About four years ago I started a software development business called SFENITY (pronouced sphen-it-y). Since then we have merged with another software company and are now called APAX. I am loving every minute of it. Well, almost every minute. There are certainly ups and downs and some frustrating aspects with the bureaucracy involved in starting a business, but overall, this is fun. Building my own business has always been a vision of mine. Ever since I realized I wasn’t going to be that professional athlete I dreamed of being as a kid, starting a successful business has always been my ambition.
As an undergraduate Junior at UK, I started a website called the UK BookExchange (www.ukbookexchange.com). The BookExchange serves one purpose, connect local students wishing to buy and sell textbooks for reasonable prices. In 2006, I recruited 4 friends to join me in the BookExchange venture. We placed second in an idea fair at UK, and presented the concept to venture clubs in Lexington and Louisville. The BookExchange has yet to pay me a dime, but the service has helped out thousands of students. I have learned a lot from it and just referencing it gets my foot in the door with most people. We are currently in the process of expanding the idea to several more schools and have high hopes for its continued success.
After I graduated with my Masters in December, 2006, I began building SFENITY. I had a little bit of experience from starting the BookExchange and had obtained some valuable connections in the business circles of Lexington, KY. But if there is one thing I have learned about startups, every day is a new adventure and there is no such thing as a “sure thing”. Things were also a little different this time around. The pressure was on. This was the real world and I had to support myself and my team. No more college loans or assistantships to live off of. No more fall back plan this time. It was rule number 78 for me and my team – “No excuses, play like a champion”. I convinced my brother Justin and a friend Matt to join me on this endeavor. I had read the book “Good to Great” and truly believed in the part about getting the right people on board. These guys were talented and good to work with – engineering minds with a personality and above average communication skills. I’m not going to lie, things were rough at first. We went about 3-4 months without making hardly any sales. We were building up a good sized list of potential clients, but nothing seemed to fall through.
A meeting with University of Kentucky President Todd helped when he gave me some great advice, “What are you worrying about?”, he said, “You have a degree…you can go get a job anytime. Try to be an entrepreneur while you can.” I kept reminding myself that this was what I wanted to be doing and hard work pays off. And believe me, I was working hard. I was putting in 60-70 hour weeks into a business that didn’t offer a paycheck. It wasn’t until the end of April that we started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. We caught some breaks and picked up 3 decent sized projects.
That is where we are now as I start this website (June, 2007). We are still no big deal and have a long way to go. But I am looking forward to the ride ahead. I learn new stuff everyday and can literally feel myself transforming into a knowledgeable business leader. I don’t know what the future holds for me and SFENITY, but I know that if we treat customers fairly and work hard, good things will arrive.