Josh Downing always wanted to start his own construction company — but with a young family to think about, an entrepreneurial career didn't seem like it was in the cards.
The 31-year-old's dream became reality in 2014, he tells CNBC, when he stumbled upon Thumbtack, a platform that connects customers with professionals for any job they need done, from photography to strength training.
While still working full-time at a construction development company, Downing signed up as a general contracting "pro" on Thumbtack.
"I got lucky out of the gate and landed a $6,000 kitchen remodel in April 2014," he says. "It was a small job, but a $7 risk [the cost to submit a quote to the customer] turned into an $800 profit. The rest is history."
Once he saw how quickly he could lock down gigs, Downing thought there was an opportunity to build his own company using the platform without incurring too much risk.
His thought was solidified when he secured a $900,000 project, he explains: "I was thinking, if I could get a quarter to a half million dollars a year from this website, that's all I need. I never would've thought that I'd be able to generate millions of dollars from this website, let alone one lead that turned into a $900,000 custom home build on the beach."
In September 2014, Downing launched his own construction business, Direct Movement Group. Two months after that, he left his previous position to focus on DMG full-time.
While Downing got lucky initially, his continued success hasn't been a cake walk. "In anything that you're going to be successful in, it's going to take time," he says. "I put in the time and effort, and now it's really starting to pay off."
The Jacksonville-based company, which now employs 24 subcontractors and recently launched a new division in Orlando, earned $2.3 million in sales in 2015. Downing projects $5 million in sales for 2016. While he gets most of his leads from Thumbtack, he uses other lead generation websites such as HomeAdvisor.
The key to succeeding in his business boils down to highlighting what work you've done in the past, Downing explains: "People want to know what you did last, when you did it, and where it was. Provide validation that the work you've done is high-end."
As for succeeding in the entrepreneurial world, Downing has two pieces of advice. One, "you should be taking someone to lunch every day." The more people who know you and what you're doing, the more opportunities you'll create, he says.
Secondly, "figure out what it is that you love, and try to form a business around it. You'll put so much into it that it'll be hard to fail."