In this edition of Aspirers in the Spotlight, we’re featuring Dan Mocan, a business manager and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of the Box Barbell Club, a sports club/gym/community with 3 different locations in Cluj, Romania. Dan actually didn’t start his professional journey as an entrepreneur.
He has both a bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering as well as a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Studies from the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. During his university years, he was more passionate about volunteer work (working with NGOs and at the Comedy Cluj International Film Festival).
After finishing his bachelor’s degree, Dan started as an engineer but wasn’t very passionate about it so he moved to a project management position. From that point, Dan got leadership positions in several IT companies in Cluj. For the majority of the time, he was at Paddy Power Betfair Romania. Dan got into entrepreneurship in 2018 when he decided to get out of the corporate environment and start his own business. This was the start of the Box-Barbell Club. In the last 7 years, Dan grew from a person who wasn’t interested in sports to a very passionate person.
1. What motivated you to start the Box-Barbell Club? Can you tell me more about it? And what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced running the place?
What drove my partners and I to start the gym was to share our own experiences on what sport does to you and how it makes you feel. We’ve tried to share that with as many people as possible.
“From the very beginning, we said our mission was to fight against sedentary behavior. It unites us and drives us forward.”Dan Mocan
The biggest challenge I faced was moving from a corporate environment to an entrepreneurial one. When you’re working at a corporation, you’re used to being handed everything (tools, resources, etc) on a silver platter. Once you begin your own business, you realize that you have to do everything by yourself.
2. What did you enjoy the most about Aspire?
The most powerful thing about Aspire is the people that are there. Networking. Getting to learn new things from everyone that’s involved. The courses and the classes were interesting but the power really is in the people. With the different backgrounds and perspectives of everyone there, you can learn something from everyone.
3. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
All success roots in believing in yourself and trusting yourself. Even if there are hardships, you shouldn’t lose that. This is what drives my partners and me through the COVID times. It’s quite easy to lose self-confidence but you have to hang in there. I recommend doing sports because it serves as “you”-time. There needs to be balance between work and keeping yourself healthy.
4. What are your non-negotiables?
Sports are non-negotiable. I like lots of sports ranging from football to weight lifting to gymnastics to kite-surfing. It helps me build my self-confidence. It’s a good place to build your communication skills, teamwork, and so on. Sports, in general, should be a part of everyone’s life from an early age.
Transparency is a non-negotiable trait that I look for in people. Genuinity gets lost as time goes on. People start acting like others. I don’t think you could build a relationship with someone if they’re not genuine.
5. What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
A couple of months ago when all the craziness started with COVID-19 we had to shut down our first location (Box Barbell Gym). It was such a difficult decision to make because my partners and I were very attached to that location. Now, I believe it was the right/best decision – given the circumstances. There were many challenges from a business perspective (i.e with the landlord). It’s really easy to get attached to the business, brand, etc. but at the same time, you have to keep your head clear and make objective decisions.
6. Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
I’ll go back to sports for this question as well. To be honest, I think running a business can be compared to running a marathon. This is something runners will relate to. When you run a marathon there’s a saying that you hit a wall at some point (when your energy goes down and you don’t feel good). This usually happens when you’re at 30-40 km and you start thinking about quitting.
An energy booster trick is to overcome it mentally. If you think you can do this, then you can finish the marathon. This can be applied to running a business and entrepreneurship as well. You’ll hit many walls along the way but being able to persevere is important. Changing your perspective that these walls are just a momentary challenges can keep you going.
7. Do you enjoy reading books? If so, what’s your favorite genre?
I didn’t usually read books in the past. I have regrets about this. I started reading books 1-2 years ago. One of my favorite books is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I also recently read Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson. These books helped me gain a broader spectrum and perspective. It has also helped me sleep better. I like to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction books. I read non-fiction books during the day and fiction books before I go to sleep.
8. Why should people apply for an Aspire experience? What did you gain by being part of this community?
Aspire is a new experience. And you should always try new experiences. One big positive thing is that you’d be around lots of people with similar interests. One common thing about all the people there is that they all have potential and the willingness to learn and be better. In general, there’s a saying that when you’re working in a field and you run out of ideas you should go to a conference from another field to discover interesting ideas. Aspire gives you an opportunity to do just that.
9. Three main phrases Dan’s friends would describe him as
- Easy to go to (approachable)
- Makes time to listen to everyone
- Pushes a lot – in terms of achieving his/our goals.
Dan’s Favorite motto or quote
Here’s one we use at the gym. I think it’s very important to get stronger so we can be the healthiest versions of ourselves. It’s even more important to get mentally/psychologically stronger.