Saturday, December 18, 2010

10 years in the making: {part deuce} Pimping cars, trucks, hogs & a failed business

  After my most recent post entering into the last 10 years of my life and delving into how I got where I am at this point, I hit a mini wall. Have you ever been inspired to do something and then after about half way into completion, just loose that focus? Well that's where I am right now, but I am sure as I tap away at this $300 refurbished Acer laptop (big $$$) it will dawn upon me while I started this in the first place(as a note excuse the random side bars that I go through, it actually helps paint part of my life). So here I am, its 2005 and I just purchased a little condo unit in South Charlotte, I fixed it up, it was my nest baby for 2-3 years I thought anyways. Managed to make it through some neighborhood mischief (break-in) and I never seemed to settle quite into place. I remember to this day, after someone smashed into my home and stole my belongings, I was carrying a hand gun with me frequently with an angry trigger to say the least. One time my girlfriend woke me up because she heard a noise and I was grabbing my pistol just as my roommate yelled out it was just him! Wow what an experience, he thought he was near death and I was thinking, am I am about to shoot someone?

  Sorry for the side track, as I am moving along through the chain of command at the local running shop, I hear about a financial job where I could possibly have an "in"from a former rival cross country runner in college. Now, I am officially going to be a legit adult, I am getting into finance, dressing up for work, getting a 401k, and drinking coffee as a regular habit during break time. It was pretty exciting initially, I had always seen the people scurrying in uptown as I would occasionally pick up my grandmother(retired wachovia employee) during her lunch break to grab a bite at El Cancun. I was on my way there, business suits and slicked back hair, maybe some flashy shoes to go along with my proper suit and tie. Well not exactly, I was wearing button downs and polo's to work mostly, because it was REAL laid back, almost to the point where you didn't care as much, people even wore shorts and sandals sometimes!

   During the last semester of school I purchased a newer vehicle (VW Jetta) and promptly decked it out with custom wheels and an insanely loud sound system, then I ran across a deal on a friends truck for $1200, so I went for it. Most people would have labeled it as a "POS" (piece of shh) with the paint half missing and dents throughout but I saw the beauty in it as I scrapped off the "Redneck" sticker. This was not the typical vehicle most business class people would drive around but after all I already had a car that was dependable, this was my "project". Managing to do most of the body work by myself, my good friend took the truck into his paint booth and sprayed it out for me, midnight blue with flake, it was SWEET!. Next on tap, the "Twinkies" also known as 20's, yep, I was rolling on dubs and I decked out the interior with a new MP3 player, custom console subwoofer, all new carpet and seat covers, tinted windows and flow masters! I was riding dirty in every way, most people would stare at my custom "whip" and wonder who was inside, not imaging a skinny white guy with glasses, bumping that new Nas CD. This was another side track, but it also gives you a sense of were I was coming from and my sense of style from the environment of which I was raised, on the west side of Charlotte, not a particular hot spot for the upper class.

   New job, 2 pretty sweet vehicles, things are going pretty awesome for me, I have been piecing together my condo, something is missing. It's time to get my HOG! Well not quite a hog but close, a Honda Shadow chromed out with Vance and Hines pipes, man it was a beauty and bust your ear drums loud! One of my close friend encouraged me to get one with him so I pulled the trigger and well....he didn't! thanks Rob Dietz! This leads into my next juncture of life, "Running Happy" and "RunningOne", a new business venture with one of my closest friends. After running the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon in fun "joe boxer" bright yellow boxers with friends Beth, Kara and Rob, we noticed something spectacular. People LOVED the smiley face on our boxers and thus began the concept of "Running Happy". {For the next few paragraphs I will bold the font, so that I may paint you a much clearer picture of the ensuing chaos.}

  My business partner and I had experience in the running specialty industry, we spoke about the common frustrations of the particular business and eventually THOUGHT that we could own and operate something that could really take off and be even better than anything locally. We started small with operating a coaching service to a group of about 30 people, which was exciting seeing some of the athletes improve rapidly with tons enthusiasm through the cold winter months. Phase one complete, phase two, let's begin selling products to our clients, how can we do this? Hmmm well why not just jump into the world of online sales, yea that sounds AWESOME! Wow things have progressed quickly, being a business owner was a dream of mine always, what could go wrong? We have an official business account at this point, 25k to use for products and whatever else we saw fit in the business. While working my full time job, in between breaks and lunch I was contacting vendors about product that we were seeking. Reebok and Fila came easy as we stock piled shoes into a spare room, along with hammer nutrition and fuel belts. Looking at the credit card statement and then walking into the spare room, I expected it to be filled floor to ceiling but not even close, wow owning a retail business is EXPENSIVE!

  Often times I was the "NO" man, in the mix, every time that money was requested to be spent I essentially freaked out.  "Running Happy" even established their own trademarked shirts, shorts and singlets for sale. Some sales begin to come in as the excitement and debt was building into a combustible bonfire. At some point with the chaos of a start up business, we decided it would be the best thing to just go ahead and look into opening our own brick and mortar location. After all, we were dedicated and wanted this to be a full time gig, with freedom to do what we see fit. As whispers around the running community built, more and more people found out about our plans to open a "new" competing store in the area. The local shops, did not take a liking to this very much and began to pressure our vendors to stray away from us. The pressure was truly on now, we scoped out a location(lease signed) for our new AMAZING STORE, looked at retro fitting fee's and thus finally signing for a small business loan. Luckily my business partner covered our A$$ and made sure there were loop holes in each contract if we needed to back out. My stress level was unbelievably high, do I really want to do this? it could burn bridges with some people as well as put me into tremendous debt. As stated there was a lot of "hear say" going on with old co-workers and random people in general, so I made a huge leap of faith and contacted one of our soon to be competitors and did I mention former boss, Tim Rhodes.

Makes the World Go Round!

   I still remember the day I walked into the store and my former co-workers were in shock that I even set foot inside. After breaking the shock with a big smile, while being very nervous, we discussed how I actually set up a meeting in an effort to clear the air about our intentions out of pure respect for a touted business man whom gave me a chance to start within his company. After discussing several of our conflicts, some which were very touchy, an hour or so flew past. There I was, sitting across from a well respected business owner, of whom I used to work for and he was being sincere with me about the hardships of owning a small business.  To this day, I truly commend Tim for being professional during our one on one meeting, as well, I truly will never forget what he said to me as I left his office. "Chris, I want to see you succeed, I do, I just don't think you realize how difficult it is to run something like this. If you ever need something, let me know, but I am here to protect my business on the same note". Honestly, I could feel the sincerity in his voice and just the way he made eye contact. After this meeting I knew it was time to have a final sit down to discuss our future as small business owners.

   Eventually, the decision was made to scrap our new "Running Happy" store, but what to do with all of the product and etc, the debt had piled up. Wow, about year had passed since I purchased my home, I had a truck, car and a nice motorcycle sitting out front and the possibility of a new business in tow. Luckily we crossed paths with some other business men looking to expand their triathlon store from Charleston, SC called "TrySports". They wanted to open a new location, they had the money, I came to the table with experience and drive, a natural fit. After unloading some debt with traveling to some marathon expo's and selling our items, things began to level down a bit. Still nicely in the hole, I decided that something just had to go. I sold my car, FIRST, then I sold my beautiful hog, I had to pay for the debt somehow, right? After all of this, I still thought the best way to cap off the rest of the debt would be to open a new line of equity on my home, it wasn't for much and it was at a low rate. OK, things aren't what I thought they were going to be, BUT at least there was another option in the cards. Eventually after interviewing several times, I decided that my stable career in finance would have to do, the specialty industry just zapped any enthusiasm I had for it once before, I needed a break, just one job and to be normal. After all I think I was only 23 maybe 24 at this time?

   Crazy huh? things were really looking up as I was leading a pretty standard life, I even had a few toys to play with and living nearly stress free. Putting my stress level into words concerning this segment of my life would be difficult, but just to say it bluntly, I was having a pretty hard time with it all. Luckily I took a much needed step back and just led a seemingly normal life for a few more years until I found it time to really venture into something that was my passion. In this between time, I got back into my running regimen, somewhat, you could say. I was doing about as much as I needed to in order to keep most of the weight off while not limiting my weekend excursions into uptown Charlotte. After all when I was at school, I wasn't partying quite like a rock star as most did, I still needed to get it out of my system, plus I had a passion to just hit the dance floor.

  This leads into my last segment about my trial and error training sessions with my "running career" or lack there of. I was racing VERY frequently from 2005-2007, I would roughly say I raced 3 times a month sometimes 4 or 5, but my mileage was limited. Quite frankly it was almost NON- existent, I was running on Wednesday and racing on Saturday, but what else did I do on the other days? ZUMBA, yes I said it, I jumped into the world of cardio dance at the Harris YMCA heavily! Looking back I realized that I often ran the 2.75 miles to class and back so, let's chalk it up to 15-18 miles a week including races. Tuesday and Thursday nights upstairs at the Harris YMCA, yea I was one of 2 or 3 guys in their but I was mostly fine with that. For some reason, I felt more comfortable wearing my "Fueled by god" shirt to class, but I was rocking it out. Lots of women would come up after class and comment that I was pretty good, CONFIDENCE LEVEL bounces up one more notch! Fairly confident in my natural abilities, I managed to stay in the sub 17:30 range for the 5k's and then the unthinkable happens, 2 races in a row. Rob Dietz Smashes me at Tour De kale (17:58 for me) and then Cody Angell, the newly dedicated runner smashed me at the Summer Breeze 5k (17:26 for me). Time to train, sorry Zumba, I need to start running again, I miss you just writing this....seriously!

  This was a very extensive dive into my world, I would say the majority of the people that I know and began to know closely, would have no idea that I have been through a few of these life experiences. yes this entry was jumping all around like a Mexican jumping bean, pimping trucks to zumba class but it ties my life together through those difficult and educational years. King of the world, I had everything and more than I needed, was I ready to tackle the world of Proprietorship? HELL NO! I must say, looking back, I am so grateful that the attempt was faltered to open my own business. At 23 you think you know the world, I did, Now I am 28 and understanding the true structure of wisdom.

"Life's failures lead to life's monumental successes"

  On Sunday morning I will be competing in the Western Australia Triathlon State Sprint Championships, who's who of triathlon will be competing, so I have no stated expectations, but to just give it my best. 

   Following my recap I plan to wrap up my "10 years in the making" installment where I will jump ahead to the past 15 months of my life and how everything drastically changed for the better. 

"Taking the time to understand how you tick as an individual is a key to every one's life, we can cram our self into societies cookie cutter pattern and let life pass us by, OR we can reach deep inside and discover what tools we all have to offer in this huge world of the masses." - CL

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