Jan Janura has staked his 40-year career on a passion for transforming hobbies into viable businesses. Like many serial entrepreneurs and innovators, he’s applied limitless heart and tenacity into shaping an unconventional career path, spawning a series of profitable businesses across a range of industries.
Janura began his entrepreneurial career path within his wife’s industry: fashion design. Leveraging her enormous talents, Jan Janura founded Carol Anderson Designs in 1977 and spent the next 25 years building it into a multimillion dollar enterprise, and the largest women’s fashion retailer without a physical storefront. In 2002, the husband and wife team parlayed that experience into a new venture, creating Carol Anderson by Invitation (CAbi). CAbi fused personalized style advice with at-home shopping, helping to usher in the e-commerce boom and break new ground for female entrepreneurs. By the time they sold the business ten years later, over 3,500 women were working with the brand and CAbi was well-positioned to capitalize on the emerging online shopping craze.
In 1982, Jan Janura monetized his own hobby—fly fishing—by founding The Wild Adventure. Janura hosts groups of men for weeklong fishing outings at his 1,100 acre Montana ranch, but the focus isn’t entirely on the fish. Rather, Janura’s goal is to create a retreat that balances an authentic fly fishing adventure with dedicated time to practice mindfulness, deepen friendships, and appreciate nature.
Raised in Illinois and a graduate of Colorado State University, Jan Janura now lives in Montana full-time, running The Wild Adventure and inhabiting his belief that passion enables entrepreneurs to pursue purpose alongside profit.
How did you break into the women’s fashion retailer industry?
My wife Carol, who at the time was a good college friend, called to tell me that she’d quit her job in fashion. She felt that the only way for her to stay in the industry was to strike out on her own, and yet she didn’t quite know how to approach that. I suggested that we start a business together, and although she thought I was probably crazy at the time, she agreed. We started out with $800 in a garage in Burbank, California, and in a short time we received our first order: from Nordstrom. 25 years later, Carol’s designs were sold in over 3,000 stores, featured on popular TV shows, and worn by celebrities. We had done it.
What business advice do you credit for your successful career as a serial entrepreneur?
I learned from other entrepreneurs that being successful takes just about everything you’ve got. It requires enormous amounts of time and effort. And as helpful as it is to have a great idea, ideas won’t always move your project over the finish line. You cannot possibly throw your life into something if the end game is simply comfort and stability. You need that passion to carry it through. That being said, it has to be bridled passion, because passion on its own isn’t enough, either. That enthusiasm needs to be tempered and shaped with wise planning and an airtight business plan.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs today?
Make a plan, then take the first step. So many people are afraid to make that leap, but actually assuming the risk and making that move sets you apart from 90 percent of other would-be entrepreneurs. Again, your actions need to be thoughtful and well-planned. But once you’ve done your due diligence, don’t sit around and wait for the perfect time or for something to happen. It’s up to you to make it happen. Nothing will ever be perfect or a no-brainer. You’ll always need to assume some level of risk. But if you’ve got the vast majority of your plan ironed out, that’s enough to start. You can always make adjustments along the way.
One of my favorite proverbs is: “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong by common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” This advice will help any entrepreneur stay on track. It’s about having a strong plan, and once the venture is in motion, it should and will invariably be shaped by everything you learn along the way.
How has your passion for reading inspired your latest entrepreneurial venture?
Right around the time I founded The Wild Adventure, I discovered the book, “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” by John Eldredge. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to somehow integrate the book into the business. It was the best book for men that I’d ever read and I felt compelled to leverage the questions raised by the author to enable our retreat participants to do a little soul-searching during their week long hiatus from the real world. I wanted to make their experience more meaningful, I just didn’t know how to do it. Unfortunately, my first attempts fell flat, but after testing a few different approaches, I found one that worked quite well and I’m still using it today. Now, I give participants a copy of the book and a list of the questions that I feel it raises and encourage them to explore answers to those questions throughout the trip. It sparks some incredibly meaningful discussions and helps the men bond in a way that even fishing can’t do on its own.