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February 22, 2017

Influencer limelight: Increasing conversions with Steve Chou

Written by Investis Digital

Blogging and Podcasting Create a Key Influencer for Ecommerce

Trying to start an online store, or uncover the best tools and plugins to make your existing site better? Steve Chou is your man. Chou runs the popular blog My Wife Quit Her Job and co-runs the online store BumbleBeeLinens. He’s also a full-time husband and father who manages to find time for all things ecommerce and entrepreneurial.

He’s been featured several times in Ecommerce Influence, Smart Asset, and eCommerceFuel. We were able to catch up with Chou, learn about his world of influencing, and what new things are ahead.

ZD: How did you find your way into the realm of ecommerce?

Chou: Back when my wife and I were engaged to be married, my wife knew that she was going to cry at our wedding, and she wanted a handkerchief for the photos. We couldn’t find them anywhere in the U.S. There were a couple of low quality ones at various bridal stores, but we wanted something nicer. We just couldn’t find anything in the U.S. Finally we found this manufacturer in China. Problem was, you had to buy a whole bunch. We ended up buying a couple hundred handkerchiefs, only ended up using six. We basically just tried to liquidate the rest on ebay. And to our surprise, it sold like hotcakes.

Later on, when my wife became pregnant with our first child, we were thinking about ways to make money on the side. While my wife was making good money at the time, in Silicon Valley, you pretty much need two incomes per parent when it comes to kids and getting a house in a good school district.

What ended up happening was us looking at a bunch of things. We looked at opening a Kumon, a retail shop, and then finally we kind of stumbled upon ecommerce. I had a friend that at the time he had launched his own photography shop. He was paying about 3 dollars a month to run the shop. I thought that was crazy and ideal. We could store items at his place for cheap. So we got back in touch with the original handkerchief owner and then just started selling them!

ZD: When did this turn into something that you wanted to share with others?

Chou: My wife was still pregnant at the time and the plan was that by the time her maternity leave ended, we would hopefully make $60,000. That was our goal and we ended up making up her entire six-figure salary. So that was nice. Haha! She was incredibly unhappy with her job, so she quit and made the store her job, alongside being a mother.

A bunch of friends started just asking me about our shop. Instead of telling the story a bunch of times, I just started to document all of this stuff on our blog. Funny enough, my friends didn’t really read it, but I got random strangers reading it. That’s kind of how it all started.

ZD: Did you always plan on blogging? And if so why?

Chou: Not really, but in terms of money, I thought it would be cool to document our journey.  That was the goal in the beginning. Then I started reading a bunch of other blogs like Darren Rowse and Steve Pavlina. Then I thought, “Wow, okay, maybe I could make a couple bucks on the side.”

The long terms plan of the store and all this was really just to help pay the mortgage, but it ended up just blowing up.

ZD: What does your typical day look like?

Chou: Well, throughout everything in the beginning, I was working full-time. My wife however quit her job after the store made up her salary and made the store her full-time job. But just recently, I actually quit my full-time job in October of 2016. Last year, I hit a million dollars in revenue from just the blog portion alone.

It was never the money. Before this all, I was an electrical engineer and I stayed in that field for the last 20 years. I didn’t want to give that up. But now that I have, I literally work until about noon, I have lunch with my wife, I exercise in the afternoon, and then I pick up the kids. That’s my typical day, now.   

ZD: How did you balance a full-time job, influencing others, and of course keeping up with the family?

Chou: I almost think that I was a lot more efficient when I was working full-time. Now it’s like, “Meh, I got time.” I was pretty efficient. I had set days and times and I stuck to those on a calendar. Now I’m a bit more relaxed, so I would say I feel a little less efficient. However, it all worked out. I never felt that I was that busy though. The blog takes about 15 hours a week to maintain. My full-time job was a typical 40 hours a week at the time.

ZD: When did you notice your following take off? What sparked it?

Chou: I would say probably after a year is when I started getting a little bit of traction. No real money until year three, however. A big difference happened when I started going to conferences and meeting other bloggers and influencers. What started happening there is that we just ended up helping and promoting each other. That actually made a huge difference.

ZD: What opportunities has this passion opened up for you?

Chou: Mainly it’s meeting cool people. As part of my ecommerce store, I have people who have tools that they give me access to them simply just to try and test out. All sorts of opportunities like speaking at conference and paid opportunities were all very rewarding.

steve-chouZD: Which platform(s) do you feel are the most impactful for you as an influencer and why?

Chou: I would say a combination of the blog and podcasting.

I think for podcasting, it’s as if someone already knows you. People come up to me all the time as if they've known me for a long time.They are listening to me for about 50 minutes whenever they fire up a podcast. So I think just having anyone listen to you for 50 minutes talking, it kind of ingrained themselves in your head, so to speak.

In terms of writing, it’s this evergreen thing. You write a post, it lives forever, and if it gets picked up in search, Pinterest, or wherever that gets shared around very easily.

ZD: Where do you see the future of ecommerce and retail?

Chou: I mean, a lot of people are flocking to Amazon right now. It’s clearly the big giant in the room. I would say that as shipping times and costs become less of a factor, more and more people are just going to go towards ecommerce. It’s your ability to put together a really good shopping experience and getting your brand out there, that’s going to be the key to success.

These days I’ve become lazy. I don’t like to go shopping at a retail store, unless I absolutely have to try something on. I always look online first. Shipping in the past has always been the biggest factor. Amazon has pretty much mitigated that to a certain extent, but as it gets faster and faster, the trend is going to continue and retail will continue to fade.

ZD: What's the next big thing for you?

Chou: Yeah, so what’s funny about all this is that I’ve been dividing my time between the blog and the store, while I was working full-time. Now that I have a lot more time, I plan to grow the store a lot more. Mainly through paid channels for this year. Facebook traditionally is something that I have not invested as much time as I should have been for outreach. It involves a lot of resources and constantly refreshing creatives, but that is something I’ll be focusing on this year.

And personally, now that I’m no longer an electrical engineer, I’ve been working with a friend on a small software project. Hopefully we can get that out the door sometime this year!

Follow Steve’s tips and stories on his Podcast, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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