Whirling Thoughts

Chewing, swishing, and spitting thoughts out. Personal blog of Nicholas Chan.

Month: September 2019

Know What You Want – Choosing to Leave a Business

It’s with mixed feelings that I have chosen to leave the business that I’ve spent the last 4 months working on. It’s called Cromble, and what we did was take brewing byproducts called spent grain from breweries then upcycle them into higher value products.

After the end of the summer I chose to take a week and reflect on whether continuing with this business was the right decision. This was not as cut or dry as it would seem. We had just received $15,000 in funding in addition to another $4000 in seed funding.

We had world class mentors. One of them had is PhD in molecular chemistry, and was building a startup in Silicon Valley. The other had sold a multi-million dollar chocolate business, and was focused on helping food startups commercialize their products.

I think that ultimately, I had to detach my emotions and critically evaluate whether continuing with this business would be helpful to my long-term career trajectory.

To do this, I filtered the decision through three key questions: what do I want? How do I get there? How does this business align with those goals?

What do I want?

When I was in high-school, I had the chance to interview the CEO of a rapidly growing marketing agency. To me, he was (and is) someone who was very successful. I asked him what he thought was the most important message he wanted to share with people.

I expected a long monologue. Instead all he said was “Know what you want, then everything else will follow”.

That was a recurring theme when I talked to other business leaders in my community. Another made the point of saying:

“As long as you know where you want to go, your decision making becomes way clearer. All you have to do is determine whether that decision will move you towards your goal.”

I want to own and run businesses in the future. But those businesses are the type that are digital in nature. I want to have multiple digital businesses that can be automated or systemized, which then gives me the financial freedom to pursue a “big bet” – a high-growth startup. For that high growth startup, it doesn’t matter if I am a founder or early employee, but I want to contribute to growing this business substantially.

In summary

  • Work in digital / tech based businesses
  • Be able to grow businesses
  • Own multiple businesses

How do I get there?

To me, the key thing linking all of these goals is my ability to drive revenue and grow businesses. Really, digital growth marketing.

This means I can drive revenue to my own businesses. It’s one skillset that allows me to contribute meaningfully on the business side that I haven’t developed yet.

For me, this means that I have to develop this skillset.

Does this business align with those goals?

Cromble is a logistics and R&D heavy business. It’s in the business of moving grain and processing grain.

The next steps in Cromble involve taking funding and investing heavily in those areas. It means lab work, trucks, and drying equipment.

I felt that while this was an exciting opportunity, when measured against what I want to do and how I need to get there, this was not the right business to get me there.

Moving Forward

I’ve chosen not to continue with Cromble, and I sincerely wish the best of luck for my 4 co-founders who have chosen to continue working on this business.

Moving forward, I am looking to sharpen my digital marketing toolkit at a technology company! Looking to work with some great people 🙂

Confidence in Entrepreneurship

Having gone through the QICSI 2019 program this summer, I’ve had the unique opportunity to start a business. While I’ve chosen not to continue with this business moving forward, the experience has left me with many critical learnings and takeaways.

The most important thing I’ve learned has been to have confidence in myself and my capabilities.

Midway through the program, I realized that I had been setting a lot of mental barriers for myself when it came to having a business. I would tell myself that I needed more money, that I didn’t know enough, or that it wasn’t the right time for me to start a business.

Something that this summer program has taught me is that when you really dig into those barriers, they either don’t exist or can be easily overcome.

Don’t have the money? Do a couple of things. Figure out how you can start your business using… less money. Find a way to pre-sell products to add value (checkout Airbnb and Away Luggage strategies). Look for grants and research programs such as SREDS and pitch competitions.

Don’t know enough? No one does. One of the most important things is to have faith in your ability to learn things quickly. My business involved working with craft breweries and spent grain. I knew nothing about either. I quickly got up to speed reading articles and research.

Other ways that I found could quickly accelerate my learning were making sure I had a multi-disciplinary team that complemented my own skills, making sure to ask questions frequently and early, and making sure to… talk to people. It’s impossible to build a business in a silo. You can learn exponentially quicker by finding the right mentors or customers to talk to. There’s a lot of information that is not easy to Google, and the only way to unlock it is to talk to people.

Not the right time to start a business? It will never be the perfect time. It’s easy for us to make excuses, whether they are financial or otherwise. My perspective is that you really set the criteria for yourself on when the right time is. I would make the argument that as a student, it will likely never be easier than now.

Getting even older comes with even more obligations. You have the typical ideas of having a mortgage and kids. Other concerns that I’ve thought about are golden handcuffs and inertia from a cushy career. Why delay?

Grateful for the Opportunity

I had so many reservations about taking an opportunity like QICSI, where I had to work for myself. I don’t have any brand name on my resume. I got paid less than I would have in Toronto. I missed out on friends for an entire summer.

But I have no regrets.

Moving forward, I have confidence in my ability to start a business. To me, that is priceless.

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