Daniel Novaes is a 23-year-old entrepreneur living in Chicago, IL, who is best known for his founding of FratStars.com. A student of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Daniel aptly studies Entrepreneurship and International Business. He surprisingly started his first business at the age of 16, and quickly found a niche exporting goods from the USA to Europe, Australia and South America by selling them via online intermediaries.
The venture is still in operation today. Last year alone the company finished their 4th quarter over $2 million in sales. Besides this venture and Frat Stars, Daniel has also started a few other companies, including http://TheFoundersDesk.com, W&W Screen Printing and, most recently, http://MobileXLabs.com.
MobileX Labs provides a mobile application platform where users can create fully functional apps for iPhone and Android that cost significantly less than creating an app via a developer or a development studio. Daniel hopes the platform will revolutionize the music industry, something he is very excited about.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment, Daniel has been debt free and completely self-reliant since the age of 18. He loves speed and cars, so during the summer of his junior year in college, he was able to complete his dream of owning a European sports car with his purchase of a BMW M6.
We had the chance to catch up with Daniel and ask him questions on life, business and his idea of success.
Who are the people that inspired you to follow your dreams?
The types of people who inspire me are those who, against all odds, create something out of nothing. Entrepreneurs are a certain type of breed. You either have it or you don't. So without sounding cliché I am inspired by the same entrepreneurs like everyone else, including Mark Cuban, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg and Richard Branson. My parents were always very supportive of me and they both inspired me to do what I love no matter what that is. They taught me that being a leader is always better than being a follower, and that is something I have always taken to heart.
Was there a turning point in your life that led to your current direction?
It all started out when I was 16 years old and, like most kids that age, your priorities are very out of line with the real world. I remember all I wanted in life was a set of new black 19” wheels for my car. I decided to take a job at a popular clothing store. I was being paid $7 an hour, but after Uncle Sam hit me up I was only making about $5.50. So after my 6 hour shift I only had $33...One day I was in the back of the store and a co-worker of mine and I started talking about how ridiculous it is that this store can charge $70 for a polo and pay me only $7. We then commented about how at least we get a fat employee discount of 40%. BOOOM, it hit me. Why don't I make some extra cash by selling this stuff online? I then went home and did some research until I finally came to the conclusion the best and most profitable thing for me to buy were these leather jackets...I had about $1400 in “life savings” so I went to the store and bought about 7 total jackets for around $190 a piece after taxes. I saw that they had been selling for around $380 online. I listed them later than night for $364.95. Within 2 days I sold my 7 jackets and generated over $1,000 in profit by doing about 4 hours of work. I am an opportunist, I always have been. Some viewed my actions as unethical, whereas I just saw it as a way to make some extra startup cash...Within a couple months time I had saved up around $14k and I knew it was time to move onto something more legitimate and more lucrative. While this wasn't the most ideal “business,” it helped me have save up enough cash to start other companies.
How could you advise young people to learn from their failures?
One of my favorite quotes is: "I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that's why I succeed" – Michael Jordan. No matter what you are trying to do in life failure is imminent. The difference between those that succeed and those that don't are the ones who don't give up after they failed. Most people gawked at me when I said I was not looking for a “regular” job after college and wanted to continue running my various different ventures. While I am no where near a “Mark Zuckerburg,” I have been able to prove many doubters wrong and will continue to do so in years to come while I travel the path of entrepreneurship.
How do you deal with failure?
No one likes to fail and I am no different than you. I have trained myself to think about what I could have done different to have won or do better next time. As an entrepreneur it is no different. The biggest problem with entrepreneurs is that if you tell one that his idea “sucks,” or he could do “this this and that” better, he will many times think you don't know what hell you are talking about. Sometimes your idea really isn't all that good and over time it is my belief that you will find the right path for you. Many times I have started with a venture that didn't really produce much of anything, but it ultimately led me to pivot my idea to something that saw success.
What are your 3 Tips for Success?
1) Always believe in yourself – failure is just an opportunity to start again. 2) You don't know everything. 3) Learn to be resourceful – it will make or break you.
What does success mean to you?
I remember when success to me meant buying the sickest car or the biggest house. As a society we place a large emphasis on money. Let me be the first to say that I am not trying to bullshit anyone here. I like nice cars, houses and clothes as much as the next guy. But to me success isn't just about monetary gain. Success to me means that you love what you do; you made a positive impact on the world, and somehow changed people's lives along the way. If you are in it for the money then you are in it for the wrong reasons and most of the time you will fail. I would rather be a poor entrepreneur chasing his dream than be a rich employee who hates every waking moment of his life.
Everyone aspires for success, but what drives you to work so hard?
I am a very competitive person. I love being an entrepreneur and creating new businesses and ventures. I have so many goals that I want to achieve that working hard doesn't really feel like work to me. It's like Mark Cuban says – "Business is like a sport and I want to be the best."
Who's career inspires you the most?
I like stories of people who came from nothing and built something extraordinary. Take Sam Walton the Founder of Wal-Mart one of the worlds largest companies. The man used $25k to start what would later become Wal-Mart, a company that today has a $230 billion market cap. Stories like that are amazing!
What is your dream accomplishment?
I want to start a company that completely changes the way an industry operates. Something, that is truly influential and is used by countless people on a daily basis. I am not quite sure what that company will be or what path will lead me there, but I am confident I will get there soon enough.
If you could collaborate with any entrepreneur, who would it be?
That is an extremely hard question to answer. The name that comes to mind is Mark Cuban. Not only is he a fellow Hoosier, but I really respect the fact that he gives up so much of his time to respond to emails from actual entrepreneurs trying to tell him about their business. He is an amazing entrepreneur and it would be a honor to collaborate with him.
What kind of training and preparation do you go through every day?
I do my best to delegate mindless tasks that need to get done to contractors I have hired overseas to save me time. It is all about being efficient. I do try and work out at least 4-5 days a week and go out with friends for drinks to get clear my mind and enjoy myself when I can.
5, 10, 50 years down the line, when you've achieved everything you aspire for today, where do you see yourself?
I am very passionate about entrepreneurship especially young entrepreneurship. I hope that one day I will have the means to create a worldwide foundation that can help out entrepreneurs achieve their full potential and realize their dreams.