Be Confident In Yourself
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Be Confident In Yourself
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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uh you have to be confident enough to not be the smartest person in the room i think oftentimes um there's a societal pressure to be the smartest person in the room right some of that uh that imposter syndrome of you know hey if i if i've got a lot of smart people around me i'm not going to be able to lead them or you know it'll get out that you know i'm not as actually as qualified as i think i am but at the end of the day right i i don't really think that i'm the smartest person in the room most of the time we're definitely not the most qualified um but i'm able to to get in there um you know to to build relationships and to you know essentially glean um from the expertise of those those people around me [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller iplock where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and are always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast joseph pro or sowski as close as i can get it and uh jose pete grew up in uh lehigh utah and uh i kind of grew up watching uh at least what people in utah know silicon slopes kind of utah's version of silicon valley and has a lot of business and whatnot going there and then he went after graduating high school served in lds mission and uh and star and then started watching the import export business with china for a while while i was in school and realized uh had more learning to do so he decided as he was doing all that he went intern with adobe i think a venture capital firm learned a lot about funding um also intern with the banking firm learned about a lot about the stages of money um and somewhere along the line did a uh worked for a hedge fund i think after graduation being correct if i'm wrong and then jumped over to private equity firms for a period of time i think finding buying funeral homes and crematories if i remember right um and then started working on his own portfolio company and that uh then also started working on a company that's called brag house and then he uh led uh led him to join the team as i think the ceo cfo of bragg house and i've been doing that ever since so with that much his introduction welcome on the podcast joseph yeah thanks for having me devon appreciate it absolutely so i just took a much longer journey and condensed it into 30 seconds so now unpacking that just a bit um tell us a little bit about how your journey got started uh growing up in lehigh and uh how how things went from there yeah great well like you said yeah i grew up watching silicon slopes kind of blossom and grow um you know was very impressed right watched people like josh james grow domo into the business and company that it is today you know omniture exact where you know all of those businesses that you you pass on your way to provo these days um you know watch those grow um you know and as i started school like you said definitely you know became very passionate about the entrepreneurship space to the point where you know i started my own business my freshman year in college uh you know really enjoyed the journey loved it but quickly realized that i wasn't as much of a marketer or a social media manager as i was much more of kind of a strategist and a financier um so that that was what kind of took me down the road to to venture capital right kind of realized um from running my own business and then from working as a junior analyst up at epic ventures in salt lake city that you know money has a very large part to play um in the early stages of business and and really is applicable at any stage in the life cycle right if you don't have funding you can't make payroll you can't develop your product and you ultimately can't succeed so definitely learned a lot there and then you know kind of took my love for finance just a little bit farther uh you know worked in investment banking at crew capital you know i was able to see five or six transactions go on there and just definitely realized that you know again uh the the transaction and financial aspect of um of a founder's journey and a founder's life cycle is uh is super critical and you know even more than that learned that having the right advisors around you um at kind of that end stage um is super important right so yeah after graduation kind of fell into a role in it in a hedge fund and you know did the public equities thing for a while but um but really felt that you know i lost touch with the founders i mean you know something that i loved you know working in venture and investment banking was getting to interact with founders with leadership and and really feel that energy and kind of that that founder passion right um and so yeah like you said got back into kind of a little bit of a smaller space around you know private equity we were you know we were uh running a roll-up strategy right we rolled up 20 or 30 businesses across um let me just dive real quick into that so yeah because you know you were working in venture capital enjoying it and i think it kind of shifted a bit into banking but you know what was that tipping point or what was that motivation or saying hey i'd like to transition a bit away from my current company and try the new role was you know you touched on it briefly but was it hey i'm worn out with that or i'm looking for a new adventure or this isn't really what it's cracked up to be or kind of give us a bit more insight as to what prompted that that shift or that that change for you yeah that's a good question um you know i i think that when you talk about finance right the the dream is kind of to work on wall street to be in new york you know the hustle and bustle the city that never sleeps right and you know i had some of that experience and it was really fun um you know but with that comes late nights a lot of pressure um you know when when i was working at the hedge fund we were managing over a billion dollars um in march of 2020 right so when you had that uh you know that pandemic crash in the stock market right you know you listen to the you know other analysts talk about it and and that was kind of a once in a lifetime crash right that that was classified as you know in in the realm of being a black swan event right one in like 500 000 or something like that um you know and that that was a rough time to be uh to be managing public equities right so you know that that kind of all combined with the fact that you know yeah i was talking to other fund managers and to you know business leaders and things like that but it at the end of the day right it was kind of uh i'd rather be talking to you know i'd rather be talking to people who are really passionate about what they're doing instead of talking to you know wealthy limited partners and investors who just want to know you know why they're not doing better in the stock market so yeah at the end of the day i'd rather um you know i'd rather help someone achieve their dreams and achieve their journey uh than just you know make someone whose life is already fairly cushy even more cushy no it definitely makes sense now so as you're kind of having that realization saying i want to make that shift in transition was it how did you kind of go get to where you're buying crematories and mortuariums and you know her you know um and doing that kind of business was it more of the type of business where you got to kind of work more with the business owners we're saying i'd love to do crematories and that's where my passions are kind of how did you get into that yeah so i guess with you know the reason for leaving um you know high finance um i i was again looking back towards that kind of entrepreneurial mindset right so clearstone was a was a firm that was actually founded in the beginning of 2020 right around the january 2020 time um the founder was a guy who came out of a you know pretty large growth equity firm um in san diego california and so you know to me um i looked at him and said you know if if this guy's willing to kind of you know jump in and take a plunge um you know he had invested during his time um at lead edge capital he had invested in you know many different tech companies across um utah and kind of the western seaboard right and so i said you know this guy's an entrepreneur right he's out there hustling and you know that's kind of what i want to get back into and so why wouldn't i go work for one so you know we got together and you know we we hustled again had some really late nights and stuff but at the end of the day right we were buying these businesses from people who uh who had really interesting stories right you know it was hey you know my grandfather you know my great-great-grandfather um started this funeral home in crematorium hey you know uh you know my uncle bought this crematory and kind of turned it around and kept it going and you know death can be viewed as kind of a taboo industry or not not a very happy industry to be in but at the end of the day you know these business owners are people who are passionate about making sure that people's end of life um is memorable um and beautiful and so you know to be buying those businesses and you know carrying on that legacy was something that uh you know was much more heartfelt to me than uh you know trading blue chip stocks every day um no i think that definitely makes sense and you know i'm i certainly am a i get you know love a lover of entrepreneurs and startups and small businesses so definitely right there with you so now you make that transition over you say okay you know this is kind of more in line with what i'm passionate about what i enjoy get a role the businesses kind of get a you know help them out a lot of times and so you're doing all that now you know you're you're working with that and i think at some point that's where brag house came in or you got connected up with them through that job or something of that nature but fill us in with a little bit of how you kind of got connected up them and how you made that transition yeah you bet so you know like you mentioned in my intro um i i did spend some time as a product manager um you know i spent about six months interning as a product project management associate um at work front which is now an adobe company um and you know i really did develop a passion for technology right so you know you kind of look at you know what's popular these days right people people are all about tmt and healthcare right technology media telecom and healthcare um and so i kind of went the technology path um right so you know did some time and product management epic ventures is primarily a you know a technology firm um you know was able to work on a bunch of different technology transactions you know of course as an equity analyst right here you're working with a lot of technology companies just because they're there's so much growth around them right now so you know definitely have a background and a passion as well for technology and so you know in addition to kind of the technology or sorry the crematory and um uh funeral home space i you know was able to work on two or three deals in the technology space right worked on a you know a healthcare sas company worked on a um an edtech company right had some fascinating deals and then kind of brought bragg house in um bragg house is actually one of my first deals that i brought into the firm um you know and started working with the firm there right joined the board of uh directors um and you know it was kind of a very opportune time for me because the company kind of just took off right as i joined the board of directors and so you know they were looking to raise kind of a you know a seed round of funding right with my background and connections was able to you know very quickly put them in contact with people you know walk them through the the process itself right we you know we went through y combinator interviews together you know we spoke with many many different venture firms um you know and was eventually able to help secure both a seed and series a round of funding for this company and so you know of course with um with that you know they they definitely needed some type of financial management um and so you know was able to join the company as the the cfo last october now one question kind of getting into that is what made you or decide to you know join full time in the sense you had another job you've been doing it for a while you sound like it was a bit more in line with what you were wanting and you got to work the you know different businesses and roll them up and you know be introduced what made you decide hey while that's all available and i enjoy doing it i'm going to jump over and you know pursue brag house full-time yeah i i think there's there's really two routes you can look at um when when you're in private equity right you can either kind of stay on and double down right you know a lot of people in private equity really value the carried interest that comes right so you get paid your salary and then you're almost able to take on you know a few shares of each company that you work on um and that can be really valuable for a lot of people right you know if you had some carried in carried um some carry in zoom or you know some of those larger tech investments that can be very lucrative um but in a lot of cases you know that's a six to seven year payout time right so when you double down on that structure you're doubling down on your time as well because you have to finish those seven years to reap all that carry um so that was the first thing was that you know i i was kind of at a fork in the road around you know do i pursue kind of the you know the managers see you know vp route or do i go find something else and then the other thing i would say is that you know i think i wanted to prove to myself that i could actually go out and do it right like at the end of the day you know i would say that you know having you know hindsight is 20 20 and i would say that the best investors are the ones who have that founder empathy nowadays right you know when you you're essentially marketing money right you know you're selling money to people and so to me it's like that seems like a great thing to sell most people want or want money yeah money can be a great thing to sell and i think most people can want it but you know when it comes to venture capital there's a reason people coin the term vulture capital right because a lot of times yeah they'll give you um their money but you know they'll take it with a pound of flesh um on the flip side of that and so to me it was like you know the the best investors that i followed in the industry were always ones who had that founder empathy right they are the ones who can say you know hey i've been there in the trenches i've been where you're at and you know the value um that i provide is not only in the money i provide you but the you know the experience and the the ability to be used as a sounding board right because people who just shove capital into businesses don't often have the understanding to know what it's like to be you know hours away from not making payroll or you know to be making the biggest decision of your life and you know selling your business for you know 6 million or 10 million dollars you know it's that do i become a millionaire today and have cash in hand and maybe be able to do another business or do i wait and hold out for a bigger valuation so that founder empathy has kind of been the biggest driving factor to me that you know i can either go on and pursue a career you know in operations or you know i could jump back into investing and be doubly as good because i have that founder empathy no and i think that that definitely makes sense and resonates well so now one question it kind of jumps back in time but i'd ask anyway is so you know you you started out with brag house with the the company that you're working with before you're before going full time now how did they view that as to you going from a business that you got in they introduced and were interested in to you working full-time for that business and kind of leaving them was it that hey we think you do a great addition it will help increase our you know our investment or hey we don't want you to go or you know you shouldn't go because you have a non-competitor kind of how did they deal with you know you going from working with them to working with one of the businesses that they were they were associated with right no i think in most cases right um it's pretty typical for people who work in private equity to jump out and uh you know pursue that executive level role um at one of the portfolio companies right it's very very typical thing to do um and from the from the private equity firm's perspective right you know if they trust you enough to to do the due diligence to make the investment in these companies right and to sit on the board um it only it only increases their uh their trust or you know their trust in the business when one of their own is kind of at home right so you know they look on it very favorably and you know we still have a great working relationship with them oh that's awesome that's great to hear so so that kind of brings us to where where you're at today in a little bit of kind of the journey that got you there if you're now kind of looking uh you know six to 12 months in the future and it's always a bit of a crystal ball but where do you kind of see the next phase going or where do you see things headed for you yeah from the the business perspective or the personal perspective we'll stay on the business but uh maybe the personal efforts at least right now for the business yeah yeah definitely i mean the uh for me this is probably the most exciting part is that you know we we were able to wrap up our series a round of funding here a couple weeks ago um you know we're able to partner with some phenomenal groups in theseus capital um and black sheep capital out of london right um you know they've opened the doors to you know advisors to strategic partners and things that we could never have dreamt of having right um and after you know wrapping up a very very successful quarter with um tournaments with mcdonald's with coke um you know we brought on some phenomenal clients and some big partnerships and so you know the the next step is is an ipo for us um you know we've we've engaged um the needed firms necessary to take the company public on the nasdaq next year um you know so for me as you know finance person kind of being able to take the business to that next financial level um you know and take it public on the on the nasdaq is super exciting so we're we're all very optimistic about the trajectory and you know excited for that next large step in the business life cycle well sounds like it'll be an exciting time it's always you know bittersweet hopefully mostly sweet uh to take something public you know you get to have that as they see how it does in the public and how what people will accept and what you know what they think of it and kind of get that outside valuation as long as the the ipo goes well it's definitely a fun if it doesn't go as well then you get a you get a figure out how to readjust or to pivot so hopefully it's the former it goes extremely well and is definitely um an exciting next uh future period of time so yeah well with that now as we've kind of walked through a bit of your journey and also looking a bit into the future kind of is a great time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it oh that's a good question the worst business decision i ever made so i think the worst business decision i've ever made um is stretching myself too thin um you know there are there have been times um you know in various roles where i've taken on too much um and i and i will say that that is the worst business decision i've made personally and for whatever company i've been working for because the quality of work just went down right the decisions weren't as good the due diligence wasn't as detailed um and so you know i i think that oftentimes like it's good to take on more and more opportunity um but eventually it can become detrimental um because you become you become to some extent incoherent in the decisions you're making because you're not really paying attention so yeah i would say that there are there are definite few times i can remember stretching myself too thin and making poor decisions as a result of that well and i think it's one word i definitely get agree that's a mistake but it's an easy one to make in the sense no i just want to get a little bit more done i want to impress things i need to get these projects done i want to you know outshine the other people or whatever the motivation is you it's kind of a little bit of that death by a thousand cuts in the sense that you kind of incrementally stretch yourself a bit thinner and thinner to the point that now you're not able to give the highest quality or the best service or otherwise operate at the level you need to because you're having too many things you're stressed too thin and so i think it's a lesson to learn that you know there's definitely a time to hustle and get things done but you also have to make sure you do it in a way that it you are able to continue on sustainably operate at the level you need to so i think that's great great lesson to learn from now as we jump to the second question which is talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece of advice you'd give them yeah the the the one piece of advice i would probably give to somebody just starting out is that you have to be confident enough to not be the smartest person in the room i think oftentimes uh there's a societal pressure to be the smartest person in the room right some of that uh that imposter syndrome of you know hey if i if i've got a lot of smart people around me i'm not going to be able to lead them or you know it'll get out that you know i'm not as actually as qualified as i think i am but at the end of the day right i i don't really think that i'm the smartest person in the room most of the time or definitely not the most qualified um but i'm able to to get in there um you know to to build relationships and to you know essentially glean um from the expertise of those those people around me that i can remember specifically right a couple weeks ago we were we were on the phone with uh the executive vice chair of a very very large investment bank in new york and you know i look at myself and i'm like okay like i'm decently experienced at finance but you know this guy has spent 35 plus years kind of as a captain of industry right you know he brings in all these managing directors from the different groups and things and they're sitting there giving us advice and i'm just like wow like this is uh this is intense but at the end of the day right like we were able to get so much value from that conversation um because of the people we were able to to bring together there so yeah i would just say that you know building a strong team and a strong network will take you much much farther right there's the there's an adage right you can go faster alone but further together um and i would definitely echo that right that it's it's much much easier to go much much further um if you build that that great team around you so that that would be my advice to anyone getting started out in the entrepreneurial space no one i like that i mean i'm i'm always the opinion if you're the smartest one in the room you need to get smarter people around you in the sense that now you know what the caveat you can be the the smartest in your given area of expertise or where you're at and knowing what how the business operates or maybe you are smartest anyone niche but you can you know see the whole picture and how it fits all together but you should be surrounding yourself with within the areas that those people are working and they should be smarter than you know you need to understand it be able to you know be able to meld it all together and make sure it's executed properly but i think to your point i think having those smart people around that are going to be able to provide insights and information that you don't otherwise have is going to exponentially make your business better because otherwise if you're always the one that's having all the ideas driving everything and coming up with everything that limits the business to just what you can add as opposed to what all those other smart people have so i think that's a great takeaway and a great piece of advice well as we wrap up if people want to they want to be a customer or client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more yeah i mean you guys can find us online our websites braghouse.com right i'm on linkedin and twitter so you know definitely reach out um you know send a friend request on linkedin definitely happy to connect um and discuss um yeah that's the that's the best way to get in touch all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out contact you find out more and if nothing else make a new best friend so with that i appreciate you coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell them you'd like to come on and be a guest we'd love to have you so just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the podcast also make sure to like subscribe and share um the podcast with other with others so that we can continue to promote the the journeys of those that are the different journeys that people are taking and help out in the community and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law just go to strategymeeting.com well thank you again joshua this has been fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of a journey even better than the last appreciate it devin thanks [Music] you