Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Steve Chou discusses how to balance selling online. Steve is the founder of the popular blog “My Wife Quit Her Job” plus two successful e-commerce ventures, BumbleBee Linens, and The Seller Summit shares his e-commerce journey.

 

Often people want to start their side hustle as simply a way to earn a little bit of extra income. But there are many that want the money and the lifestyle that are often glamorized by e-commerce sellers in the media. There are still others who start an e-commerce business so that they can have more time at home with their families. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk discusses the reasons people go into e-commerce and how you can make it successful for yourself.

 

In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Steve Chou, the founder of the popular blog and podcast site “My Wife Quit Her Job”, along with two other successful online businesses Bumblebee Linens and The Seller Summit. Steve shares his secrets of running three businesses and how he balances that with time with his wife and children.

 

Steve Chou shares his pivot from having a full-time successful engineering job into the world of e-commerce. So if you’re just starting out on your e-commerce journey, or you’re wondering how long until you can transition into being your own boss, then this episode is for you!

 

Visit the popular blog and podcast site My Wife Quit Her Job!

Learn more about Bumblebee Linens and The Seller Summit!

Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.

 

Find the full transcript below

Yoni Mazor 0:06

Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m really excited to have a really special guest. I’m having Steven Chou. Steve is the founder of My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a really big popular e-commerce blogging and podcasting channel that focuses on educating online sellers. He also has his own private label under the brand Bumblebee Linens. So he’s an online retailer as well. I’m gonna touch a little bit more about what he did because it’s really impressive. So give us just a moment here. He also, you know, in his past, he taught 1000s of students how to effectively sell physical products online, basically how to become online retailers, and his blog, you know, www.mywifequitherjob.com has been featured in Forbes, New York Times, Entrepreneur, MSNBC, and he also has his own podcast, okay, which is on the top 200 shows on iTunes. And beyond that, I’m proud to say that, you know, he does online conferences or seller conferences physically, and GETIDA, we’re also sponsoring some of those shows, and I participated in those shows. It was really educational. It was a high-end, high-level high quality, which was really, really good. And I personally really enjoyed it. So Steve is our guest. Welcome to the show. Steve, how have you been?

 

Steve Chou 1:23

Great. Happy to be here, Yoni. And the show was great because you actually contributed a piece of content to The Sellar Summit as well. And unfortunately, you couldn’t experience it firsthand, because we had to make it virtual this year due to COVID-19.

 

Yoni Mazor 1:36

Right. So yeah, it was originally supposed to be in Florida, I believe it was for Fort Lauderdale. I was really looking forward to go, but Corona, you know, took away this show, and many others, unfortunately. But it was great. You quickly pivoted online and you guys did an amazing job, you and Tony. So I had a good time, it was a real pleasure. So this is the intro. So a lot of good stuff. But today, this episode is really about you, your story. You know, basically, who are you? Where are you from? Where do you go to school? How did you develop your business career? Why did you become a business owner? You know, just follow your trail. So without further ado, you can jump right into it. Let’s have some fun.

 

Steve Chou 2:15

Yeah, absolutely. What do you want me to start?

 

Yoni Mazor 2:19

I mean, I guess where we were born? Where did you grow up? Yeah. From the very beginning. It’s gonna be like if I had to jump into your Wikipedia pretty much, it’s gonna be like that just verbally, you know?

 

Steve Chou 2:32

Okay, well, where I grew up isn’t that interesting. But I grew up in Potomac, Maryland. And I’d always wanted to become an electrical engineer, because my dad was an engineer. And so yeah, ever since I was a little kid, Stanford was my top choice growing up. And I got in, studied electrical engineering, and basically became a microprocessor designer for a living. I actually ended up doing that for 17 years. And I never thought I was going to start a business. I was very, very happy with my day job because I get a chance to work with a lot of other really smart people. And we develop products, I’m actually proud to say that the processor that we designed actually powers most of the cell phones today, in a lot of cell phones, I should say.

 

Yoni Mazor 3:16

Amazing. So which company adopted it? Which micro processing conglomerate?

 

Steve Chou 3:21

Well, so we do embedded processors, I used to work for a company called Tensilica. And we do very, I don’t want to get into that too much, but basically, we were doing the noise cancellation. We were in the iPhones, we were in a lot of the Samsung phones and that sort of thing.

 

Yoni Mazor 3:32

 Amazing, revolutionary, for sure.

 

Steve Chou 3:34

So I never ever planned on starting a business whatsoever. It was kinda…

 

Yoni Mazor 3:39

So hold on, let’s take a snapshot here. So you were you know, out of college 21-22 ish. You know, you have your degree as an engineer, and you head into that career, that world and you were there for 17 years?

 

Steve Chou 3:51

That’s correct. Yes. 

 

Yoni Mazor 3:52

Okay. So take us to the years now. So this is after 17 years, what age? What sorry, What year are we in? And what stage were you starting to pivot into…

 

Steve Chou 3:58

Well, I started my businesses while I was working full time. So there was overlap for actually many years.

 

Yoni Mazor 4:06

So take us there. So you’re in engineering and what’s the year and what happened when you know, the early beginnings of your, I guess your entrepreneurial journey?

 

Steve Chou 4:13

Yeah, so let’s see, I got my Master’s…so 1999 I think was when I started working. It was actually 1997 when I graduated, I ended up taking a year off, going back to get my Master’s, but I was working the entire time. And I started out doing board design at a company called Electronics For Imaging and then I later pivoted to microprocessor design where I stayed for the length of my career. Just really loved the work. I live in the Silicon Valley. That’s kind of what I was trained to do. That’s what I wanted to do. And things didn’t really change until I met my future wife. And yeah, we met at this restaurant. Asked her out, we got along really well. And we got married.

 

Yoni Mazor 4:56

What year is this? What year did you guys meet?

 

Steve Chou 4:58

We got married in 2003. Good test, I hope my wife, you see, I got that quick, the date. 

 

Yoni Mazor 5:04

So where you guys met when? 2002? 2001?

 

Steve Chou 5:07

Did we meet in 2000? Like 1999-2000 is when we met.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:09

On the verge of the new millennium. Yeah, very nice. 

 

Steve Chou 5:12

Yes, yes, right there. In fact, I think I was going down the Rose Bowl. Stanford was in the Rose Bowl that year. And she actually was from LA. So when I went down, we spent like an entire day together.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:24

Awesome. So you guys dated for about three years. 2003 tied the knot?

 

Steve Chou 5:28

Tied the knot in 2003. Three years later, we decided to have children. And that’s when everything changed fundamentally.

 

Yoni Mazor 5:38

Wow. Take us there.

 

Steve Chou 5:40

Yeah, so my wife, we live in Silicon Valley, you’re in New York, is that right?

 

Yoni Mazor 5:46

Pretty much. New Jersey, you know, 10 minutes away from the border. So yeah, we live in the shadows of New York.

 

Steve Chou 5:52

Property values are super expensive here as well as where you are. Pretty much. I never had to think about this before. But all of a sudden, I had to think about getting a house in a good school district, getting a larger house to kind of have a family in. And where we live, it pretty much requires two incomes. And my wife was a financial analyst, she was making six figures. And she told me that she wanted to quit and just, you know, be a mom, essentially. And I know that when I was growing up, both my parents worked, and they worked till about six or 7:30 every single night. And honestly, I didn’t really spend that much time with them at all. And so I wanted a different experience for my kids. And so that’s why I was fully on board with my wife quitting her job, and kind of forgoing her six figure salary. And staying at home, even if we meant, even if it meant that we needed to cut back on costs and that sort of thing.

 

Yoni Mazor 6:50

So you guys had the awareness of saying, you know, what, the quality time with our children is so important to us that we’re willing to lower our standard of living? Consciously so we can have those cherished moments when they grow up and give them the sound foundation that we believe they need to grow up, you know, as, as good people. And that was the trigger point. That was really the moment when other, I guess it turned into other things. So that was the reasoning, though? 

 

Steve Chou 7:17

Well, yeah, the trigger point was actually realizing that we couldn’t afford a house on just one income.

 

Yoni Mazor 7:25

Even though you’re downsizing, even if it’s a smaller house in that area that you really wanted to live in?

 

Yoni Mazor 7:30

Yeah, even if I was eating ramen every day, in order to get a good house in a good school district, it would have been ridiculously expensive. And I’m, I’m pretty, I’m a pretty conservative guy, I like to have a buffer of cash lying around just in case something happens, right? And if we were to overextend ourselves, then any little catastrophe could bankrupt us if we took on that large mortgage. So that’s when we decided to look for other avenues. And e-commerce wasn’t actually our first choice. Our first choice was actually to open up like a Kumons or a prep center where we could actually train kids to do better on tests and that sort of thing. There’s a whole bunch of these franchises around. I don’t know if they are in New Jersey.

 

Yoni Mazor 8:13

Yeah, we have Kumon here also. You go there and it’s like an enrichment, you do math and stuff like that?

 

Steve Chou 8:18

Yeah, it’d be perfect, because then we just send our kids there. And then they’d study all day.

 

Yoni Mazor 8:22

Smart, it’s actually pretty smart. Yeah.

 

Steve Chou 8:26

But none of those Kumons…like the franchise fees were actually really expensive in order to get like a brick and mortar outlet.

 

Yoni Mazor 8:33

Give us a taste of the numbers, just so we have an idea.

 

Steve Chou 8:35

Well we estimated between 250,000 to 500,000 to open one.

 

Yoni Mazor 8:39

For a Kumon? To open a branch? You’re kidding. Yeah. Got it. Okay.

 

Steve Chou 8:44

Yeah. We didn’t have that sort of cash. So we started….This is when my life fundamentally changed. My buddy. I can’t remember where he was working at the time. But he just launched this e-commerce store selling his photography. He used to do photography for Stanford athletics. And he just launched this store. And I was like, How the heck did you do that in like a week because he was talking about it. And then all of a sudden, he had a website that looked pretty good. And I was like, oh, how much did it cost you to launch that site? And he said, it was like six bucks. I was like, six bucks? How’s that possible? He’s like, there’s all this software that is free out there, that’s open source, that you can use to launch a store. And at that point, I was like, Okay. The reason why we chose handkerchiefs was because back in 2013, when we got married, my wife, she’s kind of like a crier. She gets really emotional. And she knew she was gonna cry at the wedding. And we paid all this money for photography, and she didn’t want to be seen in photography, you know, crying and these nasty tissues in the pictures, so we looked all over the place for handkerchiefs, couldn’t find any, finally we found this factory in China…

 

Yoni Mazor 9:51

Hold on. Take me to the year right now. So you started in 2003?

 

Steve Chou 9:54

This is about 2002, preparation for the wedding.

 

Yoni Mazor 9:56

Yeah, so but the kids came around. I know you decided to… So, so there’s some sprouts that happened before the trigger. So there’s some foundations. What’s interesting here is the chronologically. So 2000 to 2003, the early seeds that what you’re gonna do later have started, right?

 

Steve Chou 10:14

Indirectly.

 

Yoni Mazor 10:15

Yeah, indirectly, indirectly, then later are connected to the fact you want to have kids. And you know, she wants to quit her job then, I guess, connected all the dots together, right? 

 

Steve Chou 10:23

Yeah, it kind of just all randomly came together.

 

Yoni Mazor 10:25

A perfect storm was cooking? Yeah.

 

Steve Chou 10:27

Yeah, I mean, at the time, you know, when we were looking through these handkerchiefs, we imported a bunch, because they were super cheap. And we didn’t use all the ones that we imported. And we just kind of liquidated them on eBay. And they end up selling really quickly. And so, you know, fast forward three years from that point, we were thinking about an online store, we got back in touch with those handkerchief vendors and decided, hey, what the heck, it literally costs at the time, it was $7 a month to just get hosting. And we used to use Oscommerce, which is a free open source card, which we’re still on today. I don’t advise it. But we’re still on it today. And we just launched this handkerchief store. And it ended up making $100,000 in profit in our first year. And obviously, there’s a little bit more to that. So a couple of other serendipitous events happened. My brother-in-law just happened to be working for Google. And Google AdWords was just kind of in its infancy there. And he was like, Hey, you know, if you’ve been having problems driving traffic to your store, why don’t you give AdWords a try? Here, I’ll show you how to use it. And so he showed me how to run AdWords. And back in the day, AdWords was super not competitive at all.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:35

So back in the day was 2006ish?

 

Steve Chou 11:37

Yeah. 2006.

 

Yoni Mazor 11:38

  1. Mountain View, California, which I guess is your area? Your brother-in-law comes in, plug and play baby.

 

Steve Chou 11:44

Yes, it was magical. All of a sudden, a flood of traffic, very high converting, very low clicks. And just on that alone, it was probably half of our revenue for that first year. Then a couple of other things started happening. We started writing content. Because I had another friend who.. I didn’t think blogging…Blogging wasn’t really a big thing back then. But he was getting all this free traffic and making money on ads. And I was like, Okay, well, why don’t I just create some content to drive traffic to the store. And so we created a content strategy where my wife was putting out these articles on how to make crafts for weddings from the products that we made. And those started ranking in search maybe six months later. And then all of a sudden, we started getting like event planners wanting to buy our stuff in bulk. So we were selling handkerchiefs and napkins So those three things allowed us to make six figures in profit in our first year with our own store. This is like way before Amazon and whatnot even existed, eBay was still around…

 

Yoni Mazor 12:47

eBay was ecommerce for the most part and then it was you know, you can get your own dot com, you know, platform which is, in those days, much scrappier than it is today. But nevertheless, it was so innocent. And when it worked, it was amazing. It was profitable, it was lucrative unchartered territory.

 

Steve Chou 13:04

Absolutely. And then she would happen from there. From there. It was just exponential growth. I learned a whole lot of stuff. I learned how to design websites. I think people often ask me why I’m still on that open source card. I’ve been hand coding my own stuff. I kind of missed the technical aspects of my business, which was microprocessor design. I ended up quitting in 2016.

 

Yoni Mazor 13:28

Oh, wow. So hold on. Oh, so you did more than a decade of entrepreneurship, you know, self-employed business, while you’re still employed within this industry and you only quit about four years ago, right? The husband quit his job, I guess, 10 years after?

 

Steve Chou 13:44

My wife quit right away.

 

Yoni Mazor 13:45

So she quit 2006 right?

 

Steve Chou 13:47

She quit in 2008, right after her maternity leave ended.

 

Yoni Mazor 13:53

2008 and 8 years afterwards you followed. But um, when you guys opened the dot com, the first website, it was…you didn’t call it My Wife Quit Her Job? It was under the Bumblebee Linens, the brand?

 

Steve Chou 14:02

Oh no, no, no. Bumblebee Linens is our e-commerce store. It’s two separate things. So the …So the e-commerce store, Bumblebee Linens, is my wife’s retirement plan. And then My Wife Quit Her Job was my retirement plan. I actually could have quit a long time ago, but I didn’t really want to quit just to sell handkerchiefs. So I actually belong to this entrepreneurship program at Stanford. It’s called the Mayfield Fellows Program. Every year we get together, you know, in Tahoe or whatnot, and we had this retreat, not having this year obviously, but everyone else out there are starting these 100 million dollar venture backed companies. And in my eyes, I was almost a little ashamed that I was hawking  handkerchiefs whereas other people were starting these huge businesses. Like my buddy who’s in the Mayfield Fellows Program, he started Instagram, Kevin Systrom was in my program right? You got guys like that. And then you got, then you have me who’s just hawking hankies. And so I wasn’t ready to give up my engineering career. I actually really enjoyed my job. I’d still be working there today if it really made sense for me, actually.

 

Yoni Mazor 15:12

Yeah, I mean, I totally understand and connect to what you’re saying. But if we put it in perspective, you know, the richest guy in the world right now started from, you know, hustling books online. And one thing led to another and it became just gigantic, that over overshadows anything else that’s out there. I just saw an art post online, that the market cap of Amazon, which is like $1.4 trillion, right now, if you put Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Home Depot, all these combined, they still don’t have that market cap on the stock market value, just as to show you that the impact and where the trajectory of e commerce and having Amazon leading it right now in these current conditions. But yeah. Go ahead. So you said you would still keep your job if it would’ve made sense, because what? Scheduling, timing?

 

Steve Chou 15:58

No, I just like the work. And I like hanging out with really smart people.

 

Yoni Mazor 16:03

That stimulus? You need that stimulus, right? So how do you…How do you compensate for that right now?

 

Steve Chou 16:09

To a certain extent, I haven’t really fully compensated for it. It’s still a work in progress. But yeah, it was, I think it was 2009 when I started My Wife Quit Her Job because I wanted my retirement plan, like my wife was able to quit. And what ended up happening was that a number of my friends who are female, who didn’t want to work anymore, they started asking me questions on how to start that e-commerce store. So I just kind of started documenting my process on www.mywifequitherjob.com, like every little problem that we faced, every little hurdle, how we overcame and all that stuff. What ended up happening was, I kind of wrote that for my friends to read it, but none of them ended up reading it. Instead, what ended up happening is a whole bunch of random strangers started reading it. And that’s kind of how that blog was born.

 

Yoni Mazor 16:58

Essentially, the blog was an SOP. The standard operating procedure, you know, that you guys experienced throughout your transformation?

 

Steve Chou 17:06

I wouldn’t call it an SOP.

 

Yoni Mazor 17:07

No, no. Obviously..oh it’s a journal? Got it. Okay. Yeah, like a diary? Nice.

 

Steve Chou 17:11

Like a diary, kind of. I got the idea for starting a blog for money from reading this blog called Steve Polina. I don’t know if you ever heard of that guy? No, he’s not in e-commerce at all. He’s a personal development blogger. But he posted this check, where he was making $4,000 a day on AdSense. And I was like, holy, like, if this guy can do this, then I can do that, too. And so that’s kind of how this whole content thing got started.

 

Yoni Mazor 17:37

So part of the blog today is, it’s component is to have a lot of traffic there, you know, because it’s good content, high quality. But the ads are also a revenue driver for the platform?

 

Steve Chou 17:48

I don’t really run ads. There are ads on my site. But that’s not a primary revenue driver for the blog at all.

 

Yoni Mazor 17:54

So what’s I so let’s touch this business model for a minute. I guess your wife’s model is a bit more clear, because it’s a private label as a Bumblebee, you guys selling linens and fabric products. And that’s, that’s what she kind of runs right now right? That’s her thing. That’s her pride and joy?

 

Steve Chou 18:09

She runs that, but I do all the marketing and sales for it.

 

Yoni Mazor 18:11

Got it. So you guys are teamed up. So you guys are teamed up, you’re involved.

 

Steve Chou 18:15

We’re teamed up. There’s a backstory behind that too. Maybe we can touch on that later. But my wife quit her job. I treat the store Bumblebee Linens like a laboratory. So the blog, people just give me their tools and everything. That’s kind of how I met you. Right? And then I’ll try it out on the store. I saw an Amazon and in a store. And then I basically document the results on the blog. And that works really well.

 

Yoni Mazor 18:39

That’s great. That’s really smart. Okay, so she does the retailing. She’s focused on the product and the experience, you’re focusing on the marketing, that’s the retail store or retail aspect of your business. But I guess another business model is the blog itself and the podcast or and the conferences? What’s…?

 

Steve Chou 18:58

Yeah so I make most of my money from the blog from affiliate marketing and core sales primarily.

 

Yoni Mazor 19:05

Got it. Very good. So content, pretty much the content world digital content digital marketing content. Yeah.

 

Steve Chou 19:11

And I get sponsorships on the podcast and I run that event but Yoni quite frankly just between you and me like the event doesn’t make that much money. It’s more to build community. And get people to

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