Who needs a team? In Germany too, the number of “solo self-employed” increased slightly in 2017. 2.31 million Germans have a company without employees. Among them are of course many craftsmen. We look at the 1-man entrepreneurs on marketers and online shop owners who have found an extremely successful niche for themselves.
Tools4Wisdom: edifying notebooks from the living room
The 38-year-old Laszlo Nadler lives in New Jersey and makes over two million dollars in sales per year. And with a combination of planner and calendar – including printed requests to put thoughts and feelings on paper.
In his online shop and on Amazon Nadler sells this booklet differing only by their cover for just under 40 US dollars per piece. Five years ago Nadler starts with his company “Tools4Wisdom”, two years ago he already makes a million dollars in sales and gives up his main job. Until today, he takes care of the growth of his company from his living room.
“The size of your business is not critical if you have the right minds,” says Nadler. He works for years as a project manager at Bank of America. His planner business is supposed to be just an opportunity for extra income at the beginning. But from the very beginning he wanted to set up the business as automated as possible. A shop with easy-to-produce products seemed to suit him best. “The enthusiasm for planners at the university started,” says Nadler to Forbes. “I had a nervous breakdown in my first year when I realized what else I needed to do, and my roommate sat down with me and told me to just take a piece of paper and write a list of assignments.”
After putting the planner idea in his head, he designs the first product designs with the printer in his apartment. He tests the product itself in his professional environment. He chooses a design and starts with automation. It depends mainly on the printing of the booklet, which he outsources to a company. He sells the first planners on Amazon. He takes advantage of the fulfillment of the e-commerce giant and does not even have to pack and ship the products directly from his print service provider in Amazon’s warehouse. “At Amazon, your startup costs are close to zero dollars,” says Nadler. “You only need a seller account for $ 50 a month.”
Automating his commerce business is the cornerstone of fast-growing sales. “If you can automate your supply chain, you can scale infinitely.” By now, his biggest driver of growth is customer service: “80 percent of the day I care about growth, most of the time I try to exceed customer expectations.” It concerns for example the management of the reviews on Amazon. On the US side of the platform, its 2018 planners have a 5-star rating with over 100 reviews. He has also automated his customer responses. Every user who writes him an e-mail gets a personal message back and can in turn answer him directly.
A tip for entrepreneurs who want to try it alone in e-commerce, Nadler also has: “Looking for a simple product that triggers few user questions and complaints.” For inspiration, you should look at top sellers on Amazon in categories that interest you too.
Willow and Everett: The power couple with a penchant for coffee and tea
Already when Ben and Camille Arneberg start their business Willow and Everett at the beginning of 2015, they have the sales million as a big goal in view. In April 2016, they will reach this mark by selling high quality kitchen utensils – especially tea and coffee pots. The two sell their products today, at the end of 20, all over the world. Like Laszlo Nadler, Amazon opened this door for them. Also on the German Amazon page, there are several Willow and Everett products.
Before the success of the startup, the Arnebergs had tried their luck with a fitness company. But that failed pretty fast. “The product was not unique or desirable enough to appeal to customers,” says Ben Arneberg to Forbes. It is followed by a brainstorming, which products the two would love to sell. Because they enjoy visiting friends, they wanted to offer quality food and drink products that did not cost too much. A teapot costs, for example, 20 euros, the package of salt and pepper shakers 13 euros.
The pair builds its business with $ 5,000 in seed money, mostly earmarked for the first product inventory. They then opt for the Amazon Exclusives program, where companies insure Amazon to offer their products only on the platform. For this, entrepreneurs get a brand manager from Amazon and various advantages such as discounted delivery of display ads on Amazon.
The most important thing was to test the market with new products. “We’ve learned that with five products you bring to the market, you might have one or two hits with you, the rest are rivets,” says Ben Arneberg. “We expect to have non-functional products when we launch new ones.” Meanwhile, they no longer sell only on Amazon, but also in their own online store, but Amazon is still revenue driver number 1. The Prime Day (Amazon discount day) brought the two founders in 2017, the 15-fold of the daily order volume on the platform ,
Science of Skill: Self-defense as a subscription model
Not dependent on Amazon is Dan Faggella. He has not only built a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but also a millionaire company. In 2012 he starts Science of Skill, today a provider of courses and products related to martial arts and self-defense. After the roof of his Fittnesstudios collapsed, he wanted to build a scalable business and had the idea with the learning videos. On shorter clips of his fights on Youtube (usually the narrow-built Faggella in the duel with larger opponents) he pulls the first customers on his website. Even a book on techniques to defeat larger opponents, many users flushed on his side. In the category “Skill Development” it has long ranked the Amazon Bestseller. Half a year after launching Science of Skill, he makes over $ 20,000 in sales per month.
Meanwhile, the company makes well over $ 200,000 in sales per month, the majority on subscriptions. The 29-year-old has apparently managed to convince his target group of the benefits of a subscription. For example, if you pay seven dollars per month, you will get discounts on products in the shop (knives, weapons, DVDs, etc.). Customers spending $ 57 a month can buy products on credit and watch all the video courses – which usually cost about $ 10. Faggella has made the access to the membership program quite clever. Everyone can complete a Lifetime Membership for free and receive free shipping and access to the blog articles. Both have no great value, but make users known with the subscription model of Science of skill.
“To really grow, we just had to do more than just Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” says Faggella to Business Insider. The topic of self-defense has really provided for growth. On top of that, he is very well versed in digital marketing. In 2013, Faggella founded the marketing automation blog CLV Boost. He also used the marketing techniques described here for his million dollar business.
Meanwhile, Faggella has sold his business to a private buyer for over one million dollars. His goal had long been to make enough money with Science of Skill to start his real heart project. “I’m not the type to make a business worth $ 40 million, I do not want to do business until I’m 85,” says Faggella. Today, he leads the startup Emerj (previously TechEmergence) as CEO. The company acts as a management consultancy in the field of AI and automation.
Examine.com: Supplement Wikipedia
Sol Orwell has built a million dollar business from an idea he got from Reddit. In 2009 he was still overweight and tried to lose weight with the help of the fitness community on the platform. “When I joined the Subreddit r / Fitness, there were 5,000 people in. When Examine.com was launched in 2011, it was 50,000 and today there are 6.4 million users in the group,” says Orwell. Even at the beginning, he notices that newly joining community members keep asking the same questions over and over again – especially about dietary supplements. So he decides to build a digital encyclopedia on the subject and buys the domain Examine.com for over $ 40,000.
With a partner, Orwell collects scientific research and information about the respective supplements and builds up his digital encyclopedia step by step. The first traffic for the site brings Orwell logically from Reddit. “It was like a symbiosis right at the start,” says Orwell. “When people started asking questions on Reddit, other users also linked directly to us.” Not only did he use the platform to distribute links, but he also continued to actively participate in the community. The traffic success at Reddit had had a major impact on search rankings, so Examine.com was placed on many keywords on the first page Google. Up to 50,000 visitors come organically from Google, according to Orwell. “The nice thing is, if you’re an authority on a topic, people want to work with you, we’ve got two million visitors a month, and our email list has hundreds of thousands of users,” says Orwell.
Anyone who thinks of the nutritional supplement industry, the logical step for Examine.com actually falls directly when it comes to potential sales of millions: just sell yourself supplements. Orwell, but the credibility because immediately decided against the business model. Instead, the company earns its seven-figure revenue by selling information. Examine.com currently has three products on offer: a step-by-step guide to the right combination of supplements ($ 50), a help table for achieving fitness goals ($ 50), and a monthly subscription to the latest research on the topic ($ 30 per month).
The subscription product has made Orwell big, above all through influencers and affiliate deals: “I’ve written to over 500 people from the fitness community and promised them 40 percent commission, I talked to influencers on Facebook and asked them if they had the product Promote – they said yes. ” Instead of using affiliate networks, Orwell has set the personal relationship with the influencers. The first goal was the sale of 1,000 subscriptions in total. After the first day, Orwell had already sold 800, after the first week it was 3,000.
This article first appeared on the Online Marketing Rockstars.