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Joel Kaplan: From Facing Failure to Building His Own Empire


Entrepreneurs in almost every industry have failed at some point in their lives. Ironically, facing a failed idea and learning from it can become an invaluable gateway to future success. Serial entrepreneur Joel Kaplan discusses how he repurposed his own failures to enhance his empire.

As a student at Temple University, Joel Kaplan attempted a foray into the social media world with his startup, Mazoof. Instead of emerging as the next Facebook, the project turned out to be a massive flop. Kaplan did achieve success early on with his DJ business, Joel K Entertainment. However, this accomplishment did not last due to mismanagement and inexperience. Joel learned the hard way that you cannot work solely with desirable clients.

With the wisdom that only comes from experience and perspective, Joel now nostalgically reminisces about the insights gleaned from both failed pursuits. Even as a college student, he realized what he considers today the foundational ethos for his success: the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. While it isn’t easy, Kaplan says that by reflecting on what went wrong with his businesses ensured he would not make the same errors twice.

After the fall of his entertainment company, Kaplan ended up in educational sales. While the job itself didn’t provide the fulfillment he was looking for, he reflects back on how it served as a bridge to start working with the family who made Cisco Systems a public entity.

His position in the non-profit division was an illuminating experience. Watching the positive impact money could have in the world made a profound change in his priorities and motivations. For the first time, he understood the extent of wealth he would need to make a beneficial difference. With this monetary realization, Joel’s goals and objectives took on fresh energy and direction.

His transformation prompted Joel Kaplan to launch Atlas Digital, an online marketing agency. Success did not happen overnight, as his team made a lot of mistakes along the way. Armed with determination and a hunger for growth, Joel refused to give up. Eventually, he stepped outside his “comfort zone” of the 9-5 job with the Cisco family to devote himself entirely to Atlas Digital.

Today, Joel rakes in around $250,000 per month through Atlas. He made his first $1 million at the age of 26. With an objective to help fledgling entrepreneurs build their own digital marketing agencies the right way, Kaplan has founded Agency Lan and RISE. The most important lesson of this coaching service is enacting the self-fulfilling prophecy: Believe in yourself and act like you are already there.

Joel Kaplan maintains he could not authentically help other entrepreneurs without experiencing his own defeats. If anything, he feels that failure has given him the right to offer these services. Sharing his insights on turning failure into triumph serves as a building block for his empire, as he capitalizes on what he has learned to help others from repeating the same mistakes.

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