Episode 32 | College Drop Out to Entrepreneurial Success Route, with Mike Zhang

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Discovering your purpose almost always involves making some hard choices.

First and foremost, there’s the opportunity cost – saying yes to your purpose necessarily involves saying no to something else.

So what happens when the opportunity cost is a college education, and what if following your gut instinct means that your parents might disown you?

This is exactly the choice that our Awesome Office guest Mike Zhang had to make early in his entrepreneurial career.

Today, Mike is the CEO of The Drip Club, a booming e-liquid retailer whose mission is to be the Coca-Cola of the vape space. At just 25, he has multiple companies and a solid exit under his belt.

But before his success with Drip Club, Mike was a student trying to juggle his coursework with the obligations of a growing airsoft e-commerce business.

Less than a semester into his freshman year at UC Berkeley, Mike realized that he couldn’t give his all to both school and his company. Deep down he knew he had to choose one or the other. Against the advice of friends and family, he chose to drop out of college and run the business full time.

A successful exit a few years later eventually put his parents’ anxieties to rest, and Mike learned the power of trusting his gut instincts.

Mike shared what he learned during these formative experiences, as well as the role of gut instinct in business strategy and the benefits and challenges of partnering with friends.

Key Takeaways

  • Mike walks us through his very first business venture, which he began at the ripe age of eleven.
  • Mike tells us how he was able to run a million dollar airsoft business in high school and college, and about the pressure he felt from friends and family when he decided to drop out of UC Berkeley to run it full time.
  • Mike talks about the beginnings of The Drip Club, and why he chose to take the helm as CEO.
  • Mike describes why the company pivoted away from a subscription service and opted to become a consumer goods company focused on brand and IP development.
  • Mike tells us why doing unscalable things early on in a business can be a tremendous asset, but why it’s ultimately unsustainable.
  • Mike shares the lessons he’s learned working with different types of business partners, including personal friends.
  • Mike shares his number one recognition tactic at Drip Club, and why the company believes in supporting the whole person, not just the “employee.”
  • Mike explains why he subscribes to a servant-leader style of leadership.
  • Finally, Mike shares what he means by gut instinct, and why it’s so important for business leaders to develop the confidence to act upon it.

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