For two years now, I’ve run two companies and aged about 25 years. Just kidding about that last part. …
I can’t say I ever thought I’d actually invest in, operate and run two companies simultaneously, but that’s exactly what I’m doing with Verde Brand Communications and The Intrepid Entreprneuer. Sure, sometimes it’s a little hair on fire. But I have to admit that being right where I am with both companies is keeping me out of my comfort zone – which is the key to success as a founder.
As members of my community for entrepreneurs in the outdoor active lifestyle markets, I thought you might be curious to know what the dual-entrepreneur existence has taught me and brought to my career. That’s today’s blog.
Looking back two years ago, I had a cr*p ton going on. There’s just no way to spin or sugar coat it. For those of you in my inner circle, you know that’s not super unusual for me. … As my friend Steve Casimiro likes to say: “KCO, that’s just how you roll!”
But April 2014, the heap of cr*p I was managing was exponential.
At that time, Verde was in scale mode and growing at a good clip. I was in my very first season of racing road bikes (long story); raising a family with my husband, and in a year-long business consulting and coaching certification program. Part of that program required me to launch another company.
W T F. ….. !
At the time of its launch, my second company was just that – a second company. It was called LivingUber. Now, it’s called The Intrepid Entrepreneur and it’s a company in its very own right. I’ll get more into Intrepid in a little bit, but
I’ll get more into Intrepid in a little bit, but first I’ll explain my reasoning for signing up for 12-months of school while I was already pretty busy.
Here’s why I chose to do it: I knew that my favorite aspect of my role at Verde as the founder and CEO was working with creative innovators within the brands Verde serves. Offering counsel and strategy often doubles as corporate coaching. I like it, I’m good at it, and in the past 14+ years, I’ve gained a LOT of experience with it.
As a former journalist, there’s always my propensity to love accreditations!
The program had a few other pretty cool areas of focus and learning too.
It required that I set up a brand new company, including fully-functional web presence and packaged and priced service offerings. It also immersed me in a buffed out direct-to-consumer, digital marketing intensive learning program. I can distinctly remember reassuring myself on this part of the curriculum.
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be good here – I’m a card-carrying brand communications professional after all!”
I realized pretty quick that what I was learning in that program was quite different from the brand-focused communications I’d been doing at Verde. That made it a shiny new object!
One thing you should know about me: I eat business books like their tortilla chips. I consume any and all content that teaches me how to learn and implement new skills and approaches in my companies and for my clients.
The very second I realized that there was an entire alternative Universe comprising a different skill set to use in marketing, I dove in head first, trying out everything I could.
It wasn’t long that the “setting up of a new company” for my program morphed into actually launching it in real life. I launched Intrepid with the focus of building a platform and community of support for entrepreneurs in the outdoor active lifestyle markets.
I built what I wished I had access to as a founder.
(PS – That’s very similar to parts of Verde’s Founding Story; the kind of brand communications I wanted as a journalist was simply not in existence – so I built it.)
It also wasn’t long before I started to cross train my newly-learned skills straight into Verde. My employees looked at me like I had a horn growing out of my head (I like to think I do sometimes). I started to scheme about launching online courses, a podcast and became obsessive about building email lists.
“Cleary, she’s lost it,” I’m sure they were saying to each other. It wasn’t the first time.
As I was going through the program and building my new company, steering Verde and living life, a colossal shift started to become eminently visible in the active outdoor lifestyle markets.
Just like in music and movies (iTunes, Netflix), the active outdoor lifestyle markets were seeing clear signs that the consumer points of entry for our brands (specialty retail, online retail, big-box retail) were evolving.
Verde, once again, had to shift (okay, drop the clutch) to get ahead of yet another big-a** round of changes in consumer researching and buying habits.
My new digital-direct marketing skills? Suddenly, they were more relevant than I ever imagined they could be.
And meanwhile, I continued slowly building out Intrepid. I became reacquainted with just how tough it is to launch, to build a following and to show up authentically when you’re kind of, well, tired.
I’m in the trenches just like you are as I’m building Intrepid.
One of the coolest aspects of being in the trenches again? I developed a brand-new lens through which I saw strategy for growth among Verde’s clients. Everything I brainstormed for them was strongly entrepreneurial.
Every single business and brand benefits from acting entrepreneurial.
When a business matures, it can focus too much on margins and profits. In doing so, it can wander too far away from the passion that underpinned why it was launched in the first place. This is a very important point of differentiation for a brand and company can have especially during an era when our target consumers are being hammered by messaging, ads, and campaigns from all sides.
Our founding stories, our entrepreneurial heritage, are what make us stand out to our target consumers. That disruptive part of us is precious – it keeps us hungry and scrappy. It’s the very basis of the emotional connection we’re able to have with our target customers.
As I look back on April, 2014 now, I realize that becoming an entrepreneur all over again was far from a ridiculous idea.
It was all about me committing to staying the he*l out of my comfort zone.
The comfort zone is the danger zone for entrepreneurs.
Full disclosure? I really didn’t have a clue where I was going with it all two years ago this month – I just followed my gut. But as I look back now, the entire year of 2014 was three parts curiosity, discovery and confusion, with the twist I always bring: IRON WILL.
That mix? It’s the same thing all of us live through when we’re launching. Even the great explorers, adventurers and pioneers who send first ascents and bomb down first descents on snow and on water live it.
As founders in the outdoor, bike, snowsports, endurance and travel markets – being on lead is hard-wired into who we are.
Entrepreneurs in these markets are the epitome of passion driven. That line between what we love about our outdoor pursuit and what we love about furthering our own companies is sometimes indistinguishable.
How about you? What is it about your love for the outdoors that powers your innovation and drive as an entrepreneur? I would LOVE to hear from you on this. It’s what connects us in this community….
Until next time, GO BIG!