DECA Alumni Spotlight Celebrating GEW
Global Entrepreneurship Week is a great time to connect with your chapter's alumni who have discovered their entrepreneurial spirit and attribute their success to their DECA experience.
Meet Andrew Forster, co-founder of The Launch Life, serial entrepreneur and former Green Hope DECA member from North Carolina. From his experience with DECA to earning an entrepreneurship degree from North Carolina State University to owning his own business, Andrew's journey from an emerging entrepreneur to a serial entrepreneur has been filled with advice from mentors who have helped him achieve his dream. He's ready to pay it forward and share with other young entrepreneurs his advice and offer resources that will help you launch your career as an entrepreneur.
When did you first know that being an entrepreneur was your passion?
In high school I discovered I was someone that prefers to step outside the mold, to cut my own trail, and that the traditional role education played in most of my peers’ lives was going to prepare me for an altogether different future. It's my belief entrepreneurship is largely nurture, stemming from the development of critical thinking skills that allow each entrepreneur to recognize how he or she differs from the world around us.
When did you first discover DECA?
My junior year of high school, a friend talked me into going to my first meeting.
What impact did your high school DECA experience have on your journey as a serial entrepreneur?
In a word, comfort. In high school there was pressure to conform, to compete on the traditional basis of GPA in addition to other metrics. This was lost on me. While I stood toe to toe with my peers, taking the traditional honors and AP classes while retaining a high GPA, DECA became my comfort zone. To me DECA was a venue of maturity, clarity, the illustration of a future in which competition moved outside of the classroom and presented itself in a dynamic scenario. To be honest, I considered pursuing success in business more challenging and multifaceted than learning how to pass a history test.
What is the concept behind your current company, The Launch Life?
It's a lifestyle brand, a community. Initially we set out to build a brand indicative of a day in the life of an entrepreneur. We decided writing a book made sense. After all, we had a story to tell, from personal experience and we knew the woes of younger entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs, we find ourselves floating on an altogether different sea. Being a young entrepreneur comes with the pressure to conform. The world says, "work hard enough to make it into a decent college, show up, and do just enough work to leave with your golden ticket," a ticket entitling the holder to pursue a rat race we call the corporate ladder.
Our goal as a venture is philanthropic in nature, we believe as entrepreneurs we have been blessed with a skill set empowering each one of us to make a difference in the world. Our goal is to provide the tools and resources to make that pursuit possible for others.
How did the concept of The Launch Life begin?
My partner, Kaitlyn Caraway, and I were looking for a place to "park" in downtown Chicago, and as we "circled the block," we discovered we wanted to share our story, so we sent a message out to our inner circle of serial entrepreneurs, “Hey, want to write a book?” The response was overwhelming. So we purchased a domain name and let the concept develop organically. To learn more, check out our Journal.
What's next for The Launch Life?
Our first substantial release of The Launch Life (TLL) project is our book, The Launch Life, real life stories built to shape the entrepreneurial spirit. Readers will learn what a day in the life of an entrepreneur is like. Fourteen entrepreneurs, from around the country, practicing their craft within diversified industries, share their stories of success, counterbalanced by seasons of tribulation, with the unified goal of promoting entrepreneurship. The book is delivered within a comical, illustrative media. Without question, readers are destined to find a number of authors they can personally relate to.
In addition, TLL project involves the construction of an online community designed for entrepreneurs to leverage in support of one another, improving collaboration and availability.Hosting a well developed journal section, in which readers can expect to find articles on a variety of topics, stemming from the challenges day to day events pose the author’s ventures. Along with a forum designed to allow fellow entrepreneurs a venue to post questions like, LLC vs S-corp, or how to hire your first employee? Join the conversation and learn more about what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a serial entrepreneur?
While my peers drive to the office working for "the man," I am the man. While reminiscent of the pop phrase, “I do what I want,” quite literally I'm a part of five different companies currently. Some days I might spread my attention out, while on other occasions I might take the day off and head to the coast to go fishing.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The world says, "Wouldn't a traditional job be easier?" As an entrepreneur's success hinges from critical thinking, on a daily basis I have to consider everything from how to position our company, to what if any verticals to pursue, to what and who to invest in. It's a game of optimization, reaching that equilibrium point where you're able to scale. Inevitably you're going to watch your friends take different paths in which they'll tend to follow the pack. While likely a lone wolf, the entrepreneurial spirit is to be celebrated. As a young entrepreneur it's critical to be resilient. Often times you'll find your close family and friends question your direction. I encourage you to stand strong!
To me, the discriminating factors between an entrepreneur and a business person is defined by one's willingness to bounce back as the blows come. Recognize some days the skies will be thick, and in some ways the fight is easier when you're younger with arguably less personal obligation.
What key advice would you give to a young entrepreneur just getting started?
Be reasonable. I’m a huge believer in scale. My core business is a cloud SW play seated in the healthcare industry. Every entrepreneur has got to learn to reach! However, having a win early is also important. You're not going to keep after something you're not good at, so initially pick a venture you actually have experience with and the resources in place to drive successfully. While it may not be a large retail company, it might be a landscaping or tutoring service. As you skip from venture to venture you'll gain capital, knowledge, relationships, and maturity all elevating the chances of success on your next stop.
To really dive into how some of the most successful young entrepreneurs driving the landscape of tomorrow got started pick up a copy of our book. If nothing else you'll be in for some laughs as you relive our mistakes. Along the journey I’m confident you’ll find the words of more than one TLL author who will personify your own experiences.
You can connect directly with Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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