In today’s edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews, I have on the hot seat Connor Gillivan a serial entrepreneur who has built multiple eCommerce businesses starting from his college days.
He lives to make a positive impact on others through the use of his passions. Without further ado, here’s the unusual story of the unusual Connor Gillivan!
Part One: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
My name is Connor Gillivan and I am a serial entrepreneur living in Orlando, Florida. I am the founder and Chief Executive Officer of eCommetize.com, a company that builds and manages online stores for high-traffic online influencers.
I am the co-founder and Chief Technology and Content Officer of FreeeUp.com, a company that takes a hands-on approach to outsourcing within the eCommerce industry.
Finally, I run my own site, ConnorGillivan.com where I write about my experiences as an entrepreneur and attempt to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through the first year of starting their business. All of my entrepreneurial endeavors stem from my passions and wanting to continually grow as an individual.
I am forever inspired by others, especially the visionaries that have made a lasting impact on the world, i.e. Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison.
How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been attracted to the idea of being your own boss and building something that can eventually have a true impact on others. One of my first work experiences was working for my older cousin who had started and owned his own landscaping business.
Working for him taught me that hard work, determination, and persistence can allow you to be an entrepreneur. From what I learned while landscaping, I even started my own company to earn some extra cash during high school.
As I moved into my college years, the idea of starting another company was always on my mind. I was an Economics and Math student so I was constantly being taught new strategies that I would be able to apply to my eventual business. When a fellow classmate told me that he had started his own business and was looking for a cofounder, I jumped at the opportunity. Things haven’t slowed down since then.
When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
My first major vision stemmed from an internship with ThinkImpact where I traveled to Mpumalanga, South Africa to build entrepreneurial ideas with community members in remote areas of the province. For the three months that I was living there, I recognized the lack of resources and the major need for a better system of delivery to the most remote areas of the world.
While I have been unable to pursue that exact vision yet, it pushed me into the eCommerce space because of the similarities. At the core of eCommerce, retailers are attempting to connect a good to the end consumer via the Internet. I am still driven by my vision of delivering goods to the most remote regions of the world to benefit the inhabitants there.
What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
I’m a strong proponent of this belief. I personally only pursue entrepreneurial endeavors that I am passionate about because I know that I will be happiest and most successful working on them. However, you also want to make sure that your passion is an expertise of yours as well.
In order to succeed in building a new business, you must have domain expertise. This allows you to strategically grow with your competition, structure your operations properly, and identify growth opportunities.
Look at it like this. An entrepreneur may be extremely passionate about biking, but their entire background is in financial investments, which they are also passionate about. My advice would be to start a new business in financial investments as it is where you know the most. By all means, continue to pursue biking and even get involved in community planning, but keep your entrepreneurial career focused on what you are best at.
What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
My personal mission as an entrepreneur is to make a positive impact on others through my passions. I have always been more attracted to positive impact than monetary aspirations. My ultimate goal is to own and operate two companies: one focused on delivering clean water to the most remote areas of the world and the second focused on discovering the science of teleportation. I am determined to create a world where anyone has the ability to easily access necessities, such as water, and where the science of teleportation is becoming a useable technology.
What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
Entrepreneurs play the innovative risk taker. They are the individuals, groups, and companies tasked with addressing the biggest problems faced by society. Entrepreneurs are responsible for listening to others, identifying major issues, and creating innovative solutions. Today, entrepreneurs are expected to perform their duties through the use of technology.
Part Two: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
I identify business opportunities based off of three major factors: the people, the value proposition, and the demand for the product. Before looking at the product or strategy, I dive into the people that are running the company.
Do they have an expertise within the field? Do they have a track record as an entrepreneur? What are their motives? Do they have the core skills on their founding team?
Next, I look at the value proposition. Is the business idea addressing a real problem in the market? Finally, I look at the market. Has the entrepreneur validated their hypothesis by talking to real customers?
Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
Absolutely. Over the past three years, I have built a close group of mentors that I meet with on a monthly basis to gain insights and ask questions about the toughest aspects of my companies. They have all had a significant impact on the growth of my companies in the most difficult of situations.
Mentors serve as a clear mind when you are struggling through one of the lows of growing your business. I recommend all entrepreneurs to surround themselves by people smarter than themselves so they can continue to learn and be challenged.
How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
I follow a very strict regimen where I am working 10-12 hours Monday through Friday. Each Sunday, I create goals to achieve for the upcoming week. Each night, I plan out my next day scheduling out each hour in the day to stay as focused as possible. I run 3 businesses so it is important that every minute is optimized to full capacity.
As an entrepreneur, you want to be focused on what will grow your company. This may involve training, strategizing, and talking to new customers. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are performing repetitive tasks for longer than 3 weeks, hire and train someone else to do it for you.
In your free time, I highly encourage entrepreneurs to exercise, read, and spend time with their loved ones. As an entrepreneur, it’s difficult to shut off. You have to find activities and hobbies that allow you to remove yourself from the daily grind.
How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
For my businesses, most of our approaches to signing new clients comes through three forms…
- Direct sales outreach,
- Affiliate programs, and
- Digital marketing
One of the most valuable forms of marketing is through your current customers. Find ways to reward your current customers for referring their friends, family, and colleagues…they will be your best customers and marketing force.
Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
For my entire entrepreneurial career, I have self-funded and bootstrapped my companies. My co-founders and I manage our finances tightly and we make sure that when we are spending money, it is leading to future growth of the company. In my experience, funding can be a hurdle to get over, but it should not limit you from working on your business. If you can build a business idea valuable enough to generate revenue, you have a much better chance of finding an investor interested in giving you funding.
The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
Pricing should be based off of similar products in your market and knowledge directly obtained from your customers. Take the time to speak with potential customers about your minimum viable product and ask them what they would be willing to pay. Talk to 100 potential customers and you should have a good idea of what pricing model may work for your product/service.
Part Three: Connor Gillivan Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
MISCELLANEOUS: Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for entrepreneurs
Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
In 2014, my first business, Portlight, reached $7.5 million in yearly revenue with a team of over 60 people. The company was managing and selling over 1,000,000 products on the Amazon US Marketplace and was working with over 1,000 manufacturers around the United States.
Since the Fall of 2015, I have been working on two new startups, eCommetize.com and FreeeUp.com, and both have already reached profitability with promise of growth leading up to 2017.
What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
In early 2015, my business partners and I ran into a number of issues while selling on the Amazon US Marketplace. Our data integrity was not meeting the expectations of Amazon and we were forced to downsize our business in an effort to improve our data management. We were put into a situation where we were forced to lay off half of our team. It was one of the most difficult times that I had to endure as an entrepreneur.
I learned a tremendous amount from the experience that I am carrying forward with me as I build my two new companies. The main lesson that I continue to reflect on is staying focused on the most important aspects of growing your company. When you stray away from your core competency, it leads to disarray and can create issues within your organization.
Where there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
I do not. I really enjoyed your questions and appreciate you allowing me to participate in this interview.
Over to You!
I’m so convinced you had more than you asked for in this interview. But just in case, he missed out something, what more would you like to know about the unusual entrepreneur Connor Gillivan?
You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most? What strategies did you pick up from him?
Connor has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!