Episode 36: Get rich the sweaty way with Dave Lee

I was recently interviewed by Dave Lee, whose YouTube channel is a fantastic resource on business and investing. It was a great conversation that covered my journey, my perspective on entrepreneurship, and even life philosophies, and I’ve covered some main points below:

The Opportunistic Everyman

When people think of entrepreneurship they picture Shark Tank, new inventions and innovations, and figures like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. This vision is exciting and can be rewarding and has made people billions of dollars, but it isn’t approachable for the average Joe, and the chance of success is slim.

Sweaty startups are for everybody, they’re about being opportunistic and finding a way to make cash. Storage Squad was started because I couldn’t find somebody to sublease my apartment in the summer, so instead, I charged people to store boxes of their stuff in my place. 

While our friends were off getting jobs in New York City, my business partner and I gave Storage Squad one year after graduation with a goal to hit 250 customers–we got 256. This grew into millions of dollars in revenue and a business that expanded to a handful of college campuses. The first step to any entrepreneurship is finding an opportunity; go around the world and ask yourself how businesses make money, and think about how you can too.

People’s first reaction is that they don’t want to move boxes, clean gutters, or power wash to make a living, but that’s why these are opportunities. Fun projects and hobbies carry a lot of dreamers who are hard to compete with because they’re willing to go too low on price just to get work. It’s a common misconception that entrepreneurship is about doing what you’re passionate about and having fun; every CEO of a company ultimately only focuses on hiring, training, delegating, solving problems, and selling. The fun work washes away quickly.

For most successful entrepreneurs you’ll find that they have energy even when motivation isn’t there. Motivation is fleeting, and the excitement of building your business can wear off after a few months. People that are disciplined, energetic, and excitable have a better chance at long-term success if they can stay focused on the task at hand.

Business is harder than I make it sound, it’s not for everybody. It’s hard to hire employees, it’s hard to delegate, it’s hard to sell. Most people aren’t the communicators, leaders, and sellers that they need to be to maximize their success. But sweaty startups offer an avenue to take a low-risk approach with tremendous potential to see if you can succeed.

Experience Drives Success

This may be obvious, but it’s crucial. Part of the value of a sweaty startup is learning the basics of business operations and the leverage that you gain from putting yourself out there. Your network, your capital, and your skill will all grow as you gain entrepreneurial experience, and when you leverage these factors you’ll find incredible opportunities open themselves up for you, just like I was able to pivot from Storage Squad to self-storage real estate and management.

Creative Value-Adds

One of the easiest ways to grab low-hanging fruit is to identify the value-adds that haven’t been implemented yet. This can help you save on labor costs, drive revenue, or spend less time spinning your wheels in the business. Software is a huge one, so many companies still operate like it’s 1980. Being able to take online payments and handle administrative work virtually has been a huge competitive advantage driving our self-storage deals. Similarly, with the labor crisis in the US, we’ve started to employ staff in Colombia and the Philippines, which has allowed us to save on payroll while still delivering an incredible customer experience.

Raising Children with Wealth

Dave and I are both parents and have had to think about how we’ll raise our children to lead incredible lives without spoiling them. Entitlement is the devil, and you want to raise children that know how to treat people and work hard, but that’s hard itself.

I want my kids to look to add value to the world and make something for themselves. Ultimately that’s how you live a rewarding life, feeling that you are productive with your energy and adding value around you. The best thing you can do is nurture an environment where kids are challenged, because life is challenging; relationship concerns, addictions, and struggles can come even with money. I want to set my kids up to enjoy challenges and be excited by them.

Starting a Business 101

You need to be able to charge $50/hour of labor for a stable business; if an idea or opportunity doesn’t hit this threshold, throw the business away.

Now, say I wanted to start a cleaning company here in Athens, Georgia. It’s low-risk, as I just need basic supplies and no special skills, and can run it part-time until it grows big enough for me to quit my job. I would begin by searching on Google for cleaning companies in Athens and seeing who the local competitors are. From there, I’d contact them for fake quotes and find out how much they charge and when they’re available. If companies are booked out for over a week, that means there is opportunity for a new entry in the market, and the competition likely isn’t charging enough. 

Now we need to sell; I would create door hangers with my company name and contact info and put them all throughout town. I’d create a WordPress website and a Google My Business location to establish an online presence. I’d land my first customers, clean houses, fiddle with pricing, and get closer to quitting my job. Once I reach that point, I can hire employees to do the cleaning and focus more on marketing and building the business. The below links are excellent resources for a starting point.

Businesses I Love

Idea Generation 101

Essential Tools

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Entrepreneurship is about identifying opportunities and finding ways to make cash
  2. Creative value-adds are incredibly impactful in raising the value of a business while reducing your own stress
  3. There are tons of sweaty startups that you can start for almost no cost and without quitting your job until it provides security

P.S. If now is the time to start your own journey, the real estate community is for you. I weigh in on almost every post, and there are a lot of people smarter and more accomplished than me.

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Looking for like-minded individuals who are seeking to improve every aspect of their business? Join our Real Estate Community today! Or, subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify for more valuable content to help give you that leg up in real estate.

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About Me

I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.