Julian Sarafian is a lawyer, mental health advocate, writer, content creator, and entrepreneur.
After graduating from Harvard Law School Sarafian worked at law firm Wilson Sonsini practicing corporate law before quitting to focus and advocate for mental health. He has advocated for mental health on digital platforms including Tiktok, Twitch, Instagram, and LinkedIn, where his content focuses on the importance of mental health in the workplace and academic world. His advocacy has been covered by the New York Times, NewsWeek, and Bloomberg. As of February 2022 his cumulative following across digital media is nearly 250,000.
In addition to his advocacy work Sarafian is a co-founder and CEO of Nest.Mode, a startup focused on revolutionizing shower storage. The Nest Wall – Nest.Mode’s first flagship product – has been designed to upgrade shower storage everywhere with a proprietary design that includes magnetic-based refillable bottles, two storage holsters, and hooks for all of one’s shower accessories.
His written work has been published in Bloomberg Law and The American Lawyer.
Where did the idea for Nest.Mode come from?
Nest.Mode spun out of an idea that my fiancee – Cat – had, for a new form of shower storage. In her words, a “floating, magnetic-based shower organizer.” Our team loved the idea and our Chief Design Officer Kathleen took the reins on crafting the design – now what is colloquially known as the Nest Wall. After seeing the initial feedback on the Nest Wall on social media and our first prototype we knew we had to make it a reality. It combines aesthetics, sustainability, and tech to something that is so often ignored – storage in our showers. We hope that the Nest Wall will be the first in a long line of products upgrading home decor in a way that is sustainable, modern, and practical.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For me right now it’s full startup mode. Much of my time is spent on the marketing side – creating Tiktok videos, Instagram posts, and copy for emails and our website. On a usual day I’ll have a call or two with Arvin – my Co-CEO – and we’ll talk shop on the current state of play for our company, action items going forward, and general messaging. Since we are pre-launch much of our time and energy right now is focused on our social media outlets and getting the word out about our product. Since my background is in corporate law I’ll occasionally spend time thinking about high-level legal and business issues as well, ranging from intellectual property claims to the structure of our company.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We are very execution-focused. Our opinion is that we want to see how things work ourselves before we commit to them with more of our resources, so if it’s feasible we first start by prototyping our product. Then, we test the waters a bit by marketing the product on Tiktok and Instagram to see what feedback looks like. Of course, throughout this process we are also sharing the design and idea with friends and family to gather their thoughts as well.
If the feedback we receive is positive and we are passionate about the idea we then move ahead to bring the product to market. First prototyping, working with our community on initial feedback for the design, and then negotiating with manufacturers directly. Right now our plan is to move ahead with a crowdfunding campaign to bring the Nest Wall to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We think the increasing democratization of e-commerce creation is exciting. The barriers to entry for e-commerce have never been so low, and with that comes a new level of creativity and application that the world can use to craft new goods of all shapes and sizes. You’re seeing this happening at a rapid place with solopreneurs building brands on Amazon and Etsy, and I think as time goes on it will only become increasingly common. The ability of someone to think of an idea, work with a manufacturer to prototype it, and market it digitally is only going to become easier and easier. It’s an amazing time for folks who want to involve their more creative side because hobbies can become businesses overnight. It’s really the democratization of creative and entrepreneurial thought.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Knowing when to communicate with our team and when not to. Our team is very busy with a variety of personal and professional projects. Effective time management – especially when applied to our team meetings – saves us time, energy, and makes for a slimmer machine. It’s also important for our mental health. I’ve seen and been on a lot of teams that over communicate or feel the need to check in when its frankly not super necessary, and all that does is burn our resources.
Knowing when, how, and why to communicate is essential for any team and I’m really proud of our teams ability to do it effectively.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry about being perfect off the bat. Whatever you are interested in, understand that you won’t get it right the first time but also understand that that is part of the learning process. I was such a perfectionist when I was younger (and it’s still something I struggle with today), that I missed opportunities and didn’t think about launching my own projects out of an anxiety that it wouldn’t be a slam dunk off of the bat. So – get started, take a deep breath, and focus on what you can control. The rest will follow.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
People will become brands in the next 10 years. It’s hard to envision right now, but with the creator economy heating up I think we’re going to see a structural shift in what a “business” looks and feels like – and people themselves will soon be their own revenue source and business. It will be a world where being a creator can and will become a full-time job with employees, infrastructure, and venture capital funding for promising candidates. I believe you’ll also see training camps and further layers of democratization of this process, with folks scouting for the next league and generation of influencer/content creators.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always jot down ideas that come to you. You never know when one of your ideas may come back later in time and prove to be insightful, helpful, or just interesting food for thought. If you have an organized log of your thoughts it will help you stay grounded and remember all of the things going on in your head.
It’s really important to think about, marinate on, and occasionally even partially execute on ideas that come to you as an entrepreneur. That is the essence of innovation itself, and without having a system in place to manage the many ideas that come to you, it’ll make it that much more difficult to keep things fluid and moving forward.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Learning the culture and practicing on Tiktok. Tiktok is every digital marketer’s dream – it’s free, you are basically guaranteed viewership, and it has helped us scale our community for zero dollars. It’s important to stay open-minded as an entrepreneur, especially when you are bootstrapping, and so we explored all sorts of digital marketing from Facebook Ads to Instagram to Pinterest. Ultimately we found that Tiktok was the place to be for a variety of reasons – cost, scale, and attention – and we put our heads together to create and market the Nest Wall on the platform as much as we could. It’s been tremendously successful for us, helping grow our initial community to nearly 20,000 on Tiktok and 2,400 on Instagram (and counting).
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We pride ourselves in building trust with our community, but recently realized that because we hadn’t communicated with our folks in a while, some of that trust was lost. It was a good lesson for us on transparency and the importance of communicating with our community as often as we can. We consider it a failure because we very much view our community as our team, and seeing that they felt left out of our work process and the status of the Nest Wall was the last thing we wanted.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Create an optimized countertop cleaner! Think Swiffer but for kitchen countertops and table countertops. Nothing like that exists and folks use all sorts of inefficient and unsustainable products – paper towels, rags, and wet wipes.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I invested in a new computer mouse for myself. I know, kind of nerdy, but it has really changed my work experience at home. Since I work from my home office it’s super important that I feel productive and comfortable, and my ergonomic mouse helps me do just that. It’s also optimized for gaming so when I feel like losing in Halo Infinite it’s ready and waiting for me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Notion is fantastic. We use notion to organize our various projects, communicate on action items, and set meetings together. It’s a versatile tool as it lets you create and format your action items and to-dos however you want. I personally like the creativity of the platform – how it lets you craft and design your own pages in whatever fashion you like.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. A great read for a variety of reasons but most importantly because it frames just how incredible of a time it is to be a human being right now. It inspired me in a lot of different ways but I think it’s a powerful read because of how much perspective it gives you as a reader for how lucky and grateful we should feel to be alive right now. In a quickly changing world where the news cycle never ends and doomscrolling abound, it was a powerful reminder of the many reasons humanity has progressed.
What is your favorite quote?
“There comes a time in every life when the past recedes and the future opens. It’s that moment when you turn to face the unknown. Some will turn back to what they already know. Some will walk straight ahead into uncertainty. I can’t tell you which one is right. But I can tell you which one is more fun.”
— Phil Knight
- Social media – especially Tiktok, is a 2022 entrepreneur’s best friend. Use it to grow your product, community, and audience before, during, and after launch.
- Communication is key in any business but especially as it relates to your customers – let them in, and make them feel special and heard. It will pay off.
- Getting started, though the toughest part of any journey, is the most important in the entrepreneurial path. Expect road bumps but do not doubt yourself – trust the process and keep going. Ultimately you miss every opportunity you don’t take!
- Understand that every single team works differently. There is no such thing as the “ideal” or “perfect” team framework. What matters more is how you work with the folks on your team – even if it’s traditionally unconventional.
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.