This week we have a very special episode with two Misfit Entrepreneurs Leon Ifayemi and Nick van der Velde. This episode was recorded live at Fireside Entrepreneurship Conference in September 2018. I was invited to speak at the event and do a show for the audience.
I wanted to do something unique for the show, so I came up with the idea that when I got to the event, I would spend the first day meeting unique entrepreneurs and find ones that had incredible stories, insight, and wisdom to share. I met a number of incredible people, but really enjoyed my initial conversations with Leon and Nick, and was honored to have them join me for this episode.
Leon is a former Barclays investor, but left that life to start a very unique company called Space, that’s SPCE. SPCE is the rental ecosystem, revolutionizing the way in which the higher education community and the universities which enroll them, connect with the property market. Through a very unique app, they help students find the best places to live on campus. Think of them like an Uber for campus living.
Nick is a social entrepreneur, TedX speaker and founder of Impact Consulting. He helps companies find the synergy of creating a social impact with their business and maximizing profitability. Additionally, he helps companies in their funding pursuits.
I really enjoyed my time with these awesome entrepreneurs and I know you will learn a lot from them, so without further ado, here is my interview with Leon Ifayemi and Nick van der Velde from Fireside 2018.
Leon came up with idea for SPCE in his 2nd year of university. He had a job of helping students find housing in and around campus. He realized what a challenge it was for students, landlords, and property management companies, so he came up with the idea. But, as young graduate, he didn’t have the capital, so he went into investment banking at Barclays and then Rothchild where he was responsible for managing $2 billion. It was there that he met the investors that would eventually invest in SPCE.
Nick grew up in the Netherlands. At 19, he realized that he had to go abroad. He came to Toronto, CA where he excelled in class. While there, he was connected with a real estate investment group that ended up sponsoring him to immigrate to Canada to live full time in 2012. Nick has interesting background in that he was a breakdancer who helped lead campaigns for RBC, SCION, Nokia, and others. In parallel to that, he applied for a job as a “business developer.” He walked into a non-profit and they wanted to create a business model that balances for profit value in creating revenue, but practiced non-profit values increasing the quality of life of a community. Nick was able to raise over $750k for the project in a year. He is now a principle consultant for Impact Consulting and to date has raised over $1.1 million.
Leon, what did you learn from banking that has helped you most as an entrepreneur?
- Persistence – to get business in investment banking requires a very stoic nature to persevere
- Being comfortable with not being in control
- Relationship building is the cornerstone of any business. Your ability to build relationships and earn trust is incredibly important.
Nick, explain social entrepreneurship and how it can help you grow as an entrepreneur…
- Social entrepreneurship should be “baked in” and not “bolted on.”
- Having a positive impact is at the core and that impact will help you grow as an entrepreneur
- There is value in what you do in community and the connection you create
- It allows you to be vulnerable which allows you to create a more supportive environment for success.
“Millennials are becoming the one in control of spending dollars in a community and are driven more by empathy, so the trend is toward one of social entrepreneurship.”
What is the coolest thing you’ve found about entrepreneurship that you never expected?
- The overwhelming sense of freedom balanced with responsibility.
- The challenges and pursuit of success is thrilling and drives you
- The ability to instill your values into something
- The ability to work outside the status quo and “rules”
- Entrepreneurship is a great vehicle to find your higher purpose
- Street cred
- There is a level or recognition, value, and validation that is worth so much more than money through the work.
What is a habit that you have created or adopted that you feel gives you an advantage over your competition?
- A habit of being absolutely persistent without being annoying
- It is really more of a mindset
- Surrounding yourself with people who are positive and creating cues in your life by adopting mentors
- It is as much a lifestyle choice to stay positive as it is a habit
Action items you do to foster this way of thinking and approaching life?
- Working with mentors and seeking mentorship
- Weekly meetings with mentors who “have done it”
- You want to find solutions to problems and getting criticism is fine as it helps you as long as you are getting it from a positive source.
- Creating compelling value propositions
- Analyzing patterns of people and businesses and them putting value prop together with the patterns
- Create a proposal for yourself of who you are, what you stand for, your principles – it is a very eye-opening exercise – your personal value proposition.
- Entrepreneurship is about consistency, so time management is a key skill
Best piece for advice for an entrepreneur starting out today?
- Don’t stop
- Fail and fail fast
- Always keep going and be willing to adjust, change, and pivot as needed, but never stop
- Entrepreneurship is like a maze – you will continuously hit dead ends and have to make choices of different directions to go, but as long as you keep going to you will find your way out.
- You can’t do it all on your own – find others that share your values and share your appreciation for creating value
- Create duplicates for yourself through your systems and processes as time is your biggest asset and you must leverage it every way you can
- You have to be ok with stepping out, giving up comfort and safety to grow.
- Know your “opportunity cost.”
What have you learned about yourself on your journey so far?
- We are fallible and capable of burning out
- We can so stubborn that is hurting us and our business
- Trying to do everything on your own is the hardest way to go and keeps you from reaching your real potential
- Give people the benefit of the doubt and trust those you’ve hired to do the job
- Hire better than you
- Don’t use other people’s definition of success to create your definition of success – define it for yourself
- Understand when and how to use control to maximize your business and success – you will have to let go at different times.
- There is something about making things happen that we are just born to do
Best Quote: “Create a proposal for yourself of who you are, what you stand for, your principles – it is a very eye-opening exercise – your personal value proposition.”
Leon and Nick's Misfit 3:
- Leon: Be comfortable with your difference – being different is what makes us who we are and part of the nature of entrepreneurs. Risking for delayed gratification is very important. Nick: Understand your core value – why do you show up and who do you want to be?
- Leon: Balance. Surround yourself with those that help to keep you from burning out. You have to take time for yourself and take breaks. Nick: Be more empathetic in your life and endeavors
- Leon: Adapt – the world is forever changing. The barriers to entry in creating a business are now very low. It’s been democratized. You continuously be able to adapt as what is new today will be old tomorrow. Nick: Increase the level of vulnerability in how your approach your business and lead – be willing to ask for help!