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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!