I’m Going Traveling, Dammit! (When to Ignore the Bad Advice of Others)

Over ten years ago, I quit a great job to live and travel abroad. People told me I was crazy, and a few tried to persuade me not to do it.

Given that a decade has since passed and my life is going pretty well, I think I’m qualified to say that those people who told me not to travel were dead wrong!

So in case you’re contemplating the same thing, here’s why you should ignore the advice of those who tell you that you shouldn’t go traveling now.

“But, You’ve Got a Good Job Here!”

Yes, I had a great job. That was part of the problem — I’d had the luck of “right place, right time” to work my way up to a dream job much faster than I’d imagined. There didn’t seem to be much of a “what’s next?”, other than doing the same or similar job for the next twenty or so years. But that wasn’t enough for me and guess what — ten years later, with a whole lot of amazing experiences under my belt that makes me do any job better, I’ve got another good job! Better, in fact!

Having a good job doesn’t mean you are satisfied with what’s going on in your life, although it certainly helps. But if you’ve been able to get a good job once, then chances are you’ll find another good job again.

And flipped around, just having a good job doesn’t mean it will continue to be a job you love or even that the job will continue to exist. Especially in the current changing economy, you can’t guarantee what’s going to happen.

187 - My head's in heaven.
Daydreaming © Meg Wills

“It’s a Bad Career Move.”

Some suggested that leaving my good career and doing “odd jobs” would look extremely bad on my resume. “What about your career?” they asked. Well, there are lots of answers to this concern.

First, there are employers who welcome international experience on your resume even if it’s not in your original field. And do you really want to work for companies who are anti-travel?

Second, your experiences overseas may well change your career path. They certainly changed mine, in a way I couldn’t have done if I’d stayed home. I got into the world of travel blogging, which led me to launch my own blogging and social media business once I returned home and had a family. If I’d stayed here and never traveled there’s no way I would have found this path, and I love it.

Waiting to Depart © Billy Rowlinson

“You’ll Lose Your Savings.”

Some people told me I’d be crazy to spend my savings on travel. On top of that, to be away from home and not contributing to my pension fund and all that stuff. True. But not the end of the world.

As it turns out, I managed to save a lot of money while I worked in Japan (despite traveling very regularly while I was there) and sent it home as savings. When I worked in Slovakia and Germany, I made sure to live within my means. This, of course, involved a lot of budget traveling. But, hey, it’s more fun that way!

Of course, I’m not recommending you go traveling and bill all of it to your credit card when you’ve no immediate way to repay it. You have to be at least a little sensible. If you don’t have enough savings to use then look into combining travel with working abroad. For me, working in other countries still felt like traveling because I had so many new experiences every day.

“You Won’t Like Japan.”

Several people told me that living abroad and traveling wasn’t such a bad idea, but they were sure I wouldn’t like Japan. This wasn’t because they’d been there or anything. I guess they’d heard of someone who’d had a bad experience. And I don’t think it would have mattered if I’d been moving to England or Brazil or wherever, they would have said the same thing. Guess what — I adored it!

In retrospect, if these people said the same thing to me today, I’d quickly tell them that I can enjoy virtually any place in the world. And, if I decide I don’t like it, I can just move on to somewhere else.

It took me a while to learn that, once you hit the road, the next move is up to you and you’re free to do whatever you want. Don’t let these nay-sayers make you nervous about not enjoying where you’re headed. It’s up to you to decide to enjoy it.

Dusk on Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
Dusk on Lake Palace, Rajasthan, India © Manoj Vasanth

“You Can’t Speak the Language.”

Before I moved abroad, I admit that not being able to speak the local language worried me a bit. And, I also made as good an attempt as possible to learn the local languages while I lived there because I think that’s the respectful thing to do (plus it’s a lot of fun).

But I soon learned that there are ways to communicate without speaking another language fluently, and plenty of people to help out when you need it. Language barriers should never stop you from traveling.

The Bottom Line

There are always reasons not to do something. Absconding from your “normal” life to travel is no exception.

But I’m glad that I ignored everyone who suggested I stay home. Without my six years of living abroad, I’d have an entirely different life and I firmly believe it would be a poorer one. If you get the chance, ignore the advice-givers and the nay-sayers, and just go traveling, dammit!

The post I’m Going Traveling, Dammit! (When to Ignore the Bad Advice of Others) appeared first on Vagabondish.

Best Ways to Purify Water While Traveling: Filters, Purifiers, and More

I spend half my life in Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. So, I’m somewhat of an expert on how to eat and drink in questionable places without getting sick. In particular, I’ve learned the best ways to purify water while traveling.

If you’re heading anywhere with questionable tap water, this is something you need to think about. While I hate scaremongering when it comes to travel, water-related disease and illness (think cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis A) are a very real concern in many parts of the world.

Assuming you’d rather not go the bottled water route (which can get expensive, is extremely wasteful, and is not always available in parts of the world), here are five alternatives to purifying water while traveling.

Best Ways to Purify Water While Traveling

Portable UV Water Purifier

SteriPEN Ultra UV Water Purifier

SteriPEN Ultra UV Water Purifier for Purifying Water While Traveling

UV water purifiers are hands-down my preferred method to purify water while traveling. I travel with the SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier and, after several years, have zero complaints. It’s portable, lightweight, sturdy, and — the best part — it destroys more than 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.

If there’s a downside, it’s that UV water purifiers require batteries. Older SteriPen models relied on proprietary batteries that are difficult to find in more remote regions of the world. Thankfully, newer models like the Ultra are rechargeable via a USB cable that can be connected to any standard, powered USB outlet (like a wall, laptop, or spare battery pack).

How: For this water purifier, you simply push the only button on the unit, then swirl the UV bulb around the water until the timer stops. It doesn’t get much simpler. A smiley face pops onto the OLED screen if you’ve done it correctly, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Survival Straws for Purifying Water While Traveling

Woman using LifeStraw to purify water while traveling

LifeStraw: Compact, Portable Water Purification for Travelers

A close second to the SteriPen Ultra … Ultra-lightweight survival straws are among the newest and best ways to purify water while traveling.

Among the many brands now available, LifeStraw is still my favorite — it’s less than $20 USD, filters a minimum of 99.9% of bacteria and protozoan pathogens, and lasts for up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water.

How: They function like a wide drinking straw — stick the business end into almost any water source and sip.

Purify Water with Chemicals

Although chemical purification covers a few different means of purifying water, I’m lumping them all into one method for simplification. Water purification tablets have been used by backcountry hikers for years. They’re cheap, portable, and effective. A 100-pack of Aquatabs, for example, is available via Amazon for around $11 USD and they don’t leave the water tasting like chemicals.

The same can’t be said for bleach. It’s dirt-cheap, readily available, and extremely effective at killing nasty things in just about any water. But, it also leaves the water tasting, well, bleachy. Thankfully, you only need about two drops per gallon for it to effectively purify your water.


GSR Outdoors Halulite Boiler (camp pot)

GSR Outdoors Halulite Boiler for Purifying Water While Traveling

If none of the above are available to you, the age-old method of boiling is one of the simplest and most effective ways of purifying water of any unwanted living organisms. This includes parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens.

You might wonder who the hell travels with pots and pans? GSI Outdoors makes great, lightweight, portable camp pots that are perfect for traveling. I pack their Halulite Boiler on every trip so I can make coffee and breakfast oatmeal no matter where I’m staying. (Incidentally, it also doubles as a place to safely store small, possibly fragile, souvenirs when I’m heading home)

How: Place your water in a heat-safe container (metal, ceramic, or glass will do) and boil over a high-heat source for ten minutes.

Distillation via a Solar Still

Distillation is the most effective means of purifying water when you have access to almost zero materials and you’re struggling to improvise. It’s more of a last-ditch, survival-style means of purifying water (if you’re in a life or death situation that would leave even Bear Grylls scratching his head). It’s time-consuming, difficult, and often yields little drinkable water. On the plus side, it purifies questionable water incredibly well.

How: It requires plenty of time, a tarp, digging a hole, a bunch of leaves, and a cut-off shirt like so:

The post Best Ways to Purify Water While Traveling: Filters, Purifiers, and More appeared first on Vagabondish.

Crashing at Chattanooga’s One-of-a-kind Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse

This job is not without its perks. In the last ten years of running Vagabondish, we’ve been fortunate to crash at some pretty swank hotels around the world. The Saxon in Johannesburg, Gili Lankanfushi in Maldives, and our Nile River cruise on the Best of Egypt tour with Lady Egypt all come to mind.

But, beyond even the most out-of-this-world luxury hotels, there’s something about sleeping in a simple treehouse that we know we’ll always remember. It just elicits a sense of pure, childlike joy and wonderment that Kelsey and I will never outgrow.

Which is why we were stoked to get an invite from Dove (as in, the fancy soap brand people). In order to celebrate the launch of their new Elements line, they decided to … build a treehouse in Tennessee. Seems completely logical, right?

Dove Men+Care Elements Products

Every purchase comes with free wood chips and a lava rock! (Really? No, not really.)

Maybe not at first, but it makes perfect sense when you consider that Dove Men+Care’s new Elements line is distinctly inspired by nature and the sort of scents that campers and outdoor-loving men want to bathe themselves in. Think Charcoal+Clay, Minerals+Sage, and Mineral Powder+Sandalwood. (I imagine they’re the kinds of smells male bears woo lady bears with. Assuming bears go on dates …) The fact that I already use Dove’s products and have for years made our decision a simple one.

So, last month we flew to Chattanooga (technically the treehouse is in Georgia, but … close enough) — one of our favorite small cities for outdoor-loving travelers — to spend three nights at the Dove Men+Care Treehouse. The first reaction from every one of our friends and family was, almost universally: “A treehouse? Cool! Wait … does it have a bathroom?

Entrance to Chattanooga's Dove Men+Care Treehouse

Dove Men+Care Treehouse Outside Chattanooga, Tennessee

We can confirm that, yes … yes, it does have a bathroom. An incredibly nice one. Actually, it has more amenities than our apartment. Which isn’t much of a surprise since Treehouse Master Pete Nelson architected the project. Of the collaboration with Pete, Dove Men+Care notes:

As you ascend to enter the house, Pete’s artistic interpretation of our nature-inspired formulas and transformative freshness come to life through design elements, including Shou Sugi Ban-style charred wood paneling and a living sage wall on the exterior.

Entrance and Original Sketch of the Dove Men+Care Treehouse

Entrance and Original Sketch of the Dove Men+Care Treehouse

If that all sounds borderline frou-frou spiritual, it’s because the man takes his treehouses seriously. Which is why he was able to pack a surprising amount of awesomeness into just 300-ish square feet. The treehouse’s first floor boasts a super comfortable Tuft & Needle bed (incidentally, the same mattress we have at Vagabondish HQ), a wet bar with a gourmet coffee kit, full HVAC system with heat and AC, a small lounge area, Amazon Echo connectivity, and an incredible, oversized spa bathroom with heated pebble flooring, a touchscreen-activated, five-jet rain shower, and a center glass column that wraps around a tree.

Just to refresh: all of this is in a treehouse.

The Loft at the Dove Men+Care Treehouse

The Loft at Chattanooga’s Dove Men+Care Treehouse

Upstairs is a wide sleeping loft with two twin mattresses and dual skylights that make for great stargazing. Outside, there’s even two balconies and a private firepit area (with a complimentary s’mores kit!).

Firepit at the Dove Men+Care Treehouse

Firepit at Chattanooga’s Dove Men+Care Treehouse

From day one, we contemplated just locking the front door and refusing to leave. Our hotel stays are usually just a means to an end: somewhere to store luggage and lay our heads at night. The intention is always to get out and see the surrounding city/town/island as much as possible. But, for the two full days that we were at the Dove Men+Care Treehouse, we just didn’t want to leave. Why would we? And, once we heard that a nearby pizza joint delivered handmade pies and ice cream right to the treehouse front door, we made it a point to not leave as much as possible.

Sorry, Chattanooga. We do love you a lot, but … treehouses with delivery pizza, ice cream, and free s’mores trump pretty much everything.

Alas, after our brief, three-night stay, they physically removed us from the property (there was much kicking and screaming and threats of violence). But, in all seriousness, the treehouse did provide a great base of operations for exploring Chattanooga.

Our stay was part of a clever campaign to promote the new Dove Men+Care Elements product line. So, the treehouse is only open to media at the moment. BUT, Treetop Hideaways — the actual owners of the treehouse — will be opening it for rent to the general public via Airbnb later this year.

The good news? If you just can’t wait to stay in a treehouse of your own, the husband and wife duo who own TH already have a two-story treehouse available for rent on Airbnb. While it lacks the modern polish of its fancier Dove Men+Care brother, it comes complete with a huge window wall, penny flooring, a vintage style gramophone speaker, and a kitchenette with complimentary drinks and snacks. And isn’t that all you really need anyway?

The post Crashing at Chattanooga’s One-of-a-kind Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse appeared first on Vagabondish.

This entry was posted in Travel.

13 Persuasion Techniques to Convince Ecommerce Visitors to Buy More

Man playing chessWhen running an ecommerce store, it’s easy to forget that visitor #3456 is a real, live person. A person subject to cognitive biases, persuasion techniques, psychological theories, etc.

Having a basic understanding of some of the most popular persuasion techniques can put you ahead of the competition. You’ll have more insight into why visitors abandon their carts, why they buy and how they’re persuaded.

More importantly, you’ll have insight into how you can turn theory into practice, science into cold, hard cash.

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Here are 13 persuasion techniques that will give you an unfair advantage in the most important battlefield of all: the human brain.

1. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is a social norm that states that if I give you something, you’ll feel obligated to return the favor. Essentially, this allows me to ask for something in return rather than wait for a voluntary act from you.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. The two values don’t necessarily need to be equal. For example, if you hold the door for me, I’m more likely to say yes to buying you a coffee.

In her book, The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer recalls working as a living statue. Painted white and dressed in a wedding gown, she handed out flowers on the street. She earned enough to pay her rent for over five years.

Now, she’s applying the technique to her ecommerce store:

Amanda Palmer's reciprocity

As you can see, customers can choose what they want to pay for the album. She provides the value, they choose how much they want to reciprocate.

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Offer a tripwire, an irresistible and low price product designed not to make money, but to change the relationship from casual visitor to actual buyer.
  • Offer a free gift or discount, including: free shipping, a welcome discount for first-time buyers, product samples, an unexpected free gift to go along with an ordered product, etc.
  • Send appreciation cards and notes to existing customers.

2. Consistency

Consistency states that once you commit to something, especially in writing, you are more likely to follow through or maintain the stance. People like when their thoughts and actions are aligned.

Once you get someone to make a commitment, they begin to engage in self-persuasion. That is, they begin to justify related actions to themselves and others.

Chubbies plays on consistency in an interesting way:

What Chubbies believes

By listing their beliefs, they’re actively calling for people who share similar beliefs. If these beliefs resonate with a visitor, they’re more likely to buy because that would align what they think and what they do.

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Push visitors to subscribe to your email list or download a relevant free resource. Once they’ve made the small commitment, they’re more likely to make a bigger commitment.
  • Encourage social sharing at every stage. The more public the commitment, the better.

3. Social Proof

Humans are naturally social (yes, even before social media came along). As a result, we’re heavily influenced by those around us, especially if we hold them in high regard. Social proof states that you base your actions and beliefs on those around you.

You’re most likely to follow the lead of someone who is similar to you or in situations where you’re very uncertain. Often, there’s comfort in just doing what everyone else is doing.

Ratings, reviews, share counts, testimonials… social proof is all around you.

Here’s an example from Poo-Pourri:

Poo-Pourri social proof

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Have an influencer or expert endorse or provide a testimonial for your product.
  • Show the number of people who have purchased recently or how many people are currently viewing the product.
  • Add trust icons, like media logos and mentions.

4. Likeness

Likeness simply states that you tend to say “yes” to people you like. That comes down to two factors:

  1. Physical Attraction: Studies have shown time and time again that people who are physically attractive are more persuasive.
  2. Similarity: You are more likely to be persuaded by someone you deem similar to yourself.

This translates quite easily to store design and voice of customer copywriting. For example, which of these sites would you rather buy from?

Attractive vs. unattractive site design

I’m willing to bet it’s the bottom one with the cleaner, more attractive design (Happiness Abscissa).

Other ways to apply it to your store:

5. Authority

Authority states that you have a tendency to believe that if any expert or person of authority says something, it must be true.

There is a very famous study, the Milgram experiment, attached to this persuasion technique. It was conducted in 1961. Basically, two participants (a teacher and a learner) were placed in two different rooms. The learner was hooked up to an electric shock machine, which the teacher controlled.

A supervisor, wearing a lab coat, was also present. He told the teacher to ask the learner questions and shock him when he answered incorrectly. After every incorrect answer, the voltage increased (up to 450 volts).

The catch? The learner was an actor, making fake pain noises after each shock. The study explored how much pain the participants were willing to inflict on a completely innocent person if instructed by a person of authority.

As it turns out, a lot. Most teachers were willing to give 450 volts if instructed.

Gary Vaynerchuk capitalizes on his authority through his shop:

Gary Vaynerchuk's store

If you follow him on social media, you see him wearing these shirts. If you watch his videos, you’ve heard the lyric “hustle like my name is Gary Vee”.

How to apply it to your store:

  • Build authority by highlighting qualifications (job title, product awards, etc.)
  • Avoid cliché, vague awards and claims (e.g. “World’s best doughnuts!”)
  • When in doubt, borrow authority from someone else via an endorsement, a product review, etc.

6. Scarcity

Scarcity states that when something is limited in quantity, you assign more value to it.

Remember when Johnny Carson helped create a toilet paper shortage in 1973? During his opening monologue of The Tonight Show, he made a joke about an upcoming toilet paper shortage. People rushed out to buy it, creating an actual nationwide consumer toilet paper shortage.

Scarcity, too, is all around us in ecommerce. Anyone who buys plane tickets online will recognize this:

Scarcity when booking flights

Here it is on Hammock Town, too:

Hammock Town scarcity

The closer that number gets to 0, the more persuasive.

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Offer limited-time only discounts and deals. A countdown to when the discount or deal ends can spur purchases.
  • In the cart, show how much the visitor saved with a call to action to checkout before the savings expire.
  • Offer free express shipping or something similar to those who purchase before a certain time of day.

7. Price Anchoring

Price anchoring states that the first price presented plays a big role in the decision-making process.

For example, the price is regularly $129.99, which is noted first. But it’s currently on sale for just $59.99. That first price, $129.99, serves as an anchor, making the discounted price seem like a total steal.

Here’s how Natural Force does it:

Natural Force price anchoring

And here’s how Greats does it:

Greats price anchoring

The first, higher price sets the stage and becomes the anchor that makes the second price so much more appealing.

Let’s say Greats didn’t use price anchoring. $89.10 might seem like too much to spend. But the $99 original price clearly indicates that it isn’t. You might actually find price anchoring limits comparison shopping as well.

8. Familiarity

Familiarity states that you prefer the things and people you are familiar with. Yes, seriously. Studies have even found that you’re more likely to fall in love with someone the more often you see them. Your happiness is actually correlated with how many things you’re familiar with.

This fondness for familiarity is why you’ll often find the cart in the top, right-hand corner of a store. Or why you’re so attached to the neighborhood you live in. Or why you tend to order the same one or two meals at your favorite restaurant.

Familiarity comes down to three factors:

  • Cognitive Fluency: How easy is it to think about something?
  • Prototypicality: How similar is it to others in the same category or industry?
  • Habit: How well does it match previous, similar experiences?

This is why knowing your audience is so important. Being familiar with the experiences and language they’re expecting can be incredibly useful for increasing conversions.

Chubbies is known for voice of customer copy:

Chubbies voice of customer copy

And so is The Oatmeal:

The Oatmeal voice of customer copy

They both simplify as much as possible, follow existing prototypes and even sound familiar.

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Use a simple design that’s low complexity and low on clutter. Don’t rage too hard against the machine. Stick with a prototypical design that works as expected for the ecommerce industry.
  • Use words and phrases your visitors will find familiar and scannable. Speak as they would speak, if you will.
  • Take a cue from the types of calls to action your direct and indirect competitors are using. How do they match up? You don’t want to copy them, but you want to make sure you’re meeting expectations.

9. Attentional Bias

Attentional bias states that you pay more attention to emotionally stimulating factors and downplay other factors. The more intense and touching something is, the more attention you pay to it. Makes sense, right? That’s why fear and sex tend to be so persuasive.

We all remember that Sarah McLachlan commercial.

So, when WWF is trying to raise money to save and support animals, they tug on the heartstrings a bit with emotion-evoking visuals:

WWF attentional bias

A happy, thriving baby polar bear who could keep cool all thanks to you? That’s a pretty positive emotion. It’s no surprise this type of messaging is conveyed over and over again through copy and images.

BioLite does something similar:

BioLite attentional bias

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Conduct some qualitative research to determine what emotional state people arrive in. Do they come to you stressed, desperately seeking a solution? This will help you determine whether you should take advantage of the natural emotional state or try to change it.
  • Font, color and images all have emotional values. Be purposeful when choosing them.
  • Writing copy that tells a story can help you make an emotional appeal.

10. Visual Cueing

Visual cueing states that your attention and focus while visiting a site can be managed and directed by design.

CXL Institute recently conducted an interesting study on visual cueing. They compared six different visual cues against the control (no visual cues):

  1. Human looking away
  2. Human looking towards
  3. Hand-drawn arrow
  4. Triangular
  5. Line
  6. Highlight

The results? Visual cues don’t impact how quickly something is spotted, but they do impact how much attention is paid to something. In this case, a signup form. The hand-drawn arrow performed the best, for anyone interested.

Pipsnacks is certainly no stranger to visual cueing, using it to draw attention to the product (and its benefits):

Pipsnacks visual cueing

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Use visual cues to direct visitors down the page, especially if you have valuable product information below the “fold”.

11. Loss Aversion

Loss aversion states that you strongly prefer to avoid losses than to acquire gains. According to Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, we typically fear loss twice as much as we enjoy success.

So, to put that into perspective, your visitors fear not liking your product twice as much as they think they’ll enjoy the benefits of having your product.

Perhaps that’s why some stores so prominently display their return policy. Like Muse:

Muse loss aversion

And Tortuga:

Tortuga loss aversion

Or why Kylie Cosmetics framed their email subscription call to action this way:

Kylie Cosmetics loss aversion

It’s worth noting that there are some exceptions. Kahneman has found that people decide differently, depending on whether the decision is framed as a loss or a gain. So:

  • If you want someone to make a risk-averse choice, focus on what they will gain by making the choice you want them to.
  • If you want someone to make a risk-seeking choice, focus on what they will lose by not making the choice you want them to.

Other ways to apply it to your store:

  • Use your images and other visuals to show the loss scenario instead of the gain scenario.
  • Choose the wording of your offers carefully. “Don’t miss out on our summer sale: 10% off all t-shirts.” might work better than “Take 10% off t-shirts.”

12. IKEA Effect

The IKEA effect states that the more effort we invest into something, the more we value it. Anyone who has spent three hours putting together an IKEA dresser knows how this feels.

Product customization is a great way to trigger this effect. The more effort your visitors put into customization, the more they value the product. You might find that this reduces cart abandonment and increases conversions.

StandDesk does this well. In fact, they invite you to build your desk, not buy it:

StandDesk homepage

All of the customization options require thought and effort from the customer. No, they’re not trying to assemble a dresser with an Allen key for three hours, but it does become a labor of love along the way:

StandDesk IKEA effect

13. Paradox of Choice

If you’re offered one option, the choice is clear: do or do not buy. When you’re offered two options, your brain focuses on choosing between the two. Suddenly, the idea of not buying anything at all is muted.

In that case, offering more than one option can help make a sale.

However, if you offer too many options, analysis paralysis comes into play. With so many options, you can’t decide and end up choosing nothing at all.

This is known as the paradox of choice. The key, of course, is finding the right balance of options.

It’s why IKEA puts two calls to action on their product pages:

IKEA paradox of choice

Just like Litter:

Litter paradox of choice

And Kinky Tease:

Kinky Tease paradox of choice

I remember at CTA Conference in 2015, Bart Schutz spoke about a test he had run relating to choice. He found that even adding a “Print This Page” link beside a previously lone call to action boosted conversions.

Of course, this paradox also has inventory implications.


The truth is that psychology and persuasion techniques don’t always translate well to the online marketplace. However, these 13 persuasion techniques have certainly proven that they have a place in ecommerce. At the very least, they’re worth experimenting with.

Leave a comment below if I’ve missed a persuasion technique that’s worked particularly well for you.

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What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody?

What if you go to Harvard College and end up a nobody?

A happy life is all about managing expectations. If you matriculate at Harvard, great things are expected of you. And if you don’t do great things, are you a disappointment?

Education has been on my mind a lot lately because of my new jobs as a high school tennis coach and as a stay at home dad who is worried about not providing proper guidance. I’ve seen first hand the grind my student athletes go through and I sometimes wonder whether it’s all worth it. Supposedly my high school is one of the best in the city, yet not every graduate goes to a university like Harvard.

I pick on Harvard because it’s the most well known university in the world and also costs about $63,025 annually in tuition, room, and board if you receive no aid. I’m assuming if you went to Harvard, you won’t be offended by this article because you’ve got the golden carpet rolled out for you compared to a field littered with land mines for the rest of us. But you can substitute any elite private university in the title, and the point is the same.

Using the word “nobody” is admittedly harsh, but I come from the viewpoint that for at least 13 years after college, I was a nobody, busy working in banking. Yes, banking is an integral part of making an economy work, much like oil is to a car engine. However, at the end of the day, all I was doing was helping institutions get wealthier. Sad, but I’m trying my best to improve.

If you attend a school like Harvard, you must go on to do great things. With an acceptance rate of only 5.4%, you aren’t allowed to retire early and waste your potential, be a stay at home parent before age 32, work the same job as someone who went to State U, or morph into some highly opinionated personal finance blogger who enjoys stoking the fire. Now that you can learn everything online for free, the stakes for achieving greatness have never been higher!

The purpose of this article is to:

1)  Challenge our unhealthy desire for prestige and money

2) Reassess the pressure cooker environment we put our kids through

3) Discover what actual Harvard graduates do for a living

4) Encourage our smartest people to do more productive things with their lives

5) Give folks who’ve been rejected from elite universities and coveted jobs hope that anything is possible

6) Go beyond the act of giving money by spending more time helping people directly

7) Encourage schools to encourage their graduates to broaden their career prospects

Profiles Of Those Who Went To An Elite School

Ivy League Admissions Selectivity Chart By School

We only hear about famous people who went to Harvard. You know, people like the 43rd POTUS George W. Bush, the “inventor” of the internet Al Gore, Chairman of the Fed Ben Bernanke, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Academy Award winner actress Natalie Portman, former First Lady Michelle Obama, the 35th POTUS John F Kennedy, unabomber Ted Kacznski and NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin.

But what about the thousands of graduating alumni Harvard spits out every year? What do they do? Let’s find out through a semi-random sampling of LinkedIn profiles online. To get my search started, I chose one person I know who went to Harvard and then clicked forward to see what her fellow classmates ended up doing.

My sample set is admittedly biased as someone with a finance background who therefore knows more finance people than average, but let’s see where the rabbit hole goes. I’ve changed some of the dates and tidbits to protect the identity of these random folks. If you think I’m talking about you, I’m not!

Profile #1

Harvard College

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Occupation: Investment banking and private equity before b-school, private equity tech investor at TPG after b-school

Thoughts: She mentioned to me during a summer associate internship that she was not going to b-school for the main purpose of making money after I asked whether she’s going back to private equity after graduation. With an air of nobility she said, “Sam, life is not just about making money you know?” She then decided to go back into private equity and is now a VP making even more money. This career profile is the quintessential and stereotypical pedigree of an elite private school graduate.

Profile #2

Tufts University

Harvard MBA

Occupation: Clorox marketing manager, Twitter marketing manager, self-employed, brand strategy at a Willamette Valley vineyard

Thoughts: Not many people think about working at an old-school consumer products company after getting a Harvard MBA, but Clorox has one of the best management training programs. But if you think about it, how excited can you really be marketing a toilet bowl cleaning wand as your career? She joined Twitter soon after IPO, but since the stock has done poorly, the company went through several rounds of layoffs and I suspect she was a casualty given her year of self-employment afterward. But now, she has a pretty cool job marketing wine and living a relaxing life!

Profile #3

Harvard College

Dartmouth MBA

Occupation: Goldman Sachs, CLSA MD

Thoughts: Another standard career path for those who attend Ivy league universities. He was a great guy who caught an error in my resume when I was interviewing. I got the dates mixed up. I’m just surprised he’s still working since he was at GS for years before GS went public in 1999, and has worked for 25+ years now. I wonder whether he went through a divorce or something else is going on. 

Profile #4

Philips Academy Andover: Prestigious northeast private high school

Harvard College

Occupation: McKinsey Consulting analyst, VP of Operations at failed e-commerce startup, founder of clothing startup that needs funding

Thoughts: McKinsey is one of the hardest places to get a job after college due to their infamous case study interviews and brainteasers e.g. how many jelly beans can fit inside a Boeing 747 and why? After McKinsey, he spent five years working at one of the biggest flameouts in e-commerce history where the company raised over $300M and was valued at over $1B before getting acquired for less than $30M. Good for him for utilizing what he learned to start his own e-commerce company. But without another round of funding this year, it’s highly likely his business will dissolve and he’ll end up burning through lots of his own cash. Running in place for 10 years is tough. 

Profile #5 

Yale University undergrad

Yale University Masters

Harvard College PhD

Occupation: Analytics for a startup, analyst for a mobile gaming startup, director of growth for a startup, head of growth for another startup, venture capital, self-employed

Thoughts: I’m absolutely blown away by his resume. I was strongly considering getting a PhD after I left the private sector in 2012, but realized I was too dumb and impatient. The weird thing is, after all his education, he went on to join companies that have nothing to do with what he learned. I can do analytics and growth marketing with the best of them since I run my own site. His path makes me feel that getting a PhD is too costly a career move today. With his resume, I would be seriously disappointed with my career so far. 

Profile #6

Yale University

Occupation: Forbes 30 Under 30, Started a social media advertising company that rebranded after six years because they needed a change in direction (code for things aren’t working as planned)

Thoughts: I’m always impressed with the Forbes X Under X crowd. Yale has a 6.3% acceptance rate and is right up there with Harvard in terms of prestige. The advertising technology space is very hard because the margins are so thin and Google and Facebook are the oligopoly players. I tried creating my own online advertising network and did OK for about two years before I got undercut. It doesn’t look like her company will ever get acquired, which stinks b/c for six years, I’m sure she and her co-founders weren’t paying themselves a market rate salary. They could have worked in tech, banking or consulting and probably made 3X more in the same time frame. But all the same, props to anybody who starts a company and makes it last for over six years!

Profile #7

Harvard University: Math major, Phi Beta Kapa

Occupation: Co-founder of the social media ad startup with the Yale main founder, but left to start his own fintech company providing cheaper retirement plans for companies. Y Combinator backed.

Thoughts: After he realized the adtech startup wasn’t going to flourish, he applied to the famous startup incubator, Y Combinator, got in and launched his own fintech company that serves to reduce 401k administration fees. He raised a $3.5M seed round in 2016, and we shall see what happens! I’m completely biased for people who start a company, get into an incubator, raise money, and try and create something out of nothing. The vast majority fail, even with smart backers, but it’s still impressive all the same. I just wonder whether it’s necessary to go to Harvard or Yale to start a company? 

Profile #8

Punahou: Hawaii private grade school

Harvard College

Occupation: TV anchor at Bloomberg

Thoughts: Punahou is the school I’d love for my son to attend if we move back to Hawaii. It’s K-12, which makes it much more convenient once you get in compared to schools in SF where you’ve got to reapply for high school after K – 8. The cost is about $20,500 a year, which is 60% cheaper than private schools in SF and NYC. This Harvard graduate is doing a bang up job as the anchor of Bloomberg West. I like her profile the most, probably because she always has a cheery disposition, kind of like your Facebook friend’s curated pictures. 

Profile #9

Harvard College

Harvard MBA

Occupation: Credit Suisse before b-school, McKinsey after b-school

Thoughts: Most graduates just stick to the finance path or the strategy consulting path. So it’s rare to see him try both. It feels like he’s still trying to figure out what he really wants to do in life given he’s still in his 20s. Understandable, but once again, I’m left wondering how we can encourage the smartest people on Earth to do more to help other people rather than to chase money. 

Profile #10

Greenwich Academy: Private high school

Harvard College: Majored in Art History

Occupation: Reporter at The NYT, founded a subscription based tech news site

Thoughts: Pretty neat to have worked for The NYT and then do something entrepreneurial in his field of expertise. Subscription based news websites are tough because most of the news you can read for free or can be shared for free. But all you need is 10,000 subscribers paying $100 a year to earn $1,000,000 in revenue, and perhaps $500,000 a year in take home pay. I’ve just decided to go the 100% free model because there’s only upside when you’re at the bottom! I really like people who take what they’ve learned from their day jobs and try to do something on their own. I wish more people did this because there’s so much inefficiency with larger corporations.

Profile #11

I’olani School – Private high school in Honolulu, main competitor to Punahou

Dartmouth College

Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Occupation: venture capital fundraising, private equity fundraising, account executive for a software company (8 months), consultant for a small CRM company (9 months), business development manager at a food delivery startup.

Thoughts: I’m thoroughly disappointed. After 19 years of private school and $600,000 in tuition, the guy ended up at a company that has already raised a Series D round. Even if the company goes public, he’s unlikely going to make a large amount of money joining so late in the game. Food delivery companies have come under siege lately (Bento Now went under, Sprig went under, Munchery laid off a bunch of workers etc). If his company was figuring out how to deliver food more efficiently and profitably to help feed people at the bottom of the pyramid, that would be amazing. But it’s not. 

Profile #12

Phillips Exeter Academy

Harvard College

Stanford University Masters, Computer Science

Occupation: Goldman Sachs (1.5 years), international gaming company (3 years), Blizzard Entertainment producer (3 years), founder of own game company (3.5 years) before it shut down, founded another game company (4 years) but its game is still in beta.

Thoughts: I went to middle school with him and thought he was a great guy. His parents were wealthy and he was super smart. He had a great gig at Blizzard, the producer of the mega hit game War of Warcraft. He could have stayed and got paid extremely well. But he decided to go the entrepreneurial route, which is always admirable. Because his family is wealthy, he can afford to go for seven years without making much money. This is one of the key competitive advantages of the wealthy, being able to take risks without financial ruin. But frankly, it’s a disappointment that after almost four years, his game is a bust. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. 

Overall Harvard Alumni Snapshot

Now that you’ve read my not so arbitrary 11 profiles of Harvard and other Ivy League alumni, let me share with you the Harvard graduate data provided by LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to type in your school of choice and read their snapshot before attending. Let’s take a look.

Where do Harvard graduates live, work, and do

LinkedIn profile of 201,507 Harvard Alumni

There’s a lot of misinformation in the graphs due to mislabeling, but we learn the following:

* The Boston Area is ranked first in terms of where most Harvard alum end up working. So you’ve got to wonder why Boston isn’t more of an economic powerhouse like New York City, London, or the San Francisco Bay Area. Boston is relatively cheap compared to other major international cities.

* New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are the main cities of employment for Harvard alum.

* Google, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, IBM, BCG, Morgan Stanley, Amazon, and Bain are the most common employers. All the others listed in the employers column have to do with education.

* Business Development is the most common role. Business Development basically is a catchall phrase for those who try to build new business partnerships with other companies to grow revenue, profits, and exposure. For example, the Business Development role at Financial Samurai may entail building new advertising relationships with products in the retirement space. Biz Dev requires financial acumen, social skills, negotiating skills, and product knowledge. It’s a good role to be in before you start your own company. I’m surprised Education is higher than Entrepreneurship, since everybody wants to be their own boss.

In contrast, take a look at the graduate profile on LinkedIn of my alma mater, William & Mary in Virginia. There’s a definite geographic bias towards the East Coast and it looks like consulting companies are the main employers. I’m proud to see Education and Community and Social Services right up there in the What they do column. Check out your school’s profile as well.

William & Mary

William and Mary graduate profiles

Be Somebody

One of the most peculiar situations I found myself in was rejecting Harvard University and other Ivy League applicants for summer internships or financial analyst jobs at Goldman Sachs between 1999 – 2001. Goldman made all employees, regardless of their seniority, actively participate in the interview process in order to maintain our tight culture.

Here I was, a guy who absolutely would not have gotten into Harvard if I applied, rejecting guys and gals who would run circles around me in school. I’d most likely whip them on the tennis court, but tennis wasn’t a prerequisite to get a job in banking, or was it? There’s something to be said for hiring well-rounded individuals instead of robots.

Google, McKinsey, Microsoft, Amazon and the likes are all amazing companies with plenty of elite university graduates. But at the end of the day, what exactly are you doing with all that education and your top 0.1% brain? Is your life’s purpose to figure out how to best optimize an online ad? Is your calling to provide senior management reasons why they should fire 25% of their work force to optimize profits? Are you seriously pumped to wake up each morning to figure out how to best improve on demand food delivery times? Come on. There’s got to be more to work than making lots of money.

The most fulfilling work directly helps someone in need. Compared to someone who works mainly for money and prestige, you will never feel burnt out and will never burn out as long as you are making a difference in someone else’s life. The joy I get from my fellow teachers is next level compared to the joy and excitement I witness from my finance, consulting, law, and techie friends. I wasn’t lucky enough to realize this truth until I was in my 30s. Better late than never.

Although it’s nice to donate money once you’ve made enough money, the people who are most inspiring are the teachers, professors, social workers, and non-profit advocates of the world. They are the ones who often help the most, but curiously get paid the least. And then there are the research scientists and doctors who are actually utilizing their incredible intelligence to give people hope.

If you didn’t get into a school like Harvard, be thankful! You won’t have the expectations of the world on your shoulders. Further, you likely won’t get trapped in a career cycle of endlessly pursuing money and prestige. Once you’re in the vortex, it’s almost impossible to break free. And if you did attend Harvard or the like, major props to you. Utilize your intellectual gift by doing something the rest of us could never imagine!

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.


The Unhealthy Desire For Money And Prestige Is Ruining Your Life

How To Make Six Figures At Almost Any Age

Do You Want To Be Rich Or Do You Want To Be Free?

Readers, any Harvard or other Ivy League alumni out there? If so, what are you doing now for work? Did you feel pressure to really be someone great given the prestige of your university? What kind of educational and career expectations do you have for yourself and for your kids? What is your definition of “somebody”?

the Bespoke 50 — 7/13/17

Every Thursday, Bespoke publishes its “Bespoke 50” list of top growth stocks in the Russell 3,000.  Our “Bespoke 50” portfolio is made up of the 50 stocks that fit a proprietary growth screen that we created a number of years ago.  Since inception in early 2012, the “Bespoke 50” has beaten the S&P 500 by 46.1 percentage points.  Through today, the “Bespoke 50” is up 122.1% since inception versus the S&P 500’s gain of 76.0%.  Always remember, though, that past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

To view our “Bespoke 50” list of top growth stocks, sign up for Bespoke Premium ($99/month) at this checkout page and get your first month free.  This is a great deal!

Financial Advice Sought By A 13 Year Old Cryptocurrency Trader

Financial advice for a 13-year old cryptocurrency trader on how not to screw up his lifeBesides the fact that there’s a massive generational wealth transfer underway, another reason why I’m not too worried about the financial future of our kids is because they are much more financially savvy than we once were.

Thanks to the internet, there is an endless amount of free information to consume. The information uptake compared to when I was a kid in the 1980s (pre-internet) must be 1,000X greater. Further, the ability to invest smaller sums of money is much easier and access to once unaccessible deals is much more available.

It used to cost $200 to trade a stock. Now you can build a 30 position portfolio for only $7.95 through Motif Investing. You used to have to spend $500 to buy Microsoft Excel software to help track your finances. Holy crap! Now you can just sign up for Personal Capital and manage your net worth and analyze your investments for free. Those who’ve taken advantage of such democratization have tremendously outperformed those who couldn’t be bothered.

Given the stock market is at an all-time high, here’s an interesting question I received from a 13 year old cryptocurrency trader who wants to know what financial mistakes to avoid. Perhaps you can give this middle schooler some advice after I’m done as well.

Question: I’m 13, live in an upper middle-class family, have good grades in school, and want to start planning out my future now. I want to learn the major mistakes other people have made before I can even grasp the chance to do the same.

I run an eBay account where I make ~$400 gross a month buying and reselling high tier shoes and clothing. The money usually ends up in my desk drawer, but I have been dabbling in the investment of cryptocurrency and I have turned around a $2,200 profit so far.

I know that money comes with work and gambling for it is the worst thing you could do. I want to be able to live a happy and wealthy life and I know I have all the utilities but I don’t know what to do. I am willing to work and take risks to sustain financial growth but I don’t know where to start.

If anyone is willing to give me three pieces of advice for my future I will take them with full consideration. Thanks! Daniel

My Answer:

Hi Daniel,

Congratulations! You are well ahead of your peers when it comes to planning for your financial future. Most folks in the US don’t care until it’s too late. When I was 13 years old all I did was chase girls, skateboard for hours after school, drink beer and occasionally sneak my parent’s car out for a spin! It was a helluva fun time living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in the late 1980s.

Your parents will cringe at my first piece of advice, but do know that your grades don’t really matter until high school. In other words, have fun in middle school. You get to start all over freshman year in high school. Freshman year is when you really need to start hitting the books because your GPA gets averaged over the next four years. Better grades mean an easier time getting into college and setting yourself up for an easier life.

The people today who complain about life not being fair more often than not didn’t take school extremely seriously. Education is what will set you free. Get the best grades and test scores possible to give yourself as many options as possible.

Related: Public Or Private University? Depends On Your Guilt And Risk Tolerance

My second piece of advice is to lose money early and learn from your mistakes. It’s much better losing $1,000 than losing $100,000. Investing in cryptocurrencies sounds like a great way to make and lose everything. If you end up losing your $2,200 profit by not at least taking some profits, you’ll always be reminded about this loss before making more significant investments.

The people who are in for a rude awakening are those who feel they just can’t lose because they only started investing after 2009. Never ever confuse brains with a bull market. Study the previous bubble implosions to better prepare yourself for the next one.

Related: The Proper Asset Allocation Of Stocks And Bonds By Age

Cryptocurrency performance since creation

Tulips, internet stocks, property, cryptocurrencies. History repeats itself.

My final piece of advice is to always focus on building your personal brand. The easiest way to do so is to establish a presence online that organically grows over time. What do you want people to think when they search for you online? Don’t post compromising pictures of yourself that might come back to haunt you. Don’t write hateful commentary, only love or nothing at all. Focus on helping someone first before asking for help. Be resilient.  Learn how to speak in a calm, clear, and professional manner. And never fail due to a lack of effort. If you can consistently tilt towards the positive, you will surround yourself with other positive people in return.

The abundance mindset will make you much wealthier than someone who holds onto a welfare mentality. There are janitors and elevator repairmen who make over $250,000. There are bloggers who make over $1,000,000. You don’t have to go the traditional route to make good money.

Oh yeah, and listen to your parents. The easiest way to never say, “I wish I knew then what I know now,” is to listen to the people who’ve been there. Find a mentor. Constantly ask yourself whether your next purchase will improve or hurt your lifestyle and net worth. I’ve done my best to share my experience and expertise on everything I’ve been through, good and bad, on Financial Samurai. Don’t let all the free advice go to waste!

Good luck! And thanks for reading. Your question has encouraged me to take some money off the table.



Perpetual Failure: The Reason Why I Save So Much

The One Ingredient Necessary For Achieving Financial Independence

The First Million Might Be The Easiest (the post where Daniel asked the question)

Readers, any more advice for this forward thinking young man? What are some of the financial mistakes you’ve made?

This entry was posted in Finance.

How This Entrepreneur Built Relationships With Independent Retailers

shopify masters paint roller cover

Before you can get your products into retail stores, retailers need to trust that they have the potential to fly off the shelves.

In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll hear from John DePaola, the creator of The Paint Brush Cover, who started selling his product to retailers by going door-to-door and ended up appearing on Shark Tank to get an offer that was 4X what he expected.

Listen to Shopify Masters below…

Download this episode on Google Play, iTunes or here!


I wanted to give them a feeling of comfort that, hey, I’m not going to order something that’s not going to sell and I’m going to lose out.

Tune in to learn

  • Why you should create your first prototype yourself.
  • How to get retailers to trust selling your product for the first time.
  • The keys to a successful trade show.

Show Notes

Store: The Paint Brush Cover

Social Profiles: FacebookTwitter, Instagram


    Felix: Today, I’m joined by John DePaola from The Paintbrush Cover. The Paintbrush Cover keeps your brushes wet and ready to use in between coats, and was also a contestant on Shark Tank. The business started in 2012 and based out of Jackson, New Jersey. Welcome, John.

    John: Oh, thank you, Felix. How are you doing today?

    Felix: I’m doing great. So yeah, tell us a bit more about the business. What is this paintbrush cover that is popularized through your brand?

    John: Yeah, well, you know, it’s very, very exciting in a way because not only do we have the paintbrush cover, but we continued on to make other products, but I’ll start with the paintbrush cover nonetheless. If you were to ever experience, I think everyone can relate to the fact that at some time you’re painting and you have to put your brush down. And all it takes is a few minutes, really, for that brush to start drying, therefore making it less flexible and in some cases, you know, a longer period of time, that brush is gonna be as hard as a rock.

    So it was a problem forever, but now they’ve formulated the paints to dry quicker so that saves you time in between coats. So you can get an email and you stop work, you put your brush down to answer an email or a text back and forth, you go back to that, the brush is done. You could spend $10, $15, $25, $50 for a brush. Nobody wants to waste that type of money. By the same token, you could just want to take a lunch break. And hey, you put it in my cover, you stand it up, you go to lunch, you come back, you paint. You could put it in my cover and forget it’s there for eight weeks, come back, open it up in eight weeks.

    Felix: Wow.

    John: And it’ll still be wet and ready to go. So, paint is all over the world, which is exciting to me, are enjoying the use of my Paint Brush Cover and roller cover, alike. And now, my other products as well that we’ve started branding, so it’s been quite a trip and a heck of a lot of fun too.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, so obviously, the use of it makes a ton of sense, but where did the idea come from? How did you guys come up with this idea for a product like this?

    John: Well, my cousin, he worked for me. I had a pretty nice painting company, and I would hire a lot of the younger guys, and I would train them myself and what not. And that always was a problem, was all right, I’m constantly spending money on these expensive brushes. And hey guys, you know what, you’ve gotta take care of them. You gotta wash them. So, my cousin and I discussed the possibility, and this is years back. You know how some things go, you know, you talk.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: But it’s the action. It’s not the idea. To me, the idea is the easy part. So I was working down at the World Trade Center. I was actually the site manager of the new World Trade Center, and [inaudible 00:03:38] our job was to set up the fountains for the 10 year anniversary. After that, I was pretty much had a lot of free time on my hands. So, my cousin got in touch with me. He’s like, “Come on.” He’s like, “You have free time now. Let’s do it.” I’m like, “All right. As long as you travel to me, I’ll do it.”

    So, he did. We got to work and we put pen to paper, so to speak, and started setting it up. So the idea was sort of born, I’m gonna say maybe in the ’90s, late ’90s. It just took that amount of time. It just took the right stars to align in order to bring it to [inaudible 00:04:16].

    Felix: So this was just an idea that you guys were going back and forth with for many years before actually going and creating the product. What needed to align for you to take action on this idea?

    John: You know, as anything else, you have life, and I have children at home, and I have a family. I was also self-employed. I had my own business. Just life in general, there’s always something to do and always something to catch up on, and there’s always tomorrow.

    Felix: Yeah.

    John: And you could push things off and then you could talk about them, and I guess it just takes that niche moment where … Like, there was a situation I was working on a very big project and now I was able to take off from that, and literally, to do whatever I wanted for a few months. If I wanted to just take it easy, that was my choice. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. And then the suggestion, once again, came in from my cousin to go ahead with a project we had been talking about, you know, here and there for the past few years. So it’s like, hey, yeah, that was it.

    So, now all of a sudden, the timing was right. I wasn’t restricted with work, so I had a heck of a lot of free time, and he worked as a New York City firefighter. Their schedules are very, very flexible as well. So, you know, for him to have a couple of days off in a row is just not unheard of. They do 24 hour tours. So, I guess it was amount of we just came to the right amount of timing to make it work. We were able to get together to lay the foundation. That was just to lay the foundation. There was a lot more after that, but that’s what did it, the availability of the time.

    Felix: Yeah, so let’s talk about the foundation once you … Once everything did align and you guys started taking action. What was involved? What were some early steps that you knew you had to take?

    John: Well, it was definitely, it was quite interesting because I, before, had LLCs, and corporations, and things of that nature, and I’ve been in business where my cousin hadn’t, you know, never really had an LLC or a business of his own. He worked for the fire department. So, I basically showed him the roadmap together. I got a lawyer that I was friendly with and we set up the LLC. So, as we were going, I was also able to not only set everything up with, but just sort of show him the roadmap, so to speak.

    Then I went and I was like, “Listen, also, I have another friend who’s an engineer. This isn’t his specialty, but as a favor to me, he’ll be able to draw us up pretty much exactly what we need to dimensions in a CAD sort of format.” And just, I was able to put the ducks in the row and together. You know, I might’ve gave him an assignment, “Here, you call this,” or, “You meet me here and then we’re gonna go see the attorney, then we’re gonna go see the engineer,” and so on and so forth.

    And we just took the steps. We even took some classes, too, which I was amazed at because the classes were through local community colleges, they were free, they were very informative, and me and my cousin were the only ones in the class. So there’s a lot out there for entrepreneurs to take advantage of. Maybe they’re not aware of it, but they’re there. And I took a couple of classes where I was the only one there. So, there’s a lot that you can do and that was like the foundation, so we’re out taking classes. And by being the only ones in the class, now you have almost a one-on-one personal meeting, so to speak.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). These are like business classes?

    John: Yes. Business classes, business classes geared towards entrepreneurs, how to show you to go to step one, two, and three of how to get into a big box and how buyers work, and just a ton of information was out there in regards to it. We did take advantage of it. Also, we got some other people involved and we did our own research. My cousin read a lot, read a lot of books and brushed up as much as he could. The next thing you know, I actually had a product. I also had a manufacturer, so I took the manufacturer who a friend of mine was using, and he was actually using a couple of manufacturers. I met them all and I [inaudible 00:08:55] them accordingly, and I came up with who I felt was the best person for the job, and we still work together at this time and it’s a great relationship.

    And then I actually went and I did things the old fashioned way. Once I got my product and I actually had it delivered, going door to door, from one paint store to another paint store, to another paint store, until they added up to quite a bit, like well over 100 paint stores and I was selling my product and reordering. And I guess that’s sort of where Shark Tank sort of kicked in.

    Felix: Before we get too far ahead, now when it comes to … You mentioned first that you had this idea, but you actually had to design it. You found an engineer to create the CAD drawings for it. When you work with an engineer to do something like this, what’s involved? What’s your involvement? How do you contribute to guiding the engineer to design the product?

    John: Yeah, great question. I don’t know. I’ve always been handy. I mean, I’m in construction. I build things. That’s what I do. I’ve always been very good with a ruler, and a pencil, and drafting. I actually do architectural drawings, as well. So for me to come up and take a pencil to a piece of paper, and try to manipulate and do things to scale isn’t that hard. But then again, I’m doing it in my garage. So I got it. I drew the pieces how I wanted it to be, and then on some fine particulars, I actually drew the inner components of what I needed to do separately, like the phone that we have and some other components that we have patented.

    And once I had that, I went out and I went to Home Depot, I believe, and I bought some sheet plastic, clear plastic, and then I actually began with a [inaudible 00:10:53] just to cut the pieces out as I needed. So I built not too much of a primitive prototype of [inaudible 00:11:02]. It was a primitive prototype, and I brought those things to the engineer and I was like, “Here. Here’s what I need, but I need you to refine it to the point where it’s perfect.” And he did an excellent job on that. In fact, when I made my molds, it was nothing. It was just that cut and clear, and it came out right the first time.

    Felix: So, you actually created the first prototype, and then you approached the engineer and [inaudible 00:11:30] had them refine what you already had. You didn’t just go them sort of empty handed?

    John: No way. Yeah, I’m not … I like to do things. I like to do them myself. I like to start out my first … And don’t get me wrong, everybody needs help, but I don’t want to go anywhere empty handed, you know?

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: Even when I went to Home Depot and I got my product at Home Depot, I went there with sales. I didn’t go there like, “Hey, I have this thing. Could you sell it for me?” In fact, I went there with a lot of sales to show them what I did and the buyer, at the time, had asked me like, “Why didn’t you come to us first?” I’m like, “Because I would’ve been sort of at your mercy. Like, ‘Hey, I have this thing. Do you think you want it? Could you sell it?’” I was like, “Why wouldn’t I want to come to you with a proven track record of how many I’ve sold to date?” And with that, he fully understood, you know?

    Felix: Right.

    John: So if I’m going somewhere and I’m going into do something, I want to be able to show somebody that, “Hey, this will work because before I came here, I tried it.”

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative), right. So now the next step after having those drawings done was to, you mentioned, going to the manufacturer. Now, was it as easy as just handing off the CAD drawings to them? Or were there hiccups along the way from turning that design into an actual product that you could hold in your hands?

    John: Well, you know what, while there were plenty of hiccups in the business going along from the point we started to now, I mean you can’t expect not to have hiccups. Believe it or not, maybe because of the simplicity of the product itself, maybe that added to it, but there were no hiccups whatsoever. I drew it, and then I made it, and then I brought it to the engineer and I just had him refine it to where it looked A–1 professional. There wasn’t a smudge on the piece of paper or anything. Then he did it with CAD and I sent that out. And with that, they sent me …

    You know, right now, there’s 3D printers, 3D printer at the time when we were starting, not every manufacturer had them, so they’d do what’s called a hand tooled. So they hand tooled it, they made it by hand, but to the exact specifications and then they sent it out to me. And I’m like, wow, I was very, very impressed with it and just how on target they were. It came out perfect, they worked perfect, it was great. The material they used was a little bit different. We weren’t concerned about the clarity ’cause my product is clear, so this was a little cloudy. I saved it ’til this day. I still have it. Maybe I’ll frame it one day, but yeah, I was amazed on how they hand tooled it. And then after that, I gave them like hey, the go ahead. Start the mold. You know?

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: And you know what, they did the mold. They sent me out samples from the mold, and there weren’t any hiccups there either. It really did, it came out perfect. And then from there, we just put our first order in and by the time I knew it, I had tens of thousands of Paint Brush Covers laying around.

    Felix: Wow. So now, tens of thousands come in an initial order and you said you went just door to door. Talk to us about this process. Once you got the first shipment, did you send it to your house or something? And then you just went out to these paint shops, and walked in and started talking to the person behind the register?

    John: Yeah, pretty much so. I mean, I was lucky enough to be in construction, so I had my own office, my own construction office. And fortunately, it was a fairly large office with a lot of space. So, I quickly converted my construction office into my Paint Brush Cover office. I stored them there and I did have probably some in my garage too, as well. And I just got to … I said to myself, I made a map. I got a map of the area and I scoped out every paint-related store. You know, you can’t walk into Home Depot and say, “Do you want to buy my product?” That’s a whole different procedure. But an independent owner, you know, could have the right to [inaudible 00:15:41] the right to be like, “Wow, that’s great. I’ll take it right now.”

    So I mapped all of those out and I put myself in the middle. I was like, okay, I’ll try to reach 10 to 15 stores a day, and that’s exactly what I did. And I went out and first, it was a little bit awkward, but after the first few times, I got it down. I realized exactly who I needed to speak to when I got into the store, how to present it to them. And I gotta tell you, not one person, and I was just really, really blessed with this, not one person was like, “Oh, yeah, let me think about it,” or, “I’m not sure.” They all like, “Wow, this is genius. I can’t believe that they never had anything like this.”

    So they would take them, and I gave them the product, so I didn’t take money away from them right away, although some insisted on paying me right away and giving me a check right there on the spot. But I gave them 30-days invoices, which you know, made it a little tough on the cash crunch aspect of things. But nonetheless, I knew what my capabilities were. So then maybe not the next day, let’s say I did it on Monday. Then maybe on Wednesday, I did another area and I did the same exact thing, and I sold them.

    We used social media to our full advantage. We had a website. We had people ordering them on the website. And we did something, which I think was one of the best things that we did. We went to the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. And we got a … I think we were in the new inventors’ section, and we just got so much attention over there. It was unbelievable. I mean, I had buyers from big boxes handing me cards being like, “Yeah, you know what, I could go through a million of these things in a year.”

    And you know, some, not everything pans out. There’s a lot of people out there, they do a lot of talking. And then once again, you learn that … Like there, there would be something where there would be a hiccup, so to speak, where you really think that this person could do something when they actually can’t. You know, so little things like that, but we went there.

    We got a lot of attention. But there were a lot of sincere people that we met there, a lot of great people, which is also a big part of it that means more than anything to me and it really is the truth. It’s not even just, hey, having a successful product and being able to make money. It’s, you’re meeting some really good people out there. You meet some bad people too, don’t get me wrong, you know, like anything else. But the people that I’ve met and the relationships that I’ve made over the time to me, and my family, are as equal as the success of the product, itself.

    Felix: Yeah, that’s beautiful. So when you do build these relationships, especially early on with these independent retailers, how did you meet the right person? Like when you walk in, you mentioned that you had to kind of refine your approach and learn more about how to get to the right person. What was your approach? How did you determine who should be the right person to talk to?

    John: Well, you know, most of the times you walk in the shop and there’s just, you know, a vast array of people that are working and everyone’s doing their job. So, you know, I would never interrupt somebody that was talking. So if I saw somebody who looked like he was the manager and he was talking to someone on the phone, I never wanted to interrupt somebody. So even if I had to look at the stock person that was stocking the shelf, let’s say, and just being like, “Hey, excuse me,” and start a casual conversation and tell them a little bit about it. And then ask them, “Who do you think would be the right person?” And actually, they would usually say the manager or the owner. And then I would simply ask them, if they’re here, maybe you could get them. I just need a minute of their time.

    And I would have the actual product with the brush in it besides the box of it with the paint in it to be like, “Here, look at this.” So I was able to show them, “This has been in here for two weeks and look how wet it is.” But they’d either direct me to the person, or be like, “Yeah, sorry, he’s not in until Tuesday.” “Hey, great, thank you so much.” And I’d be like, “Here, do me a favor.” And I would leave a sample behind with my card and I would tell them, “Hey, I’ll be back maybe in two or three days.” Or I give them a specific date when they say he would be back, and I’d call ahead and just sort of make an appointment, make sure that they were there this time and go on in, and it was always pretty much a … The majority of time, it was a positive outcome. They liked the product, they understood the product, and they took it in their store.

    Felix: And you mentioned that there were some stores that didn’t want to take, or that wanted to give you money right away, but you decided not to take it from them and gave them a 30-day invoice for it. What made you make this decision? Why not take the money if they were willing to pay you for it?

    John: No, no. The people that did, or maybe you understood me. The people that were like, “Here, I’ll give you a check right now.” I took the check.

    Felix: Okay.

    John: You know, but what I’m saying is, I didn’t impose that, “Hey, you have to pay me now,” or anything like that. I wanted to make it where they were in a comfortable position to take my product, and it is sort of a standard in the industry, the invoice on 30, 60, or 90 days. So I wanted to give them the … And I also gave them … If it doesn’t sell and you’re not happy with it, I’ll just come right back and pick it up. You know?

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: So, I feel I put them in a zero risk situation. I gave the opportunity and I took all the risk out of it, basically, and the margins were really good for them. They could double their money or close to it, and retailers just love that. So I wanted to give them a feeling of comfort that, hey, I’m not gonna order something that’s not gonna sell. I’m gonna lose out. By doing that, it … Listen, I’ll try something if it makes sense, and if I don’t have to pay for it for 30 days and if I have the luxury if I don’t like it, I can have my money back, I think I’d be more out to try it than if I was trying to be the hard sell guy where I’m ramming it down someone’s throat, which isn’t my personality at all, and trying to get payment right there. You know what, I just wasn’t about that. I considered the less abrasive approach. I’m not a hard sells guy and I don’t like when people try to hard sell me either. So, that obviously worked because nobody said [inaudible 00:22:24].

    I mean in all honesty, this is how I know no one said no, ’cause there was one person that actually did say no. And it was just amazing to me, even until this day, I wonder what he thinks because he has to, and I won’t name the name of the store obviously, but it was a very, very … How would you say … Known in the industry paint store, and I mean, hey, listen, maybe the guy was having a bad day. But he almost practically yelled at me and threw me out of the store. I’m like, “Hey, listen, I’m just asking you to buy something.”

    His idea was, “Why would I want people to save money on brushes? I want to sell more brushes.” What he didn’t get was that in all honesty, my cover actually makes people buy more of the quality brushes because now they feel they have a way to protect them. So the guy that’s going in normally and he’s gonna buy one brush, $12 or $15, that’s a mini investment. Now he goes in there and people know what happens to the brushes, and he sees the Paint Brush Cover. He’s like, “Wow,” he’s like, “I can take care of my brush. You know what? I’m gonna go for the three brushes, the 1.5”, the 2.5 angle, and the 3“ brush, ’cause it fits all of them and I’m gonna buy a few covers.” He says, “I’m never gonna have to worry about my brush going out again.”

    So really, it works both ways. He was just, like I said, maybe he was having a bad day, or maybe he didn’t care for his … I care about my consumer. It brings me great joy to know that if I were to sell you, Felix, my Paint Brush Cover and you were painting, in the first hour of use, you will save time and money. And I see a lot of products out there for sale that they honestly do not do what they … They don’t perform the way they’re supposed to and they’re just … And they’ve been for sale for years, for 30 years, and people buy them, but they don’t really work. So I’m very proud to be able to deliver to the consumer something that’s gonna help them.

    Felix: Yeah, that’s definitely how you get these loyal customers, right, by providing the value right off the bat and delivering on the promise of the product.

    John: Exactly.

    Felix: Now, when you left these stores after leaving some of the products with them, did you have to follow-up with them? Or did you kind of wait for them to call you? What was the process after getting a completed deal?

    John: Well, yeah, I definitely, I feel comfortable following up with them. Of course, I didn’t want to be overly pushy. You know, I know what it’s like to have a day and have a call in at the wrong time, and it’s like you know, it’s just, you can’t talk to everyone at once. I will say this, one of the big paint companies in my area that have, I don’t know, by now they might have more than 50 stores. So, the gentleman that I called, and I don’t know if it’s cool if I mention his name. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind, but let’s just call him Glenn [inaudible 00:25:30], ’cause he’ll know who I’m talking about.

    I had to call Glenn, I’m not kidding you, 20 some odd times. And each time, he’d be like, “John, I’m just so busy. I can’t talk about it now.” Until the point where I was like, “Listen, if you’re really just trying to be polite and you’re really not interested, I won’t continue to bug you.” He’s like, “No, trust me,” he’s like, “I’m interested.” He’s like, “I’m just that busy.” So, I was persistent and the persistence, it just, it paid off because at the end of the day, all his stores had my cover in it.

    Then three days later, I got a reorder from him and I was very surprised how he could go through so many covers. They come in boxes of 100, and he’s like, “A couple of my guys have union shops and the minute they seen it, they didn’t want to buy one, two, or three. They just said, ‘Hey, could you give me a better price if I buy all 100 in the case?’” You know, so he’s like, “I wouldn’t sell them all the 100. I would sell them,” ’cause it came in a massive carton of 100 with two boxes of 50 inside it. So he’s like, “John, I would sell them the 50, but that would still put me 50 down below and I want to keep them at 50 so I have them in the store for the other people.”

    So you know what, it really is, it’s about persistent and you can’t be afraid to fail. You can’t be afraid … If I was afraid of what people thought, because at the very, very beginning, I got a lot of people that were sort of like, “Yeah, you’re crazy. Oh, it could never work. Oh, you could never do it.” And you know what? The more I was told that I couldn’t do it, the more I was told it couldn’t work, the harder it made me want to make it work. That might’ve even fueled me, as well.

    As you could see now, it’s surreal to think that you could walk into a paint store in Germany and buy my product. You could walk into a paint store in the Netherlands, in Iceland and buy my products. You could go into Norway and Sweden, and buy my products. You could go to London. I did London QVC. I did a couple of shows there.

    So, you know, for people that were sort of laughing at me thinking that I was out of my mind, I came a long way. And you know what, it wasn’t an idea of, hey, listen, I want to put it in your face, not at all. It was just that, listen, I believed in something, and other people thought I was crazy and that wasn’t gonna deter me from believing in myself, and I think that’s one of the main things that any entrepreneur should always hold close to their heart no matter what anyone says.

    If it’s what you want to do, and what you believe in, you better go for it. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself sitting down in your older years saying to yourself, wow, I wonder what would’ve happened if I really would’ve went through with it. That’s not a nice feeling. So no matter what anyone says, people put you down, they’ll say it can’t be done, if you believe in your heart, you have to continue and go for it.

    Felix: Beautiful. Now, you mentioned that one of the keys to launching the business even further was the hardware show that you mentioned going to. What was that like? What was the hardware show and what were the results of going to it?

    John: Well, you know how the shows work. You have booths and aisles, and they’re right next to each other, so you have neighbors. I guess it’s like moving anywhere, you could have a good neighbor or a bad neighbor. We were very fortunate. We had some really good neighbors that were in the business with new products. Then we had some people that had new products, but had older products that they’ve been successful with. And it was all about making friends and the whole purpose of the show is to have buyers come up and see it. I gotta tell you, and this is all pre- Shark Tank. This is well before Shark Tank. We had a crowd around our booth like you wouldn’t believe, and just build buyers from all over the world come to this show. I think it’s like the largest hardware show in the world, and it was quite overwhelming.

    So what happens after that? “Hey, meet me after the show. I want to take you to dinner.” “Meet me after the show. I want to buy you a drink. I want to talk about this. This could be great.” The whole thing. And like I said, you have to … You know, that who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? But for the most part, there were just many people out there that were interested. There were many people out there that were honestly, and I work with still to this day that are, “Hey, I’m in the business for 30 years. You need any advice, give me a call,” and they meant it.

    And then there were always people … There’s always gonna be people that are gonna try to get into your pocket, and that’s what I mean. Not everybody is the good guy. You gotta have eyes behind your back. That’s true, but there are a lot of good people out there and those are the people that I met out there. Then even people that were just, that had to do with the show, that don’t even do products or anything, even they know somebody that could help you. So we just got a lot of information and a lot of, hey, see this guy, or a lot of people coming up and saying, “Hey, I distribute for this, this, and that. Your product will compliment this other product I’m doing. Let’s talk.” And yeah, and that boosted everything up.

    And by the time you know it now, I wasn’t just on the East Coast. I was nationwide selling stuff. So I had products in Florida, products in Georgia, I had products in California, and so on and so forth.

    Felix: So you just came back from a trade show. It sort of sounds like trade shows are a big factor in your business. What are the keys to having a successful showing now that you have the experience of going to so many?

    John: Well, like you said, I really did. I just got back around nine o’clock last night, [inaudible 00:31:20] brutal too ’cause you’re gone for days, and traveling and what not. But listen, my success is to be honest with the consumer and let them understand. I do the same thing. At this trade show that I just did, it was a trade show and we went out to Queens, and it was the first time … Most of the other trade shows I’ve been to numerous times, so this was a whole new distribution company that does a ton of [inaudible 00:31:49] and paint-related items.

    So, it was the first time it was an introduction. And I think they might’ve had cold feet ’cause they were one of the last ones on board. We went out there and we were just selling product, like the product sold itself at that point. Yeah, I might’ve had to explain, and talk, and everything, but I didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm to buy the product to get in the store. They’re like, “Yeah, we’ve been looking. People are coming in and they’re asking us for this product, and we feel funny like we don’t have it.”

    But now there’s a difference between them buying at the trade show with the company, okay, because you could buy it and not be in the warehouse. Being in the warehouse is key. So with this particular company, we were not in the warehouse. It was our first show, but the people were able to buy it and we would drop ship it to them directly. It was really freezing out, so I think that might’ve [inaudible 00:32:41] some attendance on the second day.

    But at the end of it all no matter what, we always had a crowd at our booth, and I’m very proud to say we sold to a lot of great, amazing people. And you know what, some very kind individuals and they want to take a picture with you with the product. At the end, I’m gonna say around 11:00, just halfway through the show … ’Cause usually how it works is you do the show and then weeks later, they come back and they say, “Hey, you know what, you sold enough product at the show. We want to take you in the warehouse.”

    We had pretty much the buyers and the merchants come to us at 11:00 on the second day of the show, and there was no hesitation. “We want you in our warehouse.” And they wanted to take two products. So I was like, “Hey, why don’t you take four?” They’re like, “Yeah, why don’t we take four?” So, we had four of our new … We had two, the Paint Brush Cover and the Roller Cover, and then we have the Drift Clip, which is an invention that was, I’m gonna say birthed by this girl that … I just happened to be in my office, and she called from out of town. She was an entrepreneur, but she didn’t know the right way and the right angle of how to do things. We helped her to find her packaging and sort of partnered up with her, and got into the right manufacturer, and got it in big boxes already.

    So not only we were doing products for us, we’re helping other people get their products, and we’re partnering up with some good people and we’re making our own products as well at the same time. So, it brought me great joy that I know I was able to bring this girl, [inaudible 00:34:23] into another big box. To me, that’s just, you know, it’s not just about us. It’s about helping other people, no different than the people at the trade show in the early stages helped us, and gave us tips and what not. You know, just pay it forward and if you can help somebody, definitely do it.

    Felix: For sure. Now, your Shark Tank appearance, talk to us a little bit about that. How were you able to get onto the show?

    John: I gotta say, I’ll give my cousin the credit on that one. He emailed them and I guess maybe he sent them the product. I don’t know exactly how he did, but he emailed them and I guess they weren’t as popular ’cause it was season four. They’re up to season nine now, you know? Season four, they were all booked, but they’re like, “We’ll give you a call right back for season five.” And sure enough without hesitation, when that time came, they called us. And at the time, there was some things that I wasn’t particularly fond of in the business. I enjoyed the show, but in the business sense of you going on, what you had to sign on for and all of that, I wasn’t too sure.

    So I wasn’t sure if I want to actually go on. And then we were talking and there was one rule where no matter what happened, whether you struck a deal or not, if you became successful, they took 3 to 5% of your earnings. And then I believe it was Mark Cuban who said that that’s not fair and if you do it, then I’m not coming back.

    So then when they called us back, they’re like, “Yeah, that’s not even a [inaudible 00:36:01].” I gotta say, and I don’t mean this … I’m not trying to be cocky at all, but sort of the more I was unsure and I didn’t want to go on the show, it was almost like the more they wanted me on the show. So, they’re like, “Listen, please. Fill out an application. It’s not gonna hurt you to fill out an application.” So I fill out this big application, we send it out to them. They’re like, “Hey, could you make us a video explaining and showing?” I’m like, “All right, I guess so.” They’re like, “Could you have it to us in three days?” I was like, “I don’t know. I’ll try my best.”

    But we did. Listen, I’m not in television or anything like that. I don’t know much about editing, although I got a crash course in it. I’ll tell you that. But we made a video and it was spectacular, and with the aid of some friends and what not, we were able to edit it to the time that it need to be and the specifications of it. We got it out there, the phone rings the minute they get it. “Oh my God, it was wonderful.” They really did, they enjoyed it, they loved it. The next thing we know, we sort of agreed to doing it and we were practicing with the producers over the phone about pitches, and this and that.

    I’m gonna say within four months from the date … And it’s funny because every time Sony finishes a conversation with you, they’re like, “By the way, there’s no guarantees.” Like they have to say it, and it’s the truth. There are no guarantees. And a lot of people do air on the show, and they’re never seen. They go on the show, they never air. You follow?

    Felix: Right.

    John: Or they fly them all the way out to California and they never get to pitch either. So far, we’ve been lucky enough. I mean, heck, I’ve been on Shark Tank for them to say [inaudible 00:37:48] time. Then we had a couple of follow-ups then we were on Beyond The Tank. I’m gonna say eight times, eight separate times. So, the same product and the same thing that I had been on Shark Tank. So for me, every time they told me, “There’s no guarantees,” I realized there were no guarantees, but everything came through. We were very, very blessed.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: Where other people actually got down there and they never even got to film, and they just got a free plane ride and a hotel in LA.

    Felix: Right. So speaking of the success on the show, not only did you get on, but you ended up, at least on the show, closing a $200,000 investment for 10% from Lori. So, what was that like? What was the moment like when you were able to get a deal?

    John: Oh my goodness. How could you say it? See, well, you gotta figure. It’s very nerve-racking. You’re going on a show, you’re going on TV, and it’s every bit of live. And live when I say, not live like you’re gonna see it, but there’s no, “Oh, I messed up. Could we start over?”

    Felix: Yeah.

    John: So if you go in there and so you saw the episode. My cousin forgot his lines, so that compounded the nervousness, and then I just sort of got him back on track and started it over again. Not started it over again, just … ’Cause there was no start over. I just like smacked him on the side of his arm. I was like, “Come on. Let’s get it together here.” And then I just said the last line that he said to get him back on track. And he was visibly nervous, you could see, but he finished his pitch. And then I think it put a human element to the whole thing because the sharks were all smiling and they clapped when he finished, and they were like, “You did it.” Where a lot of people just get booted off the show for not remembering their lines. So yeah, we got lucky in that respect, and then we just kept going on.

    But Mr. Wonderful, okay, Kevin, he loved our product. And he’s the guy that says, “Hey, you know what, you got a hobby. Get the hell out of here.” Or even meaner than that, and I think you know what I’m getting at if you’re familiar with the show.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: He was, oh my God, we had him smiling from ear to ear. Not only did he put in an offer, but he doubled down on his offer. And then Robert went in, and then Lori went in, and then Barbara went in, Mark was … Oh my God, Mark paid us so many compliments. I mean, you gotta figure, we’re in there for an hour and a half, but you’ll see an edited version of eight, nine minutes.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: So you weren’t able to see. There was a lot of interesting things that went on in there. But the feeling … Put it this way. We were in LA and that night, we weren’t hanging out reading in our hotel rooms. We were out partying and having a good time. It was so exciting, and yeah. That’s the best way I can say it. That’s what we went there for. We actually went there with the intentions of partnering up with Lori Greiner. So, we pretty much got what we wanted and we got an offer of four times what we asked for, so that was great too, as well.

    We went on to renegotiate the deal at the end part after the fact with Lori after the show, because necessarily what you see on the show, you know … They don’t know who you are. So you can say, “Hey, I did $10 million in sales last year,” and you could be a little bit less than truthful when you’re reeling it in. So if they investigate that, well naturally they’re not gonna go through with the deal that they made, so there is a due diligence process involved. They just have to make sure you’re a clean guy, and you pay your taxes, and everything that you said is pretty much the truth. So it’s basically about telling the truth and yeah.

    After that, we started right away. We didn’t wait for due diligence. They wanted to do business right away, and we did. We got on QVC a couple of times. It was pretty cool.

    Felix: That’s awesome. So now working with Lori specifically, what’s been your most favorite or useful business advice that you’ve got from her?

    John: Gee, you know what, that’s a difficult question to answer, only because there’s been so many, there’s been so many things that … How would you say? That we might’ve talked about or spoke about. Listen, I’ll put it to you like this. I like to handle things myself. If there’s a fire, I go, I put the fire out. Okay, I take care of the situation and I fix it, and then I tell them. I don’t look for advice unless it’s something that I know nothing about.

    Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

    John: Do you follow? So she was instrumental, I believe, in getting us on Beyond The Tank. And, you know, giving us some tips here and there, but to focus in on one specific one, I’m sorry, but it’s just difficult for me.

    Felix: No, for sure. Now, you mentioned before that, of course, you have multiple products and you’re rolling out new products all the time. How do you decide what to be working on? How do you decide what product should be the next thing to release?

    John: Well, I’ll tell you. I listen to the people’s needs, and a lot of times, someone will come up and be like, “Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this,” or, “I can’t believe someone else … No one ever thought of it.” “Hey, I once had an idea. Here, think about this.” So, a lot of times, you’ll hear something or see something. I mean listen, I’ve had ideas. That’s what I’ve done. Besides my construction business, I’ve always, I would just sort of dream in my mind an idea and I would make something easier. It could be manufactured, make something easier for the consumer. So that’s my motto. I go out there looking for something that’s gonna … You know, you gotta put the money aspect of it … To really be successful, in my opinion, put the money aspect of it to the side, okay, and worry more about how you’re gonna make your customer’s life easier and you’re gonna make your customer happy. Okay, then the money will follow. The money will catch up. So that’s my thing.

    Right now, I’m working with paint, but I got so many other inventions and I intend to take them on and bring them to market as time goes on. I’m the type of person, I can’t really sit still for too long of a period of time. So, I’m always thinking of something new. Right now I figure, there’s strength in numbers. Let me just keep everything paint-related, you know?

    Felix: Right.

    John: So everything that I do right now, even at my show, people are really and truly amazed. They’re like, “Oh my God.” When I’m painting, I run into that problem. So we have these things that you plug right into your receptacles, your electrical receptacles, so that you don’t slip with the roller and paint your receptacle. Then you gotta clean it with water. Water and electricity don’t mix very well. And no matter how you clean it, it always looks like there’s a little bit of paint still on there. So you plug these things in the receptacle, even if you roll over it, not a bit of paint touches the receptacle. So that’s the Outlet Cover, as opposed to the Paint Brush Cover. Then we have the Roller Cover, then we actually have a paint pan that you could put the cover right on the paint pan.

    So instead of taking a bag, let’s say, when you’re working outside and you go to lunch and you gotta put this bag over it so the paint don’t skin, then you just slide the cover right on there. You’re good to go, you leave. It creates … It makes painting environmentally friendly as well too because you don’t have all these … You’re not cleaning as often so you’re not putting paint down the drain, which ultimately ends up wherever it ends up. So that’s a problem in the way of environmental. A lot of the stuff goes down streams or what not and ends up in drinking water. You can’t bring paint to a local dump. You have to go to a special facility in many, many states to bring your paint so that they could dispose of it.

    So, I think that we did some sort of equation that if everybody used the cover, we would save like, I don’t know, 20 billion gallons of water a year. So, we’re saving water. We’re not putting contaminants down our drain. We’re not taking plastic bags, which in the environmental world, I mean, they take plastic bags and they have animals that are just caught up in these plastic bags. Or, I’ve seen a picture of a dolphin that had a, just a used plastic bag stuck in the blowhole, sea turtles, things of that nature. So on an environmental end, you’re eliminating that plastic bag, which to me, is environmental too because there’s a certain timeframe that it takes for that thing to decompose. And it’s a very long time, like a lot longer than you and I are gonna live. So that plastic could decompose, so …

    Felix: Yeah, I love that your approach is not to think about how much revenue, how much profit you can make on a new product. You think about what kind of value you can provide for your customers, and of course what kind of value you can provide for the world in terms of the savings for the environment. So, thepaintbrushcover.com is the website. Where do you want to see the business go in the next year?

    John: Oh, I gotta tell you, I’m very excited. And the way I see it, I mean right now, I’m in so many big boxes. It’s tremendous and that gives me the ability to be able to afford to buy more molds to make new products, so I mean, I’m looking in the next year to have my own little section in every store that has my liquid concepts paint saving products. And so far, it’s on track to do that. I mean, I’m literally selling millions of pieces. Now I just want to double that, and then double that again, and double that again. And it’s, once again, it’s about finding, okay, how could I do it this time? How could I make my consumer happier, make their life easier while they’re doing something that’s sometimes a pain in the neck?

    There are a lot of changes, I gotta tell you. I mean, a lot of changes, you know, throughout these past four years. You know, we talk about hiccups and what not. So, I took my product, and I took it … I started in China, so I brought it out to the US. So I’m proud to say I make my products in America, and with that, I mean I get to see firsthand besides the consumers, I’m employing people. And if I’m not employing them, then I’m losing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of UPS and other big [inaudible 00:49:03] companies to deliver stuff. So that, in turn, makes more jobs for them.

    I have the printer that does my corrugated and my displays, so that’s more jobs for someone. So, I’m creating jobs at a rapid rate by making my products here in America. That’s a great form of satisfaction that … I know that maybe because of my product, two more people might’ve gotten hired at a place that makes my displays.

    And maybe two more people, maybe four more people, I don’t know, but I know more people will get hired at my manufacturing plant because we’re ramping up production and we’re moving at such a speed they need to hire people. So I’m creating jobs too. That makes me feel great. So, yeah. There’s a lot.

    I did buy out my partners, so I am the sole owner. I obtain 100% equity of the company right now, and that worked out great for everybody because my cousin, just, he’s very much into health and fitness. So he went on to open up a gym and he’s got some partners, and he’s very, very successful with the gym. And it’s what he loves to do, and he loves being in shape, and he loves teaching people. They have classes and all of that stuff too, as well. So, he went and he got himself a gym, and he’s doing well. So, he sort of sprung off of the diving board into another area that makes him even happier.

    And you know what, it makes it a lot easier because I know when I make a decision to do something, I have such a great crew. I mean, the guy that does my artwork, we have been friends for 35, maybe 40 years. The people I use that I hired to do my IT and to do my EDI and my billing, I mean to me, they’re second to none. Right down to the girl that does, in fact, [inaudible 00:51:09] with Jessica. She’s just, she’s working in every aspect and going above and beyond to help me out. And if I’m dropping the ball, she’s there to pick it up.

    My wife, my daughter, even my son, we all help out. And hey, if I make a decision and I mess it up, then it’s on me. When you have a lot of partners, sometimes it’s a little bit difficult because you can spend three weeks deciding if you’re gonna go with red or blue. You know what I mean? And now I’m just, I’m moving at a lot quicker pace ’cause I’m just, I’m making the decision. I’m going with it. And if it works, great. And if it doesn’t work, then I go back to the drawing board. But there’s no … How would you say, where one person wants it blue, and one person wants it red, or one person wants it large, one person wants it small. There’s none of that, which I’d just say it’s a time waster.

    Felix: Awesome. So it sounds like a very fast-paced upcoming year for you. Thank you so much for your time, again, John.

    John: Oh, Felix, I mean, any time. I can’t thank you enough, and yeah, that’s great. So we’re looking ahead to 2017, as well as ’18 already, so some things we’re gonna launch out there, so everybody could look out for their new products. In fact, if you go on the website, we probably have around 20 some odd products on there right now, besides the Paint Brush cover and the Roller Cover. So definitely take a look out there.

    Felix: Awesome, cool. Thank you so much, John.

    John: All right, thanks again.

    Felix: Here’s a sneak peak of what’s in store for the next Shopify Masters episode.

    Speaker 3: If you only hire people that you or your network know, you’re gonna be constrained by a somewhat similar thought process.

    Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30-day free trial.

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