My Family and I Sacrificed Everything to Start SUMO Communications

In March of 2002, I was laid off from Qwest. I didn’t have a backup plan but I always knew in my heart that I wanted to start my own business brokering telecom services.

There’s a common saying that has been on my mind lately, “Everyone wants to hang out at the finish line without running the race.” I started my race by launching SUMO Communications 16 years ago and it’s a race that I’m still running today.

Bret Hickenlooper, President and CEO of SUMO Communications

So often in business we see success others are having from a distance but we don’t always see the struggles and sacrifices that are made en route to that success. As I reflect back on this journey, I want to share a few of the many sacrifices that stood out when I started my business:

Flipping Cars and Kids Possessions to Make Mortgage Payments

When I started SUMO, I had a little money in the bank and knew credit cards would only carry us so far in making house payments. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much home equity but I did have some assets to help assist in making house payments. I sold a camper trailer, a truck, my wife’s suburban, and probably the hardest was my boys’ Honda XR 70s. We were behind on house payments, so I really didn’t have a choice. I still remember when the guy pulled up with a trailer to load them. It’s a day I will never forget.

Rental Cars for Customer Appointments

After selling almost every possession we owned, I still needed transportation. For the first four years after starting SUMO, I drove a 1984 Bronco. That would have made the car around 20 years old at the time. I was always nervous when I went to visit a customer, worrying that they would see my old Bronco. I can remember on several occasions where I would go rent a car just to take my customers out to lunch.

Coins for Groceries

This was probably the most embarrassing for me and my wife Missy but we would literally bring in rolls and buckets of coins to buy our groceries with. These were coins that we had collected over the years but never would I imagine that they would be used to put food on the table for our family under tight circumstances.

Maxed Credit Cards: Paying for a Clients Lunch

I can still remember to this day taking a group of clients out to lunch at a sushi place. While everyone was looking over the menu, I quietly exited the restaurant and called my wife to see how much money we had in our checking account hoping it would cover lunch. All of our credit cards were maxed out so everything was coming out of our checking account. Luckily, we had just enough but it was a humbling moment to make that phone call to my wife. Luckily, no one got dessert!

It took a longtime to get SUMO rolling and we chewed through every last penny we had. I look back now and I’m so grateful I had a loving and patient family who believed in me and helped me along the low and high points of this journey.

SUMO Communications recently made the Inc. 5000 list that recognizes the fastest growing privately held companies in the nation. Out of the 112 companies in Utah that made the list, SUMO was number 57 with a three-year revenue growth of over 200%.

When visitors come see our office full of branded SWAG, accomplishments, and awards we have won over the years, they are very complimentary of our success. I simply smile and say it wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine along the way, and my family can attest to that.