This past Wednesday morning I launched my first LLC, The Passport Protector. After 9 months of work, we unveiled a consumer product to solve a problem I had as a traveler. We still need lots of support with our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to presell the product to start manufacturing.
And even after crowdfunding, there will months of hustle and many late nights. For anyone wondering….a side hustle requires full time work.
I love my full time job and plan to be there for a long while. After +3 years, I’m still grateful for my coworkers, the industry and the long term opportunity. So why did I put a side business on my plate? Why invest all that time and energy not knowing if it’ll pay off?
1. Our experience was miserable. I’d love to prevent other travelers from going through the same ordeal.
We planned a 2 week trip to Europe, probably the last one we’ll be able to take for many years. After months of planning and saving, we finally heard our boarding call for the flight from Charlotte to Rome. Then in an instant, the airline gate agent wouldn’t let me on the plane because of ‘wear and tear’ on my passport. The short version is we lost 4 days and it cost $2500 to salvage the trip. The long version gives me flashbacks.
If that was my study abroad in undergrad – most my spending money would have vanished before I ever arrived. That would have meant never seeing Rome, Vienna or Madrid. Imagine someone else being stopped as they try to head to Mexico for a honeymoon, or a daughter traveling to see her mom in China for the first time in 10 years, or a fan going to their first World Cup and missing all the festivities in Brazil.
2. I was surprised by the lack of solutions in the marketplace.
When we finally arrived in Europe, I remember thinking about ways we could have prevented the whole situation. The idea come to me for a hardcore passport case in Paris. Immediately the wheels started turning with marketing ideas, design and creating a lifestyle brand. Returning home I started to research the current cases on the market and didn’t love anything I saw. Flimsy leather cases, leather brand names that wouldn’t protect against liquids, and not one pure-play in the product category.
I’ve written before about a lesson from the founder of Whole Foods to ‘criticize by creating.’ I had a choice to gripe with the airline for the rest of my life, or create a solution.
3. I see long term growth in the product category.
Who knew you could be denied for ‘wear and tear’ on your passport? Not me. Not a lot of people apparently. However, immigration in the EU and across the world is rejecting documentation and handing out $10,000 fines to the airlines. So, more and more consumers like myself are left dealing with the chain reaction. Travelers’ insurance won’t cover you, and ultimately it’s the responsibility of the customer to provide a pristine passport. If you don’t know, now ya know.
4. I’m extremely passionate about travel.
I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to Europe, Costa Rica, Mexico and beyond. I studied abroad in southern France and had the most eye opening semester of my life. I’ve never had so much fun and learned so much about humanity or myself.
Travel transcends time, money, politics and misconseptions to creates life’s most beautiful memories. Travel bridges the gap between the way we think things are and a newfound lense of culture, humanity, cuisine. Where and when comfort zones are crossed, travel delivers enlightenment and adventure.
5. The business creates an opportunity to give back.
Did I mention I love travel and it’s been important to me….? We plan to donate a fixed portion of sales from every Passport Protector sold to study abroad scholarships. Our slogan, “Ensuring worldwide travel” means you’re ensured your passport is safe, and we’re ensuring more people get the opportunity to go abroad.
I can’t wait to see the first couple students impacted by the growth of the brand. Going abroad is not cheap. And if we can send even one high school or college kid on a big life adventure – mission accomplished.
6. I didn’t want to live with, ‘What if?’ the rest of my life.
I was struck by the idea of the product. Then immediately struck by all the business aspects I would have to navigate. I’ve taken some potential risks that have paid off such as four years with Southwestern Advantage or moving to Columbus for a little startup. I’ve hesitated on others and always wondered, ‘Well what if I had…?’ Not this time. And if I’m wrong and it flops, at least I’ll learn a lot
7. I wanted to test my chops as a business owner.
Every day I get to help small business owners with their online marketing. I’m amazed by the work and dedication required. For some it creates a lot of income and freedom. But I’m still on the other side of the table as an employee. And one of my favorite books recently, The E Myth, explains why so many people fail as business owners. This is my chance to see if I have the ability to execute on a business by scaling the systems and profitability.
That’s it folks. I’ll be back to blog about other business lessons on product design, crowdfunding and PR. Until then, if you like our product and believe in the mission, back our campaign on Indiegogo today. And tell all your friends. Thanks!