The Early Years…
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid. In my family, you could have anything you wanted - as long as you were resourceful enough to earn the money to buy it.
As a result, I've learned to be creative when it comes to developing multiple streams of income.
Whether scavenging returnable glass bottles, selling fireworks, or waiting tables, I’ve always enjoyed finding novel and effective ways to earn money.
While most eight-year-olds were out riding their bikes, I was selling eggs door-to-door out of a wagon I pulled behind my Huffy. When I turned nine, I drove tractors and fed cows on a farm. At twelve set my sights on mowing as many lawns in my neighborhood as possible, so I could make enough money to buy a riding mower when I was thirteen and mow even more.
In high school, I joined the family business: Smith Painting and Drywall - a company my father started and ran successfully for more than 50 years. It was there I learned what it meant to work hard, be responsible, and understand what it really took to be an entrepreneur day in and day out.
What College Taught Me About Business and Vice Versa…
I started college at Southeast Missouri State but quit after one semester and went to work for a moving company. I traveled the country, sleeping in the back of an 18-wheeler in parking lots. Hard work. Good money. It was a blast.
After a moving year, I reconnected with my two best friends. We rented an apartment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and enrolled at The University of Alabama.
Amid a profitable bartending gig off campus, I helped a college buddy print sorority t-shirts in 1995. Between design and silks-screen, we’d talk about what Peter Granoff was planning at Virtual Vineyards and Jason and Matthew Olim were doing out of their garage at CDNow.
It was then I recognized the importance of e-commerce and power of digital marketing. That’s what made TshirtNow.com and GearPro.com realities.
As founders we rolled our own e-commerce software in Perl and HTML running on Unix and BSD Apache. We took photos of friends modeling our shirts and scanned wholesale catalogs in a friend’s garage - editing and uploading into the wee hours of the morning on a 28.9Kbps modem.
When we weren’t adding new products to the site, we were waging guerrilla digital marketing warfare; sending out emails one at a time offering free t-shirts and water bottles in exchange for links and banner ads. Soon, thousands of people were shopping daily on our sites. We were even invited to speak at the Venture Capital Forum at MIT on the topics of e-commerce and digital marketing.
Going Corporate Minus the Suit and Tie…
Two rounds of raised equity at GearPro and one dot-com bubble burst, convinced me to sell my GearPro equity, and accept the invitation from HealthStream’s founder to join his team.
Over the next ten years, I learned product management, team building, and the importance of people and process at HealthStream, SmithReed Capital, and Kroll.
These lessons I brought to cloud host Linode, where over the next decade I served on the executive team and helped build and execute the company’s growth plan. We were successful in growing the business from 18 million to 100 million in revenue while being a small part of the open source community and helping make technology more accessible to entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world.
Today I’m focused on helping companies realize their potential by unlocking new growth opportunities. Through market and competitive research, strategic product and sales planning, and implementation, I help small and medium-sized businesses carry out strategies that accelerate profitable growth. Contact me here or on Twitter or LinkedIn.