No matter what you ever do in life, you will make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll even fail. Fact is, we aren't perfect — we never will be. The beautiful thing is that we can learn from ourselves, and from others.
This is the part where I could post in a motivational quote about getting up every time after fail and continue on and that’s the true success in life. True or not, that’s just way too cliche.
This is my story of my latest failure. I call it a failure, not a lesson. I’m more than okay to fail many times, because I only need to succeed once to “make it”. But really, I learn’t so much! I had some great experiences, met some simply amazing people, but in the end, I still failed at my original vision. Nonetheless, learning by doing is the most valuable of educations.
The First Mistake
To those who are familiar with my recent projects will know only a short 18 months ago I co-founded a new business, along with my partner, Logan Hayman, called Taste Locally. The idea, in essence, was simple: We sell decks of cards to locals and tourists alike with discounts to incredible local businesses without charging these small businesses to be a part of the deck. Pretty neat, hey? It was, but it really didn't solve a problem people had. We got more “That’s so neat”, and “What a cool idea.” more than you could imagine. It simply didn’t solve people’s needs. Unfortunately, we didn’t see this and pursued anyways.
In fact, the first summer we did alright. We managed to stay alive, keep the lights on, food on the table, and phones on. (In full disclosure, I was in high school and lived at home so mine would’ve stayed on regardless — nonetheless, it didn’t affect my hustle.) We got a beautiful deck of cards design for our first launch in November of 2013. The response was mediocre at best. We quickly discovered our 6 month edition wasn’t enough time to get the units out the door before the product was useless. We quickly designed a second version and launched that in the spring.
We started to explore the ideas of school fundraisers. One of our clients suggested to us that we do a presentation to her kids’ elementary school’s PAC (Parent Advisory Council) — She just happened to be the chairwoman. For those unfamiliar with the education system in BC, it’s a group of parents who are responsible for the budget for activities, hot lunches, parties, and managing fundraisers. It was a brilliant suggestion! We jumped right to it. We created a presentation some materials and showed it to her. She was impressed and off to the meeting we went. It went well. it inspired us, breathed fresh life into us.
For the first time ever, I experienced the true effects of the entrepreneur’s rollercoaster.
It makes you want to quit. The lows are tough. But they are there. I wanted to quit many times. I even talked it over sometimes! People process differently — I talk it out to work through things. No matter how close you are to quitting, it’s not over until you throw in the towel. Thankfully I never got there.
The Second Mistake
They signed on for a fundraiser in the spring. We only knew how simple this presentation went. We got a sense realizing we could unload hundreds of decks at a time to schools. My business partner, being the incredible hustler he is, got together a list of all the 35+ schools in the area in which are decks are valid. The spring of 2014 we had 9 schools running fundraisers. Unfortunately, most sold about 5–20 decks. We brainstormed a lot. We figured out the best ways to engage the kids. We considered everything from school assemblies, to classroom-to-classroom with a magician. We were positive it was going to work. This was the second mistake. We made a bet on something we didn’t test — it was just guesses. I believe in making bets. You make you bed and you’ll have to sleep in it. Just make an educated decision. Run some test, ask people, and do what you’re thinking of doing to see if it’s even a good idea.
But we didn’t. In the summer of 2014, we closed a $20,000 seed round to expand into another city on the idea of a business model we thought could work — it didn’t.
We worked our asses off. My business partner drove to Victoria and stayed there a month. He signed up 35+ businesses in about 45 days — the man can hustle. He sent me back the business and I got designs done while working on our website and building the framework for an API to support a mobile app in the future.
Within 3 Months we had our product in hand ready to go. 45 days signup. 20 days in design (demo deck printed and revised), and then about 25 days in production print. This was efficient. We got this system down. This is what we were really good at.
We planned to launch 80+ fundraisers between the two cities. Kelowna had 35 schools and Victoria and area had 50+. Unfortunately, the same week of our launch in our second city, the BC Teachers Federation went of full action strike. We had kept a close eye on this situation since it started by ending the previous year early. Nobody thought it would last for three weeks, but it did. At the point schools re-opened, staff were too concerned about covering courses and catching up for lost time to even consider taking time out of their classroom. It was more valuable than what we had to offer. We had made our bet, and we bet wrong. Sometimes you’re dealt a shitty hand, other times you have to accept you made the wrong decision.
We made the wrong decision.
A Potential Saviour
When you’re in a corner, you can either pout, or fight your way out. We tried to fight. Logan had the idea to contact City Dining Cards, a company with a similar product in the US about aquring us. We noticed they had just closed a $1,000,000 Series A round. We knew they had to be planning to expand into Canada.
He emailed them. Conversed with them. Scheduled a skype meeting with them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in these meetings. Not by my choice. Honestly, I’m not sure how the talks went. The results were bitter sweet though. Logan was offered a job and he took it. When you have bills to pay, and you don’t have another option, you do what you have to do. We were dead in the water.
Even though we initially pushed for an acquisition so we could pay back the large amount of debt we had, but we weren’t, and haven’t been acquired.
Strangely though, this article in the Buffalo Business First says we were acquired by City Dining Cards. As cool as that would’ve been, we weren’t.
We are still located in BC as an small business incorporated under the BC Incorporations Act. We aren’t a subsidiary of City Dining Cards, and we weren’t purchased. A more accurate title is “City Dining Cards finalized the hiring of co-founder and CEO of Taste Locally.” That’s really what happened.
It’s been an interesting journey. The people I have the honour to work with is mind-blowing. The business owners that took a chance on me and Logan are the ones to thank for helping us at least start our path on real entrepreneurship.
To friends and family: thank you for your support.
To random people reading this: you’re pretty rad if you got to this part. I hope my mistakes can help you in the future.
Excited for the next one.