From a very young age I knew I was business oriented. I just never felt as though I had an outlet for my creative business sense and never really knew what direction I wanted to go. I had worked in skydiving from the age of 16, starting as a parachute packer, then working as a videographer for Tandem jumpers. I would eventually, at the age of 19, become a certified AFF instructor. Having the ability to not only film but also teach people and certify people to participate in the sport I held close to my heart. I really enjoyed working in the sport that I loved. But I never felt as though I had any potential for growth as I worked for someone else. At the age of 18 an opportunity had presented itself in the closing of a DZ (Drop Zone or skydiving center) which I worked at. This put me out of work in an instant but there was a silver lining. With the rising of an opportunity I fully took advantage of it diving in with 2 partners to start our own company at the same location. Little did I know exactly how much work it would take to open a new DZ.
Most DZ’s face hardships with the airport and some locals when opening a business as the act of skydiving is still viewed by many as a reckless and dangerous sport. In addition to the protests of those individuals we faced an even harder task. That of changing the preconceived notion of what having a DZ in the city meant to the airport sub committee, city council and residents due to the difficulty with the previous company. The previous owners had a bad reputation of being incredibly hard to deal with in addition to fighting all the time. The reason there was an opportunity to open a new DZ is because they city had actually shut the other DZ down for being non-compliant.
The challenge of starting from lower than rock bottom was something that intrigued me and I jumped at the chance to accomplish something others weren’t willing to try. Our business proposal went from 5 pages to 30 pages with in weeks. It seemed, for awhile, that my business pursuits resulted in countless city council meetings, airport subcommittee meetings and working in front of the computer crunching numbers. But nothing more. My partners and I worked tirelessly for months preparing all the documents needed to make our proposal rock solid.
I was just a skydiver kid, I just wanted to continue to do what I loved without the hassle of working under the finger of another angry DZ Owner. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Especially because I was a full time student in college at the time working towards my degree in Social and Behavioral science. I thought, in my inexperience, that having the desire to open a business and stating that it would be successful would be sufficient. With the subtext of following the rules of course. I was wrong to say the least. I was immersed in a world which learning fast was the only way to accomplish anything. I quickly learned that no matter what business is being opened, what it means to the person who is starting it or how I believed it would succeed, everyone else has the WIIFM Attitude. What’s In It For Me attitude. This realization made me shift gears from my desired outcome to showing value to anyone and everyone whom it would positively affect.
Presentation after presentation, meeting after meeting and 1 year into the process I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to be successful and actually open. With finances becoming tighter and tighter, school coming to a close and life all in all starting to get stressful, It was everything I could do to stay positive and keep looking forward.
At the age of 19 we finally got our break and the approval from the city to start operations. It was a whirlwind of acquiring gear, hiring all the staff and beginning the jumps. I was immediately given the roll of Co-Owner, Manager and CFO, all self appointed of course, as well as videographer for the new tandems who wanted to document their experience. As quickly as the company started I began to realize that I had truly accomplished what I wanted. I had defied the odds and became a business owner at the age of 19 with the help and support of my business partners. I also realized that I had created not a way of living for me, but instead just another job. No not just a job, but multiple jobs. I had to wear several hats to keep the company running yet my paycheck didn’t reflect the amount of work in both hours and energy that I was putting into the company. There was no true indication that this was ever going to change. I realized that if I wanted a life outside of work I would have to figure out a new option. I ran the DZ until I was 21 which is when I decided that in order for me to continue to pursue my passions of travel and BASE jumping I had no other option but to sell. With that realization I gave one of my business partners the opportunity to buy me out of the company and he agreed that was something he would do.
Freedom was mine, seemingly starting an entire new life with all new possibilities, bringing with me the knowledge and experience of starting a very successful business even in the ashes of defeat and discouragement.
I have had every level of success and failure. Starting a business made me realize that these two are one in the same you can’t have one without the other and each is equally helpful in life experience. I faced failure almost consistently throughout the process of starting my company, but having that idea floating around in my head was a motivating and a driving factor that kept me energized to move forward. I have also had many failures in my life which has helped equip me to succeed faster the next time. Each failure is a blessing and each success is well earned. I learned never to look at failure as a negative but instead as something that will ultimately help me, maybe not in the immediate future, but at some point in life.
Starting and selling a successful business was an incredible experience and one which has helped me in continuing my professional life. It also helped me realize what I want and what career paths to follow giving me time freedom to travel and do what I love but also have the financial means to do so. It gave me an understanding of how to leverage the needs and desires of others and bring them into alignment with my goals which makes everyone happy. It gave me an awesome sense of business confidence and really helped to show me that I can have anything I want if I just work for it and have pure motives! It was only the start of my business career.