• Aaron R. Ballantyne

Entrepreneur in Progress

My story is simple, but one of the things I love about the diversity that the world affords is that even though there are some who may think my story is simple and nothing remarkable, there are those who will find it inspirational and motivating. It’s not my job to determine who will interpret it in what way, but to share my story regardless, in the hopes that it impacts someone positively.


I had started my Fiverr account in December 2015 after being referred by a fellow aspiring entrepreneur who was also on the platform at the time. It was just a way for me to earn a little extra money, but I had no idea what life had in store for me once I joined. I didn’t have high expectations for it, I just did it as something extra while I attended university, but the series of events that followed taught me that you never know what life has in store for you once you set something in motion. That, as well as the guiding philosophy that I didn’t want to be in the same place next year, that I was in that year, led me to take the first step, and has led to many other steps since. When I joined Fiverr, I didn’t get my first order until a few months after joining, but when I did, I made sure I crushed it.


The first gig I ever offered was writing Sponsorship Letters for individuals, companies, non-profit organizations, you name it, seeking to raise funds for their organization, an initiative or upcoming events. This was my first gig because it was one of the first skills I acquired in university. In my first year of university, I was granted sponsorship from the Ministry of Education’s JAMVAT program. One of the program’s requirements at the time was completing around 200 hours of community service. I was placed at the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), a non-profit organization devoted to the education of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired and the raising of awareness on the culture. While there, I was placed in the Public Relations department and tasked with, you guessed it, acquiring sponsorship, specifically for Digicel’s 5K Run/Walk later that year. I was introduced to the whole process; to researching contact information of potential sponsors, calling and corresponding with a number of sponsors and drafting information which would be sent to them upon expression of interest or commitment to sponsoring the JAD for the upcoming event. I learnt everything I could; how members of the deaf community operate in a professional environment, how a non-profit organization is operated and how non-profits go about acquiring funding. What I took away from it however, what led me to where I am today, were the skills I acquired in writing sponsorship letters, the skills I employed to birth my online presence.


However, Fiverr wasn’t the only online presence I had established. A close friend and business partner of mine approached me with an idea for an online business in the travel industry. Utilizing the Wealthy Affiliate platform, we set out to research and create a site build on the concept of a one-stop shop for everything travel-related. We worked on it for months; doing research and collecting copious amounts of information regarding our industry, writing content, finding the right companies to partner with, advertising, etc. It was a lot of work...a lot of work; and proved challenging when having to balance assignments at the same time. It was like a second job, one which we weren’t being paid for but believed in its potential and worked tirelessly to see it through to the end. And so, after months of work, late nights and occasionally ignoring our respective significant others, we embraced that tingly feeling and officially launched the site. We had created a Facebook page as well to help with traction and site promotion, printed and put up flyers throughout universities and encouraged friends and family members to utilize our services. After partnering with the right affiliate companies and gaining traction online, we were contacted by a tour company in our country about featuring their business on our site. When we first received the message on Facebook and fully understood what it meant, that tingly feeling came back, “Is this really happening?” We conversed regularly with this business owner discussing how the business would be featured, when we would officially meet to discuss, who would draft up the agreement between our businesses and how we would be compensated for featuring their content on our website. It was surreal. We were young, in university and discussing business with an established business owner eager to get his content on our site. Then, another one popped up. Another tour company all the way in Dominica caught wind of our business and wanted the same thing, to be featured on our site in a similar capacity. This one was well-prepared with an already-drafted document outlining how exactly they desired the business to be represented and how they would compensate us. Two companies, in a couple months after launching the site and Facebook page wanted to partner with us. This is what all our work was for. We had finally started seeing the fruits of our labour and they were juicy. However, we made one crucial mistake; we didn’t monitor our expenditure and were unable to keep up with the monthly server fees incurred due to site operation. As such, the site was shut down and so were its associated services. It was quite a blow; the fact that we just didn’t have enough money to continue funding our dream. Even though we were shut down, we saw the experience as a failure and as a success. The site was shut down, but it showed us the potential it had as we explored all the possible revenue streams which could be generated just by operating the website. It was more encouraging than it was discouraging and we didn’t allow it to deter us. I always say that everything happens or doesn’t happen for a reason and I like to think that what we learnt from this experience is the reason we had it in the first place.


So continuing with the online story; even though the scope of the online presence expanded and with it did the volume of work, I never gave up working on Fiverr, which grew significantly during this time. I am a fan of investing your money to make more money and also live to have new, exciting experiences. As such, I elected to go on the work and travel program (a program which facilitates the process of a tertiary student working in a foreign country) with money I had made from Fiverr. This is something I wanted to do myself. Even though I received scholarships and sponsorships that helped with my tuition fees, my parents contributed as well. I didn’t want to have to go to them to ask for money for this, I didn’t want to burden them further, they had enough dealing with. I wanted to fund this adventure on my own and with the help of Fiverr, that’s exactly what I did. I funded my entire trip: program fee, plane fare, initial living expenses, food, even money for hotels and more with money I made from Fiverr, the thing I initially regarded as just a little thing I did on the side to make a little extra money. Remember what I mentioned about not knowing what life has in store for you until you take the first step, once you set things in motion? This was a major achievement for me and still humbles me to this day. Some I know are able to fund this program without a problem, especially if they’ve gone on the program before and have already made a plan to return the next year, money would be set aside for that. This was my first year; I didn’t take out any loans nor did I ask my parents, friends or family for money; I funded everything myself. It wasn’t a case where they would’ve been unwilling and it wasn’t a case where I felt too proud to ask. It was just something I wanted to do, completely, on my own and so I did. So I invested my money in something that could yield two very valuable things to me: a chance to make more money with my initial investment and garner an invaluable experience, and that’s exactly what happened. I loved my experience working abroad; I met a lot of new people, worked with a number of people from different countries, ate new food, visited new places, met up with family and friends, got the worst tan of my life, got free stuff, had unpleasant experiences (everything happens for a reason), experienced living on my own or more accurately, without parents in the immediate vicinity, learnt to budget to survive, etc. Even if I hadn’t made back the money I invested in my trip overseas, I would still view it as a good investment simply because of the experience, an experience that further fuels my desire to travel.


This brings us to the present day in my online journey; the launch of my personal website. January 9, 2019 wasn’t a very good day; I was riddled with thoughts of uncertainty and felt very discouraged by my decision to follow this path because I wasn’t sure if it would work out in my favour. I had to contend with these thoughts all while enduring the constant flood of creative ideas I could incorporate in my site and the next move where my online growth was concerned. It was maddening, to the point where I couldn’t sleep. I attempted to go to bed at around midnight but ended up stirring at 1am because the thoughts were like a lawnmower in my head, I could hear my thoughts screaming at me and the thoughts just wouldn’t stop coming, “What are you doing?” “You keep procrastinating.” “Are you making the right choice?” “You’ve been wasting your time.” “This is supposed to be your year.” “Remember your priorities.” “Start.” At 1am on January 10, 2019, I woke up, popped my laptop open and worked for 6 hours straight until my site was complete and launched it right after. The tingly feeling I mentioned earlier came back again. I started sharing the site on social media with my friends, family and the online community. I received some positive feedback, some constructive criticism, some words of encouragement and expressions of pride. I had taken the first major step this year...imagine what will come of it ;)


My story is simple, but it’s not finished yet; I’m excited to see where I go from here and even more excited to share it with you all. I used to think I should keep these things to myself but that is selfish. If I can impact one life, if I can encourage or motivate just one person by sharing my experiences, to take that first step as well, then I believe it is my duty to do so.


Stay tuned. There is definitely more to come.


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