Ever since I was a teenager I dreamed of owning a Lamborghini. At the time, my dream car was a Lamborghini Gallardo (the latest model at the time). When I was 20 years old I decided I was one day going to have the means to afford one by starting my own business. I had calculated that I needed to make $100,000 a year to afford a brand new Lamborghini Gallardo. I clearly did not have knowledge on finances and how that was a fraction of what I actually needed to make, but it was a great motivator. I started writing down on a piece of paper over and over again the words “I, Chris LaMorte, want to make $100,000 per year”. I would write these words over and over again and I had no idea how I was going to get there.
I’ve naturally always been a hustler and I already knew how to build websites. I was building websites for fun and for money when I was 13. I had several hustles going on from buying and selling World of Warcraft accounts and Gold to flipping cell phones. I did well for my age I was but never made any real money doing it. I had made about $500 a week when I was 14 by buying and selling WoW accounts.
Now from ages 16-21 I did basically nothing with my life. And I hated myself for it. I got into drugs, alcohol, partying, and had basically accomplished nothing. I stopped doing drugs at 19 and 2 years later it took a stern talking to from my Dad to make me realize how little I had accomplished. He said “Chris, over the last 2 years you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing”. It hurt hearing that from my Dad, but it was true. All my friends were getting ready to graduate college, and I was essentially unemployed and with no work experience or college degree. I had applied for jobs and got denied by jobs like Wendy’s and Taco Bell. About 5 minutes after him saying that I got a response for an IT job I had applied for saying he wanted to interview me. I worked that job for a couple years before leaving to start my own agency.
I tried to start my own web design agency several times and failed each time. I never could seem to get the motivation to do what it took to build my own business. I didn’t have the guts to network and make sales calls and get myself out there. I did get some odd jobs here and there, building websites for $500-$1,500 but nothing steady enough to make a living. So finally I decided I needed to learn the trade and got a job at a nearby marketing agency in 2013. Ironically enough, I got the job by cold calling the owner, but I was too afraid to cold call businesses to try and sell websites. It just so happened that their web designer had just given her two weeks notice and they were desperately in need of someone with my skillset.
I learned a lot at my job as a web designer at this agency. I learned that the businesses I was targeting mostly only care about return on investment. They don’t want to waste money on shit like pretty websites and creative effects. They don’t care how good a website looks. Sure they may care on some level, but are they willing to pay extra for it? At the end of the day, my target customers want to invest in things that make them money. I worked at this agency for a couple more years and what I learned from working there was priceless. In August of 2014 I bought my first home. Less than one year later I got married, and within a week of returning from our honeymoon we both quit our jobs (we were both working at this agency for a couple of months at this point) and decided to go out on our own. We had bills to pay and we had to make at least $4500 a month to pay our expenses. I started off making only $30k a year salary at my agency job, but at the end I was making pretty good money and my last month working there I got paid about $10,000. So I left my secure job as the web design project manager for the life of being a business owner.
Our first month we made $3,000, far short of what we needed to make ends meet. However, it was more money than I had made as a business owner before, mostly due to a relationship I had made with a former sales person named Gregg at that same agency. He was valuable in giving us consistent business in the beginning while we were ramping things up. We went to networking events, did cold knocks, anything we could think of to get business. We had bills to pay so it really gave us the drive. We worked our asses off for 2 years with almost no vacation. We spent time on client acquisition, developing teams and processes, learning SEO, everything. In 2017 I made the best decision I could’ve made. I decided to pivot away from web design and get into selling SEO.
Selling SEO and Google Adwords brought our business from making about $10,000 per month profit to $30,000 a month profit in a little over one year. It gave us recurring revenue and allowed us to build up our savings and be more financially secure. I see a lot of people when talking about their agencies state the revenue of their business like it’s a badge of honor. I see people brag about having 7, 8 or even 9 figure revenue numbers. At the end of the day, these numbers are meaningless. I personally know agencies doing 7 figures in revenue that are barely clearing six figures profit. The only number that matters in terms of finances is your net profit.
Our income continued to grow until the COVID-19 pandemic where we lost $8k in recurring income (after expenses) in just a few days. Half of our clients either cut or eliminated their marketing / SEO budgets and things were not looking too bright. We decided to start focusing on web design services and were able to make up revenue that way, doing work for customers that weren’t so dependent on weekly cash flow. We pushed through and ended up with a higher monthly recurring revenue at the end of the year than we had at the beginning of the year, so it all worked out in the end.
Today, our agency is still continuing to grow every year, even after the issues we had with the COVID-19 pandemic. We offer direct marketing / lead generation to clients and hardly build websites these days without it being packaged with a marketing plan. We have over 30 clients and our average marketing client pays us $3k per month. The best thing I’ve learned is that while it’s good to have financial goals, money can never be the primary motivator. For me, I wanted to be the best person at lead generation and maximizing my client’s ROI that I could be. I wanted to save our clients on marketing dollars and lower their cost per customer acquisition.
To this day, I have yet to run into a client where we weren’t able to get them more business for less money. To me, the best part about running an agency is making an impact and helping small businesses grow. We don’t sell websites, SEO, or adwords management. At Web Chimpy, we sell real and measurable business growth. It’s thanks to this growth that I was able buy my original dream car, a 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo in 2020. Fast forward to 2021 and I purchased my true dream car, a 2021 Lamborghini Huracan EVO, along with a 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR simultaneously.
The biggest takeaway I have from looking back on our journey is that if my wife and I had never taken the leap of faith and quit our jobs, we wouldn’t be here today. Quitting our jobs was a huge risk, but it lit a necessary (and scary) fire under us to make this agency model work. The reason I failed so many times before was that I always had a safety net. I always had a job I could fall back on. This time, failure was not an option, so we did whatever it took to succeed. We also wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t have confidence in ourselves, or if we didn’t have the relationship that we built with Gregg. If we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and believe in ourselves, none of this would’ve ever happened. So I’m grateful for the agency that we worked for, and also grateful for the relationships we built while I was there. If it weren’t for Gregg and the people surrounding me, we never would’ve had the confidence to build our own agency. And for those things, I will always be grateful.