[quote style=”boxed”]I was a paperboy, when there was such a thing. I got up at 4 AM every morning, 7 days a week, from ages 13-15 to fold and sling newspapers. Rain, cold, sick…it didn’t matter. It was rough, but it taught me many great lessons that we all need to learn at some point, so I’m glad I learned them early. It taught me to have self-discipline and a good work ethic. It taught me how good it feels to earn your own money. But probably the most important lesson was learning that succeeding at something very difficult gives you incredible drive to attempt things you otherwise wouldn’t have tried.[/quote]
The CigaRv mobile lounge is the fourth entrepreneurial venture of Jack Grant’s career. His career began at General Manager Baseball, one of the first fantasy sports businesses in the 1980’s. Jack has also worked at Perot Systems (now Dell), Charles Schwab, PeopleSoft (now Oracle) and during the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, he was the correspondence manager for Ross Perot and the Reform Party.
As someone who has appreciated cigars for more than 20 years, Jack recently had the opportunity to learn more about the industry and discovered he wanted his hobby to become his profession. Smoking laws, especially in California, were becoming stricter, so a business in the tobacco industry seemed risky. Jack believed, however, that an innovative approach would not only make for a successful business, but would also provide a social solution for smokers and non-smokers alike. Creating a cigar lounge that was fully self-contained and could come and go at events where cigars are welcome became his new project: CigaRv – The Mobile Man Cave.
What are you working on right now?
CigaRv – The Mobile Man Cave. It’s a mobile cigar lounge, converted from a 26-foot, 1977 GMC motorhome, like the one they called the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle, used in the movie Stripes.
Where did the idea for CigaRv come from?
I was a partner in a cigar lounge with someone who turned out to be a better guy to have a beer with than to be in business with. So I left but wanted to stay in the cigar business. I didn’t want to do anything brick-and-mortar because of the overhead and how difficult it would be to convince people to come to me. And with the smoking laws being what they are, I thought it would be better to create something that would bring cigars to people when and where they wanted them.
I created a business plan, formed a corporation and went to some friends with an investment proposition. Enough people invested to get it off the ground and it has been extremely well received from day one.
What does your typical day look like?
It depends on which events are coming up, but usually I’m working on marketing and exposure for us. Lining up future events to participate in, updating our website, Facebook and Twitter, preparing our newsletter, working through our financial reports, that’s all part of my week overall. Throw in maintenance on the RV and attending networking events and my week fills up pretty quickly. As we move into our busy season, which is March through November, I’ll work all of our events on the evenings and weekends. Obviously, I love this stuff!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research. There are a lot of ideas that should never be brought to life. Research is a good way to flesh that out. Is your idea worth bringing to life? No way to find out until you figure out if there’s a real market that will pay for your idea beyond what it costs you. Research can create the difference between a good idea and a business.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Stricter smoking laws. Ironically, that gives us more of a market for what we do. When there are fewer places to smoke, what we offer has more value. And not just for smokers, but for non-smokers, as well. We take the people who want to light up a cigar and we bring them to a fully ventilated lounge that fits within the local laws. This creates more space for non-smokers, making them happy.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was a paperboy, when there was such a thing. I got up at 4 AM every morning, 7 days a week, from ages 13-15 to fold and sling newspapers. Rain, cold, sick…it didn’t matter. It was rough, but it taught me many great lessons that we all need to learn at some point, so I’m glad I learned them early. It taught me to have self-discipline and a good work ethic. It taught me how good it feels to earn your own money. But probably the most important lesson was learning that succeeding at something very difficult gives you incredible drive to attempt things you otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
That was especially important for me because I’m legally blind. I really believe that job helped me to not be intimidated by difficult things that I really could do. I may have never tried them without that experience.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
This whole project is uncharted waters, so it’s tough to use hindsight. I think it’s gone really well and has been incredibly well received. Anything I would change would revolve around financial projections. Aside from that, I think there are things you need to experience first-hand in order to best understand the fallout. So to do some things differently would mean not learning those lessons.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Schedule your time well. Nothing replaces the value of using your time wisely. Likewise, nothing hurts a business more than wasted time.
What is one business idea that you are willing to give away to our readers?
Read the newspaper. I don’t mean go online and read copy on a website. I mean sit down in a quiet place and focus on what you’re reading. Great business ideas come from the news. If you read it right, it will tell you what the world – or your little part of it – needs.
Tell us a secret.
Telling secrets always leads to hurt feelings. Let’s keep this happy.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
- Social media is my favorite, by far. It has done wonders for the business as a marketing tool. And from a personal standpoint, it allows me to instantly stay in touch with friends and family who would otherwise have drifted away.
- Another would be a site like Prosper.com, which helps small businesses raise capital. I haven’t used it with any success, but I love that it’s there and working for others.
- My third would be something like Skype or WebEx. I like anything that makes the world smaller and gives you the opportunity to see the people you could only speak with in the past. That visual goes a long way toward becoming comfortable with people you need to feel good about in a business deal.
What is the one book you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m not a big book reader. I just don’t have the patience for it. But I am very anxious to read the new book by Mark Cuban, How to Win at the Sport of Business. He’s someone I admire and I would be very interested in anything he chooses to share.
What’s on your playlist?
Wow. I haven’t updated it for a long time. I like listening to the radio, usually SiriusXM. I like knowing what’s current. I feel like if I stick to an iPod, I’ll miss out on something new.
That said, I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan. Tom Petty is great. My ‘80s band of choice is Oingo Boingo. Weezer and Green Day would round out my top 5 bands, so you’d find a lot of their stuff on my playlist.
If you weren’t working on CigaRv – The Mobile Man Cave, what would you be doing?
I would be trying to figure out what the next CigaRv type of business would be. I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- Mark Cuban because he’s one of our modern-day business geniuses.
- CigaRv because we’re unique, cutting-edge and it will be interesting to follow our evolution.
- And then pick your favorite Kardashian just to remind you how ridiculous life can be if you allow it.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I have to be honest, I do that a lot. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by good friends and family with great humor and fun personalities, so laughing out loud comes easy.
Who is your hero?
My daughter, Bailey. She was born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Her mom and I were told at around 20 months that she would not live to be 5 years old because of her disease. Thankfully, that prognosis was given to us by someone who had bad information about SMA. She will spend her life in a wheelchair, but it will be a long and happy life. She’s a very happy and smart kid with this incredible personality. But her best attribute is her mental strength.
In navigating the difficulties of SMA, she has had to endure multiple major medical procedures and the social pressures of being in a wheelchair. She takes it all as well as anyone ever could and throws in a 4.0 GPA as a high school junior.
I consider her my hero because of her approach to life and how she inspires me.
Like I mentioned earlier, I have spent my life legally blind, so I have some insight into how tough things can be when you are young and learning that life isn’t always about being on a level playing field. And I can tell you I certainly didn’t always handle those early setbacks with her inspirational outlook.
Jack Grant E-Mail: [email protected]
Jack Grant on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=3168265&trk=tab_pro