Rob Farrow (‘91) is an accomplished entrepreneur and executive of several successful startups, but there was a time when going to college seemed unlikely. Even then, Farrow was never afraid to pursue an idea — a characteristic that would carry him through his career. 

“I didn’t come from the type of means where I thought I could afford to go to school,” Farrow said. “I took a huge chance moving from Hawaii to California. I was 17 years old.”

Due to financial aid challenges, Farrow left Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) during his second semester. At first, he wasn’t too concerned about finishing college  — he was busy chasing his dream of being a pro surfer.

“I didn’t realize until a month out of school how important PLNU had become to me. It was a moral compass and grounding point,” Farrow said. “There were a handful of people who told me, ‘there’s an easy road and a hard road. Both go somewhere. You have to figure out what matters to you along the way.’”

While at PLNU, Farrow was part of the Loma Surf Team.

So, Farrow reached out to the admissions office where a counselor helped him find a path back. When the door to return to PLNU opened, he made a commitment to himself and his counselor to make it to graduation day. 

He kept his promise and graduated in 1991. However, Farrow quickly discovered his two part-time jobs outpaid the full-time opportunities he was presented with. So, he decided to try the entrepreneurial path. While he worked as a valet and doorman, he opened his own motorcycle shop on Morena Blvd in San Diego. There, he received what he describes as his own personal master’s program. 

“I got a really interesting education from some very eclectic people. The education was really about figuring it out on my own,” Farrow said. “Because of paying attention, keeping my eyes open and listening rather than speaking, I found a path in business I never knew existed.”

That path started with Farrow opening his very first business, his own custom motorcycle shop in Hawaii. The newfound business owner moved home and jumped into the business scene.

“Our business was wildly successful from the get-go,” he said. “About three or four years in, business is humming along, and then we entered one of the first cycles of economic downturn.”

The late 2000s impacted businesses in unprecedented ways, and Farrow’s business was no exception. With a tight budget and a looming economic crisis, he paid his employees but took no pay for himself for three months before he realized it couldn’t continue. The business shut its doors and Farrow sold the remaining assets.

“I got a really interesting education from some very eclectic people. The education was really about figuring it out on my own,” Farrow said. “Because of paying attention, keeping my eyes open and listening rather than speaking, I found a path in business I never knew existed.”

“I thought of it as a really big failure,” he said. “But one of my constant themes in life is ‘don’t be afraid to get uncomfortable.’ You’re forced to learn a lot more.”

At that point, uncomfortable was an understatement with no current employment options and an unsteady economy for an entrepreneur. Farrow decided he needed a drastic change, so he packed his bags and moved back to California. Between couch surfing and actual surfing, Farrow strengthened his friendships and made plenty of new ones. The web of friends and acquaintances led to a marketing opportunity at a start-up. He jumped at the chance. The company grew quickly and eventually became ACTIVE.

“Again, I got this incredible accelerated education around some amazing technologists and marketers,” Farrow said. “That opened up what ultimately became my career track. I found a niche with experiential marketing, connecting people through an experience to a brand. I’ve done it since that day and I love it.”

With a launchpad like ACTIVE, Farrow leapt into working for high profile technology companies and found his way back to Hawaii through a business connection. Home again, the entrepreneur opened his own agency, Catalyst Creative. The agency worked with international and domestic brands to build bridges to the Hawaiian community through events.

The company eventually got acquired, and through connections under the acquisition, Farrow experienced all kinds of work — corporate events, leadership training, a bakery, Major League Baseball — the list carries projects that deserve stories of their own. Throughout it all, he continued to build his resume and make friends along the way.

“Good work connects good people,” he said. 

Not only did Farrow meet a lot of good people through his job, he also met his wife. 

“It’s a really fun story in our marriage because I interviewed her for a job,” he said. “I didn’t hire her, but I ended up marrying her.”

“Good work connects good people,” he said.

Seven years later, Farrow had added “husband” and “dad” to his growing list of titles. He decided to step back and reassess his career and found another start-up opportunity calling. The company, Content Hub Identity Management Platform (CHIMP), was pioneering a new concept at the time in identity management. During this time, he and his family moved once again to California, believing the future of the company was on the west coast. The future of the company was, unfortunately, shorter than he anticipated. 

“It failed miserably,” Farrow said. “There’s nothing like a great failure to teach you what not to do in the future.”

The company wound down and his career was at another crossroads. With the network he spent years building, Farrow found himself doing marketing consulting for a period before getting an offer to join Surftech. As a PLNU alumnus and former Hendricks Hall resident, he was thrilled to be in the surf industry, alongside some of his friends from his college days.

As he navigated this new role, his wife, an entrepreneur in her own right, shared her idea of an online cloud-based planning platform for the wedding and events industry. So, the couple embarked on the new venture together.

“I’d get off from one job and go home to start working on this other job,” Farrow said.

Over time, they came up with the original platform idea for Aisle Planner. Despite a promising launch in 2014, they struggled to gain revenue in the following months. Despite the risks, Farrow decided to leave Surftech to give Aisle Planner his undivided attention. 

“I left a very lucrative career for a very low-paying job with a lot of scary, uncomfortable unknowns ahead of me,” Farrow said.

By 2017, Farrow saw the promise of the business’ success and the family decided to go all in. 

“We continued to grow the business by selling every single asset, and item,” he said. “Anything we owned went into the company.”

While the challenges continued, the wins kept them motivated, including recognition from Inc. Magazine. Farrow described this accomplishment as a funny experience.

“We were down to almost nothing at that point,” he said. “It feels weird to get such big recognition and you live a pretty humble life.”  

In 2019, the business took off again, but the COVID-19 pandemic was just around the corner.

“You’ll hear me say again and again ‘it’s okay to get uncomfortable.’ And COVID-19 is about as uncomfortable as it gets, especially when your entire business is based on events,” he said. 

The Aisle Planner team rallied around the challenges and accepted an acquisition offer in 2020. Although the company is now under different ownership, Farrow still runs Aisle Planner and continues to see its success. Despite a winding career path, he always found a new turn to explore. It’s easy to wonder how so many opportunities have fallen in his lap.

“At the risk of sounding like a cliche, it’s putting others over self,” Farrow said. “I’m always promoting my team, our business partners, the company we work for.”

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” he said. “I laugh because I find myself becoming the cliches. But they’re cliches because they’re true.” 

Farrow jumped at every chance to make a connection or a new friend. Strangers he met at a yogurt shop or a restaurant would go on to become friends or even business partners. 

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” he said. “I laugh because I find myself becoming the cliches. But they’re cliches because they’re true.” 

As Farrow’s daughter explored her college options, including PLNU, Farrow was reminded of his days in Hendricks Hall and the waves he and his friends used to catch on Sunset Cliffs. Those friends are each living their lives in various cities and with different careers. But he said their group chat carries on and their friendship does too. 

The college experience is often described as a time you’ll make friendships that will last a lifetime. Of all the cliches he is finding to be accurate, that might just be the one that rings true the most.  

Rebecca is a 2021 PLNU alumna with a B.A. in multimedia journalism. Currently, she works in public relations and as a freelance writer.