Day 38: How I came up with the idea and decided to go for it
I’ve always kept a list of ideas for companies I’d want to start. Most of them have something to do with soccer — starting a youth academy, starting/acquiring a club team, or creating a new governing body/world soccer tournament. The question for me was always what is the right idea and when is the right time to go do it? This was my thought process to actually settling on an idea and doing it.
There was only one thing I really knew I needed in any business I was going to start — I had to be passionate about what I was working on (which is probably why all my ideas revolve around soccer). But what always held me back was feeling like I didn’t know how to build a business or even know where to start. I didn’t have the gumption to just try and figure it out at a younger age. As I’ve gained more work experience and been exposed to multiple startup environments in tech, finance, and at agencies, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to build and operate a business, and also that my personality is well suited for it. I’ve also learned that passion for me doesn’t just mean the product I’m working on, but also the entrepreneurial nature of starting and building a business — that’s what I love and that’s what’s become my domain expertise in a way.
Now that I have a clearer sense for how to start and build a company, I needed to actually take the leap and do it on my own, and prove to myself that I can. So in addition to my soccer ideas, I also started thinking about the other elements that were important for me to start a company. They included:
- Solving a problem/market opportunity: I wanted to solve a problem that was personal to me and one that revealed a hole in a large market. I’m 5'7. Premium jeans come in one inseam fitting someone around 6'2/6'3. 96% of U.S. adult males are shorter than that. Hemming has always been a huge pain in the ass for me. No one is making jeans in multiple inseam sizes scaled to fit men of varying heights. The denim market is a $60B market. That’s a big hole.
- Something I can get off the ground quickly and scale, and something I am in total control of: what I mean by being in control is not having a business that relies on partners to build my product, but rather a product that I am building and have total control over. Obviously every business needs some form of partnerships or clients to grow, but that’s the only way I want to depend on them. I can get jeans made in 4 weeks and sell them online without the need to depend on anyone other than my suppliers. I can sell online and grow quickly as needed.
- A co-founder: every startup I’ve worked with has had two or more co-founders. It’s important to have somebody you can work with and share the journey. Knowing myself and personality, I knew I wanted a co-founder. My buddy was wrapping up a previous startup and has many years of retail manufacturing experience. My other buddy has design experience. The timing for both was good.
- A physical product: I’ve always liked the idea of building a physical product. Something tangible that I could touch and see. I like fashion and I love wearing jeans.
Having the criteria for starting a company and then coming up with the idea was only half the battle. Timing was the other half and it’s a trickier one. It never feels like the right time. Opportunity cost always seems too high to leave a job or take the risk to start something. However timing for me had less to do with these things, and more to do with feeling comfortable that I was ready to take the leap. I’m not sure if you ever feel quite ready that you know enough, but for me it was becoming increasingly clear that I did feel ready after all my various work experiences. It’s kind of like getting married. After dating around and then meeting that right person, you just know it’s the right time. You gotta take that leap of faith as they say.
In summary, I came up with an idea that I liked, researched it and saw an opportunity, courted a couple buddies with relevant experience as co-founders, and decided I was ready to go for it. Honestly, it all happened pretty quick, though the seeds have been planted for years.
A quick note on professional relationships. I think developing relationships in your career is paramount to success and your ability to start a successful business. The reason I went into the sports industry was because I wanted to develop key relationships in sports, and specifically soccer, that would help me when I decided to start a company in the world of soccer. During the course of my journey in the sports world, however, I realized that even more than soccer what I enjoyed was the early stages of building and growing a company. The relationships I developed over the course of my career will undoubtedly help me in my journey even though it’s in a different industry — they already have. And I will definitely put the sports relationships to good use when I eventually start something in the world or soccer.
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