Note: This is an AI transcription, but multiple conversations are innately difficult to transcribe. Please forgive errors or confusing segments. I have done my best to edit to capture the conversation.
Kathy: [00:00:00] Today I have Brad and Jooyoung Voeller, a couple that we have known for a couple of years. Brad is a serial entrepreneur and Jooyoung is one of the smartest women I know and funny in her very subtle way. Thank you guys for coming on the podcast and for the great story that you have to share
Brad: [00:00:22] We’ve been looking forward to it
Thanks for the invitation
Kathy: [00:00:24] You are so welcome and thank you for carving this time out. I’d love for our listeners to get to know you to know you, a little bit of the backstory
Joo Young: [00:00:33] Sure
Kathy: [00:00:34] before we get into the meat of the story So how long have you guys been married
Joo Young: [00:00:39] Um 11 I think this is our 11th year Okay
Kathy: [00:00:43] 11 perfect wonderful years
And you have three children who are, what are their ages now?
Joo Young: [00:00:51] So Jubilee’s 10 and then we have two boys, ages eight and five turning six this actually in two days
Kathy: [00:01:01] Oh my goodness
He was just a baby I mean when we were meeting a couple of years ago you were
I know years ago
Kathy: [00:01:08] you were pregnant with him How time flies. Well needless to say that’s a very busy time of life. And so you guys are not only in the middle of your entrepreneurial journey and as I find couples to interview you know they’re at different stages Some people are just starting some have been through the process and are on the other side. But you guys are kind of in the middle of it
Brad: [00:01:32] it would really are and it does go by so fast. And I have to remind myself that through our entrepreneur journey we’re creating an opportunity a future for our family but only today is what we have So balancing those two things out of striving for the future That destination and at the time enjoying this journey that we’re on. That’s so tough to keep that in view
Kathy: [00:02:00] Absolutely.
Joo Young: [00:02:02] Um
Kathy: [00:02:03] so I know that you met in South Korea .What in the world were you doing in South Korea Brad And what year was that?
Brad: [00:02:09] So I’ve always been in education. It’s been my career education technology in South Korea I was there after starting an ed tech company in the U S A what
Kathy: [00:02:21] A what company?
Brad: [00:02:22] An education technology company here I went to Korea after having launched that and in Korea was involved in starting out some academies that would help families begin home education. There’s not a lot of diversity within education in South Korea outside of the government school systems So this is an opportunity to partner with families and churches and nonprofits and setting up these academic school support organizations And that’s how I met Jooyoung. She was a staff member
Joo Young: [00:03:05] uh so you you worked with like my church that I was going to at the time and my pastor one day he asked me to Work with Brad and to set up some like a ministry there that could support the homeschoolers and quite frankly I wasn’t really interested in like in all homeschooling and working for a church at the time. But I was just going through it a lot in my life at the time. So I just want you some job until I can kind of sort things out and then get back on my life again And that’s how we kind of started Yeah
Brad: [00:03:39] So that was just meant to be a real temporary
Joo Young: [00:03:42] transition to something bigger and better
Kathy: [00:03:45] Uh huh And so it goes that we think we have life figured out!
So how old were you at the time, Brad when you went to South Korea ?
Brad: [00:03:57] When I went there I was 24 and when we met I
Joo Young: [00:04:03] so I was like 27 something like that So you are 28
Kathy: [00:04:10]Yeah I forget that an older woman right? Alrighty
Brad: [00:04:14] you weren’t going to sensitive areas
Kathy: [00:04:19] went there!
Brad: [00:04:19] and
Kathy: [00:04:21] Jooyoung, I’m interested in what you knew about entrepreneurial lifestyle. You know in America we really take pride in our ability to create our own path and make our own way and we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. What was it like in S. Korea? But not every country is
Joo Young: [00:04:45] so different
Kathy: [00:04:46] Yes What was your understanding of entrepreneurial endeavor?
Joo Young: [00:04:53] So I still vividly remember the very moment when he was trying to explain who he is as an entrepreneur. And so I first had to look up the word because that the vocabulary in that it wasn’t you know it was new for me And uh I remember can I says okay this basically someone who starts a new business. So I kind of sit there trying to understand okay someone who starts a new business and honestly I had a zero understanding of the depth of the meaning at the time because you know the Koreans, they do not they just don’t like uncertainty and the people like something Secure um a particularly after the financial crisis that swept Asia in like 19 uh like late 1990s .So two jobs became like highly sought after: public school teachers and government workers. People just want something that you know secure. So um entrepreneurs are rare and that kind of spirit is not really um discussed You know like often. So it took a while after I go through a lot of of you know like hardships and kind of challenges with Brad I just finally understood ah what that means to be to live in entrepreneur
Brad: [00:06:18] I thought I thought it would education process when we were dating and so I had this textbook on entrepreneurship,
Joo Young: [00:06:26] So I
Brad: [00:06:27] started to walk her through that and she said okay I think that’s enough now. But what I really saw in Jooyoung is this the spirit of overcoming of triumph through struggle. There’s a lot of challenges that she had already faced whether it was with a family loss, academic challenges and just seeing how she had surmounted all of those with tremendous grace and resilience .And I thought well that’s a great quality for an entrepreneur wife!
Joo Young: [00:07:02]
Brad: [00:07:02] Everything else you don’t know you’ll pick up along
Joo Young: [00:07:04] at the time But yeah But it took a while for me to understand Oh who I married
Brad: Yeah And like I said we’re still learning
Kathy: [00:07:10] Yeah Um so what were your expectations then as you all dated And remind me how long you dated before
Brad: [00:07:22] It was really a short um we started to have some discussion about a marriage and that was a little bit early for Jooyoung. She wasn’t ready for that. So we took a break and after six months of thinking it through she said my heart’s in the right place I think uh let’s ya know let’s explore this further So it was
Joo Young: [00:07:46] from that point I think it was less than a year
Brad: [00:07:49] Yeah Less than a year
Joo Young: [00:07:50] about like nine 10 months
Kathy: [00:07:53] So when you began again back to you Jooyoung what were your expectations about work and what Brad would be doing and what that might look like in the future?
Joo Young: [00:08:08] So um at that time he already had a business that he started uh in tech know here in Texas So he started his first business before he actually even like came to South Korea. So all I knew at the time was okay And what you want just to talk in a small business it was like education that coaching business Um but you know he already has a business. It’s growing and it’s kind of big enough to enlist kind of help us to pay bills So that’s that was all I knew you know other than just this guy and I married this amazing person And I mean we were going to start a new life in the states together
Kathy: [00:08:47] Okay So you married what year was that ?
Brad: [00:08:53] That was 2008 Jubilee was born in
Joo Young: [00:09:00] we were married Yeah I was like okay
Kathy: [00:09:08] um and then when did you guys move
Brad: [00:09:11] So Jubilee was a year and a half or two
Joo Young: [00:09:17] 2009 Yeah About like 10 years ago Yeah
Brad: [00:09:19] She was just over a year old at the time .
Kathy: [00:09:22] and was that the plan from the beginning to come back to the states?
Brad: [00:09:24] It was actually to come back earlier but because I started another business and you were there South Korea that wasn’t trending in the right
Joo Young: [00:09:32] almost like his hobby
Brad: [00:09:33] required more attention than we anticipated so we extended I think an additional 18 months because of that I think Jubilee was going to be born originally
Joo Young: [00:09:45] Well I don’t know But anyway yeah it took a little longer than we anticipated to move here
Brad: [00:09:51] but we have large family all pretty much all here in San Antonio. So to be here with them as we’re giving birth to children and raising family like that was really important to be together
Kathy: [00:10:05] Yeah Okay So you came back 2009 Alright And so let’s talk a little bit about where you are currently. Tell us about the business that you’re in the middle of starting and this you truly are a serial entrepreneur. This is not your first business. It’s about your fourth or
Brad: [00:10:27] yes I mean this was the second major business then had a number of other smaller Yeah
Joo Young: [00:10:33] including some nonprofits
Kathy: [00:10:38] Okay
Brad: [00:10:38] The previous business uh that was a much different experience for our family and marriage than the one we’re in now because I had already started that prior to knowing Jooyoung. So when she came in she really didn’t understand what it is, how it generates income, where it’s going. And she was of course very supportive in that but there was a feeling of that’s just kind of Brad’s work that I do . so maybe a little bit more like a traditional job because I go to the office and you know, I come back home and there’s not as much intersection with what’s happening as a family. But with the new business that was something that we envisioned together. We worked on figuring out what is this gonna be and how much are we gonna invest in this and how are we gonna make money from this. So there were a lot of discussions before actually venturing into the new business.
Kathy: [00:11:42] Okay
now And that’s a good point because a lot of couples ,one is the entrepreneur. Do you consider yourself entrepreneurial Jooyoung, or what would you say
Joo Young: [00:11:54] So yeah I mean um I would say I like doing something more I guess kind of academic like something like more like research and that’s more like my background .And I guess in some ways I like to take some like alternative ways of doing things but not like him, not like starting something new like on my own .And yeah So this has been a kind of interesting journey.
Brad: [00:12:20] Jooyoung says she’s not an entrepreneur but I think that entrepreneurship requires great teams with disparate views and areas of strength that are complimentary. And sometimes um You know very different ,right? And that has helped us so much because Jooyoung is so different from me in that she sees things that I don’t see She has questions that I’m not asking yet She’s also giving me the permission to share my crazy visionary ideas that are mostly bad and to be patient and help process through that cause I really need someone to process that with me. That’s just kind of how I think And so having that where I can be vulnerable with Jooyoung in that and not have to like figure it all out and then come and present a full plan Um I really Uh feel uh supported in that huge way
Kathy: [00:13:20] Okay And has it always been that way that you guys talked about the business and plans for the future or has that evolved?
Brad: [00:13:27] I think it’s evolved more with the current business that we’re in because Jooyoung has such an. Intimate knowledge of how it works and all of the challenges associated with it . What our vision is for it in the future. We’ve had an opportunity to really craft that together. I’ve been the one mostly to do the execution of that but I mean our conversations are always filled with what’s happening with a new product that we’re launching, a market we’re moving into, investors we’re bringing on you know what’s happening with various team members and employees and um you know Jooyoung’s a great counselor to me in that.
Kathy: [00:14:06] Awesome So is it safe to say Jooyoung that you know most of the business?
Jooyoung: A lot of yeah a lot of details yeah
Kathy: I like that because some couples you know there’s there’s there are two camps .There are some entrepreneurs and more so men from the research that I’ve looked at um men tend to kind of forge ahead with plans. May or may not bring along their significant other their spouse. Whereas Women entrepreneurs tend to seek input from their spouse. And I think it is a wise man that does seek the you know the input from their spouse because and especially when they’re wired a little differently because if one is more just not risk averse, but like you said Jooyoung, you’re not the one to go start something. But you are supportive of it and you understand how Brad is wired and so those conversations that you invite her into but I think it’s important to point out that you had to make that intentional place to bring her into those conversations.
Brad: [00:15:28] As far as that goes I probably break the mold a bit there in that I am intentional at bringing Jooyoung into the conversation. Maybe more than I should sometimes But what uh I I felt early on even before marriage is that I need a partner that really shares in the vision for what I’m doing because the business is not just about finances. It should generate a profit. It should provide a great living for us and for our employees. But it really is driven by desire to impact people’s lives. We serve students. We need to make sure that we are transforming them and launching them to do great things. So I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility in that. And because of that I wanted to make sure that I married someone that can share that passion. So I think what brought us together one of the things that brought us together was not so much like understanding entrepreneurship and what that means but education and the value of being involved and helping others too Um develop themselves. So that’s really been a big part of our conversations. I mean all the time we’re talking about different educational theories and approaches different um businesses that have different kinds of educational offerings. Schools Those are conversations that we both genuinely enjoy and can connect around. So it doesn’t feel like we’re just working on the business you know work. We’re sharing a passion together and that’s huge for me .
Kathy: [00:17:16] So important. So let’s talk a little bit about where you guys are now, Jooyoung, you started a new venture this semester, right? Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing
Joo Young: [00:17:28] So I started grad school last year. Doctoral degree in education field , it’s in international education which I been wanting to do for many years. And I’m so very thankfully I mean when I when we first married like you know he has been always in the education field you know like education technology and that has been his passion. But which What’s not really my passion but um at that time when we first married but over the course of years
Brad: [00:18:00] I saw it in you!
Joo Young: [00:18:04] I I don’t know something happened.. Of course it didn’t happen overnight but just genuinely I developed a more interest in what he’s doing And so yeah I’m just pursuing my doctoral degree in the area and that has been also very helpful Um just in our relationships and also what he’s doing right now because I actually had been helping him a lot with my research and writing some grant proposals for um for his company and things like that. So we have come a long way really
Brad: [00:18:37] I’m so grateful for Jooyoung jumping in and using those talents or skills that she has To support the business. And yet I have this sense that I really don’t want to take that for granted or abuse that but really to try to find the areas where she can take her skills and and and put that to work in an area where she feels it’s meaningful.. So you know those are conversations where I try to Be careful and make sure that you know there’s there’s really good alignment with that. I don’t know if I’ve always done the best with that but I think we’ve found a few things recently that have been really aligned with what you’re doing in your doctoral studies and then also a real help to the business.
Joo Young: [00:19:28] Yeah I mean we’re on the same boat. We have to survive together!
Brad: [00:19:34] We have to make it work!
Kathy: [00:19:35] And I think that is a challenge with every entrepreneur marriage. I know in our business there was a time when I worked in the business partly because there were some things that I could do but it also became not a good place for me to be so it’s it’s a fine line you walk to
Brad: [00:19:55] I’ve seen that before and I think our communication has been really open about that where Jooyoung shares with me what she likes doing or doesn’t like doing And so I’ve I felt the confidence in that you know to for us to forge ahead together.
Joo Young: [00:20:13] I think I really grew into this where you know where I am right now. Like when we first married and he always has been just like trying to share more about what he’s doing, you know a lot of details .It’s finances but of course you know at the time I didn’t have any like even now like I don’t really have the business experience in myself you know I’m doing more like you know academics and you know research or things like that. So when he tried to share a lot of details like um I just have my kind of sense of the feel like that’s too much. I feel like that’s not gonna work .I feel I think that’s a good idea But I just couldn’t really speak to him with confidence because you know because of my lack of experience. But just over the course of years you know I got to know him better in I got to understand his what are his weaknesses and strengths. And I also like can I experience it Cause it’s almost like firsthand with him. Yeah So
of years you know I have to know him better to understand what are these weaknesses and strengths and also how you experienced it
now yeah now I’m at the place that I can kind of speak to him a little bit with a little more confidence about okay I need that, I don’t think that’s going to work .You know I don’t think that’s realistic or I think that’s a really great idea you know
Brad: [00:21:25] But here’s another important point in that relationship is I feel the support the validation from Jooyoung cause I know she believes in me. So I don’t delay and say Hey here’s something that I’m thinkinabout or you’d like to move in this direction Um because I know at the end of the day I’ve got that support and that that is just so huge for me I don’t know hat I can really do this without it. Cause I mean Everything we have is on the line Um it’s it’s all there all in you know um more and more than I would like to be actually
Kathy: [00:22:12] exactly
Brad: [00:22:13] I try to separate out you know the family finances and the business But uh when push comes to shove it’s like the business is going to survive. It’s going to move forward.So Um but I really know that your beliefs in me and uh yeah you just communicate that through There’s so many so many ways and there’s times where you question um you’ve got a concern and you know we we stress out together. But at the end of the day I know you really you believe in me.
Kathy: [00:22:49] Yeah I want to ask a question about what kind of boundaries and then move into more of the business what it is you’re doing now.. Um and it’s wonderful to have a team you know to be a team together Flip side is how do you create boundaries around not talking about business or how do you guys handle that?
Brad: [00:23:12] Hmm
Joo Young: [00:23:14] Hmm
Brad: [00:23:18] We talk about it all the time so much
Joo Young: [00:23:22] Right. We do, like almost kind of feel like what are you going to talk about if you’re not going to talk about business but
Kathy: [00:23:27] Now we’ll talk about the kids
Brad: [00:23:31] But it’s a little bit different in that it’s not just like okay here’s like financially what’s happening in the business There’s aspects of you know there’s this student apprentice that is in the program and they’re going through a hard time. But then there’s this mentor and they discovered like this new purpose they had It’s really motivating them to do great work And so like sharing those kinds of stories is really interesting and victories and just people’s life and what we’re discovering too about different educational models and solutions You know I was at a conference in San Diego for education technology investors A couple of weeks ago And so coming back with like new ideas and what other investors are doing and this thought leaders and you know sharing those stories is I think interesting for us. It’s business related It helps us to be better at our game but it also is something that’s really interesting So um but yeah we talk about it too much.
Joo Young: [00:24:29] I would say In the talking about hobbies like besides business I know he Brad loves gardening. So that’s something that he loves to talk about. And also so I think that kind of provides some healthy kinda like a balance. So you know and also for me I like to like paint and I like to you know doing some like in the music like working with my cello. I started learning cello a few years ago because of his encouragement. I didn’t really expect that I would start like new instrument at like almost like at the age of 40. But he really encouraged me to do that and that has been really fun for me. So having something different that we like besides talking about business
Brad: [00:25:15] Those are great things to experience together .I just love appreciating observing and being part of your artistic pursuits.
Joo Young: [00:25:23] And then we .Both love traveling So just dreaming about okay what’s going to be our next place
Brad: [00:25:29] We do talk a lot about trips that we’d like to take someday. Yeah That’s fun .It gives you you know it’s not just about this business that one day is gonna you know make that revolution. And we can sit back and enjoy a little more but it’s What are we going to enjoy in the process?
Brad: [00:25:47] I think that there are challenges I mean it’s allowed us to enjoy things in the process Um we’ve we’ve done really fun trips together but there’s times where we’ve had to put those on hold to Um so a lot of just fluctuation is in our life experience last year Yeah
Kathy: [00:26:07] you had a trip planned? Last year?
Brad: [00:26:08] Yeah And that was a real, boy and I didn’t think we’re gonna talk about that today. I don’t really go there That was painful
Yeah That was one of my biggest mistakes, in business leadership, family, marriage Um just having this you know amazing trip planned in Germany and Jooyoung had done all the research for it, booked everything Okay
Joo Young: [00:26:30] like I had literally booked everything
Brad: [00:26:36] Five days before I had to cancel it because we I did not foresee it was happening operationally. We’re not in a good place the place I thought we were so I just needed to be all over the situation. Uh and and couldn’t be anywhere else until that was taken care of .So I knew it was actually like two months of really intense difficult work, right? I was pretty much gone Just gone right for two months um resolving that situation. So yeah like we’ve had to make those sacrifices as well
Joo Young: [00:27:15] Yeah it was like almost like a dream trip but ,Well hopefully in the future.
Brad: [00:27:20] It’s all planned, right?
Kathy: [00:27:23] Yeah So hopefully there will be another chapter, but that is one of the realities isn’t it of Entrepreneurship is ,you you make plans but they don’t always umell they probably never move forward Exactly as we intend. So
Brad: [00:27:40] Yes There’s so much uncertainty. I mean not that every Business needs to be built that way but just I think that’s more my nature. I’m kind of open ended I’m ENTP you know, the typology. Jooyoung is ENFP, so we both have that perceiving P where you are open to new experiences and adventures, right? Which is great for us both to be We’re able to adjust as life situations are sometimes throwing us in in a different direction that is not so comfortable. But then to realize it’s part of the journey We’re going to work through it and get on the other side of it.
Kathy: [00:28:28] That commitment to keep working at it . What are some things that you guys did when it was hard and I would imagine there was a little bit of resentment Jooyoung, about having to cancel that? Too
Brad: [00:28:43] Well that wasn’t the first time. I mean we were in a difficult place in the sale of the previous business where before the sale was completed , um, working things through with my partners and the whole buyout process Um we had to put our house on the market .We had to sell uh, move some assets around, sell things off Uh there was a lot of uncertainty a lot of pain during that time ,Right?
Joo Young: [00:29:14] You said assets, we sold a car that’s all we had
we just sold a car So
Brad: [00:29:28] you know you’re watching the cash day by day and realizing that you just have a few more weeks and Uh those are very painful places to be in. Um I’m grateful that Jooyoung didn’t resent that. Um she
Joo Young: [00:29:44] I don’t have any desire to go through that process again!
Kathy: [00:29:48] Can we say one and done? Uh let’s see Um
Brad: [00:29:53] and even like where we’re living now uh You know we’re we’re grateful for um the location we have and and the neighborhood and being close to my family and everything, It’s it’s worked out really well for us. But even that process is filled with uncertainty. Getting a loan, you know having to try multiple times just because you don’t have the kind of income that normal people have So
Kathy: [00:30:17] Exactly, we were in the same situation you know applying for a loan And our bankers said you know I can loan to the people that work for you easier than I can for you. And I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize.
Brad: [00:30:28] Same story for us right?
Kathy: [00:30:30] When you’re a founder um you pay the salaries of everyone else but they look at you differently.
Brad: [00:30:38] And there’s no guarantees in that process So I think there’s just a need to hold things loosely. And uh I think that’s something that I’m Pretty good at
Uh Jooyoung’s probably learned a lot too.
Kathy: [00:30:54] You were one of the most optimistic people I know .And so when you say hold things loosely I think optimism goes with it, also. Would you call yourself an optimist Jooyoung, or how are you guys alike and different?
Joo Young: [00:31:09] Um I mean of course I tried to look at more kind of bright side, right? Um but I I can say that I’m the one who can provide more kind of practical and realistic perspective to
Kathy: [00:31:21] More the realist?
Joo Young: [00:31:23] right
Kathy: [00:31:23] okay well let’s move to your current business. Brad tell us what that business is, how long it’s been going, the concept?
Brad: [00:31:33] Yeah ,So uh really the education ventures I’ve been involved in have been to figure out how do we help students or talent move through their education and their work in a way where they find the critical path. There’s not wasted time ,There’s no wasted money where we end up with debt and having to set dreams aside. So how do we help people really Find that purpose and then get on that path as soon as possible. So the current business is focused on how do we launch a recent grads, mostly recent grads, into careers in marketing if that’s where they had a vision.
It’s really hard today to move into those roles because they’re filled with technology and that technology, those platforms, tools are not provided access to in college. So you’ve got a whole generation that really is in this very difficult place of looking at these you know, high value ,high impact jobs and yet they all require three to 5 years experience. So what we’ve done is create something to bridge that in apprenticeship. It’s the first digital marketing apprenticeship recently recognized by the department of labor for launching this. So that was a real uh milestone for us. Uh before that we were really uh venturing into uncharted territory hoping that we’d be able to get that kind of recognition.
Now that we have that uh we actually have a business for the first couple of years uh we didn’t know!
Kathy: [00:33:14] So you had a concept
Brad: [00:33:16] a concept that we have students going through but there’s not the viability if we can’t the department of labor because that brings the delegation that brings uh funding That brings opportunity for us to have all kinds of academic partnerships. So now that that’s in place um the businesses starting to move forward and there’s an opportunity to engage investors and get the funding we need to brace the next level. So it’s a really exciting place to be in right now but it’s been fraught with a lot of uncertainty and a lot of risks which we knew to accept
Joo Young: [00:33:47] until you have that investor, in account
Brad: [00:33:53] And I still and still there is but we know that we’ve created something of tremendous value at this point. So that’s very reassuring and uh it’s it’s just been a walk of faith a walk of uh persistence and not giving up. It’s taken longer than we thought it would. Uh we’re probably you know 12 months uh 18 months behind where I thought we would be in terms of how long it would take.
Kathy: [00:34:23] When did you start? And what’s
Brad: [00:34:25] the name
Kathy: [00:34:25] of it?
Brad: [00:34:26] So it’s Digital Creative Institute
Kathy: [00:34:29] and when did you actually start it?
Brad: [00:34:31] So, We had our first group of students apprentices go through in January of 2016 is when they launched in 2016 and prior to that we were yeah for a year we were really working on that The whole concept and putting together you know marketing and curriculum and just everything to be able to launch. And it’s it’s slow with an education business because you have to see education take place over the course of time Right? So in addition to a business model you also have an education model, The pedagogy that you have to prove out .And so this is a 12 month apprenticeship. It takes you know starting in January 16 well it’s not until the beginning of 2017 when you see the full results of that ,Right? And then starting with the next cycle, so at this point we’ve had 70 apprentices go through. You know still it’s a relatively small group but they’ve proved out the model and we have 87% are rated by their employers as high performing, high potential
Uh we have 100% of them all currently employed in the occupation they’ve trained in, which is digital marketing.
Kathy: [00:35:41] Outstanding
Brad: [00:35:41] Yeah Hardly any education programs can say that today. So we’re really proud of that So we’re getting some great results. We Have a good foundation to build off of but uh there’s been so much uncertainty in this and you know a lot of it too is just timing. Uh the current presidential administration pumping a lot of money into apprenticeships Like that didn’t happen Until very recently.
I was recently at a meeting with um uh the Department of Labor and other fortune 500 businesses ,uh Visa, IBM, Sprint, you know huge players that are looking at this whole apprenticeship piece And what we heard from depart of labor is they now have $1 billion under management to fund apprenticeships whereas just a couple of years ago it was probably a 10th of that. So It’s really the timing as well.And And you know that’s where there’s risk in any any business. And it’s it’s just Tough but my wife is so resilient to be in that with me to to embrace that absolutely be in that with me uh that journey together
Kathy: [00:36:48] I’m looking at her muscles growing
Brad: [00:36:51] Absolutely. It amazes me
Kathy: [00:36:53] So am I right, 2015 is when you launched?
Brad: [00:36:56] 2015 is when we began the preparation to build the foundation for that.2016 is really the first class
Kathy: [00:37:05] So you had the concept, proof of concept, you’re kind of in the scaling phase. How have you funded it till now I mean there’s not a money tree.
Brad: [00:37:17] That’s right. We funded it from the proceeds of a prior business and through the revenue that we’re generating in the current business. We’re not a cash positive at this point So Uh eager to get to cash neutral. That was supposed to happen. we’re still working towards that We’re really close. Yeah
Kathy: [00:37:39] How in that process when you have your plan and you just you have to work it, how do you How do you keep that optimism and keep yourself moving forward?
Brad: [00:37:53] It’s hard I mean every time I go to the bank and put it into the business it’s just really um hard to uh have those conversations with Jooyoung where I feel like all right I had this plan. It didn’t work out Like there’s good things are happening in the business but still financially we’re going to have to make more of a commitment in other adjustments that we didn’t plan for. Um so that’s been
Joo Young: [00:38:25] I mean definitely it has been kind of up and downs you know like I see Brad I mean you can totally hear his passion and he’s talking about his business and he always has been that way. You know just like is so passionate about like Providing better education, like solutions and he has been kind of a social entrepreneur. Uh but I have seen him like that a bit kind of downcast that kinda feels like one day I feel like it’s going to be all just like great and happening.
But one day he feels like is it really gonna like take off, you know when’s it going to happen? So definitely you know it has been a challenge but um Yeah we’ll see you know like he said this year we see more the momentum in the business and the more like funding opportunities like grant opportunities available and still apprenticeship is new. And I kind of saw that on your face as you’re hearing about Oh really You know like there has been more like a funding like that and and but um we see I mean we still see the potential and that they kind of brought us here and Hopefully you know we’ll just be able to seize more opportunities this year, So then we can kind of feel like okay now we have business .
Kathy: [00:39:41] Okay You kind of have some markers whether they’re conscious or not but
Brad: [00:39:48] there are markers and that’s really important is that we determine okay like what are we going to invest or How far we going to go Um what are we We’re committed but how committed are we?
Those markers say the plans and go now we’ve got to be more committed. This requires selling a another house ,So we had And taking those funds and putting them into the business. So you know we had to look at that and get on the same page with that. Don’t know if there was a choice. We talked it through and we recognized together like okay this is needed and is it’s the right decision for the business for our family. So I think that kind of you know renegotiating things along those milestones is really important.
Kathy: [00:40:44] I came across a term years ago in my counseling work: enthusiastic agreement. And it’s so important for couples to talk things through until they have enthusiastic agreement Because if if you’re not quite there um somebody’s going to have some resentment And um uh You know it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to be very action oriented And well, we talked about it but it was like maybe we hadn’t quite decided but I hear that you guys
Brad: [00:41:18] We have we’ve had those moments too. Absolutely I mean I’m I’m I like getting to yes and moving forward.
Kathy: [00:41:25] Are you there? Are you there?!
Brad: [00:41:28] So I really like that concept of you said enthusiastic Yes That’s a great word me I need to take that personally, and put that,yeah to more work our conversations .Yeah Yeah
Kathy: [00:41:42] But it is another reality of the entrepreneur life isn’t it, that sometimes you get so far in it’s like you okay well there’s no going back. And that’s part of the commitment, right, is okay we have to find a way forward . We are so far you know And yet it’s tempting sometimes to maybe just say, can’t you just go get a job?
Joo Young: [00:42:05] I’ve probably said that once!
Kathy: [00:42:08] I’m sure we all have. Yeah. When I say those words, Brad, “just go get a job?” What does that do to you?
Brad: [00:42:19] Uh it makes me feel uh incompetent, incapable
Joo Young: [00:42:25] It’s almost like an end up here world?
Brad: [00:42:27] end of uh my my identity as I know it, right? I mean I’ve always been an entrepreneur Um I there’s a lot of uh business owners where that happened after really getting to know their industry through working in it. But uh that’s just kind of how I started before we were married. That’s what I was doing even as entrepreneurial endeavors. So that’s really how I see myself I’m putting my skills to work so it’s kind of hard to envision like another reality outside of that.
Kathy: [00:43:01] That is who you are and that is who you are Married to forward you go!
Um so in your current business so you’re about four years into it . um Not quite where you wanted to be but you’re seeing the momentum as you said Jooyoung
Joo Young: [00:43:21] um hm
Kathy: [00:43:21] that gives you hope to keep moving forward and you know again none of us have perfect marriages That’s not what this podcast is about. We do struggle and we fall down and we skin our knees and we have to ask forgiveness and we have to make a new plan and it requires humility sometimes but okay tomorrow’s a new day and we keep moving forward in a way that improves our marriage, improves the business so uh that’s something I admire very much about the Voellers is your ability to do that.
It really it’s obvious from the outside.
Brad: [00:44:08] It’s been tough. I mean it is not something that I probably would have the stomach for if I didn’t begin this journey, this lifestyle prior to marriage Um
Um I don’t know if I could carry through the way I am now Um um yeah I just can’t imagine like having the safety of a regular paycheck and a career mapped out and then launching into a business with all of the uncertainty and all the challenges and Um that uh I think would be much more difficult than I mean this is all I’ve known so I and I’ve done it but um yeah I’ve I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. Um really you know misjudging how much it’s gonna cost and how much time it’s gonna take, Right? And uh Jooyoung’s been so gracious with me too Um yeah I mean
she’ll show some of the frustrations some of the uh anxiety at times or we worked through that and and talk through it. Um I think I think relatively quickly and that that helps. So I just have an amazing wife that makes it possible And really, I couldn’t do it without uh the kind of support that I have.
Kathy: [00:45:39] Yeah absolutely. What have you learned through some of the challenges? You said you’ve made a lot of mistakes No one is perfect.I have heard Mark say many times Um you know failure is not the end. It’s a matter of whether or not you learn from it .So what are some things you’ve learned or how has it changed you, Brad, through some of the challenges that you’ve experienced over the years building the various businesses?
Brad: [00:46:17] A lot of lessons, listen to my wife’s counsel. Um and to balance the optimism with the uh realism uh to seek out uh counsel Um Jooyoung’s great at providing that, but she also asks me okay well You know what does this business advisor think . who are you going to run this by to ensure that it does have
Joo Young: [00:46:39] It’s not just all your ideas
Brad: [00:46:42] Right So yeah that certainly is a huge lesson Um cause I can get really fixated on an idea or a vision that I have. Another uh lesson is just the right people in in the journey Um that’s more about you know business the right people in the right positions. And I’ve made that I mean every entrepreneur makes that mistake of you know not having the right person in there, but you know hopefully you have less of that over time. And uh every time it happens I just you know kick myself Like I should’ve you know known or should have been better in my vetting process but that that typically is the thing that will throw off business plans and execution more than anything else. It’s just not the right person, in the right seat, not the right partnering relationship, you know not the right uh buyer, customer. You know those those relationships are really the key to get that right.
So for me um it comes down to understanding um the values of the people that I’m working with ,Really getting at that And then you know what do they prefer? Really what’s their natural inclination in terms of the work that they would do, Ensure that there’s strong alignment there .So something I’m still still working at um. Other lessons along the way? Or do you think of that I’ve been learning?
Joo Young: [00:48:16] What about like equal partnership and do you want to speak to that too?
Brad: [00:48:21] Uh yeah Partnerships uh can be you know challenging uh for sure. Uh every every partnership is is challenging. Um I think that it’s important to have a clarity around you know how partnerships are structured. If you don’t Make sure that there’s Uh absolute certainty of like how this works especially when things don’t go according to plan Um then that’s just asking for trouble. Um and I think that’s kind of common advice to hear out there but it can’t be said enough!
Kathy: [00:49:02] And as an optimist, it’s really hard to think about worst case scenario which is kind of what is required when you’re looking at a partnership is you have to consider that .What is the worst case scenario? What if this just doesn’t work out or something dramatically changes in our relationship? Um Because with every partnership there’s the potential that that partnership doesn’t move forward
Joo Young: [00:49:29] it
Kathy: [00:49:29] really hard don’t you think for
Brad: [00:49:30] talk about you know uh post-mortem in business Okay we execute on this plan. We thought it’d go well, it failed .Why did it fail? I’ve also heard the concept of a premortem to look at all right if this plan was to go wrong, What would cause it to go wrong and anticipating that kind of doing that analysis in the front before you’ve put in all the time and the money. So that’s something that I really need to um do more of. I think Jooyoung helps me in that I’m certainly advisers is
Joo Young: [00:50:04] I’m good at saying this will take twice as much, Twice as long.Yeah to develop something and then twice as much funds and you know two three times you know
Kathy: [00:50:20] so it’s going to take longer, take more money, take more efforts than they think.
Brad: [00:50:26] Any other lessons that you can think of that have uh humbled and kept us grounded?
Joo Young: [00:50:32] I don’t know
Kathy: [00:50:33] What you’ve learned that you would maybe if y’all were sitting with a couple 10 years behind you that is Talking about
Joo Young: [00:50:42] I would say maybe you need to know when to stop. You know So like as entrepreneur you just like pour so much into it so it’s really hard to stop. You just feel like if I was the second
Kathy: [00:50:59] Stop for the day, do you mean?
Joo Young: [00:51:01] some kind of whatever endeavor you’re working on. I mean like of course like stop the whole business It’s a whole It’s like a whole different conversation, but whatever is like yeah it could be some um some kind of some project You’re trying to develop. Some new product right? A new market I mean to me if you have to stop the business you know maybe that’s why you have to do it but even within your business you’re just going to like you started something new like you know new kind of project And then because you have Still like poured into so much into that Yeah It is so hard to just feel that it is hard to see that it might not work out you know
Brad: [00:51:47] Or when it is not working out to recognize that you still want to just cut the bait and go
Kathy: [00:51:53] Have you read Seth Godin’s book The Dip?
Brad: [00:51:56] Yeah I have
Yeah that’s that’s really good .Yeah To know What kind of a dip it cause we all go through those dips, Right?
Kathy: [00:52:02] And how to know when it’s a dip or a culdesac.
Brad: [00:52:05] And he talks about relationship dips too and how to understand you know is this a relationship that’s meant to be or is it the wrong relationship? So those are really important questions to ask and I can get so consumed just doing of the business that I’m not Uh taking the time to really evaluate like, should this even be done anymore?
Joo Young: [00:52:32] Right I think for that sense It’s really important to have like good advisors around you Yes Really speak the truth, with love.
Brad: [00:52:42] For sure
Kathy: [00:52:42] Can you talk about that a little more? Do you have some advisers, in your life?I mean you and Mark met through C 12
Brad: [00:52:49] right Yeah a peer advisory board Um tremendous uh resource Um you know getting that outside unbiased objective perspective. Um mentors that have had board members um that’s all critical.
Um there’s Key people that are in my industry of apprenticeships and education technology that I go to regularly for um input on different questions of execution with our business model and a I mean people like Mark, right? That just have great common sense to Help you ask the right questions that you should be asking. So those are fantastic uh conversations.
right now I’m in the midst of and now that we have formed the basis for this company and pursuing investment uh forming a board for this And so that’s going to provide even a lot more stability and uh direction .Um I think you know the earlier you can get that establish Yeah um the better .That’s that’s game changing just to bring the diversity of opinion and um also you know have uh some braking function along with the uh the gas .
Kathy: [00:54:10] Slow down! Well what I think goes along with that, Brad, is the willingness to take advice or or even ask questions .Have you always been open to Um you know seeking out a mentor or advisor or someone or uh is that something that has evolved for you?
Brad: [00:54:32] I think it was part of the culture that I was raised with in our family growing up. Um my friends are actually mostly older than me and they were um established in their careers even as a kid Um my parents wanted me to I hang out with a doctor a lawyer a botanist I mean understand kind their worlds and the work they did .And so these people for whatever reason they took interest in me and would would help bring me into that world so I could kind of get a sense of that and um and and get their mentoring and and ask questions
And my parents helped me to understand how to ask questions. So I think that really was helpful in tempering My hardheadedness of just being really stubborn. You know when I get an idea in my head I’ll just kind of I’ll just keep driving at it And it’s hard for me sometimes to hear uh a perspective or an opinion and I’m not looking for and to really just set aside my preconceived notions of what needs to happen and just really Listen to that um without the emotion of , “but I’m just going to do this plan anyway so help me do this plan “.
So I still struggle with that a lot Um but fortunately my upbringing maybe helped balance in that. Where I know it’s something that I need at least I can’t say I’m good at it still But it’s something that I I I value I definitely value it
Kathy: [00:56:03] And I think again it shows a lot of wisdom for your age
Brad: [00:56:08] I’m older than you think sit there
Kathy: [00:56:12] she’s still older than you are
Brad: [00:56:19] You got that
Kathy: [00:56:19] wrong
Brad: [00:56:20] Yeah Jooyoung just got younger and I got older
Kathy: [00:56:25] so I always like to ask this question and You’ve spoken to it a little bit earlier in the interview, but what do you guys do to keep the fun, friendship and intimacy growing in your marriage?
Brad: [00:56:39] That’s a hard question for me really because I’m just so hardcore like we’re going to make we’re going to get the missions done.I’m going to go with the mission, we’re going to make this happen right? So that that’s hard for me but I’ll let you answer first
Joo Young: [00:56:54] I think it helps me to see him encourage Me to do more like the things that I like to do .Like I know like he’s so into his business but he has been so supportive of what I want to do, too. Like in pursuing grad school or like pursuing like learning cello. You know And even like trying to like paint you know it was actually all his idea. He was because of Yeah I mean like I I mean I didn’t really like Paint until I moved here because I didn’t have really opportunities where and also like you choose you’re like you go to college choose your major. You think that Oh I’m not artistic You know that’s not that’s for something you know someone else Some are far more creative.
But uh when after we moved here we bought our first house and Brad was he just like one day seemingly out of nowhere He just told me Why don’t you paint and put something on the wall ?Because we just bought a house We have to fill our walls with something and I kind of feel like Oh my goodness here you go It’s like game with all his crazy ideas. But I don’t know For some reason something kind of moved in me so I Okay I thought after all our walls were empty, so I thought I gotta do something. So anyway I kind of digressed a little bit but like a for him um to be supportive or like what I want to do And sometimes he kinda like suggest something that he thinkgs i’ll enjoy And I think that there has been yeah there put some kind of boundary now It’s not just always about his work. You know his business and You know
Brad: [00:58:31] and I really enjoy talking about the pursuits that Jooyoung’s engaged in and uh different areas of you know developing her skills or uh people she’s connecting with and just you know sharing those conversations. It’s always a lot of fun and fascinating for me. So um That’s a I think that’s one way that we keep it balanced but it’s not like we’re the perfect couple who every week Friday night we’re on you know dates and doing these fun things on the town Uh.
Joo Young: [00:59:06] We’re working on that
Brad: [00:59:07] we’re working on that and I don’t feel like uh I’m I’m very good in that category. Uh I think just practically more connecting around What Jooyoung really enjoys and I’m enjoying that with her .Um so that’s I mean I guess it sounds kind of simple but that’s how we enjoy each other I think. And then the work that we do to the fact that we both um enjoy that work and can value that together So yeah that helps a lot.
Kathy: [00:59:39] Awesome Yeah .Well I want to thank you guys so much for your time Again. And Brad if someone wants to follow up with the business where can they find you and we’ll actually I’ll just put that in the show notes but go ahead and tell us
Brad: [00:59:54] Yeah Digital creative Institute. You can find us there if you Google us Um my email address is Brad V for Voeller, BradV@digitalcreativeinstitute.com .So happy to connect there.
Kathy: [01:00:08] Great And again I’ll put that in the show notes. Thank you guys so much.
Brad: [01:00:12] Thanks, Kathy!