Hello Zachary Barden, I would like to first thank you for allowing me to interview you today.
Could you please tell us a little more about yourself and your experience as an entrepreneur?
Absolutely! I started out as an entrepreneur by fixing computers and designing websites in high school. After a few years of doing that, I decided to solely focus on website design, web-based services, and technical management (basically system administrator consulting). I was a self-taught developer (before HTML5) and was able to get by with what I knew.
Once the industry began to shift more towards HTML5 and newer concepts, I just couldn't keep up. So, while still contracting out web design work, I made myself into a business consultant - through my experiences with clients and seeing how their businesses operated & what I could have done to help them. That idea led me to found Exapto Enterprises - a consultancy for startups & entrepreneurs. That was around 2011.
Fast-forward to today. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant at Exapto Enterprises (www.exapto.com), and over the past 4 years, I have worked with 120+ clientele, both paid and pro bono. Working with entrepreneurs has given purpose to my work, as each and every one of my clients is a new challenge - whether it be budget issues, marketing strategies, business ideas, or other obstacles.
Now, while still consulting, I run a blog + mailing list at www.ZacharyBarden.com, where I frequently post about ideas, concepts, and emerging markets for entrepreneurs. Some of my articles have been posted to Medium.com and my mailings have quite a healthy response rate.
I enjoy what I do because it's my passion at heart. Entrepreneurship is about being employed to do what you love.
That is some rich experience you've got under your belt already.
Starting in high school, what was your main motivation for being an entrepreneur, servicing other people's computers, and designing websites?
My motivation initially was that I wanted to make something that was my own. I had been programming since age 10 and had a fascination with what could be created from simple code. I took that same amazement and applied it to my thoughts - what great ideas could I think of with my simple thoughts? Well, those simple thoughts ended up becoming more and more complex, and now here I am.
My motivation to start fixing computers and designing websites came about simply because I had the skills to do it, and the demand for those skills. It wasn't easy getting my first few projects, but once I gained enough confidence from the stellar feedback I received, I was able to sell myself better and convert more leads into clients.
[2015-02-17 2:31:54 PM] Internet Bro: Do you believe you were born with entrepreneurial skills, or acquired them over time?
Both. Everyone is born with the ability to become an entrepreneur. Some unlock those abilities early on in life, while others take some time as it may not be their primary focus.
Everyone has ideas - it would be foolish not to assume so. Naturally then, ideas lead to the curiousity of how one can pursue that idea. This creates the process of idea development & execution.
Now of course, until the idea is executed, one remains a "wantrepreneur" - one who wants to be an entrepreneur but does not have the drive or the confidence to pursue it.
If you had one piece of advice for wantrepreneurs, what would it be?
Stop thinking and start doing. If you're afraid you'll fail, then you need to reevaluate your definition of an entrepreneur. I have failed more times than I'd like to admit - but I'll still admit it.
What have been some of the highs and lows for you and your business ventures?
I could sit here all day talking about different points in my life at which I was thrilled to be an entrepreneur, and other times that I wasn't so keen on staying one. So I'll limit myself to an example of each.
One of the highs in my business ventures? It has to be the past few months. Around late November I began my initiative to motivate & encourage entrepreneurs. Early 2014 I had written an eBook by the name of "Getting an Idea", and while I never really offered my book to the public, I took it upon myself to hand-distribute the eBook to entrepreneurs by making a personal connection with each reader. By November, I had given the eBook to over 200 entrepreneurs, and each one gave my exciting feedback, describing how it legitimately helped them with their brainstorming process.
Following the realization of my impact on those entrepreneurs, I started my blog and mailing list. Within a month I reached 300 mailing list subscribers and several hundred readers. As of January, the subscriber list has grown to a solid 400, and I continue to deliver quality content, bonus material, and special offers - all of which seek to better the entrepreneur and keep them up to date with what's going on in the industry.
But more importantly, the most significant low for me during my business ventures has to be when I lost out on an incredible opportunity - kind of like my own "big break" - with a budding TV actress and a friend of hers who happened to be a big network producer. Long story short, I got far too ahead of myself and completely forgot to write up a contract. So when the actress landed an agent, I was left with nothing. That also dissolved my relationship with her producer friend.
The story itself has far too many details for me to write down here, but I have an article about it on my blog: http://goo.gl/05iZJU.
Do you think you have become a better entrepreneur over time? We talk about learning from mistakes, is that true?
I would say yes, since the older you get, generally the wiser you become. I personally have noticed my transition from taking a single idea and running with it to launching multiple ventures. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur now, although I am still very passionate about certain ideas!
In regards to the second question, you really aren't an entrepreneur if you don't learn from your mistakes. The average entrepreneur fails 4 times, or so I've read. So it can take a while, but the learning process is incredibly important.
What kind of a life did you want to have for yourself by becoming an entrepreneur?
Relationships have always been a big part of my life - personal relationships, family & friends. I wanted a life that would allow me to actually live life while not necessarily taking a pay cut. As an entrepreneur, I have grown my business through personal, organic approach. Business is all about relationships & networking.
What do you think is the secret to successfully growing your business once it's already established and running?
Being personable yet effective. No matter what line of business you're in, whether you have a massive customer base or a handful of clients. Make an effort to be meaningful and rewarding to your customers for their loyalty. It will pay off in the end.
How do you think about being generous to others because of being an entrepreneur?
I act generous towards others because I know what it's like to not know where your next paycheck will come from and having to bend over backwards to retain that next client. When I go to a restaurant, I tip well. When something does something kind, I make sure to thank them. It's the little things that count.
I appreciate your response. Very considerable from your side, Zachary.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your particular business and your future as an entrepreneur to summarize this interview?
Ultimately, I'd like others to takeaway the idea that you shouldn't stop at failure: failure is opportunity. Being flexible with what life throws at you and staying an optimistic realist is what will help any entrepreneur keep pushing forward.
As far as myself, my future is in the hands of my present. What I do next, I'm not certain, but I'm sure it will be great.
Thank you for the interview Zachary, I really appreciate it.
Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it :)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!