Interview With Matthew and Adam Toren Owners of YoungEntrepreneur.com
Matthew and I have been serial entrepreneurs since we were very young (around 10 years old). We have been very fortunate to have each other as business partners, best friends and of course brothers. We have learned a lot about each others strengths and we know who takes care of which duties and tasks. We have been called Serial Entrepreneurs by many friends and associates. We have started, bought, overhauled and flipped several business ventures over the past several years.
I recently heard that your entrepreneur career started by buying a struggling billiard hall, overhauling it’s business model and selling it later as a profitable business, how old were you when you bought the billiard hall?
Yes, what a great experience! It wasn’t our first business venture but it was shortly after we graduated high school. My brother and I had an earlier success story which involved importing some electronics from Hong Kong (car stereos, gadgets etc. for cars) while in high school. We created a catalogue for all of our items and passed them around the school. It quickly became the talk of the school (who didn’t want a great stereo system and boom box in high school). Our overhead was obviously extremely low (my brother and I actually worked out of our cars which I must add, had the BEST stereo systems at the school (which were a form of our advertising/presentation). We partnered with a mobile installation company and the word spread fast to surrounding high schools as well. My grade 11 year (and my brother’s grade 12 year) were very good to us and really locked in the ‘entrepreneurial bug!’ Put it this way, we quickly saturated the market and moved onto another venture during the Holiday Season and imported Magic Kits for kids. The Magic Kits were a lot of fun. Together, my brother and I mastered the relatively simple slight of hand tricks and started training and teaching some other staff that we hired the tricks. We did our first business plan and decided to reserve some mall kiosks during the holiday season a several of the busiest malls within our area. We set up some great presentations and mesmerized our target demographic of 6-15 year olds. Their parents watched as we performed and witnessed their kid’s reactions and quickly made a mental note “Buy Chu’s Magic Kit for X’mas gift.” The audience always asked the same question: “How did you do that?” We always gave them the same answer: “It’s magic and you can learn how to do it too!” There were 4 types of kits, ranging from $14.95 to $29.95, so they were very affordable and well worth the WOW factor! We had under estimated how well we would do. We sold out of 2 of the most popular kits one week before X’mas so we had to re-direct all of the attention to the other 2 kits because the likelihood of getting more kits in from Hong Kong prior to X’mas was very low. We sold out of everything two days before X’mas and actually had to pack up early!
So, a few days after graduating high school, my brother was looking in the newspaper’s business for sale section, he saw this Billiard Hall for sale. We went down there and talked with the owner. He showed us the location and told us that the reason he was selling was because he did not have the time to commit to making the business a true success. He spent a lot of money already on the interior and the 12 beautiful pool tables and had all the receipts to show what he had already invested. We knew the place was not making a profit yet but shortly after we gave him a low-ball offer, we became owners of a Billiard Hall. Let me start off by saying, that we were lucky to have couches in the location as they quickly became our beds during the long and exhausting days working. We hit the ground running! We spoke to some family friends that had experience with interior design and building custom furniture. We felt that the place was missing the ‘vibe’ and a reason for people to want to come in. We built a stage (for live jazz and local bands), we built a bar and café within the location. We quickly applied for a beer and wine license (not an easy process) but finally got the approval. We overhauled the logo, added some touch ups to the interior, created some great marketing pieces and the word of mouth spread quickly about our Bar/Café & Billiard Hall. We were the only location in town that offered Beer, Wine and smooth Jazz while you played some pool. We had hired some great staff members to join the team and soon had five full time staff and 4 part time assisting us with the business venture. It had quite an upscale feel and we developed a great list of regular clientele which led to line ups to get in every Friday and Saturday. We started doing a lot of private corporate parties for some of the larger companies and radio stations etc. As the buzz about our location spread we were approached numerous times from interested buyers. We turned down quite a few because we were having too much fun, learning a heck of a lot based on trial and error and meeting some great people along the way. On our 12 month of ownership, we had an offer that was too good to turn down and we sold the business.
We didn’t let the grass grow under our feet. Within 2 months of selling the business, we started all over again and bought a small Printing and Graphics company. We applied the exact same work ethic and principles and re-branded and grew this company very quickly as well. We sold the Printing and Graphics Company in 11 months.
Wonderful memories and great experiences! Lots of learning curves and we sure did make a lot of mistakes. We are definitely students of the University of Hard Knocks with our degrees in trial and error! Now that was a long answer to a simple question. =0)
Moving right along…
What would you say to the people who say you should never go into business with family or friends?
I would say that as long as you identify and respect each others strengths and weaknesses and have a clear and common goal, then family business partners are the best. Trusting your business partner is one of the most important factors and trusting family comes naturally for us. You should still carve out your business plan and plan of action and be sure to go over as many details as possible so you share the common understandings!
YoungEntrepreneur.com is a site we have enjoyed reading. What inspired you to create this site? And what have been the main challenges in creating and running the site?
Thanks! We are glad you are enjoying http://www.YoungEntrepreneur.com.
As I mentioned above, we created this site to network and meet other fellow entrepreneurs. Matthew and I both volunteered one afternoon each week to the Junior Achievement Association. We went into Grade 11 & 12 Marketing classes and shared our real world experiences and stories with the students. They absolutely loved it! When we launched YoungEntrepreneur.com, there was nothing else out there for our age group to network. Now, we get over 300,000 entrepreneurs per month visiting our site and the numbers keep on growing. The main challenge in the beginning was finding the time to moderate the forums to ensure there wasn’t any spam being posted but now we have a small but experienced team to help us out with the site. Keep your eye on the site as we are adding several new tools, software and solutions in early 2008 to assist you with growing your business ventures!
If you had to point to one single factor that has got you to where you are today, what would it be?
Honestly, I could not pin point that down to one single factor. I would say the bottom line of our success is:
Hard work, taking risks when other won’t, never surrendering, being a leader, inspiring yourself and those around you, determination, proper delegation and of course living your dreams! Keeping in mind “Procrastination is the thief of fortune.” Here is an example of one of our dreams: For my brother and I to record a song and have fun doing it, so we just did! We are working on a video right now but in the meantime have a listen: http://www.WeekendersLive.com
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started. What business related advice would you give yourself?
I am still waiting for Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates to get together to build a time machine! If anyone can do it, that’s a dynamic duo!
The advice I would give myself would be to try and find a great Accountant (based on a referral and also a good legal team) to ensure your business dealings are always handled efficiently.
Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
Good question. Entrepreneurship is definitely in your blood! If a good mentor took the time to teach an aspiring entrepreneur, then it is definitely possible to learn techniques of being a good business person. But you still need to have that ‘fire within’ in order to be a passionate entrepreneur. So, without the fire and passion it may not be possible to learn how to be an entrepreneur!
Is there anyone that you look up to, or anyone who inspires you?
Well, as I mentioned above, Sir Richard Branson seems to always be on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship. Very impressive entrepreneur and philanthropist and is committed to doing great things for the world we live in!
What is the best thing about being a successful entrepreneur…. besides the money?
The rock star lifestyle! Haha. No..It is the ability to take what we have learned and share it with others. The people we have met while being entrepreneurs has been great and building our success network is a blast! Plus we are living our dreams daily and always thinking about what we will do next.
What does the future hold for Matthew and Adam?
We are continuing to grow our Media & Publishing Company.
We have a very exciting 2008 planned, starting with the release of our first book which will be available through http://www.YoungEntrepreneur.com (and of course all the book stores) and also the launching of something that every aspiring entrepreneur and seasoned entrepreneur will want to know about! Stay tuned for more!
Thanks for the interview, it was great reminiscing about how we got started!