Ben Gordon: Freelance Your Way to Startup Success

Updated: Jul 19, 2020


Ben Gordon is the co-founder of cabinets.com which was started with his partner on free Panera wi-fi and then ultimately $35M in revenues selling high-ticket custom kitchen cabinets online. Ben talks about walking away from the big corporate job to be a freelance solopreneur that lead to cabinets.com - and then his recent financial exit to pursue his next, even more ambitious startup.


SPONSOR: Secure Startup (www.securestartup.com) - securely managing the important documents between startup founders and investors.


Full Episode (YouTube): https://bit.ly/2AELfia


Audio Only (Podbean): https://planyourstart.podbean.com/e/ben-gordon-freelance-your-way-to-startup-success/


2:20 - Opening and how Ben got his nickname ‘The Ghost’


3:05 - Bio and profile of Ben Gordon - co-founder and former CTO of Cabinets.com


5:12 - You left the company recently - why and how did you do it?


9:33 - How did you square your exit with the core values of the company?


10:00 - Note to young founders - if your startup becomes successful, you will one day likely want to leave and start a new challenge.


11:12 - SPONSOR: SecureStartup (www.securestartup.com) - securely manage all of the documents between a founder and an investor.


12:15 - About Allen’s book: QUIT TO START - How to Discover Your Best Idea, Gain the Confidence, and Plan Your Escape.


13:30 - This story starts with Ben doing freelance web design in the real estate industry. Then the economy tanked and all work dried up, he struggled to make ends meet. Decided to work without pay, for equity and performance compensation. Had nothing to lose, in his early 20’s and single - can’t get any worse, there’s nothing you can’t recover from.


18:03 - Quick note for today - now is the best time to create a startup - so many companies started in a recession. It can trigger the warrior spirit - an opening for only the bravest.


21:58 - One of Ben’s favorite mantras: productive paranoia


23:15 - Overwhelming number of now successful companies were started during a recession.


23:58 - Ben used emerging Magento web platform to build cabinets.com, rode that horse. Now is a good time to adopt new platforms, hitch your wagon to something smart, new, and lean.


26:35 - Ben is now using a new tech platform for his new startup. The energy flow from a new platform is invaluable.


29:02 - After leaving cabinets.com, took 3 months off to decide what to do next. Wants to take more risk than cabinets.com. Ben sees cabinets.com as a double (baseball analogy), doubles are great. Getting a double gives you the opportunity to take a bigger risk later, maybe a home run. First time founders want to swing for the fences. Getting on first base is really important - be careful to not swing past the customer, especially on your first startup.


32:30 - Ben grew up in Allentown, PA - started trading stocks in middle school, ran home each day to watch ESPN and CNBC - not motivated by the money, motivated by the game.


37:25 - Won $25K business competition at University of Florida - then internship at Raymond James Financial but it didn’t connect - valuable because it helped him decide corporate wasn’t right for him. Many don’t realize until too late, after climbing the corporate ladder for years/decades.


41:14 - Moved to South Florida, got freelance jobs, moved in with a close friend. Moved to Tampa a few years later with the booming housing market, just a few years before the crash.


44:08 - During the economy crash, he was fortunate to have friends and family who supported him.


46:55 - Had to pivot to commission and performance based comp - and cabinets.com was one of those. Met now partner who ran a custom cabinets retail showroom. Owners abruptly closed the business. Let’s start an online rendition.


48:40 - Partnership - both have entrepreneurial spirit, confidence in themselves and confidence in each other. Personalities fit together.


50:58 - They started the company - first meetings at Panera for the free Wi-Fi, UPS store next door was the business address.


53:50 - Began growing fast, secret sauce was paid traffic, AdWords for dummies, SEO, content rich products - competitors were doing it but they weren’t trustworthy websites, our first tagline was: “A website you can trust”.


55:41 - We were so excited about our first customers, what got them comfortable enough to make a five figure purchase online?


58:12 - Our industry was archaic, those are the best to disrupt.


59:27 - Average sale on the website $5-$7k, sometimes up to $60-$80k


1:00:34 - We originally had a different domain - kitchenresourcedirect.com, then bought cabinets.com - paid a lot of extra money to keep anyone from finding out how much we paid - let’s just say it was a lot..


1:03:53 - In these current times, there is much uncertainty, - instead of updating your resume or waiting around, now is a great time to take that risk. This is a watershed moment, an entrepreneurial opportunity.


1:08:04 - Tech is a field leveler - you don’t need a fancy education or expensive equipment. Now is the time for many to make their move.


Full Episode (YouTube): https://bit.ly/2AELfia


Audio Only (Podbean): https://planyourstart.podbean.com/e/ben-gordon-freelance-your-way-to-startup-success/