Sam Tofighi

Founder of ST Trading Company

Sam Tofighi was born in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. He and his family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada for a short period of time before returning to Iran due to his father’s business affairs in that country’s real estate industry.

Eventually, Sam moved to France, where he discovered a passion for playing tennis. His tennis coaches, having recognized Sam’s natural talent for the sport, recommended he make a serious effort at playing professionally, so he enrolled in the Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain to begin his training in earnest. He was able to train at the professional level with some of the most sought-after professional coaches like Angel Gimenez and Emilio Sanchez, while traveling internationally to play different International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments. After his time at Sanchez-Casal tennis Academy, he relocated to Newport Beach, California and attended Orange Coast College, continuing to play competitive tennis as the first player on the roster. Sam was offered scholarships from universities like University of California-Irvine and SMU, but decided to turn them down and attended the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), majoring in economics.

Concurrent with his post-secondary education, Sam Tofighi played professional tennis and was ranked among the top 500 players in the world by the ITF during his athletic career. Also while at Orange Coast College, he began coaching at a professional level, earning coaching licenses from the Professional Tennis Registry and the United States Professional Tennis Association.

While pursuing his major at UCLA, Sam decided to put the economics and business skills he was learning to practical use and created ‘Bounce,’ a location-based mobile app designed to connect tennis players all over the globe. Players with any skill level could join Bounce, create a social profile, and use it to arrange matches. Before its official launch, Bounce was bought outright for $450,000.

After selling his app and graduating with honors from UCLA, Sam worked as a business and financial analyst for a while before starting his own company. The company initially began its work solely in the financial markets, but then delved into the real estate market. The inspiration behind this transition came from his father, who founded his own real estate development company in 1964 and has been responsible for more than 750 development projects to date. In 2020, Sam Tofighi created ST Trading Co., LLC, an investment firm out of Beverly Hills, California, which focuses on the small-cap and mid-cap segments of the financial market as well as real estate investments.

Apart from tennis being one of his hobbies, Sam also collects fine art, a pursuit which he began at the age of 21. In the past, he has described his predilection for fine art as something of a compulsion, often saying that whenever he sees a piece he truly enjoys, he cannot help himself from adding it to his collection. He now boasts a collection of over 150 pieces.

Where did the idea for ST Trading Company come from?

The idea to create ST Trading Company came from when I worked at different companies and eventually realized that I was basically the smart guy doing the hard work for the guy that made the most money. That’s when I decided to strike out on my own and build my own business, mainly because I wanted to have the time, money, and location freedom in order to do the things I actually enjoy in life.

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

My day starts with a bottle of water in the morning, followed by vitamins and intermittent fasting throughout the entire day. I don’t snack on anything to keep my dopamine levels down. I start working at around 8 am, have a coffee at around 12 pm, and eat around 3 or 4 pm. I find that’s the time of day when I’m most productive, so I try to get all my difficult tasks done by then. At around 4 or 5 pm, I try to plan for the next day. Then I go to the gym and enjoy time with my family for the rest of the day. Sometimes I’ll have to move things around in my schedule for business meetings or a last minute travel plan. I might check or send some emails at night, but I try to put my phone away at least an hour before I go to bed at about 10 or 10:30 pm.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Previously, I used to think any of my ideas would work, but with trial and error, I’ve learned to no longer try to bring every single idea I have to life. Now, before moving forward, I have to not only think an idea will work, but also conduct due diligence on it. So, I go through all the steps and examine every scenario that might play out if I implement it, and if everything seems like it might work out well, then I start working on the idea and executing my plan. I’ve implemented the same strategy in ST Trading Company. It’s simple and straightforward. If the numbers don’t work out I shut it down immediately and move on to the next project. I think that a lot of people come up with great ideas, but they don’t think about the actual process of making them into a reality. They get stuck on their idea for a few months or a few years and eventually come to the realization that it might not be practical or tenable. That’s why it’s always better to do the precursory work and determine the project or the idea’s feasibility before taking the next steps.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Artificial Intelligence is a trend that excites me. I think there would be a lot of great things that people would be able to accomplish with AI, if implemented and regulated correctly. We’re definitely entering a new era with what’s going on around the world and you can feel things are changing, and I personally I think change can be good. For example, entrepreneurship or investments are far from how they used to be in the past. Nowadays, you can almost start any type of business venture with a laptop from anywhere around the world.

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

Sticking to my habits and my established routine. I developed and refined my daily routine over the course of years, and it really works for me—especially now that my days are so busy running ST Trading Company. Sticking to my habits and my established routine helps me to think more clearly, and know where I’m supposed to be going and what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to network more and meet more people because you never know who can help you in the future, or for that matter, who you might be able to help. Helping other professionals fosters long term relationships which are beneficial to anyone building a business career.

Another piece of advice I would give my younger self would be the following: “You don’t have to make every mistake yourself. Sometimes it’s good to listen to other people who have experience with what you’re trying to do, and learn from them in order to avoid some of the obstacles they’ve encountered.”

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Great education is important. I’ve heard a lot of people say that education isn’t that important and you can do what you want, especially in the private sector. But I do think that education is very important and I would recommend all aspiring entrepreneurs go to a good school, at least for a while.

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

Sticking to my gut in the gray areas. I recommend to everyone that if you think something is right and good for you and will help you succeed, just do it. Don’t listen to other people. I’ve made that mistake many times. I’ve realized that if your gut is telling you that something is the right thing to do and you’ve calculated everything and it still seems to be the right thing to do but you listen to other people who tell you not to do it, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

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

One strategy that has helped me a lot is to associate and work with people who are more knowledgeable than me in my industry and follow in their footsteps. Another thing would be realizing that I’m able to achieve more using the knowledge I’ve gained from people who are already established and accomplished. Another strategy that has helped, simply put, is adopting a positive and confident attitude. Once I believe I can do something, even if it’s risky and involves a lot of hard work, I’m not afraid to try it.

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

One of the biggest failures I’ve had that encouraged me to be better has nothing to do with entrepreneurship. It was in tennis. Out of 10,000 players in the world, only 50 or 70 of them are going to make a good living from it on the pro circuit. So, after I got injured and stopped playing, I realized that tennis wasn’t the path I was meant to follow, and that made me reconsider the plans I had for my life. It motivated me to pursue my academic career and then entrepreneurship where I would flourish and be successful.

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

I think artificial intelligence is going to be very helpful to the marketing industry, as well as the healthcare industry. A good business idea might be founding an AI healthcare startup or an AI marketing startup.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

One of the best ways I’ve spent $100 was framing a piece of fine artwork that I really enjoy. It made it look ten times better.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use the Reminders app and Calendar app on my iPhone all the time. These both help me to ensure that I’m on top of all my tasks and on time for all my meetings and calls. Once a task is complete, I click on it and it’s removed from my to-do list. It gives me a sense of satisfaction; the feeling that I’ve completed something and that I’m free to move on to something else.

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

I highly recommend Start with Why by Simon Sinek. The book outlines why it’s important to ask yourself why you’re planning a new business or endeavor because understanding your own motivation will help you through all the hardships that will inevitably present themselves. Using the question ‘why?’ as a starting point makes everything easier for you down the road and gives you a clearer path on what exactly you need to do as an entrepreneur and how to achieve it.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is something that Robert De Niro says: “Stay calm and cool when things aren’t going well, but also stay calm and cool when things are going well.” What I take that to mean is that life has ups and downs, and no matter how good you feel one day, you’re going to feel bad another day and vice versa. That’s a quote I think about a lot.

Key Learnings:

  • Networking is an incredibly powerful tool and can bring with it myriad benefits to any entrepreneur.
  • Observing consistency and establishing a positive routine can make it easier to deal with busy days.
  • Always perform due diligence when it comes to new ideas. If it’s not going to work, move on to the next one.