Today we had the chance to interview Ernie Bray, an award-winning entrepreneur whose company was just named in October as one of the “Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America” by Entrepreneur Magazine.
- Please tell us more about yourself?
Well let’s see. I’m a high-energy guy and have a passion for business. I grew up in a Porterville, a small town in the Central Valley of California and really didn’t have any interest in business when I was a kid. I was focused mainly on playing basketball and getting top grades. I always had an interest in learning though and combining that with my natural competitiveness from sports I can now see how business has become my calling. After high school, I played Division III college basketball, graduated with a degree in Sociology and found myself in a cubicle working for an insurance company. I then started and built a technology company from the ground up and now my brother and I are launching a business podcast in 2017. It’s going to be focused on entrepreneurs, business, life, and success. It will be a lot of fun as we are making it a really interactive show.
- What inspired you to start ACD?
From day one, I was never satisfied with just working in a cubicle. I knew I had something bigger to accomplish but I just couldn’t figure it how to start. As a hard worker though, I began to really dive in and understand the insurance business. While insurance was not my passion, the “process” began to really intrigue me. How could I improve on things? How could I bring technology into an area that was years behind? So after about eight years working for insurers, I decided to start out and build a company that would bring technology to insurers and digitize and connect a fragmented industry.
- As an entrepreneur, you’ve bootstrapped your way to success (awesome!). Please tell us more about that experience.
I had tried various small ventures prior to taking the big leap. I recommend that for anyone who wants to start a business. Begin it as a side project and see if you have a passion for it. My brother created one of the first short form content & music streaming sites in the 90’s, I helped him and learned a lot, I dabbled in real-estate, fitness and then finally focused on my technology company. Everything prior was really a great learning experience and you have to realize your first three or four attempts might not work. Most businesses that start fail, so the key is still having that passion and not letting a few failures extinguish your fire.
- Starting a business with limited capital is the essence of what it means to bootstrap. How did you initially fund your business?
To fund the business, I sold my house and took out money from our savings account. My wife and I downsized our life by moving to a location where the cost of living was lower . That way, we could focus on building the company while using some of our savings and alleviate financial pressure. The risk was still very high so any profits we made we invested back into the company. The mission a that point was to stabilize the business and create a solid product.
- As an entrepreneur, what are some of the biggest challenges and rewards that you’ve experienced so far?
I think the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is that you have to have a mindset that never quits. You have to be able to handle so many different things coming at you and make fast yet solid decisions. Not everything is going to go right but if you bring energy, enthusiasm and passion, it can really make the difference. I’d say the biggest rewards have been being able to see the results of building a successful company. Creating jobs, helping peoples lives and building a profitable and award-winning company makes me proud.
- If you had to give out one expert tip to our entrepreneur readership, what would it be and why?
I’d say my biggest tip would be to focus on building a great product or service in a viable market. I see so many young kids right out of college from some the “best” schools come in with an arrogant attitude and flush with some start-up money and try to build companies without having the fundamentals. They are focused on a billion dollar cash out dream at the expense of building a quality product or service. You have to focus on ensuring there is a market and your product is top tier, then you set yourself up for the best chance of success. Don’t let the dreams of cash in your head override the importance of a great product.
If you want to add link to my site you can connect it to www.ballsoutpodcast.com and my twitter handle is @erniebray