INNOVATE

Learn How This Millennial Bootstrapped a Multi-Million Business From Scratch

Drilling down on fundamentals, savvy marketing, and focusing on what people already need can help you get rolling.

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BY Sean Stein Smith - 05 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Small business owners, entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and often generate some of the most dynamic ideas in the market. Millennial entrepreneurs, often trying to build a side hustle into a full time business while working full time, can be creative and focused on building on the desire for experiential experiences. This can make it difficult to stand out, attract funding, build a brand, and establish yourself, so those that do are worth noticing.

 

Ryford Estores, 33, is a Millennial entrepreneur who built a self-grooming invention called the Self-Cut System. It's an example of how a startup can succeed and thrive even in a highly competitive service industry. The company has brought in $8 million in revenue 80,000 unit sales since being founded in 2011.

As a CPA who talks, meets with, and advises entrepreneurs on an continuous basis, I wanted to sit down with Ryford and get his take on how he has accomplished so much so early in his career.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Stein Smith: What made you want to start your own business, even though you already had a stable career?

Estores: There are two reasons why I started Self Cut System, which you can see being used at Best Self Haircut Battle at the Connecticut Barber Expo.

The first reason was I saw a tremendous value of the untapped market for men's self-grooming. After that, I taught myself how to cut my own hair, and haven't been back to the shop since, which helped me saved thousands of dollars and hours of time.

The second reason was although I had a stable career as a nurse, my ultimate goal in life was to achieve financial independent because it gives me the freedom to have an "autonomy lifestyle."

Interesting point, and I have heard the desire for autonomy from other Millennial entrepreneurs. Building on that, and based on your experience, is there one financial metric that can make or break a small business?

Based on my experience, the only way a small business can make or break them is being able to know their numbers down to the penny.

Every company needs to pay attention with their finance and accounting. What percentages of their business are they spending on? Being able to analyze their numbers can help them make a smart executive decision in order to survive and grow their business. It's very important to keep track on their numbers on a daily basis.

As a CPA, that's music to my ears--but entrepreneurship is a lot more than just accounting and finance. From a business perspective, what's one thing that aspiring entrepreneurs can overlook?

I think many aspiring entrepreneurs try to do too many things at the same time. If you are starting your first business, focus on that, and do it well.

Learn as much as you can, and dominate your space. After you have mastered your chosen business, you can branch off into other ventures, but make sure you do it from a strong foundation.

I agree, focus and being able to block out distractions is key. Coming back to our earlier point about finance, what techniques and strategies did you use to help bootstrap your business?

Make sure to do a self-assessment on your personal finance. If you are bad at managing your personal finance, how do you expect to manage your financials in your company? Sure you can outsource this to experts, but you still have to know what is going on with your business. During the R&D stage of launching Self Cut System, I had to downgrade all my personal expenses.

I remember I took out a business loan for $15,000 just in case I ran out of cash. Surprisingly, I didn't end up using the loan. My lifetime savings of $25,000 to launch SCS was enough for me to help build a $3 million Self Grooming Brand. To this day, I am very proud that I grew my business organically and didn't reach out to any investors for capital.

As you should be, you have accomplished a tremendous amount. That said, I have to ask--if you were starting over, would you manage your business finances differently?

If I was starting over, I wouldn't change anything with my company's finances except during one particular year in business. I had a huge marketing budget where I spent huge dollars on this particular campaign without properly testing a specific advertising channel.

I went all in and didn't even get a fraction of our ROI. Lesson learned: Test before you go all in!