Tommy Patterson is a self-made multi-millionaire. More than that, however, he’s a businessman who has made a name for himself in the industry for his amazing upward momentum. During our interview, he talks extensively about his growth from a teenager in the real estate business to the creation of WKND Digital, WKND Investments, and now his primary focus WKND Growth Partners PE. We also spend a lot of that time talking about his mistakes. He establishes that he’s no diva, despite his impressive net worth.
He prefers to go by the name “Tommy,” (“the brand” as he tells me). It’s how everyone knows him. He takes pride in who he is, his growth, and the lessons he has learned from his experiences. Other business owners might avoid discussing their setbacks – bad press, after all. Tommy doesn’t see it that way. He sees them as opportunities for growth.
Tommy makes it clear that he’s also an open book, ready to talk about literally everything. This is someone with a massive business career and a lot to say about how he got here. It’s always easier to make yourself seem like the big man in the room when nobody knows about your mistakes, but Tommy isn’t about to lie about himself.
We settle in for our interview and get right down to business.
Kicking Off: Early Life and Struggles
Tommy’s mother is a 7th-generation Jamaican immigrant, something he associates with his hard work and discipline. She moved to the United States when she was 12 years old and immigrated to NYC. His father was born in Tulsa, OK on the Chippewa reservation and is half Cherokee Indian.
In 1981, the Pattersons welcomed Tom into the world. That puts him squarely in the “millennial” age bracket, but he’d be the first person to tell you he doesn’t work like one. With an old-school approach to discipline and an eye for the details, Tommy’s not here just to cut a quick check and leave.
Patterson grew up in a busy household with seven other children. His early years were spent in a constant state of flux. His father, an entrepreneur, worked in sales and marketing. These were the “feast or famine” years. High heights of success with lots of money to go around. Then failures would drive the Patterson family from home to home in search of the next financial solution. His family spent his first four years living comfortably in California’s Discovery Bay and Dublin Ireland.
From four to seventeen, the Pattersons’ lived in and around Arlington Texas, moving from home to home every year of the young Tommy’s life. They would live on and off of welfare, renting homes for as long as possible before they could no longer pay rent. They’d get evicted, pack up their home, and move immediately to the nearest ‘for owner’ rental property. They’d convince them to rent the place out for another year and start the cycle over again.
This chaotic early bled through into Tommy’s education. He went to school from first to third grade, before his parents decided to homeschool him and his siblings. “Homeschool” in this setting translated into a lot of non-schooling. Because the family was moving so often, the kids and their parents found it hard to maintain consistency in their lessons, homework, and assignments. For Tommy, already finding ways and opportunities to make money in his childhood years, the concept of “education” was starting to look very different to his peers.
Every entrepreneur has that one moment when their life’s ambition comes together in front of them. For Tommy, the memory of his family’s eviction when he was eight years old is one of these moments. Him and his younger brothers, his mom crying hysterically on the front lawn. Dad was nowhere to be found. This is not a happy memory by any stretch of the imagination, but an important one. A memory of a decision: the decision to make a better future for himself. The decision to never let this happen to him.
Standing on his front lawn, watching his home be uprooted, Tommy told himself he was going to be rich. It was this drive that would become the guiding force in his work for the rest of his life.
Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing Challenges
By the time of his senior year, Tommy was living the life of generations of high-profile entrepreneurs before him. He was a “not great” student, with a “more-than-great” ability to talk to people. Extremely popular, with positions as ASB commissioner of assemblies and vice president to his name, he was a people person. More importantly, he’d been working since the age of four. Cleaning houses with his mom, he was no stranger to hard work and discipline.
At 16, Tommy was introduced to Tony Robbins’ seminal work, Personal Power, a book that had a profound impact on the way he saw the world. It kicked off a whirlwind of frenetic dedication to workmanship and making money. It was an early focus on doing the work and doing it intelligently that young Tommy acted on as soon as possible, kicking off a real estate career at the age of 19, as a loan officer. He immediately started making more money than anybody else his age could dream of. The question of his education became moot, as he gravitated toward sales and marketing books by the greats – Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar. They became his education.
Tommy took to the business world like a fish to water, absorbing as much of the material as he could. Within his first 120 days working in real estate, he’d started bringing in nearly $30,000 a month. He’d push that number to nearly $80,000, monthly, at his peak, all right before the market crashed in 2008.
Of course, by that point it didn’t matter anymore: Tommy had broken through into a level of earning unlike anything he’d ever experienced. And he wasn’t about to stop there. Tommy Believes that what makes someone successful is simply having the drive to be better. Having the desire to be the best at what you do. The greatest people in the world are not normal people. They have the drive to be the best.
This one concept became his entire approach to business. His chosen industry falling through didn’t matter: he was on his way to bigger and better things. Success comes directly from discipline and focus, regardless of what vertical you’re working in. As the saying goes, “Small hinges swing big doors.” Over the next few years, Patterson’s work growing from real estate into the greater business world would exemplify this approach.
The Birth of a Tommy’s Daughter | The Birth of a Business Empire
We could spend all day talking about Tommy Patterson’s rise to success – and to be fair, we still might. Early on, his founding of a successful women’s athletic wear brand, IAB MFG was a career-defining move forward. His hard work combined with his learnings from mentor Ezra Firestone and the shifting career trajectories that brought him to Sacramento and into medical production at the turn of the COVID epidemic is the stuff books are written about.
It’s a messy story and an amazing one, but it wasn’t until the 2006 birth of his daughter, in particular, that Tommy’s mindset became truly defined. He’d had the drive to succeed ever since he was a child. Now he had a child of his own to focus his work on. To work for and create a better life for. This was when Tommy would start focusing on the bigger picture.
Patterson’s approach to business found a new focus in his growing family. But knowing that you want to do big things doesn’t make you impervious to mistakes. This ambition came with a deluge of early learning experiences, big sacrifices, and the types of costs that crush fledgling entrepreneurs every day.
December 2018, Tommy Patterson had the opportunity to found an online marketing agency, WKND Digital. Part of this was due to his frustration with the prevailing glut of digital marketing ‘experts’ he’d been forced to work with. At the time, he was in the process of trying to sell a company at the time and trying to divine the best way forward working with the marketing agencies at hand.
He found himself venting to his wife. “I’m complaining about all of these agencies. And my wife’s like, “You know what? I’m so sick of hearing you complain about this. Why don’t you just start your own agency?”
So he did. In 2019, Tommy moved a portion of his team from IAB MFG and converted them into the ground floor team at his fledgling company, WKND. And he hit the ground running. He began taking on clients to see if he could scale in verticals. After all, he’d run every business he’d started up to now with a strong creative vision. He could carry operations for any brand out there. So he decided to see if he could work his magic in other verticals.
This is the kind of insight that drives innovative changes in any industry. Tommy Patterson identified a frustration with the service he would get into by experiencing that frustration himself. Instead of trying to “do the best he could” with what he saw as substandard marketers, though, he translated this need into a winning game plan for his own business.
His philosophy when it comes to the work he does with WKND? “One stone. Ten birds.” An agency should be able to operate as if they actually know what the hell their client is doing. What their goals are. How to actually scale in a meaningful way, instead of applying the same tired algorithm to business after business. And it was this mindset that allowed him to explore new businesses, brush up on his skills, develop his approach, and learn how to operate from inside of different verticals.
Unexpected Setbacks | New Opportunities
While this early growth was certainly welcome, the entire business world was set for an unexpected collapse in 2020. Businesses, the world over, ground to a halt, seemingly overnight in the midst of a global pandemic. And, like so many other people, Tommy got COVID. But, while the urge with many business owners was to “knuckle down” and keep up appearances so they could continue with “business as usual”, Tommy leaned into his illness and used the new world to create new opportunities.
He admits it freely. He was sicker than he’d ever been in his life, out of commission for three and a half weeks. He got pneumonia for the first time. And, laying there in bed, he had the pleasure of a front-row seat to every business owner’s worst nightmare: watching helplessly as his business at the time shut down as China went into lockdown.
Things were looking dire in the Patterson house as Tommy struggled to think of how to keep going in a time when everything had completely stopped. And then his then-wife, a critical care nurse, brought him his next big venture. She was telling me how their hospital was running short on supplies. Specifically, they were running short on masks.
There, in the face of a global catastrophe, Tommy Patterson discovered his next big way out. In February 2020, he called a factory in China with one simple request: “Let’s buy four mask
Machines and start a new business venture as partners.” Just by watching the news and being sicker than he’d ever been in his life, he took his experience and setbacks and distilled them into one single idea: masks were going to be huge.
Patterson, his supplier, and his team acquired four mask machines and, by the end of February, the company was up and running. Their new company, Stratton Essential Supply, was operating and selling masks to hospitals that were in desperate need of them.
The next four months looked like this:
- March: $21,000
- April: $90,000
- May: $2.6 million
- June: $10.2 million
A Closer Look at WKND Digital
Jump forward a year, and the Pandemic was slowing down. Stratton. IAB. Tommy’s other ventures, companies like Family Gifts Co, Torque Auto Detail, and Freedom Grooming, which helped scale to multi-eight figure business over the shutdown, defying expectations, were starting to come down from their operational heights. People were going back to work. The government had stopped giving out money. Spending slowed down. The time had come to get back to business with WKND and his other ventures.
Tommy and his team at WKND scaled up five companies to multi-eight figures during this time, so a shift in the market was exactly the type of thing he was ready for. He put his business insight to use in growing the companies he had brought on board up to this point as WKND clients. And that meant going all in.
Tommy would focus on working as a growth partner. What this meant was that WKND Digital could come into any business it was working with and scale them using their more than just a limited marketing budget. He would grow businesses, combining both his own capital and his business insights to grow any client in a consistent, predictable way.
Leveraging a data driven approach Tommy could model out and forecast business growth within 5%, with 95% accuracy of target. This insight would set him apart. Data is key to this operation, and it’s not complicated data either. After all, Tommy’s already made the mistakes he advises his clients against. He knows what to look out for. WKND Digital models out everything based on targeted business data. An ad account might make decisions based off of a CPA or a cost-per-click metric, for instance, but this is focusing on a limited window of information. Running a business is about more than just that one dimension. There’s an overhead. Processing fees. The apps needed to run the operation, before you even consider customer service. It’s not just buying and selling a product.
Of course, none of this is a secret. The first thing you’ll read when you look into WKND Digital is this: they’re not an agency. They’re growth partners who consider themselves a small private equity firm willing to invest its own capital in helping to streamline its operation, opening doors for sustainable growth. They invest their resources, their team – the things that matter. He conducts complete and comprehensive financial due diligence before day one, collecting data from multiple sources and using it to generate unmistakable growth.
Tommy has spent his life growing businesses, so this sort of insight comes naturally to him. He knows that, at every new stage of growth, a new onset of challenges presents itself. Scaling isn’t linear. It can’t be. To be truly competitive, business owners have to be able to model real growth to take into account all of the things that are going to change over the course of their lifespan.
Three years later, and the results speak for themselves. With a robust client portfolio and an upcoming expansion into New York City offices and the highly competitive market of the Big Apple, growth is more than just a service at WKND. It’s their whole MO.
Tommy Patterson’s Net Worth
Even though we’ve only covered a part of Tommy’s road to success and fortune, the truth is he doesn’t consider himself “some crazy wealthy person”. At an estimated net worth of $70 million according to fortune magazine 40 under 40, this might sound strange, but it’s humility that keeps him hungry for greater achievements.
The Road to Wealth and Success
In the broader picture, Patterson is exactly what he looks like: a self-made millionaire with nonstop big ideas for how to dominate the market around him. But that kind of transformation doesn’t happen overnight. He built a fortune in real estate starting before most Americans have their first drink. He built on the lessons he learned doing this and worked with his high-profile mentors to expand into a series of highly successful business operations. WKND might be what many people know him for, but with a seven-investment business portfolio and multiple side ventures to his name, he’s no one-trick pony.
All of this ties back into Tommy’s overall focus on maintaining his goals. Focus is a central pillar in how he runs his business, after all.
The World According to Tommy Patterson | Entrepreneurial Lessons and Key Quotes
Of course, business visionaries don’t give boring interviews. During our two-hour conversation, Tommy Patterson drops some honest-to-God gems on his worldviews and business insights.
On his approach to learning from his mistakes:
“Fail forward is my motto. I live by it every single day. Every day is a new opportunity for growth and a new opportunity to get better. To improve on yesterday. The universe shows us so many lessons if we’re willing to listen.”Tommy Patterson
On dealing with life challenges: “View life through a lens of abundance. Everything is trying to teach you something. To help you grow as an individual.”
“Without clarity of purpose, you can’t profit as an individual, spiritually, monetarily, or physically. You have to find your purpose. What you make of your life is 100% dependent on you.”Tommy Patterson
On imposter syndrome and having the confidence to be the best:
“I don’t pretend to know everything. I fail every single day, but I make a conscious effort to get better every single day. To try to be a better human being.”Tommy Patterson
On having true purpose in your business dealings:
“When you’re trying to do something massive in the world and you have a greater purpose than just a monetary purpose, everything gets easier.”Tommy Patterson
The Importance of Living a Purpose-Driven Life:
“Most people are living someone else’s life. What someone else wants them to do or thinks that they should do. They care too much about what other people think. That is not a purpose-driven life.”Tommy Patterson
The Lifelong Journey of Finding Purpose:
“Finding your purpose is something you will be doing for the rest of your life.”Tommy Patterson
Ultimately, Tommy Patterson isn’t working with some closely guarded industry secret. There are no old money uncles bankrolling any of his businesses. It’s been two weeks since our conversation, but if you asked Tommy today what he attributes his success to, he’d tell you the same thing he said then: “Discipline and clarity of purpose.” Whether you’re bringing medical masks to hospitals in need during the biggest pandemic in modern history, building an operation as a growth partner, or cleaning houses with your mom at the age of 5, you have to be all in.
And mistakes? You’re going to make plenty of them. And you can choose to run from them or learn from them. For Tommy, the choice was easy. He turned every wrong step, every loss, and every setback into a new opportunity. Which they are, for anybody bright enough to spot them. “It’s not ‘Why does this happen to me?’ It’s ‘Why does this happen for me?’” he says. With the right perspective, a positive approach, and some genuine dedication, you can turn small feats of dedication into massive growth.