Today we are talking to Michael Whiteley. He is the CEO and Founder of Bear Butt (an outdoor equipment company that currently sells hammocks, but will soon be expanding its merchandise.). His amazing story, teaches us how we can encourage our kids to reach for their dreams. Here is Michael’s story:
The Bear Butt Story:
Michael and his wife started The Bear Butt company two years ago. They have done 4 million plus sales since then. When they started it two years ago he had just finished a mission for his church. One of the things he learned on his mission is he did not want to have a job and he wanted to gain tools that he could use to help serve people. He felt like a job wouldn’t allow him to serve people like he wanted to. He met his wife right after his mission. He told her what he wanted to do. Michael told her he was going to go back to school because he had started and he always said he was going to finish because that is what he is “supposed to do.” She told him school had nothing to do with his dreams and goals. After they talked, he made the decision not to go to school. This decision was very disapproved by his peers and family. Around that time, she found out they were going to have a baby. So at this time, he had no job, just dropped out of college and was about to have a baby. He spent $5000, that he put on a credit card, on an online course that taught him how to sell things on Amazon. Again. his wife supported him. He considers this course his college. It taught him how to start a business and how to sell things. The first product they started to sell was called Suds of Beauty. They sold African Black Soap. It was a one pound bar of soap from Africa that looks like poop and its very ugly and smelly. Again, his parents and in-laws were questioning his decision. Right off the bat they were selling soap. It was actually successful, so he realized he could sell. He could grow a company and grow a brand. That’s when they thought of Bear Butt and they started selling hammocks. The process took off rapidly. They were very successful as they focused on costumer service. Still during this whole process their family was telling him he needed to go to college, get a job and he needed a back up plan. They kept feeling like they could do this so they continued with their company. It wasn’t until after 8 months, that his dad went on a walk while he was at work and he saw two college kids sitting in a Bear Butt hammock right in front of his office. He sent Michael a picture and was impressed that people were actually buying his hammocks. Finally his dad had the courage to talk to Michael about his business. From his family Michael always heard, “hey go back to school!” “Hey, go get a job!” “Hey are you ok?” but it was never, “Hey, tell me about your business, what are you doing?” When his dad saw those kids in the hammocks, Michael finally showed him everything he was doing in the company and his dad believed. He was proud of Michael’s choice. Michael’s current Bear Butt business is contuing to grow their brand. As of February first they are launching three new products: backpacks, jackets and sleepingbags.
Why do you think parent’s struggle with supporting their kids’ BIG dreams?
People love their kids and don’t want them to fail. Michael’s parents were worried about him failing. Parents lovingly stunt your growth.
What do you do when your kids come to your with a dream you don’t support?
Michael wouldn’t ever assume that his kid’s dream will automatically fail. As long as their dream is good morally and will help them grow or help the world grow, he would fully support his kids?
Where does your drive come from.
Michael attributes his drive to his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he joined the church, he learned about who he is. It brought a purpose to him that he is supposed to be doing things. It gave him the courage to do it, because he new he had a Heavenly Father that would support him.
Did you have any mentors during this time?
Michael’s only other mentors was his $5000 course he bought. His biggest supporter is his belief in God. He trusts that God will lead and guide him.
What did you do to improve yourself?
Michael agrees you have to do your part. He loves learning and education. He thinks college is a little flawed. He read 100 books in 6 months. He even read one that taught him how to read really fast. Something people don’t do very well is they read something, but then they don’t apply it. He decided he would read something and he would find two golden nuggets that he loves and he would apply it. He attributes his success to this attribute. Whenever he finds something he likes, he immediately implements it in his life.
Where did you get the idea to get up early?
The second or third book he read was The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. That book changed his entire days which changed his life. He has taught several people to follow the same habits. He used to wake up 3 am. Now he wakes up at 4 am.
Micheal agrees he was blessed with high energy, but one of the keys to being successful is working hard. We have to do our part. You don’t have to have a skill for it, you just have to do it.
What are some common themes you found in your 100 self help book?
There is not one thing, but a few things he learned: When Michael was reading about successful people, he realized many successful people were not very good in their personal life. He wanted to be part of the change to be a successful businesss owner and also a good person. The other thing he learned was every successful person all worked hard and had some sort of sacrifice that they had to do to achieve what they wanted to do. Michael says if you have a purpose and passion, it makes working hard easier. It’s still hard and takes sacrifice but it is a lot easier.
How are you going to handle what are you going to do FOR your kids and how much are you going to let them struggle?
Michael jokingly says he wants a buy a farm so his kids can learn to work. He wants to teach his kids they need to hustle and drive.
What do you wish you would have done earlier?
His first regret is he wishes he would have converted to the LDS church earlier. He also says he would have loved the opportunity to learn other skills that school wasn’t teaching him. He wished he would have read more self help books to learn leadership skills and selling things when he was younger.
What advice do you have for overcoming the fear of failure?
When Michael’s company hires people, they are still a growing business so they don’t have a lot of money to hire people, so they usually hire people with not very many skills but are good people and have passion. They tell them that they need them to work and they are going to make a lot failures. They support them in their failures because then they are going to learn. He has learned from his mistakes. He thinks you can’t be successful without making mistakes. He also thinks having a faith in god gets rid of fear. Faith overcomes fear because you have a trust in God and everything will be ok. Michael has come to realize that risk means growth.
How do you and your wife support each other?
Michael said they support each other in their goals. When you support each other it brings in acceptance in who they are and brings congruency in their relationship.
Michael believes that having a child is a financial blessing. He believes God wants you to have kids, so God will financially support you to have kids.
Do you have any final advice as we are trying to raise kids who are fearless in following their dreams?
Michael says you can be anything you want to be. Whenever they have a crazy idea as long as its good, if you always support them and encourage them to be what they want to be, not GIVING it to them, it will be very important in their development process as the world tells them not to follow their dream. They will have the strong motivation to live what they want to because you have told them they can achieve whatever they want to achieve.
Mom Squad Challenge: Ask your kids where they see themselves in 5 years and whatever they say, completely support them in it until they change their mind.