My name is Shane Melaugh, I’m the owner of ActiveGrowth and here are a few things about me:
I mention all this here, just to clarify that when I talk about online business, I do so from actual experience. I'm not a blogging-about-blogging blogger who's only business is teaching blogging. :)
My basic philosophy for business and entrepreneurship is to choose your direction and grind it out.
Tips, tactics and information can only get you so far – there is simply no substitute for experience. I apply this philosophy to everything I do in life, whether it be dancing salsa or public speaking and it has served me well.
The foundation of any serious online business is a product or a service. ActiveGrowth is about everything you need to create (and sell) amazing products, services or memberships.
There are three things your online business needs to thrive: a good offer, traffic and a website that converts. These aspects are covered in depth, on this site.
However, the right tools and techniques aren't enough. Most entrepreneurs fail and it has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or access to software and tools. Instead, it has everything to do with their character, mindset and work ethic.
You cannot start a highly successful business without developing the character of a highly successful entrepreneur.
That's why on this site, we also cover the "character ethic" aspect of becoming a badass, highly effective entrepreneur.
You know how you read about all these entrepreneurial types who started their own car washing business at the age of 5 and were already doing better than most adults by the time they hit adolescence? The kinds of people who just seem to have entrepreneurship running through their very veins?
Well, that wasn’t like me at all…I’d love to say that any of this came naturally to me, but the truth is that it's been a very bumpy road.
In 2008 I left university pretty dejected. My grades were terrible, but more importantly I was fed up.
I was studying psychology and while much of what we were learning was interesting to me, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was infinitely removed from doing anything "real". I had a strong desire to create something and I simply couldn’t muster up the motivation to continue my studies. So, I went against the advice of everyone, and quit.
The following few years were nothing short of pure failure. I had jobs working in a warehouse stacking boxes, as a night time security guard and even as a landscape gardener (highlight: I broke my leg when a huge boulder dropped on it… and then lost the job, because of the injury). I needed these jobs to put food on the table, but I spent all my free time trying to create something of my own.
To say I struggled would be an understatement.
One of my failures involved following a passion that is still important to me: personal development. I started to write a book on some things that had made a positive impact on my life but I didn’t see it through and the book was never released.
Then I tried to find some people to offer my services to free of charge in an attempt to get some clients. That didn’t work out, either. This was one of my first experiences of trying to market my own products. It was a tough pill to swallow. If I couldn’t even find clients to work with me for free what chance did I have of selling things for actual money?!
Then I read something somewhere about a dating site that had made a huge amount of money. When I looked at the site I thought: “This site sucks! I can’t believe they’re making so much money. I bet I could do way better than that.”
I brought together a small team of programmers and we got started. Unfortunately, this little venture had no structure, no business plan and no marketing plan - and, you guessed it, it was a miserable failure.
In retrospect I can’t believe I was so naive about the project. No wonder that after a few months and minimal development the team fell apart.
Around this time, I started learning how to build computers. I couldn’t believe how much money you could save by building your own computer from scratch instead of buying one off the shelf. It seemed that suppliers were taking a decent margin so I decided to undercut them by starting my own computer building business. This was mainly out of desperation than anything that I really wanted to get into for the long term – I really needed to earn some cash and decided that this was the best way available to me at the time.
I had the technical knowledge and the product was good – consumers could get a better PC at a lower price by coming through me – so why wouldn’t they? Simple answer – they didn’t know about me, and I sucked at marketing.
In the early days I managed to somehow attract a trickle of customers and by offering them an incredibly good service (above and beyond what anyone else was doing at the time) I managed to gain a few more clients through word of mouth and recommendations. But this was nowhere near enough business – I needed a better marketing strategy…
I started posting my offers on Ebay. This helped me reach more potential customers, but I shortly realized that there was a bottleneck: me! It was hugely time consuming to build computers and the profit margins turned out to be quite low. I was slaving away for very little reward. Time for another transition.
I found a niche in the hardware components market of water cooling. It’s not something that you would consider there to be much of a demand for, but strangely enough the niche is actually very active and lots of people are fascinated by water cooling components.
As I gained expertise in this niche, I started writing reviews for an online magazine – this was my first experience of content marketing, although I didn’t realize I was doing content marketing at the time.
After a month or two, I started to take the reviews seriously. Nobody was creating useful, thorough reviews for water cooling components. The reviews at the time were lazy, at best. A few crummy pictures of a waterblock or other component and some performance numbers based on incredibly unreliable testing procedures was the norm.
I saw this as an opportunity and started to devise the most comprehensive tests that I could come up with. I didn’t get many review samples sent, so I bought as many samples as I could, out of my own pocket. My test setup took up all the space in my tiny office room and the procedures were extremely time consuming, but the end result was the most useful review data in the industry. I even set up a miniature photo “studio” on one end of my desk, to capture the highest quality pictures of the components for the reviews.
Within 6 months, I went from being the “newbie” guy that nobody even knew to a go-to expert on water cooling devices. People sought me out and asked me for advice. This was the first time that I had ever had a group of people in a given niche that were paying attention to me – I had been doing my best marketing yet, and I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.
Once I made a bit of a name for myself in the PC water cooling niche, a company approached me to become a reseller of their water cooling equipment. It was an e-commerce store and I would be the Swiss arm of the company being the only reseller in the country. This sounded great to me, so I eagerly signed up.
Little did I know that this was to be one of my worst decisions to date. The problem wasn’t that the business wasn’t good – it was! The e-commerce store took plenty of orders and the turnover was getting towards mid six figures per year. There was a hungry crowd of buyers chomping at the bit.
The problem was that I had NO CONTROL over the business – every decision I tried to make got stuck in the “chain of command” and never came to fruition. End result: I was sitting on a business that was generating massive revenue, but not enough profit for me to even live on, I knew there were a dozen things I could do to increase profits and I couldn’t do ANY of them. I ended up feeling like I was nothing more than the fall guy – responding to customer complaints and queries, taking blame for things that weren’t my fault and that I couldn’t change. This was not what I signed up for – I needed control.
This venture proved to me that I could make something happen, but it also made one thing very clear: I needed to do this on my own.
My plan was simple: apply what I had done in the water cooling niche to online marketing. It was clear that I had to learn about creating and marketing a business and I figured that if I could rapidly learn all kinds of stuff about water cooled PCs, I could do the same for marketing and entrepreneurship.
I started my first attempt at building a website – holy crap that thing was ugly. I read and learned as much as I could about business and marketing. After the first few months of intensive learning, I started zeroing in on one topic: search engine optimization. I built a few niche sites and managed to get them ranked for various keywords. Soon after, these sites started bringing in some money. It wasn’t much, but at least it kept me going and it was a proof of concept.
To capture names and email addresses I built a free product on how to set up a WordPress blog. This was my first exposure to digital product creation and it was received well. I then decided to launch another free product about keyword research, mainly because almost all the available information on the subject was terrible. The guide was not a viral wonder or anything, but it was received extremely well by those who used it (and, in a way, it was the most successful product I ever made).
Things were looking up. I had scaled my niche sites up so that they were earning me a good income and decided to launch a product in the online marketing space. This product turned out to be Backlink Battleplan – it took me 6 weeks to create the product and orchestrate my first ever product launch. The launch itself wasn’t huge, but made me more money than I’d gotten all at once, ever before. The product also kept selling and growing in popularity. By the time I retired the product almost two years later, it had brought in more than $100,000.
Shortly after the launch of Backlink Battleplan, Sam Hänni contacted me asking for some advice for a product that he had been working on called SECockpit. I took a look – and I liked it. So much so that I offered to become the marketing arm of the company.
Sam accepted – and within 15 months that followed the software would go on to bring in more than 7 figures of revenue. This was the most profitable and most rapidly growing venture I’d ever been a part of, at the time.
In my personal life, I decided that I wanted to see a bit of the world and so moved to Romania. There, I teamed up with Paul McCarthy, created several WordPress plugins and eventually we started Thrive Themes together.
I caught the travel bug: I traveled to and lived in dozens of countries over the next years.
It's sometimes still hard to believe, but by persisting through failure after failure I'd somehow managed to come out the other end with a better life than I'd ever thought possible. I had complete financial freedom and on top of that, I could live and work anywhere in the world.
This good fortune has allowed me to focus more outward and more towards things that aren't just about me.
Thrive Themes is one such example: the company has been growing rapidly and not only do we reach far more people with it than ever before, but we're also using the business as a platform for our team members to learn and grow their own skills. The goal is not just to create a successful company, but to create a company that creates successful people.
This website, which has had 3 different names since its inception, is where all this business experience comes together. Here, I've always provided a behind-the-scenes look at how I run my businesses. Whenever I find the time, I write and make videos about what I learn along my journey.
If you're an entrepreneur, you'll find a straight-forward, no-frills resource to help you and your business grow, right here on ActiveGrowth.
In my story, I introduced you to the concept of The Grind, the one principle I base almost everything in my life on. Everything I am doing right now is part of a grind towards something greater.
Call me an idealist, but my ultimate goal is to make a difference. This human experiment that we are all a part of is simply amazing and I want to contribute something of value to it. I don’t know what form that will take yet. Maybe some kind of charity work, maybe some business or product that will have a huge impact on people’s lives.
Will I be able to achieve such a lofty goal?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t yet have the necessary skills or resources to be able to make a real difference. And that’s why I’m practicing and honing my craft – taking on projects of ever increasing complexity, so that one day, I may be good enough and strong enough to change the world – even if it’s just in a small way.