Who am I?
My name is John-Paul Narowski, and I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and thoroughly enjoyed the journey along the way.
I live in Denver, CO and love all things outdoors. I ski, run, hike, camp and chase excitement. I take life, but not myself too seriously. Ultimately I just want to live a fulfilled, happy existence, and plan to use my businesses as a conduit to get there. I don’t care about a trillion dollar yacht, a billion dollar mansion or a million dollar baby.
I’m the oldest of 6 kids, where the battle for the last grilled cheese was real. I can trace my leadership and entrepreneurial musings to my well orchestrated, Huckleberry Finn-esque strategies to get my siblings to do my chores, help with the paper route, and level up my Diablo characters.
The Early Days
Skipping the gory details of my early army-men-exploding, creek-swimming youth, I started my professional career at an internship at 18. I got hired to code without almost any knowledge of how…Oops. For you devs out there, In the interview I said…“Yeah I definitely know MYSLQ” (it’s actually MySQL). Luckily, the dude who hired me knew about as much as I did, nothing.
Voila, I was a coder.
After the excitement of getting hired died down, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Immediately proceeding that was a minor panic attack and a trip to Barnes and Noble. (one of those real live book stores) I bought every programming book even remotely related to my new role, and dug in.
Eventually, after many sleepless nights and a billion Google searches, I figured out this whole coding thing, and thus begun my marriage to zeros and ones.
Getting Thrown Into the Fire
About a year into my internship, my parents were running an Amish Dining Room Furniture ecommerce company and I was doing some S.E.O. (Search Engine Optimization) for them. That was back in the Good Ol’ Days of S.E.O. when it was all link exchanges and directories. After about 6 months of work, we ranked #1 for the term “Amish Tables” and business exploded.
I quit my internship with my newly acquired programming/seo skills and set off to help my dad run the company. I had no idea what lay around the corner.
At Amishtables.com, I helped build systems for their order fulfillment and processes around how the business ran, working all the while under my Dad. He’s a jack-of-all trades type and there wasn’t a question I asked that he didn’t know the answer to. He was a woodworker by trade and had a deep love for the Amish and their craft.
About 2 years in, my dad became sick and was unable to run the company. My mom had more than her hands full taking care of my siblings and father, so the only person left to run the company was me.
Me, who just moved out of their parents house, was just learning how to drink (without puking) Me who had never run a company, managed people, or even knew the secrets of a smooth shave (shave up my amigos, UP!) . This was supposed to be my time to be stupid, to pass out in strange places, and eventually get my life together and attend the University of Michigan.
Yeah, supposed to be, but not to be.
The abridged version of the chaos that ensued was that I ended up majoring in the school of the hard knocks, managing a million dollar plus company at 19. I had to dance through employees that didn’t respect me because of my age, devious people and their various scams, almost running out of cash (no payroll) a few times and a heck of a lot of 20 hour days. I learned more during those years I could possibly articulate here. Needless to say, it was amazing, it was terrifying, it was exhilarating.
I was hooked on the whole idea of being an entrepreneur.
Eventually, the chaos subsided and our business processes shined light on the better path forward. We had a good team, a solid platform and a great product that virtually sold itself.
Hmm, everything running smoothly. No fires to put out? Great, right? Nope, I was bored again. I started doing web consulting, helping people build websites of all sorts, pretending I was a designer and an expert in whatever people needed (quickly scampering to “The Googles” after the fact to figure it out).
In the process of growing my consulting business, I met another chap who was quite talented, and we decided to form a business together – MetaSpring.com. My business partner was without question a genius. He was one of the only people I’ve ever met who could code, design, and do sales – all better than most people could do a single one. He taught me everything from how to code ruby to how to be a better salesperson.
I’d write a heart bleeding email to our sales prospects, packed with what I thought was the God-given insight needed to close the deal. He’d review the email and turn 10 my paragraphs of spazz into 3 sentences of power. Wow, I was angry at first. Where’d all my carefully contrived spew go? Eventually I realized he was right. Cutting the fluff and learning to be concise has to be one of the most important skills you can learn in business.
I was in charge of sales and marketing, and we were growing pretty steadily. A duo turned into a trifecta, and before we knew it we had a whole team, an office and a 100k monthly sales quota.
I hired a sales guy and turned my process brain on again, we needed a CRM. We tried (and paid for) at least 6 different products and they all were either too complex or too simple, and we needed the porridge just right. After months of frustration, I told my sales guy Joe that BY GOLLY I was going to build us a CRM that weekend, and he was going to use it (or risk losing his fingers). That was how karmaCRM was born.
I forgot to mention that the whole reason I started this company (or any company for that matter) was geographic freedom. For my office to my laptop and whatever coffeeshop / boat / plane it resting on to be my desk. MetaSpring had grown to a sprawling monster and to this day, I still marvel at the people that scale a consultancy to where the principles can remove themselves and actually enjoy the fruits of success…oh those fruits.
The Era of Karma
For the last five years to present, I’ve been working on growing karmaCRM, which is a web based SAAS product. I built the first proof of concept version in a year and had paying customers from the second we turned credit card processing on. We’re now on our second version and focused on growth.
It’s my baby and I’ll be writing more about my experiences with karma here over time. Hope you enjoy the journey with me!