"The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing."
Walt Disney, Co-Founder, Disney
Our entrepreneurial story plays out the way most do: an idea conceived over watered down Russian beer and flatbread pizza at a quaint Georgian restaurant high in the cool mountains of Kazakhstan.
It pinnacled with the company we founded, Wild Creations, being recognized as one of the Inc 500's fastest growing small businesses in the US and the #1 fastest growing business in South Carolina.
The root of our success: frogs.
We'd like to say that it all went as planned. Nothing, however, went as planned. For starters, our original vision of running a large multinational investment holdings company turned into wrangling frogs and making toys. The transition, of course, is an interesting one and did not happen overnight.
Along the way, there was more pizza and probably too much beer, mortars in Afghanistan, more miles than most people drive in five lifetimes, cheap hotels with fleas, pilfered toilet paper, extreme government agencies and extremer special interest groups, guns and police, endless trade show pitches and tubes of lip balm, and more than one lonely Christmas season spent at a mall kiosk bartering live frogs.
Okay, so maybe that isn't the way most startups go.
It is not, however, as different as you might think. If you replace all of that history with the underlying themes that encouraged them, you will find commonalities. Belt tightening, stress management, risk taking, dedication and long hours, innovative thinking, thriftiness, interpersonal skill development, conflict resolution, hard work, salesmanship, and unending personal sacrifice.
If you ask ten successful entrepreneurs for the secret to success, you will receive twenty unique stories and more than a fair share of cliches. And while most will not involve dodging live ordnance in Afghanistan or frogs, all will share these same themes.
This book is one of those stories.
It's about two regular guys who for years worked in comfortable consulting jobs in "Corporate America", with job security, comfortable paychecks and the freedom to fill numerous passport pages, but who had unfulfilled and conflicting ambitions. It's about our entrepreneurial journey, from the catalyst to taking action through the most significant economic crisis in a generation, and rising from the bowels of complete failure and mediocrity to sitting with John Lasseter, the founder of Pixar, at the Academy Awards of Toys.
All with an improbable frog company.
This book is filled with stories, anecdotes and, yes, a few cliches, but the genesis behind it all was to provide other aspiring entrepreneurs a set of our hard-knock lessons to guide them to their entrepreneurial dreams. Most stories involve mistakes we made along the way that were sometimes avoidable and always expensive. We hope to impart wisdom through what was our collective ignorance.
We understand completely that most aspiring entrepreneurs who read this book will eventually make the same mistakes we have. We are, after all, natural risk takers and universally inquisitive. Entrepreneurs are the type of people who burn themselves on the frying pan because we just had to see "what if". That natural curiosity is what encourages them to venture out and start businesses, build legacies, and leave their marks in this life.
So the greater intent of this book, to a certain extent, is to provide you with validation and inspiration.
The fears and anxieties you have are common. True, some people have more tolerance for risk and, hence, are more inclined to be entrepreneurs, but this book will provide evidence that you don't have to be Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson to start a business.
All you need is a little common sense, courage and persistence. Not necessarily in that order.
And when you fail ... and you will ... often ... we hope that the stories and anecdotes in this book will serve to provide you with not only the tips to help you be successful but also the moral support you need to persevere.
You are not alone in your ambition. The first step is the most difficult. Read on and you will come to understand why entrepreneurial success cannot be defined by a single adjective or cliche, but instead only by the embodiment of a complete narrative of another entrepreneur’s successes and, more important, perseverance through failure.