Tag: Business

The World of VLOGGING

As a complement to this BLOG, I’m going to start a VLOG. Gone are the days when text is cool. VLOGGING and video content is an absolute must to create engaging content. I just ordered my first VLOG camera and I can’t wait to get it!

Trying to determine which camera to get was overwhelming. After reading countless reviews and researching the features of dozens of cameras, I chose the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera w/ 1 Inch Sensor and tilt LCD screen – Wi-Fi & NFC Enabled (Black). This camera has all of the bells and whistles in an easy to use package for creating stunning videos.

I have determined that my passion is not only to be successful, but to be able to help others in the process. I think that more important to my success is being able to help set others up to be successful. I can think of several instances where I have put other’s best interests before my own so that they have an opportunity that they may otherwise never have.

VLOGGING for me is going to help provide the medium for me to connect with you at a more personal level. I am hoping that what I share can help inspire, motivate, and create exciting dialogue around entrepreneurship. I will simply be jazzed by having the chance to provide content that will hopefully change lives.

Keep in mind, while I do have some experience with starting and running businesses, I am new enough to absolutely be able to relate to the struggles of finding direction and validation. I’m at the beginning of my journey and if you’re in the same position or looking for company, join me. There’s no reason that anyone should feel that they need to do it alone. There are enough sources for self doubt and criticism. Let this be a place for inspiration and uplifting encouragement.

More to come on the VLOG soon! Bear with me though. I am not a videographer or marketer by trade, so there is definitely going to be a learning curve. I welcome feedback and constructive criticism in advance.

Make it an awesome day!!!

 

 

 

You Make It Look So Easy

Have you ever watched someone do something that appeared to be effortless for them but when you tried it was seemingly impossible? Sure. We all have. That skate boarder that lands an impossible stunt, the ballerina’s graceful performance, the actor, the athlete, the rapper, the entrepreneur…

They all have the same thing in common, preparation. Let’s face it. It takes years and years of practice and preparation to operate at the highest levels in any profession. We get to see people perform at the top of their game for entertainment or inspiration, but what we don’t get to see is the effort that it took for them to get there. We don’t get see the countless hours of practice, the early mornings, the late nights, the strict regiments, or sacrifices.

One the most difficult concepts to wrap my head around throughout this journey of entrepreneurship is how easy it looks for so many others before me. By the time that we recognize a successful person, they have already spent years preparing and practicing. What we see is an instant success. We tend to see someone that just happened to get lucky or have natural abilities. Sure. Luck and skill have a huge role in success, but you can prepare for luck and hone in on a skill.

This has been a difficult concept for me to grasp as I look at the greatest entrepreneurs of our time for inspiration. They are so far out of my league that I cannot even imagine performing at their level. It’s difficult to relate to their beginnings and what they are accomplishing today. Intimidating? Absolutely. Why? because I am trying to compare myself to Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerburg, the quintessential entrepreneurs.

I think it is important to have role models and heroes. They keep us energized and dreaming bigger than a life that we can imagine. But, I also think that it is important to have an individual perspective. This is to know your personal intent and what success is for you as an entrepreneur. So you’re not a billionaire, that’s okay. Tell yourself it’s okay.

Now that you don’t have to sit trying to come up with the next billion dollar idea to compete with the greats, get to work preparing and practicing for your success. You’ll eventually have your friends, family, and possibly the world saying, “Wow, they make it look so easy.”

 

The Lebanon Community Responds

I asked and the Lebanon City residents answered. In an earlier blog, Lebanon Paper Box: Day 40, I asked for feedback from the community of Lebanon on their ideas of what they would like to see incorporated in the the old Lebanon Paper Box building. Here is a recap of some of the responses that I have received so far. 

It has been a little over a week since I published the blog post, Lebanon Paper Box: Day 40, and hit social media to solicit some suggestions and ideas about what the community would like to see at this predominant landmark in Lebanon City. The suggestions have been enlightening and has provided a glimpse of what is on the minds of the community, albeit only a small segment was sampled. I have received feedback from over 50 residents thus far.

Below is a consolidated recap of the suggestions that I have received. They are not listed in any particular order. Some of the ideas come as no surprise, while others were very unexpected…

  1. Homeless shelter
  2. Veteran shelter
  3. Roller skating rink
  4. Something tech related and interesting
  5. Recreation center
  6. Retail stores
  7. Apartment building with affordable housing
  8. Ballerina school
  9. Art gallery and studios
  10. Karate school
  11. Public clinic
  12. Go karts
  13. Something similar to the GoggleWorks in Reading
  14. Trampoline park
  15. Museum of the history of Lebanon
  16. Grocery store
  17. Skate park
  18. Chick-Fil-A
  19. Place for kids to play
  20. Community center
  21. Lebanon annex of the Spooky Nook Sports complex
  22. Connect with the Lebanon county Career and Technology Center during renovation
  23. Great location with a bike trail. I’d be so happy just to see it restored

A common thread, throughout a majority of the suggestions, is that Lebanon City is in need of community events and affordable things for residents to do. Primarily for the younger residents. It’s also clear to see that there is a lot of pride for the city and residents are passionate about providing programs for the homeless and our Veterans.

Based on all of this information, I have some research to do to better understand what programs already exist and where there may be some gaps to fill. Perhaps there are already some things in place that may require some public education, or perhaps not. Ultimately, the extent of feedback is motivating in that there is a community that cares. In time, there will be the a call for participation and action to help bring opportunities to fruition, this will be the true test of the community spirit.

The call for suggestions has not only spawned a list of ideas, but it has also created some dialogue between residents on the official Facebook page of the Lebanon Paper Box building. The conversations have been a mixture of constructive and destructive criticism. I have not been moderating the conversation as I want everyone’s voice to be heard. After all, criticism is a sign of doing something and making a contribution.

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
– Aristotle

In the meantime, keep the ideas and suggestions coming! Also, give some thought to how some of these ideas can be accomplished though other initiatives. This is just one building in the City of Lebanon, but it can be a part of a bigger movement to help bring life into the surrounding community. This is bigger than one person or one building and it is going to require the effort of many.

If you want to become more involved in the Lebanon community, but don’t know where to start, feel free to reach out and I can help.

 

 

Lebanon Paper Box: Day 40

40 days have gone by so fast! Beginning to think about the future life and renewed spirit of the Lebanon Paper Box building.

As I arrived in Lebanon City this morning, it dawned on me that today marks the 40th day since taking ownership of the Lebanon Paper Box Co building. Time certainly flies, and although I have been busy working tirelessly on nights and weekends at the warehouse, it wouldn’t appear to be any different to someone walking by on the outside of the building.

The only changes that a local resident may notice is that there are a few more lights on and some security cameras are spontaneously popping up on the corners of the building. The iconic Lebanon Paper Box building is situated between Cumberland, Jones, and Willow streets on the edge of the Western gateway into Lebanon City, Pennsylvania. This magnificent building has valiantly stood the test of time. Sure, there have been a few leaks, vandalism, and the appearance of being an abandoned warehouse, but I can assure you that there is life beyond those exterior walls.

Believe it or not, this building has been the home of BOXIE for over 40 years! BOXIE is primarily in the business of storing patterns, which is why there appears to be limited activity in and around the building. BOXIE is actually a part of a very important foundry industry that is thriving in the Lebanon area.

Lebanon_BolognaOn a quick side note: Lebanon, Pennsylvania is the home of Lebanon Bologna. I know! It was so obvious, that I was shocked too! Seriously though. If you like Lebanon Bologna (even if you don’t) then this is a city that you must visit. Many restaurants, brewery’s, and the vendors in the farmers market have a ton of bologna related foods and beverages to try. Check it out!

Now back to BOXIE and the Lebanon Paper Box building. Admittedly, I didn’t know a single thing about this industry before I got involved with this real estate deal. So I can’t blame anyone else for not knowing what a foundry is or a pattern for that matter. Let’s just say that the Lebanon area is supposedly a hot spot and this is the area where the patterns come to stay. More information about foundry’s can be found here on Wikipedia.

While the building has been storing patterns for many years, I believe that there is an opportunity to bring something new to the community. There is currently perfectly located space in the portion of the building that faces Cumberland Street. This is a major road straight through the heart of Lebanon City and is easily accessible to the surrounding suburbs. With over 16,000 vehicles passing this building everyday, it could be a great opportunity for some small businesses, artisans, and at least one restaurant. Personally, I would love to see some life in and around this 217,000+ square foot building and a renewed spirit.

What do you say Lebanon City? What would you like to see this space turned into to bring something special into the city limits?

I will be continuously following up on this project and will post the feedback that I receive for further discussion.


I’m an entrepreneur looking to help others achieve their dreams. What are your ideas? How can I help? Please feel free to comment or send me a message about this post at info@lebanonpaperbox.com

Campus Skooters: The Seed That Started The Company

Like writer’s block, trying to come up with an idea for a business seemed nearly impossible for me. All that it took was a weekend of partying in State College and an idea took hold. Four years later, the business remains profitable and has helped me launch other business initiatives.

It was another football weekend for the Penn State Nittany Lions and I was in State College looking forward to the fun and debauchery leading up to the next morning’s tailgate prior to the game. Basically, it amounted to a bar crawl from one place to another hanging out with friends and enjoying the entertainment. While making our way downtown to the hotel, we noticed the bus stops packed with students. One of my friends suggested that there has to be a better way to get around and that there’s so much time wasted just standing and waiting on the bus. Not to mention, it doesn’t always get you to exactly where you want to go. From this conversation was born the idea that scooters could provide a transportation alternative.

At this point, I had been trying to come up with an idea for a business for a long time, Campus Skooters Seal - Black & whiteand this seemed like viable opportunity to me. On the drive home from State College, I began drawing up my business plan. There would be quite a bit of overhead for rent, insurance, vehicles, maintenance, and employees but I was able to make it financially viable through a tiered pricing rental model. My target market would be the college students at Penn State University that are seeking flexibility in transportation around town and did not have the financial means to own a car (the worst part about owning a car in State College is finding a place to park it).

The concept around the tiered pricing model is that the longer that someone rented a scooter, the less expensive it was on a per day average. This would help to ensure that the scooters remained rented an providing income. It also reduced the amount of time that it would take to check in and check out a scooter rental. Of course there were countless other details that needed to be explored, but I was excited and hit the ground running!

This was the initial concept which lead to launching Campus Skooters into the business that it is today. Follow my blog for more stories on the opening and growth of Campus Skooters as well as the other business ventures that I am exploring on my path of entrepreneurship.

Lessons Learned: Contractors and Friendships

Warning: This post comes from fresh emotions of disbelief, frustration, anger, and disappointment. The identities of the parties involved have not been disclosed so that they can take full responsibility for destroying their own reputations. (they’ll know who they are)

If you have done any kind of research on becoming a real estate investor or have even simply considered having some work done on your own house, then you’ve heard the horror stories related to contractors. We’ve heard all of the stories about contractors abandoning projects, taking the money and running, or spending way over budget; but we simply didn’t have to worry about any of those issues. We have a contractor that makes promises they will deliver, someone that won’t leave us hanging, and someone that will grow with us and our business. We have a friend that is a contractor. It’s going to be the best business relationship ever and we are going to take over the rehabbing world!

Well, that was the plan…

We were in the process of building a dream team. Our contractor was highly motivated. His energy and motivation was contagious and inspirational. We couldn’t wait to settle on a house and begin the demo process. The realtor that we were working with was the contractor’s girlfriend. She was also a very driven person seeking to catapult her career to new heights. The ambition that they brought to the table was a sure win. The cool part was that they were working to build a brand together like a wannabe Chip and Joanna Gaines couple. They have the cute kid to exploit in marketing gimmicks and even bought chickens. The perfect family to compliment the perfect business partnership.

Things started out with a bang. There was a ton of commotion and activity around the rehab as old fixtures and debris was being removed from the house. We would get excited every time that I’d stop by the job site to check out the progress. We have to admit, seeing the result after demo was a bit overwhelming trying to imagine how everything would be put back together again. That worry quickly subsided because, heck, I’ve got the best team looking out for our interests. I’ve got faith in them and we all benefit when the job is complete; the realtor gets the listing and commissions and the contractor agreed to a percentage of the profits, so of course it’s in all of our best interests to get the house rehabbed and on the market as soon as possible.

Until it’s not…

Not long after the demo was complete, there seemed to be a distraction or two. There had been some exterior improvements that really screamed progress. A new roof and siding transformed the curb appeal of the house and created quite a bit of excitement around the neighborhood. We were excited about the new look and could see the potential. We couldn’t wait to see how the improvements inside would turn out. While we were excited about the progress of the rehab, the contractor was increasingly excited about a new house that he was about to build for him, his girlfriend, and the cute kid. The contractor assured me that this would not impact the progress of the rehab since he is a professional and capable of managing multiple projects. Yeah right.

It’s still very painful to reflect on how naive we were to expect things to get better. We would drive to the job site weeks on end without any signs of life or progress. Repeated calls to our contractor would go unanswered. When the calls would be answered, we would get a line of excuses, promises, and revised timelines to completion. We would cut our losses and verbally agree with our contractor that the new timeline is what it is and swallow our frustration. This process happened over, and over, and over, and over again…

Trying not to live with regrets…

We regret not firing our contractor. We regret this decision every single day that work drags on at the rehab. Our weakness was doing what we felt was the right thing in helping a friend. After all, he helped to open our eyes the opportunities and excitement of rehabbing. He had already invested time and energy in the project and we still wanted to give him the share that we had agreed to. We offered to help find sub contractors to complete the work and got lip service that he was working on it and that he will be there to finish the job. We started talking with other contractors to see if they could provide guidance on how to go about getting things finished without our contractor “friend”. Throughout this entire endeavor, we never ever considered abandoning our agreement to give him the negotiated percentage of profit. We continued to look out for his interest in the project that he abandoned. It’s like we cared more about his share than he did.

Gah!!!!!

So this post could go on and on about the specific details of frustration and disappointment that we are facing, but it makes us sick to think about how ignorant our contractor has been that we are trying to complete this deal with some kind of profit. This is a job that should have taken 6 months, but has missed the deadline by almost a year. The optimist in us thinks that at least there is a benefit from a capital gains tax perspective, if there’s even a profit.

In the end, the worst part is being disappointed by the so called friends that we thought we would build our dreams with. Their loss. They have turned into nothing more than shysters. If they continue down the path that they are on then they are destined to have a run in with karma and a few terms like fraud and embezzlement.

We shouldn’t even care anymore…

Honestly, we just want to move on and still make good on all of our promises. However, the contractor expects to underdeliver, break all promises, go over time, go over budget, steal, and then ask for more money… haha!!

Fortunately, we have not let this experience deter us from our real estate endeavors and we are already wrapping up our next project with a new contractor with much more success. Subscribe to our blog to get notifications on our future posts and learn about what we have done differently to ensure that we have chosen a honest contractor. We personally recommend Hawk Rock Construction or Five-Star Contracting which serve Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.

** Oh yeah. I forgot to mention the ending of the business relationship with the realtor. She completely forgot about us until it was time to list the property so that she could cash in on a commission. She was simply too busy with building her own house and self indulgence to pick up the phone, even once in over a year! Even after giving her a chance for redemption and trying to come up with an amicable resolution, she was arrogant and ignorant to the end. Which reminds me… where’s the buyer that you said that you had? Oh wait, never mind. Don’t care. You’re fired.

Investment Property Research and Analysis

The analysis of a real estate deal will absolutely make or break a deal regardless of how well a plan is executed. This is why it is important to develop a repeatable process. This process should evolve to continuously improve by incorporating lessons learned from every project.

Researching a potential investment property can be a time consuming activity. Of course you do as much research online as possible, but eventually you will need to drive out to the property to perform as much of a visual inspection as possible.

Research

I am new to the property rehabbing profession, so I can’t even begin to imagine how much more complicated research was before the extensive availability of information on the Internet. Even though there is a lot more information available online, it is always important to remember that you can’t believe everything that you read…

Property History

Before I determine whether or not I am going to take the time to drive out to a property, I like to gather at least some basic information on a property. Like; photos (if any), home size, lot size, bedrooms, bathrooms, sales history, rough estimate of comps in the area, taxes, and any other little tidbits that I can gather up. A good resource for a quick search is a real estate website such as www.zillow.com. If I like what I see, then I will print a copy of the property listing found on Zillow to take with me on the road.

Another great resource is Google Maps. Sometimes there is a street view of the property that you’re interested in checking out. However, be cautious that the photos my be dated. Additionally, if the house is in a rural area or a neighborhood, there is a possibility that there is not a street view option for the property.

Navigation

This simple tip saves a tremendous amount of time, not only in planning your prospecting route, but also in the amount of miles and drive time. I use a website called SpeedyRoute.com to put together the most efficient route to drive-by the houses that I deemed worthy to visit based on my research. The website appears to have a subscription based option, but I have so far been able to utilize the service for free and without signing up. Trust me, this is a huge time saver!

Prospecting

You’ve spent time researching the property and driving to it, so do some due diligence and spend a little time adding to the information that you have already gathered. Take some photos, take note of the neighborhood (is the property next to a crack house, industrial park, highway, railroad tracks, etc…). Verify that the information that you found online matches up with what you’re seeing as you inspect the property.

I cannot stress the importance of driving out to a property to validate what you’re seeing online. Do not make the mistake of blindly purchasing a property sight unseen. A great example of this is a foreclosed home that was listed on Auction.com that we checked into.

From the listing and the photos, everything looked great! This looked like a slam dunk deal. The house looked to be in great shape from the photos in the listing and even a look at Google Maps showed that house had some excellent curb appeal.

Even simply driving by the house, it would appear that everything checked out. A quick walk around the property revealed that things were not as they appeared to be. An investor that works based on online research alone would be duped into purchasing this disaster. Don’t get duped.

This house actually sits on top of steel beams about 35+ feet in the air! I’m 6’2″ and as you can see from the photo, that house is a looooong way up! From the road, everything looked like a dream come true. Once you got around back, it was an investor’s worst nightmare. Needless to say, this is a deal that we ran from and never looked back.

Next Steps

Once you return from your road trip checking out potential deals. Review the photos and notes that you gathered. Determine which properties warrant moving forward and which ones are better suited for the trashcan.

Title Search and Comps

Now that the list of prospective deals has been narrowed down, it’s time to call in the help of additional resources to dig even deeper. A title search will identify all of the liens that exist against a given property. Obtaining the comparable sales (comps) from a realtor will provide you with an idea about what the property may sell for in good condition.

Analyze the Deal

Now that you have completed all of the research and obtained the necessary information on a property, it’s time to crunch the numbers. Using the information that was gathered during the drive-by, estimate what the property may need to make it marketable and sellable at the comp price provided by your realtor. Determine the remediation strategy of the liens on the property and how much it will cost you, all in, to purchase the property as is. Here is a quick and dirty calculation to determine whether or not a deal is right for you.

Profit – Total Purchase Price – Holding Costs – Repairs – Fees > After Repair Value x .30

Keep in mind that once you begin rehabbing a property, there could be additional overages that were not taken into account. Make sure that you leave room in your profit margin to make sure that you always end up on top. If the After Repair Value of the property is less than the sum of the costs, then the deal will not work. Again, this is a very simplified way of quickly analyzing a deal. We will go into more specific details of what each each of these costs entail and how they can be calculated with seasonable accuracy.

A great resource that helped to get me started on accurately analyzing deals is The Real Estate Rehab Investing Bible: A Proven-Profit System for Finding, Funding, Fixing, and Flipping Houses…Without Lifting a Paintbrush. This book is a must read for anyone new to real estate rehabbing or flipping. Not only does it help to take the guesswork out of estimating repair costs, it includes tools and templates that will help you to stay organized and kickstart your rehabbing process workflow.

Close

Now that you’ve done all of the leg work and analysis, it is time to close on the deal. It could be that you are buying the property at auction (so you know your maximum bid), you’re putting in a traditional offer through a realtor, or you’re purchasing the property from a wholesaler. Regardless of how you’re obtaining the deal, you’re now confident and ready!

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