029: How Lars Hundley Created A 7 Figure Online Store Selling Gardening Supplies

Lars Hundley

I’ve known Lars Hundley for quite some time and what I like about the guy is that he has a tremendous amount of experience with every aspect of running an ecommerce store.

He’s been running his own business, for over a decade and he’s extremely open about all of his experiences including both his successes and his failures. In this podcast, he reveals the ecommerce strategies that have worked the best for his store so be sure to check it out!

Also, make sure you check out his post on How I Made A Million Dollars By Reading An Article In The Wall Street Journal

What You’ll Learn

  • How Lars got started in the clean air gardening niche
  • Why he transitioned from dropshipping to carrying inventory to using a fulfillment house to purchasing a gigantic warehouse facility.
  • Which traffic sources convert the best for his store
  • Lars’ unique way of handling customer service
  • How to create your own product overseas
  • How he sells on in conjunction with his own online store
  • How he managed to secure an exclusive deal with one of his suppliers

Other Resources And Books


Steve: You are listening to My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where I bring in successful, bootstrapped business owners, to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of these podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. If you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month.

For more information go to and if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, today I’m happy to have Lars Hundley on the show. Now Lars is actually someone who I’ve kind of known for quite a while and he’s been known to look side on me in the shadows of my blog. Anyway Lars runs Actually Lars owns a whole bunch of sites but the ones that we are going to be talking about today is which is a shop that sells lawn and gardening equipment with a spin. Everything he sells is environmentally friendly. Now that’s all fine and good but the real reason I brought Lars in today is because he’s got quite an interesting back story and he’s pretty much done everything when it comes to e-commerce.

He’s imported from overseas, he’s created his own products, he’s drop shipped, he’s sourced domestically, he’s used the fulfillment service, he’s sold on Amazon, you name it and he’s done it before. Now, he’s also started some pretty random businesses over the years. I don’t know if we’ll have time to talk about those, but I’m very curious to learn from this guy so welcome to the show Lars, how are you doing today?

Lars: Hey, thanks for having me I’m excited to be here.

Steve: Yeah so I know you’ve got a whole bunch of websites but can you just give us a quick background story and kind of have the path that you took to arrive at starting

Lars: Sure, you know I’ve always been super into the internet and in the 90s, I was working actually as a magazine editor and during that job and then I went off to work for an internet company that was building websites for other businesses and I was their PR guy and we were building websites for other businesses and I was looking at them and all these companies were succeeding and I was thinking, man, you know, I wish I could build something for myself and do this because this seems like something to do and it turns out I got fired from that job because I’m not a very good employee. It turns out, so I – I was renting a house at that time and I had to mow my own lawn and I went to like– it was in the rows of home depot one of the big back stores and I was looking for the absolute cheapest lawn mower to mow my own lawn, and I noticed hidden away in the corner, was one of those old fashioned push little mowers, like the kind without a motor.

Steve: Yeah like the ones on the front stands right?

Lars: Yeah and so I was like, I didn’t even realize that they made those things anymore and so I bought one and I took it home and I mowed my lawn with it and it worked, and it worked pretty well. I thought man, nobody even knows about these things and I thought, hey this could be my idea and so I actually– I started searching around and I found– it turns out I was living in Border Colorado, and it turned out there was a guy importing these really nice German made push motor mower that sort of like the [inaudible] [00:04:12] of the push mowers and he was right up in Fort Collins which was only about 45 minutes away and I call them on the phone and I didn’t even have my website yet and I was like, hey you know I was thinking about building a web and the guy was actually positive about it because most people if you called some guy and you didn’t have a website yet, they would like of course treat you like whatever you don’t have any website why would I really want to talk to you.

Steve: But what year was this Lars?

Lars: This was 1998 though.

Steve: Okay long time ago.

Lars: Yeah long time ago. So I literally drove to the guy’s house and I loaded my car full of lawn mowers and I think I had– you could fit about 12 lawn mowers and of all though and wrote the guy a cheque and took them back to my house and kept them in the house and I couldn’t even accept credit cards at that time. I was taking orders over the phone because you know in 1998 it was harder to get a merchant account to sell online and this is before like there was like not even all transactions were secure. People were like doing it where you’d like post a form and they would send you an email you know, all kinds of crazy stuff like that was going on but I didn’t have a merchant account so I just had my phone number which was the cell phone on my webpage that I built with like clearance…

Steve: Clearance Works Yeah, yeah.

Lars: Yeah, one of those. It was like a one page website and people called me on the phone, I would order it and I would ship it COD by UPS and then I would get payment like you know a week and a half later.

Steve: Aha.

Lars: And that was how I sold for the first you know maybe three months and I was making a little bit of money and I was like, wow, you know and then I discovered Yahoo store that you know it was a really easy to build store and they accepted you know secure transactions and then I was able to get a merchant account and then when I turn on the merchant account it really started to take off and I’m more like you, you know you still have your day job right?

Steve: I do yes.

Lars: Well I kept my day job for the first almost two years I was in business. Until I literary got so busy that I couldn’t do it anymore but the work started sort of pouring in as soon as people could order online and– but that’s where I started with, with just one push lawn mower and then I expanded into other eco-friendly stuff because that’s what I was interested in and things like compost bins and rain barrels to collect rain water for your garden, gardening tools like organic fertilizers and things like that and it just sort of grew from there and I was actually in Inc Magazines in the Inc 5000 puzzle scrolling companies like three times in I think 2009, 2010…

Steve: That’s awesome Lars.

Lars: Yeah it’s been fun.

Steve: So just curious you know back when you had the just one page website how did you get people to learn on that site?

Lars: You know, this was pre Google and the– in fact you know pre Google was a much happier time because there was Auto Vista, there was Hot Box, there was…

Steve: And Yahoo right?

Lars: There was Yahoo and traffic came like from all three sources. It was about one third, one third, one third you know where you got traffic from different places and really you would just appear on the search engines and you know I think I probably did link building back then but not really because nobody even knew that links were valuable other than…

Steve: Yeah.

Lars: A direct source of traffic that– you didn’t build links because it made you rank better in the search engines, but you know the search engines source to sort of found you there. I think I got a least at– and this was when it was free to still be listed in Yahoo’s directory. So I was listed in Yahoo’s directory and I got traffic that way and you know people just found me because there really weren’t that many other sites that were selling push lawn mowers. So I think one of the secrets I had a niche product that was hard to find in many places and many cities and so people would search for it online and so that was sort of the natural way that sort of built my business is that I was selling unusual things that were hard to find locally.

Steve: Okay and then how has that kind of evolved over the last, wow, like 15 years I guess more longer than that. Yeah, how do you get your– how do you get people onto your shop now today?

Lars: You know I still depend heavily on organic search.

Steve: Okay.

Lars: Because a lot of my stuff is not super high margin and like I’ll give you an example, rain barrels– rain barrels used to be like a big cash cow for me and then gasoline got super expensive and UPS rates and that extrates [phonetic] they went crazy for oversize products and rain barrels basically like a big barrel of air and so when you measure it, it doesn’t weigh much when you pick it up empty, it’s you know it’s a 25 pound thing, but when you measure it they ship it by the 150 pound rate because it takes so much space in their trucks. And so suddenly and I don’t know that I used to pay you know 25 dollars to ship it can cost you like 95 dollars to ship a rain barrel now and so that category is sort of gotten where it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to buy a rain barrel online like it did and so that’s not as popular for me anymore.

You know things change overtime but I would say– back to how I get my traffic. Most of it is still organic like a little bit adwords not really much, I’ve got an email list of all my customers that’s probably you know with adding new customers then people always subscribe over time. I think I’ve got maybe 25,000 people on my email list and so…

Steve: Mm-huh, that’s good size.

Lars: And so I’ll send out emails. I use [Inaudible] [00:10:03] contact as my email servers and a little bit of social media you know but frankly my Facebook fun page for Clean Air Gardening I don’t think I’ve posted anything to it in probably more than a year. It has not been– I’ve never found social media to be super useful in that aspect. Although I do have like a Face book page for vegetable gardening, it’s just a generic page for vegetable gardening fan.

Steve: Aha.

Lars: And that one has 207,000 fans and I get huge response from that one, but basically I use it for information purposes. People don’t want to buy things when they are on Facebook, so I use that to sort you know keep people understand and that’s something I sort of do on aside for fun but I’ve not figured out a way to make money with ecommerce using Facebook at all.

Steve: So I’m just curios here, you have all this informational sites I remember you telling me, so do you actually steer people from there to your online store as well?

Lars: Well it’s funny, that has changed recently too, I originally built all those sites a long time ago, it was sort of in the early days of Google, like the early 2000, so a lot of them are more than a decade old and what I thought as an idea was well I’m making information on the site about how to grow tomatoes, how to grow cucumbers, how to grow beans like you know all the popular things, just how to grow vegetables in general. And so I ended up building all these sites about different aspects of gardening and lawn care and that sought of drove in my idea of customer and then I would link back through the Clean Air Gardening and drive traffic to my site that way, and then over time it turned out that certainly those links became valuable with Google you know where certainly that was making my SEO go crazy on Clean Air Gardening and that was ranking for all this stuff, but recently Google– they gave me a penalty for all these sites even though they’ve existed forever, it’s no secret that they were related to Clean Air Gardening, but I had too much anchor text on them or something and Google got mad and they gave me a penalty and I had to remove all the links, and that ended my penalty and so my site has come back in Google thankfully, but so now I’m sort of I have these sites, but I’m afraid to link back to my e-commerce site anymore because I don’t know if I should create the links again and no follow them or if I should not link at all, you know Google is like the one big mystery now about what they are going to punish you for and so I’m sort of…

Steve: I find that really odd because all these sites are completely related to your shop, it’s not that they are just random links, so yeah Google has just changed so much in like the last two or three years to the point where I don’t know, I’m just waiting for that kind of dust to settle a little bit because it seems like random sites are getting penalized left and right. I’m sure you not just linking for the sake of linking, everything you link I imagine is relevant right, to your shop.

Lars: Right, I think maybe the issue was it was a little bit too much anchor text because I may have over done that a little bit back in the day when it was– like it was only in the last two to three years that Google has gotten angry about too much anchor text and oh you can’t do– like before it just used to be a regular technique, it didn’t become grey hat or black hat or anything, they just changed their mind and [Inaudible] [00:13:35] on it, but what I have done in the meantime actually I’ve gone through it and I’ve added Google authorship to all those sites and claim them so that you know it’s like to tell Google hey no these are really mine and this is really me and so– but I don’t know it’s frustrating dealing with Google and depending on organic traffic, so that’s been a frustration for me.

Steve: Okay and so, given that Google– you are trying to depend less on Google, how have you made yourself a little more Google proof?

Lars: Well, you know having an email list is great although Google is trying to I think get a piece of that and make sure that, that’s not very valuable anymore too, you know the way they added tabs to Gmail and everybody has a Gmail account, I definitely saw a drop in response rates and open rates after they throw everything over in the promotions tab and that’s been frustrating. It’s like you know because your email list is yours, you know they are your customers, you’re communicating directly with these people and you know there is an unsubscribe mechanism on my newsletter, like all you have to do is click unsubscribe, they don’t want to hear from me anymore. It’s not like I’m sending out spam, I’m sending out a newsletter that theoretically people wanted to see because then why would they not have signed up for it if they didn’t want to hear from me. And so it frustrates me that they are making it hard to reach your own customers with email which is supposedly a neutral service that you know– so I don’t know. I love and hate Google.

Steve: Yeah, so here is a little tip Lars that’s kind of worked for me. If you can get them to somehow reply to one of your emails, that will instantly white list them in their inbox and they won’t be– and your emails won’t show up in the promotion folder anymore. So if you can just somehow ask a question in some of your initial emails and have them respond, that will improve your open rates and prevent that email from getting bucketed so to speak.

Lars: That’s a great idea.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about you have all these methods of sourcing your products, right and so can we just kind of talk about that and what’s worked the best for you like you mentioned you manufactured your own product, you drop ship and all that stuff, can you just comment on how all those different models are working for you.

Lars: Yeah you know the way I do things has sort of evolved over the years. I started out working out of my own house and I drop shipped most things to begin with, well actually I bought those lawn mowers in the beginning, and then I drop shipped them for a little bit after that and so drop shipping was my model for awhile and then it became an issue of customer service where people don’t drop ship your order fast enough and then your customers are complaining and they don’t know where the order is and you don’t know where it is either because the manufacture won’t tell you the tracking number.

And so from there I sought of went to– I found a fulfillment service which you know a fulfillment service is basically a warehouse where you ship all your stuff to this warehouse and they store it for you and when you get an order you email them and they put a label on your thing and send it for you and that way if you’re working out of your house or something like that, you don’t have to own a ware house or rent a warehouse or have an employee who is packing orders. They do it all for you and on a small scale that works pretty well up to a certain point, but what happened was I was growing really fast and suddenly I was looking at my bills for my fulfillment service, my warehouse service and I was paying like in the gardening season because gardening is a seasonal business.

So I do most of my business between like March and June is like the peak of when everybody buys everything and I certainly realized I’m getting like 30,000 dollar bills from this fulfillment service and I started thinking man you know with bills like that maybe I should buy a warehouse. And what I ended up doing I purchased a warehouse and that’s where I work now, I work out of a 15,000 square foot warehouse and I keep…

Steve: That’s huge.

Lars: I keep a lot of stuff here in the warehouse. That’s the way it sort of developed is that it sort of naturally developed that way from drop shipping to using fulfillment service to then it became more effective for me to actually have a warehouse and keep it myself. And I still– there are some products like larger products that we sell that it still makes more sense to drop ship them than to ship it to our warehouse and then re-ship it to the customer. So I still do drop ship a few products, but in general we like to ship everything ourselves because we can get everything out usually the same day when an order comes in, and so it provides a little better kind of customer service.

Steve: So can you comment on like just a different– the margin differences between drop shipping and then using a fulfillment service versus shipping stuff out yourself, I don’t know if you can– you don’t have to give exact numbers but just like the relative percentages in terms of profits.

Lars: That actually is another reason that I’ve sort of gone away from drop shipping except for very specific circumstances because the issue with drop shipping is that your margins are poor. You might only get a 10% margin or something on some item that you are drop shipping and if you get one returned well that’s wiped out the profits of ten orders. And so drop shipping it works for some people, but it does not really work that well for me anymore and so fulfillment services can work great for a limited number of products, but the issue with fulfillment services is they charge per the amount of square footage you take up in their warehouse, so every month they are charging you by how many square feet that you taking up, and then they also charge you every time they touch something.

So every time an item comes into their warehouse they are charging you an incoming fee, and then every time they ship something out for you they are charging you a fulfillment fee. And so to a certain extent if you are not that big yet it can be cheaper than running a warehouse and having a lease and all that stuff, but then when it gets to a certain tipping point then certainly it becomes less effective and more expensive.

Steve: Just curious, when you were using that fulfillment house, what percentage would you say your revenue was devoted to paying off the inventory guys?

Lars: It was not great, it was not a large amount as a percentage, but I would say like for example, it was costing me about eight to ten dollars per item having shipped out of there. Which, if you’re doing small items that you know they were not really expensive, then that would eat up most of your profit, but what I was shipping out mostly was things like push lawn mowers, which was like a $200 item, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. And then also I was using their negotiated UPS rate, which was a better UPS rate than mine anyway. So that made up a little bit for some of that eight to ten dollars per unit of touching the thing, plus there’s a little bit of expense of storing it, but what I was trying to do was minimize my storage time by just having enough stuff in there for like you know, you get 60 days’ worth of stuff so you don’t end up storing something in there for a year or you’re just paying to have it sit there.

Steve: Yeah I would imagine it’s kind of challenging, because there’s– inevitably there’s going to be stuff that doesn’t sell, right? So if you have to pay each time they have to move something or ship something back to you then it can probably add up I would imagine.

Lars: Yeah, and you know, one of the biggest challenges of a seasonal business like I have, is okay like let’s say lawn mowers, like this blown lawn mower – that’s the German-made push mower that I started out with, it turned out over time that I actually took over and became the US importer of that product and so now I am the US importer and wholesale supplier for everybody else in the country that sells that mower as well. So that’s a seasonal item, right? And it sells between March and June because that’s when everybody buys their lawn mower. Well, if I’m going to sell for example one of my peak years for that mower was something like eight containers. And there’s about 1,000 mowers per container so let’s just say about 8,000 of those lawn mowers. Well, you can imagine what it would cost me, because I had to buy them in advance, and have them all at my warehouse by March, so that I could then sell them through by the end of June. And so it was a huge capital requirement where I would have to borrow a lot of money, because it was literally so much that I couldn’t just do it out of cash flow anymore. Because when you’re on that scale and so you borrow a lot of money, and then sell them all down and then pay off your line of credit at the end of the summer, and then do it all over again.

And the worst part is, that you’re borrowing all this money in January, when nobody is buying any gardening stuff, and you got no cash flow, and it just always gives you a stomach ache to borrow the money, thinking ‘oh no’ you know, but it’s almost like– it’s like being a farmer I guess you know.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Lars: So that was– the worst part about being a seasonal business is that you really have to sort of plan all your purchases and be careful, because if you buy something and you buy too much of it and then you got a dud, then what do you do? Because, once it’s not sold during the spring, well you’re stuck with it for a whole another year because it’s sure not going to sell in the winter if it didn’t sell in the spring.

Steve: Right, so but I would imagine that you don’t buy large quantities unless you’re pretty confident it’s going to sell, right I would imagine. Like these mowers – you wouldn’t buy 8000 of them if you didn’t think they were going to sell. So I would imagine you’re a little bit more conservative in your purchases, right?

Lars: Absolutely. Although, when– the exception to that would be though that we’ve also sort of had things manufactured for us, and you sort of have to take a little bit of a chance for that, because there’s minimum order quantities when you have something manufactured, and you don’t know for sure that it’s going to sell, because you’ve never sold it before. And so I have that sort of a risky way to do it, but fortunately I haven’t been stuck with too many duds doing that.

Steve: Let’s talk about the manufacturing process, how did you find someone to manufacture your goods for you?

Lars: What I have manufactured is a compost bin. It’s called the spin bin, and it’s a tumbling compost bin. And the reason why I decided to have one manufactured is because we’d been selling other people’s compost bins, and we actually imported one for a while from Australia, and that product is no longer available to us. And we sort of saw that that was the direction it was going, that we were going to– that it wasn’t going to be available anymore, and so we thought ‘well, maybe we should make our own’ because, I’m interested in composting, and so we sort of sketched it out, and then we found a guy at a local company that’s plastics– his injection molding company, where they make injection molded plastics, and they have a guy on staff that all he does is make card drawings to make your mold for your product.

Mostly, they make their own stuff, but they allowed us to, you know, to pay by the hour and use this guy to make help make our card drawing. And so he made our card drawing, and then they helped us from there. This was a local company here in Dallas, and then they helped us get our mold manufactured because the biggest expense when you’re getting a plastic product manufactured is making the mold, because the mold is made out of solid steel. And since this was a compost bin, it’s huge like, the parts of it are huge, so it requires a giant hunk of steel. It’s like it’s heavier than a car, our mold.

Steve: Really? Wow, okay.

Lars: And it ended up costing– the mold is actually two molds, because there’s one mold for the lid, and one mold for the piece that turns into four pieces that are assembled together that make the composter. And it was something like $80,000 to make the mold for this compost bin, but we felt– at the time we were selling so many composters that I was sure about the design because, you know, we designed it, and I felt confident that it was going to work, but it was a big risk, because it was a lot of money. We took it, and then we actually– the mold we ended up getting made in China, because there’s tool makers in China that will make your mold. They take the card drawing that the guy– the local guy made, and they make that giant hunk of steel that then based on the card drawing, that’s going to make– punch out each part of your compost bin, and then they ship the mold to us in the United States in a container, and then we have that mold at the manufacturer here in Dallas and then we get it manufactured here locally, because it turns out getting things made out of plastic– injection-molded plastic is pretty much a commodity. It’s based sort of a lot on the price of the oil because plastic is like a petroleum-based product or something like that, and so it doesn’t matter if a machine is stamping them out here or it’s stamping them out in China, it’s about the same cost, and we really wanted to get it made here in the USA– that was important to us to do if we could, and we were able to.

And so we get that product molded here in the USA, and then it’s molded– it’s a place about 15 miles from here. They make them, and then they send a truckload of them over to our warehouse at a time, and then we store them here and then as the orders come in, we ship them out from here.

Steve: So how did you find the mold guys in China? Just curious.

Lars: Well, we were lucky on that, because, since we were working with this injection molding company, they had already done business with this company, and so they knew that they were legitimate. And because, when you start just looking around on Alibaba or something like that, it’s tough if you don’t know if you’ve got somebody reputable. But they had worked with them in the past, and they had made good molds and– because we did have it priced out to have the mold made here in the USA, but it was like incredibly more expensive. And the mold turned out great, there was no problem with it, so it was– they were good.

Steve: So in a way just listening to what you’ve told me, you kind of already knew that these were going to sell, it was a pretty safe bet, right? Some guy– some other one of your companies is going in the direction of not selling their compost bins, and you know they’ll sell like hot cakes, so by designing something using the principles that you know since you compost all the time, it was a really safe bet I think – at least that’s what it sounds like to me.

Lars: Yeah, I wouldn’t have taken a risk that big for just a completely unknown product that I didn’t know how well it was selling, and you know we forecast out how long it would take us to pay off the mold, and our forecast turned out to be fairly accurate too. And so, it was a calculated risk.

Steve: Okay. So I wanted to talk a little bit about marketing. So I know you’ve tried a bunch of different things in that regard. So if you could just comment and I’m just going to pick a couple of things here; you mentioned you hired a publicist in the past, you’ve been in magazines, you’ve had your own catalogue, you’ve been on TV and radio. What has kind of worked the best for you and what has not worked for you?

Lars: Well, you know, originally I thought the reason that you wanted to have me on the show is because you did like a request on this ecommerce forum asking for people, like the mistakes they’ve made, and then everybody chimed in the mistakes that they’ve made and my answer had so many mistakes that you couldn’t even include me in your blog post because there were so many mistakes that it would have just hogged the whole blog post. And so I figured maybe the reason you wanted me on your podcast was because it was going to be a podcast about how ‘look you can make this many mistakes, and be this big of a moron, and still remain in business for 15 years.’ I figured that was the real reason that you wanted me to be on the podcast.

I’ve done all kind of ways to market, and what I started out with you know my background is in journalism, and I have a master’s degree in international journalism, and I was a magazine editor before I sort of moved on to the internet. And so when I first started out, I was writing all my own product descriptions, because I was a writer, and I was doing my own PR, and I was just doing, you know, a little bit of basic PR and sending out a few press releases. I got picked up some places and some pretty big ones. I got– Inc. magazine wrote about me once when I was still working out of my house, and they did like an article about me, and then I was…

Steve: How did you get that? You put out press releases using a press-release service, or?

Lars: No, I was actually– I was putting it in the mail and sending them out myself. And so, I was sort of taking a real specific approach to it since my background was in journalism. I sort of knew what editors wanted to see when they see a press release, and so I’d sort of approached it that way, and I was getting good results. And so– in fact the Inc. magazine thing, the way I got that was somebody– it’s so long ago, it’s more than 10 years ago, and somebody let me know that Inc. Magazine was doing a thing about people working out of their house, or something like that, and so I sent an email to the writer, because they were looking for people, and I pitched them and they went for it and that’s how I got included in the article. And once I was in Inc. Magazine, that led to a lot of other coverage because the way it works with the media is, a lot of them are just reading other media, and they see like if you appear in the New York Times, then suddenly the other Dallas Morning News, it’s like ‘Hey, well this guy is from Dallas, let’s write about him too.’ And sort of press coverage leads to more press coverage a lot, and so– and also at the time, eco friendly stuff was really hot, like right now it’s not as hot, but you know like that was when Al Gore’s movie came out and you know…

Steve: [laughs]

Lars: Everybody was interested in that, and so it was a really pitch, and so I was picking up a lot of coverage but it was funny because after that I thought well, I’ve had really good luck with this, I’m going to use a PR service. And I’m just going to hire somebody to do it, because then they’ll spend all their time doing it, and I’ll get even more coverage. But it was a total failure. It turned out that, you know the personal touch that I was doing it and also the aspect that I as the business owner was reaching out myself, I think was a lot more effective at getting coverage than some PR person doing it for you. And so I spent a ton of money on that, doing it for a year, and got like no return, it was a complete failure and I regret– I wish I had that money back.

Steve: Okay. What about television and radio, you said you’ve been on some television spots. Were they– did they work out for you? And how did you get those spots?

Lars: Well, a lot of those sort of landed in my lap, like for example you know I had some products on the Today Show and also on Good Morning America. And what happened was that some– one of the show’s segment producers was looking for– they were going to do a segment on like eco-friendly stuff for your yard. And so they were lining up a bunch of different products for the guy to talk about, and basically, they found me with some kind of a search-engine search, and they were like ‘Hey’ you know and we talked and I suggested a product and they were like, ‘Okay, great. Send it to us.’ And so I overnighted a product and it ended up on the Today Show and then I got a bunch of traffic that day. It didn’t really convert really well into sales, but it was great because after that, it’s a lot of awareness you know– you were on the Today Show?

Steve: Yeah, I had the– we got a lot of sales from that, that’s why I was curious what your experience was.

Lars: Mine was a segment where they had products from probably– it’s probably seven different products, that were all in a category, and mine was– it was a compost bin actually, for the Today Show, and I think I probably sold maybe 20 compost bins or something over a period of two days after that, so it was not like a– but it was a big price point item, and it wasn’t– that wasn’t my specific audience. And so no, the TV shows have not been huge for me.

And then radio, I’ve done– in fact, there’s a radio show that’s relatively famous here in Texas, it’s called the Neil Sperry gardening show. And this guy has been doing that show for decades. He’s an older guy– this is actually a radio advertizing story and not a radio PR story, but I decided, ‘Ah, I know what I’ll do is I’ll sponsor Neil Sperry and then I can sell much stuff to Texas gardeners and it’ll be great.’ And so, this was in the early 2000’s, and what I realized after spending a lot of money sponsoring his show for six weeks, is that only old people listen to the Neil Sperry gardening show.

Steve: [laughs]

Lars: And none of them buy anything on the internet, and the only time people listen to radio mostly is when they are in their car or something where they’re nowhere near their computer anyway. And so I think I got zero sales from sponsoring the Neil Sperry show and it was– that was one of my biggest marketing failures. So I sort of learnt my lesson on, you don’t want to just start spending money on advertizing and writing big checks, because you never know if it’s going to work. It’s better to test small.

Steve: So what has worked the best for you? Just curious.

Lars: You know, I would say adwords has worked well you know it’s measurable although adwords has not worked so well for me in the gardening niche because it’s a relatively low margin business and I’ve got high shipping costs so it’s a little bit difficult. But adword has worked for me doing PR personally for myself has worked for me as far as marketing. Having my own my own email list has been effective for me to drive sales. Those have been pretty successful methods for me.

Steve: So Lars I was actually trying to lead you to the next topic which is Amazon. I know you have strong opinions on Amazon and you do sell some of your products on there. So how do you kind of – how do you kind of sell on the Amazon versus on your own site? How do you kind of incorporate all that stuff together?

Lars: Amazon is sort of my ultimate frenemy [phonetic] and I feel like you know I’m an Amazon prime member and I’ll be honest I look on Amazon when I’m going to buy stuff and I hate myself for it, because you know as a competitor to Amazon you know I detest Amazon, but as a consumer I enjoy buying from them and I like prime because you think oh there is a prime thing, I know I’m going to get it in two days. I don’t have to think about it and I order it. But I also use Amazon as a sales champ and so specifically I don’t have all my products listed on Amazon. I list a few things and I use Amazon in a specific way.

Like with some products you know just products that I sell as an ecommerce retailer I don’t sell that on the retailer, I don’t sell that on the Amazon because you are competing for the buy button with all these other ecommerce retailers or you are competing with– for the buy button with Amazon itself and you know so your margins just quickly evaporate because you know you’ve got a product say that it cost you 75 dollars and somebody is selling it for 100 dollars on Amazon well then that means they are paying 15% to Amazon for the privilege of selling it there and they still have to ship it.

And so what did all your profit go? You know like you’ve sold something but you haven’t made any money. But so the way we use Amazon is we use it to liquidate data inventory because– so like if we bought a product and it hasn’t sold for us and it has been sitting here at the warehouse, then we can sell it cheap and we can usually recoup either make a tiny profit on it or only lose a little bit of money and we get it out our ware house as opposed to having just stand inventory that’s just – it’s just cash that’s tied up in the inventory that doesn’t sell at all that you know that fills up your warehouse and it’s not going to sell.

And so that’s one way that we sort of use Amazons is to give out our dead inventory but also one way that you can use Amazon profitably is if you have a product that you have an exclusive on, and for example that brown push lawn mower whether you as importer of that product and so we import it and for a while we were selling to Amazon at whole sale and they would buy and they would say okay we want to place some order for 100 lawn mowers and then you put them on palettes and Amazon as the truck come pick up and it goes to the Amazon warehouse and then Amazon will sell it indirectly.

But then we realized that well it’s more profitable for us to not sell to Amazon, but instead to sell on Amazon and you can either sell on Amazon using fulfilled by Amazon where you’re packing it up and shipping it to Amazon and then whenever Amazon or whenever you get an order on Amazon, Amazon is shipping out the order for you and they charge you a fulfillment cost and storage cost you know so you can control your profits by sort of calculating in advance what your fulfillment costs are going to be.

And the advantage to that is that then it will appear as an Amazon prime item and so people that like to get their items overnight or in two days all the Amazon prime members love to buy stuff that’s marked time and so that’s a good reason to use fulfilled by Amazon. But then we also sell stuff on Amazon where we’re shipping it from our own warehouse and so you will get the buy button for a thing and then if you are– if you spend a lot of time on Amazon you could see that some stuff is sold directly from– you are buying it from Amazon and some of it you are buying it from an Amazon seller and that’s– I am an Amazon seller.

So I’m doing that weird combination of selling wholesale to Amazon, selling on Amazon, selling fulfill by Amazon and we sort of calculate out with all our products so which one makes the most financial sense for it’s going to maximize the number of sales versus the amount of profit and all that, then we sort of tweak it that way. And the safest thing with Amazon is to have an exclusive product because then you are not just constantly competing to get the buy button by lowering your price, and lowering your price, and lowering your price because that is a race to the bottom because your cash cow product is somebody else’s loss later or somebody else’s clearance item.

And it’s really frustrating to see a product that’s been profitable for year for years suddenly become unprofitable because now it’s going on Amazon. You look at the price on Amazon and let’s say your whole sale cost and you think well how is somebody possibly making money on that? But– and you don’t know and you can’t figure it out and it must be because they are just liquidating because I liquidate products on Amazon I guess some probably punishing some poor guy that’s trying to sell at full price someplace else.

Steve: Right, so just curious, how did you get that exclusive deal? Is that just a pure relationship thing that you build over the years with that company?

Lars: Yeah, the way it happened actually it was overtime I became the biggest blown dealer and what happened was that the old US importer did something that made blown mad. They started to manufacture their own lawn mower and blown got angry about that and cut them off and so that became my opportunity because it turns out also that I was a German major as undergraduate and so I speak German.
So I immediately got on the phone and called them, and sent them faxes and said hey you know I don’t know if you guys know or not but I’m your biggest blown dealer in the US and I have been all along and I would like to go ahead and take over this importing thing if its available and they were like well yeah, it turns out it is available. And so I had borrowed some money and I knew approximately what I could sell just knowing my own sales and knowing that I was the biggest dealer. And so I placed an order and got into it that way, so that one sort of fell into my lap. And one of my other products that I imported also sort of fell into my lap the same way while I was buying it from a guy and then he sort of ran into financial problems and didn’t pay the supplier he had imported the thing and so they wouldn’t sell to him anymore.

And I realized he was not admitting to anybody why he couldn’t get it and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, and I realized what had happened and they said oh yeah we’re not selling to that guy anymore, we are looking for an importer and so I started importing that one too. So it’s sort of been an opportunistic kind of thing. And then other products once I got the opportunity with my first two, then you sort of know what to look for and once you’ve had experience with it, then it’s easier to sort of talk somebody into it if you find a product sort of overseas. Because I have also been to trade shows overseas like there is a big gardening show in Germany and I went over there, I met with people looking for people– looking for cool European things to import, and you can meet people at trade shows and its sort of work out exclusives that way is another thing you can do.

Steve: Okay, interesting. So one thing I kind of ask everyone is you know if you were to start all over again, what path would you have taken? Let’s say you wanted to go into this gardening niche again, how would you– what advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?

Lars: You know, my advice is almost to do exactly the opposite of what I do because I have got a shiny object syndrome where I’m constantly doing different stuff and all my efforts are diffused. I’m doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that and hop from this to that and maybe it’s just because I’m way too ADD. But I feel like if you are going to go into anything the idea is, if you are going to get the most success is to find one product or one product category and just really focus on it and be the person that knows the most about that product line or wherever it is that you are interested in and focus on one thing and don’t try to do everything at once. And maybe only focus on one traffic source. Don’t try to like oh I’m going to do my email, I’m going to build an email list and build a social media following and do all that. You diffuse all your efforts and then you are only selling two things a week and it never takes off.

Focus I think would be the thing that I would do differently and really I guess sort of that’s what I did. I started out by chance, I had one product which was one push miller and that’s all I was doing and I think maybe that was why I succeeded and it sort of built from there. And I would say isn’t that sort of what you have done too? I mean you started out with one thing and then you ended up with a blog teaching other people and now you’ve got a podcast and you sort of– you didn’t do that all at once, you started with one thing at a time. Didn’t you?

Steve: Yeah absolutely, in fact we only stated out with one product category just like you did and we just graduated and have expanded over time. That’s great advice Lars. We’ve already been talking for about 50 minutes, so thanks a lot for your time. If anyone has any questions for you, is there a place where they can reach you?

Lars: Yeah

Steve: Or you are unreachable [Laughter].

Lars: Well, I’m kind of unreachable, but Clean Air Gardening is my website and my email address is just

Steve: Actually one last question, you have this interesting concept of how you do customer support. You want to just comment on that and just talk about the tradeoffs that you’ve experienced before we go?

Lars: Well I [laughs].

Steve: You don’t have to if you don’t want to, I can cut this whole segment out.

Lars: Well no like I detest talking on the phone and so for the longest time we were answering the phone all time, but I will tell you we have all our phones go straight to voicemail now and we just return phone calls because you could spend all day talking on the phone and I call it reverse show-rooming where people will go to home depot and they can’t get any help about– you know they’ve got a question about a compost bin and there is like a guy with an orange vest who doesn’t know anything about it because there is 200,000 products in there. So they call us on the phone and they want to talk about compost bins for 30 minutes and they go ‘okay where can I buy this locally’ and we get reverse show roomed all the time. And so I finally decided you know I hate talking on the phone and so now we return promising voicemails and we just don’t answer the phone and it’s like ring through the voicemail, we just call people back.

Steve: And as far as you know it hasn’t really affected your top line at all as far as you can tell.

Lars: Well you know my theory is, you can’t call Amazon on the phone and place an order, so you can’t call me on the phone and place an order either. And I hope that it hasn’t affected my top line, but I’m willing to give a little bit of top line away in order to have a little bit happier life in exchange, because it’s something that’s completely unenjoyable to me to talk on the telephone and so I have minimized that.

Steve: Yeah and it was tough getting you on the podcast too Lars, let me tell you [chuckle].

Lars: It’s true, the first time we traded emails you said something about having a conversation and I immediately shyed away because I just don’t like– I’m better by email than I am in real life.

Steve: So Lars where can I buy your compost bins locally speaking of which– [Laughter]. All right man well thanks a lot for being on the show Lars, I really appreciate you coming on, I think this is great.

Lars: All right thanks for inviting me.

Steve: All right, take care, bye.

Here is why I admire Lars; first of all he is a really down to earth, and a humble guy even though he runs many successful E-commerce stores. Clean Air Gardening is just one of many businesses that he started and owns. The other thing I like about Lars is that the guy is an open book and very open about all his successes and failures. He’s pretty much tried everything and he’s willing to share his experiences. For more information about this episode go to and if you enjoyed listening to this episode, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only make me feel proud but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information to find the show easily, and get awesome business advice from my guests.

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028: How Viet Do Created A 6 Figure Business Selling Coupons And Online Deals

Viet Do

Today I’m thrilled to have my buddy Viet Do on the show. Viet runs which is a daily deals and coupon site that caters to the gaming industry.

Running a coupon site is a business model that we haven’t yet covered on the podcast so I’m very anxious to learn how the business model works and how Viet makes his money. Enjoy the show!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Viet obtains deals to list on his site
  • Why he chose to focus on gaming for his coupon site
  • Learn the economics of selling coupons online
  • How merchants transmit their daily deals
  • How Viet manages the multitude of deals and expiring coupons
  • The intricacies of running a profitable deal site
  • How Viet gets traffic to his website.
  • How Viet gets people to sign up for their email list
  • How Viet gets exclusive deals for his site

Other Resources And Books


Steve: You are listening to the Mywifequiteherjob podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where I bring on famous Entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning, and dwell deeply into the exact strategies they used earlier on to gain traction for their businesses.

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For more information about this consult go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini-course where I show you how my wife and I manage to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business; go to for more information, now onto the show.
Welcome to the, mywifequiteherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequiteherjob podcast. Today, I’m thrilled to have a friend of mine on the show, Viet Do. Now, I met Viet at Fincon and I know, I know I meet a lot of people at Fincon, which is why you should go. Anyways, you know Viet runs which is a coupon sight for electronics and gadgets. Now, have you ever wondered how sites like TechBargains, FatWallet and other coupon based sites stay in business? Well, Viet does very well with Dealzon and hopefully today we’ll learn exactly how Dealzon works and how it makes its money. So, just a quick note about Viet; he’s probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and his deal sight is a business model that we actually haven’t covered yet in this podcast. So, welcome to the show Viet, really glad to have you.

Viet: Hey Steve, yeah, thanks a lot for having me on the programme. I hope I can shed some light on – for those people that might be interested to the field or the kind of like how coupon sites work and maybe give them some insights on how the industry works.

Steve: Yes, so, give us a brief description of your specific coupon site and exactly which products you focus on, and how you make money online.

Viet: Yea sure! So, is very much a deal site– a deal aggregate site for gamers and techies, and that’s our focus. We– you won’t find like you know, Wall mart deals in terms of like, you know, groceries and what not or like target deals on any of that kind of stuff here, so you’re not going to find shoes or clothing, that’s very rarely, when I start giving away free shoes then I guess we don’t have a choice, we had to like, let people know about this right? But we mostly focus on technologies and gaming. And we have a very core set of users that pretty much just care about these so, mostly the people that visit our sites are gamers and then –

Steve: Okay –

Viet: They rate our stuff. So, if they are a gamer, they want to buy games and maybe like a computer hardware that relates to the game right, to learn the game faster. So, how DealZon works is pretty simple as any other of those deal sites that you mentioned actually.

Steve: Just pretend that none of the listeners know anything about how anything works.

Viet: Okay.

Steve: So…

Viet: Okay, that might be a good way to go with them. So, I mean, if you come to DealZon, you’ll see a list of the best deals of the day right, and if you’re a gamer, you can see right around on the first page – oh, okay, well, this game is on sale today. So, the front page will basically show you what’s hot for the day. Now, if you want to drill it down a little more, there’ll be different categories and you can go to different categories with the type of products that you’re interested in. So, as mentioned, we’re mostly focused on gaming and technology so gaming and laptops is kind of what we focus on lately.

Steve: Okay and bottom line I when someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you get a cut of that transaction.

Viet: Yes.

Steve: Is that correct?

Viet: Exactly.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So this a commission based model, it’s basically lichen – an affiliate lichen, so you know, we use very typical networks such as commission junction, link share and various other networks.

Steve: So, but is that for physical products primarily then?

Viet: it’s half-half actually. So, these days, in terms of gaming – and especially if you’re not into the norm of it and I know that different industries are like this; it’s actually a lot of digital products now, so you know, well, these days when you buy a game, it could just be a CD key of a game key that you receive, and you plug into your like a DRM platform – you know, a digital rights management platform – and you’re going to receive the game that way. And you know, since it’s a digital product, you know, is actually a very little hassle involved for everyone involved, where you pay the money and you get your keys and you get the game and that’s it, and you know, there’s no shipping time or whatever right, so –

Steve: Okay.

Viet: It’s actually a pretty good way to go to– about getting a game these days, and it’s expanding lately, yeah.

Steve: Are the pay outs higher for those type of deals as opposed to the physical products because –

Viet: Yeah, I don’t think so, it’s typically higher. It’s not necessary like 2X or whatever, or like 3X or whatever, just, but by virtue of the merchant not having to store anything beyond like a digital code right, that they can e-mail out right away through the system. They’re just more willing to- there’s just more margin and leeways there, in terms of a commission split.

Steve: So, can you give us an idea of what some of the commissions look like on a physical product verses you know, a code for example?

Viet: Yeah, sure! I’m going to be very general here, in the sense that you know, some of our stuff there’s you know, different rates, so for those that aren’t familiar with affiliate models, what you make them the bulk of your money, is how you negotiate these rates with merchants actually…

Steve: Okay.

Viet: And maybe we’ll talk more about it in a little bit, but– so let’s say for physical stuff, something you can buy at or in chance of the TV or a laptop or computer. The commission rate is actually pretty low; it’s like 1-2% –

Steve: Okay –

Viet: Maybe as high as 3% if you have like the right volume and the right, you know like the right partnership going– deal going on here so, but it’s usually about 2% – I want to say and lower. Surprisingly some other sites like let’s say, a pretty big retailer, Newegg. Newegg is based in California and they mostly sell computer electronics. They can get-they can start as low as 0.5% or 0.25%…

Steve: That is really low!

Viet: That is very low so you’re really not going to make that much money there unless you’re established, you have volume and you’ve been doing well with them for a long time, right-

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So, in that sense there’s a sum bared of entry you know, because once you get in there are-you list this deals great, someone bought like a 100$ thing, but you’re only getting like 0.5% all of that right, that’s like nothing –

Steve: Yeah, that’s like nothing.

Viet: Right, so that’s tough right. Conversely, so physical products want a cheaper set right, usually. For digital products, I want to say you know, maybe anywhere– actually it might be actually 2X now, so think about so 4-5 %, I want to say…

Steve: Okay.

Viet: And then maybe…

Steve: All right.

Viet: Maybe, for some very lucrative, high margin stuff, let’s say there’s something like, like a 100$ special, super limited edition game you know, so the margins might be a little bit higher where they’ll give you some as high as 8%.

Steve: Okay, so the margins aren’t still as high as for something I might push on my say like web services where the pay-out is much higher.

Viet: Right. It very much is a volume game for deals and coupon site, where each have to make it up in terms of volume – you have to make your site, your usability, the information you present as easy as possible to convert these sales you get these commissions.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So –

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So you can’t rely on like two or maybe a 10 or 20 sales per month right, we’re doing around about like thousands of transactions on a monthly basis or even on a daily basis, right, so-

Steve: Okay.

Viet: Yeah.

Steve: So when someone buys something through you, you don’t have to provide any sort of support or anything like that?

Viet: Right. I think that’s the beauty of most affiliate and [Indiscernible] [00:08:36] business, so I mean, obviously we have to give some kind of support if the transactions or the deals we listed fell through in the sense that – oh, we show a coupon like this and it doesn’t work, you know, so we need to tell them– oh, did the coupon expire or is there a new coupon, or is there a different better deal, you know so –

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So there’s some amount of support, but after they buy you know, the products, obviously everything else is on the merchant, right –

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So –

Steve: So, there’s a lot of these tech deal sites out there, how the heck do you differentiate yourself and compete with the rest of them?

Viet: Yeah, I mean that’s a good question, I mean, that’s something we constantly think about on a daily basis too actually [chuckles]. So, I hope to see like some comments where you guys can give us tips to – I’ll be honest – that’s pretty funny that I’m asking that, but [chuckles]. But, how we kind of differentiate ourselves is, what I imagine is, straight from the start, we focus on what we do good at – what we do well at, actually, which is gamers, right—we focus on it, we have a cool audience of gamers, we kind of know what they like, we get a pretty good feel of what they like in terms of products, so we serve that particular niche.

So, instead of doing like all these different types of coupons for everything under the sun, we focus on what we do well at, and we try to provide a better service in that sense of better updated deals, more timely updates, stuff that you might actually, not so– I’m pretty confident that some of the games that we list, maybe it’s only going to give us like 10 sales, and these are pennies on our dollars, but these aren’t stuff that other sites will focus on whatsoever like, you won’t find it there on these other deal sites. So, the comprehensiveness for a gamer, in the sense that, if I’m a gamer and I want to make sure I don’t miss the hot deals, then I can go to Dealzon and I can pretty be– rest assured that maybe I’ll catch like 90% of the deals.

Steve: I see so by focusing on something you actually will probably get the deals listed first because the other sites don’t care as much and then as a result gamers will learn this overtime and then come to you first.

Viet: Right, exactly, I mean that’s basically our hope and I think it’s been doing pretty well actually.

Steve: So okay yeah. So there’s a couple of questions I have now. So one; how do you actually get the deals on your site?

Viet: Yeah, so it’s actually very similar format all across the board. It’s a very chaotic thing in terms of the coupon space in the sense that you know there’s 1000s of merchants and there’s 1000s of deals right hunches of 1000s of deals even. Most of the merchants actually– you will be surprised a lot of that stuff deals is in virtual edition now, they plaster our email and no kidding. An email with the list of the top deals for up to the week. So it’s like a feed of emails– you open your inbox it’s like a hunches of emails coming in. Now obviously a lot of the better networks still have a API where they a certain theme where they’ll send out like you know the data, but a lot of them is unnecessary human because some– You can already exactly see the data and then copy and paste to your site basically. You need to able to manipulate this second data essentially.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So there’s actually a lot of work involved in that, and I think there’s actually a few services that– so because the work looked so much because actually a few services that we don’t actually this but they make the transition easier. So they grab all the fin and all the different coupons for you and then they break it down in like a CSV file for you or what not, based on how you want to export and I think what’s this service called. Let me think, it’s not [Inaudible] [00:12:12]– I think coupon to me, so.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So that’s one of the services, you know.

Steve: So let me just try to rearrange what you just said, so you’re saying some people email out the deals–

Viet: Yeah so, the merchants would– most merchants, the large merchants don’t have like an account manager of some sort, right and they’ll have like weekly deals right. So they’ll be like hey this is what we are trying to promote on our store– on our online stores this week. Take a look at the list of our deals. And it could be any kind of format it could be just plain text email format, it could be attach excel file, you know could be just a bunch of bullet points, could be a strayed out HTML files encoding of the deal in question right.

Steve: Okay and how do you get that on to your site is that then manual then?

Viet: Yeah, so there is quite a bit of manual work involved but we build our own tool. There’s actually– so I’m not in the coupon safe spacing internet buying. I’m pretty sure there are word press plug-ins that make your life a lot easier to get e-step in but at some point you’ll still need a manual, human editor involved to like either copy and paste or make sense of these data you know like here’s some because some bit of words that come in might not– might truncate a little bit, might not that you know just spread properly. So we build our own tool we have our own platform that grabs all these feeds, whether it’s email or data you know straight from the API or our feed or X amount feed from the merchant and it’s mostly XML feed actually.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: Yeah and you know we make sense of this data on our back editor, human editor kind of adviser and properly in all that great stuff.

Steve: So what you are saying you’ll receive list of these deals in all sorts of different formats depending on the person – depending on the business and then you have tools in the backend that kind of code in all these information?

Viet: Yup, exactly so in that sense yeah there’s definitely a lot of work and then that’s kind of why we focus on what we do while we’re out too because if you expand too much more retailers it just really becomes like a major headache right?

Steve: Yeah, by the way.

Viet: And then I think for those people that aren’t aware like you know Slickdeals which is one of the larger you know deal website right, they have a massive community forum you know they have the human resources and the human you know the mob power – the social power right there in terms of users pushing up– posting audio’s in different deals on their message board right?

Steve: Mm-huh.

Viet: But even – even having all those community they still have like analogue 10, 20, 30 editors, you know working on posting deals and that’s quite a bit, right? So…

Steve: Yeah, that’s crazy and that can be fun and it’s kind of manual, right?

Viet: Right, right yeah. I won’t necessarily call it fun, but you know it really depends on how you take a look at it you know our editors and myself included, we try to– maybe that’s so much these days but we try to be able make it a game out of there like say, who can post you know the best deal the fastest in that sense right.

Steve: Okay.

Viet: So you know if there’s got very hot game coming out and we know everyone wants this game, you know we would love to be the first to find this deal and post it everywhere you know, in terms of our own site…

Steve: Sure.

Viet: On our day Face book feed or you know our Tweeter feed or what not, right.

Steve: Aha.

Viet: So.

Steve: So on the flip side also there’s a bunch of deals that expire everyday too. So how do the heck do you know when to take these things off and that stuff?

Viet: Right, so that’s half– that’s so another [inaudible] [00:15:31] right in there too like a lot of this is actually manual, but most of these thankfully the merchants themselves will let you know the expiration day in advance, so–

Steve: Okay.

Viet: We just simply send them on our backend and it’ll automatically expire mostly, and if we don’t capture you know usually a user we’ll comment and let us know that hey this deal is expired, then we know we just go out– head out there and expire that deal.

Steve: Okay, so certain services like I use commission junction you mentioned that earlier…

Viet: Sure.

Steve: And they actually have an API where you can just grab everything kind of automatically into your platform with a little bit of programming.

Viet: Yeah.

Steve: Do you guys have a preference or do you just kind of go with where the deals are at?

Viet: We kind of go with where the deals are at actually, but we definitely do utilize that you know obviously you want to make the manual work load as low as possible. So if you have the resources you get a developer to you know work out your own– what does your own platform of grabbing these things in properly to fit your– to fulfill your needs, that’s way better right than doing it manual, but on other times the ones that already make money is actually stuff that’s happening in right traditionally in email actually you know where a manager– a store manager might have– and a fully account manager actually let me correct myself– will be very in tune with what we need or what those were with our audience and they gave us a head start hey this deal is happening next week if you have some details in the email right.

Steve: I see.

Viet: We just watch out for that deal you know and yeah we can of course we can always grab it automatically whenever you know from the API or from XML deal but that’s always depending on like you know whenever we set these automatic data grab to happen right, so we very well might miss that X– the actual hour where the deal goes live right.

Steve: Aha.

Viet: So a lot of the more exclusives or the deal that people actually deal one actually happens lot in email so.

Steve: Interesting email, wow that’s horrible.

Viet: Yeah that’s horrible actually. When you even think about it and you know there’s pros and cons in there you have the good communication channel with – and you work with these people and you do good large volume with them. So there is a need for the– an open communication channel but there’s– I won’t be surprised you know if there is a better service in the next few you know whenever actually to make the job easier and you know the space is right for some sort of disruption that’s for sure.

Steve: Okay, so what you – what I’m trying to gleam off you know is, you know essentially all the sites have access to the same coupons essentially right?

Viet: Yeah, I mean you’re not going to really get like all these unique stuff I’ll be honest. If you find like a deal site you like and you use allegory you know, hey more power to you keep using, you don’t really need to come to DealZon and that sounds so bad actually.

Steve: Yeah.

Viet: But I feel like you know a lot of times unless, unless all you care about is gaming. So yeah you should actually come to us.

Steve: So I mean so each, each text like kind of has its own focus right because you said it’s kind of manual. You kind of have to pick and choose what you want to focus on right?

Viet: Sure, sure that’s for me. So but you definitely want see some of those the same stuff on most sites but the difference is may be what they highlight isn’t what’s the hottest latest right now. A lot of these stuff especially front page is very much click carried and right by the editors, right.

Steve: Right.

Viet: And some of these actually might be paid place material too and which we can talk about in a little bit–

Steve: Yeah.

Viet: So and you know so you needed to juggle between like hey is this guy really –is this really a good deal or is it just something that’s pushing you to sell because it gets in the most commission right?

Steve: Right, right okay.

Viet: So, and so it’s mostly that I think and I think because of human automatic coration [phonetic], if you start you know agreeing with what the editor puts on and chances are that’s a great deal then yes you should be comfortable with that site in the sense that they are pushing stuff that they know people like and want and not just because what’s you know shows the bottom line or converts better or what not right.

Steve: Okay, okay so that kind of actually leads to my next my question is, which is you know how do you actually get people to come to your coupon site in the first place right?

Viet: Yeah so I mean obviously marketing is like such a broad and you know broad discipline right but how we did it initially and this is actually quite a while ago, I want to say like three years back, is we started like you know so for any kind of hot products and this is kind of go back to email once again. We just email blogs these new steps you know on like called latest products to like tracking gadget size like tracking gadget blog basically news blogs–

Steve: Like in gadget?

Viet: Yeah exactly, you know like hey you know may be the latest Mark book Pro just slashed the price by 100 bucks and that’s actually very rare for Apple products, right?

Steve: Right.

Viet: And you know stuff like that basically and then you slowly and surely you build some links you know you send some else – some good new steps and you build an audience that way. And another method that we kind of use is we partner with a few different sites and if they have the right community and then if the fit is good, we post regular deals on their site and if in terms of – in the format of a blog post or a news stead or and stuff like that and that’s how we kind of like funnel trafficking sometimes.

Steve: What do they get in return for the blog?

Viet: You know the page views you know they – sometimes we have very rarely do we have like revenue share agreements you know and then when we have that obviously we have to disclose it carefully. So that works out when it fits with in terms of the community and audience right. We do this with may be like with individual sites, where, maybe some guy runs a gaming blog, right, and he knows that people like these kind of deal posts, and it helps support the website, helps support the community, you know, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Steve: I see. But let’s say, I run a really popular gaming site; why wouldn’t I just put my own coupon codes on there?

Viet: Yeah, I think you should, actually, but we go back to all those hassle, all those manual stuff you know, you really have to be on the know, in terms of like what’s going on this week and what’s going on next week, to properly do something like this, I feel. So, I think, if you run a gaming blog, you should definitely do this, or use DealZon, basically, and we will be happy to help you out, and work out an arrangement that makes sense. But yes, I think, if you run a gaming blog, and your only revenue source is like the very typical display ads and stuff like that, you should start considering an affiliated model; there’s certain ways you can do this balance without coming across as if trying to sell all these games to visitors, right?

Steve: Right.

Viet: Because this really is a value in the sense that, hey you know, ‘buy this game because it’s cheap– I mean, we’re not telling you to buy it, but we’re telling you what is cheap right now, whether you buy or not it’s up to you, right?

Steve: Uh-huh.

Viet: So there’s some actually a value in terms of that service.

Steve: Okay. The other thing I did notice, when I went to your site, was you actually do advertizing also. And when I saw that, I was somewhat conflicted because, shouldn’t the goal be to have someone click on your affiliate link and buy something?

Viet: Yeah, actually, you are correct about that; for a very long time, DealZon had zero display ads. You can make the argument that the entire site’s being advertised now, because every click will generate a commission sale for us, right?

Steve: Sure, sure.

Viet: But, yes, for a long time, we don’t have any display ads, but we actually test this, a little bit. It didn’t really hurt conversion one way or another, and it’s just basically more money in the revenue so that we can keep the servers up and what not, so…

Steve: I see. So you just add them on, just to see if it’s going to affect your affiliate revenue; it didn’t affect it, brought in more money, so you decided to keep it on.

Viet: Yeah, we kept it on. We can probably do with two more banners– I mean, two three banners, to be safe, but at some point, you’re it’s just you’re clouding your site with a bunch of banners, so we’re okay with just one. And here’s the thing about this– and this is a tip for anyone that runs anything– any similar or is interested in affiliate space; When you have inventory, in the sense of like banner ads, or whatever slots, when you create inventory, that gives you the ability to sell these slots to advertisers, when the right time comes along– you know that might be a seasonal thing. I mean, in holiday seasons, all the merchants have the right budgets to work with, like promotions, so if your site’s the right fit, they might throw you a bone, give you a little bit more money, just to put a banner on your site to your [indiscernible][00:23:55] and you know whatever the heck that you might be getting from, whatever display network you use, you know whether it’s something like adsense or whatever else, right. So, by the virtue of having a banner, it gives you the ability, in the future to sell that slot, does that kind of make sense? So…

Steve: Yeah so, sell it privately to an advertiser.

Viet: Right, exactly. You know if you never have that in the first place, it’ll be a hard pitch to tell people, ‘hey, I’ll put you here’, while you didn’t have that before, so…

Steve: Okay, so what percent– is the breakdown heavily skewed towards affiliate revenue, or what’s the breakdown, between advertizing…

Viet: Oh yeah, by far, by far. The advertizing is just there really, because it pays for the server bills I want to say, so it’s not– it’s not exactly like zero dollars, but it’s also not something that we really stress about or focus on a lot, so…

Steve: Okay, so in terms of getting traffic, you mentioned working with other bloggers; are there any other traffic sources that you use?

Viet: Yeah. So, eventually, you know, we still get plenty of Google traffic – we try to rely less on Google these days, in the sense that we don’t really bother with optimizing that much anymore, in terms of SEO. If we have Google traffic, great, it’s because we have the right information and the right value, if not, whatever, right?

Steve: So, by information sorry– is this your blog post, or are these the deal pages themselves?

Viet: Both, actually, but mostly the deal pages themselves. We try to provide as much information as we can on a deal post, especially on the hot stuff — on the stuff that’s trending. So if there’s like a super old laptop, you know, two years old, obviously you’re not going to find the latest information there, right, because at this point, no one is going to buy that kind of particular laptop anymore. But for the latest stuff, yeah, I think so, we might have like hey more information on a particular computer model, hey maybe you should buy X over this because of these features, so stuff like that, basically.

Steve: So do you guys have that sort of content on your site where you’re comparing different items, and that sort of thing, or…

Viet: It’s mostly in the edited notes; we have a lot of it back in the days, but, like I said, we try to rely less on Google in a sense, so we only provide those information that is useful to our users. I suppose you can make the argument that what’s good for the users is good for Google too, but that’s always a bonus in the sense that I mean, there’s a lot of sites that bounce just a lot of key words in content, and by the virtue of their domain authority, they will rank for it, right?

Steve: Sure.

Viet: The coupon space is kind of iffy that way in the sense that sometimes and I’m sure a lot of users will know this– they search for a particular coupon in the other site, and there’s really no coupon!

Steve: It happens to me all the time, it’s very annoying.

Viet: It’s very annoying! We try to stray away from that as much as possible. Yeah, it makes us a little bit less money, but I’m a little bit more happy about it – I sleep a little bit better at night, you know. Yeah some people can say that you’re throwing away money, but if the coupon doesn’t exist, we say so; it’s expired. You can still click through it if you want to, you know, if you want to check if there’s something new, but there’s no coupon, so that’s that.

Steve: Okay. And I would imagine you don’t do any paid advertising, because the price just doesn’t work out economically, right?

Viet: I think it does, actually, but we don’t do that. I’m not sure if I’m giving too much information in that sense, but [Inaudible] [00:27:03] pretty much all of our revenue in a sense, is very much organic, it’s very much the users on DealZon, and some portion of it for our partner blogs.

Steve: How would pay traffic work? I mean, you’re paying an amount that seems like it’s a lot higher than your affiliate products.

Viet: It’s tough, right? I mean we’ve dabbled in it, and I can see it can work, but I’m not a PPC expert in the sense that, I can’t juggle that on a daily basis, and it’s very much average where you have to make sure whatever you bid is obviously a lot less than the commission you get. And it actually does still work well; you’d be surprised like how some of these large retailers just don’t do a good job advertising their own products or their own stores. So, there’s still a lot of space for the middle man, in a sense, the whole system still works. Instead of having their own internal team, they just pay it out by the affiliate model that way. So it’s kind of funny, I think going to change in the future, especially– if I run any one of these– If I’m like the business guy, or the revenue guy at one of these larger companies, I will think strongly about having my own PPC team to do the– and they do have them, don’t get me wrong, but between them and the affiliates, it’s an interesting space where you’re just throwing a lot of money, to try to break even, or to try to make like, the actual dollar out of your 50 cents spent– ask them.

Steve: Sure, sure. Do you guys do a lot of email marketing?

Viet: Lightly. We have our email list that’s fairly large, in a sense that I’m planning to trim it down to the guys that don’t really open our emails anymore, to save our costs. We do email marketing, we send out daily emails, and we’re starting to do a better job segmenting these. Some people actually only want to see video game deals, some people only want to see computer deals, some people only want to see HD TV deals. We find that that helps conversion a little bit more. So if you can segment it and if you have the volume that justifies it, you should definitely do it. And, hopefully the whatever email service provider that you sign up for has the segment ability.

Steve: How do you get people to sign up for your email list?

Viet: I think it’s very similar to what a lot of sites employ, so you know, there will be a pop up overlay, telling you to sign up. We try to be less– we try to balance between being annoying about sign-up and trying to make sure we convert these sign-ups, because if you’re just having a side-bar box, I’ll be honest, a lot of people aren’t going to see this thing, right?

Steve: Right.

Viet: The conversion difference there is like astronomic– could be something like 0.1% versus 3%, so that’s a big difference.

Steve: So I see. I would imagine that your sign-up rate would be kind of high– everyone wants to get good deals on stuff, right? I would imagine it’s pretty attractive.

Viet: Yeah, I can make the argument that’s okay. I really don’t know what it looks like on the other sites, I try to take a look at what the industry averages, but it’s kind of hard to guess that right in terms of…

Steve: Sure. Yes.

Viet: But you know I think when you do an overlay like this, if you provide good value, you should– for a long time we actually were very hesitant in having an overlay pop-up for email grab. But after a while we– again, just like the banner ad, we did an epic test; it didn’t affect the sales, and it didn’t affect any other noticeable matrix, so we kept it on. And, to be honest, when we axed it out, we still ended up cooking we don’t bother you for quite a good amount of time too, so…

Steve: Yeah, I know from my site I mean the pop-up is what actually converts the best.

Viet: Okay yeah, exactly.

Steve: Okay so, towards the beginning of the interview, you mentioned that sometimes you can get exclusive deals from affiliates, and it’s all about negotiation. So how does all that work, exactly?

Viet: Yeah, so I mean this is very much about chicken and [indiscernible][00:30:59] right, in the sense that, an exclusive is great – you get like an exclusive that people can only come to your site to get it, right or it might leak out get it elsewhere, but mostly people will come to your site to get this exclusive deal. But if you don’t– in order to get the exclusive, you need to have the right volume, to start negotiating with these partners, right and to introduce these merchants. You can see the dilemma here, in the sense that if you don’t get the exclusives, you won’t have the volume, and if you don’t have the volume, you won’t get the exclusives.

Steve: Right.

Viet: So I would definitely start– for anyone that’s inc. like a region space– my recommendation is basically just ask outright. Ask them hey what kind of volume we need to get to get some kind of exclusive deal or something that might be– and to be fair some of these exclusives are not exclusive in a sense that they will not happen again but it will be fogging you for that time period basically. Does that kind of make sense?

Steve: Okay, yeah. So how does an exclusive deal work exactly? Is it the pair on hire or is it just by virtue of you being exclusive that’s good enough?

Viet: Oh no I think it depends on how what the — it’s very much merchant dependent so sometimes he has to pay as you higher sometimes they give you a better deal like a better percentage coupon, right.

Steve: I see.

Viet: So you know it converts even better because why use this other coupon this other site if this coupon gives you 25% versus 25% this other side right?

Steve: Right.

Viet: So there is a lot of that– and sometimes it makes them both, sometimes it’s just simply this deal is only offered through this site at during this time frame through this link.

Steve: So walk me through this; let’s say you gain an exclusive, what’s your first course of action. So you email your list, do you also still reach out to bloggers about your deals?

Viet: Yeah definitely. If we manage to snuck an exclusive we want to promote as much as possible simply because we are hoping that’s the best deal right?

Steve: Right.

Viet: So yeah the first course of action is actually you should get your own site, you blast out to the people that convert the best which is usually your email people and sometimes your social people. You know maybe for some people the measures are– it is that’s where your audience lives. And you actually basically mention the full cause of the action and then we blast it out to your partners and then finally you want to blast out to the rest of them. So I think anyone in any kind of space should always have an excel sheet or whatever of regular people to email blast things to and on top of like the new tips sites you know right, in whatever industry and category you are in. So that whenever you have something interesting and note worthy you can always rely on the list to get at least a few mentions of whatever you know exclusives or promotions that you have at the time right.

Steve: So what are your top traffic sites right now?– sources of traffic.

Viet: I think I will be mum on that in a sense that…

Steve: Okay no that’s fine.

Viet: Okay yeah, but to be honest most of our traffic is still coming from DealZon actually. We have a very healthy amount of users on DealZon and in terms of revenue numbers a good chunk of it is still coming from DealZon too. So like I said we are doing a very decent job theses days of diversifying our traffic source and income source. Three years ago, I want to say, Google would bring about like 50% of our traffic right, and 70% of our revenue. That’s actually quite a big chunk right.

Steve: Wow.

Viet: Just because it converts better. These days we make way more than we did before and Google is like what, 20% of our traffic visit and, maybe exactly the same amount, 20% of our revenue too. So at some point you already want to move away from a Google mentality and I think you definitely mention this a lot of times you know whether in your podcast or in blog post right.

Steve: Yes.

Viet: Two thirds and you know and email list is one such great revenue source right. These are people that opt in the people that already want the information right. So if you can build a channel like where no one else can mess with, I want to say that’s a good comfortable spot to be at.

Steve: Okay, so if there is someone out there who wanted to start their own coupon site how would you suggest they start. So one thing I forgot to ask you about is that actually what platform you run your site on?

Viet: So we actually– we built our own site. It’s on rails, we’ve been on rails. We built our own platform essentially. We have our own backend and our own frontend. This is actually more household than it’s worth–. Well, okay I think it’s working for us for our own usage but this goes to your question if you are starting a coupon site today, you know to make your life easier you should really just get a word press blog and there are various amounts of coupon plug-ins. I haven’t been keeping up to date on them but I know there’s obviously two, three pretty decent coupon plug-ins and coupon site templates that you can use right. And then really you should just find a specific niche that you do very well at right, and that you are very familiar with, that you are an expert at instead of trying to cover everything under the sun, you know try to cover that one thing that you can do a good job at providing information at. So that’s kind of where I’ll start.

Steve: Okay and then in terms of — you guys have a blog too right. So what use has the blog been in terms of…?

Viet: So for us we’re actually doing not too good of a job in terms of a blog, when you have a blog you really should update it regularly in a sense of like you don’t have to write every day. I’m not a believer in that but you should write consistently like let’s say if you are going to do a post per week, you should do a post per week on x day right–

Steve: Okay.

Viet: And for a blog you already want to do it so you supplement information in terms of deals that you’re– So for the coupons site I feel like the best way to do that is that you do price comparison or price prediction stuff like that basically.

Steve: Okay and one thing I also forgot to ask you is what was the source of your inspiration for even deciding to do a coupon site as opposed to some of the other business models out there?

Viet: So I think there is a lot of different things but I don’t think was ever marrying into the idea of like starting a coupon site and actually I did not start this. There is a different partner that left since then actually but I decided to join DealZon because I thought it’s interesting and there’s all things I can bring to the table in terms of the categories that we are focused on at the time and that was my expertise and this goes back to what I mentioned about how if you have expertise in terms of a particular category you know, I’m a gamer I’m a computer user, I know my computers very well maybe I know less these days than before because I don’t have time to read about this stuff anymore but if you are more comfortable to talk about a particular product and you enjoy talking about that particular product, it’s just a lot easier to try and sell those products too right.

Steve: Yes.

Viet: So it’s mostly that I think and you know I think at a time, you know, it’s kind of like- this goes to what we had mentioned earlier- if you search for coupon you run to your site and it’s just bunch of links but there is no coupon to be found, that’s annoying right. We wanted to try a little bit better than that basically.

Steve: Okay and so you do this full time?

Viet: Yeah I do this full time.

Steve: So were there– what was your source of your inspiration? Was there any books that kind of gave you the inspiration to say,” Look I want to start my own site and run my own business”?

Viet: I will be frank, not really. I think I am one of those few that started their own site back in the 90s right, and they would just miss the bow in terms of like becoming like one of those dotcom millionaires so I– but then we learn a lot in the process and we enjoy working online building websites, interacting with users and readers. So I think it‘s essentially that really verses like any one book or any one particular thing.

Steve: And are there any resources or services out there that you can’t live without with your site?

Viet: Yeah, so let me think about this of the top of my head. I think because we build our own platform a lot of the tools that we need, I have my developer build out the stuff but then there is definitely a few services obviously. We are hosting Heroku, so without Heroku obviously it’s– we used to have our own hosting services our own– and then the system that main portion is very much of a headache right–

Steve: Yes.

Viet: So that did obviously allocated to Heroku now, so that’s good. So we can’t live without Heroku. I guess you can argue that mailchimp is essential for us too in the sense that without mailchimp we don’t have an email list, I mean there is a lot of services out there but we are comfortable with mailchimp so we are sticking with them

Steve: Okay.

Viet: And I guess you know definitely that there are free other networks you know without them obviously that won’t work too right. You know without Commission Junction, without link share, you know, without these larger networks it gets a little bit tough right. So–

Steve: Okay, cool so Viet we’ve already been talking for quite awhile, where can people find you online if they have questions?

Viet: So if you head to there is contact form there but just email me at and I’ll be honest, I mean I don’t mind giving up that, I think it’s a public email actually so yeah and if you have random questions like this I will try to take some time out to try and answer them as best as I can.

Steve: Awesome well thanks a lot for coming on the show Viet.

Viet: Yeah, no problem I will talk to you later Steve.

Steve: All right talk to you later, have a good day.

Hope you found that podcast episode interesting. Now I for one have always wondered what it was like to run a coupon business online and at least at the back of my mind I always pictured a very hands off site that made money on auto pilot by automatically grabbing deals from a feed and displaying them online and as it turns out it’s not that simple and I probably should have known better. Now Viet shared some very useful tips on how to get traffic to a coupon website and I’m very thankful for his candor and revealing how his business works. For more information about this episode go to 28 and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please got to iTunes and leave me a review.

When you write me a review it not only makes me feel proud but also helps keeps this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web. Now as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this please go to and if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywife for more information and thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at

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027: Andreea Ayers On How To Create A 6 Figure T-Shirt Business And Get Featured In 200 Magazines

Andreea Ayers

I’m really happy to have Andreea Ayers on the show today. Out of all of the possible products to try to sell online, selling t-shirts is probably one of the hardest. But Andreea managed to take her t-shirt business to over 6 figures in profit by being extremely focused and by leveraging publicity.

Today, Andreea runs the popular site where she teaches other people how to run a successful online wholesale business.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Andreea sourced her first products and found her first vendors
  • How Andreea started designing her own shirts without any knowledge
  • How Andreea tested her market before placing a bulk order overseas
  • How Andreea convinced her first store to carry her products
  • Why Andreea decided to sell her products wholesale as opposed to retail
  • What it’s like to be a wholesaler and how to run a wholesale business
  • How Andreea got her products featured in over 200 magazines
  • How Andreea used Facebook to promote her products
  • How Andreea used Pinterest to promote her site

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast ,where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcast where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

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Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s you host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quite Her Job podcast. Today I have Andreea Ayers with us on the show. Now I did not know Andreea at all until she randomly emailed me one day and I’m so happy that she did because it opened my eyes to a brand new blogger/ecommerce entrepreneurial that I did not know about. Andreea runs a blog where she helps entrepreneurs sell their own consumer products via wholesale and publicity. So here is what stood out about Andreea for me, out of all the business ideas that I get pitched about on my blog I tend to discourage people from going to extremely saturated niches like selling t-shirts for example, but Andreea not only successfully started her own t-shirt business, Tees For Change, but she also managed to grow this business to six figures. Then she started another business in a highly competitive niche selling organic soap and she was doing pretty well too until she decided to shut it down. Now today Andreea helps other entrepreneurs get their products featured in magazines and in the press and she is also very knowledgeable about Pinterest, and with that I am very happy to have on the show.

Andreea: Thank you so much Steve I’m so exited to be here talking to you today and to your listeners.

Steve: Yeah really glad to have you. So Andreea I’m very curious, how did you come up with selling t-shirts, and what was so special about your t-shirts such that you managed to get celebrities to wear them?

Andreea: So I launched my t-shirt business in 2007 and the reason I launched it is because my husband and I were moving from– I grew up in New York City so we were moving from New York City to Boulder, Colorado and it just happened that I was also four months pregnant at the time and I always had sort of a side business in addition to my corporate job. So, I’ve worked in corporate America for companies like Mackenzie and City bank, Starwood hotels near Kenversity and a whole bunch of other places and when I moved to boulder I –, my goal was to get a job so that we sort of have more stability and have health insurance and all of those other things that come with getting a good job and I landed here started going on interviews and it was really really hard for me to get a job, and obviously part of it had to do with the fact that I was pregnant and I was starting to show, and part of it also I think had to do with the fact that I didn’t really want that job whatever the job it was going to be because I knew I would probably be quitting after my son was born a few months later.

So I thought about turning that part time entrepreneurial thing that I’ve been doing for quite a few years into a fulltime gig, so I thought alright so what do I love to do, what do I know how to do and what can I do to turn this into a business. So I had a couple of different ideas but one that really stuck out with me was the idea of launching a t-shirt line. Now I did not know anything about ecommerce or fashion or even how to start t-shirts but I had a pretty good marketing background. So I knew that no matter what product I would launch that I would hope that I could make it successful. So I ended up doing this t-shirts line and part of my passion was to use eco-friendly materials and eco-friendly inks so one of the things that I think made my t-shirts stand out, and remember this was in 2007 when it wasn’t as easy to find eco friendly clothing and eco products so that definitely made my brand stand out.

The other thing that I think made my t-shirts really successful was that I decided to really get specific about what niche I was going to focus on, and when I first started I honestly had no idea about getting really specific and narrowing down your audience. I really thought I could just sell the t-shirts to any one and I would be a millionaire in a year because everybody buys t-shirts right. So once I realized that it was kind of impossible to market with a non existing budget to everyone, I decided to again think about what I love to do and what kind of communities I wanted to be involved in, and that’s when I decided to focus on yoga studio owners and women who do yoga. So whenever I would design a t-shirt most of my ideas I made sure that they would appeal to some one who does yoga and I think it took me a couple of months to find that niche but once I really narrowed down on that that’s when my sales started to really take off because I was really speaking to women who do yoga and I’m someone who does yoga. So I sort of already knew what that market was like because I was my own customer in a sense. So it just made it a lot easier.

Steve: So can you just describe to me what eco friendly t-shirts really mean because t-shirts are traditionally made out of 100% cotton right?

Andreea: Yes but what happens is that cotton uses a lot of pesticides and it’s very, very toxic to produce, so what I decided to do is that I decided to use organic cotton in my t-shirts and there are no pesticides used on organic cotton and also I decided to experiment with t-shirts that were made out bamboo so that’s definitely – yeah so it was a mixture of bamboo and organic cotton and in addition I also decided to have my t-shirts printed with non toxic inks, because all of the inks that you see on the t-shirts they are highly toxic, they give off a lot of fumes there are not made from very environmentally friendly materials. So it was the material itself on the shirts. It was the ink that I used and then also my hand tags were printed on recycled and recyclable paper as well. So it was the combination of all of those things that made it eco friendly.

Steve: Okay I see so you actually kind of caught that movement sort of in the beginning because that was when back then I don’t think there were that many clothing stores that were doing that sort of thing. Today you can find those all over the place I believe.

Andreea: Yes, that’s true I caught it right at the beginning and I remember I had such a hard time finding an eco friendly t-shirt manufacturer because there was hardly anyone who was doing it. So it was definitely a hard process for me to find sourcing but once I sold it in 2011, then I mean every t shirt brand had an eco friendly line so it was definitely a lot more widespread. So I do feel lucky that I sort of got there in the beginning right as it was starting.

Steve: It’s never luck. So just curious can we talk about the sourcing aspect a little bit. So where did you actually get these products sourced from?

Andreea: Sure, so I initially went to American Apparel because they were one of the few that would do eco friendly t-shirt so I got– I ended up buying into their organic line but I found out their cut and the material wasn’t quite what someone who does yoga would be interested in because usually yoga clothing is more light more, it’s more airy, it’s more stretchy and usually it’s not made just out of cotton right. It usually has some sort of spandex or Lycra or some other material that makes it a little softer and a little stretchy. So I found out that the American apparel t-shirts weren’t really selling that well for me just because it wasn’t in line with what my audience wanted and then I ended up going with another company called Alternative Apparel and they had really nice organic cotton line that was just super soft.

The cut was really nice. It was definitely really feminine and what my audience was into and then about two years after I started using their t-shirts, I realized that there were a ton of other companies that were sort of my competitors and they were all buying the same t-shirts that I was buying from Alternative Apparel except they were printing them with different designs. So that’s when I decided to branch out into finding my own manufacturer and get my own t-shirts custom made. So I did a lot of online research and found this company out in Turkey who was working with bamboo and I loved their cuts and I ended up actually working with a broker in the UK who sort of facilitated everything. So I never actually had direct contact with this company in Turkey, but it was my broker in the UK who would facilitate all of my orders all of the shipping and all of that. So by the time I sold the business I did have my own custom made t-shirts that no other brand had. So that was definitely helpful to increase my sales.

Steve: Okay let’s take a step back, so how did you find that broker in the UK?

Andreea: I actually went online. I goggled and I found a whole bunch of companies I was looking for eco friendly. So I would type in things like organic cotton t-shirt blanks or organic cotton t-shirts manufacturers or apparel manufacturers that are sustainable. So I would make a list. I had a spread sheet where I would put in all of them and then I would reach out to them via email and I would say hey this is what I am interested in. What are your minimums? Can you send me samples, what are your shipping times? What are your production times? And then based on the answers that they gave me plus cost obviously because that was a huge thing. Based on that and then the samples that I got, I decided to go with the t shirt that I thought would sell the best. So it was really just googling things and making a list of companies that were making t-shirt blanks.

Steve: So did you – you mentioned that you designed your own t-shirts, did you mean just the designs that went on the shirts or the shirt themselves – like the fit?

Andreea: So it was both. Well I didn’t actually design the shirt but the manufacturer made the shirts specifically just for my company. So they gave me different choices, different patterns to choose from. Different colors and they basically said here is what we have available. We can go with what we have available– we could go with what we have available and customize it specifically for you with your logo, with your own colors or you can totally design your own but I think for me because I didn’t have a design background and I didn’t quite know where to go to find someone to design patterns I decided to go with one of the cuts that they had already made but I had so may to chose from that it was super easy and then I picked my own colour as well. So that’s how that happened.

Steve: Okay, so I know for us we do quite a bit of importing and what were the minimum order quantities and how did you kind of– Did you know that these t shirts were going to move before you placed the bulk order? How did you kind of proceed with that?

Andreea: Well yes I think by that time I definitely knew that they would move because I had quite a few retailers in place. I think I had about 150 retailers at this time and they all would email me and ask,”hey are you coming out with a new line are you — do you have anything new, what can we buy that’s new, and I realized that if I had my products in stores they would always going to want stuff that was new. So I knew that they would sell and plus based on my previous sales history as well because at that point I was getting steady orders. I was moving through quite a lot of t-shirts which definitely wasn’t the case when I started but by that point two years in– and plus I had set up events that I was going to do so I was doing some trade shows and selling t-shirts directly to through the trade shows and I was also starting to get a lot of press. So I did invest the minimum– I think the minimum quantities was I want to say at least 5000 t-shirts to start with and it was probably something like120 of each size, of each colour, of each style if that makes sense. So I put together a whole bunch of colors and styles and made– met their minimum of 5000 t shirts.

Steve: Okay and how much was the outlay. How is the cost per t-shirt back then?

Andreea: Back then it was around anywhere from like 4.67 to the long sleeves were maybe closer to eight dollars. It was like something closer from five to eight I would say.

Steve: Okay so if I was to summarize you had already had sales using your US vender–

Andreea: Yes.

Steve: And you were already working with your stores and boutiques and then once you got to a certain point you decided just make your own in Turkey and by then you already had a customer base and you knew that you could move these. So the minimum quantity wasn’t that big of a deal.

Andreea: Exactly, yes and I already had the funds in place to do it. I mean I did have to get out a line of credit at some point to pay for some of these but I knew that they would sell very quickly and what I would also do is that I would also try to pre sell so I would reach out to my wholesalers or my retailers and I would say hey this is what’s coming, are you interested and that gave me a good indication too of whether or not my t-shirts were going to sell because if I see my retailers get super excited and they be like “oh my God I can’t wait until you get these t-shirts in, let me know and here’s my order,” then I knew that I was going to sell them, plus I started building my online sales as well through publicity. So that really helped also.

Steve: Okay so let’s talk about that. How did you get the first store to carry your products?

Andreea: So the first store was actually a yoga studio. So what I did as soon as I decided that I wanted to be focused on working with yoga studios and women who do yoga, I went and got a copy of yoga journal magazine and in the magazine they have a directory of yoga studios in the US. So I made a spreadsheet, I sat there and copied and pasted all of there email addresses. They also gave you the owners’ name who owned the yoga studio. So that was really helpful because I could actually personalize my emails to them and after I — I think I think they had about 300 yoga studios in the print directory and then I realized that they also had an online directory that had even more yoga studios, so I basically went through their online directory, copied down their email addresses and studio names and the owners name and I started emailing them one by one and telling them about the T-shirt line, telling them that it was eco friendly.

And I think the other thing that really helped me was that I also decided to plant a tree for every shirt that I sold, and that’s another thing that made me really stand out and it made my brand a little more unique. So when I would reach out to these yoga studios, I would tell them that the T-shirts were eco friendly, that we would plant a tree for every shirt that I sold, that they were printed with non toxic inks, and that their purchase would really make a difference. And I think that really helped to make me stand out a little bit more, plus the designs on the T-shirts were something that was really in line with the Yoga community, so I think all of that combined really helps. So that’s how I was able to get, I think maybe my first like ten to twenty stores, and then it sort of grew from there.

Steve: So the Yoga studio itself sold their own apparel, and that was– they had a little store to go along with the Yoga studio – is that correct?

Andreea: Yes, exactly. So they– some of the Yoga studios have their own brand, some carry other brands, but a lot of Yoga studios have a little boutique inside the studio, and it’s a way for them to make extra money.

Steve: Okay. This sounds a lot like Lulu Evan; it sounds like you were doing this before they even got started. We’ll get to that – I have a lot of questions. So, you’re getting your first initial orders– so first of all, first question I have is; how come you decided to go wholesale as opposed to just your own online store?

Andreea: I was actually doing both at the same time, so I– the reason I decided to focus mostly on wholesale in the beginning is because it was more of a straight path than trying to sell online, because, I knew that I wanted to target Yoga studio owners, and I already had all of their contact information, but then once I saw that they were coming back and reordering and there was more interest, I thought, ‘wow, I think I’m onto something here’ and, yes I was definitely selling at lower margins than I would online, but the orders were more steady, they were ordering a few hundred dollars worth of items at the same time, and they would keep coming back over and over again. So, in a way, once I got one account, it was sort of easy to grow that into re-orders. Whereas with online sales, you know some people would buy a T-shirt for themselves, and then come back and buy another one as a gift, but it wasn’t a case where they would buy month after month because there’s only so many T-shirts you could get that are a certain style. So, in the beginning, about 85% of my revenue came from selling to stores, and by the time I sold my company four years later, it was about 65-35%.

Steve: Okay. So how did you dance around the pricing with– so how did you prevent yourself from competing directly with your wholesalers– not your wholesalers– your end boutiques.

Andreea: The thing with T-shirts is that people really love to try them on, and they love—they want to see how a T-shirt fits so, in some ways I feel like my– the fact that I had my own online store was actually really helpful for the boutiques because I would list all of them on my website as well, and I would constantly throughout my site encourage people to go visit their local store so they can try on the T-shirts…

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: And then every time that I would get a press mention, I would also email the boutique owners and let them know that there was a huge press mention that just came through let’s say Red Book magazine – and ask them if they wanted to stock up because I knew that people– whenever I would get a huge press mention, a lot of people would rather go to the store first, and try the T-shirts on, rather than buy directly through my site. So I don’t necessarily think I competed with them, but I think, in a way, I really helped to increase awareness of their store as well.

Steve: Okay. So in a way, your online store was meant to drive more traffic to your retailers as opposed to– the main intention wasn’t to just make online sales for yourself per se.

Andreea: Exactly. Yes and I think almost always if someone came to my site, and they saw that I had a local store, then they would almost always go to the local store instead of buying through my site, but the people who lived in cities where I didn’t have any local stores, then they obviously didn’t have a choice, so they would buy through my site directly.

Steve: Okay. So, if you can give us a brief overview about how you ran your wholesale business – so what were the minimum order quantities and what were some of the terms that you instilled when you were working with retailers?

Andreea: Sure. So my minimum order quantities; I started out with a minimum of twelve shirts, and then I realized that that was kind of too little, because I started speaking with other people that were selling wholesale, and I started going to trade shows, and they said that the more varied of a product line that someone has in their store, the more likely your products are to sell. Because if someone sees, let’s say someone goes to a store and they have ten T-shirts to choose from as opposed to four – they’re more likely to buy because they have more choice. So I was advised to increase my minimums to– instead of twelve T-shirts to increase it to $150 minimum, and that was a lot more that twelve T-shirts, so that’s how I was able to do that.

My other terms were that I didn’t accept any returns on wholesale, and that’s because I was going through launching new lines all the time, so if someone came back a year later to return T-shirts, for example, those were already off of my website, I had sort of moved on and there was not much that I could do with them so I made it clear from the beginning that I wasn’t going to take returns especially from wholesalers. And I think that’s pretty much the name of the game when it comes to wholesale – unless you’re working with a huge store where it’s like a whole foods or Bloomingdale’s or something like that where you do have to be a lot more flexible and possibly accept returns – but I worked with smaller retailers specifically for that reason; because I knew they were used to not having to return stuff. But when I was selling my T-shirts to my retail customers on my website, then I definitely took returns.
Steve: So what were the markups – was it just like a 2X markup from your wholesale and then the retails would mark that up 2X again?
Andreea: Exactly, it was exactly that. And then when I started to work with sales reps, I marked it up a little more. But at that same time I was able to lower my costs, so especially when I went with the 5,000 T-shirts from– in one order. So I was able to keep my prices somewhat consistent because my manufacturing costs had gone down.

Steve: Okay. And so I imagine you were getting a whole bunch of T-shirts shipped to you; did you have some sort of warehouse or…

Andreea: So I started out with having everything at my apartment at first, and I bought some shelves, and had everything on the shelves and I did all of the shipping and packing myself, actually, for the first two years. And then, at that time I was pregnant with my second child and we needed an extra room in our house, and plus I was starting to get more busy and I was spending so much of my time packing or shipping, that I didn’t really have time to market or do any of the sales. So that’s when I really decided; all right, if I really want to continue with this volume, I have to get a fulfillment house. So I ended up getting a fulfillment house and it was really interesting because, with the fulfillment house – the way that happened is that – I was featured in a local business magazine – and this was when I first launched my business – and there was a fulfillment house here in Colorado who worked specifically with smaller business women and entrepreneurs.

So she reached out to me about maybe six months after I started my business and she said, ‘I have a fulfillment house, we work exactly with entrepreneurs like you, if you ever have a need for a fulfillment house, let me know; I would love to work with you.’ And I didn’t really have a need for that until about two years. So I had kept her contact info on file, and when I was really ready – after two years I said ‘all right, now I’m ready, I’m about to have my second baby, I’m getting a ton more orders, I’m running out of room in my apartment; can we start working together?’ and she was super excited and it was actually in a way I think it’s what saved my business and what allowed me to really grow it. Because, I think, if I had been still packing and shipping myself with a second child, I don’t think I would have had much time for any of that, so, yes.

Steve: I don’t know how you did it with a single child, to be honest–

Andreea: He slept a lot during that first year, so that was really helpful, and my husband helped a lot too, so – he was staying at home with our kid, or with our son, when I was working, and so on, so we were able to sort of work out a schedule where I can work – my husband was in grad school at the time, so he had a little more flexibility– he wasn’t gone all day working, so I think that that was another thing that, I wouldn’t have been able to do it if he had a full-time job.

Steve: Okay. So how did using a fulfillment house affect your margins?

Andreea: So, it definitely affected my margins a little bit, but I looked at it as an investment and it was really a good investment, because I couldn’t spend five hours a day packing and shipping, or I couldn’t spend five hours a day reaching out, doing press, trying to get mentions, getting my shirts to sell a breeze [phonetics] and all of that, so, it did cut into my margins a little bit, but it also happened to be sort of at the same time where I was able to lower my costs by a dollar or so. So that I think that was really helpful. And I think the other thing was the T-shirts – which wasn’t the case with my soap business – was that the T-shirts are so light to ship and it was under a dollar at that time postage prices weren’t as high as they are now. So it was under a dollar to ship one T-shirt and I was charging $4.95 to ship so part of that cost went into my fulfillment houses. So in a way it kind of paid for itself, but when I would do let’s say free shipping incentive or something like that, then obviously I would have to pay for the cost of that myself, but usually my shipping fee paid for my fulfillment houses.

Steve: Okay. I was just curious what the terms were with your fulfillment house at the time…

Andreea: It was a pretty easy. She was really flexible, I think, because she worked with a lot of smaller entrepreneurs, so it wasn’t a case where I had to have a minimum amount of orders or anything like that, she wasn’t charging any monthly storage fee – I know that, a lot of fulfillment houses, you have to have crazy minimums, you have to pay storage fees, you have to pay extra charges per package and if you do any sort of inserts you had to pay more, but this one was really straight out, it was a flat fee per package and then for whole sale orders it was sort of a sliding scale based on the amount.

Steve: Okay. So maybe you’ll have to give me the name of that fulfillment house so we can link it up…

Andreea: Of course! I’ve been recommending that fulfillment house ever since I started working with them, and it’s amazing – it totally transformed my business.

Steve: Okay. That’s good to know. So let’s go to the heart of the matter and what I’ve wanted to know since the beginning. How did you create buzz around your products, and how did you get it featured in over 200 magazines, newspapers and TV shows?

Andreea: Sure. So that was something that I didn’t even really know existed when I started, I thought that only big brands get to be featured in national magazines, right, because you see all of the big brands and they have huge budgets so I thought ‘okay, that’s never going to happen for me’ so I started small – I started with blogs. And I was reading a blog one day, and the blog was all about being happy and living the happy life and how to create happiness in your life, and one of my popular T-shirts at that time was a T-shirt that said ‘Choose Happiness’ on it, and I thought ‘there’s a blog about happiness, I have a T-shirt all about happiness – maybe I can reach out to them and ask them if they want to feature my T-shirt.’ I had no idea how any of this worked, but I emailed them and said ‘hey, I just found your blog; I love it, I just launched a T-shirt line and I think my T-shirt would be really appealing to your audience who’s all about finding happiness, and, would you be interested in featuring it?’

And they wrote back to me right away and they said ‘Oh, we love your branding; can you send us a sample? We’ll try it out and we’ll write about it.’ And that’s when I realized ‘So I have to send out samples – it doesn’t quite work for me just to send them photos,’ because I thought, ‘why would they need to see a sample right, I could just send them a photo, they can post the photo up on the site and I don’t have to really invest into shipping and all of that.’ But I realized that that’s not how it works, so I ended up sending them a sample, and they loved the T-shit, they wrote about it, and I started seeing traffic come from that blog and I thought ‘maybe I could do this with Yoga blogs, maybe I could do it with some mom bloggers, because they do product reviews all the time, and I was personally reading a lot of mom blogs at that time because I was just newly pregnant, and then had a baby. So it sort of organically grew, and I realized that that was such a great way to get traffic back to my site and get sales, and also to grow my email list as well.

I started to learn more about publicity and how it works, and I started working with a PR company. They actually approached me and I decided to– it was a huge investment for me at the time – it was $2,000 per month, and I had to commit to at least three months of using them. But they are the ones who sort of introduced me to working with magazines. They were able to get me a few magazine mentions, and then after that three month contract was over, I thought ‘maybe I can try to continue this and do it on my own, so I started reading blogs about PR, reading books, listening to interviews, attending online PR courses and events and webinars, and I sort of started to just do it on my own. I started sending out emails, learned about editorial calendars and how magazines– they work on like a three to six month schedule, and, let’s say in July is when they’re working on their November or December issues.

So I sort of started working backwards and planned my launches in accordance with the magazines’ calendars – so that way I can pitch for mother’s day gifts, or I ended up launching a T-shirt that was all about breast cancer awareness and donating part of my profits to breast cancer awareness and almost every magazine in their October issue because that’s when breast cancer awareness month is. Almost every Magazine has a roundup of products that are either pink or that give back to breast cancer awareness. So I decided to create a T-shirt that was specifically for that cause, so that’s how I was actually able to do it and I realized how much I loved doing it, and I started to focus a lot of my efforts on doing this on a monthly basis. So it was a slow and steady raise, but it definitely helped for me to have steady press mentions every month.

Steve: So walk me through this. So how did you find out who to contact and how did you contact them? What did you write in that first initial approach email?

Andreea: Sure, so at first I started with using a service like helper reporter out I’m, sure you’re familiar with it.
Steve: Okay.

Andreea: And I was able to specially more round like Mother’s Day gifts or holiday gifts and that’s how I was able to start out one way that was really inexpensive and then I learned about media databases. So there are places like Cission media database, or I think there’s Vocus and a couple of other databases where you compared annual fee and get access to contact information and editorial calendars for magazines. So I ended up paying that annual fee and I think when I first did it, it was around 3400 dollars a year which was a huge investment for me, but the way I looked at is that, all right 3400 dollars for a year is a lot less expensive than 2000 dollars per month.

So if I want to keep this publicity thing going that might be a good investment for me. So I ended up investing and I tried out all of the different media databases. I tried out Cission and Vocus and MyMediaInfo and I think a couple of other ones and then finally decided on Cission which was my favorite one, and they also had editorial calendars. So you go in there and see for example what Oprah Magazine is working on for this month and who the contact person is. So that was really helpful. Again I learned all of the other things that they were working on and I would email the person who was working on it and tell them why I thought my T-shirts would make a great gift for Mother’s Day or during the April issue a lot of them write about eco-friendly products because April is Earth Day, and they want to self celebrate Earth Day with eco-friendly products.

So I was able to find almost every month a theme that my T-shirts could fit in and by that time I ended up having a men’s line as well. So for Father’s Day I would pitch – pitch my T-shirts and I also started reaching out to Men’s Magazines. I also ended up launching a baby and kids line and reaching out to some of the kids and Parenting Magazines as well. So having a more varied product line, really helped me to get all of these placements across different types of magazines. But before I had a database, I would really go to Barnes & Noble, look at a magazine, see what they are working on and sometimes they would – sometimes the magazines have like a product roundup in the beginning of the magazine and it says there who put that page together and so I would just look.

I would Google that magazine and see if I could find their email – the email address of that editor or that writer and if I couldn’t find that online I really would just call them. To call up the magazine their editorials office and say hey I wanted to reach out to this person would you mind giving me their email address, and sometimes they would give me their email address, sometimes they would say, all of our email addresses are the same you can just do first name that last name@– I don’t know– or something like. So I started to write all of those things down but– and that’s what I did at first before I learned about this database but once I heard about the database and decided to invest in it, it was really as simple as logging in, finding the person’s name and getting their email address from there.

Steve: Okay, so was that your primary means of advertising your company? Did you use any of the paper click services? Did you ever buy advertising on blogs? Used PLA’s and that sort of thing or…?

Andreea: Oh yeah. I did buy some Ads on blog’s that I thought were relevant and some of them were more like an eco-friendly blog and the other thing that I did is that I also had an affiliate program so I used – I signed up with

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: And set up and affiliate program and I think I was paying maybe 15% or 20% and I reached out to a lot of bloggers that way as well. So it was more of an incentive for them to feature me because they would get a free T-shirt plus they would get a commission for any sales that came through to their site as well and…

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: So I did some affiliate marketing and then I also that’s when Facebook and Twitter were starting out. I didn’t know anything about Pinterest back then although I know if I – if I knew about Pinterest I’m sure it would have been a really great avenue for me as well, but I was using social media and then I also knew about the importance of building your own newsletter as well. So I would– every time I would go to events I would have a signup sheet where people could enter and let’s say win a T-shirt and then I would– they would– that’s how they could get on my email list and I also had an email list on my website as well. So those combined were definitely how I was able to get most f my online sales.

Steve: Okay, so if you were to start all over again which avenues would you start with and how would you prioritize them?

Andreea: I think definitely publicity would be the first one that I would start with and the thing about publicity is that it’s more of a long term process just because especially the magazines work with that really Longley times. So when I started my sale business, it was sort of a way for me to start over again and I went right out and really launched with publicity. So I reached out to blogs that I thought were a really great fit and the great thing about working with blogs is that it’s a lot more, or it happens a lot quicker than it does with a magazine, so you can approach a blog today and in a week you could have a feature on the blog. So it was a lot more faster, it was– traffic would start coming in right away from those blogs mentions, and then the long view was the publicity and I launched my soap business in July.

So that was the perfect time to reach out for holiday gift guide. So when the holidays came around I already had all these press mentions. So I think if I were to do it all over again definitely publicity would be the first thing that I would do, and that includes blogs and magazines and then I think social media is the other thing. So, I have experimented with Facebook ads for my soap business and for and I didn’t know about Face book ads with my T-shirt business but I think if I knew about it back then, that’s another thing that I definitely would have done because you can get so targeted and so specific, and you can grow your list really quickly, you can advertise during specific times for example like Mother’s Day or holiday gifts, or eco-friendly products and so on. So, I think those three things and then obviously constantly to be growing my email list and to focus on that would be another thing that I would recommend and that I would focus a lot of my time on.

Steve: So I was just curious. Did you use Face book to help promote your soap business at all or?

Andreea: I did yes, yes. So Facebook– I took out some ads, I did a contest, I worked with bloggers through Facebook as well and yeah – and I saw a quite great return on that.

Steve: So just curious since I’ve been doubling with Facebook ads as well. How did you structure your ads and what did your landing page look like?

Andreea: Sure, so I decided with Facebook to actually to do a contest, so I set up an app on Face book. I used a service called, and they allow you to– I mean it’s a more to some of the other ones like I think Wildfireapp maybe they’ve changed their name I can’t remember, but you basically just build an app on Face book and when I would set up my ads people would go directly to that app on Face book and when would have– I ended up recording a video. It was super quick I think under a minute and I encouraged people to enter their name and email address and win a year’s worth of soap and I– right who doesn’t want to win a year’s worth of soap.

So I ended up getting a lot email addresses that way and a lot of buzz around that and then people would share it, but the thing that I did with the Facebook ads is that, I structured it so that I could reach out to not only other soap companies that I thought were my competitors, but also other companies that had similar products because all of my soaps had again inspirational words on them just like my T-shirts.

Steve: Mm-huh.

Andreea: So I reached out or I targeted – like inspirational jewelry companies which there are so many out there. I targeted other soap businesses– there’s a lot of like inspirational journals and mugs and candles and inspirational gifts. So I targeted a lot of those audiences as well and plus some eco-friendly bloggers and mom bloggers and all of that. So I think the reason I had success with my soap business and the Facebook ad is because I really targeted to specific audiences who liked all of these other companies and I assumed that if they like this company then they probably would like my soaps as well.
Steve: Okay, so the whole point of that was to get email addresses which you then would market to directly once they were on your list?

Andreea: Exactly.

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: Yup, mm-huh, exactly.

Steve: Yeah that’s what I was actually getting at when I asked you that question because a lot of people they buy Facebook ads and they just point it at their store and that traditionally doesn’t work very well.

Andreea: It’s right, that’s true, you have– mm-huh.

Steve: Okay so also on your website you they always say that you teach a course on Pinterest. So I was just wondering how you use Pinterest for your businesses as well.

Andreea: Sure, so it’s really interesting because with Pinterest I sort of discovered it by accident and I was looking at my Google analytics one day and I think Pinterest was like the third or fourth refer on my website and I thought how much this Pinterest thing I’ve never been on it. let me go check it out and then when I went on it I was kind of confused because I thought okay, I’m seeing mostly products for women here and I have LaunchGrowJoy which – where I teach people how to market their businesses so how do the two tie in together? And then I Goggled you know how do you know what has been pinned from your site and all of these things.

So I found out what articles people were pinning and I think the reason I was having success with Pinterest is that with some of my articles I created little graphics that had the title of the article in it, so that way when someone came to my site and they would see my articles that– and they were relevant to them they would actually pin my image that was on my site. And the other thing that I did too with Pinterest is that I– when I first launched LaunchGrowJoy I ended up interviewing a lot of entrepreneurs, and a lot of those entrepreneurs would pin their own articles from my site to their Pinterest board which I had no idea they were doing that I think that went for a year before I even really knew that they were doing that and then it slowly started to gain traction.

And then I decided to open up an account and really get more– have a plan around Pinterest, so I ended up launching this infographic and it had nothing to do with like product or fashion, but it was an infographic titled 30 ways to promote your blog post and it was targeted towards entrepreneurs that had a blog, and I was giving them ideas on how they can get their content out there rather than having to write more, that they would have to promote more and get a lot more over it. So, that infographic was crazily enough reap end over 50,000 times now which is crazy and I still you know I don’t spend that much time on Pinterest anymore now although I still like I still pin all of my articles that I write or any other let’s say now that I’m talking to you when your podcast goes live if you post it on your site, I’ll pin it to my Pinterest board as well.

So I still do things like that every time I have a guest post or an interview, or I write my own post on site as well. But it’s not as you know obviously that doesn’t get rip end 50,000 times but for some reason this infographic people just loved it and I still get so much traffic and I think still now my– so much of my traffic comes from Pinterest even more so than Facebook and I spend so much more time on Face book. So once I really realized the power of Pinterest, and I started to get really specific and I started to talk to other entrepreneurs who were having success about it, I realized that I probably this is a great tool for any entrepreneur that has a product. So I started teaching entrepreneurs how to do it, and that’s when I decided to create my own Pinterest course as well.

Steve: Okay, so did you use Pinterest at all for your soap business or?

Andreea: I did yes and I was getting the turn of traffic from Pinterest. It was my top-refer outside of Google…

Steve: Really, wow.

Andreea: From my Pinterest as well, yes. Mm-huh.

Steve: So what are some of your strategies on getting people to pin your soaps?

Andreea: Sure, so some of my strategies is that I also did a contest on Pinterest just like I did on Face book and I was able to– now that I had built the list, I was able to reach out to list and ask them to pin their favorite soaps. I also– the other thing that I did that worked really well is that I had my designer create quotes. So I did some research, made a list of like my top 200 favorites quotes, and I had my designer create these little images that reflected my– the branding that I had on my soaps and put one of each quote on these– it was like maybe like a 400 by 400 image and every day or a couple of times a day I would pin one of those images and that image had my URL the URL at the bottom and I would link it back to my site.

So I started pinning these things a couple of times a day and quotes are spread like crazy on Pinterest, and people would see that quote they would love it, they would re-pin it and a lot of times people clicked through to see where that quote leads and then they would land on my soap page and sometimes I would link for example if I had a quote about hope and I had a soap that said hope on it, then I would link from that code directly to my hope soap and that helps.

Steve: Yes.

Andreea: Yeah I mean it really, really helps. So a lot of times they weren’t even pinning my soaps, they were pining or and re-pinning these quotes that my designer had created and I would just upload on a daily basis.

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: Yeah.

Steve: That’s a good idea. So how did the contest work? How did you know who’s been pinning your stuff and how did you announce the winner and that sort of thing?

Andreea: So with the contest I– well on Facebook I had all of their email addresses so I just randomly picked the winner, but on Pinterest I asked people to tag and I think it was like a soaps to live by tag, and then I would see who tagged their photos with that and then just pick a random person to win from there. But Pinterest was a little easier because you could do this hash tag thing and that really, really helped and sometimes I would ask people to leave a comment. So another way you can structure a contest is to have people– so I put a photo of all of my soaps on one board, and then I would ask people to say which one of the soaps was their favorite and they could just leave a comment in the comment section, but then the other requirement was for them to also follow my boards.

Steve: Okay.

Andreea: So that was easy because all of the comments were right there.

Steve: Right and so you draw traffic to Pinterest and Face book pages through your email list as well for this contest initially right?

Andreea: Yes and I also had it at times on my home page of my soap business.

Steve: Okay, these are all great ideas.

Andreea: Yeah, I mean they worked really, really well and by the time I was doing this for a few months with the soap business I was starting to see some of those press mentions in magazines, so then traffic started to grow from there as well and I didn’t have to spend as much on doing Facebook ads.

Steve: Okay, well great we’ve already been talking for 50 minutes, it actually blew by. I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but a couple of questions I ask everyone, you seem to be a very driven person. Were there any books or publications that kind of influenced you in any way to take on this world of entrepreneurship?

Andreea: I mean I love reading books especially business books, so I mean I’ve read everything from– like one of my first books that I remember, it was called “The Attractor Factor” and it was by Joe Vitale and it was basically a book about how you can have anything you want if you just go out and start working towards it. So I think that really inspired me because instead of like waiting for someone to hand me a job or to hand me a promotion or a raise, I realized that wow I could really do my own thing here and build my own future.
So I think that was one of the earliest books that really, really influenced me in terms of deciding to launch my own business, and then obviously I read things like “The 4-hour Work Week” and “The E-myth” and all of those kinds of books as well that I think every entrepreneur reads at some point. And then one other thing that I wanted to mention I think Entrepreneurial magazine was huge for me as well and just reading stories from other entrepreneurs, and learning about different ways that people have success as an entrepreneur was really inspiring and I mean I still continue to read Entrepreneur magazine and Fast Company and all of those business magazines as well.

Steve: Okay great, and so Andreea where can we– where can people find you online if they want to contact you?

Andreea: They can find me at

Steve: Okay and you mentioned earlier that you started a podcast; you want to tell us about where we can find the podcast as well.

Andreea: Sure, so that podcast is on iTunes and if you search for launch grow joy that should definitely come up and I love doing the podcast. I think it’s such a great way to connect with my audience on a much more intimate level, so I’ve been having a lot of fun with that.

Steve: Okay, great. I know I will be going to check it out right after this interview. So, thanks a lot Andreea, thanks a lot for coming on the4 show.

Andreea: Great. Thanks so much Steve; it’s been fun talking to you.

Steve: Okay. Take care.

Isn’t Andreea cool? After this interview ended, Andreea and I spoke for another half an hour, and she really is an amazing person. Even with two kids, she still manages to go full steam into her various businesses, she’s willing to try new things and she’s constantly learning. Now, when she didn’t know anything about making clothing, she picked it up; when she knew nothing about publicity, she figured it out. In fact, her interview gave me some great ideas on how to promote my own online store via publicity and Pinterest.
For more information about this episode, go to 27, and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud, but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks, so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show, and please tell your friends, because the greatest complement you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person, or just share it on the web. And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this contest, go to, and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini-course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit, in our first year of business; go to for more information, and thanks for listening.

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026: How Autumn Wyda Quit Her Job To Sell Wedding Invitations And Thrives In A Competitive Niche

Autumn Wyda

Autumn Wyda quit her job cold turkey in order to start Shine Wedding Invitations, a beautiful website that sells wedding invitations online. Now quitting her job took a lot of guts because she gave up her salary even though her business wasn’t making any money.

But she had tremendous confidence in her abilities and today she runs a very successful online stationery shop that makes enough money that her husband quit his job too to join her.

Autumn is a true entrepreneur she shares a lot of the strategies that she used to promote her shop in a very competitive niche. Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Autumn manages to compete in competitive niche
  • How Autumn used Etsy to test some of her designs before launching her main site
  • Why Autumn does not offer online personalization previews on her website
  • Why it’s more about the product than fancy technology
  • How Autumn got a publisher to take a chance on her business
  • How Autumn drives traffic to her site
  • Which advertising platforms have worked the best
  • Where Autumn focuses her marketing efforts today
  • How Autumn uses a blog to drive traffic to her site
  • Autumn’s experience with Elance and 99Designs

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast” where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring in famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information.
Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I have Autumn Wyda with us on the show. Now I actually didn’t know Autumn at all until she randomly entered my podcast contest and in the contest entry she wrote the following: Steve, I just wanted to take a minute and say thanks for putting yourself out there for blog and your podcast. I own Shine Wedding Invitations and I have been working in wedding ecommerce for the past 5 years. I just read your blog and just recently subscribed to your podcast. Both are fantastic. And she then went on to tell me you know how she quit her job in order to start her online business and that her husband recently quit too to kind of help her out with the business and that her husband recently quit too to kind of help her out with the business and this last line is the one that actually hooked me. She said, “If I can ever be of any help to your linens business please let me know. It looks like your website is ranking pretty well right now, but if a blog post and some back links would help you, I’m happy to put something together as a thank you providing such great information on your blog and your podcast.

So here is what struck me about Autumn’s email. So one, her email caught my eye because we shared something in common, and two she didn’t ask for help but instead offered to help me out instead. So what did I do? I immediately went over to her website, checked it out, it’s awesome by the way and I immediately asked her for an interview just right then and there. So Autumn runs, which sells you guested wedding invitations. Now, wedding invitations is an extremely competitive niche. My wife and I ran a store in the wedding industry and its just a very competitive niche to begin with and you know what’s funny about this is that in my course that I teach on the side, I actually advise students to stay away from such related niches like Autumn’s. But she’s made it work really well and she makes enough money that both she and her husband quit their jobs. And with that I’m very impressed so without further ado, welcome to the show, Autumn, how are you today?

Autumn: I’m great, thanks Steve.

Steve: Yes, Autumn, so how did you come up with wedding invitations and give us a brief overview about what sets your invitations apart from the hundreds of other stationery shops out there.

Autumn: Oh gosh, well just how I came up with the idea is basically, I had always wanted to run a business. And I worked in engineering for a long time and I kind of knew that I didn’t want that to be my career. I wanted to quit my job, start something on the side. I got into sales and that position gave me a lot of flexibility and time and I started reading some interesting books like the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and it was just total inspiration I just going and get something started. So I actually followed Tim’s book pretty closely, he had some homework sessions as the end of each chapter that asked you to brainstorm business ideas and make list, I did all of these things.
And you know I had a list of dozens and dozens of ideas and I would just go through and kind of cross them out, or circle different ideas and of course the classic thing you know I was planning a wedding and I thought “Hey, wedding invitations, I can really do this”. I had a background in commercial printing, I was working in Kodak at the time and kind of in that industry so I knew about that and then I looked at the sites that we were going to purchase invitations from. And I certainly think that they were all that great and it is funny you are saying it is a very heavily saturated niche.

We opened in 2008 under a different name at the time. And at that time honestly I looked at the sites and I thought a lot of them were dated. One of the biggest competitors today which I think you just interviewed Wedding Paper Divas, they actually only had 50 designs at that time and their site was one of the better sites and I thought, hey, the site is ranking well, they are advertising, clearly they are making money and they only had 50 designs I can get in on this. So while you know it is a saturated and competitive market I think even just a few short years ago really wasn’t that bad. And I saw an opportunity that I could possibly make money you know if other people were advertising and making money, I felt that I probably could too.

Steve: That’s interesting because let’s see, we got married in 2003 and I think the first place we went to was just local stationery shops. I think we went to places like paper stores, we didn’t really think to look online actually.

Autumn: Right, absolutely and that just really came about I mean I would say in the mid 2000 starting to get popular we were looking like I said a lot of stores just weren’t up-to-date, they didn’t have modern designs to choose from, and I really only saw one or two stores that did and that’s why I thought hey, this looks like an opportunity.

Steve: Ah, okay so maybe I was just thinking in the present tense. Now, there’s lots of places that do wedding invitations, but I had to be honest with you know I actually looked at your site along with my wife and your invitations do look very classy, much more elegant than some of the other competitors out there. So I can completely tell why you are successful.

Autumn: Awesome, thank you so much. Yeah, and it’s funny because I kind of started off on a different path. I kind of focused on the lower mid market price point and we kind of had just we didn’t even take photographs if you look on our site we actually photographed the product against a white background and before I was just taking design screenshots and a lot of sites were doing the same thing. And our designs just weren’t that great, they are more on the modern side, and as we went along I saw it was selling. And it wasn’t the modern designs; it was all of our classy designs.

So I thought, hmm, this website is selling this is what I need to make more of so instead of adding to that site I decided to branch out and you know test a different market segment and test different designs and we actually did that on Etsy. And immediately the Etsy store just totally took off, and I could see that this is what people wanted and this was an opportunity in the market that you know wasn’t being met. There was a need that wasn’t being met, and so that’s kind of where I started to focus our store and our designs and I think that’s what has made us successful.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about that it sounds like you have tested the market on Etsy. But there is actually a lot of different factors that kind of come into play based on you know people who sell on Etsy. For example, I know for a fact that Etsy have changed their algorithm through visibility several times over the course of the last 5 years or so. So, was there anything special you did to drive traffic to Etsy shops to test the market or you just let the Etsy search engine to do its own thing?

Autumn: Oh gosh, yes things did change so back when I started my Shine Etsy Store, they were doing like eBay is doing, so they would put the most recently listed items first, and we were constantly at the top and I actually had my husband who is a pretty good [Inaudible] [00:07:39] bring in little algorithm that would constantly push the listings. So we would just pop up at the top. We’d sell something we pop back up, we sell something we pop back up and you know we would sell the same item over and over and over again the same day, it was awesome. So I kind of heard a little bit of a [Inaudible] [00:07:54] right there but even after they changed their algorithm, we continued to do well. And honestly I just think it was the products themselves and the product photos that made us successful there.

Steve: Okay, so walk me through how this whole process works because I remember, I still remember actually when we got our wedding invitations done locally at the store, and it was just this long drawn out process. How do you guys handle order fulfillment and kind of how does your business model work?

Autumn: Right, so we kind of handle all the ecommerce and the design. So somebody comes to our site and they place their order and they actually just fill out a form. And they don’t get to see a live preview like many other wedding sites. And just to note on that funny budding entrepreneurs when I first started my site had an online personalizer where you could actually see your wording and how your invitation was going to look. And I was so completely set on the idea that my customers absolutely had to have this great technology where they could see what they were going to get otherwise they were not going to buy. So I spent all this money on a custom website that I had made overseas, I’d outsourced it and that first business kind of failed and it was because the designs just weren’t what people wanted.

So then I moved the Shine where you just fill out this form on a website. So I just wanted to make the point that you know you may think that your customers need this fancy technology but it’s more about the product and that’s what I found. So we actually have a really simple process where they just go online enter the wording and then one of our designers actually puts it into our software, lays everything out, makes it beautiful. We send the customer an email with their proofs, their PDF’s and then once they are all good to go they actually get some to print through our printing partner filled that way.

Steve: Okay. So one question I had in my mind actually was you mentioned that you had all the software to give your customer the live preview of the invitation. Do you think that failed because the live preview just didn’t look as nice as what your designer’s could put together themselves, or was it just because you had completely different designs back then?

Autumn: I think that was part of it. I think that you know our designs had some elements when you really do need that human touch and the eye to do it correctly. I mean also I think our customers just didn’t want to deal with that, they didn’t want to sit on a computer for an hour and a half and move around lines of type. You know we are catering to like the made and high end market, and I think they just want to add another wording in and leave it up to a professional. And so it works out for us because the online personalization software was kind of a bear and it just had so many bugs and you still had the designer proof anyways, so it’s kind of nice, I mean when I started my second store Shine, we actually started on a 40 dollar WordPress template and we’ve taken in hundreds of thousands of normal sales through our 40 dollar template, so it can be done. So you don’t necessarily need crazy technology to do well and be successful.

Steve: You know that actually directly applies to our store because we do personalization on our handkerchiefs as well. And in the back of my mind I was thinking about doing what you just described which was provide a live preview. But I kind of started coating it up and I was like this thing is going to be slow as heck, it’s going to slow down my site…

Autumn: Definitely.
Steve: And they are going to be glitches where the photo doesn’t pop up sometimes, and so I just kind of dropped that idea altogether . It’s good to know that your experience was it didn’t actually really help complete the sales so.

Autumn: Yeah, it gave us some experience, you are probably totally fine (laughter).

Steve: So you know one trend that I have been actually noticing with a lot of other people that I have been interviewing is that people have chosen to do many more– I don’t want to say the word ‘manual’ but people have been just taking that extra mile to really take care of the customers. So like you said, since you sign up and you place an order you actually get assigned a real human designer. And how much of that has– you know how did you kind of juggle scalability versus the personal human touch with your business?
Autumn: Right, so when we initially thought of this idea and started it I mean we wanted it completely automated it. I’m all about automation, I love watching how it’s made on the discovery channel. I can’t see anyone they have human process it drives me nuts. But for our business it just turned out that you really did need someone there personalizing the invitations. And it’s actually not that bad, you know we had several employees and the company is totally virtual, so everybody works from home. So it’s not like we had to rent space and you know get a big building and pay all these bills everyone is still just been working from laptops. So while human is in there we have it set up in a way that it’s actually so pretty efficient.

Steve: Okay, in terms of your designs do you actually design them yourself, or the designers just constantly channel out designs on their own?

Autumn: I did design the initial 40 or 50 designs and we have additional designs now and my employees definitely contributes so its kind of a group effort, and that’s one of the fun things that we get to do, we don’t often see each other since we are all virtual but you know once every Fall we get together and try to put together you know 15 to 20 new designs. So that’s kind of a fun part of it. So yes, I definitely hire my people based on their design skills and they definitely contribute.

Steve: So are all these people full time employees or do you just kind of pay them as business comes in?

Autumn: They are full time yes and we definitely need them full time as well so.

Steve: And so how does the fulfillment work, so you don’t have an office space from what I understand, is that correct?

Autumn: Correct, so we have a printing partner, and they’ve actually shared part of their space for us so we have like a little bit of access to a room there.

Steve: I see and so how does that deal work out in terms– like how did you approach them in regards to just becoming partners for your business in the very beginning?

Autumn: Right, so basically I had just called all over town. I had called numerous commercial printers asking if they did short run and many printers aren’t set up for short run and they wanted to do like thousands and thousands of prints. So once I found a few digital printers that were able to do short run I evaluated a few and looked at you know chose a few different that passed out. And really I had two partners and I went down to one. And one thing was the envelope printing we had a heck of a time finding someone to print envelopes. Nobody wanted to do it and I must have called I can’t even tell you like 60 or 70 places just asking if they printed envelopes. And finally somebody bid and they gave me an excellent price and that’s who our partners today.

Steve: Interesting. So do you guys– in the very beginning did you have any sort of deals in place or was it just straight here is the business I will pay you full price in the beginning, and then we will just from there?

Autumn: Right so, I mean I didn’t get definite wholesale pricing from the get-go but I promised everybody that I would grow. And our current printer I told him that you know look, just give me a chance and I promise I will become your number one customer and we have become his number one customer. So you know that was great for him and also great for me because by committing to that and you know just giving that verbal agreement it kind of made me get off my bar and make sure that I went out and got the business and did fulfill my promise to him.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about just the industry in general. So I mentioned it earlier that you know it is a pretty competitive niche. So how did you actually get customers in the door earlier on?

Autumn: Right so, we did a lot of advertising through blogs, AdWords, Facebook and the thing with that is it just constantly changes from year to year. Every year one place for traffic is really expensive and a new one comes up it gets really cheap. So I kind of always just looked at the numbers and tried to find cheap traffic, and I was able to do that successfully. And then I did mention Etsy earlier you know we are kind of like going along with our business and then we decided to test Shine on Etsy. And the reason I did that is because I was having another stationery colleague and she had a pretty successful store as well, we were kind of trading information and she mentioned that Etsy was 40% of her sales and I was just absolutely blown away. That’s why I decided to give that market place a try, and I was a little concerned that you know maybe if you were on Etsy, you wouldn’t be taken as seriously kind like an eBay store which is a full flagged website but it turns out that’s where customers are shopping. And if your audience is there, you might as well sell there. So I decided to give it a chance and that was really great way to test pretty much no cost. And it showed that my product would be successful and then from there we went and built a website.

Steve: So today do you still have that Etsy shop up?

Autumn: Yeah, we definitely do and we still generate a lot of sales through it. For wedding Etsy is huge. So we have to kind of stay there.

Steve: So in terms of once you get an Etsy customer, do you actually provide incentives to shop on your real sites or doesn’t really even matter to you.

Autumn: Oh I would love it if they shopped on the real site because Etsy is just like eBay, it has fees. However you know Etsy has rules and regulations and if a customer comes through them– through Etsy they want to retain that customer and so I respect that and I try to follow the rules there. So,

Steve: But you are allowed to include marketing collateral once you make the delivery right?

Autumn: Yeah, that’s correct. Then it’s up to the customer’s choice if they want to place a follow up order on our website or Etsy.

Steve: Okay. So you mention a whole bunch of things. So you mentioned blog advertising, AdWords, Facebook and that sort of thing. So, let’s just kind of go through each one because I am curious myself. So blog advertising– so which blogs did you target, and how did those ads perform for you.
Autumn: Right so, I tried to just focus on the large wedding blogs at the time. And the biggest one was Style Me Pretty, that’s kind of where I made the largest investment and that definitely has paid off. We run advertising with them, they do a great job and we have just gone through lots of different blogs through the years and some work some don’t, you know we’ll commence for a few months or a year and then pull out if it’s not really performing. And it is a little bit hard to tell on our niche just because we sell– a cycle is so long, so often times the bride will be looking for her wedding invitations eight to twelve months before she actually places the order. So you can’t always tell from Google analytics where the sale is coming from and you can make a good guess. So I kind of just evaluate what’s performing well and make marketing decisions based on that.

Steve: You know what’s funny is you mention that it’s a long sales cycle. For us it’s actually the opposite. So invitations are a necessary thing for a wedding, whereas our products are just kind of like an after thought.

Autumn: Yeah.

Steve: So, we actually have people call us like the week before. Sometimes there’ve been people who called us two days before their wedding wanting our handkerchiefs, so it’s a little bit different. I’m just curious though, so let’s talk about Style Me Pretty so did you buy like a side bar ad or a post or you know what type of bar did you buy.

Autumn: So we set it up this side bar ad and then we’ve done posts with them which are really successful, and we’ve done the same on other wedding blogs.

Steve: Okay, and so how is the arrangement– so what works better the side bar or the post or?

Autumn: You know a little bit of both. I mean they are both great. The only thing I found recently is that I think a lot of our audience is moving over the Pinterest so– I don’t know– are you aware of Pinterest or you, definitely.

Steve: Absolutely, Pinterest is awesome. Anyway go on, yeah.

Autumn: Yeah, so we found that over the years it seems like our audience is moving away from blogs and actually doing more of their shopping and looking and planning on Pinterest. So we’ve kind of you know migrated a little bit from spending as much money on the blogs, and actually doing our own work on Pinterest.

Steve: Okay, and let’s talk about that. So what are some of the things that you do on Pinterest?

Autumn: So we definitely tried you know paint on our own boards. We do work with other people to kind of promote pens and get our pens out there to larger audiences. But you know it’s just painting a little bit every day does make a difference, and we also have a company blog where we you know show our invitations in different colors. And so everyday we are photographing new things and posting things there and then we show on Pinterest. So it’s kind of like a combination of things that you do along in those channels that can actually get more visitors.

Steve: So I’m just curious. You mentioned you have a blog. So how does the blog kind of come into the entire strategy of bringing customers to your shop? Do you find that you got a lot of blog visitors who find you through the blog and then go on to buy your wedding invitations?

Autumn: Definitely, our blog is one of our biggest referrals now, and I absolutely love it and I definitely recommend blogging to any entrepreneur just because you know if you are paying for lets say a side bar tile on a blog like a wedding blog. You are paying for that side bar tile but then at the end of the year you have to pay again if you want it to continue to be there. Whereas when you blog you know you invest that time or money right upfront, you make your blog post and it’s there forever and you know Google indexes it and its there forever so you’re going to continually get traffic basically for free after you have put in the initial work. And you know a lot of companies will blog about you know ideas or inspiration we kind of focus right on our products, I mean we know people are searching for wedding invitations in different colors and styles. So we do blog posts on invitations in different colors and styles. And you know some people may say that’s pimping your product a little too much but it really does work for us. So that’s what we are going to continue to do.

Steve: I can tell you why it works for you Autumn, its because your photos are awesome.

Autumn: Oh thank you so much [laughter].

Steve: Because I know for a fact, I look around wedding blogs out there and a lot of times it’s just a collection of pictures. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the same thing.

Autumn: Definitely.

Steve: Very little text so the pictures is really what draws the people to a wedding blog and I think that since your pictures are so good naturally people just naturally gravitate there, and I’m sure you sell a lot through it. So it’s kind of a rhetorical question that I just asked you [laughter]. So do you do anything to promote your blog post at all or is it just straight you post and that’s it?

Autumn: We just post. And you know sometimes we mention on our Facebook but people are just finding us organically through the blog post.

Steve: So just curious in regard to your photography. Do you– are you a photographer yourself or did you hire somebody.

Autumn: Well in school I did minor in photography, I’ve had a passion for it since I was in high school, so I do take my own photographs. I’m glad you like them but you know I really think they could be better, but that’s just my own self criticism– my own perfectionism coming into play. So, I do have a little studio south of my house with a white background and I just photograph right there in the spare bedroom.

Steve: So that certainly helps out a lot that department. You know our photos admittedly aren’t that great, but they are doing the job right now but you know at some point we want to invest in some more professional photography I don’t know. So what was I going to ask you next, oh yes, AdWords. So have you had success with AdWords because I imagine those key words are really expensive to purchase.

Autumn: They are really expensive. And four or five years ago I did a lot more of it and I’m just doing barely any today. I don’t focus a lot because it is rather expensive and you know there is only a certain amount we can spend per customer to make an order profitable for us.

Steve: Yeah, I guess the difference between the wedding industries is like hopefully people are only getting married once, and so there is no like lifetime value with the wedding customer per se right unless they get divorced [laughter].

Autumn: Right, yeah and they can come back for programs and place cards and they have accessories. But you know not everybody does so we definitely have a certain value for each customer, and we just can’t exceed a certain marketing budget for them.

Steve: Okay. And what are your experiences with Facebook advertising?

Autumn: Up and down, so again same thing four or five years ago I was doing so much on Facebook. I mean I was getting clicks for like 10 and 15 cents it was just awesome, and they were converting. It was great and then you know over the years Facebook changed and it was just not working at all, so I completely stopped and then just recently with the news feed ads which changed, and we’ve tried that again and we were seeing some success but they can get expensive as well. So I’ve just kind of been playing around to see what pictures have the best conversions, and then and the best clicks through rates, but it is nice because they can see a picture of the product upfront through the AdWords but they don’t see a picture. So you know if they see the picture and they click you already know that that lead is more qualified than let’s say someone clicking from AdWords where they’re just clicking on text. So I do think that Facebook is a little more successful in that way.

Steve: So I was going to ask you so do you just send them to your product landing page or do you have like a sign up form with the Facebook ads?

Autumn: I do send them right into our website, and then we have been doing free samples of our wedding invitations so we kind of mention that in the ads as well, and we see a lot of conversion from that.

Steve: Okay, and then do you kind of try to grab an email address at that point or is it just customer engagement when they sign up for free samples?

Autumn: Just the customer you know from the free sample. Yes we don’t do a ton with email. Yeah, I kind of mad at myself for that I need to get on it, but you know being small you can only do so much.

Steve: No, yeah no, I totally understand. I was just trying to understand you know all the different avenues that you use. So out of everything what is working the best for you right now?

Autumn: I would say probably Pinterest and just doing our own blog post. It’s the cheapest and therefore I mean its kind of the best ROI.

Steve: Do you invest in SEO at all or it is just from your blog’s natural SEO?

Autumn: Basically the blog’s natural SEO you know years back I’d done some reading and I tried to incorporate some SEO on our site, but we can always be better. We are ranking pretty well for some key words, but it’s hard to gain that system so we kind of that just figure let’s just make a lot of nice looking blog posts with some decent key words and see what happens because its not worth obsessing over.

Steve: You know it sounds like you are doing the right thing because you mentioned that you are creating your blog post based on what people are searching for, so you are choosing probably multi word phrases that you know like blue wedding invitations with birds on it or something like that, right?

Autumn: Exactly.

Steve: You are more likely to rank with that than you are if you were just trying to target the wedding invitations by itself.

Autumn: Right, even though that would be the absolute best keyword to have, but we are doing pretty well there but we are not on the first page yet [laughter].

Steve: Well, I can imagine that wedding invitations in itself is a very hard keyword to rank for. So, okay let’s see what else was I going to talk about. Okay, so what would you say is your primary source of customers today, is it word of mouth or is it just through these other sources?
Autumn: You know it’s a really huge mix just between Pinterest, organic through the blog, regular organic search results, the wedding blogs. I can’t really pin point one thing, but pretty equally distributed which makes me feel good because then if one area starts to drop your whole business isn’t going into the tank. So I think definitely diversifying your traffic is a good strategy.

Steve: Okay and I also noticed on your site you have actually got a ton of press coverage for your products. How did you manage to get in the magazines and get the press coverage that you have gotten and so far?

Autumn: Honestly I wish I could say I had a certain strategy but it’s been more luck, just you know editors seeing our things and you know requesting samples and putting them on the magazines. So you know I would like to have a strategy in place where I did reach out to these people but it can be difficult to get the names and addresses of editors. So right now we just kind of put our stuff out there on our blog and at the Pinterest and that’s how we get contacted.

Steve: Okay I mean incidentally that’s the same way we’ve gotten in magazines and that’s– you just get randomly contacted and then and they are like “can you send me something?” I’m like yeah, I’ll send you everything I have, whatever you want.

Autumn: Definitely.

Steve: So have you actually– I would be curious also to have you seen significant uptakes and sales whenever you get featured in a magazine?

Autumn: You know I will be honest, I actually haven’t. We even did a full page national advertisement in the knot magazine which goes out to– it was like 330,000 households and issues and we just didn’t see a huge return on that. So I’ve just decided the key part of our business is much online as possible. That’s where we excel, and that’s where our audience is really shopping.

Steve: Okay, you know just to share some of our experiences. Our magazine features have been kind of hit or miss. So believe it or not, so when we were brides and Martha Stewart weddings that actually didn’t generate that many sales. Then we got featured in like Country Living and this magazine called House Beautiful then all of a sudden you know a lot of people started buying those products featured in those magazines, so there was definitely a correlation like so one day I think we sold like 5 or 6 ex what we normally sell that particular product so clearly its weird but certain magazines even the smaller ones especially seem to be doing better for us.

Autumn: Interesting, that’s good.

Steve: And you probably heard about our today’s show parents so that was ridiculous like if we get on the today’s show it just blows up traffic, I don’t know.

Autumn: Wow, I can imagine.

Steve: All right, so it sounds like you are pretty talented in yourself. You are able to do these photos, you can design your own cards and that sort of thing. So if someone wanted to start something similar to what you do, would there be any advice like if I wanted to start a wedding invitations company– not that I would because you would crush me, but what advice would you give me?

Autumn: Well you know I actually didn’t start out doing everything myself, so initially I had outsourced a website design overseas, I had outsourced all the invitation designs to someone in Texas and another one in Canada and I actually used Elance and 99Designs so you know it can be done. You don’t actually have the skills, it was just that I also happen to have a passion for photography. So I decided to give it a start myself after I saw what was performing well and what wasn’t. And that just kind of worked for me because I chose a niche where I did enjoy doing the work that was related to the actual products. So my advice would be that you can outsource a lot of things and it can work just as well.

Steve: Interesting, so 99Designs you can just actually put out a rack for a wedding invitation and a whole bunch of people will compete for that? Is that…

Autumn: Right, and I think I had found that may have been later on. But I think I had found you know designers that way, so I may have started a contest and then actually just reached out to someone individually and formed a contract with them. I can’t exactly remember it’s a while ago.

Steve: Oh no, that’s okay and then what was your experience with Elance?

Autumn: Elance, it was interesting I will say that we worked with a company in India and the cultural barrier was just huge. There were just a lot of different expectations, so if you can find someone in the US I think you’d a lot better off, or just use you know a free resource like I said our current site was actually based on word press and it was a 40 dollar template so again you don’t need to have technical expertise. I can only coat a tiny bit of each channel on CSS. So really I downloaded a template and changed the colors and started selling immediately. It was only later that my husband really started to help.

Steve: So what platform are you on now, are you still on word press?

Autumn: Yes we are, so caught we kind of grandfathered into this 40 dollar template but you know we have made tons of modifications to it. So we kind of own it right now and you know we are looking at redesigning it maybe in the next year or two. But really I mean we are doing tons of sales through it so you don’t have to be that sophisticated.

Steve: So Autumn I just thought I would share with you my experience as well so we are actually running a shopping cart that’s really antiquated but you know it works, right?

Autumn: Exactly.

Steve: It, doesn’t matter what platform you are as long as you are making sales it’s all good. So one mistake that I notice that a lot of people make is they want to switch to the most modern platform but in doing the transition they screw up and sometimes they completely screw up their SEO rankings.

Autumn: Right.

Steve: So.

Autumn: Right and we– that’s one thing we talk about all the time. We love to transition to something that just makes our back ends smoother and makes updates easier but you just don’t want to risk messing up a good thing.

Steve: Yes, so I thought I would ask you a little bit about this. So you mentioned that your site makes more money now and your husband actually quit his job to help you out. Since this is something that I’ve been kind of struggling with myself. You know what was the decision making process for him and quitting his job to join you?

Autumn: Right, so basically he was really unhappy at his job and you know there are a lot of layoffs going around we were just waiting for the other shoot to drop and we just said you know what, let’s just make this decision, let’s just do it and it’s been great. You know we love being home together. It can be a little grading at times and there can be some arguments for sure I mean we see each other 24/7. But it’s nice, I mean you know he doesn’t have to put up with his creeper job anymore, and you know we make plenty of money to cover both of our salaries. So I mean it can be stressful because it is a business so you don’t have that solid pay check coming in for the rest of your life but you know once you are doing pretty well, there is not a whole lot of risk like you know you are sacked so.

Steve: Yeah, actually that’s one of the things that I tell would be entrepreneurs you know once you’ve been in business for several years, it’s actually pretty stable. Like I can project the revenue, like my wife can predict– I shouldn’t say me my wife does all the finances, but she can predict the revenue you know for next quarter within you know plus or minus 10% pretty consistently. So it’s not like it’s this random thing where you experience a certain crush or you know of course it can happen but most likely it’s not going to.

Autumn: Right and one scary thing is we will have a slow week or sometimes a slow two weeks, but then the next two weeks after that are absolutely insane. So it is kind of annoying how you know there can be lows and highs but over time it evens out and you just get used to it.

Steve: So I’m curious too, since it sounds like we have a lot of parallels, your husband is an engineer I’m an engineer. I know for a fact that when I work with my wife on our business together and I only do it on the side not full time, we actually end up fighting over a lot of things. So how do you kind of keep the business stuff separate and not get into these arguments about the direction of the company?

Autumn: I’ll be honest we’re still learning.

Steve: Okay.

Autumn: Yeah, there can definitely be a lot of arguments and I know just enough technical stuff to be really annoying and he knows way more than me so he gets super annoyed with me. I mean, we get into like a lot of brawls, but at the end of the day its just work and you just have to put your marriage first.

Steve: Okay, that’s much easier said than done.

Autumn: It’s much easier said than done [laughter]. So yeah we are still learning and we are still getting through it, but I won’t trade the business for the world. I do a lot of it and I think he enjoys it too. So it’s much better than a day job even with all of its faults, much better than a day job.

Steve: Yeah, just– I thought I just share this also. So one thing that my wife and I do is now we just completely split up the work to the point where we are not overlapping at all, and she just rules the roast in terms of you know running the business the day to day, and I kind of work more on the marketing and the tech side so at least that’s how we’ve minimized the arguments.

Autumn: Yeah, definitely and he does mostly only coating. So that keeps things separate as well.

Steve: Okay, so you are putting him in a cubicle and just throwing him some pizzas every now and then right.

Autumn: Well that’s a key side that I do, I don’t think I do [laughter].

Steve: Yeah, it’s funny because my wife occasionally comes up to me, she says, ‘I need this feature, this feature, this feature and this feature. And I’m like that’s a lot of work that will take me like the next couple of months to do it.

Autumn: Well that’s what he says and then it’s magically done in three weeks after a lot of mourning and groaning so I don’t know [laughter].

Steve: So I have to make a note that you and my wife should not talk because I think if you compare notes it would be kind of scary.

Autumn: Oh God, you should totally talk to my husband, I’m sure you guys will conspire on a lot of things because you vent, get your stress out [laughter].

Steve: So you mentioned that you like the 4-Hour work week, were there any other books that kind of influenced you to take this leap of entrepreneurship.
Autumn: You know I did read a lot of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and then I really got into Tim Ferriss “The 4-Hour Work Week” and that book really– that was really my jumping up point. That just got me so pumped and I would say you kind of have to be a little bit insane to start a business because you’ve got to totally shut out all the naysayers, all the negativity, all the skeptics and you’ve got to focus and put in just a ton of work upfront, and take a lot of risks. So you’ve got to be kind of crazy to really start something and that book just really inspired me, just put me in the right state of mind, and I was able to just get all that work done upfront when it was needed.

Steve: Did you quit your job first, or did you work on your business while working full time?

Autumn: So at the time I was working as a sales rep. So I had a flexible schedule and I really wasn’t working all day, it was kind of nice. So I had plenty of time to do a little bit of leg work. So I’d say I worked on the business for about 5 or 6 months, and then I just started on quit and my husband supported me in this decision because I really wasn’t happy in my job as well, and I had no revenue at that point.

Steve: Oh you quit with no revenue?

Autumn: Yeah, I quit and I pretty much launched the site that day and we had the first sale the following week and you know I made a small amount of money the first year almost replaced my salary. I would say about like 60% but it wasn’t enough to really say it was a huge success, but then from there you know things kind of changed, Shine launched and then things just went really well from that point.

Steve: Just real quick tell me about that first sale where did it come from?

Autumn: That first sale, I am not sure where it came from [laughter] to be honest. I think it was just a direct hit in Google analytics, and it was funny because we were selling wedding invitations and our first sale somebody used our wedding invitation template for an engagement party invitation. So they didn’t order the response cards, they didn’t order anything else it was a tiny little sale and I kind of got really worried. I am like we– our first sale isn’t even a wedding invitation oh boy [laughter].

Steve: Okay, that’s really interesting. I was just curious because I remember my first sale as well, it was just this random guy who found us through AdWords and just bought something for like 20 bucks but I was ecstatic.

Autumn: Oh yeah, you can get so excited and I knew that first sale would come because I had been in test fully on marketing, and done a few little informational sites before that, and I was doing click bank books if you’ve heard of that. So I was kind of referring eBooks and getting commission off for that, so I knew if you’ve got a certain amount of traffic, you will eventually get a sale. So I had confidence but boy getting that first sale it was– it’s definitely awesome

Steve: Yeah, yeah so you are definitely more bold than I am like I wasn’t going to let my wife quit until you know we recently exceeded her salary with our business, and fortunately we did so she was able to quit but… All right Autumn you know we’ve been talking for quite a while now, I don’t want to take up too much of your time because you got a business to run. If anyone has any questions about this podcast where can they find you online?

Autumn: Yeah, you can reach out at and then feel free to check out our site .

Steve: Awesome, I will be sure to plug all of your stuff in the show notes because I do sincerely believe that your invitations are awesome and they are among the best ones that I’ve seen so far out there. If we were getting married again, we’d probably use you.

Autumn: Awesome, thanks so much it’s been great.

Steve: All right thanks a lot for your time Autumn.

Autumn: Yup.

Steve: All right take care.
If there is one thing about interviewing successful boot strapped entrepreneurs is that they simply find ways to get things done without a large upfront investment. Now Autumn got started with just a 40 dollar template for WordPress and then she decide to take on Adhorn and Tiny prints who I actually interviewed in a previous episode. Now Autumn makes a lot of money selling stationery, and it’s all because of her hustle and her emphasis on testing before investing.
For more information about this episode go to, and also if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please go to iTunes, search for the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud but it also helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, and find the show more easily, and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment that you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web. And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner a month. For more information, go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information and thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s Blog at

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If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

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025: How Jeff Rose Created A 6 Figure Blog To Drive Clients To His Offline Business

Jeff Rose

Jeff Rose is a good friend of mine who I met a long time ago randomly via the social networks. And the reason I asked him to be on the show is because he is easily one of the most charismatic bloggers that I know. Plus he’s a genuinely nice guy.

He makes 6 figures with his blog, Good Financial Cents, and owns various web properties that all generate a healthy income. But what’s unique about Jeff is that even though he makes a healthy income online, he primarily uses his web properties to drive new clients to his financial planning practice.

So if you own a professional services company and are looking for new ways to expand and attract clients, then this interview will teach you exactly how to do that. Oh and he also publishes his income reports online at and runs a life insurance site at

Below is an example of how Jeff puts himself out there and makes financial planning more entertaining. Personally, I wouldn’t have the guts to put on a video like this but he pulls it off.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Jeff cranks out content fast and efficiently
  • How to utilize an online business to improve your offline business
  • How Jeff recovered from a severe Google penalty
  • How to leverage every medium possible to get the word out about your business

Other Resources And Books


Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working, and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead, I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. If you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes, and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one-on-one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And if you’re interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini-course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now, on to the show.

Welcome to the my My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have a good friend of mine on the show Jeff Rose. Now if you don’t know who Jeff is, he blogs at, He’s got like three podcasts, his own financial planning practice and he actually makes a bunch of You Tube videos as well. And out of all the bloggers that I know, I would say that Jeff is probably one of the most charismatic personalities out there, and he’s actually built quite a brand for himself. Not to mention the fact that he also makes a good deal of money with his various businesses, and in fact he puts out all of his income online for everyone to see and I’ll go ahead and link that up with the show notes because it’s quite interesting where all the income sources come from.

Now Jeff is actually a hard man to track down. First of all you have to get past his virtual assistant, but fortunately I know all of his weak points, in and out burger, juicing and crossfits. So, step number one if you want to get a hold Jeff Rose, include in and out burger in the subject line of your email, and I may have also led him to believe that this podcast was about eating burgers. So sorry man no burgers here. Jeff is actually one of the reasons why I started this podcast in the first place. So welcome to the show Jeff. How are you doing man?

Jeff: You’re saying there is no in and out burger with this like– I’m sorry dude I got to go man.

Steve: I got you here, it’s too late, it’s too late we’re already recording.

Jeff : Cool man, thanks for having me on.

Steve : So you got a really interesting story, and I don’t know if a lot of people know about your back story. You kind of came from a poor upbringing. You joined the marines. What kind of made you decide to start your own business online?

Jeff : You know I mean my father struggled with that. I don’t want to make it sound like I was poor, poor but, let’s just say that both my parents they separated when I was a young age. My mom you know she has my step dad– he was pretty successful but, they just– both of them, mom stepdad and dad really did not know how to manage money at all. My dad filed for bankruptcy twice, my mom filed for bankruptcy once. At times, they had– my mom had five mortgages at one time.

Steve: Wow!

Jeff: And which like that’s what the [Inaudible] [00:03:37] but, they actually ended up losing like three of those like five properties because they just didn’t know what they were doing.

Steve: Was that during the craze with the real estate?

Jeff : No, no they– that was well before that. They actually– its funny you mention that because they finally like started doing better, sold their house in LA, moved to Las Vegas before the boom, and then they had cash left over that they actually were sitting pretty but, instead of sitting pretty, they invested it to a Vespa property in Las Vegas. Prior to that, they ended up losing two more houses to foreclosure. So yeah like that’s what I’ve been having to work through growing up, seeing some of those financial shortfalls along the way.

Steve : Man, okay. So you know what’s ironic about all of this, is that my parents, they kind of made their money through real estate, and you know at least that generation– they’ve always advised my brother and I to always buy real estate because that’s something that can never really go down. So it’s just interesting that your parents actually lost money during the boom with real estate so.

Jeff : Yeah, so like and you know my dad dropped out of college. You know when he was younger, he joined the army and after that he just kind of I don’t know he was like a car salesman, just kind of bounced around a lot of end jobs, and he always told me like you know he always wanted me to be– to do better than he is. So he really wanted me to go to college, you know do the whole degree thing, and I ended up dropping out my first semester of college, and started working a dead end job basically. And then I joined the army national guard, not the marines that you mentioned.

Steve: Oh my bad.

Jeff: It’s okay, it’s all good and you know joining the national guard for me was– that was my life savior I mean that, that’s what basically got my butt in gear, got me back on track just career wise and just getting focused again. And– but even still even getting my career back on track I still like knew nothing about investing or financial planning or really even how to manage money, and I end up becoming a finance major. Actually my dad suggested I be a Finance major, and you know I always listen to him so I went that path and ended up getting internship with a brokerage firm that ended up me becoming a financial planner and as they say the rest is history.

Steve: So.

Jeff: Go ahead.

Steve: You broke off from that to start your own practice eventually right?

Jeff: Yeah, so I did I was working for ‘the man’ for about five years building my book of business and probably one of the best things that happened was my old firm got bought out by a bigger firm and had that never happened I don’t know if I would have left, because I really enjoyed the company. That was the only coolade that I had drunk at that time and I liked the coolade I didn’t know any other, I didn’t want to try any other coolade, because I liked it. But, when they got bought out it forced me to kind of look at what other options existed and that’s when I ended up leaving with three others and co-founded our own investment firm, and we’re independent in our space is a common way of hearing that.

And when I went independent that allowed me to market myself a little bit more differently than others. I had a little bit more freedom and that’s really where the blog ended up. That’s where it all came from. With that ability to market myself and just looking for other unique ways to get myself out there and stumbled upon blogging and registered domain and it’s been a blast ever since then. That was back in July– I left December of 07, launched the blog in July of 2008.

Steve: So you actually started good financial cents to help promote your practice is that right or?

Jeff: Yeah, no that was that was basically the only reason. I mean I did have a passion for educating others, that was kind of the other underlying thing to it. But you know it was what it was. It was to market myself being an independent financial planner, and to hopefully get new clients. And along the way I learned more about blogging, about key words, and driving traffic and the fact that you can actually monetize the blog. First I started with Adsense, then eventually grew to using affiliates and other means. So it all– once I started blogging and networking with other bloggers, I just was opened up to an entirely new world that I was completely oblivious to at the time.

Steve: So let’s go in a little bit more depth. So how does JFC make money today?

Jeff: A combination, you know right now I still get the occasional new clients. Actually kind of a cool story I– this is three years in the making, I but I had a guy who I kind of knew here locally and he had seen some of my posts on Facebook where I share some of my blog comments or some of my blog articles and he emailed me. This was three years ago and said “Hey, I really appreciate your willingness to educate people on personal finance and investing. I have a friend that I want to introduce you to.” That was three years ago. Long story short that person just now finally got the money that they’d been waiting on to settle and brought in like 1.5 million dollars all because of my blogging efforts. But, that was like three years in the making, and at this point in time that is not the biggest client that I’ve got from my blog.

Steve: That’s awesome so I’ve been on your blog obviously many times. Is there– there doesn’t seem to be like a funnel that goes directly to your practice and at least as far as I could tell?

Jeff: Yeah, and that– its funny you mention that because we’re going to talk about a pivot here in a little bit, correct?

Steve: That’s correct at the very end. I said it out too early, didn’t I.

Jeff: You did that’s okay. You had an original question I forgot what that was?

Steve: How does it make money and yeah.

Jeff: Oh yeah. That is that is one way getting you know getting new clients that feed in to the practice. The the first way that I used to make money was using just using Google Adsense. Just because I really didn’t know any other way to make money. That was the easiest way, just slap some Adsense code on there, and let the money roll in. From there I started doing affiliates. My– probably my top revenue producers are like brokerage firms, Scottrade, TDAmeritrade, E-trade etcetera. I also do pretty good with the pure and pure lenders like lending club and Prosper and savings accounts like Capital One 360 and a few others. So affiliates are another revenue source and then banner advertising. I got a pretty good ad network where I get a fairly competitive CPM which you know is based on impressions. And those are basically the three ways I guess that bring in revenue.

Steve: So let me ask you this. So you said that you started Good Financial Cents to actually get more clients to you your practice, that was the initial intention. So doesn’t adding ads and you know Adsense and that sort of thing kind of– isn’t that kind of contrary to the kind of goal so to speak because you’re clicking on a banner that takes you off the site, so how does it all work together.

Jeff: That’s a great question. That’s something I had someone ask me the very beginning when I put ads on there, and what I– the logic that I went through to come to the conclusion why I left the ads on there was I cannot be a financial advisor for everybody. People are going to come to my site, they are going to– they’re maybe want to work with me maybe not, but if I can at least monetize that and get a few dollars from all the effort that I put into it, I’m okay with that. And the amount of clients I‘ve been able to get even with having advertising on there I think kind of speaks to that. So I feel like it’s just a nice secondary income that you know comes in and it’s a decent secondary income but…

Steve: Right, yeah, yeah, I’m definitely going to link up you’re your income reports in the show notes because it’s pretty impressive.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s just something that I wrestled with for a long time, but the final concluding factor or the thing I came to was Jeff you cannot be a financial advisor for everybody, and not everybody is going to want to hire you. The people who really want to hire you, they are going to look past the ads, they are going to contact you, ask a question. I get questions all the time, and I think that’s where, that’s where I guess that connection really builds. They contact me via email or contact form and really just share their entire financial history, and if I’m able to provide value you know that’s where there’s going to be– going to build that trust even having ads on the side.

Steve: So are all your clients kind of local to where you live or do you get people from all over the country?

Jeff: Actually majority are local, I do have a few that were not. I’ve got several that are out of state, but not huge. I think the furthest one I ever got which– this still amazes me was I have a client that is in the air force, and at the time of us starting our working relationship, she was stationed in Japan. And she found my blog for whatever reason, and like she wanted to work with me. And we– we’ve never met face-to-face, we’ve chatted on Skype a few times, and that’s it. She’s actually in the states now. I think she’s in Virginia, but she’ll be going to Japan I think in the next year. So that’s like my first international client per se, but I’ve got several on the west coast, and you know several scattered but I mean I’m not in every single state. I think maybe we have clients in about ten different states right now.

Steve: That’s actually really cool that you have clients that you’ve gotten from all over the country through your blog. Just curious, do they ever tell you why they decide to go with you?

Jeff: Yeah, you know there is one lady who recently, this is actually another lady. She is in my state, but she lives five hours from me and she called me, which happens every so often. And she told me she’s like her husband was in a situation where they were in their early 50s, and they were I guess something came up where they thought they needed a financial advisor, and the husband said to the wife “Hey do you know anyone that you feel that you trust.” And she is like, you know she’s like the only guy I know is this guy that I’ve been on his email list for about a year and he’s got a blog, and she told me this when she called me.

She’s like I’ve been on your email list for a year and she’s like either you are super trustworthy or you have the biggest scam going but you know just the content you put out, I feel like that I know you. And I just thought that was funny that she was very candid about contacting me, because I love when people do contact me and want to work with me. I love just finding out how did you find me, and you know and just like with the lady in Japan like you know what was it about me that– because I told her, if I were you, I don’t know I could trust somebody to transfer all of my retirement assets even though I’ve never met that person face to face. I mean that is a huge leap of faith you know I would think, I couldn’t do it but I’ve had people do it.

Steve: It probably has something to do with your dance in You Tube videos. So for everyone listening, Jeff has all these You Tube videos where he’s actually dancing and acting kind of silly on the videos, but it somehow ties that in with personal finance in a very– in a very well done way. I can’t I can’t really describe it, I’ll just have to link up one of these You tube videos in the show notes for you guys to see. So okay, so you’re getting these clients through your blog. How do you actually get traffic to your site?

Jeff: You know, initially it was all just key words, it was– so kind of like my journey of really understanding how a blog works. The first key word that I ever wanted to target was financial planner Illinois. Actually, no correction, the first keyword that I ever wanted to target was my name Jeff Rose because before I started the blog if you goggled Jeff Rose like you didn’t see me. You found Jeff Rose the actor, Jeff Rose the golf polo maker, and Jeff Rose the superintendant in Oregon and you know that was it. So I wanted to own my name you know people wanted to do research on Jeff Rose they would find me, and that wasn’t that hard. After setting up the blog, setting up my LinkedIn profile and all that good stuff. But then I realized you know what, if people needed a financial planner they know, they don’t know Jeff Rose, they are not going to Google Jeff Rose. So I thought okay I’m want to target financial planner Illinois. So I went on this like campaign of guest posting and linking back to a landing page I created you know focusing on those key words, and I was able to do it. And I think it was two or three short months for the most part. And it’s pretty good considering the fact that I live in Illinois which you know I’ve got Chicago which is a pretty big city you know competing with all the financial advisors up there, and I was able to get at the time three listings on the top ten for financial planner Illinois.

Steve: Nice.

Jeff: I think it’s only two but I think I’ve got like three in the top twelve. So for a guy that really knew nothing about blogging, I was pretty impressed with that fete. So when I got that– when I was able to rank for that, then the thought was okay how do I rank for search terms for people that might need my services? Like 401k rollover, how much life insurance do I need to buy, how to do a Roth IRA conversion you know. Just figured basic thinking of key words or relevant search terms that people would need my services. So that’s when I started to write articles that were trying to target those certain key words. And this was all pre panda, pre Google panda which if people don’t know what that was, that was an algorithm update that Google did that just basically wiped out a lot of sites searching new traffic. So I was doing really good pre panda, and then Google for whatever reason didn’t like me, and I promise I wasn’t doing anything that wasn’t legal in Google’s eyes, but I got spanked pretty hard, I lost 70% of my traffic.

Steve: Wow, I didn’t realize it was 70%.

Jeff: 70% over night. April 11 2011[laughter] I actually just thought I looked at the date and I’m like you know what, that was like three years ago.

Steve: 2nd anniversary.

Jeff: Yeah exactly. It was horrible man, I mean I spent two and a half, three years building up this blog that was getting at the time a 100, a 150 unique visitors per month and lost it poo over night. And I just cried and you know kind of looked at myself but… So that was how I initially got traffic and you know since panda you know I’ve done more You tube videos like you’ve mentioned. Just focused on doing You Tube videos good content you know, just really putting out better content and doing like guest posting. I started writing for other major sites just to get more back links back to Good Financial Cents, and here recently here it’s the podcast. Launched the Good Financial Cents podcast earlier this year I think or last year I forget exactly, but you know but just basically doing things outside the box to drive traffic back to the blog. I guess the other major thing I shouldn’t have probably forgot about was my book…

Steve: Oh, yes.

Jeff: That came out last fall soldier sort of finance I released that got published in fall so you know all these different things I was doing all to get people back to my main hub which was my blog.

Steve: So are you still trying to get back in the rankings or is this just kind of your way of driving outside traffic and kind of Google proofing your site?

Jeff: You know, honestly, now like I used to do a lot of keyword research. And occasionally like I’ll start doing keyword research again, and like then I realized I’m never going to write the article to rank that term anyway. So now it’s like I don’t even– I don’t care as much as I used to. Like I think for example a recent post that I did was six things– I forgot things like title you know ‘six ways that retirees screw up their retirement’. That’s actually the worst title ever but, there is nothing about it that was targeting SEO. You know it was just six tips that I just felt that I’ve seen people continually screw up, with a lot of the clients that I’ve worked with. I took that article, I made the six tips, I’ve turned it into a podcast, I had my new assistant create a prezi which is kind of like a really sexy– like PowerPoint 2.0 presentation. So we created a nice prezi which I uploaded to You Tube, and I did a– when I recorded the podcast I also did a presentation with it as well, and I’ve got a nice image that I’ve created for Pinterest, and I’ll pin it on Pinterest. So just what I really want to focus on especially like my really good midi content is just to make it available, and as may [Inaudible] [00:20:19] as possible.

Steve: So out of all your referring traffic sources outside of Google, which ones do the best for you?

Jeff: Right now it’s actually Pinterest that’s actually driving the most referral traffic other than Google.

Steve: Really?

Jeff: Yeah, it’s my wife– she’s helped me a lot with the Pinterest pics and just making me knowledgeable with Pinterest and actually if I could check, let’s see. I mean Pinterest and then I think Facebook would be the next as far as social media referral.

Steve: So I’ve actually never gotten anything really hot on Pinterest and I was just thinking it was because the topic that I write about isn’t really geared towards that audience. Are you trying– are you kind of adjusting your content to appeal more to the Pinterest audience in any way?

Jeff: You know it’s something I go back and forth with, but the I just rebranded Good Financial Cents you know I just came out of doing site design not too long ago, and I started focusing more on the younger investor which is actually totally different than the actual clientele I work with. Most of my clientele probably 85% are of baby boomer age. But I– my wife who also has a blog and she gets a lot of young families to her blog which is kind of her residence because you know we’re a young family, we’ve got three young boys, so it’s just natural that those people kind of are the readers of her blog. And you know she always mentions me in her blog, so I’ve got like carry over traffic. So I just have a lot of people that come over from her blog that are all you know that are all younger they are all you know young families getting started financially. So it just kind of made sense to start devoting more content to that. And that’s kind of what’s been in our focus.

Steve: So I’d be curious, do any of those Pinterest people– have any of them become your clients?

Jeff : I’ve had a few people that we started on that path, but its– I– to protect my time, I don’t have like a minimum of clients like I formally announce you know like on my practice, from my blog anywhere, but I have you know have a mental minimum that I just know like to make it worth my time you know I have to have a minimum as far as working with people especially virtually. So I actually just more enjoy if they contact me, I like to give them the information you know they need, and it’s just kind of like point them in the right direction.

Steve: Okay. So let’s talk about some of your other web properties. So you got Good Financial Cents, you got Dollars and Roses, and you have a secret niche site which we I guess won’t go into too much depth about. But how does everything come together? So what is Dollars and Roses about?

Jeff: So Dollars and Roses was one of my– one of my many brain childs I came up with, but when my wife quit her job back in the fall of 2008…

Steve: Hey that’s already taken man, you can’t use that URL.

Jeff: What’s that?

Steve: You just said my wife quit her job. That’s…

Jeff: Wow, that was like totally, I’m going to actually register It’s funny I just said that. So when she did quit her job and started helping me with my blog you know her– she didn’t have more time to focus on her blog, and that’s when she became more passionate about it. And I just thought it’d be really cool if we started a blog together that showcased our blogging efforts. And the initial intention of that, I mean it was basically a mirrored kind of a pathlin {phonetic] model, you know smart passive income, but to be more like the couple version.

And in the time, I really had no desire to be another you know Pat Flynn [phonetic] or you know another male in the internet marketing world. But my big vision was I thought you know if Mandy could really become more of a voice of this blog because in her niche I mean in the mommy blogger or lifestyle or whatever you want to call it. There just aren’t many mom bloggers that are very open and transparent with how much traffic they get, how much money they make from their blogs, you know it’s just kind of more of a taboo thing. They all want to pretend like they make money but they are never really open to share what that really is.

So that’s where I kind of– that’s where it all came to be. It was something we could do together, kind of a fun project and from that we started the podcast. But you know we don’t spend a lot of time on it because we’ve got so much other stuff going on that it’s not our main revenue maker so you got to kind of spend the time where you make money. But the same token I think that blog has done– it’s been good for us as far as like social proof like with the online space. You know her and I actually– we got asked to be a– to do a key note talk in San Diego this summer at a conference that you know that wouldn’t have came about if it wasn’t for the Dollars and Rose’s blog.

Steve: Let’s see so the purpose of Dollars and Roses in a way then is to just kind of strengthen your online presence, not necessarily tied to your practice or anything like that?

Jeff: Yeah, I have like this secret I think obsession of– I love being seen as an entrepreneur and you know one day if I ever want to sell the practice and then focus more on the online space you know this is kind of like setting those kind of like those steps to get there. So that’s kind of what the intent is I think.

Steve: I see, that makes sense I mean, I started my blog at the time as my retirement plan as well. So you know even though I’m still working the blog actually makes more than my salary so I could in theory I guess quit at any time. So since were on that topic. I often get asked actually on my blog what the best business model is in terms of making money online. You’ve tried a bunch of things including niche sites, blogging, writing a book, podcasts, You Tube videos. What would you say is you know for someone just starting out at least what should they be focusing on?

Jeff: Yeah, I think when people that are just starting their online business, starting blogging for the first time and they see someone like myself or even like yourself you know that has like the course and all these sites and now a podcast, and it’s very overwhelming. It’s like where do you start, and I think maybe what they realize like for me– for me it was just a blog. I started the blog, I did that for my goodness, I want to say at least a year before I did anything major like with doing any You Tube videos. And I actually think it was longer, I think it was like two years. So I mean it was just like finding that groove and just figure out one if like they even like blogging.

A lot of people– they’ll read the income reports or they’ll see myself like a Pat Flynn and everyone else that is like killing it online, like I want to do that, I can do that, and they’ve never even written a blog post before. And you know it’s like you start that and you realize crap I don’t like to write. And I’ve kind of had that epiphany a few times myself, so probably I’ll do a few more videos. So I think it is just starting, I think it’s just putting it out there, and trying to launch the blog and just seeing if you’ve got the mental fortitude to persevere because there are so many little hang ups that can frustrate you. And you know for me, my hang up like I didn’t even like want to go to word press because I didn’t even know how to install word press, which is kind of funny now, reflecting back for me that was like a big thing for me like I just didn’t know how to do it.

So I didn’t, I was using Jumbo because I was too afraid to go to word press but– and I remember one time the first time I installed my own theme, you know my first thesis theme on word press like I didn’t install right, and didn’t know where to go, had no one to talk to, and it was just frustrating. I spent like a whole freaking weekend trying to figure out how to reinstall a theme, like I’m not exaggerating, like an entire weekend. My mom was actually visiting at the time and so she had our– we just had one son at the time, and I was seriously behind the computer for like 48 hours trying to figure that stupid thing out. And most people don’t do that, like that’s weird.

Steve: It’s not weird. It’s fair to say that you don’t have a technical background is that right, Jeff?

Jeff: Oh my goodness absolutely not. No, I still laugh to this day like how I even have an online business, like how I ever blog because there was like the red button that you press to blow my blog up, like I’m surprised I haven’t pressed it like two, three times.

Steve: But say you got. I’m sorry go on.

Jeff: No, it’s like I think that’s it, I think most people– they have all these big pictures, they get overwhelmed and it’s like just start from beginning, start a blog if that’s what you want to do, and just see if you like it you know try it out for 90 days, and if you realize man this isn’t my thing you know delete and move on.

Steve: What about, you know podcasting? What about You Tube videos? Have you actually monetized any of your podcasts yet?

Jeff: You know actually just– I got my first sponsor that was the route I went. I just tried it, it was just actually more of a test to see if I could actually get somebody to do it. And you know I got a sponsor that is paying 7000 dollars for like a 90 days spot. I don’t know if I’ll continue that route. I don’t know if I like the idea of having sponsors. I guess this was the right fit. This is– I actually approached I think it was three different potential sponsors. So these ones I felt comfortable partnering with. You know one of the said yes, so I may go to the other two and see if they are interested for the nest quarter, but I don’t know, like it wasn’t always about making money. I just wanted to see if I could do it and I did it so.

Steve: So the podcast is again just one of those things just getting your name out there right?

Jeff: Yeah, it is you know and so you know for me and I slightly mentioned this but like with my blog and I know you and I talk about this several times. Writing for me– that’s not my strong point. Yeah I’ve got a blog, got over a thousand articles. Yeah I wrote a book but, [Inaudible] [00:30:11].

Steve: Yeah, and I was just about to say you just wrote a book.

Jeff: It’s like writing still it takes the most like– writing takes more energy than doing a crossfit workout. Like it literally just takes– there are times that I enjoy it but like I have to be in that perfect Zen state, where I’m heavily caffeinated, and it’s like fresh in the morning, I don’t have any kids and I’m not tempted to watch walking dead. I mean I have to be in this perfect state to write. But, you put me in front of a camera or if you put a microphone in front of me like that– those are my unique abilities where I can just do it, and I get jazzed to do it. Like it doesn’t take– it doesn’t require as much brain juice from me.

Steve: I see, so do you still write articles on JSC or?

Jeff: Yeah, and like the strategy that I do now is I use– I have a– what do I call it transcription service that I pay for, its called mobile assistant and I pay its like 50 bucks a month. Where it’s on my cell phone so I can call, and I can talk for how long and right now, I’ve figured out that if I talk for about 12 minutes that’s about a thousand word post .

Steve: Wow, okay.

Jeff: So I’ve got it down to a t man. And actually an article I’ve just written if people want to check it out it’s– it’s kind of boring but it’s how to cash out an annuity. And I– it’s probably not relevant to this podcast, but why I’m so excited about this post is that I’ve got my new headset. Illinois just passed law and now we’re finally hands free if you’re driving finally after I don’t know how California has been like after they applied for it.

Steve: It’s been like that for a long time yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah, you feel like it just passed like two months ago. So I’m on my headset driving to crossfit mind you, and I’m on the phone for 12 minutes to mobile assistant talking out this post. I get the email later on that evening, I forward it to my new office manager who has an English background and she edits the post for me, to make sure I’ve got no comma surprises and everything reads properly and I copy and paste what she’s done, and it was ready to go the next morning. And so I was able to write a 12 minute post or a one thousand word post in approximately about 15 minutes.

Steve: That’s awesome dude.

Jeff: And that was like the fastest turn around post I’ve ever been able to do, and so that’s how I’ve been able to now crank out content so much faster you know I– having an editor you know that’s something that I was trying to find somebody. I tested out a few other people but this one here was by far like amazing.

Steve: So this is a human on the other end right?

Jeff: This is a human yes, with mobile assistant it is. Yes so these are all real people, they are all US based so it’s a phenomenal service that I freaking, I recommend all the time because I use it a lot for client meetings too. I use it for client meetings, detailing client notes, sending letters to clients. I also use it for emails, like any time I want to email somebody, I’m in the car and I want to email somebody, I just call in an email so that when I get that I can just quickly do a scan over an email. One thing I hear– I’ve used lately, how many times have you had to do text interviews Steve?

Steve: I did a bunch of them but they just became too much work, so I started declining them.

Jeff: Yeah, because like they take a lot of time right?

Steve: It’s like writing a blog post.

Jeff: It is, and like then some so this is how I answer like I just had a 12 question text interview that I did via mobile assistant. Had It done in 12 minutes, got it to my assistant just to make sure, and actually lots of times I even tell him hey I used my mobile transcription service you might want to check it for edit, you know when you get a chance to look it over. And so that way I can knock out these interviews and get– because I’m getting links from all these sites and doing all these interviews. I hate to decline them but you know they are, it would take me three hours to answer this interview via text but I can do it now in less than 15 minutes.

Steve: So instantly I would like to let the audience know that Jeff has actually been one of the big proponents in kind of influencing me to start outsourcing some of my activities. Those of you guys who follow my blog know that I pretty much do everything in my business. It’s just recently that I started outsourcing stuff and it’s because of Jeff’s success in kind of outsourcing and making his activities much more efficient so.

Jeff: I tell you what man, if you get Chris Tucker on– if he was here on your show like I think I’m doing pretty good. I have interviewed Chris for my podcast and after talking to him like offline for like 12 minutes like I realized I wasn’t even close.

Steve: Is that right?

Jeff: Yeah I mean he just– he like just he opened my eyes just all these other little things that I’m still doing that I shouldn’t be doing. And it’s just kind of like wow, okay it just opened up the door like how much more I could be outsourcing. I mean I’m doing a pretty big a job, but it can always be improved.

Steve: Well, I’m just glad that you didn’t outsource this interview because if I got your VA, I would have been a little pissed off. All right, so let’s talk about this major pivot that we mentioned earlier on. So what is this major pivot that is going to take your business to the next level?

Jeff: Yeah so you know the funny thing so with me was like– I’ve talked a little bit about the growing a practice, and what not and I really became a little bit more disenchanted from growing the practice. I don’t know what happened I think I just got so infatuated with building this online persona and this online business, and you wind up become more– I didn’t want to be tied to the office. You know I love it when I can go work in a coffee shop, and just be out of the office. I just like I thrive more or even when I work at home, like I’m now actually in my down stairs studio which is basically an unfinished spare bedroom in our basement that is in our recording studio. But I really didn’t want to grow the practice as much so I mean I was growing it just because you know people were referring clients to me. But I think you alluded to it at the beginning of this call where I didn’t really have a clear call to action on how to work with me.

And when I first rebranded Good Financial Cents, like that was actually intentional. I didn’t want people like if people really want to work with me like I always going to make them work for it. So they would have to like figure out how they are going to contact me, or find my contact form or really just like seek me out, and which is kind of cool because those that did really did want to work with me. I was able to talk to another advisor that has grown his practice exponentially, I mean he’s killing it. It’s like ten times the size of my practice, which once again like that has never really been a goal of mine but was really– what I was really impressed with this guy was his practice is like 90% virtual.

You know he actually relocated from Michigan out to the southern California and most of his clients are all virtual, they work basically via Skype or email and that’s it. And he showed me the process he has done to do so, and it really just got me fired up because my– the traffic that I get on my blogs and my online properties dwarf what he’s been able– what he gets. But he’s been able to grow it substantially just because you know clear call to action, and he has a really good process to kind of to streamline it.

So I now have embraced the fact that Jeff I have this digital asset with the blog, I have the financial planning practice. I haven’t really done a good job of processing, building processes it’s something I’ve been wanting to work on, I just haven’t been focused on it because I wanted to build more of a process on the online business. But here recently I finally launched my own unique process for the financial planning practice which is called the financial success blueprint, and it’s just the six step process that people walk through if they want to work with me.

And so now if you go to the blog its fairly prominent, you’ll see they work with me you know and the top navigational bar, and I have other call to actions that I’ will be implementing here soon as soon as my developer can get those going. And just going to have more of a clear hey you want to work with me, here is what it is, here is the type of clients that I work with, you know if you’re the type of person that needs contact from me like needs to talk once a week, like we’re not a good fit. Yes I’m really doing a good job of actually showing people the exact kind I want to work with, and to keep myself honest and fair to myself like I’m going to hold true to that.

Steve: So are the clients that you bring in– is this whole thing kind of scalable? Like can you handle like thousands and thousands of clients?

Jeff: It is, I mean thousands and thousands actually not. Could I handle 5-10 new clients a month? That would be a lot of work for me. My– what I want to do is I want to perfect the process, if we’ve had a few people go through it, they’ve been kind of like our guinea pigs. So just to see what are some of the pinpoints on our end, like what are some of the things that could be– like the stuff that I was doing that my new office manager can be doing, or maybe some of the stuff that the client could be doing more on their end like more home work or filling out more of the spreadsheets and stuff. So we’ve had a few people going through where we’re just trying to streamline it even more. Big picture would be bringing on a junior advisor that could facilitate you know some of the dialogue between going through the process. So, absolutely I think it could be could be streamlined even more. I could bring on other people to kind of walk you through that process once we have it perfected.

Steve: So it could be in many respects kind of almost as scalable as your online income in a way?

Jeff: I firmly believe so, and the guy– and I have my the guy who’s done it already that shown me how he’s done it and like he doesn’t work for people now. He has his initial clients that he’s built up and anybody new that comes in they all get funneled to his team.

Steve: That’s really interesting.

Jeff: So that’s what I’m jazzed about. You know it’s basically, it’s something I’ve been running from for like the last almost two or three years, and now I’ve just finally embraced it. And I’m just kind of excited to see how it can grow.

Steve: Yeah, so let’s talk about this change. So, was it due to any books that you’ve read? Or how do you network? How do you meet these people?

Jeff: You know it’s funny because– so this guy that I’m mentioning I, he’s somebody that I’ve seen online. You know like that’s the beauty of like seeing people online and just kind like social stalk people, but he’s been mentioned in a few trade journals you know that I read, and then I actually got like a sales call for to join some internet marketing company or specific towards financial advisors and once again his name was mentioned. And I thought his name came up like three times over the course of like four weeks and I’m like okay I got to reach out to this guy and see what’s going on. You know Like so I just emailed him like kind of a cold email and he responded immediately, and was like hey its actually funny because I’ve actually kind of like been following you for the last like three or four years.

Steve: Oh, okay.

Jeff: So that’s kind of how that came to be but I think it’s just monitoring your space like my space is financial planning, so anything I– anytime I read anything about anybody that’s marketing online or blogging or using You tube, I mean that immediately catches my interest so I’m always going to read up on it and kind of stay up on it so. I love seeing what other advisors are doing on our space.

Steve: So your blog actually probably got your foot in the door with this guy in a way?

Jeff: Yeah it did, I mean I said that, I mean yeah, I mean he always calls me his blogging superstar you know like he always looks at me like– but you know like I might be the blogging superstar, but he’s been able to grow his practice you know more than I have because you know he’s been more focused on it.

Steve: So any books that have influenced you in any way?

Jeff: Oh, my goodness. You know I think, I mean the usual you know Tim Ferriss’s “4-Hour Work week” you know that’s actually what inspired me to hire my first virtual assistant. You know it’s like that book, no question. I think another book that I love is “built to sell”.

Steve: Built to sell is that John Warrillow?

Jeff: Yes, yes and if your into audio books, I say that is actually probably the worst audio book. Did you– are you– do you do audio books?

Steve: No you know I actually have a copy. He actually sent me a copy for free a while back when he was launching it. I don’t know why he reached out to me. So I kind of wrote a little thing for him to help him promote it.

Jeff: The guy I wish he would have self like read it but he hired another writer and this guy man it’s just, it’s horrible. I mean, but it was good content so I mean I got through it, but I just love that book because it really talks about streamlining your business and having that clear process. And a coaching program that I’m in, they really talk about having a unique process and I’ve never done it. I’ve always wanted to do it you know so for me the financial success blueprint is that and you know kind of like I know this is a big picture, but if I can actually streamline this business to where– I guess I’m never doing it anything with it, I’m just like following lead that’s a good thing, but you know ultimately one day this is an asset I would like to sell, and if I have a streamlined unique process that you know I’ll basically just hand it over to the next person. I mean that makes the practice that much more valuable. Now the multiple becomes much more. I kind of have like a secret, see I’m 36 now, I have like a secret four year exit strategy. So if I can actually build this thing and sell it by the time I’m 40. Not if I want to sell, but if I could sell it I want to see like what I can do over the next four years to build it to make it potentially sellable.

Steve: Yeah I was going to ask you about that because you know for Good Financial Cents at least, your personality is a big part of that blog and likewise with my blog my personality is a big part of it as well. So how do you kind of divorce that to make it sellable?

Jeff: Yeah, so I mean I think that building up the process to where you know eventually I want to– I don’t mind being the face, but I think it’s a matter at that point in time you know I guess having to bring on a co-face, in especially the practice. But if I’m not the main guy dealing with people, that it’s my team that’s working with people, then I don’t think it will be much of an issue with the practice. With the blog, that’s something that I’ve wrestled with, but you know I think if I sell the practice, I don’t know if I could ever sell the blog. It be easier– it be easier actually to sell the practice than the blog even though the practice brings in more revenue. But I don’t know, I just love the blog and I think there is always going to be potential to monetize the online persona. You know I mean there is so many different angles I could go if I really needed to monetize it.

Steve: Right, absolutely.

Jeff: So I think that’s something that would be hard for me to let it go.

Steve: Cool, well Jeff I don’t want to take up too much of your time. If anyone wants to contact you, or give you their money to manage, how can they reach you?

Jeff: Yeah, you know that’s my main hub. You can also track me down on twitter, twitter I go by jjeffrose. There is two j’s cause Jeff Rose in Canada took it. But I’m active twitter, Facebook but also the hub is Good Financial Cents.

Steve: Okay, incidentally, what does that extra J stand for Jeff?

Jeff: You had to bring that up didn’t you dude?

Steve: I can [Inaudible] [00:45:37] this out if you want but.

Jeff: All right if people really want to know, my middle name is Jeff and then for some reason my parents named me Jan. Jan is my legal name, so Jan Jeffery Rose is what I go by, but I never really told anybody, but now your whole podcast community knows.

Steve: Nice, nice maybe I’ll leave this out and use it against you later.

Jeff: How sweet.

Steve: All right man well thanks a lot for your time. This was a really good talk.

Jeff: Yeah man, I appreciate having me on.

Steve: All right man, take care.

You might not have been able to tell from the podcast but the reason why I admire Jeff, is because he always has an open mind. And he is basically willing to try anything. And it’s because of his open mind that he’s constantly finding new and innovative ways to increase his brand and grow his business. And like I mentioned in the interview, Jeff is one of the main reasons why I started this podcast in the first place and for that I’m thankful.

For more information about this episode go to and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review it not only makes me feel proud, but it also helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, and find the show more easily and get awesome business advice. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.

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024: How Dan Faggella Leveraged Email Marketing To Create A 6 Figure Jiu Jitsu Training Site

Dan Faggella

I learned so much from this interview that afterwards, I went and revamped my entire email marketing autoreponder sequence. The information from this interview with Dan Faggella is that good and I guarantee you’ll learn something from it.

Dan runs the popular site, where he sells Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training videos online. He also runs 2 other online businesses at TechEmergence LLC and CLVboost where he helps other businesses improve their email marketing.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Dan has created such a large mindshare among Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fanatics even though he’s not a world champion
  • How Dan found the right marketing angle to pursue with his BJJ business which has allowed him to stand out in a crowded niche
  • How Dan gets people on his proverbial “bus”
  • How Dan segments his email list to maximize conversions, open rates and clicks.
  • How Dan gets people to sign up for his email list
  • How to get the attention of experts and bigger players

Other Resources And Books


You’re listening to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead, I have them take us back to the beginning and delve in deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest, where I am giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information, go to and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Dan Faggella on the show. Now, Dan runs where he runs a blog and a six figure online store selling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training videos. So here’s what’s interesting about Dan, he’s been studying BJJ which is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for all of you guys who don’t know what it stands for since 2005 and owns his own BJJ Academy in Rhode Island which he started which he started when he was a student at the University of Rhode Island.

Now he’s placed in the top three in many Jiu Jitsu tournaments around the world, but here’s the thing, I have a lot of friends that are really into BJJ and Dan is not the number one BJJ practitioner out there and he’s not like the champion of the world in this sport, now don’t get me wrong, he’s really awesome at what he does but the thing is– is that when I ask my friends who are into BJJ, they’ve all heard of him because of his online presence and all that he has done for this sport. Now, within the BJJ community, the guy is all over the place. Now, he’s created this amazing community and he’s an expert at what he does, and in fact he’s the perfect example of taking a skill that you have and creating a profitable business around it. So, welcome to the show Dan, looking forward to hearing your story.

Faggella: Steve! Glad to be here my man! Glad to be here. Thanks for the– such a warm into. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one that good.

Steve: Is that– you know it is funny so, I have like three or four friends who are into it and they’ve all heard of you so–

Faggella: That’s great!

Steve: Clearly you’re doing something right in your own part of [Inaudible] [00:02:47].

Faggella: Yeah, yeah we have– we do you know, 700 blog posts and now 350 videos later somebody’s going to– somebody’s going to hear something I guess.

Steve: [Laughing] Yeah what’s– what’s funny about that is that there’s like this huge names like Marcello Garcia and that sort of thing and yet you know, in terms of online presence I almost feel like even though he’s like the champion of the world, you have an equal presence it seems in terms of people hearing about you so…

Faggella: Yeah, yeah it’s just to focus on that particular stuff. Again, I never pretended to be Marcello but we certainly focused on– and at least being able to share our material with just as many people.

Steve: Yeah. So give us a quick background story? Tell us you know, tell us how you got started with this, and how you make a living online.

Faggella: Yeah, exactly. So interesting tale as you had mentioned you know’ it started with a very small Martial Arts Academy in Rhodes Island. So basically here’s how it goes, I mean, I was in the University of Rhode Island–very little town I mean 8,000 people or so in my town of Wakefield, URI is in Kingston. And URI has a significantly larger population at the university alone than my entire town.

And you know, I ended up getting into UPENN because I’m very interested in human potential and psychology for my Masters, and at the time I was kind of running like a fight club in the back of a carpet store just because you know, I like fighting more than working and I was getting a couple of bucks for private lessons so that was cool. And then I got the bill from UPENN and I was like, ‘Men! That’s pretty wild I guess I better– men! I better make some money or something.’ So, I was like men! This Masters Degree isn’t cheap if I decide to join.

So I ended up turning that thing into a real Martial Arts Academy and teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and driving back and forth from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island while I was running that thing and then, while I was kind of growing it right after I graduated, we had our roof collapse at the gym, and I was doubling a bit in internet marketing but at that point I realized, ‘Men! You know what? If I’m counting on this many square feet of map, in this town of 8,000 people for all of my income, I’m in a pretty rough spot.

So I decided to take– you know, I’d won enough– I’d put enough shinny stuff up on the wall at that point you know, from national tournaments and whatever, I was to–to, you know, to be able to share some expertise online and so we started building that as a more serious presence and pretty soon we were doing more per month than we were in the physical– the physical gym.

Steve: So your physical gym eventually you– you decided to sell that is that correct?

Faggella: Yes it is. Yeah I sold that in maybe around year or so ago. I’m still teaching there for a little bit right? It’s now like a larger mat. You can’t exactly just plug in a new owner and have it work the same. But– but yes, so I sold that about a year ago and then I moved up to [Inaudible] [0:05:20] essentially all the stuff that I used to sell the gym was– because we automated the marketing very well and we did email marketing really, really well with software for that business so it made the sale easier because a lot of it was [Inaudible] [00:05:32] and those same systems, those exact same systems, put to a bigger scale with the entirety of the online BJJ community ended up picking up very well.

So I had to become very neurotic about how to make the most of every lead, how to maximize profit per prospect when I’m in a town where I run out of human leads very quickly. So when I took that to the internet where there’s more people, it grew and I was able to carry that thing right up Bosnia after I sold the physical one and now obviously we do a kind of consulting in that world but– but yeah so the physical one is now sold, but I still go down there and train sometimes.

Steve: Okay, so what does your company sell exactly?

Faggella: Yes.

Steve: Just training videos?

Faggella: Totally yap! So what we sell now just to kind of make things clear for the folks out there, there’s a lot of models you can do with selling information. So we’re an information marketing company. We’re not primarily selling like you know, uniforms and things like that. I’m not all that big on inventory, so we sell information. So primarily we sell downloadable video courses about very specific niche components of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for example, if you want to know how to do a particular leg lock, or you’re interested in you know, beating bigger opponents with chokes or arm locks or something like that, we’ve very, very specific niche courses and a lot of my staff because I walk around about 128 pounds, is you know, how a smaller guy can beat a bigger guy. So we sell niche videos courses and subscription memberships to a particular niche BJJ skills.

Steve: Okay, so there’s actually quite a few BJJ training courses out there. I was just kind of…

Faggella: Oh yeah, tons.

Steve: …looking around. Yeah, so how do you kind of distinguish yourself from the rest of the packing? How do you stand out?

Faggella: All day. Well, a couple of things. Number one, I like to think and there’s a couple of guys they’re okay marketers in that space and I basically know all the guys that are really in that game and they’re all really nice folks but I like to think on the aggregate, we just put a lot more attention first and foremost into our funnel. So in other words, when we collect a lead we can make that a more profitable lead than most of the people simply because our follow up is really dialed in, or our automatic sequences, and then our, you know, broadcast messaging in our kind of continuous circulation of various products and services to our sub segments.

So maximizing profit per prospect is a big thing for me but in terms of positioning which is probably what you’re talking about, ultimately, my shebang is this; you know, there’s a lot of people and Steve, this is– this is a really curious thing about sort of teaching your passion is a lot of people do only want to learn from world champions so oddly enough, me, Dan Faggella, you know, when I watch BJJ, I’m not watching really anybody besides you know, the Marcello Garcia’s and [Inaudible] [00:08:12] and the [Inaudible] [00:08:14] is that the world– I mean, I paid for private lessons with a lot of those kind of guys and seminars and what not and I really only tune into that.

But, most people aren’t actually like that and a lot of people will really resonate with the small town 128 year old white dude who, you know, who competed nationally and like has a bunch of videos of you know, screaming Brazilians with their legs getting torn off you know because, he’s on their leg or something right? So, a lot of people resonate with like the you know, small town kid who kind of had to figure things out on his own and had to train with a bunch of white folks in a tiny town and really [Inaudible] [00:08:48] in his training to figure out how to beat all these who are you know, bigger.

So they kind of resonate with the struggle, they resonate with the story, and so for me it’s beating bigger opponents and it’s also sort of you know, training I guess for the guy who doesn’t live in the heart of Rio and you know, trains seven days a week like a killer but still wants to get better right? So skill development at UPENN was my focus so, that’s a little bit of the angle but it’s mostly you know, how a regular dude can kind of beat bigger stronger folks and that’s really the angle, beating bigger, stronger opponents is the major thing.

Steve: Okay, yeah, I noticed that on your site, there’s a lot of personal stories and a lot of personal videos on there which kind of, you know, allows me to get to know you a whole lot better and in that way it might make me more attracted to learning from you as opposed to some of the bigger names.

Faggella: Yeah, that’s exactly it. I mean, again, this is all just marketing right? I mean, I didn’t make any of that stuff up, I mean, there’re is a– you know, the things that I think we can sometimes do better than the world champion guys, and you know, I love and respect all those guys, I mean I pay bunch of bucks for private lessons with you know, a big long laundry list of world champions but you know, there’re obviously I mean, my main focus was getting into you know, intravesting and other things like that and scaling in internet business.

Their main focus is mostly, you know, growing their Academies and winning national tournaments so they’re not going to invest a ton in let’s say creating a whole bunch of little niche front end and tiny products so that anybody with a credit card can kind of take a step through the front door and really get a feel for their products you know, they’re going to create a DVD set here and there but that’s it. They’re not going to take the time to do a million different tiny front-ends to attract a million different people and they’re also, you know, not necessarily going to sit there and kind of lay out their tale in kind of bigger personal pieces to sort of build that bond and relationship simply because you know, that online business usually isn’t their main priority.

So people see that with me and they do get to know me as a character. They get to know me as this you know, funny little guy in this tiny town who you know, scrapped and scrambled to make it happen and they know a bit about my story and they know that I got slammed and had back problems because I was such little guy and I was getting beat up by all the big guys and that makes them really connect with me.

There’s a concept called– that a marketing teacher of mine once said of kind of getting people on the bus, so when I tell my story, and there’s other great marketers that do this exceptionally well but when I’m telling my story, I’m essentially telling individual little personal snippets about myself, and different parts and different snippets will get different people on my bus.

By on my bus I mean for them to say, ‘You know what, I resonate with this guy. You know what, I like this guy.’ And those different segments that can get people on the ‘I like this guy’ bus could be that when I talk about how I came up in that 8,000 person town, could be the part that I had to drive five hours to go to all these different seminars and stuff and how I was always like the smaller kind of weaker guy. You know, so they’ll resonate with some aspect of that, and now they’re kind of part of me. They have a little bit of a relationship with me and that is I think what helps differentiate us as well.

Steve: So you mentioned that email marketing is a large part of your business right?

Faggella: Yeah.

Steve: So, can you just kind of walk me through one of your funnels and how they’re structured.

Faggella: Sure, so on a really basic level, we do a lot of front end past segmentation. So– and now again, we’re in kind of the consulting space and we’re clogging the same with bigger scalable businesses. But in BJJ it looks like this very simply.

We’ll have a YouTube video, about let’s say a leg lock technique so you know, hey, I want to learn how to do a leg lock or something. I got a lot of competition videos doing that kind of funky stuff, so people look it up on the whole of YouTube and at the bottom of the leg lock video is a link, and the call to action on the link is a free eBook or video course about, you can probably guess it Steve, leg lock! For crying out freaking loud! And then once they land on that page, we’re testing that squeeze page if we’re doing our job correctly, and getting people to opt in for leg locks and then once they opt in– so the– bringing them into the email sequences is just as important as the communication, just to make that clear.

I mean, I’m passing the segmentation, anybody who will watch that video, who will click that link, they’re into leg locks enough to be at least in the market to potentially buy. I don’t know if they have a card yet, but they’re at least in the market. So they’ve opted in and I already know their interface, they’re not a ‘BJJ lead’, they’re a ‘YouTube I’m into leg locks and watching leg lock videos lead’. Which means if I’m trying to sell you leg lock videos, there’s a decent chance you’ll at least consume that content? So that’s a good box for me to check before I start pitching.

So, what happens is, they’ll end up getting let’s say a 24 to 36 email sequence, which will be a combination of great interviews I’ve done with world champions, exclusive educational content particularly about all the different dimensions of leg locks and how they can use leg locks, and around email five or six, we’ll have a very easy front end offer on– with– about leg locks that might be, you know, sending them a DVD or sending them a downloadable course as well as a free trial on a leg lock membership program or you know, different cool and fun bonuses all related to getting really good at leg locks and we’ll give them one of those offers.

Now that offer will last maybe four or five days, and then you know, we’ll go back in education mode and we’ll go teach them some other cool stuff, other cool interviews, other cool competition breakdowns and then we’ll take another swing. Most people will take only one swing, we like to take at least three. So we’ll take another swing, we’ll do a different cool bonus, we’ll send two different DVDs and maybe there’s some other cool extras that come along with it like a drilling sheet and some other stuff to help people learn. And then you know, we’ll relate that to our educational content then we’ll go back to education and then we’ll go back into another offer at the end and that takes us about 36 emails or so.

And now somebody buys one of those front end programs, then they’ll automatically go into a higher [Inaudible] [0:14:32] follow up sequence, where we’ll start to talk about 97, 77 dollar products and we’ll have maybe a 12 or 15 email sequence to move them to that level. And that will move me to broadcast and it gets a little bit more complex but that sort of a basic front end funnel is we know what you’re into as soon as you come in the door, we already know what you’re into, we feed you the best stuff we’ve got and we give you amazing deals and super cool programs about that stuff, and then we repeat that process with multiple what we call roller coasters. So it’s like it’s all education then it’s kind of you know, some cool offer stuff and then back in education then it’s a cool offer stuff and we really ride people right through those and we don’t like to give up early.

Steve: So, a quick question on the initial sequence, so do you not even mention any products at all in the first four or five emails?

Faggella: Sometimes. So for example, I mean, there is a bit, so every now and again, like we’ll have something in the PS, we’ll have something in the signature, that will at least be a link to it. and often Steve, in fact, probably most of the time, as soon as they opt in, there’s a thank you video, that talks about you know, why we’re literally giving away one of our leg lock DVDs, just for the price of shipping, and why you know, why it’ s a good idea to check it out, right?

So often there’s an offer thrown out there right on the thank you page or on some kind of a ‘read more’ page after the ‘thank you’ page. They are exposed, but what we generally like to do is– I think about it like this in general, so, general best practice in info-products style is ‘let the hot people buy’ so if someone’s super hot, they should be able to buy, but if we don’t know if they’re super hot yet, let’s kind of heat them up a little bit and then sell.

So is there an opportunity to buy? Oh yeah! Right on the Thank you– if you’re looking for it I mean, it’s there. And sometimes email two, email one in the PS there’ll be a link to the store or link to a special so, if they’re hot and they open up that first email, they can buy but we’re not going to go you know, kind of pitch mode so to speak, no, not at first. So we’re not going to pitch mode till later. Yeah.

Steve: Yeah, the reason why I ask is, there’s a lot of practitioners out there who recommend that you don’t pitch anything but with my own personal email funnel, I found that people either buy on email one or the last email at least in my experience and I was just curious what your…

Faggella: That’s very, that’s very interesting. Now, if I’m not mistaken you’re selling physical goods?

Steve: No, no, no. This is for my email train– my ecommerce training course.

Faggella: Oh! This is your course? This is your course– very curious. Well, you know, I suppose it’s not all that uncommon, let me ask, I mean, is there a scarcity element at the end of these emails sequence like, ‘hey guys, you know like this is the last email about this, you know, here’s the last bonus you get’ is there anything like that? Or is it just like ‘hey, another email from Steve’?

Steve: It’s a pretty straight forward– there’s no scarcity element. I was debating with myself whether to add that element because it would be in a way some sort of false scarcity element in a way right?

Faggella: Yeah, you don’t have to actually I mean, I’ll tell you know, I do it in and on, I don’t like false scarcity really, but usually I will say– I’ll often say this, ‘hey, I mean, this is– this is the last email you’re going to get about this.’ So, that doesn’t say the software won’t exist but here’s the think, who the heck is going to go back into an email that got sent to them four months ago and find a crazy link that isn’t listed on Google for a special? Nobody does. So–so I won’t say this offer is going down, I’m taking down the website, I do think that’s deceptive and I don’t like to do that, but I will say something like, ‘hey guys, you know, we’re going to be headed right into some educational stuff and honestly, it’s the last mention, you know, I mentioned in the last email I want to make sure you can get in on this, because we’re moving right along into other stuff.’ You know, that kind of thing is a bit of a [Inaudible] [0:18:07] you know, last chance without you know, saying something that isn’t in fact true.

Steve: That’s very interesting. So, do you have separate funnels for each one of your niche videos?

Faggella: Yeah.

Steve: So you mentioned leg locking, there’s– I imagine there’s like an arm bar video or whatever.

Faggella: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re right so, we have a certain number of core continuity programs. And there’s sort of this principle in information marketing of splintering your offers and particularly of splintering continuity. So the idea is, we have a number of different free front end products, that people can download, like free eBooks and video courses and other stuff that we’ve created based on interviews of world champions, based on match break downs, all kinds of different content that people like to consume, and what we’ll do is you know, the opt-in for the arm bar video, the opt-in for the escape video, the opt-in for whatever, and they’ll get a very tailored email sequence leading to a continuity program.

Now, we only have three continuity programs, and really true, I mean we have five total but there’s only three we care about, and then– but we have probably 20 of 18 different funnels. So those different funnels take people down different kinds of trickling paths to our core offers.

Steve: Okay, wow, that’s very interesting. So your email funnel’s a lot more tricky than mine. I only have one product and it goes– everyone goes down the exact same path, they’re interested in starting an ecommerce store.

Faggella: Yeah.

Steve: But in your case, I can see how it’d be useful because many little intricate skills involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and you kind of all take them as individual splinters and you just kind of funnel them towards your three main products it sounds like, right?

Faggella: This is– this is true, now, I would say it sounds like you know, I mean to be frank, this– it’s so much like you know, what Dan invented for this crazy little online business. It’s kind of like these are general best practice for maintaining the highest open rates and getting the highest [Inaudible] [0:20:01] rates and ultimately making the most profit per prospect. So for your businesses you’re learning how to build an ecommerce store, what are like the three main motivations that people are into to build an ecommerce store, some of them want like let’s say they want to it to be– you know, grow a really big business, and kind of scale it, some of them want to kind of live at home and be able to kind of take care of the kids and have some fun like yourself, more of lifestyle oriented, and maybe some of them want an income on the side, is it safe to segment folks those three ways or you let me know if there’s some other segments.

Steve: That is a good question but yes, certainly those are three segments that I target.

Faggella: Okay, so here’s the how this applies to your business, because again, I want you thinking like this is some fancy Jiu Jitsu trick that the folks at home can tune into. This is you know, this is– this is email marketing so for you it might be you know– so we sell all other kinds of stuff and other niches to the point of we’re being redundant if we talk too much about it but if you’re coming in for let’s say learning ecommerce store, oh, okay great! You know, what’s your name, email and what’s the main goal for you for starting an ecommerce store? Then every educational snippet, every testimonial and every call to action is all about why this is going to build your lifestyle. Every educational snippet, every testimonial and every call to action is about how you can grow this to a million dollar business. Every testimonial, every educational snippet and every call to action is all about building a great side income.

So that’s how you get every single email opened at a higher rate because you’re appealing and that’s how you get higher click throughs appealing to particular values. So a simple drop down on the front end, and you can apply the exact same tenet to your business. You can do it by motive, you can do it by interest, you can do it 50 different ways but front end [Inaudible] [0:21:35] up all your opens and your click throughs, it definitely is not a Jiu J4itsu specific thing.

Steve: Sure, yeah absolutely and clearly you’re very good at what you do, and so that’s why I thought I’d ask.

Faggella: Oh yeah!

Steve: Just curious, what do your open rates look like on some of your funnels?

Faggella: Yeah, I mean it’s been a very front-end funnel and to be frank, it also varies on lead source so I imagine– I don’t know what you’ve tinkered around with but if you are getting folks from reddit and stuff like that, you know, nobody in internet marketing really does all that much with that, I mean I’m sure there’s some people that do but you know, within the first eight emails or so, you know, getting higher than 33 or getting higher than 25 is you know, pretty rock solid from let’s say either paid or Facebook.

Steve: Okay. Okay, I’m sitting around 40– between 30 and 40 I think in my funnel so.

Faggella: That’s good.

Steve: I just want to gauge what a good number would be.

Faggella: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Sorry Dan, we won’t have big tangent because I thought…

Faggella: That’s fine.

Steve: Well, let’s go back to your business. So your business is– it sounds like it’s email marketing focused and you need people to actually come into your funnel, so…

Faggella: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: How do you actually get people into your funnel in the first place?

Faggella: This is a big question and there’s so many ways to skin this cat and it’s an interesting game. So, one of the ways we’re doing now is paper clicks. So I think that having a functioning paper click segment of any kind of online or ecommerce business is a very, very important simply because if you have anywhere you can spend one dollar and make about 50, you should have that dollar being spent a whole bunch and have that buck 50 coming in a whole bunch and you should be aiming to up those ratios and instead spend 10 bucks and make back 15. So, paper click is one channel, mostly Facebook for us right now, just giving the level we’re targeting. The next big channel for us is our YouTube channel.

So, you’ve probably seen some of our, you now, stuff kicking around there on the YouTube, but we have a lot of different niche and specific videos, we’re always popping up new stuff and fun interviews and those all have specific links to squeeze pages. Another way is posting and guess posting so, earlier in the game I wrote for a while the Jiu Jitsu magazines and the bigger print publications and that made it pretty easy to get on any of the websites like ‘hey I just did an article with this world champion for this you know, Jiu Jitsu magazine in our Jiu Jitsu style on the United Kingdom, you know, is it cool to shoot you a draft of some other interview insights that this you know, seven time world champion gave me about you know, arm bars or something. You know, usually, people don’t say no to that. So you get a lot of articles up on other sites and then eventually get log-ins on those sites.

So, another way that we drive a lot of traffic is, we guest post on you know, eight or so other decently size blocks in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu niche and we’re able to drive a trickle of traffic from there, more importantly from that though Steve, is also search engine optimization which I’m sure many of you folks you’re doing, you guys are doing pretty well with and the idea there is when we’re guest posting on a whole bunch of these different sites, so long as you’re not black hutting it up, and so long as you’re not being kind of silly about your anchor text, and your link patterns and whatever else, we’ve been able to get certain portions of our core website, to rank very high for terms like BJJ over 40 because all of our buyers are over 40 years old that just is…

Steve: Interesting.

Faggella: Yeah, it’s just– it is what it is. A lot of people think I make all my money from 22 year old tattooed guys, very much– very much not the case. So…

Steve: Was that on purpose by the way? Do you specifically target or?

Faggella: Not at all, when I started, you know, the way I learned Steve was you know, learn about your customers right? I mean start up the concept so I just called all my buyers when I got into this game. ‘Hey barber how’d you find me? What do you like?’ and you know, I decided to build stuff that these guys would enjoy. I figured that was kind of the best way for a win, win and you know, they’re all 42 year old dudes who you know, can’t train on the mat seven days a week and they have disposable income and they don’t know how to legally download stuff. So they’re the– they’re the people that buy. So we found that out and decided to rank the stuff that people wanted.

So we did a lot of pooling, a lot of research, a lot of talking to our actual customers and decide to rank on things like BJJ escapes. Biggest trouble areas, a lot of people really have trouble with a couple of key positions so we use those guest posts to rank for those terms. And then some of those terms drive the most traffic to our blog and of course we have opt in opportunities right on our blog. So SEO guess post in YouTube– those are all some pretty major in bound channels for us to drive leads.

Steve: Okay, and so which one would you focus on if you would start all over today in the beginning?

Faggella: Oh, well, I would say focus on joint ventures so–all those are really slow man– those are slow. I don’t think we’d have a 25,000 person list if we only did those so, I mean, maybe but you know, I would have had to do that fulltime we’re doing a lot of other stuff. So, joint ventures are really big so finding a way you know, one thing that we did early on, I think this is replicatable for anybody who’s listening is we did a lot of guest posting, we became featured writers on six or so other websites, and then we went to the major players in the niche. People with fan pages, with you know 50k plus people on there people with email lists that were you know, substantial compared to ours at the time, and luckily we kind of caught a good deal in the last 12 months.

But you know, they were substantial at the time in the martial arts space and say, ‘Hey, you know, I write for these six sites, you know, I’d love to interview you for a blank, blank, blank and then once you interview them if you could be an affiliate for some of their products and help to kind of spread the word on a bunch of different websites you write for. Now writing for six different websites is a hot berried entry because you actually do have to be on the right but it’s not nearly as hard as building a 20,000 person email list. So, normally in order to get somebody to mail for you, you have to mail for them. When I heard a zero flipping person email list, instead of saying I‘ll mail for you, because I couldn’t, I said hey I write for six websites. I like to interview you about blank, blank, blank and if you are able to send me email to in all this particular squeeze page you know of giving 90% of whatever you sell down this funnel.

That was actually an interesting value plot and despite the fact that I was brand new fresh in the game, I was writing for six websites a day never been thought to write for, and they would have to go through the wrong address process I did and they did not write for any of the magazines I wrote for. So I had this entrenched position that was hard to get to, I had something of value to offer that they didn’t have themselves, so instead of taking the time to build a continently size email list, I gave them a hook in angle of something that I built in a matter of a month and a half and I was getting better aisle of 15,000 plus email list pomp into an opt-in funnel and that’s ultimately how we built our business.

Steve: I see, so you are already writing for these six publications so you pitch people with larger lists and you give them all the revenue from any– almost all the revenue from any proceeds any sales that regenerate from them.

Faggella: Yeah.

Steve: Okay and then meanwhile you get the subscribers from their list onto your list.

Faggella: This is true, this is true yes and then of course they get the benefit of hey we’ve been featured on, featured on, featured on, featured on and now they have back links back to their site from these other relatively authoritative websites so they would not have gone otherwise so it’s a win on both sides.

Steve: So how do you pitch the guest posts on these six sites?

Faggella: Yeah, the first thing is– the easiest way to pitch a guest post and man, I’ll surely write something about this, I mean it is so– it’s so simple though, like I use the same algorithm over and over and over again and it’s almost like sure fired stuff. It’s– I interview somebody who is a big deal, so I interview somebody who that publication would love to have unlike the first page somewhere, right who would make them look good if this person was there, because they don’t know me. They want to look good though so I pitch– I get an interview with somebody that these people would love to feature even if it’s only email correspondence and they send me back eight paragraphs about, you know, something or even three paragraphs, that’s good enough, it’s a correspondence.
So I say, hey, you know I’ve had a correspondence with blank about blank, and you know, and I read this, this and this on our site recently and you know, again I just talked to this world champion and I have a feeling that you readers would seriously resonate with his stuff and I like to make it timely as well. So the world championships had just ended and you know Tenkino [phonetic] who just hacked Medes in the finals actually broke down a lot of how his training strategy worked out for that actual match, I think it will be a great thing for your spa and nobody else’s got this content, you want me to send you a draft? Very hard most of the time for them to say no especially if you’ve written for bigger publications.

So I have written for blank – you see you say I have written for blank, blank, blank I have interviewed blank expert, here’s why it’s timely and here’s why you’ll the only one that will get it, do you want me to send you a draft? Very inviting very low berried entry all they have to is a yes email. You send them a draft and you do the same thing with three other people, and someone is going to buy and normally I will just write a different article for each one of them and put them up on all those websites.

Now, once you are writing for these websites two, three, four times, you simply ask, hey man this seems to be good fit, you know I hate to be bothered every single time with an email, does it make sense to just have a log in and be able to kind of post some stuff up and most of the time if they post it two or three of your articles and they’ve been very good, they’ll say yes at which point you now have a log in? So when I interview xyz world champion, or xyz you know a person who wants my help with getting their content around, I take their interview, I turn it into great content and then these websites are happy to have me distribute it because I’m talking to the best experts all the time.

Steve: So if you were to take a step even further back, how do you get the attention of the experts that you want to interview?

Faggella: Yeah, well this is kind of a– this is a pretty easy numbers game actually, so I mean if you‘re already writing for a couple sites that’s a good way to go about it, but you know relatively simple approaches – I’ll see if I can pull up one that we did recently so – I’-l-l- b-r-i-n-g t-h-e g-r-e-y. I’ve done this in the kind of the tech niche in the emerging tech space as well, so I figure out, I mean, if even have a nominally size podcast or blog of your own and then you have, you know, two or three places that you’re going to depend to put up content, what I like to say is, it’s usually something along the lines of, hey my name is blank with blank you know whoever you are writing for.

I recently saw and then you know something that they’ve done whether it’s a blog post, a competition, a video or whatever and you know, I’m going to be putting together some articles for blank, blank and blank and then you list some other publications you can be writing for and you’re like you know literary my interviews are literally 18 minutes long or so, so it’s pretty short stuff but I figure if we can catch up on Skype it’ll be great to get your name out there and I’ll be happy to plug any of your websites, your events you have coming up as you know– is there a time we might catch…? So this is the closest, is there a time in the coming three weeks that might paint out well to grab 20 minutes? Or, you know is there a time in the next two weeks that might paint out well to grab twenty minutes?
A lot of the time I’ll get a yes to that, and if you do a numbers game, and you have somebody on Odesk get 24 names, you put them on a spread sheet, you set down on a template, you know normally– you normally get a really good number of people, even people like, wow man like this guy is given like 18 different ten talks and he’s like multi, multi millionaire and you know, you never think you’d talk to these guys, and you get them to buy in.

Steve: That’s very interesting here, the reason why I’m asking all this questions is because I get readers who come to me and they are unable to get any traction with their blogs or their stores and that sort of thing, and often times it just borders on the leg work, right, which is reaching out and contacting people. Yeah, these people are just mainly waiting for the SEO speaker to turn on and it never does and then they get discouraged, and then here you are hassling and contacting people and getting traffic deal fashion way which kind of snow balls in the end.

Faggella: Yeah it’s real fashion, I mean now we have one of the, you know, it’s not like the biggest because I never focused on it to be as such, really I care a little bit more about my email list and my monthly hits. But yeah, now we have a really good size blogs simply because we did the hassle of what we talked about we got, you know, the biggest names. I want you to check three or four boxes as you already know Steve, you’re good to kind of have a fuel in the door to interview almost whoever you want, if you do a great job. So now that I write for essentially all the sites and I’ve interviewed, you know, a good majority of you know – it’s hard to say majority it’s a lot of blackmail job there but so many done black belt world champions, it’s hard to even shake a stick out of them anymore, it’s not all that tough to get anybody else out there but the initial grind is same as the grindest today and you know it’s not all that tough but I just gave you the template I mean that’s literally what I do to get on those sites to write for them. It’s literally what I do to talk to experts. I’m doing the same thing in the technology niche now as they did in BJJ same process.

Steve: Okay sounds good, so you mentioned that you have this email photo is there particular piece software that you use to help manage all these photos?

Faggella: Yeah, Yeah, I can certainly use whatever I need to get my hands on because I’ve had twos and other we were working with other folks that were doing photo related stuff it’s, you know, poured out on fusion soft et cetera. My correct photos are in fusion soft 95% of the way so I’m…

Steve: Okay.

Faggella: infusing guy really helps with segmentation and I’d recommend him for anybody else out there.
Steve: Okay, so, wow, okay this is a lot to information, so how did you become such an excellent email marketer? Were there any books that you read or were not–

Faggella: Yeah.

Steve: Courses that you took?

Faggella: You know I’ve always done these weird things, so I have this thing Steve, and I call it the black Lamborghini test and I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this on an interview but it’s a very interesting habit that I have, where whenever I’m interested in doing something, I essentially find someone who is doing the same thing I am doing in terms of business but they drive a black Lamborghini. Now this is important not particularly because of the car, but because they’ve made that much money from that business.
So I don’t find who has the biggest blog about how to be successful, I find who drives the black Lamborghini because of that business. So when I got into email marketing I just said, you know who is making the most in information marketing? Who is really doing it? And I found people on the martial arts niche, and I found people outside the martial arts niche and well before, you know I had the safety net to go out and do it, I invested in myself to learn from these guys.

I mean I bought a Infusion soft for, you know, 2000 box down and I immediately spent six more grants to work with six division which is the one kind of top consultancies for a fusion soft for like a big two day thing for my martial arts gym as soon as I got the software. So the short story is I always found learning from the best in person to be really the way to go not the best because they have a blog that say so, but the best based on the black Lamborghini test of which I’ve already told you. And then the other thing is, you know, the people I can’t learn from the other black Lamborghini test in terms of paying for their expertise may be they are too expensive may be they are just not available. I will muddle what they are doing. So one thing I did earlier on, this is more valuable for me than any book I‘ve read. As I said, hey I am trying to build a monthly membership program that makes– that funds me and I can eventually sell and, you know, become a virtual investor in Cambridge.

You know, who makes enough money in information marketing they can do that. Raso Branson [phonetic] is like one of these people. He used to have 100 employees in a call center and now it’s a little bit smaller but he’s a very big name in the internet marketing space may be you’ve heard of him. And Raso Branson has a number of different continuity programs and you know relatively similar price plans. So I said, great, what does Raso’s emails look like? What is his videos sales really look like? What is his sales page look like? And what is his kind of flow to that sale look like? Cool replicating BJJ, run in BJJ and then iterate from there. So it wasn’t a book it was iterating from best practices based on the black Lamborghini test and that not only with the biggest accelerators of my learning because there’s nothing like riding somebody else’s successful sales letter in your niche.

I mean how about that for getting a good copyrighting immediately, it’s in my opinion it’s way, you know that’s the higher– that’s really good stuff so long as you understand the basic principles and then you know– and it’s a good place to start testing because somebody else is driving a black Lamborghini because if it’s so by galley, I mean unless you’re really screw it up, you should be able to get some traction. So in terms of learning that’s what I would advice anybody else out there to do.

Steve: So what are some news letters that you recommend that people look at in order to gain ideas of how to do the final and the correct way?

Faggella: Yeah, Yeah, actually you know, interestingly enough a lot of the time the email side and the internet marketing in the real tailoredness of the follow up is not something that is really all that talked about. If you want to get an email list that make a bunch—what is it? There’s something about extra viable, I forget…

Steve: You can send these to me after this interview and I will just post them here.

Faggella: Okay that’s fine, I mean, easy stuff I mean guys to follow I would say tune in to automation clinic which is a guy by the name of Jermaine Griggs. He’s probably the most famous infusion soft marketer and in terms of like his own success story. He does – I forget what he does like 12 million box a year selling essentially how to play music by ear. And that’s the business he is in, very interesting business and he’s one of the best infusion soft technicians that lives and breathes on earth. So I drink in with his guy, and then otherwise I just hop in on the email photos of Rione Dias [phonetic] and Rosa Branson. Now these are guys that are big in the internet marketing space. I’m eventually moving into other business, I’m not going to be here forever. But they do email marketing far better than most, and if you are going to pay attention to them or Josh Moore with an e-book book, I would say them.

Steve: Okay that’s good news, I’ll link that stuff up. So just curious you know once the funnel is done in your email marketing sequence, what do you do with your subscribers after that?

Faggella: Yeah, so I’m– [Inaudible] [00:39:22] waste to kind of again skin that cat too. So sometimes I have a funnel that’s really designed to be a front end funnel. It’s not necessarily designed for me to hit my current list with, but you know I can test it before I start paying for traffic to send to that funnel, but you know, one thing that I do if I want– if I build something like for example I just put together the copy for a sales pay join take downs it’s not all that long ago, and it’s going to be this week or next where we do some kind of 127 dollar offer to my Brazilian to get two lists– four for that particular course.

Pretty big course, lots of stuff in there haven’t really formerly relisted. So once that sort of built, I will take a segment of my list and expose them to that but here’s the segments that I’m going to expose that Steve. So I think what a lot of people would do is they take– okay it’s time to test this page. I’m going to send my list to this page; I’m going to send this to my list. List is a really dangerous term. You’ve probably heard the term like blast emails or whatever. So blast email is really just unsophisticated boat a ride offensive marketing, and you know it’s what people do when they don’t how to market stuff. So they just send the same email to everybody whether you bought or whether you didn’t buy, whether you– you know no matter you’re interested in, no matter what level you’ve purchased at, no matter what lead source you’re from, everybody gets the same message you are a customer, a year ago you’re a customer now.
You’ve been on lead for two weeks. Everybody gets the same email all the time. That’s just called like you know sucking it marketing basically. I mean the short hand for that is just being actually bad at legitimate marketing. So what we do is you know we’ll say okay who’s raised their head and explicitly said, I’m interested in take downs. Take downs is what I’m here for Dan. So we have a survey that everybody on our list will eventually get a send to them in about 11 days deep into being in our system, and then they’ll be reminded that if they don’t fill out which asks them for all their various interest areas, and they can tell us what they care about and what they don’t, because I don’t want to hear about take down Steve, if they are not here to learn from me about take downs, then why would I want to bother?
You know, I only want to send them what they like, so we have a survey that helps tailor those messages. So what happens when a final list is built or a new offer is constructed is all saying, who’s told explicitly they want that? And maybe who has spent at a relatively consummate level in the past.

So we are not going to send this 127 dollar offer to zero dollar buyers, we are going to send it to people that have spent 100 box or more in the last 60 days. That’s who’s going to get that offer because that’s not going to offend them. The seven dollar buyer in the brand new guy, I probably not going to send it to them, probably not, and the guy– but the guy who said even if he didn’t buy, the guy who’s said he was interested in take downs, I probably still will expose him but only because he raised his hand. So you can see Steve how we calibrate exposure based on standing interest?

Steve: Yes so, It sounds like you really need a program like infusion soft and just a regular email marketing program will probably not be adequate enough to do this.

Faggella: Yeah, yeah with some of it right. So you can do some basic segmentations some other programs, but at the end of the day like it boils down to this and I actually nothing against infusion, in fact I– I mean they’ve built a far – they’ve built a fantastic company. Their logo is adorable. They are– all the staffs love them because they have a free trial. I think their emails honestly look great on phone and everywhere else but when you get to a certain level, you don’t use mail chip, period. You know it’s just– it is what it is, it’s like you know if you are raising cars, you know it’s like a certain level of cars raising, you know, like a certain level of a car partition where you no longer take, you know, your jail prison or whatever.
You know it’s not like mail chip is a bad product or it’s not a rickety product, but it is good for a certain number of things it does not– if you say I am going to make as much money from my email list as humanly, visibly, considerably possible mail chip isn’t your bag, point blank period. So yes you do need something that can actually segment, that’s infusion, that’s product, that’s entrepreneur, that’s something with some actual functionality.
Steve: Okay, sounds good that’s extra advice. Well Dan I don’t want to take up too much of your time, surprisingly we’ve already been talking for almost 45 minutes. So, yeah, exactly and you’ve given me a lot of things to think about as well with my own email marketing.

Faggella: I’m glad.

Steve: And for that I’m very appreciative and– so where can people find you if they want to contact you about anything.

Faggella: Yeah of course man. My main sites though orderly enough now when I moved to Cambridge, I am planning on selling the martial arts business and where I share all my stuff about email marketing and marketing automation is [inaudible] [00:44:01] for customer live time value boost but is one of the site for our consultancy. We have a basic white paper that kind of breaks down a lot of plug-in play strategies, so people are like ah you know I’m interested in doing some other segmentation. I do want to understand email a little bit better, that’s about a simple soot to not break down as we have this right down that site. So people want to get a hold of me, they can reach me that way.

Steve: Okay, sounds good Dan. Well, thanks a lot for coming on the show really appreciated.

Faggella: Thanks for having me Steve.
Steve: Hi man, take care. I actually learnt a ton from Dan today about email marketing. Now this episode was recorded about a month ago and after talking to him, I completely revamped my own email auto responder sequence and my info product has actually been converting like crazy. Now I’m not sure if it’s the new mail sequence or the podcasts that’s been bringing the business, but business has been picking up dramatically ever since Dan’s interview. For more information about this episode go to and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to I-tunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review it not only makes feel me proud but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice.
It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web. And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consults to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this contest go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information, thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where we‘re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve blog at

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

023: How Joe Cochran Started A 25 Million Dollar Company Selling Outdoor Products Online

Joe Cochran

My buddy Joe Cochran tells us how he started a 25 million dollar company selling outdoor products online. Joe really knows his stuff especially when it comes to pay per click services.

What’s crazy is that his store stocks well over 15000 products and is capable of processing over 1000 orders per day. Compared to my puny shop, Joe’s store runs on a much larger scale. Stay tuned and check out his story.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why Joe started out selling rubber duckies online
  • How he grew Northline Express to 25 million dollars
  • He he got into the business of shipping fireplaces
  • How he decides what to carry in his store
  • How he convinced vendors to allow him to sell their products
  • When Joe decided to transition to carrying more inventory
  • Why Joe is able to beat the brick and mortar stores with his products
  • Joe’s content medium of choice
  • The key to working with vendors in China
  • Why Joe thinks paid traffic is king

Other Resources And Books


Steve: You’re listening to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where I have successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs take us back to the very beginning of their journey and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. Now, before we begin, I just want to congratulate Ken Schneider for winning this month’s free one on one consultation. For more information on how you could win a free 30 minute business consultation, go to, and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I have Joe Cochran with us on the show. Joe is actually someone who I met virtually via the ecommerce forums at So, what’s really interesting about Joe’s story is that in 2003, 2004, Joe joined his dad and started an online store called which sells fireplace and outdoor products. And what’s really awesome about his business is that in the past decade, his business has grown to doing over eight figures in annual sales. Now, they started this online store in their spare bedroom and basically shipping out of a detached garage and today they’re operating out of a 24,000 square foot facility.

And you know, Joe operates multiple ecommerce sites as well as a wholesale business and just get this; these numbers kind of blow my mind, their store now offers over 15,000 products and is capable of processing over 1,000 orders per day. You know, if you just compare his store to my little tiny store that’s just pretty crazy in terms of scale. So today what we are going to do is we’re going to take a time machine back to the beginning when Joe started. Now, Joe is a great guy and I’m really happy to have him here on the show today so, welcome Joe.

Cochran: Thanks Steve.

Steve: So, you know, for all those who’ve never heard of you, can you just kind of give us a quick background story and just talk about your baby here Northline Express, and how it all started. How did you decide what to sell and how did you come up with the idea?

Cochran: Yeah, so… back in the late 90’s early 2000’s, my dad and I both were working for Fireplace & Hearth, literally the wholesaler and retailer. So they wholesaled spas and fireplace products to a chain of their own retail stores as well as to other brick and mortar retail stores. And I had been working there right out of high school, I did installation and service on fire places and spas and hot tab and things like that, and he had been in the business really since like the 70’s, I think back in the mid-70’s. He owned his own fireplace retail shop in Michigan and it eventually sold out and, you know, and then went to work. So he sold the business and then went to work for the people who he sold to, and eventually became the GM so he was running a lot of the operations for that company and…yeah. So I’d got in so, we essentially knew that business really well but the funny story is that, that’s not where we started sort of, we actually launched this back in 1997 and it was in the car stereo and home audio market.

And it was kind of funny just because my dad had this idea, he wanted to start a website, I was not a computer guy whatsoever. He– he’s really the computer guru. And so he wanted to start a website but he didn’t know where to start, and I was installing car stereos for my friends on the side in high school. I actually had a wholesale account with a distributor where I would buy big sub-woofers and stuff like that and sell them to my buddies and then charge them for installations. So I was doing my own little entrepreneur thing out of the garage and… yes! So he needed an idea I had a whole sale connection, so we started there.

And we shut that site down, made about 10,000 dollars in six months but we ended up shutting it down because there was so much fraud and I think it was just the age group that we were targeting with people trying to burn us with bad credit cards and back then the checks and balances weren’t nearly in place like they are now. And we just– we ended up just shutting it down but few years went by and he started thinking, wow, you I know this other business really well and so it wasn’t, you know, I’d love to say that it was a very calculated, you know, we saw a big opportunity and jumped at it but, I mean essentially it was just something we knew and so we got in.

Steve: I actually remember really being into car stereos back in the day also, I think got all my stuff at Crutchfield.

Cochran: Yeah, that was one of the things we realized after we launched our site we were like, wow! We’re competing with these guys and even back in 97 they had a pretty robust website and here we were, just this little kind of pathetic looking yahoo store but we saw the opportunity because we still sold like 10,000 dollars worth of products in six months so…

Steve: Yeah, so [laughs] I remember I used to look forward to getting that catalogue every single month. It was pretty sweet. Yeah.

Cochran: Yeah, oh yeah! I was– I was– you know, you always had to have a lot of stuff around so that people would come to you to ask what you did and then that’s how I would sell them basically.

Steve: So yeah, back to Northline Express, so I’m just trying to think you know, in our store we sell really small items that are easily shipped but I was just looking through your website and for some of the stuff that you guys sell, I can’t imagine how the logistics work in terms of shipping let’s say a fireplace– an outdoor fireplace– and selling that online. Yeah, so, how do you make a customer comfortable with buying that stuff online?

Cochran: Sure, so, if…if– we kind of revisit the start over conversation when we were talking about how we got started. The first products we added to the site were rubber ducks [laughs]. Like rubber ducks that go and then float around on your hot tab. Okay so we figured nobody is going to spend that much money online so we’ll just start with this small item and it’s cheap and we started selling some but, really not much and then we started selling spa chemicals and then we started testing with small fireplace products. All with the idea that people probably aren’t going to spend more than 30 or 40 bucks online. And you know, we just kind of kept pushing that envelope. So every time someone would buy one of our higher end products, we would start adding more higher end products.

Eventually we did get to the point where we were adding wood stoves that sell for 3,000 dollars and selling them you know, and we were probably more shopped than anybody else that– that people were spending that kind of money online, but there is a need for that stuff, it’s hard to find some of these items depending on where you live. So that actually kind of adds to the complications that, typically the people who buy a wood stove online live in a remote area where they can’t get one locally, or the pricing just doesn’t, you know, there’s no benefit, or they don’t have the option they want or the type that they want so they go shopping online and as far as delivery goes, we essentially just ship it out free, I mean it goes…it goes LTL carriers, so a semi truck delivers it and it usually shows up with a lift gate and the driver will lower the freight out of the track on a pallet and a pallet jack and then wheel it up to your garage and that’s it. They leave it there and then it’s the customer’s job to get it into the house from there.

Steve: So you mentioned that you kind of gradually built up your product portfolio, so how did you kind of decide what the next step was in terms of what to carry? How do you decide what to carry in your store basically?

Cochran: Yeah, well, so for the first few years that was really– my role in the company was just adding everything we could get our hands on because back then, most people wouldn’t even sell to us. We didn’t have a retail store so, when we would go to our industry events like the expos and things like that, I mean we would actually like turn our badges around or just hide them under our shirts so people couldn’t see that we were an online retailer. I mean, frankly sometimes we would just lie [laughs] and say that we had a showroom because people just wouldn’t sell to you back then.

And so when we were getting started it was really tough to even find a company who would be willing to wholesale your product as an online retailer only but we built it up. So what we essentially did was took anything we could get our hands on and added it to the site, and so it was pretty funny because back then we didn’t have all the fancy stuff we now so, I would take a catalogue and scan the pages of the catalogue and then I would use like Photoshop and crop out the image and then just use like a paint thing to paint the background in and that was our images for back then.

Steve: So that’s crazy, does that mean that you didn’t actually carry the product then when you listed it on site? How did it work?

Cochran: Yeah, so we would get you know, essentially, we would get a few people to sell to us and so once we were approved as a dealer then we would go to work adding the product on the site and– but no, we didn’t hold the inventory in the beginning, most of it was drop shipped…

Steve: Okay…

Cochran: Some…some of it we did stock, we were shipping; we had a little–a two car garage that we were shipping out of it at first and so we had a couple of hundred items in there, 20 rubber ducks and…seriously.

Steve: [laughs] so you were not joking about the rubber ducks, you…you– rubber ducks was really your first product?

Cochran: Yeah [laughs].

Steve: That’s hilarious.

Cochran: Yeah, yeah so…So yeah I mean, that’s…that’s really what we did and so I would spend all day scanning catalogue pages and cropping out images and writing descriptions and just adding– you know, I got a system down to the point where I was personally adding about a hundred products a week to the website, doing it that way which you know, back then was– I was cranking you know, now it’s like I look back at then I’m like [laughing] yeah.

Steve: So, I’m trying to think– so these vendors that you were working with they had huge catalogues right? So that’s what you mean you were adding products…

Cochran: Yes.

Steve: Oh! Okay. So, how did you– and this is actually a question I often get in my course. How do you get around some of the facts that some of the vendors who require you to have a retail store in order to sell online?

Cochran: Well, I mean, back then we just told them we had one and it was new enough where some people just took our word for it, you know, and if they showed up, we’d open the garage doors and say, ‘here it is’[laughs]. Busted! I mean we just kind of took chances with it back then that…that a rep wasn’t going to come up to the house. Nowadays a lot of them tell you they want a picture of your store front, they want to see an ad, if it would’ve been that way when we were starting we wouldn’t have been able to do that but for the most part, people just didn’t really check up on that, and so we were able to get around it.

Eventually, when we built our…our warehouse, and our call centre and such, we did build in a little spot that we call our show room. And so that’s how we get around it now, technically we have a show room which has like computer station at it and a couple of products and a counter…

Steve: Okay…

Cochran: Where we can talk to people but you know yeah, back then we just kind of told them we had one and gave them our home address and hoped that they didn’t come up to look. Yeah [laughs]

Steve: That’s hilarious; okay so today it sounds it can be a little bit harder to get around that.

Cochran: Yeah, I think it can be, I mean, I talk to people still today that won’t sell to us because we don’t have a show room; even with what I show them they go like…well yeah but… you know, you don’t really have a show room, you need to do a 10,000 dollar order, and have inventory on display and you have to have five display units and all that kind of stuff which we don’t really mess with.

Steve: I see, and so for those vendors you just kind of skip them.

Cochran: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: Yeah, I mean we learned that– and because we did…we did get busted from a few people back then and it turned into a situation where it was like you know, they didn’t want to work with us, and so it just made the whole relationship bad right off the start anyways. So we kind of learnt at this point in time, I think nowadays really, there’s enough people wholesaling out there that you can find people; if you look hard enough and you know where to look and you’re much better of working with people who want your business than trying to get around it and scam someone into working with you, that’s going to be unhappy if they find out because you do a bunch of work, you add a bunch of products to your site and then you know, they find out you weren’t honest and then they pull the line and now you just did all that work for nothing.

So we don’t really play games any more, the reality is, due to the size of our site, once we started gaining momentum, people were coming to us. And so for the most part, I spend most of my time now turning people away, because they’re not going to– because adding their product won’t really add value to our site.

Steve: Right.

Cochran: I don’t have to go in search of products too much often anymore in our current market now. When we go into a new market obviously we’re starting afresh but that’s the nice thing about gaining momentum and building a site is that once you’re up and running, you’ll find that people will come to you if you can get your site listed in some other directories and such.

Steve: Okay, so you started out drop shipping and then when did you decide to start carrying inventory?

Cochran: Well, we started carrying some inventory right off the bat and for a few vendors that required it, but it wasn’t much so we– I would say when we got started we did a mixture of both, we had some inventory and we were drop shipping, but one of the vendors that we found earlier on was a big drop shipping– they were a big vendor, they had thousands and thousands of products and they were drop shipped, so we really grew the business based on that one vendor because we essentially added their entire catalogue to the site and just drop shipped the majority of it until we saw what volume moved, and then we started bringing in inventory on the heavy movers.

Steve: Okay, and do you build any of your own products?

Cochran: We do, we do some manufacturing in China and then bring it in containers, so we’ve slowly grow– been growing that department and that’s where we started into the wholesale side of things. So we actually developed our own products and then both sell them retail on our site and do some wholesale.

Steve: Okay, so we’ll get into that a little bit at the end but I was just curious, since your space is, in my opinion at least, pretty competitive and since you’ve been handling all the marketing and sales for your company, what were some of your strategies early on at least, to generate sales? So you have this website now what?

Cochran: Yeah so we– for the most part we built the business off of paid traffic, so…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: We used you now, it wasn’t Google PBC back then, I forget what it is called now but, we used paid traffic right from the get go and pretty much have used that– has the majority of our business driver for traffic and revenue and our business. SEO kind of came later you know, as we grew the site and just gained SEO but I certainly wouldn’t consider myself as an SEO expert. We did most of our stuff with Paid and we still do.

Steve: So, what are some of the Paid avenues? So I imagine you use Google today?

Cochran: Yeah, Google– we use some advertising like the PLA’s through Google as well and then we use Yahoo– Yahoo and Bing for paid ads as well. We don’t really do anything on facebook or much social media stuff, it’s mostly going to be Google and PLAs. I think we do a little bit on Amazon with their end Platform but that’s pretty small.

Steve: Okay, so the majority of your business is just from Pay-Per-Click service, that’s pretty amazing. .

Cochran: Yeah.

Steve: So how does it– how do you– so how does this grow? Do you just keep increasing your budget, are maxing out? How do you manage your– these campaigns, I mean, you have 15,000 products?

Cochran: Yeah, so for– like up until around 2012, we managed it all in-house, and my dad and I are really just kind of self taught, figuring it out as we go. In 2012 we did hire an agency to kind of take over and you know, paid dividends I mean they’re definitely experts much more that we are in it so now we work with them but up until then it was just– it was a daily thing. We had an in-house guy that we trained, and we would meet once a week to cover the strategy and just keep working those bids. So it was a huge– a huge job, yeah [Laughs] for one guy but he– he tried.

Steve: So primarily Pay-Per-Click, so how do you compete with like the Brick and Mortar guys and the guys with show rooms? Is it price? Is it you know, what are your value propositions for your business?

Cochran: Well, I mean, we add a lot of content on the website so the reality is that we typically give a lot better information than you are going to get if you go into a Brick and Mortar store and that’s just what we are told. So we knew that in our industry, you know, if you want to go buy a barbecue grill for example, where are you going to go? Unless you’re going to buy something from home depot in which you’re not going to get really good information. Not everybody has a high end barbecue grill outlet that they can go and actually get any information from, or look around or see much option. So in certain categories on our site it’s a matter of having a large selection and having unique things that nobody else really has available in their local area, and then combining that with giving high quality information…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: and videos and things like that. We have a lot of the common stuff like free shipping and easy returns and– but I consider that stuff these days to be part of the requirement.

Steve: Of course, yeah.

Cochran: I mean that’s just kind of what you need to offer to be in business online. So– and then we do have a call centre. And that’s one of our biggest things is, we’ve got an in house call centre, with really highly trained people. We get emails from people who are impressed with that every day. Really, I get complements from people saying, ‘Wow! I talked to so and so in your call centre and it was so nice to talk to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about– because we sell some complex products so….

Steve: So, how did you handle all that early on though? Like you… [Laughs]

Cochran: It was crazy [laughs] we– everybody was also a customer service rep, so my dad and I both took phone calls, our accountant who you know, our in house person who did our books–she took phone calls, everybody in the business took calls and there was actually one of our– one of the first years that we really started to do some volume in like November, it got so busy that we couldn’t take calls, like none of us had time to take calls. So we actually put some message on our answering machine saying, ‘we’re sorry we’re just too busy we can’t take your phone calls right now, we’ll call you back in January’ [laughs] and we just shut the phones down, you know, so…

Steve: That’s crazy.

Cochran: But the online orders were coming in so hard that it was just you know, impossible to keep up with it all and, looking back we still laugh about it, but that’s how we did it and we just kept adding to the team as we needed more people.

Steve: So walk me through the process, so someone orders online, and then do you have a tie end to your vendor’s database or?

Cochran: Well we have– no, so we don’t do any– there’s no like EDI or anything like that set up with our vendors into our database. It’s pretty much all run on our end so, if we’re drop shipping then we don’t actually know necessarily if the vendor has inventory on our site, so we’ll just post out the time frame that it’s going to ship within, and if it ends up out of stock or back order or something then we just pick up the phone and call the customer and work with him that way.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: But you know, we stock a lot of products now, we really have pushed more towards the stocking model, so we stock a lot of our big movers anyways, and when we run out we– well we try not to run out but when we do we back order until it comes in.

Steve: Okay. So I guess the customers don’t really exp– they expect that there will be some time of lead time.

Cochran: We post the lead time on every product on the site, and so if it is stocked product, then we’ll probably say one or two business days for shipping for– to leave our warehouse and then if it’s not on stock it’ll have whatever the vendor’s lead time is, and we hope that it’s in stock and if it isn’t, we deal with it then.

Steve: So let’s talk about more of the content that you’re talking about. You said that you started creating videos and reviews of the products that you sell on your site. How is that kind of like formulated into your overall marketing strategy?

Cochran: Well, we found you know just a few years back that shooting videos, basically adding a video to a product page, immediately increased conversions…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: and so we’re really the type of people– my dad and I are the type of people where we don’t really tend to over think, as a matter of fact we usually just jump in and go nuts with something, and then try to make it better as we go, you know [laughs]…

Steve: Sure.

Cochran: So with video, we shot a couple of videos on some of our best products, the conversion rates immediately jumped, and we immediately bought lighting and another couple of cameras and stated shooting videos like crazy. And so, we have a real simple formula and we basically intro the product, talk about some features and benefits, we try to talk about practical use of the product, and a little bit more on the benefits side of things and features and then we close it out with a pretty light call to action.

I mean, our videos are pretty simple, we don’t go high editing or anything like that, we just shoot them– try to shoot them one shot, you know, one take, one shot and edit the front end and the tail end and get up there, but that’s where we spend most of our time in content because video is– ultimately it’s the most leverageable type of content I can find so far. So we can shoot a video, have it transcribed, turn it into a blog post, upload the video on multiple video sites with YouTube and Vimeo and things like that, and so we’ve just been able to take that one piece of content and turn it into multiple pieces of content and it’s actually easier for us to produce a video than it is to try to sit down and write a blog post. So I would much rather jump in front of the camera and give a five minute video on a product than try to sit down and type that all up. So that’s you know, that’s kind of our content method of choice…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: Just because it’s pretty fast for us and it’s leverageable.

Steve: So, do you hey– do you get a lot of customers from YouTube? Do you find or…?

Cochran: We get a pretty fair amount of traffic…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: from YouTube. Yeah, I mean I– we watch the actual sales, and so through Google analytics we’ve got a funnel set up so if they come in from YouTube we track that, if they specifically come from You Tube and buy, but it’s not a real exciting number, it’s not a huge number for us but I think what happens is, by having those videos embedded on our pages, the conversion rates easily justify the effort.

Steve: Sure. Absolutely. So, what sort of lifts were you seeing with– once you started adding video?

Cochran: It’s really been all over the board, based on the product but I mean, we’ve seen some products have you now, double– instantly double conversion rate on a product just by having a video added to the description so– we’ve also seen it where it doesn’t seem to make much of an impact and that could be video or the video or the content in the video didn’t really hit the hot buttons so it’s– we do a lot of testing with it but so far there’s not one thing that I could say is right or wrong because we get so much sporadic data from it…

Steve: Sure…sure.

Cochran: and the only thing that I’ve really been able to realize is that in almost every situation, we get at least a small bump from video so…

Steve: Now that makes sense, I mean, what you’re selling is kind of complicated and for me at least if I was shopping for a barbecue grill like your example earlier, I would definitely want someone explaining that to me because–actually recently, when shopping for one, a year ago and I had no idea, there was like a bajillion barbecue grills out there. So it totally makes sense.

Cochran: Yeah…yeah, and that’s really not even the more complex products, you know, when you start getting into fireplaces, and things like that you end up with tones of technical questions and installation questions and all kinds of stuff so between building learning centers and all that kind of stuff, I mean we try to go as deep into that information as we can.

Steve: Okay, so outside of Pay per Click, where does the rest of your traffic come from and so, where does most of your other business come from outside of PPC?

Cochran: Well, I could say we’ve got– you know, we get some traffic from You Tube, we don’t get much from facebook, and I wouldn’t say that we spend much time on it, we’re not real focused on social media–yet–we see the value in it and the potential but we’re just not, we haven’t quite developed a strategy for it yet or how we’re going to deal with it, but I would say that between paid traffic and the SEO traffic that we get, that’s really the bulk I mean, we don’t really have much coming in from other sources.

Steve: Okay, are you doing anything special on the SEO front?

Cochran: Not besides the video marketing, we optimize our videos and we just really put most of our eggs in that basket right now.

Steve: And what about in terms of email marketing? Do you have a strategy there that…?

Cochran: Yeah, yeah, so we have, you know, we have an opt in when you land on the site there’s a pop up that will offer a coupon if you opt in, and so we build a little– we’re always list building with that, and then we do have other segmented lists on certain areas of the site. So if you land on say areas of wood stoves you might find there’s a list that you can opt into if you want more information about wood stoves specifically, but generally once you opt in you’re going to get a welcome series which just kind of introduces the company, what we’re about and why you should buy from us and some of our policies and then, yeah, we go right into marketing after that.

I’ve talked to other people about what we do and we’ve looked at it and some people would say we go too heavy with the marketing and we should add more value and add more content because we hammer people, I mean, we pretty much send out a minimum of one email per week and it’s almost a 100% focused on marketing. It’s– you know we’re pitching product constantly.

Steve: Okay, obviously it’s working for you so…

Cochran: But yeah, I mean we do that because we measure the results, and the return is there so that’s why we do it and some people get upset and unsubscribe. But we are focused on the people who are buyers that want that kind of information and the ones who don’t, then they can unsubscribe and that works too. So, it’s– that’s just our strategy with it and yeah, we use email marketing, you know, we send like I said about one email per week…

Steve: Uh-huh.

Cochran: and then usually when holidays come around we’ll send out multiple emails for each holiday as well.

Steve: Okay, and so I was just curious, you said you had a pop up, how has that performed? I’ve always been a bit weary of including a pop up on you know, pages where I have actual product. What are your experiences with your pop up?

Cochran: Well, before we had the pop up we had the typical you know, sign up for our newsletter box hidden somewhere at the bottom of our website, and we would get like four or five opt-ins a day maybe. And we lure traffic so I mean, we drive a lot of paid traffic to this site and so for four or five opt-ins a day was like basically nothing.

Steve: Right.

Cochran: And when we started posting– when we started testing the pop up, we immediately went to 40 or 50 opt-ins a day.

Steve: Wow, okay.

Cochran: Yeah, so it was an immediate kick and to my surprise, other metrics actually improved like bounce rate actually went down, which is because I think people were looking at the opt-in and looking at that offer and staying at the site a little bit more.

Steve: Huh, okay.

Cochran: So some other metrics actually improved with it as well which we actually tested it multiple times. We added the pop up and then we pulled it, and then we added it again and we pulled it again because we actually had a lot of conflict in our own business as well, our own employees telling us, ‘oh God! I hate that pop up’ you got [inaudible] [00:32:43].

Steve: Yeah, yeah!

Cochran: And so, we just let the numbers talk and speak for themselves and we finally realized that, yeah, we can add about 600 people per month to our list, and that’s after we talk about unsubscribe so for us, it was a no brainer. It is– you know, our strategy is to offer discount which can be looked at as a giveaway and also here people are already to your site they’re already interested and now you’re offering them a discount, that might confuse them or whatever but we’ve tested it for us, and it’s worked well across the board and to be honest, the funny thing is, as many opt-ins as we get not too many people actually use the coupon. And so we constantly–our whole marketing department– we just crack up because people will opt into the list, buy something that we’re specifically offering at 10% off discount on, and they won’t use a coupon.

Steve: Joe, I’ve had the exact same experience and in fact during check out on every single page I had a coupon code at the top and a lot of people just did not use the coupon code.

Cochran: Yeah.

Steve: It makes absolutely no sense but, yeah it’s funny to hear that someone else has had that experience too. So let’s switch gears a little bit and you know, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but I did want to talk a little bit about your wholesale business, and I just wanted your take on kind of the differences in running a wholesale versus retail.

Cochran: Yeah, we’re not great at it, so it’s not a big part of our business. We started offering wholesale because we got a lot of installers wanting to buy wholesale from us, and for a long time we just told them, ‘no, we don’t do wholesale’ and eventually it was just like, men! We’re turning away– let’s say you got landscapers who are building out a custom you know, outdoor kitchen, and they’re wanting to buy the grill, and the customer already knows what they want and they can’t get you know, they don’t have a wholesale account so a lot of these guys go online to buy stuff but we weren’t offering the wholesale account.

So we were just basically blocking people out and we decided we would start the wholesale business to gain those customers and so we eventually worked it, and now most of them still don’t buy. So we have a few brick and mortar stores that buy products from us through the wholesale network and it’s specifically the products that we get manufactured now, but it’s not a big part of our business, and so as far as running that side of it, I mean, we do some of it but we almost treat it more like the same as our retail. We don’t really spend a bunch of time on it.

Steve: Okay, what is the margin difference, just curious between retail and wholesale, typically?

Cochran: It’s– it depends, I mean, you know, that’s the beauty of importing is that, when you
are manufacturing your own products and importing them in and you know, you can get some pretty huge margins, I mean, 60% margins aren’t unheard of…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: and 40, 50% depending on how you’re buying, so at the wholesale level we’ll be able to do as much as 20 or 30% margin.

Steve: Okay, that’s pretty good.

Cochran: Yeah, and for other areas it’s only 10%. I mean it really is product by product, and I’m sure you’ve seen this too you know, it’s just a product by product.

Steve: Absolutely.

Cochran: Product line by product line, you’re making 60% on this product, and 20 on the next and they’re in the exact same category you know.

Steve: Yeah.

Cochran: But it’s just– it’s price points and so it really depends. Margin is so all over the board, there’s really no rule of thumb that I can really throw out there for it.

Steve: Where do you have your stuff manufactured for the stuff that you do create yourself?

Cochran: It’s– we have a mix of both US manufacturers and China manufacturers.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: Yeah, so.

Steve: Any comments on why you’ve mixed the two or?

Cochran: Well, just some– I mean, essentially some products are made better in the US, and some are made better in China as far as the value that you’re going to be able to deliver. So typically when we decide to manufacture something, we look at what the price point is going to be for volume because essentially to manufacture it, you’ve got to move volume too, to make that work. So you know, we’re looking– if the price point has to be in a certain range, and we can’t hit that range in the US, then we’ll go to China and we can almost always get to where we need to be with price point there.

However, if we can’t hit the range, then what we find is that we can deliver a lot of value in the product if we can get it made in the US just because people will buy simply because it’s made in the US. You know, we are focused, I mean, 99% of our business is US based.

Steve: Okay, right that makes sense.

Cochran: Yeah, so our customers definitely find value in that, and we’ll make sales just because we put a made in the USA symbol on it. So that’s why we have that mix, but it’s more price point for me. I mean if I’m trying to hit a specific price point in a category with this product, then I’ll start usually domestically, and then start moving out from there if we have to.

Steve: Okay, I imagine the headaches are a lot, they’re increased when you go overseas, at least that has been my experience. Do you actually…

Cochran: Automatically yeah.

Steve: Do you actually go over there or is it…?

Cochran: I’ve never been, no.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: We have a guy on the ground there that we work with…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: And actually we find it that’s just– it’s easier anyways than trying to break through the communication barriers and everything like that, then going over there. I have, I know people that go over there and if we were doing a lot, if we had a bigger business in the– especially in the wholesale side where we doing 100 container a year or something, then we’d probably have to go over there to check quality control and stuff but…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: We’re small enough where we can rely on our partners to handle that kind of thing.

Steve: How did you find your partner?

Cochran: Through Alibaba.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: Yeah. We started there and just– we ended up doing a couple of small buys through one manufacturer and then they kind of had a middle man that we were working with that found this manufacturer for us, and we started asking him for other information and help and we’ve been working with him ever since. It’s been great, I mean he– I’m sure we pay a little bit more to go through him but if I need a product I can take a picture and send it to him and he’ll go outsource it for me, figure it all out, doesn’t charge me anything for all of the leg work to find the manufacturer, and get it all figured out and then essentially he’ll help me with all the export and everything so, works pretty good.

Steve: That’s awesome.

Cochran: Yeah.

Steve: That’s awesome, cool.

Cochran: I think we locked out. I’ve heard some bad stories too on Alibaba and stuff and I’ve actually had a couple of bad experiences there but ultimately, we– I think here’s the key which is; focus on building the relationship. I mean, that’s whether you’re talking with the manufacturer or a middle man like we are; build a relationship. They’re you now, they’ve– we’ve been treated really well with everybody we’ve worked with because we focused on that relationship portion of it, not just hammer, hammer, and hammer for the best price you know.

Steve: Yeah, I mean, I’ve had the same experience in fact we should share our horror stories and success stories some time. [Laughs]

Cochran: Sure.

Steve: So, any advice that you would give to new entrepreneurs out there who want to create an ecommerce store of their own today?

Cochran: Yeah, I’m in love with ecommerce, I mean, I absolutely think it’s one of the best start up opportunities for any age group. If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit, and you don’t have a lot of start up money, I think opportunity is an awesome opportunity to grow a business.

And I think the biggest piece of advice would be to– if you want to get into it, commit to it, like for two or three years, not just two or three weeks, or two or three months. I think that’s the biggest mistake that the opportunity seekers have in any of the online spaces. So a lot of people who listen to your podcast probably follow information marketers and things like that, I do too and I love most of the stuffs that I see but you know, if you spend every other week or month reading the newest, latest way to make a buck online, you’ll never get there.

So if you feel like ecommerce is going to be for you, then unsubscribe from all that other stuff and listen to guys like Steve who know their stuff and you know, I read your blog every week. I mean, when you come up with a new blog post, I’m on there reading it because as somebody in the business, I want to be up on ecommerce. I don’t spend a lot of time listening to the newest way to make money with Facebook, or the newest way to make a dollar with selling information products or any of that stuff. I focus in one area and we’ve done that for a long time and so…

Steve: Yeah.

Cochran: The key is just staying focused, don’t look at it as a fast way to make a buck, it’s a business and if you look at it that way and think about it that way, then you’ll be a lot further along.

Steve: That’s great advice and in fact, you know, a lot of times it takes some time for a business to develop. Often times it takes more than a year for you to start getting traction. I don’t know how long it took for you guys to start seeing traction, if you can think back.

Cochran: We went from very small to you know, multimillion dollar business within the first couple of years but the first year it was like nothing.

Steve: Right.

Cochran: You know, so the first year was like, ‘men! Is this really going to work?’ And then the second year maybe we did like a million dollars…

Steve: Uh-huh.

Cochran: in sales and then the third four or five million. So I mean, it grew very fast once it started growing and the reality is for us, and I’m a huge proponent of paid traffic. It wasn’t until we figured out paid traffic that we were able to really scale. And so I don’t want to get up on my soap box and start hammering SEO and why I hate it, but I’ll say that if you want a truly scalable ecommerce business then you need to learn paid traffic because I can go out there and get into a new market. I mean, this is what’s cool about it now.

It’s now that we’ve had this experience, we can literally pick what market we want to move into, and be in business and going and selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in product in months because we understand paid traffic and we understand the math behind making that work and we’re willing to test and stick with it and keep putting money towards it until we make it work now. So I think that’ll be the biggest thing– is stay focused and if you can learn paid traffic it’s a much more scalable Model than trying to figure out SEO, and hoping that the Google gods are going to be kind.

Steve: That makes a whole lot of sense and in fact, with all the recent updates in the past couple of years, people who have depended on SEO have really been hammered whereas the PPC guys, you know, it’s much more steady. You have more control, so I totally agree with you there Joe.

Cochran: Even our business got hammered on PPC around SEO with the updates, I mean, we don’t really do much for SEO and we still got hammered. We see that our organic traffic is probably less than half as it was just a few years ago, and the revenue is even less than half of the revenue just a few years ago but because we don’t really focus on it, I mean, it was a hit, but it certainly didn’t put us out of business whereas yeah I have friends with large seven figure websites that practically went out of business because their whole focus was SEO and now all over sudden they’re looking into paid traffic and starting to learn it but, you know, I love SEO, I love free traffic and I’ll take it any day I can get it but when it comes to scaling your business I think the paid traffic is just so much more reliable and consistent, that, that’s where we spend the bulk of our time because of that reason.

Steve: Okay, so I didn’t want to take up too much of your time. Are there any online services that you recommend for your business that you just can’t live without?

Cochran: I don’t know who your audience is, I mean, some of our services are probably going to be larger than what somebody starting out would use. We use like Rackspace and we use Magento for our websites.

Steve: Okay, [inaudible][00:46:36] edition?

Cochran: Magento enterprise.

Steve: Oh! Enterprise, okay.

Cochran: Yeah and most of our email stuff and all that is not where we started, so I like you know if you’re getting started, I like as many of the free services as you can get, some mail chimp and some things like that are…

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: are great for getting started. I love Shopify and Bigcommerce, we’ve actually run site samples for those as well, and really our big site is what we run on Magento but if I was starting a new site today, I wouldn’t start there.

Steve: Okay.

Cochran: I’ll start somewhere where it’s a little easier and a little less expensive to get moving and try to stay small in your expenses for as long as possible.

Steve: That’s great advice Joe . So, thanks for coming on the show, for all those who want to be able to get in touch with you and maybe ask you some questions, do you just want to give the audience an overview of all of your sites and where they can find you.

Cochran: Yeah, so, I do have a site with just my name and it’s Joe, my middle initial is R like Robert, my last name is Cochran which is and I do offer some consulting for other ecommerce entrepreneurs there, but other than that, our main site is You won’t be able to email me directly through that site though, that goes in through our customer service department so, that would be it. I don’t have any– I don’t usually give out too much direct contacts though.

Steve: No, that’s fine. So I’ll point them over to So if they’re interested in consulting I imagine there’s a form on their way they can get a hold of you, right?
Cochran: Yeah, absolutely and it’s a really kind of lame site with like just you know simple opt in on it basically so…

Steve: I hope so, okay.

Cochran: Not so many detail, does have my middle initial so it’s

Steve: Okay, yeah. I’ll go ahead and put those– all those links on the show notes so…

Cochran: Okay.

Steve: So people can easily click and find you.

Cochran: Cool.

Steve: All right well, thanks a lot Joe, thanks a lot for your time.

Cochran: All right, thank you.

Steve: All right, take care.

Cochran: Have fun. Bye, bye.

Steve: What I admire about Joe is his hustle, even though he was denied by some of his early vendors, he kept at it and found ways to succeed. It’s also a great example of how someone can start out with little or no capital by drop shipping their goods and then gradually transition over to carrying inventory. For more information about this episode, go to, and also if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review.

When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web. And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information; go to, and if you’re interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at

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022: How Phil Taylor Started FinCon And The Financials Behind Running A Popular Conference

Phil Taylor FinCon

My buddy Phil Taylor of joins me on the show today to talk about how he started one of my favorite conferences in the world, FinCon.

Seriously. I look forward to attending FinCon every single year and PT has done an excellent job of bringing together an incredible community of like minded people.

I’ll definitely be there this year and I’m proud to say that I’m giving another talk. In case you missed it, you can check out my speech last year by clicking here.

Anyway, if you are considering putting on your own conference or event, then this podcast is a must listen. And in case you were curious about the economics of running a conference, I’ve posted FinCon’s financials for the first few years below.

FinCon Financials

What You’ll Learn

  • The benefits of starting your own conference as opposed to just attending one
  • How to mitigate risk when starting your own conference
  • How to get great speakers early on when you are a nobody
  • How PT structured his conference so that attendees felt a sense of ownership
  • The economics of conferences
  • The advantages of holding a conference at a hotel as opposed to a separate venue

Other Resources And Books


Steve: You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners, to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead, I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I am giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information, go to And if you are interested in starting your own on-line business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit, in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now on to the show.
Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family, and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I am thrilled to have a have a good friend of mine on the show Phil Taylor, but everyone actually just calls him PT, so I’m going to refer to him as PT for the remainder of the show. Now, I met PT probably around four years ago, and he reached out randomly to me to do an interview and we’ve kind of kept in touch ever since. Now, PT blogs at, but I actually brought him on the show to talk about how he started FinCon, perhaps the greatest conference in the annals of all conferences that I have been to.

Now, you probably heard me talk about FinCon multiple times already on this podcast, and that’s because it’s my all time favorite, now, lots of high quality people attend every year, and I‘ve met so many new entrepreneurs from attending, many of which I now call my friends, and, quite frankly I owe this all to PT. Now, anyways PT is an amazing guy, and did you know that he also raps? And I’m going to post a video below this podcast for you guys all to look at, but welcome to the show PT man, how’s the going?

Phil: It’s going great Steve, thanks man; great intro I appreciate you.

Steve: Yeah, so PT, let’s start briefly talking about your blog and give us the quick back story of why you started and then cut to how this all evolved into the greatest conference on earth.

Phil: Yeah, sure. So, in 2007, I was totally passionate about the subject of personal finance, reading as many personal finance blogs as I could get my hands on, just really absorbing as many books and like Dave Ramsey, all this stuff about personal finance just totally kicking out about it. Eventually I just started, hey, you know, I’ve got a financial background, I’m a CPA, I’ve got some things to offer here a voice of my own, and so, that’s when was born, and I just started to share my story with money, my tips and advice as well as kind of my experiences, what’s going on, getting well that beginning out of debt or starting cycle soles, or learning to invest, things like that.

And, what I discovered also was that having my own blog and they allowed me to tap into that community as well, so, not only could I continue to read those other blogs but now those folks who were my buddies, like those guys and girls who were people, who I could reach out to e-mails and say, hey I’ve got to this site as well like let’s talk shop a little bit, let’s talk about blogging or whatever it is. And you know, I eventually started going to you know, conferences, things like Win Press Conferences, Word Camps, New Mini Expo or affiliate summits and I just started meeting these people face to face, and it was through those kind of initial interactions where I saw the power of online communities coming together in real life and, especially for the financial community because a lot of those at the time were anonymous.

And so, we are out to share financial details online, and so there is this real connection between each other, and being able to sit down and have, you know, a drink with someone or have a meal with someone or just kind of talk, it’s pretty powerful in this community, and so I think that’s what makes things and will lead to kind of makes FinCon so special is the community, this sort of ready to corner face to face. And so, I just got tapped into that when I decided to eventually to start FinCon as well, but still the PTMoney, it’s a cool place I can still share whatever I want that’s going on with my finances, and how are other stores as well, like I did with you back in what was this– 2011 may be…

Steve: I think so, yeah.

Phil: When we talked about how you built your online store business and what– the great thing you’re doing there on your blog. So, that’s kind of a quick intro of me, and ready to dive into all conferences, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, I just thought I’d make a quick note to what you just said, so, prior to going to FinCon, I felt like I was just blogging in a vacuum, like I wasn’t really talking to a whole lot of people, and FinCon was actually the first time where I got to meet a lot of these guys face to face. People who have been sharing content for many years, I finally got to see eye to eye and that was just awesome, and so I’ve been hooked ever since.

Phil: Yeah, and there is going to two ways you could do that when you have your own media company like you do, I mean, you could have a lot of media companies– they have an event for the actual readers which I think is a cool idea, but for me it really resonated to have an event for the people who are also doing what I’m doing, like have an industry conference, right? And so, that’s really– really gave me energy with what I was doing with my blog and it still does to this day and so that’s why I think FinCon came about because that was really passionate, something I was passionate about was being close to those people, so.

Steve: Yes, what are some of the personal benefits of actually just starting the conference yourself as opposed to just attending other conferences?

Phil: Well, it gives you a lot more work to do, so you do a lot of work [laughter]. Let’s say, you know it certainly, you know, positions you I guess in a place where a lot of people– more people might know about you or know what you are doing or be grateful through what you are providing, and so, it puts you on a position where you can serve a lot of people – put it that way. What is the cool thing? You know, giving to a bigger group of people and giving them something that they didn’t have before, you know, it’s pretty special, and so being in that position is great. Also, back to me face to face, you know, and I’m close to a lot of my sort of blogging heroes, guys like you, Jeff Rose and Luke Landes from Consumerism Commentary and just so many others that, you know, are read for so long, and just kind of held on this, you know blogging pedestal but now it’s like they are speaking in my conference.

So, there’s kind of a cool factor there I guess you will, but, just in general– just to me the benefit was being at the conference myself because I’d really created event that I wanted to be at, and so I think that’s important with creating events if you are in their planner or you want to be inspiring. The biggest benefit is that you need to craft this thing that is perfect from meeting your needs right, that’s what FinCon is or at least when we started and unusually was– is something that met my needs, you know. So that sort of it made a huge benefit and also, kind of another benefit for me is that I struggled for a long time for having a real physical product or service. PTMoney has been a great business but it’s really passive, and it’s also out of my control [Inaudible] [00:08:15] with the businesses that are out of my control or the way I have structured now they are out my control. And so, I always struggled with, man I really need a real product or service that my blog can support, and while FinCon isn’t necessarily that, it is a real business.

You know, it’s something that has like real customers, real customer support, real, you know face to face customer interaction as well as like real monetary exchange like physical exchange, and so, it’s really been cool to have like a real business, you know, to sort of balance what I’m doing with my passive business of PTMoney. And they are– luckily they are sort of indirectly related as well because certain folks , you know, a lot of people knowing now just from FinCon, and that has a lot of added benefit when it comes to PTMoney because some of that love comes back to that site and gives a low light to boost. So, yeah, lots of benefit I would encourage anyone who is looking to be– who’s passionate about a community or a set of people, who you can tell want to be together, if you can put yourself in that position to be the guard and bring together, I mean there is a lot of benefits to do that. I would highly encourage that, yeah.

Steve: So, just curious, I mean, you mentioned out of control– out of your control the PTMoney. Can you just elaborate a little bit about that?

Phil: Right, well, PTMoney is primarily a site that gets its traffic from Google search engines or other search engines…

Steve: Okay.

Phil: In addition, I don’t have a product or service to offer my– the people who do come there, from that other source. So, what I do is I pass them off to a relevant advertiser whether that be through an agents click or through an affiliate marketing purchase. So, I’m getting the customers using someone else’s channel, and I’m selling them a product or service that is not my own, that I can’t control and I can’t– there is no guarantee that I can continue to sell it. So, I’m just a middleman, a pure middleman information marker, and so…

Steve: Okay.

Phil: …Because I don’t have full control of what’s coming in and I don’t have full control of what I can offer, you know, you are handicapped, you are limited and things can be good for a while, you know, if that person sending effect– if Google sending you great traffic. They can be bad if they stop, and it can be really bad if in addition to Google stopping those customers– I mean those advertisers don’t want to work with you anymore either, so, you know, you are putting yourself in a bad position. This is not a real– it’s not a business that you have enough control over in my opinion. So, always see ways to correct that, or learn how to create your own traffic and learn how to create your product or service that you can offer. And so, that’s something I need to do with PTMoney eventually, but I got sidetracked with this other real business.
Steve: Yeah, I know, so that’s a really good point you just brought up, the fact that, because you are referring people to other people’s products you are not really establishing a brand or a product for yourself. And that’s why you are at the mercy essentially of other traffic sources and if those things dry up or one of your affiliate decides to stop the affiliate program, you are in trouble, right? Yeah.

Phil: And in fact I have one more note in this conversation is that, when you don’t have the product or services of your own, it’s harder to do marketing, it’s harder to do customer engagement, it’s harder to do these things if you don’t have that sort of in goal, like what you’d have with My Wife Quit Her Job is awesome but because you’ve got a product now and back in the back end there. Everything– nothing has to lead to that, but it can lead that, right? And so, you have this like security in your marketing that, hey, at least at the end of the day, at least we can move people toward purchasing that product, and so, that feels like it’s cool, it’s like real business, and so, the speaker one time I heard things like it’s going to work out, it’s like real business ass, like real business sharing, you know.

Steve: Hey PT you’re actually breaking up here, I’m going stop and then call you right back. Go on where you left off really.

Phil: All right, I think I was talking about the benefits of having your own physical product or service. And so, for me it’s given me a lot of confidence in my business skills and in pushing the life like, email marketing is so much easier for me now, because I have something to offer and I can speak to– I can serve a community, and eventually lead them to a product or service that I’m matched in with. And so, within conscience, it’s really fine to do an online business that has a real solid in goal. I want to encourage someone out there to do that. You may be working on something that’s more passive or more sort of out of your control, to kind of put something out there that they can lead people toward– anything, just your business skills– keep shopping so much quicker when you have something like that to offer.

Steve: Okay, so I know that making money was not the primary motivation for starting FinCon, but is the conference profitable?

Phil: It is profitable, I haven’t lost money on it yet which is great. Well, I guess if you considered the time I put into it maybe I have lost little money, but it’s been profitable on a couple of ways we talked– we eluded to how it sort of indirectly helped what I am doing at PTMoney which has been great. It gives me a lot more contacts there, a lot more relations– great relationships in the affiliate marketing world as well. So that’s how PTMoney– but the conference itself– it is hard to make money with an event, and especially an event that I consider to be a community or industry tagged event , right, because I am not the star of the show necessarily and I am bringing together a community that is making the thing great, right.

Well, I’ve got to figure out how to, you know, partner with the right folks and continue to make it exciting and fun, but also make a little, you know, it will be nice to make a little return for the time I’m putting into the thing. And in the past it, and you can see this on my blog– I was just going to tell you, in 2011 the first year of the conference we made between I think 15 and 20,000 dollars. So, you know, a nice little fly income but probably not worth the time I put into it. Then next year, we probably make 5 or 10,000 more than that, and then same rules as last year we probably made around 30,000 as well. So, it’s not been a big money maker for me yet, but I really treated it like a side business up to that point. So I don’t want to fool anyone to thinking that, you know how to start it off, is a 100% full profit kind of thing, let’s crank this out money wise, I would not have made that amount of money, I mean, I was how doing FinCon for different reasons, right one of which was to make a little side income, and I did that.

This year things have changed, and so I’ve set my sights higher, I do want to make six figures off the conference this year, that is what I’m planning for, it’s what I’m budgeting for, and I was putting all to you know, put the numbers on the paper and it looks to me like it’s going to work out up to this point, so a few things we need to do, but you know, I’m heading that direction. So, I’m really thankful that this year I finally sort of grabbed it by the reigns a little more to ownership of that, and my ability to do that, and we can talk about some little ways of– some of the things have changed if you want how things have evolved there too.

Steve: Yeah, I was going to– actually start from the beginning. So, first of all, this is– is FinCon going to make more than your blog or is your blog still your primary bread earner, at this point?

Phil: I expect FinCon to slightly surpass my blog for 2014.

Steve: Okay, so, one thing that you just alluded to is– personally what I like about FinCon is that when I go every year, everything is pretty much covered, there’s awesome events day and night and you actually feed us during the conference. Now other conferences I’ve been to don’t provide nearly as much, and they actually cost many times more too. So, clearly, you know, I was just I surprised at how inexpensive FinCon is. How do you manage to provide so much value for so little cost at your conference?

Phil: Right, so, it is heavily subsidized by the sponsors that we get to blog. Whether that be a corporate sort of sponsor or a specific sponsor, or exhibitor type companies also come and exhibit there. So, you know we’ve build it up to where part of the ticket price is or the ticket price is covering so much of the cost and then sponsorships help cover the rest and so, that’s primarily where we do it, you know…

Steve: So, how does it? Sorry go on.

Phil: And I wanted it to be– I wanted FinCon to be compared to a Word Camp, or some other type of industry conference like TBEX or lets travel blog’s exchange conference, or you know, some of these other events, where it’s more of that bringing the community together than it is about, you know, provide– I guess, meeting like the needs of like meeting you. You’ve established our business, right. So, I wanted [inaudible] [00:17:55] there, I wanted people who were generous that might work for company who is not really necessarily paying them to be there. So I really wanted to have the feel of like a complete community there, and so when you shooting for that, I think you need kind of be flexible in terms of who or how much you charge. And so that was my goal and I was not just interested– I was more interested in having everyone there than I was making money individually off those people. Because people are at different spectrums, some people are doing great with their businesses, some people don’t even consider themselves as business owner, they are just blogging.

So, I’ve walked in there too, and so what I have learnt to do, and you can see that in the pricing this year is that I have created experiences, or more value for people who are serious about it. And they can come to the conference and get sort of a higher level of interaction and business and sort of a more mature experience–that’s a bad word, but more involved experience I think calling for a higher price. And so, that’s something I have done to try to sort of solve that kind of conundrum, the fact that yes, you Steve are doing real great with your business and you all have to pay not hand boxed some of them make actually I mean that’s ridiculous. And you just mentioned that, yeah you gain a lot for being there, a lot of food, which is a big expense and so, yeah, certainly, that’s difficult to do but sponsorships help a lot.

Steve: So, with the tradeoffs, I suppose so you’ve been to World Domination Summit, which does not have any sponsorships at all. I imagine it’s quite a hassle to get sponsorships for this conference, right?

Phil: Well, you know, surprisingly it wasn’t that tough, it’s something you have to work at and you have to kind of continue to pay attention to I guess, but with PTMoney I had sort of existing relationships built in. So, I was working with a lot of these companies with PTMoney. And so, I just called up the person I knew from Prencence [phonetic] ID-Direct, or at the time or Ally bank at the time and said, “Hey, I’m in your affiliate program, we do some content exchanges, by the way I’ve got this conference going now, and you can be in front of all these bloggers and, you know, help support what we are trying to with this little community.” And so, that worked out really well, so the financial companies got up really quickly and they wanted to be a part of it from the onset.
So, we really do well with the financial side of the house because they see the leverage value of the conference, right. They don’t look at it as hey, there’s just 200 bloggers in the room. They look at 200 bloggers times the number of readers and followers that these people have, and so, they see a lot of value for that. Now, what’s been challenging for me is convincing web service companies to be there, hosting companies, you know, marketing companies. I mean, they sort of want to be involved, but they don’t want to spend too much money, because they are looking at it from all our perspective as a one on one thing, right, they see five or 500 people in the room, that’s the 500 people they want to reach by marketing in this event.

Steve: That’s not necessarily true, right, because even bloggers can blog about their service and they can get money that way as well, right?

Phil: Right, Yeah, solely and solely folks like yourself who sort of touch on small businesses as well as finances, so.

Steve: So, this conference mainly target bloggers then?

Phil: You know, I started off as a financial blogger conference, and certainly that was the community I was heavily tapped into when I first started it, but I can tell you from it, from– as soon as I opened the doors on the thing, that all different types of folks wanted to be involved, so just generally internet marketers wanted to be there, folks like freelance writers wanted to be there. So people who may not never had a platform already, who were just writing online for different publications wanted to be there, traditional journalists wanted to come out and be a part of it, and because they know that they are needing to learn those sort of on your own short skills, to try and create their own platforms if the one you are working for, you know, goes [Inaudible] [00:22:08] which they are doing every day.

Also financial planners wanted to come out, because they are using online marketing to– and counter marketing to get people attracted to their service. So, lots of different types came out and we quickly realized that this is bigger than blogging, and from that point I’m really pushing FinCon toward really being a new media conference. A mere what you see going on with blog or next door which not New Media Expo…

Steve: Right.

Phil: …And so to try to move my brand in that similar direction which is why I only call FinCon, FinCon now, and I don’t speak about being a financial blogger conference, because I want people to recognize that it’s something that’s bigger than blogging. Blogging was at the core of it, you know that’s what of what– there was a true community of bloggers, that helped build it and make it awesome, but it’s just become– the demand for it is outside of that skill, and so I need to meet the needs of the people who want to be there, I think, but still honoring the spirit of what made FinCon so great to begin with. And so, that’s what I am trying to balance and do, and that has added benefit of growing the conference– helping to grow the conference too, which is something, you know, I’d like to do, so yeah.

Steve: Right.

Phil: It’s been interesting to kind of follow that.

Steve: So, most people don’t know this, but a while back PT and I were actually thinking about starting another conference focusing on site also businesses, but the idea fizzled when I realized that I still had two kids, and all these businesses around and PT just had another kid. So, we don’t really have the time, but if someone wanted to start a conference of their own where would they start? So, take me back me to the first FinCon and just walk me through the process.
Phil: Yeah so, when you’re thinking about doing this, having an event, you sort of have a vision in your head, it’s maybe what you think this thing might look like, and that’s great, that’s great to have that vision and to hold onto, but it’s also good to have a community to test this idea against, and what I did was I started with a sort of a bit of group of folks, ten folks who I knew really well and I was talking with online every day. And I knew that if I made a conference for these folks that a lot of other people like minded may be at different points in their experiences, if building something online would want to come as well. There was also the factor of inviting folks who like J Ross, who really people just wanted to see and meet who are really super stars in the community, and so there was a little bit of that as well.

So I want to encourage everyone, now to tap into the existing community if there is one. If there is not then find some stake holders that you can kind of create a community around. I used a little baby group, and what I did was just kind of put out on to them “Hey, if I did this event would you guys come?” It’s this simple question, you know, and I mean, I could just– I got the feedback I got was just overwhelming and it was just powerful like, yes, yes, yes let’s do it, a 100%.

I mean, just to validate my idea immediately and really strongly, and then connecting with those super stars like JD to be a part of it, and figuring out a way to make it what to offer them to show up and be there was also huge stuff in terms of marketing it. And then once I built up the site, for the financial blogger conference, the first thing I did in there was put some kind of social proof, so I kind of put a Facebook like box somewhere, really front and center so people could see who was liking it, so that they could see the other bloggers who were digging it and into it as well as an email form.

And I kind of mentioned this earlier, but my email marketing became so easy for me because these people– I had something to offer. I knew I was going to eventually have something to offer them. And so holding up this email list and saying “Hey, join this to find out more information about this upcoming conference, you can help me build it, you can help me make it great, join this list”. And so that was one of the coolest things I did, and before I knew it, like a week or two later, you know, like a 100 people on that list, and I was really getting real feedback, and real engagement in terms of, you know, trying to build up something great, so…

Steve: So, this list, you just put it out and what was the incentive for signing up, just for more information about the conference?

Phil: Totally, yeah, not even– no incentive at all really just hey, if you want to hear more about this, you know, when we announce dates, when we you know announce speaker information, things like that. I mean, people sort of understand how a conference works, but inherently– but certainly, you know, engaging them is something I wanted to do, because again I wanted to be a community over there, I wanted to be something that when people came they thought, “Yes, I help build a little bit of this, I was kind of a part of this in a little way.” And so, that was pretty important to me as well as it ended up being something that helped the marketing and helped make the conference cool, and it helped give people a sense of ownership of it. And so, they would want to come back and be a part of the thing that they helped create.

Steve: So, how did you attract some of the bigger names, like this is a no name conference in the beginning, right, so how do you attract the big names like the J.D. Ross, the Luke Landes’s and those guys?

Phil: Well, I am blessed in that from the most part they just wanted to be involved, you know, I asked them how they wanted to be involved, and they wanted to speak at it, and so I gave them sort of a platform there, and I made as much of a superstars they wanted to be at the event, I tried to make them that. And so different people came in at different times and wanted to participate and that’s cool. I’m so thankful for that, I asked guys like Pat McClendon to be involved early on and just asked.

I just said I’m having this event, and I really dig what you are doing, and you know, some I knew for a while, so I was like you’ve been a buddy for a while, I want to put you on stage in this conference and make you the star of it. And that had enough of an appeal, and again, you know most of the stars that I pulled from– or people who were part of the community too, and they just wanted to meet the other people in the industry as well, so, it’s kind of a no brainer for them as well. And that’s the power of having an existing community to tap into. I can’t stress that enough, if you already got that, it’s easy, you know, and really running event is really easy, if you’ve got a group of people who already want to be together.

Steve: So, how did the economics work, so did you pay these speakers in the beginning for the first conference?

Phil: I did– I let them come to the conference for free, and then I surprised them with a small payment once they got there, because, you know, I had some left in the budget and I just wanted to at least give a little bit of the money to help out with a little bit the travel. It wasn’t much at all, but it was unexpected and I gave them a personal note along with it, and I think it was something they all appreciated. That’s when I realized I wanted to maybe continue doing that. And so you know, having those people all born the feature meant a lot to me.

And, so I was really thankful for what they contributed and I am every year for the speakers like yourself who come and really bring like an awesome talk and so, you certainly want to reward those people and make it valuable for them. You should have figured out what valuable is, is different for different people. I mean some people want a payment, some people want some kind of a different exposure. With my keynote speakers now, some want payment, some want may be help with some book they’re promoting, some may be want a booth at the event, some want like a meet and greet type of thing to kind of make– kind of raise their status a little bit, and it’s just different things to different people. I’ll try to figure out what that is and I’ll have a– you know, everyone who speaks in FinCon, who prepares to speak– prepares to speak something certainly gets a free ticket to come.

Steve: Right.

Phil: And so, but that’s kind of the starting point.

Steve: So, in terms of the economics, you kind of have this chicken and egg problem, in the very beginning, right? In a nut shell if you’re going to sell these tickets and yet do you have to put a whole bunch of money down to plan the thing, before you even collect money?

Phil: Well, luckily the first hotel didn’t require a big down payment, but backing up a little bit, yes that is scary, that’s the biggest fear I had was “Hey, I’m going to be spending a lot of money, and then something is going to blow up, and people don’t come, and I’ll lose all this money.” Well, to the most part, you know, you can structure your events to where you can reduce your risk. One of thing I did was– as I told you I kind of had a grand vision initially of what I wanted this event to be, and then what I did was, I decided I was going to have– I was going to plan for two versions of the conference.

So I had that big vision of what I wanted the conference to be, and then I scaled it back probably 50% and said, okay, just [Inaudible] [00:31:08] for these many sponsors, this many attendees, and this much spent and budget and all that, and then, if we hit those marks, say within the first couple of months of marketing this conference, then we will open up the doors for conference B the big vision, and we will go for that.

So, I sort of had build in my mind two versions of the conference and, not out of my mind but physically, you know on paper, I put it up there then hey, this is conference A and we are going to shoot for this and at some point if we meet these marks, sell out all these– the base level sponsorships, sell all the tickets, then hey, we are going to open up the doors and so make it a big conference. And so, any new event planner that’s something I would advise you to do is going to have a two step process where you have the safe thing you can create, but if you hit it really quick in your marketing then hey, go for the big thing.

Steve: But, don’t you have to have the venue down ahead of time, and that venue can only have a certain capacity, right?

Phil: Well, you know, I was probably seven, eight months out– and yes you are right, but most events can handle– if they can handle something like for me a big conference for me was 300 people, so that was my big vision. And so, a small conference would have been 100 people.

Steve: Okay.

Phil: So, any– most places can handle both of those capacities pretty well. So, but I guess to answer your question more directly, you know, you don’t have to have the event– for me I didn’t have to have the facility initially because what I did was that I asked people, hey, where do you want to have it, you know I was like, what weekend do you want to have this thing? I got that granule with the email list in the early days of planning.

I helped them actually pick the date– help used them to help me actually pick the date, and I think I even like offered a couple of hotel options, and said, hey, would you rather have it here or would you rather have it here. And that’s how I got their input on both those things to kind of attract me six figure and I knew I eventually needed to have it. So, sort of buy that, you know, buy that– after that getting a little bit of that feedback, you know, I had like 100 tickets sold. So, I kind of knew at that point, hey, I needed to go this corporate B option anyway. So, I just sort of evolved while I was planning that it just so happened that I could kind of experiment with that bigger thing.

Steve: So, when does the sponsorship money come in place? Does it come in the end, and you don’t have to pay the venue until the end after the event? Is this how it works or?

Phil: Some hotels are going to require some type of a deposit but…

Steve: Okay.

Phil: But in all the ones that I have worked with, none have. They just want the agreement signed and then you are bound by that agreement and typically in a conference, the agreement spells out a specific spend on food and beverage. And in that case, I got all the conference rooms for free as long as I spend 30,000 dollars on food and beverage.

Steve: Okay.

Phil: And so, that’s what hotels want you to do, they want you to come in and buy their food, because that’s something that they can really mark up and make a lot of money on, and same thing with their [Inaudible] [00:34:16]. That’s really high margin products and services they can offer and so, that’s what they want to nail you down on. They can give you the space for free because they value build up space is not – it’s not going off their to give it to you as long as you’re spending money while you’re there and guaranteeing rooms as well.

So, that’s one thing that each of the hotels that I have worked with in the past have done. They will ask me to guarantee a certain amount of food and beverage spend and a certain amount of rooms guaranteed as well. And so, I’ve heard since, that you don’t have to do that, like you can get away with one or the other, a certain amount of food or a certain amount of rooms, but I think most will at least require a certain amount of rooms that you guarantee that you are going to need for you to freely come and be there– come there and use their space.

Steve: Okay, so that’s interesting, so, you’ve chosen to have your events at hotels, which I like by the way, everyone’s crushing in the same place and it’s awesome. Other conferences I have been to haven’t– they have like just linen spread out avenues, so I guess going the hotel route is just convenient, because it is like a one stop shop for everything. Is this why you chose the hotel route?

Phil: You know, I debated that early on, and I agree there is kind of a cool factor for may be having like a theatre or like an alternative space or something, and that’s cool and I like that, but I really liked having it– since we are a community of people, like who want to be together a lot, you know, and so, having stuff in the lobby of the hotel, having stuff at the bar and the hotel, I mean, people just want to be around each other the whole time.

And so, it just made a lot of sense to like all be together in the same place, physically like staying in the same hotel. And so, yeah, that’s been important to me in doing that and, yes, hotels do make it easy, I mean, you have to pay them, you have to figure– they are more expensive I think, and it’s harder to control the cost because you are depending on them so much, but, you are– they certainly take– they do these every weekend, they run these events every weekend, and they explore that, I mean, they don’t skip a beat, and they really make me as a conference planner look like I know what I’m doing, you know, they take a lot of the headache away.

Steve: Okay.

Phil: The staff, and their planning and their facilities, I mean they just know how to do these events, and they just make it so easy for you.

Steve: Okay, yeah, so I just thought I’d add one of the things I really like about FinCon is that, since I walk in the lobby, I see all these people that I know and it takes, and usually a couple of hours just to get up to my room in the first place. And I like how everyone’s just crushing in the same hotel, you don’t really get that at other conferences where everyone is just kind of spread all over place. At one of the other conferences I went to, it was like a struggle for me to meet up with other people, and that’s what I really like about FinCon.

Phil: And we have the benefit of being a smaller group too which makes it easier, but as we grow that is becoming more of a challenge of having to look for hotels that can accommodate more people. But I love that aspect in FinCon, and yeah I’m glad you noticed that, and that’s something that’s been intentional, so.

Steve: Yeah, so, let’s go back to the launch, right. You’re trying to sell tickets, so do you– is there a strategy involved and just– yeah, you mentioned two plans, right, so do you just release these tickets kind of piece of meal, or how does it work?

Phil: You know, after some initial planning, doing some surveys, and getting on the– sort of the email list going, with getting people’s feedback, there became a point where I said all right this is going to be my day when I release tickets and answer to the list. I went in on, that’s a tool I use to build out the ticket options, and you know, I just came up with a number that for me sounded reasonable compared to other conferences, as well as sort of calculate it up to a number that based on, the number of sponsorships I was going to bring in as well would ensure that you know, I didn’t lose money on this event. So, yeah just is hugely helpful advertising with PayPal and they have– even have like a widget where you can add the tool to your website as well. So, it’s really seamless, they have a great tool and have a lot of control behind the things, behind the scenes, sort of wedges that can kind of help, you know, do the event a little better, but yeah.

Steve: So, yeah, one thing I kind of noticed was that, you started kind of releasing the tickets out in phases so to speak, like you have this kind of…

Phil: Yeah, yeah, yeah so, certainly with events yeah, I mean good point, and that was part of my plan initially with the two different conferences, was so that I can have confidence in meeting at least conference A, I needed people to buy tickets, buy certain times, so that I can make the decision of, hey let’s go to conference B. So, certainly I set a date for myself and said, okay, if tickets purchased before this time, we’ll call early bird tickets and then after that will be normal ticket pricing. So, if you buy before this point, you know, you will get a big discount. And so, I think it was like 30 or 25 bucks discount. It wasn’t much, but we are talking to financial bloggers here, they are not looking to save…

Steve: Yeah.

Phil: …25 bucks if they can so, that was huge in marketing the event, and that’s not something that’s put out there from an event marketing stand point to, you know, trick anyone, or to harm anyone. It’s not like negative marketing I’m trying to do there, it’s this– the realities of having an event and holding yourself up there and the far that you get down the pipe with all your marketing spend, all your commitments to the hotel, to speakers, things like that, the more confidence you need to have in that people are going to be there. And so, that’s certainly why we do the other word pricing, and reward people who are– know they are going to come back and faithful to you purchase the tickets early on and really help support what you are trying to build, right.

Steve: Yeah so, that’s so really smart, so just to summarize you let out these early bird tickets at a discount, and then those early tickets go on and that just kind of gives you the confidence that things are rolling, that you have the confidence to invest even more and then release that second round of tickets.

Phil: That’s right.

Steve: Okay.

Phil: And with this current FinCon we’re on now, we’ll hit that point at the end of June, so June 30th is when ticket prices go up, you know heavily. And so at that point I have confidence that I’ll know, I’ll be calm looking at the type of Con. That’s what you want to do with an event, as early as possible you want to build the stair down the event that you are going to have on the day– on day one of the conference, like if you can sort of vision that and see that a couple of months out two, three months out, then you are really doing great in terms of your event planning, and so having ticket pre-sales, trying to get your sponsorships knocked out really early, key speakers knocked out really early.

I mean those kind of things help to formulate a conference where two, three months out, you know, you see the vision for the conference, not just a vision but you see the conference that you have at that point. And you could sort of extract an idea out, pick up a few more sales here and there, but for the most part this is the conference that you are going to have, and then the last three months become so much easier because you just kind of plug in holes where they are, and really refining the conference and making it special.

Steve: Right, so after you’ve kind of reached that breakeven point so to speak, it’s all good from there. So, how do you get the word out about your first conference? You mentioned the email list…

Phil: Yeah.

Steve: …And what else to do.

Phil: So, I did the email list, I was a part of forums and some other communities online where I just tapped into that. I also gave people– I believe I gave people some type of button to say they were going to the conference, they could put on their site especially the speakers I think. So, I gave them something to highlight to their communities as well. User usually leverage the power of the folks who you are involved with. I mean there is so many things we do now, that we didn’t do that first year, like, you know, a lot of conferences will have webinars or podcasts or some type of content offering from the speakers who are going to be at the event, and then that leads to more exposure and more awareness of the event for new folks as well.

So, with– for instance with FinCon this year we are doing podcasts with all of our keynote speakers and those who are in the back they are on iTunes now, so I knew where to pick those up and learn about the conference. So, but also more than that those speakers have big audiences. So guys like Chris Tucker, Path Lenn [phonetic], Fernice Trobby [phonetic] who’s one of our keynote speakers this year, I mean they have big communities and when they share the content that they are offering up, it leads to more exposure as well. So I definitely earlier on especially leveraged the fact that, hey you know, some of these speakers have bigger audiences than me, and more influence in the personal parts of blogging communities than me, and so to try and leverage those relationships, was key, you know as well.

Steve: Okay, yeah that’s great advice. There’s actually also a whole bunch of set up too. You mentioned the hotel staff takes care of a lot of it, but you’re by yourself right, so how did you manage all that stuff for the first FinCon?

Phil: Well, I just spend every waking hour on it Steve.

Steve: Okay, did you get help from others or was it just…?

Phil: You know, there were certain elements of the conference that I knew I wanted to work on for instance the scheduling and the speaking, who I wanted on the stage, things like that. I just really wanted to do that myself. And so, I took them on myself, but then there were things like, you know, building up the badges which was very, you know, technical from our ad perspective and logistical perspective. There were so many things like that, where I knew I could do it, but I was busy spending my will a little bit, so I started relying on a couple of freelancers that I had worked with on PTMoney.

So Jessica who was my VA on PTMoney– I started leveraging her to help with some of the event planning, as well as she likes carrying the menu, planning for the hotel, she chose some of that stuff, she also calls some of the outside vendors, some of the places we would go for like parties and stuff at night and sort of set those things up. She also did a little bit of like speaker management, where she sort of gathered their bios and their pics and built up some things like that, and then also hired a guy to do– but my friend Ryan, who still works for me– with me today freelance basis. Then he did all the badge design, he did some other total designs for me, sort of took care of the T-shirts, things like that.

So, yeah, I’ll leverage a couple of freelance people– people I’ve worked with PTMoney before, and people who I really trust in. And then in certain aspects of the conference itself, you know, I again I listen to what the community was trying to tell me. I think even once I made some initial selections on speakers I sort of did evaluating process to– for the attendees who are already signed up to say, hey, here are the people who I’ve submitted speaker proposals, what’s about on these, like you guys tell me which one of these you want to hear from, or which one you– you know, these topics you want to see at the event. So, I use a little bit of that to help crowd source kind of coming together with the event, but yeah, I mean just a lot of time and energy spent on myself worrying about every little aspect of it, you know.

Steve: Yes, I mean, I just– thinking about all the little things that I notice at the conference, you have swag bags, you have all these banners, and indicate design, you even have a magazine that goes out, it’s just crazy amount of work. So, I really appreciate all the things that have just come together with the conference, and I look forward– it’s like one of the one things I look forward to, you know, every single year is going to FinCon, So thank you for that.

Phil: Yeah, thank you.

Steve: So, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but so I’ll link up all the resources you mentioned in this podcast, but where can people find you?

Phil: Yeah, so hit me up at or @ptmoney on twitter, and then starting with the conference, This is the website and like Steve and I mentioned early bird tickets are still on sale so get those before June 30th and then on twitter we are FinCon or @FinCon.

Steve: Okay, awesome, so, I will be there for sure, so if any of you guys want to come out and meet, I’d love to meet out with the people that that are listening. All right, thanks a lot PT, thanks for your time.

Phil: Thanks to you, pleasure being on.
Steve: Yeah, pleasure having you, thanks. I wasn’t joking in the podcast. FinCon is easily my favorite conference in the world. PT has created an incredible community of people that really care about each other and he’s really put in a ton of work into this conference. So this year, I’m going to be giving another talk at FinCon, so please come and support me. Last year I talked about how I made over 300k over the last two years with an email auto responder, and this year I will likely talk about e-commerce. For more information about this episode, go to, and if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not always makes me proud, but helps keep this podcast up in the ranks, so other people can use this information, find the show more easily, and get awesome business advice from my guests.

It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell you friends because the greatest compliment you can give me, is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web. And as I did say it, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month, for more information go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at

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If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

021: Nemo Chu On How To Create A 7 Figure Ecommerce Business In Just A Year

Nemo Chu

I met Nemo Chu randomly at one of Noah Kagan’s entrepreneurship events and I’m happy that I did. Turns out that Nemo is a genius when it comes to analytics and he has a pretty cool strategy with which he uses to find products to sell online.

In just a single year, Nemo has managed to create a 7 figure ecommerce business which is pretty darn amazing. This episode is chock full of information so be sure you check it out.

Also, you can sign up for Nemo’s newsletter here.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why real estate didn’t work out for Nemo and how he found ecommerce
  • How to use Ebay to find out what is selling and where to look for inefficiencies in the market
  • Why he uses the American Express Plum Card
  • Why Nemo tries to sell stuff that weighs less than 13 oz
  • Tips on how to use Ebay and Amazon to do research

Other Resources And Books


You’re listening to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast where I have successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs take us back to the very beginning of their journey and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest, where I am giving away free one on one business consultations every single month, and I thought I’d just share a testimonial for the last consult I did with Laura McLaren.

She said, ‘In talking with Steve one on one, I quickly learnt that he is experienced and extremely knowledgeable on starting online retail sites. Steve and I discussed a few different ideas with this analytical approach and market place knowledge combined, it was much more clear which idea would be the most logical to pursue. I came to our consultation with a laundry list of questions and he was able to fire back responses.

Steve is extremely experienced and strategic in what he does. Talking to him for just thirty minutes probably saved me weeks, maybe even months of pursuing my online store from the correct angle. For more information about this contest, go to and if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free ‘six day mini course’ where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today we are going to be talking to my brother from another mother, Nemo Chu. Now, we might have similar last names but we actually aren’t related but we both do ecommerce and we do it well. Now, Nemo used to be a director of marketing at KISSmetrics until he stumbled upon ecommerce and like myself, he worked on his ecommerce stores while working a full time job, except that Nemo managed to make over seven figures with his ecommerce endeavors in a single year. Now, today Nemo is semi-retired, spends his time volunteering for young life at a local high school, and what’s cool is that Nemo and I have somewhat different strategies when it comes to ecommerce. So, it’ll be very interesting today to hear how Nemo does it. So, welcome to the show Nemo. Great to have you.

Nemo: Hi, thank you so much. That’s a very nice intro.

Steve: So, for all these people who actually don’t know who you are and I actually scoured the net looking for information about you and the information is quite scarce so, can you give us a good brief intro on how you got into ecommerce and exactly what you sell.

Nemo: Sure, so you know, I got into ecommerce thanks to a book actually. I like to read, I read a lot and one of the people that I respect, he was my old boss. We built a company together, he introduced me to a book called “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and up until that point the term financial independence wasn’t really in my vocabulary. I mean, I understood about retirement, I get what that is but that’s what you know, people do in their 65 and have a nest of grey, at least that’s what I thought and from a conservative Chinese family, that was kind of the norm.

So, after reading that book my mind was completely open to this idea where you know, there’s a new goal of financial independence and that’s when I started kind of digging around and framing my life around that goal. To make a long story short…

Steve: So hold on, let’s back up, why ecommerce and not like real estate for example which is Rich Dad Poor Dad…

Nemo: Yea, that’s true, that’s true. So, I really delved into real estate for wild reading, and it’s like they make it sound easy, but then when you start reading it you realize that it’s not easy. At least for me and I’m not very smart and I’ll tell you straight on I’m not smart– actually t-scores are not that [laughs] high. It’s like a 1240 when we were doing 1600.

Steve: [laughs] That’s heresy for Asian parents.

Nemo: I know, I know. I still feel hurt about that. You don’t have to podcast that one.

Steve: I am revoking your Asian card right now.

Nemo: But the real story of the ecommerce is a friend showed me the business model and so he–Chris Thinken, I love that guy to death– he came to join the company which was eventually sold that’s the one that I say we built a company together. He was another wonderful person and he showed me how a person– he was in his like early or mid 30’s okay or early 30’s. Hope he didn’t hear me say mid 30’s [laughs] and he actually built the online stores while working a fulltime job, doing sales at I believe a call centre. That’s where it started.

Eventually he was making so much money that you know, he didn’t need to do that call centre job. He ended up still continuing the stores while joining two friends in building a marketing agency from scratch to– I think in five years they went from three people to 120 employees. They were Inc. 500 firm, and he did that as a co-founder which to me is amazing because I was never really a co-founder, I was just an early employee but he did that as a co-founder while doing the online stores. So as I rubbed shoulders with this guy, and worked for him it became clear to me that this is a business model where if you are smart about it you don’t have to spend a lot of time.

It’s not hard and if you stay focused, there is a healthy return, and it’s worth your time. And so that’s what really intrigued me about ecommerce plus you know my skill set, I used to build websites for people. People would pay me, I was like 16, 17 at the time and I would make these little websites. So I had technical ability to build and use the internet to my advantage and my early jobs growing up were all internet marketing related. So it was you know– that’s all different from real estate right? I don’t have a real estate background at all.

Steve: Okay, so you actually got me really curious now. So let’s talk about this awesome business model where you can sell on the side while working.

Nemo: Okay, sure.

Steve: So, first of all, what do you sell?

Nemo: I sell a lot of nutritional supplements and I also sell some consumer electronics, some beauty products and one line of children’s drum set which is fun for me since I play drums.

Steve: So that’s interesting. So I teach a class on this subject and in general, I try to steer students away from kind of common goods, so to speak, so beauty supplies and that sort of thing so it’s going to be quite interesting to hear how you manage to choose what you sell. So why don’t we just pick one of those products that you sell and just kind of walk me through how you decide to go about selling it.

Nemo: Yeah, sure. So, let me pick– what’s the product that’d be interesting? So since you mentioned beauty products, I’ll talk about a product that I used to sell.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: It was– it’s from Joan Rivers or is it Joan Rivers? I don’t know how to pronounce her name, but even as celebrity she makes a beauty product that I think you use on your hair, and it will hide the white roots if you dye your hair, forgot the exact name of that product but it’s just a compact with a brush and a mirror built into the compact. That’s it.

What– how I found it was actually using a tool called terapeak. And so Terapeak– is a data company which mines the data on eBay, and they’re a part of eBay’s then they service the data in these pretty charts and graphs that are relevant for people like me who are looking to find products that sell. So you can basically look up categories inside eBay and see–Oh look! In the health and beauty category which is huge, these are some of the best sellers, this are their sell through rate, this is the amount of revenue in the last seven days that have sold etcetera, and from that you can start picking things that may interest you.

It’s kind of like working for low hanging fruit, like one product might sell one unit every seven days. That’s not nearly as interesting unless you know, there’s a massive profit margin as a product that sells maybe a hundred times in seven days and so Terapeak will help me know what’s hot and what’s not and trust me, I’m not an affiliate of Terapeak’s, I don’t make any money from saying this, I just find it to be a fun tool and I actually got to meet some of their guys at a conference and they are really nice.

So I found Joan Rivers through that– the product, and then what I did was, I figured out okay well, it it’s selling well on eBay, it’s got to sell well on the other ecommerce sites out there. There’s Amazon of course, you can also build your own store nowadays it’s not too difficult and it can rank in Google with paid ads if you need to, or if you want to do the organic ranking game you can take some time and slowly move your way up through the rankings if there is room, [inaudible] [00:09:29] is there and I discovered on Amazon there was– there was competition, there was someone already selling it but the competition was thin, and I know I can beat it and I’ll give you an example on how you can beat competition.

If someone is selling one unit of that product so it’s a one pack, what’s stopping me from selling a two pack? There are always people out there who buy in bulk right, especially in beauty products where you have your favorites and you buy them over and over again and you want to save some money. And so I can then list a two pack on Amazon and still make money that way, and so you kind of go around your competition instead of going head to head in which case you and the competitor will have your prices driven so low that nobody is making money, and that’s kind of pointless, right? So, that’s one very concrete example of how I approached my business.

Steve: Okay, so let’s back up a little bit, so how did you get these compacts also once you decided that you wanted to sell them?

Nemo: That’s funny, I bought them on eBay.

Steve: Oh…

Nemo: Yeah, I actually bought the product on eBay in bulk, and I sold that on Amazon and I made money on the difference and there was just a big enough difference to make it worth my while. To make it worth my while– to make it more worth my while– pardon my English I emailed the seller on eBay and asked for a bulk discount for larger quantities, and so there’s just a little bit negotiation and one trick I learnt with negotiation is you know, always ask after the– make the other person state the first price and then after they state the price always ask, you know what, can you do better than that price? And ask that three times– can you do better? I mean not like can you do better? Can you do better? Can– you can kind of rephrase it but you get the general idea and often times people will budge on their first price.

Steve: Yes, I’m giving you back your Asian card because these are standard Asian negotiation tactics. Every time I go to china I use these, yes.

Nemo: Thank you– thank you for that.

Steve: Yes, okay–so, when you were look at these products on eBay then, so what is an acceptable margin for you?

Nemo: 20%, 10 or 20%. It really depends on say the virtual profit per unit. I’ll take 10% if I make like a 100 dollars of profit for every unit sold; a really large, large ticket item.

Steve: So, let’s take these Joan Rivers things, how much do they sell for?

Nemo: I think at the time– I think– I think they sold for like 24.99 or 50 bucks for a two pack.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: And you were buying them for 25% less or?

Nemo: You know what? I can get my notes out.

Steve: It doesn’t have to be exact, I’ll just borrow a pack, it’s fine.

Nemo: It’s something like that. I keep a lot of notes on these products. My notes are so messy on that. That was a long time ago.

Steve: So just taking an idea there, how many did you buy in bulk?

Nemo: I bought like over a hundred something like that.

Steve: Over a hundred, okay so not too many so we’re talking [inaudible] [00:12:24].

Nemo: I was testing out the market because I knew that– this is how I typically approach things right, the first time around I just, I’m just trying to figure out if there’s traction. If people are actually buying, and then I want to know the velocity of sales. I’m I selling one unit per day, 10 units per day or more? And then once I know that I’m better able to make a decision on, okay–how much do I want to commit to this product line? How much risk do I want to take and usually I’ll buy about a maximum of one month’s worth of inventory. I actually used to buy in half months so I’ll buy half month’s inventory. I make two buys, one at the beginning of the month, one halfway through the month and that’s just to avoid cash crunches and things like that, and also because my financing is purely offered by American Express Plum Card which is a great card for anyone getting into ecommerce. Check it out; I’m not paid to endorse them.

Steve: Yes so, just a real quick aside; so the Plum Card allows you to defer your payment for 60 days as opposed to the regular 30 right?

Nemo: I believe so, yes. You get to pick either the deferment option or you can pick the– I think its 1% or 1.5% cash pack.

Steve: Okay, so in a way what you’re doing is that you are buying off of credit and then you’re selling off the goods for a profit before you even have to pay the bill off the credit card bill.

Nemo: That’s right, that’s right. And the benefit– one huge benefit for that card is the no limit nature of it. I mean, they don’t say it’s no limit, they say it’s like no preset spending limit or something like that and they will cut you if you spend an inordinately large amount of money, but you can basically work your way up so that you can be spending tens of thousands of dollars on your card and for those of us who’ve gone into credit cards and have tried to get a large credit line on credit cards, it’s really tough to get something that’s north of 30,000-40,000 unless you have a very extensive credit history. You know, I’m 26 years old so my credit history is not tremendous.

Steve: Right.

Nemo: So, yeah.

Steve: Okay, so you mentioned that you like to buy half month’s worth of inventory. How do you even know what a half month’s worth of inventory is?

Nemo: That’s when I have to rely on my test. So with the Joan Rivers product I bought a bunch on eBay. That’s the easiest way to get some product and I actually bought only a handful at first. I bought like three of four just to sell and see if it sold and they sold out like, right away, in one day. So that gives me an idea of the velocity and I go okay, well if I am a conservative with my estimate then let’s say three to four per day for the next, you know, 15 days, how many units is that? Do I want to commit to that, and so I go for it.

Steve: So, are you still selling this on Amazon right?

Nemo: Yeah, for that product I sold it on Amazon.

Steve: So, those are– are you using the fulfillment program by Amazon or–?

Nemo: It depends– I use the fulfillment program if it helps me get an edge on my competitors or win the buy box– how are you– is your audience familiar with the buy box?

Steve: No, you should talk about that a little bit.

Nemo: So in Amazon if you look at any product, and you look on the top right where there is the buy button; you will see a little box. I think it’s usually shaded in blue and that’s the buy box, okay, and so the seller that wins the buy box wins like 99.9% of sales pretty much. And so the game for most Amazon sellers is winning that buy box for that product page. Keep in mind that there are multiple product pages sometimes for the same product.

Sometimes all products are consolidated into one product page working to the winds of Amazon, but that won’t matter if you want to jump into this and so to win the buy box, it’s not just about having the lowest price, there is also seller history and at the end of the day it’s a secret algorithm of course that drives Amazon’s decisions on who wins the buy box and no one can game it. I’ve learnt that– and they make it very clear, if you use Amazon’s fulfillment program, you are more likely to win the buy box.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: And so when there is tense competition I will pick– I will consider using fulfillment by Amazon to win the buy box.

Steve: Okay, so of course there is a bunch of fees that are incurred in selling on Amazon, so are you looking for like an even higher profit margin when you buy on eBay accounting for all these Amazon fees or? I’m just trying to get an idea of what your margin threshold is when you are deciding something to sell.

Nemo: Yeah, so it’s always around 10, 20%, often times my best selling products are north of that so we’re talking about 30, 40, 50% even, but earlier on when I start, I’m happy with the 10, 20% and then over time I can grow my margin by negotiating directly with the manufacturer for large quantities, like at first I bought Joan Rivers at eBay seller, that was a northern manufacturer so if it sold a lot I can approach the manufacturer and go “Hey, I’m interested in buying X hundred X thousand units, can we talk about that”? And depending on whether or not they have the wholesale program, they might talk with you or they might not.

Steve: I see, so can you walk me through product where you actually did do that? Did you do that with the Joan Rivers product or?

Nemo: I tried to and I learnt that the Joan Rivers folks did not have a wholesale program and they seemed to have an arrangement with QBC and QBC seemed to have an exclusive and they weren’t giving out products at wholesale prices. I’m sure that if I dug deeper at some point I could talk to someone who would get me some kind of wholesale deal. I just didn’t bother. It wasn’t the lowest hanging fruit for me. I have a lot of products that I’m working on.

Steve: Yeah, so let’s talk about that, so, how many do you have– how many products do you have [inaudible] [00:17:53] at any given time?

Nemo: I might have– oh cheese– several dozen in play.

Steve: Several dozen in play, okay and how long does it last before you feel like you can’t sell as many as you did initially?

Nemo: It might be too early to tell for that one because some have sold for like years and others will sell for half a year and then the competition becomes too crazy where it’s not worth my time any more. So it’s really tough to answer that question.

Steve: I guess what I’m trying to ask is you don’t really have set suppliers for these goods, right?

Nemo: Some of them like do like the ones I’ve sold for years, I work with the same person, the same people over and over again, it’s often times the manufacturer at that point.

Steve: Okay so, walk me through why someone on eBay won’t list on Amazon as well or vice versa.

Nemo: I don’t know, I don’t know why people on eBay don’t list on Amazon.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: It’s too bad I mean, I hope they continue not to because that gives me opportunities.

Steve: Right! Okay, okay, I think…

Nemo: Don’t spread the word too far [Laughs].

Steve: [laughs] I won’t post this interview don’t worry. Okay, so let’s– let’s go on a little bit more depth since it sounds like the secret source to your method is figuring out which product that you want to sell, right?

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: So let’s go over some guidelines here, so what are some guidelines? Walk me through any one of your products, it doesn’t matter which, it could be something that you haven’t sold in a while or what not but, walk me through the process.

Nemo: Guidelines– so I’ll probably pick nutritional supplements because it’s the closest thing to subscription, that isn’t subscription, because it’s consumer product that is, you know. People finish their supplements and usually a bottle is 30 days worth so then at the end of the 30 days they will buy again, and so there is repeat customers and us marketers know that it’s always easier to keep a customer than to acquire a brand new one. So I can always re-market to my same customers and get more sales if I want to, I can put in the work to actually do subscription. Supplements will often– in the industry anyway they often sell something called auto delivery. It’s kind of like you sign up, you pay a monthly fee and every month a new bottle arrives at your doorstep.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: If I were to put in the work that could be an option. Another thing about supplements that are great or just anything that I try to sell– I try to sell small items that weigh less than 13 ounces. Now why 13 ounces? First class mail baby.

Steve: That’s right.

Nemo: That’s the threshold. Now you can actually move that up to 15 ounces if you have high volume and you talk to US parcel, you negotiate something. So that’s the little benefits as you sell more and more over time, but for most beginners, 13 ounces. Keep it small. Also the size of it, make sure it fits in a nice little packing envelope and that way you can buy the same size envelope for everything.

You know, I have– I’ve been using the same size envelopes for a very, very long time. This padded mail that’s from Jiffy. They’re called jiffy mail number four. That’s the one! So those are all conveniences that save me money downstream because I don’t have to train my employee on you know, “Oh! This time use this one, then use that one”. That just makes things more difficult for people, right.

I want to have a business that runs smoothly and the people who happen to help me out can pick everything up really quickly. That saves me time right, which saves me money. Those are kind of the main things that I look for up front. Of course you mentioned the margin, there must be margin, that’s going to be key and I also sometimes will look for products that happen to be backed by advertising.

I don’t watch a lot of TV or listen to a lot of radio but I know I should because I know some of my products are marketed through those channels and what happens is, these companies will talk about their product on TV, they might use infomercials or just use straight up 30 seconds commercials. And then people will call in to buy the product but some people won’t want to call in, instead they’ll kind of add it to their shopping list and the next time they are on Amazon they’ll buy it there, which benefits me. So, having that advertiser– having the manufacturer advertise the product for you, that takes a lot of work off, off of me.

In fact, I’ve reached a point where I don’t even bother advertising my own products. It’s a requirement of mine to only sell products that are being advertised already, that are being searched for already, because I don’t want to spend the time to do all that. That takes a lot of effort and I’ve done it before. So…

Steve: I see, okay– so, and then the secret to getting the buy box on Amazon, you get a little bit creative with the packaging.

Nemo: That’s one way, that’s right.

Steve: Okay. Are there other ways that you care to share?

Nemo: There’s another way, for example sometimes if you go and look at a product, you go to the product page and maybe it’s a bottle of– I don’t know, like some bottle of pills, like vitamins or whatever. You’ll see that the page defaults to a one pack and it’s on the same product detail page. And then under– it’s going to be like underneath the price, you’ll see these little square boxes that will say two bottles, three bottles, four bottles and you can click on those little boxes, you stay on the same page; which is important and then the price changes in the buy box.

That’s actually a little bit different than creating another product page which features only the two pack. It’s like merging the two pages together if that makes any sense and it’s an important detail actually. When that happens you know there’s an opportunity because some people– some products only sell one version a price so one pack and you actually inject that additional little box that’s a two pack onto the same page which is already trafficked and searched for by a lot of people and then if you inject yourself in there, you’re the only seller and you can make money that way too. To do that you often have to contact Amazon’s customer support.

Steve: Okay, so let me– you said a lot there, so let me just back up here, so, you look for an already trafficked page for a product and then you try to offer something unique to create this little box on that page that will steer the person away to your product page.

Nemo: That’s, that’s basically right except that the last part where I said steers people away to my product page, that’s not true, it’s– my product page is that product page.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: It’s just like another face to it, which dynamically appears when people click on that little box.

Steve: But then you get the buy box at that point.

Nemo: Exactly, but then now I win the buy box because I’m the only seller for that. It’s interesting; the Amazon world has all these little new answers where if you look at the pages a lot over time you will pick up little tips. Another one is, people have a new model out and then, I bumped into this not that long ago. There’s a product the consumer electronics product, and a new version of it came out, but the Amazon page was still selling the old version. So, what do I do? Every– all the traffic is going to that page. That page is the one that ranks well in Google already, so you want to take advantage of the traffic going through that page, but there’s a new version and you can’t sell the new version on the page featuring the old version.

You kind of camp but you take a risk because people might really want the old version so what do you do? Well, it turns out Amazon if you contact customer support will let you plant a little image with a price tag next to it and a title that says a new version of this product is available and it appears a bit further below the price and you can get that there which then points into a completely new product page if you talk to support. So that helps you take advantage of the traffic and it helps you own a product page just for yourself.

Steve: I see, and this is in addition to actually creating a brand new product page with this new product as well, right?

Nemo: Yes! That’s right.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: That’s right you have to create a new product page as well to do– to make that play work.

Steve: I see, so do you actually sell any products on your own site or is it primarily through Amazon?

Nemo: Yeah, I do. I do sell some of products on my own site– sites rather it’s plural and its plural because I don’t want to become the next or that’s not my goal. I will often just create little mini sites that sell only one product.

Steve: Okay, so that’s like sales pages essentially.

Nemo: Yeah, kind of like sales pages. That’s right.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: Great, I’m glad your audience is familiar with that. So you have little sales pages or little micro sites and it really depends on whether or not that play might actually work and to know if it actually works you just kind of study the Google search results page for the product that you want to sell so if the product is back to Joan Rivers right, if people type in Joan Rivers hair– I forgot the exact model, but like call it hair 3000, for crying out loud okay, Joan Rivers Hair 3000.

You search that yourself in Google and look at the results page and you might see oh! Look, Amazon takes an ad out for that page already and I know right away oh! That means a lot of people actually buy from Amazon. It’s hard to compete with Amazon, right, but if Amazon hasn’t taken out an ad and Amazon is not appearing organically then I go, oh wait! Okay, so I can maybe buy an ad and beat out the other person who’s bought the ad who’s like from you know, [phonetic]. They’re not hard to beat right? So I could just beat them by making a better ad, not too difficult.

Steve: So what– so you mentioned buying ads, so which platforms do you use? And what have you tried?

Nemo: I use adwords and I use Bing, so the Bing ads. Over time I only do the Bing ads for products that are searched a lot because if a product is searched a lot on Google then there will be some searches in Bing and so it’s just easy and the cost is low for Bing.

Steve: Okay, have you tried Facebook or anything else?

Nemo: Yeah, I’ve done Facebook actually not for my own products but in the past when I was a marketer at a software company, at two different software companies. We used Facebook quite a bit and back in the day when I had my own t-shirt business, I did Facebook ads as well, yeah. It’s just– I know that Facebook ads can work very well for the nutritional supplement space, I had the benefit of being at a marketing analytics company and so our clients, some of them were nutritional supplements companies. I could see kind of– I heard from talking with them you kind of know how it’s working and so I know that it can work. I just know that to make it work, you might have to use like videos, you might have to use some long copy, it’s just a lot of work.

Steve: Right, okay.

Nemo: Again, back to the nature of what I do, every minute counts and so I don’t want to spend too much time on those things. I just want to get the lower hanging fruit.

Steve: Okay, so it sounds like since you’re shipping stuff yourself you kind of have to hold some inventory right?

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: So have you ever had any products that just didn’t sell and resulted in a bunch of stuff lying around in your garage or whatever?

Nemo: It has happened where I’ll buy like a hundred units of something and it sells for a little while then some competitor creeps up, and decides to try to cut me out, and then things get difficult, and then I just focus on something else because its lower hanging fruit and I’m making more money there and I still have 70 bottles of whatever sitting. To me It’s kind of its crappy when that happens, right?

At the end of the day though I recognize that overall revenue growth and overall profit growth is more important than that one product line and so I just focus on where the low hanging fruit is. I know that if I need to blow out that inventory I can either sell it at a slight loss and just kind of recoup my cash, at least what’s left of it, or I can really work hard to check out some other channels to sell it. Maybe it’s, maybe I’m squeezed out of Amazon, well, what if eBay still has an opportunity, maybe I’ll push that product in eBay but…

Steve: I see.

Nemo: It’s just– It’s all effort.

Steve: So all of the products that you sell, you actually don’t use or sometimes you haven’t even really played around with them. Is that– is that accurate?

Nemo: That’s very accurate outside of like one of the consumer electronics products which is a portable battery pack for your laptop. Other than that I don’t really use any of them.

Steve: So everything is purely data driven– all of your decisions?

Nemo: That’s right, as data driven as possible because data doesn’t have emotions, data will get me high or low, data is very objective and it can help quite a bit when used appropriately.

Steve: It also sounds to me that your interest also is not in building a brand for your shop. These are all just straight arbitrage plays you know, from either the manufacturer or eBay and selling at Amazon, and that sort of thing.

Nemo: Yeah that’s– it’s really the easiest play possible and it’s often arbitrage. I know from experience having helped build a couple of different software brands, I just know how much work it takes to build a brand and how much capital it takes to build a brand. Now, of course there are niche brands and [inaudible][00:31:22] it’s, it’s just one of those things where I choose not to get too involved lest I be sucked into it and waste a bunch of time.

Steve: Okay, so I know after hearing this podcast interview, I know a lot of people are going to want to actually try what you are doing. So if you could just– for– let’s say I’m brand new to this, what advice would you give to someone who actually wants to try to do what you do online, and what tools and what software and what not would you recommend to help them out? So, okay, so earlier on you mentioned Terapeak right? Is that still a piece software that you– would you recommend people look on eBay first or use it?

Nemo: I recommend– so if you don’t want to pay for Terapeak, one thing you can do is when you are on eBay if you want to know if a product is actually selling, there’s a little box on the left side part, this is completed listings. They added a new one called sold listings. I like to look at completed listings because they will show me which listings sold or didn’t sell, and that gives you an idea of how successful that product is on eBay, right? It gives you the dates, when they sold, if they sold and the dates if they didn’t sell and so very quickly you can see from like literally red and green because they color code it, how much traction there can be on eBay.

Now, Terapeak you know, you can obviously go in and use a seven day free trial and play around with that too. That gives you that stuff and more. So that’s definitely an opportunity. I know that the Google keyword planner is a tool I use quite a bit.

Often times marketers run will into the question of, “Hey look! Samsung”, all right? I’m just staring at the Samsung TV right now. Okay, Samsung! That’s a brand. I wonder how many people search for Samsung and so you go to Google Keyword planner, you type Samsung into there, you might even use some little brackets or things to get the exact match, I’m getting very specific right now but then you click the button and the Google keyword planner will spit out the number of average monthly searches for Samsung. Like globally and I think even within the US. Very quickly you can determine whether or not Samsung is searched for by a lot of people or not a lot of people, and it helps you determine whether or not it’s low hanging fruit for you. Now…

Steve: So, what are some of your guidelines in that respect in terms of number of searches before you go on?

Nemo: Yeah, so for my business model, I know that it’s not really worth my time if there are fewer than 380 monthly searches. So I draw a line there, at 380 monthly searches.

Steve: That’s really low actually.

Nemo: Yeah, that is really low. However, I’ve learnt that from the channels that I sell on, it can still be worth my time. Some of my best sellers though are at like 9700 average monthly searches–

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: 7,000 monthly searches, so you can kind of quickly know what’s low hang or not and focus your efforts accordingly.

Steve: Okay, okay so go on, so okay, you use the keyword planner, Terapeak, eBay if they want and then, how do you validate the product?

Nemo: So let’s say I’m making my play on Amazon, right? And there are a lot of products there. If I look on Amazon, and I don’t see the product I want to sell, that can just be a massive opportunity where people are actively looking for this product on Google, which also means they are looking for them Amazon, because Amazon captures I think there is some data like 30% of shopping traffic, I don’t know how you quantify that to be honest, but you know, I think it makes sense.

So if it’s searched for in Google, it’s searched for on Amazon. Unfortunately, those on Amazon are seeing nothing, so I should just list something on Amazon and it will sell and that’s often the case. Now, if there’re already is someone selling that product, that’s helpful for me because I can look at the product page, scroll down and look for the Amazon seller ranking. I think that’s what it is, Amazon seller ranking. Next to it there will be a number and if it is over say– if it’s higher than say 12,000 for nutritional supplements because it’s category specific okay, keep that in mind.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: For nutritional supplements I know that if it’s more than– if it’s higher than 12,000 so, between one to 12,000 it’s worth my time. I used to have– I used to still work with products that were ranking like 40,000 but just because of number of products that I have and I’ve worked through, I have to pick and choose now.

Steve: So this ranking is just number of transactions or…?

Nemo: Basically I know that if it’s 12,000 searches, sorry– if it’s ranked around 12,000 and the competition is thin, that will roughly equate to maybe two or three sales per day for me.

Steve: Interesting.

Nemo: And if the margin is sad enough, that can be worth my time right?

Steve: That implies that the seller rating– the seller rating is determining the sales I suppose of the product itself? I didn’t– I must have missed something there.

Nemo: Yes, I’ll– I’ll just repeat. The Amazon best seller ranking will appear on every product page in Amazon– almost every, there’re some that don’t have it and I don’t know why.

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: If it appears, it’ll– it’ll be lower down the page, you have to scroll down to see it and you will– it’ll tell you– it’s like a relative ranking system, right? Something that’s has an Amazon best ranking of 1,000 sells at a much higher velocity than a different product selling at say 12,000 ranking right?

Steve: Okay, I think I understand now. So, that number is not just really a seller’s rating in terms of how many transactions they’ve done. It really is a rating that determines how fast that particular category of products moves. Is that– is that accurate?

Nemo: Yeah, oh! Not category but it’s that actual product that…

Steve: That actual product, okay got it.

Nemo: Yeah, and you just learn over time that if it’s at 12,000 that means it’s roughly three sales per day, if it’s at 1,000 then it’s X.

Steve: Okay, so one question I have in my mind at least is it sounds like you can kind of snatch the buy box on a daily basis like little minute tricks that you make and snatch the buy box from time to time so, is it a lot of management to make sure that you are always having the buy box?

Nemo: Every morning, I’ll check and in on OSX machine on a Mac computer, you can use your dash board and create what’s called the web clips. It’s a safari and dashboard kind of hybrid where you can move to your dashboard, inside your Mac computer and immediately, you can basically see a bunch of little browser windows highlighted onto wherever you want to be. For me, it’s my products, so it’s like a one glance there’re all my products selling on Amazon, who’s winning the buy box right now? I can see that.

That’s a little trick. If you really want to get into it you can use repricing software, there’s a lot–there’re a lot of them out there. I honestly tried them for a little bit and I realized that I can just eyeball, I don’t have to pay extra to buy repricing software.

And what repricing software does, is it’s kind of like a robot that keeps an eye on the page and if you lose the buy box, the robot will change the price for you automatically with pre-programmed instructions that you kind of put in ahead of time. You kind of set like a floor and– you don’t really set a ceiling, I mean, it’s– you can kind of let it sell for a little higher price if you want to, but you can kind of control that and then it will try to win the buy box for you as often as possible. It can get really complicated inside repricing software, like all these rules that you can set into it. I’m sure you know, there’re people out there who– who’ll get a kick out of that and it is a lot of fun.

Steve: That sounds dangerous, like I would just lower my price for like 10 seconds to see what everyone’s low threshold is and then just kind of raise it back up. I don’t know.

Nemo: That’s clever, see that– that can help you probe and see if your competitors are using repricing software, right, great way to do it.

Steve: And get an idea what their margins are actually.

Nemo: Yeah, and what their floor is, and if their floor is so low that you can’t make any money, don’t spend thousands of dollars buying a half month’s worth of inventory right, at least if you’re going to stick with that play because it’s going to be a pain for you.

Steve: So here’s a question I have since I’ve noticed this on Amazon that there’s a lot of people selling products at like ridiculously low prices, why does that actually occur on Amazon?

Nemo: So, some people especially the book section, will actually sell books for very, very low price and they might even lose money because they’re boosting their ranking all right? As a seller, you have a transaction history and you have ratings; like five star, four star, you know, one star, also you have the number of transactions or the number of ratings that you’ve collected. All of those things factor into– all those things factor into your account’s ability to win the buy box, right?

Steve: I see, so it’s not price, it’s just some more complicated formula that’s a combination of your rating plus price plus…

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: Whatever makes them more money most likely right?

Nemo: Probably, it’s a secret you know, but there’re some things that kind of make sense right? It’s kind of like common sense says that if someone has only sold one thing on Amazon ever and lists a product for the same price as someone else who’s sold products for years and you know, I’ve sold tens of thousands of products, guess who’s going to probably win the buy box right? Who– who’s– Amazon is probably going to give it to the person who has a longer track record and who’s delighted more customers.

Steve: So, what do you recommend starting out? Do you recommend just building up this rating initially?

Nemo: Unless you have a lot of money, right, because that takes every– if you want to build up rating fast, one of the quick ways is to lose money on every sale. I mean it’s not– if you’re smart about it you might not do it that way, you can find something that is profitable, but that’s the quick way and if you have a lot of money, sure go for it.

If you don’t have a lot of money, I’d just say, you find a niche, kind of like what I said, maybe something is searched for in Google, some product– some particular product model or whatever and then look on it on Amazon. If it isn’t sold on Amazon, guess what? Chances are people are actually searching for that product on Amazon, they’re just finding nothing. If you list that, then they’ll find you and they’ll buy from you.

Steve: It seems like there should be a tool that will help you do this. Is there– are there any tools that you use that just do the direct correlation for you between Google and Amazon?

Nemo: Not that I’m aware of, Terapeak is getting close, they’re building in some things, some Amazon features now because they were– they started out on– in eBay. They just mine eBay data, and it’s great for that and they’re kind of diving into Amazon a little bit. So if– then again I’m not– I’m not like an expert in the tools out there for this since I have a very specific strategy and a very specific play, but for those who might want a short cut, Terapeak could be a good start.

Steve: Okay, and so it sound like with your business model that you literally can just start making right away, right? You’re just buying something and you’re just listing it. There’s no real set– you don’t have to start a website or anything, right?

Nemo: Usually not, you don’t have to raise money either, you don’t have to go from– to friends and family you know, collect the whole bunch of money before you get started, it’s pretty straight forward.

Steve: And you just really need your plum card and then you just buy a certain inventory and then okay.

Nemo: Yeah or your existing credit card, right?

Steve: Okay.

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: Yeah, okay that’s a pretty unique business model, I’m just curious how things are going to play out as more and more people start doing this, and kind of start squeezing the margins but I guess you can always find some low hanging fruit out there.

Nemo: That’s right, I think– I think when that happens, when there’s more and more people because it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when, I just recognize that my edge will be my ability to find products quickly. The benefit of kind of this society that we’re living is– and the entrepreneurs out there is, there are always new products coming out. So, that’s fine for me because I’ll always find another hot product, another new product that’s hot or whatever and then I’ll be the first to list that, or the second to list that or find an opportunity somewhere. So I’m not too concerned.

Steve: Okay, so in any given month, how much time do you actually spend looking for new products as opposed to managing your existing ones?

Nemo: I kind of go with sparks when I feel like it, I try to be disciplined though so let’s say in the last month I probably spent two full days, invested two full eight hour work days, working through my process for finding new products and testing them out.

Steve: Okay then as products kind of stop selling you just find new ones to replace them and that’s just kind of how the cycle goes.

Nemo: Yeah, usually I mean, I try to put up a fight at first because you can still get pretty far just by defending your position, and you know, that’s where the marketing experience that I have comes in really, really handy. So I defend and I defend and if there– I just get squeezed out, then, all right that’s fine. I have other products.

Steve: Okay, okay. That’s pretty unique. So in a way you’re kind of diversified with just all the breadth of products that you sell.

Nemo: Yeah, I’ve probably rotated through, I mean right now like I said I have dozens of products in play, I’d say less than 100 in play but I’ve rotated through maybe 300 some products.

Steve: Wow! Okay.

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: And how long have you been doing this?

Nemo: Think I’ve been really focused on this for like a year and a half now.

Steve: Okay, okay so not even that long.

Nemo: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. Cool, Nemo we’re coming up on 45 minutes, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Can you recommend– you already mentioned Rich Dad poor Dad, are there any other books that you recommend to just kind of instill that entrepreneurship spirit in some of my listeners?

Nemo: I’ll be honest, I don’t read too many entrepreneurship books, I tend to read books that are on the fundamentals of marketing, so the signs of marketing or the nut and bolts of marketing. So I can recommend a free book out there called ‘Scientific Advertising’ by Claude Hopkins, you can Google that. It’s an old book and I think it hit the public domain.

There’s another book which is just fun, it’s the Biography– I think autobiography of one the world’s best direct marketers, left by the name of the guy is Lester Wunderman, and the name of the book is called ‘Being Direct’. It’s a story of this person who basically invented the ‘1-800 number’, he invented the ‘Columbia Record Club’. He’s the reason why American Express actually has cards– credit cards rather than traveler’s cheques. So, wonderful marketer, great stories, that also helps you understand what it takes as a marketer to grow some really fast growth businesses.

Another book that I like which is based on the signs of persuasion and marketing is ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini.

Steve: That’s a good one.

Nemo: Yeah, that’s a fun one, and then for those who value time management and– yeah who value time management and personal productivity, I recommend anything by Brian Tracy. I actually– you can buy the books from and by Brian Tracy, just kind of search I think time and Brian Tracy. I know it’s not super specific for you, I can probably just email you something later.

Steve: Yeah, I’ll put those in the show notes yeah.

Nemo: Yeah, I’ll find the one that I really like because often times I just YouTube these titles and I’ll listen to the audio book because many of them are free on YouTube.

Steve: Okay, and lastly Nemo, where can people find you online?

Nemo: They can usually find me on LinkedIn, Nemo Chu, or if you want like my little website just go to

Steve: Awesome, well thanks a lot for your time Nemo, I know personally I learnt a lot, and I’m sure the listeners have as well.

Nemo: No problem Steve, thanks for having me.

Steve: All right man thanks a lot.

Nemo: Yeah, good luck everyone.

Steve: All right, take care.

I don’t know about you but I learnt a ton from Nemo today, and what’s cool is that Nemo’s strategy is very different from my own. By leveraging his background in analytics, he is able to quickly find and test profitable products to sell online. For more information about this episode, go to And also, if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please go to iTunes and leave me a review.

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

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020: How My Student Sean Aquino Created A 6 Figure Online Store Selling Leather Working Supplies

Sean Aquino

Sean Aquino is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course and I’m really happy to have him on the show today. Sean runs where he sells very specialized leather working supplies online.

What’s cool about Sean is that he has managed to create a 6 figure business in a little over a year and a half and he has done so in a niche that he is very passionate about. Similar to the last student interview that I conducted, this podcast provides a very realistic, in the trenches account of someone who just started their online store.

Enjoy the interview as there are a lot of details that Sean shares that can help anyone get started.

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Create  A Profitable Online StoreDid you enjoy listening to Sean’s story? If you would like to create your own profitable online store and join a community of like minded entrepreneurs, then sign up for my full blown course on how to create a profitable online store.

My course offers over 60+ hours of video and includes live office hours where you can ask me questions directly.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about ecommerce, be sure to check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Sean came up with his niche
  • How Sean tested his niche prior to investing a large sum of money on the business
  • All of the mistakes Sean made in getting started and how to avoid them
  • How Sean attracted customers to his store early on
  • The secret to Sean’s success.
  • How Sean continuously manages to attract repeat business for his online store

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And If you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Sean Aquino on the show and Sean is actually a student in my creative profitable online store course. Now several weeks ago, I sent out a poll to my readers and an overwhelming number of people responded that they wanted to hear from real people who just started out with their shops, people on the trenches so to speak. So I’ve decided to bring on different students of mine to the podcast and incidentally if you want to learn more about my course, go to

Anyways in the coming weeks, I will have different students on the show who took different paths to starting their shops. Now some students chose to go the free open source route, some students decided to go with the fully hosted shopping cart, some students decide to drop ship, others decided to carry inventory etcetera, etcetera. The goal of course is to give all would be shop owners some different perspectives on the whole process of starting an online store.

Now let’s talk about Sean a little bit. Sean is among one of the earlier students in my create a profitable online store course, and he’s actually doing quite well. In fact his stores are already doing six figures per year and he’s been consistently doing five figures per month for the past several months. Now his store is called and he sells suppliers for leather workers. Now, it’s actually been a very long time since I’ve spoken to Sean, so I’m actually very interested in hearing how he has grown his business. So welcome to the show Sean, how are you doing men?

Sean: Pretty good, how are you Steve?

Steve: Pretty good. So Sean you know your niche is pretty unique, so how did you actually come up with selling leather working supplies?

Sean: So I’ve been a maker for my whole life. In college I made theater and after college, I actually was making television and then after television I was– got into traditional woodworking, so I did that for a number of years and then after– not after, I still do a lot of woodworking. One of the things that I wanted to do was to build a furniture that had leather wrap like leather cushions and leather aspects of it as well as making leather goods for myself. So I started learning everything I could find about leather working and through my experience of making other types of things be it, TV or woodworking, you know, I knew that I wanted a certain level of quality and so I started taking from a couple of different teachers, all of them were great, but what I discovered was that the tools that these teachers would use and the tools that many of the high end leather workers that I knew used were not readily available either online or even in the US. So I decided to open my own store which sells leather working tools for making high end leather goods.

Steve: Interesting so you actually studied how to do this. So you are actually very passionate about leather working in general.

Sean: Yeah, you know and I think that’s really important to wherever niche that you choose, for your store is that, it’s not just something that– you know Guy Kawasaki always talks about ‘make meaning’ and so if you go set out to just make money, you can do that to a certain extent but especially in like the maker community and like the DIY community and in the community where people make things, it’s much more important to make meaning as well as to sell the things. So we and as much are about not just selling tools but selling the means to make something into, make something for yourself.

Steve: That’s really interesting because you know for us at least, I’m not really particularly interested in the stuff that we sell on our shop, but I did really get passionate about just running the business and providing the best possible products within our niche. So it’s just interesting that you are very passionate about your niche.

Sean: Yeah totally and you know but I think that extends out to even making a store, right. So some people like you know there is like this idea of being like a maker and people who make stores like in my view are also makers as well because it’s like you are either dissatisfied with the customer service that you received when you maybe were buying those linen cloths or like the experience that you had so people set out to make their own store, to make their own experience that hopefully make other people happier and have a more enjoyable experience and purchasing those products.

So too with us, with fine leather working is that you know we really focus on the customer service aspect of it but then since I have an interest in leather working and in making things in general, you know, I really try to optimize store not with like the profits in mind but more of like, you know, if it were me and it is me who uses these tools what would I need. And so what I put into the store were all of the things that I myself would need, if I was trying to either, if I was starting leather working today this is what I would probably get if I wanted to start that.

Steve: So what are some of your goals for the business then, is it– I imagine it’s to make money also, but is this going to be like a side project or you want to make this you’re full time gig at some point?

Sean: Well, I really love my job now so I don’t know that I would ever leave that job but certainly I could create more time into the store and I would like to. I think that it’s not– right now we focus mostly on finding the right tools for people but more and more we are trying to provide tutorials on like how to use those tools. Like even how to think about it, right. So this is actually something that if you subscribe to our newsletter is that something that I talk about which is that you know you… When I started woodworking it’s a good metaphor for making anything. I had a notion of– I started with mask curving. And so I had a notion of what I thought would be the process of making a mask like out of a block of wood and you curve it. And then at the time I was living in Japan, so I had the fortunate ability to have like this master woodworking teacher who made masks. And watching him for the first time make masks was like amazing. Like he was probably in his 60s or 70s at the time, but he like tore through that mask like it was crazy like he just took a piece of block of wood, and he willed it down to like almost nothing like in a really short amount of time.

Well knowing what’s possible, I think is really important to somebody who is about to get into tools because you can really misuse tools and really misunderstand tools. There is this notion that if I buy the right tool like then my work will be better. That is true to an extent, but the knowledge of how to use that tool is really the more empowering thing. And as your ability grows you of course will need better tools, but you have to focus on you know being better at your craft as well as trying to find the best materials and the best tools that you can have.

Steve: Yeah, that’s probably why my golf game hasn’t improved even with nice clubs, yeah.

Sean: Yeah that’s true right. So we just don’t say okay, buy the most expensive tools and then you will be better. It’s like we also provide information of okay so if you decide, if this is what you are looking for, if this is the quality that you are looking for, this is how you use this thing and this is how you should use it and this is the result that you get. And what is helpful, and what we are trying to get more into as well, it’s not just here is the tool, this is what it does but this is what it looks like right like when you are– if you know nothing about like how something should work as far as whether it will be wood woodworking or leatherworking, anything even like signing a website, you know making a television program, you need to be able to see and to understand what’s possible to increase the range of what you think is possible, right, because going into it, you know.

I only thought when I first started leatherworking since that’s a more recent example I thought that okay so the best way to do this is this way, right and it wasn’t until I found certain teachers who were way better than me or had been doing this for a really long time that I was like okay so if I really want to do this, this is what it really should feel like, right. And I think that’s also important to understand even about taking your course too and why it’s really super useful is that people can kind of flare about if they want to make their own business but it’s good to have good role models or good examples of how that works so that you can understand like okay so I may be doing this right or wrong doesn’t matter, but I understand how he got there and so now I can tailor that to my own experience and you know, make it my own but I now have a template for understanding you know how to get better at something.

Steve: Sure yeah that makes a whole lot of sense. So, from what I understand then for your store, you sell the tools and you actually– the vision is to provide tutorials and how to use the tools and that sort of a thing and that in a way you are going to be trying to create some sort of a community for leather workers?

Sean: Yeah.

Steve: Is that accurate, okay.

Sean: Yeah, that’s pretty accurate. I mean right now and actually since we started the store we focus a lot on customer service.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: You know when people call me up, like I’ll spend as much time as I need with them. Like they are always– people are always shocked like I’m willing to write like you know paragraph after paragraph of emails. I’m willing to talk to them for like 20 minutes. Usually you know with most crafts these days like it’s usually like this old school company you know it’s a good bunch of old guys sitting like in this old shop like they don’t want to talk to you, they don’t want to know what you are doing, it’s like either buy or you go away. But so it’s a really shocking experience, sometimes I think for a customer because you know, they’ll call us or they’ll write to us and I will reply back, you know. And that even in itself you know especially like in these sort of old school types of experiences where it’s like, “Yeah I will answer the phone maybe the fifth time you call me or I will answer your question maybe the third time that you email me like barely.” We actually focus a lot on our customer service so that we can understand more about what are people trying to achieve and what are they trying to do.

Steve: So you still have your full time job, how do you actually take support calls while you are at work?

Sean: Oh my God, I try to do that either in my off hours. So I know that it doesn’t always work for people who are on the East Coast, but I’ll usually get a log of calls and then if I either you know when I get home I will try to answer calls, or if I get a lunch break you know like if I get five minutes here I will try to call somebody back. Usually I try to schedule the time to just sort of call them back.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: So often it goes to a voice mail because we, you know this is our full time, like we, me and my wife both have full time jobs but while I can answer people like I will usually call them back and they are usually happy to talk to me like kind of an off hour because people work too, so they don’t necessarily want to talk to me when they are at their job too, so it kind of works out.

Steve: So how many calls do you get in a day?

Sean: No, not that many.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: I mean, we get like you know probably you know in a week we will get like three.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: But what’s interesting is like for every call that we get we almost always get a sale because not because like you know, I’m like selling them on the phone but because they legitimately just have this question that needs answering and like nobody is providing the answer to. So we provide the answer and then like oh this is great, so maybe I will buy some tools too.

Steve: Yeah, I would say our conversion rate for our phone customers is very high also. Almost always there’s sale.

Sean: Yeah.

Steve: Yeah, so you know I wanted to talk to you specifically because you went to the open source route. You chose open cart for your shopping cart, right?

Sean: That’s right.

Steve: So, I want to get to know, did you even consider some of the fully hosted guys like Shopify or Bigcommerce and what was your thought process involved in deciding what to do?

Sean: I’m really cheap so that was why.

Steve: So am I.

Sean: Right, so we are both agents so we both know like it’s about saving money. Also too in my– in the job that I had at the time, I was doing a lot of friend development and also design as well as video and everything. So I had experience in building my own website in designing my websites, so I had the ability and actually– although I will say that even though I had that ability, it was somewhat that even being good at doing website design was not necessarily an asset first and it’s something that came up.

So for people who are listening, Steve actually has focus groups within his course so that people who are building stores can get together and talk about it which is really helpful. And one of the people asked like, “Well you being a web designer like you know did that give you like instant access to your store?” And it did but it also– what I would say for somebody who’s aspiring is that you don’t necessarily need to be a web designer per say or to have a background experience in backend development because for me, I would spend I think inundate amount of time like kind of fixating upon like one little aspect of it, without keeping the like the eye on the price and like okay so it doesn’t matter if this button is green or red necessarily, we need to get the store like out the door.
And I think that my web design experience certainly helped me a lot in you know it was invaluable in making the store, but for people who are aspiring to do it, I would say that it’s as important to focus on what you are really after which is to open a store, right. So, it was really easy for me to do the design aspect of it but what I was really learning was like how to run that as a business.

Steve: So did you end up buying a theme or template or you kind of just started with the base theme?

Sean: So being an agent I was also an over achiever. So I was planning to do two stores at once. My first store was going to be selling open cart themes, so I ended like put my face into it, right. Like so I was trying to, I built this theme from scratch like and then my idea was to sell that theme like in a separate store and then to open my fine leather working store. It’s like about like economy, right.

Steve: Sure.

Sean: Like I was like trying to do two things at once. So I still had that theme and I still use that for the store but I totally built it from scratch because I had this notion of like oh it’s going to sell the theme. Which is also interesting too because this is something else that we talked about in our focus group was that, I didn’t know necessarily how like my experience in my success with fine leather working was the culmination of a point. If I hadn’t tried to create like an open cart theme and trying to sell it, I probably would have done less well on the fine leather working store and similarly so like that was like my like this site was like my fifth niche, right. Like I had tried like five completely different things to get to this point and all those things led up to that and I think that’s something that’s important too is that whether you chose open source or whether you choose something that’s out of the box, like I think that it’s more important to get it out the door so that you can test whether or not what you are doing is valid, right.

Like we both always look at the value so we are always talking about validating your assumptions and validating your niche and I think that’s super important and it took me like five tries. But in each of those tries I was optimizing one, like a different aspect of it like whether it was a copy or the images or you know the niche that I was picking, how I was evaluating it, you know or just even my connections to that product. So even though I’m a designer, I don’t have great jobs at backend development and once I build that theme I quickly realized like I’m never going to maintain this for people who are paying money because in a way like I knew a certain amount about PHP but is it really my passion to update this theme and I was like no, not at all.

Steve: Yeah, totally hey so you know you mention a lot of great points there. So let’s talk about validating your niche. So what are some of the things that you did to validate your leather working niche before you went full blown into the whole idea?

Sean: Well, so it wasn’t just the leather working niche but it was also other things like the other products that I tried as well. The first mistake that I made was to build an entire store without testing it, right. That was like my rookie mistake, it was like me and a friend of mine were trying– this is like way back so when IOS first came out, like we were thinking we were going to make like you know bags of cash by making icons for iPhone apps and for like mobile optimized icons. And so I spent a whole lot of time creating the store and then we were like oh we need to make some products and so we made a couple of icons and we put them out there. We went to a bunch of like IOS meet ups like in the valley and then like you know, we got like two sales and icons being icons it’s like three bucks. So we spent like 40 hours making a store and then we made like three bucks, right.

So that was like the first mistake was just like to build everything and then like, then go to market so lesson from that iteration I understood like okay so really validate like what you are doing. So for subject on products what I would like is, I would really try to dab it down like I’m kind of hard headed as well as it’s like as well as sort of like into different things so it took me a couple of iterations but you know my next store I built it just like a little bit less than like my previous store. So I always spent like instead of spending 40 hours, I could spend like 30 hours on it. And then I tested my assumptions right and like I fell flat on that too.

So all of that says that you know when I finally got the leather working, what I did was that I did even try to build the store first. I actually started an E-newsletter right, like I just put out a large page that said, “Hey we are going to be opening leather tools store for people who want to buy high end tools who is interested?” And then I did a bunch of ads on Facebook to see who signed up. And based on you know the rate at which I started getting subscribers which was pretty fast it was like I think I put up the ads on– I put up the adds and then within maybe a couple of days I started getting subscribers. So that was solid to validate my niche, right.

So I was trying to optimize okay so how many people are actually interested in this. And so I did different types of experimentation on advertizing to determine whether or not to lose interest and then before I built a store, I just started selling stuff like you know, I would– I went on to the leather working forums and people were looking for certain things and I was like, “Okay so I have these things so who wants to buy it?” You know like one person bought from me.

And then you know I tried different forums and like you know I was looking for a good gig so people were actually saying like, “Hey I have it, like who wants to buy it?” You know and so, I started to get like a little bit of traction and so only at that point where I think okay so I can kind of go onto a forum and say, you know, “Who wants to buy this and somebody invites because it’s something they need, it’s something that I like, it’s something that I think is necessary, I think other people do too, let me see if this works.” And is started to– and it did that’s when I started to be like okay so I think what I need to focus on is fine leather working supplies.

But even within that, you know I still totally messed up like the first packs that we did. Like you know I chose certain colors, I chose certain products and those first products which I chose weren’t actually the things that ended up working out like as far as like you know, the bulk of what we sell, they were much different. Like what we sell the most of today is totally different than what I thought was at the beginning, or what I started off with and what was important though is that you know, I was constantly looking at to see okay so I’m willing to bet like X amount of money on like maybe purchasing this inventory and then let’s see how it does but I was always looking out okay so who is really interested in this and that’s kind of how we came up with a current inventory on top of the knowledge that I had that you know maybe people, maybe it’s an awareness thing, maybe people ought to know that they need this so we also worked on you know explaining more like you know what is it that this thing does, what will this tool do and how does that benefit you and also kind of optimizing for okay, so we know people like a certain– we don’t know what colors people like for you know in our niche, so let’s figure out, let’s put out a couple of colors and see like which ones work, which ones don’t and then find tune from there.

Steve: Were you doing this on the forums or through your email list?

Sean: At that point we had already opened the store.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: But it was really low. It was really like low traffic, right. Even today we don’t have that much traffic it’s mostly like we are super fine tuned to what people are looking for, so we don’t actually do that high volume of traffic but we do really well I think because we are really specific about the products that we are choosing now because we’re always listening to what people say. That’s part of the reason why, I’m willing to do longer customer service calls, because I want to hear what is it they are trying, what is it that our customers are trying to do? And then it makes me both think about okay, so if they are really trying to do this maybe we should carry this other thing, and also to understand okay so that’s what most people are trying to make like let’s try to make that easier for people in the form of explaining things or in form of tutorials.

Steve: Yeah, so you’re traffic isn’t that high but the traffic that you do get converts at a very high rate?

Sean: Yeah and I think that’s because of our– I think that’s because of our unique knowledge like we are now more and more subject matter experts in this category. And also again we are like really fine tuned to our customers; we really put them first where other people maybe don’t.

Steve: Okay and you mentioned early on that you carry very high quality materials and tools on your site, right. So how did you actually approach the vendors you know for your online store to supply you with this stuff?

Sean: It was through trial and error. Certain teachers of mine carried– used different types of tools, you know some are from Japan, some are from France, some are from other places. So it was really you know trying to go out there and learn as much as you could about leather working and then seeing like what was useful. And then what was really– what I felt was important to people who make things is like knowing like where those tools come from. So most of our tools are actually handmade as well. So people who make things by hand also like their tools being made by hand so most of the tools and most of the thread are actually like sort of small scale manufacturing, right. Like the knives are not like stamped out by like the machine it’s like some old guy in France like shoveling them.

Steve: Really?

Sean: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: From like pieces of steel. He makes like this nice knife. So that history and that whole
chain from beginning to end, I think it’s important to people who are buying the tools because they are also making custom bags and custom wallets that they know that this isn’t just something they can just stamped out of like buy the thousands it’s actually some person is like sharpening each and every tooth that is part of the tool.

Steve: So how do you get in touch with these people to actually carry their tools then?

Sean: It was like– it was a combination of contacts. So, you know it was like knowing somebody who knew somebody and networking and you know and then getting into contact with some, and then figuring out okay so you know trying to negotiate like okay so we can’t buy a whole lot now, but you know can we try to come up with like a system so we are like we can eventually get more discounts if we increase our volume and then from there it just kind of snow balled right.

So like now you know we order a lot of stuff all the time and our vendors are super happy with us. You know so like it’s sort of like this mutual benefit relationship where you know we are increasing awareness about what they do, and then we are able to increase the business that we give to them by ordering more stuff.

Steve: So since you were kind of into leather working, you had the contacts so that you could actually ask for referrals and then it was through referrals that you managed to find people who were actually manufacturing the stuff that you wanted to carry in your store. Is that kind of accurate?

Sean: Yeah that’s right. I mean there are certainly like a wide range of tools and we are constantly like increasing our network and we are also exploring what else is out there, but yeah that’s definitely like– that’s definitely how we grew our manufacturing contacts and how we understood like you know what’s important. But also too you know again we made the store to solve the problems that we had, right. So first and foremost is like is this working for me you know because– a good example was like, there is like a certain type of knife that one manufacturer makes, another one makes and if you just look at them knowing nothing about them, like you wouldn’t know like which is better. So you know we choose the one that we think is going to, that we think is better and that we think that more people will find better.

Steve: Okay, so you actually buy both knives in your example and then you try them both?

Sean: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: So it’s like this, I have like a pile of tools that I’m like yeah this doesn’t work, this isn’t great.

Steve: I’m sure you wife loves that.

Sean: Oh my God. We have boxes it’s like really we need to keep this and I’m like you can’t just throw this away.

Steve: So, would you say then that you carry like completely unique products? Because I noticed you do have a bunch of competitors.

Sean: Yeah, I mean our products are pretty unique. I mean you could go to the manufacture and buy the same thing, but we are unique in the sense that nobody else really is like has a context for like how to use this and nobody is really advising people. Nobody is really tested to the degree I think that we have of you know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. And plus you know there are no costs all the time because we make high end leather tools where people will then like try to knock that off, and so it’s sort of like the world west in some ways was like you know what is the actual origin of this item, whereas we can trace it back. One of the suppliers for leather actually we have just starting our relationship with, you know there are super old school too and they can trace it all the way back to the farmer who raised the cow, who gave, who you know, who is the leather coming from.

Steve: Right.

Sean: Like that’s like a whole supply gene right. Like so it’s unique in the sense that we are really committed to like understanding like where everything is coming from and that it’s high quality product and our manufacturers as well can trace it all the way back to you know to where it came from.

Steve: That’s pretty cool. So was drop shipping ever a consideration here or was just the nature of the relationships you had to actually carry inventory for your products?

Sean: I considered drop shipping but again because I imagine that I’m cheap, I thought you know, I’m willing to put in the time to pack all these boxes, so that I can save a couple of bucks, and also we also take really good care of our packaging. Like actually a lot of people write back to us and it’s like they write back to us like, “Oh my God I felt like Christmas because your packaging is so good like we really like wrap things like really carefully.” And then pack things in a way like you know we cover all of our knives blades and we really like we both wrap all the sharp ends of the tools to make sure that nothing breaks and- -.

Steve: Right.

Sean: And so when people get that the mail they are like, “Oh my God, this is like the best packing I have ever seen in my life.” And I don’t think you would necessarily get that with drop shipping.

Steve: Yeah, you know it’s funny I’m asking these questions Sean but I already know the answers because it seems like we had the same thought process. It must be an Asian thing.

Sean: Yes, quality and keeping the money for yourself, exactly.

Steve: So let’s talk about your first sale, how did you make your first sale?

Sean: So again you know, I had been doing sort of like tests with the firm posts so I had made like a couple of sales here and there but the first sale that we actually had in our store didn’t happen until about, I would say three weeks after we launched. Like we launched and then it was just like, “This is nice.” You know it was kind of just spamming, refresh button on your email like every hour like nothing happens anyway day, anyway two days and you are like, “You know what maybe this isn’t working, I don’t know if maybe we should pick something else.” And then we finally got a sale and it’s like, “Oh wow, okay.” And then that customer you know emailed us right away. He said, “Hey this is great, like you are selling exactly what I’m looking for, do you have this thing?” And I’m like, “No but we can get that thing.” And so then you know and so like on the next shipment which was small at the time like we started to carry this you know I think it was a pricking iron and so then we started carrying pricking irons and it’s like and he was like, “Great, hey do you have, happen to have this thing?” And I was like, “Nope, but we can order that on our next order.” And then you know and so our first customer was like a repeat customer for probably five orders, right?

Steve: Wow.

Sean: And it was because like you know, he would write to us and if he would actually send us pictures of what he was doing and I was like, “Hey, you know,” because I asked him and I was like, “Hey if you have pictures of what you are doing I’ll help you take a look at it, you know and if you need advice about construction, I’m very happy to tell you.” And you know and so he did that and you know he asked like “okay, so if I’m making this thing what will I need for that?” And I’m like, “You know you probably use what you have but you can also try this other thing.” And he was like, “Okay, I’ll try that thing.” And then it’s kind of snowballed from there. So actually most of our customers are repeat customers because we build a rapport with each and every one of them. I mean not literally each and every one of them because that will be like insane because we would be on phone all day.

Steve: Right.

Sean: But for most of my customers like they can ask this question, and we will reply it back and it’s not like we are trying to sell them every single tool in the book right, because they’re usually looking for specific things that they have a question about “okay, so how do I use this thing?” And I’m like, “okay, well, I think that you might need this and you might need this,” or sometimes we end up busting a sale because it’s like you know do I actually need this thing and I’m like no you don’t need that thing, you already have, you know you already have a tire, you don’t need a full iron like you just get by with what you have.

Steve: Right.

Sean: And people find that to be refreshing right because we are not trying to always sell them. We are just trying to help people to make the thing that they want to and because of that you know we are injecting loyalty into our customer base and then they’re coming back not because you know, we necessarily have the cheapest prices or like even like the most of us like products, but because we are really fine tuned into understanding what is it that they are trying to do and to try to have you know get the resources or have the means to help them out.

Steve: So would you say that a large portion of your customers are repeat customers?

Sean: Yeah. I would say- -.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: At least half of our customers are repeat customers.

Steve: Wow, okay so it’s really in your best interest to establish a relationship with these people?

Sean: Yeah you know and it’s helpful for them too because you know they can ask us questions about what I should do next and then you know and we help them out. And it’s funny because it is a small community actually people, people will get a lot of referrals through our current customers and again it’s just sort of like a positive influence right, it’s like we are helping people out they in turn refer other people to us and then we help them out and then everybody is happy.

Steve: Yeah totally you know, I always tell people not to underestimate word of mouth because for our shop at least you know a third of our business is direct traffic. So word of mouth is clearly in play here. So how did you, you know that first sale, was that just organic search or did you pay for any marketing or that sort of a thing?

Sean: We paid for advertising in the beginning…

Steve: Okay.

Sean: Like right now– and that may change but right now we don’t do any advertizing. It’s all through organic search and referrals.

Steve: Wow, okay so you mentioned in the beginning so was that first sale from advertizing or was it from organic?

Sean: You know I don’t remember. It might have been from organic search.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: I can imagine that it was because we weren’t very high up in the beginning.

Steve: Yeah three weeks, I can’t imagine you ranked that much.

Sean: Well, you would be surprised because we were so specific at our copy and actually that level reminds me, I actually took a Neville course on copy writing.

Steve: Okay, yeah, yeah.

Sean: Who was a guest on your show and actually– that was actually really inspirational too because it’s you know it reminded me about being specific to what you are writing for, right. So maybe it was the way that we talked about our linen thread and it was like yeah it will do this, this and this what it is for and nobody else had written about it that we got in through organic search or may have just been page search.

I think it was organic though because like I said, like advertizing today hasn’t really like worked out like as far as like how much money that we are putting in versus what we are getting in return. That said again since I’m Asian and because I’m cheap like I’m talking about like 25 dollars and I’m like, “Oh my God we spent 25 dollars in advertizing and now we get, we didn’t get anything from this, we got like no sales, that’s not worth it.”

Steve: I know exactly how you feel, that’s hilarious. Okay so today you don’t do any paid advertizing for now?

Sean: That’s right. But I think, I think that’s going to be, that’s going to change because we, I think have gone to a point where it’s like I think a lot of people know about us but not a lot, lot of people know about us and so I think advertizing is probably the next horizon for us as far as how to increase our audience. Also too, we kind of got, we were kind of late to social because I was more focused on the customer service and the website experience of it. I focused less on the social aspect of it. So we recently launched our facebook page. We had a twitter account for a while and we did Pinterest for a while too but we hadn’t been actively promoting it, we were just kind of lurking on the sideline and kind of building our content but now we are also doing– we are not also; we are doing a push into our social channels because we haven’t focused on it because we have been focused on other areas and then I think after that, after I feel comfortable about like the quality of our social channel then I think we will try advertizing again.

Steve: What about email marketing?

Sean: So we do email marketing quite a bit and actually that again that was something that I also learnt from Neville as well was to have an auto responder. So we have actually a really– a fairly robust email responder that takes people through how to think about leatherworking and you know and what’s important because again for most people who are trying to do leather working, their model for what it is in America anyway is kind of western wear. It’s like making sandals and making like kind of more of cowboy type stuff. What I find it’s like this– what people come to ask for and it’s not for everybody it’s about what people come to ask for is like okay so, I don’t want it to look like you know I’m a cowboy, what I want it to look like is I just stepped out of, off a plane from Rome, right, like I want like this nice European looking bag, and so for that, that’s kind of more of where we are aiming.

Steve: Incidentally if you could produce a bag for my wife since you wouldn’t have to spend 1000 dollars on it [Laughter].

Sean: Well that’s funny because that’s why people come to us, right. That’s the whole point of our store but also of sort of makers in general is that you know if you think about it you could spend you know 200 bucks on our tools or even spend a 1000 dollars on your– on a handbag and in the end you could make exactly what you want and it will be yours and or you need to buy this bag for a 1000 bucks. So what we try to– what we believe and we try to promote is that, it’s not just making things on your own but it’s like having more control over what it is that you know, you are adding as part of your life.

To your original question, what we talk about in our newsletter it’s not just, okay here is this tool like you hold it here you hit it here and that’s how it goes. It’s like how do you think about this, right?

Steve: Right.

Sean: Because there is a ton of people on that sit who are making leather goods and like you know, it’s kind of like how many three pockets wallets can you make? Like you know what I mean like they all kind of start to look the same and what I try to teach people like in our E-newsletter is like you know what you have very specific needs, make what– and it’s what we did for our store. Solve your own problems first and there will be other people who have that same problem. You don’t necessarily have to copy other people’s designs even though you may start that way so that you have an understanding of how to make something. If you think about it really as somebody who is a creator, you are thinking about it more, not so much as, “hey I’m going to copy this and I think this is great.” But based on what I need, this is I think what this thing should look like.

Steve: This is just like starting a business same thing I mean. You might start out trying to emulate someone else but ultimately you are going to have to come with your own flavor of whatever you are trying to start.

Sean: Absolutely.

Steve: There is a lot of people listening who are kind of on the sidelines wanting to start their store. So I was just wondering if you could tell us, what were some of the biggest challenges for you to start your store and then you know what sort of advice would you give people who are just kind of waiting on the sidelines and just kind of itching to begin?

Sean: You know being a perfectionist, I think was one of the challenges right because since I was a designer in my job, you know you try to work towards a certain level of perfection and that’s important, but what is it that you are really trying to perfect? And for me, you know, again being a designer was a blessing and a curse. I can work to perfection in that area, but in actuality what you are first tying to perfect is, you are trying to perfect your business, right because at the end of the day, you are trying to create something of value and then finding people who also find that valuable and then paying a little bit something for that. So if you don’t work on that, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have the best logo or whether or not your website works the best. If you don’t fine-tune what it is that you are offering to people– and it can’t be junk right, like you can’t just in my view buy all these tools from all the manufacturers that we have, and then put it out there, and then open like

Steve: Yeah.

Sean: It’s not about that, it’s like, it’s not just about the things that we sell, but it’s like the whole experience like the knowledge that we impact, and also the perspective that we get as well, and that’s the thing that you are really perfecting. You are not perfecting like which is the perfect product that I’m going to get necessarily although that’s does come, like what you want will always be working on I think and what as somebody who is a designer sometimes lose sight of it like you know, what is it that I’m really trying to perfect here. It’s not just how this looks but what is the mechanism of this endeavor like what are we trying to market? Is it a value, so and you know do people find that valuable?

So I think that’s like kind of the biggest handle. It’s like really being honest about what it is that you are providing to people and whether or not they find that useful because sometimes the answer is no, right. So like I said I had five other ideas before this all of which I tried to put into play and then the more because I don’t think I was really giving all the value that I could have, right, like I wasn’t, like with the icons for example, like you know, me and my friend like I said me and my friend were working on this. We just kind of put up icons that we thought were cool, you know and that worked to a degree but we weren’t really asking people like, “hey so you are building an app, what kind of an icon would you need?” We were just like, “hey, you know, I think this would be good.” And then we put it out there and then unsurprisingly like nobody bought it.

Steve: Right. Yeah, so basically what you are saying if I might summarize is you need to spend some time validating your niche and providing what customers are actually looking for before just throwing up the site and just selling a bunch of products which you had no idea whether people want or not?

Sean: Yeah, you know in that actually that answer, might be– the question might be then actually what is it that people get stalled out on most. To get started I think people just need to get over themselves right. So like there is a lot of reasons why you wouldn’t start something like this. I think like you are not going to get it right on the first try. So I think to actually answer your original question is like, what is the thing that’s most difficult when people are just starting out, is to just start you know, to put like one foot in front of the other and just kind of go for it, because you won’t create the perfect store from like you know from the gate. Like it took me like I said five tries to get to where I am, to get to a point where– a store that I was actually you know was half way decent and making any money.

Like it wasn’t until I got to that fifth store that I really understood what it took. You know, if I had only, if I had put all this like thinking and like hesitancy and nervousness into making my first store and then that didn’t work out and I gave up, like that would have been the worst, but also if I had put up all these barriers about whether or not, “oh, I’m not a designer, I’m not a copy writer, I’m not a photographer, like I’m not a developer,” there are all of these reasons not to do it. Sometimes, like you just kind of have to go for it.

Steve: Yeah, so in that same vein some of the common questions I get, so how much money did you risk to start your business?

Sean: How much did I– I think our first inventory buy was like 300 dollars I want to say.

Steve: Okay and how much did it cost you to put up the website?

Sean: Not very much because like I said its open source, it was an open source platform, and I did the theme myself so it was just hosting which was I don’t know, it was like 20– hosting is like 20 bucks a month if something is even testable.

Steve: Right.

Sean: And then it was just the inventory really.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: I would say though that you know if you are thinking about starting a store to really put a block on your time as well because I think that’s where people kind of get stuck to use like they throw all this time into it like they will throw like a 100 hours at launching their first store. And in my view now looking at from the other side it’s like invest what you think you are going to– what you hope to make in it and limit the amount of time that you are going to work on before you actually go for it right, because as a designer like I said I could spend 200 hours on this website but I really and I started to go there, but by the fifth time that I was doing it, I was like okay I’m willing to invest this much time into trying this idea, but that’s like the real cause to me, the way that I was measuring it was how much time that I put into it because my time was more valuable at that point than you know the 300 dollars, right.

Steve: Right, right. So you know incidentally how long did it take you to put up your site?

Sean: So it took me– it took me about like a week’s worth of work.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: Like including the theme, the copy, the photographs, the logistics of you know getting supplies. I don’t count like the networking aspect of it because you know like I wasn’t really tracking the time and you can’t really measure that anyway.

Steve: Right.

Sean: But in terms of like when I was sitting on my computer and putting together the store is probably like 40 hours over the course of you know a week or two or something like maybe two or three weeks, and then I put it out there.
Steve: Okay and so you just launched it right afterwards, essentially?

Sean: Yeah but like I said I had already in some ways I already knew, right because, I had already started validating what my products were and like whether or not it would work, so…

Steve: Yeah, and you had an email list full of people who wanted to buy from you also?

Sean: Exactly and that actually was not a lot of time at all. I probably spent two hours and a copy of the email and the landing page before I actually launched that. I think I spent some advertizing dollars on that, but I think I signed up for free facebook ads so you get like 50 bucks. Again because I’m cheap. So I got like that waved. So it was like a minimal amount of time to, and a minimal amount of money, and a minimal amount of time to validate my assumption about whether this would work and then by the time I started building the store, I actually had a pretty good idea that this is going to be okay, but even then I kind of limit that too. I didn’t put more time into it until I started getting more sales. So after that three weeks you know nothing happened until I got my first sale. I didn’t really start tweaking the store again until I started getting more sales, right.

Steve: Right.

Sean: Like I would tweak the copy a little bit maybe because like I said we were doing a little bit of advertizing in the beginning, I would tweak the ads, but I was trying to be measured in my investment of time.

Steve: Okay and how long did it actually take you to come up with your niche or did you just know all along that you kind of wanted to go into that space?

Sean: That was, you know that’s really hard to peg. You know…

Steve: Okay.

Sean: In some ways it was like a couple of weeks in like again like validating whether or not this would work and in some ways it was years because you know I have been trying to come up with my own store, and to try to see how it worked and so I went through different iterations. So if you think about it from the first time that I opened the store to this store, it’s actually quite a long time.

Steve: Okay.

Sean: But this particular niche was actually very short, and again it was about continually trying and continually adjusting what it was that I was doing until I could be good at all little, little things that you kind of need to be good at to get your store up running.

Steve: Okay, hey Sean you know we’ve already been talking for 50 minutes believe it or not and I don’t want to take too much of your time.

Sean: Like we are out?

Steve: Yeah, but thanks for coming on, you know if anyone would like to ask you some questions either about your shop or the course or that sort of thing, is there a place where they can reach you?

Sean: Yeah, so our store is and my email for the store is Sean or store like you can also start they’re both addresses

Steve: All right. Well thanks a lot Sean, I really appreciate you coming on the show and I think the listeners will have learned a lot based on your experiences and what you’ve said this far.

Sean: Thanks Steve, and it was a real pleasure to be on the show as well.

Steve: Yeah, well thanks a lot Sean. Take care.

Sean: Bye, you too.

Steve: Here is what’s cool about Sean. He pretty much followed all the guidelines in my class and has managed to create a six figure business in about a year and a half. Plus you know overall he’s just a great guy, and I really love how he pursued his online store in a niche that he truly was passionate about.

For more information about this episode, go to And also if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud but it helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily to get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show, and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide me with a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.

And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this contest go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I’ll show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at

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Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

019: How Dave Lu Started A 7 Figure Business That Profits From Crowdsourced Content

Dave Lu And Dave Papandrew

Today’s guest on the show has created what I call the “Holy Grail” of online business. Why? It’s because the content for his business,, is based entirely off of crowdsourced content.

This means that the founders, Dave Lu and Dave Papandrew, do not have to worry about generating quality content for their site. Instead, they have created an environment that incites passion among their users and as a result, the users do all of the heavy lifting.

How did they accomplish this amazing feat? Listen to the interview as there are a lot of details that Dave shares that teach us how he did it.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Dave came up with the idea for
  • How to generate traffic for a crowdsourced based site
  • How to solve the chicken and egg problem regarding traffic and advertising dollars
  • Key strategies that Dave used early on to generate interest.
  • How FanPop makes money

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one-on-one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And If you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over a 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I have a good friend of mine on the show, Dave Lu. Now I’m trying to remember exactly how I met Dave, and I believe it was actually through a mutual friend Vivian from Stanford back when she was starting her own company. Anyways back when I didn’t have kids and I was able to stay out past 8p.m, I kind of got to know Dave at various social events. Now he’s a great guy and extremely knowledgeable and humble, and we could actually hung out more if he just was willing to make the move down to the suburbs, but he’s a city guy and we’ll see if that holds up when he starts having kids.

Anyways he is the co-owner of the site, which is a seven figure business that has a really cool business model. And in fact I would even go so far as to say that what Dave has created with is what I consider the, “Holy Grail,” of online businesses. So first off is a network of user generated fan clubs for different topics of interest that is maintained by the community. So for example if I like the movie frozen, I can go on FanPop and interact with some of the other fans and incidentally I was just on the frozen FanPop site, you know for my daughter of course but the key here though, is that all the content is user generated. And FanPop generates money off of advertizing revenue. So without introduction welcome to the show Dave. It’s been a longtime.

Dave: Thanks Steve. Good to be here.

Steve: So can you just give us a quick background story. Just tell us, take us back to when FanPop got started.

Dave: Sure, so I started FanPop with an old colleague of mine from Yahoo. We had worked together back in 1999 together. We were one of the first, you know early employees at Yahoo and we were part of management together and we re-united again because we were both working in down town San Francisco about, I would say about six years later or five years later and you know we would meet up and a lot of– we were seeing kind of a lot of new businesses launching like Delicious and Dig that were kind of you know the open source movement was happening and we felt like you know it was a lot cheaper than when were at Yahoo back in 99” to start a company and we thought, “Hey, we could probably do this on our own.”

And we felt like sites like Dig and Delicious were very tacky focused and we wanted to build something for the masses and you know we started testing out different models and ideas and I think originally we were trying out a travel idea but that was way more difficult to do back then and then we decided to try out this. We felt like there was lack of evolution for fan sites online. It was like GO city sites and really bad you know PHPBB open source forums that were from like the 90’s, and we just felt like there should have been– there should have be another new iteration of community groups for people who shared you know same interest topics like passions.

So we basically started you know working with a friend of mine who was a programmer and we picked up another programmer who also actually you might want to interview who runs cooking for engineers. He was running that at the time I was working at Intel and I went up, I talked to him about it and he was interested. So he quit Intel and joined us, and so we had a team of four and we’ve you know bootstrapped the company and have stayed for you know since we launched and we basically built it from scratch, this platform that allows people to create these communities and these condos around shared topics of interest. So like you said frozen fans, walking dead fans, people who you know love Justin Timberlake, it could be anything and everything and this…

Steve: I heard you started that one.

Dave: Yeah, definitely. That’s Justin Beamer that I started up. Timberlake is okay, but we actually you know the funny thing is when we originally started we had no idea where the audience would move towards and we started off with you know thinking okay, “We will be like [Inaudible] [00:05:31] or you know wine club, wine kind of stores are you know people babies.” They are different people who had shared experiences or interests or you know more hobbies. We had no idea that it would move towards entertainment and pop culture topics which is fine because I think you know all of us are very much into pop culture. You know sometimes it has to be a little younger towards the Justin Beamer’s in the one directions, but you know it pays the bills and there are a lot of people out there who likes that stuff. I don’t judge, I just build the site for them.

So yeah we’ve been, we launched the site in August of 2006, and we started working on it back in, I mean brainstorming back in until late 2005. So it’s been a long run so far.

Steve: Was it always called FunPop even back when you were thinking of doing the cigars stuff?

Dave: Yeah, good question. It was actually– the original name was, we went through a bunch of iterations when they were all the friends stars, we were originally, we tried fan stars and fan starred. Originally we changed the name to fan spots and the idea was that each fan club was kind of a spot and we just had you know a whole network of spots but the day or two before– and we had checked fan spot singular, we had fan spots plural. We in fact checked fan spots singular and it was actually owned by Carnet Media.

They do like the baseball card valuations, so we thought well we were not going to do anything with it, and it was in conflict at that point but two days before we were about to launch our data, we– I looked it up again and they had launched a sports social network. So since we also had sports fans in our mix we could not do that. We were afraid that it could cost too much money to pay for legal fees, to fight anything, even though we had launched our data before they did. We launched our data before then we were going to launch our official site, but we didn’t want to launch it when we had that problem.

So luckily we had kind of scored a way a bunch of domains and FunPop was one of them and it worked out. I guess it was kind of, for twitters because we ended up being a pop culture site. So it actually worked out pretty well and we ended up with a nice six letter domain that has really, the branding’s really helped. I mean users have, they love the brand, we’ve had users who’ve gone out and– even though we had short printed out a copy press for our own team to go to you know networking events and other stuff, we’ve had users who actually gone and paid good money to have sweat shirts and mugs and other stuff printed out with FanPop because they love the brand so much.

Steve: Interesting, is that a revenue source for you guys or…?

Dave: I mean, it’s pretty marginal. I mean, I’m buddies with the over the dictionary guy and he makes a lot more money out of this stuff than we do.

Steve: Okay.

Dave: Yeah, so it was funny, I mean the community that the users created, the brand helped but it was also a tines of like the community itself, and they launched all sorts of things like talents shows on our site and awards ceremonies for people who brought the best trivial questions or best polls. So we’ve seen a really strong kind of affinity towards the community as a whole, so it’s kind of cool.

Steve: So walk me through this. So let’s say I was interested in something, how would I interact with your site. Like how does it work exactly?

Dave: Sure, so if you– say you are looking, you are a big fun of X-men and you know, you go round the web and you find a lot of fragmented fan clubs who are X-men on Wikis or X-men and where blogs and even like you know some marvel or wherever and it’s kind of pain because you end up, you had to go all these sites and you know, you might have some interactions with people, but it’s mostly a one directional thing where someone is posting and you kind of comment. Well we wanted to change that and a lot of people that come on to our site look for X-men, go there and then basically anyone and everyone can, you know post an article or like you know a video or any fan out that they’ve made, you know create a poll question or you know play a trivia game. And so we just wanted to give people the features and just allow them have their own small community where people who understand them or were like them can relate to another and discuss all of their, you know their favorite topics.

So the goal was when you have one person– when you are by yourself and you are scaling the web for, you know all things X-men, it’s a lot less efficient than when you have a whole community of fans kind of contributing it to one place, one repository where you know, you might not have found something that someone else have found, and you can really appreciate it when you log in to FanPop and check out the X-men fan club.

Steve: So do you aggregate any of the other blogs that are out there or the information is already out there?

Dave: Yes, that’s I mean we– there is something we were working on and now we were originally grabbing headlines and other news feeds from other places but we are starting to build relationships with some publishers to bring in third party kind of articles and content. So anywhere from like Hooloo to other sites like Kid Fix and Just Jared, we are going to be– you know I think there is a lot of folks we want to talk to get their part of the content out there. So for people who don’t really use our access Orases readers this would be kind of a new solution for them.

Steve: I see, so would you pay these people to have their…?

Dave: We were just having, a lot of them just want traffic leads. So you know obviously we’ll take snippets of their content, but it’s at least it’s one destination that the people can go to and look, at least browse through all the stuff, and don’t have to search you know a bunch of sites for.

Steve: Okay, yeah that’s makes a whole lot of sense. Orases it’s kind of dying at least and your site will act like a more modern version I guess of…

Dave: Yeah and even more simple because I think a lot of the mainstream just I mean, they never adopted, I mean that’s just from my much knowledge, they never fully embraced Orases anyway so it seems like people were just going to the destinations sites versus aggregating themselves. I mean I don’t know why that’s why Google reader shut it down but– and it seems like even companies like Sleepboard [phonetic] who relied on that are having to move away from that model because I think it’s not everyone necessarily adopted it.

Steve: Yeah so you know, I’ve been thinking about your site a lot before I came on this interview, and I was just thinking about you know starting a user content generate site takes a ton of work and there is kind of this like chicken and egg problem in the beginning, right?

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: So how did you guys overcome that early on?

Dave: Yeah, it was tough, I– my mom always teases me or I guess makes fun of me in front of people because she’s like, “Oh, you are like a genius, you created a business and you don’t actually do anything,” because, I guess it did work out that way, but you know I think when we started it was tough because when there is no community, no one is going to be there. When there is no content, no one is going to come. So it doesn’t really make for good SEO when you don’t have any content. So I think one thing we did was we went around– early on we had to create a lot of fake users ourselves to like pretend that there are discussions going on, that’s kind of sad talking to ourselves, but you know we wanted to make sure when people came they didn’t see like an empty house like you know party.

But then we started kind of paying forums and groups around the web that we thought might appreciate it, and so we surely picked up on different, you know couple of different blogs and once we had, once you get a small– you only need a small subset of users to create the content, I mean and all we added like yolk and other sites at most it’s like 3% or 1% even contributors and the rest were all kind of consumers and so we only needed to get like a handful of the right people to start adding content and that just took off.

And slowly but surely we tried to reinforce that by giving them social recognitions like medals and banners and stuff so they could show that they were experts or good contributors and I think that incentivized them more. So we never got them rather having to pay our contributors or top contributors, it’s been all about you know the social reward of being considered an expert or you know a top fan of our site.

Steve: So earlier on you guys were trading a lot of your own content?

Dave: Yeah, we had to write our own articles, we created some threads for forums, we added you know videos we found or you know articles. I mean we just– or images, wall papers and things like that. So I mean, I think we just had to give people an idea of what it could be because when you start from scratch it doesn’t work like that.

Steve: Because I know just from my experience blogging that even if you have the content, even the people who are willing to make a comment on a post or wherever it’s a very small percentage. So how did you guys kind of encourage people to actually give their inputs and make comments?

Dave: Yeah, I mean I don’t know I guess people when they are already– I think it’s difficult when you are starting a topic that might be somewhat new and not that you know you are trying to build the traffic, but when there is in store base that you pursue like walking dead fans they all have an opinion and so everyone is on one like you know for Twilight they are on team Edward or team Jacob and they are already kind of, they are going to voice their opinions no matter what. So I think it’s that aspect that you hit, that you get to hit upon when you doing standard related topics that people are just passionate about and vocal about, and so we didn’t have much trouble getting them talk once we had the right topics up.

Steve: I just noticed you are very familiar with these female vampire series [Laughter].

Dave: Here it goes; I’m not going to lie.

Steve: So where did you grab these people from initially, did they just find you on search or…?

Dave: Yes a lot of these– a lot of them did find us through SEO but I mean like I said we reached out to some of these fan clubs as well, and we ended up getting typical folks coming from like forums and other places so we kind of like invited people to come check it out and they did.

Steve: Okay.

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: Because and just judging, you know banking on my own experiences in the past like you can’t just walk into a forum and…

Dave: Oh yeah.

Steve: And tell them to come to your site, right?

Dave: No, I think we reached out to the owners sometimes and I think they saw it wasn’t us, I don’t know, I don’t think they think of it as a threat, I think it was just a complementary tool that people could use to post poster fans so yeah I think I mean some of them like really embraced it and so they wanted to know that there are users about it.

Steve: Interesting, I think I might have an opposite reaction. Like if I run like the most popular fan club for one of your favorites like twilight, I would be a little reluctant to…

Dave: Sure.

Steve: Follow my traffic over to your site, unless there was a mutual benefit somehow.

Dave: Yeah, I mean I think we gave them links from our site as well so we didn’t do a sub co-links for their reasons but I think some of it was that the features that we offered that they didn’t really have appealed to them, and so there was like more, I guess they saw, some of them saw it was a complimentary feature.

Steve: Okay, that makes sense then and they are probably diehard fans as well, right?

Dave: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: Okay so let’s talk about the business model. How does FanPop make money?

Dave: We make money by splashing ads all over our site. Now we do make money through advertizing and a lot more, you know this– advertizing is since we started has evolved a lot. Before it was you know really cheap running networks and then you know some direct sales stuff, but we’ve worked with a couple of sales represented partners that sell large campaigns to you know, I think they were from TV networks, the movie studios to the Walmarts and T-Mobiles of the world, and you know they’ve made us money and then as the programmatic remnant of the world has continued to improve, places like Google and other kind of programmatic network businesses have really figured out a good way to generate high CPMs for– and optimize the whole ads base with like real time bidding and other solutions.

So things have definitely evolved and the ads side of things. I think there is still room for it to evolve on the mobile side and that’s something that we are shifting towards. Everything is moving towards mobile, and I think we need to be prepared for that. So we’re actually in the midst of redesigning our search of a mobile responsive site.

Steve: Okay.

Dave: And so when you see on our mobile site right now, it’s very different than we see like sort of the desktop, so that’s kind of emerging soon, but we want to be a much more visual site than we’ve been in the past.

Steve: So let’s– you said a lot in that last statement. Let’s back up a little bit. Regarding– eventually you guys only have four guys, and at least in my experience with blogging if you are trying to get direct sponsorships that’s almost a full time job in itself. You have to contact sales reps, kind of do negotiations and just work out how ads are being displayed. What percentage of your ads are direct versus remnant networks, versus you know other structured deals?

Dave: Yeah, so it does fluctuate from month to month. I mean like in some months it’s very slow and we can get back with like 10%, 20%. You know some months it could be 30 or 40 % so and usually isn’t more than you know 40, 50 % because the direct deals you would– there are a lot of websites out there, and it’s pretty noisy so you know in terms of revenue split, I would say most of your revenue is going to be especially if you are a display advertizing site, it’s going to be on remnant programmatic and the direct is you know when you can get it, it’s very high paying but the fill rate is just not always there.

Steve: Okay, and do you– are you using DFP?

Dave: Yes we are.

Steve: Okay so just for the listeners DFP is Google’s like real time ad serving. It allows other advertisers to bid and you only show the ads that pay out the most so…

Dave: So, I mean we use that as our subject P and stands for double click the publishers one the small business platform and you know we serve any campaigns that are sold directly to us, so say right now we have couple of classic campaigns for some books on our site, we use DFP to launch those sites and manage that but we also manage the whole [Inaudible] [00:20:17] chain ups and networks through DFP as well. So basically that handles all of our ads serving on the front end and we fill in on the backend with you know different networks and partners.

Steve: So what are some of the ads networks that you work with?

Dave: So we’ve basically, you know in the past we worked with so many you know from travel fusion to MTV networks to now it’s like all networks to cash programmatic everyone. And we’ve basically now that Google is just– since everyone goes to Google anyway; you figure all the demand is there so they had a supply of inventory. So we basically, we mostly rely on Google ad exchange, but we also have open X-exchange in the mix.

Steve: Wow, okay.

Dave: It actually helps with losing CPMs on both sides because when you’ve you know less supply who pushes out demand and the price, so the CPMs are higher on both sides. So it’s good to always you know put pressure on the prices more in the mix. So, but yeah those are basically our big ones for now.

Steve: Do you guys use adsense at all or…?

Dave: Yeah, I mean an exchange apparently pays a little better than adsense so the best, I think much of the, more of the high impact display ads are coming from ad exchange.

Steve: So outside of advertizing, do you guys try to sell products that are related to some of the fan stuff on your site?

Dave: Yeah so you know we experimented for a little while with Amazon and they have a unit called the omacasa [phonetic] unit that should read the cut on the page and target content based on the topics but contextually is not so good. It’s not so accurate so we stopped that one. EBay also has one and we were going to explore doing that but yeah we haven’t turned into the E-commerce side of things. We could but at the same time I think, it’s not like doing electronics websites where your revenue would flow or do much higher because you are on you know really high, you know high priced purchases. For us it will be like a cute t-shirt or paraphernalia and so we haven’t focused so much on that.

I think the one thing about our business is that because we are lean and small, we focus mostly on the product side. Our [Inaudible] [00:22:39] you know they cover our bills and we don’t, you know we don’t ask sales guys. I try to optimize it as much as I can but in the meantime we spend most of our time doing product stuff and you know the coding for getting the features in place so, that takes up more of our value.

Steve: Okay, so at least for me in my experience like the mobile ads stuff tends not to pay as much. So do you find that a lot of your traffic is kind of shifting over to mobile now, and how are you kind of making up for some of the, I guess the little revenue aspects of going mobile?

Dave: Yeah, I mean so the funny thing is we didn’t even have a mobile solution before. Basically what we had was when you go on you know your phone and you looked at our site you just get the top left corner of the page, it was pretty horrendous. We were trying some demo solutions like dedicate, there was someone else who was going to host for us and we were going to do a mobile version, mobile version of and we ended up shifting towards a mobile responsive site. So we have a mobile web and instead of a dedicated website. It’s now you know just responsive flow from our [Inaudible] [00:23:53], so a lot of those ads the same ads that we put on our mobile site because we’ve changed to a more tiled UI.
It gives us the facility to actually serve the same 300 by 250s and 300 by 600s…

Steve: Okay

Dave: in our phone view, but at the same time– so CPM’s on that all the same. We don’t have dedicated you know 300 by 250 or dedicate 320 by like 50 whatever units those mobiles are, and we tried out some mobile units that perform well, but I think we are looking at different mobile solutions that perform better on better CPMs. And so there are things out there, they are a few and far between because I feel like no one’s really tapped into the mobile web, advertizing space that well, is we had [Inaudible] [00:24:39] from a company called, “Mobile Theory,” and they seemed to monetize these certainly well.

I think it’s just like any creative and there is different start ups popping up here and there to do things like appleflows [phonetic] like the things that you see Facebook making a lot on with appleflows within their work. There’s companies that are trying to do that for like mobile web versions of sites. So I think it’s just about getting creative with what kind of you know units that are out there, that are available.

Steve: You know early on when you guys didn’t have as much traffic, how did you actually get signed on to some of these ad networks?

Dave: It’s very difficult like it is like there is a chicken and egg thing where if you don’t have the traffic they don’t really want you but I mean Google was always been you know you’ve got three pages a day or a month and you still signed up for Google. So we’ve always had Google mixed in there but in terms of getting the bigger networks, I think we had to definitely work on getting traffic out there before we even got their attention or had their interest to work with us.

Steve: So, I’m just curious from my own knowledge you know, how long did it take before you actually started generating a lot of traffic?

Dave: It was probably a year and a half or so, a year to a year and a half, I think so, yeah.

Steve: Okay, and was a lot of that SEO or was a lot that people just coming back for more stuff?

Dave: SEO takes a lot more time. We did have an SEO consultant come in and help us fix things and that definitely helped a lot but that takes time to build up. Initially it was definitely you know links that people hosted up or that we posted on our different sites that they got, yeah.

Steve: Oh, okay so did you make any mistakes early on and…?

Dave: Oh yeah.

Steve: If you could talk about some of those and how you overcame them.

Dave: We shot ourselves in the foot for a while. So like when we were, one of the things we did when we were testing some page if we had a little like star TXT blocking any callers because we were still doing a test and when we rolled up the page to the live production server, I guess it was like a few months before we realized, we were like, “Why isn’t Google indexing any of these pages anymore?” And then we started develop a TSC file up there in the page and we were like wow we just shot ourselves in the foot. So there are some silly things that we did like that. There is just a lot of other things that I regret and don’t really want talk about but there were mistakes made in contracts, you know contracts and other negotiations that we regret and you know there is certainly a lot we’ve learned along the way and I mean, it hasn’t you know, it hasn’t killed us, so they haven’t been fatal but it’s definitely an interesting learning experience the whole way, every step of the way.

Steve: So just curious going forward, you know the web has changed a ton in just the last couple of years in terms of Google updates and just the way websites are structuring themselves, how do you see kind of FunPop transitioning in the next coming years to grow?

Dave: So we are– I mean we are basically currently trying to redesign the site to become a lot more visual and a lot more user focused. So whereas before we were focused on the topics, we are much more focused on the fans now. So I think we want to provide them a feature set that allows them, that empowers them to share their fan dome whether they are on our site or the other sites and I think we are you know when we look at the pinterests and the tumblrs out there we see that platforms are the way to go. We were going to go down the path of trying to hire a editorial staff and have people write you know content, but we decided we’ll clear that because we are product guys that’s how we build the best. We– and we know that there is a lot of people out there who do a better job with that, so why would we you know try to re-write the same articles.

For us it was about what can we provide people that you know that are out there , that are fans that they don’t have today, and so you know we are playing with a feature set right now and we are trying to you know build it out so that you know we have a product that really speaks to fans, and allows them to express themselves and I think that will be the next iterations and yeah I mean if pinterest and tumblr can be that big as platforms I mean , I think our goal is to become that big as well.

Steve: That’s interesting so you are kind of going not towards the content, and you are more going along the lines of kind of aggregating and…?

Dave: Yeah, let’s, I mean it’s not just, well it’s not just well we are going to go the call on contract side only aggregating, but that’s kind of complimentary to the focus young user and giving them a tool set to be even more empowered to create content.

Steve: Okay.

Dave: So for us is more of a how do you get the user security content even better than they had before and make it easier for them to secure the content?

Steve: I see that’s very interesting. I would have thought that you would want more content on your own site and just kind of own more content going forward so that people definitely…

Dave: Oh yeah, this will be on our site. It’s just that…

Steve: Okay.

Dave: It would encourage them on their own profiles pages and other you know areas to create content for themselves. You can just…

Steve: Oh, okay, got it, got it. Yeah because you know the things with these fan sites; at least, I actually have very limited experience in this but you know if another site would have come on, let’s say I’m really into a TV show if a new site would have come on, that was better than the old I might grab a take towards that one, but I guess what you have is since a lot of your users have invested a lot of time into the content that they place on FanPop, there is less likely to leave? Is that…

Dave: Yeah, I think there is commitment on investment that they’ve made so they definitely stick around.

Steve: Okay. So what are some of the challenges then in just running a community based site? I’ve never done it before myself so I’m just curious.

Dave: It’s a lot of work. There is a lot of you know people get– it’s almost like being a teacher because you have to manage like kids like fighting in class or misbehaving and doing other stuff and we build that social kind of recognition system in it. We both try to cheat the system and they want the recognition from people so they create fake users. I mean it can be a big headache, but at the same time the users please themselves, and they are very vigilant because they are protective of their community, and they don’t want you know bad actors joining in and messing things up. So they definitely are very vigilant and let us know if there is someone misbehaving. And so we have a pretty good moderation kind of a queue and we have moderators on the site that manages it for us because there is no way that the four of us can do all that. But you know we’ve managed to– whether be using third party services like Mechanical Turk or others to get help, we’ve found ways that we can you know keep the site clean and safe for everyone.

Steve: Okay so you have designated users which are probably the most active ones to kind of moderate and handle the day to day stuff so to speak?

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, that’s pretty smart and they are just doing this not for money, they are doing it because you’ve given them a title?

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, wow that is really, that’s a great idea.

Dave: Yeah, I know, a lot of, I think my mom’s pretty impressed that I’ve really done absolutely nothing. Now, I mean I think the right way to do it when you are trying to scale, it’s just not– unless you want to hire a whole bunch of people, it’s just not a very scalable thing to do and basically by being small we are forced to you know come up with ways that we can scale by using the masses of our users to help support us.

Steve: So do you have any advice for people who want to start some sort of a crowd sourced site like your own if there were to start today?

Dave: Yeah. I think one thing I would say is we started off pretty broad which is I think the chicken and egg problem is the worst when you have to start off from a broad topic because you don’t have any, you don’t know where to start and where to target and even if you have, even if you have people coming, if they start coming to all different points in the site and different topics, then it will still be too thin and too shallow. So I think the most important thing is, I think to focus on a niche because that’s a lot easier to build up critical mass in than trying to reach critical mass in a lot different areas and we’ve gotten lucky. I can’t say that most people would have that you know fortune but you know doing it again, I would probably spend more time focusing on one specific you know topic of interest, or one kind of group of audience target because that makes it much more easier to target when you are trying to recruit people.

Steve: I imagine that’s kind of how you guys started too, right? You can’t possibly cover all the things. You probably just focus on a couple of them.

Dave: That’s right, we focused on a few and we went out to people on them, but for us is because since people have multiple interests anyway once you get into one, they get to add and register things. They will start themselves to build other communities around their other topics that they care about.

Steve: Okay. So what about in terms of platforms you mentioned you coded everything from the ground up. Are there tools out there today that makes this a lot easier now?

Dave: Yeah, I mean they’re definitely are. I think a lot of the CMS’s out there like Jupo and others have become a lot more play and play and easier to use. Ours because we started way back and we felt like so many nails and bolts on it that I don’t know that you could choose just like ours but I mean there are so many things with models out there that you could use, like Trupo [phonetic] and other you know CMS’s and even there is still programming languages and others like Nagios that make it a lot easier and quicker to build these things, but I think the hard part is knowing if you can scale it or not. So, I mean we’ve had to learn the hard way by building a site that was forced to scale so we had to make it you know work. So we probably had to get– it’s just targeting in a lot of time but out team is gun pretty good at managing this process, but I think for our future, for people who are developing now or building sites, if you are not a coder, I do think that there are some programs out there but I do feel like it’s a lot more difficult especially when you want a lot of customizations.

Steve: Okay, yeah that makes sense. So maybe some of my gold [Inaudible] [00:34:58] you…

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Dave: And they are very pretty robust and verse domino.

Steve: Yeah and I think if they had to scale to something your size, I think a lot change would need to be made regardless?

Dave: Yeah but then you– it’s you know let’s that’s good they probably had to get that big.

Steve: That’s true so.

Dave: Yeah.

Steve: So are there any business books that you would recommend or your favorite business book that kind of you know influence the way that you decide to run your business?

Dave: Yeah, I really enjoyed and it’s funny, I wasn’t very fortunate to meet him but those few books were great because they kind of– when you are getting started you feel pretty alone and unless you have other friends who’ve gone through it and even then they don’t always share everything with you. Hearing their personal stories of some of these guys and the stuff they went through when you are going like the tough dark times which a lot of my friends do, and then also focusing on the important stuff, programs, essays and, I guess since then they’ve probably published a book version of all those essay’s. Those are very helpful too because I think they just gave you the common sense and practical advice that a new entrepreneur needs to know that they don’t always teach in school, and it’s like simple things like the order of how you divide up equity and you know different struggles that you have along the way and you know, I think that hearing kinds of the follies and metaphoribles [phonetic] of previous people who’ve gone through this path is very helpful to avoid them, but you still end up making your own mistakes and that’s inevitable, but I think that it just gives you confidence that you don’t have to be perfect when you are doing, when you are going through this process. It’s okay to stumble and fall and that’s how you learn.

I remember when I started this or I guess when I started giving talks one I think I’ve done this– said this analogy a couple of times but I was like into the near Jones and the tumble of, none of that would do, it was last crusade where Andy has to walk to get the, “Holy Grail,” but he has to walk across the bridge to get the, “Holy Grail,” but he didn’t see a bridge it’s like just his bottom was casent [phonetic] . I think when you step off and take this journey towards entrepreneurship or starting your own business, it’s, you have to take that legal faith and step out and when you do you’ll realize that it’s going to be fine because all the friends and colleagues and you know co-workers that you’ve had from your past will all come out to support you and help you in any way and they build that bridge across so that you can be secure and I mean no one is waiting for you to fail unless they are a jerk, but there are people that care about you. They’ll connect you to the right people; they’ll introduce you to the right people. They’ll you know a lot of them will go out of their way to help you out because I think especially here in the valley it’s everyone’s dream to start their own thing. So when you actually do it I think people– they just feel like they want to do their part to see that happen and they are rooting for you, I mean hopefully and I think that’s one thing that I think every entrepreneur who is scared to step out– and I talk to so many people. I try to encourage them to start their own businesses but you know giving up their health care plan or their salary and other benefits is scary, and I think as you get older and you have more obligations that’s gets harder and harder so…

Steve: Yeah you know I’ve, I tend to preach everyone starts something on the side while they are still working. And just build it up until the point where they are comfortable quitting.

Dave: Yeah, I mean, I think the one thing is that I will say about that is, I started something probably on the side like that proved this model to me because I was working as a product strategy for EBay on a field in marketing and then that’s when I saw these guys were making tons of money on the side for referrals and affiliate marketing stuff like selling stuff on EBay and other sites and easily driving transactions, and so I build this project on the side for camera enthusiastic websites for you know canon digitalized horizon and saw people were– I was actually making some money on it, so that’s what gave me the confidence that this would actually work. It wasn’t making enough for me to pay the bills, but I think that model, seeing that actually worked gave me the reinforcement that it could be done on a larger scale.

I would say that the people I know who tried doing things on the side when they have full time jobs, it is much, much more difficult to do especially if you believe in an idea that can be big enough, but you are being held back because your best hours of the day are spent working for someone else and you know when you are like running around doing your product and personal life and trying to start something. We tried to do that in the beginning and it was you know pretty much hectic because we could only give it our late, our worst times of the day and we basically decided you know what if we are really serious about pursuing this, we just going to have to quit and go all in on this because you know it just wasn’t our best and so my co-founder and I– we just decided we had to quit our jobs to make this a reality, and if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out but we wanted to know that we gave it all our best– put our best foot forward and not just kind of dipped our feet in the water.

And you know some ideas, I don’t think they require– I think for someone like new comers site where you are selling stuff, you can do that and see that people are buying and when you get pushed to the limits then you know better about whether you can afford to quit or not, I mean that’s a scalable model, but for us we would have build a lesser site or a lesser product and that could have ended up disastrous if we spent just half time on it.

Steve: Yeah, that’s makes a whole lot of sense. It really just depends on what your business model is going to be. So hey Dave I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Thanks a lot for coming on. If there is anyone out there who has any questions do you want to provide some contact information and just talk about your sites?

Dave: Oh sure. Oh sure, yeah you can reach out to me at and yeah is our site.

Steve: Okay, well thanks a lot Dave. Thanks a lot for your time.

Dave: Thanks Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Dave: Take care.

Steve: Here is what I like about Dave and his business Unlike a blog where you either have to create your own content or hire a team of writers and editors, Dave has essentially created a business that pretty much populates itself with quality content by leveraging his audience, and as a result his business is generally hands off and it generates cash like a machine. Now while the end result is impressive, it clearly took a lot of hard work to get there and that’s why I admire him.

For more information about this episode go to And if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud, but it also helps keep this podcast in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily to get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.

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Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at

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018: How Adam Gilbert Created A Profitable Personal Fitness Coaching Business Over The Internet

Adam Gilbert

Fitness and staying in shape is a large part of my life which is why I’m thrilled to have Adam Gilbert on the show today. Adam started the popular online fitness site where he provides personalized fitness training to clients over the Internet.

What I like about his business in particular is that he has transformed an inherently unscalable industry into an extremely profitable business. And as you’ll soon see, he exudes passion for his coaching service.

Like my other guests on the show, Adam is not a technical person yet he has managed to create an incredible business over the Internet. Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Adam Gilbert started an online fitness coaching program
  • How Adam got his early customers
  • How to scale a traditionally unscalable business online
  • How Adam differentiates his business from regular personal fitness trainers
  • How Adam hustled his way to grow his business
  • How Adam leveraged Facebook early on to grow his business
  • How Adam gained trust for his early fitness customers
  • How Adam decided between a lump sum vs subscription based model for his coaching
  • Adam’s main source of customers
  • How to design a website with no experience

Adam’s Sites


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where I bring in successful boost strapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information, go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Adam Gilbert on the show with me today. Now Adam runs the site, where he provides fitness and wellness training, completely online. Now what’s really interesting about Adam’s business is that personal training has traditionally been in person type of activity. Like you go to the gym and you kind of hire someone to train you, but Adam has managed to create his business doing this completely virtually.

Now not only that but I have three friends that are 100% vouch for his fitness program. Now the personal fitness niche is actually extremely competitive and saturated and traditionally it hasn’t really been scalable either. So I’m very happy to have Adam on the show today to talk about So, welcome to the show Adam and congrats on your brand new child.

Adam: Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Steve: Before you even tell us about your business, I’m just kind of curious how having a brand new child has kind of affected the way you run things so far. I know it’s only been a month.

Adam: Yeah, first of all thank you again for having me, it’s awesome. Having a child has changed everything. I am very structured in my day. I have everything kind of planned and you know having my little Zachary has definitely changed everything. So I’m certainly getting used to it but it’s definitely a challenge.

Steve: But it’s nice that you have your own business so things can be a little bit more flexible than if you had a regular day job, right?

Adam: Absolutely and the wonderful thing is I get to spend time with him in the middle of the day. I get to hung out with him, I get to go for walks with him. It’s always a wonderful break for sure.

Steve: That’s awesome men. So give us a brief overview about your business and how you make money exactly.

Adam: Sure. My Body Tutor as you said is an online service. And really you know what separates us from the billion and one other companies out there, you know weight loss companies, wellness companies, whatever, is that we provide daily and personal accountability right. So when a client signs up, we match them with their very own body tutor and that tutor will give them a customized plan to help them reach their goals. And then really again what separates us is that not only do we have that phone call and say, Hey good luck let’s touch base in two or three weeks.” It’s, “Hey now it’s been communication every single day, right?” The fact that we are in communication with our clients every single day, giving daily accountability, daily support, and really system to monitor and track their progress is key. And you know it’s because we are in communication with our clients every single day, our clients gets the results they do.

Steve: That’s kind of different than a personal trainer which you might only see maybe once or twice a week, right. So what you are saying is your clients actually touch base with you every single day right?

Adam: Yeah. We have our very own website, our very own back end system. It’s really easy to use. They enter what they ate throughout the day or at the end of the day their choice. They can upload a photo of their meals they want as well and then they tell us what they did for the exercise. And again this is all a diet plan, an exercise plan that we spoke about with them right so we are on the same exact pages on that. And then they submit their report at the end of the day.

And then the very next day their very own body tutor is writing back with expert routine, suggestions, feedbacks and encouragements to make sure they are staying on track and being consistent. And of course you know when they are having an inevitable, tactful challenge or mental roadblock, we are right there with them and that’s the key because it’s so easy to kind of rationalize and justify poor choices because we are in communication with them every day we can really get them right back on track quickly.

Steve: One thing, I’m just speaking from my own personal just the way I am. Sometimes I’m kind of too lazy to enter stuff in online. So, is there something that you guys do to make me accountable for everything that’s been specified in the program?

Adam: Yeah, I mean so definitely centers around you entering your food into the system. We made it really, really easy to use. I mean, entering your food and exercise really doesn’t take more than four to five minutes. And we work with some extremely busy entrepreneurs, people who are running very large businesses and are extremely busy. And just very busy people in general and I think the best part is they wind up enjoying it. They really look forward to it and they also look forward to getting the feedback every day.

Steve: Okay, so if I’m entering my food then what does that get me exactly?

Adam: So you are entering in your food at the end of the day or throughout the day, but at the end of the day you submit your report. That just kind of lets your tutor know what you ate that day, what you did for exercise that day, if it wasn’t exercise day. And then the real bread and butter of the program so to speak is that the very next day, your body tutor is going to be writing back with routines and suggestions and encouragements.

Steve: I see, okay.

Adam: With that you are kind of owning to what you ate, what you did for exercise is key because we are really holding you accountable on a daily basis. We are giving you daily accountability.

Steve: As you said it is the food that I enter is kind of get converted into calories and that sort of thing. For me at least just human nature I might lie if I had like this triple fat Sunday or something. So, I was just curious how you guys kind of very gently, in a very non-confrontational way give critic and feedback for someone’s program.

Adam: Right. Well I think that is where the art coaching comes in right. It’s definitely not shame based feedback. Shame based feedback is not going to help anyone change their behaviors and habits. I think we do have the advantage that if someone signs up for MBT they are clearly you know want to make their health and fitness a priority, they want to change. And you know lying to themselves and us is only a waste of their time.

And of course this has been, this business is seven plus years old now. I mean, of course it’s happened throughout the years but we are really good at kind of identifying when that happens. And you know I think one of the key is that we remind our clients like, “Listen we are not judging you, this isn’t shame based, we are here to help you, the more you tell us, the more vulnerable you are with us, the more we can help you and the more we can help you get to where you want to be.”

Steve: Right, okay, that completely makes sense. And I imagine the way you are priced actually kind of weeds out the people that aren’t going to be serious about the program?

Adam: Sure. I think you know the price, I mean the reason why we charge what we do is just simply because we are giving so much attention to our clients. We are in communication with them every single day giving them real human feedback. It’s not cookie kind of feedback or a computer. Obviously it’s a real person sitting there writing them feedback, personalized feedback on everything they ate and everything they did for exercise.

Steve: Okay, I see. One thing that I want to know also that I was kind of curious about is, let’s say I wanted to get in shape, so what is my incentive to sign up for someone virtually versus a real life human person that I can actually see, touch and yell at me?

Adam: Right. That’s a great question. Personal trainers are great. I’m all for personal trainers. But I think the difference between a personal trainer and us is you know personal training you might see two or three times a week and that’s it. The real result mean– a lot of people don’t realize this but its 70% to 80 % of our results comes from what, why and how we eat our diet. On the trainer you always see those two or three times a week but the key thing is, it’s what you do between gym sessions. That’s why you see so many people working out with the trainer month after month and not looking any different because again what they are doing between gym sessions is entirely wrong.

Steve: I see, that’s completely makes sense actually. Yeah because I recently tried to get a six pack and I found that it was more about eating as opposed to exercising.

Adam: Oh yeah, I mean I was definitely made in the kitchen, there is no question about it and you can out exercise a poor diet.

Steve: Yeah, I was going to ask, do you actually give a meal plan as part of your program as well or?

Adam: Yeah, absolutely we give a customized meal plan, a customized work out plan. This is what we talk about with our clients and their initial phone consultations. So we really make sure they have a game plan. But again the key thing is, it’s one thing to have a game plan but it’s another to actually implement it and stick with it on a day to day basis. And really, the key to getting the body you want, the key to losing weight, whatever is eating right, exercising and doing those few things consistently. And as we know it’s the consistency part is all, that’s really what we focus on helping our clients do is stick with the plan day to day.

Steve: Okay, so a lot of it, it sounds like largely it’s not automated. You actually get a nice human person that’s really giving you actual advice. And that’s– it’s not like you are getting some cookie kind of advice so to say?

Adam: Not even close not even close and going back to your question the difference between an online thing versus in person. Also trainer you can easily be spending 60 dollars a session, that’s 180 dollars a week if you go three times a week. It’s like what 720 dollars a month to see a trainer. And again that’s only a small part of the battle really. Then you have nutritionists who are of course great as well but the thing is if you are lucky you get to see the nutritionist maybe twice a month. Usually once a month in their office for like 20, 30 minutes and you can easily spend 300 dollars on a session. And again it’s– they give you a plan but there is no follow through. There is no– they give you a plan and they assume the compliance is the easy part but I have always been under the impression and the belief that in 2014 a lack of knowledge is not so much of a problem; it’s the lack of consistency and action.

Steve: Okay, you know that goes with entrepreneurship as well. It actually goes hand in hand with personal fitness which is what I found out. So, let’s switch gear a little bit and let’s talk about the very beginning of your business. Take me back to the beginning. How did you actually get your early customers, like I mentioned before this is a really competitive niche?

Adam: Yeah, it’s crazy, I mean you know first I was working at Ernst and Young, I quit that job. I was doing that out of college for two years, I quit that job in January 2007. Then I launched MBT in February 2007. And I really got my early customers actually on Facebook. So, I actually launched MBT as kind of a spring break company. Basically, the goal was to help people get ready for spring break just because when I went to school everyone was obsessive over looking good for spring break.

And you know back then Facebook had– they had ads. Actually it was ads or I forgot what it was called but I don’t even know what it– that was fliers, Facebook fliers. When you went to the school, you would get more impressions, right and what I realized is if you go to the school you get more impressions. So, I had a few friends in different schools and they gave me their log in information and then I was able to like log in into their account, advertize at those specific schools and would get like double the amount of impressions.

Steve: Okay, so this is back on Facebook was for priority just for the colleges?

Adam: Exactly.

Steve: Okay. And so you could only advertize to colleges and the way you got more advertizing space is if you actually brought your stuff to a different college or something and so you got, you used someone else’s account in a different college and that’s how you kind of spread the word?

Adam: Exactly. It just basically got more ads by using other people’s accounts.

Steve: Right, okay. And did you have a website?

Adam: I had a website. It was very, very basic. I mean if you go to the way back machine you can see it’s completely different from the way it is now. Back then it was really, I was really focused and you know I hated doing it but it was necessary. I was really focused on selling myself because we had no testimonials, we had no success stories, we weren’t featured in the press or anything. No one knew who we were; I mean I was just starting out. One of the things that I vividly remember doing, I had my hero screen name on the website. Back then people still actually used aim and I actually had it on the website. And I would actually sit there for hours having I am conversations with potential clients talking about the program. Literally I mean hours. I still, I vividly remember this and like, it was just like, “Listen, try my program and if you don’t like it, I will give you your money back.” I really believed in what I do, I know it works. That’s how I did it, just client after client, one conversation at a time.

Steve: And so this website didn’t have anything special about it. It was just a static page or…?

Adam: It was pretty much just a static page. I mean there was a few pages to it but there was, again there was no success stories, no testimonials, no press. We weren’t featured in anything. No one knew who we were. It was just me selling myself.

Steve: And so Facebook got you the people to that web page where you would then chat with them through aim?

Adam: They could sign up on the site but I also made my aim screen name very visible at the bottom just because I wanted to interact with potential clients and customers. And you know I even had like my facebook profile because ultimately like first of all the site looked awful, it was very amateurish. I made it myself and it was just really about establishing trust. And there was just so many fly and like companies in the fitness world and they are still are and I knew that and I was very aware of it. And just kind of– I guess I was just naive that I just felt that what I offered really worked. But I knew I had to work extra hard to gain people’s trust.

Steve: So how did you gain their trust earlier on when you had nothing? I was just curious. What would you say to these people?

Adam: I would say listen like, “Here is my facebook account.” Like you know I had a personal blog. So I was like listen I’ve been writing online for– since 2004, basically just to proving and showing them that I’m a real person. Like I’m not just some dude in some closet trying to rip people off. I even think I wrote on the website back then, “This isn’t a scam.” I just– I tried everything. I just wanted people to give me a shot. That was really ultimately the goal.

Steve: So, you actually had a personal blog which kind of, which you had maintained for quite a while, is that right?

Adam: Right and I actually had the link to the personal blog on my website. I had the personal blog link there so that they can read it and that helped. Because again you just want people to realize you are a real person. I mean, it’s online, it’s a scary place. And for me the biggest thing was offering a money back guarantee. So people could literally my program for a month, not feel or see any results and they can ask for their money back. And you know that was powerful. I mean it’s really just a testament to, I think this is the right thing I do but it’s also, I just know what we offer works. I really sincerely believe in what we offer works, and I still offer a guarantee because of that.

Steve: So, today you actually have a subscription based model. What is it like that before when you first started as well? Like how did you kind of come up with the business model?

Adam: Yes. When I first started it was actually like a six week program and that was it. We had two levels basically one with phone calls every day and one without which we still have to this day. But it was just the six week program and that was it. And what happened is, after a few weeks many of the clients would say like, “Listen I love this program, I want to keep going.” And you know kind of very quickly I realized that like it should be a subscription model because of instead of having to ask people sign up every six weeks again, these people are asking me just make it subscription. So, it was kind of a no brainer and just kind of listening to my clients on that. But then instead of a six week we made it a four week subscription and it’s been like that. I changed that in like May of 2007 and that was helpful certainly to do that.

Steve: Okay, so now it’s purely subscription based?

Adam: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. So, now you get this kind of early trickle of customers. How has the way you’ve actually attained customers changed over the years since the very beginning?

Adam: It’s really funny. We live; I mean I always like to say in results we get referrals. I guess one of the biggest early mistakes I made actually, I started MBT in February 2007 and by like April 2007 we had so many clients that I actually had to stop advertizing. And that was I think probably a big mistake just because back then it was working. If something is working keep doing it and I just couldn’t handle the growth. I wanted to hire other tutors. I wanted to build that sophisticated system. I had this whole dream of sophisticated system where I can manage other tutors, where I can manage and see what they were writing to our clients.

And I eventually did that in 2009, two years later. But that was kind of this whole like pipe dream of like, all right once I do this or when I do this then I will start advertizing. Then I will start focusing on growth and kind of, I quickly realized that I’ve always been obsessed with quality and while growth is– growth is just a byproduct of getting people results. It’s really never been a focus. It really hasn’t. There are so many things we can be doing to grow more and more, we just really focus on our current clients. Make sure they get their results and they are happy and thankfully they will refer us to their friends and family and that’s basically how we’ve grown.

Steve: So, when you mentioned you stopped the advertizing, was that the Facebook advertizing?

Adam: Yup.

Steve: Okay. Have you tried any other forms of advertizing? I’m just curious.

Adam: Yeah, I’ve tried Facebook advertizing. Again I was just curious as well. I tried that probably a year ago, couldn’t get that to work. I tried Google adwords couldn’t get that to work, spent a lot of money in that. One thing that we really do and I think it’s a huge driver of traffic is just write a blog. I write a blog. I love writing; that is a huge passion of mine. A lot of people come to our site because of that, and that’s definitely something that has helped a lot.

Steve: So, do people find your blog just naturally through Google or it’s just- -?

Adam: Yeah. That’s always, they’ll just you know– because one of the things we always do when clients sign up is we ask them how they found us, and more and more throughout the last few years especially people are finding us just on Google. That always is a very nice thing.

Steve: So, you mentioned that you had this dream about this back end for your site and presumably you have something much more sophisticated today right? So, are you a technical guy at all?

Adam: No, not at all.

Steve: Okay, so can you walk me through like just designing this website when you had no technical knowledge at all.

Adam: Sure. I mean the first site that I started with, I designed on like Yahoo, I think it was Yahoo Web Hosting. I had done it through there. And basically for me it was just a proof of concept. I really wanted to make sure it worked before I spent all this money on a designer and building up this whole back end application. And then once I realized we really had something, and the program really worked as well as I thought it would, then that’s when I started looking for someone to help me take the website to the next level. That was only after two years. So, I hired this firm in Colorado actually.

Steve: How did you find them?

Adam: How did I find them? I think a friend recommended them to me. I really liked it. They were going to do the whole back end design and they were going to do the front end design. It was a huge amount of products. I remember writing like a blog post on my personal website and saying like, “When it comes out to it if you truly believe in what you do like you’re money talks,” and it was like when I would cut this cheque to this firm like it was wow, it was scary. It was definitely scary but I did truly believe in what we were doing.

Steve: So this is a fully customized website. It’s not developed on any sort of standard platform? Am I right?

Adam: Right.

Steve: Okay. Wow okay so I’ve done this before and it’s kind of what I do for a living in terms of creating computer chips. It’s not a trivial task, so can you just walk me through the process of how somebody who is not technical, and probably hasn’t designed any complicated website in the past, can work with the firm and fully specify exactly what you want on a website.

Adam: Yeah. So I had this very clear vision of how I wanted it to be. We had tons of conversations. I think I actually flew out to Colorado to meet with them. I drew it out on paper. I would like scan it to them so that they can see it, tons of wire frames, just really lots of alterations. Just a really kind of thrashing up front to really make sure they understood exactly what it is I was trying to achieve. And they did an amazing job. They really did.

Steve: So, do you still have them on retainer for maintenance of your site? Presuming you still have to add features from time to time right?

Adam: Right. So that was back in 2009 and one of my dreams is always to kind of build a team around me of people who believed in MBT so much that they actually signed up as clients. So the firm I worked with actually was really good. They actually went and really focusing on much even larger scale projects like multimillion dollar projects and I basically became too small of a client for them. That’s site kind of the application and site kind of stayed that way for a few years. And then this guy named John signed up as a client too great actually. And then he told me he was a software developer and we just started talking. And he actually wound up working for me for free for a year. He just really believed in what we were doing so much.

Steve: Wow, okay.

Adam: Yeah, amazing guy. Had amazing results with the program too and then long story short he’s actually now the CTO and he wound up actually rebuilding the entire application from scratch himself. And the cool thing is we’ve added so many features. Like one thing I’ve always wanted to do, being able to do was like add photos of meals. So now a client can easily snap a photo of their meal, upload it to the site and done. And like, that’s something that we launched last year. Just so many little features now that whenever we think of them or whenever we know that will really add to the client experience we can add it.

Steve: That’s a lot more convenient than having someone in house that does all the work?

Adam: For sure.

Steve: So, how many trainers do you have, at most?

Adam: We are about like 15 now. My site I haven’t updated with trainers in a while. So, yeah I mean it’s cool. It’s nice when you are– you get people reading your site and they are like I love what you are about and they want to work for us and it’s awesome. It’s very cool.

Steve: So, if someone, let’s say one of my listeners wanted to start some sort of training program not necessarily in fitness and what not. What would be the best advice for them if they wanted to do this? Would it be to start a website, a blog, just go round and just try to get some business in the beginning? How would you advice them to proceed?

Adam: Yeah, I think in 2014 that’s a great question. I would definitely advice them to start offline. I think it’s always better to go where people are, and I think there is so much noise online now. We really get most of the client’s offline now really because we have a client base but there are other people who are not reading blogs necessarily or they are not up with all the latest and greatest websites or wherever. They are just referring people that they know in their lives.

So if I had to start all over, I would definitely just start with your own personal facebook page. Ask you know say, “Hey who here wants to improve in this, you know experimenting with watching something?” And just get two or three people right and focus on those two to three people. Get amazing results for them right and if you really get amazing results for them– and it’s not about the money at all. Do for free. And then if that’s works then you can find two or three more people. And before you know it, if you have 10, 15 people that’s a nice little business.

Steve: Okay and then so you wouldn’t even worry about the website or the blog at all until much later from what I’m getting from there?

Adam: If I have to start all over in 2014, I would definitely just make sure you get customers first. That is the most important thing. And I think a website is just delaying the hard work or the most important part of getting customers.

Steve: Okay and what about the various forms of advertizing, do you feel the same way?

Adam: I personally, I’m not an internet marketing or internet advertizing expert. If you are then I guess that’s a huge advantage but unless you know you can make it work. Then again I would much rather deal with people I know rather than try and attract people who you’ve never met at all, and have no idea of who you are.

Steve: Okay, fair enough. The nature of your business is– it’s not entirely scalable in the traditional sense right, because of the human interaction? So is there a plan for you to scale your business or you are just perfectly happy the way it is providing quality to all your customers and not really worrying about growth so much?

Adam: Yeah, I mean that’s something I’ve wrestled with for a while. And ultimately coaching is not a scalable business and that’s why giving people daily and personal feedback every single day is not scalable whatsoever. It’s a very, very time and labor intensive business. And honestly I just absolutely love it, but if your goal is to build an enormous company then I recommend not starting a coaching business.

For me it’s more about just a lifestyle business and just impacting our current clients, and I’m happy with that. My goal is not to build a business for 10 thousand or 15 thousand clients or anything like that. It’s really just to take care of our current clients. Certainly of course you want to help more people but that’s not– that’s really not like… For me, me and my team focus on obsessively how we can serve our current clients better.

Steve: Yeah, and incidentally that’s the theme of the podcast, its lifestyle businesses. So, that’s why I kind of want to steer this conversation a little bit back. You just had your first kid and I want to hug a little bit more. So, how hands off are you in terms of the business right now and how has having your child and being wanting– I suppose you want to spend a little more time with your child. How has that kind of affected your business?

Adam: Yeah, I will tell you it’s hard. I’m actually very hands on with my business. I mean this is definitely a calling. It’s my passion, it’s my life. I always kind of joked around my wife that said you know “My business, my body tutor is my first baby.” It really is and she doesn’t like when I say that. Really it’s like you know for me I love working on it. I love writing emails to my clients. I love interacting with my clients. That is what I love doing. So it’s really a challenge actually to kind of find time for it. Find time for my son. Find time for my wife. Find time for myself a little bit. It’s tricky, there is no question about it but thankfully I can work anywhere. I get to see my son and wife all day which is great if I wanted to. There is definitely time for it for sure.

Steve: Okay, explain since a lot of this is just one on one interaction. Can you kind of explain how you find the trainers that you’ve hired and so that they all kind of have a consistent message about your company right, since it is so personal?

Adam: Yeah, I was told that was going to be a really big challenge. Just because we are only as good as our tutors and our tutors have to care a lot and that’s for me the most important thing. Certainly knowledge is important all but our tutors are experts and know a lot but they really have to be passionate and in it for the right reason. Thankfully throughout the years we kind of get two to three emails a week of potential tutors reaching out to us.

Steve: Really?

Adam: Yeah. And it’s always been a wonderful position to be in because I would rather not hire any tutors at all if they are not the right fit. But just again because our clients, our business is only as good as our tutors. They will write these emails, these wonderful emails and saying how this is what they would love to join, they would love to be a part of it and then we usually go from there.

I will tell you something interesting and it’s kind of one of my hiring something a little test I do is. It’s amazing to me how many people will write me like page long emails, “I love what you are doing, blah, blah, blah” and it’s great and I really appreciate and I will just say, “Hey I’m really busy today, would you mind emailing me in a week, right?” And it is amazing to me how many of these people will like not email me in a week or forget to email me in a week, not email me like 10 days later or whatever. I will say, “Hey today or whatever day it is can you email me a week from today?” And they wouldn’t do it. And it’s like, if they can’t pass that simple test then I know they are not, that little thing I know they are not going to be a good fit for sure.

Steve: Adam you are like, “Hey Steve can you contact me again in a week about this podcast interview?” Very interesting, okay how do you- – sorry go on.

Adam: It really weeds out some people because I would like to say, one of the keys to our success, one of the reasons why we are able to help our clients so much is we have this what I call, “A gentle relentlessness,” right. We have to be relentless to an extent, but we also have to be gentle. A potential tutor wants to be a tutor so badly they should definitely be able to email us in a week, that’s no big deal.

Steve: Okay and how do you incentivize your tutors? I don’t know because they are just working for someone else. How do you differentiate the experience working for you versus working for a gym and doing personal train there?

Adam: Right. I think one of the benefits is that they can work from anywhere. They don’t have to be in a gym.

Steve: Okay, right.

Adam: So, that certainly helps a lot. And it’s also really making sure you get the right people. I guess one of the reasons why– this isn’t again my goal is not to have like a billion tutors, a billion clients.

Steve: Absolutely, right.

Adam: So I don’t want to, I’m very careful who we select as tutors. Then probably we will limit our growth and that’s okay. So just finding the right people and making sure they are in it for the right reasons. Certainly yes they need to get paid and they do get paid well but if they are in it for the money, just for the money then they are not going to be good fit.

Steve: Okay, these are just all– the questions that I’m asking, these are all just kind of fears that I’ve had as I’ve been hiring and stuff and we’ve actually had a couple of doubts here and there with our businesses, and so I was just very curious to know how you kind of screen out your employees and that sort of things.

Adam: Yeah.

Steve: Cool. So, what kind of inspired you to actually go out on your own and start this business? Were there any books that you recommend that you read that kind of inspired you?

Adam: I have always kind of– in college I had a business. I mean what really inspired me was just the fact that my first day of concord procedures job, I had a stomachache and I just knew that was not for me. I wasn’t happy for those two years while I was there. So, that really was what inspired me; I just knew that, that’s not what I was meant to be doing. In college I had this business and like I have never felt so passion in my life. And I knew that existed in me. And then when I had this corporate job like I just felt like, I was like it just wasn’t me. And I had to get back to that, that’s what inspired me to really pursue my passion.

Steve: And as someone who isn’t very technical and that sort of a thing, were there any sort of web services that you would recommend to actually find the people, to find the developers or services that kind of just helped your business out that you might recommend?

Adam: I mean the technology now is so much better than it was seven years ago. You can easily, fairly easily start a blog now, work for a site. There are so many sites where you can just bid on finding people to do work for you. I mean that stuff didn’t really exist seven years ago. To be honest I don’t really do that now because I have a CTO that kind of handle all that stuff. But I know there are sites we can easily bid out work and it’s no big deal. I have friends that built out business for like only 100 dollars they got their entire website. Now they are like multi-million dollar businesses.

Steve: Yeah, I know I was just trying to see if you would do it all over again, will things be different in terms of the website and everything as well but it sounds like you don’t handle that, and it will be more of a question for your CTO.

Adam: Yeah, sorry.

Steve: No, that’s cool. So, what would you say is like your secret source? Like why did you succeed in this business, where a whole bunch of other personal trainers who have tried to do this in the past have failed?

Adam: Yeah, you know that’s a good question. I think, I like to think it’s just because some people say I’m extremely persistent and honestly I’m really just so persistent because I really, really believe in what we offer. And I have been at this now for seven plus years. And it’s just you know like for I’ve been writing a blog for years now, right. There were times where people weren’t commenting on it at all. Actually we really didn’t have any comments, we were like, I wasn’t getting any interaction right.

And like you know it’s just been interesting throughout the years like I post my blogs then slowly by slowly people start emailing me saying, “Hey this really, really resonated.” It’s just about, for me I’d be doing this whether we had clients or not, like I would be putting content out there about weight loss, about the psychology of weight loss. We got all the stuff we help our clients achieve no matter what, this is what I love doing. So I think the key is really, really picking something you actually love doing because then it really doesn’t matter if you succeed. Success is going to happen just because you are willing to put the work and because you love it. And I know this sounds chizzy and like cliché but for me it’s like I had no problem staying up until three, four in the morning working on my site or writing things because it was fun. I truly enjoyed it.

Steve: You know what’s really funny about running this podcast is I ask this question a lot and I get different answers. Some people say you don’t really have to love what you are selling, what not; it’s all about the numbers. And then on the flip side here you are telling me that you just have to be so passionate about it, and so into it that you know it’s going to succeed in the end because you are so passionate about it?

Adam: Right, I mean for me I couldn’t, I can never run a business, just for me personally. Yes those people will say, “Start something, be good at it and then you will end up loving it.” But for me it’s always been about, life is too short why not love what you do for a living if possible. And I just, I have to love what I do. I can’t just sell something just for the– you know for money to be the goal, it’s just not me.

Steve: So, I noticed you mentioned a lot of your business is just word of mouth. So, is there anything special? And I notice a whole bunch of testimonials on your site as well. So, is there anything that you do in particular to actually encourage these testimonials or encourage these people to submit their before and after results to you?

Adam: Yeah, it’s really funny, I mean it sounds, it’s like I actually just started with less fears like asking people for before pictures and after pictures. The one challenge with the weight loss business, I mean we really have like thousands of success stories but a lot of people don’t want their pictures online. So, we ask people, a lot of people say, “Hey enjoy them but I would rather you not post them” so of course we don’t. But, it’s something I probably should have done from the very beginning is being more aggressive in asking people for before and after pictures, and you know testimonials and things like that. A lot of people just want to share, give us a testimonial but it’s something we definitely been more aware of last year is asking people for.

Steve: Okay. Cool, hey Adam I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. We’ve been talking for quite a while. If anyone wants to get a hold of you or ask you any question about MBT, how can they reach you?

Adam: Best way is just email me and I will be more than happy to help you out in any way I can.

Steve: Okay and in order to sign up for your program actually, is there some sort of free consultation one on one or do you sign up first and then you get the call or how does it work exactly?

Adam: Yeah you sign up and then we will have the initial phone consultations. Of course if you have any questions or anything comes to mind about my program certainly email me, we will talk and certainly you want people to feel comfortable before they join. And I would love to– I think one of the cool things and I think we talked about this a little earlier is just, the cool thing about fitness is it really helps you to do everything better right? And whatever you do is worthwhile investment of your time.

Steve: Oh, absolutely. I have lost like 35 pounds in like the last six months, and I feel a lot more alert since I’ve changed my diet. So, yeah, I can totally vouch for that.

Adam: Yeah.

Steve: All right hey, well thanks a lot Adam. It was a pleasure having you on the show.

Adam: Awesome. Steve thanks so much for the opportunity, I really appreciate it.

Steve: All right men. Take care.

Adam: All right.

Steve: Here is what I like about Adam. He’s taken an industry that is inherently unscalable and he’s turned it into an extremely profitable business that pretty much transcends geographical boundaries. Now he can literally train anyone across the world. And just that aspect of his business, I think it’s just really cool. For more information about this episode, go to And if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only make me feel proud but it also keeps this podcast up in the ranks so other people can use this information, find the show more easily and get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or to share it on the web.

And as an added incentive, I’m also giving away free business consultations to one lucky winner every single month. For more information about this contest, go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I will show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information and thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at

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017: How Jessica Larrew Created A 6 Figure Ecommerce Business Using Fulfilled By Amazon

Jessica Larrew

Today I’m excited to have Jessica Larrew on the show. Now what’s unique about Jessica is that she got laid off from her job where her husband was actually her boss. But instead of wallowing in pity, she decided to start a business selling goods on Amazon and now manages to make a nice 6 figure income in doing so.

Today, her husband quit his job as well and they both run their business together. A very inspiring story that you all should check out!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Fulfilled By Amazon works
  • How Jessica makes 6 figures a year working one day a week.
  • How to find clearance goods to sell on Amazon for profit
  • How to find profitable goods to sell
  • Jessica’s criteria for finding goods to sell.
  • The advantages of using Fulfilled By Amazon versus carrying your own inventory.

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working, and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead I have them take us back to the very beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes, and enter my podcast contest, where I am giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information, go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100 K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information, now on to the show.

Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit her Job’ podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to another edition of the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ Podcast. Today we are going to be talking to Jessica Larrew, and I initially heard about Jessica from Pat Flynn’s podcast, and when I heard her story I knew I had to have her on the show.

Now, Jessica runs a business where she purchases surplus goods from stores, and then sells them on Amazon using Amazon’s ‘Fulfilled By Amazon’ program. And as a result, she doesn’t have to carry any inventory. Amazon takes care of shipping, fulfillment and returns, and you know, her story particularly struck a chord with me, because it reminded me of the old days when I used to kind of comb the craigslist Ads for bargains and sell everything on eBay. And I even got to the point where I wrote a script that would instantly alert me of potential craigslist deals so that I could be the first one to pounce.

Anyways, Jessica’s operation is obviously much more sophisticated than mine ever was. So I’m really happy to have her on the show today to talk about her business. So welcome Jessica.

Jessica: Thank you for having me Steve.

Steve: Yeah so, can you just give us a quick background story, I mean, I gave a very quick overview, but if you can just kind of give a background story and tell us about your business, and how you got started, and kind of what your motivations were for starting your business.

Jessica: Sure, I wish I could say it was all so smooth in the beginning, but of course it wasn’t. Like you I had other online endeavors, and so I started messing around in eBay first, and that was a lot of going to the yard sales and picking up used items, and selling them on eBay, sending them myself, doing what the customer returns etc.

So, it got where I couldn’t move forward, there was just nowhere else to go. So, I was doing that while I was working, my job, I was working full time, and at that point we didn’t have any kids or anything. And the day came whenever I lost my job, and it was really devastating for me, and I didn’t know what I was going to do from there.

And I had heard about people talking about using Amazon’s fulfillment by Amazon program, and I thought that’s going to work for me. I can make that work. And so, I really started looking into it, and I learned a lot, and then I started implementing what I learned, and I was able to quickly replace the income that I lost from my previous job.

Steve: So, can you give a little bit of… oh sorry.

Jessica: Go ahead.

Steve: You could just give a little bit more detail about, you know, what fulfilled by Amazon is, because I’m sure a lot of the readers don’t even know what that is.

Jessica: Yes of course. Web fulfillment by Amazon is– it’s a program where sellers like myself, we can use Amazon’s system, where we can– it looks like we have a store frame, but we don’t have to do any outside advertising, everything goes on the main website.

And if you go to Amazon and you look up your favorite item, you will see on the site right bar where it says, ‘also available by’, and there is all these seller names listed. Well, those are people just like myself where they’ve put those items available on Amazon. Well the thing is Amazon does all their own advertising, so that takes out a huge thing for people who do e-commerce.

And then the other thing is, they will store all of our products, so when we buy things, we send everything to their fulfillment centers. They have fulfillment centers all across the United States and even in other countries now, but I just do the United States.

So I package up all my products and I send them to their fulfillment centers all over, and they hold all of my items for me. Once those items sell, I am able to not have to do anything with that order, and Amazon takes care of it all for me. They will pack it up; make sure that it arrives safely to the customer, if there is ever any customer issues they get notified first. If there is any major problems like a complaint about the item and the customer isn’t satisfied, and they don’t want to just ship it back, then the e-mail would go to me directly, and I would respond to that, and take care of it.

But other than that they take care of like 95% of everything once I purchase the item and send it to them. So it’s a lot of upfront work, and finding the products and sending it to Amazon, but once it’s listed, it’s pretty much, it runs itself.

Steve: Okay, so does Amazon handle all the returns as well, they ship it back to Amazon and not you I would imagine is that correct?

Jessica: That’s correct. And that’s actually one of the things that’s a little frustrating for people if when they first come to Amazon because, if you’ve shopped on Amazon they have like, 100% you can send the item back for any reason. And so, if you come from any type of e-commerce background, you like to have control over that. And so with Amazon, if a customer says, “Hey, I want to return this”, for whatever reason – buyer’s remorse, it’s damaged, defective – whatever, Amazon just takes that item back, but the good thing is we don’t have to deal with it.

So, they send the customer shipping label, the customer sends it back to their warehouse, and from that point the sellers have an option to either have the item sent back to them, like, we can decide okay, ‘is it broken, or is there nothing wrong with it’, if they just had buyer’s remorse, we can send it back and then resell it. If it’s damaged then we just take a loss.

Steve: Okay, okay, sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt your story, so, you actually have a very interesting background with how you actually lost your job. So if you want it just tell that story real quick, it’s actually quite interesting.

Jessica: Yeah, it’s kind of one of those stories where it’s almost– it’s kind of sad to tell it. But, my husband and I were working together, and he was technically my boss, and that happened over a period of time where we got transferred around from stores, and eventually he was technically my boss.

And so, we had gone through, when the economy really collapsed, and we were in the housing market, and so our company had done a ton of layoffs. And I made it right up until the end, and I just never thought that I would get let go because my husband was my boss and – it’s kind of embarrassing to say that – but I mean, that was job security for me, you know. And what happened is, they did have to make more cuts, and so I was pretty much the last on the chopping block.

And they pretty much said, “Hey, we are letting your wife go, we won’t make you do it, but she is going to get let go.” And so it was really a rough time for us because– for him too, it was like he had no control over that. And so they kind of moved him out of the way, and then called me in, and when I came they said, “This is your last day”, and I’m like, “Really? I didn’t see that coming”. Because you know how in a company when they start to do layoffs, you kind of have that idea like, ‘Okay, this person’s gone, this person’s gone, if they have to do more, where am I?” Well, I didn’t see myself on the list, at least not for like, four or five more but…

Steve: Yeah, I can imagine especially if your husband was your supervisor.

Jessica: Right.

Steve: So, did you actually, when that happened, did you think about looking for another job, did you have kids at that point or?

Jessica: We didn’t have kids, and we just have one now, but we had known that we wanted to start thinking about having kids. And for me I always wanted to be a stay at home mum, but it didn’t seem fathomable to do at that time. And so, now when I look back at it, it was really a blessing because it made that decision for us. That we could do things without me working a regular job, and so I knew right away I didn’t want to go back and work for somebody, I just didn’t know exactly know how I was going to do that. And so that’s why I was really experimenting with eBay trying to make that more. And once I realized that wasn’t going to work, then I put all my eggs into the Amazon basket.

Steve: Okay, so when you lost your job, you already kind of had started experimenting with these services, and so that kind of gave you the courage to not even bother looking for another job, is that…

Jessica: Yeah exactly. I knew that there was definitely potential, and I didn’t know how big it was at the time, and so I’ve definitely been surprised at what we’ve been able to do in the last few years. But I knew that there were options out there to make money online.

Steve: Yeah, and so that’s probably another reason why your story resonated with us, because you know, my wife had the same thing. We wanted to start a family, and she wanted to stay at home with her child so– yeah it is a very valid reason for wanting to start your own business. So if you can just walk us through– and so let’s start with the good stuff first, so how much did your business make last year?

Jessica: Last year our gross sales were just under $300,000, like $297,000, and our profit after all of our inventory expenses and Amazon expenses, we netted just over $100,000.

Steve: That’s amazing, and how many hours would you say that you spend on this, and how much time do you get to spend with your child?

Jessica: Well, we get to pretty much spend unlimited time with him. What we do– in the out this, and what I’m telling you now is our now story, you know, it took a lot more work in the beginning, and we’ve just gotten to where have a good system down now.

But what we do now is, we try to work one full day a week, and that means five hours to us, so you could always say that that it’s like, “That’s not full time.” So we work five hours on Mondays, and that’s when we buy all our inventory. And then we take one to two days the rest of the week to send that inventory to Amazon.

And we do that with our son here, and so we can only do two to three hours at a time, because he doesn’t like us doing it, because you know he can’t really work in it. So we either do it when he is in bed, or we’ll do it during the day where one of us can hang out with him, and the other one can work. And so we spend the ten hours between the both of us on Monday’s, sourcing for inventory, and then we spend between five and ten hours the rest of the week getting that inventory to Amazon.

Steve: So if you can just kind of just walk me through, you know, a typical day or a typical week I should say, you know, how does your business work exactly? I would imagine that the finding the deals part is the hardest part because Amazon takes care of the rest, right?

Jessica: Right. It’s pretty much the selling thing that you have to worry about. And so I tell people that if you want to make $3000 a month in profit, like that’s what you need in order to survive or to quit your job or whatever, then you have to be actively sending in at least $3000 worth of inventory a month, and that would be your cost.

And so for us, we want to be making between $4000 and $5000 a month. So we have to be spending four to five thousand dollars a month because we are always trying to double our money. So if we can go to one store and we can spend $700 then that makes a big cut on what we have to spend the rest of the month.

So it is always a numbers game, we’re just trying to find enough inventory to meet our quarter. And there will be months where we buy a whole bunch of inventory, like we’ll spend $10,000 on inventory, and so that will make the demand that we need to meet the next few months lower. So if we spend $10,000 this month, we can just spend two to three thousand next month, and two to three thousand the next month, makes sense?

Steve: I see, so does the inventory that you buy, does it go straight to Amazon or does it come to your place first and then go to Amazon.

Jessica: Oh, sorry I should probably clarify that. So we– actually we go to stores physically ourselves and we look for items. So we bring it home with us. So if we are shopping at like Target, we’ll buy the items, and then if we have things that we know are going do well, then we’ll go to multiple Targets and buy the same item. And we bring all those home, and then we process them here.

So there are ways that you can purchase inventory online, and you would have that shipped direct to you, or there are third party services that you can use that will actually label and process your inventory for you if it’s purchased online. But for us and the way that we run our business, everything comes to our house with us, and then we process it from here.

Steve: Okay, so you mentioned Target as one of the options, so what would stop someone from shopping on the Target website directly as opposed to just going to Amazon and paying more.

Jessica: Well, the main source of our inventory is discounted items, and I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the same item on Target’s website as looking at Target in the store, is there prices are different. So we can find things in the Target store that’s local, that’s 70% off, but if you look at the website it’s still full retail price.

Steve: I see, okay.

Jessica: So it’s totally different schedules.

Steve: I’m actually no stranger to the sales section on Target, sometimes they have these killer sales, so I imagine those are the ones that you are talking about, right? So when you see something that’s good you kind of just snatch it up and buy it all, is that-

Jessica: Right, exactly.

Steve: Okay.

Jessica: And we do, if I find something or watch it on and see if it gets discounted to that same price, and then I’ll order it online as well. But the thing is, for a consumer when they are looking at the item, they may not need it in that exact time frame.

So if they don’t catch it when it’s on clearance on, then they have no idea whether even was on sale, and they don’t want to do the hunting, we like to just go to Amazon. I don’t know if you shop on Amazon, but they make it super easy, so I even buy just for convenience a whole bunch of stuff on there, because I don’t want to have to go and hunt for it myself.

Steve: Absolutely, I’m a prime member, and I will just buy really small items because the shipping is already included, so it’s very convenient, yeah. So, in order to be able to spot these deals, you kind of already have to know how much things are worth in a way, so do you have some sort of tools that you used for that or do you just know what the prices are for the stuff that you want to buy.

Jessica: I wish I did because that would mean it could have been a whole lot easier. But after a few years there are things that I can recognize brands, and I try and stick the things that I know. But for things I don’t know, there are great tools that you can use. There’s the app set, you can download on your smart phone and you can scan the bar code and see what the selling price is on Amazon. And if you have an app that is made for sellers then it will tell you what the Amazon fees are, and how much profit you are going tomake on that item. So all you have to do is look at your cost of the item, and then you will know exactly how much you are going to make off of that item.

Steve: I see, so as you are kind of going through these stores you have your phone on you, and you kind of just scan if you don’t know, and you just see instantly what the Amazon selling price is.

Jessica: Exactly. And the thing is that, you know, if you are dealing a lot with clearance items, you will look at things and go, okay well, this is 75% off, there has to be money, they are making it. And the funny thing is that there isn’t always a lot of money to be made in it. I was looking at this Wii U component at [indiscernible 00:17:03] yesterday, and the regular price was $30, and it was on clearance for $6. And I was like, “Oh wow, that’s going to have to be able to make money”, and so I scanned it and Amazon was selling it for $6. So I was like, “Wow”. So it’s like there’s this whole dimension to the way Amazon works, because their number one goal is to bring the best price to a customer, right?

Steve: Aha.

Jessica: And as for a seller, we want to make the most money that we can, and so we have to be able to find that happy medium if Amazon is selling that item then obviously I’m not going to be able to make any money on it. But if Amazon wasn’t selling it for $6 there probably would have been potential for me to sell it for a higher price.

Steve: Yeah, so, is there a particular type of item that you guys kind of focus on or do you just kind of just sell a wide variety of stuff.

Jessica: We sell a wide variety. You can sell pretty much any category, you can sell clothing or jewelry or automotive items, so we can go in any department. For me personally, I like to stick with like, health and beauty items, grocery items which is a big shocker to people, that people buy groceries on Amazon, and then also the toy category, I like to sell toys. Toys is one of the areas where you can actually buy things at retail price, and you can sell it for a markup. So it’s like it’s not always hunting just for clearance items like I talk about when I got started.

Steve: Interesting, I would love to hear some examples, so what is an example of a toy that you got at retail and were able to sell it for higher.

Jessica: Well just recently, the movie frozen came out, and so it’s like the biggest movie that Disney’s done recently, and it has a huge following. And so there is a lot of toys from that line that we are able to buy right off the shelf and resell for more. So for example, there was one doll that cost $16 at the store, but the problem is you couldn’t find the doll, unless you were like looking for it all over the place. And so that doll we were able to sell for between $39 and $45 a pop. So if we found ten of that doll then, you know, we would make $150, $200 after fees.

And so they are not as easy to come by, but once you find them they’ll last a couple of weeks and then you just kind of do it well at [indiscernible – 00:19:36] and then once supply gets back into stock then you just let it go. Which is frightening because that’s the song from the movie, I didn’t plan that.

Steve: What’s hilarious is my daughter is obsessed with that movie, and incidentally we’ve been looking for an Elsa dress, and an Elsa doll, so maybe after this interview I’m going to have to contact you and figure out where to get that stuff. So you are the one who’s been hoarding all that merchandise.

Jessica: Yeah, that’s kind of one of those things where you don’t really want to talk about it too much, because then people realize you cannot always the good guy bringing them the stuff that they can’t find. It’s like, you are also creating a little bit, which probably added that out. But that’s what it is, because you know, like sometimes you are going to an area that you can tell doesn’t get shopped that often.

And you will just find like this huge supply of something that is nowhere to be found in bigger areas, and so we are going to start and find like ten of those dolls, and then, but locally like, if I was to look for it at the Target down the street from me, it’s been empty for months and months and months. So it is just kind of like finding a little pockets and sell what we do as sellers is we distribute the inventory to where people actually want it.

Steve: Right, that totally makes sense, yeah, because it is definitely a distribution problem, right, especially when a big store has to service a whole bunch of stores in more remote areas of the country as well.

Jessica: Right, and you just never know where the demand is going to be for certain items and so if a store is sending it everywhere, of course there is going to be stores that sell out really quickly and then stores where it just never sees the time of day.

Steve: So walk me through how groceries work, that just seems counter intuitive to me, since there is an expiration date.

Jessica: Yeah, so with groceries there is kind a lot more rules that go into play for sellers. We can’t sell items that are going to be expiring within 50 days. So there has to be time for you to get it as a consumer and use it. So we have to keep track of those things. But the thing is, there is always items that I can find that you can’t find, just like we said with the Elsa doll and the Elsa dress.

I can find different flavors of cereal that you may not be able to find locally, or want to search for. And so what I’ll do is, I’ll just bring those to you on Amazon market place, and of course I am going to charge you a premium to do so, but you don’t have to go and look for it. And there’s items like that everywhere only you can find in your area.

Steve: Interesting give me an example, I’m very curious.

Jessica: You’ve put me on the spot, and I can’t think of one.

Steve: Oh, we can go back to it later, you know, you can have in the back of your mind, but yeah, it just blows my mind that there is flavors of cereal even that are just kind of geographically distributed, that’s amazing. Well you know-

Jessica: I have the blue diamond omens, are really local for me, and so, I may have flavors here that you don’t have, because the plant is here right by where I am

Steve: That makes sense.

Jessica: And so, I may have like a [whole opinions??] flavor, a chilly flavor, chocolate, and maybe you don’t have those ones. And so I can buy them locally at regular price and save $3 a can, then I’m going to sell those for like $12 a can.

Steve: That makes sense, because when I went to Hawaii, I noticed there is a bunch of flavors of some of their chips that I like, that can only be found there, and okay so, I kind of understand now.

So there is an expiration date associated with it, so let’s go back to how this whole fulfilled by Amazon works. So, let’s say you have items in their stores that are going to expire, so how does that work exactly.

Jessica: So we try and keep track as a seller of when our stuff is going to expire, and when we send it to Amazon we label it for them, so that they can see in a format that they are used to when it expires. And then once it gets to where it’s going to be close to expiring, what a lot of us will do is we’ll just discount the item so that it will sell quicker, and put in the notes that it’s about– that it expires on XYZD, and then try and sell out.

If it doesn’t sell out within that 50 day period, because they won’t ship it to a customer after that, because they don’t want the customer to be upset that’s it too close to expiring. So they will just pull it off of the shelf, and then we have the option to either bring it back or have the item destroyed. And usually with food items we just have it destroyed because we don’t really want it, it wasn’t something we bought because we liked it, it was something we bought because we wanted to sell it. And so instead of paying to have it sent back to us, we’ll just have the item destroyed, and that’s kind of last resort, because like I said we always try and sell out before that happens.

Steve: Sure, sure, so are there fees associated with storage, sending back and destroying on Amazon’s part?

Jessica: There are, and there are actually really minimal whenever you think about, especially for storage if you think about the cost of a storage unit, that’s really expensive, like you are going to be over $100 a month, and I spend on Amazon around $50 a month for my storage. And so it goes per item, so you can store a book for like a penny a month because it’s really small.

And so it’s actually not that expensive, but they send it in one big bill, so it kind of looks scary whenever people get their first storage bill, you know, because they have all these items there, and we have hundreds of items there, so it’s like for us, I will spend $50 to not have my garage full of stuff.

Steve: Oh yeah absolutely. So if you didn’t want to rent a storage place could you just ship all your junk over to Amazon, or-

Jessica: Well that would get pretty expensive because we do have to pay shipping charges to send our items to Amazon as well. And so one great thing about their program is, they have all these deals worked out with places like KPS, because they have so much stuff going through their system. And so they will give us as sellers the ability to use their discount, and so if I send stuff my cost is usually between 50 cents and a dollar per pound to send in an item.

If I were to send the same item myself it’s going to be like $3 to $4 a pound to send it. So it’s definitely discounted, but there is that fee. So we try to send as much stuff as we can at one time because the larger the weight is on our shipment the lower your per pound cost is. So it isn’t really beneficial or cost effective to send in just a couple of items, because they are going to have a minimum of like five dollars just to touch that box. So if you just send in two items, now your cost per item is an additional two-fifty, but if you were able to send in ten items with that same five dollar cost, now you are cost per item is only 50 cents, makes sense?

Steve: I see, now that makes sense, yeah.

Jessica: And then the other fee that you had asked about was like having it destroyed or having it sent back. We can have items sent back to us for 50 cents an item, so it’s actually not very expensive. And they will destroy items, I think, I can’t remember that one off the top of my head, it’s either five or ten cents per item to destroy it.

Steve: Okay, the fees are relatively small I guess, depending on what you are…

Jessica: Yeah, your main fees are going to be in their commission because they want a cut off of that sale price, that’s where they are getting their money is on the sale price, and then their handling fees. So that’s how we say that overall you end up spending about 30% on lower cost items, if you get higher up because the commission is set at a percentage in a lot of your other fees are based per item, you could sell $100 item, but not spend $33 in fees because they are going to take less overall because it is more expensive.

Steve: I see, so in general you are saying one-third of the cost goes to Amazon, but that varies depending on the price of the item.

Jessica: Right, and that’s why having those apps really comes in handy as because you can take out all of the guess work, it’s not like you have to go, “Okay, how am I going to make any money on this?” like you don’t have to do the math in your head. And I know whenever we are talking about it, and we are talking about it over the phone, it’s like kind of hard to picture it all because it’s not right in front of you.

Steve: Right, right okay. I am just very interested if you could just walk me through one of your shopping trips, you said you did it every Monday, right?

Jessica: Right.

Steve: And that’s basically the amount of time that you work each week is on these shopping trips, so how do you know, how do you decide where you are going to hit, the average dollar value of the products you are looking for, you know, what are some of the factors in that decision making process.

Jessica: Well, one factor on items that we are going to sell is that I prefer not to receive less than ten dollars profit on an item because it is not really worth my time to do. If I can find something, and it’s really an expense of like a dollar and I’m going to make five dollars profit on it and I can sell like twenty of them, then I will reconsider of course, because there is a lot of profit potential. But one of our main goals is we want to be making ten dollars per item that we find.

Steve: Okay.

Jessica: Finding where to go, we have a list of places that we go and we live in the central valley of California so we’ll go to a lot of neighboring towns, and so we work that all into our schedule. So if I go say to, Wall greens, Target, Big lots, and grocery outlet, all in one day. Well, I’m not going to go to those same four the next week. I want to give them time to replenish or to get new clearance items, things like that. So and we can only go to so many stores in five hours, right? So the list of places that we can go is a lot larger than the places that we go in one day, so we can rotate these stores week by week by week.

Steve: So do these places send you mailers and that sort of thing to let you know what the sales are ahead of time so you kind of plan your week or?

Jessica: No, because what we are looking for usually isn’t something that they will be advertising, it’s something that is going to be hidden.

Steve: I see.

Jessica: And that all depends too on what model you are using. If you are using strictly buying clearance items or if you are trying to find retail items– like one of the ways that we do grocery is we would check the Ads, so that’s one time that we would actually look at the Ads. But I usually would do that online instead of looking like an e-mailer, a flier Because I just throw all that stuff away, you know.

Steve: Yeah, yeah of course.

Jessica: But you can do research like that before you go into a store, so you can see what a store has on sale. For example, if an item is going to be at the grocery store and it’s going to be buy one get one free, that’s automatically 50% off. So if I was able to sell that same item for just three times that price then I would be able to make money. And it is not going to be that much more expensive to the consumer, because I only have to go like 50% above the retail cost.

Steve: I see.

Jessica: Those are the kind of sales that we would look for, for regular priced items, we call those regular priced items mono actually. You know what I mean, they are not on clearance.

Steve: Do you assume a certain percentage will go unsold or do you usually assume that it’s just going to sell.

Jessica: Well, Amazon they have ranks on items, and you probably never noticed that as a buyer, but it’s something that we as sellers use, and the way that I can explain it is you know how there’s like the billboard top 100?

Steve: Aha.

Jessica: So the number one song is the most requested song of the month, or the week, or the day, or whatever chart you are looking at. And as it gets lower down the list or higher up the list, they are requested a lot but they are not requested as much as the number one song. So what Amazon has done is that they’ve ranked all of their items by category. So, if I was to look at an item in the toy category, well, there is going to be like 300,000 total ranks. So when I’m looking at number one, I know that it is selling really really quickly, that it’s getting and purchased multiple times per hour.

If I see something that’s ranked like five thousand, I’m going to go, okay, this is still a good rank, but it’s not selling as fast as number one. And then it goes up in numbers like that. So we kind of have an idea on how fast things are going to sell and that’s one of the ways that we decide if we are going to purchase one of something or we are going to purchase multiples as by the rank that we can see.

Steve: I see, that makes sense. So do you look at the ranks first or do you find the item first and then look at the ranks.

Jessica: It’s all about finding the stuff first, and I can’t remember if I have mentioned this on the other interview, but, I will go, and I usually find like one in ten, is my average on something that I’ll buy. So in order to find ten profitable items, I’ve usually scanned about 100 items. So a lot of times I’m going in just kind of looking blind, and then I will just scan until I find something that looks like it’s either got a really good rank or has a good profit potential. And then I will check all the details on the item from there.

Steve: That actually sounds kind of fun.

Jessica: It is fun, it actually is really fun, and it can get frustrating because sometimes, you know, you didn’t find anything in the first sixty scans, but you find ten in the next forty. It’s kind of a numbers game.

Steve: Yeah, I love finding bargains in generals, so this is just that on a much larger scale, I guess.

Jessica: Exactly.

Steve: So you know, it all sounds very doable, so what are some of the challenges in doing this, and what are some of the mistakes that you’ve made early on that you care to share.

Jessica: Well, when I first got really started into the FBA side and putting a lot of money in, was actually during the fourth quarter which is right at the holiday season so things are selling really, really quickly. And so one of my first mistakes was that I was sending stuff in too late, like I didn’t really understand the time that it took from when I was sending the stuff in until it was going to be received and ready for sale. And so after my first fourth quarter in January I had all the stuff left over and of course the price was way better December 20th than it was January 1st.

Steve: Ah, I see.

Jessica: And so I ended up with some leftover inventory and I was able to sell it and make my money back which I’m always willing to do. I’d rather, you know, cut my losses and reuse that money somewhere else, but that was kind of my first mistake was I went too heavy too late.

Steve: Okay, incidentally how long does the whole process take of getting your stuff to Amazon and then having it listed?

Jessica: It used to take less time because we would send everything to one warehouse, and so it would take like three to five days from the time that we purchased it until it was received at Amazon.

Steve: Okay.

Jessica: Now the process is changed a little bit in the last year where we actually send to multiple warehouses at one time. So I’ll have some items that are received the next day because they go from California to a warehouse in California or they go from California to a warehouse in Phoenix, and so those arrive really quickly and get checked in and are ready for sale.

But then I have other items that go all the way back east, and those ones take five days just to arrive at the warehouse and then a couple of days to get there. So you are looking at between two and ten days for your items to go active and be for sale.

Steve: Okay, so what is the advantageof shipping to different warehouses, is it a shipping time thing or?

Jessica: It doesn’t have a real advantage for the seller, it’s more of something for Amazon to cut their costs because they are shipping everywhere, and because if you have a prime membership you get that free two day shipping. So they want to have our inventory spread all across the United States. So if somebody purchases it from California, they can ship it from California or Phoenix instead of shipping it from back east.

Steve: I see, and Amazon tells you the allotment that they want per geographical location?

Jessica: Yes, and that’s based– I don’t know what their calculation is on that, but they will tell us. So for instance, in ten, they can say, okay, send two to this warehouse, send five to this warehouse, send three to this to this one, and one to that one.

Steve: Interesting, okay, so they have it all down, they know the demand for what you are trying to sell, and they just work everything out for you.

Jessica: Exactly.

Steve: Okay, so does that imply then that the items that you sell always have skews and bar codes on them then?

Jessica: Yes, because we mainly deal in new items, so they would all have a UPC code on them. And people can sell used items, but it’s not something that I would start doing like in the beginning.

Steve: Okay, so you mentioned you made six figures last year, do you plan on expanding this business, and what are some of the next steps if you want to grow this even more?

Jessica: Well, one of the things that we’ve really been debating is, how can we grow the business without adding more time, because for me the biggest thing is, I don’t want to be spending 40 hours a week on the business. I want to keep the hours to a minimum and I am happy with making the six figures, right? Especially while our son’s small, so when he gets older we may decide, “Hey, let’s turn this into a million dollar a year business in sales.” But at this point we are not there yet.

So what I’m looking at now are some different ways that I can try and increase the number of sales without adding too much more time. So I am spending more time on things like online sourcing or wholesale sourcing. Things that I didn’t want to mess with in the beginning, because it takes a lot more to get figured out, but those are the kind of the things that will take you to the next level, because they don’t take as much time.

Sometimes the profit is lower, so when we shop in store, we are looking for at least 100% or more in profit. But if I’m looking online, I’m looking at wholesale, maybe I;m willing to take like 70% profit because I don’t have to leave my house.

Steve: Right. So these wholesalers are in the U.S. or they are overseas or-?

Jessica: Right now they are just in the US that I am dealing with. There are quite a bit of people that are dealing with going direct to manufactures, and I have done that on a couple items, but didn’t have a lot of success with it, or didn’t make the amount of money I thought was worth it. So it is something that you can do, you can do overseas wholesalers or manufactures, but personally that’s not something that I’m doing right now.

Steve: Okay, so do you have any advice for some of the people listening in, you know, if they want to try your method or try to sell surplus goods of their own?

Jessica: What I would say is, just give it a shot, you don’t have to do it with a lot of money, you know, when I started I just had like $500 that I was able to invest, and people go in with a lot less money than that. And you can start with items that are in your own home. You can just– we all have those things that were given to us as gifts or that we bought and thought for sure we were going to use it and then we didn’t use it. Well, you can go and just check those items on Amazon and see what they are selling for. And if you have a board game that’s never been opened, and even if you got it as a gift then your cost is zero, right? And if you could sell that board game for $25, that’s a great way to test the waters, because now you are going to come out with $20 of investment money.

Steve: Okay, so for these beginners, do you recommend they use fulfilled by Amazon, or do you just recommend that they just dip their toe in the water and just sell on Amazon.

Jessica: I always recommend using fulfilled by Amazon, because when you come in as a seller, people can see that you are a brand new seller, and so they are going to see you don’t have any feedback, and you’ve never– to them it looks like you’ve never sold anything. And so with the fulfilled by Amazon thing, is they trust Amazon as a company, they don’t have to trust you as an individual.

Steve: Okay.

Jessica: Because they know that Amazon is going to get it to them in two days, because you are not touching it. And so I always recommend starting with fulfilled by Amazon because you are going to get a lot more exposure as a seller, instead of trying to be like, ‘Trust me as an individual’ all you got to say, ‘Trust Amazon as a company’. And then Amazon is also going to put you in front of people who are shipping their sales.

Steve: Okay, yeah so I almost never buy anything that’s not prime, and the only way to get prime is to do fulfilled by Amazon, right?

Jessica: Exactly, and that’s the thing, is that so many people do have these prime accounts, and even if they don’t have a paid prime account, they can still earn free shipping from Amazon, but they can’t do that from a merchant seller. Right now, it’s like if you spend $35 in one order, then you get free shipping, but merchant order wouldn’t count towards that, only once it’s a fulfilled by Amazon.

Steve: Right, okay, so that makes a whole lot of sense then. Okay, hey great, so I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but if you can tell our listeners where they can find you, and you know, ask you more questions about this, I think you have some sort of book that you’ve written as well that outlines the process, if you kind of want to just share that information, that would be great.

Jessica: I do have a book about how to get started and kind of why Amazon works in a little bit more detail than what we talked about, and that’s at So my last name is L-A-R-R-E-W. And then I have a beginner’s course as well and that’s at So it is Amazon boot camp, is what it’s called, and so it is

Steve: Okay great. Well, thanks a lot Jessica for coming on the show, and you know, this sounds really good, and actually I might give it a try myself.

Jessica: Yeah, do it and let me know how it goes or if you have any questions, for sure.

Steve: But first I need to track down that frozen merchandise first.

Jessica: Yeah, that [indiscernible – 00:43:10]. Well, I wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t starting to come back in the stock more, because I would be getting hate mail from sellers all over the place like, “I can’t believe you told people to buy that”. But, you will be able to find it really quick.

Steve: Okay, thanks Jessica, take care.

Jessica: Bye.

Steve: Here is something I have noticed about every single interview I have conducted thus far. Whenever someone gets laid off or loses their job, the ones who thrive are those who take the initiative to try something new. Now when Jessica got laid off, she didn’t wallow in self-pity, instead she did something about it, and her story is very inspiring.

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016: How Harold Lee Designed An App To Teach Guitar Without Any Technical Experience

harold lee

Today I’m happy to have my cousin-in-law Harold Lee on the show today. Harold is the co-founder of, a company that sells an app which teaches others how to play the guitar.

Here’s what’s cool about Harold. He’s not technical at all and never wrote a line of code in his life before he started this company. But he taught himself how to code and then later drafted a world class team to help him create his app.

The is the best app on the Internet if you want to learn how to play the guitar. Check it out

What You’ll Learn

  • How Harold got the idea for his guitar app.
  • How to start an iPad app with knowing anything
  • How to find the right people to help you design an application
  • Why you need to start a business today
  • How a little ingenuity can make an impossible problem seem solvable
  • Why you don’t need a technical background to create a complicated app
  • The best way to test your product

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where I bring in successful boost strapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success, instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today we are going to be talking to Harold Lee the founder of Now Harold is actually my wife’s cousin. And to be quite honest he is actually one of my favorites out of all of Jen’s cousins. Now I actually don’t see Harold very often but when I do, we love to talk about entrepreneurship and starting businesses. And last time we spoke Harold started the company Rock Prodigy which makes this awesome app that teaches people how to play the guitar and it’s pretty sleek.

Now what’s unique about this app is that it can actually listen and know what notes and codes that you are playing on the guitar. And it actually uses this information to help you learn how to play the guitar and play the guitar better. Anyways, I’m going to let Harold explain to you the app in more details because I don’t want to get any of the facts wrong, but what I really like about Harold is his passion for playing guitar, music and it really shines with his business. Welcome to the show Harold.

Harold: Thanks Steve. Thanks for having me.

Steve: So, for all those who have never heard of Rock Prodigy can you just give us a quick background story and just tell us how it all got started and how you came up with the idea?

Harold: Absolutely. Rock Prodigy is stuff that runs on your PC Mac or iLess device and it listens to you play guitar so you can get better at guitar much quicker. And the thought came around because I went to school at Brooklyn College of music, UC St Barbra for classical. I’ve been playing since I was the tender young age of 16 years old and- -.

Steve: And you were in a heavy metal band too if I recall.

Harold: Metal band I turned as a professional guitarist for a while. All the while living on instant nodules every day, hey that is the only way to do it, right.

Steve: You wouldn’t be authentic if that wasn’t the case.

Harold: If a good 70, 80% of your diet is not instant nodules you are absolutely a success story. So that’s why we founded the company was, we the co-founder and I felt that you know there is going to be a better way to help people learn guitar and practice guitar and stick with it, and taking advantage of the computing power, mobile devices. We just said, “Hey we can help people learn guitar and fit into their schedules wherever they are.” So if you have an iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac you can learn just and you can be practicing in having somebody listen to you while you are playing.

Steve: So there is actually a lot of apps out there. I was just looking on the app store the other day. So what’s sets your app apart from the other ones that are available?

Harold: There’s is two things that sets us apart. One we actually got a patent this year. It was granted January 14 but we filed it back in May 2009. So this is entrepreneurship conversation that you and I are having. So this is a proprietary technology, and in terms of what sets us apart is the quality of the content itself. What you will see with other ways of learning are not as interactive, they don’t listen to you or they are too hard to get started.

With us you will be playing the guitar within the first several minutes. In addition to that the– we like to say is we like to try to hold your hand all the way through it. So we want to be with you every step of the way, much more like a just kind of a personal assistant, personal trainer, you know literally that’s our attitude. And I think it really shows when you start using our– when you start interacting with our apps.

Steve: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. One thing I noticed was that your app is, as I think one of the few or the only ones that actually can listen to what you are playing. Like you can play your guitar right in front of the app and it listens and then the notes. The app actually recognizes the notes that are being played. So just kind of give me a brief walk through of how you use that technology of yours to teach people how to play?

Harold: Excellent. The key behind that Steve is that the science officer of our little set of companies actually Professor of Carnegie Mellon. His name is Professor Roger Dannenberg and he’s the head of the computer music department. And if anybody is out there listening who is into the music information retrieval circles, Roger Dannenberg is actually one of the pioneers known worldwide in this field. So he and I are the co-investors of the app pattern and he is an expert at utilizing polyphonic pitch detection. And he’s done so in a way that, what that means is pitch detection will just listen to one note.

Polyphonic pitch detection listens to more than one note, which is the guitar, when you play a code is more than one note going out at a time. So to be able to have a polyphonic pitch detection that’s light weight enough to actually run on a mobile device is actually nothing short of an achievement. So what we do is we have his technology algorithms his method to listen to you. We show you what to play, we listen to you play it, and then we show you what you did wrong and what to improve. And all of that Steve is kind of set into a very easy to follow, very well organized curriculum that really gets you on playing much faster than when I started. Just to be frank I was like, “Oh my Gosh I wish I had this when I started.”

Steve: Yeah, I can imagine that. If there wasn’t the– an app kind of listening to how to play, you are kind of just guessing to see whether you actually played something correctly right?

Harold: That’s absolutely right.

Steve: And that value add is just incredible making it in my opinion a lot easier and to get feedback for actually what you are trying to play. And that’s probably what a lot of the other apps; I didn’t see do that in the app store. So that is pretty amazing.

Harold: Yes Steve.

Steve: What I can’t grasp and maybe you can help me with this, is that this isn’t exactly the easiest app to create due to these listening capabilities. So how does a heavy metal band guitar player managed to create an app? Do you have a technical background at all Harold?

Harold: No I don’t. You know what’s funny is that we will talk about this more but back in 2008 right, I was working at guitar centre. I was the marketing director for guitar centre for a long time. It’s a great company. I was there since the 90’s. But back in 2008– so I don’t have a technical background but the idea was so, was like “Oh my gosh we got to do this.” I just started hacking through it, like I would go online; teach myself tutorials and things like that and so on.

The biggest problem of course was the polyphonic pitch detection aspect of it. And the co-founder Tyson and I, we literally just kind of sculled the internet back in 2008 and believe it or not it was much different even in 2008 and we identified the kind of the expert’s leaders in that field. We actually called up– cold called Roger Dannenberg and talked about what we wanted to do which was make computers react polyphonically to guitars and he said, “Well I think you can do it.” First of all he said, “You guys are crazy who are you kidding.” But I’m being that kind of…

Steve: You didn’t know him at all right? I mean it was literally a cold call when you contacted?

Harold: Literally we picked up the phone gave him a call and he said, “who’s this?” And we said, “Hey, we are from Los Angeles and we have this idea that we would like to do this.” And what he said is, the first thing he said was, “that sounds great guys but just kind of let you know I’ve been doing this my entire life.” He’s been teaching other PHD’s for his entire life and he goes, “It’s not just that easy guys.” We were like, “Oh, okay.”

But what we said was, “Roger, this is what we are thinking, we know what you are supposed to be playing and therefore we can really control and limit kind of the possibilities of what we are expecting to hear, and because of that, that made the pitch detection, the polyphonic pitch detection aspect of it much more defined and the scope is much more defined.” And he said, “Oh, in that case yes because we know the signal is coming from a guitar, we know what pitches are expected when, and therefore the problem becomes much more fine eye than the general problem of polyphonic pitch detection.”

So what ended up happening was for our first revision back in, I think mid 2010, it was so funny, I was like and I asked my wife Virginia like I literally played 100s of 1000s of notes on a bunch of different guitars and sent them over to Roger. And what Roger does is he uses machine learning to generate the optimal algorithms based on the different pick apps, based on the different guitars, based on the different musical styles, codes and things like that.

And you put all this data in there and what get’s spit out is an algorithm that literally is responsive to a bunch of different guitars using a bunch of different picks apps, playing in much different styles and it’s stuff is way over my head but that’s how we got started. When he reported he said, “Hey this is actually providing a very accurate representation.” We couldn’t contain our excitement because that was the first real thing, was to make the polyphonic pitch detention work in a real time situation that can handle virtually any type of guitar with any type of pick app configuration for a bunch of different musical styles. And so it was that winter, spring and summer of 2010 where I was just playing like 100s of 1000s of notes. It was so fun.

Steve: Just, you don’t really need to enter the type of guitar that you are playing, right? It recognizes any guitar, right?

Harold: Yes the software right now it doesn’t matter what guitar you are playing literally. You don’t have to plug in. Like for instance an iPhone has a mic right. You can just literally sit in front of your iPhone and play and the microphone will pick it up and it will show you how you are doing. So literally if you have an acoustic guitar you don’t even have to plug in.

Steve: That is awesome.

Harold: Yeah that is something that we are really thrilled about and it’s not for the fame. So I think the original question Steve was like okay, the tech part of it?

Steve: Yeah.

Harold: Not for the faint of heart. Like there are so many things like for instance I didn’t know this when we started but iPhones had different response curves from the microphones and so you have to compensate for that. And then iPhones, 3G was different than the 3GS then different in the phone. So all that being said was for me personally, surrounding myself from the get go with people way smarter than me. And then I just kind of learned from them as we went, and part of the learning process was learning how to code, learning how to hack through things. But basically it’s whatever it takes, hey you know it’s like, “hey take out the trash,” “you got it,” “wash dishes,” “no problem.” “Hey fire up that squad fire up some simple flash,” “sure.” It’s like…

Steve: That’s pretty cool and in fact I was the same way with our online store. I didn’t know anything about web programming. But you know you just realized that you need to learn some of the stuff in order to get started. So did you write parts of your first app?

Harold: The first app was mostly done out of house. There was a bunch of stages to that. This is more kind of how we got started. When we got started, it was just two people, Tyson and myself and we had a third person who Chris Owner who we think is also a founding member. But really it was Tyson and myself kind of shopping the idea around, talking to people and almost everybody said– and this will get back at you, sorry. Almost everybody said, ”Oh it can’t really be done, you can’t do it, who are you guys, you don’t even have a technical background.”

So what we had to do is, we had to find a third party developer to help with a prototype. And so there was a number of stages. One was we found it in just single person to help us integrate monophonic pitch detection into an open source engine. And so this person named Zack and myself, we put together the prototype. And so back then it was done in python, python and read on a Marcus X. Now, at that time I think it was a Marcus X 10.5 or something like that. And so I literary– so for the very first prototype it was two people mostly me because he worked on one specific aspect and then I took everything else and just kind of crank, crank, crank.

Then we had to get a better prototype that is polyphonic pitch detection so we had a company help us with that. And I did very little of the coding there except specking out how they would actually in just content and that’s very important only in so far as if you don’t have a good content pipeline or one that’s too encumber some that’s going to be a huge expense for you to figure out how to get code content in there. It’s like so the example is, let’s say Netflix could only add one movie a day, they would be out of business but they have a great pipeline and it’s relatively easy now to convert things into digital. So the same thing with our prototype was to say, “If we don’t have a pipeline that’s going to be able to support a bunch of different lessons, a bunch of different exercises, a bunch of different songs, then it’s almost like a no go, don’t start.”

Steve: That’s kind of one of the other questions I wanted to ask. This isn’t your regular run in the mill iPad app. It requires a lot more technical expertise in my opinion than your typical app. So how did you actually find the right places to contract the work out to?

Harold: The first major one we run an RFP process and we did research online, we contacted people. Many of them were not here in Los Angeles. We interviewed them over the phone. We asked for proposals, then we selected them that way. That is indicative or that’s kind of consistent with what we would do say out of a corporation like guitar centre where, if there was a new project we issue an RFP or anything we have we would get three or more bids. We would have a process for proposals and things like that. So we run the first one like that. We started with video game developers and went from there. Then when we brought it in house since we had a much better understanding of each of the tasks required at this specific point, it was easier to just to find individuals to help us.

Right now actually in 2014, I’m pretty confident there is more people that would be able. If you started this today there is probably more people out there, the tools are better, the IDE’s are better. There is this thing called, “Android,” out there you know like it’s a completely different environment. So back in the day when we were walking up hill both ways to school, things like that and there is no underground. Back in the old days there wasn’t that many so we started out with an RFP. In retrospect I would probably wouldn’t have done it. It would probably just would have been less formal and much more sit down with a person face to face and literally be more integrated.

Steve: Did you use any of the online services like elance or anything to find developers that way or was it just connections or?

Harold: A combination of everything. One of the people we did find through at the time was called, “Cyber Coder.” I think they are called something else now and actually maybe even Elance now. We met a gentleman named Ellen through there who worked with us full time for several months. He was a fantastic person; he was here in Los Angeles. A lot of it was word of mouth; we tried craigslist which I don’t recommend. Don’t do craigslist. Bur a lot of it was somebody knows this person, they know that person and that person knows this person. And then what we also did was we kind of looked at the boards on UCLA, USC, C-son so on and so forth and so kind of starting with the University in mind. Those are the ways we kind of found the people that worked with us, yes.

Steve: So now you have this really awesome app. What’s the business model to become profitable? What’s the strategy? How do you get this app in the hands of the people, how do you make sales earlier on, what was your strategy for that?

Harold: I would love to tell you the strategy but it didn’t work. And so we are here today because we literally started out with one thought that we will be able to kind of have this sell, give you the razor so you buy the blades type thing. It didn’t really work out that way. We started out with a much different emphasis which was to play songs. We thought we could get back Prodigy and you would then spend a lot of songs; buy a lot of songs from us to play within our Prodigy.

It’s not an illogical thing and there were for instance at the time there was rock band, there was guitar here and there were other kind of music games out there that were talking about how that model was working for them and so that’s how we started at. And it didn’t yield the return; there were so many different aspects about that which was… When you sell songs people focus on the songs you don’t have than the ones that you do I suppose than you do. And then because of the iTunes culture at that point was, you know people were– people had an expectation of either not paying for songs or paying you 99 cents for a song, which didn’t work economically.

Steve: You have to get permission for these songs too, don’t you? Do you have to pay the record labels or?

Harold: Yeah. You have to license it. When it comes to music there is two people you have to pay. You have to pay the record label which we actually had to pay the quote, the mechanical which is usually a record label. But anybody who owns the recording you pay them. Then on the other side you have to pay the person who owns the composition that was recorded. What we found out very quickly was very rarely are they under the same roof and so for instance let’s take [Inaudible] [00:22:10] everybody wants to play free bag, right so we are like okay, “We are going to get free bag.”

Talking to the label not that much of a problem but literally on the composition side everybody who was in the band at that time owns a little piece of that song. So you actually have to go and hunt down everybody in the band at that time to get permission to use their song.

Steve: That is crazy.

Harold: Yeah and it turns out that unless you had a department or you can outsource to a company who will do that for you to literally track down all of the different rights holders for any one composition– because it really absorbs a lot of your resources and expenses in time.

Steve: Is that what you did?

Harold: Yes, we started as a combination of doing stuff in house as well as hiring a very young and small really quick company to help us track down the licensing. Another thing of saying, not for the faint of heart.

Steve: Yeah, totally. Plenty of barriers to entry and making one of these types of apps already. So, I interrupted you though. So you are talking about initially you had the razor blade model but that didn’t work out?

Harold: Well it didn’t return the way we had projected. The best thing that we ever did was we invited a few people into our office at the time, they came in, we put the app in front of them and we left the room. We turned on the video recorder and we just sat there and they interacted with it, with no help from us. We literally pulled these people off the street and said, “Hey are you interested in playing the guitar?” They said, “We would love to.” We said, “Come on in.” And we sat them down, gave them guitar and then literally left the room and that was the most important thing I think we have ever in our entire company because at that point we literally learned, oh my goodness all of the things we assumed, all the things that we took for granted, every step along the way was oh my gosh, we are doing this wrong. Only because it was so unfiltered. It was so– these people had no reason to like what we were doing or hate what we were doing.

They didn’t have any attachment to us and just sitting there and watching kind of how they stumbled because our interface for them really fell short, that was the thing. The reason why that was important was because that lead us to really focus on where we are now which is music education because so from watching the people, getting emails from them, interacting with them through our support desk, through the facebook and we did a number of kind of small surveys. People were telling us, “Hey we want to learn, we are beginners, can you help demystify that for us?” So that’s where we are going to focus on. Now we are a different company.

Steve: Do you still have to buy the songs though. So, describe how it’s changed?

Harold: We used to have a free app, right and there was a free new model. You download it for free and then you pay for stuff, right. And so now you can actually still download it for free but how it’s changed is, we instead of songs, instead of having 100s of songs which we have 100s of songs in, but we also have what we call, “Guitar courses.” So you can take guitar course one, course two, course three, course four. A lot of it present like [Inaudible] [00:26:15] and that’s where the revenue comes from is that there is really nothing like it.

Steve: So you are charging a premium for these lessons is that correct? You download the free app, you get charged for the lessons?

Harold: That’s right.

Steve: So how do you get around the barrier that like in my mind I don’t pay more than like five bucks for an app. Is your app, are these inner purchases priced similarly or?

Harold: Yeah the course one is 2999 which is a temporary price. It’s actually if you, the retail price is 4999 so you can– so right now you can get it for 2999 but it’s temporary. So each course is 4999 right now but if you buy all four you would get it at a bundle price for that. Now so the story behind that is when we started at free, then when we found out people want to learn we started putting it in the bundle content. Then we said, “Maybe it’s a 99 cents app.” Maybe its 99 cents, maybe it’s about 99 and so we kept raising the price. This is an entrepreneurial conversation. So I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it. I also have an MBA also so I’m breaking all the rules like Steve. I’m throwing all the rules out there. I’ve got a total MBA, UCLA wherever, it’s all good but all the rules got in there. So we kept raising the price, and I think we just landed on a nice price of 4999 and right now it’s 2999 but 4999 per course.

Steve: Okay, so how do you get like I said before, earlier in this interview. There is a ton of guitar learning apps out there. So how do you guys get customers in the door to download your app?

Harold: Right now we really rely on word of mouth and reputation. It turns out that we don’t have a big footprint. What we have done that’s allowed us to kind of swing above our weight is to use kind of a boxing metaphor, right, boxing technology whatever similar or wherever you want to call it, is we actually have a partnership with Fender. We got– last year we started being included in some of their packs. We are carried by Amazon guitar centre and those are– those are ways where we don’t– there is not a lot of cash outlay to get iBalls and so for us it was really about developing the relationships with them.

Well I had a lot of experience because I was at the guitar centre for so long. And just working with them to see how we can help what their objectives are. And so for Fender it’s more about yes, we would love for people to play guitar more, if it gets easier for them to start. So we felt a good synergy there. So that’s how we kind of get the word out there right now. We spend very little if we spend anything at all on advertizing which is ironic since I was the director of marketing that’s all I did. All I did was spend money and so it’s ironic we don’t do that. We haven’t been doing that. I think after we get our– after this year what you will see it’s a much more kind of outward phasing campaign to get people to try us. But right now literally we are just focusing on making the product the best it can be with what we have, and which means a lot of long days and nights for everybody who is on the team right now. So that’s kind of what we do.

Steve: So this relationship with Fenders so when someone buys a guitar do they get, do they refer you to the app? Is that how it works or…?

Harold: Right. We are currently included in the Fender DG-8S Acoustic Guitar Pack and that’s a very quality entry level guitar. So if you are just learning guitar and you want your first guitar the Fender DG-8S is really good because one it’s a Fender, it will stay in tune, it’s easy to play. If you have ever tried guitar you will know that they are guitars that are quote out there that don’t stay in tune and they are really hard to play. This one is a Fender, so it’s literally like a standard you can rely on. So, if you get that guitar pack, it comes with Rock Prodigy. Now, so that’s how we are currently packaged in their bundle.

Steve: That’s pretty smart. So if I can just summarize what you’ve just told me. Up to this point you’ve been primarily focused on product development. And you have a couple of partnerships here and there that get people to download your app. This year you are going to be focusing on proliferation now, is that pretty accurate?

Harold: Yes, that is cool.

Steve: Okay. This is the year Harold.

Harold: Steve this is the year for you and me. Your family, my family. This is the year but I do have to say it’s like I have never, personally I’ve never been happier and if you asked me this last year, I would have said, “I can’t imagine being happier” If you ask me two years before that I would have said, “I can’t imagine being happier.”

Steve: I forgot to ask you this. I mean you left a pretty good job right, to start this?

Harold: I’m telling you I was at the guitar centre for I think 13, 14 years and I was stalked. That’s a pretty cool job. I’m like yah you get to sell guitars, you get to do music, you get to– but this was just to– now that we are doing it, I can’t imagine doing something else.

Steve: Great, so if you had any advice for people who wanted to start like an iPad app, do you have one single piece of advice to give them based on your experience?

Harold: Yeah, I would say pretty much don’t do what we did. Don’t follow in my footsteps, don’t follow our footsteps. The advice due is draw it out. Take a few pieces of paper draw out literally on that paper. You can use Microsoft word or wherever but literally it’s going to be, “Hey this is going to be screen one, this is going to be screen two and sit with people. Let them poke holes in it, let them– so before you spend a whole bunch of money or before you waste a network. Before you spend a lot of time to imagine this shining utopia of whatever you are designing to do, a lot can be– you can learn a lot by just saying, “okay, hey this is what it’s going to look like in getting the reaction from there.” What I found myself doing a lot was like, but it’ll do this, but it’ll do that. If you find yourself doing that a lot, then just be prepared that you are going to have to probably spend a lot of time flushing that out when you don’t know if it’s really going to be what people want. So, if you want to start an app, start as cheap as possible and then that will help. So, don’t do what we did.

Steve: That’s actually a great piece of advice because so I run a course and a lot of people go in to do web design. They hire a developer but they don’t really have a crisp idea of how they want everything to get laid out and they give broad generalizations to developer and before you know it what they produced isn’t what the person was expecting. So yeah, you are right, it’s absolutely important to put everything down and have a little blue print of how everything is supposed to work before you start.

Harold: That’s a great example.

Steve: Great advice.

Harold: That’s a great example.

Steve: So I would like to end this interview since I’ve taken up a lot of your time. What is, is there any book that you would recommend that kind of got you fired up to take the courage to start this business? Do you read Harold?

Harold: What is this thing called reading, why do people keep on talking about that? I think for me what we keep coming back to and it’s not necessarily to get fired up about it but it’s more about what to do if you are fired up. ‘Crossing the Chasm’ has been, it turns out it keeps being true, right. So, like there some mentoring books like ‘7 Habits’, there is ‘Eating the big fish’, there is a bunch of management books, right and they are all true. Like there are true things that they tell you to do but in terms of now that we are fired up and what you can apply to literally what your customers are experiencing, for me ‘Crossing the Chasm’ just keeps ringing true. Like if you don’t think about it for a week, you’re the next week you will come up something and you will be like, “Oh my goodness this is one of those things they talked about in crossing the chasm.” And it just keeps popping up.

Steve: Okay, awesome. Well, hey Harold I don’t want to take too much of your time. If anyone has any questions about Rock Prodigy, is there a place where people can reach you?

Harold: Yap,
Steve: Okay and then in the show notes I will go ahead and put a link to your app and then include your email address and a link to your favorite business book as well. So, hey Harold thanks a lot for giving us your time today. And you know the best of luck to you and your app. I think we want our daughter to actually learn how to play the guitar. So maybe we will download the Rock Prodigy and fire it up.

Harold: Steve, thank you so much, and I will see you soon.

Steve: Yeah definitely, in the next family function.

Harold: Thanks so much Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Harold: Take care.

Steve: Here is what is awesome about Harold. He was a guy who wasn’t technical at all. Never programmed a single line of code in his life and here he is put together an incredibly complex application to teach people how to play the guitar. For more information about this episode please check out the show notes at And also if you enjoyed listening to this podcast please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud, but it also helps keep this podcast up in the ranks so that other people can use this information, and find the show more easily to get awesome business advice from my guests. It’s also the best way to support the show and please tell your friends because the greatest compliment you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else either in person or share it on the web.

As an added incentive, I’m also giving away a free business consult to one lucky winner every single month. For more information go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course where I will actually show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Thanks for listening.

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015: How Ed Han Bootstrapped His Way To A 100 Million Dollar Company Selling Stationery Online

ed han

Today I’m happy to have my friend Ed Han on the show today. Ed is the co-founder of Tiny Prints, a stationery company that he bootstrapped and later sold for over 100 million dollars.

Ed is probably one of the most successful entrepreneurs that I know personally and I’m extremely ecstatic to have him on my podcast. The business model for Tiny Prints was ingenious and Ed’s story is truly an inspiration to us all.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Ed got the idea for Tiny Prints
  • How to bootstrap your business early on and leverage your relationships to gather business
  • How to start a company with 2 other co-founders without a lot of strife
  • Which marketing channels Ed used early on to grow Tiny Prints
  • The one pivot that allowed Tiny Prints to gain traction early on
  • How to leverage partnerships to keep costs under control
  • How Ed convinced designers and publishers to take a chance on Tiny Prints early on

Other Resources And Books


You are listening to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast, where I bring in successful bootstrapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working, and what strategies are not. Now, this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead I have them take us back to the very beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses.

Now, if you enjoy this podcast, please leave me a review on iTunes, and enter my podcast contest where I’m actually giving away free one on one business consultations every single month.

For more information, go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I will show you my wife and I managed to make over 100 K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information and sign up for the newsletter. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit her Job’ podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: All right, welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast. Today I am honored to have Ed Han with me on the show. Ed is actually someone I met through Polly, the owner of whom I interviewed previously on the podcast. And as luck may have it, it turns out that Polly is married to Ed, the founder of, a 9 figure company.

So, talk about your power couples here. After having kids, we views ‘Tiny Prints’ several times in the past to create baby announcements, imitations, you name it. And what I really like about ‘Tiny Prints’ is the ingenious business model. The site started up by working with local printing facilities and encouraged designers to create awesome looking card designs in return for a royalty on the sales. And so he ended up with this really nice business model where designers were creating great looking card designs for free, and the fulfillment was handled by a third party as well.

So, Ed is just a true inspiration to us all and I just want to formally welcome him to the show, how is it going Ed?

Ed: I’m blushing over audio.

Steve: It’s all true.

Ed: Thank you Steve. How’re you doing?

Steve: Pretty good, pretty good, and really glad that you could take some time out of your business schedule to talk to me today.

Ed: No, my pleasure, any time anyone takes interest in the story, I love to talk about it.

Steve: Yes so, you know, speaking of the story, can you give us the background, and tell us about the early days of ‘Tiny Prints’ and basically how it all got started?

Ed: Sure, well, the very very early days of ‘Tiny Prints’ was just a group of wannabe entrepreneurs who didn’t know they were going to be working on ‘Tiny Prints’. We had a handful of business school classmates, a couple of years after graduating, start to get the entrepreneurial itch And we would get together once a week on average, over burritos, and sort of both socialize and also banter about different business models, and start-up ideas.

And over the course of probably about a year and a half we had some attrition, we had an idea or two that we took to a prototype stage, and ultimately canned for various reasons and then settled upon Tiny Prints. One out of some of the personal needs that in this case my wife and I saw as we were expecting our first child, and also as we dug into this category more just found some of the characteristics about the products so interesting and easy to work with, with an ability for technology to make an impact.

Steve: So you mentioned attrition, was there a larger group of folks?

Ed: Yes, as is often the case business school students, grads, business people in general just like to talk, and so we were never exclusive and so anyone could come and go as they pleased. It was certainly our closer circle of friends, and it did start off with a much bigger group. I would say six to eight folks, and you know, after you work on something for a year and a half and you ask folks to get together for that amount of time, you know, some of the folks lost hope that this was ever going to go anywhere, or they just became too busy. You know, life got in the way and ultimately it kind of came down to three of us. And luckily, you know, before we all kind of surrendered to the idea that we’d never come up with an idea, Tiny Prints came along and started to get some traction.

Steve: So, you started out with a larger group of people that were meeting every day, or weekly, or…

Ed: Yeah, we were meeting weekly.

Steve: Okay, and it was just kind of one gigantic brainstorming session among your business school members, is that right?

Ed: Yes, it was mostly business school members, and they did start off with, primarily just brainstorming which I think was our problem. For many many months it was just people [indiscernible – 00:05:15] and just kind of throwing out ideas, you know, that was in their head versus having had some rigorous analysis. Which we eventually came down to, and I think at that point when we were assigning homework to folks and making sure that the conversations were a lot more meaningful with, you know, sort of backed up by data, some of the folks left at that point as well as I think this had turned into more of a social thing for a few people. And for others like me and the other couple of people that did end up surviving, we felt more desperate as time went by that we were not finding the right idea to work on.

Steve: Were you working a full time job at the time?

Ed: At various points in this window I was, I was working at a start-up called ‘Danger’, and then I was also helping Polly with the business that you had mentioned.

Steve: Okay, so it’s weird, so you started out with three people and often times in the very beginning, you know, opinions somewhat clash and that sort of thing. So, did you guys all agree on the business model and how ‘Tiny Prints’ was going to be run early on?

Ed: Absolutely not, and I think that didn’t matter as much because none of us really knew exactly how it should be run, or which direction it was going to go. And as you hear about all the time, it certainly didn’t go in the perfect direction that we ultimately we thought it would as we got the business off the ground.

So there were many tweaks and certainly a couple of bigger pivots that eventually led us to get greater traction. But in the early days one of the most important things that our group did was kind of step back from the business, even as we were running a thousand miles an hour to try to, you know, build the backend, build the website, you know, have all the commerce capability.

We really stepped back, given that the three of us had started off as friends before we were business partners and talked about a lot of personal things, a lot of things that we had probably had never shared with each other. Our goals, aspirations, what we, you know, cared about and mattered to us, as well as how that would largely impact the culture that we’ll build as a company and so it sounds a little cliché and probably kind of overdone.

But you know, back in 2003 we really thought hard about that and felt that it would be a shame to work on a business, perhaps have it, you know, gain some traction but we are on a bunch of relationships along the way. And it just so happened that the three of us cared much more about our relationships with each other, with our spouses and other folks who were going to have to be on board to support us.

And so we took great care to have those conversations very, very early on, which I think helped navigate some of the choppy waters that you, you know, ultimately come across as you try to build a business together.

Steve: Yes, what were some of those challenges, I mean, was the business model that ended up being ‘Tiny Prints’ was that how it was in the beginning, or has it evolved a lot over time?

Ed: Well, you know, I would say that it has evolved a lot, but there was certainly a couple of very big sort of step function evolutions or, you know, they like to call it around here, pivots. So when we first started the business given that it was bootstrapped, and thus needed to be low capital, we had really no capital in the business. We couldn’t go off and own our own printing machines or do anything that had any sort of capex involved and so we took designs from existing stationery designers that were sold in stores, we scanned them using a fifty dollar scanner.

And we took those images and put them up on a website that had pretty primitive personalization so that you could enter some text, and have us receive that information, allow us to print that off as a fax form and send it to the actual stationery designer for them to fulfill through whoever print partner they were using.

So if you know anything about the stationery industry certainly offline it can somewhat still work that way but if you have much experience ordering personalized stationery, premium stationery online or certainly in bigger boutiques you know that feels pretty primitive. But that is really how it was done over ten years ago when we got started, and we did really nothing much more destructive than bring that process online.

So as we kind of bumped along for, you know, a year, a year and a half we recognized that this was never going to be a big business. I mean, we could potentially scale to the size of you know a very small store that you might find in the main street, it’s just that we would happen to be online or perhaps our cost base would be a little bit better, but we recognized the fact that it would just never go to massive scale.

And that’s when we started to explore, I guess what you’d call our first pivot.Which as you allege to us to become our own designer, vertically integrative and that was more of a virtual vertical integration by partnering with designers and printers, and automating that entire flow from acquiring the designers. That’s again in a very sort of technical ways so that we didn’t have to manually do the equivalent of scanning albums into a website. And on the backend be able to convert, you know, files that were being done by our customers on our website into a format that could be then automatically sent into our print partners for fulfillment.

Steve: So back when you were scanning these cards, did you have licensing agreements with the card designers at the time?

Ed: Yes, so, we were probably one of the first if not the first to partner with independent designers. We had a couple of, you know, bigger brands over time, but really, you know, we pioneered the idea of working with very cool regional or up and coming designers who were independent looking for a way to, you know, make their mark on printing stationery without having to go into all the printing and customer service and fulfillment and all those things.

Which we were able to offload, and so we were able to somehow convince even with no track record, a half a dozen or so really wonderful designers early on who gave us exclusive rights to their designs, worked out a licensing arrangement, which allowed them to own their designs, but be paid a royalty based on sales performance. And that was really all we needed to, you know get the new business model off the ground.

Steve: So it’s basically an up-front payment for the design itself followed by royalty payments.

Ed: No, actually it was all variable, so it was 100% dependent on whether the design sold or not.

Steve: So what would be their incentive to give you an exclusive deal like that?

Ed: Yeah, I think the incentive changed over time. In the very early days certainly most of them said exactly what you said, ‘why would I ever do this, especially if I have to actually spend time coming up with designs for you specifically?’

I think we had in the beginning a couple of personal relationships that allowed us to make that case so that the designers would do us a little bit more of a favor, and submit a handful of designs. But for the most part, you know, in those very, very beginning days, we were working with designers who already had designs. Perhaps for, you know, their own line of stationery or, you know, for a different product that they could easily translate to stationery. So there was really not a lot of up-front cost. There was certainly no up-front up-side, but there was no major up-front cost to asking them for, you know, just kind of a translation of their designs into stationery templates.

Now over time the incentives changed in that as we became a bigger and bigger distribution platform, there were certainly stationery designers who had a nice business that thought, gosh, I could actually off load all of my customer service, all of my fulfillment, all of my technology and just go back to what I love doing which is design and potentially even outpace the income and the revenues that I’m doing on my own.

And so that was an attraction for a certain number of, you know, smaller designers. And then as we grew, I think just the sheer size of distribution and income opportunity certainly attracted a whole host of other designers.

Steve: So, how did you find these designers early on? I don’t think Etsy was around back then, right?

Ed: Etsy was probably not around at the very, very beginning when we started this, correct. So, you know, luckily one of our business partners, Laura, who really is the merchandizing genius, and probably the entire genius behind ‘Tiny Prints’ just had a wealth of information and resourcefulness for hunting down these designers that, you know, could be hard to find back then.

So, we lucked out in having someone like Laura on board as well as a couple of us had some personal relationships with folks who run that design community, and I think we were lucky that just a handful of designers that we were able to convince to come on board allowed us to grow faster than we were growing. That then proved the opportunity to sort of second and third degree type designers that we could reach out to and show them proof that there was an opportunity here. And so we were very fortunate that one thing led to another, and certainly didn’t happen overnight, but it allowed us to grow the business pretty consistently.

Steve: So just to get an idea, what would the arrangements of the royalty arrangements kind of look like on a percentage level?

Ed: Sure, you know, that evolved as well as is often the case or is always the case. It is all about you know who has leverage and at the beginning is, you pointed out, we had none. And so, you know, we were, you know, convincing designers early on with bigger and bigger percentages. I think at one point we had designers who were making a fee of, you know, 15% possibly even slightly even north of that for every sale. And, you know, we are in the business of selling in bulk, so stationery is purchased in bulk whether they are holiday cards or birth announcements, and so the average ticket size was pretty high for e-commerce.

Back then the average order size was around $126 and so you would be making $15, $20 per order, and you know, when we were tiny that was not a lot of money in absolute, but that was a pretty decent percentage. And that has floated down candidly as we’ve gotten bigger and the checks became again an absolute much, much bigger.

Steve: Now that makes total sense. So that’s one side of the equation, you know, working with designers,and then you had to work with the people who actually print the cards, right. You guys didn’t do anything in-house at the time, is that correct?

Ed: Correct.

Steve: Okay, so describe the experience in getting the printing presses and convincing them to come on board as well.

Ed: Yeah, you know, one would think that, again a very insignificant player like us trying to convince these massive commercial printers to take on a new venture, you know actually become much more of a technology company themselves in order to integrate with us, would be a pretty tough proposition. And I think that probably was the case, but we got really lucky with the first printer partner that we really took on serious discussions with, a company called ‘Progressive Solutions’ right here in SantaClara.

They were one of the premium partners to HP which made the digital equipment that we thought we wanted to use for their quality and upload. And so, we were able to use the incentive that HP sales people have, their sort of agnostic tube who is calling on them they just want to provide leads and have their machines work harder.

And so my other, one of our other founders Kelly called HP, talked to a very eager salesperson and said, “Hey look, we have this great idea about stationery, we’ve got a little bit of traction, but we think if we could actually print our own, that, the business will really scale”.

And luckily for us the salesperson took us seriously and introduced us to progressive who, right from the get go just kind of really, you know, got what we were trying to do, and ou know more than half believed in our vision.

So they were willing to do some of the upfront work, experiment with us on pricing, on process, fulfillment, shipping, all that stuff, and took what was more or less kind of an analog commercial business to, you know, experiment in the consumer space. And you know, so I think had we reached out ten other printers, nine probably would have said, ‘you are crazy, don’t ever bother calling us again, until you can promise revenue amount of X.’

But we were extremely fortunate that progressive also saw this great future in digital printing and the promise of higher margins by being a consumer driven company versus an enterprise driven company which they had been for the last twenty years, and was willing to take this journey with us. And as we did that we both, I think really lucked out in catching an important technology with that, you know, I think this was a blessing to all of us. Because digital printing was just starting to take off, it was at a point where the quality and output was good enough to meet consumer demand. Whereas sort of in a previous era they were great machines, but really mainly used for commercial reasons.

And so we happen to kind of hit a window by luck, when the technology was ready, we by luck found a wonderful, kind of visionary printer partner, and I think just exploited that, you know, for the years to come.

Steve: So walk me through the ordering, like early on at least. When someone places an order, goes on your website, configures their card, and then, did you have some automated way of sending all that information to the printing press.

Ed: Are you asking after we had become our own designer?

Steve: I was just thinking in the beginning when you first…

Ed: Oh sure, in the very, very beginning what would happen is– and this may be hard to imagine, but you would actually come to our website which was, you know, back then one of the only ones where you could actually personalize. But you couldn’t personalize for anything but text. There was no such thing as a picture card. So forget photos, we are talking about text only.

So if you are talking of the very early days you would end up on, you would find a design that was again scanned in from some album somewhere, and you would personalize that card for text only. When you check out, our system would send us an alert that an order came in which wasn’t a big deal because there would be like three a day. And we didn’t need anything automated for that. We would get an alert, we would go and effectively print out a fax form. So the customer information had been translated and converted into a PDF of a fax form that the album designer used to then send on to their printer.

And so we would physically print out this fax form, we would fax it, not even e-mail it, we would actually fax it to, I think most of our designers who by then could read half of it, of course. Who would then send it to their printer, again probably by fax, wiping out the half of what was legible, to ask for a proof. We would get the proof back through the same sort of communication channel. By the time we got it, we could hardly read it, we would send it to the customer, who could then hardly read it themselves, and there would be multiple back and forths, which would ultimately cause one of the greatest headaches in opportunities that we saw, which was like ordering premium stationery, custom stationery back in 2003, 2004 was extremely laborious and time consuming. It would often take three to four weeks to get your order.

And you can imagine if you are thinking about Christmas on December 10th that’s not going to work. Or if you’ve had your baby, and the baby might be six months old by the time you send the birth announcement, that’s not going to work.

And so this became one of the interesting drivers of trying to become our own designers and using digital equipment. Certainly there was a huge cost advantage and thus an ability to bring prices down, but really the other major factor that I think allowed us to convert customers quickly after that was, just the ability to turn orders round very quickly.

Steve: Okay, so the today processes, someone configures everything on their site and then you generate the fonts yourself and that just goes straight out to the printing press, right?

Ed: That’s correct, they are basically just bits at that point. The printer is a very high tech machine that takes input from our system and generates an art file. Actually the art file is generated on our end because we’ve had the philosophy that when somebody is ordering $100 of stationery and putting photos and valuable text in it, we should not– we should hold ourselves responsible for blurry photos, red eyes, typos, edicate mistakes and those types of things.

And so that was another differentiation that we had early on was that we actually had human eyes review all this work. And so what would happen or what does happen now is, once the customer checks out of our website, an art file is created that allows our designers to look for those mistakes, find out opportunities to improve and only when it’s completely blessed and signed off, does that art file essentially get translated into bits that can talk to the printer over the internet, and out on the other end spits out large sheets of paper with the customer’s stationery. Which then goes through a cutting, and fulfillment, and shipping process.

Steve: So are the cards shipped by you or they are shipped by the printing people.

Ed: The cards are always directly shipped at the printing facility, for just efficiency reasons, and also to save time, you know, Tiny Prints has now become part of a much larger platform, having gone through a merger with [indiscernible – 00:26:00] who at this point owns almost their entire production.

So when you say do you ship them or did they ship them, it’s both but it’s all internally owned equipment and it is, you know, certified Tiny Prints equipment that is printing and shipping out of our own facility.

Steve: Yeah, I was just referring to back before the merger, when you guys… yeah. So we are going to printing press, so you guys were separate entities, so did you have to tap into their system somehow, I’m just kind of curious how it all worked.

Ed: We did, there was a lot of systems integration, which again we can thank Kelly and his team early on to do that work. And there was a lot of just inventing that integration because it had really never been done before for consumer product like this.

And that process was extremely frustrating for many, many years. It also, you know, went through many iterations. And as the equipment changes, and software changes, and capabilities change, it’s still constantly changes. It’s a never ending set of work that I think, you know, we tackle still today.

Steve: Right, but the point was it started out very manual and over time you gradually automated things over time, right?

Ed: Right.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about sales now. So you have this stationery company set up, what were some of the challenges in getting sales in the early phase of your business?

Ed: Well, like any consumer facing company, or any company, customer acquisition is of course the thing that makes or breaks a start-up. And so in our case, you know, I think we were early to catch the e-commerce wave for personalized products. Certainly by 2003, you know Amazon was a big business, eBay was a big business, but the idea of actually customizing products and having that be it fulfilled online was still relatively new.

So I think we were unique and faced less competition than perhaps a lot of the other e-commerce categories as a result, but that doesn’t help you either if nobody is stumbling across your website. And so we really committed to certainly the product and design but committed equally to being unique and defensible in customer acquisition.

And because of our capital constraints ended up betting on Search Engine Optimization and PR. And we had great success with both. I think over time really the dominance and SEO that we were able to build because of that early start and commitment to that channel, really eclipsed everything else including PR. But in the early days, you know, we were stalking celebrities, we were trying to get into every inStyle, people magazine we could, with product endorsements at the same time, building a website that was both dynamic and static, that was extremely Search Engine friendly.

Unlike today, it actually had impact pretty immediately; we would see results within a couple of weeks to a month. After making certain changes and the algorithm wasn’t moving as much back then and so we were defaulting two three four five pages at a time until relatively quickly we found ourselves in the top ten or top five position of, you know, all of our major head terms. And as we plugged in new businesses, you know, we just kind of rode the wave of having an already great SEO site that could then again position really well for new terms.

And so that became just a really great virtual cycle for us that grew with online traffic and search engine growth, and provided just a massive advantage because it was zero customer acquisition cost.

Certainly today it is not free to do SEO but, you know, in the early to mid 2000 you could just do so much through sweat equity which is all we could afford. And we were just able to get you know a lot of free traffic that as we continued to focus on the product allowed us to convert at a pretty decent rate, that allowed us to be cash flow positive, and kind of restart the cycle.

Steve: So, I’m sure a lot of the listeners are familiar with Search Engine Optimization, but on the PR side, how did you get your cards in the hands of celebrities and that sort of thing, did you have an agency or?

Ed: You know over the years we experimented with agencies, I have to be candid and say we haven’t had much luck with them. In the very early days, again we couldn’t afford anything, we couldn’t afford any agencies, and so we did it on own, and you know, it was a very ego destroying humbling experience. A lot of rejections, but again all credit goes to Laura who was able to work with our designers to come up with this amazing modern unique look that a lot of our, you know, our customer base at that time was mostly young mums.

And that group really sort of embraced the design direction that Laura was taking the company in. And as a result all the magazines that they read also took notice and so we had a pretty decent hit rates after the early going, and that really propelled at least a brand recognition for the company. So that you might go to Google and search ‘tiny prints’ which at that point we would be at the top of the search engines and then bring you to the site. So they worked really well hand in hand.

Steve: So did you reach out, and try to contact, you know, these magazines, and…

Ed: Oh yeah, we would go to the library and look at the latest directory of all the publications out there, and the editors and editorial staff, and just talk to them.

Steve: Okay.

Ed: Yeah, we would send unsolicited FedEx packages with tons and tons of cards in them.

Steve: Ah, very clever, okay. And then you know just based on the design they would become interested and want to feature you in their magazines.

Ed: Exactly.

Steve: Okay, and then on the SEO front did you do anything special, were you pumping out content, were you reaching out for links, how did that work on that end.

Ed: Yeah, I think we again lucked out a bit in that, you know, our cards were all content, so as we added more and more cards that had lots and lots of keywords, they were only the birth announcements, the baby showers invitations, the birthday invites. There were many ways to automate the content management system that allowed us to, you know, vary the keywords, but really explore the content that was on our site.

In the very early days of 2003, 2004 everyone was doing link exchanges, so we were part of that. We found ways to, you know, contribute to sites to get one way links. And then we were just very smart about publishing our HTML whether they were dynamically driven or not as largely static pages. Which back then was heavily rewarded by Google, because there was a time when Google actually had trouble crawling java script, or pages that were hidden behind you know dynamic or PHP pages.

And so we would certainly use a database on the backend to manage all the content that we had, but we would make sure that when they were published on the website they were published as static HTML pages. I think that helped a lot. It helped grow the size of the site, so that the content could actually be crawled.

Steve: So in terms of the website, are you technical at all, like how did you develop your own platform or were you using something out there already?

Ed: Yeah, I’m a total technical poser, I love it, but I am severly incapable of doing a good job. However, again we had no choice in 2003 but to do it ourselves and so our business partner Kelly who is very technical and incredibly just thoughtful and creative about building technology really did you know 99% of the work. I, you know, mainly for just shear lack of time, shear lack of his time, I built some of the front-end, the website, the html around all of the great things that he was doing on the backend. Some of the forms and things like that, you know, I was using out of date html tables and, you know, CSS wasn’t even much part of what we did back then, and I was using some of the macromedia, which is not around anymore. You know, things like fireworks and other other kind of html editors to edit the html and you know…

Steve: Basically you just did what it took to get the site up there.

Ed: More or less.

Steve: Okay. So how long did it take you before the business actually started getting some traction?

Ed: Well, it’s depends on your definition of traction, we got an order probably within the first couple of weeks of launching the site, in March of 2004. But then it was probably just that one order for another couple of weeks.

So that’s kind of how it started, you know, every order was cash flow positive, if you think about the economics of what we were doing, throwing off 50% gross margins, zero customer acquisition cost, and that was for getting paid, and we had hired no one to do anything, you know, every order was cash flow positive. And that allowed us to kind of chase the next order.

And so the flow of orders was, you know, a few a month in the very beginning and then it turned to a few a week, to a few a day. And then at some point over the course of the next year or so, it felt like there was enough cash flow that we could actually hire somebody to help us with customer service, as we were completely buried in, given how manual the process was back then, just buried with even trying to serve as a handful of customers.

Meanwhile the back log of things that we had to do to automate to actually make things better, and to work, and to not have errors on the site kept growing. And so we had many employees, long before we were able to pay each other, and you know, truly consider the company profitable.

Steve: You know that’s a similar story to our business. Like it started out, you know, very few orders, and then they just started trickling in and before you know it, you know, it’s enough money to support you and a bunch of other employees as well. So what would you say were your primary marketing channels then and even today?

Ed: Sure, back then it was, you know, we like to say it was PR, we did have a little bit of success there but it was probably 90% SEO. A few search engine traffic, we didn’t even do SEM for the first three or four years of the company’s life. Long after we had probably busted through, you know, single digit millions, maybe even double digit millions in revenue, we were so thankfully successful in SEO, that we just didn’t feel the need to try to go even faster. We were barely able to keep up with the growth that we were experiencing through SEO.

You know, today now we probably employ twenty different channels of marketing, and certainly CRM is a huge one now that there is an actual customer base and the least expensive if you can re-engage customers.

SEO is still incredibly important now that supplemented with SEM and all the very essence of SEM, whether it is product list Ads or display Ads or whatever. There is a ton of partnerships that are important to the company, business development became an interesting opportunity as the brand became more noticed and bigger distribution platforms wanted to, you know, potentially work with us. So that was great.

You know, I would say that we are probably doing about as much advertising as you would expect a fairly large e-commerce company to be doing. And so, you know, whether it is You Tube Ads, or Google Ads, or other Ad networks. And now novel is becoming incredibly important critical on so, I am no longer at the company, but I’m sure they are doing way more in mobile advertising, and marketing, and apps and things like that than certainly what I’ve seen.

Steve: So if you were to give some advice to entrepreneurs out there who kind of want to create a similar business to one that you’ve already created, what sort of advice would you give them?

Ed: Are you asking about e-commerce or just a start-up in general?

Steve: A start-up in general, but, you know, with an e-commerce bent, because you know after all you have to sell something to make money, right?

Ed: Sure, right. Well I think e-commerce is getting, I think it’s getting both, you know, much more interesting as migration happens from physical to online. At the same time getting much harder with the likes of eBay, and Amazon and Wall Mart really kind of dominating the space. So, I would say be cautious and be incredibly thoughtful, and be incredibly just kind of honest with yourself about defensibility and uniqueness of the product or line of products that you are planning to market.

And then I would focus on the two things that I think are just kind of generic recipes for anything that you start, which is to again being credibly thoughtful and creative about product definition. And a lot of times people think about product definition in the context of software companies, but I think it’s relevant across anything that you want to do.

So whether you are opening a restaurant or starting an e-commerce company, or a mobile app, ensure that you are doing something unique and well defined with a road map that will not run out for many, many quarters. So that you can continue to improve upon, you know, what you’ve built and ultimately, you know prove to yourself that you’ve thought about a very, very long term product vision.

And then the second thing that I will focus on is having the same amount of obsessiveness around customer acquisition. You can build the greatest product, software, whatever it is that you are going to go and do, and if no one ever comes across it, it’s meaningless.

And so, again it is very easy to have a generic recipe for either or both of these to say, “Hey, I’m going to go and do SEO and SEM.” Can you really do that for the business that you are trying to build, and be honest with yourself about whether you can be unique and have a competitive advantage? And ideally have a proven, you know, sample of that working, even if it’s a very small scale, and so, you know, test a lot along the way, but test with the idea that your product is unique, well defined, and your customer acquisition strategy is equally unique and effective.

Steve: So in that respect that is how you would combat places like Amazon, right, by being unique, by being the only person to offer that sort of product.

Ed: You could certainly to uniqueness, or you could potentially find niches that Amazon would not be as interested in, or find ways to out-market Amazon for your particular product. Which may sound quite unrealistic, but I bet if you sat down and thought about it– for example, in our category of personalized products, Amazon has yet to make a big push into custom T-shirts, custom stationery, photo books. They’ve done very light weight partnerships, but they have not actually tackled that on their own because it’s just a much more complex– not complex for them, but it’s a different process than what they specialize in. Which is to create, you know, ten football sized warehouse and just stock them with things that you can put on shelves and ship as fast as you can.

You know, allowing customers to actually go in and, you know, put user generated content on the products that you ship for them, is a whole different type of capability than, you know, something that eBay, and Wall Mart, and Amazon has decided to take on.

So be thoughtful and look for those air pockets that present opportunities. They give you the, you know, headroom to go, you know, go pretty far before they take notice, or before you know you will get squashed. Because hopefully by then if you’ve been thoughtful about your product, you are again one step ahead in the direction that they are either, uninterested in or just isn’t a priority.

Steve: Okay yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense, and that area specifically regarding personalized products is something that I think will be a lot more difficult for Amazon to just automatically fulfill. So, great advice.

Ed: Let’s hope so.

Steve: Yeah, let’s hope so, for sure. So okay, I don’t want to take too much more of your time Ed so, one question I always ask people is, is there a particular, business book that has really influenced the way that you looked at businesses in starting, you know, your ventures?

Ed: That’s a really good question. I love to read, unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot of time for it. I am not going to say a particular book, I’m going to go a little bit un-conventional which is sort of my mission in life. But I grew up reading a ton of biographies, and I learned from other people. I think business books are great, I tend to avoid them, so I haven’t read a whole lot.

I’ve read chapters of, you know, probably some of the famous ones, but I find, you know, I learn a lot more from the examples that other people have set. You know, the name escapes me, but I did enjoy the first half of Blake Micoskie I believe who started Tom Shoes. His book, I thought it was a very, very thoughtful, written not to be kind of a prescriptive business book. But really had a lot of great things that you deal with as an entrepreneur, and he is of course got a slightly different business model and much more mission focused, which really spoke to me and I really enjoyed that book. But I would say that generically I would just recommend books on everyone from J.C. Penny to Collin Powel, to Warren Buffet, to Bill Gates, to Steve Jones, Jeff Bezos. So I just really enjoy reading about the personality, the mindset, how you know, their kind of brains and hearts work over, you know, what I consider pretty dry and generic business how-to books.

Steve: Sure, sure and if you ever decide to write a book, I would be the first one in line to purchase that book, because, you know, one thing I noticed as I was interviewing you, as you mentioned luck like 15 or 20 times. You got lucky doing this, you got lucky doing that, but in my opinion, you know, there was really no luck involved. You went out and you hustled and you created your own luck, and that’s one of the reasons why you are such an inspiration to me.

Ed: Well thank you, I think we can have yet another phone call on that whole topic, I do believe that luck plays a big role. I think it’s important to seize the luck that you see coming your way, but I appreciate what you said, it’s very kind of you.

Steve: Well thanks Ed, I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so I think we’ll just call it a day right here, thanks a lot for coming on the show.

Ed: My pleasure thanks again Steve.

Steve: All right, take care Ed.

Ed: Bye.

Steve: Ed is the man, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. And the best part, the guy is incredibly modest and humble even though he is a business genius. For more information about this episode go to, and also if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please go to iTunes and leave me a review. When you write me a review, it not only makes me feel proud, but it also helps keep this podcast up in the ranks, so other people can use this information and find the show more easily to get the awesome business advice for my guests.

Incidentally it’s also the best way to support the show, and please tell your friends also because the greatest complement you can give me is to provide a referral to someone else, either in person or to share it on the web.

And also as an added incentive, I’m also giving away a free business consultations to one lucky winner, once a month. For more information about this contest, go to And while you are there, you know, if you are interested in starting your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information and thanks for listening.

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014: Jordan Harbinger On Building The Right Social Skills To Elevate Your Business And Relationships

jordan harbinger

Today I’m happy to have one of the most popular relationship coaches on the planet on the show today. Jordan Harbinger runs The Art Of Charm podcast where he teaches self-motivated guys how to boost their businesses and their social lives by improving their social skills.

I have to admit. Even though I consider myself to be reasonably socially aware, Jordan takes this to a whole different level. In this podcast, you’ll learn the right way to build relationships for both business and pleasure.

What You’ll Learn

  • The real reason money changes hands in business
  • How relationships affect business deals
  • How to establish relationships with people who are more successful than you are
  • How Jordan runs a 7 figure business teaching others how to build powerful relationships
  • How Jordan’s podcast went ballistic and how he uses it as a lead gen for his coaching class
  • The number one strategy for building a solid social skill foundation

Other Resources


Steve: You are listening to The My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where I bring in successful boost strapped business owners to teach us what strategies are working and what strategies are not. Now this isn’t one of those podcasts where we bring on famous entrepreneurs simply to celebrate their success. Instead I have them take us back to the beginning and delve deeply into the exact strategies they used early on to gain traction for their businesses. If you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes and enter my podcast contest where I’m giving away free one on one business consultations every single month. For more information go to And if you are interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to for more information. Now onto the show.

Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to The My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Jordan Harbinger on the show. Now Jordan together with his partner AJ run The Art of Charm Podcast, where they provide relationship advice unto men and women but mostly guys. Now I’ve actually listened to a couple of episodes and they are all really interesting because the study of human relationships has always intrigued me and it’s really fascinating to see everything spelt out for me in a podcast, that I can listen to on the way to work. But what’s even more interesting to me, is that they turn this podcast into a very profitable business. Now today The Art of Charm Podcast is one of the most popular podcast over all in iTunes. And they also have their own show on XM satellite radio. Now I for one since I just started this podcast relatively recently, I’m very interested in understanding how they monetize their podcast, and exactly how they make money. So welcome to show Jordan.

Jordan: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.

Steve: Yeah so give us the quick background story and tell us exactly how the podcast comes into play and what you actually sell.

Jordan: Sure. So essentially when I was in law school, I was mentored/ un-mentored by a lawyer who hired me and he was never in the office. Rumor had it he made more money than everybody else. And one day he sat me down for coffee and he’s like, “I didn’t care about the job at all because I didn’t really want to be a lawyer.” And he was like, “Ask me anything.” He probably figured I was going to be like, “So how do you, you know develop your career?” And he was going to give me some crap cookie kind of answer and I was like, “How come everyone says you make more money and you are never here.” And he was like, “Oh well actually all the smacks that are in the office on Sunday night at one O’clock in the morning are pretty much replaceable, like they have a lot of technical knowledge and they might be really good at structuring certain kinds of deals and knowing what to look for and that’s valuable but they are not as valuable as people who go out and get business for the firm which is me.”

And I was like, “Okay we have a really nice 10 what’s the deal?” And he says, “Well I was on a charity cruise for the last you know two weeks and I did jujutsu and I played golf and I go to these events and all those other stuff and what I’m doing is, I am making friends with people who make decisions at companies that hire the firm.” And I thought, okay wait a minute, let me get this straight. So you hung out all day and network with the right people and get people to like and trust you and give us business. And then you control the deal and take the line share of the income and these other guys work on Sunday night at one O’clock in the morning probably never see their family and they check for you know the right types of fillings and they do research all day? And he’s like, “Pretty much.” And he’s like, “There is a place for everybody but the more rare skill is the networking in business thriving slash rain making part.” Which is rain making is a Deutschbag word that us Wall street lawyers like to use, right?

So and that was a really big eye opener for me because I thought wait a minute, I like people sort of, maybe, sometimes, but I really hate checking for companies and documents. So if I want to be a successful lawyer, worry less about becoming the best lawyer, and the hardest working lawyer and worry more about making friends with people that can generate business for the company. And on top of that you can, if you had to fire one person and one of them was a work horse worked all day and night and had a great technical masonry, and the other person didn’t work that much but was responsible for the revenue generated by the company, you don’t actually have a choice.

Steve: Absolutely, you know in fact you know that’s how business works in China. It’s all about the relationships and less so about dollar and that sort of thing because for our business we sell linens. So one of the first things that we did is we hoped on a plane over to China and we started drinking with these guys. And after we met them face to face, they actually gave us much better deals on the products. I suspect that being a lawyer and that sort of a thing is all in the same lines, right?

Jordan: Yeah, I mean essentially if an investment bank can chose whoever they want to do business with and they want to make sure you are going to be responsive, responsible and capable, you can tell them and sell them all you want but at the end of the day if they are like, “This guy is cool, he’s not usually late for golf and when he is, he says he’s sorry and I know his home phone number and I met his wife, she’s a gem.” They are going to hire you because people buy you, they always buy you. And business is just people doing monetary transactions with their friends most of the time. And it’s funny because people will screw somebody over in business and be like, “Hey men it’s business.” And it’s like, “No, you are just screwing people over,”

Maybe that’s a business thing that you do but at the end of the day, you don’t really do business with people because they are giving you the best deals. If we did, we would only buy the cheapest food, we would only go to the movie theater that was close to our house, we would only eat at restaurants that were close to our house or that had cheap food. We don’t do any of those things as a consumer. You never do anything like that. Even the most hardcore like, I’m dating an Asian girl, right so her parents have like, you know they are very Asian which you know you understand as well, they don’t go, “Oh this place has the freshest sea food.” They go, “This is the place that your friend’s uncles, friend’s cousins who graduated from high school they own it, so we are probably going to get a deal.” You walk in there they are just like, “Here is the part of the fish that we just got that’s yummier.” And then it’s like, “Oh thanks.” And it’s probably all service, none of it is probably real, everyone in that restaurant probably knows somebody, that knows somebody that knows somebody that works there but it’s the perception of getting a better value. That is what matters and people do business all the time like that.

The Government does business like that as much as there is rules and regulations not to do that. Every company, every big company large or small does that, small businesses do that. Everybody does that. The people who don’t understand that or deny that or want to argue with that, more importantly are the people who don’t understand the game been played around them and they are therefore losing.

Steve: Okay, so that’s kind of what you teach in your podcast, right? You teach people how to actually become friends in order to improve their sales or different portions of their lives, right?

Jordan: Absolutely, so it can be related to business, dating, relationships, networking, anything like that can happen and that’s what we talk about in the show. You know we’ve interviewed everybody from Daymond John of Shark Tank to people who teach networking skills John Crockery. We’ve not interviewed guys like Noah Kagan of whom you had on the show to talk about all kinds of new on stuff and of course dating and relationship coaches because again people buy you. So you got to be the best.

Steve: So you mentioned that your podcast is a large part of your business. So I’ve listened to a couple of episodes and you do a great job but how does that actually lead to the money that you make?

Jordan: Well essentially the show started as a hobby and it’s still largely is. I mean I love it, but what happened was, in the beginning we were doing the show and we were interviewing people and enjoying our time, doing what we were doing and people started writing in and saying, “Hey, you know what, I’ve got a lot of value from your show, I would like to learn from you directly.” And so I said, “Well we don’t really offer anything.” And they said, “I will give you $150 dollars to talk to you on the phone for an hour, does that sound fair, it’s cheaper than your legal rates but you know wherever.” And I said, “Yeah sure.”

So I spent a whole lot of time when I was in law school sitting on a hammock in AJ’s backyard. AJ is my business partner, in his backyard on the phone and on Skype with guys in Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, California, New York, Canada and the UK and just really enjoying the time and thinking okay I guess I’m coaching now and I feel like a little bit of a sherlock in here. But this is like 10 years ago, because I don’t really have any formal training but I guess I counsel people at my law job so I understand how that process works. And they kept coming back, and coming back, and coming back, and coming back, and we would just have them on retainer like crazy. And there were like there is so much value here.

Steve: What were they asking you, what were some of the questions?

Jordan: I had so many different kinds. I had a mortgage banker who was making tons of millions of dollars per year. And he was working on getting people to like and trust him because that’s how he generated the business. So we were working on those skills set and then I jump off the phone with him and jump on a call with somebody in Denmark who is an Ethiopian immigrant who now lived in Denmark and he was like, “I don’t know how to meet people because I look different, I talk different, I act different and my whole upbringing was entirely different, where do I start?”

And we started giving him draws and exercises and he was with us for a long time and I actually heard from him about a year ago, you know granted this is five, six years after I coached him, he’s like, “I can’t even begin to thank you, you know I’ve got a girlfriend, a job, I’ve totally assimilated and I know it wouldn’t have happened this quickly without your coaching.” So of course we spent the next half decade and more learning everything we could about teaching this subject, working with people on this subject. Teaching other subjects to get better at this one, and now we have the premier program for this anywhere. In fact premiers maybe a strong word because it’s the only program for this anywhere.

Steve: Okay so this program is it live, like does someone has to fly and is it all in person or…?

Jordan: Yes, our, well, we have the free podcast of course on The Art Of Charm, we have a electronic contest that’s free, but our live training programs are in Los Angeles and I know people are like, “Where, it’s too far.” But we have clients; I’m looking in the office right now and I’m looking at the classroom and there is a guy from Australia, a guy from the UK, a guy from Canada, one guy from the United States not from California and a guy from New Zealand that just left. And we have a guy from Denmark who is not in the room right now but flew out for this.

So I’m looking around and I’m thinking there is one American guy in this program and I’ve got you know, you probably get somebody listening to the show right now on Arizona and they are going, “its five hours drive, I’m not going to do that, that’s ridiculous.” But it just shows you one the pole from the show and essentially the values that’s given there. And two the fact that if you are committed you just suck it up and you do it and stop whining about why you can’t. And that’s what I think differentiates a lot of entrepreneurs and wantentrepreneurs because guys who are doing stuff, they overcame crazy obstacles all of us have with a successful business. But the people who talk about why they can’t, why some things are going to be hard for them etcetera, etcetera, they are always lacking and it’s mostly an attitude thing. It’s always a mindset thing.

Steve: So I’m just curious then, so if you are giving these courses in person that kind of limits the number of people that you can teach in a given time, right?

Jordan: Correct.

Steve: Okay, so how, so how many people have enrolled in your course and how often do you give it every year?

Jordan: We have it every single week.

Steve: Every single week, okay.

Jordan: Every single week and we are sold out three to four months in advance.

Steve: Wow, okay so how large is the class?

Jordan: Seven guys is the cap.

Steve: Okay, oh okay, wow it’s a really almost like private instructions and all?

Jordan: It has to be. We have to tailor the coaching to the students because everybody is got– Basically what we teach at The Art of Charm is that your beliefs influence your actions, which influence your results and you can’t just change your actions and try to get different results, because the mindsets are always what guides our actions. So we have to dig in to everybody’s physic pretty deep. We have therapists on staff there is a reason why we do all the things the way we do them and so yeah. You couldn’t have more than seven or eight guys because it will just become a complete mess. And not only do we have seven or eight guys, but we have five plus instructors for those seven or eight guys.

Steve: Okay.

Jordan: So it’s pretty much individualized instruction, and there is no other way to do it effectively.

Steve: Okay and so if I understand correctly your podcast is kind of like your legion where you then talk about this class and then people go on to your website and sign up, is that correct?

Jordan: They can’t sign up online actually. We don’t allow that because like I don’t want ex-murderers or weirders in my programs, because it only takes one guy to screw it up for everyone else. So I don’t, I don’t even allow that. And people there is all these folks that are in my entrepreneurs group and stuff like that and they are like, “You need to automate it.” And I’m like, “No.” That’s exactly what we don’t want to do, because when you automate it you get the dregs. And you get the gems as well as the dregs but the problem is the gems don’t want to be in the same class as the dregs. And so it’s exclusive and we keep it that way. Not to mention I actually, we do some work with some Governmental organizations and they purposely require certain types of people either on outcome or be reported and without getting too specific, basically I think they just want to make sure that Chinese spies don’t take our classes.

Steve: Chinese spies, yeah okay right.

Jordan: I specifically chose that.

Steve: I know you did. So how do you screen these people out?

Jordan: Well, since I read people for a living, I essentially do phone calls with them that are an hour, hour and a half long. And I judge their, gauge their responses, goals, what they want to get out of the program, make sure it’s a good fit for them and also that they are going to be a good fit for us. Because at this point you know ask me six years ago, I probably would have just been stroke that somebody wanted a program, but now we are looking at waiting lists and things like that, that are so long that I can afford to be selective with everybody that comes in.

It’s not like, “Oh you are not cool, you can’t join our program or oh men you are going to be a lot of work, you can’t join.” I mean we have everybody from college students to military Special Forces but I just want to make sure there are here for the right reason. Somebody who says, “You know I’m a computer coder. I don’t have a lot of people around me all day. I would love to be able to find a great girl, settle down and get married.” Or Special Forces guy that says, “Listen there is lives depending on my ability to lead etcetera.” Those are great reasons but even a college student that says, “I don’t know it seems like fun.” Totally legit reason. A guy who says, “Women are only after money and I want to learn how to beat them at their own game.” Not welcome here, you know.

Steve: Got it, okay. This kind of reminds me of the movie hitch actually a little.

Jordan: You know its funny my business partner’s friend wrote that movie, it’s largely about what we do.

Steve: Okay, so given that the podcast is one of the legions for your business, can you just take us back to the very beginning and how you actually got your first clients through your podcast and how it all worked from the very beginning?

Jordan: Yeah, it’s a really interesting question because it was demand driven business from the beginning. We never went onto the show and went, “We are offering this now for money.” It was like guys were saying things like well you know, “I really like what you have on offer.” And we said, “Oh there is other people out there that can teach you these skills.” And it’s like, some of these clients were like, “We’ve hired all of them, we don’t like them, I want to learn from you, I relate to you.” And I thought okay fine. You know, so we offered a pretty good deal in the beginning and you know we just thought all right if you want talk to us then we can make it happen. And we will answer all your questions, and we will figure out you know how to translate our personal curriculum, and the things that we are doing into a format that you can copy even though we can’t see you. And that worked really well, we had a lot of clients who really loved it.

And then we had some guy say, “Hey, I just want meet and see you in person.” And we said, “Well we are in Michigan right now we are in Francisco and before that we were in Manhattan but we started off in Michigan when we were in glad school. And they said, “That’s okay, I will fly to Michigan, I don’t care.” And we thought, “Wow, okay, well I guess we will see you in Michigan.” So we would meet people for a day and we would say, “All right, you know it’s going to be 800 bucks or wherever.” And they go, “Okay, fine.” And they would give us a 1000 and then they would say, “What are you guys doing tomorrow?” And we would say, “Okay, we can do it again tomorrow.”

And then eventually when I moved to New York to work on Wall Street, I was still doing phone coaching but we had so many live coaching clients at that point, that I had to hire coaches to deal with the demand. And from there, we literally had people saying, “I want, I will sleep on your couch for a week and give you 5000 bucks, I just want to see it in person.” And so that’s what we did for the next you know several years. Just work on a really amazing science based curriculum and hire the best experts that we could find and then have them co-create and train the out of town clients. So now we have world class program but back then we were amazed that people wanted what we had to offer but it was demand driven. They wanted what we were selling, what we weren’t selling.

Steve: So did you do anything special with your podcast or it just grew organically?

Jordan: In the beginning essentially it grew organically. We didn’t know anything. This is 2006. There were about 800 podcasts in the iTunes store. They were not that many at all. We listed ourselves, there was you know browser, there was no cover art, nothing like that, you didn’t have anything like that in your podcast really. So we put it up there and we kept producing regularly and that set us aside from 90 percent of the other people who were uploading one or two and then quitting. And we kept going, we kept going, we kept going and we found that word of mouth had spread.

We printed out some business cards and any time people would ask us, “What are you guys doing, I always see you out with different people, how come you never wait in line or how come you never pay for drinks or how come you are at this party and you are 20 years younger than everybody else?” You know, “What’s the deal?” We would hand them the card and they would start listening and tell their friends about it. And eventually we started getting things like featured in iTunes and we started getting a lot of word of mouth and the show really took off. And then when I moved to New York we landed a guest spot on series XM satellite radio and the station manager came down. He had just randomly been air checking the show that we were on and he said, “You guys are, definitely you guys need your own show.” And so he gave us a trial period and we knocked it down the pack and we ended up with the show during the evening drive on Fridays on series XM for three and a half years.

Steve: That’s awesome so did you have a website or anything or was it just podcast in the beginning?

Jordan: We had a chrome word, I don’t even know if it was a word press or it was probably blogger actually back then. And in fact I’m almost sure it was And it just, every time we had a new show we would say like, “Episode number 003, Jordan and AJ talk about body language.” I mean that was just the script that we got back then and that was kind of how we worked it. People were finding that and they were laughing and we of course you know like every other amateur back then, we were like chucking our cover out from and stuff about because there were the only ones who had a high quality photos of anything and nobody wanted to invest any money in it because I think our budget was 90 bucks or something like that.

Steve: To start that was great.

Jordan: And the show just kept growing kept growing. And I don’t know where people were finding us back then because we weren’t smart enough to do market research really and the show kept growing. And I largely ignored it for a really long time, and I didn’t even try to consciously work on any aspect of the podcast, it just sort of seemed to be automatically operating. But once I started to focus on growing that and we started to focus on growing our client based that’s when everything really took off because we realized that we had accidentally built a marketing juggle not in the form of a value giving show that we’ve being running for years.

Steve: So let’s talk about that. What were some of the things that you did?

Jordan: Well, we have been creating the show every week for years and years. And you don’t really have to do that for that long. People found us out after the first few episodes and they were like this is amazing, I can’t believe this is free. What we were doing was giving away things that other people in our industry had essentially decided that, that should cost money. So I think marketer’s now call it pushing the free line or some crap like that.

Steve: Yeah, premium or wherever.

Jordan: Yes premium, and what that meant to us was wait a minute why should somebody give you 40 bucks for an E-book where you give advice that doesn’t cost you, didn’t cost you anything theoretically to get. And so we started giving away all of our information for free and that’s why we still do that. We give away a ton of information for free but I think intelligent people realize that’s its not, “Oh I have all this information, I don’t need to go to the workshop now.” People know that if they are not implementing information that they get and they realize that if it’s a complex skill set, they need to go and get the program because the training is where the money is, that’s where the juice is. I don’t mean the money is in like the profit; I mean that’s where the juice is. If I can’t do public speaking, I’m reading books on public speaking but I can’t give a speech, all those books are a huge waste of time or maybe they weren’t a waste time, I’ve great technical knowledge and academic knowledge about how that works but I can’t actually perform the skill.

And any really complex skill requires coaching period I don’t care what it is, and anybody is good at anything knows that. I don’t think Tiger Woods is like, “I don’t need no stinking coach.” You know he’s got three or four different coaches for different things and that doesn’t include his fitness and yoga and all that other stuff that he’s got to do to stay in shape. Any athlete, any professional, any sealable executive they have coaches left and right. And so it’s really our egos are the only things keeping us from that. So we thought, “Hey listen if our clients are really these guys who are really understanding what they want and they are willing to go for it, that’s a great client base to have because having a bunch of smart driven people, getting into your stuff is the optimal place.” That’s really where you want to be.

Steve: You know that’s actually very interesting. So I actually run a training course on the side for E-commerce. And what I found was that when I started publishing some of the core materials on the class on my blog, I ended up getting more customers who were willing to sign up and actually have access to me personally. So it sounds like the same effect that happened with your podcast as well in your business.

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean what it’s done by accident is branded us as; well I guess I’m the face of the company really and that’s fun. I love it, I love The Art of Charm and I love what we do. So I love it but it was definitely strange at first because it was like, “No wait we are not experts, we are just doing this.” And what we found is that our clients were like, “Listen the other guys that say they are experts are internet marketers that live in their parents basement. So the fact that you are actually out trying stuff and doing stuff and teaching people is actually pretty amazing.” And so they wanted to learn from people who actually are experienced and that was crucial in my understanding because I didn’t think, “I’m going to brand myself as an expert.”

Steve: Yeah, I was going to say something. Based on what you are telling me, it sounds like you kind of just grew your podcast organically based on the power of your content alone.

Jordan: Yes and I know that, that’s not the best. A lot of people are like, “Where, I hate this guy, I was looking for shortcuts.” And here is the thing, there are shortcuts go lower for people who don’t want to build something great. And I don’t really know what to say to those people, sure go look for shortcuts and follow in line with everybody else who doesn’t really do much, I mean.

Steve: Okay, yeah that’s really good advice. I mean ultimately the tricks will kind of maybe get you in the door, but then you ultimately have to put out the good stuff to kind of maintain that level of your audience.

Jordan: Yeah and I mean, don’t get me wrong there are tons of internet marketers that are all tricks and they making a lot of money but at the end of the day you can really deliver value in both ways, so you don’t need to only rely on tricks. You might as well develop something real that you offer people, rather than relying on the numbers game of seeing how many stupid people you can fool into buying your crap.

Steve: Absolutely, that’s great advice. So you know Jordan I’m actually really curious about what you teach and I was actually hoping that you would be able to give us some sort of quick lesson about some of the material that you actually coach in your course.

Jordan: Yeah, I mean most of what we do unfortunately for the podcast format, a lot of communication and I mean like 90 plus percent is non-verbal. So it’s really difficult to coach somebody that you have no previous relationship with in podcast format. But what we can talk about, I mean there is a million different things. I mean for example if you are looking at the fact that most communication is non-verbal then you know you need great body language to make a good first impression.

And so one of the quick tips that anybody in podcast learned, I hate that word, can pick up is that, is that you need to create a great first impression. And most people think their first impression is when they decide to make it. For example I use a dating analogy here. What we are looking at, a bunch of guys go out and they are like, “We are going to meet girls.” So they get up and they haul themselves off to the bar or whatever and they are thinking all right we are going to have a couple of drinks, we are going to chill, we are going to pretend to watch the basketball game and you know hung out and talk and then you know once that kicks in we are going to start talking to the girls. So guys go in there, they are sharking around in circles looking for where the cute girls are, they go and fix their hair, they grab a couple of shots, they grab a couple of drinks. They pretend to watch the basketball game; they sit in the corner staring at the girls. And then one of them goes, “All right, I’m doing it man, I’m going to go up and do this.” And so he walks up there in his broad voice. He walks up there and he’s like, “Hey what are you guys drinking?” And the girls are like, “No thanks.” And he goes, “Whatever, girls only want guys who have money, it’s because I don’t have a Rolex, that’s why they rejected me or whatever.” Meanwhile that has nothing to do with it.

The reason is because his first impression wasn’t, “Hey ladies what are you drinking?” His first impression was soaking around, walking around the bar, looking for the girls, pretending to watch the basketball game, building up courage, liquid courage at that. And the girls notice this, they are not dumb. They see this; women are about 20 times better than men at looking at non verbal communication. And so their first impression was when he became the blink on their radar which was probably right when he walked in the door. And since he blew that for 20 minutes waiting for the scotch to kick in, his first impression was made so long ago. By the time he had you know scraped together the gone ends to go up and say, “Hey what are you guys up to?” They were like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah we got it, you’re partially drunk and now you are ready to chat, see you later.” And…

Steve: So it’s all about body language. It’s basically what you are telling me?

Jordan: It’s all about non verbal communication which is not just body language. It’s vocal tonality, eye contact, the way you sit down and walk and talk. How committed you are and how strong you show and there is a lot of different things and that’s not physical strength, that’s like charisma, personal magnetism. How other people relate to you. I mean these are all crucial factors that people use to create a subconscious first impression of you. And the reason that’s important is because if you don’t have that in place, it doesn’t matter what you say. That’s why when guys are like, “I still don’t know what to say, what should I do to start the conversation?” It doesn’t matter.

In fact we’ve actually tested this, years ago. Me, and AJ would walk up to people and we would challenge each other. What’s the dumbest thing we can possibly say and it was like, “I like salad.” And we literally started conversations like that with the girls that we ended up dating because I remember walking up to one girl and saying, “I like salad.” And she goes that’s nice wierdo and then we started talking and laughing because it was clearly so random, but it didn’t matter at all. And so you can have un-conversely the most brilliant thing or like, “Hey blah, blah, blah” convenient really cool, clever sounding thing and the girls not going, “Wow that took a lot of effort and it was really creative.” She is thinking whatever you read that on the internet, like this is so stupid why am I even here? And so it really has nothing to do with it, because you don’t demonstrate any of the qualities that she finds desirable through things that you say. She is looking for confidence, charisma, signs of leadership, the ability to provide and protect, personal magnetism, the way you make her feel. None of that has to do with this stuff that you say in the first two minutes of a conversation, none of it, zero percent.

Steve: So let’s change the context a little bit. Let’s say I wanted to approach someone really famous in the world of business, and I wanted to get business advice from that person. How would you go about approaching someone like that? Let’s say I was trying to approach Bill Gates for example.

Jordan: Sure and I mean the metaphorical approach here is what we are going for. Because obviously even if you found yourself at a party with Bill Gates, walking up there and be like, “Hey Bill, I want some business advice.” It’s pretty much like the worst thing you could possibly say to somebody in that position because you are just, basically you are like the [hormones??] guy is like, “ Hey men, hey you got a dollar.” That’s all you are doing when you bringing that guy to party. And that actually goes for talking with women; it goes for talking with anybody in a higher value position wherever you might put them in a higher value position.

For example if you had a party and you wanted business advice from Bill Gates, you are putting him in that position as higher value because of where he is, but if you are mount biking and he’s falling and looking really tentative in your bad ass mountain biker, guess who’s in the higher value position? Right, it all has to do with situational context.

So what’s you would want to do in that case is and this is how I network with people at different levels as well. I will, one first of all you got to find out what the value add is for them. And the best way to do that is to network with people that know them already. And so you might have to work up the chain. You might have to contact somebody in your network that knows somebody in their network, that knows somebody closer to that person and their network. And you need to find out how you can give value because people are wasting those people’s time all day. And I know this for a fact because they are wasting my time all day. So if they are wasting my time all day, then they are definitely wasting more Cuban and Bill Gates time all day or trying to.

Steve: Interesting.

Jordan: And at that point where you are a billionaire or whatever or even a millionaire for that matter your biggest defense that you have, you are not trying to keep your money, you’re not trying to keep your– the only thing you are trying to protect is your time because that’s the only thing you can’t purchase more of at that point. And so what you do to protect your time, you hire a secretary who has an assistant, who has a secretary who has an assistant to make sure that nobody gets to you that isn’t supposed to. Not one second of your time should be wasted by spam email, phone calls. I mean there is just no chance in hell that, that should happen. And so you’ve got to protect your time like crazy and so the way that you do that, the way that you get through that is not by saying, “Wait, I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse and it’s going to make you double your revenue overnight.” Because they’ve heard it all before and there’s nothing you are actually going to do that can provides that. So you’re only going to establish a relationship with them on a bunch of BS.

So the way that you would have to do that, you have to work up the chain. You have to network and you have to put that into play. But mostly the way that you do that in the beginning is you have to find somebody to use Bill Gates technology. You have to find somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody, and is close to those degrees as you can that needs value from something that you can provide. And you provide that and then later on you might get them to provide return value in the form of hooking you up with somebody who might be able to get you closer to them. The idea of walking up to somebody like that, and asking for business advice even if you did have the opportunity, what’s he going to do. I mean he has no choice but to say no.

Steve: Or give you some very vague answer and then just kind of walk off.

Jordan: Sure, because you are essentially asking Bill Gates for consulting. Like how, why would you, why would he do that?

Steve: Absolutely, you know actually one thing I do when I approach. So I didn’t actually think about it until now after talking to you. One thing I do is– I don’t even, if I wanted business advice, I don’t even talk about business at all in the beginning. I try to kind of establish a rapport about other things whether it will be family, kids is actually something really easy to talk about. Every parent has stories about their kids, and then once you establish a rapport then kind of steer the conversation very casually over to business.

Jordan: Yeah I mean I hate to brush about all that but that’s probably work really well on people that are Bill Gates or even higher level. But I really don’t know because whenever, for example if I meet a mixer and somebody is like, “Hey Jordan, how have you been doing, what’s going on men?” And we are having small talk, I’m literally sitting there going, “When are you are going to ask me for want you want.” Sometimes I don’t even interrupt them, or I’ll even interrupt them. Bear in mind, I read people for a living so I know if you are just making small talk because you are going to break something at down later and I just go, “Hey cut the chase, what can I do for you.” I don’t say it like that but I will give you a more AOC branded charming way of saying, “Hey I’ve got to run, so what can I do for you?” Something like that because I know that what’s coming is, “So I know you got the show and I was wondering if you could advertize my supplement pill on it or wherever.” It happens every single day everywhere that I go. Anything that has to do with business and that’s why I don’t go to networking events that are not exclusive anymore. I used to, I can’t do it anymore.

The other thing honestly that will, that will blow up on your face is if you feel like, “Hey kids rapport blah, blah, blah and then he goes, “So I have a question for you,” What they are doing even if they didn’t see it coming is they are going, “Okay so you are just talking to me about that other stuff, because you wanted something from me, go it.”

Steve: Right.

Jordan: So you are not giving any value and that’s a great way to ensure that those people just avoid you next time.

Steve: Yeah, actually so this actually completely applies to everything related to the internet, right. So I run a blog and people approach me and if they burst that question right away, then I tend to get turned off by that. One thing I do and you can tell me if this is the right way, the wrong way. I establish a relationship early on and then I wait like three to six months and then I just kind of check in from time to time. And then it might be a year before I ask to see if you want to do something together or work together.

Jordan: It’s great and the reason, I do want better, give them value from time to time instead of just checking in because yes it might seem like, “Hey you know this guy hasn’t asked me for anything and I’ve known him for a while, so we have that sort of time invested in so I sort of trust him not to be a total freak because I sort of known him on the periphery but imagine if it were that plus, “Well men Jordan has sent me articles and he’s introduced me to people for like the last 12 months and now all he wants to do is do a cross promotion interview?” Sure, I mean why would I not do that. If anything I owe him one.

And here is the catch. A lot of people are going, “Tick, tick, tick, you are only helping people because you want something in return.” Not true, I help everybody and the thing is I don’t necessarily ever need anything in return. For most people who are asking me for help even small things like, “Hey I’ve got a question about this; can you point me to some resources?” I will point them up to somebody in my company whose job it is to point them to those resources. Because I don’t have time to personally help everyone but I won’t ignore someone just because I can’t, just because they can’t do anything for me but I will always give value. And that’s the reason when I do need something I can post it on freaking Facebook, and I have 100 responses in my inbox.

And I just did this recently. So perfect example I could not find a good graphic designer. So I just kept going through them. All these people were so freaky or they had no talent. And so I posted on facebook, “Hey guys anybody got a graphic designer?” Within 20 minutes I had 18 graphic designers in my inbox and it wasn’t the designers. They weren’t pitching themselves, it was people saying, “I’ve used this guy before, he’s excellent, his rates are great. Or this person did this project see here, link here, tell me what you think, if you are interested I will make the introduction for you.” I had 18 of those and so I reached out to everybody who showed me quality work and I found a graphic designer in two hours that I had hired already. And that wasn’t because people are like, “Oh I really like your podcast.” Some of it was but most of it was because somebody had, of those people I can probably go tick, tick, tick down the list and find somebody who would slept on my couch, you know borrowed 10 bucks when they needed it, asked me for a podcast that helped save their relationship or helped them get out of a bad one. Somebody who I had helped get a job. Somebody who I had helped get rid of somebody that they didn’t end and that sounds like a mafia thing.

Get rid of somebody in their company that they didn’t want and they didn’t know how to do it tactfully. Somebody who needed a legal, a little bit of a legal advice and these are, you know this is the value that you give in and each and every day and you don’t expect anything in return because one day you will, and when you do, that will already be there. You dig your well before you are thirsty.

Steve: That is a very good analogy. So I’m just trying to put all these together in the context of running a business now. Let’s say I wanted to start a business selling something. How important is the social aspect versus the actual nuts and bolts and behind the scene stuff? And what I’m trying to ask here and trying to formulate the question properly. How much, how important is it to dedicate to just networking versus the core foundations for your business if you are just starting out?

Jordan: I would say there are equally there because what a lot of people would do, again dig your well before you’re thirsty, right. So what people do is they go, “Well you know, I’m not in a place where I can/ need a network right now.” And I go again dig your well before you are thirsty. Because what happens with those people is they go, “Well you know I still don’t have an App, so I don’t need a network to promote it. Or you know I still don’t have a product so I don’t need to start talking with people about it.” So what happens is when the– when it’s time to start promoting their new venture, they are in a place where they need that return on that networking because they are going, “oh, oh we are sitting here with this product and we need to get people, we need to get the word out fast.” And so there are you know meetings here, meetings there and all they are doing is asking for value from people that they probably haven’t hung out with or given any of the value to previously. And so they’ll have to hire somebody called growth hacker or whatever. It’s best where somebody has a network and when you hire a PR firm, you are getting a 22 year old girl who has access to a database started by a guy who has great people skills. You are not buying anything other than press release writing, which your monkey can do. And so you are buying, people buy networks all the time. I promise it’s never as effective as the one you can make yourself, ever.

Steve: So what advice would you give on how to establish a network, if you’re just starting from the very beginning?

Jordan: If you are starting from the very beginning what you need to do, is go back to what we had discussed previously which is always give value first. If you haven’t even the faintest idea of what you might need later on, you need to start giving value to people that can either introduce you to people that can help you or people that can help you directly. So if you have an App and you are on Silicon Valley, you need to start going to– Don’t go to meets up with other start up people, maybe once in a while but usually that’s just a bunch of value lichens there anyway. Go to a place where, get to the highest level of networking that you can. And you might have to call in a favor.

For example, I will tell you what. There is a guy who came to The Art of Charm and I always use him as an example so he’s had to prey again pretty big by now, but he’s phenomenal. He’s 20 years old, others still think, he’s 20 years old and he patented a medical device, okay. So he’s a smart kid but he came to us because he knew he would need the people’s skills later on. So what he’s done, is he came to the boot camp and he’s really be killing it and he goes. I can’t, I honestly not a day goes by where I don’t get, I should say prior a week goes by where I don’t get an email from him that says, “Hey Jordan this guy would be a good fit for your show or have you read this book, I will save you the trouble, here is the summary that I wrote after I read it.” And he does this all of the time. So when I’m looking for new guests, he’s already made intro to three different people who he thinks are fit based on him listening to the show for years. That’s value that I can’t buy. And its value that I can’t get anywhere else and I didn’t have to ask for it.

So when he says something like, “Hey I was wondering if I can get XYZ.” I can’t be like, “Sorry bro.” I can’t, I literally can’t even do it, I have to say yes. There is no other choice because he’s given me so much value that I have to reciprocate it as best as I can. So I’m literally trying to find ways to almost like pay this kid back. And I have tons; I’m actually taking him with me to North Korea. He wanted to go on a trip. So there is tons of people that do that for us here at the Art of Charm and it’s one of the reasons our business has grown.

Now when he needs an introduction to somebody that I have in my network, it’s as good as done. I don’t even care if it’s Damon John or Mike Cuban I have to make that intro, because one he’s not going to let me down and make me look bad but he’s certainly done enough to deserve it. And there are other people who probably patented medical devices at age 20 that live in their you know some basement somewhere, and there are going to have a really tough time because they don’t have the skills and again people buy you. They buy you. There might be somebody who has patented that exact same, medical device and they are just waiting for someone to realize they are genius, and they are not going to get the job oh my boy. They are not; it’s not going to be possible.

Steve: Wow, so how did you guys hook up? He took your class then?

Jordan: He cold emailed me. He did take my class but before that, he cold emailed me, and he was like. Instead of going, “Hey I really need XY and Z”, which is like every email that I get every hour of every day. He went, “Here’s a great guest for your show, I’ve being listening for a long time, also here is another great guest, here is the link to the guys website, here is his email, do you want me to write an introduction? If so just reply with a yes and I will send the following two paragraph introduction that he had pasted below.” So I replied with a, “Yes.” And 10 minutes or an hour or whatever it was later, I had an email from him ccing me, introducing me to the other guy saying, “I’m a fun of both of you guys and I think you will be a great fit for Jordan show dot, dot dot, here he is, he’s already said that he’s interested.” He saved me time, he saved me effort and he knows exactly what I’m looking for. I, you can’t buy that. It’s virtually impossible. I’d have to train an assistant for years to do that for me.

Steve: It sounds like he didn’t even need your course. This is what it sounds like.

Jordan: I think he learned that from our show. We teach that at the Art of Charm all the time.

Steve: I see, okay. And it’s kind of also implies that he also kind of had his own little network as well, because of the fact that he was able to introduce you to people.

Jordan: Not at all. Here is how that works. So and this is the key. And this is where most people go wrong. They go, “well I don’t have any money, I don’t have anything to offer, I don’t have any way to give value.” It’s not true. There is other times where he’ll come to me and he’ll say, “Hey do you have anybody that knows this and this and this because I want to meet this person and I know he’s looking for this.” And I will say, “Sure I can introduce person A, who is looking for these three things to this other guy in my network who has this.” But rather than me making the introduction, I’ll say actually, I will introduce you to him first and he will give that person value. So basically I’m introducing Victor this is this guy’s name to person A. And person A is looking for these things. Victor will email him over me. I will make that intro and then he will make that intro to person C. So now both of those people are like, “Yeah this guy Victor hooked us up men, really appreciated you introducing me to him.” Doesn’t cost me anything. Sure I could have gotten an ego bound for hooking those two people on my network but, one it wasn’t my idea and two, I don’t need that. I don’t need that social currency I already have it. So I basically gave it to him but he printed it. Does that make sense?

Steve: It does. Actually I’m just realizing now because Noah Kagan actually introduced us together. And he’s actually introduced me to a lot of other podcast guests who I’ve since interviewed and now I really feel like I owe the guy. Dumb I do yeah.

Jordan: And I will tell you a secret. The reason he introduced us is because I was like, “Hey I saw you were on this show, I would like to get on more shows because that’s how my podcast grows, can you make the intro?” And he did. Now I owe him, and you owe him.

Steve: Well played Noah, well played.

Jordan: Exactly, but that happens all the time. And so maybe I don’t have any value. Say I don’t have any value to offer you and I don’t have any value to offer Noah Kagan, which hopefully is not true. But I know that you guys randomly don’t know each other, and that you actually need something that one of the other– each of the others has. By virtual of me making that connection, I just printed social currency because both of you guys now are like, “Oh Jordan is the man.” And then I’m like, “Hey can I have XYZ and a dollar 50 for a beco?” You are like, “Yeah sure.” Because I made that valuable connection. So you don’t need to have a network to create a network and you certainly don’t need a value other than, you don’t need monetary value or some sort of intrinsic expertise. Once you brought that Rolodex, that is value in and of itself and you can keep using it by weaving connections in it together. And you know a lot of people are afraid to do that, they are like, “I don’t want to hook up Steve and Noah because then they are going to hung out without me.” That’s a scare city mindset. What you need is an abundance mindset, which is the more people on my network that know each other, the more important I actually become.

Steve: So then you act like the hub?

Jordan: You are the hub of the network. Even if they are doing things without you, they are not like, “You know if I introduced you to Noah and you guys are off doing something, you are not going to be, when I come to you guys and I’m like, hey you guys both have really cool business, I kind of really need help from that business, you are not going to be like, screw you that introduction was a year ago, we don’t owe you anything.” You are going to be like, “Oh yeah he kind of was in the beginning of this thing and one of the reasons that it started.”

The principle of reciprocity is there. It’s just Robert Cialdini writes about in his book ‘Influence”, “Psychology of Influence” and sure, sometime, in some ways, sometimes people are just going to screw you over, but guess what those people they do it once and then you don’t help them again. And they are gone and you learn a cheap lesson and also it didn’t really cost you anything. Like what if I introduced you to Noah and Noah is like,” Whatever Jordan, you are a duck, I don’t want to hang up with you.” You know that’s fine. I didn’t really lose anything by introducing you guys, right. May be I got rejected and I feel bad about myself for a while, but it’s not really big deal.

Steve: Oh there is a little bit of credibility in there. Like let’s say I introduce Noah to someone who is kind of a loser, right. Then he might discount my future referrals.

Jordan: Exactly, you put your relationship thread on the line and that’s why you don’t make introductions to people that you don’t really know or you don’t really like. In fact you can also– you never want to make an introduction to somebody that’s going to blow that for you. On the other hand I’ve gotten introductions from people that have not worked out and have been totally flaky. And that person feels bad but here is the thing, “it’s okay, I would rather have 10 intros and have one of them not work out than no intros and have all of them work out. What’s a 100 percent of zero, right?

Steve: Yeah, no I hear you.

Jordan: So people really won’t fault you for that. Like I could introduce you to Noah and then he like steals your TV and I’m like, “Holy crap, I did not see that coming.” You are not going to be like, “Jordan, you did that on purpose.” You are going to be like, “Wow, we both really got, sobered by that guy.” And it’s not like every intro I make for you, to you is going to be that bad. Noah Kagan is a special case, right?

Steve: Exactly.

Jordan: Yeah so like it really doesn’t matter if that happens. That’s kind like of a scare city mindset as well like “Oh what if this happens.” Shit happens dude, you know what and it’s not that big of a deal when it does but yeah you definitely want try to avoid that if possible, but I would say error on the side of making the intro anyway. And you can always follow up with somebody. You know, if I’m going to do it again, if I introduce you to Noah, I can also write you or Noah and be like, “By the way for just FYI he seems really cool, but we’ve never met in real life, so you know don’t let him sleep on your couch.” You know whatever and that’s fine. You know and I would hope that the introduction would say something along those lines anyway, because the more authentic those are the better in my opinion.

Steve: Awesome Jordan. You know we’ve been talking for about 50 minutes now. I’ve actually gotten a whole lot out of this podcast, so I thank you for that. I just thought I end this interview by asking you how people can find you online and you know hopefully where people can learn more about your relationship advice. I think it’s very valuable especially in business. And you know some of the things you talked about, I didn’t even realize, was actually going on. And you know like the fact that I now kind of feel like I owe Noah for these introductions and that sort of things. So I think everything you’ve spoken today is just great, and it’s really nice that you pointed everything out in a very concise manner that I now can actually recognize and actually act upon.

Jordan: It’s all about seeing the matrix’s men. Now that you see it you can focus on things that are working. You can see subconscious processes in yourself and other people. And that of course closely mirrors what we teach at The Art of Charm as well.

Steve: Nice, okay so where can people find you?

Jordan: I would say you know what typically people go to my website but I would say, Listen, you are listening to a podcast, go back to iTunes or station or wherever you are listening to this and search for The Art Of Charm and subscribe and write a really nice review for me if you would, optional but you know go ahead subscribe it’s all free. There is 260 episodes or so in there and go through that stuff and then if you really love what we are doing then you can buy something from me, before that don’t bother.

Steve: All right, well thanks a lot for your time Jordan. I really appreciate it.

Jordan: My pleasure men.

Steve: All right men, take care.

Jordan: Take care.

Steve: I’m going to be honest with you. Before this interview, I actually had no idea who Jordan was, but he came highly recommended from Noah Kagan. And honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after talking to him on this podcast I now have a deep respect for what he does because it’s true doing business and making money online, it’s all about the relationships. And it’s important to work on your social skills in order to succeed. For more information about this episode, please check out the show notes at and while you are there, be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I will teach you how my wife and I made over 100k in profit in our first year of business with our online store. Go to for more information. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at

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