Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in Queens, NY, by computer programming parents who encouraged my sisters and I to pursue our passions above all. I was passionate about computers, inventing, and sports– I’d played baseball and basketball before my parents moved my family to Pennsylvania. My dad has always been a big boxing fan, and it turned out that our neighbor — a retired New York City police officer — was also a boxing coach. My dad and I started taking lessons from him, during which I fell in love with boxing and ended up fighting in amateur competitions for 10 years. I placed second in the PA Golden Gloves Tournament and had a lot of fun traveling, sparring, and competing. While getting my computer science degree, I opened a boxing gym in PA where I trained amateur and professional fighters for 15 years before moving my ‘Boxing For All’ program to New York City. In 2013, I sold my gym and used all my training funds to create the Quiet Punch prototype and order our first 1,000 units.
What was the catalyst for transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
There were a few different “ah ha” moments. When I first attended college in Pennsylvania, I wanted to continue my boxing training, but no boxing club was established. It occurred to me that I could start one on my own– my first “ah ha” moment was not expecting others to be interested. One kid joined the club, and I started training him. He told his friends and then, through word of mouth, I had a thriving boxing team. Witnessing how much boxing positively impacted the lives of my students was another significant “ah ha” moment. Making boxing accessible for anyone interested, not just fighters, became my passion and purpose. Flash forward ten years, after training thousands of kids, I transitioned into teaching adults in NYC. During that time, I had a lightbulb moment when I realized I wanted to invent something that my students could train with in their tiny apartments. I set up pullup bars and a duffel bag in the bathroom doorway of my studio apartment, and in 2013, the concept of Quiet Punch was born.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle to take a good idea and translate it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Having had a lot of experience building websites and creating internet companies, I knew how much goes into getting a business up and running. I also knew how much self-doubt and overanalyzing every little detail could kill a business before it even starts. After college, I won a business plan competition for plagiarism detection software and a small amount of seed money. Unfortunately, the funding was used up almost immediately just in the course of creating the business plan, which showed that the barrier to entry was too high in that area. It felt impossible to continue, and I gave up on that business before its time. I vowed that moving forward; when I had an idea, I wouldn’t waste time dwelling on how it may not work. After developing the Quiet Punch concept, I made a few samples and gave them to people I knew. That crowdsourcing resulted in the feedback I wouldn’t have thought of alone, and contributed significantly to evolving the product into commercial viability. If I had kept the idea to myself or thought about how it might not work, we would never have gotten to where we are today.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Give power to goals instead of fears. Take it day by day, one step at a time, and celebrate the small wins. It can be overwhelming to think of everything that has to be done in the life of the business, and that can stall or squash success. When I first graduated college and worked as a software developer for a health insurance company, I remember hearing someone one cubicle over talking about how amazing his life would be when he retired at 65. I was 21, thinking I didn’t want to wait that long to be “happy.” I had just seen BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25, and I told that same co-worker that I wanted to be on that list. Six months later, I quit and began pursuing my own ventures. Right before I turned 25, I made the list.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Reminding myself daily that I get to do what I love for a living and that adversity is part of the job. I stay appreciative that I have created something new that has made a positive impact, and I can continue to develop and invent if I stay motivated. As CEO, staying inspired and not getting bogged down by challenges is critical for making the best decisions for the company. When I feel any dread, I look at the daily log I’ve kept for four years. If I face obstacles on a particular day, I go back a few years and see how much the business has grown and progressed since then.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I most enjoy the autonomy it allows me. I can dream of an idea and go to work on it. I am not limited by others, nor do I have to work on something I don’t truly believe in. The downside is carrying the weight of my business into every part of my life– it is tough for me to turn it off. While I don’t work a traditional 9 to 5, I do have a schedule that is somewhat 24/7. Focusing on time with my family, especially on the weekends, and making mental space for other things, helps turn things off. When my impulse is to answer emails immediately, I pause and put off non-urgent tasks until the weekend ends — setting boundaries for myself, which is a work in progress.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
When I first envisioned Quiet Punch, I expected my main job would be designing the product and getting it to market. I didn’t imagine the multitudes of jobs needed in between or how much I would be taking on personally to keep costs down. I’ve worked every possible role, from designing the website, to working in the warehouse, programming trackers, answering support tickets, monitoring social media, running marketing campaigns, coordinating the supply chain, and more. Now that Quiet Punch has grown, we have multiple team members to support our demand and user base, but I’m grateful to have worn all those hats because it showed me how each part of the business worked and what was needed to manage each segment of our company with personal on-the-job experience.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
I have this feeling at least once a week, but I have so many Quiet Punch users who use the product as part of their daily routines and new members daily, which keeps me going. In addition, reading and listening to stories about entrepreneurs’ struggles before their successes is a great tool to tame any feelings of defeat. Thankfully, there is no shortage of stories about overcoming adversity.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It wasn’t funny when it happened, but I can laugh about it now. We released the first-generation punch trackers before they were ready to be sold. I sold about 300 of them and realized I had made a massive error in the programming shortly after they were shipped. Luckily, after a sleepless night and visions of the end of Quiet Punch, I could change our server to fix this problem, and no customers were affected. I learned that sometimes my self-imposed deadlines are arbitrary and that waiting a few more weeks to test will not ruin the business.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
My Dad inspires me. He has always supported my pursuit of entrepreneurship and encouraged being my own boss. I see how much his jobs have weighed on him throughout my life, and I’ve made it one of my missions to create a work environment that doesn’t increase life stress for our employees. Because of his experiences and how he’s weathered them, I’ve promised that anyone who works for Quiet Punch will feel stable, supported, and excited to be part of this company. I believe that our jobs factor so mainly into our quality of life, and it is essential to be there for your employees in whatever they are going through.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I believe we have empowered many people, especially those who’ve been left out of home fitness. So many other connected fitness products feel exclusive. Quiet Punch was explicitly created for anyone who wanted to learn boxing basics and incorporate it into their lives, regardless of their physical conditions or living situation. I feel incredible joy seeing a great review of our product or someone posting about their progress. It is a fantastic feeling that something I created a decade ago in the doorway of my studio apartment is now reaching hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and improving their lives.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Investor money is great; just make sure that whoever you get genuinely believes in your mission. I have experienced the frustrating reality of investors who are uninterested in our mission and only care about fast returns. Your investors need to understand and care about your vision so that they will support you for the long haul.
- Grow your network or have a co-founder– it gets lonely. Invest in building a network of like-minded entrepreneurs, because even if you are independent, it can be isolating. I have often felt like I have no one to talk to about what I am going through, and someone else’s experience can help.
- Your success does not define you. Outside validation should not be your driving force. I have been caught up too much in comparing myself to other entrepreneurs. Stay in your lane and keep doing the work.
- Keep a daily log. I started four years ago, but I wish I had done it ten years ago. The brain tends to block out past difficulties, and having a catalog of experiences, good and bad, is invaluable. It is essential to look back on insurmountable roadblocks and see that the business emerged stronger.
- It takes a long time. When I won the business plan competition in my early twenties, I thought I would be rich and established within a few years. I know now that wealth and greatness take years to cultivate, and you must focus on a clear direction rather than a specific timeline. If you are going to start something, it could take years before you notice significant traction.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to start a movement to empower people to turn their hobby into an income source. Everyone’s an expert at something. People take for granted what they see as easy or obvious, which is probably difficult for someone else. A good example is my friend who loves cars. He can tell you everything about them and assumes everyone already knows what he does. I would love to work on a site or app that allows users to create a complete experience around their expertise. Great knowledge should not just be reserved for the ultra-successful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Bob Parsons of GoDaddy said, “When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think.” Ten years ago, I had just stocked my childhood bedroom with Quiet Punch units and couldn’t figure out how to sell them. A few days before giving up completely, one of my videos went viral on Facebook. The next day I had sold over 500 units in twelve hours and had a preorder list in the thousands. I had convinced myself that no one else would be interested in Quiet Punch, and it sold out shortly after.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Saeju Jeong of Noom. His story is incredible. The way he was inspired by his father and stayed so focused on his mission of getting people to live healthier resonates. We have a lot of parallels working in the health and fitness space. His success story is inspiring, and I’d love to sit with him and learn more about it.