Going From Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur — A Challenge


This week will be Entrepreneurship Week on this blog.

To start us off, this post is a benevolent kick in the ass. I’ll preface the kick with something I wrote in The 4-Hour Workweek:

For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.

But talk is cheap, isn’t it? That’s the whole point, so let’s get to the action.


In 2009, Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify, and I developed the Build-A-Business Competition to transform would-be entrepreneurs into real entrepreneurs. Now in its 4th year, the competition has created more than 15,000 businesses that have sold more than $60 million in product (!).

Several readers of this blog — first-time business owners — have ended up generating millions of dollars each… some as side gigs to their full-time jobs! A few examples generated $250,000+ per month.

You don’t need need experience, and you don’t need a bunch of money. You just need to take the leap: join the competition, decide on your product category, listen to advice from mentors and fellow competitors, and sell the hell out of your product. That’s it.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
– Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Intangible products can also be sold in the competition, including digital downloads, services, and subscriptions. Make sure you check out the Shopify App Store (apps.shopify.com) for tons of great plugins.

This year’s competition is in partnership with Huffington Post, so there will be even more PR and exposure. Past participants have been featured in everything from Fast Company to The New York Times.

Who are your mentors? These killers, thrillers, and 100-dollar billers:

** Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post)
** Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank)
** Daymond John (FUBU, Shark Tank)
** Chase Jarvis (Photographer, Director)
** Tina Eisenberg (Swissmiss, CreativeMornings)
** Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library, Vaynermedia)
** Selita Ebanks (Victoria’s Secret Angel, Cause Marketer)
** Lil’ Jon (DJ & Producer)
** Amber Mac (TV Host, Author)
** Tim Ferriss (Angel Investor, Bearclaw Eater, Author: The 4-Hour Workweek)

The Build-A-Business competition runs from October 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014, with each of the mentors providing exclusive advice and guidance along the way. In addition to $50,000 cash prizes, the nine competition winners will receive an expenses-paid VIP trip for two to New York City to meet their mentors. It’s one hell of a party. The competition is open to people in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Click here for full details.

Time to explore entrepreneurship, don’t you think? If not now, when? What’s stopping you? Let us know in the comments, and maybe we (including other readers) can help.


Odds and Ends Elsewhere:

4-Hour Chef for Whaaaa?!?:
$35 retail for less than $15? Yes, my friends. New coupon–get an additional $5 off the full-color hardcover of The 4-Hour Chef. Here it is.

Posted on: September 16, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

107 comments on “Going From Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur — A Challenge

  1. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for all the wisdom & inspiration over the last few years from folks like you and Noah Kagan. I’ve read 4HWW and Noah’s “How to build a Million $ Business..” several times each.

    But the area which I always find lacking in guidance and advice is the area relating to patents, trademarks
    (write the patent application first? vs. go into production first? vs. do both on parallel track?) versus the need for protection when using outside vendors for prototype construction and then manufacturing. As we all know, NDA’s are worthless.

    This chasm has kept me from being a guy with hundreds of solid product ideas (wantrapreneur) to becoming an executor of product and business ideas (entrepreneur).


  2. Wow! This is totally awesome. I’ve been thinking about starting my first business online and have been looking for an exit strategy from my current position. This is perfect timing and on top of that gives me the opportunity to get more face time with you, Tim, as the plan will be to start a business in the electronics & gadgets category. By the way, we met last week at the Fireside Chat in SF which was an inspiration but we didn’t have much time to connect (did you happen to watch the video message I sent tweeted to you as a follow up? Here’s the link if not: http://t.co/8QPg7BXDWV). Couldn’t think up a better way for our worlds to collide than to enter a competition like this!


  3. In 4HWW you talk a lot about testing before you just launch something. Does this contest, or shopify.com in general abandon this principle? Or, would you recommend that we still implement the testing phase in what we do with this? If we are a reseller of a physical good and we have to buy a container load from China first, then I would think that testing would still be pretty critical, right?


  4. I have a Shopify store and really like how easy it is to use. It took me less than a week to get it set up and running and would have been way less if I had my copy and photos ready in advance. They have lots of cool new things to offer now. They are now processing credit cards directly, they can set up your brick and mortar store with to run off an iPad and tie everything into your online store including inventory. They also now have a great referral program. If you refer 5 people to them they waive your monthly service fee. There is also a 2 week free trial. If anyone is considering the contest or even opening a Shopify store I would be willing to pay your first month up to $60 just for the use use of my referral link. That would give you 6 weeks to get yourself up and running before having spend any money. I won’t post the link here but I’ll send it to you if you are interested.


  5. If someone wants to enter this competition but doesn’t have a product idea, you are welcome to mine!

    Several months ago I actually paid a professional to provide technical and CAD drawings for an eyelash curler (because the ones out there now are awful things)….

    The next stage would be prototype then get it manufactured then sell like crazy!

    Aaaaand since then haven’t taken it further. Now, I have a website that is doing quite well which I’m concentrating on, so just can’t see myself dedicating the time needed to get this product out in the near future.

    I’m open to someone willing to take it as far as possible – we can negotiate a price for the idea and drawings, and you take it from there!! If anyone is interested, let me know in these comments and we’ll go from there!


  6. Clicked Join The Competition -> joined Shopify -> clicked Join The Competition again -> chose mentor -> was taken to the “university” -> have NO IDEA whether I joined the competition or not! Didn’t receive a competition Welcome email other than that from Shopify. Have no idea what’s next. The UX is not very well thought through (it sucks)!


  7. Hi Tim, I am currently reading your book: 4HWW, because I’m at the limit of madness without knowing what to do with my life and work. I´m a 30 years old guy from Colombia and It was a luck to find that this book existed. I just took the challenge to write to someone important or famous and now the only person I want to ask something is you. Please try your best to answer me
    Even when conditions in Colombia are very different to America I know it is possible to achieve success here somehow.
    Three years ago I was fired from work on a domestic carrier because according to them I was no longer motivated … and it was true. I decided to create my own business (clothing store) and I went into debts with banks, it worked for a while and now I had to close the store due to low sales. I’m in debts up to my neck and your book is giving me a new hope. I am sure I don´t want to be an employed anymore, but whit this debts is difficult to recreate a new company.
    What would you do on these conditions so unfavorable?
    one thing is start from zero… another is to start from (-)zero. Please please please give me an answer. Thank you


  8. I want to enter but my problem is to many ideas!

    Idea one: Pillow swords- Sick of having pillow fights with boring ordinary pillows? Time to use Pillow swords! Pillows shaped like swords, shields and armour.

    Idea two: Asset store (untitled)- Need assets to create a game or app? From button graphics to sounds and 3D models, all available to developers at a lower cost then hiring (and without the hassle) of finding designers.

    Idea three: The Sleeve- Imagine going for a run and looking at your arm to see distance, time and speed. Imagine no more! The sleeve provides the power of a smartphone in a stylish way with a bendable screen, bluetooth and running on android.

    I’m not sure which idea to choose, so any feedback would be great! Also which would be the best mentors for these ideas?

    I’m located in QLD, Australia too, if anyone wants to collaborate.

    Also hope to see you soon in Brisbane Tim!


  9. Tim, Long time follower and thanks in advance for your time. I have half dozen, what I feel are good, product ideas. I throughly understand the marketing and promotion of products and have gained great knowledge from many of the resources you and others have tuned me on to. However, my question is where do I find the resources for manufacturing? Some of these products I just can’t bust out in my garage, they are a little more complicated. Where can I go to turn these ideas into actual prototypes and finally products that are packaged and ready to sell in the on-line marketplace? Again thanks for your time.


  10. I ditto this comment re:manufacturing……great question!

    And to echo my earlier question , how do we protect ourselves during conversations with candidate prototype manufacturers aside from a provisional patent? I think this is an area on which a lot of us really need just a little guidance. As always, thanks for all the inspiration!!!!!!!!!


  11. So, to ensure I understand this, you and the Shopify CEO created a contest that entices people and requires them to sign up for a paid account in order to qualify. Reminds me a bit of the auto-renewal sales enticements. On one hand, kudos on the attractive bait to get more revenue, and on the other, it seems more like a cheap gimmick to drum up more sales than a true entrepreneurial inspiration. Y Combinator and 500 Startups are two programs that both feel and act like entrepreneurial incubators.


  12. Love this and shared it with a friend that is starting her Inspirational Clothing Line. My start up is more service oriented like Eric R. I did not see an answer to his question. Any room for service companies? And if no, would you consider adding it to next year’s competition?


  13. Although I’m starting a little late in the game, I am excited about this challenge. Thanks for taking the time to mentor those in your category. Looks like I’ll have another mentor, but I’m sure they’ll all be great help and motivation.