[credit provider=”Daniel Goodman / Business Insider”]
When Scotty Cadenhead met Malachi Leopold at a networking event in a bar, he wasn’t even supposed to be there: he was underage.But Cadenhead had a vision he couldn’t quite execute. He wasn’t even sure what the final product would look like, but he knew what he needed: a producer to help him develop a web series for entrepreneurs.
It wouldn’t be a show with a panel and easily predicted interview questions. It would be a show that captured the real-life struggles of entrepreneurs. Trep Life (short of enTREPreneur) would be a series based on the untold story.
“I’ve been inspired by all these entrepreneurs in my life and I thought that if I could create something that’s not only entertaining, but inspiring, it’s going to have an impact,” Cadenhead told us. “That’s where it began. It started with these small niche ideas.”
At first, Cadenhead, 22, was intimidated by his business partner, a director/producer whose documentary “22 Years From Home” qualified for the Academy Awards.
The vision originally only needed around $6,000 to become a reality, so while Leopold was in the Congo working on another documentary, Cadenhead got started on fundraising. Ironically, the series about entrepreneurs was getting rejected for funding by every entrepreneur Cadenhead seeked out so he went to his last source: A 70-something-year-old woman whom he met while fixing furniture at a retirement community. He told her the idea and she came on board with a $100,000 investment.
In March 2011, the web series launched with on-the-go interviews meant to give viewers a glimpse into the drive and passion of an entrepreneur’s life. If it’s lonely at the top, the founders wanted it to come out in their 6-to-10 minute videos. The interview takes on three different components: the Grind, the Hustle & Payoff. Its first season featured CEOs from redbox, crowdSPRING and GrubHub.
“I’ve seen [GrubHub’s founders Matt Maloney and Mike Evans] speak numerous times in Chicago and their stories are great, but what you don’t see is Matt or Mike sitting at their desks or actually in the thick of doing the work,” Leopold says. “It’s the hustle, the grind, the payoff that every entrepreneur around the world — whether they’re in London or Silicon Valley — deals with. It’s the daily grind of running the company. It’s not sexy work. It’s just the grind.”
And that’s the reason why the founders aren’t focused on turning their web series over to a television network any time soon: They want to be able to reach the broadest audience and that’s what the web achieves.
Trep Life is currently in its first season, but the founders are already planning the second season, which they say will be a “bigger show,” getting the crew out of Chicago to feature entrepreneurs in New York, Washington D.C. and Boston. The third season will take place in the West Coast and seasons four and five will be international.
The bigger vision isn’t to create a cool show, but to bring a change for entrepreneurship.
“It goes beyond just ‘Are you building a company that addresses a social issue.’ We can tackle social issues by focusing on training and investing in entrepreneurs in places that are in need,” Leopold says. “How do we help entrepreneurs get their companies up and running, create jobs and create a sustainable economy. How do we promote a positive change?”
In this economy, maybe that’s exactly what we need: More entrepreneurs.