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Every entrepreneur has faced their dark moments when life bites you.
When the going gets tough, it’s hard to remember why you started to chase your dreams of freedom and success in the first place. Ken Nickels, CEO of Raw Hair Organics and RawganX (among other brands) knows those feelings well because he’s faced some pretty dark times. More than his fair share, in fact.
We invited Ken to jump on the show and tell his story because if it inspires just one of you to get started, or gives you the inspiration to keep going, then that’s a win in our books.
Ken’s Incredible Story In His Own Words:
I was the poorest kid I knew.
I grew up in a Midwest town, my dad was a factory worker. It’s safe to say there wasn’t a lot of money going around. To pay for college I worked multiple full and part-time jobs all year round. After years of this back-breaking work just to get by, my self-confidence was on the floor.
I was buried in a cycle of hard work and no money. I had started to accept that this was just what my life was going to be. This is who I am and it’s going to be like this forever.
Then one day, working at one of my many jobs, I had a personal breakthrough. I was just sick of it all. Out loud I said, “ENOUGH!”
I was done with this no-hope life so I packed my bags and found myself alone in South Florida. I had no idea that my life was about to change.
Working for a company there and I started to notice these Texan venture capitalists coming in. I had no idea what they did or what their visits meant but every day they would show up.
Of course, I’d noticed the company was letting people go, so on the day they walked in, pointed to me and whispered, ‘that guy,’ I was absolutely sure I was getting fired.
But I quickly learned I was the only one the Texans were keeping on. They had fired every single person but me.
My job was to watch, watch and watch some more. And after every long 12-14 hour day, they would ask me, “What did you learn today?”
Almost every single day I got the same reply: “Wrong.”
But they would explain why. I felt like an idiot all the time and I was sure they were going to fire me. Then I made a big, BIG mistake.
Now these guys were Texan gentlemen and they don’t get angry right? But they were MAD.
I was so distraught and as I was apologizing one of them looked me squarely in the eye and said, ‘If you ain’t f***ing up, you ain’t doing anything’. And he walked away.
Those words changed everything for me.
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.
The self-confidence I’d been lacking my whole life suddenly grew. I worked with them for another 18 months and then I went to the office and told them I was leaving.
I had an idea and now I had the confidence to just do it.
I went back to my parents in the Midwest and moved into their basement. I sold everything I owned and had $400 to my name.
Almost 5 years to the day I turned that $400 into $1 million of assets. I was a millionaire.
That should be the happy ending to my story but it isn’t.
I went on to build my business into a multi million-dollar company. I had the whole millionaire lifestyle. But as the company got bigger, so did my stress-level and I reached the point of burnout.
In 2004 a routine physical exam revealed I had stage 3b testicular cancer and I was given 3 months to live.
I was told to go home and get my affairs in order.
My wife (a celebrated hairstylist) and I decided we were going to fight instead. We were going to find an answer and were willing to spend everything we had to do it.
The cancer came back 3 times, each more aggressive than the last, and after four years of treatments and travelling to find specialists, we’d lost everything but learned a lot. On that four-year journey we realised that many of the chemicals I’d been exposed to in search of treatment were also in the products my wife used in the salon. Products that are probably in your bathroom right now.
We started to make a connection between the chemicals and health. We promised that if I survived, we would find a way to make salon quality products without the chemicals.
I won’t pretend my recovery from cancer was fast.
Even after I finally beat it, the physical and mental fallout really took its toll on me. For a while I felt like I had lost myself; I was back in that dark place.
During that time I would take myself out to the sea every single day to jet ski and I would take that dark cloud with me. Until one day, after a standoff with a dolphin (don’t ask) I said to myself, once again, ‘ENOUGH!’
Working with my wife, we kept our promise to each other.
Our quest to find the answer to my cancer taught us that it’s as important what you put on your body as what you put into it. We’ve now created 5 different lines and were the first indie to make quality products without chemicals.
Now that’s the happy ending to my story.
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