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If you’ve ever dreamt of building a million-dollar ecommerce business, the following might scare you:  out of $1 million, most ecom businesses take home only $50k in profit. That’s less than a truck driver’s wages!

But there’s a small group of entrepreneurs that take home a much bigger chunk of the sales. Today’s guest Jeremy Lux of lifestyle brand Illumine Collect is a prime example. He gives away 20% of Illumine Collect’s revenue to charity, and still has enough profit to go around.

In this episode, you’ll discover strategies that give you fat profit margins, so you can give more, live a free lifestyle or buy your dream car.

Listen now and discover strategies that give you a fat profit margin without blowing all your money on expenses.

Show highlights include:

  • Build a rock solid foundation of revenue by staying in tune with your inner “ratty kid” (2:00)
  • How old-school brick and mortar business owners can give you a headstart in a cutting-edge digital business (6:35)
  • How to raise brand awareness without dropping a dime on ads or paying out influencers (11:24)
  • The dead simple email marketing strategy that lets you build an engaged following by posting once a month (and make more money than annoying weekly newsletters) (13:10)
Read Full Transcript

(00:02): Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the built on passion podcast. Today, we sit down with Jeremy luck to talk about lumen, collect a lifestyle apparel brand that gives 20% of its revenue to nonprofits. We talk about how that affects his advertising, why he thinks it's so important to give back and run a company with a strong purpose. Hey Jeremy, thanks so much for hopping on with me today to get started. Could you just gimme a little bit of background about you and just kind of help us understand where you're coming from? Yeah,

(00:33): For sure. Well, first of all, thank you for, uh, for having me today. I'm kind of excited. We were talking before, you know, usually I'm on the other end of the podcast, so it's, it's weird being in this seat, but so I guess kind of the, the story of lumen kind of starts, you know, with the story of, of myself basically. So I grew up in, in Virginia, currently in Springfield, uh, Missouri area right now, but I, I grew up riding BMX bikes as a kid that never really got into team sports, that kind of stuff. And I just found a lot of, I guess, freedom that came along with that from, you know, hanging out with friends and that kind of stuff. And then I, I kind of got more serious into it and started to travel a lot. And, and that ended up, uh, me working at camp Woodward, um, in Pennsylvania, which is a huge action sports camp.

(01:14): Every, it started off as a gymnast and a cheerleading camp and skateboarding and BMX and all that kind of stuff. But so as I, um, as I started working there, there's people from all over the country that go there, there's people from all over the world that go there. So I went, I went there as a kid and then, you know, through my college years, I, I ended up working there. And with that, you know, obviously a lot of different adventures that was kind of always part of the, you know, hand in hand with BMX and writing different friendships. And like I said, meeting people from all over the world. So after college, you know, I, I was able to, you know, go out to Australia for a month and visit out with my friends there and do, do some other traveling kind of later down the road with my, with my wife.

(01:51): Well, yeah, my wife now, so I've only had one wife as I say wife now, but , we actually met at that camp. But anyways, and so I kind of always, you know, to me, there's always kind of like a stigma, I guess, of, of what BMX and skateboarding is and that kind of stuff like, oh, those ratty kids or whatever, but there's, I, I guess having those different experiences kind of opened up my eyes to what the, the sport does, or, you know, the different opportunities to come with it, with travel meeting, different people kind of experience in different cultures in that kind of sense. So, you know, as I kind of had had these different adventures, my wife and I, you know, traveled across Europe for some time, uh, went to Ireland and, and some other different places like that. Um, before we, we had our, our three kids now, so that, that time is a little limited now, but it really made me wanna figure out how to, how to share kind of that same passion and that same experience with others that I got and kind of the fulfillment that I got from it, not necessarily just with BMX specifically, but kind of the outdoors in general, where that's hiking or skateboarding or surfing or rock climbing, or just kind of anything, any kind of those kind of different activities.

(02:55): So, so that's really kind of where the idea for Illumina initially came from was just a way for me to try to figure out as I, you know, got older, to stay kind of involved within kind of that, that atmosphere, that, that ecosystem, if you will, and then, you know, obviously, you know, create a business out of it. So I can support, you know, my family and kind of, you know, do my own thing in that regard. But at the same time, that was when I was doing research. Cause I wanted figure out how to have like a charitable aspect to it really before doing that research. I didn't know, obviously, you know, of nonprofits that clean up trash and you know, those kinds of things, you know, help, help keep the environment clean. But I didn't really know about the different organizations that offered rock climbing and fishing and whitewater rafting programs for, you know, individuals with seeing impairments or, you know, in wheelchairs or, you know, just even at risk youth that can't necessarily afford or whatever to experience these different things.

(03:47): And so that's kind of when I try to merge, I guess, that, that passion that I had growing up and that lifestyle that I had growing up while also supporting the organizations that were trying to do the same thing, but obviously, you know, they have a specific mission and, and goal and kind of a vision of, of how to scale that. So, I mean, I, I can go into, to deeper details on any of those adventures or, or more into that, but I'll take a break now and, and see if you have any follows with that.

(04:11): Yeah, that's awesome. There's a, there's definitely a lot to unpack there, but I, I will say before we get too far in here, I do want to tell our listeners that you have a podcast ask called life in motion and probably a lot of that's stemming from all that adventure that you talked about just then. So you want to go ahead and tell us a little bit more about your podcast real quick, uh, before we get into talking about Illumina.

(04:31): Yeah, for sure. So I mean it, and it kind of does go with the whole, the brand as well as kind of the reasons that we started it cuz you know, Illumina is a brand with the products and the give back. But also, so I think an important piece of that is building that community by sharing these different stories. So really it's, it's just kind of, we do, um, weekly episodes uploaded, um, every Tuesday morning they go live, but it's, you know, we interview everybody from individuals that have traveled to 15 different countries and seen different things. People that have just quit their job or whatever figured out how to, how to work from home and, and they go on these six month adventures or, you know, hike the Appalachian trail kind of everything, you know, within that realm. And then a big part of it too, is sharing the stories of those nonprofits and the individuals that work with those nonprofits.

(05:14): So, you know, kind of going into the specifics of what kind of programs they're offering, how, how they're making that impact. And then you, the, the, the goal of each episode is kind of to inspire adventure in that sense where, Hey, you know what I was thinking about this trip, there's no way I'm ever gonna be able to do that. Then you hear someone else's story of like, well, it sounds like, you know, they were in a much tougher situation than I was and they figured out how to do it. Or maybe it's, you know, somebody in a different state that's like, Hey, you know, there's, there's a, I think there's a, a need here for, you know, these different activities for these type of individuals. It seems like they have a pretty good framework. Like how can I kind of replicate that and bring that to my community? So I'm kind of helping. So that's kind of the idea of it is kind of just share those stories, um, around that lifestyle, within the kind of the different, um, avenues and like ultimately inspire somebody to go out and try something new or, or learn something new or look at something through a, through a different perspective. Yeah, that's awesome. How can people find your podcast?

(06:07): So it, uh, it's just life in motion. The, the two biggest places is on, you know, apple podcast and Spotify. Um, there's also a link on our website where we have the, the two Mo most recent episodes, um, on there, and then there's links to the, to the other ones as well, actually. So we're next month at the end of next month will actually be our hundredth episode. So there's quite a lot to, to kind of go through, so. Oh, awesome. Congratulations. Yeah. Thanks. It's it's, that's a lot of recording when I let's sit back and think about it.

(06:34): We can appreciate it over here. Okay. So let's, let's go ahead ahead and get started talking about the lumen collect. I saw an article from 2017 that said that you were working at a screen printing shop when you first started out, how was all, how did all that work

(06:48): Out? And yeah, 2017, like I said, that's, that's kind of when it all officially launched and that, so, but yeah, I, I moved, so I moved out here as I mentioned, kind of everything and my life can be attributed to kind of that lifestyle and everything like that. So I met my wife at that camp and that was right after I grad graduated college. She was originally from Springfield. She dragged me out here. Uh, and I don't regret that at all, but , that's how, that's how that worked. But, um, so yeah, no, when I got out here, you know, I started working at a, a screen printing shop after, you know, trying to get feet wet and figuring out, you know, what I was gonna do. And there's a local one here, uh, called the cracker Jack shack and its Sandy's the owner. And I dunno, we hit it off in that sense.

(07:26): And um, I wasn't necessarily doing the screen printing myself. I was more on the sales side, you know, doing a lot of client wear school, wear that kind of stuff, you know, so, so I was kind of working with that, but it, it definitely helped out a lot kind of starting things because she was a resource one, you know, she had a successful business and she was super helpful with offering advice, helping me with printing, obviously those kinds of things to kind of get off. So it was definitely a good way to kind of, you know, start off the brand. Just, I happened to also work at a screen printing shop that, you know, knew what they were doing in the, at regard. So that's awesome. So did they do your printing when you first started out?

(08:02): Yeah, so, so they did our printing then and they still do, uh, a majority, a majority of it now. So we still have a good relationship. I, I think it's been probably two or three years since I've I, I left them, but, um, like I said, we still have a great, great working relationship in that regard and you know, it's, it's always that fun to pop in over there and, you know, see what's going on. It's just like, like I never left that's awesome. I mean, that's kinda like the perfect place to start. You're trying to get started with like an apparel brand, like you've got here. Yeah, for sure.

(08:31): And so then I know you mentioned also that you have a big nonprofit aspect to everything that you do. Tell me a little bit more about that. Yeah. So, so as I mentioned, kind of how we learn a about the nonprofits is really through the podcast and, and finding different, uh, nonprofits interview and that kind of stuff. And then the kind of next step of that, it's kind of had a couple different iterations over since the beginning. It always started with that as the, the sole mission of the company or, or a big part of that com of the company, but it kind of changed kind of the format of what that partnership looked like. So over the last couple years transition to calling it the community collection. And it's basically where we'll partner with with that nonprofit, we'll create a design and collaboration with them. And we will basically will we'll chew is each month or one month outta the year specifically for them. So we'll promote that specific collaboration for that month.

(09:21): And then 20% of all online sales, um, for that month go back to, to them, you know, we're helping obviously raise funds for them, but also at the same time, help raise awareness for them as well. You know, obviously through advertising and, and showing the promotion to dates. I think it's around 23,698. I think I always get the last three numbers kind of switched around, but it's a, it's, uh, it's very close to 24,000 that we've been able to donate so far since we started. Um, and like I said, the format has kind of been different each each year. Uh, switch it up a little bit this year, but I'm pretty excited about, about that. And, you know, especially cuz a lot of this or not a lot of this, this whole idea has been bootstrapped. So, you know, obviously gotta do what I can with the resources that I have. So

(10:03): Yeah, 20% is a huge chunk. I don't think if you own an e-commerce business, I think you can probably appreciate how big of a chunk that is, but for, you know, the general consumer, they might think, ah, it's just 20%, but I mean 20%, that's uh, huge portion of your margins that must make it kind of hard to run traditional advertising.

(10:20): Yes. That is. I mean, if you look at, at any other brand or big well-know brand that has that give back aspect, you know, that percentage is much lower or it's part of their profits, a percentage of their profits, not just the total revenue. So yes, to that point, especially coming from directly from the revenue, obviously that, I mean is a big, a big chunk there and it does make cash flow. definitely hard, hard in that state. My thing is starting up with not a lot of capital in the first place and, but having that mission, if we're being honest right now, you know, not if it was, you know, uh, percentage based off of profits or smaller amount, the impact would be the donations wouldn't hardly be there at this point. So kind of, I, I started with this ambitious goal to fulfill that mission with the idea of kind of grow into it where it makes sense as a business, if that makes sense. So kind of starting focusing on that first and growing it into what it should be, if that makes sense rather than the other way around, which might be probably sounds backwards to a lot of people, but so far it's, it's kind of working. So, you know,

(11:23): Everyone go buy a couple t-shirts from alum collect, get some of that donation money going out. Maybe we can get 'em to $25,000. Yeah, there we go. Um, yeah, based on that. So like what kind of advertising is working for you right now? I mean, if you've donated $20,000 or over 20, then something must be working cuz I mean that's from a, such a low margin. It, it must be hard to get the word out. So what what's working for you right now?

(11:46): Yeah. So I mean, I guess we have a couple different channels you could say, you know, there's obviously just the regular organic posting, which, you know, if you're, if you're a business owner, you know, that doesn't get much, um, from Facebook anymore as far as, you know, reaching people for free, but that's, I mean, that's kind of also where, so there's that part of it. And then, you know, there's the podcast, which is also turned into a blog. So obviously, you know, whoever we're interviewing or the guest or whatnot, they're gonna share it with their audience and so on and so forth. Um, so that helps kind of raise that awareness for free essentially. And even the same with the community collection themselves, you know, obviously we're, we're promoting it organically on our, on our social stuff, but so is a nonprofit that we're doing.

(12:27): So there's that cross promotion. So I think like from that point, obviously cost effective, you know, that that's a really good kind of strategy that's been working as far as kind of, uh, looking at it that way. So that, so that's kind of one channel then, you know, Facebook and Instagram, uh, advertising is another one once again, if, if you're a, a business owner, uh, you know, how, how big of an impact the, the iOS changed, uh, or change happened last June, uh, to, to add, spend on that, honestly, that that is a big driver, but you know, since June that's been kind of a big challenge that we're trying to face and trying to figure out how to get that back on track to, to where it was. And even before that, it wasn't quite where it should be. So there's still a lot of testing and stuff, but it makes it a lot harder to, to do it with that change.

(13:09): And so there's that, and then, uh, email, email marketing as well, really, we don't, you know, obviously there's different flows and that kind of stuff, but primarily is the content that we share out is, you know, one monthly newsletter that kind of gives, you know, a recap of who the nonprofit partner was last month, you know, how much we donated kind of the type of impact they made and then who's on deck for this month. So just kind of those general updates, we also update each, every Tuesday with a new, uh, podcast and that kind of stuff kind of working that, that audience and kind of nurturing them in that way and kind of, you know, build the community as well so that they understand what Illumina is about. You know, that it's, that it's more than just a t-shirt or a hoodie or whatnot. Yeah. But yeah, those, those are kind of the main forms of online promotion and that stuff.

(13:52): How do you guys source your designs? I know you mentioned that you will team up with a nonprofit, are you the designer? I'm not a designer. I like to think I have, I can give good art direction. I will say mm-hmm, some might disagree with me, but, uh, so, so usually kind of how it works. There's a couple of freelance artists that, that we work with. So like for the collections, for example, you know, we'll send out a sheet kind of a form for them to fill out and, and kind of get an idea of, okay, this is what we'd like to focus on, you know, for this specific, you know, text or this specific activity, or kind of just a general idea direction from, from the nonprofit partner. And then from there, I kind of, I look at that and kind of see, you know, what I see or, you know, see what I gather from that. And then try to come up with an idea, whether that be you super rough sketch or, or whatnot, and pulls different inspiration off, um, offline. And then kind of from there, we, we pass it on to the, the graphic designers and they kind of pull, pull all those ideas together with their talents that are much better than mine. So.

(14:49): Awesome. Yeah. I know we, we've done a number of t-shirt designs and it's always, always a lot of back and forth to get stuff, right? Yes. For sure. What advice would you give someone that wanted to start kind of like a lifestyle apparel business, just like this Learn patience. I think, you know, this is going into 2000 or, or 2017. This is going into year five, technically for, for us. And also keep in mind when I say us for the most part it's me and I have some other people that help me, but I don't have any full-time employees or anything like that, but I just always use us. But anyways, mm-hmm, , there's, it's learning to be patient and be smart and try not to be, get too hung up on things. I mean, if there's a day that you have zero sales online, you're like, well, well this, this kind of stuff, cuz you have these other expenses going out and then you're trying to figure out, okay, well, if this continues to do that, mm-hmm then where am I get the money to continue to advertise? Cuz you can't have one without the other, but obviously you need to figure out how to make the advertising more effective.

(15:43): So there's just kind of that, that constant internal struggle. I feel like that it, it's just, it's really hard to kind of find that balance. And I think the only, the only thing that's kind of kept me from not going crazy or just ditching it all together is honestly the passion and believing and actually what, what we're doing and know that it, it is going to be something, you know, bigger, the vision that I see, but it's just gonna take time and just having that, that patience and, and taking those, those different iterations. And I can't think of anything specific off of the top of my head, but if anybody would like to reach out after hearing this, um, some specific questions, but I know, you know, from the, from the beginning it was more of a, a hobby and then it, it kind of slowly evolved into something that's that's more full time and over those, I mean, I always look back.

(16:30): I was like, man, why didn't I think of this when I first started, like things would've been so much better, but that's just part of the learning process. You know, if you're started from scratch with, you know, without too much guidance as well. But yeah, like I said, I think that the biggest thing is, is the, the patience and, and the passion to be in it the right way. Because if, if things aren't going, as you expect as quickly as you expect, or as hope it's gonna to be really hard to, to get through that, if you're not patients and patient, and if you don't have the, the passion behind, um, you know, the, the mission of, of your company itself,

(17:02): There's gotta be more behind it than money because when those $0 days come in, it does not feel good. No, it does not Oh yeah, for sure. All right. So before we wrap this up, I wanna give you a chance to kind of plug company and tell people how to find you.

(17:15): Yeah, for sure. So you can, uh, check us out online@lumencollect.com and that's I L L U M I N E C O L L E C t.com on theirs is all our, our Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and all that good stuff. And that's all just at lumen collect as well. Like I said, the podcast, you can check out either, uh, life on life, in motion on Spotify or apple podcast, or there's a link on the website as well. Um, as well as some more information about the community collection stuff and the, and the specific non nonprofit partners as well. So, and as I mentioned before, if there's any, any questions or anybody out there that is starting a business or thinking about starting a business and, you know, have, have some specific questions, you know, I'm not gonna say I'm the, the know all at all, but definitely happy to, to offer some advice. Um, if there's anything that you know, that I can recall, that I wish I would've done, you know, four years ago, so there's specific situation. So feel free to, uh, shoot us a DM or whatnot on Instagram or Facebook and, uh, you know, I'll make sure I get back to you so.

(18:11): Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much, Jeremy. It was great talking to you today. Yeah. Thank you. And I appreciate the time and the opportunity to kind of share what's going on with lumen. Awesome.

(18:22): Thanks for joining us for another episode of the built on passion podcast. I hope you enjoyed it. If you were still listening right now, you need to leave a review like seriously, if you were committed enough to listen to the outro, then you must be a fan. And we would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to share this episode with a friend who's thinking about starting a passion project business, and as always tune in next week for another episode,

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