“It’s better to be a pirate, than join the Navy.” Steve Jobs
“Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda
At AND 1, we wanted to reach a billion dollars in sales. We believed that if you “shot for the moon and missed, you’d still end up among the stars.”
We set big goals, believing very much in the ‘no pressure, no diamonds’ philosophy of management.
It’s very likely that AND 1 could have only happened at this time, and in this country.
We had the ‘big, grandiose’ dreams not that different from many of the young founders in America.
Indeed, America is one of the most start-up-friendly nations in the world in which to start a business. The World Bank’s annual doing business report has typically placed the US in the top 10, and often in the top 5.
There are several reasons for this.
The US is one of the cultures that most celebrates the individual values and risk-taking and hero-creation mythology around people who succeed in it.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016/2017 report, the US remains one of the top five ‘innovation driven’ countries in terms of a ‘cult of the entrepreneur’.
This mythology has both a positive side and a negative side.
The positive is that is inspires new entrepreneurs to try and believe that success is possible, the negative is that it paints a very distorted image of what this success is – and often makes us believe that anything short of a venture backed, billion dollar ‘unicorn’ is a failure. It often also mythologizes the founders of past great companies as if they were that much smarter or better than us.
There is a significant amount of research showing that founders experience more anxiety and stress than the general public (see the post on ‘So you want to be a founder’, for a lot more on this).
Following your dream, so long as you can support yourself and your family isn’t crazy.
It’s more than okay to want to start a ‘life-style’ business. Many of the people I most admire have done just that. (See, my post on ‘What kind of a business do you want to start, in so you want to be a founder’ for more).
Striving to design your own life and take control of it, is admirable. And dreaming of running a small, local business – if it’s your dream – is worth celebrating.
AND 1 experienced phenomenal growth. But, financial growth is only a small part of the growth we all experienced as human beings.
I was in the middle of all this, playing early roles in finding our first product-market fit and a major leading role in creating our highest growth years.
I made some giant mistakes, and also did some things that really worked and transformed the company for the better.
By the time I left, we were selling in over 130 countries — and had hundreds of consumers who had tattooed our logo onto their bodies and sent us pictures – and I had some lifelong health issues that I still battle to this day.
An NBA player under contract to another brand, was just one of the hundreds with our logo tattooed on their bodies.
Why did those players do it – and what did AND 1 represent to them? That is what I want to explore in these pages.
My hope is that my children and friends can learn something from it — and maybe some other entrepreneurs as well.