Craig Wolfe was the president of Name That Toon where he developed the first ever animation/advertising art lines for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, M&M/Mars, Pillsbury, Campbell Soup, Hershey, and many others. The company grew to become the largest publisher of advertising/animation art in the world.
In 1998 he created Celebriducks which made the first ever celebrity rubber ducks of the greatest icons of film, music, athletics, and history. They have produced CelebriDucks for the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, NASCAR, NCAA collegiate mascots, and numerous Fortune 500 companies. Their ducks have appeared on numerous TV shows including The Tonight Show, CBS Evening Magazine, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and were voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly. They have created over 200 different CelebriDucks and selling over a million ducks while pioneering a whole new collectible.
1. What made you take the entrepreneurial leap?
I never really enjoyed working in an office while doing something I wasn’t really passionate about and for someone else, no less! For me, once I felt emotionally connected to an entrepreneurial venture, whether it was large or small, I knew there was no choice but to move forward. A business consultant, Carol Roth, shared a great quote from Winston Churchill who said “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” In truth, most great ventures had great setbacks, but over time became successful through the learning curve and passion of their founders.
2. How would you rank the following factors in determining a startup’s success: Idea, Market, Team. Please explain.
When you have startup, the idea is absolutely key. More money is thrown after poorly conceived ideas that you could ever imagine. Next, It’s really really important to study the market you are intending to serve and just as importantly get as much feedback from people you trust before you begin. And finally, surround yourself with the best team possible no matter where they reside as with outsourcing anything is possible today.
3. What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
You’re on your own, baby. You can’t blame anyone for your lack of drive, insight, success, or lack of income. There is no steady paycheck. It’s up to you to bring your vision to life. For some that’s hard as laziness and bad ideas are not suffered lightly. There is no cushion to fall back on. So to be an entrepreneur you have to have a temperament that can deal with uncertainty and also one that can self-generate in any situation. And as an entrepreneur, you will be called to do just that in more ways that you could ever have imagined!
4. What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
Passion for what ones loves and the creative process in and of itself is what drives all true entrepreneurs. You create what you love, in the way you want it created, and it’s all yours with no-one to tell you what you can or cannot do. It is an amazing experience. I always say in my estimate, over 75% of the people wake up each day and wish they could be doing something different. An entrepreneur is doing what they love every day and thus going to work, rather than a burden, is an exercise in creativity, fun, passion, energy, and excitement for what lies ahead.
5. What’s your advice for someone who is thinking about starting a business?
I do a lot of interviews in the media and I always tell every budding entrepreneur and small business owner that you are your brand that first and foremost when starting a business you have to set realistic goals and not try to own the world and your niche tomorrow. Patience is key!! So don’t bankrupt yourself in the first year!
Also, you want to start by promoting your brand not yourself! Your branding of yourself is only as good as your brand. Thus you should always create a great brand and then the natural extension to promote yourself as the brand will happen organically. Promoting yourself first is not only a bit egoic, but has no substance behind it. Richard Branson with Virgin, Steve Jobs with Apple, etc….they all had the brand first and then personality naturally followed to become intrinsically intertwined with the brand at that point. So spend your money to intelligently build up your brand.
….and this is huge for new entrepreneurs….it’s not how much money you make…it’s how much you keep!….so overhead is key….it takes down more businesses that you can imagine. Hey, you can easily bankrupt yourself through ill conceived overspending…especially in technology, rent, and personnel!!
And finally, learn to responsibly outsource. You have to know what you can do and what you should not do and what is the best use of your time. And you have to become a master of communication when you do outsource. It’s the key to making any business work. So bottom line, you really do have to have a great support staff no matter where they live, but you must know how to responsibly interact with them. Learn that and the sky is the limit!