Right alongside fitness, health and fashion – financial freedom is the goal of many of America’s millennials. With the rapid shift of consumer spending from traditional retail to e-commerce gave rise to a generation of e-commerce entrepreneurs who found ways to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce to achieve their financial and lifestyle goals. One of these young entrepreneurs is Mike Clum, a 28 year old CEO from Cleveland, OH leading one of the fastest growing media and e-commerce companies in the country. Today we sit down with him to hear his perspective on starting, building, and achieving in the e-commerce and business world at a young age.
Q: So how did you get your start in the e-commerce business?
Mike: I got my as a music video producer, producing primarily hip-hop videos for rappers in the Midwest. That evolved into a commercial video production company based in Cleveland called Clum Creative. We were doing well and attracting a lot of talented young people to come work for us – one of which was Teddy Baldassarre. Teddy was a special talent and we had discussed starting a business together, and given that I had a background in video production and Teddy had an interest in fashion & watches – we started publishing educational videos on YouTube. Before we knew it, we were in business together building a YouTube channel that eventually became the largest YouTube channel in the world for luxury watch content. We kept the channel and brand name under Teddy’s name, Teddy Baldassarre, and the traffic from the channel became our entry into e-commerce.
Q: With so many YouTube channels trying to take off, how did yours stand out and grow bigger than the others?
Mike: There’s so many factors that need to come together to make a channel successful. First off, you need to get started and pick a category to compete in, but still remain flexible to pivots. For us, it actually started as a fashion channel but the watch content did so much better than the other videos, so we moved in that direction. So you just have to get started and test a lot of things, and see what works and move in that direction. Other factors are things like having a great on-camera personality, picking relevant titles and topics, having good production value, and consistent releases – all of which we had.
Q: How did you convert YouTube traffic into real customers and revenue?
Mike: At a certain point, the channel was achieving over 2 million views a month, and it was time to develop the business side. So we launched a website that sold many of the watches we were covering as an authorized retailer, in partnership with many of the top swiss watch brands. For us, the call to action from the videos to the website was very natural and the products were very relevant to the viewers, so it made sense.
Q: Talk about reaching your first million in sales. What did you do to make this happen?
Mike: In any business, if you can figure out a way to make a thousand dollars, then you can figure out a way to make a million. Basically, you just understand the amount of time, money, and effort it takes to make that small amount of money, and then figure out ways to repeat and increase. So many people try to start thinking so big, but a lot of times if you can think small, and focus on the little things and how you can repeat successful actions – that’s how you build sales.
So for us, it was a matter of increasing the amount of quality videos we produced. The key is knowing what is truly a cause of revenue, and what is simply correlated – so that you can focus more time and effort on what is causing sales, and less on what isn’t.
Q: Talk about scaling. It’s something we hear about all the time in entrepreneurship, but so many are able to execute. What took you from a few hundred thousand, to the point you’re at now?
Mike: Scaling is all about people. Once we had achieved some initial results in selling our products, it was time to develop a team of managers who overtake the business, and increase the level of output and accountability. As a leader, you have to have a vision in place, and understand the business enough to recruit top level managers who can execute on your ideas. But most importantly, you have to be willing to step out of the way and let other people do what you know to do. We recruited great people and put goals in front of them that were in alignment with what needed to happen.
If you align 3 to 4 key managers around a goal, and help them understand what specific metrics they need to hit in their departments to achieve the overall goal – then big things can happen.
Q: Based on a recent valuation, the company is worth well over 8-figures. What’s your top tip for someone looking to achieve this type of success in business?
Mike: First you need to develop a knack and obsession for making money. I spent the first 8 years of my business developing a focus on driving revenue every single day. Once you can develop a habit and work ethic that you can work for yourself, then you’ll find yourself with some extra capital to put into some things.
Then it’s just a matter of meeting a ton of people, evaluating the right opportunities, and making investment & hiring decisions. Study people who are operating the type of companies you want to be operating – and just work and analyze like crazy in achieving your goal.
Q: As a health magazine, we have to ask, how do you balance this aggressive growth with maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Or can you?
Mike: Certainly it can be hard at times, but it’s really important to hire great employees and managers. There’s a time at the start of any business where, as the owner, you are doing every little task. This is sometimes necessary, but you need to as quickly as possible find talented people who can overtake valuable but repetitive activities – so that you protect your time from going overboard. This allows you the freedom to stay fit, eat healthy, instead of working 15 hours a day on tasks that other people can overtake for you instead.
Q: What’s the future of Teddy Baldassarre?
Mike: Teddy Baldassarre will become the largest retailer in the world for selling new watches. Teddy is the greatest content marketer of all time in the watch industry, and the team we’re building that surrounds him is truly world class. Our growth rate and momentum – it’s just a matter of time. With my investment firm, Clum Group, I hope to find opportunities to replicate the success we’ve had with Teddy in other categories.
Q: Any final tips for our readers on achieving success in business?
If there’s one thing to remember, confidence goes a long way. No one really knows what they are doing at the start, but if you have a strong sense of confidence and belief – you’ll push through doors that others won’t. So while it’s cliche, I would say believe in yourself and always do what the unstoppable version of yourself would do.
You can keep up with Mike on Instagram; @mikeclum
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