I remember the first time I logged onto the internet and saw the world wide web. I’d just recently purchased my IBM Aptiva. A cutting edge machine at the time. A 386 computer with a blazingly fast 56k modem. Ooooo weeeee! With Internet Phone Book in hand, Concentric dial up internet and Netscape Navigator I was ready to experience the graphical internet for the first time.
I dialed in. I heard the dial tones and the all too familiar data connection squelch. I was on. Oh boy! The very first website address I typed in I can’t remember. I do remember the content I saw.
As, I sat there and watched a picture download onto my 256 color monitor I was transfixed. I saw a picture – not saved on my computer or a floppy disk – loading on my screen from who knows where. The picture that came up on my computer wasn’t the reason I was transfixed on the screen. I was mesmerized by the technology that enabled the picture to appear on the screen. I knew at that moment, the internet and world wide web was about to become a part of my everyday life.
Little did I know how much so…
One day after that pivotal moment, one of my best friends and I were hanging out. He was lamenting about how he couldn’t find any local buyers for the gigantic box of movies he had sitting in the basement of his house. You see, he owned a video store. He purchased the video cassette inventory (yes, I said video cassettes) of a video store that went out of business. His idea was to cherry pick the videos he needed out of the inventory and sell the rest to recoup his investment. Great idea! The challenge he ran up against was none of the other video stores needed any inventory.
After I heard a sufficient amount of belly-aching, I asked him if he’d ever heard of the world wide web. “The who?” was his response. “Nevermind”, I told him. Then I asked how much money he needed to get out of each video cassette. “$5”, he said. “Cool. I’ll tell you what. I’ll sell them all for you at $5 a tape.” He was skeptical to say the least but he didn’t have anything to lose.
The next day, I created my first online ad.
How was I able to do it? Back then I watched late night TV. I’m a night owl thanks to my dad working second and third shift most of his working life. As a teen I would stay up and watch ON TV, an EARLY version of cable TV. Anyway, if you’ve watched or watch late night TV then you know a late night TV staple is infomercials. Well I bought into the idea of making millions of dollars with classified ads. Sounded reasonable to me so I bought the “course” for $119.95. I figured these movies will be the test to see if my infomercial investment pays off. I created a classified ad to sell the video cassettes and placed it on www.classified2000.net. Which to my surprise is still online after all these years.
Four hours after placing the ad, my Hotmail account received a message. “Please send a list.” Crap! Didn’t think it that far through to make a list! I called my friend. “I need a list.” “A list for what?” “A list for all those movies.” “What!?!” “Yep” “Damn! Do you remember how many movies are in the basement?” “Yep.” Thirty-six hours later I had that list. My friend got things done. I learned a lot from him. God rest his young soul.
List in hand and ready to scan (yes they had scanners back then and OCR), I scanned all of the typed pages into a notepad document and sent it to my first potential customer from who knows where. A few hours later I got a response. The person on the other end of the e-mail whom I’ve never met placed an order four video cassettes. On top of that he gave me his credit card information unsecured and unencrypted. I had access to a merchant account and online credit card processor from a defunct business. I ran the credit card. Approved.
You have got to be friggin kidding me…this just happened. This is going to be an interesting summer…
After a few days, my e-mail inbox was on fiyah. I was getting requests for the video list all day long from people I didn’t know and from places I never heard of. My operation started to get too big for me to handle. I recruited a friend of mine’s friend wife to help with order fulfillment. She stayed five minutes away from the post office and was online just as much as I was. I ran the orders over to her at about 3:00pm. She would package them and ship them when the post office was about to close. It was a sweet deal. She was getting paid. I was getting paid. My friend was recouping his investment. Making money online… I never experienced anything like it. Times were good.
Then one day I got a request for a list as usual. I sent the list as usual. The person on the other end of the e-mail replied, “How much for all of the movies?” I thought to myself, “I didn’t see this one coming.” I worked out a bulk sales deal with my friend. We basically came up with a price and agreed to split the proceeds. I sent the asking price to the person on the other end of the e-mail. A few hours later he responded that he’d be up on Saturday at 1:00 pm to pick up the movies. This cat was in Texas. Now remember this is 1997 and the commercial world wide web was still in its infancy. Online transactions like this happen every day in 2016. Back then, it was unheard of. I sent him the address to my friend’s house. Needless to say I was skeptical.
I’ll never forget this day as long as I live. It was a perfect day. A bright sun, blue sky, can’t find a cloud anywhere, 75 degree, fresh cut grass smell day. Me, my friend and a couple of other guys were outside in the front of his parents house. We were tossing around the football, playing basketball and doing stuff that young guys do on a perfect weather day.
Around 1:00 pm a dark blue dusty as hell Chevy truck with a trailer pulls into the driveway. The truck stops and two guys who definitely “looked Texan” got out of the car and asked for me. I walked up shook the guys hand and proceeded with the small talk. After a few minutes we got down to bidniss. We took him to the movie stash. He went through a good portion of them with his buddy. The guy said that the video cassettes were in great shape (most of them were still wrapped in the cellophane). He proceeded to whip out a fat knot of cash, counted it all out, and put it in my hand. I almost soiled myself.
Me, my friend and the other guys helped load the video cassettes in the trailer. We engaged in a little small talk, the two Texans got into their truck and drove away. We drove to the party store not too long after they left, bought some drinks and proceeded to celebrate the most unlikely of business transactions.
It was at that time when I knew making money online was the future of commerce. It was at that time that I decided that I wanted to be a part of this new world. I took action and I never looked back.
Since that fateful summer, I founded one of the top performing website design companies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. At its peak, after 18 months of operation, the company maintained offices in Muskegon and downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, employing 12 people and servicing 130 companies in the region.
The company then moved into Search Engine Optimization and purchased an interest in a locksmithing company which went on to become the top performing locksmith company in New York City in 2010. At its peak, after 4 months of operation, the company dominated the number one, two, and three positions on Google search engine results in every single zip code in New York City, New Jersey and Hawaii bringing in $35,000 a month in revenue.
In 2013, my website design and SEO company was acquired by a 100-year-old printing company.
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