top of page
Search

Lessons from a 5X serial entrepreneur | Dom Fendius, Kiirsh

Strategy & Tragedy: CEO Stories with Steph Melodia is the best business podcast for curious entrepreneurs. Hosted by Top 20 Female Founder, Stephanie Melodia, Strategy & Tragedy features candid interviews with entrepreneurs who have scaled - and failed - their businesses - sharing their lessons in entrepreneurship along the way. From Nick Telson-Sillett who achieved financial freedom after selling DesignMyNight (on The Wildest Exit Day in History™) to Emmie Faust, the founder of Female Founders Rise, who opened up about her breakdown on the road to discovering her mission in supporting female founders.


This is one of the best podcasts to listen to if you're looking for educational and inspirational content on Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon, YouTube or watch the clips on Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or YouTube Shorts.


-


In this episode, Stephanie Melodia interviews Dom Fendius, the Founder & CEO of kiirsh a tool that enables creators to monetise their own brands. Kiirsh is Dom's fifth business so he brings a lot of learnings and wisdom from his previous four ventures into his current business. I hope you enjoy listening to this and take away a practical learning that you can apply to your own entrepreneurial journey.


Watch the full episode on YouTube, subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or keep reading for the full interview below:


Trigger warning: Dom shares the very sad story about how he tragically lost his dad due to cancer, so if anyone has been through something similar a bit affected by a loved one who has unfortunately been lost to to a sad illness than just a heads up he's going to be sharing a bit about that sad story.


Nonetheless Dom is honestly one of the most positive and optimistic people I have ever met despite the dark days and despite the previous four businesses so if there's anyone to share a glimpse into what it takes to be resilient and to keep going then Dom is your man!


SM: Dom, welcome to Strategy & Tragedy. I feel like you are one of the most perfect entrepreneurs to interview; you set up not one business not two business or three businesses but five businesses! So let's go in chronological order then business number one:


DF: business number one was directly out of university; it was a free magazine called 2UL and as I was just saying to I can't remember what that even stands for and I really don't remember that so weird isn't it the U is maybe urban the L well I think 21 I think was the 21st century right because it was in the beginning of the since and then yeah I think maybe it was like urban living or something like the fact that I think that's it I've just came back to me and yes so what what that was about I'd been living in Berlin for a year as part of my degree course and in Berlin there was a really popular free magazine and it was just a listings magazine what's going on in the night life club scene and and then when I came back and finished my final year at uni I thought okay that's a cool idea but then what you all say had was people like vice were beginning to become quite big and they I think they had launched in London but they I might be wrong about this but I feel like they were more of like did they start in Canada or New York can't remember anyway so they were doing quite well and you would be able to get copies around you know shortage but probably nowhere else in the UK so the idea was to kind of combine those listings and a few fun kind of you know irreverent articles interviews profiles and it was just a small kind of Pamphlet sized magazine which now sounds insane right the idea of a real magazine but obviously this was pre- I mean it wasn't pre- the internet but it was it was pretty the internet being ubiquitous so and yeah that was the first business and that did not work out


SM: How come?


DF: Probably mainly because I was a bit of an idiot! No I'm being a bit unfair on myself what I mean by that is I didn't really know what I was doing right I was whatever I was 22 or 23 and starting a magazine I mean people do that and their successful but it was also because the Internet had become this big thing and you know advertisers were just kind of difficult to get hold of for magazines and but at the same time actually and this isn't the reason it in work out but my father was really ill at the time and that definitely took the focus off a little bit but I would never use that as an excuse but he say he had a lung cancer and it was quite I don't know people watching this if they've ever been through someone in their family with cancer it's quite a all consuming thing right and that was very much the case you know it was you can really be in like I'd have to rush up to the family who were in Warwickshire so you could you know you kind of be a very bitty existence and you know phone would go off in the middle of the night saying you know my mother ringing or something saying oh he's been taking into hospitals say but it definitely wasn't the reason it didn't work out but it also didn't help and and we can talk about this a bit later but it's actually quite an important moment I think in my definite in my life but in what I then chose to do because you know it tells you that nothing's guaranteed right my father was quite young it was 58 wow so yeah but it made me think all right I don't want to just spend my whole life in an office working for other people and so anyway that was the first one then I did go and work in an office for other people for a few years because I thought I need to get some proper experience and some money so I went and worked in the city and which I mean was in a sense good I didn't really enjoy it I didn't find the work fulfilling at all I didn't find it that intellectually demanding but it was a lot of work and it just wasn't fun and made me think it's this what this shouldn't be what work is right so anyway that yeah and this was pretty financial crisis so it was you know crazy times people were just making ridiculous amounts of money there wasn't quite the disdained for bankers that there is now because it was pre-financial Crisis but they're certainly was you know so we'd have protesters outside the front of the bank that I worked at quite often. Anyway so that was that was quite a different thing to you know trying to start your own business and yeah and after that next business was stitch which essentially we collected the best fashion blogger's photos and we made them choppable so you know you just scroll through a feed of people wearing nice clothes and it's very much like on Instagram now if you hover over the pictures they would have the details of the products and you can buy them but this was pre-i-fane so it was all on the desktop who's quite clunky I mean it worked but you know it was it's much more of a mobile experience I think what I mean is it works better on the mobile and so yeah I did that I can't remember how many years I say three years I've got some really good traction you know got a load of great press coverage and I think I told you before we had I remember having a meeting with an investor and he's going don't you are going to be so rich this is amazing and I was like wow awesome and and yeah I didn't quite work out but yeah we did quite well right I mean we got we got lots of users and and that was my first I would say my first real tech startup and and yeah that kind of gave me the bug then to hmm let's get into this and and let's and let that be my career and my kind of path in life so why didn't this one work so this one didn't work because there's a good question I think we were too late to and my anticipate but to see how powerful the iPhone was going to be in terms of how the consumer behaved and I think also you know we kind of got because I wasn't sure what you know what the direction of the business was I got swayed by what a lot of other people were telling me right and you'd have people saying oh you should do this as you know white label the software to other people you know to to Facebook so that you know they can plug it into to all the photos on Facebook and I was like wow and in fact we got we got listed in the online fashion 100 and I think in 2010 which was invoke magazine you know the top 100 people in the UK in the world of online fashion and we and they had some experts kind of give comments to certain companies and we got one from Brent Hoberman who you know obviously now is is huge player in the London scene and was the founder of lastminute.com and his comment was exactly that it was like "yeah this could be huge for social networks" and because I didn't have the strength in my own convictions I was kind of thinking "yeah maybe we should go down that way" and really what we should have done is we built a monster social platform where people could upload their own photos - I guess most famous one now is was it called LikeToKnowIt - do something very similar but back in the day was people like Polyvore and I wonder about how sustainable the business model is for that kind of business.


"This could be huge for social networks" - Brent Hoberman

That was one of our major flaws because what we had was we would do mainly street style photos right and it wasn't user generated we have photographers who would go out and take pictures right and that we wanted to change that over time but in the beginning that's where we did and you know so be Street style so a lot of it was vintage you know people are bought them in vintage stores says difficult then to find an exact right copy of it that wasn't such a huge problem but it just skewed very much to a young market who we're looking at these pictures what does that mean it means that the clothes are not that expensive right so how you monetizing that you monetize it through an affiliate model so if someone buys you know someone clicks on the photo and then buy the item of clothing we would get a commission but you know if that was back in those days if that was Topshop you'd be getting five percent commission right and it would be a top which cost 18 pounds or something so actually what we fell fell of and the longer term was that classic cost of acquiring a customer against the lifetime value of the customer it just didn't add up because you know to get those people to come and visit cost a certain amount and then they just the basket value was so low you know that's different with I don't know someone like list for for instance or far-fetch you know any of these big fashion players that have come out of London they were more luxury right so the average order value is higher and totally different business but if you're going for the sort of mass market so that was a mistake for we made and and yeah we could have fixed that if we sort of moved faster and got it user generated but as I say that the user generated thing became exponentially easier with the iPhone and we would just too slow really and we just didn't see and that's you know that's completely my fault I was not a technical founder back then I'm not really one now but I'm definitely more technical.


SM: So there's an interesting juxtaposition with stitch where on the one hand the concept sounds really ahead of its time because as you say you've got the likes of LikeToKnowIt and this is pre-instagram pre-iphone the sounds really ahead of the curve but then it's juxtaposed with being too late to adopt the whole kind of growth of the iPhone and the apps and the mobile take up with all the user generator content so it's kind of the idea was there yeah I guess this is where it comes back to your technical abilities and just actually implementing an adopting that more Mobile Tech yeah for it to take off


DF: Yeah that's really interesting I never really thought about it in that way but kudos to you because that's very perceptive .


SM: And so business number three!


DF: Then business number three yeah that was Gentset and that was a men's focused design e-commerce app essentially and so encompassed all nice design-y kind of things that you could buy right it wasn't just clothes it was also furniture homeware accessories so you took the learning of the average order value from stitch and the low value like 18 pound Topshop item to actually more expensive unit so that was one learning you to your next business which is interesting yeah and and we actually we didn't want to hold any stock ibis so that was also an important thing not that we held stock with stitch obviously but I realized you don't want to be in that game that's like a very sort of capital intensive game and but we did we did do a little bit you know we got some items in but what we try to be was more of a marketplace where we went out to you know say good example we had someone in Portugal who made him like laptop cases out of cork and we essentially said use us as you know your shop front and and then they did all the fulfilment of it and and what we what we did we had a swipe function kind of like tinder which was very new at the time so I was really excited at the time about oh this is the new you know UI of mobile with people swiping through everything because before everything had been you know it's just on a grid that you scroll through so head of the curve again well I don't know it was quite a common thing that was being done at the time actually I'm not gonna but it really was tinder that made that swiping left and right take off, it was after that yeah no it's very much a response to what they would do I am but there were like at least two other startups in the UK doing that but we were the only one focused specifically on men and and I don't know if I we couldn't we couldn't get that one to scale massively and I'm not sure even to this day whether that was because it was just aimed at men and one of the learning so I definitely took was don't just target men because you know men are really bad at sharing you know unless it's something like football gossip or something or you know beautiful women or something I don't know they don't share like you know I went on this app or whatever they don't do that much where it's women we found they really share they tell their friends and so I took that as a learning but we couldn't get the driving traffic to download apps back in those days this kind of wild Wests it was difficult so again you're kind of it always comes down to this how do you acquire the traffic and if it turns out it's more expensive than the money you can make from people downloading it you're not going to build a great business


SM: Well I completely agree with you but I do want to jump in here because thankfully this is where the shifting tides has happened again more recently in business I feel like we're coming out of this era of this growth at all costs mentality where you do look at the unicorns of today in the big tech darlings and revenue profit margins do not even enter the conversation ridiculously obviously it's ludicrous but there's that whole gaining market share wooing the investors along the way getting them to just continually vacuum back you and

and when you hit that point of critical mass that's kind of their logic then you can start to think about that monetization, so what are your thoughts on that mentality from the tech startup position so we're now on like the second or third business or second third proper tech business of yours and both of those seem to have they would have benefitted from that market share sort of mentality but what you've talked about is very practically very sensibly is acquisition costs, how to drive traffic and it just doesn't work from a very sensible standpoint


DF: I thought about this a lot recently because I've spoken to some people who really just focused on building products that people love and they abandoned any kind of revenue model right but they were lucky because they had investors who were willing to go with them and obviously you know people always look to Bezos and Amazon for doing this you know just grabbing markets sharing a bit let's not forget he was getting pilloried by the financial Communities saying Amazon's ridiculous business never turns a profit but look at it now so what you've got to have in that situation is investors that support you because otherwise how you gonna stay alive right that's the problem and startup saying is exist in the short term right they don't have typically they do not have these mountains of cash like old Legacy business businesses do that enable them to weather a few tough quarters or even years so but having said that I my thinking these days is just to build something that people will love and you know a revenue model will find its way you know unless it's something which is never going to be monetized but and there are plenty of examples of that. I think if if you just keep building things that people love either you're going to get the investors to back you or you find somewhere monetizing it so but if you're just focused on making revenue from day one and that can work but I don't know if you're ever going to build that breakout business and that's where it's been my thing I I wanted to build something massive like I mean you know kind of shame inducing makes people feel uncomfortable how big it is that's sort of thing which you know that hasn't happened yet but that's kind of that's what excites me the prospect of being able to do that and I think for those kind of businesses and by the way I'm never going to build a like an enterprise SAS business where I don't think so he may be it doesn't excite me right and but yeah to get those breakout consumer businesses it's just got to be something that's you know server meltingly exciting for people and kind of catch his are in there in their brains and and that can be doesn't have to be something purely aimed at the consumer in a kind of you know social network kind of way or tender kind of way it can also be something that facilitates making money for small business people I would include consumer in that and I love that expression I just want to underscore the server meltingly exciting I love yeah so we'll pick up your timeline in just a sec but on the subject of having VCz to back you where each of your businesses venture backed. Let's exclude 21UL from the conversation because that was really the first year we were on

we wear online with that but it was very much enough to for though it would be a web magazine.


SM: And so the first two businesses Stitch and Gentset were not completely bootstrapped but friends & family basically and you had your corporate roles in between those so had the corporate role in between 21 ul and starting stitch okay so did that provide a bit of a buffer


DF: yeah exactly and that was always the intention that you know first of all and this is it didn't really work out this way but I thought if I get into finance first of all I'm gonna build up and network. That kind of did happen but I'm also going to learn about you know venture capital that didn't happen because I would work in for an investment bank and working for a family office so it's just a million miles I don't know what you don't know do you see don't beat yourself but it did yes give me some money to you know fall back on and take the risk with yeah so and those I can't even remember how much we raised but it would have been like you know less than a hundred thousand and and I'm really good at conserving capital I don't you know I sometimes cringe when I was doing some advisory work seeing what people spent their money on that their investors it's given them and he and I just I mean I I've heard so many stories about people buying flash Italian furniture for their office - he just can't be doing that, but the investors I don't know why the investors don't clamp down on it but anyway that's you know up to them


SM: You mentioning Amazon before and just connecting it with this flash Italian furniture you mention there's that famous story of how in Amazon they would use doors as their desks have you heard just as the reminder like all that matters is the customer and how we're making money you can have a plank of wood for your desk just happens to be a reused or so you can really take it to an extreme can't you?


There's something interesting with that for just for just a moment as well because I identify with you in terms of the risk appetite with money I think likewise good at cons

in capital saving cash but I actually not this is obviously your interview but I think I've perhaps gone too far down that way and it's one the analogy I was think of is you know going too slow on the motorway is just as dangerous the speeding and so you do need I think I could have maybe upped my risk tolerance a little bit and you do need to have a little bit of that go for it not be so conservative but of course there's a fine line isn't it?


DF: yeah that is a really good point and I remember having a conversation with someone this would have been years ago probably about 10 years ago and they raised

I don't know let's say probably less than 10 million and I remember saying to them "oh what are you going to spend it on?" he was like well I'm gonna spend it it's not just meant to sit in the bank, and I was like yeah, fair enough, but I think the danger is in the early days you don't know where you should be spending it because if you haven't found product market fit then you just throw spaghetti so and actually I'm saying more you shouldn't be spending it on and just things that are not super frivolous but on the doors as tables things I've changed my thinking on that and I do think a good working environment Now is really important and because you know if you want to get the best out of your people don't be sticking them in a dungeon with no windows you know just terrible chairs there's a fine line and you know a case changed with work from home etc but now I'm in a co-working space now I really like it I get a lot out of it I want to go in every day because it's nice because we have free coffee there's Beer on tap, the people are nice, they still miss that it's it's you know nice furniture chairs are good there's lots of breakouts bases so I have shifted my view on that - not that I was one of those people would seller appreciation for some of those less tangible ROI costs.


SM: So picking it back up so we're on to business number three now which I leave is the first home that you've actually gone into more of a co-founder relationship


DF: okay yes and let me tell you about how that started and so I'd finished with Jensen and worked as well as we wanted to so I was like okay let's on to the next on to the next one and I was kind of figuring out what am I going to do next and then I got this either an email or a Linkedin message from this this guy in America who's like super enthusiastic and his emails and and he's like oh I see what you've done I've got this project I'm working on and you know it's basically making smart clothing labels so connects any piece of clothing to the internet and that would have been 2016 and and so I looked up this guy first of all I thought that sounds kind of cool and I looked the guy up on Google and you know he'd done he'd been through YC before with his previous business he'd done a cool business before that had got loads of kind of like a grade Silicon Valley angel investors well and as well I've got to meet this guy so I met him and he was very enthusiastic and outgoing and and super bright and I was like oh yeah let's you know we sort of spent three months kind of getting to know each other they found a dating whatever you want to call it and we would go to

where was it was you know where cold drops yards is in King's Cross and get overpriced smoothies and and then kind of work on the business and then in the end we were like should we give this a go let's give it a go and so yeah we decided to start this business together which was gonna do what I just describes and smart wireless clothing labels and it was called appaparel and I was like wow okay this is really exciting he's super smart he done some incredible technology it was hardware though so I knew that was going to be a struggle right and there was so many challenges because if you're putting a chip in a piece of clothing you know that's gonna have a battery in it and then you're going to put that through the washing machine even if you're putting it through the dry cleaner I don't know how knowledgeable you are I didn't know this dry cleaning isn't completely dry there is a bit of water or you know chemicals or whatever that blew my mind by the way I'm stupid maybe but as I what felt completely deceived yeah but then actually yeah but then you know how would they clean it without water anyway I digress and yeah so we kind of put together an idea of how things might work and we went to VC he ran a kind of they were a VC fund and a private equity fund who also had a small accelerator that was kind of the way they did their VC Investments was through this accelerator I use that as like dual flow and actually they use that to then excite the big and so they had partnerships feel like John Lewis and TK Maxx and and that the way they did that was to say oh look we've got this pipeline of startups at the Cutting Edge and so anyway we raised investment from them and yeah I really thought that was gonna be how much did you raise by the way do you remember how can I remember but it wasn't a lot it wasn't a pre-seed round that how did it compare to your friends and family like more than that this is like another... but yeah so what we we what we really managed to do well with that business is excite brands and retailers not all of them by the way I'll tell you story I won't mentioned he the brand is but we met the c suite like the whole senior team including the owners of a big retailers and we were pitching it to them as saying all the stuff that you can do in store if you imagine you're all of your clothes in store were connected to the internet you'd be able to because it interacts with a mobile you'll be able to get some kind of knowledge of you know does it get picked up and taken into the changing room or does it just get picked up and dropped and but what we could also do is we could have enabled people to pay on their mobile device which would have disabled to chip and so they could have left and it wouldn't have triggered the alarm right that was one of the things and we did all the research into say into how much queuing costs retailers and and I remember speaking to him and then I the owner of this brand or the CEO whatever I think it's the same in this retail they're like yeah but if they're queuing that's a good thing another I mean it is in the sense that they want to buy but it's not a good thing if the queue so long that they leave and that was our whole point is costing you X million pounds per year with people leaving because accused too long not them specifically but we had a broad kind of you know we've found some research which at that anyway they weren't interested but subsequently Amazon is building stores where you can check out it's not the same technology but anyway so yeah we managed to excite retailers and brands but then the thing we couldn't quite find the value in was the consumer and you need the consumer buy-in because they have to have an app on their phone yeah otherwise you know the chip is just communicating with nothing right it needs to interact with an app so we thought well what are we going to do we're gonna give styling advice and that's the path we went down and turned out it's quite a flimsy thing and yeah it just didn't cut through but we we were getting close to raising investment because it was such big interesting idea and but ultimately we decided this is not going to like again Brian who's my co-founder it's exactly the same as me he wanted to build a monster business and we just couldn't see a way that this would ever be a monster business so in the end we I think me more grudgingly than him decided to knock it on the head. I thought maybe we could do something and maybe it would be different to what we're doing now and I think we should carry on going but he was a take of it so you know that's very nice and we yeah we decided to shut that down before raising the next round and which with hindsights definitely the right thing to do


SM: That's good so then you went back into employment?


DF: so actually then I am yeah I really didn't know what I was going to do after that and I was pretty down about it because I was so excited when I started that and and you know I felt like we we jump through a lot of the hurdles that you need to at the beginning and then it had just been a disappointment and it's always quite down for a while and I kind of you know just moped around at home going what am I going to do what am I going to do and and actually what I settled on doing for a while was a podcast and that was really good because I just was speaking to people and you know as curious about their stories and it just reignited something in me and I was like okay I want to get back into the Startup scene nice and and I talked to a couple of accelerators about working for them and I was really excited about that but actually in the meantime I was doing some advisory work for an organisation called capital Enterprise and they had a program called the green light program which helped founders get investment ready for their first round and so I did that and that was I never done that before I advised investors before but I'd never advised founders before and that I just loved doing that and at the beginning I thought how can I be useful to people who are doing whatever so I helped like a diabetes app, AI business and it's like at the beginning I thought how can I help these people I don't know anything about that but actually very quickly you realise the early stage the problems are all the same it's just the sectors different right so down the line probably I wouldn't have been any use because then you are dealing with sectors specifics but at the beginning it's all about how do we get the deck in the right shape to raise investment and you know how do you get your first 100 customers that's okay very nuances but it's pretty similar across the board so I did that and from that actually a couple of the guys I was advising were in wework Labs which was the internal accelerator we work and I met some of the wework people and they asked me if I go and be the entrepreneur in residence WeWork Labs so I did that and amazing so much fu in their the pre-IPO pre-covid days of wework when they have money to spend and trust me they were spending it. So when I was in there I was kind of thinking what am I going to do am I gonna you know carry on in kind of an advisory sense should I try and become a VC and what happened though I was talking to these people and I was like I think I can I think I could build a business it's going to be really big you know do you think that this experience jump in here is already quickly but this experience here with the Advisory work and being the eir did that help you to kind of lick the wound so to speak from these for sure businesses because really down when you shut down a business right and it's it's incredibly tough because you put your all into it and and you think that that's who you are it's not but you think oh everyone's judging me on this and that probably is true by the way but it doesn't define you but you really think it does but really people get you know no one's thinking about your failures for very long they might do they might sort of get he was gonna fail just to make themselves feel better or whatever right but yeah so yeah the Advisory work was the perfect way of building up the self-confidence as well because people are coming to you if your opinion and and you know I was getting great feedback and because each session I did was you know they had to give feedback on and I won an award in the you know in the year I was doing it and they're internal so it's like oh that's good I'm you know I'm not an idiot as much as you know when you're down that is what you think right so no it's really good but yeah it also made me you know I was looking for a project where I was doing it because I had a fair bit of spare time and and I just stumbled across a problem which I thought that's interesting and then I saw something that was happening in China in e-commerce and I was like okay that kind of that wouldn't necessarily work here but there are elements of it the works so the new business and Kiirsh it's essentially a platform that helps creators start their own consumer brands so you know our first client was accompanied called Jo Mo London which is one of the ladies from Made In Chelsea and her business partner who's a celebrity makeup artists and it's a sexual wellness Brand and that has done really well in fact you know probably going to do some more with them and yeah then we've got a load of other brands in the pipeline but it's really it's a really exciting time it's kind of you know very much of the moment right it's got a lot of creators who are starting brands and by the way I think there's lots of areas we can move into which are not necessarily just that but sort of social commerce you know the crossover between commerce social and entertainment because that's always been there right think of shopping centres that's well that is you know I think of the marriage between I don't know film and fashion and pop music and fashion, then look at all the big fashion brands the way they advertise is like movies or music videos so anyway that's what we're doing now it's going really well very early stage we raised a small round and and it's getting pretty well fantastic


kiirsh homepage screenshot

SM: I'm so pleased and rising like a phoenix you've actually this one now so Kiirsh is venture backed -


DF: no at the moment it's I mean we've got vc's who invested in a personal capacity it's just one round so pre-seed but we'll be you know we'll be going out for another one soon and so sat here now business number five as well as holding these various employment roles you've worked for financial prayer you've worked as an advisors you've got this really blended mix in terms of your kind of career history so far what I guess if we look at the two side the employment entrepreneurship how do you think one has helped the other I guess more specifically how has your roles either being an advisor or just generally you know working for somebody else in employment how has that helped you be a better entrepreneur do you reckon as a good question and I mean the first thing I would say is

so when I worked in the city I worked at Goldman Sachs and the work ethic there is insane wow okay yeah insane so give us an example so well okay I'll give you a good example one time I got in the left and had the lifts at Goldman were really weird because no one would talk to each other by the way and and yeah I mean some people if they knew each other they were talking yeah a woman got on and she knew someone else in the left and they started talking and the woman who was in the left already and she said oh how are you doing and she said I'm alright but I haven't been home in three days she'd been in the office for three days wow no joke as in like just working back on yeah yeah well I don't even know if she slept I mean I'm assuming she did but everyone had toothbrush is there you know fresh shirts and stuff yeah it was an extreme work ethic and I wasn't that kind of I'd by the way I don't think that's the best way of working no it's just a fast track to burnout yeah and but it gave me the appreciation that you know you got to work hard and there's always someone who is going to be working harder so that I think was really important to carry through I think dealing with other people because if you're doing a startup is often a very small team and you do tend to hire people who are either your friends or that you know through acquaintances so it can be a bit you know you can get into a bit of a

you know everyone's thinking in the same way you don't yeah exactly so but when you're working big organizations it tends not to be like that and actually I mean I saw a funny thing the other day it was a meme on Instagram but it was like you know 20 old guy in his first job saying well I never expected my best mate to be the 45 year old divorce guy and like that happens when you're in a big office you know you're suddenly you're with people who would never hang out with and you actually get on really well with them Who Knew right so yeah I think that that stuff does make you a better entrepreneur I would say because you need to understand customers anyway right that's the most important thing so just being open to that sort of thinking yeah and one of my last questions is or having already known you for a while you are also one of the most optimistic people that I know I'm really curious where does that come from and especially again this is now your fifth business you've really been through the ringer you've had your tough times you've had all these failures and things behind you so where do you draw upon to keep going is that just a natural training I don't yeah I think it's just natural and I think you know I think my father was definitely very much like that he was an entrepreneur himself right I don't get me wrong there are like dark times in Dom's life yes I did refer to myself in the third person and yeah but I sometimes they can be really difficult to overcome if you're like on your own but and no I just think yeah maybe I'm just delusional I don't know I do like life I don't like everything about life but most of it I think you know were pretty lucky and I'm exceptionally lucky you know I do appreciate that okay and so yeah I always think there's a chance round the corner and also going back to what we talked about at the beginning I just you know it's not that I have this kind of fatalistic sense that all my father died young therefore I'm definitely also gonna die I don't hopefully not right but I do think it gives you an appreciation that time is finite and you can't just be doing you know you can't be living someone else's life and obviously there's a certain amount of privilege that allows you to think like that right we're not all lucky enough that we can follow our true desires in life but yeah I for me I made that decision that I'm going to just keep pursuing within you know the realms of possibility what I want to do that can be challenging to be around, that's just my kind of like online and so closing words to any entrepreneurs who are listening to this who have maybe had failed businesses themselves or maybe their feeling a bit like oh and between or how do I pull through having kind of had quite a few of these Ventures before


SM: What would be your final kind of words of wisdom your advice to them?


DF: I would say first of all you should be really clear in your thinking of whether you know startups are for you or the entrepreneurial lifestyle is for you because it's not for a lot of people let's be clear about that and but also you know failure is very sort of fleeting and it doesn't define you as much as you think it does unless it's an absolute disaster unless he do something idiotic as well or unless you're incredibly unlucky but as I said earlier people really don't think about you as much as you think as we all think they do you know so no one like they move on very quickly with their problems and you know I've been incredibly harsh on myself in the way I because my goals have always been I want to build a unicorn and that I haven't done yet but we've had amazing success in terms of how many people we got to use our products we made money with all of them not with apparel but you know and had users from around the world we've people have loved what we're doing you know people who know about the industry and they go yeah this is something cool so you know cut yourself some slack has probably what I'd say it's probably not as bad as your making it out to yourself yeah funny enough just on that before we wrap it reminds me of literally just last night I heard about the story of how Megadeth were founded which was you may well know this was completely I'm not a massive Megadeth fan this is completely new to me but basically it was one of the group members was ousted by Metallica I really and his goal was to build a band and still agree that was more successful than Metallica was a pure like Revenge thing yeah because it was so her and because you know faviced out of the group and I never achieved never overtook Metallica in terms of any success metric and there was a big concert Festival where they were one of the headliners but the main headliner was Metallica so it was a very even in terms of just like the poster design it was a very visual representation and Metallica across the top and then underneath and actually the success that they had in if you look at them objectively in a standalone way is it they got to tour all over the place you don't have all the stats but like you know they they were still very success but the founder of that group or whatever the musical equivalent time is for that never saw it was very you know there's this analogy who never saw himself as a success because that goal was just so yeah you see that tragic really but this is the similar to what you've experienced you've not built your unicorn and so it's how all these other businesses are framed but actually as you say you have enjoyed all of this success that's Justified in its own way and you think about how many people's lives you touch with these kind of hem products and you know even if it's just a little bit of Joy that you're bringing into their lives


SM: well that's definitely not a failure is it definitely say all right wonderful well lovely note to leave this on Dom thank you so much for being here.

Podcast artwork for Strategy & Tragedy

Strategy & Tragedy: CEO Stories with Steph Melodia is the best podcast for curious entrepreneurs and ambitious founders. Learn from those a few steps ahead of you in these candid interviews of the highs and lows of scaling and failing business. Watch the full episode here, subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music. Thank you for listening and for supporting the show!

Comments


bottom of page