Every entrepreneur starts their business for a different reason. Some get laid off or want to use their skills outside of the corporate world. Others become entrepreneurs in the basement of their parent’s home on accident. Case in point: Shawn Nelson.
Remember beanbag chairs in the ’90s? And the mess they made if they got too worn out? Nelson wanted to make something better. In his parent’s basement he made his own kind of beanbag chair: a HUGE one that all of his friends could sit on together. He bought tan and black fabric, found his mom’s camping mattresses and chopped them up with a paper cutter, then used his terrible sewing skills to put it all together. He took this prototype, named “The Sac,” everywhere — to the beach, the drive-in, you name it. One of his neighbors asked for one. Then his friends wanted their own. And so in 1998, Lovesac began.
While in college, Nelson spent the mornings studying Mandarin Chinese and business, the afternoon creating Lovesacs and the evenings waiting tables. He got two of his college buddies to help him, and they did — for two years without pay. They changed up the pattern, used different kinds of fabrics, got a local furniture company to give them foam to cut up and kept sewing them by hand.
The company was a hobby, not a real business and he knew something had to change. After investing $10,000 Nelson decided to hit a tradeshow with his wares only to find everyone loved the product but no one wanted to buy. That was until the rep for retail store The Limited Too came by. The company ordered 12,000 Lovesacs at $22 a piece but specifically wanted blue and purple fuzzy fabric. He knew they had to make it happen, come hell or high water. With the biggest fabric show in the U.S. being organized the following week, he went in search of 30,000 yards of fabric. He found what he needed but it would cost more than they were making on the order. He saw a tag on the fabric and found the factory was in China. With his Chinese fluency, Nelson was able to listen in on their side conversations and found the factory could match his price for the fabric and off he went to fill the order. They did $120,000 in sales in the first six weeks.
Needless to say, Nelson has true grit as an entrepreneur and he’s proven his will to survive every step of the way, no matter how crazy the process.
Here are some things he learned along the way:
Get off the couch and do something.
Lots of entrepreneurs have great ideas but those ideas never get off the couch. Think about what you can do right now that will take your idea one step further than just being an idea. It doesn’t matter how small of a step it is, at least you won’t be sitting on it.
Follow your instincts until something breaks.
It’s the 51 percent rule. You’ve got to look really hard at what you’re doing. Is there a 51 percent chance it’s going to work out? Or are you in the 49 percent realm without passion, the stomach or the self-confidence to do it? If you’re at 51 percent or higher, do it.
Wear the T-shirt.
Be proud of what you’re doing. Get excited and tell everyone what you’re up to. If you can’t wear the t-shirt (or use the product), stop doing it and find something better.
One hand on now, one hand on next.
If you’re busy, you’re not selling. If you’re not selling, you won’t keep growing. Make sure you’re focused on the business while you’re working in the business.
Memory is short.
No one remembers the way things looked when you didn’t know what you were doing. Make a mistake and grow from it. Don’t sit in it and worry or you’ll stop building.
Don’t let perfection get in the way.
The best time to plant an oak tree is three years ago. Don’t wait until you have your product perfect, get it out there.
As the Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina, a DC-based brand strategy company, Melanie Spring built her business with a strong content marketing strategy. With an innate sense for social media, connecting with her customers, and building a culture around Sisarina’s quirky brand, Melanie teaches businesses and non-profits how to rock their brand. She toured the US on the Live Your Brand Tour collecting stories from businesses living their brand, which is now published in Entrepreneur Magazine. Learn more about Melanie & Sisarina HERE.
Image credit: Lovesac | Facebook