The other day I had the pleasure of having an entrepreneurial discussion with a couple of friends who know about the StairwayOfPhi project. Most of my friends don't actually know about this site because of how open I am with my finances on here, but I chose to reveal this personal secret with them because they share an interest in finance and investing and because we have similar goals and self-expectations.
The contents of our talk contained details about our own recent realizations regarding money, psychology, and independence. And while the subject of money is touchy, in the right group of people, I always enjoy these conversations because they allow me to freely bounce around the unfinished ideas I'll one day write about and because I get to hear others' unfinished ideas, leading me to think a bit differently afterwards and generally lead me to a greater understanding!
(Note: I recommend not having these conversations outside of groups that share your same love of financial independence - people WILL get offended!)
Modern Day Mining
During this conversation, we got on a subject that has interested the three of us for a long time - importing.
Inspired by my New Year's Resolution goal of obtaining an additional $40,000-worth of liquid assets by the end of 2016, I knew that I would have to find a way to increase my yearly revenue to stand any chance at making it come to fruition! Eventually, I had settled on the idea of importing - believing that though it might be hard work, if I found a good product then it wouldn't be a matter of 'if' I could sell it, but 'when'. To make the endeavor a bit more enjoyable, I suggested the idea of partnering up to a like-minded friend and he was interested, as well! However, though I felt confident in our plan, I also felt like something was... off.
Hearing me talk about the importing plans, one of the two friends brought up a new software he had seen advertised in a webinar. This program allows the user to filter Amazon products down to identify markets that have a high number of sales and that aren't overpopulated. Overall, it actually seems really cool - in fact, it's the exact tool that I would have wanted! But after watching this webinar myself, I could only think "this makes it too easy".
And this was where my looming feeling of 'off-ness' was coming from. "It's too easy."
See, this tool makes it simple. So simple that anyone can do it. If anyone can do it, then everyone will. Just like in The Incredibles, "When everyone's super, no one is!" If this tool actually does provide successful results, the demand of the products it finds will be nullified and the game of importing will change to become even more so about chasing the latest trend!
After realizing this, I saw an underlying skill that I don't have - the ability to successfully chase trends.
The way I see it, this market shares similarities with the California gold rush. The ones who first discovered the gold had the first pick, they probably made a pretty hefty penny. Then all the other miners swarmed in! Suddenly, the demand disappeared, leaving the original miners with a non-profitable gig! There was a lot of sweat, tears, and dirt, but even when a miner struck gold, they never got rich from it, they just moved on to the next lot. But if not the miners, then who got rich from the gold rush? Simple - the MERCHANTS! Instead of chasing the trend, the merchants stood their ground by selling shovels, pans, and railroad passes to the miners. Yes, those generating wealth didn't do it with gold - they did it with steel!
And I know me - I can't succeed in chasing trends! I'm sure there are a number of people who can, as well as a group that through hard work, passion, and great customer support can make an absolute KILLING, but I'm not cut up for it. Being able to take a step back showed me a bigger picture, one where I fail!
So we switched tracks.
Miner or Merchant?
I see now that I never wanted to mine - I wanted to sell shovels! So we decided to pursue manufacturing. He and I had already gotten our creative juices flowing so when we put our brains together, we were able to devise a new, niche product with a completely untapped market! Over the next month or so, we'll be doing our best to manufacture high-quality, awesome products and market them through, primarily, the internet! (Don't worry, I won't be advertising our product here - that's not what StairwayOfPhi is about!)
I'm definitely excited for this venture. Pursuing this puts me on my first real path of independently generated revenue and gives me a little bit of 'cred' in the business world - all while getting me closer to my $40k goal (hopefully!) Game on!
On Which Foundation Do You Stand?
Using this miner or merchant comparison, it appears that there are two obvious foundations that can be built on: one solid like a rock, the other flexible like shifting sands. I've already told you what side I prefer, but I don't mean to imply that one side is better than the other. I switched from the shifting foundation because I lack in the flexibility needed to consistently change my product line, each time hitting the nail on the head to be successful. After realizing that, could no longer see myself succeeding there - even after growing into it! However, I see myself doing very well staying put and peddling a limited number of unchanging goods.
Readers, are you a miner or merchant...or both? What successes and failures have you had? Did trying to be something you are or aren't play a role in it?