Evan Bailyn is the founder of numerous companies that have hit the million dollar mark in revenue. He started out in law school but realized the structure was just not for him so he set out on his own. That initiative has led him to start a sculpture company, an SEO company and even a doll company to name a few. He is only 29 and has sold 5 companies to date.
Evan is constantly looking for the next big thing and his passion for creating his own path and earning his own money has driven him to this success. He thinks monetizing something that you love is one of the greatest things you can do in life. Read the interview to see how he got there and what his advice is for today’s young entrepreneurs…
What is your back story before you started a company?
I graduated Columbia in 2003 with no idea of what I wanted to do. I was always told that the only career paths for me was to be either a lawyer or a doctor. So I ended up in law school for half a semester but just couldn’t do it. I had a lot of differences from the education system. Learning was not about being passionate but was structured around certain things you had to do and which then led to a good or bad grade. Not my thing.
Before I started I had the basic question of “What makes a company an actual company?” So I realized I just had to start and I would figure it out as it came. I was lucky to have an older brother who was a lawyer and had some money to invest with me to start a business.
I knew I was really good at college admission essays. It was a big reason I got into Columbia so I started helping others write their admission essays. I was selling it for $500 to get all of my advice. No one wanted to pay this, I even handed out flyers in front of Penn Station which was just embarrassing!
I then started studying Google. I simply logged into an active forum at the time and started learning. I spent about a year and a half studying and learning everything about Google. After this time I cracked the code for Google and got my site to rank #1 for “College Admission Essay” search.
I was doing this full-time until I had to start hiring more and more people. I realized I could get to the top of Google for anything. So I started a ghostwriting company which was my first company to do a million dollars. We would write manuscripts for you. We got a lot of successful people like CEOs and celebrities and hooked them up with the best writers. I sold that company a couple years ago.
My next venture was a kids website. I know it is random but it was during a streak of starting websites and getting them to the top of Google to see if there was money to be made there. I realized there were a lot of searches for the kids website idea so I bought the site from a girl and started it. I built on the idea of letting kids dress up their favorite cartoons. By the 3rd month we had 75,000 visitors and grew to over 9 million uniques/month in 2009. We received an investment from Allen & Company which is the most successful entertainment investment bank in the world. It was crazy but the site was making a lot of money and I just recently sold a large interest in it.
Now I have taken that SEO ability and I do it for Facebook, youtube, twitter and Google. Today I can get any video to go viral in 2days or 5,000 fans to a Facebook page in a month. I am all about making people famous online.
You started a doll company, Cartoon Doll Emporium, and an SEO company, First Page Sage. Were there challenges being in these two very different industries?
Every time I started a new company everyone in the industry would say “what gives you the right to be here?”. This was especially brutal when I started sculpture.org in an industry I had no experience. The people were just plain mean to me for being there. I could always get the business through my website but I had to connect them to the people who could make the sculptures. The artists did not want to work with me. Competition is rough, you have to value friendliness but you have to have thick skin in the business world.
When your young you tend to be more self-conscious and care what others think of you. As you get older you realize that not everyone will like you. It is tough to take that criticism at a young age when you really want everyone to like you.
You have over 55,000 Facebook fans and 40,000 twitter followers. How have you built such great followings on these platforms?
There is really nothing brilliant about what I have done. I have worked hard in a smart way.
1. Great content: On Facebook I just put out positive thoughts everyday. People comment and share these.
2. Ask people with popular pages to recommend you: Show them something impressive and get them on board. Then ask them if they would mind mentioning you, if not whatever. The most important part is to make sure they see that what you are doing in genuine.
What is the best part about running your own company?
Being able to work from my pajamas most of the time. I have an office in San Francisco and NYC but also a home office. I don’t have to get up at 6am. I also make my own money on the path that I want and build. Working for someone else means they are receiving the benefit for my hard work and creativity.
What have you found to be the hardest thing about starting a company?
Hiring staff. I have always had a good service and I have been able to market it. Then I always find a few great people but many times I have to cycle through people. You have to find someone interested in what you are doing and is dedicated, caring and likes the environment. A good employee = great productivity. You can not scale without great employees.
If you could give 1 piece of advice to a young entrepreneur today what would it be?
Take something you love and figure out a way to monetize it.
Ideas are great but they are far less valuable than good execution. Work with good executors and your company will grow. If your company is ordinary but you have great execution you will do great. A great idea + poor execution and you will fail. Ideas are cheap!
Tell us about the foundation you have created…
Recently I founded the Evan Bailyn Foundation for Emotional Awareness. Through the foundation I give back some of the money I have earned to kids and expecting parents.
The foundation allows kids to understand who they are and how they feel as much as possible. If you ask how they are doing it can make a huge difference in their life. Sounds obvious but many parents shape their kids into what they think they should be. You should be aware of what they are interested in at any given moment.