An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t compare yourself to others.

With social media these days, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. All my peers are always posting on Instagram and TikTok either about how great their lives are, how much fun they’re having, or how successful they’ve been. That’s all fine and good, but make sure you don’t start comparing yourself to them. The only person you need to measure up against is yourself. If you’re satisfied with how you’re doing that’s all that matters.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ethan Haber.

Ethan Haber is the CEO/Founder of Happy Habitats ( An aspiring entrepreneur, and avid animal lover, Ethan identified the small pet space as the perfect place to make his mark. Join him on his journey of small pet enrichment, one hamster at a time.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in Roslyn on Long Island and had a pretty normal childhood. People who knew me growing up would tell you three things: I was always creating stuff, I loved animals, and I don’t take no for an answer.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I really love the quote by Woody Allen, “80% of success is showing up.” Simply put, the people that try are the ones that succeed. I’ve found that most people don’t risk trying for fear of failure. They talk about their dreams but never go after them. If you actually give it a shot you’ll be surprised how far you go. Anyone can have an idea, but it’s the execution that matters.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

My favorite show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’ve watched the whole thing start to finish at least a dozen times. The main cast makes for quite the interesting group of role-models. They always have some scheme or adventure they’re in the process of. The characters themselves are terrible people and they rarely succeed. But, the creativity and tenacity they exhibit are things I’ll often think about. I guess it just goes to show, you can learn from anything-haha.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

I have three examples I can share:

  1. Growing up I loved stuffed animals. There were always ones I wanted that I couldn’t buy, characters from video games and comics I wanted to see in the real world. When I was 12, I started learning how to sew. For the past 11 years I’ve been hand sewing stuffed animals from scratch. I’ve used this skill to leverage myself many times. Most notably, in college I became a hired contractor for the video game studio, Squanch Games. One semester I drove 96 miles to their office in Raleigh every Friday. I must’ve made them over 100 custom stuffed animals throughout my relationship with them.
  2. I’ve been writing a comic in my free time, and it’s a long arduous process. My neighbor liked my illustrations and asked me to write a children’s book with him. He had this great idea about whales he shared with me. I said to him “if you write the thing, I’ll illustrate it.” Nothing has happened since then.
  3. My startup, Happy Habitats began because there was something I wanted for my hamster that didn’t exist. I saw the opportunity to create something new in a niche market with a high barrier to entry. My father and I partnered with the design firm P9 design and haven’t looked back. After a lot of time and work we’ve created a unique product that’s one of a kind. One problem we’ve been having trouble with recently has been finding a sales rep. Most reps only take on businesses with a whole catalog of products. Every sales rep so far has told us they love our product, but they can’t give us the time we deserve. Due to this, I’ve become a one man sales army. Over the next two weeks I’ve managed to set up several meetings with major buyers. My dad and I are actually flying to Florida for one meeting. He jokingly said, “who needs a sales rep when you have Ethan.”

In each of these examples there’s a common theme. I didn’t just talk about doing something, I actually did it. My friend Ryan Gomez is a fellow budding entrepreneur. He makes amazing music and goes by the artist name Rygo. He always loves to say, “how do you eat an elephant?” The answer, one bite at a time. Start doing something today and you’ll be closer to your goal tomorrow.

Here’s Rygo’s Spotify:

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

There’s no such thing as a new idea. The world is so big and people are so creative, odds are if you’ve thought of something, someone else has too. Don’t let that discourage you, it should actually encourage you. If your idea is that good, other people are bound to think of it as well. The question is, will they act on it? Will you act on it? Someone’s gotta do it, why shouldn’t it be you? For an idea to have value, it needs to be executed. And if someone else is already doing it, who’s to say you can’t do it better. Before the 7 minute ab routine there was the 10 minute ab routine.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

First you have to identify a problem. There’s two types of problems, headache problems and migraine problems. Headache problems are things that are minor annoyances that may not need a solution, while migraine problems are issues people will pay any amount of money to solve. Generally speaking, you’ll know you’ve found something when you identify a migraine problem.

Now that you’ve found your problem you need to discover a solution. A perfect example is what Sara Blakely did with Spanx. She needed an undergarment for her outfit that the market didn’t offer. She discovered that by cutting the feet off of a pair of pantyhose she was able to solve her garment issue. Sara asked around and found that many women experienced the same issue she did.

With a problem addressed and a solution to solve that problem, you need to take action. It’s not enough to just solve your issue. You need to create something people can buy and see what the market says. You don’t need some grand operation to test your product. For example, if you have a cool new pet product you think people would buy, you may offer to stock a few in a local store near you for free and see if people buy them. That’s a very low cost to see how your product does on shelves.

If you’ve made it this far and you really have something you’ll want to file a patent. There’s two types of patents you can apply for, design patents and utility patents, depending on your idea you may need one or both. I went to and searched for an attorney that fit my needs. After connecting with Eddie M Holder, Happy Habitats was able to file patents for the Halo. I’ve attached his link below if you’d like to connect with him. Eddie is a great attorney who cares about his clients and charges fairly.

With your idea protected you can now look for a manufacturer. It’s important to leverage any and all connections you may have. Happy Habitats connected with our manufacturer, BRH2, through a friend’s connection. If you’re a student, you can ask your faculty and university for help too. The student card is a huge asset so make sure to use it liberally.

Lastly, when it comes to retail, never underestimate the power of cold calls. We’ve all gotten them, a call from some strange number talking about something. You may brush them aside, but cold calls really do work. Thanks to cold calls Happy Habitats has talked with plenty of stores, from Mom and Pop Shops all the way to Big Retailers. Persistence is key here. Don’t give up after reaching someone’s voicemail once. I’ve been told it takes seven interactions with someone to gain their trust. Happy Habitats follows a 15 step sales sequence that includes: emails, linkedin messaging, and phone calls.

P.S. It never hurts to find a mentor. Identify someone in your field who has a wealth of knowledge and ask them to mentor you. You’ll be surprised how receptive they can be, but believe it or not, they were once in your shoes. I’ve been receiving mentorship from the founder of Petsmart, Jim Dougherty, all because I reached out to him on Linkedin.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. Everything takes longer than you think it will.

Happy Habitats was founded in 2019 before the Covid pandemic. Everything you can imagine took longer than it was supposed to. There was scarcity of raw materials, then our molds were stuck on a ship because of the whole shipping fiasco, and now there’s cardboard shortages. Be prepared for things to take longer than you planned.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others.

With social media these days, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. All my peers are always posting on Instagram and TikTok either about how great their lives are, how much fun they’re having, or how successful they’ve been. That’s all fine and good, but make sure you don’t start comparing yourself to them. The only person you need to measure up against is yourself. If you’re satisfied with how you’re doing that’s all that matters.

3. Prepare to be surprised.

This one skews both ways. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised and unpleasantly surprised. I was not prepared at all for when Jim Dougherty gave me a call, I was actually preoccupied with something else. But, once he said who he was I stopped what I was doing and we spoke for over an hour. That was a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, after waiting 8 weeks for our retail box to be manufactured the box that arrived is not what we approved. It’s flimsy and not fit for shelves. Because of this we had to reorder our retail boxes and be extra anal about the gauge of the cardboard. That was certainly an unpleasant surprise.

4. It’s Never Over Till It’s Over.

Remember, it’s never over till it’s over. One of our first retail partners placed an order for 16 units and my father and I were ecstatic. Then however, it took two weeks for him to send over the payment. Until the deal is signed in ink everything’s up in the air. Another customer placed an order and never got back to me on payment. A verbal agreement is far from the final thing. Make sure not to count your chickens before they hatch.

5. It’s important to dream in the short term too.

Everyone fantasizes about what they want and where they want to be. Unfortunately, we often dream of the end result without thinking of all the steps it takes to get there. It’s important to dream in the short term too. Set up daily/weekly goals and do your best to hit them. Every time I cross something off in my planner I feel good about myself. Creating visual signifiers to remind you of what you’ve done and how far you’ve come is a great way to prevent burning out.

Here’s a linked video where I talk about the 5 things listed above:

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

It depends on what type of product they want to create. Is it a software, a hard good, or a service? Depending on the idea the direction one needs to follow will change. Broadly speaking, first you need to make sure the problem you want to solve is real. Interview no less than 100 people to see what they have to say. An interview doesn’t have to be in person. You can create a survey and have people fill it out. I did this for Happy Habitats way back before we put a single dollar into the company. Just make sure not to ask guided questions. Instead of asking “would you pay x for this?” Ask, “how much would you pay for this product/service?” Let the consumer tell you their thoughts, rather than leading them to what you want to hear.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Happy Habitats would not exist were it not for our partnership with P9 Design. They are a top of the line design firm that innovates from soup to nuts. Other than Happy Habitats, they create products for major consumer brands: Honeywell, OXO, Swell. Though I had an idea, I didn’t have all the tools in my kit to make it a reality. If you have a great idea I encourage you to see how far you can get on your own. But, if there’s things your idea needs that you can’t provide then find a partner. Just make sure they’re a good partner who’s equally invested in your idea. A bad partner can kill a great idea.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

A penny saved is a penny earned. Bootstrapping is a must for any aspiring entrepreneur. Capital is finite and hard to come by. It’s important to try and stretch your dollar as far as you can. Venture capital is great but you likely are not going to reach that opportunity if you don’t bootstrap first.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

That’s something I’m still working on. The most recent example I can think of is with TTPM: Toys, Tots, Pets, and More. They’re a great company that reviewed the Halo. When I visited their office I saw the sheer volume of toys they had, either extras they were sent for review (they only need one) or products they already reviewed. Every year my father and I do a toy drive to help provide gifts for children of impoverished families on Long Island (where we’re from). I mentioned it to TTPM and they donated over a carload of toys! I personally loaded the car and drove the toys to Hempstead. As your rolodex expands so does your ability to impact your community.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

For my bar mitzvah project I raised funds for a water well in Sudan. Even though that was 10 years ago, somewhere today people are still benefiting from that well. It’s a crazy thing to think about. Everyone deserves access to food, shelter, and most importantly water. In the future I’d like to help more areas develop access to clean drinking water.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Either Justin Roiland or the Creators of Always Sunny (Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, and/or Glenn Howerton). While we’re in different industries I draw a lot of inspiration from their creativity. If you look at their respective creative journeys and what it took for them to get where they are, both are entrepreneurs in their own right. I almost got to meet Justin Roiland once a few years ago because I’ve made so many stuffed animals for his company, but it didn’t pan out. If any of y’all see this, know that lunch is on me!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Making Something From Nothing: Ethan Haber Of Happy Habitats On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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