Thriving cities depend on the adventurous among us, who alter the urban landscape when they forge their own successful paths.
Each month, we ask an influential San Diegan: What was it like for you in the beginning?
Adam “Ace” Moyer
Live: Mission Hills
Work: Sherman Heights
How Long: Just over a year
What was the defining moment that propelled you to start Knockaround?
I was 23, and had just moved to San Diego for the Visual Art grad program at UCSD. Having grown up on the East Coast, Southern California came off as tropical and exotic. It was the middle of summer, classes hadn’t started yet, I was sitting on the beach and had just lost my $100 Ray-Bans… at that moment I decided to start Knockaround— a company that made cheap sunglasses and cared about design. A few weeks later I drove down to the Civic Center Plaza Building and submitted my business application.
What struggles did you face when starting your own business?
The biggest struggle I faced when starting Knockaround was just not knowing what the hell was going on. I didn’t know how successful businesses worked. I didn’t know the difference between a LLC and a C-corp. I didn’t know what a P&L statement was. I didn’t know how to build a website. I had an art degree and had never taken a business class in my life. When you’re young, you’re usually naive and clueless. But you figure things out. Now I have two art degrees— still haven’t taken a business class in my life— and I have a pretty good idea of what the hell is going on.
What was the riskiest business move you made?
The biggest risk I took was hiring friends. Knockaround’s first employee was one of my all-time best friends, Regan Russell. At that moment, the business was growing fast, and I needed someone sharp- someone I could count on. I’ve heard that you should never hire your friends, but now I know that’s not true. It’s a risk that paid off big-time. Who can you trust more than your best buddy? Hiring Regan is one of the best decisions I ever made.
If you could change the past, is there anything involving your career that you would do differently?
I’d take more time off. Once you have a few smart and capable employees, it’s pretty egomaniacal to think that you need to be around in order for things to run smoothly. There’s very rarely something that needs my attention that can’t be handled quickly over the phone or on a laptop. So, I should’ve taken about 10 more trips to Palm Springs. I love Palm Springs. There’s something about the desert heat and the abundant sunshine… great Knockaround weather. But now it’s getting harder to do with small kids. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Could you ever go back to a ‘normal job’ working for someone else?
Never. There’s no turning back. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to work with other people. I love brainstorming with people, coming up with good ideas, and executing cool projects. But having a direct “report-to-me” boss? No dice.
What personality traits must a successful business owner possess?
I gave the keynote speech at my old high school’s graduation this past summer, and here’s what I told the graduating seniors: “Be pretty good at everything.” And that’s what makes a good entrepreneur. You need to have social skills, understand art and design, know how to crunch numbers, know how to write an intense and convincing email… and on and on. I’m not the best at any one of those things. But I’m pretty good at all of them. A good business owner can keep all the balls rolling forward at once. Some say “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Bullshit. In high school I wasn’t voted “Most likely to succeed”. I was voted “Best dressed” and “Class flirt”. So, go figure.
In the beginning, if you could have had a glimpse into where your work is today, what 3 words describe how you might have felt?
“You own-a Ferrari?!?!” (The 23-year-old me was not as mature as I am know. And technically that should be 4 words).