From Pennies To $1 Million – Justin Beegel & Infographic World
If there’s one thing we’ve rediscovered in the internet world, it’s that beauty is still important. A bad design can kill your website or product faster than you can say “Series A funding” while a well put together, functional, beautiful design will push you ahead of your competitors before they’ve had a chance to blink.
Justin Beegel knew this when he launched Infographic World at the tender age of 23. Infographic World produces beautiful (you guessed it) informational infographics for your website. With big name clients like Google, ESPN and UNICEF under their belts, Beegel & Co. are definitely establishing themselves as a leader in website beautification.
How long have you been involved with the Internet? What were your first steps? What was your first computer? How old were you?
I would say I’ve been involved with the Internet in the capacity I am now since the end of college.
I did a 5-year MBA program at Binghamton University, and in the last year, I took a course about e-commerce. The class project asked us to create a website and market it without spending any money. This is where I was introduced to social media and weird-sounding sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, etc.
I absolutely fell in love with the premise of trying to get people to visit a website through various web marketing tactics. This project took over my life, as I finally found something I thought was what I wanted to do in business. This led me to my first job as the social media marketing manager at a large magazine, which, in turn, led me to start Infographic World about a year later. It’s often funny how things all start, because it was my dad who convinced me to take that e-commerce class way back.
My first computer ever was some old HP. Who can forget the early AOL days with that 7-step log-in, 56k dial-up, and slow-loading images? I had to have been 10 or 11. [Ed note: Remember that sound? And your mom yelling at you for tying up the phone line? Those were the days…]
What time do you usually start work each day?
I’ll typically start working no later than 8 a.m. most days. Some days, I start at 7 or 7:30. The rare day, once or twice a month, I’ll start my day at 6 a.m. The irony is that I’m absolutely not a morning person. [Ed note: Me either! I really don’t understand how you startup dudes do it. Out of bed before 9 is simply not a possibility for me.] Case in point: I’m typing this up at 10:20 p.m., with a few more hours of work ahead of me to do.
Do you have an office or work at home?
I work at both. I set this company up to be virtual by nature. I wanted to find the absolute best talent I could, and not just be limited by the resources within New York, as good as they might be. I wanted the best. My designers are all over the country and the world, as I strove to find the best of the best. So this being the case, I’ve never had much of a need for a centralized office. I split time between a small office set up on Long Island some days, and working from my apartment in Manhattan on others. It works perfectly for me – and the way the company is set up. Skype, G-Talk, Basecamp, and Google Hangouts are all I need to make this work on a national and international level. The Internet is a wonderful thing.
What’s the first thing you do when you leave the office at the end of the day?
I guess that would depend on where I’m working at the time. If I’m on Long Island, I’m getting to the train as fast as humanly possible to get back to my apartment and relax. If it’s from my apartment, when I’m done, I’ll likely want to lay in bed and read a bit, watch a game if it’s on, or hit the gym.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? After working for 16 hours? On your third beer?
My best ideas seem to always, or only, come when I’m in bed trying desperately to fall asleep. My brain is running 1,000 mph when I’m in bed, thinking about every little thing having to do with the business. I can’t count the number of times I’ve popped out of bed to go write something down that struck me like a lightning bolt.
For a while, I would keep a notepad next to my bed to save myself from having to get up. It’s a gift and a curse, as they can often be good ideas, but they really do not help that whole premise of actually falling asleep. [Ed note: I was totally going to suggest that and you beat me to it!]
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
Right now, I have:
- A landline phone I put in my apartment for business purposes; [Ed note: How retro!]
- My notebook for my daily to-do lists. I seriously live and die by this book. It brings physical pain to me to not complete an item on my to-do list, so this thing keeps me on track;
- A 45-inch T.V. screen that I converted into a monitor (I love to have multiple screens open that I can look at simultaneously);
- Post-It notes along the bottom of the T.V. screen/monitor;
- One Post-It on the top section of the T.V./monitor with my monthly sales goal, to keep it right in front of me and keep me motivated toward it;
- A stack of business cards for when I run out to meetings;
- A stapler, and
- A glass of water. I’m always drinking water, non-stop. [Ed note: I also have this problem. You should get a Klean Kanteen or something like it; good for preventing spills and 100% portable. I’m so obsessive about water that you’ll pretty much never find me without it.]
Favorite book? Author?
This is a really tough one. I’m going to cheat and list a few, sorry. Rich Dad, Poor Dad changed my life and my entire perspective on things. The Godfather (a recent read) was amazing. I just recently completed the 16th book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, which is really fun and entertaining reading.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
That’s a very good point. A lot of people have ideas. It’s actually implementing them that’s the hard, scary part. I think my situation was a combination of good timing on various levels.
When I started Infographic World, I was 23. So right off the bat, I was so young that I felt I truly had nothing to lose. To me, the worst-case scenario was that it would fail, and I would gain a hell of a learning experience. I’d either go start something else or get a job.
That gave me a lot of confidence. I also didn’t just up and leave the second I came up with the business. It was something on the side for almost a year before I quit my day job. I built up enough clients and enough momentum in my mind where I felt that I could give it a real shot and make it my life.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but wow, has it been a hell of a ride so far.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
I would say take a step back and determine if you truly think it’s a viable business idea. If you do, stick with it, and the combination of perseverance and a little luck will make it work.
Things are going to be bumpy. “Bumpy” is actually the understatement of the century. The number of times I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry during that first year or year and a half, I can’t even say. I made so many mistakes, many of which I were positive were going to be the end of my business. Surround yourself with the right people who can help you in those kinds of troubled times, and you should be able to steer your way out of it.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader throughout this process?
Without a doubt, it has been my father. While he was not thrilled about the timing of quitting my job (he felt I should have stayed at my job another 6-12 months to learn more, meet more people, etc., which were all very sound points), he was an absolute lifesaver.
I can safely say if I didn’t have him supporting me mentally those first few years, I would have imploded and the business would have failed. I just simply did not know enough at 23 and 24, [Ed note: Who does?] and due to that, ran into lots of problems along the way. Each time, I would go home to Long Island and talk to my dad, and he would walk me through what I was doing wrong, and what I needed to do to make things better moving forward. It became almost a routine those years.
Now my biggest cheerleader also happens to be a partner in the business, as he joined the company about a year and a half ago. While it’s not perfect, there’s something very comforting knowing that you have someone involved in your business who has your well-being in mind as a priority, and whom you can trust 110%.
3 people you recommend we follow on Twitter, and why?
I’m going to admit it, and I’m not proud of it, but I’m not as active personally on Twitter as I’d like to be. We have a business Twitter account, of course, but on a personal level, I’m just doing too many things on a daily basis and have not made Twitter a priority.
However, during the Summer of Lebron, where I was praying he would come to the Knicks, I checked every major sportswriter’s Twitter feed probably 50 times a day. You can say I’m a slight sports fan.
We also love to know the fact and figures… Care to Share?
Well, for starters, I started the company with zero dollars, give or take a few pennies. I took on one freelance job, outsourced the work, and put the tiny bit of profit into the business. This was my model as I built up the company very slowly, job by job, until I was able to use money in the business for marketing efforts, adding of staff, etc. We’ve never raised funds to date, though we have toyed with the idea.
There are currently 9 full-time employees, and we have a large group of freelancers we work with in certain capacities when needed.
If I remember correctly, I think my first year I did $80,000 in sales. Last year, we did around $500,000, and this year, we’re on pace for around $1,000,000. [Ed note: Not bad for starting with pennies.]
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
What a boring answer, but on a personal level, I’d say there’s pretty much just Facebook. On there, you’ll get a closer look into how “slight” of a sports fan I am. I do have another project that’s been in the building phase for a while now, and it’s almost done with the development team, but it’s unfortunately a little premature to even bring up. When it’s launched and live, I would love to have you check it out and give me your input/feedback.
What do you wish I had asked you? Ask yourself and respond.
What’s my favorite meal? I love the sushi from Kotobuki, which just opened up a new location in the city a few months ago. It’s the greatest sushi place in the world. [Ed note: Totally jealous. I miss NYC food so much.]