Yesterday, I moved myself out my apartment as my lease was up. It had been exactly one year since paying rent for the first time. It gave me a chance to reflect upon life as a full time entrepreneur for the past year.
Last year, when I first moved in, I was making some revenue, but it was still pretty tight. Now I’ve saved up money from my corporate days, but I really didn’t want to touch savings if I could help it. Since I had gotten rid of almost all of my belongings when I moved back home to Milwaukee, I had to go through the process of buying all the little things like pots, pans, silverware, salt, pepper, TV’s, desks, shelves, etc. again. These things start to add up pretty quickly. It was great being on my own again, but I was also starting to feel just how much it costs just to exist (especially in California!).
In the past year, revenue has increased about 5X. Last year, I mentioned that the business felt like it was graduating high school. Today, I would say it’s ending its junior year of college. It’s starting to gather up the knowledge and skills necessary to make it in the real world. Before, the mantra was “get something out there.” Now, it’s grown enough to the point where I’m starting to work on things like trademarking my brand, cleaning up the accounting and taxes, and organizing my business in a way where I can bring others on to help.
One telling thing I did was to start reorganizing my files. When I first started, I only had one product, so of course I had one folder and within it folders for things like financials, graphics, pictures, etc. This year, I have almost 30 SKU’s (not all vastly different products, some are different sizes and colors), so now I need to organize according to function. For instance, I started with a “graphics” folder with the products as subfolders. The reason for doing this is so as I start hiring graphic designers, these files are in one place.
Speaking of hiring, I also have started hiring some freelancers, including virtual assistants. I’ve heard many people talk about how it’s not easy to give up control, and it’s faster just to do it yourself, but I’m at the point where things were starting to get complicated and I’d lose the ability to stay a “lifestyle entrepreneur” if I didn’t start hiring some help. It was definitely scary to hire my first assistants, since I wasn’t sure how to manage them right and what the norms were. I ended up hiring from a service called Freeeup (which has pre-vetted assistants for just about every need that they can assign to you) and go hour by hour. It’s a great way to start learning and build up the skill and confidence before I hire one full time.
The last few months have been very busy to the point of having to make priority calls. I still want to do everything, but at this point I need to focus on a couple of core things. The mantra for me recently has been to do projects in series instead of parallel. Try to get a couple things running and viable and then moving on to other things, instead of trying to do 10 things at once. I still can get them done, just will do them back to back.
Another accomplishment over the past year was to switch my own site over the ever growing Shopify platform. (I’ve wanted to invest in Shopify stock but it’s been growing so fast I haven’t had a chance to jump in). Amazon is still the vast majority of my sales, but it’s time to put some effort into my standalone site.
The next month or so I’m going to be a digital nomad. I plan on exploring a couple of places around LA as I decide where to live next, and I make a couple trips to Florida to attend Steve Chou’s Seller’s Summit and back to Milwaukee to visit my family. I have a couple of AirBnb’s booked in the LA area and hope to get a feel for what it’s like to live in the area. I’m not as adventurous as the people who go off to Thailand or Vietnam, but I’ll get a small taste of it. I’m very much looking forward to the next phase life for me, and here’s to my business graduating college this year!