Entrepreneurial Update, April 2018

I know I’ve had posts like this in the past, each time thinking I’m finally well on my to success, only to see my ideas, hard work and investment end in failure without producing any results. So I’m hesitant to, once again, post an update like this, but it’s  different this time — really! 🙂

The sale of my share of the farm at the very end of last year for $130,000 has given new life to our entrepreneurial endeavors.

My insurance venture stalled in January when I got discourage for a couple of reasons. The local office of American Senior Benefits – and broker Carmine Lombano, specifically, provided some pretty good support. I started out with a bit of a bang, setting 8 appointments the first time I sat down at a phone at their office in early January. Carmine and others in his office went with me on the appointments. After a week or so, I started to go on a few appointments on my own. However, I wasn’t having any success. While I realize it takes time to develop a business like this, I nevertheless got discouraged fairly quickly.

Some early sales would have helped, but I also realized that I really didn’t enjoy the sales process – the phone calls, the visits, and all the driving. I reverted back to my long-time goal of working from home, and having a business that’s portable where I can work from just about anywhere.

One of the products we were trying to sell was long-term care insurance and to make a long story short, I discovered that there were agents who were specialists in that niche, and who would share commissions with me if I sent referrals to them.

So I developed https://LTCare.net, with the intention of promoting it on Facebook, gathering leads in a 2-step process, and passing them on to one of the specialists.

Not long after this, I was contacted by Gary Lassin, who told me about Aliera Healthcare, who partnered with Unity Healthshare to offer a non-insurance solution to healthcare.

I decided this would be a good fit as well, so am currently developing https://aliera.horningagency.com. This one will require some direct contact with the leads that I develop, but Aliera has made it easy for to sign up online and give me credit for the sale so I’m hoping I can generate sales without a whole lot of effort once I get it off the ground.

At the end of January, I came across Alison Prince and her ecommerce coaching program. I knew Susan was always looking for something she could find success in. For a while she was interested in the insurance business, but her enthusiasm started waning when she saw how difficult it was just to pass the license exam. Anyway, Alison’s program seemed like something she would enjoy and when I mentioned it to Susan, she liked the idea.

So we signed up and Susan started going through the training and started looking for products she could sell online. This went on for a few weeks and Susan was having trouble finding something to sell. She also was having trouble in deciding which direction she really wanted to go with it – whether it be in the direction of building her own brand of fashion items or building a site like Zulily, which is a platform that hosts many brands.

The latter idea is similar to what I had long-wanted to do under names like Bullbor, Yalzi and LocalStakes, so there was a bit of conflict there that I felt we needed to resolve.

In fact, while Susan was trying figure out her goals, the Yalzi/LocalStakes project was well on it’s way to being revived for about the 5th time. In December, when I knew the sale of the farm was imminent, I had started thinking about this project again, and this was also one of the reasons I lost some interest in insurance, at least on the Medicare side of it. The Yalzi/LocaStakes project has been my passion for a number of years now. But I’ll get back to that in a moment.

During the time of uncertainty for Susan (late Feb/early Mar), I wanted to help, but didn’t know how. I had long known that Amazon could provide a way to get into ecommerce, but that’s not what Alison taught, and I had avoided that direction for years, wanting to get into something even bigger, namely my own ecommerce platform.

But when Susan got stuck with her program, I began looking at Amazon more earnestly, and to make a long-story short, ended up investing in the Just One Dime (JOD) coaching program, run by Seth Kniep. His program is much better organized and supported than Alison’s, in my opinion. It’s got a different focus to be sure, but there are a lot similarities, with the overall idea being to find a product, source it from a Chinese manufacturer, and then sell it online.

So now, for the moment at least, we are focused on following Seth’s program with plans to sell on Amazon. We think we’ve found some potential products, but are forced to hold off on trying to source it, partly because the JOD system doesn’t allow us to view that section of the training yet, and partly because I have too many other things going on to devote time to it, include income tax preparation, which I have put off too long.

Getting back to LocalStakes/Yalzi, I wrote yet another business plan for the project in December, renaming it Localzi.com, at least for the time-being. This time, I’ve added what I believe will be a key feature, namely a multi-vendor marketplace. This was added to what I used to consider the core idea –  a “local sweepstakes”, but now the sweepstakes plays more of a supporting role to the ecommerce platform.

This addition of a multi-vendor ecommerce platform, makes my project very similar to Groupon, which currently focuses on selling discounted vouchers on behalf of local businesses. But the addition of the sweepstakes make it very unique. The challenge might be to grow that business quickly enough that it gets some traction before Groupon, which is a very large and well-established company, gets wind of what we’re doing and decides to compete with me.

Localzi is definitely the riskiest of all my ventures, but it also has the greatest potential. It would probably be best to partner with someone who’s skilled at marketing and promotion – and comfortable with being in the limelight. The project could really use a charismatic leader. I think my son, Michael, actually has some of the skills that could help make this a success, but at the moment he’s not interested. I don’t think he’s quite ready for other reasons as well, but it’s a thought for the future.

You can find the Localzi business plan here, and a description of the website here. In January, I selected yet another developer to create this latest version – Oleg Sokolov in St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m crossing my fingers this time, considering my poor track record with developers. His original bid was $2000, although it’s currently at $2250. I think that’s actually a very good price for what I’ve asked, but just hope we can stay close to that budget through launch, which I expect to happen in the Summer. I’ll also have significant advertising costs.

So, the bottom line is that I have four projects going on simultaneously, none of which has produced a dime yet in revenue. Two are insurance and two are ecommerce-related, but there’s virtually no overlap among any of them, although the one thing that they all have in common is that they can be managed and operated from any location.

Practically speaking, I can really only focus on one at a time – which is currently Aliera, although I have to keep jumping to the others at times. The good thing about having so many ongoing projects is that when I reach a waiting point on one, I can jump to another.

Of course, the downside is that I will trouble giving each project the attention it deserves and may end up failing because I can’t devote enough time or energy to one or the other at a critical time.

I’m going to do my best. It’s kind of “make or break” time. We have a fairly comfortable cushion of cash at the moment, but when, and if, that runs out, we’ll have to make some hard decisions. I’m just hoping that one of the ideas starts producing income before that time, which will help keep everything else going. Of course, I may weed out projects that aren’t producing in favor of those that are. Despite the risks of working on too many projects, it’s good to have diversity, with the possibility of having more than one income stream.

Perhaps what I need to do, more than anything else, is recognize the true reason for my past failures. There are multiple reason to be sure, but probably one over-arching reason which I don’t fully understand or am even cognizant of.

I know that I have some of the skills necessary for success, but seem to be lacking one or more of the essential ones. Perhaps the missing ingredient is simply a long-term commitment.

In the past, I’ve gotten ideas, put a lot of time, energy, and oftentimes money into them, only to lose interest when I run into a road-block. In my case, I believe the biggest roadblock I’ve run into is sales and marketing. You can have a great idea, but it won’t go anywhere if you don’t know how to sell it.

But that’s where commitment and persistence come in. History has proven that we humans can overcome virtually any obstacle with enough persistence.

By writing this down, I’m giving myself a little encouragement and making a public commitment to persist until I’ve achieved success. Perhaps no one will ever read this, but myself, but maybe that’s good enough.

Heavenly Father wants every one of us to be successful and I’m no exception. That doesn’t mean that we can all achieve the same type or level of success, but we can all achieve success within our own sphere and in our own way.

My success will never be the same success that others have achieved, but I know that, in some way, I can be more successful than I currently am. There’s always room for personal improvement no matter what level you’re at.

Of course, this implies that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. We should measure our success against ourselves, not against others, although this is much easier said than done. Most of us are much too prideful to view our success that way.

I don’t have time to explore this further right now. I want to end by simply saying I pledge to do my best to achieve whatever level of success I’m capable of, with the Lord’s help.

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