Let Them Be The Expert
The Inventive Journey
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Let Them Be The Expert
If you have a business partner who is an expert in something, and you're not, which was the case for us (like, we're both good at the opposite things), let that person be the expert.
Just because someone initially came up with the idea, or just becomes someone thinks they have a good marketing idea, doesn't mean that it IS a good marketing idea.
In our case, my co-founder is a brilliant designer and a brilliant marketer. If there was one thing that I could be like "Zach, just go back and shut up about it, just let him do his thing..."
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.
ai generated transcription
if you have a business partner who is an expert in something and you're not which is the case for us like we're both good at the opposite things like let that person be the expert you know like just because someone initially came up with the idea or just because someone thinks they have a good marketing idea like doesn't mean it is a good marketing idea like in our case my my co-founder is a brilliant designer and a brilliant marketer and if there was like one thing i could be like zach just go back and like just shut up about is like just let him do his thing [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here at the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the in uh serial entrepreneur that has grown several businesses the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with patents and trademarks and uh today we have another great guest on the episode his name is zach or zan frond so if i do i say it france is that right right friends however you have the the accent i'll go with friends um and uh he is the owner of high side coffee and he'll tell a little bit more about his journey but just to get away your whistle just a little bit so if i remember when we talked a little bit before you actually started your first business when you're nine years old using yahoo or yahoo yahoo geo sites um and you've always kind of wanted to be an entrepreneur and you also had a love of coffee started out with some side hustles ended up now jumping into the this full time and uh that's just a very brief intro to the to your journey that you'll tell a lot more so welcome to the podcast zach awesome thanks for having me devin uh yeah and you know to to your point i started my entrepreneurial journey when i was about nine years old i i was always cooking when i was young with i love to make cakes probably just because i i like sugar which makes sense and so i i started my first business an e-commerce business when i was nine so that would have been in 1999 i i probably could have gotten some investment money now that i've thinking about it for the dot-com bus so i honestly probably could have gotten like a million dollars just by having a website on yahoo geocities um selling cakes so i i i was an e-commerce entrepreneur in in 99 as a nine-year-old i only ever sold one cake to my neighbor so it wasn't even from my acquisition efforts apparently but that was really the start of my journey and since then i've i've tried to start a couple of different things nothing ever really worked out but that's that's standard and about nine ten months ago um a buddy and i saw it is important i'm not the only owner i'm one of the co-founders um i i owe a lot of credit to my other co-founder shay um he's been a friend of mine for about 15 or 20 years and we're both campers we love to travel outdoors things like that and we were just really frustrated with the fact that when you go camping you have all this equipment and then you have to bring a french press or a pour over and you get grinds everywhere it's just it's a very cumbersome process and we were just surprised that no one had solved this problem before um neither of us are coffee nerds or coffee connoisseurs by any means that we're definitely much more involved and we understand coffee a lot more now but at the time we just were two two guys that liked coffee and thought that there was other people that probably had this problem too and so we thought how else could you solve this problem and it just seemed weird that no one had put coffee into a tea bag before um it turns out there are like a handful like less than five companies that actually do it um and they're not very big and so we thought this was a good opportunity to have a really cool brand and to try to make this this concept an idea and accompany so we've been doing it since last we actually went down to guatemala to meet farmers some coffee farmers in november of last year and then two months later we actually launched the business in january and weird time to start a business but things are actually going really well okay so and we'll jump back to where you're at today but you did as you know this is the inventive journey so we have to talk a little bit more about your journey so you went from nine years old jumped over everything and went back to it today so why don't you tell us a little bit more about your journey so that period between the nine years old so jumping to where you're at today what was that kind of the journey because you know what we're trying too often when you watch whether it's the movies or the read the book and that you get the highlight reels right you get to hear we had some troubles and we're now a big success and you never really hear all the struggles or all the journey that it took to get their watch so why do you fill us in a little bit that period that kind of between the not the things that didn't work or the journey that you took to get from nine to where you're at today yeah so like the 20 years between nine and 29 basically exactly um yeah so like i said there was there was a there was a number of like little things so like for example one of them was my my buddy and i this is probably we were i think i was in ninth grade we wanted to start a shirt business we called it emperor's clothes because like emperor's clothes for naked people so we wanted to make a shirt company called emperor's clothes like it didn't go anywhere um and then with that same friend we i don't i think we bought like it never go did you sell any emperor's clothes or did you it wasn't like the emperor's clothes or there was nothing there were shirts and i don't i think we may have sold a couple um hey that was more than the cake business and only sold one so you were moving in the right direction we're moving in the right direction with that same friend we we bought this is this is weird we bought a bunch of purses off ebay and we had this whole website and then his dad was a business owner he eventually just bought him from us so we actually sold out of our our inventory on that one um and i think like like the commonality really i'll get to like one other that was actually like a little bit more successful but really um i think for me there's always been a thought of like i i'm much more motivated when it's my own thing and i think if i'm talking to like any entrepreneur or someone who's like thinking about starting a business i think it really has to come from a genuine passion like i'm trying to solve my own problem because this is just my opinion i think people are much more passionate about solving their own problem than they are about solving a problem that doesn't really impact them and so in some way it has to like strike accordingly whether it's like a social mission which could strike a chord in someone or for me it was a uh it was i was solving my own problem for when i was camping and and i think that that's where i've talked to some people and they're like oh i want to start a business but i don't know what to do and my advice then was always just what what's frustrating in your life because if it's frustrating for you it's frustrating for like at least a million other people and like that's really you probably don't even need a million people to have a fairly successful business um then my most recent business was um actually we i i was importing mini kegs from china these like one gallon mini kegs and i called it the beer barrel and i just like i literally just threw them up on amazon and within like a month i was selling a few a day just from my house i was gross profiting 50 bucks on each one of these and then it turns out there was like some patent issues and i kind of learned a lot about trademarks and patents and how china sometimes doesn't really care about those things and they'll sell you anything yeah it's probably more than sun times but yeah um so one question so you so you started at nine years old and we got to nine or ninth grade and you did that and then so did you go off to college did you get a degree did you has this been a always doing your own startups small businesses has been more of a side hustle that you finally grow into something you can do or kind of how did you make that transition from during those 20 years from education to work to income to now where you're at good good question so i went to school went grew up um went to college in san diego i went to san diego state um i was part of a co-ed professional business fraternity called alpha kappa psi got to do some pretty entrepreneurial things there um like actually put together a really big golf tournament that we had never really done before we raised seventeen thousand dollars for the make-a-wish foundation um and so got my education there actually got a uh my business major with a specialization in entrepreneurship so continuing upon that education there um and then i i was applying for software sales jobs but i thought i i still i thought i wanted to do sales and i still do sales actually now as my as my day job and but i knew i wanted to work for a startup and so i was applying to a bunch of different companies in san diego and i actually had an opportunity here in utah with a company that my uncle was investing in it was a 10-person company it's a software company down in provo and i was like yeah we'll give you a sales job if you want to move to utah i've been to utah one time for two days uh on the phone i was like cool let's do it and all my friends were like utah like that's where the mormons live dude like they have like weird alcohol laws there and i was like i don't know like whatever so um i'm i'm not i'm i'll take a lot of risks like that that's this is an area of my life i'll take a lot of risk like i moved to utah i didn't know and i didn't really i didn't know anyone went and worked for a startup we grew that company from about from 10 people to like 160 in three and a half years and then you know like some startups it did it we had our struggles left there went to another software startup called big squid i was there if i pressed you just so you had your struggles that mean that it went under or that it didn't stop growth or you just got bored of it or kind of because you know what how did that transition go yeah so it the company is still around um but not quite in the same form like we were kind of going like this and then it kind of was going like this and then they end up doing like an aqua merger with another company and that was after i had left there was a lot of attrition product problems cultural problems um i think a lot of those things are now worked out fortunately um but but but there were there was there was scaling issues um there was a one of the investors was from had his roots um in door-to-door security sales so um vivid and so it was kind of that kind of culture and there never we didn't really build any processes around like our sales process or our onboarding process or um it was just very sales driven and not a lot of product driven and so those types of things really caught up with us as we start to grow okay so definitely a lesson learned there is growth is great but you have to support it with the infrastructure and the processes and people who are absolute experts in their field who have been there and done that because you can kind of get away with not a ton of process by adding people to the problem but eventually you can't add people to the problem like it the people actually even if they're smart people will confound the problem because you don't have a process um and so from there i went to a software company called big squid um which is a machine learning startup based in downtown here in salt lake and there was about 20 employees when i was there i was there for almost four years that probably grew to about 60. um again we had some product challenges product market fit um had to do quite a bit of layoffs i i was i was one of i was the sales leader there so i i was okay through those sales or through those late that layoff um and then last year or i guess january so seven months ago i decided it was time for me to leave there i just didn't see a big a big opportunity there um and then covet hit they had to do some additional layoffs and there was some acquisition or there was some type of transition there with um with a large technology company that's what i'll say about that um so i think if i'm looking at some of the commonalities it is really about matching up process and product market fit like you can have the best sales people in the world or you can have the best vision in the world but if you're not listening to your customers and like really just narrowing down like just a couple of things that you're going to just absolutely crush for your customers it's going to be really hard to scale or grow your business you can't be everything for everyone and i think you can have your initial vision but if you're not backing that up with constant customer feedback eventually the customers are going to move in another direction i think that's what happened with both of these software companies the initial product was really really cool but what happened is like three years later the if the pr the product was still the same and more or less the same in both situations and the market had shifted okay and so you're still kind of like tell the same story three years later but it's just not resonating as much okay no that makes good sense so one question kind of one question so seven months ago you decided hey we're gonna make this jump we're gonna make is that when you made the jump full time over to high side coffee or did you steal or when or how did that kind of or shift go yeah so i'm actually i so sorry i should have finished the story so seven months ago i went to a very large software company called nice and contact 7 000 people publicly traded global company um and i'm still there so i'm basically i'm almost full time with high side in nights and weekends and i have a full-time software job right now and i took that job because because of the stability um the guy who hired me actually had worked at big squid prior um and so i i wanted him i wanted a different feel because i did it two software startups that you know i just they were cool but i wanted some stability um and so i'm i i'm still in the startup world but now i just have this other i have my full-time software sales job as well so one because i and i think that and i i fully get that in the sense that you know that's part of like i've started several startups on small businesses and for a while there i did that while i was working a full-time job at other law firms and doing other things because you know it is it is difficult when you're looking at a startup or small business saying hey i think this will go or i think there's an opportunity here but i also have responsibilities you may have whether it's student loans or it's a mortgage or a car or as family and kids or whatever it is and sometimes you know you always you know sometimes you you watch like the shark tanks or other shows they're saying you seem to be all in and they're like yeah i need to be all in i am all in but i still have to be able to pay my bills why we grow the company so you know how do you how do you make that juggle or how do you make that you know make that work to where you've got really you know one job that you know it's a steady full-time paying job and then you've got the side hustle which is also what you really enjoy how do you make that balance or how do you make that you know work between both of them so the way that the way that this is gone is my business partner and i we have a kind of a unique way on splitting the equity and it's it's actually a fluctuating um it's actually a fluctuating scale depending on how much money we put in depending on how much time we put in okay we got it from a book called i think it's splitting the pie it's something like that it's like you can literally read the whole book in one hour but basically you assign a theoretical dollar per hour and then you write down how many hours you work and how much money you put in and then you fit and then that tells you how much percentage of the business you get um and so the way that we've decided is that i was gonna put uh the majority of the money in um and i put a lot of time into it um and then shea my business partner he primarily just puts his time into it and so the way that we split the equity is compensatory for the time and the money um but when it comes to like having a full-time job and my own company i mean the first thing is it takes a lot of discipline because i i love the company that i work for it's a great company but i am so passionate about my own company so i have to like really be focused on like hey i have like my day job i need to go do that and then when it's time to and then you know at a certain point in time it's like okay now i'm going to do my other job now i'm gonna do my my coffee business um i think there are some people that maybe they would be able to have the financial resources to just jump in and do it full time and if i had that i i would do it um but my wife and i were just not in the position to like make that full-time jump um fortunately like i think you know i think the business will be in a really solid place um you know sometime next year and and we'll we'll could potentially be able to do that um but i i i think it's about being willing to put in 80 90 100 hours a week if you have to and that it's just the way it is like you either if you're passionate enough to put all the time into it then you're gonna be that much more motivated to make it work um i think it's different for every entrepreneur but it's just the situation that i'm in i i just have to do both and you know that's okay so one question i'd ask you and it's because going kind of along that same bane you have a lot of startups small businesses people that are doing side hustles people are juggling multiple jobs you know so how do or how will you because you're still in the process decide when okay i built high side coffee big enough or it's grown enough or it's in a stage that i can jump over full-time is that you know how do you make that i you know did do you set a goal for it make so much income or we have so much sales or it's on a certain trajectory or what is kind of your goals and when do you think that you'll make that transition i get you're you know basically working two full-time jobs but how do you make that okay this is my this is when i make that full transition yeah so we have we have four people so it's myself my co-founder um and then there's two other people uh they're good friends with my co-founder who are um who are working with us and we're all none of us are being paid right now um and so when i'm thinking about this the first thing is i want to make sure that those other two people are paid first so i will pay them i'll say we will pay them before we'll pay ourselves so that's like the first consideration is can we pay someone and we'll pay those two people and then after that it's really looking at what is the bare minimum amount of money that i can take to live with the you know the job that my wife has and then our expenses like not saving anything for retirement like putting all plans on hold what's the bare minimum that i can take to make the jump and then so what i don't know let's say i need two thousand dollars a month from the business i have no i don't know that that's the number but let's just say all right hypothetically hypothetically if if my expenses minus my wife's income is two thousand dollars um if there's if there's let's say four or five months that we had two thousand dollars left over then i think that that would be a good opportunity to to make the jump but there does need to be a little bit of consistency to know that hey i'm gonna be able to make this this is gonna happen and i'm not in like in two months or three months i'm not gonna go having to go find another full-time job i think that's the biggest thing is when i make the jump it has to be like i'm not gonna be running back very quickly like there has to be a little bit of security um that it's going to be sustainable um no and i think that's it's a heart because i mean i think everybody has their different standards right in the sense that you know people i know some of it is okay i have to have so much cash reserves and if i have you know six months runway of cash reserves i'll make the the job other times is hey does it have a recurring revenue that's such that after you know that i can say oh for the last five months or six months it's made this much and while we don't have the cash reserves i could pay out of the recurring revenue and some people are just saying to your point i have enough saved up i think it's going to make it go of it it's a hard transition or it's a hard decision to make i think sometimes in the sense that you know sometimes you're looking at it and saying really i want this is what i want to do and i think you can make a go of it but i don't know and that uncertainty can kind of pull you back i think the other question i'd throw out or the one that i think that a lot of people struggle with is you know do i pay myself first or i pay other people first right and it's a hard thing in the sense that hey i've been here since the beginning i've been the one that's putting the blood sweat and tears and you know i'm starting to pay my other people they're making you don't come off my job and yet i'm not so it's you know i think it's you know it's a hard balance and everybody has to kind of come to their own conclusion so i i fully get that one other thing that i think you mentioned and and you brought it up and i always shy away from it because i don't want to make this about you know ip or anything that i do but you did mention a little bit about trademarks and confusion and ip throughout your journey so maybe if you want to just share a little bit kind of about how that all overlays within what you've done yeah so the first product or that that that beer belt the beer barrel company i mean i just figured oh cool this is on alibaba must be good to go like i i had no idea right and then the people who owned the product they were like you can't do this and basically we fought back and forth and i lost a bunch of money um that was dumb so fast forward to high side we were initially colt coffee like you're gonna go join a cult and unbeknownst to us there was a company called coffee cult with 2ks so when we were doing our research we just didn't think to put a k in it um and so we they actually reached out to us this was probably in maybe in april so like four months ish into it um and they're like hey you can't do this like and because they had seen that we had filed for um for a trademark so they got notified um and we looked at it we talked to our lawyer who we should have we should have gotten a lawyer initially like it's funny how sometimes when you try to skimp out on expenses it ends up being much more expensive later and again not a plug for miller ip law whatsoever but i would definitely spend more legal money on legal work up front than on the back on the front end not on the back end always more expensive in the back i'll laugh at that just because that's half but it's not an uncommon thing for starter because you're saying oh we only got so much budget we'll be fine or we can figure this out sometimes you can and i i get that and on the other hand when you when you do run into those it's a whole lot more expensive on the back end than doing it on the front end yeah now yeah so what happened is the guy sent us a cease and desist we talked to him he wouldn't budge and and we knew we're like we're never gonna win this it's literally the same name but reversed like we're never this is never gonna it's not even worth the time or the effort so we have so we rebranded and honestly the rebrand was the best thing that ever happened to us our name is much better now our brand is much better now and it was great before uh but it's like 10 times better now um so i think one of the things with entrepreneurship and this is probably just life advice in general is when you when when really like shitty things happen i don't know if i can say it on the podcast but there's usually a silver lining behind it you just have to take advantage of it and especially if you're an entrepreneur and in a startup bad things or unfortunate or frustrating things are going to happen to you literally every single day and you either have to decide i'm not even going to worry about that like it just doesn't even matter because there's a million things that i i could worry about or if it's like a big enough thing like find a way to like turn into turn it into a positive like with our our rebrand yes it cost us money but we were actually able to dump all of our inventory basically all of it um we donated a bunch like cobin relief efforts um but we actually ended up selling basically all of it um and we got a brand that was way better um so it definitely turned out for us and i'm honestly i'm kind of glad it happened um but and i think that whether or not it's always a good thing and sometimes it does to your point in long story i won't you know again not on my story but you know one of the previous businesses i was with we got a frivolous lawsuit that was filed against us and it doesn't matter if it's a good lawsuit or if it's a frivolous one in this case it was you think oh i'm an attorney well it still costs a lot of time money and effort to deal with frivolous lawsuits and so you know we fast forward we ended up fighting we went back and forth this is over the period of probably a year and yet at the end of that we made an acquisition we actually acquired the people that filed the fire first lawsuit folded it into our company and it was it worked out to be significantly better it was a great opportunity we bought it for pennies on the dollar of what they were doing and we got a great opportunity but again it was one that during that period of time it was a horrible experience i would didn't want it i wouldn't want to ever go relive that but you made it through and you look for the opportunity and i think sometimes you can turn bad opportunities into good and other times as an entrepreneur you almost just have to say well you know what sometimes you what distinguishes somebody that makes a startup go from someone that just you know the other all the failures you always hear about is oftentimes making your way through it or figuring your way through so i think that's a you know a great insight for a lot of people learn with well as we're reaching the end of the podcast and i always get mo almost always get to the end of these and i wish there was about another hour or two to talk through things um and we would probably have plenty of things that we would find interesting that everybody else would probably fight for it but so as we wrap it up i always ask two questions at the end you've kind of hit on some of these so maybe a little bit of a rehash but i always ask my two questions at the end so the first question i always ask is what was the worst business decision you ever made all right so i'll say besides for not doing our research upfront on legal issues and just one other thing i'll say on legal issues they're scary so but they don't have to be scary they they try to scare you um also don't let your ego get too involved because legal situations are weird so just get get a good lawyer that will like help you kind of calm down on both on both angles um so besides with that i will say it was this wasn't like a one decision i'll say um but a maybe like a series of decisions which is when you're starting a business with a partner or multiple partners it's super super critical to set expectations up front so like expectations around who's making what decisions what decisions can be made unilaterally and what decisions need to be made collectively that's like one of the the struggles that that we've had um and we're working out which is like hey if it's a day-to-day thing because i do sales i'm primarily sales and operations and he's marketing and branding so i think like those two sides of the business basically um what are the things that i that i can just do what are the things that we need we need to do together and sometimes i'll make a decision that i should have involved him on and heal my decision that he should have involved me on and it gets very frustrating um on both of our ends and i'm probably more at fault in it in it than he is um so initially you need to have a good understanding of who's gonna do what so there's no like misunderstandings um and that's you know just add on because i think you know but i think i think it's a good lesson to learn and one that a lot of people make in the sense that when you jump into it you're excited about something that's going and you both think oh we'll just both work hard it'll work out and yet it can often time and a lot of time everybody does work hard but if you don't have that clear understanding of what it means for you to work hard what it means for you know somebody else to work hard what time they have available what funds they have available it can create a lot of heartburn that's unanticipated or not unnecessary and yet happens from the issue of it wasn't discussed up front yeah and i would say the other thing and this is kind of like a this is related which is if you have a business partner who is an expert in something and you're not which is the case for us like we're both good at the opposite things like let that person be the expert you know like just because someone initially came up with the idea or just because someone thinks they have a good marketing idea like doesn't mean it is a good marketing idea like in our case my my co-founder is a brilliant designer and a brilliant marketer and if there was like one thing i could be like zach just go back and like just shut up about is like just let him do his thing like he's amazing at it um and so i would say just like let the experts be experts whether it's like your co-founder or if you're hiring someone like espec i almost say especially if you're hiring someone like they're coming on to your business and you should be hiring someone to tell you what to do not the other way around i think that i think that's a steve jobs quote actually um but but yeah i would say just expectations roles responsibilities and then let the experts be experts and have them tell you what to do perfect well you probably just answered so i'll skip my second which it was also which is typically what's the one piece of advice you'd give us someone that's getting into a startup a small business i think that answers it perfectly so um awesome well i think that that was a fun journey to hear and i think it's one that there's certainly a lot of people can learn from so as people whether they want to buy your product learn more about it reach out to you invest in you be an employee of yours or anything in between or anything of that nature what's the best way to connect up with you or reach out to you yeah so you can go to our website if you want to check out the products www.hisidecoffee.com just h-i-g-h-s-i-d-e coffee.com um if you want to talk about employment first of all you'd have to be willing to work for free so if you want to work for free hey we're in um um or if you want to talk about anything else besides check out the products if you want advice if you want to whatever um zack z-a-c-h at highside coffee.com that's the best way to get a hold of me all right well i hope you get a whole bunch of them free employees that if you find a whole bunch of free employees i wanna i wanna in on that because i want a whole bunch of free employees too you know we're i i think we're good on the free employee thing for now i i would love to start paying people sometime in the very near future it would be amazing fair enough well cool i uh certainly encourage everybody to check out uh high side coffee and reach out to you if they have any questions or want to learn more and uh become customers and so thank you again for coming on the podcast for any of you that are have a great journey to tell that are wanting to tell your journey always feel free if you'd like to apply to be on the podcast you can go to inventivejourneyguest.com and apply to beyond and uh for those of you that are listeners and want to make sure to catch these episodes and all the future episodes make sure to subscribe with whichever podcast listener you listen to and certainly if you need any help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us we're always there to help startups and small businesses so zach thank you again for coming on it was fun to hear your journey wish you the next part or part of your journey even better than the last and uh we look forward to seeing how things go for you awesome thanks devin [Music] you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded