This week we caught up with Kevin Zhang, an e-commerce professional that made his living online and now focuses on helping others do the same. Enjoy the read.
1. About you/what you currently do I am an eCommerce entrepreneur and investor based in the Los Angeles area. I specialize in creating and scaling eCommerce brands through targeted digital advertising. Since beginning my journey as an entrepreneur 2 years ago, I have successfully generated over $30 million in online sales. Aside from my own projects, I am also very active as an educator and have helped thousands of individuals build their own eCommerce businesses from scratch. Several of my students have successfully built 6-figure and 7-figure brands despite starting with no experience.
2. What inspired you to take on this path
I was inspired to pursue entrepreneurship after completing a summer internship at a top management consulting firm, where I realized that I wanted to have a higher degree of control with my life and future. I’m a strong believer that the best opportunities exist in the industries that are the most disruptive and high-growth so eCommerce became my obvious choice. As a senior in college, I noticed massive retail businesses closing down while innovative brands like Dollar Shave Club, All Birds, and Kylie Cosmetics achieved massive valuations in record time. Furthermore, eCommerce presented an opportunity that could provide true passive income. Most importantly, the intersection of digital tools and global markets made eCommerce accessible even for someone that didn’t have access to capital or business connections. 3. Greatest hurdles
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was getting used to a new reality where hard work didn’t guarantee a tangible reward like it did throughout my time in the education system. eCommerce is all about hypothesis testing over and over again - changing one variable on one’s digital storefront at a time until the perfect combination for scale is found. At one point, a few months into my eCommerce journey, I had created 5 eCommerce stores in a variety of niches and all of them failed. I had yet to make a dollar in profit and my credit card bills were piling up. On top of these financial troubles I was also ashamed. Is this what my immigrant parents sacrificed everything for? All their hard work and commitment to education, just so I could "mess around" online?! It was one of the darkest periods of my life, but instead of backing down I got to work. I spent hours scouring the web for new techniques to test. Days, meticulously crafting ads in photoshop (which I had never previously used...). Months, revamping my website to make it more user friendly and enticing. Finally, 6 months later, my once a week(ish) sales became a steady, daily stream. A month later, I became profitable. Next thing I knew, I had my first successful store on my hands that was generating 10x the money I would have made in my first year as a consultant. I had to pass through a very dark stage in my life, but now that I'm on the other side I can say it was worth it.
4. What was your parent's/family's initial thoughts on your decision
My parents are very traditional Chinese immigrants that aren’t used to the unbeaten path. They thought I was crazy for passing up a high paying corporate job to pursue entrepreneurship, so to be quite honest there was a lot of tension between us early on. My mom even sent me a text message asking me "why I thought I was so special” and begging me to “beg for my job back” and I keep that message saved as a reminder to always believe in my dreams regardless of who doubts them. These days, my parents have come around to the idea of me being an entrepreneur and I feel privileged to be in a position where I can now support them as they grow older.
5. What does family mean to you
Family is incredibly important to me, because I recognize how much my parents sacrificed for my younger brother and I to be able to grow up without want for food, clothes, or education. My parents immigrated from GanSu China in 2000 and worked their way up from house cleaner (mom) and lab assistant (dad) to nurse and leading research scientist respectively. I was blessed to watch the American dream play out before my eyes. My parents instilled in me the values of hard work and intellectual curiosity and I am forever grateful for the upbringing they provided. This past year I have been blessed to be able to help pay off their mortgage and start a college fund for my younger brother, but no amount of money will ever be enough to repay them for their love and care.
To learn more about Kevin, visit kevinzhang.com