Recycle. This one word is beginning to hold a lot more significance than we can think of especially in times of the rising threat of global warming. At such times, Inkground.com has come up with effective eco-solutions in the print cartridge industry.

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eBrandz caught up with the owner of Inkground.com, Gary Guan, who opens up about his inspiration to begin this company and his journey till date.

Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.

Ans: Inkground.com, which started in early 2010, is an online retailer of printer supplies in the US. We provide re-manufactured and compatible Ink Toner and Drum Cartridges for customers in the USA and Canada. Our mission is to provide you quality printer supplies at discount prices.

Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.

Ans: My name is Gary Guan, I am the founder of INKGROUND.COM. I was in MIS (Management Information System) at San Jose State University in California USA. Before moving to printer cartridge sales, I spent 3 years working in an automotive dealership to get experience in sales.

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?

Ans: For me, any recycling business is attractive. I just happened to find this printer supply business related to recycling and decided to enter. Doing business and saving the environment at the same time, why not?

How important have good employees been to your success?

Ans: There are no “bad” employees, only “bad” employers. Good leadership is the most important factor in any business and employees in turn become a company’s most important asset.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Ans: I don’t remember who said these, but “Life has different kinds of path. You can’t walk them all. Choose one of them carefully; once you decide which way to go, stick with it.”

“For every action, there is a reaction; good or bad, you must be willing to take it”

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Ans: I don’t really think life allows an “if”; everyone lives in the moment. “If” only make a person lose his focus.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Ans: The most important skill a successful entrepreneur needs to learn is how to share. There are millions of people plagued by starvation right at this moment, if you don’t learn how to share within your ability, you will never have a peaceful mind no matter how rich you are. If you have 10 dollars, would you mind sharing 3 dollars with people in need in your city? One must learn how to be a responsible person first, before doing business with others.

The second most important skill to have is the ability to deal with “good” time. One can easily lose one’s sense of purpose if you become too “greedy” and lose out on the “good moments” for your company.

The third most important skill is the ability to deal with “bad” time. One can easily lose his sense of purpose because “hatred” will take charge of your mind.

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

Ans: Good Question. I don’t have an answer for that now.

How many hours do you work a day on average?

Ans: 12 hours.

How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?

Ans: Everyone in my family has supported my business idea.

What motivates you?

Ans: The motivation for me is to be a contributor in this society. The more money I make, the better a contributor I will become. Rich or poor, everyone can be a contributor and I want to be one of them.

How do you generate new ideas?

Ans: Websites can be extremely helpful. I am able to generate new ideas by reading articles on different websites. However, too much information can also cause confusion.

What is your greatest fear?

Ans: My greatest fear is dying without being able to help others.

What are your ideals?

Ans: My ideals are up to me, up to what I do while I am alive.

How do you define success?

Ans: Success is within a person’s mind. I can be successful everyday, you can be successful everyday. For example, when you make food for the homeless, their smile is your success, their “thank you” is your success.

What is the best way to achieve long-term success?

Ans: The best way to achieve long term success is to focus on the present. Do not dwell on what was because it is history and not on what will be either, for it is yet to happen.

Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it?

Ans: All the organization’s funding have come from my savings from my previous job. As a small business starter, I did a lot to cut the cost down. I not only design but also worked on web mastering, photography, editing and accounting my business website.

How do you build a successful customer base?

Ans: I have built a strong customer base mainly via Google Adwords.

How did you decide on the location for your business?

Ans: I live in California, USA, so I decided to do business with all my customers in the USA.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

Ans: Other people’s formula can be my reference but there is no particular pattern to follow. Everybody makes his or her own path.

If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?

Ans: I’d like to talk to Fan Li. He was a successful Chinese businessman who donated all his money to the poor; he started from the scratch all over again to reach the top. I’d like to ask him “why was he willing to do that and how did he feel?”

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Ans: Once again, it has got to be Fan Li.

Which are you favourite books?

Ans: CSS the definitive guide, HTML the definitive guide, Javascript the definitive guide, and adobe CS3 web premium book.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Ans: Financial freedom and more time to spend doing what I like to do instead of worrying about not having enough money to cover the living cost.

What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Ans: 1)Total dedication: I have to know every aspect of my business. Product quality, pricing, inventory size, the different advertisements, what saves money, what doesn’t.)

2)Peace of mind: Learn when to not focus and recharge your mind.

3)Don’t try to control: If you try to control everything, you will fail in all. Do your best and the results will follow; learn to relax at any moment.

4)Don’t try to own anything: Nothing is yours when you die; use all the resources you have, but don’t try to own them. You will be a much better person if you think everything is what you have, not what you own.

5)No Confrontation: the fault isn’t always of the other person. If they are angry at you, think why, instead of confronting that person.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Ans: A thank you letter, recurrent customers, a laugh on the phone…

What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

Ans: Entrepreneurs and employees are interchangeable. You can be an entrepreneur today and tomorrow walk away from it to work for someone else and vice-versa. Life is amazing if you watch it closer.

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Ans: Google adwords is the only way I market so far and I have also begun marketing on ebrandz.

What kind of culture exists in your organization?

Ans: The culture I have established is that everyone seeks quality of life; its not just you so think of the others always.

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.

Ans: Flowing water

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?

Ans: Not being able to learn how to share until my late twenties. I would have been much better if I had learned it earlier.

How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?

Ans: Everyday is a test, what I say, what I think, what I do, sometimes I pass, sometimes I fail, but I will always work my best towards a perfect score, other things, just don’t think to much.

What are your hobbies?

Ans: Working out, cooking and serving food for the homeless, and also the more popular, Youtube-ing.

What makes you happy?

Ans: Everything, as long as you don’t point a gun at me and shoot me, I am happy.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

Ans: Time. A huge amount of time. I’ve spent over one year working on my website which has consumed a lot of my time.

Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?

Ans: Jiangsu Huangpu Investment (Group) – The largest industry recycling company in China. This company takes reusable materials from discarded buildings and equipments and melts them to reuse them.

Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?

Ans: In 10 years: 1 ten thousand sq ft warehouse full of recycled printer cartridges and other products, 5-10 employees and a big sponsor of a local charity organization.

20 years: At least ten elementary schools or food banks in rural area of China named under me or my company. No one can remember me when I die, they will only remember what I do, so I would want to remembered as a role model.

If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?

Ans: Don’t really have one, thanks.