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Alyssa and I did something pretty big last week.
We bought a business!
I’d really like to emphasize the WE.
As the token crazy idea person in our relationship, I pitch Alyssa on a lot of businesses we should buy, start, or invest in.
So much so that we’ve had to create an 8 o’clock rule. No business ideas or pitches before 8AM or after 8PM. If I pitch an idea before or after those times, I get a death glare from Alyssa.
However, in this scenario, I didn’t have to do the pitching.
Alyssa walked into my office and said (unsolicited), “So are we buying _____?”
Hotter words have never been spoken.
Why buy a new business?
If you’ve read any of our blog posts this year, they’ve followed a theme: simplifying.
- March: We sold our campground property
- April: The intentional pursuit of less: why we sold 3 businesses this year
- October: We sold everything to travel
We’ve removed a lot from our plate. Businesses. Real estate. A conference. A podcast.
And what has taken its place?
Well, we spent a quarter of our year in Europe.
In June I rode a bike race across Italy with a group of friends.
We just got back from a month RV trip in France & Spain.
We’ve also just had a lot of quality time raising our kids at home. We’re in this golden period of time with our kids and we’ve been trying to maximize the window.
While we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom element of selling a business, there is a glaring downside:
we had little cash flow.
We have runway, but eventually we would need to start bringing in actual revenue to cover life expenses.
Enter: the idea of buying a business.
The prospect was pretty simple, find a business that would generate cash flow for us outside of our time. Ideally, something passive enough that we would still be able to travel, spend time with kids, and create our own schedules but start to cover our monthly burn.
Also, by buying a business we could skip the whole part of coming up with an idea, product market fit, and all of the effort that goes into bringing an idea from zero to one (<– article I wrote during early struggle days of bringing Campground Booking to life).
The only question was, what business would we buy?
Finding a business to buy
Over the last year, we’ve looked at a handful of businesses to buy.
Here’s an abbreviated list:
- Campground property in Texas hill country (yes, after we sold ours, I was still looking. I have a problem.)
- A B&B/wedding venue in Texas
- Van rental business in Maui
- Kayak business in Maui (we were really on a Hawaii kick for a week or two)
- Dog sitting business
- Franchise for indoor kid’s playgrounds
- HVAC business
- A multi-unit Airbnb property downtown where we live
With each one we’ve looked at, there’s been some kind of red flag or fear that held us back.
For real estate purchases, it’s been fear around rising interest rates and how expensive and overvalued properties are right now.
For the Maui businesses, it was the fact that it’s literally an island thousands of miles away and we know nobody there and we know nothing about those businesses and would probably need to, at least temporarily, move.
And for some of them, they felt too out of our wheelhouse. It felt more like guessing or hoping that we could figure it out versus something we had confidence we could execute based on our current skill set.
Alyssa’s One-Year Rule
I was so focused on buying a business (and have been since we sold Campground Booking last spring) that it dominated my brain space.
Every day I was searching for a business to buy, talking through potential ideas with Alyssa, and generally annoying her with an endless stream of random businesses to buy.
LoopNet was a permanent tab open on my computer.
Finally, Alyssa had enough and told me that I had to wait one year before buying a business.
(This was around the time that I was bent on buying up five or six dog-sitting businesses on the east coast and creating a franchise…yeah I see where she was coming from.)
I relaxed, stopped actively searching, and simply enjoyed our travels.
How we found a business to buy
A few days before we flew to France, we were hosting our friends Ashley & Josiah at our home for dinner.
Ashley told us how she was looking to sell her blog that she’d built in the RV space. My ears perked up. I’d been following Ashley’s blog for years and loved the community and content she’d created.
I didn’t say anything at the moment (8 PM rule but also, have you ever tried to have an adult conversation at a dinner table with a baby and a three-year-old?).
We were also about to leave for our Europe trip and trying to buy a new business while traveling abroad didn’t seem like a wise idea.
However, once we came back I remembered our conversation. I reached back out to Ashley to see if she’d sold her site.
I told her that I felt we were a low-likelihood buyer, but that if she had a P&L and any documents available I’d love to take a look.
I conveniently didn’t tell Alyssa that I’d asked for info, but she saw it in our email inbox and reviewed the P&L (profit and loss).
Before I’d had a chance to explain myself, she waltzed into our office and asked if we were going to buy Ashley’s site.
Me: Um, I guess so?
I’m honestly so used to pitching ideas for new businesses that get shut down that I was more surprised than anything.
I typically have to gear up for a pitch with my list of reasons why, but this time, I just shut up. A wise sales manager once told me that once you’ve made the sale, stop pitching.
Though I really wasn’t trying to make a sale to Alyssa. I hadn’t even gotten into the P&L myself yet. I didn’t know if we should buy or not.
However, if my very rational and more fiscally responsible partner in crime had looked under the hood and decided it might be worth it, then maybe we would be buyers after all.
Why we decided to buy Ashley’s site
As of last week, we became owners of Ashley’s RV Inspiration website and her renovated RV marketplace.
RV Inspiration is a blog focused on helping you make your RV feel like home.
Her other site that we bought is called RenovatedRVsforsale.com.
This site is basically what it sounds like, but it features beautifully renovated RVs for sale by owner.
The sites have traffic in the millions along with a very engaged Instagram audience.
Related: Follow @RVinspiration on Instagram
In our due diligence period, Ashley shared an entire spreadsheet filled with positive feedback from owners who had listed and sold their RVs on her site. It was encouraging to see so many people who had had success listing their RVs on her site.
Love this marketplace! We had SO much interest through this site for our rig. We had a list of people wanting to buy it.
1. It was enough outside of our comfort zone to stretch us, but not so much that we wouldn’t know what we are doing.
We’ve blogged for years and have a decent understanding of writing articles, but we’ve never dove into the world of blogging as a business when it wasn’t tied to our personal story.
My focus as a blogger has been sharing what I learn on our site and occasionally we make some money through affiliates or products, but the majority of the money we’ve made in the last 8 years has come from actual businesses we’ve run (film, software, conference, Alyssa’s books).
Ashley’s site is primarily ad-driven, so we’ll be learning more about ad networks, keyword softwares, and other tools that we’ve had little experience with.
2. It was generating cash flow from day one.
Since her blog primarily makes money with ads, we would be making money from day one as owners.
3. I enjoy following her blog & Instagram.
Ashley built an amazing Instagram with a really cool community. I enjoy seeing the renovated RVs she lists for sale and owning a business that I enjoyed interacting with felt like a no-brainer.
4. We could afford it (without taking a loan or outside investors).
There’s nothing wrong with raising money. However, I didn’t want to. With outside money comes more weight and responsibilities and work. I wanted to buy something outright that we could own and operate however we saw fit. RV Inspiration fit the bill for this.
Our first week as new business owners
The first week of owning a new business is anything but glamorous.
The majority of the past week has been updating billing & account information for all of the softwares & services that Ashley has used.
We’ve also met and spoken with the contractor who has helped her run the business, looked through customer surveys, and started the process of a rebrand and website redesign.
A short list of what you can expect to do in the early days of buying a business (based on my limited experience of the past week):
- Update email servers & user accounts (harder than it sounds depending on how it is set up)
- Change all subscriptions to new business credit card
- Spend many hours reading through documents and processes in the business to understand how things are run
- Email back and forth with partners/affiliates of the business to let them know ownership has changed hands
- Sign up for very expensive tools (like SemRush) that you have very little idea how to use
- Write announcement email to existing subscribers & customers
- Make immediate user experience improvements to website
Among all the things you might do during the first week of owning a new business, there’s also the most important requirement: figuring out how to keep it running and hopefully, growing.
My favorite part of the last week was actually publishing my first piece of content on RV Inspiration.
I interviewed my friend Andy from Bus Life New Zealand about his second bus conversion (you can read it here ).
What’s next for our new business?
Our goal is to continue creating awesome content on RV Inspiration and have more people list their renovated RVs for sale.
We still have a lot to learn and everything is very new.
One question a few friends have asked about the new site is if we will be the primary writers on RV Inspiration.
My answer: I hope not.
We renovated our very first RV (Franklin) back in 2014, but otherwise have very little experience in anything DIY.
We hope to partner with amazing RV content creators to share helpful renovation stories and how-to’s (if this is you and you’d be interested in writing some articles for us, just reply to this email!).
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading.
Assuming you have some level of interest in buying or selling a business, what type of information would be helpful or would you be interested in hearing about?
Nothing is off-topic. I’d love to continue sharing some of our journey to grow our first acquired business and would be awesome to hear from you.