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How to Create a Million-Dollar Business in 5 Easy Steps

Over the weekend, Tim Ferriss posted an extremely useful article by Noah Kagan, an entrepreneur who built two…

Over the weekend, Tim Ferriss posted an extremely useful article by Noah Kagan, an entrepreneur who built two multi-million dollar online businesses before turning 28. Noah was employee #30 at Facebook, #4 at Mint, he helped create Gambit, and most recently co-founded  AppSumo. He's really smart, and the article is spreading like wildfire across the internet.

Noah's article is a step-by-step guide on how to create a million dollar online store. It's equipped with practical advice, screenshots, and a contest that's open to all Shopify Build-A-Business competitors. Read it here.

The Prize

  • $1,000 credit from
  • Roundtrip flight to Austin, Texas, to have "the most delicious tacos in the world" with Noah Kagan

Here's how to win: Whoever starts a new online business and generates the most profit (not just revenue) by October 8th, 2011 will win. If you're competing in our Build-A-Business Contest, it will be your increase in profit over the next 2 weeks vs. the prior 2 weeks. If you want to share some taco's with Noah, you'll have to prove your profit or profit increase, so please read all the contest details at the bottom of Kagan's post. 

How Gary Vaynerchuk Built His Empire

Nowadays, most people think of Gary Vaynerchuk as a social media guru or wine expert. Before all that,…

Wine Library began as a small New Jersey liquor store owned by Sasha Vaynerchuk, a recent immigrant from Babruysk (now Belarus). Gary grew up in the businesss, sweeping floors at first, then selling on the floor before he was old enough to drink.

Eventually, Gary took over his father's business and started to inject his own personality into the brand. was an eCommerce trail blazer and Gary used tools like email lists and video to expand the reach beyond New Jersey. 

Last week, I sat down with Gary Vaynerchuk over Skype to talk about his entrepreneurial roots. Due to some technical difficulties with the call, there's no video to post. Fret not, every detail of the conversation has been meticulously recorded below for posterity.

Mike Freeman - Hi Gary, you're coming to us today from the Vaynermedia office in New York?

Gary Vaynerchuk -  Yes, which we're about to move out of. Couple more days until the big move to our third office in three years. Good growth going on here and things are good.

Mike Freeman - Excellent. I wanted to chat today about your entrepreneurial history and how you built an online retail empire with Wine Library. I'd like to start all the way at the beginning, your family moved to the U.S. when you were around 3 years old. How long after that did your father start up his own liquor store?

Gary Vaynerchuk - He started working for one probably about 6 months after arriving and then eventually became the manager. He bought his own small store about 5 years later. He did an amazing job to come to this country with no money and no language and get to that place in 5 or 6 years, it's incredible.

Mike Freeman - I read that one of your first business ventures began with a $1,000 loan from your dad. Want to tell us a little about that?

Gary Vaynerchuk - Ya, sure. When I was 13 or so, my dad lent me $1,000 to buy baseball cards and I blew it. The best part of the story is, I went to Costco, Price Club at the time, and bought a bunch of boxes of a non-good year, non-good sets, because I was just too excited. It was burning a hole in my pocket. I pretty much burnt that thousand. So, I had to really hustle, but I payed him back very, very quickly and that started my career.

Mike Freeman - It's always interesting to hear about entrepreneur's first businesses when they were kids.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Ya, going back even further, when I was 5, I was doing lemonade stands, washing cars, shovelling snow. 

Mike Freeman - As a family business, I guess you started working pretty early in the store?

Gary Vaynerchuk - When I was 13 or 14 my father dragged me into the store and I've been pretty much working there until now, when we started Vaynermedia and I'm a little less involved. It was every weekend, every school holiday, every day of the summer. I was really all-in, I worked every day of my freshman, softmore, junior and senior year. And I mean everyday, literally from the first day of the summer to the last, except for Sundays sporadically. It was definitely something were I worked a lot. 

Mike Freeman - How did the passion for wine start for you? Especially since you were so young?

Gary Vaynerchuk - It was kinda by default. I didn't care about liquor and beer. Wine was the only interesting thing, it had more to it, and so that's how it happened.

Mike Freeman - Being under-age and not really able to drink, how did you start getting your fingers wet?

Gary Vaynerchuk - I just read a crapload. I don't know if you've ever heard of this thing called books? Back in the day, we had them and I read them, and I read them heavily. I read the magazines, I was a very big reader of Wine Spectator and Robert Parkers' Wine Advocate. And I just listened, I listened to customers. I used my ears quite a bit in those early days.

Mike Freeman - When did you start playing a bigger, more managerial role in the business?

Gary Vaynerchuk - Probably at about 16 or 17 I started to become a bigger sales force in the business. Then by 18 or 19 I started chirping in my dad's ear. By the time I was 22, I basically ran and made the decisions day-to-day. I took over operations in '98 and we moved into the new building in 2003.   

Mike Freeman - Were you already pretty online savvy at that time?

Gary Vaynerchuk - A little bit. I mean I wasn't online savvy until 1994-95. In 1995-96-97, I started selling things on eBay and AOL chatboards. Selling baseball cards, collectable toys and Star Wars figures. I started understanding retail online. But, I was no where close to the savvyness that I am today, or the first 1.0 bubble entrepreneurs. They understood much, much more. I was just a better business man, but I wasn't as technically savvy. Now I have both, I'm like a super hero… just kidding :) 

Actually, I'm having a new epiphany Mike, I'll be honest with you. Over the last five years I've been so heavy into becoming technically strong, I think I forgot, maybe 1% forgot, it all comes down to business chops. There are way too many start-ups and companies right now that suck. They've raised $5 million, they have NFC technology with virtual goods in the cloud, they've got the buzzwords down, they work their Facebook and Twitter, but, they can't sell shit. They don't understand how to run a real business. I'm starting to focus more on that.

Mike Freeman -  Ya, I think we've all learnt that the rules of business still do apply, whether its online or offline, it's not some brave new world were everything gets thrown out the door.

Gary Vaynerchuk - No, the artists have not taken over the business. It's the truth. You've got to have a combination of them both to be really good. 

Mike Freeman - What was it like building an ecommerce site back in 1996? Couldn't have been easy, one of the trailblazers I guess.

Gary Vaynerchuk - I got ripped off by some guy, some guy named Alex to make an HTML website for like $15,000 that probably took him 2 days. It sucked. I mean 1996-97-98, we didn't do anything. Then I met Eric and John, and they ended up becoming our full-time developers. They're the ones that took us into the modern age. I sucked out a lot of information from them, they sucked out a lot of information from me, and we became a really strong force. Wine Library became a real player in 2000.

Mike Freeman - A lot brick and mortar businesses still aren't really selling online. They have a website with their address and an email on it. How did moving online effect the retail store? Was it a positive, negative or neutral sort of thing?

Gary Vaynerchuk - It was hugely positive. But it was mainly the email service that was driving it. I understood data collection and that was a big thing. It was a huge force in our growth. It is the reason that I am relevant. There was no way I was building something from $3 million to $60 million in a heartbeat without the Internet or the website. It was the catalyst, it was the springboard.

Now, I look at social media and it's the same thing, but it takes longer for it to develop. It's running a marathon instead of sprint. Email and Google AdWords is a sprint, social media is a marathon. Together, you're an unstoppable force. 

Mike Freeman - A big part of Wine Library's success is obviously your personality, and energy. The decision to do video reviews is what propelled Wine Library beyond just wine enthusiasts.  What brought you to realize that was going to be a great decision?

Gary Vaynerchuk - Same reason I started using Twitter very early. Same reason in 2008 when I wrote Crush It!, I told everyone to bet on Tumblr. I am a good entrepreneur, and a good entrepreneur tastes the vibrations of where the world's going. I feel like that's what I did. Why did I do it? Cause I thought online video was going to be a big deal. Honestly I had no clue that I would be good at it. I just knew that I wanted to try it because it was going to be a big deal. Nothing really too crazy. I saw Youtube a few months earlier, payed attention, saw Lazy Sunday go very viral. I watched zefrank build an audience and said "I can do this". I have enough wine knowledge, I didn't realize I'd be so entertaining, I didn't realize I was a showman, or an extravert on-screen, but I ended up being that too, which didn't hurt. But the thesis was video was going to be big and I wanted to be a part of it. 

Mike Freeman - Unfortunately  for us, you've hung up your hat in the wine review business. Is that just to move on to bigger and better things?

Gary Vaynerchuk - Ya, I think I'm leaving the same way I came in. I woke up one day, I watched zefrank and Youtube and was like "I gotta do this". I woke up one day this summer and said; "If I want to buy the NY Jets one day, if I want to be the entrepreneur that I am, I need to move on". I've done this everyday of my life for five and a half years. I don't mail these in, they're 20-30 minute videos. I've put out a lot of content and I've owned it. I got a really nice compliment from Anil Dash, one of the real pioneers of the internet, he was introducing me to some friends and he said "nobody's really done it on video the way Gary did. As hard, for as long, at that quality level". There's Youtube stars that have made it even bigger, you look at someone like Perez Hilton, that's become a huge brand out of blogging. So there's people who have done it, but I'll definitely be one of the posterchildren, especially because I was very tech oriented, very early, on Twitter. Up until the Ashtons of the world came in, I was a top 30 followed person on Twitter. This has been a big part of my growth, I just felt like it was time to move on.

Mike Freeman - I guess you probably have put out the most content of any single individual in a lot of ways.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Ya, I think for non-Youtube celebrity, cause as you know, Youtube was not where I did it, I used Viddler. As a non-Youtube video person, I gotta be way up there because Youtube is such an ecosystem, most people bet on that.

Mike Freeman - You always push engagement over just blasting out ads or other things like that. With Wine Library everything you have done has been about engagement, from the 1996 email lists up to the more recent videos.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Everyone is in the content business and I'm in the context business. That is the battle that I'm fighting. That's what I care about, it's what I think about, it's how I roll. Everybody wants to throw the football, I want to catch it.

Mike Freeman - Your new venture, well not so new, Vaynermedia, what do you guys do and why are you 10 times more awesome than everyone else?

Gary Vaynerchuk - Ya know, I think we're 10 times more awesome than everyone else because of the quality of the work. The thesis isn't crazy - we are a social media consultant/community management company. We focus on a couple of core things: 1) consultancy, meaning making our clients smart, knowing what's going on with Instagram, Tumblr, how to use it and why should we use Quora and Google+ , what do we do blah, blah, blah. Understanding the client's needs and how we can use those emerging platforms to help the customer. 2) we really focus on community management, we're really in the context game. We really work and fight to win the context battle for our clients. We'll apply the principals of The Thank You Economy to a client's business, whether it's Campbell's or PepsiCo or the NY Jets. We've done it really successfully. The retention of our clients has been remarkable and that's what I most proud of.

Mike Freeman - And the result is having to move to new offices every couple of years.

Gary Vaynerchuk - That has been the growth. We're up to 35 employees. I'm excited, confident and now that I have even more time to spend I feel like I can help out A.J., my brother and partner, even more.

Mike Freeman - It's always kinda been a family business for you.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Family first, Mike Freeman.

Mike Freeman - Thanks a lot for talking to us today.

Gary Vaynerchuk - Thanks so much.

Gary Vee Announces Power Session Winner

We'd like to extend a big 'thumbs up' to the 5 finalists in our second Gary Vaynerchuk Power Session…

We'd like to extend a big 'thumbs up' to the 5 finalists in our second Gary Vaynerchuk Power Session Contest. We asked Shopify store owners to post a video about themselves and their business for the opportunity for a 1-on-1 mentoring session with ecommerce and marketing expert, Gary Vee.

We're very excited to announce the winner, but you'll have to watch the video above to find out who it is! The winner will be recording their call with Gary in the coming weeks and we'll post an edited version right here on the blog. To show our appreciation to the runners up, we'll be sending out some swanky Shopify gift boxes. 

The finalist's sites are from a range of industries:

You can also take a look at their video submissions to learn more about them.

And, thanks again to Gary, whose enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is so infectious. We will be giving away one more Power Session to a lucky Shopify store owner, so stay tuned!

Gary Vaynerchuk Contest Finalists

If you didn't already know, we are giving away another 1-on-1 Power Session with Gary Vaynerchuk. We asked…

If you didn't already know, we are giving away another 1-on-1 Power Session with Gary Vaynerchuk. We asked Shopify store owners to post a video showing us a little about them and why they wanted to talk with Gary. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to make a video and enter the contest! 

Gary Vaynerchuk is author of The Thank You Economy and Crush It. Gary isn't just some self-made guru, he's grown his family's retail liquor store into an online empire. He's one of the most passionate business people you will meet.

Our first Power Session was won by Deckster, a watch band that turns an iPod Nano into a fashion accessory. The owners of Deckster got some great advice, encouragement and even contacts from their call with Gary

Gary Vaynerchuk will be picking our winner personally. We'll post a video announcing the winner early next week. 

Adam Baumgartner - JackBacks

You may remember Adam and JackBacks from my interview with him for our Build A Business series of interviews. JackBacks are real wood replacements for the back bezel of iPhone 4's.

Natasha Wozniak - Natasha Wozniak Jewelry

Natasha is an amazing jeweler that crafts everything by hand. This video provides an interesting glimpse behind the scenes as Natasha shows us her workshop.

David Hachez - Raz*War

Razors and shaving accessories has long been dominated by large multinational brands. Raz*War is aiming to change that with their line of wet shaving products that are available individually or as part of a subscription.

Give Dap - Give Dap

Give Dap aims to be the go to place for getting gifts for men. Their video had the largest wig budget of all those submitted.

Eileen Chow - Play Lashes

Play Lashes launched just recently, offering cruelty free mink hair lashes. They are already off to a great start, but are hoping to get some advice from Gary.

Good luck to all our entrants! 

Gary Vaynerchuk Talks Thank You Economy

I had the pleasure to interview Gary Vaynerchuk recently about his book, The Thank You Economy.  The Thank…

I had the pleasure to interview Gary Vaynerchuk recently about his book, The Thank You Economy

The Thank You Economy is all about treating customers like real people, having real conversations with them and listening to what they have to say. It's nothing new, as Gary points out, word-of-mouth has always been important. With the advent of the Internet and social media, companies can now engage with customers where and when they are talking about the brand.

In this interview, Gary talks about how he uses social media both personally and for brand building. In true Gary style, he throws out some of the best metaphors in the business world. 

And Gary knows what he's talking about, he grew his father's retail liquor store into a multi-million dollar retail + ecommerce power house using both traditional and new media. His enthusiasm for growing his businesses is contagious.

Would you like to talk to Gary? We're giving one Shopify store owner the opportunity to have a 1-on-1 Skype call with Gary. Our last winner, Deckster, received some amazing advice and contacts. Check out the blog post to hear from Deckster and find out the details for this contest.

Gary Vaynerchuk Giveaway #2

We're giving away another Power Session with Gary Vaynerchuk! This is a great opportunity for a Shopify store…

We're giving away another Power Session with Gary Vaynerchuk!

This is a great opportunity for a Shopify store owner to meet Gary and get 1-on-1 advice from one of the Internet's leading marketing and ecommerce experts. I spoke with Gary earlier this week about the Power Session:

Our first Gary V Power Session winner was Deckster. Earlier this week, I interviewed the Deckster team, Dominic Coballe and Chrystale Ladouceur, to find out how their 1-on-1 with Gary Vaynerchuk impacted their business:

For this Power Session giveaway, we're asking everyone to create a short video telling us about you, your store, your products and why you should win the opportunity to talk to Gary V. Here's how to do it:

1. Create a video telling us about you, your store and why you should win. It doesn't need to have any fancy graphics, special effects or cinematography, we're more interested in your story than fancy editing. A simple webcam video will do just fine. Don't forget to include the URL for your Shopify store so that people can visit your site.

2. Upload the video to your own Youtube account, if you don't have one, it's easy to create one. Make sure to tag the video with Shopify.

3. Post a comment in this blog post with the URL to your Youtube video. It should look something like this:

4. Share your video with as many people as possible! 

The 5 videos with the most "likes" between now and midnight Eastern Time on August 18th will become finalists. We will also select our 5 favorite videos to be finalists. Gary will personally select the winner from those 10 finalists.

Finalists will be announced here on the blog on August 19th and the winner will be announced the following Monday.

UPDATE: We've extended the deadline for uploading your video to August 26, 2011. 

So, what are you waiting for? The earlier you upload your video, the better your chances of becoming a finalist. Even if you don't win, this is a great opportunity to drive people to your store as we promote your videos!

The legal mumbo jumbo: In order to enter, you must have a Shopify account that was opened before you post your video. Open to residents of any country on earth. Void where prohibited. Winner must be able to make a Skype video call using their own equipment and have or create a Skype account. Shopify is not responsible for any costs associated with participating in the Skype call. By entering, you give your permission for Shopify to republish an edited version of the Power Session. Skype is a trade-mark of Skype Limited. Skype is not a sponsor of, nor a participant in this promotion.

Get Featured on the Shopify Facebook Page

  We are excited to announce that we will be featuring Shopify stores daily on our Facebook Page. …


We are excited to announce that we will be featuring Shopify stores daily on our Facebook Page

The "film strip" along the top of our Facebook profile displays the 5 most recently uploaded pictures. We thought this would be a great place to display the diversity and creativity of Shopify stores. We've picked a few of our favorite shops to get things started and here's how it looks:

Starting next Monday, we will select a new screenshot each day and add it to the "film strip." This a great opportunity for Shopify stores to reach all those in our news feed, plus the folks who visit our Facebook Page

Want to be featured?

All you need to do is upload a screenshot of your site and tag Shopify in it. If you're not sure how to do this, here's some instructions:

1. Take a screenshot of your Shopify website. If you're not sure how to do this, here is a Windows tutorial and a Mac tutorial. You will want to crop out everything except for the website itself. Save your screenshot to your computer.

2. Upload your photo to your Facebook account (either your personal account or your business Page, it's up to you). In your description include: the store name, the URL of your store, a description of your store and/or product(s), and if you have one, include links to your Facebook Page and Twitter feed and then save the changes. Here's an example of what it should look like:

Be sure to include the "http://" in front of any URL's, this way Facebook will know to make them clickable.

3. After saving, you should be returned to the Album page. Click on the screenshot you just uploaded and it will open. 

4. Click on the "Tag This Photo" link on the left side and then click anywhere on the screenshot. Type in Shopify, as you do, auto-complete options will appear and you should see the Shopify Page appear as an option. Click on Shopify and you should see Shopify listed in the "In this photo:" section under the picture. 

5. That's it, you're all done.

If you have any questions or problems with uploading or tagging, feel free to post a comment and we'll try and help out.

Want More Exposure? There's another way to get posted to our Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook Page for your store, "Like" the Shopify Page from your store account and we will "Like" you back. That way, your Facebook Page will randomly show up in our Likes list on the left side of the page. Please note that  Facebook doesn't allow us to Like personal profiles, but we do like you, really, we do!

Friday Funday: The Gang from "I Wear Your Shirt" Make Some Fun Shopify Videos!

We like to have a little fun on Friday's and you should too. I Wear Your Shirt is…

We like to have a little fun on Friday's and you should too. I Wear Your Shirt is an innovative advertising company that's shaking up traditional advertising methods. The concept is pretty cool. Essentially, you buy a day and mail them your company t-shirts (or whatever). Then, a team from across the USA will wear your shirts all day, take pictures, make videos, Facebook them, Twitter them, and all sorts of fun stuff. 

The founder, Jason Sadler, conceived the idea in 2005 as "a way to make some extra money without actually working," and began living his dream at the beginning of 2010. As of a few months ago, Jason has built his team to 5 people from across the United States and sells each advertising day on the calendar through his awesome Shopify store. 

To celebrate a beautiful Friday, Jason and his gang wore Shopify t-shirts all day and here are some amusing video's that came of it....


Win a Private 45 Minute Skype Chat With Gary Vaynerchuk

Calling all Shopify store owners! We're giving away a free 45 minute Skype Power Session with the one…

Calling all Shopify store owners! We're giving away a free 45 minute Skype Power Session with the one and only Gary Vaynerchuk! If you haven't heard of Gary Vee (not likely), he's widely regarded as the king of social media. He's also a certified wine expert, best selling author, public speaker, and business genius. Don't believe me? Ask one of his 875,925 Twitter followers. 

45 minutes with Gary can change your life. Ask him whatever you want. Anything goes. It's free to enter, simply follow this link and tell us (in the comment section) the most important lesson you learned while building your online store. Comment now, because the deadline is Wednesday, May 11th.

Where's Harley?

We decided to celebrate South by Southwest 2011 a little differently this year. What is the best way…

We decided to celebrate South by Southwest 2011 a little differently this year. What is the best way to give away an iPad 2, a few Dodo cases, some Shopify swag, and have fun doing it?

How about a real-life game of Where’s Waldo during SXSW? That sounds fun!

Our charismatic and loveable Chief Platform Officer, Harley, will be wandering about the crowds of SXSW, wearing his official Shopify uniform (a Shopify t-shirt). If you find him, simply take his picture, then using whichever method you prefer (Twit Pic, Instragram,etc..) tweet the picture with the hashtags #WheresHarley, #sxsw, mention @Shopify and add us as a friend if you haven’t already.

Your successful find enters you to win in the following ways:*

A daily prize: One of 25 Shopify American Apparel T-Shirts

Most Interesting Photo**: Brand spanking new iPad 2 and a Shopify Swag Bag

Most Re-Tweeted Photo: Limited edition (hand-signed) Dodo Case and Shopify Swag Bag

User with the most Twitter followers: Limited edition (hand-signed) Dodo Case and Shopify Swag Bag

*if you win, we’ll send you a DM for your mailing info

** hand picked by our fearless leader and CEO, Tobias Lutke

Stay tuned to the hashtag #wheresharley for hints and tips on where to find him! We’ll also be feeding in pictures and hints below so keep an eye on here for updates. Good luck and happy hunting!

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