Nate Lance | Little Structure. Great Expansion.

An Interview with Kat Mische Elle

Nate, share with us how you paved the road ahead of you for your life when you were younger.

I was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. I was not the greatest student, and I was in trouble a lot in school. I was so distracted and bored when it came to school that the teachers thought I wasn’t very intelligent. I was always goofing off during class to entertain myself while I was there until I could go home. I kept behaving like this through high school and my parents were always frustrated with me because of it. School for me was mostly a place where I could play sports and hang out with friends.

What was your relationship like with your parents?
My parents divorced when I was age nine, then my dad moved up to Alaska. My dad was a laborer for the pipeline in that area and it was hard for him and me to see each other often. But he took summers off and spent that entire time with me taking incredible road trips.

My mom was raising me most of the time on her own and unfortunately for her, she became the primary authoritarian.

She provided very little structure or supervision. I was already living independently in a lot of ways, starting at about thirteen years old once I was in the routine of my parents being in different places. I was learning early how to take care of myself without anyone to really answer to.

Can you see how your unbridled childhood was allowing you to shape and form your future boss-self?
Yes. That’s actually a great way to put it.

When I was in the middle of my senior year my mom decided to move to Seattle while I stayed living in our apartment to graduate.

I then went on to college and during my sophomore year, I got a job at a bar called the Beer Barrel across the street from the campus. At one point during my junior year, my boss needed to sell the bar.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, so I applied for loans and bought it from him.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. For ten years I ran it, and it was as if I was having a party in my living room every night. Our fire code was for 49 people, and we would put 400 in the door.

The place became legendary. There was an article written about it in Playboy when I owned it as a hot spot to visit which brought in more customers to another next level.

What it taught me was how to operate a business with very little money, because even though it generated a lot of revenue, I spent a lot of money because I was really young and having fun.

The experience taught me about cash flow and how to be lean when you need to be lean.

In 2001 I sold the bar. I had one of those pivotal moments where I was having a conversation with a sorority girl at the bar when I realized that I had been having the exact same conversation with a different sorority girl probably 25 times a week for a decade.

I wanted to chart a new direction away from anything I have done before.

This one particular night a conversation started off with a girl crying about her fraternity boyfriend and how he was cheating on her, and I could no longer remember the conversation even while it was happening. I couldn’t listen anymore, and she began to blur and fade away right in from of me and my attention span. That was it for me. I was done being in this environment. I wanted more for my life.

I listed it the next day and sold it.

I regrouped and took a job as a food and beverage manager, but my entrepreneur drive was always there and I knew I was a horrible employee.

You were a horrible employee because you knew you always needed to be a boss?
Well, I always thought I was a boss when I was an employee which made me a horrible employee. I needed to once again, change courses and figure something else out. I then developed my company Western Trade Alliance (WTA).

How did Western Trade Alliance come to be and how did it make better sense for your life to put your time and focus into it?
I wanted to chart a new direction away from anything I have done before. I wanted to create something from the ground up with better hours and weekends off. But I also wanted to do something that kept me connecting with people. I like building relationships with people, but I wanted to have better and more supportive ones.

When the recession hit in 2008, it didn’t really impact Reno until a couple years after, and we got hit very hard. Businesses were suffering and I saw an opportunity to help these businesses by offering them an alternative currency so they could start to mend things and grow.

What I created was able to assist the struggling businesses by lifting them up a little bit and giving them the tools they needed to become more successful during the challenging economic times.

WTA is an alliance of businesses agreeing to exchange goods and services between members. The significant advantage for members is the ability to barter with several companies or individuals, holding on to their cash for other expenses. WTA uses our private currency, which we call trade dollars. We bank and store the trade dollars for businesses that don’t have an immediate need for them until they are ready to be used.

WTA offers everything from Accounting to Zumba (get it? A to Z). A WTA membership can help with business expenses such as bookkeeping, accounting, advertising, corporate travel, and legal needs. WTA members also use their trade dollars to enjoy a better quality of life. Our members trade for travel, spa services, family fun, special events, and more. Trade dollars can also be used for services needed at home for housekeeping, landscape maintenance, vehicle repair, plumbing, electrical, fencing, and so on.

What are your bigger visions for WTA?
The company now is growing and has recently expanded into the eastern Sierras and Sacramento, California, and soon Hawaii.

How many years has Western Trade Alliance been operating?
We are now in the eleventh year of operation.

What is your advice for driven entrepreneurs?
Don’t sacrifice or compromise your happiness. Avoid putting yourself in a situation where you turn around one day and wonder how your kids got so big. I am reminded of words from the song Living in the Moment by Jason Mraz.  

Who has been a major inspirational influence in your life? 
President Johnson has always been an inspiration to me. As a southern democrat, it took incredible courage and self-growth for him to champion the civil rights act of 1964, The War on Poverty, The Voting Rights Act of 1968, and proposed The Fair Housing Act. Johnson was chosen as JFK’s Vice President because the democrats needed a strong southern politician to win.  Johnson wasn’t a champion of civil rights when he was a Senator, in fact, he was known to be a bigot. However, once he was thrust into power he carried on JFK’s legacy and did what was right for the country. I’m not inspired by the policies he championed, it’s the courage and growth that he demonstrated to get them passed.

What is the best way for people to find and follow you? 
I can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/nate.lance/ or email Nate@WesternTradeAlliance.Com.

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