I didn't decide one day to become a digital marketing expert. I became one following nearly a decade of entrepreneurial blood, sweat, tears and lack of advertising dollars.
I wanted to be an architect throughout high school and as a child, I wanted to be a truck driver. I would still be a truck driver today; I love the road and actually spent a couple of years training for it and doing it before I became a mother and found myself staying home for a couple of years to raise my daughter.
Staying home and finally acquiring Internet access in the year 2000 gave my entrepreneurial spirit the ability to flourish, and it did.
I often wonder where I would be today if I had the access to the world and opportunities that kids have now. I was a late bloomer to the Internet, mostly due to finances. It took me some time to acquire the ability to purchase a computer and access the Internet, but the second I did, I started generating income. I discovered eBay, and started building the vintage clothing resale empire that was the catalyst for the career I have today.
In 2000, I started selling some vintage clothing I had in my personal collection. I couldn't believe how valuable it was, considering I literally picked the items from thrift shops and estate sales over the years from anywhere between $1 - $5. I knew how to find it, so I started going out and getting more. This stuff sold at 1000-2000x over what I paid for it, and it became an addiction very quickly. The more I sold, the more I was able to purchase, and by 2003, I dumped eBay and taught myself how to build my own website using the old Yahoo Sitebuilder, manually creating each product page and hard-coding a shopping cart.
Website #1 became very successful with zero marketing budget. I had to learn organic and after about a year, I couldn't keep products on the website. Within minutes of listing an item, it would sell. This website was powered by organic SEO and hustling MySpace. Over time, my inventory was quickly outnumbering my bandwidth for manually adding products on the site and I started shopping for a storage unit.
At the time I lived in a mid-sized town and discovered that the cost of a storage unit was not much less than renting a storefront itself. I was on the road driving to rent a storage unit and happened upon a little storefront with a 'for rent' sign on a main street in a historic building. I called and they said the rent was $150 a month and they could meet me now. $150 a month?! No brainer. I can't believe I still have photos from that day:
By this time, I had a second child who was still a baby. I spent two solid weeks preparing for something I wasn't prepared for at all, which was opening a shop.
With baby in tow, I spent my days painting, working on the logistics of business licensing, merchant accounts, pricing, tagging, local SEO, updating the website with an actual address, painting, sewing, ironing and a million other things I have long forgotten.
Within the month, my first brick and mortar was open in Pueblo, Colorado. It was only open 3 days a week, but it was surprisingly successful and more importantly; got the inventory out of my house.
For quite some time, I felt like a fraud; nothing was supposed to happen that quickly. I know now that those feelings were unwarranted, but I was still in my late 20's at the time and a bit naive. My SEO efforts, website and early MySpace social media efforts brought patrons from Denver and New Mexico who drove specifically, online sales were better than ever and inventory was coming to me. Life then happened (aka divorce) and I moved to Colorado Springs, found an old Victorian house with commercial zoning that needed work and I opened a second store in 2010, which I also lived in (it was a house too, so it wasn't that hardcore).
By this time, Shopify was a thing and I had moved all my social marketing efforts to Facebook. I ditched the old site, migrated it to Shopify and was able to keep all of my inventory online. By 2010, I was shipping hundreds of items out all over the world every month and was still managing quite a lot of local foot traffic. I lived for the online hustle and learned from the growth of my own business how to do the work with little to no marketing budget.
Throughout these years, I was also helping my small business neighbors grow their businesses through social media marketing, paid advertising, SEO and I built countless websites. I am pretty positive I worked 18 hours each day, since I was also managing my eCommerce store, two brick and mortars and all the logistics. I loved it and maintained that lifestyle for nearly a decade. I had no employees.
On a summer day in 2011, a lady walked into my Colorado Springs store and offered to purchase all of my inventory. She caught me at a time where I was feeling the exhaustion and I accepted without hesitation. I shut the entire business operation down within 24 hours and that was that. I moved back to Denver, where I grew up, and drove a delivery truck for a short time until I found a contract job to build up the digital side of a precision machining company in Denver. I was able to immerse myself in the hustle again. I missed it. Without the digital hustle, I don't know what to do with myself.
Since 2012, I have been channeling my entrepreneurial drive and hustle into the businesses and clients of agencies I have and do work for. I have maintained a freelance career since around 2004 and have worked for a variety of agencies and contracts since then, including a contract at Google to work on their internal paid advertising. I still work very long days and live to hustle and grow a new project, with or without budget. I just love doing it.
And yes, I still have a rack of highly-collectible vintage clothing in my garage. I still love the thrill of the hunt as well; some things will never die.