Paul Serra - Founder of CustomOnIt.com

Wake up, meditate, scrambled eggs, shower and off to the office. I make it productive by only focusing on one thing at a time. I have a notepad with bullet points that I re-write every day. It serves as my to-do list. After work I hit the gym and meditate again.

Paul Serra is a serial entrepreneur originally from Michigan. He started his first successful eCommerce company at age 18. He moved to Las Vegas during the 2008 recession where he would go on to start several other companies. In 2012, he started both CustomOnIt.com, a leading online promotional products retailer and Suddora.com, a niche sporting goods site. In early 2014 he noticed everyone using vape pens and came up with the idea for MintyVapes.com, which sells high-end vaporizers online. In 2015, he co-founded 3xSupplyCo.com which supplies restaurants and bars with a variety of cups, paper towel, napkins and much more. At the center of his strategy is creating simple systems to grow with and a fierce focus on customer service and retention.

Where did the idea for CustomOnIt.com come from?

In late 2007 we started selling sweatbands online as the site STbands.com. Our friends were taking bets on how fast we would fail. Today we do well over $1 million per year selling sweatbands (both customized and plain) online. In 2012, our sweatband customers kept asking us to customize other products which we were not set up to do. We took a big gamble and launched CustomOnIt.com – a site in which you could customize thousands of products and order them in bulk. The idea came from our customers, which I believe is where most good ideas come from. Listening.

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

Wake up, meditate, scrambled eggs, shower and off to the office. I make it productive by only focusing on one thing at a time. I have a notepad with bullet points that I re-write every day. It serves as my to-do list. After work I hit the gym and meditate again.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I listen to employees, customers, vendors, friends and when something sticks out it glows in my brain. A problem that needs to be solved. I am very fast at launching things. I don’t believe in waiting, which most of the time is great, but sometimes it can bring a lot more problems. Luckily, that is how you learn! How?… I just do.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Companies like Uber excite me. The idea that you can get services on demand via an app is very, very exciting.

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

I would have to say meditating as it completely defrags your mind. Everything comes to the front, things that have been lodged in there for who know how long. Those thoughts come to the front and you just do not judge them.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked as a bagger and a bottle person at a grocery store. I learned that in order to have a successful company with happy in employees you need competent managers. Which were not present at the grocery store.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

There is nothing that comes to mind. I have learned a great deal from everything, both the good and the bad. Maybe I would have made some of the mistakes sooner, this way I could have learned faster 🙂

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

Keeps tabs on customer happiness daily. In the end, it will make or break the company. There are automated ways to do this now and it is a must.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The world is filled with so much stimulus these days that it can be hard for customers to remember you. The way we have grown CustomOnIt.com to a successful promotional products company is by having automated systems set up reminding the customer to re-order, asking them if they would like other products customized, etc. It is these simple and relatively small things that have a compounding effect.

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

In 2012, during our businesses transition to CustomOnIt.com, we made a mistake that was almost fatal to the company. We did not correctly calculate how much a site like this would cost to run nor understand the competency the coders would need to have to launch it. After just 6 months, we knew there was a big problem and we acted fast by hiring a coding company that we still work with today. Luckily, they fixed the problems and made our website as we originally intended it. Since then, we have been continuously working to improve.

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

An online shoe cleaning business you can subscribe to. The company sends you a box, you put your shoes in, they pick them up and a few days later you have clean shoes. Seriously, there is a real need for clean shoes.

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

Personally: a massage, it is nice to relax! 🙂

Professionally: https://zapier.com/ – it has solved so many connectivity problems with our companies. We use a lot of different apps and it is nice to have something like this to connect them.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Amazon Web Services, Toodledo, Nest. Amazon web services is definitely the best hosting option I have every used for a variety of reasons. Toodledo helps keep my head in order and Nest is great for the house.

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

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – In order to succeed every entrepreneur needs to be antifragile. This should be in every entrepreneur’s arsenal of knowledge.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Tim Ferris – http://fourhourworkweek.com/blog/
Tony Robbins – https://www.tonyrobbins.com/
Joe Rogan – http://joerogan.net/
Brian Rose of London Real – http://www.londonreal.tv/

Connect:

http://www.customonit.com/
Custom On It on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CustomOnIt
Custom On It on Twitter: @customonit
Custom On It on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/custom-on-it

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