No matter the industry, the entrepreneurs that we work with all have one thing in common: passion for what they do. Helping these entrepreneurs achieve their dreams through their startups is what makes our work at THESTARTUP.com so gratifying. The founders of Entoto Gear are the perfect example.
As husband and wife and co-founders of their own startup, Nakisha and Ray Guzman exude passion, drive, and determination.
They recently agreed to answer a few questions on their business and entrepreneurial journey. Their joy for what they do truly shined through in each and every answer. After you finish reading this interview, you are sure to feel inspired. Enjoy!
Describe your product/service.
We are a backpack and apparel company with a social mission. When you buy a backpack or piece of apparel from Entoto Gear, a portion of your purchase goes to support our mission. Our mission is to create opportunities for women to thrive economically, intellectually and spiritually. Our first project is help lighten the loads for women carrying roughly 100lbs. of eucalyptus on their back down a mountain range. We designed a weight distributing pack which we call the Purpose Pack that cuts the feel of the load down by 50%. The Purpose Pack redistributes weight into more powerful legs muscles while relieving the pressure and strain on the back. Our initial goal is to help lighten the load for the women. Our next goal goes into job creation, this is the part that really excites me because when a woman thrives the world thrives. We need more women thriving! #biggerthanbackpacks
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
While on a mission trip Ray was given a vision of how we can help the women. We wanted to figure out how to go deep in serving an underserved population. Like most people, our immediate thought was to provide a financial gift but that only solves their problem for a day or two and is not sustainable. We were interested in sustainable, generational change, so we needed to find a business model that would allow us to fulfill our vision. With that in mind, Entoto Gear was born.
What is unique about your business? What kind of problem are you solving?
Entoto Gear was built to serve. Profits are very important because that allows us to execute on our mission but our driving motivator is making transformative change in the lives of women and children that are underserved. Alleviating poverty won’t happen with handouts. We want to dig in to create pathways for individuals in dire circumstance to rise above and become all that they were created to be. We want the 20-year old daughter carrying the 100lb loads down the mountain to know that God hears her prayers; and that help is on the way. She was created for more and we want to be a catalyst that helps her discover and realize that the dreams which are lying dormant on the inside of her are within reach. “I’m constantly saying to myself, ‘I’m lucky I was born in the United States.’” this is a statement from Melinda Gates and I agree with her. We are blessed in the US and we have chosen to use our talents, time and treasure to be a blessing to others that are less fortunate.
What are your company’s goals? What are your plans for the future?
This is a BIG question! I am a dreamer and a huge visionary. Our first goal is to build a thriving world class mission focused brand. On the radar, is our initial project which is to give away hundreds of Purpose Packs within the next two years. Our ultimate objective is to move into job creation, developing arts & tech schools in rural areas, and to offer training for other organizations that have a dream but just aren’t sure how to get there. It will take many villages of entrepreneurs to alleviate poverty globally. We know that there are many individuals out there with ideas, dreams and visions that just need some hands-on, realistic guidance to get from wish to wow-we are doing this! These are just a few of our big, hairy, audacious goals but for now it’s about executing our initial vision to create a sustainable social enterprise to fund our ambitions; I plan but God leads the way.
When did you consider yourself a success and to what do you attribute your success?
Great question! Success is usually defined in terms of social status and wealth. I believe these can be markers of a successful person but I don’t think they tell the whole story. I define success in terms of setting a goal and accomplishing that goal. This doesn’t always come with social status or wealth but it does make the individual successful in my book. For example, as it relates to character development, one might want to improve their health but if they haven’t created the habit or disciplined their thoughts in order to make that goal come true then they must keep working to become successful. Based on how I define success I would say I am already successful and I would attribute that to a positive community, personal discipline, tireless consistency, having a strong “why” and seeds that were planted in me long before the idea of Entoto Gear had come to us. If each individual would identify what success is for themselves exclusively and not be told what success is through external inputs more people might find happiness.
What were the main challenges you faced early on in your ventures? How did you push through? Do you still encounter them today?
The first challenge was finding the right subject matter experts to help turn our concept into reality. As a result, we spent considerable time and money working with engineers, designers and manufacturers. Unfortunately, when it was time to begin building, our initial partners went dark on us. Relative to their other customers, we were quite small and they struggled to make us a priority. So, I’d say lack of size and scale is also a challenge at this stage of a company’s lifecycle. As you might imagine, this setback stung quite a bit and meant we had to start over. That setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we ultimately found the right partners who completely bought into our mission and were more than happy to help us bring our vision to life!
What do you like the most and least about working in the startup industry?
I find great joy in seeing dreams become reality. I believe we are creative beings. That doesn’t mean we should all start business because there are many parts that make a machine work. Each part is necessary and purposeful. When an entrepreneur can execute on an idea that usually means that jobs will be created. This is true in our case and for most other b-corps who are structured to do well by doing good. It’s a win-win!
Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something you are born with? Or is it something that can be learned?
Wow, great question! I believe you are born with it. I know we are all creative but there is a persistent fire that burns inside of certain people for starting and building companies. Regardless of circumstances and hurdles, the fire remains lit. When fanned you get things like Facebook, Toms, the local mom & pop shop turned million-dollar empire and Entoto Gear!
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
I could write a book full of lessons learned, and one day I might, but if I could only give one piece of advice it would be to surround yourself with likeminded dreamers. A community that knows exactly how you are feeling is essential because they will inspire you, encourage you, give you advice, lead you to helpful resources, connect you with coaches, and be a listening ear. This will allow you to distance yourself from the fearful naysayers and dream killers without feeling like you are in this alone. Find community and remember to be a giver not just a consumer!
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