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ABU | Erik Groset

Always Be Upgrading – ABU

This is a blog about continual improvement.
In every aspect of your life, you should aim to continually improve and upgrade. I share with you what works, what doesn’t, and what I’ve learned along the way on my lifelong entrepreneurial quest.

The 5 Pillars of ABU

  1. Incremental Moves Forward –  Small steps lead to big changes.
    Even if you lay just 1 brick a day, you’ll eventually have a foundation for a house.
  2. Be a Student of LifeNever stop learning.
    Surround yourself with people who encourage you to grow.
    Try something new everyday. Do you have a library card? Go get one, today!
  3. Take Care of What You’ve Got – Family, friends, work, possessions, and whatever else.
    How do you expect a Lamborghini if you don’t take care of your Honda Civic?
    What makes you think you deserve a 5 bedroom house for your family when you can barely keep your 1 bedroom apartment clean?
  4. Seek Opportunities  – Take advantage of every opportunity you can.
    This is the age of information… If you’re not seeking opportunities, someone else is.
  5. Never Give Up – ALWAYS be upgrading. Failure is inevitable, it’s how you deal with it that defines your character.Bonus: Have a Backup Plan – Have a backup for that backup plan.

“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President

About Erik Groset

Erik Groset

My passion is technology, startups, and technology startups 🙂  Since I graduated business school in 2007 during one of the worst economic periods, I decided I would be the sole determinant of my fate. Ever since then I’ve been a serial entrepreneur starting/selling businesses and working on the next big thing.  Most people know me for co-founding Fantasy Sports Co. and  Zipbuds audio company.

President Obama recognized me as a top 100 entrepreneur under 30.

President Obama Letter

Then there was the time that I spoke at The White House regarding Entrepreneurship…

Former Kool-Aid Salesmen:

During the summer of 1991, a 7-year old Erik desperately wanted a Super Nintendo (SNES), so he asked his parents to buy him one. His mom replied that she couldn’t do that. An obviously upset little Erik inquired why and what he could do to solve the problem….

The Product

“You should sell lemonade” my mom replied. OK! An overly eager Erik exclaimed! Can you make the lemonade for me, mom? “No.” Why not mom? “Because, for one thing we don’t have lemonade and secondly you need to learn to make it yourself.” Awwww, what am I supposed to do mom??? “Well, we have Kool-Aid.” Sooo my mom taught me how to make Kool-Aid, and she taught me the right way. By pouring in about half a gallon of sugar and two packets of Kool-Aid. I now had my product and I was ready to sell. As I was getting ready to walk out the door my mom asked, “Where are you going”? I replied that I was going to go sell the Kool-Aid we had just made. She said, “No, you can’t go selling hot Kool-aid nobody is going to buy it from you. “Put it in the fridge and sell it tomorrow when it’s nice and cool.” If anyone is familiar with summers in Chicago — you can immediately know she was right! Nobody wanted warm Kool-Aid. So, I patiently waited that night dreaming of tomorrow not knowing what my first taste of entrepreneurship would hold for me.

The Market

Finally, I woke up and my ice cold, sugar heavy, Kool-Aid was ready to sell. Early in the morning I was headed out the door and my dad stopped me. “Where are you going, Erik?” and I told him that I was going to sell the Kool-Aid. He laughed and asked, “to whom I was going to sell it to?” I was shocked. I had no idea. I thought that I could just sit outside and the customers would magically come to me. He explained that was unlikely to happen. My dad being the super smart guy he is, thought for a few minutes and came up with an idea. There was some construction going on up the street, he figured that I could sell my Kool-Aid to them. PERFECT! I was ready to go. My father had identified my first niche market. Again, I headed towards the door when he stopped me. “You have to wait until lunch time, Erik. They are busy guys and don’t want to be bothered until they take a break.” So again, I waited until the lunchtime all the while learning a lesson about good timing.

The First Sale

At last, lunch hour had come and I was ready to go. I headed over to the construction site with my gallon of Kool-Aid loaded with ice and cups. I cautiously approached what appeared to be a construction worker sitting eating his lunch, and bashfully asked if he was interested in purchasing some Kool-Aid. As any good construction worker would, he said of course and asked how much. This was an interesting dilemma, I had no idea how much to charge? I replied $0.50/glass. He graciously obliged and I had made my first sale. Before I could count my shiny two quarters, I had another construction worker asking for a glass. Once reviews of my ice cold, sugar packed, thirst quenching Kool-Aid had reached its fifth laborer my well had run dry. I sold out of my product and again found myself wondering what to do. One of the construction workers told me to come back tomorrow with several gallons. So, I ran home to my parents to tell them the good news.

The Growth

Mom, I made $10 today! She was floored the construction workers were actually buying it. I told her that I would need 4 gallons for tomorrow. “I’m not making it, you are Erik” she reminded me. My mom graciously helped me make those 4 gallons. She also reminded me of the COGs (Cost of Goods) associated with my product. I promised to give her $1 for every gallon we made. That night we made 5 gallons, unsure if they would sell again tomorrow. That night I went to sleep $9 richer than the day before and dreams of my Super Nintendo seemed like a definite possibility! When I woke up I was headed out the door when I figured out that I can’t very well carry 5 gallons of Kool-Aid myself. My dad again helped me to figure out a solution. He took the wagon that I would ride in as a young child and loaded it with Kool-Aid, glasses, and ice for me. But, before I left he made me a sign which read: “Kool-Aid” $0.50/glass and put it on the side. Again, I waited until lunch time and headed to my market. Upon arrival, I was greeted by my customer from yesterday and he was very pleased with what he saw. To my surprise he immediately requested a quote for the whole lot. He caught me off guard. On the spot I made up the price of $10/gallon. After some hesitation, he reluctantly agreed. Less than 20 minutes after I left I ran back to my parents house with $50.

The Hard Work

I gave my mom the $5 for COGs that day and put the other $45 under my bed to save for my SNES. The rest of that summer wasn’t as easy as that day. My customers renegotiated the price down to $7/gallon and some days sales were better than others. Additionally, my mom made me commit to depositing half my earnings into a savings account for college. I toyed with various strategies such as creative signs, or a boom box playing music to increase sales. However, no matter what the circumstances, I went out everyday that summer and sold my Kool-Aid. The bad thing about construction work is eventually they are done building. My market had finally left me.

The Reward

Being a 7-year old, I couldn’t chase my market, or expand operations. So, I closed up shop.

I finally had time to breathe and examine what I had made. A 7-year old Erik generated approximately $1000 in revenue selling Kool-Aid that summer. Not only did I make enough to achieve my goal of purchasing that Super Nintendo, but I also had left over to buy the best games (The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, and Street Fighter 2). I also put $500 in my savings account to save for college which would eventually accrue to around $750 by the time I needed it. Above all of that, with many thanks to my fantastic parents, I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and selling a product. I’ll never forget that summer and always look fondly upon my first experience with entrepreneurship and the lessons learned. Every summer since then, I’ll drink a glass of Kool-Aid to commemorate my first successful enterprise.

Fun Stuff: In 2010 I commissioned one of my favorite song writers of all time, Max Bemis (@MaxBemis) of Say Anything to write a song for me about some of the struggles of being an entrepreneur. I think he nailed it…