As some of you know, I quit my big corporate job in 2019, shortly before Covid arrived. Covid came and wrecked my plans of travel, so I quickly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I felt like I might as well have been working instead of taking Retirement 1.0.
With so much extra time on my hands, I got a chance to dive into a business model I wanted to explore. I was very curious about Amazon FBA businesses that many people run out of their homes. I’m not talking about the retail / online arbitrage models. I wanted to know how to either make or acquire a private label product that I could sell for residual sales. Ultimately I ended up launching a product that I sold for about a year.
What was the product?
A miniature picnic table for squirrels.
Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds. And that ridiculousness drove sales. I made and sold 2000 squirrel picnic tables in about 10 months. Check out my Etsy listings if you want a closer look.
That year brought many laughs at the abrupt left turn in my career. “Senior engineering manager at a Fortune 20 company turned squirrel picnic table maker” just makes me laugh every time. Building 700 picnic tables that earned 2.5x my engineering paycheck that month made me laugh even more. Life is funny sometimes.
As the year went on, I thought more and more about what my next product might be. I was certain squirrel picnic tables were a fad. Additionally, competition grew quickly. I was no longer competing with one or two other sellers but 20+, many of whom were importing finished goods. Importing trailer loads of a product with uncertain longevity didn’t interest me. I racked my brain for other product ideas.
Months of ideation and experimentation yielded nothing. I just kept pushing, certain that I could will myself to find the next product. No matter how much time and effort I put into my product search, I was getting nowhere.
Finally, I gave up the search. Forcing it wasn’t working, so I had to let go.
A few months after letting go, my next product venture presented itself. I couldn’t miss it. I had plans to buy a piece of equipment, so I researched which one to buy. While reading the reviews, I noticed that 20% of the reviews complained that they couldn’t find a certain complimentary product.
I was sure I could provide it.
Fast forward two months and I launched my second product on Amazon. It was not without its challenges, but it has proven to be a success. Unlike the picnic tables, my second product is more consistent and much easier to manufacture. This year I expect to clear $150,000 in sales. Not bad for about 4 days of work a month.
Lessons in Abundance
This entire journey has taught me several lessons in abundance. Breaking out of a traditional career path opened my eyes to the many ways of making money. Each year at Kroger increased in stress and dissatisfaction. Compensation also increased.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot that work could and should be enjoyable, at least part of the time. Instead, I became highly focused on earning enough money to stop my hellish version of groundhog day.
Only after I had everything neatly buttoned up did I allow myself to quit. When I paid off my mortgage and invested enough into retirement to never have to invest another penny (known as Coast FI), I finally threw in the towel. Did I really need to wait until I reached these milestones to take time away from work? No. But scarcity mindset had taken hold and I convinced myself it was best to endure.
Here’s how WebMD defines scarcity mindset:
A scarcity mindset is when you are so obsessed with a lack of something — usually time or money — that you can’t seem to focus on anything else, no matter how hard you try.WebMD
Changing companies, switching roles… any change seemed risky to my overall financial plan. It wasn’t until I was making squirrel picnic tables that I realized there are thousands of ways to make money. And even then I didn’t fully learn the lesson. I tried to force a second product out of concern for my newest form of income. It wasn’t until I let go of it that another product venture fell into my lap.
Abundance Mindset – A Work in Progress
In the nearly 3 years since leaving the corporate world, an abundance mindset is still a work in progress. I still require those nearest to me to encourage me to take risks or act outside of a fully buttoned-up plan. But I am enjoying the work and seeing the benefit. I nearly surrendered to scarcity mindset earlier this year when I considered scrapping my winter travel plans. Instead, I traveled for a month through hot, sunny Mexico and experienced more clarity than I’ve had in years, maybe ever.
These moments of abundance encourage me to take more leaps. They’ve made my life rich with spontaneity and gratitude. They’ve helped me determine what I want my future years to look like.
And it all started with a picnic table for squirrels. Where does your journey start?