Show notes from episode 60 of the podcast.
The previous post about starting a business 100% remotely got me thinking about a common question I get all the time.
What if you want to move to a new city to build a better life? What if you are about to graduate in a city and you don’t see yourself sticking around? People reach out to me all the time saying they want to be an entrepreneur but a move is in their future. Maybe 6 months out. Maybe 2 years out after graduate school ends.
Basically all of these questions boil down to at least taking some steps to set up a business in a place where you are not currently living.
Let’s run a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you are slogging away at a corporate job in NYC making good money and banking some of it every month. You know NYC isn’t a long term play for you and you’d love to someday move to Asheville NC and raise a family. Or Austin TX. Or Charleston SC. You get the point – anywhere with lower costs of living or a better quality of life based on your interests.
There is an answer here and I’ve actually done it. Set up a shell company in your dream city.
What is a shell company? Its a website that appears very professional and operation advertising a particular service even though you aren’t yet set up to actually provide the service yet.
Not just any website though. A spectacular website with amazing content perfectly designed to help your target customers. A website with a perfect SEO structure around the target local keywords. You can take this on yourself with tools like ahrefs.com or you can hire a content marketer for a few thousand dollars to help you really set yourself up to succeed in the long run.
If you want to get serious build a complementary youtube channel with even more amazing content so you can rank on the second largest search engine in the world. Get a local friend or pay a stranger to let you post a Google My Business location at their address and start nurturing and growing that. Find a way to get some reviews from people who might not be local but can vouch for your ability to provide the said service.
Starting any service business requires 6 months of preparation before you get any significant organic online leads. The beautiful thing about this is that you can do it for a relatively small investment sometimes as low as the cost of a web domain.
I did this back in 2012. My partner and I were building Storage Squad and we weren’t sure what the future had in store for us. I thought back to my lawn care days in high school and realized running a business like that could be a fall back plan if I ever needed cash to hold me over.
So I thought about cities and where I would want to live if I needed to start from scratch and build another business. Bloomington Indiana is an awesome college town with a lot going on and a reasonable cost of living. I had a lot of friends nearby and my family is only about an hour away.
I bought thelawnsquad.com web domain and built a pretty crappy website myself with wordpress in about 5 hours. I had a good friend there attending graduate school so I sent a Google My Business listing to his house. I got a few of my long time customers from high school to leave reviews on that Google listing.
Then I just went about my life and worked on my business. I didn’t do any marketing and I never went to Bloomington.
The first year I got a call or two a week from potential customers. They left messages and I never returned them but I used Google Voice to track the incoming leads. The next year I got more calls. 3 or 4 calls a week. Then the next even more. By 2015 I was getting calls daily. Still not answering any.
By 2015 our business was big and I knew lawn care in Bloomington Indiana wasn’t really in my future. But that year my brother ended up enrolling at Indiana University and moving to Bloomington. I asked him if he was interested in mowing lawns but being an 18 year old freshman navigating his first year in the real world he declined.
After his first internship pushing paper around for a summer he decided he’d rather give entrepreneurship a shot.
In February of 2018 he started answering the phone and mowing lawns on the side. Being a junior in college (he did a 3/2 MBA program) he quickly got overwhelmed and by May he turned off the phones and didn’t accept any new clients. That year he booked about 30 weekly customers and made $30k or so in annual revenue.
His senior year he got more serious. We built a nicer website this winter and he set up Jobber. He still didn’t answer most of the calls because he was in class and on the mower but he followed up and ended up booking a lot of them. He graduated in May and now he runs the business full time. He has expanded to pest control and weed control/fertilization. He’s got over 50 customers and is on pace to earn $50k+ in profit this year with a lot more in the future.
Pretty awesome huh?
Do your idea generation research and your market analysis ahead of time. Do all the work you need to do to decide what business you’d want to launch. A lot of this depends on your skillset, experiences and capital you have. The more specialized and niche you can go the better but its okay to cast a wide net initially and see what sticks.
Get to work now. It’s a super low upfront investment. You don’t even have to ever use it but it will be there if you ever want to make it happen. You’re just putting an iron in the fire. You’re just testing the market and seeing if it has legs. You’re just creating a potential future opportunity for yourself.