Find a hobby, and make sure you do it. I play golf a lot. It takes me away and gives me something to work on when I’m not at work, which I basically always am.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Baker.
Nick Baker, the founder of DadWare Bondaroo, was born in Philadelphia where he attended Lower Merion High School, Ursinus College and Temple University. Graduating with a BA in theatre in 2002, Nick became a part time entrepreneur running free to play poker tournaments at bars and doing stand-up comedy while appearing in films and TV in the local area. After moving to LA to chase the acting dream, Nick found success initially in the restaurant industry and now finds himself in the role of Dad, entrepreneur and CEO/founder of DadWare LLC, manufacturer of the Bondaroo shirt for dads to facilitate skin to skin care for their babies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I guess you can say that I always had the entrepreneurial gene. At age eight, I had “Nick’s Cookies” and I sold cookies at a local deli. In high school, I always had a job. I worked at a gas station, a pet food store, and eventually in a restaurant business in college. Whatever I did I tried to do it at the highest level. Perhaps this stems from the constant support and understanding I had from my parents. My dad was a psychiatrist and my mom a psychologist with a PhD in child psychology. Both of my parents were nurturing and tuned into my needs and pursuits, which I think helped me as a parent. It also helped me to create DadWare Bondaroo as a way to truly bond with my daughter from birth.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be true to oneself.” I recognize now that part of the reason the idea of becoming an entrepreneur appealed to me was that I didn’t like having a boss. Rather, I knew I would always do the best for myself in my own business. Perhaps it was a self-fulling prophecy that drove me to always do my best. At times it was difficult to work for others who refused to listen to the suggestions of others. I am true to myself as an entrepreneur. Even though I have been successful, I have made mistakes along the way, recognized them, and came up with a fix. When I worked as an actor/comedian, I was not able to monetize my job as I have been able to do in my present capacity as the founder of DadWare.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Creativity– I was always creative in my other jobs and as an actor/comedian you always have to be creative and think outside of the box. I came up with the idea for DadWare Bondaroo, an article of clothing that didn’t exist. Although I didn’t know how to make clothing, I identified people in manufacturing who could help me.
Determination — It is important not to quit. Understand that you will always run into problems, run out of money, etc. but you have to keep your eye on the prize.
Humility and a good sense of humor — You have to have a good sense of humor and be humble. The number one thing that I see in entrepreneurs is they don’t hear the word no. They keep plugging away until they attain their goal. The ability to be wrong is one of the best qualities an entrepreneur can have. Recognizing that you made a mistake will help you get to the root of the problem and solution faster. Also, be open to hearing others’ opinions as they may be right.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Prior to becoming a dadpreneur, I was a comedian/actor. I was also on staff at an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles. I have always been politically aware and involved, and currently sit on my local neighborhood council working with city council and state legislators focusing much of my time on the homeless situation, something I am passionate about.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I realized what was most important to me — being a dad — and focused all my energies into creating a product that I thought other dads would love and benefit from. After my wife gave birth, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t hold our newborn daughter. I immediately stepped in and started cuddling her with skin-to-skin contact as I had read that this is good for the baby. I was loving it, too! I had read about Kangaroo care and knew that there are positive aspects to bonding with baby, including regulating her heartbeat and body temperature. I realize now that allowing dads the opportunity to connect with their babies from birth may result in lifelong positive relationships with their children.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I knew that I was doing something right when the medical staff in the hospital was surprised (and impressed!) that I knew about skin-to-skin bonding. They said that they had never seen a dad do it. What convinced me to create a shirt to facilitate this for all dads was a simple practicality: I was tired of walking around shirtless and surprising every delivery person who came to the door and was greeted by a half-naked dad! After creating a slit in several shirts, I designed one that opened up and gently hugged the baby, held together with Velcro strips.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I realized that since I’m wearing so many different hats it’s very important to be organized, which was never my forte. That was a huge challenge for me as there are about seven or eight processes that have to come together in order to make a shirt, and I’m in charge of all that coordination. Nothing prepared me for this part of being an entrepreneur. Also managing and shuffling around large amounts of money was new and a bit daunting, but all part of the job!
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
Dadware Bondaroo has really caught on and it’s clear to me that it fills a void in the market. Growth has been good and luckily the pandemic did not have an effect as most of my sales are online, so lack of traffic in stores was not a factor. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to present my idea in the beginning stage on Shark Tank, and although I didn’t get a deal, the exposure was great. I received positive reinforcement and constructive criticism which I appreciated.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I owe my entire career to my daughter Eva. She is really the impetus for most of what I do. From the moment she was born I knew I wanted to be close to her and be a part of her life as my parents were in mine. I’m grateful for her every day, and at the end of the day she is the reason I’m doing all this.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I started getting emails from other dads who said my shirt really helped them. That makes me feel really good — you may think that a shirt is silly but many of the dads I hear from are really happy they have a way to bond with baby. Dads want their modesty, and I’ve given them a way to create special times through bonding with baby, and all the while they are not uncomfortably undressed. I’m thrilled that I can foster this in other dads.
So much of my fatherhood bonding was formed in those early weeks and months.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I was always good at overcoming obstacles and figuring things out. While I may have made more money in my former job, that wasn’t my life. I feel as if I have my life back, and I’m living it the way I want to. Each day, I wake up and I like my boss.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I realize this may sound strange, but I was my own support system at least financially. I didn’t embark on this new venture until I had saved enough money from my prior career in the restaurant industry. I had the capital to buy materials and go into production of samples and was able to absorb some of the bumps (including design mistakes) in the beginning. My biggest support was finding the right production manager to get things running smoothly.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
Having a kid in the first place was the most “out of my comfort zone” thing I had ever done. Being a father was terrifying. Kids don’t come with instructions! Now it feels so natural, and it is a huge part of who I have become. I am happy that I had those early months to snuggle with Eva. It’s extremely gratifying that I was able to give that same gift to other dads.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Save MONEY. People get loans and start businesses with this attitude that money will always be there. It might not, and cash is SO valuable. Don’t waste it!
- Run ideas by people you trust and make sure you vet them. I have worked with marketers who, had I checked with some friends, I would not have.
- Look at what your competitors do well. Know who your competition is and what they do well. If you’re getting knocked off and there is a patent infringement you have legal recourse. If not, try to modify your product to offer something new and different, like “Made in the USA.”
- Don’t over manufacture. Make just a few at first as you will undoubtedly be tweaking and modifying your initial designs. You WILL perfect it and you don’t want to be stuck with inventory where you improve the design. I did this by cutting circles for my Velcro attachments. They used to be just cut strips of Velcro. Now they are die cut circles. Had I not been doing small runs I might have gotten stuck with a lot of old design shirts!
- Find a hobby, and make sure you do it. I play golf a lot. It takes me away and gives me something to work on when I’m not at work, which I basically always am.
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?
I would fundamentally dismantle groups in the U.S. that don’t believe in democracy, in freedom and in ensuring everyone has the same rights under the law.
We are very blessed that some very prominent 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. 🙂
Jalen Hurts. I’m from Philly, so this is such a homer pick, as football season is upon us, as it always is for my birthday weekend. My birthday is 9/9. 9’s are a thing for me. But Jalen is a guy whom EVERYONE doubts. Everyone. He lost his job on the biggest stage in college football and didn’t quit. He created space in his life and transferred to a different University to grow. This KID, at 19–20 years old, knew he needed to leave where he was in order to grow and become the player he wanted to become. Something he just couldn’t do after what happened to him. So many might have fallen and never gotten up. Not this dude. And he just carved up an NFL defense to open my football weekend, so here’s a shout to you…and think about us as a gift for all the players having kids. Best thing you’ll ever do…
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m not much of a social media guy. You can view our products online (https://mydadware.com/), and we have our Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/mydadware/) but I’m always happy to talk to people and I get all communications through my website.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!