Value, value, and more value


I was sixteen years old when I started my first company, Elekteks Inc., which specialized in the import and export of consumer goods.  I began with about $1,000 and some knowledge of foreign markets.  I focused my business on the reselling of high demand items that were difficult to find overseas.  In about six months, my company was doing so well that we were approved for some credit accounts with electronic distributors and banks.


Here is how I was able to turn $1,000 in startup funds into $2 million as a high school student.


Lesson #1: The Value of Age


As a young entrepreneur, the business world will have doubts.  Often, they are unsure if they should take you seriously, but if you prove that you mean business, you will lead the pack.


The upside to being young is that people genuinely want to help you out.  During my time at Elekteks, inc., I received help from older, more established entrepreneurs in my industry.  One generous supplier gave me a $50,000 credit line within only a few months of business simply because he believed I reminded him of his younger self.  Another supplier was giving me the same price cuts as their major buyers, even though I was buying only fifty units versus the major buyers’ 10,000.


I credit much of my company’s growth to the people who were more than willing to extend a helping hand to a young and ambitious entrepreneur.


Lesson #2: Get a Lot for a Little


I graduated high school two years later still in charge of Elekteks, inc.  During that time, I learned how to efficiently run a company so well that my revenues were on the verge of breaking $1 million.


I was debating hiring an assistant due to the mass amounts of e-mail I was now receiving, but I couldn’t justify hiring someone for such a menial task.  This is when I discovered how to outsource.


I went to an outsourcing hub (think odesk.com or elance.com) and hired a virtual assistant that worked 30 hours per week.  At only $1/hour, I had someone to answer tedious e-mails, do file work, and even download new music.  An assistant allowed me to focus on the bigger picture: growing my company.


Make sure you only spend your time doing things that are worthwhile.  Efficiency is the name of the game.  If you spread yourself too thin, you will only serve to bog yourself down.


Lesson #3: Make 20 cents look like $20


Even though my competitors were selling iPhones at cheaper prices, people still bought from me.  You might be wondering how I accomplished this, and it was actually quite easy.  All it required was getting a little bit creative.


Hypothetically, let’s say you’ve just bought an iPhone.  You don’t want your new purchase to get wrecked, so you need a case.  The average price for a case is around $25 USD, but, strangely enough, they cost only about 20 cents to manufacture.  In fact, you could buy your new hypothetical iPhone 10,000 cases directly from China for less than ten cents apiece.


My company took advantage of this deficit by raising our prices only slightly and then throwing in a free case with our phones.  When selling, we placed an emphasis on this “deal”.  Our customers preferred this setup, even for a few extra dollars, because in their eyes it was a giveaway.



Take advantage of people’s perceptions.  All it requires is a little thinking outside the box.


Lesson #4: Get FREE Labor – the Ultimate Value


I graduated from college in May 2011.  While at school, I learned people are more than willing to work for free.  All what they ask for is a good company name and filler for their resumes.  This summer, I had seven interns working on my media website, and I used the same rules that I use for all of my interns:


1.     1. Treat them like equals – be aware of their wants and needs.  When your interns are confident, you will be shocked at how much better quality you get from their work.

2.    2.  DO NOT call them interns.  I called my interns from the summer “media relations specialists”.  It just looks better.

3.     3. Nobody wants to be the “coffee guy”; these are human beings that want to learn from you – oblige them.

4.    4.  Give them freedom to express their ideas.  You might be surprised at some of their insights.

5.     5. Help them get a future job – look over their resume.

6.     6. Cultivate a relationship – college students like to drink, why not let loose a bit?


Lesson #5:  Monetary Value


Here is a list of what $5 can buy you.  Which gives you the most bang for your buck?


·      A Big Mac meal

·      A lottery ticket

·      A promo video that boosts your company’s profit


Well, if you haven’t eaten anything in 24 hours or you’re really lucky, you might pick 1 or 2 respectfully, but it’s apparent that the third choice is our real winner.


Last week, I submitted a startup idea video to a BloomBerg contest to be a participant in next year’s TechStars incubator and, to my surprise, my video was picked as one of the finalists.  Even more suprising?  I only paid $5 USD to make the video.  Normally, a video like this could cost in the ballpark range of $3,000.


I was able to achieve it for much less with a little creativity, some scouting, and a willing worker on fiverr.com.  Oh, and five dollars.


Video link: WizOra.Com Promo Video For BloomBerg


Frankly, you don’t have to have deep pockets to look professional.


I have gotten basic iPhone apps made for $5 and entire websites coded for $50 simply by using sites like Fiverr, Odesk, and Elance to my benefit.


In conclusion…


By now, I’m sure you can tell I’m really into getting my money’s worth.  It takes a lot to get ahead, and every day I try to take my value thinking to a higher level.  In today’s world with competition on a global scale, it takes a lot to get ahead.  You will stand out in the business world if you prove you can make something out of nothing.  Implement a sense of value into everyday thinking and you will end up saving yourself financial headache in the future.


- DN

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