The founders of an Orem company shared the spotlight with six other businesses from around the country in a new series on Discovery Channel set to premiere on Aug. 18.
Brigham Young University alumni Marcus Sorensen and Chris Studdert founded Blue Coolers in Orem after more than 10 years in their industries. Sorensen and Studdert had come far in their careers, serving as senior vice president of sales and president of their respective companies in 2019.
While working full-time, the duo developed Blue Coolers, a roto-molded super cooler company, in 2017. Sorensen and Studdert spent the rest of the year and into 2018 sourcing products, launching a website and developing the concept.
“It was initially a ‘do this on the side’ kind of project,” Sorensen said. “Both of us had full-time jobs, and we just wanted to try it out.”
After the launch of the website, the handful of products Blue Coolers sourced had sold almost immediately, leaving the duo stumped on what to do next. By 2019, Blue Coolers was beginning to require more time and energy than the friends had originally planned for as business started to pick up steam.
In the weeks that followed, the pair chose to base their budding business out of Orem because of the opportunity to move into a new facility without being too far from home.
Additionally, Sorensen and Studdert were excited by the potential to give local college students jobs before and after graduation. The growing number of college students entering the workforce out of Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University was an attractive opportunity for the fledgling company.
As the company grew, Sorensen had a nagging feeling that he was doing a mediocre job at fulfilling both responsibilities and believed he could be doing one job to the best of his ability. That’s when Sorensen and Studdert began to consider leaving their day jobs behind, and they did.
In May 2019, the pair quit their jobs and went all in.
“Since then, it’s been a laser beam focus on the business, trying to grow,” Sorensen said. “We’ve definitely had our ups and downs, but we’ve been able to grow a lot over the last year. We’ve got the business in a position where we can pay the bills and survive, so that’s exciting.”
While Sorensen and Studdert were in the process of leaving behind the jobs that provided safety and security for them, their wives and their children, the friends were put in touch with Shopify Studios and Wheelhouse Entertainment’s Spoke Studios.
Around that same time, producers at both studios were working on an original series about entrepreneurs who leave behind their 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their dreams of starting their own business. The show, called “I Quit,” was set to premiere on the Discovery Channel in August 2020.
Sorensen said the timing felt almost serendipitous.
Producers began documenting Sorensen’s and Studdert’s transition from company executives to Utah businessmen the same month the pair left their jobs to pursue Blue Coolers full-time.
In real time, the filming crew watched as the Orem company faced challenges.
“It’s real life, it’s what’s happening,” Sorensen said. “It was real time for us, so if I seem like a stress case in the show, it’s because I was.”
Sorensen said he and Studdert faced a number of hurdles while trying to get Blue Coolers off the ground, but the difficulties they experienced are not far from the challenges any small business owner would face.
Learning how to properly stock inventory, building customer service, and balancing the time in a workday with the number of responsibilities were just some of the things Sorensen and Studdert worked to understand as their Utah County business grew in front of their eyes.
“At the beginning, you don’t have an accounting department, a marketing department and an HR department,” Sorensen said. “It’s all you. There’s no one else to blame but yourself if things go good or bad.”
In addition to the most common challenges, Sorensen said the Blue Coolers team faced unique hurdles that are documented in the show.
One of the most challenging aspects of this venture in particular happened to be that filming crews were involved, Studdert said. Founding a business on its own is stressful enough, he said, without television crews, boom mics and interviews.
“We didn’t have a clue,” Studdert said. “When a network TV company contacts you and says they want to follow you around, you don’t have any idea what to expect. This is not our world, we’re two idiot business guys.”
Studdert said the team acclimated to the process fairly quickly, and after about a week of filming, he and Sorensen had all but forgotten about the unique position they were in.
With all of the filming complete and the debut of “I Quit” just around the corner, Sorensen and Studdert are now preparing for what this show will mean for Blue Coolers.
“It’s a very interesting position we are in,” Sorensen said. “Trying to gauge what the potential impact this show will have on our business and on our personal lives, we really have no idea.”
Blue Coolers is one of six businesses across the U.S. that the show follows as all of the hopeful entrepreneurs work to leave behind what they know in an effort to grow their business.
Unbeknown to all of the business owners involved, at the end of the year, the most promising business will receive $100,000 to fuel their growth.
“I Quit” premieres Aug. 18 at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel. The show will continue to air every Tuesday at 9 p.m. Additionally, viewers can stream “I Quit” by downloading the Discovery GO app and join the conversation online using the hashtag “#IQuit.”