For some people, knowing what they want to do in life and the direction they want to take is evident from a young age.
As for Asa Palagi, a veteran, and successful entrepreneur, that knowledge came in the form of a creative spirit and individualist thinking. As co-founder of Cascadia Global Security, Palagi fed the need he’d had since childhood of forging his own path and creating something big.
And he’s done it all by age of 26.
In just over two decades, Palagi has served in the military, law enforcement and started a successful company that only continues to expand at a rapid rate. Along the way, he’s learned quite a bit regarding the challenges of going one’s own way, starting something from scratch, and learning to trust instinct. Through it all, he’s come out stronger, wiser, and full of insight for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.
Armed with ambition and vision
With a sense of adventure and ambition that lingered from an early age, Palagi was always seemed destined to venture into the world of entrepreneurship and forge his own path. He left home at 17 years old to join the military as a Civil Affairs Specialist, where he trained at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“I always identified as an old man,” Palagi, 26, said. “I always had an old soul. I feel I was insightful from a young age.”
After his time at Fort Bragg, Palagi decided to pursue higher education. He went on to attend Washington State University, where he studied and earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While a student, he also participated in ROTC and he graduated from the university in 2015. Palagi then made his way to a small town in Oregon and began service as a first responder while completing basic officer training. Once he finished that, he became a deputy sheriff at just 22 years old. Even though Palagi has accomplished much at a young age, he said he never really acknowledged it or felt it was a hindrance. Instead, he just made it a priority and point to focus on his goals.
“I never thought too much about it [being young and successful],” he said. “I’ve always just cared about self-development.”
Although Palagi was carving out a good career in law enforcement and public safety and is a Captain in the Army Reserves, he still felt a calling to move in a different direction. This calling would lead him to create a successful private security company that only continues to grow across the nation.
Young experiences and success with Cascadia
In 2018, Palagi and his college friend founded Cascadia Global Security. They were both looking for ways to apply more creative solutions to security and safety, and they decided to form something of their own. The company is headquartered in Seattle and offers a variety of security services, mainly for retailers, hospitals, hotels, businesses, construction sites, and more. Cascadia’s main focus is security officers, and customers often choose to hire them because they serve as a good deterrent for theft and crime.
“Their presence is reassuring,” Palagi said.
Cascadia allowed for Palagi to leverage his military and law enforcement experience along with his drive for creative, out-of-the-box thinking. He very much considers his company and its security officers to be an extension of public safety, but it allows him to flex his creative muscles and implement new, innovative ways of approaching it.
And in fact, breaking out of the structure and rigid thinking has proven to be one of the biggest challenges Palagi faces as he made the transition into entrepreneurship and running a company.
Challenges and changes
For many people who follow the traditional corporate route, life is very ordered and goes by a certain sequence. When it came to pursuing business, Palagi said breaking free from these orders was one of the biggest challenges.
“Life is organic and not structured,” Palagi said. “There are no rules to how life has to be done.”
Forgoing the societal influence, Palagi said, was difficult as he formed his company. It took an adjustment to realize that anything was possible and there wasn’t necessarily a rulebook for how it should go. Because he was forming a private company under his own leadership and ideas, it didn’t need to follow age-old orders or directions.
Palagi said becoming an entrepreneur at a young age also changed his view and outlook of the world and society as a whole. For him, he realized how esteemed business really is in American culture and how it is necessary to the progression of society.
“I now value entrepreneurship more as I’ve now seen that it’s the backbone of western civilization,” Palagi said. “All government service is on the backs of businesses. We wouldn’t have cell phones without businesses. We wouldn’t have anything without businesses.”
Palagi said he believes there should be more incentives for people to become entrepreneurs since they’re vital to the world today, help create more jobs, and produce important products and services for consumers.
For him, some of the other logistical challenges in becoming an entrepreneur and owning a business, specifically a security company, include government legislation, taxation, and regulation. But some of the speedbumps also included adjusting his outlook on life, success, and failure.
“You have to be okay being uncertain,” he said. “Nothing is forever. You have to be okay with your life going dramatically sideways.”
And that very sentiment is paramount to being a successful entrepreneur and making it in business.
What makes a successful entrepreneur
When it comes to pursuing entrepreneurship, the road is not linear, Palagi said. Aspiring entrepreneurs have to have a strong sense of individuality and be ready and content going their own way. People who wish to pursue business also have to be resilient, he said, and keep working and pushing through difficult times or setbacks.
“It’s a game of time,” he said. “Some people quit, some persevere to success.”
Some other advice Palagi said is regarding advice in and of itself. He said that young entrepreneurs shouldn’t be easily persuaded or dissuaded from pursuing their dreams, meaning a person really needs to know for themselves and make the decision on their own without relying too much on outside opinions.
“You need an individual drive,” he said. “Don’t be easily swayed by opinions, and don’t let people overly hype you up. Have your own self-worth.”
Having that self-worth ties into another one of Palagi’s beliefs about entrepreneurship, and that’s being able to do an honest self-assessment and determine one’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I would say go for it, but honestly assess your passions and your interests and do it in an isolated environment,” he said. “Don’t care what other people want you to do. Follow your passion.”
Giving and taking advice as a young entrepreneur
When Palagi was 24 and starting Cascadia, he said he was told by hundreds of people how he should run his company, but he ignored most of the advice.
“I was told my ideas were bad, but they ended up working out,” he said. “Everyone has an opinion, but not many have the insight or education that you might have.”
In taking advice regarding business, Palagi said it’s important for young entrepreneurs to know when to listen and when to not. Gauging what sort of advice is helpful to a business owner’s vision and what kind would hinder them or be detrimental to their brand and company is a key trait to have when starting or running a business.
“You can’t be the person who never listens or only listens,” he said. “Think for yourself and develop the balance. But if you’re told you can’t do something and it motivates you to do it, then you’re the person to do it.”
Seeking balance and planning ahead
Although Palagi has accomplished a great deal at a young age, he’s still poised to achieve even more. For the immediate future, he’s focused on growing Cascadia in the United States, looking into private military contracting, and getting the business to an international level. He said the current times have yielded an increased demand for security, and he’s hoping the company will be able to secure some overseas contracts soon.
Palagi said it’s also important to make time for personal interests to help balance stress or pressure from work. A lover of books and hopeful to publish his own one day, he likes to study history and calls it the “roadmap to the future.” He also practices stoicism and tries to use logic in lieu of emotion when making decisions and going about life. He has also participated in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for years, which he finds to be tremendously helpful in getting physical activity to relieve tension and keep creativity fresh.
“Life is a balance in entrepreneurship,” he said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, be completely fearless in what you do, and don’t be caught up in hesitation.”