Inspiration & AdviceLessons Learned: Ted Pappas on His Great Big Ego

Ted Pappas, Founder of Big Bottom Whiskey
Ted Pappas was one of 15 Oregon entrepreneurs to share his story at OEN’s 2014 Entrepreneurial Summit: The School of Hard Knocks.

Ted Pappas, Founder of Big Bottom Whiskey, shares lessons learned the hard way at OEN’s 2014 Entrepreneurial Summit.

All entrepreneurs need a degree of confidence. You can’t start a company without believing in your vision and your ability to carry it out.

But there’s a difference between confidence and ego. Confidence helps you achieve your vision; ego gets in the way. Here’s more from Ted:

I might have a little bit of an ego, maybe. I know, it’s hard to believe. I have a very big truck and that goes along with my ego, because I need something to carry it in.

My first whiskey label, I designed. It came back to haunt me. I’m at a liquor store one day, and like everyone else, I always take my kids into liquor stores to explain the different kinds of booze. So I’m in there with my five-year-old. We’re over there in the Scotch section, and I’m explaining the malting and peat and all that stuff.

Then we go to the bourbon section, and we’re standing there, and I’m starting to critique labels like I always do. And then I said, “Where’s my product?”

She says, “Dad, it’s right there.”

And I said, “Where?”

“Right there!”

“Okay, honey, where?”

She goes and puts her finger on it. Hmmm. Wow. It was right in front of me. I said, “That’s not good.”

I’d been hearing people say to me, “You know, we have a hard time finding your product on the shelf.” Well, I never asked what they meant by that. It wasn’t that my product wasn’t in the liquor store—they couldn’t find it on the shelf. Someone had to go help them get it, like a five-year-old.

(Of course at that moment, which I call the moment of clarity, the minute she put her finger on my bottle, Groucho Marx popped into my head saying, “This is so easy a five-year-old could do it. Quick! Get me a five-year-old!”)

My ego had driven me to not listen to people and not ask the right questions. So being a smart person, I said, “Okay, I suck at this. I’m never going to do this again.” I’m going to hire a designer and I’m going to put my wife in charge of it. Sure enough, they did a great job—our labels pop on the shelf, you can see them from 50 feet away. And that’s what I wanted.

Watch Ted’s full talk for more lessons he learned the hard way:

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