The first “Job” Job I ever had
I’ll never forget How I learned to be an entrepreneur and build a business for myself. Who knew at 21, I would be learning how to make money instead of earning money from the rat race.
When I was 21, I started an online distribution company on Amazon. I was working for this shady distribution company acting as their “Purchasing Manager” for like $15 dollars an hour. They wanted me to get contacts for brands like MAC cosmetics, designer fragrances, coach bags, and other high end accounts. My role was to buy at wholesale then ship oversees where the product was scarce and make a huge markup at the other offices. It was super shady because we were dealing with an international Singapore office and selling goods that were unauthorized by the brands in certain locations. Basically dealing in a gray market. Turns out the whole beauty distribution industry is super shady in this regard. Rather than discount certain goods to the public, companies like MAC cosmetics or Proctor & Gamble will sell to third party distributors old and unsold products, who will then sell it again to online sellers, third party shops and overseas. So all those Ebay and Amazon stores selling cosmetics and goods are not necessarily fake, but are likely old product that’s been cycled through different distributors.
I eventually had a contact for MAC cosmetics and decided to be bold and use it for my own use and become an Amazon pro-seller. The money was just calling me. I couldn’t help but think if I start selling this stuff people would buy it. This was my first experience working for myself and how I learned to be an entrepreneur. My online store was for cosmetics and our main item for sale was MAC Cosmetics. You wouldn’t believe how popular MAC is online, we had this wholesaler who would sell it to us. (I swear it was authentic). That was literally the only thing we would sell. I sold 80k worth of it within the first year.
Well I guess we didn’t tip the wholesaler enough because he stiffed us on the product and wouldn’t sell to us any more.
All the other product out there to buy was pretty much garbage and not giving us a high enough profit margin to make the effort worth it.
After that I closed the business but I learned a few good lessons about owning a business, how to make money and how to be an entrepreneur:
- Never go into business with a friend.
- It sounds fun at first but it’sa recipe for disaster. I had worked with her at the distribution company and it was a lot of fun. I felt guilty for taking the contact and profiting on my own, when my best friend was sitting right next to me. We had very different approaches to the business though. She wanted to cash out too early so we were never able to reinvest or grow the company. If our orders were growing, it would have been more worthwhile for the supplier and he would have been less likely to drop us like that. We were unknowingly wasting his time by making him fill our small orders twice a month.
- Always tip the people who help you make money
- It’s just good karma and it good at relationship building. You won’t believe how good “You’ll scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” strategy works. I was so stupid to not give a nice Christmas bonus, it’s such an obvious thing to do. When when your young and trying to start a business with absolutely no money, every dollar counts, but the dollars you spend on the people who help you be successful are the most important to spend.
- Never rely on one source of income or client for your business.
- When the MAC supply ran dry so did our business. We never bothered to diversify. We could have done videos on makeup or promoted our own products. But we never got that far.
- I’ve also read about other people making this mistake like YouTubers and Insta Influencers using only one platform to make their connections. This is obviously risky since you are not in charge of the overall platform and if they decide to shut you down because of a “policy violation,” well then you’re SOL.
Lessons I learned From Being A Salesperson
When I stopped doing what the other salespeople were doing that’s when it clicked and I started to do so much more business. There are 10,000 licensed real estate salespeople in NYC. There are only so many rental and sales deals for all those agents. The reality is that not everyone will be successful in this industry and many are living hand to mouth and deal to deal.
They say 5% of salespeople make 80% of deals. To be the top sales person you need to do things other people aren’t willing to do or are too lazy to do.
In real estate that meant doing a mailing list. Many agents were too preoccupied with finding their next deal, they didn’t think ahead to do long term prospecting like email blasts and promotions.
I also prospected by cold calling leads for exclusives and following up relentlessly. All I needed was to have one door open and then I would snowball that opportunity into other opportunities.
Over time you want to create a snowball effect of success. Promoting yourself and showing off your accomplishments helps you get the confidence and business you need from new customers. The snowball effect is probably the most important lesson I learned. The more time you spend on a business, the more it should grow. It should never be stagnant unless there is a catastrophic economic collapse or recession. The issue is that no one teaches you how to start the snowball. In the beginning, it looks very small and almost useless to keep rolling. Maybe a piece breaks off here and again there but over time all the cumulative effort you made over the years will be worth something, it will get stronger, and next thing you know you have a giant business! (Snowball!)
Once the snowball is huge, that’s when people notice you and give you more business with little prospecting. Until then, you’re still just learning to be an entrepreneur.
Things that will help you grow your snowball:
- Mailing lists and email blasts with all the contacts you’ve ever had
- Cold calls
- Holiday cards
- Quality business cards
- Neat work space
- Requesting referrals
- Gifts at closing
- Following up with service, doing surveys
- Having a business plan and marketing plan
- Being consistent with the above items
I hope you’ve found this post really useful to learn how to be an entrepreneur. It was actually a discussion that I first started on Quora but it was so popular there, I decided to expand on the discussion.
Let me know your thoughts and feedback and feel free to follow, share and like.
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