As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Watts.
Angela Watts grew up in Rhode Island. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree, double majoring in Physical Education and Health Education from Plymouth State University. With a successful pitch on Shark Tank and investment from Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher with her first business Slyde Handboards, she has started more direct to consumer businesses with her husband/business partner and investors.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Angela Watts: I grew up with a family of entrepreneurs — my dad owned his own kitchen cabinet company, my grandfather had his own carpentry business, my uncles all had their own businesses as well — so I guess you can say it’s in my blood and much of what I know.
After college I had written up a few business plans and had different ideas, but nothing that I really wanted to proceed with. So I decided to move to California and work for a few startups to learn the ins and outs. Soon after, I met my husband who is an amazing product designer and branding genius, who had just started Slyde. I immediately left my “startup” and came on to help him with the business side of Slyde and the rest is history.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Watts: I remember crying to my husband one day, because I didn’t know how we were going to pay rent. We were living off of rice and beans and our credit cards were maxed out (over $20k) and we owed our family members $10,000 +.
I told him I thought maybe I needed to get another job. He talked me into pushing through. So instead, my mom had saved $10,000 for me to have a wedding, so I asked her if we could use it for the business. She agreed but said we had to pay it back — my Italian mom, wanted to have a wedding for her daughter!
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Watts: It was a pretty stressful time. We could not go out to eat or go out with friends (we couldn’t afford it!) We just lived very minimally but made sure to take walks to the beach as often as possible.
My drive to keep going came from people who doubted me and told me Slyde would fail. Those people that asked “oh this is all you do for a living?” or said “You need to get a real job at a corporation”
All those people just drove me forward. I live for proving those people wrong.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Watts: We wouldn’t be where we are without our family supporting us. Not only loaning us money but by proudly sharing everything we did — even before we were considered “being successful”. And of course our initial investors that believed in us before Shark Tank.
We knew that we needed huge press to get Slyde to be successful because we had $0 marketing dollars. We applied to Shark Tank 3 times before finally getting on. We prepared for our Shark Tank pitch like it was the biggest test of our lives and it was the best feeling in the world to see 4 Sharks fight for our business on National TV. We ended up going with Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher and since then our lives changed overnight.
We were able to pay back all our family — including my mom (She got to have her Italian wedding), we have a beautiful daughter, and a business that supports us and spreads so many smiles to people all over the world. I could not have asked for a better outcome.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Read about other entrepreneurs stories. You are reading this — so you are doing a great job already. All success stories have down points, so it is good to know you are not alone. I also love “How I Built This” Podcast by Guy Raz. I look forward to that podcast once a week.
- Find a support group — I am in a CEO group. We meet once a month and it really helps me to just listen to the other CEO’s and in return to have a sounding board to talk to for any issues I am having.
- Find a mentor — I also meet with my mentor once a month for the past 4 years. He has built and sold many multi-million dollar businesses and I have so much to learn from him. It is great to take a step back from your business and listen to someone who has already been around the block to help you overcome any obstacles you are having or help you see the big picture..
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Watts: My husband for sure! I love business, leading teams and growing something bigger than I could even imagine and my husband is my other half. He can create a product or design a website that can make any person want to have buy into it. We compliment each other in so many ways and without him, I don’t know if I would ever have the guts to have my own business.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Watts: YES! We are working on multiple direct to consumer businesses right now with our investors, Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher. SOON TO BE RELEASED NEXT MONTH!!
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂
Watts: We are working on a movement now through one of our businesses, check it out — https://www.sheilaandvenice.com/
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Watts: Quote by Zig Ziglar: “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.