Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tyrone Hazen, Founder of Puffin Drinkwear, located in Bend, OR, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Puffin Drinkwear is a line of personality-infused apparel for your drink to wear, keeping beverages chill and looking stylish. Puffin Drinkwear silhouettes encourage consumers to get outside or get together with friends and enjoy life's "simple moments." Over the past four years, we had the opportunity to redefine the category and reinvent the "can cooler" genre. We started in the outdoor industry and have now expanded into different categories like travel and leisure and lifestyle, with more to come. Due to this, our customers range from athletes to outdoor adventurers to those that just want to crack open a beer with friends- on the beach or golf course.

Tell us about yourself

I've actually stumbled my way into entrepreneurship. I always had an interest in business and a creative streak with inspiration for product ideas, but I didn't have any particular industry focus to guide my path. I tried crafting a few different products over the years but didn't find any real traction until launching Puffin Drinkwear. My initial idea with Puffin was to simply use it as a proxy to develop a system that I could use for future ideas. I thought that if I had a collection of helpful individuals and services that I had already vetted when my next idea struck, I would be able to run through the startup process quickly. But, in the process of dialing that system in, Puffin took off like a rocket, and I simply hung on for the ride. In my role as Founder, I am motivated to build a great brand and culture, both internally and externally, showing that it's possible to do good while we do well. Using our platform to share the great work that other people and organizations are doing is an exciting prospect. If I can provide a great work environment and career development opportunities for our team at the same time, I'll consider it a big success.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Strong growth during a period of worldwide turbulence is something I look back on with pride. There are definitely some scars from building a business during the pandemic in 2020 that attest to the challenges we faced as a young company (we were just 12 months old when COVID shut the world down). But, I think the experience has strengthened me in ways I'm not yet aware of. We closed our Series A Funding round in December 2022, and for me, that validates what my team accomplished in spite of the headwinds we experienced.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Pressure. It's hard to explain just how much pressure the risk and ambiguity of startup life puts on a business owner. Everything is unknown, but decisions need to be made anyway. Every decision is a balancing act between the multiple tradeoffs being weighed. And the consequences are real- not just for the owner, but for all of the people that depend on the business to keep their lives moving forward. Even in a rapidly growing, sky-is-the-limit stage, there are many sleepless nights.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. No one is going to do it for you. Every time I tried to outsource some task that I had a strong aversion to, somehow, the specific part I didn't want to face was still in my court. I think this is where true personal growth is earned.
  2. Don't ask, "How DO I do this"; ask, "How CAN I do this?" This will allow you to seek multiple options for getting something done instead of looking for "the right" way, which assumes there IS a right way (and there are usually multiple right ways).
  3. Build robust business systems early. Accounting SOPs, Go-To-Market system, Product Roadmap, etc. When you are small, it's easy to think you don't need to define these thoroughly, but when things start to take off, you run out of time to build them properly, and this can be the kiss of death for your business.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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