A Stolen Wallet Leads to a Valuable Lesson for an Entrepreneur

Who? Edward Cannan – Founder & Chief Executive of Botan

For me, business travel is just a means to an end. As the founder and chief executive of Botan, which is a plant-based protein drink, I have to get the word out about the product.

That means a lot of meetings with retailers and meetings to drum up new business. The only part I like about flying nowadays is when the plane is above the clouds. I find it peaceful.

I have never had any security issues. I speak four languages and I can usually make myself understood in most places. I also do things by the book. I make sure my paperwork is in order and I adapt to all types of security hurdles in any country. I take security issues very seriously, so whatever people want me to do, I do.

After leaving a career developing and marketing Champagne and luxury wines, I had the opportunity go around the world to surf, sail and experience different cultures as part of the research to launch Botan.

But I suffered a severe sports injury in Montreal that left me hospitalized, unable to walk for three months. I also had about 10 months of rehab after hospitalization, so I don’t let things bother me at the airport. Things could always be far worse. To be honest, though, even in some hideous travel predicaments, you can learn something.

I certainly did when I traveled throughout Central America when I was younger.

Until I was 17, my travel plans were largely necessitated by internships abroad and holidays with my parents. Following my teen years, I traveled to surf, which was the only incentive I needed to take a flight, anywhere there were waves.

I remember a particular episode in Central America when, after traveling for nine weeks, I had to fly home to Europe, where I had worked for two months beforehand as a bread delivery man in order to afford my flights. It was heartbreaking to have to return to Europe for an obligation as mundane as school.

Five days before my departure from Mexico, I got my wallet stolen, and wound up staying with a Mexican family who took pity on me. I slept on the floor of their kitchen, and all I was able to give in return was a surfing T-shirt I had, which their 12-year-old son really wanted. I was also pretty sure he wanted one of my surfboards. These wonderful people even fed me.

I had to sell my watch to a cabdriver to get back to the airport, and in order to pay the premium for traveling with my boards, I wound up selling one of them to a young man who was returning to Canada after his honeymoon. He gave me about the equivalent of $100, which would cover the airline fee for checking my remaining surfboard.

Selling my watch and my surfboard required some intense negotiations.

Here’s what I learned, and it served me well as an entrepreneur. Selling something expensive to someone who doesn’t really want your product is absurdly challenging, yet a relevant hurdle you must face in the business start-up world.

In the end, if travelers are brave enough to carve out their own flight plans, it’s also their responsibility to turn any problems into opportunities.

The other thing I learned is to listen to your father. He always said make sure you have your passport, plane ticket and money. The rest doesn’t matter.

Before I left the airport those many years ago, I did wind up using some of that cash I got for selling one of my surfboards to pay the postage for the remaining board to be sent to the young man whose family I stayed with. I decided he needed it more than me.

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