Editor's Note: Before they were entrepreneurial stars, these founders were regular people with regular jobs. Here, we look at how those early positions helped form today's high-flying entrepreneurs.

Chase Jarvis is a photographer, film director and social-media maven. He's also the CEO and co-founder of CreativeLive, a site that offers online courses in the creative arts. The company raised $21.5 million at the end of last year with the goal of helping users "unleash their creative potential."

Jarvis knows of what he speaks. The son of a Seattle police officer needed to get creative about his own career too. Before becoming a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur, he did everything from peddle lemonade to wash cars. He also sold golf balls.

While he's gone on to found a world-famous photography studio and a popular photo app, Jarvis still credits those early odd jobs with teaching him one of his most valuable business lessons. Here, Jarvis shares those early lessons and how it helped him thrive in entrepreneurship.

Going in the Back Door

As a teenager growing up in Seattle, Jarvis was a self-proclaimed "skateboarder and punk," who liked to bend the rules or simply ignore them altogether.

One of his early adventures in entrepreneurship involved what he calls "hacking the system." On a local golf course, where he didn't work, he would regularly wade into streams and lakes to recover lost golf balls.

"I would dive [in] and find golf balls and sell them back to the golfers in between holes," says Jarvis. Talk about an early lesson in supply and demand.

Doubling down on his efforts, Jarvis supplemented his golf ball sales by also selling lemonade to golfers on the course.

"It pissed the golf course off because I was cutting into their business," Jarvis says. "But I was doing such a good job at it, that they hired me to run the pro shop one day a week. So my hacker mentality back in the day actually landed me my first job."

A Lesson in Bootstrapping

He put his entrepreneurial skills to work again when he needed to raise funding to help support his early endeavors as an artist. In a nascent form of crowdfunding, Jarvis trolled his neighborhood as a kid with a bucket, soap and rags.

"I would travel around the neighborhood and wash cars," says Jarvis. "It was how I raised money to make films."

Once Jarvis "raised a round" washing cars, he used the capital to purchase film equipment. Once complete, he offered a screening of the films at his parent's home, where he charged for entry.

You might recognize his strategy as bootstrapping, but for Jarvis it was his lifeblood. "I did whatever it took to create the resources that enabled me to the do the things I wanted to do," says Jarvis.

"The goal wasn't to wash cars," he adds. "My goal was to make enough money to buy a camera to create a film."

Trust Your Vision

You need to have vision, he learned. And you can't let a little thing like not going to school get in the way of pursuing your dreams. "I didn't have a filmmaking pedigree," says the self-taught filmmaker and photographer. "What I did have was the desire to get things done, at any cost."

His outsider status and approach proved to be an asset in a career that has involved filming campaigns for Nike, Apple, Lady Gaga, and Red Bull, to name a few.

"It's not about the path or pedigree," said Jarvis. "It's really about the results. That's my favorite thing about this era of entrepreneurs."

**Disclosure: The author did contract work for CreativeLive in 2013.

 

Published on: Nov 18, 2014