21yo made first $1m ‘working from home’
Eli Dangerfield's entrepreneurial journey started with an offhand comment from his mum during a family holiday in Thailand at age 14.
"She said, 'imagine being able to live like this every day'. My brain started ticking - surely people do live like this, and all I have to do is find a way," he told news.com.au.
The Adelaide local decided the key to living the good life was working for yourself without being tied to an office or a boss, and he started looking into ways of making money online.
Eventually he stumbled on the idea of e-commerce, and his path was set - while he was still in his teens.
"I started looking deeper into all these online stores and brands making tens of millions, and I thought, if I can just be one per cent as smart as them, it will be life-changing for me," he said.
Mr Dangerfield decided to specialise in quality, affordable watches, which the now 21-year-old sells for up to $275 apiece.
"I just liked the idea of what watches represent, the fashion side and that there was the ability to make them look really cool in photos," he said.
The budding businessman scraped together his savings to buy products from overseas, and settled on the brand name Elmore Lewis - a combination of his and his father's middle names - which he said just "clicked".
He launched the brand in 2016 at age 17 while he was still in high school, achieving steady, global sales.
But things took a turn after he hired a Queensland ad agency which demanded he shell out a small fortune in advertising spend and management fees.
"I wasn't making that much but I agreed because I was young and naive. I was losing money month on month and by the third month, I had no money left," he said.
"It wasn't working - no one was treating it like their business, so there were errors and typos and I ended up cutting ties with them."
'AT A CROSSROADS'
By Christmas 2017, Mr Greenfield had just $300 left in his account and he found himself getting "depressed" as the business tanked.
He decided to hold a last-ditch Boxing Day sale and use his remaining dollars on advertising, with the understanding that once the money was gone, so too was the business.
"I was at a crossroads - I turned the campaign on late on Christmas Day and nothing happened, and I went to bed grumpy," he said.
"Then my phone went ka-ching - I had made more than $1200 while I was sleeping.
"I was too scared to check my ad budget in case I had accidentally added an extra zero, but I ended up making $7000 in one day which blew my mind, because every other day had been loss, loss, loss."
Mr Dangerfield said he looked into the areas his previous agency had been neglecting and did the opposite, which turned the business around at the last moment.
"I made over $21,000 that week in 2017 and I went from bleak to on top of the world," he said.
Mr Dangerfield has since expanded his product range and scaled the business up through a lot of "trial and error".
"I had no social life - at school I was picked on for being different, and it was a real rough trot at the beginning, but it has been very, very rewarding to see what's possible," he said.
He said he always believed he would make his business work despite bullying and teasing from his schoolmates and even "snarky comments" from teachers in the early days.
"I barely finished high school. I did get an ATTAR of 64 which nobody was very impressed with, but halfway through Year 12 I lost all motivation," he said.
"It didn't matter if I got 99 - I knew I was going to own my own business so I spent all my hours after school posting orders."
But he said his perspective really shifted back in 2018 when he made $45,000 in just four days.
"It was mind-boggling - I made what the average person makes in a year in a few days, and it shook me," he said.
"Since then, my biggest day has been $24,000 which is crazy, and sometimes it doesn't feel real."
He said he made his first million at 21, and that the best part of financial freedom was the options it brought, and the chance to give back to his family.
"Now I make up to $300,000 a month from my laptop, from home. I don't even have to get out of bed or my pyjamas," he said.
"I wake up when I want and travel where I want. If I want to stay in bed all day I can do that, and work on my laptop while watching Netflix or at the beach."
But he's also taken the time to treat himself, including trips to LA, Indonesia and around Australia.
"I bought a Mercedes Benz in cash for $50,000 at 20 years old … my most recent luxury purchase was a Cartier bracelet for $20,000 as a little present for myself and a reward for hitting those milestones," he said.
"I have some designer clothes because I never had the means to do it before and I only ever eat out in restaurants and cafes now, because I think I could spend two hours grocery shopping and cooking, or I could spend those two hours on the business."
He said he especially appreciated his success now after growing up in a "lower middle class" family.
"When I was little my mum had a very bad car accident and was told she'd never be able to work again," he explained.
"We were just blessed she was alive, and growing up was a real struggle financially. Dad is a carpenter and probably made $60,000 a year, so it was rough."
Mr Dangerfield is now focused not only on growing his own business, but also helping others to get started in the world of e-commerce via mentorship and also through a start-up service he calls his "Business in a Box" package.
He said the key to getting started is identifying prime opportunities in the market, finding winning proven-to-sell products, building an online store website, creating marketing and advertising material and videos and populating social media content.