Recently I was able to sit down with someone who I greatly respect and have a quick chat about what gets them going in their day to day. We strolled over to the nearby pier to talk while being surrounded by children playing soccer. Introducing Jean-Pierre:
Tell me about where it started:
My freshman year of school my father lost his job so I came home that summer not knowing my next move. I started working odd jobs fulltime and I realized I wasn’t at my full potential. I had several friends who had gone to culinary school and I reached out asking if they’d like to start a catering business. It took us a year to get our first client, but it was a pragmatic decision, it didn’t require any capital to start. A few years later, a friend approached me asking for funding to support a movie he was making, which I did, but then went a step further to start a production company and host a film festival. Between working fulltime and starting two companies I had enough cash to also go back to school. It was a busy time.
Let’s hear about what you’re working on today:
Wheeli (www.wheeli.us) was an idea that came out of my traveling through Europe. I was headed there on vacation and a friend sent me a website for carpooling instead of the europass. He said it would make it really affordable but that’s not why I kept using it throughout Europe. I kept hitchhiking (digitally) because it was a social way to travel. I’m still friends with some of those people today, and I thought, this is an experience that Americans could really appreciate. Especially college students who are isolated from major hubs of transportation. This way, they can connect with new people to travel where they need to be.
What is balance to you?
Balance is about understanding your limits and defining your goals, realistic ones. It’s hard to explain because I’m a dreamer, and with my cofounders I say we’re not trying to repeat something, we’re trying to create something that’s never been done. So you should still go for the impossible, but you also have to be real with yourself, listen to your needs. Understanding when I want to go see friends or when I want to spend seven days straight in the office is something I have to define for myself.
How much of your time is spent on Wheeli?
Most of it. Back when I was working full-time, holding down two companies and going back to school, I noticed that I’m really good at having an idea in my head and breaking down the steps required to make it real. Grouping together the tools and people or skills that I need to complete it. I think that if I had been able to funnel all my energy into one of those projects I could have done something incredible. So this time around I wanted to give it 100% of my focus and see if my previous success was luck, or if I really understand the process of starting companies.
Join us next week to learn what Jean-Pierre enjoys about his work and how he feels about the concept of failing.