30 Oct Interview with Dale Partridge
While leading sevenly.org, Dale has been able to give over $3 million in $7 donations to charities across the globe. Listen in as Michael speaks with Dale about his faith and the fast-growth company Sevenly.
About Dale Partridge
Dale is a family man, author of People over Profit, co-founder of Sevenly.org, Social Good Entrepreneur, and Follower of Christ.
Each week Sevenly partners with one qualified nonprofit, and Sevenly donate $7 from every product sold to support that charity’s cause. Since it’s launch in June 2011, Mashable, Los Angeles Times, and Forbes have named Sevenly one of the fastest growing social good start-ups in the country. In less than two years, Sevenly has given over $3 million in $7 donations to charities across the globe. Learn more about Sevenly
EASLEY: Well welcome to the program today on inContext. We are delighted to have Dale Partridge.
Dale, before we get into Sevenly, let’s talk about how you came to faith. Tell us about your journey.
PARTRIDGE: I grew up in a quasi Christian home where we would go to church a few times a year. You know if someone asked me who was God, I’d probably say, “Jesus” at the age of ten or something, but I was really not ever connected. You know I’d say it was probably a total of forty times from birth to twenty years old, you know. At the time, my family wasn’t really living that life and at the age of twenty years old, I was on my way to a conference where I was attending on Kinesiology. This company was my first business; I was a personal trainer at a fitness company with about six employees and I was driving and I couldn’t sleep. For some reason that night, I couldn’t sleep and I tried everything to get to bed and I woke up that next morning after maybe fifteen minutes of napping and felt kind of panicky, like I wondered why I couldn’t sleep. This is weird. I went to the conference the next day really dreading every moment of it and came back at five o’clock just expecting that I would just pass out for a nap and couldn’t sleep. I moved forward that night to the point where I was pretty delirious. I had been going on more than forty eight hours. I got to the point where I had started breaking down mentally. I asked a friend of mine if he’d come pick me up and take me home. That night I remember going outside, just scared out of my mind, thinking “What does this mean? Why can’t I sleep?” and I said, God, If you just give me some sleep tonight.” I told him, “I’d promise I’d go to church for a whole month.” That’s what I said. I went back. I got my friend to pick me up. He drove me home and I was pretty much emotionally breaking down at this point. I fell asleep for fifteen hours and I woke up the next day and I drove back to the conference which was two hours away and on the 210 freeway I went through Pasadena in California, and both of my front tires exploded on the freeway!
E: Oh my!
P: It was at the time that I was praying and it was at a time that I was listening to one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite artists, who I did not recognize as a Christian and passing by two churches, in the middle of two churches and I was like, “This is crazy. What the heck is going on?” I really felt like kind of this resistance is satan possibly not wanting me to go down this road. From that point on, I was still living in probably some pretty old ways. I was in a Bible study that was also inside of the house of a guy who was selling just loads of marijuana and we had a Bible study inside of his house during this time. People were smoking pot and drinking beer and getting drunk and we’re sitting in the middle of this house having a Bible study. That was probably first three months of my experience of Christ and slowly started attending a church and just never stopped going until the point where I think I really became connected with Christ and understood what the Scriptures says He is rather than what the church says He is. That’s been a really incredible journey so that’s where it’s ended up and a long story short, there was a definite transition, I mean I was the worst of these.
E: How old were you during this time?
P: I was twenty years old. I think I was about two weeks away from turning twenty one.
E: So it took you let’s say, how many years before you felt like you were settled in knowing Christ and Christ alone?
P: Probably about a year of really just doing some reading and I think that was ..you know as I look back through Scripture and understanding what it means to be a babe in Christ, I felt like looking back, God really shows us that looking at our past is how we really go forward in faith. It’s been an insane journey of how I’ve understood and learned who He is and what His grand narrative is for Christianity and for His followers of the world. Yea, I was very immature at the time, but it’s been many years now attempting to dive deep with Him.
E: When we look at what you’ve accomplished, with what six companies now you’ve built? You’re still very young; you’re still doing an incredible amount of work for such a young leader, in a sense, so when you look back on your faith’s journey, from eliminating the standard kinds of things kids do, what was the driver in Dale Partridge that was, “Hey, I can try something different, I can do something different; I see something different, there’s a way to make this work?
P: By the time I was eighteen, I thought for sure I wasn’t going to be an entrepreneur, I thought for sure I was going to be a professional baseball player,
P: …which was very interesting. My Dad as a child was grooming me as an entrepreneur without me even knowing it. He was allowing me and teaching me how to make money on my own through getting cans, through selling boxes-moving boxes, to selling candy at school. This kind of trend, I think really built confidence in me as a child that I didn’t’ know about, but by the time I was eighteen, I had professional scouts looking at me and I think really that schedule of baseball through my whole life really was what taught me how to be a leader. I was a left handed pitcher from the age of about seven years old. I was always leading the team, leading the field, and it gave me this confidence to really know how to control a game and how to think for more people than myself and it was just a natural progression that I had this leadership ability to make money on my own. I ended up hurting my arm really badly at a game between high school and college and really ended, completed my career for baseball which was a hard time for me, redefining my identity. That really pushed me into, how do I fix myself? I went into health and fitness to really understand the body, to understand why I was broken and then I started doing sports training and fitness training. It was just a natural progression that I think just clicked and when I started this first company, I remember people saying, “Man, this worked out really well for you.” I thought this just came very natural to me. I thought maybe God this is something you want me to do, is to run businesses and I never had a struggle with generosity or even forgiveness. Some of the things that I really think hurt companies is it’s so relational and it’s so money driven and so these things I think really just helped. I did have a bumpy road and a rough ride; I mean for the first couple years of being an entrepreneur, I was not wealthy by anybodies…
E: Well, let me stop you there for just a second. What entrepreneurial has an easy go of it?
E: Isn’t that sort of a given if you’re going to be a leader, you know, entrepreneurial, and businesses and ideas, you’re going to fail a lot?
P: Yeah, you know when I hear stories of small companies, big companies, non-profits, churches, pastors, whatever, that journey in the beginning is so rough. It’s figuring out, you know like Malcolm Gladwell talks about his ten thousand hour rule. I think that’s really what it takes. You really have to understand there’s steps of starting something and there’s steps of influence, and there’s steps of legal and finance, and operations and management, and there’s so many books you need to read and experience you need to have. I lead by the philosophy that entrepreneurs learn by doing, not learning to do, so I really got my hands dirty, got really busy and started making things happen. That’s what I think helped me, is I didn’t go to school for business, it was really that I learned how to start a business by running a business. I’m glad I went down that road; it’s not for everyone, but I went down that road and it built in me a great confidence and put me in a better position as I kind of entered into my thirties for next year.
Dale, when you see the folks that have come after you for interviews and contributions from Entrepreneurial Magazines, INC Magazine, Mashable, MSN Money, Forbes, LA TIMES, Fox News, NBC, and so forth. When they come after a guy like you, they’re looking for a sound bite; they’re looking for your story obviously, twenty-eight, twenty-nine and accomplishing all you have, yet you’ve got this strange thing. You’re generous, follower of Christ, you’ve got some philosophies that are not typical for a large corporation thinking. How to do you work with that internally as well as how do you bring those subjects up, when you have the opportunity?
P: I have a couple statements that I live by. One is people matter. That’s a seven leaf tagline but also that’s kind of my overarching banner over my personal brand. I believe at the end of the day, human beings have intrinsic value and obviously we know this as believers, as image bearers, but more importantly it’s a great message to hear in a secular world, is that people matter and to remember that. The first tagline we have for the company was Do Good. I remember thinking, “that is really easy, to do good.” We got in a legal battle because a similar company had the same tagline so we had to kill it. I thought, man, what a blessing because we came up with People Matter. People Matters tough. It’s really hard to believe that, to live it. It’s really hard to think that your waiter or waitress that screwed up your order and the person that doesnt look you in the eye when you’re checking out of the store, and the person that cuts you off in traffic, you know your mother in law that drives you nuts. Those kind of people, to believe that they matter, is difficult. So that’s the first one, and I try to really create opportunities to tell that story in the public eye in a way that gives ears to hear for that. Secondly, is people over profit. This has been a huge philosophy that I think is catching on in the secular space and it’s really trying to understand how do we value people over profit. Sure we all need to be profitable. How do we value people more? and what does that look like? Which companies have done it? and which companies haven’t and what’s happened to them? And so I’ve done kind of a great study on that as I go through my book and I think that it’s a message that people are listening to and hearing now as companies are moving towards social good as capitalism is being restored, as leaders are trying to do the right thing because there’s more eyes and accountability and documentaries on them. So it’s an interesting time and I’ve been really pleased with the outcome so far of the message.
E: Where did you learn to be generous?
P: That’s a good question. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that. I think generosity is something that I’ve always had this faith that I’ll be ok and I think that as I’ve become closer to Christ and understand His message that I’ve even had more confidence in that belief. When you have that, it alleviates the fear of emptiness, or fear of loss, or this fear of giving. I think that people want to hold on because they fear that they’ll lose it. For some reason, I’ve just been able to have confidence that, hey, if I give this money away; or if I give this time away; or if I give this talent away; or if I give this relationship away, then I’ll get it back and I’ll actually get it back in twofold. So not to say that I’m the king of generosity because everyday I still struggle with it as every human does. It’s counterintuitive; it’s the most impractical, unmathematically pleasing thing to do but it’s at the end of the day; it’s I guess the followers of Christ said, You will know them by their love, and you can’t separate generosity and love. I mean, it’s an ask and a receive. It’s a need. It’s an answer. I think that at the core of generosity you ultimately will find Christ but again a great vessel in the secular world to use to I would call strategic evangelism.
E: And you’ve got a marriage and a little girl in that equation. How does Veronica handle this great guy who’s out in the public doing amazing things, making a fantastic living, helping people, how does she process being married to this abstract genius?
P: The first couple years were rough. I think that we’ve learned to be more communicative, more communication with each other. She, I would say for a long time was the person holding the kite and I was the kite. I’m trying to figure out over this last year and this year coming up, how to really integrate us as a unit together, and so from things like integrating her in conversations, and bringing her into more decisions, and taking more photos of us together on our social media properties. So things like that we’re working on them right now in a big way.
E: Is she as comfortable being out in front as you are?
P: Uh, no. She’s not shy, but she’s not nearly as A type or forward as I am and she ….I’ll tell you what, a dreamer or an entrepreneur with a wife, with no children is a very hard world to live in. One because she was living in the shadow of Dale.
P: Now with this baby, it’s been such a blessing and I think in a very natural way, she has something that is unique to her; being a mom and the connection between her and our baby that I don’t have. I mean, I have a connection but not in the same way that she does and I think that’s been a really beautiful story of understanding a mother and their child and a father and child. But I think that I’ve been able to see her blossom in a very unique way to have this responsibility to look over this child. It’s been great for our marriage and I think it has allowed her to let me go a little bit more and be comfortable and confident in what she’s doing.
E: When Cindy and I have taught on family and marriage for years and often said, “When you get married you learn to die to self and then when you have children you die.”
P: Yeah! (laughter)
E: To take care of those little creatures, as demanding as their needs are, it’s not oh by the way this is all the time and it doesn’t stop until they’re able to clothe themselves, bath themselves, and then their routines change for mom and dad and you keep thinking one day it’s going to get a little easier.
P: I feel like it probably never does cause it’s like, my dad still calls me probably once a week. You know we’re thinking, man it never ends, you still have this child to worry about. Such a crazy thing.
E: So let me segway that. I’m always looking at dangers. I live in a world, not entrepreneurial world so much, I live in a world of a ministry realm where you see people for a long period of time and the idea of social good, social justice, obviously social media, entrepreneurship in a way has become in a way a little idol, and if I’m not an entrepreneurial or if I’m not as creative as a Jon Acuff, or a Dale Partridge or whomever we might toss out there, then I’m not hip. I’m not on the cutting edge. What do you say to a lot of people Dale? We all have dreams, inspirations;those are great things, but not all of us are going to be Dale Partridge; not all of us are going to be a Michael Easley. How do you help a person not live in this sort of a theory, well I’m going to take that risk in fifteen different jobs that never amount to success or live in this mediocrity? What do you say to them? Do you see what I’m saying? It’s like a bookend. You can’t have everything.
P: You know within every organization I’ve been in, especially with the belief that people matter, I’ve recognized that I can’t do it alone. Every time I want to, I try to, I fail. It’s sad to see leaders that don’t realize this. They don’t value their people. There’s entrepreneurs; there’s leaders; there’s supporters and being a supporter whether you’re an employee or a manager or whatever role you’re playing in an organization, search for someone that appreciates that position because you can’t do it without them. I think there’s a beautiful, like there’s nothing that’s been created that’s incredible that’s been done on your own. There’s no individual success that is notable; it’s always groups of people. So I think when people recognize when they are a part of machine or they’re a part of a movement, or they’re a part of something that’s really working together to create something, I think that really helps understanding that. Secondly, is that being an entrepreneur, there’s days where there’s just one more day that there is pro then there is con for me. It’s just for me, there’s days when I think, God, I just want to get a job. I probably said that, I’m not kidding, like four or five hundred times. It’s just a really hard road to walk. So I urge people to say, “Hey, blend your life,” and I feel like there’s a very interesting movement occurring where people don’t just have a job anymore. They would have a job and they would also have an Etsy shop, and then they would have a job and they would also have a ministry, and I think that’s really helped people figure out and feel out you know “Hey, here’s my security and my job and kind of my consistency, but I’m going to be a little bit daring and dreamer here and just kind of test the waters on my woodworking skills and sell something online. So I think that there’s with the internet it’s been a beautiful playing ground and testing field for people to really figure out, is there more that I really want to try or am I content with just keeping my job and spending a lot of time with my family? I think it’s a better state than there was maybe twenty, thirty years ago.
E: Let’s talk a little about Sevenly and that’s hard to do because it’s exploded for you. You started Sevenly when?
P: June 13, 2011.
E: And you’ve got close to seventy thousand people following you on social media. The concept with word play obviously with seven and heaven. Tell us how Sevenly works for those who aren’t yet familiar with what you’re doing.
P: Yeah, every week we partner with a new charity. We sell products in our e-commerce store like shirts, hats and bags and things for your kids and prints and every time somebody buys a product we give that charity of that week seven dollars. If we sell a thousand products in a week we give that charity seven thousand dollars. To date we’ve now raised 3.5 million dollars in seven dollar donations and supported a little over a million individual people.
E: Wow! I mean, did you have any idea when you started you were hoping for what kind of goal? What kind of metric?
P: It was just like really crazy, whirlwind! The company grew so fast. We made lots of progress and lots of mistakes and learned along the way but yeah, I never expected it to be so successful. I’d say that is my most successful venture and it was the best learning experience of my life to learn how to raise capital to work with investors to be in the spotlight to manage, like at one point I think we had fifty employees. To experience that was quite incredible. In Oct 2013, I stepped down as the CEO role because I felt like the company was really moving in a position that was a little bit easier to manage for not a creative entrepreneur, needed someone that was more operator focused. We have just been this year focused on stabilizing the company, preparing it to grow even further, but really building a strong foundation. I’m not worried so much about growing the company this year, as much as we’re focused on building a stronger system for the future. I’m a serial entrepreneur.
E: (laughter) That’s what I was going to ask. So you’re twenty-nine now, so how many companies in the next twenty years? We got to enter Dale Partridge a hat coming up.
P: You know, I don’t know. I think that for sure I’m already like I’ve kind of moved out and I’m focusing on being a brand evangelist and speaking a lot, writing a lot. I’ll probably focus on my platform for a while, but there’s a many more companies in the social good space that I’d like to start. Randomly, I’d like to start a social good restaurant. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I feel like that’s possibly in the next journey when Veronica and I head down that road. That’s probably a few years out. So yeah, it’s exciting, I’m sure I’ll probably start ten more companies,twenty more before I die, if God lets me. My focus is to always create just a giving experience, an experience that people matter throughout every company that I start.
E: Now we don’t know each other and so this question might be a little perceived improperly, but hear me out. You and I both use the pronoun “my” a lot and you said “my platform” a lot of times. So as followers of Christ, how do we keep that “my” lower case, below the line without it being all about Dale Partridge?
P: Man, that’s a tough one. The one thing I try to do is I always have a rule that I will never remove “follower of Christ” out of my bio. I integrate my core values and beliefs, including Christianity and how I view the world and just about everything that I put out publicly. When I speak, whether it’s at Facebook headquarters, or Adobe headquarters, I let people know that I’m a believer. For me also, it is very easy to be consumed with the focus on me and I think that taking time and surrounding myself with incredible mentors. I’ve allowed them to tell me when I have a booger on my face and I’ve given them permission to say, “Hey man, I think you’re losing focus here.” There’s about three or four people in my life that I’ve given that permission to and it’s served me very well over the last four years. So that’s been one tactical that’s really helped me. I’ve had a few phone calls pretty much embarrassing me; you know have an embarrasing phone call. It’s been humiliating in learning, continuing and expecting to still fail in the future but continuing to make small steps forward.
E: Yup! I often tell folks that I’ve got six men that are closer than brothers and they know all my secrets and I don’t make any moves or adjustments without a lot of time with them, processing with them and they’re the guys that will tell me the truth; they’ll tell me when I’m being stupid; they’ll give me a spiritual dope slap and they’ll also say, “Hey, Michael, this is something you really do need to start doing or whatever.” Dale Partridge, it’s been fascinating to have you on inContext today. Thanks for your time. We will direct folks on our website to yours as well: The Sevenly. Thanks a lot for your time, back and forth. I appreciate it.
P:It was so good. I love the conversation. It was really fun and thanks for having me.
E: At the end of the day, it seems to me a clarifying question is: Will God be glorified through what I’m doing? Will He be glorified through my job as a physician, a teacher, a homeschooler, as an attorney, as an entrepreneurial, as an artist, whatever trade you might know. You and I can glorify God with the skills, ability and gifting that he has granted us. The issue again is not success. The issue is faithful, and here’s the best news. Christ indwelling each of us allows us to be faithful. This is Michael Easley inContext.