A Corporate Escape Story: How eCommerce Changed My Life

A Corporate Escape Story: How eCommerce Changed My Life

It was 5:00 on a Sunday, and I still had hours of work to do at the office. My girlfriend – who lived nine hours away and was in town for a rare visit – was sitting alone in my apartment, anxiously waiting for me to finish (and likely reconsidering the wisdom of her choice to date me).

How did I end up in this position? I never really intended to go into investment banking, a field notorious for long hours and insane work schedules. But it was an enticing job right out of college, offering solid job experience and the chance to really see how large businesses worked.

Our schedule wasn’t nearly as strenuous as many of the bigger investment banks, where 100-hour work weeks are the norm. Still, the 60- to 80-hour weeks, unpredictable schedule and inability to commit to people and/or plans quickly grew draining, especially for work that I didn’t love.

I made the decision to quit and started to save as much money as possible. I kept my beater college car longer than necessary in order to save more money – a car so hideous I had to hide park it blocks from the office. I banked 100% of the bonuses I received and earned a reputation around the office as a bit of a miser. In the small amount of spare time I did have, I read Tim Ferriss’ “The Four-Hour Work Week”and started dreaming about my future plans. I was laying the foundation for my escape.

In November of 2007, I quit. It’s both an exhilarating and slightly terrifying feeling to leave a good job to start your own business. After a solo cross-county road trip, I settled down to start building my future. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I did, however, know the required characteristics I wanted my new venture to have. It needed to:

  • Offer a low risk-to-reward ratio
  • Require little capital
  • Be scalable
  • Be location-independent

It’s amazing how a total lack of income motivates you to action. After exploring a number of potential ideas, I quickly settled on e-commerce as a business model that fit all my criteria. I opened up a bank account with $1,500, created an LLC and picked a niche: CB radios.

It’s about this time I think my mother lost total faith in me. Already somewhat distraught that I’d quit my job, she now had to let friends and family know her son had left the finance world to hawk CB radios via the internet! To be honest, I had a few doubts myself, but because my research methodology (outlined in my eBook) indicated CB radios might be a viable niche, I took a leap of faith and started Right Channel Radios.

Within a month I had my website online and live. Bootstrapped and designed by myself, it wasn’t going to win any awards, but it was a working prototype that could take orders and test my idea’s viability. Shortly after launch, I received my first order. As any business owner will tell you, few things compare to the thrill of your first sale, and it provided an incredible motivational boost.

Over the following months, I threw myself entirely into growing and improving my business. I hungrily learned as much as I could about online marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), my customers and my new market. Sales began to grow, albeit sporadically. My girlfriend (now wife) Annie could tell from my mood each evening how orders had been that day. I continued to bootstrap the business, reinvesting the earnings and my own sweat, but never adding any additional equity apart from my original $1,500 deposit.

Slowly but surely everything began to pay off. Within a year, I was making enough to support myself and Annie. I hired a part-time virtual assistant (VA) to help manage business operations. Within two years, I launched a second e-commerce site, TrollingMotors.net, and shortly thereafter hired my first full-time local employee.

With a great team in place to run most of the daily operations, I decided to take a break from growing the business to pursue a goal of mine: long-term international travel. So in February of 2011, Annie and I departed for a seven-month working vacation that took us to more than 20 countries. The trip was financed largely by over 2 million frequent flier miles I had generated by paying to fulfill business orders.

 

Teaching in India

Hiking in Patagonia

Sailing in Greece

 

After an incredible trip, we returned home in November. Despite being gone seven out of 12 months, it was a record year for revenues with my businesses collectively generating $1 million in sales and setting the stage for well above that in 2012. It was my best year ever in terms of income, and I earned significantly more than I ever did investment banking.

Four years and numerous businesses later, I’ve decided to start sharing my knowledge on this blog. My hope in writing is to help others who, like me in my banking days, want to build a better life for themselves through entrepreneurship. While my path has been unorthodox, it’s one that can be re-created by anyone with the determination to make it happen. This isn’t to say that building your own e-commerce business is easy – far from it. I think with entrepreneurial “success” stories, it’s tempting to indulge the good and downplay the bad. I want to intentionally avoid that.

Building a cash cushion so I could afford to quit my job required frequently saying “no” to myself and delaying my gratification. Starting my first site was hard, really hard. It required a lot of work, much of it tedious, with little visible success for the first few months. Staying motivated with little to show for your efforts is extremely challenging in the early days of a venture.

Business success of any kind, e-commerce included, requires significant sacrifice and work, but I’m here to tell you that the investment is absolutely worth it. I believe there has never been a better time in history for individuals to start their own businesses. For online ventures, the risks are small and the rewards significant. If you decide to head down the same path I have, I hope the information I share here will help you along the way.

Thinking about starting your own business?  You’ll definitely want to download my free eBook, a detailed guide to starting a profitable online store. It’s based on my experience and full of information I wish I knew when starting my first site.

Looking for Your Dream Job?  Hiring?  Check out the eCommerceFuel Job Boards which lists curated opportunities to learn in roles with interesting, leading eCommerce businesses.   If you’re looking to escape the corporate world and jump into eCommerce – but don’t have much relevant experience – our curated internships and entry level jobs may be perfect.

Run an Established eCommerce Business?  You may be interested in the eCommerceFuel Private Forum. It’s a vetted community of 1,000+ high six, seven and eight figure store owners.  You can learn more about it here.  

Andrew Youderian
Post by Andrew Youderian
Andrew is the founder of eCommerceFuel and has been building eCommerce businesses ever since gleefully leaving the corporate world in 2008.  Join him and 1,000+ vetted 7- and 8-figure store owners inside the eCommerceFuel Community.

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211 Comments

EkaterinaMay 6, 2014

Hi Andrew! Thank you for ebook and this blog, they are a great guide and inspiration.
What did you mom say after your succeed in eCommerce?
Just asking because I’m at the stage where I finally graduated from business school, quit my comfortable but boring office job to pursue my passion for art and travel (in the process of setting up my first eCommerse website), and my parents are not talking much to me and about me. I just hope they will understand soon 🙂

Thanks again)
Ekaterina

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¿Qué es el Drop Shipping? – WebemprenderMay 29, 2014

[…] Like all businesses, success and profitability rely on a number of variables. But when done correctly, it’s possible to create highly profitable online businesses with drop shipping. Drop shipping isn’t a magic formula – and real success takes significant work and time – but it’s a viable online business model with very low risk. Drop shipping was the model I used to start my own online store, allowing me to permanently quit my corporate job. […]

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ArpitJune 25, 2014

Hi Andrew..

I always was looking for ways to do independent business, but was scared because of the risk of loosing hard earned money. I am very thankful to you for getting me started in thinking in the direction of online business, where I can experiment my business abilities in real market only for few dollars.

The question I have for you is, why it is so important choosing a niche really carefully… I know you would like ideally one to produce own product and setting one self apart from any competition. I do understand importance of avoiding as much competition as possible. But really competition is unavoidable. The moment you launch a unique idea, someone will copy you, and in couple months you will have competition. My suggestion is why not jump in existing market with some competition and be happy with the market share you can gain.

For example, there are tons of people shopping “Toys” online. I know there are existing “Toys” giants like “Toys R Us”, but hey I don’t mind as long as I can even earn a fraction of “Toys” market with my store. And long term is going to get better. I have cool URL domain, I will design my site well, I will provide hand picked toys, and I think that should be enough for me to jump in that market as long as I can find a supplier.

http://www.toytojoy.com
Arpit
Please provide your feed back. What you think is of value to me…

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A Look Inside a Drop Shipping Store Netting $65K Annually | Blonde Brunette TravelJuly 4, 2014

[…] Andrew Youderian operates one of my favorite blogs about all things related to eCommerce; eCommerce Fuel. Andrew left the corporate grind to pursue his dreams and decided to focus on finding business opportunities that were high risk and low reward, scalable, and able to be operated from any location he wished to be in. The best fit he saw for his desired critieria were niche eCommerce stores employing a dropship model. Drop shipping is when your store forms a relationship with a supplier or wholesaler that stocks the products that you’re offering for sale to your customers. When you receive orders from your customers, you forward the order to the Drop shipper, who then handles packaging and shipping the products to your customer. You profit from the difference between what your customer paid you and what your Drop shipper charges you for the product and service; which are often wholesale prices. […]

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PJJuly 27, 2014

I assume you were looking for a low risk-to-reward ratio, not a high one…

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Quenten BrookeAugust 1, 2014

Andrew, there is a lot of stuff here but it seems to me what you too are looking for is a way to reach as many people as you can… and add as much value to their lives as you can.. Great work. Thankyou so much for the goodwill, hardwork and inspiration. BUT… Now that you have influence what does money mean to you? What are you really going to do with your life ? Who and what can add the most value to your core influence(ideas or products)? Just a few quick questions from someone in Australia who wants to get the best out of you and out of this world.

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angelAugust 23, 2014

Wow!
I am so inspired by your story.
I have been in a seamstress business for the past two years and it just wasn’t working, I was unhappy and working too hard and barely making ends meet. Now I be decided to follow in your footsteps. I am so excited I can barely sleep at night. I be found my niche but I am still hunting for the right suppliers. Your book is amazing. Thank God bless you

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SteveSeptember 2, 2014

Hi Andrew, thanks so much for your informative blog and ebook. I’m from Australia and am planning to transition to an ecommerce career from my current career as a lawyer. My reasons also largely mirror many others, in that I long for a lifestyle change and the ability to work remotely as my wife and I love to travel as much as possible.

I’m curious to know whether you would recommend doing what you did where you saved a cushion and left your job to work on your business full time ? There seems to be a school of thought that recommends transitioning from your current job to the business. That sounds good in theory and responsible but I am finding that progress is very slow and disheartening as it’s hard to find the time around full time work to research etc.

I would much prefer to throw myself into it full time, or at least part time, but am concerned that it might be a big risk if the business doesn’t take off. I would be very grateful for your thoughts on the pros and cons of leaving your job to pursue a business full time v’s a transitional approach.

I am also curious as to whether your initial two online stores were drops hopping businesses or were you importing yourself and selling retail etc? Do you have a personal preference for either business model?

Thanks Andrew for a brilliant site, I hope to hear from you.
Cheers.
Steve.

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Ebon TalifarroSeptember 24, 2014

Ebon Talifarro

My Corporate Escape Story | From Overworked to World Travel

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Dr. Vincent MalfitanoSeptember 24, 2014

Dr. Vincent Malfitano

My Corporate Escape Story | From Overworked to World Travel

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KathySeptember 25, 2014

Hi Andrew, great story! I am looking to sell clothing on line. Could please help me and recommend cart software. We would need sizes and color selection for each item so there is a lot of variations for each item…I can’t afford a very expensive one for now … Thank you For help!
KATHY

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TomOctober 5, 2014

Great article Andrew. I’ve been searching the internet for ideas on how to escape corporate. I’ve been doing computer “helpdesk” basically for 17 years and pretty much sick of it. I think of looking for a different job, but what else can I do? I’ve got no experience in anything else other than “did you turn the computer off and on again?” Gaaah!!!!
I feel that I’ve lost the passion (well, many years ago actually), I never fit in to the corporate lifestyle, I roll my eyes at all the bureaucratic procedures, and I’ve been written up with warnings when I deviate or make a mistake.
I’ve been called a “Renaissance man” with all my hobbies and don’t ever want to be known by my job, but what I’m really passionate about. I just don’t know what I could do to escape. I was inspired by your CB Radio shop (I didn’t think there was a market in those anymore) and I am a Ham radio operator so I’m familiar with stuff like that.
I did download your E-book and will check it out. Thanks again for posting this!

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RadleyNovember 30, 2014

Hi Andrew
Thanks for all the useful info. & insights. I have noticed in dome of the posts there are readers asking how to sell /drop ship products in the USA if they live elsewhere (as is my situation (live in South Africa). Do you know of any articles, resources etc that I can read re. drop shipping / selling products in the USA if you do not live there or are not a resident.
Many thanks
Radley

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StuartDecember 1, 2014

Hi,

I’m also based in South Africa so I’m just commenting here to see Andrew’s reply.

However, have you got any tips or articles on drop shipping / selling products here in SA ?

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Matt LanganJanuary 19, 2015

Andrew, great story! I’ve personally know that feeling of continuous slogging when there seems like little progress is being made. Thanks for reminding me that it will be worth it in the end for those patient and persistent enough to push through.

Looking forward to reading your tips.
Matt

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AraxiFebruary 10, 2015

Hi Andrew, thank you for sharing your story. I have been thinking to genterate a second income from home for a while since you indicated that you had to quit your job I was wondering to start a e-commerce bussiness is a full time job? I am totally new to e-commerce so I think I have to do a lots of reading before I start asking lots of questions.
Thanks
Ar

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MarkFebruary 11, 2015

Hi there, would be great if yo can share which website/market place did u started your first drop-shipping business. Did u just started in eBay, or Amazon, or have just created your own website? What are the challenges you’ve encountered on your first few weeks/months of your business and how have u overcomed them. Particularly, how are u able to generate sales, despite the very tight competition in the market?

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SharonMarch 13, 2015

Very inspiring! We are kicking off a new startup ourselves, for weight loss supplements (I lost 92 lbs and will also have an e-book on how I did that, and how others can do it too… common sense stuff). I hope to be where you are one day and travel everywhere… how did you manage those frequent flyer miles exactly? I want to emulate!!!

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IvanMarch 19, 2015

Hi Andrew,

I’m currently working on an e-Commerce myself via Shopify. Like you, I’m quitting a stable job to pursue something more exciting and independent. Thank you very much for your articles, that kind of advice from people who have been that way before are priceless. That save new players on that market a lot of time and money and give us golden tips to avoid common problems that could ruin a starting business.

Best regards,
Ivan.

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Lee BaptisteApril 7, 2015

Thank you Andrew for posting your story, and letting us know how you changed your life for the better. I too would like the chance to fire my current employer. I started doing drop shipping last year for about 2 months and I sold 20 different items, so I know that it is a very lucrative business. I however, could not stick with just one niche I had 6 of them. Unfortunately, I was using the DS Domination model which was very helpful in the beginning, but when something went wrong with 2 items that were total mistakes I was no longer aloud to use Ebay. I realized that I have to be very picky with my suppliers so I am greatful to get a copy of your E book so I can get away from the bad suppliers, because they can really mess you up. I’m determined now more than ever to gain more knowledge before starting again.

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MichelleApril 30, 2015

Hi Andrew,

Good day to you.

My name is Michelle and I’m from the Philippines. I’m turning 25 years old and I wanted to really start my own business rather than working in the hospital. I wanted to be my own boss and work at my own pace. But since I don’t have much capital to invest on a business, I have thought dropshipping as a solution. I’m a newbie to this industry. I’ve never had a business before and this would be my first time. It’s scary but I am willing to take a risk.

My concern is, is DS possible if i’m from the other country yet wanted to sell in the US?
Do I still need to have a Sales Tax ID or Reseller’s Permit even though I’m from outside the US?
Because most of the companies ask me the same information yet i dont know how I can provide them those info.

If I’m from the Philippines, where and how can I get these permits? Can I just start my dropshipping business on ebay without these two?

Please help me understand more about dropshipping. I know you’ve had a lot of experience with this already. Your help will be very much appreciated.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

God Bless.

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TracieMay 6, 2015

Hi Andrew,
I have been reading the information on your site and have downloaded and read your eBook.
As a successful businessman yourself, I am sure you won’t take offence to my question. If you are able to run financially successful eCommerce/Dropshipping businesses, why would you bother putting so much time and effort into this website and the free eBook. As we all know, “you don’t get nothin for nothing these days”, and there is an awful lot of work in both the website and the eBook. I am known as a “bleeding heart” and will help anyone or anything if I can, but I can honestly say that if this website and the eBook were my work, I wouldn’t be giving it away. I’d be charging for it, for sure.
No offence is meant by this at all, and as I said, I’m sure you can understand why I am sceptical – I don’t think I’d be cut out for business if I weren’t!
My second question is this – Would ‘World Wide Brands’ be as useful and resourceful for Australia, which is where I am?

Cheers
Tracie

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SamiraJune 12, 2015

Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired!
Extremely useful information particularly the final section 🙂 I maintain such info a lot.
I used to be looking for this particular information for
a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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The eCommerce Pricing Strategy That Made Us 30% More MoneySeptember 8, 2015

[…] income to hire my first full-time employee so I could work on higher-level tasks and freely travel for months at a time.  More recently, it again significantly boosted the profitability of my store, Right Channel […]

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[…] income to hire my first full-time employee so I could work on higher-level tasks and freely travel for months at a time.  More recently, it again significantly boosted the profitability of my store, Right Channel […]

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[…] income to hire my first full-time employee so I could work on higher-level tasks and freely travel for months at a time.  More recently, it again significantly boosted the profitability of my store, Right Channel […]

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MikeDecember 1, 2015

Wow! Thanks for sharing your success story Andrew. I like what you’ve said regarding the roadblocks on setting up an online business. Many people think that the Internet is an easy place to get rich quickly but it’s really not. Wishing your business continued success!

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RajDecember 24, 2015

Hi Andrew – Great story of yours! I am also in the same mind set like you to quit my day job but, I haven’t garnered the guts to get out. I have been looking in to drop shipping for some time now and want to step in to it. My one question that keeps on lingering is, how do you handle returns on products purchased? Does the drop shipper take care of that too. Did that impact your bottom line ever?

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Success Stories: People Like You Who Earn an Income on the Internet | CheapRTJanuary 20, 2016

[…] Andrew from ECommerceFuel.com shared his experience in My Corporate Escape Story. […]

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