Q 1. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: I’m the CEO & Founder of Elsey Enterprises. Elsey Enterprises encompasses a portfolio of independent brands. One of those key brands is Funds2Orgs, which is the pre-eminent social enterprise in North America doing shoe drive fundraisers. Subsidiary brands include Sneakers4Funds and Shoes With Heart. We work with schools, churches, nonprofits, youth groups, civic groups and others helping them raise money in as little as 30 to 60 days collecting gently worn, used and new shoes. It’s a great fundraiser because shoe drive sponsors don’t have to ask for money. Instead they ask for shoes. The social impact goes beyond raising money for shoe drive sponsors. Shoe drives help the environment because they prevent shoes from ending up in landfills where they are hazardous to the environment and life on the planet. With our brands, they also provide an economic lifeline to micro-entrepreneurs in 25 developing nations around the world.
Our other brands include my blog, Not Your Father’s Charity, @strategic and SocialGoodU.
Q 2. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: I’ve been through the school of life. I started off in business when I was 15 years old. My first job was through a work-study while I was in high school. I worked at a shoe store. Long story short, I loved it. I loved working with the customers and I’ve been working in the shoe business ever since. I worked my way up and became President and CEO of Footwear Specialties International (FSI)and President of Kodiak-Terra USA. After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, I decided to do something completely different. That helped me see the need in many developing nations for what we often take for granted here in the United States, shoes. I established Soles4Souls and took it from zero to over $70 million in fewer than 5 years; something not many nonprofits have been able to accomplish. I then established Elsey Enterprises. The first brand from that company was the social enterprise, Funds2Orgs, and we’ve been building ever since.
Q 3. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: I think there’s a line in the sand of my life. It was before the Indian Ocean tsunami and after. Before that fateful event in 2004, I was happy being a senior executive in the footwear business. I lived a great life.
After the tsunami, I remember watching television and seeing the news. I was as shocked and saddened as everyone else around the world. It was tragic. I remember seeing a shoe wash ashore on a beach. The image haunted me for a couple of days. I couldn’t get out of my mind the thoughts of the person who may have owned that shoe. Had the person lived? Had the person died? I had to do something.
At the time, I was the president of Kodiak and I just marshalled all of the connections and resources I could get together. I knew so many people had lost so much. I knew so many families were starting again with nothing. Businesses, homes, infrastructure were washed away. Nothing was left. For me, I decided to help by getting shoes to the people in need in these countries. We did it. We shipped hundreds of thousands of shoes to people affected.
Then came Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. I did it again and again. I’ve shipped over one million shoes to families affected by natural disasters. In the process, I’ve learned there’s a lot of need around the world. And, so today, with the social enterprises I own we work on building a bridge between people in North America and those who are looking for a path out of poverty, or in some instances, devastation. For me, it begins with shoes.
Q 4. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans: The first thing is always to think big. I mean real big. Any entrepreneur or leader is going to get people who are going to tell him or her that they “can’t”. Fortune favors the brave. You have to go out there, think big and do big things.
The second piece of advice is to change your attitude. Life is a mind game. It’s all about your thoughts. If you think you can’t do something, here’s the news – you can’t. You have to get out of your own way. You have to stay positive. You have to overcome obstacles that come up in your mind. You have to quiet the negative talk in your mind and change your attitude. If you have the right attitude, even if you fail, you’ll be able to bounce back quicker.
And that brings me to the third key thing an entrepreneur should remember – failure. As an entrepreneur you have to be ready and prepared to fail. All you have to do is fail fast and often. If you’re creating and developing a business, you will fail. Learn from it. Improve. Move on. Every week in my business we’re thinking and talking about new ideas. We implement and sometimes, things don’t go as planned. We learn from it. We keep going. You can’t be afraid of failure.
Q 5. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: You have to be able to inspire people as a leader. If you can’t get others to follow you and see your vision, you’re not going to be very successful. You have to get off the couch. Owning your own business is not for the lazy person or the person who wants a 9 to 5 life. With your own business, even when you’re not at the office, you’re always thinking about how to improve and make things better. You’re always living and breathing your business. Finally, you have to be persistent. You just can’t quit. You have to keep going even when things are going from bad to worse, and that will happen.
Q 6. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: On average I put in a 10-hour day. But, I’m always thinking about my work. I get up very early and that’s the time I use to quietly plan out the day or week ahead. I’m at the office early and depending on what’s happening, I stay after 5pm. But that doesn’t necessarily end my day because I may have dinner meetings. If you love what you do, you don’t mind putting in the hours. This is my business. And I want to always be successful. So, I do what it takes and have fun doing it.
Q 7. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: Hard work, common sense and enthusiasm and determination to foster the trust of people around me to hustle.
Q 8. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: We market in every way imaginable. We use social media. We advertise. We drive content. We get referral business. We are constantly marketing our businesses. It doesn’t matter to have a great product or service if no one is going to buy it.
We’re excellent at multi-channel marketing. We don’t do marketing in a vacuum. We believe that every aspect of marketing can be complimented by other areas. So, for example, if we’re sending out books or some sort of mailing, we also make sure the look and the feel is the same on digital marketing, including social media.
Q 9. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: We’re a private business and I prefer to keep that information proprietary.
Q 10. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: You can’t quit. That’s how you achieve success. You get up every day, even when you don’t feel like it and you keep going. It’s not magic. There’s no secret recipe. It’s just hard work and persistence.
Q 11. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: I have no idea. For the time being, I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I’d like to think I’ll be sipping some drinks on the beach, but I don’t think I have it in me. Not my style. I prefer to be working and growing something. So, maybe that’s where I’ll be in 5 or 10 years, growing more businesses.
Q 12. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: I like Apple. I think it’s a great company. Steve Jobs was a genius. I admire what Amazon is doing as it continues to grow. I admire many companies. Essentially, I admire companies and businesses that dominate. I admire CEOs who lead their workers to dominate an industry.
Recommended Questions –
Q 13. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: We wouldn’t be where we are without our employees. I know that. I would say our employees are a key ingredient to our success. Without them we have nothing.
Q 14. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: All it takes is looking at the metrics. I care about performance. If an idea is performing, I stick with it and improve. If the metrics aren’t good, but the idea is a solid one, I keep on learning and making adjustments. In today’s world, we are fortunate to be able to get so much data. We live in the information age and that’s what I always want to see: information.
Q 15. What motivates you?
Ans: My family motivates me. That’s the most important thing in my life. I care about leaving a better world for my grandchildren. So, I’m motivated by social good. I’m also motivated by money and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love money. So, having a social enterprise where I get to do good and make money is awesome.
Q 16. What are your ideals?
Ans: I believe in creativity and innovation. My best ideas are ideas in the morning. I use the first half of my day to think and be creative! That’s a main driver for me.
Q 17. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: The ocean, coffee or a ride in my car with the music loud.
Q 18. How do you define success?
Ans: Family is success. Good relationships are success. Money’s success. A solid life where you go to sleep exhausted but with a clean conscience is success.
Q 19. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: You keep the customer first. You give them what they need – not what you think they need. You create opportunities for them. You use innovative thinking and you never underestimate what could come of what you’re doing. We care about our customers. We care about them very much. That’s one of the guiding principles of our companies. We live and breathe our customers. We answer the telephones and try not to let calls bounce to voicemail. We address challenges that come up with customers. We are responsive. We give them everything they can possibly think of to succeed.
Q 20. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: I love being able to develop something of my own. I like the discipline that’s necessary in developing a great business.
Q 21. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: Winning, turnaround and learning. The affirmation of I can do it!
Q 22. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: I think the major difference between entrepreneurs and workers is their risk tolerance. Entrepreneurs have a high risk tolerance. They have to. Sometimes their putting their entire life’s savings into a business. Entrepreneurs are all risk takers by nature. The successful ones are persistent, no matter what.
Q 23. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: We’re a team. We have an executive team that talks about the overall strategy, but every member of the office team is an important part. We’re hard charging. This is my business, but we’re all going to succeed and fail. I want to see innovation. I want creativity. I want discipline. I want to see people who are driven. I want people who want to succeed. I want people who just won’t quit.
The people who are successful at any of my businesses are those people. We operate in a very dynamic and quick-paced environment. If you’re someone who doesn’t have motivation and drive, you’re not going to do well working in our offices. We’re looking for driven and motivated people who just don’t know when to quit.
We communicate this in every way possible. We communicate it in our internal communications, in the books I’ve written, in our meetings, etc. Everyone knows that if you want to work at Elsey Enterprises, you’ll get a fun place to work. You’ll find a team, but you’re going to perform and work harder than you’ve ever done. Nothing less is accepted.
Q 24. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Company : Funds2Orgs
Contact : Wayne Elsey
Address : 1080 Woodcock Rd, Ste 151
City : Orlando
State : FL
Zip : 32803
Phone : 407-930-2979
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org