It has been a tough year for me in books. Usually a dedicated fiction-phile, I’ve found myself searching for and failing to find a novel I can really sink into. As a result, the last few months have found me devouring nonfiction of various sorts, and I’ve read quite a few books about entrepreneurship and business.
One of these books was Do Cool Shit by Miki Agrawal. It was recommended to me by a colleague and it sounded so interesting that I actually bought it because no library in New York (that I actually felt like going to) had it in stock. Overall, I’d say it was worth the $14.99 investment, and on my rating scale, that’s pretty damn good.
The book is a series of chapters centered around lessons Agrawal learned as she launched her first business, the farm-to-table pizza restaurant (and now chain), Wild. Coming from a background on Wall St. Agrawal knew finance, but not the ins and outs of starting and running a small business. She ended up creating a wildly (haha) successful restaurant, and has gone on to start other enterprises, small and large. Along the way, she’s collected some pretty high-profile friends, not least of whom is Tony Hsieh, founder of zappos.com.
Throughout the book, Agrawal talks about her lessons learned and provides her insight and tips on topics such as finding investors, getting paperwork done, finding ways to get attention and promote your business, and cultivating your “tribe.” Sprinkled heavily with anecdotes, the book is a light read. There are no charts, no jargon-y talk of capital, and no need for a degree in economics, which is surprising given Agrawal’s finance background. Instead, she writes the way she probably speaks—plainly, using stories, and with a lot of exclamation points.
Which, actually, is one of the things I didn’t like about the book. Agrawal speaks openly and honestly about how she got started and it’s clear she has a lot of enthusiasm for doing what you love. But to me, it also seemed as though she’s one of those people that, shall we say, “walks in the light.” She can strike up a conversation with anyone, has a million friends who she called on for favors to get her business running and just overall seems to think, “If I ask, it will happen.” Which is fine. Perhaps I’m jaded (not perhaps, I definitely am), but there were of a few of her anecdotes that I just thought, it wouldn’t happen that way for a lot of people. I would absolutely get thrown out of the newsroom I’d just snuck into to pitch the editor in person, and she would not leave me with a hug.
That said, though, it’s easy to get inspired by Agrawal—she believed she could so she did, and now she’s trying to help other people do it too. Above all, no matter what her background, skills, or friend set look like, she started a business without really knowing how and made it work, and anyone interested in doing the same can learn from her.
If you’re looking for a detailed guide to small business finances, this ain’t the book for you. But if you’re, literally, looking to do cool shit, in work or in life, this book might just be the motivation you’re looking for.
Last word: Definitely read it. Buy it if you have to—you probably won’t regret it.