Jose M Azares: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder
Do things you enjoy and believe in.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jose M. Azares.
Jose M. Azares is a creative, resilient, and resourceful founder with a demonstrated history of creating quirky brands and innovative products in startups.
As an entrepreneur, he founded RE:GRUB, a boutique burger chain on a mission to create innovative and creative food products in an equal and diverse workplace. This experience helped him realize that today’s training content has been dull, sterile, and non-evolving — and employee retention and engagement levels have been suffering due to it, leading to high turnover costs, poor service and quality products, and negative company cultures.
His prior experience led him to found NIDUM, an Immersive Tech Startup on a quest to create a Drag N’ Drop Training and Data-Driven Predictive Hiring Platform using immersive tech and microlearning methodologies that align with this new evolving world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
One word, my word, W(A)ONDERING.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
As an entrepreneur, you will face many challenges. Still, the personal ones are the hardest ones to overcome because those touch your deepest insecurities and traumas.
I realized these challenges are directly related to your background, mainly ethnically and mental state. In my case, my inner social/ family circle’s acceptance of becoming an entrepreneur connected the most challenging times. It was inconceivable for them to understand why I was ready to move on from a comfortable, growing, and exciting corporate career path. In my ethnic circles, a synonym of “creativity” is not precisely entrepreneurship. People around me believed Entrepreneurs were just money-making people and opportunity seekers. We rarely see them as innovative and disrupters.
Back in the days when I grew up, society didn’t digest innovation and disruption as a way of thinking. It’s understandable that in developing countries, these 2 traits do not equal survival; therefore, the lack of understanding and encouragement for creatives, including entrepreneurs.
Having to deal with that hurtful skepticism and lack of trust from my inner circle has been the hardest for me as an entrepreneur. To date, I still deal with this.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I wish I knew, it’s an internal drive that I have. But that drive has ben evolving as I evolve as a person:
- It started by knowing my family risked so much by emigrating twice, first to Venezuela and then to Canada. So, in my mind, I could only wonder why I wouldn’t risk it?
- Then, my drive evolves by w(a)ondering worldwide and realizing how big it is.
- Subsequently, my drive became more humane as my kid (diagnosed with down syndrome) was born, but also because I saw so much unfairness and inequality in this world.
- And now, it’s just love for myself.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are tough, the toughest I have encountered so far.
I moved on from GRIT and RESILIENCE. Although I believe those are great attributes for entrepreneurs, they can also be rabbit holes if you don’t know the reason for your entrepreneurial journey. Having GRIT and RESILIENCE without understanding them can lead you to societal success and failures, which could mean nothing to your personal journey. Still, the successes and failures others want for you.
I believe W(A)ONDERING and VULNERABILITY are more potent as they get you closer to the genuine product you want to create — YOU.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Nothing comes to mind. I only remember that I made a typo mistake on my business card, and I didn’t want to redo the cards because it would cost me so much. However, every time I handed one out, I was ashamed and super paranoid that people would think badly of me. But honestly, only two people noticed out of the 1000 business cards I gave. One person sent me a severe email about it, hahaha. My lesson was that sometimes you think something is so significant because you personalize it. Still, it’s not such a big deal.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Great Product + Committed Team + Genuine Branding
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Work with people you respect and enjoy.
- Be honest but respectful about your opinion and feelings.
- Do things you enjoy and believe in.
- Take time for yourself to do the things you want (i.e., GYM, Meditate, Coffee, Run) even if you’re going to do it during working hours.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful for all the people I’ve met along. They’ve somehow helped me get to where I am right now. I know this will sound selfish and maybe not what an entrepreneur wants to say, but I am grateful. As a solo founder, I had to rely on myself to move forward, bounce back from failures, to cherish myself. I was always there unconditionally to help myself.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve learned how to leverage business into impact. I used to think entrepreneurship was just about money. Still, after a couple of personal and professional experiences, I learned that money is just a byproduct of creating a business. Every time I start a business, I use brand messaging and internal human resources to help vulnerable communities with jobs.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone had told me that having a significant and trustworthy number two could’ve made the whole experience different. I’ve always been a solo founder, and although it has given me the freedom I wanted, it has also handcuffed me. I wish someone had told me not to start this process unless I had an influential and trustworthy number two who would want to make this journey with me.
- I wish someone had told me this lifestyle had no way back. Committing years to this lifestyle would mean you would have no way back to corporate. This means that if you needed to go back for some reason, maybe cash flow after a failed venture, it would be complicated to go back, which in a way, is a blessing.
- I wish someone had told me I would lose all my savings and wealth, meaning I would be cash flow poor. Before doing this, I was in such significant financial positions. I had saved a lot of money in my corporate job. Still, after venturing out, I’ve lost all of it, not because I wasted it, but because you don’t care about savings anymore, you want to keep trying new things.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
What I Can share about riding the highs and lows of being a founder is the following: It’s about understanding what it means to you. That’s how you are going to enjoy the rollercoaster:
(1) Being a founder can mean many different things depending on who you genuinely are. The media only shows the sexy and cool part of it. Still, it’s you experiencing your real meaning from it — the growth, challenges, and frustration phases of being one. Being a founder can mean being a CEO, creative director, salesperson, and many more. But it’s up to you to understand, know, and accept which one you are and find help on the ones you are not. Don’t fall into the trap of hustling for the sake of hustling without enjoying or believing in what you are doing, so you can prove yourself or tell the world, someone you are not. Being a founder is not something you do. It’s something you are. Find the meaning for you.
(2) Being a founder can benefit your personal growth. So far (😇), being a founder of three startups has peeled individual layers off me, getting me closer to the real, genuine, and authentic me. You can only accept the harshness, let the experiences break you down into pieces, and then get back up with vulnerability. Being a founder for me has not been a professional path but an enlightening personal journey taking me closer to my real calling.
(3) Being a founder has helped me understand failures and successes differently. We are so obsessed with showing our successes nowadays that we forget what success and even failure mean to each of us. Your startup may go belly up and look like you failed. Maybe you did it in front of some people’s eyes. But honestly, what does it matter if success for you meant you supported people in their personal development onto their next steps. On the other hand, your startup might’ve succeeded in front of people’s eyes because it got acquired. But what does it matter if that success meant you cheated your early investors in exchange for a few percentage points in valuation. Being a founder has given me my value of success and failure — which is proprietary.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to use my infrastructure to augment the current work around inclusion, racism, and equality.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!