Ep. 1 - How to start an eCommerce business? | Jason Regan Founder of GiliSports.com

Jay quit his last job 8 years ago and has been a location independent entrepreneur for the last 5 years.

During that time he's started three eCommerce businesses, traveled to over 20 countries, and built a lifestyle he really enjoys.

On our show, Jay shares how he is currently growing www.gilisports.com, and some of the mind expanding experiences that led him to his current success.

You're listening to the strategic freedom podcast with David Lahav. Learn the best tips and tactics to increase your profits. Expand your mind and build the freedom you desire in your business and life. Welcome to the show.

David : Hello, podcast listeners. I'm your host, David Lahav. And I am so pleased to host Jason Regan today on our podcasts. Welcome, Jason.

Jason : Hey, David. How's it going, man? Thank you for having me.

David : Yeah, and something for the listeners to know. So we actually had already recorded an episode. Jay right now is in Denver. Both of us are in Denver. The first time we tried to do this, we were in the same room with two different microphones and then we had an amazing episode. And then when we listened to it, we saw that the quality was really bad. So we're doing a part two. Jason, thank you so much for doing a part two with us and redoing it. 

Jason : No worries.

Jump into eCommerce business

David : And personally, I'm really glad that we're getting to do this again, because in the week or so that has passed from the first version I got to learn a lot of new cool things about Jason and his life that I think will be really interesting for you guys, the listeners. So let's jump in Jay. Maybe I'll start by you sharing a little bit about what you do and also kind of where you live your life and so people can understand a bit more and learn about you. 

Jason : Absolutely. So I'm an e-commerce entrepreneur. I've been in e-com personally for eight years now, for seven years doing it for myself without a job. And I have an e-com degree, but I've almost always worked in e-commerce in college. That was my college job. And out of college, no one wanted to hire an e-com guy in 2008 or . And I got a job doing e-commerce again. So it's kind of my I just live and breathe this stuff and it's been interesting. And five years ago, I took, you know, my home is the US, I am from the US. I haven't lived there for about five years now. And I've lived on three different continents and traveled over 20 something countries and lived in probably half of them. So it's been quite a life-enriching experience. And it's something that's forever changed me. And I think, David, you've traveled a lot. You probably have similar feelings.

David : Yeah, absolutely. It's this freedom of having a location independent business that allows you to travel and experience a whole lot more than if you just have a nine to five job and you kind of have to show up in the office every day.

how to start an ecommerce business

Jason : Yeah, the freedom and the challenge of making a business and holding into something where you can be free of it is tough.

David : Absolutely. And we'll dive into that for sure. In the meantime, also, so what's your main company now?

Jason : So I’ve started GiliSports about two and a half years ago. And we design and sell and manufacture paddle boards, specifically inflatable paddle boards and accessories. And you can check us out online and we also do something really cool. I'm a diver, surfer. I mean I love the ocean. And so every paddle board sold we donate anywhere from 10 to $15 per board to different ocean charities.

David : Amazing and just so our listeners can understand your larger experiences. Is it the first company you’ve started.

Jason : This is the third company I've started.

David : And what happened to the other two companies?

Jason : So I exited both of them. The first one was my first business and sort of training wheels and it did okay. And I exited for a lot less than I had hoped to and I consider it a failure. Others don't. But it did let me quit my job. The second business went incredibly well. In less than two years. I started with 5K and sold it with a really nice exit. And today it's still a supplement company, it's still running and growing. And it's thriving and, you know, worked out good for me, it worked out good for the owner. 

David : Awesome. So I would say one of the most interesting things about the way you run your business and you were just featured on what was it forbes.com?

Jason: Forbes, yes.

Building your remote team and relationship's maintaining

David: In a special story about entrepreneurs that run a seven-figure business, but have no kind of employees overhead, that have, you know, a very lean operation. So I think that's something really interesting that the two you're able to do, and not just do once, but you've already done this twice. And you've been doing it also in a very short period of time. So around like two years per company to get to that space. So what's your secret, Jay?

Jason : A lot of hard work in the beginning and a clear vision of at least the next year to have where you want to be helped, you know. I will say I did have a warehouse for a while and it was cool and I loved going to the warehouse and seeing like, wow I gotta sell all this crap now and it was fun but we recently got a 3PL and moved everything out of there and partnering with a 3PL. I mean, you know, they're not partners of my business but I consider them a partner in our success. It’s opened up new doors in the sense of like, we can ship cheaper, we can ship faster, we can go international and that was a very hard part of the business for me to give up. I like being on my forklift and like spinning around and hanging out and receiving containers from China. But it really wasn't the highest output for the business and also created some other challenges like I didn't want to have a W2 employee if I didn't have to. And no warehouse employees aren't that expensive, but when you add payroll, and taxes, and everything comes along with it, it does get challenging. So I tried that side, I don't really like that. And, you know, I think that goes. And now I'm building a team where we're all remote. And it has its own challenges, but I've been able to find some great people so far.

David : So there is a whole new way of doing things essentially. Which is you can have a large company, and you can have some of the same people in your company now, especially if it's an ecommerce business whereas you can have a team management and a lot of the functions that any other normal company could have. But you can have it remotely and with people around the world where you kind of get the benefits of having a team and being able to delegate stuff and have management and processes in place but you don't have to hire W2 employees that in some ways make the business less lean.

Jason : Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I, it's like with the warehousing aspect. They're much better at that than I am, you know, so I like to lean on their expertise. And we're now working with an ad agency which I don't typically like. ad agencies. They usually a lot of overhead and shit you got to deal with and... but you can find good agencies, right? And they're better at what they do, you know. Google advertising and stuff like that than I am. So I think by leveraging these things you can really, you know, grow your business and scale it without having, you know... We don't have an office and I don't want one. And you know, especially with COVID-19 going on, you know, a mutual friend of ours you interested introduced me to as a junk company. She's like, all these companies that are closing their offices. So I think it's part of it, you know, design your business like that. It's totally possible. And the one thing I will say is, I try to meet as many of the people we work closely with in-person. And I do think that's very important. I drove, I flew and drove to our 3PL. And my, one of my ad agency guy is in Bangkok. And as soon as flights open up, I'm gonna go meet him. And you know, even if you're not interacting with your employees, your team on a, you know, in person, I do think it's smart to go like, Hey, go throw a company or cheat in some Island or cool destination and, you know, stay weak for them that will go further than anything. So I still think that's really important in team building, and I'm still learning how to team build. And so yeah, just a caveat on that, but it's totally possible.

 start an ecommerce business | Gilisports

David : Absolutely. And I love this idea about on one hand remote and we work with people who are remote. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that we can't meet up in person, build relationships, and have really meaningful friendships and partnerships with people, that are also based on real-life collaborations. I also do the same with our team at Lahav Media even though we're a remote company, we try to get together with as many as possible at least once a year.

Jason : Great idea.

Choose your successful channel to grow your eCommerce business!

David : So Jay... about Gili and your paddle board company, your e-commerce business. I think there are some things worth mentioning in terms of how you've been able to get to where you are. So based on your kind of analysis so far, what do you think enabled you to grow fast and to be successful in the marketplace?

Jason : I definitely think there's a few things. I mean, I've cut my teeth a bit under e-commerce so, you know. Our products are complex and it's not a first-time importer product at all. But I think you need to nail your product offering and ideally what's different about you. Like, if you're selling a, you know, kitchen spatula, why is why buy yours over someone else's. But on a, you know, just dedicated focus and not giving up and also identifying your single sales channel to scale. I've done that every business. And you have to ignore all this noise, right? One person says, do Facebook ads, do SEO, do Google PPC, do Amazon. And they're all right. And they're all wrong. You need to identify what you think will work best for your product and your company. And scale that at least hundreds of thousands, if not a million before you look at other channels. And I think you really, at that time you can choose if you'll know if your product has success and people liking what you're doing. And then you can kind of choose to branch out of there. That's what we did recently.

David : I think that's a huge point. I think so many entrepreneurs missed this is if you want to grow your eCommerce business from nothing to seven figures, most of the time, you're able to do this with one really successful channel. So with eCommerce, for example, you can do that just with Amazon, or you can do it just with your e-commerce store and focusing on, like, Facebook Ads or just focusing on Google Shopping.

Jason : Absolutely. And if I, you know, if I look at other entrepreneurs that I know and they're successful businesses, almost everyone found their one channel and, you know, found success there before they branched out.

ecommerce business - start an online store

David : And it's counterintuitive because, you know, oh, I should be on Amazon, I should be doing Google Ads, I should be doing, you know, Facebook Ads. But then you dilute your focus, your resources, and you're a jack of all trades, master of none and then seeing very average results.

Jason : Absolutely. That's so true. And I wish more people, especially starting out, I wish I knew that.

Never-ending process of improving the product. Will it pay off?

David : The other thing I think you do really well with e-commerce business that helps you build the company so well is that you are amazing at product design. So you make sure that your products are unique. You have a unique selling proposition and your customers appreciate it. It has to be in a way that's meaningful to your customers where they see your board and they see the competition board and they decide to go with your company.

Jason : Absolutely, thank you for the compliment and I think that's absolutely true that we obsess over details of our products, and previously I was in supplements in the private label space and I slapped a label on something and sold it and became good at eCommerce marketing which is fine. There's nothing wrong with that and I'm not, you know, dogging on that but, you know, I've seen way more... it brings more happiness to me but also it resonates with customers when it's like, you know, Hey, we'll put a paddle holder on this board, a removable bungee and a full-length traction pad and make it the best all-around, like slash yoga, slash dog, slash recreational board out there. And people really see that and, you know, now I can launch a product with no reviews, no other influencers. And, you know, it'll get noticed one and then, you know, we have some brand recognition, our people trust us and I think long term that goes a lot farther. And before we move on, like, you know, we made our bags way better than anything out there but a material thicker better handles... I spent three or four months going back and forth to China with probably 20 bags from my villa in Bali, right? Which is nuts. I'm like, is this worth it? But um, you know, I got one customer ordered a 2019 board and 2020 board and they're like, Hey, what the hell, like, why is the 2019 bag, like, what is this? And no one complained about our 2019 ever. But, you know, so I kind of justified like, Okay, yes, it is worth spending the time. And now what I'm doing is working on 2021 stuff. I'm doing new bag stuff. I have two bags on the way. So it's kind of a never-ending process but it does pay off and you know, I think it's easy to get complacent. But when we find something you really like, and you can obsess over, like - do it like most people won't.

paddle boards online store

David : Yeah, and this also shows the power of You want it to be as good as it can right out of the bat, but you did your best in 2019, then you had some ideas on how to improve it for 2020. Now you have some additional ideas for 2021. And this constant improvement cycle is eventually where people will start looking at your brand. And they say, Wow, these guys are amazing. But you guys didn't start that way. It's been a gradual process of every year, every time. Another 10% or 20% improvement and another another another, and then at the end, you kind of look back. Wow.

Jason : Yeah, please don't show them our 2018 products. Okay. Which people still loved?

David : Absolutely.

Is there any freedom when you own fast growing eCommerce business?

David : So maybe you can share with us a little bit, Jay. What's your concept of freedom? Right? So you now have a successful company, you can live anywhere in the world. And, like, how do you choose to live your life right now? How does a typical day look like? And also, where are you? Like, what's the next level for you there?

Jason : So I'm actually working a lot right now. Our businesses are growing and growing pretty fast, and it's probably time to have a break. So I'm, you know, as David and I discussed earlier, I'm hiring some more people. And so, I'm working more than I want right now. And it's okay, because I'm passionate about the eCommerce business and it's making money. But ideally, I want to be able to spend 20 to 40 hours a week on product development and eCommerce marketing and step back from operations and everything else. So that means building a bigger team, a better team growing up more as an entrepreneur. You know, like, I feel like your businesses grow unless you grow and I'm at that stage where, like, Now I don't want to hire more people, but I need to hire more people. So and, and keeping the freedom aspect in play, like I really really enjoy living outside the States most of the year. I mean, I enjoy being in the States two to four months a year, hanging out with friends. And then I, like, I like being abroad. And I love Bali, Thailand. And I also want to spend ideally, about two months a year just doing a new adventure, like, you know, spend a month traveling throughout Africa, you know, going to Iceland for two weeks and then you know, something maybe Denmark and just sort of disconnecting from the business a bit and doing a minimal amount and having it keep running. That's the ultimate vision and growing, right? Like I have some pretty big revenue goals and where I want the business to go. But building the team where it can thrive without me is the ultimate goal. And yeah, cuz we can't, you know, one thing that I say all the time is, you can make more money, but you can't make more time.

David : And I think you're at a really interesting stage of business right now. Because you are experiencing, like pretty much all the growth that you can handle right now. So many business owners, their challenge is how do I grow the business? So you have that covered, at least right now, right? Sometimes it happens that you have a period of really big growth, and then you plateau. And then that becomes the most important thing. But right now, that's not really a challenge. So what are some of the challenges that you're seeing in this process that you're mentioning with the hiring team and kind of being able to step out of the business a little bit more?

Jason : Part of it, one of the challenges is when I hire someone, and they don't do something up to my standards, if I can do it. I have a unique blend of skills. I can do Photoshop, I can do a lot of E-com stuff, I can code a little bit. So if someone, like, fucked something up, excuse my french, or doesn't do it up to the standards, I want to jump in and do it myself and get it done. Realizing it's taking time away from what I'm best at doing and you know, my most productive time. That's a challenge. Finding good people is a challenge. You know, we have certain hiring funnels, which work well. But when I'm looking, I don't have the experience to hire like an ops manager, like someone who's higher level, and that will really help the business. So that's another challenge. And then I think the third challenge, again, all related to people is how do I build a team? How do I do it cohesively, and a team that enjoys working with each other, but who also like, you know, get our vision and you know, perform their best work. I understand people are human and we screw up, I screw up all the time. How do I do their best, and to really love going to work every day? Because I enjoy working on my company. I want them to as well.

ecommerce business | paddle boards

David : It's almost a question of the term culture, right? And people talk about culture, when you have companies of thousands of people or hundreds of people. But really what you’re going to be doing now is building your culture, which is essentially hiring people that you vibe with, that cheer your vision, that show your work ethic and your level of excellence. And then the more people you add to this, this is how the culture is going to be formed.

Jason : Right. It's an example of, like, customer service. We have a great customer service, but I don't want to hear about any more complaints. I just want them taken care of, right? So building, you know, first training someone to deal with those, and then, you know, having a couple of team members and then, like, only the very top level stuff comes to me, like, What do we do? Well, what is an issue with our product? Like, you know, I want to hear those things, but I don't want to hear that. You know, Joe so and so is really angry because he got his board two days late, right?

David : Yeah. And this is another key thing that I've noticed from entrepreneurs going through this process and me going through this process with my companies a few times, is what is your vision for, like, when this process is done? How does your life look like then? What kind of things are you doing? What kind of things are you not doing? That can be a really helpful thing to keep in mind as you're going through this process. And then also, like you've been doing, identifying what people do I have missing? What processes do I have missing and kind of have a vision and plan in your head of how it's going to look like when it's done. It is going to guide you on what are the next steps you need to do now.

Jason : That's great. And something that came up for me when you were speaking, that often doesn't really chat. What I want to be doing is like hopping on calls like, Hey, customer service team, how's it going? Great. Okay. Hey, marketing team, how's it going? Great. You know, I'm sort of just checking in and then I want to go, like, play on my paddle boards, test them, do product development, have an eye on marketing and then get to go, like, kind of play the rest of time that would be ideal for me.

David : Absolutely. And we've been talking about it a lot recently. What book are you reading that talks about rest?

Jason : The title escapes me, I'll have to give it to you after this podcast.

David : Okay. Well, we'll put in the show notes. But what's the idea that the author talks about there?

Jason : The author is talking about, like, hard people who are hardworking and geniuses, you know, not saying, I'm a genius by any means, but he's talking about, like, the smartest people that he knows. And they build in rest, right, rest is very important. And it's not like, I'm gonna be a couch potato on TV sort of rest, but like, they'll usually have to be very active in something else. Maybe they love tennis, and they build in time for tennis, or even walking or physical exercise, and again, not as a chore. But we all need time for our brains to rest. And I think as entrepreneurs and especially in the working world, you know, we're trained like if you're not working 100 hours a week you're not trying. And I think that's one, it's not a recipe for happiness. And it can also be counterproductive. So, lately, I've been taking some time for the new Doom game because I played Doom as a kid. And then I make sure I get outside and exercise. You know, obviously, you guys know what's going on in the world, but I try to get outside a couple times a day. And then, you know, try to, like, take a few days off, you know, it’s important. 

David : Absolutely. And just like you mentioned, it may seem counterintuitive, so, Oh, I need to spend all my time working and grinding and hustling. But the beautiful thing that happens is that once you step away from it a little bit every day, a few hours, get into some adventures, you become more energized. So you end up doing higher quality work, right because if you're sitting in front of a screen for 16 hours a day, your last few hours, most of the time, are going to be much less effective than your first few hours. So taking time off is actually going to help you achieve more and get more done. And especially when it has to do with strategic thinking, with learning, with personal growth, then taking time to do those and having energy left to do thinking and planning in a really productive way that those are the kind of things that help you 2x, 3x, 10x your result versus grinding on another task to check something small from your to-do list.

Jason : Absolutely. In the end, the author argues that people do their best, and most focus work after rest and leisure. We need that. So, yeah, I think every entrepreneur should incorporate that into it. And even if it's a startup and he's got to work 100 hours a week, carve out at least 20 for the rest and whatever that means for you.

David : Hmm, absolutely. It's been when you try it out that the results are just mind-boggling. So to kind of wrap up that subject, what would your ideal life look like? Let's say like three or six months from now, when you've completed this process.

Jason : Ideally, I'll be back living overseas. I want to spend maybe six months on Bali, a few months in another country, and a few months at home. And I want to have a team. I'll probably need four to eight people and checking in with them on a weekly basis. And then just I want to be able to shut my email off, my phone off, except for checking in with the team two to three times a week and then just do my most productive, focused work with no distractions. At the moment I can't do that, right? I've got an employee here, they're pinging me. Sometimes it's urgent, and I'm like, I just throw my computer monitor out the window. And, yeah, that. And then also being able to take like a week, you know, weekends off to go play. To go, you know, go on an adventure. And the thing I miss most right now, during this time is it's so hard to go like, due date, you know, we used to go to waterfalls, you know, just do something different. And, you know, in Bali, just taking time off to like, it feels really good to spend a whole day not thinking about your e-commerce business. I don't know if that resonates with you or other people. But that's not something I get a lot.

David : Yeah, absolutely. And there are two things there that are like key components to getting to that level of freedom that you're talking about. So we have two sorts of obstacles. Obstacles that are real. So things that are really, you know, you are right now the bottleneck in your company, because you have to approve things, you have to be the one doing them. So those things when you build a system, hire people, those things literally just get off your plate and they get done just as well or even better, without you being involved. That's amazing. What I find is that the bigger impact is under things that are just mindsets related. So the things that are in your head that keep you on, you know, 24/7, or on your mind thinking that I have to be the one doing this, I can delegate this, or I have to be on or I need to have my phone available because if I'm not, then something bad will happen. And so looking at those things can be really really... My example is with the locksmith companies. So we acquired a locksmith company, a new locksmith company six months ago, or something like that, and it was a relatively big acquisition compared to my other acquisitions. So in my mind, I was like, Okay, now I need to be on this business. I need to be in it. 24/7, and the business really works 24/7. So you always have something happening, messages, new jobs coming up, problems, so I just injected myself so deep into it. Then I was getting a lot of stress and feeling this need that I all the time need to, like, monitor things and be there. And then after kind of realizing that's what happened. I started experimenting, I felt really uncomfortable. I said, You know what? Today, I'm going to leave the phone on airplane mode until 10 am, right? So no matter what happens, if people even try to reach me, they can't. And lo and behold, I just opened the phone. Nobody is really looking for me, nothing is happening. But during this time, I was so stressed inside like thinking, Oh shit, like, the office thinks that I'm not a good owner, that I'm ignoring them, that I'm not a good example. But in reality, they didn't even notice. Right? So all this worry all of those things have just been inside my head and the more entrepreneurs I talk to about this, I find that so much of this pressure stress and the things that prevent us from having more freedom in the business are actually inside of our head versus something that's out there.

Jason : Yeah, absolutely. And I think taking a lesson out of your book, it's very cool to see what you've done with a local based business. And, you know, make it something that can be location independent. Right? I think that certainly believes I've never had a local based business, but I'm like, How can you outsource that? or How can you get away from that or make a remote? And I think David's a great example of how to do it. And yeah, so if you have questions about that, ask him.

David : Absolutely. And the other piece is like, you know, why do people start businesses, right? Why do we entrepreneurs start businesses? Why do we want to make it as business owners, like eight or nine times out of 10 it's some sort of freedom. It might be money, it might be success, but at the end of the day, we want those things in order to be more free. And why do we want freedom in order to do more things that we enjoy, and less things that we kind of have to do? And that's, I think something that's really interesting because you get to define your concept of freedom. Freedom for you might be sitting on a beach not doing anything, or it can be working 80 hours a week on something that you really love.

Jason :Yeah, absolutely.

David : And I think that's something also that's so...

When you want more and more. How to prioritize your life

David: How do you feel in that regard with your current eCommerce business, compared to other businesses?

Jason : Yeah, before with the supplement company I was working four hours a week, which was awesome at the time. But I also wasn't growing, I kind of, like, I'm going to sell, I know, I'm going to sell this, let's put it on autopilot in higher. And that was great. I didn't get much fulfilment out of that. But it was making good money, right? So you know, money doesn't really equal film it. It's really a purpose. So to answer your question, I think to get a ton of fulfilment out of the business when someone like people tagged me all the time on Instagram, our business account. And it's awesome. I mean this guy in Iceland, he takes my board in the snow and uses it as a sled. They go in the freezing temperatures in dry suits picking up trash with like a fleet of my boards. You know, which he bought, and I didn't give it to him, he paid for them. And then like yesterday, he tagged me, he picked up like a lazy boy sofa and throw it up on the board and that gives me so much intrinsic value the business and that's so fucking cool. That helps me go to work knowing that people are getting, you know, I think my boards in a way change people's lives in terms of, like, it's a way to escape and man every time I take my board out and I leave my phone, it's just a great experience. So, you know, I would say 70-80% of the time I'm very happy to work on the business. It's the other 20% of the, you know, the frustrations and just comes with the eCommerce business. I need to work out too. But it's totally worth it.

David : And it's almost always going to be like that. So even when you reach your next kind of milestone of success, of freedom, you're going to get used to it. And then you're going to have something else that's, you know, you're gonna get to be your next goal. Like even, you know, the life that you live right now, for many entrepreneurs that are starting, this is like, Wow, this is amazing. I want to have a seven-figure business, I want to be able to live out of anywhere and actually, you know, when they think about that, they think, okay, I'm not going to eat anything else ever in the world. All I need is to get to this level, and then I can rest in peace. But in reality, it's not exactly the way it works.

Jason : Well, it's this right. If you're an entrepreneur, you're typically driven probably like we are where you hit seven figures, and then all of a sudden, you need to hit eight-figures. Like, where did that come from? Like, you know, and it makes us do what we do. But it's also something like, Do we need eight figures to be happy? No, we don't. You know, and an example one, of our friends, he doesn't work. He works very productively. But he doesn't work as hard as other people. He takes a lot of leisure time. I mean, he'll wake up at nine, roll in the office at 11. And then like, stay till four. And then, you know, drives his MacLaren, does whatever. He has a team, but he will also work from like, 10 pm until midnight, like looking for more products as he enjoys it. And, you know, he lives very, like, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I'd say very, he doesn't stress much. And he's one of the happiest guys and I know, and I tried to take a lesson from that book and try to pull back from the, the monetary aspect of business sometimes and like, I mean, he's growth-oriented. But if he doesn't get there, he's not going to be unhappy. And I think that's the trap we fall into, like, Hey, if my business doesn't grow by, you know, x-percentage next year, then I've failed. You know, which is, I mean, sure, look at COVID-19 nobody could predict this, some businesses are doing well and some are suffering. And, you know, you could sit there and say, Wow, this sucks, I'm terrible at business. Or you can just suck it up and say, Hey, this is a hard time. We didn't expect this, let's plan for it. And next year, we'll be better. You know, it's easier to said than done. But I would just implore everyone listening not to fall in the trap of more money means more happiness or more fulfilling.

David : Yeah, cuz otherwise, it also never ends, right? You reach a certain goal. Now you want more and more and more and more. And the question is, like, where do I get? Really just say, Okay, I'm happy, I'm fulfilled as I am. And I'm going to focus on enjoying my life and doing things out of enjoyment versus I need to achieve things and get to certain places in order to be happy. That sounds, like, a lot like, what's our friend, the way our friend lives his life is like, I'm already happy. I do this because I enjoy this. And sometimes I also make conscious decisions to prioritize my life and happiness versus trying to squeeze out every dollar of growth that I can.

Jason : Absolutely. And you know, go back to Tim Ferriss, author of  The 4-hour workweek when I had a job and, and I always thought I'd travel after I retired and I had this big office and like this big business, and, you know, how shitty that would have been, I would have looked back at 65 years old and be like, I wasted a bunch of time. And I took off to Thailand, when I was 30. That's my first, like, real travel adventure. And I can't tell you how much that whole experience changed my life. For the better, I would implore everyone. If you're in that position, like go force yourself to go do it. You know, it will change your life.

David : Absolutely. So, Jay, I want to transition a little bit to another area that I think would be really interesting to explore. So, this year is the first year that you've raised funds for the business. So far, it has been a hundred percent bootstrapped by you.

Jason: Yes, correct. 

David: And I think it's a really interesting, you're at a really interesting phase where you've done this for the first time. And then I've seen you in a very short period of time go from like, here's this idea that I have.

Get investor money for aggressive growth

David: So maybe you can share a little bit why were you raising money this year?

Jason : Yeah, so I've been self-funded. And one, I want to take some money out of the business for myself for some personal investments, some more long term stuff. And two, I know I needed to grow faster, and we could grow faster. We ran out of stock last year, and our inventory target times are very long. So I knew this year, I need to buy more inventory than I plan to, to really blow up marketing and go faster, right? So I needed to get investor money to do this. And I also want to set it up for the long run next year to be round two of raising money. And I think once you've done it once, and paid people back and shown a successful track record, you can get more, right? And I wanted to do all this without giving ownership up.

David : Yeah, and for eCommerce business, especially capital is a huge constraint in growth. Because if you want to double the business, it means you need to buy double the inventory. And sometimes it's hard to do, especially if it's double, triple, or, you know, more aggressive growth. It's hard to do if you do it just from the profits, it can be a slow process, versus if you get some outside capital and it helps you ramp up.

Jason: Absolutely. 

David: So what were some challenges or fears of going through this process?

Jason : It was mentally where I wasn't raising enough money and like to engage in a VC world or really start pitching, you know, anything on near the VC level, and I don't really like VCs, like, that's not my thing. I like profitable, lean e-commerce companies. So, I did lean on friends and family. And I didn't want to ask them because I felt like I was asking for something. It was almost as, Give me this, please. And I felt like I was begging in my head. In reality, I was saying, I need this for inventory. And I will give you, you know, a healthy return. And, you know, that could be anywhere from 8 to 15%, depending on the terms of the deal, right?

David :  What was the response that you got, basically what you thought you're gonna get versus the responses you actually got from people when you presented this opportunity to them.

Jason : I've got a lot of people who were very interested and wanted to see the pitch deck and some financials and the no's and I got where I'm not in the position to lend that much money because I was only like, minimum vessels like 50 K. Anything less than that really didn't make sense. I didn't want to like, deal with 10 investors, I'd rather deal with two or three. And the no's that I got were really encouraging. It's like, no, but I'll put you in touch with these people, you know, or the business looks solid and looks great. And then I got, you know, a small handful of people to say Yes. So it really blew my mind how receptive that was. And I guess you were like, it was good to feel that people believed in me. And I wound up getting so many offers, like I didn't take probably $300,000 I was offered.

get an investor

David : No, I think it's an amazing process. Because you go from I'm not sure about this. I'm kind of afraid to ask people to where people are very interested to start offering you money. And you kind of realize there was a story in my head. And the reality is that, yeah, I would love to get investment and it will help me grow my business. And this is a big win-win for the people who do choose to invest because they're going to be making a return on investment. And there are many people who have more money than time. And what those people want to do is to have the money working for them. So people who know you who like you, who trust you, and you have a great track record so far of three companies with two exits, and building a successful third one. So you have earned, you know, the legitimate rights to offer to people, hey, here's something that can be a great win-win for both of us.

Jason : Yeah, absolutely. And I think if it's one thing people know about me, who know me as I'm, you know, honest to a fault, I'm pretty brutally honest. And I think it's important when you're raising money. Someone will probably point out something you did poorly, or something that went wrong, you know, maybe it's a product that didn't do well. Maybe it's an inventory that's harder to move. I mean, we certainly had our own challenges, be transparent about that, and let them know what you did to remedy that. I think that goes a long way. And yeah, leverage your network and don't be afraid to ask, you know. You're like you said you're offering someone a great return. You know, I mean, I know I have a bunch of cash in the bank at the moment, not a bunch, enough. And you know, I get one and a half percent on it. Like think about there're investors twice as old as you, twice as experienced with tons of money out there that, like, would love to return. So try to think of it that way. It was hard for me until I got a few investors.

David : In many ways, you're really helping out the friends and family that are investing with you. 

Jason : Yeah, absolutely. And David you've raised some capital quite successful yourself. 

David : Mm-hmm. Yeah absolutely. I went through the exact same process. Being afraid to do this, but what it enabled me to do was to play at a much bigger level that raising outside capital helps, and then also just realizing, Yeah this is really a win-win. I know that I'm not going to let them down pretty much no matter what happens. And so this is just a way for me to actually help them with their goals for investments and. And it's a true win-win. It's not, I'm begging for money or asking for favors like it might seem initially. And I had a very similar story where I had a couple of other investors that were also interested. And we just had enough money so we had to tell them, Sorry, you know, thank you for your offer but, you know, maybe next time.

Jason : Yeah you know another fear I had is what if I can't pay people back? What do I do? You know, and not that like the business went bankrupt but, let's say, sales went as planned and, you know, I can't pay them back as fast as I promised. And I met someone in the e-commerce field who had a very large eight figure portfolio of eCommerce business. And, you know, who had obviously debt. Most people with that big company have debt of some sort, usually working for them. And I said, I just asked him, Have you not been able to pay someone back? And he's like, Yes, multiple times, there are a few times. And I said well what, you know, how'd you get through it? He's like, You just work it out, you know, and, that was, you know, to see someone who was so, in my opinion, uber-successful, you know, still have challenges that, and still raise money, you know, maybe realize, like, okay and more the worst-case scenario I pay people back slower. And he's like, you know, you just face them head-on, give them a call, let them know what's up, you know, that kind of quelled that fear a little bit. But I hope that helps and hopefully it helps other people listening.

David : Absolutely.

Google Ads is the right tool for eCommerce business?

David: So another question that I have for you, Jay. I know that you've been like recently in the last, how long have you been running Google ads?

Jason : We started running Google in March.

David : In March. Okay, so I think there's a really interesting little case study here because you're just starting out with it, and then Corona hits, right? And then many business owners as soon as Corona hits, they're like okay we're stopping ads, we are shutting everything down we want to see what's going on with the market and you're facing that decision. What did you end up doing?

Jason : Yeah, so we had a slower march as probably everyone did. And we decided to push forward and keep testing, you know, and I don't know that it wasn't the easiest decision, but in it. I mean, Google Ads are crushing it for us right now, and our, I don't want to say, my realize has numbers on the air. (David: Yeah. No worries.) But, but they're a lot, they're way higher than our profit level row at Target. So that has been huge for us. And, you know, going back to the… You know, if you're on Amazon and you're scaling there, that's great. We made a conscious decision to focus off Amazon, but we were already at pretty much the seven-figure level and we did that. And hindsight that's been great for us because you guys all know Amazon had some deliverability issues. And, again, going back to partner with my 3PL. Like, they were open, and we were able to ship fast and that's given us an edge in the market. So, yeah, that's the story there and very very happy with how they're performing.

Google Ads for an ecommerce business

David : Yeah. And I think it's an interesting story, especially during crises and, you know, some volatility in the market, what ends up happening is that so many people panic and don't really, you know, look at the numbers and kind of making decisions based on facts and numbers. So many people panic, that, you know, for our locksmith companies, Google Ads became much more profitable during this time. There's less competition, there's less demand, but there's much less competition than the change in demand. So, as the few people who are advertising, you get to reap the benefits and the quote that comes to mind here is that luck favours the bolt. Because you decided to stick with it and kind of see where it goes. You always have the opportunity to kill it if you see the numbers are bad after a while. So you ended up seeing, like, really big wins from that.

Jason : One thing, David. You and I both had this discussion that where you were in a different position we had more overhead than I do. And we talked it's like well if your Google Ads revenue just covers, you know, breaks even that's a win for you right now. And I think they did for a while and now they're, they're doing quite well from what I understand, and, you know, for us we were getting conversions just not profitably, right? So that was enough to push forward. It's like, you know, Google's a tough, very tough, medium to master. And so, you know, if you see progress, like, stick with it. And it might take some time and I love the point of in a crisis or, you know, a situation like that could be your opportunity to kill it completely. 

David : And I love that you mentioned the fact of like framing things in your mind to where you can kind of see, Okay, this is the level where I'm willing to go, this is the risk I'm willing to take if it's breakeven. I'm cool with it, in my case it's helping keep our locksmith techs busy, in your case, it helps move inventory. So being able to accept that as a midterm milestone really helps. And I actually like using this tool in many many different ways, it's kind of like a mind-expensive tool where you can frame something a little bit differently. Like, I'm going to try this out. If it works, amazing, I'm going to get all these amazing results. If it doesn't work, I'm probably going to learn a few really really cool things and I'm hoping the amount of money investing in it. And even if I lose it, that's okay. Because that completely takes the stress off the plate for me, of trying new things. And again with this phrase of luck favors the bold, more often than not, you're gonna somedays achieve success if you haven't dreamed of. And you're going to learn a bunch of really interesting things that are gonna help you in other ways.

Jason : Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, yeah, Google Ads has done so much for us recently. Like it just, I mean, it's just really, it's more revenue than Amazon at the moment, which last year was completely reversed. Yeah, we were like, at a 70% Amazon last year and now it's gonna be more like 40%. 

David : Yeah, amazing. That's something out of e-commerce FBA people would love to replicate. And it's, I think, it's really great for him to learn that. In even one year you're able to really grow the business and really balance things out between Amazon and a new channel, and your own private channel to create it.

Jason : Yeah, absolutely.

How to find the best marketing agency to work with?

David : I'm curious how did you... I know there's a lot of fear in working with agencies, because almost anyone at some point has a bad experience with an ads or digital marketing agency. So what do you think, what are some key ways that you think helped you pick a good agency that helps you deliver the kind of results that you're looking for.

Jason : Yeah, three things come to mind: one is leverage your network. If you're just starting out it's harder but this is why I spend so much time in private masterminds, in business meet ups, and just meeting people, although it's somewhat draining at times, you know. I asked people, you know, ask, Who's your ads guys, you're doing well, is it performing well, can you make an intro. And that's how we found our agency is through a friend of mine. And, and call get at least five references, call them, email all of them. I didn't like doing that first because I don't like cold outreach to people I don't know which has changed in the last year. But I found people are more than happy to like talk to you about their business and how it's worked out with a certain service provider. So to do that and three - negotiate everything, right? I learned this from Moiz who did the natural deodorant, which name slips my mind. Of course I use the product, I should know it.

find arketing company for an ecommerce business

David : Is it native something?

Jason : Native! The owner, the guy, I mean he sold his business for like nine-figures, right, in two years. Amazing success but he's like negotiating everything. So when with everyone, everyone we work with now I always negotiate rates, and we negotiate a great agency, great with an agency where, you know, we make more money. And it's great and it allowed me to be more comfortable testing. So just, just do all those three. And don't be hesitant to fire a bad agency. You know, even if it usually has some cost, and then move on. Our next challenge will be finding a good Facebook agency for later this year. And I had the same fears, you probably do, but I know how to work through them now. So yeah, and it, you know, ads are complicated. No, you can't set up Google Ads and just let them run forever and never touch them again. You have to be in them, and optimizing them. And I don't want my business telling me and I'm happy to give, you know, some of the profits up to somebody who does that well and I don't have to do it.

David : And outsource the time, worry, hassle, like even if you can theoretically do it yourself. You can work well with agencies where they do it, it's profitable for you and then you really don't have to worry about it.

Jason : Absolutely. And there are good agencies out there. You just have to hunt for them, just like a good employee. They're not easy to find either. 

David : And it goes back to what we talked about. As a business owner, as an effective business owner, you want to focus on the things that you're really good at, that really help you grow the eCommerce business and get to the next few milestones. And then leave everything else to other agencies, people you hire, or team members. 

Jason : Right. It's like a Google Ad guy can't create me an awesome new product, but I can do that.

David : Yeah, exactly. That's something that only you can do, however, if you instead spend your time on Google ads, maybe you'll be like good, decent good or great at it, but you're most likely not gonna be as great as someone else. That's all they do is just on Google ads.

Jason : Sure, and, you know, I have no partner. I've seen other companies Excel where one person is the Facebook ads guy and the other person is the product and Ops guy and that works well. So I'm not saying you have to be the product person, someone has to do it. But, you know, play to your roles, whether you're in a partnership. Identify your guys's strengths, and you shouldn't ever be working on the same thing. Yeah, I think that's something that I've learned because I've always wanted to be in control of everything in the business. And you can only get so far with that, you can probably get to a million bucks a year, gross, but it's gonna be hard to get further.

David : If you want to get to 10 million, you understand that, you know, it's not scalable. I can't be on top of everything or do everything, so I find myself. I'm going to need to, like, change things in a big way.

Jason : Yeah, absolutely. Like, to get to 10 million, I don't know, anybody that doesn't have a good team that is humble. It doesn't have to be a huge team, but it's got to be a good team and it's got to be more than you.

David : Absolutely. Awesome Jay. So I want to thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. Where can our listeners connect with you, learn more about what you're doing?

Jason : Sure. Don't add me on Facebook because I hate social media. But if you email me, it’s just jay@gilisports.com. I'm happy to connect with you. I read almost every email. So, email me there and that's the best way.

David : Great and then just to mention, it sounds like Jay is hiring for a few key positions in his company. So if any of our listeners listen to this during this time of the year in general, Jay would like them to reach out to you and see if you're still hiring.


Jason : Yeah, if you want a job where you can work remotely, have fun, build cool products, and help me change the world, then yeah, email me. I’m looking for an Ops manager, I'm looking for a writer, I'm looking for another customer service person, and give any other marketing skills or whatever, like, shoot a message. Thanks for allowing me to throw a little pitch out there.

David : Yeah, absolutely, like this is one of those wins-wins, right? If one of our listeners is looking for a job. This could be an amazing win for you and an amazing win for them.

Jason : Yeah, and I will say one last thing. Whenever I had a job I always told to my boss, I had a dream that I'm gonna build my own company at some point. So, you know, if you want to work on someone including me, please be frank with me with that and I will put you in a role where you can learn, but also it’ll help me to get the things I need to be done, you know?

David : Absolutely. And by the way, this is the same approach that I have. I don't expect the people on my team to be employees forever. I actually want to help them become entrepreneurs. So if it’s one of the goals to become a business owner, I want to help put them in positions where they're going to learn about that and I also want to help them transition out with anything that they might need when the time comes.

Jason : So, you know, at some point, probably you can put your employees, they'll be where you apart ways, you know, on good terms, but they eventually leave.

David : Exactly. Even if we work together for two or three-five years. That's amazing, that's all that I can ever ask for.

Jason : Yeah, I think that's great. I know with the bosses I've enjoyed working for, I don't always enjoy the environment. But the people I've worked had jobs with, like, they had that mindset. And, you know, they knew I wouldn't be happy if I wasn't learning and growing, and the second I wasn't I quit that job.

David : Mm hmm. Absolutely. So love that you're baking this into your culture right now.

Jason : Yeah. And I want, you know, like I said, our team is remote. And I think my customer service skills in Hawaii at the moment, she travels quite a bit. And like I don't really care where you are if you get the work done, and I would love for more people to honestly experience the world and they work, you know, at the same time. I think with COVID-19, that will change. We have more people like that, but I definitely encourage you to seek out those jobs you need to. I know you're speaking to business owners. But if you're in the position where, you know, I was eight or nine years ago, and David was... David probably never had a job.

David : Yep.

Jason : You know. If someone said, hey, go, go travel the world and, you know, you’ll be paid 20 bucks an hour. I'm like, Okay, where do I sign, you know? 

David : Right now. 

Jason : Please go do that. It will change your life. 

David : Yeah. Awesome, Jay. So thanks again. And we'll catch up with you next time.

Jason : Awesome David thanks for having me on. I really appreciate the time and I hope your listeners, you know, benefit from this.

David : Thanks for listening to the strategic freedom podcast with your host, David Lahav. If you like our show and want to learn more, check out lahavmedia.com/podcast or leave us a review on iTunes. Join us every Thursday morning to listen to the next episode. See you then.


Cam is digital nomad that has created financial freedom while traveling..and in a relatively short amount of time.

Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. Tal is my mentor and dear friend, and perhaps the best way to describe him is as a master of Freedom.

Riaan has been living and working out of his RV for the past 4 years while running Agentivity - a SaaS company serving travel agents. 

Ricardo Lima is the CEO and co-founder of Worldpackers, a global marketplace connecting hosts and travelers through the exchange of skills for accommodation.