January 8, 2023

My journey

My journey

Since a few people asked me about my journey, I thought it would be a good idea to write it down here. Will try to go back as far as I can until I started coding and made a dedicated article.

I’m Nico by the way! 👋

That’s me:

Or at least, it was me in 1999 or something.

I’m from 🇫🇷 France, but I moved abroad 2 years ago.

I’ve always been a nerd since I was a kid. I’m going to give you a quick background of me to understand how I ended up in the whole entrepreneurship and marketing field.

Before 2017

First, I was bad at school because I found it boring.

In fact, I was so bad that in middle grade, the school tried to send me to a special section for kids with mental disabilities.

Luckily I didn’t end up there and managed to do the bare minimum to graduate, up until high school, where I choose the “tertiary” speciality (called “STMG”)

It was still boring, but the themes were already a bit more interesting, like economics. It still wasn't enough to interest me tho, so I didn't bother to prepare anything for the final exam and only stayed one hour at each exercise (the minimum allowed). But somehow managed to graduate with mentions.

After high school, I planned to go into International Business “because at least if I have to be bored it could be about travelling”

But during the summer of 2016, everything changed.

I just finished high school and I found a summer job in a bank. It was a pretty nice one, it was the local bank headquarters. Yes, the one with the massive vaults like in the movies. I had to wear a suit, and was going to make very good money for a summer job 💰

The bank was literally a mansion with tapestries inside.

> I got the job because I was a volunteer at the local business’s association, and someone worked there and told me they needed someone the year before. When you are young, volunteering can give you plenty of opportunities!

Me doing volunteering before I got the job

I was supposed to be in the front office helping customers, but then… They put me in the scanning & paperwork instead 💀

Instead of handling the customers who waited (because no one was doing the front office), I had to scan hundred of files every single day from 9 AM to 5 PM. I said “fuck no” and resigned after less than 3 days.

That’s when I swore I would not work for someone else ever again. And that’s how I started my entrepreneurship journey, as 19 years old who had no idea where to start, but a solid determination to make it work.

2016: Discovering a new world

I had zero experience in the field, but I know it was the way to go if I wanted to be independent.

The day after I resigned, I started to write down every idea that came to my mind and send emails to famous French entrepreneurs to ask them for tips on how to get started.

One replied, “Reading the economics newspaper is a good start!" 🤡

The paper note where I wrote ideas

I googled “How to become an entrepreneur” to see if I'd get more info, but I didn’t find the answer I was looking for. Then I heard of a "startup club" on the local college campus. I just went there a few days after, knocked at the door, and asked how to join.

I got lucky, as it was the last day to register, so I filled out the form, and they told me to come for the interview. I didn’t know it but it was in fact a mini incubator.

I picked the only thing I knew how to do “Making WordPress websites” (thanks to my experience with Minecraft servers) and pitched that as the idea. I somehow got accepted.

They organized breakfasts with free croissants for members, so I went there hoping to meet people in suits making a shitload of cash. Finally, I would be able to ask them the "secret" and make money too 🤑

(Spoiler: No)

But when I arrived, it was mainly a bunch of students wearing t-shirts. People started to introduce themselves. There was:

  • A girl making Youtube videos reviews of sex toys
  • A guy who wanted to create an artificial wave to surf in the mountains
  • A guy who tried to ship various objects into space

My first thought was "Who are those clowns? Where are the millionaires?"

Anyway, I was a bit disappointed, but there were some free classes made by real-life entrepreneurs so I kept going.

Spoiler: The girl making Youtube reviews is now a pretty famous influencer in France in that field.

I wanted to get some money because leaving my parent's house was becoming urgent, so I applied for jobs at Mcdonald's, but they refused me 🤡

At some point, I met a dude who made a brand of Jeans made in France, and since the WordPress business was going nowhere, I thought "Oh, what if I made a brand of Ties made in France?" 👔

And that's how I ended up in eCommerce.

2017: eCommerce

I didn't really make any progress until a bit later, in May 2017, I met another guy who just created a French startup about entrepreneurship education, and he was giving a free class (and kinda pitching the online course).

At the end of the class, I talked to him and since I didn't have lots of money, he gave me a big discount so I bought his course for a couple of hundred bucks or something. I had exactly $2.22 left in my bank account.

The course was about this weird thing called "Digital Marketing". It talked about Persona and a bunch of other things. It was pretty interesting.

That gave me the basics to start, as well as joining an online community of other entrepreneurs trying to make it.

Long story short, the Tie Business was going nowhere too. But around September 2017, I met a guy in this group who changed a lot of things.

He was doing a thing called "drop shipping" and doing pretty well. It's like eCommerce, but you don't ship the product yourself, the supplier does it for you. He gave me some tricks and showed me how to get started quickly.

I ran paid ads on Facebook for the eCommerce store and made my first sale in October 2017. If you ever made your first $ online, you know how is the feeling. It changes something in you. The "make money online" myth is no longer a myth.

My very first eCommerce website! I was selling bracelets

I kept trying stuff out, ads were generating sales from time to time, but I was probably spending $60 to make $8 in sales, so not really worth it.

Note: I funded my ads by selling some cryptos I got for free from Stellar/Lumens when they opened in 2016 or something. Basically got $800 for free, nice!

I kept trying stuff, over and over again, learning along the way. I started to be a bit more profitable, just enough to make back the money I was spending on ads. At some point I was selling for $150/day worth of product, it seemed crazy 🤑

It was still not making any real profit tho.

2018: Making real $

At Christmas 2018, I met my cousin who was launching a startup about group travels. We talked and he asked me if could make a quick analysis of what he was doing in marketing since I now had some experience.

He paid me $500 bucks for it, and I was basically giving them tips to do marketing, improve the landing pages, run ads etc.

He liked it and offered me to officially become the startup's CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), paid a flat $1600 salary, but it mean I had to come work in an office and move to the south of France so I ended up declining.

I still worked for him as a freelance tho, making $500/month (but hey, at least I was free). It lasted until July 2018.

A friend of mine I met at the 'incubator' was now working for the "Entrepreneur Education" startup, giving marketing classes there.

Since he knew I started to get some experience in ads, marketing and eCommerce, he asked me if I could do some ads for one of his students, a small clothing brand in Belgium he knew. He didn't have time to do it himself as he was teaching full-time.

I told him I had no idea what I was doing, and he told me it was fine, and just see how it goes. Then he told me how much the gig was paid:

It was paid 1500€/month + 10% of the ad budget, which is (was) the average price for a media buyer, as well as any other additional services I could do for them, like websites etc.

My head was blown out, that was HUGE money 🤯

I started talking with the guy, the vibes were there, and we started working together. I totally remade the old website using Shopify, added email automation flows, ran some ads, and made around $10,000 in October 2018. With the new website optimized for conversions, the new website was booming with ads and he made a LOT of sales.

In October, this same friend wanted to take a vacation and asked me to replace him for one week with his online classes. I told him I was not skilled enough to teach, but he ensured me I was, and I ended up accepting.

I was paid $500 for a few hours of work, which was insane for me back then. The students I had were "classic" entrepreneurs who wanted to start having a presence online, as well as people starting from zero.

The students were pretty satisfied, and since I had knowledge about ads and eCommerce no one had in their team, they asked me to become a teacher. It was paid 1500€/month for around 2 hours a day, so I had a flat income of 3000€ + 10% of the ad spend of my client.

I was finally financially independent, my dream was coming true, and I was finally gonna be able to leave my parent's apartment!

My office in my parent's place

2019: Inertion

With all that money, I was able to get my own place and buy my own things! And what do you do when you are young, finally free and can afford stuff?

You buy whatever shit you can find, like connected light that changes based on the music you play 🙃

From there, I kinda became depressed, complaisant and lazy. I stopped working as much as I did