Let me share with you a little story about dreams. One day a little boy became obsessed with skateboarding when his mom bought him his first Nash skateboard at the age of 7 for Christmas. Sure he struggled, falling all over the place, but you know his mom had him covered from head to toe in pads. She even went as far as to put shin guards on his shins and on his forearms. He looked like the Michelin man when rolling down the sidewalk (his mom didn’t let him in the street). Have no fear, he still had all the girlies on the block eying him.
After making his dad build him ramp after ramp, he became obsessed with the idea of building his own skate park. After his dad said it was too big of a liability, he turned his eyes on getting one built in his local hometown of Cape May County. The main problem was that kids couldn’t skate anywhere with sidewalks (all the best spots were city buildings…go figure) without getting in trouble but the city provided no safe haven where kids could skate freely. After realizing this, the boys mom helped him locate the person (let’s call him Bob) in charge of the recreational activities (or maybe city planning) within the county. He got out his pen and sloppily wrote a letter asking what he needed to do to convince the county a skate park was necessary. Bob received the boys letter and responded back that if he created a petition and gathered enough signature it would help convince the county it needed a skate park.
The next day the boy went to staples and got a huge roll of white paper. At the top he wrote the words “Petition for Cape May County Skate Park”. He added some other text explaining why people should sign it. Then that next day, while only in 4th grade, he marched right into the main office and proclaimed what he planned to do. The staff at the school was very supportive and assisted him getting signatures at lunch time and even let him go class room to class room. After a few weeks he had hundreds of signatures and decided it was time to send in his petition to Bob. He rolled up that bad boy, stuffed it in a cardboard tube with a note, and sent it off. Well of course months went by before he received any kind of response. After all, Bob is the kind of busy, you know, doing his thing. When the letter finally came the boy was more excited then when Santa, yep the REAL ONE, showed up in his living room. Bob said the petition helped build a strong case for a skate park and they predict one will be built by 2009 (the park was actually complete 2007). Bob also added he admired the boys dedication, hard work, and ability to pursue something he was really passionate about.
If you didn’t figure it out…this boy was me. Truthfully, I almost forgot about this entire escapade until I broke out my scrap book about a year ago and found the letter from Bob. At that moment, I reflected back on when I was trying to launch my first real start-up RentersReports.com. I remember coming up with the initial concept and being like okay now what? Because if you didn’t know, I pretty much cut every corner possible in college so I didn’t know shit about starting my own business. This lack of knowledge meant I would fail and if I failed, I wouldn’t make millions and take over the world (did I mentioned I was ambitious?). So I did what seemed like the smartest option; I turned to my professors and fellow entrepreneurs.
Initially turning to my professors was simple since most of them had set office hours when they were required to be available. I must admit, I was rather embarrassed at times to ask certain questions because many of the things I asked I should have learned in the classroom. However for me, I am like a sponge in personal interactions, especially if it is information I want to learn not something I’m being forced to absorb. Many of these encounters went well with my questions being welcomed by my professors. I had some professors that would even stay with me as late as midnight answering my questions, critiquing my presentation, and working diligently with me. For these individuals I am very grateful. Other professors, the ones I call not true treps, just used these meeting times as a way to arrogantly talk down to me.
I reached out to one of my professors and we set a time to meet at his office. Now here I am with no idea whatsoever about launching my own web 2.0 company, a young kid trying to chase a dream. This guy however has multiple tech start ups, is well versed, and has all the knowledge I want in my brain. Although he just bashed my business model, website design, and anything else he didn’t like (it was everything really) about my idea, this situation was extremely beneficial for me as it truly opened my eyes. I still think of this sorta asshole to this day. Mainly because it made me realize a few things about networking, communicating with other entrepreneurs, and starting a company.
You will always meet people that doubt your idea. You will meet people who support your idea tremendously. Regardless, you need to take every experience positively and take something out of each meeting. Don’t be scared to ask questions and seek information daily, regardless of who you are talking with. Think of me as a 5th grader marching through the halls with a petition taller then I was. If I could do it that age you can too.