In our Meet the Maker series, you hear from our Makers on their journeys as entrepreneurs and how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better. Today, we're catching up with Jonathan Newman, the Maker who created élé INSIDERS.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
At any point in time in your career, despite whatever professional successes or disappointments you might have experienced, it’s critical that you find a way to enjoy the process and the adventure that comes with the "doing" part. The journey often provides more rewards than actually reaching the destination or any particular milestone goal.
What Maker tool can you not live without?
It’s hard to imagine how we would have been able to develop the élé INSIDERS™ concept and brand without the internet. Communication technology; virtual meetings, email, Skype, Whatsap, Google search, etc. have been extraordinary resources to our company culture and the way we develop our products. Time, space, and information access are no longer the insurmountable challenges they were just a few years ago.
Above: Jonathan Newman
How do you push through road blocks in creativity or business?
All problems have solutions, you just have to summon the tenacity, patience, and confidence that you’ll figure it out. If you don’t know where to start, of if you find yourself blocked in some way, then you have to find a way to approach the obstacle from a different point of view or perspective. It’s often best to take a break and come back to it later. If you can work on something entirely unrelated for a while before you return to the challenge, so much the better. Also, try to imagine who or what could help you and don’t be shy about asking for help.
What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
I’m design and quality obsessed: If you’re gong to attempt to create something, for me it’s critical that the product/concept be well designed and well executed. And if it’s a commercial product, it should be available at a fair value.
Engaged Observation; since I was a young man I’ve worked very diligently to develop and refine the skill of observation so that I could become a keen observer of what distinguishes people, places, and things (and what makes them special).
Respectful; listen and be humble. Seek out the most talented people you can find to work with and make sure you’re not the smartest person in the room.
What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
OK, you have a brilliant idea, now make a plan. Your plan should include answers to the questions about how you get from point A to point B, and then to the finish line as you define it. They don’t necessarily have to be the “right” answers, but they have to be plausible and achievable answers. For example, how are you going to generate sales? What is your marketing plan? How are you going to produce your product or service? Does it have an adequate profit margin?
Next, find the best possible people you can approach to evaluate your plan... people who won’t hesitate to ask tough questions about your plan. Then the hardest part –have the strength to let go of your precious original thinking so you can address and fix all the holes that have been shot into your original plan (and try your best not to fear failure).
What has surprised you most about starting a business?
As much as you can try to prepare for every contingency and eventuality (and you should!) you can’t anticipate everything; and not all surprises are bad ones! Help will often appear where you least imagined it, and unanticipated disappointments or obstacles are inevitable and unavoidable.
What has been the most rewarding part of business for you?
The most rewarding part of the journey of launching élé INSIDERS is easily answered; it’s the people I’ve met (or re-connected with). It’s afforded me the opportunity to work and learn from some incredibly talented people, and to experience their generosity of spirit along with their extraordinary skill sets. It’s also been extremely gratifying to witness the market embrace our vision of creating a fresh, new lifestyle shoe.
How has The Grommet community helped your business?
The Grommet customer feedback is the best! The Grommet community is a very special place in the world’s marketplace of things. It’s authentic, nurturing and vibrant. The people from Grommet HQ are caring and enthusiastic in their mission and execution –and they genuinely want to do everything possible to help their Makers succeed. Similarly, and not surprisingly, The Grommet audience truly appreciates this authenticity and generously shares their input with product purchases and constructive reviews. We’ve already begun working on improving our products and developing new ideas based on this valuable feedback.
To learn more about élé INSIDERS, watch our video here.