Reflection – how did I end up here?

In china business, motivation by Michael Michelini14 Comments

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 increaseevolution of man 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.

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Andrew Moran
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Kick ass and take names!!!! Seems its gone from here to there, hell and back, but somehow we’re all still here.

“Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting” – Christopher Morley

holly mcnamara
Guest

it still blows my mind that we met in the Qualcom Stadium parking lot after the Pats vs Chargers playoff game in 2005 (?)..long time ago. Right wen you were starting newyorkbarstore …you have done so much with our life & you have changed mine!! Thx for that. I always enjoy your posts!!!! Thx!!

Piotr
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Piotr

Hey Mike, Very interesting. Living with you I learned bits here and there of how your life and your business progressed but here you actually filled in a lot of the gaps and missing pieces and it kind of makes sense. You are doing well man. You have balls, you take risks, and you succeed. You certainly run into roadblocks and setbacks just as anyone but you never give up you keep pushing and you thrive in really hard situations. I think one of your greatest qualities is your ability to adapt. You put yourself in really tough situations and… Read more »

BILL
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BILL

DEAR MIKE,
I ENJOYED READING YOUR BLOG. I THINK IT WAS VERY WELL WRITTEN. I HOPE THINGS WILL WORK OUT WELL FOR YOU THIS YEAR. KEEP YOUR CHIN UP AND NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE.
BEST WISHES FROM YOUR PROUD UNCLE BILL.

Scott
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Scott

i think if there’s on thing you can attribute to how you’ve gotten to where you are today is that you’ve followed your guts and instinct every step of the way. and some how you’ve survived and seemingly still have 2 working feet and 10 fingers (right?) you’ve committed yourself like no one i’ve ever known with this thing and to not keep going with your gut at this point just wouldn’t make sense.

keep on keeping on.
Scott

Norn
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Norn

Mike – From time to time, I ask myself the same question and depending on my mood – I have different answers.
There are some constants though:
a) Always remember where you came from
b) Be humble and don’t forget the people that helped you along the way
c) Never give up
I agree with what your friend Piotr said about you. You do possess alot of those qualities and you’re definitely the epitome of an entrepreneur.
Hard to think that you once were pushing paper behind a desk at DB!
All your hard work will pay off one day!

David Ho
Guest

I don’t know about you buddy but I feel like 2010 is going to be a good year. Just keep on trucking like you always do and you’ll get that NYBS monkey up and running like you know it ought to – stabilize some near-automated cash flow and have the flexibility to explore that ever expanding list of new opportunities at your leisure ;). Seek that 4 hour work week … one day… it’ll be a significant upgrade to the 12+ a day your putting in now. Love Love Love PS. – Might want to check the couch next time… Read more »

Greg S
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Greg S

Mike – I enjoyed reading this post — a lot of stuff in there I never knew about. Being an entrepreneur definites has it’s ups (freedom) and downs (instability), but I think there is no other way to go. Honestly, even though it probably feels like it’s already been a long road, I think the journey is only just beginning and it will only get better from here! How about some online sales + mobile convergence? 🙂 Maybe we could discuss over a bite to eat at a diner on 23rd St? Or a drink at 515? Or maybe at… Read more »

Jon Conte
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Jon Conte

Mikey,

Quite the ride my friend! Have to say I’m just another person who has become inspired by what you’re doing.

Keep living the title of your blog and it will all be worth it

Jonny

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