[quote style=”boxed”]Believe. Believe in yourself, in your vision, in your people, in your future, in everything.[/quote]
Grant Kauffman had quite a productive 2013, releasing two books. The first was a novel called Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff, a young adult adventure story about five kids who get trapped in a cave system far below the earth’s surface while on a family camping trip. He also released a collection of short, scary stories called Rattlebone Tales, Volume One. Having worked in the video production industry for over 15 years, Grant possesses a wide range of skill sets, including writing, directing, producing and editing. Always the avid storyteller, Grant not only has a background in creative services, but also in promotions and public relations. He firmly believes in the enduring power of a well-told story to entertain people of all ages. He is currently working on launching a new media company, 12 Rounds Media, as well as writing the sequel to Project 14. Both of his current releases are available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon.com.
Grant is an award-winning producer/director who founded a video and film production company in Denver in 2001. Prior to launching his video company, he served as a television producer for Don King Productions, helping produce such telecasts as Tyson-Holyfield I and II, the two most successful pay-per-view events in history for their respective broadcast dates. Grant also has worked as the director of video production for J.D. Edwards Software. He holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
After several years of owning and operating a profitable business in Denver, he decided to move his family to the Dallas area to pursue his dream of writing full-time. A big part of that dream was finishing the Project 14 series. Grant is a proud single father who raises his three children in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas.
Where did the idea for Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff come from?
The genesis of the Project 14 novel has two sources. Number one, I’ve been cursed with a non-stop, can’t shut it down no matter how hard I try creative mind. Years ago, I began writing some notes down about a story that came to me. I wanted to create a tale about a group of children who got trapped and cut off from their parents and the rest of the world with no plausible way out. Children are resilient and I figured it would be far more interesting to create a story about their journey than some boring old stuffy guys like myself. So getting sucked down a hidden waterfall into an elaborate cave system deep below the earth’s surface seemed like a pretty cool idea. The other inspiration for this story comes from the very stressful, real-life experiences of raising three children as a single father. I can relate Jon Clayton, the father in Project 14, and his emotions and inner turmoil often mirror my own in this regard.
What does your typical day look like?
As a single father raising three children, there are two seasons of working/writing for me. One is when the kids are in school, and the second is summer (or Christmas) vacation. During the school year, I’m up at 5:15, packing lunches, cooking breakfast and getting the kids to school, and then I do an absolutely crucial activity. I exercise. It might be a long walk or an hour at the gym but I have to do this to get my head right. It is during exercise that I begin to organize my work day. What do I want to accomplish? How can I improve an existing chapter or a marketing plan? The most effective way to organize a day is to do it the night before. I can sometimes accomplish this, but my reality is that I’m Mr. Mom, and trying to write and get a media company off the ground is nearly impossible but I am far too ignorant to stop trying. But back to my day, once I nestle my cans into my chair for the day, it’s all about focus. I try to write for several hours, stopping only for lunch or the occasional trip up to the school to deliver the thing one of my kids forgot that day (insert stress headache).
I have a relatively small daily window of seven hours to get my exercising and work done. I have to exhibit some serious discipline in order to accomplish what I set out to do for that day. Once the kids are home from school, I generally don’t get any time to work until they go to bed. By that time, I’m usually exhausted. However, I will write at night when I’m in the creative zone. I sure wish I could turn it on and off but I can’t. If the ideas are flowing, I’m pounding away at the keyboard. I do my best to get at least six hours of sleep. Then the next day, I do it all over again.
In the summer, it’s a crapshoot. I’m far less organized. I try to find time to write whenever time presents itself. This past summer was much more challenging as I was trying to promote Project 14. It’s so hard for the little guy to make it in the publishing world. One’s ideas can be solid and entertaining—the best story ever written even—but until something magical happens with the promotion of the book, very few people will ever get to enjoy it. It is a lesson in perseverance for sure.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I get ideas all the time. I really wish I could turn them off but I can’t. The first thing I do with a good idea is to write it down somewhere. I have so many notepads of ideas in my office. The key is spending the time to separate the good ideas from the bad, the winners from the losers. Is it realistic? Can it produce revenue? Can it be profitable? Is it for me or is it for others? Sometimes people like myself can think something is awesome but no one else does. This is great when telling a bad joke and no one laughs, but when you put months or years of work into an idea that no one responds to, it can be crippling to your mind, body, soul and bank account.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The advancement of any kind of media technology always excites me. It levels the playing field for the small guys like me. It gives us hope. There is no other way an indie publisher could have released two books like we have with so little capital. Don’t get me wrong, there was and is a tremendous amount of sweat equity being built up. This is all I do. I don’t have weekends or holidays. And with three kids, I honestly am amazed that I’ve been able to write and release two books thus far at all. The only way I could have done that was by the advances in indie publishing technology, the Amazons of the world. Without those tools, I’d have two manuscripts in my laptop and a lifetime supply of frustration. The final thing I will say about technology is that if leveraged properly, it truly enables creative people to shine. It doesn’t guarantee we will be able to pay our bills, but it ensures that we’ll be able to try. By the time they put me in my grave, I want to make sure that my kids and one day grandkids know that I gave it every ounce of energy I had. Media related technology helps me do that. I love it.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It’s not so much a habit as it is a character trait with me. I have a foolish, never-ending supply of perseverance. I never quit. I’ve been dealt about every setback a person can be dealt, especially financially. I ran a very successful video production business for eight years, but when the economy tanked, my life as I knew it soon followed. I lost it all, lost my house, lost my business, lost my marriage. The only things that life didn’t strip from me were the only things that really mattered anyway: my children and my perseverance.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Oh my goodness, I’ve had some bad ones. I was a janitor at a mall when I was in college. I had to sweep and mop the main mall floor and the bathrooms. Yes, that was as bad as it sounds. I did, however, come away with an appreciation for proper aim when using public urinals. So, all you men reading this, please keep in mind that there is a human being who has to clean up those bathrooms, so aim with accuracy!
I have had some pretty unsavory jobs through the years, especially as I worked my way through college, but the only jobs I really disliked were the few where people were not treated well. The lesson I have learned through this is to always treat people at every level with respect. I have always tried to be patient, fair and honest with people who have worked under me. A successful employee is reflection of the leadership.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Without question, the one thing I’d do differently is change my major in college. I was a broadcast journalism major and while technically I’ve always been in and around the media industry, I’d say it’s been nearly a worthless degree. I should have been a business major and gotten my MBA. No question. Now, I will say I learned a lot in the broadcast department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but sadly, journalism is now dead. There are very few people who actually report the news. Everything on the air is opinion, not a factual reporting of the news, and this has led to daily broadcasts of hateful bashing of the opposite opinion. One thing I really hope we can do over time with 12 Rounds Media is to somehow bring class and dignity back to the media. It’s really sad to see what has happened to that industry. It’s all about reporting something first instead of reporting something correctly.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Believe. Believe in yourself, in your vision, in your people, in your future, in everything. Nothing comes easily for entrepreneurs, especially now in an economic and political climate that really doesn’t value us anymore. We have to stand up and keep fighting. We must believe in what we do. It doesn’t matter if you own a small bakery or are in the growth stages of a tech startup. You have to believe in what you are doing. There will be mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. Don’t let them strip you of your belief in self. A great piece of advice I was given years ago is that mistakes are not failures, they are learning experiences. That is how we have to view them. If we view them as failures, we will give up because there will be so many setbacks along the way that you will lose track of them. Use them to your advantage.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I’m in an interesting place in life. I used to have a thriving production company and it did well for many years until the economic downturn when I was pretty much crushed like a bag of goldfish crackers. So, in essence, I am starting over. 2014 will be our official starting year. So I will answer this question from the perspective of writing two books in 2013 and also from experiences as a business owner. The strategy that has always seemed to work is nothing fancy at all. You find your niche and you focus on it with all that you have and try to be great at that one thing. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. When I had my video production company, we were great at corporate videos. We produced some great work that I’m still proud of. However, we tried to pitch ourselves as a full-service boutique agency. So, we got involved in a few situations where we were pitching against much larger agencies that had much more capital than we did. Our time would have been better spent by focusing on just video and slowly expanding as we went along. That is why 12 Rounds Media will begin with novels. We will promote the novels I write, and then we will slowly add other authors as we grow. If we have success with my novels, then it will be easy to expand to include others and help promote their work as well, give them a voice in the difficult world of writing. I’m very passionate about the idea of helping unknown creatives get their big break. However, I first need to find my own success before I can help others. It’s like they say in the pre-flight instructions, always put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. There is a reason for that. The first goal, therefore, where I will spend all of my time and energy at this point, is on my books and increasing sales.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest failure I have experienced was when I had to shut down my video production business. It was a moment that still eats at me. The only saving grace for me mentally is that one hundred percent of my clients said their companies cut their video budgets when the economy went south, so it wasn’t a loss from anything I could control. That being said, it still feels one hundred percent like a failure. There is no way around those emotions.
I’ve always taught my children that no matter what happens in life, in sports, at school or work, there are two things we always have control over: our attitudes and our efforts. It hasn’t always been easy having a good attitude when you feel like sulking away like a dog with its tail between its legs. However, I’m still alive which means I have to continue forward, and I am happy to do so. I’d love to answer this question two years from now!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Remember when I said I was dumb enough to keep on going and believing in myself? Well I also cannot stop believing in the countless other creative people who have amazing talent but are struggling to be discovered. I think there is a market for finding creative types like me, people who may have given up on their gifts, and leveraging their talents to take advantage of the current economy. An actual idea I had was a housing concept, where a company builds nice townhouses and leases them to employees. This works hand-in-hand with finding good people who are down on their luck. Imagine finding talented, hard-working people who have been out of work for a while. (Easy to find in today’s America) If you find people who may have lost their homes or are in danger of losing them. You put them up in nice housing, something that they can feel good about, and you let them work a good job until they get back on their feet. I can’t think of a more rewarding thing to do than to help good people who’ve been through horrible circumstances to get back on their feet and be productive again. I hope 12 Rounds Media can grow into such a company. I would love to do that. I guess it’s not much of a business idea in itself but it would be awesome in building up a solid and loyal employee base.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I think I have lived quite an interesting professional life, and while for the most part it’s been hard as hell, it has been interesting nonetheless. I spent two years working for boxing promoter Don King. I worked during the time when Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Talk about interesting. Also, most people wouldn’t guess I used to rap. I was actually very good. I used to win contests and had a couple of offers from smaller record labels but nothing came of it—which looking back was probably the best thing that ever happened to me! (You can find some clips of me on YouTube. If you go to you will see a show called “Makin’ It”. Those three episodes show another little tidbit about me: I can actually be quite funny. Whether you laugh at me or with me, I’m okay with both.)
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I’m a basic software user, nothing cool, hip or fancy. I use Office a lot. My site is a WordPress site, so nothing revolutionary. I don’t get caught up on being the guy who has to have the latest and greatest. If it works for me, I will stay loyal. I still have an Avid editing system in my home because I love Avid and I know it well.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer. This is a very inspirational book, one that helps people get past some of the things that can be blocking their blessings. There are strategies that will help you get through the day-to-day grind. It also can be a tough read in that it challenges you to take full responsibility of your actions and your past. We are all where we are because of our own actions. That is a hard pill to swallow sometimes but so true. When you can grasp that initial concept, you can start the process of positive thinking which truly does open up a world of good. All the negative thinking that consumes many of us, me included, only drags us down. That is a huge challenge for so many people, myself included. Purging ourselves of that negative thought process and focusing on what can and will be is so much healthier. Also, I highly recommend Project 14: The Legend of Beelzebub’s Bluff, a wonderful and exciting young adult adventure/fantasy. Finally, I recommend Rattlebone Tales, Volume One, a collection of really cool scary short stories. The author of the last two I mentioned is an extraordinary guy. A hard-working single father raising his three kids by himself so you should really go out and support him. He is also really handsome.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I love positive people. The kind of people who have overcome amazing odds to achieve success. I actually look at my uncle who is dyslexic and was told he’d never even pass high school. He went on to start an enterprise software company in the 1970s and grew it into a worldwide entity with thousands of employees. He retired back in the early 2000s, but his thirty-plus years of grueling work, with what people consider a disability, is an inspiring testament to the human spirit. There are too many people and books to list. I would encourage people to visit 12roundsmedia.com starting in January, 2014. It is a site that will constantly be evolving, and our hope is to generate enough book sales over the next few years to do what we really want to do. We have an entertainment entity that is waiting for action, like a powerful beast that’s been asleep for years. If we can get the public behind our novels, we can wake the giant and start doing the work I feel I was put on this earth to do. I am ready to take the leap into using my passion for storytelling, my background in production, my respect for others with creative talent, and my love of entertainment and make it happen. However, it all starts with baby steps, which for us is selling books. So, we’re asking people to go buy Project 14 and Rattlebone Tales, both available in paperback and as ebooks, and they are both available on Amazon.com.
Thanks so much for this opportunity, and we hope people will remember 12 Rounds Media when considering buying novels for their family. Look for the sequel to Project 14 called Project 14: Bad Moon on the Bayou in summer 2014, and I am also working on a thriller about a serial killer(s) called 191. I hope everyone has a peaceful and prosperous 2014.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.