Episode #8: Russ’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Listen to this episode 23 minutes

Today’s episode is our first foray into discussing one of the most important facets of our lives: entrepreneurship.

In today’s episode, Russ & Mika are opening up a little bit about one of the most important aspects of their lives: entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship has afforded our family freedom, both from a financial perspective, and a from a lifestyle perspective.

In this podcast, you’ll hear about Russ’ history as an entrepreneur. Russ shares his story about opening his first agency, why that agency failed, and why building a solid foundation in life ultimately helped him create a successful business.

In this episode, you will learn:

• Why Russ chose to become an entrepreneur.
• What the early days of Russ’ entrepreneurial journey looked like.
• How Russ’ relationship with alcohol was negatively impacting his business.
• Why you can’t build something to be successful if your foundation isn’t strong.

Mentioned in this episode:

The Sober Entrepreneur by Russ Perry
The Russ Perry Show
Wake Up Warrior


Russ Perry: Hey, everyone. Welcome again to another episode of Good to Be Home. Today, we are going to be launching into a series of podcasts dedicated to kind of explaining more about our life as entrepreneurs. I own my own business. Mika, you have owned your own business, as well as work in this business and the business of creation that we’re currently in. But I think I wanted to start off with a podcast dedicated to talking about why I chose this path, personally, as a guy, as a husband, and then for you, Mika, to get your insights on what the experience has been on the other end of it as a girlfriend at first, and then as a fiance, and now as a wife.

Because more of my professional, entrepreneurial career has been with you where I was running my agency out of a loft in Tempe, Arizona, with a roommate and a one-year-old living with me. I had a two-story apartment. The bottom story, my friend, [Jenny Barna] … I lived with her, and then on the top story, I had my room where me and Maddox lived, and then there was a loft off that bedroom that had an iMac where we recorded our legendary Aladdin lip sync video which no longer is on YouTube. I had to hide that.

But it’s basically where it all started, and we’ve known each other since that time. So I’m going to start with actually just asking you, what was it like to date an entrepreneur when you found out that I was trying to do my own thing, have my own business? What did you think?

Mika Perry: I thought it was cool and attractive, and that you had a skill that you could market and make into a business. You were designing. At that point, you were actually doing the designs and creating some content and stuff for businesses. I didn’t really know much about entrepreneurship, so I like that you had a drive to do something on your own, but for me, that was completely scary and sounded like something that was not very profitable, and potentially kind of can toe on the fence of sketchy.

Russ Perry: Well, I will admit, I always wore that brand as a very cool thing about me. I always was the rebel. I was doing my own thing, making my own money, and then when I quit Apple and went full time in my business at the time was King Creative, that was, for me, a personal brand thing to say, “Now I’m an entrepreneur. Look at me.”
Well, thank you. I’m glad you found me attractive. You’ll see some pictures of me back then. I was definitely different than I am now.
So, I started my first business really for freedom. I was an early dad. For those of you who don’t know, our oldest daughter, Maddox, is my daughter and Mika’s stepdaughter. And I found out I was

going to be a dad actually when I was still in college, so there was a very abrupt change of pace and course in my life, where I now had this additional responsibility, and I was going to be now looking at, okay, how am I going to provide for her? I always had this commitment to myself that whenever I was going to become a dad, I was going to be the best dad possible, and that just happened a lot earlier and in a different way than expected.

Now, incredible blessing. I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t be with you, Mika, without that, but as I was an employee during those earlier years, I was so infuriated by having to request time off to spend it with Maddox. Because I didn’t have custody. I was splitting time with her mom the first year, and so I had the audacity and the lack of really thinking long term that, well, I’m going to start my own business. I’m going to try to make money on my own, and do my own thing. And here I was, working with one of the best companies in the world, Apple, which was awesome, and yet I was so super committed to working for myself.

And, Mika, I actually remember talking to you about these days, because I was freelancing, and I had a business on the side, but I wasn’t all in that. And I remember coming home one day, and I was so defeated, and I was so unhappy. And I remember you consoling me, and you’re like, “Russ, you’re too young to hate your job” is basically what you said. And that sunk in so deep for me, because here I was … Like, how old were we? I was like 25, 24.

Mika Perry: 24, 25.

Russ Perry: And not even four or five years out of college yet, and you were like, “Russ, you’re young. You hate your job? That’s like when you’re 65 and ready to retire you hate your job. Not when you’re 24.” Yeah, that was powerful, and I think that really poured fuel on the fire of what if I could create my own path. And I think that ultimately became the vision for me with being an entrepreneur wasn’t about some really great way I want to solve a problem that’s totally better than or hasn’t been invented yet. I wasn’t inventing a widget. I wasn’t coming up with the next cool app. I was just wanting a life that didn’t suck ass.

Mika Perry: And it’s funny you mention about creation or invention because that’s one thing I thought an entrepreneur was, was they came up with some sort of invention and then marketed that, and try to sell that as their business.

Russ Perry: Correct. And in a way you do. You come up with a business process, or something that you’re going to run and do. Well, back then, I didn’t really know much about business at all. I just kind of … I worked at that agency briefly, and then I was like, well, they’re running a terrible organization. I think I can do better than that. I just kind of emulated what I knew.

So fast forward. I quit my job at Apple. I get started with the agency, and I really had no plan. Like I had no clue what was going on, but I did see the immediate benefit of becoming an entrepreneur. I was in control of my time. I was in control of things we could do together. I didn’t have to … Like, vacation days were nonexistent for me at that time, and that was awesome, I think, and I think really fueled a lot of our early days of our relationship, right?

Mika Perry: I remember when I guess you had a surge in clients, or it was going well, where you bought me jewelry. I was like, oh, this is kind of nice. Wow. Here’s this big shot, making some money, which hadn’t been happening. That was kind of cool for me to see you be able to buy me something nice.

Russ Perry: I could actually afford stuff. Well, and I think … Look, if you’re not an entrepreneur and you’re listening to this podcast, Mika and I, we’ll have multiple episodes on this topic, but there is a distinct lifestyle advantage to running your own business, or being what I call which is an intrapreneur, which is a common term now, which is you still work for someone, but you’re in control of the plan. How much you make, your influential … That was definitely one of the first tastes of it.

Now, I wasn’t very great with managing the money because, as we’ll get to in a little bit, I ended up closing that business and we didn’t make a lot of money over a longer period of time. But that is the game for entrepreneurship that I love is you’re in control. You literally … If you want to make more money, you can go after it and pour into your business. And if your business is a healthy one, what comes out of that time and energy is profits, is revenue, is a paycheck.

The problem was, even though you got a couple nice pieces of jewelry … I think it was David…

Mika Perry: It was.

Russ Perry: Yeah. David Yurman. That was like the best.

Mika Perry: I was so excited.

Russ Perry: That the engine of the agency was broken, so it would start up and it would create some money, and then it would be broken for many, many, many months.
The other thing is, which I’ve definitely got to address is, I was drinking during this time. I had this very idealistic idea of what it meant to manage clients, what it meant to manage myself, and my relationships and alcohol was really ingrained. I didn’t have personal responsibility to realize that this was destroying the business.

There was a lot of problems within the business, and myself, I was destroying myself, and I think we’ll probably hold off on getting too deep into that topic for maybe another episode, but when your business model doesn’t work, or if you’re in a company, you’re working for someone, or you have a business that isn’t fulfilling you both financially and emotionally, it can become a very destructive force in your life, and there’s no doubt that over the time that I was running that first business, I was in super denial. I was chasing these benefits that we kind of had early on, the time, the freedom, the money, but ultimately the business itself was broken, and it was taking more time. It was not making money.

Talk about our honeymoon. Tell the audience about what our honeymoon was like as far as we’re married. You’re married to the entrepreneur.

Mika Perry: I’ve got two points in our marriage: Our honeymoon, and our babymoon with our first baby, Reese. Both were in Hawaii. Our honeymoon was in Kauai mostly, and then our babymoon on Maui, and both times you were on your laptop.

Russ Perry: Working.

Mika Perry: Working.

Russ Perry: Right.

Mika Perry: And I remember the honeymoon, I was like, “Oh, well, it’s what he has to do,” but then on our babymoon, I was like, “Really?” At that point, you were stressed. You were stressed out.

Russ Perry: Yeah. And it was because I had a business. I was addicted to the business at that point, and that was funneling other behaviors of drinking, and trying to manage stress that way. But there can become a very clear line, which being an entrepreneur no longer serves you if the business that you are creating no longer serves you. And I was in denial for that for many years. And even though I was there, I remember being on my laptop in the condo in Kauai that we rented, and I remember being so frustrated at myself, but, like, oh, I’ve got to answer this client. I’ve got to help this person. This project needs my review. I’ve got to create this proposal. I’ve got to do this. And the mechanics of my business weren’t serving me.

Mika Perry: And I was reading … That was when Twilight was out, so I went and bought the Twilight book, and drank wine and read Twilight on the patio by myself. That was our honeymoon. We had some great times, but still. We do remember that.

Russ Perry: Yeah. Like, look, the pros of entrepreneur can be life changing for a marriage and our relationship, and today, the after is fantastic of what we’ve had. But what I didn’t realize early on was how much I thought that if I succeed in business, then I can have the life that I want. Like that had to come first, and then I could buy you the jewelry, take the trips with the kids, save up for college, do the things that ultimately I think everyone who’s married and has a family wants to do. And it was like I was just kicking it down, kicking it down, kicking it down, and then creating a life for us that kind of sucked, to be honest, with glimmers of, yay, we can do this, and then, oh, I’m super stressed out all behind the scenes.

And I pushed that down, and I really tried to hide that from you. And I think because I was hiding so much, trying not to stress you out, that’s when I got into more destructive behaviors and had to find an outlet somewhere else.

Fast forward. I finally realize that the agency, my life, things are broken. And if you’re not familiar with this story, in 2011, 2012, that’s when the affair was exposed. That’s when drinking and addictions really were confronted, and finally in 2013, I got sober.

This was a huge turning point for myself as an entrepreneur and our marriage. Lots of trust would never have been able to be rebuilt from the challenges that we had, and we’ve talked about these topics in depth in previous episodes, so if you’re new to this episode, or new to our conversation on this, go back, look at some of our earlier episodes, and you’ll hear a lot about those times, because we’ve really shared a lot on it already.

I want to stay focused on the entrepreneur side of this, but in 2013, and finally, in 2014, I actually created a different agency with a partner and his wife in Argentina, [Frederico] and [Sabrina]. Great people, great family, but I finally had the courage and the clarity to say this isn’t working. And by this, I meant that business at the time, which really was just another version of an agency.
So I’m going to throw back to you, Mika. Do you remember that time, in 2014? Like the end of my agency career?

Mika Perry: That was ’14?

Russ Perry: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mika Perry: Yeah. I do.

Russ Perry: Because we just moved to the apartments in Scottsdale. We had gotten out of Chandler. We were like we’re going to make this lifestyle change. We don’t want to be in Chandler, Arizona, anymore. We’re going to move to Scottsdale. The glamour and glitz of Scottsdale, but we could only move to an apartment in Scottsdale. We couldn’t get a house. We weren’t able to buy anything, and we moved there, and it was basically that year that we moved into the apartments.
Where were we at in our relationship, and kind of the entrepreneurial marriage relationship then?

Mika Perry: Obviously because we were sober now, I think we were in the rebuilding part of our marriage because now we had gone to marriage counseling because of the affair, and the drinking and we’re in a building phase. I was running my business at that point, so part of the reason we moved to Scottsdale, though, was because my clients were up in Scottsdale. Your clients from the agency that we’re talking about now was up in Scottsdale, so we were doing a lot of driving up there.

Russ Perry: Our friends were in Scottsdale.

Mika Perry: Our friends. I mean, everything was just in Scottsdale, so it just made sense for us to come up there. But we couldn’t afford anything past an apartment, so we were a family of five in an apartment in a really nice area, and we made sure to pick a place where the neighborhood school would be good, so that’s where Maddy went.

And I kind of had my head down in a way, because I was working on my business so much. So at this point, I was also an entrepreneur, and actually, it was mostly positive for me because I now understood entrepreneur, and I realized how cool it was, and how great it was, and how many skills I had from previous jobs that I could apply to this business.
So mine was running a professional organizing company. I was a licensee of a bigger brand, and really utilized you as a resource to grow the business beyond the model had been for that business up until then.

Russ Perry: Yeah, and you crushed it. You were the number one market multiple months. You’d never run your own business, and suddenly you’re the best in the whole country.

Mika Perry: Well, you helped me a lot. And I got some business coaching, and just really for the first time in my life knew that you could do your own thing, and what was cool was that before, all the jobs that I had had a cap of what I could earn, and for the first time, the more I worked the more I could earn, which was great. But then I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so I went right into it and worked my butt off.

Russ Perry: Oh, let’s not forget you got pregnant and had a baby during all that time.

Mika Perry: So, right when I felt confident in my business, our marriage was good, you were just starting Warrior, then I found out I was pregnant. And it was planned, but I have to be honest that I was like, oh, man. We’re so good right now. I’m in shape, and my business is wonderful, and here we go again. Pregnancy. And that really … I felt kind of like, oh, can I do this? Turns out I could, but that was a fear I had.

Russ Perry: And I think what I learned throughout our entrepreneurship intertwined with the marriage was when we got super clear on who we were as individuals, and stripped away the identities of our businesses, and focused on just knowing who we are, and, like you said, repairing the marriage, that is when we, I think, made the turn that we’re currently on, which is I closed the agency in 2014. You eventually closed your organizing business in 2016, because it took a while, and we were really committed to that. I got a lot of clarity inside the Warrior program in 2015, which was also the year that Design Pickle launched.

And then what I think was the key for us, as I look back, was we’ve always been an entrepreneur family, and an entrepreneur marriage. We’ve always had that, but I think we finally had the right fundamentals of trust, of what we wanted in life, what we valued, and we were then building our business on top of that.

Mika Perry: So in the coaching that I received, and you did too, was your business will never be successful if your foundations, yourself, your marriage and your kids, your family, are not strong. If that’s not strong, you are building and building and building upon a crumbling foundation, and that was what was happening before is you were pouring into the business, pouring into the business. Meanwhile, the foundation of you and I, the foundation of your family, was crumbling.

Russ Perry: And the foundation of me.

Mika Perry: Yourself, yeah.

Russ Perry: Like, who I was. I wasn’t working out, wasn’t taking care of my body. I was abusing it with alcohol. It was like trying to build a tower on a marsh, and it would just slump over. You’d get high, and then it would crash down. There would be some dramatic thing that happened.

Mika Perry: And it seems kind of counterintuitive to do that, when you’re so into your business and its success, and you were so committed to that, to take a step back and be like we are not focusing on that. We are focusing on you. We are focusing on your marriage. Make that tight and make that solid first so that your business can grow.

And I felt resistance. I was like, oh, I don’t have time to do that. I don’t have time to focus on myself or my family. Like, I need to make this business work. And you were the same, too, before you were doing that. You were kicking the ball further down like you said, but, lo and behold, that’s what happened. The more I worked on myself, the more I worked on my step-parenting relationship with Maddox, the more I worked on my marriage with you, the more my business flourished.

Russ Perry: And I look at so many entrepreneurial couples that are out there, whether they both have a business or one person has a business, or they’re intrapreneurs and they’re really successful … The ones that are connected in their marriage, and spiritually, and emotionally … There is that unshakeable foundation, and I talk to so many guys that crush in business that are either getting divorced or have problems at home, and they’re wondering why there’s problems. And they have all this success in one area, or they feel stagnated. They fell flat. They can’t rise up, they can’t get past a certain spot.

Mika Perry: Like, plateaued.

Russ Perry: Plateaued. Exactly. But yet they’re waiting for that next level of success so that then they can go back to their wife, or they can go back to their family, and fix that after the fact.
It will never, never, never, never … Now I know. I speak from experiences that when I’m grinding … Like, I’ve been working a lot lately. Late nights and I come home, and I can look at you, and you can talk to me. We don’t need to say much, but I know that there’s that solidarity and that security, and that foundation. It gives me the strength to continue on and to continue to build.

So as I look back in my entrepreneurial journey from the beginning, to I see where things finally turned the corner for the better. I absolutely know that the only way we have succeeded isn’t because of a cool business idea, isn’t because of your entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s because we decided to focus on us first, which, sadly, we didn’t do for a long time.

It’s kind of where I want to wrap this episode up. For those of you out there who are thinking about starting your own business, or are in a relationship with someone who has their own business, don’t lose sight on the relationship between you two first, and making sure you’re pouring into that, and investing into that, because, like Mika said, what you’ll be building on top of that, how high you can go can only be determined by the strength of your foundation.

I know we’ll continue this entrepreneurial conversation more, maybe getting more into the tactics, or the things we do to manage a business and a home at the same time, as well as talking more about how I came up with the idea of Design Pickle and the businesses that we’re running currently, because there’s multiple businesses that we now have.
But until then, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram. I’m Russ Perry. My wife is …

Mika Perry: Mika Perry.

Russ Perry: Mika Perry. Get subscribed, and listen to past episodes over on our new website, GoodtoBeHomePodcast.com.

Mika Perry: So excited. And please leave us a review, a rating. Also, let us know how we’re doing, and let us know what you want to hear more about, too. This is a collaborative effort and a conversation.

Russ Perry: Talk to you guys next time.

Mika Perry: All right. Bye.

Russ Perry: Thanks for listening to this episode of Good to Be Home.

Mika Perry: And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and give us a rating.

Russ Perry: See you next time.