Hunting For Side Jobs To Building A $12M/Year Audio Equipment Business

Published: July 31st, 2023
Jeffery Goldman
Founder, Big Jeff Audio
Big Jeff Audio
from Ocala, FL, USA
started June 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, my name is Jeffery M. Goldman. I am the founder and president of Big Jeff Online Inc. Which is the corporation’s name but over the years we have branded it as Big Jeff Audio.

Big Jeff Audio is an online retail and wholesale distributor of Car Audio equipment. While we specialize in Car Audio equipment, we have a wide-ranging product selection of audio and security products; from marine & Powersports audio to home audio, as well as home and car security options.

While we have a diverse group of customers our primary customer group is males 35-55. The business now generates over $1 million in sales per month.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The idea was a slow progression of events that came out of my years of selling items on eBay and Craigslist for side money. It started with home security cameras and any other products I could get a hold of. I would also get side jobs setting up the security cameras for what is called port forwarding to the router.

This would direct the footage to a recorder’s location. I was starting my life back over at the time, and a guy I worked for years prior, when I got out of prison, gave me a job at their company called R and L Audio.

Then, I left that to open up my first retail store Pop My Trunk Customs in New Port Richey, Florida. The retail store started out doing well but when the recession came it didn't work out in the end.

From there, I did different things for work trying to get by but was at a bad point in life trying to stay on the right side of the law. I was given an opportunity to work at a new business, Best Connections. They are a distributor and online e-commerce company for automotive wire. They were working a lot with Audiopipe wire.

So, at the time I was just taking different things home, close-out items and such, putting them up on my eBay store. Back then when you first started eBay, you could only list so many items. That means you can only sell so many a month.

I was constantly trying to build that up. At the time I never thought about it being a business, but it was helping me out, kind of get ahead and then actually got into selling adult products.

The company I was working for sold them as an aside from their main business. Back then I didn't know there's a five times markup on adult products. It's crazy.

I think it's because it's a private item, people want to keep it confidential, so they'll pay big money online. The company soon decided to get out of that because they felt like it gave a bad image to what they were trying to do, and they had a lot of products left over that they offered to me to take and go sell, and I did.

Someone had also given me a chance to buy a bunch of vaping products that they were no longer selling to put on my store.

So, my eBay and at the time Amazon started to grow. I think that was the conception, which was probably around 2015 or '16. So here now, I'm working at Best Connections for like $10 an hour. My job coming in was to figure out Amazon and figure out eBay. Back then, it was still fairly new for this whole online storm, Pre COVID.

Finally, last year, Big Jeff was not Big Jeff Audio. It was just Big Jeff. EBay started going a little bit. There was an email sent to my work from a brand “DS18,” asking if we were interested in bringing the product in. The owner was totally against car audio, even though 15 years prior they were one of the larger distributors in South Florida.

So, I asked them, “I know you guys don't want to do anything, but we got an email. Do you mind if I answer it?” And I did. And that's where I started selling some car audio.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The eBay store started to grow and at that time, I was making like $550 a week at my day job. Not too long after that, they called me into the office and said, “Look, it's not a conflict of interest now, but obviously you're making way more money doing this and it's probably beneficial for you to go on your own.”

So, that's where it really kicked off because I went home that night to my wife and said, I lost my job. Even though the online thing, I was probably making at least $1,000 a week profit. As part of my deal to leave my job, they gave me a little severance pay and I was allowed to still get pallets delivered there in Summerfield, Florida.

I had a newer F150 at the time, so I was able to go there, get the pallet, and bring it home. And that's where the whole thing kicked off.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Well, I started with a $1500 order from DS18. I barely even had it on a credit card. And the store back then was called Get Down Audio if I remember correctly. My first website was difficult for me because it was before Shopify, and I was doing it all on my own.

It was templated and very plain. At the time, I read a lot of information I found on Google and YouTube trying to absorb as much as I could and a lot of it was trial and error.

I almost gave up on the website. I just thought back then, nobody's buying from it. I'm wasting more time and money on it. My sales are coming from eBay and Amazon. I think there were times when I just didn’t even want to work on the website.

It was just social media, eBay, and Amazon. When Shopify was brought to my attention, I was like, man, I've spent so much time on this other site. I'm not redoing this, right? But seeing all the different apps you can buy to retarget discounts and track, I was like, Wow.

But so many times I just said it's not going to do anything. It's a waste. But I'm glad I stuck with it to get here. But websites were not easy back then. Now, forget about it. The website is almost our lead channel, which is awesome.

You have to do the research in whatever your learning style is, whether it’s books, podcasts, or videos, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re learning.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

My advice to aspiring founders would be to find the part of your business that makes you unique from the rest of the crowd. For me, there were already car audio retailers online when I started, but I began to take off when I started making packs and combo listings with the products.

Everyone at the time had one product for one listing. I started to group multiple speakers and subwoofers for people looking to create an audio build with the same brand. I would also combo items that worked well together like amplifiers that matched the power rating of the speakers. I negotiated with the different brands to provide a small discount on these combos for added appeal to the consumer.

Nowadays, we attract and retain customers through our social media channels. We make connections with our customers early on with a dedicated customer service team that can answer your questions and help you with your order.

We use email and text campaigns to keep our customers engaged and have frequent giveaways to keep them interested even when they aren’t looking to buy new equipment. Our website also utilizes blogs that are posted multiple times a week with a ton of information, from wiring guides, and product reviews to getting an inside look at working at Big Jeff Audio from our employees.

We keep our YouTube channel up to date with new videos daily and provide monthly updates on new products and promotions. I started a giveaway for every 1k subscribers we get to the channel and we have gone from 2k YouTube subscribers to over 18k in 6 months. We also have a weekly podcast that I host on Thursdays where we speak to industry leaders, musicians, and other YouTubers and podcasters about car audio.

All of these methods go along with our normal marketing methods through Google ads, Meta, Amazon, and eBay. For me, it’s really about building a relationship with the customers.

So, when I first started, I got out of my house and got to the first little location. I did an about-me-type video. I think from the start letting people know that I was a convicted felon, my life story, and where I started.

I didn't have family money injected into this. I didn't have any business partners. I was flipping dollar for dollar. I feel like the customers then felt like they were part of the whole story and always portraying the truth, not making something up that isn't real.

I have learned so much since I started the business and most of it was from mistakes.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today we are having our best year to date and even though our typical peak time is at the beginning of the year during tax time and see a dip during summer. So far this year we have done as well or better in these summer months than we did during tax time this year. That shows we are drawing attention to our website and building a strong customer base.

Our three main selling channels are eBay, Amazon, and Shopify store. While eBay and Amazon have been the bulk of our retail sales in previous years our Shopify site has grown to be nearly a third of online sales and is now generating on par with eBay and Amazon.

We also use Walmart as a selling channel and have a brick-and-mortar store for locals to come in and check out the equipment. We will be starting a Google shop in the coming weeks.

Today I have over 30 employees, from the warehouse, office, sales, customer service, and creative teams. Having a dedicated team for each department adds a level of service and accountability that our customers can feel. I am always trying to grow whether it's bringing in new brands to add to the catalog or a new marketing campaign.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have learned so much since I started the business and most of it was from mistakes. Bad investments in online marketing, some brands I brought on turned out not to gain the traction I thought they would. The way I see it, if you are not making mistakes, you’re not growing.

During Covid, there was a drop in sales in the beginning and I had to pivot fast. I was approved to sell PPE on eBay and sourced a ton of masks and hand sanitizer that I could sell by the gallon. There was a shortage of small bottles, so I went to a gallon jug manufacturer to supply bottles. Not being afraid to try something different is one of the biggest assets when running a business.

Some of my best decisions came from consistency and fearlessness. I kept working on the website and when I found Shopify, I wasn’t afraid to make the change even though I had put a lot of time and money into the old site.

Early on I was told that I post too often to our social media accounts. I knew people don’t always see every post in their feed and posting multiple times throughout the day would give me the best chance to be seen and in turn grow the business.

When it comes to hiring, I have a saying “I have to interview 100, to hire 20, to keep 1.” It's a huge and long process, but it has worked out. We have some good people here that I think will be long-term.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are a ton of apps and services we use to keep up with everything going on in the business. We use a system from Gorgias that brings all the communications from our selling channels to one platform that our customer service can respond to, and it also manages our text campaigns.

We use Metricool, to monitor our social media and reply to comments from customers. For listing products and managing online inventory we use Zentail, which allows us to create one listing for a product and send it to all our channels with one click.

To send emails for sales and new product releases to our customers we use a site named Klaviyo. Shipstation is our main shipping tool, and we use nearly 40 apps on Shopify to help manage different aspects of the website.

From SellUp, Out-of-Stock Police, and Audiences, to Pushowl, Frequently Bought Together, and YouTube Video Gallery. These tools are fantastic at helping keep in touch with your customers, track their needs, and offer them something they didn’t know they wanted but also add to the user experience for our customers.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

As far as resources are concerned, I didn't necessarily read a lot of books when I started out. I read a lot of articles from Google, I read forums to see what the customers were looking for and talking about, and I watched YouTube videos.

I learned a lot from everyday people on social media, you can learn a lot more from an unedited Live stream than most people think.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Research is important when starting a business and even if it’s unconventional research like I used or you’re reading a bunch of business books, you need to know what you are selling and who you are selling it to.

Be curious and investigate your industry.

I had been in the audio industry in one way or another for a long time but when I started my business, I needed to re-immerse myself in the culture and see what the consumers were looking for. You have to do the research in whatever your learning style is, whether it’s books, podcasts, or videos, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re learning.

You have to be ready to make this your life. Starting a business isn’t like a 9-to-5 job; you must live, breathe, eat, and sleep the business. You have to understand your days off will be limited and it won’t happen overnight. If you start your business knowing all that and believe you have the dedication to succeed, then give it everything you got and don’t look back.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always growing and looking for the right talent. We are currently hiring for a few positions, including Wholesale Sales Manager, Warehouse Associate, and Quality Control Associate among others. We only hire locally, and all work is full-time and on-site. You can find our Careers page here.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!