Stories From the Road During ECF Week

This Fall we hosted “ECF Week”, where community members in 20+ cities across the globe got together to connect.

I couldn’t make all the events but I did my best and joined 8 meetups in 9 days. It was a roadtrip and the likes of which I’ve never attempted before.

My itinerary was:

Bozeman -> Denver -> Austin -> Charlotte -> Philadelphia -> NYC -> Detroit -> Toronto -> Bozeman

…again, all in 9 days!

On today’s episode I want to bring you along the journey to share the experience, including:

  • Why I took a life-sized cut out of Jeff Bezos with me
  • To hear from some of the incredible members in our Community
  • To see why (and how) I crossed the Canadian border without saying a word

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com)

Andrew: Welcome to the eCommerceFuel podcast, the show dedicated to helping high six and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow e-commerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian.

Hey, you guys. It’s Andrew here. And welcome to the eCommerceFuel podcast. Thanks so much for tuning into the show today, and have a fun adventure episode for you. I’m gonna be taking you on the road with me for what we here at e-commerce will call ECF week for our private community. And that’s when we get as many people as possible around the globe together to meet up locally in person. And we did this in late September, early October. And we had meetups from Dublin, to Miami, to Austin, Texas, to Toronto, to Vancouver, all over the world. In total, I think we had more than 20 meetups, over 200 members met. Got together, broke bread, or had drinks in person. And I couldn’t make all of those but I did my best. I went to eight different meetups in just over a week. Eight meetups in nine days. And I wanna take you on the trip. It was a lot of fun, met a lot of really cool people. And I wanna share some of the stories from the road in terms of people I met, what happened, thoughts on America and Canada, and just the whole experience. It was a lot of fun. So that’s what we’re doing today. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll go ahead and get into the adventure.

One thing I wanna do really quickly is just, if you guys can fill in as you can see everybody because I’d love to… We have enough people. We don’t wanna get your life stories but I’d love to have to just go around quickly and have everyone introduce themselves.

Kicking Things Off in Bozeman!

So, you see if we could actually officially kick off, at least for me, in Bozeman, Montana my hometown, where we surprisingly have quite a few eCommerceFuel members. Partially because we’ve just got some amazing e-commerce entrepreneurship, partially because I’ve recruited a lot of my friends in the community. But we started at my house, had a great turnout, about 15, 14 or 15 people that came out, I think, roughly. And it was fun. We had someone come all the way from Vancouver, Canada, which was amazing. David, thank you for coming out for that. Actually someone from our senators, it’s Steve Daines from Montana.

One of the cool things about living in a state like Montana is you get to interact with, like someone from the Senator’s office. It was pretty straightforward to get him to come to the event just so they could get to know us, so we could talk to them, about some of our concerns legislatively, and the future of e-commerce and things like that. Anyway, you get to interact with people like that. I can’t imagine that being as easy to do or having someone show up if we lived in California or New York, somewhere bigger like that. Anyway, had a great turnout. It was a fun time hosting it at my house.

Next Stop: Denver

And then the next morning, hopped on a plane to Denver, Colorado. Showed up. And before the meetup I actually had the chance to meet up with a community member and see his warehouse. It was really cool. So I swung by Mason Jar Lifestyle and had a chance to chat with Ryan.

Andrew: Ryan, thanks for having me at your store, your warehouse, man.

Ryan: Thanks for coming.

Andrew: Yeah, so what’s your business?

Ryan: Mason Jar Lifestyle. So we sell accessories for mason jars. We sell lids, koozies, soap, pumps, handles, candle holders, stuff like that.

Andrew: And you are out of Denver, Colorado. You been doing it how long here?

Ryan: About two years now.

Andrew: Weirdest customer complaint or customer service request you’ve gotten in the last, let’s say month or two.

Ryan: Weirdest, oh, man, there’s a lot of competition for that. Just yesterday or two days ago, I got an email from a customer who said, “I love your stuff. It’s great, you know. I love your koozies but…the colors. I mean, coral, mint green, yellow. YUCK, all caps, period. Anyway, I love your products. Get back to me.” And I say, “Thanks.”

Andrew: Would you do a special zebra edition for them?

Ryan: Yeah. She didn’t give any suggestions about, you know, what she would like. Just yuck.

Andrew: And finally we’re done here, kind of in your overflow. I was telling you, your warehouse is really well put together and organized. What’s the story behind this building? And, like, down here, you know, we’re in the kind of the basement specifically. It’s got a cool backstory.

Ryan: So there’s a reality TV show called “American Guns.” And it was on the Discovery Channel. And that was in this building. And they made the guns in the basement here where we’re standing. And it’s pretty cool show.

Andrew: And then what happened on the back side to you guys have it?

Ryan: And then he got indicted on 13 felonies. And he was going to jail so he needed to sell a building quick. And I think we got a really good deal on the building.

Andrew: So looking for real estate, find someone with 13 felonies.

Man: Going to jail, yeah.

Ryan: Right. It’s all over the local news at the time.

Andrew: Ryan, thanks for letting me stop by, man.

Ryan: Yeah, thank you.

Andrew: After meeting with Ryan, headed down to the Airbnb, got checked in, and met up with Scott and Patti Scharf from catchingclouds.com. They’re the accounting experts in the community for ECF. And had a great dinner with them, just talking about things, especially talking a lot about sales tax and the amnesty program that has, you know, been floating around. So they also were the sponsors for the meetup. So, Scott and Patti, thank you for hosting the Denver meetup. Had the meetup a couple blocks away. Great, you know, had a good turnout of 10 to 12 people. And it was fun. Just chat with people, getting to know ’em, talking, and had a great time having some beers and hanging out. So I headed back to the Airbnb after that and recorded kind of a late-night reminiscence of the day.

It’s about 10:50 p.m. on the second day here of ECF week in Denver, Colorado. Two quick thoughts before I wrap up the day. One is Denver just seems to be just exploding. I’ve had five or six conversations just today with people about how quickly this place is growing, how fast homes are appreciating, and how traffic is noticeably different in just one or two years, which is kinda wild. The other thing is I’m starting to hear a meaningful number of people talking about how Amazon is getting really difficult, really kind of frustrations about Amazon in terms of the competition, headaches, the profitability that I haven’t obviously…it’s always been there, but hearing it at a much higher rate, just chatting, which is interesting. So it’s interesting to see if that that holds up throughout the rest of the trip. So I’m going to sleep on a good day. Good night.

Eating Alone Isn’t Half Bad

Next morning, got up and had a quick little breakfast for myself before I headed the airport. So one thing I’d say, a lot of people don’t like eating meals in a restaurant solo. I have never had that. Maybe I just have no shame. That probably is most likely what the problem is. But it’s great. You sit there, you can drink your coffee, and read, listen to a podcast in peace. And I don’t know, I mean, granted if I had to choose between having a good friend or Annie sitting across from me, of course, I’m gonna pick that. But I don’t know. Eating by yourself, give it a chance next time. You might like it.

Off to Austin, Texas

Anyway, had a little breakfast or romantic breakfast with myself. It sounds weird. And hopped on an airplane, quick hop over in Dallas. Barely made my connection. I thought I was gonna miss it actually. Our event coronary was helping me plan logistics. Called one of our…Alan Walton from the community who was driving from Dallas to Austin for the meetup. And he almost turned around to come get me because I didn’t think I was gonna make the connection. But had a very classic, you know, sprint through the airport. Really, you know, it only goes to feel classy when you’re doing that sprint through the airport. Made the connection, got over to Austin, and met up at the Beardbrand offices for the meetup. A bunch of square.

My Guest of Honor: Cardboard Jeff Bezos

One thing I have not mentioned yet is life-sized Jeff Bezos. So I’m sure a lot of you guys have seen the kind of the internet meme about Jeff Bezos in 1997 looking very geeky. And then again in 2014 or ’15 looking like Vince Diesel. And so we had, we made a full life-sized cutout of buff Jeff Bezos. And I’ll include a bunch of pictures in the show notes. But it was interesting to travel with. Not as many people as I expected knew who he was. Because I set him up to greet everybody when people walked into these meetups. So that was a little awkward. People just, you know, wondered why I had this creepy guy life-size cutout in front of the entryway.

But the other thing is traveling with this guy was brutal. You know, TSA gave him the full shakedown every time we went through on the airplanes, especially the small commuter ones. I had to resort to usually getting permission from people in front of me and behind me and then slamming him between the seats and the wall, the windows, because he took up like two or three spaces. As you will see, Jeff did not make it all the way through the trip, partially because he started disintegrating as he was made of cardboard, about half way through. But he was a lot of fun for the first three or four legs of the journey. If you wanna see some of the pictures, you can head on over to the eCommerceFuel.com and check out the blog post.

So anyway, back to the road trip in Austin. Head over to Beardbrand headquarters where Eric Bandholz had graciously allowed us to take over his very cool offices right on 6th Street. Great venue for the meetup. And great turnout. Probably 20-ish plus people there, plus or minus. Really fun. Austin crew, thank you for coming out. And had a chance to chat with one.

I’m here in the Beardbrand headquarters in Austin with Mr. Aaron. Aaron, how are you doing, sir?

Aaron: I’m doing well. Thanks.

Andrew: What’s your business?

Aaron: Currently I own two brands. I have wineovation.com and thebeerbelly.com.

Andrew: And thebeerbelly.com, that sounds intriguing. What’s that? And I know what it is, but tell people what it is.

Aaron: So thebeerbelly.com is a product-based business where we manufacture a product that allows you to smuggle beverages into certain events. We have a Beerbelly product, and one called the wine rack. The wine rack is a sports bra that allows you to wear your wine, so…

Andrew: And how many ounces of delicious brew could I fit into one of these belly things to smuggle in?

Aaron: So you can get 80 ounces of your favorite beverage in there. This product has been around for quite a while. We actually acquired the business back in somewhere around ’08 or so, ’09.

Andrew: And if you had to say the one thing you’re most excited about right now, what would that be?

Aaron: You know, what’s excited, I’d say probably just the ability to build out big beautiful websites and new brands, and how easy it is right now. I’m currently working on a couple other projects unrelated to my current businesses. And it’s just incredibly, I would say easy in comparison to a decade ago to build out a beautiful platform and then push your products to market.

Andrew: Easier to build out a platform. Do you feel like it’s harder, though, to actually get traction, and given more competition, and the fact that e-commerce is more mature?

Aaron: Yeah, for sure. So then you, you know, you obviously have to have a niche product or a method of driving traffic that is proven to you. And, yeah, that’s definitely a challenge.

Andrew: And what are you drinking right now?

Aaron: We’ve got a nice little Merlot.

Andrew: Awesome, dude. Good seeing you again.

Aaron: Yeah, thanks man. Good to see you.

Booking it to Charlotte

Andrew: So after we wrapped things up, Jeff and I headed back to my Airbnb. That also sounds weird and creepy. But we headed back to Airbnb, and got up really early the next morning to head on over to Charlotte, North Carolina. So quick stop in Atlanta. Fortunately, no run of shame through the airport to make a connection. Landed in Charlotte. And Charlotte is where, of course, Bill DAlessandro is headquartered in Elements Brands. Very important to pronounce the s’es on both of those. If you wanna really drive Bill crazy, call it Element Brand. It’s a lot of fun actually, so I recommend it.

But he was kind enough to have us at his newly renovated offices. They’re beautiful. They took a warehouse, expanded the back of it, done a bunch of work in it. It’s a really cool space. Have a front office that’s nicely done and the huge warehouse in the back. And great crew. Everyone who came out to the Charlotte meetup, thank you for coming. I got to meet some people that I haven’t, you know, long time forum members that I have never met before. Like Joe Cochran, and Brian Goodwin, a bunch of others, too, that it’s so cool to meet in person after you, you know, you’ve seen someone and read their stuff and interacted with them online so long, meeting in person was really cool.

So we all grab some sushi. And after we stuffed ourselves there, we just walked right across the street to Bill’s, those offices, and had a meetup. And we, man, we rallied. We were there from probably 7:00 till midnight or later. Right around midnight I think is when we finally closed things up. So especially thanks to Johnny. And Johnny, thank you for helping out and volunteering with that. And had a chance to pull Alex Thrasher. One of the members aside and chat with him.

So I’m here in Bill DAlessando’s warehouse, where we just got the tour about two hours ago with Alex Thrasher, also known as Malko. So, Malko, what’s the story behind this? This is a cool story. Why the pseudonym?

Malko: Andrew and I were just talking about how when I started my business, I was working full-time at a bank. And as anybody who knows who’s been in the financial industry, it’s a frowned upon thing to have a side business on the side. It’s very much a no-go. So when I first got started in e-commerce, it was with a group of guys. We were working out, doing boot camp workouts, and I was ordering t-shirts for those guys. And that t-shirt business actually turned into a manufacturing business, making my own stuff. Long story short, I spent about three and a half years building up a side hustle to be a real business. And throughout that time, the entire business was built under my side name, my nickname, Malko. And that’s how I joined the e-commerce forum. I was Malko. And I was doing all my emails from my banding cart sequence. Everything that came out from the company was under the name Malko. So I answer to that now just as much as anything else.

Andrew: It’s cool. Like I, even now, feel like I know you as Malko and not Alex. Remember the first time, it was like, “Oh, Alex did this.” And pointing to you, I’m like, “No, no, no. His name’s Malko.” Anyway, I used to sell at mudgear.com and adventure racing and kind of endurance racing apparel. And you’re coming up on your one-year anniversary of quitting your job, right?

Malko: Exactly, yeah. So it was July 2017 that I gave my notice at the bank. It was a two-week notice. And at that point, I had, the day before I gave my notice, I had my last performance review. And it’s something I’m really proud of. I had a “Exceeds expectations” at the bank while running my side hustle that had become big enough for me to quit and do it full-time. So that was something that I, you know, wanted to be sure I was still, you know, giving my full effort there. But I had built it to the point where was something I knew I wanted to tackle and take advantage of the opportunity. So the day I gave my notice was the day after that last good performance review. And found out the next day that I’ve actually signed something a year ago that gave me, you know, an extra period of time, a small period of paid leave before I had to fully get off the payroll. So that gave me even a bit more buffer after I had left to be able to plow into the business and continue to build it to be something that, you know, maintained the lifestyle for me and my family before we were totally, you know, dependent on the company for that.

Andrew: That’s awesome. Congrats on your year anniversary. And here’s to many more.

Malko: Yeah, thank you very much.

Andrew: So I had a great time at the meetup and chatting with everybody. Thank you, everyone, who came out, again, to the Charlotte meetup. Crashed that evening, got up the next morning, and had the chance to have breakfast. Not Solo myself, but with other people. Bill and a handful of other people had breakfast and then headed off to the airport to head to Philadelphia. And to be honest, I was a little lonely.

Jeff Makes an Early Departure

It was a little bittersweet because I left Jeff at the Element Brand, the thing is Element Brand, not Elements Brands. Pretty sure it’s the first one. We left Jeff at Bill’s, at Bill’s place. And no disrespect intended at all, Jeff, but we ended up doing, because I knew he’s gonna leave him there because I was tired of traveling with a huge full life-sized cutout of a person, we removed the cardboard head from Jeff Bezos so that we could do, we could take pictures of ourselves impersonating Jeff ripped Bezos. So if you wanna head over to the blog and the show notes for this, you can see pictures of myself, Bill, and Mike Jackness, all doing our best ripped Jeff Bezos impression donning sunglasses with the cardboard body in front of us. That might be too much information but I’ll throw it out there. Apologies if it is.

Anyway, headed to the airport. I hopped on the plane, landed in Philadelphia. And had a really good meetup at a brewery that evening with the Philly crew. So thank you for coming out, everyone. Nate, thank you for coming down from D.C., driving all the way down for the meetup. And also for organizing the D.C. Baltimore meetup. That was awesome. Thank you, sir Nathan. Yeah, thank you, man. And Lindsey, thank you for being the volunteer to help out with a lot of bringing the stuff in and some of the logistics. But, yeah, had a great night. Although the only problem was a little noisy in there. My voice was, you know, been talking nonstop for a lot of the last three, four days in the evenings. And as you will see, as I got back to my Airbnb ending with a quick recording, it is starting to take its toll.

Philly Next!

It’s late on Friday night. I guess technically Saturday morning. And just got back from the meetup with the Philadelphia crew, which is…which is a ton of fun. Great members here. I really enjoyed chat with them over a few beers tonight. And if you can tell, that the voice is quickly…it took a drastic change today. I feel like it’s going out. And really hoping it last me another three meetups there. Hopefully I’m not completely mute by the time I wrap this thing up. Good thing I landed at this Airbnb tonight. I think it’s the only one so far that’s had washer and dryer. And it was very good timing because I was just wrapping up on anything clean in the sock, underwear, or shirt department. Given that I’m going so light, traveling with a tiny little backpack. So, yeah, so very good. That probably prevent me from parting the waters, so to speak, at future meetups. Anyway, that’s it for tonight. I shouldn’t be talking. My voice is just a bad shot. So I’m gonna hit the sack and go up on a train I guess in the morning to New York. Looking forward to hanging out with Jason and the crew there. All right. Good night.

So after trying to get some sleep and rest the voice, got up the next morning and had…I never really spend much time in Philly. So headed downtown, saw the Liberty Bell. I don’t even remember the name of wherever they drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Probably I’m getting that wrong, and will probably get emails from people in Philadelphia who will correct me about one of the two of those. Anyway, all the historical stuff in Philly were very cool. Lasting impressions, you can tell. Yeah, check that out. Took an Amtrak from Philly up to New York, which is…which is really cool. I don’t get to travel by train much so that’s always a fun thing to do.

The Big Apple

It was always fun coming into New York. New York is just…it’s just a cool city, especially seeing that skyline as you’re coming in. It’s impressive. So, came in, took the subway over to Brooklyn, and got landed in my Airbnb there, and headed out to meetup with Jason Feinberg who’s the owner of FCTRY. Had the chance to sit down with him over coffee beforehand, which was a lot of fun. And then we headed over to his loft where he promptly destroyed me in ping-pong. And we got the meetup underway. So I had a great meetup, chance to meet a lot of people. Thank you, everyone, who came in for that meetup. And had a chance to sit down and shout at a few people there on the mic before I took off.

Mr. Jason Feinberg. Thanks for having us, dude.

Jason: No problem. Thanks for being here, Andrew.

Andrew: This is a gorgeous space you have. You moved in here, what, like, six weeks ago?

Jason: Yeah, about six weeks.

Andrew: It’s awesome, beautiful. There were like, 15-foot ceilings, all white. It looks like something out of a magazine. It’s really cool. Plus, the best part, of course, is the ping-pong table where you just summarily destroyed me about 20 minutes ago.

Jason: It’s been a couple years in the common, Andrew.

Andrew: Anyway, dude, thanks for having us. What do you, just quickly, for people listening that may not be familiar to you, what’s your company?

Jason: My company is called FCTRY. We’re a mostly product design company. We make fun stuff. So anything that’s in the consumer product space that we think we can make more fun, we’ll make that, and then we’ll just trying to build a brand around it.

Andrew: So what’s one or two examples of stuff that you guys make?

Jason: Right now, our most popular product is called the Unicorn Snot. It’s a glitter gel. It’s a cosmetic glitter gel. It’s now expanded out into sunscreen and lip gloss and a couple other cosmetic glittery goos. Another one is our hipster kid line, which is sort of fashion-forward accessories for very young children.

Andrew: And very fitting that you’re based out of Brooklyn, of course. Why Brooklyn? Why are you guys here?

Jason: I mean, I grew up here. Where else am I gonna go? I’ve been in Brooklyn now since 2001. The reason I’m in Brooklyn is because I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan in 2001.

Andrew: And for people that maybe aren’t familiar with the scene, what’s happened in Brooklyn over the last, let’s say, five, six years?

Jason: Over a slightly longer period, over the last, really, 15 years, I’ve been here to get to see it to serve an artistic and creative renaissance that has now turned into more of a, sort of morphed into…I don’t wanna say a commercial renaissance. It’s come together, this is the creative boom with a commercial boom. And there’s just a lot of creative activity going on here right now. It’s a hotbed of innovation and just interesting ideas.

Andrew: And final question, I can’t believe I’m the spy here, who’s on the e-commerce fuel forum member that you have never met but would love to sit down with and get to know better?

Jason: I have never talked to Eric Bandholz, and I would love to sit down with him.

Andrew: Awesome. I had a great meetup. Thanks for destroying me in ping-pong. I’m gonna go home and practice. It’s always good hanging out, buddy.

Jason: I’ll see you in San Diego.

Andrew: I’m here with, your name, sir?

Jim: Jim McCarthy.

Andrew: And Jim, where are you from?

Jim: I’m from Colchester, Connecticut.

Andrew: And you sell locks, correct? You just sell locks, yeah.

Jim: I do. We sell locks and safes online. Our domain is locksandsafesonline.com strangely enough.

Andrew: And what would you say is the most interesting thing that you sell, like the most interesting type of lock or safe.

Jim: Well, you’re gonna think I’m a little bit of a lock geek by saying this but I think all locks are interesting. They come in so many configurations, so many finishes and functions that…I guess I’m just a lock geek. So I like them all.

Andrew: Like, we were just looking at a biometric lock that Jason has installed here. You’re telling me that there’s some types of locks that you get outfitted at school, for example, with a bunch of wireless enabled locks that can be configured to lock down and like an act to your situation or just remotely. And I was asking you earlier, it’s kind of an interesting question, though, how difficult would it be if you were…you seemed like a very nice guy, but given your knowledge, how difficult would it be to get into most of the locks and safe, you know, just on an average street in America?

Jim: Well, I guess I try to be a pretty nice guy. So I try to be the guy that would operate with honesty and integrity. And I do do that. But I suppose if I did go on the wrong side, I could be kind of a dangerous person.

Andrew: We’ll leave it at that. And then maybe quickly before we wrap it up, how’d you get into this business? You have a background being locksmith, right?

Jim: Yes, that’s right. I’ve been a locksmith for 30 years now. And I thought, well, what a great way to reach so many more people. This would be utilizing the digital medium of the internet. And you know, through that experience and really just kind of teaching myself as I went on, I was fortunate enough to meet you, Andrew, and get on the eCommerceFuel forum. You know, it’s been such a great experience for me to connect with so many other people that have such a diverse base of experience with e-commerce. Of course, everybody sells something different. So it’s not really a problem or worried about competition between one another. And it’s just been really a great experience. Because I never really thought too much about, you know, email marketing or that kind of thing. I know locks inside and out. But it’s been a great experience for me to learn more about e-commerce. So, you know, I’m really grateful for that to you.

Andrew: Oh, it’s great having you in the community. Thank you. And thanks for making the drive down here. It was a little bit of a haul for you and your wife, so thanks for coming.

Jim: Oh, it’s been a pleasure, Andrew. Thank you so much for having us.

Detroit Here We Come!

Andrew: So after a great meetup in New York City/Brooklyn, got up the next morning up on the airplane, land in Detroit. And Detroit was one of the cities I was probably most curious to see. I have never been to Detroit apart from flying through, which means I’ve never been to Detroit. And there’s so much has happened there at the last, you know, 10 plus years in terms of the auto industry, and some of the economic issues, and potentially, you know, Detroit coming back a little bit. I’m hearing rumors about that. And so I was really curious to see what the city was like. And so getting out, I asked pretty much everybody there from, you know, the four or five Uber drivers I had when I was in the city, to asking the people I met up with there, what it was like. And overwhelmingly, people were excited and optimistic and bullish about the city. Jobs were coming back. A fairly strong revitalization it sounds like has taken hold.

Personally, I did not see…you think of Detroit and what immediately comes to mind this is, you know, abandoned buildings and just kind of urban decay. And I didn’t see any of that. I didn’t do a… Detroit is an enormous city. And for the most part, I saw between the airport and downtown and walking around a lot downtown. But it was cool. It was cool to see that city coming back. It sounds like a lot of businesses are coming back. And they’ve done a really good job trying to revitalize the downtown and among other areas. So kind of a cool backdrop for the meetup that we had. So we had the chance to do a meetup. And of all of meetups we had, this one was definitely the most sparsely attended, partially because Detroit, we just didn’t have a lot of members in that area.

We kind of picked it because we wanted to go somewhere out of the way a little bit and meet people I hadn’t met in that part of the country before. But we just didn’t have a ton of members. And a lot of people couldn’t come last minute, I think. And so we had three of us. And then for most of it, it was Andy Humphrey and myself hanging out having a beer, which probably was good. One, it was great to get to know Andy personally really well. So, Andy, thanks for coming out, buddy. And the second thing was I, at that point, could not, could barely talk, you know, in a whisper. And so it was probably good that I wasn’t trying to talk with, you know, a ton of people. Andy, I feel sorry for you that you had to, you know, deal with that and having me whisper in your ear more or less all evening to communicate. So anyway, great night chatting with Andy, and retired early, and headed back.

Andrew Goes Without Talking

And so the next morning, actually, in route to Toronto, I made the commitment for a day-and-a-half to do zero talking, to try to let my voice recover. And to the point where when I got into my Uber the next day, I handed my Uber driver a note that said, “I’m sorry. I can’t speak.” You know, “If you need me to write anything down, I’m happy to.” And, you know, he gave me kind of a, you know, he was cool about it. But anyway, the next 36 hours, from ordering food, to the airplane, I went through Canadian customs without saying anything to them. I just handed them a piece of paper and made yes/no motions and they let me through, which was shocking, but it worked. Anyway, it worked out great, landed in Toronto, got set up. And up until the next day at lunchtime, had a chance to, again, it was just, had a chance to recover. My voice came back at least a little bit stronger if not in full.

Toronto! Final Stop at Shopify HQ

But Toronto is a cool city. It’s another place I have only…I had never been apart from flying through. And it’s just, granted I landed there probably about the most perfect time you could have with the weather. It was 70 degrees. It was sunny. It was beautiful. It was fall. But a really cool city. I was also in like King Street, which is a pretty kind of chic place I think. But I was impressed with the city, impressed with the friendliness of the people, just the city itself. And if I was gonna live in any major big city, I would strongly consider Toronto. It was a cool place.

So, had a chance, fortunately, the first night I was there, we had nothing planned. This was the first night I didn’t have anything planned on the trip. And the next night we had a meetup at Shopify. Shopify was kind enough to host us at their headquarters there. And it was great. We had a room all to ourselves. Probably had 25-ish plus or minus, maybe close to 30 people at the event. A lot of team members from Shopify were there, which was really cool. So a chance for the Shopify team and the ECF members to get together, which was great. So for everyone in Toronto, thank you for coming out to the meetup. Thank you, Shopify, for having us and actually had a chance to sit down with a couple of the guys from Shopify and chat.

I’m at the Shopify offices in Toronto in the Hogwarts conference room with a couple great guys. Guys, can you introduce yourself, and just let people know what you do at Shopify?

Abdul: Hey, guys. I’m Abdul Mateen Kenduala, and I’m on the community development team at Shopify, building community around areas that Shopify believes in, Shopify is involved in, in Toronto specifically.

Andrew: And you were the main man helping us during the meetup last night. Thanks so much, dude. It was fun having everyone there. Appreciate your work.

Abdul: Man, it was a blast. It was a blast, honestly. Great company, learned a lot, and it was just a good time in general.

Andrew: Awesome. And you, sir?

Mark: Mark McDonald. I’m the content marketing lead here at Shopify. So my team and I, we create all of our educational resources, blog post, podcast, video tutorials that help our merchants figure out how to sell online successfully and build businesses.

Andrew: And this is the second time I’ve roped you into one of my impromptu podcast interview. So thanks for being a good sport, man.

Mark: Yeah, you bet. Always great talking to you, Andrew, and the eComFuel community, which is a great group of folks to be with last night.

Andrew: So a couple quick questions. What’s your favorite Shopify store that you don’t own or run that you’ve seen? And it could be…this have to be the one, but maybe, you know, one that you’ve seen that you are really impressed by.

Abdul: I’d go with The Legends League store. He’s played around with the names a lot. But he’s from Toronto. A great artist, the stuff that he believes in, the things that he creates, and how he loves his fans. And I think part of it is not just the store itself. Like, the store is a beauty, but part of it is how he promotes the product on social media, and what he stands for, and how he engages with his audience members, that sort of stuff. And, like, I mean, I vibe with the apparel that he sells, too. So that works, you know.

Mark: I love what Jeff Sheldon has built with his store Ugmonk. You can tell it’s really a passion-based business that somebody who’s building products, who cares about design. I got a great wallet from his store that I love. And it was cool to see…he recently did a IndieGoGo campaign, I believe. It might’ve been a Kickstarter for a new minimalist, like, desk organization kind of accessory, which was really cool. He killed it. I think he did like over $400,000 in funding. So just an impressive kind of entrepreneur who’s building a creative business, and he seems like he’s really making a living on his own terms.

Andrew: Cool. And I actually didn’t have some of Jeff. We’ll link up to that in the show notes if you’re curious about learning more. And final question, I wanna ask you guys to give me some predictions on the Shopify stock price. I’m guessing next I’m getting some kind of SEC rule, or can, you know, so avoid, for you guys, some awkward/illegal situation, and instead ask you last question. Is there a meal at Shopify you guys had…thank you for the lunch invite. That was awesome. Obviously, you know, fantastic meals. Is there a meal where a day of the week or you guys gorge on something like it’s…if it’s Thursday, it’s like Indian food then you just go bananas? Is there a meal where you just like get in trouble because it’s so good?

Abdul: I go crazy over the snacks every day. Like I don’t think it’s the meals, per se, but it’s the snack well, man. Always munching on something.

Mark: Yeah, we’re a little bit sprawled on the meal front. I love jerk chicken day. We do get Indian time to time, and it drives my wife crazy because I never feel like Indian food when she wants to get takeout. Because we had it like the day before kind of thing. But I’d say jerk chicken is my favorite day.

Andrew: Awesome. Guys, appreciate you having me here. Thanks for the chain smoker sounding gag coming in, infiltrate the office for a few days. It’s been fun. Appreciate you guys, and the hospitality.

Abdul: Awesome.

Mark: Thanks, man.

Andrew: So after the meetup, a bunch of us headed out and had drinks at a local bar for a couple hours and close things down around midnight. And just a lot of fun, again, meeting. I feel like I maybe repeating myself here, but it’s so cool to meet people in person that you’ve known online for so long. So, everyone who made it out to the Toronto meetup, thank you. Thank you for coming. It was a great way to cap off the trip. I felt like we close things out well and appreciate you guys all making the trip down to join us and get together.

So after the meetup, the morning after I had a kind of afternoon flight. So I had a little bit of time in the city, had a couple of appointments and people to meet up with. And one of them that that kind of transpired just kind of serendipitously was with a company called Shoelace. They knew I was in Toronto, or one of their team members reached out to me on Twitter. And I had the chance to just drop in really quickly, which was great, because they’re a great company. Really cool to learn about what they did. And they’re actually gonna be sponsoring ECF Live in Laguna Beach this January. So I had a chance to sit down and talk to them for a minute or two.

So what’s your name?

Meeting with Shoelace

Fiona: It’s Fiona.

Andrew: And what company are you with, Fiona?

Fiona: I am with Shoelace. We do retargeting on autopilot.

Andrew: And what does that mean in a nutshell?

Fiona: So in a nutshell, our app is being built to automate retargeting expertise. And what that means is we automate all the daily tasks associated with retargeting. Retargeting on Facebook and Instagram, and creating the campaigns for you, managing them for you, optimizing them for you. And we do this based on all of the data that we get from campaigns that we already run for customers. So all those learnings are incorporated into the product. And then we can…you have access to that expertise through us.

Andrew: Now we’re talking just really quickly earlier. You love Toronto. Why do you love Toronto?

Fiona: I love Toronto for so many reasons. So I’ve lived here about 15 years. And I’ve seen it develop into the awesome, awesome city that it is today. It’s like super diverse. Anywhere from, like, you look at the architecture around, you look at the art scene around, you look at the diversity of just the people, like you’ll walk down the street and hear 10 different languages and it’s awesome. And, of course, the tech scene is awesome, too. Like, there’s startups all over the place and meetups for startups all over the place. You could see that some is truly awesome. And Shopify is just down the street.

Andrew: And finally, who is the craziest person in your office and why?

Fiona: The craziest. There are a lot of characters in this office. That’s a tough one.

Andrew: Do you get to choose from right here?

Fiona: I’d say Alex. No, really, everybody has like their own craziness that they bring to Shoelace. So I can’t actually narrow down.

Andrew: Where would the guy who has like a hundred different nerf ammunition things surrounding his chair following that net?

Fiona: Yeah, Ollie is our front-end developer and he was high up on the list. But there’s all these like flashbacks I’m having from my time at Shoelace, and everybody has a crazy side. So, yeah, but that was Ollie.

Andrew: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Fiona: Thank you.

Andrew: So after wrapping up that in my downtown Toronto meetings, hopped in an Uber, headed up to the airport for that final leg home. And sat down and recorded in the moment just a few of the closing thoughts before I officially wrapped up the whole trip.

It’s about 4:00 on October 4th, and I’m at Toronto Airport, just about ready to hop on a plane back to the states and wrap up the entire ECF week. Quick last dispatch from the field before wrapping this whole thing up, I feel surprisingly good apart from sounding like chain smoker here. There’s a rough patch between Philadelphia and Detroit where I was feeling pretty wiped out. But I feel a lot better. I could do this for another week. Plus, if I, you know, needed to, which is shocking, I thought I was gonna be a train wreck. You know, thinking back on this trip, this whole tour, if it was worth doing. And I mean, it was ambitious itinerary, and a lot to put together, but totally worth doing. And to see so many members come together over the past week, both on the tour and just globally, was awesome. I got to meet a ton of members for the first time that I’ve never met in person, which is always great. I got a lot of great feedback on how to improve the community and the future meetups.

And plus, man, just being able to be on the road this much and see this much ground in eight days is pretty cool. Yeah, really glad we did this, and looking forward to making ECF week. Maybe not doing this on a, you know, multiple times a year. I don’t know if I’d be able to pull that off. But being able to do local meetups for our community, for our community members, you know, three times a year in a collaborated fashion like this is something I’m really looking forward to doing.

Departing Thoughts

So, sad to hop on a plane, get home, see my girls and Annie. I have a hunch that Bozeman is gonna feel a little sleepy after being in only major metro areas for the last week. Plus, I’ve become acclimated to that level of activity and population bustle. And, yeah, probably if you like pulling into a cow town when I get back, but excited to get home. And thanks to everyone who was a part of this, especially when you came out to the meetups. People who, locally, of course, but especially if you drove. A lot of people drove in from hours away to attend some of these meetups. If you hosted a meetup, thank you. And especially to Lauren Caselli who was our person who put a lot of the logistics together. She was tremendously helpful in making this possible. Couldn’t done it without her. If you’re looking for a great event planner, Lauren Caselli is someone absolutely to check out, and I’ll link up her website in the show notes. Thank You, Lauren. And Laura Serena, or community manager as well, for all you guys’ help to making this possible. So, all right. I’m gonna go hop on a plane and head home. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks, guys.

I’ll leave you with some final numbers here. Total number of flights for the trip, 10. Number of Uber rides, 26. Number of handwritten notes telling people I couldn’t talk, 7. Number of beers, 10. Number of tonic waters in lime plus Lacroix, 16. I got a piece myself, man, otherwise I would have been a total train wreck. Number of cities, 8. Total number of days, 9. And the total number of ECF members I got to meet up with in person, about 105-ish. I’ll be honest. I didn’t count every single one but rough tallies of the meetups there. And total number of ECF week meetups worldwide, 23. It was a lot of fun. Thank you, everyone who came out and joined, hosted a meetup somewhere in the world or helped in any way. Really appreciate you, guys. It was a blast getting to do it.

And if this sounds like fun to you, come join us inside eCommerceFuel. It’s our private community for e-commerce entrepreneurs and store owners doing at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. And apart from getting to come to things like this like, these exclusive meetups that we have, we’ve got a vibrant online forum with vibrant discussion board, proprietary software to help you pick the best tools for your business, and live events in addition to ECF week. So if that sounds interesting to you, please apply to join us. I’d love to hear from you. ecommercefuel.com is where you can learn more and apply for membership.

ECF Week Will Return

And on the back side, looking forward to do an ECF week again, like I mentioned in the airport in Toronto. So stay tuned. We’re hoping to do this shortly after the live event at Laguna that we’re having in January. And hoping to make it a regular occurrence. So thanks so much for listening. Thanks for coming on the journey with me. And thank you, everyone, who’s a part of the trip in ECF week. I’ll chat next Friday.

Want to connect with and learn from other proven e-commerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerceFuel private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least a quarter million dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at ecommercefuel.com. Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

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