Steve Chou | Learn How To Balance Selling Online

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, 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' 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 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



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 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, 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 come in. Like the amount of work and the amount of stress this past year actually in transitioning to a virtual model was just it was it started making me question whether I want to...


Yoni Mazor 19:30

You guys did amazing. In a snap of a finger...because I'll be honest, other physical shows that we were scheduled to sponsor, they melted away. They said, no we can’t handle this. But you pivoted saying okay we physically melted away but we're gonna go digital online. You're probably the first one I participated online. Afterwards a few more, not pivoted to just create it out of scratch. People didn't really plan on having a physical event, said You know, it seems like there's a void people are stuck in their places. They want to learn, they want to develop. Let's do this. So I saw some companies and their organization taking the lead on that. But the ones who were physically entrenched and wasn't able to get out of it did not pivot to online. So you guys did that he did it quickly did it in a very, very good way. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, because I got exposed to the content. So I want to touch a little bit about the show. So you know, it's, I guess you guys could call it The Seller Summit. It's usually the physical but you know, as we said, it was online, but it was digital. It was virtual. But the content was interesting. It wasn't just Amazon. It was really about the whole ecosystem of e-commerce, you know, driving traffic from Google SEO, branding, it really the whole nine yards, it was really high end, high quality. It was a revelation to me, was it I come mostly from the Amazon world, we did dabble with other worlds of dot come and eBay and stuff like that. But this was really nice to see how it was all encompassing, was consolidated in a very holistic approach. And really to develop brands, really to develop something that's, I guess, an intangible asset, intellectual property, which is a brand and they weren't for brand, which is really much more valuable than any physical product, because you can always take that product, scrap it, put another one, but as long as your brand is hot, you're good to go. And I guess that was a driving force for the event. So let's talk about that. I mean, I'm not at that. You. You said you wanted to mention, there's a backstory where you guys teamed up to work together?


Steve Chou 21:33

Yeah, we find out that we don't work well together.


Yoni Mazor 21:36



Steve Chou 21:38

So I actually...when people come to me and they want to work with their wife, I tend to like there's a lot of other problems that you can fight about, like kids, money, and whatnot. Adding business is like having another kid. So that's why we kind of split things apart. So she does operations. And I do marketing and sales before when we were kind of doing both it just wasn't working out.


Yoni Mazor 21:59

So divide and conquer. You guys know the lines, the limits. And so you found that to be a good synergy to make it all happen properly?


Steve Chou 22:06

Yeah, absolutely. Now it's good. It's funny, we never used to fight at all, like throughout the entire relationship until we started that business. 


Yoni Mazor 22:15

For sure, I mean, it's really tough to do business with the family, period, at any scope, any level, because you live with it, you always have work at home. So it's extremely tough. Even for the, the most, you know, smoothest couples that can have a smooth ride into the marriage, and even a few kids. But the moment you turn to business, businesses just started because it's a battlefield. It's economical business. And the definition is economical battlefield. So you're fighting a war. And you know, it's not so romantic. And it can affect the romance of things. So it's good that you guys are able to find out, you know, this is my department, that's your department. We're fighting this together. But you found the equilibrium, which is a true blessing, by the way. So I wish you guys, you know, continued success on that realm. I guess so take us. Let's let's put things in chronological order again. 2003, you get married. 2006, children come in. 2008, your wife actually quits her job. 2016 you quit your job. In those, I guess years, you were able to do a few things. Obviously she lived. She left a six figure job, turned into selling handkerchief and Bumblebee Linen products, which originally the seeds of the idea originated from your wedding from the experience of your wedding, which is pretty cool. You guys tied it up. And then your brother in law helped with, you know, connecting the Google advertising aspect of it in the early days. So to jump a lot of traffic in you guys generate more than six figures of net profit to your pocket at the end of the year, which is amazing. So, and this started around 2007, eight, those lines, those profit lines?


Steve Chou 23:54

Yeah so 2008 I believe was when my wife quit. 2009 was when I started My Wife Quit Her That blog did not make any money at all until 2012, when I think I hit six figures for the first time. So it took three years to hit six figures. 


Yoni Mazor 24:13

The blog itself became a six figure income earner platform. But the retail was also from the get go from the first year was already at six figures?


Steve Chou 24:20

The retail was great. It was growing exponentially ever since we had launched it. Just because it was...the barriers to entry back then were a lot higher. So there was a real Amazon like if you want to do a shopping cart. I don't think Shopify was around back then. I think Yahoo stores was big back, I don't know where Yahoo stores is now. It's a lot easier today than it was back then. And so you actually had to code up a lot of your own stuff if you want to do special things. And that just happened to be something I enjoyed.


Yoni Mazor 24:53

So the blog platform and the actual online retail store were not based on the same platforms?


Steve Chou 25:01

No, no, not at all. The e-commerce store was based on Oscommerce, which was a popular open source shopping cart back in like 2006 ish timeframe. And the blog is based on WordPress, which is the most popular CMS in the world actually. Yeah.


Yoni Mazor 25:20

Nice. Okay, six figures from the gate on retail, six figure on the content slash blog website, three years into the mix. But I guess you're able to push three years. That's really a lot of foundational work to get there. Because you still had your engineering job.


Steve Chou 25:35

Yes, yeah. It's actually not...So my philosophy in general is if I'm going to do something, my mindset tells me I'm going to do it forever. And so I just like to pick a pace that I can maintain indefinitely. So I just kind of worked blogging into my schedule really, kind of regimented in that respect. When I first started the blog, I was a little impatient, and I wanted to get traffic real quickly. And I was writing five times a week, and that was not sustainable.


Yoni Mazor 26:07

Five times a week, meaning every day almost? 


Steve Chou 26:10

Almost every day, taking the weekends off. Yes. That was just too difficult to maintain. Over the years, I finally dropped down to like, once a week. And that's just something that I can do forever. I've been writing once a week for like the last, what year is it? Yeah, for the last 11 years really.


Yoni Mazor 26:27

Incredible. So once a week, what's usually your flow? It's a Thursday. It's a Tuesday


Steve Chou 26:31

Sunday morning while my kids are in Russia math class. Yeah.


Yoni Mazor 26:36

So that's the weekend. Yeah, Sunday morning. It's like you'’s almost you know, it's a religious fervor you have with this. This is what you do religiously?


Steve Chou 26:43

Yeah, I just wake up early on Sunday. And then I have like, a nice four to six hour slot where I just pump it out.


Yoni Mazor 26:49

Four to six hours. Amazing. I do a little bit. I'm not even trying to come close to comparing 11 years of work of vlogging, which I admire tremendously. I, you know, for...sometimes for our website, once I feel I have so much to give out there that I believe that the audience can use and utilize, that's one of the blog, then I spit it out. And it might take a few hours, might take even a few days. But to spit out like that weekly for 11 years. And be validated that it's working because it'd became a six figure income platform for you. That's just tremendous. It's incredible. You know, the charts don't lie, it's you could have done this for 11 years and got zero income and be flat. But it seems to me that there's a compounding effect where it is growing and growing. And it's bringing out more and more opportunities for you, opening up all these opportunities for you. You know, everybody's still young here. And the whole industry is still young, and the more you put that content out and touches people's hearts and minds and help them, just opening more and more doors or at least if not doors. good karma, you know. So I would imagine there's a very gratifying to put that up.


Steve Chou 27:56

Yeah it’s great. I mean, it allowed me to meet you, Yoni. Like if I didn't have the blog, we wouldn't have met. So.


Yoni Mazor 28:01

Yeah, I mean, I'll tell you one thing, guys, whoever's listening beyond the fact that he's, you know, highly successful, extremely educated, you know, creating a semiconductors and chips, that's engineering those and affecting everybody's world with the phones right now. He's just, you know, he's a level head guy, just talk to, you know, you know, what you call a very humble, that's the word I'm looking for. Extremely humble guy. straightforward. And that's something that it's...I for me, personally, I admire those qualities. And Steve is definitely humble and just a straight-up stand-up guy. And it's super nice. And I know that because you mentioned I feel the pain that you have with pivoting into creating the event online, instead of physical, and then you were questioning if it was all worth it. It probably wasn't right financially? But it was worth...


Steve Chou 28:50

Yeah, financially, it was not. I was talking about the stress.


Yoni Mazor 28:51

Yeah, the stress and the aggravation, connecting all the dots behind the scenes. And you did it in such a humble, nice way. And then to see the experience that everybody else had was so positive, so good. That's tremendous. And then you were just, you know, you're not saying look, I did all this you didn't, you know, with peace and quiet and serenity. And I wouldn't even know unless you are, you just mentioned right now in the podcast, you know, opened your heart a little bit. You said it was really challenging, I would know from my perspective is like, you know, he's on and he's smooth, it's really, really good. So that's, that's my perspective is good. It's always good to get the feedback whenever you can to pick it up. So for my experience, from my perspective, it was smooth, it was good. I didn't I couldn't tell that you were stressed or anything like that. So that's good. That's a good poker player or, you know, even internally you're pumping like an engine but you know, like a Rolls Royce. It doesn't make a peep or sound, you know, just a smooth ride. So that's my take on it. Okay, so let's touch I guess what's your perspective? On e commerce in general? Where are we now and where are we going to go with this? what's what's going on right now? Give us a snapshot as you are aware on the market. You know, you're in the heart of it, you’re also in Silicon Valley, I guess you have a unique perspective.


Steve Chou 30:02

I mean, I think e-commerce is the future. So there's these projections, and I kind of touched on this in the keynote, before e-commerce was projected to be about 14 to 15% of retail, now, it's projected to be 18 to 20%, of overall sales. Mainly because people aren't going to be going out to shop as much until this whole thing is over, even after it's over, I anticipate it's going to take some time for everything to recover.


Yoni Mazor 30:25

I think the habits will change. Now, it's not gonna recover, just because of this situation, habits will change and probably is gonna be very hard to, you know, turn the wheels back, and it's probably not going to go back. Because if this is the better way to shop and consume, it's more efficient, it’s destined to stay, you know, nobody's going back to the horse and carriages. You know, after the cars were introduced.


Steve Chou 30:45

Here's my secret. I use my mom as a barometer. Before she refused to buy anything online, she would literally want to physically go to Costco, to Target and all those stores. And now when I talk to her, she's using Instacart, she does everything online. And she's like, Oh, my God, they'll pick up the groceries. And they'll deliver it to me, and they package it really nicely, too. So why do I need to go anywhere? That's her attitude now.


Yoni Mazor 31:10

Bravo, bravo. Yeah, it's exactly where it's all about. That barometer is, you hit the nail on the spot, because now she's opened up to it, she acknowledges the value, but guess what? She could probably spend more than others. You know, she's an age where she can, you know, the kids are not out of the house, why not just indulge myself. So now, I think it opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs to cater to that new layer that came in, you know, their hobbies or interests, their the creative side, whatever it is, you can cater to, is going to create a renaissance of new types of products online, that we're not gonna have a demand yet. Okay, so now it's opening up this whole demand. So whoever is listening to this, it's an opportunity for you to say, you know, it's unchartered territory, jump into it, you know, these crowds are there, I think that's what's creating a little bit of a swirl in the online advertising world, because the matrix all got shaken up. It's almost like a reset. Right? And Google and Amazon, all these advertising, it's a complete reshift. You know, it's a reset. And, you know, it's almost like a blank board. And now, everybody's trying to scramble to figure it out. Because there's new players and new consumers in the game. Those percentages that you mentioned, it took what 20-30 years for e-commerce to hit the, yeah, 14-15% percent market share. And then within a matter of a few weeks, or a few months, or whatever, it took almost 20-30 years, took a few months. It's just unprecedented growth, hyper, aggressive, hyper, hyper crazy. And it's a goldmine. It's a gold rush. So, you know, that's where everybody's kind of flocking and for good reason. And then it's happening and not on a domestic US level, on a global level. Oh, yeah, absolutely. So much opportunity. Just, it's outrageous in a good way. But I guess, where would it be a good place to start? Right? You know, if you're listening to this, you're eager, you have your fire in you, what would you say would be a good place to start with this whole adventure?


Steve Chou 32:59

Yeah, you know, I always take a more conservative approach, when I advise people on e-commerce. For me, it's all like, the end goal should be to start your own brand, right? And then have your own audience of fanatics, essentially, that will buy your products no matter what you release. But if you're just starting out, and you're new, I always recommend that you just start out with a single product, and you try to validate it on Amazon or eBay, just to make sure that it's gonna sell, make sure you're gonna follow through with that. And then once you know, then you work on your website, because working on your own website and your own brand, is kind of like a marathon, you have to work on something and set aside a schedule. Were kind of like how I was doing the blog, you're going to do this forever. And you're going to work on this consistently for the rest of your life. And so I like to use Amazon as a validation platform. And a lot of people, a lot of the students in my course, they start on Amazon, and they just start making lots of money right away, because the marketplace is so large, that they kind of lose sight of the fact that Amazon kind of owns those customers. And so yeah, start on Amazon. So you can make a lot of money just selling an Amazon. But you need to set aside some time to polish up your own brand. Get your own customers like email, SMS, Messenger, grab your own customer list so that you can just launch anything that you want going forward.


Yoni Mazor 34:19

That's great. Um, so what are in terms of job? They should keep their job until they have some sort of, well, what's the balance there?


Steve Chou 34:29

If you'd like your job, then just keep it. So here's the funny story with my job. So the blog started making seven figures in 2016. And I liked my job, but at that point, I was just like, hey, it's not worth my time to be doing certain aspects of my job that I didn't want to be doing anymore. So I went up to my boss and I was like, Hey, I only want to do the stuff that I want to do. And I started being kinda like a little bit of noxious in meetings,


Yoni Mazor 35:02

You became bold. Yeah, your confidence made you bold in your workplace where you like, yeah, like you say, speaking your mind, you’re not just holding back anymore.


Steve Chou 35:10

Right? Whereas before, I was not like that. And ironically, I still don't quite understand this. But speaking my mind actually got me promoted, I think.


Yoni Mazor 35:20

That's great. That's really great. They fail to value the fact you're able to, I guess, unleash who you are, without being afraid of ramification. Instead of thinking you were making a tank, it puts you out, you know, propelled you out, which is wow, that's, that's quite an interesting epiphany people might experience. I guess, it's almost like a win-win situation where you have a business, your side businesses where, you know, you’re generating good income. If you like a job, you like the aspects of it, try to create yourself a mold that you can keep those components and get rid of the rest might happen anyway. Because you have the confidence of the side business that's making the money that you need to live. So worst case, you just quit, right? You could do that anyway. So it's like a win-win, there’s not not too much of a downside, mostly it's an upside. And you're basing it on real experience. So it's a good thing to know and to notice. But why? I guess why did you quit your job eventually, ultimately, if you got promoted, right, because it feels right now there's a little bit of a confusion, if you got promoted, you can really earn more and do less, so to speak. What was the trigger for you to leave? 


Steve Chou 36:28

Oh, yeah. So I went down to four days. And then I went down to two days where I was just basically consulting. So I was like, one of the three guys, the three core guys on the main product. And a lot of it had been designed by me. And so I stayed on for a while. And then what happened is, new management came in, they decided to reorg the entire organization. And then the person who is the head of engineering basically left, she kind of retired. And this new guy came in and pulled me aside and said, Hey, I see that you're working two days a week, what exactly do you do here? And I was forced to say, I don't really do anything. I’m basically your insurance policy here in case something breaks and whatnot. And that was the end of that. But I wasn't willing to go back full time to, there were certain aspects of the work that I just absolutely love. And of course, with anything, that's good, there's always an element that's bad. I just didn't want to do that bad stuff any more that it didn't enjoy doing. And the money just did not make sense. I think it was like, I was making 8x more than my salary at that point.


Yoni Mazor 37:36

What, with your business? Yeah, yeah. Make sense. All right. Got it. So let's settle now on where you are now. And I guess what currently are your main challenges? You know, you experienced tremendous growth in the past decade or more, an unusual path to that success, you know, perfect storm kind of generated? Where does it leave you now? Where are the main challenges? What are the main challenges you can identify at least? And what are you trying to do forward to overcome them?


Steve Chou 38:04

Yeah, to me now, in terms of just lifestyle design, I think I'm in a really good place. The place where I kind of struggle right now is kind of maintaining, I guess, the mental struggle. Like I used to do, I don't want to, I used to use my brain a lot more like in my job, like designing and solving these problems that, you know, you need to account for all these things that could potentially break and...


Yoni Mazor 38:29

I guess critical thinking. The critical thinking aspect of things. 


Steve Chou 38:33

Yeah. Whereas blogging, content creation, and e-commerce I feel does not exercise the same muscles. And so I had actually thought of creating like a software company at some point. In fact, I was in really deep exploration two years ago, where a buddy and my buddy and my, we got together. And we actually had a developer in Bangladesh, where we're trying to create a product. And then I had just been talking to a whole bunch of other SAS software, people were like, if you're going to go this route, and maybe you can comment on this Yoni, it consumes your life once again. And I feel like if I were to do that, again, it would sacrifice a lot more of my time that I kind of enjoy spending with my kids right now. And so that's why I've kind of kept more….like you have to pick at some point. I feel like you get to go all in your business. Or if you want to, you know, if you want to go all in on the lifestyle, you're going to have to sacrifice a few things. So the biggest struggle for me has been finding that medium where I'm happy with where I'm at. And I have to tell myself not to go too far and exert too much of my time and energy into a business and kind of neglect the family. It's like a balance that I've been...


Yoni Mazor 39:56

Well what's your lifestyle right now? Give us a snapshot of your lifestyle.


Steve Chou 40:00

The lifestyle now is I work maybe 20 hours a week, I would say and especially since Corona like my kids are with me all day long. So I usually work in the mornings and then I spend the afternoons with them.


Yoni Mazor 40:12

What do you guys do now that now that Corona’s in? You can't really explore the world you know?


Steve Chou 40:17

We're not exploring much, we're exploring my neighborhood. That's what we're doing. I guess we go and throw around the Frisbee. They're doing vocabulary builder right now every morning. Here's a fun fact. I studied for the SATs when I was in fourth grade so I could take the SATs in fifth grade in order to get into this camp. I’ve kinda followed...


Yoni Mazor 40:38

Wow. Sounds like you were like a very gifted protege student or something? Fifth grade fr the SATs? Did I get this right?


Steve Chou 40:46

Yeah, my parents kind of pushed me into all that stuff. Like I wouldn't have done that on my own.


Yoni Mazor 40:51

So let's touch on your parents. I guess there's you mentioned there's a Chinese aspect to it or something? They were born there? Or they're born in states?


Steve Chou 40:59

Well, yeah. My dad has a really interesting story. He actually snuck away on a boat and left his family behind to escape Communist China. So he basically, right in the US with nothing.


Yoni Mazor 41:08

When? In the 40s or something? When was that? What was the year that that happened?


Steve Chou 41:13

Good question. Good question.


Yoni Mazor 41:14

The decade, do you know the decade at least? 


Steve Chou 41:17

The decade was I want to say the 60s I guess.


Yoni Mazor 41:21

And he was from where? Mainland China? 


Steve Chou 41:23

He was from Mainland China. He fled on a boat to Taiwan and then eventually made his way over here.


Yoni Mazor 41:27

Which part of mainland China, do you know? 


Steve Chou 41:32

The Jiangsu Province. I wish's where Suto is, if you know where that is?


Yoni Mazor 41:38

No, I know pretty much the Shanghai, the Beijing 


Steve Chou 41:40

It's right near Shanghai. 


Yoni Mazor 41:41

Got it. Okay, so north east, got it. Yeah, good. Because you fled on the board and your mother?


Steve Chou 41:47

My mother had an easy life actually. I don't want to say easy. She was very wealthy in mainland China. And then her family fled and left all that wealth behind to go to Taiwan. But she was very smart. So she got like a full ride, and made it into the US with like a full ride.


Yoni Mazor 42:04

And where did they meet? They meet in the United States?


Steve Chou 42:05

They met in the University of Utah, actually.


Yoni Mazor 42:08

Oh, nice, very nice. 


Steve Chou 42:11

So the point I was gonna make is that they came here with nothing. And that as a result, like their mentality was a lot more of a hustle mindset. And that is what they ingrained in me also, as a kid, and I'm trying to maintain that philosophy with my kids, even though it's a lot harder. 


Yoni Mazor 42:30

Why would you say it's harder?


Steve Chou 42:31

It's harder, because we don't have the same difficult life that my parents did growing up. And so my kids have a lot of things that I don't think they really appreciate that much. But you can't just take it away. Because then, like, you're not living the lifestyle that you're, you're not enjoying your lifestyle, either. So it's kind of like a struggle in that respect.


Yoni Mazor 42:52

Got it. So we touched on, you know, on the, I guess, lifestyle and personal lifestyle struggles and challenges. What about the business aspect of things, you know, your retailing, your content, or media company that media empire that you created? What are the challenges you're facing right now?


Steve Chou 43:09

With My Wife Quit Her Job? Um, the challenges I'm facing right now is I just started a YouTube channel, maybe 4..3-4 months ago and just try to build that up.


Yoni Mazor 43:21

That's your next big....That's your next, I guess route or next component of growth.


Yoni Mazor 43:27

I think video is where it's going to be at. It's a lot more work to produce the video and you're doing it right now with this podcast, right. But I think that's where it's...


Yoni Mazor 43:37

Who does the editing? You or you put it out?


Steve Chou 43:39

I have a VA in the Philippines that edits. She's awesome. I literally just throw a bunch of raw video over to her. 


Yoni Mazor 43:46

Yeah, that's a good dream. What's the name? Give a shout out.


Steve Chou 43:48

Oh, it’s uhhh Melissa. And I call her MJ. 


Yoni Mazor 43:51

Yeah, nice. MJ, so shout out to MJ. Keep up the good work. Okay, so YouTubing or video content is your next challenge that...and where do you want to take it to? What's it like? Is there a plan for it? Just you know, let's just rumble it, let it snowball see what we get?


Steve Chou 44:06

I don't really have a goal. So the way, the reason why, or I guess the number one benefit of running over the years has been that it's allowed me to meet a lot of people. Like all over the world, like we met through the blog. These days when I travel anywhere, I'm not traveling anywhere right now, by the way, but when I travel anywhere, I can just send out an email or a text or a message and say, Hey, I'm in this city right now. Anyone want to hang out for the day? And chances are there's someone I know in that place.


Yoni Mazor 44:34

That's awesome. I think I mentioned that. I mentioned the fact that it opens so many doors, just a great thing. You know, you open so many hearts that says just so beyond the money that you get rewarded as the human aspect of things that it's very rewarding. Okay, so that's on the blog, and I guess in the retailing and what's what's, what are you guys being challenged with right now? 


Steve Chou 44:53

Yeah, on the retail end, so we cater to the wedding and event industry. Oh, those industries are not doing well right now. So in March, I want to say March 16 was the lowest point in our business, I think it got slashed 50% at that time. And so at that point I went up to my wife and I said, Hey, we need to do something and change things around. And so, we've kind of pivoted our products. I mean, ultimately, our products are just fabric, right? So we've pivoted, we launched a new line of quarantine gifts. So basically, which have done really well. So we sell masks now. We also do embroidery, like funny, like quarantine type of sayings on our linens. And that sold really well. And for our wedding customers, people are slowly starting to get married again, or schedule their weddings. And so everything coupled with the fact that e-commerce is growing. So we're actually up now, since that low point in March. As I mentioned before, I think e-commerce is on the cusp of exploding, and it's good to lift all the boats in e commerce no matter what you sell.


Yoni Mazor 45:58

Wow, that' thing I'm sensing from my perspective is your ability to quickly pivot. And if the negatives come or the challenges come, you guys are able to stay flexible enough and rewind to reshift your purpose, so we make it all happen. We touched on the show itself that you guys pivoted but the ability to... Like you said, it was fabric. So it was in your flywheel just to create those masks and not only create a mask, which is kind of generic, you create some contents or some twist into it where it's funny, it's cute. So it's you know, it makes it trendy. So that carries you forward. And then I guess it will help you keep your head above water until, you know, people already started to say, you know this, this is still happening. It's quarantine, we have to keep continuing to live. So it's coming back to industry itself. But the fact that there's a new layer of e-commerce exploding, it's offsetting all the maybe per order quantities are less because people are ordering less because the events are not as grandiose or as big. But there's so many that are just forced to shop online. Even if with all these small events. I guess what I'm trying to say is more orders. Maybe price point is lower. But the influx of new orders..


Steve Chou 47:06

Actually that's like the big pivot that we made actually which made all the difference is my wife created this tutorial on how to turn a handkerchief into a mask...handkerchiefs are our primary to turn a handkerchief into a mask. And we started giving out free hankies like you make any order, we'll give you a free hanky and a mask tutorial kit essentially.


Yoni Mazor 47:27

Amazing. I'll be honest with you, full disclosure, my masks that are my favorite ones that I have are handkerchiefs, my wife took it...


Steve Chou 47:33

Wow really?


Yoni Mazor 47:34

Yeah she put the string. She sewed it in and made masks from it. So um, yeah, early on, because it's hard to get a mask like you know, a handkerchief sounds you know, I love my handkerchiefs, I just wanted to use it. 


Steve Chou 47:46

So that was a big pivot that made all the difference and then all the events stuff is recovering now so we're doing really well.


Yoni Mazor 47:53

So once again, what was the value proposition? You buy the…?


Steve Chou 47:58

We’ll just give you a free handkerchief and the tutorial on how to turn into a mask with any purchase.


Yoni Mazor 48:03

So what are you purchasing? You're purchasing wedding supplies or…?


Steve Chou 48:06

You purchase whatever you like. You purchase the handkerchiefs, we have really good designs, and you can make those into a mask and we'll also give you a free one just kind of like a drawing.


Yoni Mazor 48:15

Nice yeah, so I guess the loss leader just to get whatever you can we'll throw in something. 


Steve Chou 48:19

For the loss, those hankies are like 25 cents apiece.


Yoni Mazor 48:22

So no, on the psychological level, psychological level. Yes. Yeah, we were telling you for it's a $20-$25 value, you're giving it away. It's a no brainer, make it a win-win. Very cool. Once again, your ability to pivot, you and your work together as a team. It's from my perspective, it's, it's astonishing. I would like to adopt as much as I can from your experiences, I'm sensing that. I have my own share and experience of pivoting but whenever I see this kind of scope and skill and flexibility I admire that. So thank you for that. Okay, so we gotta get closing I guess you know, the whole background experience that you brought out there as far as I can see has been tremendous. It's pretty cool. And you doing it with some inner peace that's out there. I've been to China a few times. What I found interesting there was that it’s such a hustle bustle country, and they're doing things on a crazy magnitude level, but on the one on one like aspect of things. They seem to be calm, very calm. I know what it is. It's Zen. I'm not sure what it was generating from you know what that is? I see a lot of people in the morning meditating or doing the yoga, what are they doing in the morning? What is that?


Steve Chou 49:28

They're probably doing like Tai Chi or something like that.


Yoni Mazor 49:29

Tai Chi. There's something about this inner peace that you could do things on a grand scale, even though they're harder, they might be tedious, but I like those components. I try to adapt that as much as possible. But if you ask my team sometimes I don't keep the Zen and things I splashed out there. 


Steve Chou 49:46

You know what I think? They're, and we're generalizing here, but I find that a lot of Asians they're willing to do grunt work. And I think that's the difference. I always try to get my hands dirty. And I know certain people like they, they just want to focus on the higher level stuff, but you have to be willing to get dirty, so to speak. At some point in order to be more successful.


Yoni Mazor 50:11

Yeah, I more than connect. In my background, I used to be a soldier, I'm born and raised in Israel. So it wasn't the Israeli army, I actually was a Navy. So as a soldier, they strip away your, you know, you're not a citizen anymore, you're gonna grunt anything we tell you to grunt. So I have that, that ability I was, I'm very thankful for that experience. But when I went to China, I felt like I was in a different dimension, different level, I feel like whoa, I'm a little behind here, I better step out with my ability to grind, or to do anything. The ability to grind and face anything, I think, for business, especially with personal life, it's part of the site on a business level, like I said, because it's a battlefield, the ability to pivot quickly and to grind anything out, that's key to victory, you know, you're probably gonna be able to sustain your business for many, many years to come. You know, and I want to pull on this little thread and I’m giving you the stage for you to do two things, you know, give yourself you know, you know, share with the audience where they can find you if they want to learn more, or, you know, enter your community and join. And just, you know, ended up with a message of hope and resilience and our aspirations for any entrepreneurs listening to this episode.


Steve Chou 51:14

Yeah, you can just...the easiest way to find me is just to go over to I actually offer three FREE Mini courses, whether you want to start an e-commerce store or a blog, and you can just sign up for those for free.


Yoni Mazor 51:25

Nice. In that website?


Steve Chou 51:27

On that website. Yeah, right on the front page. Yeah.


Yoni Mazor 51:29

So you go into the website, You know, it's an ocean of content and knowledge based on more than 11 years. But like Steve mentioned, if you want to dive in deeper and start actually taking courses and learning that's available for you as well. So thank you for that. And I guess what's your message of, you know, inspiration for whoever's listening out there? 


Steve Chou 51:49

Yeah, the message of inspiration is, it's the best time to get started in e commerce right now. And as long as you stick with something long enough, you're probably going to be successful.


Yoni Mazor 51:59

And not. And let me add to that, don't be afraid of the grunt. Be ready to pivot. Don't quit your job until you have some numbers in your pocket. And if you don't have a job, and you have to invest money, do it wisely and carefully. And that's it, be ready for the long haul. And from Steve's, I guess, perspective, just tell yourself, you're gonna do this forever. So set things up. So you're comfortable doing it forever. And probably after a little while, you find that you climbed into a nice peak and some sort of achievement. And then you can take it from there. Awesome. So thanks, Steve, thank you so much for sharing your story. And, you know, being with us today, I learned a lot. I wish I had more time to poke into your experience, because it's, I feel like it's a wealth of knowledge. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. So thank you so much. Thank you, everybody, for listening. Again, I have a taste of more, but maybe we'll be able to get Steve again for next time. So take care everybody, stay safe, stay healthy. Til next time.


Steve Chou 52:56

Cool. Thanks for having


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