(Click here to skip the story and go straight to my resume.)
When I was 15, I was thrown into business. I didn't even want to be in business. My dad bought this old school blue 1991 GMC Vandura van. Yeah, with the bubble top.
Then someone gave us a 16 foot trailer. So we filled it with lawn equipment we bought off Craigslist. I started mowing lawns and I hated it. It was hot, and I hated the grass. I hated the weather. It was a nasty job. And the money was bad.
I didn't want to wear safety goggles or pants when I edged and weed-eated, so I didn't. Teenager trying to be cool equals tons of sand and gravel in face. But at least I thought I looked cool…kind of. My dad wouldn't let me go shirtless because he was afraid we'd get more old ladies wanting to be clients. So I got the worst farmers tan.
Now that I think about it, it wasn't a business, it was a charity. We mowed for $25 per yard. One of our clients was the president of the Rose Society and had a record 500 rose bushes in his backyard. I got to edge around every single bush. After costs, my pay was $8. The rose guy had this crazy dog who was mentally insane. Upon hearing the lawn mower he would crap everywhere and I would have to clean it up before I mowed because my dad didn't want me to get poop on the mower blades.
The rose bush guy was from New Jersey and he stuttered. Every week, he would come out and tell me all about World War II. I liked hearing his story. Even though it was the same one each week.
Still didn't like his dog. Needless to say, I wasn't destined for business. Or maybe I was. I enjoyed spending time with my dad—especially when we'd imitate the rose bush guy at the end of each week. Those were good bonding times.
That’s when I realized I loved good stories.
When I went to college, I said goodbye to the old blue van, the green trailer, and the insane boxer dog. No more lawn work for me. My dad still runs the Lawn Ministry on the side. He has 2 patrons.
I used to write these crazy "Worst Case Scenario" articles in high school for the school publication. They went viral when nothing went viral. People loved them (or at least a few people told me they liked them). They thought I was crazy, but wanted me to write more. So I did. I liked writing. I liked coming up with crazy stories and seeing the responses from my classmates.
I was only allowed to write 3 editions before the principal shut me down (something about not liking the fact that I was talking about survival from unreal deathly situations while writing in Old English).
That’s when I realized I loved marketing. Creating something and sharing it with the right people.
When I went to college, I didn't really want to go. I didn’t see how business school could coincide with making a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to leave the country and become a missionary because I liked the way the mangoes tasted in the Dominican Republic more than from Wal-Mart. My parents suggested otherwise.
It turns out it was a pretty good decision. I met my wife, was "campused" for dumping soapy water on our 50 meter long hallway and sliding down it nude (don't worry, I wore a helmet), and I eventually met this kid from Zimbabwe who was crazier than me (enter Tommy Deuschle).
Tommy's a white African with a British accent and American passport. I thought he was cool. He had an idea to change Africa. I had no clue what that meant, but it sounded good and I thought I could help. Neither one of us trusted each other, but we clung to an ideal.
That’s when our vision of impacting the third world through investing in the brightest ideas and entrepreneurs was born.
Fast forward a few years and here we are. I still live in Tulsa, but my life, focus, and time is spent working in Southern Africa. We invest in relationships and are working in a handful of industries (but no lawn businesses, trust me).
I'm married to my wife who I don't deserve. She’s a NICU nurse and she's way smarter than me…which helps when my vocabulary is running short. We have 4 kids. We had them all in 3 years. (Yes, I know how all that works.) We had twins, a two for one deal.
At the heart of it, I'm a storyteller, a marketer, an investor, a writer, and an entrepreneur. I believe if you don't wake up regularly and scare yourself by what you’re trying to accomplish in life, then you're not fully living.
At the end of the day, I like to come home, wrestle with my house full of toddlers, drink delicious coffee with my wife, laugh a lot, and read as many books as I can.
My wife claims to know nothing about business, but she's taught me more about life than anyone I've ever met. And that's just what business is, it's daily life and just helping others make a living and make a difference.
And that's why I love business. The lawn business was life. It was helping other people and it didn't really matter at the end of the day how much crap we encountered. I enjoyed spending time with my dad and building relationships with our clients.
Thanks for reading. If you want to read about the time Tommy & I turned bath water into tea, it's a good one.