One of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is getting your product in front of the right audience. As Amazon owns about 49 percent of the U.S. e-commerce share, it makes sense to start an Amazon FBA business to sell your e-commerce products as your target market already prefers shopping there.
Additionally, Amazon makes it easy for sellers to list, sell, and ship their products through their Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) program. Here’s everything you need to know about an Amazon FBA business and whether you should start an Amazon FBA business or purchase an existing one.
What is FBA?
Some 73 percent of Amazon sellers in the U.S. use the FBA program, making it one of the most popular e-commerce sales options. Amazon FBA sellers receive immediate access to Amazon Prime customers, which can significantly impact the bottom line of the business. On average, Amazon Prime customers spend $1,400 per year on Amazon, whereas standard Amazon customers only spend $600 per year.
The other reason why FBA businesses are popular is that it’s convenient.
With an Amazon FBA business, you don’t have to ship, package, or store any goods yourself. Instead, you pay a small fee, and Amazon employees handle all of this for you.
Shipping fees are up to $5.26 for large items (items up to 21 pounds), and they also have oversized pricing options for much larger items.
Storage fees are also reasonable at $0.69 per cubic foot for standard items January through September (October through December fees may be higher to accommodate increased demand during holidays).
You’ll also have to decide whether you want to be a professional seller or an individual seller. You aren’t required to have a professional seller account to have an Amazon FBA business, though it may be cheaper depending on how many items you plan to sell. A professional seller account pays a flat rate of $39.99 per month, whereas an individual account pays $0.99 per item.
Therefore, if you plan to sell more than 40 items per month, it’s likely more economical to purchase a professional seller account.
So if you’re looking to own an Amazon FBA business, is it better to purchase an existing business or start one from scratch?
While there is no right or wrong answer, here are a few questions you should ask yourself to determine which is the best solution for your situation and goals:
Do You Have The Capital?
The first question you should ask yourself is if you have the means to purchase an existing business.
An Amazon FBA business usually sells for about two to three times its yearly net profit. In other words:
Annual Net Profit x Multiple (usually 2 or 3) = Valuation
Therefore, if you want to purchase a business that makes about $10,000 in annual net profit, you can expect to pay $20,000 – 30,000.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have any capital upfront, your only choice is to build one from scratch, which can still be quite profitable!
Is This a Long Term or Short Term Investment?
Another question you should ask yourself before getting started with an Amazon FBA business is how long you’re willing to invest in the project.
If you’re willing to invest in this business for a few years, starting from scratch may offer you a more significant ROI. Getting started can be challenging as you’ll have to find your own suppliers and build reviews and a brand. Therefore, during those first several months, you may not make a dime, so you can’t expect to flip the store in a few months.
On the other hand, if you are looking to purchase a store, sell for a few months, and then flip it quickly, an established store is a better option.
Building momentum in a brand new company takes time. Not all sellers are profitable in the first year of a new Amazon FBA business, making it difficult to flip for a reasonable price as your net profit may be zero or negative.
However, once you pass a certain threshold of reviews and brand equity, exponential growth becomes possible.
What Skill Sets Do You Have?
Some people entering the Amazon FBA world have a background in business or marketing. If this is the case, one of the best ways to decide whether you’ll purchase or start an FBA business is to play to your strengths.
For example, if you previously worked for an e-commerce store and understand how to grow it, you may perform better if you purchase an existing store and grow it.
However, suppose you worked at a startup company and understand how to be resourceful, play the long game, and hang in there during the first challenging year of zero profit. In that case, you might be more successful starting a business from scratch.
Building a business from scratch and taking a business from five figures to six or seven figures requires two very different skill sets, so play to your strengths.
What Kind of Risk Would You Rather Take?
Starting any business involves some risk. However, the type of risk you take differs based on whether you purchase an existing business or build one from scratch.
Building one from scratch requires zero capital risk upfront though your chances of becoming profitable are much lower.
If you purchase a business that is currently profitable, your chances of remaining profitable are much greater. However, if you suddenly run into problems with suppliers, knock-off items or pricing wars and your business falls apart, you’ll lose a larger investment.
Therefore, while the risks differ, both have risks. So would you rather gamble time or money? Here are your choices:
Buy a Business = Higher Probability of Profitability + Increase Capital Risk
Start a Business = Lower Probability of Profitability + Lower Capital Risk
What Is Your End Goal?
Ultimately, the right decision depends largely on your goals. Do you plan to grow businesses from scratch and then sell them? If that’s your end goal, starting a business from scratch is the best way to learn.
Above all, running an Amazon FBA business is similar to running any business. Regardless of whether you purchase one or start one from scratch, it requires a lot of time, dedication, and commitment, and you can’t give up on it after a few months. You’ll have to put out fires and appease angry customers, though the rewards of growing a thriving business are more than financial. Get started now, and commit yourself to keep going!
Get inside the mind of entrepreneur Brock Johnson. He’s well known in the Amazon seller community for his incredible success with solar eclipse glasses this past summer, but he’s been flipping products and chasing down entrepreneurial pursuits since he was 9 years old. He has been featured on the DailyVee (episode 367) and has his own successful YouTube channel where he shares his tips for Amazon FBA success.
Want to be on the show? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.
What’s up, everybody? We are live today with Brock Johnson. I’m here with Casey. Casey, say hello.
What’s up, guys?
So Brock, Brock is a seller on Amazon, and he’s involved with a lot of different things. And so we’re just
going to run through some questions. The purpose of today and the purpose of these episodes, which
we’re going to be doing month-to- month, is to inspire you with different stories.
Yeah, and if you guys haven’t heard of Brock Johnson you may possibly be living under a rock. This guy is
blowing up right now, and so we just thought he was the perfect fit to bring him on, provide some
inspiration to you and just show you, you know, how tangible or attainable kind of these lofty goals that
you may have, just are – if you put in the work and you’re, you know, you’re logical about your
processes. So yeah, Brock, thank you so much for coming on, dude.
Yeah, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Okay, well, we’re going to start just with some awesome questions just for you to explain yourself and
your story. First question is something we’re going to be asking everyone when they come on the show
is have you always considered yourself an entrepreneur?
That’s a tough one. So I have. I guess in retrospect now I would consider myself an entrepreneur, but I
didn’t always think of myself like that. But even since the age of, what, 9 or 10 I was – I was using my
mom’s eBay account to so all my friends’ video games. Then I was also playing on all these online games
like World of Warcraft and stuff, and I was more focused on the economy and flipping stuff on auction –
I was actually flipping stuff on the auction houses of these video games. And then in college I was like
buying and selling pennies. So I was doing this all the time, but I never thought it would be a full-time
thing until it came to where I had to get out of college, and it was like well you either go get a job, or you
start a company, or you do something. And that’s when I was like all right, I’m an entrepreneur. But I’ve
always been one.
That’s when – so when you got out of college and you started considering going into other jobs or other
fields, that’s when you said hey, I guess I kind of am an entrepreneur?
Yeah, yeah. Well, when I really did it was because I never really had a job my whole life because I had
always found ways to make money. Like I was card counting in casinos, or you know, just doing my own
side hustles and flipping stuff. But then it was when I got an internship, that’s when I – the decision was
I was like wow, this sucks.
So okay. Well, that’s a good response. Thank you for that response. Can you explain just a little bit about
yourself? Can you tell us where you’re from and what your experience was growing up, like if you had
siblings, or if you did well in school what your favorite subjects were? Just give us some background info.
Yeah, so I’m from Minnesota, born and raised here. I’ve got two sisters. With school, I don’t know, I did
all right in school. I never really tried, so I had decent grades, but then I started to do bad. I ended up
with like a 2.9 in high school or something. But then I went to college, and when I would apply myself I
always did really good in math classes or physics and stuff like that, but to be honest I was known as the
worst person. I never attended. I went to less than 50% of my coll– I have a full math degree, so I went
through all the advanced math classes, and I went to less than 50% of the classes because I hated it. Like
just somebody teaching me. I just wanted to go learn it. And so I would actually like do the tests, and I
would go to a math test, and I wouldn’t go to any of the classes, do any of the homework, and then 24
to 36 hours before the class I would just go and just read the textbook and teach myself everything and
stay up for 36 hours. And then I would go and get like a B on it. So like I’ve just always been like nobody
teach me; like I’m just going to go and like immerse myself in something.
Did people ever try and call you out on that, like hey man, I noticed you’re not going to classes. What’s
the deal with that?
Yeah, people called me out all the time. And so would my teachers. But I was really good at making
Right. Right, no, yeah, yeah.
Excuses that you can’t call out or just like coming up with stuff.
Right. I mean the thing is you had that drive to go out and learn and do it and do it for yourself, and
that’s what you did, which I think is – that’s so inspiring. So you talked about this before, but before you
started selling on Amazon, before you got involved with Amazon, can you give us the full picture again
just of what the process was that led you up to that point?
Yeah, so I was selling on eBay. Well, first internship, wow, life sucks. Don’t want to work for somebody
else because there was no correlation between my efforts and what I got in reward. And I didn’t have
the choice of what I did. So that’s what led me to e-commerce. And then at one point I was trying to
build a tech company to start out, but then I was like ooh, this is a long, hard path, and I have no
experience and no capital. But so I got onto eBay, and that was great, but then eventually I got banned
from eBay for life because they just have – like they have metrics. And if you don’t meet these metrics
or you don’t respond to people or like just one or two people flag you for something you can just –
they’ll just decide oh, we’re done with you.
Yeah, yeah, but then so then I was flipping stuff, and I just watched some YouTube videos of people
doing retail arbitrage. And then that’s where I heard about Amazon, and then I tried it out a little bit,
and then it was like oh, there is some money to be made here.
And so you, when you first got involved with Amazon you were doing retail arbitrage?
Yeah, I actually did retail arbitrage for, on and off, for about two years.
So people just looking at getting started on Amazon, a lot of people kind of suggest jumping into retail
arbitrage to build up their capital. Would you – do you feel the same?
Yeah, I absolutely do because you learn – okay, you get paid to learn. So there’s a lot of things about the
Amazon platform that you just need to get into the thinking mode about how do listings work on
Amazon, what do people buy, and why don’t they buy things? So when you’re picking up hundreds of
items a day you see, oh, well Walmart charges $30, but people are only willing to pay $9 on Amazon.
That’s weird, why? Oh, well it’s because it’s just this private label, or it’s this brand product, but nobody
wants it. Or this listing is bad. So you learn all these mini lessons, and then you find one that does sell,
and then it’s wait; why is it cheap in the store and expensive on the intranet? Oh, there’s maybe some
value here. So I learned, you know, hundreds and hundreds of lessons through doing retail arbitrage
that a lot of people don’t talk about. But you know, just learning. And then when you get into the
seasonality, too, that’s where I learned a lot was oh wow, you can actually make – it’s like the price of
these things skyrocket near Q4 because there is a limited supply. So you really learn a lot of supply and
demand lessons, too.
Interesting. So okay, we know about the solar eclipse glasses, but a lot of people listening might not. Can
you talk about a bit of what happened with that and kind of what led up to that point?
Yeah, so I had been doing wholesale and whatnot, so I did retail arbitrage, and that I did more so
wholesale when RadioShack went out of business. And thousands of stores went out of business around
the country, and so I went to all of those, and I went to about 400-ish literally across the whole country
and was able to build up good capital through that. But then they ran out of stores. And then I was doing
wholesale through them, and then the Chairman of the Board who was like this billionaire sent me an
email threatening he was going to sue me for like buying and selling their – because they were selling it
on Amazon, too. They had just learned how to do it. But I had a repricer and they didn’t. So they
couldn’t win the buy box. And then like they had this big meeting, apparently, at like their headquarters,
and they’re like what is going on? Why can’t we win the buy box?
This guy, Brock Johnson, he’s the reason.
Yeah, apparently they were talking about me in this big meeting. And yeah, then they sent me some
threatening emails. So that was wonderful. And then I was like all right, I’m done with this. I want to be
– I want something scalable that nothing can take away from me. And that’s what led me into this. So I
just decided okay, I’m going to do private label, and it just so happens that right when I made that
decision I got – well, before that I went to China, went to the Canton Fair, started to learn everything I
could about private label, and then didn’t end up getting any good product ideas or sourcing abilities,
but then when I came back some guy sent me a random email just about this time that I made this
decision I’m going into private label. It was like a one sentence email saying oh, are you interested in
solar eclipse glasses? They’re really hot in the United States. And I was like sure, send me some
information. I’m interested. But he never responded to me. But that’s when I went and I looked into the
opportunity of the solar eclipse, and I was like you know I think this could be something big. So that’s
kind of how I led into the solar eclipse.
Gotcha. So then yeah, so then can you walk us through okay, I stumbled across – first off, did you ever
reach back out to that guy that shot you that email and said thank you so much for what you’ve done?
No, I need to. I need to. I’ve thought about it many times in my head, but I should because yeah, that
was a very valuable email.
So we haven’t mentioned the stats yet around like what happened with solar eclipse glasses. So people
unfamiliar with you are still like okay, solar eclipse glasses, like big deal. Who is this guy? Can you give us
a little bit of the stats and then kind of go through like how you went from, okay, the idea of solar
eclipse glasses to I’m a king on Amazon?
So basically – okay, so the numbers, I did $6 million in sales in the first six months, and it got really crazy
Wait, wait, hold up. Say that again.
Yeah, I did $6 million in sales in the first six months private label.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
And that’s with over a 50% profit margin.
Yeah, that was absolutely crazy. So basically yeah, so it goes from idea to oh, this could be a big
opportunity. And then that’s where, you know, it gets hard now. You [could run 0:10:49.7] number. So
basically there were rough– when I got into it there was about 20 people selling, but they didn’t have
the best designs, in my opinion, of these glasses. And you know, these were cheaper glasses, but you
could like put your complete unique design on them, and they were so cheap that you had to sell them
in bundles and packs. That was the only way to make it profitable on Amazon. So there was a lot of
creativity that I see that could be done. So then I looked at just how many people were going to view
this, and it was tough at the time because there were not – barely none were selling, and there was 20
What month was this? When was this?
This was – when I found out about it was January 27 th .
Yeah, so January 27 th I found out about the opportunity. You know, wasn’t selling much, but I ran the
numbers, and it was literally going – every single person in the United States was going to see a partial
eclipse at least. I didn’t think that anybody would watch the partial eclipse, to be honest. I was wrong.
Everybody watched the partial eclipse. But I just took the assumption, and I ran, and there was 10
million people that lived under the total eclipse. So like how could you not look, like watch that? If it’s
going over your head, this happens – this is a once in a lifetime event. So I said all right, there’s 10
million customers here. Let me capture 1% of it. And then then that’s all I need, 1% of 10 million is
100,000 glasses. If I could find a way to make a dollar per glass I would make $100,000, and that would
be jacked. I would be jacked.
How did you get to the number, though, of the number of units that you would order for the first time
or for the first couple times?
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, so what I did for the first time was, well, I just bought what I could afford.
I could have afforded a bit more, but so I started out with a $7500 order, which was 25,000 glasses.
That’s what I – yeah, so that’s what I started out with, and that was like I was like at first thinking I don’t
know if I’m going to be able to sell all these. But then I was thinking of – what I always do is I go through
the worst-case scenario. Okay, well if nobody buys my listing on Amazon I could hard call schools and
businesses and sell them in big packs at wholesale price, and I could probably get my money back. So I
like to look at worst-case scenarios, and if you can get your money back and there’s a huge upside, then
okay, this is a good opportunity to go into. So I had calculated how many hours it would take to call up
businesses, and it was like okay, I could get rid of these in a couple days or a week. So I’ll buy 25,000 and
see how it goes. And then they started to sell really well. So then that’s when I was like oh, okay, I’m
onto something here.
When was it that they started to – sales started to pick up?
Sales? Well, I started in right at the end of March, beginning of April, and they were doing good. I don’t
remember exactly how much I was selling then, but it was, I mean I was doing probably $1000 a day at
least, like right off the bat. So that was great. And then I got up to a lot more per day. But to be honest
the sales really – well they started to pick up in June, and then they launched – they [took off 0:14:35.4]
better in July, but then I found that there’s this human procrastination curve, essentially, like that’s true
for all seasonal things, something about 30 days until an event. So like a mental trigger goes off in
people’s heads, and that’s where it just skyrockets.
I want to touch on one aspect that I think a lot of sellers get hung up on in both the just seasonal,
sourcing seasonal products, but also just sourcing products in general, and that’s risk. You talked about
it a little bit. When you had kind of that backup plan where you said okay, if I run – or if people don’t buy
my listing then I’ll just go call people and cold call people or whatever, go to schools and sell them
directly. But what would you say to sellers that are getting really hung up on risk when entering markets
maybe they’re not familiar with? What advice would you have for them?
If you’re entering into a market that you’re not sure about and you want to look at the risk, what I would
say that you should do is just, is there some utility? Are you doing something unique? Is there like – are
people – does this product like sell on eBay? Like could you liquidate this somehow? That’s kind of what
I look at on the risk side. Are you doing something different that’s a value add? And if there is demand
there and there’s some form of liquidation and you’ve done something different, you’re going to be able
to sell it, especially if there’s any room for margin on Amazon. I just don’t see why you wouldn’t be able
to slowly sell one unit a day over a year and a half. Like you’ll sell it eventually.
What was your differentiating factor then for your glasses?
So for my glasses it was one, they were actually good and real, and they were certified, where 98% of
my competitors were not. So that was the biggest one. They all had theirs made in China, and mine were
made in the USA. And mine actually – so they had the certification. Made in USA made a big difference
for people looking at their eyes, but then I also had just really, really good design. So I went to 99designs
and I actually had professional designers like – if people aren’t familiar with exact – well, who’s not
familiar with eclipse glasses, okay? And maybe if you weren’t in the USA because I know people watched
all around the world. Basically they’re like these cardboard glasses or something. And so you could print
whatever design you wanted on them. So I specifically put types of images and logos that would
correlate to space and the eclipse the best. So like certain ones were made towards kids, and they had
certain images that would really be appealable to children and all these different sects of people. So I
made all these different designs, and then the bundles and then just had the best, you know, really the
best photography. That was how I differentiated on glasses, but then I also had goggles. So those were
way better sellers because nobody made goggles. So these paper glasses let in a bunch of light, so I
made these more, you know, super, the super eclipse viewers per se.
And there was, I don’t know, super eclipse Armageddon or whatever where you know a lot of the
glasses were taken down, but some people were still up, and they were allowed to charge like a much
higher price. How did you kind of fare through that process?
It was rough at first when you get an email from Amazon – because I had bought – I went off of this – I
kind of made a forecast model that showed that everybody was going to buy in the last couple weeks
because everybody procrastinates. So I had hundreds of thousands of glasses, and like they just arrived,
and I’m shipping them into Amazon, and right as I’m about to ship them all into Amazon they send out
an email saying they’re taking down all eclipse glasses, basically, because there’s bad ones. And I was
pissed because I had been warning them for months. I had called them over 10 times, sent them
countless emails warning them they’re going to make people blind. Take down the competitors, and
then they’re going to say okay we’re just taking them all down.
So yeah, then everybody freaked out. We all dropped our prices to the floor. And so that was really
rough, but then eventually, okay, so they wanted a certification for every glass, but so we got the
certification done for like our main one, but then if you got a different design we didn’t get the
certification done for the new design because it’s just like a different color on it, you know? But so that’s
where I thought I was really screwed because I had all these different designs and only one certification.
But what they ended up doing was they actually kept mine up, most of them. Some of them they took
down, which was frustrating. But I was able to provide that certification, stay up, and everybody else got
taken down. So a lot of private labelers from the United States had sourced from China. They didn’t
actually have the real certs, so they took their listings down. And then they refunded all of those
customers, and then a month and a half later they made all of those sellers front the bill for that. So they
had to pay for the product. They had to pay the Amazon fees. And then they had to pay the entire listing
Yeah. Like I can’t even imagine.
So were you able to raise your price during that period where fewer sellers existed so that like helped
Yeah, I definitely was able to raise the price then because well, you know, then now it was just us real
sellers. But I had still done a lot of revenue up until then. Let’s see, I believe I had done, until that time, I
think 2.5 million, and then this happened, and then –
I’m going to shift our focus a little bit here, but I want to ask one last question before we get off of the
subject of solar eclipse glasses. And that’s through all of your experiences with this product and the
different products that you sold on Amazon and are selling on Amazon, what one piece of advice would
you have for Amazon sellers specifically?
You’ve got to do your research. If there is certifications, you need to do your due diligence because if
you’re not checking out your supplier and vetting them, a lot of, unfortunately, Chinese suppliers will lie.
I went to China, and I was trying to source – because my true passion is like LED lighting, and I was trying
to source it for the longest time. But it just never seemed right, and I wanted to get UL certification
because that really protects you in a lawsuit. And none of the Chinese sellers would – like they wouldn’t
really have it, or some of them would have it, and I would go talk to them, and then they’d be like oh
yeah, we have UL and there would be UL on the product. And then I would go to their factory, and so
then I would ask for the actual certification and they didn’t actually have UL. They said oh, we could get
it if you order a large enough quantity. So basically they were going to sell it to me with the UL sticker on
it and never actually have the cert.
And same with the eclipse glasses. All those got shut down. So if you’re selling something that’s
potentially dangerous, check that out. But just to protect your liability because it doesn’t matter how
many millions of dollars you make. Burn down one apartment, and it’s all gone. So and then do
something different. Like just make a, you know, small change, or catch a trend. Or you’ve got to do
something more unique to compete. Like you either get in early, you make a new mold – or you don’t
even need to go as far as making a new mold. Do new colors, a new bundle, a new marketing pitch, like
now you’re making clothes, but these are close for vegan. I just used the product discovery tool
yesterday. One of the top idea scores was clothes for vegans.
On the rise man.
Yeah, just so like you know, I think gone are the days of literally just sticking a logo on it. But there is still
lots of opportunity, but you’ve got to do just a little bit more than a logo, I’d say.
That’s good. So I had said I was going to shift focus a little bit. Sometimes when sellers, or when people
get in in the Amazon space specifically and they sell a ton or they see the potential they shift their focus
solely to Amazon. And I want to ask has your focus solely been placed on Amazon, or have you now kind
of broken into a couple different areas of focus?
Yeah, so there’s – you know, Amazon was great for the growth and everything, and it has the best
wealth building opportunity that I see out there. If your main goal is to literally just grow your business
and build as much capital as possible, I would say to just stick it on Amazon. Like that’s it. That’s all you
need to do. But I guess where I’m going now is I’m going for more of a – I had this realization, okay, I can
easily build up $100 million of wealth by just selling on Amazon. The opportunity is there. But it wasn’t
what I was particularly extremely passionate about. I love it, but just to just solely do that is whatever.
So now I’m really focused on building – I’m still selling on Amazon, and like don’t get me wrong; that’s a
main thing. But now I’m trying to build a whole brand. So not just on Amazon, but also getting to
Shopify, into software, so literally building an entire brand and then going into personal branding, and
then also social media. So all of these five work together to make a brand that’s truly that value of like
that perceived value. So I don’t care what happens on one platform. I don’t care about the – you know, I
can charge a premium price, like Apple can charge a premium price. Nike can charge a premium price
just because it’s, you know, it’s there, and it’s got that value. So I’ve kind of diversified a little bit. But
Amazon is still there.
How did you come to terms with your passion because some sell– so sometimes what happens is people
get in the space, or any marketing or business space in general, right, and they see the money potential
and the value proposition that’s there, and they push their passion to the side for a long time. How did
you come to terms with the fact that you knew what your passion was and you’re pushing towards that
now, and you’re not necessarily pushing money to the side, right, but you’re also pushing for your
passion? So what did that process look like?
Well, what it came down to was just making that large sum of money and not being happy. That’s what
it came down to because you’ll hear the thing that money brings happiness, but it’s true. Some lessons
you can’t learn until you feel them. Like some things you just have to experience. So by just getting that I
was like okay, you know, now I know this. I don’t need to just push and maximize ROI. But I mean I’m a
finance and math guy. I’m not going to sit there and just retire or whatnot. I’m still going to make over
$1 million a year every single year. I’m trying to go for like five, six this year. But like don’t care if that
happens, you know. So now I’m more focused on the impact that I’m going to have on the world and
doing things that make me happy. But it just, it literally some things you’ve just got to learn for yourself.
But what’s great is you kind of have to get on this path where you have to get financially free first. Like
it’s hard to go from a 9 to 5 job to passion. So go out there, start hustling, building skills as an
entrepreneur, building up capital, and then eventually once you’ve built all these skills, these lessons
and you have all this money, now you can start to go at that passion. And I think that’s actually an easier
path to getting to where you want than to start out and just go from nothing to all right I’m going to
make a full time at my passion.
As a side note kind of on the selfish side, okay Amazon sends you $6 million in payouts, or whatever, you
know, 50% was profit, so $3 million. What in your mind – what is the first thing that comes to mind as
this is the first thing I’m going to buy with my $3 million?
I bought like a chocolate bar, and my wife really wanted a camper, so we paid like $12,000 for a trailer
camper, like a vintage-looking one. And that’s it.
I love it.
You know, like oh well, no, what I thought was I can now fund a software company that I’ve always
wanted to build.
That’ was like – and so I put like $250,000 into that, and then I just started investing money into myself
by going and seeing Gary Vaynerchuk, going to Tony Robbins events, joining the platinum membership
there and, you know, just making investments into myself, things that are going to make me happy and
grow more. That’s kind of it.
Heck yeah, man. I love it.
I love it. So you talked about –
I’m not going to buy a Ferrari or a Lambo.
Wait. Say that again.
I’m never going to buy a Ferrari or a Lambo.
You talked about Gary Vee and Tony Robbins a little bit. What – who are some of your role models?
Who are the people that you follow closely and really try to emulate?
I’d say Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, Neil Degrasse Tyson. Yeah, those are some of my – oh, Gary
Vee, Tony Robbins. Yeah, that’s kind of who I listen to and what I emulate.
Do you try to split your attention between all of them, or is there kind of one or two that you follow
I’d say the one that I follow the closest – well, it used to be Dave Asprey because that completely
changed my life. So I’m really into biohacking and just optimizing every part of my biology to get the
most out of life, so I’ve always got energy. You know I’m running these 16- to 18-hour days, just like – so
that’s huge. But then I’d say recently now it’s Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk that are – that I listen to
Nice. Do you want to give some quick tips on biohacking things that have worked for you to help you be,
you know, at the top?
Take a cold shower.
Right there. Take a cold shower. Do yoga every single morning, or not – I mean it takes time to get there,
but you know I just do like 10 minutes of yoga every morning, meditate for a little bit, cold showers,
Bulletproof coffee, intermittent fasting. So I don’t really eat until like 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. I just
have this Bulletproof coffee. If you don’t know what it is look it up. It will change your life. You know,
just doing stuff like that. I really am focused. I have a standing desk. I have a triple screen set-up. I have
white boards all over my basement. So in physics, you know, the particle is affected by the field. And in
our lives we as human beings are affected by our environment. So by just really focusing on what you do
with your biology and how you shape the space around you, that will shape you then. And it’s a positive
Nice. How much sleep do you get?
You know, it depends. I’d say on average about six, six hours.
Gotcha. For everyone saying you need eight, no excuses.
Yeah, I mean I do feel better when I get like – when I get a bit more. But it matters if I’m going – I’ll go
through like a period of grinding for a month or two where it’s just all on and then, okay, I’ll take a week
or two and, you know, recharge but then get back at it.
Yeah, so if you want to make $6 million in six months, be Brock Johnson. Sleep six hours a night.
No, if you want to do that you sleep like four.
Taking a look at where you’ve come from and where you’ve been and looking ahead now to 2018 and
whatever is beyond 2018, where do you hope to go from here?
Where I hope to go from here? I want to essentially go and have a giant estate in the mountains and
essentially to start kind of a retreat center out there. My wife’s a yoga teacher. And so just helping to
get some people just on track, like you know where they could just go for a bit and have this total
immersion, really like focus on their biology and their psychology and to just like revamp and kill it. So
kind of doing that, but mainly what I want to do is to just help other people’s lives by – there’s not a lot
of tools to focus on our goals, our bucket list, just the little practices that make our life better on a day-
to-day process. So I’m building out currently an entire physical brand around just personal development,
that whole area, but then also software around that. And then my personal brand digitally and then
building that up on social media and everything so that it’s this just one giant conglomerate that is
focused on making a better world and helping people just achieve their goals, but then making a profit
at the same time. So you know, like just then it all is just I feel good about. That’s where I’m going
And then eventually my overall goal is building more of an artificial intelligence company that’s
collecting our biometrics and just ambient data to help correlate all of these inputs to get somewhat of a
picture of what mood we’re in or just different things about our biology that may see okay, you know,
he was really productive during these times. What happened? What factors were there? Or he’s starting
to become unproductive. What factors could we change in the environment, like the music, the lights,
the temperature, just stuff like that, to essentially help people making like a big mother technology that
just helps make our life better instead of like right now where oh, like everything on your phone and
every piece of tech just wants to take your attention and sell that and make you become distracted and
not have a better life.
I love it, dude. I love the, you know, focus on helping people to be motivated or be kind of at their best
performance or encourage them to be who they want to be. Before Viral Launch I was actually working
on an app somewhat similar. I called it [Live 0:35:02.8], and it was just all around providing some
incentives and some structure around like setting goals and helping you to put the plan in place to
achieve them. So I think it’s [sick 0:35:12.5].
Oh that’s awesome.
All right, so last question. I love asking people this question. How much of your success would you
attribute to luck, and how much would you attribute to your own hard work and intelligence?
So luck was finding out about the opportunity at the time that I did, and the life situation, that was
lucky. But what wasn’t lucky was going through, you know, 70+ suppliers, finding out everything that
was wrong with it, actually finding the right ones, doing all this analysis, all these predictions and
everything. So it also got lucky that they took down my other competitors right near the end. But it
wasn’t because mine was taken down, too, and I had to argue and fight. So you know, to assign a
percentage, perhaps 15% of it was luck. But if I wouldn’t have sat there and grinded it out, you know,
there was a day where I stayed up 60+ hours in a row. That was really rough. But you know, that’s not
lucky. You know, and that was over $1 million of it was actually that one day, like I don’t want to get this
going too long. That’s a pretty long story.
Sure, no, that’s fine. I think a lot of people, it’s easy for people to see a story and just attribute it to luck
or [dumb it down 0:36:45.8] to oh, well he got lucky. And it’s really hard. It’s really hard for people to
see how much work and effort really is put into building and establishing an entire business, entire social
media presence, etc., right? And stories like this, I – a personal goal of mine is always to pull out the
hard work that people have done in an effort to establish something wonderful and establish something
great. And I see that with you. I mean you’ve obviously put in a lot of hard work and so, yes, there was a
bit of luck involved, but there was a lot of work.
Yeah, well thank you. I really appreciate you pulling that out. And I guess, like looking at luck, so some
people could say it was lucky, but I saw over 100 other private labelers who found out about this
opportunity, and that just sourced from China, didn’t really do much, and they all lost, you know, tens of
thousands of dollars. So if the luck was just finding out about the opportunity you would hear – there
should be 100 other Brock Johnsons with this crazy story you’re hearing about.
Right. Well Brock, that’s all we have for today. I wanted to thank you so much for taking time out of your
schedule to be here with us, and there is a lot of value in everything that we talked about today. So
again, thank you so much for being here.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
If our listeners want to keep in touch with you and keep in touch with what you’re doing, with
everything on Amazon and everything outside of Amazon, how can they do that?
Yeah, come check me out. I’m on YouTube, Brock Johnson, just look me up. You’ll find me. And then if
you want to follow – I just started my Instagram, so if you want to follow me on Instagram it’s
@officialbrockjohnson. That’s where – send me a DM on there, and that’s how you can get a good
response from me. And yeah, that’s how you can check me out.
It’s going down on the DMs, man. We will put all of your info in our show notes. So guys, if you want to
keep in touch with Brock you’ll be able to find it there. But thank you again, Brock. There’s a lot of value
in what we talked about today. We very much appreciate
3 years ago this week, Casey made his first dollar through Viral Launch. He was coding by candlelight with socks on hands to keep them warm in an unheated apartment. Today he is the CEO of an 8 figure company. On today’s episode hear Casey Gauss tell the story of Viral Launch and what has brought him and the company to this amazing milestone.
Want to be on the show? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.
Hey, guys, what’s up? Cameron here with Viral Launch. I’m here with Casey.
We’re just dropping in. We know it’s getting really close to Christmas. And we have a special episode for you today. I know we’ve been on and off the sourcing series here and there, but we’re going to jump back on that after the holiday season is kind of over. But for now, today’s episode is something I’m super excited about. We’re actually going to talk about the origin story of Viral Launch and how Casey got started with everything. And this is actually something that I’ve been hoping Casey would do for a long time, and I’m super glad that he’s jumping in on this right now. So Casey, how are you feeling today?
Thanks, man. Yeah, I mean it’s always a little intimidating to share kind of the more personal side of things. You know, sharing numbers or facts, like that’s easy. Sharing personal information, or I don’t know; it’s a little intimidating just to be vulnerable like that. So yeah.
It’s a good story, though, and it’s definitely a story that I think people need to hear and want to hear, as well. It’s something that – I mean it’s something that we all look to or that we have a lot of people that look to that they don’t even realize the story of how it got started, right, of how Viral Launch came to be. And so like all origin stories, we’re going to start from the beginning. So Casey, tell us – okay, tell us how old, first off, tell us how old Viral Launch is.
Viral Launch is three years and a month and a half, or yeah, so just over three years.
Three years and a month and a half. Tell us where you were at the very beginning and everything that has to do with where you were.
Yeah, so I think just to provide a little bit of context, a quick back story to me, going back maybe 6 to 8 months before Viral Launch got started. So essentially, you know, in college. I went to a small Christian college in Indiana. I was running track, pole-vault and 400 hurdles, if you were wondering.
Yeah. I was studying business, and I essentially, you know, always had these ideas for businesses, but they happened to all be, you know, mobile apps, and I love testing anything before I jump in, and so I couldn’t test anything because I couldn’t build anything. I didn’t have any money, so I wasn’t able to, you know, outsource the development. So essentially I just taught myself, you know, how to code, first websites and then iOS apps. And so, you know, midway through my junior year I had actually for the majority of the year, you know, quit running track because I started to feel kind of guilty around, you know, where I was spending my time. I was essentially, you know, from my perspective at least, I was spending, you know, all this time, you know, training and going to meets and competing. And really the only person I was benefiting was myself. Like sure, it was paying for – it was helping pay for school, but like I didn’t care so much about money. I generally measure my life in the impact that I’m having on others. And so I wasn’t really having any impact.
So anyways, had kind of quit doing that so that I could really focus in on, you know, learning how to code or develop these apps and chasing after this technology, which was called iBeacon – or is called the iBeacon, essentially around iOS 7. Apple released this new technology. It has to do with Bluetooth 4.0 devices, and basically you can build contextually aware applications. So anyways, you can search Bluetooth if you want. I don’t want to dive into it. But anyways, you know, I love learning. I’m super passionate about learning. And essentially, you know, my professors, my business professors, were teaching things that were contradicting what the Fortune 500 CEOs were telling me, you know, in the articles that I was reading. I just felt like, you know, they had kind of lost relevance in this fast-paced business, you know, this techno-business world that we find ourselves in.
So what – they were just not teaching the right information, or they were teaching dated information?
Yeah, they were teaching this archaic, you know, like this is what marketing looks like because, you know, this is what we did 20+ years ago when I was in the workforce. And you know, they didn’t even really know how to operate an iPhone, and let alone any of the new technologies that were going on. And you know, the entire environment, from what I could see from my readings and stuff had completely changed, and they were just were not aware of it. And so I just felt like I was – I wanted to be on, you know, the leading edge of this new technology, iBeacon at the time, and I wanted to be able to continue learning, and I just felt like I was wasting time in class.
Do you think at its core was it frustration at that point in time that pushed you to want to do your own thing, or just a desire really to do something that you weren’t being, like that you weren’t being fulfilled in?
Yeah, so like I was learning a ton outside. I had taught myself how to code, right, and I was learning a ton in kind of the business sense just from reading. And so you know, I really felt like I was just wasting my time by going to class. And one of the – I had one particular class that kind of pushed me over the line, and we were just doing – it was a 400 level course, which was supposed to be, you know, the highest level there, and it was just absolutely I guess silly is kind of the word. It was so dumb, and I was wasting my time so much. And so that was really kind of the course that had like pushed me overboard.
So yeah, so at that time, you know, I dropped out. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a business. I didn’t have any money actually. And so from there essentially I was just trying to build apps around – or build a demo app that I could – I had built a demo app, sorry, that I could then go and sell to museums, which is pretty much impossible if you know anything about selling to like these slow-moving, you know, these dinosaur public service type companies. Like you know, it’s just impossible. But anyways, while working on that a friend of mine – well okay, so actually during this time I had moved home to Jackson, Michigan, and you know, I really do not like being at home. Even to this day it’s very tough for me. So growing up, you know, I had kind of a rough childhood. My siblings have it far worse than I did, and it really sucks to kind of see all the, you know, pain and kind of suffering that’s going on there. So while I was there my brother and I, my youngest brother – or sorry, my oldest brother, but he’s younger than me, he’s two years younger. We decided he needed to get out of Jackson, Michigan, which is where we’re from, because he was getting into trouble. I needed to get out of Jackson, Michigan, because it is just a terrible environment. I wanted to go back to the college town, just not go to college. And so off of money that my brother had saved delivering pizzas – he was actually going to invest it in an FBA business.
He was going to source glucosamine, I think.
Yeah, yeah. But so, you know, I really appreciated it, but he took that money, and we moved down to Indiana. And it was kind of crazy because we had found an apartment. He had gotten a job. But we weren’t moved in yet. And so he actually had to commute – we didn’t tell his job this – 2 ½ hours to his, to the job. And the first day he woke up late, missed the job, didn’t have a job, but we did have the apartment. And so we moved into the apartment. No money coming in. I didn’t have any money in my bank account, let alone coming in. And Corey, my brother, he didn’t have any money coming in. It was just off of his savings. And we moved in. My girlfriend, my now wife, my girlfriend at the time, it was her parents that like provided the majority of the furniture when we moved in. You know, I’m really thankful that they like kind of believed in me because looking back it’s kind of crazy that they let their daughter, you know, just be with this guy that just dropped out of college, doesn’t really have, you know, anything like in the works. Like of course they knew, you know, I had taught myself coding and I was like very ambitious and a really hard worker and, you know, really care about people, but anyways –
But getting to this point what was your conversation like with Corey to get to, to get back to that college town?
I actually do not remember, so we’re going to have to talk to Corey about this because I don’t remember how I convinced him. I think he really wanted to get out of Jackson, and I wanted to be around, you know, my friends and my girlfriend at the time. But I also just wanted a better environment for me to like, you know, try to go after these app ideas or whatever.
So around this – no Amazon is in your mind really right now. Like you’re thinking apps. You’re thinking app development.
And that’s what got you to the college town.
Yep, so then in the college town a friend of mine – so this is in Marion, Indiana, where you know in this small apartment, and a friend of mine who is two years younger, as well, we had run track together, and he had an FBA business. So his name is Jordan. He took ASM 2, I believe, [unintelligible 0:09:11.3], and so he was doing well, and he had showed me. And I was like oh wow, this is awesome. But you know, from my perspective I was like oh, well you know you’re not really helping anybody. You are just making money. I don’t care about money. So it’s super cool that you’re able to do this, you know, at such a young age. But also, like you know it wasn’t that interesting to me. And I was, you know, doing all kinds of things for money. So I made this Udemy course on how to use iOS 8, like not even from a development standpoint, just how to efficiently use iOS 8. And I made like 250 bucks off of it. And a friend of mine knew that I needed money, so I went and worked construction like this cold, like wet day – weekend to make 250 bucks. And so I was using that money. My girlfriend at the time, she was kind of like getting the essentials for me like if need be. She was, you know, just supporting me. And it was Corey who was paying for all, like our bills, and food, and just everything. And he was supporting us. And because of this construction job that I worked this one weekend I was able to get Corey the construction job like long-term. And so it ended up being this construction job, Corey would be gone for months at a time, but it was this construction job that allowed us to continue paying our bills and for food and everything like that. So pretty insane.
So during this next season of time, so Corey was working this construction job.
And you were still in app mode, or were you starting to expand in other things?
Yeah, so like basically the weekend of this construction job – it’s weird that like, you know, this construction job was so, you know, arbitrary or random I guess, but a lot kind of hangs on that. So this was the day that my friend, Jordan, had sent me – he’s like hey, I have an idea for a business, like we should do it together. And so I was a bit reluctant because I really wanted to focus in on this Beacon stuff. But yeah, so I met up with him, and you know I really am so thankful for his patience because just when I got there someone called me, and I was on the phone for like 45 minutes, and he waited. And I feel so bad even to this day. Anyways, he told me his idea, and I didn’t get it because I didn’t really understand. You know, I had barely grasped the fact that most of the stuff you’re buying on Amazon wasn’t actually from Amazon. And anyways, he was like – what sold me was he said hey, you know all you have to do is throw up the website. I’ll do the Amazon stuff. I’ll work with the customers. You just build the platform, and we could probably make, you know, $10,000 a month, which at the time was an insane amount of money.
And so in between the time I had dropped out of school and the time Corey and I moved to Indiana, or no, before Viral Launch had gotten started, my mom had just had her car repossessed. She had been evicted. And these weren’t uncommon things for us growing up. We moved around quite often, and you know looking back on it, my mom would, you know, not have her car some weekend when we came back from our dad’s or something like that. And so now I understand why. But anyways, so it was really tough. I remember kind of I guess looking back now, again, more vulnerable part, but I just remember you know looking out the window as kind of the tow truck came and picked up my mom’s car, and you know, being teary-eyed or whatever and like wishing, you know, that I had the money to, you know, help her out and everything and like, you know, just thinking, you know, one day I will, and I will be able to help her out, which is crazy because now I do have the opportunity to help her out. So super cool that it’s come full term. So I’m probably getting too much context, but anyways, yeah, so Jordan had this idea. And so I was like dude, let’s do it. This will help me like get some money so that I can focus more on my Beacon stuff because I really started to run down on money.
So the focus was still like never, never at this point in time solely focused on Amazon; it was like I’m going to do this to get more money to work on Beacon, Beacon stuff?
Yeah, yeah. And so I had no idea what it could be. I mean neither did Jordan. In retrospect we had no idea what was happening. And so Jordan invested $700 into the business to grow, you know, our initial audience.
What was the initial idea? You said Jordan had an idea for the website. What was like the first idea?
Yeah, so the idea for – so we ended up calling it Viral Launch, and I don’t remember who came up with the name. I think it was me, but you know, I could be completely wrong. It was so long ago. And it seemed like an insignificant detail at the time.
But yeah, I mean, it doesn’t matter. So anyways, it was Jordan’s idea. So the idea was essentially hey, you know we can amass an audience that we can then, you know, sell to other people. And by giving them access to this audience we can help their sales. We can – at the time it was as juvenile as that, right? And so basically by driving promotional sales we can then drive keyword ranking. And so still the same principle that we’re, you know, engendering in some of our services now, which is interesting that it’s worked so long, right? So anyways, yeah, so Jordan spent $700 to you know, get the – actually I don’t even know if we filed an LLC initially. But essentially just to build up our initial audience and create this ecosystem of buyers and sellers. And fortunately Jordan had some friends from ASM, and so pretty quick, like right off the bat we started making money. We did a few free launches, and then from there you know the value proposition was there, and yeah. So we got started, and it took us, you know, well you know it’s funny looking back. So at the time we were really, really trying to get one deal every other day. That was like our goal.
Every other day?
Every other day, yeah. And you know, so now here in 2017 Q4, at one point we were running, you know, 700 launches a day. So pretty cool to look back. But yeah, now we’re 27,000 launches in, something like that.
How quickly did it scale from there? Did it just kind of take off, or was it slow and steady?
No. Yeah, it was slow and steady. You know I think February we did $10,000 that month, which was like insane. And so February – I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, but February was kind of the month where – or January because I ended up having the opportunity to go – you know, this guy, he was doing something similar to what I was doing with Beacons but in Wi-Fi, and he had come across me. We had met up a couple times, and he wanted me to actually come like start to build a little iBeacon department in his like bigger company in Detroit. And so this was a kind of cool opportunity, but Viral Launch had started to take off, and like I said, we did like 10,000 – it may have been January, but in January or February. And then I was like oh wow, like you know this is something of my own. I really want to see where this can go.
So yeah, so Jordan and I got started. I had 40% of the business. He had 60%. And even then, you know, I felt like he was being very generous. I had no idea what he was doing off the bat. I was just making things, right? I was just the developer, and Jordan was the guy with the idea, the understanding and the clients. But you know, my personality is quickly I like to work insanely hard and, you know, never allow anybody to really work harder than me. And so with Jordan and I being partners I always felt like I had to prove to him that, you know, I was working so much harder than him. Just for whatever reason like that’s my natural tendency. And so yeah, I was doing that, and it was – so in December I, you know –
Real quick, which month did Viral Launch start in?
Viral Launch started in October.
I think we registered the domain on like October 4th, and I probably had the website up like in the next day or something.
Okay, so October. And then you said January-ish or February was the first like $10,000?
It was after three months.
And now when was the last date? Where were you at last?
Oh, so I do want to go to December. So December of this year I like had $50 in my bank account. I had money on my credit card. You know, again, Corey was still like paying for everything for us. My girlfriend at the time, now wife, she was helping to pay for stuff. And it was, you know, a really humbling experience because I didn’t have anything. I couldn’t reach out to my parents. Like my mom obviously, like I said, she had less than no money. My dad was like going through a second divorce and, you know, has never really cared to contribute or, you know, care too much about what’s going on. And so yeah, it was really all on me. And so I was like okay, we have, you know, maybe $5000 to $6000 in the bank. Let’s say $6000 in the bank, and I, you know, went to – in, yeah, I think I said I had been deferring student loans and I had like a payment coming up. I don’t remember the first day of the payment, but it was coming up. So I was just really starting to be concerned around like how was this going to happen. And so I went to my cofounder, Jordan, and we had a meeting every once in a while, and I was like dude, you know, I was really kind of intimidated to ask. Again, he was the one really driving the ship even to this point. And I was like dude, you know, do you think maybe we could pay ourselves a little bit of money out of like the money that we have in the bank? And he was like oh, no, like we should invest it and continue to grow the business. And I was like dude, but like you don’t understand. I literally have, you know, $50 in my bank account. My mom just had her car repossessed and was evicted, and like you know, I really don’t have anything. And he finally, like after explaining all this – he had no idea kind of my situation.
And so yeah, he was like yeah, you know, I think that we can do it. I need to pay myself for the money that you know, I put in, but yeah, we can definitely do that. And so that $600 felt like $1 million. It was amazing. I just was like geez, we have so much money now. And looking back it’s crazy because I think we had like $6000 in our account.
Which is good from where you started with.
True, for sure. Yeah, and you know one very like distinct memory is like – and I had never experienced this before, but it was so cold in our apartment, again, because you know we didn’t really have the money to pay for heat, that I could like barely type. I was, you know, wearing my winter coat, no lights because we didn’t want to, you know, run up the electricity bill. And we – yeah, it was just super cold. I had like a small candle running, and so I looked up like what to do in a situation in which your hands are so cold you can barely type. And basically they suggested going and finding athletic socks and cutting holes in the top so that you can stick your fingers through and putting them on your hands. So yeah I went and cut up some socks. Had a place for your thumb and then a place for your fingers, and yeah, so like I called them my hacker gloves.
So it wasn’t as embarrassing that I was wearing socks on my hands to code. But that’s how Viral Launch was built.
That’s how it was started.
Yeah, I was coding, you know, all hours of the day, just really trying to build the platform. And so yeah, it’s extremely humbling to look back because, you know, that was only three years ago, and yeah, you know, I really had nothing. But you know, so I’m a religious person, and for whatever reason looking back I don’t think I was super scared. I was obviously very, you know, humble about like – I was very humbled by the situation, not having any money and not really having much money on the horizon. But yeah, you know I just kind of always thought like you know God was going to take care of me or something, and then, you know, when I needed him most like that we were able to pay ourselves, which is pretty crazy.
You said, so money is not a driver for you. Helping people is. So at this point in time what was keeping you going in this?
I mean like at this point I just needed money to survive.
And so at this point it was a lot more survival than anything. It took probably a couple – well, and it was the excitement of like oh wow, things are happening. People are paying us money. Like I didn’t really – I hadn’t fully grasped the concept like that we were helping people at this point. I was like actually felt a little bit guilty around what we were doing because from my perspective, you know, we were helping people that had money enough to invest. So for me it was like, you know, helping fancy people or like wealthy people to make more money. So I did feel a little bit guilty around the situation. But basically I just, you know, told myself like it’s okay because by helping these people make more money I’m allowing myself to survive. And so yeah, that’s where we were at with Viral Launch. But you know, right around April or so, then I started to take a lot more ownership. And I think around April of 2015 Jordan had said okay, I think you deserve 50% because I was working so hard, and Jordan was, you know, distracted with his friends, and school, and he was still running track.
He was in college, right?
Yeah, yeah, he was still in college because I was 21 at the time. He was 19. So yeah, he’s like freshman – or sophomore year of college or so. Yeah, so it was around May that Jordan like went on this bus trip to go help people, and he did not have internet access for three months. So from that time, though, I took the business from, you know, $20,000 a month or so to like he came back and we were doing like $75,000 a month. So it was a significantly different business. I really understood what was going on at that point, and I was even starting to like come up with new things. Like we started using the – I came up with the [super euro 0:23:29.9] or sorry, the [two-step euro 0:23:32.2], which worked far better than the quote unquote, you know, [super euro] at the time. And that was in March of 2015. So we’ve been using the [two-step euro] for –
A long time.
Yeah, coming up on three years now. And so yeah, I had started to like innovate in the space and take a lot more ownership over what was going on and really start to understand because we just had so much data. And pretty quickly, you know, we had a $50 million-a-year seller come, start to use us a lot. And I started building a relationship with him. So yeah, Jordan came back, and I was like dude, you know I built this business around myself. We’re growing really well. You know, I just don’t really have much need for you, you know, especially for you to be 50% of the business. And so I was kind of dis-incentivized to continue pushing. And so essentially I had given him an ultimatum, either drop out and really help me to push Viral Launch, or you sell the business to me. And essentially, like he finally, you know, decided to sell because he wanted to stay in school and wanted to continue running track because from his perspective he could make money the rest of his life. What he couldn’t do is hang out with his friends, run track and you know, be in college and enjoy those years. And so I totally get it, and yeah, he sold it to me. And yeah.
When did he sell to you?
He sold to me in October of 2015, so –
So a year?
Officially a year, yeah.
Okay, and then after – so after he sold to you, then it was you.
Right, like it was just you?
Well, it had kind of already been me for like the last like five months or something.
Right, right. But officially, like on the paper it was you. And what happened after that period of time then?
Yeah, so I mean my goal was always to sell Viral Launch like as quickly as possible, the reason being is you know, I wasn’t super passionate about Viral Launch like because, again, we were still, from my perspective, it’s like yes, we’re making money, and like we can do good things with this money, but I would much rather make money by helping people that need it, from my perspective, you know, quote need it. And then still use the proceeds from that to then help people more.
And I still, for the most part, felt like we were helping the people that didn’t really need help so much. And so, but it was around this time, though, that these stories started to come out about us being able to, you know, help people pay off their student loans, or people that had always wanted to be entrepreneurs, Viral Launch had helped them finally have that first taste of success as an entrepreneur. Or you know, this one particular story, this dad had just had a son, or I believe it was a son – they just had a child that was diagnosed with, you know, it was like autism or Asperger’s or Down syndrome, something like that, right? And he had just sold his like truck, his vehicle to get started in this private label business. And we – his goal was to build a business where they could like work from home to have time with this child. And so essentially Viral Launch had helped them go from I’m selling my truck and taking this leap of faith to success and being able to go work from home full time.
And so like the stories were pretty incredible. And you know, I had some friends that were like using the money they were making from their private label business to then invest in charities. And so I was like wow, you know, actually Viral Launch is having a pretty significant impact in some of these people’s lives, and this is pretty cool. And you know, again, looking – it all hit me kind of at the same time, and I really kind of had realized like, you know, I had no intention of starting down this path. But like, you know, God had just thrown me into it, and I’m learning so much about how to build a scalable tech company, and so much from a tech perspective, so much from a business perspective, as well as being able to have an impact in so many lives. I was like wow, you know, I think there’s really something here.
And then I started to look at, you know, what is the future potential of Viral Launch? And it seemed so vast. And so it was kind of at this point where I was like okay, you know, I really believe – I can really believe in this. I can really, you know, justify spending my time here, and I can use Viral Launch as a vehicle to continue to help people, have an impact on people’s lives, entrepreneurs’ lives, help them, you know, achieve their dreams like I’ve started to see my dreams come to fruition by being in a position that I am. I can build my resume. I can build up some capital so that I can, you know, at some point sell Viral Launch to then go build that dream company that is focused on helping those that, you know, aren’t able to help themselves or, you know, enable those that aren’t able to enable themselves or haven’t been as privileged as I. And so that – it was like that moment where I really decided okay, I’m going to chase after Viral Launch. And it was a really, you know, important time kind of in my life and obviously in Viral Launch’s life.
Right. When did you officially bring on employee number one?
So a friend of mine from high school, Andrew, he was employee number one. And it was – it just started kind of as like a little side. He was just contractual. It was contract work, like X number of hours a day or whatever. He was helping me with our audiences’ customer service. And then he started scheduling launches. But this is like June of 2015, so I hadn’t bought Jordan out yet, but I just needed someone to help me kind of man customer service on our audience side because it had been, you know, grown to like 30,000 users or something like that. And so I was building the Viral Launch platform, our audiences platform, doing customer service for Viral Launch, doing customer service for our audience of, you know, now 30,000 people and talking with clients on Viral Launch side, managing the whole thing. It had become so much that I realized I needed help. And so yeah, I brought on Andrew, but it wasn’t until May of 2016 that I really felt comfortable hiring people because essentially like we were subject to Amazon’s algorithm. If Amazon changed up how you could rank products through these giveaways, then the business would have been, you know, dead overnight. And so I didn’t want to, you know, promise people jobs if they could potentially be gone tomorrow. So it was in May of 2016 that I, you know, we had enough steam. We had diversified, or I knew that, you know, if we pushed hard enough for, you know, six months we’ll be able to diversify our revenue enough, build up enough data so that if Amazon does make any significant changes we’ll either be nimble enough to adapt and not lose much revenue, or we’ll be so diversified that if launches do go away we will be able to sustain the team. And so that’s where we hired like our first developer at a six-figure salary, and we really started to push forward from there.
Where do you think the tipping point was for Viral Launch? Where was the moment, or was there a moment when it turned from – this may have been closer to the beginning – where it turned from just an idea to, okay, this is legit, and I am going to carry this through for a long time?
Yeah, well, I mean at any given stage there’s like a, you know, next chapter or an upgrade, maybe in my thinking or just in the company. So like, yeah, again, January of 2015 when I realized hey, this is actually something that like is growing and could be bigger than just this website that I built or whatever, right? Yeah, but then like May of 2016 there was a significant change in my mindset, and we really started to hire like legitimate people.
Yeah, yeah, started to hire legitimate people, so it seemed, right? And this was very intimidating, but it was building this foundation. You know, we are so focused on the long-term that any given point we are building our foundation for the next step. And so even right now I think that we’ve kind of just scratched the surface of what we’re able to do. And so right now we’re investing heavily in building the foundation for the next level, and yeah. I mean this summer was really big. We launched – or April of this year we launched a new tool, Market Intelligence, and we went to just an insane amount of conferences. And that really helped us reach the next step. We just launched Product Discovery, which is helping us reach the next step. We’re always building our team to help us like prepare for that next step, that next step.
Right. So Viral Launch now. Let’s talk a little bit about Viral Launch now. How does Viral Launch in its current state resemble what it was at the beginning? And what’s different now about the business?
Yeah, you know, I think I’ve been very fortunate to be someone that I guess like doesn’t have much of an ego. So I think what that has allowed us to do is kind of stay true to ourselves throughout the entirety of it. So like even from the beginning, you know, we just really cared about people. One thing that I didn’t mention is I brought on a friend of mine because I was originally planning on – so his name is Darrian. He’s my right hand man now. He’s our Vice President. I was planning on having him run Viral Launch so that I could go focus on this other business that I cared about. Viral Launch, you know, will be a place where I can make money, but I will actually go build, you know, this next whatever company that is actually focused on helping people. You know I’m really passionate about education, so yeah, in those like early days of Viral Launch still like early, mid-2015 I was actually like putting the resources together to like go build this new company because, again, Viral Launch was like okay I’m making enough money to like pay, like sustain myself. Now I will spend all the rest of my time like going and building something else.
So anyways, yeah, that’s how Darrian joined. But anyways, yeah, we’ve just always been focused on really focused on helping people. And I think this has been, you know, a big advantage for us like moving forward or throughout the entirety of the company is that we actually like – I don’t know, from my perspective, actually care about like helping people. And so we aren’t focused on like these short-term marketing initiatives that are kind of like churn and burn. So we’re not, you know, giving you false information or building things that are not, you know, incomplete just so that we can get the quick cash. We’re always so focused on like the long-term because – and like helping people. And we understand that like helping people build a long-term future for us and our clients.
I think one of the big differences is just having a team, or at least for me. So my focus is on always helping to make sure that the team is focused on, you know, our mission. Our mission as a company is to be the launch pad to success, so again, to enable entrepreneurs, to help entrepreneurs. And so this has not changed. And sorry, you asked me, you know, what has remained the same. And again, it’s just like our mission statement. So whether that’s helping people to rank on page one or helping them to source, it all comes from the same kind of mission, which is to help entrepreneurs, specifically in the Amazon space. And so again, this is what helps us decide what products to launch and what products to build. We originally started helping people rank on page one, but then we saw people had terrible products, so it doesn’t matter how good – or sorry – it doesn’t matter how well you’re doing with your launch if you have a terrible product. You’re not going to have success. So we had to launch Market Intelligence to help you like better make product decisions or help validate or invalidate your product ideas so that when you come to us with a launch you actually have a good product, and you’re set up well for success.
And so yeah, so like everything that we’re doing, we’re not like hey, making this like tool that makes your process a little bit simpler because we know that we can make some money off of it. No, like we’re going after the products that are like causing the most failure in entrepreneurs’ businesses. And yeah, that’s, yeah.
Let’s talk a little more broad. Casey, what would you say – you’ve been at the forefront of really establishing what Viral Launch is now and pushing it, pushing it even further than what people thought it was capable of. So what, from your perspective, what does it take to make something like Viral Launch? What does it take to establish a business and keep on pushing it forward?
Yeah, I mean it takes a lot. I think the biggest thing is just perseverance, right? So like especially being, if you’re young I think a lot of people like look down on you, don’t take you as seriously and just have much lower expectations. So you know, as an example, I was going to a lot of conferences, and these conferences had never heard of Viral Launch. I’m super young. And so like I would just, you know, casually try to bring up Viral Launch. I’m not much of a salesman, so I’m not, you know, like pushing anybody. I’d just maybe talk about it, or like people would ask me what I do, and I would, you know, start talking about Viral Launch. And people would, you know, immediately pass me off because like okay, this 21-year-old guy or whatever, this young guy talking to me about some startup that I’ve never heard that’s, you know, sounds similar to this other company. So just a ton of rejection, right? But like it was those early days of grinding. And I think it’s so funny because now we go to conferences. Everybody knows Viral Launch. So we have, you know, like a lot of people that love what we do. And so basically like going to conferences is a lot of fun now because everybody is, you know, just like oh I love Viral Launch. Like guys, thank you so much. And they’re excited to meet us. And it’s the complete opposite experience from what it was like in the early days.
But anyways, just so much perseverance. You know, we had competitors like telling lies about us in emails, saying oh, don’t use this service. Like people would email in and say hey, should I use Viral Launch or your service? And they would say oh, don’t use Viral Launch. Like they buy reviews, or like just saying that we do shady things, that we didn’t at the time, just so that they wouldn’t – like anyways, just so many hurdles. And this is not uncommon with life. But it was, you know, really those hurdles that really helped to strengthen me and helped me to be kind of the entrepreneur that I am. And so really like I just encourage you no matter the situation, no matter what’s going on, like you always have to be putting one step in front of the other, and it doesn’t – you know, even if things seem to be going well I think it’s easy to become distracted. But it’s really that day-in/day-out, putting that one foot in front of the other, marching on to that bigger vision that will allow you to have long-term success.
It’s about the grind, right?
Oh yeah, for sure. And like, you know, even to this day, like so many people expect okay, you know, we have 30+ employees. We’re just doing really well. People would expect me to be, you know, just sleeping in and like hanging out on the beach and like doing, I don’t know, just going on all these vacations and letting, you know, all my – from their perspective, all my quote minions, handle the actual work. But it’s nothing like that, right? Like we are a cohesive team, and we’re all focused really heavily on the mission. And so I’m grinding and sleeping just as little – grinding just as much and sleeping just as little as, you know, three years ago when I had $50 in my bank account and was just trying to survive. You know, I’m probably working so much harder because I know the opportunity ahead of us. I know the responsibility we have to help these sellers. And so many people are relying on us. People on the team are relying on me, and these entrepreneurs are relying on Viral Launch to, you know, have an impact in their lives and help them avoid bad decisions, whatever. And so I’m just grinding so hard, and I think that I’ve seen a lot of people, like they are off to initial success because they grind, and then they start to become lax and be that person that’s just hanging out on the beach and working a couple hours here and there. It works for a while, but eventually, like because things move so fast you, you know, you lose the pulse of the market, and you end up falling behind. Sometimes it’s so hard to regain that momentum. So just persistence, working super hard.
What does your daily schedule look like?
Yeah, so my daily schedule is generally, okay, so I wake up around just before 6:30 or so, go to the gym with you, Cam.
Yeah, yeah, let’s go.
And Andrew. And then get to the office around 8:30, Lee from – like, you know, shower at the gym or whatever, get to the office around 8:30, leave around 6:30 so that I can go have dinner with my wife. And so have dinner with my wife for like an hour, and then I’m back on my laptop around 8:00, 8:30, until, you know, I’ll lay in bed with her until she falls asleep, and you know, I’m right back on my laptop until, you know, anywhere between 12:30 and 2:30, or maybe I don’t even get to sleep that night. I’m trying to sleep a lot more, well, trying to actually go to sleep. But anyways, yeah, so and then it’s like rinse and repeat. So I’m not 100% on waking up to go to the gym. Like if I stay up super late it’s a lot harder for me to wake up.
You get there.
Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah, so I’m trying. Yeah, and then you know, Saturday – Fridays and Saturday nights are reserved, you know, for date night with my wife. But you know, Saturday I usually sleep in, go to the gym and then work at a coffee shop until my wife and I do something that night, and then Sunday wake up, go to church and then go to a coffee shop usually and just work until – Sundays are usually pretty late nights because I’ve got to prepare for the week. So, and that’s, you know, hopefully in perpetuity I continue to have this work ethic because I think like I’m in – I’m so blessed to be in the position that I’m in, and like I feel like any waking moment that I am not focused on, you know, building Viral Launch, you know, that’s that many more entrepreneurs that we’re not able to help or we’ll be helping a week later, a month later, something like that. And so I just feel like this persistent or like never-ceasing desire or responsibility to help.
What single piece of advice – we’re going to wrap up a little bit here, but what single piece of advice would you give to aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs?
So I think the affliction of our generation – so I’m a millennial. I think so many people say that we have bad work ethic. From at least what I see, you know, my sphere of like people that I went to high school with and whatever, it’s not necessarily poor work ethic, but it’s lack of desire to delay gratification in the short term for the long-term gain. And so we see this so much in the market, and this is a major advantage that we have is like for whatever reason I’m really willing to focus on the long term. So I’ll put in the work. I’ll struggle now so that in the long term we maximize the advantage or whatever, maximize the benefit. And so please – I cannot encourage you enough to focus on the long term. We see so many people make so many mistakes because they’re focused on the short-term cash, or you know, they get distracted by the shiny object. And as entrepreneurs we see the world as opportunity. There’s endless opportunity, and really it should be your job to say no to as many things as possible so that you can say yes to the things that really matter. There’s this guy, Derek Sivers, and I don’t swear, but basically his thing is like if it’s not heck yes or other words associated, anyway, if it’s not heck yes, then it’s a no. So like you should be so stoked about it. It should be, you know, the best opportunity possible. That’s what you need to go for. You need to be so focused on that and say no to everything else.
Yeah, and again, just be willing to say no to the exciting things, the short-term gratification for the long-term success, and that, like looking back, you know, 10 years later, you will be so glad that you’ve done that because, you know, watching Netflix or watching those YouTube videos, or you know, getting a couple more likes on Facebook or whatever, like in the grand scheme those are not the things that you’re going to remember or be proud of or are really going to, when you look back, you know it’s not going to be how you measure your life. How you measure your life is going to be the impact that you have on people, or the significant projects that, you know, you accomplished, or the things that you accomplished. And the only way to do anything of significance is to invest the time. Delay that gratification. You know they always say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you know, was Amazon? No. You know, was Apple? No. You know, very few things are built in a day. So yeah.
One last question. Through this – for this whole thing, for all of Viral Launch, what percentage of everything would you say was luck or good timing, and what percentage would you say was skill and hard work?
I think we all have kind of like a different term or way that we reference luck. Me, like being religious or whatever, I believe that it was God. So I would say, you know, at least 95% was God, and then the other 5% or 4.9% was just showing up and working extremely hard. And then, you know, that 0.1% was probably like, I don’t know, something else that like had to do with the decisions I made or something. I don’t know. But yeah, you know, I think like – I don’t know.
Yeah, so you can’t control the other 95% in my equation. So you have to control the 5% or 4.9% that you can, and that is working extremely hard. And so just working extremely hard, and then the 0.1% is because I’ve always tried to focus on the long-term, right, or something like that. Or maybe it’s 2.5%. Anyways, I don’t want to get into the details. Anyways, just working hard, focusing on the long-term and then luck, or God, or whatever you believe in, right, will take care of the rest.
Yeah. Well, that’s all we have for today. Casey, thank you so much for telling us the whole thing.
Yeah, thanks so much. You guys, like I love feedback if you don’t know me. Good or bad, just honest feedback. So any way that you can give me feedback, I’d love it, and I mean honestly if you’ve listened to this whole thing I really appreciate you putting up with all the rambling and the side stories and stuff like that. So yeah, hopefully this was inspirational to some degree to somebody, right? Like that’s kind of the intention behind, you know, sharing this. And yeah, also just providing a little more insight into, you know, who we are as a company and why we exist and why we make the decisions that we do.
As always, thank you guys so much for listening and for being here. We love you guys so much, and we love doing this for you. We hope you have a – we hope you have an awesome Christmas, awesome holiday season. We’ll be here, and we’ll keep on grinding. Until next time, thank you, guys.