The top question people ask when they wonder how to become a digital nomad and travel the world is how to make a living doing it. This is our story of starting a remote business.
In January of 2016 I started a business. Today everyone calls it ‘Saucey Socks’ because my first product was “If you can read this/Please bring me wine” socks, but in fact the name of the business is ‘Around the World, LLC’. You see, I had one – and only one- reason for starting the business: I had decided to find a way to make a ‘passive’ income that would allow us to quit our day jobs and travel the world. It was the goal from the beginning.
Starting a remote business: The Vision
I think Matt would be the first to admit that he didn’t see my vision and didn’t have any idea how I could ever make such a thing work. I don’t think anyone I knew actually thought I’d make it happen – even if they smiled and listened to my vague ideas of how this would work.
I don’t fault anyone – I also had no idea how I was going to do it. But I had a vision, which was to create a business that I could run from anywhere and everywhere in the world that would make enough money to sustain our digital nomad lifestyle. Easy, right? hmmm..
The Agony of Defeat
There have been a lot of highs and lows on the journey to achieve this vision. Initially I spent months non-stop reading and learning about product creation, outsourcing, SEO, overseas manufacturing, importing, and selling online.
Initially I thought that in order to sell a product it had to be something new, that no one else was selling. I started to look for ways to fix everyday problems and jotted down new product ideas. Eventually I landed on a purse holder for my car to keep my purse from spilling when I hit the bakes. I worked with a designer and had prototypes 3D printed. Then I poured some money into having a mold created.
To my credit, the product worked. I loved it and used it for the next two years until I got rid of my car. The hook kept my purse from rolling off the passenger seat of my car every time I hit my brakes, and the strap allowed it to be easily adjusted for different bags or to allow people to sit in the seat. However, what I learned is that my lifestyle is different than most people’s. I used my car to commute alone every day. Most people have other humans in their car with them from far more frequently. I realized very quickly that while my invention made sense for me and people like me, that represented a tiny market.
What I also learned is that bringing an absolutely new product to market required massive investments in marketing to explain the product. I don’t enjoy that aspect of business – I am less creative and more task oriented.
Let’s call that a learning experience. After investing thousands of dollars into my invention I had what I still think is an awesome product – just not a viable product to sell.
But every success in this world is built on failure. And I am a firm believer in sunk cost: don’t throw good money after bad. So I scrapped it. And to Matt’s credit, he was supportive through my creative ‘invention’ phase early on which – did I mention – was a money pit.
The Thrill of Victory
But then…I had an amazing ‘a-ha’ moment in August 2016 – a moment when preparation met inspiration.
A viral Facebook post appeared on my wall showing ‘Bring me wine’ socks. I clicked on it but they were sold by a small company in Canada – the socks were $20, and shipping was an additional $15. A quick search showed me that these weren’t available anywhere else (yet). I showed my phone to Matt – we were in the stands at a football game – and told him that this would be my first product, and that I would have them made in China. All of the research I’d been doing formed itself into a plan in my mind. Five minutes later I was on the Go Daddy website and had registered the domain name ‘Saucey Socks’. And so it began.
As I hit obstacle after obstacle in the beginning of designing, sourcing, importing and selling, Matt would always say ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’. It wasn’t easy. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and to this day I’m continually surprised by the new challenges that present themselves with each new product.
Now my online retail business turns a very nice profit. But every single day I have to feed and care for it.
Have a look at my Amazon store for yourself (and feel free to click on any item!):
Matt spent some time on the wholesale side of the business working with brick and mortar retailers and now our socks are also available at the Sock Market on CityWalk Hollywood, Market Pier 39 in San Francisco and The Shoppes @ Mandalay Bay Las Vegas as well as at Urban General Store in Chicago. And I’m particularly proud that one of my favorite gift websites, Uncommon Goods, also carries my socks.
starting a remote business is all About the Team!
There are no secrets to success, just a lot of hard work and having a great team behind you.
I do have a network now, which makes things easier:
- I have a go-to designer for products and sketches that I found on Fiverr;
- I have a sock manufacturer in China that I’m happy with (I did have to change manufacturers in the first year due to quality issues, which meant starting over in many ways);
- I have a scarf manufacturer in India; and I have two different bag manufacturers, also in China;
- I have an Importer and Customs Broker that I have been working with for two years and trust completely, which is massively important in this business;
- I had an attorney and she did successfully get me two trademarks registered, but unfortunately she and I parted ways;
- I have a warehouse and fulfillment partner that stores my inventory and ships it to Amazon as I request;
- I have Amazon as a selling platform and fulfillment partner (with whom I have a love/hate relationship, because 75% of my issues now come from Amazon and their ever changing rules).
And again, thank God for Matt. He was supportive through the early failures and later, when I invested $14k of our money into socks, he just smiled and said, “I trust you totally. You are going to rock this.”
He is the most amazing partner and kept my spirits up when I felt broken by the ongoing challenges. He canceled his birthday trip to Iceland in 2016 when I was trying to launch the first product. Before I found my warehouse partner and we were using our condo as a warehouse he lifted over 2,000 pounds of boxes full of socks. And he cheerfully went along on the many, many massage appointments I made when I learned for the first time in my life what overwhelming pain can be carried in my left shoulder from stress.
Today, as I look back over the last two years, I am honestly amazed. I went in to this blindly believing I could do anything, and thank god for the self-confidence and complete ignorance about running a business that I had back then – if I had actually understood what I was attempting to do I may never have started this.
Taking it to the Next Level While Living the Dream
I started a remote business while also running my own consulting company and working full time running government contracts. My time has always been split, and I haven’t had time to follow up on a lot of business concepts that I want to.
I am excited for this next phase. As the CEO of Around the World LLC, I have so many product ideas, both in the works and in my brain, just waiting for me to have the time to work on them. As a digital nomad I finally have the opportunity to make this company my first priority. And in recognition of his contributions and efforts, I have named Matt Chief Strategy Officer of Around the World LLC (a job he is actually IRL highly qualified for!). I look forward to seeing where we grow next!