What happens when you’re in your teens and you get an unhealthy fascination with business?
What happens when you read Seth Godin telling you, you can and should change the world?
What happens when you have all the tools, training and resources to make an incredible teen business, just a click away?
My name’s Ed Fry, I’m 17-years old as I write this. This was supposed to be short ‘About Me’ page, but its turned into something far more interesting.
I Caught the Bug in School
I took Business Studies when I was 14 for a sort-of "taster year", and one of the tasks was to set up and run a business in school. Sick and fed-up with the grossly-overpriced and crappy-quality that churned out of the school lunch hall, my friends and I went and setup a snacks business.
The huge queues for the lunch hall clearly showed the demand for our goods. We setup a little stall every breaktime closer to where people normally spent their breaks and charged a premium. We learnt how to advertise our business for maximum results - everyone did Maths, and the schools Maths department was right in the middle of where lots of people were walking through anyway. The maths department ads were, in the words of Borat, “great success!”
About 1,300 cakes later and several weeks later, "the man" shut us down. The teachers got annoyed with us traipsing in and out of the business studies office every break where we stored our stock and cash. That, and my proposal for installing vending machines to free up our time may have ticked them off a bit. I learnt two things - schools and entrepreneurship don’t mix particularly well, and secondly; for a teen business to really work, some sort of automation is the name of the game.
The Persuit of Automation. Ah, the internet!
It was boredom during the Summer of 2008 that I started for internet business ideas to invest the profits from the snack business in. I struck a bit of luck, avoiding the countless get-rich-quick scams and stumbled across a system called Site Build It. I found their video tour captivating. SBI promised marrying brains and motivation with a highly-traffiked, profitable website using their tools and following their 10-step Action Guide.
After reading an article about mini laptops (notebooks) and how the market was going to grow ten-fold by 2012, I put two-and-two together and created a Site Build It website. I was fascinated by online marketing, especially search engine optimization. I could work on the site whenever I wanted and still get regular, growing cheques and bank deposits each and every month.
Turn of the Tide
This obsession with how online marketing worked led to two things. Firstly, I began to read places elsewhere besides Site Build It. SBI encourages its members to avoid reading outside of SBI because of the shear volume of bad advice out there. Sure, there are some gems - but the vast majority of ‘net marketing’ stuff on the web is total crap.
I ended up on a few email lists, spent ages staring at the yellow-highlighted product pages for marketing-guru products and basically wasting my time. It wasn't really until the end of the summer that it dawned on me that it was all really smoke and mirrors.
After one guy had sent me half a dozens consecutive email sales pitches in a month, of get-rich-quick products totalling over $10,000, I thought… this is ridiculous. I can't afford that kind of material, and even if I could I would be on the road to success anyway. I realised that even though I was just a 15-year old kid, the guys sending the email blasts really didn't care about the people on the list, regardless of their age, position or family situation. I was just one, tiny, insignificant number.
I thought I could make inroads into this market and so I launched in June 2009
It was supposed to be able to guide users through the process required to build the right website for them, but the project was heavily distorted by me trying to teach internet marketing stuffs. But who can compete in the saviest niche on the net? It's now a sitting duck - I don't really touch it except for approving new article submissions and cashing cheques :p
Meanwhile, my first Site Build It website carried on earning. This was the second thing that chance, I decided to cash in on it's value and sell it. I listed it on the Site Build It forums and had about a dozen interested buyers. I learnt about selling expensive stuff very quickly - eventually fixing a final date for people to 'bid' for the website. I eventually sold it for £800 (approximately $1300 then) making a profit of around $1000 on the website plus healthy Adsense and affiliate commissions from selling laptops.
The money was divided two ways; into more websites and into books. The $497 "home study courses" sold by the internet marketing conmen where no match for the shear level of expertise and quality information in the far more affordable books recommended on Amazon. Reading books has empowered me to feel knowledgeable and confident enough to go forward and be more confident with online marketing stuffs. This really came in handy in the future.
Meanwhile, a close family friend had began dabbling in the electric bikes business. Electric bikes aren’t “the answer” to congestion, pollution and an obese nation, but they sure help a lot! Electric bikes are faster, cheaper and a hell of a lot more fun than any other kind of transport for getting across cities, even if you’re 70, you’ve lost your licence and your living of a pitiful fixed income.
I could see the potential. Electric bikes suffered from two major problems; distribution (getting them sold across the UK, and then the world) and marketing. I turned my attention to the latter - practically no one in the industry understands marketing, which is a problem when you’re trying to sell £1000, even £2000 bikes.
in February 2010 and I’m currently leading an assortment of the British Electric Bike Association, a handful of industry magazine editors and a bunch of enthusiasts to create a definitive resource to help market and educate consumers about electric bikes. Its a giant marketing experiment, with potential for big rewards if it goes right. More exciting than a marketing degree right?
But more was to come...
My Very Lucky Break
My school likes to encourage people to undertake work experience, and through one way or another I managed to get an internship with London Web Marketing Firm Distilled. You might have come across their partners SEOmoz and seen some of them in the weekly Whiteboard Friday videos.
I had a wicked two weeks working and making friends with some of the brightest guys in the industry.
The Distilled experience empowered me to do something new and exciting; consulting. I know about online marketing, so why not share it with people? I found myself giving out advice to family and family friends who owned businesses. I felt compelled to put together little playbooks and work with them to get their ideas off the ground. I find it quite satisfying, especially the human interaction part. So far, I’m dealing with anything from cosmetics companies to authors to software companies. It is fascinating!
I discovered my ‘calling’ in the online marketing world too, post-Distilled. Creating incredibly awesome content. After thinking over lots of different ideas and little theses, I published The Definitive Guide to Awesome Web Content on SEOmoz’s Community Blog called YOUmoz. It received great praise and got promoted onto the main blog there which goes out to over 80,000 search industry professionals. Pretty incredible, eh?
What was even better was having this go live about a week before Distilled’s London PRO SEO Seminar which they invited me back to. I got to listen to, meet and even high-five some of the shiniest shining starsin in online marketing. Maybe I’ll be able to speak there one day... :-o !
So Where Now?
Besides studying and playing music, I’ve got a bunch of projects going. I want to carry on with the web marketing consulting and take some client’s businesses to a whole new level - that’d be kind of gratifying. I’ve got some
exciting projects instore for the Electric Bikes Experts project this year
as well as an
awesome project to inspire teen entrepreneurship by sharing success stories with a book
and I want to continue experimenting with the creation, production and promotion of awesome content as a marketing strategy (something I’m doing across a bunch of sites, including my clients.
And then there’s this.
(Oh yes, I’m looking into Universities at the moment. Any advice and recommendations will be greatly appreciated!)
Want to get in touch?
You can contact me a handful of ways, but to keep this simple.
Short messages - send me a message on
(That’s Ed Fry in reverse plus a lucky little number. Only those in the know can identify me :D)
Longer messages - try filling in this contact form and I’ll email you back (typically in the evenings British time, I check ma email.)
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