Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?
My name is Tidus Coleman, and I’m a social impact entrepreneur who aims to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship by inspiring people to take steps to start their businesses, connecting them with resources, and driving innovation through diversity. I help early-stage technology startups get to their first round of funding by guiding and advising them throughout a proven step-by-step process that saves them time, money, and confusion.
I’m also the Co-Founder and CEO of DIVVII, a global platform where anyone, anywhere can access the resources they need to be a successful entrepreneur: mentoring, coaching, community, startup tools, and investment. Our company is currently operating in the United States and China, and our mission is to empower entrepreneurs around the world to create value and solve problems both locally and globally. I’m particularly passionate about reducing the racial wealth gap in the United States with our company.
Why did you start your own business?
I’ve always noticed a lack of diversity in entrepreneurship, both from my experience as a participant and mentor in startup events and published statistics. My co-founders and I were particularly inspired by former President Barack Obama’s call to action during the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, “We gotta make sure that all of our young people around the world have the tools they need to start new ventures and create the jobs of the 21st Century.”
At DIVVII, we believe that everyone deserves a chance to develop their entrepreneurial potential. That’s why we’re bringing together collaborators, mentors, and investors entirely devoted to helping underrepresented founders achieve long-term success as entrepreneurs. We also believe that we are all better off when people from every background have a voice in their communities. The potential for great ideas and innovation is universal; DIVVII makes the resources to support and sustain entrepreneurial success available to all of us, too.
What got you excited about starting your own business?
I love being a part of a community of entrepreneurs. We come from diverse backgrounds and represent different generations and industries, but we all live to answer the same question: “What value can I create for my community?” As a black American, I have seen and experienced the tangible differences that come when communities appreciate diversity and take deliberate steps towards greater inclusion. I’m excited when the work I do as an entrepreneur makes the startup community more diverse and promotes greater business ownership, especially for minorities and women.
Could you tell me about one time when you knew you had to be an entrepreneur?
Back in 2012, I attended my first entrepreneurship summit as a Kairos Society K50 company with a company called Kip Solutions. There, I had the incredible opportunity to pitch to investors on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. After becoming a Kairos Fellow that year, I was constantly inspired to dream big and was surrounded by people willing to share their advice, resources, and connections to support my success. This experience solidified my interest in becoming an entrepreneur and pushing the world forward by building a business to address a pressing problem in my community.
What’s the most frustrating thing about being an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is full of Uncertainty. It’s figuratively like you’re living in the jungle: If you don’t execute and produce results, then you starve. Therefore, you always have to be learning and upping your game because the minute you become complacent is the moment you start to fall prey to laziness and eventually failure. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. You need to have the proper mindset to succeed in the jungle. If you don’t have the mindset, then you’ll likely cause a lot of distress in your life. If you can’t handle uncertainty well, you should train yourself to develop that mindset before you become an entrepreneur. This is very much a reason I started DIVVII.
Tell me about an incident that was especially frustrating?
For much of 2016, I was living a life of scarcity, and it was hard for me to stay focused because I lacked the essential resources I needed to stay disciplined. I would set ambitious goals, but those goals didn’t solve the immediate problems that I faced on a personal level, which resulted in a whole lot of stress and emotional rollercoaster rides. So, since I was frustrated with my life at the time, it bled over to our company, causing a hindrance to focus and progress.
What was the biggest mistake you made in your business that made you consider quitting and returning to a job?
I became too focused on ways to earn money, and less centered on the mission. If you’re only doing something to make money, then you’ll likely quit when things get tough (which is the sane thing to do). Once we aligned DIVVII with our personal passions, then our worries began to fade because we knew that we were moving the ball down the field to solve a problem that would create value for a lot of people. So the lesson here is to never compromise the mission for money. When things get tough, only passion will provide you with the grit to weather the storm.
If you could travel back in time to when you were starting out to give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Hire slow and fire fast. One person can kill the entire company, so you better make sure that the people you’re working with are loyal to you and the business. If you have doubts about someone, then get rid of them fast. Also, try not to start a venture with more than three people. Too many opinions can halt progress.
If you were to lose everything you had today and had to start again, what would you do differently?
I would read more books. At least four a month, because knowledge helps you achieve your goals faster than trial and error. Warren Buffett always says, “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Tell me about a significant personal failure you experienced in the past and how you recovered from it?
One comes to mind, and it was when I lost contact with one of best friends from the university because of my stupidity and lack of awareness. Therefore, the trust was broken between us and I’ve vowed to never ruin a friendship again under those circumstances. I failed as a friend, but the experience made be more aware of my actions and I’m a better person and friend because of it.
As a leader, is there a particular activity you do repeatedly and recommend everyone else do?
I allocate one hour a day to reading a book. I turn off my phone and computer, and I focus only on reading for the entire time. You only change your behavior if you integrate it into your daily life. Otherwise, it’s hard to keep on your priority list.
What is one unique strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Be kind and share your vision with your customers. The more you talk about your product and vision, the more feedback and opportunities come your way. Once you understand the problem you’re trying to solve for people, then you get to go about helping people the right way. And if you can convince a critical mass of individuals that you can take them from their current situation to their desired situation, then you craft a proof-of-concept that will help your startup grow.
Who is your favorite entrepreneur and why do you admire him/her?
I would give Oprah Winfrey the title of being my favorite entrepreneur because she has authentically built an empire on empathy and education. She came from nothing and became one of the most influential entrepreneurs and teachers of our time. There’s nothing ordinary about Oprah Winfrey’s life, and she continues to be the gold standard of a person who dreamed big and turned her goals into realities while facing hardships that many of us would have fallen into the trap of self-pity and perhaps given up on ourselves. So, my core reason for admiring Oprah is that her being teaches us anything is possible when you stay true to your values, and you commit yourself to developing the necessary mindset to achieve your goals in life. If Oprah was able to do it, what’s stopping each of us from achieving our wildest dreams? She makes us reimagine our perception of limitations.
Who are the thought leaders you follow on social media that are influencing your thinking on marketing, business, personal development and work-life balance?
My four thought leaders on social media are Tai Lopez (work-life balance), Daymond John (business), Oprah Winfrey (personal development), and Neil Patel (marketing). I typically find a way to integrate time into my daily life because they inspire me to make the next right move.
What is the one book, tape or message that has been instrumental in shaping your thinking as an entrepreneur and what is your biggest lesson learned from it?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It solidified my entrepreneurial mindset, and it taught me the guiding principles of financial intelligence.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
My job as a lab proctor at university was probably the worst job that I ever held because there was no growth opportunity in that position. It was an easy job that kept me complacent and lazy. Therefore it served no clear purpose in my professional and personal development. Nonetheless, my experience as a lab proctor did teach me to seek out growth opportunities that align with passions and life goals. So far, I haven’t always followed that advice, specifically in the military (which drains me more than it grows me).
Tell us something about you that very few people know about you.
My mom, Syrall Coleman, is my foundation, and I don’t think that I’d be where I am today without her hard work and support. Apart from my professional life, I keep my personal life private. Therefore, a lot of people might not know how much my family means to me, especial my mother. She is the personification of hard work and resilience, and I definitely stand on her shoulders.
Can you share some words of wisdom for recent grads/young entrepreneurs/wantrepreneurs thinking of launching a venture?
If you’re going to start a business, then the number one skill that you’ll need to learn is the is the art of persuasion. If you can persuade people to exchange their hard-earned cash for your product or service, then you’re well on your way. And of course, I’m personally eager to help point them in the right direction, my twitter handle is @TidusColeman.