From Class Clown to Real Life Willy Wonka

Unravelling the unbelievable backstory of Jake Karls

From Class Clown to Real Life Willy Wonka

Unravelling the unbelievable story of Jake Karls

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves for a burst of inspiration as we kick off with a David to Goliath story that will send shockwaves of empowerment through your very core.

Right here, right now, you are in the front row witnessing the making of an empire, as we plunge headfirst into the narrative of a true trailblazer, none other than Jake Karls.

Jake is the visionary co-founder of chocolate powerhouse, 'Mid Day Squares'— Think Hershey's, but with a modern twist that has completely redefined the very essence of success!

Within the layers of his introspection, a profound message unfolds – a testament to the art of harmonizing grand aspirations with the soul's innate quest for joy.

To Jake, it's not just about individual growth; it's about fostering a tribe that strides forward, resilient and empowered, towards a shared destiny.

The story weaves through personal turmoil, heartbreak, and resilience, delivering profound lessons that in the vessel of self-belief, every individual has the power to forge a path that triumphs against all odds.  

The narrative resounds with a life affirming note – Genuine connection always emerges victorious in the end.

Get ready to absorb the wisdom of a mind that has dared to dream bigger and bolder, and transformed those dreams into a reality through relentless action.

So, grab onto the excitement, soak up the energy, and let Jake's journey ignite the fire within you.

Finding Purpose: Breaking the Chains of Conformity

Back in his school days, Jake found comfort in humour to shield himself from the relentless storm of insecurities and academic struggles.

It wasn't just about being the "class clown" for him; it was a survival strategy in the face of societal expectations that seemed designed for everyone but him.

Outbursts that turned boring lessons into comedy shows, to creative excuses that elevated late homework submissions into an art form, Jake’s antics were legendary.

For five years, he wrapped himself in the laughter of his peers, blissfully unaware that while time marched forward, he stood still..

The approach towards graduation was a harsh awakening. A bitter reminder that he was out of touch with the world around him.

The laughter that shielded him shattered into a thousand pieces.

Jake stood at a crossroads, realising he'd been dancing to a tune that led nowhere. School days were about to end, but uncertainty still loomed large.

So he took a different approach.

In the pursuit of academic validation, Jake decided to become the stereotypical student, burying himself in textbooks and ‘serious’ endeavours.

An ‘in-the-box thinker’ going after good grades.

In reality, he just wanted to belong.

His life became a relentless pursuit of proving he was more than just a jester in the classroom.

University beckoned as the next chapter, and he dove in head first, still striving to conform to academic norms and societal pressures.

He thought this would bring him the validation, happiness, and success he was destined for.

However, conformity proved to be a treacherous companion.

It led Jake down a path of isolation and confusion.

It was in this winding maze of self-discovery, at the age of 22, out of nowhere one TV show changed his life.

While watching Shark Tank, Jake found a beacon of inspiration. The words of a fifty-plus-year-old entrepreneur hit home like a pile driver.

"His resilience, belief, and passion were so intense. I thought to myself, man I need what this guy has."

"I said, 'Fuck it – I need to make decisions for Jake.' Then I ran into the world of entrepreneurship – I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how, I did not give a fuck. I just went for it!"

The man on the screen sparked a rebellion within him — a rebellion against the mental prison of societal expectations.

As soon as he had this epiphany, Jake discovered that success and greatness were not distant peaks to be conquered but dormant forces within him.

The key was a mindset shift, an unapologetic belief in himself, an on-the-spot unshackling from the chains of conformity. For the first time in his life, he finally felt free.

This points to a bigger problem – the societal machinery that boxes young minds into a uniform mould.

We, as humans, are not meant to tread the same well-worn path but to revel in our uniqueness and find our purpose – which is unique to us.

The reason we’re here today is because as a tribe our ancenstors banded together to survive. Everyone was different. Everyone played their role. Without embracing our uniquness, you wouldn’t be reading this text.

Jake’s story is an incredible reminder of exactly that.

And his realization that conformity is the opposite of authenticity strikes a chord with our mission at David to Goliath – where we celebrate the innovators bold enough to challenge conventional thinking.

Innovators who, like Jake, dare to be great, carving their own pathway into the unknown.

Embracing their unique role amongst the tribe.

Lessons from the Journey: Discovering Strengths and Building Communities

“Entrepreneurship is not meant to be for everyone. Whatever you do to find your purpose – that is what you are meant to do. I think purpose can be found in anything. That should be your life goal to find. Once you find it, you will never un-see it. Humans do figure things out – just take the leap! Otherwise you’ll think Fuck, I should have acted on it – when you’re dying.”

As you’re starting out in entrepreneurship, self-awareness is your North Star.

At the beginning of Jake's journey, he tried his hand at different things—from running a fitness business to organizing campus parties and diving into clothing sales.

Through the highs and lows of successes and failures, a key theme emerged:

Jake realized that his true strength wasn't the nitty-gritty of operations but in building communities.

Looking back on his experiences, he opens up:

"I might not be a wizard at the operational stuff, but I've got a talent for bringing people together. That's the big takeaway for me in this whole entrepreneurial gig."

This lesson, straight from Jake's playbook, isn't just about him. It's a nugget of wisdom that rings true for entrepreneurs all over the world.

It shouts the importance of knowing your strengths and, just as importantly, accepting your weaknesses.

There’s a lot of power in understanding your business inside out, especially as you learn the ropes. But ultimately, the real gold lies in playing to your strengths, and finding a group or team where your unique abilities can positively impact the entire tribe.

Yes, it can be painful to hand off tasks, but it's a far cry from the potential wreckage of trying to do it all yourself.

In a personal revelation, Jake unveiled his true driving force: he isn't in it to run a business. His passion lies in using the business as a vehicle for making friends and fostering a community.

It's a refreshingly genuine approach that resonates with the human side of entrepreneurship.

For me personally, I used to think I needed to understand all areas, and develop everything - including all my weaknesses.

 My mentor, who used to lead huge teams at Tesla, guided me to define my top five strengths. If you do this and surround yourself with people who have strengths where you lack, you’re going to move 10X faster.

It's like assembling a band where each member plays their instrument masterfully, creating harmonies that resonate beyond individual capabilities.

Leaning into what you’re great at. Whilst empowering others to do the same.

The tribe always wins and no one person is bigger than the team.

It’s strength in numbers.

Triumph Over Personal Turmoil: A Tale of Resilience

In life, you look back at pivotal moments, once the source of sadness and destruction, which turn out to be your biggest opportunities for growth.

In Jakes case:

“One such turning point occurred in my early 20s — a four-year relationship abruptly ended, leaving me grappling with the stark reality that what I thought was a lifelong partnership was, in an instant, severed. The gap between expectation and reality was huge, and reality destroyed me. I had just closed my other business, now I lost my partner”.

Loneliness, depression, and an overwhelming sense of emptiness consumed Jake. The questions ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I doing?’, ‘why me?’, ‘what the fuck?’ echoed relentlessly.

In the midst of all this, Jake’s sister and brother-in-law approached him with a business idea. A chocolate bar company, where he could do what he does best – build a community - and make it rain.

The real life Willy Wonka.

Despite his prevailing gloom, he saw it as a lifeline to numb the pain, offering a distraction to fill the void.

After 2 months, the gnawing feelings began to fade. The chocolate bar venture became a canvas for him to redirect his energy and find his true purpose.

But the road to building the brand, much like life itself, echoed with familiar feelings of doubt.

“The path to building Mid Day Squares presented challenges that tested my resilience. I learned that building a resilient mindset is essential — doubt may creep in, but continuously fortifying your belief in yourself is the key to persevering.”

“Through this journey, I encountered Melissa, now my wife. We’ve been together 5 years, she’s been through thick and thin with me”.

Life's uncertainties may take much from us, but as I've discovered, keeping the flame of belief alive, even the most impossible of circumstances, ensures that, ultimately, everything works out.

There aren’t many things you can control. But your self-belief: That’s always your choice. It’s your greatest weapon - if you allow it to be.

Look, Jake’s now happily married with his partner and going on to build this huge $100M business in public. You can connect the dots looking back, but you can’t in the moment of uncertainty. 

I went through the same thing. Everything, my complete support system, to nothing. Overnight.

During moments of self-doubt, when everything seems to falter, I've learned to recalibrate, steering back to the core lesson from that fateful breakup: time heals, and with perseverance, everything falls into place.

This episode of Jake’s narrative, woven with threads of heartbreak, resilience, and the pursuit of purpose, encapsulates the profound lesson: Self-belief is the cornerstone of human potential. 

The force that propels you forward in the face of adversity.

In those moments of doubt, the only true defeat is the destruction of self-belief.

Time heals everything. Just keep believing.

In Jake’s words:

“Stay in there a little longer”.

Scaling the Heights: Mid Day Squares' Ascent

I dove into the Mid Day Squares’ company vision with Jake.

What began as a modest dream to achieve $250,000 in the first year has transformed into an awe-inspiring David to Goliath story, marked by the sale of over 30 million bars and the establishment of a dedicated manufacturing plant.

Jake is now well and truly a rainmaker. Taking his fans around tours of their chocolate factory. 

Yet, with this remarkable growth, a crucial question loomed large – can Mid Day Squares preserve its underdog spirit, the heart and soul of the company, while ascending to become a Goliath? Challenging the likes of Hersheys and Mars.

“I hope. If we want to keep it at a 30 million dollar business, I believe we can do it.

“But when you grow the business you slowly fall into bureaucracy, into systems. We’re a very different company to the one we started. But we still have the authenticity which makes us fit.

Whether we will get acquired or we’ll build and acquire, we don’t know. All we know is that compounding little momentum is huge over time.”

Mars spent 70-100 years building their infrastructure.

For us, my dream will be to become the Goliaths and keep the David’s mindset, but it’s hard.

The game of life comes back to your purpose – to you being you. The moment you can’t do that is when you may have to put the bat down.

What the Goliath’s have done is fascinating – the level of innovation. Inspiring!

But I don’t want lose my soul trying to reach the goal.”

The discussion turned introspective as I went on to ask him – Are you enjoying it as much now?

“Funnily enough, this conversation came up two nights ago. I was watching something – a tennis player was on her rise to fame, enjoying the experience. Then it became 20000 people a stadium, and she didn’t get that same feeling. I started to feel myself the same thing – am I enjoying it the same as I did before? If not, why?”

“I couldn’t answer the question. I love Mid Day Squares, and the fact that I get to make friends.”

“The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you get to see.”

“I think ultimately, I’d really like to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Mid Day Squares is part of the journey getting me to that. I don’t know if I’m as happy as before, when I used to hand-deliver items. It could just be that I’m tired now. Hopefully I’ll have a clear answer soon.”

Being an entrepreneur doesn't mean possessing all the answers; as humans, we are in a perpetual state of learning and constant evolution.

But when entrepreneurs face constraints, such as limited resources, tight deadlines, or challenging circumstances, they are forced to think outside the box and find innovative solutions.

These limitations serve as catalysts for creativity and problem-solving, pushing them to maximize their available resources, prioritise essential elements, and pioneer unconventional approaches.

In essence, it's within the confines of constraints that true innovation happens.

This is why I fundamentally believe that empowering more entrepreneurs to take that leap of faith guided by self-belief is the best chance we have at creating a brighter futue.

The Human Touch: Storytelling and Authenticity

Product market fit is the most important thing for any business. Your offering needs to be re-purchasable, and consumers have got to love it.

A decade ago, the e-commerce landscape was different; being the best narrator wasn't the only way to carve a niche—throwing wads of cash into advertisements seemed to do the trick just fine back then.

But times have changed. Consumers have become smarter and don’t fall pray to such manipulating marketing tactics.

Amidst the cacophony of commercialism, one truth stood strong: genuine connection always emerges victorious in the end.

People want to belong. They long to be understood.

In the interview, Jake revealed the secret sauce to Mid Day Squares’ success – human-nature relatability.

"When we started Mid Day Squares, I knew to win on the shelf of a supermarket, we're gonna have to get people emotionally connected, so they're already a fan before they even purchase it."

“So we started filming everything onto social media to gain attention through relating to people on a deep level”.

In a market saturated with products vying for attention, the duo of storytelling and humanizing the brand became their superpower.

Their social media content pulled back the curtain on the raw realities of business. From live founder therapy sessions to desperate conversations steering them clear of bankruptcy, and even the tumultuous personal lives of the founders, Nick and Lesley, who teetered on the brink of divorce.

Remarkably, all of these struggles were openly shared across social media.

They’ve taken transparency and authenticity to a whole new level.

The result? A foundation of trust, and a legion of devoted fans who champion the brand. 

As such, they totally leaned into the content side, not just for hitting metrics, but for orchestrating a symphony of emotions – making people feel a certain way.

“You cannot copy how the DNA in our company culture is. That’s our superpower – it’s individual to us”.

But, here’s the catch. Posting content like this, as a canvas to showcase your brand’s soul and resonate with people on a profound level, is like getting on an infinite treadmill – a never-ending engine that constantly demands your attention.

“Once you go on it and commit to it, sharing your journey, you can’t stop. If you stop, the business might go to shit.”

Navigating Growth: Challenges and Reflections

I delved deeper, probing Jake on the hurdles of preserving authenticity as Mid Day Squares continues to expand. 

With a candour that cut through the air, he shared the relentless battle – facing critiques, grappling with internal conflicts, and the arduous quest to remain true to yourself.

Navigating the tightrope between growth and happiness emerged as a poignant conversation –  In this, the pressures of scaling and the fatigue it ushers, the gravity of commitment, and the haunting ‘what ifs’.

"The war you have to deal with – how much can you take and not change your mind?" Jake said, opening up about the struggle within.

But in the midst of all this uncertainty, Jake also shared his three pillars of resilience, that keep him pushing forward:

  1. Belief: An unshakeable belief in himself and his partners

  2. Therapy: therapy sessions that grant him new perspectives

  3. Fun: The imperative of finding joy amid the chaos 

"It's not just about personal success; it's a ripple effect that propels others to chase their dreams as well," Jake passionately asserts.

“The only way to succeed is if we figure out how to enjoy life at the same time. Not doing things for the sake of doing”.

“Belief within me, Nick and Lesley is the most important thing. As long as you believe, the blood will always pump.

You have to block the noise, focus on what makes us great, and do 100% of that every day. We’ll get to where we want to.

 If you continue to push, you’ll not just do great yourself, you’ll push loads of people on the edge to do the same.” 

I must add that Jake has had a huge impact on my life. His posts on LinkedIn have got me through my darkest moments when I was contemplating suicide.

Literally, all it takes is one post about raw authenticity to think, fuck, there’s other people going through this shit. It makes you feel connected.

I weaved my own experiences into the conversation, emphasizing the need for a support system and the importance of maintaining belief, especially during times of uncertainty.

Remember, life isn’t a highlight reel. We all have our good days. But we have just as many, if not more, bad ones. And that’s OK.

“So you’ve committed your life, and you’re thinking what if you don’t win? it’s a constant battle, a lot of stress.

People will be very mean when you’re being transparent.

You’re still a human, and as humans we naturally get hurt by things – it can discourage you and make you feel depressed.

But the moment I continue for the sake of having to scale and not as a genuine reflection of myself, I have to stop.

There’s no worse feeling than lying to yourself.

You should show your good stuff, but don’t forget to show the other side of yourself as well. Cos it’s important people get the full picture.

You relieve a lot of bricks off your shoulders if you do.

So I hope to be myself forever.”

Closing Thoughts: Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneurial Spirit With These Action Items

In the spirit of David to Goliath, we extend a rallying cry to all underdogs – embrace your uniqueness, find your purpose, and pursue it unapologetically.

Let Jake's journey be a beacon of inspiration, igniting the flame of audacity within you.

My top 5 takeaways from the conversation with Jake:

1. Discover Your Purpose: Take a moment to reflect on your true passions and strengths. What makes you unique, and how can you channel that into your entrepreneurial journey?

2. Build Authentic Connections: Embrace storytelling and authenticity in your brand. Connect with your audience on a deeper level, cultivating a community that believes in your mission.

3. Balance Ambition with Authenticity: As you strive for growth, assess the impact on your personal happiness and ask yourself – Are you still true to your core values?

4. Seek Support and Perspective: Just as Jake emphasizes the importance of therapy, consider seeking support and perspectives from mentors, friends, or professionals. Their insights can be invaluable on your journey.

5. Enjoy the Struggle: Amid the challenges and uncertainties, don't forget to savour every part of the journey. Success is not just about reaching the destination but relishing the process of growth and self-discovery.

Remember that the story is as crucial, if not more important, as the final destination. Push boundaries and embrace the uncertainties – your journey is uniquely yours.

As we navigate the uncertain waters of entrepreneurship, let's recall Jake’s words one last time: 

"The game of life comes back to your purpose—to you being you.”

So keep dreaming like a giant. But fight for those dreams like a god damn underdog.

I’ll see you at the top my friend,

Yours truly,

-Nigel Thomas

P.S. If you want to hear the original uncut interview with Jake we just released an exclusive podcast episode on Spotify - Listen here.

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