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Ethan King

Ethan King is an entrepreneur, author, and international speaker. He is the Co-founder of stuff4GREEKS, a company he created with his college girlfriend (turned wife) and $700 that is now a leader in fraternity and sorority merchandise. Over the years, Ethan has founded and invested in many ventures and his companies have won awards for business growth and industry excellence. He is the Co-founder of Zeus’ Closet, an on-demand embroidery and personalized apparel brand and the Founder of 6 Pack Dads, an online platform community to help busy dads in their fitness journey.

Ethan is a global member-leader in the nonprofit Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and has served as president of the Atlanta chapter. He is a top-rated international speaker on the topics of business growth, reinvention, lifestyle design, health optimization, and longevity. He is the Author of Wealth Beyond Money which launches in mid-March.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Ethan King shares how a school project turned into a leading personalized Greek-letter embroidery enterprise
  • The inspiration behind Ethan’s upcoming book and his unique perspective on a balanced lifestyle
  • Ethan talks about the impact of his experiences with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization
  • How Ethan applied the leadership skills he learned to grow his company

In this episode…

Is it possible to make lifelong connections while achieving your goals as an entrepreneur? What are the ingredients to build a successful brand that is more than a dollar sign?

Ethan King scaled a school project into one of the world’s leading fraternity and sorority merchandise brands. How? Ethan seized the opportunity to participate in the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and its Accelerator program. There he gathered valuable tools to become an effective leader in his company and achieve his business and life goals. Helping rising entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of a life beyond wealth is a passion for Ethan. People, especially entrepreneurs, need their lives to be a balance of health, freedom, and happiness. Today, he is here to share his journey and the insights he learned along the way.

On this episode of the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast, John Corcoran sits down with Ethan King, Co-founder of Zeus’s Closet and stuff4GREEKS, to discuss his S.I.M.P.L.E. success system. Ethan shares his inspiring journey of building a brand from the ground up, the impact the Entrepreneurs’ Organization had on his success, and the background behind his book Wealth Beyond Money.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:02  

Welcome to the Rising Entrepreneurs Podcast where we feature top founders and entrepreneurs and their journey. Now let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran  0:13  

Hi welcome everyone John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. You know, check out some of my past episodes, I got all kinds of interesting interviews with smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of companies and organizations like Netflix and Kinkos and YPO, EO activation, Blizzard, lending tree, Open Table, and many more. I’m also the co founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects with done for you podcast and content marketing. And this episode is part of our global leadership conference series, the Global Leadership Conference, or GLC is a conference for emerging business leaders. It’s put on by entrepreneurs organization known as EO each year, I’m a member of that organization. And our guest here today is as well. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that upcoming event, which I’m super excited for. It’s in April, at the end of April this year 2022. And it’s April 28, April 23, to 26th in Washington, DC, also in Barcelona, Spain, and virtually as well go to eonetwork.org. To learn more about it. And our guest is Ethan King. He’s an entrepreneur, business leader, and keynote speaker. He focuses on helping people to achieve a life of wealth, health, freedom, and happiness. He scraped together 700 bucks with his college girlfriend to launch stuff4GREEKS, which has grown to the one of the world’s leading brands for custom fraternity and sorority merchandise, is also the co founder of Zeus’ Closet, which is a growing chain of retail stores that provide on demand embroidery and printing, they have some cool celebrity clients, that he’s worked with that as well. And he’s also the author of a new book, which we’re going to talk about in a moment. All right, Ethan such a pleasure to have you here today. And let’s start with this 700 bucks. So 700 bucks, you and your college girlfriend. I know if it was me, I probably would have lost at 700 bucks, plus some extra money. And it would be a nightmare story that I don’t want to relive, but it works out okay for you. So tell us a how it ended up being a success story and not not a disaster. Or maybe it was both?

Ethan King  2:05  

Yeah, well, hey, first of all, John, thanks for having me on here. Huge fan of the show. Thanks for everything you’re doing, for EO and for entrepreneurs around the world. So yeah, so stuff4GREEKS we started with $700. We were dating. So it went like Like, a lot of couples go half on a movie or on a date. You go Dutch on a business. We have one. So literally, my we met in college on the campus, the University of Georgia and my girlfriend, Monica was a sorority, in a sorority and I was in a fraternity, we were friends first. And then we started dating. And we had this idea of offering paraphernalia online to the world. Now this was dating myself. But this was at a time when that was still a relatively new concept when the novel idea was, yes, a novel idea.

John Corcoran  2:56  

But what are we talking about here? Like mid 2000s, early 2000s

Ethan King  2:59  

99, 2000 really bleeding edge? Yeah, yeah, we actually reserved the domain name and 99. It started as a school project where we had to come up with a fictitious company for a branding class, and a web design class. So since I was new to the fraternity and it was fresh on my mind, you know, you’re just passionate about, you know, this organization that you just joined, said, oh, let’s do stuff4GREEKS and offer this crazy paraphernalia. Let’s do it online. And it ended up becoming a real thing. Like we actually got real orders on this website that I built as a school project,

John Corcoran  3:35  

like randomly, like without even knowing that just like orders came through.

Ethan King  3:40  

Yeah, yeah. Wow. So so we got we initially got orders from friends on campus. And then we started getting some from people who didn’t know. And to me, that’s a sign that your business is probably heading the right direction, we start getting orders from strangers.

John Corcoran  3:54  

And how are you fulfilling on those? Did you buy an embroidery machine? Or did you march down another business and have them do it?

Ethan King  4:01  

Yeah. All right. In our beginning times, we outsource everything. You know, we were just like the sales engine. To be honest, we didn’t even know what it was called at the time. Embroidery stitching sewing, I thought it was just somebody whose grandmother in a basement with a sewing machine putting these jackets together. So we had to search all these different terms and find out because embroidery, when most people hear the word embroidery, what comes to mind is like these embroidered quilts and things like that. But I was a graphic design major and when I learned that commercial embroidery is really just graphic design you converting the files a certain way to, to be to be sewn out, and we do these high end jackets. I was like, Oh, this is graphic design. This is already what I do. Just need to learn a few more steps to make this happen.

John Corcoran  4:48  

Yeah. And now but the the challenge. One of the challenges of that is labor intensive, highly skilled. You’re also shipping out maybe a very expensive jacket to someone with which if there’s one letter off Like, you have to go back and make it whole, I assume. So, what were some of the challenges with starting that kind of business?

Ethan King  5:08  

Yeah, so, um, one step that we have just a lot of innovation really, one step that we implemented that most companies don’t do is we do a heavy proofing process in the beginning to make sure your jacket looks exactly how you want it to look before we do the production and ship it out to you. So we have 100% accuracy guarantee that your jacket will look exactly like the proof. We also have a lifetime guarantee on the embroidery. The way that we do things that quality is, I mean, everybody says but our quality is like way better. Like if you if you compare side by side, with other with other companies. And of course we ensure the shipments when they go out. So really, it goes beyond jackets, these are these are really like high end customized pieces of art. It’s like you’re commissioning us to create this personalized art for you that you’re walking around in, on campus and or wherever you are in inches. The only downside is you can our customers get tons of attention. Wherever they go wearing these jackets,

John Corcoran  6:09  

that’s a bad thing. Well, and you’ve actually attracted a number of celebrities who have used you.

Ethan King  6:18  

Yeah, definitely, um, Rick Ross, Tyler Perry, Acon, we do a lot for we’ve tapped into the film and TV business, which has been booming here in Atlanta. So most of the Marvel movies are filmed here. Wow. And we ended up doing things for the wardrobe departments. One of our uniques is that we do everything in house from design to production, which allows us to offer extremely fast service. And if you know anything about Hollywood in the movie, TV industry, they are they want to know, last minute like that we needed it yesterday. Yeah. Yeah. So we’re able to fulfill that need for them. So we work with a lot of wardrobe directors.

John Corcoran  7:01  

That’s really cool. Now tell us about the book. What inspired Wealth Beyond Money?

Ethan King  7:09  

Yeah, well, actually EO had a lot to do with my journey in that regard. And what led from in 2014 When I came up with the concept of SIMPLE, which I’ll discuss in a minute, all the way up to now with the launching of the book. So I started out in EOs Accelerator program. Oh, me too. Oh, awesome. Yeah, great program. For the minute benefit of your listeners, I’m sure you’ve mentioned it plenty of times before, but it’s kind of EOs incubator program, which helps you get from a minimum of 250,000 revenue to that million dollar a year. Revenue. Mark. So I did not as an art major, I did not have any business training, no business background, no entrepreneurs in my family. No idea what I was doing.

John Corcoran  7:55  

Yeah. English major BA in English right here. So I can relate to that. Yeah.

Ethan King  7:59  

Yeah. So EO Accelerator was basically my, my MBA in learning about business. Once I graduated to Accelerator around that time, we had an EO event, which was, it was inspired by Ted Talks. I think we call the EO X, like TEDx. Yeah. And they had met, they offered a chance for members to do a very small talk. And it was also extended to Accelerators. So I was inspired at the time to share with this is my first major speaking engagement back in 2014. And I was inspired to share with the EO members and the Accelerators and the guests in the audience, about my framework for life, which I call now the six dimensions of success. And it’s an acronym S.I.M.P.L.E. because I believe that life balance is, is a myth and too difficult to to attain. But if you have calibration, and these six areas of spirituality, intellect, money, physicality, love and relationships, and entertainment. And if you think about it, like in terms of like constant calibration of these things like real time, calibration day to day, then that is the key to really achieving in all six of those areas. And not being so focused on just money, money, money, and I saw it, I guess more so in a lot of EO circles. A lot of my peers were just purely revenue. And I know a lot of that is what we talk about you but danger that I saw happening is that people tend to neglect some other areas of their life, like their health, like their relationships. And when those areas suffer, the now you’re at, you’re completely imbalanced and unhappy, even if you hit those high revenue goals that inspired the title of the book Wealth Beyond Money, because it’s obviously not just about money that talks about how those six areas are related. And I give plenty of actionable tips of how you can achieve and every single one of the dimensions

John Corcoran  10:00  

Yeah, you know, and I’m reflecting back because right before we started recording this interview we were talking about, you just got back from Alaska, where you went. We’re recording this in January 2022, which I realized after you said, you just come back from Alaska is like, what is that? You know, people go there in the summertime. And you went to see the northern lights, which, you know, you’ve got a business, you’ve got kids, you got a family, you know, talk a little bit about one, what that experience was like, going with the other EO members, and also how you prioritize something like that, with a family with a business, you know, taking that time out to have that kind of experience.

Ethan King  10:38  

Yes. One one a major thing about EO and what what initially kind of inspired my love affair with EO is we have a core tenet about designing once in a lifetime experiences. I think the core value is now called Think big, be bold. And this trip was nothing short of that. We saw the northern lights up in Fairbanks, Alaska, there were 40 people in attendance total. So 20 EO members and their guests, and we rented out these eight luxury igloos, we had the whole place to ourselves selves. In the daytime, we did dog sledding and snow machining. At night, we watched the beautiful Aurora. And it was it’s just one of those moments that you will cherish for a lifetime. And mixed in with that we had the connections that you make with EO members from all over the country. And we even had, I think the farthest one came, we had a member from London who came as well. And these when you bond with someone on in an experience like that, it tends to form like a lifelong relationship. And in addition to that, you asked about family and prioritizing. I do want to throw in an aside that my girlfriend and college who I started the company with is still we’re still business partners and still married today. And in fact, we celebrate our 19 year wedding anniversary. And we celebrated it in Alaska. We have a we have a photograph with the Northern Lights. Oh, cool. And it was just the best way to celebrate 19 years of marriage. That’s awesome. Yeah, coming full circle. EOs have been a big, big part of our life. And it’s to me is what life is all about just those memorable once in a lifetime experiences that are priceless. Yeah.

John Corcoran  12:34  

Now you have been to Global Leadership Conference, which I mentioned the beginning there, GLC, which is a conference that originally was just for Chapter officers, but now is open to other EO members as well. First for Chapter officers, but also for EO members as well. And there’s a virtual component this year as well that they’re doing. Talk a little bit about the first one that you went to the first GLC what that experience was like,

Ethan King  12:57  

right, so 2015 in San Diego, I, as I mentioned before, I just recently graduated to EO from Accelerator in 2014. And the President of the chapter asked me said, Hey, you did a great job. Congratulations on graduating to Accelerator. How would you like us? How would you like to help us grow the Accelerator program here in Atlanta? And I of course said yes. Because the program had done so much to me. And I wanted to give back. So I said, Okay, what well, we also need you to go to this conference in San Diego. So you can learn figure out what you’re doing like, oh, okay, sounds good. I had no idea how much this conference would impact my life. Not only did I learn how to lead leaders, which is something that is an art in itself, because as a, as a board member in EOs a chapter officer, you have to work with other EO members who are volunteers, people aren’t being paid to do this. So how do you lead someone who is their own boss, they don’t have to be that you can’t dangle a paycheck over their head, right? So you learn how to lead through inspiration. And I was fortunate to work with it was my co chair was Brad Stevens. And we grew the Accelerator Accelerator chapter that year from, I think was 15 members to over 41 members in one year that we more than doubled the size of the program. Then we did it again the following year. And so at GLC kind of the climactic event was when he stepped on to the field at Petco Park, and EO had rented out the entire stadium and we ate dinner on the field. There were about 1500 EO members there and there were activities all around and I said this I just knew that this was the place for me like, again those once in a lifetime experiences that are designed to just always stick with you. And little did I know at the time, but four years later I would become chapter president. And I brought my own board to GLC in 2019 in Toronto, which was another amazing experience. And then, little did I know at the time that two years after that, I would be on stage in front of 8000. EO members worldwide most of the virtual, of course, because it was last year. And I had the opportunity to interview Gary Vaynerchuk, on the stage at GLC momentum. So that that journey, like I told people, I even did a speech about GLC while we were in Alaska. And my message was just go because that’s when the magic happens. Like I didn’t go to GLC with any intention of any of this happening. You but you just go in these these connections, and these doors just open. But you go with an attitude of servant leadership, and then things just start to magnify in your own life.

John Corcoran  16:00  

Yeah, yeah. And you mentioned, you know, Petco Park, the Padres stadium. But it’s top of mind for me right now is that two days from now, I our own board do San Francisco Board is I’m a member of his meeting at the Golden State Warriors stadium, and we’re going down, we’re having a meeting there. And then at lunchtime, we’re going out to shoot hoops on the court, which is really cool. So now along the theme of, you know, once in a lifetime experiences, that’s really cool. What about, you know, are there? Are there certain things in your business that have evolved or change that you can point to maybe I don’t know if you can find one thing, as a result of a GLC experience? Is there any, anything that you can point back to like a change that you made, or a system you put in place or a relationship that made a big difference for you?

Ethan King  16:47  

Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s probably many things and a lot of it has to do with the ripple effect of something you learned a GLC or connection that you made. For me, probably the biggest impact in my life was, I go back to learning how to lead leaders, and people who you can’t dangle a paycheck in front of, because it changed the whole way that I run my company and my leadership style and the culture didn’t realize it at the time. But I had a very toxic company culture, early in our career, because I didn’t know what I was doing. But I learned through EO and through my leadership roles in the organization, to treat people like volunteers, even when they aren’t volunteers. Because as as president of the chapter, in in Atlanta, we had about 160 members at the time that I was leading, and we had 30 board members. And I was just very thankful and very humble in approaching them and, and leading through inspiration, I gave them a vision at the beginning of the year said, This is what we want to achieve, and I need your help getting there. And we had an amazing year, we even won some global awards, we had tremendous growth, high high ratings on all of our events. But I learned like, it seems obvious now. But at the time, I said, You know what, this is probably how I should run my company. And so I took those leadership skills and directly applied them to my company. And now I mean, to be honest, we’re able to do more with fewer people on our team. And it’s just, it’s a much better place to work, people are happier, we’re more profitable. And I owe a lot of those skills to EO and to GLC,

John Corcoran  18:30  

that’s great. Ethan this has been great talking with you Wealth Beyond Money is the name of the book, unlocking the six dimensions of success for richness in every area of your life, foreword by Warren Rustin, who’s amazing past guests that I’ve interviewed as well and you mentioned Brad Stevens as well. He’s also someone else. Former chapter president at your your chapter great guy had him on as well. Ethan, where can people go to learn more about you and connect with you?

Ethan King  18:57  

Oh, sorry, link just the best place is to just go to my personal website, Ethanking.com. And there you’ll get links to follow me on social media. Keep up with what I’m up to and learn about the other businesses as well.

John Corcoran  19:09  

Awesome, Ethan like so much. Thank you.

Outro 19:13  

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