If you think creating a startup sounds crazy, how would you like to lead two at the same time?
That’s what Christopher Schlierman is doing with his startups Rentie and Nihlo.
Rentie, his first startup, is a site that connects landlords and prospective tenants. Once a tenant goes through the application process once, they can submit to multiple landlords without having to re-enter any data. Landlords get alerts when a prospective renter passes whatever criteria the landlord chooses.
Nihlo is a platform for celebrity athletes, influencers, and designers to sell their clothing, handbags, and other creations to their fans and the general public. Their site declares that they are a “fullstack ecommerce creator that offers in-house design, marketing, website, manufacturing, and distribution services.”
They already have signature line deals with NBA star Glen “Big Baby” Davis and are working to sign Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors.
“You're not going to find that at Nike,” says Schlierman. “We go after the underserved market. One of our big focuses right now is trying to make clothes and signature brands for the female market.” He says he hopes to sign design deals with top female athletes.
How to Tell if You’re an Entrepreneur or an Employee in 4½ steps
Find something you really love.
Build, build, build your knowledge base about it.
Develop a skill set that is valuable in that area.
(a) If there are already companies working in that space, would you be happy being an employee? If yes, be an employee. 4.(b) If there are no companies doing your idea and you desperately want to spend the next 5-10 years making it happen, then sorry, you’re an entrepreneur.
Early Entrepreneurship Mistakes to Avoid
Choosing where to spend your money. Bringing any product to market requires research, product development, and marketing. A CEO has to choose how to allocate scarce resources to each priority at the right time. This is especially tricky when you’re not just launching a product, you’re launching a company.
Not doing enough market research first. This happened to Schlierman when he was starting Rentie. In retrospect he realized that he needed to talk to more prospective clients to get the right product/market fit.
Without a good product, you have nothing to sell.
“I made the mistake of investing more into marketing and less in the actual product,” says Schlierman. “That is a major mistake people need to realize. You advance with marketing but you cannot do anything until your product is at a spot where it can be usable to the masses.”
After few frustrating months on Rentie, Schlierman hired a new product team to get the site where it needed to be.
Lessons learned, Schlierman started Nihlo with a strong “A player” product team. “That is something that every founder needs to do,” says Schlierman.
Build the next startup on a firmer foundation. “Fast forward over a year later, [when I was] going to create Nihlo, I instantly know exactly what to do the right way with hiring, with talking to clients, because I learned how to do it the right way cause I did it the wrong way first,” says Schlierman.
How Do You Assemble The Perfect Startup Team?
Schlierman feels that everyone at the company should have an entrepreneurial mindset to help them power through the high-risk, low-pay, long-hour slog that is startup life.
“They’re willing to take on risks. They're willing to build something that doesn't exist yet and be ostracized by society a lot,” says Schlierman.
Believe in the product
If employees are willing to sell the product to their families, or in the case of fashion, wear the product, Schlierman believes that they have the right stuff. ”If they can do that, then I know I can go to war with them.”
“I love people who are super professional,” says Schlierman. “That's actually like a dying breed now. They show up for meetings, they do what the boss says. If you disagree with the boss, you tell the boss, ‘Hey, I disagree,’ but that doesn't mean they don't get the job done.”
Becoming a professional takes time. Schlierman remembers a painful lesson right out of high school when he went over the head of his manager to discuss something with the company CEO. The CEO, recognizing Schlierman’s inexperience, kindly explained why organizations have chains of command.
“I don't think he even realized what he did for me,” recalls Schlierman. “He sat me down and made sure that I didn't get fired. He took it upon himself to teach me how to be a professional, how to fit in a company. That was like a real eye-opening experience.”
Because of this wakeup call, he caught the business bug.
It put him on that path to realizing that he needed to like learn. From there Schlierman started reading books and studying the entrepreneurial GOATs (Greatest Of All Time). “I wanted to actually be one of those guys.”
With two thriving startups under his belt, Schlierman has a great start on that goal.