SALT LAKE CITY — Quitting a job can be stressful — especially when you’re abandoning a steady income to start a brand new business.

It’s even more overwhelming when you’re doing it on national television. 

“Most people that (quit), it’s a 10-minute experience. It’s build up your courage, get it done and get out,” Chris Studdert said. “You throw cameras on top of it and it’s just kind of like throwing fuel on the fire. It makes it that much more difficult.” 

Eighteen months ago, Studdert and his friend-turned-business partner, Marcus Sorensen, took a risk, quitting their full-time jobs to start the Utah-based Blue Coolers — a company that manufactures and sells high-end coolers, drinkware and other outdoor products.

That means it’s been a year and a half since their wives, while supportive, wondered if perhaps their husbands — who are both in their 40s and have 10 kids between them — were having some sort of midlife crisis. 

 “When I came to my wife and said, ‘Hey, I want to quit my job, I want to start a business and I want to be on this reality TV show,’ it’s kind of a combination for, ‘My husband just lost his mind,” Sorensen said. 

Now, the business partners are reliving the stress, fear and excitement all over again. Their journey — from quitting to seeing their own business come alive — is part of the new Discovery Channel series “I Quit” that premiered Tuesday night. Through eight episodes, the show intimately follows six sets of entrepreneurs as they try to get their businesses off the ground. 

“I think I’d rather just watch it in my basement with all the windows closed, if I watch it at all,” Sorensen said with a laugh. “I’m sure I’m a stress case in it. It literally was happening real-time. When I watch these shows, I always wonder, ‘Is this real or not?’

“This is real. I was having conversations with my wife about leaving that we hadn’t even had yet.” 

For most of 2019, a film crew spent several days out of each month with Studdert, Sorensen and their families, documenting the roller coaster of emotions and challenges that come with launching a company. The initial stress of it all is behind them, but the business partners only recently learned one big twist in the show: The most promising business gets $100,000. 

“They kept everybody in the dark until the very last minute,” Sorensen said. 

Studdert and Sorensen have a lot in common.

They’re both Brigham Young University graduates who like to pick on each other. They’re avid outdoorsmen and have a passion for entrepreneurship. But when it comes to their business, it’s the differences that come in handy. 

Studdert likes to follow his gut — “If it feels good, let’s run with it,” he says. 

An assistant baseball coach at Maple Mountain High School, he subscribes to former Atlanta Braves player Dale Murphy’s approach: “Swing hard in case you hit it.” 

Sorensen is more analytical. He lives in the data. 

“When you combine those two, I think it’s a real good recipe for success,” Studdert said.

“It’s not like we don’t ever get on each other’s nerves and yell at each other,” Sorensen added. “But for the most part, we get along really well.” 

Marcus Sorensen (left) and Chris Studdert quit their jobs on the Discovery Channel series “I Quit,” and launch their Utah-based business Blue Coolers. | Provided by Discovery Channel

So the pair joined forces, developing the idea for Blue Coolers in 2017. Frustrated with the high cost of super cooler brands like Yeti, Studdert — who has a background in procurement and manufacturing — knew they could sell quality coolers for a fraction of the cost. 

More of a marketing guy, Sorensen wanted to test out the product before launching into a full-fledged business. 

They spent most of 2018 building Blue Coolers online and experimenting with advertising strategies — while still working full-time jobs. Sorensen learned fairly quickly that they could acquire customers at a cost that still allowed them to make money up front.

‘We didn’t have millions of dollars in our bank accounts to just blast advertising dollars out there and hope that in four years we make profit,” he said. “We wanted to be able to generate a profit and grow the brand simultaneously.” 

Seeing the numbers, Sorensen knew it could work.

It was time to go all-in. 

Sorensen left his job as vice president of sales for a San Francisco-based company that grows quinoa. 

Studdert quit a business he had with his younger brother — the person who actually introduced him to Sorensen six years ago. 

“He got the raw end of the deal,” Studdert said with a laugh. 

Compared to the other entrepreneurs on “I Quit,” Studdert and Sorensen are a bit older. Sometimes they had to self-document for the show. Studdert didn’t even get his first cellphone until he was 25, so the self-filming took some getting used to.

“We just are not of that generation,” Studdert said with a laugh. “Making these huge, life-altering decisions with a boom-mic and a camera in your face. But I think the scary thing for me was I’m almost 50. I’ve worked really hard, I’ve saved, I’ve built up a financial ability to live life a certain way. So for me, taking this step is putting all of that at risk.” 

And the challenges hit them early on. Much of their production is based in China, and intensifying U.S./China trade relations created higher tariffs, and importation and customs issues. 

“I think a lot of people really glamorize entrepreneurship. And the realities of entrepreneurship is, you’ve gotta be prepared to clean the toilets. You’ve got to get your hands dirty,” Studdert said. “You just don’t overnight become a multimillionaire, and you’re the CEO and you just sit behind the desk and enjoy the air conditioning. That might be Hollywood, but that is not reality. You’ve gotta get dirty and gritty and fight, and I think this show will really illustrate that.” 

Battling for their business over the course of several months, Studdert and Sorensen did eventually adjust to the cameras constantly in their face. They got so used to it, in fact, that Studdert, who claims to not really have a filter, is a little worried about what will come out of his mouth on the show. 

“Maybe we’re going to look like complete idiots,” he said. “But I think it’ll be entertaining. And at the end of the day, how often does a small business like ours have an opportunity to get a national presence for eight weeks? That’s a pretty rare opportunity.”