Clay Bethune – Co-founder of 9thandElm

Most ideas sound good in theory — until you mention them to others. So I like to bring my team together a couple of times each week to throw out new ideas. Almost instantly, you know if you have a winner or a loser.

Clay Bethune is a successful entrepreneur and co-founder of 9th & Elm. Clay has been an entrepreneur for more than 15 years and has started and sold many businesses in various industries. His passion is taking an idea from a simple concept and turning it into a profitable endeavor. He’s constantly working on perfecting efficient processes and loves problem solving, all things “startup,” and brainstorming with young entrepreneurs about the next big thing. Clay is married to Elly, his business partner and co-founder of 9th & Elm.

Where did the idea for 9th & Elm come from?

My wife and I own a boutique in downtown Columbia, Missouri, called Elly’s Couture. Over the past several years, we’ve had great success with handmade and independent designers. So after a lot of brainstorming, we decided to launch a flash-sale site for them.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

Nothing is typical in startup land, but I try to spend most of my time on marketing, the product, and the user experience. We’re redesigning our site, so that has taken up a lot of my time lately, as well.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Most ideas sound good in theory — until you mention them to others. So I like to bring my team together a couple of times each week to throw out new ideas. Almost instantly, you know if you have a winner or a loser. Then you can work on bringing them to life by breaking them up into parts. It’s a much more manageable process.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

There’s a large trend of knowing the source of the products you use or consume. Our users love knowing the designers who make a lot of our products.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I try to develop processes for everything I can.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I grew up on a farm, so I think I have too many to count. But picking sweet corn at 5:30 a.m. seven days a week ranks right up there. However, I did learn at the age of 12 what a strong work ethic truly is, and that has served me well over the years.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I had to do it all over again, I would get more involved in technology earlier in my career. Other than that, I can’t say I would do much differently. The lessons I’ve learned from failure have been too great to wish they wouldn’t have happened.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Master Monday. I think Mondays are the most important day of the week, so I rarely schedule meetings then because I don’t want the interruption. I try to work 12 hours or more removing all the to-dos from my list and spend the rest of the week on what’s most important for the company or moneymaking activities. If Monday goes well, the rest of the week is a breeze. It’s my favorite day of the week. I loathe the “it’s Monday” attitude.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We discovered the power of social media early on, and that helped us drive sales quickly.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Being a serial entrepreneur can be a blessing and a curse. There always seems to be a good idea worth pursuing, so I’ve learned to focus my creative juices on one business rather than multiple businesses.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Nothing comes to mind.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love Oprah!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use Magento and love how robust the platform is. We also use Wufoo, Zapier, and Zoho. I love how Zapier allows different software platforms to connect so easily.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Brad Feld, Dave McClure, and Marc Andreessen all have totally different takes on the startup world, but you can learn a ton from each. And, of course, Warren Buffett.


9thandElm on Twitter: @9thandelm
Clay Bethune  on LinkedIn: