“Focus On The ONE Thing” 5 Startup Tips with Kevin Stimpson of Strive & Grind
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Stimpson. Kevin is an entrepreneur, sought after international speaker, and branding expert. He’s the CEO of Strive & Grind, an international branding and creative boutique that helps entrepreneurs and service based businesses create memorable, disruptive, and badass premium brands. Due to his limitless energy and branding expertise, you can find him frequently speaking on big stages or at exclusive masterminds amongst today’s top thought leaders and influencers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Virginia Beach, VA. I later went to college at Old Dominion University where I earned two Bachelors of Science in Business Administration degrees in 2012: One in Management, the other in Information Systems and Technology. My dream at the time was to become the CIO of a Fortune 500 company. After landing a high-paying job as a Management Trainee at a Fortune 200 science company fresh out of college, I quickly learned Corporate America wasn’t for me. I became obsessed with entrepreneurship, and the thought of owning my own business.
In 2015, my wife and I moved to San Diego to surround ourselves with millennial entrepreneurs who all had fun lives and crushed it in their businesses. Shortly after moving to San Diego, I went to my first entrepreneur conference, hired a business coach, and started my branding agency, Strive & Grind, with my wife Devona. We both quit our day jobs in March 2016 and have been creating memorable, disruptive, and badass brands ever since.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was bootstrapping Strive & Grind while still at the day job. So, my wife and I would post on social media often what we were up to behind the scenes and the results we were getting for our clients. Well one day back in early 2016, I received an Instagram notification where I learned someone had created a fake Instagram account just to troll my wife and I. The funny thing is we quit our day jobs within a month of that person posting that stuff about us, and we did 6 figures in sales our first yearr. The person was salty that we actually made our dream come true. There’s a saying I like to use, “If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing it right.” I believe the haters start to come as a result of you stepping into success.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re currently the only international branding and creative boutique that helps entrepreneurs create premium brands through ONE badass offering. This offering is what we call our Brand Slam. It’s our signature 7 step process that allows us to create and launch a premium brand in 45 business days. We realized that a lot of creative agencies offered a ton of different one-off services. In the beginning, we did the same, but realized if someone asked for a logo, we’d create a dope logo but the rest of their brand looked like crap. If someone wanted a website, their logo and photos were usually crap. And most of the time companies never had any brand strategy, which is key to a successful business. So we had to step back and figure out how we can really serve out clients in the best way possible, and that’s how the Brand Slam was born.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I would suggest to put your team members first. Many CEOs and founders expect their employees to just do a job. Just doing a job is boring. There’s nothing fun, exciting, or attention grabbing about doing just a job. When you guide your team from just doing a job to “impacting” others (your clients or customers), that’s where the magic happens. Each of your employee’s contributions to your company should tie back to a WIN for you customer or client. So for example, we know our designers can get really excited about creating logos, websites, and other collateral design because they know the impact their work is making for our clients. Our designers know that our clients are going to attract more of the right clientele because of their work. Our clients are going to be able to charge more money for their services because of our designer’s work and so forth. So, when you make your client’s success about of your team’s success, you have a dream team. Also, pay your team well! They will be extremely thankful and grateful that you value them.
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?
My wife, Devona. I can’t begin to tell you how much of an impact my wife has had on my success thus far. Devona sacrificed years of what she wanted to do to help me reach my ambitious dreams and goals. Without her, Strive & Grind wouldn’t be where it is today. Our processes, systems, project management, aesthetic, and vibe and feel, all came from her inner genius. I make sure to express my gratitude to her every single day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe in helping others and giving back. I also believe in mentorship. There’s been many of times while on my entrepreneurial journey that someone has taken the time to show me the ropes and shorten my learning curve. So, because of that I like to pay it forward by mentoring someone every now and then.
For example, I’m currently mentoring a 16 year old. His name is Easton Allred. At the time I met Easton, he was a 14 year old college student, attending an entrepreneurial conference. Hands down he was the youngest person in the room. In order to grab my attention, he cracked a joke as I walked by just so I’d start a conversation with him. I was impressed, and from that conversation I learned he had a podcast. I thought to myself, this kid is going places. I’ve been mentoring Easton ever since. Today, Easton is a published author, speaker, nationally ranked runner, and owner of a motivational and education youtube channel! I feel so good knowing my time with Easton is changing his positively changing his life, while he’s changing the lives of other kids.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Focus on the ONE thing
When your vision is so big, sometimes you think it’s a smart idea to try to do everything at once. There are many different business facets you could be focusing on right now…from marketing and sales to operations and R&D. Instead of doubling down on everything at once, prioritize your initiatives and dedicate 90 day timelines to execute. If you don’t focus on the one thing, there could be a good chance that nothing ends up getting done.
Use Leverage to go further faster
To reach the level of influence, credibility, and impact I want for both my personal brand and company, I realized that leverage was the way to creating WIN/WINS. For example, I’m currently leveraging my branding services to partner with individuals and companies that can take my social media and paid reach to new heights. So, instead of paying them to do it for me, I’m just bartering my services for their services and we both win.
Know your numbers
Numbers help you measure how well your company is doing in certain areas of your business, and from there you can create a plan to improve those numbers. I’m sure you’ve seen how important this concept is on entrepreneurial shows like The Profit or Shark Tank.
Focus on Profit Producing Activities
Your company will not grow if you’re the one doing everything. It’s the CEO’s job to delegate tasks that’s not putting money in the bank, and commit do the activities that turn into revenue.
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in the cycle of setting goals, hitting goals, and repeating without taking a second to celebrate your wins. I learned early on that I get burned out when I don’t reward myself or celebrate for a job well-done.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
My favorite life lesson quote is very simple. It’s “If someone else can do it, why can’t you?”
I take that quote very seriously. I believe that because we are all humans, and all have the same 24 hours in a day, we should be able to reach any amount of success we put our minds to. I like to use this way of thinking in all aspects of life (health, wealth, marriage, relationships, business, etc.)
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 just see this :-)
I’d love to personally have a sit down with Daymond John. I believe we both have a lot in common, and I’d love to have a conversation with Daymond to see how we could team up to educate, motivate, and inspire other African Americans to start, grow, and scale their own businesses. In my everyday life, I don’t personally see African Americans that represent the entrepreneurial, founder, or business community.