Andrea Lake has started 14 companies. Without a college degree. She started her first business at 17 called Rhythm Styx. When she was 23 she made her first $1 million dollars with a t-shirt company. Amongst all the success lies the failures. A series of unfortunate events led to her being $1.2 million in debt. Right when the economy crashed.
You have started 14 businesses. That’s incredible and you don’t have a college degree. How did you get started? Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Andrea found the idea of working for someone else terrifying. She started the Rhythm Styx company when she was 17. When she was making the decision to go to college, she realized that she already knew how to make money. Her company had already made over $75000. She decided to focus on her business. A few years later she met someone making $1 million a year selling t-shirts, so she decided to start a clothing company. She started her first clothing line, Anti-establishment Clothing and made her first $1 million at 23.
So did that person become your mentor? Was there any competition?
That person did become Andreas mentor but t-shirts are what Andrea calls a bottomless market as everybody needs t-shirts, so there wasn’t any competition between them.
What did that mentor do to guide you from $75000 to $1 million? That’s a huge jump. What changed in you?
At the core, it was a change in style of the company from one which manufactured products. With t-shirts she could buy the t-shirts ready made and then just get them printed.
What do you think shifted in your mindset?
Andrea knew she wanted to be rich. That was her sole focus because it would mean she would be free to do whatever she wanted with her life. She didn’t know how she was going to achieve this.
Did you ever feel like you made a mistake by not going to college?
In her 30’s she realized that one of the reasons for going to college is having access to the alumni network. But if she was to do life again she still wouldn’t go to college. Unless you are going to college for a highly specialized education which is monetized afterward, college probably isn’t worth it.
Did your parents put pressure on you to go to college?
They did. Both of her parents had been the first person in their families to go to college. They both went back to college after Andrea was born to pursue masters degrees. There was an expectation that Andrea would go to college. But she sat down with her parents and showed her what her company was making.
So you built your case for why you didn’t need to get to college and it sounds like they supported you?
They did and when Andrea started her clothing line they gave her the money they had saved for college.
One of my passions is dispelling this myth that you need to get a conventional education to achieve what you want. Especially entrepreneurs.
Definitely. Andrea has taught at colleges across the country and thinks that unless you are going to a school like Harvard, it’s not worth it. An MBA is going to teach you how to work in the corporate world and not how to be an entrepreneur.
I know that you’ve had some moments of debt. One where you lost $1.2 million dollars. You paid it all off and came back stronger. Can you tell us that story?
Andrea has lost everything twice. She had a company which was featured on Oprah and was told to expect 40000 sales. But through a long series of events, they only had 70 sales. She had personally financed the company. That same week, a company she owned that had licenses for several gaming brands, had $2 million worth of merchandise returned. The following week the IRS called to say she owed 6 figures due to mistakes on the previous years taxes. And then the economy collapsed. It was the perfect storm of circumstances.
How did you get through that? How did you feel you came back stronger?
It took a long time. Andrea would beat herself up. She would talk to herself worse that she would ever talk to anybody. “How the fuck did you fuck up your entire life? I can’t believe what a fucking idiot you are.” She would talk to herself like that all day every day for 3 or 4 years. None of the things that happened were unwise choices but she couldn’t step back from what happened.
So how did you come back? You had such negative self-talk. What did you do that you felt got you out of that mental negativity?
Andrea had built an amazing community of friends who helped her get out of it. And she realized she was good at business. Slowly she came back to herself. She strengthened her meditation and yoga practice, continued slowly working on her companies and believed that things would come around.
I know you practice the law of attraction. So where did that come into play?
She was actually in a negative space before everything that happened to her businesses. She believes that we vibrationally receive back what we give out. Despite paying herself $750,000 a year, she had negative vibrations around money. She once met a waitress who had 3 kids and had the best money vibration she has come across. It’s an intrinsic thing and doesn’t have to be about how much you earn.
She decided to make happiness and self care her focus which then gave her the space to feel good about her companies.
I think it’s really interesting when you talk about money vibration. So was that something you would do when you were say hiking – get into a better vibration?
The idea is that circumstances and events are going to match the emotional state that you are in. If you’re happy about something good things will come to you.
How important do you think strategy is?
Strategy is important but you should only create a strategy when you are in a truly inspired place. You know the next right step for your business.
You now have a company which teaches people to start t-shirt businesses. I know there’s a formula to that. You’ve mapped out the strategy. If someone wants to start a different business, do you think there is a similar formula?
Andrea actually has another company that advises people on the right strategy for their business. There is a lot of generalized information out there. Andrea wanted to connect people to entrepreneurs in the industry they are creating a business in. If you want to start a restaurant, your mentor should be a restaurateur.
Is there anything you see which are the main through-lines?
There are common success and failure points specifically in product companies. Typically people fail because they misallocate their budget and don’t know how to do a minimum viable product. Testing things online is not enough you have to go somewhere and sell things physically. The information you gain from seeing people interact with your product is invaluable.
What do love about business so much?
She loves having an idea or concept in her mind and having it come into reality. Especially as she mostly makes physical products.
How do you think about time?
She doesn’t. She would think about time more if she had regulation around her time but she doesn’t.
So it’s not this confined thing, it’s more of an expansive thing. A lot of people have the excuse - “Oh I don’t have time”.
You do. If you watch TV, then you have time.
How do you think the internet and social media has changed how people run business?
It’s so much easier. When she started Sticker Junkie she had to use print ads to get people to visit her website.
I want to switch gears a bit and talk about your experience on The Apprentice. How did you get on the show and what was it like?
They had been recruiting Andrea from Season 1 but she was too busy running her companies. A mentor recommended she should do it.
What’s Trump like to be around?
He was very funny and charming. They made each other laugh a lot.
What is a question you continuously ask your self?
She asks herself if she is happy.
What do you unusually discover? That something's not aligned?
Andrea believes that it’s usually directional in our own thoughts. She talks about a process from Ester Hicks called The Focus Wheel. You draw a big circle on a piece of paper and in the center write how you want to feel about something. Then write all of the things that feel good about that thing. It’s easy to focus on all the things that are ugly but you can train yourself to focus on the good things too.
What other books have been helpful for you?
The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Success Principals by Jack Canfield
Do you do visualization?
She does them every single day. She does something called 7, 7 x 3. You do 7 mins 7 sec of meditation, 7 mins 7 sec of appreciation and 7 mins 7 sec of visualization. When you appreciate, you appreciate things that are easy to appreciate. How much you love a painting or a pen or having hot water.
Is there a reason it’s 7, 7 x 3?
Because it looks cool.
One of the things that come to mind often is the experience I had at Sonoma Magic. You hosted your retreat there. Are you still doing it?
Her next retreat will be in 2020. It’s important to create a network of entrepreneurs around you. It helps to have a bond with people who are experiencing the same issues you are.
How do you think you developed that risk tolerance?
Andrea has always had quite a high-risk tolerance but it’s easier when you hear stories from entrepreneurs, who you know are successful, dealing with the same things you are.
How do you think people can become better at taking risks?
Our life is short. It doesn’t matter how long you live for, it is still short. Any amount of time you spend worrying about failure or what other people think of you is a complete waste of you being here right now. Andrea wasted 3 years of life worrying about being a failure.
Are you grateful at all for that experience?
It taught her how to be emotionally resilient. And the second Andrea started feeling better about things she started having new business ideas.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Put a dollar figure on your time.
Do not tell your ideas, in the beginning, to anyone you know does not have your back.
Tell us how we can get in touch with you
T-shirt Course: https://teeacher.com/
Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther Hicks
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield