Evan Tan is an entrepreneur from Singapore who decided to get into e-commerce together with his brother Steve. Instead of following the trends of affiliate marketing and other types of Internet marketing, Evan has spent his life figuring out new and interesting ways to maximize e-commerce revenue through paid social media, Facebook Groups and other web-based advertising methods.
In conjunction with Steve, a serial entrepreneur, the brothers are known for their work finding new and creative ways to connect products with consumers. And as a duo, Evan and Steve Tan have been able to generate some incredible successes for their own e-commerce enterprises.
After they managed over $360,000 in a single day through one of their dropshipping stores, Evan and Steve began to get attention. Evan became a recognized e-commerce authority. Along with his brother, Evan felt a need to share the strategies, tips, ideas and techniques that helped them achieve success in such a competitive field.
Together they created the eCommerce Elites Mastermind Facebook Group, which today numbers over 60,000 members. Thousands around the world have benefitted from their experience and coaching through this group and through other e-commerce marketing outreaches that Evan and Steve have embarked on.
In addition, Evan has had the chance to share the stage with marketing geniuses including Neil Patel, Ezra Firestone, Ryan Deiss and more. As eCommerce Elites Mastermind continues to grow, Evan works to stay at the forefront of thinking on e-commerce marketing.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
“My brother’s been the biggest influence in me starting this line of work.
When I was still in high school, Steve was starting his own businesses and I offered to tag along and help with what I could. Through high school and college, I always had an interest in learning about Internet marketing—that started in high school with affiliate marketing, but it increased when Steve got into e-commerce.
We experienced the ups and downs of business. We had some ventures that really succeeded and some that failed badly, but through it all I was learning how to really market ideas and products effectively.
Once I graduated, Steve and I began to work together more. I joined forces with him to start our e-commerce journey over again, and that’s when we really dug into the eCommerce Elites Mastermind group and helping other people grow.”
How do you make money?
“E-commerce is our bread and butter, where Steve started, and the business I joined with him. Simply put, most of what we do revolves around selling products online through Shopify.
With our dropshipping business, we market readily available products from China directly to the consumer. Our e-commerce and marketing experience allowed Steve and I to scale this business hard and fast to the point where we were generating over eight figures of yearly revenue rapidly.
One of our biggest ‘sidelines’ now is leveraging our experience to help others.
We hold high-end classes that we call ‘Masterminds’ for high-level entrepreneurs around the world to learn about the way we do business. It’s a win-win for us and the people that take classes with us, because we are able to help them grow while we’re making money teaching them how to grow.”
What has been your biggest struggle on your entrepreneurial journey?
“My biggest struggle has been delegating confidently. When I was first starting out especially, I wanted to do everything myself. It’s the age-old entrepreneurial problem—we want to do it ourselves because we don’t trust anyone to do it well. I ran into this with our media buyer early on, because I wasn’t sure that they were doing our Facebook ads properly.
Because of this lack of trust I spent a lot of time doing menial tasks, not actually working on the parts of the business that make us money. After a while, I started to have a perspective shift and realize the talent, effort and potential of the team that we had. With that, it allowed me to start delegating the more basic tasks.
That’s freed me to think about moving the business forward and some of the higher-level concepts that we want to pursue. It’s been a huge change in my mindset, and I highly recommend it for any entrepreneur.”
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
“It really didn’t take us that long. Because of our business model, our overhead has been fairly low and we don’t have to deal with a lot of the limitations that brick and mortar, physical businesses have.
It took us about a week to make our first profit, and within the first month, we were making a million dollars in business. We love the business model we use, because the only limit on it is your knowledge and your skill set. Our biggest asset is ourselves.”
What does your business do?
“Steve and I don’t just do e-commerce—we have a diversified portfolio of businesses. E-commerce is definitely our main strength, and we do private-label and dropshipping work for a variety of businesses. We specialize in putting the right products in the right hands at the right time by using our marketing knowledge to attract customers.
Of course, we also have our consulting, coaching and knowledge-based businesses. We do digital and live event trainings for people in many different lines of work. We also own a few marketing agencies, software companies and other firms.
Basically, my brother and I are what you’d call ‘serial entrepreneurs.’ We know that times change and businesses have different strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve worked to build diversity into our income.”
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
“Oh, constantly. Definitely. When you’ve done as many different businesses as we’ve had the chance to, you’re going to have some ventures that fail. The importance is not letting that get you down and being agile enough to move to the next thing.
With the e-commerce model, it doesn’t matter what you think personally. A lot comes down to testing whether it works or not. And for that, it only matters what the customer thinks.
For example, I had a product I thought was going to be a super hot seller. It was a golden facial mask which was marketed to women as a sort of luxury home beauty treatment. Unfortunately, when it launched, the reception was awful. No one wanted to purchase it!
It took some fortitude to keep going and testing products. I knew that there were a lot of success stories in the industry, and I was working to get there by finding a winning product. Not long after that, I did—and the rest is history. That drove the first million-dollar revenue month we had.
It takes drive and perseverance to get through the tough times where you might doubt. You have to push a little harder than you think.”
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
“If Facebook counts, I think Facebook as a whole has been the biggest and best marketing strategy we’ve had. It’s helped us not only with e-commerce, but also with our entire portfolio of businesses.
The biggest reason is Facebook’s breadth of targeting data and the size of the platform. It’s easy to use, simple, and effective. It makes keeping track of important statistics and metrics manageable, and it makes good optimization a matter of minor effort.
For example, lookalike audiences have been a huge hit for us. If you have an existing customer database, Facebook can use it to create an audience that looks like that audience you already have by leveraging the in-house algorithms and data.
Our returns on this have been incredible, sometimes even up to five or ten times what we put in. If you can put in a hundred dollars and get back five hundred to a thousand, why wouldn’t you?”
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
“We’ve been working towards growing the business into a new office and recently had to figure out the optimal location for it. Our virtual offices are spread all around East and Southeast Asia—we have people in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and the Philippines. But for the digital content creation side of our business, we wanted an actual home base.
We scouted multiple locations, looked at offices, interviewed potential candidates. It was down to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, but we decided to go with the Philippines after a tough competition between all those countries. They were an ideal balance of proximity to a skilled talent pool, price and efficiency.”
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
“It’s not revenue. It’s not breaking sales records. It’s not starting a new venture …
For me, it’s when we get feedback on how we change people’s lives.
One of our students from the eCommerce Elites Mastermind group sent a personal handwritten message that reached us recently. He was a scholarship student in our program—we give out courses periodically to deserving students who can’t afford it.
This particular student came from a really poor background in Mexico and didn’t have much, but with the knowledge he gained from the course, he was able to generate over six figures monthly from his e-commerce store.
He’s now on the way to marrying the girl of his dreams in Mexico and providing that financial stability for his family. He even invited us to the wedding! This is by far the most satisfying moment I’ve ever had in business—just knowing you can change someone’s life.”
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
“The future is bright for us. With the world’s commerce starting to move online, there’s never been a better time to be involved with e-commerce. Just from the point where Steve and I started it’s exploded—and it’s growing even more moving forward. E-commerce is projected to make up 17.5% of the world’s retail by 2021, and we’re looking forward to making up a big chunk of that.
Isn’t it exciting?
All of our businesses to this point have revolved around creating a cohesive ecosystem of apps, e-commerce platforms, software, marketing agencies and all the other support for the new world that’s unfolding. It’s an exciting time to be in business. It’s a great time to be alive.
More and more, lives around the world will be revolutionized by the access to information. Information is becoming more transparent and free every day, unfettered by previous barriers. E-commerce entry barriers are lowering. It’s going to be something literally everyone can do.”
What business books have inspired you?
“There are quite a few, but just to name a couple off the top of my head:
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz: Horowitz is brutally honest about what it really takes to get a business off the ground. It’s an eye-opening read.
- The 10X Rule, Grant Cardone: This helped me get through some barriers that were keeping me from going to the next level in business. It’s a great read.
- Crushing It, Gary Vaynerchuk: I really like how up-front Vaynerchuk is. He’s a thinker, and this book’s been one I keep coming back to.
- The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss: This one’s a classic for many entrepreneurs. I was inspired to step outside the box in my life after reading this.
All of these books have inspired me and my brother in the way we live and work.”
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
“The biggest one recently has been the DJI Pocket, which has helped me stay current with vlogs and other visual content no matter where I am.
One of the biggest things you want to do as an entrepreneur is to take advantage of any idea you have as soon as you have it, and the Pocket allows me to do that with video. Bulky cameras are inconvenient, and phones have limited internal memory. Plus, if you want to use your phone in the video, you’re not able to.
A lot of entrepreneurs and thought leaders now are relying on vlogs and on-the-spot content to keep people invested and up to date on what they’re doing, and the Pocket has changed the game for me. It makes it easy.”
What do you think is the biggest social media platform for entrepreneurs to be on in 2019?
“Instagram, plain and simple. Instagram is huge with influencers right now. Look at Kylie Jenner. She was able to leverage her following on this social media platform when she created Kylie Cosmetics—and look how it translated! Her businesses are doing really well, mainly off the back of her following.
People complain about Kylie not being a self-made billionaire, but do you see other people with her resources doing what she has? Do other people with her network have the same level of value?
No! She was able to capitalize on her brand in a way other people haven’t, and the visual nature of Instagram was uniquely suited to that. If you don’t have one, start one now. Build it, create content, and stay current and consistent. Get your Instagram right and the rest will follow.”