Stuart built Sharebuilder 401k. The company got acquired. Recently, he has bought the business back.
Read on to understand the nuances.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Stuart Robertson: I was born in Bakersfield, California. It’s an agricultural town. We moved to another agricultural town in Illinois. It’s a very blue-collared town. The family moved there when I was in high school. Even then, some of the factory jobs were starting to go away. We next moved down to Memphis. My folks are big believers in education.
Sramana Mitra: Were they in the agriculture industry, which is why you were moving from one town to another?
Stuart Robertson: Yes. My dad became an agriculture economist. We were right there in the corn field with creeks and woods. That was the upbringing. It was fun to be a kid there, but it was also a very diverse town.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for education and college?
Stuart Robertson: We went out for a family trip. I just fell in love with the mountains. I remember that first day, we drove to the University of Colorado. I said, “If I can go here, I’m going to go here.” I got in. I was a big Liberal Arts person. My degree was in Economics, but I was 9 hours short of an English major. That drew me there.
Coming out of it, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with what I learned. I’d done some informational interviews. I really liked advertising. It seemed to have some of the analytical and creative side that I liked. I landed a job in New York city, which was quite a change.
Sramana Mitra: What year was that?
Stuart Robertson: January 1990. There was a bit of a recession at that time. The two biggest learnings in New York for me on the business side is just working with these amazing brands and understanding how important it is that you can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t get people to be aware of it, you’re not going to last long.
I got to work on American Express and Ford Parts and Service. There was just a host of amazing brands and products. That was great.
Sramana Mitra: New York city, for a Liberal Arts person, is a great place to be.
Stuart Robertson: Yes. I loved the museum and parks. I did not love my starting salary of $17,000 a year. If you’re not built for it, you’re not going to make it. I lost 15 pounds. If you make it through, you get that first big raise. All of a sudden, it becomes a lot more fun. I did that and enjoyed it. I had a desire to do more. I got my MBA from Indiana University and focused on entrepreneurship and product marketing.