Entrepreneurship Side Hustles

This Ex-Pitcher’s Product Idea Was a Million-Dollar Hit Right Off the Bat

It makes sense that Randall Thompson feels comfortable comparing his business to America’s pastime, considering how big a role it has played in his life.

“I feel as if what we’re doing, we’re playing a baseball game,” he says. “And we’re probably somewhere in the fifth inning right now.”

Growing up in central Florida, his love of the game began with T-ball at the age of 5 and led to college ball at the Florida Institute of Technology. His collegiate efforts earned him a spot as an undrafted free agent for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011.

But Thompson’s professional career came to an end the following year, when he was released after extended spring training.

For most, following one path only to see it end sooner than expected is a major setback. But Thompson took it in stride and forged a new path by combining two things he loved: baseball and entrepreneurship.

And in a few short years, Thompson Mug Company was born.

When Life Throws a Curveball

After the Blue Jays cut him, Thompson headed back to his alma mater to work as the team’s pitching coach.

It was there, in the dugout during practice, that Thompson had a lightbulb moment.

A hitting coach cut the barrel off a bat so the players could focus on gripping the handle. Looking at the discarded barrel, Thompson wondered if he could bore out a hole and then drink out of it, like a beer mug.

Little did he know, he’d just come up with what would soon become a million-dollar idea and the foundation for his future company.


Despite the initial idea, Thompson didn’t really pursue the concept of baseball-bat mugs until about six months later, in July 2014.

He always knew that he had an entrepreneurial side, so when he decided to move forward with the project, it was a headfirst dive.

He went through a ton of different trials and prototypes before he finally got it right. And they all happened in the converted garage apartment in his sister’s backyard, where he was living at the time.

He started out with a chop saw and a vice. He also bought a wood-burning kit from his local Michaels arts and crafts store. He attempted to bore out the barrels by hand and tried tracing a Sharpie-drawn logo with his newly bought wood-burning tool.

“It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination,” he says with a laugh. “But it was a place to start.”

An early version of the mug consisted of two parts, which would screw together like a billiards cue stick. This prototype led to days and days of frustration. Just imagine Thompson in his apartment, hunched over two hand-drilled pieces of barrel, trying to line them up, only for them to be offset just a little bit. Every. Single. Time.

Next, he decided to buy a drill press — despite knowing next to nothing about the tool.

He set it up his kitchen and pulled his phone out so he could record a video of the first time he used it to bore out a barrel.

“I slowly bring down the drill press and the bit just lightly touches the barrel and just BOOM!” he says. “It just flings [the barrel] against the wall.”

He quickly repacked and returned the drill press.

Over time, he started asking himself better questions and developed a solid product. By June of 2016, he was ready to introduce the Dugout Mug to the world.

Time to Toe the Rubber

Like some of the biggest and brightest companies we know today, Thompson Mug Company started in a garage, while Thompson was working a full-time job, and then some.

When he wasn’t working as a sales rep for Sherwin-Williams, he was taking on side hustles to earn extra cash. And he wasn’t picky when it came to side jobs — he says he basically “started seeing dollar bills everywhere.”

Thompson funneled pretty much everything he made into his new company. Side gigs included repainting pharmacies overnight, flipping furniture on OfferUp and dressing up as Spider-Man — not to fight crime, but for kids’ birthday parties.

All the while, Thompson was thinking about the company’s future and how he could really kick it up a notch. The next thing that happened, he calls fate.

While scrolling through a Facebook group for ex-minor and major league players, Thompson saw a shared post; a fellow named Kris Dehnert was looking to sell some concert tickets. Dehnert’s profile revealed that he was an entrepreneur.

After a bit of Googling, Thompson decided to reach out to Dehnert in hopes of picking his brain for tips on e-commerce.

The two met in a hotel lobby, Dehnert on a break from an entrepreneur conference taking place in the same hotel and Thompson with one of his Dugout Mugs in tow. The two chatted over a beer and parted ways.

By that point, Dehnert had dabbled in his fair share of entrepreneurial adventures but was starting to feel like a lot of them were just noise. After thinking on it, he decided to focus his efforts on Thompson Mug Company.

After all, it was beer, baseball and e-commerce — what was not to like?

“I was so busy being so busy, I almost missed out on a lot things in life, and one of the opportunities would’ve been this,” says Dehnert.

In February of 2017, Dehnert told Thompson that he was all in, but on one condition: Thompson had to be all in, too. That meant leaving the full-time job and side hustles behind.

Ready to see Thompson Mug Company reach its full potential, it wasn’t that hard of a decision for Thompson.

Swinging for the Fences

The new partners spent a couple of months working on research, development and marketing for the company.

By mid-March, Dugout Mugs were being sold online — and at a rapidly increasing rate.

“March we did 26K, April we did 56K, May we did 95K… and then we just completely fell apart.” says Dehnert of the amount of money being made.

The manufacturer they were using fell through, and the company was left with a major dilemma: a whole lot of demand for Dugout Mugs and no way to supply them.

While some companies might power through and hope to come out on the other side, Thompson Mug Co. took a more cautious route. They temporarily shut down production in order to properly regroup.

Within a couple of months, they were set up with a new manufacturer and facility. And by August, the company had secured official licensing with the Major League Baseball Players Association, allowing them to produce the “Signature Series” mug collection.

From there, sales quickly ramped up again, leading to a very busy end of the year. So busy, in fact, that they had to bring in a little extra help to get orders out the door.

“We had girlfriends, wives, moms, everybody in here packing for Christmas last year,” says Dehnert. “Oh my god, my mom was in here taping boxes… it was just crazy, all hands on deck.”

In addition to a Christmas rush, Thompson’s former team decided to treat its season ticket holders and ordered a whopping 4,600 mugs.

The massive Blue Jays order was a full-circle moment for Thompson. When he signed with the team back in 2011, he got a $0 signing bonus — which is pretty rare in professional baseball.

“The joke is that, you know, they eventually did pay me a signing bonus because they ordered 4,600 mugs,” he says with a laugh.

Despite the mid-year shut down, Thompson Mug Co. sold over $1 million worth of merchandise in 2017.

No longer strictly selling Dugout Mugs, they’ve rolled out Knob Shot shot glasses, Wined Up wine glasses and the Season Opener bottle opener.

The company has branched out from e-commerce, selling mugs in several MLB stadiums across the nation — like SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and Yankee Stadium.

The company also recently launched its officially licensed MLB line. Fans of all 30 MLB teams can now get a Dugout Mug with their team logo, and the company plans to have the product in stadiums in 2019.

As of June 2018, year-to-date sales were almost matching the overall 2017 sales, and Dehnert predicts they’ll reach at least $3 million by the end of this year.

A Team Effort

The success of Thompson Mug Co. is very much a team effort. In a lot of ways, they operate like, well, a baseball team. Each staffer even has a nickname — for instance, Dehnert is “Promo” because he’s always out promoting the product.

Both Thompson and Dehnert practice and preach the culture instilled in their team, which is currently at nine employees. When they’re not working from home — or Thompson’s preferred spot, Panera Bread — they’re down at the warehouse helping with orders or traveling to promote the product.

Like two sides of the same coin, the partners balance each other out and bring different skill sets to the field. They feed off each other’s energy, bouncing back and forth when telling a story.

With years of entrepreneurship under his belt, Dehnert has self-proclaimed “short memory and thick skin.” His charisma is infectious and networking is in his blood — he is instrumental in securing new licensing deals.

Meanwhile, Dehnert’s fast-talking and boisterous attitude usually has Thompson smiling to himself in the background, nodding along, completely in agreement but willing to let his partner take the lead.

Dehnert thinks that if Thompson could only do one thing forever, it would be dreaming up new stuff. Meanwhile, his one thing would be selling “shoulder to shoulder,” high-fiving athletes. Together, their different mindsets create a “third eye,” and it makes the partnership work.

Thompson doesn’t think the company would be at the level it is today if it weren’t for Dehnert.

“He sped up my learning curve,” Thompson says. “He forced me to get uncomfortable and that’s… that’s where growth comes in.”

Next Season

Dehnert and Thompson have a pretty clear vision for Thompson Mug Company’s future.

They’d like to continue to expand the product offering, but stress the “measure twice, cut once” method. And not literally, although this is wood we’re talking about, so maybe a bit literally.

“Too many times people are ‘ready, fire aim,’ and that’s when you get yourself in trouble,” says Dehnert.

On top of expanding the product line, Thompson says they’d like to focus on growing their presence on platforms such as Etsy and Amazon. They want to build consistency and ensure that their product isn’t just a seasonal purchase, like when Christmas or Father’s Day rolls around.

And they’ve both talked about the possibility and logistics of selling the company someday. They’ve discussed what point they’d like to be at and what price they would let go of it for — Thompson admits that he’d sell, but he’d cry about it.

Then again, Thompson feels like they’re only in the fifth inning, which means they’ve got a lot more ball left to play.

“I don’t want to necessarily reflect on a win until we get through the full nine. I just want to be fully engaged in the moment,” he says. “For the time being… I kind of just want to be pitch to pitch.”

Source: The Penny Hoarder

Entrepreneurship Side Hustles

How I Make a Full-Time Income in My Spare Time – And How You Can, Too

Affiliate marketing is simple, but it’s not easy.

As a young man, I learned how to make money online, initially to pay off my mother’s debt. I’ve used these same skills to create a lifestyle that many dream about, flying 96 times just this past year; living in such places as Johannesburg, Shanghai, Thailand and now Mexico, and speaking on stages all over the world.

All because I’ve learned how to make a full-time income in my spare time with affiliate marketing.

I believe affiliate marketing is the easiest way to build a business online because you don’t have to make your own product, nor build your own audience of people who want your product.

Rather, find a product that already has a proven track record, that already sells, and market that product.

1. Find A Product You Can Promote

To begin, find a product you can promote as an affiliate. I prefer information products over physical products, because there is no production overhead or fulfillment cost, resulting in higher commissions for you. I recommend finding such products on sites like, JVZoo, Share a Sale, Commission Junction or Peerfly.

I got my start on Clickbank, which organizes its products by category and ranks them by gravity, a score that quantifies how many affiliates successfully sell that product. As such, you want to choose a product with a high gravity score.

People buy information products for one of two reasons: in order to pursue a passion or solve a problem. Products that solve problems, what I like to call pain products, tend to be the most lucrative because people are trying to solve a problem that is most likely affecting their well-being.

One of the first products I promoted was “vertical leap” training to teach people how to jump higher in basketball. Then I started promoting potty training and erectile dysfunction products. Dog training is another lucrative market. Today, I’m in the business education niche, flying around the world teaching others how to start an affiliate marketing business themselves.

2. Find Your Audience

Next, define your audience. Determine who would buy this product and the pain it would solve. A great way to do market research is to look at the media kits of magazines and publications. For example, if you are selling a potty training product, the media kit for a parenting magazine will tell you the demographics of its audience.

You can use that information to market to the very same audience. Another place to do research is in online forums your target audience frequents. Read through the forum’s questions and answers to get more information for your market research.

3. Send Your Traffic To A Landing Page

Once you’ve defined your audience, then find a way to reach them. There are many ways to reach out to your target audience. Two good methods are through YouTube and paid advertising using Facebook. For instance, you can use Facebook ads and Facebook Audience Insights to directly target moms with toddlers and run ads to them.

In your ad, address the problem your audience is trying to solve, such as, in this case, potty training, and offer a video of your solution. Carefully select an image for your ad that attracts your audience’s attention.

From my experience with potty training, images of baby butts work! Always collect your audience’s emails, so you can sell to them again and again. To do this, send your audience to a landing page, before redirecting them to the product’s sales page.

In return for giving you their email, offer your audience what is referred to as an “ethical bribe,” a free giveaway, such as a video which, to further this case study, shows you how to potty train your child in 30 days or less. The free video can basically be the Clickbank sales page for that particular product.

4. Monitor Your Numbers

Essentially, all that remains is for you to monitor your numbers. For every dollar you spend, you want to get at least a dollar and ten cents in return.

Run your ad to various segments of your target audience, all the while measuring which audience responds best. For example, if you determine the age range of mothers with toddlers as 25 to 40, you can then segment that list into two age groups, 25-32 and 33-40. Use your data to narrow your focus to the age group that responds best.

You can then further segment that list, and so on, until you end up with a target audience that is highly responsive to your offer. The more targeted the audience, the relatively cheaper the ads and the more money you make on the other end. You can also split test the ads themselves, once you have a responsive audience.

Keep a spreadsheet of how much you’re spending on ads, how many email addresses you collect as a result, and how many of those emails convert. Once you get a handle on how much money it costs you to make a sale, the cost per customer, all that remains is to scale.

Know that, if you can make two dollars for every dollar you spend, you can make $20,000 by spending $10,000. At the same time, you’re building an email list for that audience, to which you can sell more related products.

“The process of making a full-time living as an affiliate marketer is simple, but it’s not easy”

Most people are not willing to invest the hours to perfect each one these steps for maximum returns. Rather than do the hard work, they will switch products midstream, or get distracted by a shiny object promising to make them more money in less time. What they fail to realize is that even the shiny object that looks so good on the sales page takes work to turn into a profit.

Rather, develop clarity as to how much money you want to make. And then focus on the path to get you there.

Listen, if others are profiting from the product you’re selling, you can, too. Stay the course until you are profitable. Dial into your target market, either through content marketing, paid advertising or a combination of both. Collect your audience’s email addresses, cross-sell them related products and keep track of your numbers.

Once you can turn one dollar into two, do it all day long, and soon, you too will be making a full-time income in your spare time.

Source: Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship Side Hustles

How to Figure Out What Your Side Hustle Should Be

More than 35% of the U.S. workforce are now freelancers or contractors and that number is projected to rise to 43% by 2020. About 44 million people report having some kind of side hustle, and of those who do, 36% say they earn more than $500 a month from it.

Entrepreneurship, even in the form of part-time work to complement a traditional day job, can provide a useful hedge against economic uncertainty and a way to develop new skills.

But the sticking point for many is figuring out what your side venture should be. This is especially true if you have a variety of interests or consider yourself a generalist.

How do you know what to focus on? How do you assess your expertise? And what are the first steps you should take once you think you’ve found the right idea? Here are five strategies to keep in mind.

Don’t fall in love with your first idea. Bozi Dar, a life sciences executive I profile in my new book Entrepreneurial You, had what he thought was a brilliant idea for a side project: an app that helped people change their mood by looking at their personal photos paired with music.

Unfortunately, it never took off.

The reason it failed, he’s convinced, is that he “started my app not really testing whether there is a problem [that customers wanted solved], not testing what is my audience, not testing whether anyone was even searching for a solution. I just fell in love with my idea, starting putting money and time into it, and it never worked.”

Don’t just come up with a clever notion; make sure people actually want it before you spend a lot of money developing it.

Understand what you’re uniquely qualified to share. After his initial failure, Dar was hesitant to try again. But he realized he could dramatically improve his outcome if, instead of imagining what his audience wanted, he listened to what they were already asking for.

At his day job, things were going very well, and he was getting promoted frequently. His friends and colleagues noticed, and he found himself “being invited for these coffee/mentoring sessions nonstop.” Dar realized others found his perspective valuable, and perhaps an audience might pay for it.

He was right: His online course about how to win promotions earned him an extra $106,000 — on top of his day job salary — in its first full year.

Don’t rush to quit your job. Some people get so excited about their new entrepreneurial venture that they want to go all in immediately and quit their day job. Dar disagrees. He recommends staying in your job for at least a year, if not more. “I would rather stay in the company and start testing your hypothesis [about your business model],” he says. “What’s the problem? Are people searching for the solution? Who is the customer?….

I’d try to get answers to those questions before I left the job, and the ultimate test [of the idea’s viability] would be that someone opens their wallet to pay for what I’m offering.”

Invest in skill building. A lot of people who are employed by companies, even if they’re very talented, may not be fully ready for entrepreneurship in the beginning. That’s why Dar suggests making a concerted effort — while you’re still in your job — to build out your entrepreneurial skill set.

That was my strategy as well. I decided to launch my own business in 2005, but stayed in my job for an additional year, while taking professional development classes — that my employer paid for — on topics I knew I’d need to learn, such as financial management, design, and business strategy.

Dar recommends that you use this period to learn “foundational skills,” such as sales, presentations, persuasion, copywriting, and more. “Buying courses, joining a mastermind group, and having a business coach will all help,” he says.

Focus on one channel at a time. Finally, when you’re ready to launch, you can easily get overwhelmed with all the things you could be doing. Instead, Dar suggests, master one channel at a time so that you get really good at it, and then you can build from there.

In his case, he has one course (on getting promoted faster); he markets it through one channel (webinars); and he identifies webinar opportunities through one mechanism (affiliate partnerships).

That focus “is the only way that you can build a solid base and then conquer other traffic channels or other products,” he says. Facebook ads or search engine marketing might be appealing possibilities, but for now, they’re too much. It’s better to excel in one area and then bridge from there.

A growing number of professionals are embracing entrepreneurial opportunities, whether full- or part-time. To do so, you don’t need to raise venture capital or come up with a Silicon Valley–style “world-changing” idea.

Often, the best starting point is simply thinking about what your friends and colleagues already come to you for, and being willing to experiment and iterate — because it’s rare for any entrepreneur to get their idea exactly right the first time.

Source: HBR

Entrepreneurship Side Hustles

Yes, You Can Make Millions With This Insanely Simple Strategy

Yes, You Can Make Millions With This Insanely Simple Strategy (But Most Entrepreneurs Don’t)

A Harvard study reveals the power of this one change in business.

“Holy shit.”

$1 million dollars in new sales from one single source. In just 10 months.

It was October 2016 when I found out that we hit the jackpot.

And this golden mine was none other than Yelp, a popular consumer review site.

Now, most entrepreneurs kind of get that customer reviews are important for business. But they just don’t know exactly how powerful customer reviews could be for their bottom line. Here’s the killer stat I tell everyone: a Harvard Business School study shows that even a one-star increase on your business’s Yelp rating boosts sales by 5 – 9%!

At my company, we sensed the potential and wanted to test it for ourselves. Back in January 2016, when we first set up our Yelp account, we tried as many strategies as possible to get good reviews. Some of them worked better than others, and by October 2016, we had a flood of 5-star reviews.

That’s not too bad, I remember thinking. But what blew my mind was when I logged into our CRM, and it showed that we earned an extra $1,000,000 — directly attributable to Yelp reviews. (Thanks to our CTO Adam, we could pinpoint exactly where our new customers come from with call tracking and a great CRM.)

And what’s even more incredible? The growth still continues till this day!

You can capitalize on Yelp and explode your business growth too. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Have A Fully Decked Out Yelp Profile

According to Yelp, businesses with 1-5 reviews and at least 10 photos see 200% more user views than a business with the same number of reviews and no photos. Yup — that’s your low hanging fruit right there.

But simply adding more pictures to your Yelp profile isn’t enough. To make sure your business is most searchable online, you should also be geotagging your pictures, filling in your website URL, operating hours, price range, and other miscellaneous information.

I also like to state in my profile what my business does differently from the competition — this makes it easy for my customers to understand the value that we bring to them.

2. Seek And Court The Power Users

In this case, the Yelp Elites. These folks are the site’s most engaged users who write frequent, quality reviews — and reviews from them carry more weight than normal users’ ones. You can identify Yelp Elites easily by the colorful badge they have on their profile.

By targeting this group of powerhouse users, your business will get an unfair advantage from the start. I recommend attending Yelp events and networking with as many users (especially Yelp Elites) as possible. Even better? Host exclusive events for these VIP members, shower them with great freebies, and you will automatically win their favor.

To start, just go to the events section of Yelp and click Add An Event.

3. Preempt Negative Yelp Reviews

Let’s get this straight — you can’t be paying people to leave positive reviews, because it violates Yelp’s Terms of Service. But here’s some good news: there’s a legal and ethical workaround, which is to immediately address negative reviews even before they show up on Yelp.

With my company, we make it a point to survey our customers about their experience after each appointment. If a customer is even the least bit dissatisfied, I step in and address the problem. The trick is to do it ASAP, so they don’t get the chance to post about it on social media (by then, it’s often too late.)

On the same note, we also offer refunds to unsatisfied customers right away — we lose a bit of money upfront, but we often win over the customer.

4. Offer Yelp Deals To Your Best Customers

Want to up your Yelp game to another level? Offer Yelp Deals. Yelp Deals is very similar to Groupon; basically giving out online discount vouchers to Yelp users. It’s a great lead generation channel on its own.

But here’s the killer trick: focus on promoting your Yelp Deals to your already satisfied customers. By rewarding loyal supporters and getting them to check out your business’s Yelp page, you double your chance of getting positive reviews. Plus, you get them to come back to your business again – talk about killing three birds in one stone.

One last thing: remember that Yelp might not necessarily be the killer customer review site for you. So, do your research and figure out what your customers are using most to leave reviews. It could be Yelp, or Angie’s List, or Google, or Facebook.

Whatever site it is, just make your customers consistently happy, because that alone can make or break your business.

Source: Inc