The Risks Kings of Neon Took To Expand Internationally



Steve Pastor

Hustler and dream chaser mixed in with the all in family man. Steve has done so many things already throughout his life and was known as the sales guy and the leader that knows how to get in and get it done. Big dreams and even bigger desire to constantly grow and show his family the world and what can come from chasing hard and going after your dreams. If you want to go for Sales, Marketing, Leadership and taking it to the moon… Steve is your guy.

This episode is all about taking chances and chasing your wildest dreams. Stephen Pastor spills the epic tale of how a random DJing gig turned into an international neon sign biz. You’ll hear how he started small with a side hustle in Aus, but his entrepreneur spirit took him places. Like expanding overseas with just a virtual office in Vegas – talk about jumping in with both feet! Get ready for edge-of-your-seat stories of crazy deadlines, international deliveries against all odds, and the highs and lows of being your own boss. Through it all, Stephen’s passion for facing fears and grabbing opportunities with gusto shines through. He also drops some serious knowledge on diversifying what you offer, winning over big clients, and how sometimes you just gotta take the plunge. Tune in for an inspiring story about chasing success and living your best life through courage and grit.

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Salena Knight 0:02
Hey there, and welcome to the bringing business to retail podcast. If you're looking to get more sales, more customers, master your marketing, and ultimately take control of your retail or E commerce business, then you're in the right place. I'm Salena Knight, a retail growth strategist and multi award winning store owner whose superpower is uncovering exactly what your business requires. To move to the next level. I'll provide you with the strategies, the tools and the insight you need to scale your store. All you need to do is take action, ready to get started?

Salena Knight 0:52
Hey there, and welcome to today's episode of The bringing business to retail podcast. Well, I am back from England, back in sunny Sydney where it is so nice and warm. It was so cold in England, I'm not used to the cold cold, like here in Sydney, we may be get down to like eight or nine degrees on a really cold winter's day. And if I'm going to go somewhere cold, like the snow, or you know Whistler in Canada, I take the appropriate clothing, I have my snow gear. But when I was looking at the temperatures for England, they were in the kind of six, seven degrees. And I thought you know what, I'll be fine with jeans and a sweater. And I even put a post on Facebook saying hey, English people, do I need to bring a coat? Or oh my gosh, I can say that. Thank you to everyone who answered because did I need that coat? Oh, yes, I needed that coat. I think I was cold. And I'm not really a cold person. I generally run pretty warm. But I think I'm was pretty much cold from the minute I stepped on the plane, which was Arctic, to the minute I got off the plane in Sydney when I got home. And you know, we had a great time we went and did some sights around London, we saw some family, which was the most important part. And we just kind of hung out and did the things that English people do like going to the country pub and going for walks in the English countryside it was was really lovely. And as I've got back here, it's always busy when you get back from a holiday or having time off. And I have just been in the thick of it, we have hired a new strategy coach for our 5x framework. I've been researching and applying for grants, I have been submitting my milestones for grants that we already have. I've been spending a lot of time inside of AI programs to see how we can streamline our business but also how you guys can use this stuff to streamline your business. And I think what this has taken away what what I've taken away from all of this is the simple fact that if you are working in your business, if you are packing the orders, if you're answering the phone calls, the emails, the DMS, if you are serving behind the counter, if you have to go and pick up stock from a supplier, when you're doing that, you can't be growing the business. And look, you guys know that I don't have to tell you, it's us something that you're probably here to learn how to do less of working in the business and how to do more of working on the business. But I have been so grateful during this time that I have this ability to look at ways to grow the business and of course to take that time off without my business falling in a heap while I'm gone. Now the other thing that I've kind of realized is you have to be prepared to take risks. Now that risk might be something very low key, like submitting an application form for a grant not knowing whether you're going to get it or you're not going to get it right up to taking your business to another country or expanding into a different vertical or opening another store or deciding to manufacture your own product line or becoming a distributor for a product. There are so many different ways that you can expand your business and you have to have that element of being okay with risk, which I have to say is the perfect segue into today's episode. On today's show. I have kings of neon, not Kings of Leon, Kings of neons founder and CEO, Steven pasture. Now I love this episode because not only does he give you all of the information about the risks that they took to expand their business to from Australia, to the US and the UK, but also the pitfalls that he hid along the way and how he managed to get himself out of them. It's so easy to just look from the outside and see all the great things. But I have to say he really had his backside to the wall in several scenarios, but he pulled it off. And as a result, he has a thriving global business selling neon signs to some very high profile businesses and entities. So let's jump in to today's episode. We're Stephen pastor from Kings of neon. Hey there, and welcome to today's episode of The bringing business to retail podcast. Now, have you ever thought about expanding into a different country and I know for a lot of you, especially if you create your own products, this is something that's maybe crossed your mind, but been a little bit scary. So today on the show, we have Stephen pastor from Kings of neon, not Kings of Leon, Kings of neon, I love that play on words. And he's going to tell us all about how his business got started, how it's growing, how he's expanded into different markets, and also getting these different niches who want his products and being able to differentiate those pivot where he needs to, and realistically just been kicking out when it comes to growing his business. So welcome to the show. Steven.

Steve Pastor 6:17
Thank you so much for having me, Celina.

Salena Knight 6:19
It's also so tell us how did you get into neon signs of all things? It's not the standard thing where people go, oh, there's a gap in the market? I need to jump into that. No,

Steve Pastor 6:29
I think it's it's quite an interesting story. And I'll give you the compressed version of it, so to speak. So actually, my most of my retail career or career in general is in retail. So I wanted to escape that. I guess that nine years of retail and working in sort of Westfields and the lives and I actually became a DJ. So I was a DJ DJ to Vance a DJ weddings. And we're always sort of looking at different aid ideas and different ways to I guess, expand our average sale. So just so happened that one day, there was another there was another vendor in our particular space where we bet to do this wedding. And unfortunately, they were bad mouthing us and they weren't talking nice things. And lo and behold, they actually sold and rented out led me on science. And I just said, Well, you know what? Exploratory? You know, I'm gonna do what she's doing better than her. So we just actually decided to start leasing out these neon signs as part of our sort of total package. And then fast forward COVID hit. And we had nine months of events that were canceled. And there was a little bit of a sniff of an idea that maybe these neon signs had a bit of legs, and I had nothing else to do at the time. So I ventured and went off on my own to start off kings are now wow,

Salena Knight 7:52
I love that you thought so far out of the box, like so many DJs would be like, okay, merch, your music like I can't think any other DJ went, let's make neon signs. And I also have to say I love the simple fact that spike spike just created this business for you, someone badmouth you and you went, I can do that better than you clearly there's a market, I am going to get going and see if I can make it work. And you did. So congratulations. Thank you sitting here in COVID. What are you thinking when it comes to let's go to America? Because you're doing events? I'm sure you're sitting there like everyone else in COVID, who wasn't? Particularly in E commerce just going? What do I do now? How long is this going to go on? For? Like, how do I make sure that I come out of this? Still alive still with the business still intact and not bankrupt?

Steve Pastor 8:43
Yeah, for sure. I guess, to be completely frank with you, the the beginning of this business wasn't like, Let's build a massive business and see what it can become. I think it starts a lot like other business, which is, hey, this is an idea. I could supplement my income, or I could create a long term income and see what builds out to be so very much at the beginning, it was starting off to be another rental idea. But once COVID hit, it was literally all sort of custom signs and online and ecommerce. So as sort of that progressed, and as I guess the market got more interest, especially in Australia as well, sort of fast forward around sort of 1218 months, we were like, what else can we do? And we literally sat around a table, there was all of three of us at the time. And I just went, how about we go to America. And we're like, there was a bit of a strategy at the time where we were building out virtual offices, because we've got a very high average sale and people want to feel like they are local, to where that provider is. And I said, Well, let's start a virtual office in the US and see what comes out of it and where else to go than Vegas. So next thing you know, we set up a virtual office in Vegas, and that was kind of our first venture into the US.

Salena Knight 9:58
So let's just backtrack here because As I think a lot of people are, like me thinking, you're making neon signs that say, let's party or happy birthday or Jane's room, what do your signs actually look like? Not

Steve Pastor 10:11
one or two are the same, generally speaking, so unless obviously a customer needs, you know, 10 or 20 or 30 of different things, but predominantly, this industry is custom. So it's kind of print on demand more style industry. So, yeah, it can literally go from me as bedroom to let's party to an 18th through to business logo, or it might be something at a festival or, you know, on a building.

Salena Knight 10:41
Okay, and those are the those sort of more enterprise customers are the ones that you're looking after. Because what he hasn't mentioned yet guys, is the kings of neon signs have been in events like Oh, Palooza, the Indy 500, the f1. Austin City Limits the NFL Draft, like we are talking big players here. And let's remember, you're sitting around a dining table in Australia going, huh, let's open a place in Vegas. I'm guessing you chose Vegas, because there's a lot of neon in Vegas.

Steve Pastor 11:15
Yeah, yeah. And I wish there was a, there was a greater story. Whereas like, you know, we delved over all this data, and we came together as a, as a group and a unit and I, you know, looked at X, Y, Zed, you know, website, and we pay this company, all this money to sort of, I guess, you know, gather all this information and know, the literal sense is we're dreamers. We want to sort of chase those big things. And, in essence, events, predominantly in Australia aren't as large as they're ever going to be in the US or, you know, different places around the world. So yeah, fast forward into, into Vegas. And funnily enough, around three weeks after setting up that virtual office, we got an inquiry from the NFL. So it was quite interesting and circumstantial, how it all sort of came about. But the crazy thing is, he couldn't actually find anyone that could look after him and produce all of these signs for the NFL Draft.

Salena Knight 12:15
In America, of all places, where you think that like, in Vegas of all places where you think, you know, I think Vegas, and I can say, there isn't a neon shop on every corner street, but like, you would think there's a lot of neon manufacturers catering to the Vegas market. So it is just mind boggling. And kudos to you, because this was just a whim. You're forgetting something, you know, something as big as that. But it does boggle my mind that he could not find someone to create the neon signs he needed.

Steve Pastor 12:46
Yeah. So I mean, obviously, there was a lot of people that could create the neon signs, but not in the timeframe that he wanted. So obviously, being in your shape busy. Yeah. It was quite funny how it all went about I was literally, we, we sort of had the over promise under you know, under promise over deliver, sorry. So we just went all out. As soon as we saw that we had an inquiry from NFL, we were literally calling him I was up at you know, one 2am. Obviously, being in Australia, calling him and collaborating, trying to get as much information as possible. We got their deck. And in essence, we recreated their whole deck and whole outlook and portrayed neon signs in their space. And we just went all in absolutely all in on this particular quote. And he just said, he just wrote back and said, Look, I'm absolutely amazed. I'd love to chat. And I was at my, my kids school at the time and a parent teacher meeting. And he called and I said, Hey, how are you guys? Honestly, this is the best quote I've ever received in 30 doing business. And he goes, you're like, Damn,

Salena Knight 13:51
I should have doubled it. Yeah.

Steve Pastor 13:55
He just said, Look, you know, if everything that you showed me so far is just a snippet of what you can do in the future. I'd love to choose you guys to sort of go ahead with this project. So I guess that's like a little lesson in a lot of businesses, I think, probably hold back and are unwilling to do the work before they get the business. But in this particular scenario, he's seen 1000s and 1000s, of quotes, and in 30 years, he'd never seen anything quite as good. So that's what one is that particular contract.

Salena Knight 14:28
Okay, can we just backtrack a little bit for people who are going, but you're just talking about being in Australia and this virtual office like, for people who haven't ventured out into and were the same, we have a virtual office in America? What does that look like? What what does that look like? What does the setup cost? setup cost? What does it the energy that you've put in to create this and do you even though it's a virtual office, do you have somebody in the US that takes the calls and whatnot for you?

Steve Pastor 14:54
Yeah, for sure. So I guess to start off with the first part of the question is What is a virtual office? And how do you set that up? I forget the actual company that we started with at the time, because it was a couple of years ago now. But you can obviously choose different locations, you can either have a location where it's just a mailbox, you know, a mailbox plus a phone number, or you can have a mailbox phone number, and somewhere where you can visit when you are in the States. So at that time, we set up a mailbox and a phone number. And we did have someone in the US that obviously could take those calls and was sort of servicing the market there as well. But it was very early on. And when I say we had someone, they probably came on board a week before that particular inquiry. So it happened very rapidly and very fast. And we just sort of went for

Salena Knight 15:43
terms of cost. It's not an expensive exercise. I

Steve Pastor 15:47
think it really starts at about $100. Even for the more elaborate ones, which is just a fancy building, I think it goes up to two or $300 a month.

Salena Knight 15:57
Yeah. So realistically, your setup costs to venture into a new market don't have to be huge. Now, I want to talk about logistics here because I can only assume that you are getting the products that you needed manufactured in the US, you're not shipping them from Australia, or you

Steve Pastor 16:14
are not shipping them from either. So yeah, so everything needs coming from China, predominantly. Wow.

Salena Knight 16:19
Yeah, I guess we've got like a third or third hub in here now that we're now kind of trying to put into so now we've got logistics as well, not even just getting the manufacturing done. So was that happening beforehand, when you were selling in Australia as well? So you already had those relationships set up? Yes.

Steve Pastor 16:37
Yeah, correct. So predominantly, everything comes from China, through to wherever we're shipping around the world, definitely. So this particular transaction was a lot larger transaction that we were used to. So it required a little bit more sort of delicacy, so to speak. So. And obviously, we hadn't shipped all that much in the US. So you've got things like customs and taxes, and you know, things can get held up, especially if you're in your business, too.

Salena Knight 17:04
Okay, so talk to me about you now have this very big order for a very high profile client getting made in a completely different country. How did you make sure that it was like good enough for them? Because I would have been freaking out that? Sure. It might look great if I've got photos from a manufacturer, but I almost feel like I would have wanted to be there to QA it before it left.

Steve Pastor 17:27
So funnily enough, I made a call and I said, Look, guys, if we get this, we're going over, and we're actually hand delivering these particular signs, so that we can make sure not that we have necessarily the timeframe to sort of go in order again, or if there's something wrong, but we've got a little bit of a way to, I guess, if there was any issues, we could kind of work through it for a couple of days before we actually had to physically deliver it. So yeah, this particular one, I had to be really paranoid. So it was very much a process with our suppliers to make sure every step of the way that everything was working, double check all the elements and really just have a step by step process a lot larger than what we normally would. We actually got them shipped earlier. It was early as possible. So we had a week and a half, two weeks, and we got them shipped to a FedEx Office in the main. I forget I forget the actual Hotel's name, but we got to a FedEx Office at the hotel, the Bellagio and we went and stayed there and got the items out of the Bellagio which costs us an absolute fortune. I

Salena Knight 18:40
know I discovered this too. I had a whole bunch of parcels shipped to my hotel and it was $5 a parcel and I was this this is this is a live and learn but your parcels were not just a bit of clothing that it arrived from Macy's. Bigger sneak on. So

Steve Pastor 18:55
I literally Yeah, bought over three staff members with me. So us crew and and another lady that works with us here in Australia. And we got all the packages were literally going through with the bellboys from FedEx offers to our room. There were like some of them were sort of one Oh 1.2 which is sort of you know, 60 6080 inches wide as well. And we took them up to our rooms, unpack them all went through them and made sure everything was there. Just to find out that no longer they needed it at the Bellagio and we had to take it over to no venue in Vegas. Though Believe it or not, the story gets even cooler. So we hired an Uber to deliver you know, 40 neon signs and rocked up

Salena Knight 19:43
and they big right like I'm guessing you word it there's only one person in the Uber with the driver. Yeah, you would have needed all that space. Yeah,

Steve Pastor 19:50
we needed to Ubers that day. So yeah, so and move them all and we rocked up to the seasons forum, where the event was And we rocked up to the big loading docks of Caesars forum in an Uber and said, Hey, we're here to deliver neon signs. And they found it funny and but they also appreciated just the candidness in it. And we got to hang out there and it helped them install them all and, and sort of be behind the scenes at the NFL Draft. So let's cool. Okay,

Salena Knight 20:20
so I have a couple of questions we can manufacture in China, did you pay like an outside person to go and QA everything before you left it? Or do you just have that really good relationship where we video and photos and stuff? You were pretty confident that it was going to be okay,

Steve Pastor 20:37
yeah, look, there's an element of risk with every single order. I guess the scale that we're actually manufacturing now, it's really in their best interest to get it right. It doesn't always happen the right way. But these bigger events, especially in the early times, I tried to be at least on either end of it. So I've gone to China before. And I've sort of made sure that, you know, everything's fine there. But then also, I've gone to the US a few times to make sure everything's fine on the other side.

Salena Knight 21:06
Okay, so you got those in? And then what happened? Because Oh, no, before we do that, I have a question. Did you make any money on that first order? Because now we're talking you went, you took your team to the US, you stayed at the Bellagio, we had FedEx fees, all those customs and logistics and things like that? So was there any money on the first order? No,

Steve Pastor 21:27
no, no, no, I think we all in all, we were about 15 to $20,000, on the behind suicide. But for us, it was like, life's all about experiences and moments, right? In my opinion. So it's like, how often do you start a business then get to go over to the US and be part of the NFL in Las Vegas for one of the largest events, that they'll have that calendar year? And then share it with your team? It's like, well, that's a no brainer. Let's just go and have fun with it. And you know, we're out of business in six months time. So be it at least we've got it we went out with a bang. Yeah, yes. That was the idea. But obviously, yeah, for me, it was such a key account. And the the gentleman that was looking after NFL is part of the Live Nation group, which obviously look after the you know, it's the largest events business in the world. So that particular account was could be very profitable for us in the future.

Salena Knight 22:26
So thinking about that, and thinking about how, when you put your quote forward, they were like, not only was the quote deck, amazing, but also the price was amazing. Have there been any issues afterwards, where you have now had to, obviously increase his prices quite significantly, now that you've got better knowledge of what goes on in the back end. And obviously, you did incur some things like the FedEx, which you probably wouldn't occur next time. But it's a big lesson to learn, isn't it to have something something like that as your first order, but be losing money on it?

Steve Pastor 22:59
Yeah, I look. I mean, that was like a, that was a particular case. And most of those costs, were in flights and accommodation. And yeah, the the meals and different things that sort of went across it. I think, you know, if today, the price point and where it was at, we would have we would have made money if we didn't incur all those extra costs as well. So yeah, look, I mean, yes, to some degree. And as you build out, obviously, the brands and the knowledge and you know, for that sort of trust element, you can increase the price points. But then there's a, you know, there's a interesting balance where you want to also look after those particular key accounts.

Salena Knight 23:43
So we have the NFL, what happens next?

Steve Pastor 23:49
Yeah, so that was really interesting. So I met the gentleman's name was Jason absolutely, you know, beautiful human being. And literally, just after we installed the signs, he goes, Oh, I've got another event in Vegas in 13 days. He goes, You can do that for me, can't you? And I said, No. Literally just flat out said no. And he goes, Yeah, you can. Yeah, you can. So I literally went back that afternoon, and I think I worked for around sort of 16 hours straight, got all designs, everything sorted and came back to him. I said, Look, if you want to go ahead with this, there's a good possibility you'll turn up. I'll do my, my best he goes, it's going to come isn't it? I was like, this should and lo and behold, so within one day of sort of having that transaction and completing it in the NFL, we had a another events and a large purchase order. Went for an event in 13 days, which circumstantially, all turned up in time. Everything was great. And it all worked

Salena Knight 24:59
out. kudos to your manufacturers and I'm guessing a lot of air freight.

Steve Pastor 25:03
Yeah, yeah. Right. Yeah. If it comes into play, but yeah, look, I mean, it's, it's that game. I mean, I'm probably more risky in business. And that's where you got to weigh up. Sometimes you got to be willing to sort of, I guess, take the hits and take the wins as well.

Salena Knight 25:22
What have been the hits? The wins?

Steve Pastor 25:25
Yeah, look, I mean, there's definitely ones that weren't great. Well, you had a large order for Twitter, when it was Twitter, early days, for instance, and there was 100 units. And this was probably around six months into doing business. And we weren't really adept and knowledgeable about the manufacturing process for a particular type of sign. And when we got the sign, it was not great. And when you're working with businesses like that, to be upfront and honest, as much as possible, but then knowing that this particular order, if they were really aggressive about it, and really didn't like it, they could have blown us out of the water, you know, pretty early on. So to be honest, that particular transaction didn't go perfectly. We remunerated them, and obviously apologized, and obviously sort of worked through it. But it's things like that, where again, you got to take the risk to get the rewards, but then being I guess, humble enough to take the hits as well.

Salena Knight 26:34
Thanks a lot of resiliency, doesn't it? Because that one thing would be the catalyst for a lot of people to walk away, to be out of pocket to have had a product, I'm pretty sure everyone listening here really is dedicated to whatever it is they sell, like, this is not, let's just sell cheap, fast crap. This is let's create a really amazing experience for our customers and really great products, and we want to deliver them in a way that makes everyone really happy. So being in a position like that, where you could potentially have lost your business if that if they wanted to press the matter. How do you deal with that? Because you like you seem so you said you're a risk taker taker, and you seem so positive all the time? Is it that could be crushing for so many people, you've got a family, you've got to pay the bills. But how do you get through it?

Steve Pastor 27:26
Ah, yeah, look, we could delve into the the dark and and times of entrepreneurship. And there definitely is times like that, especially when it comes around to cashflow and, and staff and different things. For me over this journey over the last sort of four years, it's the thing I love about entrepreneurship, the absolute most is the fact that you are forced to grow as a human being just as much as you are as a business owner. And then the beautiful thing on the edge case of that is, as you grow in both avenues, then you can inspire others. And for me, that's how I get through it. You know, I've got two young kids, so I've got a wife. And if I can inspire them to think of things a little bit differently, and obviously have a positive influence on my kids, as well. are amazing, right. And it's it's the journey of it. It

Salena Knight 28:25
is and I I've told this story before, but I really laugh at the fact that when my daughter was I think she was about 10 they had to do a school fete and they were raising money for charity. And so they each had to create in groups, little stores for a fair school fair. And they were going to do name the stuffed animal, and you win the stuffed animal if your name gets picked out. And so she got in saying we need the biggest stuffed animal that we can get for the cheapest price. And then when they all went shopping together with one of the mums, and some of the kids wanted these really expensive $50 Really cool things. And she's like, No, no, no, I know, in this really cheap shop, there's a massive llama and it's like two feet tall. And it's $12 I think it was 10 or $12. And so she had actually said to the kids, we have to sell more tickets to sell a $50 thing than to sell a $12 I don't know if she was smart enough to work out the numbers, but she knew that you had to sell more tickets for the tour, the $50 theme and the $12 thing and while they're shopping with one of the mums and mums messaging me saying your child is currently explaining cost of goods to the other kids. And then she was here she was trying to explain to them that the profit is what gets donated so they have to make the most profit, not just sell the most amount of tickets and so it was so hilarious as they're walking around the moms going now she's profit now that she's talking about profit.

Steve Pastor 29:52
That's fantastic. And how like, I mean, how good how good you know, we talk a lot about obviously our kids and And what we can pass on and, and a lot of people as well sort of go, well, they don't teach us all the knowledge in schools anymore. And sort of passed down those business skills and tutored it, you know, whether whether it be one on one or whether it be any outside noise is she's heard mom sort of say, oh, you know, X, Y, and Zed and picked up on that thing. That's awesome. I think it's amazing.

Salena Knight 30:23
It really is the difference between I don't know, not the difference between but it is the, the thing that if you are an entrepreneur, that fills up your cup, so it's a difference between like being validated and being fulfilled, or both. Whereas I think other people would just be like, people who aren't listening to this podcast would be like, what do they think like? Why do they even care? And we're like, no, no, this is our thing. Like, this makes us really, really happy.

Steve Pastor 30:50
Yeah, and I think it's, it's so hard to see that when you're starting out. Like, so it's so difficult. And, you know, like, even I recorded a video this morning on survival, survival in business, too. And just the fact that, you know, again, you learn so much it just through the whole journey, and you can't put you know, a feeling or an emotion on something in your first year, because it's may just evolve and change throughout. And then you get things like, you know, your kids sort of spitting out, you know, a version of you in a moment. So that's awesome. I would

Salena Knight 31:29
love to just quickly talk about because this has been an amazing story, how you leverage those two big ticket sales and those two high profile sales to build the business going forward. Like, did you have to go and do a lot of cold calling? Was it a lot of referrals, word of mouth? Because realistically, all you have at this point is a mailbox and a phone number and someone who's working part time for you answering the phone?

Steve Pastor 31:53
Yeah, so in the US business, particularly. It's interesting, in a sense that we get a lot of business just by being better. And I know that's ridiculous to hear. But as long as we're in France, or we're correlating with the other neon businesses, we're in, we're in the mix, we're in the game. So a lot of digital marketing was obviously a play as we sort of progressed into the US with this particular customer. I spent a lot more time in the US as well. So as you mentioned before, that was the same customer that had Lollapalooza, but then I also went over and did an Indy 500 event. And that became another income stream in the US. So there was very much relationship building and making sure that these key accounts are listened to and heard, and they know they feel important, as well as just being better at what we could be when we're going up against our competitors to

Salena Knight 32:57
how did that impact your family to young kids wife disappearing off to America? Because I don't know about you, but when I go, I don't just go for a couple of days. It's a long way so you're talking usually a minimum of a week every time you go

Steve Pastor 33:08
yeah, look at the first I guess the first Vegas trip that was obviously a couple of weeks and kids were a lot younger back then. And then I guess some months later I said look, I want to make the most of this and I went over for a month now to bring the family in whether it be on the front end or the back end of the trip as much as I possibly can as long as they want to as well. So look, I mean, as much as they have not seen dad as much as periods of time. They also got to go to Disneyland. They've been to SeaWorld and sand from San Antonio as well. They got to go on a few trips. So look, there's some definite perks to having an international business I'm

Salena Knight 33:54
like you if I'm gonna go for like a couple of weeks I will say to the family like coming on the front end or the back end and then you don't feel so guilty

Steve Pastor 34:03
look to be honest, it's mainly guilt is 100% 100% Guilt it's like look I can go through all of those sorts of things. But yeah, it's it's guilt at the end of the day and obviously you miss them but yeah, it's it's it's a balance. It's a balance.

Salena Knight 34:22
What would you change? If you could go back again, what would you change

Steve Pastor 34:32
really nothing. I know that seems ridiculous. The biggest thing for me is I've understood that knowledge is everything now, the more knowledge you have and the building blocks that you can actually place before you can go into into any sort of business venture or any sort of new task. If you can equip yourself with the knowledge it can give you a greater leverage. I'm very much again I'm risk adverse a jump in Jump in the deep end. And that's like, cost me so much money. However, that's how I've learned as well. So there's an element there where it's like risk reward. And I could have saved myself a ton of cash over the years. But now I'm just slowly learning that it's like, no, you know what? Stay patient, Steve, understand that this is a long journey. And if I can build those knowledge blocks and get the right people around me, obviously things can work out a lot better.

Salena Knight 35:32
You think because you are surrounded by people in the industry? Do you think that a lot of retail and e commerce Store businesses don't grow? Because they're just scared of losing money? Like you're just talking about? You're just like, yeah, yeah, I can make some more of it, whatever. But so I think that so many people get so scared by that it paralyzes them from actually moving the business forward. What do you see in the industries, and you're dealing with a lot of big play customers, but I'm sure you're dealing with a lot of vendors as well, who are in the same position as you. So what do you think?

Steve Pastor 36:10
Look, I mean, there's some there's some amazing ecommerce, you probably right in the sense that a lot of the bigger ecommerce owners are the ones that have taken risks. They're not necessarily skilled in any way, shape, or form. But their stories are very similar, where they had an idea, and they just sort of went for it. So I do think risk plays a large factor, definitely. There's some amazing products out there. And to be honest, if I had created them, I'd be like, Wow, how good let's go to the moon on this particular product. But it comes down to risk. And obviously, you know, marketing a lot of time, continuously perplexed and amazed that poor products can do amazing things, just purely based on the fact of marketing.

Salena Knight 37:00
I'm with you. And vice versa, sometimes an amazing product. And you just say Why does everyone not know about this? Yes. And again, I'll be honest, I think it comes down to money. Like so many business owners are scared of spending money, and you gotta be marketing your business, because no one else is going to do it for you. And if they are, they're going to want money. Yeah,

Steve Pastor 37:23
definitely, definitely. I guess you gotta like, for me, I just go, what's the worst thing that could happen. And the worst thing that could happen for me is, I go back to a similar role that I was doing Previous to this, the best thing that could happen, though, is to the moon, right? And it's which one you want to attach yourself to. So I attach myself to the moon. Because how much better is life in a positive sort of Outlook versus a negative one? So A, we do have to control our emotions. And we have to understand that if we're projecting a negative outlook, then quite possibly, we're going to get a negative result. So you have to have blind faith, and you have to believe in yourself. And if you honestly believe that you're doing the right thing in that moment, then, you know, possibilities are endless. So

Salena Knight 38:09
have you done? Or did you do anything to protect yourself? Like, I'm sitting here thinking, you're having the conversation with your wife got this big thing? Not sure if we're going to make any money, I'm going to America for three weeks, like, trust me, honey, Just believe in me. A lot of people will putting their faith in you. But on top of that, it's like the, the what's the word I'm looking for? But the the weight is on your shoulders to bring this to fruition? So yeah, what did you do to protect yourself? And how did you get everyone else on board?

Steve Pastor 38:41
Look, at the beginning, I was working two to three jobs. So I didn't pay myself for quite a long period of time. So I was still a DJ. So once COVID came out, I was still DJing. And I was still performing at gigs to bring an extra income in for the family. I worked at a gym for a little time period as well, again, to bring in an extra income to make sure everything works there. So yeah, those those sort of elements. Look, I'll be honest, as well, early in my life, I was in real estate, and I did well out of a couple of transactions. So again, worst case scenario, I still had a house, and I was okay. And that was obviously important for me. And I tried to obviously keep that as separate as possible to the business as a whole, for the individuals on it. I think as a CEO or as a founder, it's up to us to instill that crazy dream, right and bring people along the journey and and understand that a lot of people just want to be on a different journey. People don't necessarily want to work in a big boss retailer and be a number. They want to be part of something. So you'd be surprised that if you a trustworthy individual and you can instill a dream within that particular individual and you're known for the trust and delivering on your promises then a lot of people will stick.

Salena Knight 40:01
People want to be not everyone, but a lot of people want to be excited about going to work, don't they? And that goes so far in terms of team culture and getting them on board. And those kinds of people will, you know, they'll stay late, they'll work harder, and they'll not expecting anything for it, because that feels their cup.

Steve Pastor 40:22
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Right. And, look, there's a particular people in our workforce that probably continue doing jobs, that were probably in a, like an outsider looking in probably beneath them, but they know that they're doing it for the greater good. And, you know, I think having that humility to sort of say, you know, what, like, I can clean the floors, or I can do the big deals, you know, I can sit anywhere in this particular environment, I think, again, that starts from the top, if you're willing to do that, and you're willing to sort of get into the weeds, then you can show that the team that there's, there's really no harm in getting in the weeds, it's actually just part of what we're doing. So what

Salena Knight 41:01
advice would you give to people who are thinking about extended expansion or have a business that they know, in their heart of hearts could be so much more, but they just, they don't? They don't have that risk? Adverse? They just, they want it, but they don't know what to do next?

Steve Pastor 41:20
Yeah, look, I mean, there is a degree where if you can, if you're, if you need the knowledge, like obviously, a lot of people that I surround myself with, require that knowledge. So there's really like something in your mind, you have to understand what is the actual emotion in your mind that is stopping you from doing that particular thing. So if it's knowledge, just go and find the knowledge, if it's something internally, and you're worried about losing it all, for instance, then you have to go back a few steps and go, alright, well, I need to fix this about myself, whether that be you know, with a, a mindset coach or something like that, to sort of help you drive through that particular period that you're in at the moment, the hardest thing that we do is we can pair. So people listen to this particular copper podcast and go, Oh, I can do that. Let's go boom, you know, or I sound better than that guy sound smarter than that guy, you know, he just went, you know, went for it. And I think hopefully, that inspires a few people that probably resonate. But you do have to understand the pros and cons of you as an individual. So for me, yeah, risk is probably something that's on my side. But I don't search for knowledge, and hence why I've lost a lot of money in certain transactions. So you need to understand where that risk reward sort of level is. And look, at the end of the day, I as I say, it's like, what's, yeah, what's the worst that could happen? Honestly, and for me, the worst thing that could happen is you stay stagnant. And you don't grow as an individual, and you don't grow as a business, and you're not actually able to deliver on your dreams and promises of those around you.

Salena Knight 43:01
I think that is the quote, of this whole episode, because I don't think anyone who went into business for themselves ever did it to stay stagnant. We did it because we love the thrill of the chase, we love problem solving, we love thinking critically, all those things. And getting to that point where there's no more spark where you're just doing the same thing. Same, you know, same time, I feel like that's the point when you have to make a decision is Do I just sell this business off and start something else? Or do I actually put my efforts back into it? So it is exciting again, and make it something bigger? Or better? Or just more in line? With what fills my cup every day?

Steve Pastor 43:42
Yeah, yeah. And look, I think it's funny, because I don't have a passion for neon, I don't have a passion for neon lights. And I was very much that particular person where it's like, I need to find what's passionate, you know, what I'm passionate about and get into something that I am, you know, and throughout my most of my career, you know, selling jewelry written, you know, to Oh houses, yeah, or houses or whatever it may be. And like, I find the joy now in you know, podcasts like this because I can go and communicate on LinkedIn and see, you know, someone that I was sort of 510 years ago, and in that mental stage and unknowing of what that next step is, and then being able to sort of give that advice and go, You know what, just go for it, you know, or focus on this or focus on that and being able to give that knowledge and experience. It's the kind of the circle of entrepreneurship, where you start giving back and that's where a lot of joy is for me as well. So yeah, as an

Salena Knight 44:41
outsider looking in I think you like the thrill of the chase like you love the adventure that comes with it and you love the like you You keep talking about how you're risk adverse but that's because the challenge is what excites you so you love the challenges you love. You said you've always been in sales. Sales clearly works for you. But you love meeting new people and you love those logistical challenges and all that kind of stuff like you talk, as you're saying these things your face lights up.

Steve Pastor 45:11
Yeah, I'm always curious. I sat down with a mentor that I had sort of a year or two ago. And we talked about goals. And he's talked about a way goals and toward goals. And an away goal is setting the negative. And, to be honest, a lot of what I was portraying was a negative outcome about my sort of childhood or what I was, what I was putting out to the world, in essence was negative. And he's like, you have to change it to a toward goal. So to bring that in. What I found is, I'm just looking for moments. I'm curious, like, I'm, I'm inspired by, well, what does that feeling look like? You know, for me, it's like, what's the feeling of being backstage in NFL Draft? What's the feeling of being? You know, the Indy 500. We went to the night before Indy, with Mario Andretti. And I met Maya Angelou, you know, the Andretti family? And it's like, well, why can't I have all those experiences? Why can't I taste it? Why can't I taste business? And first class? Why can I go on that amazing holiday? Or why can I do those things? And the answer is, there is no reason like, it's just based on where you're at at this present moment. And can you bring your mindset, you know, through that journey, and obviously, entrepreneurship and business allows those particular things? So yes, I am thrilled to the chase, I do get very curious about what is the next thing that I can achieve? You know, and I'm also I guess, the, the idea of the glass ceiling, you know, everyone puts little ceilings on themselves, but really, the ceiling is virtually unlimited. So if you can just understand that you can actually achieve whatever you wish to achieve. And there's people out there that have done it a million times over, then, you know, go for it.

Salena Knight 47:00
And if someone else has done it, it means it can be done. Instead of instead of looking at somebody's talked about comparison itis before, instead of looking at someone and going, you know, screw you, I wanted all those things. Why not? Like, oh, my God, they did it. I can do it too. Like, it's clear that it can be done, like someone's already set the path. What is my next step?

Steve Pastor 47:21
Yeah, I think that self analysis, my favorite quote, in the whole wide world, is you are where you are for a reason. So if you are unhappy with where you are, that is because you haven't learned something or you haven't done something, or you haven't experienced something. So you have to understand that if you're unhappy, you can actually progress out of that sort of unhappy place. And but by getting the knowledge or the experience, to sort of take you to that next year, searching for that knowledge or searching for that experience, will project you to where you want to be. Yeah,

Salena Knight 47:55
I did a podcast a couple of months ago about and it was this question you need to ask yourself, which is like, what is one small thing that I can do today? To get me closer to where I want to be tomorrow. And it doesn't have to be a big thing. Sometimes it's might just be getting up out of your bed. Like just what is that one small thing that could literally change the whole trajectory of your life?

Steve Pastor 48:16
And again, the camera, you know, yeah, look, I can quote a million podcasts, I listen to podcasts approached mornings and, and different things where, you know, like, even this morning, I listen to one and they were talking about addicts. And, you know, the whole idea, you know, sometimes you have to change your environment.

Salena Knight 48:35
I am 100% A believer of a change in environment. And I'm sorry to cut into you. I'm a firm believer as well. And one of those simple things was when we just went to the UK a couple of weeks ago, like because I wake up early and I don't drink coffee, I will quite often have a Coke Zero, around nine o'clock when most people would have a coffee. And when I was in the UK, okay, my timezone is really screwed up. But it never occurred to me at nine o'clock to have a Coke Zero. It just was a different environment. And it's not like I sat at my desk, I've done three calls, it's time for my, my Coke Zero my protein bar to get through. It's just like, now I'm helping me or whatever. And the environment changes so much.

Steve Pastor 49:16
We had a big conversation with one of the gentlemen that works with me. And we boiled it down to the fact that if you want to be a completely different person tomorrow, you can and it's really it hurts your brain because you have to lose things that probably don't all mean that much. You know, because at the core of it again, it's like people and it's relationships, but everything else in your life. You can just go on turn on a dime, you can go to another country, you can experience a different thing. You know, we were in we were in Paris in January. And again, it's so interesting because here I am never really interested in learning French, but I'm like learning French on the war to get my morning And coffee so that I can order it in French and then they just speak to me in English anyway, because then my French is terrible. But again, like, here I am learning a new language because my environment changed when I've never really been an individual that's curious about learning new languages. So yeah, so back

Salena Knight 50:17
back to my what small thing can you do today, it's maybe it's just get out of your office, take a walk away from your shop, go and work at a library or in a park or, you know, just do something small, and it doesn't have to cost a thing. I love it. Thank you.

Steve Pastor 50:32
You're welcome. You're welcome.

Salena Knight 50:34
All righty. I think that we could probably talk forever. Any parting words for our amazing listeners who have probably just been as enthralled with this story, as I have been? And love all the twists and turns that we've taken? Oh, look, I

Steve Pastor 50:49
think it's very much to what we just sort of spoke about it's, it's, you're allowed to be a dreamer, you know, I think it's important to be a dreamer. And, you know, it's the actions that you take, to sort of make those things happen. So it's, again, sort of take that first step or take that action, change your environment, or whatever it may be. And understand that that can take you an amazing place and think positive of what could happen, not the negative.

Salena Knight 51:14
They've pastor kings of neon, thank you so much for this episode. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Steve Pastor 51:21
Appreciate it.

Salena Knight 51:26
So that's a wrap. I'd love to hear what insight you've gotten from this episode, and how you're going to put it into action. If you're a social kind of person, follow me at the Selena Knight. And make sure to leave a comment. And let me know. And if this episode made you think a little bit differently, or gave you some inspiration, or perhaps gave you the kick that you needed to take action. Then please take a couple of minutes to leave me a review on your platform of choice. Because the more reviews the show gets, the more independent retail and E commerce stores just like yours, that we can help to scale. And when that happens, it's a win for you. A win for your community, and a win for your customers. I'll see you on the next episode.



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