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  • Ty Switzer

Crafting Success from Setbacks: Part 2

"Every setback has a major comeback."

My business ventures and injuries seemed to go hand in hand. Next Gen was not the last of my business endeavors, and my shoulder surgery was certainly not the last of my injuries. A fifth metatarsal stress fracture, apophysitis of the ischial tuberosity (a broken hip) at 13 while playing a tournament in Spain, and two back fractures as a result of a car accident put my tennis career on hold... several times...again. I had learned by now how to maintain a positive attitude after an injury. My optimistic mindset served as the ultimate game changer and was the critical factor that diverted me from a more expected response of anger or defeat.

Two of these physical setbacks resulted in the creation of Superior Chefs and Revolve Restocks: two innovative, impactful, and economically successful ventures. Superior Chefs and Revolve Restocks, priced as a monthly subscription service, introduced unique features and advanced assistive technology to cook groups and sneakers. Each platform, distinct in its offerings, with hundreds of paying members, contributed significantly to my recognition as a leader in the sneaker industry.

While the companies I created each played a role in my success, deep down, I wished it was the tennis world where I was leading and at the top of my game.

I had established a community of people who didn't feel sorry for me and all my injuries or worried about my tennis future. This group of sneaker enthusiasts motivated me to show up and pursue my other passions with the same diligence with which I played tennis. I remember the many nights of physical pain all too well. Still, I remember equally as well the nights spent creating communities that offered something for me that went beyond mere business transactions.

Immersed as a full-time student, business creator/operator, and tennis player, my days were filled with a relentless commitment to each craft.

"Tennis or business?"

This mantra became the pulse of my journey. My mom posed this pivotal question while playing in a junior tournament in Panama.

It was a reality check. I was internally conflicted – engrossed by my computer, focusing on my business late into the night before an early tennis match the following day. My mom knew I couldn't continue to do both, and deep down inside, I recognized the same.

There were simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. I was torn between the court and my entrepreneurial pursuits, each demanding undivided attention. I had no idea what to do... I was only fifteen years old. With a heavy heart, I decided to close Revolve Restocks, but my entrepreneurial spirit stayed intact. While confined to bed for months after two back fractures, I immersed myself in another new business endeavor, Hawk Robotix.

Hawk Robotix became my central focus after our car was hit from behind while stopped at a traffic light. My days and nights were spent crafting this new venture. This software served as a sneaker "bot" designed to assist users worldwide in acquiring the latest high-demand sneakers and streetwear products in milliseconds. At the time, these coveted sneakers would sell out within seconds of releasing, thus Hawk Robotix was considered a valuable tool. When I returned to the court, I continued to work tirelessly on building the framework of Hawk and the distinct features and documentation it offered, often staying awake until 4 or 5 in the morning, only to wake at 7am for practice. This intense schedule was interspersed with my dedication to my studies. I was determined to excel academically, athletically and in my entrepreneurial endeavors.

In December 2019, after many months of development, I launched Hawk Robotix amidst a flurry of excitement from the sneaker community. Rather than being a hindrance, my back injury spurred me to seek this new business idea and fill the gaps of my time. The build-up to the launch was backed by an comprehensive marketing campaign complete with promotional videos, intensifying the hype. The marketing strategy I created paid off tremendously; there was immense traction, and our first release of hundreds of licenses sold out in mere seconds. This initial success was a testament to Hawk Robotix's potential to revolutionize how individuals secured limited releases in the sneaker industry, marking a significant milestone in my journey of entrepreneurial achievement.

Injuries manifest in both physical and emotional forms.

Patricio "Pato" Rodriguez, a Chilean tennis great, transitioned to coaching where he developed many professional players at the highest level, guiding some to the top 5 in the world. After watching me play one afternoon, Pato agreed to come out of retirement to coach me and create my team — a pivotal moment in my development. He passed away from bone cancer just two years later.

When we started working together, Pato was 80 years old. He was a true gentleman, a brilliant mind, and one of the most influential people I would ever know. We spent every day together, discussing every nuance of the game, every detail of the tour, and his experiences; we played golf together, laughed together, bonded over our love for ceviche, and shared our daily lives.

Pato was my coach, mentor, and, most importantly, friend.

When Pato died, I was emotionally distraught and injured far more than any physical pain I had ever felt before. It was a type of pain that stung deep, and I had to figure out how to recover from this, which was so different from any injury I had experienced thus far.

*Photo from our last practice together. Pato was admitted into the hospital hours later

Pato focused on the small details, which I loved, and simplified the game of tennis. I was crushed that he was gone. However, it's in those small details we spoke about, when I'm on the court or being an entrepreneur, that I feel his presence. He was someone who helped me to grow in every aspect of my life.

Each and every injury and setback serves as a chapter in my life. Through my pursuit of finding interests off the court, I discovered a new dimension of myself that goes beyond being just an athlete. These endeavors were not only about the businesses I built but also about the lessons I learned concerning the power of one's mindset and the ability to turn obstacles into stepping stones. These endeavors were a source of balance and resilience during challenging times in my athletic career. When COVID struck, bringing my tennis and business to a halt, I found myself at a crossroads.

NYC was considered ground zero when COVID-19 hit. I was stuck inside an apartment with nowhere to practice, and no courts open anywhere.

I began questioning where my tennis journey would take me as I was healing from a double knee tendonosis injury through 2021. I watched as my friends committed to colleges, and I felt then that I was left without options, given I lost my ranking after not competing for almost a full year. After all the years of dedicated efforts working my way up in the rankings, I found myself in a situation where I felt devoid of any viable options. I knew I couldn't go through another season not playing, so I made a plan.

I live in NYC, where courts are scarce, but during COVID, they were non-existent and all closed. I remember driving around various towns outside the city looking for public courts so I could practice; I would cross the "do-not-enter" barriers even if it meant getting in just a few reps, ultimately getting kicked off by security and the police. It wasn't enough though, and I knew I had to explore alternative options. My mom and I left the city and drove 20 hours straight to Florida on four separate occasions for me to get on court. Facing closed hotels and bathrooms, we embraced resourcefulness and resilience. Each long drive to Florida reinforced my determination to confront and conquer the challenges, steadfast in my journey to achieve my tennis dreams.

When tournaments opened again, Eddie Herr was the first I entered, marking it the last tournament of my junior career. Two weeks before the tournament, I met UVA's head coach, Andres Pedroso, who made quite an impression on me and said he would see me at Eddie Herr if I made the main draw (he was not in town for the qualifying rounds). I had lost my ranking and needed to win three qualifying matches to make it into the main draw. Given my gut-wrenching journey thus far, winning those three qualifying rounds and engaging with numerous college coaches at the tournament brought an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The ultimate reward came in the form of receiving many recruiting offers, which, to me, symbolized and validated hard work, accomplishments and dedication over so many years.

Nevertheless, my initial conversation with Andres resonated deeply, solidifying my conviction that UVA would be the perfect fit. The intuitive connection I had with Andres and his belief in my potential, regardless of my setbacks, played a pivotal role in my decision. His demeanor, marked by his genuine authenticity and natural ability to inspire confidence and create a sense of belonging, was clear, further cementing my choice. Andres' commitments for me have extended beyond being a coach; he has served as a mentor, a sounding board, and a friend. From the very start, I felt that this matchup would focus on building a relationship that could naturally evolve into something more profound than the typical player-coach dynamic, much like what I experienced with Pato. It was clear that he was invested not only in my tennis abilities but in my overall growth both on and off the court.

Looking back, I see the pattern of challenges and also victories, a clear illustration of resilience's power and the transformative nature of turning setbacks into significant comebacks. My tennis journey, filled with more than 600 doctor and PT sessions and riddled with physical pain and setbacks, shaped my resilience and ignited my entrepreneurial drive. By 16, I had leveraged these challenges into thriving businesses, amassing over $250,000 in revenue far beyond what I thought possible at my age.

But there's more to this story than what I've shared so far. The injuries and hurdles I've recounted here are just the tip of the iceberg, a small glimpse into the countless challenges I've confronted on this rollercoaster ride. Overall, these setbacks kept me away from the tennis court for more than five cumulative years (more than half of my career so far) since I dedicated my time fully to focus on the sport at 11. Imagine the highs and lows, the moments of doubt and determination that filled those years...

This journey, woven with many trials and triumphs, has led me to the creation of YOU – a clothing brand that extends beyond my love for fashion, embodying a mission to make a meaningful difference.

YOU represents more than just a brand; it's a testament to empowerment, a mirror of my experiences. It stands as a significant reminder that we can rewrite our stories, navigate through life's unpredictable chaos, and create the life we envision.

When faced with challenges and setbacks, the solutions we create make a difference in the outcome. Setbacks are merely opportunities in disguise. They have become the backbone of my passion for sports and entrepreneurship, fueling my journey and reinforcing the core of YOU.

Though injuries may have put my tennis aspirations on hold, they couldn't cage my drive and ambition. These hurdles were the forces that triggered the entrepreneurial fire within me, teaching me a vital lesson: in the face of adversity, we have the choice to either bow down or rise up. YOU embodies this spirit, encouraging everyone to seize control of your life and turn every situation into a stepping stone towards your dreams.

Drawing from my journey, I leave you with these thoughts:

  • Embrace Failure and Setbacks as a Stepping Stone: Failure isn't the end but an essential part of the journey. Each setback offers valuable lessons that pave the way for the future. The fear of failure prevents you from taking a leap of faith and the ability to appreciate success when it comes.

  • Learn something from Every Experience: Every experience, good or bad, delivers knowledge in some shape or form. Be open to it and try to understand the deeper meaning, as every experience contributes to your growth and mindset.

  • Attack Every Day with a Positive Attitude: A positive mindset can be powerful. It helps you to stay motivated, especially during tough times, and can influence those around you. Positivity can enable you to overcome challenges and keep going in the face of adversity.

  • Accept Uncertainty and Take Action: Not having all the answers is part of the journey. Be adaptable, embrace new ideas, and be willing to leave your comfort zone. The key is to start, take that first step, and let your passion guide you towards making your impact in the world.

Fully experiencing life is about embracing every part of the journey, the highs and the lows, and using each moment as a stepping stone towards your dreams. They say that when one door closes, another one opens... But if it doesn't?

...Take your family's toolbox and bust a hole in the wall.


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