James Lin Started An Online Business In His Mom’s Garage With $800

YEC Member Spotlight: James Lin, Managing Partner At SkyFront Capital

James Lin (of SkyFront Capital) started an online business in his mom’s garage while he was an undergrad at UCLA. With $800 of capital, he grew it into something special which enabled him to get into real estate at a young age. Now James owns a real estate investment company in Los Angeles where he acquires properties to flip, expand or build from scratch. He loves to travel and to meet people so feel free to reach out to him at [email protected]

Who is your hero?

A mentor of mine, Mark Strome.


What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

It was actually a question that has since then helped me think on a much grander scale. The question was, “Why stop at a million?” I’ve built up my business from the ground up with only $800 of my own startup capital by bootstrapping. Before, I had never taken outside capital for my businesses and therefore my mindset was always what I could achieve on my own. That changed when there came a great opportunity to make a lot of money.


I had laid out my vision to one of my mentors and tested my theory with astonishing metrics to support my plans. My mentor completely agreed with my plans and agreed that my idea would be a success. However, he had one question that stopped me cold, “Why stop at a million?” It was such a simple question but it has since opened up my eyes. I had set my sights too low. I learned that with the right people around you, you can dream bigger and achieve more.


What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

I saw a great opportunity to buy a piece of property high rise luxury property in the Wilshire Corridor in Westwood when I was at UCLA for undergrad. I had already acquired a property in the building and knew that it was converting from a coop to a condo, which meant that financing would be obtainable. The value of the price of the building would increase greatly when it was converted. It was a penthouse unit, 3 bed and 3 bath with 180-degree view and a great opportunity – the place was owned by a hoarder who trashed the place completely. I saw the potential and value of the property and convinced my investors (aka mom and dad) to put in an offer.


We were off by only $10K. My family was hesitant and told me that I was so young and to not be too greedy. So I backed off and didn’t push as hard as I did with my previous purchase. The purchase price was $290K. The value more than tripled in just a few short years after the conversion had gone through. The lesson learned? At the end of the day, you have to trust your own instincts and cash is king.


What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

During the first hour of the day, I’m typically planning out my day on Asana.com. I love checklists. Weekly goals, monthly goals and yes, life long goals so that I can keep everything in perspective and review them accordingly on a daily basis. I like to make these lists during the calm before the storm so I can proactively plan ahead. I don’t like to get too caught up in the “putting out the fires” mentality with emails, phone calls and texts always vying for time and attention.


What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Learn to test your ideas and monitor the results. Create metrics, analyze, and to try to truly understand what the marketplace is telling you before committing too much financial resources. Sometimes people have a perception of how great their idea/product is that they are convinced that it will work no matter what. They don’t listen to what will actually work. You can save yourself a lot of money and headache if you test and track what the numbers tell you.


Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Work backwards. Imagine yourself already on the next level, and then try to break down the steps to get there. Make them into measurable goals. Share these goals with people who want you to succeed and more importantly, will keep you accountable.


What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

I’ve always been curious as to the motivation behind people who have achieved extraordinary things. What drives them? I made it a little hobby of mine to try to understand the psychology of these people who have achieved such tremendous “success.” I realized at a young age that everyone has their own definition of success. My definition of success is achieving the goals in life that I have set for myself. I believe I am succeeding in my businesses because I have been able to work towards those goals and I love what I do. I love being an entrepreneur and I absolutely love real estate.


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