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  • This US Couple Quit Their Jobs And Ventured In E-Commerce, Earning Them P52M Net A Year!

    If you're planning to build your own e-commerce venture, the couple shared some tips too.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
This US Couple Quit Their Jobs And Ventured In E-Commerce, Earning Them P52M Net A Year!
PHOTO BY MYWIFEQUITHERJOB
  • When you’ve got two growing children, leaving a 9-5 job a seems almost out of the question.

    Especially if you’re living in a not-so-cheap area in the United States, like Silicon Valley in San Francisco, California, where a decent living means taking home an average of $120K or Php6.2 million annually.

    Business news network CNBC recently featured 40-something parents Steve and Jen Chou, who managed to quit their regular jobs and run their own businesses.

    Through hard work and lots of trial and error, they not only managed to have a combined earnings of $1 million or Php52 million net annually, but their leap afforded them more time with their children. 

    How they did it

    Jen Chou used to work to as a financial analyst from 9-5. In 2007, she decided to quit her job and put up Bumblebee Linens.

    Jen sells handkerchief and linens for special occasions online. Her business idea was inspired by their own wedding, a time when Jen tried to source special women’s handkerchiefs.

    They managed to source them from a Chinese vendor and the excess from their wedding day orders, they sold online. “Those sold like hotcakes because we listed them on e-bay,” recalled Steve during the CNBC interview. 

    From there, the couple decided to run the business from their home. “When we first started the business, I was massively pregnant,” shared Jen.

    With a starting capital of $630 (Php32,000) they made $100,000 (Php5.2M) profit by the end of the year. Currently the couple has two in-house employees and one based in the Philippines.

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    “My goal was basically to make maybe $5,000 (Php260,000) to just help with the bills. Steve’s goal was to replace my entire income,” said Jen.

    READ ALSO: Here's How This Pinay Started A Cafe Business With Only P6,000

    Lessons in e-commerce

    “E-commerce was not actually our first choice, but we found that starting those brick and mortar stores would cost us $500,000 to start. Whereas, with e-commerce you can start with 600 bucks or less than that and that’s why we ultimately settled on e-commerce,” Steve told CNBC.

    Their business has been so successful that Steve says his friends, who also wanted to quit their jobs, would constantly ask him how they did it. Tired of answering the same questions over and over, Steve decided to create a blog instead that resulted in developing MyWifeQuitHerJob.com.

    “That blog served as the diary or journal of our business.” Ironically, Steve said, the people he initially created it for--like his friends and relatives--did not read his blogs but many online strangers did.

    “From there, the audience just grew and it started making tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. By year three, his blog started making six figures and today is now a million-dollar business. “The way it earns money is by advertising, affiliate revenue, and core sales.”

    Steve added that the blog eventually led to a podcast and sponsorship, and then to a training class, which then led to an e-commerce event for Sellers Summit, a gathering of people learning and sharing best practices in e-commerce.

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    At such events, Steve talks about strategies on e-commerce and how to network with other entrepreneurs. For a fee of $1,899 (Php98,748), customers get lifetime access to his online courses. He currently has around 5,000 subscribers.

    From 9-5 to quality time for family

    These days, Jen shared, she only works 20-30 hours a week. “I rely heavily on my employees. I’m there to just help manage and basically support them if things are falling behind,” she said.

    Steve on the other hand, works from 8am to 12noon. The rest of the afternoon is devoted to their kids, picking them up from school and shuttling them to their extra-curricular activities.

    If you’re planning to build your own e-commerce venture, here are some hard-earned lessons from Steve and Jen:

    1. Work as a team.

    The Chou couple recognizes that they have their differences to the point of Jen saying that while Steve had many ideas for the business, most of them were ‘horrible.’

    “He had an idea of picking certain handkerchiefs that were butt-ugly just because they were cheaper and I was like, absolutely not,” recalled Jen.

    These days, all the decisions for the e-commerce are left with Jen. She also takes care of the day-to-day while the marketing is left with Steve.

    By setting their own domain, they avoided stepping on each other’s toes. 

    2. Be ready to embrace surprises and work around it.

    At a time when Jen said the business wasn’t fun anymore because it was giving her so much stress, Steve decided to push the business some more.

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    They managed to secure a spot in the Today Show, one of the most viewed programs on the NBC network in the U.S. “All of a sudden our orders were 7x the normal sales volume,” said Steve.

    “When you’re running a physical products business, it’s generally uncomfortable to grow fast.” From Jen’s humble goal of augmenting their income to be able to pay the bills, their business resulted in bigger goals that thankfully they managed to embrace and make it work for them.

    “There’s no way I would have guessed, like so many years later, that we would be so large as we are.”

    3. Think practically, e-commerce can be run anywhere.

    Even if their businesses are doing well, the Chou couple are seriously thinking of moving outside of California because taxes there are so high.

    Outside of the State, even employees’ wages would be cheaper as well as rent and cost of living in general. “Really we can run our business from anywhere. We’re not tied to any location whatsoever,” said Steve. 

    4. Use extra time for family.

    Since they set-up their Bumblebee Linens business, it allowed the Chou couple not only to express their creative freedom and work around their own schedules but more importantly spend time with their children.

    “If it’s slower, I can fully take that time off and not worry about it and work at my kids’ school, for example,” shared Jen.

    Steve, who used to work as an Electrical Engineer Director that required him ‘stare at the monitor all day’ and work for 50-60 hours a week, today enjoys the flexible schedule he has.

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    Jen shares that choosing this path is a ‘win situation’ for them as a couple because it allows them to do something they love and still be a huge part of their children’s education, something that was a luxury for both Steve and Jen Chou’s parents who were first generation immigrants.

    “Now, I just want to take that time back and make sure I am present for [my children],” Jen concluded.

    Read here how this multitasking dad balances his business, law school, and being present to his family. 

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