[00:00] Show begins
[02:38] Taking the startup red pill after Rice University
[07:59] Serial entrepreneurship successes & failures
[15:21] Becoming an LP at Softeq Venture Studios
[20:28] From baseball to hospital beds with sEATz
[24:29] Building custom startup software at T-Minus Solutions
You grew Pinot’s Palette from a startup to a national franchise. How did you do that?
Pinot’s Palette has been, all in all, a major success for Craig, but he’s not without his fair share of regrets and lessons learned. Starting Pinot’s Palette was a simple idea born out of a desire to create a fun night out, where friends could paint and drink together. Franchising Pinot’s Palette turned out to be much less simple, and Craig wishes he had engaged more with fellow franchise founders to receive some much needed mentorship on this journey.
“Skip some of the franchise consultants, go sign up for the IFA, International Franchise Association. All the consultants you need are the other CEOs or franchises, they are very happy to help, they're all solving the same problem: How do I onboard franchisees?”
You graduated from Rice with your MBA, and then, you went back there and taught as well. Tell me a little bit about how that happened.
Returning to Rice as a lecturer felt like a no-brainer to Craig, who owes much of his success as an entrepreneur to the Rice MBA program. What Craig quickly noticed was a gap in knowledge about digital marketing and SEO, especially for small businesses. Developing a marketing course for small businesses felt like an essential next step to ensuring that other entrepreneurs were equipped to make a detailed, practical business marketing plan beyond the simple, vague answer of “just focusing on SEO”.
“We developed Marketing for Small Business, and it was a very pragmatic, practical class of how to do it because you see so many business plans that are: ‘How are you going to penetrate this market?’ ‘SEO,’ and that's just where the marketing plan stops.”
As a serial entrepreneur, you've had many successes, that's obvious, but tell me a little bit about some failures.
Success is not an ongoing path up to the peak, but is instead a journey full of peaks and valleys. For Craig, the reminder that everything is impermanent keeps him on track towards his goals without getting stuck in the rut of a bad business week or an entrepreneurial decision gone wrong. The biggest area of Craig’s focus in learning from failures has involved not bootstrapping too hard. Knowing his limits and understanding he can’t power his way through everything has been a harsh lesson but an important learning experience.
“If you're not doing so well, the company is not doing so well, down and out, wait a few days. Everything is impermanent, you're gonna do a lot wrong. It's really how it is designed, you want to seek failure and if you're doing entrepreneurship, that's how we teach it now.”
You've come full circle from being an employee, starting a business, franchising, and now, you're an investor. How did you choose that path here in Houston?
Choosing Houston and working with the Softeq Venture Studio as an LP felt like the best decision for Craig, who wanted an opportunity to provide so much more than advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Being a smart and impactful investor doesn’t just involve putting your money towards the friends and fellow business owners in front of you. Softeq provides Craig with the environment to make his time and money count when his schedule is already busy.
“It gets my blood going, thinking about helping investors beyond just advice, especially at those critical periods in early stages. I like to really sink my teeth into projects, so it makes sense that where I put my time, is where I put my money in, too.”