Eight years ago today, on Lunar New Year Day, I left the corporate mother ship to begin an unknown venture towards entrepreneurship. I saw the Lunar New Year theme as a sign of new beginnings and fortune, and it’s fitting that it’s 8 years to the day, as the number 8 symbolizes prosperity. read more
I worked in process development back in my corporate days. What is process development? Basically, I figure out how to make a million of something. In other words, it’s about taking something someone has developed in a lab and putting in a process to make a lot of it. The buzzword is “scale-up.” For example, there’s a new formula for Downy that was developed in the lab with beakers and test tubes. We want to figure out how to make it at the plant, which may mean new tanks, new pumps, and mixers.
2017 was a year of scale-up for me. Before, it was throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sticks. This year, it was cleaning up all the stuff that fell to the floor and putting frames around the stuff that stuck. 2018 will be picking out stuff that’s more sticky, pre-treating the wall with glue, and adding more glue to the stuff before throwing it against the wall.
With that vivid imagery in your head, here are my top happenings and accomplishments over the 2017.
In the business category:
Revenue was up 55.7% compared to 2016, on growth of the flagship The Bucko Soap Scum and Grime Cleaner and launching the Flairosol lineup of sprayers.
I updated The Bucko Store (thebucko.com), in the hopes of selling directly to customers in addition to selling on the Amazon platform. It’s now on Shopify and I’ve set up email marketing for my customers and newsletter subscribers. That’s still a work in progress.
I hired a great virtual assistant. It’s not easy finding a great one, but having her has really helped the business grow. It also is hard to make sure I do my job in making her successful, but I think I’m getting there.
Investments were up 19%. And exactly 0% of that is in Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies (the subject of another blog post I’m sure). The S&P 500 was up 20%, so I trailed that a bit, but I think the S&P was one of the top performing indexes this year I guess I did OK. I also contributed to my Roth and SEP IRAs again because I have earned income!
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!
On Saturday January 21, we had our second ever EntreAsians retreat in Orange County, CA! It was a great crowd, ranging from wantrepreneurs to semipreneurs to new full time entrepreneurs. We had students, recent graduates, and young looking older people!
Thanks to Rebecca Okamoto of Evoke.pro for teaching entrepreneurs how to pitch, Emily Liu and Kim Matsudaira for telling us about Dragonfruit Media (and making us all crave Malaysian food from one of your videos), and Farzana Nayani for informing us about minority business certifications.
After the session, we all went to Season’s Kitchen in Anaheim (the subject of one of Emily and Kim’s videos) and got the VIP treatment from fellow EntreAsian Khim Teoh:
We got a great behind the scenes tour of how a restaurant operates, and the story of Khim’s entrepreneurial journey.
Here are some takeaways from our participants:
“The opportunity is solving a problem that everyone is having. Entrepreneurship is not an all or none proposition, a side hustle is a great place to begin.”
“People have been telling me to do the minority business certification for a while but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. Good to know I have someone who can help!”
“Goals in 10 minute increments!!! That has been my mantra the past few days – and it works.”
“I like the pain points, that stuck with me.” (Referring to identifying pain points as something to build a business around)
“There’s a big opportunity to develop a starter kit or a startup bootcamp.”
“Sometimes the knowledge that we take for granted (e.g. note taking apps, or payment options) is something that other people know very little about.”
“There’s no need to search for ‘guilty’ parties that may have ’caused’ my retirement. I am leaving to pursue the same dream as William Procter and James Gamble in 1837.” Doug Hall, Jump Start Your Brain