Entrepreneurship, Family & Lawnmowers
Last week, if you missed it, we took a step inside the world of music and talked to up-and-coming LA artist Liam O'Brien about his financial tales within the music industry. Coming from a family of musicians, Liam was no stranger to all the ways unpaid promises can turn awry. Plug in and listen to Story 9: My Uncle Doesn't Owe You Sh*t.
In our episode this week, we brought out all the stops and are coming to you with a conversation filled with loan stories. Our special guest, Chris Daniels, founder of the popular Miami-based community The Shrimp Society, stopped by to tell us about his experience with borrowing money from friends and family throughout his life in order to turn his dreams into a reality.
This Episode In A Nutshell
When it comes time to get yourself out of a pinch, who do you normally turn to for help? Maybe it's your childhood best friend, a close cousin, a neighbor, or perhaps someone you look up to in your community. For Chris Daniels, founder of the popular Miami-based community, The Shrimp Society, he turns to his family, and specifically his lawnmower supporting father for help. Listen as we talk with Chris about how he has been able to leverage loans with those closest to him all throughout his life to better his business endeavors. From creating a neighborhood lawn moving empire at 16 to launching an NFT based founder-friendly community in Miami, Chris has depended on his family and the beauty of loans throughout it all.
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Audio Transcript of Story 10: That Time I Got A Lawnmower Loan
Who do you trust the most in your life when it comes to lending? My guest for Episode 10 is a gentleman called Chris Daniels. Chris’ story was very cool. The man has been an entrepreneur since he was a teenager and, since that time, has been setting up loans with his father, drawing up written contracts and paying him back on time - Doing everything right.
Fast forward to today and he is now leading the charge with his company, The Shrimp Society, which is a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, go-getters and hustlers who come together to flesh out ideas and collaborate.
Chris has numerous tales of lending between himself and his friends and family and does a serious deep-dive into the importance of these loans in the general big picture of course but for himself, and how having a pristine credit rating with your family is the best kind of credit rating to have.
So I'm keen to share this with the world. Hope you all enjoy!
Wonderful. Chris, thank you so much for joining me today on The Chirp. It's great to have you on. I was doing a bit of reviewing of you, it's an astounding LinkedIn profile. I have lots of questions about it and kind of what your journey has been like, but I'd rather you took it away.
Can you talk me through how you got started in Secberus and then, obviously, you have The Shrimp Society going on? Where did it all begin? And how did all of this huge amount of work that you have culminate?
Definitely. Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Thank you, Cameron. Super excited to be here on The Chirp. But yeah, I grew up in Chicago, a small town in Chicago and was always super entrepreneurial, right?
Like literally since I was 10 years old, like there's a paper, a little contract with my mom going back to getting a lawnmower and stuff like that, like going way, way back. And so I was always just kind of hustling and that's how my mind was working. We loved puzzles, putting things together, all of that stuff.
I started my first company at 16. It was called Mulch Maniacs, and it was a mulch company. So in the Midwest, in Chicago land, every summer or every spring, people get a ton of mulch delivered. And then all we would do is I would recruit some buddies from the football team and pay them 20 bucks for the day for the manual labor, it'd be lunch as well. And we would just go shovel mulch and do landscaping and stuff like that. And that was a blast.
So you were already doing wage packets at that age!
Yeah, they were bad though. It's kind of like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer or whatever that story is, where he convinces his friends to paint that was me.
I was like, it's going to be fun. We're going to push wheelbarrows. We're going to pump music. There'll be a great time. And it was probably a lot of fun. And then I ended up selling that business to help pay for college. And I came to Miami, went to University of Miami, and then there, I got involved in the tech scene.
I didn't know anything about tech besides just being a consumer kid, growing up using tech, iPhones, iPads...
Exactly, but then I started hanging out with a group on campus called Launchpad, which was kind of our on-campus incubator. And there I consulted like probably a thousand startups over three years as a venture consultant there.
And that was just like getting in the weeds, plugged into all the different tech that was going on and really helping people go zero to one, right? Like idea to a working product, to a minimal viable product or something like that. And then from there, I did a short stint with the venture capital firm and helped build that out.
And then that kind of rolled into the opportunity with Secberus where I had recruited Fausto, the CEO. It was just Fausto at the time and he was pitching Secberus. I had no idea about cybersecurity whatsoever. But he sounded like he did. And I was like, “man, this guy really knows, like he is really confident and, and he's had some startups success before”.
And so we kind of brought him into the VC firm and then I said, man, this, this idea sounds crazy, and I really want to go cut my teeth in the tech startup world. And so I joined Secberus as one of the first employees. And we've been growing that to about… I think we're at, like, 30 employees now.
And before that there was a kind of interim between Launchpad and graduating and getting my master's and all that stuff. And joining the VC firm, I started a company called CoinPlan in 2017 in the crypto space. And that was a company that I had taken out a loan, a friends and family loan for, we can get into that story, but that company was where I kind of just went for it. But I still felt like there was this big challenge that we were young, I think me and my co-founder were like 21 at the time. It was just us. We were working on that. We worked, we had no idea if we were doing right. Like no idea. Crypto was even crazier back then in 2017.
And we just had no idea what we were doing. And we were looking for other people to kind of share what was just going on and their startup. We just wanted to watch a show and, and sit next to people and say, “What buttons are you pressing? What should we be doing?” We don't know what we should be doing.
We're reading books, we're watching YouTube, we're talking to mentors, but we wanted a very tactical kind of insight from people that were in the trenches, building startups as well. Like all along that zero to one. And that's where the idea for The Shrimp Society started.
So The Shrimp Society started in 2017. It's just a dinner series for founders. And we would have Trader Joe's wine, like two buck Chuck or whatever it was called and pasta on a folding table. And we had this big whiteboard in this rented house we had, and workshop ideas. And it was great. And then fast-forward, I joined Secberus which kind of put some barriers kind of put The Shrimp Society on the shelf to help build Secberus.
And then coming into this year, it really just felt like there's this gap again in that ’zero to one’ space for early stage entrepreneurs, right? And so I launched The Shrimp kind of publicly, officially, and we've been rolling like a snowball down a hill, just picking up steam and launching an NFT and 10X the Community and all sorts of good stuff.
And now I'm going full-time on The Shrimp Society to continue building that.
Fantastic, you’re full-time with The Shrimp Society as well as your other role. And one of my questions that I jotted down is how do you find the time to juggle these two huge roles as well these leading roles as well? How do you manage that?
Yeah, 2021 was definitely brutal because when I launched The Shrimp Society, it started as kind of a side hustle, right? This'll be the nights and weekend thing. And then, very quickly, it kind of caught fire and we got to a point where it's just like, this is the all day-everyday thing.
And luckily the team in Secberus and the leadership team, they loved it. They saw great synergies and they know that I'm just a builder-type of person that needs to just build stuff. And so they're super supportive. And then just recently I let them know that I'm going to be leaving Secberus and going full-time on the shrimp society here coming up in February.
So it was a lot of trying to focus on what is the most optimal thing or that like the most efficient thing to move the ball forward. Like where is the most leverage, right? And so I think now it helped a lot because when you have time, I think back to when we were building CoinPlan, we had all the time in the world, right? We were kind of like in the master's program, maybe I think we were both working part-time, various easy jobs on campus or whatever it was. But like generally we were in that college setting, you have a lot of time. Right. And it was just like, there was no urgency, right?
And I felt like looking back on it, that kind of affected us. Cause we were just going down a rabbit hole and exploring this, versus this past year of building The Shrimp was like, okay, there's three things we could do. What's going to be the most bang for our buck, right? Like what is going to give the most impact to the community.
And it really forced us to prioritize and then just say, “Hey, it's the newsletter,”, like things take as long as you let them, so you have to write a newsletter in an hour. You gotta do it right. And then otherwise it could take me three days. So it helped there, and now trying to carry that over to our team as we've expanded and just be more efficient and just map everything to high-impact objectives.
Going back as well to your early entrepreneurial days then. You hinted at a couple of loan stories there. I heard you talking about it before - your lawnmower loan.
Can you talk me through what age you were and what were the loan terms and everything like that, and how did that come to happen?
Yep, definitely. So, right when I turned 16, I got like this old truck and I wanted to pay it off right and start making money and things like that. And so kind of the precursor to Mulch Maniacs was this landscape business called Morning Dew.
And I wanted to get a riding mower, right? Like one of these nice riding mowers cause I was like, Hey, I need to be efficient. I'm cutting 10 lawns in my neighborhood. And I just wanted to drive this thing to the neighborhood and blah, blah, blah. And so it was like $2,000 and I didn't have that money.
I think I had a hundred dollars to my name and I was 16 and I remember I asked my Dad and my two grandpa's on either side, both very business-oriented, entrepreneurial people. My Dad, not at all. He's a doctor and just not a business guy. He doesn't like it. And so he's like, “Okay, well come pitch me, present something!”
So it literally went into the living room, formal pitch, the whole nine yards, printed out everything and asked for this $2,000 loan. And I think the interest rate was like 10% and I think it was supposed to be paid back in six months, right? Because I had my whole financial projection of we're going to cut lawns and make this profit, blah, blah, blah.
And we signed the contract, we wrote it up. We documented everything. And, looking back on that, I appreciate how formal he made that versus just like, “Hey dad, can I borrow $2,000?” He made me earn it, like let's be serious about it and there's consequences and things like that.
And I thought that was great. And so we went, and it was a fun moment. We went and bought the lawn mower and all that stuff. And then I remember like a week later we needed a trailer because the business was expanding and I had to go to another neighbor. So again, I had to go back to the shark tank pitch room and pitched him on another loan for a like $850 trailer.
And then we added that to the contract and that went through and paid everything back. And so that was kind of the start of it. And I think that having that base of family or friends, we can get into a ton of other stories, taking out bigger loans for family and friends, stuff like that for businesses, but specifically around entrepreneurship.
It's interesting because that's really how it starts. Someone's going to lend you money based on your character and the fact that you're going to deliver and they know you. And I see like all these people in the venture capital world raising like millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, right, or millions of dollars and doing it over zoom calls.
They don't know the people. And in the early days, it's really when you're trying to go zero to one that $10,000, $50,000 a hundred thousand dollars is huge. And who's going to be the first people you ask? The people around you that trust you and you trust them and things like that.
And so It's been great to kind of have that as a resource. And I haven't had any issues paying back my loans, which is good. So I got good credit with the family. But yeah, so that's kinda how it started. And then with CoinPlan, we kind of upped the ante there.
I love chatting to entrepreneurs on this show and wondering where it all stems from. A lot of the time it's family values that shine through all the way through their lives and eventually come into their work as well. Do you think this loan that you got from your dad shaped your character? Did it have anything to do with opening your eyes for what else is possible for you in the big, bad world?
Yeah, 100%. That's such a great insight because between 16 years old, growing up and figuring out what I want to do in these things, and all of a sudden I understood financial leverage and financial capital. And it doesn't have to be from me. And I don't need to have $10,000 to launch this business. Someone else can provide that and own a share of the business or have a loan or whatever it is.
And it changed the way I think about money, honestly, like from a capital perspective and thinking now is like, there's money out there. But what price are you paying to buy that money? Which is kind of a funny concept. You can buy money. It's just what's the price and how can you put yourself in a better position to do it? Be financially responsible and on good terms and things like that.
But it really made me think, okay, let me think bigger, because if I didn't ask for that loan to get the riding mower, I would've been using the hand mower. The business would have been capped at five lawns a week. And I would never have rolled into something bigger and, looking back on it, it did teach me a lot about the leverage that having capital, especially...
Especially capital. I think you have a higher emotion to pay it back, like there’s a higher trust to it, right? If that $2,000 loan was from someone random, I don't know, through some website, then I wouldn't feel like a personal connection. I wouldn't want to be proud about getting my payments on time or having this be a successful partnership if it was just some username out in the abyss.
So there's an aspect of co-building together and having a partner that can provide that. And that's for me, well, think about it. Trying to think about leveraging that a lot.
You know the venture world, which is a lot of like what Secberus is in and high-growth tech, it's kind of dominated by equity investing. But that investing is a huge tool that companies forget a lot of times, right? Especially if your cash flow is strong and you can take on a nice loan and continue to grow and go from there.
Absolutely, and then fast forward to your modern-day, grown-up life. What are the examples you have? Cause you kind of touched on it earlier with friends and family loans and in your professional career and over the last few years have you helped the same way or have seen other people help each other out in a similar fashion? Friends and family forming financial partnerships to help each other out and build on that trust and, and give loans?
Yeah, definitely. There's like three points of increasing amounts and scales to it. And so for CoinPlan, I went back to my Dad and said, “Hey, I want to build this business, but I don't have any cash.” I was a broke college kid who literally needed to pay rent, right?
This company isn't going to generate cash flow for a while, but I want to build it and stuff like that. And I think it's good. He gave me a $10,000 loan for that. And that had really interesting payment terms. It was two years at a super low-interest rate that was, like really, really low, but then it was kind of after a two-year period, then it would hike up quite a bit.
And so the idea was, hey, you have two years to build it and it's all good. But after that, then we gotta settle up here. That allows me to pay rent and go full time on my venture, right? Like he gave me the runway to personally live and build the company and things like that.
And that was a great run. Then fast-forward to a more stressful loan during the launch of The Shrimp Society NFT. We had a lot of revenue generated through the NFT, but it was kind of stuck in crypto. It takes a little bit of time to get crypto, to a bank account.
And so we had this pretty big cash flow problem where we needed a loan of $10,000, just to be able to pay the debts and vendors and things like that. Over maybe like a 15-day span. So super short-term and I reached out to a great friend of mine who's helped a lot with The Shrimp Society and just one phone call was like, “Hey man, we really need 10 grand. I'm going to get it back to you in about. 20 days, hopefully like max 30.” And that’s the thing about my friends, no one ever lends anybody money. We're great friends, but it's like, that never was a thing...And within five minutes he's like, “Yeah, great. Let's do it.”
And there was a lot of trust there and just like a handshake agreement. And that was great. And we paid him back and everything was all good. But again, thinking through, who's the first person you're going to call when you do need money? It’s one of my best friends. And we had built up this trust over 26 years. He's like, yeah, of course!
Just with regards to yourself and your friend, was it the case where you had both lent each other money before? Like back to the old days when it might have been $20 or $50 here or there? Or was it a case where it was a rare occurrence, but you have built up this reputation and this identity of being somebody who works hard and who's entrepreneurial and if you don’t have the money, you will?
Yeah. I would say there's always been times where we pull resources and share money, Venmo each other, and stuff like that. Like, hey we're going to dinner and one person's going to pick it up and then we all then Venmo each other and things like that.
And then there's always the one guy who you have to track down for three weeks and is like, “I'm going to get it to you. I'm going to get it to you. I just gotta get my next paycheck” Whatever it is.
So there was a sense of everybody's good for it, but never $10,000, right!? Like I’ve asked for a wire transfer, there was very much just like, yeah maybe $20, $100 max!
But you know, he knew we were all good for it. And we knew no one was going anywhere. But this was definitely different and I could hear it in his voice. And he knew what was going on with The Shrimp and he's a close advisor and friend to all. But yeah, I had to hear him go, “Okay..!”
But yeah, that was great. And then right now actually I'm going through an interesting situation that doesn't get talked about a lot. Hopefully, someone listening to this will maybe empathize with this or understand this better, but I'm leaving Secberus now, right? And we're a high-growth tech startup. I joined as a first employee and got employee stock options. Now that I'm leaving, I have about 60 to 90 days to buy those stock options. And this is all super common across tech startups, Silicon Valley, all that stuff. So I have to buy and I have to execute my option to buy these shares.
Well, since I was very early, those shares, like that allocation of shares, are worth a lot now. And just the option aspect of it to buy it, because it's a lot of shares. And so it's like, $35,000 and that's something that I don't have laying around and it definitely rattled me and made me think, “Man, can I go full-time on the Shrimp right now? Do I kind of need to stay with this company?”
And both options are good, but that's a big amount that you need to think about, especially when, just kind of zooming out, thinking about all the young people that are going to high growth tech startups, coming out of college, getting equity, maybe on paper, your shares are all marked up and it looks good, but you've been making a start-up wage for a year or two years or whatever it is. You're kind of cash-poor. And of course, who knows what's going to happen with the equity? So I think it's an interesting problem that a lot of people probably have that no one talks about.
And so anyway, I needed to find $35,000 somewhere. I was kind of looking through my options and then sure enough, I said, let's give Dad a call and figure out a loan. And, we had kind of built up that trust and had a good lending relationship of up to $10,000.
And again, on this phone call, it kind of hit the same. “Hi, I wanna do a loan for $35,000!” There was the same pause... “Okay, let's talk about it.”
But we were able to figure out something and have a really good option there and figure out that whole loan situation. Specifically with this with employee stock options, I feel super hopeful and thinking Secberus is in a good place and those shares will be worth something. And there’ll be an opportunity to liquidate those. And actually, the loan has a component where he's going to have an opportunity to have upside in those shares as well!
It’s a thought of, “Hey, I'm in a tight spot here and you know and, in one phone call, we were able to figure this out”, and I think, if you do more for the other person, instead of trying to do less, it's going to reap so much more benefit in the long run.
Right? If you try to rip someone off or take a penny here or do whatever to just dirty the relationship or just make it difficult, they're going to start thinking that same way: How can I take a penny here? How can I do this? How can I do this, versus this more abundant mindset of, "Hey, like you're really helping me in this spot and I appreciate that. And that's more than the loan amount", right? There's an aspect of the loan, maybe it's intangible in some cases, maybe it's tangible, like in this case, But I think so much of that is relationship-based and building that trust, which is something that I don't think I would get if I went to Bank of America or Chase right now and have that same kind of ask.
I like that abundant mindset as well that you talked about, going back to The Shrimp Society and how it all came together. And this seems to have such an air of positivity around it and like-minded people coming together and working on things together.
What is the ethos that you built The Shrimp Society on? Is it that “let's work together, let's collaborate” energy, and what is the room for growth as well that you see for this next year or the next couple of years?
Definitely. Our slogan is “Build in community”, right? And really that sums it up to me. We're all trying to collectively build something. Where we're all independently building our own things. But collectively, when one person wins, we all win. And let's build a company, let's share those insights. Let's not think of it as competitive.
There's so many resources out there and let's help uplift each other. And you mentioned collaborating. That's one of our core values, right? It's just being vulnerable and collaborating because I think we've built a culture where it's not cool to brag about huge amounts of money or it's not cool to try to flex to impress people.
It's actually cooler to say, “Hey, like I'm really struggling with this. And I don't know how to get through this fight with my co-founder or I really don't know how to fire someone and I need help.” And in that vulnerability, in collaboration, it breeds such better relationships instead of saying, “Oh, look at me, our startup’s the best! We're so great!”
We want to support that too. Like we're all about celebrating you and supporting you as well, but the kind of quality of relationship that you get and friendship that you get, that's going to be long-term is more through those vulnerable six person dinners we just had one last night, where it was basically everyone just venting about this is going wrong or that's going wrong.
And I've been to other dinners with other communities where everyone's saying, “Oh, this is going right and this is the best and we're the best”, and all of that. And there's a lot of, I guess, “flexing” for lack of a better word, and we don't want to be like that. And in terms of where we're going, we're going full speed ahead!
And so with that, there's a couple of things. We're going to be launching our investor network, which is going to be great to help fund the companies in The Shrimp Society. We're also going to be launching The Shrimp Tank, which is our incubator. Where we helped you go from idea to MVP, kind of getting back to the roots of the launchpad and what I was doing there and creating this pipeline into The Shrimp study fellowship, which is kind of our premiere kind of group within The Shrimp Society.
That is the active early-stage founders. We're also expanding our talent network to be able to say, “Hey, there's 1700 people in The Shrimp Society. Not everyone's going to be a founder. Not everyone wants to be a founder of a company. A lot of people want to just join high-growth startups and do that and be employee #5 or be employee #20.
And so we're building out a talent network and the platform to facilitate all of that. And we're pushing very hard on the media side and just bringing the brand to a bigger scale and looking to partner with a ton of big brands to grow the community.
And again, we have this very abundant mindset because we cross a lot of different spaces or touch into a lot of different fields and a lot of people are like, “Oh, don't you compete with this group? Don't you compete with that fund?” And to me, I don't see that at all. I see us as we want to be this highway system that just helps people go from A to B.
And if it's somebody else's building, that's great. We want you to have success there too. And hopefully you got success cause you jumped on the highway, the shrimp highway. So I'm excited for it, fully invigorated now. And it's going to be a big year.
Fantastic. That sounds great. And I wish you the best of luck with it. I'm just very impressed with the positivity and everyone coming together. It's quite remarkable. So if people want to learn more about The Shrimp Society, or get in touch with you personally and learn more, I know you have a podcast as well, where can they find you?
Everything is found at theshrimpsociety.com. You'll be able to get routed wherever you want. If you're a founder, apply to the fellowship. If you're an investor, apply to the investor network. If you're looking for a job in a tech startup, check out our job board and everything going on there.
You can find me on Twitter @chris_daniels27. I always forget what that is. You can also find The Shrimp on Twitter @ShrimpSocNFT for The Shrimp Society. And other than that, yeah, check out Shrimp Tails! We just launched a podcast and we're actually launching another one called Sunday Dinner, which is kind of getting back to that roots of how The Shrimp Society started and just having these vulnerable, whiteboard conversations with founders. So we're going to be recording a ton of that during Miami Hack Week coming up next week and check out the Shrimp Tails show, which is our podcast, kind of like our weekly talk show for The Shrimp Society. So if you want a good window into what's going on in the shrimp society, the banter, the inside stories, all of that stuff, check out Shrimp Tails on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
That's awesome. Chris. Listen, thank you so much for joining me today. It was great to learn from another entrepreneur and hear that age-old story of working hard and having that trust within your family and that going into your professional life. It's great to see.
So best of luck with your sole venture going out with The Shrimp Society. I wish you the best of luck. It's going to be great.
Thank you so much, Cameron. This was a blast.
One of the wonderful things about this podcast is the recurring themes that keep coming up. Things like trust, family values, company values, family priorities. Having these discussions about money and relationships has made us really tap into something deeper with humans in general and the main thing is how we are raised.
Chris mentioned a couple of times how, when money was needed for his professional endeavors, he could always turn to his Dad and ask for a loan. I loved how Chris appreciated the formality of the contract he and his Dad drew up because he said it taught him how to do things properly. Chris, from a very early age, recognized how valuable a loan could be if used for the right reasons and executed in the right manner, and how important keeping that relationship with his Father was to ensure that it was always building, that that trust was always building.
And this speaks to Chris’ character. His father let him come back and get another loan. His friend lent him money as well and even though Chris hilariously depicted their tentativeness, saying “OK…OK”, their trust in Chris and his ability to repay these loans overpowered their human instinct of not wanting to hand over huge sums of money...as loans.
As a successful entrepreneur, it’s clear that loans are a huge part of Chris’ life and his success, and it was great to talk to someone who really understands the importance of trust in loans. For our Miami listeners be sure to get in touch with him should you wish to join The Shrimp Society. We’d love to hear from you too at The Chirp and thanks to everyone who has gotten in touch so far.
That is all from me for today. We’ll be back on Valentine's Day (ooh) for our next episode and, until then, take care!