Welcome to Sidepreneur Magazine Brendan! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I went to college to be a teacher. I was 18. I got the course catalog, and they said, “Pick your courses.” The course catalog was made of paper—a big, thick book. I picked teaching courses because they sounded interesting. I liked high school, I liked some of my teachers and wanted to emulate them.
When I got out of college, I had some trouble finding a teaching job. There are a lot of teaching jobs out there, but few for social studies teachers like me. I eventually found a job I liked and it was going well. I decided to start a little business on the side. I built a couple of websites for something I was passionate about, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I also started a local community website. One day I got an email from a company saying, “If we send you some free shorts, would you write about it on your website?” I was like, “Oh, okay, cool. That’s a thing, I guess, that’s awesome.” I wrote about them, and they sent the stuff and it was cool. I thought, “Why not make a whole website like that?”
I knew there were websites for camera reviews and Apple product reviews, why not one for Jiu Jitsu? So I started a review website. It is still doing well for me.
I started my own Brazilian Jiu Jitsu company while still working full-time as a teacher. Then I got my master’s degree and was promoted to assistant principal. I hated it. It was the worst thing ever.
I love teaching. I love kids. I loved my subject. Being a principal required a lot of paper-pushing. It was horrible, and it caused me to take a deep dive into what I wanted to build and what I wanted to do. I launched my podcast, The Entrepreneurs and Coffee Podcast. I launched my first digital product called Sidepreneur University. It is no longer for sale, but I learned a lot from that project.
I had a lot of success doing webinars and other marketing tactics. I started coaching people who requested help. Then I built a coaching program. That’s a bit about how I got my start as a sidepreneur.
My latest project is a blog called Hustle and Heart. I’m a dad, and I’m a sidepreneur. I think we all have this hustle inside of us—this work ethic. We have a heart too, and family is important. My son and my wife are important to me. I’m writing about being a father and sharing my thoughts on marketing.
What changed in your thinking that allowed you to create a business rather than remaining an employee?
I discovered Pat Flynn, and I almost got laid off two or three times. I thought at the beginning of the school year I wasn’t going to have a job because they were making cuts. I realized the job security thing my parents and grandparents tried to tell me about is false. Growing up I had seen my mom get laid off every two years. It was just the nature of the industry she worked in. She would get laid off and we’d have to move. I just didn’t believe in job security. I thought, “I have to make my own way.”
Next, I discovered Gary Vaynerchuk. He kept saying, “It’s in my DNA to be an entrepreneur. It’s in my DNA.” He told stories about his past, and I thought back to my past. I realized, “Wow, I created a business in the fourth grade by buying and selling baseball cards. That was incredible! I have that DNA, too.” I believe that’s my nature, but I was nurtured out of it over time. Rediscovering that in my mid-20s was powerful.
Did you feel fear when you started your business?
Here’s the thing about fear. Fear is a feeling. We don’t get to decide how we feel about things. We do get to decide how we react. Of course, I felt fear—of course. Doing big things is scary. Sending an email to somebody is scary. Sending $27,000 to a factory in Pakistan to make Jiu Jitsu gis is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I did it.
Fear has always motivated me. Fear is what drives me forward. The reason it does is because of a quote I heard from Tony Robbins a long time ago. He said, “If you can’t you must, and if you must you can.” That’s some woo-woo circular thinking, but I like to focus on the first half: “If you can’t you must.” Whenever I feel I can’t do something—whenever I feel fear welling up inside of me I think, “Now I have to do it!” I have to do whatever it is I’m afraid of.
How long did you run your business while you were an employee and was there tension between your role as an employee and your role as a business owner?
My faith is important to me. I believe that God has given me a job. I left my assistant principal position and took a job at a new school because we have another baby on the way and we need insurance. I can’t become a full-time entrepreneur even though I have a good income. It’s not enough when you factor in insurance and other expenses. We wanted to make sure everything went well for this next baby, so I decided to take another job. I am grateful for it.
I disagree that with the sentiment, “Well, man, you should just be grateful you have a job. There are a lot of people without jobs out there.” That attitude causes stagnation and you think, “I should just be grateful for what I have. I shouldn’t push the system. I shouldn’t challenge. I shouldn’t build. I shouldn’t make. I shouldn’t disagree.” I don’t agree with that ethical principle.
You should be grateful for your job, but you should not be complacent. You should not be lukewarm. I think that ties to my faith as well. While I’m grateful for what I have, I’m not going to rely on it. God opens doors for me, and I need to take some action and step through them.
There was never any tension between my employer and me about my business until the last few months at my previous job. A coworker who wanted my position told my boss about my online business. One day I took a day off to do some work on my business. The coworker went to my boss and said, “He just took the day off to work on his website. Look, he’s doing some webinar or something.”
It was frustrating. It was immature of my coworker and my supervisor to bring it up. My days off are my days off. I don’t owe any explanation, and I can do whatever I want with my days off. If you feel I’m not doing what I need to do my job, then we need to talk about my performance. Don’t bring me a print-out of one of my lead pages. It was ridiculous. That is the only time there was tension.
I believe while you’re at your job, you should be at your job. I know we spend a lot of time daydreaming and fantasizing about dreams, but you should do a great job while you are there.
My relationship with my old boss is great now. He’s at a new school. He moved on around the same time I did because the school board was a mess.
Most employers won’t care about your online business. Your employer is more concerned with what’s going on in their business than what’s going on in yours.
In your opinion, does owning a business allow you to affect more people for good than a more conventional career?
I can affect about 200 kids a year teaching high school—knowing their names, knowing their lives, helping them. My podcast had almost 70,000 downloads in the first two months, and I only launched in iTunes. I think I can affect a lot more people this way. It gives me leverage. When you make more money you have the leverage to support things you care about. I’ve raised a couple of thousand dollars for a cancer charity I support.
Because I have a side business, I was able to send a bunch of Jiu Jitsu gis to the kids in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The favelas are the ghetto. Kids who are from the homeland of an art, a martial art that I love can’t even afford uniforms. I think that’s tragic. Teaching in a rough urban area shown me that many kids have desire and potential, but they don’t have resources. If I can give them those resources they’ll be successful. The same is true with the Jiu Jitsu gis, so that’s why it meant a lot to send them there. Having my business allowed me to do that. Whereas if I was just working as a teacher and I wanted to do something like that it would be difficult.
What habits have you created that help you succeed in business?
If you’re an entrepreneur dad like me, You have to get up earlier than everybody else. Do a time audit. See where you’re wasting your time. Cut out all your hobbies for a week. Cut out all the other nonsense. Audit your time. You’ll see you have a couple more hours.
Let’s say I could find 30 minutes extra in your daily schedule. 30 minutes a day every day over a year is about 7 days. It’s a week! That would be like saying, “Hey man, I’ll give you a week’s vacation to only work on your business.” That’s a tremendous amount of time, right?
People don’t value their time enough. They don’t want to get up earlier. They want to watch Netflix. They want to go to the movies. That’s fine, and that can come later. When you’re ready, Netflix will still be there and movies will still exist. You can watch them later once you’re a little more successful—once you have a little more leverage with your time. Just say, “I’m going to do it later.” You don’t need to do it now.
Get up earlier than anyone else. I get up at 3 in the morning most days. Sometimes I sleep in to make myself sharper and better for something I’m doing with my business or with my job.
How do you balance work on the side with your job and other commitments?
Balancing side work with my job and my family is difficult. I just make sure I’m all in no matter where I am. If I’m at work I’m all in with work. If I’m on my business I’m all in with the business. If I’m with my family I’m fully present with them.
Did you borrow money to start your business?
I bootstrapped my business from the beginning. I put up a couple of affiliate links, made a couple of bucks, rolled that into something else, rolled that into the next, rolled that into the next. I ended up having a couple of grand. I sent that money off to Pakistan to get some Jiu Jitsu gis made. The colors bled everywhere and the factory said, “What are you going to do about it?” I said, “Nothing. I’m definitely not going to Pakistan to start a fight with you.”
I had some friends that hooked me up with a better factory, but I was pretty much out that three grand right away. It was rough.
Would you recommend others to do the same?
As an entrepreneur dad, you cannot take money to start a business. You don’t know if it has legs. You probably haven’t done the market research. Do not take money until you have a proven revenue model and proven users or audience.
What is your best money management advice?
The best advice I can give you about money management is to pay cash for everything. Pay cash for everything. Dave Ramsey said nobody has ever gotten rich off of credit card points. Pay cash for everything. I don’t care if you get points for using your credit card. Get a debit card. Use it for everything online. If you go out pay cash. That’s just a life thing.
Every week my wife and I take our budget out of the bank, and that’s all the money we have. Last night we didn’t have any more money for the week. Do you know what we did? Nothing, and that’s okay. We felt good staying home eating the food we had in the house—doing something free. We drove to a small fair and walked around. We spent $2, so my son could go on a cool train ride, but that’s it. We made smart financial decisions. We never go over our budget because once the money’s gone it’s gone, we can’t find more. Pay cash for everything in business and in life.
How important are strong relationships to your success?
I think relationships are everything. My best advice for building strong relationships is just to be helpful. Don’t ask anyone, “How can I be helpful to you? How can I bring value to your business?” The best way you can be helpful is to pay attention to what they’re doing. Listen to their podcast, read their blog posts, see where you can help, and then just do it. Just be helpful.
I was listening to a podcast I love called The MFCEO Project. They said, “We got 8,000 downloads of this episode and five reviews.” I sent him an email. I shared what I did on my podcast. I said, “Why don’t you guys make the domain the MFCEOreview.com go straight to your iTunes.” I wrote a whole guide for setting up the domain in the email. I explained what the link would look like. I showed them how to configure the link to open in iTunes or in a podcast app on a phone.
I don’t want anything from them. I love their podcast, it’s free and I could help them. No big deal. Just be helpful to people, and be helpful to the people you care about. Whether they’re big, or whether they’re small, one is greater than zero. I love that from Gary Vaynerchuk. Helping one person no matter how big or small they seem is so, so important. I think those strong relationships are key to success, and maybe that’s a bit of advice on how to build them.
How do you recommend others handle those critical of their dream of owning a business?
How do I handle people critical of my dream of owning a business? I don’t handle them. I just ignore them. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of feelings—I’m a feeler, man. I’m a feeler. I’m a crier. That was never beaten out of me as a child—not to feel and not to cry. I’m super resilient, and I think that’s my nature.
It’s my DNA to be resilient. I am super competitive, it’s just how I feel. I was doing a Fitbit walking contest against some family members. They were all getting 10,000 steps a day, I had to get 30,000 a day and almost kill myself to do it. That’s just how I am.
I guess my point is I get my feelings hurt a lot, but I’m so competitive that I just don’t care. After I get that out of my system, I just don’t care if they’re critical of my dream of owning a business. I’ve had family members, I’ve had friends, I’ve had all sorts of people telling me not to do this stuff. I don’t care. I just know. It’s because of positive self-talk. I tell myself, “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m going to do this.” This is not that woo-woo law of attraction where if I believe it, it’ll become true. That stuff is garbage. My self-belief and my positive self-talk helps me take action and then it comes true.
Where should aspiring entrepreneurs look to find others who will champion their dream?
You’ve got a bunch of options. I made a Facebook group for entrepreneur dads because I wanted a place for us and there wasn’t one. Don’t look on LinkedIn. I just have never found cool people on LinkedIn.
Go on Twitter. Search for whatever you want to do and see who else is talking about that. Talk to them. Follow them. Be friendly. Be cool. Be yourself. Go to Meetups. Say yes to everything when you get started. “Hey, is this event going on? Yep, I’m going.” Go to conferences. Oh, that’s the best. Conferences are weird and crazy and so cool because everybody is on the same mission.
If you’re a sidepreneur at a conference you realize that others want you to succeed in business. It’s like summer camp. Then you come home and all the haters are still there, so that’s hard, but conferences are the best. You don’t need to go to the $900 conference. Find a $100 or $200 conference. Go to that. Talk to everybody.
How do you cope with uncertainty?
Man, I just do it. Like I said earlier when I feel I can’t do something I have to do it. I believe my faith is essential to running my business. I don’t feel I can do anything without God. I don’t feel I’d have any of these opportunities without him. A lot of what I’ve learned in business has come from biblical truths about servant leadership.
There’s a story in the Bible that applies. The Israelites moved back into Jerusalem and started to rebuild God’s temple. Then they got distracted and began to build their businesses and houses. They never finished the temple. It was like putting God behind their business, behind their family life. I’ve done that too.
Let’s talk about two huge mistakes. I had a partner. We never had signed agreements on anything, so he felt like he was entitled to a lot more than he was. I saw him as a contributor to a blog—like a writer. He saw himself as a 50/50 partner. That was a problem. He ended up leaving, and he ended up freaking out and writing a bunch of lies and half-truths about me. He has friends that still post the things he wrote all over the place. It’s difficult.
The second biggest one was when I raised a couple of thousand dollars to get a bunch of used gis to send to Brazil to the kids. Then we had some health problems and some issues in my family. Because I couldn’t take the gis to Brazil myself, which was the much more economical way to do it, I decided to put the project on hold. I put it on hold for about two years.
A lot of the Jiu Jitsu community got upset with me because that same ex-partner went wrote a bunch of lies about it—about how I stole the money. The money was just sitting. I had personal family stuff going on. The problem was that I put my family and my business before God and that’s wrong. It still is a lesson that I’m learning—a lesson I’m still paying for today, but I’m grateful that God decided to teach it to me. It’s important.
When did you most want to give up on your business, and how did you persist through that time?
I want to give up on business all the time, I just don’t. I get frustrated with things. When my partner and I split and I was putting out fires for two weeks, I was so burnt out and I wanted to quit. Seth Godin wrote a great book called The Dip. The dip comes right before you’re about to be successful. Should you push through or should you quit? Just read The Dip by Seth Godin. It tells you when to quit and when not to.
What is one mistake most new business owners make, and how can we avoid it?
First, they try to buy all the tools. They want to do lead pages. They want a mailing list. They want to have an autoresponder. They want to use Meet Edgar. Pretty soon they have $400 a month in fees for all these different tools, and they don’t even have a website yet. You don’t need the tools. Just go to Squarespace or start a WordPress blog, go to Bluehost or HostGator and get started. Start writing. Make your podcast. You don’t need all the tools. You should definitely get started first.
Second, there’s coaching. If you need a coach just to get started maybe you should question, “Am I really an entrepreneur? Is this really in me?” I offer coaching. If people are just getting started, I give them a bunch of free resources. Once they figure things out and get started, they can come back and we’ll talk. Then I can really help them. My coaching is not cheap, so it’s not for you when you just get started, especially if you’re a dad, which is who I work with. Dads can’t drop that much on coaching and not get a lot out of it because they’re just starting.
This last mistake is something I still do: working so hard that you are only being busy. You keep yourself busy, but you don’t do anything that moves the needle. You’ve got to focus on the big tasks. Identify the big things that are going to move your business forward versus the small day to day stuff.
What book have you read that will best help a prospective business owner, and why?
Definitely Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk—number one book of all time. I would never recommend any other book before that one other than the Bible. But telling somebody the Bible is a book for business, that’s so loaded and it’s almost trite.
You need somebody to walk you through the Bible to see the insights. It seems like such a blow-off statement. “Yep, the Bible, default. Number one book, all time.” Relationships? Bible. Business? Bible. Gardening? Bible. It is all true, but if we’re talking about a book, book, not the Word of God, I think Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk is awesome.
How can our readers best connect with you?
One way people can connect with me is by going to Hustle and Heart. That’s where I try to give the most honest business advice I can for dads. If you want to talk, @BrendanHufford on Twitter is the best way to get in touch with me. I have the Hustle and Heart Facebook group for entrepreneur dads and I blog at BrendanHufford.com sometimes.
Also, EntrepreneursandCoffee.com is my podcast. We wrapped up the first season. I’m excited for some new guests and new content coming up.
Do you have a special offer for our sidepreneurs?
If they want to go to HustleHeart.co/toolbox they can get all the tools that I use. Being an entrepreneur dad I don’t have a ton of time, so I use a lot of online tools. Like I said, a mistake new entrepreneurs make is paying for all of them. I have a list of 10 free tools that have made my business better and given me more time with my family.