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How the Founder of Martenero Ditched His Day Job

John Tarantino models a Martenero watch.

Do the Side Hustle

John Tarantino always wanted his own business. He worked in real estate development for most of his career and assumed that one day he’d be operating his own real estate development or investment firm. Instead, he went with luxury, customizable watches.

Starting a watch company wasn’t as random as it sounds, though.

Before starting his company, Martenero, Tarantino was a “very small scale watch collector,” he told us. “I really like the way a well-designed watch looks on the wrist.”

He particularly loved mechanical watches, which is what Martenero now makes. “It’s a really complex machine that you carry around on your wrist,” he said. “Also for a lot of guys, it’s one of the only style accessories that guys have any sort of freedom with.”

In 2013, Tarantino “had an idea for a side project, which ultimately become Martenero.” Tarantino saw an opening in the market for customizable mechanical watches sold through e-commerce.

“The fact that we’re selling over the internet sounds very basic, but that’s something that a lot of [watch] brands aren’t doing,” he said. “I thought there was room to do something interesting both at the product level and also in the business model as well.”

At first Martenero “was very much a night and weekends kind of thing. In the very beginning, it wasn’t even that much time.”

While starting his company, Tarantino was careful not to violate any agreements with the real estate firm he worked for.

“I double checked many times actually all documentations I signed,” he said. “I didn’t want to be violating terms of employment, even that notwithstanding, I couldn’t really see myself starting a competing firm at the same time, I just wouldn’t do that.”

At this time, Tarantino was finding manufacturers and working on watch design. He was building Martenero’s website and setting up the company from a legal standpoint. He was mulling over what the company’s packaging might look.

“It was highly theoretical toward the beginning,” he said. “It moved from the theoretical to the actual over the period of a year or so.”

Although it was difficult to juggle two very different jobs, keeping his day job in real estate had many benefits.

“It’s really difficult to have any sense of how your project is going to be received until after you’ve spent considerable resources just to get everything made and ready to ship,” he said. “It was a big enough risk just to commit the money to get everything made and get everything for the business setup, but at a minimum, if it didn’t go well then I would have a job to go back to. In a sense, it became a bit of an insurance policy.”

“Obviously, the downside [to working both jobs] is you don’t have nearly as much time as you might like early on,” he said. “But if you can pull it off, I think it’s a better way to go. It allows for a much smoother transition. If things don’t go as well, you’re in a much better place.”

Martenero was a success, though, and soon Tarantino had to decide if and when he should leave his real estate gig.

“We were lucky enough to get some good press just after we launched and sales were pretty strong,” he said. After two months, “a number of things became clear: one was that I knew we had a real business–people were buying our stuff. And beyond that it became clear that in order for the business to have any sort of chance of success beyond the initial timing surrounding the launch, then I would have to devote a lot more time to it,” he said.

Three months after Martenero launched, Tarantino left his day job to work solely on his own company.

“If I was going to continue with my day job I didn’t think there was a way that my new company would have a shot at longer term success,” he said.

You can learn more about Martenero here.

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