VOL. 1 · APRIL 2020
SUCCESS SECRETS BRANDONCWHITE.COM · 320 CENTRAL AVENUE, HALF MOON BAY, CA 94019 · 415-429-1229
FROM MY BOSS’S CLOSET TO HERE How I Built My Dream Business (Twice)
Mark Zuckerberg started coding Facebook in his dorm room, and Jeff Bezos sold the first books on Amazon out of his garage. My startup story began in my then-boss’s closet, where he was generous enough to let me set up a desk. The year was 1996, and I was just starting to build an online magazine that would change the game for mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay fishermen. I’m an avid fisherman myself, and in my years of casting lures and reading obsessively on how to catch more fish, I noticed a hole in the market for a quality fishing publication. As a grad school student on a shoestring budget, I couldn’t afford a print magazine that I originally had my heart set on, but I could code a flat HTML file — and flat HTML files were just about the only game in town on the internet back then, apart from AOL. Most people probably would have felt insulted to be stuck in a spinach farmer’s closet to work on their brand-new business idea, but I was thrilled. After years of planting trees to afford my master’s degree in psychology, I loved having heat and AC in my hideaway. I wrote my very first business plan for my brand-new magazine, Chesapeake Angler, in that closet on a lunch break, enjoying the AC and my homemade Wonder bread and tuna fish sandwich. During those first few years, my business partner Eric and I screwed up a lot. We tried to scale our business too quickly, struggled to engage readers, looked for content (and then advertising) in the wrong places, and were turned down by countless venture capitalists. Plus, considering our first real business plan was a whopping 40 pages long, it’s a miracle anyone bothered to read it.
Even so, after years of hard work, we managed to get the traction to take our online magazine from a few lines of 1990s code in a closet to a thriving business called Worldwide Angler. Some people might say we were lucky to go into online content creation at just the right moment, build a thriving platform, start selling fishing books and products, and raise $1 million in investor capital on our first round of fundraising. But honestly, I don’t believe we got lucky — we made our own luck through action and by seeking out the invaluable advice of business Jedis (aka mentors) along the way. From day one, Worldwide Angler was risky. I actually started the business on a credit card, and Eric and I got into stock trading with our revenue to maximize profits (a move I wouldn’t recommend). While we were looking for investors, I took the financial gamble of flying to Florida to see one potential backer and driving 70 miles through a blizzard to meet another. Each of them put in $100,000. Then, when the dotcom bubble burst in 2001, I took the biggest risk yet when I bought the company from the investors myself, rebranded, and restarted the online magazine/social networking site from scratch as Tidal Fish. After years of working on Tidal Fish as a side hustle to my full-time consulting job, I sold it to the Canadian media company Vertical Scope. I remember reloading my bank account page over and over waiting for the payment to come through. One minute, there were four figures, and the next, there were seven — at that moment, I felt like I was living in a movie. Can you imagine reloading your bank account and all the sudden having that much money in it? Little did I know that
Cranking away on the LC 475 teaching myself how to build a website
On the road selling and stopping to get directions to a tackle shop. Circa ’97 version of a cell phone.
was just the beginning of a new chapter of my journey when I’d make the move from Padawan to Jedi. Over my decades as an entrepreneur buying, selling, and funding businesses, I’ve realized that if you want to make progress in business, you can’t go the normal route. You need to think outside the box, you need to take risks, and ideally, you should have a Jedi/mentor along. When I started Build a Business, I became that Jedi! After doing things the hard way for so long, I developed a simple business-building formula to help thousands of entrepreneurs get out of their own version of the boss’s closet. Having been in their shoes, with no direction and a big dream, I know I can lead them to success, and there’s nothing that gets me jacked up more than
helping entrepreneurs achieve the success I know is possible.
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