Marriott Alumni Magazine

Fall 2015

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" i f y o u r e c o g n i z e w h a t y o u r s t r e n g t h s a r e a n d p u t y o u r s e l f i n a p o s i t i o n t o c a p i t a l i z e o n t h e m , y o u g i v e y o u r s e l f a b e t t e r o p p o r t u n i t y t o s u c c e e d." stressful she has always been there to help our family mentally step up." The other partnership was professional in nature. Longson decided to go into busi- ness with longtime friend and fellow Mar- riott School grad Matt Hawkins. The duo began a residential real-estate business, which focused on developing properties along Utah's Wasatch Front until business boomed, allowing the partners to spread north into Idaho. Longson had it all: a growing family, a suc- cessful business venture, and exciting week- ends on the football field. The wins seemed to keep piling up. And then the Great Reces- sion hit like a linebacker blitzing blindside, crippling the housing industry. "Matt and I had put our blood, sweat, and tears into growing our business for seven years," Longson says. "We had lots of good stuff going, and basically overnight it all went away. Values plummeted. I thought, 'I just spent seven of my professional high-earning years in this only to get it flushed down the toilet.' It was a real challenge." Working with their lenders, Longson and Hawkins struggled to stay afloat, and it became clear that they needed to go in another direction. As the two friends grappled with what to do, Hawkins read an article in Forbes about merchant cash advances, a process that pro- vides working capital to small businesses as an advance on future sales. Seeing an opportunity, the duo founded Snap Advances in April 2009 in Salt Lake City. But success didn't come easily. For two years neither partner took a salary or draw from the business. "There was one day in particu- lar where Matt and I were sitting in our office by ourselves, and it felt very lonely. I vividly recall looking Matt in the eye and saying, 'I am down to two months of living expenses. Is this going to work?' It was a nail-biting time." Shortly after that frank discussion, Snap Advances took a turn for the better, and the business has been scoring ever since. The pair's success spawned Snap Finance, a company that helps consumers who are not eligible for traditional financing qualify for purchases up to $2,500. Today Longson is the CEO of Snap Advances and a board mem- ber of Snap Finance while Hawkins plays opposite roles in both companies, which boast revenue in the hundreds of millions. "Being an entrepreneur is challenging, scary, miserable, and awesome," Longson says. "I think every entrepreneur would say the same thing. It has been painful at times and wonderful at times, and you never know which one is coming." » season opener Streaming via ESPN into living rooms around the country this fall, Longson is kicking off the next season of his life. Amid the NFL's flying flags and howling whistles, Longson says his on-field goals mirror his business outlook: work hard to become the best at what you do. "You don't have to be the brightest or most gifted person," he says. "Rather, if you recog- nize what your strengths are and put yourself in a position to capitalize on them, you give yourself a better opportunity to succeed." That's a lesson he tries to carry with him everywhere, though there's usually just one thing on Longson's mind when his black Nikes hit the turf: "Relax—and don't mess up." 7 fall 2015

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