August 23, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on My Journey to Location Independence and Financial Freedom Part 5: Our Honeymoon in Cancun!
In the last part of my journey, I married the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. Our wedding was incredible. Everything was so perfect, and I wasn’t nervous at all. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The day after, we picked up the pieces, washed our clothes, and packed our bags to leave on our honeymoon. Next stop: Cancun, Mexico!
We woke up at 4am that next morning to catch our 9am flight at LAX. It was a lot to deal with, but we were so excited that we really didn’t care. Life was good!
At the airport, I spent the hour or two we had to put together a new website for the clothing brand I was trying to promote at the time, Fenner Supply Co. I didn’t really know what I was doing with the brand, but putting up a site was no problem for me. Mission accomplished!
The flight was easy going, and we arrived in a super hot and humid afternoon in Cancun. We made the mistake of exchanging our cash at the airport, paying the higher costs that the airport charges. We also overpaid for a taxi to the hotel, but we were just happy to arrive. Juli got a great deal on a hotel/condo that was south of the main party area of the Cancun mega-hotel zone.
The first evening there we enjoyed an over-priced, but very welcome, daiquiri at the hotel restaurant.
After we enjoyed our drink, took a dip in the pool and the ocean, and frolicked in the sand for a bit.
When we were tired out, we went to work setting up our excursions for the coming 10 days. We found the local adventure park Xcaret and all the other associated parks in the area would be a great time. We booked a day trip to each park, some of theme were “todo incluido,” my favorite part!
The next morning was marvelous.
We spent our first full day in Cancun exploring the beaches of Isla Mujeres (Island of Women). We took the water taxi boat out there, enjoyed some live music on the top deck while watching the crystal clear blue water pass below us. When we arrived we went straight to a booth and paid for a day of snorkeling adventures around the island. It was a ton of fun!
After snorkeling, we rode scooters around the island. It was a little scary but a ton of fun. We rode all the way from one end of the island to the other. Here we are on the other side of the island taking a break.
This is what the other side of the island looked like.
The next morning I awoke to the most incredible scene. We had found a condo unit that the owner rented out for way cheaper than a hotel would have cost. The unit was on the southern end of the hotel strip too, which meant less noise. The hotel cost $100 a night. Comparable beach-front units cost upwards of $500. Thanks to this great deal Juli found, we were able to plan our stay for 10 days. Here’s what our daily view looked like.
We spent the entire day being lazy, swimming, getting a tan and drinking beer. It was perfect. That night, we snuck out to catch a tour bus down to the adventure park Xplor Fuego. It was at night, and the park was really fun, not to mention it was all inclusive. Here’s a pic of us on the zip line.
There was way more at Xplor than just the zipline. It was filled with wild cool stuff to do including underground cave rivers, an off-roading adventure (even though it was on a trail) and all sorts of underground pathways that lead to cool places. Here are some pics.
The next day it was just as beautiful as the last. There were people riding jet skis, parasailing, sunbathing and boogie boarding right in front of our condo.
Later that day I found a really cool Mayan-themed stained glass ceiling at our local shopping market.
The next day we did some more swimming and hanging out, but in the evening Juli had signed us up for the Xoximilco night boat ride and dinner party. They basically take you around a maze of waterways and right up next to other boats that sometimes have musicians playing live music, vendors selling souvenirs, or chefs handing out the meals to be served. It’s all inclusive by the way, except for the souvenirs. It turned out to be really fun and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a good time in Cancun. Here’s a pic of us kissing during one of the dancing moments.
The next day we took a tour bus day trip to Chichen Itza, the infamous Mayan city deep in the jungle. It was hotter that day than it had been in the days before, and I was sweating balls. I couldn’t handle it! The tour guide was a very cool guy, though, and made it really fun even though the humidity and heat that day were unbearable. We found him through TripAdvisor. Regardless, it was amazing to learn all the stories behind the ancient city and the Mayan culture. Here are a few pictures.
On our way back we stopped at a cenote called Ik Kil. The water was cool, our spirits were high, and the day was still young.
On the way back to Cancun, we stopped in a small town that had a beautiful church.
We had a lot of fun that day, but after we got back, it was a wrap. The next day, we got up at the crack of dawn to go down to Xcaret. We did our first “snuba” dive (“snuba” is like scuba diving but where your air is hooked up to a tank at the surface of the water.) We also enjoyed a nice dinner in the front row of the stadium while watching a native dance show. It was a magical day.
The next day we had our first scuba dive scheduled! We went to the local scuba diving center first thing in the morning for our pre-dive instructional class in the pool. We learned safety techniques and met a really cool couple from Miami that was on vacation in Cancun. It was so much fun going out on the dive boat, gearing up, jumping in and sinking down 30 feet to the sea floor. The dive we went on was more special than most because it was to explore the “underwater museum” in Cancun. The statues were really cool looking because they had been covered by a few years worth of new growth corals. Here are some pictures from the dive trip:
The scuba diving adventure was incredible and we were very exhausted afterwards, but we didn’t skip a beat. The very next day we had set up a day at the adventure park Xel Ha. This is an all inclusive adventure park that is basically a giant inlet filled with sea life. We had so much fun here.
We started the day eating a late breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast, we hit up the Snuba Xenote, a “snuba” adventure into an underwater cave. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Although we couldn’t go as deep into the cave as I had wished due to the restraints of the air tubes, it was still incredible. It was like being in one of those documentaries where the people scuba dive into the caves. There were also some BIG fish down there! They apparently learned to follow the people because they hand out treats to the fish so they come in close for pictures. This one looks like its about to eat Juli, but it was just close to the camera.
You start by grabbing a snorkel kit and floating vest, then you can start anywhere along the floating river, or go all the way to the beginning of it. We rode bikes to the beginning because I wanted to experience it in a fun way as opposed to taking the bus. we opted out of innertubes and did the snorkeling instead. There were so many fun little places to explore around along the way, but my favorite was the cliff jump. You take your snorkel off and jump into the water as wild as you want to. It was a good 20 feet up, so I didn’t do any flips or dives this time, just regular jumps. Beyond the river, you come out into the wide-open expanse of the inlet. There are areas to play around on jungle gym contraptions, caves to explore, and I even saw a stingray! We took plenty of breaks to eat and drink throughout the day. Alcoholic drinks were free along with everything else, so the day was definitely amazing!
Xel-ha was one of the best experiences of my life. We came home that day dead-tired and went right to sleep because we had the next day already planned to go to another adventure park, the main one in Cancun, Xcaret. This day was so awesome. We did a snuba adventure, we ate ourselves stupid, had a super relaxing hour long couples massage in waterfall cave, and enjoyed a full-course meal while watching dancers perform at the stadium. The day was amazing and it was the perfect climax of our honeymoon.
The next day we woke up early again to go on the Xenotes Oasis Maya tour of the local Yucatan watering holes known as cenotes.
This day was one of the most fun days of the trip because of all the water we got to play in. The entire day we jumped into and swam around the clearest and beautiful water I’ve ever gone swimming in. This water is filtered by the rocks and underground rivers of the Yucatan peninsula. Some cenotes were above ground, others were underground, and one was a river. Here are some pictures that tell the story of the day:
This picture sums up the feeling of that day:
Juli met a new friend on the drive back to the hotel:
The last full day of our vacation was a rest day. Juli did some sun bathing while I swam in the beach water and drank the beer and liquor we had accumulated over the last few days.
Before the end of the day we checked out the local museum to get a better understanding of the local Mayan culture and the vastness of their empire.
The last night we were in Cancun wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the strip and a party at a club. We got tickets online and sat in line at the club to get free drinks and bounce around with 150 other crazy Cancuners. It was pretty fun, but wasn’t really my scene, so we cut out early and packed up for our trip back home.
The day we left there was just enough time to take the bus down to playa tortugas to take a pic with the famous Cancun sign. There was a huge line but I convinced Juli to just run up to the sign in between picture takers for a quick snap and it worked! We got this perfect pic without the two-hour wait.
We almost missed the flight back thanks to our flight in not telling us to keep our immigration documents. We had to pay $60 to get new ones made at the last minute before boarding our flight. Luckily we didn’t wait til the end of the line to board. They stopped me at the security checkpoint because my backpack was positive for bomb making materials. I was freaking out. I told Juli to run to the gate and tell them to hold the plane for me. Otherwise, it would take off without us. It worked! The flight person walked to the security point to meet me and escort me to the plane. It was a close call but we got on the plane safely and were very happy it all worked out. Here’s a shot I captured as we left Cancun.
Overall the trip was incredible. We visited a ton of adventure parks, got to experience the real Cancun via bus and local vendors. The scuba diving and snuba adventures were breathtaking. It was an experience of a lifetime. I hope to go back someday soon and stay at Cozumel where all the great diving is. My goal is to make enough money online to travel there and stay on a diveboat for a week while we dive every day at some of the most beautiful dive spots in the world.
Here’s the video I made of our honeymoon adventures:
Thanks for reading about our honeymoon adventures! Stay tuned for the next chapter of my story, our big move to Long Beach and 8 months of enjoying an entirely new side of Los Angeles.
August 19, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on Weekly Roundup: $30,000 in Sales, Podcasting, and a Fun Hike
The grind is real. We’ve been busting our asses lately to grow our businesses. The days are 12-14 hours long and we escape for a couple hours during lunch and another couple hours during dinner, but that’s it. My daily exercise lately is an hour of skating cherry park in the evenings. Regardless of how much work we are doing right now, we are working to build businesses and we aren’t trading our time for money. We currently have 6 drop ship site projects, 8 affiliate site projects, we each have a personal blog and an ebook. We are working on launching a podcast. We both have YouTube channels. We have plans to create online video courses to teach entrepreneurs how to start online businesses and live a better life as well as eat a vegan diet to lose weight and feel healthy.
Our results are showing! In our first drop ship site, we recently hit the $30,000 sales milestone. We hit it today with just one order that was over $1,000.
Throughout all the crazy work we managed to have some fun. Last Saturday we took an afternoon off to hike Temescal Canyon Park in Pacific Palisades. It was a beautiful day, our friends came out to join us and we all had a great time. Here’s the video:
Here are some pictures:
After the hike we met up with our friend Travis from the How To Do Your 20’s podcast. We recorded an interview for the podcast. The interview was mostly about our story, how we became entrepreneurs and what advice we had for others looking to do the same. Here’s a picture of his podcasting kit:
If you’re interested in starting a podcast, the items here are:
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphones. These are easy to use, lightweight, and sound great. They are perfect for the traveling podcaster and if you’re looking to film online courses on the go. They go for around $80 on Amazon. Click here to get one.
Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder – 2016 Version. This is a professional audio recording device that records up to 4 channels at a time. I’ve read that the upgraded H5N is actually better as far as sound quality and functionality goes. You can check out the H4N here and the H5N here. The price is around $200 and $250 respectively.
I use a BlueMic to record all the walk-through videos for my YouTube channel. I am considering starting a podcast eventually, so I might upgrade my kit to include the recorder, but for now I record audio using Quicktime.
After our great weekend, we had an amazing week of sales. Our weekly sales total exceeded our expectations. Our sales are growing at 1.5 to 2 times the previous month to month comparisons. Our total weekly sales exceeded half the entire month of July. Here’s the breakdown of total sales coming from each sales channel.
Amazon is still our biggest revenue source, but it’s also our smallest profit margin since Amazon takes 15% of each sale. We are paying a lot for Google product listing ads at the moment to get traffic to our Shopify stores, but we still make around 22% gross profit margin. The ads total around 800 per week, so if you do the math, our net profit was around $2,242. If things improve or stay the same that will put us around $9,000 profit for the month, minus business expenses of course.
At the end of the week (today) I re-published my e-book as “E-commerce Paradise” and created a new site specifically to sell the book. The website (http://ecommerceparadise.com) also has a blog and in the future will have an online course as well. My goal is to create a super in-depth course that will cover everything I’ve ever done with online business including blogging and affiliate marketing so everybody can see how it is done. I was successful wth drop shipping once, and I’ve become successful again, so it’s possible for anyone to do it. You just need enough grit, tenacity, motivation and ambition to get the work done. I’m working on doing more blogging and affiliate marketing now (the right way) so I can build more passive wealth for the future.
To kickstart my affiliate marketing again I re-signed up for Wealthy Affiliate. It’s an online course and hosting combined into one with a great community of people. I blog every day with a status update, wins, losses, and goals for the future. It’s a way for me to let all my feelings out and help others who are just getting started.
My proudest achievement of the week? Definitely experiencing our first podcast interview and hitting the $30,000 sales milestone in the same week were amazing accomplishments. There’s so much more work to be done, but I feel like we are really getting somewhere.
However, I probably won’t get any of this work done next week. Why? I’m going on vacation!
I’ll be spending the entire next week and weekend up in Seattle with my family. Juli and her sister Kim are coming along too. It’s going to be the perfect opportunity to film some great family videos for my YouTube channel and reconnect with them. It’s been about 8 months since we’ve seen them and a lot has happened! I told my sister before I left in January that I was going to start a new business online and make $5,000 a month, then I was going to travel the world. Looking back, I’m amazed that I did exactly what I said I would do. It’s really cool to see that!
My next post should be amazing!
Hope you guys have an awesome weekend and week, I’ll see you all next time.
This week was the week of our first wedding anniversary! A year ago this week, we got married on the beach at Point Dume in Malibu, California. That day was incredible! A lot of our family and friends showed up and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. It was a day to remember!
A couple days later we left on a plane to Cancun, Mexico to enjoy 10 days of amazing day-trips to adventure parks, snorkeling, scuba diving and other wild shenanigans. We were enjoying the $50,000 I made from the sale of my first e-commerce business.
Every week I’m doing more to grow my online businesses. I made a decision a little while back to move our business to Washington State because we plan to be out of the country for some time and I realized that we can save a lot of money in the future by moving to a state that doesn’t have any income tax.
I did things the right way and set up an LLC. It feels great to be a protected business entity now. I also got our new EIN and am waiting to get my business license from the state which could take up to 60 days. Everything was so easy to do. All I did was go online to file everything so far. The only things I can’t do online are set up a business checking account and get my new WA state drivers license. I’ll be doing a post about the entire process as soon as I’ve finished with it so you can know how to do it yourself.
I’ve moved past the initial start-up on a few of my new e-commerce stores and I’ve started working to start a blog for each of them. I’ve come up with an entire plan after doing some research to see what other successful brands have done to create content in their space. What I saw was a lot of brands created a separate blog outside of their e-commerce site to build a community through. This could be a subdomain like blog.mydomain.com or an entirely new brand like BeardBrand and their magazine website the Urban Beardsman. This was only one example, but I saw this consistently elsewhere. I decided to follow suit. My opinion is that building a community around the niche I’m selling in will help gather people that I can market to. I’ve decided to do this through a subdomain, though. I feel that the subdomain site will be easier to navigate and will rank better on Google since the site will be based on the WordPress platform and Google loves WordPress.
I came up with a whole list of different types of articles and hired a writer who does 500-word articles for $5 each. The point is to be informative with the articles. I want to bring people in through organic search and social media, give them lots of value, offer them a buyer’s guide as an incentive to sign up for an email list, then create an email autoresponder series that will provide them with even more education over the course of a few weeks. The eventuality is that they will keep my company top-of-mind when they’re ready to make their purchase and if anything they’ll want to buy that product through me because they want to reciprocate.
I took the first step to do this and bought $300 worth of content (around 57 articles) and am working on the second batch now. I currently have 5 e-commerce stores I’m working on building, so it might take some time, but it’s well worth it. I’ve figured out how to do content marketing mixed with email marketing to get more traffic through other sources and keep them coming back. The next step is to make videos from the content. My current plan is to do slideshow presentation videos talking about the information, but I will probably outsource that to someone on Fiverr since I can spend my time building new businesses while others do the creative work for me. This way I’m sticking to what I’m best at, growing a business, while also supporting people in the process.
Here are links to the gigs I particularly liked: (I’ve used the first two myself and highly recommend them, the other two I haven’t used yet but I may in the future)
A video posted by Trevor James Fenner (@trevorjfenner) on
Last Saturday I had a moment of “should I do it?” It was definitely a moment where I told myself that if I didn’t, I would regret it forever and wonder what would have happened. I wanted to skate this spot I found randomly while riding my bike months ago. It was a ramp over a rail that looked perfect. So, last Saturday, I made the decision to say “fuck it” and just do it. Juli wasn’t hard to convince, she is down for anything! Such an awesome wife!!!
A video posted by Trevor James Fenner (@trevorjfenner) on
We found our turtle a new home! Our wonderful friend Chris offered to adopt her a while back when we first made our plans to travel to Thailand. I decided that it would be better to move her over sooner than later so she would be taken care of while we are on vacation in Washington in a couple weeks. Everything went smoothly and she is very happy. We miss her dearly, we had her for almost 8 years. This was the best thing for her, and we will be able to visit her again in the future!
Bon voyage miss Turtle Burtle!
To round-out this round-up, our businesses were on fire this past week! Everyday, we are getting 3-5 sales on average from our various e-commerce sites and sales channels. Juli is doing an amazing job handling customer service and creating procedures so she can outsource it soon. I’m working on building the businesses in a million different ways.
Here’s a screen shot of the Shopify and Amazon back-end reports showing our ~$15,000 worth of sales from this past week:
That’s it for this week. Things are moving along smoothly and we are excited about our upcoming vacation to Seattle. I’ll be backpacking with my dad and uncle for a week while Juli hangs out with Sue and Kim. It’s going to be beautiful up there and I’m looking forward to experiencing the woods again. It’s been a long time!
August 7, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on My Journey to Location Independence and Financial Freedom Part 4: Getting Married on the Beach in Malibu, California
August 9th, 2015: Our Wedding took place at Point Dume in Malibu, California.
The day went perfectly. Everybody showed up and was happy. We held it on the beach in Malibu, California. Family flew in from all over the world to be a part of the ceremony and dance. It was a day to remember. (Take a close look at the picture, I went barefoot to my own wedding!)
My parents got an amazing vacation rental in the hills above Malibu where we had the pre-wedding festivities. I got to let off some steam by swimming in the pool and drinking some beer. Catching up with all the extended relatives was wonderful. It was pure happiness.
The vibes were awesome the day of the event. We had everything planned out well in advance and I arrived at 8am that morning to make sure the crew delivering the tables and chairs got the directions they needed. I tried to rope off the beach but was later told by a lifeguard that I couldn’t do that. Luckily, since it was a Sunday morning, I got to be a part of a weekly yoga class for free on the beach! It was such a blessing to be able to let out all the anxious stress that I had built up from the night before. I happily joined in and got this great picture as a result:
Everything about this day went perfectly. I had my best friends around to relax me and a ton of my family showed up that I wasn’t expecting. The ceremony was incredible. I wrote my vows that morning, on a napkin. It was so impromptu but it was totally heartfelt and easy going too. Everybody was smiling and having a great time.
After the ceremony, everybody ate the catered Mexican food by El Tapatio in Woodland Hills. It was really good and they even made a vegetable only option for the bride and groom because we are vegan. We didn’t eat much, though, because we were talking so much with everybody who came by to give us their best wishes.
Shortly thereafter, we had our first dance. It was cute and romantic, but I didn’t know any fancy dance skills, nor was I buzzed enough to try any. Nevertheless, everybody joined in for the “money dance” and got their fair share of Juli and myself for a moment. It was so much fun dancing with all my friends and family.
When the main dance ended, we sat down to eat a little bit of food before it went cold, and then the samba dancers came out. They were dressed in classic Brazilian samba dresses and danced like crazy. The four dancers showed our crowd of 50 a great time, twirling around and shaking their rumps. They picked Juli out of the crowd and had her lead a train around the entire ceremony circle. It was so exhilarating!
During this time I took short little breaks to chug some sparkling wine that a family friend brought to the wedding. If it wasn’t for the buzz I got, the next part wouldn’t have been nearly as incredible.
Juli wanted a picture on the rocks, so I gave it to her. I picked her up and carried her out to the farthest rocks that I could find. They were about 10-15 feet into the water, and far enough out to where the waves were crashing and making huge splashes. It was the golden hour and this moment was magical!
After we got back down from the rocks, we finally cut the cake, Juli tossed the bouquet and it got dark. We took some more pictures, cleaned up (I was pretty intoxicated by now) and tried to gather all the presents and wads of cash given to us as gifts by the wedding attendees.
That night we slept at a wonderful airbnb in the Malibu hills, and the rest is history.
The original shots by the photographer are here for your enjoyment!
August 6, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on Weekly Roundup: Optimization, Creating Procedures, and YouTube
Creating an e-commerce site isn’t easy. It takes patience, persistence, and hard work, not to mention creativity and focus. In the last couple months, I’ve created 2 sites that have produced over $10k each and 1 site that just hit the $1k mark. We also have taken our Amazon and eBay stores well over the $50k level for the year. Q3 has so far been huge for us.
At the outset of Q3 I had big goals, but I didn’t expect to hit them so soon. In Q2, my businesses all made around $5k total in sales, it was pitiful. But, in the first month of Q3 alone, sales through all the channels hit $40k. With such low numbers before, I set my Q3 goal at $50k. As of today, I hit that $50k goal. I hit this goal a 1/3 into Q3. I’m confident that with our new marketing and optimization techniques we will quadruple my initial goal number by Q4. I’m so confident about this because I have more projects in the queue. I have one more e-commerce store almost ready to launch, and one more that I’m building, both are in very trendy niches with lots of demand.
I’m confident that with our new marketing and optimization techniques we will quadruple my initial goal number by Q4. I’m so confident about this because I have more projects in the queue. I have one more e-commerce store almost ready to launch, and one more that I’m building, both are in very trendy niches with lots of demand. Juli and I separated our duties this week. I’m
Juli and I separated our duties this week. I’m in charge of business growth, web design, and related tasks. She is in charge of customer service and sales. I also asked her to record herself performing basic tasks and writing down all the questions she gets from customers so we can create FAQ’s on the website to help our customers and eventually outsource our CS and sales tasks to a VA so we can take a vacation. I also plan to use these procedures to build an online course called E-commerce Paradise.
I have been uploading 3-5 videos to my YouTube channel every day. It feels great to be making videos with purpose now. I’ve been getting 50-100 views a day and so far I have lots of likes and some comments as well. I’ve been doing mostly product review videos so I can make use of all the stuff I have bought on Amazon.com over the years that I still use and recommend. My goal is to do a review video of every product I use so I can get started with how-to videos and tutorial videos alongside my travel videos. I hope to have a thriving channel with 1000’s of subscribers that order things on Amazon.com using my links because I recommended them. If you would like to view my channel, click here: youtube.com/c/trevorfenner
I’m so excited that all of this is happening now because we made plans to sell all our stuff and move to Thailand back in May. This means we paid all the bills this month, and will pay all the bills (plus put money into savings) in August and September. We will also be getting the deposit back for our apartment rental of $1,200 and we will be selling our car which is worth around $5,000. All of this, along with all the stuff we will be selling should bring us in at least $6,000-$7,000 that we can use to attend the drop ship lifestyle retreat in Hawaii, and the DCBKK event in Bangkok. October is going to be a CRAZY month, to say the least.
This last week has been mostly working, but I usually take a couple hours every day to ride my bike down the beach bike path to Chipotle for lunch and get a Starbucks cold brew coffee. Afterwards, I’ll ride back at a slower pace and really take in the scene. It’s gorgeous out here in the summer time! Too bad the water is gross, that’s why I can’t wait to spend next spring on the beaches of Thailand.
August 3, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on My Journey to Location Independence and Financial Freedom Part 3: Big Changes
The 2nd part of this series was all about selling our first e-commerce site. Once we sold the site, we realized that we needed to start working on a new e-commerce business immediately to replace the lost income. Since I sold the business before I started a second one or a blog to bring in affiliate income, I didn’t have any other source of income.
We started driving for Lyft and Uber again to help pay the bills without spending all our cash. Driving for these platforms is great for a side hustle, but the amount of driving you have to do in order to bring in a sustainable income means that you can never make this side hustle your full-time income. You wouldn’t want to anyways because in doing so, you wouldn’t be building a business, you would basically just be working a job.
The great thing about driving is that you choose your own hours and can take a break whenever you want to. Basically, it’s the closest thing to owning a business without actually owning anything besides your car, and you might not even own that. Driving all those extra miles also takes a huge toll on your car, which means more oil changes, alignments, tire replacements, fluid replacements, and all sorts of strange things happening to your car after it hits the 100k mile mark.
At most, we made a couple thousand bucks a month driving, so it was basically a part-time job for both of us.
Here is a breakdown of our estimated monthly budget at the time:
Two bedroom apartment in Canoga Park (not that great): $1,500
Two car payments: $700
Cell phones: $300
Maintenance: $100 or more
That means we were spending $4000 a month out of our savings (the money we got from selling the business).
If we kept this up, we would be broke within a year or less. Something had to change, but we didn’t know what. I got really lucky with my first drop ship site and ranked in the organics for many of the products we sold, so a lot of money came from free sources. However, e-commerce has exploded and it’s much harder to rank on the first page of Google now. I didn’t know how to get my new site to rank with paid advertising, so I just gave up.
We tried starting a new business in May of 2015 called Fenner Supply Company. This was going to be a clothing brand and outdoor gear distribution website. I tried getting on board with some distributors who offered inventory automation as well as small brands that sold trendy products. I was definitely in over my head. Instead of making sales, we flatlined again. The few sales we did see weren’t even profitable.
To cure the stress we did a lot of hiking and adventuring. Along with our friends, we went on trips all around LA every weekend to hike cool spots. I did a lot of motorcycle riding during the weekday afternoons when traffic was low. I rode all the canyons around the valley. I experienced the Santa Monica mountains, Santa Susana pass to Simi and back, littTujunganga road, and the Angeles crest highway.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
Juli’s sister Kim graduated high school the first week of June.
Juli and I decided to help her find a room for rent with a friend so we could move out from our two bedroom apartment and get out from under the debt that our apartment lease had us in. I also decided to pretty much sell everything I owned including my car, bicycles, paddle boards, furniture and all the stuff left over from the shop that we still had. This was a huge move for us. It was scary. It was also exciting. We were finally going to unchain ourselves from the work-life we had been living for the last half a decade together.
My plan was to move back in with my parents temporarily to save money, come back to LA to get married and then go on our honeymoon. I thought it was going to be a good experience. I really thought I would be able to start a new life living with my parents. If they were cool people, it would have been ok. Unfortunately, the situation quickly turned into a nightmare.
The situation went bad for a number of sad reasons, but regardless, we moved to Idaho the second week of June, and moved back to LA the last week of June. We were lucky enough to have a friend that had a room and was willing to rent it to us for $500 a month. We no longer had all the expenses that we had, so we could afford to kick back and not act like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out how to make money without getting a job.
We had an incredible time on our road trip back to LA because we left our cats at my parents home in Idaho. We camped at national parks and state parks all along the way. I got to experience the entire pacific coast of Washington, Oregon and northern California. It was one of the most amazing road trips I’ve ever been on, and it wouldn’t be the last one that summer either. The summer was just getting started.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
We found ourselves back in LA during the hottest month of the summer. We were staying with our friend Alan, paying $500 for a tiny little room, but we were grateful to have it. Even though he was allergic to cats, he let us keep our cats there. We made it work even though it was stressful. Juli drove for Uber/Lyft every day while I feverishly worked to build new online businesses. Unfortunately, I was completely lost. I was trying to build automated sites that worked with affiliate marketing and got traffic from social media. It brought in a little bit of money here and there, but nothing sustainable.
Regardless, we had some good fun in July. We were bringing in just enough money to pay most of the bills, so we weren’t losing too much money. The car was still in good shape, and I got to be out and about a lot without any customers nagging me. It was really peaceful.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
During the month of July I started a bunch of amazon affiliate niche sites. I was trying to take short cuts to success, and I was seeing no results. I speant days building websites that didn’t produce anything. They were really spammy. I could have been working on a million different projects that would have actually provided value, like this blog, but I didn’t. It was a big lesson for me. I ended up shutting them all down and deciding never to waste my time with something like that ever again. If I start a project now, I decide that I’m going to provide as much value as possible through that project, or else I don’t even go into it in the first place.
After a lot of work and lessons learned, we decided to focus all of our energy on preparing for our wedding. In the last 6 months, Juli had done a lot of preparations. She got together a lot of services like a Mexican food catering company, a wedding event chair/table supply company, we signed our wedding documents, hired a pastor, and invited all our family and close friends. Our wedding was set to take place August 9th at Point Dume in Malibu, California. We tried to get 8/8, but that was already booked, so we settled for the 9th.
In the next part of this series, I’m going to go into depth on the wedding and honeymoon. We didn’t just do a little dinky honeymoon, we literally spent the next 3 months honeymooning. It was a grand way to spend the latter half of 2015, and even though we blew most of the rest of our money doing it, it’s something I’ll always cherish and never regret. Money comes easily and frequently. You can build a new business any day. What matters is the memories we create with each other. Those memories, along with the people we shared them with and the pictures and video that reminds us of them, will last forever in our hearts.
This month, we made some major breakthroughs with our online business. I’ll go over those in this post along with some tips for you if you’re trying to grow your e-commerce business. Our lives are easy going now. I told Juli to quit her day job, again. This time, she was driving for Uber/Lyft in the mornings. The income is ok, but the car is slowly breaking down, so it’s not worth it. We have income streams that replaced her driving income, so I told her to quit and work on the e-commerce business! I couldn’t be happier because I know she is safe instead of risking her life to drive people around LA all morning during rush hour traffic.
Working on our own businesses means we can take breaks whenever we want to. We live a block from the beach in Long Beach, California, so breaks usually include a bike ride down the beach bike path. I like to ride down to Belmont Shores and eat on 2nd street. They have lot of small restaurants and bars that are fun to visit.
Listen to our podcast episode about living in Long Beach and working as entrepreneurs:
The biggest issue we had to deal with this month was a fraudulent order that cost us over $1000. To alleviate the fraud concerns for the future, we signed up with a fraud insurance service called Signifyd. They offer full insurance for 1% of sales per month. That’s not bad if I’m making 20-30% margin on my e-commerce site, and well worth the downside risk of a fraudulent order. Now we will never have to worry again.
Listen to the podcast episode about dealing with fraud and chargebacks:
The first breakthrough we made was going from an individual selling plan to a professional selling plan with our Amazon store. Once we made that change, we immediately saw orders coming in because we had the “buy box.” Being given the “buy box” means if someone wanted to order one of the products we sell, we would get the sale because our name would be on the add to cart button. If you don’t have the buy box, the chances are slim that you’ll make any sales, so this is key.
Shopify-based Drop Shipping E-commerce stores:
The other breakthrough we made was getting 4 sites fully set up and optimized to sell products that are trending right now. We ran a conservative ad budget of around $10 per day, per site, throughout the month to get traffic and sales. Although our sales were fairly limited to each site (under $10,000 each), our ad spend was equally low as well.
We hope to increase our sales on the drop shipping stores in the coming months by optimizing them. Listen to the podcast episode about optimizing your e-commerce store:
We are now working on a 5th site as well. building a content foundation for each site, and setting up an email marketing strategy to bring in more top of the funnel leads and bring back leads from abandoned carts.
Our eBay store hasn’t been doing much for us. I’m not sure what happened, but we are trying to figure out why and what to do about it. My initial thoughts are that the products we’re selling on eBay have a ton of competition, so we aren’t showing up in the first few results. That just means that we need to look into selling other products. This might take some time to research, so I’m not sure whether I want to pursue it at this point. I’d rather spend my time building my own e-commerce sites because I don’t have to pay a 10% fee to sell on those sites, and if I wanted to, I could sell them at some later date for as much as a small house would be worth.
The last week of the month was when I launched my new Youtube channel. It’s a personal lifestyle channel where I do review videos, travel videos, how-to’s, and life hacks. My plan is to provide an honest and down to earth review of every product I own and purchased from Amazon.com.
My goal is to give people a better understanding of how a product looks, feels, and works before they buy it, and it gives me a chance to make commissions when people click my link to buy the product. This is part of a long-term information product sales strategy I have to create more passive income in the next 6-12 months. I have already seen a few commissions and lots of clicks since I put up the videos, and as of today, I hit 100 views. Pretty cool!
I also came up with a great idea for making money with affiliate marketing quickly. Just give your family and close friends your Amazon affiliate link to the home page of Amazon and ask them to bookmark it and use it every time they go to buy something on Amazon. The only drawback of Amazon, and most affiliate marketing programs is to ensure they don’t pay out affiliates for items that were defective or returned, they hold your commissions for 60 days before paying them out. That’s another reason why this is a long-term passive income strategy.
It has sold a few copies since it’s release, and I’m excited for those who bought it. I haven’t seen any reviews yet, but I’m sure they’ll come in time. I am thinking about marketing it through my website and selling pdf versions of it directly instead of just selling it on Amazon. I am also considering making a video version of it for Udemy or my own website.
My other passive income streams include information products that I hope to begin creating soon. I am a prolific skateboarder and I’ve been planning a course to teach skateboarding basics. These info products include online courses, niche blog websites, niche Amazon affiliate e-commerce websites, and lots of Youtube videos to promote them all. I’ll be using Adsense, along with Amazon affiliates, to monetize the websites I create in the future. At this point, I haven’t made much from the current blogs I run, but I plan to make much more in the future when Google starts sending organic traffic my way.
Total Passive Income:
Our revenue went from ~$9,300 in June to ~$40,000 in July. Gross profits totaled $4,900 and, after costs and a fraudulent order that left us out nearly $1,000, we profited over $3,200.
Cost of goods sold
The best thing about drop shipping is that every purchase we make with our vendors can be made with a cash back credit card. Vendors can be our suppliers, Google Adwords, digital subscriptions, apps, etc. All of our cost of goods sold, in other words, is spent through a business cash back credit card, and thus generates 2% cash back for every dollar spent. In July, we made nearly $600 in cash back rewards. That’s huge! Some months we will make a lot more, some months we will make less, but generally speaking, with our plans for future growth and diversification into niches that aren’t as seasonal, we should be able to keep up this sales number every month. My goal is to hit this sales number with each site and sales channel by 2017.
Total profit from online businesses for July: $3,304.18
Los Angeles is a very expensive town to live in. Here is a breakdown of our current budget.
Total living expenses: $4,061
Juli’s Uber/Lyft Income: $2,017
Juli’s Uber/Lyft Expenses: $700
Juli’s net income from Uber/Lyft: $1,317
My freelancing income: $800
Net income to be put into savings: $1,360
There’s no way we can live in LA and put a substantial amount of money into savings. That’s why we’re moving to Thailand in October! We made this decision in the beginning of the month and bought one-way tickets with our cash back rewards from drop shipping last year. Chiang Mai is the city we will be living in. The cost of living in Chiang Mai is 1/4 of Los Angeles. That means our expenses will be around $1,000 per month for the same accommodations, and we will be putting at least $2,000 into savings every month we are there. Of course, I’m planning on working non-stop through to the end of the year to get our passive income up to $10,000 per month and achieve a $30,000 USD ($1,000,000 Thai Baht) bank balance by the end of the year.
My goals for the coming month are:
Finish my 5th e-commerce site
Film reviews of every product I own and upload it to Youtube
Film my skateboarding online course and launch it on Udemy, teachable or other online platform (maybe my own).
Optimize all 5 sites and set up procedures to deal with all issues (most importantly inventory syncs and customer service)
Create content and email marketing automation for all 5 e-commerce sites
Gain 10 subscribers on my youtube channel
My goals for Q3 are:
Hire VA’s to outsource most important and time consuming tasks like answering phones, order processing, email customer service, live chat, etc.
Set up a 6th e-commerce site.
Film and launch drop shipping online course
Film review’s for every online course, ebook, other info product or online tool that I’ve used.
Gain 100 subscribers on my youtube channel
My goals before the end of the year:
Achieve a $30,000 bank balance ($1,000,000 Thai Baht)
Have at least 2 online courses
Gain 1000 subscribers on my youtube channel
Here are some pictures that tell the story of my life in July:
July 28, 2016 / admin / Comments Off on My Journey to Location Independence and Financial Freedom Part 2: Selling My Online Business
My journey into entrepreneurship, location independence, and financial freedom began around 2010 when I started my first online business. Up to that point, I didn’t know how to do anything online besides post photos on Facebook. Once I started making some money from my websites, I quickly realized how much money people spend online using their smartphones and laptop computers, and I wanted to be a part of it.
The first way I made money online was drop shipping on eBay. My dad was actually my first supplier. He had been given orders to dispose of a large bank of super-computers from the company he worked for. This was around 2008 or 2009 before I did any drop shipping, but I did have some limited experience selling on eBay. I sold every last computer he had, and it helped me pay off the $5,000 in debt I racked up trying to survive in LA.
It wasn’t until 2010 when I first created a website to drop ship other people’s products that I realized how much more abundance and wealth I could create in my life, not only in money but in time and location, which is more important to me. As long as I provided value to the transaction, I would attract a large customer base, make the pie bigger, and create more abundance for the market in general.
The story of my life was laid out in the first post of this series, but my life didn’t completely change until February of 2015 when I sold my first e-commerce store. Up until that point, I never had more than $10,000 in my bank account at any given time without a ton of debt (cost of goods sold) that would eventually need to be paid off. In this blog post, I’m going to go over the process of selling my website, lessons I learned, why I lost out on more than $100,000, and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
This was the month I sold my business. I decided, for many reasons, that instead of waiting to see if we would be able to make a come back in 2015, that I would try to sell the business, become debt-free, and travel around instead of being stuck in the valley for another summer. Dealing with so much stress at the shop made me realize that I never wanted to imprison myself into a job again either.
One factor that made me want to sell instead of stay and grow again was that I couldn’t switch the website platfrom over from WordPress to Shopify without loosing all my organic links. I am not a developer, so dealing with host issues and plugin problems constantly drove me nuts! I would wake up some mornings to 0 orders and have 3 emails from customers upset that the website didn’t work. What do you think the other people did who didn’t even email us? They just left and bought their product somewhere else.
Moreover, I was burnt out. I didn’t have a business mindset. I wasn’t in it for the long haul. I really just wanted out, and I needed a long vacation from it all. I didn’t want to deal with upset customers anymore. I was selling products that people who are cheap-asses bought, and so I had to deal with cheap-assholes way too often. Since I didn’t have my business partner to answer the phones anymore, and I didn’t want to stick my wife on the job, I ended up answering to all the people who were pissed off because their product arrived damaged or late.
So, after I listened to a podcast about selling a website with the Empire Flippers, I decided to go ahead and start the process. I didn’t end up going with the EF team, though, because I was a cheap-ass myself! What’s wrong with me?!
EF charges a $300 vetting fee, and rightly-so. They can get you way more for your business then you would get going through a website like Flippa. However, I was so cheap that I reached out to Flippa to see what kind of freebies they could offer me. The guy said he would give me the premium package, but that I had to start the bidding at $0 with a $30,000 reserve. (I made over $500,000 in 2014!!!! My site was worth well over $100,000!!!!)
Unfortunately, I didn’t really do my homework on this one. I knew it was worth over $100,000.00, but I wasn’t confident about it. This was a pretty scary move for me. Considering that spring was just starting to heat up, I should have hung on to the business until that fall, after the summer sales came through and we had a chance to rebound and maybe start another e-commerce project on the side. That would have been a way better move for us. Instead, I sold the site.
I went through Flippa and got a ton of low ball offers from people all over the world. I went crazy answering newbie questions all day. It was a messy process and there were a lot of trolls in the comments of the listing. The guy who eventually bought the site didn’t even buy it through Flippa, however. He contacted me outside of Flippa. I was really concerned about fraud at first, but after going through the due diligence with him and asking him to use escrow.com to secure the funds, I knew it would be a safe process. I did ask for $100,000 when I first emailed him back, but he offered me $50,000 and I was too excited about getting a fat paycheck that I just took it. I should have waited it out, held on to the site until Fall, listed it with EmpireFlippers.com at that point, and then sold it for $150,000. I guess that just wasn’t meant to be!
So, I sold the freaking site! This was the biggest single payout I ever got. I can’t imagine selling anything else for that much money besides a house. It really felt amazing. I did so much work to build up this asset over time, and to see this come out of it all felt great. The sale went smoothly and I’m so happy it did because my bank account blew up!
Some other cool things happened in February. Since I had a big payout, I decided to learn how to ride motorcycles. This was always something I wanted to learn how to do. The course only cost $300 and it took place over a weekend. After the weekend was over I went out and dropped $3,000 on a used Kawasaki 250 from a local dealer. The new bike was so much fun to ride. It was such a rush carving into turns on the canyon roads.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
I sold my site and learned how to ride motorcycles, so what’s next? I knew that I needed to create another stream of income ASAP since I still had two car payments to make, a $1,500/month apartment rent to pay, and numerous other bills not to mention food and other expenses. So, we started working on our next e-commerce project.
The month was a whirlwind of working on the new website, riding my motorcycle through the canyons, paddleboarding, traveling, skateboarding, and reading, lots of reading. It felt like we finally had a sense of freedom, but it really was just the calm before the inevitable storm of craziness that would come in the following months.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
April was a fun month! We went on two camping trips. One to Yosemite at the beginning of the month and another one to Zion at the end of the month. This was also my birthday month and the celebration was amazing. We went on lots of hikes on the weekends in between. Our e-commerce site wasn’t producing very well mostly because I was trying to rank in the organic results and wasn’t trying to run any paid ads. I just didn’t know what I was doing, really.
Our income was non-existent, unfortunately. I had a big bank account, though! I was somewhere in between trying to start a new business and trying to just chill out after so much stress with our last e-commerce business. I really wanted to take a mini-retirement and travel around a bit. We ended up doing what we really wanted to do this month, go camping and hiking. I love the outdoors and grew up hiking the pacific northwest. My dad has taken me out hiking a lot over the last few decades. All this exposure to the great outdoors has shaped my love for it.
Still, I knew that the next business I started needed to be automated and outsourced so I could take as much time off as I wanted to. So I took a break. I sold my little 250 bike and bought a new Honda CBR600 super bike. That thing was huge. It went fast and was really comfortable to ride. I felt like I was in charge of the road when I jammed through the canyons and on the highway. I could pull the accelerator and rip past traffic so fast. The rush felt amazing! I wish I had attached a gopro to my bike for some of my rides so you guys could see what it was like, but at this point I’m just grateful that I survived this time in my life. I had a few very close calls on my motor bike. I’ll tell the stories in the next month.
Here are some pictures that tell the story:
The next part of the story gets crazy. We decided to do something we’ve never done before. It was a huge move for us, but had to do it to live the life of our dreams. Stay tuned for part 3!
A lot of my friends and family have told me they wish they could be able to do what I do, live a life of leisure, without a day job, and travel wherever they want to, whenever they want to while having plenty of money to spare. Well, they can, and I’ve made it easier to understand how it’s all possible by figuring it out first.
Here is my journey, it’s a lot of trial and error, mishaps, and wild adventures, but it worked for me, and it can work for you too if you follow me.
Before I can tell you what I do to make money online today, I need to take you back to when my journey started, when I graduated high school.
That’s me and my twin sister Evelyn at our high school graduation at Timberlake high school in Spirit Lake, Idaho. Haven’t heard of the town? Most haven’t. It’s a small town in the ‘boondocks.’ After graduating high school, with my mad-hatter head of hair, and working, skating and partying through the summer, I decided that I wanted to escape the vortex of north Idaho. Like many 18-year-olds fresh out of high school, I was excited to begin a new life and journey to far away places. I loved skateboarding and the only thing I wanted to do was move to California where it was sunny all year round and you could skate pretty much anywhere.
I got lucky. My mom asked her parents if they would let me live with them at their home in Los Angeles, California for a few months until I could get a job and get my own place. At first, they said no, but after asking a few times they eventually said yes, and the rest is history. I had been skating for the last half-decade and reading skateboarding magazines, watching skate videos, and becoming enthralled with skateboarding, so this opportunity meant I could live in the skateboarding mecca of the world. I was willing to take the money I saved up from working over the summer, just a few hundred bucks, pack up all my stuff into a couple of bags and start a new life in the city of my dreams.
I stepped off the flyaway bus in Van Nuys, California into the balmy mid-70 degree weather and instantly fell in love with LA. I grew up in Seattle and lived in north Idaho (in the boondocks) for the prior 6 years. In both places, it’s very cold and rainy most of the year, and in Idaho, it snows a lot in the winter. Needless to say, southern California was a dream-come-true for me. I was lucky enough to have a free room to stay in at my grandma’s house in Winnetka. The best part of living in Los Angeles: I could skate anywhere I wanted to, and I skated everywhere I could.
I met a lot of cool people in the valley. I went to a lot of crazy parties (crazy is an understatement, think triple keggers and “porn” parties). I skated so many amazing skate spots. I traveled back and forth to Seattle and Idaho each summer and I held some rough day jobs to get by. I barely scraped by for a long time, but I always made it work somehow thanks to some good friends and family that always had my back. It’s amazing how people are willing to help you out if you’re a genuinely nice person and don’t mind asking for help.
One of the most fun experiences I had in the first year or two I was in the valley was volunteering at a skate shop called Empire Skate. I went there the first day I arrived in the valley and was happily greeted by the guy working there, Zach. We became good friends and are still friends to this day.
The crew of skaters that hung out there would become my close peer group for the next 3 years. We had some crazy days and wild nights. We smoked weed in the back bathroom, threw parking lot parties, lit rails and launch ramps on fire and skated them (see the pics), and we pissed off a lot of people in the process. It was two units down from a medical marijuana shop, and a lot of the pot heads would come by the skate shop to smoke us out.
During this time period, I drove the car I had in high school all the way from my parent’s house in north Idaho to the valley. That drive was a few days long, and I stopped off in Seattle, WA. Eugene, OR. and San Francisco, CA. along the way. The trip was filled with skating, friends and lots of scenic driving. I even picked up a hitchhiker in southern Oregon and drove him to Eureka, where all the hippies are. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but he seemed genuine and something about the idea of driving to the coast really got my spirits excited. If you ever get a chance, definitely drive the road through the Jedediah state park Redwoods forest in nor Cal. It’s an unforgettable drive.
Fall 2006 – Spring 2007
I spent the summer working in Idaho at the local theme park, Silverwood, as a groundskeeper thanks to my friend Robby. He worked that job the summer prior and gave me a referral. After the summer, though, I had to get back to California. I was on a mission to get back.
The only reason I was able to go back to the valley in the first place was because of my friend Johnny. He is the nicest person I’ve ever known, and his family is the same (makes sense). His mom, Lisa, allowed me to sleep on the floor of Johnny’s room while I looked for a job. I got lucky and found a job at the local Petco that fall and worked until the spring of 2007. The job got really stressful, and I was getting into some trouble with some loser friends. There were some raging parties we held at the house I was renting at the time, a college party house on the corner of Plummer and Corbin in Northridge. There was a party there every weekend.
After one such party, I wound up in the hospital. I drank way too much and got into a fight with a skinhead and his friends. I got the crap beat out of me and was lucky to be alive. I also went through a bad breakup. Shortly after I had new, quick hook up and a couple months later another bad breakup. I got pulled over by the cops with friends in my car that had tons of weed and magic mushrooms on them. By remaining calm and confident, I was able to talk my way out of each situation, but I knew my luck wouldn’t last forever.
I met a friend that spring named Omar. He’s an intellectual, a conversationalist and a critical thinker. Thanks to his friendship, I was able to figure out what my next move would be. Back to Seattle for the summer.
We spent the summer working a job being helpers at a moving company in Seattle. We rented a sublet room in the bad side of Capitol Hill and bought a cheap bunk bed. We each paid a couple hundred bucks a month for rent. We partied on the weekends, I skated a lot, we made some new friends and I went to some music festivals. We rode bikes all over the place that summer. The parties we went to got crazy sometimes, mostly because I had a bad habit of drinking way too much.
After working in Seattle the summer of 2007, partying, skating, exploring the city, and generally having an awesome summer, I spent a couple weeks in Idaho with family and then decided that I would be happier if I moved back down to the valley, so we packed up and took a bus all the way back to soCal. I found a couch for rent in an apartment with 6 other people (it was a 2 bedroom apartment) for $300 per month. It was the cheapest place I could find and it was all I could afford at the time. I looked for jobs but couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t very motivated and I was looking in all the wrong places.
Within the first couple of days, I found a couch for rent in an apartment with 6 other people (it was a 2 bedroom apartment) for $300 per month. It was the cheapest place I could find and it was all I could afford at the time. I looked for jobs but couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t very motivated and I was looking in all the wrong places.
When I returned to the valley I quickly hooked up with a girl that I had been friends with before. She even made a trip up to Seattle that summer and visited me out there. That was definitely a sign. She had a quirky and friendly family, and her uncle saw that I was depressed one day so he offered to lend a hand. He owned a DVD that he said had the power to change lives. Little did I know what he had in store for me.
I watched The Secret and it would change my life. Up until that point, I was feeling really down and depressed because I couldn’t find a job and was racking up debt while blowing through the rest of my savings, but after watching that video, I had a new found enthusiasm for life. I promptly started job seeking again, and within just a few days I found a seasonal job through a craigslist ad post. I walked more than 4 miles to get there because I didn’t have a ride and didn’t want to bring my skateboard to the job interview (I knew I wouldn’t look as professional). With my new-found enthusiasm for life, I nailed the job interview and had a position selling hand-painted Christmas ornaments at a mall kiosk that paid $10 an hour, well over the minimum wage of $7 an hour at the time. It was almost full time, so it was just what I needed to make ends meet.
The seasonal job I worked ended after Christmas and I had to find new work. I applied at my local Vons grocery store and I was quickly accepted, thanks to my good attitude. Working there was strenuous and stressful, though, and I left after a few months.
After quitting the job at the local Vons, I began looking for work again. I combed craigslist for days, emailing resumes to everybody. All I wanted was an entry level position at a warehouse where I could do an autonomous task, pay the bills and skate every day. I got exactly what I was looking for. I around the same time, I purchased a used car. It was my only opportunity to get a car, and I needed one to get a better job. I paid my friend $800 that I took out of my credit card as a cash advance (never do that!). The fee was around 2-5% of the total amount, and the daily interest rate was around 20-30%.
I nailed an interview at a local wholesale lock supply warehouse in Van Nuys. The position paid $10 an hour and was simply picking orders to that were to be shipped. The had a lot of business every day, so there was plenty of work to be done. Los Angeles is a big city full of crime, so the security industry thrives out here.
With my new job, I worked my ass off. I promptly moved out of the apartment I was staying at into a private room at a house. I sold the landlady on the idea that I was making enough money to afford the room, and even if I couldn’t, that my dad would pay for it. After a couple of months of crazy partying, I was forced to move out because I didn’t pay rent. I found a temporary room at a nice lady’s home in Granada Hills for cheap, so I spent the next couple of months there, and even attended Coachella that spring with a high school friend.
I went to a couple of crazy parties one weekend and met the love of my life. Juliana and I are now happily married and traveling the world together. Our paths intersected at the perfect moment in both of our lives, but it couldn’t have been more serendipitous.
That same day I was out skating and had a fall that almost ended my ability to skateboard. I took a spill at the top of a handrail, and landed on my head, almost breaking my neck. Luckily, I took the fall in such a way that I walked away without a scrape. In that moment, I lost my lust for skating big handrails. I still skate handrails every once in a while, but I don’t have a burning desire to jump down huge rails like I used to have. The feeling of rolling away is incredible, but the pain associated with eating shit isn’t worth it anymore.
This is the handrail I almost broke my neck falling down. This was the trick I landed before I ate shit.
I landed this one as well. This is a similar handrail in Los Angeles, and I was trying this same trick when I ate shit.
This is an infamous handrail in LA called the Hollywood 12. It’s at Hollywood High School. I front boarded and back lip slid it one day. It felt amazing.
My friend wanted me to go to a party the night after I had the bad fall, but I refused. He didn’t let up and eventually sold me on it. I’m glad he did because that night I met Juliana.
I went out one night to skate a flat bar with a couple good friends, and one of them, John, shot this amazing photo:
This photo was taken during golden hour in the parking lot of the warehouse I worked at in Van Nuys, California. Photo by John Rupe.
This is my buddy Zach doing a front feeble during the same session. Photo by John Rupe.
That summer, Juliana and I moved in together. I had a lot of debt racked up, but a friend had a room for rent at his apartment and it worked out to be perfect timing for us. We enjoyed having our own place together.
Juliana got a job that summer working as an office clerk, so we both had full-time jobs making a little over minimum wage. A couple months later, we found our own apartment. A one-bedroom across the street from her job.
My car finally crapped out on me and I had to go get another car. I financed a Toyota Matrix at a terrible 10% interest rate. It wasn’t a good idea financially, but I had to do it to sustain my job.
My sister graduated college that summer from the University of Washington with two degrees. I spent a couple of weeks in Seattle celebrating with the family.
We adopted three cats and a turtle. I got in a car accident on Halloween and, thanks to a great attorney, a year later I would get paid out $10K ($3K of which was mine to keep). I kept working hard at my job and after 6 months I was promoted to receiving and returns. This gave me access to a lot of defective merch which I flipped on Ebay for a profit.
After a backpacking trip in the pacific northwest with my dad, I had an epiphany, I wanted to start my own business. I was tired working for other people and making them lots of money while being stuck in a day job and not making enough to live the lifestyle I wanted to live. After I returned, I talked about it with everybody I knew and one of those people offered to start the business with me. At first, I was apprehensive, but he bought a website domain and gave it to me. He was a good guy and the effort seemed genuine, I also had nothing to lose, so I went for it!
The first website I set up was for a skateboard brand I wanted to start. We called it “Beatnik Boards.” Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like when I first threw it together using the Godaddy website builder tool (it wasn’t even an e-commerce site).
Shortly thereafter I found an eBay alternative website called eCrater.com to list the products we would start our drop ship site selling. Back then they didn’t charge a fee, but now they charge 3%. It’s still a great way to make sales on the side while you’re starting up your own website, and the fee isn’t as bad as the 12% charged by eBay and Paypal together.
I started listing some of the products, put the shipping amount in, the tax amount, made the theme look nice and made sure the pictures were big enough to see the products in detail. I figured that doing this was great because my upfront investment was practically nothing and I had unlimited potential upside.
We got our first supplier late 2010 and a couple months later I listed some products online I made my first sale! It was a $250 item bought by a lady in New York City. We made $40 on the sale. All I had to do was send my supplier an email with all the customers info and they shipped it directly to them without an invoice. This method is called “blind” drop shipping. Working in sales, I dealt with a lot of customers who had e-commerce businesses and would ask me to drop ship orders for them. I did it all the time. So, going through this from the distributors point of view, I understood what the process was like and this helped me get going as an e-commerce entrepreneur.
After this small success, I decided to make it my life mission to grow this small business to be big enough to pay the bills so I could quit my day job. I started staying up late and waking up early so I could work on my business. I even used breaks at work to put time into building the site. I bought some of the products that I sold so that I could use them myself, take pictures of them, video them and then I just resold them for what it cost me which is much lower than retail since I bought it at wholesale price. I had to drive all the way to East LA to pick them up, but it was so worth it. I was hustling so hard back then!
I’m still plugging away at my day job when I get my second sale a little more than a month after I got the first one. I made about $20 on this sale, and now I realize that I need to work on my product listings if I want to sell more products.
I made 3 sales and profited over $100 total.
I didn’t make any sales this month. That’s just how it goes. When you’re starting up a new business, sales come in waves. Consistent sales usually start coming within 3-6 months, so in the first few months, you need to focus on growing. This means optimizing everything you possibly can.
Juli and I went to Disneyland in May. We were barely scraping by, but I still knew how important it was to do cool things and grow our relationship as well as my business.
This ride is really fun. They basically take you up in a tower 10 stories up and drop you at almost free fall all the way back down.
I knew this business had the potential to grow, I just needed to figure out how to make those sales. I didn’t know anything about web design when I first started. I also didn’t know anything about coding or web development, but that didn’t stop me from trying to learn. I also starting giving up my weekends to build my business instead of partying. I used to do a lot of partying, so this was a big move for me.
During this same time I also started messing around with the idea of
I made 4 orders in July and profited just over $100 total. Things were starting to heat up at this point, literally. It was summer in SoCal, and I was just happy to have a pool to lounge by.
Sales really took off in August. Instead of just a few sales, we did 16! This resulted in a $4,000 revenue month with around $400 net profit. That’s an extra $400 profit in my pocket which was huge for me back then!
I also survived one of the craziest days of my life early in August. I went sailing with a friend on his friend’s boat. We met up in Marina Del Rey, rigged up the boat and set sail. We were drinking a bit too much that day, and I was especially overdoing it. Little did we know that the waves that day were crazy. As soon as we exited the harbor, the boat was rocking like crazy. I was still drinking through the whole crazy mess in the cabin of the small sailboat with my friend and we were just hoping that everything would work out fine.
We had just gotten back from church, so we were really optimistic and full of god, so we weren’t scared of anything, we were laughing at it all! It was so tumultuous that we came within feet of ramming the sailboat into the jetty rocks and sinking. It was only thanks to our cap’n that we survived that day. Here are a few pics from the meetup and trip before we left the harbor.
Cruising through the harbor.
The cap’n and crew in the harbor before the trip.
Later in August we took our annual week 10-day vacation trip to Seattle to visit my family and do some hiking and backpacking. This summer was exceptionally beautiful in the pacific northwest. The sun was out, we had a lot of fun hiking, and I was making sales online throughout the whole experience! Here are a few pics from that trip:
To end the month, I enrolled full-time at my local community college, Los Angeles Valley College. Thanks to the “Governator,” the state was now offering the Board of Governors Fee Waiver Program (BOG) that gave each resident of California free tuition to any junior college as long as they maintained a B average. I didn’t mess around in school this time around. I only took business classes. The result was that I had much more drive to succeed because I could use what I learned in class to grow my online business.
The funny thing was that owning an online business was such an unknown thing in my classes. I was the only person doing it. It made me realize that there is a huge market for people who want to learn how to start an online business, and eventually I’d be able to offer my help in return for money in some way.
Here is a picture of my student ID card:
I had 20 sales in September resulting in $5000 revenue, with a net profit of $525. This month was especially exciting because I was getting sales while I was at work, school, at the skate park, and overnight. Every time I got an email notification, I got pumped to do more marketing.
I was also trying to work on my golf game this month. Although I did fairly well, golf has never been one of my strong points. Here’s what my swing looked like at the time.
I was also working on designs for my skate brand “BEATnik.” Here’s one of the stencil jobs I came up with, nothing special.
Skating after work and on the weekends is what kept me going every day. I would always go to the same skatepark, Pedlow. Here’s one particular afternoon after a rain storm.
With the extra money from my new company, I could afford to take Juli out more often! Here is one evening we spent at the Howl at the Moon bar at City Walk.
I enjoyed some great bike rides with my friend and co-worker Steve. These were a great way for us to bond, talk about our common interest in living a financially free life, and get some exercise too.
Me riding one of my favorite cheap road bikes
Steve and his comfy comfort bike
Steve under the iconic bike way overpass near Dodger stadium
Thanks to making more money with drop shipping, I could afford to take Juli out more often! Here’s a trip we did in September to Hollywood to enjoy the sights and take cliche tourist photos!
I kept skating throughout the month, and this day was no exception. As long as I’m pushing, I’ll be happy.
I was studying hard for school and applying all I could to my business. Here’s a pic from the classroom:
I was working on my online business while going to school 3 hours every other evening and working 8 hours a day 5 days a week. The office life was easy, though. I got lots of people experience and helped a lot of people with their business. This job helped me gain business experience. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to succeed in business and I’m eternally grateful. No matter how dull the office life got, there was always a few people that could brighten up my day. One of those folks was my co-worker Gary. He has a funny sense of humor that gets anybody smiling and laughing in no time.
This was our biggest month yet. Sales continued to grow. We were getting more consistent sales every day as well. I was so excited that things were taking off, and this fueled my ambition to keep growing the business. In total we made 24 sales in October, resulting in almost $8000 revenue and just over $1000 in net profits. Making an extra $1000 this month freaked me out! All I needed was $2000 a month to quit my job and $4000 a month for both Juli and I to quit our jobs. With the orders coming in consistently, I had a taste of financial freedom.
Throughout the month I continued to skate and ride my bike, study hard at school and work hard at the office. I didn’t go out as much this month, so I was able to put more of my profits into savings. Here are a few pics from that month:
Sales decreased a bit in November because this is the time of year the products I was selling decreased in popularity. I still made 15 sales resulting in just over $4000 revenue and $533 in net profits. Still making a consistent amount over $500 extra per month, for the last 3-4 months felt amazing. I knew this business could definitely grow bigger. I needed to get more vendors, do more marketing, make better websites and optimize my product listings.
Making this kind of money beyond my normal day job allowed me to take Juli out more. We went to Las Vegas for her birthday. It was a really fun trip. We enjoyed some shows, a little gambling, some drinks and fun times. Here are some pictures from that trip:
I was also studying a lot at school. I was learning so much about how business works, and I wanted to learn as much as I could. I felt like the more I learned and the more I applied, the more my business grew. I had the numbers to back that up!
One day, my friend Austin and I skated the El Camino ledges and filmed some of it. Here are a few snapshots from that session:
This month is usually the biggest of the year for sales, but the products I was selling are more popular in the spring and summer. December was still ok, we did just over $3000 in sales with a net profit of $430. Even though the sales decreased a little, I was still really grateful to have an extra $430 bucks to spend on Christmas gifts, going out and buying skateboard stuff. Without it, I would definitely have gone into even more debt.
Working was fun, but my coworkers always got on my nerves. Here is Adam. He was always super cool, but he was one of the younger co-workers, so I always messed with him, and in return, this was his usual response:
That Christmas I had some money in savings thanks to my online business, so I was able to take Juli to Universal Studios for “Grinchmas.”
New Years Day 2012
We spent the first day of 2012 at the beach. It was an incredible way to rin in the new year, and it was definitely an omen for good things to come.
At the end of 2011 we finished up the bookkeeping and the end number for revenue was just over $50,000. Our net profit for the year was just over $6,700. This was so mind blowing. This was our first year of business. It was an online business with very little startup costs. The time it took to handle orders and customer service was very small. All it took was a lot of time to make product listings. I was making just $15 an hour at my job, which equated to just under $30,000 before taxes, and around $25,000 after taxes. I made about 25% of my full-time income, meaning that I had more spending power throughout the year. I was able to stay out of debt and go out a lot.
I still understood that I needed to keep growing and not spend all my money so I could save money, but it’s tough to do that in LA. The cost of living is so high. So, I found free things to do with my time so that I could save money and still have fun.
Holding Steve’s bike along with mine after a bike ride all the way from Los Angeles to Long Beach. My ass was sore after that ride! Especially since I was riding fixed gear the whole way.
I also spent a lot of time trying to grow my skateboard lifestyle brand. I hand-sewed clothing pieces, here are some examples:
To round out the month we made $4000 in sales, but lost money due to returns from holiday sales. Our net loss was only $100, but it was still a tough pill to swallow. This shows that building an online business isn’t all profit and wins, you also have setbacks. If you can handle them professionally and with dignity, you’ll make your customers happy and ensure more referrals in the future.
This month Juli and I became infatuated with fruits and vegetables. We watched a documentary called “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead” that changed the way we look at the food we eat. I then bought a juicer and began a juice cleanse.
The next month, we only did $3,200 in revenue, but we sold some really profitable products and made almost $1000 in net profits. This made up for the previous month and kept me focused on more growth. Since we had such great sales in 2011, we decided to hire a web developer and SEO marketing expert to build us a website of our own. This was our first step into website design. I wasn’t good at it back then, I was terrible. I didn’t know the first thing about using an FTP, using CSS to style a site, or even using WordPress. The result was exciting at first. We got a site built! This cost some money up front, and my business partner fronted the cash in exchange for a promise to pay him back once the site was profitable.
Some noteable things that happened this month were hiking trips, more bike rides and I started adding more products to my skateboard brand selection. Here are some pictures:
In March sales kept steady at $3,200. We only profited $400 this month, though. This was probably because I was more focused on growing my skateboard brand then I was the online business. That was a mistake, but I learned my lesson. It takes experiences to understand why you want to pursue one way of life or one path of travel than another, and throughout the building of my skateboard brand I definitely built some notoriety but at what cost? It took a ton of time and a lot of money, time, and money I could’ve put towards growing the online business and other ventures that would’ve been more profitable.
March was another fun month. I went to Las Vegas with the company I worked for. I sold a ton of products and got a bucket full of 1’s as a spiff. I then rolled it into a bunch with a 100 on the outside to make myself look like a mutha-effing baller! I had some fun skate sessions and continued to juice. I also sent out Beatnik stickers to all my friends so they could spread the word.
This was the lowest revenue month we experienced so far in 2012. We made $2,200 and profited $245. This is definitely due to the lack of effort I was putting towards building the websites. It’s still cool that even though I didn’t spend much time building it, we still sold $2,200 bucks worth of products and made $245. At this point, I realized that I needed to start putting more effort into building the sites up, and I did.
April was the month of my birthday and 2012 was my 25th year! I officially made it to my mid-twenties and felt great about it. I had created a semi-passive stream of income along with keeping my job, and this month I got something even more awesome, a new car. (although the debt wasn’t very awesome).
The rest of April was a lot of fun! Juli and I went to vegas for my birthday, saw the grand canyon, and then spent a weekend at Venice beach. All the while, I was working on my online business and skateboard brand.
Sales picked up in May. The products we were selling were getting more popular and the sites we had built started seeing some sales from organic search results. All the hard work began to start paying off! The revenue for May was $6,400 and the net profit was $870.
I spent a lot of time getting new products made for Beatnik. I got sunglasses made, I placed my order for decks, and made new bearings. I sponsored a bunch of my friends and gave them free product. I handed out free hardware packets to kids at a skateboard contest.
Here’s a video one of my riders made to review the Beatnik brand of products:
Here are some noteworthy pics from that month.
The drop ship business exploded this month! We had our biggest month yet and hit the $10k revenue number for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last! I was so excited. We had to go through some growing pains in the process, but the $1,400 gross profit was so worth it. I started meeting with my business partner more often going over growth strategies because we both knew this online business had a lot of potential for massive acceleration. As you can see, our numbers would continue to grow over the summer.
To escape the summer heat, Juli and I made a pilgrimage to Yosemite valley. We met my dad out there and had an amazing time. The camping is fun, the hiking is incredible, and the sights are unforgettable. This is the first and last time I did the full half dome hike. It’s an all day hike, and although it’s absolutely beautiful, it takes a toll on your legs.
We also went on a fun hike at our local park the weekend after we returned. This hike included a cave. Here are some pics from that fun hike:
Chilling in a tree
The cave is fun to explore
The victory trailhead leads into the Las Virgenes open space preserve
I was working harder than ever in June to make my brand Beatnik profitable. I went to skate shops to try to get the brand some much-needed exposure to the public. I got lucky and 2 out of the 4-5 shops I applied to took the boards in, but I had to offer them a consignment plan. Even though I got the boards on display, only 1 actually sold. It was a big waste of time financially, but I learned some very important lessons business-wise. The main one being to let other people take the financial risks and just be a commissioned salesman. The only thing I’ll do is waste time, and I’ll be learning while working, so I won’t really be wasting time at all. Here are some pictures of my efforts in June:
Work, work work! July has historically been a month filled with lots of work for me. I’m not sure why, but every July I tend to spend the entire month working really hard on many different projects. I’m writing this in mid-July 2016, and I’m also working on 4-5 different e-commerce projects. Thanks to all my hard work, sales continued to grow. I was working a day job and bringing in an additional $800 a month.
I can’t tell you how amazing that felt. I couldn’t wait until the day when I could quit my day job and work on my business full-time. I wouldn’t have to answer to my boss anymore, I wouldn’t need to handle any “emergencies” for other people. I could take breaks whenever and for however long I wanted to. I could go on vacation any time of the year without asking permission first. I’d even be able to travel the world working from my laptop only four hours a week.
One weekend I did make a small trip down to Long Beach to skate with my friend Zach. Here he is doing a front blunt:
This was our biggest sales month yet. We made over $1000 in gross profits. I was amazed because I had taken off for a 5 day backpacking trip with my dad and sales continued to pour in. Even though I was gone, my wife handled the orders and my business partner handled the customer service. It was easy to manage and I was really happy that it all worked out. Thanks to them, I was able to spend all 5 days worry-free.
These 5 days in the woods gave me the inspiration to start something new when I returned. Here’s exactly how it went down:
Today, I no longer own that domain nor have any thoughts of starting a non-profit. Instead, I have aspirations to start a for-profit digital mentoring and coaching program commonly known as an “online course.” Hopefully, I’ll get this done within the next year or so. Stay tuned!
The rest of August was uneventful. I was working my butt off and preparing for the next semester of school.
September – December 2012:
Sales declined in the fall due to the seasonality of the products I was selling online. Regardless, I continued to work hard on the website, marketing and in school. As I continued to make money online, I wanted to quit more and more. I was reading more books and immersing myself in financial literacy. We realized that television was rotting our minds, so we got rid of ours. It helped me focus 100% on my online business and school work.
I attended a couple “rich dad” workshops that were based on the book by Robert Kiyosaki
“Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” In those work shops I learned how to invest in real estate and stocks. It was incredible. I definitely forgot more than I learned, but it was an eye opener as to the amount of money being made and how easy it was. I was already drop shipping, so I understood the concept of selling something I didn’t own, but I still didn’t understand it well enough to actually do it successfully. To this day I have stayed away from it merely because of the higher amount of debt and associated risk involved. This is a personal issue I have, and I may change someday. Who knows.
Here are a few pictures from September through December that tell the story of the time just before I got laid off and began working on my business full time:
This is the month I got lucky, really lucky. I had been planning on quitting my day job to work full time on my business. I was attending some meetings at a multi-level marketing company and they asked me to dress nice, so I started wearing suits to work which was way out of the ordinary. I’m a skateboarder, so I normally dress in skate shoes, shorts, and a polo (for business casual). The general manager probably thought I was applying to other jobs or something and some of my co-workers were taking notice too.
My supervisor and I were good friends, so even though I told him about my plans, he didn’t say anything to the manager. The day before I planned to hand in my two-week notice, they held a early-morning meeting. I didn’t attend. I just skipped out and showed up to work at the normal time, even 15 minutes late. I didn’t care anymore. A half hour after I got there, my supervisor came into my office, closed the door and told me that the manager told him to let me go.
This meant that instead of quitting, I was getting laid off. In California, if you work at your job for a few years and get laid off, you can claim unemployment benefits. I worked there for just under 5 years, so I was eligible. I was scared, but I didn’t say a word. I grabbed my stuff, bowed my head and left as quickly as I could without saying anything to anybody. I didn’t want to ruin my chance of getting unemployment. As soon as I got home I applied for the benefits. Good thing I did because my supervisor called me 5 minutes later to tell me the manager wanted to offer me two weeks paid to not file for unemployment benefits. That would have been a terrible option for me, because I would end up getting paid about $15,000 over the next year in $300/week chunks. I would have gotten paid $1200 instead of $15,000.
Since I wasn’t driving to Van Nuys every day to work, I dropped out of LAVC and applied to attend Pierce college, the local Woodland Hills community college. They have a great business program and had lots of advanced classes I was looking forward to taking like business law, advertising, speech, and importing/exporting.
I was now free with all the time in the world to work on my online business. Unfortunately at the time I was more interested in growing my MLM business, so sales didn’t start increasing as fast as they could have been. I also quit the Beatnik brand for good. I was no longer interested in trying to sell to skaters that were broke. It was a waste, and the team I sponsored were all flakes. It was a good move because I started moving towards a more abundant future by surrounding myself with wealthy people.
The MLM group I was working with was super friendly and happy, and they were all highly motivated to recruit people into their teams. It was fun working with them until I got screwed out of a $300 bonus. I started realizing that the high costs of maintaining my MLM business, the crazy amounts of time spent sitting in a chair listening to people speak and the money spent eating out all the time with coworkers was leading me down the wrong path. I was also alienating my friends and family. Instead of providing value and knowledge, I was trying to get people to sign up for the “investments” the company offered. It was a form of insurance that included a cash-value investment, but what they didn’t tell people was the high costs of the insurance made the investment part of it make no sense.
I grew tired of that and after another few weeks I quit that too. It just wasn’t for me.
Sales from the online business were sustaining their normal numbers, but weren’t growing to anything crazy yet. We did about $5000 revenue in January and $600 in profit.
February – April 2013
Sales declined quite a bit in the later winter and early spring of 2013 due to the lack of time I was devoting to growing the business. Revenue for the 3 months after January were only $5000 total, and the profit was less than $400. It was sad, but it all changed one day.
I was hanging out with a client I used to work with at my last job. He invited me over to make some wooden pens, a hobby he had and was trying to get me into doing. We had a lot of conversations. I told him about my aspirations with my MLM business, and maybe getting into real estate, but he told me straight up that I didn’t seem like the right person to get into those lines of business. He said the best thing I could possibly do is focus 100% on my online business. It wasn’t hard to convince me. I had already quit the MLM group, I made a new friend who also had online businesses, and I wanted to travel so it seemed like the best possible thing I could do.
I discovered Woocommerce in May. It’s an e-commerce platform based on WordPress. I started a new site, put up all my products, and started doing a lot of marketing online. We started getting sales right away.
We also took on a new brand of products to sell online this month that would turn out to be our biggest seller. It was a simple product that was priced lower than similar products in the market, but it still gave us a $50 profit per order which was enough to allow lots of work on it. I decided to do a lot of work to promote their products by bringing in one of them for a review video.
This all made our sales go way up in May. We hit $8,000 in sales and $800 in profit. This was great to see as I was focusing all my efforts on the online business now.
Here are some noteworthy pictures from that time:
I was working odd jobs to get by like a handy-man for a property management company that managed the frat houses at UCLA and a valet company that did private parties. One night I worked a party at the Waltons home in Bel-Air where I helped taxi people back and forth from where they parked their car to the top of the driveway where the party was.
I also started driving for Lyft and Uber around this time. They both offer lucrative programs for drivers that live near major metropolitian centers. I made some money doing all this, enough to help us make ends meet, but I still knew that the most money was to be made online.
Sales hit almost $7000 in June and we profited just under $1000. Along with Juli’s full time income and my side income, we were barely making ends meet. Our rent was expensive, $1500, and we had two cars to pay for along with all the other high costs of living in LA.
Total sales in July hit almost $10,000 and we profited $1,000. The summer was heating up, but we escaped the heat to Seattle to hang with my family up there. Here are some pictures from that trip:
We started killing it in late August. Sales hit $10,000 again and we profited another $1,000. I quit messing around with “business opportunities” and trying to start a skateboard brand and put 100% of my focus into my online drop ship business. By the end of August I was getting 3-6 orders a day, and making $50-$100 per order. It was on FIYA!
This month we did $26,000 in sales!!!!!! Our profit was $3000. It was insane and I was so pumped. I had started selling certain products like crazy, and a lot of backorders that I was handling in July and August finally shipped out so that was a huge relief. Our customers were very happy and I was excited to finally start making some serious money with drop shipping.
The biggest difference was a product we sold that was $10,000 with a net profit of $1,000. I remember the moment I got the order. It was a Monday, my partner and I were meeting at a local Starbucks talking business and I got the order confirmation email! Looking back I should’ve done a lot more due diligence to make sure it wasn’t a fraudulent order, but I talked to the guy on the phone and he seemed likea nice guy, and he turned out to be a very cool guy. I still keep in touch with him today over Facebook.
Sales settled back down to $12,000 this month, but our profit remained at around $2,800 due to some changes we made in our marketing efforts. I began focusing mainly on selling our most profitable items, and it worked. We sold way more of the items we made 20-25% margin on instead of the products we made 5-10% margin on.
I made a decision in October to work on my company brand and culture. I rewrote the about us page and made it all about the social mission rather than the products. I think this resonated with my target audience and helped us close a lot of sales because it made people trust us. It’s something that I take to heart with every business I start and grow now. This is all thanks to a couple of people in particular, Seth Godin and Jason Nazar.
November is historically the slowest month out of the year for recreational products sales, and we got hit hard. Sales dropped down to $4000 that month and profit was just over $500. Although sales were down, I was working harder than ever to market the products. The hard work would pay off soon!
Riding bikes with Juli, Ida and Kim
Reading “Startup CEO” and eating/drinking fruits n veggies
Thanks to the holidays, sales went up again! We hit $12,000 this month and profited just over $2,000. This was awesome because I really wanted to find a way for my wife to quit her job just like I had quit mine, and I knew the business would grow a lot the following year because I had plans for massive growth. When you plan and expect, chances are it will come.
We finished out the year strong. I remember making the announcement to my speech class that I had hit the $100,000 sales mark with my business and nobody understood it. The teacher was impressed, but it seemed like I was telling a tall tale. This is how it has always been for me. Whenever I start talking about making money online everybody’s eyes glaze over. That’s ok with me, my mission is to create abundance in my life and the life of my customers, employees, and partners. As long as that is what happens, I’ll be happy.
Here’s a snapshot of what our sales data looked like for 2013, Our total gross profit (before expenses) was $13,000. Not bad for a startup, but I knew I could grow it to way more than that. Little did I know that the growth would far exceed my expectations.
Sales in Q4 of 2013 hit $30,000, and I was really proud of that, but sales in the first month of 2014 hit that same number! It was insane! That’s only an average of 2-3 orders per day, 7 days a week, but still, I was blown away. I expanded our business to offer an entirely new line of products that turned out to be our highest revenue producing and highest profit margin as well. It was targeted towards an older demographic as well, one that had more money to spend and liked to place orders over the phone. Looking back, we got really lucky that more of those orders weren’t fraud, but I don’t think the product had been discovered by the mass fraudsters yet.
I expanded our business to offer an entirely new line of products that turned out to be our highest revenue producing and highest profit margin as well. It was targeted towards an older demographic as well, one that had more money to spend and liked to place orders over the phone. Looking back, we got really lucky that more of those orders weren’t fraud, but I don’t think the product had been discovered by the mass fraudsters yet.
Looking back, we got really lucky that more of those orders weren’t fraud, but I don’t think the product had been discovered by the mass fraudsters yet.
Our gross profit was $4,000. This was enough to pay Juli and my bills. After a very stressful day, she called me and I told her to quit her job. It was an easy decision for me to make since we had the money coming in and I could really use her help to grow the business. I knew she always had my back with whatever decision I made, so she was down. She gave her boss the option to employ her part time so she could go to school and work part time on the online business with me, but her boss didn’t want to do that. Her boss wanted a full-time servant. That’s too bad, because we were financially free of having to work a day job at that point. So she quit!
Sales hit $35,000 this month and we profited just under $4,000. It felt amazing and we were definitely celebrating by eating out more often. Since we could afford healthy food we shopped at the supermarket and purchased fresh vegetables all the time. Life was good, and I was still working hard to grow my business every day. With Julis help, we got double the amount of work done every day, and that would lead us to crazy sales the next month!
I couldn’t have been happier this month with the way sales grew. We hit $57,000 in sales and profited almost $8,500. This is so much more than I had ever made per month. We were averaging 4-6 sales per day, 7 days a week. Customer service was crazy, but I did everything I could to keep growing the business while handling sales calls and sending out tracking info, handling back orders and going back and forth between my vendors and customers on warranty issues.
The first column is revenue and the last column is gross profit.
The coolest thing about drop shipping is that you can use a cash back credit card to rack up some serious rewards points. I was using a 1% cash back card at the time (now I use a 2% cash back card), so after spending $45,000 I racked up $450 in cash back rewards (now it would be $900 with the same spending). That’s a lot extra beyond the profit I was making.
We surpassed March sales numbers in April and hit the $65,000 revenue mark. This meant we profited around $8,500 and got an additional $500 in credit card cash back rewards. Sales were crazy. I remember sitting at coffee shops working and getting calls from my business partner back-to-back about customers who wanted to order. It was astonishing how much business we were doing and it was mostly thanks to a ton of content that I worked on having produced by writers via upwork (back then it was elance). I also created a lot of sales copy for our most popular selling products as well as review videos. This landed us on the first page of Google for many long-tail keyword search terms, and hardly anyone was running paid ads for the products back then so we were getting the bulk of the sales. I also got a lot of orders through ebay and Amazon. This boosted our revenue almost 30%.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any business notes during this time, but I did take a lot of pictures of the food I ate!
This month was another huge month for sales. We hit $66,000 in revenue with $8,200 in profits. Before May, expenses were $500-$1000, but this month we decided to open a physical storefront and that cost us about $5,000 just to get started. That includes the rent and deposit, paint, fixtures, security camera system, initial stock purchases, new locks, and not to mention the ridiculous amount of time it took us to put everything together. This was a huge move for us but I thought it was worth it since we were making so much money and could benefit from the growth that might come if we could sell more name brand products.
We signed the lease end of May and started moving in a couple weeks later. It was an exciting time for us, but it was a lot of stress too and would turn out to be a huge time and money waste. I don’t recommend opening a physical storefront under any circumstances. There is so much money to be made online through e-commerce, affiliate marketing, and selling ebooks and online courses that spending your time trying to run a physical storefront should be reserved for those at the top of that game. Internet marketers should stick to what they’re good at, internet marketing.
We did a lot of fun stuff in May including a trip to Yosemite national park, a day hike at Stoney point and we ate a ton of delicious vegan food. Here are some highlights!
This month we broke a new sales record hitting $73,000 in revenue and profiting just over $10,650. To profit over $10,000 in a month is so crazy to think about, but I was making a huge mistake. I thought that moving into a physical storefront was going to help us grow, but instead of growing, we were distracted. Looking back I’m so pissed at myself for making so many stupid decisions at the time. I chose the worst colors to paint the shop. I ordered products in that weren’t top sellers and would end up being a huge headache to deal with. I had no experience with retail design and didn’t recruit any mentors to help me. I can’t get too mad about it because things have worked out just fine, but I shouldn’t have ever gotten into a storefront in the first place. I would have been banking so much cash, but instead, I was spending it all.
My grandma’s birthday was in June, and we were spending as much time as we could with her. She had alzheimers and bad dimensia. It was so sad to see because she is such a precious lady. She was always really friendly and nice. Her condition got really bad right after her birthday, and shortly thereafter, she passed away. Here are some pictures from the month that tell the story:
Because we had the shop open, we started getting higher profit margin sales. This is because we bought our products in bulk, and didn’t need to pay shipping costs when we sold them. We also were able to make more upsells and customizations when we sold a product. The drawbacks were that it was more expensive and time-consuming to keep track of inventory, sales, cost-of-goods-sold and our profit. I wasn’t prepared to have a retail storefront. I should’ve never gotten myself into this mess! I was in it, though, so I made the best of it.
Revenue in July was down to $49,000, but profit was at $8,700. This was a 3% rise in profit margin, yet it came at high cost. Here are some pictures from that month that tell the story:
This month we found ourselves working harder than ever to keep our shop looking nice, keep the online customers happy, and stay sane ourselves. We hired a friend to help manage the customers at the shop. I purchased a ton of parts and accessories ($14,000 worth, a terrible idea) and bought an expensive POS system to label everything (another terrible idea).
I took a week backpacking trip in the woods of Washington state with my dad and uncle, which was incredible. However, one of our cats passed away while I was in the woods. Juli had to deal with the situation and it was really sad.
She joined me for the second week of the trip and we did everything we could to rid ourselves of the stress we had built up from working at the shop.
Here are some picures that will tell more of the story:
This month we were putting in a lot of work to make the shop profitable. We had purchased most of the inventory and now it was time to make some sales. Unfortunately, my local marketing skills weren’t up to par. Although we made $40,000 in online sales, the shop sales were few and far between. Our profit was around $7,000 for the month, which was a problem because with all the added costs of having a shop, we were no longer putting any of that into savings, but we were now spending it all. Regardless, 2014 was my second trip to Interbike Vegas, and I brought Juli along with me for the trip this time. It was so much fun and we had the most amazing trip. We also did a lot of other fun stuff that month. Here are pictures that tell the story:
In October, the foot traffic at the shop died down. The online traffic also died too. We were in a tough spot.
I had tried to switch our e-commerce platform and, in doing so, I destroyed our 1st page rankings on Google. I tried to get them back every way I could, but in my research I discovered that it would take months to get them back. I couldn’t wait months. I had the high costs of running a shop to support, and it was the down season anyways.
Our entire revenue for October-December was only $40,000. This means we sold less than $15,000 worth of products each month. Our love for running the shop also died. I started sleeping in, opening up the shop late, and not keeping track of the merchandise. The expensive POS system we had wasn’t working out. Everything was falling apart and our stress levels were rising. Something had to be done, but I wasn’t sure what it would be yet.
To make matters worse, we had a break in the day after Christmas. There was a strong wind storm for a few days and no one was out on the road. I accidentally left the gate unlocked one night and two thieves shattered the glass door and stole $1000 worth of products (our cost). Not only did we have to pay $500 to fix the glass, but we were out the cost of the products and the profit they would’ve produced. It was devistating at the time. All my cash was tied up in inventory, so I needed to sell the stuff, fast. The end of 2014 was the end of a wild roller coaster ride of a year, and the next year would be even wilder.
Here are some pictures from those three months that help tell the story:
Here is a screen shot of our final income report for 2014. We made over half a million dollars that year, and profited over $100,000. It was crazy to look back on this journey of going from a day job making $12 an hour and barely getting by to making over $100,000 in a year with my own online, location independent business.
Total gross sales
Cost of goods sold and profit
Total cost of goods sold and gross profit
Total sales on the right column, just from our e-commerce store, not including ebay or amazon sales.
So far I’ve told a story of a rise to epic heights and a subsequent fall. It was a crazy time in my life. I was learning new lessons all the time, but I was about to learn the biggest lesson of them all. After the new years, things changed. Simply put, I wanted out. During one phone call with my business partner, I explained to him that I was burnt out and didn’t want to be in business anymore. For me, I wanted to be in business, just not in this business. It wasn’t giving me freedom anymore, it was imprisoning me. So, I did what I had to do, I ended the partnership. The way it went down, I actually made it so
I did what I had to do, I ended the partnership. The way it went down, I actually made it so awkward that my partner offered to give up his portion of the business in exchange for me handling the debt we had racked up to open up the shop. This was the freedom I needed to wrap it all up. I called the distributor who sold me almost $10,000 worth of parts and accessories and asked for a return. They granted it. I packed it all up into a giant pallet and shipped it back for a $7,000 refund.
I had a ton of bikes to sell, and I started listing them all on craigslist. I also had to sell all the furniture, retail displays, slat wall, etc. It was a huge mess, but I was happy to get it done and be free of the shop.
During one weekend in January, while walking back to our car after visiting the Agenda show in Long Beach, a friend of mine called me asking about how the shop was going. I told him about the situation and he explained to me how he was looking for a location a lot like mine. He ended up signing a new lease with the owner, essentially releasing us from our lease and setting us free. We had to give up our $1250 deposit, but I was just happy to be out of the $20,000 liability in rent payments for the next year.
With the shop closed down and most of the assets sold, I continued to liquidate the rest of the stuff on Craigslist and pay off the debts. I switched the e-commerce site back to WordPress and Woocommerce which got many of our 1st-page Google rankings back as well. Sales rebounded, and we were back to living at home again, doing the drop shipping thing without any worries.
Here are some pictures that help tell the story:
The next part of this story includes the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter of my life. 2015 started with a bang, continued with wild adventures and epic climaxes, then ended with the death of old places and ways, and the birth of new beginnings and experiences.
I’m writing this in my home office just a block from the beach in Long Beach, California. The temperature is a mild 82 degrees outside and there isn’t a cloud in sight. So if I’m living in paradise, why am I feeling so unfulfilled?
Los Angeles, California is a beautiful city, but it has its drawbacks.
The cost of living isn’t the only thing that’s out of control, the amount of people out here is mind blowing as well! According to Wikipedia, the population of LA is now exceeding 18 million people. That’s more than 8,200 people per square mile. No wonder the traffic is so bad.
The problem with living in a place like this is that you need to make a lot of money just to survive. My spending is somewhere between $3,000-$6,000 or more on a monthly basis. That’s ridiculous. Most of that is spent on rent, a car (and related expenses), food, shopping, and expensive smartphones.
Spending this much money every month on things I really don’t need and living in a place where everything is so spread out is wearing out on me. Los Angeles is fun, its filled with amazing people and there are tons of places to go skateboarding every day, but I can’t live here and put money into savings. I can’t build wealth when I’m spending so much. I can’t even really enjoy the nice things around here, I have to settle for the free things.
Pros to living in Los Angeles:
Beautiful people, lots of beautiful people
Tons of amazing skate spots
Tons of amazing skate parks
Huge communities of people from all walks of life
Cons to living in Los Angeles:
High cost of living
Traffic, lots of traffic
Lots of people, way too many people.
You can’t get anywhere easily without a car
Hoards of homeless people and crackheads
Skateboarding has kept me here, along with my wife, but I haven’t achieved my dreams of traveling the world yet. My needs are shifting. I no longer need to skate every day to feel fulfilled, I need to go somewhere new every day.
I turn 30 in April of 2017, and I want to spend the last 6 months of my 20’s doing something I should have been doing the entire course of my 20’s, traveling!
Something to live by: “Bring your skateboard with you, wherever you go.”
Skateboarding is not just great exercise, it’s an art form like dancing that provides an outlet for built up anxiety. It’s also great training for other things in life that require balance and fearlessness. Every time I go skateboarding I face my fears. Just getting up onto a small handrail could mean a cracked rib or broken ankle if I don’t commit 100% to doing it correctly.
I have been blessed the last 6 months with being able to witness some of the most amazing skateboarding in the world happen right down the street from where I live in Long Beach, at the Cherry Park Skate Plaza. There’s something about being exposed to incredible talent and skill on a daily basis that really helps build your confidence and skill set as well.
Am I a bit spoiled from all the good weather, skate parks, people, things to do and places to go? Possibly. Honestly, I feel like I’m ready to experience something new. I know there are a lot of obstacles ahead and tough times yet to be had, but nothing compares to the mediocrity of a life in the city without travel.
I’ve been in debt before, $5000 deep to be exact. After working to build a website and brand for so long, then selling that website for $50,000 in 2015. I don’t want to go into debt ever again. That’s why I’m working so hard right now. I’m working my butt off every day to grow 3 e-commerce sites while working on launching 3 more. It’s an insane workload that would drive the normal 9-5er nuts, but it’s just another day for me.
I moved to LA from Idaho, of all places. The only people I knew in LA were my grandparents who graciously offered me a free stay at their house for a few months. I had to go meet people on my own, without anybody introducing me. It wasn’t easy, it was scary, but I did it so that I could escape the mediocrity of living in the boondocks of north Idaho.
I barely graduated high school. I failed miserable in my first few semesters of college. I had to go back and forth to Seattle and Idaho to make ends meet in the summer time, but each time I got lucky and had friends that offered me a place to stay at their house over the fall and winter months.
I wanted to learn how to skate really well. I wanted to get sponsored and go pro. But I got injured a lot and realized that I wasn’t going to make it in skating if I wasn’t able to perform at the top levels and network my way into the companies that are out here. So I gave in and started working day jobs. I couldn’t find a job for a long time until a friend’s friend showed me a movie called “the secret.”
This movie changed my life.
I got a job, and then I got a better job. I worked really hard to advance, but the pay was so little that I kept going into debt. No matter how hard I tried to save money and cut spending, the cost of living is so high out here that I couldn’t afford the things I wanted like a new skateboard, new shoes, and a night out every weekend.
When I was growing my online business I tried to move into a physical retail location. When it didn’t work out due to high costs, I had to exit. The rent alone was $1,500 a month, not including payroll, expenses, taxes, etc.
I vowed never to put myself in a precarious position like that again, and so I’m here now. Without very many responsibilities, but lots of motivation to create abundance in my life.
Now that I’ve experienced over a decade of living in Los Angeles, I feel like it’s time for something new again.
Juli and I booked one-way tickets to Chiang Mai, Thailand for October 1st. We are going to give our 30-day notice end of August, sell all our stuff, put the rest into a cheap storage unit in Las Vegas, set up a mail forwarding service out there, get new drivers licenses, bank accounts, and business permits. We are going to move out of California to not be burdened by the state income tax anymore, and we are going to travel.
We can only get a 6-9 month tourist visa, so we can’t stay in Thailand forever, and that’s probably a good thing. We will pack everything we need in a couple of backpacks and be digital nomads for the next decade. Our goal is to experience every part of the world and document the entire thing. That’s the goal with my personal blog, to document it all.
As human beings, we have many core needs and desires. As soon as you can get in touch with your core needs and desires, and understand what you truly need to feel alive and fulfilled, the happier you’ll be.
I’m a much happier person when I’m traveling than when I’m stuck in the same apartment every day paying so much money that I need to constantly be grinding just to get by.
Material posessions make you happy for only a moment, but without use, the hapiness they bring you quickly wears out and becomes a menace to your mental well-being.
I really hope that if you’re reading this that you can take something from my struggles that will benefit your life. Just do what your gut feeling is and don’t let the naysayers convince you otherwise. Only take advice from people who are living the lifestyle you want to live. Stay motivated, get inspired, make big changes in your life, take risks, get out of your comfort zone and truly feel alive.