Positive self-talk. Generally speaking, the emotional highs and lows come from what you tell yourself. During my worst lows, I always tell myself that “things are going to be OK”. And during my highs, I always tell myself to use the time to shore up for when things go bad. It’s simple, but it’s critical. If you don’t talk positively to yourself first, no one else will. And even if others do, it’s never as powerful or as influential as what you tell yourself.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Danavir Sarria.
Danavir Sarria is a growth consultant with 11 years of digital marketing experience. He specializes in helping 7 and 8 figure eCommerce brands grow with performance marketing. He also writes a weekly newsletter where he documents the marketing tactics used by successful DTC brands.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got my start in business when I was 16 years old. I was passionate about fitness and my dream was to become a millionaire by selling fitness and nutrition programs online. I didn’t know anything about how to build a business though, so I cold emailed a Youtube street magician and asked him if could help him for free. Eventually, we agreed to a 200 dollars per month retainer in exchange for my email marketing services. He officially became my first ever client.
Ever since then, I’ve either been running my own businesses or helping other business owners grow theirs. I’ve helped 7–8 figure “expert” businesses as well as 7–8 figure eCommerce brands. Plus, I built an online school for copywriters and now I’m working on launching a men’s personal care brand.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Personally, I’ve always known that personal care products are important, but I’ve never understood the details behind it. Like most guys, I was just purely unaware of what I had to do and had no urgency to figure things out. I thought things would just work themselves out.
But as I started to learn about some of the health benefits of personal care, I realized I’ve been missing out. So I dove deep into it and became fascinated by the subject. At the same time though, I realized that most men’s personal care advice online was shallow and very fragmented. On the other hand, women’s advice was more in-depth.
So when I realized this, I started a blog to become the #1 education source for men’s personal care. It was a way to educate myself and other men about personal care in a way that actually made sense for the everyday guy. I’m now looking to launch my own brand on top of this new audience.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a natural-born entrepreneur. I believe we may naturally be more interested in certain skills that happen to be adjacent to starting a business and we may be raised to think more “out of the box”, but we don’t develop that aptitude until later on.
When I was a kid, I was always interested in the idea of trading, negotiating, and bartering. However, I wasn’t showing up on Shark Tank as a 12-year-old. Neither was I exiting a 7 figure business by the time I finished college. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I understood what building a business looked like, but it took a decade of work after that to actually turn my interests into skills and my skills into a business.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
There was no single person in my life that inspired or helped me to start my journey unless you count the internet as a “person”. The beauty of the internet is that almost anyone can be a mentor, particularly when they publish their thoughts so you can consume and learn what is going on in their minds.
For example, it was Craig Ballantyne’s fitness business newsletter that encouraged me to reach out to the person who would eventually become my first freelance client. Then it was that client that showed me how the inside of an online business actually worked and the difference between having a job and being an entrepreneur. Every additional person I followed online continued that trend.
With that said, my uncle was a retail entrepreneur that owned his own physical locations in Nicaragua. He would come to stay with my family and me while on his business trips. So being able to see a real entrepreneur up close made business life more “real” to me than if he wasn’t around.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the women’s personal care space, there’s a blog called Into The Gloss. It was started by Emily Weiss and she turned it into a billion-dollar company. Her blog was the #1 resource for women who wanted educational advice about their routines. Unfortunately, there isn’t a true equivalent in the men’s personal care space. Neither was there really space for one until the last few years as the men’s grooming category exploded.
This is why I started a blog first before launching my personal care brand. It’s designed to be the men’s version of Into The Gloss. This gives the business two huge advantages. First, it allows us to educate men on how to solve their personal care problem way before they’re in the “buying” phase. Second, it gives us higher profit margins due to less paid ad spend. This allows us to spend more on creating better products.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Tenacity. I’ve been in business for the past 11 years, which means I’ve had to deal with 11 years of ups and downs. I’ve learned that the technical aspects of building a business are simple, but the emotional side is the hard part. As long as you don’t stop though, you’ll overcome anything. For example, I spent 18 months and thousands of dollars on a failed eCommerce brand. But I was able to repurpose my learnings to offer eCommerce marketing services.
Passion. Building a business is hard, so I’m only able to give my full effort to things that I care about. I’ve also learned it’s important to be passionate about the process rather than just about the idea. For example, offering marketing services isn’t as fun as running your own brand. Yet, I’ve been able to persevere because the process is still the same and I’m still passionate about the end goal.
Adaptability. Business is very unpredictable. In fact, the job of most business owners is to just turn unpredictable situations into predictable ones to allow for scale. So you have to adapt. For me, this has come in the form of marketing hooks and products. Product-market fit is riddled with pivots and so you have to adapt every few months or even every few weeks until you get things just right.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Early in my career, I was told to become the best copywriter that I could be. Now, copywriting is an extremely important skill that is foundational to almost everything you do in business. However, what no one told me was how one-dimensional being a copywriter would be. Because in reality, copywriting is not a primary skill. It’s an amazing secondary skill that can enhance another primary skill.
So whenever I started a new consumer business, I had trouble because I could produce amazing landing pages, emails, and more. However, I’ve had many ventures fail simply because I wasn’t skilled at gaining traction for many of my ideas. In other words, that advice put the cart before the horse. I should have learned a traffic-generating skill such as media buying or SEO first before getting good at copywriting.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I would recommend setting strict “anti-burn out” policies and actively enforce them. For example, I once heard of an agency that capped everyone to 40 hours per week. If they needed more work done, they would hire freelancers. But in no situation were they to ask full-time employees to work longer than they had to.
I would also recommend they adapt their working conditions to what employees want versus what the employer wants. Employees are responsible adults that can make their own decisions. This is why many would prefer to work at home a few days per week so they can work to live rather than live to work.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
These days, the only true way to build trust, credibility, and authority is to publish. You should be writing articles, publishing podcasts, filming videos, and more. You want to turn yourself into the CNN or ESPN of your topic. Share your knowledge and you will have an audience of people who see you as a true authority in your field.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Imagine trying to become a trusted authority by hiding in your bedroom all day without saying a word. That would be impossible. However, we all understand that someone speaking at a big event would be considered an expert in their topic. So rather than not doing anything, we need to do more of what is already proven to turn regular, everyday people into trusted authorities. This means putting yourself out there and being known for a specific topic.
Best of all, you don’t need to be “picked” by any gatekeepers to do this. Whether you want to publish a best-selling book or you want to host your own sold-out events to speak in, you can do that. What matters is that you demonstrate your knowledge, which will lead to trust, credibility, and authority.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most common mistake CEOs and founders make is failing to double-check that their math works before they start. There is no amount of marketing that can fix horribly high CAC or shipping costs. And if you can’t even afford inventory for your products, you have no business to begin with. So it’s incredibly important to work out the math behind your business model before you start. This is not fun, but it’s critical.
The second most common mistake founders make is that they don’t start with rock-solid positioning. When your business doesn’t have an open lane to grow, then there’s nothing you’ll be able to do to become a dominant player unless you have tens of millions of dollars in VC funds. Even then though, it’s an uphill battle. So you want to launch your business away from your competitors so that you have a chance to become the dominant player in your category.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Being an entrepreneur is unique because there is no one set path and there are a lot of emotions that go with each business decision you make. In the beginning, you’ll be faced with the challenge of finding a product-market fit. At scale, it may be finding the right people to hire. Either way, you’re invested into every decision and almost everything will be new to you. So you’ll always have to deal with dramatic highs and lows.
This is different from a regular job because you have (perceived) security. You also have direction, which is to just make your boss happy. Your job is also not as big a part of your identity as being a business owner since you might be invested in your role, but you’re still not as invested in the business as the founder is. Neither do you have to deal with making sure your employees and their families are doing well. You can also clock out at 5 pm, but when you own a business, you’re essentially working every single day of every single minute because you’re attached to it.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I always feel my biggest highs when starting a new venture, even if they eventually end up failing. One of my highest highs was when I started my men’s apparel brand. It was my first time starting an eCommerce brand, which meant it was also the first time holding my own brand of physical products in my hand. I hadn’t made a single sale yet, but I felt like the world was mine to conquer. It was exciting and made me feel full of hope.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
I had exited a prior business and spent a lot of time in limbo. So when I started my next business, which involved growing a blog from scratch with SEO, it felt like I was back at zero. That didn’t make me feel low though. In fact, it was exciting. But because I wanted to grow faster, I decided to work 15 hour work days. After a few weeks, I felt one of my lowest lows, due to a combination of burnout and self-doubt. When you work nonstop and see little results, it’s not easy.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
What made me bounce back was pivoting my focus from the results to the process. In other words, I stopped worrying about how much traffic I was generating. I knew I was doing SEO right, so it was just a matter of time. So instead of focusing on visits, I focused on the number of articles. I would set a goal number of articles and just counted down until I was done. I knew the results would come, but only if I published those articles. This new focus on the leading indicator rather than the lagging indicator completely changed the way how I felt about my progress.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Surround yourself with mentors and peers. This gives yourself multiple data points so you can better gauge what is “normal” and what isn’t. This doesn’t mean to compare yourself to others though. It means to add context to your experiences, which can feel wild even if they aren’t actually wild. For example, I talk to peers all the time to “compare notes” and to talk things through with them.
2) Positive self-talk. Generally speaking, the emotional highs and lows come from what you tell yourself. During my worst lows, I always tell myself that “things are going to be OK”. And during my highs, I always tell myself to use the time to shore up for when things go bad. It’s simple, but it’s critical. If you don’t talk positively to yourself first, no one else will. And even if others do, it’s never as powerful or as influential as what you tell yourself.
3) “Anti-stress” habits. It’s always better to be proactive than it is to be reactive. So when it comes to dealing with my highs and lows, I try to prevent them from taking over my thought process and decision-making. This means taking things slow, such as waiting a day to make very important decisions.
4) Prepare for your lows. I know that even when I’m at my highest highs, I’m going to feel my lowest lows soon after. It’s not negative, it’s reality. So when things are going good, enjoy them. But also use the time to prepare. This may mean investing in long-term assets or just mentally preparing myself to focus on the process because emotions can easily derail progress.
5) Focus on the process. Even with everything I do to soften the blow of my lows, there is no escaping the fact that I will feel significant lows eventually. So whenever that happens, I go back to what’s worked before and focus on the process. It allows me to keep my mind off my perceived faults and instead focus on the things that drive results. It’s never a matter of if, but when. So as long as I’m working on leading indicators.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I’ll defer to an interview with President Obama when he explained that the secret to his story was focusing on the process. At the end of the day, people who are resilient are the ones that keep moving no matter what happens. They don’t do things based on inspiration, motivation or even outcomes because those things are fleeting. They do things because it’s their responsibility. Discipline is the leading indicator for resilience.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I don’t think there is any one single experience that contributes to resilience. It’s all of them together because they all build on top of each other. With that said, I would consider the martial art tournaments I competed in while growing up made a difference. Unlike most sports, combat sports only involve you and your opponent. It’s also guaranteed that you will get hurt because everything moves so fast. The only way to win is to push through the pain, trust your instincts, and to think quickly. Combat sports are arguably one of the most direct ways to test and build your resilience because otherwise you will get punched in the face.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I like to think I keep a positive attitude during difficult situations. What I’ve found that helps the most is to slow down with anything that feels emotionally urgent. This can mean anything from waiting a day to reply to an email to completely detaching myself from my business thoughts so I can slow down and regroup before making a big move.
I’ve also come to realize that keeping a positive attitude is the key to leading myself and my team through difficult situations. This includes realizing that everyone is human and sometimes things just don’t go our way. This is part of the process, which means I need to learn to love it and deal with it.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Everyone takes cues from the leader. If the leader is positive and effective, this signals to everyone else that things are running smoothly. When the leader is negative and inefficient, this signals to everyone that things are not going well and can lead to lower productivity.
For example, one thing I do is train newer writers for my blogs. When you want to hit your numbers, you want things to get done fast and right the first time. But when training new writers, things are the exact opposite. This can lead to negative situations fast, but it’s more of an illusion than reality. If you stay positive, you can actually speed up results. So I always use a positive attitude when training my writers because it directly affects their writing ability.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
My favorite inspirational quote is from Rocky 4 when Rocky is telling his son about how afraid he is to fight against Drago, but then tells him “going in one more round when you don’t think you can — that’s what makes all the difference in your life”.
This quote was actually relevant pretty recently. One of the biggest problems in my business life was not being able to consistently build an organic following. Yet, it’s key to the type of businesses that I do best in. At this point, I’ve tried everything from Youtube to TikTok and nothing worked. I thought building my ideal business would never happen, but I decided to try SEO again one more time. This time with a mentor. Within weeks, I saw results. Months later, I now consider SEO and organic marketing to be a strength of mine. This means I can now build an “anti-fragile” eCommerce business with great margins and a high chance of success.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Every week, I write a weekly eCommerce marketing newsletter where I teach my latest growth strategies for DTC brands. Plus, I also share behind-the-scenes details about how I’m growing my men’s personal care brand, Rooftop.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!