Quitting a Job to Start a Company

How Andrew Cronk Went from Employee to Employer And Never Looked Back

It's tough to work for a big company that stifles creativity. Occasionally, some talented individuals escape from those confines and become entrepreneurial innovators. Andrew Cronk is one such individual, and he shared his thoughts on what it's like to leave a job and go out on your own.

We've been spending some time looking at the transition from being an employee to being an entrepreneur.

We've been spending some time looking at the transition from being an employee to being an entrepreneur.

In this entrepreneurial interview, we connect with Andrew Cronk, who has transitioned from working as an engineer to running Cameesa, a hot startup in Chicago, Illinois.

Andrew, we know startup life is busy, so thanks tons for taking the time to participate in this interview. So, what type of firm were you working at when you left to become an entrepreneur? Why did you leave?

I was working as an embedded software engineer at a major US electronics company. I had been there about two years, straight out of undergrad (Computer Engineering).

There was no downsizing or layoffs. I left on my own.

I chose to leave because the bureaucracy of a massive company was incredibly stifling on creativity. Any new ideas or suggestions to do something a better way were shot down.

There was an incentive to actually spend more money than was necessary so that the department would retain its budget the following year. I realized that a company that isn't constantly innovating and meticulous on reducing spending isn't going to be around that long.

You've got your own company now, right? Tell us about it.

Our company is called Cameesa. We use crowdfunding to connect clothing designers directly with their fans. We produce and sell the items that raise a certain level of financial support. Cameesa is a DBA for our parent corporation, Digital Stampede Inc, and I am the CEO. We currently have two full time employees and two part time employees.

Great concept. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur instead of simply looking for another job?

For me, being an entrepreneur is all about freedom. Freedom to be creative and try new things. Freedom to set your own work hours. Freedom to make yourself.

Money is a part of it, but it mainly allows you to be free. I didn't believe that I was going to find that freedom at any other large company. I also felt that since I didn't have a mortgage or family, now was a great time to strike out and start a company.

Since I had no experience running a startup, I decided to help launch another startup, Local Motors, before striking out on my own. It served as an invaluable bridge between large company and self-run startup.

Did you buy a business or start a business from scratch? Why did you do one instead of the other? Which do you think is the best approach?

We started from scratch. We are more interested in growing a company from the start because culture is paramount and very difficult to change. We have no interest in just "running a business," and are excited about laying the foundation for a great company.

I saw that you were written up in Time Magazine. Seems like you've picked a great niche. How did you decide what kind of business to go into?

In my undergraduate co-op program I worked at a large shipping company. I started programming desktop applications, and later moved onto intranet applications.

I was bitten by the web bug; it made sense to me as a programmer. Therefore, many of my business ideas were web related.

I was also intrigued by the idea of using the web for microfinance. Sites like Kiva and Sellaband were great influencers. In addition I wanted to start a business where I was the target customer.

I'm sure you'd agree that owning a business is very different from working as an employee. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed? What do you miss? What don't you miss?

The biggest difference I've noticed is that there is no manual or directions. There are no precedents; you have to create them.

At first for me, it was a scary proposition because I was always afraid of doing something the wrong way. Eventually I realized that not making any decision is worse than making the wrong decision. You don't learn anything when you make no decision, but when you make a wrong decision you know what not to do next time.

I mostly miss the people from my old job. Oh, and better health benefits!

What advice would you give to somebody who is leaving the life of working for a company to go out on their own?

My advice would be to start today, right now. There is never a perfect time to start a business. "Opportunities multiply as they are seized". That has been my guiding principle.

Anything else you'd care to share with us regarding the transition from working for somebody else to starting a business?

I had the extreme good fortune to help launch Local Motors. An entrepreneurial bridge like that is an ideal way to transition into running your own company.

Also, maintain the startup mentality in your company as long as you can. High costs and low morale kill companies. Startups usually lack both.

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