4 Professionals Who Failed Their Way to Success

Published on: November 3rd, 2017
MONEY. FAME. FORTUNE.The typical hallmarks and trappings of success are tired and outdated. The concept of a career is more nebulous than ever, technology is constantly changing the business world, and world markets vacillate as though they’re controlled by a baby with a TV remote. Even without these distinctly modern challenges, success is hard: to achieve and to maintain. The following local men and women— including YS’s publisher Shavonne Blades—attest to the reality that failing your way to success is just as legitimate, viable and even lucky a path as any other. For a new age, we need a new understanding of the successful businesswoman or man. And oftentimes, failure isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a necessity.

IMG_2067JAMIE TEMPLE

Case Logic founder and former CEO

In 1984, 28 years old and a freshman in college for the second time, Jamie Temple was preparing to return to school. But before he did, his brother asked him a question: “What are you going to do?” Though seemingly mundane, it changed the course of Temple’s life.

In 1975, after getting cut from the US ski team, Tem- ple enrolled in the University of Colorado and joined the school’s downhill ski program. He soon dropped out and joined the World Pro Tour for ski racing. Never finding great success, he quit and started coaching junior ski racing.

For several years he worked as a coach at Sierra Blanca, New Mexico, and at Loveland Basin, Colorado. “I was fired from both ski coaching jobs,” Temple said. “I noticed a pattern of not being able to work for other people very well. I knew inherently that I had to be my own boss or I might not be very happy with the outcome.”

So when his brother asked him, “What are you going to do?” Temple took stock. He thought about inefficiencies that he had noticed in daily life and instantly settled on one: cassette tape storage. Random? Perhaps. But it animated him. Temple dropped out of school and threw all his energy into what would become Case Logic. The company specialized in manufacturing audio cassette tape storage units: boxes and towers that could hold dozens of tapes.

“We came up with two styles,” Temple said. “Our first customer was the National Luggage Dealers Association in the fall of 1984.”

From there, Case Logic rose fast and remained agile, branching into CD storage units as the music industry changed. During his tenure as CEO before he left the company in 1996, Temple grew Case Logic from a college kid’s idea to a company with $85 million in annual gross revenue.

Those early days skiing, scrounging out a living as a professional athlete and then a coach, were not for naught, though. “The skills as a ski racing coach did transfer in some ways to my role as CEO,” Temple said. “Whether a racer or an employee, my job was to motivate people to do their best.”

Case Logic never had a negative quarter with Temple at the helm. He chalks it up to quality: “We had really good products and we were really good at servicing our customers.” While making piles of money was a good perk, Temple’s real motivator was his love of competition: “I didn’t just want to make money. I enjoyed the process of winning in business.”

Temple changed gears in 1996 after leaving Case Logic behind. He got into real estate development with his brother Jeff. They oversaw a number of financially successful projects in Colorado in places like Frisco, Steamboat Springs and Boulder. And then, in 2008, disaster struck. Jamie and Jeff’s company went belly up right as the Great Recession hit. “I was forced to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy,” Temple said.

“So there I was, having fallen off a pretty good mountain of money, back down in the desert with nothing. It was pretty rough,” he recalled, stoically. “I went from having homes in three or four states and a very fancy lifestyle with my own private jet, to nothing. I had no assets, was borrowing money to live.”

But Temple refused to give up. In 2013, he and his brother started another real estate development firm, Momentum Development, LLC. Temple said it “was like rising from the ashes.”

Jamie Temple is no longer worth tens of millions of dollars. He no longer jets around in a private plane. But he has emerged better, stronger and wiser. “I went through the fire, and now I feel like I’m back out in the meadow and there are some very nice green grasses growing again,” he said. “I learned in competitive sports that even if you sustain an injury, you can recover and be back on top. Losing everything in business, it didn’t take away my ability to be a businessman and build wealth again.”

Now 61 years old, Temple said, “I think I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. I’ve got a good, positive upbeat outlook on life. It feels great to be back on my feet.”

Jimmy_Seidel_2JIMMY SEIDEL

Snarf’s founder and owner

Update: Snarf’s announced on Nov 1 the expansion of their sandwich emporium with two new sandwich locations and an additional Snarfburger concept. The new locations are: 1490 S Broadway in Old Sinclair Gas Station (Now Open), Snarf’s: 2527 Federal Blvd. (2018 Opening), Snarfburger: 2535 Federal Blvd. (2018 Opening), Snarf’s: Terminal A of DIA (Mid 2018), and Snarf’s & Snarfburger: 131 Blue River Parkway in Dillon, Colorado (2018).

When Jimmy Seidel opened Snarf’s Sandwiches in 1996, he took a leap of faith. In his twenties, after graduating from Drake University, he pursued a career in finance, as a floor trader at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. “It wasn’t ever a satisfying job. I never got any joy out of it and figured I was just going through the motions,” he said. “I thought it was time to get out of the misery I was in and move forward with my dream.”

So despite having no experience in restaurants, he pulled a 180 and founded a sub shop. He named the eatery Snarf’s. The quirky and catchy title was inspired by a nickname Seidel acquired in college, for his tendency to eat quickly, loudly and passionately.

Seidel remembers Snarf’s origins fondly. “I picked Boulder because it’s such a beautiful spot and I thought I could do very well here,” he said. “We didn’t come here with a bunch of money to open a bunch of stores. I started with a 650 square foot little shack on Pearl Street.”

The original Snarf ’s became a local favorite among discern- ing Boulderites. With a keen eye for quality in his menu concepts and a determination to use the freshest ingredients possible, Seidel built up his restaurant’s reputation one customer at a time. Three years after establishing the eatery on Pearl Street, Seidel decided it was time to grow. In 1999, he expanded into Arapahoe, Fort Collins, and opened a second shop in Boulder.

In 2013, Seidel suddenly ran into trouble. He shut down his Fort Collins shop and one of his Snarf’s restaurants in Boulder. “The [Fort Collins] location looked to me to be great. It wasn’t. If I hadn’t already done it, I’d probably go back and do it again because it just looks good,” Seidel said.

Seidel knew that he had grown beyond his means. To keep Snarf’s alive, he realized that he couldn’t afford to compromise on quality for the sake of expansion. “I never worked in the restaurant business. I never worked in the service industry. I essentially worked for myself by the time I got out of school, and to pro- vide a great meal for a great value in service is the toughest thing. This is a hard way to make a living and it’ll break your heart, but there is a lot of reward in it, too,” Seidel said.

As his Snarf’s empire contracted to a more manageable size, Seidel once again found the sweet spot of loving what he does. And he knows that, hard work and persistence aside, there’s a certain amount of luck involved in the Snarf’s story: “The breed of people that step out and start a business on their own—that’s an incredible person to take that risk and put everything on the line every single day,” Seidel said. “The people who do it, they’re never failures. I think that they are out there trying to achieve something special. Not every business is going to succeed and most of them obviously don’t. The lucky few have been lucky.” Snarf’s may yet expand into untested Front Range markets, but Seidel is in no rush. For now he’s content to conquer Boulder one sandwich at a time and confront head-on whatever obstacles arrive next.

Margaret-Miner_Rags-Consignment1MARGARET MINER

Rags Consignments founder and owner

One of the most important decisions Margaret Miner recalls making after starting her own business was not to attach anything to the walls. In 1995, she opened Rags Consignments in Boulder. She had no background in business, so she simply applied everything she learned from the only book she could find on how to start a consignment shop.

“I was sort of making it up as I went along,” she said. “I was about ready to sign the lease with my landlord and there was a line in there that said, if it failed, he would get to keep anything that was attached to the walls. So I didn’t. I knew this had the likelihood of failure because small businesses generally fail.”

Rather than simply follow the trends, Miner wanted to sell the kind of clothes that she and her friends would buy, brands like Banana Republic and J. Crew. And the recipe worked: The first Rags Consignment, in Boulder, enjoyed steady success in its inaugural decade.

And so, Miner decided to try her hand at another business. In 2004, she opened a nail and waxing spa. She operated it successfully for over a decade, but quietly closed the salon’s doors in 2016 when it became too much to handle.

Miner also opened a second Rags Consignments location in 2008, just three months before the financial crisis. In addition to clothing, the new 9,000 square foot store featured home goods and furniture. Shortly after it was up and running, Miner planned with her landlord to put a clause in the lease that would allow her to buy her way out if the business was doomed.

“We came out of the gate re- ally strong, with good sales,” she said. “Then, three months into it, everything tanked and people quit spending for a while. So I ended up having to take that option [that we had put in the lease].” The store closed just six months after it opened. “It was horrible,” Miner said.

The next six years were a series of ups and downs for Miner, personally and professionally. In 2014 she remarried, and together with her new husband opened another Rags location in the Lower Denver Highlands. They signed a questionable lease because the location seemed perfect, and, cruelly, the store was sold out from under them several years after.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around half of all businesses in the U.S. fail after five years and only a third of them make it past their 10 year anniversary. It’s a statistic that Miner didn’t know back in 1995 and one that she admits would have made her think twice before starting Rags Consignment.

She’s happy she tried, though. “To me things that maybe have been regarded as failures by other people don’t really feel like failures. They just feel like it’s part of the process. It just means you go on to a different thing. It’s all scary,” Miner said.

Currently Miner is working harder than she has in the past 15 years, running back and forth between her Boulder and Cherry Creek stores. She has had to juggle multiple respon- sibilities to balance out a short- age in the labor market, but has kept an unwavering optimism.

“I was resilient as a kid and a young adult, and I think that I’ve gotten stronger through all these years,” Miner acknowledged. She’s still determined to use her intuited business training, and the gumption or grit to do whatever it takes, to see Rags through. And, perhaps most importantly, she still loves the job.

Shavonne-Blades1_Yellow-Scene-Magazine_FounderSHAVONNE BLADES

Yellow Scene founder and publisher

After 17 years in business, I have come to many conclusions. I don’t know what it’s like for the big guys, but I know this: running a small business is hard. Not just a little hard—really hard. Someone told me once, “If you can survive your mistakes, you will probably be alright.” Not guaranteed alright, just probably alright.

I didn’t start out in business looking for a spiritual journey—for me it started with a dream—but I certainly got one. One of the things I have learned is that it’s important to look at the successes as much as the failures. But it’s the failures that teach us, and it’s the failures that have shaped me as a human being.

When we are out hobnobbing in the business world, we show up, we smile, we tell people how great everything is and all that we have accomplished. And we never, ever talk about our struggles—except for behind closed doors.

However, we should be talk- ing about failures. The challenges and the struggles. Be- cause they exist, and they’re even larger and more daunting when the buck stops with you.

YS is now in it’s 17th year. We had a “romantic” start to the business. I was living in a 500 square foot apartment, bartending at night, raising a five-year- old son and starting a local community re- source that we hand-walked to the first 4,000 houses we delivered to—without any start-up funds. Bootstrap all the way.

Our story goes something like this. Our first 12 years we grew, and grew, and grew, slowly and steadily. We scrapped our way to that growth: if we didn’t have the money, we didn’t spend it. We stayed true to our mission: high journalism, design, and distribution standards. We were blessed with amazing people who graced our pages and our office; talented, dedicated individuals who wanted to build this “thing” we believed so seriously in. Then one day we grew too much, more than we knew how to handle. Turbulence ensued and a whole new set of challenges came —not from failure but from success.

I did not know this back in 2011 when we expanded and started a new magazine, Colorado Brides to Colorado Babies, but you have to earn the right to grow. Growth has hidden traps that can crush a small business. Over the 30 years I have worked in media, I have seen it happen. I knew better. I had already witnessed what not to do. But I had success under my belt—I was going to be fine.

Then I proceeded to do pretty much everything you aren’t supposed to do.

We grew from eight to 16 employees overnight. I learned the hard way about having too much staff, the wrong staff, hiring, firing, borrowing and overextension. One of the things I learned is that when you grow, costs go up, too—significantly.

Learning forgiveness is something I never expected to face in business. However, self-forgiveness is a whole different thing. Finding self-forgiveness has been a critical component to picking myself up, brushing myself off and carrying forward.

My stubbornness and our refusal to compromise the quality of what we produce is what has kept us going through those challenges. Had we compromised on quality, then everything I believe in about media, along with the YS mission, would have also been compromised.

YS is celebrating 17 years and I am damn proud of that. We will celebrate many more, as far as I am concerned. I am determined to grow and learn from my mistakes. I love what I do and I want to keep doing it. It starts there. Sometimes it’s just about not giving up.

I recently acquired an advisory board, an amazing gift brought to me by a dear friend. I have been graced with these brilliant people who are willing to help guide me through the difficult decisions and challenges. In our first meeting I was told, “The windshield is bigger than the rear view mirror for a reason.”

I am grateful I get to do what I love, and believe there is still life in this girl. My only advice is, if you love what you do, it’s worth fighting for. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Stay calm; sometimes things feel worse than they are. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but ask the right people. Listen to your inner voice: it often knows the right answers. And never, never, never give up on what’s important to you.

The gentle way to put it is, it’s been a growing curve for me. I’ve definitely grown. Here’s to another day of putting one foot in front of the other.

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