Don’t let peoples’ feedback discourage you. My idea was very taboo and out of the box. I had many friends make fun of the idea and how it wasn’t going to make any money. Now that we are profitable, happy customers as well as sellers, I get the last laugh.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Nielson.
Patrick Nielson is the founder of FeetFinder, the safest leading online marketplace for feet pictures, developed with its own payment service and integrated security infrastructure to protect buyers and sellers alike. A graduate of Drexel University, Nielson came up with the idea for the site in 2019 after discovering a need for a safe and secure place to buy and sell dedicated content. By 2020, he began to develop the site which now hosts 160,000+ active verified users.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to start my own business. I always enjoyed thinking of unique ideas and had so much fun bringing them to life. In 4th grade, I started a “business” where I sold colored pencils by using a scissor to shed off the yellow coloring and then drew cool designs and sold them to classmates. It wasn’t about the money, but rather just for fun. My father was an entrepreneur and while he worked 16-hour days sometimes, he always moved his schedule around so he could be with family and never miss any time together. That made me realize the freedom business owners have and I wanted to work hard to ensure when I had a family, I never had to miss moments with them for work.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The hardest part of creating FeetFinder was getting people to understand my vision. When I told people the idea they would often laugh and while it was certainly an out of the box idea, I knew there was a massive market opportunity. I was also creating a business I didn’t use in an industry I had no experience in so I had to surround myself with advisors/mentors in the tech/adult industry to help navigate roadblocks and learn what you can or can’t do. I also had to rely on our large social media following tweeting out features and designs and getting the communities feedback to ensure I was building a product I knew they needed, not assumed they wanted.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
During the first year of FeetFinder I was working 16-hour days every day to grow the company without pay. I was living at home so I had to miss many activities with friends, but it was worth it in the end.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Business is booming. With Covid creating a large work from home economy and people who lost their jobs, FeetFinder allows people to work when and where they want. We have over 180,000 verified users and are growing exponentially month over month. We have so many new features and updates planned for the coming months to ensure the user experience only gets better, safer and easier! I am happy I worked essentially non-stop for a year so that now things are opening our business is in a much better position and I can be more flexible on where and when I work.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I went to my first virtual conference since Covid didn’t allow for in-person meet ups. The convention had many adult performers alongside with businesspeople. There was a speed networking event and it wasn’t until about 4 interviews in I realized I was in the adult performer section, not the business section. One of the performers finally asked if I was in the right section which I then realized I was not. Instead of being awkward I made sure to get her info and had her give feedback on a performers/user point of view to improve the current FeetFinder site.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think the idea itself makes us stand out. Any time I mention FeetFinder to someone I get a laugh or a shocked face followed up by “is that an actual thing?” to which I reply yes. Not only is it real, but it is very successful. I think most people don’t realize they can make money off their feet and are surprised when they realize there is an entire website built for it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I got lucky, since I am very passionate about starting companies, I view it more as fun and less as work. If you find something you are passionate about it will never feel like work. Hire people who make work even more fun and know your own strengths and weaknesses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
First and foremost, the cliche answer is my parents since they allowed me, the recent college grad, to pursue the business while living at home and not paying rent which allowed me to reinvest all my money back into the company to let it grow.
As well as my parents, my mentor, Austin Fiascone, has been helpful in the growth of FeetFinder. Austin is an expert in the industry and has introduced me to copious amounts of people. If I ever have a question about business or the adult industry, he gets me what I need in minutes. I could not be more grateful for his help. I met him at the Xbiz convention, which I was debating even attending as it was far outside my comfort zone. He introduced himself and from there has been an amazing mentor.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe FeetFinder as a whole does good for all its users as we provide a way for people struggling financially or who lost their jobs a way to make money online, in a safe and secure environment. We also allow customers a place to feel accepted and not judged with all our models being super inclusive and ensuring the foot lovers feel welcome. We also have plans for a nonprofit launching next year where we donate socks to homeless shelters.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- This will be a lot more work than you think. When I first started, I assumed I’d just make an app, use PayPal, and have people buy and sell feet pics. I quickly learned there are many regulations that needed to be followed to be compliant.
- Kiss your social life goodbye, but only for a little while. I expected this going in but starting my business I had no money and wasn’t going to be making any anytime soon. This would have better prepared me for the long nights and early morning it required to grow FeetFinder.
- Don’t let peoples’ feedback discourage you. My idea was very taboo and out of the box. I had many friends make fun of the idea and how it wasn’t going to make any money. Now that we are profitable, happy customers as well as sellers, I get the last laugh.
- Go to as many networking events as possible. Connections are incredibly valuable in business and putting myself outside of my comfort zone allowed me to meet people I previously would not have.
- The A-team is more important than the idea itself. Currently, I have an amazing team of developers and customer support staff who are all passionate and love the business. Having them passionate allows them to work without feeling like they’re working. Take your time and find the right people.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Being a Founder certainly has its highs and lows. The hardest part is separating the business from personal life. I can never get away from work as there is always something to be done or ideas I’m thinking about and therefore it’s hard to enjoy free time. I walk my dog daily for about an hour and don’t look at my phone to try and physically disconnect from the business. This helps me clear my mind especially on rough days. I also try to go to the gym to take my mind off work. Low days can be brutal, but I get through them knowing they are temporary.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!