article reprinted with permission
By JP Stoops
Here I am less than a month away from my dream where I will at last publicly launch my company and exhibit at the New York Toy Fair. No matter what happens, this has been one of the most exhilarating years of my life and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
It’s been well over a year since I left my job at Discovery. I worked my way up the corporate ladder developing consumer products for more than a dozen years. It was a good job for me. I worked hard and for the most part was challenged by the work. It was truly the golden handcuffs.
One day, I came into work and knew it was over. Or rather, I knew I couldn’t do my job anymore. I watched the company go from private to public as we churned through executives with differing priorities. Over the years, I saw hundreds of people get laid off and even more buried in bureaucracy. The constant pressure to do more with less was relentless. I found myself staring at my computer screen day after day and wanting something more. I wanted to start a company and work for myself. That day finally came in 2015; I was relieved to walk out the door after clashing with the latest round of executives.
What I did.
The six months prior to my departure were difficult, and I decided I needed to take time off. I did a few things that I’d recommend to anyone who find themselves without a job. First, I did a household budget and renegotiated every bill I could. I think I was able to reduce our bills by 15% just by picking up the phone. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with time and the patience to review and question every expense. I also sat down with my wife and modeled out how long we could last with my savings, her income and the new budget. It didn’t come easy, but having her buy-in was critical to allowing me to take some time off to decompress and work on starting a business.
Time to decompress and reflect.
After sitting behind a computer for so many years, you daydream about this moment. Doing the budget gave me the assurance that everything would be ok and so I just started going down my personal checklist. Every day was carpe diem. I spent time outdoors. I traveled with my wife. I spent time with my family. I even organized that storage space full of old paint! I also knew I wanted to do something good with my time, so I decided to take a trip to Nepal where the country had recently been through a tragic earthquake. Whenever I have a bad day, I look back at pictures on my phone showing the warm faces of the Nepalese people to remind myself how lucky we are and how one day I genuinely want to find a way to give back to all the people in the world in need. Sorting through rubble – for me at least – was also a great way to sort through things in my mind.
Dig out the basement & start Airbnb’ing!
I had the hindsight just before leaving my company to take out a loan. God knows I couldn’t get one today. When we bought our place a number of years ago, I distinctly remember looking at the storage and half-dirt basement thinking… one day I’m going to do something with that space. After a lot of work (and debt), we finished the job and turned on the Airbnb switch. This is not something I could have done five years ago, and it’s made all the difference in the world.
Building a company.
Because I worked and saved for more than a decade… because we budgeted our expenses… because my wife has a job… because we dug out the basement… because of all this, I was able to start a company. After spending a career developing countless consumer products at retail and building expertise around kids toys, I knew I wanted to start a toy company. Being in the bay area and seeing how kids interact with technology, it was clear the opportunity was in tech toys.
Learn through experience.
You can go to school and get your MBA, but my belief is that you don’t really know how to do something until you’ve been through it. Even then, you might only learn a few things of what not to do! Starting a company is not easy. There are so many things to learn. So many people you need to rely on. You get differing opinions. You change your pitch. You navigate for weeks to get in touch with someone only to get dismissed without even a conversation because you don’t fit the buzzword of the hour.
Starting a company is a hustle and takes thick skin. It can be lonely, doubtful, and isolating. But the beautiful thing is, every day when you wake up, you are solving your own problems. Not the problems of some corporate suit.
Some of you have gotten a glimpse of my first product. For those of you who want a peek, sign-up to my newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when we go live. Cheers to everyone who has been a part of my journey and helped me get to this point.
Published on LINKEDIN