It's Who You Know That
The Importance of Learning by Example
My nephew Todd is about to wrap up his
first year of college at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. On
a recent trip home, I asked if he'd decided on a major yet. "Yup,"
he replied confidently, "I'm gonna be a business major." "That's
great!" I said, "You can become an entrepreneur!" "No way," Todd
said. I was stunned. "But, why not?" With great certainty Todd
informed me that, "Most businesses fail."
Now where would an eighteen-year-old
kid come by such blatant misinformation about small businesses? It's
not like he grew up on reality television shows about eBay sellers
trying to survive on deserted islands or videogames that pit small
business owners against evil economic forces.
In the traditional job world, landing
a plumb job often comes down to having "connections." Of course "who
you know" is helpful for self-employed folks too. But if you're
miserably stuck in your job-job, it's who you DON'T know that can
make the difference between a lifetime of enduring your work or
relishing it. It suddenly hit me that the reason my young nephew is
so down on going into business is that, like most people, he doesn't
hang out with people who have done it successfully.
Time for a little auntie-to-nephew
chat... "You know, Todd, if you spent time around entrepreneurs like I
do you'd see that there is an entire parallel universe out there of
people who are making their living in ways that are fun, that
contribute to the world, and that are far more financially rewarding
than the vast majority of job-jobs."
Todd definitely liked the idea of
doing something "fun" and he was vaguely curious about how a job
could help change the world. But it was that last comment the one
about making more money that got his attention. "Like what?" Todd
Understanding the value of learning by
example, I rattled off a few of the folks that I "hang out" with.
Each offer valuable lessons for us all.
Work Can Be Fun
Annamarie von Firley started wearing
vintage clothing as a teenager and got hooked on the look. Today she
spends her day in ways the average employed person only dreams
about. Annamarie's five-person company, reVamp (reVampVintage.com)
designs, makes, and sells historically accurate clothing. How fun is
again that multiple profit centers are the way to go, reVamp runs
weekly fashion shows and offers "vintage immersion classes." Los
Angeles-area vintage buffs and
others can sign up to learn about such fun topics as vintage make-up
and hair styles, advanced apron making, and 16th and 17th century
cosmetic preparations taught by, get this, a make-up historian. Who
Making a Living by Making a Difference
Another business that's sure to
inspire my college-bound nephew is Mercado Global (MercadoGlobal.org).
In 2003 while they were still students at Yale, Benita Singh and
Ruth DeGolia spent nine months in the western highlands of
Guatemala. They fell in love with the beautiful handicrafts made by
the local women. Before returning home with a suitcase full of
samples, they made a plan to sell to the U.S. market by linking up
with local women's cooperatives.
Back on campus the two students
managed to sell all of the items they'd brought back at a 300
percent profit. A year later they started Mercado Global and soon
thereafter launched its first catalog featuring products from 14
community cooperatives. Their first-year profit was $75,000. The
second year it was $600,000.
But the real success of this business
can not be measured in dollars. Ninety percent of the profits go
back to the local community. In its first year, sales from Mercado
Global provided fair wages to 178 cooperative members across
Guatemala with enough additional revenues to send upwards of 100 of
their children to primary school for one year.
Knowledge Equals Money, Selling Knowledge Equals Lots of Money
Another "under the radar screen"
business that gets surprisingly little press in the mainstream media
is information products. The great thing about selling information
products is you keep your day job while you grow your business on
the side. Last week I told
Track Your Dreams Community about a guy named Andrew who is
doing just that.
Andrew is a veterinarian who wrote a
little eBook that teaches people how to care for their ailing dogs
and cats. Over time he was able to get sales up to a pretty steady
$1,000 to $1,500 a month. Not bad when you consider that he was only
charging somewhere around $27.
A lot of people would be happy with an
extra $12,000-$15,000 a year in "passive income." But Andrew had
read all the statistics about the size of the pet market in the U.S.
All he had to do was find a better way to tap it. So, he did what
smart business people do. They find other business people who have
"cracked the code" and they learn from them.
Andrew used a small portion of his
profits to invest in a self-study program that taught him how to
expand his product by simply by asking his customers what they
wanted. Once he'd created a higher priced product, he also learned
from this same program how to more effectively locate and sell to
the people eager to buy what he has to sell. In just two weeks he
made $59,400 in sales.
The great thing about entrepreneurs is
that they learn from failure but positively feed off of success.
Building on that momentum Andrew went on to create a membership site
that is now generating approximately $10,000 a month. Right now he's
looking at earning somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in
2007. I'll be meeting Andrew and other successful information
marketers in person at the big Product Launch Formula seminar later
this month in Denver.
Not surprisingly, I'm pretty sure the
seminar already sold out. But if you recognize the power of learning
by example, you can still sign up to learn more about Andrew's big
success by going to
ChangingCourse.com/recommends/productlaunchcase. And, if you
think you're ready to make a serious investment in your business,
that's also where you can check there to see if any new seminar
slots have opened up.
I know I opened Todd's eyes. You
probably don't need convincing as much as you do insight and
information. Fortunately, each one of these entrepreneur's stories
offers lessons for the aspiring self-bosser:
From Annamarie we once again learn
that there are an infinite number of fun ways to turn your interests
into income. Ruth and Benita provide an inspiring reminder that you
really can turn your values into your vocation. And from Andrew we
see how a relatively small investment in your education can pay you
back many times over.
I've got four years to work on my
nephew before he ventures out into the wide world of work. But if
you want to be a member of the joyfully jobless club sooner than
that, you absolutely positively need to start paying attention to
the people who have already arrived.
There are lots of ways to "hang out"
with entrepreneurs. You can start subscribing to magazines like
or to one of the thousands of passion-specific publications like
Atomic Magazine, billed as
"The Essential Guide to the Retro Revival,"
Toy Soldier and Model Figure
and In-Fisherman magazine.
And, contrary to popular belief, you
don't have to have your own business to join your local Chamber of
Commerce or attend their various networking meetings. It costs
nothing to do what Barbara Winter and I do and "grill" every
interesting entrepreneur we come into contact with.
I've been self-employed for going on a
dozen years now and I still get jazzed hearing about regular people
who have found interesting ways to work for themselves. Apparently
I'm not alone. Year after year, one of highest rates segments of the
Work at What
You Love workshop is the panel of local entrepreneurs sharing
For others the sheer energy of being
in a room full of people or otherwise part of a community who are as
excited about the prospect of making a living without a j-o-b as
they are enough to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling. After all,
when it comes to being a successful self-bosser it's all about who
p.s. Finally a bit of good news about
today's youth. According to Junior Achievement (JA.org),
in 2006 a whopping 71 percent of kids aged 13 to 18 said they would
like to become entrepreneurs. And between 1995 and 2006, the number
of kids in this same age-range who participated in programs offered
by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE.com)
jumped from 2,600 to 15,970. I can't wait to tell my nephew!
Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at
what you love on your own terms.