Interview with Pat Fellows about Entrepreneurship Reality
Pat Fellows is a serial entrepreneur who currently runs the restaurant Fresh Junkie in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In addition to his various entrepreneurial accomplishments Pat is a health enthusiast, devoted triathlete, and a representative of Mizuno Running. As if that weren’t enough, Pat is also a proud husband and father of two, as well as an avid philanthropist. He is the founder of Rocketkidz Foundation (RKF) which provides activity based programs for kids to help fight childhood obesity as well as supports programs with a similar purpose such as Girls on the Run and Wheels to Succeed.
1) You had an entrepreneurial endeavor, Rocket Burrito, that was a personal passion but ultimately you had to pivot from it and shut it down. What were the key elements that made you realize it was time to pivot and what did you learn from the experience?
My 2 biggest takeaways from this were:
- Sometimes it is just the wrong timing. You have the right locale, but things don’t fall how they should.
- The biggest takeaway was that a business failure is not a personal failure.
I “was” Rocket. People still call me Rocketboy. I was devastated and for awhile wondered how I could be such a failure. It’s tough. I didn’t do everything right, but I didn’t do enough to fail as badly as I did other than it simply being bad timing. There is a thriving Chipotle now right next to where I had my burrito joint… albeit 7 years later.
2) Inc. ran a recent article, The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship. In the piece the author (Jessica Bruder) highlights the soft underbelly of entrepreneurship which is often avoided in print to protect the popular heralding of entrepreneurial accomplishment. It seems few writers are willing to tarnish the lure of owning your own business by highlighting the tales of failed endeavors. I know some of the common challenges of entrepreneurship have affected you in the past as we just discussed. Based on your own experience what can you add to the advice that was passed on in Bruder’s article?
The reality is that some people are just wired for entrepreneurship AND running a starting business is rough. Hell running a 7 year old business is tough. I have gone deep into depression and to this day, I leave my wife out of some things as it is just too much. She runs the house. I don’t keep her stressed with what is going on. She feels it, but I don’t kill her with the “my bank account is over-drafted” stories. I have been in every pit of despair there is. Yet, I am driven to push my ideas. I have a great job, love the guys I work with, but when I am doing my best, it’s when I am intellectually and “idea” engaged. I am wired to see my ideas win and be fulfilled. Bad days are just a part of the process.
3) Giving back to people and the community seems to be a significant part of your ethos. You are the unofficial cheerleader of your friends, as well as people in general – I myself have benefited from this. Other efforts include your 32 Mile swim for charity (see Pat’s TEDx talk) and the RocketKidz Foundation which has been established to help fight childhood obesity. Given the time and resources it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, what are the driving forces that motivate you to want to give back in big ways?
My number one goal has always been to make people better. Period. It’s the right thing to do. Just as I can’t not be an entrepreneur, I can’t not give back. Even when I was broke and had to sell a house to get out from under a loan, I was still better off than a ton of people. I don’t lose light of that.
From a health and nutrition point of view, the reality is our country eats so poorly, that it’s shameful. I walked through a “grocery store” the other day and I challenged myself to find a row that was completely nutritious. There wasn’t one. PERIOD. Obesity, to me, is currently the number one problem in our society. Period, end of story. It drives our economy (downward), and is the battle of our lifetime. How can you not give back and fight that?
4) You are a proud father, a successful entrepreneur, an Ironman athlete, a representative of Mizuno shoes, a philanthropist and a TEDx speaker. Given your incredible ability to hold it all together, what are your three most successful productivity advantages, methods and/or tools that you can share?
- Realize that your 70% is probably better than most peoples’ 100%. If what you do is truly passion based, then on most days, you have to accept that ‘finished’ is good enough. Kind of the progress vs. perfection idea, if you’re passionate about something you can get in your own way.
- Say no. This is hard, but there is only so much time in the day. You have to say no to okay, to have time to say yes to awesome.
- Exercise every day. This should probably be #1.
5) Given all your various life lessons to date, what is one piece of advice you wish you could give the young Pat Fellows as he stepped into his first day as a serial entrepreneur back in 2000 (not about that first business per se but about the journey you were about to embark upon in general)?
Really, I don’t think there’s much. Think and talk less, execute more. Be more financially strong and responsible. Finally, I’d tell myself, “You are doing this right. If you believe it will work out, it will.” It always has so far.