This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Martin Sawa. Martin was the son of penniless Ukrainian immigrants and was on a path for the same kind of life when he made a decision. At almost 30, he quit his dead-end job to go into real estate and compete in the high stakes commercial real estate market in San Francisco. He struggled, but eventually found enormous success culminating in a $400 million deal that basically allowed him to retire and pursue his passions for writing. He had it all – but he had to confront the true cost of the sacrifices he made to get there.
He wrote about his story and incredible lessons learned in The Other Side of Success: Money and Meaning in the Golden State. Martin came from nothing, sacrificed everything and went through tragedy to find success, and ultimately learned what really matters on his entrepreneur journey and I’m excited to have him share it with you in this episode.
Martin’s parents lived under both Hitler and Stalin. They made it through the war and were put in a displaced person’s camp in Austria for several years and finally made it to the US. They were resettled in rural Wisconsin. Martin was sort of an outsider in that he had trouble with the language, etc. He was able to go to and work to pay for a Jesuit boarding school and this helped him. He then went to college in the mid-west and after headed out to California.
He got a job in Oakland, got married, and as he approached 30 years old was dead broke and hating his job with another kid on the way. He had his “aha” moment when he was working at zoning counter for his job in the city planner’s office. A developer came in and started screaming at him to process his project. In that moment, Martin just walked away and continued out the door – vowing never to have a job again and would work for himself from then on.
He was driven by necessity. He had some sales experience from when he was younger doing door to door sales. He chose commercial real estate as the biggest things he could sell that would pay the biggest commissions. It took him a year before he made any money. Eventually, he worked for a broker and climbed up the ladder. He was divorced by this time and he and his new wife moved to Los Angeles. He was traveling and doing mega-deal internationally. He reached a point where he felt he was done and quit. He later went back when invited to do a deal with an old colleague. They bought a building in San Francisco. His wife, who was everything in his life, dropped dead one night from a heart attack. He had to work through that and did so. He did a large deal that gave him the ability to do what he wanted to do and that was how he got into writing and consulting.
Can you give perspective on why the US is such a great place to reach one’s dreams?
What went through your mind when you walked out on your job?
Advice for those looking to make the leap to entrepreneurship?
What was your mindset as you went through this journey?
At the 24 min mark, Martin talks about the other side of success and he you overcame the tragedy and challenges…
Where do you get the willpower that you’ve used to overcome and keep going?
Other advice on how to success?
Thoughts on truly finding meaning?
Best Quote: Put skin in the Game!
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This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jennifer Justice. Jennifer, also known as JJ, is an entertainment and live experience executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. She made her mark as an entertainment attorney with a roster of clients that included Jay-Z, Outkast, Slipknot and Mark Ronson, and negotiated massive joint venture agreements including the partnerships of Jay-Z and Roc Nation with Live Nation. She then parlayed her experience to join Jay-Z to build Roc Nation in 2010 and served as his personal attorney for 17 years as well as Beyonce’s at times, during that time.
Today, JJ’s focus is on accelerating the success of women, women owned businesses, and women focused brands to help them succeed and achieve equality and diversity in the market and workforce.
I’m excited to have her on to talk about this topic, her experience, and the power of entrepreneurship.
@JenniferJusticeLeague on Instagram
JJ’s family never went to college or in some cases never graduated high school, so she didn’t have any success mentors. She was passionate about music and when she did get the chance to go to law school, she decided that she was going to be a music entertainment attorney. She didn’t realize how hard it was to get into doing that type of law – it was very small market. She started off a big Wall Street law firm and networked to meet some in the entertainment space. She had some success and ended up as a partner at a firm that specialized in music entertainment law. She found a lot of common ground with her clients and being an advocate for them as many came from the same type of background as her.
One of her first clients was a very then, unknown, Jay Z. They grew up in the business together and she started growing her roster of clients. She then grew into all the other areas of the business for her clients with Live Nation, Roc Nation, etc.
After 17 years, she had twins that were 2 and half and felt it was time to move on. She was single mom and took 6 months off. She took the time to find out what she really wanted to do and became the President of Suyperfly, a live experience company that started festivals like Bonnaroo and others. She was there for 3 years and pushed herself.
Through it all, she has always had a really big passion for gender equality and started her own firm called the Justice Department to help women in this area. She also invests in companies and consults for general business needs.
What was it like taking 6 months off?
Tell us more about your mission for equality and the state of things…
Do you see entrepreneurship as the best opportunity to level the playing field?
What you best advice to help women succeed in their careers?
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and believe in your worth.
What are the principles that you’ve used to build great companies and what do you look for when you invest in companies?
What are some of the best lessons you learned from working with Jay-Z?
You should always be willing to walk away from a bad deal. Many times, walking away will turn it in your favor and if doesn’t, it wasn’t mean to be.
Best advice for an entrepreneur just starting out?
Craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen in your career in the entertainment industry?
Best Quote: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and believe in your worth.
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This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Steven S. Hoffman. Steve is the CEO of Founders Space. Founders Space is one of the leading startup accelerators in the world, with over 50 partners in 22 countries. In fact, Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazines ranked it as the #1 incubator for overseas startups.
Steve is also a venture investor, a successful entrepreneur multiple times over and the author of several best-sellers including his latest Surviving a Startup. He’s found success everywhere from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, but his biggest passion is helping other entrepreneurs succeed.
My goal is to squeeze as much wisdom and advice as I can from him and his experience in our time together in this episode.
Steven has had more careers than cats have had lives. He began as an electrical computer engineer. His real passion was film, entertainment, and games. He went to graduate school for film and then went to Hollywood. He worked his way up the ladder and began a television development executive at a large TV production company. While there, he started to see the future of video games and the growth they would have. He’s made over 100 games in his career. He met the founder of Sega and was offered a position at their Japanese headquarters coming up with new ideas for games, specifically for the US market.
He then came back to the US and launched his first company, LavaMind. The first product he launched was a game that taught people how to become entrepreneurs called Gazillionaire. He did it all himself and put all his money into it. It took off. After that, he saw the opportunity for gaming on the internet. He partnered and launched another business that was an interactive TV/Gaming product with MTV. He then did 2 other ventured startups and took a break.
During the break, friends that were starting their entrepreneur journey would come to him for help and advice and out of that grew his incubator, FoundersSpace.
You’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs in you career, alongside your own experience, what would you say is the main ingredient needed to succeed as an entrepreneur?
What is the process that people should go through to find the right version of the idea?
How important is it to focus before branching out?
What is it that you look for in a company you invest in?
“An entrepreneur/CEO, put 80-90% of your time into finding an amazing team.”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned and put into practice?
What are principles that you’ve developed to help guide you and build your businesses?
You wrote a book called “The Five Forces.” Tell us about it and what are the 5 forces?
Best Quote: Entrepreneurs are demand hunters. They cannot create demand, but they can find it and fill it.
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This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is JJ Virgin. Where to start with JJ? You’ve no doubt heard of her before. JJ, in many ways redefined fitness and nutrition for people world-wide. She is a 4-time New York Times Best-Selling author and prominent TV and Media personality including the on-camera nutritionist for Weight Loss Challenges on Dr. Phil, and numerous appearances on PBS, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, Access Hollywood, and the TODAY Show. She also speaks regularly and has shared the stage with notables including Seth Godin, Lisa Nichols, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Hyman, and many others.
And if that isn’t enough, she host her own podcast, Ask the Health Expert and is the founder of the premier health entrepreneur event and community, the Mindshare Summit.
But a lot of people don’t know that JJ’s biggest challenge and biggest success didn’t come in her businesses – it came from an event – her worst nightmare that she was able to turn into her biggest opportunity to grow and thrive.
JJ has always been fascinated by nutrition and fitness all the way back to high school. She went to college and on a theatre scholarship. But she catered her way through college using it to pay for things. She dropped out of the theatre program and starting personal training people – being one of the first alongside Body by Jake. She switched to be an English major. She graduated from college with a full-blown personal training business doing 6-figures +. She went to grad school for health and nutrition.
She kept looking at the next things that people wanted and needed and creating them. All of what she did ended up helping her. Her theatre work helped her in promoting and showcasing her services and products on TV and stage. Her English degree helped her in writing her books, etc. And her catering work helped her to better understand foods to help with nutrition and her cookbooks.
You wrote Warrior Mom to document the story of your son and what you learned going through this traumatic time in your life – tell us about it.
At the 17 min mark, talks about her talking to him while in a coma and he would squeeze her hand. She committed right there to get him better than he was before the accident.
We are capable of so much more than we think we are, and your story shows that. Can you give more insight into this area?
“If you want to learn something, teach it.”
2 Lessons really stood out - “Your limitations become your life.” And “Forgiveness will set you free.”
What is your best advice for entrepreneurs to remain healthy and perform at their best?
Best Quote: The only limitations are the ones in your mind...
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Hello Misfit Nation! Welcome to another edition of "Lessons for Hannah!" Many years ago, I introduced a new format that alongside our regular episodes called “Lessons for Hannah.” Hannah is my daughter and one of the main inspirations for the Misfit Entrepreneur. I wanted to have a place where she could go and learn from her daddy and his Misfit friends throughout her life….even after I am gone. If you haven’t listened to the first episode of "Lessons for Hannah," I urge you to as it gives some more background and tells the amazing story of how Hannah came to be in our lives.
Lessons for Hannah are short, very useful, and sometimes comical lessons, that I want to share with you and give to Hannah to help in your lives. Because I want Hannah to have these for her life, I’m going to speak as though I am talking directly to her. These episodes are a lot of fun and if you think there is a lesson that we should include in these episodes, please don’t hesitate to send it over to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to share it.
This week’s Lesson for Hannah
Hannah, This episode is going to deal with a little heavier subject. I want to talk to you about death and dying. This past year, we lost both of your great Grandmothers – amazing women, Matriarchs in our family. And over the last few years, others, including another great Grandmother have passed on.
Death is a natural part of life. It is inevitable and is not something we escape. But I want you to understand that it is only the beginning of something greater. It is the final step toward our real home – our eternity with God in Heaven. In death, all our imperfections are righted on our way into Heaven and the best versions of ourselves are created.
It is amazing to think about this life in the context of eternity. Eternity is forever. Our time in this life is truly a blink of an eye in those terms. It goes by so fast. And while we are just passing through to a greater place and greater existence, this life that we have is special. As I’ve noted before, the odds of being born into this life are 1 in 4 trillion. So, while it goes by fast, we must cherish it. We must cherish the gifts we have been given and share them with the world and those around us. We must cherish the time we have with family and friends in this human form. We must cherish the amazing world that is around us and all that it has. We must maximize our potential and who we are capable of being. It is by God’s amazing grace that we have this opportunity. We must not waste it. We must not put too much energy into trivial things but reserve the best of ourselves for the best around us.
I will not deny that the passing of a loved one is sad and painful. We honor them through our grieving and through our memories of them. We also honor them by putting into practice what we’ve learned from them and by being our best selves. But, Hannah, I want you to understand that one day, we will be reunited with them in eternity. What a glorious and magnificent time that will be.
So, in the end, death is bittersweet. We lose our loved ones in this life, and we grieve them, but we gain an even greater life with them in eternity. And on our way to this future reunion, we get to make the most out of this life and all that it has to offer.
Hannah, you are so loved, and you give so much love. All those that have gone before you love you dearly and look down upon you with a smile and amazement at how wonderful you are. Honor them by living into and being your best self. And honor those around you by making sure they are better off for having known you and give to them in the ways in which you can make the most difference in their lives. On that note, I’ll leave you with this final thought…make the most out of every second of this life and cherish it while preparing yourself for eternity by living a good and just life.
I love you,
Best Quote: All those that have gone before you love you dearly and look down upon you with a smile and amazement at how wonderful you are. Honor them by living into and being your best self.
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