My Story: Failure Isn’t Forever
My name is Michael and this is my blog.
I started this blog to help people like you achieve financial freedom and create a lifestyle that makes you happy. I’m proud to say that we’ve touched millions of lives with our content and have helped thousands create successful streams of passive income.
This blog now provides me a fairly comfortable living, but it was no easy task to create and an even more difficult path to ultimately find success.
You see it everywhere online. It’s so easy to find a Blogger, YouTuber, Influencer, Business Owner… someone who appears to have it made and achieved your desired success.
What is difficult to find are the entrepreneurs like you and me that are sitting at their computer after coming home from their full time job trying to figure out how they are going to bootstrap their next business endeavor.
Well here is how it went for me:
Life As A Financial Advisor
I was a college athlete & firefighter that packed up his bags to become a financial advisor down under in Melbourne, Australia.
It lasted 6 months.
My boss was an American from New York City that behaved like Jordan Belfort from The Wolf of Wall Street. I’m not kidding… when the SEC came to audit his books, he would scream at them and tell them he didn’t have any office space for them to conduct their audit – we had the entire 44th floor of the building with more than enough space.
Long story short, he dropped a phone book on my desk the first day and told me to start calling. I had no idea what to say. I was taking a tram & two trains on my 50 minute commute all while being across the world from my friends and family.
I’m not sure I would put this in the failure column. It was a great experience and I was fortunate to see a part of the world I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore – put Sydney on your list for your next big trip!
Life As A Commercial Real Estate Agent
After coming home to Virginia, my next step was into commercial real estate. I have always had an interest in real estate and liked the idea of being an agent because it allowed me to work when I wanted and set my own schedule.
The benefit is that I could work on my side projects in my spare time while hopefully making some money to support myself and my other endeavors.
Well let’s just say I may have underestimated the time and effort required to make a living in a commission only business environment. It’s really hard. I didn’t make hardly any money until my 4th or 5th year in the industry, but with that said, I now knew what I was doing and was able to save some money to put towards a new side business.
So again, I do not consider my commercial real estate career a failure and still practice real estate because I enjoy it and now invest in various projects and properties in an effort to diversify my sources of passive income!
Business #1: Social Media Marketing Agency
Here we go. As I mentioned, I now had a little cash in the bank to play around with. I am an avid YouTube consumer – maybe some of you can relate – so I started poking around looking for business ideas that I could replicate.
I stumbled across Social Media Marketing. This was 2016, and big brands were still in the early stages of implementing large-scale Facebook and Instagram strategies into their businesses.
Remember, I’m 24 years old now approaching big ECommerce brands trying to take over their entire social media strategy for $2,500 per month plus ad spend.
I had no experience in social media and no connections with any big business owners that were willing to trust me with their marketing efforts. But I didn’t stop there.
I decided to pivot to focus on serving local dentists in an effort to help them acquire more patients for their practice. I thought this made sense becuase I should be able to deliver a fair amount of leads (and hopefully patients) and dentists had plenty of money to spend on advertising.
I spent my late nights and weekends creating marketing materials and sample case studies, and even had Kinkos print and bind a bunch of presentations to take to local dental offices.
Again… flat on my face.
It turns out, it’s hard to get in touch with dentists and again, I had no connections being in a new city where I didn’t know many people, especially any dentists. Of the few receptionists that gave me a chance, I quickly realized that dentists & doctors think they know everything and won’t trust anyone without a dental/medical degree.
It hurts to fail.
But the prospect of continuing on without a unique value proposition and no way to set myself apart wasn’t something I was interested in, and quickly my Social Media Marketing Agency dreams were dashed.
Business #2: Greenbrier Goods
Back to YouTube! At this point the new fad being peddled by the hot video creators on the platform surrounded E-Commerce, specifically Dropshipping.
For those that may not be familiar with this business model, it involves the creation of a website to sell products that are shipped by a third party fulfillment center. So your job is to sell the product, and the suppliers handles investory and shipping on your behalf.
Dropshipping is actually a business model I still think about to this day and one that can be profitable and completely passive when done properly. I also like the idea of a business that sells a physical product… there is something special about putting a product in the hand of your customer.
So I set up the website at www.GreenbrierGoods.com and put up a ton of products from a catalog provided by the supplier I was using at the time. But again, I had no clue what I was doing and now had to figure out how to get traffic to my website.
I believe we were in 2017 at this point and I had a couple of ideas for acquiring this traffic: Facebook Ads & Instagram Influencers.
So I headed over to Fiverr and paid for an advertisement to promote my new website. Looking back on it, the ad was absolutely awful. It makes me chuckle thinking about it, and as you can imagine, I did get some traffic from the Facebook Ad Campaigns I ran, but no purchases.
So my next attempt was to create an Instagram post of a Star Wars coffee mug I was selling. When the mug heated up, the lightsabers would illuminate. Honestly, it was a product I found to be pretty cool.
So I browsed the Instagram landscape and found 10-15 Star Wars theme accounts. I reached out to ask about a shoutout for my thriving eCommerce brand and ultimately secured a few 24 hour spots for the product.
This time my ad actually wasn’t too bad, and I was able to make some sales of this $10 coffee mug. I can’t remember the details of what I paid for the shoutouts or how many I sold, but I’m guessing it was around 8 mugs or so. I probably paid $100 for the shoutouts and $5 per mug to get it to the customer.
I was rich! It really was an incredible feeling making those first few sales. Just seeing the notification on my phone when they came in was so wild. I really did feel like I’d made it!
Unfortunately, the reality was that I had probably lost $50 in the process, and now I had to handle customer service, manage the supplier, and all the things that come with any eCommerce business.
This “supplier” was Chinese and the products took 3 weeks to arrive. So now I’ve lost $50 and have 8 customers wondering where their awesome Star Wars mug is and when it will arrive.
Not to be discouraged, I trudged on in this business for a few months, redesigning the website over and over trying to improve conversion rates, and continuing to lose money on advertisements and shoutouts.
At some point enough was enough, and I was so overcome with trying to make it work that again, I pulled the plug.
Boom, another attempt… another FAILURE!
Business #3: Beard Rover
Let’s try this again. I’m seeing dropshipping ads pop up all over my social feeds and even more educational content on how to replicate this success pop up all over YouTube.
This time I get serious and purchase an online course from one of the YouTuber’s I’ve grown to like and trust. The course cost around $397 to join and actually turned out to be super helpful.
By the way, any investment you make in yourself is the best money you can ever spend!
So now I have some structure, a plan and some guidance to follow, a community to turn to when I have a question or idea, and eventually I decide on a product.
I called it the Beard Rover. Basically it was an electric hair brush that heated up to make styling a beard possible. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had a beard but they don’t always cooperate.
So this product had a very clear problem that it solved and an even more focused target audience, specifically men with beards. The market research suggeted that this product was selling with reasonable velocity, so I built out the Beard Rover brand.
The online course I purchased taught the creation of a one product store, so this would be the only product available on the site. I loved the simplicity and narrow focus this offered, which made it easier to stay on track.
Long story short, the product sold for $34.99 and my cost to put it in the customer’s hands was around $9.50 per unit.
I don’t remember the exact numbers but this store ended up doing around $100,000 in just 4 months.
I’m rich again! Not so fast…
I had quickly scaled this business to over $1,000 a day in revenue, and if you do the math that equates to around 3,000 orders I had received in the 4 month period. I look up and see 2 big problems.
Problem #1 is that orders are again taking too long to get to the customers. My shipping times are clearly stated as 14-21 days on the product & checkout pages, but people expect to get their products sooner.
On top of that, as I am started to get a higher volume of orders, the quality of the product itself appears to be diminishing. Remember, I am using a dropshipping service out of China so I never even see the product.
Long lead times + faulty products is a recipe for a customer service nightmare.
Problem #2 was that my ad costs completely negated my profit! My profit margin on each unit was $25, bringing the gross profit to $75,000. However, that was what I had spent on the Facebook & Instagram Ads I had implemented to acquire the customers I now had to answer to!
Ultimately, I decided the right thing to do was to refund the people that weren’t happy, and shut down Beard Rover. The headaches of the customer service were too much to handle, and on top of that I wasn’t profitable!
Are you catching the trend yet? FAIL!!
Business #4: Blowout Brush
Initiate Dropshipping Store #3! After a few months and a lot of soul searching looking back on what went wrong with Beard Rover, I found another product that I felt had promise to succeed as a winner.
Enter Blowout Brush. The Blowout Brush was yet another heated hair brush that offered a “salon quality blowout from the comfort of your home.” It sold for $59.99 and cost around $24 to get to the customer, a $36 margin.
This time, I was able to profitably acquire customers from the Facebook & Instagram Ad Campaigns I was running and scale the revenue to $3,000 Per Day, and ultimately I achieved around $275,000 in sales with Blowout Brush.
The customer service issues I faced with Beard Rover were solved by the fact that I found a U.S. based fulfillment center to house and ship the products, which allowed me to offer 2-day shipping. This fulfillment center also checked the quality of the products when they received them, which meant no more faulty products.
So I finally have this business set up to run on its own and I’m bringing in roughly $400-$500 a day in profit. Again, I feel like I finally have it made!
Sales are rolling in and I finally have a profitable business that really doesn’t take much time and effort to maintain.
Right as I get comfortable, Facebook decides to shut down my Ad Account!
This was a time when Facebook was shutting down ad accounts for no apparent reason, so all I can figure is that my spend reached a level that was significant enough to trip the system.
So here I am dead in the water again. I feel like a real life business owner at this point so I try everything to keep it going. I turn to Google Ads, Influencers, Snapchat Ads, TikTok Ads… anything and everything.
And all that happens is that I burn through the profit I had made with the store. I’m back to breakeven and maybe even lost a little bit of money. I kick myself for not sticking with it as Facebook eventually began to review and approve its users ad accounts, but again, I was so distraught I ended up shutting down the business.
Business #5: Real Estate Success Academy
So at this point I’m starting to feel more comfortable in my abilities as a real estate agent. It’s really my only true source of income and it is supporting a pretty decent life.
All of these other businesses have failed, but efforts in real estate are turning out ok. So I come across another YouTuber that is making a killing selling online courses. Yes, he sells an online course about how to sell an online courses.
So I purchase the course for $800. I’m going to say it again, any investment you make in yourself is the best money you can ever spend!
I take the time to work my way through the course and think I have a reasonable chance to succeed with a course on how to become a successful real estate agent. The Real Estate Success Academy is born!
So I spend the money to purchase some camera, audio & lighting equipment (not cheap) and start scripting, filming and editing my videos. This takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, but I feel like I have the first couple of modules completed and the way I want them.
The course recommends selling the course before it is completely done to establish whether or not there is a market for the product. And thank goodness they did. I put the course out there on the open market.
I had a Facebook Ad Campaign running to a website for people to sign up for my free webinar, which was a 30 minute presentation with some free tips and an overview of what was included in the course.
I probably spent another $2,000 on the ads to drive traffic to the webinar, and while I had some people sign up for the webinar, no one watched a significant portion of it and I certainly didn’t get any sales.
Again, I’m crushed. All this work and the only thing I have to show for it is a credit card bill to pay and some spare camera gear.
Business #6: Blackstone Media
Here we go again… Business number 6!
I’m still focused on doing something that compliments my real estate career or at least do something that allows me to leverage my experience and connections in the industry.
I now have this camera gear laying around and like to be creative, let’s do photos and video for other real estate agents and owners! I find some people online that have similar businesses and they seem to be successful, so let’s give this a try.
So here I go again, I buy a $2,000 drone from DJI, a course to learn how to pass the drone pilot course (thankfully only $175), and insurance to cover my new business and drone operations.
I’m able to get a couple of gigs but quickly find out how time consuming and labor intensive it is take these photos and videos and edit them into something the client can actually use.
The other aspect is that people don’t pay much for these types of projects because they don’t realize how difficult it actually is. There is so much to consider when taking photo and video and that doesnt even take into account the cost of the equipment or the software required to produce quality results.
Again, I had done a few jobs but the payout for what I was doing didn’t seem worth it, and I saw no way to reasonable scale the business to the point where good money was coming in with limited effort.
You might even feel bad for me at this point… FAIL!
Success Story #1: Pursuit of Passive Income
Yes, that’s right, I finally was able to break through with this blog!
First of all, I want to thank you for being part of the readership that allows me to sustain a living from creating this content, and I really do hope you’ve been able to learn and implement the money making strategies we teach!
Our mission is to help as many people as possible achieve financial freedom and create a life they love! Of course, that is never easy, and we know that. But we want to do everything we can to help you get there.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we generate income from Pursuit of Passive Income, make sure to check out our article on How To Make Money Blogging!
Other than that, thank you for being here and feel free to reach to me anytime at [email protected] with any questions, comments or ideas you may have! I do my best to get to every email I receive that is thoughtful and respectful.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from my story, it is to never ever give up!
Starting a business is never as easy as people make it seem, but if you’re able to accept that going in, do your market research, and start something that you’re truly passionate about and commit yourself to, you will find success no matter how long it takes.
Failure is part of the process, and I know it’s tough. But each failure is one step closer to success, and you only need to be right once!