In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from real entrepreneurs who battle their businesses on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Brian Park. Co-founder and CEO of Hank, his digital platform that connects adults 55+ with people and activities in their communities. We manage group activities and support member-led activities such as pickleball, coffee meetups, art his workshops, table tennis and skydiving. Our goal is to build Hank as the perfect tech solution for this generation, creating and maintaining the social connections we know so we can all live longer, healthier lives. That’s it.
What inspired you to start this business?
Hank’s origins came out of a kind of amalgamation between two different parts of my life: the professional part and the personal part.
I had worked in the tech industry for over ten years when I started thinking about Hank. The general rule of thumb was to “design for yourself”. That means anyone under the age of 40. We rarely design solutions with older people in mind because of this very deep-rooted misconception about technology that older generations don’t understand or want new technology.
A personal part of my aha moment happened around the time my parents became empty nesters. That perspective began to mix with my experience in the tech industry, and the two together began to shape Hank. My mother and father eventually found socializing through church and alumni associations, but it has been a long and disjointed process for them. It made me and co-founder Andrew (we’ve been best friends since 6th grade!) realize how essential social connections and new activities are for parents. Happiness that was the nugget that started Hank.
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What was your biggest business challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
In my experience, one of the biggest challenges we face as entrepreneurs is staying focused on our vision.
Hank’s first iteration was actually a very different business. It was basically looking to provide assisted living services such as transportation and quality meal delivery to individual homes for seniors. I quickly realized that I needed to make a big shift from my vision.
The challenge was that our early version of Hank was likely a viable business even with a short ceiling. But we knew we couldn’t really do what we were trying to do for ourselves and his 55+ demographic. So we basically went back to starting over. We paused everything for about two months, talking to consumers, whiteboarding new models, and rebuilding our brand and products with our team.
Those few months were really thrilling and very difficult at the same time. It’s been hard for us and for our team to get away from the early signs of growth and short-term viability and start over. We have been able to build a business that we are very proud to be better positioned to provide value to our hunk community.
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What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds?
There are three things I always think about when I get a raise of any size.
The first two are really about execution. Some first-time entrepreneurs mistakenly think that if the idea is good enough, the money will magically appear, but the reality is that any deal or relationship with an investor has a structure and a timeline, I need to know those details. for a smooth pay raise.
Third, tell your story and get investors to buy into your vision. This is the most important thing. You need an investor who really understands where you’re going. you You need to understand and be clear about where you are going. Take the time to clarify your vision and use it as an anchor for your story. Fundraising is only a small part of what you should aim for. We also want investors to be partners in line with your vision. That way, they can advise you on how to get there and help you think about what it takes to reach your next growth milestone.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Persistence and consistency above all else.
In every moment of entrepreneurial glory — great launches, beautiful products, category-defining ideas — there are countless other things that are stressful, difficult, and unpredictable. The best entrepreneurs, whether their business is booming or still struggling with product-market fit, have the grit to come back every day to learn, improve, and find ways to solve problems. And a person who brings tenacity.
It’s also worth noting that it’s important to have the same qualities across the team. It’s not enough for founders or founders to operate like that. I’ve found this to be especially true in the early stages when there is often a lot of thinking and pivoting about what is needed across the company.
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What do many aspiring business owners think they need, but don’t really need?
I think first-time founders often feel like they need all the answers before they can get started. So delay product work, fundraising conversations, and other important activities until everything is “just right.”
But one of the tenets that Andrew and I live by as founders is the idea of taking small steps rather than doing nothing. After spending just a few weeks conceiving the service and redesigning the site, we relaunched the new Hunk site in the MVP phase. Since then, we’ve been building it piece by piece, week by week, based on customer feedback. Rather than trying to develop in a silo until it’s perfect, it’s very important to go out there and talk to your customers and start iterating your product.there is teeth Not perfect. The sooner founders can get used to it, the faster you will move, the more empowered your team will feel, and the better product you will end up with.