The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Just StartMy big thing in terms of advice is to just Start the business. It's not going to turn out the way you want it to, almost certainly. Whether that means you need to make a small pivot or the business was not meant to be there is something that is not going to work out the way that you are expecting it to. So I think the important part is to just start and you will learn as you go, adapt as you go, and pivot as you go. I think that is really the most effective way to learn.
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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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um but my my big thing in terms of advice is to just have people like just um stop preparing months um start the business it's not going to turn out the way that you want it to almost certainly um whether that means you need to make a small pivot or the business wasn't meant to be there's something that's not going to work out the way that you're expecting it to so i think the important part is to just start and you'll learn as you go and adapt as you go and pivot as you go um and and i think that's really the most effective way to to learn [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 has built several uh startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great guest on the episode carson hunt and uh carson uh is now uh or started out originally giving you a bit of his backstory um was a computer engineer major love tech or tech and gaming and then while he was i think in high school he actually started a clothing company with the sorority or fraternity brother i can't i never remember the difference between sorority and fraternity but one of those and uh they liked the idea they started to build a company did you know great job on the apparel and building it and they ended up in reinvesting a lot of their money into tech and built the company and they found that their biggest you know as they continue to go the company their biggest asset was actually the technologies opposed to the apparel and so they've kind of now made that adjustment or switched that gear to really focus more on the technology side of the apparel company and the clothing company as opposed to the apparel itself so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast carson thank you thank you it's great to be here so i gave a maybe a brief introduction but maybe take us back in time a bit and kind of tell us you know this started i think you said in high school and uh how you know or high school or college and i keep her i can't remember which it is but tell us kind of how things got going and the journey that led you up to where you're at today i met my co-founder uh in high school we went our separate ways he went to indiana university i went to the university of central florida um and we kind of we stayed in contact as he mentioned we would we would occasionally game together um and he was in a fraternity up in indiana and i saw that he was making uh some good money selling um apparel to the different fraternities and sororities across this campus i gave them a call i said hey look you know i'd be happy to join forces with you and see what we can make of this if not cool i'll just do what you're doing with all of our friends here in florida um so luckily it was a uh a good team to to build out right in the beginning and we we joined forces and started just making apparel for fraternities campuses north carolina indiana let me jump in just so two questions that are just popped our mind right off so one is was this starting out as hey i want to do a startup and this is a business i think i can continue after school or says hey this will be some great money that i can make while i'm earning my degree or my major as nice as it would be to say that it started off as this crazy you know startup idea it was just hey this is some cool money we can make on the side no and that that's what the genesis of a lot of great businesses so you know even almost you go back to now the amazon or at least the myth or the legend of amazon whether or not that's always true or not of you know him shipping it out of the the dorm room and you know delivering them and doing all that and whether or not that's true you know it always seems like there's some good myths that go along with businesses so now i'm going to ask the second question so you had your buddy that you knew from high school you guys had parted ways you were different universities and you call them up and say hey i love what you're doing i think it looks like you're making great money now you could i could either be your best friend or your worst competitor which you so how did that conversation go is it pretty friendly was it good conversation or was it well i guess i have no other choice we'll partner up and go together and just take it off from there kind of how did that conversation go because i could see it going either way yeah so luckily my co-founder was super you know um relaxed and understanding of that kind of stuff reached out and chatted with him super friendly conversation um and you know didn't didn't go uh too competitive or not we just as soon as we laid it out we uh we set up that partnership and we were off to the races and then and now what was the part or the funny story that i missed it was about high school yeah so uh funny enough when you you mentioned amazon uh amazon's kind of a local legend um at our high school because it's the same high school that jeff bezos went to um so everyone's always always talking about amazon which i thought was kind of kind of funny all right hey it's a small world must must be a good high school so so now you have this conversation with your you know your high school buddy that's you know about both in school and you say okay there's some good money to be made in the clothing and apparel and kind of customization and making you know doing those custom prints and those type of things you decide okay we'd rather be partners and go in together as opposed to competitors and it'll it'll probably work out better for both of you so how did you get that going you know how did you first of all because you guys were two different locations is that right you weren't in the same university so how did you how did you remotely work together and you know this was in the days before you know zoom in meetings were cool and before everybody is doing it remote but how did you set up the business how did you get that going how did you grow it and how did you coordinate in the midst of also doing your classes for school yeah um so it's definitely we had to prioritize certain things um at this point in my you know academic career um i was still in computer engineering um i just started a co-op at lockheed martin and was starting you peril um so it was definitely a lot on my plate at once and i had to make some difficult decisions to prioritize some things over others but the partnership was really natural he took over a lot of the um aesthetics and marketing kind of things i'm terrible at making things look good but i like to think i'm i'm pretty decent at the whole operation side of things um so we really just you know got together a bunch of contacts whether it's reaching out on instagram or getting their phone number and giving them a call reaching out to different fraternities and sororities and saying hey we know you guys get your apparel from xyz company we love to give you a cheaper price and here's how our experience can be a little bit better so it's a super scrappy um back and forth you know just trying to get grow the business and we were able to do that for a couple years and um it was growing uh you know slowly but surely um but that's kind of our strategy there so you you know so you so you touch on it lightly but i'll dive into maybe this a bit deeper because you talk about you know the balance and you know it sounds like you had a lot going on with internships and schools and running a business so how did you make that you know when because you only have so many hours in the day you only have so much ability to get anything done when push came to shove did you know the the startup take precedent did school take precedence and internship take precedent or how did you decide where was where was the the biggest bang that you wanted or if you had to do something how to get things done yeah so the way that hierarchy uh kind of laid out was you peril took highest because i think we really started to see the vision of where it could go just using just looking at the apparel side the internship was second and then school definitely took a back seat at this point i switched majors from engineering over to business not because i didn't just not because i disliked engineering um but because for me i saw that an engineering degree definitely required a lot more time than i was willing to give it um so i made that switch and still try to do some you know engineering um projects on the side to keep you know at least kind of up to date um but you pro definitely took the uh took the priority there and unfortunately with school and i knew this was definitely a uh a risk that i was i was willing to take um with school the gpa you know absolutely tanked um and i so i was at lockheed martin and that co-op uh has a minimum gpa i fell below that gpa and after about two years there had to leave that co-op which was definitely a a you know down you know couple of weeks um but i i really tried to make that a motivating factor i'm super petty with that kind of stuff i actually i framed that uh that letter that they gave me um and i keep it there and and really for me i think that's what really grew almost a distance for the at least my academic experience i felt i was learning so much more going through whether it was traveling to mexico with you peril and finding other manufacturers or at lockheed martin and really getting some hands-on experience um i really fell in love with that practical experience and and for better for worse and grew uh a bit of a separation or disaster for academics yeah and i think that there there's that balance on both sides i mean i've on the one hand i've got four degrees which my wife always says is three degrees too many so i've certainly gone through the academic and yet i've also gone through the startup and building a business and you know there's definitely definitely you know a bit of a disconnect i think in between the you know the academic versus the real world of business and i think you can garner knowledge and information from both but certainly you know just you know i did an mba which is you know masters of business and administration certainly first of all i would agree that that's between my engineering degree at the fba the nba was certainly easier i always joked my wife but i only felt like engineering every class was hard in every class you had to put in a lot of effort when i went to nba school i'm like oh there's about 50 that i actually learned stuff and 50 that mean you can just kind of make up fluffy stuff but everybody feels good and you move on but no so and so i think that you know i if my personal opinion is i think you encourage people if to the degree you can to balance both right in the sense that you know degree even if you know some people say it's the paper you know but it is a bit of a fallback that if a startup ever doesn't work out the uh do you have some recourse and yeah on the other hand if all you do is rely on you always stay in the educational world you'll never get that real world or practical experience i think there's certainly that balance of both so now as you you know you start to put the time tension of focus on the you know the technology the business the you know up apparel and uh and do all of that and as you're building it you know did you so i assume that you even with the lower gpa you did finish the degree or did you end up dropping out like some of the other greats actually still looking to finish the next spring so i'm on the edge of finishing things up all right so you're finishing things up what whatever the gpa and we'll not we're not we won't ask you what the gpa is but for whatever the gpa is you got the that you're going to finish that up in the spring now as you're looking to graduate and you know the business is on the uptick it's doing well you're getting that kind of real world education and all that as you go along with it you know kind of how do you how you know how has a growth advantage you've put that more of that time tension to focus on it has it been you know upward growth has it been bumpy is it been a downward with covet or how have you guys kind of adjusted as you kind of or kind of put that put that as a primary focus of everything i would say bump uh you know just um you know when we were selling apparel we were definitely on a study of um just slowly growing the business um but we actually just before covet i would say about q3q4 of 2019 um we made the decision um of okay we can continue to grow a small business and have a small business for however many years we want to have it or we can make that big you know leap of faith and really focus on building out this tech for other manufacturers in the space um and so we kind of took three steps back so that we can eventually take a bunch of steps forward um so that that was definitely a um hectic chaotic time um but now that we've built out a product beta um we've recently built a partnership with a little firm the dorm room we have a lot of mentors that have uh really helped us uh get to where we are now and and we we see the next couple of months even being being super eventful in a really good way no no i think that makes perfect sense and you know as you're doing that you know you touched on just a little bit of kind of now pivoting from what would be the apparel side not that you're not still doing apparel but to more focus on the technology and the licensing and doing it for other apparel providers and all that you know was that how did you go through or make that decision or come to that realization that hey you know you know kind of to your point hey we can stay a small player we can still do the apparel and we can maybe have a decent business or we can kind of roll the dice a little bit see if the technology if we can't build out really do something different get licensing going and really make a bit much bigger play for that how did you weigh those options or how did you i guess first come to that realization that you could have those two different paths and then how did you weigh those options yeah so i think a lot of it again is a very natural progression um i think we saw the success in the apparel side of the business because of the technology that we're um implementing and you know helping the customers experience streamlining our internal operations that sort of thing um and then we would we constantly every order we'd work with another manufacturer as well and we saw that some of these manufacturers are doing a hell of a lot more um sales than we were but their technology was pre-1990s uh they were they were using you know a whiteboard to manage eight million dollars worth of orders um or they were using an old restaurant industry pre-covered it was hey we don't sell online it's not part of our business model we're not on the we don't deliver um covet hit and absolutely everyone's on ubereats doordash that sort of thing um the same thing where it was hey come on into the store we'll show you different fabrics and we'll figure out something that we can customize for you and now that that's not as accessible it's everyone's scrambling to find a way to you know modernize and bring their business online and that's what really what we're trying to uh help those manufacturers and distribute accomplished no and i think that makes complete sense you know i think that you know i always you know as i've been both doing this podcast and talking lots of different startups as well as i've been a guest on a few others is you know when you have whenever you have a change in the marketplace i think it presents opportunity and not saying that hey you'd wish covet on anybody or you know the difference in that but you're saying hey it pro i think it presents chinks in the armor or things that people could could have been doing better that they haven't because the way they've been doing it has worked for a long enough period of time and it kind of works well enough and it gets the job done and so you never really look for how can we make this better how can we improve and yet then when you have a change or something that forces a change in the marketplace in this space covid where you can't have people come in as much you don't sit down and one-on-one design it with them and sketch it out and have those face-to-face meetings and you're relying more on okay now how can we do this remotely how can we do this differently how can we adjust what we're doing it presents the opportunities for those that are looking to say okay there's been a change it's been that adjustment there you know we have to do things differently what can we do and i think the ones that prepare better either prepare and anticipate that before that you know before the event happens or as it as things are allowed make that those quick and those adjustments are the ones that are able to thrive and survive so certainly see the wisdom in that so now you know we've cut touched on it a bit back and forth but you know if you were to now take um where you guys are at today you know kind of pivoting over to that technology company and putting the lights or putting a focus on licensing and bringing the tools to other people where do you see the next six to 12 months going for you um i think it's just a matter of continue to bring on these early adopt early adopters um and listen to the customer that's one thing that we've you know kind of had at the forefront of everything that we do is yes we have a unique insight because we used to be our current customers still super have conversations uh the adopters and say okay what are you liking what are you not liking and how can we improve on it um and and continue to improve that product beta we've also recently brought on some technical talent uh that's helping us build out a uh the first you know real version one of the platform um and we're hoping to have that q1 of next year uh so that's that's another you know component that's super exciting and just making sure that we're continuing to build the product bring on these early adopters um and listen to the customers along the way no no i think that makes perfect sense i mean i would always say you know one thing i've learned you know heart i don't know the hard lessons you learn in business but certainly the lessons you learn is you know it's never too early to get that customer feedback or that input in the sense that you don't want to get so far along the path and you know never have talked with customers never actually shown in the features and you know just rely on your own input it certainly is helpful you know to have you know have experience in the industry and it gives you a leg up and where to start but then to go out and start to engage with them and actually talk with them i think gives you a much better leg up as to make the products that they'll actually use because the other thing i always think and now i'm ranting just a bit is you know as you go along in that too often you get enamored with all the cool features you could all the cool technology you could do and oh we could do these 20 things and it will be awesome and then you build them out and only five of them are useful or three of them are useful and you spend all this time money and effort developing things money of which nobody is actually going to pay for you or pay you to use or even one and so it's always easier to go out get that you know as you're rolling out technology get that feedback earlier on and often in order to build that out so now as as we shift toward or shift towards the end of the podcast so we're starting to reach towards the end of that i always ask two questions and so we'll jump to those uh jump to those now so the first question i'll ask is you know so within your journey what's the worst business decision you've ever made and what did you learn from it so um like i say in the beginning i think the the worst business decision that i made is actually something a decision that i didn't make and that decision was to bring on internal technical talent sooner rather than later um we we outsourced everything from the beginning um and i think from a you know hindsight's um i think if we would have been able to bring on that internal talent from a scalability perspective we'd be much further ahead than we are now um not to mention the um you know operational inefficiencies that staying up to midnight to uh to have a technical meeting um you know kind of come with uh but that that definitely is something that i regret is not bringing on technical talent from the from the get-go no and i think that you know that's there's always two things that are always hard and i think that it's a good lesson to learn and you know i like the idea of hey you know some of the worst decisions or the indecisions or the decisions you didn't make in a sense that those ones are oftentimes you know you hold off on a decision or you don't make it or you know you push it out and sometimes that can honestly make it worse in the sense that you could have had you made that decision earlier had you made it more quickly you could have actually had you know a much better outcome now you know kind of like you said you know but if i were to justify now your position it is hard in a sense you're always trying to you know bootstrap it you're trying to figure out hey we got more money more things to spend money on than money to spend how do we stretch a dollar and yet by that same definition sometimes you know you're pennywise or pennywise and pound foolish is the old saying you know you you look at the pennies and you make you're saving a few cents here there and yet it's handicapping the business is holding it back or it's not allowing it to grow as quickly or as well as it could because you're worried too much about the dollar you know the pennies instead of the dollar so to speak so i think that's a great you know great something to learn from so now as we jump to the second question which is you know now if you were to take you know take your if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup just getting into a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them um but my my big thing in terms of advice is to just have people like just stop preparing months um start the business it's not going to turn out the way that you want it to almost certainly um whether that means you need to make a small pivot or the business wasn't meant to be there's something that's not going to work out the way that you're expecting it to so i think the important part is to just start and you'll learn as you go and adapt as you go and pivot as you go um and and i think that's really the most effective way to to learn hey and the internet gods they were much happier with their second question so maybe they're saying when you say it again a second time will be even better so that was great no and i think that there's a lot of truth to that and you know it's interesting because you know we're now up over 100 episodes on the podcast we've done quite a few and almost indefinitely i think that the you know there's a lot of different answers we've got over the episodes but i think probably the number one that you know advice and or biggest or worse decision is just you know kind of sometimes those go hand in hand but people are saying i wish i got started earlier i wish i jumped in quicker i wish i'd stopped making excuses or i hadn't you know tried to think of all the eventualities and what could go wrong and then just get started because you know always a couple things one is you'll learn you know some people quickly learn that they're not the entrepreneur they thought or they don't like entrepreneurism and sometimes they'll say okay i did that i dived into it and i hated it and now i'm now at least got it out of my system and i know that that's not for me or you'll dive in and you'll say okay this is a bad idea but now we'll move on to the next idea or you'll jump in and hey it's a great idea and it was really worthwhile and we you know definitely wanted to definitely glad that we jumped into it and we you know and to get those all of the above i think you're all motivating reasons to jump in earlier at least test it out try it out see how it goes for you and you'll always i think that more people will always regret they didn't get going earlier then people are gonna say oh i'm glad i waited for you know an extra two or three years or i'm glad i held off me i don't know i've ever heard anybody that said it was a great idea that i didn't get going earlier so i think that that's a good takeaway that a lot of people have well as now is uh people are wanting to connect up with you they're wanting to learn more they're wanting to be an investor they're wanting to license your technology they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to connect up with you um i think either linkedin or email so just search me at carson on linkedin or send me an email carson you peril co awesome well i definitely encourage people to reach out to you find out more about the technology you guys are creating use how they can apply it if they're in the apparel industry and also just uh find out more about your story of how you got you know the business going why you're in school and how are you wrapping up with school and able to keep that launching and going and what that experience was so well thank you for coming on the pa our podcast carson 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 come on and uh be or share your journey we'd love to have you so just go to inventivejourneyguest.com apply to be on the podcast and we always love to share your story if you're a listener go and make sure to click subscribe on whichever platform you listen the podcast on so that you can get notifications as all the awesome episodes come out and last but not least if you ever need help with patents or trademarks feel free to reach out to us at millerip law and we're always here to help thank you again carson and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you so much this was awesome hey if you enjoyed this episode of the inventive journey make sure to go and check out startups magazine they're an awesome magazine and podcast centered over in the uk and if the magazine is a digital and print magazine where they focus on tech startups and entrepreneurs and they also have a focus on female founders and women in tech so if you want to check out their magazine neither digital or print it's startups magazine startups with an s magazine.co.uk and you can also look at their podcast which is called the serial entrepreneur so go check them out they're awesome and definitely if you like this episode you'll like them