Wow. When Mike and I decided to write out our stories to that we could share it with everyone that is new to Laptop Empires, I thought it would be freaking easy.
On the surface, it seems like there wouldn't be a whole lot to tell. Personally, I've only been self-employed for three years. In the grand scheme of creating and running a business, that's really not too long at all.
But in that time, I grew MillennialMoneyMan.com to nearly 2,000,000 readers per year (and still growing), built a private FB group with over 8,500 members, I've been seen on Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Reuters, MSN, etc.
And obviously for the purposes of this site – teamed up with Mike Yanda to create what will likely be a million dollar company in its first year.
Since I was waving a stick at kids every morning via my high school band directing job just a few years ago, nearly everything in my life has changed. I owe literally all of that to online entrepreneurship, which is what Laptop Empires is all about. Let's take a little walk down memory lane to see how it all happened, shall we?
Here's how I went from band director to multiple businesses in less than three years:
Leaving my teaching job after making $3 with Millennial Money Man
So, yes. I'm that crazy guy that took a leap of faith into blogging, which is one of the dumbest leaps of faith you can make if we're being honest here.
I started Millennial Money Man back in 2015 as a way to tell my student loan payoff story. I graduated from college with a music education degree and $40,000 of student loan debt. After finding a financial mentor (who was a friend of my wife's family), I lived below my means as much as humanly possible and paid off the debt in just 18 months…on a teacher's salary.
After that, I realized that I was really passionate about personal finance. I had gone my entire life without anyone really sitting me down and telling me how money worked, and I figured that I wasn't alone.
I started writing content for M$M in my spare time after work every night, and basically fell in love with the idea of running the site as my full-time job.
The only problem?
I didn't know a damn thing about blogging, content creation, affiliate sales, or really anything that helps you make money with a blog.
So…I taught myself as much as I could and kept cranking out blog posts. Surprisingly, the blog started to grow pretty quickly. I guess it was maybe my style of writing or the fact that I didn't really follow the “rules” of blogging (because I didn't know them) that got my site noticed pretty early-on by the personal finance blogging community.
At the same time, my wife and I were renting a room from her parents and saving up as much money as we possibly could.
We eventually got to the point where I had nearly a year's worth of my teaching salary in the bank.
I knew that I could run M$M full-time, but wasn't quite sure how I'd make it work. Fortunately, my wife is super cool and gave me her blessing (which you can read more about here).
She and I had a conversation about me leaving my teaching job to run M$M one night, and that was it.
The next day, I walked into the band office and told my boss that I was going to leave.
And that was that. I had made a cool $3 in Google ad revenue at the time.
The moment I realized I need to pivot (and actually make money)
I don't talk about it too often because it sucks to dwell on, but there were months after I left my job that I was struggling to make any real income.
It's not like money was just rolling in from M$M. In fact, it was barely doing anything.
So at some point, I had to pivot and actually start bringing in money. One day I had this lightbulb moment when I was looking through the website of the jeweler that made my wife's engagement ring.
His site sucked. There were typos all over the homepage, it was buggy, the blog was really rough.
I realized that all of the stuff I was doing for M$M (creating content, pushing it on social media, trying to rank in Google) were all the same things that this jeweler needed to be doing.
So I decided to email him and we started talking back and forth. It turned out that he had seen some of my work on the blog and liked my personal finance message!
Talk about lucky, right? After a few weeks, I convinced him to hire me to run his website and create content.
He asked me what I was going to charge on a phone call one day, and I blurted out $3,000 per month.
“That number doesn't scare me.”
That's when I knew I could make it. Maybe the blog wasn't going to bring in enough money for me to live on right away, but I could damn-sure bring readers to his site and try to turn them into customers.
After that I built up a small marketing agency while continuing to grow M$M. That decision to jump into digital marketing was probably the smartest thing I've ever done from a business perspective.
In business, things don't always work out the way you think they will. As long as you have a long-term goal, you kinda do whatever it takes along the way to reach it. I just kept grinding, and slowly started to build my revenue streams and skills as a marketer.
I made nearly $200,000 of revenue in my second year running M$M
Isn't that crazy? I never thought that I would get to that level of revenue in just my second year of running a business, but I had fortunately made some smart/timely decisions as I was trying to grow my business.
After I was featured on CNBC, I basically used FB ads to grow my traffic really quickly.
One of my local marketing clients had requested that I start running FB ads for their business, so as I was learning how to create and run campaigns for them I figured I might as well start doing it with M$M as well.
I had literally put the FB tracking pixel on M$M just a few days before I was featured on CNBC, which pretty much changed the entire course of my blog.
Once the CNBC traffic hit and my story was shared thousands of times, I created a custom audience and started running traffic campaigns to those new people who were visiting the blog.
Instead of trying to hit them with articles that were meant to make money, I hit them with what I felt was my absolute best content. I wanted to create an emotional connection with new readers through my content, without any expectation that I was going to get an immediate ROI.
And…it worked. The stuff I was sharing was real, raw, authentic, and just everything that a lot of bloggers/marketers don't think to share. Emails started rolling in from readers that felt a connection with me and my story.
After I realized that I was on to something pretty sweet, I created more lookalike audiences and started targeting them as well with the same ads.
I was essentially living off of the money that I made from my marketing business every month, and pouring nearly all of the money that M$M itself was generating back into ads. I wanted to grow my audience quickly, and FB was the only way that I felt I could target the right people quickly.
Over time, I got pretty damn good with the FB ads. I was running traffic campaigns at 2-3 cents per click, which was crazy cheap. At one point, I had it running so well that I was literally reimbursing my ad spend dollar for dollar with ad revenue from M$M.
I was growing my site for free.
That, in turn, helped me make more affiliate sales, more ad revenue, and keep growing my audience exponentially in a relatively short amount of time.
Most importantly though – I built a living, breathing audience. A lot of bloggers spend their time trying to game algorithms for Google and Pinterest to drive clicks, but I wanted to invest my time in people.
Laptop Empires blew up
And now we're here haha.
Mike and I went to high school together, but we didn't really talk at all until about a year ago or so. I noticed that he was doing some online fitness business stuff at one point and that he had pivoted to building out a FB ad agency – but other than that we really hadn't kept up with each other.
I decided to get in touch with him and ask some questions about another marketing course that I was working on for M$M, and in that process, he mentioned that I should create a specific course on local FB ads for my audience.
I'm sure his version of what happened was a little different than mine because I think it was just an off-hand comment that he wasn't thinking I would take too seriously.
But I took the idea to the M$M audience because it sounded like a great idea. I was always looking for good side hustle ideas for my readers and somehow hadn't snapped to the fact that FB ads are probably the best, most time-effective way to make significant extra income right now.
My audience IMMEDIATELY wanted in on it. I had hundreds of people tell me that they wanted to take a course on FB ads.
So I went back to Mike and told him I wanted to make the course with him.
We've done over $400,000 of net revenue in only 5 months at the time of writing, and Laptop Empires has freaking blown up. Over 1,000 students have taken the FB Side Hustle course since we launched, and we've had student after student make great extra money every month. We even have students that are leaving their day jobs after getting multiple clients!
So that brings me to where I am now. I'm still running M$M, still doing some digital marketing, and now building Laptop Empires with Mike as well.
If you're inspired by any of this (I'd hope you are at this point), make sure you check out the rest of our story here.