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Rising Stars: Meet Chris Gaines

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Gaines.

Chris, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be in business for myself. Before social media and the internet were major factors in our lives, it always felt intrinsic to me that working for yourself and building something that impacts the world for the better was the ultimate path to life fulfillment. Being born and raised in Silicon Valley almost certainly had something to do with it. That idea stayed in my head as I cruised through high school, studied bioengineering in college at Santa Clara University, and developed a successful self-taught side hustle doing videography and social media marketing for Sororities, musicians, and businesses around the Bay area. The skills, experience, and portfolio I developed were driven off the idea that there are so many talented people in the world with value to share but no idea how to get themselves seen and heard. This is especially true in the music scene, which is how I met an upcoming Bay Area/LA artist Kenny Wayne Bruh, I connected with his approach to his music, and he connected with my visual style and my focus on effective marketing. Since then, we’ve been working on building his brand alongside my own having produced 20+ music videos with ever-increasing scale. Later in college, the opportunity arose to cofound a tech startup around improving online learning, and the excitement to focus on my dreams led me to drop out to pursue the business full time.

That first big business was a huge learning process for me, and after getting used and burned, I moved on to found my own company (Decentralized Education Nexus/ The DEN) in the growing blockchain + crypto space, where we went on to become the first company to establish a blockchain education program in the UC system, starting at UC Irvine and Berkeley. The DEN opened my eyes to how much impact you can really make if you go all-in on something. When market conditions turned sour and our runway ran out, the DEN unfortunately closed – but the skills and connections gained there allowed me to shift my focus back to my videography and marketing business. I secured my first office of my own with some partners and created a dedicated audio-production + video podcast studio to grow – and then the pandemic hit. That combined with the passing of Assembly Bill 5, essentially killed my business model for 2020. So I decided to focus on what I could control and build my personal brand around my passion for all things automotive. Utilizing the power of the Tiktok platform, I’m on my way to growing from 70 followers to 100,000 in about four months of dedicated effort educating people about cars. My plan from here is to continue to grow my following, secure brand deals, dive into affiliate marketing, and use my process as a template to help others grow their followings and reach their goals as well.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Struggled with anxiety, perfectionism, and insomnia. I’ve also had to develop a focus on my best interests, over saying yes to every request that comes my way. I’ve been taken advantage of plenty of times because I didn’t allow myself to speak up or too naive to just walk away when I should have.

I’ve also struggled a bit with my identity, being a black male who grew up privileged in a primarily white/Asian community.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I would consider myself a technical creator. I studied engineering because I like to know exactly how things work, but I am also extremely creative visually, enjoy copywriting, and produce music in my spare time. In many ways, I consider myself a jack of all trades. I stand out from others with my ability and willingness to develop new skills quickly, like when I was required to learn HTML/CSS over a few weeks to manage + edit our custom built websites. My attention to detail and going the extra mile is also something people will tell you about me.

At my startup, I was the Chief Marketing Officer. But I take pride in being as knowledgeable as possible about the technical aspects of my product/service, which allowed me to have nuanced conversations with senior silicon valley engineers about blockchain tech without having ever done serious development myself.

I aim to create processes and systems that make whatever I’m working on more efficient and effective. I also am driven by a need to make whatever work I create stand out from the crowd, which typically involves careful research into what others have done and dreaming up unique ways to build off their success.

As far as what I do right now, I am primarily creating visually appealing and informative content that follows social media’s formulas for repeatable virality. Behind the scenes, I am networking, building websites, and researching monetization processes for different types of businesses and people.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I believe luck is all about placing yourself in the best possible position to capture the most opportunities – and then not letting those opportunities slip away.

I feel extremely lucky to have grown up in a stable, loving household in the heart of silicon valley as a black male. I’ve never once worried about having enough money to live or food on the table. Not only that, but my parents have been amazingly supportive in my pursuit of the entrepreneurial dream, despite the mistakes I’ve made and challenges I’ve faced. I grew up with amazing, supportive friends and stayed active and fit with a natural ability in organized sports.

But I’ve also let plenty of opportunities pass me by, despite my “lucky” upbringing. As an example, I chose to work for myself and reinvest all profits straight out of college, when others were sacrificing at 9-5s to make guaranteed money and investing into the same crypto I was teaching people about. Four years later, some of those people are now millionaires, while I am still building my businesses.

Those same decisions also led me to become a leading authority in the blockchain education space for a period of time, to build some crazy connections, and meet some influential people on a level playing field that I would never have dreamed of.

The key is to learn from your mistakes and adapt – so you can make your own luck.

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