[CASE STUDY] How Buying $85,000 Worth of Glitter Created a Six-Figure Empire
In a tiny little town in Georgia called Buford, there is a 12,000-foot warehouse storing a 55-gallon trash can of glitter that is the core of an online empire. Three to five people come to this warehouse every day. They pour the glitter into an envelope, stamp it, and ship it to their customers’ enemies.
The website ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com went viral in January 2015, gaining such huge publicity that the site hit over a million visitors in a single day. The owner of the site, unable to keep up with the massive backlist of orders, decided to sell the website to a small-town entrepreneur named Peter Boychuk.
Peter went on to build the warehouse and hire three to five employees, and has turned what so many assumed was a fad into a sustainable startup that is doing a high six figures in sales annually.
During the actual sale of this website, people were praising the seller but pitying the buyer. Most people assumed that this site would dry up and die, like so many other internet fads.
Even professional online business brokers went so far as to say that they would pour a bucket of glitter over their head, live on video, if the buyer made his money back on the business.
I have always really liked the concept of this business. It has a similar feel to another hilarious internet treasure, Cards Against Humanity. The way the culture of the internet works, I somehow felt that Ship Your Enemies Glitter would do more than just wither away into the mists of forgotten memories.
While my opinion was really just based on a gut feeling rather than analysis, I am glad to see that the owner has not only recouped his initial investment of buying the business, but has also now publicly stated that it was the best investment he’s made in his life.
At Empire Flippers, we want to inspire people to either build or buy profitable online businesses (check out our marketplace for our current listings). We want people to follow their dreams, whether that is quitting their job to be a full-time online entrepreneur, or buying a side hustle that allows them to enjoy life more.
That is why I contacted Peter Boychuk and asked him to agree to a little Q&A interview.
He was more than happy to chat, and I am glad to be able to share his story with all of you out there in internet land.
Buying an online business can be a stressful event, but it can also be an incredibly lucrative investment. Buying an online business can give you returns that blow away any other asset investment class out there — real estate, stocks, you name it.
The Glitter Man, Myth, and Legend
Without further ado, let me introduce Peter Boychuk, and dive deep into how he not only made his money back on this little glitter business, but also turned it into an online juggernaut.
Gregory Elfrink: What is your background with owning an online business? Was this your first purchase?
Peter Boychuk: Ten years ago I started, owned, and operated a company called Parts Buddy. Ship Your Enemies Glitter (SYEG) was my second purchase, the first being WHMCSDesigns.com.
GE: What was going through your mind when you were deciding to buy this website?
PB: I wasn’t planning on buying the site until a few hours before the auction ended. I assumed the price would be much higher. So it was an exciting gut decision. When I won, I was ecstatic.
GE: What was the site earning when you bought it, and how much is it earning you now?
PB: The site was earning nothing when I bought it. The founder had disabled checkout, but it did do around $20k during the few days following the initial launch. Since I bought the site, total sales have been in the high six figures, a bit of that being front loaded, but now sales have steadied out to a nice level.
GE: Many people thought the purchase was foolish. I disagree with them, and obviously it has worked out very well for you. However, we have seen fad sites come and go. How were you able to make your glitter business have such a longer shelf life than these quirky or fad sites?
PB: Maybe dumb luck? I’d hate to give myself credit for too much. One thing that I think has really helped the site grow is the evolution of the prank by mail market. We (that is, me and the other pranksters) have created a self sustaining marketplace that now has continual recognition through innovation and viral traffic; also, the market has steady organic traffic for people who are doing nothing more than buying products. What we are really doing is selling better gifts, that create joy and memories. It’s not a fad — it’s a thing.
GE: What would you say is your main marketing channel? Is it social media? Paid advertising?
PB: I would say social media. We could do without paid marketing. But social media gives the company life. Our products are inherently social, as are our customers.
GE: Do you think buying a business gave you an advantage over starting a business from scratch?
PB: Specifically in the case of SYEG, yes. It would be very difficult and expensive to compete long term given our brand recognition. Typically, I would say buying an existing business is a great way to mitigate risk. But, in the case of SYEG, being less than one month old, it was inherently risky. The risk paid off and now I hold the advantage.
GE: Do you think you will buy more online businesses in the future? Why or why not?
PB: I know I will. I am already in the planning stages. I think it can be a great investment and also a great way to get into something that fits my skill set and lifestyle.
GE: What is the number one tip or tool you would give to someone who is aspiring to buy or build an online business? What should they watch out for?
PB: Start out in retail with a plan to get out. I was able to buy SYEG because of my retail business. It has afforded me a comfortable lifestyle. I always make money. But 10 years later, all I can think about is “how do I move on from this?” I have extremely high overhead, high workload, and low margins, but I never took on an ounce of risk. So for someone starting out: don’t buy a two-week-old viral site; buy something that has been selling trinkets for years. Learn how to run a business, and then you can take some risks.
GE: Have you ever had any legal concerns because your customers glitter bomb people with your products?
PB: Every now and then, someone will send one that is truly intended to harass someone — a continuation of some ongoing dispute. Our terms prohibit this, but of course it still happens. If it is serious enough for authorities to be involved, we will comply with their investigation. But nothing worthwhile has ever come of this. I think people quickly forget and move on. It’s just a bit of glitter.
GE: Some people who thought your purchase decision was bad have argued that anyone can start up a similar business and start selling glitter. Have you seen many copycats since purchasing the site? How has your website remained profitable against these copycats, or is the business more defensible than people think?
PB: I hate when people say this. I especially hate when a customer says, “Why wouldn’t I just go buy a bit of glitter and send it myself?” My response is, “For the same reason I got my lunch at Subway and didn’t make it at home.”
But to answer the question, these people who thought the purchase was a bad decision don’t understand how business works. You can start any business doing anything, but you are going to have to do something special to topple the industry figurehead. We have brand recognition; we strive to give our customers the best experience possible, and this is working. At this point, all somebody could do is develop a new original product, hope it goes viral, and we all profit. Because every time someone sells a new prank by mail trinket, guess which business also gets mentioned?
I do loathe the copycats. Most of the time, it looks like someone is using a one page template from the 90s, and it just confuses people. But if someone wants to invent a new product, then they can join the team. We respect people’s innovation and instead of copying them, we will reach out to these competitors directly and offer to retail their products, which is great for everyone. They can get their products featured on the largest prank by mail retailer, and we have something new for our customers to enjoy.
GE: How many times have you sent your enemies glitter? And have you sent any glitter to the people that told you this was a horrible investment?
PB: Probably the biggest misconception with the business is that people are, in fact, glitter bombing their enemies. The majority of our customers send it to their friends, which is evidenced by the direction we are moving with some of our new products. I sorta set the standard that we wouldn’t sell anything “meaner” than a glitter bomb… obviously no guarantees. But our site is meant to be fun. I see it as selling an experience, not just a product.
I am not a vengeful person, and I don’t really have enemies. I do gift some of our other products, like the non-stop singing cards and bacon.
GE: Thomas at FE International promised to pour a bucket of glitter over his head if you made your money back on this investment. Where would you like him to send his video of pouring glitter on his head to start his #glitterbucketchallenge?
PB: About this: months ago I was Googling “website broker glitter bucket,” but couldn’t seem to find that article, so thank you guys for doing that. Obviously we want to post the video everywhere, so I think Youtube would be a good place to get that going.
The Best Investment You Have (or Haven’t) Made
What a great interview, right?
By the way, Thomas from FE International: if you are reading this, we would love to see the video of you pouring glitter on your head as well. If possible, buy the glitter from our friend Peter at Ship Your Enemies Glitter.
Let’s start the #glitterbucketchallenge! 🙂
What are some of the things you learned in this interview?
Often great ideas are laughed at, then they become accepted, and, once those ideas become wildly profitable, people roll their eyes and say, “Of course it was going to be profitable!”
Peter Boychuk’s glitter business success is a case in point. Sometimes as entrepreneurs, we need to have tunnel vision. If we see an opportunity, and we know we have the skills, we need to block out what everyone else is saying and take the plunge.
One of the most amazing things about being an entrepreneur in the first place is that you get to bring new ideas to the marketplace. In our own way, we are artists whose canvas is our businesses, and our paint is the ideas we use to create that business.
Of course, building a great business is about more than just having great ideas. You also need a good marketing plan.
Peter was able to make his website evolve from a quirky fad site into one of the most dominant players in the gag gift online space.
If you have been browsing the online businesses that we sell on our marketplace and wondering if you should take the plunge and make a deposit, ask yourself what’s stopping you.
One of the first lessons an entrepreneur needs to learn is how to overcome obstacles, especially self-doubt.
The business of your dreams could be awaiting you in our marketplace, or maybe you already have an inspired idea and have not started building it yet.
Or perhaps you want to sell your website, so you can invest in new businesses.
Whatever the case, there will come a time when you need to take the plunge and get started.
As with Peter Boychuk, it might just be the best investment you’ve made in your life.
Photo Credits: Ship Your Enemies Glitter