ShipMonk CEO Jan Bednar’s inspiring success story
by Jennifer Xue
Jan Bednar, the founder and CEO of ShipMonk, a logistics and fulfillment companies based in Deerfield Beach, Florida, believed that the streets of America were paved with gold. He was determined to prove it, and he was right. This is his inspiring entrepreneurship story.
America is known as the land of opportunities. People from other countries believe that the possibilities are so abundant as if the streets were paved with gold. While it may sound like a fairy tale, every day, we read stories about immigrants who made it big and earned their American Dream.
The story of Jan Bednar, the Founder and CEO of ShipMonk, a logistics and fulfillment company, underscores the strength of the United States as one of the most industrious and entrepreneurial countries in the world. It is also a story of resourcefulness, determination and lifelong learning worth sharing.
Jan Bednar came to Florida for a college education when he was just graduated from high school at 17 in the Czech Republic. In addition to getting a fine education, he also wanted to start a business after obtaining his degree in Management of Information Systems.
When he had just set his footsteps in Florida, he was actually a bit disappointed, as he found out that the streets were not paved with gold. Moreover, the streets were not paved at all, and he was expected to pave them. This, however, didn’t discourage him. It simply needed more focus and tenacity.
How It All Started
In the sophomore year at the Florida Atlantic University, he was asked by a friend in the Czech Republic to buy an Under Armour T-shirt and have it sent to him. Bednar didn’t quite get why, but then he realized that many businesses didn’t ship their products to overseas customers. It was a problem requiring immediate solution. This was an opportunity of millions of dollars; he was convinced.
Recognizing this problem, he started a small online business with a $100 website to help customers who want to buy products sold in the United States, but couldn’t have them shipped to their foreign addresses. He would buy the requested products using his Florida address and ship the items to the overseas customers. The problem is solved.
Getting the Big Break
At that time, he didn’t know how to write a business plan or run a business. He knew that he needed some help, so he attended Florida Atlantic University’s free seminars for young startup founders to help them write business plans. There, he found a mentor, who was a successful business owner and has cashed out on exit. The mentorship program was free.
Bednar was astonished by this “free” experienced mentor, who helped him to write a killer business plan and won the FAU Business Plan Competition (2014) and the Florida Venture Forum Collegiate Competition (2014) where he won the first place in both. Later, he was one of the five selected startups to join the FAU “Tech Runway” Accelerator Program, which is designed to help young entrepreneurs break into and succeed in business with confidence by providing a space, capital, and grey-haired mentors acting as advisors.
Jan believed that free business mentorship programs in the United States, which are provided by various business institutions, business schools, universities, colleges, and Small Business Administration (SBA), are key to realizing the so-called American Dream. Since he came from a post-communist country where everything has a price, such program is an eye-opener to how ingrained American entrepreneurship is. Working closely with a successful entrepreneur who merely works for passion proved to be one of the smartest moves he took.
Three Important Lessons
From both of his small and big break experiences, Jan learned three important things about entrepreneurship.
First, find a problem
Start with yourself and people around you. Take note of their problems, including those at home, at work, in schools, or in hobbies. There must be problems requiring solutions. Just open your eyes and ears, be receptive and aware of things that need fixing.
Second, find yourself a mentor
America is a land built by entrepreneurial immigrants. Mentorship programs are available in various non-profit institutions, like SBAs, business schools, universities, and colleges. Reach out, find that special successful entrepreneur who is passionate about teaching how others succeed.
Third, bootstrap and keep positive
Don’t purchase things that aren’t needed. Earning money is much more difficult than spending it. Moreover, don’t be afraid and get discouraged when the first time didn’t work as planned. Thomas Alva Edison didn’t fail 999 times before he discovered the electric light bulb. He found a 1000-step process to create a light bulb.
At last, Jan Bednar reminded us that we all must set our mind on succeeding. See the prize in your mind as clear as possible and put your heart and soul into reaching it. The business world is like running a marathon. Your stamina is determined by this mindset.
“You may have to pave the road to the gold. Moreover, when you get there, it’s well worth it,” Jan Bednar the CEO of ShipMonk said with a smile.
He paved his “gold” street with e-commerce fulfillment. You can, too.
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Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, digital strategist, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. She can be reached at JenniferXue.com.