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Have you ever wanted to start your own business or non-profit, but questioned your ability to do so? Or maybe you just got bogged down and overwhelmed with what steps to take next. You are definitely not alone, but the good news is that thousands of people have overcome these hurdles and you can too.

In this episode, Jimmy and Sammy Ortiz discuss the traits that make a successful entrepreneur, the most important first steps you can take when starting out, and the mindset that leads to success in life and business.

Show Highlights:

  • What you can learn from the most successful entrepreneurial students (0:55)
  • Two key traits that can predict success in business (5:35)
  • Most people avoid this at all costs, but it can teach you more than anything else if you choose to learn from it (6:40)
  • Why you no longer need a huge budget to start a successful business (7:17)
  • Doing this will have a more profound positive impact on the economy than anything else (8:53)
  • The truth about “natural entrepreneurs” (10:03)
  • This is the most important step to get right when starting your entrepreneurial journey (13:36)

If you want to recession-proof your business and thrive in any area of life, go to www.uncommonlifepodcast.com and grab your free report today. I share with you the 5 key principles that have transformed and elevated my life – and they can do the same for you too if consistently applied.

Read Full Transcript

You're listening to the Uncommon Life Podcast. Whether you're a startup or you've been in business for 10 years, this show is for you. Each week, you'll get mentored by business leaders who deliver valuable strategies, tactics and tips on how you can pursue your passion without compromise. We’ll show you how to achieve balance while sticking to your core values, so you can have an uncommon life.

Now, here's your host, Jimmy Fullerton.

Jimmy: Okay, so here is Part 2 of my interview with Sammy Ortiz.

With the students that you've had come through there, what would you identify as some common traits for the ones that have been successful?

Sammy: It's so funny because at first you see them, they all want to come in and be YouTube stars. That's kind of the thing, especially the ones that are younger. I would say that there is something that happens. Most of the students that have gone on to actually launch some type of an enterprise, it hits them probably about three to four months after they graduate from the Generator cohort.

During the cohort, it's collaborative, but they're getting instruction. Mind you, we do these afterschool, so they happen from 5:00 to 6:00 PM, Tuesday or Thursday. And so, they've been at school all day. They sit down in an environment that's collaborative. Nobody's standing up. Nobody's lecturing them. We're all learning the same thing. Everybody’s giving input. To them, it's a learning environment.

And so, while they're in there, a lot of them come in and they're like, Oh gosh, my mom made me do this, or I really liked this guy, Sammy. He's really energetic and he's really showing us some good stuff. But it's about three to four months after they graduate, they go, Wait a minute, I think my [sound choppy], and it’s at that point they say, I think I'm going to do it.
We have this young man named Diego. Diego was one of the students that, during the cohort, he would doodle as I was teaching them the material, and it would really get under my skin because we don't charge the student. I'm doing this as a mission. I'm doing this because I want to show God's love to them in a specific way and this is the way that I'm showing it. And so, he doodled throughout the entire cohort.

He wanted to start a kayak rental company in Dade City and there's only one large body of water in that specific area. It's connected to a university, so it's private, so you can't rent kayaks on a private Lake. And so, I didn't think it was a good idea, but I'm not going to tell Diego that. This is all [03:00.0] hindsight now, but I did encourage them. I said, “Diego, you have talent with your art. I think you should pursue something in art.”

And so, four months after he graduates, it dawns on him, Yeah, maybe I'll do something with art. His first sale, there was a car show downtown Dade City. An art gallery let him showcase his art as people were walking by as they were looking at cars. He sold a piece of art for $40. I think that was his first sale that he made. I said, “I don't think you're charging enough.” We kind of talked about it after the fact. “I don't think you're charging enough and I think you should charge about $90 for your art.”
Well, Diego heard $120, and I'm like, Man, I don't know, that's a little steep for the area and you're not van Gogh. You're not some well-known artist. I didn't say this. I'm thinking that, but he heard 120 in his mind and he actually started selling art for $120 a pop.

Jimmy: Wow.

Sammy: Some of the art that Diego has done is in my office because after that I've actually sold some of Diego's art from just posting stuff on Instagram or whatever. But this young man has resilience. He thought outside of the box. He thought higher than what I could think. And so, I'm not here to tell them what. I will encourage them, if they have a dream, I'm just here to fan the flame that they can do something, and Diego is just a prime example of these young people starting something that they can actually make money.

Now, here's the funny thing. After Diego started selling art like this, guess who came up and asked me when we would start a cohort or just a different group?

Jimmy: Who?

Sammy: His mom. His mom was like, What is that you're showing my kid? When are you going to start one for us? And so, I want to reach the community, but I felt like young people are the most underserved. Now because of young men like Diego who are seeing the fruits of what they've learned, their parents are intrigued. And so, that ecosystem is growing in the sense that now entrepreneurship is not only seen by young people, but it's even seen by the parents, which is huge.

Jimmy: Huge benefit, yeah, because that's how word spreads further and can cause it to grow even more. He was resilient, which I know is a key trait that you have to have to be successful, and not just as an entrepreneur, but in anything. I'm trying to teach my daughter that, being resilient. Also, you said he thought outside the box. So, for you that meant, how did he think outside the box? By the fee he wanted to charge?

Sammy: Yeah, the fee he wanted to charge. He started utilizing social media, actually doing the painting. He would do videos of him doing those paintings on social media and it’s just, again, utilizing tools that are already there, but in a [06:00.0] way that it began to advertise for him, not just the final product, but his talent.

It showcased his talent on a scale that was different from just showing up somewhere and coming up with your art or showcasing your art. He was showing how the art was being made, and I love that about him. I love the fact that he was just saying, Look, if it works, that's awesome, and if it doesn't work, at least I've learned what has not worked.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's a good point, too. Learning what does not work sometimes is more important in anything you can do. For me, the best learning experience is learning through my failures, or at least somebody else's, and what doesn't work. So, yeah, taking an action is one way to do that, and testing things and seeing what works—this works. This doesn’t—that’s how I learn. That's how most people learn.

I like the fact that, yeah, today it's easier—easier is probably the wrong word—but there's more opportunity for people that are disadvantaged, who don't necessarily have the huge marketing budget to get whatever they’re selling, get it out there through social media. There are so many different forums to do that and to connect with people, especially your target audience. There are so many different ways to identify who your audience is and how to connect with them. It really opens up so many opportunities if you can take advantage of them. So, I think that was a big wake up call for me.

And one thing I did want to ask you about earlier was why do you think entrepreneurism is so important? What was so important about being an entrepreneur or at least having those skills?

Sammy: I think that the bedrock of especially American society is small businesses, entrepreneurs. We're experiencing something right now where we're seeing that these large corporations are not doing well. In my area—I'll just talk about my area—we have what we would call a lot of big-box shops. The bolstering has been for large corporations, maybe not as much for small businesses, medium-sized businesses.

Let's say that all these large corporations go under and we're in a very bad financial time right now. What is it going to leave? A bunch of empty shells. It's going to leave a lot of empty buildings and all the jobs that work created during that time could be lost, whereas bolstering small business, small business really is what makes communities thrive.

And so, teaching entrepreneurship or encouraging entrepreneurship for me is the equivalent of “Give a man a fish and he eats one day. Teach a man to fish and he eats every day.” And so, that's what I want to do for young people especially [09:00.2]. We don't call them … we used to call them underprivileged, disadvantaged. We call them underestimated because sometimes there are, big, big, big gems and communities that most people would maybe overlook.

And poverty doesn't discriminate. We're seeing that now. Twenty-two million people that are jobless, I'm sure that there are a lot of diamonds and what would be very rough that are going to pivot, that were working for corporations and now have lost their jobs that are going to start something. I'm looking for the next big thing that starts out of the economic turmoil that this pandemic has brought about and I'm telling you that it's going to be huge. Then I want it to be huge that comes from a young person, and so that is what I'm going to fan the flame and cheer for as long as I've got breath.

Sammy: Yeah, they're the ones that can definitely drive that change, for sure. And I think it's important to understand that a lot of people view entrepreneurism and being an entrepreneur as something you're either born with or you're not, and I've come to understand that it’s something that can be taught. A lot of the skills that entrepreneurs possess, it's something that you can learn over time.

For instance, collaboration is not really a skill, but that's a tactic you can use to get ideas and then kind of access the collective brain power of many people as opposed to just relying on your own. Anybody can do that. Anybody can collaborate. I've had a whole podcast about collaboration and the importance of doing that.

And as far as being innovative, a lot of people don't view themselves as being innovative, but really all it is is being able to identify a problem or an area of need, like you did in your community, and figuring out how you can best fill that need, how you can serve that need, which is what you did. I like how you started out. Once you figured out the need, you decided to listen and get even more clarification on what some of the specific needs were.

I think, yeah, for me, I've been one of those that always thought that, as far as being an entrepreneur, it’s something you're born with or you're not. But, yeah, you can be taught that, and that was a very important distinction for me.

Sammy: You know what? Like I said, I've told you, I've been in ministry for the last almost 29 years, and so doing this, this is ministry, but it's also entrepreneurship. At the beginning I felt out of my wheelhouse. I don't see ministry as business. I just don't. To me, if anything it gets under my skin kind of like the captain on Jaws that does the screech on the chalkboard in that movie, Jaws.

Jimmy: Quint.

Sammy: Yeah. When somebody says church is a business, I go, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don't believe that. My hope is that Jesus turns the tables of church business. But in an area where I didn't feel like I had [12:00.0] any idea of what business or entrepreneurship was like, I am a church planter. I have started a thing. I took what I knew about starting things church-wise and I started something over here called Y.E.S., and so, regardless of if they are in the same sphere, it doesn't matter. If you know how to start something, then just follow through with it somewhere else. That’s entrepreneurship.

Jimmy: Exactly.

Sammy: You know what I'm saying? We have a young lady right now who is making pineapple upside down cupcakes. Now, listen, brother, I struggle with diabetes, but I've never heard of pineapple upside down cupcakes. I've heard of pineapple upside down cakes, but not cupcakes. I'm encouraging this young lady to do this. Why? She's thinking out of the box. She's 12 years old. You know what I'm saying? Again, she makes cakes. Now she's like, Well, I make cake. I make pineapple upside down cupcakes. I'm going to sell them. Hello. That's called business.

Jimmy: Yeah, and just I love that and just taking an idea, and this is where so many people stumble. They fail to start.

Sammy: Execute.

Jimmy: Take the first step and then just keep moving forward, and eventually if you just keep taking them, even if they're little bitty steps, if you just keep taking those steps consistently, then a year from the time you start, you'll be at a different place. I mean, sometimes it takes longer, sometimes not so long, but just maintaining your momentum and taking those steps forward, that's where people, or I'll see them, get stuck. It’s in taking that first step. They get overwhelmed by all the different things that have to be done instead of just making a move in one direction.

Sammy: It's called paralysis by analysis.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sammy: A lot of people get paralyzed in all the things. Listen, just start. If it doesn't work out, at least for the next venture, you know what doesn't work.

Jimmy: Do the first thing that makes sense.

Sammy: Exactly.

Sammy: And just keep moving. Just keep moving. I think the military has a … I’ve read some different military books on strategy about how they operate in a crisis, and that's one thing they do. Just do the first thing that makes sense. Don't worry about coming up with the best possible plan that's perfect. Just make the best plan you can with the information you have. Make it as simple as possible and execute it. It's the same way in business.

Sammy: You have to adapt. I mean, right now, we're doing our cohorts via some type of a video-conferencing app if you will, and I'll tell you they're boring as all get-out. I am not Mr. Fun. Don't hire me to be the fun director on a cruise ship, not that I would get on one right now anyway. But the point is they're not fun, but these kids are still joining in. And why? Because they see the potential in what they're learning. And so, sometimes we've got to get rid of the thought that if it's not fun, if you don't feel like they're getting anything out of it.

And this could be for anything. Sometimes those thoughts are your own and don't let them bog you [15:00.0] down because it could work. Look, three years ago, I was a guy that was driving down a road that I thought looked like a Third-World country. Today, Y.E.S. exists. I'm on a podcast with a guy in Georgia talking about Y.E.S. That thing just came from a right turn onto a road. We never know where or whatever it is that, in my case, God drops in your mind and in your heart. We never know where it's going to take us, but we've got to act on it when we're supposed to act on it.

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Jimmy: I think something else that's important that you did is you were [present] and a lot of people these days don't know how to be present in the moment, and obviously you were present. You were in the moment. You were looking around.
You were aware of what you were seeing, and because of that sense of awareness, it enabled you to see a need to spot an opportunity and hear God speaking to you, that still small voice, which is pretty much the way He always speaks to me. It's always a whisper. And if you're not paying attention, and you're not kind of being still or present and aware of what's going on around you, not walking around and looking on your cell phone, checking social media, you’ve got to be aware of what's going on around you, and I think that is a pretty important as far as being able to spot or identify a need that needs to be served as well.

Sammy: Absolutely.

Jimmy: One thing I wanted to [talk about], I saw where you have this thing called Canvas, which is basically this part of your Generator curriculum where you give people a visual diagram of their business. I love that concept. Can you talk for a minute about that?

Sammy: Sure, sure. The Canvas is part of the Generator curriculum and Generator comes from CO.STARTERS. For two years I looked for a curriculum. I didn't want to create it. Why reinvent the wheel when it's already there? And CO.STARTERS has developed a curriculum that is, in my opinion, excellent.

And so, as part of that curriculum there is what you call the Canvas and it's really a visual business plan that you go over. They learn every aspect of the Canvas, who my customer is, what's the solution that I'm providing? How [18:00.0] do I get my message across? How do I distribute it? What do I need to start my business? What do I need to keep my business going? It covers everything that you would need in order to create a business plan.

So, the Canvas is ingenious in the sense that, for people that need a visual like me—I need a visual. If you talk to me for hours, I'm like, Brother, my eyes will roll to the back of my head and I'm lost. Maybe that's just ADD—but the Canvas makes it visual. It doesn't matter if you're a young person or adult. The Canvas is the same for both. But it really gives you the tools necessary for you to develop who it is that your business is targeting, and your business can target multiple people. Whatever your widget is, whatever it is, whether it's a cupcake or a painting, that one widget could serve multiple streams and the Canvas really helps you decipher that.

And the way that we use the Canvas is that you don't write on it. You use sticky notes, different colored sticky notes, because, again, one idea could serve different populations or different demographics and it helps you develop that idea and bring it about to different outcomes [19:15.3].

Jimmy: So, it's sort of like a vision board or a business plan?

Sammy: No, it’s not a vision board, although it is visual. I wish I would have had time to have one here. I could have shown it. But it's a visual. They're visual blocks that show you how to identify whatever it is that that block—so for customer, in that block you will begin to identify who your customer is. In the solution, you will identify for the customer what problem it is that you're solving. And alternative, in that block, you will get to see who is in another business that's doing something similar to what you're doing, but what is it that makes you the alternative to another biz?

Jimmy: I love that.

Sammy: And in your message, one, how do I develop a message for what it is that I'm doing, but also how do I get my message out to of my potential customers? But that Canvas, if the person that's going through the actual cohort doesn't do what is known as customer discovery, you can have ideas all day long, but you don't have real data from somebody that is willing to pay for whatever it is that you're willing to provide, then that's just a hobby. That's not a business. And so, the Canvas really helps you identify, could my business be viable based on the customer input that you get?

Sammy: So, it sort of helps flesh out the nuts and bolts, the specifics that so often get overlooked. When somebody is thinking about starting a business, they don't look at it demographic data, or are there enough customers or is there enough demand for this product where I'm at? If it's that kind of product or is there enough? [21:00.1] What does my demographic look like? Who is my ideal customer? Those kinds of things. A lot of people don't ask those questions. We've seen that numerous times. People don't really. I see at work in another area. I'll give you a Trampoline Park, for instance. There was a saying for a while that was “If you build it, they will come.”

Sammy: One of my favorite movies.

Jimmy: For a while that was the case, and so people jumped on board and they started putting parks where they had no business. They would put parks where there was another one in the same area and there wasn't enough support demographically for that park. But they just thought, hey … Maybe the demographics were even different. They didn't match up with what's needed in this type of business. So, if people just took time to look at those numbers, then that would solve a lot of problems and help them start off on the right track.

So, yeah, Canvas. What is Canvas? I mean, is it an app or what is it?

Sammy: It's something that CO.STARTERS developed. There is a business Canvas out there, so it's kind of like a take away from the Business Model Canvas, but CO.STARTERS, for what they've created, they've just made it very simple.

Jimmy: Adopted it for their model basically. Okay.

Sammy: Correct. So, there is Business Model Canvas, but the Canvas that CO.STARTERS use is just a simplified version of the Business Model Canvas. It's excellent. And I think that as we move forward after this economic hiccup that we have, business that's probably going to be looking for more from … not businesses, but banks are probably going to be looking for more or small business administrations and how they loan money, and making sure that whatever business plan you create that it is very precise. And so, customer discovery is going to be huge, which makes the Canvas even more beneficial for those that are going to be launching and starting a business.

Jimmy: Yeah, I definitely agree with that.

Okay, so you've reached the end of Part 2, but there is one more bonus episode, Part 3, to finish up my series with Sammy Ortiz. Stay tuned. You will enjoy it.

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