How an Entrepreneur Struggles Through Adversity to Find Meaningful Work
1. When is the first time in your life you realized you were a leader?
The Fall semester of my junior year of college, I hosted an event at Philips Arena with the Chief Marketing Officer, Director of Sales, & Chief Revenue Officer of the Atlanta Hawks to educate students on the sports business industry. I sold 70+ tickets on UGA’s campus and organized event logistics.
During the second panel, Peter Sorckoff, who was responsible for the Atlanta Hawks recent rebrand, said out loud,
“I want everyone sitting down to look at Bryan. He is a leader and made tonight possible for all of you”.
I remember goosebumps trickling down my spine as it was the first time I ever thought about myself in that light. After the event, it was fascinating to watch how my work and vision could transcend beyond myself.
2. Over the past three years, it looks like there are a lot of core threads with your work. Can you tell us a story that best describes how you have fallen upon making meaningful work at the center of what you do?
I believe most people find their work starting from a place of external desires and perks.
How much is the salary?
What is the brand’s reputation?
Will I be able to travel?
Is there free lunch Friday?
For me, after working in the sports industry for 3 years in college, I started asking myself the “hard questions” … I had a job at a premier sports marketing agency post college, looked ten years down my path and realized being a sports exec in the corner office wouldn’t be fulfilling.
Between the summer of my junior and senior year of college, I read the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It was about doing work from the inside out starting with your core values. It was transformative in how I approached opportunities because I made decisions based on what aligned with who I was as a person versus climbing up the wrong ladder of success.
3. Can you describe what you do today?
My work revolves around creating opportunities that empower others to discover and express who they are. My first attempt was through my startup Wish Dish, a mission built on creating meaningful relationships through shared expression.
While diving head first into my startup, I became obsessed with building a global community, which led me to running the community for Kairos, an investment fund for the brightest young entrepreneurs tackling the world’s greatest challenges.
After working with a team to build a scalable grassroots community in 40+ countries, I fell upon running the book launch for Allen Gannett, author of The Creative Curve which gave me another opportunity to use someone else’s platform to help inspire people to go after their dreams.
I evaluate my work by the mission first, and if I do my job well, how many lives I can change.
What’s the ripple effect of bringing certain missions to the forefront?
I’ve packaged my skills together helping authors launch their books, entrepreneurs build personal brands, and brands build grassroots communities.
4. What is a time in your life when you felt scared and very outside your comfort zone?
I’ll never forget after I graduated college when my parents left town and my college buddies packed their bags to go home. I stayed back in Athens, GA and spent my first weekend out of college taking a course online on how to build a business roadmap. I thought to myself “I picked this lone wolf path and have no choice but to figure it out.”
Inside, I was terrified.
When many of my friends were traveling the world during the summer, I was trying to figure out how to build a community of storytellers for my startup without a full plan to make money. It was a very self conscious time because I had no idea how I was going to make it work. I had to fight conformity, judgement, and more.
Reflecting, these two years I spent in Georgia post-graduation were some of the most transformative of my life. Today, it almost feels like the playground where I put in the foundation for what is to come. I learned when you make unconventional decisions, they lead you down a path which will eventually become the most rewarding.
5. Talk about a time in which you felt like you hit rock bottom and how did you climb your way back up?
My junior year of college I was trying to take on the world being a full-time student balancing social life, physical activities, and working on multiple side projects. I was spread way too thin and it became a recipe for disaster.
I wasn’t self aware, I became sick once a month, and I burnt out. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a relationship.
From that point forward, I struggled with my personal identity losing sight of who I was and trying to understand what led me to chase after certain professional ambitions.
When most people have their mid-life crisis at 40 years old, I had mine at 20. It was the best thing that ever happened and forced me to learn how to be comfortable alone with myself as I spent the summer in isolation. I was able to discover who I was as a person, seek out therapy, read a lot of books, and think about my life differently than I had before.
I fully believe everyone reaches this “breaking point” and I’d encourage them to walk right through it. It’s messy, hard, and challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s well worth it in the end.
6. What question do people ask you most given the path you have taken?
“How do I go about pursuing my idea?”
The hard part is starting. It’s a journey that’s not a clear path (when many are accustomed to checking boxes — school, robotic jobs). Not only do you have to be creative, but also you have to be strategic, a strong relationship builder, resourceful, a planner, and an executor to get an idea off the ground.
7. Describe what you learned being a leader without a lot of capital?
When I ran my startup Wish Dish after college, I had a very limited amount of funds and not a clear revenue strategy. I had to motivate and inspire people on a mission and who they were serving while bartering my time/skills with others to have help on projects.
I learned how to better understand the people who were helping me and create a lot of value for them through their end goals. Learning to be resourceful became an asset of mine because I couldn’t whip out my paycheck and drop $3k on a project.
8. What question do you struggle with the most?
Giving the same deliberation that I employ professionally into the other areas of my life (personally). Sometimes I’m so tunnel visioned and caught up in what I’m building, I forget everything else around me.
I don’t love this about myself, but sometimes I wonder if it can be just as much of a weakness as it is a strength.
9. What is your #1 piece of advice for people who feel like they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel?
You are not alone and I’ve been there … multiple times.
Most recently, last October I had moved to Washington, D.C. It was the first time I had to “grow up” and take responsibility for my personal life just as much as my professional life. I had two months to figure out where my next paycheck was coming from, I was battling a bad shoulder injury, I was living fully on my own in an apartment, and I was so internally frustrated.
I was questioning if I should have ever moved from Georgia where I was starting to really build a life. When I look back, I had to grow in ways I never had whereas, if I had stayed, I still think I would be a similar person before I left. Today I am so thankful for the positive changes I had to make to survive here.