Keep it simple, stupid.
Scott Hilse has been taking this philosophy very seriously.
Over the past year and a half, he built a six-figure ecommerce business and transformed his life.
And he did it all by selling just one product.
Starting From the Bottom
Scott is a buzzy 22-year old, full of energy and confidence. As he speaks, he jumps quickly from one topic to the next, bouncing around ideas, bringing up different friends and stories, and speaking openly about his moments of doubt. It’s easy to tell that he’s got big plans for where he wants to be in life, and what it’s going to take to get there. But even now, his success seems to surprise and delight him, as if he’s still processing how exactly it might have happened.
In reality, the path to Scott’s success wasn’t straightforward. And if it wasn’t for a lingering thought in the back of his mind telling him to go ahead and just try, he might never have experienced any of it.
Winding back to just over a year ago, and Scott is in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, bussing tables at a restaurant. He’s making a measly $1,000 a month and hating every moment.
“I was the lowest of the totem pole at the restaurant, and I have this thing where I hate when people tell me what to do, ” he says. “So that gave me lot of motivation to get out of there and start something.”
He often found himself dreaming of a future where he’d be freed from the limitations of life working for someone else. “When I was a busser, I would go away on a trip with my girlfriend and I would have these visions about how crazy it would it be if I could be making money on my phone right now.”
Now, he’s got a term for what he was thinking of back then. “Location-neutral income automation” is what he calls it. This type of work would let him earn money any time, from anywhere, and with as much of the work automated as possible.
This thirst for independence first lead towards social media marketing. He enrolled in an online course that would arm him with the skills he needed to start his own social media marketing agency.
But as he approached the end of the course, when faced with the prospect of starting work for social media clients, Scott felt uneasy.
“I got offered to do social media for this luxury car dealership. But I felt awful after I got that offer,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘Why do I feel like this?’”
“I got the gut feeling that I would not like social media marketing work at all,” he says.
Plus despite the fact that he’d be managing his own clients, he knew that his success would still be tied to his clients and how well he could meet their demands. “That’s another thing, again there would be someone telling me what to do.”
“It took me a long time to realize that if ecommerce is my dream job, why would I not just try and go for that?”
Deciding to Do Things Differently
Following his dream, Scott decided to enroll in an ecommerce course, where he would learn step by step how to start a general store on Shopify using the dropshipping business model.
Dropshipping, which allows entrepreneurs to run an online store without needing to invest in inventory, seemed like an easy first step into ecommerce.
As part of the dropshipping program, he was also given access to a Facebook group where other participants in the course could chat and share ideas.
Quickly, he realized there was a catch.
In the group, there were 25,000 other entrepreneurs.
Each one following the same advice.
The same approach.
The same tactics.
That makes 25,000 people primed to be his top competition.
“And this is just one group,” he says. “I’m assuming around 200,000 to 500,000 are following the same advice and doing the same general store.”
Now, he knew he had to be different. “I thought that I’d follow some of the things that are being taught, but I have to do something different than these 25,000 people.”
The Books That Changed It All
The most successful people in life are also avid readers, often committing to reading at least one book a week. These people recognize the power of great books to expand your knowledge and open up your world in ways you’d never imagined.
For Scott, there were three books that sparked something huge for him:
- Insanely Simple by Ken Segall
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- Made in America by Walmart’s founder Sam Walton
He credits these books for helping him change his approach, setting into motion the course for his incredible success.
Both Insanely Simple and Just One Thing emphasize stripping away the unnecessary, and focusing on making things simpler. If you can focus on just one thing, they say, you can do that one thing really well.
This message resonated strongly with Scott, who disagreed with the teaching in his dropshipping course that a general store, stocked full of different items for different audiences, is the best approach for ecommerce beginners.
“The classic general store, that never really seemed simple to me. It seemed like a whole bunch of products thrown in. That allowed people to click away, they’d come to your store then click this product and then this product, and lose interest and leave.”
Scott also found inspiration from Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. “I read this book by Sam Walton about the pricing structure, about how he would decide his price by looking at his competition and undercutting them.”
Following the advice of the books, Scott decided that the next step was to strip away the unnecessary, and focus on doing things simply.
“I combined those two ideologies and built a Shopify store with one product,” he says. For the pricing, he planned to look closely at his competition and undercut them on price.