A Man, A Beach, and a Secret to Launching your Business

A couple weekends ago, it occurred to me that I live on beachfront property. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Really Cat? How can you possibly just noticed that you live on beachfront property? Well, this wasn’t always the case. I live across from the river that bisects our beautiful city. In the last few years, Edmonton got full funding to complete our light rail transit system (LRT), which truth be known, is decades overdue. So I’m glad they’re getting on it. The new ‘Valley Line’ stretches across the river from downtown, alongside my neighbourhood and up the hill. Currently the construction is in full swing building a new bridge across the river


Serendipitously, the construction, as messy and ‘in-your-face’ as it may be, had inadvertently restricted the flow of the river downstream. The water was always shallow there, and with the added restriction, it has now exposed much of the riverbed, which turned out to be pristine, quality sand. Hence an ‘accidental beach’ was formed from the otherwise messy and conspicuous LRT construction.


The Accidental Beach

It wasn’t always called the ‘accidental beach.’ At one point in time, it was called the ‘Secret Beach,’ because no one knew about it, except us locals. Then one of my neighbours went on the news and broadcasted how beautiful it was. He regaled how it stretched for six city blocks, and how the city should consider keeping it. It was official. The once ‘secret’ beach is now the city’s newest weeknight / weekend attraction.

Be that as it may, the entrance to the beach is still somewhat of an enigma. There are a number of entrances, each of varying levels of difficulty. If you were to people-watch from my balcony, you might see groups of folk strolling this way and that trying to find the entrance to the beach. One weekend, Zane and I were among those searching for the secret entrance.



Enter if you Dare

What we found was a steep decline, which required somewhat of an experienced climber to chance down without falling flat on his face. We called out to some passer-bys already down on the beach and asked them how they possibly made it down safely. They pointed to a rope that someone had tied to a tree to use as a quasi-repelling device. “Oh, “ I thought, “that was really kind of that person to leave a rope here for others to venture down the mini-cliff.”

Weeks passed, and one night on Facebook, my newsfeed showed my friend Jamie’s photo of him and his daughter in front of newly constructed set of stairs where the cliff once was. Jamie, beaming, had a shovel in one hand; his daughter, doing a perfect ‘Vanna White,’ showed off her dad’s handiwork. He captioned how he had procrastinated for a few weeks, but then his wife bit the dust on her way down one day. He finally put shovel to dirt and crafted that respectable looking set of stairs.



I know… what does this have to do with anything that I write on this blog? What does this have to do with business?


The Best Way to Find a Viable Product or Service

One of the first rules of business is to solve someone else’s problems. So the first thing that we are inclined to do as entrepreneurs is to find other people’s problems and solve them. That’s exactly what Jamie did in this case.

Sure it often takes a while to convince yourself that the problem is big enough for which to create a solution. We always worry that no one would find what we have to offer valuable, let alone pay us a single dime for it. It’s not until it hits home that the problem becomes super-obvious. It’s not until we can feel the pain of it ourselves, or in Jamie’s case, by close association, that we are then convinced that the solution is worth striving. Very often, the products that result are the very ones that solve our own problems.


via smartpassiveincome.com

I was listening to Noah Kagan’s interview on Smart Passive Income a few days ago. That is exactly what he said. He started sumo.com because he couldn’t find anything else that fit his needs. So, in his fringe time, he started sumo.com with a couple friends. From there, it grew and grew, which leads me to my next point.


Quality is Iterative

No one ever hits a home run. Well.. I shouldn’t say that… Very few people hit home runs in the business world. And it’s not before they have batted thousands of times prior. Mostly what you think is a home-run is the outcome of a long arduous journey of trial and error, tweaking and experimentation. Guess what? That’s really good news for us, you guys! That means we don’t have to be burdened by the myth of trying to get it right the first time. We’ve all heard the saying it’s best to get it right the first time. But in the world of entrepreneurship and creativity, that is poison.


Getting Right the First Time is Poison

In the entrepreneurial world, ‘getting right the first time’ is why most people can’t get it started in the first place. They’re too consumed with getting right the first time. Nathan Chan of Foundr Magazine said it best: ‘If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve shipped too late.’ In the world of entrepreneurship, getting started and shipping your product beats ‘getting it right the first time’ every single time.


Back to Noah Kagan. I loved what he said about iteration. The secret is to continually build and tweak your product, making it better and better. The journey all starts with shipping your first iteration though.


Recently I had the opportunity of experiencing this first hand. My buddy Raeed and I formed an online training company that delivers end-user training for Oracle. I’m happy to report that we recently landed our first client. While we have a grand vision for this company, the products, the delivery, we were given the luxury of a tight timeline. A new entity had been brought on board, and they had a bunch of GL users that needed training. The problem was that the organization had really nothing more than a bunch of scattered notes squirrelled away in people’s desks. So we delivered a basic GL course for their new users. It was quality. Everything that they needed and nothing they didn’t. Because of this, we propelled lightyears ahead in our journey where we actually created our first product, formed a corporation, created the back office, signed our first client, and shipped our first product. Of course there is room for improvement. Of course we would continue tweaking it, expanding and it bringing it to the next level. That is the iterative process. Get your first piece of work in front of a paying customer, and continually make it better.

Crap Doesn’t Cut it

Don’t get me wrong. You can’t cut corners. Delivering a crap product won’t cut it. A standard of quality still needs to be there. If you can stand by your work and be proud of it because you threw everything you had at it, you’re in good shape. Then, over the course of weeks and months, continually improve upon it.


Back to Jamie, who forever is now known as the ‘Stair man.’ At first there was a rope. Then there were stairs carved in the cliff. What’s the next step? Thanks buddy, for the lesson on getting started and the iterative process of building business.

Jamie recently got interviewed by none other than CBC for his handiwork! Check it out here.



Jamie Young is the co-founder of Safeopedia, a hub of all things occupational health and safety-related. If every you have a question on what the safety regulation is on a particular subject anywhere in the world, check out safeopedia.com.

Also published on Medium.

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