Four and a half years ago, in a small bedroom in the country town of Marilla, NY, started by a lost kid with no plan or vision, Marketing Mayor was born.
It happened by accident, really. A fellow business owner simply asked my mother who was running our family business at the time, and who was behind the marketing for the store. It was a consignment clothing store located in East Aurora, NY, started by my older sister, Tara. Well, that person behind the marketing was me, Jacob Becker.
Fresh out of my second round of college (finally got my degree that time!) with absolutely no idea where my life was headed, I had recently begun “applying” at jobs. However, if we are being completely honest here, I might have applied to maybe three or four, total. I went on one single interview and apparently that didn’t go very well because I never heard from them again. Oh well.
I’ve always had a strong relationship with Tara, so it came fairly natural that I started working alongside her. I’ve always been drawn to business and entrepreneurship, so that helped, too. It didn’t take long for me to start to really get into it. Sure, half the things I was implementing at the time were the result of Google searches and random guesses, but you have to start somewhere. At least I was doing SOMETHING! It helped to have such a supportive sister and also one who generally views the world through a similar scope as myself. She would admit she didn’t really know how to run a business or much about marketing either, so it was all about trial and error. It was about the effort. This left the door open for me to hit the ground running, with freedom to try anything, and with no real repercussions.
A few months into the venture with Tara, I met with this inquiring business owner who had spoke to my mom to discuss helping her market her business. Looking back, gosh, I really had no idea what I was doing! Sorry, Kara! I did attend college for a few years for marketing, but my actual degree was in broadcast journalism. Around this time, my mind was approximately 10% on business, 90% on finding girls and going out with my friends. My motivation at that point in my life was basically zero, aside from the tiny bit I drummed up in those first few months of working with my sister. I lived at home at 27 years old. I was broker than broke. I actually borrowed my father’s vehicle just to get around. There are some other things I could get into, but I’ll save that for another time. Bottom line, it was a very sad and depressing time for me. I could tell 100 stories, but the first one that comes to mind is when I didn’t even have enough money to pay for a fantasy football league with my friends. You were required to pay up front as part of the rules, but I just didn’t have it. My close friend and league manager, Brian, tried to hide it for me. Eventually, he told someone who told someone and the rest of the guys found out I hadn’t paid yet. They let me have it, deservedly so. Talk about embarrassing. I couldn’t even pay for a fantasy football league with my friends! I tried to defend myself, but it fell on deaf ears, again, understandably. Overall, it was just a sad, sad time in my life.
Anyway, back to the meeting I had with my soon-to-be first ever “client.” We met and agreed on a $120 a week for me to help her with marketing. Weird that I did a weekly fee, but what did I know. And wow, I was really rolling in the dough, now! I thought to myself, well, I guess I should make a business name or something. I tried coming up with 2 words that started with the same letter and had a domain .com name available. Marketing Monster was taken. Marketing Man was no good. For reasons I still don’t know, I searched MarketingMayor.com and sure enough, it was available! Shocker! I would guess it was not taken because who the hell would name their company Marketing Mayor? I would, apparently. Does that name even make sense to anyone? I have no idea. I still don’t know. Whatever. So, I bought the domain from GoDaddy.com with my first paycheck, using $20 of my first $120. I officially made my first investment into the company with that $20!
Some of the details outlining what happened next I’ll save for my book that comes out next year. The short version would be, I tried my best to do my job, but I had no experience and very limited knowledge. Eventually Kara’s business went under, and I felt terrible. Sure, it wasn’t all my fault, but I certainly didn’t help the cause much. However, it wasn’t for lack of effort. Thankfully, we are still friends today. The good news out of that? I continued to meet people. I continued to use the people skills I was blessed with to network and make friends. I started watching about 50 YouTube videos a day and reading as many articles and books as I could get my hands on. I was gaining confidence in myself and my abilities. I eventually taught myself Photoshop, taught myself how to build websites, continued trying to round out my business skills, and tried my best to put it all together into something that at least kind of resembled a real business. Also, and probably most important of all, for the first time in my entire adult life, the feelings I had growing up of me feeling I was a special kid who was destined to be successful, began to come alive again. It was at this moment the switch finally flipped and the lights turned on. It was the moment my life changed.
The next little while is sort of a blur. I was getting more clients, but I was losing them just as fast. Why? I sucked. Everyone has talents, and bottom line, there are more creative people than me. It is what it is. Here’s the thing — you don’t have to be the smartest person to run a successful business! You simply need to add people around you who are more talented than you in different areas that can help your business. I recognized this early, thankfully. And so, when I happened to run into an old classmate and hockey teammate, Matt, my eyes got big. Why? I recently saw a post of Matt on social media holding a championship belt. He received an award for top salesman at his company. What did his company sell? Digital marketing products. BINGO!
My next issue. How do you get someone to work with you who’s making around $100k a year and is completely content with their situation? Furthermore, how do you do it without having any money and being broke yourself? You have to paint the picture. At the end of the day, most anyone would rather work for themselves than take orders. That’s why I run Marketing Mayor as a team effort and try to give back to the team as often as possible. This started early on. I told Matt I would give him significant equity in Marketing Mayor if he came and worked with us. Then I told him I didn’t have any more to pay him. Looking back, he probably just agreed with no idea what would take place the next few years.
Matt didn’t leave his job for a long time. I don’t blame him, it made no sense at the time. The next year and a half was completely on me to get the company to a reasonable spot. It was the only way.
I started by traveling the west coast with virtually no money. I had made some wonderful friends through the internet that had the same big goals as me, and I decided to live in Los Angeles for a bit and build on those relationships. You know you’re broke when you can’t even afford toothpaste. Obviously, I didn’t want my new friends to know my financial struggles, so I hid it as best I could. However, when my friend Joel (check out his amazing website, addicted2success.com, which is the #1 motivational website in the world — Hey Joel, I’m coming to LA in March, buddy!) knocked on my door and gave me toothpaste after asking to borrow his several times, I’m pretty sure he had some sort of inkling. I will, again, get more into this in my book and some additional important details, but I will skip the long version here. Bottom line, I learned a lot in those five weeks. I also, thanks to Joel, got a client in Los Angeles! I needed all the income I could find, so this was big for me.
Next up? Trying to get home. The problem? I had no money. I remember gambling my last $95 to try and get closer to having the money for a ticket. Smart move, right? I did win, so I was up to $190, but I needed more than that to fly cross country. I remember calling one of my new clients and offering them a discount if they paid that day. Looking back, it sure was an embarrassing moment. One of many I experienced. I was turned down. She seemed annoyed. I kept dialing. Surely someone must be able to help. Eventually, I made it happen. I got a client to pay that day. I called my sister, Taina. She went and picked up the check for me and deposited it in my bank account. I ordered a plane ticket and I was finally headed home!
When I got home, I no longer had a place to live. My father sold the family house while I was gone and it was being remodeled. I tried living there during the remodeling, but, not surprisingly, that didn’t go over very well with anyone. I had to get out. On January 8th of that year, I found an apartment that my sister’s friend had. He needed a roommate. I moved in. With no money and virtually no possessions except a computer and a television. Thankfully, he already had the apartment all setup and was kind enough to integrate me in. On top of that, he already paid the January rent so I had 22 days to come up with the next month’s rent. The race was on…
You’ll come to find when your life is on the line with no fallback, you tend to work a little harder. I made the commitment that I was basically “locking myself in my bedroom” with a goal of working morning until night. If you’re thinking, why didn’t I just get a job? I’ll tell you why, that’s not what I wanted. That wouldn’t make me happy. That wouldn’t satisfy. Don’t we live life to be happy and satisfied? I was going to figure it out if I had to live on the street with my computer. That’s true perseverance. That’s true determination. There was nothing fake about it. Besides, you can’t fake working hard when you’re working for yourself, because you won’t survive.
It turns out the next 22 days of working morning until night turned into about the next 550 days. I got up, ate breakfast, got on my computer, and I worked. And I worked more. I didn’t go out. I didn’t really go anywhere. It’s hard to go anywhere when you have no gas anyway (I did have a vehicle at this point, because my father is such an amazing person — he essentially saved my life at that point, because that was the slight boost I needed to survive). It was so bad financially, I actually remember one of my best friends giving me $200 for food at one point. You can bet I will never forget that and he will be rewarded for it x10000. Anyway, I continued to learn and learn. From videos to books to people to ANYTHING that would make me smarter. I had one goal, to survive. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I didn’t want to be one of the 90% of business owners who fail. I refused to let that be me and Marketing Mayor. Yes, I had to sacrifice essentially everything else in my life to make it work, but nobody said building a company came without any sacrifices.
Eventually, Matt started to get more annoyed at his job and began pushing more toward making the leap to work at Marketing Mayor full-time. Prior to this, he introduced me to his friend he knew from bartending. His name was Drew and it turns out he became a huge part of the journey and the survival of Marketing Mayor. He had a lot of friends, and we got along well. We still do. Soon he introduced me to a few people and I was able to manufacture more business out of it. I kept working my ass off. I knew I was getting closer to being able to afford rent and food consistently. I knew I was getting closer to something I could be proud of, and something that was real. About nine months later, we landed our biggest client. It was a result of a friend of a friend. Originally, though, it was Drew who made the connection. Drew was only a part of things because of Matt. Matt was only involved because of me. A perfect example of why networking and relationships in life and in business are crucial.
Finally, I had money to survive. I was making about $800 a month prior to landing the big account. After rent and my cell phone bill, you do the math. However, with this new account, and not long after a few more, I was on the brink. I had to make a decision at this point, though. When a big company asks you where your office is and you say your apartment in Cheektowaga, NY, it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.
I needed an office. Badly.
I could barely pay my own rent for the last few years and now I had to pay office rent too? Along with all the other things that come along with having an office? It was a risk and a scary one, but, THAT IS PART OF BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR! You cannot reach major goals in life or business without taking risks. Mainly, risks on yourself. You must believe in yourself. It was this notion that I continued to hammer into Matt’s head. I knew we needed a salesman full-time if we opened an office or we were going to flop. I needed to be a leader and paint the picture of a better future for Matt. He was making a great salary, but he would never make more than that. He was capped. He needed to believe that if he left his employer he could make new sales for Marketing Mayor and find a way to get by. He needed to take a risk on himself if he wanted more in life. He needed to step to the plate and take a swing. He needed to quit his hundred thousand dollar a year job for a company that could pay him $1000 a month with no benefits — and he did just that. If you ask him now, however, I bet he will tell you he doesn’t regret any of it one bit. Either way, kudos to Matt. He took a chance on himself and for that reason alone, he deserves all the success that comes his way.
I’ll save the rest of the details for the future and for my book. From here, Matt and I faced about every trial and tribulation you can face as young business owners who didn’t sims freeplay hack android know crap about the real world. All in all? We survived. We are still kicking. Somehow. We both took huge risks and it’s finally paying off for us.
The biggest lesson you can take from this story? To believe in yourself. It’s so difficult to do anything in life without a belief in yourself. I am NOT the smartest guy in the world — not even CLOSE! I am probably somewhere in the bottom quadrant! I had people that certainly didn’t believe in me. Heck, my own mother kept telling me to get a job. My own closest “friends” cracked jokes constantly about me “not having a job.” None of that matters. What matters is that I believed in myself and I gave everything I had. I took a chance and went for it. I left it all on the table. And I feel, for that reason, I’m being rewarded.
You have to start somewhere, even if it’s in a bedroom with no money, no car, and no life. I’m pretty sure you only get one chance at life. You only get one chance on earth to do things that make you happy. Please, do them. My life is completely different. I am happier than I’ve ever been and my business portfolio grows everyday. Everything has come together, and it’s an amazing feeling that can only be felt, not described.
It’s all because I took a chance and believed in myself. Now it’s your turn.
Let me know how I can help.