It’s hard to stay away from a good thing forever.
Just over two years ago, I wrote the final post on what used to be HelpStartMySite.com. I didn’t know it was going to be the final post at the time, but life got away from me. With other companies taking off more quickly than I could manage, I never ended up coming back.
I felt as if I had entered into the next stage of my career and of my life, the stage where things really begin to ‘take off’ (it turns out, no matter how much you grow, this feeling still remains.)
Anyhow, I focused all of my energy into my new ventures, and only now feel like they’re mature enough for me to step back to this place I still feel is home.
2016-2018: Growing Pains
My side hustle of flipping items on Amazon turned into a full-time venture, even before I stopped blogging here on this website.
A few sales a day quickly turned to dozens, and then to dozens every hour. Between sourcing products and shipping orders, my time was very quickly eaten up. Things were growing so quickly, I couldn’t possibly imagine taking time away from it – the venture was simply too profitable.
Knowing that this business model was not sustainable and one day Amazon would be flooded with sellers doing the exact same thing, I opted to create my own brand of products instead. Today, I run a brand selling print-on-demand products (such as t-shirts, mugs, and decals) as well as a baby product brand, which out of the two, is definitely my passion project.
I’ve learned the ins and outs of manufacturing, working with a very diverse set of factories, and eventually starting a factory myself. I learned about import laws, the logistics of international trade, and safety compliance regulations.
I’ve learned about creating consumer product brands from scratch, and how they differ from the internet businesses I’ve focused on in the past. I’ve learned first-hand about quality control processes, building teams of employees, hiring, firing, managing groups of people. I’ve learned about choosing the right office solution for us, and creating a pleasant work environment for my employees.
I’ve learned about building software solutions to speed up processes, collecting, analyzing, and organizing large amounts of data, calculating financial risks when taking on debt to buy new machinery for my factory, and how to deal with complex legal issues, IP thieves, and counterfeit products.
I’ve learned about what it’s like to deal with tens of thousands of customers, the common scams people will try to get our stuff for free, and what it’s like to juggle the organization of more than 5,000 different products (yes, you read that right – and we plan to release an additional 25,000 this year!)
I really feel as a business person, I’ve grown up a lot through these experiences. While I already knew much of this in theory, it is quite different to actually experience it first hand.
This wasn’t without hardships, however.
2018 in particular, was very different for the company. Having built an established brand for our baby products, we became a victim of trademark squatting in China.
Trademark squatting is when another company registers your trademark themselves, in attempt to extort money out of you to get it back.
In China, it’s not whoever uses the trademark first that gets protection over it – it’s whoever registers it with the government first. Because this squatter was able to complete registration of the trademark for my company’s name, there was nothing we could do.
This wouldn’t have been a problem, as we don’t intend to sell in China quite yet. However, trademark holders can block export of the products using that trademark. Because we were already sourcing products from several different factories in China at the time, this was a huge issue.
Unfortunately, it forced us to change our name, a process which we are still recovering from today.
Then, later in the year, my business partner passed away from cancer.
This business was started with my grandmother as I foolishly wanted to limit my financial risk early on (and jump start growth with a nice injection of capital.) Despite her relatively young age, cancer ended up taking her away last September.
Business together was always difficult – primarily due a clash of philosophy (she was very conservative and believed in older, traditional business processes, where I was more focused on rapid growth and modern marketing strategies.)
Business without her was much more difficult.
Other than the emotional hardship that comes with losing one of your closest family members, there was a lot of legal headaches regarding the transfer of ownership of the business and some of its assets – especially heading into Q4, the busiest time of the year.
While everything has for the most part, smoothed out by now, it was an incredibly difficult time for myself, my family, and my employees.
She didn’t know that it would be her life’s last work, but I am very glad she got to see it take off while she was still alive.
I Thought I Was Next
A couple of months later, I went to the doctor for 24/7 head pain that was getting increasingly worse. After going over all of my symptoms, I received some scary news:
I needed emergency brain scans, because it was possible that I had a brain tumor.
To make things worse, it took a week for doctors to finally release the scan results back to me. I know that if it was truly an immediate emergency I would’ve received results back more quickly (and begun treatment), but that did not do much to help my anxiety. I wondered for a week if I was about to die, just as I had watched my grandmother go.
Thankfully, the only long-term damage I experienced was some bone erosion in my face, due to an extremely severe infection. At that point, I would’ve taken anything over death.
I thought a lot during those painfully long days about my life – where I went wrong, and where I went right. What I would’ve done differently. And more importantly, if I turned out fine, how I’d want to restructure things to ensure both happiness and fulfillment today, as well as in the future.
2019 And Beyond: James McAllister Online, My Companies, And Plans For The Future
So why the heck am I here?
My main goal in life is to be happy. That is why I started the other company in the first place – I had wanted to do work that helped to bring families closer together, as I had felt that I’d completely lost mine. I was going through a lot of family issues at the time, and felt so strongly, I had to work in that market even if I made no money at all.
As the company grew however, I got further and further removed from that. My work no longer had anything to do with families at all. Instead I was doing things like employee recruitment, negotiating with factories, and performing cost-benefit analysis on equipment that could save time or money on materials.
I genuinely enjoy doing that stuff, but I do not consider it to be very meaningful work. While everything contributes to the company mission, it’s hard to feel that when you’re spending the day behind internal emails, Excel spreadsheets, or out on the factory floor.
My main goal in life is still to be happy, and while much of the work I used to do is now outsourced or handled by other employees at our office, I will not be giving up on my other companies at all.
So Why Am I Here?
The reason I’m here is because I want to get back to work that connects with people, and help to bring meaningful change to their lives.
At the same time, I have a selfish reason for being here too – I want to be in a position where I can step away from my other companies completely by the time I have kids, which I expect to be a couple of years from now.
I believe that blogging, and running this business here is something that I can still do when my first child is born. I believe parenting will be my life’s most important work, and nothing is more important to me than being able to give that my all, experiencing it fully, without work taking anything away from it.
At the same time, I truly believe you can count on income in which you control the system.
What I mean by this is that a full-time living earned through something like blogging, is an income you can depend on. Whereas my other companies, despite being extremely profitable, are still at risk of retailers discontinuing products, marketplaces shutting us down, counterfeiters eating away at sales, bogus lawsuits, etc.
Do I logically believe that any of this will actually disrupt my ability to live a financially stable life? No. But when it comes to the long-term viability of the life I want to live, I do not want to take risks. My girlfriend and I both know that we can’t have kids until we’ve either saved enough money from the other companies to comfortably retire (using the methods I share in my financial independence course), or income from something like this website can pay for our expenses several times over.
So What’s Changing?
Help Start My Site is dead, and has been replaced with “James McAllister Online”.
I made this change for two reasons:
- I plan to help entrepreneurs and other go-getters for the rest of my life, and have no desire to ever sell this site. Which leads me to number 2…
- A personal brand is safe and sustainable. I believe over the course of 5-10 years I can really build a name for myself, and this brand equity can’t be taken away by anything or anyone. Building a positive reputation over the coming years will be an asset I can count on and will only grow over time as I continue to help more people.
No matter what happens to any of my other companies, or whatever hardships I end up going throughout my life, a positive reputation and a loyal following will still be there to lift you up. Psychologically, I see this as the ultimate safety net. If I can give, give, give for years and years, maybe if something bad were to ever happen to me, things would turn out alright.
Okay, but what’s actually changing?
First of all, the primary focus of this website won’t be just on blogging anymore, but rather more broad areas of business, entrepreneurship, and leading a fulfilling life.
Most if not all of what I put out will still be relevant to the audience that has followed me for years, the topics will just be a bit broader.
Secondly, most of my content won’t be published here. There has never been a better time to subscribe to my channel on YouTube, and follow me on other social networks. Quora especially is a place I’ve been posting a lot of unique content that hasn’t been shared elsewhere.
If I had to guess, I’d say that 5 years from now, most of the people that discover me will have done so through some form of audio or video content. Right now, quite frankly, I suck at video. My goal is just to suck for this first year (and spend the rest of my life killing it!)
Next, my monetization strategy has shifted. My other two companies are going to make the bulk of my income, so I’m not as focused as monetizing James McAllister Online. My monetization strategy on here will be more focused on established companies, rather than those starting out. This means cheaper prices for most of my products, and higher prices for things that require my time. Courses are now priced at $49 vs the $97 they were before and I will likely publish more of these this year. There may also be some cross-over between my companies, as my print-on-demand business rolls out its program to offer personalized B2B services.
Finally, there are a few other changes worth mentioning:
- This site has been completely re-designed! I’d love to hear what you think of it.
- Current courses are being updated with new lectures. Additionally, all courses will have all of the slides, graphics, and resources downloadable in the ‘bonus’ section. If you are a student of any of my courses, you will receive an email from me when they are available.
- A number of posts that had outdated information were updated to make them current. Bloggers, go check your old articles out! It’s amazing what’s changed in the last few years.
- A social widget was added on the sidebar with links to all of my social profiles! As previously mentioned, much of my content won’t be posted on this site, so I’d really appreciate a follow.
- I may experiment with ‘micro-courses’ (1-2 hours) this year for more specific topics at a cheaper price point. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
I think that’s everything worth mentioning right now – while I certainly have big plans for the future, it was not my intention for this post to grow to be so large. Rather than telling you about all my plans, I’ll show you over the course of this year as things develop.
It’s been an interesting few years away from here, and while I do feel I made the right decision taking a break, I also feel that now is the right time to return for good.
The knowledge, insight, and wisdom I’ve gained over these past few years has been invaluable to me, and I really look forward to sharing more of it in the coming months. Despite the hardships, I am so grateful to be in the position I’m in now. A position where I can work on one of the very purposes I’ve had since I originally launched Help Start My Site in 2013 – to help entrepreneurs make more money in their businesses, and find more fulfillment in their lives.
So if there’s ever anything I can do to help you with that – by all means, let me know.
– James McAllister