Most people who tell you about their journey to success are selling their story. I sell Butters and write blog to help people. This will be a more honest journey than you’ve probably ever experienced.
I got here by luck, struggle, and meeting the challenges as they come. Straight up. I was born with almost every non-voluntary life drawback you can have. The fatherless childhood, blackness, autism, gayness have remained, but the poor has been successfully mitigated. I’ve also had a ton of benefits like the generational wealth of stability, educators stressing the fundamentals, a strong family support system, and a parent who would pay any part of her meager salary to make sure I was set up for success.
Sure, I’ve known my whole life I would be successful, that was nothing more than a general understanding that I should be able to figure out how the world works and work it. Doing alright so far.
With all my needs met, my desire is to make a difference in people’s life positively. In high school, I planned to become a sex educator with dreams of setting up a nationwide sexed requirement for grade school kids. I became a sex educator who makes lube and helps people make sense of the world, me included. My dreams are not forgotten but expanded to include my own men’s domestic violence shelter.
See, I realize my ingenuity, creativity, practicality, and reliability will end up funding the societal shifts I want. Those are rare skills today where we’re encouraged to follow only emotion, which will easily lead you astray like a child or wild animal, which has happened to me several times.
The plans and actions
After high school, I had my plan and would go to Eastern Michigan University to study psych. But midway through the summer of 2005 I saw a commercial for Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and made the choice to get a skill I could use to pay for school and in case I chose wrong. Although it was smart and did workout, on some level I was delaying my launch into adulthood.
Thankfully this was only a 2-year diversion. I got licensed in culinary and hated it. I realized cooking with my granny and for my family was enough of that. If you really think about, how in demand are pastry chefs anyway really? Plus, I didn’t think through being 400# and working on my feet around my heroin.
I went back to school for psych at EMU since there was no sex ed major or anything close. I had to make my own minor via literally every class with sex in the title EMU offered between 2008 and 2014. Somewhere in there they did make an official human sexuality minor for me and the maybe 20 others who’d chosen a similar tract.
In college, I used Pell Grant & FAFSA money responsibly to fund my first 4 years of school fully without needing to work. Having worked at Walmart while in culinary school in Scottsdale, AZ, I now knew the value of a dollar and wouldn’t go back to work until I had to. Eventually, I did anyway when I got the opportunity to work for EMU’s school paper. I always wanted to be a journalist but them mofos is broke and I wasn’t tryna be, to the best of my ability.
In my first year of college, I had my first business venture as an adult: LTASEX.com, an adult sex ed blog. I’d always hustled a little bit; knew some basics this was intended to be a success and it was. It was never a BuzzFeed level steez, but I made part time money talking about dildoes and shit. That was pretty cool.
When that government money ran out, I got a second job on the phones at U of Michigan for $14/hr. I didn’t mention the EMU paper’s pay because it was less than the blog made but it was something extra and I loved the work/skills I gained there. You’re reading this and enjoying the graphics because of what I was paid to learn there. I’d never done anything more than clip art design before I got there. Now I could literally be a professional graphic designer if The Butters went belly up tomorrow.
College ends in 2014, kept my responsibilities light enough to drop but solid enough that I could live that way until I died or figured out my next move. I could feel the blog wave dying and spent a lot of time spiraling. Eventually I was psych medicated thanks to Obamacare and my brain started functioning somewhere near normal. I lost close to 200#. LTASEX is a real working org with people under me though income is light. I get into a relationship.
GRABBING AT OPPURTUNITIES
Normally that last part wouldn’t matter but being broke, culinary minded and a sex educator, I decided to finally make my own lube after years of complaining about the options available from major brands. That became The Butters. I used my sex ed connects to make a name for myself. Got in every blog I could think of, and people started buying.
Since I was in a relationship, we had 2 incomes which allowed me to perform badly enough at work (slacking and working on Butters) to be fired and really give it a go. Things go well - making very slow but important sales increases for a solo-run business. Before I know it, I’m at 50k in sales and living very well of that money alone.
Then a bit of luck hits in the form of a once-in-a-century worldwide pandemic that killed millions of people and sent the economy into a freefall so steep it’ll get its own name in the history books. That of course is dark humor to highlight the rarity of such a devastating event and the fact that I was able to make that event into a launching point for myself. It started with selling aloe for sanitizer by the gallon. Then stimulus money let people try Butters and get hooked.
We peaked in sales around this time, and it help establish us as a real functioning company now with me receiving about 100k net. Putting me in the top 14% of black male earners and top 6% overall. Income literally beyond my dreams. Not my wildest dreams but they were pretty outta pocket considering where I come from. Then comes the downturn.
Luckily for us, I only added as many people as we needed. I made plans but didn’t put money into them or sign anything major. I did over produce some products but that’s nothing clearance, gifts, and donations can’t fix. Things have leveled off and here we are. Unless we have some major downturn, I’m safe. In fact, I’m back on the growth curve.
No, I didn’t know this venture would work. This was a risk. This was a vulnerability beyond anything I’d experienced. I took it slow and never invested anything more than I could bare to lose, even when it was just like $40. I would buy single ingredients on eBay for weeks to get my first couple batches.
Yes, I did have to learn how to be a CEO. I had signs up reminding me of CEO duties so I could make sure I was doing my job vs being just a worker. I’m still learning. I’ll be back in college for marketing and other skills that will make me a more valuable leader and the business more resilient.
I am not great at everything, but I know how to do everything. I’ve built a team around me who is better at their specific skills. I pay them well ($20/hr.) and treat them with respect. It took time and help to identify the type of people I needed and how to coach them. I had to learn these management skills just like being a CEO.
I still work daily. I still fill jars and make products. I’m a heavily involved leader, which makes us unique in a world of bosses too good to get dirty. I’ll never be. I’ll do anything to keep this thing functioning – move heaven and earth. If I’m 60 and need to answer phones or ship product or drive across the country, my old ass will be here.