Thus Far: A Review of This Year and The Past Five

As the sole purpose for this site is to collect my current thoughts about business and life and write them for reflection by my future self, I do not know whether to be impressed or disappointed in the fact that this post comes exactly one year after my previous post. I have been meaning to write something for the past two months, but my impediment has been finding a whole day in which I can focus and capture my state of mind, and since I had set a rule for myself in the beginning that I would never go more than a year without writing, today is my deadline.

It is rather coincidental that as I am writing this post, I am preparing for an out-of-state wedding, which is exactly what I was preparing for at this same time last year. Another year, another June wedding. But of all the months in the year, June has often been the most pivotal, and June 2011 may have been the most pivotal month of my life thus far.

Five years ago today, I landed in Prague for the start of a one-month class on the Holocaust. Five years ago tomorrow, I sat in an overcrowded cafe at a table with a man I did not know and in front of whom, I unintentionally ate a small stick of pure butter.

“Did you just eat butter?”

Yes, I did.

What kind of idiot confuses frozen butter for a possible European appetizer? A very hungry one. Nonetheless, this mishap did not dissuade the man from introducing himself to me, and this man, apart from my parents, would be the single greatest living influence on my life when he became my mentor and employer for the next three years.

While it is truly difficult to concede that a half-decade has passed since that blissful Czech summer, it is equally incredible to reflect on how much has changed since. This past November, my best friend married the girl he had just begun dating when he and I made that adventurous trip to Vancouver four years ago. Also in November, my oldest friend, my dog, Scrappy, passed away at age 18. Another goodbye came as I watched my beloved Passat of four years and sixty-thousand miles worth of memories being towed away to my local NPR station. Some narratives of the storyline have ended and some are only beginning.

In July 2014, I met a girl while volunteering together at The Welcome to America Project. After planning a spontaneous trip to Thailand together in the chaos of the 2014 Ebola outbreak and surviving said trip, we began dating. Being in a relationship has had a major effect in reconstituting my ideas about thoughtfulness, honesty, and acceptance of who I am. Considering its effect in almost every non-business aspect of my life, I would say that it is the most positive life event of the last decade of my life. We began considering the idea of moving in together in August and completed this transition in April. Living with one’s best friend has to be one of the most enjoyable parts of life.

In April, my company turned four years old. When I wrote about the state of the company last year, I wrote about how much I loved being completely self-employed and the challenges that came with it. While I did and still do love being self-employed, I found that in the latter months of 2015, I was lacking something. That something is that I have a persistent and unending need to be valued for my work by someone in a position of authority and that I need to be valued as one of the best in said work. The more challenging the work, the more motivated I am to prove to that authority that I am better than most. I do not know where it comes from, but I would think that it comes from my early schooling and it has been a constant thread throughout my life. Being homeschooled, most years of school were not of significant importance to me because I was being judged only by my mom, who I did respect, but did not consider an independent authority. Conversely, fourth grade and sophomore year of high school were paramount to me because I felt judged to be superior to my classmates in my respective classes and was being judged by teachers I respected and felt were above their own peers. The fact that I was a nerd and most likely also an ass did not matter to me at all.

So due to my superiority complex and need to be judged, I got a part-time job at The Home Depot in November. My reasons for choosing The Home Depot in particular were that I could be paid to learn about residential wiring and plumbing (things I felt were important to know if living on my own), flexibility (I have taken six one-week vacations in the past six months), and relatively good pay compared to other retail stores. I do enjoy working as an employee, as it allows me to live with my complexes and lets me provide value and knowledge to strangers and customers face-to-face, which is something that only happens extremely rarely in my self-employment. I will likely leave The Home Depot soon due to safety reasons and will seek employment at Hobby Lobby, Marriott, or Half Price Books, the companies at the top of my list.

Despite being employed, my company has not been neglected this year at all. In fact, my time investment in it has only grown. Last year, I spent most of my summer playing Skyrim and the Total War series. Between January 2014 and August 2015, I would be surprised if the sum total of hours playing video games did not exceed 2,000 hours. I still long to play video games, but sometimes it is better to give up what entertains me for what is more important and will make me happier in the long-run. Unfortunately, gaming provides no value except momentary thrills and a sense of escapism. Since October 2015, the number of hours I have spent on single-player gaming is 0. This shift in time management has shown in the revenue numbers for my business.

Here are the revenues for the past five years from May 3 to June 3 of each year:
May 3 to June 3, 2012: $0 (business was less than 2 months old)
May 3 to June 3, 2013: $217
May 3 to June 3, 2014: $1285
May 3 to June 3, 2015: $2954
May 3 to June 3, 2016: $7595

In addition, I revamped my satellite sites (WordPress websites which are only 1 to 5 pages, only utilize Paypal, and are designed to target specific keywords without any ads). The sites were relaunched in September and have a combined yearly operating cost of $162. Since October 2015, they have had a combined revenue of $681. I literally do nothing with the sites except update their WordPress platforms every couple months.

My plans for the next six months are to expand my primary product offering (one type of product brings in 85% of my revenue) and increase my value per customer. Most of my sales do not come from leads, but I get about 15 leads per week in the form of customers requesting free product samples. In the past, I invested about $0.59 per lead and am now investing about $1.94 per lead. This has increased my sales conversion rate ten fold and my total sales by about 15%. I would also really like to expand to Amazon. I had planned to be on Amazon by the end of March, but delayed this move due to moving out. I am planning to make this jump by the end of this month.

Perhaps my biggest milestone of this year is that I finally went on a vacation in which I made more money during the vacation than I spent while on the vacation. I paid $840 for a 2-person 4-day cruise to Mexico last month and in that 4-day period, profited $1020. It may sound small, but this was a dream of mine which I wrote about in a post in 2012.

Apart from business, my primary goal now is to reconnect with my newly-married best friend. The four of us met for Thai food this past week and may meet again this weekend. Discussions of international travel together were had, so new adventures may be in store for this old friendship!