Season 11 Episode 2
January 31, 2023

[STEP BY STEP] How Do I Vet for My Next Owner?

We’re in Season 11 of Step by Step and this season, we’re focusing on architecting your business for a dream exit. We’ve partnered with OpenStore to bring you stories from real founders who have successfully built and sold their businesses and will equip you with the tools you need to confidently sell your own business. We talk with Brendan Brosnan and Chris Heckman, co-founders of Yogaste about their experience co-founding Yogaste and how their shared passion and ability to communicate well led them to a successful exit. Brendan and Chris weren't initially interested in selling their business, but they realized it was the best option to take their business to the next level. They share their experience with vetting owners to sell to.

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In this Episode:

  • 00:06:14- How They Founded Their E-Commerce Brand
  • 00:13:14 - What it’s like building with a short-term focus
  • 00:15:09 - The Power of Consistent Progress
  • 00:19:34 - Leveraging a Network and a Lean Team to Test and Grow a Business
  • 00:22:11 - The Benefits of Remote Talent
  • 00:30:07 - Their experience of Selling a Business to OpenStore
  • 00:38:38 - Advice for Entrepreneurs Looking to Build a Profitable Business on Shopify

Associated Links

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Phillip : [00:00:10] Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by Future Commerce, presented by OpenStore. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:51] And I'm Brian and this is Season 11 of Step by Step, and you're listening to Episode 2 of 5. So if you're just jumping into this series mid-way through, we suggest you go back and listen from the very beginning. This is a five-part series and we're going to be talking with founders of eCommerce businesses who sold their businesses through OpenStore. And we're asking them the question, how do you architect your business to maximize your valuation for a dream exit?

Phillip : [00:01:22] It's funny because we often talk about the very beginning of startups, and the very end of startups. We see fundraising announcements. We see acquisition announcements. Maybe one day you have this dream of an IPO and ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. But along the way, there are people that are on all kinds of parts of their journey where maybe they've decided that the next phase of growth for their brand is not necessarily with them at the helm. And they've all come to the point... This series is talking with founders who came to the point that said maybe what's best for the brand is for me to sell and move on to the next thing. And we're going to hear some more about that here today because starting a business is a huge step. Sometimes the next step is selling your business.

Brian: [00:02:11] Yeah, and it takes a lot to get there. And so if you're a founder of a brand that primarily sells online via eCommerce, maybe you're on Shopify and you're wondering, "How do I do the next thing? I've built this incredible thing. I care about it so much and it's working, and it's going well. But I am ready to do my next thing," this series is definitely for you. If you have built a business that isn't maybe in the Twitter vernacular yet and you're like, "Is anyone out there actually interested in my brand?" The answer is probably yes. If you've built a solid business and you've got great margins and clean financials and discipline around how you've done this, there's probably someone out there that wants to buy you.

Phillip : [00:03:02] And this season is sponsored by OpenStore. Maybe they're one of the ones that you could be looking at to architect that exit that is the exit of your dreams. But I will say OpenStore notwithstanding, I think that this series is uncovering that there are just some non-negotiables in building a business that is sellable that you can learn no matter how you exit your business. Through the four founders' journeys that we sit down to talk with here in the series. And as we do, I think one of the things that's going to be top of mind is, "Well, I put so much of my life and heart and soul into building this thing. I really care about who takes it over next." And so the question that we would ask here today on Episode 2 of Season 11 is how do I vet for my next owner, for the business that I spent blood, sweat, and tears building? I want to make sure that it can persist beyond my ownership of it. And that's what we're going to sit down to talk about here today. Brian, who is this conversation with? Give us a little bit of what we're going to hear.

Brian: [00:04:08] Yeah, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brendan Brosnan and Chris Heckman, the Co-Founders of Yogaste. It was a super interesting conversation. And as we listen to many of these conversations, you'll see some founders knew that they wanted to sell the business and they wanted to exit from the beginning. Chris and Brendan did not have that vision going in, and so as they made decisions and thought through how to grow their business, it was something they developed into. And so when they got to the point where they're like, "Oh, maybe we do need to sell this," there was a lot of like, "Well, how do we even do that? Who do we talk to?" And they found themselves spending a lot of time doing this. And they went down some weird pathways because there are some weird options out there. And so you need to be really careful about who you even talk to. There are potential purchasers out there that aren't actually potential purchasers, and so you need to be thoughtful about how you vet your next owner and who you're going to actually talk to in that process.

Phillip : [00:05:21] So without any further ado, I can't wait to hear it. I wasn't on. I'm going to listen for myself. Let's jump into it. It's going to be a great time as we listen to both Brendan and Chris from Yogaste teach us how to architect a dream exit Step by Step.

Brian: [00:05:41] Today. I have two incredible guests on with me, Brendan Brosnan and Chris Heckman, co-founders of Yogaste. Welcome, Brendan and Chris.

Chris: [00:05:51] Thank you for having us.

Brendan: [00:05:53] Hey, appreciate it.

Brian: [00:05:53] Today, we are on our 11th season of Step by Step, talking about building a business and exiting. And Chris and Brendan have an amazing story about how they exited actually two years, I think almost to the day just back here in, what was it, guys, June?

Chris: [00:06:14] It was actually in about February.

Brian: [00:06:16] February.

Chris: [00:06:18] February to February.

Brian: [00:06:19] Nice. February to February. That's amazing. And you have a really incredible story of launching going into the pandemic. So before we get into that, though, how did you meet each other? How did you decide to partner together? It's always interesting to meet co-founders. Obviously, I have a co-founder, Phillip Jackson, and so it's really exciting to meet two guys that have founded a brand. How did you meet and how did you get started?

Chris: [00:06:45] Yeah, we actually got connected or met for the first time when we were both living in incubator eCommerce startups. There were 12 guys, all entrepreneurs, and business owners living under one roof, and everybody was working on different brands and different partnerships were forming. And Brendan and I really hit it off when we moved in and seemed to see eye to eye on a lot of the important topics when it comes to choosing the right business partner. And yeah, I think we started working together, what was it, Brendan, two or three months into living there?

Brendan: [00:07:24] Yep. Yeah, pretty quickly.

Brian: [00:07:27] That's so cool. What a fun experience. Not many people get that experience. Are we talking like full Silicon Valley house where we all just hang out all the time and live together and just build things together the whole time?

Chris: [00:07:43] Yeah, pretty much, except instead of like coding and building tech, it was like you would come down in the morning, there'd be six other guys at the kitchen table working on their Facebook ads and talking shop about what products they're launching, what's working and what's not, that sort of thing.

Brian: [00:08:01] I love that. Facebook ads instead of code and tech. That's right up our alley at Future Commerce.

Brendan: [00:08:11] Exactly.

Brian: [00:08:12] So you both are your builders of brands, your entrepreneurs. Talk a little bit about how you got into this, how you got to be a part of the incubator. What's your background coming into this? And what were some of the characteristics that you saw in each other that where you were like, "Oh yeah, I want to work with that guy?"

Brendan: [00:08:33] Well, I'll tell a funny story first. So I launched my first brand in college at Penn State, actually. I played football there for three years and then suffered a career-ending injury and really just wanted to do something completely new, something that was challenging so that I could take steps and advance in my career in a different way as the NFL was no longer in sight for me. So I started a men's clothing company called Zesties, and our first product was actually men's rompers, so the one-piece jumpers and we put like crazy patterns on them, funny designs and funny patterns. And when I got the intro to the group, Chris was already living with a few of the guys that would then later move into the house. But I was FaceTiming with the group, a couple of the guys, and I see one of our rompers in the background on FaceTime.

Brian: [00:09:31] No.

Brendan: [00:09:32] Yeah. And I was like, "Hey, I think that's our romper." And I said, "Go show me the tag." And he walks over, shows me the tag, and sure enough, it's our tag, it's the Zesties tag. And so Chris had bought it before. So he was a consumer of mine before we even made our first sale together. So Chris was buying from me. I felt pretty good about that.

Chris: [00:09:58] They were pricey too. We bought a bunch of them for Halloween. There was like six or seven of us. We bought a bunch of them as like a big group thing. And yeah, I think it was like 70, 80 bucks.

Brendan: [00:10:10] Yes, the premium. It was the premium romper. We weren't fighting on price. We were we knew we had the best product on the market, so we priced it accordingly and Chris bought. So that was our funny introduction to each other. And then the second part of your question was what made us right to work together and what Chris said before. I think we just aligned on the way we thought about business. You know, Chris and I had always said that we wanted to at its base level drive sales, cut costs and just improve our process and team, and we kind of aligned ourselves around those things. It's obviously pretty boring when you just lay it out like that. But we were very aligned in other ways too. We just had a good ability to communicate with each other and get to a deep level of conversation. We used to say, I felt like I could get to flow state conversation with Chris where like an hour could go by in seemingly like 5 minutes. So we'd sit at the coffee shop and all these ideas would be coming up. The 3 hours would go by and it felt like 15 minutes had passed. So that's when I knew it was right. And I think, Chris, we have some funny notes. I have some funny iPhone notes from those conversations. I think you do, too.

Chris: [00:11:24] Yeah, me too. I've got books in my notes from all those conversations. Yeah. And building on that, that the one other thing was like when it came to not just like the business tactics and that kind of thing, but also ethically and being aligned there I think was really important and is important for a lot of people. How do you want to operate a business? Doing it the right way? There are people that want to get into the business sometimes for all the wrong reasons and you can make a quick buck, but making sure that you're partnering with somebody who's not after that was important for us. And then we both had just a drive to learn and we were both very humble in the beginning. We were aware of what we didn't know and wanted to learn it. And we always had the motto when we were brainstorming "Best idea wins." So it wasn't ever about ego. It didn't matter who it came from. It's just whatever idea is going to further the business the most, then we go with that.

Brian: [00:12:25] Yeah, that's amazing that that was your mindset going in because you actually did make a pretty quick buck. So you launched in February of 2020, and you sold in February of 2022. That's a fast exit. Building a brand and getting out in that time frame is something that a lot of people aspire to And they aspire to do what you did, but you did not aspire to do what you did, or did you? So that my question going in is, when you started building this in 2020, were you like, "Yeah, we want to exit in February of 2022?" Or what was your thought process going into that? As far as the sale goes.

Chris: [00:13:14] At least for myself going into it, it sounded like a nice idea, but I knew nothing about selling a business. It was just like a complete blind spot to me, almost to the point that I didn't give it much thought at all. I just tried to stay focused on just building the business, keep a singular line of sight and just keep my head down and work on it. And then it wasn't until like later on down the road, which I'm sure we'll get into how we found out about OpenStore and all of that. But it wasn't until later when I heard about OpenStore that opened up even the possibility in my mind because I saw just how simple it was with them. But it was just such an ambiguous concept to me that I knew it was a possibility, but it wasn't even like on my radar.

Brian: [00:13:57] Interesting. Some of the other entrepreneurs we've talked to had their goal to sell going in. So it's really interesting to kind of hear totally different mindsets. Let's build a solid business, let's do it the right way, and then let's see what comes out of that.

Brendan: [00:14:17] Yeah, I think that Chris, that benefited us kind of having this short-term focus. Like [00:14:22] everybody always talks about goals, goals, goals, and I think there's definitely a place for that. But I think honestly, more important than that is just doing like the daily things the right way. [00:14:33] So we would move the ball forward daily and that was our... We'd wake up and we'd have things to do and we'd move the ball forward and we wouldn't get too caught up in the long term "We're not there yet." We just continued to make consistent progress and kind of had a belief that things would take care of themselves. And I've always kind of believed in that in my personal life too.  [00:14:55]If you just do the daily things right, the big things will take care of themselves. [00:14:59] And I think Chris is the same way and it's kind of just a more peaceful way, a peaceful existence living that way, in my opinion.

Brian: [00:15:09] I love that. Yeah. So my co-founder, Phillip, is he's a big ultra marathoner and he kind of dragged me into it as well. And he lost a lot of weight and really like transformed his entire life. And he has a whole talk on this. And many of our listeners have heard this before, but he firmly believes in the put one foot in front of the other mindset. Small things daily add up, and I've seen that as well. Phillip inspired me to run as well. I never thought that I would run a marathon and I was able to do that as well. And so I really, that resonates with me, this idea of just doing the right thing daily, knowing that you're making progress and you're moving forward. I think that's awesome. It's a great mindset to have. How did that kind of come out when you first launched the business, you went right into COVID? Was there anything tricky that you didn't expect coming into that? I mean, I think you might have been in the right category. Do you feel like that maybe helped you help spur some success, or was it harder as a result?

Chris: [00:16:25] Yeah, it was a little bit of both. It helped us in some ways, and then also hurt us in others. But we had started off in generally normal times and the business was doing fairly well in its first month or so. And then this thing called COVID started creeping in, creeping up more and more until the whole world flipped on its head. And you're right, we were in the right space, at least for the beginning, because everyone was at home and we were heavy on paid marketing and paid marketing, it was like a heyday for us because everyone was sitting at home. So there are increased ad spots to buy, so increased supply. And then companies were like cutting costs left and right. So they're cutting marketing budgets, so less competition. And it just turned out to be the perfect period for us until the supply chain problem started. And that's when we had all these orders coming in. But at first, our fulfillment started to slow down, but it was still manageable until eventually it just like pretty much jumped off a cliff and we had to scramble to figure something out.

Brendan: [00:17:35] Yeah, I would also add that I think we were well situated coming into that too, having kind of the incubator background and having other business experience. We'd both been in eCommerce for several years leading up to COVID. So we had through just our own businesses that we had launched up to that point, and had started and through our networks, businesses we had the ability to split test thousands of different, probably across the group yeah, thousands of different website iterations. We were working on optimizing our conversion rates and our average order value and our ads and our ad copy. So we had put in a lot of work on kind of figuring out what was successful in running an eCommerce store that I think allowed us to really capitalize when COVID did happen.

Brian: [00:19:34] That's really, really interesting. I think that a lot of businesses maybe were a little unprepared going into that to be able to run those kinds of tests. And did you do this all yourselves or did you have a team? Did you use any agencies? What were some of the tools that you had at your disposal to do this?

Chris: [00:19:55] Yeah, the tools that we had, like, Brendan said, one, we had the whole network of other people that we were able to lean on. As all the craziness was hitting, it wasn't like we were just in a silo just figuring it out by ourselves. We had a whole network around us, which helped a ton. I could say, at least for myself, I definitely would not have been anywhere near as successful if it wasn't for having that kind of group around me. But then what our team looked like was just Brendan and me, and then we had a team of VAs, like in the Philippines, that were helping out with customer service and supply chain coordinating, which that turned into a much bigger job than originally expected during COVID. But it was a pretty light team. And then we used a design contractor for all the creative assets we needed, that sort of thing.

Brian: [00:20:50] Amazing. Did you have any full time employees or people on a more engaged payroll at all, or was it all you?

Brendan: [00:20:58] Yeah, we briefly we had tested trying to onboard full time employees but I think we just wanted to stay as lean as we could. But yeah, most of the time was the team structure with the VAs.

Brian: [00:21:15] Yeah. That's really interesting. Again, actually not an uncommon story. A lot of entrepreneurs are using VAs and finding a lot of success with that, like some of the stories we've already heard, and I'm excited about that as a trend. I think that it's really interesting that a lot of businesses are being built using talent on a remote basis. I think that's awesome. Now, at some point you probably... So you hit that supply chain issue, is that when you started thinking maybe we should sell this? What was the trigger point for you to be like, we're entrepreneurs, "We want to sell this thing and then go do our next thing?" Or is that not how it happened? How did it happen?

Chris: [00:22:11] Yeah, well, it definitely wasn't during COVID that sparked it. If anything, that got us to double down even more because it was when we got the call from the fulfillment company we were using, they said, "I don't know how to help you guys." Basically, "It's out of my hands." You're like, "Oh, crap." And that's when we just had to double down and quickly find an alternative solution really fast. What was the old Facebook saying? Something like move fast and break things? We were certainly doing that, and so that definitely didn't drive us to want to sell. For me, it wasn't until much later, like a year or so later that I finally stumbled upon OpenStore. I think I saw a Forbes article or something maybe. And then I posted on Shopify Exchange and saw a little bit about the process, but it was always just so convoluted. Shopify Exchange isn't even a thing anymore. All those other platforms were just so challenging to work with. And then I saw the OpenStore, and at first, I didn't believe it because I saw it and their landing page is like, "Click here to get an offer," or "to get a valuation." Something along those lines. I'm like, "This seems way too simple," and like, I just left. And then I started hearing about them more and more and I was like, "All right, maybe there is something to it." And then finally submitted and got an offer back and I was like, "All right, these guys are legit."

Brian: [00:23:43] Wow, that's so cool. So were they the only group that you looked to get an offer from ultimately? Did you go pursue other offers? How did you get to the point where you're like, "Oh, wow, we have an offer. We should sell this?" As opposed to keep working it, grow it further, and then sell it. What was the decision process there?

Brendan: [00:24:11] Yeah, I would say for me at least, Chris and I had a few different brands that we were building simultaneously. So that definitely played into it. We had multiple things that were kind of cooking for us and so we ultimately knew that we had to kind of clear up some of our time and our energy, and it just aligned with what we wanted to do. We felt we had grown it to a solid point and to get to the next level, we felt like it could be more successful with a bigger company that had more dedicated resources that they could put into it. That's for me at least.

Chris: [00:24:58] Yeah, because from what I've seen now, [00:25:02] it's more clear to me that it takes one certain skill set to get a business from like 0 to 1,000,000, like 1,000,000 to 5 million. That's one skill set. That's kind of the entrepreneur hacking things together with a completely virtual team, that sort of thing. That works great because you're super nimble getting that 5 million-ish mark. But then to scale it what got you there will not get you to the next point. And that's where it's like a whole different ball game. Not better or worse, just it's more about management and hiring skills and HR. [00:25:40] And that was all just stuff that we knew that a company with massive resources could do, and they could scale it extremely well. But to us, like we had fallen in love with that section in the business, that period that we had gotten to be the best of that. And we just wanted to keep doing that piece.

Brian: [00:26:01] What did that realization look like for the two of you? I'm sure this was something that you eventually agreed upon, but probably involved a series of conversations. Was there any conflict, or not conflict, that's the wrong word. But was there any a little bit of grading that you had to go through to get to the point where you both agreed, now is the time. Or were you just like, "Hey, I'm an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur, let's go do our other stuff. We've got all these things going on. We need to focus on just a few of them. Now's the time to get to kind of shed some of these things and get a payoff for some of the work we've done."

Chris: [00:26:49] Yeah. For me, it came down to the balance of work and life. And when was I happiest in the business? And I was always happiest, looking back on it, when things were the simplest. Like when we had one brand, one main focus, and that was also, ironically, the times that were the most lucrative a lot, more often than not. But as we were slowly getting bigger and bigger and we had a portfolio or collection of brands. It just changes your life balance is completely different than what it once was. So it just came down to looking at not just the business but also our lives from a 10,000 foot view and realizing where are we going to be happiest and making the decision from there.

Brian: [00:27:40] Nice.

Brendan: [00:27:41] I had a little bit of hesitation selling Yogaste specifically because I love the yogis. I love that brand and I love the customers. And I always had, being a yogi myself and I love doing hot yoga and I know Chris does some himself, and also just feeling like we were able to speak directly to our customers. So it was definitely not an easy decision for me to sell it just because I did really, really like the brand. Obviously an aspect of our brand we'd never use, like the yoga pants or some of the women's apparel, but we did mats and other apparel that we were able to kind of... I have mats all over my house, every room had a yoga mat in it so I could just like post up and do a few stretches during the day. And yeah, I'm just a big believer in the benefits of yoga. So that was my only hesitation. But no regrets. There are no regrets with the decision. I'm happy that we sold it and we've developed a great relationship with OpenStore too, that I'm happy to have made.

Brian: [00:28:52] Yeah, and back to one part of my question, which I kind of glossed over for a second, but what made you decide that OpenStore was the right partner, and how did the purchase experience go and the ongoing relationship?

Chris: [00:29:05] We ended up going with them after looking out at the rest of the market and we had talked with a bunch of different buyers. There are just so many tire kickers that were just trying to find out what your brand is so then they can try to copy and paste it and rip it off. And there are other people that were like, "What would you do?" I had one perfect example that ultimately led to me just getting tired of it. I had one guy who I had multiple conversations with and he seemed like a very interested, qualified buyer. And then at the very, very end, after three phone calls or so, he was like, "Actually we decided that this is not the right fit, but good news, we have a consulting package for 6 to 12 months, like a roadmap. It's like 50,000 right now and we're going to get you ready to sell for like 2 to 3 times the amount you're talking about right now." And I was like, "Come on." I just didn't even reply.

Brian: [00:30:07] It was like a honeypot. He totally sucked you in and just came strong with the sales pitch. Reverse sales pitched to you.

Chris: [00:30:16] Yeah. After that, I had a rule of unless there are vetted references, saying that they are a legitimate buyer not going to waste your time, which OpenStore has that all over the place more than any other buyer probably.

Brendan: [00:30:31] Yeah. I would add to that too, with OpenStore there were no revenue contingencies and I don't know if that's specific to every deal. So I don't want to speak on behalf of every deal, but I'm pretty sure their model is kind of like we pay you upfront. A lot of deals, they want you to continue running the brand for months. We talked to some people that were over a year they wanted us to stay on with the brand, and that was not something that we were very interested in doing and being held accountable for this super long transition period. OpenStore made it very fast and efficient. So that was another big factor for us.

Brian: [00:31:11] I think those are really good factors. So the two that I kind of heard were one, they had good references and it was clear that they were a qualified buyer. And two, from what you could tell, it was going to be a fast and sort of painless process, and maybe even get into a little bit more detail about what that process looked like. You went on the website, you filled out the form you made, and you got your offer back. Then what happened?

Chris: [00:31:41] As simple as their landing page makes it seem, or their website, you go on, you click a button, you upload, and they have a portal where you upload your PnL, connect your Shopify, connect your Facebook account, and then that's it, which is unheard of. And within 24 hours, literally, you get an email that says, "Congrats, your offer is in," and you click the link here to find out what it is. You click it and it shows you your offer and it gives you the terms which for us it was split. Here's the cash amount split into two cash payments. And then they also buy whatever inventory you have at just like a 1 to 1 value. And then the transition was super quick for us too, or the due diligence rather. It was under two weeks. Extremely quick. Just worked with their team, and I think they've sped up the process even since then. And then we helped manage a transition, to get their team up to speed over the next couple of weeks. But it was all very efficient and exacting. There was no stone left unturned. It was very clear exactly what was expected of us. And just a lot of the subtle things that make it sound like, well, yeah, you would expect it to be like pretty clear what you should be doing. But it's that stuff that goes a long way.

Brian: [00:33:09] Yeah, totally. Sounds like some of the other experiences were the opposite of that.

Chris: [00:33:13] Yes, exactly.

Brendan: [00:33:15] Well, the one other kind of hidden benefit that Chris and I got from selling to them was their team is super smart too. So we were talking to their operators for a while and we were sharing value back and forth. They run a huge portfolio of brands themselves, so they've learned a lot in the industry. They have a lot of really good insights and tips. And for us, it was cool to hear from them what they're doing, what's working, and their whole business model. They were very open to sharing value back with us too because they know we're still interested in running eCommerce, and they're just a great resource to have moving forward as well.

Brian: [00:33:53] I feel like that plays into my next question really well, which is that you said you had a portfolio of brands you're obviously focused on running these other brands as well. What else are you doing right now and how has this experience played into what you're currently doing, and what you're doing next?

Chris: [00:34:14] Yes. So the rest of the portfolio, we actually exited from those too to a different group, one that we had references on.

Brendan: [00:34:24] So we JAL Equity, Aaron from JAL Equities. He owns a bunch of print shops and fulfillment centers. And he's a little bit more private but we've been able to transition our brands over to him.

Brian: [00:34:43] Nice. Congrats. That's huge. Wow. So what's next on the horizon then? And how has this experience with OpenStore and selling off your portfolio brands been? What are some of your key takeaways for that next step for the two of you? Are you going to continue building businesses together? Are you going to go your own way and start other things? Are you going to go launch speaking careers and run a book circuit? What's your next step?

Chris: [00:35:35] Yeah, I want to do a TED talk to catch up with Brendan.

Brian: [00:35:39] {laughter} That's great.

Brendan: [00:35:40] I love it. I love it. You'd be good at it. You'd give a good one.

Chris: [00:35:44] I appreciate it. I got the microphone for it now.

Brendan: [00:35:47] Yeah. I think we've kind of taken the last few months to kind of gather ourselves. And like Chris said before, the 10,000 foot view to kind of make things a little bit more clear. When you're working daily in the business or even on the business, I know people say that you're still busy no matter which way you spin it. So it's been nice to have some extra free time. I've been doing some consulting, and some work with Absolut Web, which I mentioned before. I've been doing a few other things. But yeah, I'll speak for myself. I don't fully know what's next. In the long run, I would love to continue to build and create brands, and I have some ideas but nothing that is really too hashed out yet.

Brian: [00:36:35] Nice.

Chris: [00:36:36] Yeah. And for me I was living in Florida when we exited and then now I've put all of my belongings in a storage unit and I've just been traveling with my girlfriend and it's been awesome just taking some time to, like Brandon said, look at the landscape of things and for myself in the future, eCommerce is definitely interesting to me, but I think it's been extremely hot in the news recently. But AI to me it's the future of everything, eCommerce included in that. And that's 100% where I could see myself going. I'm not technical at all, but I've been hanging out with some technical people from EO, which is an entrepreneur's group that we're in, and a couple of them put together a project called Helpify.AI where this is just one example of the million applications, but it could completely outsource all of our customer service. Everything. What they built, takes your emails and automatically replies to them and you just click a button and it drafts the entire email response and plugs it right into Gmail. Taking that and applying that kind of technology to eCommerce... Super fascinating to me.

Brian: [00:37:58] It is exciting. I would agree. That's awesome.

Brendan: [00:38:02] I was going to say this is so funny. We were in Vail a couple of weeks ago before Christmas, Chris and I, together with our girlfriends skiing, and Chris, every time we got back from the slopes, he'd be on ChatGPT. I'd hear him cracking up. You're like, "Come look at this. It's a poem about roses written by Kanye West," or just like these random obscure things that it was able to produce. So we were just thinking about how quickly the future is changing.

Brian: [00:38:32] Oh, it is.

Brendan: [00:38:32] That's just the first step. So, yeah, I would agree with you there, Chris. I'm super interested in that space too.

Brian: [00:38:38] Oh man, we got to connect outside of this conversation. There's a lot more coming and I'm very excited about it as well. Yeah, my co-founder, Phillip's done a lot of experimenting with ChatGPT as well and we're both very, very excited about that, about that future. Well, before we wrap up this conversation, I think my last question for you would be, do you have any pieces of advice that you would give to entrepreneurs looking to build a profitable business on Shopify and sort of architect their business for exit or success? Maybe not exit immediately, but for success?

Chris: [00:39:18] Yeah, one thing that I could say is expect for it to be challenging, but challenging doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be a good thing. And the most important thing for myself, at least looking back, is having the mindset of either the business is doing well or I'm learning from why it's not doing well. And I think that's something that Brendan and I both did together. On the bad days when it doesn't feel fun to be running a Shopify store, those are the days where most people will tap out. But anybody could be a successful entrepreneur if it was just good times, like everybody would do it. It's the people that are able to get through, there are peaks and troughs in running your own business, like highs and lows. It's people that are able to get through the lows that are the ones that you end up reading about. So just be aware of that going in and [00:40:13] do away with any glossy perception of entrepreneurship that maybe you've been told by YouTubers and gurus and that kind of thing. It is tough but like you can get through it and just continue to see it as taking it day by day and getting 1% better each day. [00:40:29]

Brian: [00:40:29] Good advice.

Brendan: [00:40:30] Yeah, I love that too, even that last thing you said, get 1% better each day. And I agree with all that to a tee and I would add maybe what we talked about before, which is just making progress every day. And the other thing, Chris, you kind of touched on it, but I think it's important too, just like the ability to self-regulate. And on your bad days, knowing what you need, not neglecting your personal health, not neglecting your spiritual health, and in every area of your life. You need to be your family, your friends, community... All of that needs... The more that you feed each of those other areas in addition to your business, I think it all kind of feeds itself. The tide rises on everything. So that's been big for me and for us.

Brian: [00:41:22] I love that. I think it's awesome advice. [00:41:25] Make sure that you invest in your life and not just be 100% business-focused, but be balanced about the way you go about things. [00:41:34] That's fantastic. What a great way to end it. Well, thank you both, Brendan and Chris, for all of your transparency and all of your good advice in this episode of Step by Step. Looking forward to seeing what each of you do next and looking forward to staying in contact. Where can people find you if they want to hear more or ask you questions?

Chris: [00:41:55] Linkedin or Twitter. Instagram. My handle's ChrisPHeckman on just about everything. The same.

Brendan: [00:42:02] Linkedin, Twitter. BrendanBrosnan.

Brian: [00:42:05] Great. Thanks again.

Brendan: [00:42:06] Guys. Thank you, Brian. I appreciate it.

Chris: [00:42:08] Thank you.

Phillip : [00:42:11] Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Step By Step. You can find more episodes of this podcast and other seasons of Step by Step at And Brian, we've covered a lot over the years on Step by step. What are some of the other topics that our listeners can dive into to learn a little bit more?

Brian: [00:42:31] You can learn about how to compete or not compete with Amazon. You can learn about funding for retail and commerce, and you can learn about shipping and all the intricacies that come with shipping and the opportunities that come with shipping. You can learn about customer experience and how it's so different from customer service and how to turn that into a revenue-generating center. It's so, so much more.

Phillip : [00:42:58] Oh my gosh, And this is the 11th season. If you're not on our mailing list, the best way to stay up to date with everything that we're doing is to go to and of course, visit OpenStore. We have a special offer for you and maximizing the valuation for your dream exit. If you were to sell your business through OpenStore, it takes just a couple of minutes to get a valuation and hey, maybe the next phase in the success of the growth of your business is to sell it to OpenStore. Hundreds of brands have done so. Maybe yours is the next one. Thank you to OpenStore for giving us their support and trust here on this 11th season of Step by Step.

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