Career Story: Small Business Owner

Peter, 31, is the owner of a manufacturing company in Los Angeles. See how he went from roasting almonds in his back yard to running his own company.

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Hi, my name's Peter Egan.
PETER EGAN, 31
OWNER, AGSTANDARD ALMONDS

I'm 31 years old.

I'm the owner of AgStandard Almonds

and I earn $36,000 per year.

AgStandard Almonds is a small
manufacturing company.

I wear a lot of hats.

I am the lead roaster.

I'm the head accountant.

I'm number one salesman.

I head the marketing department.

I work the packaging line.

I do sales calls.

I'm the one working
the trade show booth.

Just about everything that goes on.

I'm the dishwasher too.

Pretty much everything
that goes on in this company,

I have something to do with.

I'm the owner of the company

and in my eyes
a good owner is involved

in a lot of, in all of the processes.

It started incredibly small scale.

It started with roasting
three pounds of almonds

in a friend of mine's backyard

and putting it in a package

and taking it
to see if anybody liked it

or anybody wanted it.

The feedback was great.

It's had its ups and downs,

but the overall feedback,
people like it.

They think it tastes good.

They think the packaging looks nice.

So we made one.

The next week we made 10.

And the week after
that we made a hundred,

and then when you can go somewhere

and try and hand out a hundred things

and they're gone
in less than an hour,

I decided to make more of them.

And that was the start.

My annual salary is $36,000 a year.

Salary is a very interesting
topic for a business owner

because my goal is
to have the lowest salary

possible in the early days.

Every dollar
that stays in the business

is incredibly valuable.

It's how do you build
from one to two?

How do you build from two to four?

And the more that stays in,

the more opportunity
there is for growth.

And the more growth,
the more opportunities.

Longer term, the opportunity
to have a larger salary is,

the potential is very high
if the business is successful.

In the early stages,
the most important part

of taking a salary
is mitigating the risk.

And the less money
that is getting pulled out

for my own personal use,

that's eliminating some risk.

The skills and traits
that help enable success

in a role like mine, number one,

the willingness to work hard.

None of this happens
without hard work.

And anybody who is
working toward a goal

will tell you, it doesn't
just happen by accident.

You don't stumble upon it one day.

It's a conscious effort
to wake up in the morning,

decide what you're gonna do
and then do that.

And if it works, great,
you build on it.

And if it doesn't,
try something different,

and iterate, and change
what you wanna do

until you find what that success is.

One of the biggest
mistakes that I made

was making too much
inventory too fast.

I've gotten a lot better at balancing

what's coming in versus
what's going out,

and keeping those more even.

When you have a series
of incremental successes

and you're feeling really good,

it's really easy
to go in and be like,

okay, let's, I'm ready
to go full speed.

Let's start making
as much as possible,

without making sure that all
the other aspects lined up.

I made a conscious decision
PETER EGAN, 31
OWNER, AGSTANDARD ALMONDS

that I was gonna go
to culinary school.

I was gonna focus on food,
and I was gonna make

a career around food.

I was in my mid-20's.

People were starting to ask,

"Hey, what are you gonna
do when you grow up?"

And, I didn't have a good answer.

So I felt a little pressure,
of okay, well I need to be

serious about something.

So, what do I like the most?

And it was food.

So, I decided to go

to culinary school in Los Angeles.

It was a two-year program.

It was from six
in the morning until 11 AM.

And all in it cost about $25,000.

During that time,
after the first six-week increment

I was asking the teachers, like okay,

well what else should I be doing?

And, what they said was, get a job.

And that was something
I was really familiar with.

So I went and got a job,
and I was fortunate enough

to have a classmate who was working

for Wolfgang Puck.

And I asked him, "Hey, do you guys

do you need anybody?

I'm looking for a job.

I would really like
to come work for you."

And, during that time
I went to school from

six AM until 11 AM.

And then we would go
and work from noon

until more or less
10 o'clock every day.

And then work on the weekends.

And, so that's, I was able to pay

for some of the school that way.

But that was how we,
that was how we lived.

We had a tiny apartment.

I think our first apartment,
when I was in school

was like 500 square foot studio.

It was, it was tiny.

A little closet,
what we did was, you know

we did what we had to do.

When you go looking for things

when you go looking for opportunities

a lot of times,
they present themselves to you.

A lot of times
significantly faster than

you would suspect.

Let's say it's, you know,
it doesn't even have to be

in food, it could be,

"Hey, I want to be a teacher."

Okay, well,
if you want to be a teacher,

go talk to a lot of teachers.

I knew people
who knew things around food.

And so I started
to talk to people.

I did a lot of research on almonds.

I had a couple little small projects

that I had tried and failed.

And with almonds I knew

more of what I didn't want it to be.

I knew that I was,
I didn't have a lot of resources

so I had to do something that wasn't

extremely expensive to make.

I didn't want it to be refrigerated.

It's another level
of complexity for a one-man show.

I started looking
around in California,

California grows the almond
supply for the world.

So I took a shot, I bought
a 25-pound box of almonds.

And that was, I guess
the rest is history.

I'm in a unique position because

I have a family
that's incredibly supportive

of what I'm doing

that this wouldn't be
happening without them.

There's a lot of things
that have aligned for me

and that I definitely
don't take for granted.

My family, and my friends
have helped me

put me in this position.

But the growth
opportunities from here

are pretty large.

I have my tax accountant
who helps me.

From the first time I talked to him

I was doing this part-time
I think I just

sold my hundredth pack.

And he was like,
"What are you trying to do here?

What's your goal?"

And I told him that
if I was able to sell

$10,000 of packages,

$10,000 worth of almonds in a year

that I had made it.

He kind of just

nicely said,
"Come talk to me when it's

like 100,000."

And, so I started
looking for opportunities.

In the first tax year I sold

a little over $300,000 in almonds.

Which is a far cry from

from 10,000.

How do I do twice as much?

How do I do five times as much?

I want to still
be doing this in 10 years.

Hopefully it's still
in this business but

I want to get to interact with

a variety of people that I want
to get to keep learning

to continue gaining experience.

I want to keep doing this.

Somebody starting out
who wants to do something

similar to this, I would say,
number one is

being tenacious.

Don't let people tell you
that you can't do it.

There's always gonna be blocks.

It's just a matter
of overcoming those.

Not just a matter,
you have to do that

if that's what you want to do.

The pitfalls, try
and learn as much about

what you're getting yourself into.

I'm not out of the woods at all.

There's pitfalls every single day.

Being aware, look for the pitfalls

and surround yourself
with good people.

That's, I mean,
if I can say one thing is,

surround yourself with as many smart

like-minded people

as possible.

And, things have a way
of working themselves out

a little faster.

I'm Alden Egen,
I'm a clinical nurse specialist,
ALDEN EGAN, 31
CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST

and I make $125,000 a year.

And I'm Peter Egan,
I own AgStandard Almonds,
PETER EGAN, 31
OWNER, AGSTANDARD ALMONDS

and last year, I made $36,000.

I would say I feel
financially secure.

Did have a very interesting
year in the last year.

In 2015, I graduated
and got a new job

where I made a little bit more money.

But at the same time,
Peter started his business,

only a few months after
that, and we had a baby.

So, a lot of things
were changing in the last year.

I was doing the bills,
I was going through

looking at everything, and was like,

ooh, this is only gonna work
for like one more month.

I mean, we had savings,
we weren't going into it blind,

we're, I mean,
fairly financially savvy,

we were saving some of our money,

we were planning for the kid,

just the things got
added up and compounded,

and one thing here,
a little thing there.

And then, I would say four,
five months in, realized,

it switched from,
how are we gonna maintain this,

to, things have gotta change,

and we have to start planning.

To me, the most
important part of dealing

with a situation
like that is being aware,

knowing that it's happening,

and recognizing what's happened.

Like, we don't do anything fancy,

we don't use any apps,
that sort of thing,

we have an Excel spreadsheet.

And then, it's only a couple fields,

we have what's coming in,
and then we have

everything that's going out.

And when that adds up
to be a negative number

two months in a row,
three months in a row,

four months in a row, and you're not
changing your behavior,

you can only assume
that it's gonna happen

the next month and the next month.

So, we start looking for ways.

And the biggest difference was,

there wasn't an immediate change,

all of a sudden,
we had to plan these changes

six months in advance.
Whereas, in the past,

just the two of us working, no kids,

we would just make an adjustment,

we would see something,
and a week later,

it would be fixed. We said,

"Oh, well, we went out
to eat too much this month,"

okay, well then next month

we didn't go out to eat.

The logic behind that is not the same

as when you're changing your rent,

and you're changing your childcare,

there's definitely an emotional
attachment to childcare,
IN THE US, AVERAGE ANNUAL COSTS FOR
INFANT CARE RANGE FROM $4,822 IN
MISSISSIPPI TO $22,621 IN
WASHINGTON DC.
SOURCE: ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE

where, ever if you know it's wrong,

you don't necessarily
wanna change it,

'cause you're doing whatever you can

in the best interest of baby Luke.

So it's not, "Oh, we're just
gonna slash childcare."

It was like, "He's one,
what else are we gonna do?"

We loaned ourselves
about $2,000 a month

for the course of five months,

and then in that time, decided that

we were going to lower
our childcare cost by 25%,

and move to not a drastically
different part of the city,

but adjust the living
expenses to where

our living expenses
are gonna go down almost 40%.

So, not only, yes, we did use debt

to gap those five months,

but with the expenses
saved at the end,

there's a clear path
to repaying that.

So together, our combined
monthly net is $8,500.
ALDEN AND PETER’S BUDGET:
COMBINED NET INCOME $8,500

Our monthly expenses,
our rent is $2,350, base rent,
RENT $2,350

that includes parking, we lucked out.

Our gas and electric
is $125, more or less.
GAS AND ELECTRIC $125

Internet and TV, internet is $80,
INTERNET $80
STREAMING SERVICES $10

and then movie streaming
is $10, everybody does that.

Our phone is, for the two
of us, is $200.
PHONE $200

Car plus insurance is,
the car's $350,
CAR PAYMENT $350

we have a loan on that,
and our insurance

is about $350 as well.
CAR INSURANCE $350

Alden's student loan
is $500, mine is $250.
STUDENT LOANS $750

Monthly food, like grocery
expenses, are $400.
GROCERIES $400

And then onto our recurring expenses.

Our childcare is $1,400 per month,
CHILDCARE $1,400

and that's somebody
coming into our home

to take care of Luke.

Monthly diapers and baby
care is about $90.
BABY EXPENSES $90

Gym membership is $150.
Meals out is about $100.
GYM $150
RESTAURANTS $100

Girls' night is $50 once a month.
ENTERTAINMENT $50

And then travel is a big expense,

since we've had the baby,
every holiday,

or at least quarterly,
we're traveling somewhere.

So, we budget about $500
per month for that,
TRAVEL $500

even though we're only
traveling roughly quarterly.

So, that leaves $1,595.
The plan is for the next
REMAINING $1,595

six or seven months,
put that directly back

to the line of credit we took out

in order to get ourselves positive,

and after that,
we'll go back to saving,

and we'll go from there.

We'll probably have another kid
and start over again.

My realistic financial goals are

to get to keep doing what I'm doing.

It's expensive to start a business,

I've made a good start,
the hard part it's not over.

So, I would like to continue
to have the opportunity

to see where that takes me.
The long-term value,

in my predictions, will start
to realize themselves
THE COST OF STARTING A BUSINESS
VARIES GREATLY DEPENDING ON THE
TYPE OF BUSINESS.
SELF-EMPLOYMENT CAN HAVE MANY
BENEFITS BUT THERE MAY BE A
PERIOD OF GROWTH IN WHICH
FINANCES ARE STRETCHED OR YOU HAVE
A NEGATIVE CASH FLOW.

year three, year four.
So, I still have another year or two

of minimal salary and working
as much as possible.

My financial goal would be
to get out of debt.

I find a lot of peace living
without any major debt,

and knowing you can easily
afford your monthly expenses

based on your income.

We would also like to start
saving for Luke's future,

for a college fund.
Especially given

the cost of college right now.

And maybe have him
be able to start out

in a place where
there's a clean slate,

and not starting in debt.

Hi, my name's Peter Egan.
PETER EGAN, 31
OWNER, AGSTANDARD ALMONDS

I'm 31 years old.

I'm the owner of AgStandard Almonds

and I earn $36,000 per year.

AgStandard Almonds is a small
manufacturing company.

I wear a lot of hats.

I am the lead roaster.

I'm the head accountant.

I'm number one salesman.

I head the marketing department.

I work the packaging line.

I do sales calls.

I'm the one working
the trade show booth.

Just about everything that goes on.

I'm the dishwasher too.

Pretty much everything
that goes on in this company,

I have something to do with.

I'm the owner of the company

and in my eyes
a good owner is involved

in a lot of, in all of the processes.

It started incredibly small scale.

It started with roasting
three pounds of almonds

in a friend of mine's backyard

and putting it in a package

and taking it
to see if anybody liked it

or anybody wanted it.

The feedback was great.

It's had its ups and downs,

but the overall feedback,
people like it.

They think it tastes good.

They think the packaging looks nice.

So we made one.

The next week we made 10.

And the week after
that we made a hundred,

and then when you can go somewhere

and try and hand out a hundred things

and they're gone
in less than an hour,

I decided to make more of them.

And that was the start.

My annual salary is $36,000 a year.

Salary is a very interesting
topic for a business owner

because my goal is
to have the lowest salary

possible in the early days.

Every dollar
that stays in the business

is incredibly valuable.

It's how do you build
from one to two?

How do you build from two to four?

And the more that stays in,

the more opportunity
there is for growth.

And the more growth,
the more opportunities.

Longer term, the opportunity
to have a larger salary is,

the potential is very high
if the business is successful.

In the early stages,
the most important part

of taking a salary
is mitigating the risk.

And the less money
that is getting pulled out

for my own personal use,

that's eliminating some risk.

The skills and traits
that help enable success

in a role like mine, number one,

the willingness to work hard.

None of this happens
without hard work.

And anybody who is
working toward a goal

will tell you, it doesn't
just happen by accident.

You don't stumble upon it one day.

It's a conscious effort
to wake up in the morning,

decide what you're gonna do
and then do that.

And if it works, great,
you build on it.

And if it doesn't,
try something different,

and iterate, and change
what you wanna do

until you find what that success is.

One of the biggest
mistakes that I made

was making too much
inventory too fast.

I've gotten a lot better at balancing

what's coming in versus
what's going out,

and keeping those more even.

When you have a series
of incremental successes

and you're feeling really good,

it's really easy
to go in and be like,

okay, let's, I'm ready
to go full speed.

Let's start making
as much as possible,

without making sure that all
the other aspects lined up.