Owners who do EVERYTHING in a business do NOTHING well. I’ve struggled for years with the thought of unloading the massive amount of duties from my plate. However, as your business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to handle everything coming at you and still look at the big picture and ways to grow your business. At some point, it is a MUST that you offload some of your work to employees or you will be sitting on a house of cards. You simply can’t manage it all. If you try, you’re probably not doing it very well.
As a part of our series aboutentrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Hunter, the CEO of JerkFit LLC. Jerkfit’s brand values come directly from Jeff and Kristina Hunter’s (husband and wife co-owners of JerkFit) own personal commitment to health and fitness in their everyday life. As a family, they value clean eating, holistic health, limiting exposure to GMO’s, toxins, and chemicals, and of course, fitness! As self-proclaimed adrenaline junkies, Jeff and Kristina lead a very active lifestyles and like to spend their free time exploring the outdoors and seeking out adventure wherever they can find it. On the weekends you will find them snowboarding, mountain biking, water-skiing, bungee jumping, Heli-boarding, hiking or anything else that gets their blood pumping.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in Thousand Oaks, CA and had a quintessential normal childhood. Never had the entrepreneurial bug growing up but upon reflection, both parents worked for themselves and never had an office job. Perhaps that’s why being an employee was never really something that sounded appealing to me.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
My wife and I were bartenders in Hollywood back in 2013. I wanted to try CrossFit and I dragged her along with me. Immediately we were completely hooked. We LOVED CrossFit, we loved the community and how we felt after the workouts. But one thing that we instantly noticed was how awful it was on the hands. We would have huge open sores on our hands and then go into work. We’d have tons of customers and we’d squeeze limes and lemons into their drinks causing our hands to be in excruciating pain. We could barely get through a night of work.
I decided that I was going to quit CrossFit since it was affecting my work, so I told my wife I was done. She insisted that we not give up our new hobby and told me she’d just make me something to cover my hands so I wouldn’t rip so much. She has a background in fashion design, so I figured she could come up with something that would be wearable. She busts out her sewing machine and the next day I had these incredible gloves mixed with wrist support that she made me and they looked amazing! The next day I took them to our CrossFit class and showed them off. Everyone in CrossFit suffers with ripped hands so when our classmates saw them, we had about nine orders instantly that day!
All of the sudden, more and more people requested we make the gloves for them. We realized at that point that we may be on to something and decided to form a company for our side hustle and launch them to the public. Within weeks we were selling like crazy. Before we knew it, we had the #1 selling fitness gloves on Amazon. Three months later we were able to quit our jobs and launch life full time into our business and CrossFit. It was the ultimate side hustle turned full time business story. We feel very blessed.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
With us, we knew our product was unique and nobody was making anything like it. And we knew that torn up hands were a serious problem in CrossFit that nobody had quite solved yet. But I also think the advantage we had is that we had no experience in business or launching a product, so we had no expectations of success. All we had was a great product and we would have been happy selling our product on the side to supplement our lives. It was the product itself and the CrossFit community that turned it into the big success our company is now enjoying.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Reluctance is a normal feeling for anyone. There is a lot of fear and self doubt that can get in the way of pursuing your dreams. My advice is not to quit your day job just yet. Dip your toe if you have that option, start small, get a feel for what it’s going to take to make things a reality. And if you get positive reinforcement in the way it makes you feel, or in the form of making a little bit of money, then the decision at that point needs to be made if you’re willing to go all in or not. But if you make that decision to go all in, its ALL IN or nothing. So, ask yourself, am I willing to do EVERYTHING it takes to make this a reality? If the answer is yes, then go for it!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Perspective! If you want to own your own business, essentially your entire job is putting out fires and fixing problems. Its stressful and overwhelming more times than you can imagine. You have to remember that no matter how difficult, how dreadful it can sometimes be, that you’re doing it because you want to control your own destiny, to be your own boss and not have to answer to someone. With a little change in your perspective, it can make all the difference and change the way you see and feel about your business. Its not an enjoyable experience all the time but reminding yourself why you’re doing it makes it consistently rewarding.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I love best about running my own business is the satisfaction of getting to be my own boss. You can’t control the people who you work for, but you have a bit of control over the type of people that work for you. The downside of running your own business is the fear of losing it. When your identity is tied to the success or failure of your business, the fear of losing it means losing a piece of your identity. That fear can be crippling at times, and difficult to turn off. The ways I’ve tried to overcome that fear is to remind myself of the skills that I’ve acquired on this journey and that no matter what happens, I’ll be OK.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Putting out fires ALL DAY LONG. That is the life of an entrepreneur and something I never expected. I figured the job would be constantly thinking about ways to sell more and grow, and it is, but you have to fit all that around the emergencies that come up.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
ALL THE TIME! So many things can trigger feelings like that. A rude customer, a broken website, even a poor product review can seem like minor offenses from the outside looking in, but when you are an owner, you can sometimes take things too personally and you want to throw your hands up and ask if it’s all worth it and want to throw in the towel. But you have to step back and ask yourself, does this customer and his unreasonable behavior, or this temporary glitch to the website, or this poor review have the power to undo everything you’ve built for all these years? Absolutely not. It’s about dealing with problems, solving them as best you can and move on.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first launched, we had never done a live sales expo event. Generally, at the time I would have thought of myself as much more of a sales person than my wife and business partner and certainly more outgoing. However, at our first event I was totally worthless. I tripped over my words, I forgot to mention key features about our product, I oversold certain aspects, glossed over the many others, I was embarrassed by our higher end price point, I was just not confident and it showed. I would watch as my potential customers eyes would glaze over as I mumbled along during my pitch and I would lose them. It messed with my confidence which in turn made my pitch even worse. I really struggled. Meanwhile my wife was crushing it and she still loves to bring up that first event and remind me of that fact. It turned out that because she was the designer and inventor of our product, she understood it like the back of her hand. That gave her the confidence to explain the features without effort and yet do less talking and let the product speak for itself. She had the perfect amount of pitch vs. restraint on day 1 and she taught me a valuable lesson. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. Be ready for any question or concern that comes up and let the product speak for itself when you can. Once I figured this out, selling became second nature and something I absolutely love to do.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I’ve always been a fan of Richard Branson of Virgin Group. He’s the ultimate entrepreneur. To start with nothing and build an empire in multiple industries is such an incredible feat. But beyond that, his vision, his charisma, and the way he lives his life makes him a rock-star of the business world. He makes entrepreneurship look cool.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The very philosophy of our business is to provide products that solve a problem. Whether that be to protect an athlete from injuries or give them an edge in their training, our goal is to make people more confident in their workouts which in turn makes them a better athlete. We’ve made a big difference to thousands of athletes worldwide, and I think that, no doubt, there is a ripple effect.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Separating business from life is difficult. When you’re an owner, your mind rarely turns off from business mode. Many people work their regular jobs and can leave at the end of the day or vacation and forget about work for a while. But for an owner, it’s virtually always in your mind. This wasn’t something I expected or realized would be so consuming. Nobody mentioned that!
- Be VERY careful who you partner with. We gave up a very significant portion of our equity early on to someone we hardly knew and it turned bad very quickly. You’ve GOT to put clauses in your contract with someone to ensure that each party holds their end of the bargain or you could end up being stuck with no easy way out. Its very painful to deal with.
- Expand your product line quickly! We got lucky early on with 2 successful products and got comfortable in the profit. All the while our competitors were expanding their lines. As our products lost some momentum, we ended up having to play catch up mode with new products instead of leading the charge. Its an expensive mistake I never want to experience again.
- Owners who do EVERYTHING in a business do NOTHING well. I’ve struggled for years with the thought of unloading the massive amount of duties from my plate. However, as your business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to handle everything coming at you and still look at the big picture and ways to grow your business. At some point, it is a MUST that you offload some of your work to employees or you will be sitting on a house of cards. You simply can’t manage it all. If you try, you’re probably not doing it very well.
- Being an entrepreneur is lonely. Heading a business can be overwhelming at times but having anyone around you that understands the struggle of an entrepreneur is rare. Many suffer in silence with uncertainty. I am definitely one of those people, and it’s tough when you don’t have many people you can just pick up the phone and talk to for advice or a different perspective. I discovered late in the journey that going to entrepreneurial events and joining masterminds is a great way to meet like minded people who simply get it. I wish I was told this years ago!
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I believe starting a mastermind group of people who want more in their life but don’t know what direction to go and mix that with people who’ve accomplished incredible things and get them all together for an intensive weekend of sharing ideas, brainstorming and inspiration. Then have monthly or quartlerly follow up meetings to make sure people are staying on track. Imagine the Pandora’s box that would be opened in so many lives. The connections that could be made and businesses that could get started could actually change the world. We all have certain gifts, and sometimes it just takes the right idea, connection or inspiration to unlock one’s potential. It happened for us out of the blue when we pursued a hobby with zero business experience and now, we run a world wide brand!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Not sure if this is a specific quote from someone, but I read this somewhere and it changed my life: “Work to the clock, not to your list.” Best advice I ever got. Your list of things to do is endless as a business owner and your list is never done. Work to the clock and your day is done and you can pick up where you left off the next day. Hearing this allowed me to put my business mind at ease and be more present with my wife and kids and gave me the freedom to relax a bit and in turn gave my life more balance. For years I would work and work until my list was done, when in all actuality it never is and I was missing out on whats really important in life. Now at 6pm, its family time and that’s non negotiable.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would say the Shark himself, “Mr Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary. I absolutely love his confidence. I see right through his “mean” persona and see an extremely smart and caring business person. But I also see the no nonsense way in which he handles himself. He’s the type to tell it how it is. That is a weakness for me and I’d love to have someone like him to give it to me straight. Even if it’s over breakfast!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.