If you can find the intersection between your strengths and your passion, you’re way ahead of the game.
Brian Lim is a serial entrepreneur who has bootstrapped three ecommerce businesses including iHeartRaves, Emazing Lights, and INTO THE AM, which collectively gross over $20M per year. He started out with $100 selling out of the trunk of his car, and was able to grow that into a 50+ person company. Brian was on season 6 of ABC’s Shark Tank where he received offers from all five sharks. On the show, Robert Herjavec said Brian was “one of, if not the best entrepreneur we’ve had here”. He took a deal from Mark Cuban for $650,000 in exchange for 5% equity in the company, and a licensing deal from Daymond John for 20% of profits. Brian has been featured on notable publications including Business Insider, CNN, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, CNBC, Elite Daily, BBC, Entertainment Weekly, CBS, Inc, Vice, Huffington Post, and many more. His companies have also been featured in the annual “Inc 5000” list for the past four years in a row.
Where did the idea for iHeartRaves come from?
I was going to music festivals all the time and we noticed there was a need for festival outfits and apparel. I quickly realized that buying apparel on sites like Etsy and Ebay wasn’t the greatest source because they didn’t have very good customer service, and often times I wouldn’t receive products on time. The other thing that really stuck out to me with the whole rave scene is the freedom of self expression that’s associated with it. I wanted to inspire creativity and encourage people to continue expressing themselves freely through fashion.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My role has definitely changed as the company has scaled up. Overall, I’m looking at the company vision and strategy. I’m the organizational architect, meaning I make sure the company is aligned. For example, are management goals aligned with everyone else’s goals all the way down to the interns? I also make sure we have enough capital to fulfill those goals. I truly believe once those issues are locked down, I need to get out of the way in order for my team to execute. Currently, I’m working more on the business than in the business. During the first five years, I was very entrenched in the day to day operation. But now, I focus more on overarching strategy, alignment, and training our leaders.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First, you have to understand what the customer wants. That takes constant feedback from customers, including customer surveys, fashion trends, talking to customers directly at festivals. Once we nail that down, it goes to the drawing board with our team of designers. Then there’s a lengthy sampling process where we test out a variety of designs. After that, we put in our final purchase orders so we have enough products in stock, which involves a lot of forecasting. We also take into account lead time to add to our inventory. While all that’s happening the whole marketing side is in full swing. We figure out the angle for each of our collections, and then we do photoshoots with our models for the website and social media. After an order is placed, we have to worry about fulfilling the order in a timely manner. Once the order is delivered, we have a customer service team in place in case there is an issue with the product.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited to see that electronic dance music has caught on and is sticking around. There are so many sub genres of music, and I enjoy the diversity of it all. There’s something for everyone, and I think that’s why this scene has gotten so big and will continue to grow over the years.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Having processes and procedures in place is very important for any business who is trying to scale. I also believe in the importance of having a “Do Not Do” list. Make sure your ideas align with your mission statement, and if they don’t, move on.
What advice would you give your younger self?
In the beginning, I was the guy that tried to do everything on his own. As I’ve grown, I’ve definitely learned there’s a lot of value in networking and building relationships. The relationships that I’ve formed are what’s opening doors for the future. Also, learning the art of delegating tasks has helped me today – I wish I knew that in the early years.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Rave wear is still not generally accepted by the fashion world. Those who don’t understand the culture have a hard time understanding festival fashion.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I put in countless hours as an entrepreneur, but I enjoy what I do. Make sure you love what you do. If you can find the intersection between your strengths and your passion, you’re way ahead of the game.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Having proof of concept enabled me to get investors for my company. I was a contestant on Shark Tank where I received deals from Mark Cuban and Daymond John, who have been a tremendous support system in helping me scale my business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It used to be very difficult for us to vend physical products at festivals. We did it more for marketing and brand awareness, rather than turning a profit. We overcame this by pivoting to LUX Rave, which is a pop up store we opened at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. One of the biggest electronic music festivals, Electronic Daisy Carnival, is hosted in Las Vegas every year and brings in hundreds of thousands of attendees. So by partnering with Luxor, we created a destination for customers so they could shop before the festival.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Personal – I sent Edible Arrangements to my real estate agent.
Professional – Team member of the month award
I think it’s important to thank people for a job well done.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use Basecamp for organization across the entire company. It’s great for assigning tasks, keeping people accountable, and focusing on our number one core value – transparency.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I really enjoyed reading EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. In the book, he’s very straightforward and to the point with a wealth of valuable knowledge, and as a busy entrepreneur, I appreciate that.
What is your favorite quote?
“Free up time to work on the business, instead of in the business.”
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