Q) Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
A) Shoptimized is a theme for Shopify store owners to plug in to their store to help increase their conversions and make more money. We’re a 100% virtual business. I live in Costa Rica but am originally from the UK. We have team members in the USA, Bali, Ukraine, India, Georgia, Philippines & Argentina.
Q) Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
A) I live in Costa Rica with my wife and 5 (soon to be 6 kids). I’m originally from the UK but lived in Spain for 4 years before moving to Costa Rica. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and never lasted long with any jobs I’ve had. There have been times when businesses have been struggling or failed and I’ve had to get a job and I hated it. Having someone to answer to makes me utterly miserable. I’m also a 7th Dan Blackbelt in the Bujinkan.
Q) What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
A) I launched a Shopify e-commerce training course in 2015 teaching store owners about split-testing and conversion rate optimization but I realised the market wasn’t ready for it yet because many store owners were still struggling with traffic and finding winning products to sell. The Shopify theme I’d developed was a free bonus that was given away with the course. I realised that people were more interested in the theme than they were spending the time going through the training so I turned it into a standalone product that’s now the #1 Unofficial Shopify Theme.
Q) What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
1. Keep going! There will be many times when you want to give up because things are hard and you feel unsupported by people around you. Perseverance pays off.
2. Know your numbers – anytime I have run into trouble it’s because I haven’t kept a tight control over key metrics in the business.
3. Gain a deep understanding of your market and customer avatar by literally putting yourself in their shoes. Know what makes them tick and which emotions drive their purchasing decisions. Use that to write copy that converts.
Q) What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1. Vision – Without a clear vision of what your product/business stands for and where you want to take it, you will flounder.
2. Communication – If you can’t communicate your vision clearly and get everyone on your team working towards that goal, things won’t go smoothly. Marketing also comes under the banner of communication, you need a deep understanding of direct response marketing to get noticed and get people buying from you.
3. Leadership – You must be able to delegate to and motivate your team to deliver what you promise your customers.
Q) How many hours do you work a day on average?
A) It varies, depending on the demands of the business, in the early days I was working 12 – 14 hour days 6 r 7 days a week. More recently I have been averaging 4 hours per day.
Q) To what do you most attribute your success?
A) The tenacity to keep going, there have been times when my wife begged me to get a ‘normal job’ but I never gave up on the vision I had (even though I did get a job for a few months to keep my marriage).
Q) How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A) We advertise on Facebook, Google & YouTube. Giving away a free e-book on email marketing (a subject that we knew our audience were hungry for). Once we have their email address, we nurture them and educate them on the benefits of our products. Affiliates have also been a key way to bring in new business.
Q) Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
A) I’ve always avoided taking on investors – that would be buying myself a boss. We’ve funded our growth, we could have grown faster with investors but I’m happy with what we’ve achieved without outsiders coming into the business.
Q) What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
A) Reinvesting profits into innovating new products or improvements to existing products. Keeping the customer in mind and always doing the right thing. Building a happy and loyal team.
Q) Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
A) I have an exit strategy within 5 years. I want to spend time with my family and indulge in hobbies and self-actualisation.
Q) Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
A) I really admire Mindvalley, they have created an amazing community around training courses that change peoples’ lives.
Q) How important have good employees been to your success?
A) They are instrumental, we’ve made some disastrous mis-hires that have really set the business back. It’s worth investing in a quality team, the ROI is far higher than trying to save on cheaper people that are a let down.
Q) How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
A) It depends, if I passionately believe in it, my gut instinct calls me to it and it’s aligned with my values then I don’t give up. If something is just a whim that doesn’t flow, then I quickly give up on it.
Q) What motivates you?
A) Other than the obvious one of providing for my family, I’m driven by helping people succeed in e-commerce by using my products and them learning from my experience gained from working with some of the world’s most sophisticated brands.
Q) How do you generate new ideas?
A) We get feedback from our prospects and customers and look at where the market is going. Surveys are a great tool for this and so is being in Facebook groups. I look at competitors too.
Q) How do you define success?
A) Recognition in the marketplace and money in the bank. Being successful in the home whilst having a business is important too. So many entrepreneurs let their relationships suffer to achieve success.
Q) What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
A) The freedom it gives me, I love being able to take time off without anyone questioning me. Being able to design my life and live anywhere is great too.
Q) What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
A) Getting great feedback from customers that are doing really well with the stores is great. Hitting our first $1m in revenue was a great milestone too.
Q) What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
A) Employee-minded people are too scared to take the risk of starting their own business. To me being employed is far scarier.
Q) In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
A) An adventure
Q) If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
A) I already did twice but if I needed to again I would do something that helps humanity more directly.
Q) How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
A) It’s been tough at times and nearly cost me my marriage 5 years ago. When I was a workaholic my wife really struggled but she’s always been supportive.
Q) How did you decide on the location for your business?
A) It’s virtual, I had a previous business that was tied to my home town and found it very restrictive.
Q) If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
A) I’d love to have dinner with Nikola Tesla, his insights and inventions would have made our world a very different place had they not been suppressed.
Q) What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
A) Racking up $100,000 of credit card debt trying to make a previous venture work.
Q) What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
A) I love to surf. I’m really into the Wim Hof method and ice baths lately too. I also teach ninjutsu.
Q) What makes you happy?
A) Seeing my kids really enjoy life. Being in nature. Doing my hobbies. Spending time with my wife.
Q) What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
A) I’ve given up way too much family time in the early days. I’ve also lost a lot of personal wealth trying to get ventures off the ground.