Roger Jin’s desire to become an entrepreneur was already brewing inside him when he was still a teenager.
The passion was so great that the confines of his high school classroom gave him the feeling of being constrained, CNBC reports.
“I felt limited, and a great desire to attain the freedom of being the master of my own destiny,” Jin was quoted as saying. “Even as a kid, I saw entrepreneurship as my only path towards that goal.”
With that target in mind, Jin rushed through college by doubling up his workload in school. In less than three years, he graduated and moved to Silicon Valley to work on his first business idea.
After settling in at a friend’s house in East Palo Alto, California, Jin began to work on an app called Bridge. The app and its accompanying website work by connecting people with similar interests. When the startup didn’t go well as planned, Jin ended up getting a job.
Another idea would hit Jin while he was vacationing in China back in May 2015. He was at a convenience store, buying a popular chocolate-coated marshmallow snack called Choco Pie when his next business idea was hatched.
“I remembered thinking, ‘It’s a real shame most people from outside of Asia will never have a chance to try this,'” Jin recently shared on Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything”.
Using $5,000 in savings, Jin began building the foundation of the business he would later call “Treats”, a mail-order international snack service based on a subscription business model. In three months, he was able to build a website, select wholesale distributors and get a warehouse where the packages would be stored and shipped.
While Jin immediately began accepting orders through the website by the end of July, he was faced with numerous challenges from the get-go.
“During the first six months I felt like I was in a constant fight for survival – to build the company, launch it, and grow fast enough before I ran out of money,” Jin said.
He remembered risking almost everything: “I put all my personal expenses on my credit card, racking up thousands in debt. I also took on personal and business loans to keep the company afloat as it was growing.”
Jin was able to land his first customer by posting about his company on his high school’s Facebook Group. From there, his customer base further grew through social media and word-of-mouth. He noticed a huge jump in sales in December 2015. Jin also began using his branded blue Treats boxes.
Without being specific, Jin claims that by 2016, revenues of the company had already hit seven figures. Treats has since added manpower as they scaled into a full fledged business. Currently, his company has four full-time employees and two part-time employees.
“I’m a bit of an underdog in Silicon Valley because up to this point I’ve been a solo founder, I don’t code, and I’m not very plugged into the Silicon Valley investor scene,” says Jin.
While Treats is headquartered in San Francisco, everyone in the company currently works remotely. For the assembly of boxes and inventory management, he decided to sub-contract them out to Good Source, the fulfillment operation of Goodwill.
“I’m glad to do so because Good Source is a revenue arm for Goodwill, and they also employ down-on-their-luck people who may have a hard time getting jobs elsewhere (due to past criminal records, etc.),” says Jin.
According to Jin, he has so far not raised any outside capital and he doesn’t plan to do so anytime soon.
“A lot of start-up ideas can’t exist without funding because they don’t generate revenue for a while and instead requires burning cash to build out the initial product.”
For Jin, Treats is just the beginning and he is aiming to launch his next venture soon while keeping the current business profitable.
“Part of my intent for starting Treats from the beginning was to build it into a successful business so that I would have cash reserves and inflow that could use to bootstrap the next business that I decide to work on, and do so without having to necessarily rely on any outside capital,” he explained.