The last nine weeks have been eye opening and refreshing. A moment to reset, to find myself and things I'm passionate about. I've been incredibly blessed to have done many things in my life/career that most people wouldn't get to do in a lifetime. For that, I'm forever grateful for the experiences and opportunities. When I landed the job with the UFC, at the time when I made that goal (I wrote it down 13 months prior if you remember), there literally was nothing bigger that I thought I'd do in my career. That would be the pinnacle, working for a huge growing brand in sports (I had zero experience in sports marketing outside of marketing the Pay-Per-View events from my Cox/Comcast cable days).
So what's next?
I've asked myself that every day for nine weeks. Work for another big brand? I could. Work for a start up company? I could do that too. Sell/rent out my house, pack up my stuff, buy a tiny house or just explore the world for a few years? I seriously considered it.
The one thing I have always had in the back of my mind was, could I be my own boss? Would I love it? Hate it? I don't know but I felt like if there was ever a good time to find out, it was now. I took everything I had in my mind and in my heart to start building out this plan and I've been incredibly blessed to have people in my life that have referred me to people that I could help. I'm blessed to have friends and a community around me who are here to help each other succeed. I'm thankful for people in my life that have inspired me to go in the direction of entrepreneurship and believe in me taking on this journey. I'm grateful for my family who have supported my decisions throughout my career even when my dad didn't want me to leave my first "good job" at Comcast because it was a solid career with plenty of growth opportunity. I wanted to widen my career experience and explore opportunities with different companies, different industries, people and culture and I've done all of those things.
So after hundreds of hours, phone calls and meetings, I've decided to move forward in this entrepreneurial space. I was going to do consulting on my own and work with a couple of clients but decided I'm going to jump in all the way and start a company. Coming up with your business name is not the funnest thing in the world. Do you go with a acronym? Do you come up with some clever name? Make a name up? This part sucked, not going to lie. My partner Joe and I kept going back and forth on this and I said to him, "I don't know what it will be, but somehow I want to incorporate Eleven, like Eleven 11 or something like that". He asked me what was with 11? I couldn't really explain it... 11:11 shows up in my life every single day. I randomly look at the clock at 11:11 a.m. and 11:11 p.m. every day. Go to the store and the check out price is $11.11, my loft downtown was unit 1111. I see 11 in so many different places and I have a habit of taking a screenshot on my phone or taking a picture whenever I see it. Joe says to me "You know my first long standing client is Larry Fitzgerald and he's #11 for the Arizona Cardinals, right?" I didn't even think about that! Somehow we have to figure out how to make 11 part of this. So I said, "What if we spell it "ELVN" and as we started to do our research, we found the URL and social handles were all available. There were no service marks or trademarks with anything similar so we were getting closer. "How about ELVN Digital?" I said. Joe and I both agreed we liked that.
As we started to get comfortable with the idea of having a name we liked... I kept thinking, "what's our elevator pitch on the meaning of the company name?" (as most people probably won't care about my 11:11 thing or Larry's #11 jersey). I thought about this more and I said "Whenever someone asks you to grade your service experience or rate how much you like something, they always ask you on a scale of 1-10. I'd expect that people are thrilled with the service we provide and we should always be thriving for an 11. We go above and beyond. Not only that but the two ones represent Joe and I as the founders of this business. This isn't some sort of a fluffy company mission/vision... it's true to the core of who we are and our work ethic.
So from here we needed to come up with a logo... I reached out to my buddy David and had spewed all sorts of stuff at him including my Pinterest board of inspiration for fonts, color, design, logos, etc. He came back with a sketch pad of ideas
One of the logos really stood out to me and I loved the use of negative space. So we started to refine one of the designs and trying various colors until we landed on something we loved.
Once I saw the logo. I was like, "Wow. This is it. We're moving forward".
I set up time with my attorney to file the business license, service mark for the logo, etc. My attorney has his back towards me as he's entering all the information into his computer and says:
"What's the company name?"
"ELVN Digital" I replied and gave him the quick story on 11:11.
He turns around in his chair giving me this deer in headlights look and I just stop talking all together trying to figure out why he's giving me this crazy eye. He's got Google Maps pulled up on the screen and he points to the map and says:
"This is my house in Iowa where I grew up. The house address is 1111".
"SHUT UP!" I yelled. I couldn't believe he was telling me this. I mean, SERIOUSLY?! What are the chances of that??!!
We keep chugging along with the paperwork and I still can't wrap my head around his 1111 connection. I'm texting Joe about it in disbelief and also thinking to myself, this is meant to be. While the attorney is submitting all the documents online and forwarding documents to me, he says to me "it will take like 15-20 mins until we will get everything confirmed". So I just keep going through the emails he sent me and organizing all the stuff on my computer until he says everything is done. A few minutes later I hear the "ding" notification on his computer that he has an email. He turns to me and says "sweet. You're all set! Here's your business license, your service mark has been filed for your logo, that's it. You're all set." As he forwards me the final documentation and I open it on my laptop, I looked at the top right of my Macbook screen and the time was 11:11 a.m.
I said to my attorney when he said everything was set, "Look at the time".
I don't know what it all means but I feel like whatever it is, it's good and it's telling me I'm doing the right thing. To whoever it is, whatever it is, thank you for showing me in numbers, specifically 11:11 that you are there and encouragement that this is all going to be great.
I came home and I was full of emotions. We got the business license filed, company bank account opened and I came home and just cried. It was happy tears and super emotional, overwhelming and one of the proudest moments of my life.
I went into my closet and I dug up this letter my dad wrote me in 1997 when I attended the Flowing Wells High School Leadership Retreat...
The last line of this page reads "Shanda I can see you as a CEO of a corporation"
Just shy of 20 years since he wrote me this letter.... I am that, of my own company.
I'm excited to see some nearly 20 year old goals coming to life at the same time. Many of you remember my story about writing down my goals back in 1998 and saying "I wanted to be part of something big like the Super Bowl or a Budweiser campaign". I'm happy to say that a few of the first couple of clients we get to work with are Budweiser Beer Park here in Las Vegas and Super Bowl Houston heading up the Social Concierge team. I get to officially check TWO nearly 20 year old goals off my list that I said literally in the same sentence and I couldn't be more proud.
We are looking forward to an amazing year ahead.