I didn't want to write this.
An authentic tale of self-awareness by a young entrepreneur.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an entrepreneur. I taught myself to code when I was 6 and started freelancing around the age of 12. I did what any other entrepreneurial kids did when they were the same age: sold whatever I could and did whatever I could to make a buck. In my case, it was mowing lawns and tending to gardens when people were away.
Shortly after my thirteenth birthday, I started to pursue my passion for music. I had enough self-awareness to know that I didn’t have enough natural talent to be a singer or musician and instead focused on event production and later artist booking/management.
Around the same time, my dad was working in Penticton and over the summer I would join him. Penticton is about an hour south of Kelowna where we live. I started to think about producing outdoor events while in Penticton and because I spent so much time there, I decided to produce a live event.
“Summer Kick-Off 2011” was born and it was going to be awesome; live music, local vendors and exhibitors and the whole nine. I had everything prepared from permits issued by the city and fencing around the park, to musicians and ticket designs. It even went in front of the city council and was unanimously approved.
Last weekend while I cleaned my apartment I found my notes and in-depth execution plans, and I was both impressed and embarrassed slightly by my ambition and lack of realism. Unfortunately, at the time I hadn’t honed my sales skills quite enough and wasn’t able to secure enough sponsors or community support and ultimately had to cancel a few months out.
Fast-forwarding to when I was 16, along with my business partner at the time, over the course of 18 months I launched and failed my startup, Taste Locally. There’s more to that journey, but I’ve written about it before here and here.
I started to work full time for a few various reasons and started to spend my time listening to various successful entrepreneurs such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Cuban, and Travis Kalanick. After a while, I began to feel inspired, refreshed, and ridiculously eager to get right back into entrepreneurship with a new sense of what I thought it meant to be an entrepreneur.
During a dinner with my friend Zach, we started to discuss the idea of creating a company together. We imagined a monthly subscription that would deliver straight to your door prepped meals that all you had to do was put together and cook.
Mealbox was born.
We spent several months pursuing this idea and ultimately decided we need to scale back our initial ambitions and start with a minimum viable product that the two of us could actually tackle. We began to pursue simplifying take-out by building a technology platform company for restaurants to be able to compete in a digital-first world.
Unique? No. Opportunity? Yes.
We were ambitious enough to embark on a journey to build a B2C marketplace and spend our time marketing to both sets of customers. Our consumer-facing app was able to track your preferences and your reviews and be able to suggest you take out options that were nearby, within you palate, and didn’t compromise your dietary preferences.
The idea was actually super cool. (But in retrospect it never would have worked in our limited initial market of Kelowna)
We began to tell everyone what we were going to do and how it would change their world.
We talked and talked.
We never launched.
18 months passed and we were only a little bit closer to launching a product than when we started. We changed what we wanted to do and talked a lot about our ideas, but we barely seemed to get anything valuable done. We pushed back our deadlines, simplified our MVP, and yet no execution really occurred. Sure we spent time in meetings with each other, debated our idea, and I wrote some code. However, ultimately, we never actually started getting customers. We were building something we hoped people would use rather than solving a problem we knew existed.
We began backwards to how anyone should be starting any product-based business. We spent our time trying to find a problem for the solution we built rather than finding a solution to a real, desperate problem our target market has.
Even though I told myself and everyone around me that I was in love with the idea, I had so many doubts that turned into a loss of passion.
Doubts about core aspects of your business can cripple you and drain your passion.
Now here I am, swallowing my pride, writing this post, and admitting out-loud something I never wanted to admit: I was faking it.
I was more in love with the idea of entrepreneurship than the execution of it.
I was wearing the wantrepreneur disguise: all talk, no results.
I went from being a real entrepreneur to some pathetic all-talk imposter.
The last two years of my life weren’t productive in building a business; I started to just repeat cool quotes from people who were actually building businesses.
Damn. I didn’t want to write this.
Where to from here, right? I’m 19 and I have no business-related success; what now? I’m fully aware that most people reading that will think, “Dude, you’re only 19. Of course you don’t have any success yet… Patience kid,” and you’re right.
If that was you, I’d say the same thing, but it still doesn’t change how I feel.
I considered leaving it out, but I felt since I was already being vulnerable and admitting I failed… (again)… I may as well be fully honest.
The past two years have really inspired me to become more transparent about my journey. To document along the way rather than writing a post at the beginning and end of every idea.
Ultimately, my fear of failure with Mealbox came when I told people “this is what we’re going to do”, instead of “this is the cool shit we are doing.”
Understanding the difference and following the latter releases you from the fear of failure. Talking about what you’ve done in retrospect leaves no room for debate. Share facts, not fantasies.
“Well done is better than well said.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
This, of course, should be taken with a grain salt. You’re not on your own because there are plenty of people in your world who want to support and help you. You have to find the balance between the two for yourself.
To me, it ultimately comes down to deciding who you want to be. Do you want to be an idea person or an execution person?
Vulnerability is tough and swallowing pride isn’t easy, but it is important when you’re wrong.
If what I wrote inspired you, or you enjoyed reading about my pain in a twisted way, it would mean a lot if you gave it a recommendation or left your thoughts below.
Small subtle update: I’m planning to document share my entire journey as an entrepreneur. If you want to follow my journey as an entrepreneur, I can’t tell you how to run your business, but I can show you how I’m running mine; mistakes and all!
Originally posted on my Medium