that I can now leverage for more cash. Once again, the advice they’re thinking and the advice they’re given does nothing for me based on the reality. It told me that for me to be successful, I have to build a cashflow positive, profitable, self-sufficient business without receiving capital. That’s what I had to learn.
That’s such an interesting lesson. I’d love to dive into that more with you. First of all, it sucks that it’s that way.
No, it doesn’t. It does initially, but then what that did was it led me to make the tough decisions and different decisions to make a more cashflow positive business model.
This is where I was going with this. What’s so beautiful about your story is that you didn’t say, “I’m going to take my ball and go home. I got to find another way.”
You interpreted it optimistically.
At least I know that this isn’t for me, so why stress about it or push towards that? After that, all I apply for are grants, economic development loans from economic development agencies because I know banks and I know the VCs. I already know. Once you start building a profitable model, and different stuff like that, and get to over six figures, you suddenly start walking into private investors that are like, “You have a solid business. I’ll invest.”
All it means is that for Blacks and minorities, you’re not getting investment off the idea. You’re not getting investment off potential. You get investments off facts, evidence, and execution. That’s what I’m saying. Coming closer to reality, you have to accept that you’re held to a higher standard. That’s not always a bad thing because if you reach that standard, that means that once you do get the opportunity, you’re going to be successful.
That’s such a powerful message. The venture capital thing is weird to me anyway. I know statistically, companies that are venture-backed fail at a higher rate than companies that are bootstrapped. There’s something that you said. If you’re a guy with an idea, what you’re saying, if you’re a White guy, it’s easier to get somebody to fund you based on an idea. I’ve always said this to people, “Take the racial bias out of it.” If all you have is an idea and you’re vulnerable, you’re at the mercy of the venture capital. If you’ve got revenue, the power dynamic shifts.
Yes. It’s cognitive dissidence, honestly. That’s all it is. You got to think about it. Black guy idea, White guy idea, he looks like my grandson. Think about that. Even the money to this person that reminds you of your grandson. That’s the truth. It also comes to the network. Obviously, for most White people, you have some people in your family that have a large wealth. I’ve seen it time and time again. There’s one uncle. There’s someone who has some crazy resources.
At least he has $20,000 or $50,000 they could give you or loan you.
In all honesty, for the majority or many Black families, not to downplay that, but to write us $50,000 to $100,000 check, there are always outliers. One of my best friends, his parents can write him $100,000, $150,000, $200,000 check, and he’s Black. Once again, I’m saying that not to say that it’s not possible.
Statistically, it’s just a much lower probability. That’s all you’re saying.
Yes. That’s why I started my business in college based on statistics because I realized that college is the only opportunity we have in our lives to test things out and do these things. I have a higher statistic of starting a successful business, growing it, and incubating it in college with all those resources than graduating and having to do it without it. That was another statistical thing. It’s like, you got to weigh the numbers, do the statistics, and study.College is the only opportunity we have in our lives to test things out. Click To Tweet
I researched Dell Computers. Where did he start? Dell started in his dorm room hand-making laptops that he eventually figured out, “I can make them a little cheaper, wholesale them, and sell them.” It’s those same concepts. In doing the research, you can take those different things to incubate yourself, accepting the knowledge, accepting where you’re at, and making the most of the opportunities.
In the same way, I would claim that a White person can raise easier. Due to me being Black, I can apply for minority business enterprise certificates. That allows me to get different deal-fluent things. I think it goes hand in hand. That’s why I am careful with how I say that, because I’m not downplaying. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m not saying this. I’m just saying that in understanding that everyone’s route is different. That’s your route.
Everyone’s challenge is different. I get it. What’s so elegant in your story is your underlying attitude, like, “I got to find a way.” A guy from Cleveland named John Osher invented the spin brush. I don’t know if you’ve heard his story. It’s a Harvard business case study. He told me that he sold his business fifteen months into it. He sold it for $475 million. Remember those little lollipops where the gas station on a motor? You could have a lollipop on the end of a little motor.
He developed those, and then he developed this $5 spin brush he sold to Crest for $475 million. He told me that you could answer any question anybody ever asked you about entrepreneurship, and you could address with the same three words, “Find a way.” He said it to me, Chad. He goes, “I know it’s not that helpful, but it speaks to the ethos and the mindset. It’s like, I got to find a different way. This path isn’t going to work for me. I got to go with it down a different path.” I’m not saying we should accept racial disparities and things like that. I’m just saying from the attitude of the person trying to get something done, that’s the way to think about it.
We all start at different stages, but just like the turtle wins the race.
Slow and steady wins the race.
What he’s saying is finding a way. Our focus now is nationalizing in high schools. How we were able to deduce this and focus now is, in selling to high schools, “We don’t have a budget.” I’m like, “You know what? I’ll do a free engagement because I want to inspire. That’s part of our social mission.” After doing three engagements, someone was like, “You should have had some type of curriculum. We want to buy some bags after you spoke a couple of times. Can we get them for teacher appreciation?”
It then hit me. Teaching these kids opened up a teacher appreciation thing. Teachers need bags every year. They need gifts every year. If me engaging the students allow them to see value, is that the selling strategy? I then took a step back. Student design curriculum. It turns out they have more of a budget for curriculums than bags paired together of an entry point. At this point, I don’t even know how. I just kept going. I look at some of the stuff now, like I don’t even know.
It’s like a learning journey. It’s learning that’s vastly different from any learning that takes place in a formal learning environment. I’m not dissing formal learning. I’m just saying there’s another learning that people aren’t clued in on. I would argue that a lot of what you’re learning, you don’t know you’re learning. It’s called implicit learning. Our brains are much better at it. It’s learning that occurs without effort or awareness.
I’m not trying to, but you’re soaking this stuff in. That’s why the ebbs and flows are good. Sometimes, it’s good to hit things hard just to take a step back to stare at what you’re doing, revisit it, and then go back. Everything has to do with strategy. Another thing I’ll add that helped me is you have to get consistent and you have to learn perseverance and discipline. It’s the only way. I thought about it this way, if I’m putting in 5 hours a day on my craft every day and you’re only putting 5 hours a week in your craft, every week, I’m doing 25 hours into my stuff. In a year’s time, you’re going to be in one place, I’m going to be in one place.
Let me take that to another level. I’m an Audible freak. I listen to 25 books a year while I’m at the gym on a treadmill. Think about the cumulative advantage of that. I’m not talking about fiction. I’m reading non-fiction. I’m reading 25 books a year. The cumulative effect of that over a decade, I’m way out ahead of somebody who quit learning the minute they walked out of college.
Trust me, and I tell my dad all these things, I don’t think age is a determinant of knowledge or resources. In this journey now, I met some of the sharpest people who are 80 years and up. I’m trying to tell you the sharpest people. That showed me one thing. Learning never stops. It’s all on the person. It caught me off guard, then that’s when it showed me you’re right. It’s the dedication to still learning. Our COO that we’re bringing on, he’s 75 and knows what he’s doing. He has a world of experience.Age is not a determinant of knowledge or resources. Learning never stops. Click To Tweet
Do you want to know what the flip side of that is? I got a 31-year-old mentor and I’m 64 years old. The exact opposite, but for the same reason. Younger people see something I can’t see. I want to be respectful of your time winding down. I know you’re fairly early in this journey. You’re a couple of years out of college. It sounds like you’re well on your way. What are any final thoughts that you want to share with people who might be tuning in to this show about your journey, what you learned about yourself, or what people can take away from your story?
I would say your reason why is huge. Whatever spiritual or faith mechanism you have is huge. It’s those intangibles that take this journey to the next level. Nobody’s going to see a lot of the work you do. You’re not getting pats on the back. You have to have an actual reason why you want to do this. Whether it’s the love, the passion, the impact, and the discipline through faith or whatever to stay focused on your journey. Stay focused on that.
Lastly, to graduate high school takes 4 years, to graduate college takes 4 years, to be a doctor takes 4 years. Expect any successful business to take you 4 to 5 years to do. When you come in it with that mindset, you’re in it to win it because, “I’m going to keep developing because I already know that it was going to take this long anyway. I’m already expecting certain things I’m getting to.”
That’s why it’s good to do research. If you expect it, it’s not going to scare you as much because I was waiting for this next journey. I was waiting for this next thing. Do research on what you’re doing, prepare yourself, and garner the discipline to work towards that. At the end of the day, it comes down to you. If you are willing to put the work in, a lot can happen.
I learned that from sports and different things. We ended up being a part of two state championship teams. Guess what? I wasn’t the starting player. I was one of the leaders during practice. I was a bench guy, but it was on me to sharpen up the team and do different things. I learned that in every successful team and every successful thing, everyone has to learn how to play their role and be humble in doing it.
What do we do? We won. Take that to your business. Understand that you’re going to have to be humble in every role you’re doing, humble with the time it takes, and humble with the success it takes. That’s what winning teams are made out of. Humility, persistence, grind, work ethic, passion, and commitment towards the goal that you set.
Thanks so much for doing this show. I’m grateful for your time. I can’t wait to share this story with the world.
No, thank you as well. I appreciate our connection and the uplifting spirit, joy, and passion you truly have for entrepreneurs. Truly, those seeking to make a difference and those breakout stories. Not necessarily outliers, but the people who did a little more or wanted to make a bigger impact or saw that and didn’t give up. You were talking about a guy that’s so depressed after a year and a half. There are different outcomes to this, but you’ve been able to see and identify those entrepreneurs with maybe the it factor. I appreciate it.
I appreciate you saying that, Chad. I’ll leave it with this. I see entrepreneurship as a manifestation of the self-actualizing tendency. We’re all acorns trying to become mighty oak trees. Entrepreneurship is the path we’re trying to do. It’s not about the backpack. It’s about trying to manifest who we are and give our gifts to the world in a way that benefits us. It’s like a natural thing that has nothing to do with business. It’s like our little secret. It’s like the inside secret. It has nothing to do with business.
It’s because we love and enjoy the fundamental. I’m selling the product. I love the product, I love the business, but I enjoy life. I enjoy what I’m doing. I like waking up on a mission every day.
Yeah. Thank God it’s Monday. Chad, thanks. I don’t want to keep you any longer. Where can people get ahold of you? I want to make sure there’s a URL here.
You can log onto our website at ChadJustin.com. It’s ChvdJustin.com, but you can also type in ChadJustin.com. The product is called the Wearpack. The Wearpack is available on our website, but it’s also available on Amazon.
Thank you for your time, Gary. Thank you for all the kind audience. Go for your dreams. Wishing you all the best.