E200- Steve Chou from My Wife Quit Her Job

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Steve runs the popular blog MyWifeQuitHerJob.com where he teaches others how to sell physical products online. He also runs an ecommerce store at BumblebeeLinens.com with his wife and an annual ecommerce conference called SellersSummit.com

Denis O’Brien [0:08]
Welcome to Episode 200. Steve from My Wife Quit Her Job. Hey money clan a warm welcome to the Chain of Wealth podcast. I’m your host, Denis O’Brien.

Katie Welsh [0:19]
And I’m Katie Welsh.

Denis O’Brien [0:20]
So Katie, really cool conversation we had with Steve, and all about starting your own online store.

Katie Welsh [0:28]
Oh, my goodness, I feel like Steve just dropped one knowledge bomb after the next the entire conversation.

Denis O’Brien [0:35]
Yeah, and really, really inspirational. He’s making seven figures. That’s seven figures on his blog, and on his ecommerce store. So he definitely knows what he’s talking about. And they were absolute nuggets in this podcast interview,

Katie Welsh [0:49]
you know, then what I really liked about talking to Steve, was that he was so family focused, and he did everything that he could to be able to spend more time with his family and less work. And it really gave me like a sense of motivation that we could eventually be in the same boat one day.

Denis O’Brien [1:09]
Yeah, definitely. And I think that having that idea of, you know, what’s important in your life is critically important. Anyway, before we dive right into today’s episode, if you guys haven’t already, don’t forget to join our Facebook community. You can join us it’s chainofwealth.com/group. Come and say hi, and let us know what you’re working on. Alright Kate, are you ready to dive into our episode with Steve?

Katie Welsh [1:31]
Yeah.

Denis O’Brien [1:31]
Fantastic. Let’s do it.

Voice Over [1:34]
Welcome to chain of wealth. here’s your host, Denis inspiring you to begin your journey of financial freedom.

Denis O’Brien [1:47]
Steve runs the popular blog, mywifequitherjob.com, where he teaches others how to sell physical products online. He also runs an e commerce store at bumblebeelinens.com with his wife, and an annual ecommerce conference called sellerssummit.com. Welcome, Steve.

Katie Welsh [2:05]
Hey Steve.

Steve Chou [2:07]
Hey, so happy to be here.

Katie Welsh [2:08]
Yeah, we’re so glad to have you. So before we kick off, can you tell us a little bit about your story? Because it’s quite an interesting one.

Steve Chou [2:17]
Yeah, so we actually started that e commerce store with my wife, way back in the day, when well, let’s back up a little bit. We got the idea for selling handkerchiefs online because when we got married, my wife knew she was going to start crying at the wedding. You guys just got married? You know, you know how it is. Very emotional

Katie Welsh [2:35]
For a minute I was like, she was just gonna start crying all the time.

Steve Chou [2:39]
Tears of joy, tears of joy not tears of sadness.

Katie Welsh [2:42]
Alright, Alright.

Steve Chou [2:43]
So we spent all this money for a wedding. As you guys probably know, I don’t know how much you guys spent, we spent a lot of money. Yeah, especially on photography. She did not want to be photographed, you know, using like a nasty tissue to dry your tears of happiness. So we looked all over the place for handkerchiefs couldn’t find any anywhere. Finally, we found this factory in China ended up buying like a couple hundred of these used maybe six or so. And then we sold the rest on eBay. And they ended up selling like hotcakes. So if you fast forward maybe three years after we decided to have kids. And as soon as she became pregnant with our first child, she wanted to quit her job to stay at home with the kids. So we you know, kind of brainstormed all these ways that you could quit her job and stay home with the kids while still making some money because we live in a very expensive neighborhood where you need to, you know, two incomes to have a house in a good school district. And that’s when we remembered, we got these handkerchiefs from Asia, we got back in touch with that vendor. And we launched our store Bumblebee Linens, and it ended up making six figures in profit in our first year, which was enough to make up for the lost income from her day job as a financial analyst.

Denis O’Brien [3:48]
Wow. So taking a step back a little bit. So were you still planning to have kids? Or was it a big surprise? Like, did you really anticipate You know, this need for her to want to stay home like how was she in that whole aspect?

Steve Chou [4:01]
We had talked about it a while ago, like she warned me up front even before we got married, like when I have kids, I’m quitting. And I you guys haven’t had similar talks or

Katie Welsh [4:13]
We have.

Steve Chou [4:15]
Okay,

Katie Welsh [4:16]
I go back and forth, though. So I’m not super sure yet.

Steve Chou [4:19]
Yeah. Plus, she didn’t like her job at all either.

Denis O’Brien [4:22]
Kate enjoys her job. She’s an elementary school teacher.

Katie Welsh [4:26]
Yeah, I do have a question because you kind of stumbled upon this linen business. And then within the first year, you’re making a substantial amount of money from it, what were you just like putting them on eBay and like people were just buying them or was there kind of like a strategy or a following.

Steve Chou [4:45]
It was actually a fortuitous sequence of events. So we put them on eBay, of course, to start with, just because we knew we could get sales on there. And then, you know, I really wanted to own our platform. So it just so happened that one of my closest friends, he just launched a store selling his photography. And at the time, this is way, this is a long time ago, this is back in 2007. So there weren’t like the Shopify or the big commerce of the world, those guys haven’t come out yet. Neither was Amazon. And so I was really scared about putting up a website. But it just so happens, my buddy just did it. And he used this free open source software. And he kind of walked me through it. And so that got the site up. And then in terms of getting traffic and early sales, my brother in law just happened to work for Google. And he showed me how to use AdWords. And that is how we generate earlier sales. And then my sister in law, also worked at Google, and we kind of went over the content strategy. So we just started pumping out content that ended up starting to rank in Google, we started to get large customers, we contact them. And before you know it, you know, we had wedding planners, event planners buying in bulk from us, we had search traffic, and we had AdWords traffic coming in for sales.

Denis O’Brien [5:52]
Wow. So it was really just one thing after the next and you know, like, like you said, a sequence of good events to sort of set you up for success in the early days.

Steve Chou [6:00]
Yes, absolutely. Luck played a pretty decent part, and just everything coming together all at once.

Denis O’Brien [6:06]
Nothing wrong with that luck counts. So I’m sure that the business has changed quite a bit over that period of time. I know. Like, obviously, with a whole bunch of new platforms coming out. And you know, with ads changing a little bit in the online space. How is your business evolved to keep up with the times?

Steve Chou [6:23]
Yeah, it’s it’s evolved a lot. I mean, AdWords still generates a decent amount of income. But now there’s Facebook ads, there’s messenger marketing, there’s email marketing, push notifications, a whole bunch of other things that we’ve now incorporated into our site, in addition to social media, which actually didn’t exist back in 2007, either.

Katie Welsh [6:40]
Okay, it seems like everything is too good to be true. Are there any like funny blunders or big like, lessons that you guys learned through all of this?

Steve Chou [6:50]
I mean, there are just too many. We have to just focus on one thing, like, I guess sourcing product early on, just negotiating with Chinese vendors. Yeah, I’m Chinese, but it’s a different culture over there. And early on, we we made a lot of bulk orders where we try to negotiate on price. And they said, Oh, yeah, sure will drop the price. And, you know, without telling us that they we’re going to cut corners on the fabric and the product quality. And so we’ve had a number of incidences like that. We’ve had cases where, you know, we’ve bought a lot of stuff in bulk. And without actually running the numbers and doing the research and ending up with products that actually some of the products that we bought the mistakes early on are still on our shelves today, believe it or not. So yeah, countless, countless mistakes. advertising, advertising is just one of those things where you have to pay the tuition, which is like wasting a lot of money until you figure out what works. If you want to get into more specifics, we can if you want to just pick one thing, we can go into more depth, it’s up to you.

Denis O’Brien [7:53]
Yeah, maybe advertising? Could you maybe give us one or two areas where you spent a lot of money, it didn’t really work and you may be pivoted to sort of figure out what does work?

Steve Chou [8:03]
Yeah, absolutely. So we had a lot of early success with Google AdWords. And the benefit of AdWords is is there’s search intent, right? When someone types in a query in the search browser, they’re looking for something looking to buy something. So as a result, the conversion rate on those sort of ads is a lot higher. And we pretty much point those ads over to product categories, and they convert quite well. When we made the leap to Facebook ads, we learned the hard way that the entire paradigm is a little bit different people on Facebook are there to check out what’s going on with their friends and that sort of thing. And we tried the same formula, we put up an ad and drive it to a product page or a you know, category page. And that’s simply did not work. And in order to get Facebook ads working, we had to put together a very attractive offer, like either a free plus shipping offer or a giveaway offer to get people on our list, and then we convert them on the back end. So that was a fundamental shift in just mental strategy in terms of different ad platforms.

Denis O’Brien [9:02]
Hectic. So like I say like, it’s about paying those school fees and sort of figuring out those early steps. Now I know you as well, you do also teach people how to almost replicate your success. Can you speak a little bit about that?

Steve Chou [9:15]
Yeah. So what’s funny is I started documenting our progress with the store on the blog over at mywifequitherjob.com. And I wrote about all these things, all the mistakes that we made, and all that sort of thing. And all of a sudden, people wanted to take a class from me. And I actually did not have any intention of doing that but finally I broke down. And I just said, Hey, I don’t have any content whatsoever. Just pay me and I promise I’ll put out content, you know, every week, at least, sometimes two or three times a week. And this is back in 2011. And eight years later, I got a ton of content in that class now. So that’s how that got started.

Katie Welsh [9:53]
So you basically asked people to pay you and you’re like, I know I have nothing. But I promise I will put something there eventually.

Steve Chou [10:00]
Basically, I went out, I was very upfront. I said, I don’t really want to do this class. But if you insist on taking the class, and this is back in 2011. I said, Okay, I promise to just document everything that I’ve done in this class gradually. If you pay me you have lifetime access. That’s how it started.

Katie Welsh [10:18]
Okay.

Denis O’Brien [10:19]
So did you just get a ton of people like showing a lot of interest and the more interest so you sort of saw, the more you’re like, Okay, well, maybe there’s something here?

Steve Chou [10:27]
Well, what’s funny about that is so 35 people signed up right away at a $300 price point. And I was like, Okay, wow. All right. And then I started teaching the class. And then I actually found that I enjoyed it. And so you know, as the amount of material grew, and you know, had more success stories, I started just raising the price on it. And yeah, it’s been really fun for me, and very rewarding, actually, which is why I’ve maintained it for the past eight years now.

Denis O’Brien [10:58]
It’s amazing how you can just sort of stumble into something and then discover you actually enjoy it.

Steve Chou [11:04]
Yeah, a story of my life. Actually, I had no intention of selling handkerchiefs to all things. I’m not even interested in handkerchiefs.

Katie Welsh [11:11]
Are you not a big crier?

Steve Chou [11:15]
I cried at the wedding for different reasons.

Denis O’Brien [11:19]
Hopefully tears of joy as well.

Steve Chou [11:25]
But yeah, it turns out just running the business, like what we sell doesn’t really matter. It’s just running the business is a lot of fun.

Denis O’Brien [11:31]
Yeah, definitely makes sense. So where you guys at today? You obviously, you know, you’ve figured out this whole online thing. You’ve got multiple outlets, we sort of can explore those creative juices and everything. And where are you today and where you planning to get to in the next like five years.

Steve Chou [11:47]
Yeah, so I guess in the last two or three years, so the store is a seven figure store. And the blog is actually a seven figure blog now. We’ve gotten to the point now where our priorities have drastically changed, or they haven’t drastically changed, I shouldn’t say that. But we are now a lot more focused on family. So I’ve kind of you know, in the past, it was just gung ho pedal to the metal on the businesses. Now I make sure I have like my afternoons free and whatnot to actually spend time with the kids and make sure they they grow to really good citizens. And so, with the store, for example, we now kind of control our growth. So it’s very comfortable to achieve, like 10 or 15% growth from year to year, it is very uncomfortable to achieve, like double growth, double digit growth, I mean, sorry, doubling your growth every single year. For a while it was like that early on, because we’ve just tried to scale everything. And anytime you do that, you get a flood of orders, and you have to grow really fast. It’s just very, very stressful. And so once our kids started going up and having activities, we’ve now taken more of a lifestyle approach, so to speak.

Denis O’Brien [12:57]
Very cool. So I like to chat a little bit about personal finance side of your business really taking off. And I’m sure at the time all throughout the whole process, you weren’t expecting it to be a seven figure business, either of them. So what does that sort of look like for you with this sort of newfound freedom financially that you had?

Steve Chou [13:16]
Yeah, so first off, like both businesses are just very different. So when you are scaling an e commerce store, it is like a money pit. So you constantly have to be reinvesting your profits back into inventory. And it’s actually only after you take your foot off the pedal a little bit, that’s when you can start reaping your profits. Whereas with the blog, all the money that comes in is almost entirely profit. And you don’t have to ship anything, you don’t have to. You don’t have to worry about inventory and that sort of thing. And so, you know, over the years, you know, as we’ve been successful, the money from running the blog tends to be a lot less labor intensive. Whereas the store, we have a warehouse, we have employees and that sort of thing. And so I’ve started focusing more of my effort on kind of the, the digital strategies, they both have their pros and cons like an e commerce stores really good for making money immediately. Whereas with the blog, and, and sort of digital products, it takes a lot longer, like it took me three years to make any significant money with that. So I’ve just gradually transition to over the digital side, because it is more scalable and more location independent, and it gives me more freedom.

Katie Welsh [14:25]
So if you were to talk to yourself five years ago, or 10 years ago, what is something that you wish you would have known back then that would have helped you now?

Unknown Speaker [14:36]
5 years ago, I was still working as an engineer. And I would have just told myself to get started on this stuff right out of college. It’s crazy how underpaid you are at your job, no matter what you do, you’re probably underpaid for what value delivering. And the sooner that you can start, the sooner you can actually get a head start and start making significant money and just kind of realizing that your day job is not going to allow you to make life changing money.

Denis O’Brien [15:11]
Yeah, definitely makes sense. So what is something that you stressed about and then later turned out fine? So it could be anything small, like something maybe in your business, or maybe in your personal life with your money? What was one thing that really you managed to turn around?

Steve Chou [15:28]
Top of mind all the time is my family. The problem with running a business and being successful is that your kids just kind of naturally assume that money grows on trees. And so one thing that we have started doing is we’ve kind of encouraged our kids to start their own business as well. And so we actually just launched this business earlier this year, it is called kidincharge.com, it is a store selling t shirts. And you know, we’re having the kids a part of the entire process. They started out by manufacturing their own t shirts. They even went to like this little career fair, or, I guess, sales fair, so to speak with their school where they were selling in real time, with a booth. And the way we’re marketing the store, we’re making them produce their own YouTube videos on their YouTube channel. And it’s been a great learning experience.

Katie Welsh [16:20]
That’s fantastic. Out of curiosity, how old are your kids?

Steve Chou [16:24]
They are 9 and 11.

Katie Welsh [16:26]
So you’re teaching them early, huh?

Steve Chou [16:28]
We are busy. Okay, so this is what set this whole thing off? I think I was at the store or no, they wanted me to go buy something at the store. And I said, Hey, I don’t I don’t have any cash on me. Sorry, I can’t buy it. And they’re like, Well, can you just go to the bank and get some? And when they said that I was like, Hey, what do they think that like, the bank is just this like, endless source of money or something like that. And so,

Katie Welsh [16:50]
Which they do.

Steve Chou [16:52]
So, I was like, you’re going to start earning your own money. That’s what set me off. I can’t remember the exact circumstance, I just remember that. That’s what they said, once you just go and get some more, you know, get some more money. That’s like, Okay, you guys are going to start earning your money.

Katie Welsh [17:06]
When my my brother works in banking. And he would tell my nephew that when he would go to work, you would go and make coin. He did it for like, years and years and years. And at one point, my brother was talking to me, because I think Stephen actually thinks that I make coins for my job. And it’s funny how kids can take like, little things like that and completely become so innocent with it and not know the difference.

Steve Chou [17:39]
Yeah. It’s funny, like my parents used to always say, hey, when I was growing up, I had it hard, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I find myself saying the same thing now to my kids. But you guys have it easy. You have a house you have you know, food whenever you want. And when I was young, you know, I had to study hard, I dunno yeah

Katie Welsh [17:59]
We walked uphill both ways in the snow.

Steve Chou [18:02]
Yeah, carrying buckets of water. You know, side by side.

Denis O’Brien [18:06]
It’s funny how it’s all relative. So between the blog and the e commerce store, what would you say has been your favorite?

Steve Chou [18:16]
I’ve actually enjoyed the blogging. And you know, I’ve, it’s weird, because over time, like in the beginning, I really enjoyed running the store because it was brand new, I guess I tend to just really gravitate towards new things. So the blog, it allows me to actually help people and I actually get feedback in real time. Like, I get emails all the time, with people thanking me for teaching them, you know how to go on their own. So that’s just been very rewarding. And then the event, which we haven’t mentioned yet, which is the seller summit my annual e commerce event, that has been particularly rewarding because it allows me to actually hang out with my readers and my students live and really get to know them better.

Denis O’Brien [18:55]
Is that online? Or do you actually

Steve Chou [18:57]
No, it’s a real event? It’s alive? Yeah, its in Florida every year.

Katie Welsh [19:01]
Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Steve Chou [19:03]
Oh, yeah. So the focus of the event, so it’s in Miami, actually, it’s in Fort Lauderdale next year, we’ve been doing for four years now. It’s the type of conference that I wanted to attend. So it’s very small, meaning it’s small, intimate. And the focus is on networking and learning. So all the sessions are action focused, and not a whole lot of the inspirational stuff. It really just teaches you how to run a business. And we have networking events every single night. It is a tightly knit event of about 200 people. And by the end like everyone is friends, everyone’s forming their own mastermind groups. It’s actually a lot of fun.

Denis O’Brien [19:41]
That’s really cool. Steve, we’re just going to take a quick break, and then we’ll dive right back into the value link round. Money clan, Kate and I have recently been starting to use Savvi Financial as our tool to track our finances. And I must tell you, it has been a phenomenal tool to both Kate and myself. financial advise can be really hard to get and sort of understanding what you need to do can be really challenging. What we like about savvifi is it helps you set goals that are actually achievable. And it lets you know how you’re doing. Another cool thing is that it connects to all of your accounts. So you have one interface, you can see exactly what’s going on. One cool thing that I like about them is that it’s built by a team of MIT trained data scientists, and it’s world class financial advice on your finances, they focused on stuff like retirement, refinancing student debt, life insurance, and so much more. The base subscription is absolutely free. And if you guys are interested in claiming this offer, head on over to chainofwealth.com/savvi, that’s SAVVI. Take control of your financial future in minutes with Savvi Financial.

Katie Welsh [20:53]
Okay, Steve, so I’m curious to know what your retirement plans and goals are?

Steve Chou [20:59]
I don’t plan on ever retiring because I just know for a fact I got a lot of buddies here in the Bay area where they tried to retire. And they were just bored out of their minds. So as long as I’m able to I plan on continuing to run these businesses. And you know, if something new comes up, you know, I’ll probably give it a stab. But I plan on working until I’m not able to.

Katie Welsh [21:24]
Okay,

Denis O’Brien [21:25]
Nothing wrong with that. So do you have a favorite book, that your into?

Steve Chou [21:29]
I’ve read a lot. I can tell you what my favorite book of all time is. It’s the psychology of persuasion by Cialdini.

Denis O’Brien [21:37]
Ah Cool.

Steve Chou [21:38]
That book is probably the single most helpful book in business that you can find, even though it wasn’t written with that intent.

Denis O’Brien [21:46]
Interesting. definitely have to check it out.

Katie Welsh [21:49]
Yeah. And do you have a favorite quote, you tried to live by?

Steve Chou [21:53]
Favorite quote.

Katie Welsh [21:55]
This one gets everybody?

Steve Chou [21:58]
How about Who Dares Wins?

Katie Welsh [22:00]
Okay,

Steve Chou [22:01]
No regrets.

Denis O’Brien [22:04]
Love it. Steve, we’ve absolutely loved hanging out today. Do you have any other last parting piece of advice for our listeners. And then we’ll say goodbye.

Steve Chou [22:11]
Yeah, I mean, really, it doesn’t cost that much money to start an online business. It doesn’t take a lot of money to start a blog or an e commerce store. What you got to do is you want to just get started on the side. Even if you’re working full time, just get started now, learn the ropes. And there’s a learning process right. Over time, you will start to get traction. And it’s all about just taking baby steps towards you know, working up something that you could eventually turn into your retirement plan and that your ticket to financial freedom.

Denis O’Brien [22:42]
Absolutely love that. Money clan we’ve been chatting with Steve you can check out his website. It’s mywifequitherjob.com and definitely consider if you want to start a business online. There are all sorts of benefits and it gives you a lot of freedom.

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