It wasn’t really a choice—I knew I had to launch a business.
I have no background in entrepreneurship, I craft a product that no one really needs and I imagine I won’t ever draft a 5-year plan. Yet this doesn’t mean that launching Side Project Skateboards was a mistake—quite the opposite. It was probably one of the best, most constructive things I’ve ever done. Not only has it turned out to be surprisingly successful, but more importantly, I enjoy it.
Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or a naïve artisan with a gut feeling, it goes without saying that you learn a lot along the way. So in that spirit, here are five things I’ve taken away from a year and a half of flying by the seat of my pants:
1. Make your peace with vulnerability
There is always a risk associated with putting yourself out there, no matter how you do it. But understand that you will not grow personally or professionally unless you are willing to take that risk. Plus, the worst thing you could do is fail—and people fail all the time. Fully embrace the possibility that things may not work out and you’ll not only be more invested, but more productive.
2. Dive in the deep end
It takes a considerable amount of courage to take the leap of faith and launch your venture, but it’ll all be for nothing if you’re not fully committed. If you’re passionate about something, you need to fully immerse yourself in it as much as possible. No one needs another half-assed anything, including you. Pour yourself into building something that you’re proud of—something that surpasses even your expectations.
3. People respond to passion
What surprised me most about launching SPS is how excited people were to learn about the brand and the story behind it, even if they had no background in skateboarding, woodworking or design. It helped me realize that people are inspired by the passion they find in others even if they aren’t necessarily interested in your specific product or service. So no matter what you do, if you are genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about your work, people will be interested.
4. Collaborate, but only when it makes sense
When I launched SPS, it was a one-man brand. I did the logo, branding, web design, woodworking, photography, PR, social media, and handled every other aspect of running a business. That’s still true today, though it was only recently that I’ve opened up SPS to trusted friends and colleagues who expressed interest in bringing their own creative vision to the brand. The result was the first ever SPS lifestyle photo shoot and lookbook, which are way out of the realm of possibility for me to have done by myself. What I’m getting at is that it’s important to know when to loosen the reigns and welcome new perspectives into your work that can help push it to new levels. On the flip side, it’s also important to know when to pass up on a potential collaboration if it could damage or confuse your brand in any way. Not every great opportunity is the right one. Stay true to yourself and your gut. You’ll know.
5. Creativity is a viable path
I had always been suspicious of how to build a business around creativity. It seemed like such a nebulous and unpredictable endeavor. (It is). But what I’ve learned is that being creative is also viable—both monetarily and metaphysically. People enjoy it, they support it and, whether we realize it or not, we all need it.
About The Author
Inspired by the DIY spirit of 60’s culture, Jake Eshelman launched Side Project Skateboards in October of 2013 to pursue his interests in creative branding, design, woodworking and entrepreneurship. In addition to handing all aspects of the brand from initial concept to craftsmanship, Jake also works as a copywriter in creative advertising, specializing in brand identity and integrated campaign work.
Jake is always looking to the next project—whether it’s recording his music or working with small brands to help find their unique voice. Connect with him on Twitter.