There is a clear distinction between an Internet Technology Entrepreneur and a Lifestyle Entrepreneur. While the goal of an Internet Technology Entrepreneur is to innovate by disrupting or changing an industry, the goal of the Lifestyle Entrepreneur is to maximize profitability while minimizing hours worked. I have a unique position in that I’ve experienced both in the past 3 and a half years living here in Silicon Valley: while neither is better than the other, I believe that a business-minded entrepreneur clearly has a better chance to succeed in one over the other.
3 and a half years ago, my team and I moved to Silicon Valley with the goal of building a game-changing company, a company that would disrupt an industry and become as big as Facebook one day. We built RewardMe, a digital loyalty platform for restaurants and retailers and raised $1,000,000 from Angel investors.
We built a product, had paying customers, and acquired users, but after two and a half years, the company ran out of cash. In June 2012, I decided to leave RewardMe to pursue lifestyle design. Inspired by Tim Ferris, my goal was to achieve $10,000 per month while working less than 10 hours per week.
I achieved my goal earlier this year.
I learned that lifestyle design is not about traveling or learning new languages, it’s about positioning yourself to do what you really love to do. For me, it was the ability to pursue projects without the worry of my financial situation. This 10-part guide is the first step to understanding how you too can build a profitable and sustainable lifestyle business.
How I Built My Lifestyle Businesses
I took a spaghetti-to-refrigerator approach:
Throw a lot of spaghetti at a refrigerator and eventually a few will stick.
I created a travel referral website called Tour Woo: The idea for Tour Woo came to me when I researched my trip to Peru. There were a ton of travel agencies that I contacted and spoke to over the course of several months until I finally chose a tourism agency. Tour Woo is the simplification for the search for a reputable travel agency; fill out the form and we introduce you to top-rated travel agencies for the specific country you’re traveling to.
I created the #1 travel referral site for North Korea: My friend told me about his recent travel to North Korea and how it’s an emerging market with no clear leader. We did some research and found that he was right: the market was wide open for the taking. We therefore created the site How to Go to North Korea to educate travelers about the possibility of traveling to North Korea and connect them to reputable agencies that have proven safe travels for tourists.
Google the following key phrases and check out where we rank:
- “How to Go to North Korea” — ranked #1
- “Travel to North Korea” — ranked #2
I created a drop-shipping women’s apparel line called Minted Republic: We made a connection with a manufacturer in the garment district in Los Angeles to do drop-shipping with fashion apparel. Though we were very profitable in the beginning, the manufacturer decided that drop-shipping was not in their best interest. We are currently in negotiations to restart distributing products.
I created a online marketing agency called Reputation Hacks: I have a deep background in online marketing, so it made sense to continue my work with clients such as Whole Foods Market, Sephora, and the Los Angeles Clippers. A majority of our cash flow comes from the agency work that we do.
The Team is Absolutely Critical
Throughout the process, I had many failures and successes. I learned that a team is absolutely critical, and it’s super important to pull together a group that has complementary skills. You can’t do it alone; it’s easier with team members because you can focus on your strengths while your partners make up for your weaknesses.
Your weaknesses should be what your team members are best at and that’s how you complement each other and produce a well-rounded product. My brother from another mother, and consistent business partner is Joseph Yi. We complement each other in so many different ways, which is why we’re able to quickly start a project, see if it works, and gauge its profitability.
Target Your CURRENT Network
It’s not only important to build a product that you would buy — something you would purchase yourself and would use — but even more importantly, you need to build a product that your current network will buy. This kind of offering means you don’t have to go out and spend a lot of time, energy, and money to cultivate a new network and try to create sales.
Build a Tribe
Lesson number three, it’s all about the tribe that you build. If you look at some of the most successful lifestyle businesses out there, whether it’s Adam Baker at Man Versus Debt, Ramit Sethi at I will Teach You to be Rich, or Jonathan Mead at Paid to Exist, they have developed a tribe of people that follow what they say and what they do. Tim Ferriss is another prime example. People purchase his products and services online because they believe in him.
To build a tribe, it’s important to understand the “Why”. Check out the video below to learn more about the “Why” factor.
So in the same way, whatever products that Tim or these other people build, their tribe is going to purchase it. You immediately have a target group that’s going to purchase your content — this is key.
This is Where Your Journey Starts
So why am I writing this guide? I believe anybody can take life by the horns and live the way they want to live. I see so many of my friends working a 9:00 to 5:00 and living for the weekend just to get through the grind. There’s a lot of content out there talking about turning your passion into something that you can make a living off of, which is great. With Ecommerce Rules, we want to really hone in and give you tangible steps on how to turn your skill-set and interests into profit — specifically with drop-shipping.
Secondly, I’m writing this guide because it’s not about building the next Facebook. It’s about creating a lifestyle that you love to live and doing meaningful work, whether that means the Cody McKibben lifestyle of Thrilling Heroic — living in Thailand, working from your hut on the beach, and sipping on Mai Tais — or having the financial freedom and time to work on projects you absolutely are passionate about.
Freedom awaits you.
If you have a sustainable flow of revenue through your lifestyle business, then you can really focus your time and energy on your product without having to worry about raising money or being able to take care of yourself.
How can you change the world if you can’t take care of yourself first?
Lastly, it’s about generating long term sustainable revenue that allows you to live how you want to live and pursue the things you want to pursue. This is something I have done for myself, believe in wholeheartedly, and want to share with you.
The Lesson Plan
As far as a roadmap, week one and introductions are today.
- Lesson 2: Examples of successful entrepreneurs who have built lifestyle businesses. I want to be able to show examples of ecommerce stores, informational products, and SAS solutions — solutions that have been built by entrepreneurs that are not engineers.
- Lesson 3: We’re going to find your personal hedgehog concept, which is the key factor produced when you mesh what you’re the best in the world at, what you are passionate about, and what you can do to make money.
- Lesson 4: How I’ve recruited the best co-founders and how you can too.
- Lesson 5: We’ll talk specifically about building a tribe, a group of people that believe in what you say, love what you say, and believe in your why.
- Lesson 6: The universal principles of lifestyle businesses
- Lesson 7: How to build a lifestyle business through drop-shipping
- Lesson 8: How to build a lifestyle business with an information product
- Lesson 9: How to build a lifestyle business with a SAAS product
- Lesson 10: We’re going to talk about next steps to take life by the horns and really do what you want, when you want, and not have to worry about working a 9:00 to 5:00, working for someone else, or trading your hours for money.
Ultimately, you want to build something that is scalable — where you’re not trading your time for the money that is generated. I look forward to starting this journey with you!