How to Win in Business

27-year-old who launched a 7-figure business in 18 months tells all

Treats is a subscription service for international snacks.
Photo courtesy Treats
Treats is a subscription service for international snacks.

Roger Jin was 14 when he first decided to be an entrepreneur. He accelerated his college coursework and moved directly to Silicon Valley, where he crashed on a friend's couch and launched his first start-up. After that first start-up failed, he worked a couple of jobs. Then he launched Treats, the subscription, mail-order international snack service that made him rich.

A year and half after he had the idea, Treats was a seven-figure business. (Jin declined to be more specific with regard to revenue.)

Now, in an Ask Me Anything on reddit, Jin opens up about what happens when you achieve that kind of rapid success. Here are edited selections from the Q&A.

An early Treats photo shoot.
Photo courtesy Treats
An early Treats photo shoot.

How did you know you should quit your job and launch Treats?

Before I quit my job and started Treats, I was also at a crossroads. I was comfortable in my previous job, but I realized I was getting too comfortable. One day I decided to just hand in my notice so that I could put my full attention into starting a new venture.

Personally — and I may be the exception rather than the norm in this case — I've always been dead-set on starting a business as soon as I could. It was arguably a bit reckless, wouldn't recommend it for everyone!

Were you worried about health insurance?

When I first started the business I was able to get coverage through the Medi-Cal program in California and knowing that helped me with taking that first step.

Where did your first inventory come from?

I was not 100 percent confident I would be able to sell them all and that gave me some apprehension. However, at that point, given that I had limited capital and no 'back-up' to fall back on, I felt I had no other choice but to put my fears aside and proceed!

"One of my favorite sayings is 'chase the dream not the competition.' As a result, I honestly don't pay much attention to the competition." -Roger Jin, founder of Treats

How did you get your first customer?

I got my very first customer by posting an announcement in my high school's Facebook Group. I went to an international school in Shanghai, China, and felt my classmates in the group might have the same inclinations as I did (in terms of wanting to eat foods from their childhoods in Asia even though they might live elsewhere now).

SnackCrate and World of Snacks offer similar products. How do you feel about your competition?

I frankly don't have anything bad to say about competition and I have a lot of respect for them as fellow entrepreneurs on the entrepreneurial path. One of my favorite sayings is 'chase the dream not the competition.' As a result, I honestly don't pay much attention to the competition.

What's your favorite international snack?

Happy Hippos by Kinder! They're great on their own, but even better when frozen (in my opinion).

Items that went into early Treats boxes.
Photo courtesy Treats
Items that went into early Treats boxes.

What was the biggest mistake you made?

Initially the company grew so fast that it caused other problems. I waited too long to hire more people! Even after our explosive growth, I was still the only person handling everything (from customer service to warehouse operations to marketing) and I think that slowed us down. As soon as I hired more people I immediately saw the benefit (it allowed me more time to focus on what I'm good at) and wish I had done it sooner.

In hindsight (and if I could do it again) I would grow the business slower and manage the growth rate. What I didn't realize was that with increase in growth, there is also an increase needed in capital requirements in order to support that growth.

How many hours do you work?

When I first started I was probably working about 80 hour per week (from morning to night, with breaks in between). Now that the business has matured and I've built a team around it, I generally work about 60 hours a week.

Is it hard to have a relationship when you are launching a start-up?

When I started the business I was not in a relationship at the time, and I think being single (and only accountable to myself) helped tremendously because I was able to focus 100 percent of my daily attention on creating, nurturing and growing the business.

Overall I think having a relationship and starting a business can very likely clash, because of the time commitment and energy required to start a business (which may take away from your significant other), but I also think the level to which it affects comes down to the couple and how well they understand, communicate, and are on the same page with each other.

What kind of college degree do you have?

I can honestly say that my [bachelor's degree in finance] has played little to no role in my career or work related skills up to this point — most of the things I encounter on a daily basis are entirely different from what I learned in school. In my opinion you don't need a degree to succeed, just a curiosity for knowledge and willingness/ability to learn the new relevant subjects you need to learn on your own (for whatever endeavor you're pursuing).

"I can honestly say that my degree has played little to no role in my career or work related skills up to this point." -Roger Jin, founder of Treats

How hard was it starting the company by yourself?

It wasn't as hard as you may imagine — the main thing about starting a company by yourself is you are now completely accountable only to yourself, and that means you have to personally take on the responsibility to do what you need to do (for any tasks that come up) and learn what you don't know. As an entrepreneur one of your main constant tasks is to solve problems that come up, and as a single founder the onus is entirely on you to solve these problems when they appear. It can be lonely at times, but also exciting!

Treats boxes being assembled at the warehouse.
Photo courtesy Treats
Treats boxes being assembled at the warehouse.

Did you already know how to build a website?

I had previously learned how to design a website but I did not know how to code it. What I did in this instance was I designed the website first, then I contracted a developer to turn my designs into code!

Why are you sharing this business plan, do you want competition?

I don't think I'm sharing anything that would jeopardize my business plan. What I'm sharing is my story, which I hope will help or inspire others out there. Even if I received more competition as a result of this post, there's a huge amount of hard work required to start and grow a business and success is not guaranteed.