I'm Adam Tanaka
I was overdrawn $350 in my bank account, in the middle of a recession when I started my company. I grew it to 7 figures without borrowing money and without bringing on partners. Now, I have the best job in the world listening to and helping other founders push through each phase and JUST KEEP GOING!
Starting and growing my company was the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I've ever done because I’ve been able to meet and work with some incredible humans and brands around the world. Not to mention, the amount of learning and failing then succeeding and failing, but continuing to push through and succeeding, by not stopping, gives you the biggest confidence boost and a foundation that isn't easily shakeable. However, the stuckness, feeling lost, and overwhelm are very real. I am a big advocate for cognitive behavioral therapy and through this, I learned that not only was I in my own way, but I am given tools for the chatter step aside and move forward effectively. It's work...like, A LOT of work, daily. Commitment, discipline, and consistency are all part of making it happen. The important part is to find your joy and run like hell towards it, embrace it, and never let it go. Unbelievable things happen. Incredible things happen.
Since then, I have gone on to start and grow other companies that I'm extremely proud of. I am a firm believer that no one can achieve anything alone (thanks Leslie Knope) and I owe a lot of the growth (personal and professional) to incredible teams, mentors, and my community that surround me every step of the way.
As a child, I was too busy digging deep into the mud with my dinosaurs or climbing to the top of our oak tree in the backyard getting ready to fly a rocket ship to an unknown planet to worry about what might be going on around me. I knew things were "off" but my kid brain was unable to pinpoint a root cause.
It was around the age of 14 that I was able to recognize changes in my mom. Changes that took her to very dark places. As I unpack my personal trauma as an adult and continuously add necessary tools to my toolbox to help me navigate the day-to-day, I find myself checking in on my child self. I can see how much the past affected me and how it has tried to play such a large role in my daily life. I am constantly reminded of how crucial it is to educate myself by utilizing necessary resources from mental health professionals and organizations that are doing the work. Building a strong and supportive community around you is key.
My mission with Cavehouse Supply is to help bring awareness to childhood mental health by supplying tools and resources to empower kids so they can navigate early childhood with confidence, nurture their creativity, and develop skills to support their mental health. Every design, and even our company name, has been directly inspired by kids and their limitless imaginations. Being human is hard, but it's a little less difficult when we join together to create powerful and positive change for kids to navigate throughout their day.
LIFE AND LIMB PRINTING
After working as the "shop bitch" (real title given to me) at a merch company, scrubbing floors, presses, and ink buckets, I started Life and Limb Printing as a way to help bands, brands, and companies find better, much easier solutions to merch because...it doesn't have to be hard. In a studio apartment in 2008, I began printing shirt orders on the floor, while holding the screen down with my feet and curing shirts in the oven on a baking sheet. After my first order from one of the long-standing breweries in Nashville, TN, I didn't stop there and continued to grow the company, while maintaining a full time job at an art store for the first 2 years which allowed me to pay cash for the equipment and supplies that I needed. After a grueling time of going to the art store from 7am to 7pm, then getting home to work on my company from 9pm to 2am, in late April of 2010, my boss told me I had to choose between managing the store or doing my "little side project." Without thought, my answer was getting into to my clunker of a car and driving home on what little fumes I had left, and immediately getting to work on merch orders. The fear of the unknown quickly set in, but I remember using that fear, that feeling of what the f*ck did I just do, and decided to move forward without anymore thinking. It was 2 days later, I woke up to several emails in my inbox (16 to be exact, and every single one was an actual human wanting a merch order.)
I took this thing full time in May of 2010 and grew it to half a million in 5 years. By 2019, we hit 7 figures and after rubbing my eyes to make sure I was seeing things correctly, I 100% celebrated because you have to - the small and the big wins. Quickly learning that fast growth is not always good growth, I adopted the phrase "slow is smooth and smooth is fast" into how I navigate a lot of decision-making and short term/long term goal-setting.
Fun Fact: The company name came from a 3 second brain glitch when asked by my very first customer what the name of my company was, so they would know who to make the check out to. After a couple of "uhh's" and "err's," I looked at a Fugazi record (if you know, you know) and quickly blurted out the name to one of my favorite songs off of the album "The Argument" called...well, Life and Limb. I had planned to changed the name every year, but it stuck...So here we are.
PILOT LIGHT INDUSTRIES
Being in the merch and print industry for so long, you begin finding things that aren't working. Not just with your own business but in the industry as a whole. I mean c'mon, merch is a significant revenue stream (it may even be your one and only) and sometimes it can carry a person, brand or company through the month/quarter/YEAR when other areas of the business aren't doing so well. Everyone wears it, wants it, sells it, buys it, drinks out of it, puts things in it, you get the idea. One of the best ways to sell and one of the best ways to create something of value is to LISTEN. Sometimes you have to shut up, ask good questions, and listen. [Here's something for free: Believe it or not, you are not the main character or hero of this story....your customer is.] I'm sure we've heard this before, but it rings true and you will quickly see the benefits of this by keeping it at the forefront of the way you navigate the work being done.
In comes Pilot Light Industries. In 2017, I was playing around with the idea of how I could better serve some of my top tier clients who have incredible brands, yet was unable to streamline ecommerce, logistics, merch production, etc. effectively without falling way behind and/or losing out on big opportunities. There was an over-abundance of full service merch companies with 360 models so what could I do differently that could truly help. After a slew of feedback and sleepless nights in the planning phases, in 2021, I created and ran with my merch management + retail partner (MMRP®) model and tested it. Sure enough, IT WORKED and I brought on my first client - the Nashville BNA® airport! Now, my kick ass team and I work day in/day out to continue to measure and adjust as needed.