This is Part 1 of the story of how I attempted to start my own e-business (www.onlinecamcourse.com). Follow along as I take you through the ups and downs, twist and turns, and successes and failures.
… it started from laziness
It was Summertime 2014, I was walking aimlessly in a local Barnes & Noble, a favored method of procrastination I developed while in law school. I love to learn, the work not so much. Which made it all the more fortuitous when a book titled The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss caught my eye. Little did I know that my life and mindset was about to be irreversibly changed. Tim Ferriss also loves learning, has made a living out of it actually, and he, also, is not a big fan of work. At least not in the sense of how we are raised to believe a professional life should be shaped. You know, the American dream where you work 50 hours a week your entire life while numbing yourself with booze or prescription meds every night so your kids can live a better (err, exact same) life, and then you retire and die of boredom.
Tim has a knack for deconstructing paradigms and challenging the notions that things should be done one way simply because it is the way they have always been done. His book challenges the tired concept of the 40-plus hour work week and the geographical constraints of office-life altogether. This view was especially appealing to me as someone that has had trouble sitting in classrooms and offices my entire life. Some may call it ADD or ADHD; I’ve come to think of it as a symptom rather than an affliction. A symptom of a modern world lived in boxes called schools and offices. A symptom of a society constructed in contradiction to the majority of history of mankind which was spent walking, hunting, and playing outdoors.
So while the impulse that led me to purchase The 4-Hour Workweek, the idea of only working 4 HOURS a week, may have been born from the impulse of laziness – sprinkled with some get rich quick mindset, the book turned out to be far more than I anticipated. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the book is less a treatise on how to be lazy and more so a book about efficiency, how to think smarter, and how to leverage today’s technology and resources to build self-sustaining businesses using automation. The undertone of the book, however, is about how to live a more fulfilling life.
At the same time as I was reading The 4-Hour Workweek I also happened to be studying to become a Licensed Community Association Manager (CAM) in Florida. Coming off the heels of studying and passing the Florida Bar Exam, and all of the studying and exams that lead up to that moment, I concluded that the 18-hour CAM Prelicensure course I was enrolled in, and the various Prelicensure courses offered, were inferior to course offerings in other fields. They were haphazardly thrown together with barely any explanation of the concepts being presented, and did little to prepare the students for the ultimate goal of passing the State Exam. I realized I could create a better course and deliver all of the content online in a far more convenient format than what was being presented. In entrepreneur speak, I identified a pain point. Entrepreneurs create opportunities for themselves through innovation, by leveraging technology or other resources, to create solutions to pain points.
Most importantly, I recognized that the entire course could be automated. A large portion of The 4-Hour Workweek is geared toward automation. The more of your business that can be automated, the more free time you have to do the things that are important to you. Whether that means travelling, working out, spending time with the family, or even starting other businesses, is entirely up to you. Another term for automation used in the world of online entrepreneurs is passive income. Passive income is income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it. It is not that it takes little effort overall, it takes plenty of effort – as I have learned, it is just that the majority of the effort is upfront. Once an automated product is placed into the stream of commerce, ideally it should generate the income with relatively little effort. My goal was to generate, at the very least, enough automated income to cover my living expenses so that I would never be completely reliant on an employer again.
Two steps backward
Without any start-up capital and no clear understanding of the resources that would be necessary to create the course, I presented my vision to my employer and continued the development of my course in conjunction with another web based project I was working on for my employer. I never truly believed in the other project and I grew frustrated when my own project was postponed due to the slow development of this other project. The other project never came to fruition and, in what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, I was let go from the company in the Spring of 2015.
During the days following my firing, I decided to take advantage of my new found free time by playing basketball everyday at the park near my home. Something I wasn’t able to do while I was employed because I was rarely able to leave work before the sun went down. Four days later, having played more basketball than I had in years, my achilles ruptured during a pickup game. This was far more devastating than losing my job. I cried that day the same way I cried 20 years earlier when I caught my first cramp during an AAU game and mistook my flexing calf muscle for a bone sticking out of my leg. It wasn’t the pain that brought me to tears; it was the thought of never being able to play again. I guess some things never change.
Still mourning, and being bed ridden post-surgery, I began to immerse myself in the world of business and entrepreneurship. I was not just rehabilitating physically, but also mentally. I realized moving forward I would need to define myself as much by how I live my life in this second act of my life, as much as I had by my athletic achievements in the first. I devoured hours of podcasts and voraciously read books, all geared toward life and business. I read everything from Man’s Search for Meaning, 7-Habits, to The E-Myth Revisited. I listened to The Smart Passive Income podcast, The Foundation, The Joe Rogan Experience and many many others for knowledge and inspiration. After having already completed four long years of undergrad and four more grueling years in law school, I told myself I will never pay for education again, but make no doubt about, I was back in school.
Having been re-inspired, I began focusing once again on my then defunct course. I knew that I could not simply use the course I had created at my previous job. Not only did I need to differentiate my course to avoid any legal issues, but I needed to learn more about my subject matter if I wanted to create a quality curriculum. I added books about community association management to my reading list and sought out community management seminars at nearby conventions. Still, I had no money to hire a developer to create my vision for a website. My narrow minded focus did not allow me to see a solution that didn’t require capital. I became so desperate that I pitched my idea, once again, to the same employer that fired me. He never called back. Another blessing.
I needed a partner
In Spring of this year, 2016, I was listening to a fantastic podcast titled Start Up. Start Up is a podcast series about entrepreneur Alex Blumberg starting his own podcasting media company and all of the struggles he went through to get his business off the ground. In one of the early episodes, it occurred to Alex that he needed a partner. That was when I realized that I, too, needed a partner. I needed someone with the expertise to build a website and, more importantly, I needed someone to share the burden of trying to create a business from scratch. Soon thereafter, I called my friend Scott Barron. Scott had spent his entire career in the information technology field and I wanted to see if he could hook me up with somebody that may want to partner with me. He did me one better. He told me he believed in my idea and that he had also been looking to venture off and work on projects that he could call his own. The idea of partnering up with Scott was far more appealing because I knew Scott was a great guy and someone I could trust. Not only did I now have a partner with expertise that could shore up my weaknesses, but his belief in me and my idea invigorated me in a way that I could not have predicted. That was the beginning of what would become onlinecamcourse.com.
In Part 2 I’ll reveal the difficulties of negotiating ownership percentage (w/friends), my first lesson in hiring, and whether the launch of the site has been a success or failure.