Starting your own business or side hustle can be a daunting and scary task. If given the opportunity, I feel that most people would love to be their own boss. That being said, having the opportunity becomes the challenge.
For some people, their situation (personal or financial) simply doesn’t allow the freedom to make that choice. For the rest of us, we lack the know how to do so, or are too afraid of risks and sacrifices. That is usually where the thought ends. Every now and again something comes along and forces your hand. It gives you that jolt of motivation to shake your fears and embrace those sacrifices.
For me that motivation was 2020, more specifically the shockwave known as the covid pandemic.
Wait! What Just Happened?
At the start of 2020 I was blissfully going about my life as a bartender/ restaurant manager in NYC. I had an awesome job that allowed me the freedom to work part time and still pursue passions on the side. I also had the ability to travel in the summer, taking amazing trips to Europe for the last few years. Just a few weeks before most of the world went into lockdown I had ignorantly booked 20 flights for my next summer trip. * Small violins playing sad music* I know, I know. Not looking for pity.
In the USA, at this time, we were all led to believe that Coronavirus was a problem for other parts of the world but not for us. Well, we were all served a large slice of humble pie when things changed very quickly. In just a few weeks the hospitality industry collapsed. It had become a shell of it’s former self. Restaurants went into survival mode and transitioned to essentially takeout kitchens. Pretty much the only job that I have known for 25 years of my working life was no longer. Many places couldn’t survive and shuttered their doors. I was without a job, with no prospects on the horizon.
Along with so many others, I was sitting there wondering what’s next. After the initial shock wore off, it was time to figure something out. I decided, albeit with my hand forced per se, that I was going to take that leap of faith and try something new. I thought, now is the best time, what have I got to lose.
Some of you may not have that same forced factor, but you may already have a desire for a different path. Either way, the potential for change is there. Some people may work for a crappy boss, are under appreciated / underutilized, or aren’t properly compensated for your work. Many people out there can’t bear the thought of going into another day at your job
(Think Peter from “Office Space”. If you haven’t seen this classic, do yourself a favor and watch it.)
Whatever Your Reason. Find That Motivation. Use It As Fuel To Your Fire & Start Making Your Vision A Reality
Embracing The Journey Into Unfamiliar Territory
For those that have already started planning their perfect exit plan, kudos to you, you are one step ahead of most of us. For me, I haven’t done much else professionally besides working in restaurants and hadn’t really given much thought into a career change. I was a bit lost as to where to turn. So I began to think, what else am I good at or do I seem to enjoy. After some contemplating I thought, well I’ve always been pretty techie, and spend a lot of time in front of computers. Let me look into some options that involve computers.
I started to look into some online courses that offered web development and found some quality ones. If you are interested in affordable online courses in a wide range of topics. Here’s a couple good websites to check out:
- Affordable, Frequent Promo Sales
- Excellent Detailed Courses from Experienced Insiders
- No Hassle 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
- Course Quality / Teaching Style Can Vary Greatly
- Some Courses Can Be Outdated (Technology Moves Fast)
- Some Instructors Are Hard To Follow
Udemy is a great choice for someone looking for quality courses at an affordable price. Be sure to read reviews and watch the course previews to make sure that it’s right for you
- Wide Range Of Subjects
- Top Name Instructors In Thier Respective Fields
- Comprehensive Monthly Subscription Plan To Access All Courses
- Courses Can Lack Detail Compared To Other Platforms
- Some Courses Can Be A Bit “Beginner”
- Not The Cheapest Option Out There
Masterclass is a great way to get your feet wet with subjects and get insight from the top names in the business. It’s valuable to see how the instructors personalities contributed to the success they have today
These are just a couple resources available. There are many other great online learning platforms out there, search around and see what else works for you.
Back To My Story…
So, after researching my education options, I stockpiled the study materials needed for the next few months. I ordered myself a brand new comfy office chair, to which I spent way too much time in, but that’s a different problem for another day. Finally, the time had come to buckle up and get to studying. Next thing that I know, I am [legit] dreaming at night in web development and hadn’t seen the sun in I don’t know how long. After countless hours sacrificed learning all this new information, it was time to put it all to use.
I went to work designing my first website. After a couple weeks of tweaking and more tweaking I called it complete. I shared my work with friends to get some feedback on it. That’s when the harsh reality set in. I quickly realized I wasn’t quite as skilled as I thought that I was. Building complex websites is hard. It takes a ton of knowledge. Much more than I had gained in a few months.
One day I was sharing some web development frustrations with a friend of mine Joe. He has been in this industry for a while and gave me some good perspective relating to the web development field. He sort of gave me a reality check. Success in that field won’t come overnight, you’ve got to be really committed to putting the time in to learning some complex programming languages. If I was to be successful with more than just basic web development I would have to dedicate myself pretty much solely to that goal.
Another 6+ months of full stack web dev studying wasn’t going to be an option for me at the time. I wasn’t 100% sure that that was what I wanted to do. To be honest, I felt pressure from not currently working due to the pandemic and feeling that I need to start making money fast. It took me some time to realize that these things take time and there is no fast track to making money this way. If there was, everyone would be doing it. I just needed to be patient and put in the time.
Despite this newfound revelation, my focus shifted from web development. Joe shared some other options related to what I have already studied that aren’t quite as tech heavy. After looking into these options, I came to the conclusion that digital marketing may be a fun path for me. I have always had an interest in marketing and commercials. I thought that it might be enjoyable to be able to create campaigns to help fellow business owners succeed.
So, I decided that I would give it a go in the digital marketing world. I scooped up some marketing courses and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could on the topic. Months of studying, youtube videos, and demo account practice had passed. I finally felt like I was educated enough to start taking on live accounts.
So, what is the lesson you may ask?
Putting The Wheels In Motion
Taking Actionable Steps Towards Launching The Business
Once I felt ready for actual work, I reached out to my friend Joe again. I knew he had experience and most importantly contacts in the business. I knew he could lead me in the right direction.
Joe is the founder of Speedboostr a collective of experts who optimize Shopify ecommerce stores. They essentially help Shopify store owners customize and supercharge their store websites. They have very useful Shopify productivity plugins (A/B Theme testing, Order Automations & more) which can be found here. He has been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today.
I began with some marketing campaigns and setup website tracking via Google Tag Manager for his company. Once he saw that I knew what I was doing, he referred me to one of his clients who was looking for marketing help. I contacted them, offered up my services, and was brought on board to manage their Google Ads / Analytics account. Currently, I am currently working with that company to help to grow their business.
What Do You Actually Need To Start A Business?
That Depends. What kind of business are you starting?
You’ve most likely got a good bit of work in your near future. In addition you’ll most likely have a large financial commitment. That is not meant to deter you from getting started if that is what fits your business model. Here are just a few things to consider when planning your location based business:
- Location obviously (Rent, Remodel / Buildout Costs, Permits, Signage etc)
- Initial Inventory / Equipment Costs
- Overhead Costs (Utilities, Payroll, Taxes, Legal Fees etc)
- Finding / Training A Staff
These are some of the things to consider when thinking about opening a physical store. Obviously you will need to do research to find out exactly what your business needs are. In a bit of good news for some, the unfortunate fallout from the covid pandemic has created some good opportunities for people looking to start businesses in the near future. There is obviously risk invovlved in opening a business in an uncertain economy. That being said, with risk comes reward. Rents have decreased dramtically in many areas. In addition, sadly many businesses were forced to shut their doors for good. There are many of these abandoned businesses with structures fully intact that are just sitting there waiting to be occupied. This provides many turn-key business opportunities, providing potential owners a large reduction in start up costs and time.
You’ll obviously need a website. While planning your website, some important decisions that will need to be made are:
- E-Commerce Platform (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento etc or a custom built solution)
- Hosting Services / Cost (For non hosted platforms)
- Checkout Payment Portal (Many options available, choose what fits your needs)
- Customer Support (Do you need a team?)
- Inventory Cost / Storage (Physical products business, dropshipping excluded)
- Manufacturing / Shipping Logistics (Physical products business)
- Mobile App (Is it necessary, what are the costs?)
These are just a few of the factors to consider when starting an e-commerce site. Eventually you will need to plan for how to scale the business when you start to become successful and are ready to grow.
Services / Lead Generation / Blog Based Websites:
This option usually has the least financial commitment in terms of start up costs. Essentially, time and skill become the capital for this venture. Some things to consider when building this kind of business:
- Time / Money Ratio (Is this more of a hobby, can I make a livable wage?)
- Client Fee Structure (Hourly, Project, Performance Based) Good article on this topic
- Accepting Payments (If you don’t have payments set up on your site, here’s a few options)
- Marketing / SEO (People need to be able to find you online)
It goes without saying that in 2020, some kind of online presence is HIGHLY recommended. Although, depending on the type of business, not required. How you achieve your online presence is up to you. It can take on the form of a website, social media pages, Youtube channel etc. Most successful current businesses will employ a combination of these channels.
Rise & Grind
Starting off, at least for me, it’s a daily process of searching for more clients to add to the portfolio. I’ll be honest, it is a bit of a hustle/grind, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Having your own business isn’t for the lazy. Depending on your situation, you may need to work other jobs to make ends meet. Your business might not provide full time income immediately. That’s part of the sacrifices that you need to make. That’s ok, it’s a process. If you really believe in yourself and what you are working towards then you will find a way to make it happen. Who knows, you may get very lucky depending on your business and see quick success. For most people, it takes time, hard work, determination and sacrifices.
MonkeyFoo? Huh. What Does That Even Mean?
So, why the name MonkeyFoo? This might have been one of the hardest parts of the process for me, no joke. I spent countless hours / days trying to come up with a clever business name/domain. I couldn’t tell you how many failed attempts I had. So many, OK, I’ve got the perfect one moments. Only to find out its either taken already or costs thousands of dollars (seriously, one quote was $250,000). It was time to take a different approach. I was going to come up with a goofy random name that nobody could have already taken. Even this proved to be a bit tricky as you’d be surprised how many goofy domain names are already taken as well.
Finally, I just decided to mash together the first word of a song from my favorite band, with that bands first name. Boom, MonkeyFoo Marketing & Data Agency was born and the name kinda stuck with me pretty quickly. (I’ll let you figure out the song & band). Once that herculean task was complete, I needed to come up with some branding. I turned to another friend who does graphic design to create a logo. My friend Dominique, who’s work can be found here designed me an awesome logo for a good price. (using those connections again) Once my monkey was done, I built out the rest of the site, and I was live. I guess that web development studying wasn’t such a waste after all.
Just The Beginning Of A Long Journey
Well, that is the story of how I started my business in 2020 and how MonkeyFoo Marketing & Data Agency was born. I’ve got a long way to go, but it feels amazing taking those first steps and making that leap into the unknown. Thanks for reading my story. Hopefully it is able to inspire at least one person to take that chance on themself as well. If you have any business related questions that you feel I could help you with, please comment and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
I’ll leave you with this nugget of motivation. If you’ve truly got the desire to be your own boss and a vision of what you want do. Bury any excuses you may have, make the sacrifices and start your own business venture today. Be happy, be prosperous and be well