Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jesse Haynes, Co-Founder of Solaro Shades, located in Skiatook, OK, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm the co-founder of Solaro Shades, a premium performance sunglasses company specializing in baseball and softball sunglasses for players of all ages and levels. The glasses, which come with 5 unique lenses, come from the same factory that makes $200 baseball sunglasses, but we're selling them for half the price.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a best-selling fiction novelist and have always loved storytelling, but that doesn't usually pay the bills. That said, I learned how to use the art of storytelling to build brands and became a full-time marketing consultant that put together a small team and served a prestigious lineup of clients. During that time, I worked as the fractional CMO of the Inc 500's Fastest Growing eCom Company in America, Guardian Baseball, where I met a content creator with about 500K followers named Mark Paul (@mpthree).
Mark and I stayed friends, and after I finished the Guardian Baseball position, we decided to co-found our own baseball sunglasses startup. Leveraging my storytelling and DTC marketing experience and Mark's platform of half-a-million followers, we've grown Solaro Shades rapidly over about six months time.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is helping those around me. I'm not somebody who chases a paycheck and really doesn't care, personally, how much income I bring in every month (as long as I can pay the bills, of course). Entrepreneurialism, to me, is more about the rush of learning, growing, and chasing a finish line that is constantly moving further down the path.
That said, being able to watch my business partner quit his job to do this full-time while supporting his wife and two kids has been one of the greatest experiences throughout my entrepreneurial adventures. He's transitioned from a baseball comedian to a full-fledged businessman, and it's been amazing to watch.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing is finding the right people to work with. I made a couple of bad calls in this department, and it almost did me in and took way too long to steady the ship.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- March to the beat of your own drum. A lot of startups try to imitate what we know, but many of my greatest successes have come from going against the grain. For Solaro Shades, one great example is our very unapologetically self-aware video ads that stereotype all the other sunglasses companies running paid ads. Sure, it's great to borrow ideas from the giants within the industry, but don't try to be like them. Be yourself, be different, and carve out your own niche.
- The team you build around you is crucial. Much like any sports team, you don't need a lot of great people who are amazing at the same thing: you need a lot of specialized SMEs that work together cohesively while striving to accomplish the same goal.
- Progress, not perfection. Constantly strive to improve while also understanding that you'll never be perfect. I also call this my "4.5-star mindset" — basically, we're never going to be perfect and across the board, but we always need to work towards improvement in everything we do. Every pair of sunglasses we launch is better than the previous, and whether you're working in eCom or agriculture, this can apply to you.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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