Rahim Mitha

#BLUEPRINT: Joseph Lee

Rahim Mitha
#BLUEPRINT: Joseph Lee

Welcome! #BLUEPRINT is an article series where I interview the world's top entrepreneurs, influencers and leaders. The first story is about Joseph Lee.

Joseph is a serial entrepreneur who went from selling wax candles in his parents kitchen, to making the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. He is the Co-Founder of Coastline Market, a platform that sources fresh seafood directly from harvesters, reducing the time it spends in inventory and decreasing the high mark-ups created by middle men. Not only is Joseph great at building businesses and scaling them, but he is also extremely kind and generous with his time! Thank you Joseph, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to make this interview possible.

Q.1. What's your story? How did this all happen?

I never really envisioned myself as being an entrepreneur, but throughout my childhood I had always done a lot of entrepreneurial things. Breaking it down, there are some key experiences which have lead me down this path. Firstly, in my younger years lot of the business ideas I worked on were artistic, ranging from starting a candle company to pursuing a clothing venture in university. However, when I begun university I cast those ideas to the side so I could focus on gaining experience through completing internships and getting a good grounding in as many different industries as possible to expand my mindset and figure out what I was passionate about. These experiences definitely helped me shape some foundational skills that I think are imperative to being an entrepreneur. I was eventually lead back to my entrepreneurial roots and started Coastline Market after my second year of university. 

Q.2. You've been experimenting with businesses since you were a young teenager, what sparked you interest?

Growing up I religiously watched Dragons Den. As a young kid, watching all these entrepreneurs pitching ideas and building businesses really instilled that mindset in my head that it was possible. They came from the same towns, went to the same universities, and had the same kind of experiences, so why couldn’t I build something as well? I was constantly thinking, if they can do it, why can’t I? I had started projects before in different arenas of my life, so I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it myself.

Q.3. How did the founding of Coastline Market come about?

My business partner and I were doing summer internships in different parts of Canada and we wanted to work on a project together on the side, so we begun bouncing ideas of one another. In the Maritimes, he was surrounded by a lot of commercial seafood harvesting and noticed fishermen were going dock to dock in each small village, selling portions of their catch before going into the city to sell to the broker. That is when we begun to wonder why they were going through all this trouble and spending their time and resources selling portions of their catch before going into the city. We investigated, talked with customers, and dug deeper into the problem, discovering the huge inefficiencies in the seafood supply chain. We were determined to create a more direct approach and put an end to the mislabelling, middle men and markups which were present. 

Q.4. What skills have been fundamental to your success thus far?

Resourcefulness. When you first start off you don’t have access to a lot of the resources that a big corporation does such as time, funding, human capital or network connections. Therefore, you have to be willing to wear a lot of different hats and do whatever it takes to move the needle forward for the company, so you can’t be fixated on one particular role and only do that. Number two is grit and persistence. There are going to be times when things are not going right and progress is slow. It will seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and that is when most people quit. Determined entrepreneurs stick with it until it pans out.

Q.5. What is the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?

I would say the number one thing is, don’t underestimate yourself. A lot of people have great ideas, but don’t act on them because a preconceived notion that someone out there with more time, resources and money must have thought of the idea. This stops them from taking action and even starting. Don’t be so fixated on the idea, be confident in yourself and take the leap! 

Check out Joseph at www.coastlinemarket.com and his recent appearance on Forbes 30 Under 30. Connect with Joseph on LinkedIn and check out his awesome blog posts at 23 Lessons I learned by 23, and Should we care about where are food comes from.

If Joseph's thoughts resonated with you, share it on LinkedIn with #BLUEPRINT and follow along with this series!