This is the second in a two-part series on how entrepreneurs can gain clarity and push their creativity forward during times of crisis. Read the first post on my story of getting laid off, writing a book and starting my LLC here.
A number of the entrepreneurs that I have worked with or written about started their businesses during a crisis, like I did. Their stories below show how a crisis can create clarity about what’s important to focus on as well as how they focused on opportunity while going through difficult times.
The two founders of Mobelux started their mobile and website development company during the 2008 financial crisis. They envisioned a future where apps would dominate consumers’ media and shopping habits, even though Apple had just launched the iPhone in 2007 and the sentence “There’s an app for that,” was unthinkable. Garrett Ross and Jeff Rock pursued their entrepreneurial dream after hours while working as government contractors by day and starting families at the same time. Mobelux went on to develop a third party app for Tumblr, one of most popular social networks at the time. Tumblr later acquired it and hired Mobelux to develop Android and Blackberry versions of its app as well. This ongoing development work from Tumblr led to projects from iHome and other new clients. This eventually enabled Mobelux to purchase a historic post office building and transform it into its modern headquarters. The company’s impressive evolution is outlined in a blog series, which I helped edit and ghostwrite.
Audio Test Kitchen
After many years working as a record producer and professional audio sales consultant, Alex Oana no longer felt satisfied solving the same set of problems and wanted to make a larger impact. When his father passed away, he realized that life was too short to wait to tackle his mission to “make the world a better sounding place.” He pursued his entrepreneurial dream by launching Audio Test Kitchen, the world’s first online showroom where musicians and recording engineers can compare the sound of pro audio equipment, apples to apples. You could call it a Consumer Reports-type of website for the $17 billion professional audio gear and musical instruments industry. Oana founded his company wielding that double-edged entrepreneurial sword of risk/reward and taking on significant personal debt along the way. (See my story about Oana starting Audio Test Kitchen in St. Olaf Alumni Magazine.) Advising other entrepreneurs, Oana says, “Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it. And the more disruptive the idea is, the more it will feel like you’re rolling the boulder up a hill…until it starts rolling down the other side.”
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
This phrase, credited to the philosopher Plato, illustrates that people often discover solutions under pressure that they wouldn’t have found otherwise. This resourcefulness during a crisis can lead to new technologies, vaccines, pharmaceutical drugs, or even unexpected partnerships.
When I met David Smith, the founder and former CEO of Mediasmith, he recounted how he and his media agency survived the 2001 financial crisis. Client work had fallen off a cliff after the “Dot-Com” bust and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He owed a lot of money to his landlord, so he had two options: bankruptcy or working out a creative arrangement with him. Together, they opted for the latter: His landlord “invested” in his business, allowing him to tear up an expansion lease to take on even more space, which he wouldn’t have been able to pay for otherwise. In exchange, he received a percentage ownership in Mediasmith. It worked out much better financially for David’s company and for his landlord in the long run.
Local and Virtual Communities
During times of crisis, we often turn to our trusted family and friends for support and feedback. One of my important circles includes my fellow authors at Paramount Books, the publisher of my first book.
I recently worked with author, David R. Morse, the CEO and founder of New American Dimensions, a multicultural market research company. As his content and SEO strategist, I helped him launch his author website, DavidMorseAuthor.com, with information about his three books, teaching, speaking, market research work, and blog. Soon after, we redesigned and relaunched NewAmericanDimensions.com to more effectively sell the multicultural market research services that his company offers.
I learned four things from working with David that are relevant during times of reinvention and crisis:
- Be personable and honest: Clients want to hire people they know, like and trust. The sooner you can share your story, the better. Plus, that helps you avoid working with clients when there might not be a good fit culturally or value-wise.
- Make yourself vulnerable: David has numerous articles and case studies published on prestigious websites like HuffPost. I asked him which article yielded the most traffic/interest in his work. Surprisingly, an article called “After Being With My Partner For 28 Years, I’m Getting Married In The Morning” published on HuffPost and re-published on LinkedIn, hands down delivered the most responses. It was a very personal story that talked about how he married his long-term, same-sex partner, Jimmy. Readers were very supportive.
- Collaborate with others to get an outside perspective: Oftentimes, it’s difficult to see our own strengths (and weaknesses) or how to “pitch” what we do. I worked with David’s web developer to aggregate all of his content (text, photos and videos) as well as his many press mentions. We then packaged everything and told David’s story in a way that inspired confidence. Similarly, I have asked trusted colleagues for help when I was putting my website together.
- LISTEN: The best gift we can give our friends, family, colleagues and clients is to truly listen to them and be there for them, allowing space in the conversation for them to express where they are at.
Can I help you craft your story for your website, LinkedIn profile or blog series? Drop me a line and let’s schedule some time to chat. I would love to hear your story and discuss how to refine your biography. I will help for free the first five people who contact me who have lost their job recently due to the Coronavirus crisis. Stay healthy, and as my grandfather used to say, “Keep the faith!”