Haircuts and grooming are a necessary part of looking and feeling your best. That’s why Squire co-founder Dave Salvant wants to make scheduling barbershop appointments a much easier process with his app.
AfroTech caught up with Salvant and talked to him about challenges he has faced launching Squire and advice he has for other founders.
This interview has been edited for length.
What has been the hardest thing about starting your own company?
As I look back at it, I think the hardest thing has been dealing with the uncertainty. You really have to get over not having a paycheck every couple of weeks and not knowing if your company is going to survive and not having all of the answers. There’s a high level of uncertainty and you just have to be able to cope with that and brace yourself for that.
You said that you came up with the idea for Squire while you were in business school, but decided to leave to commit all of your time to the company. What ultimately made you settle with the idea to leave?
It was never comfortable, but it was now or never. My co-founder was working at a law firm and quit his job. We had to figure out if we believed strongly enough in this to leave our jobs and institutions— people think about that all the time. At the end of the day, I looked at it from the standpoint of if I waited, the opportunity could be there or if I went, it could not be there. It’s one of those things where you just have to take a big chance and see what happens. I can always go back to school.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own company?
Be prepared. A lot of people aren’t prepared. A lot of people want to be entrepreneurs, but in reality, they’re wannabe-entrepreneurs because they don’t want to risk it all. You have to put in the work. It’s not just an Instagram thing. You have to be working tirelessly, thinking about your ideas 24/7. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and not going out with your friends. All these sacrifices, you have to be prepared to make and a lot of people aren’t. They just want to see the lights. It’s true that it takes ten years to become an overnight success.
You said that preparation is important. What are some of the things you did to prepare yourself for Squire’s big leap?
It was a mix of being mentally and financially prepared. I wasn’t really prepared financially, but I was definitely prepared mentally. Once I made my decision to do this, there was no going back. I would be homeless before I went back and that’s the mentality you have to have to be successful. It’s either sink or swim. You have to think ‘I’m going to be successful and there’s no alternative’— I think you have to be that level of focused. People need to be ready to weather the storm. I think I’m still in the storm, but the forecast is clearer than it was once before.
What’s the last book you read and what was your biggest takeaway?
One of the last books that I liked to read was by Dale Carnegie, “How To Make Friends and Influence People.” That book is very informative. It teaches you the most important qualities of an entrepreneur, which I think are grit, determination, access to resources or the ability to ascertain resources when you need them. That’s basically who can vouch for you and the social capital that you have. Dale Carnegie and this classic book illustrate the value of using your social capital and being an overall social broker to achieve what you want to do. People underestimate the soft skills that are needed to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of stuff that’s needed.
How were you able to raise capital for Squire?
Y Combinator was one of the pressure points for the business. We’re trying to raise for our first institutional round in the next six to eight months. At the end of the day, money is the means to an end. As an entrepreneur, you don’t want to get into the cycle of perpetually raising money. Finding money is just a way to scale a business, but every time you raise money, there’s a trade off because you’re giving up ownership of your business. You have to make sure everyone’s goals are aligned with yours, so the best thing is to just build a sustainable business.
Dave Salvant will be speaking at Afrotech. Check out the schedule to see when he’ll be hitting the stage.