As a long time reader of The Tropical MBA, I’m thrilled to be featuring Dan Andrews – lifestyle business owner and mobile entrepreneur based mostly out of Bali, Indonesia, and the Philippines. We’ll take a look at some of tips he might be able to give recent grads and young professionals looking to strike off on their own as mobile international entrepreneurs.
Please give us a rundown of your bio and business experience.
I studied Philosophy in college and briefly considered being a musician or a professor– both things I wasn’t particularly good at or willing to do the work. My primary motivation was personal freedom, and when I looked around I saw that people in business seemed to control their destiny more than any other profession. So I moved to California (mostly for the sunshine) and started working my tail off in business roles, focusing mostly on manufacturing products in China.
4 years of working hard and I started my own product business with 2 partners. We founded the business by manufacturing modern cat furniture, you can see one of our websites here. That business has expanded in to other product lines and done pretty well. About 2 years ago I started a publishing company which produces our podcast and provides SEO services to entrepreneurs.
Can you give aspiring lifestyle entrepreneurs some feedback on what they should learn or avoid in order to accomplish the same level of success you’ve had?
I think taking the set of practices we call “entrepreneurship” seriously. You’ve gotta be a pro– every morning you wake up and do the hard work of building businesses. That’ll get you relationships with others who are doing the same, and it’s those connections that will make all the difference. A pro will always recognize another pro at the table, and they’ll distribute opportunities to each other.
Debt from university can often prevent people from taking the plunge. What would you say to these types of people? Should they just dive right in? What advice do you have?
Yes, I went and got a job because I had student loans to pay and I wish I wouldn’t have. Stay current with your lenders, call them, and tell them you are freakin’ broke and are working on it. Don’t put it under the mattress, but don’t make life decisions based on a 20 year 3% loan that can be negotiated due to financial hardship. I wish I could go back to my 22 year old self and explain how this stuff works. I was pretty dumb– I got a job to pay those loans and ended up accruing more debt.
I started living like everyone else around me. In my case, I was poorer after years of working a great job than I was right out of college! All that said– it’s a terrible perspective from which to make life decisions. Get those things differed and focus on building your wealth through entrepreneurship.
You delve into some interesting niche areas of e-commerce. How can aspiring entrepreneurs identify their own unique niche in which they can be competitive?
The best way is to know something about it. That’s always the key. When you talk to people in these niches, they are highly educated about what they are selling and why they are selling it. At least during the first few years of a start-up, I wouldn’t get in to any niche that I wasn’t personally invested in becoming a world leading expert in those products and market needs.
You chose Bali as your main startup and international entrepreneurship hub in Asia. Why do you like this spot so much as a global entrepreneur? What are the upsides and downsides compared to other hubs in Asia?
Bali is just classy as hell. It’s a beautiful spot with world class amenities. It’s great for business because everybody wants to visit Bali! It’s at the top of everyone’s to-do list, so I meet a lot of great people who are coming through. The primary downside is that the internet here is worse than most developed spots in SE Asia. Since my business is primarily based on email, it doesn’t bother me that much.
Are there any mistakes you made that you wish you’d identified sooner? How can an aspiring entrepreneur avoid or identify these issues?
Sure, probably a crap ton– I wrote about some of them here. These things are hard to predict and are usually a good sign. If you are out there doing stuff you are gonna make a lot of mistakes. Better yet if you can recognize them and improve. The biggest mistake people make is just not getting started and not being an all out pro about it. It’s not going to happen from reading a few blogs and putting websites up. This is more than a full time job– entrepreneurship is a way of living. If it appeals to you, you’ve gotta go all out. I continue to make mistakes on a daily basis, and I’m not all that worried about them.
Please share with us some of your more creative, interesting, and useful “travel hacks” that you’ve learned along the way.
Here’s a handful of stuff I’ve come up with– I’m not that much of a get miles and hack airlines kind of guy. My expertise is in keeping light, underpacking, “getting it there,” and keeping a zen attitude about being on the road. I think the biggest thing is to enjoy yourself, ya know you are in such an amazing privileged position and it’s worth taking the time to appreciate seeing the world.