Entrepreneur of the Month: Nate Stone

My involvement with 1 Million Cups and the Seattle startup community gives me unique opportunities to engage with some of the more talented and driven people around – Can you absorb talent by proximity? Asking for myself.

But really, I love working with startups and the entrepreneurs who run them; especially those as purpose driven as Nate Stone, founder of Cathedral (more on that in the interview below) and featured October Entrepreneur of the Month. You may noticed there’s a gap between our last Entrepreneur of the Month article and this oneTime flys. My bad… I’ll do better.

Anyway… I heard Nate pitch a couple months back. Loved it, and made the trek (hard to get me out of my Downtown bubble) to Ballard and visited him at Cathedral the following week. We drank Le Croix (it’s a passion of mine), talked about the unexpected business expenses, discovered our mutual connections – Seattle is the smallest big city – and discussed our allegiance to University of Washington Sports. Go Dawgs. 

There was more to the conversation. Here’s the rest:

 

Ahmad Corner: In a few sentences; who is Nate Stone?

Nate Stone: A guy doing his best. We all wear so many hats in life — partner, parent, friend, sibling, kid,  coworker, entrepreneur — all uniquely challenging. I’ve gotten to a point where I regularly ask myself “are you doing your best with the roles that are most important to you?”. And that’s ultimately who I am — just a dude trying to do my best with what I feel matters most. And to me what matters most is investing in people and creatively working together to make the world a better place.

AC: Talk to me about Cathedral. What is it and who is its target customer/audience?

NSCathedral is an event space in Ballard that donates all profit to charity. We are passionate about two things. 

One, helping people engage with the things they deeply care about in tangible ways. 

And two, creating a place that supports people as they navigate the full spectrum of the human experience — whether that involves grieving at a memorial service, collaborating on a professional event, connecting with other people in meaningful ways or celebrating a wedding. 

Our target customer/audience really is everyone — we’ve hosted a diverse mix of people already. We are specifically looking for people who share our vision of collaborating to make this world more beautiful. And I know that’s a broad sentiment and goal. That’s intentional. There are SO many ways to contribute positively to humanity. We don’t have a desire to control how people contribute. We don’t need everybody to do everything. We need everybody to do something. 

Guests attending the Cathedral launch party in Downtown Ballard.

AC: Where did the idea of Cathedral come from?

NS: About 5ish years ago some friends started having conversations about how can we tangibly help people. That led to this question — “what are we good at?” People started raising their proverbial hands. “I’m good at throwing a party”.  “I’m good at design, web development, strategy, finance, rallying people, management, HR.”. From there we started piecing together how we could collaborate on something that answered the first question. How do we help? We landed on opening Cathedral — an event space — because it was something that merged our skills and passions. 

AC: In what ways is Cathedral serving its community?

NS: This actually ties directly back to what we’re passionate about. I hope, and we’re aspiring, to really serve our community by first, providing a space where people can indeed experience the full spectrum of the human experience. We WANT Cathedral to be seen as the place people go for any kind of event. The thing about events is that you don’t typically throw one unless it’s for something you actually care about. Which means we get to be a space where people are inherently creating meaningful experiences for both themselves and others. We think that’s pretty cool.

…and second, when you host an event at Cathedral you get to choose the charity your event will support. A simple thing on the surface but what we’re really asking you when you host an event at our space is this….“What do you care about.”  We believe if we consistently get people to ask themselves that question… generosity will follow.

I think the most straightforward answer — donating money — is actually less critical than those two. If we do those first two well, we’ll be able to donate money.

AC: In your opinion, are people born entrepreneurs or are they conditioned to be? Why?

NS: Both. There’s certainly a specific type of wiring — that quintessential rebel, maverick persona — that naturally lends towards entrepreneurs.

AC: Why?

NS: But I think within each of us is a seed of a dream and a desire to create. Which is good. Because we need creators and innovators. I would like to see that word evolve a bit beyond a personality type and even the traditional interpretation of starting a “business”. For example, why shouldn’t parenthood be considered entrepreneurial? It requires significant risk, creativity, management, adaptability, sacrifice. There’s a reason people regularly compare starting a business to raising a child. Americans specifically have a tendency to glamorize the traditional definition of entrepreneur — I’d love to see it used more inclusively because I believe we’re all creators and dreamers. It just manifests differently based on a ton of factors including opportunity and wiring

AC: Startup life can be rough, especially if you don’t truly care about whatever it is you’re building. Any sacrifices you’ve had to make as an early stage entrepreneur? 

NS: Absolutely. YES, 100%. If you haven’t had to make any sacrifices for something you care about then you probably don’t care about it much. And if you don’t care about it much it’s not worth doing. I think everyone should “bleed” a little bit for their dreams. If you don’t have skin in the game why even bother? Sacrifices look different for everyone — some early sacrifices for us include the obvious ones like time and money. Right now we are 100% volunteer run — that includes myself — which meant financially planning for years so we could do so. There are also sacrifices less discussed — emotional and internal sacrifices. Sleepless nights, work-life imbalance (used that wording intentionally). A significant one for me is the emotional component of putting yourself out there. There’s a vulnerability in creating something new — whether that’s an event space or a website. Will people come? What if I fail? Is my identity wrapped too deeply in this? WHY am I doing this? Do I have what it takes? That’s where I think you see the real sacrifices, and the real growth. 

Nate Stone (far right), behind the “bar”, with guests at the Cathedral launch party.

AC: Any advice you’d like to give to other early stage entrepreneurs or those thinking about jumping into entrepreneurship? 

NS: I don’t know how qualified I am to give advice. I’m certainly no expert. There have been plenty of learnings already. 

First, before you jump ask this about your dream — “does my dream make the world better?”. Until you can definitively answer this question with a ‘yes’ and a ‘how’— don’t do it. I believe our dreams and passions always do. But you MUST know those answers. Everything else is logistics. And you can figure those out. 

Second, make sure what’s most important remains important. I love what we’re doing at Cathedral. I’m deeply passionate about it. But the minute I can’t be a good dad or husband I’m out. That doesn’t mean that sometimes I’m not as present or it doesn’t affect me. But people must always come before projects. 

Third, don’t do it alone. I have a business partner, Derek, who has a 9-5 but has a ton of responsibility. Our wives are really involved and contribute with their specific skill sets. We have numerous individuals who continue to lend their skills to the project — we call them founders and we mean it. There’s an old African proverb  “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We want to go far. Big dreams help solve big problems and are, as a result, complex. Leading and starting something fresh is often lonely and always challenging. If you want to do something significant you simply can’t do it alone. Often people take deep pride in their independence. And that’s okay. But every Jobs has a Woz. You want to do something that means something? You need help. We’re not made to take on life alone.

AC: Whats the future of Cathedral look like – we’re talking 5 – 10 years out?

NS: Different. Evolving. Creating. I know it’s cliche but I really think we’re just getting started. The problems of our world are complex and ever-changing and so I think we must be also. I hope our future is creating a vibrant space that lives and breaths goodness in action.

Above all, my desire is that in 5, 10 years, Cathedral is synonymous with hope. That we are an encouragement to people around the globe. Really. I hope people see our model, just as we saw models that came before us and say “we can do that”. Or even “we can do that better!”. The world needs people to improve on what we’re up to. We hope, and believe they will. Our job is to help remind them they can. 

AC: And the final question…  What can your community do for you and Cathedral?

NS: Talk about us. If you have an event coming up — book our space. If you want to know more or collaborate with us —  reach out. If you think what we’re doing is interesting — share it. Share it with friends and co-workers. Share it on your social platforms. Share this interview. Talk about why you think it will work or talk about why you think it won’t. What did I say that you disagree with? Why? Ask yourselves what causes resonate with you most? Or what would you do if you weren’t afraid? The world needs you and your gifts and passions. You do those things — I believe Cathedral will be fine.

 

If you’re an early stage entrepreneur and interested in pitching your business and getting some honest feedback, or you simply want to get more involved Seattle’s entrepreneur community, take a look at the 1 Million Cups Seattle page. Apply to present or join the rest of the 1 Million Cups community in attendance one of these Wednesdays.

Ahmad Corner

Ahmad Corner

Founder at YPGroup
Ahmad is the founder of YPGroup and Young Professionals of Seattle, Director of Biz Dev at Techstars Seattle Startup Week and advises early stage businesses on growth and user acquisition. A Seattle native and current resident, you can likely find him snowboarding, wake surfing (less likely) or eating somewhere (more likely). "Go Dawgs!"
Ahmad Corner

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