Episode 2 Is It Worth Leaving a Steady Job To Start a Business?

Felix Navarro (The Juicy Leaf) and Jeremy Kim (Nectar Hard Seltzer) share their stories of making the pivot from steady, high-paying jobs to being an entrepreneur while exploring the differences and similarities in their approaches to dealing with risk, work-life balance, and when to pursue starting a new business. Felix and Jeremy offer career ...
Apr 18, 2024 — 9 min read

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You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet

You Two Should Meet brings together entrepreneurs from diverse industries for an intimate conversation on what it takes to start, run and grow a business.

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Felix Navarro: Being a business owner is riding on top of a lion, all of your friends, they're like, wow, that guy is really, really brave. But the business owner is like, oh my God, how do I get off this lion without getting killed? My name is Felix. I own a plant store, The Juicy Leaf located in Los Angeles.

Jeremy Kim: My name is Jeremy. My business is Nectar Hard Seltzer. We make Asian flavors with no weird aftertaste. 

Felix Navarro: Hello. 

Jeremy Kim: How's it going? Would you like some water? 

Felix Navarro: Sure. 

Jeremy Kim: I'm parched.

Felix Navarro: So is this plant,

Jeremy Kim: Where are you from originally?

Felix Navarro: I'm originally from Texas.

Jeremy Kim: Texas.

Felix Navarro: It's been out here almost 20 years though.

Jeremy Kim: Okay. What made you make the move from Texas to LA?

Felix Navarro: I got transferred through work. I was in mortgage and then they moved me out here to run an underwriting division.

Jeremy Kim: What was that moment where you finally called the quits on finance and decided to step into your new business?

Felix Navarro: The financial industry was in turmoil. It was like back in 2006 when everything kind of started to fall apart. I got laid off and in my 15 years of being in the financial industry, I would get laid off every five years.

Jeremy Kim: What sparked the bug of starting your own business?

Felix Navarro: My partner, he was the one that kind of pushed me. He was like, you have to follow this, you have to do this thing. You have a gift.

Jeremy Kim: Were you making plants beforehand? Why did your partner say you have a gift? 

Felix Navarro: I've been working with plants my entire life as a little kid. My mom and my grandma were really into plants. My mom still is really into plants. So even though I went into this whole financial aspect as a career choice, I've always worked with plants. So anytime I had off weekends, I would be planting, I would be creating things, and so that was really kind of something I've always done. So Jeremy, tell me about Hard Seltzer. Why do you have a passion for it? Did you wake up? Were you a little kid? This is what I'm doing.

Jeremy Kim: I'll be dead honest. I did not care about Hard Seltzer. I originally started off in the music industry. I was doing artist management, but really burned out from that career just because it's crazy. What happened was one of my best friends from college, he owns a craft brewery with his dad in Jersey, but he's calling me at the end of summer of 2019 and he's like, dude, hard seltzers killing craft beer. Everybody's switching over to this drink and it's killing craft beer sales across the United States. I've never seen anything happen like this before. I didn't really care about the drink, but I do like marketing problems. So we made this spreadsheet, we put all the top brands and we noticed something right away. Everybody was making the same four flavors, berry, mango, lime, cherry, whatever. And the other thing too is all you'd see is someone holding the can or drinking the can or a person. It was the same thing over and over and over. And so that was kind of the moment where I was like, I think there's something here that you could really disrupt,

Felix Navarro: But at that point you didn't have anything invested other than just this bit of knowledge that he said.

Jeremy Kim: The thing that really kind of spurred me to look further into it is one, I was very tired of the music industry and I'd been searching probably for nine of what my next move was, and I was actually kind of depressed at the time. I was applying to tech sales jobs. So here I was. I'd spent six years in this industry building all these relationships and knowledge and gotten pretty good at my job, and now I'm starting back from Square one. It was a combination of that moment and also me just seeing all my friends were drinking it, and even when I would go to the store, I don't have a favorite alcohol, I would just grab it because it was so easy.

Felix Navarro: Now you are putting everything on your shoulders as far as being able to pay your bills. It feels very unstable.

Jeremy Kim: I've never had a stable job and I've always been just red lining and I've always taken risks because I hate people telling me what to do, and it's just very difficult for me to work in a corporate structure. I would rather be poor and just do something I enjoy than chase. After money. When you quit your high paying corporate job and decided to pursue this, what was the first moment where you were like, I'm going to be okay, or was there a huge amount of fear for a period of time?

Felix Navarro: To this day, I don't feel stable.

Jeremy Kim: Really.

Felix Navarro: No. I mean, I don't have debt. All my bills are paid. I can actually sleep without anxiety at night, but that probably happened three years ago. For me, there was never this huge desire to be super wealthy. When I think about what I want in life, I don't need to be rich. I don't need to be famous. I don't need fancy cars or anything. I want to do what I love and I'm doing what I love. So for me, if it ended today and I'm not anywhere near that, I would be really, really proud of where I am and what I get to do on a daily basis. That's the most important thing for me.

Jeremy Kim: That's amazing.

Felix Navarro: Even though I'm in a situation where things are, they feel stable for the most part, there's still always this concern. 

Jeremy Kim: Well, how old is your business?

Felix Navarro: Now, 17 years.

Jeremy Kim: 17 years. That's kind of scary for me because my business is two years old. And you're saying it's only after 14 years you finally feel stable in it? 

Felix Navarro: Correct. 

Jeremy Kim: Obviously our business is run a little bit differently, but I do have the same feeling where there's so much more pressure on the table because we've scaled so quickly. 18 months ago, we were three friends in a garage going door to door, doing everything on our own, and about half a year later, we now have eight full-time employees, eight contractors. So there's so many more people that rely on me. So it's a little bit scary, but I don't have a choice at this point. I'm too deep. Would you recommend people to quit their job and pursue their passion?

Felix Navarro: If it is not your passion and you don't have the capital to pay somebody to care, don't start a company. You have to really, really love what you're doing.

Jeremy Kim: I would even add on top of that, it's not even about just having passion. The iceberg goes so much deeper and there's so many people, things that you have to suddenly care for, and if you're not willing to do that, I wouldn't recommend it.

Felix Navarro: Being a business owner is riding on top of a lion. All of your friends look at you and they're like, wow, that guy is really, really brave. He's riding a lion. Can you believe that? But the business owner, the guy on the lion is like, oh my God, how do I get off this lion without getting killed? And I feel like that is the perfect example of being a business owner.

Jeremy Kim: What was a breaking moment or a key moment in your business where you're like, okay, this is going to work, and I'm glad I made the job?

Felix Navarro: I don't know that there ever was, to be very honest. It's always been very gradual. In the past three or four years, we have had a lot of exposure. For the first time ever, the color of my skin actually helped with my company. They have Hispanic heritage month, pride month. Now people are reaching out, and that happens every year now. But there was never a moment where I woke up and I was like, I've got this. So let me ask you your defining moment.

Jeremy Kim: November 26th, 2020 was the exact moment where I was like, okay, something's happening here and I should keep going. So at that point, we were out of money. We had just survived the beat down that was Covid, and we had spent all this money into inventory that we couldn't sell, and we were just like, is this already the end of the road? Is our business going to fail before we even launched? And so I turned to TikTok and I made this video and I put my phone number at the end of the video because all I wanted to know was, does anybody want this drink or did I miss on this idea? I post that video, it starts to do all right, it gets like 10,000 views. I'm like, yeah, that's the most amount of views I've ever gotten on the TikTok. And I was all excited about it. And then 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, a hundred thousand. At the end of three days, we had 300,000 views on that video. And at that moment I was like, I need to keep going. People actually want this product. What

Felix Navarro: Happened that made it go viral?

Jeremy Kim: I have no idea. I'm not going to ask questions. It was just like, if you grew up in the church, I say it's God, who knows. But I didn't ask questions. We were able to use those numbers, and I went back to a store that had originally rejected me, and I was showing him these people texting me and I said, Hey, if you carry these boxes, I'm going to get these people to go buy these stores. And he was like, okay, okay. He put the boxes on the shelf, and that night I made some goofy TikTok video, if you want connect for the first time, text this phone number for an address. And so that morning it's pandemonium lines out the door, and we sell out in under an hour. And then at that point I was like, okay, this is going to work.

Felix Navarro: I love that. So how has technology influenced how you do business?

Jeremy Kim: It has changed everything. For the first time in history, there's a platform like TikTok where you can reach millions of users having zero followers as long as you make great content. So TikTok was absolutely critical in how we were able to kind of skip the line and scale as fast as we were. What about yourself?

Felix Navarro: One of the things that did, and I'm speaking true about this, one of the things that I actually really helped was transferring my business from just a regular cash register where you would hit the buttons to Square. One of the things that I love about Square is that I'm able to pull reports easily. What is selling? What's not selling? We started working with TikTok, but as a 49-year-old man, it is so daunting and I can barely find the time to post something on Instagram, much less create this content. 

Jeremy Kim: How are you communicating with your customers?

Felix Navarro: At this point to be, and I know that we could probably exponentially grow our company. We just use Instagram, but for this mentality that I had that as a brick and mortar retail company, I had to have people coming into my store. I really had to shift that mentality of saying, Hey, you know what? Now we're going to use technology. We're going to use our website, we're going to use Instagram. We're going to use all these other things to be able to sell our product. I don't ever miss work. It doesn't matter if I'm sick, whatever. I get up every day and I do what I need to do, and I think that's probably the thing that has set me apart.

Jeremy Kim: Do you believe in balance?

Felix Navarro: I'm starting to. How about you?

Jeremy Kim: No, I believe that you can strive for balance, but I almost think it's like a way for people to sell the idea of a lifestyle that you could live. But if you really study anybody that does anything great, whether it's an athlete, a creative, or a business owner, whatever, you look at their stories, they all put just insane amount of hours to become great. I'm building a business with my friends ultimately, and that's very special, but at the end of the day, it has to do well and for it to do well, everybody has to work really, really, really hard at it. How old

Felix Navarro: Are old are you, if you don't mind me asking?

Jeremy Kim: I'm 31 now. 

Felix Navarro: Okay. I think it'll change for you. You're young and for me, I was the same way. I was single. I didn't have a lot of responsibility, so I would completely dive into my work and didn't look at anything else around me. The thing that did change was getting married. Now having a husband and my parents getting older, it kind of makes you stop and realize a couple of things. So I think that's the only reason that I have been able to start paying attention to this whole balance aspect of my life. You may figure that out at some point.

Jeremy Kim: One day.

Felix Navarro: Yes. The main takeaway I had with my conversation with Jeremy today was the technology aspect of it. I feel like it's given me something to think about and really, really try to bring into what we're doing at the Juicy Leaf.

Jeremy Kim: Something I took away was patience. I'm in year two and it always feels like the house is burning every single day, but there will be something that comes out of it very positive at the end.

Felix Navarro: Just seeing the spirit and the fire in his eyes, it reminds me of how I felt when I started. It's inspiring.

Products mentioned

Square Retail POS

Square Retail POS

Sell online and in-store with Square.

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Square Stand

Square Stand

Turn your iPad into a point of sale.

See how -/^


Curious about how to start a business? Square's guide covers all steps from business plan creation to permits and legal obligations. Read more.

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