“Happiness Should Come Before Success” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cosmin Bardan, a 25-year old Romanian entrepreneur. Graduated from Bates College in 2016 and founded GrowModel (eCommerce parent company) in 2017 together with a close childhood friend. Since starting the journey they’ve had over $1 million in sales — 100% online.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
I am not 100% sure how long this answer should be, but I will offer the semi-detailed “backstory”. I was born in a small Romanian city and in a modest, but loving, family. After receiving a very generous financial aid package from Bates College, I graduated in 2016 with a major in economics and four years playing tennis together with some of my best friends.
In June 2016, I taught tennis in The Hamptons one more time (my summer gig since freshman year — I’m very grateful for it) before taking the “socially accepted” path by getting an office job in NYC for MediaRadar. Working for MediaRadar was a great decision and I don’t regret a second of it because it taught me a lot about myself and I met many incredible people.
After 6 months in the office and probably 100 hours of tutorials about eCommerce, my current business partner convinced me to join him on this exciting journey and I took a leap of faith. We hired an online firm to open our LLC, bought our tickets to Valencia, Spain and sourced our first product directly from China (without even touching the final draft).
Now, one year and a half after, we have launched over 10 products, made thousands of customers happy, remotely employed people from 4 different countries and passed the $1 million sales benchmark — let’s not forget that in the same time I was able to travel to 22 new countries, get lost over 100 times, surf in 3 oceans, enjoy 134 sunsets on the beach and learn that everyone (no matter of color, religion, culture or appearance) just wants to be happy and respected.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We treat each of our customers as part of our family and all of their feedback is incorporated into our product development. So… story time? For the first few months, I worked over 12 hours per day because everything was so exciting and new, but at the same time, I was taking care of customer service. I’ve never thought that answering emails would take so long until I found myself having an email conversation with the nicest customer for over 2 hours (she was the second person who bought one of our products — EVER). She shared her life story and I shared mine. She shared her future goals and I followed with mine. I still remember that day perfectly because I kept telling myself “this is why I wanted to be an entrepreneur, everything is in my power now and I can choose if I want to make a difference or just be another company who throws random products in the market”. Teresa ended up making a few tutorial videos for us and one of them was a huge success for us on YouTube. This experience taught me that each small positive word, thought or action adds ups and someone, somewhere keeps track of them.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I am very happy to say yes because it’s a very meaningful project for me. I am currently building a platform where young people who want to travel and work remotely can find valuable opportunities, information, and mentorship for their life journey. I want to show the young world that having an office job that you hate isn’t your only option in our days and anyone can travel while working remotely. You don’t need to be super smart, have money or be crazy, you just need ambition and desire to design the life you want.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Yes, I have a few but I will mention just the first one. It’s called the “Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace Wattles (written in 1910 — before “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and “The Secret”) and my business partner recommended it to me before we signed the partnership. The title doesn’t convey the true principles of the book because it’s not just about the “material rich” but about a flawless balance between mind, body, and soul. Walter studied the works about prosperity of the most popular philosophers and wrote a 70-page summary of their main concepts, lesson, life principles and ways of thinking. The lesson that stays in my mind all the time is that being a creator helps all of society because you add something new to the world, but when one competitor goes the ladder, another must go down. Also, we never have to rush or worry about getting what we want because the supply is limitless and if we truly work for it and deserve it, we will receive it. I can talk for hours about this book considering that I’ve listened to it over 20 times — if anyone wants to share their opinions with me, I’m more than glad to listen.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1 - We all have our own version of success, we just need to search for it.
All I wanted in my first few years of college was to become an investment banker just because my friends wanted that and the view from outside seemed perfect. My business partner worked as one for a few years and hearing the full story from an insider’s perspective, made me change my mind. I’m not saying no one should do it, I have many friends who are extremely happy with their banking jobs, but the lesson would for each of us to undergo our own search for passion and don’t be afraid of trying new things.
2 - The law of attraction doesn’t work without ACTIONS.
If you consider yourself smart but you never act on your ideas, dreams or desires, you will be just the girl or guy who had “great potential”. I think Jeff Bezos said that the velocity of your actions is much more important than the quality of your ideas. I am still working on this aspect because I often talk about doing all these interesting, cool or profitable projects but I get distracted by the end of the day and they just get lost in the common consciousness.
3 - Being mentally strong is a must in entrepreneurship.
After I invested everything I owned in this business, I realized this is going to be a 24/7 mental job. When I had an office job and the weekend came, I didn’t really think about my job, the company or what’s going to happen next week. Now, I must be mentally prepared every day to solve any problem because my future depends on it. Also, I learned to stop complaining and thinking about problems that I cannot control and focusing on the actions I can take to solve them.
4 - Happiness should come before success.
Many people (including me) say “I will be happy when …” but this chase never ends, most of the time. Thanks to a great TED Talk and experiencing this on my own, I am starting to understand that being happy within yourself in the first place greatly increases your chances of becoming successful and achieving your goals.
5 - I chase my fears and don’t avoid them anymore.
This journey has taught me that without facing my fears and being uncomfortable, we cannot progress and achieve what we truly want. Everyone has fears, everyone has insecurities, but just a few will break them down and overcome. I believe “fear chasing” is like a muscle, after you destroy a few of your fears, the next ones will seem like a challenge and you will crave the afterward adrenaline kick (plus the inner voice which says “YOU DID IT AGAIN”).
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Hmm, that’s the toughest question so far. I will probably choose Tony Robbins because of his personal interest in NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming), his impact on the world and his investment choices. I just feel like we have the same life principles and his knowledge and ideas influence the world in a positive way. See you soon, Tony!
— Published on June 27, 2018