The world clamors for supplements and he’s happy to provide them, while turning his company into a multi-million dollar business.
As a young teen in Toronto, Sol Orwell (changed his given name to Orwell after author George Orwell) learned how to develop websites and quickly became an entrepreneur while still in high school. He began in online gaming, then transitioned into domain names, local searches and daily deals. After losing weight and learning more about fitness and nutrition, Sol created Examine.com in 2011, a site that sells reports on nutritional supplements. He wanted to lose weight, couldn’t find well-organized research on supplements, so he created one for himself. Which he then turned into a business.
The one strategy he’s employed from the start and continues to this day is working with independent contractors. They help grow his businesses. For example, with Examine.com, Orwell hired Ph.D’s and other experts to research the various supplements for his site. “Whenever something is going successfully, I spin it off into a company and bring in contractors to run it more attentively,” he says. “I give them equity, let them run it and recede into the background.”
By using these contractors, it’s freed up a lot of time for Sol to pursue his passion, which is traveling the globe. He doesn’t focus on making extravagant purchases like cars and homes, but enjoys the freedom to go wherever and whenever he wants, which is three to four months out of the year. So technically, he isn’t retired but allows for the system he’s put in place to handle the majority of the workload.
“I value my independence more,” Sol says. “To me, traveling is much more important than making a lot of money,” Orwell said to Forbes. “I make a decent amount. I can go for an hour-long walk and not worry I have to get back and make money. Next week, I’m going away for four days to a music festival. The next week, I’ll be away for four days for a bachelor party. The next two weeks I’ll be in Sweden. That would not be possible if I brought in VCs. I don’t feel I need a $5 million house, fancy cars, or fancy watches. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants that lifestyle. Traveling is the main thing I focus on.”
How did Sol turn Examine.com into a multi-million dollar machine?
He started with his first product, a mega-sized e-book “The Supplement Goals Reference Guide” and sold it on his WordPress site for $49. By his estimates, it’s generated $150,000 to $200,000 to date.
After receiving feedback from customers that they couldn’t understand the terms in the book, he created a series of 16 shorter “Stack Guides” offering an easier read about supplements. “After that we had serious revenue,” says Orwell.
“I was able to bring in a lot of contractors,” Orwell says. “We were able to build this entire team of subject matter experts we can turn to whenever we need advice on a particular topic.”
Last November, he released a new monthly newsletter, Research Digest, aimed at professionals for $30 a month. It informs subscribers about the latest studies on supplements.
How does he promote his products?
Sol uses email lists he has built up over the years. “If people are willing to give you their email address, which they treasure, they are willing to listen to your message,” he says. None of the products are printed. “It’s all digital,” says Orwell. “There’s no physical copy for anything.”
How would he do things differently if he went back to the beginning?
I wouldn’t have waited so long to connect with people, preferably face-to-face. The top people in the industry get inundated with emails. Sitting down with them for a drink is a whole different game.
What does he recommend entrepreneurs do?
I automate whatever I can. A menial task that takes five minutes per day is still almost two hours per month. Make your life easier.
Next on his entrepreneurial to do list involves pets. “I’m already talking to different vets,” he says. “You just need to a find a niche you can dominate.”
Find a solution to your problem, make it accessible to a wider audience and travel the world while independent contractors handle the work. Sounds simple enough for the rest of us to follow.