In Ian’s home, there is a simple, unassuming IKEA desk. The retail value of this desk is probably around $200, but Ian and his wife frequently refer to it as their “$2 Million IKEA desk.”
That’s because the activity that has taken place at that desk over the last few years has gotten them to a point where they are now generating $2 Million in annual revenue from the comfort of their home.
In this episode, we talk about what steps they took to build a location independent, seven-figure business that they can run from anywhere in the world. It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but with the right combination of planning and persistence, it is an outcome that anyone can replicate.
If you’re interested in learning about how to acquire or start an online business that can help you make progress toward your own $2 Million IKEA desk, you should definitely give it a listen.
The Impetus for Buying the Desk (And The Business)
We cover the details of Ian’s relocation from the U.S. to Dubai and the decision that had to be made when his wife and children came to join him indefinitely. Together, they decided that it would be better to acquire an existing business than for his wife to enter the local job market.
We talk about the thought process behind their decision and the steps they took to identify, validate, and eventually acquire a profitable eCommerce business. We also talk about some of the mistakes they made and lessons they learned on their way to growing the business to $2 Million in annual revenue.
Setting Realistic Expectations Is Key
We emphasize that building or acquiring an online business is not a foolproof investment. It is important to only use capital you are willing to lose and to diversify your investment by building or purchasing multiple smaller properties rather than one large site.
Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight (Or Without Hard Work)
Additionally, it is important to understand that simply acquiring a profitable business is not enough. You need to apply a disciplined approach to expanding the business in order to recoup your initial investment and begin generating that outsized return.
While it is certainly a viable financial pursuit, you should not expect to reap the benefits without putting in the time, energy, and resources that are required to facilitate exponential growth.
There Are Resources and Communities Available to Help You
Being an entrepreneur can feel lonely and isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Most people who are ahead of you in the journey are more than willing to set aside time to coach or mentor you on how to make the most of your investment.
We talk about ways that you can reach out to these individuals and get the intellectual and emotional support you need to push through the challenging times and ultimately exceed the ambitious goals that you have set for yourself and your business.
Resources and Recommendations
- Empire Flippers – The marketplace where Ian bought his original eCommerce site that eventually become the financial engine behind the $2 Million IKEA desk.
- My Wife’s $2 Million IKEA Desk – The original Retirement Rehab article that tells the full story of this special piece of furniture.
- The No Nest Egg Retirement Plan – A collection of educational resources and community support designed specifically for people who want to start writing their own “$2 Million IKEA Desk” story.
- Retirement Rehab Homepage
Transcription of This Episode
Welcome to the Red Pill Retirement Podcast, where we give you the raw unfiltered truth about retirement planning in the modern age. Pensions and 401Ks are quickly becoming a thing of the past, so were here to share resources and recommendations that will help you create the retirement lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. If you’re ready to take control of your financial future, we’re here to help. Let’s get started.
Hey everyone, we have another great interview with Mr. Ian Bond for you today. As you might of guessed from the title of this episode, it’s all about a very entertaining and a very interesting story that Ian likes to tell around a desk that he keeps in his home, which he affectionately refers to as the two million dollar IKEA desk. Now, of course the desk itself is not worth that much money. If you know anything about IKEA, you know that that is not a price point that they operate at. But, what happens at that desk is worth two million dollars to Ian and to his family.
Without giving away too much detail, in this episode we’re going to talk about how that kind of outcome, that two million dollars worth of value coming from an IKEA desk is a viable outcome for you and anybody else who listens to this episode. What Ian’s going to tell his personal story of how his wife made that IKEA desk worth the two million dollars that we’re talking about and what went into that process. Then how you can use that as a blueprint to replicate that kind of outcome in your life and have a two million dollar IKEA desk of your own.
That’s what we’re gonna talk about today. Normally I like to give a little bit more of a teaser, but the nature of this story requires that I keep most of that a secret until you actually listen to the episode and it’ll make a lot more sense at the end. So I’ll come back after my discussion here with Ian and I will tie up any loose ends that still exist. But in the meantime I hope that you enjoy our conversation. I know that I did. Without further ado, let’s get into that discussion with Ian.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Red Pill Retirement Podcast. I’m your host James [Sours 00:02:18] and as always, I’m joined by Mister Ian Bond. Ian, how is it going over there today?
It’s going fantastic James. It’s good to hook up with you again. It’s been too long.
Yeah, same, same. Always love talking to you. Looking forward to it. I’m especially looking forward to what we’re gonna talk about today, because if the folks are watching on YouTube, they can see in the background there that you are at your home. Right there behind you is a desk set up with a computer monitor and today we’re actually gonna be talking about that desk. So why don’t you tell us what’s so special about that desk behind you there Ian?
Okay, so that’s what we refer to as the two million dollar IKEA desk. The reason we refer to it as the two million dollar IKEA desk is that we purchased a website from Empire Flippers back in November of 2016. That website was generating about on an annualized basis probably about $300,000 in revenue or $250,000 in revenue. We purchased it maybe on a monthly basis maybe 20 to 25,000 dollars. Last year that website generated two million dollars. Just that one website is the reason we call that the two million dollar IKEA desk. That one is a blond IKEA wood. The one I’m sitting at is dark wood. That one’s much more valuable than this one.
Well, just out of curiosity, do you know what that desk actually costs at IKEA? I’m guessing it’s a couple hundred dollars maybe.
I was just gonna say, it’d be a lot of it’s a couple hundred dollars. These are really bare bones desks. They give a lot of table space, but my wife works off that desk when my kids are at school. When my kids have afternoon activities, whether that’s at a soccer pitch or whether that’s at an ice rink, both my kids are skaters. My wife will work off her laptop and work around their schedules. She doesn’t have to go to a big building anymore. She used to work on Wall Street and worked for an investment bank. When we relocated overseas, we thought ahead and said, “Well, you know, should she really get another job?” It’s really not as easy for the following spouse to find a job when they move overseas. We said, “No.” What we should do is something I had been thinking about for some time during kind of this five year journey that we talked about in Red Pill Retirement conversation. We said, “No, let’s develop location independent income.”
So that’s when we kind of made the decision. We bought our first site in October of 2016. 2015, sorry. We bought our first site in October. It went so well the following month, November of 2015 we bought the second site. Literally the first site, we were closing on the first site the weekend we moved into the apartment you’re looking at. You know, so I said, “Here you go honey. Let’s go.”
It’s been a wild ride ever since, I’m sure. Just for anybody who’s just joining us today, what Ian is talking about is you actually … You accepted a professional position. You actually moved abroad first. You were there for several months, I do believe. Then the family came to visit once. They loved it. Then they came and joined you for an indefinite stay. So, when you say the following spouse, that’s what we’re getting at. AS you mentioned, a lot of times when the following spouse gets in country, you have to make a decision if they’re gonna try to find a job. What you guys chose to do was to acquire a business, an existing business, and grow that and use that as a revenue stream. So, just to clear things up for the folks at home. That’s what’s happening with that story.
What I love about the headline, the two million dollar IKEA desk is that when somebody thinks about a multimillion dollar business, in my mind, I think of some penthouse office in New York City that’s overlooking Manhattan. There’s glass windows and doors everywhere. People are wearing suits. But, the reality is, in this day and age that’s kind of an outdated model. It happens, there are certainly large businesses that are run like that. There are folks clocking in nine to five every day, but technology and the economy has changed in such a way that you can run a multimillion dollar business from a 200 dollar IKEA desk anywhere in the world. That’s what you guys are living. That’s what I love about the story. So, tell us a little bit about … Take us back to that day you said, November 2015 you are thinking about acquiring this site. Talk about why you decided to acquire an existing business in the first place.
And maybe some of the criteria that you were looking through to vet or validate a business for … Because I’m assuming that based on what you’ve told me here that it was not an insignificant amount of money that you were investing in this. So, I’m sure that you did some due diligence around and just tell the folks at home what you were thinking. What your thought process was to make sure that you weren’t just throwing your money at like a money pit, something that was just gonna go away the next day. So talk about your thought process there a little.
Yeah, so the first thing I like to do is remind people that when I took the job in September of 2014, my family stayed behind. I found myself after work having a lot of free time and kind of no family. Quite frankly, it was a bit lonely. But, I threw myself into all things e-commerce. So what that meant was … and I’m a strong believer that I spend enormous amount of money on courses and coaches and things like that. But, I think that if you’re going to … And I realize that at the time I was in my late 50s, that the reality was that I can accelerate my success by buying an existing site as opposed to building a site. But, in order to understand the value creation process or the value of an existing site, I really need to have look at it through the lens of a builder. So, I believe that you should join the courses of people that are building things, to understand kind of the nuts and bolts of what creates value. All right, so that’s a big deal.
The second thing … You know I’ve been a wealth manager for over three dozen years and I had allocated a pool of capitol that I was going to spend to attempt to replicate what venture capitalists do. What venture capitalists and private equity fund managers do is they put kind of small amounts of money into a number of bets and generally one of those bets returns multiple times what the entire fund will return. The other stuff might return a little, might lose a little or you might lose it all. Okay? So that was the strategy. I call this, it’s my … This is literally what we refer to as the venture capitalist strategy of investing in websites.
I will tell you that at the beginning when we started … What we were looking for and what appealed to me is that this is a very large niche. I like things that are in the house, household things. I think I understand them. They’re certainly not super niche-y where it’s a potentially a hobby or something that I might not know much about. Things that you can stumble across between your bedroom and your living room, your bedroom and your bathroom. Everybody’s gonna be looking for these things in their homes sooner or later. It was a very large niche. I bought it from someone who had built the store, very smart guy. He had put a lot of thought into it. I used Empire Flippers which is a firm that I know, trust. I like the people there a lot. Their due diligence is well regarded.
We paid $25,500, if I recall correctly, for the website. And then we embarked on what I would call a 15 month struggle. If you’re reading about what others are doing online, all you read about is how they’re crushing it and on a day to day basis they’re doing incredibly well. Every day in 2016 it felt like dentistry. It felt like we were struggling every day. We were making-
It felt like we were struggling every day. We were making mistakes very different than the corporate world. And we would try something, it wouldn’t work, then we’d get surprised by something we hadn’t anticipated. And we struggled, but we struggled and built the income. Our original income from the site back when we purchased it was about $1,250. So that gives you the ratio of what we paid in terms of a multiple of the income, but we got it up to the $4,000 or $5,000 by doing some things that we thought were relatively low-hanging fruit. But it was very volatile, and every time we had something kind of negative happen it felt like it was kind of a … It felt like a body blow to be honest.
And then as I’ve described, we hit upon a strategy at the end of 2016, and by the spring of 2015 … excuse me, 2017, the site took off in sales, and we accomplished just under $2,000,000 in revenue. It was one million, 900 and … I don’t know 70 or 80 thousand dollars in 2017. And now in 2018, we’re above what we were in 2017. And so I felt comfortable enough that we called it the $2,000,000 Ikea [desk 00:12:30].
Now, what I’m not telling you about are a bunch of other sites that we own that either we really haven’t developed well because we had focused on this particular site because it’s working so well and one huge, humongous failure that we had where I believe we’ve lost all our money. So it’s the idea that you don’t spend all of your money on one thing is particularly poignant because we lost all of our money on another $25,000 investment. And that’s probably a topic for another conversation, but that happened. So our return, if you just kind of think of what the monthly numbers might be, would probably be 25 or 30 X what we paid for this website. And because we live eight time zones is ahead of the United States, the reality is that when we built this site, we had to build it such that it would run while we were asleep.
And so there’s quite a bit of value in doing that because buyers of websites want to buy businesses. They don’t want to buy jobs, and so we have standard operating procedures. We have a team in place that handles everything. It takes very little of our intervention. And when I say “our”, I am not involved in the operations of the business. I don’t know any of the people that work for us. I don’t speak to them. I don’t know any of the suppliers. I know everybody by name, and what my wife tells me. And I kind of think of the high level strategy, but my wife handles all of that no matter where she is.
Now, the fact that the desk is right here behind me is totally incidental to the revenue. My wife happens to be in Eastern Europe right now with my kids. My son’s at a hockey camp in Slovakia, and she’s conducting business from her laptop while she’s away for a couple of weeks. And so one of the beauties of this business model that we’ve chosen is exactly that. We’ve done this while we’ve been on holidays, family vacations together. She has done this when she’s done other things. She helped my older daughter get settled in an apartment where she had an internship. So the desk is incidental to the business. It’s all run kind of from the outset. It’s all being run with kind of the end in mind being kind of location independence.
Right, and I love several parts about that story. But one in particular that I want to unpack is right back at the very beginning where most people, when we’re talking about retirement planning and more specifically funding a retirement, there are traditional retirement vehicles that everybody knows. You’ve got your 401k with your employer matching. You’ve got IRAs brokerage accounts. And the way that those things work is you kind of put your money in there, and you cross your fingers, and you hope that the market does well. And you get some kind of single digit or low double digit return on your investment and that’s kind of it. You just hope for the best, and I like to say hope is not a strategy. I’d much rather have control over my destiny as much as I can.
And so what you guys decided to do was buy an existing business, knowing that as long as you put in the work to grow that business, essentially the upside or the earning potential from that business was uncapped. And there really … As much as the market will bear, sure there’s a number somewhere out there that you could get 100% market share in the home goods sector and that would be the limit. But that’s not going to happen, so essentially your earning potential is unlimited. And the way that I was thinking about it as you were describing it is when you go … Let’s say you want to get some food, and you have two options. You can go to the grocery store, and you can buy your fruits and vegetables there or you can start a garden. And as long as you tend to that garden and you put in the work, you can produce exponentially more fruits and vegetables from your garden at a lower price point, as long as you put in the effort.
But most people opt for convenience, and that’s kind of the way I think most people approach retirement. They just put their money away in traditional vehicles that everybody’s talking about, and they hope for a small return. But if you want an outsized return, if you want to double, triple, or even quadruple your money or more, this is a model that can work. And you’re buying a business that generates revenue today, and you’re investing that capital up front. And you’re saying I’m going to show up every single day, and I’m gonna make this business a little bit better and a little bit better and a little bit better. And then three years from now I’m going to wake up, and I’m going to have five X to my money. And that’s a retirement vehicle that it’s hard to find a comparison to. It’s why it’s hard to find a better alternative as long as you continue to show up and do that work. Is that a sentiment that you think that you would agree with?
Yeah, and I think with regards to being in my late 50’s when we kind of went down this path, and in keeping with the theme behind red pill retirement and the known nest egg retirement plan, we don’t have a huge nest egg that can compound out over a long period of time. What we have is compounding at market rates, and it’s doing so safely. But it’s not going to afford us kind of what we would ultimately want or need. Whereas a private business, you do have the unlimited upside. We decided specifically to buy, not build, because most new businesses fail. And once you have the ability to look at something that has succeeded, this asset class is a new asset class. It’s undiscovered, the information is difficult to get your arms around, all things that I’ve written a lot about, and so it offers a tremendous opportunity.
Now in my day job I’m a wealth manager, and I’m extremely familiar with every investment strategy that’s practical for institutions and wealthy individuals. And in fact, I know the fund managers of some of the sexiest and most interesting strategies personally. And I’ve done this for a very long period of time. The asset class of investing in websites is tremendously attractive, but it’s not like investing in a paper asset class, okay? This is one where you have to be an operator, so you assume that responsibility. Along with that, is the journey that you just talked about. Every day you’re going in and trying to improve it and trying to make it better.
One of my coaching clients, had a conversation with him, really down in the dumps over the weekend. He had been living and bootstrapping a business that he’s building in Medellin, Columbia, went back home to visit family. The site had been making good progress. It was having a bad month. He heads back home and visit family and friends. They don’t understand what he’s doing. They don’t understand why he’s not working, and he’s in a funk, okay? And I had a call with them over the weekend and I say, “Look, every day this is a lonely business, and it’s a struggle, and there’s nobody to talk to.” I said, “But if you keep at it, what happens is … And what’s happening in my case is in two years, we’ve had two smart things that we’ve done or that we got lucky and stumbled across after trying lots of things that didn’t work. And suddenly things really work, but you got to be able to stick with it.” And so he’s now back on the right side of that happiness, okay? But that’s just par for the course.
Yeah, and we don’t mean to paint a dismal picture of entrepreneurship or owning a business. But the fact of the matter is, it can be a slog at times. But there are folks out there who are doing this just like your wife, and they are in many cases willing to talk to you about … If you’re considering this as a path, and you can manage to connect with them and say hey, I’m thinking about buying a business. I know that you’ve already done this, and you’ve managed to grow yours, so do you have a few minutes? Can I get some of your time? Can I book some of your time to learn from your journey and help guide my journey because I’m way back here at the starting point, and you’ve already been through this? In my experience, those folks are generally very generous with their time because they want to see other people succeed, and your success does not prevent my success.
So I think that if you’re on the fence about this, there are a couple of points that I think we should make very clear. One is you don’t have to be like Ian and invest $25,000 up front. If you want a business that’s generating a substantial amount of monthly revenue right off the bat, then yes that’s the facts of life. That’s what you’re going to have to be willing to invest upfront in order to pull down those monthly dividends every single month, knowing that if you grow the business, you’ll get a return on your investment much quicker. But there are other opportunities to buy sites that are lower in value but also earn less per month, or you could start one from scratch like you mentioned. You can literally build an eCommerce site from nothing, and if you’re willing to put in the sweat equity upfront, that’s totally a viable option, too. So if you’re listening at home and you’re saying I can’t do what Ian did. I don’t have $25,000.
If you’re listening at home and you’re saying, “Oh, I can’t do what Ian did. I don’t have $25 thousand laying around,” that may be true, but there are other channels that you can pursue to end up in the same place and be running a two million dollar business from an Ikea desk a few years from now. So that path is still open to you, and the other thing that I wanted to hammer home is not only do you not have to have that much capital to invest up front, but you don’t have to do it alone. It can be lonely, it can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be because communities exist around brands like Empire Flippers and around brands like Retirement Rehab of folks that are doing this already and are there to be a peer or a mentor or a coach or whatever it is that you’re looking for to pursue this as a retirement opportunity, or just a professional endeavor on the back end of your career. It’s a viable alternative regardless of what you want to get out of it in the end.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m involved in a number of online communities, everything from one where it’s a bunch of super geeks on eCommerce I am clearly way behind, and I’ve said this before, the monthly fees that I paid for that, just one kernel of wisdom I get from that pays for the whole year. It’s amazing. These guys really geek out on things that I’ve never even considered, to be honest with you.
Then I’ve also been involved in other online communities where people are building, where people are owners, and people are incredibly generous, as you mentioned, with their time, and if they know something, it’s exactly the truth. It’s not a zero sum game. The biggest trend in wealth management to make money is to get in front of a big deal, get in front of a big trend. The trend in eCommerce is massive. Okay? We’re at the very beginning of it. Look at what Amazon has done. I guarantee you, five years from now we’re going to be doing much more eCommerce, not much less. So getting into this kind of … Getting your piece of this trend now, you can probably be a sub par operator and do quite well, to be honest with you. There are just an enormous number of opportunities.
Now, I can tell you because I have a friend in the UK that I partner with. The UK and the EU is behind the United States. So there are opportunities in the EU, UK, Australia that are even behind the United States. The United States is becoming more competitive. Will it be the same opportunity in five years? No. Do something today if you’re hearing this. Think about it today because it’s a phenomenal opportunity right now.
Now, I do believe that as the information becomes better disseminated, more organized, people get more comfortable with the concept, that the valuations will go up, and it will become more invest-able to bigger pools of capital, and so I think that you can make money buying in today’s multiples from multiple expansion, but I also think that you can … that the opportunities to grow businesses is very unique today also. So I think that there’s kind of a … The best of both worlds is that you can make money both ways.
Right. Yeah, so great points there. I think just to kind of package this all together, circling back to your wife’s two million dollar Ikea desk there behind you, it is worth two million dollars today, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took some investment upfront, it took a lot of investment in time and energy and resources over the course of a couple of years, but the fact of the matter is, today it is worth two million dollars and that kind of outcome is a realistic outcome for anybody who’s listening to this podcast right now. You just have to be willing to put in the work, you have to be smart about the way you approach it, and you have to lean on people who have done it before for the mentorship and support and guidance to make that a reality.
And I will say that today’s episode is all about eCommerce, but I know, Ian, you talk about several other ways that you can pursue alternative retirement vehicles, and we will cover those in a future episode. So if this doesn’t seem like a perfect fit, then there are other opportunities like coaching, speaking, consulting, that might be more within your wheelhouse. So if you find yourself on that boat, do not despair. We are going to cover that in a future episode. But just any parting words here, Ian, specifically about your wife’s desk, eCommerce, and buying an existing business and using that as a retirement vehicle that can generate revenue and that you can frankly operate from anywhere in the world?
Yeah. It’s not worth two million dollars. That’s the revenue that we generate. Obviously we have a profit margin on that revenue and we work on that profit margin, but the desk itself is not worth two million dollars. That’s the revenue. And in fact, right now it’s worth nothing because the computer’s not on. The computer’s on someplace in central Europe or in eastern Europe right now. So it’s not the desk, it’s the concept. The concept is that you can generate money revenues from anyplace where you can have an internet connection.
And so we chose eCommerce, I’ve said this before, because I think it’s fairly intuitive. Most people shop online, and we kind of understand it kind of sort of like we understand real estate. You know when you walk into an apartment or a home what the value should be. Well, I think it’s somewhat similar in terms of kind of buying physical goods eCommerce businesses, and we wrote a piece talking about why you should start with physical goods eCommerce businesses as your first purchase. But you know, that’s the real takeaway. For us, it’s essentially going to be an enormous addition to our … and really, kind of the foundation for our retirement, when we choose to go that direction, and that was all kind of generated over the last three years, so.
Yeah. Perfect way to cap it off, and you know, I’m sure that if you want to learn more about the story behind that desk and some of the complimentary topics that Ian just touched on, they’re all available at myretirementrehab.me, and we will also link up the relevant articles here in the show notes. But as I mentioned, that’s going to wrap it up for today, but we will cover alternative channels and we’ll probably dive a little bit deeper into eCommerce as a retirement vehicle and buying existing businesses in future episodes. So until next time, I’m going to go ahead and sign off here for myself, and Ian, great talking to you as always, and we’ll see you on the next episode.
Thanks, James. Have a good one. Appreciate your time.
All right, take care.
All right folks, so there you have it. That concludes my conversation with Ian Bond about his wife’s infamous two million dollar Ikea desk, and now that you’ve heard the story behind it, it probably makes a lot more sense why we say the desk itself is not worth two million dollars. It’s what takes place at that desk that is worth two million dollars to Ian and his family. And as we talked about in the episode, that kind of outsized return does not happen overnight. It took a lot of sweat equity. It took a lot of discipline. There were a lot of setbacks and challenges, but the point that we want to hammer home to you is that this is a viable outcome for you and for everybody else who listened to this episode.
You can get started today, and with enough time and energy and resource investment, a couple of years from now, you can be sitting in the same position, looking at the desk in your home or wherever you like to do your work from, and saying that desk or that couch or that outside table on your patio is also worth two million dollars.
And so today we covered how you can buy an existing business that’s already generating revenue and focus your efforts on growing that business, and not only returning your original investment, but also expanding from there and expanding the monthly and annual revenue associated with that business, or You could do the same thing but start from scratch, it’s just going to take you a little bit longer. Either way is a viable pursuit of the same outcome, and that is to create a location independent business that you can operate at an Ikea desk or from anywhere in the world. So we talked a lot about how Ian and his wife got to where they are today, and that kind of story can be yours as well, and we shared some tips and resources for how you can get started on that journey yourself.
So of course, as usual, everything we talked about today will be linked up in the show notes, and if you want to learn more about the story behind that desk, about some of the concepts and the resources that we talked about today, you can visit redpillretirement.com and look for episode four, which is all about My Wife’s Two Million Dollar Ikea Desk, and of course, in that phrase, the my is Ian himself, and it’s Ian’s wife who runs her business from that desk.
So if you enjoyed the story today, I would love to hear about your experience or your thoughts in the form of a review on iTunes, and you can always go to myretirementrehab.me and hit the contact link and reach out to Ian directly. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode and any other episode of the Red Pill Retirement podcast that you have listened to and enjoyed and gotten value from. So until next time, thank you so much for listening today, and here’s to hoping that you take action on the advice we shared today and go out and then start building that two million dollar Ikea desk of your own. So until next time, we’ll talk to you later and have a great day.