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How to Start a Business Without Even Trying


After I left my last startup, I started looking for my next gig. This, of course, meant the dreaded job application. While I have spent the couple years working for myself, and while I love it, I thought it was time to try working for a startup again. As it would turn out, I ended up working for myself in a freelancing/contractor role anyway, but that's beside the point of this post. Instead, I want to tell you one of the stories I told in most of my cover letters/interviews when applying to jobs. It reminded me of how we can accidentally find our way into entrepreneurship.

I first got the itch to build something when I was still in high school. I was working on cars with my friends and we had trouble affording the parts. So, I had an idea. What if we could get the parts for significantly cheaper? All we had to do was start a business and reach out to suppliers saying we would be re-selling the parts. At least, that's what I thought the process would be.

I applied for and got a business license, and I thought that was it. I was in. However, this was before the boom in e-commerce, and auto parts sellers were not friendly to online merchants at the time. They wanted a brick and mortar store before they’d deal with me.

There was no way my friends and I could afford a physical location, so I turned on the salesperson in me and went back with a pitch, a vision. I got on the phone with parts managers and founders at these auto parts companies and explained the vision (a vision that I hadn't even thought through since my original goal was just to get parts for my car for cheap). An online parts store. Fast and the Furious had just come out. The market was about to boom. That was the pitch. They would love it.

They didn't.

Now, I was left wondering if my crazy idea to get cheap auto parts for me and my friends would ever work. I had one more idea. What if I actually built the business?

I built out an online store, posted an inventory of parts I did not even have available, and started selling to people I knew from around town. Soon, I had real orders and no product. I let those build up a bit and went back to each and every one of the parts managers and founders who had turned me down. I showed them my back orders and convinced them to sell to me. Having an online presence to prove the validity of the business helped, but having orders and money ready to flow in helped more.

After landing the wholesaler agreements and my friends and I getting our pick of the cheapest parts we'd ever buy, a funny thing happened. It wasn’t just about getting cheap parts for my car anymore. It was about building a business

I fell in love with building businesses and building products. All by accident.

As a fun aside, here’s an archived snapshot of that fateful website: https://web.archive.org/web/20031223033513/http://www.ja1racing.com/

The point to this story is you never know where inspiration might come from. If you're waiting for the right moment to do something, that moment may never come. Things don't always happen for a reason. Sometimes, they happen by accident.