Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sparkling Success Story

Ambesh and Reena Khanna aren't just partners in business, but in life too. The husband-wife duo today operates three successful online jewellery stores.

Reena Khanna has always had a flair for drawing. She realized that she could convert this skill into a profitable business proposition by creating personally designed jewellery for women all over the world. Her husband, Ambesh, was supportive of helping her make her dream a reality. “To believe in your dreams and receive that trust & support from your partner is all that you need to turn your passion into a business.” says Reena. Ambesh & Reena set up their first online store 'Khanna Jewels' on eBay, the world's largest online marketplace, back in July 2003, adopting global online payment solution, PayPal to take their business to the world.

Photo of Mr and Mrs KhannaReena believes that running an online business is the perfect solution for the modern Indian woman who often finds it a challenge to juggle the responsibilities of both family and work. “Because we have an online business, I'm able to work from home and spend more time with our family”, she says. It has also strengthened her relationship with her husband, Ambesh. “Working together has made us better partners in life. Spending more time together at work has its ups and downs but it has made us more mature at handling work and life as a whole.” As partners, they rely on their respective strengths to make their business work. Reena conceptualises and designs their jewellery, and oversees jewellery production. Ambesh oversees the operations, logistics and financial matters.

When asked about the secret to their success, Reena says “It is about making right product available at the right time and at the right place. Our diamonds and jewellery pieces are high-quality but affordable. We found a number of fair-priced courier companies that offer logistical support in delivery. Best of all, eBay and PayPal have enabled us to set up a business online which means we have an opportunity to work together and spend more time at home too with our family.”

Before taking their business online, Reena and Ambesh sold their jewellery in a more traditional fashion - sending samples to interested customers, waiting for their decisions to buy and then receiving payments for goods, often resulting in payments delayed for months. They found that setting up a PayPal account was easy and convenient, with no hidden costs or sign-up fees, and most importantly it made collecting payments a breeze. Once they set up their store online and integrated PayPal, they never faced the problem of delayed payments again.

Ambesh finds that using PayPal has helped to simplify their entire business process. “When we were operating offline, we had problems with attracting potential buyers, maintaining payment credit cycles, order procurements, travelling expenses and debt notes. Integrating PayPal has helped us to bring more customers to our online stores. The sale conversion ratio with PayPal users is as high as 99%.”

In addition, using a trusted payment solution like PayPal also created sense of confidence amongst their potential overseas customers. “As a woman who loves jewellery, I understand the apprehension of purchasing jewellery online when you may not be able to ensure the authenticity of what you buy.” Reena acknowledges. “However, the eBay and PayPal brand bring credibility and trust, removing any concerns that the buyer has. Moreover, we have never faced any fraudulent activity thanks to PayPal's screening & verification processes. They lead industry standards in terms of security.”

PayPal has over 117 million active accounts in 190 markets worldwide and supports payments in up to 25 currencies. This global reach has helped Ambesh and Reena expand their business across markets in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Singapore. 98% of transactions made by overseas buyers are made through PayPal. They have also been able to build trust and trade with buyers from smaller, traditionally untapped markets like Finland, Norway and Belgium which contribute significantly to their revenues.

Over time, their business has evolved and expanded across other categories of diamond products. Today, the couple's business partnership has paid off and they now run three stores on eBay selling their jewellery across the globe. These three online stores specialise in three different areas. Khannajewels comprises of diamond jewellery, cocktail rings, and high end luxurious jewels while Solitaireworld sells solitaire earrings/studs and solitaire rings. Estatejewelles sells estate & Victorian-inspired jewellery.

Today, the Khanna's have a dedicated team of designers, developers, goldsmiths. Reena designs her jewellery in-house and their jewellery is manufactured in factories in Surat, Delhi and Jaipur. Ambesh and Reena are now focused on further expanding their thriving online business.

Ambesh is proud of the business his wife inspired. “My wife's passion for jewels has no boundaries! She has an uncanny ability to conceptualize and create jewellery that is a perfect fusion of Indian ethnicity and contemporary trends.” He says, “eBay and PayPal have helped us take her designs to the world. It's also given us the opportunity to work together and maintain a good work-life balance which has been great for the family! eBay and PayPal enable e-commerce, helping young entrepreneurial couples like us dream big!”


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

6 Self Made Millionaire Case Studies

The other day I was on HARO… actually, let me rephrase that: The other day my virtual assistant was on HARO… looking for case studies of people who had become self made (my all encompassing obsession as of late). Lots of people responded to our query, but 6 stood out as legitimate and inspiring self made millionaires and I thought I’d share their stories with you.
Now do note that these stories aren’t written or really edited by me, they were either written by the person’s publicist or by the millionaire themselves (you can guess which one is which). I decided to leave them this way so my thoughts or personality wouldn’t taint the information a savvy reader can gather from these 6 self made case studies.
Enjoy and let me know your thoughts afterwards… I’m impartial to their stories but I think each has interesting and inspirational lesson to be learned from.
self made millionaire - jessie conners

If there is a strong go-getter, self-made, female entrepreneur who has followed her passions to launch not just one, but four successful small businesses; it would be Jessie Conners.
Her life is a true rags-to-riches story – she went from a trailer with no running water – to an orphanage – to opening a marketing company at 17 – to buying her first piece of real estate at 19. At 20, Jessie was a published author, then a reality star at 21 (Donald Trump’s The Apprentice).
Jessie became a national speaker (speaking at over 1500 real estate conventions) and by 27 started her e-tail company Now, at 28, Jessie is finally a multi-millionaire – and she achieved all of it by chasing the dream of becoming self made.
This year, real estate magnate, author and owner of newly minted PeppermintPark expects to shatter glass ceilings with sales reaching close to a million from her latest endeavor.
By having a unique member model coupled with featuring over 300 designers that appeal to women from all walks of life, she’s looking for her Minneapolis-based one stop, online shop to almost 10 thousand members.
Jessie’s fearlessness and tenacity has wowed the likes of notables from Donald Trump when she appeared on the first season of The Apprentice as the youngest contestant to date.


self made millionaire - Bert MartinezThe keys to becoming self made and a self made millionaire are:
The saying, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he“, not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.
So all people are self made, the real difference between a millionaire or a billionaire
or a zillionaire is knowledge and fear. Most people know what to do but are afraid to take action. They are afraid of money, success, criticism, work, failure, success and the list goes on. Their self-esteem or unconscious belief controls their results.
Through marketing I became a self-made “millionaire” by the time I was 30 and filed bankruptcy at 32. My self esteem surrounding money reared its ugly head, then marketing and sales allowed me to hit millionaire status again at age 35.
My company Bert Martinez Communications is dedicated to teaching small business owners strategies to grow their business and their self image so they avoid the mistakes I made.

self made millionaire - Todd TresidderCompany: Money Coach

I’ve been coaching clients to wealth for the last 12 years after achieving financial independence at age 35. I’ve written extensively on the keys to self-made wealth. It is my passion.
From a sound bite perspective the key to building wealth is to make more than you spend and invest the difference wisely. Rinse and repeat until wealth is achieved. No secret there. The key is not in knowing what to do, the key is in getting it done
* You must have a plan.
* The plan must be based on proven principles that lead to wealth including leverage, risk management, and much more.
* You must set up support structures to pull you through when you run into the inevitable obstacles and setbacks.
* You must understand the concept of “enough-ness” and the tradeoffs involved because the goal is happiness and fulfillment – not wealth. Wealth is a tool or vehicle but never the end goal.
I retired at age 35 by saving roughly 60-70% of my earned income and investing it wisely. I published an article explaining exactly how the process works here.

Company: Home Referral Network

self made millionaire - Debra CohenBecoming a self made millionaire, doesn’t only require hard work, it requires discipline. Earning millions of dollars is irrelevant if you spend more than you earn. Living lean and saving for the future have always been my mantra in addition to maintaining an affordable and conservative lifestyle.
As soon as my Homeowner Referral Network business started to generate a good income, my first priority was to save at least 1/2 of what I made. The millionaire next door doesn’t necessarily drive a Bentley–it may be a 10 year old Honda.

Several years ago after the purchase of our first home, not only were my husband and I struggling to make ends meet but we faced the all too familiar challenge of finding reliable home improvement contractors. Based on our experience, I decided to create a business to address this need in our community.

HOME REMEDIES OF NY, INC. is a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) for homeowners seeking reliable home improvement contractors. I pre-screen and represent a network of more than 50 home improvement contractors ranging from painters, plumbers and carpenters to general contractors, architects and decorative painters. Contractors in my network pay a pre-negotiated commission on any work secured and my service is free to homeowners.
I started my business with just a $5000 loan from my husband’s retirement savings plan and Home Remedies has grossed more than $4 million to date.

Company: TeleBrands
self made millionaires - AJ Khubani
TeleBrands markets “As Seen on TV” products to the consumer audience. From the PedEgg and Windshield Wonder to today’s new Chef Basket and One-Second Needle, TeleBrands helps consumers find a common solution to everyday problems.
AJ Khubani founded TeleBrands at the age of 27 with his life savings of $20,000. While in college, Khubani began marketing an AM/FM type radio in the back of the Nation Inquirer for $10.
He broke even. But, that lead him to creaing many new products and moving into television infomercial advertising. In the late 1980s, he began marketing the AmberVision Glasses for $10 at retail establishments — the first time an “As Seen on TV” infomercial product was available in a bricks and mortar environment. The product became a household name and a new approach to the direct response television (DRTV) industry was born.
Khubani offers the following advice:

  • When you have a new product idea, start by “Googling” the idea — see if someone else invented or marketed it before you did. Take the time to do your research.
  • Apply for a provision patent for just over $100 at There is no need to begin with expensive lawyers and spending your entire savings on your product/idea.
  • Learn the marketplace. If you are creating a consumer product for a specific audience, is that potential audience large enough to result increased revenues? Be realistic in your goals.
And most importantly — enjoy what you do!

self made millionaire - Tony HartlCompany: Planet Tan & Selling Sunshine (book)

There are several keys to becoming a wildly successful, self-made millionaire. Creatively solving problems is important, great stewardship of money is a must over the long-term, and a large tolerance for risk is key as you start out.
But what really separates the successful from the unsuccessful, in my experience, is an unrelenting desire to accomplish your goals.
This is NOT an unrelenting desire to make money; it’s the passion for making your ideas into reality. Money hasn’t been the main drive behind any of the successful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. There are more interesting things in the world than currency, after all.
People with passion who solve problems in new, relevant ways will make money, and those who deal with adversity, take logical risks, and put their money where it matters the most will grow their businesses quickly.” – Tony
Tony Hartl founded Planet Tan in 1995 and built the company into one of the most recognizable brands in the Dallas area. He currently sits on the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship Board and has been a guest lecturer at the Caruth Institute of Entrepreneurship at SMU’s Cox Business School. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Inc. magazine, Fortune Small Business, and the Dallas Morning News.


Ex-dishwasher now a multi-millionaire

Nothing in this life is easy.

This is wisdom that former dishwasher Larry Cortez would like to impart to his children.
Cortez left his hometown in Nueva Ecija in 1987 to try his luck in Manila.

Moving from one job to another, Cortez almost lost hope of finding success in the city.
“Nabura na ang pangarap ko na umasenso e. Ang nangyari nalang, basta makaraos. Ayoko maging pabigat sa pamilya,” he said.

Cortez started as a household help, became a security guard, and eventually found his way to the food and service industry by becoming a dishwasher.

As a dishwasher, Cortez never stopped dreaming big.

“Naging sakit na nating Pilipino, nangangarap ng maliit. Kapag nakuha mo ang pangarap mong maliit, minsan hindi mo na gusto, kaya nilalakihan ko na,” said Cortez.
His next job as a waiter paved the way for him to become a restaurant manager.
Through hard work, Cortez defeated all odds and is now the proud owner of 10 restaurants.
Despite his success, Cortez stressed that nothing in this life should be taken for granted.
“Gusto ko matutunan [ng mga anak ko] ‘yung value ng buhay. Walang easy life. Hindi napupulot lang ang success, pinaghihirapan ‘yan,” Cortez said.
“Mas mabuti pala kung ipinanganak ka ng mahirap kasi wala ka nang choice kung hindi umangat,” he added.


How Gang Life Helped One Man Become A Multimillionaire Entrepreneur

Ryan Blair's rag-to-riches story is no marketing shtick. He may have dubbed Ryan Blair gang entrepreneurone of the chapters of his New York Times bestselling book, "my philosophies from the jail cell to the boardroom," but Blair's childhood isn't naturally packaged into slogans. And the things he learned on the streets of Los Angeles, and from two stints in juvenile detention, did help him build a series of successful startups, the latest of which took in $231 million in sales last year.

Growing up, Blair idolized gang culture, he told AOL Jobs. His older sister was a gang member, selling the weed his father grew. After his father abandoned the family when Blair was 13, and his mother started drinking, he needed money. Initiated into a gang with a brutal beating that left him with a mouthful of broken teeth, he started peddling stolen car stereos, and learned the first principle of business: "Buy low, sell high."

The Entrepreneurship Of PovertyRyan Blair teenager prison

"The roots of my entrepreneurial mindset lie in seeing the entrepreneurial work of poverty," Blair says. "The working, hustling rich and the working, hustling poor are the same species, except one plays by society's rules. Or makes them, some would say."
Blair bulked up. He was 260 pounds at his peak, his body a patchwork of gang tattoos. The more intimidating he appeared, the less he would have to fight. "When you're 15 and you see someone get murdered," he says, "survival becomes your goal."
That idea, in a somewhat modified form, is true in the business world too. Success depends on the ability to adapt to your surroundings and provoke the reaction you want. "Every board member creates his signature, a signature of his insecurities overcome," he says. "A combination of old-fashioned DNA, anthropology, culture, ambition and aspiration."
Blair's "signature" is, of course, his past -- a past that he finally put behind him during his second stint in juvenile detention. His first came when he was 14, after he attempted to rob a restaurant but set off a silent alarm when he threw a rock through the window.
Gangsters, he now contends, are "entrepreneurs who steal from other entrepreneurs." The best thing small-business owners can do, he thinks, is to "educate the local hoodlums" in legitimate business skills -- "as a form of insurance." That's exactly what Blair now does with his foundation.

A Book, A Letter, A New Life

Blair was locked up for the second time at age 16, for a strong-arm robbery and battery. He says that he was beaten up on the first day, the last time around, so he decided to go on the offensive. As he puts it in his book, "If you let someone take your milk the first day, they'll start taking it every day." Blair incited a riot.
Over the next 30 days, most of it spent in solitary confinement, some thoughts gnawed at Blair. Mainly the fact that, at the judge's whim, he could be spending the next four years of his life behind bars.
He read his first, and only, work of fiction at this time, Stephen King's "Firestarter," sounding out the syllables phonetically and listening to them bounce off the walls. Today, Blair has read over 1,000 books and remembers most of what he reads, a remarkable feat for a dyslexic high school dropout. He says that it's because he doesn't read visually, but auditorily, thanks to that excruciating month he spent with nothing but his own voice.
Blair wrote a letter to the judge, with some spelling assistance, begging for leniency. "You should be writing in college," the judge replied, "not in prison."
When Blair was released, he found his mother's home ransacked -- his fellow gang members assumed that he'd become a "rat." Blair decided to begin the long, delicate and sometimes life-threatening process of leaving his gang. He got a job picking up the cans dropped off for recycling, meeting what he calls the "lowest form of life": the crackheads clutching at nickels for the next hit, the drunk who turns in his beer cans just to scrape together enough cash for the next 12-pack.
Nothing spurred Blair upward faster than staring into the eyes of the bottom. He worked almost every waking hour of the day, seven days a week, and still does. His mother started dating a new guy, a successful real estate entrepreneur, who moved them out of their crummy neighborhood, let Blair drive around in his Cadillac Allante, and hired him to do odd jobs. Blair suddenly appreciated the connection between wealth and hard work.
Soon he got a job at another company, answering phones, but impressed the higher-ups when he covered a shift at the data center. Computers had always been a passion of his. After all, he says, he'd "liberated a bunch."

Addicted To Business
Within three years, Blair became vice president. His starting salary had been $6 an hour. His new salary was $100,000 per annum. The next year, he founded his own 24-hour computer repair company, at age 21. Blair claims that this rapid rise came thanks to his ability to "hustle" and his "nothing-to-lose attitude," but no doubt his charisma helped too. Blair has the charm of a practiced motivational speaker -- which he is.

Blair claims that he "sees the world as a technologist." His current company may not seem so technical: ViSalus is a weight-loss and fitness program. But it's based on the idea of challenges; people set their goal, and get prizes for completing it. It "game-ifies" weight loss, like the many websites that keep people coming back through badges and give-aways, and anything that will tickle the brain's reward center. Blair approached his book similarly, making the chapters short enough to give his readers a regular jolt of accomplishment.
He's approached himself the same way too. "I've trained myself to be addicted to business," he says. And that's what drives him, not some misty sense of a legacy. He's requested that his foundation be wound down within 10 years of his death, along with the 90 percent of his assets that he's dedicated to it.

In 2004, Steven Levitt said that being in a gang is "perhaps the worst job in all of America." In 2012, Blair says, "it's one of the only jobs." Kids are increasingly turning to gang culture for money and meaning. Blair hopes to prove to them that they have the skills to get a lot more money and a lot more meaning, if they play by society's rules.


High School Dropout to Millionaire

I have been reading Tycoon Talk for a while, but I forgot there was a success story section. I wrote my success story for 2 other sites and it has been getting a nice response so I decided to share it here. I hope this can be inspirational and helpful.

The Foundation: My first job

When I turned 16, I got a job at a ski shop after school and on weekends. I started out doing a lot of garbage work, but eventually I was allowed to do some sales. I was a shy kid so I had trouble speaking to customers and answering phones. When I was 16, I looked 12, so that did not help. By the end of the first season, I was getting very comfortable with sales and I was producing the most sales for the time I was putting in.

After a couple years, I learned how the business was run and I took a larger role in the shop. Even though I was never put in a management role due to looking very young, I was basically doing everything a manager was doing.

Quitting my first job...

I was getting very frustrated that I was taking on a lot of responsibility, but never given a management role. At the time, I don't think I understood why. I came to the realization that I did not want to be stuck in a job like this anyway. I wanted something bigger. I was always hungry for money and always dreamed of doing some sort of big business that allowed me to be independent. This job would never lead to that.

I am a person who succeeds when put under pressure. Even in school, I waited until the last minute to do my homework or a major project. Now, I stay up late at night to do my work because I race to get work done before I go to bed. I have produced my best work and ideas late at night.

At the time, I knew this is the type of person I was and if I would succeed, it would not be from building a business on the side while I was working at the ski shop. I needed more pressure. The only way to do that is quit.

This simple job at the ski shop gave me the basics of sales and business management at a young age, but it was time to move on.

Dropping Out Of School:

I went from a public school to a private school then back to a public school for high school. The difference between the private school I attended and the public school was huge. I felt no pressure in the public school. I slept through my sophomore and junior year. I never did homework or took a book home. I still managed to pass with B's and C's. It was pathetic. Teachers barely new me, they would give slackers way to get bonus points, there was no trust, etc. The education was a joke. It was like a review of what I already did in the private school. I was never taught how to think for my self or how to figure things out on my own. They only taught trivial things. I was being prepped to be a good little employee and do everything by the book.

Half way through my junior year, I realized this was a waste of time. I wanted to quit and work full time at the ski shop to get more real world experience and see what happens from there. I just knew high school was not helping me grow as a person or intellectually.

I met with the guidance counselor and principal. Neither had any idea who I was. They said, "We don't even know you. You have never been in trouble before. We don't understand why you are dropping out." I just laughed. That was one of the exact reasons I wanted out. I was just another one of the herd. You have to be in trouble or an all-star to be noticed. I was neither because I had no motivation to be an all star and no reason to cause trouble.

I loved the close family atmosphere of a private school. Everyone knows everyone and the teachers are really involved in more than your education. They knew me as a person. I didn't need to be a trouble maker or an all star to be noticed.

Stupid Ideas: My First Try At Business

It is usually not the idea that is stupid, it is the plan. Most people are so blinded by the thought of how much money they can make, they don't think of all of the ways they CAN'T make money with their idea. I found this to be the most important thing when planning a new business.

"Stupid ideas" are needed if you want to succeed at business. Hopefully some of those stupid ideas don't cost you much money. Stupid ideas are a learning experience. You learn what doesn't work.

If you have a successful business that you started on your own, then I am sure you hear people coming to you with ideas all of the time. They are so excited and motivated as they tell you their idea to make millions. Then they ask you, "so what do you think?" It is so hard to tell them all of the things wrong with the idea and ruin their dream, but they are blind to all of those pit falls. They have never tried to build a business to know how many things are wrong with it.

When I start a new business, I spend a ton of time running numbers on different scenarios. The scenarios don't just assume x number of customers spending y. You must be your businesses worst critic and find all of the holes before you fall in them.

My stupid ideas...

After quitting my job at the ski shop, I knew I wanted to work on my own. It was the late 90's the internet was all the hype and everyone was talking about the money to be made there. This was my opportunity to get in the ground floor. My first idea was to see what other successful people were doing. I saw one of the late night infomercials and wanted to give it a try. Yeah, it was him...Don Lapre and his famous"tiny classified ads"! Hey, I was young, hungry and gullible. He had a "new system" that would work online and I thought it was worth a try since I had no idea how to make any money online. Obviously this did not go anywhere.

I jumped from one idea to another. I searched for ways to make money online and that lead me to one Multi-Level Marketing program after another.

It always seemed like the only way to independent wealth was MLM. Every successful person on the TV was saying this. It was all over the internet. It had to be the way. It just made sense. You just build a "downline" who make money for you. It seemed so easy.

I just felt like I had to get in the right MLM program. I taught myself how to build sites and do some basic marketing. I would build sites and try to join marketing networks where i could trade some clicks. I had no money for advertising, so i was trying very pathetic marketing tactics. So many sites offered "the best way to get traffic to your site for free" and I fell for them all.

Nothing was really working. I managed to get some sales here and there, but i was not making money. I was getting better at building and marketing sites. Eventually i built up downlines of hundreds of people. Still no money.

I realized that MLM are horrible businesses. Actually they are not real businesses at all. The argument they always made was, "all businesses are multi-level". They would give examples of McDonalds or manufacturing as being multi-level. It is true those businesses, like most, have levels. There is the manufacturer or supplier, usually a distributer and then the end retailer/sales person.

They made it sound like the levels in MLM are just like any business. The reality is the "levels" in MLM are ALL in the bottom level of normal business levels. I was just a salesman like any other salesman except my income is commissioned based. I either made a commission on a product sold or products sold by people in my downline.

The natural problem with MLM is everyone is attracted to it because it is sold as a way to make money while others work for you. Basically, it attracts lazy people. This is why i had hundreds and sometimes thousands in my downlines, but not making money. No one in my downline wanted to work.

Better Idea: Just Basic Business

Instead of looking for the perfect business, I realized I should just be doing something basic. I was learning how to market websites online. I was getting thousands of people to join MLM programs, so I obviously was learning how to get visitors and get them to join a program. I was just marketing the wrong thing. I needed to market normal things so I can get paid a commission right away instead of waiting for someone else to perform.

Affiliate marketing seemed to be the way to make great money online with no expense. I basically needed to build sites and promote some offers and the cash should roll in.

I found several products that were in the "make money" market which was similar to the MLM market. I felt like this was an easy market to capitalize on. I eventually taught myself how to get my sites to rank in the top search engines such as Alta Vista, Lycos and Excite. I built small sites that showed people html tricks, marketing strategies, which affiliate programs were good and how to market them. I received commissions when someone would signup for software that I recommended for marketing online, when someone signed up for an advanced marketing guide, etc.

It was all starting to add up. I also built sites for something called "paid to surf". These were becoming very popular back then and there was some big commissions to be made. I was one of the top ranking sites for many of the keywords back then and generated around $10,000 in profit each month from these programs... that is until they all stopped paying and went bankrupt in the dot com crash.

Ok, it was time to make sure the companies I choose to promote can actually pay me what they say after all of the work I do.

Secrecy: Growing Quietly To Avoid Being Eaten!

Despite taking a hit with the "paid to surf" companies, I was still generating good revenue and I wanted to expand. I knew how to rank at the top of the search engines. (It was easy pickin' back then!) I just needed to scale up. I built many more sites for different products and different niches to get them ranked in the top of the search engines. I was going for a large quantity of small sites to generate more and more revenue.

After a few years, I saw a problem. Affiliate marketing is EXTREMELY competitive and had a very small cost to entry. This means once you start making money and people know it, they copy exactly what you are doing. It is cheap, it is easy, it works and it is a pain in the *** to battle. I went silent for 8 years. Everything I did was a big secret and this was the case with all of the successful affiliate marketers. Even the affiliate marketers who sold "how to make money online" programs kept quiet about their actual money making sites. No one wanted their strategies, site layouts, traffic sources or anything else getting leaked to other affiliate marketers.

One of the important rules was never to talk about your success in affiliate marketing and show one of your sites. Some people did this and I stepped in and took a big share of what they had.

I built hundreds of sites in many different markets. I was sometimes building a site a day. Each site had to sell a product in order for me to make a commission. I needed more than just traffic from search engines, I needed to convert that traffic into a sale. After building hundreds of sites and trying countless strategies, I discovered ways to increase conversions to maximize my revenue from each site.

Some of the sites I built were not small. I put a lot more attention and money into some of them.

Fundamental Problem: I had to get out

By 2006 I had an empire of sites generating over $2 million a year. I felt on top of the world. I was making so much money and could afford anything I wanted, but I felt like I had to make more. I felt something was wrong. Making that kind of money should of made me feel very comfortable. Something was off.

I felt maybe it was not a good thing my business was built off of a ton of small sites. My most successful sites made millions by themselves, but I always felt like they could die at any time.

In 2007 I finally realized why my model was so fragile. Despite expanding, my income did not grow. I did a lot of digging and found the problem.

Like I mentioned before, affiliate marketing is very competitive. Any other marketer could copy what you are doing and hurt revenue. I was always a step ahead of them and very secretive. There was a bigger enemy. The actual companies I was promoting.

In the first 10 years of online affiliate marketing, companies relied on affiliates to drive a massive amount of business. Good online marketers would never work for one company at a regular salary. If you knew how to market anything online, then there was too much money to be made by sending traffic to an affiliate program for a commission. As colleges began to teach basic internet marketing, more and more kids would come out of college eager for a low salary job. Colleges never sell the dream of becoming a millionaire. They pound it in your head to graduate with good grades and start at a low salary in a good company where you can grow.

These kids out of college now had enough basic knowledge needed to copy what I was doing and dumb enough to do it at a low salary. The companies I promoted hired them and told them to copy what their top affiliates were doing. I was usually one of them.

The companies I promoted had all of the data from my sites. They tracked how I sent them traffic. They simply had their new employees make sites like mine (which converted traffic like crazy) and then they would market their sites like I marketed mine. I worked so hard keeping everything I do secret so other affiliates could not see everything I do, but I could not prevent the companies I promoted from seeing everything.

The entire affiliate industry was falling apart. Now, it is just a small fraction of what it was.

Selling: I finally get out

In 2008 I started shopping my business to all of my competitors who I knew were larger than I was. The only offers I would get is 1 or 2 months of revenue. I kept working on one potential buyer. He said "no" to me a dozen times. I would keep pressing to show him how he could profit from the buy. The recession hit and it was a hard sell, but I managed to get him to see the upside. I managed to unload everything for a pathetic price of $700,000.

I was certain I wanted to sell despite getting what I could make in 6 months. First, I did not feel comfortable in the ability to make long term money with the business and I wanted to be able to focus 100% on something else. Second, I was bored of what I was doing. Finally, the biggest thing that pushed me was the recession. When the market collapsed, I knew it was a huge opportunity to make a massive ROI in stocks.

I felt releived when it was sold and excited to get all my cash into the stock market.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have focused on a few sites and made them huge.

Doubling Down: Making money from a stock market collapse

I could have sold my business 8 months earlier if I really wanted to and I would have received twice the money. If I did, I would have surely invested everything in the stock market. Investing in the middle of 2008 would have surely bankrupted me.

Selling my business in November 2008 for a pathetic amount of $700,000 and getting the cash when the S&P was around 700 points turned out to be perfect. I was actually lucky to sell it for a fraction of what it was worth when I did.

I have always had a fascination with investing and read dozens of books on the subject. I was heavily researching stocks for several month in anticipation of selling my business. I wanted to invest in companies that were very solid and had the cash or assets to handle the credit lockup. I wanted very strong fundamentials. Companies that increased their revenue, profits and market cap ever year for 5 to 10 years, not just a few years. Any company can ride a hot market or a bubble. I wanted companies that could grow in a recession.

I read annual reports on many companies and dug for any information I could find. I settled on around 10 stocks and began investing. By the end of 2008 I doubled my net worth.

The first 3 months of 2009, stocks had one of the biggest declines ever. I managed to ride out the storm. By the end of the year I still made 6 figures from the investments despite ignoring the market for most of the year. I could have taken advantages of the wild swings, but it was too stressful. One day everyone was saying we would all be broke as the market would go down a couple percent. The next day, all of the same people would scream about all of the money that can be made in this market. I did not want to hear that stuff and took the rest of the year off.

Current Day: Leveraging what I know and swallowing my pride.

My entrepreneurial itch was really getting to me. I love investing, but I wanted to start another company. For years I always had the idea of becoming a consultant, but I had such a bad view of them. I thought if they could really do what they say, they would do it instead of talk about it and experiment with the budget of clients. The fact is, most consultants are idiots who really don't know what they are doing and just talk a good game. That does not take away from the other fact that there is HUGE money in consulting and those who really know what they are doing can make big money. I swallowed my pride and decided to become a consultant.

I started a firm, Prodigal Solutions, that focuses on SEO and Conversion Optimization. These were the 2 areas I had a ton of experience and I knew I could leverage this experience to build a new company for myself and help other companies expand. Despite my experience, I found that it is a hard sell. Major companies want to see case studies and testimonials. How do I get these without clients? I had to start with many smaller companies to build up some case studies. Although, larger companies want to see case studies from larger companies. Getting this firm up to the size I want is taking much longer than I thought. SEO is not something that happens overnight. It takes time to build up solid case studies for that.

Conversion rate optimization is where the real money is for companies. Optimizing a site to convert as many visitors into customers creates huge return and makes everything much more profitable. It just opens up so many doors when a company has great conversions. This is how my business was so successful. My sites converted visitors at amazing rates and that allowed me to spend more money per site for marketing.

The unfortunate thing is many companies feel that their current website designers or developers can do some basic work to increase conversions. Every SEO, design, and consulting company is offering conversion optimization now which is kind of funny. Oh well, more business for me down the line when those companies fail to help their clients and those clients realize how important conversions are. I will be there to help them.

So, there have been challenges in my new business that took time to overcome. After the first year, Prodigal Solutions has hit 6 figures in revenue. Definitely not the income I had before, but it should be profiting in the 7 figures within 2 years.

I love business and I love helping other companies work on their overall business plans, optimize their site and help with marketing. I am doing what I love again.


Rags to riches tale of self-made millionaire

He was a foster child from a notorious estate who became a hard-working but angry young man. Now, self-made millionaire Chek Whyte, who lives in 18th-Century mansion Bunny Hall, credits finding God as the bedrock of his success and mellower character at 45. JO ROBERTS found out more.

HIS nickname is Marmite because people either love him or they hate him.

But what does Chek Whyte care? The self-made millionaire's property and development empire goes from strength to strength despite the times, and he neither loses sleep over popularity nor listens to rumours – even the flattering whisper that he's one of the richest men in England.
"Yeah well, I just disregard it. I don't even mention things like that. I'm just a normal working class person, y'know; gets up every day, works a 12-hour shift, seven days a week. A lot of people try to tell you how much they're worth and all the rest of it, but it's not me," said Chek emphatically.

What about his description as one of the country's most successful property developers? "It's a source of pride but where people get the information from I never know. I suppose everything we've done, we've succeeded at and we've diversified, but do the people who write these stories really know what that means? I'm sure there are a lot of people out there better than I am. But, yeah, it's nice because people write that and think you're somebody," said the married father-of-three.
It's a surprisingly modest millionaire who supposes "there are a lot of people out there better than I am."

But then Chek Whyte is disarmingly open, and has none of the ego you might expect, insisting again in his broad Ilkeston accent: "I'm sure there are – I'm just a nobody type thing, I get up in the morning and go to work. We're just mooching along, doing a few bits, and playing about and enjoying us-selves."

Hardly! He has built up from nothing a hugely successful business that now involves construction, development, lettings, and specialist restoration of dilapidated listed buildings to their former glory. Chek has been responsible for renovating Bunny Hall, Clifton Hall, Colwick Hall, and has almost finished a stunning transformation job on Stanford Hall, the breath-taking HQ of Chek Whyte Industries, which will open as an auction house on March 19. There are also plans in the offing to build a £60m retirement village in the grounds.

Not bad at all for a son of the notorious Cotmanhay Farm estate, where Chek was one of five children whose parents enjoyed drinking and, in his mother's case, suffered from mental health problems. Subsequently, the troubled couple temporarily lost their children to Social Services on eight or nine occasions. Yet Chek insists he has largely good memories of his childhood years in Beresford Drive on the estate.

"I looked after everyone else," he said of his younger siblings. "It was hard but happy in some ways. You saw quite a lot of life on that estate, but it seemed all good as a kid. Mum and Dad would be there, but drunk."

Could Chek's taste for immaculate and extravagant surroundings be a reaction to chaos and deprivation of his early home life? "It's got to be," he concedes. "Everything has got to be clean. But in those days, if a shiny car pulled up, you knew Social Services were coming to take you away."
Despite the complex feelings that must lie beneath, Chek is matter-of-fact about his childhood.

"We were taken to foster homes in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. We always got thrown out because I would fight with the foster carers' kids. Sometimes we'd get split up and other times they'd place us in twos. We were fostered eight or nine times."
Sadly, some of the carers Chek encountered did not provide the loving home-from-home a child in his position needed.

"There were some people in the foster environment who were there for the money. They didn't treat you kindly. The worst one, the one that scarred me, was when we had lice. One foster carer – a woman from Derby – tipped lice powder all over me in full view of the kitchen window, in front of the other kids outside who were all laughing. I was 11 and I was teased mercilessly.
"We were given salad cream sandwiches while the family ate steak, yet they were paid to feed us."
During the periods at home, things may have been difficult but relationships were still affectionate.
"I was close to my dad," said Chek. "He was brilliant. He spent a lot of time in the pub and he was a comical man. We were all close."

Chek left the frequently troubled but not always unhappy family home in Beresford Drive at 15.
"Mum kicked me out. I'd started work a year earlier to buy my own clothes – I was very particular about them. But that particular night, it was my brother's girlfriend's party..."
Chek's favourite clothes had been washed but they were still wet so he was forced to wear clothes he wasn't comfortable in. His reaction?

"I smashed the house up because I had a tantrum."
It wasn't the only time his temper caused problems; Chek was expelled from Bennerley School in Ilkeston the same year for hitting a teacher.
"I was expelled and started working at a car spraying place for a bit of cash," he said.
The young Chek had seen a lot of hardship in his short life and was already older than his years, so perhaps it's not surprising that he quickly became adept at fending for himself, getting his own flat in St Mary's Street, Ilkeston.

"At 16 I was on a YTS scheme as an asphalter for £23.50 a week. Rent alone was £17, so as well as my full-time YTS scheme, I had to work nights to afford gas, electric and food. I was working around the clock to survive."
In the following years, Chek's mum also moved out of the family home alone, and died some time later when Chek was about 25.
Chek remained close to his dad until he died about ten years ago.
Meanwhile, independent Chek was working long hours as a groundworker and asphalter and building up his own businesses, although there were several false starts.

"Aged 22, I launched my own business as a groundworker. There were difficulties I had to overcome – I was dyslexic, colour blind, I could hardly read or write. Yet in the early stages, I went from starting out to employing 300 staff within 18 months."
But the company Chek was working for didn't pay him – "that sent me bankrupt." It wasn't the last bankruptcy. "Again, another person didn't pay us."
But Chek was not a quitter.

"I still don't know how I gained the entrepreneurial mindset! The long hours I'd always put in had become my work ethic. Why only do 37 hours a week? That only gives you a normal lifestyle. The other 20 give you your car, a good lifestyle, and a better school for the kids. I started in construction, then became a builder, then became a developer – buying up, improving and selling on – and also moved into property rental.

"Now I've got good accountants, lawyers and surveyors because I can afford to. Back then I couldn't – it was a chicken and egg situation."
But the factor Chek really credits as the bedrock of his current success is surprising.
"Things really changed about six years ago when I met God and became a Christian. I built Trent Vineyard church's building in Lenton Lane and that's when my charitable side came out. I do a lot with them now. Meeting God makes you a better person."

Ideas man

In a mellower mindset, Chek's natural business aptitude flourished.
"I'm good at seeing the best in pieces of land. I'm a very good delegator, but to the right people. And I come up with ideas."

Chek's latest idea is the auction house based in Stanford Hall, which opens for business in March.
"You have to be one step ahead of the game. It's a full recession, the market's collapsed, so what do you do? You organise an auction house.
"We are confident we are going to weather the storm of this recession but if the banks collapse around us, we can't do anything about that. Even Richard Branson said if one particular bank had gone under, he would've gone too. Everybody's got to feel vulnerable, but we are using very good banks."
Bearing in mind the economic situation, what is the continuing attraction to Chek of the expensive listed buildings he now specialises in? "They're big! To have gone from having nothing to owning stately homes is more than a dream."
Business-wise, one of Chek's biggest (literally) projects is his proposed £120m, 600-ft tall skyscraper inclusive of a hotel, dubbed Whyte Tower, in the Eastside Regeneration zone. It is expected to be submitted for planning permission in May.
I ask whether Chek's recent invitation via the Evening Post to host Russian billionaire Sergei Matvienko (when the tycoon snubbed the Presidential Suite at Nottingham's Park Plaza hotel) was a bit of a joke aimed at drawing attention to the Whyte Tower proposal?
"No it was a serious offer! We need external money coming into the city for its growth. I would like to see Nottingham compete with Manchester. We don't want to lose the feel of the old city, but we need to add to it.
"I see what needs doing and I get on with it. You've got to have do-ers around you, and I'm a do-er."
The policy applies as much to Chek's community-minded projects as his business life. In May 2008, he bought Ilkeston Town Football Club.
Chek says he didn't step in to save the club because he's a big soccer fan, but because he wanted to recreate something like the Salford Lads' Club he encountered on charitable Channel Four show Secret Millionaire, which he appeared on in 2007.
"After Secret Millionaire my dream was to have a lads' club for Ilkeston. I'm trying to work with the community to break down barriers for young people from deprived areas in Notts and Derbyshire."
Chek says he has no plans to leave the area. "Why leave the environment you like? My best friend still lives on Beresford Drive. We've still got a lot in common, I'm still the same guy. I've not changed."

The same guy but with a yacht in Majorca – although he doesn't have a lot of time to play.
He said: "In my professional life I've always wanted things to be perfect and I've fallen out with lots of people because they don't do as you want. My sites are run meticulously so people get fired if they don't do it properly. But I'm not at that end of the business any more.

"When I met God I met the Holy Spirit, He cleansed my soul and so I'm not vindictive, plus I've mellowed with age. Of course I have critics. I've never let it bother me."

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