CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club puts a quirky, Southern spin on the typical entrepreneurial pitch experience. Self-made millionaires Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam along with their friend Gil Prather evaluate hopeful entrepreneurs’ companies, and invest in a chosen few.
This week’s episode will feature James Oliver, Jr., founder of WeMontage—a website that lets you turn your photos into a collage on removable wallpaper. Oliver is excited about the opportunity because he needs the visibility since the nature of his business is so innovative, it’s not even on people’s radar.
“Nobody is googling custom removable wallpaper because they don’t even know it’s a thing,” Oliver said.
Oliver was inspired by an HGTV episode his wife was watching featuring a wallpaper collage. Oliver coins this as his “aha” moment when the entrepreneurial angels started to sing to him. When he couldn’t find a place that printed photo collages like the one he saw on television, he was moved to launch WeMontage.
Everything about WeMontage since its conception has been solution-oriented. Oliver hopes that his photo wallpaper will help college kids not only with homesickness, but also with finding an alternative way to hang photos, since many dorms disallow nails in the wall. The removable wallpaper is also ideal for people in military housing, assisted living, and rental properties that often charge for damage done by nails and other hooks used to hang photos.
The launch of Oliver’s business collided head on with parenthood. As he shares with the West Texas Investors, the day after his twins were born three months prematurely, he had to leave for “Gener8tor,” a 12-week program that helps accelerate startups with funding and mentorship.
Having kids presents an unquestionable challenge, but having kids and a “baby business on top of that” was the ultimate test of Oliver’s dedication to having it all.
“Being a parent is one thing, being an entrepreneur is another thing, being a 'parentpreneur' is a tertium quid,” Oliver said.
The two defined elements of parenthood and entrepreneurship combined to turn his life into something unidentifiable, and he’s been trying to work out this tertium quid ever since.
Despite having children and a business around the same age, Oliver does not question his decision to become a “parentpreneur” as he calls it, because it’s something he’s wanted to do his whole life. So as he finds a way to balance fatherhood and a small business, he’s pinpointed himself as an inspiring testimony for other parents seeking to do the same. That’s the whole inspiration for his upcoming book, “The More You Hustle, the Luckier You Get: You Can be a Successful Parentpreneur.”
“It’s not that I'm just supposed to be an entrepreneur," Oliver said. "It’s that I'm supposed to be a successful entrepreneur and inspire people to be the same thing."
Oliver gathers many bits of tangible advice for other entrepreneurs who are finding a way to make sure their businesses and offspring mature successfully.
“The one thing that’s clear to me is that everybody is hungry for inspiration and hope," Oliver said. "And that is a big part of the reason why I wrote this book—to tell my story, and to share the lessons that I’ve learned so that they know that they're not alone on this journey.”
He’s learned what to prioritize and what to let go, since entrepreneurship comes with ebb and flow. Sometimes when you lose, you still win, Oliver likes to say.
Outside of the playrooms and the continuous pursuit of funding, being a techie based in Wisconsin, some 2,000 miles outside of Silicon Valley, gives Oliver yet another life conundrum to solve.
"It’s hard,” Oliver said, “I’m not going to lie to you.
“I can’t just get in my car and drive somewhere in 30 mins for a meeting with someone who is going to make an investment in my business or be a potential strategic partner.”
Despite the hardship that comes with being outside of the prescribed tech bubble, Oliver persists and continues to make himself a model businessman. He also recognizes the inherent struggles that accompany being black in his field.
“Obviously there’s a lot of conversation right now about a lack of diversity in tech,” Oliver said, “and I totally get that."
He recognizes the uphill battle, but hopes that more black people will continue pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors.
“I’m like, go start your own company,” Oliver added.
After all, Oliver has two black kids of his own he hopes to inspire by living “an authentic purpose-driven life.”
He wants his kids to look back at his life and feel proud of their dad. Twenty years from now he wants his kids to say that he had the courage to carve out his own space in this universe.
“As far as we know we don’t get any ‘do-overs,” Oliver said. “It’s important for me to be an example for them.”
West Texas Investors Club airs on CNBC on Tuesday, July 12 at 10pm ET