Serial entrepreneur, speaker and author Cameron Johnson shared his thoughts on what inspired him to start his first business, how he made his first million and the only thing he splurges on.
Cameron Johnson started running an array of businesses as a young boy. Doing ventures one after another, his business acumen further developed during his teens. By the time he reached 18, Johnson already had accumulated a million dollars in his bank account.
The road to his first million, as Johnson explained in an interview with Brobible, was not easy.
“I started my first business at the age of 9 and by the age of 12, I was making $50,000 per year selling Beanie Babies over the Internet,” he said.“I started 12 profitable businesses by the age of 21 and had made my first million before graduating high school.”
According to Johnson, it was Donald Trump’s first book, “Art of the Deal” which he read when he was 8 years old that inspired him to dream of entering the business world.
“As a kid, I knew I wanted to go into business for myself so I looked up to any and all successful business people such as Donald Trump, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and the list goes on.”
Taking a cue from Warren Buffett, Johnson said an effective investment advice he can share to everyone is “Buy what you know.” He revealed that at 12 years old, he began investing in the stock market with well known companies that he was already familiar with. “My first purchases were Disney, Dell, Toys R Us, etc.,” he said.
Starting out small with his businesses helped him learn to grow by using his own profits rather than depending on outside money or investors.
“Each business grew upon the previous one and they were all profitable. Of course if I had borrowed money, or taken on investors, then the profitability would have been far less,” he explained.
He clarified however that it didn’t mean his projects were all successful. While he was happy that all of them made money, there were some ventures that he felt failed to meet his expectations.
“I can’t say that I didn’t make any mistakes, but I can say each business was profitable. So from that statement it looks like they were all a success,” he said. “That’s not entirely true either as there were several businesses that I thought when starting them, that they would become super successful and they did not.”
Spending only one semester at Virginia Tech, he revealed that it was his love for learning and education that led him to drop out early. He instead started an online gift card shop which became an instant success, earning him an offer of $10 million in venture capital.
“I just decided that 4 years in a classroom would cost me what would otherwise be 4 years in the business world,” he said.
When it comes to handling money, Johnson considers himself a frugal guy. However, he admits to splurging on one special exception: traveling.
“I know how much time and effort it took to make that dollar and if anything, it makes me normally a conservative investor. I do splurge on travel and think it is one of the best educations. There are business lessons to learn in every city/country you visit as well,” he said.
While he did achieve financial success early in life, Johnson said he didn’t really aim for getting his first million before graduating high school.
“The money was always a byproduct of my success and I learned early to never ‘chase the money’ or you lose focus on what your true goal is – which in my case, was just building something,” he said.
He believes that today, more people have the opportunity to succeed than ever before, however, he stressed that one must work hard for it.
“Contrary to the negative you hear, see, or read, I believe there have never been more opportunities than today. It’s never been easier, cheaper, or faster to start a business. It’s still going to take an incredible amount of dedication, passion, and hard work – but the opportunities are everywhere,” he said.
Recently, Cameron has been active in investing in multiple ventures and speaking in business functions. He was also a finalist on Oprah Winfrey’s first prime time series “The Big Give”, hosted Season 4 of “Beat the Boss” which airs on the BBC in the UK, and released a book called “You call the Shots,” where he gives valuable entrepreneurial advice.