The earliest moment I can remember that defines me as an entrepreneur was when I inadvertently started preparing for my side hustle at only six years old. I woke up ecstatic one morning, with an idea to improve upon my favorite wind-up spark-flinging dinosaur toy. I could improve my toy to be much more dangerous and exhilarating for a six-year-old by removing the plastic shield that held in the sparks. My journey into innovation started early. I grabbed my mom’s x-acto knife and sawed into my toy, which resulted in me cutting the entire vertical length of my left thumb and gave me a really cool scar. Luckily my thumb still works fine and now I have a story to tell.
My lack of fear never went away. At 12 years old, I took on a dare to purchase a box of condoms from the local convenience store. My interests quickly moved toward money-hustling ventures after being the only one bold enough to purchase the condoms. Every kid at school wanted one for themselves. And I was tripling my money on every sale.
At thirteen, I purchased a broken 49cc pocket bike from craigslist and replaced the pull starter, spark plugs and tuned the engine. This was an easy flip of $80 purchase to a $150 sale. This was my first experience with a fixer-upper.
Here's Where It Gets Real
In high school, I took a Business Management class with about 25 students. We were presented with the opportunity to start our own business, and we all had the option to join the team to build an app for students at our school that had 20 students already, or to create another group. I took up a leadership position and decided that I would lead the startup of a niche taxi service specialized in beach transportation. Six others joined me to help build out my business idea, and we polled collectively between the seven of us and agreed on the name, “Ride-n-Surf”.
We went on to win a $400 cash prize for “Best Marketing” at the Junior Achievement Business Competition at Point Loma Nazarene University. I personally designed and printed poster boards, and sticker labels to wrap around water bottles to give to judges, while managing a group of peers to create an application that showed the layout of our business’ potential platform, at our booth we collected emails of potential customers. Our team handed out water bottles and let the judges try the test version of our mobile application. This was the first taste of how fast and efficient things can be done with a good team.
Here’s Where it Gets REALLY Real
After high school, a friend turned me on to Amazon FBA and how to utilize third-party software to spot trends in the market or products that could be improved upon. Amazon Seller Central, or Amazon FBA, was described to me as the best way for an entrepreneur to get initial customer traffic and passive sales. In fact, the very friend who told me about it had made thousands of dollars by selling on the platform. Amazon doesn’t require a trademark, but it is highly advised, and will require a website with the name of the trademark on it when you connect it to Brand Registry.
Having a trademark allows for headache-free listings and an added level of protection against other sellers, which is essential in creating a passive income, which is the overall goal. Finding a product and posting it on Amazon as soon as possible without any setback time and keeping it on Amazon is the most critical component in this business. This is where pure firsthand experience in the platform and purchased courses can help. The product you’re selling must be something that is a truly good product, ideally something that improves upon a previous version and is something proven to be desired, all while maintaining low competition.
This instantly got me hooked, because I had my own website on Shopify. I was utilizing influencers to bring some traffic to my site and while I was making some money, it was inconsistent. I also had to dropship my products which was unreliable and led to my customers being unhappy due to overly long shipping times. I decided, if you can’t beat Amazon, join them.
I used the same corporation I had previously set up to sell on my Shopify website to set up my Amazon account. I obtained analytics software and found niches that had products that needed improvement. I found a product that was updated that a manufacturer was in the process of developing. I worked with the manufacturers directly to create my product. I made those improvements alongside the manufacturers and began ordering custom products from China and selling them in the US with Amazon Fulfillment cross-listed to eBay listings so I could reach the majority of the internet’s platforms.
Upon creating my corporation, I naturally assumed the position of Director when hiring Graphic Designers, Website Designers, Copywriters, and Photographers. I had formed my own version of an “A Team”. I’ve always been a natural leader. I even had people volunteer their time because they believed in what my corporation was doing. I learned that having a basic knowledge of everything was important, and that you constantly need to be on your toes because your priorities can change in an instant. This experience also helped me learn how to be resourceful and solve problems quickly.
How I Am Hustling Today
Today I am still selling on Amazon FBA and using that service to ship my eBay sales to create my passive income side hustle. I have always had the mindset that I should be implementing what I learn in school to what I am physically doing today. In order to keep that going while I pursue my degree in Industrial Technology and help me pay for California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, I have been applying for scholarships. I may not know exactly where I end up career-wise, but wherever it is, I’ll be hustling.
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Check out the other finalists here: 2020 Side Hustlin’ Student Scholarship Results Page.