From passion to profit in 18 months

How I turned my passion project into a full time job.

I write this article as a man completely devoid of insecurity, and filled with complete joy. Saying these words is a first for me, and it’s all because of the journey I’ve taken in the last 18 months of my life. Through all of this, I have turned my passion project into an extremely lucrative full time job.

This 18 month process can be broken down into three chapters:

  1. Giveaway — 0-12 months
  2. Breakeven — 12–18 months
  3. Moneymaker — 18 months until now

My Giveaway chapter began in July of 2015. I had just returned home to New York City after producing a play in Italy. Upon my return home, I found myself lonely, disconnected, and experimenting with food in my kitchen. I accidentally created a pasta sauce recipe and on July 15th, 2015, invited 15 of my friends over for dinner and fed them my sauce.

6:30 pm cocktails began, 8 pm dinner was served, but at 7:47 pm we delegated 11 specific tasks empowering our attendees to work together to create the meal. They liked the sauce and the shared activities, so I did the dinner the next week.

I haven’t stopped since.

By the end of my first year, July 15th of 2016, I had hosted 54 dinners, feeding 808 people for free inside my home. I saw these free dinners as a way of connecting my friends, awakening empathy, and slowly building social capital. However, through the process of hosting them I ended up actually curing myself, realizing that the “opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection.”

I realized what this world was missing most was maternal energy and empathy; two things we were awakening around my dinner table on a weekly basis.

After we (the dinners) reached the one-year anniversary, I realized that we may have been on to something. I knew the only way it was going to work was by turning it (the movement) into a company and accepting a little bit of money for my services, just enough to get by. From the 12-month mark to the 18-month mark, began the Breakeven chapter. I found some sponsors, hosted a few events, and paid the bills…barely.

Let me state it clearly, it wasn’t easy.

While the company was making just enough money to get by, I was in a constant state of struggle. I would ask myself the same questions:

  1. “Does anybody actually like what we’re doing enough to pay the big bucks?”
  2. “Will I ever meet enough people to sustain over time?”
  3. “Am I losing friends because I declined their offer to help?”
  4. “How many different ways can I cook rice and beans?”

My girlfriend, family, and friends had invested so much time and effort into my success but what was it actually leading to?

On January 13th, 2017, I hit a very low point. I hadn’t secured the big partnerships I had wanted and the debt was starting to reach capacity. I called up one of my lifelong best friends in California and informed him I was unable to make his wedding in the summer; I could not afford it.

I hit an all-time low. I didn’t even recognize my voice when it came out of my mouth.

How could this be, I had hosted 81 dinners, serving over 2,000 people, many of them quitting their jobs to pursue a life of passion and profit. When was it going to happen to me?!

Alas, two days later it happened. My Moneymaker chapter began.

On my 18 month anniversary, January 15th, 2017, I signed the largest agreement in the history of my 747 Club. One team in Miami took a chance on me and said “let’s see what we can do together”. That signed agreement jump started the momentum into a chapter of success and profitability that I never could have imagined possible.

In the 2 months since our 18 month anniversary, I have landed more clients and made more money than in the previous 5 years combined!

Life is good.

We’ve been able to reinvest our earnings back into the company, pay off our debt, grow our capabilities, and expand our footprint. I’ve been able to invest in personal development programs that my friends have been offering. And furthermore, I get to spoil my girlfriend, no longer do we have to eat rice and beans every night.

Ya’ll, the struggle was real.

Looking back, I’d like to think of our story as the horse before the cart, not the other way around. We spent quality time building our community, collecting data from our attendees, and then eventually introduced our product. Yes, I was trying to rush the process, but that’s just human nature. I’m proud of the promises we kept to not monetize anything for the entire first year.

So many people try to go out and create something without knowing if there is a market ready to purchase. That is capitalism created by ego, not solutions created by demand. So often, we’re consumed with fast growth and immediate gratification. Bill Gates once said, “most people overestimate what one can achieve in a year, underestimate what can be achieved in a decade”.

I think it’s important to appreciate your goals. Make them realistic and quantifiable. At first, they should be easy to achieve so that you can get into the habit of achieving your goals. There will be plenty of time later to progress toward more complex goals.

Make no mistake, be prepared to modify your goals and improvise as we did through failure. My friend, Kristin Kremers, says, “Failure is part of the experience. Embracing and anticipating it will build your resilience over time.” She told me she thinks of goal setting much like match-play in golf. If you’re having a bad day, you know you can start fresh the next and try to win the hole.

I can wait to see what my next 18 months will bring.

I’m going to slow down and appreciate the journey more than I ever have.

Here are a few quotes that help me live the good life:

  1. “Focus equals growth” — Dave and Jess Lindsey
  2. “Good things come to those who wait.”
  3. “Slow and steady wins the race”
  4. “Focus on how you want to feel, rather what you want to achieve”
  5. “From hardship and hard work, creativity grows and flourishes” — Tony Lo Bianco as Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in ‘The Little Flower’.

I hope you all are having a phenomenal day on earth. Remember, it’s your world, go explore. Look around every once in a while, you never know what’ll turn into your next big thing.

With Love and Pasta Sauce,

Chris Schembra

Chief Question Asker, 747 Club

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