Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 37: Michael Ingle and Graeme Gordon

I simply wasn’t happy in corporate America. I was a square peg in a round hole and needed to be someplace where I could think creatively.

You are 100% responsible for your own decisions, your career, your failures, your success. You can’t rely on anybody else.  

Self-motivation, drive and creativity are key entrepreneurial traits that can’t be discounted or ignored, say the guests on today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Michael Ingle

Michael Ingle

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

Graeme Gordon

Graeme Gordon

Listen to my full interviews with Michael and Graeme by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Michael Ingle ran away from home at age 14 with $140 and a dream of bettering himself. In the years since, he’s been driven to succeed. Before founding Clean Sleep, he worked for Boeing as a teenager, did mechanical drafting and design for a combustion engineering company, ran a beach volleyball bar with friends and founded Quick Set Concrete.

He says that being on his own from a young age provided a critical learning experience:

I didn’t really have a childhood, but I don’t regret anything. Every step along the way has put me where I’m at today and has driven me as an entrepreneur. I realized how important relationships are, and how important hard work is.

It taught me that in the end, you are 100% responsible for your own decisions, your career, your failures, your success. You can’t rely on anybody else.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Graeme Gordon founder of Sneak Guard had 20 years of manufacturing and retail marketing experience working for companies like Ashley Furniture and Mattress Giant. Over the years, he dabbled in startup ideas, but frequently returned to the safe haven of a steady paycheck.

Working in corporate America, he gained enormous experience that serves him today, he says, but his heart wasn’t in working for others. Instead, he yearned to channel his creative energies.

When you’re hooked to getting a paycheck for over 20 years with the great benefits, stepping away from that is difficult, but I simply wasn’t happy in corporate America.

I didn’t fit. I was a square peg in a round hole. I’m entrepreneurial and creative. I needed to be someplace where I could think creatively.  

I’m definitely a happier person now, doing my startup.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Partner disagreements and a lack of planning killed Michael’s beach volleyball bar venture, but he doesn’t consider it a failure:

It cost me about $80,000, but the way I look at that is it was tuition money. It cost me what it cost me to learn what I learned, and I used that, and moved into the next deal, Quick Set Concrete.

There was a bit of serendipity around that opportunity, he says:

I didn’t really know a lot about construction, but a friend of mine said, “Well, I can run the crews and do the work if you can get the business,” so I said, “OK, let’s just figure it out.” With $24, I started the company: $3.99 to print your own business cards, and 20 bucks to register with the comptroller.

It’s still around, and we’ve evolved into adding dirt work and masonry to our scope.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Both Michael and Graeme started their companies after identifying a personal need. Michael came up with the idea for Clean Sleep in one sleepless night after falling asleep on his bare mattress.

SneakGuard was developed after Graeme’s 4-year-old daughter managed to open a prescription medicine child safety cap. The experience pushed him, once and for all, out of his corporate comfort zone. Here’s what he did:

I quit my job, went out and raised some capital from angels, strictly on a drawing, basically, and a concept.

I went out and talked to customers, friends. I did all these focus groups. I actually built prototypes, sat down with people and asked them, “What do you think of this? Would you buy it? How much would you buy it for? How much space can it take up, because it’s going to go in your refrigerator, if you want it to?”

I did a lot of groundwork before I moved forward.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here 

The customer feedback he received led him to a market he hadn’t considered:

I learned SneakGuard was a good product for cannabis, because once you take the air out of the container, it’ll make it the cannabis last longer. Also, there are some real problems with edibles like cookies and gummies.

There have been liability cases where parents have actually been charged with criminal charges for kids getting hold of dad’s pot cookies, so it’s a big part of our market.  

But it’s an interesting challenge to approach. Safety doesn’t pay attention to borders. Cannabis is legal in some states, and it’s not legal in others. Even though we’re selling a container and not cannabis, it’s a difficult pitch to retail America, because they don’t want to have anything to do with it. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Initially, things were going well for the company Graeme originally named SnoopGuard. He quickly received orders and amassed an inventory of containers.

His launch was short-circuited by a lawyer, though:

We got a cease and desist letter from a very well-known celebrity whose name had the word Snoop in it.  

Although the U.S. Patent Office gave me the registered mark that I owned for SnoopGuard, that was a pivot point for me because we had already produced product that had the name on it.

Lack of time and money kept me from fighting it. It really tore my heart out, but I decided I’d have to make a really quick recovery, or potentially not recover.

I changed the name to SneakGuard, then had to change the product, throw away a lot of original product and move on.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Although a February appearance on the reality TV show SharkTank brought Clean Sleep some brand recognition, Michael is struggling to find a scalable business model.

Until I got the machine to work, I hadn’t even thought about the business plan. I just knew that this was a huge problem, that everyone has a mattress.

Then I realized, “Okay, this is a perfect franchise model.” That’s how we starting writing our projections.

I spent every dollar I had to go to the best franchise attorneys, and got the franchise disclosure documents done, and agreements, and everything else. I thought a franchise model was the ticket.

But through a lot of trial and tribulation, we’re still growing the company into the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. So now we’ve decided to push franchising off until we can figure out how to scale the business.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Because Clean Sleep is creating a new market, Michael recognizes he must educate consumers who don’t know about his product or understand why they should clean their mattress. Looking back he wishes he’d spent more time and money on sales and marketing to do that, because things have been tough financially:

I’ve spent a lot of money on this company.

To this day, I don’t know how I’ve managed. I’ve got everything except my underwear in this thing. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Michael and Graeme by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics; and Lane Merrifield, founder of Fresh Grade.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

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