Q & A with Mike Draper
As we gear up for the 2019 YE Convention, we want to introduce you to our outstanding keynote speakers and get excited about their insight and experience they bring to this year’s convention. This year’s Friday night keynote will feature Mike Draper, founder and owner of RAYGUN. Find out more about his background, best pieces of advice, and what he’s most excited about for this upcoming weekend!
How did the idea for the company you founded come together?
A lot of our ups and downs are in our “About Us” page here (with pictures). though it will also be in my presentation, so, [spoiler alert]: https://www.raygunsite.com/pages/our-story
Essentially, I went to Penn hoping to do something impressive-sounding with my life, got rejected for what I wanted to do, started selling shirts, and here I am!
What is the most important lesson you have learned on your entrepreneurial journey?
It’s not as much about vision as it is about just survival. I’m not sure if I’ve got great foresight or vision, but I’ve just been able to hold on.
You work hard at what you can control, and hope what you can’t control doesn’t sink you. It’s a little like parenting, I guess. You try not to get too judgmental about other companies because it is extremely difficult to keep a business of ANY SIZE afloat, and you never know what others deal with behind the scenes.
What is one book that every young entrepreneur should read?
To be better at business or just to kill time? If you want to read something to take your mind off work, Sarah Vowel has some great books — informative, funny.
A book that has made me run the business better? I just read a book about 80s and 90s California punk called “SMASH”. It kind of made me think differently about “selling out” and art vs. business. As a fan, I always thought The Offspring “sold out” when they left Epitaph Records, but then reading the back story, you, again, realize it’s hard to be judgmental when you see all the things that go into decisions.
What is the best piece of entrepreneurial advice you have every gotten?
When I played in bands in Philly in college, a successful guitarist told me the key to success was to “show up on time and sober.” And, man, that is still true! I’ve shown up on time and sober for 15 years – it gets back to the “take care of what you can control.”
I tell young entrepreneurs to reply to their e-mails, if they’re going to do anything.
What is the primary focus of your presentation at YEC?
My 2 favorite topics: myself and RAYGUN.
I often try and de-mystify it a little bit - show how the company has come together over the years. what I did, what I didn’t do, how it’s survived, and where it could have gone wrong.
What are you most looking forward to at YEC?
Boy, I don’t know. I’ve got 4 kids so I’ll be able to miss bed-time at my house, which is nice. though I’ll have to get up with them at 5 a.m. and make breakfast. Soooooo….
I started a store (instead of being online only) because I like meeting with people, but it’s nice to leave the store, interact, and re-set everything a bit.