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The blog for ambitious founders.

My blog covers the MANY highs and lows of starting, scaling and selling my business for 7-figures, in just 4 years. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur then add your email below to get a new episode delivered every Wednesday.

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My failed business ideas. Driven by life, not need.

Always good for a morale boost when I do these blogs about mistakes and failures from my past. But, they also seem to be the most popular, so will park up my ego for another week and crack on.

This weeks blog is a demonstration of why you shouldn't just start a business doing something you love. Or something that life guides you to. Well, maybe you should, but only once you've double checked it with the market.

The market doesn't care how great an idea is, or how passionate you are about it. The market is blunt and unforgiving.

I wrote a blog a little while ago about the many failed business skeletons that I had in my closet (read it here). Until now I thought that they all failed because I did a bad job, or they were just a terrible idea.

But recently my wife made a comment.

"You realise all of the businesses you create are triggered by life events?"

I didn't really know what she meant. And I didn't ask at the time. But a few days later in sunk in.

Every crazy business idea I ever had in my past was driven by a big change in my life. Until I started Molzi, which was driven by a market need. And that's the only one that made me rich.

Give us some examples I hear you cry. Well of course, read on.

A new dog and new vegetable patch were a big influence.

Life event: Finishing school and all my friends going off to uni.

Company launched: Online brand of PC's and laptops aimed at students.

This one probably had a bit of market need. But it wasn't the reason I started All my friends were off to university. I wasn't. So I created a business that allowed me to hang out with students, but not have to do any studying.

Looking back on this, I had a huge opportunity to build a saleable business. But I had absolutely no business experience. I ended up selling after 18 months, but for a cool job, rather than a lump of cash.

Life event: A rubbish holiday to Fuerteventura.

Company launched: An online hotel booking site that only included good hotels.

I'm sure Fuerteventura is lovely. But the hotel we stayed in was not. Police regularly being called in, pesto & pasta for most meals, and a very loud lady selling Aloe Vera aftersun around the pool every day.

So I managed to drown out the aftersun pitch and think about how I could solve this huge problem.

Fast forward 2 weeks and The Good Holiday Co was live. I found a white label hotel booking platform that would let me set-up my own mini-Expedia. I would get a commission on all holiday sales. Initially my plan had been to restrict hotels to only 4 or 5 star in the filters, so that only good hotels could be booked. But we've all stayed in a terrible 4 star hotel haven't we.

So I noticed another filter on that platform. TripAdvisor rating. Perfect. So The Good Holiday Co was a hotel booking site that only showed properties that had at least a 4 star TripAdvisor rating. It meant that if hotels got worse they would drop out of search results, and as hotels improved they would appear.

I think the concept was good. but I'd given absolutely no thought to how I'd drive people to the site and actually monetise it.

To be honest, I don't think I even booked my own next holiday stay on there. It's life was short from concept to deactivation.

Life event: Bought a house and filled it with oak furniture.

Company launched: An online oak furniture brand.

Not sure why i can't just accept that there are people running businesses that I can just use, rather than try to copy. But anyway, we kitted out our new house with furniture from Oak Furniture Land.

I noticed that nowhere on the furniture was any branding. In fact, I couldn't recall any furniture I'd bought previously that was visually branded. But yet we all proudly wear clothes emblazoned with brand logos, our kitchen is a sea of Smeg's, Neff's and Miele's, but furniture never seemed to follow suit.

So of course I set out to create the first branded furniture range. Baby steps though, as I had no money to buy a container of furniture, so I found a drop shipper of wooden furniture. I photographed the items I wanted to sell so they would look different to the hundreds of other sellers on Google and..... then got bored and stopped.

Life event: Bought a house with a large vegetable patch.

Company launched: An online vegetable seed retailer.

Not sure I need to explain this one. I think you get the gist by now.

I found a white label supplier of vegetable seeds. I ordered a load of stock with my own branding on.

I spent bloody ages making a web store with each of the 40(!!!!!!) varieties on, including sowing instructions, recipe ideas etc.

Then went live, got a few orders and quickly got bored of having to take the parcels to the Post Office.

Most of those seeds ended up in my garden and my parents garden.

Life event: We got a dog.

Company launched: A online brand of dog accessories.

The best thing about this business was the brand and domain (probably available again by now).

I looked on Alibaba and dog accessories were dirt cheap to manufacture. I could order small MOQ's and airfreight them over with my branding on.

I found local suppliers that could white label accessories and dog food in the short term and got them listed on the site.

Again, I spent so long getting the site launched and the product pages readied, but never actually tried to find customers.

Really odd. Not sure if it was a 10-15 year break down I was having because I was so miserable in my job.

But there was one more before the one that worked. Well actually, one more that turned into the one that worked.

Life event: We had a baby.

Company launched: An Amazon only brand of baby accessories.

BongoBelly (another cracking brand name and domain I think you'll agree).

Having spent the last few years of my career working closely with Amazon, I could see the enormous opportunity for brands to be created on Amazon, rather than trying to make it work alongside an expensive retail channel.

So I bit the bullet and quit my job to set-up BongoBelly.

The problem was I had no real savings to pay the bills and buy the stock, so alongside BongoBelly I set up a sales consulting business called Molzi.

Over the first 6 months of doing Molzi, I did something I hadn't done in any of the above businesses. I listened to the market. The market was screaming for someone to take Amazon problems away. Not to create my own brand, but to help other people with theirs. I've since learned this business model is called an agency and I didn't invent it.

3.5 years later and Molzi sold for millions.

So why did this one work?

The idea wasn't better. In fact, the idea was binned after 6 months.

  1. I quit my job, so had to make it work.

  2. I listened to what the market wanted.

So that would be the message of this blog.

Side hustles are a good way to test. But until you have to make a business work it likely won't. And by all means follow your passions, but make sure you consult the market along the way.

As for me, I certainly won't be making the same mistakes again.

Life event: Sold my company.

Company launched: Site to help people sell their company.



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