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From Kombucha Subscription Box Creator to Statistical Analyst and Blogger

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Last Updated on December 1, 2020 by Yovana

Welcome to my newest series which centers around entrepreneur stories and their journeys. I created this series to see how other entrepreneurs navigated their self-employment and their different perspectives. I hope that these stories help empower you in your own experience and journey (if you’re an entrepreneur or if you’re not and still want inspiration for something else you want to start in your life). This is an interview with Erik from TheMastermindWithin. Read on for his inspiring story!

Tell us a little about yourself and your business. 

Hi, my name is Erik and I’ve been doing different online side hustles for the past 3 years. 

My main side hustle is my personal finance and self-improvement blog/podcast, The Mastermind Within

My other hustles include a statistical consulting side hustle and a personal finance curation website. Previously, I tried my hand at a kombucha tea subscription box, and I also just sold my house after house hacking for four years.

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What made you want to embark on this entrepreneurial journey and start your own business? 

I’m incredibly passionate about helping others, and absolutely love building things.

With these two loves, doing side hustles and looking to build a business allows me to do exactly what I like doing.

For example, with my blog, I’m able to literally build the website out, create content and blog posts, and create something where there wasn’t anything before.

At the same time, with my message, tips and content, I’m able to help other people with their finances and personal situation.

When I get emails from my readers, it’s such an amazing feeling.

A few years ago, when I realized this was a goal of mine, I got out and started. 

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What were you doing before? What made you want to leave that and do your own thing? 

Before starting my online hustles, I was in school. One thing I like to joke about is how I was one of the worst, best students; I would sleep during some of my early classes, but would still get the work done and get a good grade.

I’ve always had the ability to grind out an assignment, project and task when necessary. 

However, what was lacking was the motivation and inner drive to do some of those assignments. 

For me, starting my side hustles would give me complete ownership over my work, and give me a chance to show the world what I was made of.

Starting a business is not easy. What was the hardest thing you faced when getting your business off the ground? 

When I first started, the hardest thing is just figuring out what to learn first.

Is it website design? Product design? Marketing? How to do customer service well?

There are so many things you can possibly do when starting out on a new business endeavor and it’s very hard to jump in with no experience. 

I was able to overcome this a little bit by being a sponge: I read, listened and chatted with people more experienced than myself. 

Mentors can be very useful and important, and many people want to talk about their successes and help!

Did you have any sort of savings that you applied towards getting your business up and running or did you take out a loan? Can you guide us through how that was like? 

For all of my business endeavors, I’ve used my day job income to fund any expenses the business had. 

The way I look at funding my side hustles is like an investment in a different company.

The only difference (obviously this is a huge simplification) is I’m running this company, and investing in another company is just run by someone else.

While this has presented some challenges when needing to lay out some cash for hiring freelancers and contractors, I’ve been able to overcome these big expenses by having grown my income to a higher level, and having a personal emergency fund and plan for what I feel comfortable investing and spending on my projects.

For example, right now, I’m “investing” ~$750 a month in my blog through working with a Pinterest manager and 2 writers. 

Over time, this should help my blog grow and allow me to get to a higher level of profitability.

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How long did it take to actually start profiting from your business? 

The IRS lets new businesses run at a loss for 3 years before officially declaring it a hobby. For me, my experience has been similar in my businesses.

For my kombucha tea subscription box company, the 2 years I ran it, I didn’t make any money. 

For my blog, this is my third year, and I’m just now getting to a point where on a monthly basis, I’m making a little bit of money (i.e., I’m spending ~$750 and making a little more than $750).

Having my own business isn’t necessarily about making the most money I can, but over time, I’d definitely like to make some money to justify all of my efforts.

What legal issues/road blocks (if any) you experienced during this start up period? 

In the majority of my hustles, I’ve gone in with partners. Sometimes these partnerships have been good, and sometimes these have been bad.

With partnerships, as with any relationship, there are a number of things which need to be in place to make sure there is a good outcome.

The first thing I’ll say about partnerships is it is ESSENTIAL to have a partnership and operating agreement in place. This agreement should handle how the equity is split, who owns what, how things can end, etc.

The second thing about partnerships is you need to be on the same page goals wise, and also, should have a decent and trusting relationship with your partners. 

Communication is of utmost importance, and without this, there will be partner problems, and down the road, potentially legal issues.

For me, I’ve had to break up with a few different partners. While the process can be smoothed by communication, it still isn’t ideal. 

Instead, I maybe should have been more careful with selecting who I worked with, but these were necessary learning experiences.

How do you find the time to still tend to your own personal life and needs? 

What works for me is being careful, and flexible, with my time.

If there’s an urgent project that comes up, I need to be prepared to get it done. At the same time, if there’s a slow period of time, I should use this to my advantage and get rest, see friends, and live life.

What tools do you use and recommend to others to help manage your time, life and overall well-being while running a business? 

For me, I use a physical notebook to keep track of tasks. 

To help manage different things in my business, I have a number of things I look to automate. As a programmer at my day job, I know the power of automation. 

For example, recently, I’ve been creating a number of dynamic pages with php for my new personal finance curation site, Personal Finance Blogs. I created all of the feeds pages so I don’t have to do any work – they update throughout the day automatically.

On any given day, we may post 50-100 new feed items, and with this code, I can just let the computer do its thing and sit back!

For general well-being, I look to make sure I’m still getting the appropriate amount of sleep, get some exercise each day, and eat a balanced and healthy diet to make sure I’m staying in shape.

Spending so much time on the computer is not natural for humans! 

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What was one book, online article or other form of inspiration that guides you through your day-to-day work? 

One of my favorite books on entrepreneurship is The Millionaire Fastlane.

One key concept which has stuck with me for a long time from The Millionaire Fastlane is “the law of effection”.

Essentially, “the law of effection” states if you want to make a lot of money, you have to create something which has a large effect. 

This effect could be small and reach a lot of people, or it could be big and reach a smaller amount of people.

My takeaway from this law is that if I want to create a successful business, then I need to focus on creating products and content which are HELPFUL and IMPACTFUL for my readers and clients.

Anything less will not lead to success.

Tell us one way your lifestyle has changed since becoming an entrepreneur? 

I don’t go out as often on the weekends. Being that I’m still only a couple years removed from college and partying, now, I’ve realized I love my sleep, I love feeling relaxed, and I also am not a huge fan of the after effects of drinking.

While I do love slow mornings that turn into slow afternoons, I love getting up early, making some coffee, and cranking through some work.

What are 3 tips you have for others who are thinking about starting their own business? 

My 3 tips for people who are thinking about starting their own business come in the form of questions.

By answering these 3 questions, you’ll have a better understanding of if you are cut out for a specific endeavor.

  1. What’s something you are so passionate about which you won’t get bored after spending hundreds of hours around?
  2. Do you have a unique angle and perspective on the niche you want to enter which could potentially differentiate you from your competitors?
  3. Do you believe over time you could become the best in your niche – or do the major players have an advantage to guard their business?

With these three questions, you can then assess your level of interest to pursue a certain endeavor.

One of the businesses I talked about earlier was my kombucha tea subscription box business. If I had answered these 3 questions, I don’t think I would have started because the 1st question wouldn’t have been a yes.

This would have saved me thousands of hours and dollars. 

With personal finance and self-improvement, I will never get bored ☺

Think back to a time before you had your own business. What would you tell the “you” that you were back then? 

Focus is the most important thing to… focus on. 

What do I mean by focus being most important?

When starting out, there are so many different avenues you can take with your business.

“Should we do t-shirts? What about setting up the Instagram? Have you let your friends know about our new half-done website?”

Really, at the beginning, and even now, I have to continually tell myself to focus in on what’s important in the moment, and just take little steps at a time to get to the next task.

The main point here is I would tell myself to not try to do too much. You cannot multi-task, even if you think you can.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! Any parting thoughts? 

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story!

Taking action today is the most important step to side hustling and doing business in the world.

Let’s be honest here: no one created anything sitting on the couch watching Netflix. 

While you most likely will not be a huge success in a month, 3 months, or even 6 months, over time, you can achieve so much.

I’m 3 years into my business journey. 

I’ve had some failures, but also, some great successes. I’ve learned a ton, and grown as a person.

None of this would have happened if I didn’t take bold action.

Start today, and take that first step. It will be worth it!

Entrepreneur Bio

Headshot of Erik from The Mastermind Within
Erik from The Mastermind Within

Erik is a 27-year old blogger, living in the Midwest, who writes at The Mastermind Within. He writes about personal finance and self-improvement, and is passionate about sharing his tips for building wealth as a millennial and helping people unlock their full potential in life. Also, he is the creator of Personal Finance Blogs – a personal finance curation website.

What do you think of Erik’s story? What were your key takeaways and lessons that really stuck out to you? My key takeaway was his 3 questions and you MUST read that part again and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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