I shared a bit in the last post about the early foundations I had while growing up; where God had prepared me for being an entrepreneur. In this post, I will share 7 of the 8 formative experiences that really helped in preparing me well, leaving the last one for another post.
Fast-Pitches during High-School DECA Competition
As a member of my high school’s competitive marketing club, DECA, I participated in many local and national competitions. One time, I was given a set of 5 core competencies to nail in my pitch a few days in advance. About 10 minutes before the pitch to a few judges across the table, I was given the specifics of the situations I was to apply those core competencies to. We called it, “Role-playing”. I learned to think on my feet, make a concise pitch and wow the judges. I placed each year at the state competition in my category.
My First Call-Center Job – Sending 61 teens across the world
Down in Texas, I worked as an “Encouragement rep” and I was responsible for helping about 100 teenagers raise funds to go with our organization on 1- and 2-month long mission trips to Australia and New Zealand. Each teen was raising about $4,000-$5,000 dollars, so I learned all sorts of creative ways to inspire them and help them reach their goal. I learned the basics of making calls, working on a call center team and persevering to hit team-wide goals.
Leading a Platoon during the “Emotionally Stretching Opportunity of a Lifetime”
During the internship in Texas, one of the most transforming events we did was called ESOAL (description above). Mimicking some of the navy seal training, I lasted all 90 hours of the experience and lead my dwindling platoon (some of which were ringing-out) through some very emotionally stretching times. I learned the important lessons of leading by sacrifice, persevering just 5 more minutes, and relying on God’s strength in my weakness.
Public Speaking to 1,000 Students over 30 Presentations on Healthy Relationships
While in college, I worked part-time for an organization that lead trainings for middle and high school students, teaching them about healthy relationships and abstinence. Not only did I get better and better at honing my presentation skills, but I also got better at dealing with hecklers cracking jokes about sex while I presented. I also shared some insightful content about the dangers of pornography – helping young people think through the implications of their addictions.
Building a Company from Nothing & Selling Drop-in Hip Hop Classes to Dorm Students
At the University of Washington Foster School of Business, I participated in a 24-week practicum called “Creating a Company”. I volunteered to serve as Chief Sales Officer on our team of 5, leading our team into the dorms to knock on doors and get students to show up at our hip hop dance classes. Every week, our sage-like professor, a seasoned business advisor, sat like Donald Trump on The Apprentice – grilling each team with hard questions about their business and weekly results. I learned so much from those short weeks – even turned a small profit for the business school from our efforts.
Driving a City Bus Part-Time while Finishing School
The summer before graduating from UW, I picked up a job as a city bus driver for King County Metro (driving routes all over the Seattle area). At the time, I was living in a friends garage for $200/month; waking up at O’dark thirty M-F to drive my 3-hour route before heading in to catch the first class at 10:30am. On Friday of every week, I shared one fun fact about Seattle. Everyone loved “Fun Fact Friday.” I learned the discipline of getting up early, attention to detail, troubleshooting and keeping things fun for riders.
Selling Merchant Services (Credit Card Processing) on 100% Commission
Needing money to supplement my bus-driving income while looking for a “career” job, I took on a 100%-commission, outside-sales job selling credit card processing systems for small businesses. Needless to say, it was a bad experience. The cut-throat industry was brutal. One time my manager (who was in southern California), demanded to speak to the customer I was negotiating with. After about 10 seconds, the customer hung up on him and looked at me saying, “I can’t believe someone as nice and good-hearted as you is working for such an asshole!” Although I had made about 6 sales in two months, the Lord provided the way out with my first real gig.
The last experience I’ll save for the next post: Working at a High Growth Startup