VENTEUR spoke with Filip Pejic, a business nerd for most of his life, about his entrepreneurial journey. At a young age, he became interested in stocks, eBay commerce, and flipping products in his community. Pejic attended business school at his local university, where he launched a sock subscription eCommerce business. After graduation, he worked at P&G for four years while side-hustling his sock business, managing over $100 million in accounts. Pejic quit P&G a year ago to grow his sock business and launch a new DIY bubble tea kit business.
The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?
I’ve learned that I am an idea guy who loves to build and work on new projects. However, I quickly lose interest in repetitive tasks and working on later-stage growth. I’ve found a match in my skills by entering the world of digital marketing, where you constantly have to try new things to survive.
Another thing I learned is that I like to surround myself with builders and creators. They complement my interests, bring me lots of energy, and help me work through ideas better than anyone else.
The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?
As entrepreneurs, we all face periods of loneliness as there are so few people we can truly relate to. Therefore, I intentionally launched my business with a co-founder with whom I trust and get along. This has helped tremendously in keeping my spirits high and bringing me the energy to keep striving toward my goals daily.
The Psychological Warfare
Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?
This happens quite often. I find it’s easy to fall into periods of insecurity where I experience imposter syndrome. This is especially true during bad times in the business. It’s never fun and is hard to pull yourself out of.
I’ve found a few ways to pull myself out over time:
- Have a co-founder, family, or friends who are there to encourage and support your goals.
- Remember, it’s a long game. Not all success comes immediately (listen to podcasts, watch youtube videos or read a series like this, which features entrepreneurs who share their journeys).
- Get sleep and work out.
Newer entrepreneurs often equate their success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?
Earlier, when I launched my first business, I felt this way. I thought, “I’m spending so much time on this. If it doesn’t work, it would be embarrassing.”
Over time, my perspective on this has shifted drastically. I view it all as a learning process.
If I work toward my goals, try new things, and study my mistakes, I will learn much about success.
This success will eventually come as long as I am consistent and passionate about my work.
What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
1. The Economy Tanking and My Business Getting Wiped Out With It
I have multiple businesses now, and some of my savings are in diversified assets, so this is less likely, but still a real risk. Most people have a tough time shielding themselves from this.
2. A Significant Inventory Issue (e.g., Major Product Defect)
While we have insurance to protect ourselves, we would still lose a lot of time on an issue like this. We’re working to have multiple manufacturers split up inventory shipments as much as possible.
3. Growth Stalling and Not Having Any More Ideas To Build On
I avoid this by being an industry student (talking to others, listening to podcasts, studying my favorite brands), listening to my customers, my co-founder, and employees, and listening to my gut. You never know where the next brilliant idea will come from.
What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid them?
1. Following Get-Rich-Quick Methods
Early on, I followed advice from people who shared tactics meant to achieve rapid growth with little effort.
I ended up burning money on poor-performing ads and products and wasting time working on things that had no benefit to my business. I’ve learned that an “overnight success” takes many years to accomplish and requires consistent effort and precise incremental goal setting.
2. Trying To Chase Every Opportunity at Once
This still happens today, and I often find it difficult to ground myself. Yet, with so many ideas for business growth, it’s tempting to want to try them all.
I’ve now built a rating system for each idea and aligned with my business partner every month on which singular idea we will each focus on. This has given us a lot more clarity, allowed us to test things much faster, and avoided losing track of how we will grow our business.
3. Neglecting To Learn How To Code
I learned to code around one year ago, which has been life-changing. I’ve been able to write simple programs that have automated core parts of our business and made us much more efficient.
I was always intimidated by coding because I thought you needed a computer science degree. It turns out it’s much easier than that (and much more fun than I thought).
I initially signed up for a weekly coding bootcamp on the weekends, then started coding my projects, and have been coding here and there ever since! It’s also taught me a lot about how the internet works and saved me money on developers giving me unfair rates.
What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?
1. Going to Trade Shows (Especially Overseas)
If you work in the eCommerce industry, you can achieve an unfair advantage by meeting your suppliers (and their competitors) in person. As a result, you can get a lot more done faster than you would via email.
2. Managing Your Time: Find Time To Exercise, Sleep Well, and Spend Time With Others
Finding balance is tricky, but many entrepreneurs are under the impression that more hours = more success.
The equation is more like better ideas with focused attention = more success—my productivity, views, and output skyrocket whenever I have an excellent work-life balance.
Don’t get me wrong, some things need to be brute forced, and you will find times to make sacrifices (as with any job).
3. Hiring a Virtual Assistant
We hired a VA and saw significant benefits within a few weeks. They are significantly cheaper than a traditional office employee and can help free up much of your time on admin tasks (email, customer service, outreach, etc.).
What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?
1. Quitting My Job
It took me a long time to decide to quit my job, which brought me stability. What helped me overcome I realized that I wanted to follow my passion (e-commerce) and build cool stuff.
2. Getting to the Point Where We Could Afford a Warehouse
I always thought having a warehouse would take us years, and we would be fulfilling orders from my mom’s basement forever.
Our consistency in focus on growing our business one step at a time allowed us to eventually have enough inventory and revenue to rationalize having a warehouse.
3. Closing Our First Large Wholesale Client
Coming from a corporate background, I know how hard it is to close a big client. We remained focused on communicating our brand values, staying in touch with potential clients, and sharing products we worked on, eventually landing our first big client.
What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout?
- Exercise, sleep, and spend time with others.
- Hiring a virtual assistant.
- Managing my outlook. Keeping inbox zero and a well-maintained calendar to stay productive.
How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems impossible?
Pick one task you focus on at a time and devote everything to it during your work hours.
Build your calendar and meetings around that task (e.g., set blocks to clear out other less-important things, but always have time for the significant task booked).
You’ll find yourself much more organized and won’t feel the need to sacrifice hours in your personal life.
Once you feel good at this, you can try taking on a second primary task or hiring someone to help with another.
What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?
1. Focus on One Big Idea at a Time
Drives clarity, efficiency, and productivity.
2. Establish Achievable Milestones for Growth
It makes it easier to set your goals and focus on something realistic.
3. You Should Launch a Business Because It Solves Someone’s Problem
This allows you to immediately have customers and interest vs. trying to explain a brand new concept or product no one wants (yet)