Walter Gonzalez

Founder of GOJA

An entrepreneur through and through, Walter Gonzalez built GOJA from the ground up more than 12 years ago by applying his mixed expertise in accounting, law, and finance to make the company one of the largest and fastest-growing Amazon and marketplace sellers in the world. His vision for GOJA is to be the leading operator in the Amazon aggregator market and to be a dominant resource for driving the new online marketplace-dominated landscape. Walter’s robust and mature experience selling on the Amazon marketplace has led him to scale GOJA to year-over-year growth. He continues to lead the company forward as a powerhouse operator, integrator and aggregator with a plan in place to build GOJA into a $1B company in the next five years.

Where did the idea for GOJA come from?

I fell in love with marketplaces 13 years ago. At the time I was part of a business that had $600,000 of inventory from a client that couldn’t pay; I thought “there is no way are we going to lose this money.” Back then, there were mostly lots of bad wholesale options, but then eBay popped up as an alternative. That marketplace connected all of that inventory to eager buyers around the world. It was a lightbulb moment for me; marketplaces were going to revolutionize retail. There was a huge opportunity from a built-in customer base and retail infrastructure opening the door to sellers like us.

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

The beginning of my day starts with taking my daughters to school. The 30 minutes in the car with them is the best part of my day and sets my perspective for the rest of the day.

I try my best to be alone for the first two to three hours of the workday. I purposefully do not schedule meetings to allow myself to plan for the day ahead and get into the right mindset, then head into meetings with the leadership team. At GOJA, we do something called “5-15’s” where each team member takes fifteen minutes to provide their updates, plans for the week, short-term goals, and discuss how they play into GOJA’s greater monthly goals. After each leadership member delivers their updates, I take five minutes to go through the big picture and large strategy planning. From there, I will have meetings that fall into a few categories: managing the business, recruiting, nurturing GOJA’s culture, and building relationships with investors.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Studying art in Florence, Italy has had as big an impact on my ability to bring ideas to life as the time I spent studying finance or law. My ideas stem from both the creative and logical sides of my brain and often work together to come to life. Many think that starting and growing a business plays into the logical vertical, but for me, it’s the creative side of my brain that comes up with ideas, and the logical side that helps me break down these ideas and present them in a way that others can digest.

How I bring these ideas to life depends on their level of maturity and whether they are more creative, or logical. If it’s very creative and new, I know I can not bring it up to the VP of Supply Chain to execute a strategy, as it’s simply not mature enough. Knowing the context for when an idea should be brought to life, and which part of the creative/logical spectrum the idea is on sets the framework for execution.

In building and growing a business, the reality is ideas need to be larger and more complex in order to move the needle. I can have an idea come to life, but I need to save it for the right team at the right time in order to successfully bring it to fruition.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Ecommerce and how it’s changing the world fascinates me. The most exciting thing about it is that it’s not going anywhere. Although the Amazon space is somewhat new, buying/selling products has always been there. One of the things that has been happening more recently is brand launching. Trends are shifting to ecommerce platforms, blurring the lines between generic and “non-household” brands. Small businesses are thriving because people have more accessibility to launch a brand from anywhere in the world and find their target audience instantaneously. Although it has exploded over the last decade, branding and marketing through ecommerce is here to stay. And my favorite part is how it gives small businesses and entrepreneurs a more competitive edge against generic brands.

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

The bottom line is, I have no limits to my imagination. I never tell myself “no”. Although I am realistic about my bandwidth, I never tell myself that something is impossible.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I thought for a long time that I needed to be an expert on certain things, or have to have experience in a specific area before starting something new. If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I would tell myself to start GOJA sooner. There will always be a learning curve in embarking on a new business journey, but the best way to learn is to be hands-on. On that same note, had I not gone through the trial and error of the first business I started, I never would have created GOJA. Although they may sound contradictory, I have two words of advice to my younger self: try sooner, and be patient.

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

You don’t need money to start a business. Entrepreneurs tell me all the time, “I have this great idea, I just don’t have the money to put it into action yet,” and I don’t agree with that. If you have the right credibility and credit, meaning people believe in you, then you can do it. Whether it’s your wife, your mom, or your bank, if you have the right people behind you and the drive to try, then you can bring anything to life.

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

I intentionally shy away from social media. I do not have Facebook or Instagram in an effort to protect the information that I allow to infiltrate my brain. I remember seeing Instagram posts about people having fun while I was at work, or people that were seemingly more successful than I, and it affected me greatly. I made the decision to stay away from all of that noise in an effort to focus on growing my business and to take back control of my focus. I inform myself in other ways by reading credible information and things that are valuable to GOJA or my personal life, but I do not get that from seeing posts on social media.

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

I have been told “no” more times in my professional career than I can count, but I never let that discourage me from leveling up and going with my gut. It has been crucial for me to not pay attention to the outside world. Starting, maintaining, and growing a business comes with many challenges and I find it is most helpful to focus on immediate needs and short-term/long-term goals without outside noise. I try to personify the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right.” I curate my reality based on the expectations I set for myself, rather than expectations that are set from others. I encourage my team at GOJA to do the same.

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

I just started using the word “failure” recently. I never considered my past “tries” as failures – Fortunately, none of those ideas worked, and I’m here today because they didn’t. I had a Limo company that failed, but if I hadn’t put 100% of myself into that idea and that business, it would have failed anyway. It is crucial to invest both yourself and your time into whatever ideas you have. It is not just about the money; if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to make a decision for growth rather than capital investment.

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

Build and utilize software for your business. There is a ton of software that has not been made yet. Many people say “well, I know nothing about software, I don’t have the tools or resources to build it,” I disagree with that because, for relatively little money, you can create concrete tools if you know the business process and work to troubleshoot specific needs within your company.

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

Every Sunday my extended family gets together for dinner, and last week I bought steaks and grilled asparagus that I cooked for everyone. Family dinners are so important to us, the sense of “togetherness ” with my loved ones helps me to relax and reset for the week ahead.

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

Microsoft One Note helps me to be productive. If you get to a good user level, it’s as valuable as Excel or Teams.

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

The Secret of Happy Families by Bruce Vailer. The reason I love this book is because the same concepts that it takes to build a successful business are what it takes to maintain a happy family. It is all about open communication, respect for teammates, and quickly, yet intentionally, adjusting to change.

What is your favorite quote?

“Play like a champion today.”

Key Learnings:

  • If you have the right people behind you and the drive to try, then you can bring anything to life.
  • In building and growing a business, ideas need to be larger and more complex in order to move the needle. You can have an idea come to life, but you need to save it for the right team at the right time in order to successfully bring it to fruition.
  • The Amazon marketplace is revolutionizing retail. There is a huge opportunity for brands to excel with an existing, built-in customer base. This brings small businesses and entrepreneurs a more competitive edge against generic brands.