Coming from a very humble beginning as an immigrant from Jamaica growing up in New York City, Mark Rankine has made it big with several of his startups. One of his companies in particular is now making over $1 million in annual recurring revenue. This company is Cre8r, an online marketplace meant to help local artists sell their work. In his interview, he shares how his attitude has changed on the “hustle mindset”, the worst advice we all have received, and so much more!
***Please note that most of Mark Rankine's responses are paraphrased because the interview was conducted over the phone***
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
The typical thing that happens in Jamaica, or in many developing countries (mainly the Caribbean), is that parents come to the United States on a single entry visa and get their citizenship to ultimately petition for their kids to come to America. This is what happened for me. It took many, many years, but I finally got here.
For Cre8r specifically, I really wanted to help my friends. I had one friend in particular who is an artist, and he really wanted to sell his art; it was just not working out for him at the time. I had marketing people from a different business, and we came up with the idea for us to help him with his art. It then spiraled where it was like, oh we can help this friend, and that friends, and it just kept growing. We figured we could do some good work here and help out others so we continued.
Can you describe your average day - what do you do as the founder and CEO of a company?
I handle all of the business relations and business development. That means finding potential clients, getting them on board, getting them to agree to the service agreements. Also, I work with various artists, furniture companies, and constantly talk to our employees across the country (because of Covid-19). My job is basically to make sure the machine stays well-oiled.
What do you wish you knew before you started Cre8r?
I wish I knew more about the American Tax System, finances, and I wish my parents had experience to help guide me - my parents were learning things with me. Two years ago someone could have asked me, do you have a savings account? And I would say, oh, is that a sandwich? So, I wish I knew more about money and how that works. I am very good at making money, but keeping it and growing it is not my strong suit.
What has been the largest obstacle you have had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
Working with people and understanding that others are different (and that no one is good or bad) is a critical lesson. I thought if you weren't going a thousand miles per hour - you were bad. I thought it meant you weren't ambitious and weren't headed in the right direction, but this is just not true. Everybody has different emotions and different spirits. It makes sense to learn this skill because I feel like building a business is never an individual sport: it is always a team event. The better you are at understanding other people, the more successful you will have. Once you make peace that everyone is not like you, you will have more happiness in your life.
What do you think has been the "key" to your success this far?
For me, I know one of the "keys" to my success has 100% been my mentors. Second is my business partner because he covers all of the things I don't know/ am not interested in learning. The third thing I would say is that I am good with people. I think one of the most difficult things about building a business today is that the idea of moving fast, going 1,000 miles per hour, is that it brings in a lot of technical people who have little personality and therefore can not sell.
How has failure specifically helped you later in life, and what lessons have you specifically learned?
Especially in business, you can not get around failure. If you are an excellent writer, and every time you write an article, it's a home run, then that's great. But, for business owners, it's trial and error. Even when you have a set product, you have to keep on adjusting, listening to what the people want. For me, failure is great because you learn so much - you learn more from the failures than the successes. A failure per se would be that we didn't make any money for a very long time, and I think that this period was very good because now we know what that process of struggling is like, and we can relate to others going through that process. Now we also know what not to do.
What is some of the best advice you have ever received? Some of the worst?
Best - Don't take anything personally. The faster you can brush something off and move on, the faster your company will grow because once you learn the lesson from it, then you can get to changing things.
Worst- I am going to preface this by saying it's bad advice for me. Never take no for an answer is the worst advice I have ever received. Sometimes you have a bad product, and you should stop. If no one wants this product, it's not going to work, take no and stop. You see people who are stuck on a bad idea, and four years later, you see them still pushing the same product, and it's just like "dude stop, find something else, come up with something better." Don't give up on your dreams; give up on that thing that everyone says no to.
What is some advice you can give to an aspiring entrepreneur like myself?
Just do it. Whatever it is, just do it because you have no bills or responsibilities. You have nothing to lose. Find someone who compliments you very well - make sure you vet the person, make sure that they are hungry just like you, and do it.