While growing up in the Bahamas, Mychal Connolly started his first business selling candy to friends at just nine-years-old. As he made his way to the United States, that entrepreneurial spirit followed him.
Connolly has launched several successful ventures, including his mobile digital billboard business, Stand Out Truck.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Connolly to hear more about his story, his business, and the importance of being involved in your community.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer: While growing up in the Bahamas, Mychal Connolly started his first business selling candy to friends at just nine years old.
As he made his way to the United States, that entrepreneurial spirit followed him, and he has gone on to successfully launch several ventures, with the most recent being his mobile digital billboard business Stand Out Truck.
I spoke with Connolly to hear more about his story and the importance of being involved in the community.
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: My grandmother had a sweet tooth, so she would fly out of Florida, spend some time with her sister, go to BJ’s and Costco, stuff like that, come back with like mountains of candy. And I just had flavors at the school that it didn’t have.
So, I would just, you know, I would go to my friends, “You got to taste this grape Jolly Rancher. You got to try this Crybaby.” You know what I mean? And I would just give my friends candy the school didn’t have, and they started asking me for them. So, I was like, You know what? I sell it now. Then — I thought they would leave me alone. And they said, “Okay, how much?” And I gave them a price.
Then I started telling them, “Hey, listen, I sold out, come to the house.” And that was like my first business decision. And I knew they had little brothers and little sisters, so instead of making one $2 at school, I was making three – four – five at the house. But that’s where it started.
But yeah, so marketing to me is a simple thing because I learned it at nine. I tell people this all the time, like if I was to learn marketing as an adult, I would absolutely be horrible at it because it’s just so much. But like understanding to me all marketing is, is telling people about things they would love if they knew it existed. Like when I was telling those kids about flavors they didn’t know existed, that’s — that’s the essence of marketing.
Zydalis Bauer: And so, to that point, you were 17 years old when you immigrated to the United States from the Bahamas. You didn’t come here with much money. You were working as a dishwasher, but you still had that ambition and that drive inside of you and you’re in out-of-the-box type of thinker.
So, you’ve created two businesses, Stinky Cakes, which is a creative baby gift baskets, kind of made out of diapers, and then Stand Out Truck, which is a mobile digital billboard.
Where did these unique ideas come from and how were you able to turn an idea into income?
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: We had two sons and they’re 18 months apart. So, when my second son was born, everyone wanted to buy him all the new crib and playpen. And I was like, “No, please, just give us diapers.”
And then I realized, like diaper giving — people, everybody know everyone needs diapers, but like, gift giving is a two way street. So, like, people receiving the diapers would be really happy, but the person giving the diapers, like, “Okay.”
So, like, once I identified that problem, I was like, “Man, we got to find a way to solve that.” And that’s really what, like, any good entrepreneur and coming up with ideas to turn them into revenue, it’s that piece, right? And that may not be like a wow answer, but that’s really what it is, like identifying a problem and then figuring out like a solution that people will be willing to pay for to solve that problem.
So, that’s what we did with Stinky Cakes. We just made diaper giving fun. And then with Stand Out Truck, that started because I wrote a book called Launch and Stand Out and I sell it in the Stand Out Truck store. I started getting a lot of people booking me to come and speak about marketing.
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: And then I had a lot of people booking me as a consultant, and then I end up having people booking me to actually do that marketing for them.
And through that, I started buying a lot of digital screens across the country and I just — I just fell in love with the out-of-homes space. Like, man, I love the fact that like owning a billboard, I think that’s a really cool space, cool way to advertise. And then I just decided to get my own screens.
And then the crazy thing is, Stand Out Truck launched March 9th, 2020, and it was like three or four days later, the whole country shut down, right? The whole world shut down, really? And then if you think about it, to be someone in a in a traveling billboard company, when everyone was being told not to travel, like we should have, we should have failed before we started.
But, you know, it all goes back to having an incredible work ethic, right? And just like believing in what you do and finding other ways to solve problems with people. And like I said, like — like I go into tons of high schools and colleges speaking, they book me to speak all the time. And so, a lot of the kids that were having graduation celebrations, like I know those kids, I watched them from like ninth grade and now they’re in 12th, about to go to college — and I see them and I was like, “Nah, we have to celebrate them!”
So, then I just kind of like I shifted, I’m like, you know what? I’m not going to focus on making money with my business. I’m going to just focus on celebrating the kids and giving them that moment with their family. So, we turned Stand Out Truck into like a graduation celebration thing, and we did hundreds of graduation celebrations and just made it about giving kids in that family that moment.
But like, sometimes that…being an entrepreneur boils down to that like, like identifying that problem and figuring out a way to solve it. So, I mean, we didn’t make too much money on the on the deals with the graduations, but it wasn’t about that. It was about showing the kids in the community that we love it and we care, we care for them. They put all that work in to graduate. They should be able to celebrate with their families.
Zydalis Bauer: You were just touching on the fact of, you know, having to kind of pivot sometimes, especially being an entrepreneur. And so, I know that you have found much success, but with success comes a lot of challenges.
So, what are some of the hardships that you have faced personally along the way on your entrepreneur journey and how have you been able to overcome them?
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: Well, so many I mean, and every day, any business owner, any entrepreneur will tell you, every day there is some kind of challenge. But the cool thing about it and the cool thing about having a true entrepreneurial mind is, that you don’t really see challenges. You see like it’s not an obstacle, it’s not a barrier. It’s like is a new problem looking for — for you to solve it, right? So, there’s always something.
The thing that keeps you in it is, like, being able to leverage your network and having people around you that are much smarter than you, people that have been around you that has done more than you. People that are around you, that — that — that match your goals and surpass your goals. And being able to tap into those people like, “Hey, I’m here’s what I’m dealing with. How did you how did you get past it?”
And being humble enough to take that advice, being humble enough to approach people. And I think for me, that’s part of the reason why I love giving back so much too, because I know, like, just if I get stuck — like before Mike Kitteridge passed away, Yankee Candle Mike Kitteridge, like to be able to pick up the phone and call Mr. Kitteridge and be like, “Hey, here’s what I’m dealing with? How would you — What do you think?” And he always used to say, “Hey, if it were me, I would do X, Y, and Z.”
See, that’s the thing about business and business ownership and entrepreneurship, like, it’s a — it’s an ongoing journey. It’s always another level you can go through, is always another challenge. And — and each level that you — that you embark on starts with mindset. You have to get your mindset right to be able to embrace the things that are coming.
Zydalis Bauer: You said something that I feel like is the heart of your companies and your heart in general. You don’t always do things for the money, right? And sometimes it’s nice to — to give back, and you mentioned like the graduation project.
Now, your alma mater, Holyoke Community College, recently awarded you with the Distinguished Service Award. And this is just one of many honors you’ve received over the years for your success, and really your contributions to the community.
So, what drives you to be so philanthropic and a champion for your community?
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: You know, so two things. One, you got to remember, I grew up in the Bahamas, right? And tourism is our number one industry. So, like, you learn to put people before yourself, right? And that may sound like a weird concept, but even like with the graduation celebrations and stuff, right?
So, we end up — we had people celebrating on the truck for 75 bucks. And the reason I chose that number — and this should have been a much more expensive service — but to me it was to me it was about, you know, really genuinely giving those kids that moment, you know?
And then from a business standpoint, what I did was I took part of my marketing budget and covered the rest of the cost, right? So, I utilize that to — to be able to let people know what Stand Out Truck was, introduced myself and my team to the world, and that people would be able to see our work ethic.
And so, what ended up happening with that, like the bigger businesses that were looking, they would go, “Whoa, if he’s going to put that — they’re going to put that much effort into that, imagine what they’re going to do for our business.”
Zydalis Bauer: Your book Launch and Stand Out, which is a guide to starting and growing a business, what piece of information or a lesson is in there that you would have loved a young Mike to know back in the day?
Mychal Connolly, Sr.: Like, if you want people to buy from you? Like, one of the things that I learned, like if they’re confused, you lose. So, keep everything simple, right?
Keep everything, and then just work and grind and like, that book helped me come up with my personal motto, “Which is create dope stuff and stay sucka free.” So, “dope” means delivering others positive energy, right? So, create something that’s going to deliver people’s positive energy and stay away from the people that are going to drain your positive energy. Once you start doing that, and then you just started start creating stuff for people that love what you have to do or find extreme value in what you have to do, you would save so much time and energy trying to please people that you can please.
And take the constructive criticism that comes from them, right? So, like if someone if someone’s in your tribe and they say, “Yeah, but if you do X, Y, and Z,” and they’re not just being negative, you listen to that. Like I tell business owners all the time, like, “Yo, one-star reviews, are where you gonna learn.”
You know, just like in sports, my kids play sports, right? And I tell them all the time, “Bro, you’re going to learn more from a loss than a win.” The win, you feel good. You’re like, “Yeah, this is awesome!” When you lose, you’re like, “I could have did this, I could’ve did that, We could’ve did this, we could’ve did that.”
So, one-star reviews from people in your dope bucket, like I say, people that love what you have to do, learn from them. Because they just — all they really telling you is things they wish your company did. And you do those things. And that’s a lot of times we’re like, Yeah, innovative products and service is going to come from. Because you start in one spot and then you hear the things people wish it did, and then you do put these things together and then you grow.