I’ve enjoyed following Jeff Sheldon’s adventures at Ugmonk for some time now (eight years, how time flies!). When I work with young creatives with a deep desire to pursue their passion, Ugmonk is right at the top of my list of ‘companies we can learn from’.
Like many creatives, Sheldon had a dream, an idea for a creative business that he was passionate about. What differentiates him, and Ugmonk, from many others is the fact that Sheldon distilled that dream down into a clear mission and pursued it with dedication and determination.
(It’s all about: knowing where you want to go, and putting in the hard work to reach that destination.)
Ugmonk’s mission is simple – and eight years later, unchanged – it acts as a clear focus around which Sheldon has built the Ugmonk brand:
Create high-quality, well-designed goods that I would want to buy myself.
Around this mission, Sheldon has built a brand and, just as importantly, a mindset that drives him forward, keeping the story focused and true to his original vision.
True to the spirit of ‘Giving Back’ that lies at the heart of Ugmonk’s story, Sheldon has put together a list of lessons he’s learned along the way. 8 Things I’ve Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk is filled with valuable insights and is well worth reading. (As an educator, I’d go so far as to say it’s Required Reading.)
Sheldon’s eight things are all valuable lessons, but three, in particular, jumped out at me.
“Lesson 1: You can do a lot with a little.” Make the most of what you have and use it to the best of your abilities. You don’t need to be a corporate behemoth to survive and thrive, in fact there’s a lot to be said for occupying the role of the underdog. As Sheldon puts it:
Quality is never a factor of size. It’s about commitment.
“Lesson 3: You don’t need everyone to like what you’re doing.” This is great advice and echoes something I repeatedly stress when I work with young companies.
The world is a big place, there are others like you out there. Stay true to your vision, don’t sell out or compromise, and you’ll find other like-minded individuals that identify with your values gravitate towards you. Sheldon summarises this nicely:
Find your ideal customers, and forget about everyone else.
“Lesson 6: It’s ok to share your ‘secrets’.” I’ve long embraced this philosophy in my teaching, sharing the good stories (success!) and the bad (failure!). The most effective way to help others on their journey is to share what you’ve learned freely. If you’ve learned a lesson – good or bad – share it with others.
It’s all about karma.
There’s nothing worse than seeing someone else – especially someone you’re mentoring – making a mistake you’ve made in the past. There’s no need for history to repeat itself like this, and sharing your ‘secrets’ is one way to help others avoid the myriad pitfalls in life. In Sheldon’s words:
Always choose community over competition.
When we’re in it together – as Sheldon clearly and demonstrably shows – we can all achieve so much more. Everyone has eight lessons in them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone shared what they’d learned along the way?
I’m looking forward to another eight years of Ugmonk (and another eight, and another…). Hats off to Jeff Sheldon for staying true to his word and giving back, if only every other business were so generous.