Taking the First Steps as an Entrepreneur
I’ve always led a pretty active lifestyle—one day in 2015 my life completely changed when I nearly lost my finger in a rock-climbing incident. After reaching up for a rock, my hand slipped and my wedding band got caught on a different rock. When all my weight came down on my ring, I was very lucky that the rock broke away because in a situation like mine, a lot of people would have lost a finger or had their finger completely de-gloved. Believe it or not, ring avulsion, a serious finger injury from a metal band snagging or catching on another object, is incredibly common—it happens to 150,000 people per year in the US alone.
It was a pretty sobering experience for me. As a result, I stopped wearing my ring, and my wife wasn’t too happy about that. I still wanted to wear a ring to show my commitment to her publicly, so after that close call, I started looking for an alternative to metal. I started experimenting wearing rings made of different materials, from bamboo to mesh—but nothing felt right. A few months after my accident, when I was catching up with one of my childhood best friends, Aaron Dalley, and I told him about the ring troubles I was having. He confessed that he’d lost multiple wedding rings—which certainly didn’t please his wife, either.
In Western society, wearing a wedding ring is pretty much non-negotiable, but Aaron and I decided that there had to be a better alternative to metal out there. Exploring other options, we discovered that silicone was a lot safer and more comfortable than metal and other hard materials like Tungsten or ceramic. The challenge was to make it look good. So it was clear to us that if we were going to get people excited about silicone rings – and women to even ditch their diamonds – we had to create a ring that was comfortable, safe, and also stylish.
Aaron and I started to discover so many others out there that experienced the same problems with metal rings that we had—from new moms, the military, to those with hands-on jobs like first responders, mechanics, nurses or doctors. Ultimately, we founded Enso Rings in order to help bring silicone wedding bands into the mainstream and, in December 2015, launched a Kickstarter campaign that generated $15,000 and funded our first ring collection to be sold direct-to-consumer via our website.
Swimming with the Sharks
Soon after our launch, I mentioned Enso Rings to another longtime friend of mine, Romney Williams. He went from thinking the idea of a silicone ring was stupid to joining as an advisor to Enso and later becoming our CEO full-time a little more than two years ago. As an advisor, Romney suggested that we go on Shark Tank – little did he know, but we were actually already in talks with the producers at the time. As luck would have it, they called that very same day and said we were selected for the show.
That’s not to say that getting on the show was a breeze, though. When I initially flew to Las Vegas to audition for the show in person, I didn’t even make it past the first round. Refusing to take “no” for an answer, I repeatedly reached out to the producers, sent emails, and created a video audition and sent in an online submission instead. Eventually, they said “yes!” I think it was just so that I’d stop contacting them. When we found out we had made the show, they told us that out of 55,000 applicants, we were accepted among a group of 150 invited to the filming process, 80 of which actually ended up making on air.
On the show, after a bidding war between a couple of the sharks, Aaron and I accepted a deal with Robert Herjavec. Ironically, the last time Aaron and I were in Southern California pitching a business, back in high school, we came in dead last at a DECA business competition. Talk about a redemption story, huh?
Getting your Business Off the Ground
When we were first building the company, one thing we quickly realized was how important it is to have the right team around you from the start. I’m not just saying this because I’ve had the opportunity to run a business with two of my best friends. Seriously though, surrounding yourself with partners who share the same passion for the mission is critical when trying to get your business off the ground. Just last year alone, we hired 65 people—and I can confidently say that we have the coolest team around. If you’re looking to start a company, too, take a hard look at who you’re onboarding as the business grows, especially in those early days. Meet with every single hire you can.
As fun as it is to play mad scientist designing new products, money is almost always going to be a question for entrepreneurs at the end of the day. While many other business owners are quick to seek outside funding from equity investors, we decided to keep our business lean and scrappy. We wanted to prove out the business model and be a profitable company without anyone else’s money—we wanted the process of raising money to be an accelerator, not a lifeline. After we had our footing as a company, then we started courting investors. Although it’s not the best approach for every startup, it forced us to really think about where every dollar was going.
Finally, a huge learning moment came for us early on when we decided to bring some of our manufacturing in-house, back to the good old town of Lehi. While we had originally planned to outsource the production of our most premium rings, we couldn’t find anyone that could get it just right. These were supposed to be lifelong symbols of couples’ love and commitment—which meant we had to make nothing but the best! Taking on production ourselves has proven to be a huge boon for us—we’re able to be more hands-on and play with our products in ways that we never could have been able to before, which has led to some super unique designs and innovations.
I would encourage other entrepreneurs to look to areas that they might initially write off as outside of their wheelhouse. I know it’s cliché, but I’ve really found it to be true—there’s little you can’t do if you put your mind to it. By rolling up your sleeves, getting advice from experts in the field, and being open to laughing as errors inevitably occur, you might just surprise yourself with how much you can learn and handle.
Although starting and running your own business isn’t for everyone, it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to build something from the ground up that’s a force for good in the world. Especially, when you get to do it with one of your best friends! It’s so fulfilling to share that dream with others and to create opportunities for others to join the crusade and eventually carry the torch. Failures and mistakes will always invite themselves to your party. Learn from them and move on. Don’t be afraid to dream big and go for it. Keep casting nets. You never know what the tide might bring in tomorrow.