2 months ago · 46 minute read
Amish Shah is an entrepreneur who has launched half a dozen ventures, going back to his early 20’s.
His resume includes:
- CEO/Founder of Deep Origins
- Founder of Bitzio (Acquired)
- Founder of Magic Bullet System ($12M Launch)
- Founder of Digispace (2x Inc 500 Winner)
As you can see, Amish has taken several of his companies from launch to sale. What makes Amish’s story interesting is that most of these businesses started as small side hustles, only later growing to make substantial cash flow.
He started “messing around” with online marketing after being exposed to the internet through a corporate gig at AOL. Before long, his curiosity and hard work enabled him to earn $30/day . . . then $100/day . . . then $300/day online, all while still working his job. Eventually, his side businesses outpaced his regular income and he went out on his own.
The “real” story of Amish Shah is much more interesting than can be described here. Amish’s life has included mansions, Ferraris and Maseratis but also a personal quest for using his talent to do meaningful work.
Listen to this episode as Amish tells us about the ups and downs of his personal story, sparing little detail. We think you’ll learn from the simplicity of his approach to starting and scaling a business, and his unique philosophy on travel, earning income and balancing family life.
**PLEASE NOTE that this episode of the Opt Out Life podcast was the first, and only, episode recorded in our old studio. The equipment we were using was not the best. Meaning what? Well, the audio on this recording could be better. It’s not horrible, and you can still easily hear our conversation. We decided to publish this episode despite its audio flaws (our fault!) because Amish’s story is truly one of the most entertaining “opt out” tales you’re going to hear. Please enjoy it and check out all of our other episodes . . . in high definition, fancy studio audio quality.
Nate Broughton: So bear with us with this one. All the future ones will be in high definition, and here’s Amish.
Nate Broughton: This episode of the Opt Out Life podcast from our studios in sunny San Diego, California, is the Opt Out Life story of Amish Shah.
Announcer: Welcome to the Opt Out Life podcast, the no-BS guide to living a modern, good life. Hosted by subversive millionaires Dana Robinson and Nate Broughton, the Opt Out Life podcast explains exactly how creative hustles or turning side gigs into real income and taking back control of their time. From their studio in sunny San Diego, the Opt Out Life welcomes guests who are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, travelers, and creatives who are proof that you can choose a lifestyle over money, but still make money too.
Announcer: If you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, running the rat race, or stuck in a system that’s rigged against you, we’d like to offer you an alternative here, on the Opt Out Life podcast.
Nate Broughton: Today we’re going to hear from our friend Amish Shah. Amish is an entrepreneur who has launched half a dozen ventures, going back to his early 20s. Amish has taken several of his companies from launch to sales. Most of his businesses started as small side hustles that later grew to make substantial cash flow. His curiosity and hard work enabled him to live a better life, buy a home, and eventually quit his job.
Nate Broughton: He’ll tell us about the ups and downs of his personal story, sparing little detail. Amish’s life has included mansions, Ferraris, and Maseratis, but also a personal quest for his talent to do meaningful work. Listen as Amish gives details of his successes and failures. I think you’ll learn from the simplicity of his approach to starting and scaling a business, and his unique philosophy on travel, earning income, and balancing it with family life. Let’s listen as Amish shares his experience in living the Opt Out Life.
Dana Robinson: One of the things that I think is always interesting is not necessarily get your resume, but to ask you how you first got into business.
Amish Shah: Yeah, so it’s funny. I think I started when I was pretty young. We grew up in a not so wealthy family, and so I had to figure out a way to make money to make ends meet for the family. So I started off super young delivering newspapers, shoveling snow, mowing lawns, the regular kid stuff. And that progressed to selling candy in school and selling Christmas cards door to door. I actually did that one for a while.
Nate Broughton: Don’t hear that one too often.
Amish Shah: Yeah, you know the ones where you could get points and you could exchange that for cash or get prizes? I used to do that.
Amish Shah: So I started, I guess, when I was a little younger, and my mom also always told me, “You should own a business. You never want to work for anybody.”
Dana Robinson: Let me break in here for a minute and ask you the question. A lot of us did this, mowing lawns, going door to door, hustling and selling things as kids. And I noticed it’s a theme among a lot of entrepreneurs. What about you, Nate, did you do these things?
Nate Broughton: I actually did not. I must have been too busy playing sports when I was younger. The entrepreneurial bug didn’t bite me until after elementary or high school or something like that.
Dana Robinson: So maybe it’s cultural mythology that all of the successful entrepreneurs were out mowing lawns when they were kids, because I think you’re a more successful entrepreneur than I am, and you weren’t mowing lawns like Amish and I were.
Dana Robinson: But there’s something to be said, there’s a theme among entrepreneurs that most of us were hustling at a young age. What about-
Nate Broughton: I think he mentioned his mom always pushing him in that direction, and I think as soon as you have an example, a parental figure or a mentor who shines the light on that, is when it happened for me. It just didn’t happen til later. My dad and I were just too busy playing catch in the yard or something, so … it’s when that moment happens that I think it gets turned on. And for a lot of us and for a lot of our friends, it definitely happened at a young age, like with Amish, as he tells us.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, so there’s always an opportunity to flip that switch, don’t you think?
Nate Broughton: Yeah, no, for sure.
Dana Robinson: At any stage of life.
Nate Broughton: As soon as you listen to the Opt Out podcast.
Amish Shah: She didn’t force me into it, but she would silently drop little nuggets along the way, ’cause they saw how their life was.
Dana Robinson: Did your mom own a business?
Amish Shah: No. My parents tried a business and failed miserably. They opened up an auto parts accessories store, and after four years, it went, gone. Not that we had the money to support it anyway, so it was even worse when we got rid of it.
Amish Shah: I think that’s where I probably got started with it, and then I did the college thing, and while I was in college, I was working for corporate companies. So I worked for America Online, [SPC 00:05:01], Morgan Stanley, Campbell Soup, Compaq when it was Compaq, which is now HP. And so I did that for four or five years, on and off, throughout college.
Amish Shah: And I remember when I was at America Online, and this was probably 2002-ish, I was like, hey. These guys make a lot of money doing stuff on the internet. I have Yahoo and I read the news, and that’s what it was back then. I shop on eBay, and that’s what it was back then. So I said, all right. Well, I kind of understood their marketing campaigns. I had to analyze their marketing campaigns, that was my job, so I was just looking at them, like … These guys make money hand over fist on some of these campaigns! There must be a smaller way I can go about doing this, right?
Amish Shah: So the easiest thing for me to start looking into was SEO.
Nate Broughton: I think it’s interesting here that Amish mentions taking what he was seeing at his job at America Online and some of those other corporate gigs and wondering, how are these guys making money? And going out and trying to figure it out for himself. I think it’s that curiosity that’s unique among entrepreneurs and people who end up opting out, to wonder how this works and being able to fight through the hurdles of figuring out how it does in fact work. He didn’t just wonder that and then go about his day, he actually tried to figure out how he could deploy the same tactics that they were using to make money online.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, and I think of all the people that want to leave their jobs, the people who are listening to us, people who read my book and want to opt out. You want to get out of that job, but you know what? The job can provide a great platform for learning. If you start looking at things differently, instead of this is just a job, start thinking, what can I learn from this job that’s going to empower me, that’s going to give me a skill or some unique aspect that’s going to help me make money for myself when I can leave?
Amish Shah: ‘Cause I can build a website and I can probably just go put some links on a bunch of other websites, and maybe I’ll rank for a term. And I wasn’t trying to go super big, pie in the sky back then. So what I did was, I was listening for trends on the radio and on TV and what people are talking about, and back then it was Lost, the TV show Lost. And it was Lost season 2 at that time. So I created a website called lostseason2.com.
Amish Shah: And sure enough, it was a good domain, obviously, because people were typing it into Google and I built some back links and I was on the first page for Lost season 2. So I was getting a ton of traffic … Well, not a ton. In that time, what I thought was a ton. And I had Netflix banners and eBay banners and things like that, and I was making $20-30 a day. And I was like, wow.
Nate Broughton: So around here, Amish is talking about putting up some websites, making them rank with SEO, and making money via Google’s AdSense program. And it’s the classic side gig narrative, where he was curious about something, he started playing with it, and it starts to make meaningful money. And his reaction is to keep hustling, keep his day job, not go off and raise money and start some business to scale it up. But come home at night, put in the extra hours, and see how much more of this he can do. See if it’s possible to take this from $30 a day to $300 a day.
Amish Shah: Kind of cool, put AdSense on there, and it added up to about $20-30 a day. I was like, whoa. I can make an extra $10-30 a day, and what does that mean? If I do more of this, I could probably build 1,000 websites and make each one make $20 each, that’s a lot of money per day!
Amish Shah: So that’s why I started doing it. I was like, I’m going to have a goal to crank out one of these websites every four days. And so I did it, and I would stay up. I would work at my job at America Online, and then I’d get back from my job and then I would work on this for the next four or five hours while watching TV and eating dinner and just trying to figure out a way to double what I did the day before, two days before.
Amish Shah: And that slowly started to grow. It wasn’t anything that was like, oh my god, earth-shattering type of money. But I got up to $40 a day, and then $50 a day, and I was like, all right, this is cool, side money. A side gig. That’s kind of like, okay, I’ve got a little side gig going on, and now I can eat at some fancy restaurant with my girlfriend at the time. And that’s it, what else could I do?
Nate Broughton: All right, Amish says here that he committed the cardinal sin and bought a home. He was banging off his student loans effectively and under, perhaps, pressure from his parents or his family or what he thought was just the next step in his life and in his career. And he purchased a home. And very quickly, the story goes from feeling free and having side income to go out to dinner with his girlfriend, to feeling locked down and having a lot of pressure on himself. And quite literally wondering, how do people do this? He’s got a job and side income and all of a sudden, he feels broke.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. You can see a lot of different pressures here at work. The idea that he asked the question, how do normal people do this? Because he’s playing into something that he doesn’t realize is at work here, and that is that he’s internalized a certain cultural expectation that in order to be successful, he needs to buy a home. He actually has overt external pressure directly from the family, saying if you’re successful, you need to own a home. And once he does, he realizes that the impact is exactly the opposite. He ends up with less freedom and less happiness.
Dana Robinson: A lot of people end up with these kind of decisions pervading their live, and that is what prevents people from opting out. They need to be able to make a decision to leave a job in the face of pressure from family that say, “You shouldn’t leave your good job. You shouldn’t leave that 401k.” The same thing goes for buying a house.
Nate Broughton: And this is where our boy Amish doesn’t let it get him down, and he says, “How did I get in this position? I wasn’t in it that long ago, and I don’t want to end up like my parents. I don’t want to have to go get my MBA, I don’t want to have to kiss the boss’s ass and climb up the corporate ladder.” So he decides to double down on his side gig and on the potential he sees with internet marketing by doing more research, spending more time in forums, and testing more stuff online, as he sees that as the path to get him out of this poor decision that he just made.
Amish Shah: And then I bought a home during this whole entire process.
Dana Robinson: And you’re still working at your corporate job at this point.
Amish Shah: Yes. And I had this side gig that was producing a little bit of extra money, and I was like, oh, cool. I paid off my student loans and this was during … This was 2004-5-ish. I was like, I’m going to buy a home ’cause in my culture …I’m Indian, so my parents were like, “You must buy a home! Invest your money wisely, you must do this right thing!” I was like, all right, fine.
Amish Shah: So I bought a home, and before I knew it, I was broke as shit. I didn’t have any money. At the end of the month, I was like, what should I eat? And I had to go grocery shopping and just start lowering my costs all around everything I was used to. And I was like, “This isn’t right.” I thought owning a home is supposed to be freedom, and meanwhile, I’m locked down now.
Amish Shah: I didn’t like the position I was in, because even though I had the side gig and I had a job, my house was still almost difficult to afford. And I was like, what the hell? How do normal people even do this? How do … It’s like the struggle, and I’m not going to live in the struggle, I’m not going to end … I told myself, I don’t want to end up like how my parents ended up.
Dana Robinson: Welcome to the rat race.
Amish Shah: Yeah, exactly. And I was like, oh my god, that means I have to get my masters, I have to get my MBA, I have to climb up the corporate ladder, I gotta fucking kiss everyone’s ass, I gotta do this shit that I don’t want to ever do and pretend I’m someone who I’m not. That’s really what it came down to, and so I continued down this affiliate marketing eBay kind of thing.
Amish Shah: And sure enough, I was still working my job, and I stumbled upon something called arbitrage, and really big affiliate marketing types of stuff. So to cut it really short, I scraped eBay’s database of their top sellers, signed up for their affiliate program, and drew traffic through Google, through the affiliate program, to their website. So if a top seller was Clorox bleach, then I bid on Clorox bleach and said “save 10% on Clorox bleach” and it would go to eBay. That actually did pretty good for a while.
Dana Robinson: Did that enable you to quit your job?
Amish Shah: That specifically, no. But it was good income, because what I told myself was, I need at least a year to two years, at least two years of money in the bank before I quit my job. So if worse comes to worst and I can’t get this thing to work, I can live in my means and still have a two year runway for me to figure my life out. And if I need, I’ll go back to corporate America and I’ll do that. So I was hustling.
Amish Shah: Somewhere in between this, I jumped ship to Morgan Stanley, so I was in New York City and I was working there. I started advertising heavier on Google. Now it got to the point where I was making $2,000-$3,000 a day, and I was doing arbitrage, I was doing affiliate programs, I was doing CPA marketing.
Dana Robinson: Amish is talking about the idea that he needed to save two years’ worth of expenses and have that in the bank before he made the leap. That makes me think of all the people who have something in their mind about how much they need to have in order to choose to pursue your passion, to start a business. The interesting thing about our approach, the opting out, is there really isn’t a fixed number. That varies a lot depending on where you’re at in your life, whether you’re single or have a family.
Dana Robinson: What we really want people to do is consider scaling their life in a way that’s smooth. Sometimes there’s going to need to be a clean break where you say I quit, and you’re going to need savings to survive on what you do, the next thing. But I encourage people to start a side gig, get that side gig producing real, meaningful money for them, and then that’s going to give you the freedom to make the decision. And so there’s not some fixed number that you need to have saved up before you can make a decision to do what you really want to do.
Amish Shah: It wasn’t really anything sustainable, I just knew that it was good money and I just kept doing it. So I was advertising on Google, and back then, MySpace, if you guys remember MySpace.
Dana Robinson: Oh yeah.
Amish Shah: I was buying banners for ringtones on MySpace. And so I was doing all kinds of stuff to figure out ways to make money. Mother’s Day came around, we could probably make $30,000 that month. But then the month after would be nothing. So it was a very fickle game, I didn’t understand, I needed something more long-term. So that’s when I started arbitrage.
Amish Shah: And arbitrage is probably not the best business. It’s very difficult, you need a lot of data. It’s basically, how’s the best way to explain it? I buy traffic from Google and sell it back to Google.
Nate Broughton: You’re taking advantage of an inefficiency that’s there currently. It might not be there forever.
Amish Shah: Yeah, exactly. And so I did that, and I was very successful. And now I’m hitting $3,000-5,000 a day. My net wasn’t as big as I wanted it to be, but I was still making $3,000-5,000 a day. And I was still working my corporate job. And it just got to the point where my margins were getting bigger, like $1,000 a day. And I was like, wow. $700 that day. Holy shit, this means $700 in a day profit. And that just started compounding.
Nate Broughton: Oftentimes when Amish is talking about the money he’s making on some of these affiliate campaigns and his internet marketing websites, he is talking about gross income. So $2,000-3,000 a day, that’s gross. There are hard costs associated with that, and I just wanted to clarify that for listeners, so you don’t think he’s putting that in his pocket every day as a side gig income.
Amish Shah: And when I was going to Morgan Stanley, I would literally leave during lunch, go to FedEx Kinkos, work on my business for two hours, and then go back to work. And I was like, you know what? Let them fire me. I would show up late, I would miss meetings, I’m like, let them fire me, because I am good right now! I had no care. And they would not fire me.
Amish Shah: So about two to three months of me doing this, I just walked up, and I was like, yeah, it’s done. So I told them and they made me stay a little bit longer. Longer than I wanted to, and I did that. And sure enough, this was probably three to four years after grinding. Like, literally grinding my ass off. Waking up, building websites, going to sleep, building websites. Everything was just, how do I get there, how do I get there, how do I get there? And then I finally hit that spot where I could just say, I’m out. I’m out.
Nate Broughton: How much were you … Were you figuring this out on your own, trial and error, but were you engaging with any forums or communities online to figure this stuff out?
Amish Shah: So forums were super helpful. My affiliate network that was working with was super helpful to meet other people.
Nate Broughton: Did you find all that stuff on your own, or [inaudible 00:17:22]? How would you even know what affiliate marketing was? Just curiosity?
Amish Shah: Oh, kind of on my own. Yeah, just researching. Literally I think my first search might have been “how to make money online”, and then back then, there was a program. There was an ebook called Google Cash by Chris Carpenter. This was from 2002 or 2003 when I bought the ebook, and it taught you about affiliate marketing and commission junction and some of this other kind of stuff.
Amish Shah: And then everyone’s like, “Well, affiliate marketing’s cool, but you have to own your own product to make the real money.” So then I created an ebook and then I started selling how I used to do affiliate marketing. And so that became the side gig to the side gig that I thought was my now main gig.
Dana Robinson: And did you have people working for you, or was this just all you, working from home?
Amish Shah: Majority of it was, 99% of it was all me. Things I couldn’t figure out, I would outsource, like programming, trying to make nicer graphics. I can make okay graphics, but I’m not a graphic designer. So I would outsource those two things, ’cause I could figure out how to write things, I could figure out how to connect things. I could figure out how to drive traffic. The basics, the really hard stuff. But I’m not good at graphics or programming. I can tinker my way, I can build a website, but I can’t figure out how to make a program talk to another program.
Nate Broughton: And you’re smart enough to figure out solutions to that. That probably keeps half the people in the world from doing this sort of stuff, ’cause they [crosstalk 00:18:37]-
Amish Shah: Hustle and learn. It’s all about education. I just bombarded myself with as much education to learn how to do the next step.
Dana Robinson: So what you’re saying is you had the skills to do most of what you did, but you were smart about not doing everything if you could hand off to someone who could do programming better or graphics better.
Amish Shah: Yeah, yeah. In the beginning, because cash flow was tight, I was trying to quit my job and I wanted my goal of getting twice as much in the bank before I quit my job. When you’re working a full-time job and you don’t know the outcome, I was still living my life in the means as if I had only a full-time job. Sure enough, I was paying off the loans I took out for furniture for my new house, and my car loan, my house mortgage. I was trying to … Back then, if you remember, they were giving two mortgages to everyone. So everyone would get qualified.
Dana Robinson: Yeah.
Amish Shah: So it was always like, here’s your second mortgage! And the second mortgage was at prime, so I was just trying to pay that down as far as possible. I was smart with my money back then. There’s a later story where I wasn’t so smart, but yeah. That’s how it started.
Dana Robinson: And then what was the next big business thing that came to you after you were on your own, you got some side gigs on side gigs. How did you get big?
Nate Broughton: Moved to San Diego, baby.
Amish Shah: So, that’s a piece of it. I was probably doing anywhere between $600,000-700,000 to 123-ish for many years. From probably 2005 to 2008, that was probably my main … That was the bracket I was in, and I was happy with that. I was like, hey, cool. I have a million dollars coming in, I don’t even know what I’m doing, but shit, it’s making money. Let it keep printing money that it’s doing.
Amish Shah: And again, I only had two or three employees, but I realized I needed something long-term. So that’s when I hired a programmer, and I was like, “Hey, I want to develop software for all these campaigns that I’m running. I can’t even track how many campaigns I’m running.” And all these spreadsheets and all these databases and I’m crunching numbers, and I wanted software to help automate just some of the process.
Amish Shah: So I hired a programmer, and around that time when I moved to San Diego-
Nate Broughton: See?
Amish Shah: -2007, 2008.
Dana Robinson: Moving to San Diego is always a piece of everyone’s success.
Amish Shah: Yeah, I’m trying to get sponsored by the visitor’s bureau or something.
Nate Broughton: We should totally do that.
Amish Shah: Yes.
Nate Broughton: Notice that this is the first point in Amish’s story where he talks about lifestyle, making a decision based purely on lifestyle. But I think it’s important to note that he’s only able to do that after several years grinding on a side gig, getting to a point where it’s profitable enough to make it a full-time thing, and then he can sit around and have the freedom to look and find a place where he wants to live and design a life that is more in line with his principles and the people he wants to be around.
Amish Shah: Make it entrepreneur heaven.
Dana Robinson: Got it.
Nate Broughton: Already is!
Amish Shah: It already is, you’re right. I moved to San Diego just because of the lifestyle here. I realized growing up on the East Coast, it’d get cold. People are just mean. People are just generally more depressed and pissed off. Look, I get it. There’s regions, there’s weather, there’s just reasons to be mad. But I came to the East Coast and I’m like, holy crap. There’s sunshine, there’s waves, and everyone’s smiling. Is this normal?
Nate Broughton: Right.
Amish Shah: And the food I eat is from the farm next door? No, this is not in America. This can’t be America. It felt like paradise, literally. All right, so let me live in paradise for a couple months and see what it’s like.
Amish Shah: And so of course, I hired a programmer from San Diego, and so then I was like, “Oh, let me just spend three months with him, and I’m going to teach him our business and he’s going to start programming.” So I did that, and then I moved, eventually. And it was that year that my business doubled. So I went from about $1 million to $2.5 million. It was all through affiliate marketing, CPA marketing specifically, and we were selling all kinds of stuff. I’m not going to get into details.
Amish Shah: And CPA marketing is just … I’ll put it this way, it’s a shady game. I actually wasn’t proud of what we were selling, and I needed an out. So I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of thinking, what should I do? So what’s so interesting is that year, I met someone in San Diego and I made him 50% business partner. And in hindsight, I think that was a bad idea, and I think I was just looking for companionship or a partner or someone to throw ideas against, because here I was, a lone wolf for six or seven years, and I just hated being alone in my little bat cave, not being able to talk to anyone about what I actually did for a living.
Nate Broughton: So here in San Diego, Amish decides to take on his first partner. He’s been a lone wolf working in the bat cave for several years, and he talks about wanting that camaraderie and also that sounding board to bounce ideas off of. And meeting a person who is running a lot of the same campaigns that he was and deciding to make that leap into forming a business partnership. It’s the first time he’s done this, and he even says that his gut tell him that perhaps he shouldn’t be doing it. And it’s interesting, that it’s a point in his journey where things take a bit of a shift.
Amish Shah: And again, everything in hindsight, and the one thing about that I’ll mention is I should’ve listened to my gut, because my gut was wrenching at me, “Don’t sign the agreement, don’t sign the agreement!” But my logic was like, “Oh, dude, you gotta do this. It’s cool, it’s going to be fun. You’re in San Diego now, it’s a new life. And he’s from the East Coast too, you guys are like brothers from another mother!” I’m like, oh, he’s my boy! So I sign on the dotted line.
Amish Shah: And sure enough, you know what? The next year, we did $5.5 million, $5.6 million. Because our software was getting more sophisticated. So he was building the same exact software that I was building, and he was promoting the same exact campaigns that I was promoting, so we figured that if we combined forces, we could do double the damage. And sure enough, we did it.
Amish Shah: So we did $5.6 million the next year, all through affiliate and CPA marketing. We started an affiliate network. And so it was really kind of cool, we were onto something really amazing. And the software that we had was the key to everything. It was super intelligent, it configured our bids for Google. And back then, wasn’t Bing Microsoft and Yahoo, and we were advertising on those three big engines. Even some of the third party engines that were big back then, like [Miva 00:24:49] and some of these other smaller players. We were advertising everywhere, just making money hand over fist. It was awesome, and our software was just getting more and more intelligent.
Amish Shah: Again, what happened about a year after that is the FTC came cracking down on everybody. It was just slapping everyone up and down, the whole entire affiliate marketing game was … They were just cracking down because people were doing weird things like using Dr. Oz and celebrities and stuff, saying that their products were bought by these celebrities, and anyway. Long story short, they just did a big crackdown on that whole entire world, and I was like, I want no part of this CPA affiliate marketing stuff.
Amish Shah: And so we started to slowly back out of that world because it just wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth the … If everyone else gets screwed, you’re kind of jumbled in that whole entire mix somehow. So we started pulling away, and we realized, okay. What do we do next? And our biggest asset was the software. And it was just around that time that we met a gentleman by the name of Frank Kern. Some people may be familiar with him, some people not.
Dana Robinson: He’s a legend.
Amish Shah: Yeah. He’s like a marketing legend. Anyway, we lived in La Jolla, across the street from each other.
Nate Broughton: See, San Diego.
Amish Shah: See, San Diego. There you go.
Dana Robinson: You can thank San Diego.
Amish Shah: And he’s like, “Dude.” Around this time I bought a Maserati, and he’s like, “What do you do, man?” And I was like, “I do affiliate marketing, man. I have a piece of software that automates our campaigns.” He’s like, “I don’t understand. What do you do? You don’t have a product?” And I’m like, “No, we don’t have a product, we just sign up for affiliate networks, drive traffic to the offer, and then we make money.” He’s like, “Okay …” And I was like, “What do you do?” He’s like, “I sell information products.” I’m like, “The fuck is an information product?” He’s like, “Oh, it’s just a PDF.” I’m like, “You sell people PDFs?! I really don’t understand what you’re talking about.” Okay, whatever.
Amish Shah: And back then, we’re just surf buddies. We’re like, all right, let’s go surfing. We both made money online. Hey, we both make money! So was asking him, he was like, “Can you show me that software?” One day we just sat down, he’s like, “Can you show me the software?” I’m like, yeah. He’s like, “Dude, why don’t you sell this software to people?” I’m like, “But do you think people would understand how to use this thing? It’s kind of in our own language and format,” and it was very technical. And he’s like, “Dude, people would go crazy over this. How much money did you make with this software?” And so I ran a report in the software and it came out to $5.5 million, $6 million or something.
Amish Shah: He’s like, “What the … You made $6 million with this software?” I’m like, yeah. And he’s like, “Damn, that’s crazy. We should sell this thing.” I was like, “Okay, how do we do that?” And so then we went into selling that particular software. We configured it to sell to the public market. Specifically to people who want to start online businesses.
Dana Robinson: I think it’s really interesting that Amish has been able to spend most of his career, at this point, without what we’d consider a real scalable business. He’s doing side gigs and he’s making a really good living, he’s getting a great lifestyle, he’s got the freedom to make choices to live where he wants and do what he wants. And now he’s going to double down. He’s going to pick one of those ventures and get a partner and scale it up and have a business.
Dana Robinson: And I focus on this in the book. There’s a big difference between a business and a side gig. And businesses are fantastic, and I advocate owning them, and they can be those things that make way more money than you could ever imagine. But they come with the downside as well. Some of the downside includes, you’ll need to manage your partner. It includes having staff and payroll and obligations in an office, and people who require your attention all the time. There’s a big pivot that Amish makes, and it comes with some … a lot of fun. And it also comes with some downside as we’ll learn. Wow.
Amish Shah: $3.5 million of that in an hour and a half. The first hour and a half we opened the doors, we had created so much demand and pent up so much demand in industry that people were just like, it was slowing down the site and people were just … It was just crazy.
Nate Broughton: And it was a $5,000 product? $3,000?
Amish Shah: It was a $3,000 product for a year’s access to the membership and the software. Yeah, we just crushed it. And so that became the new business. That was the new business. We were like, okay. So I moved away from CPA and affiliate marketing and used our largest asset to now use it and sell to other people. Another market that may be interested in what you were doing.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, so pretty big pivot.
Amish Shah: Huge pivot. Around that time, we also launched the affiliate network, and that was coupled with the software too. So it was like, you’re going to get automatic offers inserted into your pages through our affiliate network. So that was kind of cool.
Nate Broughton: And this was around the time that I met you, actually.
Amish Shah: Yes.
Nate Broughton: You were living in that sick-ass house on the hill, on the hillside, La Jolla. I had seen some of your stuff online, I was like, I want to be friends with that dude, ’cause he lives in San Diego, he did what I wanted to. And we went to your office downtown, you had staff in there that was running [inaudible 00:29:42] the network, I think. But in general, you were chilling, pretty much. You weren’t working too hard after that.
Amish Shah: No, I wasn’t working too hard. I was more of the face of the product, and the visionary, so I was helping the team design the software and what to put in the software. And then they would go execute. But something happened. I don’t know what happened, but something happened during that time.
Amish Shah: A lot of that internet marketing world is built on hype, fancy cars, partying.
Dana Robinson: Nightclubs.
Amish Shah: Nightclubs, limos.
Dana Robinson: Conferences.
Amish Shah: Private jets, conferences, speaking. It’s such a crazy different world than what I was used it, which was being in my bat cave. And the affiliate world is also kind of like that too, so I got more involved in these conferences, and I was like, I’m going to Affiliate Summit, and I’m going to this and I’m going to this internet marketing seminar! And that lifestyle just caught up to me super fast. Ferrari, Maserati, Audi, a freaking house on the hill and 5,000 square feet with a pool on the roof and a theater in the basement.
Nate Broughton: Theater in the basement, yeah.
Amish Shah: Going to parties, clubbing at $3,000-5,000 tables, and just … Stupidity was vomiting out of me. That’s how much I was spending money. And it was crazy. I had a blast. We rented 120 foot yachts with helicopters, and it was the most ignorant and awesome time of my life. Ignorant because it was just stupidity of how much money we wasted, but awesome because I don’t think I would ever do that … I don’t know when I would ever have that experience in my life, to be honest with you.
Dana Robinson: If you had the money again, you wouldn’t use it the same way.
Amish Shah: No, never. No.
Nate Broughton: Because he’s done it once.
Amish Shah: Exactly, exactly.
Nate Broughton: It’s hard to …
Amish Shah: I don’t think I could do that again. But what happened was the lifestyle caught up to me and I got really sick, actually. And it was kind of like a big wake-up call, and my wife got pregnant around the same time. And me and my business partner were at each other’s throats, we were being sued by Microsoft, we were being … I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that. Being sued by Microsoft-
Dana Robinson: We’ll check the legal documents.
Nate Broughton: You can find it online.
Amish Shah: It’s on Wikipedia, yeah. So Microsoft v. Shah. And anyway, my life was imploding. Every brick that I had laid was destroyed. I had fallen into depression, and I was super depressed. I hated my life, I was semi-suicidal at this point. I was overweight, it was crazy. Probably like the bottom of the bottom of the bottom that I had ever been in my life, to the point where every day I would wake up and say, “I hate my life.”
Dana Robinson: It’s pretty hard to believe that somebody in Amish’s position could find themselves so unhappy. Most of us perceive that money is going to make us happy, but what we find is money makes us happy when it buys our freedom. Freedom to do what you want when you want, like Amish had. As soon as he loses that, then it doesn’t matter how successful he is. He no longer has the freedom that he wants.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, and it’s almost sad to hear him say he hates his life at this point, but his story takes a quick turn for the better when he gets back to the basics of what he was doing earlier with his business life.
Amish Shah: And so I just started getting rid of everything. I started to purge as much as I could slowly over time. It took me many years to get over the ego of the fact that I had the money to do things. But I just eventually just started purging all this crap out of my life. So it was a self-discovery process, but also I think I forgot who I was and what I was and what I stood for, and my values were mixed in with partying and stuff.
Amish Shah: And so I didn’t really know who I was. And so I went on this mission just to get super healthy and super clear on what I wanted to do. Somewhere along that line, I started an app company, because I saw my other company starting to slowly go away. Problems with my partner, lawsuits from companies, and people are quitting, employees are getting bad morale. I just saw what was coming, so I started an app company. And I was like, hey, let me just build an app using this builder. See what happens.
Nate Broughton: The same way that you started building stuff 10 years prior, right?
Amish Shah: Exactly. And sure enough, I noticed that hey, one app makes me a couple bucks a day. What if I throw a couple thousand at the store and do that? So what’d I end up doing? I threw a couple hundred apps at the store, and they all stuck, and before I knew it, I was making $10-15 … I think I got up to $15,000-20,000 a month, and then one month I had gotten up to really, really high, like over $100,000. And it was like … It was random and it was unpredictable again. It was a little unpredictable because it was like, some apps would be good or they had a really short life. They had really, really short lifespans. And some of them had bigger lifespans.
Nate Broughton: And they were all free apps that you were-
Amish Shah: Yeah, they were all free apps, yeah. Monetized by … And some of them were paid, actually.
Nate Broughton: Yeah?
Amish Shah: Yeah, some of them were paid, actually. But they were all informational based apps, so it was like, Las Vegas guide. Laptop buyer’s guide. Beyonce lyrics.
Nate Broughton: And how would you monetize?
Amish Shah: AdSense.
Nate Broughton: AdSense?
Amish Shah: Yeah. I think at that time, AdSense was built into apps so you could monetize them.
Nate Broughton: So it was just a replay of SEO-ing sites in 2004, like straight up.
Amish Shah: That’s what it was. I pictured the Apple store as a search engine.
Nate Broughton: Right. The time was right ’cause it was new. Play the same playground.
Amish Shah: Right around 2010 or ’11 that I got started. ’10-ish.
Dana Robinson: And you’d exited your previous company at this point? Is this your new main thing, or you running everything in parallel?
Amish Shah: I was running it in parallel. This is while things were going down, and I saw the thing coming. And it’s so funny. I had two bad businesses back to back, and this was what destroyed me. It crushed me. [crosstalk 00:35:24]
Dana Robinson: Here, Amish is telling us about selling his company to a public company. What he did is took two businesses that he’d been running, put them together, and then sold them to a public company. And he took public stock in exchange for that. But he couldn’t sell the public stock, so he’s sitting on millions of dollars worth of stock that he can’t sell. And now he’s trusting the people that bought his business to make it big and make it so that he can sell his stock eventually and take all that money off the table.
Dana Robinson: Unfortunately, he didn’t sell to buyers that turned out to be competent with the business, and the business begins to slide. He realizes this, and luckily his agreement provides that he can pull some of the intellectual property assets back out of the business. He’s able to do that, and then take those assets and then redeploy them into a more Amish-style business and save the day.
Amish Shah: … knew that the software was making money for me, so I marketed the software that was building the apps for me. Again, similar to what I did with the magic bullet system in the affiliate world. So then I marketed that software all by webinars, all with affiliate partners, and that year, that business did $2 million. All through automated webinars, which was kind of cool. Well, a lot of them were live, too, but some of them were automated.
Amish Shah: So hey, cool. Found something that I like to do, but I still did not like that world. I’m teaching people how to make money with a piece of software that will go do something for them, and I just didn’t want to do that. That’s not what I wanted to do. So I ended up selling that company, which was kind of cool. That deal ended up a little weird, where we got a big chunk up front, but then we didn’t get our earn out because we didn’t hit certain goals because of poor management, again. I think team and management are probably the two most important things in building any business, and if you don’t have those two, you’re going to go down.
Dana Robinson: [crosstalk 00:37:15]
Nate Broughton: [crosstalk 00:37:15] reason to start a business that doesn’t require them.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. One of the questions that we might as well ask now is, given that you’ve experienced companies that you’ve owned and run that you’ve grown and sold to people that have then run those and then employed you, what about the times when you’re just working for yourself in the bat cave?
Amish Shah: That’s my favorite time.
Nate Broughton: All right, pause for one second right there. Amish just said, “That’s my favorite time. The time I spend in my bat cave.” He’s come full-circle from where he was at the beginning of our story, in the beginning of his journey as an entrepreneur. After going through the pains of scaling up a business, bringing on partners and affiliates and having lots of employees, and going through health issues and stress and just wanting to start all over, he remembers exactly what makes him happy, and that’s being an entrepreneur, solo, in his bat cave.
Amish Shah: And so five years ago, I made a very conscious decision to do only what I love, and I’m not going to even worry about the money ’cause I feel like I just did all the other things. And I was like, “Apps are hot! Affiliate marketing is hot! CPA is hot! Software is hot! Internet marketing is hot!” And I was just following trends and reinventing myself every year and a half to two years, ’cause I couldn’t keep up with those trends.
Amish Shah: And so that’s when it led to, through my getting healthy and I started meditating and just getting more into health and wellness and being, understanding who I am as a human being. And I went through this radical transformation where I was like, “You know, I want to teach people this. I want to sell products around being healthy and living up to your highest purpose and just inspirational, good, timeless wisdom. Not what’s going to work for the next year and then feed off of those …” You know what I’m saying, that … I don’t know, I don’t know how to explain it. It just didn’t jive with me. Some people are okay with it. They just run a business ’cause it produces money. I wanted to do a business ’cause I love doing it.
Dana Robinson: I remember meeting with you, and we were having a glass of wine. It had to have been five years ago, and you were telling me about all these projects that you were involved with, and I think you were probably toward the tail end. And I remember asking you what’s next, and I think you said something like, “I need to do what’s true for me.” It was maybe at the beginning of that existential crisis.
Amish Shah: It was, it was right around 2012 when everything started shifting.
Dana Robinson: And since then, you’ve been able to focus your energy on those things that are true to who you are.
Amish Shah: Like travel to exotic locations around the world, searching for sunken treasures.
Dana Robinson: Tell us about that. Tell us about that, I think that’s an interesting deviation from the narrative that we’ve been telling. I think it’s a lot of fun, though. Tell us about your movie star role.
Amish Shah: Yeah, so I love traveling. My wife and I always have loved traveling. And even with the kids, we travel quite a bit. I, at some point during this crisis of mine, I was researching this lost civilization off the west coast of India, and I just wanted to do something about it, ’cause there was just no proof that this place … There was no one leading the initiative, although they found that this lost civilization existed and could be one of the oldest civilizations known to man. So they dredged the sea and they found all this stuff, and they had underwater footage of this city, and I’m like, that’s pretty freaking cool. That if this place was real, it could be one of the oldest civilizations.
Amish Shah: And I was like, why did they stop excavating? So then one day, I just told my wife, my daughter was going to be born in three months, and she was like, “You can’t just go to India.” I was like, “No, I have to go to India.” And so I went to India, not planning to shoot a documentary, and somehow through emails that I was reaching out to people before I went, someone was inspired by my story and sent a film crew to film me while I was in India. And they didn’t tell me until I was there, so I was just kind of sitting there with this dude with a camera, following me around for eight days. And I’m like, I guess I’m going to shoot a documentary! I’m going to talk to the camera and tell them what I’m doing about this lost civilization.
Amish Shah: So I did that. On my flight back, I’m like, what the … what? This guy just followed me for eight days? There must be a reason, I didn’t plan this. It’s not like I paid a guy to follow me around. This guy just followed me around. He’s going to send me a hard drive in a couple weeks.
Amish Shah: So I got the hard drive and I was like, all right. I’m going to make a documentary out of this, because this is kind of cool, it’s information, it’s weird, it’s mysterious, it’s fun. So I put it out in a documentary, and it went viral. And it’s got over 3 million views on YouTube, and I created a fan page around it, and the fan page has 800,000 fans around it now. It got picked up by Travel Channel, so I was on the Travel Channel last year, and they flew me back out to India to do a new episode around it. And it’s one of those things where if you do what you love, that’s where the magic happens. The stuff that you’re not trying for. That’s even bigger than anything you ever imagined.
Dana Robinson: There’s a … When you talk about doing what you love, there’s a lot of people that sort of embrace the idea that they can make a bunch of money doing what they love. And what I find a lot of times is that people who have the freedom to do what they love are people who’ve mastered something like you have. So they don’t necessarily have to sell out of a public company.
Amish Shah: No, not at all.
Dana Robinson: Like, you didn’t do the $5 million cash out from an IPO, like this public company should’ve produced. But you did some things that granted you the freedom, right, to-
Amish Shah: Absolutely.
Dana Robinson: -travel, to think, to embrace-
Amish Shah: Unplug.
Dana Robinson: -and unplug. And then to do a passion project like this. And in that sense, you got to do what you love, and now you’re using the combination of the skills that you’ve gained as an entrepreneur, the financial freedom to make decisions like, “I’m going to go to India now and hang out for eight days,” with or without a camera-
Amish Shah: Exactly. And last time, I just recently went to India and China ’cause we have a warehouse in China, and I went to India and China. I was there for three weeks. Incredibly missed my children, but the fact that I could go for three weeks and just travel to eight different cities is awesome.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, and do business, be present with yourself, be present with the people that you’re around, be connected to the business. It sounds like maybe your earlier businesses, what distinguished them from what you’re doing now is they weren’t really connected to who you are.
Amish Shah: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Nate Broughton: And they weren’t necessarily making you happy. One common thing I think we’ve found, Dana and I have talked about his opt out and my opt out, and the multiple times it seems you’ve opted out at different points in your life. It’s like, if you look at where you were when I met you and living on the hill in La Jolla with the Ferrari and the Mas and … I never got to drive a Ferrari before, that’s pretty cool. But with where you’re at now, a more modest place in a more calmed down part of town with kids, and a business that you can control and go into your bat cave. That’s success for you, not $12 million a year.
Amish Shah: Exactly. It’s been great, it’s been an interesting ride. Going from software to yoga, meditation, and ancient civilizations was not an easy jump, but you learn. You adapt. You evolve. And luckily I had the years of experience and the marketing experience to combine what I’m really good at and what I really love together.
Amish Shah: So yeah, it’s been great, we’ve been growing and I get to work out of my bat cave every day. I still have 15 employees and most of them are overseas, so that allows for the virtual environment for me to have the flexibility to do what I want to do.
Dana Robinson: I’m going to ask you in a minute about a specific side gig that I know you had. But right now we’re talking about your current business, and we’re hesitant to ask the people that we’re interviewing about their business, because maybe you’ve got some secrets that you don’t want to disclose. But would you mind telling us a little bit about what your current project is?
Amish Shah: Sure. Our current project is primarily e-commerce. E-commerce is basically selling products online, like Amazon does. We’re kind of niched into the yoga, meditation space, and healthy living space. So we sell things like fashion accessories and jewelry and home décor, so they can all be related to zen, kind of hippie, fun stuff like that. And then we also sell herbal supplements. So herbal supplements, but also again, very specific herbal supplements that have to do with natural healing and natural wellness. Stuff from plants.
Nate Broughton: And this is all drop shipped.
Amish Shah: No. So about 20-25% of our business is drop shipped. The rest is all product we own and source and develop. We use drop shipping as a way to test products. If the market responds okay to them, then we’ll develop them on our own. And source them on our own.
Nate Broughton: That’s a little bit different than a lot of people that are playing that Shopify, e-commerce, affiliate, drop ship game these days, where you have to commit the capital and find the space and have the people do deal with that. You guys choose to do that because, why?
Amish Shah: For customer experience. So drop shipping generally shipping out of China takes about two to six weeks, depending on where you live, to get the product. We did it for a little while, but the customer complaints were ridiculous. Through the charts. Chargebacks and refunds and now it’s just like, I’d rather actually make them happier and have them repeat customers than have them wait two to six weeks for their product. So that’s why we decided to test products in small batches to see how it does, and then if it does well, we’ll source it and then we’ll sell it.
Nate Broughton: It’s like new school Amish versus old school Amish. [crosstalk 00:46:51]
Amish Shah: Yeah.
Nate Broughton: My three year old would’ve been like, Josh, ship that, I don’t know.
Amish Shah: Customer support? What customer support?
Nate Broughton: Scale something new.
Dana Robinson: All right, so it’s not often that we get somebody that’s willing to talk about their side gigs, because most of us are protective of our side gigs. If you found a secret way to make a couple thousand dollars a month-
Amish Shah: Don’t tell anyone.
Dana Robinson: -you don’t tell anyone. But I know one project you had that was doing really well and it ran its life cycle, so it’s a great example for our listeners to understand what a cool side gig is and how you discover it, and how you run it through its cycle.
Amish Shah: Sure.
Dana Robinson: So the one I’m remembering is when you’re publishing public domain eBooks. Can you walk me through how you go that started, and how it [inaudible 00:47:32] through the process?
Amish Shah: So when I was doing the apps, I said, hey, what other app has a great ecosystem? They have millions upon millions upon millions of people using their devices every single day. They have the App Store, they have the App Store and they have other stores, so they have the bookstore too. At that time, the bookstore was not as popular as these online bookstores are nowadays, like Audible and iBooks and Kindle and all these things. It was just started to get its peak in 2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, in that kind of era.
Amish Shah: So I thought to myself, hey. If no one’s really doing iBooks, and there’s millions of devices, and iBooks is an app that’s on your phone but no one’s actually … We don’t use it, I wasn’t using it at the time.
Dana Robinson: I wasn’t either.
Amish Shah: But there are people who are using it. Maybe not us. And then I kept hearing more and more. I was like, “I kind of like reading books on my iPad.” I said, hmm, okay, so people are actually doing this. And I got the idea of public domain books because public domain means, I think it’s after 60 years? 70 years?
Dana Robinson: It’s complicated, I’ll tell you, as an IP attorney. But there are sources that determine what books are public domain, and for the most part, things after, I think, 1930. The year progresses every year.
Amish Shah: So it’s just based on time, it’s not based on anything else?
Dana Robinson: There’s actually, I’ll share it on our website. There’s actually … Cornell has a website that shows a variety of charts based on where it was published, when it was published, when the author died, whether it was a corporate author or an individual author. So a lot of factors, but Gutenberg Press is probably where you were sourcing the books. It’s one of the largest sources of established public domain books. So it’s a place that anyone can go and get a public domain book, and then reformat, edit, revise, and make your own.
Amish Shah: Yeah. So what we did was, what I did was, I downloaded five of these things. Gulliver’s Travels, I don’t know, a bunch of these old-school books like William Shakespeare and some of these really old books that … You’re allowed to repurpose them and reuse them as many times as you want, as much as you want, wherever you want, as long as the original source is given credit, which is Gutenberg or whoever you get it from.
Amish Shah: So I downloaded five or six of them. I got some covers made on Fiverr. Fiverr’s a website where you can just pay people to do gigs, which is like, make me a book cover and convert it to this format. So I had them do that. I got the five books back, I uploaded it. Started charging $1.99 for the books, and sure enough, I started making a couple bucks a day. Just like I start everything else. I just find something that I can leverage. I find an ecosystem that’s underutilized, but I know that maybe there’s more demand than there is supply.
Amish Shah: So that’s generally what I try to look for, or I see something that’s coming, like a wave that’s coming. And I didn’t know if iBooks was going to work, it was just an idea, ’cause I was like, hey. There’s millions of these devices. I don’t use iBooks, but I know that there’s probably people who do.
Amish Shah: So again, what did I do? We used some automated software. We had more manpower with this than anything else, so we had hired three people off shore to just produce these books like clockwork, so they were pumping out four or five books a day and uploading them to the bookstore. Before we knew it, I think we had over 1,200 books on the bookstore. And it was making me anywhere between $10,000-15,000 a month as a side gig. And I was like, shit, just zipped my mouth, just didn’t say a word.
Amish Shah: Some months were lower, some were $6,000-7,000, but still, it’s consistent money every single month. And during peak seasons, you would see November, December, January when everyone got the new iPads, you’d see my revenue rise. Go up $10,000-15,000, and then it would drop off back to $6,000, $7,000, $8,000, in that range. And it was cool. And for the longest time, I was like, “Don’t tell anyone. Don’t touch it. Don’t do anything. Just let it make its money. It’s doing its thing.” 1,200 books, we’re probably one of the largest ebook publishers on the Apple store.
Amish Shah: And you know what, I don’t think we were doing anything malicious. I don’t think we were doing anything wrong. We were providing books for people to download and read. Apple didn’t like that. Apple did not appreciate that we were actually uploading educational content to their platform.
Dana Robinson: I remember at the time, there were several people that started to get in on that game, though. I think that when you’d search for Gulliver’s Travels-
Nate Broughton: Gulliver’s Travels.
Amish Shah: [crosstalk 00:51:53]
Dana Robinson: Yeah, so-
Nate Broughton: So did they decide to crack on everybody and you were collateral damage, or-
Amish Shah: No, we were just the biggest fish, and they probably killed off 5-10 of the biggest fish, and left everyone else just to maybe give them a little warning. And so we got knocked off, and I was just like, there’s no point in me restarted this business and resubmitting everything and redoing everything, and then possibly getting hit again. And it paid for itself very nicely, but side gigs sometimes die.
Nate Broughton: Well, there’s a few other things about side gigs that Dana outlined in the book that are, I think, cool to think about and maybe apply to this, where it’s like, once it got going, how much time did you spend on it a day? Or, a month, actually? Four hours? Eight hours?
Amish Shah: Two.
Nate Broughton: Two hours a month.
Amish Shah: Yeah, two to four.
Nate Broughton: You never had any expectations after it got going a little bit that it would be the business that would be your $10 million accident.
Amish Shah: No, I even hired someone locally to run the business and gave him 20% of all the revenue. I said, “You run the business, you manage the Filipino, the team that we had, and I’m going to step away.”
Dana Robinson: So you gave that guy a side gig.
Amish Shah: I gave him a side gig.
Dana Robinson: And empowered yourself not to have to lose any sleep.
Amish Shah: Right.
Nate Broughton: And then what else defines side gig? It’s just like-
Dana Robinson: Low stress.
Amish Shah: Yeah. As much … people independent as possible. So I only had two part-time employees overseas.
Dana Robinson: Low capital outlay.
Nate Broughton: Didn’t cost you a lot of money to start it.
Amish Shah: $1,200 a month.
Dana Robinson: And no ongoing investment, basically. Yeah, perfect side gig.
Amish Shah: I didn’t have any advertising or marketing costs, ’cause I was using Apple’s ecosystem.
Nate Broughton: And without that side gig at that point in time, you would’ve been $5,000-15,000 less a month in income, and who knows what decisions you would’ve had to make because of that, right?
Amish Shah: Sure.
Dana Robinson: And that was around the time of the very pivot we’re talking about. In a sense, it might’ve been a resource that was essential to giving you the freedom-
Amish Shah: It was very essential. I remember it helping to support my family, ’cause around that time, I didn’t want to just build a business. And cash was tight, so I wanted to … Hey, this is my side business, mouth shut. Don’t tell anyone. Use it as your money.
Nate Broughton: That’s where our conversation with Amish came to a close, but before he left, we hung out here in the studio and we asked him about a few common themes that we talk about on Opt Out, and Dana talks about in his Opt Out book. And that first one was burnout.
Dana Robinson: Burnout. Talk to me about any experience you’ve had or you’ve experienced with partners or other people in business that are sort of like all of us. Even though I think we’ve all opted out of the system, we’re not working for the man, we all have a tendency to do too much. Have you had any experience with burnout?
Amish Shah: Yeah, it’s like a cycle. It’s cyclical. Burnout, definitely to me, seems like it’s cyclical in nature. Specifically for me, and it happens when there’s just too much going on and there’s too many moving parts, and you can’t control it all. Or everything’s not going as you wish and you feel like you’re just working too hard to make it happen. That’s when I typically experience burnout, and I don’t want to do anything, and it’s like, you know what? It’s like, shove off, I don’t even want to do it.
Amish Shah: Recently, I feel I don’t get it as much because I have a really narrow focus now. I’m only focused on one business rather than the three or four I was used to running at a time and juggling and trying to figure out how to maintain all three of them.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, there was a time in this narrative that you describe yourself, that you’re the head of two businesses and involve with at least one, probably more than one, side gig.
Amish Shah: Yeah, exactly.
Dana Robinson: And that’s too much, right?
Amish Shah: Way too much. If you want to talk about wanting to get burnt, then that’s how you do it.
Nate Broughton: And potentially problematic business partners-
Amish Shah: Yes.
Nate Broughton: -and [crosstalk 00:55:41] employees and other partners outside of that.
Amish Shah: Yeah. In my first business, I think both me and my partner were partying a little too hard, and so we were burned out from partying. So that affected us in business.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, you get burned out at work if you burned out from partying.
Amish Shah: Exactly. It affected the business and it really hurt the business to the point where we had to short sale it.
Nate Broughton: Do you think you’ll ever end up burned out again? If it’s cyclical …
Amish Shah: It happens.
Nate Broughton: Somehow.
Amish Shah: It happens. I just went through it a couple weeks ago, but it happens … I don’t feel as much like, oh my god, my life’s over. It’s just like a little bump in the road now, versus it being like, oh my god, what am I going to do? Oh my god, I hate my life. It’s just kind of like … Now it’s like, you know what? Turn off the laptop, I’m just not going to look at it for the next 24-48 hours, and I’ll revisit it with a fresh mind and figure out what I’m going to do from there.
Amish Shah: And I take a very different approach to that feeling nowadays, ’cause back then, it was just too much going on. Now when it happens, it’s not too much. It’s just, I need to fix a problem, or an ongoing problem.
Nate Broughton: There’s been years of your life that you’ve made seven figures, made a ton of money, right? There’s been years where you’ve made less but you’ve still made good. How do you think about the amount of money you make on a yearly basis? Is it still, you’re trying to shoot for some big number, you’re trying to think about, “Oh, when I’m 50 years old, I need to have $10 mil in the bank,” or is it more like, day to day, enjoying what you’re doing, it makes enough, you’ll figure it out sort of thing? Or where do you fall in that spectrum, I guess?
Amish Shah: I think there’s a balance between both of those.
Nate Broughton: The next thing I asked Amish about was how he thinks on the day to day about his net worth and his ultimate goals financially down the road. Where does he want to be when he’s 50 years old? I think if you’re on the entrepreneurial track and you’re trying to grow a business and sell it for $50 million, then that’s your end goal, and that’s really your end point, because when that cash out happens, you’re good.
Nate Broughton: But choosing to opt out, which I definitely think he has done, and work from his bat cave and choose more of a lifestyle over, perhaps, chasing seven figure incomes every year, affects that. And I wondered how he deals with that in his mindset and his day to day in the projects he’s currently working on. Let’s hear what he said.
Amish Shah: I think there’s definitely something to be said about having long-term goals. It’s like, when I’m 50 or 60, I do want a certain amount of money in the bank, and I do want to be at a certain place in my life. But I did say to myself, I don’t want to struggle to get there. Nor do I want to give up my life or my lifestyle to get there. And that tends to be very cyclical with me as well, where I’m like, “I could just go and build this $20-50 million business. Fuck this shit!”
Amish Shah: I’ll just be like, aah, and I’ll get all pumped up and juiced, and I’ll be like, “Who am I kidding? This is stupid. I don’t want 20 employees in an office. That’s not what I signed up for.” I signed up to have freedom, I signed up to go to the beach with my kids after school. I signed you to be able to travel. I signed up to be able to fly my parents out here and hang out with them in the middle of the week. I went to the East Coast for Christmas and New Years and my dad’s 70th birthday. We were there for two weeks, and I’m grateful that I’m actually able to live in their home, work from there, take calls from there, and be able to do what I want in my life.
Amish Shah: So when it comes to, oh, what’s more important now … I think hitting a big number is not as important as it used to be to me. I used to be like, oh, $10, $20, $30 million. But I would do it at the expense of margin, just because my ego wanted to hit that number. If I hit $20 million, it’s so cool. At 4% margin, it’s not worth it. And I would rather have a $4 million with 30% margins ’cause it’s less headache, less team, less employees, and you’re making way more money.
Amish Shah: So that’s where my shift, where my thinking, has shifted to. Is more like, more profit. And easier money. You shouldn’t have to struggle to get the money. I think that’s my biggest thing, is don’t struggle. So it’s still cranking at it every single day, but cranking at it every single day to get to a bigger thing by the time I’m 50.
Nate Broughton: That’s very opt-outy, I think. It’s kind of what we’re trying to hit on. In some ways, it’s work smarter, not harder. But it’s also, I think it’s a more advanced approach to that, where people have figured out how to make money in a bunch of different ways, but we’re going to define success in a way that is less headache, but still profitable. And maybe it’ll take longer to get there, maybe it’s not going to hit the Inc. 500 this time, but who gives a shit? We’re going to make it work.
Amish Shah: I realize 15 years of being an entrepreneur, it’s like, you know what? It’s really not important at the end of the day. It’s like, it’s just a business, it’s just money. It could go either way at any moment. It’s just like your life. You could die tomorrow, you could die tonight. You could die in the afternoon. It doesn’t, there’s no rhyme or reason why.
Amish Shah: So it’s like, you can’t be attached to it. And I just feel like there’s more priorities in my life, that … Business is a priority ’cause it supports my family and it supports many employees, but it’s not like, oh my god, I have to struggle and I have to work so hard to do what I want to do. And I gotta hit that $30 million business, yeah, let’s go.
Amish Shah: I used to think like that. Let’s go, how can I hack it, who do I hire, what do I do? Now it’s kind of like, let it just happen organically. I’ll make more strategic initiatives than force.
Dana Robinson: And you get to live the live you want the whole time, right? Not deferring the life you want, you’re living it right now. And if you happen to hit the $10 million, $20 million, $30 million exit, that’s great. If you don’t-
Amish Shah: Exactly.
Dana Robinson: -you’ve been living that life that you want to live anyway.
Amish Shah: And it’s so funny, is that once I did let go, I didn’t focus as much on my business as I usually used to do, like last year, for example. We grew by 500%. It’s like, the more I travel and the less I pay attention, the more money we actually end up making.
Amish Shah: So sometimes, I feel like we’re our own problem to businesses, because we create these initiatives that we want to do, and it ends up being … Not all of them work.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, yeah. Entrepreneurs that have a business that’s functioning have to learn to remove themselves from the position of the bottleneck. Things will grow just fine once you empower other people to make decisions.
Amish Shah: Exactly. Yeah, a huge lesson of last year was like, oh my god, I traveled for so many months. If I was to add it up, it would be months that I traveled last year. And biggest year I’ve ever had in business ever, actually. It’s pretty cool.
Dana Robinson: Amish, thanks for coming on-
Amish Shah: Thank you.
Dana Robinson: -Opt Out Life. It was great to have you, and I look forward to continuing our friendship and collaborations in the future.
Amish Shah: Awesome time, thank you.
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