When you were 15 years old, what was your dream?
Most people can’t remember.
I consider myself lucky, although it was a while ago… I can definitely remember mine.
But you know what?
It’s because it never really changed.
I’ll tell you what it was (and still is) in a moment…
But first it’s important for you to understand a pattern that kept repeating itself throughout my youth until I found my real passion (digital marketing & entrepreneurship).
Let’s go back many years ago to when I was 5 years old, when I lived in a small fisherman’s town in eastern Canada called Shippagan (population: 2,631).
One day I was sitting at the kitchen table drawing… like every other kid of my age.
But I decided my drawings needed another purpose other than just being taped to the fridge.
I don’t exactly remember the exact mental process I had (I’m sure you understand… lol), but I remember I decided to draw coloring sheets, MANY, and to assemble them in a way to form a coloring book, and to sell it to my neighbors.
That’s my first entrepreneurial experience I recall.
A year later, 6 years old, I woke up early in the morning – like earlier than my father, who wakes up at 6am (I’m more of a 8:30am kind of guy).
Determined to make money (even if I didn’t want to buy anything), I went into my backyard and with my 6 y/o muscles basically dragged the slides, swings, and toys I didn’t want to the front of my yard.
I taped prices (I probably gave these things away at like 91% off… but whatever, looks like my parents let me do it), drew posters and taped them on the light poles around my neighborhood.
By the end of the day, I had sold pretty much everything had dragged to the front of the house.
Throughout the years, things repeated themselves.
Middle school: I wanted to make a business out of everything. Seriously.
When I hit 11 years old, I was fascinated by magic. Almost the next day, I started promoting my services as a “magician for hire”, tried launching an online magic store (yes, that failed) and soon enough I started getting booked to perform at birthday parties, daycares, festivals and all sorts of events.
I did this for 7 years. 400 shows later, I realized the marketing aspect of the job was what kept me going – the passion for the art of magic had left me a few years earlier, and now I faced a “problem”:
I was always booked solid without doing any marketing. So I moved on.
Now remember when you started reading this? I asked you if you remembered what your dream was at 15 years old…
Well let’s talk about that…
15 years old, 4 years into the magic business. That was a while ago…
And that’s also when things started becoming too easy and I was performing my shows on autopilot.
The money was great for my age, but I needed a new challenge, and that’s when I took notice of my dream.
I wanted to own a company. And I wanted to be able to lead its culture, its vision and its marketing strategies.
Finally, I wanted to grow it to an international level (at that point, Richard Branson was my hero – I would read all his books in record speed).
For a long time I wanted to own boutique hotels, then an international event company, then an airline (no kidding).
One day I was with my father while we were driving around town, and just like any other day I started to express my desire to build a business that could grow bigger than my magic.
But then, still talking business while sitting in his car…
I started to cry.
I felt powerless…
I was only 15 y/o and had to wait centuries before I could do any of that cool “big business” stuff.
Fast forward a few months…
I read an article about young entrepreneurs around my age that were building online companies.
And that. Was. It.
The “centuries” I thought I had to wait to start a company were now gone.
The millions (or at least many thousands) I thought I needed to start a company were not necessary either.
I could start an online company, at home during summer, before going to high school.
Hooked, and addicted to marketing, I launched a company called Idealinput.
It was a website where small business owners could request feedback on their marketing materials from marketing consultants all over the world.
Being my first tech startup experience, knowing nothing about how to build an online company properly, it failed.
It wasn’t scalable. I didn’t validate the idea. I didn’t know my market well enough. I spent too much time making the product “perfect”.
Short story: I lost the game, but I gained a lot. The things I learned building that company are priceless.
My network also started growing as I interned at Atlantic Canada’s most important startup accelerator (Launch 36). And apparently, they liked me…
At the last minute, they invited me to pitch a new startup I was working on at their demo day – even if I wasn’t part of the cohort.
Other companies had months to prepare, I had 2 weeks.
Many billion dollars worth of investors were in the room. Big stress, but turns out I did pretty well.
Things were increasingly moving in the right direction.
One day, entrepreneur Dan Martell (Founder of Clarity.fm, sold 3 tech companies, 2012 Top Canadian Angel Investor, 33+ investments including Unbounce, Intercom, Udemy – and now one of my clients) gave me a call.
I was his first call on Clarity, his new company.
He realized he lived 30 seconds away from me…
We started co-working at a local Starbucks once a week…
And since that day… he became my biggest and closest mentor.
He helped me with everything I did then and still do today. (I would be years behind without his help.)
“Raphael is one of the most impressive entrepreneurs I’ve met in my career…” – Dan Martell in a comment he left on Entrevestor in 2014
Oh, and yeah I forgot to tell you…
The startup I pitched at the demo day? It failed. Sucks, but I learned tons more.
At this point I was a digital marketing consultant, and specialized in conversion optimization.
I started blogging on marketing blogs like KissMetrics and Under30CEO, and my first blog posts were shared over 800 times.
I had just been named a “Millennial Leader on the Verge of Greatness” by the AMEX Open Forum.
Shark Tank billionaire Kevin O’Leary named me one of Canada’s 10 future Dragons (referring to the Canadian version of Shark Tank called Dragon’s Den).
In 2014, I dove into the fantastical world of Bitcoin by launching a Bitcoin integration consultancy that focused on the marketing benefits of the cryptocurrency.
I organized a sold-out bitcoin event in my then-city of Moncton (New Brunswick, Canada) as well as in New York City.
Shortly after, I got invited to speak at Inside Bitcoin Las Vegas – North America’s 2nd biggest bitcoin conference at the time.
And two months later (December 2014) I was flown to Beirut, Lebanon to give a keynote about bitcoin to some of the Middle East’s biggest banks at DGTL#U Beirut.
Oh, and finally around the same time I was recruited by one of the world’s most important and influential companies in the Bitcoin industry: Blockstream.
Still with me?
When I start writing, I really can’t stop… But I want you to know why I left Blockstream in July 2015…
Simply put, I realized Bitcoin wasn’t really my passion. Digital marketing was still my thing.
I also noticed I sucked at being employed. The company liked me, and I liked them.
But I didn’t like being employed by ONE company. I would rather work with a few select numbers of clients and run my own business.
So today I help fashion and luxury brands increase ecommerce sales through conversion optimization.
And I absolutely love it.
If you want to work together to increase your online revenue, go to my agency’s website here.
Or if you’d like me to speak at your event, you can do the same thing: get in touch here.