The Panda Workweek
The other day someone asked me what I did before Inverted Gear. This caught me by surprise, it’s been a while since I thought about the time before all my energy was devoted to selling uniforms with a silly upside-down panda on them. This got me thinking about why I started the company and how my vision has changed over the years.
Before I started Inverted Gear, I taught BJJ and had a part time job at my instructor’s painting company. I was there for about a year, and I learned so much about business during this time.
But I wanted to create something of my own, and this is when the gi idea came along. The driving force for me, at least initially, was that I wanted to train and compete more. My finances were limited, and my work schedule was inflexible. I dreamed of having the freedom and the resources to take big trips to California for tournaments and having more time to train in general.
When I founded Inverted Gear, I quickly realized that while the company was making money, I needed to invest the profits back into the business in order to grow. For the first year, I put just about everything we made back in, and most of the money I was making on my other three jobs—painting, teaching jiu-jitsu at one academy, and then teaching jiu-jitsu at another academy. My days would start around 7am to commute to teach morning class. Then I would shower to go to my part time painting job. Then I’d teach afternoon class, shower, and drive to teach at a different school. By the time I was back in my apartment in Jersey City, it was about 10pm and time to actually work on my business, answering emails, and coordinating the factory.
The unlimited freedom and boundless training resources were not quite working out.
During this time, my priorities started to shift. I had read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, which was my first time coming across terms like “lifestyle design” and “location independence.” It lit a new fire under me. I wanted to put the work in so we could automate things and travel. I remember recommending the book to friends and being told it was bullshit, and that most people wouldn’t be able to pull off what Ferris laid out. Two years went by, and we were able to pay a fulfillment company to take care of our shipping. Eventually, Inverted Gear turned profitable and became my only source of income. I had created what Ferris refers to as a “muse business.”
We were finally able to travel. At this point, my then girlfriend, now wife and mother of my child, had joined me. Before we had our son, we had no real responsibilities and spent three years traveling. And the more we traveled, the more we made more connections and the more Inverted Gear grew.
Now our focus has shifted again. We have a two-month-old at home, and the same freedom we once used to travel is now used to be there for him. Figuring out new work schedules around his ever-changing needs has been tough, but we are making it work. Sorry if I have taken longer than usual returning emails!
Looking back, it is funny to me that the company created in order to get away from home to travel and compete is now my biggest blessing because it allows me to stay put and enjoy my family.