Episode 20 (Part 1 of 2): From Board Shorts to Billions: Justin Wilkenfeld, CEO of Kindhumans and Employee #4 at GoPro Shares the Secrets to Building A Billion-Dollar Company the Hard Way

In 2007, Justin Wilkenfeld left a stable corporate job in the Finance industry to help his college buddy sell wrist-strap cameras to surfers. Seven years later, he was a core part of the most successful US-based IPO of the year as GoPro reached legendary “unicorn” status.  What started as answering phone calls in the one-man customer service department and building furniture for trade shows around the country, turned into negotiating brand partnerships, scaling marketing teams, and signing iconic athletes – always with a focus on building real relationships. And throughout it all, Hoost was the glue that helped build and protect GoPro’s unbeatable culture. Today, Justin – in partnership with his wife, Suzi – has combined his passion for growing businesses with his calling to build community to create Kindhumans, a new platform to connect commerce with compassionate causes across the globe.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:03 The value of relationships. “Building bonds like that ends up being more critical to my future than the schooling or the education, because I met people, I networked, and built a family of friends that has carried through for decades.” -JW

24:44 Leaving for GoPro. “It was an opportunity to jump ship from a path that I didn’t feel like was going to fulfill me. It was a critical move for me, and I feel like it was a pivotal moment, and it’s been a seminal moment that I couldn’t have anticipated. The beauty of it was taking a chance on doing something else. That’s one of my biggest takeaways – having the courage to leave that comfort zone. And at 32, taking a risk on something that on paper probably didn’t have much of a chance.” -JW

26:03 The different stages of the journey.  “In your twenties you’re just trying to figure stuff out. You’re just trying to have fun, do different things, explore different things. You’re not really thinking about purpose or passion, you’re just doing stuff. When you get into your thirties, you realize, ‘I think I can do something more. I think life is about something more. What is my purpose? What could be my impact? What could be my legacy?’ Then that’s when you start to ask the smart questions that lead you to the right answers – the tough questions that lead you to the right answers. In your forties, hopefully, if you did it right and if you were focused and you were blessed, then you know it, and now you’re full force into your path.” -KS

28:44 Failure vs. regret. “My biggest influence and inspiration in my life is my mom. She’s taught me a lot of things, but the piece of advice that she’s given me that has always stuck with me and rang the most true and powerful was that failures fade but regrets last forever.” -KS

45:47 Building with authenticity. “What made a difference for GoPro in the end – and still does – is authenticity. It’s a genuine connection and a genuine relationship with these different communities. We went vertical by vertical – crawl, walk, run strategy – and we built the brand by getting to know people. And that loyalty that you gain from those relationships can transcend the brand.” -JW

52:42 Working with friends and family. “When you come in as a friend and/or as family, it’s like having the coach’s son on the basketball team when you grew up who got playing time. You’ve been on the teams before where the son got playing time because his dad was the coach, and he wasn’t very good, so you always resented that fact. Or, he was actually the best player because his dad was the coach, coached him all the time, and pushed him. I always say, ‘I want you to be the latter, I’m going to push you, I’m going to spend more time with you, but I want you to be the best. I want you to be the top of the crop. Then that earns you credibility and it protects our culture.’” -KS

Episode 19: David Willbrand, Partner at Thompson Hine LLP, on the Dumpster Fire That Is Your Life, Why Venture Capital Isn’t for Everyone, and the One Piece of Advice He Would Give to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

After graduating from Harvard, David Willbrand was tired of working in jobs he hated. He convinced the University of Cincinnati Law School to admit him past the deadline, and spent the next sixteen years making his mark in the startup community. As a Partner at Thompson Hine, LLP, David chairs their Early Stage & Emerging Companies Practice where he has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs figure out what really matters to them, how to get the deal done, and the true meaning of risk.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

10:24 Kash on VC funding. “I don’t believe in seed stage funding because I believe growth capital is where you should be thinking about raising money. At that point you’ve already proved product/market fit, you already have a business model you believe in, the customer base, and the elements of a strong business. Then you’re just trying to pour some gasoline on the fire.” -KS

14:46 Defining your version of success. “When I sit down with entrepreneurs for the first time, I always try to ask the entrepreneur, ‘What is your definition of success? What are you trying to achieve? Why are you doing this?’ Nine times out of ten, I get the rote answer, ‘I want to go raise venture capital,’ ‘I want to build a unicorn,’ ‘I want an IPO,’ ‘I want to build a billion-dollar company.’ When I then ask some follow up questions, what I find is that’s actually the case truly with very few entrepreneurs. When you think about what’s involved in that and what it means from the perspective of meaning, lifestyle, the kind of company you’re creating, and what you’re trying to achieve – that’s a very narrow band of entrepreneurs. And most, if you press on them, you can say, ‘That’s not really what you want. Let’s talk about what you want because this is your life. Let’s figure out how to help you manifest your version of success.’”-DW

26:59 Luck. “You’ve got to do the work and put in the effort to put yourself in the position to have luck. Then you have to keep your eyes open and always be aware – pivoting back and forth and managing your peripheral vision – so that when luck appears you grab it by the throat, and you don’t let it go.” -DW

55:49 What makes news. “We do want to be on the stage and the plane of some of those hyper-growth companies. We just want to do it our way and take the road that you didn’t see on TechCrunch or in the headlines, which is the news out there of people raising money. Let’s have our news about the impact that we make, number one. Number two, the amazing culture that we built and co-created, and number three, the money that we make, not the money that we raise. I believe there should be a shift in glamorizing the part of entrepreneurship or the startup life of raising money and it should be more on impact, growth, financial independence, and things like that.” -KS

1:03:06 David’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “It’s a difficult existence. If you’re going to undertake it, only do it because literally there is nothing else you can do to be happy. That’s what I would say to aspiring entrepreneurs. I love that you’ve got this idea, I love that you have this vision, but frankly, if you can be happy in a day job, it’s an easier life. You should only do this thing, you should only chase this thing if you can’t sleep, if it’s keeping you up at night, if it’s eating at you all day long, if you feel like you’re wasting time because you’re not spending time on it.” -DW

1:07:30 Kash’s One Big Thing. “In order to go down this road – whether it’s a dream that you have, a business you want to build, or something that you want to pursue – it has to be this burning fire inside of you. It has to be that thing that wakes you up in the morning, and that thing that stops you from sleeping every night. The thing that literally sets your whole being on fire, that’s the epitome of a calling. When I left my corporate job to go build Besomebody, Inc. that’s how I felt. I felt like every day was one day too late from me jumping on what my true purpose was, my true calling. I knew I was leaving a lot on the table; I knew I was leaving comfort, stability, money, and some relationships. I knew I was having to give up a lot, but the feeling inside of me wouldn’t let me let it go. I started to feel so heavy every day that I waited. When I finally made that decision to go for it, it felt like this release. The journey has been way harder than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve had to give up a lot more than I ever thought I would. There’s ups and downs, but I still feel so in sync and so true inside with the calling.” -KS

Episode 18: Tai Morshed, Vice President at ONE Championship, Talks Ringing the Bell, Teaming with Heroes, and How He’s Helping Connect a Continent Through Mixed Martial Arts

When the startup he was working for went public, Tai found himself on the floor of the Stock Exchange and the center of the action. He thought he made it. Turns out, his career was just getting started. After taking a risk that led him to a job with Adobe in Southeast Asia, he found an opportunity at the intersection of his passion and purpose with ONE Championship. Now he’s empowering tens of millions of fans across Asia – and soon the world – to connect with athletes through storytelling and shared experiences.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:24 When the risk pays off. “I took a risk leaving somewhere else where I was comfortable, and things were easy. I took a risk leaving Austin and going to New York. There were a lot of risks that I took, and that was really gratifying to see us IPO. I was there on the floor – I didn’t ring the bell, but I was a row or two right behind them, waving…It was a gratifying moment to essentially be able to own that space and say, ‘You know what, I deserve this. This is a hard-working team. I took some risks, and this is where it pays off.’” -TM

19:53 Believing AND building.  “It’s important to differentiate and to create that distinction between those who believe, but also want to build. Believing in the vision, mission, and principles is the price of entry – if you don’t believe, I don’t even want you to walk in the door of Besomebody, Inc. or BSB Group International. But believing isn’t enough – because you have to want to build. What does that mean? It means you have to be able to make the sacrifices, put in the work, produce the results necessary for the company to grow.” -KS

36:29 Building heroes at ONE Championship. “It’s not about the fighting. What they’re really trying to do is build heroes. They’re putting heroes in places where people need it the most. They need people who look like them or are like them to give them a sense of hope and inspiration that they can do more and be more in life.” -TM

42:31 The power of connection. “People want to be able to believe and see people and connect with people who look like them, who’ve been through what they’ve been through, who understand their history, values, and culture. I think that’s been one of the most exciting evolutions in marketing and advertising over the last couple years…When you think about now, the necessity for us to come up with – not just a white person, a black person, a brown person – but somebody who came up from your same neighborhood, who speaks your same dialect, who has the same challenges. That ability to connect at a niche and specific level is so powerful.” -KS

44:41 Uncovering the stories. “There’s some culture, there’s some adversity in life, and in all these places there’s these great stories. While we know if we just showed knockouts all day our numbers would be higher, but we’re not building the brand that we believe that can have an impact and that has long term value. That’s why we take the time to make sure these stories are unearthed.” -TM

59:04 Kash’s One Big Thing. “When you think about the ‘microstories’ that are out there that unify us and connect us, it’s way past the old school marketing days of ’45 year old white male’ or ‘single mom’ – it’s way beyond that. And when you can get deeper into those nuances of what makes people different, but also connects them, that’s when you can create that emotional bond with people. When you look at the future of content, the future of marketing, the future of storytelling – that’s where it is. It’s endless the amount of avenues and connection points that we have now on social media and digital. The companies that are going to be able to tell those ‘microstories’ in a personal, authentic, and relevant way, those are going to be the ones that are going to win.” -KS

Episode 11: From Chemicals to Cannabis, Badal Shah is Flipping the Script on His Entrepreneurial Journey

After helping lead his family business to a multimillion-dollar exit, a tragic loss and a life-changing injury shifted Badal Shah’s perspective. His road to recovery led him to the forefront of the growing CBD industry, and now he’s looking to make his most meaningful mark.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

4:30 Traits of a winning team player. “There’s winning leadership behavior, winning leadership characteristics that people can still display and show, even if they’re lower on the continuum of capacity and work. Even if you’re a 4, 5 or 6, which isn’t really good for our company, but you’re displaying winning behavior, myself as a leader can notice it. That’s the character of the type of person that we want.” -KS

11:11 Badal’s early experiences with entrepreneurship. “My father was an entrepreneur. Seeing him growing up and his grind, sacrifice, and never being around – not by choice but by necessity – to make it work for our family was just something that really became engrained in me. My first entrepreneurial experience was with him and the family chemical business. Myself, my brother and father built a business that taught me a lot of things. It was really the hustle of doing it from scratch and bootlegging, trying to make something out of very little.” – BS

14:02 The evolving definition of “success.” “We sold [the chemical company] in January 2017 – you think you’ve been waiting for this moment, put in all this blood, sweat, and tears waiting for the wires to come in. You think that’s the biggest moment of your life. Three minutes after the wire hit, my best friend’s wife passed away. It just hit me in terms of what is really important in life. From that moment I wanted to challenge myself to be highly passionate in what I was doing and then also have impact. That became very important. You always think about what success means, then you achieve some of it and you realize that definition was wrong the whole time.” -BS

16:17 Money as a motivation. “I finally realized money isn’t number one. It’s in my top three – it’s number three. Number one is to make a positive impact on the world – legacy, things like that. Number two is to build that mechanism that makes that impact with people that I love and care about – people I love going to work with, and I enjoy being around. Number three is to hopefully be successful and make some money doing it. That’s really helped me get my mind where it needs to be. If I didn’t have the number one, that broader purpose, then I wouldn’t be fulfilled in the work…but also if I didn’t have number three, the financial, then I wouldn’t be able to serve as many people. I always see money as a symptom, not a purpose. Being able to build a successful business enables you to employ more people, help more people, make some more investments, and grow. The balance of those three things – of the impact that you’re making in number one, the right people around you, and then strong business and financial success as well – has been pretty powerful.” -KS

33:28 Preparing for leading in the post-COVID space. “How do we end on the other side of this pandemic as a market leader? We’re doing things, making investments, continuing with our growth plans. For example, we’re adding some highly sophisticated technical capabilities to be able to come out on the other side of this to be positioned as one of the leaders in the space that can both serve the industry from the B2B side, but also with two brands that are scalable and ready for global growth.” -BS

42:25 Kash’s One Big Thing. “So many entrepreneurs have to make these quick, gut, strategic decisions that blend both art and science, without a ton of data. But you still have to take that risk; you still have to go for something. When it works, everyone is applauding you and telling you how smart you are, how you’re a genius. When it doesn’t, you’re an idiot. That’s why you can’t get wrapped up in the wins and losses. You can’t get wrapped up in the applause or ‘boos’ you get, the love or hate you get from other people. You have to believe in what you’re doing, believe in the decision you made at that time, and make sure you’ve made it for the right reasons. You take the result as it comes. The same people that are calling you a genius today, are going to call you an idiot tomorrow.” -KS

Episode 8: Gym Studios Founder, Shawn Martinez, Lost 50% of His Revenue Overnight – Now He’s Planning His Comeback

After growing his company with a first-of-its-kind business model that pushed him to the forefront of Austin, Texas’ fitness scene, Shawn Martinez lost 100% of his locations when gyms were forced to close due to Coronavirus. Now, he’s balancing the need to recover with the urgency to evolve.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:37 Shawn’s growth strategy. “It’s always been about relationships. Relationships have always been our currency…I didn’t want [the strategy] to be volume, I didn’t want to just be at every apartment in the U.S. We’ve always been very selective about what properties we partner with. We want to make sure the gym is hospitable to training, we want it to be top notch, we want to pick property managers that believe in the vision so we can work together and really be a blessing to all the people that live there by doing some really cool programs and just being creative in the space. We weren’t really in a rush to grow, we wanted more of the right partner.” -SM

24:36 The impact of COVID-19. “We make money two main ways. The apartments pay us a fee for our program and then we make revenue from our personal trainers. Without gym access we literally lost 50% of our revenue overnight. I wasn’t going to take a penny from our trainers if they weren’t going to be able to get access [to gyms]. I had to rethink how we were going to be able to hold on to our trainers.” -SM

28:03 Supporting the personal trainers. “One of the things I really respected about the Besomebody chapter that I was part of is that you guys took the time to interview and put together this really high-quality production of people talking about themselves, what makes them ‘them.’ I feel like there’s so much power in that, and that’s what we’re doing. What makes these people unique, and not as trainers, but as people. And we’re trying to pump that out to the world and trying to get [the trainers] some business.” -SM

29:18 The power of brand equity right now. “Brand equity, brand purpose, what your brand believes and stands for is so important right now. This is the only time – definitely in our lives, in this generation, most likely in the last century – that everyone in the world is experiencing the same thing at the same time. We’re all feeling the same thing, we have the same fears and anxieties. We also feel for our neighbors, our colleagues, our businesses, our friends that run local establishments that are going through this. Now is a time where people are rallying together, people do believe we’re in this together. The companies and businesses that double-down on purpose and values and show who they are in a positive way, are going to be rewarded with business after this is all over.” -KS

32:20 The value of vulnerability.  “All those times where I was very nervous to hit ‘publish’ or ‘post’ on the post because I thought, ‘I’m being so honest, I’m sharing my soul.’ Those are the posts, messages and stories that connected the most with people. It wasn’t about the likes and the comments, it was the fact that somebody said, “Thank you so much for sharing that. That really impacted me.’ There is so much power in being courageous enough to be vulnerable.” -KS

40:12 Kash’s One Big Thing. “Where I’ve seen the most value in our journey and in my personal life, is taking the time to really invest in those select few. All I need is a ‘starting five’ and someone to ‘come off the bench and shoot the three.’ That’s all you need – you don’t need a lot of people, you just need the right people. When you have the right people around you – the people that believe in you, that will push you, that will call you out, that will stand by you when times aren’t that good – then you have a powerful weapon in your arsenal.” -KS

Episode 5: From Spirits to Sanitizer – This Entrepreneur Pivoted His Entire Business to Help First Responders & Healthcare Workers

Eric Baumann did everything from wash kegs to clean floors as he worked his way up the Brewery world. Today, the Karrikin Spirits Co-Founder and Master Brewer is spearheading his team’s efforts to switch production from alcohol to sanitizer for healthcare workers & first responders.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

7:39 The official launch of BSB Group International (plus: we’re hiring!“We said we’re going to ramp up our hiring. Most people are not hiring right now unless you’re a grocery store, delivery driver, things like that. Because you want to be careful about your cash in hand, your cash outlet. But we said we’re going to take a step forward and be a little bold, we want to expand our team.” -KS

16:16 Becoming a Master Brewer. “I started with home brewing…I just wanted to get my foot in anywhere. I was willing to wash kegs, make soda, do whatever I could do to just get in a brewery. And fortunately, we found a brewery up at Grand Teton in Idaho and that’s where I started just washing the kegs, cleaning floors, and learning from mentors.” -EB

23:57 How the pivot happened. “Overnight, we changed the company. You know, the immediate thing was we really wanted to get [the sanitizer] out there to help society. That’s the main relief effort, to get the sanitizer into people’s hands that are essential to everyday life and business, and that are going to have the biggest impact on people. Like Amazon or Kroger or places where [the employees] are in contact with hundreds and hundreds of people daily. So, that was the initial thing, the humanitarian side…Then it became a whole thing overnight, it’s wild.” -EB

30:48 Layoffs, revenue & rethinking investments. “[Layoffs], honestly, are awful. It’s something you never want to do as a business owner. It’s something you never thought you’d be doing. It’s a very surreal moment, but we were faced with no choice. We’re a startup, we started a year and a half ago. Everything we’ve made we put back in the company. We don’t have the war chest. Even companies that have a war chest, nobody really knows where this thing is going to end, or when, or how.” -EB

35:44 The silver lining of innovation. “One of the other silver linings of this pandemic is it’s forcing all of us as entrepreneurs and business owners to be much more maniacal about the details, the strategy, and the decisions that we are making. We have to take it to a different level because we understand that we are working within an environment and a climate that is so uncertain. Every choice matters so much right now. Some of the aggressive choices we might have made six months ago, we’re thinking differently…but I do believe we’re going to see great innovation out of it.” -KS

43:23 Kash’s One Big Thing. “There are only two points that matter: the moment and the vision…the moment is what you are doing right now. What are you focusing on, what are you pouring your energies into, what are the strategies that you are turning into execution to ensure you’re doing the right thing, right now? The vision is that beautiful place that you want to get to, that beautiful thing that you want to create. Everything in the middle doesn’t matter. You can’t get attached to it.” -KS

Episode 1: The Besomebody Story – High Highs, Low Lows, and a Resilient Battle of Growth

The story of Besomebody from the early beginnings as a simple blog, to the evolution into a global content platform, through the highly-visible peaks & valleys of entrepreneurship, to today’s growth as a multi-million dollar company.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

9:41 The Besomebody blog. “Those were the early days of Besomebody. Because I started to get so inspired by all these people. And I started to see that we’re all a lot more similar than we are different. I saw that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. And I said, ‘How can I start sharing these stories, sharing these feelings?’ And we started with the Besomebody blog.” -KS

14:52 Funding & launching the world’s first experience marketplace. “We were growing fast…it was blog posts, inspirational visuals, video content. Tens of thousands of people have seen it. We ended up building this community of ten million people, and through those conversations I came up with an idea – to create the world’s first passion-based learning platform. It was an experiential marketplace where you could learn anything you’re passionate about by booking an experience with an expert in your city.” -KS

16:32 Trouble with scaling the app. “A lot of what we felt in 2014 a lot of startups are feeling now. I was just talking to a friend whose company laid off a lot of people because of the amount of money you need to scale marketplaces. We had to build supply and demand in every city that we were in…We had to learn everything from pricing, to how to market, to how to have the right instructors on board, the training programs, in addition to building the mobile platform…Getting out of Texas, getting to New York, getting to LA, trying to make it here to Ohio became very challenging and became very expensive.” -KS

18:54 Pivoting the Company. “We had an opportunity to pivot the company. Take everything we learned about bringing people together on learning experiences and reposition it to help them learn the skills they need to get jobs. It was a massive pivot because we were teaching people skydiving and pottery, and then we were going to go teach them how to be pharmacy technicians and dental assistants.” -KS

25:26 Kash’s One Big Thing. “I thought the journey was about passion. And it was in the beginning, that was the spark that lit the flame. But without the resilience that flame goes out pretty quick. There are so many people, incidents, and accidents that happen along the journey that extinguish that flame. If you don’t have that resilience inside you to keep going, you’ll never get there.” -KS