What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
Well, this business was really my partner’s idea. Diamond MMA originally started as a lifestyle clothing brand for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Craig Diamond, our CEO, always said the original goal was to create a clothing line that you could pick your child up from school in, but that also represented you as an MMA enthusiast.
While fighters loved the t-shirts and shorts that we originally created, they were constantly telling us that they didn’t need them. What they needed was better groin protection. Our team did some research and found out just how serious this problem is. It is estimated that there are 16,000 groin injuries annually. Eighty-five percent of all testicular injuries are caused by blunt trauma in sports. And while groin protection and athletic cups have existed in the market for years, the industry has had no innovation. Current jock straps are poorly designed, leading to uncomfortable athletes and serious injuries.
When we first created the product, we were amazed how many cups from general sporting good stores actually caved in and cracked upon impact. The first thing Diamond did was recruit a great team of world renowned designers, entrepreneurs and former athletes so we could set out on a mission — to create the world’s most innovative and protective groin system.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
I think the scariest part about being a young entrepreneur is the unknown. It is scary to not know what tomorrow may bring. I find myself sometimes worrying about not being able to support myself, my family, and even the business. One day could be the best day ever for the business, and the next day could be absolutely terrible. It really is an emotional roller coaster. I think there are two best ways to deal with this.
- Take care of yourself. It is essential to take care of your mind and body to have ultimate success. I try to work out every day, sleep enough to sustain my body, eat healthy clean meals, and meditate and clear my mind when I become overwhelmed. It is essential to take care of yourself so you can mentally and physically take on the biggest challenges and face the lows and celebrate the highs. Being an entrepreneur is not for the weak spirited.
- Embrace it. I can’t even count how many days I have heard the best news with my team, and also some of the worst. Celebrate the highs and just know when you hit a low, that you will overcome it. That’s business. Hey, that’s even life.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
I am very lucky. My parents always inspired me to chase my dreams. They taught me the importance of pursuing my passions. My dad would always tell me, “You can either help others achieve their dreams, or you can have others help you achieve your dreams. Having others help you build your dreams is always better.” I have been working on entrepreneurial ventures since I was 14, and haven’t slowed down since.
When I started my first business selling my own line of boxing equipment, Golden Gear, we ran into some problems with quality control. Some customers told me to quit while I was ahead because I was so young. It was hard to hear those words, but I obviously ignored them. People will always be jealous. You will always have doubters.
Believing in yourself, your abilities and your skill is the first step to success. Once you achieve that, build a great support group. For me, this includes my family, some of my closest friends, and my partners. When you hit those lows, some doubt may start to creep into your head. It’s your support group that will pick you back up when you need it. I continue to ignore my naysayers, because I know I can do it and am doing it. And after all, success is the best revenge.
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
Sales are everything. Without sales, your business or idea will die very quickly. The best way to learn is to do. And the best way to really learn is to fail. Growing up, If someone had told me how something had to be done or that there was only one way to do something, I would have never learned.
My parents never taught me how to run my business. They just supported me. With the flexibility of knowing nothing, I had to go out and learn it all on my own at a young age. And I learned quickly what worked and what didn’t work.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
So many people have a great idea but choose not to pursue it. It is never too late to give it a try. Even if it doesn’t work, at least you are perfecting your craft. A failed venture will teach you a lot of things that you should not do in your next venture, as well as a lot of things that you should do.
So give it a try. If it doesn’t work, you can try and try again until it does.
I also can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of yourself first and foremost. I was a full-time student running two businesses and dealing with a lot of personal issues for a long time. I did not take care of myself and all of a sudden I developed anxiety. Not only did this impact my business, but it also impacted my health. Without your mental and physical strength, nothing is possible.
How do you end each day and why?
I usually end each day by doing some reading and listening to a podcast in bed. I try to learn something new each day. I especially enjoy listening to Tim Ferris and Joe Rogan. I recommend the website Life-LongLearner. It is important to have balanced life and get your mind off the business and on other personal things you enjoy.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for businesses just starting up?
Get creative. Go after wild, funny, outside-the-box ideas. To date, we have protected thousands of professional athletes and the majority of the UFC fighters, the largest MMA organization in the world. We always get creative. We actually just launched a campaign called the #DiamondCupCheck Challenge, where we ask our customers to send us videos of them doing a cup check by hitting themselves in the “family jewels.”
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
My goal is to build an awesome startup, selling the world’s most protective sports equipment. There are so many athletes who are using gear that lacks design to actually make them perform better and feel safer. As a former athlete who has sustained plenty of injuries, this is my first mission.
When I achieve this, I will likely want to pursue my other passions. As a recent college graduate, I am very passionate about education. I want to help inspire others to chase their passions and their dreams just like my dad inspired me. I am currently working on a book to do just that and will be speaking at a few conferences this upcoming year.
Ultimately though, I want to help others and make the world a better place. I want to leave it better than how I left it. My dad passed away just one year ago from urothelial cancer. In his honor, I raised $25,000 for a foundation I just got involved in this year, Experience Camps. Experience Camps is a summer camp for boys and girls ages 9-16 who have suffered a loss of a parent, sibling or a close relative or friend. With the money I raised, 48 kids will get to go to camp this summer for free.
Acts of kindness and giving help make the world go round. That is my ultimate goal.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.