We all have ideas, big and small…but how do you know if an idea is worthy of turning into a business?
These days, it seems like everyone wants to be their own boss and start a business. However, few succeed, as starting a biz takes a lot more work than what many people think! Building a business from the ground up takes hard work, dedication, patience, and most of all, persistence.
Here at Bloguettes, we’ve worked with countless entrepreneurs and know the hurdles that come with starting a business. So, at our 2018 conference, The Workshop, we’re bringing in experts to share their best tips & tricks for launching a successful business in today’s world.
Ernie Garcia and Ryan Keeton are the Founders of Carvana, an online-only used car dealer that allows customers to shop, finance, and trade in cars through their website. This Phoenix-based start-up launched in 2013 and was ranked 5th on the Forbes list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2015. Carvana started out as an idea, and in just 4 years, the company went public.
We recently had the chance to chat with Ernie and Ryan and ask them about their story, entrepreneurship advice, and more! Keep reading to get to know Ernie and Ryan and get a sneak peek at what their session at The Workshop will be like!
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today!
E: I was born and raised in Arizona. When I was pretty young, my dad started an automotive retail company and on summer break when I was 15 and all my friends were hanging out at the mall, my dad made me intern in the accounting department at the company. In retrospect, while this may have run afoul of some child labor laws, it did give me an excellent background education in automotive retail. I played a bunch of sports growing up, but none well enough to take me anywhere. Then, in what I can only assume was an admissions error, I got into Stanford and had four incredible years that I wish everyone could benefit from. I couldn’t have asked for more out of my college experience. From there, I went out to New York and honed my finance skills on Wall Street before heading back to Phoenix to work in the family business. Since moving back, I have started two companies, one that failed spectacularly, but taught me alot, and Carvana, which has been an amazing ride.
R: I’m an Arizonan, too, but unlike Ernie, my athletic skills actually took me somewhere (rim shot!). I was fortunate to play soccer in college, and after graduating, I, too, tested my finance skills. After realizing that world wasn’t for me, I came into advertising and marketing, with various stints in New York and LA. I learned a lot, but just as importantly, learned I wanted passion to be at the center of my livelihood and I’m incredibly lucky to say that’s now true.
There’s a third co-founder, Ben Huston, who’s apparently too cool for these kinds of things, so since he’s not here to speak for himself, we’ll give you his background: Another Arizonan, who managed to best us by going to the same undergrad as Ernie, and then law school at Ryan’s alma mater. Rumor has it, kids in his hometown are still talking about his high school performance of NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye.” He also happens to be exceptional at operations, but don’t tell him we said that – he already think he’s the Justin Timberlake of the group.
Let’s talk a little bit about your entrepreneurial journey. How was the idea for Carvana born and when did you decide to turn this into a business?
Car buying has infamously been known as a part of life that is taxing and that sucks. There are many areas of opportunity when it comes to the experience of buying a car. We wanted to change an industry that has operated the same way for so many years and make it better and an experience that people enjoy doing. Only 8% of people trust a car salesman and what they have to offer. No one looks forward to sitting at a dealership spending their entire Saturday haggling back and forth and eventually leaving with something that they may or may not have wanted.
We wanted to put the control back into the hands of the consumer and make it an enjoyable experience that people will want to do over and over again. Carvana was built with a customer centric focus and has operated as such ever since. We do not price negotiate, have any overhead fees or even commission. The customer has full control of their experience from start to finish.
These days, it seems like everyone wants to be their own boss and start a business. However, few businesses make it past the idea stage. What steps did you take to stand out in a crowded market and turn Carvana into the success it is today?
What makes us stand out in a crowded market is having a customer-centric focus. Honestly, the dumber the idea, the bigger the opportunity. It takes conviction to make things work, needing to be right a little more than being wrong. Success isn’t immediate.
"...the dumber the idea, the bigger the opportunity. It takes conviction to make things work, needing to be right a little more than being wrong. Success isn’t immediate."
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as entrepreneurs?
The biggest challenge is the complete investment of it all: time, money, emotions, identity. Your family is fully in on the idea as well and is a huge part of it.
The passion needs to be there as well. It’s hard to see an idea fail, but you end up growing from that idea and learning a bit more on what works and doesn’t work.
The greatest reward is creating a positive difference in the world. We aren’t curing cancer, but we saw a problem and poured our entire selves into fixing the problem and to some degree it is fixed. We then moved the world a bit, which is hard to do. The reward is being able to make an impact in some way but it’s varied. It’s not a one-dimensional approach, everyone in the company needs to feel that way.
In your opinion, what are 3 things that make or break the success of a business?
Three things that make a business are people, persistence and passion. You need to be willing to fight through the hurdles by having awesome people to make it through all of that. Everyone needs to be as on fire with the idea as the rest of the group. This concept is applicable everywhere; it doesn’t have to be just for a trillion dollar industry.
"Three things that make a business are people, persistence and passion."
What advice would you give to someone who has an idea and wants to start a business, but doesn’t know where to start?
The advice that we would give to someone who has an idea and wants to start a business is to be unrealistically optimistic about the idea. You have to be that way in order to commit your life to the idea.
Starting the business is going to be so much harder than you think. Assuring yourself that this is the idea that you are going to develop is key because once you get going, you will have to fight for a long long time in order to get there. You need to be fully in on the idea.
Give us a sneak peek at what we can expect from your Workshop session!
We will be discussing how we went from a startup to an IPO in 4 years without completely screwing it up…mostly. There are plenty of ways to screw this up and we have done many of them.
When you’re not busy running Carvana, what can we find you doing?
We like to focus on our families, kids, and sweating/doing something competitive each day (ping pong, pickle ball, etc) to fuel the fire and keep the motivation going. Whether you win or lose in something competitive, the drive to do better will be there.