What you can learn from a 17 year old building his own software
Bio: who you are/what you do
Reid: My name is Reid Gajewski and I am a 17 year old entrepreneur. I was born in Princeton New Jersey, which is based around Princeton University. My journey as an entrepreneur started with Shopify drop shipping when I was 15, I saw my initial success here. Additionally, I build and sell softwares and services along with my business partners.
What’s your background story?
Reid: When I initially started with Shopify, I failed for the first few months. However, I understood that people only fail because they give up too soon. What I did to succeed was to do what nobody else was doing. Everyone was focusing on building general stores that sell every product under the sun. I knew that I was not trying to compete with amazon, I knew branded e-commerce was the way to go before everyone switched. Consumers are getting smarter, and people are starting to understand what drop shipping is, so I made my store look less like a shopify store and more like a brand. With Shopify, I learned how to use facebook ads effectively because I failed with it for so long, that it was literally impossible for me to fail any more. Marketing cheap products from china is so much harder than marketing high quality softwares which is what I am now doing.
About a year ago, I came to the realization that my income can no longer rely solely off of drop shipping. I flew out to Miami, knowing absolutely no one there, to build connections and learn. This trip changed my life, I fell in love with Miami. There are so many smart people there, so much opportunity, and so much motivation. I also met two of my business partners, Nikolai Bespalenko and Joseph Cabrera. Niko is a genius coder and marketer, in fact he helped build a crypto currency exchange at only 16. Joseph is a great business man and has connections with a lot of high level entrepreneurs. Together, we have built multiple services, one of which is called Ecom Elixir. At Ecom Elixir we build our clients custom coded Shopify stores. Within the first month, we generated 5 figures in profit all from my personal brand (@valors) on Instagram. Now we are running paid ads and are hiring our first employees. DigiElixir is the other service I have built along with Nikolai and Joseph. DigiElixir is an Instagram growth service that can organically grow Instagram accounts. My account uses it and I gain tens of thousands of real followers, thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments. At the time of this interview, DigiElixir is only available to my followers. If you have any questions about these services, you can direct message me on Instagram @valors.
We often hear stories that make it seem like someone was an overnight success when really there were setbacks and stumbles along the way. Why do you think it’s valuable to be candid about both failure and success?
Reid: I do not view myself as successful. People may look at me and say to themselves, “wow, if I was in his position, I would feel amazing.” The truth is, I don’t feel amazing about what I have done, even though most 17 year olds are just sitting home playing fortnite. There were so many setbacks along my journey, and nearly everyday I am facing new issues. Actually, just today the cost per purchase on one of my advertising campaigns for Ecom Elixir went up 200% which is really bad. It is also important to note that people get jealous when they see what I have done and what I am able to do, but they don’t see what I don’t show on Instagram. I only show the highlights. People don’t see that I am up until 12 am working on school, and then up until 4 am working on business. I work with Niko and Joseph every day after school and often into the morning. We sacrifice parts of our social lives and our “high school experience.” However, we know pushing through all of this stress will pay off. It would be easy to go to parties every weekend, but at this stage in our careers as entrepreneurs, it is simply not worth it.
What inspired you to start entrepreneurship?
Reid: My town is so focused on going to Ivy League colleges, but people don’t know what to do after that. They think going to a good college will make their lives perfect. People are so ignorant. I want to do my own shit, if I’m being honest. Everyone in Princeton has the same mentality that I once heard while having lunch. A father at my school actually said this to their son, “It’s better to cry in a Porsche than to cry in the slums.” That is when I called bullshit on the vision my town has for my generation, and when I decided to blaze my own trail.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting a business?
Reid: The biggest challenge has been sacrificing my high school experience for the greater vision. Every day I am working, including the weekends. However, I know it will pay off, and it is paying off. The biggest reward is not the money. It is the people I have met, and the feeling I get every day of doing something big. People hate waking up on weekdays, but I wake up excited to crush it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your journey?
Reid: Hahaha this is easy! Niko and I were working on one of our Shopify stores and he got a text from a very well connected entrepreneur. The guy, who I will keep anonymous, wanted us to run Facebook ads for a loan shark in Switzerland. We… politely declined.
What are two things you wish someone told you when you first started?
Reid: First would be to build a team from day one. If I did so when I first started, I would be years ahead of where I am right now. The second is similar, but keep your circle small and spend most of your time with people who have the same vision as you. It is crazy how much I can get done when I am in a room full of entrepreneurs, it’s like a drug.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? What lesson did you learn from them?
Reid: I owe it all to Niko and Joseph. Without them, I would still be only drop shipping. They both have such unique talents, that when combined, we work like a power house. I can’t really pinpoint a lesson that I have learned from them other than the realization that building a team is like getting in the fast lane to success.
What is the best way for someone to reach you if they are interested in working with you?
Reid: Follow me on Instagram @valors and then direct message me. That is the only social media I am active on.