Sramana Mitra: How old are you now?
David Sharpe: I just turned 30 last November 17.
Sramana Mitra: How does this bridge us to your entrepreneurship? Where does your entrepreneurship begin – more of the kind of entrepreneurship that we cover?
David Sharpe: Certainly, you guys didn’t contact me because of my entrepreneurship in the street.
Sramana Mitra: No, that’s not our specialization.
David Sharpe: Yes, there’re other people who specialize in that. When I went through a 15-month treatment program in 2008 and 2009, it was the first time that I was introduced to being with myself and being clear-minded. I immediately got a telemarketing job. When I went in to that telemarketing job, I was only looking for a job; I wasn’t looking for a career. But what I found was, I was good at talking. I was good at connecting with people. I was good at adding value on the phone. So I became the top producer in this telemarketing company. I didn’t know how to show up on time though, so I eventually lost that job.
When I was at that telemarketing company, I met a lady named Katrina. She came up to me and said, “You look like a sharp young man.” My last name happens to be Sharpe and I thought to myself, “It’s about time somebody noticed.” She said, “Would you like to come over to my house to take a look at a business opportunity?” I said, “I’d love to.” So I put on my Sunday dress and went over to her house. When I walked in, there was nothing but women in the room with one guy. I said, “At least, I’m not alone.” Then he got up and went to the back of the room and said, “Honey, I’ll be in the back if you need me.” It was just me and these four ladies. They went in to pitching me a network marketing opportunity, which is basically work from home. Thus, began my journey to entrepreneurship.
After that, I’ve had some ups and downs. I wasn’t able to succeed immediately. I got back into construction, worked with my dad. I got back into network marketing, direct sales, and then, internet marketing. I stumbled upon the internet and learned how to navigate around technology.
I got involved with a couple of other direct sales companies. Unfortunately, the people who were running these companies didn’t have the real spirit of an entrepreneur. They were more motivated by money without any contribution, people who were more motivated by things that don’t fuel the real spirit of an entrepreneur. I believe that the spirit of an entrepreneur is not just about creating the bottom line; that’s a necessity in business. It’s about connecting and creating a following. It’s about creating a culture. It’s about giving your customers an experience. I didn’t see anybody who was doing that at that time.
I had a direct sales company that shut down on me. I found somebody, who is my now business partner in the biggest company that I own, and we decided to form our own company. We formed that company back in September 2011 and we officially launched on October 31st of 2011. Over the course of the last two years, we have done close to a $100 million in sales.
Sramana Mitra: What do you do?
David Sharpe: We’re a direct sales company. Essentially, we create personal development and marketing training products – some of the best in the world – and then we market those to customers. We also have a sales force of affiliates, distributors, and representatives. They go out and market our products to end-users who are interested in taking their personal lives to the next level and learning business, marketing techniques, and strategies that they can use in whatever business that they’re in.
Sramana Mitra: So tell me more about how the business works? How you got it going? That’s really the point of this interview – how you built this company so far?
David Sharpe: This is going to be a fascinating story for a lot of people who are starting companies up. We started this company with very little resources. We weren’t professional business owners. We didn’t understand a lot of the legalities and the accounting aspects of the business. We didn’t understand a lot of the compliance issues. We didn’t understand a whole lot of that stuff. We shot first and asked questions later. In November to October of 2011, within a 3-month span, we put all of the training and marketing materials together. It was about a 90-day stretch where we didn’t even come up for air.
When we launched the company, we put 10,000 customers into the company in the very first month. Because we did not have a whole lot of experience in some of the areas that I talked about before, one of those areas being merchant processing, our merchant accounts got shutdown because we did so much business 45 days in. We had a higher risk business model because we were doing business online. As much as banks say they want risk or make it seem like they want risk, they don’t want any risk. Our merchant accounts got shutdown and we were faced with a decision to make. Do we want to shut the company down or do we want to keep going? For some odd reason, if you’re an entrepreneur you know that feeling, we didn’t give up.
We built a culture around our company to a point where it wasn’t just about the product or services; it was about the spirit and culture of the company. We had a sales force that ingested an atmosphere of fulfillment if they were particularly, producing and growing by selling our products in their first couple of months. A lot of the times, if you’re a salesperson, you work on commission. We created an atmosphere to where they could grow. So even if they weren’t making a whole lot of money right off the bat, they were still growing personally. We had made a connection with them, to where they felt like they had found a home. We also let people be themselves and created an odd culture where we didn’t really hold anything back. We were not suit-and-tie guys. A lot of people feel that in business, they need to look and sound a certain way; they need to speak a specific language.
The truth of the matter is most people who are entrepreneurs or even customers are looking for a place where they can be themselves, because everybody, at a very basic level, needs to be accepted. We have done something similar to what Apple does where, “Yes, we create world-class products. Yes, we create world-class training. Yes, we do events all around the country to reach 4,000-5,000 in a room.” But at the end of the day, what’s driving our business and what drove it from day one even through all of the challenges – shutdowns by our merchant accounts, ups and downs in sales numbers, criticisms and people telling us that we’re crazy and that we should shut our company down – has been the culture. It’s been allowing people to feel like they’re part of something, as opposed to just buying something.