Monday, October 13, 2014

From Book to Blog to Customer: My Business Story

It all started a couple of years ago...

I was sitting in my office, probably answering one of a ton of emails in my inbox, when in stormed a teacher friend.  She sat down, looking tired and defeated.  What's up? I said.

To make a long story short, she had less then a hundred dollars in her bank account and the month still had a week to end.  She happens to be a single mother with a growing adolescent son at home, and as a new father (my daughter, Rehani, was a few months old at the time) I understood her dilemma.  I thought: Here's an excellent teacher, working extremely hard at her job, unable to make ends meet with her teacher salary.  How awful.  I offered her money to hold her over.  She declined, informing me that she was soon starting a second job as a tutor.  I felt bad about her circumstances.  It reminded me of my life growing up in East San Jose as part of an immigrant family.  There were times when my parents had to borrow money from friends to feed me and my siblings.

Teachers: Please don't turn to a life of crime to pay your bills!

After she left my office I started thinking of her, and all of the other teachers like her I have worked with in my ten years as a school administrator.  Sadly, I have known too many teachers in my career who were single, head-of-household and working two jobs, as tutors, waiters/waitresses, party planners, Starbucks baristas, etc.  Nowadays, the teacher financial struggle is not limited to single, head-of-households.  Teacher couples also struggle financially!  If I had a nickel for every teacher couple I know who lives in a cramped condo with children....

Credit for pic

Common Core Money: Financial Literacy for Educators and Other Professionals

That same year around Thanksgiving break I decided to put ideas down on paper, focusing on how I could share my investing know-how with educator colleagues all over the U.S.  I write, therefore I am.  There were no other definitive pathways at the time for me to employ in reaching out to peers.  I had a small following after the publication of my first ebook: Immigrant Me..., and thought I could use my network to branch out into the world of non-fiction literature.  During the Winter (no longer called, "Christmas") break, I organized the content for Common Core Money..., and wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote some more.  It poured out of me.  I had it done in two weeks!  Thank God for the double, two-hour nap sessions my daughter could take back in those days.  She doesn't nap at all now.  Ugh.

Once the file was uploaded and "live" at, I started a marketing campaign, letting all my friends and connections on Facebook and LinkedIn know about my book.  Wasn't much of a Twitterer per se, though I do have a Twitter handle.  I got some book sales this way, and I continue to do so.  I did not spend any money marketing outside of my social media networks.  I dont' regret this.  Why?  I learned that it's challenging to get people to buy AND read non-fiction financial literacy books.  The book industry is also very competitive.  I wasn't trying to retire or anything from my book sales.  I wanted simply to make my know-how available in written form to educators and other professionals, and if I made a little mula on the side then great.  The book is by no means an encyclopedia of financial literacy content either.  In fact, it is quite short, an easy read.  Just meant to get people jazzed up about investing like I was.

Common Core Money Blog

If you're bored by now, this is where things get a bit more interesting.  The idea for a blog, CCM blog, came to me during a discussion with Howard Makler, Co-Founder of Rich-Uncles.  Howie and I connected via Facebook, believe it or not.  His R-Us' Facebook ad reached my iPad screen and I posted a comment.  A comment soon turned into an opportunity for me.  I talk about this on my ebook, namely, how a platform like FB has allowed the mainstream access to people one would never come in contact with, and how (given the right players involved) these points of contact often turn into opportunities, mutually benifiting ones at that!

The partnership:  Howie agreed to mentor me, and make me a part of the Rich-Uncles family in some yet to be determined way at that time.  My role, after becoming one of Nexregen REIT I's (R-U is the brand) earliest investors, was to help with prospective investors.  Investors called me (Howie gave them my number) and I would share with them why I invested.  Of course this meant I had to know my stuff.  I couldn't just wing it.  Why did Howie ask me to get involved?  I had a unique skillset, being able to translate in two languages (Spanish and English) the language of investing to the layman, the beginning/novice investor.  That's exactly what R-U needed at the time.  Lucky for me, I was at the right place (on FB) at the right time.  If you look at some of the earlier CCM blog posts, you will see that some were written exclusively in Spanish.  That's because I was attempting to prove a hypothesis at that time, that Latinos do invest!  Several of the "leads" Howie handed me back then were Spanish speaking individuals just begging basically, to get someone on the other line that could connect with them, and take the time to explain the R-U investment.


Credit for Pic.  Sweet ride!

One lead in particular Howie and I still talk about today that has reached R-U lore is that of Benedicto X (last name withheld for privacy), the Ice Cream Man.  Benny, as I know him today, somehow correctly completed the R-U online Investor Profile.  Why correctly?  The man doesn't speak a lick of English.  His email read: "u call me. speakin espanish?"  Benedicto lives somewhere in inner city Los Angeles.  We had his address on our database and could Google map his surroundings.  I give Howie lots of credit because he could've ignored the lead.  There were hundreds coming in weekly, too many for Howie to pursue alone.  One evening he asked me to give Benedicto a call.  Howie was not optimistic the lead would pan out, but his open mindedness allowed him at least to pass it on to me.

Benny answered the phone from inside his vehicle.  His ice cream truck!  As we spoke I could hear the voices of children coming up to his window asking for Pink Panther ice cream pops, Jolly Rancher snow cones, Sour Cherry cups, etc.  I'm not lying!  Benny shared with me that he has been a self-employed individual since arriving in the U.S. from Mexico.  He owns his own ice cream business, a mechanic shop he leases out, and other investment property.  That someone could own so much without knowing the language, so to speak, did not surprise me.  In Los Angeles, pretty much everyone speaks Spanish!  Bankers, real estate agents, brokers, the Koreans in Korea Town, you name it.  They can all find a way to make a deal when it comes to business.  IF ONLY INVESTING INSTITUTIONS GAVE THESE PEOPLE THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE.  Benny had $40K sitting in the bank, earning him nothing.  Glad I was there to help him out.


There have been many prospective Rich-Uncles investors that have contacted Howie and said those words to him: "I read about it on a blog."  I must have done a good job of it, writing a review of R-U as an investment for the masses.  CCM blog, therefore, was acting as a means by which R-U could market itself cheaply to others via this blogging platform that I created.  CCM blog allowed me to prove myself as an advertising agent to any company, and solidify my standing within R-U.  I did not anticipate that my top posts thus far would be those associated with my review of R-U and their activities.  Obviously now I am glad that they remain very popular.  I cannot give myself the entire pat on the back, however.  The R-U investment is popular in CA and no doubt people are out there looking for any credible information they can gather to make a more informed decision about investing or not.  See, most companies already have their own blogs.  I find most of them to be quite boring.  They are dry, too technical for most people, and even a nerd like me has to push hard to read a post to its end.  Wanna know why some (there are some good ones out there) investment product company blogs lack the formula they need to be effective, being unable to bring the interested investor back to the site?  The posts are written to cater to a small audience, the sophisticated investor!  Companies figure sophisticated investors are the ones with all of the money.  They neglect to connect with the under-appreciated market that is the novice/small investor, believing the pool of cash is shallow.  Sure, when you consider  that most of the wealth in this country is owned by just 10% of its inhabitants, it's hard to veer off the path of putting any of your advertising budget to go after anyone else.  Their loss.

CCM blog has both morphed and diverged since its inception in March of 2014.  Haven't you noticed the latest features?  CCM blog was my springboard into two new roles for Rich-Uncles, that of an "ambassador" to new investors and as the company's blogger.  Nice, huh?  A few months ago I began a transition of making this blog into what I originally wanted it to be, a site where good, hard-working people could go to get some financial literacy and a recommended investment idea.  But that wasn't enough, not for me.

Common Core Money: The Customer

Starting a business without an actual product or service is challenging.  There is nothing in plain sight.  Everything is a moving target.  The customer is an apparition that materializes and vanishes just when you think your proton gun's beam has it locked in.  Who you gonna call?  No, they can't help you with this.

My website, Common Core where my beta version company currently resides, is a hodgepodge of services mostly.  And that's okay for now.  I'm not shoveling all of my life savings into an unproven concept.  Here is where most entrepreneurs go wrong.  They operate with an incorrect hypothesis:  If I create this company, offering a particular service or product, then I will see a demand.  Wrong!  Your hypothesis should be the other way around:  If I create a customer with a particular demand, then I will offer a service or product to meet that demand, and turn it into a company.  I doesn't make any sense.  But that's exactly how it should be if you plan on building something successful from the ground up.  That's what I am laboring to do.  It's exciting work.  Wish me luck.

Thank-you for reading!


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