Are entrepreneurs made or born? It’s a debate that rages on continually, but certainly having an early affinity towards entrepreneurship can be a predictor of entrepreneurial success. Moreover, with technology lowering the entry cost for service businesses in particular, more young people than ever are entering the fray.
Meet one such entrepreneur- Josh MacDonald. At the age of 10, MacDonald was put to work at his family’s marina and restaurant, which taught him business values. Four years later, MacDonald decided that he didn’t want to work for someone else and set out to try his hand at entrepreneurship.
“There isn’t much business opportunity for a 14 year old…” said MacDonald, “…unless no one knows your age.” So, he turned to the anonymous world of online business. Without capital to invest, MacDonald studied free resources to learn the basics of affiliate marketing and search engine optimization. After finally convincing his mother to use her credit card to buy a $0.99 banner advertisement that was for sale by a user on eBay, he learned that he had been scammed. This only provided motivation for MacDonald.
MacDonald is now 17. Here’s an excerpt from our interview.
CR: Can you tell me a little more about your software? What does it do? Where did you get the idea for Keyword Scout from?
JM: My software is called Keyword Scout. It’s a search engine optimization (SEO) tool. In SEO, finding keywords relating to your website that are not used by your competitors is very important. My tools help you find thousands of keywords from 4 different sources, including Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Amazon, Google search suggestions, and LSI, or better known as keywords that appear in a Google search.
When I first started, I created sites for marketers for the pure purpose of putting ads such as Google Adsense on them to generate revenue. To get traffic to those sites, you need low competition keywords that will rank your site highly on Google.
At that time, Market Samurai and Micro Niche Finder were the only real competition. Neither did what I needed for my sites in my service. At first, I was planning to make it for personal use only. However, after telling a few people, they were looking for something like it too. So, I took the plunge. I created a sales and support page along with a support email system.
CR: Who are your customers? How did you get started marketing?
JM: My first step to taking this to market was promoting it on a few related forums and discussion boards. Things started slowly and I found out that was because most people would rather buy a lifetime software license instead of a monthly license, regardless of the price difference.
I changed to a lifetime model and sales picked up. On my first day, I made over $1000. Things slowed down quickly, but I was still making a $200 sale every day or two. Next, I decided to try another forum. This forum was known for its wealthy and strong affiliates, but to promote your product, you had to give the members a discount, so I sliced the price in half to $97. Most marketers pick out a launch date, find affiliates, have everything prepared and make a big buzz about it. I didn’t know any of this; I just listed my thread. I was told by many that I did it all wrong. The odd person gave a tip, and I eventually discovered that I needed affiliates to attract sales. After contacting a few, I struck luck. I had no idea who I was contacting, but I contacted some of the most powerful affiliates in the industry and they also saw the need for my product. Everyone made money. I had affiliates take a check home from
$5000 to $30,000+, and all they did was email their email list. December 2011 was my first 5 figure month.
CR: When do your clients realize your age?
JM: My clients don’t really ever know my age, as I don’t publicize it much. Those that do find out never have a problem as my quality work speaks for itself.
CR: Where are you hoping to take your company?
Since December, sales have continued strong. My launch attracted a lot of big names and helped me create many contacts. I’ve got a re-launch coming out soon to monetize the new markets. I’ve also had a lot of new competition, so I am creating new products and spin-offs as well. I’m also going to bump the price higher since my reputation is higher and give the option to pay a monthly fee which will make my business a bit more stable.
CR: When and how did you get started working on the Internet?
JM: I started at the age of 14. At that point, I was on the pay roll for a part-time job for my dad’s company. I realized this is the last thing I want to be doing. It’s said that entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t, and I couldn’t agree any more.
CR: Did you test different landing pages over the years? What performed better?
JM: My sales page is simple. It’s not a “get rich quick” or any sort of spammy, pop-up kind of sales page. I don’t have a single pop up and all I talk about are the facts and abilities are my software. The abilities of my software sell itself.
CR: What were the most effective promotional strategies you used?
JM: Hard work and belief, that’s all. I don’t have any secret. People like products that fill the holes in their needs.
CR: What direction are you taking with your business in the coming years?
I’m looking to expand into bigger website startups. If I stay in software and SEO, I’m going to be working only on monthly subscriptions and no lifetime licenses.
CR: Did any facet of your life suffer from running a business?
My high school social life suffered, but I’ll certainly make up for it in college.
JM: Josh also said, “I don’t take a salary bigger than $5000 a year, as I put most of my profits back into my business and my other businesses. I’ve got about 10 projects on the go and many new partners. Things just keep getting better.”
I bet they will.
To learn more about Josh’s Keyword Scout, click here.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics.
Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure.