E200: Ecommerce Observations and Realizations from the 5 Minute Pitch GuysNovember 26, 2018 in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
It’s our 200th episode. I’d like to start off by saying a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who’ve tuned in to this podcast from the very first one.
A few weeks ago we wrapped up the semi-final round of 5 Minute Pitch. The finalists will be judged on their presentations at the Seller’s Summit next year in Miami, Florida.
After three days of competition, I sat down with my co-judges Scott Voelker, Steve Chou, and Greg Mercier to record this podcast.
Over the course of this endeavor, we’ve had the chance to meet a variety of entrepreneurs. Some have already gotten their feet wet while others are still at pre-income level. There are those who developed their own products and those who took the “me too” approach in terms of what they wanted to sell.
Each of them had something to bring and this whole experience has reinforced our belief that people behind ecommerce businesses are some of the most driven, passionate, and hardworking individuals you’d find anywhere. It is indeed a great community to be a part of.
With that said, here are some takeaways from this fun and meaningful discussion.
Is it still possible to bootstrap an ecommerce business?
- Uniqueness and defensibility are good characteristics to have
- A “me too” product isn’t necessarily a bad thing
- Amazon is still a great place to get started, especially if you’re a solopreneur
- But when your business gains traction, start building your brand outside of Amazon
- Personality can be a big factor; putting yourself out there to promote your brand can be your ticket to success
Double down or diversify?
- If you have a strategy that you know works, it makes sense to double down or even triple down on it
- A good time to diversify would be after achieving a significant business goal
Head over to https://www.5minutepitch.com/ and sign up so you can follow along with the selection process.
Registration to EcomCrew Premium is open for one last time this year. Follow our Facebook page for all the latest updates. Sign up this week and you can get 50% off on our subscription plans.
If you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Intro: Before digging into episode 200 right here after the intro, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that EcomCrew Premium is available right now and it’s going to be the last time this year that we’re going to be offering EcomCrew Premium, and the price is going to be going up by 50 to 70% next year when we re-launch in January. That is not a sales gimmick or a tactic that we have, a really good core base of people in EcomCrew Premium now.
We’ve kind of realized how much effort goes into individually responding to everyone’s emails and dealing with the monthly webinars and answering all the questions which we love doing, but the amount we were getting paid per hour to do that stuff was starting to become a little bit embarrassing. So we had to raise the price and we’re going to do that early next year. So if you want to get in through this Black Friday deal of this discounted price, go check out EcomCrew.com/premium and hopefully the sales page and everything else that we’ve done speaks for itself. If you’re ready to do that, now is probably the best time because again, the price is going up next year.
All right guys, let’s get into the intro and talk about all kinds of sorts of stuff with Greg, Scott and Steve. This is Mike and welcome to episode number 200 of the EcomCrew Podcast, another big milestone for us. It’s crazy how far we’ve come doing this now for several years. And to get 200 episodes under our belts is, I think, a pretty big achievement. And these milestones in some cases mean a lot and in some cases they don’t. It’s kind of like turning another birthday. In some cases, 30 is not any different than 31 or 40 is not any different than 42 or whatever it might be. But in some cases they are.
I mean, I think we’re all like this. You think about the year 2000 when we went into that, it just felt different. And certainly this episode is no different. So, I want to thank you guys for your support getting us to this point. We could not do this and continue to do this and be motivated to do this if we didn’t see our listener numbers continuing to grow month over month. And I know a lot of that is because the people that are listening are getting value out of it, and they’re telling their friends and that’s about the best form of flattery you could ever expect. So, I want to thank you guys for making us get to this point.
And for this episode, we have something special; we tried to do something special for episode 100. Episode 200 is my good friends Scott Volker, Greg Mercer, and Steve Chou. The four of us were sitting out on a patio right after we recorded, finished wrapping up the 5 Minute Pitch. So some of this is about the five minute pitch, but a lot of this is about life experiences and business and life goals, and all kinds of other stuff. I think that these types of conversations are the ones that you should be having.
And I think it’s cool to be able to provide something like this, a behind the scenes of flying the wall of a conversation like this. This is the type of stuff that I think really helps motivate me to become a better person, a better entrepreneur, and everything else in between. And you can probably tell how much we enjoy being with each other, and how much we admire each other and respect each other. It was a great conversation. So I hope you guys enjoy this as a part of Episode 200.
Scott: So we have Mr. Steve Chou, Chou. It’s sexy Chou but someone [overlapping 00:03:09] this is an inside joke. We have Mr. Mercer here. Mr. Greg Mercer. We have Mr. Steve Jackness. I mean, Mike Jackness…
Mike: That’s another inside joke.
Scott: In the house and of course, myself.
Mike: We all did it though. That was what’s funny.
Scott: It is, it is. Well, we had each other on each other’s podcasts. And we talked about this 5 Minute Pitch thing.
Mike: Now it’s a wrap.
Scott: It’s a wrap. We’re sitting here having a couple of cocktails and getting ready for dinner actually, we’re actually waiting for dinner; we’re going to go get dinner. But we wrapped up, and we had three days together and…
Mike: It was a lot of fun.
Scott: A lot of fun. But man, I’ll tell you what, it was a lot of work.
Mike: A lot of work. But you know what they say, when you’re having fun, you’re not working.
Scott: That is true. That is true. What I want to do here though, is while it’s fresh in all of our heads; we got to spend some time with some really awesome bootstrapped businesses. A lot of them are bootstrapped. Some of them were pre revenue; some of them were already making some really great money. What I want to do is kind of talk about like this space, it’s changed since three years ago, probably a year and a half ago. What do we like about what we’ve seen? What do we feel like is the essentials to being successful with a bootstrapped business? Like can it still be done?
Mike: 100% can still be done. We just saw twenty something of the 32 companies that are crushing it. So obviously it can still be done. A lot of them are still young. The thing I think that’s really key to your question is, I think the most important thing now is uniqueness and defensibility. It cannot be in any way shape, or form a “me too” product. You have to have something with some intellectual property, something that’s defensible, because you’re really the creator, or it’s really hard to knock off.
Scott: I agree with that. And it was fun seeing all these different businesses, right? A lot of different types of businesses, we saw software businesses, we saw marketplaces, people who invented their own products with patents, and similar, we liked some me too businesses, right.
Greg: I would say that Amazon is still a great place to get started. I think we saw that with a lot of our contestants when they were trying to get started. They were trying to make those first few dollars, Amazon is by I think everyone would agree that it’s a great, easy place to get started, then you can pivot into something else. What are your thoughts Steve?
Steve: I was surprised at how swayed I was at someone’s personality. Like, I went into some of these pitches thinking well, without giving away the product, it was a commodity product, really saturated, and I was ready to write it off right away. But this guy’s personality and the fact that he just put so much passion into his presentation really swayed me. And so it just reminded me of the importance of really putting yourself out there as like a personal brand in front of your products, which will make everything a lot more successful, more like a business.
Scott: That was definitely a common theme, wasn’t it? All of the ones that were doing well are around the tips to companies that maybe weren’t doing as well or need to improve was, it helps to have a face to a brand is someone that can get out there and that can be relatable, and someone who you want to purchase from.
Steve: It even overcame the numbers in a lot of cases, right? Sometimes the numbers didn’t really add up but the guy’s personality just put it through or gals.
Scott: Or gals yeah.
Steve: We had an equal number of guys and gals.
Scott: We did which was really exciting. And there were some very successful women actually. And there’s one and I’m not going to give it away. If you guys want to follow along, you better go over to 5MinutePitch.com and sign up over there. You can’t obviously enter the contest anymore. But you can sign up to get notifications when we air new episodes, it’s going to be a full season, it’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be exciting. And you’re going to learn a lot through this process too, because as you hear us kind of give advice or even just feedback, you can kind of learn.
There’s one business in particular came in with an idea. Now, he didn’t make it through, almost made it through, he made it through the first round. But he didn’t move on because we almost gave him the advice to pivot and switch gears a little bit, which he took. And he did do that. But I think it’s also being someone that doesn’t marry to an idea. Or if you’re that early, can you rebrand or can you switch and pivot and I think you can. But I really just think that if you have not even just the face, but if you have the presence in the market, if you have a me too product, I still think you can sell that product, if you are the one that people are going to want to buy from.
Mike: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, almost everything in some way shape or form is a “me too” product because like everything, almost everything has been invented. There’s still things that get invented but there’s very few people that really do that. It was definitely pervasive with the personalities. There was some awesome stories, there was one guy that was talking, again, I don’t want to give things away. But the story…
Scott: Go to 5 Minute Pitch to check out.
Mike: Go to 5 MinutePitch.com, sign up today to be notified. But this guy was talking about how he like went down to the pool [ph] and like put the inventory in the back of a U-Haul truck that he rented. And like you got to be willing to hustle and go all in, in your business. And it definitely that was a theme throughout the entire thing.
Greg: Another common thread that I really picked up on is people who create a brand or market their product that is very much like a powerful or even sometimes like one sided tight brands. I don’t know great words to describe this but let me give an example. If you were selling soap for example,…
Steve: I was going to use the same example, go on.
Greg: And if you said that this soap is only for tough men or girly hands can’t take this soap or being very binary and like almost creating enemies in your branding but at the same time creating a like loyal or passionate following. So they feel like they fit inside of the area that you’re marketing to, I really like companies like that, especially in saturated or just very competitive niches.
Steve: One thing that really hit me, and I got affected a lot by the personality of the person presenting. One guy, he had a spotty internet connection and it was a wireless connection. So he actually went out in the middle, bought 150 feet of Cat 5 cable, wired his house for internet so that he can participate in the 5 Minute Pitch. And as soon as I heard that story, I was like, man, I love this guy. I know he’s going to succeed.
Scott: Yeah, again, we heard a lot of stories of people that could have just given up. There’s one in particular, made it on a very, very popular TV shopping show, I won’t mention the name, we won’t give it away, and had huge success, then had a huge like obstacle. And you could have given up on that, hasn’t given up and is going to be a pretty cool little story to follow here when they’re being sent through or not sent through, they are being censored, we’ll just say that right there.
Mike: There were several companies though that you could say that about. There was someone that got into a bad cash flow situation, there was someone that – I think it was actually same person who had cancer, which is an obstacle to overcome. There was just the people running out of inventory, and like the guy I was just talking about the guy going down to the pool and doing this. Entrepreneurs, like the successful entrepreneurs are going to face adverse, I felt I faced so much diversity that I could tell you we don’t have time to get into all that. There’s been some really crazy stories, but you have to be willing to deal with that.
And my friend Grant, who I used to do the podcast with, would say that the reason I’m successful is because I learned how to fail forward. When you fail, you take that as a way to go forward and learn from that and become a better entrepreneur. And I saw that theme here throughout almost all of the pitches, which was really neat.
Scott: Yeah, let me ask you guys this question. And maybe we can just hand the mic around here. Like, what do you think that something that stood out from just about everybody, what was one thing that stood out to you of why they’ve even gotten to where they are, and why they’re not even afraid to even share what they’re doing publicly, because they are going to be sharing it here on the show, right? So they feel so confident in what they’re doing, they’re willing to go out there and say, you know what, I’m going to do this, and I don’t care who knows.
Steve: I think it’s because a lot of the people who are successful were actually using the products that they were developing. They were experts in their field and they found deficiencies in the tools they were using, and decided to create a better product. And the fact that they’re actually using it, they have domain knowledge over the product they’re trying to sell.
Greg: Everyone that made it through the first round, I think it’s easy to say that they were all just like pure hustlers. They just made things happen or made it work. They hit all kinds of obstacles; they had to step outside their comfort zone. But it’s like everyone shared that same trait, that they were just like hustlers. And it didn’t matter what their background was, or their education, or if they had experience in, or whatever else. They were just driven to make it happen.
Mike: I can speak to this for personal experience. And we have a podcast. I talk about pretty much everything we do completely openly. And the reason I can do that confidently is because I feel like what we do as a business adds tremendous value to the product and the community, and the people we serve. And if you’re just creating a me too product and trying to “hustle” like in the more bad sense of the word where you’re just trying to buy and resell something, and just make money in a short term experience, of course, you’re going to be more guarded on what you’re talking about. But we’re creating a brand and products that our fans and customers love.
And I think that’s why the people that came on the 5 Minute Pitch here, they all exude that, right? They all had a lot of passion; add a lot of value, either by creating something really original or even taking products that weren’t necessarily original and adding a lot to those products.
Scott: I got something for you though here, because this kind of — and I want your opinion, your opinion and I’m pointing Mike, Steve, because I agree with you, but I disagree with you. Here’s what I’m saying. Okay, for myself, right now, I started a brand with a partner 18 months ago. I feel like I wouldn’t have had as much of a head start if I would have let everyone know. And I think Greg can probably speak to this, if he wants to be honest. If you’re going to build a true brand, unless you just want to show the process. If I’m just going to show you the process, I don’t care if the brand it’s hacked.
It’s kind of like the niche site duel that Pat Flynn did with Spencer or Spencer did with someone else. They’ve all told me it’s been hacked, backlinks and negative backlinks, they try to bring you down; someone else tries to rip it off. If you get a head start, I agree with you. But if you were going to do that right this second today and do that from day one, I think you’d be at a disadvantage. Now these people have all started. So that’s why they’re not worried about that. But if they started from scratch, it’s going to be harder. Would you agree or disagree that it would be harder to start with publicly going out there and sharing everything you’re doing even though you have the chops. Like with ColorIt, you kind of started before you started sharing everything, correct?
Mike: We actually pretty much shared it from day one.
Scott: Did you?
Mike: I threw caution to the wind with this. I’m going to — this is not advisable. First of all, I agree with you, but let’s start there. I agree that probably it puts us at a disadvantage with sooner talking about all the things that we’re doing. It gives you an opportunity to have more people copy though. Well, that’s a great idea. Like, I’m sure as soon as the first people talking about garlic presses, soon they’re all being copied. So I get that, I really do. But I’m also at a point where we’re financially independent and secure and I’m more confident in myself. And I don’t care about that as much.
And one other thing is I don’t ever profess to sell 100% of everything in that particular niche anyway. I’m not going to sell all the colored pencils in the world or all the gel pens, and we’re cutting out our own lane. And if I let someone else catch me, I always feel like that’s my fault for not working harder or doing a better job. So I’m a little bit weird when it comes to this. But I have to agree with you. I think you’re dead on it. It puts us on a spot that we don’t need to necessarily put ourselves into.
Scott: Right. And I’m looking at Steve; he created his brand before he really…
Steve: So I got my opinion on that. And when I started My Wife Quit Her Job, my wife was actually really scared that people were going to knock off Bumblebee Linen.
Scott: Oh, yeah.
Steve: Fundamentally, there’s nothing really — there’s no IP involved in that.
Scott: But you guys are doing personalization.
Steve: We do personalization but this is even before personalization. I started the blog before that, it was just me too products. And it’s still to a certain extent is me too products even though we have our own designs now. But I was confident in just my ability just to market and I just wasn’t worried. We actually had a whole bunch of knockoffs believe or not. We had like Hummingbird Linens and I think Queen Bee — I’m not even joking, we had Queen Bee Linens.
Scott: Queen Bee.
Steve: And people clearly that were reading the blog and that sort of thing and they even used our photos to put up a mock shop. I don’t know if they were actually selling anything there. But over the years, those guys just slowly trailed off.
Greg: I think actually hearing you three guys, what comes to mind is an idea is worthless without execution. And it doesn’t matter if they also have the idea to start Bumblebee Linens or also had the idea to sell colored pencils are coloring books, that there’s a lot of execution involved, right. These are at the end of the day still businesses and businesses are a lot of work. You have to get up every day, you have to sometimes grind and do the stuff that’s not sexy that we often don’t maybe talk about or write about. And these are just like monotonous tasks that you kind of have to do every day to grow your business.
Mike: They hear about it on a 30 minute podcast, it sounds so sexy. And then they realize like when they go try to do this for a year, how much execution it does take. And it’s a lot more work than probably they realize.
Scott: Yeah, I’m going to speak to like I said, because I get that question every now and then. Like, why are you publicly doing it? For me personally, when I went in with this partner, it’s almost now I’m trying to protect the partner because they are depending on this business, more so than I would be. So because of that and also we have an exit strategy. We didn’t want to hurt that. But I agree with you. And I’ve often thought about doing that almost like Greg’s doing like a public case study. I even thought about doing that with niche sites to be honest with you. I thought about doing a public niche site to show people how to build content, how to build an email list, how to set it up properly, how it’s going to take time, it’s going to take 12 to 18 months before you see any traffic at all. I mean, Mike, you can speak to that. I know you can as well Steve.
Steve: You see this in blogging all the time, people will just outright copy your content or just slightly reward it. But those blogs are never successful. It’s all about the brand and the person behind it, the voice.
Scott: Yeah. And I kind of want to go on that a little bit. Like how important do you think it is right now for someone, and like Greg said, I agree. And I advise people, start on Amazon. But that’s not where you end, that’s where you start, that’s like the launch pad. I look at that as a launch pad, it can be a significant channel. You can make a lot of money. We have one person that we’re sending through that is making 95% of money on there, over 500 skews like 35k net a month, like a beautiful brand. Most of it is on Amazon.
But they have a pretty good product that they don’t have to worry about someone just going and ripping them off. They still could though, they still could. But how important is that, Mike that you have something that you could either blog about, or you could create content around and bring people in versus it just being the product?
Mike: Can I answer the question about Amazon just real quick.
Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Mike: Because I’m really passionate about this. I started actually off Amazon. So I’m one of the crazy ones that started doing it all off Amazon and all of us have courses and podcasts and teach this stuff. I think you’re absolutely out of your mind if you don’t get started on Amazon.
Mike: If you’re getting starting in ecommerce, learning how to pick, pack, and ship and deal with logistics and labeling and customer service, and all this different traffic and everything else is a massive undertaking. You have so much other stuff you can focus on, like getting the product right and photography and building a good listing. And at some point, there’ll be this crossroads where you’re going to want to grow your off Amazon channel, because you don’t want all of your eggs in one basket. But you have to have a business that’s large enough to want to diversify first. I think you have to be well in the seven figures before you hit that crossroads.
So for me, I completely agree with you, like you would want to get started Amazon, let them take care of all those headaches. You don’t even realize what those headaches are, and you can learn about those later. Worry about taking baby steps in the beginning.
Scott: What’s your thought, Steve?
Steve: I think you got to be a little bit careful. I know for the students in my class, they start on Amazon, they have some success, but then they just kind of lose track of their brand. And it’s like a drug really, it’s like a drug. So you get used to it. And that’s where the money is coming in. And you may as well just put all your fuel to the fire there. So I encourage them to once they have some traction to work on their site in the side. Just kind of build it up. Don’t divert all of your resources. Definitely, like press the Amazon channel until you’re kind of saturated or done the best that you can. But you got to think about building that brand. And that can really only be done outside.
Mike: Running a website requires you to learn how to like take payments, to launch listings on your own site, to deal with sales tax collection, to do email marketing, Facebook ads. I mean, the list goes on and on. And you can eliminate all those things if you start with the Amazon thing. And I completely agree with Steve as I was saying, this crossroads at some point you cross over to that makes sense for your business. But if you’re getting started as a solopreneur, it’s going to be an overwhelming amount of stuff if you try to start selling off Amazon as your first point of contact.
Scott: Let me ask you guys a question that is a question I struggle with every single week. How do you decide or know when to double down more on what’s working versus diversifying or trying to do more things?
Greg: All right, but wait a minute, though. Let’s ask the question. Are we talking about just business in general, are we talking about — are you alluding to if Amazon is working why don’t you just double down on Amazon versus doubling down on maybe just building your business?
Scott: I’d like to hear just like your general thinking around it. And I think that can pertain to different areas. Amazon is a good example right? The Amazon stuff comes very easily to me, it’s very easy for me to double down on it and launch more products. And if I look back at like my history as an entrepreneur, I think actually most of the mistakes I’ve made are trying to diversify more or trying to do more things or start a new project or a new whatever else instead of really doubling down on like what I’m great at. I don’t have an answer here; this is why I’m asking you smart fellows. It’s something I struggle with every week.
Steve: It really comes to a gut feel for me, and I’m just kind of a paranoid person in general. So I’m like Jackness.
Scott: You are more projected, Jack is more paranoid.
Steve: Right why do you say?
Scott: I’m going to let you keep going here. But I just want to let people go to 5MinutePitch.com because you’re going to want to sign up for this because there’s a lot of smack talk going on here.
Steve: And what’s nice is we all got different personalities.
Scott: Yeah, so continue.
Steve: And they all conflict.
Scott: Mr. Chou.
Steve: Oh, we’re talking about what, risk tolerance.
Steve: So for me, I treat everything like a drug. If I get too addicted – and my income goals aren’t as lofty as Mr. Mercer’s for example, who wants to start like a nine figure company. I just, I’m satisfied with like a seven, probably just a seven figure business. So as soon as it gets to a certain point, I want to protect that income. So that’s why it’s important for me to diversify.
Scott: Yeah, I’m very similar to you. I think you and I are both very similar. I know what Greg is saying like, if something is really working, like just double down and put more gas on it. I get that but I also look at for me, like safety net. I’m building an asset that I know is stronger than just doubling down because if I double down and I’m collecting that money, what am I doing with that money? Am I just putting it into a bank account, am I taking that money and reinvesting it? And then if I am reinvesting it, is it still dependent on the thing that I’m doubling down on?
So those are the things that I think about. Lately, I’ve been talking about basically diversifying because I want to take advantage of the opportunity but I do not want to bank on that. And if it goes away, then I’m going to feel really, really like scared in a sense, right? It’s like, oh my gosh, I bet on this one horse, I should have been probably betting on more than just the one horse.
Mike: I have a lot to say about this subject. Yeah. Scott wants to tell me to stop talking so much. That was another thing that was up.
Scott: It was, you got really chatty.
Mike: I did.
Scott: At the later parts of the day. And maybe alcohol, I don’t know.
Mike: We’ve been out here drinking a beer.
Scott: You had about a third of a beer or three quarters of a beer. So maybe you’re going to chat a little bit more, we’ll see.
Mike: Well, I’m philosophical these days. I’m philosopher Jackness now. But so the current question that Greg asked was when do you double down? And Steve was just saying I’m paranoid. And these two things actually kind of go hand in hand in some ways because when you’ve been an entrepreneur for any length of time through multiple economic cycles and just business cycles and whatever else it might be, you’re going to experience a bunch of different things. And I’ve been through a lot as I’ve been on my own doing — I quit my job in 2004. I was an entrepreneur my whole life, but I have been doing this since 2004. And I think that there’s a lot of sound philosophy behind doubling down on something that’s working, just keep on doing what’s working until one day you get your toast off the, your hand on the door or whatever…
Greg: Amazon shuts you account down.
Mike: Amazon shuts your account down, that hasn’t happened but like I mean that type of a thing.
Greg: A listing gets suspended.
Mike: We have had…
Greg: How does that feel?
Mike: It’s not interesting, it does not feel good, thank you.
Scott: Hold on a minute. Let me just pour a little salt on that one. How does that feel my friend?
Mike: It does not feel good. So when that type of thing happens, you get rattled, you get paranoid. And when you’re younger, just like anything else, when you’re young, you feel indestructible, and you don’t think this will happen. But when you’ve had multiple things like that happen, you start to get more paranoid, more guarded. I don’t know what the right answer is here is the bottom line. At the end of the day, I think all of us struggle with this. Like, I definitely struggle with this, like almost on a daily basis.
And there isn’t necessarily a right answer. I can say — there’s a couple of sayings like, if you chase two rabbits both will get away. And I have a propensity of trying to do too many things. And if you are doing too many things, you’re not necessarily doing one thing at the highest level or selling. But at some point, what I would say here, just to wrap it up without talking too much more…
Scott: It’s getting chattery.
Mike: It’s getting chatty. I don’t think you should diversify until you have a business you need to — until you are past your risk profile. When your risk profile gets to a point where, like if you think every day like if my business got shut down, Greg is about to say something and make fun of it. I want to just stop talking. I already know I’m going to be made fun of, all right go make fun, go ahead.
Greg: I mentioned I’m not going to make fun of you Jackness. My advice or what I just want to say here is, I think for 99.9% of the people listening to this podcast right now, actually, the answer is to double down on what’s working, whatever is making them money and to do a better job at it. Again, like I get the whole paranoia and that these different things happen and whatever else, but there’s also a certain level of just devoting your brain power and your time and mental energy to other projects that probably statistically speaking are not going to be successful as whatever you’re good at and can actually make money with. So yeah, that would be my advice for everyone listening.
Steve: It’s funny Greg, do you actually follow your own advice, because wasn’t there a period where you were on this acquisition spree and you had all this stuff going on?
Greg: Yeah and that’s what — I started this whole thing off with saying like if I look back in my entrepreneurial career that I would say like those are actually the biggest mistakes that I’ve made that are like trying to like do more or go to do like other things instead of like really just like double, tripling down on my core strengths and what actually works really well for me.
Steve: That’s assuming that money is your goal or success in that certain avenue. I like to diversify sometimes to just build a different skill set altogether.
Scott: Yeah well, and I want to again with Greg, are we talking about let’s use an example, Amazon is working really good. I’ve got someone right now in my inner circle okay, and his whole goal before he became part of our inner circle was just continue to launch products, stay ahead by launching more products. Then all of a sudden competition is going to come in, you’re going to lose those products, you’re just going to keep staying ahead that way. And to me, you’re always going to be behind because that inventory that you can no longer sell is going to then hurt you because you can’t get rid of it because you know that that’s coming, they’re coming for you.
But if you were to diversify or at least — and again doubling down could mean doubling down on your brand. It could be like building out your external channel, it could be building out your content, building out traffic to your own site. Like our website right now for the new brand started from zero. We have over 70,000 uniques every single month and that’s growing. We’re putting AdThrive on there now, we’re going to have stuff that’s not even linked to an Amazon product, not even our own physical product, maybe $5,000 a month comes in recurring revenue now. So is that worth doubling down on?
Greg: There’s no right or wrong answer with these and that’s what makes it so hard. And that’s why I want to get the…
Scott: I love it.
Greg: Absolutely. And that’s why I want to get you guys is like thinking behind it or maybe just how you think about these different obstacles. Because I think this is actually fundamentally one of the most challenging questions or one of the most challenging things that entrepreneurs run into. And we saw all throughout the 5 Minute Pitch. We saw different people, for some people, I was like, don’t launch that second product. Like you haven’t even given the first product what it deserves yet. You need to still give that some more love and get it some more customers and whatever else. And then there were other people that I was like, man, that’s going really well, whatever else, it makes sense now, kind of try to do this other thing. And it’s a very, very challenging question. I’d like to start with that, I struggle with it every single week.
Mike: I think that a lot of entrepreneurs struggle from shiny object syndrome. And if there’s one thing that’s probably got me in trouble over all these years is that. So I’ve been like laser focused on ecommerce over the last like seven almost seven years, six years. And it’s really helped. I mean, like, just sticking with. Now, obviously, like, we’ve got multiple brands, we got a lot going on within ecommerce but at least I’m staying focused within ecommerce. And I have not allowed myself to get sucked into other things even though there’s been a lot of really interesting and cool opportunities; I’ve been trying to stay within one field at least. And even then, I’m not saying I’ve done everything right. But shiny object syndrome is definitely always…
Greg: I was just thinking though, I know about a podcast, and a course…
Mike: It’s all ecommerce. I’m going to defend it; I’m not saying it’s going to be…
Steve: It’s like saying I’m doing all this stuff, but it’s still business. It’s just business, right.
Mike: I mean, it’s fine. I get it. I like the criticism, we can talk about more about this offline because…
Scott: Off line, let’s talk about it now.
Mike: We can talk about now, let’s talk about it now. You guys can grill me now if you want. But there’s a lot to be said. I mean I get more fulfillment from doing the podcast. The podcast has led to this. Like if it wasn’t for that…
Scott: I have a question for you because I get this question. So if that’s the case, and you enjoy like building businesses, why don’t you just build like more businesses? Why do the podcast? Why do ecommerce? Like courses and training? I get that a lot. Like, why don’t you just go build 10 businesses?
Mike: That’s not easy, building a business is not easy.
Scott: It’s not, and my answer always and I want your take on this and all of you really is like, and it sounds kind of cheesy, and all that. But when you can have an impact on someone else’s business that actually allows them to have, that’s pretty awesome. And I’ve got a guy in the inner circle as well, that he employs very similar to one of our contestants, employs stay at home moms. So the bigger we grow his business, the more stay at home moms he employs. Why wouldn’t I be proud of that? Like, why wouldn’t that feel good. But that can play into your mind too, because you get the haters and all that stuff. But what’s your thoughts on that? Why are you doing that? You want to just make money, don’t you, Mike?
Mike: Well, the problem is that I do, everybody wants money. But I can tell you that it’s become less and less of a factor because — and this can go off on a huge tangent, but there’s like the money to happiness quotient, and you get diminishing returns very quickly. Like, the more you make, you just want more stuff. And eventually, things don’t make you happy. And I’ve been through…
Scott: I agree with that.
Mike: Yeah. So I can tell you the things that give me immense satisfaction are actually ripping at Steve Chou. That is my favorite thing to do. It really is, like of all the things and that’s the only reason I keep doing ecommerce is I can rip on Steve Chou.
Scott: Steve Chou.
Mike: Yeah, but you were just talking about this. First of all, how do I go sign up for the inner circle?
Scott: What’s that?
Mike: How do you sign up for the inner circle?
Scott: Oh, that’s great. I’m glad that you’re plugging in, thank you. It’s TASinnercircle.com, its application only. You have to be at a certain level.
Mike: To get to inner circle.
Scott: Yes, it’s a great group.
Mike: So, the thing that’s really actually bought a lot of satisfaction to me, and I’m sure all of us have experienced as we all have similar stuff going on, the comments that we get when you’ve changed someone’s life, we’ve let them quit their job. We’ve allowed them to get their business out of a hole, helped them when they’re struggling just like be someone that cry on their shoulder, that stuff brings me way more satisfaction than seeing one of my products sell better. And that’s really the honest truth. I know it sounds like BS, because like, that’s the stuff you’re supposed to say on a commercial. But I’m a weird, twisted person.
Greg: What do you got to stay there Mr. Chou?
Steve: I want to say that it was kind of rewarding, right. We were on the 5 Minute Pitch, and all of us — some of the contestants referenced all of us in changing their lives. And that was very rewarding. And when you get to Scott Voelker’s age, your priorities start to change.
Scott: I’m the oldest one in this group too.
Scott: That’s pretty sad.
Steve: We call grandpa Volker.
Scott: Actually it’s going to be papa. I’ve already agreed on the name. I am, I got a daughter who’s 23. She’s probably ready, yeah.
Steve: When you get to Scott says he starts getting a little preachy.
Scott: It’s true, it’s true.
Steve: For me it’s all about the happiness quotient. So I’m taking on projects now that just make me happy like 5 Minute Pitch, podcast, the blog, focusing on…
Scott: There’s really no money being made here for us.
Steve: Oh yeah.
Scott: In 5 Minute Pitch.
Steve: We’re in debt actually in this project.
Scott: As of right now, actually if you want to be a sponsor of the 5 Minute Pitch, reach out to Steve Chou at My Wife Quit Her Job. Is that how they would get ahold of you?
Steve: There’s two…
Scott: Yeah but you’re going to take care of the sponsors. Yeah, just email [email protected] if you’re interested in being a sponsor. We have not locked all of the sponsors in, but we do have some interest, so go ahead.
Mike: I was just saying that you know life’s taking a turn for the worst when you’re paying to be happy, like to hang out and have this happy to stay there. Steve was just talking of that’s pretty much what’s happened with the 5 Minute Pitch. We’re all like…
Scott: That’s pretty awesome.
Mike: Just write us checks so we can like hang out together and be happy for three days.
Scott: This is good for our lives. I’m not going to lie, this has been pretty awesome, some really great guest judges. I’m not going to give them away so you guys can go over and watch the 5 Minute Pitch when it airs, some really great judges, great conversations, great connections, and great people that we’re actually helping. And I think that even though they’re not going to win maybe most of them because we got like one winner, they’re all getting value, and the people watching this are going to get value.
Mike: I mean I love doing this stuff. I can’t wait to — we know who the finalists are as we record this. I’m going to get any of that away, but we got some finalists that are going to be coming to the…
Scott: How about the twist?
Mike: No, no.
Scott: No, no just tell them that there was a twist.
Mike: There’s a twist at the end, but I can’t tell you what the twist is. But the finalists are coming to Sellers Summit in Miami. If you want to be a part of that, is it sellerssummit.com Steve?
Mike: Sellerssummit.com. Come get your ticket. There’s not many tickets left. So you guys have got to go do that soon because it’s a very small, tight knit conference. It’s one of my favorite ones that go to every year mostly because Steve allows me to speak and it gives me opportunity to feel good about myself for about three minutes until he tells me I did a horrible talk. But besides that, it’s a great conference. The thing I really love about it is it’s a smaller conference compared to some of these massive conferences out there. You get an opportunity to talk to other likeminded entrepreneurs, get away from the office for a few days, and really commiserate in some ways with other entrepreneurs, but also learn a lot and just get away from the office and think about something different for a few minutes.
Steve: What I like about my event is that I got the stage and I can make fun of anyone I want. And I got the mic and no one can…
Scott: I’m actually afraid this year. I am.
Steve: Oh, we got funny photos.
Scott: That’s right.
Steve: That I have to work with.
Scott: Yes, yes.
Steve: I need to tap into Liz’s archive there.
Scott: No, it’s a great event. I will be there again; thanks to Steve, he invited me back. It’s my fourth time being back. Yeah, this is this is pretty crazy. So I’m excited to be back. I know a lot of people, there’s a lot of people that are repeats that come back as well. So, it’s always a pretty nice group.
Mike: It seems, I mean, from an outside perspective, it seems like half the audience. I don’t know what the real stats are.
Steve: Yeah, actually, we sold over 50% of the tickets within a week of the ending of the last one.
Scott: And why don’t we talk about this real quick, you make a lot of money on the event, don’t you?
Steve: No. Man, for the amount of work involved.
Scott: And I’m starting to learn this right now.
Scott: That’s right with the Brand Accelerator.
Steve: Brand Accelerator Live. You don’t realize what it takes.
Scott: Yeah, it’s a lot of work. And I actually I questioned myself and you kind of warned me before I did it. I just wanted to do it because I wanted to bring the community together. And I wanted to have my own thing, and I’ve got something I’m going to reveal there that I’m working on, a little secret project. But yeah, man, it’s you don’t make any money really. You got to put a lot of money down first also. You’re taking a big risk, and it’s really to help the people. I mean, you could do so much more doing a workshop or a webinar or something like that, right. But it’s really about the people, the community, you, and Toni. We got to give Toni some credit here.
Steve: We do. We should give her a shout out. Well, yeah Toni, you are awesome. She’s the secret behind the success. She is, she really is.
Scott: But yeah, it’s really not a money play. It’s really bringing community. And you have a great community now that comes there, like every year.
Steve: And our events are going to be similar. We purpose to kind of keep it kind of small, so everyone can hang out and meet each other, develop their own masterminds, keep in touch.
Scott: And there’s been a lot of that, right. I’ve heard a lot of people say, I met so and so at the event, we’ve kept in touch, we have our own little weekly mastermind or monthly mastermind. So because it’s lonely, man.
Greg: That’s why we got to put on 5 Minute Pitch just so we can hang out.
Scott: I know, I know. This has been a great three days. Actually, it’s tiring, though. I said this, my hips are sore just from crossing my legs in different ways.
Mike: And you’re looking different [inaudible 00:40:53].
Scott: But all right, let’s wrap this up. I think we have dinner plans that should be arriving here soon. Anything else you wanted to add about any takeaways. Like, give me one takeaway right now that’s just kind of like in your head from the 5 Minute Pitch.
Mike: I mean, this is going to sound so stupid. But I’m going to say I love my life. Seriously, man, like, it’s been great hanging out with you guys and the guest judges. I love doing this stuff. Like, it just — this is such a — it’s been so awesome. I really like – Thanksgiving is coming up as we’re recording this. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this type of stuff. I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to live such a cool life, I’ve been able to travel, do cool things, meet cool people, be an entrepreneur, and not have to live on someone else’s terms. This is the type of thing where you’re really realizing that’s really cool for me.
Scott: How about you Greg?
Greg: My biggest takeaway from this is, it was an excellent reminder that I just love working with entrepreneurs. It’s just like such a passionate group of individuals. I love hearing all their different stories. It’s really easy just to get stuck behind the computer week in and week out, and not really have those connections with other people. And hearing all these different individual pitch, all their very different businesses, all the different ways to create businesses and how they have really changed their lives, just like had a huge impact on their whole lives was pretty magical, special.
Steve: I agree with Mike. It’s funny, all my friends back home, they’re all — a lot of them are Asians and we’re all engineers, lawyers, and doctors. I just don’t get a whole lot of entrepreneurship love. So, I just realized that I just love hanging out with entrepreneurs. And the more I can do to build the community or have events like 5 Minute Pitch or Brand Accelerator, I’m there, man.
Scott: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I don’t know. Like, it’s funny, I want you guys just take on this one too, this is another one. I didn’t think about this one. Like, you get to a certain level though, right? And you think, oh once I get there, it’s kind of like, you’re done, or you made it. And then you get there and you’re like, oh, wait a minute, this is cool but what’s next, right? Like what’s going to energize you. But from here, I think what I really learned from the people that we were able to hang out with is just like Greg said, they’re hustlers. They want — a lot of them want the lifestyle. They want a lifestyle business but they want to also create something that they can be proud of, and that they’re passionate about. And a lot of passion ran through this group, a lot of passion.
Steve: You got to have a higher purpose too. I know for me, we did it so we could stay at home and spend more time with the kids. But if you’re just doing it for the money, you’ll probably eventually feel a little bit empty and you’ll be looking for something else.
Scott: Yeah, and I mean, money is good, right? Money allows us to do really cool things, and travel and whatever, or just spend more time with your family or your friends or do this stuff. I basically flew here, five hour flight to get here to hang out with you guys and then also hang out with some cool entrepreneurs for three days, and run through this process. And that’s what I’m really finding is just like, I’m really being able to meet cool people like you guys, hanging out with you guys, building our relationship deeper and expanding our minds. And I mean, who knows where that’s going to go? But just these people that we’re able to help, this is really so just satisfying.
Scott: So, all right, let’s wrap this up. All right, let’s wrap it up. I know we kind of rambled a little bit there at the end. But that’s just because…
Mike: Is anybody still listening to this thing?
Scott: I don’t know, I think they are. All right, 5 Minute Pitch. I’m going to give you guys one more pitch on that. All right, head over to 5MinutePitch.com. Register over there, or sign up, you’ll get notifications. You can also probably go on Facebook and find it around there too. I know, Steve, you posted some stuff over there and I’m posting some stuff. But yeah, just follow along. It’s great to follow along, get some information from just listening to these people’s stories, how they got the ideas, how they kind of got to where they are, where they’re going, the advice that we’ve given them, some feedback, all that stuff. You’ll definitely learn through that process. So yeah, let’s, let’s wrap it up. Mike, what do you want to say man? You’re good; you want to wrap it up, you want to give some words of wisdom?
Mike: Words of wisdom. I think you got to be ready to come on Five Minute pitch Season Two. I’m announcing it right here. Are we going to do this or?
Scott: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we got to figure out everything else. But yeah, I think so. We’re going to say 95% yes.
Mike: Something like that.
Scott: All right.
Mike: All right. Serious words of wisdom.
Steve: Yeah, give me that.
Mike: You don’t have to plan everything in advance and like worry about everything in advance. I mean, I think that the 5 Minute Pitch is a perfect example of this. We had a general guideline of what we wanted to do here but we knew that we could create a good final product. And it’s interesting if you knew what was kind of happening behind the scenes, it was a little bit of a poop show in some [inaudible 00:45:59] cards. But I think that the final product is going to come out good because they were really good contestants, we’re all pretty confident that we can produce good content.
And I think it’s important because like if we had sat around and tried to plan every little detail, we never would have got this off the ground. We were just like, let’s do it. And we did it. And we figured it out. And I think that we haven’t seen the finished product. We’re still figuring some of this stuff out but we got to this point. And I think when we see the final product; we’re going to all be really proud of it.
Steve: Mike. First of all, I think we’re giving ourselves a little bit too much credit here. This would not have happened whatsoever without Liz. She is the brains behind the project. If it was just us, I don’t even know if we would have made it out to California to be honest with you guys.
Scott: We wouldn’t be sitting here.
Steve: We wouldn’t be sitting here.
Scott: For sure.
Steve: Exactly. We were like, hey, did you guys book the contestants? No, man, I thought you were supposed to do that.
Scott: Okay Greg.
Greg: If you’re thinking about coming to the 5 Minute Pitch, because you do have a business, you’re an entrepreneur, but you’re scared, I’ll just let you that every single person that made it into the final around thought they absolutely had no idea and that they would have been the worst person pitching on there or whatever else. It just goes to show that I think everyone doesn’t realize how good they actually are, or how good of a business they actually have. So if you’re on the fence or just thinking about a consider, I would recommend for you to apply.
Scott: Yeah, so head over to 5 Minute Pitch.com. And you can go ahead and register there, and then get more information about if you want to apply for maybe season two.
Mike: Is that it, Mike drop, Mike drop. All right, Mike, Mike, drop, drop.
And that’s a wrap folks. I hope you guys enjoyed the 200th edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. It’s just been an amazing journey all the way through this. It’s led to some amazing opportunities for me. That’s how I met the guys on this podcast, mostly from having my own podcast. That’s how I’ve been able to travel the world and speak at events all over the US and all over the world. It’s allowed me to meet some of the most influential people in the space. But it’s also allowed me to provide a lot of value to our audience, which is just so rewarding.
The comments that we’ve gotten both publicly and privately, the people that walk up to me at events that I’ve never met, but they always say like, I feel like I know you because you’ve been in my ear for the last several years. That’s just really humbling, man, it’ll put you put you in your spot in a great way. So, I want to thank you guys for those comments. I want to thank you guys for listening, thank you guys for all your support. And here’s to another 100 and looking forward to having another milestone episode of 300 sometime in the next year or two. All right guys, that’s going to do it for this episode. So, happy selling and we’ll talk to you then.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.