My home for the past 8 months.
What can I say about running a business?
When the good times are going, there’s not much that can knock you off from that “top of the world” feeling.
Money coming in, customers are happy, and you’ve built something your proud of. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
Conversely, it doesn’t get much worse than waking up one day realizing that everything you built is gone; realizing that you could have done something to prevent it.
But this isn’t about regrets and this isn’t about living in the past. A business isn’t built on what worked in the past but on how it innovates for the future. This was a tough lesson for me to learn because for most of my career, I knew nothing but success after success.
Maybe that’s why it took me so long to get a damn clue.
It all started in High School…
Growing up, I wasn’t like most of the kids in my school.
Maybe it was because of my dorky appearance and less-than-average social skills, or maybe it was because by the time I was a senior I sold my first business online for $20,000.
While most of my peers were at school dances, hanging out with friends, or whatever it is kids do in high school, I was usually in my room at my parent’s house teaching myself to code and design websites in between writing blog articles.
When important book reports and power points were due, I was usually scrambling last minute to put something together to turn in because I had been putting all my energy into working for my clients and building my own business.
Even though I never read the required reading or took most of my school projects seriously I knew that if I put my web design skills to good use and at least skimmed through some of the books I could put together something that looked like I put effort into it and understood the topic.
If school was any kind of preparation for the real world (it’s not), I rationalized my half-assery as doing what it takes to get ahead in life.
And it worked, in High School.
Jumping into the Real World
Not even a year out of school I had already built Kolakube into a 5-figure a month business and had an impressive savings account for a 19 year old kid. By the summer of 2012 I had left my home in New Jersey to move across the country to Austin, Texas and get my first apartment; something I had dreamed of having for a long time.
I had a great life growing up in New Jersey and every summer I’d spend a month with my dads side of the family in Jacksonville, Florida. I have zero complaints about my upbringing and couldn’t be more thankful for the environments my parents created for me to thrive.
Having such a comfortable life brought out an adventurous side in me and in the summer of 2013 I traveled to Banff, Canada to attempt a 2,700 mile bike trip to Mexico.
Somewhere in Southern Canada, we were lucky enough to find our first Trail Angels who let us sleep in their heated tent as temperatures dropped below freezing over night.
Like most of the things that would follow after this trip, I had no idea what I was doing and was ultimately one of the first real failures I’ve experienced in my life. We gave up about 1,000 miles in and in retrospect, gave up too easily.
During this time, my business was in a decline that I was just too naive to see and I was living off my savings quite comfortably. When I got back I even upgraded my apartment to a larger and much more expensive one on the premise that I’d use a larger rent as motivation to make more money.
That really didn’t happen. Top it all off with getting caught up in a bad relationship, one that was so “good” it became obsessive and destructive, and I had set everything in place for a serious disaster in my young life.
One that I absolutely couldn’t be any more grateful for getting through.
My truck on a beach in Jacksonville. Not a bad place to spend the winter.
Shortly after I turned 21 I had gotten out of the bad relationship, left Texas, and was hopping around from place to place while building a little product I had been working on since I moved to Austin called Marketers Delight.
In the winter of 2014 I had lived back home in New Jersey, Virginia, and eventually ended up in Jacksonville, Florida where I would live in a small hotel room for the next 8 months up until about a few days ago.
I also used this time to reconnect with family I had all but left behind on my pursuits and found a lot of the love I had lost from leaving my bad relationship.
A Strange Realization
I had given the “real world” a shot and here I was, crammed into this little hotel room with nothing but whatever I could fit into a suitcase.
Were there times I felt like a failure? Absolutely, but those feelings were quickly dispelled by this strange sense of confidence brewing in me.
Truth be told, the majority of this time I spent isolated I felt more successful and happier than I had in the past 2 years when I supposedly “had it all.”
No longer was I a slave to an expensive rent, a girlfriend, or other superficial pursuits I created for myself.
I had myself back and I was hungry again. Not hungry for food, though I did have nights where I only had peanut butter for dinner, but the kind of hunger that drives somebody to find the best version of themselves.
Turning My Business Around, Turning My Life Around
They key to whatever it is I wanted to do next with my life was through my business here at Kolakube. I had given everything up to indulge in my obsession of building Marketers Delight, the flagship product behind my successful business before.
I spent many nights in that room daydreaming about MD—what features it would have, what the product would stand for, products I could create for it—I was pretty much dreaming in code.
But before Marketers Delight came a string of products that, while good, didn’t leave the mark on my business I was hoping for. This was unusual to me because everything I released before saw instant success and profit.
See, the reason behind this was due to my decision to cede from another business I had relied on for my success, which I wrote about in a post back in 2014.
I started to doubt myself thinking that I overestimated how good my work actually was and underestimated how much I relied on somebody else’s business to succeed.
But even when things seemed hopeless, I continued building Marketers Delight. I had no other options and getting a regular job was out of the question.
The Big Break
On the afternoon of August 9th, 2015 I was budgeting what little I had in my bank account so I could get a meal at Taco Bell.
Just a week later I had a sudden sales rush that resulted in over $1,000 worth of sales of Marketers Delight, the single biggest streak since releasing MD in April.
It’s my belief that if you can sell even one copy of something you made that you can build a business around it. I had gradually sold a few thousand dollars worth of MD prior to that week, but seeing this sudden rush of sales filled me to the bone with excitement.
Finally, after all the months of struggle I saw a real demand for my product. Ever since that rush, sales have become more and more consistent and I see real opportunity for the growth of Kolakube and Marketers Delight.
What’s next? What have I learned?
My view of downtown Austin as I finish writing this post.
A few days ago on September 2nd, 2015 I packed up my truck and headed back west to Austin. Geographically I’ve come full circle, but I simply am not the same person I was just a year ago when I left here a broken person.
It’s true what they say, every year you’ll be thinking completely different. At least, that should be the goal.
I am by no means in a comfortable situation by coming here and I had to force myself out of my safe isolation to reacquaint myself socially and get back out into the world. This is a new challenge I’m eager to overcome.
Maybe being out here will cause me to become a better planner as I can’t really say what’s next for me at the moment outside of the few goals I have in my business, fitness, and socially.
If I had to summarize some of the lessons I’ve learned the past year, it’d go a little something like this:
- Work will always be there, the gym will always be there, but family and friendships may not.
- As a young man in my 20’s, making money, networking with quality people, and gaining experience/knowledge are my top priorities.
- The key to happiness is not in an expensive apartment, but may be found in a dark rundown hotel room.
- Changing who you are to make a woman happy only makes everyone miserable.
- Most of what’s popular opinion is usually wrong, and society is based on emotions.
- Money can buy happiness, just not in superficial ways.
- People who don’t think money is important are usually broke and their opinions on it are irrelevant (most people’s opinions on anything are irrelevant).
…I’m sure there are more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Alongside releasing new versions of Marketers Delight, I’d like to use the Kolakube blog as a place to document lessons I learn as a young man coming up in the world and what I learn from building a business.
With all the talk about having balance in one’s life, the word obsession is usually used in a negative light. Yet, my obsession with MD saved me from making many bad choices and fueled a new sense of confidence within myself I’ve never had before.
Now that you’ve read my story, I want you to think about a time in your life where you became obsessed with something. What was it like? How did it make you feel? Please share your experiences in the comments section below, I’d love to connect with you