The goal of Hardly Hustle is to provide inspiration, drive and motivation in a 10 minute read or less. What you see is what you get. This is hot off the press without an editing team. Malik McCray is up.
Who are you and what do you do? My name is Malik McCray and I graduated from NC State in 2019 with a Business - Entrepreneurship degree. I got my start in entrepreneurship at 9 years old with my brother. We started a car washing business that we “bootstrapped” with allowance. At that time I had no idea what entrepreneurship was.. I just wanted the new Nintendo DS.
Through my trials and tribulations in college, from accounting to supply chain, to marketing, I finally found my home in Entrepreneurship during my Junior year.
In my senior year I started an online retail business where I negotiated deals with manufacturers to buy their top products discounted at bulk to resell on Amazon at a higher price. Through that business I discovered major inefficiencies in Amazon advertising which led to my focus today.
Today, I Hardly Hustle, alongside two others developing a technology solution that will streamline an inherently complex advertising process giving marketers superpowers like never before.
What did it take / how did you get started? I got started while in search of an additional income stream during college. I determined there was no better time for me to take a crack at a new business than while in college with abundant resources and before this thing called “real life” hit.
I started to notice some common themes in the Amazon reseller market. Selling on Amazon is a “pay to play” platform, which is disadvantageous to a lot of businesses. It was less a game of who had the best products, and more who had the largest budgets and could afford to starve the competition out.
And to make matters worse… often times that competition is Amazon itself who is often willing to lose money on a product rather than lose market share.
Brands and 3rd party sellers alike constantly have a debate on whether Amazon advertising is even worth it. Unfortunately, if you want to sell on Amazon you have no choice but to invest in ads. We had to determine how to make Amazon advertising more of an opportunity rather than just another cost of doing business.
We discovered the root of the problem and began to develop a solution that would empower sellers to advertise with confidence.
What does the future look like for you and your hustle? In the future we plan to phase out of the online retail business and pivot towards technology solutions. What’s exciting for us is this market opportunity opens the door to much more. We plan to raise capital in the coming months to further development.
What drives / motivates you?
If you’re not growing, you’re dying. With that in mind, I’m motivated to be a better me everyday.
Impact. To me, it’s not enough to be successful in my own right. I want to help others accomplish their goals and be ambitious enough to go for it. I don’t know what that looks like for me in the future, but I know that’s where my passion lies.
What advice would you give someone interested in doing what you do? Learn how to sell. Life’s a sell. If you can’t sell, you best learn quick or kiss the entrepreneurship thing goodbye. What has been the hardest part of the hustle? Managing people by FAR. There’s no fool-proof playbook for people. You have to learn how to see past what your eyes see on the surface, because things can look good but in reality team morale could be at an all time low.
In our business, what was important was to make sure we had frequent feedback loops in place. But arguably more important, was trying to create a culture where all teammates felt they could express their concerns, ideas, and opinions.
To be honest, this was very hard for me at first and I’m still learning. It can be very easy to give preferential bias to your own ideas and opinions, but I learned that the alternative perspectives are what help create truly innovative solutions.
What are a few resources that you'd recommend? Books:
How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman
How I Built This with Guy Raz
Side or full-time hustle? Full-time List the founders Keith Jenkerson, Udeh Onwuka How many hours a week do you work on this hustle? 50-60 on average # of Employees? Not disclosed When did you start? New World Synergy - 2018 Simpliworks (stealth mode) - 2020 How much did it cost to launch? $5,000 What were your funding methods and ballpark amount raised? Family and debt financing ≅ $150k over 2 years Annual Revenue? $250k Projected Revenue? Hockey stick growth. ka-chow! Any call to action? Would love to connect with people interested in emerging tech, Amazon, or just business in general. Please don’t hesitate to connect on LinkedIn and reach out. Social: