I grew up like a regular middle class child. I certainly wasn’t born into money but I’ve always been very entrepreneurial-minded. I remember I was really into drawing in grade school. I remember selling drawings and then got into mowing yards, basically anything that allowed me to earn money. I liked the idea of being able to work for yourself and capitalized on that.
I went to Georgia Tech for Mechanical Engineering. I have always been very interested in the mechanics of how things work. I like to be the jack of all trades, the master of none. I want to know how everything works, know a little about a lot. Being interested about things in that manner growing up made mechanical engineering very fitting to go into. Having said that, I never did graduate, but I’m actually still kind of frozen in my senior year at Tech. I had dropped out in good academic standings. I can go back at any point and finish it if I wanted to. At this point, I don’t need to jump through hoops to get a piece of paper that’s not going to benefit myself.
I worked with a group of friends at a company involving drag racing engines. I didn’t have any vested interest in this. I didn’t have any ownership in the business but for several years, I helped grow the business. We kind of collectively worked together as a group of four guys that just didn’t want to have a boss telling us what to do and grew this business that became eventually, over just for a short amount of time, a multi-million dollar business that is huge in drag racing and has since ventured into a number of other things.
That was a very valuable opportunity because it allowed me to be able to try a few things, suggest a few things, and see them go into action without having anything of my own. It wasn’t my own company. I wanted to see it succeed for the benefit that the more the company made, then the more money that would be available for payroll. We could all make more money at the same time, and I did not sweat it because it wasn’t my finances or my time that were at stake here.
The first real thing would be branching into the trailer industry with Trailers For Cheap. We did sales and service of trailers, basically being a dealer for manufacturers like Haulmark trailers. They manufacture enclosed car haulers, motorcycle trailers, and cargo trailers. The opportunity came from working for an industrial equipment company that was working on a lot of trailers and accessories, and it was just going to be something that would kind of supplement the business.
I feel that regardless of what the industry is, there is essentially a recipe that you can follow from a generic standpoint that will drive any business to success. It’s keeping a reasonable overhead, not trying to grow too fast, and not branching out too fast. With any business, you find an idea that you can market. You figure out what demographic, what group of people you need to reach, and where is your money best in reaching these people, and then from there, it’s adapting with feedback and just building relationships and going from there. It seemed that overhead was one of the first things that kills a lot of companies. They get in too deep and they don’t have the cash flow to be able to support the operation at the scale it was currently at.
Through advertising in a number of places, starting with advertising on eBay. We also bought ad space on racingjunk.com, which was a huge site in drag racing so there are a lot of guys who are looking for car haulers there. You’ve got to have a little bit of budget for advertising to get something to get going.
I learned a lot through SEO (search engine optimization). Uniquely enough, in the trailer industry, a lot of the business is still very old school. Nobody makes use of social media. They don’t understand the importance of search engine optimization. These are websites that were built in 1996. They are not using a content management platform. Half the links are dead links when you try to click on them. They don’t understand that our generation, the people that are becoming the buying power of all these respective companies, we go online to find anything. I didn’t know a lot about specifically how search engine optimization worked, I just knew that it’s very important.
From there, I realized the opportunity of search engine optimization because I would start telling people about it. They want to know what we are doing to generate the calls because that was an industry that had been flooded with companies doing the same thing. That evolved into the Exposure Group which was something that was going to be contract service for web development and search engine optimization that basically offered the same things that he was able to offer me as an employee in my office but to everybody else.
My web developer was going to be able to handle the technical side of things. Also he essentially already had a network of people, mostly in India because you could have labor so cheap, you could pay a guy that’s very qualified for full-time work. They would work for us 40 hours a week every month and $350 would be his pay for the whole month. There is somebody here for everything on our team from graphics to helping with the copywriting, basically anything for building content, writing blogs, even using some things that are more gray hat areas.
Actually, one of my biggest current projects is Silent Rewards and that is based on the affiliate marketing industry. My web developer would always keep an eye on different opportunities and sites he could buy. With Exposure Group, we purchased this company that was already an existing company. It had been running and doing well. It had about 15,000 users on there that were constantly doing things and so we bought it. It was something you can go to and you can take part in offers.
For example, you would see an ad for a Netflix offer where you can get a free month of Netflix. On our site, you would you earn points towards this offer. So, if you want to do a free one month trial of Netflix, you’re going to earn 800 points to do it. Well, 800 points is worth about $8 so you can do anything from cash out that money through PayPal, redeem it for an Amazon gift card, Hollister, or different clothing companies, etc. Simply put, you can get gift cards or cash for doing offers. Even smaller things like simple surveys. There is a huge opportunity out there to be able to earn money so it’s great for the younger demographic.
It was about eight months of revenue. I learned that 8-10 months of revenue is about what you will pay for a site. If you have a site that can earn, say, $10,000 a month, you would expect to pay about $80,000-$100,000 for it. If you keep it doing the same thing in 8-10 months’ time, you’ve now got something that has paid for itself and you just have $10,000 a month to blow on whatever you want.
It had laid dormant so a lot of the users had left and weren’t really interested in it anymore so it wasn’t doing very much money. It’s the first time that I’ve actually taken an established business, purchased it, and tried to get it rolling again. That is something I’m heavily involved in right now. I’m really excited about it. It’s fun because I like a challenge. I enjoy the entrepreneurial style of starting something from scratch and breathing life into it. Silent Rewards is fun because it’s my first venture into the whole affiliate marketing scene. Somebody else has already done big things with it but is not doing it right now. It’s fun because it’s an opportunity and definitely a challenge.
The main thing that we do is we build after market clutches for Lamborghini and Ferrari. We use Kevlar for the actual clutch material, the same material used in bulletproof vests. We offer a dual friction set up which is going to be a Kevlar and ceramic. Basically, the benefits of these things as many people know in the exotic car industry, the stock clutch in the cars does not last long. It’s for a number of reasons.
You’re going to pay around $7,000-$8,000 for parts and labor, and you’re going to be doing that around about every 10,000 miles or so. It also depends on location, how hilly the area is, or driving style, how you drive the car, you may be seeing only about 10,000 miles. It’s not unheard of at all. In 30,000 miles, you paid three times for parts and labor.
For me I knew that a dealership is not going to install an after market clutch so I didn’t want to reach people that they take their cars to the dealership for maintenance. My money would be best spent reaching do it yourself folks. I realized the best place to advertise is going to be Lamborghini Talk, it’s a forum and I had been a member on the site for a while and noticed that there were a huge group of do it yourselfers on there. A lot of guys change their own clutches and if they didn’t, they would most certainly save money by going to an independent shop and they understood that these guys are just as competent to work on the cars as the dealership was. Because of that, it was a great place to advertise. We bought a banner. We were given names on there where we are a supporting vendor and we could advertise on there and tell people about our products. I realized that was a great place. So that was where we started. I would try and answer tech questions on there because being a supporting vendor, we are able to have a big signature banner and things like that and so as I’m answering tech questions, we’re constantly advertising as well. That was the first area where I started advertising.
It’s a fitness apparel company that was started by me and a friend that work out. We’d make fun of the same things that anybody else in the gym would make fun of. If you go to a gym, you know there’s that one guy that’s really loud. He is just making all sorts of noise in there and everybody is kind of looking at him like, “Man, this guy. What is wrong with that guy?” We all laugh about it so we made a shirt called The Grunter and it makes fun of this and those sort of things.
We started that, made a nice website for it and started selling some of those shirts, set up a few distributors for it, and again to reach the people, we said, where could we go? Where could we advertise? So this past year, we attended The Arnold Classic. The Arnold Classic is a huge show in fitness and body building and things like that. They have a great manufacturing midway where you can set up and buy. There’s about 300,000 people that attend the event that weekend so a lot of exposure. We went there, set up a booth, and put up a banner. We sold several hundred shirts in a matter of hours. It was insane.
I guess the theme with all businesses, regardless of what industry, whether we’re talking about something in the trailer industry, commercial equipment, fitness apparel, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, the one thing that holds true for all of them is just basically taking something and breathing life into it. That really happens when you say who do I need to reach and what’s the most cost effective way to reach them? Where is my money best spent? Once you figure out where it is best spent and how you get to those people, it’s a matter of networking, making sure they know about your product and just getting the exposure, as much exposure as possible and then from there pretty much it takes off on its own. You have organic growth. It grows exponentially because the more people that know about it, the more people they know that would have a use for your product and it goes from there.
I have a Lamborghini Gallardo and when I take that car out anywhere, one of the first questions I get asked every time is what advice could you give me? What can I do to replicate that? I feel like I don’t consider myself as somebody that has made it. I feel like there are a lot of things I want to do and I’m nowhere near having done those things, but I do feel that I know a little bit at this point. The one thing that I recommend is don’t get caught up in that rat race. In America, everybody is keeping up with the Joneses. I would say 90% of households are paycheck to paycheck. When you do that, you totally kill the opportunity to take an opportunity that could be that one big thing and can run with it. You don’t have that opportunity because you don’t the ability to harness that. If you don’t live paycheck to paycheck and you live within your means, I feel like that’s the biggest piece of advice I could have because that provides the opportunity for you to be able to grab that moment, take it, and run with it. Everybody knows that it takes money to make money. That’s how capitalism works and so in America, we have a lot of opportunities at our fingertips that pass people by because they are paycheck to paycheck. They don’t have the ability to be able to capitalize when they need to.
I guess the other advice is do something that you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about it, it’s not work. I work seven days a week but to me it doesn’t seem like it because it’s not working. It’s almost like this is my new project. This is not a new business. This is the newest project and for me, it’s like it’s here and I want to get it to here. I’m not looking to necessarily make more money. It’s just that I’m looking to grow the brand and I want to grow our customer base, and get more people using our product just because I think ours is better. I’m passionate about all the things I do. They all came about for different reason but if you’re excited about it then it’s not something that you have to grind through.
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Every dream carries with it certain risks, especially the risk of failure. But I am not stopped by risks. Suppose a great person takes the risk and fails. Then the person must try again. You cannot fail forever. If you try ten times, you have a better chance of making it on the eleventh try than if you didn’t try at all.” Bruce Lee once said, “Don’t fear failure. – Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” Those two statements are very powerful. Tons of people have great ideas; however, many will talk themselves out of acting on the idea – thus failing before ever starting. Having a good idea is the easy part. Coming up with a plan that will allow for success and then executing that plan, that’s the true gift. The ability to identify the fundamental pieces that will ultimately be the path to success and then breathe life into them, that’s the hard part. So it’s easy to see, the real talent comes in the execution. Sometimes all it takes is the ability to better implement a design or more effectively reach a demographic.
I would just challenge others to not be afraid to take that leap. To add to the Arnold quote, you will have a better chance at succeeding the 11th time than you did on the 10th… and most definitely than if you never tried. There are plenty of examples out there where people learned from their rejections and failures, adapted, and went on to do very big things..