This week we are starting a series of interviews with faith driven founders and CEO's. They have a lot to share and I feel honored to be capturing their stories. This week is no exception I am excited to interview Seth Hill the founder and CEO of SWAYY.
Take me down memory lane. How did your company start and what is your company focused on today?
I really struggled with the concept of school, but there was one class that set me on a new path. My Junior year I had a class called Entrepreneurship. For the class we had to come up with a product or service, and I had the idea for an insulated hammock. I talked to some friends about it, they liked it, and after making a series of prototypes, I was to a place where I could start selling them.
Today, we are focused on our Kickstarter launch. We sold out of our first short run of hammocks just a few months ago and now we are ready to re-launch our first product, the Premus, and launch our new product, the Eira. In order to help others, we need to make some money, there is no getting around that. Our over arching mission and passion that keeps us going each day are the opportunities we have to make a difference in the lives of kids in Papua. That is why we do what we do.
How has your faith impacted your business?
Honestly, it impacts almost every decision I make each day. I try and always ask to pray with the people I meet, whether it is for business or otherwise. Honestly, if God made it clear to me that I needed to quit SWAYY and move on to something different, sure it might be hard, but I would do it. Each day I meet with people and it is the interactions I have with them that add real value to my life. How does faith impact my business? My faith is my business.
When it comes to the company what are you most proud of?
Man, that is a hard one. I would have to say that I am most proud of the team I have been able to work with and create, but not only that. I am proud of how we have worked together to create a product that will change the way people camp forever.
If you could change one thing about your company what would it be?
That really is a difficult question to answer... If I could change one thing, it would probably have to do with our ability to hire. I know so many people who would make great teammates for SWAYY, but it is so hard to solicit help when you are working on a shoestring budget.
How do you spend your day?
Most days I wake up at 5:15 am and help my wife make her breakfast and lunch each day as she leaves early for the hospital, she is a nurse. After that I like to have my personal devotions and try to go for a run, when it's still dark. After that I usually get washed up, and head to one of three places, the public library, a co-working space down town, or a coffee shop. This allows me to get on my email and from then on it is just doing a little or a lot of everything. Some days I am working on accounting issues, other days I am shipping products, and yet other days I am meeting with new people of different types of projects. My day is always different, and I love it that way!
What do you do when you are not working?
When I am not working, I am usually playing. The stress that comes with entrepreneurship is a different kind. I wouldn't compare it to my wife's work as a nurse, or to a construction worker, but it is kind of a self inflicted stress to keep pushing, even when it feels like nothing is moving, or there is nothing to push, and it's all about being creative to create a lead. When I am not working, I am playing hard! Disc Golf, running, hiking, biking, watching a TED talk or a podcast, I actually do this a lot. If I can't find an envelope to push, I hit the education station of podcasts, youtube videos and articles.
What keeps you up at night?
Product Design! I have lost countless nights of sleep thinking about how to make our products better, and honestly, this is when the best ideas come.
What have you learned this year that was a surprise?
This year I have learned so much about the outdoor industry. I went to the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show in Denver in February and learned tons. One thing that really stood out to me was that is was amazing how many companies use the same select factories, mills, etc to create their products. I joke about how my church the Seventh-day Adventist Church is such a tightly nit group of people and cultures, and it came to my attention that the outdoor industry is very similar!
What is your finish line?
Hmm... You know, I could see several types of successful exits, but I am not sure on which one I should speak to... I would say that for me success looks like having a network of people around the world who I could call on at anytime to start a new business, project, mission, or anything really. I value people so much, and it is people that get things done. Sure, I would love to see SWAYY be in the hands of every weekend warrior, and I believe we will get there soon, but success looks like have more friends in my rolodex. Facebook is great, but how many people do we really know outside of our select few weekend buddies? There in lies success, in your networks.
What would you tell to someone trying to start their own business. What should they do to take that first step?
The first thing I would do is talk about it with a few friends. Listen to their feedback, take it into consideration, but don't always take it to heart. If they give feedback that you can implement, do it, if they tell you that it will never work, ask them why, and if they can't give a good answer, you may be on to something. Next, make a prototype, even if it is a few sketches made from tissue paper - prototypes are key to learning!
What are your must read books?
"Let My People Go Surfing" by Yvon Chouinard is a must read, even if you aren't into the outdoor scene. This book really opens up the can on how to think outside the box, if that makes sense. Building a company isn't about a revenue stream (although this is crucial!), it's about building a living and breathing culture that sets the tone for how people treat others and are treated.
One other fantastic book is the City of Ember. Sure, it's not a book about business, or is it? This book opened up my imagination as a kid and set me on a path of the belief that I really could make a difference and change the world, but I had to be comfortable with going against the grain.
What is a quote or bible verse that has inspired you?
Isaiah 26:3 has inspired me lately. It says "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." I don't think that needs much explanation. Entrepreneurship is hard to describe as peaceful, so it adds tremendous value to my life. Also is Job 1:21. It says "... "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!" I like this verse because it creates a foundation in my life that I strive for: to be content and praising God always, that is where I crave to be.
This interview was done on March 28, 2018 with Seth Hill and Taylor Paris
Seth Hill is the Founder and CEO of SWAYY, a company that specializes in outdoor insulated hammocks. Seth is passionate about making the connection between people that help make a difference in the lives of many. His mission is to have SWAYY fund the building of jungle schools and chapels in Papua, Indonesia for years to come.
Taylor Paris is a co-founder of Fruition Lab and an entrepreneur. His current ventures include real estate and software as a service.
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