This week’s Teacher Entrepreneur profile is Joshua Waldron of Studio JWAL. I contacted Josh after I read an article about his business online. He started working in web design during college and continued to grow to the point that he started his own design firm and now works with numerous businesses, churches, schools and non-profits. Check out his website at www.StudioJWAL.com
CS: What is the name of your business and where is it located?
JW: The name of my business is Studio JWAL and it is located in Waynesboro, Virginia, a small city in the Blue Ridge Mountains area of Virginia.
CS: How long have you been an educator, and what positions have you held?
JW: I have been an educator for 6 years. In June of 2014 I made the difficult decision to leave to leave classroom. I taught World History 1, World History 2, AP US History, and Government.
CS: Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
JW: I have really had the entrepreneurial spirit ever since I could remember. In elementary school kids would pay me a quarter to write their names in graffiti letters. In middle school I would wait in the lunch line for other kids. I would buy their lunch for them and then charge them an extra dollar for the lunch. I think the best teachers have the entrepreneurial spirit.
CS: Why did you choose your particular industry?
JW: The web design business was a good fit for me as an educator. I could work my design schedule around my school schedule. In graphic design you don’t have to worry about a brick and mortar business and you can work the jobs around your own schedule. Most of my business is word of mouth. I have done some SEO, but most of my jobs have been referrals. We are at a time now where people know they need a good website. It helps that you don’t have to sell people on the idea of a good website.
CS: Tell me a little bit about your business?
JW: My introduction to web design started during my freshmen year of college. I taught myself most of what I know. I picked up a few clients and worked very cheap. I was developing my skills. I eventually developed my skills to the point that I started a business and made it official. Now several years later I have worked with schools, churches, non-profits, musicians and a number of other businesses. The school district that I worked for paid me a stipend to develop the district website, and they are still using it to this day.
CS: What is the best business advice you have ever been given?
JW: Just because an idea makes sense to you doesn’t mean that it will work. In other words, I think that people are hard to predict. You can be passionate about your business idea but if the demand isn’t there you are fighting an uphill battle. Sometimes people share an idea with me and they are very excited about it, but the idea needs to make sense in the long term. I never want to discourage anyone from an idea but the reality is that if there is no demand for your idea, it won’t be successful.
CS: What is the greatest challenge of being a Teacher Entrepreneur?
JW: Time management is the major issue. Juggling teaching, family, personal life, health etc. can be a major balance. I set up a schedule. Three days per week I would work on web design stuff, three days per week I would hang out with the family. School stuff always took priority over entrepreneurial stuff.
CS: What advice would you give to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
JW: I think the best teachers are hard-working, creative, and willing to take risks. If you are a good teacher you will probably do well as an entrepreneur. My advice would be to take the same attributes that make you successful in the classroom and apply them to a business you love. Just make sure there is a demand for it.
CS: What books or resources would you recommend to other Teacher Entrepreneurs?
JW: I would recommend The 4 Hour Work Week By Tim Ferris. I think Tim Ferris gives you a chance to reflect on a different way of life. Some of the principles in the book can be applied to your teaching job as well. I got to the point that I had a teaching assistant help me with tasks that didn’t have to be done by me. That was huge.
The second book I would recommend would be The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – that book helps you evaluate how and why you do what you do. I guess the case that he makes is that once you identify and re-configure your habits you really have the power to change your life. It is a pretty interesting book.
A website I would recommend is www.smartpassiveincome.com. It can be a source of inspiration. Pat Flynn is the owner of the website and he is a guy that got laid off from his corporate job so he started working online from home. He has been very successful and now he has a website that explores all kinds of different business models.
CS: What is your vision for your business?
JW: My goal is to leave all of my clients with a modern website that is going to serve them well. I enjoy the web design work, but at the same time, web design work has deadlines and deadlines create stress.
In an attempt to lead a simpler life, I started www.sneakadeal.com to generate enough income to eventually transition from web design work to a more passive form of income. In many ways, my current business goal is to set web design aside and build a national following for SneakADeal.
Here’s how SneakADeal works:
I have search criteria set up to find the best sneaker deals on the web each week. The sneaker deals need to be at least 40% off and they have to be available in most major sizes. When I find great deals, I post them to the site with a unique tracking link. If a user finds a deal on my site and they click through to make a purchase, I get a small commission from the retailer. I only post deals from reputable retailers like Finish Line and Footlocker.
This idea was birthed out of my childhood. I grew up in a city where sneakers were a part of the culture, but money was scarce. With SneakADeal, I get to make a little money focusing on something that I am already interested in. I started in spring of 2013 with 0 visitors per month and I am now at about 4000-5000 visitors per month. The goal for www.sneakadeal.com is to have 100,000 visitors per month. If I keep gaining traction, can see that happening in two to three years.
The goal with any of these projects is to stick with it. My first commissions were very small. But now I am at the point where the commissions are beginning to make a difference. There is a direct correlation between the number of people that visit your site and the number of people that make a purchase.
CS: How will you know when you have achieved your vision?
JW: The numbers don’t lie. If I can build up the traffic for sneakadeal.com to 100,000 visitors per month. I am there. I will have enough income to support my family.
CS: What would you do differently if you were to start another business?
JW: I have tried a few business ideas along the way. Instead of funding all of the businesses on my own, this time around I would try a crowdfunded business idea. I think if you have a good enough idea, you can find the support online and make it happen. Two quick examples
- There is a company in California called Sondors Electric Bike that is committed to building an electric bike with a top speed of 20 miles per hour. If they can raise the support they will build the bike and sell if for less than $600. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sondors-electric-bike
- There is a company in Denmark called Pluk. These designers created a hanging basket that is spherical in shape and hangs from your ceiling. There are bungee cords that run through it to contain the contents of the basket. If you’re into modern design, it’s a really unique offering with great utility. They funded their project two times over. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/193289139/pluk-the-hanging-fruit-basket
Crowdfunding seems to be an increasingly popular way to raise capital.
CS: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your business?
JW: If you work full time as a teacher, I’d encourage you to build balance into your life. I had to learn to:
- Put my family first.
- Put my students in a super-close second.
- Put my entrepreneurial pursuits third.
And if you’re just starting to consider your own side project, I’d encourage you to look into affiliate marketing. It’s not easy to get the ball rolling, but when you do, it’s the least stressful way to make money online. You pick a topic that interests you — something that you already care about — and then you find a logical way to monetize it. You don’t have to worry about customers, building expenses, inventory or store hours.
My project SneakADeal.com is an example of an affiliate marketing website. Every week, I search for sneaker deals from reputable retailers. I post the deals on my website, and if someone chooses to purchase the deal, I get a small commission on the sale. It’s a great system.
- I’m helping people save money.
- I don’t have any inventory or expenses (other than an internet connection).
- I don’t deal with any customer service questions (the retailers handle that).
- Any payouts that I earn are direct deposited in my bank account (no phone calls, meetings or emails).
In my mind, that’s a beautiful system.
I want to thank Josh for taking the time to speak with me. Running two businesses and maintaining all of his personal commitments makes him a busy man.