Steve Chou is the founder of My Wife Quit Her Job. When his wife became pregnant, the two made it their mission to help Jennifer ditch her soul-sucking 9-5 while still generating income for their growing family. Within a year, the two built an online shop and six-figure revenue stream.
From there, Steve has gone on to create a profitable online business of his own. With candid honesty and actionable advice, Steve shares everything the two did right AND wrong. If you're looking for advice to help you create your own online shop, course or website, there's no one better.
Here's his story...
Ashley: Hey, all, I'm Ashley at Teachable, the person behind our blog and our Make Change newsletter. And I'm thrilled to be sitting down with Steve. You might know him from My Wife Quit Her Job. I'm really excited to be talking with him and hearing his story. So Steve, for those who don't know you, how do you describe what you do in a few sentences?
Steve: I'll try to keep it brief. I mainly do four main things. I run an e-commerce store that sells wedding handkerchiefs with my wife, I blog at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, I teach a training course that teaches other people how to start an e-commerce course at profitableonlinestore.com, and I also run a podcast on entrepreneurship.
Ashley: Nice! So that's a lot. I read a little bit about your story. I guess your business started with your wife leaving her job. Can you tell me how that progressed, like how you went from one to the other?
Steve: Yeah, it was pretty straightforward. Basically, while we were dating and things were starting to get serious she told me that she was going to quit once she became pregnant with our first child. And so basically where we live in the Silicon Valley it's very expensive, you basically need two incomes, and so when she quit I knew that we needed another income source and that's how we stumbled upon e-commerce.
Ashley: Gotcha. So when did you decide to take that leap of faith and do it?
Steve: Literally when she peed on the stick, actually. And she was pregnant so that gave us maybe 11 months if you include maternity leave.
Ashley: So how did that go? Tell me about your first steps in the business.
Steve: Yeah, we both didn't know what we were doing at all. The reason we came up with our product, wedding handkerchiefs, dates back to when we got married. We spent a lot of money on photography, and she knew that...she's a crier, so she knew she was going to cry and she didn't want to be in the photos with....
So we were looking all over the place for handkerchiefs, we couldn't find any in the U.S., ended up importing a bunch from China. We used about six of them and sold the rest on eBay. So when it came time to start the business again we got in touch with that first vendor and launched our store. Very slow in the beginning, but it just started gradually picking up as most businesses do.
Ashley: Right, and I've read a lot of your blog posts, I know you can find them on your website. But when did you move from Bumblebee Linens to My Wife Quit Her Job? When did you start that meta-blog post, website, etc.?
Steve: It was about a year later. A bunch of my friends who I hang out with all the time, they wanted to quit also because they were thinking about starting a family as well. So I started documenting it and I just started writing about all the different problems that we faced when running the e-commerce store.
Ashley: Right. What would you say was the biggest one, or some of your most common [problems]?
Steve: So most of it, ironically, is actually psychological. People are just afraid to take that leap. There's a lot of misconceptions, like how much it costs to start, how much work is required, how hard it is to actually find vendors and that sort of thing. And so a bunch of the articles are actually dispelling all those myths and teaching step-by-step how to launch. And when you know all the steps it's actually not that intimidating.
Ashley: Okay. So a lot of our audience is at that stage where they're thinking about it and they're not sure. Where would you point them? What would you tell them to do as their first steps?
Steve: So for your audience, which is online courses, like I saw an online course, there really is no risk at all, right? Because it doesn't cost anything to start. So in order to sell an online course effectively, you kind of need an audience. And so what I would advise everyone to do is to just start writing about anything. It doesn't have to be writing. It could be podcasting. It could be video, whatever. Start building an audience, gathering email addresses, just put whatever your expertise is out there, even if you have no intention of making money on it the beginning, because once you have that following built up, once it comes time for you to start an online class or whatever, you'll have a built-in customer base already.
Ashley: Awesome. And I know we do a lot with trying to help people build that audience from our end. So that's really great to hear. So, personally I know you've got a blog, you have a course, you have a shop. Which one is your favorite to work on?
Steve: That's a good question! They all exercise different parts of the brain, right? So with the e-commerce store I deal with physical products, vendors, importing, and all that stuff, which is pretty interesting in the retail side of things. For the blog, it's more like teaching, so that's fulfilling in itself, like when someone I've taught is successful that's just very rewarding. So I can't really rank them, they're just different.
Ashley: Ok. Is there a particularly property, I guess I would say, that has a high ROI, both in terms of work to happiness and work to profit?
Steve: So in terms of scalability, which I assume is what you're getting at, the online course is by far the most scalable and profitable asset I have.
Ashley: That's awesome.
Steve: Which is in line, incidentally, with what you guys offer, right?
Ashley: Ok, that makes sense. We do hear that. We hear that courses are really high ROI. And I just wanted to take it one step further and be like, alright, but do you enjoy making them? Are they okay, or do you love blogging? That's just really interesting to hear.
Steve: The thing with the course is that it's profitable but it takes a while to build up that audience so that you have someone to sell to. But once you get to that point it's pretty much all downhill from there.
Ashley: Awesome. So with all these properties in mind, what are you plans for the future?
Steve: I'm actually probably going to be starting a SaaS company. Actually very similar to Teachable, obviously not the same thing, but in the e-commerce it is. So I'm going to try to branch out from blogging, podcasting, and e-commerce over to software.
Ashley: Awesome. Dude, that's like vague and mysterious. Everybody's going to be as curious as I am.
Steve: I'm going to sell a platform that allows you to put up an online course. I'm just kidding, that's you guys.
Ashley: Uh-oh. That's awesome. Well, I guess it's under wraps right now.
Steve: It is.
Ashley: I'll be looking for that.
Steve: Sounds good. I'll keep you guys posted.
Ashley: Yeah. I think too with a lot of our audience, we're starting out, we're figuring things out by trial and error. And we look to you and everything seems so under wraps and beautiful. What are you struggling with right now and how are you trying to fix it?
Steve: So right now I'm at a point, and this is just me personally right now, where there's a ton of these opportunities coming in and it's really hard to figure out what I want to be doing. So this year one of my projects was that I started a conference which will be in May, and that was a tremendous amount of work, but it was a good way to bring about the community. So I have all of these opportunities but I'm only one person, so the struggle for me right now is to try to delegate all the things and actually be able to do all the things I want to do.
Ashley: Yeah. Too many different opportunities.
Steve: Too many things right now.
Ashley: Absolutely. That's really cool about your conference. I'm guessing that it's in person and not virtual?
Steve: Yeah, it's in person, of course.
Ashley: Very cool. So yeah, I'll keep this super brief. Let's end on a positive note. What advice do you have for people who are just starting out and growing their own business?
Steve: Yeah, if you're just starting out, and even if you have no idea what you want to do, as I mentioned before, start putting out content in any form. What you'll find is that the content that you put out often times can be repackaged into something that you can sell later, whether that be a course, or a book, or whatever. It just makes the process less intimidating once you are actually ready to sell something. Collect email addresses and build Facebook communities or whatnot, just make sure that you're starting a following and have a means to be able to access and communicate with that community.
Ashley: Totally. And then are there any resources you would suggest, besides your blog of course, where you can go to read good examples or get advice, that kind of thing?
Steve: I mean, there's a lot of publications out there. Like, I like Pat Flynn's blog. I actually don't get a chance to read a lot of blogs that much these days. I can recommend a couple of tools, though for just email, because that's basically the backbone of my business. ConvertKit is a good email provider, AWeber is also a good one. For e-commerce, if you're selling physical products, Klaviyo is a good one.
Ashley: Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Steve, I really appreciate it. It was awesome to speak with you.
Steve: Thanks for having me.