The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team.
DeShawn Brown is up.
Who are you and what do you do? I'm DeShawn Brown. I'm an entrepreneur and CEO with a passion for building great products and great teams. I currently have two startups: Lithios and Coworks. Lithios is a mobile/web app design and development studio. We work with everyone from innovative startups up to Fortune 500 companies to help them go through the process of creating and deploying mobile apps from idea to app store. At Coworks, we have a coworking and flexible workspace management system that is designed to streamline the process of managing and experiencing the future of work.
What did it take / how did you get started? For me, I properly discovered entrepreneurship while at school at NCSU and knew I wanted to pursue it. I decided to study Computer Science to learn how to build software and from there just started creating with some friends on what would become Lithios. We built and released a few apps and quickly realized that there was a gap in the market for a young, truly innovative, mobile-first company to help guide people through the mobile app development process. My goal was to create a brand that would be known for highly polished, innovative products and to assemble an A team to do that. After working during school and nights and weekends after briefly working in RTP, we gained enough traction to make the leap full time and the rest is history. For Coworks, I saw a need in the market and was able to use my experience from Lithios to develop a solution and deploy it into the market.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle? The future for me is all about scale. With Lithios, we've matured into a reliable brand that has caught the attention of some huge companies both locally and nationally. We've really honed our process and grown as a team. We've been very focused on serving the local innovation market and will continue to do that while offering some new services and experiences that will allow us to scale even further. Coworks is still in the early stages so there are some much more straight forward growth metrics around customers, revenue, and team that we need to hit but ultimately I plan to grow that into the leading global brand for coworking resources.
What drives / motivates you?
I'm obsessed with impact, brand, and team. I've always felt that if you have a platform that people will listen to then it gives you a special privilege and responsibility to make a difference in the world and do something impactful. I actually grew up doing theater and arts so I'm also very much in love with the creative process, thus brand is super important to me. I want to create experiences in people's lives through our brand and products that people truly enjoy. With all the craziness in the world, it's amazing to be able to produce something that captures people's attention if even for a few minutes. And finally, I'm all about people. I love to watch people grow and push them beyond what they originally saw themselves capable of.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do?
My number one advice is to go build something. It doesn't have to be anything huge or fancy but if you have an idea for a business, go through the process of starting something. What you'll find is that as you go through the process you're going to learn what you're good at and what you're not good at it, what you love and dont love, and what you know and dont know. That will put you in a position to truly focus your own development and make it much more realistic that you'll have a chance to succeed.
What has been the hardest part of the hustle?
Both of my companies are bootstrapped (ie no funds raised). It's really great to build something from the ground up and watch it grow but it is a long, painful, sometimes lonely process. Boostrapping forces you to be resourceful and sometimes you have to live with the fact that you are not able to produce as fast and as big as you know you're capable of and trust the process. That's hard to do. Secondly, I would say losing good employees is very tough. People grow and you invest a lot of time and resources and sometimes it's still not enough. As a founder you have a unique perspective of the sacrifices, struggles, etc that you went through for your people but they in turn have their own perspectives and experiences that influence them and at times they aren't aligned.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend?
'How I Built This' with Guy Raz is a great entrepreneur podcast. Any book by Tim Ferris is also a great resource. I would also say leverage your universities and local chambers to get your initial resources and connections.
Side or full-time hustle?
List the founders
Lithios - Me - I originally started with a few guys from NC State that helped build the core business (Chris, Arjun, Tomer)
Coworks - Me (with help from some of my team at Lithios)- brought on cofounders Tanner Hallman, Sareena Helton
How many hours a week do you work on this hustle?
Too many to count (80+)
# of Employees?
Lithios : ~10 mostly full time a few part time
Coworks: ~ 4
When did you start?
Started Lithios back in 2013, Coworks around 2016/17
How much did it cost to launch?
Since I bootstrapped both, it really just cost my own time, blood, sweat, and tears. I dont have an exact number but you've got to factor in laptop and software costs, cost to incorporate, then eventually paying other folks to help you get going etc.
What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised?
Bootstrapped for now. Coworks is actively raising.
Any call to action?