“ I come up with stuff and I do it, because what’s the worst that can happen?, ” says
Thomas C. Knox, founder of Date While You Wait. “Just put your best foot forward.”
The Millennial Visonary, who recently created his own unique bow tie line made out of
scrabble pieces, sat down with Lisa and Aishah of VisionPledge to talk about his vision,
inspiration and the highs and lows of being a Millennial Entrepreneur. Watch the clip
and read the Q&A with VisionPledge below!
When did you start Date While You Wait?
I started it in June 2015.
What was the inspiration behind Date While You Wait?
That’s a good question. I guess the inspiration was negativity. I was talking to one of my friends about going to dinner. I gave her a call and she said, “I’m going to be late. I’m frustrated and my commute home sucked. I just don’t want to do anything.” So I said, “Cool, what happened?” She said she got on one car in the train and there was a person performing, got on the next car and there was a homeless person, the next car and there were these kids asking people for money and she just wanted to get home.
So I asked her, what If I were to get on the subway and sit and talk to people. She said, “Do not do that. That’s crazy, People are gonna think you’re out of your mind!” I didn’t originally do that, I kind of punked out. Then I shared the idea with some of my friends and they thought it was really cool, so we went ahead, and we built a mini team of three and made it happen.
What’s the current model for Date While You Wait?
It went from this thing I was doing for fun to a hobby and then a business. So now it’s a connection platform focused on challenging and giving people the opportunity to connect in a unique way through conversation and talks. It’s grown primarily because people have taken the time to sit down and connect with me and give me their input and now I’ve developed it into something.
What was your most interesting encounter?
I would say my most interesting encounter is every encounter because every encounter is very interesting. But in one instance, I sat with a woman—and I’ll never forget her because we had an emotional connection—who was an educator and had to stop teaching because she was diagnosed with a disease that caused her body to constantly ache from pain. And she said, sitting down with me was the first time she didn’t feel pain since she was diagnosed. And I have a photo we took and she’s super engaged. I always meet interesting people.
What’s your long term vision for your company?
Is this being recorded? I don’t know if I can say this, but my long-term vision is to do dope shit. Just do dope shit for the community. Of course I have a business plan but at the end of the day my soul purpose in life is to help develop the community and inspire and encourage our young people to follow their dreams and to be ok with trying things and messing up to seeing how it develops. It’s very important to respect the journey. Sometimes we lose sight of the journey so I promote respecting the journey. You can always look back on your journey and see what you just went through. My end goal is to bring about opportunities and for young people to follow their dreams.
What does the business side of it look like for you?
Right now, it’s kind of three prong. One is public speaking, so speaking at universities inspiring college students to follow dreams but more deeply to be open and encouraged to develop ideas. I created, The Connection Series, which is all about speaking on the skills needed to have great connection. Second, we’re doing an 8 to 10 week series in public schools, middle schools, and high schools and teaching young people the importance of connection from a different level. If you go through our Connection Workshop series, that breaks it down. I call it the Three C’s of Human Connection, which are courage, confidence and communication.
And I explain what practices I used to get to this point, because I didn’t just wake up confident. I had to try out some things and get shut down and rejected for me to get to a point where I’m as confident as I am. I smile thinking about this, because I sat down with a creative agency [Benchmarch Creative Group] and we just got 40 different colored markers and destroyed a white board and came up with this really cool set of events we’re going to be doing. Now we’re trying to get sponsorships and partnerships for the events.
But to give an example of the events we’re working on, one is entrepreneurship events focused on giving entrepreneurs the ability to network, by playing Guess Who and being Guess Who characters, while they network. I’ve worked hard on it. One thing I’ve learned about games is a lot of adults love it more than kids because it takes them back to their childhood. I haven’t played it in years, since I was a kid. I used to play this with my grandmother and it was the last thing we did before I left her house. Every Christmas we would play monopoly. So my goal is to try to create opportunities for adults to learn tangible things and takeaways from this.
What do you like the most and least about being an entrepreneur?
I’m literally in full entrepreneurship mode as of last Thursday after I quit my 9 to 5. What I like the most about being an entrepreneur is freedom. I feel like my destiny is in my hands. You hear people talk about it, but it’s nothing like being in the situation. Being in the Now. For me it’s liberation to a point, where I don’t have to answer to a manager or a boss. What I like the most is liberation. What I like least is the structure. Now I have to structure my life a specific way to be successful. So I have some opportunities that I’m currently working on. I told myself I wasn’t going to do work Thursday or Friday and that ended up being me not doing work Sunday and Monday either, and staying up until 3 am, and watching Netflix! So it was very short lived, but I got back into the groove of things Tuesday and Wednesday.
How do you feel society can better support underrepresented Millennial Entrepreneurs & Visionaries?
I think about access and I think about knowledge and resources. For instance. I’m working on a certification for the MWBE intiaitive. What’s really interesting is that it’s an incredible initiative for Women & Minority Owned Businesses. I’ve talked to people about it and no one knows it’s available.
I think access and having the knowledge and understanding what resources you have available. A lot of the times we focus on things that are not necessarily the best for us especially from a business standpoint.You have to have the mindset of a go-getter. If you want to make $100,000 in a year, you have to strategically plan that. I’m not a person that really focuses that much on society because society tells you what trends are cool, but at the end of the day you have to make the best decision so access, resources and the knowledge to go out and develop it [is important].
What has been the biggest hurdle in establishing your business?
It was definitely people not believing my business was a real thing. A lot of people thought it was a joke because of the name. First thing that comes to people’s minds is that it’s about dating and romance. The name of my business is very, very unique, and nobody takes it serious but I’ve learned ways around it. I learned that actions speak louder than words. I’ve had opportunities to do game shows and TV shows and they’ve asked me to change it to a romantic thing but I’m like no, it’s about human connection, I want everyone to feel comfortable during the day when they date while you wait because it’s not all about romance. That’s a component but it’s not the main ingredient. The main ingredient is people.
For more inspiration, connect with Thomas at Date While You wait