From the corporate 9-5 to three e-commerce businesses and two successful exits.
I started this blog back in 2015 right after I quit my high-paying finance job in New York.
Like many others, I got tired of the 9-5 grind and felt that there had to be another route to achieve financial freedom and success.
To be honest, I really just wanted to travel more and couldn’t tolerate the idea of working at a desk 60 hours a week with 1-2 weeks of vacation per year.
So, I took the bold move and quit my job and bought a one way ticket to China.
My friends, family, and colleagues all thought that I was crazy but I had never felt more clear and confident in my chosen future path.
Moving to Asia
I arrived in Hong Kong on December 3rd, 2015 with my whole life packed into a suitcase and backpack.
I was overwhelmed with the sites and sounds but beyond excited at this whole new world away from home. For the first few nights, I just enjoyed Hong Kong, partying to the early hours of the morning.
However, I never intended to stay in Hong Kong—one of the most expensive cities in the world…
I was set on heading across the border to Guangzhou in the mainland.
Guangzhou is a behemoth of a city and a stark contrast to the more westernized Hong Kong. It has more of a grittiness that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
The good thing about it is that it’s full of people who don’t really know anything other than work. In fact, the best thing about moving to China was getting in this mindset of doing whatever it takes to make it.
The last thing I wanted to do was return home a failure with nothing to show for it. I wanted to prove to not only myself, but to my friends and family that I made the right choice in quitting my job.
I got close with a few other expats who were also trying to make shit happen and we formed a close knit accountability group.
Every week we set goals for ourselves and kept each other accountable. My goal at the time was just to learn about “business”, whatever that means. But at the root of it, I really just wanted to find a way to make money online.
I started reading books about copywriting and consuming as much content as possible on the topic.
Eventually I created an Upwork profile and started applying to random content writing jobs. I had no idea what I was doing but it didn’t matter. I was a college educated Native English speaker so it was kind of easy to stand out and get clients.
Within the first week I was making my first few dollars online. I continued to grind hard, setting aside hours just to apply for new jobs. The writing gigs continued and I made more money.
On the side, I was teaching English to make additional income, basically doing whatever it took to keep money rolling in while I was learning.
Eventually, I started to feel a little burnout. I was writing like crazy and investing hours and hours but not making this highly sought after “passive income” that I had always dreamed of.
One day, I Googled “how to make money with Facebook” and ran into this blog post about dropshipping.
This was a completely new idea that I had never heard of but it immediately caught my attention because of how accessible it was.
All you needed to get started was a website connection and a little bit of money for Shopify subscription.
After quickly building a store and turning on my first Facebook ad, I was convinced that money would start pouring in the bank account.
I was wrong…
Turns out that creating a successful online store is harder than I thought. But I didn’t give up.
I scrapped the first store concept and built a new store around a much more focused customer segment.
I watched countless videos about Facebook advertising and how to create effective conversion campaigns.
After three weeks of testing, tweaking, and iterating on my site, I woke up to my first sale!
It’s a day I’ll never forget and it solidified my new found addiction—ahem—passion, for e-commerce.
Thus began my dropshipping journey and effectively teaching myself every aspect about how to run a business, from customer service and logistics, to branding and even product development.
I was turning a profit and supporting myself on the earnings from the store.
After roughly one year and a lot of ups and downs, I successfully sold the dropshipping business on my Flippa.com.
This was not life changing money but enough to roll into a new business.
The next logical step was to create a more scalable and automated business. I knew of other entrepreneurs starting and running highly successful Amazon businesses so it seemed like an ideal thing to jump into next.
I took a free Amazon FBA course that I found on Udemy.com, learned the bare minimum, and jumped right in.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to learn best by doing, not just by consuming information…
After getting into the nitty gritty details behind product research and keyword analysis, I pulled the trigger and launched my first product.
And I made my first newbie mistake…
The product was seasonal and it took roughly 8 months to really take off.
However, during the lull of slow sales, I kept going.
I researched more product opportunities and eventually found my first winner.
After a quick few weeks, my winning product gained massive traction and I started to consistently generate more than $1000 in sales everyday.
I could now see the massive power behind Amazon and the type of lifestyle that it could provide.
I continued to launch new products underneath my existing private label brands and scaled as best as I could.
At the peak, I was working less than 10 hours a week and clearing $10k in profit per month. It was the ultimate dream and the goal that I was striving to hit since I moved out to Asia.
But the fun never lasted. I was constantly stressed out about competition, hijackers, and even Amazon’s sporadic policy changes.
I wanted to de-risk and start a new venture.
So a little after two years, I sold my Amazon business.
After living in China and traveling Asia for years, I always had a goal of living in Hong Kong at some point so after selling my Amazon business, I decided to take the plunge and move there full time in August 2019.
While all of this is happening, I was already working on my third venture.
Oak & Rove
One thing I always disliked about the dropshipping and Amazon model was how secretive it was. No one ever disclosed their store or their products in fear that someone would copy them.
You could really never be proud of what you were selling because you weren’t truly creating anything of value… Just reselling things that someone else created.
I wanted to start a new brand. Something that not only I would enjoy building but something that I would actually use.
After traveling Asia for years and lugging around ugly backpacks, I realized I could create a better travel bag. A bag that would fit in with the high performers and traveling entrepreneurs of the world.
This became the foundation for what started Oak & Rove, a high-end luggage brand focused on building highly functional, yet stylish bags for the mobile professional.
What started was a seven month journey of brand building, market research, list building, and product development, which finally culminated in a crowdfunding campaign.
We launched our Kennedy Weekender on Indiegogo and raised just over $30k during the campaign and moved forward into production.
Unfortunately, the pandemic unraveled right as we were prepared to go into production, and everything was inevitably delayed.
What was supposed to be a 3 to 4 month process ended up taking more than half a year.
But the wait was worth it…
We produced some extremely high quality, beautiful bags, that ended up getting unanimously positive reviews.
It was all I really could care about after all was said and done—building a great product and getting the validation that customers loved it.
The Enter China (EC) Accelerate Program
After launching Oak & Rove, I found that I was often in various waiting phases.
Waiting for contractors, production, logistics, and frankly, the pandemic…
Instead of waiting for life to happen, I decided to fill my time and be more productive and useful.
I joined the EC Accelerate Team as an “Entrepreneur in Residence” where I assisted with coaching and consulting various members in the community, helping them to build and launch their own premium brands.
Given that I’ve been writing about business and e-commerce for nearly 5 years now, it felt like the logical next step and perfect for me as I am able to run my brand simultaneously. The EC Community also provided me invaluable resources that coincided perfectly with the type of business that I am involved on a day to day.
Which leads us to…
Where Am I Now?
Today, I’m taking Oak & Rove to the next level while consulting on behalf of EC.
My goal is to build Oak & Rove into an 8 figure company and exit in 5-7 years. I’d like to also continue to consult and teach others how to build brands that they’re passionate about.
E-commerce and entrepreneurship has a certain allure to it and especially now more than anytime in history…
Who doesn’t want to have total control over their own life while enjoying the ability to work and travel at your leisure?
With the pandemic, this lifestyle has accelerated. Everyone wants to start their own business, but many lack the tools and know how. There is a lot of bad advice online from people who have never actually done what they’re teaching.
This blog is here to document my journey so you can see what it’s really like to build a business—the wins AND the losses.
It’s also here to help you achieve your goals with the right e-commerce tips, tools, and strategies, so you can do it too. E-commerce and ‘making money online’ is not a scam or some thing that only certain people can make work. If I can do it, so can you.
If you made it this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my story and visit my website.
I look forward to pushing out more valuable content and connecting with like minded founders from around the world.