Greek American Alex Broches’ story is one of poverty, ambition, adversity, resilience and, ultimately, success. He knows what it is like to have lost everything. At the young age of 9, his father was sent to prison. As a child, his home was often without heat and electricity. He has taken economic risks that have resulted in failure. He has experienced deep depression. In the moments he was tempted to give up on his dreams, his determination saw him through. He is now in the throes of success he worked so hard to achieve, with his junk removal business in the Chicagoland suburbs and has just written a book about his journey titled ‘A Dark Path to Light.’
GCT caught up with the young enterpreneur and author, who recently returned from his first visit to Greece, to discuss his incredible life experiences, overcoming depression, overwhelming financial losses, and how he hopes his book will help people who are struggling in life.
Tell us about growing up in difficult circumstances? Did it make you determined to dream big from a young age?
It was rough. When you grow up not having basics like electricity or heat in your home, it makes life quite difficult, especially for a kid. I was 9-years-old when my father went to prison, so money was very scarce. I never had new clothes to wear and it was embarrassing going to school wearing really tight clothes that were too small on me. On top of that, there were times where we had to use candles for lighting in our home whenever we couldn’t afford to have the lights on (and on other occasions, we had to use bowls of water to heat up in our microwave, so we could bathe in. We did this whenever the heat bill wasn’t paid.) We moved around a lot to different hotels and even lived at my Papouli/Yiayia’s house for a bit, even though it was 45 minutes away from my school at the time. My dad’s prison sentence was very hard to deal with, both financially and personally. Being poor was a painful experience but it shaped me into who I am today. I learned a lot from that experience as a child. It made me determined to make my life better. I didn’t know how or in what way exactly, but I knew somehow it would be business related. Fortunately, I was right, because 20 years later (I am 29 years old now) my business is doing record numbers in sales. After several failed business attempts earlier in my 20’s, I stuck with it and things are finally working now with my junk removal business in the Chicagoland suburbs. Persistence is key. My father was accused of kidnapping a man who allegedly owed him $100,000 in a business deal gone bad. It was devastating for my mother, 2 brothers and I. It was devastating in terms of financial reasons and also my mental and physical health. I had developed deep depression, anxiety and gained a lot of weight. At one point I ballooned up to 280 pounds and had extremely high blood pressure. The stress from my dad’s prison sentence had done some damage to us. Thankfully, I was able to change my life around, which took many years. I had to focus on my thoughts first and foremost, which I talk about in my book. By controlling my thoughts, I was able to shape my future (better health, exercise, thought control etc.) It’s a long process that I still work on today, but it has changed my life for the better. Thoughts are things…as I like to say. If you think of positive things, then positive things will happen naturally.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
I would say it was my mother. She wasn’t really that educated. She had a basic high school diploma. She cleaned houses for a living growing up and still does to this day. More than anything, she’s the most mentally-tough person I’ve ever met. She inspired me to be tough, especially during hard times growing up. I look up to her. Her actions taught me to be fearless now, both in business and life in general. I think it’s because of this attitude that my business is doing so well. Being fearless gives you wings.
What is the biggest lesson your learned from experiencing failure in business?
The number one thing I learned from my failed internet startup in my early 20’s, College Junkee, was that you have to really know the product/service you’re offering. I thought I did, but I didn’t. In fact, I was way off and it cost me all of my savings and even my sanity at one point. It was a failed experiment in where I focused mostly on marketing the service instead of providing a useful service. I learned so much from that experience. Even though I was embarrassed in front of millions of people on MTV’s True Life documentary, it was the best thing that happened to me. It was a huge learning curve and it kicked my ass into really paying attention to business. The guy that said my site was “awful” on the show was Sam Yagan, who was the co-founder of OKCupid- one of the biggest dating sites in the world. Oddly enough, I actually bumped into Sam at an event in another state during the 4th of July weekend. We caught up and I told him how my junk removal business was doing now. To sum it up; it’s important to really know what your product and/or service is.
What advice would you give young people who have put it all on the line in business and have failed?
DON’T GIVE UP! I know it sounds cliché, but this is so true. So far in my life, I’ve been through 7 or 8 business attempts in my teens and 20’s (mowing lawns, vending machines, cleaning windows, selling health shakes door to door etc.) The internet startup, College Junkee, was the biggest failure. In between then, I had many odd and end jobs as well (pizza delivery driver, cleaning houses with my mom, making balloons for kids parties, being a factory worker etc. I think I went through at least 20 different jobs while trying to get my other business ideas going). I can’t think of how many times I wanted to give up, so many times. You have to believe in yourself though, as hard as it can be, especially after you fail at something. I’m 29-years-old now, and it took me at least 10 years to figure out how to make a business work. I went from making $500 a month when I was 27 (in 2015), to making $42,000+ net profit in a 2 month span in 2017. Failure is a great thing IF you learn from it.
Tell us about your resilience- how did you get back on track from your deep depression? How did you start getting your mental and physical health back on track?
It was a process that took a lot of time. Most importantly, it takes baby steps to make change. I realised that in order to change my life, I had to take small steps. Health, wealth and happiness takes time. I detail in my book the way I went about it. It was difficult, but, I am living proof that you can make significant changes in your life. It’s possible; it just takes time and pro-active steps to reach your goals. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, but make sure you are always moving forward, no matter the speed. Always make progress each and every day.
Most importantly, thought control is the most important thing for my resilience. Controlling your thoughts is very important. It can make you or break you. By thinking positive, it made it easier to want to change other things about myself, such as my mental and physical state. I was mentally out of shape and physically out of shape. I realised I needed to fix both of these things in order to better my life. If I were to do improve these aspects of my life, then it would mean I could improve other aspects as well, such as my financial part of my life etc.
What was the highlight from appearing on the MTV show True Life?
I would say it was when I met with the OKCupid co-founder Sam Yagan. He was intelligent and also a great teacher for me, even though our meeting was about 20 mins long. At the time, I wanted to throw my shoe at his face when he said my website was awful in front of millions of people on TV. BUT, I realise now, that everything he said was the truth and I learned a lot from him. It made a huge impact today on my current business, my junk removal business in Chicagoland.
Also, I would say the other interesting thing from being on a TV show like that, is all the different types of people that approach you from around the world. Some of these people were nice, friendly people who wanted to ask basic questions. Other people, not so friendly.
What has been your biggest challenge since then?
I would say it has been to always stay mentally and physically sharp. In order for my business to do well, I know that my mind and body have to be in “shape”. For my mind, I don’t watch TV anymore and read a lot. Several books a month. Also, I work out several times a week.
What is one piece of advice that has stayed with you?
I would say it’s something I’ve heard many successful entrepreneurs say over the years. “DON’T GIVE UP” I really believe with all of my heart that this is the number one reason why entrepreneurs fail. They give up too early. Business is hard. It’s a war. Not too many people can handle it and I think some people get into business for the wrong reason. First and foremost, you have to love what you do. If you love what you do every day, then you’re in the right business, which makes it easier to succeed in.
Tell us about your book? What did it mean to you to chronicle all your experiences on paper?
I was told by many friends and customers over the last few years that my life story was inspirational to them. I must have heard it at least 20 or 30 times, that I should write a book about my life. After giving it serious thought, I decided to do it. I started it 4 years ago and finally finished it a couple of months ago. I was a little embarrassed at first because I didn’t want people to know how poor and depressed I was. But after a while, I just didn’t care anymore.
That’s the nice thing about the transformation I’ve made, I don’t care anymore what people think. What happened to me growing up happened and it is what it is. Now, I look at my life story as a way to help inspire those and to open up about their problems. Being deeply depressed for many years did a lot of damage to me; I hope my book helps those who are currently dealing with depression and/or business failure.
What are you working on now?
In addition to writing my book www.ADarkPathToLight.com which talks about how I overcame deep depression and business failure, I own a junk removal company in the Chicagoland suburbs.
What does the future hold for Alex Broches?
That’s a good question. I try to enjoy the present moment and I’m enjoying life thoroughly at this time. Entrepreneurship is in my DNA and I love what I do every single day. However, I do think about the future quite a bit. Especially with what’s happening in Greece. To see what has happened to Greece, in terms of the economy, saddens me deeply. The other thing that concerns me deeply, are the low birth rates in Greece. These are two things that I think about quite often. The Greek people started western civilisation. We must cherish what our people have done for the world. In order for Greece to thrive in the future, we need more Greeks. To my fellow Greeks reading this, start having more babies-SOON!
We will see what happens further down the road. Until then, I’m focused on helping people now, focusing on my business, and also charity work as well here in the Chicagoland area. I love to help people whether it’s teaching them about business or if it’s something as simple as donating blood or donating my time to organisations like “Feed My Starving Children.”
Paperback Book & Ebook can be found here:
Followers can message Alex on Twitter
or on Facebook @ALEX C. BROCHES