Millennial Moment | Eli Dent
Millennial college student Eli Dent is not your average undergrad. He is the creator and CEO of The Sidekik, a juggling tool to help soccer players develop their skills of timing, composure and rhythm. He also recently won Entrepreneur of the year at the College of Charleston (2017). For our final Millennial Moment blog post, we chatted with Dent about taking on debt and why hackysacks just aren't sexy anymore...
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Optimistic, energetic, driven.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I've ever 'received' was actually from Cathy Hughes in an interview on my favorite podcast called How I Built This. She said to go on the offense, even when everything is pushing you down. I have tried to take that mindset into investor pitches and when I took on debt to finance my company. Thinking offensively has changed my outlook on pressure and how I deal with fear. I think it has helped me overcome obstacles that would've maybe caused me to give up before.
What has been the toughest obstacle you’ve had to face as an entrepreneur?
Accepting that my first attempt was a failure, and pivoting. My first business was producing hackysacks for university soccer programs. The idea was that a hackysack is a natural relative of a soccer ball—so here was "soccer in your pocket." After 3 years of working through manufacturing, product development and sales...it wasn't working. So I had to take a step back and be realistic. Hackysacks just aren't sexy anymore and most people already have this preconceived notion that it is hard to kick. Pivoting was hard to do after spending so much time trying to make my idea become real, but I'm so glad I did.
How do you balance the entrepreneur lifestyle with having a social life?
This is always a challenge because I love being entrepreneurial and working on my businesses. It's easy for me to become unbalanced and just disappear to work on Sidekik or Txtra. My family and friends are also very supportive and often times I call on them for help. So, there's a little bit of a social element to my entrepreneurial lifestyle, but being in school and on the soccer team here at the College of Charleston also helps me in a really big way.
How have your parents played a role in your journey?
My parents have supported me unwaveringly. They have helped me work events, helped me quality check thousands of product, and also allowed me to use their houses as storage facilities. They do a lot to support me and so does my brother Addison and my longtime girlfriend Jordan. Addison has been an incredible part of my journey. He's an actor/filmmaker and helped me to craft the stories behind Sidekik and Txtra. He's kind of a creative genius and my secret weapon! And Jordan has pushed me to keep taking risks and to keep moving forward when it things get hard. I would say I have a pretty awesome family and I am incredibly lucky to have them all behind me.
Do you view age as being a disadvantage or advantage, and why?
I think of age as more of an advantage than not. I hope that being young means I have a lot of time to learn and a lot of time to recover if I fail. If a potential client rejects me because of my age, then there's someone else who will accept me!
How do you tackle self-doubt when it comes up?
Through playing college soccer I've learned to look for small victories when self-doubt comes up. If I'm not feeling confident, I have to go back and do something I know I can do without fail. Sometimes that's just juggling a Sidekik. It puts a smile on my face and I feel successful. One small victory leads to more small victories. Something I learned from a couple of mentors of mine, Darin and Netra Van Tassell, Owners of a Semi-professional Soccer Franchise, is to create momentum. Something is hard to stop if it has momentum.
What is your favorite social media platform and how has it impacted your business?
My favorite social media platform is Instagram. It's a great platform for Sidekik, because of its visual nature. The Sidekik is something that needs a demonstration for someone to understand how it works and Instagram is the perfect platform for that.
What is your favorite way to de-stress?
Going on a morning walk with my dog Finn while listening to How I Built This and sipping a warm coffee.
If a young entrepreneur with a brilliant idea is reading this and is hesitant in making the leap into entrepreneurship—What is your advice?
My advice is to find a small victory. Do something today that scares you. Take a little risk and get a win. I used to play a game with my brother where every day we would ask ourselves, "What can I do today to take a risk". Eventually, it became such an adrenaline rush that I was taking risks for fun. Make a game of finding these victories and eventually you will create momentum that will carry you past your inhibitions. You can do it!