Today’s blog post continues my series of interviews with people who started companies after a failed job search, only to discover that entrepreneurship offers rewards so compelling they wouldn’t accept a salaried job now even if offered one. This interview is with Alex Andon, founder of Jellyfish Art, LLC. In May of 2008, Mr. Andon was laid off from his job. For months, he hunted for a new job, with no success, so he turned to entrepreneurship. I think you’ll find his story to be inspiring.
Alex, what type of career did you have before you launched your business?
I worked at a biotech company analyzing data all day. It was a pretty typical 9 to 5 job working in an office.
How long did you search for a job and how did your job search go?
I searched for about 5 months. I couldn’t find anything that suited my interests or skills so I just gave up. That’s when I knew it was time to start Jellyfish Art.
(Note from VocationVillage.com: Alex told a NY Times reporter that he would rather get stung by jellyfish than hunt for a job. I am sure most job seekers can relate to that.)
What does Jellyfish Art do?
We sell pet jellyfish and everything you need to enjoy them. For instance, we sell a desktop tank, currently priced at $249 on our website.
We also sell much larger tanks, including one that is 40 gallons. Before Jellyfish Art, people could enjoy viewing jellyfish at public aquariums, but it wasn’t something you could do at home. You can’t just put jellyfish in a traditional fish tank because they will get sucked up into the filter and liquefied.
How did you survive financially while you started your business?
It was difficult. I took out some SBA loans but that didn’t go too far so I needed another source of money. I had enough faith in the company to use what I had saved for graduate school and in addition I got some help from friends and family. My lifestyle adapted quickly to living as cheaply as possible.
How does your current income compare to your previous income?
My current income has far surpassed my old income. I’m working less and doubling my profits every month.
What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that is helping you to succeed?
A lot of people thought that my degree in marine biology would help me with Jellyfish Art. Surprisingly, it has helped only a little. The skills I rely on most are strictly business related. I have always had a passion for marketing and sales so that knowledge has been most valuable in growing the company organically. Without those skills I would have had to rely on a lot of external sources.
What is the best part about running your business?
There are a lot of perks to running my own business. Perhaps the best is being able to wake up and work in my pajamas. It’s also nice to know that I can create my own schedule and work when I want.
What is the most challenging part about running your company?
Right now the challenge has been trying to keep up with the growth of the company. It doesn’t feel uncontrollable, but sales are increasing at an exponential rate. Since I started the company, my partner and I have developed new lines of jellyfish tanks and grown out of smaller warehouses into larger ones.
What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur?
On a general level the most important skill has been learning how to adapt to every situation. There are always solutions to problems, it’s just figuring out the best one. But more specifically I have had to learn about SEO and all the online tools that make an e-commerce company successful. I had no idea how tricky all that stuff is but it is also a lot of fun.
What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path?
There are a few things you should know before committing to an entrepreneurial path. The first is that you must have complete confidence in your product or whatever it is you will be doing. The second is to make sure that you know your target market. Who will be your customers, how scalable is your product, and how viable is the market? Once you have that nailed down, all that is left is having the necessary resources and time, both which are often overlooked but very important.
.Jellyfish Art is an e-commerce business that sells pet jellyfish and jellyfish tanks. Jellyfish Art ships products directly to customers who can then have their own live jellyfish and tank set up right away. They ship live jellyfish and supplies anywhere in the U.S. Visit and shop at Jellyfish Art.