When I embarked upon my journey into the business world at 17-years old, I worked a handful of jobs. Quickly realizing that working for someone else was not my passion, I decided to follow my heart and start my own business—and I fell in love immediately. In only three years, I have gone from a businessman to a serial entrepreneur.
The first business I started, JB Media Force, was a multimedia agency that offered a variety of services such as website design and development, mobile development, video production and online marketing. While these services weren’t unique or revolutionary, it was something many businesses needed, and as a result, the business bloomed, not from passion, but rather economics and societal influences.
I started this company during my senior year of high school and it did exceptionally well. The company immediately began generating revenue and was growing at an exponential pace—definitely exceeding my expectations. At its peak, JB Media Force had grown to over fifteen employees working around the world.
Can you imagine being a teenager earning a healthy income, running your own business and being acknowledged for your work? I was happy—until I had an experience with a client that changed the way I felt about my business forever.
Businessman vs. Entrepreneur
Even though exponential growth, profits, client influence, excitement and internal psychological pressures may influence you to make promises you can’t keep, sometimes it pays to stand your ground. I made a pitch to a potential client who insisted that his project be completed within two weeks. Unfortunately, no matter how hard our team tried, it wouldn’t be possible. I decided it was best to always be honest and up-front to avoid disappointing clients, my business and myself.
As I explained my business practices, his response astonished me: “It’s fine. If you can’t do it, I’ll contact one of the thousands of others companies that do what you do.”
His words rang true and impacted me deeply. I wasn’t doing anything special. The business simply made me money, gave people jobs and was better than working for someone else—but at the end of the day, it was just another business. It was at this moment that I decided I wanted to do something more purposeful.
To me, a businessman is someone who runs a business for the sole purpose of making money. An entrepreneur, however, is someone who runs a business to solve problems and create value, while making money is a secondary concern.
I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneur and I was determined to make it happen.
Follow your heart, not your pocketbook
I planned to sell my multimedia agency to pursue a more meaningful venture. I had tons of ideas that solved problems or created value for others, and I was extremely passionate about all of them. And yet, when I told my family and friends about my decision to sell my business, they told me I was a fool.
They quickly reminded me that I was making money and I was successful. Why would I want to throw it all away? Was I crazy? Another issue I faced was actually selling my multimedia agency. The valuation of a multimedia business rarely reflects its value, resulting in unsatisfactory sales offerings. Because companies like this can be made with such little investment, sales often offer little in return.
Despite these concerns, I remained resolute. Nobody was walking in my shoes, and they certainly didn’t understand my desire to become an entrepreneur. I realized only I could write the next chapter in my life, so I sold my business and moved on.
My next venture was a company called StatFuse. We calculate a student’s chances of getting into college and provide them the resources necessary to get into their dream college. We’re able to calculate this analysis by aggregating data directly from the admissions offices, which is then imported into our hub, filtered and plugged into an algorithm, and in turn, provides the student with curated results and resources. Applying to colleges and universities can be stressful and somewhat overwhelming. In fact, if you don’t acquire the right resources at the right times, it can be detrimental to your application. This was a problem I saw many people (including myself and close friends) dealing with before applying to college. I was greatly passionate about solving this problem to ensure no other students had to deal with the difficulties of applying to college. And, it’s been greatly rewarding—to date, we’ve assisted over 30,000 students apply to over 100,000 educational institutions across the globe.
While most people thought I was throwing a good thing away, I knew I wanted to make the change and do something that I was passionate about. Admittedly, it was frightening in the beginning because I quickly went from earning thousands of dollars a month to earning nothing.
Just a year and a half later, this is the best decision I’ve ever made. Today, I’m a 20-year old serial entrepreneur, digital marketing consultant, author, public speaker, blogger and startup adviser. Through my entrepreneurial ventures, I’ve been able to connect with and impact hundreds of thousands of people, and empowered other change-makers to do the same.
By becoming an entrepreneur, I am not only more successful than I was before, but I’ve had amazing experiences and opportunities. I spoke at a TEDx event this month, published numerous books, and get to share my passion with many others. From my experiences, I learned that money shouldn’t be your purpose, but rather the prize in your career. Money doesn’t make you feel good—but following your passion and creating a viable solution that benefits others and the world at large does.
Uncommon Sense advice to becoming an entrepreneur
1. Take massive action. Be just as much of a doer as you are a dreamer. The biggest regret you can have in life is not trying.
2. Failure is an event. It doesn’t define you or your business unless you allow it to. Get back up and keep trying.
3. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you’re unhappy about something, do something about it.
4. Make your own luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Don’t wish on the stars and wait for opportunities to fall in your lap.
5. Surround yourself with the people you admire most. Your income is the average of your five closest friends, so consider who you choose to hang around.