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Interviews

What you can learn from a 17 year old building his own software

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Bio: who you are/what you do

Reid: My name is Reid Gajewski and I am a 17 year old entrepreneur. I was born in Princeton New Jersey, which is based around Princeton University. My journey as an  entrepreneur started with Shopify drop shipping when I was 15, I saw my initial success here. Additionally, I build and sell softwares and services along with my business partners.


What’s your background story?
Reid: When I initially started with Shopify, I failed for the first few months. However, I understood that people only fail because they give up too soon. What I did to succeed was to do what nobody else was doing. Everyone was focusing on building general stores that sell every product under the sun. I knew that I was not trying to compete with amazon, I knew branded e-commerce was the way to go before everyone switched. Consumers are getting smarter, and people are starting to understand what drop shipping is, so I made my store look less like a shopify store and more like a brand. With Shopify, I learned how to use facebook ads effectively because I failed with it for so long, that it was literally impossible for me to fail any more. Marketing cheap products from china is so much harder than marketing high quality softwares which is what I am now doing.

 

About a year ago, I came to the realization that my income can no longer rely solely off of drop shipping. I flew out to Miami, knowing absolutely no one there, to build connections and learn. This trip changed my life, I fell in love with Miami. There are so many smart people there, so much opportunity, and so much motivation. I also met two of my business partners, Nikolai Bespalenko and Joseph Cabrera. Niko is a genius coder and marketer, in fact he helped build a crypto currency exchange at only 16. Joseph is a great business man and has connections with a lot of high level entrepreneurs. Together, we have built multiple services, one of which is called Ecom Elixir. At Ecom Elixir we build our clients custom coded Shopify stores. Within the first month, we generated 5 figures in profit all from my personal brand (@valors) on Instagram. Now we are running paid ads and are hiring our first employees. DigiElixir is the other service I have built along with Nikolai and Joseph. DigiElixir is an Instagram growth service that can organically grow Instagram accounts. My account uses it and I gain tens of thousands of real followers, thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments. At the time of this interview, DigiElixir is only available to my followers. If you have any questions about these services, you can direct message me on Instagram @valors.


We often hear stories that make it seem like someone was an overnight success when really there were setbacks and stumbles along the way. Why do you think it’s valuable to be candid about both failure and success?
Reid: I do not view myself as successful. People may look at me and say to themselves, “wow, if I was in his position, I would feel amazing.” The truth is, I don’t feel amazing about what I have done, even though most 17 year olds are just sitting home playing fortnite. There were so many setbacks along my journey, and nearly everyday I am facing new issues. Actually, just today the cost per purchase on one of my advertising campaigns for Ecom Elixir went up 200% which is really bad. It is also important to note that people get jealous when they see what I have done and what I am able to do, but they don’t see what I don’t show on Instagram. I only show the highlights. People don’t see that I am up until 12 am working on school, and then up until 4 am working on business. I work with Niko and Joseph every day after school and often into the morning. We sacrifice parts of our social lives and our “high school experience.” However, we know pushing through all of this stress will pay off. It would be easy to go to parties every weekend, but at this stage in our careers as entrepreneurs, it is simply not worth it.


What inspired you to start entrepreneurship?
Reid: My town is so focused on going to Ivy League colleges, but people don’t know what to do after that. They think going to a good college will make their lives perfect. People are so ignorant. I want to do my own shit, if I’m being honest. Everyone in Princeton has the same mentality that I once heard while having lunch. A father at my school  actually said this to their son, “It’s better to cry in a Porsche than to cry in the slums.” That is when I called bullshit on the vision my town has for my generation, and when I decided to blaze my own trail.


What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting a business?
Reid: The biggest challenge has been sacrificing my high school experience for the greater vision. Every day I am working, including the weekends. However, I know it will pay off, and it is paying off. The biggest reward is not the money. It is the people I have met, and the feeling I get every day of doing something big. People hate waking up on weekdays, but I wake up excited to crush it.

 

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your journey?
Reid: Hahaha this is easy! Niko and I were working on one of our Shopify stores and he got a text from a very well connected entrepreneur. The guy, who I will keep anonymous, wanted us to run Facebook ads for a loan shark in Switzerland. We… politely declined.

 

What are two things you wish someone told you when you first started?
Reid: First would be to build a team from day one. If I did so when I first started, I would be years ahead of where I am right now. The second is similar, but keep your circle small and spend most of your time with people who have the same vision as you. It is crazy how much I can get done when I am in a room full of entrepreneurs, it’s like a drug.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? What lesson did you learn from them?
Reid: I owe it all to Niko and Joseph. Without them, I would still be only drop shipping. They both have such unique talents, that when combined, we work like a power house. I can’t really pinpoint a lesson that I have learned from them other than the realization that building a team is like getting in the fast lane to success.

 

What is the best way for someone to reach you if they are interested in working with you?

Reid: Follow me on Instagram @valors and then direct message me. That is the only social media I am active on.

Quiane Crews is the founder and CEO of LPG Technology, Inc. Quiane found his success in 2016 after partnering up with a friend drop-shipping on sites like Amazon and eBay where he grossed $1.2M in just 4 months. Mr. Crews partnered up with Shenzhen Communication Co. as a founding partner in China that developed smartphones, laptops and other technology. In 2017 Quiane parted ways from Shenzhen Communication Co. and started developing his own technology for his new tech startup LPG.

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Interviews

How Carlos Redlich Went From Food Stamps to 6 Figures in 6 Months

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While a good number of entrepreneurs start their businesses with a few thousand dollars, Carlos Redlich did not. The man had nothing to his name and was almost begging for food at the time when the magical light bulb moment arrived. Like the 80 percent of businesses that fail during the initial stages, Redlich’s first efforts to rise out of the ashes with a martial arts school evaporated. There, however, was enough determination and zeal in the man to bring out the struggle that bred the success he enjoys today. I sat down with him to listen to his story and what I found out will most assuredly inspire you. Here’s why.

At One Point He was Paying $10,000 in Rent with Absolutely No Growth

Redlich’s introduction into the business world was quite an event to go by.  His journey began when he was just 25 years of age. At the time, he was running a martial arts school but without much to show for it other than a handful of clients and some formidable fighting skills. Expenses were on an all-time high as the premise cost them $10,000 a month in rent. It was not until him and his girlfriend discovered the book “The Four Hour Work Week” that everything started to change.

At first, Redlich’s outlook on the business started to change as he developed a profound interest in online businesses. What drove him was the desire to make as much money in the least amount of time possible so that he could match up with the entrepreneurs he was now beginning to learn from. Redlich recounts how his instructor introduced him into the world of copywriting and how he has since made a meaningful life out of it. Slowly, he found his way into copywriting and has from then built renowned resources on the subject like The Copywriting Domination Method where he shows other people how to replicate the process also. 

Making 100 Cold Calls to Get 4 Clients

Having never been into the online industry, Redlich did not have any idea of how to go about promoting his business. So he resulted in cold calling. In our interview, Redlich recalls how he used to make almost 100 cold calls a day to get four clients to sign a contract with him. Then he decided to change from making calls to writing emails. Out of the almost 150 first emails he sent out, six people called back and signed up for business. 

Getting six responses from 150 emails might sound ridiculous, but to Redlich, it was the direct opposite. He felt a bolt of excitement rush through him and gained just the right motivation he needed to push not only harder, but smarter. Ever since that first day, Redlich has been on an ever-rising growth curve. Within one year in the copywriting business, Redlich scaled his company to six figures.

Resisting the Urge to Give Up

No one has to be a genius to know that giving up in pursuit of dreams and goals is the single most significant impediment to success. Redlich knows this too well. He has had to resist the urge to give up more times than he can remember. There were days when he could not afford food and water for his girlfriend and himself. So he resulted to stealing water from their neighbor’s tap to at least have enough to drink, shower, and flush the toilet. 

At the time, Redlich was still at the martial arts school but not getting enough to pay his bills. To him, nothing was more discouraging than seeing his friends working and earning five-figure salaries every year, while he had to put up with a few hundred dollars he got as profit every month. Business at the gym was so bad that his business partner threw him out just days to Christmas. However, Redlich always found a reason not to give up. There was a fire still burning in him. He knew that somewhere along with the struggle, there had to be something he would do to break through the barriers. 

Breaking Through the First $10,000

While Redlich was always dreaming of the big deals that would bring in the big bucks, he was not quite ready for that. At least that is what he realized when his first big client in the copywriting business came along. After doing some emails for a client for just $60, the client flew to Miami to meet Redlich to sign a long term contract. On the way to meeting his client, Redlich knew their business meeting would either turn right or wrong, and the latter was more expected. 

Sitting down with his potential client with no special sales skills, Redlich couldn’t help but wonder how it would turn out. Then the big question came, “How much?” Without giving much thought to it, Redlich blurted out, “10,000 dollars a month.” It came as a surprise to him when his client smiled, reached out his hand, and said, “Deal, ten grand it is!” You can almost tell what ran through Redlich’s mind as he shook his first-ever client’s hand in disbelief. In our interview, Redlich said to me, “At that moment of shock, everything went blank. I then wondered why I hadn’t asked for 15,000 or 20,000, but I was glad anyhow, as I had never imagined closing a prospect for that much.”

You have undoubtedly read about success stories of how entrepreneurs rose from the ground up. However, Carlos Redlich’s story is unique in its way. I listened to Redlich as he said, “I was broke as a joke,” and I realized that I couldn’t exactly tell what he meant because he is now a different person. You can make that change too.

 

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Interviews

What It Takes to Build a Business from $20 to $40 Million; The Case of Snow with Josh Elizetxe

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There is nothing quite like an entrepreneur’s determination when starting a business. That’s my original quote by the way (pun intended). Just the other day, I was scanning through some of my favorite Forbes articles and came across this particular one by Neil Patel. In his presentation, Patel observes that of all startups, only 10 percent survive. The article was published three years ago just when Josh was investing his first $20 into what is now a business worth more than $40 Million.

Looking back at Elizetxe’s journey, all I can say is that it takes more than just determination to build a business up from its infant days to sustaining it when it grows into a giant. In their article, The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail, CB Insights found the top three reasons to be; not the right team (23%), ran out of cash (29%), and no market need (42%). While these reasons are valid, you’ve got to ask yourself some questions. What if you don’t have a team? What if you only have $20 to begin with or nothing at all? What if the market you are venturing into is totally concentrated by oligopolistic giants? 

These are just some of the questions Elizetxe asked himself when he was laying down the initial plans for what is now Snow Teeth Whitening. At the time, there was as much free and paid advice on how to grow a business as there is now. What Elizetxe didn’t know, which is what I am telling you now, is that very few people will let you in on what exactly they had to do to get to where they are. The difference between Elizetxe and them, however, is that Elizetxe will tell you exactly what he has done and how he built Snow from just $20 to $40 Million. 

Take Advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

When Professor Klaus Schwab first coined the term Fourth Industrial Revolution, this is what he said of the opportunity presented to entrepreneurs by Industry 4.0 “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril. My concern, however, is that decision-makers are too often caught in traditional, linear (and non-disruptive) thinking or too absorbed by immediate concerns to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.” 

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Schwab. That is why at Snow, Elizetxe knew that leveraging on the opportunity created by the technology of the connected devices would give Snow the leap needed not only to stay in business but also to compete with giants like Colgate. By launching their new teeth whitening system that has Bluetooth technology, a wireless mouthpiece, auto-shade detection, red light gum therapy, and much more, they were able to create a product that is in line with the technology that people want to be part of. 

Writing about lining up businesses with the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Forbes, Sean Hinton says, “One of the most immediate and impactful outcomes of technological evolution is the vast advancement in automation. Every day, more manual processes become automated, and as technology continues to accelerate, so will automation.” 

In whatever business you are in, there sure is an opportunity to slip in some form of automation. The best way to beat monopolistic and oligopolistic giants is not by grinding hard to outdo the competition. The trick, however, is in doing what they do differently and in a much better way. 

Disrupt the Common Market

No matter how much you consider your niche overcrowded, there has got to be somewhere for you in there. That is exactly what they did with Snow. Instead of concentrating on the general assumption that your industry is overcrowded, you must decide to create your own blue ocean within a vast and almost unsurvivable red ocean.

First, have a unique twist to your product or service. Second, employ a different and effective marketing strategy. To give you a practical example, Snow introduced a teeth whitening system with Bluetooth technology, a wireless mouthpiece, auto-shade detection, red light gum therapy, and much more. Snow then embarked on a journey to first serve celebrities with their ingenious product lineup. They knew that most people, including you, will listen to what important people say and take action. By getting a few popular people satisfied with our product, all we had to do is sit back and have them endorse Snow. 

Know the Right People and Get the Right People to Know You

If you didn’t know that who you know is as important as what you know, now you know. The fact that Elizetxe is an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that he had to come all the way by himself. From the very start, Elizetxe had mentors, peers, contacts, confidants, family, and friends. Borrowing from the fact that Elizetxe started out with just $20 clearly communicates that these people were not there to fund my initiative. Instead, they offered insights when Josh had to make tough decisions and support when everything seemed not to work out. However, before you can know the right people, you have to meet them, which brings us to the next point. Knowing the right people begins with meeting them the right way. Do not expect to meet the most instrumental business advisor on a late-night chat in your favorite social media platform. Take Elizetxe for instance. He has had to get on a plane just to have a 30-minute meeting with the right person to give his product an endorsement. That kind of sacrifice is actually backed by science. Here is proof that it works. In a study conducted by Great Business Schools, 95 percent of the people said that face-to-face meetings are essential for long term business relationships. Another important observation from the study was a general conclusion was that “people who got most results from their networking efforts participate more in ‘face-to-face’ casual contact networks.”  

Building a business from scratch is indeed an uphill task. However, the success that comes in the end is worth every bit of the struggle involved. Even if you do not have enough money to pull through, you can employ the insights I have shared in this article to reach unimaginable heights. Remember, to live the reality of your dreams, you have to wake up first.

 

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Interviews

Meet Elsy Guevara the 22-Year-Old Disrupting The Fashion Industry

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At the age of 22, Elsy Guevara has managed to disrupt the fashion industry by turning a hobby into a successful business. When Elsy was just 17 years old, unlike most teenagers her age, she started to brainstorm ways she could use social media and her love for fashion to launch an online business. As a hobby, she and her sisters, Beatriz Guevara, Jennifer Guevara, and Patricia Guevara, started creating and posting fashion layouts and taking full-body outfit pictures for social media. The fashion posts became so popular that it captured the attention of a very successful fashion brand, Fashion Nova. The company directly messaged Elsy and asked her if she could create content for them, which eventually lead to a full-time job in the company. While working at Fashion Nova, Elsy and her sisters worked on building their fashion brand, OOTDFash. OOTDFash began with one rack of clothing in their mother’s bedroom where the sisters would find places in their small apartment to take outfit pictures and promote the few styles they were selling. Fortunately, the outfit and fashion content were getting recognition on social media, which resulted in an unexpected sales growth for Elsy and her sisters. Although the business is continually growing and now considered quite successful, there were many challenges and obstacles that Elsy and her sisters had to face and learn to overcome.

Almost Quitting but Finding a Reason to Move On

Not only did the increase in social media following and incoming sales encouraged Elsy and her sisters to continue, but these small successes over time also discouraged them. With growing social media popularity also came constant criticism and negativity. Every new fashion post was followed by mostly positive comments, but critical commentators always made their presence known. Commentators compared the growing business to other competitors, and Elsy found that it fueled the tensions between the more experienced competition and OOTDFash. Launching a business with no experience was sometimes discouraging for the sisters because there were moments they felt lost and had to find the right ways to manage and run the business with their research. Going up against businesses with years of experience before them and assistance was a challenging mental battle that was fought daily, especially when social media always reminded them of who they were up against. Being constantly critiqued and compared was upsetting to Elsy because there was still that strong human nature desire to satisfy everyone. Although it was very discouraging to read some of the negative opinions, overtime the sisters started to understand that the negative comments were not a real reflection of their work and self.

While criticism was constantly testing Elsy’s patience, there were even tougher lessons Elsy learned the hard way. It was always in Elsy’s nature to immediately see the good in someone and gain people’s trust quickly. When meeting new people, intentions were never questioned, but unfortunately, she learned the hard way that not everyone walks into the business with the mindset to help. Welcoming the wrong people into the family business has lead to company money and ideas being stolen, but over the last couple of years, Elsy and her sisters have managed to look past their losses and learn from the experiences. They have accepted that they will always face setbacks as business owners and with these failures and negative experiences, come valuable lessons and personal growth.

Standing out from the Rest

In the fashion industry, there is and will always be competition. Standing out and setting the business apart from the rest is a challenge that never seems to go away due to the fast-changing industry the business is in. Creating styles that not only make the person feel amazing and comfortable but also believing in one’s fashion sense is how Elsy and her sister found themselves setting themselves apart from competition. Although OOTDFash is growing and gaining popularity, Elsy felt like she could use the lessons and experiences learned from starting a business with zero experience to help other young women with little to no experience start their ventures. She felt that she could do more than just sell to her audience, but instead also help those few that want to follow in her footsteps.

For this reason, she recently launched a wholesale fashion company, Galifornia Wholesale. Galifornia Wholesale sells styles to small new boutiques at affordable prices. The new wholesale business supports Elsy’s efforts to try and help other young women bring the latest styles to their own boutiques and help them get started in their sales growth. One may find helping other young women build businesses in the same industry Elsy competes in herself may hurt her business in the long run. However, Elsy does not view competition from a negative perspective. The unselfish and kind guidance Elsy hopes to give these young entrepreneurs is something that makes her stand out. Afterall she states that she does not measure success in the amount of money she makes, but instead the number of lives she positively impacts. The four sisters hope to continue their journey, along with helping others as they grow.

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The Disrupt Podcast tells the stories of the world top entrepreneurs, developers, creators, and digital marketers and help empower them to teach others the skills they used to grow their careers, chase their passions and create financial freedom for themselves, their families, and their lives, all while living out their true purpose. We recognize the fact that most young people are opting to skip college in exchange for entrepreneurship and real life experience. This Podcast is designed to give them a taste of that.

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