Nick Gross is the founder and Chairman of Gross Labs, a multi-dimensional entertainment and media holding company, and the active CEO of Find Your Grind, a Gen Z-focused learning and self-discovery platform that empowers students to take charge of their futures through self-discovery and career exploration. The users are students and educators looking for accurate and relevant ways to understand their future goals, plans, and next steps after school. Passionate about music, Nick has had an extensive music career as the drummer for Sony Epic and MTV recording artist, Open Air Stereo, and more recently, girlfriends, with Apple Music host Travis Mills. He has parlayed this success in the music industry into a career as an entrepreneur within both the music and entertainment industries. As a storyteller, entertainer, and disruptor, Nick is using his experience and eclectic passions to empower the next generation through activism-fueled initiatives.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Nick Gross: Entrepreneurship is all about responsibility. To yourself, your ideas, your time, and your freedom to create a life around a particular passion. I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, being out on the open road with your own schedule running your own business is the hardest part. It requires discipline, but for that discipline you have the possibility of reaping big rewards. Aside from all that, entrepreneurship is fun. Bringing people along a mission that you have is rewarding in so many ways.
How did your company come to be?
NG: Find Your Grind was one of the more organic businesses I’ve ever started. I have a recording studio in Los Angeles, and I knew I wanted to introduce young kids to the music industry that didn’t have the tools or resources to know what it’s actually like. A lightbulb went off in my head that said, “Why can’t I do this across hundreds of emerging careers and industries?” I started to film hundreds of my friends who were entrepreneurs starting their own businesses and working in these awesome emerging industries with the goal of showing their day-to-day of the business and how they got started. So many students and kids need to simply see what’s possible in the world to know what interests them and to know how to apply their skillsets to meaningful work. So, it was cool to have Find Your Grind emerge out of my recording studio and through music, because music is how I started everything in my life.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
NG: Everything that we do now at Find Your Grind has been so focused on schools, educators and students around the country. Obviously with COVID the entire education system took a huge hit and there was this major shift that happened to online learning and digital at-home resources. Knowing this we really transitioned our product to put the student at the center of their own learning journey and not rely so heavily on the teacher or school for the success of our product. Making sure Find Your Grind could be self-guided, self-directed, and personalized was crucial for us at the onset of COVID and we made some really large changes and adaptations to our product when it happened that hopefully will set us up for long term success in the future.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
NG: Our proudest moment was probably launching FYGUFest (Find Your Grind University Fest) in 2019 which was a festival we created on college campuses around the country partnered with Amazon Prime Student, Twitch, Tiktok, and more. It was this moment for us to not just build a product for schools but to actually be in front of the audience we were building it for. You learn a lot from Gen Z and what this next generation is all about when you spend time with them face to face. It was super important for the ethos of our brand to spend that time with kids in order for it to be what it is today. Our darkest moment definitely had to be using the restroom in Walmart parking lots.
How is your company changing the landscape?
NG: I think first and foremost, I’ll point to our brand. To me, brand is so important in anything today. It’s how a company makes you feel when you read their name. I think we’ve done a really good job of that and created a brand that feels relevant to Gen Z and speaks their language. Ed-tech can get really dry and the #1 thing we always hear from teachers is that their kids tune-out of a lot of products. Find Your Grind brings a relevant brand that speaks to Gen Z into the SEL and Career Exploration space unlike a lot of businesses. Secondly, this concept around personalization in education you hear a lot. It’s the buzz word that a lot of companies and investors are using in the space but not a lot of businesses are actually building systems to truly support personalization in education. This is something that Find Your Grind is hyper focused on. We want to help Gen Z understand who they are and where to go, so for us, making sure that we’re providing personalized recommendations to careers and helping them understand their skills and unique talents is critical, and that really comes down to data and data science driving outcomes for users around our product.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
NG: Everything I know now is because I’ve gone through the process and learned. I was a guy that never enjoyed school and was the complete opposite of a high academic achiever, but I was able to find my own way. Success isn’t defined anymore by what degree you have or what school you went to. It’s defined by knowing how to use your skillsets and gifts to bring value to the world and the work you do. So, it’s a tough question to answer. I would say that at Find Your Grind we definitely hired a bit too quickly and built our team pretty fast. In some ways that has hurt us. If we had to do it all over again, we probably would have been a bit more patient around the hiring process and making sure when we do hire – that we’re bringing in A-level talent at each step of the way.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
NG: “Love the life you live, live the life you love.” A classic Bob Marley quote and also my favorite artist of all time. You have to be working in a field that you truly love or else life isn’t enjoyable. The goal for anyone should be to make sure you are leaving an impact and building the world into a better place than when you leave it. From a business perspective, I always just say “Left foot. Right foot.” It’s all about the process and figuring things out on the fly and as you build. You learn so much from just doing the work and bringing a positive mindset to each day.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
NG: My inspiration comes from my 18-month-old boy. Business is great but having nobody to share it with means nothing.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
NG: Success for me means building an idea into something that impacts a relatively significant part of an industry that you are trying to affect. You need people using your product and finding value from it. If we’re able to create value for our customers through Find Your Grind and really impact the trajectory of somebody’s life, that’s the mega-success that I think we’re all looking for as a company. The thing that will help us achieve it is patience, and really strong user-testing.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
NG: I don’t think so. I’m personally just tired of COVID and ready to come out of this with a ton of momentum and energy. I can’t believe that we’ve all been through a pandemic in our lives. Anything else at this point should be easy…
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
NG: I work with amazing partners and employees at Find Your Grind. It’s really awesome to work with a team that all believe in a mission together and to see a product come to life is really rewarding. It hasn’t been overnight for us. We’ve spent years building to where we are at today and it still feels like the very beginning. For anyone building their own team I would just say to make sure you are working with people that are really pushing the company forward in ways that you can’t. Don’t put C level players with A level players because they won’t do well in the same sandbox. Bring in others to your team that can make big impact on your vision and product.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
NG: It’s pretty simple for me. It’s about getting to the gym first thing to get your blood pumping and your brain fired up. Spending 30 minutes in the morning to get some cardio in and start manifesting the day ahead has always been a big part of my life.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
NG: Honestly, it’s been tough seeing the world in the state that it’s in right now. The past 16 months has been hard for everyone and it’s pretty scary seeing how this next generation is stepping into the world. My motivation comes from wanting to just see the world in a better light. I think Find Your Grind can hopefully help a lot of young people find meaningful pathways forward that bring optimism and energy into their lives in difficult times.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
NG: My big vision is to help solve big world issues around the environment, education, global public health, and so much more. I want my legacy to be around helping people and showing others around me that anything is possible. It sounds cliché, but I really believe in that. No matter where you come from, I believe there is always something meant for you and waiting if you can find it. As an entrepreneur, being able to create world-positive businesses that make an impact on society and people is the big win for me.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
NG: Left foot. Right foot.
Have you experienced mentorship in your career? Do you feel it was easily available to you?
NG: Mentorship for me always came in the form of YouTube. It sounds funny, but just watching what others were doing through the things I loved always really helped. Travis Barker was a huge mentor to me as a young drummer. Watching his energy and passion for the drums always inspired me and half the time it was just watching videos online. So for me and like a lot of kids today, it was really easily available.
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career? How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
NG: After watching hundreds of hours of videos on Travis Barker and Blink 182, I think all those hours of manifesting and mentorship transpired into real life. Next thing you know I was playing shows with him at 17 years old and opening festivals with some of his bands. I even got to take some physical lessons with the guy when I was in high school through just creating a relationship with him. It was really weird how all that manifestation started to come true in real life. A huge moment for me was playing MTV’s TRL when I was 17 in the same window that I used to watch Blink 182 videos in. It was really surreal. All that to say- keep manifesting your dreams. It works.
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