In eighth grade, our house had a screen door chipped all to hell with holes in it and no knob because we couldn’t afford it. Instead of a knob, it had a red shoestring. That’s just what we used to open it. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. It was just how you got in the house… by pulling the shoestring.
I’d just transferred schools and I had a new set of friends.. Kids whose families could afford extracurriculars like golf. One day, my new friends came over and saw the red shoestring on the door. They were shocked and disgusted, but worst of all, they ridiculed me for the rest of the school year over that shoestring being used to open the door and it really hurt me. Kids can be mean.
This was the first time I realized the disparity between my friends and myself. I had always gone to other kids’ houses and was shocked by their better toys and nicer places, but this was it. It was the first time I saw that they were shocked at how I lived.
Having very little as a kid is probably the reason I wear a Breitling watch, drive a Range Rover, and am a bit obsessed with designer brands and having nice things. I’m probably just compensating for never having nice things growing up.
I grew up in Middlesboro, KY, which has a population of 6,000 and is one of the poorest cities in America. My father, a janitor, left my mother when I was two. Mom worked in a convenience store and remarried a man who wasn’t very nice. To be honest, he never had much more than odd jobs, so, it was on my mom to raise all of us.
It took her several years, but my mom became a nurse and was able to raise our standard of living. It was hard for her. She had every opportunity to quit and become another statistic, but I watched as she pushed through every obstacle without allowing other people to dictate her limitations. Now, having seen that, I know my mom is my hero.
Today, I live only 50 miles from where I grew up and I can now give my kids and my mom the nice things they deserve. But what I revel in most is the connection I get to have with the people that our business connects us to.
I just love people now. Before, I was ashamed because I didn’t feel like I was enough. But now, I get to enjoy myself and enjoy connecting with others because of this platform that spreads this hopefully helpful message out to magnitudes and it’s overwhelmingly fulfilling. I absolutely love it.
And no more red shoestrings for door knobs!
In 2011, my life came crashing down just a few days before Christmas when I got fired from my job.
We had started our Amazon business earlier that year (which at the time was just a side hustle), so I went to our little 250 square foot office and cried for hours. I was absolutely devastated. I didn’t know what to do… Our fledgling wholesale business couldn’t support me, let alone my wife and newborn daughter. Overcome by shame and fear, I decided to lie and tell my wife that I had quit my job. She cried and begged me to get my job back. It was easily the worst day of my life.
I grew up in the very poor community of Williamsburg, Kentucky where nothing is given and everything must be earned. After my parents divorced when I was five, it was up to my mom to raise me and my two brothers. Even in the bleakest of moments, my mom never gave up. She was a fighter and a warrior, and that’s a temperament she instilled in me.
I excelled in sports, probably because, for me, they were an escape from our struggles in poverty. I was largely influenced by my childhood little league coach. He was a kind guy and took a lot of interest in me. He’d buy me snacks from the concession stand, ask me about myself and give me guidance, even though he never had to. He was a mentor for me at a time I really needed one. I saw that Coach was a successful person who had the means to help others and I wanted that. I resolved at a young age that I'd grow up to help people one day too.
The day after I got fired, I went all in on the wholesale business. I was either going to sink or swim by it. Times definitely got harder before they got better and business was never easy. There were so many times that I wanted to give up, but like my mom, I stood tall and faced the challenges, and eventually, our business grew.
In 2016, I was in Denver at one of our conferences and one of our students, Cheryl came up to me. She gave me a hug and was crying as she told me how grateful she was for our program.
Cheryl said, “Dan, I was ready to file bankruptcy. I was living with my mom and underwater in every aspect of my life. But with your course and your guidance, I was able to turn my life around, create a business, and live a life I love!”
That moment hit me in the heart on so many levels. Something I was a part of had the same type of effect on her as my little league coach had on me. For years, I’d been building my business so that I could have a better life. I had actually lifted myself out of the hard times and provided a life of opportunity for my family, but that conversation with Cheryl changed me. It made me realize that I had the ability to affect change and help others lift themselves up. And that’s why I’m excited to wake up everyday… That’s what drives me.
Growing up in the sixth poorest county in the United States, my dream as a kid was to be a Postal Worker. Not a doctor, lawyer, or astronaut... a Postman. My Uncle was a Postman. He drove a new Ford Ranger, lived in a nice house, and on occasion, he’d buy me a toy at Walmart, so I thought Postmen made a lot of money. My brother and I shared a bunk bed in a laundry room at my grandmother’s house. And I’d lay there many nights dreaming of being a postal worker. That was my ultimate ambition in life for a long time.
I grew up in, Eastern Kentucky, and there’s a song about it, called “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It well expresses the feeling in Eastern Kentucky that you’re born here, nobody goes anywhere, and nobody ever escapes. So when I’m 18 at a community college, making $5.15 an hour working part-time, living on food stamps, and barely scraping by, I’m feeling like I’ll “never leave Harlan alive.”
I was ranked 57th out of 114 students in my high school class, at one of the worst-performing schools in America. Between my 2.95 GPA and my below-average ACT scores, I could only get into a community college - and I got in for free because of economic need.
Because my economic need was so severe, they also placed me in a part-time IT job at the college, for $5.15 an hour. With that money plus a little financial aid, and food stamps, I moved out and lived on my own at 18. Trying to make ends meet was really #@$!% hard, but I managed it somehow. That’s when I learned I had grit and tenacity - two things that can change your station in life.
But what really changed my life came six years later. I had advanced to a full-time job in the IT department and a salary of $40,000. In essence, I’d accomplished a slight variation on my “Postal Worker” dream. Yet I wasn’t happy. Actually I’d grown irritated because I began to see I was on a path to 16-20 years of service in a job that didn’t challenge or inspire me. My co-workers seemed content to be on that path, but not me. I was 24 and I felt like I could do more, be more, and have more.
That opportunity came soon. Dan reached out to me about joining him in the idea of selling wholesale on Amazon. An expert advised him to “Surround yourself with the smartest people you can.” I was the first person that came to mind, which goes to show he didn’t know about my GPA or ACT scores. But having been friends most of our lives, he trusted me.
Not long after that I had to make a decision. I could commit to our Amazon business and leave the safety and security of my job, or I could keep straddling the fence. At the time, we were only earning enough on Amazon to pay me about half of what I was making at my job, but I knew if I fully dedicated myself to Amazon that the sky was the limit.
I was 100% in!
My wife was entirely supportive, but my mom said don’t do it! My mother saw my entrepreneurial dream as a terrible risk that I should not take. Her fear was illustrative of what I was up against my entire life, an ingrained belief that “around here” you can’t go for it, you can’t get ahead, and you shouldn’t try. Like most people in Eastern, KY, my mother had just seen such hardship, hence the belief that “No one gets out of Harlan alive.”
Today, we’ve done over 25 million in sales. Mom is glad I trusted myself and I love what I do. The greatest reward I get out of work, the most personal one, is showing people that you can change your station in life, no matter what others think or believe. You can always get out of “Harlan” if you’re determined.