Shawn Nelson, Chairman and Founder of Lovesac, spoke to the Profiles of Leadership class. Nelson shared his story of the struggles of founding a company and the joys of being an entrepreneur.
Lovesac is now a national furniture retailer with more than 20 stores across the country, but it all began in the basement of Nelson’s parents’ house. As an 18-year-old, Nelson came up with the idea of a 7-foot comfy sac that he could stretch out on instead of sitting on the couch. From there, he went out to a fabric store, bought 10 yards of material and began to design his vision. He spent countless hours trying to find the perfect fill for the sac until he discovered that foam was the ideal solution.
In the early stages of the company, Nelson and his friends would carry the sacs to various events including ASUU’s Redfest on the University of Utah’s campus. Their first order was from Red Bull, which got the ball rolling as Nelson started to see his vision come alive. It was Lovesac’s first large order (12,000 sacs ordered by Limited Too) that put Nelson’s company into full production. Through innovation, creativity, and outstanding problem-solving skills, Nelson has created a multi-million dollar corporation during the past 14 years.
Nelson shared 10 tips, which he refers to as “Shawnisms”, for hopeful entrepreneurs.
- Do Something. Nelson says that if he didn’t act on his idea then there would be no Lovesac today. He meets many budding entrepreneurs who hold themselves back because of their fear to act on their ideas.
- Be what you will be, not what you are. When you’re developing an idea, it’s essential to visualize and act as if that idea is completed. Nelson says when Limited Too called to ask him for 12,000 sacs, he said yes even though he didn’t yet have a factory, material, or a workforce. His advice for all is to say yes to every opportunity in front of you and then find a way to make it happen.
- Embrace economic pressure. Nelson funded his business through credit cards and loans because he believed in his idea. Because he had creditors to pay back, he worked many unpaid hours to get the business on its feet. The pressure drove him to continue working diligently towards his goal.
- Make it happen. Too often, entrepreneurs find ways to say no to their dreams. There will always be obstacles to overcome and if you’re not willing to think outside the box, your dream will not become a reality.
- Accept responsibility. Whether it’s success or failure, it’s your fault. The responsibility is on your shoulders. That concept of responsibility needs to permeate throughout the culture of your business from the very start. When your employees are empowered to own the process, they are equally invested in the success of the company.
- Be insatiable. Never be satisfied with what you have and where you are. Drive yourself to the next level. Be curious and innovative as you look for ways to improve your idea.
- Let the experts do their job and hire people more qualified than you. There are those who have been trained in accounting, law, and business. It’s impossible for you to wear every hat within the company. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to fill in the gaps with talent and bolster your strengths.
- Work on the frontline. Get out to the stores, factories, and employees. Work side-by-side with the ones doing the work. Listen to their suggestions, show them the culture, and teach them the product.
- Be Remark Able. Be able to make an impression and induce a response from your consumer.
- Play along the way. Nelson says this is the most important part of being an entrepreneur. Living your life, having fun, and engaging with your family and friends are vital to staying balanced. If you don’t take the time to enjoy life as you are building your business, you will wake up one day without anything to show for your work.
As the David Eccles School of Business strives to provide its students with the best preparatory curricula possible, as is reflected in its ranking as a Top 25 School for entrepreneurship programs, there is not enough that can be said about the value of firsthand experience. We would like to thank Shawn Nelson for sharing his entrepreneurial spirit and life lessons with our business students and aspiring entrepreneurs.