What a 24 Year Old Learned Selling Two Companies in a Year

Chris 1

I’ve had 15 jobs since I was 14 – a janitor at a school, guitar player, and a barista. I kept quitting because I’d get bored. So I started building companies.

I failed over and over. But I kept at it. And this year – six years after my first failure – I sold two companies in just a few short months.

  • The first was TaskBullet, a virtual assistant platform. I sold it for $10,000 to a guy who collects profitable hobby companies (“muses”). I sold the company because I was bored with it – but we’ll get to that story later.
  • The second was TOFU Marketing, an agency that I started and grew to employ 4 people. I sold the company to a Provo, Utah based agency called Fit Marketing. It was the best way to help my company scale.

The Opposite of a Starry-Eyed Success

When we think about exits, we imagine 9-figure buyouts from companies Facebook and Google. The truth is, 5-to-6 figure exits are happening for small business owners every day.

I am far from a Silicon Valley-meets-Hollywood story.

I don’t drive a Tesla, Prius, or BMW.
I’d rather work out at the gym than party at the clubs.
Salt Lake City, Utah is the place that I (proudly) call home.

I am lucky because I’m only 24 – which means that I have wiggle room to screw up sometimes. Rather than tell you everything I did right, I’d rather share everything that went wrong:

1. I Put My Sanity on Hold for an Empty Promise

In 2011, I started Monolith Management, a company that provided small bands with management support. The company grew to more than $100K in annual revenue. During its peak, I decided that I wanted to sell it, so I hired a broker.

I thought that the process would be smooth sailing, but boy was I wrong.

We had two prospective buyers who ended up backing out at the last minute. One of them didn’t even tell us why – he just completely stopped talking to us. The other guy put money into an escrow account. On the last day, he came back to me with a big, “no.”

I didn’t get it. On paper, everything looked perfect – great revenues, automated processes, and a company running on autopilot.

It would be easy for somebody to come in and take over.

The problem was, the company didn’t have a stable business model. There was no way that I could convince buyers otherwise. It was a lost cause, but I refused to believe it. I held on to empty promises from buyers because I didn’t want to believe that it was time to move on.

Not to mention, my broker just didn’t have the hustle to sell my company. I felt like I was beating a dead horse.

I wasted a ton of time, got frustrated with my broker, and put the rest of my life on hold.

I tried to sell Monolith for a year but was unsuccessful. I wasted so much time. I should have let go of my emotional investment and moved on much, much sooner.

2. I Should’ve Done Less to Get More

At the beginning of this year, I was running two companies, TaskBullet and TOFU.

Both were growing, but the ability to scale was limited. I was spread too thin, but I didn’t want to let go of either project.

Eventually – it hit me. I was running hobbies, not businesses. With only 24 hours in a day, there was just no way that I was going to scale both.

I decided to sell TaskBullet for just $10,000, even though the company was entirely automated and profitable. With a little biz dev, marketing, and sales, I probably could have grown TaskBullet.

But here’s the thing. TOFU Marketing had way more potential, and more important, I was much more passionate about it.

The opportunity cost of not investing myself wholly in TOFU was just too big.

I found the perfect buyer for TaskBullet, a guy who collects hobby companies that run on autopilot. I didn’t even approach him with intent to sell – one day, we were just talking at a conference, and I was telling him how sick I was of running the company. Just 15 minutes into the conversation, he decided to buy it.

Why in the world did I spend a year working with a broker, beating a dead horse, and putting so much effort into trying to sell Monolith, a company that was probably on its last legs?

Because I was naiive to think that I had a winning value prop.

3. I Should Have Gotten a Job

After selling TaskBullet, I was able to scale TOFU beyond what I could have imaged. I built out a team and amplified my client list. It was my dream job, and felt like I could keep going forever.

So what happened?

I found myself in a similar situation, working 14 hour days and bored with what I was doing. I loved the marketing, but I was spending so much time doing administrative work that wasn’t helping me grow my skills.

When I started TOFU, my goal was to become an expert in marketing. TOFU was supposed to be the platform to help me do it. In growing my business and building out a team, I reached a point where I wasn’t doing any marketing anymore.

That sucked.

When I received an acqui-hire deal from Fit, the timing was perfect. I had an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and redirect my time towards a powerful investment – my own skills and abilities.

It was the best way to give TOFU the resources it needs to scale.

This deal  was the best decision for me and my team. One of the biggest reasons why I took it was to learn from the two guys running fit. Both are brilliant marketers and leaders.

Final Thoughts: I Wasted a Lot of Time

I relied on a broker to sell my first company and thought that the process would be easy. Not so much. I thought that the broker’s experience would be valuable, but ultimately, he didn’t have the hustle to find a buyer.

My next two sales were with companies that I knew and trusted – over coffee and breakfast. They saw value in my companies, knew my methods as a business leader, trusted my judgment, and were ready to buy right then and there.

Business is infinitely more powerful when it’s personal.

Chris Kilbourn is the VP of strategy at Fit Marketing, a Utah-based integrated marketing company. His experiences include:

    • Founding and growing Monolith Management, a band management company, to a team of 15.
    • Launching Matchless Records, a company that offered consulting, financing, management, marketing, retail distribution, and merchandise printing to musicians.
    • Founding and selling two companies, TOFU Marketing and TaskBullet, within the same year.

Set up a call with Chris to learn about SEO, marketing, and brand-building.

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  • Firepaper

    Wow, at just 24. I hope to get the same kind of success with my app http://firepaperapp.com

    • Chris Kilbourn

      I hope so too!

  • Mario Kroll

    Great article. I’m almost twice your age now and wish I’d that kind of foresight at your age. I sold my first company for a high five figures; that was a lot of money at the time for me. But it helped sustain me financially for nearly a decade, allowed me to work within a major passion and learn more about what not to do in business than I took out of my MBA.

  • http://hnewyear.com/ Salman

    What a great story and also inspired me to do something for my life and my family. You did not wasted his time because he also learned so many things in your life. I am also a fresh graduate and want to work something which will boost my skills specially cricket and football.