What is the e-commerce Holy Grail? It refers to building, scaling, and then exiting international brands by selling them. For this interview, we chatted with Ben Leonard, who did just that. Ben unlocked the Holy Grail with his first 7-figure eCommerce brand, Beast Gear. Now he is doing it all over again with Ecom Brokers. And helping others do the same!
We asked him about business, family, passion, work ethics, and e-commerce advice. If you consider yourself an entrepreneur or are interested in becoming one, you will enjoy this read!
Before he became an expert broker, Ben was busy building Beast Gear. He built the fitness gear company on a laptop, in a cupboard, during his spare time. His story is a great inspiration to us, and we were thrilled when he agreed to schedule us for this chat.
How and why he started his e-commerce:
We started the interview by asking him why and how he chose the niche for his first company.
He let us know that, to put it bluntly, he was fed up. At the time, he was ill and could not train, go to the gym, or be active. Everything in him knew that he needed something to keep him busy. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So, while tidying out his gym kit, he devised a plan to stay in touch with his passion for training while still following his doctor’s orders. This was when he started asking himself if there was a way that he could make better, higher-quality workout gear. That would help him not just reach his goals but BEAST his goals.
What initially started as an adventure to keep him busy during a trying time was making $6 million in sales three years later. That was when he knew that it was time to sell the business.
Ecom Brokers is born:
When Ben and his business partner Allison worked together on the sale of Ben’s eCommerce, they could not find what they needed. They could not find a brokerage with the experience of the seller, the broker, the accountant, and the eCommerce expert. So they created it.
Their goal was to create a company where you could find honest brokers. They wanted brokers who knew the process, had experience on all sides of the sale (seller, buyer, broker, accountant), and knew the market. Ben and his team have managed to build, scale and sell their multimillion-dollar international brands (unlike other brokers).
Ecom Brokers simplifies selling your business. They provide honest guidance from experienced brokers who will get you the best deal at a fair price. Another great benefit they offer is that they work with you on several stages of your selling journey.
Work with them if:
- If you are ready to sell your e-commerce business and need an experienced, honest broker to value your business, find a buyer, guide you through the process and get you the deal you deserve.
- You know you want to sell but need guidance to improve your business to maximize the potential value in the near future.
- When you know you want to sell down the line (1-2 years). But your business is not ready and hasn’t been ‘Built to Sell.’ They’ll work with you to rebuild it to focus on your new goals
On Selling your E-Commerce:
Ben wrote an article for our blog titled “How to sell your e-commerce business.” In the article, he shares strategies and tips for entrepreneurs looking to successfully exit the businesses they created.
As he mentions in the article, selling your e-commerce Is a significant career achievement because it:
- a) Generates money
- b) Completes another learning curve
- c) Demonstrates your ability to run a profitable business.
Waiting for the perfect offer to sell your E-commerce:
Ben has some advice for entrepreneurs looking to sell their businesses who might not be receiving appealing offers. To him, that scenario is the perfect time to run a company on a shoestring budget, ensure everything in the business runs well, and streamline and automate processes.
He also pointed out that one critical factor in successfully exiting your business during a slow market season is to avoid staying sluggish at all costs.
When asked what he thought sluggish behaviors were regarding being in charge of an eCommerce business, he stated the three main things he would advise to avoid being sluggish.
- Stop focusing on busy work. By this, he means that if you are feeling busy; rather than being busy, you probably need to restructure how you work (check out our article on better time management for tips on getting it done).
- Stop worrying about your competition or the next shiny thing. He suggests that your time should be focused on your path and on protecting what you have created.
- Be authentic. Don’t be complacent. You cannot forget that your authenticity made you become who you are. So keep being real. Keep interacting with your customer base from a place of authenticity.
When talking to Ben, his advice seem almost second nature. So we asked if he had always felt like an entrepreneur or if this was a role he had learned to grow into.
He told us that although the catalyst for becoming an entrepreneur was getting sick, he felt the entrepreneurial spirit was always inside him. Ben shared with us how his grandparents were entrepreneurs on both sides of the family. So, in his case, the entrepreneurial gene was always present. It just skipped a generation!
Entrepreneurial Driving force:
After hearing what the inspiration for Beast Gear was, we asked what his thoughts were on several topics. Specifically on the business approaches that focus on capturing an untapped market regardless of your passion for that area or subject. He responded that for him, the best way to succeed is to create a business around what you are passionate about.
This passion fuels you and motivates you to give your business your all. We live in a time when being busy and bombarded with social expectations and timelines is the norm. In this scenario, it tends to be much more comfortable for our bodies and psyches to focus on something we’re passionate about. This way, we can be more joyful and intentional about putting in the necessary time.
He thinks entrepreneurs should “scratch their itch.” By this, he means that when you are thinking about creating a product or launching a service, you should think about coming up with something to solve your problems. Something that, ideally, you would want to purchase or use. This was the case for him when developing Beast Gear and Ecom Brokers. Ben created exactly what he needed and made sure to capitalize on concepts he was already passionate about.
He emphasized that one of the keys to his success is always to remember that:
- You have to get up and go.
- Good things take time.
- If you’re willing to put in that time, you will see results.
Should I quit my job and go all in?
We then discussed his thoughts on specific so-called motivational social media posts. For example, the ones that urge readers to quit their jobs and focus entirely on their passions. He shared how some of these posts wanted to be helpful but were toxic.
In his opinion, it is not financially responsible to pack up your things and quit a job (at least not for most of us). He thinks (and we agree) that even though entrepreneurs are usually risk-takers by nature, this does not mean they have to be reckless.
As entrepreneurs, we need to take care of ourselves to take care of our families. We have to take calculated risks versus being fool hearty. Taking the time to analyze things, act rationally and calmly assess pros versus cons before making decisions is crucial. Doing this will ensure that the companies we create reach the level of success that we expect them to.
His advice is to test the ideas. Test the products. Test your entrepreneurial skills. See if you’re made for it. See if you enjoy it. See if the product you came up with is the product you’re meant to build, and capitalize on. Doing all this while you’re still working and having a fixed income will allow you to go on these ventures while being innovative and taking calculated risks.
This way, you can avoid putting financial pressure on your newly found business and, ideally, have a 9-5 job that will sustain you and take care of your basic needs.
When is the right time to focus solely on your business?
We asked him when is the right time to quit a job and focus on entrepreneurial ventures. He said that to know what, he would come up with a number. This number would be the amount he needs to cover his basic expenses. This can be housing, food, subscriptions, etc. Then, the decision is easy once he has that number in mind. As soon as your entrepreneurial venture generates enough to pay you the wage that covers those necessities, you can quit your job, not before.
Suppose your business idea still needs more revenue to cover your monthly expenses. In that case, his advice is to keep your job so that you do not have the added pressure of potentially being in an unwanted position.
Ben mentioned the importance of taking care of the family. We asked how being a father had changed the way he did business. He told us it had changed completely. Learning about the work-life balance has genuinely made a difference for him. There is great value in making time to be there for his kid. During the interview, he shared how his main objective is always to be an involved and active dad. His goal is to teach them and share meaningful experiences with them.
We asked him if he saw himself living as a full retiree, not working at all, and just chilling at a beach sipping margaritas. His response was an adamant NO. He told us that he loves working and that even if he does not see himself in the business end of deals at an older age, he sees himself channeling all of his entrepreneurial spirits and applying his knowledge to something he is passionate about, like Environmental Conservation. He sees himself putting his brain, his talent, and his know-how toward causes that are positive and near and dear to his heart.
My mindset has always been that I get to go to work, not that I have to go to work.
Ecologist turned E-Commerce Entrepreneur:
One of the most impressive facts about Ben is that he has no formal business training. His background is in ecology, and he describes himself as a whale and dolphin nerd by qualification.
So we thought it would be fun to ask him what he thought entrepreneurs could learn from dolphins. After a few chuckles and some thinking, he stated that it had been widely documented that dolphins quickly help humans in distress. There is ample evidence of dolphins being quick to rescue or assist us in whatever way they can. He said that’s what he thought entrepreneurs could learn from a dolphin. He mentioned that sometimes people in the same industry tend to be a bit zealous or suspicious when helping a colleague who might be doing what they’re doing. He thinks everything would be better if we were to get together and help each other as industry leaders. He quoted:
A rising tide lifts all boats, and success is not a finite resource.
Going back in time to before his first E-commerce:
We asked him to imagine he went back in time with all his current knowledge and $10,000 in his pocket; what would he do with that capital?
He said he would put half of that capital into creating a product. When he founded Beast Gear, he started with a $2500 capital investment. So, he would double that to $5000, and then the remaining $5000 he would use to build his personal brand from a position of authority.
Ben stated that if he could go back in time, he would take the time and the resources to get people to know him, put himself out there and tell his story, and record all of his processes and how he got to where he is now from the beginning. If he could, he would film it all and share it with the world and his audience. He stated that the more people know you, the more people will be willing to collaborate with you.
Encouragement for E-Commerce Entrepreneurs:
For our final question, we asked Ben to advise an entrepreneur who might be looking to lift their spirits and keep going with their business. Ben gave us three of his best pieces of advice:
- You should remember there is always a way to step it up.
- Be authentic. No one else is you, and that’s your superpower. As long as you act authentically, you will automatically stand out in the crowd.
- Focus on relationship building. Build relationships with your customers and your suppliers so that they will have value and goodwill. This is going to bring you something more valuable than money.
Taking care of your team:
Our team asked if he thought that relationship building also needed to be applied to your company team. He answered: “One Hundred Percent,” without hesitating. He pridefully talked about how he considers all his teammates a crucial part of his success and how he is not fond of terms like “Virtual Assistant,” where the person behind the position might feel dehumanized.
He wants to remind us that we’re all human and have the exact needs and wants.
We all want respect, kindness, love, and empathy. Treating your team with these qualities and seeing them as humans, not demeaning them but lifting them up, is essential and will be 100% reflected in your business revenue.
Our chat with Ben was incredibly motivational, and we thoroughly enjoyed connecting with someone passionate about what he does and how he does it.
How can you connect with Ben:
If you would like to keep learning from Ben, he offers a service called “Power Hour” consisting of 20, 40, or 60-minute sessions , where you can:
- Discuss the issues you might have to understand where you are and where you want to be to have a clear path to follow.
- Set out simple, effective, and proven strategies and solutions, so you don’t waste any more time, effort, and money.
- Apply what you learn to your business to get back in the driving seat and confidently move forward!
He also offers a variety of courses and mentoring services and loves to collaborate as a guest in podcasts and as a speaker at events.
If you want to exit your eCommerce business, check out Ben’s Brokerage company, ECOM brokers UK, to find out if you would be a good match.
Let us know your thoughts on the interview and what you would ask if you had the chance to sit down with Ben; we would love to hear from you and connect!