Reading some linkedin.com discussions, and one that caught my eye was “how did you get into your industry where you are today?” I answered it in the thread, but also want to expand on it more here.
Since I can remember, I always wanted to have my own company, back in 2003 after graduating university and starting a new full time analyst job at Deutsche Bank, I met Greg Schwartz, also a fresh grad in the new hire training program who turned his university senior design project (mobile phone java app) into a business – Mobatech LLC. It was rather funny, as I randomly sat down next to him during 1st day orientation, we became great friends, business allies, and i was in his wedding party! During our training in London, England – I came on board in Mobatech as a marketing & sales consultant (it was his idea for me to do sales…I didnt think I could do it!!!). I remember finding ways to increase downloads (not really purchases, but shows “top downloads” on some of the reseller networks) – it came to be one of the top selling productivity mobile applications. Soon those channels started changing it from top downloads to top sellers….hehe. But ya, I love finding ways to get ahead. Later he showed me his website server logs and asking me to understand it and grow visitors…..it amazed me seeing people from all over the world coming to his website. Sure, I had made websites before, but never analyzed traffic and sources before…it truly amazed me from that day forward.
Researching more into ways to increase website traffic, in 2004 I attended a “free” online marketing class in a fancy NYC hotel. I brought my roommate, Andrew Moran, and we got pushed/sold into a “package” with all the tools to start your own online internet business.
We had no idea what we were going to sell!!!!! Andrew would do the writing, logistics, and operations, I would do the financial, technology, and marketing – both of course pushing sales and sharing customer support. A 50/50 split and a handshake, on a street corner in midtown Manhattan. A new company was born – Parallel Phenomena (started as a general partnership in New York, later re-organized to a corporation in the state of new jersey – Parallel Phenomena, Inc) The name Parallel Phenomena represented Andrew and I (2 people in parallel) and phenomena meaning following our “gut” and feelings.
Sold on ebay, tried multiple online stores (first was pimp guide – your bachelor pad store mixed with nightclub VIP list) – and found success selling bar products…..so much that it didn’t make sense to have a general “everything i think is cool” online shop and ebay store – so being in NYC and taking into consideration the party nightscene and the current “pimp guide” bachelor feel – it seemed newyorkbarstore.com was a fitting name / brand, and the online shop was born in early 2005.
Taking it from there, working every night until we could keep our eyes open, and drinking beers on fridays watching TV (COPS TV show is still my favorite) and some Lower East Side bar hopping, Andrew and I kept on pushing to build up the online business. First we shipped products to our NYC apartment…knowing there wasn’t anyone to sign for it, I got the shoe shine guy downstairs (really cool guy, think Juan) to hold the goods for us till I got back from work. But that got out of hand quickly….so I got my younger university friend, George, to help receive and ship products at the fraternity house while I had the dayjob. That got out of hand, so we found a UPS store….that was expensive and a nightmare – so George’s parent’s basement. Then I found a print broker (he printed the Pimp Guide book for us), Alan Kaufman, who had a storage unit for his business – so we rented a unit next to his, and he would receive and ship for us. Then that got out of hand…so we moved to Webgistix, a 3rd party fulfillment center – uHauled it ourselves on a weekend roadtrip.
That kept going on, a rollercoaster ride. I was the first, quitting the day job at Deutsche Bank in early 2007, with steadily growing online sales, toned internet experience, and a budding business network – it lead me to buying directly from China / Asia distributing into western markets. Started a UK company…but too many logistical problems…..maybe get back there one day
Frustrations trying to buy from China lead me to start Shadstone sourcing (Shadstone Associates, Inc) in mid 2007, spent some time living in San Diego, California w/ my good friend Piotr, I transitioned from the mind of a “9-5” worker to the full time entrepreneur……..working on the beach, coffee shops, and couches via my laptop……it was cool…..but i wanted something more….it was kind of boring, I got a little lonely, and i wanted to expand.
in addition, I was still frustrated buying from overseas remotely, even though i was now a full-time entrepreneur so i had more time then when i was with a fulltime deutsche bank job, still so many miscommunications trying to buy from China while located in USA…..I felt could do it better if I was on the ground in China…..so I moved to Southern China (city Shenzhen) to have a better understanding and control of product development and supply chain – so I opened Hong Kong & China companies. Plus, China is where the future is, this is the emerging market – this is where the money is to be made, right??? Plus, I had my boys back in USA covering things there (Andrew, Alan, and other business allies), I would build up the sources and supply chain here in China / Asia. Get some ocean containers shipping out, automate order flow and marketing processes. Scale up. Life would be good, right?
Well….. I am not patient enough……and I learned I am not going to succeed in being that “white guy” who changes how business is done in China. I think thats the mistake us stupid foreigners make when we come to China. We think we can change the culture, change the history, change the world. What I have learned is, you have to learn how to go with the way things are, and adapt properly.
So, doing import/ export isn’t my thing. No patience, too crude, too much detail in specifications.
So, internet. But then there’s not just making websites for people (i’ve done that back since 1999). Can’t take that, because most people don’t know what they want (similar to buying products from factories overseas), the client constantly changes their mind. And the money isn’t big enough.
So, selling online, that is my thing, maybe that will work. ecommerce. I dont have to deal with people. I can scale it. I can automate it. Its a growing industry. I have sources and contacts now on various sides of the world – China, USA, UK, etc…..
But how to move forward from here. A lot of pieces in play…..
Just gonna keep on going with what worked and ride the wave. Never give up, keep your chin up, and don’t be negative.