Persevere and Keep a Good Attitude
When I graduated college with an English and religion degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Money alone does not motivate me, passion and creativity does. Anyone can make money. It was scary not having direction.
One day I saw a 1930’s Mickey Mouse drawing. It fascinated me. I wanted to be involved so I started a company buying and selling original hand-drawn Disney animation artwork and eventually became the largest publisher of animation artwork from television with clients that included Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, M&M Mars and Nike.
A few years later I decided to sell off the animation company and create a whole new company that just sells rubber ducks that looked like celebrities. I thought if I could pull off the concept, it could be different and cool. We have all types of ducks; food themed, movie star, musician, animated, religious and historical. We ended up selling millions of them and eventually became the top custom duck manufacturer in the world. We were even voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly and were featured on hundreds of media outlets including The Tonight Show!
Of course I had no idea how difficult it would be to do it. I don’t consider myself courageous. When I’m inspired, I just go for it. That’s how I’ve always done it.
What made you decide to finally live your dream?
Well, for the ducks, who doesn’t love a rubber duck and I just wanted to do something totally creative out of the box.
Regarding the chocolate company, I always had a passion for chocolate. I was looking for a hot chocolate that can instantly mix in a cup of hot water and taste like it’s in milk. We created spooning chocolate which uses no milk and it just whisked in a cup. It’s simply pure dairy, gluten, soy, and GMO free pure non-bitter dark Fair Trade chocolate.
My life is based on what I am passionate about. If I could be a plumber, I would find a way to make it fun. I’d be that kind of plumber. It wouldn’t be a job to collect a paycheck. It’s your relationship to what you’re doing. You can be passionate about any business.
What were the specific obstacles that you faced?
The animation business: Most traditional animation art is painted by hand, but everything now is on computer. The hand-painted cells are on acetate. It took a long time to figure out how to print on acetate from a computer.
The rubber duck business: It’s difficult dealing in a foreign country when you don’t speak the language. When you’re trying to perfect something and there’s a language barrier, it can be difficult working with people a world away. But what was even harder was what we just accomplished. I recently returned the rubber duck industry to America where it was invented to be the only one making them here again!
The chocolate company. Pure chocolate with no milk powder doesn’t dissolve in hot water. You think it does. It’s too thin tasting and becomes bitter. We didn’t realize that. It was a challenge getting it to the point where it is now.
Were there people who tried to discourage you?
There was no one telling me no and I was getting everyone’s input, and they had many good ideas. The main question was:…’Can you do it? It’s not a bad idea, but can you do it?’
If I think it’s a good idea, I will figure out how to do it. I know what I don’t know. I am always willing to surround myself with people more talented and smarter than me. The sky is the limit.
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
It was so cool. I remembered when I first went to Hershey, PA as a child and now I have now created Cocoa Canard, a chocolate company. It’s a cool brand. Everything is upscale. We treat it with kid gloves. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I’m not the kind of person that would have a business where there is no emotional connection. That’s not me. That’s not how I’m wired. If you love it, you will get through hard times. If you don’t, you will not persevere.
What advice would you give to others contemplating finally living their dream?
But remember that more businesses go bankrupt by over expansion too early in the process. It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep. I work from home. Richard Branson still works out of his house. You don’t have to have the façade. Let the business determine when you proceed to the next cycle.
Go for quality for if you live by the penny, you die by the penny. People can always make something for less.
Don’t be all things to all people. If you do, then you are nothing to anyone. Be the best in your niche. A niche doesn’t have to be small.
And do know that money and fame will never satisfy. What lasts is love, compassion and doing good. If you can make your business reflect that, you will have a happy life, no matter how much money you make.