Welcome to our founder lessons series. Today, Michael Nova reveals how he started and run Nova Custom Printing and RiseUpEight. He also shares how to become more resilient both in business and in life.
A brief summary of your startup
I am the founder of Nova Custom Printing, where we offer branding and marketing solutions and business-to-business printing to clients nationwide. I’m also the founder of the nonprofit website RiseUpEight.org, where we tell stories of people worldwide, from all walks of life who have overcome adversity to inspire others to never give up.
2. Why and how did you become a serial entrepreneur?
It’s been quite a trip. I started my first business while I was still in school and working for an event planning firm. I really wanted to start my own business and as a musician, came up with the idea to help musicians get organized with the business end of their careers.
I always like to tell the story about how I quit my job and ran out into the street jumping up and down like a little kid. I was excited that I was finally free to do what I wanted to do…felt like I was being released from prison.
I was an entrepreneur!
What came next was not easy. I had to hustle to get clients by word-of-mouth. I placed photocopies on billboards all around New York City, where musicians might see them. I partnered up with other music related businesses, and offered a percentage to anyone who would give me referrals. Eventually I was able to win enough clients to actually make a living.
Then out of the blue, the New York Times called and wanted to interview me for an article. I was able to begin doing print work for companies outside the music industry. Major corporations began contacting me. The word spread, and though I began to do some advertising, it was really word of mouth that built my business.
Today, I do work for major corporations on a regular basis. However, I never lost sight of continuing to work in the music industry. I created an inspiring music and film multimedia project called X: The Human Condition, but everyone in the music industry that I spoke to told me it was impossible to achieve.
As an entrepreneur, I had it within me to just say, “Ok then, I’ll just do it myself.” After twelve years of struggle, the project was finally completed, but during those twelve years, I learned the meaning of the word “adversity”.
I nearly went bankrupt financing the film myself, and became seriously ill to the point of nearly losing my eyesight permanently. It was a dark time in my life, literally, but I persevered. I endured years of rehabilitation and spent years researching alternative medicine.
I not only regained my health, but became healthier than I was before, and through hard work, I built my business back up to become even more successful than it was previously. Even X: The Human Condition became a success. We’ve just (yesterday) learned that the film has just been selected by Amazon Prime to screen video on demand in all English fluent countries worldwide.
After I recovered from all the setbacks, I realized that I was not the only one who had a story of overcoming adversity. I put together the website RiseUpEight.org as the next step in the exploration of the human condition that I began with the music and film project, to inspire people to never give up, not only through my real life story, but through the stories of others from all over the world.
What has been the biggest success factors?
My motto is “Never think of adversity as your enemy. Think of it as your ally.”
Why do I say this? Because going through adversity strengthens you. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t go through those difficult times. I gained wisdom, humility and most importantly, learned what’s most important in life. I learned to appreciate the little things that go unnoticed while you are chasing the dream…appreciating every moment that you are alive, appreciating those around you and your surroundings.
Sure we all want to be successful. Life is short, and we want to make our dreams a reality, but don’t lose sight (literally) of this current moment. Don’t push away a loved one because you are busy with work. Keep in mind what’s truly important in life, and that will make you more successful in business as well.
I also say this because everyone experiences adversity in life. It’s natural and normal for this to occur, even though you may feel like you are the only one of the world going through this. That’s how I felt. But that is incorrect.
There is someone somewhere in the world going through something similar, and one of the most important things is realizing that and trying to find someone who has been through this before can help you.
That’s why I created RiseUpEight. I wanted to create a community where “you are not alone”.
What’s amazing about my entire trip is that the story and the message of the music and film multimedia project, X: The Human Condition, was “you are not alone”.
So through all of this adversity, I literally achieved in the real world what I was aiming to achieve with the film’s message. I made real what was fictional. This is the power of becoming resilient, and never giving up.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
All of them are intertwined. As an entrepreneur, I learned that you need to offer something unique in a market where there is a need. This is the definition of niche marketing.
In regards to having the right team, it’s very difficult to do everything yourself. Lord knows I’ve tried. At some point, you need to hook up with other people to make your dream a reality. It’s just impossible to do it all yourself, because there will be some skill that you are lacking in. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do the bulk of the work yourself. But at some point you are going to need help, and it’s important to choose the right people to help you.
Screen them carefully to make sure that your objectives and their objectives are similar. I have found that it’s also important to find people with a similar outlook on life. Think holistically, because you will be spending a lot of time with these people, and you want the experience to be positive. Choosing the wrong people can be disastrous, which I’ve also experienced, and it’s not fun. :-)
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
There will undoubtedly be setbacks in the journey. As I’ve stated before, adversity is normal, and you need to accept that. Things will happen where everything seems to fall apart and you will be faced with the crossroads of giving up or continuing on in spite of the setbacks.
At this crossroads, there is a more obscure option however…
There is the option to revise your initial goal and take a detour. Realize that taking the detour is often the best road to take when the main road is blocked. Otherwise you will find yourself clearing that road for years. I know because I tried. Whether it’s some cosmic lesson or something from above, there is a reason for why everything happens.
I always ask everyone I have featured on Rise Up Eight if they would be where they are today if they didn’t go through the challenges that they had to endure and every one of them agrees that they needed to go through that to become successful. They all took detours at one time or another, but found themselves in the right place in the end.
We’ve made available a free e-book on RiseUpEight.org with tips on how to become more resilient. Feel free to download it and I hope it helps you.