For most men, I feel like turning 40 is the benchmark for judging how far you have come. That is if you are the type of man who sets goals for himself and/or is willing to evaluate yourself periodically with the hope of improving yourself. I am that type of man and the age of 40 was always the year that I set the biggest benchmark for myself. The one slight issue is that my benchmark was set when I was 21 and knew little about life.
I told myself that at the age of 40, I wanted to be a millionaire. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not someone who strives to just make money for the sake of being rich. My values/morals will always trump money-making, but my father always told me ‘We all have problems, but I would rather have the problems of being rich than being poor.’ He could say this as he knew what it felt like to be both having at one point in his life sent me to collect cans in Michigan to get a couple of bucks back to help pay rent while living with 4 people in a one-room motel, all the way to owning a mansion while making millions, only to have lost it all again. So, I have really seen the ‘rich problems vs poor problems’ scenario and felt them too. I therefore decided I preferred the problems of being rich so wanted to achieve that.
For me, that benchmark of being a millionaire was mainly about securing a future for my future children and future grandchildren, considering what I went through as a child. A family legacy is important to me. The way I decided to go about achieving it was to create my own company as I knew that Entrepreneurship could get me there. So I sought to start a shoe company in the hopes of not only hitting that financial benchmark but also seeing men wearing better shoes. Those were my two goals for myself.
When you set goals and lay them out, you often get pulled in different directions along your path to success. For a while, I got caught up in wanting to be “the great American bespoke shoemaker.” I quickly snapped out of that fantasy, realizing that I wanted to see “many men” wearing better shoes, and being a bespoke shoemaker with high prices would only see a “few men” wearing better shoes. I then started my ready-made footwear line, J.FitzPatrick. I told myself, I would grow this like Ralph Lauren and be the greatest shoe brand to have ever existed. Some of you are probably laughing right now. And that’s okay. I believe that what I created has the potential to be just that. But I realized a few things since that start, which was nearly 11 years ago now.
I told myself that I would always remain at that helm because I wanted to be my own boss, making my own moves and doing things my way. That was yet another fantasy I was selling myself. The reality is that I never actually had that because I signed over 50% of my idea from the jump start as I knew that I needed help and had no money to pay anyone to do that. Therefore, while I did create my brand my way, with my vision and ideals, I have always had to answer to a business partner. And let me tell you, having a business partner is like being in a marriage. It is not easy.
But being in charge “at the helm” I realized is nothing more than an ego trip. In 2024, the statement ‘it takes money to make money’ has never been truer. Organic growth is harder than ever if you are not a Tik-Tok sensation, mainly because you have constant algorithms against you doing their best to suppress you to the point where you have to pay to grow and every market is beyond saturated. While my brand has grown to the point where I have a shop in Soho, NYC, and am over 11 years old (both of which I am proud of), I am far from where I want to be for my shoe brand and nowhere near a millionaire. That is okay to not be where I planned as this is normal and when making goals you have to be flexible. But after reflecting on how I want to handle the next decade of my life, I realize that I need to pivot and stop the fantasy of being Ralph Lauren (i.e. a guy who built an empire by himself).
At the same time, I see these horrendous shoe and clothing companies selling terrible products that are as popular as the invention of sliced bread. And it dawned on me, that it doesn’t matter how good your products are (sadly), but rather how much money you have to invest into marketing campaigns that simply sell ideas, whether they are lies or not. All of these companies injected millions into marketing and that is how their rapid growth and popularity occurred. But I don’t have those millions to make that happen and unless someone magically wants to give it to me, I most likely never will until I am ready to sell my company to someone who does have those capabilities.
My reflection made me realize again that my ultimate goal was to see men wearing better shoes and to secure a future for my children. It was not to be “at the helm” of a company growing at a respectable yet what I feel is a slow pace. I created these avenues (the blog and shoe line) to help make that happen but once again got caught up in a fantasy of doing it alone. And when I say alone, I mean my way. But I have realized, I cannot do it all. I need help.
When I say ‘see men wearing better shoes,’ I mean men everywhere and that is a lofty goal. I do my part with The Shoe Snob Blog but really feel good about myself when someone buys a pair of J.FitzPatrick shoes. When I mentioned in my end-of-year reflection blog post about being ready to sell it all, it was not a case of giving up or not enjoying my shoe brand anymore, but rather coming to the realization that if I truly want to see my shoe company reach millions and millions of people I need to sell/partner to someone who has millions and millions to invest into making that happen. And then be able to turn a million-dollar business into a 20 million-dollar business, which is two very different things. I can run a 1 million dollar business. But I am not sure if I can handle a 20 million dollar business and I finally realize that now. In fact, I don’t even think I would want to. I just want to create beautiful shoes but not necessarily “be at the helm” running the show.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish to stay involved and plan to but am ready to seek out someone who can truly help make my dreams a reality through a positive financial injection that can help to turn a small brand into a medium-sized one! If that is you, don’t be afraid to reach out! Until then, I will keep growing at the best pace I can while bootstrapping it to the top!
Thanks as always for reading.