Being an entrepreneur is not always a comfortable lifestyle.
Often it means giving up comfort to pursue a passion or dream fully.
Vlad Gasan is someone who is no stranger to giving up the familiar to take a risk.
After immigrating to the United States from Ukraine, he spent time building up his life in the States and establishing his career – and he did so very successfully, working as a Software Product Manager for eBay.
However, Vlad always knew he wanted to start his own company. He was determined to achieve it, even if that meant giving up his cushy Silicon Valley job – much to the shock of his friends.
“A lot of my friends when I decided to quit, they said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this? You have such a nice job – like I would kill to have that job.'”
Although Vlad’s friends were wary of his decision, he was determined to make it work.
What came next for Vlad wasn’t a road paved with gold. It was more like a rocky path with unexpected twists and turns – including his fair share of failure.
Eager to learn about the ups and downs of Vlad’s entrepreneurial journey, I gave him a call to hear more. He talked me through leaving the stability of a well-known company to create an app that didn’t get off the ground. Then he explained how that failure eventually led him to build a dropshipping business that earned over $236k in four months, and what he’s doing now to keep his dream alive of being his own boss.
“You’re just a fool, don’t do it.”
Having been employed by eBay, one of the most sought after workplaces in the world, Vlad Gasan is quick to agree that if he had stayed in his secure position as a Software Product Manager, he would have had a very comfortable life.
“I had a pretty good steady corporate job,” he says. “And there wasn’t really anything that could force me to leave it. They pay well, you don’t really work super hard, so it’s a pretty steady place.”
But Vlad had moved to the United States from Ukraine with a dream, and he considered his steady eBay job a stepping stone to his ultimate goal.
“The reason why I came to the United States is that I wanted to start a company. I knew that I’ll have to work for someone for some time, but I always knew that I’m definitely going to start a company someday, somehow. Every step that I took in life pretty much led to starting my own company.”
However, as many entrepreneurs know, not everyone understands that mindset, and Vlad’s friends thought he was crazy.
“They were like, ‘You’re just a fool, don’t do it.'”
But eager to move to the next stepping stone, Vlad handed in his notice and left eBay to create a mobile gaming app with a friend.
Pursuing a Dream
True to Vlad’s “think big” mentality, the app that he and his business partner created was also a bold idea. He explained it to me as a mixture of Pokémon GO and trivia games. The idea was that users would hunt around cities and use augmented reality to discover hidden cash prizes.
After launching the beta version of their app, the pair found users and – to their surprise – it gained traction.
“Yeah, even to this day, we still don’t know what really hooked them. Whether it was the gameplay or because they just wanted money because we had real cash prices, but at the same time, it was fun.”
However, it wasn’t enough to have interested users; they also needed money to get the business off the ground. Vlad and his partner planned to have advertisers on their app eventually, but first, they required startup capital to build a base of users and see the app through its first years. They worked out that they needed at least $500,000 in funding and started meeting with investors to try and raise the cash.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t raise enough.
“We had a commitment of $200,000, but we knew that it’s not going to be enough to get the startup off the ground because there’s so much work. So, yeah, that’s the reason why it flopped.”
Vlad was back to square one.
A New Venture and More Failure
With his cushy job long gone and his startup having failed, Vlad needed a new way to stay afloat. He didn’t particularly want to go back to having to work for someone else, but at the same time, he was at a loss for what to do.
Then he saw an ad on Facebook for a dropshipping course.
“I clicked on it, and I was thinking like, ‘OK, what is this?’ Then I started searching for some YouTube tutorials, and that’s how I went down this rabbit hole and just started learning more and more about dropshipping.”
Intrigued by ecommerce but not ready to open a dropshipping store, Vlad first started with a print on demand store. But, after a lot of hard work setting it up and spending cash on Facebook ads, the store failed.
In retrospect, Vlad can see he made the same mistake as a lot of ecommerce entrepreneurs.
“The store completely flopped because I had no idea what I was doing. The main problem that I see, a lot of people, in the beginning, they invest a lot of time in learning, they try to make their store look perfect. But in dropshipping and print on demand in general, it’s not much about the product. It’s more about the way you market it.”
Despite experiencing more failure, Vlad knew he could make ecommerce work.
Dusting himself off, he once again went back to the drawing board.
Starting Over, Upskilling, and Making Bank
This time, Vlad knew he needed to focus more on his marketing, rather than making sure his products were perfect or that his website was flawless. Instead of another print on demand store, he decided to dropship products, which made testing potential winning items easier.
Launching into action, Vlad soon found a product he thought could be a winner. The item could be classed as a wellness or problem-solving product, though Vlad also admits it’s something he considers “kind of boring.”
But, boring or not, he could see that it was unique enough to have excellent marketing potential.
Interestingly, Vlad thought the product had such good potential that didn’t even let the $50 supplier price point bother him. He believed that with the proper marketing, he could convince customers to pay close to double that for his product.
Excited by launching his new store, Vlad threw himself into refining his page, creating ads, and making sales. But after spending $10,000, he released he’d only broken even. There was something he was missing: Finding the right target audience.
Learning From Past Mistakes and Rebuilding
Having sold $10,000 worth of products, Vlad knew that he could sell his item – he just needed to figure out how to do it in a more profitable way.
“Later on, I just learned that hey, I just should find a better audience for my product. I just should really think about who would be interested in what I’m selling.”
After realizing that the wrong audience was seeing his beautiful ads, Vlad focussed on thinking about who would buy the product, especially considering it was a high ticket item. He thought about what these people would think about when purchasing, what features would appeal to them, and what deals or offers would convince them to buy. He channeled this into his product descriptions, making them 1000 words long, all designed to convince customers that his product is not only useful but the best value on the market.
“I give them pretty much all the proof they need. After that, there is no reason not to buy the product if they’re interested. I give them everything, all the information they need.”
He decided to relaunch his store, testing ad variations to see what would work best. It was a process that took “thousands of different little tweaks and adjustments,” including changing his creatives.
“For this product specifically, I tested more than 20 different variations of ads. And they have very different performance, but essentially, it’s the same product and almost the same ad. Half of the video was the same, but the first 3-6 seconds – the hook, the crux of the product – that’s what was very different.”
Though small, these changes made a huge difference. For example, one ad Vlad tested had a 1 percent click-through rate (CTR), while another – identical except for the first six seconds – had a 4 percent CTR.
All of this experimenting paid off hugely over the fourth quarter of 2019 when Vlad made over $236,000 in sales – and cleared his supplier out of inventory.
Working on Replicating the Success
After two months of such rapid success, Vlad started thinking bigger. He wanted to turn his store into a brand and spoke with his supplier about white labeling his product and slightly changing the design, so it was unique.
But as he started making these plans, Vlad saw a significant dip in purchases.
“Unfortunately, the store kind of started dying out a little bit. I’m not sure of the reasons because I also started testing a lot more new ads, like new angles, but sales still kind of started dipping.”
Currently, Vlad is selling a couple of products every day but has stopped all Facebook ads and only runs a few Google ads, which still return a positive ROI. Although he would still love to white labeling his product, the idea is on the backburner for the time being.
Despite his product suddenly dropping in sales, Vlad is upbeat about the whole process and looking to the future.
“In general, I’m very happy because I was still able to scale the store to pretty good numbers.”
And with that experience under his belt, Vlad has been opening new stores and testing them with ads.
Naturally, not every product has been a success.
Recently he realized one of the products – durable waterproof tape – wasn’t going to be a winning product. After building the website and running ads, Vlad discovered that not only was there not enough demand for the product, but it wasn’t unique enough to be a huge seller. It was also difficult to scale due to a high cost per purchase.
Undeterred, he shut the store down and focussed his attention on two others.
Onwards and Upwards
When I last spoke with Vlad, he was running two additional stores, including one that he was in the process of scaling. Currently, the store is pulling in anywhere between $500-$1500 in sales per day. He’s also helping other new entrepreneurs with tutorials on his YouTube channel.
While his original store is still attracting daily purchases, Vlad knows that having successful stores across multiple niches will ensure a steadier income. And, with the knowledge he’s gained, Vlad now understands the ins and outs of having a business far more than he did when he was working at eBay, dreaming of running his own company.
From moving to a new country to working for a large company and eventually striking out on his own – none of it has been easy, but for Vlad, all of it has been worth it.
It’s been a wild ride to get to this point. However, Vlad’s determined nature has meant that every time he’s suffered a setback, he’s taken from it and moved forward. After all, how can you enjoy the highs if you don’t experience a few lows along the way?