From fired to fortune

my supervillain origin story

“We’re preparing to file for bankruptcy, and you’re being let go.”

I momentarily glanced at the piece of paper that J was sliding across the table towards me, then looked up at him.

He was trying to remain professional, stoic, but I could tell that he felt sick.

P, the owner, was sitting further down the conference table, not looking at either of us. He looked like he hadn’t slept or showered in days.

I looked back down at the piece of paper, mostly to avoid looking at either of them.

“Ok. I understand.”

I grabbed the piece of paper and walked out of the room.

I was angry. Scared. But also relieved.

The last few months had been a ball-of-stress dumpster fire, never knowing when (or if) I was going to be paid, watching this company slowly circle the drain while I held on for dear life.

But now it was finished. January 2013.

I went back to my cubicle and just sat.

I didn’t have much to pack, and no one felt the immediate need to toss me out the door, so I just sat.

And as I sat there, something inside me snapped.

Or awoke.

Or something.

But an idea began to form.

I continued to sit, frozen in place, while my mind fleshed out this idea at breakneck speed.

Suddenly, it felt solid.

I jumped out of my chair, and made my way to the front door.

I stepped outside and immediately called him.

My future business partner.

“Hey A-, listen. Your non-compete with these guys is about to vaporize. Want to get back in the game?”

You see, A was one of the original sales guys in this business. In this entire industry.

I had met him months ago, liked him, and knew he wanted back in.

But a prior exit and a non-compete had prevented him from doing so.

Now, the company he was not allowed to compete with was going up in flames.

We spent an hour on the phone that afternoon, and fleshed out our entire plan.

We began to execute immediately.

Within 3 months, I was running operations out of my garage, we had obtained the customer list (email, addresses, and phone numbers) from the old, dead company, and my partner was sourcing inventory, securing funding, and making sales.

Each month, we split the loot down the middle.

My first owner distribution check was for over $12,000, far more than I’d ever made in a month before.

My partner continued to work the customer list, and we grew like mad.

In July, we signed a lease for commercial warehouse and office space.

In October, we brought on another partner to help me in ops.

By the end of the first year, we crossed 7 figures in revenue.

I must explain that we were selling very expensive products to a small number of high-value clients.

Our average order value was around $20,000.

We quickly realized we didn’t need a slew of new customers, we only needed a loyal handful who loved us and ordered consistently over many years.

And I brought that same philosophy with me into eCommerce and digital marketing.

Later, I’ll tell you how (and why) I made the leap from that first business into what I do now.

(And I’ll tell you about the time a customer paid me in cash, $18,000 in $20 bills, stuffed into a paper lunch bag.)

But the lessons I learned about the power of a customer list of superfans forms the core of everything I do today.

Just thought you should know, so you can decide if I’m someone you want to listen to.

I’ll share a little more tomorrow.

See you then,