Our conversations with Shopify entrepreneurs have been wide-ranging, from the industries in which they work to how they operate their businesses. But there's one thing that every entrepreneur has had in common that's contributed wildly to their successes: an overwhelming passion for what they do.
Now, we've all heard tons of talk about passion over our entire lives. It's practically a cliche at this point. But I want to offer a few nuanced points on the subject.
In this article, I'll attempt to describe the underlying principles that led to the passion of so many of the entrepreneurs we've interviewed. Plus, I'll share examples from our interviews that outline how our Judge.me entrepreneurs have cultivated their passions.
When it comes to passion, there's a big misconception that gets thrown around. The mistake is that passion is something we discover. This is not true.
Think about the things you genuinely enjoy doing. That could be cooking, playing football, drawing, or whatever. You didn't start out loving those things.
Cooking is hard, and the food you make in the beginning will suck. Playing football takes skill, and without a minimum level of that skill, you're going to get dominated on the pitch. Not so fun. And drawing, although enjoyable, is a skill that takes considerable time to develop into something you can be proud of.
So no, passion isn't something you just find. The truth is that we cultivate our passions.
And the same goes for the most successful Shopify entrepreneurs. Not a single one of the Shopify entrepreneurs we've interviewed started with a passion for what they do. Nor did they find it.
In the following examples, you'll see that each one of them developed a passion for what they do and what they sell by first testing the waters, then experimenting, sometimes over years.
Michael Potters, co-founder at Parachute Coffee, has nurtured a passion for coffee since he was a kid.
"I started very early," Michael said. "Both of my parents are Dutch. It's a big part of our morning ritual to have coffee, and it's a ritual that carries on throughout the day."
When Michael grew up, he began exploring coffee culture in more depth. He tried different roasters, tested coffee from various producers, and developed his palate for coffee.
As such, he realized that there was a considerable problem with coffee as most people consume it today.
"The coffee that's been sitting on the shelf at the grocery store has been there for months," Michael says. "There's a reason why those big incumbent coffee brands don't print the roast date on the bag. It's because they don't want consumers to know. The most important piece of information is missing."
That lack of freshness, combined with a passion for delicious quality coffee, is precisely why Michael co-founded Parachute Coffee alongside co-founders Jake Van Buskirk and Yehia Elkhouly.
"I think what people do care about is taste," Michael told me. "And when you taste fresh coffee, you immediately know the difference. On that first moment of truth when a customer of ours tastes the coffee, and they taste the difference between fresh coffee and stale coffee, they don't necessarily need a roast date printed on the bag. It's evident in the quality and the taste that they're experiencing in that moment."
Michael's passion for coffee has been critical for the success of Parachute Coffee. Had it not been for his and his co-founder's discerning tastes and love for the craft of coffee roasting and brewing, how could customers trust them? How could they know what their customers might want?
The answer: they couldn't.
Carrie Thornsbury never planned on making soap. However, as she struggled through a difficult divorce and the stresses of being a single mother, all while striving to finish her college education, she needed an outlet.
And for Carrie, that outlet was the 'soaper' community, a group of people around the US and abroad who make soap... and like to talk about making soap. That might sound strange to you and me, but for the soapers, it's as much about the community as it is about the challenge of making great soap.
"There's so much chemistry involved, there's so much science involved," Carrie said. "And then there's also the fact that you're creating something from all these different ingredients. I just fell in love with bar soap with the first batch that I made."
Carrie started by making soap at home, in her kitchen, and it didn't always go so well. Her first batch of liquid soap was a complete disaster, and while she eventually got better at that process, she prefers to stick to solid soaps.
If the challenge of making and selling soap wasn't enough, Carrie eventually cultivated a passion for serving the soaper community as a whole. She now sells precursor products and ingredients for soap-makers around North America.
John Sherwin, the co-founder at Hydrant, is obsessed with hydration.
It all began while John was at university, where he played rugby and studied biology. As with most university experiences, there was at least a moderate amount of partying, not to mention the physical exhaustion from playing sports.
That meant that John was struggling to get to his early morning classes, but he had a plan. And this plan would turn into a passion that would throw John into the world of entrepreneurship.
"The combination of all of those things was leading me to be dehydrated, or so I thought. That was like my hypothesis," said John. "I figured I could probably show up to more of my 9:00 AM lectures if I was better hydrated because last night's activity was very dehydrating and I played a rugby match before that. And I probably wasn't drinking enough water anyway. So, I thought that the right thing to do was to drink lots of water. I would chug three pints of water before bed. I'm thinking, 'I'm so smart - I'm going to wake up feeling better than everyone else.'"
Unfortunately, this strategy caused John to wake up to intensely painful leg cramps in the middle of the night. The problem wasn't water; it was an electrolyte imbalance.
John started gathering as much data on hydration and electrolytes as he could. He accessed academic journals and started testing products on the market. He began unlocking the secrets to perfect hydration and eventually became obsessed with the process.
John identified hydration salts as the most effective form of hydration, but they tasted terrible. Something needed to be done. The average consumer needed a tasty hydration method that wasn't filled with sugar, like most sports drinks were.
And so Hydrant was born. That's the short version of the story. You can read the full thing here.
But what was clear from my conversation with John, is that he is actually obsessed with hydration. He's sort of a biohacking, optimization nut. And you can hear the passion in his voice.
Every one of the entrepreneurs I've interviewed, including those above, has come across massive setbacks throughout their journey. They've been in debt, losing money, going through family crises, and much more.
If one were to look at the results from their early days or speculate as to where their fascinations were taking them, it would be easy to write each entrepreneur off as a hobbyist. At least it would have seemed that way in the beginning. It always does.
But at least for the entrepreneurs we've spoken with, their passion was greater than their results. For many, it still is. And that is what underlies their successes thus far.
So, whereas in the very beginning we don't have a wellspring of passion to draw upon, how on Earth can we muster enough passion to keep going through the tough times?
The answer: stop thinking about the initial results.
The outcome, at least in the beginning, doesn't matter. When you're starting out in a new venture, you're embarking upon a grand experiment. A fun, exciting, journey that may or may not work out how you imagined. That's okay. That's natural.
Of course, keep your business brain screwed in. Any good scientist knows how to control her experiments. However, never let that business brain supersede your sense of experimentation. Over time, through experimentation in low-risk environments, you cultivate an interest into a passion that will eventually fuel you through to some form of success.