Download NowAn inspirational leader and successful serial entrepreneur, Tyler Copenhaver-Heath has made a career of understanding business and its owners’ unique needs.
Tyler learned to depend on himself to find success by coming from a welfare kid to a successful entrepreneur from a young age. His interest in rebuilding classic cars led to his first startup, Apex Customs, which is now a multi-million dollar company with a nationally-recognised brand and a long list of fortune 500 company clients.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, an MBA from Arizona State University, and several certifications in data analytics and digital marketing.
Though he enthusiastically works 80 hours a week, Tyler always makes time for exercise, leading to his involvement as an international MMA travel coach. He’s also passionate about giving back, including being Sub-Committee Leader for the City of Phoenix Economic and Business Development, a volunteer at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, and a volunteer at Maricopa Animal Shelter.
Tyler is especially enthusiastic about small business solutions and enjoys paying it forward with his win/win philosophy. His current passions have pivoted him into the tech world, working on a startup, Glaive – a complete business ecosystem and protector for would-be entrepreneurs. He also shares his years of hard lessons learned through his personal blog Tyleruriah.com.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Tyler to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
I would love to say that I sold candy bars or had a lemonade stand as a small kid like many of my entrepreneurial idols. But truth be told, I didn’t know that a poor kid like me could even be a businessman. I thought that was for people of a different caliber. My sights early on would be making money through employment. At 13, I had my first job, and this would continue a cycle of work and school in tandem for most of my life.
I was daring enough to have sideline hassles. One of which was restoring and flipping classic cars in my backyard. Later I would receive a letter from the city that would push me into the uncomfortable entrepreneurial world.
How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?
One of my favorite speeches is Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford students. He talks about how the seemingly unrelated experiences in life led to Apple. Little did I know my life had perfectly prepared me for being an entrepreneur.
1. I grew up with no money, so I knew the value of a dollar and how to stretch it. I never knew how much value this brought to a business.
2. I had a work ethic from my years of working full time while in college, and 90+ hours weeks seemed normal.
3. My degree in biochemistry allowed me to have a scientific approach to the way the world works. It would later lead to the ideas behind many of my businesses.
4. My years in car sales would give me invaluable sales skills and the high impact of customer service. There is nothing harder to sell than vehicles. People come in hating you; it’s the one item on the planet we brag about how little we pay for it. Being a customer service-oriented and highly moral person allowed me to thrive in this environment and brought it to all my businesses.
5. Over the years, I had put out 100s of resumes with no responses. This taught me I had to create my own opportunities in life.
6. Getting my MBA allowed me to explore my education further. I gained it after years of being in business. I never understood bragging about dropping out of college; I value any sort of education or experience. I am consistently curious about everything and a lifelong learner.
7. Working service jobs at fancy places taught me the wealthy and successful are no different than anyone else. The only difference is they grew up seeing their cousin becoming a lawyer or their brother a business owner. They know the normalcy of these people firsthand and think I can do this too. It’s a mindset that has to be changed if you’re not used to being around success.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
It starts to feel empty after you get past the money and perks of being in business. The world tells you if I could only acquire these items, I would be happy. My businesses have been very first-world-focused. I have struggled with this. To the point, I didn’t know if this life was for me. I met with a friend; he told me, ‘Tyler, you can’t make a difference in the world by holding a sign on a street corner that says change the world. You need to do it pulling up to the board room in a Lamborghini.’ I am driven towards success for the resources it gives me to change what I am passionate about.
I also believe by assisting other entrepreneurs; I bring them the same resources creating the ultimate collateral impact to a positive world.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.
I have no quit in me. I believe businesses fail because people give up before the business does.
What were your top three motivations for starting your first business?
– Paying for further education.
– Lack of opportunities.
– The city forcing me to close my side hustle.
What do you put your success down to?
I am willing to be more uncomfortable, give up more, and work longer hours than most people would dare.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
First, explore yourself. What are your life goals and passions? Cross-check this against the business you hope to start. Your passions and life missions must align with your business. Or be bringing you the resources to pursue them.
Second, explore your strengths. Think of it like this. You have a table full of weapons – which ones are you good with? If the ax is worth ethic, and the sword is industry knowledge, etc., which ones can you wield successfully? Use these strengths.
Third, have a great plan and realize it’s going to be 100x harder than you thought it would be.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business, and how did you overcome them?
I have so many. I started a business with $4k in an industry by multimillionaire-backed companies. I lived in a rat-infested warehouse with no hot water and a hot plate for a kitchen. My business went through fires, robberies, lawsuits, and more. It is not a stretch to say I would have been on the streets if I had failed.
The only thing you can choose is who you’re going to be each day. Keep optimism in the sight of despair and make it prideful to outwork everyone and everything.
Does the loneliness of the entrepreneur really exist?
Yes, I thought this was a common misconception of being an entrepreneur. I gave up everything to start my business. Who’s going to date a guy living in a rat-infested warehouse who works 90+ hours a week. You lose friends, forget about dating, and your business becomes your life.
I realized how my life was like a monk. Up at 3 am, find a workout, work at five until you can’t keep your eyes open, and do it the next day again with a smile on your face. You’ll miss weddings, birthdays, and events.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
Lead by example. I thought it was important that I took a turn in our rotation of cleaning the shop bathroom. One day I overheard a story. We had a new electrician who didn’t want to sweep the floors; he said it was beneath him. The upholstery manager said if the boss can clean the bathroom, you can sweep the floor.
Involve your people in the business’ mission and have a good one. People will work for a business. They will have passion for a mission.
Find the balance between the balcony and the field. Oversee the business, sure, but don’t put yourself in a lofty enough position where your people can’t talk to you. Don’t be afraid to stop and do the business’ worst job with your lowest level employee. There is no better way to develop camaraderie than by doing some work together.
Eat last. You are the leader, so you must give up more and fill your plate last.
What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?
Small businesses are dying. Statistically, it’s in a state of decline all over the world. I’ve made it my new life’s mission to be a champion for small businesses. I believe small businesses are the cure for some of the world’s most complex problems. I want to see it, and opportunities grow.
I’m tired of the bullies of the world taking advantage of the small business people. Someone needs to be out there talking and thinking of the little guys. Keeping big business playing fair and keeping government regulations honest. If we do not do this, then small businesses will definitely not be around in the future.