David Carrizosa is an entrepreneur and community leader in Mesa, Arizona with a passion for helping businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve new heights. He is the owner of a chain of retail cellular phone stores as well as the owner of a business to business (B2B) solutions and ecommerce venture that provides mentorship, products, services and technology to other small/local businesses.
The winner of multiple awards, including the AZ Central 35 Under 35 in 2016, his success as an entrepreneur started in the most challenging of circumstances.
In this interview, I ask David what he has learned in growing and scaling his family business.
PS: How did you start your journey as an entrepreneur?
DC: I was pretty much forced into it since I am a Dreamer, and at the time, I was unable to continue with my formal education. I still had to be productive to make ends meet. So entrepreneurship gave me that path and the vehicle to be able to achieve the goals I set for myself.
PS: What was your first business?
DC: My first business was in custom car painting. After that, I spent about 2 years cleaning houses with my mom. She had cleaned houses for about 20 years, so while I was on the journey of finding out who I was and how I fit in the world, I joined her.
During that time I would spend about 8 hours a day working while listening to a lot of personal development on my iPod.
About eight years ago, with my grandfather’s help, my mom started a cell phone store.
The store was doing ok, but not great. After reading and listening to so much personal development, I wanted to give it a shot and see if everything I had learned could work in that business. I asked my grandfather if I could work with him and after some pushing and pulling, he said yes.
Now we have seven stores, with two more in the works.
PS: What were some of the challenges you faced in the early stages of that business?
DC: Our challenge was stabilizing that store and getting ready to grow. We weren’t loan worthy and we didn’t have experience in this industry. We started in a very tight, small retail location where you could pay month to month. To get the start-up equipment, we went to yard sales and wherever we could get used displays.
It was a humble location. The worst part about the store was that during the summer it was very hot. And during the winter it was freezing.
At first, we had to gain customers’ trust so they wouldn’t worry we would disappear with their money. We also had to be very strategic about the inventory we held, because if it didn’t sell, we fell behind in our payments.
I actually worked for free the first three to four months. I did that because that is what the business needed. I had to go out and spread the word, because it was a low traffic location. I knew nothing about the industry, so I had to learn fast.
PS: So how did you overcome those challenges?
DC: I basically got on Google and typed in “How do you run a prepaid cell phone business.” I think on the fifth or sixth page I found an article which I still have taped on my wall. I learned all the jargon and lingo from that article.
I was patient and just kept digging for information like “How do you sell phones,” “How do you program phones,” then built the systems around what I learned. As we scaled to more stores, our systems followed us.
PS: How did you expand to more stores?
DC: We didn’t have a huge amount of cash. So we had to be smart and strategic about the location.
I studied everything I could about population density and demographics. I found an area I liked, and sat in the intersection near it to see where the cars turned. A prime location opened up in a perfect spot, and I just had a sixth sense or intuition that “This is the place.”
My favorite quote is the Latin proverb that says “Fortune favors the bold.”
I told my mom “Just trust me.” She said “OK, let’s do it.”
Within nine months, I took the leap again to three stores.
I was living in my parents’ garage. I didn’t have a car. I would walk or ride my bike for transportation. Whatever it took.
In my belief system, average performers call something like this a sacrifice. I saw it as investing.
I journaled all my successes and failures.
We now have 7 stores and have sustained the top 10 percent performance in the cell phone business in the Phoenix market. My businesses have expanded, as I look for more ways to serve Dreamers like me.
PS: What are three big lessons that got you through the tough times?
DC: The first was I didn’t get here by myself. It was hundreds, even thousands of hours of other people’s time who decided to nurture me, teach me and mentor me.
I was unable to go to school for business, but I used all the free resources around me. I went to SBA seminars and workshops. I used the free consultants from local organizations.
I enhanced myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically by using every opportunity available to me.
DC: The second lesson is that I bring on people to work with me, not for me. I let them know I appreciate them being with me, knowing they can choose to work somewhere else. I appreciate everything they do, and do whatever I can to show that appreciation.
It’s basically understanding how to treat the people around you just as equals.
DC: The third lesson is giving credit.
I wouldn’t be able to be here today if it wasn’t for my mom because she’s still a partner with me in the company.
Every time people tell me “Oh, you accomplish so many things!” I always say “I didn’t do it, my team did it.” When I receive some kind of recognition, I post on Facebook and tag a huge list of all the mentors that have touched my life.
At the end of the day, money only goes so far. Giving credit means you have social equity, and social capital.
You can’t be fortunate if you’re not brave. Take the leap.
David Carrizosa is an entrepreneur and founder of D&E Management Group. Find him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-carrizosa-b580167/