Akro-preneurs | What I Wish I Knew

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Lessons that Than Thein learned the hard way

Starting a business can be hard work, but fortunately for us, Akro-preneurs are always willing to share their insights.

Photo of courtesy of Than Thein

Name: Than Thein

Occupation: Owner at Tidal Gardens Inc.

Hometown: Akron, OH

Current neighborhood: Copley, OH

How did you get into the work you do?

I have been an aquarium enthusiast for my whole life. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to have cats or dogs as pets, but I was allowed to have fish. What started as a simple gold fish tank eventually turned into elaborate coral reef aquariums. Around the time I was in business school I decided to write a business plan to see what it would look like if I scaled up my hobby to turn it into an actual business. That business plan ended up winning some startup funds in local business plan competitions and I got further investment from friends and family. For years, Tidal Gardens was a part-time endeavor but one day I was ready to leave my day job to pursue this company full-time.

What do you wish you knew when you got started?

I wish I knew how rewarding it would be and to focus more on it rather than a traditional career. I think I spent something like 14 years in college (undergrad, MBA, law school) and while I don’t see that time as completely wasted, I think much of the time was spent not really knowing what I wanted to do as a professional. I was always meant to be an entrepreneur and if I had any regret it would be not pursuing that path sooner.

What are you glad you didn’t know?

I’m glad I started when there was a little less information available online on how to start a business. Having a lot of information is great but knowing the sort of person I am, analysis paralysis is definitely an issue and may have prevented me from actually getting off the computer and building a company. Also, there is a lot of bad advice out there among the good advice and it would have taken even longer to sift through it all before making a decision.

What are some of the best lessons—in business or in life—that you’ve learned from being your own boss?

It sounds so cliche but if you enjoy what you do, it’s not really work. When I left the corporate environment I decided I want to spend the rest of my life doing things I enjoy. I took a set of interests I was enthusiastic about and built business around them. I do that to this day. It turns out that if you are really into something no matter how small a niche (coral reef tanks are a pretty small niche) there are other people out there equally enthusiastic about it that want to be your customer.

(cover photo courtesy of M. Sophie Franchi)

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