At Project Spaces, everyone has a unique story to tell. With our monthly member spotlights, we delve deep into the worlds of our members to learn more about what drives them. This month we chat with Camden Street member and diverse serial entrepreneur, Danny Forest.
When Project Spaces member Danny Forest has an idea, he executes it.
For example, Danny wanted to optimize his time by catching up on comments and posts from websites like Quora, Reddit and Medium on his walk to work. He figured the best way to do it would be listening to the text instead of reading through it. He looked through the App Store and found several text-to-speech apps but nothing that could read out texts from different websites like a playlist or podcast.
This led to an app called Bad Parrot. He created it over a weekend alongside a developer in Spain. He currently only uses it himself but he’s contemplating selling it to language schools so students can listen to texts in the languages they’re learning on the go, and even slow it down for better comprehension.
Bad Parrot is one of a plethora of ideas that Danny Forest has come up with “by accident.”
He is technically a software engineer by trade but works in entertainment, self-help, commerce and photography. Oh, and he’s an English as a Second Language teacher.
At 21, he began his first co-op term at XMG Studio in Toronto. However, he had already launched several side businesses by this time.
In college at age 19, he started building custom software for companies to manage their operations. Another business was a video game tournament organization group with some friends in Gatineau. This concept was new back then because “e-sports” wasn’t even a term yet. There sadly wasn’t much money and, although it was fun, it wasn’t sustainable. Then came Skill Up. It used gamification concepts to help people learn new skills and track their progress.
He also made a video game demo in four months and released it online for free. Unfortunately, it was stolen by a Chinese website and overnight went from 300 plays to 3 million. He calls it, “a dumb move but a fun experiment.’
“It’s hard to do business on the side after work because you’re so drained,” says Forest. “I’ve tried many times and the only way to do it was in the morning.”
He loves working at a coworking space for the accountability aspect. “Just by having other hard-working people around, I have to step up my game and contribute to the vibe,” he says. “Life-changing shit is happening at coworking spaces. At home, not really.”
He went travelling for a year and didn’t work during that time. Once he got back to Canada, he decided to start working on Power Level Studios again full-time. He’s been working on this business out of Project Spaces Camden Street and on-the-go for a year and half.
While travelling, he started taking pictures with his phone. He taught himself framing and composition. After some practice, he launched an Instagram account and gained some traction. He finally bought a camera and met a professional photographer/videographer while volunteering in Bangalore, India. He honed his skills with the photographer as his mentor. Another volunteering company was so impressed by Danny’s Instagram account they asked him to take pictures of their operations in Uganda.
“I do tend to start a lot of projects,” says Danny. “I try different skills and see what works and what doesn’t.”
Back in November, he was in Cambodia, at a coworking, co-living space. He felt he wasn’t learning fast enough nor diversifying his skill set fast enough so he read stories and watched YouTube videos to try and change this. He watched this TEDx Talk video of Josh Kaufman who demonstrated that he learned how to play the guitar in just 45 days.
The video inspired Danny to start learning new skills. He started with three: storytelling, e-commerce and drawing. He would wake up at 5 in the morning, spend 30 minutes on each skill and after a while gained confidence.
He always thought that because he was a logical person he would never be a talented drawer but once he changed his mindset he was able to draw well enough that his designers and artists could understand his concepts. He’s inspired by Robert Greene, the author of the book Mastery. His favourite quote by Greene is, “the future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”
Another accident, Viking Boutique, came from learning these new skills. It is essentially the story of the owner of the store, a Viking named Harold Goldskin. Every two weeks, Harold goes on raids in fictional regions that sound like they would be in modern day Scandinavia where he finds new items to put in the store. These items all have a story behind them: how it was acquired, who made the piece, and who wore the piece. Every story is entertaining. He’s currently in the process of selling the store on Shopify because, as you can imagine, he has a lot on his plate.
His advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs is to “learn as many skills as you can. You never know when it’s going to be useful and you never know what you’re going to be good at until you try.”
You can see Danny Forest’s work on Medium.com where he writes new articles everyday and on his website: DannyForest.com. You can also find him on Entrepreneur, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global, and on Power Level Studios' website as well as on Twitter: @danny_forest.