Started From The Bottom Now We Here
Reflection on where it started
I’ve taken the past few weeks off from writing. I didn’t have much to say! I’ve started collecting a few topics that I wanted to share. As I’ve said in previous articles creating content is hard. It’s a full-time gig. Before, I was holding myself to posting weekly. I don’t like to put hard deadlines on myself, especially for something that is supposed to be a creative outlet. Moving forward, I’m going to post when I have something to post. I don’t think it’s going to be weekly, but you should expect to have an email in your inbox every two weeks.
In a recent Living the Fit Life podcast interview, we spent time reflecting on the previous year. Reflection is something I practice often. Often, I’m reflecting on the last 90 days or the previous year. I started thinking about the revitalization of Projekt19 and thought, it’s been a long time since I entered the “side hustle” game.
I dusted off an old hard drive, started digging through old project work. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of it, and the internet changes so much it’s not easy to see archives of work.
Hustler from day one
Creative hustles have been part of my life ever since I started using a computer. I’m from a small town, so most weekends, you would likely run into the entire graduating class. How can we capture parties? Folks take pictures (yes, physical printed photos), wouldn’t it be cool to have a place to see them on Monday morning. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could go to a site to relive the weekend shenanigans! Hello, Facebook Yes, this was in 1999! These were the early days of the internet, Geocities all the way! It was the first website I built! It was all well before Facebook was a thing. We called it Scholar Parish. We kept it secret due to the activities captured by high schoolers. As you can imagine, this was a hit we had a designer, developer, writer, and marketer—quite the full-fledged team for many high-schoolers.
Headed to the big city
My creative muscles were starting to grow! Being introduced to early technology in high school was a tease. Attending post-secondary education for Multimedia Design was where I began thriving. Having the ability to learn and try out all aspects of design was exciting. I had a teacher tell me - my work should be on MTV. It reflected a specific trendy grunge style. Music has always been a massive part of my life. I was fortunate enough to meet a “punk-merch” guy that traveled around with some bands. I started thinking; I should design something and see if I can get it in front of them. That’s what I did, I created a few t-shirts, and they selected one—my design on a band shirt. I continued and designed a few more shirts for another band, including a logo on the album cover.
Going out on my own
After school, I started in the working world. It wasn’t enough for me; I still wanted to do “my own thing”. I built off my recent success with the band shirts and created my first apparel company. Amped Apparel.
Yep, I picked a few designs, borrowed some money from family, and printed some 500 shirts! I know what you are thinking; oh no, why Chad?
Well, like any “entrepreneur” the journey isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It was a hard lesson that I learned, luckily early. I had my friends and family support, but I was young and didn’t know how to validate an idea of business. For example, this beautiful-looking couple on the sign! Not sure how those two are supposed to help sell a t-shirt when they aren’t even wearing one! 🤦
Creating something steady
Around the same time, I built the first rendition of Projekt19. Did it correctly, registered the business, partnered up, and started small. Projekt19 was a web design agency that helped support small businesses to gain an online identity. It provided me with a steady creative outlet and proper “side hustle”. It was my first take on working with my customers. We hit early success; we had over 30 customers and grossed $35K ARR within the first few years.
I’ve told the story of Inspiredology before. I wanted to flex a muscle that I didn’t have, writing! I created Inspiredology.com, and what a ride it was.
I put a few posts together, and then one morning, I woke up to 16,000 unique visitors overnight! The post that put us on the map was “120 Brilliant Logos”, a massive list of yes, business cards. It was the space back then, vast lists of inspiration. After that day, Inspiredology became my baby. I owe a lot to that project.
Due to the increasing demand from my full-time job and we had started a family. I held out for a long time but eventually decided to sell and get out of the game. It was never about the money for us. It was always about having a creative outlet and supporting the design community.
Fast forward a few years
It feels like this was the second chapter in the “hustler journey”. I’ve grown from being a creative designer to now a design leader. My career had changed, and I wasn’t “designing much anymore”. I focused on being a better leader. It was a choice that I made, and leadership has always been something that I’ve wanted to pursue. I had a great mentor ask me, “Are you going to be okay with not designing anymore?”. I said yes, and I still agree with that statement, but I didn’t predict that I didn’t have a creative outlet.
Fitness and nutrition have become a more significant part of my life again. At a younger age, sport was everything, but as you can imagine, as I went all-in with design, technology, and “computers” sport was very secondary.
You want to sell Smoothies, are you kidding?
“I want to offer a healthy alternative for folks on the go.”
I can hear my wife cringe while I write this. Yes, another crazy idea!
I have to say, she has always supported my crazy ideas even though she is pretty reluctant early on. She is my most prominent critic for sure. Though, I do think she secretly enjoys these crazy ideas!
Smoothies - Again, I have to say another good brand name! Create a food-truck business offering healthy alternatives to funnel cakes and pulled-pork sandwiches.
The focus was on fitness festivals and other weekend events. It turned out to be a decent business. We attended CrossFit events, Triathlons, boat races, and music festivals. It was an enjoyable business; it was different from my previous ventures - it was not behind a computer screen. The ability to interact with customers and seeing a consumable product was a good learning experience.
The problem with this business is, well, it needed to scale to the next level.
It’s seasonal; selling Smoothies in Canada in the winter doesn’t sound like a fun idea.
It took up every weekend of our summers. Prep Thursdays, Sell Friday - Sunday, Clean Monday. Rinse. Repeat. We had a 2-year-old, and my wife was pregnant. Didn’t mesh well!
We had a decision to make; for the business to take the next step, we had to scale. Scale meant more time, not only more weekends, but weekday. I considered pivoting the brand to be less of a physical offering and more into manufacturing consumable drinks. It was a giant leap for sure. I did a little research but never took the leap. I still think about this and wish I had tested this further.
It takes us to now! If you are reading this, you already know where we are now! Looking back on my hustler journey, I’ve learned a lot. I hope to take these learnings and put them to use in a new age of business.
Building a business today is much different than it was ten years ago. What excites me now? I know to control what I want to spend my energy on, I’m not driven by success or financial recognition.