Interview with Brad Carrick, a California corporate attorney and a founder of SOLZ. After working as a product manager at a fast-moving Silicon Valley software start-up, Brad left to attend Harvard Law School. Upon graduation in 2005, he spent three years practicing law. His entrepreneurial spirit led him back to pursue an MBA at IE in Madrid, Spain, and start his company.
TA: When did you first discover your passion for entrepreneurship? Have you always considered yourself an entrepreneur?
BC: In a way, yes I always have. In 4th grade I was featured on the cover of our local newspaper for winning the school invention fair by creating a "mobile cat carrier" out of a remote control car and a scratching post, I think. To this day, I cant figure out why I thought that would be something even remotely useful. Since then, however, I have always recognized a passion for doing new and innovative things. This has led me to pursue all sorts of different adventures - be they in business, education or exploration. The entrepreneurial spirit is about so much more that just starting new businesses.
TA: You have made an interesting transition from law into business. What triggered such transformation?
BC: As much as it is a big career transition, I think of it more as an evolution. Business and law are intimately connected and understanding one helps immensely in understanding the other. I do think that I started to realize that being on the legal side was more about risk aversion or risk moderation while entrepreneurial business is much more of a risk-seeking endeavor. I guess I decided I wasn't made to tell people what they couldn't do but rather to inspire them to discover and pursue what they could. And I figured where better to start than with myself.
TA: What inspired you to create SOLZ shoes?
BC: Initially, SOLZ shoes were conceptualized as the "ultimate beach shoe." My family has lived in California and Hawaii most of my life and I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the beach and in the water. I wanted a shoe that could actually work well running on sand, scrambling over sharp rocks, going in and out of the water and even up and down a longboard. When this desire met my vanity, I decided they should (gasp) also look cool and stylish. As I developed the concept, I saw so many more uses for a truly convenient, versatile shoe - especially in city lifestyles and for people like me who love to travel. I began to share some designs with my friends and everyone wanted them and gave great feedback. I can't say I always knew I wanted to create shoes, but the idea just seemed to ... fit.
TA: What was, and perhaps still is, the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?
BC: It is challenging in many ways balancing your business and personal life. Not just in terms of work versus play, but in terms of keeping a distinction in your life between what issues are personal and what is really just about business. This is hard because as an entrepreneur, you put so much of yourself into your work and feel so intimately connected to it. It is hard to ever really leave your work. Furthermore, because you will have to rely at times on friends and family for so much emotional and business support it can be hard not to let business get mixed up with feelings. This part takes an incredible amount of emotional maturity that cant really be taught.
TA: What is your entrepreneur philosophy? What are you trying to achieve with your product?
BC: SOLZ is a lifestyle concept. We believe that fashion is about self expression and higher self actualization. Your clothes should be a utilitarian and aesthetic extension of your personality. We intend to build on this concept from the ground up - so where better to start than shoes? SOLZ shoes are innovative in both their functionality and their attitude. They are flexible, light and stylish - meant to complement your lifestyle and your feet. Down the road we hope to use SOLZ as a platform for micro-branding and allow people to use our resources and experience to create personal brands of their own. I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, I want to inspire people to "Lighten up and let their SOLZ shine."
TA: What is one quality that, in your mind, either makes or breaks an entrepreneur? Do you think there is such thing as entrepreneur personality?
BC: For me, being an entrepreneur is not about focusing on just one thing, but taking all of the diverse experiences and skills I have acquired throughout my life and combining them in a way that creates value. The cocktail probably wouldn't work well without a few strong dashes of creativity, open-mindedness and optimism. Perhaps most of all, it takes a borderline-ridiculous amount of self-confidence and strong will. I tend to notice these traits in the successful entrepreneurs that I meet.
TA: Who or what inspires you in your journey as an entrepreneur? Perhaps it is a famous entrepreneur, a fashion company, a brand?
BC: I am not very star struck. While I admire the accomplishments of many famous people and companies, it is the people directly around me that truly inspire me. The desire to create something bigger than myself that can give back to my partners, friends and family is what keeps me going. I was tempted to say something about all the "little" people, but to me they are larger than life.
TA: If you could give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs what would you say?
BC: I would probably say something simple and seemingly profound and inspiring such as "whatever you are doing is the most beautiful thing," or anything else I could blatantly plagiarize from a Yogi Tea bag. :) That and to make sure to take full advantage of the amazing resources we have out there for us - not least of which is EFactor. Thanks and much love. Brad.
Link to Interview: http://www.efactor.com/blog/view_post/id/4445/title/member-spotlight-full-interview-brad-carrick