Creating A Business From Struggle: How Getting Laid Off Forced This College Dropout To Become An Entrepreneur

Craig Clemens had a rough start to his business career. He was not a natural business leader and struggled to make ends meet. After barely finishing high school and then dropping out of college, Craig was struggling to even afford cheap food. However, out of his hard times, Craig was able to create a successful business despite having no investors and no experience. 

“I barely graduated high school – had a 1.7 GPA – and then dropped out of junior college. I started off in telemarketing, and was so broke I had to bring $1 off coupons to McDonald’s to be able to get a 2 cheeseburger meal. Eventually I discovered the world of advertising copywriting, and became very good at it. Life was good for a long time! But then in the 2009 recession, I was laid off.” Recounts Craig.

It was then that Craig and his brothers discovered the perfect idea for a company. Because it was a recession, the brothers had to pool together all of their money to start the business. 

“I had just gotten laid off from a great job, and I was freaked out. I traded in my car so I wouldn’t have a car payment, and downsized my living situation to a small apartment. My brother was really into CrossFit, and had the idea to create a high-quality nutritional supplement, and sell it direct-to-consumer on the web. Since it was the middle of a recession, there was no capital available. We had to self-fund the business, pooling together $60,000 of our own money to get it started.” Explains Craig.

Craig and his brothers then founded their brand creation company, Golden Hippo. They felt that with Craig’s copywriting skills, they would likely have higher conversion rates than others in the space.

“We saw how other premium nutrition and skincare brands were advertising their products, and knew we could do it more effectively, in a way that would give potential customers more information about their own health, that would lead them to make a more informed buying decision. It was tough starting our business in the recession, with no funding. But our dedication to making best-in-class products combined with our unique ability to get their stories out into the world is what allowed us to succeed.” Says Craig.

Golden Hippo now has nearly 900 team members, at 6 offices across the USA. Craig believes that the company’s mindset along with its atmosphere and company culture is what has made Golden Hippo successful. He and his brothers believe that without a proper mindset, a company will remain small. The key is to have every team member excited about the business. For this reason, Golden Hippo does something special that encourages ideas from every person involved on the team.

“A big key to Golden Hippo’s success is our company culture. We have a “best idea wins” policy where suggestions can come from anyone in the company to improve our products, marketing, or operations, and we take every one seriously. We are proud of the awards we have won including being named Comparably’s “Best Company For Diversity”, “Best Company For Women To Work”, “Best Leadership Teams”, and ‘Best Company In Los Angeles.’ ” States Craig.

For their next project, Craig is teaming up with celebrity Randy Jackson from American Idol to create a new brand of nutritional products to market, called, “Unify Health Labs”. The project has been off to a great start despite the ongoing pandemic. Craig recommends for anyone who is planning on starting their own business to look for a place in the market that needs help and expertise.

“Someone looking to start their own business should start by finding a problem that is common among consumers, then figuring out a unique and effective solution to offer them. Many make the mistake of starting backwards, with a solution looking for a consumer problem that doesn’t exist, or a problem that people already have a good solution for.” Advises Craig.

Despite starting out in the difficult time of a global recession in which there was no money or support to help out businesses like Craig’s, he and his brothers have been able to be successful through their hard work, good mindset, and amazing company culture. If you would like to learn more about Golden Hippo, you can check out their website at You can also follow them on Instagram @goldenhippo and @goldencustomercare.

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