Seeing the Good Things Through Polarized Sunglasses:
Jeremiah Prummer, the founder of Colorado Glasses
“I’m really good at forgetting the bad things.” That’s what gets Colorado Glasses founder Jeremiah Prummer through tough times. As he admitted, he doesn’t have a particular strategy yet for handling the down times but thinks it’s a “personality thing” that helps him fight through, kind of like being able to let the bad stuff wash over you. Being “forgetful” can have a downside, however: “Obviously, in certain circumstances that’s going to be detrimental because you can repeat the same mistakes over and over, which can create problems.”
For Prummer, it’s more about forgetting the bad stuff and “focusing on the good things.” So, for example, he lost a couple thousand bucks on trying a new marketing channel, but he made sure to takeaway the good stuff he learned. Good customer feedback also sustains him through the troughs. “For me, if I have a rough month, but I’m getting really good customer feedback here and there, and it doesn’t even have to be a lot of feedback, but a little positive feedback will keep me going. At certain times I feel like I need more of that positive feedback than other times.”
There’s one other thing that keeps him going: “Remembering my mission of what I’m trying to build. Reflecting on what I’m trying to build and what have I already built, and how has that grown and changed in the last month or the last week or last quarter, whatever timeframe I’m looking at.” OK, maybe he does have a strategy for getting through tough times.
I’ve known Prummer for a few years because he used to have a web development business and did great work for us. But he found working in the digital ether too disconnected from people. He wanted to create a business that allowed him to interact face-to-face with customers, so he left a gig with stable, decent revenue, and in June 2016 launched Colorado Glasses. His parents inspired him. (I wonder if parents eventually realize that their kids actually pay attention and listen to them.) Anyway, Prummer credits them at his company’s website:
“People always ask me, ‘What made you start Colorado Glasses?’ Since childhood I’ve had a passion for meeting people’s need through work. Take someone who’s struggling, give them a high paying job, a safe place (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually) to work, and that’s going to have huge, life altering implications.
“As a child I watched my parents do exactly that. They took out a home equity loan to start a health food store. Almost 20 years later, that business employs over 50 people. They risked everything to impact the lives of dozens of employees and thousands of people in their community. Today, my goal is to do the same.”
When we spoke, he reiterated how important his parent’s experience was to him. “I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, and that’s where it starts,” he said. For some context, his dad was a propane service man, his mom was a stay at home mom, and there were four kids. Money was tight and they qualified for low-income housing, which allowed them to buy a home. It paved the way for his parents risking it all in taking out a home equity loan. “My parents went out on the limb and opened a health food store. I grew up in that,” Prummer recalled. “It was very long hours. I basically lived in that store as my parents built the business.” He then added, “I want to create a product and build a business that hires people in the community. Something tangible. Something that would live beyond me.”
Stylish sunglasses with wood frames was the start of that something. Before founding the Aurora, CO-based company, Prummer talked it over with his wife. The biggest motivator to do it at the time was that they didn’t have children yet, although they hoped to in the not far off future. “We can survive right now on relatively little income so it might be my chance to do this without putting our family at risk,” he explained. Not that it couldn’t be done in the future, but if kids were in the picture he would want a larger savings account that could handle a hit if it came to that.
I guess you could say it’s a good thing he did it when he did because expectations were off a bit. “It’s proven to be a lot slower growth process than I had hoped it would be,” Prummer admitted. “We went into it with different expectations than we should have. So it’s proved to be more difficult than we thought it would be. Our understanding now is different than when we had that initial conversation.” His wife and he had to recalibrate expectations. Now they have monthly conversations regarding revenue targets that he needs to make for the business to continue. He believes an element of success is having a clear vision, but to be willing to revisit that vision. Those conversations are part of that.
Not surprisingly, over the years he and I have hashed through cash flow issues because that’s kind of foremost on our minds. Cash flow and the intense time that goes into it. Reflecting on a particularly rough patch, Prummer said, “The reality is that I had a stretch of a couple months where I was working 70 plus hours a week and losing a couple thousand dollars a month. And that’s extremely difficult to go through. It’s helpful to be able to discuss those things with someone who’s been through it as well. Like how do you choose between paying your taxes and buying inventory so that you can actually sell something? It’s absolutely a dilemma. You have to do both but you only have the resources to do one. How do you choose?”
“The time component, the financial component, both those things are huge stressors,” Prummer concluded. “You’re also trying to make time for the other people in your life. And trying to do things like get your car oil changed. Such simple things can be so difficult when you have twice as much to do as you can get done.”
Reflecting on the sometimes fine line between success and failure, Prummer said, “There’s going to be some losses and you have to battle through the losses to get some wins. The caveat is there’s only so many losses you can take, so knowing where the point is that you can’t take any more losses is important.” But he added somewhat cryptically, “Knowing where that breaking point is can give you some confidence.” I think I get it but will leave it to interpretation.
10 Saved Hours Feels Like 30
Not to rub salt into the wounds, but of course I had to ask him about dealing with the stress, blowing off steam, and having a life outside of work. “Right now I’m working close to 60 hours a week which feels a lot more manageable than that 70,” Prummer said. “That extra 10 hours feels like 30.” He’s also getting six to seven hours of sleep a night. “I don’t function well with less than 6 hours.” In terms of exercise, he tries to play basketball once or twice a week, and he goes for a bike ride every once in a while. Because he’s selling his wares at various events and festivals on the weekends, he’s on his feet, moving around, engaged with people and knows that’s healthy. He’s also an extrovert, he says, so that talking with people is therapeutic in it’s own right.
As for that elusive life outside of work, his wife and he don’t have regularly scheduled dates, but they make sure a couple nights a week they go out. And it’s always an unplugged date. “One of the things I’ve done that’s really helpful is that I don’t have a data plan on my cell phone,” Prummer explained. “I have a tablet that I use for when I need access to those things. But my personal cell phone has no data, so I can’t check emails, I can’t look at sales numbers or do those kinds of things. So when we’re hanging out that’s been really helpful. That’s been an intentional thing, and we’ve had that conversation many times. We agreed that it’s best for me not to have access to that kind of thing.” Yeah, there’s a whole slew of things we probably shouldn’t have access to …
Check out Jeremiah Prummer’s company at https://coloradoglasses.com/