Elijah Young is the Co-Founder of Fandura. Fandura creates mobile, social and web applications for brands and individuals spanning five continents. Their designs and processes allow their customers to launch Fortune 500 quality apps that compliment their business and truly bring their ideas to life.
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- “Never give up.” – Unknown
- Elijah returned to his old stomping grounds and thought he was going to make it big with his new business. Instead, it failed quite miserably, but the lessons he learned were invaluable.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Elijah had that lightbulb moment, and he describes so well how he took that moment and turned it into the success he has today.
- Fandura is way ahead of the curve on mobile. Find out how Elijah intends on keeping it that way.
Small Business Resource
- Same questions… but super unique answers.
Best Business Book
- The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
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John Lee Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, Elijah Young. Elijah, are you prepared to ignite?
Elijah Young: Yes.
John Lee Dumas: Alright! Elijah is the cofounder of Fandura. They create mobile, social and web applications for brands and individuals spanning five continents. Their designs and processes allow their customers to launch Fortune 500 quality apps that complement their business and truly bring their ideas to life.
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, Elijah, but why don’t you take it from here? Tell us a little bit about you personally. We want to get to know you. And then tell us about your business.
Elijah Young: Alright. So me, I am an only child who is just now learning to like people.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs]
Elijah Young: I kind of got into business on accident. A friend of mine was starting a company down in Florida and kind of took me along as an extra because I wasn’t really doing very much, but I kind of fell in love with the idea of business. Really, the science of it that your success isn’t something that happens magically, but there are actually specific steps that you can take to give yourself a better chance to succeed or to put yourself in a better position to be successful and I just fell in love with that freedom. So I was starting company after company. I’ve been teaching interns, I’ve been teaching entrepreneurship curriculum almost a decade now and I just don’t see it stopping any time soon. Fandura is the newest company. We’re getting into building cool things for iOS, Android and the web and I can see myself doing that for a pretty long time, in addition to speaking about mobile apps, speaking about marketing and writing for any site that’s foolish enough to take my text.
John Lee Dumas: Well I think you’re definitely in a good industry with mobile, Elijah. I’m really seeing the benefit, being a podcaster with just an iPhone and iOS going – everything’s going to the mobile now and it’s an exciting place to be. So I definitely commend you for being ahead of the curve there. Let’s use that to transition now to our first real topic, which is your success quote, because at EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to get the motivational ball rolling. You told me in the pre-interview you’ve been thinking about this all morning, so I know you have a really special success quote for us, Fire Nation. Go for it.
Elijah Young: Definitely. I keep it very simple. I just say “never give up.” The reason I say that is because a lot of times when we have these dreams and when we have these ideas of starting a business, it’s very easy to paint a very rainbow, “unicornesc” picture, and once we run into that first brick wall, once we run into that first roadblock, reality hits, and a lot of times that’s enough to knock people off the track. I believe to really be great, to really be amazing at anything, you have to be willing to be horrible at it for a non-specified amount of time, and getting through that moment, getting through, empowering through that phase of growth and development is what really separates those who excel from those who just try a lot of things and quit.
John Lee Dumas: I love that, Elijah. Now take it down to the ground level because this is about your journey. What was one time when you really applied this mentality to you, to your life, to your business?
Elijah Young: When I actually went back to Columbus, Ohio from Florida, I started a company called “Young Business Development” that, in short, just did not do very well. It kind of flopped and I lost everything. It was terribly embarrassing. I was coming back to the city where I went to college at and all my friends were and I was supposed to be like this business guy, but things just didn’t work out. That was one of the times where I literally had to sit in the apartment and look around and say, “Alright. Well what are you going to do next?” because no one’s going to walk out and hand you a great job or hand you a fully formed company. You can either quit or you can start from scratch and do this over again. Actually, that next step, that next move that I took actually led to me building the entrepreneurship curriculum that I ended up teaching for the next like 5 or 6 years to teens and adults in the Columbus area. So I don’t just say it. I know it. It’s tough a lot more than it’s fun, but getting through those moments is really what proves what type of person you are. You learn more about yourself than you ever will about whatever company you’re running at the time.
John Lee Dumas: So true, Elijah. That is just a perfect segue to our next topic, which is failure. As entrepreneurs, we live failure. Every single day, we are encountering it on some level. It’s what makes us stronger, it’s what improves our businesses, it’s what keeps us light in our feet, but man, you just shared with us a real generous story about how you failed at some point in your past. But this is about your journey, so we want to just again look back and really take out another challenge or an obstacle that you had at some point – maybe with Fandura, maybe not, your choice – but share with Fire Nation some challenge or obstacle that you had to overcome and the process that you took to overcome that.
Elijah Young: So going back to what I was saying about kind of painting a lot of things with rosy pictures, I decided that I was going to start an internship program in Columbus and I was going to get college students and get teens interested in starting these businesses. One of the things that you have to learn when you start to teach is that not everything you teach will be implemented. So it was actually a lesson that was taught to me by the Executive Director of the Godman Guild in Columbus, Ohio. She sat me down and she said, “Listen,” this was when I was teaching the 14 and 15 year old students. “They have a chance a chance to start a business today or they have a chance to put all this knowledge to use, but it may not click until they’re 25. It may not click until they’re 35. When you resign yourself or when you decide to teach someone something, the immediate feedback or the immediate gratification is something that you really have to forego. You really have to just say I’m planting the seed and I don’t know when this thing is going to grow.”
That was frustrating for me because I was used to being in control as the CEO, being the dictator over the business, and having to kind of resign myself to say, “Well I’m just going to plant these seeds” and some of these students will completely ignore it and some of them will take immediate action, but some will, 3, 4, 5 years down the line, maybe when they don’t even know me anymore, those ideas will take hold and they’ll do something with them, is what’s really hard for me. So I guess that could be another growth moment that I had to go through to kind of get me where I am now.
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely, Elijah. As a side note, can you share with us a story where maybe you did plant that seed at some point and you saw it bloom to some fruition?
Elijah Young: Well I actually had this intern, Steven, who when he was in the internship, he did fairly well and he was taking advantage of the ideas. But a lot of times, reality hits you when you graduate from college. You have to go get a job. You can’t just start your business because you need some money. We connected later and we talked kind of about the internship and some things I wanted to do down here in Atlanta. He told me how he had organized something called “The Most Epic Trip,” which was something like 30 or 40 states and like climbing mountains in every state. They traveled something like over 100,000 miles. He keeps telling me that the lessons that he learned during the internship allowed him to get sponsors and basically do this entire thing for free and get a lot of publicity out of it. He created a blog for himself. These weren’t things that he was working on while we were working together. This was something that later, it clicked, and he started to put these things together, and I was just so proud of what he had accomplished, even though I had nothing to do with the actual execution because he did it well after the internship was over. It was just that those seeds were planted and he was listening, even if he didn’t think that the ideas took hold at the time.
John Lee Dumas: Thank you for sharing that side story. That’s exactly what I was looking for and that’s really inspiring as to exactly what can happen when you do plant those seeds. Elijah, let’s transition now to our next topic, which is the other end of the spectrum from our original topic which was failure or challenges. That’s the aha moments that we have because as entrepreneurs, every single day, we’re innovating on some level. We’re having these little aha moments that are inspiring us, that are moving us forward. But every now and then we have these big light bulbs that just come on and we really just say, “Wow! This is going to resonate so well with me, with my clients, with my customers and what have you.” Have you had an aha moment at some point in your journey? If so, can you share that with Fire Nation and how you turned that aha moment into success?
Elijah Young: To date, my biggest aha moment was in Florida. To give you some background, I went to Ohio State. I dropped out after three years. I was devastated. I thought college was the way. I had the opportunity to go down with a friend and start a business down there and I started my second company teaching BLS, which is basically CPR in hospitals for doctors and nurses. I remember one day, this doctor came into my class and said, “I have to take the class today although I’m not registered because I can’t work if I don’t keep my certification current.” It dawned on me that this guy had spent an extra eight years in school and God knows however many extra years in residency or whatever medical doctors do and I was a dropout, and unless he took my class, there was no way he going to be able to work that day. That’s when it clicked for me. That’s when I had that kind of aha moment where you can literally, whatever you think in your head, you can start it as a business and you literally have that control. Like no one ever asked me for my degree and no one ever asked me for like my development credentials or any of the certifications that they’ll ask you for when you go and get a regular job. They just assume that you have this expertise, and that was really something that freed me up. It freed my thinking, say whatever I really think, I can make a reality and make people interact with, and I think that’s a hurdle that a lot of new entrepreneurs need to get past. They have kind of these boxes that are put on us from society, from school, whatever you’ve been through, whatever your experiences are, but to really understand that anything you think in your head, there’s nobody that’s going to stand in your way. So it’s freeing and it kind of takes you to another level and allows you to kind of do some things that maybe you weren’t even aware that you were capable of before.
John Lee Dumas: Wow, Elijah! That truly is a powerful aha moment and it is so freeing on so many levels because you’re right. As entrepreneurs, we just sometimes put ourselves in these boxes for no good reason and there doesn’t have to be these walls that are in place there. In fact, we can really write our own story or we can make our own pathways and that’s just such a great message that Fire Nation really needs to understand and listen to, and your aha moment is really insightful and going to help us go down that path. So thank you for sharing that. We’ll use that to transition to our next real question. This is a tough question because entrepreneurs always interpret this in many different ways. Elijah, have you had an I’ve made it moment?
Elijah Young: That was an I’ve made it moment. That aha moment was I now can kind of control things. I had a false I’ve made it moment when I went back to Columbus and started Young Business Development, which luckily crashed around me. But I don’t think my ambition will allow me to have another I’ve made it moment for a while because I’ve put a lot of pressures on myself and I’ve put a lot of expectations on myself. Once I kind of cross one of those things off the list, there are like five more that I’m ready to add at any time. So I can’t honestly say that I’ve had that I’ve made it moment or that I’ve had another one since that false one back in ’05, ’06.
John Lee Dumas: Now when you had that false I’ve made it moment, what were some lessons or one lesson in particular that you can really pull out of that situation where that business crashed around you that you really applied to your business going forward?
Elijah Young: From that experience, the biggest thing I took away was not resting on your laurels. What happened in that situation was I kind of let my ego get a little larger than it needed to be and thought just because I had had some previous success in certain areas, that automatically, it would transfer into this new area. So I think the biggest lesson to take is you need to learn each business individually. There are always lessons, there are always successes and failures that you could take along with you, but you need to I guess be humble enough to learn and never think that, okay, well I’ve got this, because there’s always a caveat because I’ve jumped around a ton of industries just because I love the idea of business and there’s always these small caveats and there’s always this learning curve in every industry that you have to be aware of. Now I don’t know how that applies to a lot of listeners who may not jump around in industries a lot, but even if you work with different client bases – I’ve been working with medical professionals for 20 years, and now I want to work with startup entrepreneurs. You have to learn those individuals. You can’t take those old ideologies and just apply them to that new group. Everybody has their own variables, their own set of variables, that you need to respect and understand for you to be successful.
John Lee Dumas: Something that my uncle has said his entire life that’s resonating with me more and more each year that I get older is be humble, be happy. I think it’s a great mantra. It’s something that we can always repeat to ourselves because no matter how great things are and no matter how horrible things are, this too shall pass, and as long as we’re humble and happy and we really try to maintain that mentality, then we’re at least on the right side of the fence. So Elijah, thank you for sharing that with us.
Elijah Young: No worries.
John Lee Dumas: So Elijah, you have a lot of really interesting things going on right now with your current business. What is one thing that’s really exciting you about your business right now?
Elijah Young: Mobile is kind of like a microcosm of that lesson I learned in entrepreneurship where you can kind of build anything in your mind. Now you can literally sit down at any laptop and build anything that’s in your head, and you don’t need to spend 50 grand on a brick and mortar office. You don’t need to hire a staff of 20 to be successful. You can literally have an idea, build it, release it and – I mean there are a ton of ways you can go. You can sell it to the masses, you can sell it to an investment firm, you can grow it and build it into your own company. There are so many opportunities that you have and the overhead is almost nothing. Everyone has access to a laptop. Almost everyone has access to the Internet. So it’s very difficult for you to have kind of any excuses to not try something. So the most exciting thing about mobile is it’s everywhere. Even in countries that are lacking in other technological areas, they’re excelling at mobile. So you can expand anywhere. So I can go to Brazil and do this and not miss a beat. I can go anywhere in the United States and set up shop and have an office. So there really are no limitations and I’m not really bound by any of the things that I used to be with some of the brick and mortar companies I had in the past.
John Lee Dumas: That’s very true, and I’ll even take what you said one step further because you said if you have an idea, you can sit down and build it as long as you have access to the Internet, and that is so true on every single level. I just had on the show Chris Ducker from Virtual Staff Finder and the conversation with him was so great because it even takes that and says, “Hey, if you just have the idea, you can reach out and find brilliant people to create that for you at such a reasonable cost these days because there is just this unbelievable way to leverage the Internet and to use your resources to reach out and find the people that can create what you have in your mind for so much value on the dollar. Have you found that to be the case?
Elijah Young: I do. I agree with Chris and what Chris has been able to build is nothing short of phenomenal. I will put an asterisk on that though. I’ve had a couple of conversations with my cofounder recently about taking away the responsibility of the idea. I think a lot of times, especially in mobile, you can’t just export the responsibility of creating something great onto someone else. So I think sometimes you take that kind of outsource mentality and say, “Okay, well I’ll just have the idea and throw it to this person and sit back and it’s going to jump off, it’s going to be fantastic.” Having the idea is – well I personally say it’s worthless, but I’ll be nicer. I’ll say it’s not the entire piece of the it. I’d say ideas are useless. Execution is everything. A lot of times, people put a lot of stock in the idea. It’s like you can’t imagine how many NDAs we sign and a ton of those NDAs after we sign them, they’re like, “Oh, well I want to clone Angry Birds.” So it’s not really the idea that makes you successful. It’s what happens after it’s built that really separates the wheat from the chaff. So I’d put that small asterisk on the outsource idea, but everything else is completely spot on. You don’t even need the technical skill, although the tools are there for free, the tools like iTunes U and [Coursera] to get those skills because development isn’t going anywhere over the next decade or two. So it’s not a bad skill to learn and have in the arsenal.
John Lee Dumas: It’s definitely a great skill to have, and it’s just great that nowadays, you don’t have to let that stop you just because you don’t have the skills. I could not agree with you more. You can go out there and there’s so many awesome resources to learn it because you need to be the master of your idea, of your domain, but that should never be the reason why you’re not actually starting. That’s the most important thing, is just start. So I totally think that everything you’re saying is spot on. We need to own it and we need to just drive forward and make it our own. So thank you for sharing that vision with us.
Elijah Young: No worries.
John Lee Dumas: So Elijah, the word “entrepreneur” is a mystery to so many people. At EntrepreneurOnFire, we try to pull the curtain back so you can really peek in and see exactly what an entrepreneur does during the course of every day. Can you just share with us two tasks that seem to occupy a good part of your day every single day?
Elijah Young: The main thing that occupies my mind – because I wear 10 hats so I do a ton of tasks – but the top thing that occupies my mind each day is our systems. So how can we create forms, training manuals, video tutorials that help the different departments – that help the sales department, that help the developers understand the context of an idea if English may not be their first language or how do we create an internship program that’s almost like a farm system where we can teach our ideology to students here similarly to what I did in Columbus and kind of build our staff from the ground up instead of kind of breaking the ideologies of another developer who’s done it his way for 10 years and then [wants to come with us]. So systems is a huge part of what occupies my mind.
The other side is now just coding. I like to get my hands in the code now. I used to be hands off completely, but it goes back to kind of learning those audiences that I talked about earlier. I can build better systems if I’m in there understanding each day. Like if the CEO of Burger King worked at the drive-thru window, he’d understand the issues much better than he would in his office in the tower making policy. So that’s kind of two of the things that kind of take up my day now.
John Lee Dumas: Elijah, what is your vision for the future of Fandura?
Elijah Young: The same as the vision for any of my companies. I want to build it to a certain point and then decide what to do. Like I said, I am in love with the idea of business. Not necessarily any particular business. So right now I love development. I love mobile. We may continue making third party apps. We may one day get tired of that and say, “Okay, well we have tons of great ideas. Why not just start making our own?” Well what we focus on now is building the best systems for whatever field or whatever kind of target market that we’re working with now. So now we just want to make sure that we have the most efficient system to build third party apps. Those come with hiccups. Sometimes things go well, sometimes things go awry, but really just learning from each one of those experiences and tweaking the system so the next crop of customers have a better experience than the previous crop. I try to keep it as simple as that, and then if one day comes where I’m like, “Okay, I’m tired of talking to people. Let’s build our own stuff,” then we’ll do so.
John Lee Dumas: Love the vision. Elijah, we’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I can ask you a series of questions and you can come back at us, Fire Nation, with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Elijah Young: As opposed to what I’ve been doing.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] What was something that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Elijah Young: My idea of success. At 17, my idea of success was being a Molecular Geneticist and making 50 grand a year. It wasn’t until my context was expanded by a friend of mine that I understood that I could do more with my talents.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business advice you ever received?
Elijah Young: Being liked is overrated.
John Lee Dumas: What’s something that’s working for you or your business right now?
Elijah Young: Something that’s working well for me right now is actually kind of digging into code myself. Kind of like what I just said. My getting that ground level experience is helping me build better systems.
John Lee Dumas: So Elijah, you’re pretty cutting edge with technology. Do you have an Internet resource like an Evernote or something along those lines that you’re just in love with right now that you can share with Fire Nation?
Elijah Young: I’ve got a couple. I just recently adopted OmniFocus, which is amazing because there’s so many open loops and there’s so many small snippets of information I have to keep track of and it’s just wonderful. I keep it in all my devices so I can sync anywhere. Right now I’ll just give you OmniFocus as my main kind of organizational tool.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! What is your favorite business book?
Elijah Young: Alright. So my favorite business book is “48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! So Elijah, this is the last question and it’s by far my favorite, but it’s kind of tricky. So take your time, digest it, and then come back at us with an answer.
Elijah Young: Alright.
John Lee Dumas: If you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth but you knew nobody. You still have all the experience and knowledge that you currently have, but only $500 in your pocket, a computer with Internet access and your food and shelter is taken care of. What do you do in the next seven days?
Elijah Young: Over the next seven days, I’ll go to Meetup.com and get out and meet people wherever I happen to be. The second thing I would do is start a business. So I’d go down to the Secretary of State and register something. It doesn’t really matter. Then the third thing I would probably do is build something during the wee hours when everyone else is sleeping.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, awesome stuff, Elijah. That was such actionable advice, and you’ve given us actionable advice this entire interview and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Elijah Young: Anyone with an idea or anyone that wants to become an entrepreneur, really take to heart the idea that you control everything. Whether things go right or wrong, always take responsibility and say it’s your fault, even if it’s really not. I’ve learned that you can always find a lesson and find something to improve if you say it’s your fault, but you never learn anything by blaming anyone else.
I am Elijah R. Young. The company is Fandura. We build cool things at www.fandura.com.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome, Elijah! This will all be linked up in the show notes – EntrepreneurOnFire.com/86. Thank you again for your generous time. Fire Nation, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.