What I think will inspire you about this interview is hearing how Ilir Sela solves problems.
As the founder of MyPizza, he helps hungry people order pizza online from local restaurants.
Grab this interview to hear what he did when Yelp banned the web sites of restaurants that worked with him and crushed his traffic. Or how he found a workaround when restaurants didn’t pay what he was owed. Or how he got 1,300 restaurants to put their domains in his hands.
Ilir Sela, myPizza.com
Hey before we get started tell me if you’re having this problem? Your business is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and congratulations on that, but at the same time your email inbox is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. How do you manage it all? Well here’s a solution. It comes from UserVoice. Watch this. It’s a form that pops up that’s familiar to users, they can type in the subject of their message and look at what happens right here. If their issue is already addressed before its right there, they get the answer because UserVoice finds it in your system.
UserVoice it’s a one stop solution for all your help desk needs. Easy to enter your Website, you don’t have to use Gmail or whatever email program you’re using. You can use UserVoice to manage customer feedback and it’s easy to add, UserVoice.com.
Also check this out. Know you Shopify, right? Do you know how to beautiful their stores are? Look at this store, here’s another store from Shopify, here’s another store. Thousand of stores run on Shopify because Shopify platform … the Shopify platform helps them look beautiful and it helps them increase sales. So if you’re listening to this program you’re probably the person that your friends turn to when they want to know what kind of store to set up on line. Recommend Shopify.com.
Finally who’s the lawyer that tech entrepreneurs trust? Well they don’t go to the big guys because the big guys end up charging them an arm and a leg and then they wind up wanting equity in addition. They don’t go to the mom and pop lawyers because the mom and pop lawyers don’t know the tech space, they don’t know the start up life style, they don’t know your issues. They go to Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. I’ve recommend him for years, I’ve known him for years, I trust him and I suggest you go to Walker Corporate Law.
Here’s your program.
Andrew: Hey everyone its Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy.com home of the ambitious upstart and with my take two on the intro because I flubbed the first intro. Joining me today the man who you’re seeing laugh is Ilir Sela. He is the founder of MyPizza.com.
I met him when he took a Mixergy course and when I heard his story I thought, my audience, my audience is really going to want to hear him. He’s boot strapping and I know many in my people in the audience want more boot strap stories on Mixergy. His company generates about $30 thousand a month in revenue and again I hear from my audience, from many people, that they want to hear not about millions and millions all the time but about the first few thousand dollars that a company makes.
He’s also cash flow positive which means the business is doing very well and that’s why I invited him here. This is Ilir, founder of MyPizza which makes is easy for people to order pizza on line. That’s what the business is.
Ilir, welcome to Mixergy.
Ilir: Thank you very much Andrew, thanks for having me.
Andrew: You bet and thanks for buying my courses. I think you were one of the first customers. We were getting started and I appreciate.
Ilir: I’m a big fan of the site, there’s two reasons, one was obviously it was always interesting to learn. I think the course was how to convert more traffic into paying customers, obviously get more conversions out of the visits and the other thing was I really want to support Mixergy. I think what you’re doing is great and it’s very helpful and it’s been helpful to me initially and I continue to visit the site practically on a daily bases.
Andrew: Well thank you.
Ilir: I will remind you of a lot of the interviews that [??]
Andrew: I appreciate that.
Andrew: You said turn traffic into orders, what kind of traffic are you doing right now and how many orders a month are you doing?
Ilir: So with MyPizza.com we just passed I think it was about … I’m a big fanatic about that … so today we’re a little bit over a 136,000 visits for the last 30 days and we’re converting about let’s say 15% of that traffic into orders.
Andrew: That’s incredible.
Andrew: Is MyPizza for delivery to my home or is it for pick up or is it both?
Ilir: It’s both, I mean, the best way I can describe it probably is sort of a GrubHub for the pizza vertical. I know you interviewed one of the GrubHub founders in the past and so it’s similar to that. The only difference is we focus strictly on pizza and our entire sort of business model revolves around helping independent small chain pizza restaurants to be able to tackle the on line market.
A lot of these guys don’t have the knowledge or capability of being able to present their menus and their information on line in an organized way. So what we’re, we’re sort of in that field but we’re also a little bit more like a, let’s say maybe a reach local where we take these restaurants and then we manage their on line presence through all the [??] to MyPizza.com and then generate orders for them.
Andrew: Sorry you’re, you broke off of there for a minute, I apologize about the connection but you’re saying you manage their sites also and you do something else and we lost you.
Ilir: So it would be a combination of what GrubHub does and ReachLocal. But it’s sort of where we basically take their online presence and manage all their local directory listings for them. And pull all that traffic into a landing page, that leads directly to a menu. Our main goal is for people to land on the menu as soon as possible.
Andrew: I see, so you put their menu into other food directories online and when people see their menus on those directories and click over for more information, or for details, or see actually menu itself, they’re actually on your website, you take the order and you pass that order on to them.
Ilir: Exactly. That’s one form of getting traffic for them, and the other is just general marketing and advertising for the Mypizza.com brand themselves. So we pull orders for them from customers visiting Mypizza.com just wondering who delivers to them in the local area. And then obviously people searching directly for that restaurant.
Andrew: Great idea for getting traffic. Do you do that with their consent, did you have to get their permission in order to do it?
Ilir: No, we do, so it’s fully consensual. We have an agreement that we initially pass to them and they obviously read it toughly and sign it and bring it back to us. That gives us the ability to represent their store online in any third party website.
Andrew: How many stores have given you that permission?
Ilir: Every store that registers with us, give us that permission.
Andrew: Can you say how many you have registered? I know I have it here on my list, but I don’t know if it’s OK to say.
Ilir: Actually we have over 1300 now. Launched, we’re approaching about 1000.
Andrew: 1000 are already with you, 1300 who are?
Ilir: 1300 who are registered. And then we are about 300 behind in launching them. We take them through bunch of steps where, we register unique domain names, typically for the restaurant, we take them through the marketing process. We have to do that manual entry and all that stuff. There’s a bunch of steps that goes through in order to take someone from the point where they’re interested in joining to a point where they are actually accept orders.
Andrew: OK. What else I want to know about where the business is today, before…
Actually let’s find out how you got here?
When you launched the company?
Ilir: I founded the company in 2009. The website initially launched, first version, which was a PhP version,launched in January of 2010. Initially for the first couple of month, there is more of a beta launch with a handful restaurants here in the New York area. Once we ironed out some of the issues and details, that I think I’ll probably get into at one point in this interview. But once we ironed out some of those issues, then we realized that there is something there and went through and had a full launch, and went all out and trying to get as many pizza restaurants to join as possible.
Andrew: I want to find out how you got so many stores in, I want to find out about the chicken and egg problem, how you solved it. And how you get these store to let you list them on a site that doesn’t have any traffic, and how do you get traffic on a site that doesn’t have any stores yet. I want to find out about that, I want to follow up with you about the issues that you had to iron out, you real treatment with that.
How did you actually go even before the start, we want to get a little back story on you.
I know that you started a company before this, that you sold. What was the company called?
Ilir: Prior to Mypizza.com I actually founded a company called NerdForce. Which was an onsite, remote tech support services for small business, residential clients. I started that in 2003. It sort of pivoted out of a web design development business that I initially launched. Over the course of the next couple of years, i think about 2005, we had a decent amount of customers. Ended up franchising the business, was able to get a lot of traction, had franchisees as far away as Australia, the UK, Austria, and obviously all over the US. And in 2008 that business was acquired by a public IT company.
So that’s what allowed me really to be able to launch another business. And that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to bootstrap it.
Andrew: You and I talked privately about what the sales was for roughly, you didn’t give me a specific number, but can you say that here now that we’ve started the official interview?
Ilir: I mean, it was in the low 7 figures. But it was a combination of cash and stock deal. And you know how these things work, it’s always a vary data game.
Andrew: I see, it’s stays set about 7 figures at the low of the stock?
Ilir: No, it did not.
Andrew: OK. Well pizza, and you can’t do anything right, because you can’t sell?
Ilir: So I actually stayed on with Nerd Force for another year or so, right until the launch of MyPizza.com. To help with the transition I was named as a managing director for the Nerd Force division for the public company. And it didn’t work out the way I thought or hoped it would, but that’s a lesson learned, you know, for the future. So [??].
Andrew: Did you fund this company MyPizza, using the money from Nerd Force?
Ilir: Yes I did.
Andrew: How much money went into MyPizza?
Ilir: So far with MyPizza, we’re about $150 thousand.
Andrew: $150 thousand, so where does the bulk of that money go?
Ilir: It went initially into the development of the first data site. It went into, you know for every restaurant that joins, there is an overhead, basically, to be able to get domain names. And to be able to do the data entry, to be able to allow our customers to order via phone, so there’s a unique phone number for every restaurant.
Andrew: You get a unique phone number for every restaurant, you build a website with their own domain for every restaurant?
Andrew: So for every one of these thousand restaurants, you’re buying a domain?
Andrew: 1300 domains?
Andrew: Why? Why are you buying the domains for them?
Ilir: Well, we have our reasons, but primarily because, and we will get into this, we want these restaurants to be our marketing partners. So these restaurants have menus, and on the menu, they just basically have their phone number. Well now we want them to be able to display a web address. And we want them to be proud of that, we want them to be able to, instead of leading people to MyPizza.com, where they’re now concerned. You know, what if my customer ends up on another restaurants menu. We want them to be proud of their own website. We’re going to be continuing to work with them to be able to take these websites to the next level. Where they have some dynamic multimedia sites. But, that’s really our reason, is to be able to work directly with the restaurant owners, to promote their online presence. So we do a lot of the advertising, online. We actually count on them to do a lot of the advertising locally to their own customers. With banners in the stores, domain names on their menus, on the physical menus and so on.
Andrew: You started in 2010. Didn’t pizzerias already have their own websites by2010?
Ilir: You would be surprised.
Ilir: Really. I would say 90% of the restaurants that have joined have not had a prior website. Again we’re targeting the independent, local pizza joint on the corner of the street, I guess. These are guys that are, I would say, a little bit old school. Many of them still actually, over 90% of them don’t have point of sale systems. A lot of them work with pen and pad, still. Believe it or not. So, that’s the opportunity I recognized, right before we launched. And that’s the reason I got into it. Because I couldn’t believe, just like you can’t, that in 2010 the majority of local pizza restaurants don’t have websites.
Andrew: I would have thought they’d all be up and running by now. All right. So what was the original idea? I always ask that question because I’m curious about how, where the business came from and also how it evolved later beyond the original idea. What was your original idea?
Ilir: The original idea was to be able to have a central pizza data base. Like an online pizza yellow pages, basically. I was talking to my older brother Ben, who probably threw the idea at me a few times. Because he knows I’m a little bit more tech savvy and have the ability to take that idea and actually do something with it. So we were bouncing ideas around and we always kept saying, it would be great to have this one website called MyPizza.com. Or whatever, there was other ideas for the name, and to be able to go on there and just find local pizza restaurants that delivered to you. But also, the idea was, to have a single phone number. Some 1-800-MyPizza, or whatever it would have been. Where I could just call that number and it’ll automatically know where I am and what restaurant deliver and to be able to take the order. And overall, to be able to band all these independent stores and compete with the big chains. That was a big thing for me. I think Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns. These guys do billions and billions of dollars in online ordering. And the independents are sort of still stuck in the 80s, basically.
Andrew: And you’re right. Because there’s a unified place for me to go order a pizza from Domino’s or Papa John’s. When I’m in the mood to get something delivered I just go to that website and in my area, it’s probably Papa Johns, ‘cuz it’s the one nearby.
Ilir: Exactly. So it’s almost like a, and I come from the franchise industry, so it’s almost like a reverse franchise, where you’re taking all these guys, you’re giving them all this MyPizza brand, and giving them a chance to really compete against the big chains.
Andrew: All right. So that’s great for the pizzas, for the pizzerias. That’s great for the customer. But you’re an entrepreneur who’s obviously had some experience in business and you’re thinking, where’s the money; where’s the business here? What exactly did you think the business was going to be? Where did you think the money in business was going to come from?
Ilir: Well, when we started, going back to that test phase in early 2010, I remember for [nerd force], for example, we had Yellow Pages people coming into the office and trying to sell us a million pages out of an actual book. And I remember them charging like crazy amounts and I’d look in the book and towards the end, I don’t know if you remember there was always like these menu pages that Yellow Pages would sell to the restaurants where the entire page was actually the menu of the restaurant. And I would ask them, you know, well how much do you sell these for. I wonder how much restaurants pay for these, or pizzerias pay for these. And it was like in, you know, $2,000 a month, $1,500 a month. And my whole thing was, well maybe we can do something similar, and initially we went out in our first marketing piece that went out to local restaurants here was enjoymypizza.com for $199 a month. So, basically, $200 a month. And so I picked it up.
Andrew: So, I see you’re thinking, hey, there’s all this money that they’re spending anyway. I can charge them a little something to be in my directory. OK. How’d that go for you?
Ilir: Well, so we sent out about a thousand pieces, and I think we got three customers out of that, that joined at $200 a month. Going back to the chicken and the egg problem, now these guys are paying $200 a month, but we’re not as popular, and we’re just starting out, where are we really going to those order for them? So, one of the challenges that we had was, okay now, how do we maintain these customers? We don’t want them to join, pay us for a month or two and leave, because they’re not getting the result that they need. Initially, that was the idea and then from that problem, I guess, we evolved into a performance-based marketing model.
Andrew: Where you only get paid if you get an order, and you get paid per order.
Andrew: OK. Why did you stick with just pizza? Why not do what GrubHub did and give yourself some room to go beyond anything people want delivered or picked up?
Ilir: Well, a couple of reasons. One is pizza itself is an industry, a $37 billion-dollar-a-year industry. That’s how much food pizzerias sell in the U.S. each year. There are about 70,000 pizza restaurants, of which about I would say, 50,000 of them are independents. So the industry itself is big enough. And I guess the idea, or the thought I was toying around with was, do I want to go directly in competition with a GrubHub or SeamlessWeb, and there are a couple of other sites, like Delivery.com that are in the field; or do we want to take the biggest vertical from this industry and tackle that specifically. And people order so much pizza. There are pizza parties every day, and offices are constantly ordering big amounts. I think the industry, and pizza itself, in America is big enough to able to support a site like ours. And I think we’ve been able to prove that.
Andrew: OK. So you go out there, you send a thousand pieces, you only get three orders. It’s time for you to get results for those three pizzerias. What did you try to do to get customers for the pizzerias that came on?
Ilir: So, initially, we’d take that $300 and spend it on Adwords, and things like that, just toying around with different ways of generating business for these guys. But, you know, we found out that Adwords, for example, the competition for keywords like pizza, or pizza delivered, it’s huge. And we would need to really have our paper click cost really, really low for it to make sense, otherwise, the $300 budget would go in three days and then we’re stuck. So that’s one of the things we tried, and fail at it. But I didn’t mind failing at it because it led us to sort of pivot a little bit and change the way we did business.
Andrew: And we you going to actually take the order for them at the time, or just let customers phone in their orders, or order on the website?
Ilir: There was always an online ordering platform. So from day one we were taking the orders. We had the menus up and running for each store. And we were ready for the customers to get on there and obviously order.
Andrew: And how did you get the order to the person who only has a note pad in his store?
Ilir: Until this day there’s different ways we transmit the order. The most popular way is via fax, believe it or not getting these restaurants to even get a fax is a little too high tech. So it was a combination of fax, we phone in a lot of orders so we have a customer service and data entry team that phones in orders for restaurants that don’t have a fax or a POS, and then there’s customers that have point of sales systems that we’ve integrated with to be able to send those orders directly through that.
Andrew: I see, OK. So you decide you’ve got to switch things up? How long does it take you to switch? It looks like it’s a pretty young company for you to have made that switch? It must have happened rapidly?
Ilir: Well I mean … so what I realized was we needed a certain amount of response from our marketing in order to be able to … because again going back to the idea for MyPizza is to be able to show users a lot of different varieties and if you have one restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, another one in Edgewater, New Jersey, and a third one in Staten Island, you’re not really going to show anything to customers.
So we realized that we need these restaurants to join as fast as possible. We need to be able to show variety, we need to be able to show customer choices so we switched off and we decided, you know what, it’s free for any restaurant to join MyPizza.com. And we’ll even get everything else for you for free. The domain name for free, the website for free, we’ll do the menu for free and we gave away free 30 day trials so for the first 30 days you can try it out and if you don’t like it you can just call us and tell us take us off.
Until this day we have no binding contracts. Any restaurant can take themselves off the system at any point. And that was really the turning point.
Andrew: Why were you willing to take that kind of a risk considering the fact you had a set back with Nerve-Force, with the company that you ended up really investing in through the shares you got from the sale, you had a setback in the thousand letters that you sent out to potential clients and only landed three, you had others. Why save yourself on top of that I’m going to throw more money into this business instead of saying, ‘let’s take a step back, maybe it’s not pizza.’
Ilir: I don’t know why. I think it’s probably a quality a lot of entrepreneurs have and I think you can probably relate to this? I’m sure you’ve had some road blocks in some of the things that you’ve done? I don’t know it’s probably not in me, I think a lot of the people … I’m a big fan of when I start something I start telling everybody … and that’s usually what holds me back from quitting because then all of a sudden I think well all these people know what I’m doing and all these people are then going to know I’m no longer doing this.
It’s a way to really keep yourself involved and keep yourself sort of going basically. Because any business can and will succeed as long as you stick with it long enough. I remember reading an article on Inc. Magazine and I compare it to … and this is what someone compared it to in the article and I really liked it was like a one of those old radios with the knob where you get a lot of static when you first turn on the radio and then you tune it in and you fine tune and you fine tune and you keep turning it back and forth until you finally hear music. And that’s really what I always have in my mind.
Andrew: Was there one person who you told that you launched this business that would be especially painful if they saw that you failed?
Ilir: Well probably immediate family. I’m a …
Andrew: Immediate family is who you felt the most embarrassed about …
Ilir: Yes I mean I don’t want to let anybody down, right? I think a lot of people initially … because of the success I had with the prior business a lot of people I’m sure automatically thought that this would work out and everyone was like what a great idea, he can do it. And the other side of it was some of the people trying to talk me out of it just wanting to prove them wrong obviously so there’s always some they say …
Andrew: Yes, who’s, who is the one who tried to prove you … who said, ‘we tried to talk you out of it’ … you don’t have to tell me [??] that other person, in fact I’d rather you wouldn’t.
Ilir: [??] not so much tried to talk me out of it but my mom is probably one of the people whose most conservative in the family and my dad is the opposite. My dad is always like, ‘well you should go out and really do this and change that’ and always giving pointers and ideas but my mom was always like, ‘why are you putting yourself through this, why don’t you just go, you know you’re still young, go find a job somewhere and make a …
Andrew: So this is after Nerve-Force, she still wanted you to go find a job?
Ilir: Yes, yes, she still does.
Andrew: She still does today?
Andrew: And so when your working do you think in the back of your head the way I might about some of frienimies [SP], I’ve to prove them wrong, I’ve got to her wrong, I’ve got to prove to her that I can do this? Is that it?
Ilir: Yes and again not specifically just keeping my mother in mind but in general, just wanting to succeed, for the people that are closes to me, to be able to make people proud. I’m a little bit sentimental that way, but it’s one of the ways. I guess it’s what works for each person, right?
Andrew: You know actually, I think it’s this morning that I woke up and I said, what if I just don’t want to do Mixergy at some point in the future. What if I just stop. And then I think all those times that I said I’m never going to stop, this is a mission. And especially some of the friend in me is, I don’t even have a face or name to them, but I imagine they are out there listening and laughing, look at this guy, what he is doing, His looking ridiculous and he just stutters little bit, he doesn’t knows the right words and all that. I think about them and how they are waiting for me to fail and I go, no, I can’t. I got to get back in there make sure that they don’t have that satisfaction.
Andrew: That’s not the only reason to live, but it’s a motivator.
Ilir: Yeah. Of course. And you said it perfectly, it’s a motivator and I think every person who gets into business for themselves, they need some motivation, some factors in their live in order to… Because it’s not easy.
Everybody’s been through this where, you have launched the business and you gone though it. There’s so many days you basically want to say, oh, it’s not worth it.
Andrew: Tell me candidly about one of those days, when was it, and what went on in your head?
Ilir: OK. So here it is. One of those things that we do, as I mentioned is we represent a lot of the local restaurants in the different directories. One of them happens to be, or was Yelp.com. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with Yelp, sort of a review site and what not.
So when we first started we were up to 100 restaurants. We had all these Yelp listings going and it’s one of the good sources of traffic for each restaurants website. Until Yelp completely blocked us out of that. Because they don’t like the idea of third party managing listings. They want the owner directly. And to their defense they have their own reasons to want to be able to sell directly to the restaurants as well.
But that was a big hit. I mean, I think we went from our traffic probably dipped a good amount because of that. Because for any restaurant I think the two main sources of traffic are, probably three, are probably say Google, Yelp, City Search. Those three, you need to be in their directories in order to really succeed.
So when Yelp pulls the plug. It’s something where you start doubting, you start thinking well, are others going to follow suit. What happens if we can no longer process these restaurants pages this way, and advertise for them this way. And these different road blocks, and that was a big one where it made me think twice and start panicking a little bit. But…
Andrew: Tell me more about that. Be a little vulnerable in this interview. You’ve obvious gotten past this, so we can talk about this, but, yeah, be vulnerable, tell me how you felt and what went on in your head.
Ilir: No. I mean, well, for the first five minutes, you think, oh, no, well, what are we going to do now?
And then you start thinking, OK, instead of trying to figure out what happened, that doesn’t really do much for you, so you start thinking how you going to get through this?
Believe or not, that’s one of the…
Immediately after that we had the biggest boost in traffic. Because it motivated me and I was able to communicate to our team how we can figure out other ways of generating traffic for these restaurants.
So it makes you go out and learn and figure out other ways to be able to bring in orders for the clients.
So I think the next step was I wrote an email to the gentleman that had acquired from Yelp. I think their next step was completely block my IP address from even visiting Yelp. I still to this date don’t know why. And then I think, again after that I didn’t dwell on it too much, just basically by the next day had the plan to overcome that, and to be able to move on.
Andrew: What got you back. I mean, for a lot of people that experience would he so hard breaking that they wouldn’t close shop the next day, but really they might as well close shop, because their heart wouldn’t be into it, they be dragging themselves into work, and they wouldn’t feel confident enough to solve the problem.
What did you use to get back into the game, the head game I mean?
Ilir: You know what I think, I think one of the human characteristics, and I think this is the negative part, is that we dwell too much on what’s not working. And don’t focus enough on what is working.
So instead of sitting there, I started thinking, instead of thinking how this is going to hurt us. Let’s try to figure out what else we can do to be able to take what we already have so far and build on it and, you know, just forget about that piece. There’s other ways, there’s businesses that have been built that have no idea who Yelp is. So we have learned that it is one of the great traffic sources for us, but it’s not the only traffic source. It helped us figure out ways how we could even surpass Yelp in a lot of cases in natural search engine optimization.
Andrew: So you said to yourself, ‘I can’t keep looking at what’s not working here and obsessing on it. I’ve got to find all the things that would work.’ And what was it that you came up with? You said you had a plan the next day.
Ilir: The plan the next day was what I just mentioned, to try to figure out, OK, how do we pass Yelp on natural search? We know Yelp is getting a lot of traffic to these stores, and a lot of it is coming from the search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing. And in a lot of cases, just doing some studies. If you search a restaurant name, the Yelp listing comes up first. So we went at it and we tried to figure out, OK, how do we surpass them? If anyone is looking for this restaurant . . .
Andrew: How do you do that? Yelp has a large, a high page rank with Google.
Andrew: They have a longer, their domains are older than your domain, their domain is older than all of your domains.
Andrew: They’ve got people who are on staff who are designed to just think about how to beat you, and you’re just one guy with a small office and lots of problems. What are some of the ways that you can beat Yelp? Teach other people who are trying to do it.
Ilir: Well, with natural search, I mean, Google loves the ability to present the official website for any business. If I was searching for Brothers Pizza in Brooklyn, New York, Google would much rather show you the Brothers Pizza website than their Yelp listing, no matter how much seniority Yelp has in their domain and all that good stuff. So this is one of the things that really reinforced our idea to have unique domain names for every store.
Andrew: Before then you already had unique domain names, is that right?
Ilir: We already had unique domain names but we weren’t enough on building these ‘official websites’ for these guys. Initially we were redirecting these domain names to their MyPizza.com menu page, but it wasn’t really a website or a mini-website that had directions, phone number, hours of operation and stuff like that. We realized that this is what Google really likes, so we set out to build an automated way of generating these hundreds, and now thousands of mini-websites. Thanks to our lead developer, Sam (and I’ll get into that, how I was able to hire him), we were able to generate a script that generates these websites automatically for every listing.
So if somebody calls right now and says, ‘I want to join as MyPizza.com as a restaurant,’ two hours from now they’ll have a website ready: domain name, phone number, menu up and everything. We’ve turned into a well-oiled machine.
Andrew: In really a matter of months; we’re talking about 18 months since the company launched. Google, though, needs to somehow know that the sites you’re creating are the official sites. How do you do it? What do you do SEO-wise to let them know this is it?
Ilir: Google will never really know which one is the official site, but they have certain characteristics that they check to see if it is the official site – they’ll check, obviously. The domain name is big so if the domain has the name of the restaurant on there, that’s big. The location needs to be tagged and needs to be recognized by Google that it’s the same location that maybe they have in the Google Places listing, for example. The phone number needs to match the original phone number of the restaurant.
And then there is so much content in these sites because of the menus, and you know, all the different pizza key words and things like that, I think it’s easy for Google to see that, hey, if a customer is searching for Brothers Pizza, they may not necessarily be looking for Yelp or CitySearch, they want the actual, you know, they want to know everything about this restaurant.
Andrew: How did you learn all of this? You don’t have a background in search engine optimization, how did you learn SEO?
Ilir: Trial and error, just trying to [??] things out.
Andrew: Just knowing this had to work, trial and error.
Andrew: Did you sign up for anything like SEOBook, or SEOmoz?
Ilir: Believe it or not, I did not. I was just bouncing ideas around with Sam again. He’s a big Google guy and, you know, I don’t know, just really searching for restaurants, searching for their names and locations and trying to see what comes up. And I noticed for example when some of those restaurants they have a website, their website was tops usually. So we figured out, you know what, we can create websites that are just as contents rich and we should be able to succeed the same. And every time we would do something we would tweak it a little bit. We would add meta descriptions, meta tags, title on the browser, all these things have so much effect on what Google does with your website. We really, really focused on it I think.
Andrew: Let’s go back a little bit. And talk about how you ended up getting customers, when that first process didn’t work, of sending out mailers to them. You sent thousands, only 3 responded. What did you do next, help me understand the evolution of getting customers.
Ilir: So the next thing was we went out and …
So going back to why we only focused on pizza. We figured out a lot of these restaurants had already, especially in New York. Like if you go to Brooklyn or Manhattan a lot of these restaurants were familiar with SeamlessWeb and GrubHub. And you have to give them a reason why they should join you. So if our domain name was something like MyTakeout.com for example, what’s going to give a pizzeria the reason to join that as well. It doesn’t really present that much of a compelling argument. So if we go to them with Mypizza.com, and they are a pizzeria, they’re going to feel obligated to join. Especially if it’s free. So that’s one thing we did, and the other, to gain credibility, I’m a big fan of credibility. I think any client that’s going to join any business, they need to make sure, they want to make sure that they can rely on you. And you want to have credibility with them. So we went out and we bought these two Nissan cube vehicles, and we put Mypizza.com on them. And started driving around to pizzerias and we would park it, if there was no space in front of the pizzeria, where the owner can see the car, we wouldn’t stop in. So we would go to every store and we would pull up with the car. And they would see it and they would automatically start thinking, hey, you know what these guys are for real. And we would go in and ask them to join for free. But we would charge them a commission, for every order that we generated for them. So for the next month or two, probably around February, into March of 2010, we would able to do that with a handful of restaurants. The goal was really to get 50 restaurants so that we could really run a true test. I’m a big fan of testing things. If it didn’t work out with these 50 stores, then we could change things around.
Andrew: Let me pause here a second. Let me come back, I’m writing down 50 stores. So that I could do that.
Hey, by the way, I’m going to interview the author of this book, Pitch Anything. And the guy is all about like how to take control of negotiation and how to lead people who are trying to pull you. And it looks like I’m unwittingly doing one of the tactics he talks about. He says look, when someone is trying to dominate you in a negotiation. You lead them some where in the conversation. To take back control. And I think like I do that unintentionally, But I got to call attention to it, the fact that I say, hey, let’ go back in time. You’ve got this train of thought, but, hey, let’s go back in time. I know you really looking to talk about the 50 store, but let’s pause there.
Ilir: I’m a big fan of that actually. I see that a lot on the past interviews where, entrepreneurs and business owners are very passionate, and as am I, about the business. And I always catch it saying, oh hold on, I want to know more about this. I think that’s a very good quality.
Andrew: It helps. The reason that I’m happy that I do that, is that in the beginning, I used to be too chicken to say that, and I would let you keep going with these narrative. And I couldn’t fill in the gap. And at the mean while the audience had these questions, I had these questions. But because we had progressed so far in the future in the story, I can’t ever come back. either because I forgot them, or because now it becomes unnatural.
So I don’t do it as a of dominating the conversation, though it’s interesting it works that way. I do do it because, I got to know as much as possible in here and I’m glad that I get to interview people who trust me here and know that I try to lead a more useful interview.
So all that’s too say I want to come back and as you about these two cars. You bought two cars just for experiment, then you had them wrapped with your logo on them ?
Ilir: So we went out and actually leased them.
Andrew: But leasing is still an obligation. It may not be the same as actually ownership, but you obligated for months.
Ilir: We actually got these even before the website was launched. It was one of the ways to keep us, from stopping. So you have this obligation now when these cars need to be paid off. They say ‘MyPizza’ on them, and people see you driving around in them. It’s one of those things that keeps you stuck to the business, and doesn’t let you quit as easily. You need some of those things in the beginning – telling people about it, getting these cars, etc. A lot of people say ‘Well you should start a business in a home office, where you have no expenses,’ and things like that. I actually believe you should probably go and get a small office. You should probably have some responsibilities to the business that will keep you from giving up too easily.
Andrew: I love that. I’m glad I stopped and asked you about that. [laughs]
Ilir: OK. So these cars give us credibility. We would go around, and I have a lot of friends and family that own pizza restaurants in the New York area. My nationality is Albanian, and a lot of people who are in New York know that Albanians own a lot of pizza restaurants.
Andrew: Why is that? I noticed that. Everyone always thinks Italians with pizza, but Albanians own a lot of the pizzerias in New York. Why?
Ilir: They do. I think Albanians have a really small tight-knit community. Initially, a handful of Albanians probably started a restaurant chain here and there, someone would see that it worked, and would go out and do the same thing. It’s probably one of the main reasons why I think we focused on pizza specifically.
Andrew: All right. The other thing I wanted to ask about the cars is this: if you’re an entrepreneur, you want to get as big as possible. I understand sending out mailings, because if the mailers work, and you convert a certain number of people, then it means you can blow up from 1,000 stores to 100,000, and so on, to every pizzeria in the country. But if you’re gonna drive door-to-door, that doesn’t scale. That’s not something you can keep on doing. Why do it at all then?
Ilir: It doesn’t. And really, the idea was based on two things. One was to try to at least get these stores so we can test the site. Because even if you find a way to get all these stores to join, if you can’t get them customers, it doesn’t matter. So we didn’t really worry about that initially, it was just, ‘Let’s get 50 stores and let’s see if we can bring them customers’. If we could prove that we could bring them customers, going back to that tight-knit community, I knew that there were enough Albanians in New York to be able to support [laughs] at least the New York version. They would tell one another, and then people would start joining. What happens now is that we get at least five or six calls a day from restaurants that I’ve heard about from someone else they know who also owns a pizzeria. But we didn’t really worry too much about how to scale in the beginning, it was more let’s just get these stores, and figure out how we can get customers to order, and once that happens, we can figure out other ways of getting restaurants to join. The second reason behind it was if you go door-to-door, you speak to the owners and listen to their problems and their concerns and all the key words that they hear. A lot of these pizzeria owners hear about Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and it intimidates them. It’s something that they know that they need to be doing, especially now in 2011-12, but they don’t know where to start. So those were the things that we learned from visiting the places in person, talking to them, and trying to figure out what makes these guys tick. Once you know that, you can figure out ways to scale, which we did, and I’ll get into that and how we bring on the majority of our restaurants today.
Andrew: OK. The 50-store experiment, going back to that, you found 50 stores, you wanted to see if it worked with them. How did it go? What were the results?
Ilir: There were some glitches. We got the 50 stores, and we started generating some orders. I think we were doing for the first 50 stores maybe 20 orders a day total, so they would probably get one order on average every two or three days, which was still not bad because it was performance-based. So if they got a $20.00 or $30.00 order, they didn’t mind paying us $2.00 for it, which is what we charged the restaurants. But one of the big problems we came across was that we realized these guys don’t really like to pay their invoices. [laughs] For two months we went around, generating all these orders with 50 stores. We sent out 100 invoices in total, and I think four of them were paid, and the rest weren’t, so that’s a big problem. Speaking with some of the food vendors, I was always trying to figure out ways to get the partnerships in place to get more restaurants to join through distribution partners. And food vendors would say the same thing, these guys hold onto their money until the gas company comes and tries to shut them down. That’s when they pay their bill. Especially for us, a company that brings them an order a day, an order every two days, whatever it is, they don’t see us as nearly as important as the gas company. If their waiting for the gas company to show up before they pay them, when are we going to get paid? So that was a big problem and that’s when we made some adjustments. But again, thanks to those 50 stores, we wouldn’t have known it.
Andrew: What adjustments did you make? How do you make sure you get paid?
Ilir: One of the adjustments we made was that every single order, well at least for the credit card sales, when someone orders on mypizza.com, we take on the relationship with the customer. So their actually ordering on mypizza.com and their paying on our website. The funds are in our account and then we reimburse the restaurant weekly by weekly or monthly by monthly depending on volume, and we would hold our piece from that. Today our accounts receivable is a negative.
Andrew: That’s great, OK. I love that. Sorry?
Ilir: That’s great for a business, to have a negative accounts receivable.
Andrew: We’ll get back to how we get customers today, so let’s go back to that. How did you get customers today?
Ilir: You mean today today or
Andrew: Not this morning, but how you’ve evolved the customer acquisition strategy.
Ilir: Now, as customers, you mean how we get restaurants to join, correct?
Andrew: Right, right. You’ve got restaurants and you’ve got [??] customers.
Ilir: We’ve got customers on both ends. Around March of 2010, two months after we tested with the 50 stores, I decided, “OK, it’s time to look for a sales person.” Initially I was looking for a sales person to be able to go door to door in New York to be able to get the restaurants to join and we were just going to tackle that market. One of the people that responded, his name is Ray [SP] Orteez [SP], he responded and he said, “Listen, I can do this for you.” He had a prior business where he sold fax services, fax marketing, to restaurants, where they would fax over the specials to offices until that became illegal and his business died out. He was compelling on the phone and everything so I decided, “Alright, let’s meet.” And I said, “Let’s meet downtown at a Starbucks.” I was probably a little late getting there so he was standing outside of Starbucks, I walk out, literally we spoke for 5 minutes. I had a package that I used to sell to get the initial 50 restaurants to join, he said, “You know what, just give me this and I’ll get stores to join.” He also sacrificed a lot because, initially, he only agreed to do it where he would be paid on a commission for every restaurant that he had joined. No, nothing else. No salary, no nothing. I thank him until this day for that. So he took that and by the next day, I had two restaurants faxing over their registration forms. So he had gotten two stores to join from that night, I think I met him at 4 pm, and by 10 am the next day, I have two more stores. And I said, “Oh, OK. This could work.” I gave him more time because of that, so he spent probably the next week or two discussing different ways of how to scale the business, how to scale the sales process for the restaurants. We realized that [??] is really where it’s at. He was great on the phone, he had some tools and some autodialers and things like that he was able to utilize initially to be able to get more and more restaurants to join. And it’s really history to me ever since, he still pulls in about five to ten stores a day. So that’s how many websites join our website every day.
Andrew: When you say autodialers, what do the autodialers do? They dial and then a sales person picks up?
Ilir: Yeah, so he would record this message and the autodialer would dial out to, we bought a list of pizza restaurants, it would dial out thousands of stores at once, let’s say 2,000 stores. It would ask the restaurant, it would give them this quick pitch, and he’s kind of loud and he’s very persuasive. So, with a quick 5-second message, if a store was interested they would hit 1, and if they pressed 1 they would connect to our sales people. He went out and hired, I think, two sales people to work over the phone with him. That was the next level. A lot of the restaurants that joined, between 50 and 200, we got in that manner.
Andrew: I love this story. I’m keeping longer than you and I agreed to if you don’t mind because I can’t let you go, the story’s too frickin’ good. I know someone is going to email me, probably many people are going to email me asking what software you use to do that robo-dialing. Do you remember what it is?
Ilir: I don’t know, you could search online for an autodialer. There is a ton of companies where you pay them like a penny per call and stuff like that. I don’t remember exactly which one we used. We don’t use it any more, because we really didn’t want to create a reputation of being this annoying spammy company.
Andrew: So what do you do next then? That works for you and then you go to something else. What’s the something else?
Ilir: So that worked for us and we realized, OK, so we have Ray and this is one sales guy and I think he had one person helping him out at his home office in New York, in Manhattan. He’s Dominican from the Dominican Republic. He came to me and he said, ‘Listen, I want to move to the Dominican Republic, temporarily, because there we can hire four or five more people to work the phones and it wouldn’t cost us really much.’ My concerns were, ‘Do they speak English well, and how is the internet service there, are you guys going to be online long enough to use the phone?’ He convinced me, because it turns out, let’s say, Western Union, AT&T, all these Fortune 500 Companies have big call centers in the Dominican Republic and there is a lot of talent there, people who have worked in these call centers and they know exactly how to manage this type of a sales process. So he moved to the Dominican Republic. He’s still there. That’s where our sales office is. That’s where our sales team brings in a lot of the accounts.
Andrew: That’s awesome.
Ilir: Till this day our core team, I’m based in New York, in Staten Island. Our lead developer, Sam Kennedy, he’s in Queens. He shows up at our office rarely. Our sales team is in the Dominican Republic and our data entry team, the guys that enter all the menu information and the shop information, they’re in Europe. They’re in Macedonia. That’s were everybody is. We’re spread out.
Andrew: This is such a great story. I’m looking at all my notes where I wanted to fill in the gaps here, including Sam. You said you had a great story of how you met Sam. Sam’s your developer. How did you meet him?
Ilir: Yes, Sam is the lead developer. I’d probably say he’s basically like a co-founder. I run every idea by him, a very smart guy. The first beta version of the site was built offshore, but there were a lot of problems. One of the big problems was, someone would order pizza from Brooklyn and a restaurant in Chicago would get the order faxed to them. It was all co-mingled and it wasn’t really so dependable, but it was what allowed us to test things out. So I put up an ad on Craigslist for developer and one of our biggest problems was the time zones. So we started getting restaurants. Ray is here with his team and he’s getting restaurants to join on a daily basis and it’s nationwide and there are people joining from San Francisco and L.A. and Dallas and so on. Now we had these restaurants in different time zones, but we couldn’t showcase their menu in that time zone. It was only working like on Eastern Time Zone which was a weird issue we had. So the Craigslist posting was for that. Sam responded to it. I met him at a Chipotle restaurant in downtown Brooklyn on a Sunday and he said, ‘I can fix this problem for you.’ We gave him that task. The next day the problem was fixed, but then when you look at the back end and the site itself, it was a big, huge mess. It was a combination of php and, I don’t know, it was a mess. Talking to him, I said, ‘Can you fix it? Can we now take what we have initially and can we turn it into a really good website, a really user-friendly website?’ From that day on, he took on that responsibility. I was able to really dig into some of the funds that I’d had from the previous sale. That was one of our big expenses was to keep Sam, but he’s like a rock star programmer, so we can’t let him go.
Andrew: You said you are cash flow positive when we talked offline.
Andrew: Why did you say cash flow positive? Are you also profitable?
Ilir: Well, we’re borderline profitable, but anything that comes in, any profits that we even reach, I like to reinvest in growth.
Andrew: What’s the difference for you between cash flow and…
Ilir: We’re cash flow positive because there’s two things. One, we have this float going. Remember, we processed, this month, for example, we processed nearly $200,000 in credit card sales which then has to get reimbursed 30 days later which then has to get reimbursed 30 days later to each restaurant. That develops a float so that each month as you grow…
Andrew: I see.
Ilir: You pay restaurants for sales the month prior so that generate a nice sort of ramp of cash, but also from the fees themselves we’re really, really lean. As I said before, I owe a lot of thanks to Sam, even though he was our biggest expense and probably still is. So, Sam, let’s talk about your salary a little bit.
Andrew: Let’s talk about your salary and thank you, Sam.
Ilir: Yes. They made a lot of sacrifices, so Ray, working for less than what he’s worth, a lot less than what he’s worth. Same goes for Sam. The data entry team in Patagonia [SP], in Europe, in southeastern Europe were working for very little. Just really everyone involved, sacrificing to get to be able to where we are, and it takes a lot of us to really run a very lean operation. Our overhead is probably around $20,000 a month.
Andrew: Do they have shares in the business?
Ilir: Ray and Sam do.
Ilir: I’ve committed to some equity, too.
Andrew: So, I’ve got to believe that you’re going to get requests for funding, that people are going to want to invest in your bootstrap business.
Andrew: But if you had more money, where would you put it?
Ilir: In growth. We have some ideas that we really need to implement. One is to finalize and finish our mobile ordering apps. Our goals really are for people to be able to order pizza from anywhere. We love pizza. We want people to be able to order it very easily. That includes to be able to order from TV using all the widgets that Verizon has, for example, or, as I said, the mobile apps, text message ordering, just a lot of things like that, to continue to develop the application and those other applications, but also to be able to make a really big push where we can bring in 50 restaurants.
Our business plan, actually I wouldn’t call it a business plan, I don’t believe in them, but my goal is to be able to get 50,000 stores by year five, and the funding would, obviously, help us get to that point.
And then, the third thing is to be able to get customers to order from these restaurants. Our focus right now is sort of to bring on any restaurant nationwide, but we want to start focusing a little bit more on the markets, the media markets especially where we can get, for example, signed up as many restaurants signed up in New York, practically all of them. And then, make a big push for TV and radio ads and stuff like that, a combination of things.
Andrew: Chicken and eggs, that’s another thing that was on my list that I wanted to come back to. If there’s someone listening who’s got a business, that’s kind of a directory business, yours isn’t exactly that, but a directory business. How do you recommend they solve the chicken and egg problem? How did you do it, and what do you recommend for them, I should say?
Ilir: Well, to really be a true partner with the clients. So, the restaurant owners that joined and are actively accepting orders through MyPizza.com, they’re true partners where, especially the early ones, they become sort of your marketing partners. As they join, if you discuss the opportunity with them, so I’ll give you an example.
One of our good customers is Billy’s Pizza in Brooklyn, New York, and he uses us as his main line ordering system. Even though he has to pay a commission for every order we generate, he actively pushes the Billy’s Pizza online ordering feature to his customers.
Andrew: He actively pushes what? Can you repeat that? We lost that whole connection there.
Ilir: I’m sorry. So he actively advertises the MyPizza menu to his customers even though he has to pay us $2 for every order we generates for them. He realizes that even though he’s paying us $2…by the way, we cover the credit card processing for each order. So, the restaurant does not have to pay it.
Andrew: It comes out of your $2.
Ilir: Exactly. We also do the marketing on our side, and we also upsell customers. So, his average ticket was something like $17 or $18, traditionally with us it’s about $25-26. So, the $2 is made up and then some, and that allowed us to really use that case study to be able to convince other restaurant owners to become our partners. Going back to the chicken and the eggs, if the restaurant owner is your true partner and is willing to also be active in advertising this new online ordering website, then you’ll start getting customers almost immediately from any store.
Andrew: Here’s what else I’m seeing. A lot of times when you have a directory service the directory is useless unless you have a lot of people in the directory and a lot of customers looking at it — a lot of listings and customers.
What you seem to have done is make – made working with you valuable to the merchant even before you had other merchants online…
Andrew: …because you gave them online ordering when they didn’t have online ordering.
Andrew: Because you gave them [SEO] and a Web site when they didn’t. So yes, the network effect is great, where — once your paid rank goes up — you might be more likely to be discovered from mypizza.com in addition to their domain. And all those other benefits are great, but it’s useful even right in the beginning, where most directories are useless unless you get everybody from both sides in.
Ilir: Exactly, and that’s perfectly said. I think it’s – you have to be able to offer the client something for them to join and then use those relationships to then build the directory — not the other way around. One of our – we were at, I think, the International Pizza Expo. There is one, by the way. There is…
Andrew: There is an international pizza expo. OK.
Ilir: Yes. It’s actually really big. It’s in Vegas every year around – it’s the first week of March. We were there this year, and we were there last year, which – so it was March, and that’s what we used to really launch, nationwide, was that International Pizza Expo. And there was a Web site, pizza.com. They were one of these domain holding companies. It had pizza.com, and they were throwing ads on there and really making money just through that.
The CEO saw us there and started being a little bit friendly and kept asking questions. “How do you do this? How do you do that?” The next thing you know, I think by, like, July or September of 2010, pizza.com starts doing what we are doing. But they don’t really – I don’t think they ever got it, because I think that they are having some big issues.
Nonetheless, the whole thing was – and what I notice with others, that if you go to pizza.com and you’ll search for pizza and – let’s say in my ZIP Code, restaurants show up in the directory that no longer exist and they haven’t existed for a year.
So the problem with directories for local merchants — and especially pizza restaurants — is that you can’t just pull this information off of, let’s say, just Google itself or even Yelp or any of these, because there is so much turnover. These pizza restaurants, they change ownerships and names on a regular basis. If you showcase even one listing – let’s say somebody decides, “I want to use this directory to find some information.” They’ll go and they’ll search for a pizzeria, and the first one they get they call the number and it’s disconnected. They’ll never come back.
Andrew: So how do you do it? How do you maintain the accuracy of your database?
Ilir: Well because we have a direct relationship with every single owner.
Andrew: I see. Because you are not [squeezing].
Ilir: Well I think…
Andrew: Still, if a company goes out of business — if a little pizza restaurant goes out of business — they are not going to let you know, “Hey, stop sending us orders.” They are going to deal with their own issues at the time.
Ilir: No, but we know almost immediately because, let’s say, there is – to give you an example: One of the things we have done is when somebody calls those unique numbers we give to every restaurant, if the restaurant owner – or if the restaurant itself does not answer the phone it gets redirected to our customer service team. Now the user doesn’t have a negative experience.
Andrew: Oh, cool.
Andrew: By the way, about that number: If I am on the Web site and I order – if I on the pizza restaurant’s Web site and I don’t order online but I order by calling that phone number and placing an order and talking to the restaurant, don’t you guys lose out on the two bucks?
Ilir: No. We still make the $2.00 because the number that you see on the menu is a number we have assigned to the restaurant. We have…
Andrew: How do you know if an order went through, or just someone calling and checking in?
Ilir: The call is recorded. Then we have our beta entry team in Macedonia looking into every single phone call.
Andrew: I see.
Ilir: If it’s an order, they – they’ll press “Yes” and it automatically shows up in the statement for the restaurant. It’s really – it’s pretty cool.
Andrew: I love your hustle. I love the way you work. I mean – I love it. All right. Let me make one adjustment here, and then I am going to ask you for your advice for every – anyone who is listening.
Andrew: I just realized, because I got back from vacation I didn’t put my lighting the way that it used to be before. Watch this. What’s happening is, by the way, half my face is lit. The other half is dark. I look kind of like the Phantom of the Opera. I think what I did before I went away for vacation was something like that and that, and that way the light’s directly at me. I think that’s what I did, but who knows? We’ll have to…
Ilir: [??] Yes, go on. Don’t worry. You look good.
Andrew: I look OK? I need to look handsome, because those [frenemies] are out there watching and judging every bit of it.
Ilir: I don’t worry about them anymore.
Andrew: All right.
Andrew: So – advice. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Ilir: I mean the biggest thing I can say is to go ahead and do something. I have a couple of friends that have asked me — ever since I was running [Nerf Wars] — that have asked, How did you do this?” or “I really want to quit my job and do it.” and I’ve been saying that same thing for a long, long time, and there’s always another excuse not to do it. “Oh, well I’m going to take my vacation first and then do it after,” and then that’ll happen and it’ll be like, “Well, I have some responsibilities at home I need to take care of first, or some payment, and then I’ll do it after.” But there’s never a good time to really do it, believe it or not.
Let me backtrack. It’s always a good time but in your mind it’ll never be perfect. So it’ll never be perfect, it’ll never be ok to just leave a secure job to go do something. So you basically have to just draw a line on the sand and say, “Ok, from the day on, this is where I’m going to work.” And if you can’t afford to really do it full time, then start part time. Start doing something that you either like or you –
But I’m also a big fan of making sure that whatever business you’re in, it has to be a business that makes money from day one. I’m really not a fan of a lot of these websites that don’t have a business plan as far as how they’re going to generate revenues until they have all these customers, because whatever is going to start generating revenues to you two years down the line once you have a million users lets say, maybe those users won’t like that anymore and there goes your business.
So, from day one, it needs to be where you are generating revenues for whatever work you’re doing.
I lost you there for a second, Andrew.
It’s really reassuring to be in a business where revenues are coming in. You know that revenue is kind of like ammunition in your battle to stay alive and to grow the business, and the more your business can kick off revenue, the less you have to go and beg other people to contribute to it and the more you can grow yourself.
Ilir: And then the other thing is to set up these motivational factors, whether it’s a person or things that you had to put in place in order for the business to operate properly. Just things that’ll hold you down, because it’s really, really easy to give up, and I’m telling you, anyone who starts a business, they’re going to come to a point where they’re going to question what they’re doing. They’re going to question whether they’re smart enough, good enough. I think everyone does, and you need some things in your life to be able to hold you back and not allow you to quit so easily. And that could be a person, could be things, it could be a situation, whatever the case is.
Andrew: You know, thanks for doing the interview, and I’m so honored that you’re in my audience and that the audience that I have is what I have. You know, one of my fears was of putting stuff out there and then having a get rich quick crowd that I have no admiration for or interest in in the audience and then suddenly these are the people who are in my life. But the more I’m putting out there, the more I realize that people who this stuff is drawing in are people I respect, who I admire, who I want to learn from.
Ilir: Thank you.
Andrew: I’m really glad that you’re there and I’m honored that you’re in the courses too means a lot to me. I get a lot of emails from people who are saying, “You’re not promoting the courses enough,” because it’s still fairly new and you can go to mixergy.com/premium and see them all. And I hope you sign up for a premium membership, anyone who’s out there, where you get to sign up and get all the courses. But I’m just grateful for who’s out there and it keeps me going to know that you’re out there. To know that this is reaching the right people. To know that this is having any kind of an impact. This kind of an impact, not any kind, the kind that it has been having, I support.
I definitely think it is. I remember, there was some nights where I would put on Mixergy and listen to some of the interviews, because when you hear other people going through the same issues, having the same obstacles, and then you realize that by the end of the interview, they’re successful, and you start asking them, “What did you do with the money?” like you usually do. It makes you feel better and it motivates you to keep going the next day. And at the same time, whatever anyone does, by the way, it has to be something fun. It has to be something they enjoy because if it’s not something that you enjoy enough, then again, it’s really easy to give up.
If people want to reach you, I don’t know that you have a blog or a website, how can they connect with you directly? I always urge people, don’t be passengers in life, don’t be in the audience of life and just take it in. Find a way to connect, you know? This isn’t like being a fan of baseball where you have to sit in the stands or else a cop’s going to arrest you if you go out on the field, because you have no business being there. Business is a game that anyone can just jump onto the field for, and [x] to have people just watching from the audience when they can be interacting with you in the field of business. So how do they connect with you? How do they interact with you directly?
Ilir: Yeah, I’ll give you my email address. It’s email@example.com. I haven’t had the chance to really set up a blog or anything like that. I just really started getting more involved with twitter. I’ve been so connected to the business itself and just trying to figure out ways of getting that off the ground to the point where, the point of no return basically. To where you know that no matter what it’s not really going to take a step back. So once I got to that stage, if you remember, we tried to connect initially a couple of months back, had some medical issues and what not. But either on twitter, which is twitter.com/ilirsela or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew: All right, thanks for doing the interview.
Ilir: Thank you very much. Thanks for having –
Andrew: Thank you all for watching. If you’ve got a great story, come to Mixergy, tell me about it. Ilir and I have known each other now for maybe half a year at least?
Andrew: Keep updating me on what you guys are up to. Send me an email and let me know where you are and of course, send Ilir an email. Thank you all for watching.
Ilir: Thank you.
Andrew: Bye. All right.
UserVoice – As your business is getting bigger and bigger, so is your email inbox. How do you manage it? Here’s a solution from UserVoice: A one-stop pop-up form for all your help desk needs that gives your users the answers to their issues. If an issue has already been addressed, UserVoice finds it in your system and manages customer feedback for you.
Shopify – Remember the interview I did about how the founder of DODOCase sold about $1 mil worth of iPad cases in a few months? He used Shopify. It’s dead simple and very effective.
Walker Corporate Law – Scott Edward Walker is the lawyer entrepreneurs turn to when they want to raise money or sell their companies, but if you’re just getting started, his firm will help you launch properly. Watch this video to learn about him.