How to Start (and Grow) an eCommerce Business | Taking Affordable Steps

How to Start (and Grow) an eCommerce Business | Taking Affordable Steps

How to Start (and Grow) an eCommerce Business

Chris Michael Harris, Executive Producer

Growing an eCommerce Business requires much more attention to controlling your costs…

I’m so glad someone like Adi Arrezini joined me on this episode of Entrepreneur Hour.

Because so many people get themselves in BIG trouble with eCommerce.

Especially newbies to the startup game.

I’ve got a buddy, who shall remain nameless, that sunk $75,000 into a product and has yet to sniff an ROI.

Better yet, I don’t think he’s even made $1,000 of it back.


Because, here’s the thing…

It costs a LOT to manufacture a product.

And what makes matters worse is most won’t even take you seriously until you’ve got a large enough order quantity.

Meanwhile, you’ve sunk your life’s savings into this thing and have plans for being in every Walmart around the country.

So, in this excerpt, we’re going to talk about how to get your business off the ground + how to grow it by taking affordable steps.

Don’t bury yourself in the hole with exorbitant product costs

Photo by rawpixel from Pexels

Now, let me start by telling you this is NOT  a business I’ve started before.

I’ve played in a lot of sandboxes but the eCommerce one has yet to have been checked off my list.

That said, many of the same rules and principles apply, regardless of industry.

And I’ve been involved with bootstrapping two (working on three) 7-Figure startups by the age of 33…

That’s not a humblebrag, I’m just letting you know there are replicable processes to follow. 

Let’s get started…

1. Start building up your brand clout in the industry

Look, the people I see crushing ecommerce businesses, or any business for that matter, first spend time understanding the industry.

They may work for someone else selling their products or maybe they sell info products that lead to a physical product down the road. 

This happens OFTEN in the SaaS space.

Someone sees a tool REALLY needs to be made and decides to just go make it themselves.

Scratching their own itch is what it’commonly referred to as.

But unless you’re REALLY into this thing you plan on making, you just don’t fully understand the market and the real opportunity.

You don’t know your customers and you don’t know what they want.

Maybe you think it’s cool but it hasn’t been validated.

By investing time learning the industry and products you intend to sell, it really pays off in the long run.

2. Don’t open a store with 10,000 items

Oh, man…

This is a common one.

People think if they just open a store to sell anything and everything on it, people will have more options and more likelihood to buy.

And so they then just have “blanket marketing” tactics that reach and speak to literally no one.

Focus on selling ONE product.

Niche down and master that ONE thing first because, through that process, you’ll learn how to craft a message and sell…

You’ll also keep your costs under control.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can replicate and scale the process over again.

But that leads me to my next tip…


“The Dream Dies When the bank dries…”

3. Take pre-sale orders or early birds

Look, many Authors pitch a book that hasn’t even been written yet.

I NEVER develop an info product that I first haven’t validated with my audience.

And so, as you’re building your audience and educating people on this thing you’re going to eventually sell, run surveys and start considering pre-sale events or early bird specials.

Here’s the awesome part, if you can pull it off and deliver in a timely manner, it may give you more leverage with a manufacturer plus proof of concept AND some funding capital to actually pay for inventory.

But, if it were me, depending on the item, I’d do this instead…

4. Figure out a way to make the product YOURSELF

Look, I know it’s not ideal…

But, if you want this thing bad enough, you’ll do what it takes.

And there’s much to be gained from you crafting your own product, even a prototype (depending on what you’re selling).

Daymond John, an awesome dude and friend of the podcast, was printing and making his own FUBU clothes and hustling them out of a trunk at Yankee games…

So, if the King of Retail himself is willing to roll up his sleeves, you have no excuse.

Daymond even convinced his mom to refinance their home so he could invest in what he needed to grow the business.

Now, I’m not entirely suggesting the latter but just know he was willing to do what it took and KNEW his market because he was knee-deep in it. 

5. Scrap the overhead

Look, So many people want the creative studio, the storage warehouse or even the physical store…

But that’s hella risky.

And, as I always say, the dream dies when the bank dries.

You need to keep your fixed cost under control so you can allow yourself room to grow and make mistakes.

Plus, I’d love to see you sink your teeth into some marketing strategies and having a small budget for that is going to be tremendously helpful.

Selling a physical product with Facebook Ads is borderline like printing money compared to what I do in selling info products.

That’s all assuming you have a solid product, strong messaging and a visually appealing landing page.

Use the garage, the storage room or even a spare bedroom or a corner in your family area if you have to but wait as long as you can before you invest in a space.


There’s no need for a large facility until you’re a fairly large company with high profitability. 

Photo by Alexander Isreb from Pexels

6. Focus on building an audience

Look, the best lemonade stand in the world won’t do anything if it’s set up in a closet.

If nobody knows you exist, it’s game over.

And I see this often with “technicians”.

In other words, people that take great pride in their trade and creation.

Through the process of crafting your thing, there arises an emotional attachment.

And so everything that doesn’t work, a technician always goes back to tweak the product.

It sounds illogical (and it is) but it happens.

Michael E Gerber talks about this in his E-Myth Series of books.

And many people that CREATE something out of passion find themselves stuck in Technician Mode often. 

Go build an audience on Social, create YouTube Videos educating people on your industry BEFORE you even have a product.

If you can build a loyal following of people and an email list of people that trust your advice, they are going to literally JUMP when they realize you’re selling something.

It’s a lot of work, I know, but it really pays off.

I would be on at least one platform for Search…

Blog, YouTube or Pinterest.

Based on where your target demo is, I trust you’ll figure out where to be…

It’s usually best to really double down on one first rather than try to spread yourself across all channels.

7. Influencer marketing

Okay, so you don’t have an audience (per the last tip)?

Well, one of the fastest “growth hacks” to build one is to leverage someone else’s audience.

Brands pay BIG money to influencers to promote their products.

Now, you don’t need to pay Kim K $10MM to talk about your eye cream.

So, start with someone IN YOUR SPACE that’s big but within reach.

Build a relationship with that person, respond to their posts and EVENTUALLY ask if they’d be willing to try your product.

If it’s great, maybe they do give you a shout and a review to their audience.

I’m of the belief that they’ll do that on their own and I don’t have to ask…

But it will depend on the nature of the relationship.

Put it this way, they get propositioned enough to know what you’re asking for without ACTUALLY asking.

But if you want to give them a friendly nudge after a few weeks JUST TO ASK if and how they liked the product, maybe then you ask if they’d be happy to give you a plug.

Just make sure it makes sense for them.

So, maybe if you can’t pay them, you guys work out some sort of affiliate commission.

That has to be your judgment call and it’s largely based on your product.

8. Build a baller site on Shopify

Look, don’t dilly dally around with no website or a crap looking site.

You also want to make sure the bloody thing works like it’s supposed to.

Shopify is one of my sponsors and for good reason.

It’s THE BEST out-of-the-box eCommerce Site Builder…period.

There are just too many technical specifics with an eCommerce Site for you to try to build it on anything else or to hire a developer to custom code it.

You don’t need to spend that kind of money PLUS what do you do if your developer is the only one that can update your site?


And not the kind that puts money in your pocket.

Make sure you have GREAT photos of your product because that really does make or break both a site and the product itself.

Hope this list has been helpful.

Happy eComming and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles, videos and podcast episodes. 




Adi Arezinni


E-Myth Revisited

How to Generate More Revenue Even if You Feel Stuck | Growing Your Business

How to Generate More Revenue Even if You Feel Stuck | Growing Your Business

How to Generate More Revenue, Even if You Feel Stuck

Chris Michael Harris, Executive Producer


There’s nothing worse than KNOWING you have something but you just can’t get over the “hump.”

I remember the early days of my first startup…

We had achieved a certain degree of success.

Definitely enough to indicate we should push forward.

But not enough to sustain myself AND the business.


And so the Side Hustles were still a MUST…

The long nights of racking my brain over what we could do began to become old.

And, more importantly, I started to lose the same fire for this “thing” I once had.

Entrepreneurs that stay in this phase too long end up flaming out and moving on.

Fortunately for us, I figured out the magic formula and we EXPLODED.

Over revenues went from $50k ARR to $500,000 in about 8 months.

No joke, it was a wild ride…

Especially for a kid at 25.

So, let’s break down how that happened and what you can do to get yourself out between this rock and a hard place.

Me in 2012 at a job fair hiring my first employees

Photo by Kim Jimenez

The first thing I had to do was take a step back and analyze.

And this is why it’s sooo utterly important to either keep your day job or have side hustles.

Because, as I always say, The Dream Dies When The Bank Dries.

You need to tap into Urgency but never into Desperation.

Once you’re desperate, it’s the beginning of the end.

You have NO means to continue forward and experiment with close to ZERO margin for error.

If this is currently you, it’s time to pick up some side hustles…

You can check out an entire episode we did on that when you’re done here.

Live your entire life with margins…

Best advice I could ever give to anyone, not just entrepreneurs.

So, take a step back and analyze a few things…

What’s worked in the Past?

What do your customers love about you?

Have you surveyed them to analyze what it is that made them choose you when there were other options?

And don’t just say we were cheaper…

If that’s the game you’re currently playing, you won’t be playing it long.

It’s NEVER, ever sustainable.

And if that’s your main value prop, you haven’t dug deep enough.

Once you understand your market, you’ll have a much better idea as to the marketing message you need to convey.


“Live your life with urgency, not desperation…”

And while you’re at it, where do these people hang out?

It’s 2019 so your answer should include somewhere on the internet.

As a startup, I’d ditch all traditional marketing immediately.

Radio and TV spots are not where you need to be when you can get Leads for less than 5 bucks on Social.

Let the Big Boys spend the money on Traditional “stuff…”

I want you to maximize your dollar, assuming you have a budget at all at this point.

But let’s talk about free & organic opportunities.

Once you know where your tribe is hanging out, start having meaningful convos with them.

I see people in Professional Services doing this all the time.

Joining Facebook Groups that are relevant to their space and having real convos with people that have questions.

They don’t go straight for the sale, they just deliver value.

This gives you the ability to understand them at a deeper level and start to develop a name for yourself.

Be respectful, it’s not your community so you need to play by their rules.

Often times, enough people are going to see the value you’re delivering and it’s going to start delivering new opportunities to you.

Now, I get that’s a lot of hustle work so let’s talk about so of my favorite ways to generate revenue…


As a startup entrepreneur, you don’t have the budget for radio and TV ads + there are far more cost-effective ways to market yourself in 2019.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

I’m currently 33 and I’ve already been involved with bootstrapping two multiple 7-Figure Businesses.

Only 2% of startups ever achieve the 7-Figure mark so I do consider myself very blessed.

But I have to tell you, it happened primarily for one reason…

Creating SEARCHABLE, value-driven content.

See, what your reading here is my way of developing traffic to my site.

That’s the equivalence of having someone walk into your physical store.

You may not know if right now but eventually I am going to try to sell you something.

You see my email opt-ins and “free” stuff I’m giving away in exchange for an email?

I can utilize that data to target you and people like you on social media.

And, further, once you join my email list you’re going to start receiving weekly updates from me…

Most of which are going to allude to stuff I’m selling.

Now, for many of you it’s even easier than that.

Because if you have a service-based business or a physical product, you can literally skip the email step and jump straight to consultation or sale of the item.

Sometimes it works that easily and other times you have to work for their business a little harder.

Either way, “foot traffic” gives you an opportunity whereas before you might have had the best service but nobody knows who in the hell you are.

I always say this (too) but having the best lemonade stand doesn’t matter if you set it up in your closet.

Creating Value-Driven Content on Searchable platform like a blog, a YouTube Channel or Pinterest means you’ve got a roaming sales message crawling the world, all the time.

I put out crazy amounts of rich content with my blog, YouTube and my podcast…

All of which you may currently follow.

And even at a small percentage, it creates more chances for me to sell.

Do that more than your competition IN ANY SPACE and you’ll see the needle move.

Just make sure you optimize it for search with Google Trends so you’re not creating content that only you can find.

That goes back to knowing who your audience is and what the heck they’re looking for/is important to them.

Next, I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and start with rolling up your sleeves.

I’ve seen many people explode just by creating a local reputation first.

The power of the internet is fierce but sometimes you just need some experience and a portfolio under your belt.

Even with your content creation efforts, you can target locally to start just to get some early traction.

Networking events like BNI are wonderful places to start and build your book of business.

But let’s talk about mindset, my favorite subject in many ways… 

Here’s the deal…

I’ve never seen anyone WIN at entrepreneurship that wasn’t obsessed.

I’ve never seen someone with one foot in scale a company.

You’ve got to want this more than you’ve ever wanted anything.

And if you’re stuck it might be because you’re just not in love with what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

When I’m ONTO something and it aligns with the impact I want to make in the world, I legit can’t put it down.

I tap into my inner crack head (kidding) and literally lose sleep over it.

When I discovered the power of content, I obsessed over learning SEO and pouring out my entire brain into blogs, three times per week.

I’ve created over 200 (and counting) podcast episodes.

And now my new obsession is Facebook Ads direct to purchase…

And YouTube.

But you can have the X’s and O’s but still fail.

Without an insatiable desire to win and win big, you’re just fooling yourself.


the vip book club


John Mitchell


Think and Grow Rich

A Literal Entrepreneur School as Alternative Education | Formal Education is Evolving Through Innovation

A Literal Entrepreneur School as Alternative Education | Formal Education is Evolving Through Innovation

A Literal entrepreneur school as an alternative education

Chris Michael Harris, Executive Producer


I remember sitting in Home Economics class in Middle School literally doing the math to figure out how many hours I had left until I was done with schooling forever…

That’s a true story…

And for some reason, it’s one of those moments that distinctly stands out in my mind.

Like a “Where were you when…” type of deal.

But you’d think this one wouldn’t qualify as those usually involve something fairly significant.

Things like 9/11, Michael Jackson’s Funeral or his sister’s Super Bowl wardrobe incident.

But the reality is this…

For many young folks, you just kind of know school isnt for you.

Like many, I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t DO entrepreneurship.

See what I mean?

Some people treat this thing like it’s a career.

But it’s not.

It’s 100% a lifestyle. 

And I often tell people it’s not for them if I observe they’re treating it otherwise.

So, for a youngster like me to appreciate who he was in the world, it indeed was a significant moment when you take it a level deeper.

And that’s why I was so excited to see Laura Sandefer pop up as a potential guest for my show.

Because I’ve LONG wondered what we can do for students like I was.

Do we just have to grin and bear it?

Truth be told, most of the work I do is actually rewiring some of the conditioning people received from school.

Because, while it’s not a BAD thing in terms of what we learned, it most certainly doesn’t always readily apply to starting and growing a business venture.

In my view, that’s 17-22 years then of opportunity cost spent in an environment you might know isn’t for you.


That’s a bloody lifetime.

Imagine how long you’ve been in business.

For me, I’ve been a Full-Time Entrepreneur for 7 years.

I kicked my job to the curb after only one year in the “real world” and haven’t looked back…

Not even for a second.

But for all intents and purposes, imagine if I had 27 years of experience doing this?


Imagine how much MORE I would know, how much MORE focused experience I would have and how much MORE I would have had time to actually feel like I belonged somewhere in the world.

Because, it’s not just the time spent, it’s also feeling like an alien.

I always THOUGHT differently than my peers.

Saw things through a little bit different lens.

And that sense of belonging has sincerely put me at peace.

Many struggles and near identity crises took place for me to arrive at that destination, though.

So, this whole “Entrepreneur School” thing is something I don’t think is just a cool idea, I think it’s desperately needed. 

Why are we using the same mechanisms for teaching, regardless of the audience?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Acton Academy is filling that void and doing it QUICKLY.

In today’s podcast discussion, Laura (who Co-Founded this alternative school concept with her husband), told me they’re in that awesome phase where you can just barely keep up with growth.

And it’s not to say they’re FORCING entrepreneurship down kids throats.

I can just imagine my own desires for my future, yet to be birthed, children.

One of those baseball-type dads that decides immediately their son is going be a Cy Young Award Winner the minute he’s born.

Or a mother that vicariously lives through her daughter’s beauty pageants with the goals of landing her a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ridiculous, I know, but we all know it happens.

But Acton Academy is not for you or your child to get a jump start on the next Apple or Google straight from the cradle…

But more so for Creative Minds that maybe just aren’t fully fitting in with their peers.

“This idea is not about CRAMMING entrepreneurship down kid’s throats…”

 This maybe opens up an entirely new can of worms…

But just think about how many children are prescribed to ADHD meds now.

Having lived through that myself I can tell you it doesn’t end pretty.

Because, as I learned the hard way, it’s a band-aid for the problem.

And while it alleviated some focus and concentration issues, it wreaked havoc on my body.

I talk about that quite often throughout my content but here’s the best resource to go check that out when you’re done here.

We try to “fix” kids and never take into consideration the environment.

For real, think about it.

If you’re unhappy with your job and it’s not the right fit for you…

What do you do?

You go get another bloody job that is better for who you are.

So why do we just expect children to be one-size fits all with school and immediately just cram drugs down their throats to pay attention?

We treat humans like robots or little soldiers.

When maybe they weren’t intelligently designed (if you believe in that sort of thing…I do) to do what they’re being asked to do.

I personally always saw school as a prison.

Enjoying very little of it and ALWAYS pondering how I would EVER apply this “stuff” we were learning to the real world.

But, for many students, it’s not about the content of the message, per se.

It’s about basic life skills like being able to take information and instruction to then memorize and repeat when asked upon.

Sounds a lot like a job, right?

Learn this thing, don’t ask why you need it, and perform function “X” or “Y” when called upon to do so.

It’s what keeps the machine of many organizations turning.

But maybe you or your child was born to create the damn machine, not work in it.

Or maybe they were born to give birth to a new way of thinking that doesn’t even require a machine at all.

How is that not valued the same, if not vastly MORE, than the prior?

We need to be treating students critical thinking and tap into their creative thought process, not just training them like factory workers.

I say stuff like this quite often.

And, to non-entrepreneurs, I think they get a bit offended by it.

But I’m not here to de-value someone being a “cog in the wheel”.

In fact, were it not for people like that, people like me would be stuck in crazy land.

The only reason I position it the way I do is so we can at least appreciate or give thought to the other side of this picture.

So that students don’t have to go through the trials and tribulations of just trying to “fit in” and “be like everyone else”.

I’ve told this story many times but that’s semi how my story started to unfold.

In the midst of my first year getting into the University of Georgia, I had bounced around quite a lot to figure out who the hell I wanted to be in the world.

This time it HAD to work because my “flakiness” was starting to greatly irritate my parents…

Plus, I felt like I needed to prove that this wasn’t yet another poor decision I had made…to myself and to everyone else.

Within about a month, I found myself (yet again) miserable.

And despite the fact I had pursued all these various paths, I was seemingly right back where I started.

But this was different.

Because it wasn’t Middle School anymore where you’re not expected to KNOW what you’re going to do in the world.

I was 21…

The pressure was on…

My friends were graduating and getting good jobs.

And I had just transferred for like the 4th time.

Losing credit hours and still not really defining a Major.

En route to a Spanish 2001 Class (again, another one of those moments), I remember calling my mom and just crying…

I told her I was tired of being me and I just wanted to be like everyone else.

It’s actually still difficult for me to think about that moment.

I want to invent my own time-travelling DeLorean to go back and scoop that dude up to show him the way.

But the reason I tell this story is that there are kids and young adults suffering right now in the same manner.

Desperately trying to fit into a world that they just weren’t intended to be in…

At least not at the highest levels of their contribution to the world.

I talk about how entrepreneurship is way more simplistic than we make it.

It’s about identifying a BIG problem that you care about and developing a viable solution for it.

We try to make it sexy with our buzzwords and acronyms to sound like smart and savvy entrepreneurs…

But really, the ones that get it understand to just observe the world, identify problem areas and derive an augmented solution that people are willing to pay for.

I think it’s beyond safe to say that we have PLENTY of problems that require fixing.

Look at how antiquated our current solutions are, even in 2019.


The firearms police use is ANCIENT “technology”.

The planes we fly in aren’t all that different in terms of mechanisms from some of the initial commercial airliners.

People still live under bridges like stray dogs and we’ve yet to develop an affordable solution.

Isn’t it wise to think that maybe the problem isn’t the problem?

But rather the problem is that we’re not raising children to learn how to address and FIX these problems.

Because, in my eyes, that’s the power of entrepreneurship.

That’s beyond just having your child come home with good grades on their report card.

So, just maybe, that’s THE problem we want to start fixing.


Laura Sandefer


Courage To Grow

Building Social Impact Startups | How a Police Altercation Led to Innovation

Building Social Impact Startups | How a Police Altercation Led to Innovation

Building Social Impact Startups

Chris Michael Harris, Executive Producer


Sometimes we make entrepreneurship too complicated…It’s about finding a problem and presenting a solution for it. Often times, it starts with scratching your own itch.

When I met my guest today, Michael Odiari, he was full of energy and passion…

But his idea just felt pretty…meh.

Serving as an Entrepreneur in Residence for Silicon Valley-Based Accelerator Program, Founder Institute, my role was to help people craft or augment an idea to take to market.

In many cases, this usually sends them down the path to funding before go-to-market…

But it’s all contingent upon the nature of the build.

And for those that don’t know, Accelerator Programs are usually designed for ideas with massive upside potential.

There’s nothing wrong with Lifestyle Businesses, Service Based Businesses or just general Small Businesses.

But the reason you likely need an intensive Accelerator Program is because your idea requires all hands on deck.

And likely a TON of capital behind it.

We’re talking Unicorn potential businesses ($1B Valuation or more).

And while many of them likely never even get off the ground, FI (Founder Institute) has an amazing track record of success.

In fact, we have an 80% success rate of all graduates.

20% will go off to raise big investment dollars and/or Exit.

And for an Idea Stage Program, that’s quite an achievement.

There’s a ridiculous process to get in.

And I could go into an entire article’s worth of explanation on how that works.

But if you’re here to build the next Uber or Airbnb…

It’s definitely something I’d look into when you’re done here.

Back to my story…

Michael came in as a student for the Fall of 2018.

His intensity and passion were legit off the charts.

And I could see there was something much deeper than what he was presenting to us.

Eventually, after a few weeks, I pull him aside.

“Why are you doing this to begin with?” I said.

He tried to not let me press him…

Defaulting back to his pitch about how motorists needed a more convenient way to pay parking tickets.

But there’s no way he was this revved up about a modernized payment portal.

About an hour later, after just spending time getting to know him, the truth came out.

Michael was involved in an incident that set him on a new life path…

And one that he was afraid to share for reasons as to not “rock the boat” too much.

Trying not to rock the boat, Michael downgraded his REAL idea.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

 You see, in the state of Texas you have to display your license plate on both the front and rear of the vehicle.

Evidently, one day, having just been given a warning about improper display, Michael found himself pulled over again within 30 minutes of the last stop.

Only this Officer made a different decision than the warning Michael had just previously received.

And, within a matter of just seconds, Michael found himself staring down the barrel of a firearm.

Both alarmed and confused, Michael later decided to do something to figure out how this could have been prevented.

Spending over 50 hours doing ride-along sessions with Officers over the coming months thereafter…

Michael realized there was a solution to provide that would create a safer environment for both parties involved.

Because the statistics are quite alarming.

Most Officers are injured or killed during traffic stops than any other duty.

Couple that with the number of Drivers that have experienced a similar fate and you’ve got yourself a mess.

But rather than address a highly divisive issue, Michael initially deferred to his parking ticket app.

Both shocked and at a loss for words as to the story he just told me…

All I could think to say was “DUDE, that’s your why right there!”

We proceeded to re-shape Michael’s vision around his true cause.

And I’m happy to say I’m now a member of his Advisory Board at Check where you can learn more about the solution we’re creating.

But here’s what we have to get over…

And I assume that might be you, too, if you’re here reading this article about starting a Social Impact Startup.

We can’t be afraid to address the real problem.

I get why Michael was afraid.

And later that night, I challenged him to just go up and pitch his REAL story.

Where the audience was crickets before, he lit up the room…

Having never even practiced or rehearsed an actual pitch for this REAL thing he wanted.

And here’s why that matters more than anything else.

Maybe your struggles are Intelligently Designed for you to derive a solution.

Where we often look at them as hindrances or exclusionary blockades on our path.

I hear way too many “cute” ideas and pitches.

Things people don’t really care about but think they can get rich off of it.

You know what?

I push out new content every single day…

And I’d do it for free.


Sometimes I have to pinch myself as a reminder that I get paid money to help people become better entrepreneurs.

But this whole thing spawned from me diving into entrepreneurship in my early twenties and quickly realizing NOBODY taught me how to do it in school.

And if I can use my voice to help other people, I can then help others (like Michael) succeed in changing the world.

A trickle-down effect, if you will.

“Cute ideas are great but I want to see real solutions to BIG problems in the world…”

But so often we either tell ourselves we’re not qualified, don’t have the resources or just blame someone (largely bureaucrats) for not fixing the world’s problems.


You want to create an abundance of wealth for yourself?

Go make a list of the biggest problems in the world and devise a solution.

For real…

It’s sometimes that easy.

But we overcomplicate it with these fancy buzzwords like ML, AI and Blockchain.

Those are all GREAT things…

I’m not diminishing that.

But every new business idea doesn’t have to be trendy.

We still bury our trash in the ground.


Like a dog with his bone.

We pollute the skies that hold the same air we breathe.

Pretty crazy for a society that’s as advanced and intelligent as we are.

Look at Elon Musk.

One of the most recognizable and popular entrepreneurs on the planet.

What’s he doing?

Cars that use renewable energy…

Solar units that can power an entire home.

Train systems through tunnels run completely on clean energy.

Oh, and sending missiles to Mars (no biggie).

But you get my drift.

He’s not only making a fortune but making a massive impact just fixing problems.


It’s 2019 and yet we still bury the majority of our waste in the ground…

Photo by Emmet from Pexels

Okay, so, find a problem in the world you want to solve…


Now, let’s talk about practical steps forward.

The biggest advice I could give you before you make one move forward on this idea is to go research.

And when I say research, I mean total immersion.

Like I said, Michael did over 50 hours of ride-along sessions with Police Officers.

In so doing, he gained key insights as to how Police Officer’s worlds work.

If you listen to him talk, he can legit speak their lingo.

He knows the procedures, he knows the challenges, he knows the real opportunity.

My suggestion to Michael, which I would advise to you…

Is to try and find a job in the field you want to affect change. 


Because it’s legitimately like a paid internship!

50 hours of ride-alongs is great…

But what if you got PAID to do your research.

This idea, to really nail it, is going to take significant Domain Expertise.

Plus, if you have BIG ideas and are going to seek out investment capital…

They’re betting on you just as much as they are the idea.

In fact, it’s likely they are betting on you way more than anything.

So, equipping yourself with both the knowledge and understanding of the industry is an absolute MUST.

Next, I would say analyze your market.

Who’s out there doing what you aim to do?

And don’t FREAK out, as most do, when you see someone already exists.

Competition is a good thing.

I repeat, Competition is a GOOD thing.

If you walk into an investor pitch meeting and say something like “There’s NOBODY doing what we’re doing!” you’re going to lose them.

For real…

Like 9 times out of 10 they are done with you.

Because no competition means many have tried and failed already OR there’s not a market for what you’re doing…

And probably both.

So, we WANT competition.

Study what they do, how they do it and where you can fit in the space.

Something else to consider is how you can collaborate with the competition.

No joke…

I’ve heard of MANY stories where people reach out to a competitor, tell them what they’re doing, and they end up becoming huge strategic partners.

But that requires knowing where you fit in the market, the solution you provide in relation to theirs, and a focus on the same, value-driven, solution.

Next, I would start getting people on an email list to provide updates.

This list should also include Investors, if you’ve made those contacts.

The reason for this is you’re probably looking at a slow build.

Many people (nearly all) underestimate just how long it takes to get something off the ground.

And if you’re a newbie entrepreneur, you need to give yourself adequate time to learn and grow.

Having an email list and sending out updates is a great way to nurture prospective customers, partners, advisors and investors in one, full-swoop.

One of the biggest mistakes I hear from nearly all entrepreneurs is they say they wish they had focused on an email list sooner.

You can’t sell anything yet…

That’s OKAY!

Let people experience this journey with you.

It’s a way to turn people into superfans and likely customers when you launch.

It also impresses people, like potential funding sources, with how committed you are and the steps you’ve made forward.

Building rapport…

That’s the name of your game right now.

Last advice for today, albeit there’s so much more we can discuss…

Surround yourself with Mentors.

Seriously, you need people that have walked this path before.

The bigger your idea, the more hard-hitters you require.

Stretch yourself on this and don’t just settle for the next-door neighbor.

This is where getting plugged in with a program like an Accelerator is HUGE!

Literally, HUGE…

Because no way Michael snags my attention to be on his board were it not for that program.

People that are worthwhile to be in your corner say “NO” way more than “YES”.

So, blasting a cold outreach email to their inbox or a DM on LinkedIn isn’t likely to bear much fruit.

You’re going to have to get outside of your comfort zone on this one…

And make sure you WAIT until you KNOW it’s the right fit.

As with all business arrangements, they’re like mini-marriages…

You need to understand it’s a legal commitment.

In fact, marriages are actually easier to get out of than equity positions in your company (true story).

For a social impact play, it’s vital you have people that can open the doors you need opened.

In Michael’s case, Politicians, Sheriffs, Security Experts, etc.

I’m the lone marketer on his team (HA!).

And surrounded by a ton of techy nerds.

Which is awesome.

You want to have a well-rounded team.

And that team should fill in where you have weaknesses so you can focus on where you thrive.

Don’t be afraid to give up equity seats for partners and/or advisors.

If you have a BIG play with massive upside, you’re going to need all hands on deck but you don’t currently have the capital to afford the expertise and manpower you need.

Get a Lawyer, have them take you through the process of setting up a legal entity (Likely a Delaware C-Corp)…

And get to work.

But don’t be afraid to go after your true why.

Because people just like you change the world every single day


Michael Odiari, Founder of Check


Check App

Tips on Growing a Two-Sided Market Business or App | Marketing & Client Acquisition

Tips on Growing a Two-Sided Market Business or App | Marketing & Client Acquisition

Tips on Growing a Two-Sided Market Business or App

Chris Michael Harris, Executive Producer


The hardest part about building a two-sided market business is having multiple different sets of target audiences and then nailing your marketing…

I help people master their 60-second (oe Elevator) pitch every single week…

And without question, the people it’s hardest to pick it up are those with a two-sided market business.

Half the time they pitch as though they are appealing to one side and our mentors would prefer they pitch the other side.

The next week they do indeed pitch the other side and the new set of mentors wonder why they’re omitting the side they pitched the week before.

It becomes almost predictable how people are going to respond.

And backing up to a macro level to accomodate BOTH sides only makes the pitch seem vague and not specific enough.

And that’s just talking about Elevator Pitches…so imagine building a business in this manner.

Now, not all cases are this severe.

If you look at concepts like Airbnb, Uber or really any Gig/Shared Economy platform, there’s usually commonality or a central value prop that is uniform across the board.

Or at least it’s very easy to articulate that in very short order.

For example: Think about Uber…

People need to make side or supplemental income + people need rides to places.

At which point you can then jump into countering your objections.

In the case of Uber (and Airbnb) it’s alleviating safety concerns.

I’ll readily admit I DID NOT think Uber would work purely on the premise that it’s glorified hitchhiking with a smart phone.

And thus, the feedback loop creates a more secure environment so much so that parents will send their kids off to school or soccer practice in an Uber…

Quite literally contradicting any piece of advice my parents gave to me about cars and strangers.

So, let’s address what YOU can do to get both sides of your market to see the uniformity and opportunity in your own two-sided business or app.

Uber was glorified hitchhiking with a smart phone before the feedback loop alleviated safety concerns.

Photo by from Pexels

Personally, I think the most important thing you can do is WORK IN THE INDUSTRY…

Scratch your own itch, as one of my favorite books, “Rework”, states.

Because this gives you a fundamental understanding of WHAT is the CORE problem in the industry.

Ideas are great and I’m all for folks just spawning new ideas.

But literally everyone I know that has or is building a successful company of any type, including two-sided market businesses…

Started with the roll-up-your-sleeves work.

Like my guest on the podcast today, Ben Hodge, his business started as a means to just collect and hold money for venues and corresponding musicians.

He knew that was a huge issue because, guess what?

He worked in the industry and saw it was a BIG problem not having a third-party, reliable source to hold the funds.

And it started with him just literally hanging on to the cash like you’d see in an illegal street race in a Fast and Furious flick.

That has now evolved into him providing that same service but now ALSO connecting venues with musicians as well.

However, without the basic knowledge and understanding of the real issue, no way he arrives at his current business model.

And even if he somehow did, no way he understands their world enough to communicate the real value.

So, the first step is to immerse yourself in the world you want to serve.

Even if it means “starting from scratch.”

Every overnight success started with an everyday hustler…

You are no exception to that rule…nor am I.

In fact, I do the exact same thing in every new industry I enter.

“How do I literally insert myself in that world?” is the first thing I ask myself.

For many of you, this might be easy.

Because you might have a job currently in the industry you want to innovate.

View that as an investment, not a waste of time.

Because you’re literally being PAID to basically intern for your own startup!

For real!

Next, you’re going to want to think about how you can scale the basic iteration of what you’re doing…

Again, this isn’t entirely (if at all) different than the advice I would give to any other business.

But, fortunately for you, the same holds true for two-sided market businesses.


So, figure out how you can scale your efforts from what Ben was doing as just the middle man collecting money in one town to doing it at a larger capacity.

And the reason I want you to do this first BEFORE you start investing heavily in some app is because you need more of a sample size.

You’re going to have different customer avatar sets and they may value things differently than what you think.

For example: Let’s say Ben has been working with one, mid-sized venue.

And for them, it’s a GREAT value add that he can collect and transmit payments for them.

But, for whatever reason, for a smaller or larger venue either the transaction is too small to require an intermediary OR too large to trust a dude walking around with their cash…

In this case, Ben has built a model solely based on ONE customer avatar profile…

Mid-sized venues.

Maybe that’s enough, based on your market…

But often times it isn’t.

Further, maybe he finds MOST venues only prefer a specific kind of music.

Maybe their ideal customer (or client) avatar is middle-aged, Empty Nesters.

And the musicians he has agreed to work with play heavy metal.

You see what I mean here?

There’s so much more at stake here than just showing it works once.

And I see many people sink LOADS of money into Dev before they’ve TRULY sampled their entire addressable market.

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, just don’t skimp on the market research and take affordable steps.

“Your current job may actually be like you getting paid as an intern for your own startup…”

Okay, so now you’ve served your entire market…

Fat people, skinny people, rich people, poor people, large venues, small venues…etc, etc, etc.

At this point you are likely going to KNOW the commonalities.

In other words, what’s the CORE essence of your value prop?

I can’t tell you what it is without context, you’ll just know it when you see it.

And it’s going to show up in your marketing.

Let me give you an example.

We are reading “The Power of Habit: By Charles Duhigg” in my Book Club Community.

And one of the stories I was fascinated by was the story of how Febreeze got it’s start.

Did you know Proctor & Gamble almost scrapped that entire project?

And here’s why…

The leads for that initiative THOUGHT people would buy Febreeze because they knew they had stinkiness going on in their homes.

They BETA tested certain markets and did follow ups with particular individuals.

What they thought was dead wrong.

Because they THOUGHT people would use it because they were embarrassed about the stink.

But that wasn’t it at all…

At least not for EVERYONE.

But they built this entire notion around ONE test subject that worked in a park and was exposed to skunks…

Like, a lot of skunks.

She struggled with her dating life as a result and literally cried when she discovered Febreeze and told her story to the P&G folks.

They took that ONE sample and built a marketing strategy around it.

And it flopped…

To the point where, again, P&G almost killed the entire project.

Out a desperation (and to keep their jobs), the leads for the team went back out to survey.

And what they found was the MAJORITY of people liked the reward they got after cleaning and finishing off with Febreeze.

Febreeze was like the “job-well-done” cherry on top of their hard work.

And that then exploded the product to what it is today as well as all of the similar products that have followed.

See why it matters to be thorough?

Freaking Febreeze almost failed due to poor marketing and limited sample size.

Don’t make that mistake…

Know your people at scale and your marketing will be calculated, not vague.

People bought Febreeze because it signified a job-well-done…and not because of stink awareness. Not knowing that almost killed the project.

Photo by Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

Now, this next one is REALLY slick and I’ve seen it done beautifully.

In fact, I’m a part of a startup that is utilizing this very same tactic.

And that’s to literally leverage one side of your market against the other.

And I don’t mean in a combative sense.

Rather, to influence the other side that your business or app is the place to be.

Here’s the example I saw that might give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.

Electric Scooters are all the rave here in Austin, TX.

I just saw an article where we’re getting 500 more from some new company.

It’s literally bananas, they are everywhere.

But 18 months ago from the time I’m writing this they barely existed.

Being an early adopter, I hopped on one, filled out the info and was shocked when I got to the clear opposite side of downtown for just 3 bucks!


And I thought Uber was economically friendly!

But here’s where the magic happened.

Upon completing my rental, I was prompted with a message that said, “Hey! Did you enjoy your ride?”

Once I selected 5-Stars, it said something like, “Great! We need your help to bring more scooters to Austin!”

It told me it would only take 3 seconds and to start by clicking the button below.

Now, the key here is that it did INDEED only take three seconds.

When I clicked the button it opened up my email app on my phone with a drafted up email.

The email said something to the effect of “Dear Representative, I want more scooters in Austin because….”

It went on in very diplomatic fashion as to why scooters were a good thing in my city.

What’s more is the Mayor of Austin was already pre-filled as the receiver of the email AND they CC’d his office staff.

Why does that matter?

It works on MULTIPLE levels…

For one, the Mayor is now receiving bulk messages directly FROM the user.

And his office staff is seeing that he’s getting them.

So it not only showed him this is important but they kind of put his pants to the fire by pinging his staff too.

Now OTHER people know he’s getting this messages at large.

And instead of the COMPANY, in this case Bird Scooters, begging bureaucrats to give them a chance, they leveraged what was probably an agreed upon BETA/Pilot test into a full fledged fleet in the city.

Pretty amazing, right?

Talk about the power of technology and reversing control in the situation.

And here’s the thing…

You can EASILY use a similar tactic.

In this case, the city wasn’t paying for the scooters but Bird absolutely needed them on board.

You may have a situation where both sides are paying customers.

So, imagine this…

If there’s no Uber Drivers do you think anyone is going to Uber?

If there’s no Uber Riders do you think anyone is going to drive for Uber?

You have to constantly use one side of your market to grow the other…

And vice versa.

Hopefully, in your case, you maybe have a little bit of time before transactions occur, unlike Uber.

With a platform like that, people expect to be able to immediately USE it…

Which creates an entirely different set of problems and probably significant marketing efforts plus a massive budget.

And in the early days you may remember Uber folks posting up everywhere (like gas stations) trying to get people to sign up and drive.

It’s a whirlwind, let me tell you.

But focusing on signing up ONE side of your two-sided market may enable you to leverage others into signing up too.

You’ll have to use your discretion as to which side makes more sense to approach first.

And hopefully they can operate knowing it’s something you’re working on with a TBD release date.


The last thing we want to talk about today focusing hyper-local to start.

Which may sound contradictory to what I told you before about working with all sorts of folks to find commonalities.

But in this sense, what you want to create is a small ecosystem as a BETA run.

College towns are wonderful for accomplishing this.

Because students are often early adopters…

And if you think about it, a college campus is really like a mini-town.

My first business was launched from a college town and it really allowed us to keep our costs low plus run controlled testing with a motivated audience.

Now, students are totally broke so keep that in mind.

But if it’s something they care about enough it’s funny how fast mommy and daddy’s credit card will make an appearance.


Making your concept work in a smaller ecosystem gives you a case study.

It also means it’s more likely for you to knock down doors to get started.

I just interviewed the Founder of Axon, Rick Smith.

They are the largest provider in the country (possibly the world) of advanced Law Enforcement Equipment like Body Cams and Tasers.

He told me they started out of a garage and focused first on giving free demos to police stations in small towns.

Like I said, it’s much easier to get a foot in the door but it also gives you a controlled, not chaotic, BETA opportunity that you can use to take to larger ecosystems once you’ve grown.

All businesses start small, or at least they should.

Facebook started for just Harvard Students, then Ivy League Schools, then all colleges and eventually half the population on earth.

Your concept should be no different.

Take affordable steps and manage your growth while also starting with your low-hanging fruit.





Pin It on Pinterest