Chris Larsen should teach Awesomepreneurship 101. Chris and his partner Patrick Groft built their blossoming Fair Trade company Pocket Disc from scratch–four years in, they’ve surpassed a million in sales and are improving the lives of over 400 families in Guatemala and Mexico.
Chris and I share a San Cris connection. Last year, Chris set up shop in Chiapas with his wife Rachel and two daughters, where, in addition to working directly with the artisans who design and create Pocket Disc products, they teamed up with the organization Mayan Families to help provide water filtration systems, stoves, roofing materials, and school supplies to Mayan communities throughout Guatemala and southern Mexico. I call that heartwork on fire. The love Chris pours into his work is incendiary.
And it shows. Each disc in the 2013 batch of PhD designs is named after a different Mayan city: a collection that reflects the Larsens’ love and appreciation for Mayan culture. It’s an honor to spotlight this heartfelt awesomepreneur. Get to know him yourself:
1. Who are you?
Give us a quick heartography of yourself.
I am a husband and father of two children. I am also an environmentalist and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up, my environmental education came through Deep Woods Camp, a wilderness program in the southern Appalachians where I did my first multi-night solo hike at age 14 up Funnel Top Mountain. Then out of college, I was an instructor at Outward Bound’s Thompson Island in Massachusetts. Professionally, I have volunteered as board member and Treasurer for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, served on the board of the NC Green Power and was a consultant to the North Carolina Energy Policy Council. At home I heat and cool my house with a geothermal system and I am the self-appointed guardian of the adjacent 145-acre section of the Eno River State Park. I am also an avid trail runner and my travels have taken me to South Africa, Croatia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and 48 of the 50 states.
2. What do you do?
Describe your heartwork.
I along with my business partner Patrick Groft consider myself lucky and very fortunate to have discovered and perfected the famous “doily that flies”; in 4 years, the company grew from just a clever idea to over $1m in sales in 2011 and we now market a variety of complementary handmade products. The business, Phd Productions, is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and currently works with Mayan artisans in Guatemala and Mexico, making a daily impact on the lives of over 400 families. I am responsible for daily operations and finance of the Pocket Disc, Luna Disc, and other Fair Trade items. The Pocket Disc and Luna Disc are, a patent-pending, cotton flying disc sold throughout the US, Canada, and Japan.
3. How did you get started as an awesomepreneur?
Our friends’ daughter, Savanna Groft, a third grader at the time, was assigned a project at school. Her teacher asked her to crochet a round placemat as part of her handwork studies. Savanna’s initial efforts yielded a round disk, but because she had not added enough stitches, the disc curled under forming a small lip. This placemat of sorts sat on a table for over a year until I, came over, and threw it. The placemat sailed across the living room and the Pocket Disc was born.
4. Do you have a day job?
How do you fund your heartwork?
I left my day job about two years ago to pursue the Pocket Disc full time.
5. What is your biggest work challenge?
When does your heartwork feel like hard work?
I have had some long days working 14 hours or more. When you work for yourself, the line between home and work is difficult to maintain.
6. What is the best thing about being an awesomepreneur?
Why do you love what you do?
I love being able to work from almost anywhere in the world. This past year, my wife and our two daughters lived in the highlands of Chiapas Mexico. My daughters now speak Spanish and have learned a lot more about the world then they could have learned staying at home in the U.S. The opportunity to be abroad and teach our children to be citizens of the world is definitely one of the best parts of my job.
7. What is your #1 tip for working with heart?
What do you want to share with other awesomepreneurs?
You have to be willing to take risks and let go of things. You have one life, so live it!
You can check out Chris’ heartwork at PocketDisc.com or see what the PhD is all about in this introduction:
We love Chris Larsen!