The Venture for America Accelerator is a three-month program open to VFA alumni and Fellows at the conclusion of their two-year Fellowship. On August 1st, seven teams descended on Detroit to begin working full time on their companies. Thanks to generous support from the William Davidson Foundation and Quicken Loans and with help from the Venture for America team and a wide range of industry leaders, Accelerator teams have the time, space, and funding to focus solely on building their fledgling companies.
Meet Brandon Gell, a 2016 Fellow and Founder of Clyde. Clyde enables physical stores to offer extended warranties and insurance for their products with all of the benefits and none of the hassle. Here, Brandon shares his favorite productivity hack, how VFA has helped him throughout the process of building his business, and embracing challenges as a business owner.
What hacks have you developed to stay focused and productive in your day-to-day?
One of my favorite things I do during the day was passed along to me by a fellow fellow and founder of EagleEye, Drew Jankowski. At the end of each day, I make a checklist of ~6 things that I want to get done the next day. This helps me hash out what exactly the important tasks are and keeps my focus honed. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of work, but when you can look down and see something to check off, the work becomes a bit more palatable.
How has pursuing entrepreneurship impacted your personal development?
There are so many different challenges associated with starting a business that it’s hard to see where it does NOT impact your personal development. First and foremost, having to manage your own day to day schedule means that all the power is in your hands. You can either waste away the day, or do things that move the business forward. A lot of times, there’s a challenge in front of you that seems insurmountable (hello financial projections). Taking baby steps to solve these problems, starting with research, is the easiest way to do great work the first time around. The best part is, once you’ve done it once, you can do it again. Even if things don’t go the way we hope, these are skills I’ll take with me onto the next business.
Which aspects of VFA have helped you the most throughout your journey?
The VFA community has been by far one of the best resources for Clyde throughout this process. From sourcing leads, to UX/UI help, to candid feedback, the VFA community has been right by my side supporting Clyde and our team. When it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, it’s great to know Fellows and VFA team members to bounce ideas off of or seek clarity through.
Building a business is a tough process. How have you learned to embrace the challenges?
There are days where it feels impossible to move forward, or days where we think we’ve exhausted all possible answers to a problem and are still in a rut. That’s when you know it’s time to take step back and breathe. It’s very easy to think you need to keep working, especially when problems seem insurmountable. I’ve found that this is exactly the best moment to stop working and go for a walk or talk with friends. Removing myself from the weeds is the best way for me to seek alternative answers to a problem I’m solving (and it’s really hard to do).
What’s your mission and how do you plan to live it out every day?
At the core of Clyde is the goal to provide tools to independently owned business that help them compete with larger brands. It’s easy to understand this concept as a founder of an early stage startup, and I hope to live this mantra throughout my professional and personal life. It’s a good reminder of what it feels like to be a young and small company, able and willing to try out different things until something works.
What readers can do to help you get to your next step or milestone?
We’re building Clyde to enable independently owned stores compete with the big guys by helping them offer superior customer service. What this means is that we need early connections to companies who are trying to grow their annual revenue. Know of any physical or online stores that could use our help? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or checkout our website at joinclyde.com
Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed once you’ve completed your two-year Fellowship. Our alumni have launched 41 companies that employ more than 195 people. Click here to find out how VFA can help you succeed.