Improve Yourself First
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Improve Yourself First
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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[Music] the biggest advice is make sure you're improving yourself first because um i mean there's a really cool statistic out there that some of the uh most successful companies are started by four year olds you know people kind of in that that age range and why is that probably because they have all this professional experience that they have where they know the opportunities they know how to execute on things they've made mistakes and learned off of other people's dollars and now they can go do it for themselves [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 and seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com always happy to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast daniel marsh and as a quick introduction to daniel so i'm in high school he worked for his brother's landscaping company and then in college dived into the world of entrepreneurship and i think even it was did something with the byu entrepreneurship club and he concludes a little bit more about that um started his first company i think his sophomore year in school sold it for a few hundred dollars that not a huge amount but did make a little bit off of it partners didn't want to keep going also got into an international business competition with his professor graduated nothing excited to him i went and got a job i think at epic which is a hospital software and moved over to another job did that for about a a year and a half and then her and then an opportunity came along to start his own business and uh in building an operations platform and uh been doing that ever since so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast daniel thank you glad to be here well excited to have you so i just did a much or a 30-second run through a much longer journey so why do you take us a bit back in time to where new journey gets started with uh working for your brother's landscaping company sure and you know i can start a little bit more with like the whole upbringing of because obviously he's my brother but you know in my family we had great examples both my parents and my grandparents that really put inside of us this this idea of being creators and being able to shape the world around us start our own things own our own companies and so my brother he took to that a lot quicker than i did started his own landscaping company i believe when he was 14 and you know that just opened the door of opportunities to a 12 year old who wasn't even thinking about work and jumped into that and you know after a few years of doing that he was able to accomplish much more and but it also planted that seed inside of me of well what can i start and i got into entrepreneurship pretty heavily my sophomore year in college so one quick question just to kind of dive into that so after kind of growing up with that family environment seeing your brother kind of or do his own business working for him were you kind of going into college already wanting to do your own business be an entrepreneur or is that kind of did it take you a couple years in in college to discover that so i always wanted to be i guess you could call an owner of a business and i had that from very young age i didn't know what entrepreneurship was though until maybe a little bit later into college i mean a little later in high school and then early in college when i really discovered the whole community around it so no definitely makes sense and i was probably a bit i similar at least probably not quite to that level i mean i always thought it was i kind of watched up my ears i was growing up my dad was a bit of an entrepreneur did several things and always kind of intrigued me but it was more towards the for me it was kind of to the end of uh when i got my engineering degree that it kind of when i hit that crossroads of what do i want to be when i grew up so to speak that really kind of hit it for me and drove home that that's or that's at least in part the path i want to take and then continue to follow that part of the path so now you're into you know sophomore year of college so what was the kind of the first business that you started that you sold up for a few hundred dollars sure so the name of the company is utah bridal makeup and you know just quick background on it at this point in college i'd already been involved with the entrepreneurship club at byu for several months both as a participating member and also starting to get involved more as a leader in this this company or this club so at that point i was already exposed to lots of different principles such as business model validation and um kind of these ideo that's a really great company that has a lot of great design uh methodologies that you can use and copy for your own personal designs and and so at this point i was kind of you know very confident in the idea that you know it doesn't matter what topic of business that we enter in we can make it work and so i had this this classmate that was really interested in makeup and she's like i want to do something with makeup and i was like okay i can work with this and enter into the business model of utah bridal makeup where i really was interested in this this area because one with weddings there's no customer loyalty at all you usually don't have a lot of repeat visitors you know hopefully you're almost in the business where you don't work or he's not the same person you want referrals but i'll repeat business exactly exactly um so i thought you know this is a great thing how do these companies go about you know finding clients and a large portion that was all done through bridal fares and so so i looked at it and i was like you know what we could easily just get into this space no problem and and we kind of set up this little ingenious model where we didn't actually have any cost outside of marketing to run and operate our business we would get jobs and kind of farm them out to other [Music] well more experienced and qualified individuals than myself to actually do the makeup on these um these brides and and you know for a first attempt at starting a company in a space that i had no experience with it it actually was pretty good except the only big thing is um about three or four months into it the partners that i was working with weren't really interested in pursuing it and this was kind of their first taste of entrepreneurship as well too and so we made a simple exit by you know finding a an individual that was actually interested in doing this more of a lifestyle business and we sold it to her now one question just kind of follow up on that so yeah you had your business partners and you kind of mentioned that you know they got into it after a few months it was just not desirable was that you know kind of that it wasn't a good working relationship with the business partners was it more of hey i don't want to be an entrepreneur or i got too many demands on my time or kind of what you know what caused the decision to say okay and i know it's a compound question i try to avoid those sure one follow-up question to that is you know what made you decide okay you know because you could have kept going with it as well so you know you could have said okay i'll buy you guys out or i'll keep going on my own so kind of what was the process for them deciding to exit and then what made you decide to exit along with them sure so so where this started was this actually started as a class project and um and i was really good about taking the project and actually turned into something real and so i was a lot more interested in maybe making this long term than i think some of these other classmates were but to your part of your question uh absolutely some of these partners were like yep i explored entrepreneurship and i realized it's not my thing and uh and so they and i don't think there's anything wrong with that i mean i've done that i've you know i work with a lot of starters in small businesses and i think there's some people that they try it out and they're saying this is just great and i want to keep doing it and it's fun and exciting now they're saying well i always thought it would be fun now i tried it out and i'll go back to working for someone else because i don't like that all the things that come along with it so i definitely don't think there's anything wrong with it it's just interesting to see as people try it out you know what their reactions are so now you know so now you said okay now to kind of follow the second question you know which is you it sounds like you're still excited about it or at least you saw an interest in being entrepreneurial what made you decide to rather than kind of take over buy them out or continue on to to move on or go do something different sure and um that's there's multiple reasons there i actually really think the space is still there's some really interesting software tools you can actually build in that space and if i ever have you know time on my head maybe i'll i'll take take that approach but i think at that point in my life i was a lot more interested in a lot of the other things that i started getting involved in so i had a professor his name was nathan fur that i was working with and he brought me on as one of his research assistants to start this competition called the international business model competition which was a very it doesn't sound like a big change from a business plan competition but from a methodology and approach to how you go about actually establishing this business model um or this this idea for a business it's it's very nuanced and different it's a different approach entirely than conventional business plans and so i had an opportunity to work with him and start building this competition and that was something that's really exciting to me and we were just at the very ground floor of building this makeup company which in my mind was more of a lifestyle business than a scalable startup and so all in all it wasn't like i'm running away i don't want to be an entrepreneur but rather like i have other opportunities that excite me way more you know and i think that you know just to dive in again but i think that that's where a lot of times i think that that's where a lot of journeys start for entrepreneurs is initially the idea of a business is you know is is excites you and you're saying well i don't care what the business is it's just fun to do your own business and to get it done and you know it's worthwhile and then as you as you get farther in you're saying well you know in addition to just running a business or the business idea i really want to have a business that i get passionate excited about and it's kind of something that excites me more which kind of sounds like your journey and even a bit of mine as you know earlier on some of the businesses i did that are still around were ones that i i was excited more about the opportunity or doing the business and doing my startup than it was about the actual business and as i've got later on i said you know if i can find a mixture of both and it makes for a much longer term viable business 100 agreed yep so now you did you so you enter in with the professor do the business competition you know not or the business competition or do that and then kind of where did you where did your journey uh pick up from there well um so actually i spent a couple years working on that competition with them so and we we expanded at several universities the third year which was my final year we had harvard university co-host this with with us and i spent a lot of time mentoring other entrepreneurs on the the concepts of business model validation and really had the opportunity to see lots of very talented student entrepreneurs take problems not only problems they had but problems they had to discover and create these elegant solutions through very simple tests that a lot of times didn't cost any money but um just costed effort and time and and so for about three years of just kind of being involved and seeing all these entrepreneurs do these these come up with these amazing business models you know it really helped me to refine the creative process and um and methodologies of how to to build sec a successful startup no i think that you know that's a great place to learn and i think and a great place to kind of figure out how to do entrepreneurship startups you know i think it's interesting you know a lot of people go get an mba or get an entrepreneurship degree or something in business related and yet you'll go through your whole whether it's either undergraduate or graduate school never actually starting or trying your own business or doing anything even in that build other than just getting the degree and you know what what better time to start something and try and fail if you're going to fail while you're in school why you know you don't have the financial pressures while you're still learning and also applying what you're learning and i think that's awesome that kind of is a route that you took that hey you started a business you did a business competition you're doing things outside of school both to make sure you like it but also to apply what you're learning and to reinforce it so now you're coming out of school and you know i think you mentioned that there you just wasn't anything that excited you or there wasn't anything that you could really hit on that you know that you wanted to move forward on is that right so yeah so i was still in the process of exploring different business concepts and always had it as kind of the dream of mine to be building my own company but by the time i hit graduation i just did not have an opportunity or pain that i wanted to solve to the point that i was willing to forgo the opportune cost of actually having a job and so i picked up a job in software i was actually earlier this year looking into doing something with medical software from from a startup standpoint that didn't arrive to anything that was really concrete so i thought it was really fitting to go and get a job at a medical software company to kind of see what i was going to miss out on and how complicated the endeavor that i was actually about to try to tackle from an entrepreneurship standpoint was well now i'm going to learn learn this from a you know a company that's been in the business for 30 plus years so i thought that was a really cool experiment to to go to so now and i agree and i you know and i think that is always hard sometimes you have a very big passion you want to be an entrepreneur you under your own thing but you can't come up with that you know the timing isn't right i just can't come up with that idea and so you know i like the idea that the kind of the next best thing is well i know i want to be in this area i want to do something and i think this is an interesting exciting area until i have my own idea until i have something that i can latch on to do the next best thing which is go get experience from other people in that area so that you're all the more prepared for when you do have that kind of idea or you know that that timing makes sense for the the entrepreneur you know the the entrepreneurial endeavor so you go work for for that business for a period of time and and then you know kind of where did you know where did it go from there how did you how did it continue to proceed as you were working for that business yeah so i learned a lot at epic they are a they offer a really strong product for hospitals and um after working there for two years you know it's just that entrepreneurship bug kept poking its head back out and i was like you know what i need to go work at a smaller company or start my own thing i had reached out to one of my earlier contacts back at byu kind of exploring if there was any uh interesting startups in the area that i should approach and he actually on the spot offered me a job saying i'm starting my own thing right now so i came up with kind of this i am looking for something in this area this entrepreneur there's a startup let me know if you if you have an idea oh i'm doing my own why don't you just come join me sounds great it was yeah definitely something that you can consider maybe a little bit of divine providence there um so i jumped up over here in utah we spent a couple years um i spent a couple of years working at that company and um honestly learned a ton at that company um but again you know i feel like journeys sometimes you know they're stepping stones or building blocks and uh even though it's right for you at that moment it's not always going to stay right for you and so i only worked for that company for about another two years in my professional career before moving on to my final company that i worked at before starting the company i'm working at now and it's really interesting each company i worked at i learned a very important skill that has prepared me for what i'm doing right now so now one question just because you kind of jumped over just a bit so rewind see you know you go work for the friend it's you know the fun startup and they say now you know you kind of jump to what you're doing now what what necessitated that jump or kind of how did you make that what caused that transition um transition from my professional life to startup or for from company two to three which one are you asking about we'll go with all the about no we'll go with company two to three so company two to three um well the interesting thing there is um i made a really cool transition from company one to two where i was working at a software company into a new software company that was much smaller and i got to start working it in the role that i really wanted which was product i really like product design product management and the company there was growing in a way that no longer really matched my professional ambitions and so i think it's really important to be true to yourself and to you can sacrifice a little bit for companies but if you're actually going to sacrifice your professional ambitions for a company that's kind of when it's like well maybe there's better opportunities out there for me and so that's where i left um my second company moving to the third company and the cool thing about the second company is i did product management and the third company i did product design which is kind of the opposite sign of the same coin and so when you look at everything that i've done i've actually touched um i would probably say maybe 75 to 80 of positions you could have at a software company in some facet or another but everything that i've done is focused on products oh i think that that sounds like an awesome and exciting journey so definitely uh it sounds like a fun time so now that brings us a bit uh you know a bit to where you're at today or you know kind of brings us towards the present but now looking towards the future you know you take the next six to 12 months kind of where do you see things headed what's in store for you and what what's next for you sure so the cool thing about where we're at right now is we've already spent about a year the team and i have worked about about a year to start building this this product and we've we have a few solid beta clients are giving us feedback on it and we're trying to really so going back to my business model competition days we're trying to nail this this product and then go out and scale it because the opportunities are out there and so we're taking our few beta clients right now really refining the system make sure it works perfect for them and once we get it to where they give us like 10 out of 10 review this is awesome then we're gonna open up the floodgates so next six months i project us going to market outside of our beta clients well that sounds like you'll be in an exciting you know it's next several months and you know it's always interesting as you move out of beta and you bring on clients first of all it's interesting to move it they're fun to move in data to actually see something working or at least reasonably working and then usually you learn a few things in beta about what doesn't work but then even more so once you bring it out of beta and you're saying okay it's out in the market now we have to see we have first of all we have to figure out we got to sell this thing we have to get people to buy it but it's fun when you do start to get that clients and when you actually say hey people are do like it you know they are willing to accept it they are willing to use it and they're willing to pay us for it and we're not just burning money and you know getting er bringer you know putting blood sweat and tears into it but we're actually making her money off of it it's always a fun time so i think that'll be an exciting time for you so yeah well now as we've kind of now brought us to the present looked a bit into the future we've reached that point the podcast where i always have two questions towards the end of the podcast and we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it you know i was doing very well at not remembering this for years and then you you press those memories down you don't want to remember the mistake yeah yeah so um senior year in college right before i graduate probably about um the semester before i it's the year before i graduate so it's the first semester i have an opportunity to at least explore founding this company called alet with um you might have heard of it it's a reasonably big company in utah i think they're they're valued at about a billion dollars right now exactly so uh that one looking back on hurts just a little bit every time i think about it because i remember the uh the guy who initially started his name is jacob um pitching the identity and i just remember listening to it i'm just like nah i don't want to do anything with babies and i i look at it as um and actually i'll kind of tie this in a little bit to your next question um but i look at it and what i've really learned from it is that you can't always just discount something that you don't understand you always have to come to things with open minds and when somebody ex who has different experience or knowledge than you comes to you with maybe this idea chances are there's a lot that they don't i mean there's a lot that you don't know that they they have as a background and so you should take the time learn what you can from them and and really make a a decision that's not based on your gut instinct initially all the time no i think that's that's a great piece of advice but it's also one where you know you do always kind of well does that make sense to me do i think it's a good opportunity because sometimes it's not a good opportunity but i think it does you know rather than always just basing on that knee-jerk reaction if somebody's excited about it they put in a lot of effort and time to develop it at least give it you know a good look into and see if you know if they're if you're overlooking something or why are they excited about it and why it makes sense you know i talked about it on previous episodes one of my favorite shows i love to watch and i think i've watched almost if not all the episodes pretty close to it with shark tank and you know those you know and whether or not it's completely founded in reality it's still fun to watch and see all the different businesses but one of the ones that they passed on was ring doorbells which is now a again a multi-billion dollar business and you know is grown and taken off and it's kind of the same thing they didn't get it they didn't you know they didn't take the time and i think that they pass on to what is obviously a good opportunity and so i think that you know i think that's a great lesson learned is you know when and a mistake made of hey first like you could have been a part of a multi-billion dollar business but even more so you know learning from that mistake as you're moving forward i'll still ask my second question and maybe you can build on that which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them sure no and this is this is something that i think i can kind of break up into both for like aspiring entrepreneurs and then also entrepreneurs but my mantra personally is aspire to greatness and and kind of how i use that to direct my life is that i have very high expectations of myself i'm constantly looking to improve myself and also growing in skills and knowledge as i go for forward in life well when we look at the problems that entrepreneurs are going to be solving this day a lot of the easy stuff is already being serviced but what isn't being serviced are things that are either difficult to execute on or problems that require a specific skill set or specific knowledge to to be built to even know what you're supposed to be building and so the last three jobs that i had before starting this company have been real testament to showing that you can develop a very solid skill set in something and become very valuable to teams to other individuals other entrepreneurs um potential partners and um and then complement each other extremely well and so the biggest advice is make sure you're improving yourself first because um i mean there's a really cool statistic out there that some of the uh most successful companies are started by four-year-olds you know people kind of in that that age range and why is that probably because they have all this professional experience that they have where they know the opportunities they know how to execute on things they've made mistakes and learned off of other people's dollars and now they can go do it for themselves i i love that and i think that is absolutely great piece of advice and definitely something people should take to heart well as we now wrap up the podcast if people want to reach out to you they want to now that you're moving out of beta test they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all the above what's the best way to reach out to contact you or find out more sure so our website has a way to contact us our website is xenonchex.com and alternatively you can reach out to me directly at danny that's d-a-n-n-y at xenonchecks.com well i definitely encourage people to check out the website and reach out to danny uh as as make sense for him and get her to get some great uh words of wisdom and or use the software so well thank you again for 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 and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast uh feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe and your podcast player so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so everybody else can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else in the business just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat thank you again dan or danny or daniel whichever you go by or whatever you prefer uh for being on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks devin [Music] you