A 29-Year-Old Montrealer Made Forbes' 30 Under 30 List & Shared His Tips For Success
His chocolate business is on track to hit $17 million in revenue this year. 🍫
The co-founder of Mid-Day Squares, Jake Karls, is making his dreams come true, and people are noticing. The 29-year-old Montreal entrepreneur has made it to the latest Forbes' 30 under 30 list thanks to chocolate and viral social media content. But his journey hasn't been straightforward.
From being the class clown in school to failing many job interviews, closing his first-ever fitness businesses due to a lack of passion then going bankrupt and losing about $80,000 with his clothing brand, Karls kept working.
The businessman accepted an interview with MTL Blog to share his tips for entrepreneurial success.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What Is Mid-Day Squares and how did it get started?
One day, Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli, my sister and brother-in-law, approached me with this vegan and gluten-free chocolate bar idea with clean ingredients. I tried and loved it. But at first, I didn't want to join the company because the grocery space is so complex.
I was exhausted from closing two businesses before, and I didn't have full confidence in myself anymore. For three months, they tried to convince me to join their business but I kept saying no.
Finally, in August 2018, I decided that I was going to help them launch because I had an idea.
I watched TV shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians and I realized people loved them because it was about family drama. People enjoy Shark Tank and Dragon's Den because they want to know more about entrepreneurship and the stories of each candidate.
To succeed with our new brand, I thought we should make a reality show on entrepreneurship via social media to create a fanbase, showing the good moments and the bad situations, literally every step of the way — the unfiltered process of how we build our business. This includes legal battles, milestones, raising money, success, failures, how we fire people, how we deal with anxiety and more.
I shared the ideas with my partners and they were skeptical. But that's the only way I would join the business: by marrying the entertainment world with the CPG food world. So they gave it a three-month trial and we started filming everything with cameras 24/7.
It took a bit of time but slowly it started to work because people loved the concept. Four and a half years later, we built our own chocolate factory here in Montreal. We're a team of 60+ amazing humans. Hopefully, this year, we'll be able to do $17 million in revenue. We have four products, so four flavours.
What has been the secret to your success?
I think there are two secrets to success. First, my partners and I are seeing a business therapist together once a week with no exceptions. We do this to have a safe zone for communication, to learn how each other is feeling and stay aligned.
Usually, when startups or small businesses fail, it's not because the products aren't great or a lack of capital. It's actually because there are conflicts among the founders or owners.
The therapy keeps us having a very strong business partnership, as well as a very strong family relationship.
The second tool for success is momentum.
When you have momentum, it doesn't mean you need to be on the cover of a magazine or on TV. Momentum could simply mean doing your bed in the morning, and taking that as a win because then it can translate to another win.
I always tell people to take things day by day, because that will keep them going. If you start setting goals like "I'm going to have this amount of revenue in three months" but something unexpected happens, your momentum will get killed halfway through.
So start your day fresh with daily goals, and use momentum to control your mindset and propel you forward. Mindset is the most powerful thing that we have as humans. Small steps will exponentially grow.
What's your advice to young entrepreneurs?
I think my advice to any entrepreneur would be to always believe in yourself. I know it sounds cheesy, but when you are unapologetically yourself every day, and you trust your gut, you become a better version of yourself, at your highest peak of performance.
Once you realize and accept that you are going to continue to be you every single day, I can guarantee that something will come up. You will go into a zone of discomfort related to your current situation and eventually a door will open. Perhaps you'll meet somebody or you'll get an idea.
The reason why a lot of people don't start a business and never quit their 9-to-5 jobs is fear. They're scared of failure, loss or of what others will think of them. Just believe in yourself.
How does it feel to be on Forbes' 30 Under 30?
Forbes 30 Under 30 was a dream of mine. When I was younger, I'd always looked at the list and felt inspired. These folks were doing cool things and making a difference in their field.
Back in college, I was still on that path of doing whatever society tells me to do. I was doing everything for everyone else. So I said to myself If I hope one day I could be on that list.
And fast forward 10 years later, a decade of swinging and missing, literally failing on businesses, putting myself out there every single day and uncomfortable situations, I made it to the list, by literally being unapologetically myself and staying true to who I am.
And I hope that my story can inspire others, whether you are in Montreal, in Canada, or somewhere else in the world. Go do what you really want to do in life. And truly be yourself because even these large publications [like Forbes 30 under 30] they notice it, they respect it and they want to showcase it.
Forbes has been a huge support of our business. And they work with a massive amount of great young entrepreneurs, creatives and ambitious people who come together. It's a community.