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Adversity Leads to Success but Only if You Don’t Give Up

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In the pursuit of any goal, you’re going to encounter hard times and adversity. Generally, the bigger and more ambitious the goal, the more obstacles you’ll need to overcome. I dropped out of college in 2014 to start a business called cravebox.com. I had no prior business experience or business education, very little start-up cash, and took no investments or debt. So growing the business was a slow process that required faith and persistence. Facing adversity in business or in life forces you to adapt, become stronger, and stay in the game long enough to find success. You just can’t give up along the way.

Results come long after the work

When you start something new, success does not come quickly. Most new businesses require 18-24 months to become profitable. You need to understand and expect that you’ll do a lot of hard work over a long period of time and it might seem like you’re making no progress. My business was not profitable for the first 3 years. I worked all day, 7 days per week, for 3 years straight and continued to lose money and hardly do any sales. 

There were many occasions when I thought that maybe I should give up and doubted that I was going in the right direction, but deep inside I had faith and decided to keep going. In my 4th year, my business became profitable and continued to grow. Now we’re in a 60,000 square foot warehouse and employ 40 full-time staff. 

So the lesson here is to focus more on doing high quality work consistently over a long period of time and focus less on results. The results will come but they’ll take time to come and if you focus too much on results, you might become discouraged and quit. 

You have to adapt

In the last section, I wrote about how you should focus on the work you’re doing and don’t put too much emphasis on results (or lack of results). But that doesn’t mean you should continue to work mindlessly in the same wrong direction. It’s very important to work hard in a certain direction, analyze the results to see if it’s gaining any traction, and depending on those results, possibly pivot and adapt if you think it’s necessary. 

So while results will take time, and be underwhelming in the beginning, you should notice some signs that results are around the corner. If you’ve worked at something for a year and you’ve seen absolutely no sign that it could ever work, maybe it’s time to pivot and try a slightly different approach. 

For example, I started my CRAVEBOX business by partnering with colleges, marketing to the parents of their students, and giving the college a cut of sales. I worked on this marketing approach for about 2 years and it worked to a degree but my progress was so slow and cumbersome and it wasn’t very profitable since I was giving a large cut to the colleges. I decided to try listing my products on Amazon and after some time and effort, I realized Amazon would ultimately be more successful than partnering with colleges, so I went 100% in the direction of Amazon.

“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” – Zig Ziglar

Rejection is the norm (especially early on)

When you first start on the pursuit of any goal, like growing a business, you will face a lot of rejection. In the case of starting a business, rejection is more common in the beginning but it’s a pretty common theme through the life of the business. As I mentioned before, CRAVEBOX started by partnering with colleges, but it was a very competitive environment since many companies wanted these exclusive partnership rights.

 For every college that partnered with me, I was rejected by about 400. And each of those attempts required a lot of work, communication, presentations, etc. It was frustrating and almost discouraging but I’m the kind of person that gains energy from rejection. I became more determined and frankly angry as the rejections kept coming. This energy helped me to work even harder, submit more proposals to colleges, and to think of other ways to make the business work, which ultimately led to listing my products on Amazon.

Eventually you’ll figure it out

If you can consistently work towards your goal for a long time, adapt along the way, and gain energy as you face rejection and obstacles, you will eventually find success. With enough time, experimentation, learning, and work, you’ll figure out what it takes to compete. To be successful, you need to be better than most of the competition and that takes time. 

Even after I listed my products on Amazon, it took about 4 years to become a top Amazon seller in my category. This was a daily effort to improve my images, products, reviews, listings, etc. As I continued to improve the business, I realized that I was getting closer and closer to offering a product that was as good or better than the top competition in my industry.

John Accardi is the founder and CEO of cravebox.com and starcoursecap.com. CRAVEBOX assembles care packages and gift baskets to be sold online. STARCOURSE CAPITAL is a venture capital firm that invests in young e-commerce companies. John dropped out of a PhD program at Georgetown University in 2014 to start CRAVEBOX and he says it’s the best decision he ever made. He now runs the businesses out of North Wales, PA and also lives in Manhattan part-time. When John’s not working, he enjoys sailing, playing guitar, and spending time with family.

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