3 Illegal Businesses I tried Growing Up…What did you try?

I tried some crazy ways to make money growing up…most of the unknowingly illegal. Do you have any? Think way to when you were a teenager, a pre-teen or before? I’m not talking a lemonade stand…what crazy things did you try or plan? Here are 3 of my favorite attempts…

Business attempt #1: My Own ‘Publishing Company’

Before I turned 10 I was reading one of my favorite books and saw the price tag…WOW $19.99 (or something close to that, it was enough to make me think ‘holy, that’s a lot of money’)

My little entrepreneurial brain was cranking…I grabbed some free printer paper from my parents, sat in the basement and started TRACING…haha oh man, I wrote out all the text and traced the images…thinking I could sell this book for even half the normal costs…why wouldn’t someone buy that? Anyways, after many many hours more then I thought…I gave up and realized the time combined with my lack of tracing skills put me out of business…

Business attempt # 2: Why not print money?

I remember hearing about people counterfeit money…more specifically $50 and $100 bills…I was back to the free paper and printer (with-out letting my parent know) – it was time to literally print money. My parents had those photo cutters that did nice sharp edges…I scanned a $5 bill (thinking who would check or care about a $5 bill?) It was genius…I didn’t need hundreds I only needed fives (probably for candy and hockey cards).

After a few attempts at scanning and printing straight….we got pretty close (but I mean come on – we used printer paper) – In the end my parents saw what I was doing and told me how illegal it was…what’s next?

Business Attempt #3: My Bookie Business

Looking back this makes me laugh so hard. In grade 9 my friend Marc (RIP) and I thought we knew everything about sports and hockey. We figured if we made our own odds for NHL games that week and took bets…we’d win. We basically went off gut feel for who was going to win giving odds like 2:1 or 3:1.

We kept track in a binder of all the bets placed. Money was collected upfront and kept in a jar in our lockers.

The first 2 weeks we made a little money and we thought we were going to me rich. We increased or marketing (all viral to friends and friends of friends and even some teachers) and we took on way more bets.

**Note on the teachers – Mr. Kast and Mr. Reid were both skeptical and didn’t want to get in shit from making the bets with grade 9 students. How freaking cool of them to do it. I can only image what they were thinking and telling their friends.

Anyways, back to scaling our business…well…after upping our bets and putting our profits into a contingency fund (just in case) we waited for the games to play out….it didn’t go our way. A few bad losses and we were out of money…after being about 50-100 in the red we shut it down and realized we were not as good at odds as we thought…

Looking back, I laugh and smile. We were out there hustling…trying to make a buck to buy some more candy and hockey cards. I’m so thankful for my parents, teachers and friends that let me try. Even when it was illegal or the worlds dumbest idea.

Do you have any stories or memories as a kid trying to make it rich? If so, maybe you were born to be an entrepreneur…it’s inside you. Get out there and hustle.

7 Words My Grandma Casually Said that Instantly Changed My Life

My grandparents had just retired (at around 65) or a little younger. They had a good life. But like everyone else couldn’t wait to retire. Spend more time in the warm South, golfing, relaxing and hanging with friends. They were ready for some fun! Then it happened…

Out of the blue my grandpa can’t get out of bed one night…they call an ambulance for help…

It’s a stroke. And a fairly bad one…he’s alive but lost control of 90% of his left side. No more golf, no more walking with-out help, no more wiping your own ass. Gone. Instantly. With-out warning.

I can’t begin to imagine my grandpas thoughts. One minute your playing golf, fishing, doing yard work and then next day its gone. Taken away. That is a hard concept to understand. And I don’t.

I remember sitting there in the tiny, all white, hospital bed visiting them…

My grandma looks at me and looks away through the tiny square window. With a sound of disappointment and shock she whispers the 7 words that will never leave me (one of my main motivations in business and life now)

“And they call these the Golden Years”

Those 7 simple words change my life. It hit my right there in the moment. I knew I didn’t want a ‘normal’ life. I didn’t want to wait until 60+ to enjoy freedom. Don’t get me wrong, they had a good life with experiences and a large, loving family. But they had been lied to. They had been told from ‘they’ (who is they anyways?) that you work hard 8+ hours a day for 45 years and then you can do WHATEVER you want for the last 20+ years (when your odds of medical issues is much higher). It’s bullshit.

That was not me. Not my life. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I had too. There was no other choice. I got started.

This was not just about business and money. It was about time. I wanted both. And I had to enjoy the journey. My mindset changed.

When I catch myself wasting time (it happens quite a bit) I snap myself back beside that tiny hospital bed. I can see my grandpa laying there wondering whats going to happen. Many more questions then answers. And seeing my grandma lean back in her chair and whisper those 7 words. “And they call these the Golden Years”.

6 steps to get any small business to work with you

I was always amazed when I heard people who had ’20, 50, 100 direct business deals’ – how does that happen? A big expensive team? Sales presentation? Nope. Here are a few ‘hacks’ to get you in the door with any business…(now that we’ve done it)

I’ve referred to our company OkanaganWine.Club before (we market wines for wineries in our region).

After lots of trial and error, here are the steps to make it almost impossible for any winery to say no to us (or any business in your case):

1) Ask them what they want…and what they get annoyed with?

Wineries kept repeating to us “We get called and pitched to advertise in magazines, websites, SEO, and so on every day, if I said yes to them all I’d be broke – and I have no idea if they work” – these are classic sales guys pithing ads with no proven results (most were probably scams).

They were not interested in buying or managing advertisements. They want to make wine. I saw this is an opportunity. If we bring them SALES and take a marketing fee based on volume…it’s no risk for them and unlimited scalability for us….a true win-win.

2) Make it DEAD simple for them (you have to do all the work)

Business owners are busy. Especially wineries. Growing grapes, making wine, accounting, traveling and selling wines and so on… Our sales pitch is this

“Hey, our last wine launch sold $xx,xxx worth of wine…we pre-sell for you on our site, the money goes directly into your bank account, we pick-up, pack and ship the wine for you as a free service.”

After 5 minutes they are set up and ready to go – we confirm and boom…let the sales begin. Hands off, no risk, easy money for them. Not to mention the free reach and advertising they will cash in on later…(when people come back to visit them because they now like their wines)

3) Let them see the results for FREE (prove you can help them)

Luckily my friend owns a small winery and agreed to do a test with us (and found 2 other wineries to do the same). We didn’t know if we were going to sell even 1 bottle. To keep things simple (and build scarcity) we ran our emails and ads mentioning a limited to 25 exclusive offer. We took no marketing fee or commissions on this test. The wineries got 100% of the money for wine sold. We had to prove our worth. They were stoked with the sales (we sold out) and we were stoked at proving the next step in our business…

4) Ask them for referrals (they all know each other)

Since that first launch, each launch has been easier. We now have a list of wineries wanting to work with us. Bring real results of sales and cash to a business and they will find you! This is great because you can spend more time on providing a great service and product.

5) Put together a ‘sales package’ with FAQ and your results from previous business

We’re a team of 2 (and for the most part want to keep it lean) – so it’s important to keep records and let paper and other documents sell your service when needed. Get an FAQ and super basic layout of how your business works. This saves everyone time . (we also use instructional video to lead them through the 5 minute sign up)

6) Still do ALL the work for them and keep bringing results

Keep doing what got your first sales. Always keep it easy for them. If you make it dead simple and get them real results, you’re in business for a long time. They will love you. Most people don’t work like this. Start changing and you may see it slip away. Stick with what works!

Take these 6 steps combined with a good product or service and you can get in the door of any small business. 99% of ‘marketing’ companies are selling selling selling…if you bring real, tracked results to a business and you will always be in demand.

Good luck!


How we Built a Niche Email List with a $5000 CPM

Here is our story on a $5000 CPM email list from start to finish…

A little over a year ago I had the idea to build an audience around the wine industry in my local area (the Okanagan). It’s quickly becoming one of the top wine producing and destinations in the world. I made a simple Facebook page named “I Love Okanagan Wines” and started advertising…

My budget was around $5-$15 a day, testing many many ads and found a few that landed us a .05-.10 cost per like…to me that was CHEAP compared to the value of a wine lover from a certain region…I still had no plans on how to monetize, I just felt these followers were worth a lot more then that…so it would be dumb not to keep going!

Over time I reach 1000, then 5000, then 10,000 followers…I started getting messages about advertising and other opportunities. I knew the Facebook algorithm for pages had slowly been eating away at organic page reach (I have other broad market, larger pages I’ll write about later). What should I do with the trend of lowered reach per post?

Email. I had never spent much time on email as an affiliate marketer (this cost me more money then I want to think about in lost opportunities)

Again, I tested some ads with a low budget using the landing page and split testing tool wishpond.com. After some basic split testing on ad copy and adding page copy we hit around a 40-60% opt in rate. Our cost per email was anywhere from .15 – .50 per email….it took a lot of testing and tracking stats but these are great numbers based on the value I had for our audience in my mind.

Moving forward…we kept this going, creating new ads, testing, improving and growing our audience…but now what?

We had a few options for monetizing in my mind…but chose to market wine. What does every winery want? More sales? And what is their most profitable kind of sale? A direct sale to the consumer (no agent fees or wholesale prices) – with unlimited scalability. (The Okanagan sells around $300,000,000 in wine per year)

We had to do a lot of research on the legal side for this one. We talked to several lawyers, looked at others doing the same thing in other markets and decided it was safe to move forward with helping wineries sell wine.

So what about this $5000 CPM or $5000 in revenues for only 1000 emails sent?

Our last wine email to our ‘wine buyers list’ (I can’t say how many people are on it, but it’s growing fast) we hit a $5000 CPM. I never thought I would see numbers this high. It made me realize what a combination of a good product, good service, good relationship and good ad copy can do…

Our general newsletter (of people who have not yet bought) has a $500CPM with about 3-4 % of new subscribers buying each wine launch.

Summery…start building your email list NOW and treat it as your greatest asset. Because it is (I’m now a BIG BIG BIG believe in email)

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Use Amazon to Automate and Simplify Your Life (And Save Money)

I’ve been reading and studying recently on ‘decision fatigue’. Basically, you can only make a few  good decisions a day…after that you can’t be trusted! The scary part is it’s like physical fatigue but you have no idea it’s happening…scary stuff!

I’ve been trying to simplify and automate my life as much as possible to reduce non-important decision making while also giving me more free-time. While being realistic…

With Amazon’s ‘Subscribe and Save’ product if you subscribe to 5 items you save an additional 15% and you alway get free shipping…

Here is a list of things I hated choosing in stores (way to many options) that now come automatically to me thanks to Amazon.

  • Laundry detergent – Once every 3 months
  • Dish washer soap – Once every 3 months
  • Toilet Paper – Once ever 2 months
  • Tooth Paste – Once Every 2 months
  • Tooth Brush – Once every 2 months (I used to go way longer but for $1.15 why not)
  • Deodorant – Once every 2 months
  • Paper Towels – Once Ever 2 months

I’m constantly adding new items I find my self re-ordering. They make it so easy to ‘skip’ or change frequency it takes almost no time. I had to make a few tweaks but now it runs great – its like Amazon knows exactly when stuff will run out and ships it to me…amazing!

Take a few moments to set this up to save yourself time and limit the choices you make.