"Have An Agreement" The Podcast For Entrepreneurs w/ Mike Liu - Miller IP

"Have An Agreement" The Podcast For Entrepreneurs w/ Mike Liu

The Inventive Journey
Episode #448
Have An Agreement
w/ Mike Liu

What This Episode Talks About:

How To Manage Business & Self

Time and time again, you can always talk about sort of technical you can always talk about sort of other aspects like, hey, you need to figure out how you can scalability do something, or you need to figure out what's the return on value or things like that. I believe all those things are to be true, but I do believe that it's one of the most important things to have people that you truly can actually really work together and cooperate with in a way that actually can be better than the sum of your parts. I know that's a cliched phrase, but really, people, the folks that you work with are some of the most important considerations that you make. I've seen so many times where founders it's crazy too. Like, founders that I know who founded the company together, and they had disagreements about sort of how the equity would be broken up because they didn't have an agreement when they started.


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What Is The Inventive Journey?

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

a hundred thousand percent in to this business there this is not a side hustle this is a full-time day and night even while we dream type of job uh that's what my dreams consist of today is uh dreaming about zen and so the one thing i would say to entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business if you believe in yourself go all in you know take the risk there's no body better to bet on than yourselves uh if you're in the stock market you're investing in stocks those prices are going up and down you have zero control over those companies and what happens to your wealth if you believe in yourself go all in uh work your tail off and you know a lot of bad things are going to happen along the way a lot of mistakes are going to be made learn from those mistakes but uh you know just continue to work hard and keep moving the ball forward every day little incremental movements forward will definitely add up and eventually you'll get that hockey stick curve that everybody dreams about [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devon miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast asim khan and uh sim um with there is a quick intro um him and his brother are immigrants originally from pakistan um his parents came to the u.s to uh for additional or to for additional opportunities um grew up uh grew up humbly or in his words poor or humbly and parents were two or three jobs growing up went to high school played sports and then went to college and went to the same schools his older brother did um got a finance or both of them got i think both him and his brother got finance degrees uh worked as investment bankers more fulfilled in the job or in the job so him and his brother i decided they wanted to uh or wanted to work together and do something else and so got into the health and wellness business and i started something with this brother so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast to sim hey devon thanks uh for having me on good to see you again and looking forward to this podcast hey i'm excited to have you on and have a good conversation so i just took a much longer journey condensed into the 30-second version so let's unpack that a bit and tell me a little bit about how you uh your journey got started uh with your uh migrating from pakistan yeah no i appreciate that i'm uh i'm honored to be a guest on your show so just a quick backdrop we are immigrants as you mentioned from pakistan uh moved to the states in 1984 uh suburbs of chicago we came here for the same reasons every other immigrant comes to this great country with this is the best land of opportunity out there and we've been thankful uh we came from humble background and uh you know have been able to become successful along the way so uh just work hard and uh went to school uh at marquette university um here in milwaukee we're headquartered out of here as well now so now you and just to kind of or back up a little bit so you guys came makes sense coming to the us looking for additional opportunities and then he also mentioned uh beforehand or but when we chatted a bit before the podcast um that you know you grew up humble beginnings your parents are working you know two or three jobs but it provided a bit of an opportunity so you went to high school and played sports but then as you were coming out of high school you both you and your brother went to college is that right correct so um yeah just backing up uh we we did go to high school together he was a year older than me and then i actually followed him to marquette university up here in milwaukee and uh he was doing accounting and finance so i figured i'd do accounting and finance so uh after college we uh then went on to do the wall street stuff uh he went and did investment banking at merrill lynch i actually went and did investment banking at merrill lynch and for a while we lived together in chicago then he moved out to san francisco i moved one real quick question before you get too far in just because i had a question maybe backing back up to college so maybe i'm oversimplifying it but it sounds like it was basically as simple as my brother went to college here i'm gonna go to college here my brother got this degree i'm gonna go get this degree as well and it wasn't as simple as hey i look up to my brother and whatever he's doing has got to be a good decision was a bit more in depth of that or i just you know it was interesting that you went to the same schools you got the same degrees what was the the motivation there yeah i don't know if you've seen that movie with uh drew carrick uh what's his name uh yes man yes man i'm blanking on his name but uh anyways i i actually started out at a different university in uh pittsburgh called carnegie mellon uh where i had a full scholarship for computer engineering and uh that's what i thought i was gonna be because uh when you're an immigrant from pakistan there's two expectations either you become a doctor or an engineer and i didn't like the medicine side of things i guess i wasn't good enough for that but i was really good at physics and math and engineering type of stuff and so i tried my shot at that but then quickly realized that i wasn't going to be a good fit so i took a semester off then i went to a community college for another semester and by that time my brother was a junior at marquette and i was uh going to be a sophomore so i didn't want to stay in a community college in the chicago suburbs so i figured why not just move up here so i do have a lot of respect for him i do think very highly of his decision making and so that definitely did play a part in uh to my decision to ultimately end up at marquette university and then i did accounting advice at least to the creditor a bit of the background you did say okay i am going to go to a different university i tried that so it wasn't simply just following in your shoe sets but after you try and tried that you're saying hey we're a lot more alike and i'm going to go down the path that he's enjoying because it looks like i'd enjoy that too is that about right right right i wanted to get into business and he was doing accounting and seemed very practical and mechanical in some ways uh you know just logical numbers i like numbers so that was the reason i went into accounting i've never actually used accounting in my career other than you know uh just from an observer saying i was never a cpa so okay so it makes sense so now okay now kind of continuing on with the story so now you both you and your brother you've got the finance degrees you're coming out of college and then how did you guys kind of decide where you were going to work or what the next step of your journey was right so you know part of coming over to the states was to get good jobs build a good career start families and finance careers have you know a lot of money associated with them and so investment banking was the big thing at the time still is today i'm guessing and uh it was more fun more interesting than going to be a public accountant not that there's anything wrong with public accountant my personality just wasn't suited for that neither was my brother so we tried our hand at investment banking worked incredibly long hours slept a lot of times under the desk you know at the office and a lot of face time as well uh you know putting together pitch books and then going to presentations etc so i did that for two years my brother did that for four years out in san francisco and then i went into the startup world myself uh in the uh early 2000s i i was involved in two software companies uh back to back neither of them worked out and that's why still working my ass off no i think that that makes sense and so and i think you know one of the things you'd hit on with uh i can't er with the job is that you went into investment banking and you know i hear that a lot from you know friends and other people that i know the industry which is a lot of hours long work high burn out hard you know job satisfaction super competitive and you're looking to say okay while it may pay well or maybe you know a good opportunity from the outside it's not what you necessarily want to do or it's not fulfilling and it's not what you're saying hey i don't want to do this forever and so as you guys because you're kind of coming to this realization saying okay not getting the fulfillment here it made you know all these long hours a lot you know their work days and you know it burnout and everything else is not what i want for long term and no i don't think anybody would or very few people would and so as you're trying to decide okay now you're hitting the the pause button so to speak on that so how did you get you and i think both you and your brother kind of had this at similar periods of time but how did you decide what you're going to do next or if you're not not going to work for the investment banking what you where you're going to focus on right so for myself i went from investment banking into the tech startup world for a couple years and then i went into private equity after that so prior to starting um zen with my brother i spent 15 years in an uh private equity firm it was a total of two billion under management i was one of the partners uh again i was not fulfilled my brother on the other hand did investment banking for most of his career and then he did have a stint starting a hedge fund out in denver and we ended up in wisconsin our wives are from here our family's here now and so that's how we boomerang back boomerang back into uh this nice community they say okay i'm gonna boomerang back and so now you you and your brother you went out did a few startups you tried a few different things you worked for you know or a little bit more of managing funds and kind of getting into a different area you know how did that you know bit bringing it full circle or kind of up to where you're at today and i think we talked a bit before something you wanted to do was get to do something in health and wellness and start a business there so how did you kind of make that transition or what prompted that and how did you kind of get into that area yeah no i think that's a great question so we had been talking about doing something together for about three to five years prior to actually getting into this fun venture i would say that for us to actually make the transition from making decent money to betting on ourselves at the end of the day that was based on an aha moment and uh we're very blessed we were traveling back to pakistan with our parents and our father he's 80 some years old he's a diabetic and as you may know diabetics from time to time get neuropathy which is severe inflammation and pain and extremities so hands feet joints etc and after a very long you know journey back home to visit family our father experienced a very severe episode of neuropathy while we were at our aunt's house it's his younger sister who we were staying with at the time and she did what a typical pakistani or an indian or a south asian in that part of the world would do which is to take turmeric and she ground it into a powder blended it with olive oil made a gritty kind of nasty disgusting looking paste it's in our language it's called hold the haldi and uh we actually used it extensively while we were playing sports to recover from injuries so it wasn't anything new it was just timing and uh by chance that that happened to our father and so after she applied the gritty pace to his foot where the inflammation and pain was uh within an hour his pain was completely gone and you know that was the aha moment that started this fun little journey uh they were in year five of and at that point we saw you know his pain go away using nature excuse me and my brother and i had been talking about getting together and doing business startup uh particularly focused on health and wellness and so we started researching turmeric so when we got back uh so this was december of 2016. we went full force into researching the science of turmeric and if i may briefly turmeric is uh about the length of a finger it's uh cousin of the ginger root there's over 300 different ingredients in the turmeric root itself potassium zinc iron etc but the main compound that's responsible for its anti-inflammatory power which makes it a superfood if you will is this little compound called curcumin and so all of the studies the medical and the academic research studies were pointing to this compound curcumin so we went full on into researching curcumin today there's close to 60 000 scientific and medical research studies globally on curcumin's anti-inflammatory and immunity boosting properties since covid started research has increased dramatically into covid's immunity boosting properties and so uh for the first seven eight months after we returned from pakistan our focus was exclusively on the science of turmeric one other important point curcumin is has low bioavailability which means it doesn't absorb as readily into your bloodstream so you could consume the equivalent of the turmeric roots that are in our beverage which is about 15 turmeric roots worth of health benefits and still not feel the impact because that curcumin is going through your system so we figured out a way to supercharge the absorption by taking the curcumin and combining it with the black pepper extract uh to make it absorbable into your system it actually increases absorption by two thousand percent i say okay you know there's merits to tumeric it has some you actual health and my brother have always wanted to get into this do a business together and explore that so now you know catching us up a bit toward today where's the business out of you guys started it are you doing this full-time is it a side hustle you're still building it or kind of where does that bring it out today or as you guys have wanted to explore that and get this up to speed kind of where's the business at sure so i'll step back just one more time uh so we knew turmeric was becoming popular it was a quote-unquote newer trendy ingredient in the west it's been uh trending for 5000 years in our part of the world we saw a bunch of other turmeric products out there we looked at those products and figured out that there isn't enough turmeric or enough uh binding agent to make it absorbable so most of what was turmeric out there in terms of food and beverage products was just a hodgepodge of you know marketing and we wanted to do the real thing so in terms of why we decided to get into this we didn't want to get into another uh crowded market like a kombucha or energy drink we we we went from a finance industry to the hardest thing that we could possibly imagine which is marketing to consumers uh you know and uh we wanted to do a white space we wanted to get into a white space where nobody was at and so there weren't at the time any curcumin infused you know food and beverage products there were supplements curcumin supplements have existed for decades but there was no non-gmo project verified curcumin infused beverage or drink mix powder or anything else and we said okay no one knows about this space but people are learning more and more about turmeric and this is where we're going to focus so in january of 2018 after doing all the research sourcing lab testing you know developing the brand and marketing strategy et cetera we launched we had our first sale i think that first uh you know 40 dollar bill or 220 220s that we got from our first sale in cash is sitting somewhere around our offices uh as a you know uh token to what we started and so today we're in over 6 000 retail stores where nationwide uh we have mass concentration on the east coast uh in the midwest and uh to some extent the south we're expanding westward we're in uh you know a good amount of the professional and collegiate sports programs whether it's football basketball hockey et cetera we work with a number of athletes where in all the u.s military bases globally in their commissaries we are actually a dietitian approved uh item food item in those commissaries by deca that's the agency that's responsible for those commentaries and then we have come out with a second product which is a powder version of our drinks uh it actually includes zinc in addition to the vitamin c vitamin d curcumin and pipe brine and it has electrolytes so there aren't any other products like what we have in the market today and we're looking to continuously expand distribution expand our direct to consumer business and then uh our goal is to launch one to two new products per year based on curcumin and pipeline sounds like an awesome you know uptick and i've been able to get into a lot of stores and hit it hard and find a lot of success so that's definitely exciting for you guys and so now as we've kind of reached the present point of your journey and kind of where you're at today always a great time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each episode so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it yeah i think uh i don't know if it was the worst business decision but in hindsight we would have done things differently it was to start out with a heavy product like a beverage each bottle weighs roughly a pound a case of uh you know our drinks weighs about 15 pounds and it's hard to build a direct to consumer business and then also all the costs associated with trucking logistics uh perhaps uh you know other types of things that may go awry it's more costly of a business than let's say a powder business or the future products that we'll come out with but what it does do is it provides a banner and retail so you have a bottle that's uh you know almost 10 inches tall or nine inches tall that's sitting on a cooler shelf and your logo is ever present your brand is ever present in retail so it's another call it a billboard uh advertising and so we look at it both as a marketing investment as well as a hopefully a profit center down the road oh definitely makes sense and uh you know it's a good lesson to learn and here it sounds like a a good mistake to learn from so now second question um if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business would be the one piece of advice you give them yeah i would say like us this is uh also answering one of your earlier questions we're uh 100 000 in to this business there this is not a side hustle this is a full-time day and night even while we dream type of job uh that's what my dreams consist of today is uh dreaming about zen and so the one thing i would say to entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business if you believe in yourself go all in you know take the risk there there's no body better to bet on than yourselves uh if you're in the stock market you're investing in stocks those prices are going up and down you have zero control over those companies and what happens to your wealth if you believe in yourself go all in uh work your tail off and you know a lot of bad things are going to happen along the way a lot of mistakes are going to be made learn from those mistakes but uh you know just continue to work hard and keep moving the ball forward every day little incremental uh movements forward will definitely add up and eventually you'll get that hockey stick curve that everybody dreams about i and i like that and i think that there's you know i like i dreamt that it's not just hey you start a business and it's going to be a hockey stick out of the the shooter there is a lot of time sweat blood and tears and those type of things and it's also effort you know the that's why it's always interesting to hear the journey because everybody just see wants to see the hockey stick at the end they don't see hey we went through multiple or different paths we went into different jobs we had burnout we had things we weren't fulfilled took us a while to land on the idea even once we had the idea we had to get through to get into different stores we had to you know be able to figure out the market and whether you know what make the mistakes all that goes into the hopefully the hockey stick at the end but there's that whole journey before and so i think that having that desire to go all in but then also having the understanding even with all of that it's going to take a period of time it's definitely a great uh take away well as p as we wrap up but people want to reach out to you they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you or find out more yeah so um people can learn more about uh us at www.drink d-r-i-n-k zen z as in zebra why is in yellow and is in nancy.com or they could email us at marketing drinks in dot com or at revive like you revive and rejuvenate so r-e-v-i-v-e drinks in dot com and our rest of the contact information our phone number is on our website as well awesome well i definitely encourage people to check out the website uh check out the health benefits and then support a great business and with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you so let's go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show a couple more things as listeners make sure to click subscribe share leave us a review because i want to make sure everyone finds out about all these awesome journeys and last but not least if you ever need help with your patents your trademarks or anything else with your business go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with the chat thank you sim for coming on and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks devin likewise nice meeting you

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