With Richard Lazazzera
Written by Franco Varriano.
Last week’s Marketing Chat with Luke Starbuck from Pixel Union was awesome. This week’s Marketing Chat is set to be another amazing one. We’re really happy to have Richard Lazazzera with us this week.
Richard is an Entrepreneur and Shopify Alumni. At Shopify, he was a member of the Growth Team where he helped the company go public. He then founded “A Better Lemonade Stand”, an online ecommerce incubator which helps entrepreneurs build, launch and grow online businesses better, faster and cheaper. This is the reason this week’s topic is: Entrepreneurship for All.
2. The Interview
Ned: Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this series. Before we dive into the topic, can you please introduce the man behind A Better Lemonade Stand?
Richard: Well, I’ve been an entrepreneur nearly all my life to some extent. Whether it was selling vegetables from my father’s garden in front of my house when he was at work, carving wood necklaces and selling them to half my school when I was 12, selling on eBay in my early teenage years, or selling through my own online stores.
Although I’ve been an entrepreneur to some extent all my life, I’ve never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur and never took it too seriously until about 5 years ago when I was laid off from my first post college career. After dedicating all my blood, sweat and tears to the company I was let go due to downsizing. That experience made me realize that so much of our lives are controlled by the decisions of others when you work for someone else. That notion didn’t jive all that well with me. It was around the same time that I really discovered ecommerce. Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to ecommerce and trying to learn as much as possible about it, while also sharing my experience with others.
Ned: Out of every aspects of running an online store, you decided to focus on entrepreneurship. Why?
Richard: Well entrepreneurship is just the broader topic to ecommerce. I think entrepreneurship is extremely important and is only going to become more important over the next 10 years. Although I mostly focus on ecommerce on A Better Lemonade Stand, I encourage all forms of entrepreneurship. However, I do believe that ecommerce is one of the easiest ways to get started in entrepreneurship.
Ned: Talking about entrepreneurship, many people struggle with the job dilemma, basically when should they quit their full-time job to jump full-time. How did you manage your journey from Shopify to A Better Lemonade Stand?
Richard: There’s usually two schools of thought on this. Burn the bridges and go all in, or slowly build someone on the side and when it gets big enough, then quit your job. I believe both are valid avenues, it depends on the individual circumstances. For example, if you have a family with two kids, a mortgage, a car lease, and limited savings, quitting your job and going all in might be going beyond the acceptable risk line.
However, if you are young with no kids and just rent your home, your risk tolerance should be might higher and quitting to go all in on your new idea should be a real consideration. I think people need to ultimately ask themselves (and be very honest with their answer to themselves) “what’s the worst case scenario?”. If the answer is catastrophic (spouse leaves you, kids have no food, bank takes back home and car is repossessed) then obviously you should build something on the side.
If the answer is just uncomfortable (might have to rent a cheaper condo, or not go out to the bars/restaurants for the next year) then you should probably go all in. Your answer should also take into consideration your skillset, savings to support you and your new business, your worth in the job market (should you have to go get a job again) and current economy. For me, I tried to go all in a few times, ultimately it didn’t work out. I found my success by slowly building a few businesses on the side and growing them.
Ned: Entrepreneurship for All. Do you think we should all become entrepreneurs? Why?
Richard: In short, yes. It’s important for me to note that I don’t necessarily advocate being an entrepreneur or working for someone else. It’s not one or the other. I think a lot of people can find a lot of success in working for someone, but having some side hustle that adds another income stream, growth opportunity, challenge, and safety net to their life.
Consider this. The generation that’s growing up now will be one of the first generations where the majority of workers will not receive any sort of pension from the companies they work for. This was once the standard, but is becoming quickly obsolete. I’m not great at math, but in almost all the scenarios I crunched the numbers for, retiring comfortably was almost never the outcome based on working a standard career with standard raises.
That’s not the only reason though. I know for the last 30 years, every generation has talked about machines replacing jobs, but this time, with AI and Machine Learning, things are going to be different. I think it’s going to affect a lot of markets and it’s going to hurt a lot of people. Beyond all the scary talk though, entrepreneurship is amazing. The new skills entrepreneurship will force you to learn can empower you to be a much more well rounded person in all areas of life.
Ned: One of the reasons why people don’t start businesses is the fear of failure. How does one overcome that fear and get started?
Richard: I think there’s two things to consider here. The fear of public failure and feeling embarrassed and the fear of failure when it comes to losing money tied to the venture.
For the first one, the fear of essentially being embarrassed in front of friends and family. The first thing people need to realize that is you’re almost always harder on yourself than other will be. Most people will shrug their shoulders and say “that’s too bad it didn’t work out”. Second, anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable for stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something isn’t a good person to associate with and be around anyways. Use that as your test and opportunity to remove those people from you life. The company you keep will likely play a large impact in your success or failure. Weed out the people that don’t contribute or support you.
When it comes to the fear of losing money, that’s a bit different. However, I think in general, younger people shouldn’t worry too much about this. Even if you lose 5k or 10k on your first ecommerce business, it’s a very small amount of money in the scheme of things and a very small percentage of what you’ll make over your entire life.
Consider this. It was as little as 20 years ago that internet businesses didn’t really exist. If you wanted to be an entrepreneur you had to write a ridiculous business plan, beg your bank for a loan of (usually) hundreds of thousands of dollars, rent a storefront with a 5 year locked in lease and buy tens of thousands of dollars of inventory or equipment up front. You literally had one chance at being successful. If you failed, you would likely be radioactive to banks in the future.
Now, you can open an online store for as little $24. The barrier financially and technologically is so low now that everyone should at least try it once.
Ned: In a world where A Better Lemonade Stand achieves its mission, how is the process of launching an online store different from what we have today?
Richard: I don’t know if the process is might different. Let’s be honest, the barriers are pretty low at this point. However, in a world where A Better Lemonade Stand achieves its mission, more people and people that normally wouldn’t think about it, have a business/side business.
Ned: In most ecommerce forums, one of the most common topics is scale. How does one go from 10 sales per months to 100 sales per months. Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs stuck in situations like this?
Richard: There will always be businesses that have marketing anomalies like insane press coverage, or virality that things just work out, however for the average entrepreneur, in order to scale, they need to find a paid channel like Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, become a master of the platform, and scale the ads once they find the right recipe. Once you can get to an equation where $1 in ad spend equal $10 in sales, it’s just a matter of increasing budget. Getting to this point though can take a lot of time, testing and money.
Ned: If you had to launch a new store tomorrow. Which products would you choose and why?
Richard: I have some ideas for products I’d like to get into in the future. Ultimately, I’d really like to manufacture my own unique product that adds a lot of value to a particular market. No matter what I choose, it would definitely fit most of my 17 criteria points for a perfect product to sell online.
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