Jeff Neal

Don’t quit. The success of any business depends on the persistence and grittiness of the owner.


There’s a large community of reptile owners. And those reptile owners are some of the most caring people in the world. They’ll order feeder insects through the mail without thinking twice about what the postal carrier thinks of them. And they’ll spend thousands of dollars a year on habitat designs, and vet bills. But for all the care this large community offers, they don’t have a platform where they can connect, network, and exchange ideas on how to improve the lives of their bearded dragons, leopard geckos, tarantulas, and other exotic pets. CritterFam is that platform.

CritterFam is a reptile network, where owners can share ideas, offer information, and connect with other owners who care for their exotic animals. The platform is picture-focused, and encourages owners to post images of their amazing pets, show-off their habitats, and engage in discourse to help other owners provide the care and resources their pet needs.

What makes a network like CritterFam so important is that it offers a thorough, crash-course on reptile care for new owners. Owning an exotic pet, like bearded dragons or crested geckos, isn’t the same as a cat or dog. They need very specific lighting, temperature, food, and other specifications to ensure they live long, and healthy lives. And this is what makes reptile owners special people; because they want to provide these habitat requirements, even though it’s out of the ordinary.

“But how can we trust what other reptile owners are saying?” CritterFam knows that misinformation is rampant on the internet. And to help promote valuable information, users can reward good content and information with Critter Gold. Every user can reward good images and informative comments with Critter Gold, signaling to other users that these gilded comments and posts are valuable. And good content and images are rewarded with free crickets for a year. This democratic process gives the reptile community a platform where they can share ideas, and reward each other for those good ideas. And this helps this already large, caring community, grow even larger.

Where did the idea for CritterFam come from?

I’m a notorious side hustler, and wanted to pivot my energy towards online side-hustling. I’ve always known about drop-shipping, and decided to take the plunge. And that plunge started with keyword researching. I sorted through women’s shoes, coupons, binoculars, thermometers, and numerous other product ideas. But nothing had the search volume I was looking for, until I discovered crickets.
I did more research, and discovered that there isn’t a central hub to find excellent information on reptile care. So, I put these ambitions and discoveries together to develop both an ecommerce store selling crickets, and a Reptile Network where users can post pictures, and help each other provide excellent habitats for their pets.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My week starts by writing down my daily tasks in my scheduler. And each day, I wake up at 4am to accomplish the tasks. I then work until 6am, where I then get ready for my full time job. When I come home at 4pm, I spend time with my wife and kids. And then get back into the website from 8pm to 9pm.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have a project journal that is the breeding ground for my ideas. Everything starts in this project journal, whether I’m researching a new product idea, rebranding, marketing campaign, or the reptile network. Each idea gets broken down into critical steps, and each step is assigned a deadline. Beneath each critical step, I itemize the steps to complete these steps, which then gets check-marked once completed.
It’s highly critical to have a firm, visual, action plan. I’m a professional Project Manager, and these are the steps required to ensure that projects get completed thoroughly.

What’s one trend that excites you?

People love their pets. And this is proven by the revenue growth from pet-related publicly traded companies. And proven by the acquisitions that food companies are making, to buy market share in the pet food industry.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I write down my weekly task list in my scheduler, and I wake up every morning at 4am to get those tasks completed. My dedication to being thorough with my side-hustle gives me a competitive edge against anyone else already in the market, and anyone trying to enter the space.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t quit projects. It takes time for a project to become something important. So don’t give up projects after a week, or a month, or even 6 months. Keep pursuing projects until completion.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Feeder insects can be a lucrative business.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep working and building out the same idea. It’s going to be difficult to find one idea that you want to pursue. So spend significant time identifying your idea. Once you have that idea, pursue it full-heartedly. You won’t build your business in 1 month, or even 1 year. It takes years to build a business, so keep building your idea, and spend years building it out. Don’t quit your idea, just to start a new one.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Learn SEO. First page ranking on Google search results is prime real estate. And those positions are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. So learning SEO has allowed us to gain critical positioning in search results. And what’s great is that there is free information on how to get great at SEO. You don’t need to take night classes, or pay for schooling. So there should be no excuses not to learn this valuable skillset.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My failure was a previous venture. I tried launching a mud run series, but after 3 events, all I did was work 1500 hours for free. At that moment is when I realized I will never work for free again. I then spent a few years deciding on my next venture, which has been CritterFam.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Plastic water bottles that you can somehow write your name on the plastic or label with your finger. I’ve been in so many situations where I walk into a kitchen, and see water bottles everywhere (because we were partying, or on vacation, etc). It would be great if you could write your name, with your finger, on one of those bottles the night before, so you could know which bottle was yours in the morning.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought some black soldier fly larva to produce a video for our YouTube channel. In the reptile community, information is valuable. People don’t know what to expect when they receive insects in the mail. So I purchased some BSFL, for the sole purpose to show viewers what it’s like to receive them in the mail. I filmed it, and posted it on YouTube, which was well received by our subscribers.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

ShipStation. This software has made it incredibly easy to get orders shipped out, and enter tracking information to the customers. This has saved me years of my life from manually entering tracking information.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Hands down, my favorite book about Entrepreneurship is Shoe Dog. It’s the biography of Phil Knight, and how he started Nike. This guy was the definition of grit. He graduated with an accounting degree from Stanford, and would have had no problem landing a high-paying job. But no. This guy was so tenacious that he flew to Japan, bluffed some Japanese executives, and scored a deal to sell shoes in America. When he pivoted to Nike, he was so determined to make it work, that he worked a full time job, while getting Nike off the ground. As a side-hustler with a full time job, I can’t emphasize how admirable and inspiring that is.

What is your favorite quote?

Rejoice in the suffering.

Key Learnings:

  • Don’t quit. The success of any business depends on the persistence and grittiness of the owner.
  • Learn critical skills. These skills will give you the competitive edge that will prevent your competitors from catching you.
  • Have a plan. Have a daily plan, a weekly, a monthly plan, and even a yearly plan. And write it down. You may not meet your goals, but as long as you keep reflecting on your plan, you can modify your goals and your deadlines.