Entrepreneurship

Brandon Afari

Meet the Co-Founder of chargeFUZE

Brandon Afari

Location: Zoom
Date: 5/8/2020
Profession: Co-Founder & Co-CEO, chargeFUZE

Q & A

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do for a living?

My name is Brandon Afari and I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  I went to the University of Southern California for both college and graduate school, and I’ve had the majority of my career spent out here in Southern California. 

I’m the co-founder and co-CEO of chargeFUZE, which is a sharing economy platform for portable chargers that we launched in Q4 2019.

Prior to chargeFUZE,  I was formerly employed at Deloitte and also a VP & COO at National Packaging Products, one of the largest west coast packaging manufacturers.

Tell us a little bit more about chargeFUZE? How does it work?

chargeFUZE is a startup with a model similar to companies like Bird and Lime, which are also sharing economy concepts.

You can locate our stations at any bar, coffee shop, restaurant, shopping center etc. Once you scan the QR code, out pops an all in one portable charger capable of charging all devices. 

You can take it with you on the go and drop it off at any other station in our network.  Right now, our primary network is in Los Angeles, and we are on the brink of a multi-city expansion. 

The whole idea is for people to not have to buy portable chargers that they need to carry around with them, but instead, for only 50 cents, you can rent a portable charger and use it when you need it.  We’re in all types of venues from small coffee shops to large stadiums.

Brandon Afari

What's your backstory and what led you to chargeFUZE?

Early on in high school I had an important realization.  I was raised in a Persian Jewish household, which had a lot of pros. 

My parents were heavily involved in my growth and development, and my family was extremely close knit. What I realized and disliked was that I really didn’t feel like I had my independence. As a result, throughout high school I kept trying to push myself to become more independent.  

I wasn’t a natural born entrepreneur.  There are kids in elementary school flipping things and trying to make a quick buck. 

I wasn’t one of those kids.  I knew I wanted to be, but it wasn’t something that was innate for me. So, I had to force myself to be entrepreneurial. It took a long time to develop that skill. 

From high school, to college and then graduate school, I kept telling myself to be independent, to think outside of the box, and keep thinking like an entrepreneur. 

I pushed myself because I knew there was someone else working 10 times harder.  The reason I bring this up is because even though I didn’t have it, I’ve been training myself for years and I see myself becoming that person more and more. 

I never moved back home after school.  I always took care of myself and paid my own bills. I knew how much my surroundings were impacting my life, and I wanted to break the expectation of moving home and being in my comfort zone.

I’ve never reverted back to that comfort and I never will.  I’ve taken it upon myself to really focus on my personal development and build that independence. 

School was always easy for me.  I had a great GPA and I was one of the top students in my class. At USC, I worked on my two degrees in Business and Accounting with a minor in Real Estate Development, then my Masters in Business Taxation, so there was never a dull moment.

I was very studious and fairly school driven. Sophomore year was when things started to change.  For the first time, I was really trying to see what ideas I could create as an entrepreneur. 

I started an app with a couple others called Karma, which still interests me to this day. Essentially it’s like Task-Rabbit, you complete tasks, earn Karma Credits, and can use those credits to get other people to get tasks done.

We wanted to create a whole ecosystem with social credits instead of dollars. We even had an investor meeting out in San Francisco. It was an amazing process to be a part of at just 19. The app didn’t end up panning out since we were all in school and not really ready to take the jump.

And truthfully, it just wasn’t the right partnership at the right time. Through this experience, I learned more about myself and who I am as a partner. If I’m a part of something, I am 100% in it.  

Sophomore year was the year I wanted something concrete to teach me and something practical. In my mind, Accounting was a skill that relates to everything, and was something you can look at inside of any business. 

I got into USC’s Leventhal School of Accounting, keeping my business degree and beginning my dual degrees. At that point, my thinking was, “Let’s kill it at school and get a corporate job.”  The classes I took were extremely useful and still impact me to this day.

Sophomore year, I applied to all the big four leadership programs - Deloitte, EY, PWC, KPMG -  and got accepted to all of them. 

In the spring semester of my Junior year, I studied abroad in Australia, which really expanded my perspective.

That same year is where I got closer to my now long-time roommate and best friend, Eric Anwar. He’s a really important part of my life, and he showed me that the drive, mentality, and work ethic you have amongst friends 100 percent rubs off on one another.

He had a corporate offer, turned it down, and then started a marketing agency and even more recently a vape company that sold for over $16 million! Exposure to him tweaked something in my brain that made me see what I could be doing.  

Then during my senior year, I was preparing for my time at Deloitte. At this point, I applied to grad school for my Master’s in Business Taxation.

Truthfully at the time, it was so I could push off Deloitte to figure out what I wanted to do. I never envisioned that I’d want to stay in school, but the reason I even pursued it was because I got a scholarship.

It was a no brainer for me - I can get a graduate school degree and not have to worry about paying for it.

During Grad school, I was taking two courses in the MBA program - Acquiring a Business and Financial Valuation for businesses. I learned all the different ways to value and underwrite a business. 

Grad school was a great opportunity for me, but also a good time for me to start this new venture with my family.

National Packaging, which makes packaging for products in places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes, was getting into labels and printed film. I had an opportunity to spearhead this new venture at ground 0, and worked there practically full-time and by the end of the year, I was taking over operations. 

I started this division, and by the end of the year we were picking up great accounts that were six, almost seven figures in value. At the same time, I kind of changed the company as a whole -  logo, branding, everything. 

I was utilizing a lot of the knowledge I was learning in Grad School to fix some internal systems as well.  It was a great opportunity, but I knew I had to step back to get ready for Deloitte.

Deloitte was a completely different dynamic. I spent a year there, but I didn’t feel as though I was being exposed to all aspects of the business, which I didn’t like. 

I began trying to figure out if I wanted to stay, and if I was learning enough. At that time, I knew I didn’t want to be a partner there.

I really wanted to be a part of something and really see it through. I had a friend while I was working at Deloitte who got me in on a cryptocurrency opportunity.

We went through every aspect of building this business out, including legal and operations. When we got to fundraising, the market crashed. Fortunately, we didn't raise capital and it ended up being another huge lesson for me.

At this point, I realized I was killing myself for a sector where no new ideas are being created and it flipped a switch for me, so I left my job at Deloitte. Even still, I went through the CPA process and passed all 4 exams.

It was not an easy process studying for four separate exams, transitioning out of Deloitte and moving into the packaging industry while also being a part of a cryptocurrency venture. There were a lot of moving pieces, but I knew I had to buckle down.

I transitioned from Deloitte back into the packaging company and took that opportunity to grow the business.

I wanted to learn as much as possible, while growing it into its full potential. It was a blank canvas and I was given complete autonomy. 

At that point we had never gotten a single sale from our website, which many thought was a reason not to focus online, and I disagreed.

My first goal was to ramp up sales, and focusing on our online presence from a new website to advertisement was my initial focus to bring in new business.

Next thing you know, I’m getting more and more involved in operations, and one of the first things I knew needed to be implemented was building a more automated information and resource planning system.

Everything was operated with excel documents and paperwork, and I brought in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution, which I barely even understood, and I personally tracked the entire process from when a customer engages us, to production, to shipping and accounting.

Because I got push back on spending any money on this, I implemented the system myself, with no integration specialist or anything. I revamped our processes and procedures to provide us with full visibility in real time, and we’re now able to see where we stand and what we look like as a company, and it’s all automated. This was such a great project for me. 

After implementing that, I ran the day to day operations and transitioned into a role as the VP & COO of the company. I purchased millions of dollars in equipment, revamped our entire supply chain and increased our sales significantly in a two and a half year period.

During this time, I was going back and forth to China, often alone. It was an insane experience to expose myself to a new culture and business setting, and it was during one of my trips to China where the idea for chargeFUZE really took form.

Describe the process of building and launching chargeFUZE. What was it like?

After a trip to China, I came back and partnered with my best friend and current co-founder, Ryan Levy. We were meeting a lot of people and we even built the team before we even had the product. We met a ton of entrepreneurs that shared a lot of the same vision.

We all were hungry, wanted growth, unselfish teamwork and we wanted to do it together. Our first partners were the owners of Luxury Listings, Kambiz and Sina.

We met at a house that created an environment for entrepreneurs to talk and collaborate. We talked about the idea with no real intention of partnering.

We had meetings back and forth and the next thing you know we got them involved. They spearhead our marketing altogether and now they’re two of my best friends. We have the same mentality of helping others and building something together. 

Brandon Afari

During this time as well, we reached out on LinkedIn to Ben Grossman, who was one of the pioneers in this space. As we got talking, he was super passionate and excited, so we wanted to see if he had an interest in being a part of chargeFUZE.

We onboarded him as a team member, and at the time he was working at a huge company in Seattle, but he was really devoting time to us as well. We also onboarded Andrew Trugman, a colleague that actually went to my high school, who has a ton of experience in the tech space.

Lastly, the owner of the agency that handled our software development, Hassan, actually became our most recent formal member to the team, and also has become a very close friend of mine.

Brandon and Friends

Those were the initial people we brought on, and now the question was where do we go from here?  This company is truly at the heart of technology.

I say that because we are a hardware and software company. We knew in a space like this, we needed capital and we couldn’t half-ass it, and thank god we had a guy like Ryan on our team.

We’re dealing with a physical product, so we had to figure out how to pitch something that’s tangible to investors instead of just ideas. 

First, we needed to find our supplier, which couldn’t be found in the U.S.  It was our opportunity to find a foreign supplier who was trying to hit the U.S. market.

We knew we had numerous connections in China, and we decided to go to Canton Fair to see if we could find the right partner to scale with. We visited numerous factories, and found a few suppliers and even brought back a working sample to bring back to the U.S. as a demo. 

Now that we had the hardware to show people, we needed to build the software. We originally built a dummy app with our manufacturer to show the ejection of the battery. 

I used Fiverr and paid someone a few hundred bucks and built a non-operational test flight. It was to show what the map is going to look like, along with icons and buttons, but it was not a functioning app.

We used it just to show investors what the vision was, and we would use this backend app we worked on with our supplier to actually show them the physical ejection of a power-bank.

All this being said, it still allowed us to take something real into our fundraising discussions. The coolest part of the process was that we could show people our vision, and not just talk about it.

Once we got our first investor, everything trickled in place. We didn’t approach this as investments from friends or family, but instead only strategic partners. 

At that point, we needed a development team experienced in software and hardware. I was introduced to Hassan, who runs a 3rd party agency, through a friend of mind, and while there was a lot of trust and risk involved in this decision, we ultimately felt comfortable that he was a great fit for us.

Halfway through 2019, we were focused on bringing in strong advisors.  We wanted to bring in people that would have an impact on the company rather than just filling roles.  

The advisory board has really helped us make decisions in terms of what the starting point looks like from an execution standpoint.

One of our advisors even assisted us in getting a UI designer that worked hand-in-hand with our 3rd party agency.  We mapped out the entire flow for the app. We were looking at competitors in the shared scooter space to see what information they were grabbing, how they were doing things and why.

At one point, we were all packed into one room and just hammered it out; it was our “war room” session.

Simultaneously, we were looking at the backend of things and needed to not only choose a supplier but finalize our agreement with them. We had a couple options and had one more visit to talk about the next steps.

Ben came with me to China, and we vetted the product to make sure it was good, functioning well, and that the integration was seamless and easy.  At the same time, we were also working on front end app work and had a real engineering team under us that was affordable. 

After China, we had finalized our supplier, finalized our PO and brought in my contact in China that I worked with at National Packaging and is now an advisor. September came around and we placed our order in for our initial batch of units.

We were ready to go into production, but we didn’t even have an app that was working with the product. Nothing was ready on the backend yet. 

End of Q2 was when I was spearheading the real backend work with Hassan, Andrew, and Ben. I was the middleman between our manufacturer and software development.

I ended up bringing my contact to assist with the communication because they didn't speak English, and since everything in China works on WeChat, we had a lot of back and forth on how to get started with the integration.

Also, I would say this is a very niche space, and not even our engineers had been exposed to something specifically like this. It’s hard to find people who have an understanding of what needs to be done right off the bat.

There was a huge learning curve. We were trying to build, build, build, and at the same time we weren’t getting the communication that we needed. 

In Q3 I planned a solo trip to China. We were trying to launch as soon as possible and I needed to make sure it all worked before they shipped. I was in direct line of communication with our engineer and the manufacturer.

The goal was to have the testing platform to make sure all the devices were working properly. We had to build an entire software for them to use as a testing tool. 

When I was in China we just weren’t there yet, because we just couldn’t get the proper communication from our supplier. We didn’t have our backend prepared, and we were basically manufacturing with nothing to test out.

From an aesthetic standpoint I proofed the samples, I proofed the product, saw what it looked like and gave them my thumbs up, but I couldn’t do much more. The morning of my flight back to LA,  I found out from my Hassan and Andrew that I need to stay the rest of the week to ensure our software works. 

Hassan, his team, and I worked live with our engineers and the factory to finalize the test tool to ensure the product is working properly and within a few days we got it working.

Q4 came around and there were still some minor hiccups in terms of testing that needed to be optimized, but we got there. The reality is, it took us all this to realize that we were just trying to move too quickly.

If you try to move too quickly, it’ll end up costing you more money. We needed to push things in a better direction by not rushing without planning and preparation.

We got a realistic game plan going and decided to market ourselves when we were ready, not the other way around. Fortunately, we were able to get the product ready to go and launched that same year.

Describe the process of raising funds. What was that like?

Essentially, the fundraising predicated on what we were really able to show, a product that worked along, so people could visualize it, and my partner Ryan was absolutely superb at communicating things to investors.

We’d talk to investors, and then weeks later they’d message us saying their phones just died and how they wished they’d had a chargeFUZE nearby. That’s how we knew it was a winner.

Even more specifically, when we fundraised, we talked about valuation and decided to raise funds with a convertible note structure. We didn’t tie any valuation to it, instead we put a cap on it, which helped put everyone at ease and just made it simple. 

When it comes to investment, if you can communicate that potential and have someone else see exactly the way you’re seeing things, that’s how you win. And again, Ryan was able to communicate that vision very well. Once we got our first investment, it was enough for us to get started.

Once we got our first investor, things started coming in and everything started working. We weren’t just saying “We need you to be our first” instead it was “We have an investor, we have the capital, we want to know if you’ll be part of this journey.” 

We were trying to sell a vision, but people really started to grasp it once we were able to show it to them. One we made that pitch and got someone to see our vision, now it was, “Where do we start?”.

How are you marketing chargeFUZE?

Marketing is interesting. The difference with our product as opposed to others, is that our success is attributed to the network we create.

We didn’t just want to spend money on marketing and not have a substantial network in place. We wanted to make sure our call to action was clear and people knew what to do when they saw the product.

Having the network makes your average dollar spent on marketing go that much further. We’re different from other iPhone apps because we’re not trying to drive downloads, instead we’re trying to drive usage - real usage.

If you have someone that downloads the app and there’s not a station near them, that’s a download somewhat wasted because there’s no conversion to usage. 

What we realized was that our best marketing was the fact that someone can see our product wherever they go. The amount of value there is in having someone using chargeFUZE and other people seeing our branding and power bank is huge.

The big issue we faced at the time was people not understanding our product when they hadn’t seen it before. People are so accustomed to stationary chargers to the point some people thought to put their phone inside the station, without understanding that a power-bank would dispense.

So, number one was to make sure that the marketing we had on screens was clear. We wanted to make sure that when people saw our product, they get how it works. It’s a download, a scan and you’re good to go. 

It’s really important to separate marketing from product, meaning that you want to have such a good product, it markets itself. You don’t want a terrible product and try to make it seem amazing for a concept like ours. You want to build a great product, because then the marketing is natural.

The biggest thing I’ve seen with chargeFUZE is that building a great product drives a lot of traffic. People will come if it’s great and that was a big part of our mentality.

We wanted to see the natural feedback of a user, so we could better understand them and to see in some instances why we would lose them. 

Next is social media influencer marketing, which I owe so much to Sina and Kambiz. Going in, we worked with influencers that really liked the brand.

When we did photo shoots and video content, they really believed in the product. A big part of having good influencers is the tasteful way they showed our brand.

Much of the marketing material we have is showing a real person in a real setting. For example, a person working out of a coffee shop and showing no outlets, or somebody out at a club and their phone is at 20%, so they call it a night because they don’t want their phone to die.

A big part of our marketing push was to be relatable. We want someone to see our brand or some content and feel like, “I’ve been there, I’ve had this happen to me.”  If you can hit into someone’s subconscious, your brand is going to be worth ten times more.

That was the goal.  Get people to think about chargeFUZE. I don’t care if they want to download it right then and there, because there’s going to be a time when they’re at the Staples Center or walking in downtown L.A. and they’ll wish they had downloaded the app.

Once they see the locations we’re in, it’s repetition. Chances are the first time they may not download it, but it’s going to get drilled into them that by the fourth or fifth time they will.

It’s not just about download conversions, but there has to be value in the download for us to be a good company. I don’t want to see 100,000 downloads and only 100 rentals. I want to make sure that when we’re getting a user, they’re also using the station. 

Through your career have you learned anything advantageous you’d like to share?

Learning to ask for things, a lesson Ryan actually taught me. Honestly, I was someone that had a little bit of ego.

I wanted to do things on my own and at the same time I missed out on opportunities because I didn't want to feel like I was imposing.

Take that mentality out. If you see something you want, ask, because the truth is, you’ll never know what the outcome could be. That’s something I try to use in my day to day.

For example, “Hey, do you want to do this together? Hey, can you introduce me to this person?” Don’t be afraid to reach out and leverage what you have or the opportunities in front of you.

If you genuinely have good intentions in what you’re trying to ask for, then do it. There is no reason why you should hold yourself back.

There’s also the importance of accountability and making sure it is understood who is accountable for what. This is something that’s imperative, and you have to understand what it means, especially when it comes to business.

This is also important when you have partners or a team you’re working with. It’s something that’s simple in essence, but once you make someone accountable, people actually perform better and you have a metric to understand the output of a person. 

The next lesson would be the ability to identify problems and solutions. You want to boil those solutions down into actionable steps.

People will see what they want to do or see an issue with something, and some people get stuck, can’t find a solution and give up. Then there’s the person that sees the problem, finds a solution, does the entire implementation and really knows how to move forward.

I think that right there is a successful person. Ambiguity kills ideas and what you have to do is keep boiling down the steps into smaller steps. The smaller the step, the easier the action.

If you can understand and implement this, then you’ll know where to start. When you think too big all the time, it’s hard to take action.

What would you attribute to your success thus far?

Truthfully, my dad. He was my first partner and he’s someone that made me realize the strength of another half.

In some ways, we are so different as people, he was more systematic in his train of thought, while I was an aggressive risk taker and dreamer.

I was more the type that was ready to jump in, take risks, and build big, but he was the first person that honestly gave me the tools to build in the first place, and he taught me how to become a good CEO. 

He taught me how to get organized and systematic, and more importantly he showed me the most important part of a business: the people. He also gave me an opportunity that most people don’t have, and it was an arrangement that when I joined, my value would be tied to the value I brought in.

I used to have such a chip on my shoulder about my family business because I thought it would hinder my experience. But, what he gave me was so unique, because he gave me an opportunity to take control of a role that any other person would be seen as too young to take on.

I was not ready for that and hit harsh realities , but because I was thrown in, I was able to get a better understanding of management, operations, and what it means to make a business a cash generating business.

Even if you’ve got a successful business you can be put in very tough situations. This was a really big lesson for me and translated into how I’m operating the business with chargeFUZE today, as a real cash flow business.

If I didn’t have a dad that gave me the opportunity that he gave me, that trusted me the way he did, I simply would not be at the level I’m at today, he’s my role model, period.

Brandon Afari and Father

Even last year, I had this epiphany that I’m not treating chargeFUZE as my own business and need to look at it as if I was running National Packaging.

It’s important as a leader to give direction, outline a game plan and again, define steps to hit your goals. I think what

I learned was understanding and building a system from A-Z and it’s important to see an idea through to the end. This translates to every business you ever start or even your work ethic.

The experiences that you have, the failures that you have, translates to what you want to do differently with what’s in front of you.

What career accomplishment would you say you’re most proud of and why?

I can talk about our big partnerships, but my partner Ryan did such a good job with a lot of the partnerships that we have and I give all the credit to him, he’s an all-star.

He really hit those big deals with the Oakland A’s stadium and Westfield, and I attribute a lot to him in that respect.

Personally for me, it was getting our first download and first rentals. It was so mind blowing when people were using our product.

It was a product that was my job to build and make sure it works. The fact that I didn’t know who was renting our product and that we were able to hit such a large audience and the fact that people are seeing our product was enough for me.

My dream was always to have a product that would impact a consumer’s daily life.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? How did you go about it?

 Right now, for businesses, it’s an extremely tough time with the Coronavirus. I’m hearing about 100-year-old businesses closing down, startups not surviving and we’re at the heart of it.

We just raised money, launched a company and did all of these things right before this all happened. It feels like the entire world stopped. 

 That dynamic has probably been the hardest thing as a whole, but I know we are going to make it, we’re going to pull through, the question is how?

It’s a scary time for a startup, but we’ve been handling all our finances accordingly, and from the very start I’ve had the manufacturer’s mentality—the thought that every dollar spent I need to bring in X amount of sales was ingrained in me.

We’ve been frugal in the way we’ve been thinking about our business from the beginning, and we avoided costly decisions.

The goal is to make your business a cash flow business. You have to make sure that the cash going out is not substantial, you have to make sure you spend only on necessities.

Even though we had partnerships, I wanted to make sure we were always in survival mode. Andrew Trugman, one of our co-founders, always had this mentality and voiced it well, “it’s about keeping the company alive.”

There’s a ton of uncertainty as to where the market’s going to be one or two months from now and not many people know if it’s going to get much better.

So, if you’re a startup that’s not reacting to what’s going on, you’re going to fail. We took very early steps back in March, to basically solidify that we’re going to make it through this.

Quickly, we changed everything and our entire structure in preparation for the next three, four months. We’re prepared for the economy to just stop. I think it’s important to be proactive and smart with your finances.

Right now, we’re able to focus on when things go back to normal and how we’re going to hit the market correctly. We have prep time to make sure that the second people are out and about, we’re going to take over.

From a growth standpoint, we’re thinking about high level expansion and how we can improve our products. Truthfully, I’m working harder now than I was before the virus because I don’t have anything else to do but work.

That being said, my advice during a time like this is to find a way to capitalize on opportunities and to not just sit there. If you do things correctly, and you see where things are going, that’s where you’ll kill it.

What’s your ultimate goal with chargeFUZE? And personally?

chargeFUZE is a great avenue to get  into locations, build a new concept, and to solve a problem. We’re an advertising company as well and we’re building a foothold.

This is similar to what Uber has done from going to ridesharing, to self-driving tech, and they’ve just pivoted into so much development that goes just beyond the simplicity of ride sharing.

I think chargeFUZE has that same potential and opportunity to develop into so much more. This is a starting point to build a network and a framework.

Once you have the user base and the location, you have so much control over what you can put out in the market. There’s a lot of innovative features I want to include in the short term and we’re expanding it internationally as well as the U.S. market.

Our short term goal is the U.S. market and to capture all the major cities, but you have to grow just beyond one team. We want to revamp our product, add new features and include international expansion as part of our agenda.

Personally, I’d like to acquire distressed businesses. So, I want to work with companies that are not performing well in long term spaces and need to be revamped and restructured.

I’ve done it with one manufacturing company, and I think I could do it with many more. In the end, the goal would be to have a portfolio of well established businesses in an array of industries, and hopefully I can do this with the friends and family I have today.

Software & Tools:

What software do you use for your business?

Monday.com: I use this heavily for project and task management, because it’s extremely important to see progress in real time and also track accountability for those projects and tasks you are tracking. I’ve also used this as a CRM and sales pipeline management system for chargeFUZE. 

Fiverr: I use Fiverr for marketing material, design work, web development, lead generation, and most things you can think of …..There is so much out there, all you need to do is look.

Jira: Our team uses this in coordination with our engineering team, and this assists us in keeping track of weekly software sprints. We can all see where we stand every week, and also what we have in our backlog

Appsheet: This is an unbelievable tool that can be used for anything that can be built on excel, and basically it will convert that excel document into a working app and software. So if you want to build a software for quotations, order entry management, production management, etc., this would be a great tool that you can start yourself.

What tools, other than software, do you use for your business and why?

If a notepad counts, that’s my favorite tool. For whatever reason, I still need to write out my daily tasks.

Resources:

What is your favorite podcast/news source?

Think and Grow Rich: This book teaches you about the power of your mind and the importance of defining your goals CLEARLY AND SPECIFICALLY. Otherwise you don’t know what you are working for and it won’t manifest in your life.

The Alchemist: I learned one of the biggest lessons from this book, and its that your heart is telling you what to do, but fear is the only thing that tricks your heart. If your heart is telling you to do something, even if you feel uncomfortable or you feel like you don’t know because it’s not something you are accustomed to, that is when you are supposed to JUMP IN.

How I Built This (Podcast): You hear the stories of all these entrepreneurs and you start realizing that there are some similarities between most. They all keep pivoting in some respect. Meaning, that they built something at 1 stage, and an opportunity came up, and it was capitalized on that took them on a different trajectory.

How to Win Friends and Influence People: I learned the importance of how to communicate with others and the impact it can have on your business or even in real life. 

Where would you steer someone looking to learn more about business and ecommerce?

Honestly, google, youtube, podcasts, books, etc. There are so many ways to tap into sources that provide useful information nowadays, and it’s not about where to look, it’s a matter of putting in the effort.

Apart from that, I recommend searching for good mentors that have experience in what you want to learn. People that are experienced give you “smart cuts” not short cuts.

What are you doing to continue learning and growing in your business as well as personally?

I am constantly seeing where the world is going and what opportunities there are to expand on. I do not think there are any limits to what can be achieved, and I think that there’s an abundance of ideas, it’s just a matter of which ones to pursue.

When I am interested in something, even if I cannot pursue it then and there, I still vet the idea from beginning to end, and I will do the research so I can have a better understanding of the industry.

Final Question:

What advice do you want to share with people based on your experiences?

One is understanding that there is an abundance of opportunities out there. If you can understand that, you will think less selfishly, and hopefully you’ll think less with your ego.

Instead of money, think about building, creating and accomplishing. This whole game of life is one where you can have enjoyment, build and create with others. 

A lot of my success is predicated on the concept that there’s enough for everybody. 

Another relates to overall personal development, and to become a successful entrepreneur you have to accept that the unknown is how you grow. Ambiguity is a killer for a lot of people.

There are moments where you’re uncertain about something because you haven’t done it before. The majority of people shy away because they don’t know what it’s like, what to do or where they stand.

But if you start recognizing those moments and simply jump in, you will grow substantially as an entrepreneur. There are so many times when these moments come into your daily life and if you build a habit of recognizing opportunities that present fear and uncertainty, and jump into them every time, you'll become the best version of yourself.  

The last lesson is to define your circle and define it well. I’m a very different person from 16 to 21, and I’m a different person now than from a year ago, and it’s because of the impact of the people around me.

A majority of us, if not all of us, are very much influenced by our surroundings. We all know the lessons that people talk about, such as “Surround yourself with great ideas and great people”, but sometimes it’s hard to take that step. 

Consider your friends and your family and see what all your goals are and start to have this mentality that empowers each and every one of you to be your best. I attribute so much of my success to my roommate Eric who I’ve lived with for the last five years.

Every day for 5 years we would talk about ideas relating to our businesses, we’d vent, and we’d strategize about the future. We really went up together, and learned about each of our own individual failures, but in the end we continued to support one another and his successes felt like mine.

Remember, in the end, we are the ones that define our own circle, and it’s about seeing what everyone wants to achieve and simply helping one another in any way that you can to achieve those dreams.

I want to be successful myself, but at the same time  I want success for my friends, even more than myself. 

When you have that mentality of building a strong circle, understand that there’s an abundance of opportunities, and you start jumping into the unknown, you can accomplish so much with people that you love.

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