My Name is Maayan Gordon

And this is My Story.....

My life has been an incredible adventure, that has taken me to the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

Table of Contents

From Grade School to College

From Dropout to Homelessness

Starting My Own Businesses

Glassblowing and Beyond

“Kids deserve the right to think that they can change the world.” ~ Lois Lowry



My Summer In Oaxaca, Mexico

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta


Raising Guide Dogs for the Blind

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”– Pablo Picasso


College

"College has given me the confidence I need to fail." —Jarod Klintz


Falling in Love

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” — Dr. Suess


Dropping Out of College

“Nobody … develop[s] their unique and compelling approaches to disruptive innovation and leadership by reading a textbook but by living through the thrill, dread, and sleepless nights that come with being an entrepreneur." - Richard Branson


 

I also became a 1099 employee for a man named Jamie Lewis who at the time was one of the biggest Internet marketers and affiliate marketers online. This is when I really moved specifically into copywriting, creating landing pages, doing keyword research, writing email blasts and learning to close sales through email for digital products all for Jamie.

 

I started making between $800 and $1000 per week which was more money than I had ever thought of making in my life. Because I have no financial education I didn’t know to save any of it for taxes and didn’t think about my student loans I would have to repay when I was finished with school. I honestly was just so happy and excited about my life because I LOVED writing and had a new love in my life. I started flying Ben out to Los Angeles every single weekend and we would spend the weekends going on all sorts of crazy adventures.

 

I would rent a car, we would go to Knottsberry farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Monica beach, and we would do all sorts of drugs from cannabis to ecstasy to mushrooms and acid. To be honest, it was an incredible experience that I still have so many good memories from.

 

But at the same time I started realizing how much I hated school and going to classes. I became depressed about my future because I had my identity all tied up in my academics and had wanted to be a veterinarian basically my entire life and it was becoming clear that that was not the reality that I was going to manifest.

 

This all came to ahead a week before I had to take my finals after my third semester. I had a mental breakdown and couldn’t stop crying from the choices I knew I had to make. The thought of dropping out TERRIFIED me! But I felt like I had no other option, I was just so miserable staying in school and I had finally realized that it would be a huge financial burden to repay once I stopped going.

 

After three days of intense emotions came to the decision that I wanted to drop out of college, and I flew back to Seattle and moved in with Ben. At this point we were fully and entirely in love. We felt like we were soul mates and had an inseparable bond. However for both of us, this was our first serious relationship we’d ever had.

Freelance Copy Writing

 

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” ~ Richard Bach


 

We lived in a house with three other people, renting a very small room. Ben would go to work at the smoke shop I met him at, and I would stay home all day doing copywriting work on my computer. After Ben finished work he would go to MMA training and I didn’t get to see him until usually later at night.

 

Even though we were quite in love, there was a lot of strain on the relationship simply because we didn’t get to spend much time together. Soon afterwards got our first dog together, Hershey. Soon after that I had made and saved enough money for us to get our own rental house.

 

We moved into that house and enjoyed a period of bliss. We rarely wore clothes, smoked cannabis all day, and Ben was able to quit his job at the smoke shop to spend more time with me because I was making enough money to cover our bills by myself.

 

This went on for a number of months before the work I was doing for Jamie as a copywriter shifted into mostly sales. I really didn’t enjoy sales because I didn’t fully understand or believe in the product I was selling. Even though I had a much more developed idea on how affiliate marketing, and online marketing in general worked I often felt lost.

 

I have been switched to a commission basis pay structure instead of the normal hourly that I’ve been on for the past six months to a year. And as sales slowed, so did my income.

Surviving a Gas Explosion

“Temper us in fire, and we grow stronger. When we suffer, we survive.”
― Cassandra Clare, 
City of Heavenly Fire


 

Then one day Ben and I were cooking naked by our stove and the LOUDEST bang and concussive force happened without any warning. We had just experienced and been at the epicenter of a GAS EXPLOSION.

 

I couldn’t see and immediately ran to the bathroom to see if I was OK. I was worried something was wrong with my eyes, But I was able to take out my contacts and see that it was just the lenses that had been burned (I believe they saved my eyes).

 

My legs hurt and I realize they were burned, and I felt in the more a state of panic than I ever had in my life. I stuck my head out of the bathroom to see if Ben was OK and he was screaming and shaking down the hallway. It was one of the most horrifying sights I’ve ever seen in my life and my brain quickly started asking me if we were about to die.

 

I knew this could be a life or death situation so I immediately called 911 and told them that we had been in an explosion and needed help right away. We both got in the shower to try and cool down the burns.

 

The pain was INTENSE but the panic and fear was even worse. Neither of us knew if we would survive or be ok. The fire department arrived first and they came into the house and quickly gave us morphine which helped immensely with the pain and the panic. We told them what happened and when the ambulance came it immediately rushed Ben to the hospital because his burns were much worse and over more of his body than mine. 

 

The next ambulance came and took me to the hospital as well. I was put in a different area of Harborview medical hospital because Ben had to be taken to the Intensive Care Unit. I was scared and ashamed because the explosion felt like it was my fault. The gas that caused the explosion had been a buildup of butane, which we had been using to extract THC outside of our house (but with the door open) when we had been making cannabis concentrate. 

 

I was discharged from the hospital or the next day, but came back for the next 10 days has been recovered in the ICU. When he was finally able to come back to the house we were in a state of financial ruin. We hadn’t had renter’s insurance, so we had damages we had to pay on the house, medical bills, and during that time I lost all of my freelance work.

The Time I Was ALMOST Arrested For A Felony

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." --Dale Carnegie


We knew that we couldn’t continue to afford living in that rental house so we borrowed money from Ben’s dad and bought a 1978 Dodge coachman 19 foot Class C RV. We knew that we couldn’t live out of the RV in Seattle because of the parking laws. You’re legally not allowed to park in RV almost anywhere, and even the first night we had the RV parked in front of our own rental house the neighbors called the cops who came and told us we had to move it right away.

 

So we packed up everything we owned as quickly as we could into the RV and with the little money we had left started driving down to California. I knew that we could legally park down in Eagle rock neighborhood next to Occidental College where I had just previously dropped out of.

 

I started driving down interstate five but quickly realized that instead of us getting 8 to 10 miles per gallon like the owner of the RV told us, that we were only getting 4-5 miles per gallon and we were going to run out of gas. Not only that but almost nothing worked in the RV. It had no running water capabilities, the electricity didn’t work, and even the fuel gauge didn’t work, so we manually had to keep track of how much gas we have left.

 

I had the idea for us to go down to Las Vegas where I knew they were a bunch of pawnshops for us to sell a bunch of things that we had in our RV So that we would have more money for gas to make it all the way down to Los Angeles. We made it into Nevada before realizing that the next gas station was going to be more than 100 miles away so we had to pull into a tiny town named Ely so that I could try and make some more money through copywriting gigs to get us to the next gas station.

 

We found a big empty lot that we thought would be a good place to park for the night because we didn’t think we’d be bothering anyone. We took out a tiny charcoal grill and started making a little dinner, and not 30 minutes later a police cruiser pulled up right next to us. The cop got out and told us that we were parked on private property and asked to see our IDs.

 

 When he came back from checking our IDs he said that mine was not pulling up in the system at all (some type of error) and that Ben’s had a prior marijuana charge on it, so he asked us if we had any marijuana with us in the RV. We lied and told him no vehemently even though he asked several times. 

 

He must not have believed us, because he said that he was going to bring the drug dog to sniff out the RV regardless of what we said because they would get a lot of RVs passing through that look just like ours carrying drugs. So he asked us one more time and we came clean and said that yes we had less than an eighth of an ounce plus some pipes that we brought down with us. He told us to go into the RV and bring out everything that we had that was connected to marijuana because if he found himself we were going to be in a lot more trouble.

 

So we went into the RV and tried to find every little piece of marijuana and paraphernalia that we could which was not an easy task because we had literally our entire life’s possessions jammed into this tiny 19 foot RV in every nook and cranny. It honestly was a mess inside the RV. When we finished pulling out everything we could remember, another cop had showed up with the police dog and the two cops together along with the dog began searching through the RV to make sure we weren’t hiding anything large.

 

This process took 3 to 4 hours, again because we had so much crap literally shoved into the RV cabinets. Closer to the end I had a sudden realization and huge sinking feeling in my stomach. I’ve been so focused on the marijuana in the pipes I had completely forgotten about the medicated cake pops we had in our fridge!

 

Before we had left Seattle about 2 to 4 weeks prior I have done a barter deal with a legally medical bakery, that made marijuana infused edibles including cake pops. If you’ve never tried a cake pop they are incredibly delicious. I traded a custom built website for 100 cake pops that we had planned to simply enjoying it all ourselves. After the explosion we still had almost all of the cake pops left and packed them into our RV and had planned to eat them on the way down because we really didn’t have much food or money.

 

. we had about 60 of them left and they were all individually wrapped inside the fridge. I ran inside the RV to tell them right as they were opening the refrigerator door. They started questioning us and asked who’s these were and I immediately said they were mine and that I got them in a trade for a website I had built. They had a hard time believing me and told me that this was a big deal and a felony, and that I would likely be taken to jail

 

even though it was definitely a crime in their eyes, we didn’t match the description of any other drug dealers they had come across, I was a sweet 20-year-old girl so they called the district attorney to ask what they should do. They couldn’t get a hold of the DA so they called the assistant DA who said that it was in their hands and they could either book us both in jail or let us go with big fat tickets.

 

They still were uncertain what to do until a truck happen to be rolling through and it was the DA himself who saw the commotion going on with the cop cars and pulled in to check on it. He was incredibly kind and told the cops that he didn’t really want us hanging around in their town have a good Christians, and to send us on our way with $1200 tickets each. To be honest we got super lucky.

 

As much as we wanted to leave and get out of there immediately, we had to tell the cops that the entire reason we parked there was we simply didn’t have enough gas to get out of town. So we convinced them to follow us to the gas station and they used $50 of their own money to fill up our gas tank simply so we could leave. By the time the entire ordeal had happened it had taken more than 10 hours and was the middle of the night. We had narrowly escaped another disaster.

 

Homeless in LA

“The Key to overcoming the challenges in life is to make up your mind to overcome the Challenge”
― Carlton Young


 

After that things went down without much of a hitch, we made it into Las Vegas and were able to plan a bunch of items in our RV to get enough gas money to make it down to Los Angeles where we parked literally next to the school, close enough to get Wi-Fi from my laptop. It was really peaceful in that neighborhood and we felt safe.

 

We were homeless down in Eagle Rock for 4-6 months, it’s hard for me to remember the exact time frame because all the days seem to blend together. At the time we had two dogs, a Shep who was the guide dog puppy I raised in high school that ended up flunking out due to a very minor issue, and we had kept as a pet, and our dog Hershey that Ben and I had gotten together when I first moved in with him.

 

In the beginning we had very little money for food and would walk 2 miles to a grocery store called Super A foods so that we could each buy their hotdog plus a soda deal for $1.10. I remember that hotdog being the most delicious thing, but years later we went back and realized it was almost inedible. Starvation will really change your taste buds. We had to save most of our money that I would make on random freelance writing jobs for dog food. 

 

Every single day we started going into the schools library, because I still had access through my student library card. It was like a haven because it was a gorgeous library and down in the basement they had soundproof media rooms, we would go in there with my laptop and spend hours and hours trying to come up with ideas for how we could make money.

Starting Up My First Business

“There is no finish line. There are only mile markers.”
-Michael Ventura


 

Through this process we had the idea to start a company and create a product called Diffuser Beads. We found a local supplier of airsoft BBs that we could buy in giant 250,000 bead bags. We also found a company locally that specialize in making jars and bottles. We went to each of the facilities and were able to afford 1 bag of beads and 36 jars with lids to start. We also bought some address labels from Office Depot to use as the labeling on our jars.

 

This Diffuser Beads was born. Because I knew how to build websites, I put together a website for the product, and started up an Instagram page for it. We printed out the words “Diffuser Beads” in plain black lettering on the address labels using the schools printers. I also made some sales flyers/promotional sheets so that we could leave them with any smoke shops that didn’t want to purchase right away but still might be interested later. Also because this was a new product we are invented for the market, we knew that we had to have a little bit of information to tell people what it was and how it worked. We filled the jars with bbs in the RV and we had our finished product.

 

We loaded the jars into a free flat rate box we got from the post office, which also was within walking distance from our RV, and we mapped out all of the smoke shops that existed within a 10 mile radius from our parking spot.  We carried the box and started walking to every smokeshop on the list asking them if they wanted to try out and buy our diffuser beads. The fourth or fifth shop that we visited was interested and bought all 36 jars at five dollars each. 

 

This was the most amount of money we had had in over two months, and it was a huge win for us! Our product was validated and we had a real business now (even if we couldn’t afford a business license yet). 

 

After that we worked really hard every single day trying to make more sales. I posted product Pictures to our Instagram page every single day and Ben and I both spent hours and hours cold calling shops and sending out cold emails to any smoke shop we could find online who had their contact info listed.

 

We started making sales on a pretty regular basis. I remember the first time we got a large order from a distributor that was for 1000 jars of diffuser beads. A lot of the money went to product cost and there wasn’t a ton of profit left, but it was enough to give us a ton of help and made me think of going even bigger.

Losing Everything AGAIN!!!

 

“It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, 
Fight Club


 

I saw a trade show/event being advertised online that looked amazing. I’d never been to a tradeshow before so all I had were the ideas and imagination in my head to rely on, but I was incredibly optimistic based on our current sales in the way that they advertised the show. I made the decision that we should sell our RV that we were living in so that we could pay for the trade show booth. We sold the RV for $1000 and I had another $1000 saved from our wholesale orders.

 

We paid the $2000 for the trade show booth and use the rest to make as many jars of diffuser beads we could to have for sale during the show. But the show was a disaster almost everything that we saw advertised online was a lie and they did almost no marketing to dry people into the show. They also gave us a horrible booth placement in the very back of the show so by the time people got to our booth that already spent all their money. More than 50% of the show room/tradeshow floor was completely empty.

 

We made only $500 at the show and were devastated. We no longer even had an RV to live in. We found a super cheap, cash motel that was $50 per night and we snuck our dogs into the room and stayed there for a week before we realized we were going to run out of money and simply didn’t have a plan.  I made one or two smaller sales that allowed us to get a rental car for a day  and we “borrowed” it and drove all the way back up to Seattle.

 

Then called his dad, told him the situation and asked for advice/help. Luckily his dad was in the process of buying a new house because he had just gotten remarried and they were not going to sell the old house, instead they planned to rent it out. He was willing to give us a huge family discount and allow us to move into that house.

Getting Back On Track

"Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity." -- Louis Pasteur


 

However, we didn’t have anywhere to stay when we got back up to Seattle so his dad told us we could sleep in the garage of the house they were about to move out of. His new wife was not happy at the idea when he brought it up so he asked us to make sure that she didn’t see us and we were not allowed in the house even to use the bathroom.

 

For two months we lived and slept in that very cold garage with our dogs. In the morning and at night we would go into the yard to pee, making sure no one saw us. During the day we would walk to a Starbucks that was close by and spent all day working, trying to sell more diffuser beads. 

 

When we moved into the house, things got a lot better. Our life became much more comfortable, and we were even more motivated to make sales. We were making enough money to pay for rent, food for us and our dogs, and things started to feel normal again.

 

Every single day we spent hours and hours filling jars of beads, working online trying to make sales, called calling smoke shops and it became a very boring routine for us compared to the more adventurous life we have been living when we were homeless. We missed travel and adventure. We started planning our next trip. In our heads we thought, it wasn’t living in the vehicle that was unpleasant, it was having no money and not being able to afford food to eat.

Barter Days

“Anything that just costs money is cheap.”
― John Steinbeck


 

I found a roommate to move into the upper portion of the rental house so that our rent was even less and started to save up some money. We were at that rental house for more than a year, and during that time I started doing an immense amount of bartering through craigslist. I was REALLY good at it. I would trade graphic design, logos, and websites for physical items.

 

There were so many trades, I could not describe them all but here’s an example of one that paid off really well for us. I design the website in trade for a minibike from one person, and made a website for a pontoon boat from another. We traded both the minibike and the pontoon boat for a 6 carat diamond bracelet. We traded the diamond bracelet for a jeep wrangler. We traded the Jeep Wrangler for a souped up racing ATV plus a Chevy blazer. We sold the ATV for $3,000 and traded the Chevy for another much older Jeep. We traded the Jeep for a Pontiac grand am. We traded the Pontiac for a lifted Chevy Truck. 

 

We loved that Chevy truck, and it was a huge trade up from what we started with. We saved up and bought a rooftop tent and with that set up we decided to go on another adventure. We build a storage system for the back of the truck for all of our diffuser beads and work and drove off to a bunch of different state parks all over Washington state and Oregon.

Homeless AGAIN but on an Adventure!

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the times you spent in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac


 

We had an amazing time, it was summer and everything was beautiful. We would spend half of the day working on our business and making sales, and the other half of the day going on hikes with our dogs. Things were pretty much going according to plan and living out of the rooftop tent was something we actually really enjoyed.

 

We continued with our adventures, going into eastern Washington and hanging out in places like Moses Lake and Walla Walla. The truck got terrible mileage which we had it planned for and we realized it wasn’t available for us to do a lot of driving around so we mostly hung out in those two places. At this point we started running out of money again as our sales for diffuser beads really slow down. We only got Wi-Fi when we were inside a McDonald’s or Starbucks which made it really hard to make sales.

 

We got to the point where gas was eating up all of our money because there were only select places we could park legally without the cops coming to bother us. At one point we didn’t have any money for food so we found some ponds that were seeded with fish and fished for our dinners. 

 

Then it started to rain. We realized very quickly that we hadn’t planned for rain being such a big issue. Even though the rooftop tent came with a tarp it was not sufficient enough to keep it from getting wet just due to poor design. And being in the Pacific Northwest it wouldn’t just rain for a couple hours, it was starting to rain for days on end. We decided to sell the truck.

 

First we sold the rooftop tent then the truck itself and we actually got $5000 for the Chevy. We went back to the rental house and asked our old roommate if we could stay there while we found a new vehicle. We immediately found a really cool old conversion van where the bench seat folded out into a bed. 

Getting Married

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”– Elizabeth Gilbert


 

The van had only cost us $3500 so we had some extra money and at this point Ben I had been talking about getting married. We’d been together 4 or 5 years now and we’re deeply committed and in love with each other, even through any amount of stress or struggle. Even though we couldn’t afford a big wedding, we still wanted something special and meaningful to us so we decided to go back down to Las Vegas and get married in a private ceremony at the Red Rock State Park.

 

We didn’t invite either of our families because neither of them approved of our life choices and we wanted it to be a joyous occasion we didn’t want any amount of blame or shame involved. So we drove all the way back down to Las Vegas and got married. After the costs of gas and paying for the ceremony we realized we didn’t have enough money to get back up to Seattle.

 

At this point in time I reached out to my mom and told her that we were ready to start building a more sustainable life and wanted to figure things out. She sent me enough gas money to get back up to Seattle and we moved into the basement of my mom and dad’s house. At first they would let me in the house I said Ben was not allowed inside. For the first two weeks he slept and stayed in the camper van while I was in the house. After those two weeks I decided that if they wanted me to stay with them, they would just simply have to deal with Ben as well since we were married. We hadn’t told them that we got married yet though. I knew it would upset them.

 

A few months later, Ben was driving the conversion van and the entire muffler and exhaust Fell off while he was driving, but because it was still being held on by the bracket and trapped underneath other parts of the vehicle we couldn’t take it off, and had to secure it with a bunch of wires. We quickly sold it at a pretty large loss but it was good for us to recoup some of the money and put more towards savings and paying off some of our debts. For the next year we had no vehicle and worked every day to save up money to start a new life.

Graphx Creations

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” – Milton Glaser


 

At this point we had gotten really burnt out on the diffuser beads and we’re not passionate about the project. I made a hard pivot and decided to use my graphic design skills to start at the new business called Graphx Creations. It started out with just logo and graphic design but I quickly learned there was a need for people to order stickers so we started printing own stickers.

 

I negotiated a huge discount through Office Depot to pay a quarter of the retail printing prices and we bought sticker paper in bulk and did all the sticker printing at Office Depot. We would then take the full pages back to our house and cut them by hand with a paper cutter. I actually remember that we started out with using scissors before we found out our hands would cramp up super bad after just a couple hundred cuts so we switched to a $40 at home paper cutter.

 

There was actually a lot of demand for logo design and sticker printing through craigslist and we had a steady stream of work. I started posting the work on my Instagram and generated even more interest. One day at Glassblower hit us up for an order of stickers that they wanted for a trade show they were going to and after they went to the trade show a lot more glass artists started to hit us up for sticker orders. It also helped to generate interest ones other Glassblower‘s size posting stickers we had made for Glassblower‘s on our Instagram. Word-of-mouth spreads quickly but a lot of Glassblower‘s didn’t have enough money to pay the $200 for an order of stickers. 

 

So I started to do more bartering! I would trade $400 worth of glass for $200 worth of stickers and then I would post the glass pieces to my Instagram page and sell them very quickly for between $200 and $300. We learned from the glass artists that there was also a demand for T-shirts so we bought a vinyl cutter and a heat press and started making T-shirts for people as well.

How I Got Into Glassblowing

“To be an artist is to believe in life.” – Henry Moore


 

Business was going pretty well, but the margins were pretty slim on the products we were selling, and they honestly took a lot of time for us to make. Neither Ben nor myself enjoyed cutting stickers or making the T-shirts it was really just the design aspect that was enjoyable. After a while we were honestly selling more glass through our Instagram page then we were stickers or T-shirts. An idea popped up and stuck in my brain that I should try out glassblowing because then I could make the glass pieces myself and generate more sales.

 

To be honest I was still pretty terrified of doing anything involving fire because of our gas explosion, but I knew this was a fear I had to overcome. I’d been friends with an artist named drags glass for more than five years even before I knew any other Glassblowers. So I traded him some custom stickers for a one on one lesson and it was the first time I blew glass.

 

I fell in love with it right away and could see myself doing it for the rest of my life or at least a very long time without burning out the way I had on my other two businesses. There was much more creativity and challenge involved to things that I really loved and had felt we’re missing in my life.

 

I knew that my parents would never allow me to blow glass or said anything up in their house, And we also didn’t see ourselves building a life in Seattle. The housing market had exploded and housing prices were now up in the $400,000 to $500,000 range for even the most basic houses. Honestly, everything in Seattle had gotten really expensive, from food costs to gas prices. 

Starting a Glassblowing Business

“To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” —Thomas Watson


 

We decided that we needed to sit out on another adventure to find the city where we wanted to grow our family and raise kids. I applied for and was able to get my first ever Audubon and we got a 2007 truck. We also saved up enough money for a 5 x 8 cargo box trailer . so that we could travel around and still have our sticker and T-shirt equipment with us and operate our business. We bought a comfy couch that converted into a bed and put it inside the trailer so that we had somewhere affordable to stay while we figured out where we wanted to settle down.

 

It only took us a month of traveling before we ended up in Spokane and fell in love with the city. It had the small town vibe that we had loved growing up in Seattle before it became a major metropolis. The people were so friendly in the energy in the city was phenomenal. Not only that but housing prices were so affordable, with many houses costing only $100,000. . The food and gas prices were almost half of that what we were paying in Seattle. We could see ourselves having kids and raising them in the city so we quickly asked around and one of our friends worked for a landlord who had a house available for rent that hadn’t actually hit the market yet

 

We moved into our first rental house in Spokane, paying only $800 per month for the entire house which came with a fenced in yard and a garage, perfect for our four dogs. I immediately bought all of the equipment I needed to start my own glassblowing studio and started practicing every single day for 10 hours or more. I was able to get a bunch of scrap material from another local artist so that my initial costs for the products starting out were very low.

 

I knew that if I posted my initial pieces on Instagram and people could see my progress visually throughout the years that it would help validate any higher pricing that I started asking for in the later years of my glassblowing work. What I didn’t expect was for people to want to purchase my glass work right away. But that’s exactly what happened. I realize there was a huge demand for less expensive pieces and that other more experienced artists were not interested to make smaller and cheaper items.

 

I had an idea to start something called $0 auctions on my Instagram page. People went crazy for these, they had never seen glasswork available for sale starting out at zero dollars. Every single piece I made it started to sell, from anywhere as low as $3 up to $35 warmer for a single piece. 

Growing the Glassblowing Business

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

— James Cash Penney, founder, JC Penney


 

Fueled by success and growth potential, I worked hard every single day of the week, blowing glass, posting the pieces on Instagram, sending people direct messages and invoices, and packing and shipping the glass out to the customers. We made our own stickers which people also got really excited about an added to the level of value of their purchasing experience with us. 

 

For 3 years straight i worked every single day - more than 14 hours each day. Sometimes the profit margin’s on the pieces were pretty low but because we were doing enough volume we were making good money. In the first year we made over $100,000, and the second year we made more than $200,000 and then the third year we made more than $300,000 in sales. 

 

I reinvested most of the profits back into the business to get better equipment, and also things that we needed for our house since we came from owning absolutely nothing. Furniture, kitchen items, and living expenses were definitely not cheap. We also were able to catch up on all of our debts including $15,000 in IRS penalties from the first year we started business when we didn’t know anything about filing our taxes properly.

 

In addition to that we saved up $15,000 to buy our first house together. I started doing some research into the housing market and started learning a lot about real estate investment and fell in love with the concept of owning a multi family unit. We started the mortgage lending process and looking at duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes. 

 

It took four months before all of the paperwork was approved and a month or two after that we found in ideal duplex in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Spokane up on South Hill. We made an offer on the house that was $10,000 above listing and beat out five other potential buyers who were also trying to get the house. 

Financial Mistakes and More Debt

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
― Albert Einstein


 

3-4 months before we started even looking for a house, I have been focused on how we could expand the Glassblowing business.  b I had tried ordering wholesale from other artists but the relationships had always gone south whenever they realized we were making a decent amount of money off of reselling their work. Their egos simply couldn’t get over the fact that they were doing all the work as perceived by them and yet we were making money off of it because of superior marketing and customer service. 

 

Hiring other Glassblowers was difficult because it required them to have their own studio as the one at our house didn’t have enough space. And if they had their own home studio there was really no incentive for them to come work for us. So I decided we should find a shop that was bigger so that we could hire Glassblowers to work for us in-house.

 

I didn’t grow up with a strong financial education so I didn’t know how to predict what my expenses would be or do any type of forecasting that would help me make this decision. We were getting by just fine in the bigger shop until I Instagram changed up his algorithm and we saw a huge loss of organic growth. Very suddenly over the course of six months we lost half of our yearly income and we started to go into debt.

 

I have one full-time employee that for some reason I could not bring myself to fire even though Ben and I were working 16 to 18 hour days to take him zero pay just to pay this employee. We took out a $30k line of credit and maxed out our credit cards. Eventually we were able to fire the employee and find someone to take over the lease for the commercial space and we moved everything into our duplex.

 

We lived out of the top unit of the duplex and blew glass every day in the garage. We slowly started paying off our credit cards and line of credit we had taken out. But money was still really tight with every extra penny going to pay off debts and it was a really stressful time.

 

I started really thinking about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because I wasn’t very happy with how my life was going at that point. I hated spending every single day stressed out and thinking about money. I realize that I love glassblowing because of the value and provided other people and had many customers come back and tell me how powerful those pieces had been in bringing positivity into their life. 

How I Grew on TikTok

"Nobody is an overnight success. Most overnight successes you see have been working at it for ten years."
-- David Heinemeier Hansson


 

I decided that I would no longer focus on money and instead made a very hard switch mentally to focusing on creating value. I started trying out different platforms including TikTok and LinkedIn and both took off right away for me.

 

When I first downloaded TikTok it was confusing and I wasn’t sure exactly how the app worked. I figured out how I could create and post a video and started posting videos of soft-glass because I could see that the full vertical screen function made everything much more visual. 

 

I had moderate success in the first week, growing to several thousand followers, and then 2 weeks in I got my first viral video which received more that 1 million views in the first 24 hours. This BLEW MY MIND because in 7 years of using Instagram I had never gotten anywhere close to 1,000,000 views on a video. I started gaining followers like crazy. 

 

From that first video I started to look at and see TikTok as a social science lab. I would generate a hypothesis before every video on why that video might go viral and then would analyze the results afterwards, learning more and more with every post. This led me to grow very rapidly and have huge success on the platform. 

 

In Tiktok in October 2019 I gained more than 600,000 followers. By June 2020 I had 2 million followers. I started to monetize pretty quickly through paid music promotions on my posts. Having extra income from TikTok took some of the pressure off of my glassblowing business.

 

In March 2020, I realized there was a huge demand for the knowledge and insights I had gained through the process of growing my TikTok account and I started to offer consulting services to other creators, brands, and businesses who wanted to better understand the platform and how to best tap into its potential. This created yet another revenue stream that let me refocus on what I wanted to do with my glassblowing business.

Building A Brand on LinkedIn

Your personal brand serves as your best protection against business factors you can’t control. 

- Dan Schawbel


 

A month after finding success on TikTok I decided to try out LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I started sharing my story, experiences and insights and found that I could bring so much value to other entrepreneurs, business owners or anyone with ambition who felt like they were fighting against the odds. I started forming deep and powerful relationships based on always giving value first.

 

I started up my own consulting agency called in March 2020 as the demand and rise for help on Tiktok and other platforms grew dramatically due to coronavirus. I discovered I had a unique talent for helping businesses understand how to form better and deeper connections with the people they interacted with online. 

 

Through LinkedIn I was also being contacted by podcast hosts to speak on their shows as a TikTok Expert. People were intrigued by my story and journey from homeless to successful entrepreneur and I began sharing my story to people all over the world through this new medium. This helped me build my brand even further and I began building some amazing relationships with people who could teach me so much and bring an immense level of value into my life. Today I continue speaking on podcast, presenting at online events, and sharing my knowledge and wisdom with as many people as I can. Bringing free value to people who can truly benefit from it has brought me a new level of fulfilment and happiness I had previously been lacking.

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