Tanner Larsson got his entrepreneurial start the usual way: He got thrown out of business school, took 10 years to complete his four-year degree, and then landed a job as a window cleaner. Just kidding.
Larsson’s entrée into the world of entrepreneurship is hardly usual, and neither are his more recent successes. In addition to running several successful ecommerce companies, writing an industry-rocking book (Ecommerce Evolved: The Essential Playbook to Build, Grow & Scale a Successful Ecommerce Business) and starting up the ecommerce world’s exclusive Black Label mastermind group, Larsson is also helping others achieve similar success through his ecommerce education company, Build Grow Scale.
To date, his students have earned well over $100 million in sales and counting. Here’s how Larsson became an unlikely ecommerce guru and how he’s helping his students do the same.
The making of an ecommerce guru.
Larsson found his way to the ecommerce world well before it was enjoying its current boom. “I started in ecommerce back in 2001 with eBay,” Larsson said. “It was the early days of ecommerce, when there was no tech software, no Shopify, no easy way to set up a store.”
Consequently, becoming an eBay power seller wasn’t only a dream come true. It was also, Larsson said, “a nightmare.” He found himself spending hours at the post office every day, weighing out every individual package and printing each individual label. “I lived at the post office,” he said. And he hated it.
Larsson decided to exit the early eBay world, in which he was responsible for physical fulfillment, and turn his sights toward information marketing and direct response instead. He spent the next several years learning the ins and outs of crafting compelling, persuasive sales copy.
After nearly a decade working in direct response, Larsson once again found himself with an itch to work with physical products. It was good timing. By that point, he said, “selling was so much easier. Tech caught up to make it more conducive to running an online business.”
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So Larsson jumped back into ecommerce, but not without taking his marketing mentality with him. He found that applying the concepts of direct response to ecommerce businesses worked amazingly well. Within a mere 12 months, he and a small team had built three different multi-million dollar businesses.
His approach was to the ecommerce world what Casper was to the mattress industry or Deep Sentinel to the home security industry -- virtually unprecedented. At the time, almost no ecommerce stores (save for a few supplement products) were utilizing the principles of direct response. “It felt like we were cheating,” Larsson said. “We were converting at five to seven percent at the front end, while the average store was converting at one percent.”
Clearly, Larsson was onto something. He continued to refine his strategies over the next few years, and other would-be ecommerce entrepreneurs started paying attention. People kept asking Larsson how he was achieving his successes, so he created a course to provide them with similar tools.
The course proved wildly popular, and in the process of creating and disseminating it, Larsson uncovered one of his true passions. “I found that my real skillset and passion area was in taking someone who has an ecommerce business that’s doing okay or struggling a little bit, and making it great by implementing all the things I’ve learned,” he said. And thus the idea for his ecommerce accelerator and guided mentoring program, Build Grow Scale, came to be.
Sharing the wealth.
Build Grow Scale’s students come from all walks of life, from serial entrepreneurs to people who are reinventing themselves through a new career move or retirees who want to supplement their retirement and stay busy on their own terms. What do they all share in common? They’re satisfied customers.
There are several reasons why Build Grow Scale has proved so popular with its students.
For starters, the entirety of the program’s curriculum is informed by real-world experience. “We give students a curriculum that’s backed up by accountability and critiquing and tweaking by people who have been where they’re trying to go,” Larsson said. “When they hit a hiccup or encounter a problem -- which undoubtedly occurs -- we know how to address it. It takes the problem solving out of it.”
And, it works. “A lot of people are coming with sub-six-figure businesses and turning them into seven- or eight-figure businesses,” said Larsson. “Conservatively, we’ve taken three dozen people from six to seven figures and 10 or 15 people from seven to eight figures. Meanwhile, the average member of the Black Label mastermind group is running a $7-million-a-year company. I don’t see why we can’t be at a billion soon in terms of overall sales."
But Larsson isn’t only concerned with the numbers his students produce. He’s invested in cultivating more successful entrepreneurs and small businesses in order to bolster the U.S. economy. Furthermore, he wants his students to build businesses that fuel their desired lifestyles instead of merely creating another job for themselves.
“It’s not just about having a business,” said Larsson. “The opportunity with technology, the internet, and ecommerce is that you can build the life of your dreams. And it’s not corny to say that because it can actually happen.”
Thus, for Larsson, his greatest successes arise when he hears from students who have been able to build a business that allows them to live life fully on their own terms, regardless of what those terms are. “My favorite thing is to hear from students that they haven’t taken a vacation in three years and just spent two weeks in the desert, [or that somebody] took their girlfriend to Barcelona and proposed to her,” he said. “We believe there’s a whole lot more to success than just making money.”