What's Your Why?
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
What's Your Why?
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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put your goals in front of you and your fears behind you there's so much that has to happen in a business and it takes a long time it's years it's a marathon so you you have to find a source of motivation a source of inspiration and two of those sources are goals and fears if you can be motivated by those simultaneously i believe it's a powerful combination to keep doing whatever you need to be doing i think it's it's the stereotype and cliche that businesses fail because you give up or you quit and and there's truth in that but i think to make it easier on on yourself as a founder especially really get clear on you know why you're in it 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 in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller rp law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast ty walters and ty finished up a master's degree in uh 2020 or 2012 i'm in exercise science and uh blinded to a uh to academy or to academia and went on to get a job and work and as he uh went to do that um learned or do it on his own and one to work hard started out as a i think planting trees for a landscape company so a little bit different than exercise science and then moved and did a similar job and worked at that for a while before kind of getting uh worn out with the grind and then going off to do business at transcendental marketing for a period of time i grew that but just uh was just getting by and decided to learn code and learn more about e-commerce and started a business about four years ago with that and has been doing it ever since growing the team and having a great time at it so hopefully with that it much is a mostly accurate introduction welcome on the podcast hi thank you so much devin really great to be here sharing my story and excited to dive in absolutely so i just gave the 30 or 30 second run through to a much longer journey so maybe take it back to you know 2012 wrapping up your master's degree and kind of how your journey got started there absolutely in 2012 that had reached the end of my academic career as it was and as anyone knows as you know i know you have multiple degrees it's such a long journey the the school since kindergarten really every year and of course it changes and morphs but at that end and that point in my life i was feeling um like i was sort of missing out on the real world whatever that meant you know outside of academia where there's there's tracks and there's and there's fields and there's certain ways on how to do things and where to study and how to apply your skills i was more interested i guess at that time of like you know my father he he's uh he has a job out you know in in industry and commerce like what is all that so that interest led me to divert away from pursuing a phd degree or even a career in in that field at that time and uh to say the least i was naive just like most young people are that step out into the marketplace for the first time i was full of the confidence and bravado i'd outperformed my peers on every other measure stage available i thought it'd be easy and and it's quite a different challenge uh but you know i eventually kind of found my way after a few years and and i really feel like i've figured it out to a degree of course it's a journey but sort of cracking that code and figuring it out after school was was a challenge for me it was a crossroads and i had to jump in myself and and kind of learn those tough lessons myself tough lessons being struggling to get a job as a wait staff with a master's degree or not really figuring out you know how can i make the connections in my network to really build my professional career some of those things i had underdeveloped to say the least um but but what had happened through my academic career learning about kinesiology exercise sciences i was really interested in health and wellness because that's you know the the most important aspect of longevity and how how happy and healthy are we right and and part of involved in that quest is self-actualization realization so just a personal curiosity of mine is sort of the philosophical concept so like why am i doing this you know what is life about and how should i be applying these skills and these privileges i have you know i can almost do anything i want i was raised in a very supportive environment with family and community to believe that so those kind of questions were on my mind back in 2012 uh one thing led to another i found myself sort of um not at the bottom but at a crossroads again where i felt like i was learning so much i wanted to get into horticulture and kind of sustainable agriculture in terms of how it related to wellness and i was learning so much but i was sacrificing other areas of my life namely my financial well-being and fitness and you know one question is to get exercise signs and then you get into planting trees or horticulture and those type of things seems like a little bit of a departure from your you know what your degree was so what made you decide to do was hey this was the job that i can find and i thought it sounded interesting it was decided after i got graduated that you know i didn't want to be in exercise science and that happens with a lot of attorneys that they decide they don't want to be a but kind of what led you to kind of getting into more of that aspect of things yeah um so twofold probably one was the degree i pursued was a master's in kinesiology it's a little bit less versatile than say a nursing degree or medical degree so that's point one i struggled a little bit to find an application uh number two was in my time intellectually learning about kinesiology i became less maybe interested in the the principles and practices of that of kinesiology but more interested in maybe the umbrella topics of health and wellness how how does our diet and environment and our exercise all fit into how we are as a family as a person it's sort of more of a holistic viewpoint so at the time i guess i saw the expression of that focus on holistic wellness not as a narrow focus on exercise but how should we be living our lives what should we be eating how should we be treating the earth and that's how i've stumbled upon agriculture and horticulture how can we be raising the types of food that we need to be you know in harmony with nature around us restoring the earth things like that it was heady philosophical ideals but it's part of the entrepreneurial part of the entrepreneurial dna that i believe is within me is to think big and to to take massive action to realize goals like that i had realized um you know in sort of the the process of trying to explore that what did that mean that i had a lot to learn and and i realized that i could apply some of that uh some of that thinking some of that problem solving to other areas in order to help me maybe realize those goals faster in other words no i think that definitely makes makes perfect sense so now you get into you know planner horticulture you get into landscaping you get into planting trees and other things and you do that for you know a period of time and then now you're saying okay i've done i've done that and you know what made you decide to shift a bit to get out of that and go more into you know marketing to go work at transcendental marketing so i think you started or that was your own business or you started that kind of what made you decide to shift in that direction yeah let me speak to that um so we've all been had difficult points in our lives and low points and i was at a point in my life it was lower because i felt like i was doing so much work and had so much energy and effort to give and and but it wasn't really paying off in terms of increasing um my my standard of living i was living for a period of time without health insurance because it couldn't really make ends meet or afford that bill and and sacrifices like that not being able to seek medical attention when you need to not being able to maybe like buy the amenities or purchase the type of lifestyle that you want so that type of struggle of realizing that hey i'm i have i have a long way to go if i can't even really afford my own health insurance what am i doing here i know learning these lessons about how to run a nursery and how to how to make like holistic wellness a reality is a thing but also i need to be able to watch out for myself so i think the pragmatic you could say like aspects of life kind of started hitting me a little bit and and i realized i needed to pivot or refocus in a way to take care of those because i started to see those more as a responsibility as i grew older gained responsibility so to speak but as a young single person we have a little bit more freedom and flexibility to go without those things starting to realize they were important i became a little bit more systematic on how i designed my efforts namely creating transcendental digital which is my first like digital marketing freelancing activity developing all the way up to what we do today which is outsource customer service for e-commerce companies so we run a service agency and but the goal in that has been the same of how can i you know take myself out of this low and dark place when i feel like i can't even really feed and protect myself what do i need to do to put myself in a better position to gain some of those things and worry less about them no i think that definitely makes sense so you kind of started out saying okay it's a grind i'm tired of just getting by i want to have a bit more you know doesn't mean i have to have all the money in the world but definitely being a bit more comfortable or at least having you know life taken care of so to speak until you started transcendental marketing or you know that the marketing firm and that grew and i think as we chatted a bit before you saying hey it was one where the business was growing but it was still felt like you're just getting by so to speak a bit and so it sounded like he kind of expanded services or pivoted and just a bit more to learning code and also e-commerce side of things absolutely so coming from a non-tech background i was starting to build websites for my own projects and that kind of caught on and that's a very typical entry into freelancing building and designing web pages websites things like that and it was my introduction i really loved it it matched my personality and and the clients i worked with were really appreciative and i was able to charge a higher rate than i was working at the plant nursery so i started to see this like okay this is nice but as with most freelancers quickly you learn time in exchange for hours is uh it has an end game to it there's diminishing returns you can only accept so much work with a full-time job even if you go full time into it so i started to see the stress of that a little bit and knowing i could only do so much and elevate myself so much out of that and i started to you know read and consume entrepreneurship materials and and the advice is always you know how do you scale your efforts how do you how do you think in processes instead of what i as the specialist can do how do i leverage my team and processes and technologies to to do this for me so that type of you know transcendental digital got me into that freelancing mind state how do i run an llc how do i file my taxes and then optimizing it from there okay i want to run a service business now with 10 people and a co-founder but the step up from a solo single member llc wasn't that far it was sort of the the graduation of the process no i think that all makes perfect sense and so now you kind of pivoted to tonight you know i think it makes this an actual transition a lot of things are going online so be able to code to better understand e-commerce definitely kind of expands your ability to in your offering as far as what you're able to marketing with digital marketing and all that so you kind of continue to go and down that road so that kind of brings us a bit today so if you're to kind of now look just a bit into the future where do you see things headed is it kind of continuing to just bring on staff grow they're going to go into new areas offer new services or kind of what's the next you know six to 12 months look like for you six to 12 months uh we're in e-commerce and and that field is dynamic and changing especially since uh kind of after covid and how it's affected everything so we're absolutely all in on the current venture seller smile there's a great need and it's exciting we're talking to very interesting brands every day small business owners that we're helping run their customer service there's a there's a bright outlook and we're really fascinated by it and it's really entertaining and energizing us as an organization i think what we see is like i mentioned going from kind of the freelancer single person hustling to the team i'm thinking about what's the next version of that we're trying to develop ourselves you know we have right around 30 clients when we go to 40 50 60 what does that look like not so as sort of the ceo kind of drawing that vision how are we going to be able to absorb stages of growth as you know demand increases and as the business grows i'm not sure how that looks and i'm not sure how much we're going to involve technology in terms of software or or just people but yeah that's where my mind is thinking growth but i want in that growth not just growth i want efficient growth and if it results in a new process or a new way of running things i think that's better no i think that's a fun and exciting place you know kind of figuring out what that looks like in your business and where it will evolve and figuring that out along the way definitely has a lot of fun or fun things to figure out so well that kind of is you know takes us a bit to your journey to get to where you're at today a little bit of looking into the future and definitely it'll be fun to see how that continues to evolve but with that we'll transition to a couple questions i always ask for the end of each podcast so the first question i would ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it the worst decision i made in my business was i worked without paying myself and this was two years after the business had ramped up its income to the point where it was supporting me we ran into a few issues in the business we lost a few clients uh some other concurrent issues and i decided to not take a pay anymore and looking back i read the book profit first by mike malkowitz and i was convinced at the time it was a heroic effort i was saving my business i was sacrificing this is the startup way i was earning my stripes come to find out after reflection it probably was a little bit of a short-sighted decision the easy way to fix the cash flow issue versus looking at the processes looking at our business processes rather how we screen clients who we add how we charge them how we screen and hire new team members so i think if i would go back i would definitely not stop paying myself but be much more rigorously focused on the root cause of the cash flow issue no and i think that you know that one's definitely it's one where it's easy to it's easy to you know to want to pay yourself last because you know in the sense that you're going you're saying i just need to get by a little bit longer i just need to you know get this up and running and you know i want to make sure that my team's taken care of and i think that those are all valid and definitely good reasons why you're going to um why you're going to delay getting payment yet on the other hand if you're not careful you're going to forever be paying other people and you're going to be running a business that you're saying you know you're always waiting to make that profit to be able to pay yourself but it can cause those issues to where it's not intentional but you're going to i think sometimes build a business that isn't going to work long term so i think that that one definitely you know makes sense as to why you make the mistake but also why you would you know what the the motivation is as to you know how how you got there and why you do that you know what's interesting we also had uh mike on the show several episodes ago he was on an expert episode and it was fun to kind of get his uh input on that as far as kind of you know some of the things that he learned and diving into a lot of the business so it was you know just as a complete site but i like love the the profit first book as well so couldn't recommend it more and awesome that you got them on not to take a listen that's just a short plug you haven't listened to all of our expert episodes they're great we've got a lot of great content but though um definitely as was a fun person to have on i think it's a great person for a great book and a great lesson to learn so second question i always ask is if you're now talking to someone that's just getting into a startup for a small business what would be the one piece of advice you give them put your goals in front of you and your fears behind you there's so much that has to happen in a business and it takes a long time it's years it's a marathon so you you have to find a source of motivation a source of inspiration and two of those sources are goals and fears if you can be motivated by those simultaneously i believe it's a powerful combination to keep doing whatever you need to be doing i think uh it's it's the stereotype and cliche that businesses fail because you give up or you quit and and there's truth in that but i think to make it easier on yourself as a founder especially really get clear on on you know why you're in it if you're listening to this podcast you're likely interested in jumping into your own business and you likely have reasons why you want to be doing that don't lie to yourself be very clear take time to reflect and get in a quiet place whatever you need to do because if you don't figure that out it's going to come out later likely and it's going to be a larger issue to solve perhaps so really figure out what are you afraid of what are you going towards and are you doing that with this decision to start a business if not and if through that questioning you come to a different conclusion being an employee at an organization is completely fine there's so many perks you know the grass is always greener but just think about ways that you might be underestimating the jump because it's more than just doing what you're a specialist at it's running an entire business and some people don't really contextualize that at all no i think that that definitely is a great piece of advice and i would i definitely encourage people to take it to heart well as we wrap up and just as a reminder we are going to do the bonus question where we talk a little bit about intellectual property and uh your number one question but before we get to that point if people want to reach out to you they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to hire you 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 contact you find out more you can go to sellersmile.com that's our business's website and i hope it's not uh wrong to say this but we are hiring we're growing so we have a join our team link take a look uh but yeah hit us up there uh or if you want to reach out to me directly that's thai t-y-g-h seller smile dot com no absolutely no or no no words about uh sharing and if you're hiring and uh people are listening and they they think they'll be a good fit definitely encourage them to reach out so with that as we wrap up appreciate him on the podcast and we'll still jump to the bonus question but otherwise uh for the listeners out there if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe in the podcast players you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and do leave us a review so everybody else can find out about all of our awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat so now we've wrapped up the normal phase or the normal part of the podcast and now we got to jump to the bonus question which is always fun because we get to talk a little bit about the topic that's always near and dear to my card turn it over to you turn the mic over to you so to speak what's your top intellectual property question my top intellectual property question has to deal with trademarks more specifically a word mark we deal with word marks regarding our clients usually they're physical products sellers so we're involved with them in that way the business we have today is called seller smile it's on the shirt here and the way we found it it way we started is it's one word seller smile although they're two words so we've combined two words to make a fictitious single word when we're thinking about filing for this word mark for this trademark should we be thinking about filing for this fictitious word seller smile as one word because does that leave us open to someone creating a business called seller smile with two words since it's different enough should we be filing for both of those to protect us how would you approach that yeah and that's i'll generalize it just to the audience a bit as well you know the question is because it comes up quite a bit there's kind of a few different questions that would really be in there one is you know if you have one word versus a space is that going to matter and answers it can matter and i'll get into a bit more and then the other question is also kind of whether or not you have you know you go for the design the logo versus the word because seller smile for people that are looking at the audio or look it up afterwards it also has you know the emote you know the semicolon with the the you know the smiley face type of a thing and so that's also has a bit of design our aesthetics and so the question also should you go for design versus go for the word so with that the easiest answer is go for what is the most valuable for your company in other words if it and how you're using it meaning if you're never using it with the space you can't get a trademark for the space because they're going to require you to submit specimens evidence of how you're using in the marketplace and if you submit it a trademark application with the space in it and you always use it without a space you're going to reject the specimen saying well you're not using it as how you filed so the one thing is is file how for everybody however you whatever mark you're actually using that's what you file on and now the question is now what but the hesitation everybody always has yeah but once if somebody does put that space in is that going to allow them to get around our trademark and then we missed out on that short answer is both of the time and 99 or whatever person i don't know 99 that sounds like it's fair like always but most of the time the answer is no it doesn't allow people to get around it because the the standard for trade what a cut or trademark coverage is what's called confusingly similar what that basically means is if somebody out where now the marketplace a customer or client were to see your brand and somebody else's brand it was a competitor that was using that would they be confusing to who is offering the goods and services so if you had seller smile and yours was all one word they had it as two then with you know likely very high likelihood of somebody on the marketplace wouldn't think you guys are two different brands they would likely get confused because they're gonna say it looks like it's the same company and they're especially if you're offering the same or same or similar types of goods and services so with rare exception you know whether or not you have a space or not or don't have a space or a dash or you don't have a dash for those type of things most of the time that confusingly similar standard unless they can make a very strong argument that customers would think that there were two separate brands and there wouldn't be any kind of confusion you're likely covered so it also could be the same thing if one's if they have a very minor spelling variation ones that they call you know they spell cellar with one l or something slightly different most of the time again it's going to be confusingly similar second part of that question and then i'll pause and see if you have any other follow-up questions is um if you're going design mark versus word so design mark for all of you out there including uh you know you as well is basically the aesthetic nature of what you're doing in other words the look and feel of your logo usually it's a logo or design that doesn't just it's not just a word but it has design aspects so you think of the nike swoosh that's a that's the design mark you think of starbucks with the mur you know the green mermaid on the side of the cup that's going to be a design mark you think of even your seller smile with the emoji here you know the emoticon on there that would be a design and so that one is one where you you can protect the design you can protect the work now the question also comes up is which one do i protect first now if you have the budget i would usually say you protect first and it gives you the broadest level of coverage if you're saying i don't have the budget to protect first which one should i protect simple answer again is whichever is the most valuable to your business in other words if everybody is really identifying you based on your logo and that's what you're pushing that's what everybody sees and it's more of you know the starbucks mermaid or the nike swiss where they're more identifying the design aspects not necessarily the word then you protect that most of the time people are going to associate it with the word of the company in other words if they're talking if they're writing it out if they're talking about it if they're you know looking at the url or they're searching for it they're going to search for the word and so most of the time word the word mark provides the broadest level of coverage for your trademark if you're happy to decide between one or the other so that gives you a little bit it's a much it's a great it's a fun topic to talk and i could talk all day about it and i'd probably be the only one that enjoyed it but i would enjoy it but that gives you a little bit of insight as to uh it's the trademarks and how you might deal with them and how you go about approaching them does that all make sense any questions on that that makes sense and it confirms what i suspected the word mark being maybe a little bit more of the first choice if we're just going for general protection and um and using in terms of creating confusion in the marketplace i think that's that makes it clear to me if someone used the space i think it's clear that it's confusing so yeah thank you so much absolutely so well if you or anybody else any of the listeners have any questions anything else comes up and you'd like to grab some time with this chat just feel free to go to strategymeeting.com schedule some time on the calendar and always happy to help and answer any questions you or any of the listeners might have with that we're going to we'll wrap up the podcast thank you again ty it's been fun it's been a pleasure to have you on and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devon [Music]