I wouldn’t want to start again. I’ve gotten where I am today from my experiences. When I was 17, I began my journey of building a business from the ground up.
Todd A. Hills is a Colorado native and 25-year veteran of the pawn industry. Todd lives in Parker, Colorado, with his wife, children and cadre of pets. Besides the passion he pours into bringing the 3,000-year-old pawn industry online at his start-up venture Pawngo.com, he enjoys golfing, snowboarding and coaching his son’s basketball team.
After spending his youth working on a farm in Brighton, Todd was forced to seek outside employment to support his family’s struggling livestock business. Between job searches, Todd decided to pawn his favorite saddle to pay for living costs. In a fortuitous turn of events, he walked out of his local pawn shop with a pawn loan and full-time employment.
Todd spent nearly a decade working for a small chain of pawn shops in the Denver area. Starting behind the counter as a pawnbroker, Todd climbed to the position of VP of operations before deciding to pursue a more entrepreneurial life path. In 1993, Todd opened his first pawn shop in Lafayette, Colorado, using his life savings and money borrowed from friends and family.
Eventually, a public pawn shop operator bought two of Todd’s pawning businesses. Todd spent the next 10 years leveraging that capital to grow a new chain of pawn shops operating under the name, Jumping Jack Cash, in Colorado and Utah. His pawning business became widely successful, expanding to 30 different locations at its peak. By 2011, EZ Corp bought out all 30 pawn shop locations in both Colorado and Utah.
In 2009, Todd founded and launched Internet Pawn, Inc.–now known as Pawngo. With the vision of revolutionizing the brick and mortar industry, Todd launched the new business as a more convenient, discrete and cheaper alternative to the local pawn shop. Todd’s long-term vision is to educate a new breed of consumers about how they can utilize their existing assets to secure short-term loans, as an attractive alternative to incurring more debt and leveraging their futures. Todd’s vision is becoming reality. Pawngo has customers in 50 states across the U.S. and has paid out nearly $9 million since launching.
What are you working on right now?
Pawngo launched a little over a year ago. Since launching, our customer base has expanded significantly, and we’ve seen a lot of exciting revenue growth. We’re currently working on improving our technology platform to provide real-time services to our customers and to offer a more personalized experience to our growing customer base.
Where did the idea for Pawngo come from?
I wanted to take this 3,000-year-old industry and make it unrecognizable and more socially acceptable by bringing a traditional brick and mortar business to the digital world. We’re making this alternative financial service completely confidential, friendly and transparent to anyone who is looking for a short-term solution to immediate cash needs.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m labeled around the office as the “Mad Scientist.” I really understand the industry and the needs of our customer base, which allows for a constant influx of ideas that we can make happen. The most important ingredient is to take action. This step is where most ideas fail; few people take action.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
That I can order a car service in Chicago just by using an app (Uber) on my iPhone. Everything is digital nowadays. I think technology is very powerful. If it’s used the right way, it can make almost any service completely seamless.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I don’t really think the word “job” necessarily applies to entrepreneurship. I’ve only had one real job in my life, at the family-owned pawn shop. While working there, I learned to be passionate about what I’m doing. That “job” ended up turning into a successful career which involved building an entire company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t want to start again. I’ve gotten where I am today from my experiences. When I was 17, I began my journey of building a business from the ground up. I have essentially done the same thing with Pawngo. We’re improving and completely transforming a 3,000-year-old business model by bringing asset-based funding to a digital platform, which has never been done before.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always listen to your customers.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started Jumping Jack Cash, it was nearly impossible to get a bank loan. I literally went to hundreds of traditional lenders and got rejected over and over again. They thought my idea was too risky. But, I finally found a bank that would lend me money. I ended up paying off the loan in no time and proceeded to build a very successful business. Again, it’s all about having perseverance.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Whether it’s a start-up, small business, or large corporation, I think all companies should give back to their communities. While donating money to a charitable cause feels good, it feels even better to take action by volunteering your time and energy.
What are your three favorite digital tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Twitter is great because it gives you the latest news up to the minute. I admire what Amazon has done with the retail industry by creating an online marketplace that is accessible and easy to use. And, I absolutely love Apple products. Steve Jobs completely revolutionized consumer electronics.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. It gives insight into how to create a successful business by fostering company culture, encouraging the professional growth of your employees, and continuously improving the quality of your customer service.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
When I was on a road trip with my family. We took an RV across the country. Work never stops, but it’s always great to take a break from my busy schedule to laugh and spend quality time with my family.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I’m really active so I enjoy working out and snowboarding. I also coach my son’s basketball team.
Can you give us some insight into your philosophy on life?
In life, you have to do your own push-ups.
Todd Hills on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=58750925&locale=en_US&trk=tyah
Todd Hills on Twitter: @PawngoCEO