Join us for an insightful episode featuring Braden Handley, co-founder of Inkbox, the innovative temporary tattoo company. Braden shares the story behind Inkbox's success, from its inception in 2015 to its acquisition in 2022, taking it from $10,000 to $80 Million.
In our conversation, we explore Braden's entrepreneurial drive, the challenges of hiring and firing friends, and the significance of humility in leadership. Discover how Braden leaned into his superpowers to navigate the dynamic world of entrepreneurship.
Whether you're a business enthusiast or an aspiring entrepreneur, this episode offers a glimpse into the highs, lows, and valuable lessons of building and selling a company. Don't miss out on the wisdom and experiences shared by Braden Hanley in this engaging discussion.
"You do not need to work 18 hour days. If you do, then you're probably building the business wrong.” - Braden Handley
00:04:25 Entrepreneurship is a lifelong passion.
00:11:22 Humility is key in partnerships.
00:11:52 Confidence and consistency are key.
00:19:46 Hiring friends can be challenging.
00:23:32 Culture-driven hiring leads to success.
00:29:25 Develop confidence through experience and self-reflection.
00:34:25 Embrace vulnerability and bury emotions.
00:40:22 Balance and rest are essential.
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[00:00:00] Rob Pintwala: [00:01:00] This episode is with Braden Hanley. Braden is the co-founder of Inkbox, a temporary tattoo company. He and his brother started in 2015. Inkbox was sold in 2022, and now Braden is looking towards the future. During our conversation, we talked about how Inkbox got started and we braden's entrepreneurial drive and work ethic.
[00:01:29] We talk about hiring friends and what it's like to have to fire friends. We also discussed the concept of humility and developing and leaning into your superpowers. I hope you enjoy this episode with Braden Hanley.
[00:01:43] Rob Pintwala: Hey, Braden, so good to connect with you today. Again, thanks for having yourself on actualize
[00:01:48] Braden Handley: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:50] Rob Pintwala: Uh, That was awkward. All right, man. I want to just ask you about how you're doing. It's been about two years since you sold your [00:02:00] company and I'm wondering if you've had any time to reflect on it. The whirlwind that must've been
[00:02:07] Rob Pintwala: inkbox.
[00:02:08] Braden Handley: I think I'm mostly just reflecting right now, actually. Because I'm winding down my time at Inkbox, I'm still there until the end of the year, so I haven't had much time to actually sit and think about it. Now I've been going through old photos and videos just collecting things so I don't lose them.
[00:02:29] Braden Handley: And. I'm starting to reflect more on the journey and what a ride it was. It felt like an absolute blur. So it's interesting to look back on now and just, I don't even know what's going through my mind most of the time.
[00:02:47] Rob Pintwala: Well, it sounds like I caught you at the perfect time here. The beginning of the reflection, so I'm stoked for that. For those who aren't familiar with your story regarding Inkbox and [00:03:00] that chapter of your life, maybe you can bring everyone up to speed, in whatever, you know, whatever format, whatever speed you wish.
[00:03:07] Braden Handley: Sure. My brother and I started a company in 2015 called Inkbox, which were tattoos that last one to two weeks. We actually went down and visited the tribes in Panama that have been using the fruit for thousands of years to actually dye their skin. We took that fruit to help support the tribes and actually patented one ingredient in that fruit that actually does the switching of your skin color.
[00:03:29] Braden Handley: From there we grew it to about 30 million in sales a year, a hundred million plus overall 180 employees, and recently sold in 2022 to Bic, the Lighter and Pen Company. That's the very,
[00:03:45] Braden Handley: very quick,
[00:03:46] Braden Handley: We took, I guess I can go on a bit more. We started with $10,000, so not much. And turned it into about 80 million Canadian.
[00:03:56] Rob Pintwala: Sounds like a good ROI[00:04:00] that's amazing, man. And yeah, just for context as well why it might sound just kind of broy here. Braden and I grew up playing hockey together in the same hometown, St. Catherine's, Ontario. So we know each other from way back. And yeah. It's amazing to speak to you today after this journey.
[00:04:17] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. So I want to start from, yeah. Near the beginning. When you started inkbox, w how far were you out of school and were, were you full-time and did this kind of entrepreneurial pursuit even was it something you were chasing or was it something that was more organic?
[00:04:37] Braden Handley: I started I think it was two years after school. I had a full-time job, but . I recently left it. I was basically a glorified receptionist. I was, my actual title was a marketing manager, but it was more of a receptionist position, and I helped other companies with anything and everything that they needed from PowerPoints to fixing their phones, to [00:05:00] helping them write, helping them build websites like I, I.
[00:05:04] Braden Handley: I was a master of sorry, not a master. I was a master of none. But good at a lot of different things. And I always wanted to be an entrepreneur from when I was a kid. I remember even in hockey actually, I was like bringing tape and selling it to other people on the team. Which is a crazy thing to think about.
[00:05:25] Braden Handley: I actually just remembered that and,
[00:05:27] Braden Handley: that he said hockey. But yeah, my, my dad took me to garage sales. And we used to buy hockey equipment and take it to a local used equipment store and trade it in. I was buying stuff off AliExpress or some version of that when I was. 14, 16 and reselling it to friends.
[00:05:51] Braden Handley: Actually fake lacrosse shirts when those are all the rage,
[00:05:54] Braden Handley: I'm sure. Yeah, I'm sure you remember that. I was selling things on eBay. I think I [00:06:00] did 20 K one year on eBay when I was 16.
[00:06:04] Rob Pintwala: Unreal.
[00:06:04] Braden Handley: yeah I, and then I went to school for entrepreneurship at TMU, so I've always wanted to. To do it. I just didn't, I didn't think that I wanted to be like, I always wanted to own a store or something.
[00:06:21] Braden Handley: Not like a tiny little store, not like
[00:06:24] Braden Handley: something big. I never really had that ambition or I never really thought I could do that. Even.
[00:06:30] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. I think it's. I remember wanting to do business stuff because I'd heard it a lot as a kid with my dad being an entrepreneur, but it wasn't until I met someone running an online business and their office was just a computer that I was like, whoa. What is this?
[00:06:50] Rob Pintwala: Like where's the filing cabinet? Where do you think you got the urge to like? Turn $1 into two or just like hustle like Were your, [00:07:00] did it come from your parents
[00:07:01] Rob Pintwala: or were
[00:07:01] Braden Handley: It's definitely from my parents. So my mom always had me counting. She had a secretary job when I was young and I helped her count the money. And I don't know if that was encouraging to. Make money or just to learn to account money. But one of my earliest memories is counting money.
[00:07:21] Braden Handley: And I really enjoyed it for some reason.
[00:07:23] Rob Pintwala: If it was the Scent
[00:07:24] Braden Handley: yeah, they sent the maple scent on the hundred dollars Canadian. There was no a hundred dollars
[00:07:28] Braden Handley: Canadian bills then, but my dad actually owned a pet shop with his brother when he was young. He was working at a gym, but. They also owned a pet store and it completely failed.
[00:07:40] Braden Handley: So I think he has a little bit of that entrepreneurial spirit as well. So
[00:07:44] Braden Handley: I'm, you know, I was around not successful entrepreneurs, but you know, around that mindset of consistency and trying to make a dollar.
[00:07:54] Rob Pintwala: And your dad ran it with his brother. That's interesting.
[00:07:58] Braden Handley: Yeah, it is interesting
[00:07:59] Rob Pintwala: [00:08:00] How did their relationship fare after that venture? Do they still get along
[00:08:04] Braden Handley: I don't know if I can go into that, but maybe some family dynamics
[00:08:07] Braden Handley: that, I mean, everyone has Yeah, everyone has,
[00:08:10] Rob Pintwala: you and your brother
[00:08:10] Braden Handley: yeah. Everyone has family dynamics that aren't aren't the best. So let's skip that part for now.
[00:08:16] Rob Pintwala: Well, man, yeah like, I think it's such a. Probably a joy, but also a risk to go into business with your brother. Like how do you describe what that journey was like to go with Tyler
[00:08:29] Braden Handley: It's a common question that we get.
[00:08:31] Rob Pintwala: And it's
[00:08:32] Rob Pintwala: rare now. It's rare. It's, I think it's more rare these days than it was
[00:08:35] Braden Handley: Do you think I don't know? Yeah.
[00:08:37] Rob Pintwala: at
[00:08:38] Rob Pintwala: Least in the VC backed world, you know?
[00:08:40] Braden Handley: I guess, 'cause you can also find people easier now, right? So I always looked at you know, that's someone that you know the best and trust, right? I would have a lot of fear going into a business with someone that I don't know well because I don't know what their [00:09:00] intentions are at the end of the day.
[00:09:00] Braden Handley: And I think knowing my brother, I know that he has the best intentions. For myself as well, no matter what, there would be no ill intention there ever. And that puts you at ease, I think. I've never done the opposite, so I don't really, I don't have anything to compare it to, but I think it would make sense.
[00:09:20] Braden Handley: We never really argued that much because we were very clear. Clear ownership of different departments and leaned on each other for those decisions and trusted those decisions no matter what. Even if you're wrong, disagree and commit.
[00:09:42] Rob Pintwala: And how, how thoughtful were you in entering into that sort of
[00:09:47] Rob Pintwala: And conquer
[00:09:48] Braden Handley: Not at the beginning. Yeah, not, the beginning. I think as you progress it was, you know, laying it out more and more, but in the beginning, no, it was just, Hey, I'm gonna do this. I guess you do this [00:10:00] and let's see if this works. Right there, not as much thought went into it as people would've believed.
[00:10:08] Braden Handley: Right. It was more of just let's do it and see what happens.
[00:10:12] Rob Pintwala: It sounds like that's one of the advantages of just having that love and trust already. Going in, right. It's like you, you don't need to spend a month figuring out a partnership agreement necessarily.
[00:10:23] Rob Pintwala: Wow. That's incredible. And were there any I think you mentioned uh, if there was sort of a disagreement and then commit, is there, was there any sort of like you hear of some partners talk about, I don't know, like conflict resolution? Structure that they use. Was it simpler than that with you two? What, how do
[00:10:44] Rob Pintwala: you fight? How did you disagree? Did you
[00:10:46] Rob Pintwala: Just talk it out?
[00:10:47] Braden Handley: I think you just talk it out. Yeah. And disagree. And if you needed a third party, you'd go get a third party. You know, we had ACFO early on, so I think I. And she was a lot more experienced than us. So [00:11:00] I think leaning on someone like that for certain decisions would be important too. But I think we were so aligned because we didn't know either.
[00:11:10] Braden Handley: So if you don't have experience and you really don't have anything to base your decisions on, then you're just trusting each other from the get go. It sounds insane now, but it makes sense if you have no experience.
[00:11:25] Rob Pintwala: Yeah I, what I have always thought about you two and I think you in particular are just like, how much humility that you have, and I think that's incredible. And I wanted to, 'cause I also think that's not super common in the, you know, let's go out and start a company and raise money and fake it till you make it mentality, which is the most common mentality at least in my perspective.
[00:11:50] Braden Handley: That was
[00:11:51] Braden Handley: one of our faults though, that was definitely one of our faults because
[00:11:54] Rob Pintwala: What was that?
[00:11:55] Braden Handley: not having enough confidence in ourselves,
[00:11:59] Braden Handley: [00:12:00] Raising money and getting people to buy in was a lot more difficult because if you don't come across as you know, this macho person, then people don't believe in you as much.
[00:12:11] Braden Handley: And that was a tough lesson that we had to try to learn, especially in fundraising. But I. I just think that comes from our upbringing, modest upbringing. You know, we don't come from a background of money. It's just hard work
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[00:13:05] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah, I love that. And was that lesson learned through repetition and getting rejected, or was it learned through feedback or how did you.
[00:13:17] Rob Pintwala: Did you have to create yourselves into these more macho people, or did you just build that
[00:13:23] Braden Handley: I think you have to fake it. I, you know, I think I'm still working on it. The confidence part and still faking it in some sense. Even trying to start something new now I'm like, I don't even know if I know how to start. I've company, which people are like, yes you do, but I don't know, like them.
[00:13:42] Braden Handley: It's changed a lot, right? Like I, the way I started it eight, nine years ago is completely different than how you'd started business now. Can I do it again? Maybe I, there's a lot of luck involved too.
[00:13:56] Rob Pintwala: Yeah, well said. Yeah, I [00:14:00] remember the story you told me about sort of mixing this compound like in your bedroom or something and trying to make those tattoos.
[00:14:06] Braden Handley: are the best days.
[00:14:07] Rob Pintwala: like the origin story.
[00:14:09] Braden Handley: Yeah, I used to,
[00:14:10] Rob Pintwala: That's a little bit.
[00:14:11] Braden Handley: yeah, I used to be in, I had a 500 square foot apartment that I shared with a roommate and the fridge was full of this genin ink fruit thing that would leak in the fridge. And, you know, my roommate would be very impressed with that. And I used to stay up all night.
[00:14:29] Braden Handley: And I had this little pinging pong table that was like one of those small ones, and I used to use that to actually mix the ink on. And I used to stay up all night with this dollar store equipment, this bowl and this wooden spoon and just mix for hours on hours. But I remember every time I would put the ink into this bottle, this little tiny bottle, I would think to myself, I just made $20 and that would keep me going like that.
[00:14:55] Braden Handley: That was crazy to me that I could. Work and make my [00:15:00] own money and not have to pay anything to anybody. And I could just do that all night if I want to. Like I would go out, I would work throughout the night just mixing ink because I was making money. That was crazy to me.
[00:15:14] Rob Pintwala: That's wild. Maybe we can talk a little bit more about that kind of work ethic and how that translated into once you started to formalize as a company. Company and hired people and like, how did you find some sort of, maybe balance isn't the right word, but some sort of equilibrium of how you show up with this, you know, childlike business of yours that you obviously care so much about.
[00:15:38] Rob Pintwala: How did you not burn out? What happened?
[00:15:41] Braden Handley: Yeah, I think from the beginning, I always made it a point to show up. That was the most important part. It wasn't about staying long, it was about showing up. About being consistent. And I think that's what people mistake a lot of the times is you don't have to work those, you know, 16, 18 hour days.[00:16:00]
[00:16:00] Braden Handley: You might have to in the beginning some days, but not every day. You're gonna, you're gonna kill yourself. I made it a point to have a pretty well balanced life, but I would work seven days a week sometimes, but maybe those were only eight hour days. Right. You do not need to work 18 hour days. If you do, then you're probably building the business wrong.
[00:16:23] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah, I hear that. And how was your personal life in the early days, were you in a relationship? Were you single? Were you able to keep your friends? Did they support you?
[00:16:36] Braden Handley: Yeah. I was in a relationship with my wife, Andrea. And she was there from the beginning, so she was mixing ink with us and
[00:16:44] Braden Handley: You know, we actually started dating before I even started the business. Like right before I had no job, no money, and. I remember telling her one day she wanted to go out.
[00:16:53] Braden Handley: And I actually was like, listen, I am starting this business. I feel super embarrassed, but like, I need to be honest with you. I have [00:17:00] no money to take you out. That's a tough thing to tell somebody. But she was like, I'll come mix ink with you. is amazing, right? That's the partner you want and we really built it together.
[00:17:10] Braden Handley: That's the greatest story that you can have with somebody if you build something together. Same with my friends, right? I hired my friends at the start, so
[00:17:21] Braden Handley: they were just coming outta school and I hired a bunch of them. And we built a, not only did I build a company with my friend and my partner, my friends and my partner, my brother built it with my family.
[00:17:33] Braden Handley: Like everyone was there from the beginning. So. You know, how often do you get to do that? That's definitely once in a lifetime.
[00:17:39] Rob Pintwala: That's incredible. When I hear some entrepreneurs talk about being founders and growing with the company, and I've heard several people say this, but for example, like the Shopify folks like Harley Finkelstein and another CEO coach that I've interviewed like, you know, basically the lesson is your job [00:18:00] as the founder executive, you need to grow as fast or faster as the company, as your. You know, skillset needs to grow that fast. What do you think about that? What did you think about that?
[00:18:13] Braden Handley: I mean, probably didn't do that much. I think we just tried to surround ourselves with people that were smarter than us. Right. And, and. I think a lot of entrepreneurs or founders get it wrong when they surround themselves with people, but then don't give away your Legos. You know, when you're a kid and you're building something great with Lego, you'd give other people pieces so you can build it together. A lot of founders and entrepreneurs struggle with that, giving things away.
[00:18:45] Braden Handley: They'll hire smart people, but then they'll still be . Micromanaging or having a lot of oversight into their day-to-day life. Whereas I think we were really good at hiring good people that we trusted [00:19:00] and giving them a lot of ownership over their work. That's when people really provide the most value to the company when they actually care.
[00:19:09] Braden Handley: You know, I remember working for companies that . When I cared about it, when I liked the person that I was working for, I put an effort and when they showed me that they trust me, I went above and beyond.
[00:19:22] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. I can relate to that and. Regarding hiring your friends and maybe hiring your friends early on. I imagine there was so many pros to that, but some of the cons was that sort of maybe having those difficult conversations or bringing in someone for them to report to, or maybe even having to let some friends go,
[00:19:44] Braden Handley: Yeah.
[00:19:44] Rob Pintwala: What can you share about that?
[00:19:46] Braden Handley: Yeah. I mean that's the hardest thing I've ever had to do is fire friends, you know, people that were there from the beginning. I had to let them go and, and those are,
[00:19:55] Braden Handley: I mean, I remember leading up to that day and I was like, I was [00:20:00] broken. For weeks. And people could tell at the office too, I was broken and they knew something was up because you just, being around your friends all day is amazing.
[00:20:10] Braden Handley: But when the company struggles and then you need to replace them, you know, how do you do that in a, in a way that you feel you can't, you just, you just can't do it and feel okay but that's also okay, right? Like, you shouldn't feel okay about it. That means you care. But. You know that it has to be done.
[00:20:28] Braden Handley: You have to separate the business from the people sometimes. Your personal and business, and I used to tell people this all the time. That worked for us. It's like you need to separate business and personal relationships and it, you have to at some point.
[00:20:45] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. I remember the startup I worked at, I think they leaned a little bit too far on being a family until things got hard and then. [00:21:00] then I think they started using the term like sports team like pro professional sports team where, you know you get replaced if you're not able to
[00:21:08] Braden Handley: Why not just use the word business? I don't understand that. Do you have to, like, why can't it just be a business?
[00:21:13] Braden Handley: Like obviously people know businesses are about making money in the end, like why not treat it like a business? It's
[00:21:21] Braden Handley: about making money. And that's what I would tell people even if I let them go.
[00:21:23] Braden Handley: Like, listen, this is not a personal decision. This is a business decision. We're not a family, we're not a sports team, we're a business.
[00:21:29] Rob Pintwala: Do you think the first time that the company started struggling was when you really learned that, or did you have that in your mind when you were hiring your buddies?
[00:21:37] Braden Handley: I had that in my mind already because of things that would happen on a day-to-Day basis, that, you know, some certain people wouldn't like each other, for instance. And then I'd be like. That's okay. You don't have to like everybody. It's a business. This is not a family.
[00:21:53] Rob Pintwala: . And so you, one of the departments that you ran was the people HR sort of department.
[00:21:58] Braden Handley: Yep, yep.
[00:21:59] Braden Handley: I [00:22:00] ran it by myself until we were about 50 people or maybe even more than that, which is a lot.
[00:22:06] Braden Handley: I ran it like I was just trying to make the best decision decisions that I. Could I didn't really have experience in that at all, but I think I did it all right. Obviously there's a lot more you can do.
[00:22:20] Braden Handley: And when we brought in an experienced professional in that position, then I learned, oh, okay. I was not doing it very well this entire time. But super proud of how we ran the business for sure.
[00:22:33] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. I remember you. I think saying that you've, you know, for, so maybe even the entire time you interviewed, every single, either you or your brother interviewed every single hire.
[00:22:42] Rob Pintwala: Evolve over time?
[00:22:43] Braden Handley: I think that was probably for the first five years we interviewed everybody, maybe a bit less than that, but that was just to get a, you know, even if it was 15 minute touch base, just to get a good sense of who the person was. You know, we really tried to hire the person first [00:23:00] and maybe the skillset second, and maybe that was our fault.
[00:23:04] Braden Handley: I, I believe in really trying to develop people. There's this, everyone has some sort of skill. And we probably didn't fire people fast enough sometimes. We invested in people a little too long. But you know, that's something I, I look back at now that I'm proud of. You know, people deserve a chance and the fire fast movement.
[00:23:25] Braden Handley: You know, maybe that's not great for your culture. You think of sports teams, even though I just said you shouldn't treat them like a sports team. Chemistry is real, right? If you can work with someone, well, if you are on the line and you have good chemistry, that actually leads to a lot more success. So building that chemistry within the team is important.
[00:23:45] Braden Handley: And we had very low turnover because people really liked it. Liked working together and building relationships that are super strong today. People got married from meeting there. It's a pretty crazy culture.
[00:23:58] Rob Pintwala: That's amazing. [00:24:00] I've heard, yeah. Really good things just through, you know, others that I know who've worked at Inkbox. Yeah I'm curious about some of the culture points, like when I think about hiring and giving people time and developing them, and when you're at an early stage like that and you're, you know. There's a really big push to hit these targets or get this profitability or these sales numbers right. And you're managing this like a chunk of money. And maybe we can talk about, you know, getting that investment in a second here, but you know, how much it sounds like you had, you took, you know, the freedom to make these choices around like leaning more into culture early. Whereas like some people are Yeah. Kind of scrambling and just like hiring people to fill a role and not thinking much about it. Like when did you know, when did this notion of just culture, was it, did it just stem from like initially hiring your friends? Like [00:25:00] when did it kind of take the forefront or was it always there?
[00:25:03] Braden Handley: I think it's important to understand the position that the company was in from the beginning if we weren't in a race. You know, we owned it. It was difficult for other companies to come in and. Copy us. We had a pretty significant moat around the company. We built. Not only did we own our own ip, we had, we created our own software and hardware to actually develop the product.
[00:25:27] Braden Handley: So it was completely vertically integrated. You couldn't just go to another country and get this made. That wasn't possible. I think, so that's important to understand is 'cause we weren't in a race and it didn't necessarily hit these targets. Obviously there's targets and obviously there's. Things needed to hit, but it wasn't a SaaS company that was competing with hundreds of different companies to go after this market and gain market share quickly.
[00:25:52] Braden Handley: Bit different than that. The culture was formed early from hiring it. It's such a strange thing, [00:26:00] but I don't think we put an EM emphasis on it necessarily. But the people we hired early on were very . This term is not, not to be used negatively negatively, but like misfit, kind of misfit and culture.
[00:26:17] Braden Handley: And I think that aligns with tattoo culture too, maybe not now, but in the past it has. a lot of new grads that, you know, haven't landed on their feet anywhere. Working at coffee shops, because we hired a lot of operational people too, a lot of people that were fulfilling from the beginning.
[00:26:34] Braden Handley: That was a significant part of our staff and we made a conscious effort to bring people through the company. So every role that would open up within the company, that was a skill. So customer service, for instance, people from fulfillment. We would open that up to them and bring them through the ranks.
[00:26:57] Braden Handley: This created a culture that [00:27:00] understood different departments and wasn't, so, you know, we're better than another department. Everyone worked fulfillment even on Black Fridays for the first couple years, the entire company had to work. Fulfillment doesn't matter your rank. I would work fulfillment for.
[00:27:19] Braden Handley: A couple days, it doesn't matter. You would go pack orders, you know, that would give you a pretty good sense of what people had been doing all day. And you know, when you're like, get these orders out quicker, you would be like, you would have a better understanding of what it takes.
[00:27:33] Rob Pintwala: That's incredible. That's so incredible. I'm curious if you may be your brother, like how you did. Seek wisdom. You said you hired people, more experienced and you, I think you said you surrounded yourself with people who are smarter. But how did you utilize whether that's like advisors, investors, coaches, and that sort.
[00:27:59] Braden Handley: [00:28:00] Yeah, we had some investors and advisors, but personally I didn't lean on many people. That's the honest answer. I didn't really have a single person that I leaned on or even a Rolodex of people. It's such a strange thing, but I kind of learned on the internet, which is like. I like to find answers on the internet and read a lot on, read a lot of books, business books, read a lot of Reddit about, you know, what people's thought processes are on, on, in certain situations.
[00:28:34] Braden Handley: That's really how I developed my experience. And then just by doing, just throwing myself in every situation, you know, if I had to. I ran hr, I ran customer service, I ran marketing, ran business development. Just got experience from doing and running those departments and being super involved.
[00:28:54] Braden Handley: I think if you talk to anybody about my brother and I, we were very involved.[00:29:00] We would do the nitty gritty work all the time. We weren't just, you know, high level strategy or something. We would be, like I said, on the ground answering emails. If we needed to, I'd jump in the queue. Sure. Why not?
[00:29:14] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. I wanted to ask a bit more about building confidence in these areas. Or just competence, whatever, you know, whatever you want to use. You know, it sounds like you're, like, have, I guess my, my question here is like, have you. Did you take some time to pat yourself on the back throughout the journey
[00:29:34] Rob Pintwala: or even after the sale? Is that something that's hard for you?
[00:29:37] Braden Handley: definitely not. I never once remembered stopping and going, oh, good job. Now I think that's what motivates me a lot of the time, is being proud of my past self. Sounds strange too, but it's like sometimes I make decisions thinking, what would my future self think of that decision?
[00:29:58] Braden Handley: Which [00:30:00] has worked for me.
[00:30:01] Rob Pintwala: And is there, have you had to learn to be a little bit easy on yourself in the last seven, eight years, or is it part of your
[00:30:13] Rob Pintwala: learning process?
[00:30:15] Rob Pintwala: Are you hard on yourself?
[00:30:16] Braden Handley: I think I'm, yeah, pretty hard. I'm hard on myself when it comes to work ethic. Like I, I really struggle now even to take a day off. Even though I'm technically not working, like I can't not do anything all day, it's very difficult for me because I think I have this fear that I'm gonna get into this bad rhythm or work.
[00:30:44] Braden Handley: Like it's gonna change my work ethic in general, that even if I take one day where I just don't do anything I don't know if that's, it's probably not right.
[00:30:53] Rob Pintwala: That's deep, man.
[00:30:54] Braden Handley: A fear. Yeah.
[00:30:56] Rob Pintwala: I can relate to that a bit. Do you, are you hoping. [00:31:00] To change that feeling, do you want to take a day off set sometime, or are you just not even there yet, you know? And I don't mean a day off. I mean, you know,
[00:31:09] Rob Pintwala: how amazing would it be to take a month off and just, you know, reset your system and not have FOMO or
[00:31:18] Rob Pintwala: whatever.
[00:31:19] Braden Handley: I don't know. I think maybe when I'm a lot older, I think I still have too much to give, whether that be to other entrepreneurs and helping 'em giving back to the community. Or you know, when I'm a, when I'm a parent, like when I'm not taking days off, I want my. I want my kid to be their best selves.
[00:31:38] Braden Handley: So I want to teach them every day. And that's what I mean is like I would never take a day off. 'cause I'd be like, I want my kid to be the best possible person they could be.
[00:31:48] Rob Pintwala: I love that. Are you, when you say you have too much to give, have you thought about recently or leading up to the last. You [00:32:00] know, two years, let's say, have you thought about where your true interests are? Or where you want to direct some of that energy now that you perhaps maybe have, maybe feel like you have a bit more of that freedom to choose, or maybe you don't?
[00:32:14] Braden Handley: Yeah, it's giving, learning and teaching. That's the three pillars of it, you know, I want to give. And that's giving your time or giving your resources in general. I want to continue to learn. Every day I want to. And that's not taking a day off. Right? It's like even learning, like I just painted my basement, for instance, learning how to paint.
[00:32:37] Braden Handley: I didn't know how to, I don't really know how to paint. I never really painted like a big project. And this was like, you know, watch YouTube videos, learn how to paint well, which is hard. Harder than I thought it would be. And then teach. And that is. Teaching other entrepreneurs that are just starting out.
[00:32:54] Braden Handley: Or I would love to be a professor and teach one class or something. Working on that.
[00:32:59] Braden Handley: Working, I'm working [00:33:00] on a class. I want to develop a program class that is taught to entrepreneurs.
[00:33:07] Rob Pintwala: Do you, are you more aware of your strengths now that you've done this for so long? Have you had people help you understand kind of your superpowers
[00:33:20] Braden Handley: I had a coach for a couple years that really helped dig into that. 'cause I always thought I wasn't good at anything. Like I, 'cause I wasn't great. I wasn't great at anything. I was always decent at anything. Even in hockey, I wasn't great.
[00:33:37] Braden Handley: I was okay. You know, I, everything, I was just good. And you know, what we dug into was my upbringing when I was in elementary, I was severely bullied to the point where, you know, I tried to commit suicide. I had zero friends for, you know, four, four-ish years. You know, I wasn't . [00:34:00] A pretty dark place.
[00:34:01] Braden Handley: But what that allowed me to do was compartmentalize things. And that's a superpower, that's a real, and develops a lot of sensitivity. And that trait is rare in men. You know, a sensitive person that can
[00:34:17] Braden Handley: compartmentalize things is a real skill. That's an entrepreneur. You can relate to people, you can be a really good
[00:34:24] Braden Handley: Later. And then you can also bury things and people say, don't do that, but you know, in moments that is a very valuable skill. You need to do that when you have to fire your friends. You bury that and you deal with it later because you don't have time right now.
[00:34:41] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think, I mean, I think that some therapists would maybe say emotional regulation, maybe you're just good at regulating or
[00:34:50] Braden Handley: Okay. Maybe that's a better term. Yeah. . Yeah,
[00:34:52] Braden Handley: I don't know the therapy wor world that, well, I guess either for
[00:34:56] Braden Handley: terminology, but I would just say it's, yeah, bury it.[00:35:00]
[00:35:00] Rob Pintwala: It's interesting because it sounds like your coach and you did some work not necessarily like digging, maybe you dug really deep into your past, but it sounds like at the very least you kind of. Build some understanding around some of these traits or, you know, what are now maybe superpowers.
[00:35:20] Rob Pintwala: And then just focused on leaning into 'em.
[00:35:23] Braden Handley: Yeah.
[00:35:24] Rob Pintwala: Do you spend a lot of your time trying to just hone your, you know, your top skills, like as you just referenced? Or are you trying to still like, get better at the things that you're maybe more, more weak at?
[00:35:39] Braden Handley: I think those skills are so ingrained into who I am that they don't need honing. That's just who I am. Right. I don't need to work on them. I think I just need to keep them. And that's probably work in itself, right? It is like keeping that humility, for instance. It's like you can't lose that because that's a superpower too.
[00:35:58] Braden Handley: So. I tried [00:36:00] to lean into other skills like teaching, for instance, helping other entrepreneurs. Like I don't know how to do that yet. But I'm learning.
[00:36:10] Rob Pintwala: And how do you choose who you work with or what you work on, or how are, how will you choose?
[00:36:18] Braden Handley: Yeah. I only will help people that I know I can help, you know, if I see a business in a space that I have no idea about. How to help. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna get involved because I just can't help you. I want to look at a business and be like, yeah, I can really help with this. Like, Get me involved.
[00:36:36] Braden Handley: I wanna be excited about it. And I want you, the people to lean on me for decisions and, not necessarily for the right, right or wrong answers, or to take them as gospel, but to. To lean on me and understand that I have that experience that they can really lean on as well and make and avoid [00:37:00] the wrong decisions.
[00:37:02] Rob Pintwala: And are there any similar value criteria in terms of personal values of the people that you're helping or working with? Are you looking for things that align with your values?
[00:37:12] Braden Handley: I think I, right now, I've been looking for people that have the same work ethic and the skills that they can not, they don't have to like, raise a ton of money and hire out a bunch of things. They can just figure it out. You know, that grit, that's what I look for is people with that grit. If they're not gonna just give up, 'cause it's hard.
[00:37:32] Braden Handley: They're gonna go, you know, if they have to make a crazy electrical thing, they'll go and learn electrical work and do it. Which the entrepreneurs I'm helping with now are doing that, right? They're, they don't have any, they don't have any skill set in that, but they'll go and figure it out. And that's what I really love.
[00:37:49] Rob Pintwala: And have you had to work on personal marketing, like marketing your own personal brand, or is this just all coming through connections and organically? Like
[00:37:59] Braden Handley: That's just [00:38:00] coming through connections. Personal branding is a, yeah, that's one I need to work on more.
[00:38:05] Rob Pintwala: Outsource
[00:38:07] Braden Handley: yeah, it's ours. It,
[00:38:08] Braden Handley: I guess
[00:38:09] Rob Pintwala: hard to be humble and promote yourself.
[00:38:11] Braden Handley: It is really difficult. Like, I feel weird about it. I am a TikTok and I started, I put a couple tos up and it felt weird still. Feels. Yeah. And do I want to, you know, I think we've been very private about things for the most part.
[00:38:27] Braden Handley: And making yourself public, like very public about what you're doing and your story is terrifying. Like you open up yourself to a lot.
[00:38:36] Rob Pintwala: It's great seeing you a few times you've posted anything or, you know, showing some sort of celebration, you know, it's great. I mean, you barely ever do that. I mean, you know what I mean? And I just think it's incredible that, you know, you've, you're here now and it's just yeah, I think you deserve a lot of praise
[00:38:57] Braden Handley: Isn't it way cooler to be kind of [00:39:00] hidden and do it on your own? I don't know.
[00:39:02] Rob Pintwala: I
[00:39:03] Braden Handley: there's something more honorable about it to me. I. I don't wanna make people feel bad about the positions they're in because,
[00:39:10] Rob Pintwala: Yeah.
[00:39:10] Braden Handley: my position is a lot different. My upbringing was pretty good for the most part.
[00:39:15] Braden Handley: You know, I was born in Canada, I was born a white male. You know, that's a lot different position than other people, and I don't want to be, I don't know,
[00:39:24] Braden Handley: It's a tough one.
[00:39:26] Rob Pintwala: I think you can elevate others though. I mean, I think you have the, I think you're already doing that. I think you did that. You know, I think you'll continue to do that.
[00:39:34] Braden Handley: Definitely a
[00:39:34] Rob Pintwala: I also think it's as long as it doesn't turn into some sort of guilt and I think the
[00:39:38] Rob Pintwala: guilt because you worked your ass off.
[00:39:40] Rob Pintwala: Right. So it's you know, I'm sure there was luck in there, but, you know, I think the guilt can hold you back in terms of my own personal experience.
[00:39:49] Braden Handley: That makes sense.
[00:39:50] Rob Pintwala: But yeah I wanted to, again, I just wanted to come
[00:39:53] Rob Pintwala: back on the no days off thing. 'cause I love, first of all, I love .I love the theme, but you know, you've done, you [00:40:00] did the business for seven years or something like that, right?
[00:40:03] Rob Pintwala: You know, give or take, how do you, even if you're kind of showing up every day, how do you rest? Can you rest and work on the same day? And how do you like to rest effectively? How do you recharge effectively?
[00:40:15] Braden Handley: Yeah, it's tough, it's an interesting question 'cause I don't even think I thought about that. Yeah. Again, going back to it was such a blur that I, I don't think I thought about rest so much as I understood balance. I don't know if that makes sense, but I would go home and. Not thinking about the business and spending time with my partner and playing video games and playing hockey and working out, you know, I would still do the things that I wanted to do.
[00:40:50] Rob Pintwala: But that recharged you.
[00:40:52] Braden Handley: I think so. I guess,
[00:40:54] Braden Handley: I mean,
[00:40:55] Rob Pintwala: Yeah.
[00:40:55] Rob Pintwala: Yeah.
[00:40:56] Braden Handley: I never burnt out, so,
[00:40:58] Rob Pintwala: Awesome.
[00:40:58] Braden Handley: I guess it worked.
[00:40:59] Rob Pintwala: It [00:41:00] sounds really community based. And would your partner, would you set boundaries about speaking, about work with them? Would they just let you say everything? Or would they say Not right now or trying to fall
[00:41:12] Rob Pintwala: asleep right now, or something like that?
[00:41:14] Braden Handley: No, I think there wasn't. I think it was just like, if I needed to speak, we would talk about it. Right. And I think especially in the really difficult moments, you know, I would lean on, on, on her because I. Who else could you? Right. You can't lean on, I can't lean on my brother as much because he's so involved in it too that it's gonna stress him out more.
[00:41:36] Braden Handley: More. I, my parents probably wouldn't understand as much as I would hope. And then friends were involved in the business and, you know, there's some very personal things that you probably can't talk about your friends with too.
[00:41:52] Rob Pintwala: I wanted to start to, to close things out, but I, you've managed your business through Covid[00:42:00] and you know, maybe more people were putting tattoos on during that time, but you still had to run a company and you still had to fulfill all your orders. And you were in Toronto, which was one of the worst lockdown places maybe in North America, right.
[00:42:14] Rob Pintwala: I was there and how did you think about employee wellness and mental health during those times? And did it kind of slap you in the face or did you like How did you think about it?
[00:42:30] Braden Handley: That was a wild time, especially in Toronto. I remember you couldn't even go to the park with your dog. Which is insane to think about now. Yeah, employee, we never shut down, which is strange. You know, we were considered an essential business because of . Supply chain in manufacturing was always essential.
[00:42:53] Braden Handley: And I think, you know, from the very beginning, what we shut down for two weeks at the beginning was fulfillment and [00:43:00] everything. But we always leaned on our employees for how they felt too. You know, we gave them stipends to take . Take an Uber instead of the streetcar. You know, we obviously implemented mask regulations and vaccine regulations and, you know, tried to make people feel as comfortable as possible.
[00:43:25] Braden Handley: With all the unknowns that were going on we made it. Face shields, like we manufactured face shields for a bit. We got hand sanitizer made and supplied it to all of our employees. It, It, little things, but I think those little things add up. We gave them, we upped our sick day policy and obviously if people were sick with Covid, it was a bit different.
[00:43:52] Braden Handley: It was, you were still paid. Which some companies didn't do, I guess. Which is crazy
[00:43:57] Braden Handley: too. They didn't do that. But just, [00:44:00] you know, as much as it sucked that some people had to work and some people could stay home and work, like some people had to go to the office and work still and some people stayed home, you tried to implement things that created more of an equality there,
[00:44:15] Rob Pintwala: . That
[00:44:15] Braden Handley: even though it wasn't probably enough.
[00:44:17] Braden Handley: You probably could have done more, but.
[00:44:19] Rob Pintwala: Yeah.
[00:44:20] Braden Handley: Tough decisions to make there. That's, you know, probably made a lot of wrong decisions still.
[00:44:25] Rob Pintwala: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's amazing that you got through it and now it's a story.
[00:44:32] Braden Handley: Yeah.
[00:44:33] Rob Pintwala: As we're wrapping up here, what are you, what's one thing that's exciting for you right now? As far as where to put your time and effort into, besides painting your basement, teaching a class,
[00:44:47] Braden Handley: Starting a new company but starting it in a way that is more relaxed. You know, you don't need to hire a bunch of people. You can just slowly build something in a [00:45:00] category that is already established that's easier to penetrate. You don't have to teach consumers how to use it, just. I'm excited to be creative on my own terms.
[00:45:12] Rob Pintwala: Love that. Love that. Incredible. If you were to teach a class would it be at your alma mater or
[00:45:22] Braden Handley: I don't know, maybe you have to have your PhD apparently to teach at TMU, which I don't have. So maybe at a college or something. it's not like that. It's not a big deal where it is. I think it's more
[00:45:35] Braden Handley: about just the subject matter of it.
[00:45:38] Rob Pintwala: Awesome. If people do want to keep tabs on whether you're teaching uh, it becomes more public, where, where might they, uh, follow you? If there's any public, I know you're, I know you're low key, but if there's any
[00:45:50] Braden Handley: I guess. LinkedIn, probably. Instagram. LinkedIn,
[00:45:54] Braden Handley: You know, they're still public facing, so you can follow them there. I don't post much, but when I do, at least it's, uh. [00:46:00] interesting maybe.
[00:46:01] Rob Pintwala: Incredible. Well, thank you so much for this chat. It was really, really meaningful. And, anything else you wanna share before we wrap up?
[00:46:09] Braden Handley: Nope, that's it. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
[00:46:12] Rob Pintwala: Great. All right, man. Until next time.
[00:46:14] Braden Handley: Yep.
[00:46:15] Braden Handley: Take care.
[00:46:16] Rob Pintala: Braden. Okay.
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