Successful entrepreneurs: get back up after they fall
- Being raised by Italian immigrant grandparents who loved to cook
- With being a natural-born tinkerer
- And then toss in a “hard-wired” entrepreneurial mindset, one that could only tolerate four years in corporate America
You get the perfect environment for the invention of a specialty grid for grills, the QuadGrate by Ray Palermo. Even a great product, though, doesn’t ensure a smooth path to entrepreneurial success – and the relative success that Ray found via Kickstarter, coupled with shipping disasters, almost stopped this inventor’s particular journey.
Entrepreneurial failure: bumps in the road
Ray started out in the food and beverage business, then transitioned to a career in building restaurants – then to general construction and then to working as a specialty contractor and then as a real estate developer who put together entire land/building packages. After retirement, he quickly became bored – and went back to tinkering, where he built a grid in his garage to sear his meat using evenly distributed heat.
“I love innovation,” Ray says, “and cooking is such a creative endeavor. So, once I built one grid, I built another. The problem is that these were costly to make and so I couldn’t keep going this way.”
So, here was plan A. Ray approached a company in Atlanta that specializes in new product development. It might have worked out well – except that the company charges a cool half mill. And that’s just to make the grill READY to be made, not actually manufactured. “That might work for Proctor & Gamble,” Ray says, “but not for me.”
Plan B? “We started a Kickstarter campaign.”
Good news: Ray took in $50,000.
Bad news: Contributors were promised a grill, which ultimately ended up costing Ray $150,000: “I learned that there is a huge difference,” he says, “between making a few prototypes and putting out 212 products and shipping them.” In fact, there was so much breakage during shipping that one in four grills came back “busted.”
“It’s a good thing that I didn’t sell 1,000 grills through Kickstarter,” Ray says, “or I would have gone bankrupt.”
Fortunately, though, the grill was shipped to 38 states, plus Canada and Mexico, and the QuadGrate began to gain visibility. “Kickstarter is a great way,” he says, “to test-market a product.”
Plan C is what ultimately got the product off the ground and into its first retail stores. “I invested some personal money,” Ray says, “plus used my contacts from business networks and friends and family to get enough money. Had I not already had a great network, that wouldn’t have been the solution – but, fortunately, I had enough people who were willing to bet on me and my product.”
The takeaway from this isn’t that Ray had a great network and you don’t; therefore, you can’t succeed as an entrepreneur. It’s that solutions aren’t cookie cutter and that failures happen along the way to success.
More examples of entrepreneurial failure
This article by Entrepreneur shares five stories of failure along the way to entrepreneurial success. Here’s a summary of just one of them. As a 22-year-old journalism major, Ben Huh raised $750,000 in funding for his software analytics firm, Raydium, in January 2000 but the company crashed 18 months later – and Huh could barely leave his room for two weeks, ashamed of his failure.
Six years later, he bought Seattle-based I Can Has Cheezburger, a blog network that now gets 25 million unique visitors and half a billion page views per month – and has raised $32 million for a meme platform.
Rebounding from failure
Meanwhile, another article at Entrepreneur.com shares ways to recover from small business failure – written by someone who’d been rejected by the Marines and flunked out of law school. When his former business partner was convicted of fraud, it took four years for the writer to be cleared of his own 57 felony charges. So, this man knows failure.
- Don’t pretend the failure didn’t happen. This usually leads to “internal stress and delaying any effective remedy.”
- Avoid making excuses. Don’t “sugarcoat” and tell yourself that shortcomings aren’t your fault.
- Don’t confuse a failed goal with a failed person. Don’t assume that you’ll “invariably screw up.”
- You are not alone! We’re “not robots. Everyone’s bound to stumble every once in a while.”
- Focus on the lessons learned. This writer? His rebuilt company had, at the time of the article writing, a portfolio valued at $100 million. Rebounds do happen!
More of Ray’s story
The QuadGrate is a specialty grid that’s ideal for high-end grills such as the Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe. It’s available in stores that sell these particular grills, as well as online.
“If you want to be an entrepreneur,” Ray says, “you just plain can’t give up. Failure is a big part of the most rewarding aspects of life and, when it happens, you need to pick yourself up and try again.”
He adds another thought. “Entrepreneurs,” he says, “take many different forms. The young, the old, men, women. Immigrants and Native Americans, and everything in between. It’s just either part – or not part – of your personality and, fortunately, Americans live in a country that fosters entrepreneurship.”