Podcast 140: How Jae Jun Launched a Google Sheets Business as Part of Niche Site Project 4
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Today, I'm excited to bring you an interview with one of the Niche Site Project 4 participants! During the most recent monthly income report, most people reported no earnings.
However, today's guest reported earnings of $889 after just one month! That's almost unheard of with a new niche site. As a result, I wanted to have him on the podcast to discuss what has been working so well and how he was able to earn so much so quickly.
Today's guest is Jae Jun from GorillaROI.com. Gorilla ROI is the site that he started as part of the project.
Now in all fairness, Jae had been working on this software project before Niche Site Project 4 started. But he didn't launch the site until after, so it still “counts”.
If you listen to the full podcast episode, you'll hear how Jae was able to hustle his way to his first few sales using Reddit and Amazon Seller forums. But he also has plans on how he can consistently grow the business as well.
I also learned that you can sell premium Google sheets through the Chrome store. I had no idea…so that is definitely one of my takeaways that has me thinking.
Enjoy the episode!
Read the Transcript:
Spencer: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. I'm your host, , and, today, I've got another guest interview. I've got Jae Jun with us, and he is a participant in Niche Site Project 4. I just put out–I think it's the second month report, and lots of people are reporting. Jae stuck out because he made $889.00 in essentially the first month. Everybody else is basically making 0 so far, and so I wanted to have Jae on the podcast and figure out how he's making so much money in Month 1 of his website. We're going to dive into that, figure out what he's doing, what's working but, before we do, Jae, welcome to the podcast.
Jae: Thanks, Spencer. Hey, everyone.
Spencer: It's great to have you. We just connected offline here and found out we're both in the State of Washington. It's great to have another Washingtonian. You're over on the other side of the state, but we're close enough that we can meet up at some point, I think.
Jae: Definitely. I've been hearing some great stuff about a lot of startups coming out of Washington, a lot of entrepreneurs especially in the Seattle area so it's a great community around here. I just want to get more involved.
Spencer: Yup, absolutely, there's a great community. Before we dive into the site that we're going to talk about, Gorilla ROI–and we'll dive into that in a second–I just want to get a little bit of your background, particularly your online business background. Why don't you give us an idea of what you've been doing in the last few years, how you got started in online business.
Jae: Yeah, sure. Just a quick intro, I came to the US in 2005/6. I grew up in Australia. I came here and I was working at Samsung as an engineer. During that, I started to get into stock investing. I kept learning and I started to create a blog on investing and then expanded that into an online stock investing app. Around the same time, my wife also wanted to start something on the side as well. She started selling on Amazon and created a wholesale business on the side as well, and that was around 2012.
We got to the point where, fast forward a couple of years, both businesses were starting to grow and we were doing this on the side. Now, the day job was becoming a roadblock to the overall growth of the business, and it got to the point where it definitely started supplementing the income and then overtook it. Back in 2014, we made the decision that, “Okay, I need to quit so that I can focus on the business,” and so that's what we've been doing since then. That was in 2014. I quit and, from there, in between then, I've pretty much built and failed on many different e-commerce and new sites. With this new project, I'm just continually utilizing all those past lessons, all those hard-learned lessons, in this new project and trying to take it into a different direction and not fail on me again.
Spencer: You started a website about investing and creating an app, and that did pretty well for a while but it sounds like maybe that failed a little bit, and the wholesaling business has done better?
Jae: I would say the investing side is actually doing pretty good but it got to the point where it sort of stabilized. What I did–and I'll get to this as well, but one of the biggest lessons that I learned while running the Amazon side of the business and how it just completely overtook the growth of our investment app was that because Amazon already had the platform, the number of visitors and the traffic, it was much easier to market on Amazon whereas, on my investing app, since we have to do everything from beginning to the end, the marketing–I'm not a great marketer. I admit that right up front. It's sort of been flat-lining and plateauing and so the amount of time that I was now spending on the investing app–the return was much less as opposed to if I was spending the same hour on the wholesaling and the Amazon side. We've been adjusting priorities and sort of letting the investing app grow on its own steadily while now focusing on different avenues.
Spencer: If people want to check out the investing app and what you're doing there, are you comfortable sharing that with people?
Jae: Yeah. Just to give you a background of what I've been doing and so you can get better expectations, you can go to Old School Value. I've been in the software side for a while now. I have my own lead main developer who's a rock star in terms of development so that obviously helped with getting ROI off the ground much quicker than usual.
Spencer: Right, okay. Very good. People can check that out at Old School Value. Then, you've also got this Amazon wholesaling business going as well. Can you give us an idea of the type of success that you're having there? Are you comfortable sharing any numbers? You really don't have to, but is there any taste of success that you're willing to share with listeners?
Jae: Yeah. Let me quickly go back in time a little bit. We pretty much came up with a product. It was extremely niche. Since this was back in 2012, there was barely any type of software to actually validate the type of product and whatnot. It was more of a gut instinct. As a last resort, our wholesaling business wasn't working at all. No stores were really grabbing onto it. We sold in a few stores but it wasn't flying off the shelves.
As a last resort, we put it up on Amazon but because it had some unique features, that's when it started to grow, and we figured that, “Okay, maybe there's something here.” As we started to do, we hit a plateau where we really couldn't get much above, say–we got to a point where were doing $10,000.00 a month and then it slowly trickled up and, overall, the next year or two, up to $20,000.00 to $30,000.00 a month but then we were stuck there for literally six months to a year.
No matter what we were doing, we couldn't get up there. This was then–I started getting more into data, diving into analytics, looking up podcasts and stuff like what you were doing with your Amazon business, what other guys were doing on theirs and started utilizing the strategy. We're not at a point where we actually broke seven figures earlier in the year and we've been growing about 70% to 100% each year since then for the past three or four years. We went from pretty much losing money for the past two-three years to having a big plateau and, now, we finally found what worked for us and kicked it into gear.
Spencer: Congrats, that's a significant-sized business.
Jae: Yeah, thank you.
Spencer: You've got this great Amazon business going that you and your wife are running full-time now. Why did you decide to join Niche Site Project 4?
Jae: I wanted to try and redeem myself for my past failed niche sites. I remember I was at Niche Site Project 2 when I decided to do the first one. Back then, I was looking into–I had built a site for infrared heaters and another one for organic and natural shampoo. Those got killed off in the Panda updates. Because I was treading in the grey to blackhead, I was using PVNs. I was trying to use some automated software to spam links and do all the junk. It got to a point where I was slowly starting to see trash and got to $100.00 a month and then, all of a sudden, it was like, boom, zero traffic. Since then, it's been bugging me so I wanted to do something.
Spencer: No, that's fair enough. You want the redemption, and Niche Site Project 4 is the perfect time to do that. I know there's been a lot of people that have participated in multiple niche site projects like yourself, but there's a lot of new people who literally have no online business background. We have quite the diversity of participants so, if you're listening, I think that's important to point out, that Jae has a lot of experience.He's built lots of sites and he has a successful business in terms of–and has an aligned business background where you or others participating in Niche Site Project 4–you, the listeners–may not have the same experience. I think that’s' important to point out as well.
Jae: Right, exactly.
Spencer: Let's talk about the site that you've created. You have been willing to share that publicly and so that is Gorilla ROI. Why did you create that and what does it do?
Jae: Basically, it started out as a need to stretch my earn itch. With the Amazon business and then with running out other online business and stuff, I was constantly short on time and so I'm always trying to solve one of the three universal pain points, which is: one, “How do I save more time?” two, “How do I save or generate more money?” and, three, “How do I make this more convenient?” There's so many things I'm trying to juggle; it's a constant challenge trying to get things out the door and just try to end the day on a high note.
One of the things was I was on Amazon and one of my daily things is to export all these reports, go in, check those data. I'll copy and paste all these inventory numbers, status of this and that, and that was literally taking about 30-40 minutes of my day each time. Sometimes, I'll have to do it two or three times, and it got to the point where I was just fed up and I'm thinking, “There has to be a better way.” There's lots of software out there, and I've pretty much tried a lot of the Amazon software, but I just felt like I just needed something more simple.
Because of my investing background, I'm a spreadsheet geek. I love spreadsheets. I have all these different templates that I've got accustomed to, and so I needed data to fit it into. That's pretty much where the idea came from, and it was on the back burner for a while, just discussing it with my developer, trying to find a good time when to do it, and it was just crawling along. We never really committed to it but then, with you announcing Niche Site, it was more like, “Okay, I think this is a good opportunity to try and at least have joined the community and see what other people are out there and try to get it out there.”
Spencer: Yeah, I think so. People listening, if they don't know, the Amazon reporting in Solar Central is not great. It's not user-friendly. It's very difficult. Like you said, you have to go through and expert to CSV or whatever. You have to go to several different places to get the numbers you want. It is not user-friendly, which is why there's so many third-party software tools to try and make that easier. There's definitely a right need there for the type of data that Amazon makes difficult to find.
I'll be honest: I didn't even know that you could sell Google Sheet add-ons. I've never purchased one. I didn't know about that. Can you talk about that a little bit? What is a Google Sheet add-on? Why did you decide to make it a Google Sheet add-on?
Jae: It's actually one–Google has all these different platforms. There's the Google Search that a lot of people are familiar with, and what I got penalized within the Panda updates. There's also YouTube. There's Google. Google Plus is going to die now so that's a shame. There's Google Sheets and the Google Store. I found that–pretty much, Google ROI–what that does is it automatically imports Amazon seller data directly into my Google sheets.
The reason why I chose that was because, although I use a lot of excel and Google sheets and online spreadsheets, I just wanted the online versatility. Although, technically, you can't really sell a Google sheet on Google, it's more like–it's just only about how you implement it, so how you create that funnel. What we did was we created a free version of our add-on and then put some limitations on this. It's pretty much a freemium model where you can use it for free, and that's how you publish an add-on on Google.
At the same time, for added functionality, people will need to subscribe to unlock those features. The reason why I also tipped that was, again, when I ran Old School Value, I also provide to my subscribers through the website an investment spreadsheet version of what I have in the app. That pretty much comes in an add-on form as well for Microsoft Excel. It's more like a natural extension, just using my previous experience with excel spreadsheets and just being able to input data that got me thinking that it'll be much easier for me to do it with Amazon as opposed to just using a standard software.
Spencer: This is the Google Chrome Store, is actually that you're selling on, correct? I am selling a Google Chrome extension for a different business. I am familiar with the Google Chrome Store, but I just didn't realize the versatility with–this isn't a Chrome extension; this really is just a Google sheet add-on. It's something different, slightly.
Jae: There's a Chrome extension, like what you did and what you shared previously, and there's also Google Sheets extensions. There's Google Docs extensions. There's Google PowerPoints extensions. Any product that Google offers, you can create an add-on to that product just to improve productivity, to solve all these different needs because there's always going to be some sort of feature that's even missing or there's going to be a better way to integrate it into whatever you need to do.
Spencer: That's really good information and, for an entrepreneur like me, it gets my wheels turning. It's like, “Ah, there's a lot of opportunity here.” There's so many different things that you could create and do. I'll leave that for the listeners to do. I've got enough going on, I think, to create anything, but lots of opportunity there. You've got the developer, you've decided to create a Google Sheets add-on and so you're doing the freemium model where it's listed for free.
Maybe walk us through that funnel a little bit. They download it, they're using it for free, but where does the pitch come, exactly?
Jae: That's one of the hard points because, once you've installed the add-on, it's sort of hard to get them to come to your website because everything is contained within Google Sheets. What we did was once people installed the app and they've connected, they can use that for free, unlimited, for any three of the skews that they sell on Amazon. They could look up sales data, how much they've sold within any period, et cetera but then, when they want to add more than three or when they want to track the rest of their account, that's when they'll need to sign up.
Spencer: They get a notification right there–when they try to add a fourth, they'll get a notification saying that it's time to upgrade?
Jae: Somewhat. Within the add-on, Google also–and you'll find this interesting, is that there's a lot of flexibility within how you can implement things inside either a Chrome extension or Google Sheets add-on and things like that. We've got sidebar pop-ups where we provide–where you can click on a menu, a sidebar will pop up giving you instructions on this and that, and we've pretty much extended that to become a marketing banner where, if they want to subscribe, we'll display the information on a sidebar within Google Sheets and give them the choice of whether they want to upgrade or not and then redirect them back to our sites.
Spencer: Yeah, that makes sense. I like that. Very good. We've got this–and correct me. I'll let you show the numbers. In the very first month or in the lost month of September, share the numbers, how much money did you make, how many users do you have, that sort of thing.
Jae: In September, we made $889.00, and the way we did that was not purely through the add-on. Looking at the overall picture, what I wanted to provide was a package as opposed to just a one-time or one-product offering, and one of the–the extension, the product I also made in the meantime was–I know that people love spreadsheets. I know that people don't have the time to either make really nice-looking, easy-to-use spreadsheets, but I already had four of them.
I cleaned up and I created these templates, calculators, and I combined that into a package for what I call a Pro Spreadsheet Suite where people pay a one-time payment of, currently. $99.00, and they would get access to the entire suite of spreadsheets that I have as well as all the future ones that I'll be releasing as well. It's pretty much what people do when they sell WordPress themes. Instead of just selling one theme, they'll have a package price and let you download as many as you want.
Because of that, I was able to garner some extra sales on top of the add-on, and so that's what's made up the $889.00. With that, right now, I probably got about 17 customers at the moment, and trying to grow that through email marketing. This session's pretty low and because I haven't been doing any blog articles or posting onto the website at all, all the sessions and the traffic has been coming directly from the Google store.
In terms of SEO, there's absolutely none. Keyword volume search, there's–for my main keywords–and this was one of the hard things. I have zero volume pretty much on the keywords that I need to get listed for, and so that was one of the challenges of deciding, “How do I market this?” because, with no volume, there's no point in me trying to publish articles and get listed in the search engines.
Spencer: Yeah, that is difficult. You have to start targeting perhaps things that are more broadly relayed to Amazon sellers. Eventually, if you develop a full blog, you're going to just want to attract anybody selling on Amazon that might potentially use your spreadsheets.
Spencer: How did you drive initial interest in Gorilla ROI? What were you doing to get people to either go to your website or to the Chrome store?
Jae: Good question. A while back, I read a book called Traction. It's a very easy-to-read book, and it basically goes through all the marketing stuff. It was written by the founder of DuckDuckGo, the search engine, and he has a very easy-to-follow framework of all these different strategies that you can apply. One of them that stood out to me that I really wanted to do more than I was doing was engineering as marketing, and that's pretty much offering free tools, cheat sheets, spreadsheets and then getting backlinks by that way.
One of my things is I want to be able to work backwards because it's much easier for me and much clearer to see the direction that I need to go when I start working in reverse. With that in mind, I quickly built a landing page with just any DragonDrop software. I connected the email form up to Google at Google Sheets, didn't sign up for any email software or anything because I just wanted to see and validate if this idea was worth pursuing, and then I went into the Amazon form.
I was lucky enough that one of my posts that I did–because you're not supposed to self-promote or put up external links in Amazon but, luckily, because maybe I was trying to help somebody and at least provide some value, that it stayed there but, anyways, that one link drove them back to the landing page and I slowly started to see a trickle of email people signing up. I also recall a while back when you and Jake posted about a Reddit strategy where you posted a post on Reddit about your game software.
I took that exact play from you guys and did the same thing where I said, “Hey, I'm doing this and this on Amazon. This is what I'm sort of having problems with. Is anybody else out there with me?” and that started to garner some interest as well. Based on those few posts, I started to slowly build up that email list, and it gave me enough confidence to figure that, “Okay, I should go with this,” even though the keyword volume was showing absolutely nil.
Spencer: You got people onto your email list, they went to your website, to your landing page, got them on the email list. What did you do then? Did you just send out one large email blast? You said you didn't have an auto-responder so I assume you waited until some point and then sent out a big email saying, “Hey–” did you send them to the Google Store or did you send them back to your landing page where they could actually purchase?
Jae: Yeah. With the email, I wanted to keep them warm so I didn't have an email service but I did have my domain. I was just sending–and because the email was small enough, the list was small enough that I was just sending it via bcc in Outlook and I was just giving small, quick updates about what the plan was and just trying to get people excited about it, trying to keep them up-to-date on what's going on.
This took about two or three months of just maybe weekly to monthly small updates just to keep people–or letting them know that I was still around. When everything was launched and done, I always wanted them to go back to the site as opposed to directly to the Chrome Store so, wherever possible, I try never to direct them to the Chrome Store, only through the website and then, if they want, they can go to the Chrome Store. I just want the funnel to–I have clearly-defined funnel where I want them to go through the website, go through all the content that I've provided them in terms of the pitch and everything and make up their mind.
Spencer: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned how many paying customers–I think it was 17 if I'm not mistaken. How is sales going in October so far? We're about a week and a half in.
Jae: October actually is pretty good because we got our first annual payment from our most expensive plan. From October 1 to October 9, right now, we are at gross sales of $873.00 but, after a couple of refunds, we're at $832.00 so it looks like this month will be better than last month.
Spencer: That's excellent.
Jae: Yeah, thank you. It's just a matter of just continuing to gain more traction and then trying to push out more of the marketing materials. In your previous question, you asked whether I was sending out any sales emails or lump pitch to people. I still haven't sent any specific sales email to them. I've sort of been held back because I'm trying to get this set up, the email-automated email campaign and everything, and I'm trying to create a sequence where I can lead them into the sales as opposed to just sending a big one-off from nowhere. I'm at a stage where, this month, I'm trying to work on actually setting that up so we'll see how that goes and I'll report back.
Spencer: Yeah, that sounds good. I think it'll be great that as automated as possible, of course, but what is the long-term strategy for the business in terms of how you plan to get more people come into your website and finding out about you? I would imagine that you can only do so much posting on Reddit and Amazon Seller Central Forums. What's the plan?
Jae: I've already pretty much stopped posting on Reddit and on the Amazon forums, just providing value when I can, but no self-promotions. My long-term plan is, as opposed to–after being burned with the Google updates and, like you, I believe that SEO and just building up authority for the site is more of a holistic approach as opposed to just getting links. One of the things that I wanted to do is, obviously, try and get people to link back via the free tools that we can provide.
We'll be trying to outline and plan for creating, say, a free tool for–like if I was doing a new site for a cooking website, I'll do something like a recipe generator or a label generator, something that generates something because people love those. I could also do spreadsheets with documents, templates, et cetera where people really find value in actually getting something tangible. I found that my conversion rates always are so much higher when that's on offer as an opt-in. I obviously want to create more of those goodies to build email lists. That's one direction.
The other direction is, obviously–there's a lot of people in the Amazon space so I'm trying to reach out to more people, let them use and see what they think, get feedback and hopefully get some brand ambassadors for itself and then grow it in that direction.
Spencer: Yeah, I think that's a great plan. The long-term strategy, I think you're absolutely spot on. It's all about building that audience and those people that have interest in what you're doing. Amazon sellers, how do you get in front of that audience? Your plan is to provide free tools, hopefully getting other people to mention you, link to you and drive traffic to your site. Once you get those people on your email list then, hopefully, your automated series does its job when enough of those people are interested to actually purchase your product.
I think it's great. I love that you've been able to do this and get this out quickly. I know that most people building a site for Niche Site Project 4 are not building a software tool or any tool for that matter. They're just doing straight content, affiliate websites, so it may take the rest of us a little bit more time to get the ball rolling and get some Google up, get some traffic from Google, but I love seeing what you're doing being an entrepreneur and coming up with a good solution for your particular audience. Is there anything else that you'd like to add in terms of either what your plans are for Gorilla ROI or just anything else that you've learned along the way that you'd like to share with listeners here today?
Jae: Maybe to some of us, a final point is rather than me trusting my earn abilities to grow traffic, there's still Google stores, whether it be on the Chrome, Docs, PowerPoint or Sheets, it's not very optimized and there's much less competition. It's quite easy to get listed and because it's on the Google domain, when somebody actually types it in, it lists very highly immediately in the search engine as opposed to waiting for things to mature and get listed.
That's one of the things where I wanted to leverage just going off what Amazon has done where they self-promote their things constantly and jump over people. I believe that Google also has the same interest at heart. I think if you just go back to what you've always said, building brands, have that in mind when you're building your niche site. I think it works much better with my theme. Although there's no one central theme at the moment, I've already got plans to–I've launched my add-on. I can expand on more advanced features. I've also got a package spreadsheet for small business people. Also, in the works, I'm preparing for other docs, legal templates and things like that that will help Amazon sellers and other small business and just overall create–think about a bigger, broader strategy that you can actually grow upon and build a big, strong audience based off it.
Spencer: Yeah, I think those are some great tips, some great advice for people listening in. Even if they're not building a tool or a spreadsheet, I think there's a lot of tips here that people can take away, hopefully, for their own niche site, whether that's building a brand or really focusing in on who is your audience and where can you tap into that audience and what can you offer them even if it's just a free product or something to generate interest or buzz around your particular brand. I think there's a lot of good tips there.
Jae, I appreciate you coming on the Niche Pursuits Podcast. Where is the best place for people to go if they want to check out what you're doing? Should they just head over to Gorilla ROI or is there any other place?
Jae: Yeah, you can just go to Gorilla ROI and then you can just browse around and go through the page, click this and that and just see how I've built and laid things out. Hopefully, that will give you an idea of the things needed in your niche website maybe and then hopefully give you some ideas that way.
Spencer: Perfect. Everyone, head over to Gorilla ROI. Jae, thank you so much for the interview. It's been a pleasure.
Jae: Thanks, Spencer. Thanks for having me on.
Spencer: Absolutely. Thank you, everybody, for listening.
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My top recommendations
Thanks for having me on Spencer.
For the listeners out there, I’ve put together detailed show notes with extra content explained to fill in the gaps.
Google docs link is here. https://docs.google.com/document/d/13X-6gjzEilHKtmO3NQlseEwKEKtwABLy_e53gVZeeTg/edit?usp=sharing
Hope that helps.
Thank Jae, it was great having you on the podcast! I hope the business keeps growing!
I didn’t know premium Google Sheets was a thing, what a cool little niche to carve into! Brilliant. (Also, thanks for the additional content and details, and of course thanks for sharing your story with us)
I just checked out your site and it’s really nice. I never knew people would buy Google spreadsheets either, but it seems like a great idea. I hope it keeps growing for you.
All the best …
It’s pretty amazing how many new ideas can be discovered each time a new platform appears. One of the best ways to unlock new revenue and business ideas.
Wow Jae, I remember you from way back! I’m an old school value investor and used to read your blog. Cool to see another Ben Graham disciple who has gotten into digital marketing.
Ha fancy meeting another old school valuer here. I’m still having around old school value too 🙂
Hey, I subscribe to Old School Value!
It’s cool to see what else you’re working on and learn more about you. 🙂