Entrepreneurship is often easier learned by doing rather than listening to those who say they have the answers. However, entrepreneur Andy Frisella offers a wealth of knowledge that is applicable to just about everyone. Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, Frisella says he has been there. After starting a small supplement store with his friend in his early twenties, Frisella overcame tremendous adversity to grow 1st Phorm into a $175 million, multi-brand empire.
Whether you're thinking about starting a business this year or are already deep into your start-up project, Frisella told me that he is willing to provide tips on how he grew his fitness empire from scratch, which can help out any small business owner.
1. Form relationships with customers.
Frisella has lots of stories about when he first started a small supplement store on a street in Springfield, Missouri, but one stands out to him as particularly powerful.
"I went literally door to door . . . I would go to places over and over again," says Frisella. "And what I noticed is that these people became super loyal to us. It wasn't typical business. They felt like they were supporting their friends. No matter the size of your company, it's always about relationships."
Frisella says that forming these relationships gave him a consistent customer base, providing him with the revenue he needed to survive and expand.
2. Turn weaknesses into strengths.
"I got stabbed in the face. I almost died," says Frisella, chuckling. "My face was swollen to the size of a grapefruit."
While he can smile about it now, at the time his freak injury threatened his business and livelihood. He says that vendors and customers would become nervous around him, affecting sales and his ability to attend trade shows that are vital for his industry.
So, he turned his scar into a strength.
"I had a hard time getting people to remember us," he says. Frisella turned the scar into a conversation starter, and from a conversation starter into a sort of personal branding. He now says, "It's one of the best things to ever happen to me."
Once he learned to embrace and draw attention to his scar, something that had previously affected his ability to interact with others became a way to create relationships and grow his business. He learned to draw on it as a source of inspiration.
3. Sell your brand, not a product.
"The biggest thing [start-ups] have to realize is that people like to buy from people," says Frisella. "People aren't buying from a logo anymore."
Frisella says that one of the biggest mistakes he sees younger entrepreneurs making is not taking the time to build a brand.
"They'll sell whatever the hot product is, and they'll make $100,000, but then it's dead in the water and they have to start over," he says. "They're not really building a company."
Frisella says that maintaining a consistent relationship with customers will guarantee earnings past that first payday. Taking the time to humanize your company and ensure that you "step out from behind the logo" is key to ensuring longevity and success.
4. Your greatest strength is patience.
Frisella remembers how hard the first few years were. He says it took him and his partner more than 8 months to take in more than $200 in a day.
"We lived in the back of that storefront the first couple of years on and off because we didn't have money for rent," he recalls.
Frisella's entire story of success relies on his concept of "aggressive patience."
"It means to do every single thing you can do to get your business working, and that it still may take 5 years to get it going," says Frisella.
He says his biggest mistakes included not waiting long enough to allow certain marketing campaigns to take full effect, and not having the patience to see a new initiative through to completion.
Frisella says his empire was built as much on patience as it was on hard work and branding, and that any entrepreneur who wants to replicate his success should work on cultivating patience.