Posts tagged startup
Pay It Forward Friday Profiles - Julius The Genius
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WHAT IS YOUR GENIUS?

In my quest to find inspiration for my own entrepreneurial pursuits, last Sunday while doing deliveries, I ran across a charismatic entrepreneur who was counting more cash on hand than I had made that entire week. I am not sure what it was, maybe it was the way he was counting the bills in broad daylight in a carefree manner, but he struck me as an individual that marched to the beat of a different drum. Determined to gain some insight into his genius I pulled alongside him while still sitting in traffic and gestured for him to approach my vehicle. I then asked him if I could do a quick interview - he said yes.

As I pulled in to park and started to set up my camera - he approached, suddenly launched into a high kick that would make a Radio City Rocket Blush, and before I could fully gather myself he started my interview for me - “Now what you wanna talk about?” he said. Seemingly eager to get back to his days work.

I asked him his name. “My name is Julius, I was born on a leap year “ - he proudly proclaimed, even showing me his Identification as proof. My hunch was right… Julius was a showman with a Phineas T. Barnum like flare. So I cut straight to my question. What is your genius?

G.O.D.
— Julius The Genius

This answer was more Master Po than Gary V - Surely there must be more to his genius than that. I listened on like a patient young grasshopper as he continued… Julius went on to explain that no matter the religion we all serve one god. He then asked me if I wanted to hear a song?

Yes I said.

Julius started

I learned how to live, and depend on jesus,
I found out if I did, we will survive.

And then another

I’m comin' up on the rough side of the mountain,
I’m doin' my best to make it in.

Great voice I thought. And there is a theme of survival that I immediately picked up on. After all the tagline of this series is Survival Tales of a Founder. It was then I noticed something else - It was not me who was engaging Julius, instead it was Julius who was engaging me. Was this show one big MacgGuffin? Was I being wooed? It seemed like Julius was courting me like a Paradise Bird doing a mating dance. So is this his genius? He puts on a show, his mark (me in this case) drops their guard, and he goes in for the close. After all who could say no to that voice. As I stated in the article that launched this series.

IN MY EXPERIENCE THE FOLKS WHO SURVIVE IN THE STREETS ARE JUST AS (IF NOT MORE) SAVVY THAN THOSE WHO SURVIVE IN THE CORPORATE WORLD, AS A FILMMAKER AT HEART I AM INTERESTED IN SHINING SOME LIGHT ON THIS THEORY.

You might call this a street hustle and it probably is. Or you might call him a panhandler and you might be right. Some might even use a less flattering description for this pitch. However you label him I see the same entrepreneurial drive in Julius that I see in myself. And amongst his competitors I could see that he was not employing the same tricks I have come accustomed to and even employed myself . What Julius did was he sized me up (What we in sales call qualifying), lured me in without me knowing (What some call a soft pitch), put on a show (The presentation), and led me to his close (which he had not yet accomplished - read on). These are all skills I have been employing on my own daily pitches (which I am documenting on the Free Your Arms social media channels (see links below)).

GEN · IUS /ˈjēnyəs/
2. a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect
— GOOGLE

Finally I reached into my wallet pulled out a $20 and paid it forward to Julius, only asking that he share his love with others. (And there you have it - The Close). I actually did not mention that he made his ask at the top of our encounter (which you will see in the video posted below). The ask is the most important part of any pitch. And presenting it at the very beginning is how you do it (Don’t you watch Shark Tank?). This is a strategy that I did not learn about until recently.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

This seemingly unselfish act of kindness I am displaying by paying it forward, may be more self-serving than it appears. It is not dissimilar to the final scene in Pulp Fiction. The Jules Character (No relation to Julius) played by Samuel Jackson and his sidekick Vincent (Played by John Travolta) voluntarily gives Pumpkin (Played by Tim Roth) $1500 while holding a gun to Pumpkin’s head. This after Jules thwarts Pumpkin’s attempt to take his MacGuffin.

SCENE

JULES
…Now How much is there?

PUMPKIN
About fifteen hundred dollars…

JULES
Put it in your pocket, it’s yours.
Now with the rest of them wallets
and the register, that makes this a
pretty successful little score.

VINCENT
Jules, if you give this nimrod
fifteen hundred bucks, I’m gonna
shoot ‚em on general principle.

JULES

I ain’t givin‘ it to him.
I’m buyin‘ somethin‘ for my money.

Like Jules I am also “buyin‘ somethin‘ for my money”

THE ARCHETYPE

If you were misled at the beginning of this article into thinking Julius was your archetypical entrepreneur we have grown familiar with, I propose that it is in these archetypes where the seeds of bias are planted. For the initiated his genius hides in plain sight. As an educational resource, his genius at the “soft close” is the type of low hanging fruit of knowledge I hope to harvest for the Everybody Is a Genius series.

Enjoy the video below.

EPILOGUE : DIVINE INTERVENTION

A few friends have reminded me that by paying it forward good things will come back to me (which isn’t the goal btw). I do believe in karma. Anecdotally it makes sense that putting out good energy leads to more good things happening. Where I’m more skeptical is in a belief in a higher power. Some call this power God (Btw why is God almost always a man? -  A topic for another day - I digress) I'm not a believer or disbeliever in God but since paying it forward I have been encountering some strange coincidences.

For example -

A few weeks back right when I posted Why Should Billionaires Have All the Fun I quoted this verse from the bible.

IF YOU WANT TO BE PERFECT, GO, SELL YOUR POSSESSIONS AND GIVE TO THE POOR, AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN

MATTHEW 19:16-30

Hours later we got our biggest order of the year, and I would have to make the choice between keeping the money for the business, or paying it forward. I blogged about that incident here. It was like God was saying tread carefully when you invoke my name to make a point.

THE LATEST COINCIDENCE;

I found it strange that my first Pay It Forward profile has a name that is only a few letters removed from the feature adjective in our series. It is also a coincidence that his name is also a few letters removed from the name Jesus. But the biggest coincidence is that he said his genius was G.O.D. and that it was written on a chalkboard by my own hand (See Video). I'm not claiming that Julius is some kind of guardian angel, like the ones you see in movies or on Television shows. What I am claiming is that at the very least these coincidences may be a MacGuffen in its own right.

TUNE IN TO @FREEYOURARMS ON INSTAGRAM OR FACEBOOK AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO PAY IT FORWARD BY PURCHASING FROM OUR SHOP EACH AND EVERY FRIDAY.

THANKS.

TREVOR - FOUNDER FREE YOUR ARMS - DELIVERED WITH ❤️

Survival Tales Of A Founder - Finding My Own Truman Burbank

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...

...The world is changing in many ways.  Demographics are changing, what and where people buy is changing, and scariest of all, the power that the internet gives a small company is a cause for concern for those who hold the power now.
— Me

…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.

What you see in the video… is a montage piece, highlights which I can do in my sleep.  What you don’t see is the story I really wanted to tell. The creative process, the brotherhood of the band, the truth.  The human side of The Roots, just a bunch of guys who happen to be really good at what they do, nothing more, nothing less.
— Me Again

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.

Until now.

THE SEED

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.

THE BUD

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.

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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..

Thanks.

Trevor - Founder Free Your Arms - Delivered With ❤️


Why Should Billionaires Have All The Fun? - How to give away your money and have fun doing it!
Maybe I’m just a stubborn and idealistic dreamer with my head in the clouds hell-bent on clinging to a non-existent point. That is if bankruptcy doesn’t cling to me first.

Maybe I’m just a stubborn and idealistic dreamer with my head in the clouds hell-bent on clinging to a non-existent point. That is if bankruptcy doesn’t cling to me first.

Why In the face of financial stress, growing resentment from friends and colleagues, and my business on the ropes, why am I so cheerfully giving away one day of revenue a week?

The pursuit of happiness.

The metric I used my entire life to measure my happiness was for the most part based on the social and financial capital I accrued personally and in my businesses. The Keeping up of appearances was the daily goal I would strive for in order to maintain my pride and self esteem. To this end, wherever I thought I might be falling short, my strategy would be (to use a familiar term)… fake it until I made it. I may not have been as blatant about putting on airs as others, but as a lifetime entrepreneur, this is a strategy that I employed far more than your average Joe.

Yes, those who know me best would most likely describe me as a kind and giving person. I am always the first to ask if anyone needs help, I am always the one to stick up for those I think are being treated unfairly, and I have been told that I am better than your average listener. These are genuine traits that I’ve had all my life. Which is why in recent months, and directly as a result of the charitable initiatives that I have been retrofitting into Free Your Arms - I realized just how far from that ideal I really am.

The fear of not obtaining or losing my social or financial capital became a prison I built up over a lifetime.

I always knew that despite my cheerful demeanor, that I was at my core a highly driven and annoyingly (if not secretly) competitive person. Anyone that I deemed a threat to my financial or social status would knowingly or unknowingly get pulled into my competitive lair. This could be someone within my own social circles, or it could be someone I had no personal interaction with whatsoever. For example; One of my favorite head-games I would play with myself while driving, was randomly choosing another driver (usually someone who I thought was driving too aggressively) and silently engage them in a race to an imaginary finish line. This happened several times daily. Or maybe I would randomly select a social media influencer with lots of followers that I envy and challenge myself to surpass them one-day (not having allot of luck with that one as my tens of followers would indicate). These are the types of mental exercises that I found challenging, but over a lifetime helped nurture a cancer of resentment and envy within. Basically anyone invading my space that was not on my team I saw as a potential threat.

Over a lifetime this competitive bent built a deep well of jealousy and resentment that existed side by side with my more charitable demeanor.

In the past few months, I started to more clearly see the unhealthy effects of this competitive streak. This was a source of fear, anxiety and resentment that colored how I viewed the world. My fear of not obtaining (or of losing) my social or financial standing became a self-imposed prison that I built-up over a lifetime. It also allowed others to leverage these fears against me through withholding or removing these rewards. It wasn’t until a recent holiday trip to my parents home in Florida that I would unintentionally start down a path of growth that I find myself on today.

THE SHOP

A little burnt out from working on Free Your Arms over the past 3 plus years, I took my annual thanksgiving trip to visit my folks in Spring Hill Florida (this is my go to destination to decompress). As I usually do when I’m down there, I try to start new and fun projects to help occupy my time. On this trip I would use my time to work on a business plan for a platform that I hoped would allow the younger members of the community to provide tasks to the older less tech savvy members of the community. It was like TaskRabbit but for the people who would not know how to use Taskrabbit. Also the taskers would come from close friends and relatives. (Most of my family and extended family transplanted from New York to Spring Hill Florida so I thought this might be a great testing ground).

After dozens of iterations I would eventually call this project The Shop (which eventually became the website you are reading this blog post on right now). As I was building this community based platform, I could see that my world view as it applied to my business started shifting from being monetarily driven to a more charitable outlook. This led to self-examination about my role as a founder. The more I iterated this business plan, the more I realized that I felt happier working on The Shop than on The Free Your Arms Website as it currently existed. At some point I decided to merge the two businesses under the The Free Your Arms banner, with the old business adopting the values I was weaving into the new.

Immediately I started to feel happier, less stressed, and less anxious. I realized just how much fake love and true hate I was reflexively putting out into the world. I had a new interpretation of “fake it until you make it” Instead of faking success I tried to fake loving my enemies until I actually started to feel less hate. I wouldn’t be screaming at drivers on the road (as much), I stopped being obsessed with rooting against my competitors, and people on social media who I viewed as “unworthy”. I even tried to stop hating President Trump. I’m still working on that one. Still several times a day (every day) I have to literally stop myself and say out loud “stop hating!”, or “you’re such a hater!”. Like an alcoholic this might be a lifetime battle, but as they say knowing is half the battle. Now instead of seeking external validation I will never find, I have shifted my gaze within to find the happiness I deserve.

THE CHALLENGES

If the past is prologue then I’m guessing at some point I’ll take this new outlook on life just a bit too far before I inevitably have to pull back. My friends and family think I’ve gone way past that point already. Here are a couple of traps I might want to avoid…

  1. How do I distinguish what I consider healthy impulses (the desire to connect, the need to express oneself, or the desire for my basic survival needs), from the unhealthy ones (The desire for social and financial capital as a validation of my happiness)?

  2. How do I avoid hurting the people I care about that might bear the brunt of my actions? Just because I’m finding less meaning in financial and social rewards this does not mean that everyone else will. And if my new measure of happiness, which includes seeing others gain the same freedoms and happiness I am experiencing. The truth is I won’t be totally happy if those around me aren’t as well.

The truth is I don’t know how I’ll navigate these challenges.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PAY IT FORWARD FRIDAYS?

Yes that little detail. The challenge I get from most who disagree with my new approach usually takes some version of the statement below…

Being charitable is great, but why put my business at risk? Why not just be charitable in private? Why not wait until I’m in a better position to give? I lean on a passage of scripture as my retort…

if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven

Matthew 19:16-30

Even as a child growing up in a strict religious household I could grasp the message in this parable. (Spoiler alert - even the rich man in this parable knew better than to “sell his possessions). I believe that once you have fulfilled the basic needs portion of Maslow's Pyramid, that the only thing separating us from experiencing the type of happiness associated with giving is to give, give and give until it hurts (As my dad use to say).

In an ironic twist, the researchers found that there is one thing that decamillionaires can do to get even more happiness -- give it away.

Forbes

As I see it now, as I transition away from my pursuit for material and social validation, I hope to be able to leapfrog the whole “getting rich and famous” part and right into the “give it away” part that make the super-rich so super-happy. Why should millionaires and billionaires have all the fun of being uber-charitable? I half-jokingly ask myself.

The truth is if I’m not promoting the same kind of growth I am experiencing personally in my company, then I feel like I may be missing an opportunity that I may never have a chance to experience again.

EPILOGUE

Here is a truth that I think proves I am not a crazy person.

Every entrepreneurial fiber of my body is revolting against this new direction (in particular Pay It Forward Friday) like an addict going through withdrawal.

I hope that on the other side of this pain I will find something that I haven’t discovered in myself before. The kind of growth that sometimes only can be achieved through real pain. In the few months that I have been on this path, I have experienced the type of growth I haven’t experienced since I abandoned my childhood religion in 1991. The result, a discovery of self that is a direct result from the pain of giving, and a new measure of happiness. To ignore this path or to promote anything less in my business would give life to the cancer of unhappiness and allow it to come out of remission.

OR…

Maybe I’m just a stubborn and idealistic dreamer with my head in the clouds hell-bent on clinging to a non-existent point. That is if bankruptcy doesn’t cling to me first.

OR…

Maybe I am in ironic pursuit of exactly the type of social and financial validation I am positioning myself against. Am I secretly hoping to become the next Accidental Billionaire? Would that really be so bad?

Whether I soar or I crash, I hope it is a journey worthy of the pain and humiliation I’m putting myself through by pulling back the curtains for you to see me, warts and all.

IN THE MEANTIME BUY, BUY, BUY FRIDAY’S AND EVERYDAY.

THANKS

TREVOR BAYACK - FREE YOUR ARMS OWNER/OPERATOR

DELIVERED WITH LOVE

Don’t forget to follow our daily live-streams Delivered With Love - The Truth in 3 Acts (Tuesday - Friday on our social media channels below) And don’t forget to support Pay It Forward Friday’s by purchasing items each Friday in our store.


Raised to date

Raised to date

PS: My cousin said

You know, you are kinda hazing yourself by doing this in public. You missed it in college but you are getting it now.

I lmao’d

From Pitching to Panhandling - My Journey from Boardroom to Street Corner

YOU’RE GONNA DO WHAT!?

A few weeks ago I launched a Live-Stream series called Delivered With Love - The Truth in Three Acts - Each Tuesday through Friday (three times a day) I would try to be as truthful about my business as my pride would allow. Shortly after launching the series in what might be described as a temporary moment of insanity, I announced that each Friday my company Free Your Arms would be donating all of our revenue to folks in our community who needed it more. I wanted to see what would happen if I applied the principles of giving even if it hurts my business.  I called this day Pay It Forward Friday’s. The challenge I faced is this charitable mission would come at a time when we could least afford to give money away. You see, Free Your Arms is not yet profitable and under financial stress. This left my friends, family, and partners (all who I either owed money to or could use my help financially) scratching their collective heads. To promote this event I thought it would be a good marketing strategy to panhandle on the street for donations which would also go back to the community.

After a week of heavy promotion on our social media the time was finally here for me to hit the streets. Dressed in my Free Your Arms Jumpsuit, Doc Martens, Warby Parker glasses and winter coat at about 3:15 pm last Friday I headed for the intersection at Meeker and Metropolitan Avenues in Williamsburg Brooklyn. This is the main thoroughfare between the Lorimer L stop and all points Williamsburg (including my home/office). I decided to panhandle on the East side at Meeker Avenue under the BQE overpass which is opposite the more common panhandling spot on the westside of Meeker Avenue under the overpass. I parked my van about half a block away, pulled out my cardboard sign, my bottle wrapped in paper tape and placed my phone in a hidden compartment on my sign to livestream the entire pitch.

The sign which by the way read …

GIVE ME $1 I WILL GIVE TO ONE WHO NEEDS IT MORE #PANHANDLEITFORWARD

OK I was ready. I hit record on my phone held up my sign and started pitching. From this moment everything seemed to speed up and a dozen questions I didn’t consider were rattling off in my head. Which way do I walk first? Do I pitch the stopping cars?  Do I approach the crossing pedestrians? What about eye contact? Do I ask for change or just shake the cup? Is the camera recording? What am I doing here? Should I have authored a more realistic sign? Was I sufficiently prepared? Will I get any donations dressed like this?

Then out of nowhere I felt it - the first dollar was dropped into my cup. It came from a young hip girl with a friendly smile. Then only a few minutes later a truck with two men inside pulled up alongside me.  Out came a muscular hand holding a loosely wrapped sandwich. I hesitated for a split second as it never occured to me that people would donate food. The sandwich was bigger than the donors hand and it almost fell apart as I tried to grab it while holding my sign in one hand and my donation cup in the other. After securing the beefy delicacy I became elated “I got a sandwich!” I shouted as the truck drove away.

At this point there was a small crowd gathering at the crosswalk and inside a restaurant observing the happy panhandler. A tad embarrassed to be making a show of begging and yet joyful that I had experienced these spontaneous acts of kindness, It dawned on me that I was this afternoon’s street entertainment.

My plan was to stay on that corner for another 20 minutes before I left for my next delivery. During that time I was mostly ignored by pedestrians and drivers getting variations of the canned response ‘I have no change’. But what really irked me was that no one seemed to be reading the sign that I so cleverly crafted.

This reminded me of the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man when he was trying to find the owner of a stolen bike. One New Yorker walking past Spidey so fixated on his phone that he never realized that the superhero was standing in front of him soliciting his help. His reflexive response to Spidey without ever lifting his gaze was “I have no change”.

This is the refrain I would hear repeated to me many times in the next few minutes, many of whom also avoided making eye contact with me. All though it would have been nice to be acknowledged, The truth is it didn’t bother me if I was ignored totally. In sales I learned that cutting my losses with uninterested prospects quickly is preferable to engagement with no reward.

15 minutes passed and frostbite started to settle in (I wore my open fingered driving gloves). At this point I was just waiting for the experience to be over. It was then that another millennial stopped and almost tore his Whole Foods bag apart just to find a tangerine for me. It was another unexpected gesture of kindness. This time I was able to contain my joy.

It was now time to wrap-up today’s entertainment and head back to the warmth of my van and head off to my next delivery. In the minutes immediately following I was buzzed with adrenaline. It was as if I was floating above my own live-streamed experience. I knew in that moment that I would be back.

NOTE: I did live-stream the Panhandle session but forgot to save the feed on IG so it disappeared after 24 hours, I will be sure to save the next session.

WTF HAVE I DONE?!

At the end of the first day I generated $228.10 from freeyourarms.com and from panhandling I was able to get One Dollar, a tangerine, and a sandwich.

winner-winner-chicken-dinner.jpg

Later that night after the adrenaline high dissipated it became very real what I was sacrificing - with so many of my personal and business bills unpaid, my utilities and phone on the brink of getting shut off, my bank account in the negative, it occured to me that Pay It Forward Friday could really tank my business.  A business that I put 12 - 18 hour days, seven days a week for the better part of 4 years. That’s 4 years not going on a single date, almost filing for bankruptcy, having two vans repoed, tanking my credit, often not being to pay my vendors or my crew. Then I had a mini panic attack.

This was a whole new level of irresponsibility.

PANHANDLING VS. SELLING

One of the goals I listed when I made the initial announcement about PIFF was to document the similarities between a street beggars hustle and an entrepreneurs hustle.  I found that at least at first there was no real difference between begging for money in the streets, selling hand-warmers in a mall, T-shirts in a flea market, video services to a fortune 500 company, delivery services to hotels, or pitching my business on national TV.  All of which I have done over the past 20 years.

I felt empowered knowing that if I ever hit the kind of rock-bottom that puts me out on the streets that I would not be above doing what it took to survive.

On this first day I would say it was easier begging in the streets than I expected. Keeping in mind there were no monetary targets in place. Aside from that little detail I didn’t have to rehearse a pitch, and I was dealing with a more receptive audience than the typical gatekeepers I encounter while selling. Ironically the thing that made begging in the streets more difficult than typical sales was the public spectacle I made of it all.

SO WHY DO IT?

There were two main motivations for why I decided to giveaway a large chunk of my company precisely when we can’t afford it.

First - I wanted to leap into an experiment about social values as it pertained to business. I am 48 years old and there is probably more road in my rear view mirror than lies ahead. If I am not going to build my ideal business now then when?

Second - I knew that if I hadn’t made such a public show of doing this, I would have started the process of gracefully bowing out once the risk of losing my business became real. I needed to put it out there so that the pain that would come from pulling out would exceed the pain I would feel by moving forward with this idea. So far so good.

THE SOCIAL EXPERIMENT

If you have been tuning into my live-streams then you have heard me harp-on about the joy that comes in giving more than I take, my struggle with not having to find validation through material wealth or approval from my peers. You heard me describe the natural high that comes from living each moment doing the things that I love…

what happens when you weave aggressive social values into the fabric of a for profit company? How would that impact the surrounding community? How would that impact the members? How would that impact me?

EPIPHANY

Over time I have seen a profound change in my thinking. For one… my perspective on social norms were being transformed. When I first launched this startup I hoped to launch the next Airbnb or UBER. However In the past few years (thanks in big part to my mentors at SCORE NYC) they showed me that even if I could raise venture funding (and that is a big if) venture money may not be the path for me, they were right, I would have been miserable. So I decided early on to bootstrap. About a year later my choice to bootstrap our growth would soon be called into question…

while working to form a potential luggage disruptor partnership between FreeYourArms.com and Vertoe.com (who launched a different luggage storage disruptor model years after we opened up this category in New York) - Sid a co-founder at Vertoe and I often discussed or debated about the merits of venture capital vs bootstrapping. Months later Vertoe would join one of the top incubators in the country (Techstars) and raise 1.8 million fueling their expansion nationwide. Meanwhile I was still trying to keep our lights on.

After Vertoe raised their millions, the competition for market share in luggage storage disruptors was heating up and it felt like everyone was throwing their luggage in the ring and raising millions, It was a real test of my fortitude and not good for team morale. Thankfully my team stood by me and we soldiered on. The truth is with venture money comes expectations of exponential growth that would have changed the DNA of our business. While some seek this type of transformation It is not the kind of growth that I would find fulfilling. Venture Capital investor Chamath Palihapitiya has a less flattering description for this kind of growth. He describes it as a ponzi scheme (listen to in the link below for more on that).

https://www.recode.net/podcasts/2019/3/4/18247010/chamath-palihapitiya-social-capital-happiness-identity-crisis-kara-swisher-teddy-schleifer-podcast

Looking back over my 20 plus years of entrepreneurship I could see a pattern. At every crossroad where I had to make a choice between growing big faster, or being the narrator of my own slow organic growth, I chose the slow organic path. But I still couldn’t help but ask myself this question… Am I really growing, or am i becoming the dreaded “cautionary tale”? The ironic answer is… I no longer care if the latter is the case.

TELL THESE PEOPLE SOMETHING THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME

The day after panhandling I had what alcoholics would call “A moment of clarity”. Were the beggars and panhandlers of the world the ones who are truly free and fulfilled?  And if so what does that say about our capitalist culture and our obsession with material wealth? What does this say about the current “fake it until you make it culture”? Is Pay It Forward Friday an experiment in socialist values?

Something happened to me as I started to reveal the truth about myself on my live-stream and as I stood on the street panhandling for money. Unlike every other time in my life when I was stressed for cash, I was happy. This was a first for me. It was at that moment that it occured to me that I was freeing myself from the expectations of society.

If I am able to panhandle on the street and in my neighborhood It would be safe to say that I cared less today what people thought of me than I did last week. I started to see things from a new perspective. I could see a power dynamic changing. I realized how many people in my professional and personal life used my economic and social fears of being embarrassed or humiliated as a weapon against me. It wasn’t intentional, it was systematic. Once I revealed my truths to the world, I would start to disarm my naysayers, my critics, my competitors, my bill collectors. With this one public display of humiliation there was nothing left for them to use against me, external expectations floated away, and my journey to freedom began. Now I was able to smile at the world.

Then I remembered this scene from 8 Mile. I saw the Anthonie Mack character (Papa Doc) as the trappings (the naysayers, the critics, the competitors, the bill collectors, the expectations) and I viewed the Eminem character (Rabbit) as the one choosing to let go of the trappings of wealth by revealing his truth, his failures, his humiliation.


EPILOGUE

A few months back I considered giving up my apartment, moving into a motorhome and living a nomad’s life. It is the kind of freedom that I have entertained for much of my adult life but was never able to take that final step. About 10 years back I went as far as packing my bags, calling my girlfriend while she was at work to let her know I was about to hop on a train to travel the states. The following lines from my favorite scene between Vincent and Jules in my favorite film of all time Pulp Fiction sums up my feelings at that time...

VINCENT
So if you’re quitting the life, what’ll you do?

JULES
That’s what I’ve been sitting here contemplating. First, I’m gonna deliver this case to Marsellus. Then, basically, I’m gonna walk the earth.

VINCENT
What do you mean, walk the earth?

JULES
You know, like Caine in “KUNG FU.” 

My girlfriend at the time (God bless her for putting up with me) talked me out of that attempt to walk the earth like Caine (cried and screamed is probably a more apt description). Yet this feeling to free myself from the trappings of societal norms has never quite left me. Even as recently as a few months ago while texting with my cuz, I shared my impulse about moving into a Motorhome and traveling the country. He then shared his own short-lived experience living in his car…

I had just gotten back from backpacking in europe. which was a liberating experience. military folks live in camps, so staying in my car didn't seem like a big deal... after a few days of doing it, I got a perspective of life that can only be acquired by doing that. It was the life of being homeless… it wasn't long before I could spot other homeless people because we had similar routines and spent time in the same sorts of public places. It felt strange to not have a home to go to at the end of the day….

And then came the warning that scared me straight.

I would caution one thing though. it is an experience that can normalize living in the margins. It could lead to a slow progression towards accepting less and less. be aware of that.

So what next? I am not ready to go all-in living a homeless existence, but I have been granted over the past few weeks a new perspective on what is important. Right now that means helping others, and seeing where this social experiment takes me. The goal for me as an entrepreneur is to find a way to make it all self-sustaining without the need for the validation that comes with material wealth and collecting trophies. Hopefully you can help me achieve this by making purchases on our store. If your purchases are made on a Friday, we will pay that forward to the folks in the community who need it more. Any other day goes to the business and hopefully helps keep the social experiment going. Plus we have some really great and innovative products. I forgot to mention that part.

In the short term (this week) I will be back out panhandling it forward hopefully a bit more prepared than I was last week. Also I will be paying those funds raised on the last Friday of each month. I will be live-streaming that process along with our fundraising efforts and I will need your help. If you want to join this experiment or help out in any way message me at

partners@freeyourarms.com

In the meantime BUY, BUY, BUY Friday’s and everyday.

Thanks

Trevor Bayack - Free Your Arms Owner/Operator

Delivered With Love

Money Raised To Date

Money Raised To Date

P.S. I would advise everyone to try panhandling for a day. It will set you free.