My guest today is Anthony Estevez, an entrepreneur from New York City and a good friend of mine. Anthony has formed many companies over the years. In our conversation we talked about
New York’s Dominican community, how his father inspired him, and how he has learned and developed new businesses over the years.
Please enjoy my conversation with Anthony Estevez.
For full show notes, transcript, and links to content discussed in this episode refer to the episode page here:
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[00:02:01] - Anthony reflects on growing up Dominican in New York City
[00:06:16] - Business teachings that transcend generations
[00:10:13] - His start as a novice programmer in the 1990's and advice for technology interns
[00:12:06] - How being fired sparked his road to entrepreneurship
[00:21:55] - His failures and successes in starting multiple businesses
[00:28:49] - Advice on navigating the e-commerce terrain in a competitive market
[00:36:04] - Insights for getting ranked on the first page of Google
[00:38:34] - An amateur investors early awareness of Bitcoin
[00:45:37] - Building and sustaining relationships by practicing authentic gratitude
[00:47:17] - Thoughts on the future of New York City
Welcome to Compound Ideas, hosted by Ken Majmudar of Ridgewood Investments. This podcast will feature exceptional individuals to uncover deep insights into business entrepreneurship, personal growth investing and multidisciplinary thinking so that you can learn how to improve your finances, find better investments and pursue authentic, lifelong growth, wisdom and happiness. Learn more and stay up to date at Compound Ideas Show.
Ken Majmudar 00:00:35
In our conversation today, I'm going to be speaking to an entrepreneur from New York City and a good friend of mine, Anthony Estévez. Over the years, Anthony has formed many companies, and for me, this was a fun and very enlightening interview. We talked, among other things, about New York's Dominican community, how his father impacted and inspired him, and the work that he's doing today, and how he has learned and developed new businesses over the years, including his businesses In the online space. So thanks for joining the podcast and welcome.
Anthony Estevez 00:01:12
Thanks for having me.
Ken Majmudar 00:01:13
Where I'd like to start is our show is called Compound Ideas, and the concept behind it is that everybody has stories, insights, experiences. Obviously, to some extent, I have a real interest in business and in investing, so that's always part of the conversation. But it's really broader than that because the idea that we're working from is that ideas, compound relationships, compound experiences and sort of everything compounds in a sense. And so what we're trying to do with these conversations is to uncover insights or stories or experiences that help people learn about areas that most people wouldn't be familiar with or learn from somebody's experience. And I think knowing some things about you, I think there's going to be a lot of interesting stuff that we're going to cover that really isn't stuff that most people have known about. So I want to start is, you know, I know you're Dominican. I actually recently heard that New York City, which roughly speaking call it eight million people, about one million Dominicans, which is pretty extraordinary for the size of the Dominican Republic. And before I knew that, I didn't realize it was such an impactful community in the city. You and I also both love the city. That's a different conversation. So let's start with what being Dominican and being Dominican in New York? What does that mean? Like, what does it mean to be Dominican? What are some of your earliest memories of growing up?
Anthony Estevez 00:02:32
Well, I mean, some of my early memories are, I guess, come from the garment industry where I basically grew up.
Ken Majmudar 00:02:39
I mean, for those who don't know, the garment industry in New York City would be basically what in the thirties and forties west side, right
Anthony Estevez 00:02:46
Just below Hell's Kitchen, the thirties on the west side.
Ken Majmudar 00:02:49
So kind of too far from Times Square, right?
Anthony Estevez 00:02:52
No. I mean, basically where I grew up was in the mid-30s between like eighth and Ninth Avenue. Yeah, I mean, listen, the Dominican community is pretty large in New York City. I mean, like you mentioned, I mean, don't quote me exactly, but over a million. So one eighth of the population is Dominicans. I spent quite some time in Washington Heights in Midtown, but even in queens as well. There's such a huge community. I mean, a huge population of Dominicans, it's definitely a big part of our city.
Ken Majmudar 00:03:22
I mean, most people wouldn't know this. I'm Indian. I really had very little idea of what Dominican culture and the impact that Dominicans have had on, especially on New York City and the tri state area. I mean, we've become friends, so through you, I've obviously really grown my understanding and really come to appreciate it. We've been to some Dominican restaurants, a little plug for Café Nunez, which you're a part owner in. But tell somebody who has an experience, Dominican culture or being Dominican in your city. Tell us about the culture and what makes it a rich experience. What were some of the fond memories you have of your experience growing up Dominican in New York?
Anthony Estevez 00:03:58
They're just a very unique Caribbean culture. They're just so diverse. Like in my particular family, for instance, like my father. His parents are from Spain, from my mother's side. Her family is from Haiti and also from Spain. It's just such a melting pot of so many different cultures that encompass what Dominicans are today. You have one Dominican that could have blue eyes, blond hair and Dominican that can be as dark as they come.
Ken Majmudar 00:04:25
It's actually known for baseball, for example, like Dominicans. Love baseball.
Anthony Estevez 00:04:29
Yeah. You know, there's a healthy population of them will be right Dominicans in the MLB, for sure.
Ken Majmudar 00:04:36
Exactly. Now, why did that happen? Why do Dominicans love baseball so much? Is there some historical reason that you know of?
Anthony Estevez 00:04:42
Not that I know of particularly. But a lot of these baseball camps are in the Caribbean, and a lot of their camps outside of the states are like in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico.
Ken Majmudar 00:04:53
Yeah, that was another thing. Like besides the fact that there are a million plus Dominicans in New York City, which you'd be surprised like why such a concentration? Obviously, there's a historical connection there. It's a tremendous percentage of the MLB with the Dominican connection again way out of proportion to the size of the D.R. or anything like that. So that's another impressive statistic. The people that don't know Dominican culture or whatever, obviously many people. Dominican Republic is known for its vacation spots, particularly. I think Punta Cana is very famous. A lot of people go down there and probably La Romana Casa de Campos a famous spot, but there's a lot of really good resort. There's a tremendous amount of coastline down there. And probably a lot of people also, probably geography is not really one of the strongest areas for Americans and just in general, and I include myself in that category. So the Dominican Republic actually shares the physical island with Haiti. So there's actually a border with Haiti and Dominican Republic relative to Haiti is actually far wealthier. So it's almost like a tale of two worlds, even though they're joined together on this physical landmass, which what's the name of the landmass do you remember? Is it Dominica? Yes. Hispaniola. All right. All right. That's exactly right. So what are some of your earliest memories growing up even today? You remember that whatever that was, that thing or that incident, and it evokes some kind of feeling or some kind of impact
Anthony Estevez 00:06:16
Like this was when my father started his garment business here in Midtown, and it was him setting up his business and growing it from just him and to other people to almost about three different floors of just trimming companies. He did trimming buttons and various other things in the garment industry. But it was interesting to see him kind of go from just a delivery guy to this entrepreneur who built this empire between him and quite a few of my family members.
Ken Majmudar 00:06:49
And how old were you? Was you were kind of going with him or seeing this stuff
Anthony Estevez 00:06:53
Feels like the early 90s. So I was six, seven, eight years old.
Ken Majmudar 00:06:57
Ok, so here you are. You were six, seven, eight year old. I think you were living in the area also at that time, but you'd probably go down the block or across the street to this garment operation. And what can you process and understand when you're six or seven or eight? What's that experience like?
Anthony Estevez 00:07:12
It was pretty overwhelming. I mean, comparing it to what it is now, I mean, it was a completely different world. It was just literally like just 10 trucks. Hundreds of thousands of people just was the mayhem. You know, it was just it was really a huge center.
Ken Majmudar 00:07:27
I mean, and clothes were actually being made in these loft buildings that are all over that area. I think at one point in the fifties,
Anthony Estevez 00:07:34
I think like 90 percent of the garments worn in the United States were made out of this small little district to look up the actual numbers. But it was a huge percentage that was just made out of this small little district.
Ken Majmudar 00:07:45
Wow, that's actually incredible. I didn't know that. I mean, whatever the percentage of some huge percentage. So that's actually kind of interesting.
Anthony Estevez 00:07:52
No, it's amazing. Now, obviously, it's completely change. It's more tech companies. It's the commercial office spaces versus all these factories that were just, I mean, it was literally all of these buildings. It was an interesting site.
Ken Majmudar 00:08:04
How did your dad go from sort of being a delivery guy? It sounds like an employee to being the guy running or owning this business.
Anthony Estevez 00:08:12
He was working for an individual who was planning on retiring. And, you know, he had all these machines and my father was working for him. And, you know, he saw something in him and said, Hey, listen, I'm going to retire, I'm going to leave you all my machines. I'll leave you a few of my clients. Take it and run and see what happens then. It's basically how he was able to get started. Thirty five years later, I end up with this great business.
Ken Majmudar 00:08:35
That's sort of a kind, extraordinary move.
Anthony Estevez 00:08:37
Yeah, it's unbelievable. I don't know
Ken Majmudar 00:08:39
What year would that have been that that other gentleman said this to your dad?
Anthony Estevez 00:08:43
Forty one years ago, so looking for
Ken Majmudar 00:08:46
40 years, so that would've been like early eighties.
Anthony Estevez 00:08:48
Maybe, yeah, early 80s. Got it. Literally 80 or 81.
Ken Majmudar 00:08:53
And so he would have had that for four or five years. And then you were born. Right? So when you used to go at the age of six or seven or eight, like besides that, it was overwhelming. What did you process or understand about what was going on around you?
Anthony Estevez 00:09:06
Yeah, I mean, at the time, it was just watching my father just literally manage all of these people, the amount of traffic that was going in and out. It was hard to process as a child, but it was instilling in me, you know, his hard work and what he was building and what his plans were. He told me even at six or seven, that I want to take this business to 10, $15 million a year, similar to the other individual that he was working with. And I think he at one point even surpassed that.
Ken Majmudar 00:09:32
Oh wow. And do you think that that had any impact on sort of you going into business subsequently?
Anthony Estevez 00:09:38
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's what I aspired to do. I wanted to start my own business and follow in my father's footsteps. Him and my mother because my mother was also an integral part of the business, too.
Ken Majmudar 00:09:50
Oh, really? What was her role?
Anthony Estevez 00:09:52
Well, she was basically the main manager, so she was managing all the individuals while my dad did the sales and kind of the business development.
Ken Majmudar 00:10:00
Got it. So let's fast forward, I know you've done a lot of different kind of entrepreneurial endeavors over the years. Talk about some of your early business ventures and what they were and how you got into them and what happened with those and what you learned from them.
Anthony Estevez 00:10:13
Yeah. Well, I mean, I started interning when I was about 14. I started interning at these development companies. This is right before the dot com bust.
Ken Majmudar 00:10:22
So we're talking about first of mid late nineties.
Anthony Estevez 00:10:25
Yeah, I was looking for anything in technology. I want to get into programming any type of development. And I found an opportunity online and I actually. Became a developer for a company called BKL Media, and they were developing some interesting things that were just a little too early in the game, but my first job was I was an AOL server programmer, the tickle language, and my first task was to help develop a David Bowie bot
Ken Majmudar 00:10:55
That in which languages actually
Anthony Estevez 00:10:57
Tcl. Tcl was like an AOL server.
Ken Majmudar 00:11:00
Oh, I don't even know that one. Yeah. So that was your first job. What are the David Bowie bot? What is it supposed to do?
Anthony Estevez 00:11:08
So it was tough for me to process at the time, but I was supposed to help program.
Ken Majmudar 00:11:13
Did you even know David Bowie? Yes. Who is like who he was?
Anthony Estevez 00:11:17
I didn't know David Bowie. And apparently he also did something called an electric blowjob on the stage that I had to be able to programmatically respond when they had questions about it.
Ken Majmudar 00:11:28
Oh, really? I don't even
Anthony Estevez 00:11:29
Know I was sitting in a conference room.
Ken Majmudar 00:11:32
That's probably a Google search for anybody that's curious
Anthony Estevez 00:11:35
What's an electric blowjob?
Ken Majmudar 00:11:38
Well, you were you were first like, what's a blowjob? And then it was like, What's an electric blowjob, right? It's like, Wait, a few years, we'll tell you later. Yeah, and no internet to look it up like, or maybe I guess there was at that point, but it was still early days.
Anthony Estevez 00:11:55
Nothing like what we have nowadays, for sure.
Ken Majmudar 00:11:57
Oh, definitely, definitely. I don't think Wikipedia was invented yet, so that was your first thing. But talk about some of the other ones. What did you learn from these different internships?
Anthony Estevez 00:12:06
Yeah, no from their interned at an IT company helping manage or maintain small businesses. I went from programming to regular I.T. work, and from there I went into web development hosting. So from from jobs, from internet internship, I just learned a little bit of everything in the technology space, which landed me at a company called Outsourced. I was doing some programming for them and I remember sitting there with them and they brought me to the office and they told me, we want to give you good news and bad news and said, you know, give me the bad news. The bad news was, you're fired.
Ken Majmudar 00:12:41
Ok, that's pretty bad. Yeah, that's pretty bad news. Is there any good news here
Anthony Estevez 00:12:46
That oh yeah. Yeah, no. So what's the good news? The good news is that you keep your office and we'll bring you on as a consultant you can bill us as a consultant and build your own business and see where you can go from there.
Ken Majmudar 00:12:58
You know what? Why would they have done that? I mean, most people, when they fire somebody because they don't need their services anymore, they escorted them out of the building the same day.
Anthony Estevez 00:13:06
It was probably my fault because I kept mentioning to them that I wanted to build my own independent little business where I could be a consultant or offer an array of services to clients.
Ken Majmudar 00:13:15
And oh, so it was you telling them that you wanted to build your own practice? And where did that come from? Why would you say that to them? Or why did you have that desire?
Anthony Estevez 00:13:24
There was a few partners there that all were definitely pushing me and saw I was helping them not only maintain their network, also develop their core system and said, Hey, listen to me, you're offering us all of these services. There's tremendous value and you're getting paid to just be a programmer. And why not offer put together a team and offer an entire array of services for clients? You can build a tremendous business from it.
Ken Majmudar 00:13:46
So it sounds like they almost tried to conspire to help you get what you want in a way.
Anthony Estevez 00:13:51
Oh, absolutely, and I still have a relationship with them till today.
Ken Majmudar 00:13:54
Oh wow, neat. So what happened next?
Anthony Estevez 00:13:57
I started doing sales. I actually met my who was still my partner now, Sergey. A year into that, and I started developing or picking up clients, I was literally going door to door and we started offering the IT services, the web development, the hosting, email hosting.
Ken Majmudar 00:14:16
So what year would this have meant that you're talking about right now?
Anthony Estevez 00:14:19
So was 2001 2002.
Ken Majmudar 00:14:23
So yeah, we're talking almost 20 years ago. There's a lot of people who probably won't remember, like, what was it like back then, the web and sort of technology? And just remember for everybody, if you can imagine such a thing, there was a time pre iPhone when everybody didn't have a smartphone in their pockets. And if you want to use the internet, you have to use a computer.
Anthony Estevez 00:14:41
I was at the time where the people thought the internet was AOL, right? Exactly. They understand anything outside of logging into AOL, checking your email and using at the time.
Ken Majmudar 00:14:52
Yeah, dial-up, right? Not even internet for the most part. Yeah.
Anthony Estevez 00:14:55
14 four K. Yeah, it's a different world for sure.
Ken Majmudar 00:15:00
Yeah, definitely. But I mean, a lot of excitement and value and information driven that way just through the closed garden of AOL. Right, right, right. People today. Still, lots of people still have AOL email addresses, extraordinarily. And it's been 20 years later.
Anthony Estevez 00:15:14
Yeah, I'm still holding on.
Ken Majmudar 00:15:16
Yeah. So it sounds like you were sort of doing little project type work during that period of time.
Anthony Estevez 00:15:21
Yeah. So we were basically like a full service agency. We were doing everything. I'd come into a small business email set up. I need you to help us do our website. I need you to help maintain our local network. So we became. Pretty important part of all the small businesses we were servicing.
Ken Majmudar 00:15:37
How far did that go? How big did that get? What were the challenges that you had? What were the learnings you had from building that up from just, hey, I got fired and now I have to do this business. And they gave me an office to whatever point it got to.
Anthony Estevez 00:15:50
Yeah, I mean, like 15 years of just grinding and just being an entrepreneur. So check to check product to project. It led me to two very important people in my life that really kind of took us on a different path where it went from us just servicing our clients and their businesses, their ideas to, hey, we have some of our own ideas, and why don't we develop this for ourselves and start marketing them or developing them all in-house, which led us to getting into the real estate, education space and some of the sites that were actually even involved with now?
Ken Majmudar 00:16:26
So you're saying there were two people that led you down that path? So who are those people?
Anthony Estevez 00:16:31
One was Richard. He's the owner of the New York Real Estate Institute. Ok? I was actually doing it work for him.
Ken Majmudar 00:16:38
He was. So you through your consulting, you basically stumble across this guy, Richard. He has this real estate school. How did you meet him? Like, did you knock on his door or?
Anthony Estevez 00:16:48
Yeah. So basically, I was just knocking on doors in our office building. And so, yeah, I need some help with it to work. And that's how we started it. Years later, I started telling him about some of the other projects we're developing, some of the online marketing that we're doing for them. And, you know, it basically told me, he said, Hey, listen, why don't we get our own office space and develop some of these ideas together? I can help finance them and do some of the legwork and see what happens.
Ken Majmudar 00:17:14
So what year would this have been roughly
Anthony Estevez 00:17:17
14, 15 years ago already?
Ken Majmudar 00:17:19
Oh, OK, so you're talking like 2005 2006.
Anthony Estevez 00:17:22
So, yeah, because he was one of my clients, so he was in that group, that early group or I picked up as an IT client and started helping him with hosting and maintaining his local network.
Ken Majmudar 00:17:34
So Rich says, Hey, you know, I have got this real estate school, by the way. I think it's real estate school, which now you're, I think a partner in you guys train like ninety or ninety five percent of all the real estate agents in this is near city or New York state.
Anthony Estevez 00:17:48
I would say it's eighty eighty five percent of New York state as a whole.
Ken Majmudar 00:17:52
It's called New York Real Estate Institute. How did that lead to OK now? Rich says, Oh, you're doing a good job with this I.T. support stuff. I've got these ideas or whatever, and I can fund it. So what happened next?
Anthony Estevez 00:18:04
We started various different little businesses. We probably started 10 different businesses to different sites, got into the military space, reselling to the government, selling online on an e-commerce website. You got into the document preparation space. But primarily it was. Our focus was expanding his real estate business to various locations and also his dominance online growing his online business.
Ken Majmudar 00:18:32
So and I think this is actually a very relevant topic that I think a lot of people would be interested in because obviously during that whole time, I mean, like I said, Amazon was went public. I believe it was nineteen ninety eight. And you look today it's two thousand and one. It's May twenty one. Amazon, when the last twenty to twenty three years has become really an incredible force in the world, both on the retail side but also with their web services, which I think we all get touched by both, whether we realize it or not. But that whole time that you're talking about your career start in the late nineties to today has been a time of incredible growth in online commerce and web usage and all these trends mobile usage. But I also, at the same time, challenges for brick and mortar businesses. So I think this case study is so kind of interesting. As you're saying, Rich, who had a basically a physical real estate school, you were his main partner that helped him, I guess, come up with and then sort of try different things on the online side to move from a pure physical business where people used to come to a building in the 30s in Manhattan to attend classes physically in person to now. What's the mix now where what percentage of the NYREI students are actually physically coming there versus just doing it online class
Anthony Estevez 00:19:49
Right before COVID? I would say it was like 70 percent online and 30 percent physical. So it's definitely flipped considerably.
Ken Majmudar 00:19:57
Yeah. And now you were the one. You're the smart I.T. guy, right? Which is just, Hey, I'm a businessman, I'm a real estate guy. So yes, I can pay for it, but you got to figure it out. So what did you do? What were the steps to figure out how to help this client go from a pure physical operation to an online operation? Now, obviously, we're talking about something that happened over 10 plus years, but talk about what it was like back then and what steps you took to figure out what to try and what to do, and then subsequently, how that's changed.
Anthony Estevez 00:20:28
I mean, the first thing was that we were taking all of these courses online. We were helping develop. The entire online course for its core course salesperson course, the broker scores continuing education and that but is also reverse engineering what the other competitors of the larger real estate education institutes were doing. Kaplan and some of these other big outfits. And how do we gain control of the market share in New York? We physically were dominant, but online we had no presence.
Ken Majmudar 00:20:58
So let's say, let's say somebody is not super familiar, whatever, like probably the first thought that somebody would have as well. Let me just get like a video camera and record my teachers. And so I'll take that and put it online. Now, I presume, based on what you already said, that that's probably not the approach you took. But take us through the thought process of why that wasn't the approach and why that wouldn't have really worked and what you guys ended up doing.
Anthony Estevez 00:21:22
Well, I mean, listen, it's a regulated industry. You have to be approved by the Department of State and another governing body. So it's more than just recording the course. It's developing, of course, outline developing, obviously all the different pieces of the course, and it was hiring all the right consultants that could actually help us do that. The course development, the production side of it. How are we going to host and deliver it to us at a time where you could have just been open? Yeah, absolutely.
Ken Majmudar 00:21:48
That's my other whole thing, right? You just have to actually, like get a data center and then maybe even put in like servers there yourself physically.
Anthony Estevez 00:21:55
So it actually had to make sense financially. And at the beginning, it didn't necessarily.
Ken Majmudar 00:22:01
I mean, that's a very common problem. You have something an opportunity, but financially there's constraints. How did you as an entrepreneur, how have you learned to think about that? When you have constraints that you want, you feel like there's an opportunity somewhere, but you have to be very careful with the money you spend.
Anthony Estevez 00:22:17
I guess the first 10 sites that we launched, I mean, we had to learn from bloodshed. We literally failed because we wanted to take too much on like, for example, the military company. We had the right idea. We do the products that would sell. We just didn't.
Ken Majmudar 00:22:31
That was probably true, by the way. That's very interesting because that's almost like a precursor to today's like drop ship models and everything.
Anthony Estevez 00:22:37
No, no, exactly. So what you're used to now is getting something in two days. At the time, you had a few orders of moms. It wasn't a big deal, but through our marketing efforts, we went from 20 orders in one month to the next month, having 1100 orders. And we faced the fact that we didn't have the capital to actually have the inventory and actually fulfilling these orders instead of taking two days like you do with now, you know, it might take three weeks. And that's what led to the collapse of that business. I mean, we literally just were overwhelmed by the amount of orders and growth, not necessarily something that you can apply.
Ken Majmudar 00:23:12
That was sort of a military camouflage type of wear. So it was a website,
Anthony Estevez 00:23:17
Army surplus army navy stuff. But why do you even need to go to one of these sites where we can go to an Amazon or one of these big outfits that basically the manufacturers are going to directly now? Yeah.
Ken Majmudar 00:23:29
Back then, it wasn't like that, though.
Anthony Estevez 00:23:31
No, I mean, Amazon wasn't what it was today. A lot of the manufacturers actually didn't want to allow people to be on platforms like Amazon because it would kill the brick and mortars that were their lifeline at the time.
Ken Majmudar 00:23:43
So it would be like grey market. In a sense, you have to try to figure out how to get the supply and then market it online, maybe at a discount or something.
Anthony Estevez 00:23:52
Oh, selling on eBay and all these other auction houses or platforms, but wasn't very scalable the way that we initially approached it.
Ken Majmudar 00:24:00
What I hear is a couple of lessons. One is try different things. Obviously, you've learned you didn't know at the time that thinking through your capital intensity like, so you're very successful, but you don't have money to actually fulfill. That's that could be a real problem. Any other lessons that stayed with you from those early kind of entrepreneurial ventures?
Anthony Estevez 00:24:19
Yes, maybe not. As typical was just overgrowth too early. Not being able to handle the orders. Not being able to facilitate delivering these orders for the military space or even having enough bandwidth or hosting capacity.
Ken Majmudar 00:24:32
So I mean, I feel like now today with those experiences and some others where you sort of evolved to is that I think it's fair to say that you're definitely obviously an I.T. expert and I think you have still some business in that, but you really are a internet marketing expert. So how did you make that transition from essentially being a I.T. consultant to really learning how you can take create any sites or obviously some site and do whatever the steps would be and do them well, such that you get a growing amount of traffic and therefore a growing amount of attention and eyeballs that ultimately converts to sales. What were the steps to try to put that together as a capability that now you currently have?
Anthony Estevez 00:25:21
So as we started developing e-commerce websites for a lot of our customers, we not only were a part of the actual development of the site, the hosting and everything, but they wanted us to also help them with the marketing and researching who they can. Higher what they needed to implement, actually get the right traffic to their sites, so we started just naturally starting to research and grow our understanding of how to market online, what were the different avenues we can leverage to actually help their e-commerce businesses be successful? And it led us to start profit sharing with some of our customers where we do all the marketing for you. We even actually helped finance some of the marketing expenses, and we were successful we would actually share on the back end. So there was a big incentive there for us to figure it out.
Ken Majmudar 00:26:08
So essentially, performance based advertising and performance based generate lead gen correct.
Anthony Estevez 00:26:14
And through some of the consultants we actually hired and we're working with on a regular basis. We just learned so much and so many different spaces and so many different niches that led us to starting our own sites and doing these own marketing and all development for ourselves.
Ken Majmudar 00:26:29
So what were the first sort of sites that instead of, say, somebody like NYREI comes to you and says, We know we need to be online, we need to be marketing online, so we'll hire you and you can work with us and we'll pay you to do this and get our sites up and running. Where was that idea, as well as the timing of like, Oh, you know what? I'm doing this for other people. They're doing well and obviously I know what I'm doing. Why not start our own sites and then we'll own those and I'll use the same marketing skills, like when was that transition and why?
Anthony Estevez 00:27:00
I would say that transition was maybe ten years ago, but it was obviously in combination with us still servicing our clients as we developed our own properties. But yeah, I would say it was almost 12 years ago at this point.
Ken Majmudar 00:27:12
What were the first few sites that you created as being sites that you guys created yourselves to then use your marketing abilities on those sites to build up traffic and users and so forth?
Anthony Estevez 00:27:24
So one of the first sites was an immigration website. My aunt was a paralegal that represented some immigration lawyers, and they were offering these services and they wanted to have a website and offer these core services for their physical business. And we said a lot of this stuff could be automated with some basic logic and customers just filling out these forms. And we developed this website called Immigration Filing and basically took all the logic that the lawyer and my aunt put together for us and basically made it a self-service site where you can go on there and help you fill out various immigration forms. That was one of the initial sites which actually worked well,
Ken Majmudar 00:28:03
And people would just come to this site and sort of say, Oh, I need help filling out this form.
Anthony Estevez 00:28:07
Yeah, I need to fill up my green card or I need to apply to be an American citizen. What's the process? That was one of the first initial sites.
Ken Majmudar 00:28:15
And you said your aunt was an immigration attorney. So is that the kind of thing that would go to her to do? Or you had it kind of an online help at first? At first I was almost like self-serve.
Anthony Estevez 00:28:26
Yeah, at first it was all funneled to them. Then there was so many competitors that were offering and they were just automating it. They were just doing it through forums online. What they would charge several thousands of dollars. People were charging a few hundred dollars. So that's when we made the transition to actually have a self-service forum that would create the documents for you. You would fill them out and have it printed out and you would do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Ken Majmudar 00:28:49
So if you're going to explain the whole internet marketing ecosystem as it is today, what are sort of the key steps into taking a new website into something that is actually ranking well and getting a lot of traffic? Like what are those steps and what are the tools that you use as a professional that really knows about this space
Anthony Estevez 00:29:09
And separate from developing the sites, which now, you know, obviously there's so many different platforms that allow you to create websites very easily, depending on your niche. It's about the content, the value that you create for your customers online and which avenues actually work for the specific niche. So there's so many different sites we're involved with, where social works very well and others were only paid. Advertising works well or just ranking organically for relevant topics. So that's a loaded question. It really depends from business to business, but a lot of the core principles on how to rank organically or what works include advertising. We found some pretty solid educational resources, like one great course was this course from Simply Learn, which is basically a comprehensive course in everything from A-Z on online marketing.
Ken Majmudar 00:30:01
So they, like, found that course and taught yourself
Anthony Estevez 00:30:05
Pretty much some of the marketing companies that we had worked with had recommended it being that we wanted to kind of build our own in-house team. And some of the other tools we use are just common tools or just like a travel SEMrush and even the tools made available by the platform to use, like AdWords, buying ads and everything else. What's great about these sites and these tools is their knowledge base is they're just an immense amount of information on there and they cover so many different things. It's. Just a search, a way that you could find pretty much an answer to anything.
Ken Majmudar 00:30:37
And I mean, obviously, I think the level of competition, the cost of ads, the cost of social media, marketing keyword, all of that, I believe, is just sort of going up over time. Exactly. Is that correct? Yeah. So can you talk about how your approach has to evolve in an evolving kind of ecosystem?
Anthony Estevez 00:30:57
It's ever changing. I mean, every few months, every year these platforms change, they make it more and more difficult for you to be successful. They're obviously gearing it so that you can spend more but can't necessarily extract more out of the platforms. Some of our costs, for instance, this year versus last year, are up 20 five 30 percent, and it's just because of the platform changes or some of the analytics aren't available like they were before. So it's leveraging all of these other tools that help support optimizing and really running lean marketing campaigns on all these various platforms.
Ken Majmudar 00:31:36
So now let's jump to I know you've got obviously you still work on New York Real Estate School. What are some of the other ones that you're strongly involved with or building up today?
Anthony Estevez 00:31:45
Right now, we're working on two websites. One is called Form Pros dot Com, which is a document preparation site for various documents, legal documents, business documents, tax documents, and it's all self-service. You can go online and with all the logic on our questionnaires, you can fill out these forms without the help of a lawyer or a CPA, and another website is just filed now. So another information website we help companies or startups actually form their entities and anything related to the business formation process.
Ken Majmudar 00:32:17
So especially with file now, if I'm understanding that right, that's basically like any entrepreneur or business owner or somebody they want to start a business or start a subsidiary or whatever. You can go to file now and simply say, Hey, I want to form a LLC in New York or I want to form a corporation in Delaware or what have you. Do you guys cover all 50 states?
Anthony Estevez 00:32:44
Yeah, we cover all 50 states. We also help foreigners also create their entities and separate form formation. Also just maintaining your entities, your statuses. Registered agent services. Pretty much A through Z, even to dissolution when you're dissolving your company. So we offer pretty much everything in every state and our platform is as fast as anybody else out there. We fill out a form today to fill out, for example, of New York entity. You can have the entity formed by tomorrow.
Ken Majmudar 00:33:14
Oh, wow. So why were you interested in getting into that business of helping with business formations? What is it that you saw or what was the insight behind that?
Anthony Estevez 00:33:23
What actually came from my local clients? I deal with a lot of local CPAs and it just came from them physically going down to the Department of State or going through the process, the tedious process of doing it themselves when they're creating entities on a regular basis. So we wanted to create a platform just to make that easier for them at first. And now we've expanded to just within just our local clients, to all 50 states.
Ken Majmudar 00:33:48
Yeah, right. That makes sense. There's a lot of competition in that. So how do you say, Oh, well, I'm going to form a website, it's going to help people form companies and in a marketplace where there are other options, and I'm really interested in kind of your insight on the steps. This is just sort of high level. How do we make it a successful business from idea to business? Let's say if I came to you with that idea and I was like, Hey, be my partner helped me do this, maybe I don't even want to do the technical stuff. What are the steps you'll go through to decide a whether or not we should do that? But B, if we do decide to do it, here's kind of the three or four or five high level steps that we're going to be thinking about doing to help us succeed in this idea.
Anthony Estevez 00:34:27
Well, fortunately, I wish there was just a simple answer,
Ken Majmudar 00:34:30
Or especially if there is a lot of competition, right? Like Wayfair is pretty dominant. There's furniture on Amazon, whatever, but obviously. So we're not going to do a general purpose furniture market or something. But let's say one obviously idea that I know is like you niche it down,
Anthony Estevez 00:34:44
Focusing on the low hanging fruit. What isn't in that specific space? What is something that is not going to be as difficult to rank for? The bigger players aren't focused on focusing on the niche, doing things that aren't going to be as hard to get your foot in the door and at least gives you some traction and some ammunition to start working on the bigger obstacles. So, I mean, you could use two websites to reverse engineer what some of your competitors are doing. So like Ahrefs or SEMrush, and you could see what they're spending their marketing dollars on, what they're working on organically and where a majority of their budget is being allocated towards. So you said there were what Pokémon?
Ken Majmudar 00:35:24
What say, Pokémon furniture?
Anthony Estevez 00:35:26
So Pokémon furniture, for instance, you could also do the research based on the keywords or the product. Or if you find the actual main players like a Wayfair and whatnot, you can reverse engineer what products are actually focusing on how much you're spending. So I would basically just take all that data and see what has the least barrier to entry. And you can tell that by some of these tools by ranking difficulty cost per click. So many different little factors that you can tell Hey, listen, ranking for an investment advisor versus being an investment advisor and a specific product or vehicle would be my approach, for sure.
Ken Majmudar 00:36:04
And I mean, I think most people know this, but what is it that determines why when you type a search for something, why are certain things on that first page? And how do you as an entrepreneur, you know, obviously everybody wants to be on the first page. So to you. How do you try to kind of get your content or your links or your site to be the one that comes up, no matter what that search is?
Anthony Estevez 00:36:25
Yeah, I mean, these search engines, obviously, content is king. What do you have on your product page? What do you have on your blog? But it's also about reputation, who's linking to you, who is talking about your product or who's talking about your website? Those are all very big factors in ranking and ranking well, and you can have the best content piece in the world, but you know, nobody knows about it. Nobody's linking to you. You're not going to gain any traction. I mean, if you want to rank well and you want to be an authority in the space, Google's going to look for relevancy. So if you're a site that talks about chairs and you have one Pokémon article, you're not going to rank very well for it. So it's creating, you know, a web of articles that support the products that you're selling or what you're trying to rank for.
Ken Majmudar 00:37:09
So what are some of the ways to find people and like be able to verify that they know what they're talking about Or could help you?
Anthony Estevez 00:37:16
I mean, there's various platforms like Upwork where you can and these are marketplaces for consultants, developers. That's one good place to start. But in regards to education or I guess, authorities for the online marketing, I would say SEO Moz is a good place to start. The knowledge bases of sites like SEMrush and obviously just leveraging Google itself. I mean, there's just so many different blog sites and just so many great places to find information, and it's just about sitting there and doing the research.
Ken Majmudar 00:37:47
Great. So so where our file now and form pros in terms of in their path of growth and development? As far as when did you start them and what's the future hold for those two?
Anthony Estevez 00:37:57
Yeah. So we started the site for a year and a half ago, two years ago, and we were developing all the internal business processes and we really started in the past year and a really grow our marketing efforts. And we're already starting to rank very well for some of the related products on form, pros and profile now. We just started doing our work, so we're at the infancy of where we can be ranking organically or in the actual specific spaces. But, you know, there's tremendous potential. I mean, in the past year, we've seen exponential growth on both of them. So, yeah, the future's bright.
Ken Majmudar 00:38:34
That's great. Now I want to switch a little bit to another topic you and I have talked about. Obviously, it's very much in the news right now, which is crypto. I know neither of us have really. We're not that big into it, but I want you to tell that story of somebody that worked for you, how you first heard of bitcoin. And sort of I think it's an interesting story, so I wanted to share it.
Anthony Estevez 00:38:53
Yeah, no. So I had a gentleman who was doing customer service for us quite a few years ago, six or seven years ago or so, maybe
Ken Majmudar 00:39:02
Even more or no,
Anthony Estevez 00:39:03
It was 2013 or so, I
Ken Majmudar 00:39:06
Believe, because that's when I first read the bitcoin paper and dabbled in it.Very small level.Yeah,
Anthony Estevez 00:39:11
Yeah, no. So he started mentioning to me about these digital coins that he was investing in. Yeah. And, you know, he recommended that I got involved and I told them, Listen, I don't know what kind of coins you're talking about, but I have no interest whatsoever. And he was actually speaking about bitcoin at the time. Yeah. And lo and behold, a few years later, the young gentleman had about 6500 bitcoins. Wow. You know, he gave me his resignation. And also, best of luck.
Ken Majmudar 00:39:44
So what was his? I mean, I think he was just like a regular guy, right? Not a huge high income guy. I even think you told me that he might have even been buying as much as he could on credit or whatever, but obviously was the
Anthony Estevez 00:39:56
Next thing I
Ken Majmudar 00:39:56
Was telling you and we were obviously there were a lot of people and still are skeptical. It's a bubble. I don't get it, whatever. But what was it that he got that turned out to be kind of true?
Anthony Estevez 00:40:07
I mean, initially he was a big gold bug, so it was just about him seeing in the future that obviously our currencies are just going to inflate themselves away. And it's just about holding things that will retain value. And from that, you get some pretty rough investments in the junior mining space. And it was just looking for the next thing, like what's going to be the next real store of value as the world's changed? I mean, technologically? It's a completely different world, and we got into this crypto space, and it was just so intriguing to him that you could have a digital currency that was disconnected from banking and had a limited number, and he just saw it as the way of the future. How banking and how finance was going to work in the future was not with physical cash or physical gold anymore. Yeah, and it was just something that just really jumped out at him. And I mean, boy, was he right? Huh?
Ken Majmudar 00:41:02
Yeah. Boy, was he right? I mean, I wish I had listened more. I mean, I did dabbled a little bit, and I think it's actually, I mean, is a separate conversation. So we don't have to go much into this, but I still think it's kind of early days. There's still a lot of innovation going on. So I don't think the story is by any means over. As we've talked about a few different times, and maybe that's a conversation for a different day, but good for him. And it's really great to see that even somebody without any major amount of capital or major, probably entrepreneurial interests could get almost like definitely completely life changing results by having one correct insight. I mean, if you look at how much bitcoin and I was actually in the room when Ethereum was announced, maybe announced to the world, was that a Bitcoin conference in twenty fourteen? And similar to your story, I immediately thought, Oh, this is really interesting, and I didn't necessarily act on it. And I think there were a lot of lessons in that that I take away from. But definitely, who would have thought that there would be this completely new idea of digital assets would in less than 10 years, and in many cases less than five years, create returns that would be completely life changing. And so that's definitely been a great both learning experience and something that I'm sort of taking it in processing and trying to get better in my craft. So that's a fascinating story. And I'm sure that young man has been handsomely rewarded and also is probably pretty happy that you had that insight and acted on it. So that's great.
Anthony Estevez 00:42:29
Absolutely. There's so much more to come. I mean, there's these cryptocurrencies are just evolving day to day. I mean, it's curious to see what the next 10 years would bring. I mean,
Ken Majmudar 00:42:40
Yeah, I'm actually working very deliberately on putting together a crypto vehicle for people that I know to be able to participate in. The growth that I see is going to still happen ahead of us. Obviously, you've got the base layers like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but then there's a lot of things going on in decentralized finance and all these other areas that I still think most people don't understand and still have a long way to go. So definitely that will be very interesting to see how that develops, and I'm really excited about putting some of these things together, partly because a lot of people, you know, they don't have the time or the interest to really go into where the rabbit hole goes, but partly because also, I just think there's a lot of upside. And also I think it's a great inflation hedge, which right now we're in a period where I think the risk of inflation is going to be a lot higher than it has been for quite some time. Of course, those of us who are business people like you and I entrepreneurs, we have our own businesses. We have some more direct participation in the growth of the economy and the digital economy. Like you through file now and form pros me through Ridgewood Investments and other investments that I make. So we're kind of relatively well positioned compared to, you know, the average person who may be working like that guy who worked for you. But like you said, like in his case, he saw this new thing understood it, maybe for his own quirky reasons, was super fascinated with it, but certainly the result speaks for itself.
Anthony Estevez 00:44:04
Ken Majmudar 00:44:05
Unbelievable. Exactly. Now we may be in a bit of a crypto bubble that seems like the case in certain areas, but I still think that the longer term, there's still just a lot of interesting stuff going on. And obviously all of it's not going to succeed, just like all the dotcoms didn't succeed or whatever. But out of that batch of things came game changing world changing innovations, including Amazon, including Facebook, including Google and really a whole host of others. So definitely, I think for people listening today who are thinking about, Oh, you know, I missed out, actually, no, you haven't. It's just that the opportunity that's going to work for the next five or ten or twenty years isn't going to look like the opportunity that worked for the last five or 10. So you have to be really attuned to sort of seeing opportunity the way it looks now instead of the way it looked five or 10 years ago that you feel like you missed out on. Oh, absolutely. And sometimes it's not like you've never missed out because there could be significant gains even in the things that have worked. But obviously, there's a lot of nuance involved to all of that. So just in closing, if you think back, what are some of the most impactful books or learnings that you've had that have really kind of colored your approach to business into life?
Anthony Estevez 00:45:18
To be completely honest, I wouldn't say it's really been in my experiences with individuals and different companies that I've worked with that have really molded who I've become. And a lot of the learning that I've done has been purely just through. Google searching and just digging in and really trying to understand the things that I'm trying to accomplish.
Ken Majmudar 00:45:37
Obviously every parent you want your children to do well and you have all these richness of experiences in your life. So if you were to pass on one or two insights that you think would really be helpful for them to learn from your experience rather than from their own mistakes, or maybe give them a step ahead in life, what would those things be? What would you tell them and hope that they understood and put into practice?
Anthony Estevez 00:46:00
I guess my father has taught me, you know, I really want to set your mind to something, actually put the work in in the energy into it. It's not a question if it's just a matter of time. These are things that it's just something that's a part of my life and almost what I want to teach. Or I teach every day to my daughters the kind of people being appreciative of all the things that I kind of just do on a daily basis. I just thought that I take for granted. It's just almost just a part of my DNA, you know?
Ken Majmudar 00:46:26
Yeah, because actually a lot of people aren't like that, you know what I mean? I mean, particularly like, I mean, this is probably where I'd like to end. But like New York City actually has a reputation that, oh, everybody's grumpy and everybody's mean, and they just walk by each other and they're not very friendly people. So like people from God knows where, you know, rural Pennsylvania are, like, scared to come to New York City right now. You're from the city. I'm from right outside the city. I love the city. I think we both love the city. We've talked about it. What is it that you love about the city and where is that impression may be correct? Or where is that impression? Maybe not quite on the mark.
Anthony Estevez 00:46:58
I guess my experience has been different. I feel like all the people that I've met or the majority of people I've met in my life have, you know, been generally good people and giving me tremendous opportunities and have had open arms to some of the ideas that I've brought to the table. I guess I wouldn't necessarily agree with that.
Ken Majmudar 00:47:17
And why do you like New York City? So much, I know. Mean, you still live there. I have so many years later. What's so great about New York City?
Anthony Estevez 00:47:22
It's just an unbelievable city. It's just the people. Everything is just the energy. I mean, I get homesick being away from the city for a few days. It's like there's just something about the city that just makes me tick, and it's just something that I've never experienced anywhere else.
Ken Majmudar 00:47:39
Yeah. Interestingly enough, obviously, the pandemic has sort of temporarily, I think, changed, obviously for obvious reasons. A lot of what's great about New York City, the energy, the all night, the city that never sleeps. There's a curfew. You have to go home all these kind of things, but obviously it's starting to come back. So obviously there have been people that have been writing articles about, Oh, New York City is over and these kind of things, which I'm personally very skeptical of. In fact, I've written the opposite and a bunch of people supposedly moved to Florida and stuff. I think a lot of them are starting to come back, so maybe we end with that. What do you think the future of New York City is in a world where in theory you could just be on Zoom all day and never have to come back to the city?
Anthony Estevez 00:48:18
I think it's just going to come back with a vengeance. The city is just obviously what we went through was just such a unique time in our lives. But I mean, I was anxious and eager every day for the city to start opening up again. I feel like there's even more opportunities now for me here than ever. But friends and family who have moved away. I mean, there isn't one of them that doesn't want to take a flight.
Ken Majmudar 00:48:43
I think now they've said that. So it's the middle of May right now, by the end of May. They're basically lifting all the curfews so New York City can pretty much open up again, right?
Anthony Estevez 00:48:52
Yeah, I'd like to see what places look like or the streets look like. Yeah, the second week of June.
Ken Majmudar 00:48:59
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's going to be a great summer in the city. You? I mean, obviously there have been some consequences, though I expect that one of the things I remember hearing way back when was that natural disasters in terms of an urban planning point of view are actually really good because obviously stuff gets destroyed and then it gets rebuilt like you couldn't ever like, vacate all those areas. And all of a sudden, if the whole area gets into a natural disaster, now it's built back. I mean, that happened with downtown, unfortunately, through everything that happened with nine eleven, but now you have a very vibrant downtown area that's been completely redeveloped, so it'll be interesting to see. I mean, I did hear a statistic that a huge amount of I mean, we already had Amazon with retail where retail stores were going out, but obviously the pandemic has been quite impactful. I don't know what percentage of restaurants aren't going to reopen, at least in the near term, just because they're gone, even some very well-known restaurants. But I would imagine that as the people come back and as the demand comes back, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs are going to use those empty vacant spaces to come up with a lot of alternatives to new ideas, new restaurants, new concepts to fill those vacant places and create all kinds of amazing new experiences that will make the city and even more magical and exciting place to be visiting or be a resident of.
Anthony Estevez 00:50:21
Yeah, no, I actually am looking forward to it. I think there's going to be a renaissance in New York City. I agree with you. I really think that it's going to come back. There's going to be so many more opportunities and we're going. Out of this, put it in the way that we went in.
Ken Majmudar 00:50:35
I enjoyed my conversation with Anthony today. Some of my key takeaways are the importance of nurturing personal and professional connections. His story really struck me about how he lost his job and yet the unexpected opportunities that came from his former boss. His insights on having the right idea but taking too much on at once and knowing when to walk away from a business, as well as his habit of reverse engineering, what his competitors are doing to learn how he himself can succeed in his own businesses, and of course, always learning from the people that you hire and put on your team. And by the way, in this conversation, we talked about the Dominican population in New York. Interestingly enough, according to Population STAT, there are more Dominicans living in New York City than in any other location in the world, except for Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic. And interestingly, for a small country, the Dominican Republic has had an outsized impact on the world of Major League Baseball because a little over 10 percent of the players in the majors as of a 20 20 ESPN article are of Dominican origin. Finally, we also discussed the garment district in New York by nineteen thirty one. New York's garment district was home to more clothing manufacturers than any other place in the world. Of course, a lot has changed over the years. If you're interested in learning more about the garment district in New York City, Gotham Center dot org has a wealth of information from the Garment Industry History Initiative and the Graduate Center at the CUNY.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Compound Ideas, hosted by Ken Majumdar of Ridgewood Investments. Connect with Ken. Learn more about the show and never miss an episode at Compound Ideas show dot.com. Ken Majmudar is the founder of Ridgewood Investments and several other affiliated companies. All opinions expressed by Ken and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of Ridgewood Investments or any of its affiliates. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as basis for investment decisions. Clients of Ridgewood Investments and its affiliates may maintain positions in the securities discussed in this podcast.