Unraveling Success: Kory Stevens’ Taft Journey – From Basement Start-Up to Fashion Empire

In the latest episode of Scroll Sessions, host Dan Page sits down with Kory Stevens, the visionary founder behind Taft, a brand that has dramatically transformed the landscape of men’s footwear. From its humble beginnings to becoming an eight-figure business, Kory’s journey is a rich narrative of innovation, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of creativity.

The Birth of Taft: A Tale of Ingenuity and Ambition

Kory’s entrepreneurial venture began with a simple problem: the lack of high-quality no-show socks. What started as a quest to solve his own dilemma quickly evolved into a business idea, leading to the birth of Taft. Initially focused on socks, the brand eventually transitioned to footwear, identifying a niche in the market for unique, high-quality men’s shoes. Kory shares how he and his wife navigated the early days, making pivotal decisions that would set the course for Taft’s future.

Partnership, Family, and Entrepreneurship

One of the most compelling aspects of Kory’s story is his partnership with his wife, Kory, who played a crucial role in Taft’s inception and growth. The podcast delves into the dynamics of balancing a burgeoning business with family life, highlighting the sacrifices and decisions that shaped their journey. Kory’s candidness about the challenges they faced and the division of responsibilities offers a genuine look into the personal side of entrepreneurship.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Business Ownership

Kory doesn’t shy away from discussing the emotional aspects of running a business. He opens up about the highs and lows, from the exhilaration of growth and recognition to the profound grief of personal loss and the eventual sale of Taft. His transparency provides listeners with a raw, unfiltered look at the emotional toll entrepreneurship can take, offering valuable insights for those walking a similar path.

Building a Brand on Transparency and Community

A significant theme in Kory’s narrative is the importance of community and transparency. He reflects on the decision to document Taft’s journey publicly and how this openness fostered a loyal customer base. Kory discusses the impact of sharing not only the successes but also the struggles, emphasizing the power of vulnerability in building a relatable, authentic brand.

Looking Ahead: Life After Taft

As the conversation shifts to life after the sale of Taft, Kory shares his aspirations and the new challenges he’s embracing. He talks about the freedom the sale has afforded him and his plans for the future, including supporting his wife’s new ventures and focusing on personal growth and family.

This episode of Scroll Sessions is more than just a success story; it’s a deep dive into the realities of entrepreneurship, the complexities of work-life balance, and the courage it takes to be transparent in a world that often celebrates only the highlights. Kory Stevens’ journey with Taft is a powerful reminder of the passion, perseverance, and human spirit required to turn dreams into reality.

Listeners of Scroll Sessions are left with a wealth of lessons from Kory’s experiences—lessons about the importance of staying true to oneself, the value of genuine connection with your community, and the strength found in vulnerability. For aspiring entrepreneurs and seasoned business professionals alike, this episode is a must-listen, providing both inspiration and invaluable insights into the world of entrepreneurship.

Catch the full episode of Scroll Sessions with Kory Stevens for an inspiring deep dive into the life of an entrepreneur who dared to dream big and turn those dreams into a tangible reality.

Transcript

0:01[Music]

0:10all right so today on scroll sessions we’re here with Corey Stevens the entrepreneurial force behind the

0:16remarkable success of Taft a brand that’s reshaped men’s Footwear at least in my personal opinion from humble

0:22beginnings to an eight fig business that garnered National ACC claim Jour Corey’s journey is a testament to creativity and

0:28resilience despite grappling with immense personal and professional challenges he’s consistently pushed

0:34boundaries bringing Unique Designs and Innovative strategies to the Forefront of fashion welcome to scroll sessions

0:42Corey thank you man good morning thank you unbelievably excited to oh dude I I never ever come up North this far so

0:48it’s a big deal for us to finally meet yeah no for sure and I’m so I’m I’m rocking the C if I if I remember right

0:54the Calico Jack Boots so these were also the first gift that scroll ever gave to

1:02its employees like we gave Jack Boots like it was would have been almost five years

1:07ago boot specifically that boot specifically good taste from the the Chooser and I’m like I I have like a

1:14couple of pairs I have the original Dragon boots that are still still going

1:20the OG dragons and like I’ve just always been a fan of you man this is honestly an honor the Calico I love the Calico

1:27and then someone once told me that it looked like tortilla yeah kind of and now I can’t see anything but a tortilla

1:33well now well no thank you for ruining that for me appreciate that yeah I’m glad you like them though man thanks for

1:38wearing them thanks for that’s a cool gift that’s a very nice gift so thank you yeah of course man well it’s no it’s it’s literally it’s been an honor to

1:45follow your journey and thank you for documenting your journey I think like it’s such a rare it’s I think it’s

1:51becoming a little more common nowadays but like when you started to document it was just not like it wasn’t a thing yeah

1:57my wife that was all my wife really like she’s she’s really into kind of digital scrapbooking and just keeping memories

2:03and she’s always wanted the latest iPhone for the storage basically more stor she she wants it cuz she takes so

2:09many pictures so many videos yeah so we’re and now you see this kind of like buildin public Trend it’s like well

2:16that’s kind of what we were doing not for the clout on like LinkedIn but really just for kind of the scrapbooking

2:22for our family really which is amazing and like and it seems like your your wife has really like not only been your

2:29Rock so to speak won’t put words in your mouth but like been a huge driving force with you yeah I mean she she your kids

2:38she is the co-founder of Taft yeah and a few years in we had to kind of make the decision cuz when we started Taft we had

2:44one little baby yeah and then when we had you know two and then three children uh we we had to make the decision like

2:50okay who’s going to really own this and who’s going to be the primary parent in the house and so we made the tough

2:56decision and she sacrificed to do that yeah and so now you know it’s really tough because I went on to get a lot of

3:03you know Awards and recognition and I’m here today instead of her for sure wi it very well should have been her you know

3:09for the first few years of the business so I’m so grateful for her because you’re right she is the she is the rock

3:16behind every great entrepreneur is like an amazing an even better spouse and that’s very true for me yeah I I would

3:22totally agree my my wife is also stay atome mom but she’s also I’ve uh kind of

3:27I feel like I’ve injected some of my aun entrepreneurial at least blood for the

3:32most part into her and she’s like yeah I feel the same way she’s got her own business and runs her own things but it

3:39takes uh a really core strong spouse yeah especially with like a bootstrapped

3:46like CEO or a bootstrapped you know founder like it takes really solid

3:52support how how do you feel like your relationship has maybe changed over time was it difficult at the beginning talk

3:58to me about that I mean there’s ‘s a lot of focus on like you know bootstrapping or raising money when you bootstrap it means you operate your business in a

4:05certain way yep when you bootstrap it also means you operate your family in a certain way and as much as it affects

4:10your business it also affects your family yeah for us our our relationship has always been the most important thing

4:16and the strongest thing to be honest like whatever taff’s success was my My

4:21marriage’s Success is much greater than Taff success I love that so we we’ve been fortunate that through the ups and

4:27downs uh we always stti true to the fact that that’s the most important thing

4:32money will come and go business will come and go shoes I mean shoes come and go and it would be

4:38so silly to put something as dumb as shoes ahead of you know yeah important things like my marriage and my parenting

4:46so thankfully we’ve come out of Taft in the best you know the best position we could have and our marriages as strong

4:53as ever and I feel like I am a a good dad that’s trying to be a great dad you know yeah that’s amazing and now you

4:59have the time like you’ve probably been giv back a lot more time yeah I’m like

5:04really all of my all of my New Year’s goals you know today’s early early January and all of my New Year’s goals

5:09are really centered around parenting yeah that’s amazing a nicer dad Kinder

5:14dad more patient more kind you know like that’s what’s important to me right now I love that so and so talk to me about

5:21the exit of Taft I I think I was really humbled by your and I think you probably

5:29have maybe gotten messages like this humbled and also sad but also so excited for you too like probably a mixed bag of

5:35all the things when you post on LinkedIn and said you know I you know we’ve we’ve exited we’re we’re we’re done with the

5:42with brandeds we’re moving on and but you had said like it was time yeah you know and that like so like struck a

5:49chord in me especially because Shane and I running scroll we’ve fielded several

5:54offers um entertained offers for a buyout in the last probably like six months

6:00and but your post and Shane will probably hate me for this but your post literally changed my mind and said like

6:07I am I don’t feel that way and I want to feel that way when we exit like I want

6:12to feel like okay it’s like it’s time I’m done I’m ready so talk to me about

6:17that because that’s a that’s a huge deal to exit a business so we sold it in uh

6:22July 2022 yeah so I had stayed there a little over a year with the new private

6:28Equity owners um kind of helping with the transition but also trying to be strategic about it because I realized

6:34that I was important to Taft yeah and so I wanted to be able to say hey I’m stepping away and when people came back

6:41you know why and what it’s never going to be the same it’s like well I already did this for the last 15 months and you

6:47didn’t even notice yep exactly so it’s possible um but yeah you know my wife

6:52and I we lost our son uh so we have four children three alive and we lost our son

6:59uh about a month before we closed on the deal shortly after and so you can imagine like how done I was with shoes

7:08after that happens like things like money and Sho and

7:14business like who cares yeah but um I think to to to kind of relate it to your

7:20situation I think it is really important to feel that way because you don’t want to leave wondering like what if you know

7:27if you stayed longer would have happened did I sell too early did I sell too late

7:33and and burnout you know I was just like so tired of dealing with the same

7:38problems same questions it felt like I was on this H never ending Loop of the

7:44same stuff over and over and over and little things would irritate me so much yeah and that’s when I

7:51realized like okay when this is like when I’m losing my losing my mind over something as simple as that yeah I’m

7:58probably a little bit tired of this yeah and so that’s what ultimately kind of helped me go down that path cuz I could

8:05have stayed forever yeah but I I didn’t want to do shoes forever that’s I I have more important things to do in my

8:11opinion I didn’t really you know I not that I’m a victim but I I didn’t really choose shoes I didn’t like super

8:18proactively intentionally get into that it kind of just like happened and all sudden out of socks totally out I never

8:25intended to do that and so I think that you know was nice to move on because there’s more important things in my life

8:32than that and now I can kind of pursue them yeah and that’s amazing and I think hopefully you know exits allow Founders

8:39to to do that to have you know do what you want you know it’s it’s like it lets

8:44you have a little bit more freedom around your decision making for sure so what like what’s I mean we can talk I I

8:51would love to go back and talk a little bit more about Taft too like what what

8:56led you guys to do it in the way you did it you built you built publicly I know you had a lot of like early customer

9:03experiences that kind of shaped the brand and shaped the way you went to Market talk to me just a little bit

9:08about that I mean so we like you you said we we started with no- show socks we were solving a problem that I was

9:14having I hated when my socks slipped I wanted that like no show sock look but I

9:19hated like the thin stuff slipping off I’d take my shoes off and be kind of embarrassed I’d like soak through them

9:26with my feet sweat it was like just a bad experience

9:32and then all sudden we were like to Market socks that you can’t see

9:38and so I was like let’s pair them with shoes so we were buying up you know all these shoes we could find at nor shamra

9:44and all you know wherever and then quickly we people thought we were a shoe company and so it was like well socks

9:51are $10 a pair and these shoes could be you know $200 a pair and so we jumped we

9:57we transitioned to shoes and and um you jumped right into the premium price point too I mean yeah now they’re more

10:04expensive than they were cuz at the time I didn’t know anything about anything really and so we we launched and the the

10:10shoes were $189 yeah um and now they’re like $275 295 315 like they’re much more

10:17expensive so I didn’t really know but yeah we jumped into expensive I I thought that we we had this decision

10:24like we sampled in China yeah and we got the samples and they were fine and we then we sampled in Spain and we opted to

10:30go with obviously producing in Europe because we thought that it’s easier to

10:36Market you know a product made in Spain because if I say made in Spain there’s these things that you automatically

10:42assume about quality yep the the factory workplace and you documented this pretty

10:48public like I mean you you went to the factories you like filmed all the process you were very active in talking

10:53about hey guys I’m going to I’m going to Europe D at the time it was kind of like a little bit more unique to

10:59like a behind the curtain you know typically the factory isn’t shown I’m showing the people I’m introducing you

11:04I’m having conversations with them on camera L seeing their hands make the shoes on the Mach awesome and it was

11:11pretty novel now it’s now those same tactics wouldn’t really hit the same way but at the time people loved seeing like

11:17how their shoes were made at that level of quality yeah for sure no I I I

11:23specifically that’s why I bought the dragon boot at the time that I bought it the dragons are particularly nice yeah

11:28so I mean that’s amazing and and then that Catalyst I know you had mentioned on another podcast about your Reddit

11:34comment and how that kind of really Chang the way you responded to customers and how how did that evolve over time

11:41obviously you didn’t Market the same when you guys started versus you know before your exit right how do what

11:47evolved and what was the Catalyst for that change I think that that Reddit experience was I mean that literally

11:54changed my life that’s the reason I’m sitting here is that Reddit experience um I think that in the early days I

12:01looked at who I was competing with and I tried to kind of look like them we tried to make you know Provo Utah look like

12:08New York City yeah we tried to look bigger than we were and we tried to act bigger than we were

12:15and then what really resonated with our customers was the fact that we were small and it was a husband and wife out

12:20of an apartment and they cared about each customer and we wrote thank you notes to each order and like so rather

12:27than trying to be something we we just leaned into like hey here’s who we honestly are we’re not going to hide

12:33away we’re not going to kind of hide who we are we’re not going to like try to make you think that we’re in New York

12:38City anymore are like let’s just be ourselves yeah and that’s what resonated was just like we are not Nordstrom we

12:46are not Allen Edmonds and that’s exactly why people bought from us yeah and then I think you brought you know of at the

12:53time a very unique design and feel and look obviously on top of everything that

12:58really helped you guys stand out I did not I thought when I started ta I thought the business model was the magic

13:05because at this time it was like greates Jack Irwin these early early shoe and Thursday boots had just done like a

13:11Kickstarter campaign and the the model was the magic it was like this D to C

13:16that cut out the middleman cut out the wholesale margin go straight a better shoe for you know you’ve seen like the

13:23the the infographic of like the two bar graphs you know yeah I thought that was the magic and then all of a sudden

13:31people bought our shoes because of the designs and then all a sudden it was like well crap I’m not a shoe designer

13:36yeah I bet I better fig out I had a couple good ideas I don’t have hundreds of good ideas and so suddenly it was

13:42like what I thought was the magic wasn’t what was special it was the actual

13:47design and that’s what I ended up doing all the way until I left I never let go of that because the design that was the

13:53magic and I felt like I had a unique uh I I was super super tuned into

13:59what the customers wanted and so I just did that forever yeah that’s amazing how like what is what did your ideation

14:05process look like well it wasn’t I documented some of it but yeah but people now people like some brands are

14:12like wanting to hire me as a shoe designer and I’m like that’s amazing did I do it technically yes am I a shoe

14:18designer absolutely not so for me it was literally like I would have an idea and it would be words it would be like

14:24bullet points not sentences quite but just bullet points of like

14:29ideas and then I would take those and dude I would try to draw a little bit but I’m not like an artist I can’t like

14:36you know like I follow a number of great talented shoe designers and like they’re at dinner and they’re like sketching on

14:41on the table at a nice restaurant I can’t even do that mine would look no better than yours to be honest and so it

14:48was really more about words than having yeah and then just working really really

14:54hard on the sourcing because we weren’t Reinventing the shoe if you look at Taft

14:59it’s like Cap Toe Wing tip PL toe Derby like it was just the Staples but we put

15:06unique materials on those Silhouettes yeah and so like the real design is the

15:11people that are making the Fabrics not really what I was doing I was just like puzzle pieing frankensteining like

15:17Silhouettes classic Silhouettes with like stuff I sourced from Europe yeah putting them together so was more like

15:24honestly words and emails than it was like me drawing stuff sometimes it was is cool like I mean it’s just different

15:30way of doing it and like I know you had spoken openly about I can’t remember what the shoe was but it has the chain

15:37the on the front and that was was the Grail that’s right so yeah you’d spoken about the Grail and it was like a big

15:42design risk obviously and it was a risk that more or less didn’t necessarily pay

15:48off didn’t work out right so like compare maybe the risks that don’t pay off to the the rist that have like what

15:54made you decide to go in that direction man I I think early on there’s there’s a boot

16:01called a Troy Boot and ochre ochre is like the color of your jacket kind a little bit lighter and we we had some

16:09friends over and they had we had the samples in our living room and a handful of friends were like I like that one and

16:14so me and my wife thought this is this is the one we need to lean into this one and so we were ordering like a 100 pairs

16:20or 200 pairs maybe at the time we decided to order 600 pairs of that one

16:26like real risk cuz we thought this is this is going to take off yeah and that also didn’t hit yeah and so it was a

16:33good lesson to learn cuz like a few VOC like the vocal minority does not necessarily speak for the people that

16:39are going to buy your shoes and we also learned that it’s really easy for someone to give an opinion when you ask

16:45for it but it’s very different for them to actually pull out their credit card and spend their money on it yes and so

16:52we realize we had to take all the feedback with a big huge lump of salt yeah and realize that you know founder

16:57intuition plus plus customer feedback plus like industry insights all together

17:03can help inform product decisions but like any one of those individually is not going to lead to a good thing and so the Grail shoe honestly that was I made

17:11a sample and I posted on Instagram right before this big award show I was attending and it was like a left or

17:17right I had one Grail shoe on one and like a it was the Jack shoe and Tux in the other which which one which one and

17:23people lost their minds about the gril shoe and so I was like all right this is it this is going to be amazing works

17:28this is my customer feedback and we actually did it and it didn’t hit yeah so I learned some expensive lessons yeah

17:36but you know the Le but that has helped shape the rest the rest of the time from there I think the consistent thing is

17:42that even from the very very beginning when it was shoes in my living room all the way to the end we were always

17:48actively seeking feedback from customers in any setting focus groups Instagram

17:53posts Facebook uh Facebook private messages like we were always looking for

17:59feedback and that is one of the things that made us successful sometimes it steered us wrong yeah but for the most

18:05part that’s why our product was special yeah and that’s I think I mean in the that podcast you did with Mark and

18:11Trevor like that was your number one piece of advice right is listen listen to customer feedback man I think so

18:19important it’s and it’s interesting to know that like it seems so intuitive

18:26like to listen to customer feedback but like me in the agency world like it’s

18:31very rare to find somebody who’s like actively doing that like we have to suggest all the time like that that this

18:38is part of the process it’s built into our process it’s built in to how we go to market with our customers and um but

18:44it’s so unintuitive to people like like and and granted our the audience that we

18:50work with is a little bit different than e-commerce we work with some e-commerce F so we’re getting to that a little bit

18:55more but it’s different but anyways dude I just listened to a a great short from

19:01John Oliver on yeah uh management Consultants okay and I was just thinking

19:06like it’s so insane was this when you’re talking about Mackenzie yes yes yeah I didn’t want to like say we can call out

19:13McKenzie it’s fine I just have a few friends that were there um but when he’s just destroying McKenzie but it made me

19:19think like it’s so insane that we think that outside Consultants that have no

19:27idea about our product our audience our business we rely on them and we pay them

19:32tons of money to to to aird drop into our business and tell us what’s wrong yeah it’s the customers know more than

19:40the consultant and if you spend the time like a great consultant would just talk to all your customers yep and and so I

19:46was just that video made me think like oh my gosh like how insane is it that the we think that these random people

19:52that don’t know anything about our industry our product our audience our history we we rely on them so trustingly

20:01to tell us what to do when in reality our customers have all the answers yeah if you’ll find them where they are and

20:07take and take the time to do so totally it’s way harder than just like an individual in your office for six weeks

20:13yeah but customers have all the answers did you feel like there were times where you were ever relied on Consultants at

20:19Taft or was it always in internal did you always gosh that’s a good question I feel like I’m I feel like there have

20:26been you know I think there’s a examples one is like I get hit up I’m sure you do too like industry insights at the

20:33beginning of the Season like Trends yep those never ever are real like like

20:39they’re doing research and they’re doing some polling to figure out like hey this is the new hot color y Floral in mint

20:45green is like the new hot thing like look at Louis Vuitton did it in this one dress this is what’s hot season like

20:52that actually in my in my opinion well I think in and especially in fashion means nothing like you you have to lead your

21:00you have to lead your customers there and convince them that that’s what’s next versus like listening to some

21:05random person that’s you know trying to get you to buy an expensive survey that

21:10they did yeah totally so that’s one and then the other thing is when we started getting closer to acquisition you know

21:17we were talking to investment bankers we were talking to you know industry experts and I just found that they were

21:24all wrong I I don’t know that that’s necessarily true I don’t mean to like question anybody and I certainly don’t

21:30want to make myself look like I’m have all the answers or I’m arrogant at all or overconfident but I just felt like

21:36Taff was so unique Taff was so special and almost like broke all the trends and

21:41broke all the rules and it was just its own thing yeah and so a lot of that stuff just didn’t apply yeah it was hard to like put it in a box CU tap was just

21:48weird and different and cool and very unique so talk talk to us about

21:54postacquisition now so you you post acquisition I feel like there’s there’s

21:59definitely probably a sigh of relief it came at a very I think hard and

22:04interesting time in your family’s life with the loss of your son and um I just

22:11feel like like just talk us through the emotions of that a little bit because like I I can imagine exiting probably

22:17with a life-changing amount of money I won’t ask what what it was but like I assume it was a significant amount of money that’s lifechanging at the same

22:23time loss of your son right um I knew I was going to work there

22:31afterward yeah and so I had this experience where for 15

22:37months I was publicly the founder no one knew about the exit Y and so publicly

22:44everything was the same internally everything was very very different and where I went from you know

22:52having full autonomous decision-making power to suddenly having bosses and

22:57having kpis yeah and all these things and in a brand like Taft that doesn’t really work yeah where

23:05I’m so important I’m a critical piece and so publicly no one knew about the acquisition and no one certainly knew

23:11about change in structure and and ownership and so I was being relied on to publicly go make these videos and

23:19talk as the founder which I will always be the founder but I will not always be be the leader there and so it you know

23:26you see an acquisition situations where there’s like an aqua hire key people stay on yeah it usually doesn’t work out

23:33for a long time you know 3 months 6 months 12 months maybe the culture the culture shifted it’s tough and uh we

23:41were lucky to have something really really special like Taft was magic Taft

23:47was was family we we loved each other I had them in my home as often as I could

23:54I would be happy to go to lunch with anyone individual like every was a rockar and suddenly you know that just

24:03wasn’t the case anymore um my you know a lot of people got let go a lot of people

24:09left and all a sudden I found myself feeling a little bit stuck in a situation where I didn’t have the power

24:15yet I was still looked at publicly as the guy and then behind closed doors I just wasn’t the guy anymore and so it

24:21was really tough I think that I’ve equated it like you know to my wife it’s kind of like having a child and then hiring a babysitter and

24:30then watching that babysitter parent your child like in perpetuity yeah it just doesn’t work like they don’t know

24:36your baby like you do you know all the little tricks and tips and quirks and and and things and and so you know

24:43eventually I you know I stuck around as long as I could but I knew that it was it was the right time that a lot of

24:49things had happened behind closed doors that were unexpected and and weren’t you

24:54know just were so unexpected yeah uh to no one’s fault fault yeah but it was time for me to I just again back to our

25:01earlier question I just felt like so over it and every every day was kind of

25:06agonizing I woke up just dreading work yeah and that’s just not a place to be life is way too short yeah life is way

25:13too short for that stuff and you’ve been you’ve been so open about like your mental health even before all the

25:20acquisition stuff right yeah it’s always been a part of the brand yeah it’s always been a a part and and tied into

25:25the brand you feel like that’s you feel like it’s benefited I at least I I feel like it’s benefited you feel like it’s benefited the brand you feel like it’s

25:31benefited you I mean I we decided early on because we dude we went from like

25:36zero followers on Instagram to like three 400,000 really fast and so I

25:41realized and this is kind of pre all the iOS changes and like when you could you had followers and you

25:47could access those followers yeah you didn’t have to pay to get in front of them and so we had hundreds of thousands of people that we could access and it

25:53was like yeah let’s sell them shoes but also let’s do something way more important like let’s talk about mental

25:59health let’s talk about you know honestly about life and things and so we

26:04decided that we were going to make content I mean I would make videos telling my story and like yeah totally

26:10and it’s really odd on a shoe company’s page right like I don’t know of any other shoe company that does that kind of thing but that’s why people thought

26:16Taff was special yeah um I think the business benefited recently I heard

26:22someone say that uh shoes have nothing to do with mental health and I couldn’t

26:28disagree More Everything has something to do with mental health and it doesn’t matter what product you sell like I

26:33could make it about mental health yep um so I think the business benefited I

26:39think I’ve benefited in that there’s thousands and thousands of people that hold me accountable yeah you

26:45know it’s almost like it’s almost like it really is it’s very cathartic and helpful for me to know that there’s people that that are aware of my

26:52situation yeah and give me Grace when I need it give me patience and space

26:58when I’m slow to reply to emails when I’m not picking up calls like if people didn’t know they’d jump to judgment now

27:04that they do know the whole my whole circle knows and so I’m given the the

27:10the space and the support that I need and so people people love to say it’s so brave it’s so helpful it’s like well

27:16it’s no more Brave and no more helpful to anyone else ex than it is for me helps me the most yeah and so it’s not

27:25completely selfless it really helps me a lot and it it fortunately benefit the business in some ways too well yeah and

27:31you’ve you’ve been I think more than open on LinkedIn about everything that you’ve been through with yourself with

27:38your family um going through and kind of like looking back what what was the The

27:46Catalyst for you to start working on your own mental health so I know you had like you had

27:53your you had the I don’t want to say this is the Catalyst to start working on Mental Health but like you had your your vir viral LinkedIn Post Yeah right where

28:00you you talked very openly about your entrepreneur of the Year award and then the next day checking yourself into the

28:06the hospital yeah right I mean I have I remember growing up um I’d go to therapy

28:13and Psychiatry appointments at UCLA that was a a great they were kind of you know

28:19I was like 14 15 and my mom would drive me there um and so I’ve been working on it for a long time unfortunately not

28:25really making any progress and I think that as I’ve now gotten married I now have four children like the stakes are

28:34higher yes and if if if catastrophe were to happen it affects more people now

28:41than it than it ever would have before yeah and so I do feel this pressure to like desperately try to make progress

28:48somehow yeah and you know talking about it is one little thing that I’ve done I’ve

28:55explored if there is a treat for depression I have tried it yeah you’ve been open about even your ketamine I’ve

29:02spent treatments right any money I made from Taft I’ve spent most of it on on crazy exploratory treatments for mental

29:10health stuff um and so for me it’s really

29:15about I need to be there for my wife you know she has lost a child yeah um losing

29:22a child and a husband would be devastating would

29:29I need to be there for my children because they lost a little brother

29:34um so I mean dude like it’s weird because I speak so openly about it yeah

29:41and I’m like an advocate or whatever you want to call it like I I don’t mean to scoff at that but no but it’s like I see

29:47like over the last few weeks I’ve seen like mental health Advocate Advocate it’s like what does that even mean like

29:53I’m just talking about my I’m and the the weird thing about this is is like you know like I don’t know how to do

30:00your job but once you know how to do your job you could teach it yeah and you

30:05know like someone that’s advocating for cancer typically they’ve like beaten it

30:10right like I am in the middle of this I am no better or more progressed than any

30:18other person I’m trying to help and so it’s kind of weird because I’m like I am actively struggling and in the trenches

30:25with everyone that’s resonating with my content so I just want to be really clear that

30:30like I don’t have this figured out I’m not I haven’t beaten it I’m not Beyond it I’m I’m hopefully making a little bit

30:37of progress um some days I feel that some days I feel like I’m taking steps backwards um but it’s real but you’re

30:45but you’re real about it and I think like I think I mean I do feel like even though you

30:52maybe don’t feel like you’re an advocate I feel like you don’t have to beat it to

30:57be it if that makes sense yeah you know what I mean and I I’m sure you get told this all the time but it’s like the the

31:03documentation process and your risk and your uh your ability to communicate what

31:11you’re going through I think will save way more lives by you not doing it yeah

31:18I think like my feeble imperfect attempts to at least try are more

31:24helpful than not doing anything but at times I do Wonder like what does this do

31:30yeah you know like I it it resonates yeah and people are like thank you thank

31:35you thank you but I just can’t help but feel like what does it help for me to tell people that I’m depressed yeah but

31:43clearly it helps people but I don’t know that wouldn’t really help me but some people are helped by me sharing my story

31:50and being honest about the fact that I am I’m with you I’m arm in- arm in the

31:55fight versus sort of leader trying to pull you up out of it cuz I’m down there with you you know and I just sometimes I

32:01feel like kind of impostor syndrome about it because people are like you know I’ve like kind of gained a little

32:07bit of following or or influence in the space but struggling yeah you know and

32:15typically you’d think that some super thought leader and super smart guy a doctor a therapist like I don’t have any

32:21of the qualifications to talk about it and yet people turn to me for help and I’m like I’m trying to help myself I

32:27don’t really know but at the same time I am an expert you know I’ve learned I’m not qualified to give official advice

32:33and counsel but like I know everything about this and yeah I can’t help and I

32:38try to do that by tell share your personal yeah share your personal experiences man and I think like yeah it’s it’s definitely it’s affected to me

32:45and I I don’t particularly and haven’t ever struggled with depression but mental health you know definitely runs

32:53in my family and I’ve seen the effects of it firsthand and it’s it’s not something that it is a journey of a

32:58lifetime yeah it’s I don’t think it’s something that is it’s not something that heals like fully you know it’s just

33:05something that I think like you you work on and it’s something that you take every single day yeah do you remember

33:11the I don’t really see it anymore but do you remember the game Temple Run oh yeah totally yeah okay so you know how you could like go forever and one little

33:17hiccup and like the monster thing get that’s how I feel it’s like this is the Journey of a lifetime I am on my Temple

33:23Run and I if I’m if I miss my work out or I if I don’t go to sleep on time or

33:29like one little stumble and I’m consumed and so I just feel like it’s a lifetime of just staying one step ahead of this

33:36Darkness you know it’s a long journey it’s a marathon is there anything that you’re doing now that you didn’t do

33:44prior that you feel like is is is helpful like any any practices that

33:49you’re putting into place I think you haven’t before over the last while I’ve really really really focused on sleep

33:56yeah um um I think that sleep and hormones and nutrition are kind of like

34:02the basics of Life yeah like we we sleep whenever we want we wake up irregularly

34:08we eat whatever is in front of us um our hormones are not checked you know they

34:14don’t get regularly checked on blood work like how can we expect our bodies to

34:20function well when we’re not like I drove a diesel I drove a diesel vehicle

34:26here yeah if I put normal gas in that car it’s not gonna work it wouldn’t work right like engine’s gonna seize up the

34:31engine’s gonna seize like our bodies have these needs and yet we turn to

34:37medications and all these crazy things and it’s like well I I’m kind of back to

34:43I’ve gone all over and I’m kind of back to the basics right now focusing on sleep hormones diet exercise sunlight um

34:52just kind of the more basics of humanity right now and I’m trying to really dial those things in and I found out that I have sleep apnea which I’m really

34:59working on treating um so I’ve tried a lot of things and I feel

35:04like right now honing in and and dialing in the basics are going to be kind of

35:10like reset your foundation like no matter what medication you take like no pill is going to overcome bad sleep bad

35:15diet lack of exercise lack of sunlight lack of communication and connection with people so I’m focusing on those

35:21things before I start turning to the more creative things yeah don’t totally it just resets your foundation especially post

35:27and hopefully the post hopefully the post exit I think is a a big weight off

35:32of your I’m bringing all this stuff up I thought it I thought it would more I

35:38thought it would more to be honest I maybe it will over the next year yeah like that’s ebbing and flowing depending on how I’m doing but I think that you

35:45know people people always say money doesn’t buy happiness and I do I do agree with that

35:52in some ways yeah um but money definitely gives you access and the

35:58ability to do really cool things gives you time gives you time it gives you

36:03Freedom it gives you the ability to like pursue hobbies and interests yeah like I think a lot of the world I mean almost

36:11all of the world does what they have to do yeah and I’m fortunate to be in a

36:16position where I do what I need to do and it’s a subtle difference but in in

36:23my situation especially regarding my kind of suicidal idea and my mental health struggles um it’s a real blessing

36:31to be able to focus on to have those yeah yeah because I look at my parents I look at my friends um I look at other

36:37people that are struggling and they can’t really hop off of that treadmill you know like yeah this exit and this

36:44departure from Taft has allowed me to like okay I I need to do some things here yeah and I’m not bound to this job

36:52or this routine or this schedule I need to do what my body and my mind need right now and and so I’m so grateful for

36:59for all of it because um I’m learning a lot of things about myself and I’m

37:05hopefully on a path to some progress and feeling a little bit better yeah I’m excited for you man I think this this

37:11probably the best thing that ever happened to you at least at this point in your life yeah I I think it’s yeah I

37:16think it’s pretty lucky yeah that’s awesome what what’s on the horizon for you in the next year obviously a lot of

37:23RNR a lot of self-work work with family time with your children yeah I mean uh

37:31I’ve tried to take it slow you know I when when news kind of first came out um

37:37there was some inbound interest and like hey let’s do this do that and I I was like whoa whoa whoa likeo much I need to

37:43I don’t even know who I am anymore like I need to step back and kind of figure out what’s going on um my wife is is is

37:49working on something pretty cool I’m excited for her um is she going to get a chance to get back into a little bit

37:56she’s working on protein popsicles cool um and she’s metimes 10 she’s just incredible

38:02and so I’m so excited for her on that I’m working on something with with my best friend um so I’m really excited

38:09about that yeah so there’s this good there’s good things happening um but at the root of it is like I’m trying to be a better dad and a better husband and

38:15take care of myself and pursue these you know my wife’s doing that I’m doing this thing I’m excited about so I don’t know

38:21the future is still unfolding and it’s still progressing and I don’t really know what it’s going to materialize to but in the meantime I’m just focused on

38:28trying to get a little bit healthier I love that and and also tackle your flight anxiety

38:34too literally yeah talk to me about this oh my gosh I mean even talking about it

38:39my heart I’m sorry no no it’s all good it’s it’s really good like I listen I I I listened to a a podcast like a flight

38:46anxiety meditation this morning yeah um see I’m s of breath CU but I uh on the way here I kind of

38:54like drove by the airport you know even just even driving by even seeing the

38:59signs is like a little much it’s hard for me so and it’s weird because I’ve flown all over the world yeah but over

39:05the last like five six years it’s just got it’s turned into like I can’t even go to delta.com yeah but I drove by the

39:11airport and I kind of like pretended like oh yeah I’m just on my way to the airport I’d turn off here loop around i’

39:17go out west go to the airport um so I’m working on it I booked flights I had a a

39:24bunch of Delta Credit expiring on New Year’s Eve yeah and you decided to document it on Instagram yep I made a

39:29video uh I have this little account um and I was like forget 10,000 followers I’m just going to do this I’m gonna send

39:35it um so uh on Monday in four days I fly

39:40to Phoenix so are you ready no no no no I am very uncomfortable about it but like

39:47I just like I really have you watched Chris Hemsworth’s um Limitless on Disney plus such a good dude that’s why I

39:53booked it that’s why I booked it I watched the first episode and I’m like I doing this like it’s just

40:00I used to be able to fly and now I can’t and nothing has changed about my body yeah it’s like all in my mind just in my

40:07mind and like it’s time that I just like take control of something in my life yes so I’m going for it good for you man I’m

40:13so nervous I’ve tried to be really public about it because I feel like if no one knew I probably would not get on

40:20that plane but now everyone’s like texting me like hey I’m in Phoenix I’m in Phoenix come see me or whatever it’s

40:25like there’s a bunch of people yeah on Monday I’m text you Monday morning all right do it yeah I’m hoping like a lot

40:30of people are amped and hyped up cuz I’m I’m really nervous and I think it’s going to be uh really hard to get on

40:37that plane but are you going by yourself yeah yeah cuz feel like you need to do

40:43it by yourself I just need to do this and I don’t want any distraction I actually really want to confront it

40:49without someone like hey how are you doing how you doing it’s like let me just let me own it in my mind do this I

40:54need to battle this on my own yeah let me let me do this so decided to go by myself good well I’m excited for you I’m

41:02so nervous I know I’m sure you are but I’m excited and excited for what’s to come in the New Year like I think that’s

41:10what every founder probably wants eventually is is that time and now

41:15granted you can’t not necessarily you’re getting more time times finite you’re just getting back the time that you had

41:22devoted otherwise right you know I think that’s the one thing that’s like when doesn’t necessarily buy actual time but

41:28it does buy back yeah and it it just it just gives you autonomy to decide how you spend your time yep like for me like

41:35I wake up every day at 5:30 and I go to the gym for longer than most people go to the gym probably yeah and I couldn’t

41:43do that if I were like working at the post office yeah like I can’t yeah you I

41:50can’t take my kids to school if I have to be in Salt Lake at 9:00 a.m. like it’s just these things that it doesn’t

41:55buy me more time it doesn’t bu happiness but it lets me control how I spend my time and that’s been like a massive

42:02blessing for me right now yeah good I’m so glad do you feel like you’re going to spend any more of that time on your on

42:07your house you’ve done some you’ve done some fun things in the house haven’t you yeah yeah yeah two full years of stuff

42:13of Renovations yeah um I love working my my hands I like I’m uh like I built our

42:19scroll sign I’m actually a finished Carpenter I was going to say a guy that wears that jacket knows a thing or two

42:25around like a tool um so I I love working on my hands for me it’s gardening okay I’m not super

42:33handy okay but man my yard I do love so

42:38like my roses my rose bushes my peonies like there are some things I’m

42:45obsessed with so like spring I can’t wait cuz all a sudden like the world turns on again yeah yeah and I’m excited

42:53for that so when spring RS around that’s where I’ll be for sure for you well I’ll definitely text you cuz my my wife and I

42:59love our garden as well I grew up in a family that had a very large garden I

43:04was just always taught to you know we we work hard we work with our hands like that’s even though my it’s kind of funny

43:10I say that because my dad my both my parents are in the medical field which is definitely working with hands too but working outside and being getting dirty

43:17is like really important um and so we’ve taken like our own garden space we have

43:22a pretty lucky enough to have a pretty corner l in a culde sack which is nice

43:27cuz you have this big wide open space have kind of shaped like that yeah it’s like shaped like that and then we have

43:33this big Corner in the back and so we moved into this house like two years ago it’s been so fun building this Garden in

43:40the yard it’s awesome like having to do all the spr like sprinklers myself put

43:46in the drip lines myself and see I don’t know how to do that yeah but F seeds but yeah yeah someone else did the sprinkl

43:53but but that stuff’s fun and and the planting and watching in all of that come to life is so amazing it’s amazing

44:00it’s super cool especially for like for what is considered like such a little honestly like a little investment in

44:05terms of like buying seeds like are it’s not that expensive it’s like sunlight free exactly seeds are a couple bucks in

44:12the water you know find excess water from cooking or whatever use it you know yeah so it it’s been so fun and we do a

44:18we do kind of a pizza uh we love making homemade pizza so we do kind of a pizza Salsa Salsa

44:24Garden but we’ve mixed in this last year we did flowers throughout the garden and that was so cool that just like brought

44:30everything else to life we have we have a hillside of wild flowers that we’re doing and it’s amazing that’s awesome

44:36and pizza give give me the quick 30 seconds on like what do you what do you cook on what do you do we do an oi we

44:43use we use an uni we’ve done some stuff that’s like o over actual fire but we Ed the gas one cuz it’s just for

44:49convenience so much faster but I love like I love using my trigger we love using the uni but we’ll do like my wife

44:56favorite one that she likes to make have you been to set of bellows in Salt Lake dude everyone tells me about that place

45:01I’ve never been cuz I don’t come with my is Pizzeria 712 I go there all

45:08the time or Pizzeria lemon very very similar but like they have Cabellas has

45:13this I think it’s called the Amelia but it’s a it’s like a white sauce Blackberry basil

45:20uh uh the VIN yeah Vin yeah balsamic vinegrad or like a fig Vin or whatever

45:27and we’ve recreated that and she added corn and added a couple other things and it’s so good fresh mozzarella I just got

45:33a gny dome like oh gny Do’s awes week and a half ago yeah set up I got to use it yeah yeah you got to use it got to

45:40use it and then plant get some good tomatoes in the garden that be crazy like our fresh basil be dream yeah we

45:47planted last year we planted Roma tomatoes and then um we planted two other kinds of tomatoes that were really

45:54that are specific to the nap region of FR of Italy I can’t remember yeah s yeah

46:00that’s right s Maro tomatoes and we made some homemade pizza sauce and all sorts of stuff this last year canned a bunch

46:07of pizza sauce and so awes we’re excited to use it this year that’s cool but yeah guys only guys that wear that jacket can

46:13can man you can’t you can’t you can’t wear that jacket it’s really from my wife it’s really really really from my

46:19wife well Corey like thank you so much for the conversation today like really appreciate it thank you for sharing your

46:25story I I I want you to know at least from myself it is inspiring like I’ve been

46:32inspired by your story um and not only that but just like the way you’ve shared it has been even though you’re

46:39continuing through the struggle sharing that is been moving to me oh thanks man thank you thank you yeah um if people

46:46want to connect with you in the future where should they find you uh my LinkedIn is very very backed up

46:54right now like I have thousands of messages um so uh LinkedIn is great if

47:00you leave a comment or something I’ll definitely see it um and then Instagram Corey Stevens Corey with a k k r y um

47:06I’m on I’m on Instagram a lot and on I won’t give out my phone number but like I’m very accessible I’m not hard to

47:12reach so I’m not like a famous person or something like you have my phone number you can find me yeah yeah I love it well

47:19thank you again for being on today really appreciate yeah thank you dude I’m I’m also a quick quick plug man I’m pumped uh acquisition off

47:26I know you felt like you’re not ready yeah but that’s I mean good things are happening like take it as a huge

47:32compliment cuz your industry is hard and if that’s happening then things are going well so keep it up man that’s

47:38super exciting I love the podcast I love all the content I see from you so congrats and [Music]

47:51keep

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