John Potess

From Pancakes to Products

Failures and fun times

experiences | products | life
December 16th, 2018

Pancake Moguls

My first taste of entrepreneurship was at age five selling green pancakes in front of our house.

We lived in Pontianak, Indonesia, and street vendors were pretty common near our home. My sister, Alex, and I would buy something anytime one came around selling food or snacks. We were quite the chefs ourselves, our famous recipe being green (from food-coloring) pancakes.

So we decided to share our gift with the world and make ourselves some of that that sweet, sweet bank. Luckily, our dad’s office was right across the street so we had a steady stream of his reluctant co-workers, no-doubt coerced to support our little business. #profit

That was my first taste of entrepreneurship and I guess the lesson that who you know can grease the wheels of capitalism.

Peach Pits and Climate Deniers

A few years later (now in Texas) our next venture came when we discovered a bucket of about 100 dried peach pits at our grandmother’s house. We realized the value of a peach tree > value of a peach pit so we decided to greenhouse those seeds to the bank.

After about a week in of sitting out in the backyard, our mini-greenhouse had the humidity levels of a tropical rain forest. This is probably thanks to the 100+°F Texas summer temperatures and to the massive amounts of watering. What can I say, at ten years old I assumed all they needed was more water, and more water, and more water.

Two weeks later, we were throwing away our molded seeds. There’s a lesson about market research in there somewhere.

Hardcore Partycore

In Still Life and the glorious days of experimental hardcore partycore (it’s like a party for your ears). In the course of seven months, my band mates and I wrote an album, zeroed out our life’s savings to record it in a studio, distributed it (yeah it's on iTunes if you wanna have your mind blown) and organized a short Texas/New Mexico/Louisiana tour. And what's better than making and selling merch.

We had plenty of items for sale: CDs, posters, wristbands, and multiple shirt designs - most of which are sitting in my mom’s garage because she think’s they be worth something someday. We can only hope.

I can say this is really where I realized how fun it is to create something you care about from the ground up.

Soft-hand for the Win

Then came the clothing line - Groove Line Apparel. I built a single screen printing press and deep-dived into screen-printing, created all the designs, burned the screens and printed only water-based ink on American Apparel tees. If you're wondering, no, you can’t get a softer print than that.

People loved it, they went insane for GLA. So much so that I think I just about broke even.

Web Dev - Slangin’ Code

I realized in the last two ventures that having a web presence is vital to be able to sell anything - and if you can’t do it yourself - potentially the most limiting/costly aspect of a new idea.

That, combined with the freedom of remote work potential, drew me towards web development - so I started teaching myself how to code.

The more I learned, the more I enjoyed development - it's empowering being able to create something new that does something useful - and problem solving on its own can be cathartic.

After about half a year of self-teaching and trying to pick up freelance gigs, I realized if I wanted to rapidly grow my skills I needed to have peers to learn from and be pushed beyond my comfort zone, so in 2015 I landed my first web dev position at an agency.

Since then, I've worked with some awesome team mates, built some sites I'm really proud of (and some I'm not) and greatly improved my skills. If there's anything I've learned, it's how in this industry there is always something else you can learn - and that's a good thing.

Podcasts - Slangin’ Audio

When I started out at the first web agency, I pretty much just coded all day listening to podcasts in the background. With all the podcasts I listened to, I was quickly taken aback by how terrible most podcast’s audio was (somewhere in the above storyline is an audio engineering degree and live sound/studio engineering for a few years - so I’m not just being overly critical, or if I am - I at least have some level of audio experience to base my complaining off of).

So I was plagued with thoughts of “if only they'd cut 2.7k it wouldn’t feel like I’m being stabbed in the ear every time they speak” and “please for the love of god use some compression.“

And that's how The Podcast Creative (CLOSED) was born - frustration… but also because I missed working with audio - there’s something pure and transcendent about waveforms.

So with a vision in mind, I used those mAd WeB sKiLLz and threw together a WordPress site and launched over a weekend. Investment: $32 for domain and hosting.

That was three years ago, and since then I’ve learned tons of lessons running TPC. There was a massive course creation failure in there (which I’ll get into another time), but overall the business has been a long-term monetary success - now covering a good portion of living expenses.

Storytime Morals

So yes the majority of my ventures were technically failures, but I see each one of those experiences as a win - not just for what I learned from them - but because they were all super fun to try new things, and work on my own ideas.

So, enjoy the journey - have fun learning and experiencing new things and pursue areas that are important to you.

← View All Posts

Subscribe below to be notified when I write a new post.