For entrepreneur Patrick Whaley, a life-threatening gunshot wound wasn’t a setback. It served as motivation to fulfill his longtime dream.
In 2009 Patrick Whaley was an engineering student at Georgia Tech and suddenly found himself in the midst of an armed robbery. “I didn’t realize it was serious until one of the guys started going through my pockets and I felt a barrel on the back of my head,” he told WSBTV as he was recovering from the incident. Whaley ended up shot, a 9mm round tore through his lung, liver, and a major artery.
That traumatic attack could have derailed Whaley’s life, but instead the experience solidified his desire to bring to fruition a project he had started in middle school, one that has evolved into TITIN weighted compression gear, a cutting edge training tool currently used by the military, professional athletes and entire teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Whaley thought back to his efforts in middle school to add muscle mass by surreptitiously weighing down his backpack. Not the most ergonomic of solutions, that initial idea led Whaley to develop an exercise aid that did not compromise form. During his college years, he developed a prototype of a weighted shirt that did not restrict movement or range of motion. It became an extension of the body in contrast to his clunky overstuffed backpack and traditional weighted vests that often result in poor form and bad posture.
While he was always enthusiastic about his idea, the armed robbery in 2009 helped him appreciate the true value of his product. “After I was shot, it was a tipping point. I realized it could be used for so much more than exercise,” Whaley shared. He used the shirt an hour a day for several weeks which resulted in improved range of motion and posture. “It was like my own muscle,” he said.
More motivated than ever, Whaley took all of the money he made as an engineer and put it into his business. It was not an easy road. He recalled, “There were times I had to choose between paying for gas to attend a business meeting with an investor or manufacturer and paying for lunch.”
Today, that sacrifice has paid off. Whaley sells thousands of units a month. “Athletes call it their secret sauce,” Whaley said.
What makes a successful entrepreneur?
It all starts with finding a problem that needs a solution. “Every problem can be solved,” said Whaley. “You just need to figure out the path on how to achieve that.”
Successful entrepreneurs have several key qualities. According to Whaley, “Being an entrepreneur takes determination, drive, and sheer insanity.” Part of that sheer insanity involves a shift in priorities, and tunnel vision. During Whaley’s journey, he continued to tell himself, “I don’t need a paycheck. I just want to achieve my goal.”
It helps to keep the big picture in mind. “It’s not easy to get up every day and realize you don’t have a steady paycheck,” Whaley disclosed. How can an entrepreneur avoid feeling discouraged? “You’re going after it for a reason. You are doing it for the greater good. That is what pushed me through those hard times,” he said.
Passion is an essential factor in ultimate success. “As an entrepreneur you need to focus on what you are truly passionate about. If you are passionate about it, you wake up at 6 am and go to bed at 3 am. That is a difference between those who succeed as entrepreneurs and those who fail and go back to a normal work life.”
Negative feedback can be used as motivation. “You have to drown out the naysayers,” Whaley advised. “You have to look at them and say, ‘I am going to prove you wrong.'”
Whaley has certainly proved a lot of people wrong along the way, and he has also created a product that is revolutionizing the way athletes train. In the process, he has become successful, no longer choosing between paying for gas and paying for lunch.
“No matter what happens, you have to be proud of what you accomplished,” he said. Whaley is proud of his accomplishments, and professional athletes and casual fitness buffs alike benefit from his invention. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” said Whaley. “I had that entrepreneurial itch. I felt like I was meant for something bigger.