Josh Fabian’s vision for the future wasn’t always so clear. At age 16, he dropped out of high school and moved out, determined to make it on his own. Years later, desperate to escape poverty and provide for his young family, he took a chance on a career as a web designer that eventually led him to the position of Lead Designer at Groupon. He then founded Kitsu, an anime social curation community with over 1 million users. Like many with an entrepreneurial spirit, he wouldn’t stop there. Now, he’s making noise in gaming with Metafy, a platform to connect gamers with coaches that represent the top 1% in their field.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP — What meaning do you give this term?
Conscious Entrepreneurship, to me, is finding meaning in your work as an entrepreneur beyond the money. I think entrepreneurs have tremendous opportunities to put good into the world, and a responsibility to do so. I view conscious entrepreneurs as those leaving their piece of the world better than it was when they were born into it.
CAREER — What led you to your particular career path?
I actually fell into design. I moved out of my parents house at 16 and dropped out of high school the following year. I was working as a sales associate at RadioShack and creating websites for fun in the evenings. As luck would have it, a customer asked me if I could do their website for them — I charged $100 for the full site. It was a small step, but a critical one in putting me on the path to where I am today.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
When I moved to Chicago 10 years ago, I did so to take a Ruby on Rails course. I was desperate to escape poverty, and I felt that learning to be a developer would make me a more valuable designer. During that course, I met an entrepreneur, Brian Ficho, who asked if I’d be interested in leading design for his startup. I agreed to the interview, and it went better than I had hoped! At the end he asked, “What are you looking for in terms of salary?” And I took a risk and threw out my dream number “I’d need at least $100k.”
He didn’t flinch, and he offered me the position right there on the spot. He didn’t know that I was a high school drop-out. He didn’t know that a year prior I was stealing diapers and formula just for us to get by. Brian introduced me to the world of startups. He was my biggest supporter, using company resources to put me in front of some of the best designers in the city to learn from, and ask stupid questions. He taught me to be a leader, and to think like an executive. We remain friends to this day and have worked on countless projects together. I owe him my entire career.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
Few things are as rewarding as seeing the potential in someone else and doing your part to bring that potential to the surface. As a leader, I see fostering growth in others as a core responsibility. The easiest way to do that, in my opinion, is open and honest communication. In a team where everyone has an equal voice, there are endless opportunities to educate and learn from one another. I try to ensure that every member of my team has the opportunity for a meaningful contribution to the dream — that’s how we all walk away more valuable as individuals.
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I asked one of our coaches recently why he didn’t play a more profitable game competitively. His answer? “Because I can’t afford a $3,000 computer, and even if I could, they don’t run fiber internet into the hood” and I couldn’t shake the idea that redlining in gaming is being almost entirely ignored.
It shouldn’t be hard to be a black, female or LGBTQ+ gamer. I want to give those underrepresented communities a platform to make a meaningful living doing the thing they love most in the world. That’s a dream for me.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
I think business is quickly trending toward the passion economy, where individuals are making a living on their terms. Companies and brands need to adapt to this idea of personal fulfillment, or they’ll lose out on the real talent. The question we all need to start asking is “How do we create a culture in which this is a ‘dream job’ for our employees?”
I think building in public is a step towards that. Giving your employees a chance to build an audience of their own through the work they’re doing. Everyone wins in that scenario.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
Opportunity rarely falls into your lap. You have to create your own luck. Read constantly. Your goal shouldn’t be memorization but understanding. Work on your communication skills — it’s a muscle that you can strengthen. Talk to strangers and make it a goal to strike up a conversation everywhere you go. I’m not talking, “How’s the weather?” Try and learn something genuine about that person, about what they care about and who they are.
Most people don’t do this. These skills will make you the kind of person that people want to put their money behind. It will make you the kind of person talented people want to work with. You have to be dedicated to becoming the ultimate version of you. You have to want it more than you want to binge Netflix or go out with friends. You have to do what everyone else isn’t doing if you want to stand out from everyone else.
And then share that knowledge, for free. The formula is simple, but committing to it is incredibly hard. If you’re spending your free time reading content like this, you’re already on the right path — keep going. You can move mountains.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
I feel guilty constantly. I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs that are parents and it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in that feeling. The entrepreneurial pursuit is often a selfish one. It means sacrificing time with those that love you. It means giving up on the security that you could have at a normal job, just to put yourself through hell in the name of your own ambition.
Sometimes I feel that to live as an entrepreneur is to live a cursed life, devoid of enduring satisfaction. If I had $100 million in the bank right now, I’d still be working 12-hour days. It’s a part of who I am. To work a 9–5, or to retire and spend my days relaxing sounds dreadful. I think that’s a hard reality for my kids, their mother, and my family as a whole.
My motivation for entrepreneurship is simple — it’s what makes me feel alive.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
It really is! I feel more stress and anxiety now than I have in the past, because more people rely on me to provide for themselves and their families than ever before. My idea is bigger than me now, because every decision I make as a leader has gravity. I’ve heard it said before that it’s lonely to be an entrepreneur, and I think that’s really true.
During ‘work hours’ I tend to rely on Twitter and Dribbble when I’m feeling particularly stressed. My goal is to find something that inspires me, because inspiration has this uncanny ability to chase away my doubts and concerns.
When I’m at home and still feeling stressed about a work-related thing, I tend to turn to video games. Playing competitively allows me to fully commit to something else short-term and I find that really cathartic.
INSPIRATION — Is there an entrepreneurial book or podcast that inspires you that you would like to share with our readers?
If I could recommend any one book, it’d be “The Score Takes Care of Itself” written by one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. For clarity, I don’t care about football at all — not even a little bit. Despite the fact, I still feel that it’s one of the greatest books ever written on leadership. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“You need to stretch people to help them achieve their full potential…the most powerful way to do this is by having the courage to say, “I believe in you.” These four words constitute the most inspirational message a leader can convey.”
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Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.