Baby Steps to Financial Riches Part 4 – Starting Your Own Business

My mentor Simon Chan once said, “as an employee, you are overpaid in the beginning but underpaid for the rest of your life… as an ENTREPRENEUR, you are underpaid in the beginning but overpaid for the rest of your life”. Now I realize how true this statement is, having spent almost a decade of my life as an employee, and more now as I continue my young career as an entrepreneur of a global business.

My family’s background are employees.  I was raised in an environment where the only way to earn your keep, is to work and work hard on your job.  That’s the reason I tried to do good in school. My goal was to get good grades so I can get into a good company and help my parents financially as much as I can. Fortunately, I was able to graduate with a degree in Computer Engineering in one of the best university in the country in University of the Philippines, Diliman.  Right after graduation, I was offered a job to work for a multinational IT firm for a monthly salary of P16,000.  A huge sum for someone like me who was fresh out of college without any experience back then.  After a month of training, my pay was even raised to P17,000. Imagine, I haven’t done anything yet and I got a raise! Wow, this must be how it feels to get overpaid! Employment was a bliss.

On Overcoming Shyness and My First Attempt At Selling

Having been raised in the northern province of the Philippines, in what people call Ilocandia, I had a nice laid back life growing up.  I was a very shy kid back then.  Perhaps spending a lot of time alone has both cultivated my independence at an early age but also prevented me from going out of my own shell.  I can still remember I was so scared even to go to the nearby store (in what Filipinos call ‘sari-sari’ store) just to buy my favorite snacks.  I didn’t know what to say, or how to ask. It would take forever for me to even walk to the store, my mind going wild with all the tragic mistakes that can happen.  What if I say something stupid and they will laugh at me?  What if they get angry at me? What if they ignore me? It took quite some time for me to overcome those fearful thoughts, but I guess one must need to learn to overcome his fears eventually.

My first attempt at selling was when I was 6 years old.  My aunt who cooked banana cue asked me to sell in school.  I was a very shy kid back then, so I didn’t even attempt to sell the banana cue.  All I did was sit beside the plate of banana cue my aunt asked me to sell with a sign “banana cue for sale” the whole time.  When someone bought, I just gave them one and received the money. I can’t remember if I was even able to sell half of the banana cue with me at that time.  I was a lousy salesman to say the least. 🙂

It went on for quite some time.  Growing up, I didn’t speak that much.  I remember my first day in school, I was so silent.  I didn’t know anyone so I watched the other kids the whole time, amazed at how good they were being able to speak to the whole class confidently.  My teacher bothered by my silence the whole time, decided to put me in a lower section, assuming that perhaps I just needed to be around people like me and get more comfortable around people.  A year after, I returned her favor back when I topped the class and got promoted to the higher section the next school year.  Life is looking brighter and brighter everyday. It was the first time I felt really good around other people.  My selling career just got a boost.  Now I can talk. 🙂

Three Powerful Lessons in Business

My next venture happened only after I got off from school.  It was one business I am not very proud of, but was key for me in learning my first 3 powerful lessons in business.  It happened at a time when I was desperate to earn extra income to pay off my balooning credit card debt.  When you are desperate, you can do stupid things which I ended up doing much to my regret. My hope is that this story inspire you to build a strong foundation for your business.

When I read rich dad poor dad by Robert Kiyosaki, I was busy looking for a way to get involved in a business of my own. I was busy surfing the internet one night and saw someone selling pirated VCDs of my favorite TV show over the internet in an auction site.  Needless to say, I bought one for myself for P25/CD at that time. So a full season of 22 eposides would be around P550.  Then it dawned on me, I could actually buy the blank CDs at a nearby wholesale store for only around P5/CD, burn the same TV shows, sell it to my friends for P20/CD instead of P25 and I would get the P15 profit for myself.  At that time, it really made sense.  The numbers worked.  Naive as I was, I went on and started my venture of selling pirated VCDs of TV shows.

For a while, business was really great.  Orders were pouring in like crazy.  All night I was busy burning all the TV shows that were ordered from me.  During the day, I would meet with the customers to hand over the VCDs and get the payment in what we call in the Philippines as “kaliwaan”.  It’s cash on delivery (COD).

I was still working full-time at my daytime job at that time and it was really a challenge managing all of them together.  Yes, income was coming in, but the reality was because I was so busy with everything I didn’t have anytime to sleep at all.  First lesson I realized is that I never could do everything on my own.  I realized the value of TEAMWORK. I needed to hire my first employee.  Fast.  Otherwise, I would collapse.  Because of the nature of my business being “underground”, I can’t really hire a regular employee.  My first employee was my sister who agreed to work for me and help me burn the VCDs after I pay her a cut of the profit for every VCD that she burned.  It was ok for a little while until she also had other activities she needed to attend to.  For a while I managed to have the business stay afloat…albeit barely.

The next lesson I learned is how QUALITY is very important and how to handle customer complaints.  One fanatic of a TV show complained to me one day after the VCDs that he got had portions which were badly damaged.  I apologized of course, but the great thing was he was very professional and he even gave me great inputs on why quality was important and how to give a better service next time.  I was ashamed initially but I took it all in stride because this was the price to pay for the lessons I needed to learn very fast.

The third and the most important lesson I learned is having an INTEGRITY.  After a while, the fatigue and stress was catching up on me when a BIG new client ordered a lot of shows from me.  Being very trusting and naive, I burned all the VCDs, spent quite a lot of money for the blank VCDs and did everything even without sleeping for consecutive nights in the hope of having a nice profit.  Lo and behold, at the time when my client and I were supposed to meet so I can hand over his order and get the payment from him, he was nowhere in sight. I waited and waited, for hours, until it dawned on me that I was deceived.  The worse thing is that I had nobody to blame but myself.

The funny thing is that since my business is illegal in the first place, I couldn’t really grow it into a BIG enterprise one day without getting into trouble with the law. That was a HUGE and painful lesson I needed to learn.  After that I decided to stop the business once and for all, I contacted all my clients and informed them of my decision.  Up to this day, I am still very thankful for that experience because it taught me a very valuable lesson — a business needs to be founded the right way so you can grow it to something you can really be proud of in the long run.

My First $100 Dollar 

After getting myself burned and having learned painful lessons in my prior venture, I concentrated on my full-time job as an IT professional.  It paid off quite well for me, getting myself promoted almost every year in the process.  But the more I climbed the corporate ladder, the more I got convinced that I needed to go back to building my own business.  I hardly felt the increase in my paycheck after getting a promotion since my tax rate also went up along with it.  I tried to save as much as I can, but I soon realized that there is a limit to how much I can save, or else I would die from not eating anything at all. 🙂

When the time came for me and my then girlfriend (now my wife) to get married, all I could think off was to go abroad to save up the money for the wedding.  I was still closed to other opportunities back then. After spending 2 and half years overseas, my wife and I were able to save up quite a bit of money, we started looking for ways to have that money grow.  That’s when I opened up to the opportunities around me, in real-estate, stocks, internet marketing, and more.  Internet marketing appealed to me because I had an IT background.  I thought it will be an easy transition for me having spent years of my life in IT. I started putting up a blog via blogger @ http://akosiallan.blogspot.com to get myself acquainted on how this whole thing works.  It was purely a way for me to share my stories, like a diary of my thoughts back then.

I learned that you could earn money from putting up ads on your blog, so I tried putting in Google Adsense Ads.  But I soon realized how hard it is to make money from ads when there’s only one or two people a day reading your blog.  Frustrated on how I can build up the readership of my blog, I even thought of going to an internet cafe one time and just pull up my blog from one PC to another. 🙂

It took me a few years and one seminar to really understand what it takes to build a following, and learn the fine art of ‘marketing’.  One thing I realized is that most technical folks like me who are familiar with IT are not very familiar with how marketing works.  I soon found out that in order to get noticed, you have to focus.  As for me, my articles on ‘fishing escapades‘ and my thoughts on ‘american idol‘ needed to be expressed in other channels, not from this blog. Or if I really can’t help it, it must be in one way or another relate it to business, investments or making money.

September 2009 marked a drastic improvement in the readership of this blog.  After applying the techniques I learned from Jomar Hilario’s Online Mentoring Club, the number of people reading my blog went up steadily as you can see in the screenshot of this site’s visitor statistics from then up to present. Never mind the dip sometime July 2011, it was when my old hosting account got hacked and I had to rebuild the whole site over again.  It was another painful learning experience for me but I managed to get back up quite nicely, don’t you think?

When the number of readers of my blog increased, my Google Adsense earnings went up as well.  It is quite exhilirating watching your account go from $0 to $100.60 after 1 year and 5 months.  You can read more about the story on how I earned my first $100 by clicking here.  My next project which was selling my own ebook, I learned how to earn the same $100 in a week instead of a year.  But I soon came upon another opportunity which would prove to be more lucrative and more exhilirating than all of my earnings from my stocks investments, real-estate investments and internet marketing income COMBINED.   The same opportunity has allowed me to not only quit my job and go full-time as an entrepreneur within only 6 months, but also brought me tremendous learning experience in building a global business empire.  I will discuss how I stumbled upon that opportunity in my next article.

P.S. If you can’t wait for the next article, and curious to find out what it is, you can simply email me or add me as friend in Facebook.  Unfortunately, with so many emails flooding my inbox whenever I send out an article, I might not be able to get back to you right away.  If you don’t receive a reply from me within 24-48 hours, please resend your email as it might have gotten buried with the many other inquiries.

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