I can remember looking in the mirror realizing that everything we had done up until that point could be washed away if we didn’t make this happen, and my whole team buckled down, we maintained our faith, and worked through the storm.

As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Partha Unnava.

Partha is the CEO & Founder of Lasso, a sporting apparel company that uses medical science to create cutting edge compression wear that helps prevent injury and improve athletic performance. While studying biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, Partha broke his ankle playing basketball. His firsthand experience with joint injury pushed him to create better products in the sports medicine space, to help others prevent injuries and improve their natural motion. Lasso’s Compression Sock has been shown to provide more than twice as much ankle support than traditional athletic socks, making it a favorite item for professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and the Olympics.

Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Partha Unnava: I started this company after breaking my ankle playing basketball. I saw firsthand how backwards healthcare is, and especially how the many players in the system make innovation very difficult and slow.

We actually first launched a crutch that didn’t hurt a user’s underarms. The goal was to innovate in the healthcare space and make products better that had been overlooked for a long time. In college, I studied biomedical engineering, so I already knew how to make medical products better, so the only challenge was finding a way to grow this business in the healthcare industry.

What we saw was a ton of traction on e-commerce, and lots of talk but little action through hospitals. We learned that the medical industry in the US simply has too many players, making it inefficient and overly complex to get a simple innovation to a patient. We started to see that the only way to do this was to go the direct-to-customer route. However, I didn’t want to go e-commerce with a product that could only be used in rehab. It wasn’t sexy and I didn’t think it would have the potential to be the company I wanted to build.

I believe that great branding can elicit action from consumers. We launched Lasso to be THE healthcare brand for the sports industry. We are the only company where you can trust that everything you are getting is medically backed, studied, and the attention to detail is there. And with great branding, we would be able to encourage an entire generation of young athletes to think about injury prevention, stretching, warming up, and using products that accentuate how the body moves to improve their performance while staying healthy.

Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.

Unnava: I’ve been on the brink of failure several times, but the biggest one was the transition from selling the crutches to moving into Lasso. To make this shift, I couldn’t lean on many of our old investors any more, because we had leaned on them so much until that point. I saw what we could build, and the light was at the end of the tunnel, but we had to make things work until we could have enough traction to prove that to investors.

I had to cut most of my team, and we went down to 3 total people. I took no salary, and my coworkers to significant salary cuts. Everyone went into debt, but we made the turnaround happen, closed a new round of funding, and the company has been an absolute rocket ship from that point on.

I can remember looking in the mirror realizing that everything we had done up until that point could be washed away if we didn’t make this happen, and my whole team buckled down, we maintained our faith, and worked through the storm.

Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?

Unnava: Often times, the brink of failure is also the brink of success. I knew, and my team knew, that we were close to a massive success. We made sure to constantly keep that in mind.

We kept pushing because we took an athlete’s mentality to the situation. It doesn’t matter the odds, it doesn’t matter what people are saying around you, all you have to do is show up and put in work every day. Eventually that work adds up, but none of us were there for the outcome. We knew we would win down the line, but we showed up to work every day because we liked putting in work for each other. We liked the grind because we knew we were doing something special, and we never lost faith that it would work out.

You just can’t let doubt exist, in your mind or anywhere around you.

Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?

Unnava: The next chapter was a lot of positive energy from the universe, and a lot of humility. Having been completely broke a few times, I can say honestly that money doesn’t drive me. It doesn’t make me happy or sad, and financial success is incredibly immaterial for me.

For my teammates too, such is the case. So when we show up to work, we do it with a purpose. We do it because we feel a duty to make our impact on the world. We all feel like we were born to do what we do every day.

When you have a company culture that is spiritually and emotionally fulfilling, great things happen. We had a ton of inbound growth, and it came from us sticking closely to our values and being clear about what we stood for.

This meant we were uncomfortable, but we were strong when we said no to things. And we said no a lot more than we said yes, even when we were struggling, and it came through in the long run.

There’s no formula for success, or growth, or revenue. The only thing you can really do is to be honest about who you are, and work for something that is greater than you, and things start to fall into place around you.

Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Unnava: 1. Establish a strong identity

Last year, when we were going through our toughest moments, I started to feel like I was spinning my wheels in the business community I was a part of. It was frustrating to constantly feel like I didn’t fit in, and I knew I was supposed to go a different direction. I learned that I was saying yes to too many things. I learned that no is the only way to establish identity. Your no’s share a lot about who you are, everyone can say yes, but it takes courage to say no to someone.

2. Don’t be afraid to be eccentric

I had a lot of emotions going on last year, and I didn’t have any way to express them. I didn’t want to resort to drinking or smoking, and I didn’t want to express what I was feeling in an unhealthy way, so I expressed what I was feeling through music, art, and clothing. Plus, I dyed my hair blonde.

Surprisingly, this eccentricity lost me a few friends, but it brought all of the real ones much closer. I look back on my blonde days fondly as one of the most fun times in my life.

3. Choose to be successful

A lot of people try to be successful. You can listen to any guru you want, but nobody else is going to make you successful. It’s a choice you have to make internally, and once you realize that you are the person you are trying to become, things will fall into place around you.

Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Unnava: I am lucky to have a ton of mentors and advisors who are all invested in my success as a person, but one of my day one mentors is JP James. JP started helping me from the day we formed our entity in 2013, and he’s been along for the whole ride. He taught me so much about business, but the most important thing he taught me is that none of it matters. We’re all here building things, but seeing people flaunt money or success means they’re new to it and not sure of who they are.

I learned that the most successful people are the ones who don’t care about money or fame. I learned that the janitor who wouldn’t change jobs for the world has more to teach me than almost anyone else, because he/she is happy, and happiness is the true goal.

Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Unnava: At Lasso, we have a few new products coming out this summer that will absolutely change how you think about your body when it comes to sports and movement. We’re really excited to be able to bring our products to the world, and the bring preventative health to the masses in a culturally relevant way.

The biggest impact we’re making each day is we are removing the educational barrier to joint support, and we’re making preventative healthcare cool, which can drastically increase compliance in the youth market.

Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Unnava: This is an easy question for me. Use good branding to encourage people to do things that are good for the world. People want to be cool. We all should work to make it cool to do things that are positive for humanity.

Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?

Unnava: If you’re going through a hard time, remember, nobody is judging you for anything. Stay in a good mental space and treat life like a dojo. Just show up and put in the work every day. That’s all you have to do.

Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?

Unnava: Check me out on Instagram or Twitter @parthaunnava and check out the company on Instagram or Twitter @lassogear, and our website www.lassogear.com.

Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.