2016 Scholarship Finalist: Jake Norman

jake-375x525The following essay was written by Jake Norman, a finalist for the 2016 SuretyBonds.com Small Business Scholarship. You can vote for Jake to win one of three scholarships here.

As I see it, “small business” is a misnomer for the dynamic force generated by the passion of individuals committed to creating and growing their dream venture. Small business leads to greater, more personalized value. As someone who leads a life dictated by passions, I have certainly found my niche within the small business realm. It has connected me with others who care deeply about their work, so much so that we cannot seem to ignore what can only be described as a calling.

In August of 2013 I stepped onto campus already thinking about how I could incorporate my passions into my school life. By the end of the year I had successfully started my own DJ business, ranging from Greek life events to hosting Friday nights at the best club in town. It was a fun and exciting introduction to what I can only describe as a string of entrepreneurial endeavors aimed to accomplish my one and only goal: to find my calling.

Soon after I began teaching myself design and how to make clothes. By that fall I was selling a collection of shirts and headwear to all my friends and friend’s friends as a way to continue doing what I love for work. While this certainly was putting me closer to my goal, it didn’t quite strike that chord I was looking for. Problematically, I had many interests that I was equally passionate about. I needed something that could incorporate all of the above.

What I came up with was a lifestyle publication that would cover all of my passions, ad-free. I set out to do so by emailing all of my favorite musicians, artists, and of course, small businesses. It wouldn’t be until March of 2016 that I released in print the first issue of Bays Magazine. Bays Magazine is a platform for creatives and artists alike to share their work around the globe.  It doesn’t matter who you are–whether you’re a photographer, a musician, or an entrepreneur–Bays Magazine will put you and your work on display.  It is about sharing quality content as well as unique perspectives.  By featuring forward thinking individuals and companies from around the world, it is guaranteed that those involved will have global exposure, and that their work will reach the hands of other influential creatives. Particularly, I focused on featuring small, niche artists and companies who value environmental responsibility and social integrity. There is even an article in the magazine titled, #smallbusiness that outlines the positive impact social media has had on the exposure of small businesses, specifically men’s brands that focus on quality and craftsmanship.


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Featured small businesses include Apolis Global, Bradley Mountain, Poler Outdoor Stuff, and Taylor Stitch. All based in California and the Pacific NW, each brand has an emphasis on providing a unique, value-added product while cultivating relationships with their customers. Each brand is also both environmentally and socially conscious, meeting the same standard of business ethics that I adhere to. The magazine is now in the United States, Germany, New Zealand, and the UK. A global cast of content creators helped make this a universal project, contributing perspectives with unique, positive influences from around the world. I truly am proud of the result.

All the while producing the magazine, I was and still am working as a marketing intern for the first organic men’s grooming brand, Kent & Bond. I reached out to the owners Kent Santin and Benjamin Bond last summer in hopes to gain their interest in participating in the debut of Bays Magazine. Before I knew it, I was playing a large marketing role in the small-batch startup by that fall. I have felt a very intimate relationship within my role in this small business as I have been contributing to the team of two cofounders nearly since it’s public launch in August of 2015.

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Between working with Kent & Bond and launching my own magazine, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined and still fostered a passionate lifestyle. Of course, the journey to success is never an easy one, nor should it be. The past three years have definitely made me stronger in terms of overcoming personal struggles and ultimately maturing into adulthood. For the better part of my career at university I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety. Studying marketing in what seemed like a corporate atmosphere was taking its toll on me. In addition, I was playing full time on the D1 tennis team, cramming in practice, travel, and weights within my full academic schedule. Playing music seemed to be the only way for me to express myself, conveniently during the night, which was also my only free time.

However, I knew it was not enough. I recently made an incredibly tough decision to step down from the number one singles and doubles slots on the tennis team to pursue my passions and goals. It was a scary move, but ultimately the right one. Almost instantly I felt a relief of pressure, and while I still struggle with depression, my anxiety was virtually annihilated. That’s when I set to work on my magazine. As the project developed, it seemed so did I. I discovered more and more about myself, reached unprecedented goals, and maintained what I can only describe as the happiest I have ever been. What seems like something out of a fairytale, small business quite literally saved my life. It is my hope to win this scholarship in order to continue this amazing journey. While stepping down from the tennis team has done incredible things for me, it has also left me with a financial burden to make up for the lost scholarship. I am confident I will find a way to persevere under any circumstance, but I am still reaching out to ask you for help in making a dream come true. I would like to continue working with small businesses for the rest of my life.

Jake Norman founded Bays Magazine and will be attending Creighton University this fall. He plans to major in business marketing and entrepreneurship.

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About the Author

Jon Gottschalk
Jon Gottschalk is the Senior Marketing Director for Suretybonds.com and regularly blogs at the Surety Bond Insider to keep consumers informed on new legislation and updates in the commercial surety industry. He is also a licensed property & casualty insurance producer in Missouri.