YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT THE THIRD TIME
On Wednesday May 1st I will be making my 3rd attempt at landing a spot on the popular TV show Shark Tank. The first time I auditioned was in 2015 the first year of our company. I was fresh out the gate with this luggage storage disruptor idea with billion dollar expectations. Oh how the times have changed. Now you can find me panhandling on the street for money. Despite the cold harsh reality of what it actually means to be an entrepreneur tightening its icy grip around my dreams, the pursuit continues. However just so you know, I am not doing this because I want (all though I can use) funding (as you can see by my blog post Why Should Billionaires Have All The Fun? ). Instead I am doing this audition as a way to measure my personal and professional growth. Let me explain…
GET YOUR HEAD OUT THE CLOUDS
In my last audition I was but a step away from making it to the show taping in L.A. After my initial application submission on the Shark Tank website, I received an invite to audition in person at a private venue for diverse entrepreneurs (which I am doing again this Wednesday). I was fortunate enough to make it past this first hurdle and within a week recieved a call from one of the show producers asking me to submit a video audition tape, (which you can see on our YouTube Channel. ) This would be followed by an email from that producer…
Once delivery of your submission, it's usually about two weeks or so that the producers will reach out if they're interested in moving forward with you.
For me this was two weeks of constantly checking my emails (“does this thing work?”), reaching out to previous show contestants (“how quickly did it take for them to call you back?”), and even sending follow up emails to the producers (“Did you get my video link?”)
I was a mess.
LOOK AT ME THE BIG STAR!
In each of my previous auditions I had delusions of grandeur of making it on the show so that I could prove all my doubters wrong. This included my ex’s, my family and friends, my competitors, people who ignored or rejected me, even people who didn’t celebrate or encourage me at a level that I thought was sufficient for my efforts. I had a Michael Jordan-like drive to make enemies even where they were none if it gave me even the slightest edge. It was all about look at Me! Me! Me! See how I made it!
There is something about building a business that humbles you. It is survival of the fittest (state of mind). It weeds out unnecessary baggage, trashes all your hangups, and purges the extraneous and unnecessary. Despite what I thought I knew about entrepreneurship through pop-culture (Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/The old Robber Barons/go down the list), my reality was much different than the myth. It seemed to me that it was more likely that if you were fortunate enough succeed in business, that it was in spite of your baggage not because of it. Vanity, pride, fear, self loathing, selfishness had no place in my business, I needed to not only survive, I needed to grow. I haven’t had the fortune of having kids yet, but I imagine that it has a similar effect on ones growth. If growing your business is what is important, then trivial matters fade into the background. This has been my experience.
Now that I have auditioned twice before over the lifetime of my company, looking back at the trajectory of my growth from the first audition (where I was convinced that Free Your Arms was destined to be the next Airbnb), to today’s version of Free Your Arms (as a company that connects with each neighborhood, each shop owner, each customer, as if it was our only neighborhood, customer, shop owner).
I have “grown” from having dreams of global domination, to bringing a small town community based approach to the big city.
Here is an excerpt from one of the early versions of the business plan for our relaunch this past February. It cites the experience of my parents “Clyde and Dallis” (immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago to New York City (Where they had me), to now living in a small town in Florida called Spring Hill) as an example of what we lost in big cities and with technology. (At the time The Shop was called “Our Small Town”)
Decades before Airbnb or UBER, Clyde and Dallis were always happy hosts
to anyone in need of a room or a ride. From family visiting or migrating to NYC, to the troubled children of friends and family, to students studying abroad. There was always someone in that extra room. And those visitors had to look no further than Clyde's Yellow Cab for a ride to or from Church, work, the airports, you name it. And yes sometimes guests or passengers would offer payments as compensation for time or fuel, but always there was something beyond the monetary exchange that made this less a transactional experience and more a communal one. In return guests would help with the cooking, the cleaning, the yard work, picking up groceries, or just contributing to the daily dialogue that formed the fabric of their home and community.
As time has passed this organic support system has slowly been replaced by a digital one. Now if you need a ride you call an UBER, when you need a place to stay you find an AIRBNB, when you need items picked up from the grocery you use POSTMATES. All great services that have made most of our lives easier, but for the Clyde's and Dallis' of the world, they are finding themselves increasingly isolated as that old support system erodes around them.
OURSMALLTOWN restores that old support system and provides communities on the fringes of technology with the tools that help them bridge the digital divide, transforming what was a purely a digital exchange into a more communal one.
Some might look at this downshift in expectations as a step backwards, I don’t. I know that if I am doing something (for the right reasons) that matters that it will connect with even the toughest critics (or judges in this case). This audition is just another hurdle to gauge that growth.
TREVOR - FOUNDER FREE YOUR ARMS - DELIVERED WITH ❤️
TUNE IN TO @FREEYOURARMS ON INSTAGRAM OR FACEBOOK FOR THE LIVESTREAMING OF MY AUDITION DAY ON WEDNESDAY MAY 1ST. AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO PAY IT FORWARD BY PURCHASING FROM OUR SHOP EACH AND EVERY FRIDAY.
TO HEAR THE MUSIC THAT INSPIRED THIS SERIES CHECK OUT THE DELIVERED WITH LOVE PLAYLIST
THE SERIES WAITING TO HAPPEN
As what usually happens with everything I do, the documentarian in me kicks in at some point and everything I work on eventually becomes an exercise in storytelling. This seems to now be the case with The Free Your Arms Social Media feeds.
This also begs the question - what other aspects of my life am I producing? A question for another day - But I digress.
Ever since my first work of public storytelling that I can remember in 1999 with my Web Manifesto where I wrote...
…ever since I posted this manifesto (ok stop laughing), exploring the truth through art was a fascination of mine that I endulged publicly because of this then new platform we called the World Wide Web. I would post my thoughts on topics ranging from race relations as it applied to a then Mayor Giuliani to Digital Art in 2000 - But I always felt like there was a barrier in the blogging medium that prevented me from sufficiently expressing the truth as I saw it.
SO YOU’RE A VIDEOGRAPHER?
Years later I would find a new vehicle of expression in the form of video. I thought surely here is my chance to give voice to the truth as I saw it. In depth portraits of artists struggling to create their art, entrepreneurs building their empires, families struggling to stay together. This would be my vehicle for expression, I embraced it and thrived.
In the early days when I was shooting locally in Williamsburg and downtown Manhattan, I would document the truth as i saw it with little resistance. However as I became more and more sought after as an artist, I found that the roadblocks to revealing truths became increasingly difficult. Despite hiring me based on those early works, my corporate clients held tight reigns on the content I created. One example of this creative clash happened in 2009 while documenting The Roots during the making of their album How I Got Over - One of my video submissions was flatly rejected by the label. Frustrated I posted the following on my blog.
Who knew that scenes involving weed smoking, creative clashes, or in-fighting would not go over well with their label. Needless to say they never hired me again.
You see getting to the truth of things and expressing it for public consumption was always something I enjoyed doing. Yet finding my very own Truman Burbank was always my challenge. And despite my best efforts, It is a level of truth telling in art that has always eluded me.
When I launched Free Your Arms 4 years ago, I started a streaming series titled Your Front Row Seat from my van on Periscope. At the time I always thought it would be interesting to document my own entrepreneurial story of survival but I never worked up the courage. My challenge as a documentarian was that documenting introspect is an unnatural artistic act for me. So I kept the camera pointed outward and limited most of my commentary to the sights and sounds of the passing cityscape. Viewers would ask me almost on a daily basis for me to reveal my face - but I would always politely decline, citing my documentarians mantra to keep my camera pointed outward. Even on my own social media feeds you were hard pressed to find any images of what I looked like (and zero on the Free Your Arms IG). Revealing any personal details about myself just made me uncomfortable.
Something happened a few weeks ago. Maybe it was recognizing that the best story I could tell might be my own. Or maybe it was out of a need to find an alternative way to market Free Your Arms due to our Adwords account getting shut down. In either case somewhere I found the courage to turn the camera inward, smile, and tell my story.
THE TALES OF A FOUNDER
Ladies and gentlemen I would like to introduce to you Delivered With Love - Survival Tales of a Founder - giving you an unprecedented behind the scenes look into building, saving, surviving a startup. Every day I post a running tally of my pitches, my closes, my negotiations, my meetings. I am documenting my daily grind which is summarized with a running graphic charting our previous days gross revenue (In black when we reach our goals, and in red when we don’t).
On my livestream (which airs 3 times daily from Tuesday through Friday) I dig deeper into the numbers, and give you details about my daily strategies, goals, successes and failures. These include stories about the people I meet, the demons I fend off, my wins and my losses.
For those of you new to entrepreneurship, over the course of the series you might gain unprecedented insight into what it takes to launch, grow and sustain a business, or the pitfalls to avoid. For those of you who are well into your own entrepreneurial journey, you might find a fellow entrepreneur in which you can relate to. As we all know this journey can sometimes be a lonely one. As the series develops over time, hopefully the tools I use to share my journey will develop as well, and you will be able to track the trajectory of my growth (Or failure).
Finding the courage to tell my entrepreneurial journey while employing my skills as a storyteller will hopefully give you a point of view that is not easy to find on social media. It seems like I have finally found my very own Truman Burbank, and he is me.
Tune in to @freeyourarms on instagram or facebook and please share with anyone who you think might benefit from this series..
Trevor - Founder Free Your Arms - Delivered With ❤️
Well actually we call it A “Love Stream” series broadcasts from the front seat of our van - Topics ranging from Love to Truth and everything in between (all though you are just as likely to hear just a soundtrack playing while we drive). We will be streaming from our instagram our periscope and our facebook feeds M-F. Navigate to the feed for daily schedules.