On being laid off & unplanned entrepreneurship

〰️ it’s weird to look back; I sometimes get confused on how I got here 〰️

Whiteside Mountain in Highlands NC
Whiteside Mountain in Highlands NC

Most folks dream of being entrepreneur; “a path that seemed inevitable“, they say. None of that shit applies to me. I’m only here cause I kept getting laid off and that nonsense infuriated me.

I treated my first layoff as a joke, as I’d seen them in movies & TV; “now they’re happening to me – how funny“. My second felt like a whispered “fuck-you”, as the company had been acquired and I was deemed useless. The third and fourth scrambled my brain and forced me down a path I never intended to travel.

I’m only here cause I had to save myself.

I remember thinking:

I can’t trust them anymore; I gotta figure out a way to generate revenue myself; from my own business; that I control. Online preferably.

That’s where I started. Daunting for someone with a History degree. I had no other choice.

So, I took stock of my background at that moment. Web analytics, Paid Search, and pittance of SEO.

Ok, I’ll start there. I’ll skip coding for now.

I’d recently been exposed to a new online ad network, that paid by lead and/or click. I had previously implemented it on a company’s website & it generated around $30-$50 a day for them.

Sounds good to me, let’s try something like that.

Since I couldn’t code, I couldn’t launch a website. So the gears of my dusty cobweb cranium began to turn. What can I do that doesn’t require coding? Eventually, a thought bubbled up:

Well, what’s stopping me from signing up for one of those ad networks, and then going to a search engine, typing a popular search term, digging through the organic results, searching for sites WITHOUT advertising, emailing them to request ad rates, and implementing //my own// ad pixel there.

There wasn’t a damn thing stopping me. So I started doing that (with the hopes the website owner never found out about said ad network, as I could be cut out of loop). This was late 2003.

I needed a topic. Alot of people seemed to search for tourism information online, so I leaned into that corner. Began searching broad terms & phrases in any search engine. My thought was, if site is in top ten results for major keyword, then it’s safe to say they’re receiving a significant (enough) amount of traffic.

CaribbeanI’d search ‘Aruba’, and would email every site that fit the bill. “Do you accept advertising? If so, what are your rates?” I’d search ‘Bahamas’ & repeat process. Then ‘Key West’. And on and on.

I’d get a nibble occasionally. I’d reply asking their traffic levels & monthly ad rates. Then I’d napkin math whether I’d be able to cover *their* ad expense & (possibly) generate profit with my own ad revenue from the network (which was guesstimated, on my part). Oftentimes, the numbers wouldn’t work.

Until the owner of a Cancun travel website replied. His rate was $50/month to advertise. His site ranked well for several Cancun related terms & received significant traffic. I estimated my ad unit, if placed in a certain section on the page, would receive 2% CTR. Then I multiplied that number by his daily traffic levels, and guesstimated $5-$8 of revenue per day. I remember thinking I was going to get hosed on the deal, but me being me, I kept going.

He asked what type of ads I’d run. I didn’t know, as they were dynamically generated based on the content of the site/page. I told him “several travel & tourism promotions targeted to Cancun“. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That worked for him, so I began paying $50 a month, and shot him my ad pixel to implement. Off-the-bat, the darn thing began generating $300-$350 a month.

The ads were perfectly targeted. Cancun hotels. Swim with dolphins. Paragliding. Cruises. Most months I was clearing $300/month profit (after ad expenses to the website owner). I couldn’t fukkin believe it. It was my mini-watershed moment; exposing me to the fact that, yes, dolt-brain me could do this. If I could generate revenue from this disgustingly duct-taped business model, I could do it in other fashions online. I just didn’t know what those fashions were yet. One thing I did know:

I gotta learn how to code

This was the avenue hanging me up & intimidating me. I was currently advertising on other folks websites. That they built. They hosted. They managed. I had to mimic that same position. And that meant coding, launching, & managing my own sites.

Outside of its complexities, coding tripped me up cause it required a basic tenet that I typically veered away from: basic reading.

Alfred E NeumannI don’t mind reading, I just don’t like doing it, I find it difficult to focus (I’m more of a distinguished MAD Magazine type of reader). I’d rather watch a video tutorial, listen to an audiobook, or have someone side-by-side explaining things. Those avenues didn’t quite exist back then; so I had to get creative.

Instead of lamenting & bemoaning my position, I decided to throw out all the rules and just start building a website although I didn’t know how. I’d figure out the rest once I started.

Someone told me ‘hosting’ was required, so I bought a cheap package and began to poke around. Once I skipped the documentation, I discovered they had a ‘ticket’ system where they allowed customers to submit support questions. Huhmm.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ticket #1:
from: Peter
message: please help me get a website online
(╯˘ -˘ )╯
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

… and – God bless them – they replied. That’s where I learned about the “index.html” file. They became my unpaid tutors. Volleying countless questions on how all this stuff works. What the hell a domain name was. How to update my DNS. File transfer protocol. They pushed me far enough where I became comfortable researching myself. Googling questions. Forum questions. Twitter. Asking friends. All of it. Hell, my friend Charles Lumpkin educated me on the wonders of a < div > tag.

From there, I got a basic one-page website online. Hand-coded. I felt like trashcan-Superman.

Then I channeled my advertising/marketing background. “What’s a website I can build that might generate ad revenue & serve small businesses?”

Yellow PagesMy father’s friend worked in the Yellow Pages industry, and always remarked how profitable that business model was. We were still in early internet days (2004’ish), so I mused how I could mimic that industry online. In other words, create a central directory bringing buyers & sellers together. Buyers searching for services; businesses providing those services. I liked this simple model, so I swung that way.

I grabbed a Yellow Pages book in my apartment, opened it up, and began to flip through. In those days, basic listing were free, but businesses could advertise large rectangle ads in their category. As I fanned through the pages, I’d keep an eye out for sections with heavy ad promotion (as it indicated an industry that understood the value of advertising). I found a few. Windshield repair. Limos. Carpet cleaning. Self storage. Pest control. And on and on. Then, I’d buy an ugly domain & create an online directory of that category (ie. pest control), mixed in with geography based terms for seo, like ‘atlanta pest control’. And on that page, I’d curate several atlanta pest control operators, and list all their contact info. About as basic & boring of a site as you can get. But simple to navigate, and no hoops to jump through.

View sourceThen, as I further began to code, I discovered the wonders of “view page source”. I could right-click, copy & paste another website’s syntax into my editor; monkey with that updated design; then upload it to my server. Tables & rows, mainly. I’d swap out the logo; change the background color; the width of the container; manually add new pages. My trashcan-Superman aura was morphing into trashcan-Zeus. It felt like walking through a deep fog treasure-chest where I could only touch & feel what was directly in front of me, and each outcome was bizarrely fascinating. An ape could have designed better, yes, but I was proud.

Then traffic began trickling in. From outreach; from sponsorships I placed; from seo stuff; from all kinds of marketing endeavors.  I began offering premium listings; businesses began signing up; I’d charge them through Paypal (no Stripe back then). Then I began adding those ad networks (I mentioned above). And more revenue began to appear. A somewhat consistent monthly recurring revenue stream.

I was still working 9-5, but an escape hatch was coming into focus. A path to avoid someone else’s bonehead business decision which kneecaps a company & executes my career. The glitter of fancy salaries had already grown dim – that hook they’d dangle to entrap me. I yearned for my own {mini} golden goose that provided the independence I was blindly searching for. The Rage Against The Machine lyric often came to mind:  “Fuck the G-ride, I want the machines that are makin’ ’em”. [src]

WordpressMy development path accelerated when I discovered WordPress. Most hosts had one-click installation. WP had recently added the ability to create ‘Pages’, so I moved my development focus inside that petri dish. The pre-built themes (free & paid) were a boon to my design inadequacies.

I built more sites ~ nights & weekends ~ thanks to WordPress. But that became time consuming, so I began *buying* fully developed websites, direct from mom & pop operators via cold email. Usually informational sites. Then I could expand the content based on search volume trends and incorporate small bits of advertising.

Appalachian Trail
AppalachianTrail.com circa 2008’ish (now sold)
AppalachianTrail.com was a good example. I cold emailed the owner a $3,000 offer for the site & domain. I received no reply, which was normal. Until I did receive a reply; 30 days later; accepting the offer. I further built the site out & it began generating around $500/month for me.

What I kept noticing, though, when I’d transfer a site under my wing, I’d {immediately} focus on domain transfer, as control of that asset dictated ownership of the site.

These domain ‘things’ seemed intriguing, so I dug deeper. I discovered the expiring domain name market. A universe where 50k-100k domains expire & auction every day. There, I discovered the impact of a blue chip, descriptive .com domain name ~ especially in development. An unfair advantage that allows small players to punch up.

I remember sitting in a pizza joint with my friend Allen Graber, grabbing lunch one day. At some point, he stepped away from the table and my mind was wandering. Dissecting my path to that point, and trying to stitch together what it all meant, and if there was a next step. And a thought surfaced: Why not just wait. Sit and wait. And watch the expiry lists. For a premium .com domain to expire, that has development potential. I was in no rush. That seemed to jive with my inner-nature. I’d already witnessed a few gorilla .com’s go up, so I understood others could as well. I’d just need to empty my mind and wait for the pull to arrive.

boots and ropeThe pull came in 2009. The domain was marvelous. A group in NY state abandoned ‘DudeRanch.com’, and I acquired at auction for $17,949. It provided the backbone for me to build a vacation marketplace for that historic industry. An environment where I could shepherd vacationers towards dude ranches that met their needs. And monetize the asset through premium (highlighted) listings that paid me a flat-fee per year.

The mild success I achieved there allowed me to quit the 9-5. It opened me to more projects. More domains. And opened me to empty myself into these endeavors.

I didn’t raise any money for these projects. I funded them with my 9-5 salary. Solo. And the reason for that was simple – why on earth would I vehemently abandon boneheaded micro-managing layoff kings in the 9-5 world only to raise money & adopt a board of boneheaded micro-managing layoff kings in the startup world. If I’m gonna build, I’m gonna have free-rein decision making to pursue any and all ludicrous business models, with no oversight. If I fail, fine. That’s on me. If it works, son-of-a-gun, my job will feel like play.

I still to this day, over 20 years later, experience the sting from those layoffs. The check-mate move that I couldn’t counter. I had no plan, but I started. I had no goal; I just got going. I guess I’m still going; I don’t quite know where. But I’m quite content. And thankful. It appears peace of mind is the prize I’m pursuing.

it’s weird to look back.

[ Some images from first projects of mine circa 2004-2008’ish; plus early & current views of DudeRanch.com. ]

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Now. That’s what’s next

Now next“So what’s next for you?”

It’s a question I’m sometimes asked, and I often feel obligated to blurt out some random ‘project’ or half baked idea I’d been chewing on.

But lately, the answer has never felt sincere, mainly because I usually have nothing in the hopper. I was simply focusing on current projects.

Then the answer came to me.

Now. That’s what’s next. Right now.

Not some tomorrow. Not some distant goal, “this is gonna be big” upchuck.

Right fuckin’ now. The projects I already have. The time I’ve invested in them. The relationships I’ve established. The admiration I’ve doled out to each one.

What’s next is what’s now.

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The homesteading hippie vagabond

flowerHe lives inside me. This misfit; the homesteading hippie vagabond.

He’s set-up shop in there, and seems quite comfortable.

Being a builder, his presence can be quite a challenge.

I try to sway him toward revenue-focused building efforts & “rocket-ship” growth opportunities, but he shrugs. His hippie nature prefers alternatives.

Somehow, over the years, he gained control of my decision-making efforts. He’s a crafty one.

When I build, I’m required to present projects to him, completed in-full, in some grandiose fashion. This is done to gauge his reaction.

His indifference is a killer. And that indifference even extends to projects where product/market fit has been identified. If he doesn’t feel some sort of connection, some level of affinity, then the project is doomed. Product/founder fit is more important to him.

‘Revenue’ mildly interests him.  Purpose  is his bottom line.

He’s wily though, & understands revenue is oxygen. Every project needs some to sustain itself. But it’s not his motivator; this homesteading hippie vagabond.

I’m often unaware of his true interests & motivations ~ I’m loosely familiar with them, though. At first, I thought he was web focused, aimed at tech “disruption”. I was wrong. I wound up discovering his preference in agriculture & ranching. I only discovered those cause I kept presenting projects to him. Rejection after rejection & rejection, until poof – he liked one.

I study each project he prefers, to see if there are any patterns. Sometimes yes, oftentimes no. So I’m required to continue dipping my toes in unusual waters.

Other folks try to influence him by suggesting ideas to pursue. He chuckles.

I sometimes bemoan the fact he’s in there. But I do stop & realize – his project preference is impeccable. The adventures he’s sent me on are marvelous (to me at least). So I simply let him drive decisions; to chart my course; this homesteading hippie vagabond.


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The dude that built DudeRanch.com

Saguaro Cactus
a pic I took of saguaro cactus at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, AZ

[orig published in 2019; re-published & updated in 2023]

The outdoor patio was filled with dude ranchers. It was their yearly conference at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, and I was there as a vendor (and first-time attendee). I remember saguaro cactus lining the landscape. It was early evening, the sun was setting, and I was walking towards a cocktail party get together before the conference officially began. I didn’t know anyone.

A moment washed over me as I approached the crowd.

Where /am /i /right /now /i /am /a /total /fraud /i /don’t /belong /here /what /am /i /doing.

I kept walking.

The first person I approached was Dave Leishman, owner/operator of the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana. I introduced myself, and once Dave glanced down at my nametag, the first words off his mouth were “How in the hell did you get that domain name!?!”

Me: “Oh gosh, where do I begin…”

Eatons' Ranch
pic from my visit to Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming

I coulda told Dave several things, but I didn’t want to bore him with specifics. But I’ll bore you, cause you should know where you came from.

I vividly remember when you appeared on my radar. You had expired, and peeked your head out on the domain name auction block.

A dude ranch in New York state abandoned you. They’d (apparently) gone out of business, and failed to renew your registration. And as domains typically do, before you’re re-released for general registration, you’re put up for the highest bidder.

At that point in my career, I’d been investing in & developing expired domains for 3 years (long before I began selling onions on the internet). My development philosophy was just forming – that idea being : skip the ‘idea’ phase and just buy a great domain name, and let the domain guide me towards what \\it\\ wants to become.

My first development attempts were smaller in scope, and I craved a bigger opportunity. To deep dive on one subject. One industry. One sole focus I could push my chips behind and play the long game. All layered on a great .com domain.

So I hit the pause button on my piecemeal acquisition pursuits. To take a step back. And wait. To monitor & analyze the expired domain name lists, every day, 7 days a week, searching for *one* name. For a domain that struck my interest. That had a built-in business model. That might be fun & fulfilling to develop. Crouching tiger, hidden dragon. This was 2008’ish.

In November of 2009, the opportunity presented itself. You, DudeRanch.com, had expired. Adrift without an anchor.

I was ready for you.

Moose Head Ranch - Jackson Hole WY
Moose Head Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I walked out before breakfast to grab this shot

You were perfect for me – a niche vacation industry dating back over 130 years.

The personal parallels were surprising: I prefer mountains to beach. I prefer unplugging. I prefer hand-shakes to LinkedIn connections. I prefer authenticity. All are hallmarks of a dude ranch vacation.

Horses at Moose Head Ranch WY
My wife & daughter meeting horses at Moose Head Ranch

I was sold, but I didn’t own you yet – the auction had a few days remaining. Hell, I didn’t even know if I could afford your final bid price. So, to determine a range I could consider, I ran through some possible business models that might fit well under your tutelage (as the profit could pay for your investment). Here’s how I thought it through:

From a business & development standpoint, the revenue numbers for your industry were encouraging. An all-inclusive weekly rate for a family of 4 hovers around $8,000 ($20k/wk for fancy destinations). Ranches also heavily advertised in several spots, online and offline, so marketing & advertising weren’t a foreign concept to them. That aspect allowed me to consider building a marketplace of dude ranch vacations where potential guests could window shop for destinations that fit their needs. Sure, there were a few other websites that provided this service already, but I felt I could build a simpler UI to make it easier to navigate and research. That sounded good to me, so I went with that.

Dude Ranchers' Associations Vintage Minutes from ConferenceWith the rough development idea formed, I tried to determine how much profit the marketplace could produce for me after 1 or 2 years, as that flagpole could guide me towards a bid price range I could consider.

I assumed I could sign-up fifty (50) dude ranches during my first year, at $250/year each (about half as cheap as my competitors). 50 x $250 = $12,500/year. I then assumed I could sign another fifty (50) up my second year. That number seemed to work for me, so my rough budget was $25,000 (all partially-funded by my consulting work and savings I had cobbled together working at software startup as a product manager). I didn’t have $25,000 liquid at the time, so it was all gonna go on credit cards, which I predicted I could pay off in 6-9 months. If the auction price went above $25k, I’d be forced to wing it and use my gut to determine how much financial pain I was willing to endure to acquire you. No VC, no angels. Just me.

With that info in tow, I was ready.

The date of your auction was Nov. 4th, 2009. The week prior – no shit – I had weird dreams of a floating silver orb, hovering in front of me, like a ping pong ball floating on a jet of air. My arms were outstretched, palms a few inches under the object. I found the dream odd, until I made the connection with you. That I was waiting to rescue you – for you to fall into my hands.

The closer your auction date creeped, I began developing a slow-simmering animosity towards anyone who considered outbidding me. I also made the small mistake of assuming ownership before I owned anything. But I was ok with that. I recognized I was willing to wildly overspend with no guarantee of victory in place.

At 3pm the active bidding began. In online domain name auctions, there’s no ability to snipe – all bids placed within the last 5 minutes trigger the countdown clock to reset back to 5 minutes. Pre-bidding had pushed your price up to $3,433. That’s where I began.

The back and forth bids essentially went like this..

Other person bid: $4,000


Other person bid: $4,200


And so on.. until this:


35 minutes of palm sweat bidding & countless f*bombs hurled at fox22, sitevestor, & piety. I kept swinging for you. Until the bidding stopped at $17,949. It was a euphoricly uncomfortable feeling. But you were mine.

It seems strange now to look back.

The ten year adventure you took me on is difficult to enunciate. It’s been an overwhelming blessing.

My original idea is what you became, a marketplace of dude ranch vacations. The model wound up working. After a few years in the industry, as you know, we partnered with our friendly competitor – GuestRanches.com – operated by David McCollough. We both remained independent, but worked together from an advertising sales standpoint. Effectively, one bill for ranchers to advertise on 2 sites.

We began traveling, to as many dude ranches as possible. Most oftentimes with David. Sometimes solo. I wanted to soak in the soul of your industry; one that’s has been around for well over 100 years. To understand how it evolved over time, and how it continues to evolve today.

Your tucked-away locations were jawgapingly beautiful. During each new dude ranch visit, I’d shake my head in happiness at the unique characteristics each location presented.

I started collecting dude ranch belt buckles.

Like this.

CM Ranch belt buckle - Dubois, WY

And this.

Dude Ranchers' Association belt buckle

And these two.

Elkhorn Ranch Montana

Red Rock Ranch - Jackson Hole, WY

It’s all I wear anymore to keep my pants up.

And it sounds cliche, but it’s not the places… or the locations… or the history that make this industry special. It’s the people. They exude kindness, compassion, and resourcefulness. As an outsider, I only experienced open arms (and open hearts) as we attempted to expand the halo of “the original all-inclusive vacation.”

I’m so grateful to David & GuestRanches.com – for partnering & taking us under their wing. David had been in the industry nearly 15 years at that point, and forged strong relationships over that time. By partnering, we were able to establish another layer of trust for you, and continue to build on the foundation of our ad-based business. David was our savior in many ways.

Personally, having visited over 50 dude ranches now – from locations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Arizona, Tennessee, North Carolina, and even Georgia – I can unequivocally say this industry is a shining gem within the universal vacation landscape. The locations, the people, the experience… it’s unmatched. Bob Foster – 2-time President of the Dude Ranchers Association + previous owner/operator of Lost Valley Ranch in Colorado – once shared a story with me … when Walt Disney visited their property. Walt was speaking to Bob’s father regarding their destination, and his reflection was:

… people think they need recreation, but what you (Lost Valley) offer is more.. it’s “re-creation.”

And he’s right, this industry gives you that. It’s what I experienced.

I’ve grown because of you. I recognize I’m a different person now. More empathetic. Patient, persistent.

You also provided a regular revenue stream for me, and provided a deeper education in sales, customer relations, and web development. Because of the financial freedom, you allowed me to wander into other projects. To test harebrained ideas. To find other neat domain names to develop, in the same fashion.

Some of those other projects failed, but others began working. And because of those other modest wins, my monkey brain ~oddly~ convinced me to sell you in 2019, to David, to help fund & bootstrap a new random project. And the moment I did, I felt uneasy, but was loosely confident in my decision.

Signature Ranch Awards - DudeRanch.com4 years I watched you from the sideline, wondering if I’d made the right decision. I found ways to remain connected to dude ranch operators ~ most of them still thought you were mine. But you weren’t.

That all changed in 2023, though. David was ready to step aside. He allowed me to re-acquire you, along with his entire portfolio – GuestRanches.com & DudeRanchVacations.com (most specifically). To say I’m thankful is an understatement. Peachy. You could say I’m just peachy.

Strange the meandering paths you’ve taken me on.

You’re home now. I’m so relieved you’re back. I can’t wait to see where we go this time.

– Peter Askew (@searchbound)

[some photos I captured over ten years – mainly on my iPhone – hover or click for info]

And some 360-degree photos I also captured (click & drag):


If you’ve ever considered a dude ranch as a possible vacation destination, and are overwhelmed with all the choices, our friend Bob Foster (mentioned above) provides curated recommendations of ranches to consider, all matched to your interests. If that’s of interest, click the link below, fill out the form, and Bob will reach out to schedule a call.



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I don’t spin plates; I manage hot tubs

👔 : “So tell me a little about what you do …”

😐 : “uh, I’m a domain investor, but tend to build on domains I acquire (vs flip, etc). I have 3 or 4 projects I oversee.”

👔 : “3 or 4 projects!? … sounds like a lot of spinning plates …”

😐 : “I don’t spin plates, I manage hot tubs.”

👔 : “🧐”

😐 : “Spinning plates insinuates my work is frantic. It doesn’t tend to be. My work life is akin to managing a collection of hot tubs. I’ll admit, it takes time to fill each with water, and then patience is required as their temperature rises to 103°. After that, oversight is quite manageable. I mosey around to each one, dip my toe to verify temp, then check chlorine levels & ensure jets are operational. Somewhat straightforward. And sure, one tub will encounter issues at some point, at which time I’ll focus my attention to try and right the ship in a timely manner. That sortof thing.”

👔 : “well, to use your analogy, you’d be best served if you focused on one ‘hot tub’ ”

😐 : “that sounds boring”

👔 : “it’s the first thing you learn in business school”

😐 : “biZZniSs sKule …”

👔 : “this is very unorthodox”

😐 : “I’m a Mexican fisherman, and I’ve already caught my catch for the day.”

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My life is a litmus test

I’m never quite sure what pursuits might strike my fancy; so I’ll try most anything & study it like a litmus test.

Toss that shit into a petry dish, stir it up, & dip my awareness into it.

 what     color     did     that     thing     turn? 

I won’t know until I try.

Studying it won’t get me anywhere. If I asked someone’s opinion, I’d be in the same spot. The only way is if I dip that thing down into the slurry. Then wait & see how I respond.

I used to think my preferences were well defined & concrete. You wanna know what? Over the years, I’ve learned I’m wrong most of the time. And I also learned most preferences have lifespans.

I had some when I was younger, and then they evaporated away. Then I witnessed them evolve into new ones. Ones that I would have never anticipated. Like farming. Or ranching. Or coastal living (versus city or mountain). I only discovered those cause I began to tinker with my inner-nature. Tossing shit at it and witnessing the outcome.

It now seems silly for me to make assumptions. These days, when I encounter new opportunities, I’ve trained my brain to go empty. It’s not really needed in this exercise ~ ~ to overthink, overanalyze, question, debate, decline; all that noise. I turn it off & go with the flow.

My mind is sorta like an old, empty french oak barrel. Originally, I overfilled it. But over the years, I began to slowly pour it out. Splish by splash. Until bone dry. Now it’s soaked in odd experience & ready for randomness.

Sure, I’ll try that idea. Who knows if it’ll be a good fit. Yea, I’m a little nervous, but

the only way I’ll know is if I litmus test my life.

Moon River, Savannah, GA
Moon River ~ Savannah, GA

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How on earth I became an entrepreneur

eTour.com - Peter Askew
eTour.com w/ Peter Askew X’ed out : )
The email landed in my inbox around 10:05/am, alerting us of an all-hands meeting in 15 minutes. “Guess we got acquired”, we all thought. 16 minutes later, we were all laid off. This was February of 2001.

I was first alerted of my uselessness in 1995, when ~ fresh out of college ~ I worked as an intern at the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting in New York City. I fell in love with the opportunity, and began cutting hours at my salary-generating retail occupation just to spend more time there (I was sleeping on a futon at my roommates apt, so I could justify the revenue shortfall). The MOFTB recognized my spunk, and attempted to create a paid position for me. City Hall caught wind of this new role, though; they stepped in, and filled the slot with their own person. I didn’t quite understand what occurred; but do remember several co-workers hurling expletives in frustration. I also remember bewilderment staking claim to my outlook on life. “Wait a sec”, I remember thinking… “they created the position for me, but I’m not even qualified for it.” I wound up interning there 2 more months cause I still enjoyed it.

What Color is your ParachuteI kept wandering though. I wound up back in my hometown of Atlanta, as my spidey-sense indicated I might need couches to reside on as I continued to litmus test my life path. I was randomly introduced to the book “What Color is Your Parachute”, and was mildly intrigued by the the ‘Advertising Career’ section, so I decided to shuffle in that direction. My first job (an ad agency representing Dreamworks), laid me off after 9 months due to company acquisition. I was already familiar with the feeling.

I then became enamored with the web, and was able to convince a local Atlanta startup to hire me as an ‘Advertising Traffic Coordinator’. I didn’t quite realize how immensely fulfilling the role would become. Part of my day was self-education (coding, graphic design, database, UI, UX, etc). The other part was designing & managing our revenue generating ad platform. eTour.comI remember, several times, coming home dizzy with info they’d crammed into my feeble brain. It was a euphoric experience. Those puzzle pieces began to fall into place, though. When they settled, I noticed an opportunity for revenue growth. We implemented it, and were able to generate an additional $1M in gross profit. I was promoted to Product Manager, and trained my replacement. Then 2001 rolled around. Ad revenue dried up. The ‘executive team’ had originally hired 300 folks in hopes of company acquisition – but that didn’t happen, & now they couldn’t support salaries. Then that email I mentioned at the outset landed in my inbox.

It was a gut punch face slap. My replacement, who’d only been there a few months, avoided the hatchet (cheaper salary, I presume). I would have stayed and worked for free if they would have asked. They didn’t.

I laughed it off initially, as that recurring theme had become comical. But the months of unemployment that followed (eleven in total) had me question everything, including my self-worth, my identity, and purpose.


Rat fink CEOs had shown their cards, and I refused to drink their hooch any longer. I was fed up being the brunt of poor business decision making, of being a cog in a wheel, of being impacted by no fault of my own. As I swept up the pieces of my mangled psyche, I didn’t quite realize my identity had begun to slowly morph into an entrepreneur, without my permission. Self-preservation was my primary goal. I’d figure out the rest from there.

So I sold my house to stay afloat – unloading a $130,000 mortgage that I was fortunate to break even on; my brother lived nearby, so I moved into his 2nd bedroom.

The first 6 months of job searching were fruitless; the web had imploded – most folks felt it was a fad. I didn’t agree, so I kept looking.

I found a way to attend my own 30th birthday during this time. At Benihana. Happy Birthday to me, I’m “going places”.

Months 6-9 resulted in a few nibbles, and meetings. While interviewing for a Project Manager role, the hiring individual began to mock my college degree in Southern History. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just sat there and took it.

Looking back, I could have simply immersed myself in coding education; but my brain didn’t work that way yet. It was in temporary survival mode. I was drowning and my instincts instructed me to tread water.

At ten months in, I received 2 nibbles: one from a new’ish search engine called ‘Google’; and the other from an established offline business moving online (AutoTrader). They were both searching for Advertising Analyst roles.

At eleven months, oddly, they both offered me a role on the same day; when it rains, it pours I suppose. I declined Google – I needed some level of stability I thought. I accepted AutoTrader, and rebooted my online career.

AutoTrader.com “Simply Outrageous Support” Award I won
And I began to excel. But, instead of companies laying me off, I ~ strangely ~ began to lay them off.

I’d stay on-board, use the privilege of employment and study every aspect of their operation. Paid, ‘free education’ sorta. And when new opportunities popped up elsewhere, I’d jump ship without a thought. My lizard brain would subtly whisper “got you first”; but I realized that was petty. These were the rules they created; I just began playing along.

At one job, a public records company, I implemented a new service named ‘AdSense‘. It began generating an additional $50/day of revenue for the company. “Huh“, my contracted brain mused, “what’s stopping me from building my own site & adding this ?…“. I then suggested a Google Adwords test, a recommendation which received heavy pushback. “We tried it before, Peter, it doesn’t work.” But I kept pushing. After a test implementation, and proof of revenue, I fully setup our accounts & generated in excess of $1M+ of additional profit. Contracted brain jumped in again, “You can simply build your own site & generate this cash, you realize?” At my yearly review, I requested a raise on my $35k/yr salary. They told me to slow down; that those things were complicated. So I quit (and accidentally left behind a coveted Google bean bag chair the search engine gifted me due to our enormous ad budget).

But the experiences began making sense; I oddly felt a direction forming from the fog of wandering.

I wound up consulting for a multinational shipping & receiving company in their corporate headquarters on a 6 month stint. I pitched in on all avenues of marketing, branding & lead generation. Billboards in Shenzhen (Guangdong), China. NASCAR driver sponsorships. $500k month-long paid search budgets. When my consulting contract expired, they extended a $100k+ offer of full-time employment. Without pause – I rejected it. I vividly remember 5 or 6 work friends assembling in my cubicle, scratching their heads in stunned, inquisitive disbelief. I didn’t even have anything lined up after that. The company had served its purpose, and I’d saved cash, so I was ready to move on.

By that time, I’d been able to assemble a rough skill-stack, comprised of web development, ad operations, graphic design, sales, analytics, seo & ppc, domain names, email management; essentially web basics 101. It didn’t seem overwhelming; it felt like I’d uncovered a cheat code.

So the urge to build arose. On nights & weekends, I’d churn out small web projects, hand coded in HTML. The first was a crude directory of bed & breakfast establishments across the globe. The topic didn’t make any sense, but it didn’t matter. I simply wanted to establish a rhythm of building.

I began to understand the importance a great .com domain had on development. So to limit my scope and narrow my field, I began digging around the adventure travel niche. Why that? Well, it didn’t seem like work to me; and that seemed to jive with my inner-nature. So I kept going. I’d search for destination & tourism related landmarks, and attempt to identify underutilized web properties. The site AppalachainTrail.com popped up, & seemed underdeveloped to me, so I sent the owner a $3,000 offer to purchase it. A month later he accepted. I was still learning HTML in those days, so I simply expanded the site from 4 pages to 20 pages. Folks would then email me questions about the Trail, so I’d find answers. I experienced a vague hue of usefulness, and became hooked. It began generating $500/mo for me (via AdSense). That made me happy. So I kept going.

DudeRanch.com booth
DudeRanch.com conference booth at Tanque Verde Ranch in Arizona
I began digging deeper into the domain expiration world. The nuances of Pending Delete & Pre-Release. Of exclusive inventory, and private sellers. 2 years later, the domain ‘DudeRanch.com’ expired (pending delete), and I acquired it for $17,949. I created a marketplace/directory of dude ranch vacations. I partnered with a friendly competitor (GuestRanches.com). We’d embark on thousand-mile road trips to visit ranches, and share that knowledge with travel-seekers. We made ad deals through hand shakes. We’d forward partners valuable leads. The revenue generated from that project allowed me to quit the 9-5 world permanently.

These small, painstakingly patient steps are what lead me here, to this essay. It felt so unusual at the time, but feels so natural now. That path then lead me to onions. To ranch employment. To domain investing. To independence.

Sure, I felt useless at the outset, but I knew that wasn’t accurate. I ultimately found a way to be useful, because that’s what I decided.

I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur – I was content being a 9-5 employee. The employment Gods had other plans. When I reflect, I can’t imagine going back. I’m so fortunate all this garbage happened.

So I think it’s safe to say, to every motherfucker that laid me off, thank you.

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Going up the hill

I should figure out whether this is a metaphor, simile, or analogy.

There’s a walking path near my house, frequented by most Atlanta residents. Right alongside the Chattahoochee River.

Lots of foot traffic, lots of neat outdoor scenery – all within city limits.

There’s one section of the path where foot traffic dies down. It’s about 1 mile into the path.

Cause there’s a hill. This hill:

Chattahoochee River hike hill

The shade dissipates in this section, which aggravates things in hot & humid summers. I’d say the temp sans-shade is +15 degrees. Maybe more. When you leave the canopy of cool and comfort, it’s the wall of heat & humidity.

And then, the hill.

Most folks tap out at this point. A quick hip shift, sneaker squeak, & retreat, car facing. “What a great workout.”

The hill is still there, though; smirking.

Eventually, I uncovered the fact that the hill was a loose metaphor. If I’d have said, “life is sometimes like going up a steep hill”, then we’d have a simile. And if I’d said “what you’re doing here is as challenging as hiking up a steep hill”, it’da been closer to an analogy. But it appears I chose the metaphor.

Unbeknownst, the hill is the challenge. The hill is resistance. The hill is uncomfort, uncertainty. The hill is our ever-changing identity.

And that’s uncomfortable for some folks. They hip shift, turn, & retreat. Without understanding what’s up the hill, beyond the crescent.

For me, though, as I grew older, I cast those concerns away, and joined the folks that simply kept walking. Past the tap out point. Up the hill, over the crescent. I’m not here to say I’m some superman with an iron will; I’m here to say I’m the least talented of most folks I know. But only because I dismissed the brief pain & uncomfort of the hill, was I able to reap some benefits of that challenge. A re-invention; identity cleanse; a shift of purpose. I now sorta seek it out; cause I realize other folks avoid it; and understand opportunity may arise after some brief discomfort. It feels like a treasure hunt.

And in this case – the hike – if you eclipse the hill, at the tail end of the path, there’s at quiet waterfall. In the center of Atlanta. Tucked away under a bridge. Minding its own business. I’m usually there by myself. I like waterfalls.

click & drag below:

top of the falls:


below the falls:


above the falls (on that bridge):


I didn’t know this existed until I simply walked up that hill. The waterfall is like a little angel [simile], and you wanna know what? If you endure the brief angst of the hill, the hike is as rewarding as a high-five after you conquer a claw machine at Chuck E. Cheese [analogy].

did I do that right? Blech, who cares. ‘life is life’ as Sloane says.


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part two, I sell onions on the Internet

** looks at watch **

oh my Lordy … it’s been two years.

If you remember, I sell onions on the internet. Vidalia onions, to be exact.. You can read part one here if you want.

Vidalia Onion shipping boxes
Boxes of Vidalia onions ready for shipping
The thought of following up that first post never occurred to me, until it did. And then it sorta made sense. Farming can be wildly erratic at times, so a follow up post seemed to make sense, as a friendly update.

So in the spirit of ‘our farm is your farm‘, here are some updates from south Georgia & Vidalia Onion growing country. In no particular order:

🧅 Covid-19 was a curveball, but since everyone was homebound, & we were deemed an ‘essential service’, we kept moving, and continued to actively ship throughout April – late June of 2020 (and grew 50% in the process).

🧅 Our 2020 crop was a challenge. During growing season, we received over 30 inches of rain in a weekend, which sped up the maturation process, and caused a small percentage of Vidalias to retain more water than normal. Meaning, some burst when in-transit. Essentially, a wet, crummy experience for our customers. Virtually all these customers were forgiving, and openly welcomed an additional box at no charge. Others I refunded 100%. Mother Nature can be challenging.

🧅 A local Georgia artist sent out a work request on Twitter, so we hired him to draw our local map, plus a pic of Yumion (the Vidalia Onion mascot). Thanks so much Jamie!

Vidalia Onion map Yumion

🧅 GoDaddy dropped by the farm, and produced this video (I’m the tall goof on the right – Aries on the left). Many thanks to Paul Nicks of GoDaddy for coordinating:

🧅 We re-invested some of our 2020 profit into a re-designed website, which we highlight & showcase here. While our first design was ‘good enough’, that never sat well with me. Jill helped us polish the design, and add fun widgets like a coverage map where we’ve shipped onions over the years:

Where we've shipped Vidalia Onions

🧅 In 2019, someone reached out regarding the sale of domain name Onions.com. We weren’t terribly interested at first, but ~ after we slept on it ~ decided to pull the trigger and acquire it. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with it yet, to be honest; I’m confident it’ll tell us at some point. I get enough satisfaction from Aries using it for email, and hearing his feedback from farmer friends; ie ” how in da hell did you get that email address!?! “ … that might be its ultimate purpose.

🧅 When Aries and I began this project, he was General Manager at M&T Farms. In 2020, the opportunity arose for him to purchase the entire farm, which he did. He then changed the farms name to A&M Farm (ie Aries & Megan, his wife). Nothing else changed – just the name, essentially.

🧅 And while I didn’t mention it in my first article, it’s worth mentioning now. In 2017/’18, Aries – my partner & genius behind the Vidalia we sell – was diagnosed with colon cancer. Stage 3b. He was 34 years old at the time. RFD-TV was kind enough to share the story:

I remember Aries telling me much of 2017 & 2018 was a blur. Like he mentions in that video – you think your life’s on cruise control, until something like that hits. I just recall my internal insistence to be actively-invisible, to quietly maintain & service VidaliaOnions.com, so he could focus on himself. And that’s what I did. I just wanted to share good news with him, maybe some growth metrics. Those were available, thankfully, as we continued to expand during those years.

In late 2018, the positive news came, he was on the mend. The prayers, positive thoughts, the science & medication helped push this beast back. I’m not sure what I’d do without him. I’m quite thankful.

Aries Haygood in field of Vidalia Onions
Aries in a field of Vidalia Onions
Over the years, Aries and I have developed the same perspective on building. And serving. Essentially, ‘how can we be helpful’, or become better servants. In life. In relationships. In our daily life. This project continues to push us in this direction, and gently mold our identity.

Funny how projects start guiding you, instead of you guiding them.

After the first ‘I sell onions on the internet’ article gained some exposure, I was at a conference, and someone hollered out, ‘Hey! ONION MAN!’ My initial reaction was to immediately scan the room for this kindred spirit – my onion doppelgänger. Until I realized they were yelling at me. I felt quite proud in that moment. Odd how this project has changed me. I’m so fortunate to have stumbled into it.

I’m Peter Askew, and I sell onions on the internet.

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Building from a place of surrender

I was caught in this trap for years. While I felt I’d assembled the online experience & background to build, I felt the need to continue asking questions.

Sahil is right : 👇 👇 👇


And here I was:

“What backend are you using?”

“Should I build on PHP or Ruby on Rails?”

“Is this automated, or are your manually curating?”

“How did you get this off the ground in the early days?”

All the above is shit I used to blather. Unknowingly. I just blathered it cause it convinced me I was working. That I was *close* to building something. That if I unlocked ~ the secret ~ , it’d allow me to move forward.

It’s all garbage, for the most part. Just a decoy towards building. A game my mind conjured up.

I can’t quite recall when I made the shift, but I remember reflecting on the absurdity of asking these asinine questions. That were simply posed by my brain to fool my inner-nature.

i conSeedz
I just remember surrendering; to the building gene I suspected was in there, inside me. And just let it take over. I decided to stop asking questions and just start doing. Essentially living from a place of surrender. To be a passenger in the canoe, and let the river take me.

When I did that, the fun shit began. Good or bad.

My primary surrender was to the expiry .com domain name world. I’d spent a few years observing that category, and was confident in its foundation for building. To allow them to inspire me on project ideas. And not pussyfoot on budget, but allocate $10,000+ for each domain (paid for via CC, & paid off by my then 9-5 job as a PM at a software startup). I’d essentially bid against domain investors whose intention was flipping domains for profit. My thought was, if I could shoehorn in a business model, it might justify a bid price slightly higher than a domain investor. So I went with that angle. And started.

The domains presented wildly unusual ideas; like they were speaking to me:

… here, DudeRanch.com is expiring; build a marketplace directory for that 130 year old vacation industry

huh, sounds fun. Ok.
*bought for $17,949* (created 6-figure revenue generator; now sold)

check this out, CallTracking.com expired, see if there’s a need for a stripped down call tracking application

hmm, let’s give it a shot
*bought for *$21,000* (it failed, btw, but I was able to sell it)

yaas, VidaliaOnions.com – somebody abandoned it. Find a farmer, partner with them, and ship sweet onions across the USA

Dayum, are you sure?

stop / asking / questions \

It was right. These days, I just answer to .com domain names. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. Their batting average is impressive, though. Much better than mine.

I so prefer building from this position. From surrender.

I’m not in charge anymore. My mind feels wonderfully empty. It’s helped me shift my focus to serving. The domains make the hard decisions; I’m just here to be helpful, have fun, and learn a little.

hi Sloane! don’t forget, I love you beyond all belief : )

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Behind the scenes of a carpet pad recycling business in 1997

Who are you again? That’s right – apologies – our new hire. Welcome aboard. Let me get you up to speed on how things operate around here.

Do you like things that smell? Don’t answer that, ’cause it doesn’t matter. Our focus is smelly shit.

Carpet, Carpet Pad, and Tack StripYou ever seen that padding underneath carpeting? That’s the smelly shit I’m referring to. That’s our squishy gold.

Welcome to the world of carpet pad recycling. I’m your guide, Peter.

Lemme give you a quick overview of this business model. Don’t expect anything fancy, cause I didn’t go to business school – I went to Ole Miss, motherfucker. I kid, I kid.

How this business works:

  • Homeowners got stinky/nappy carpet; they want new carpet
  • They hire a sketchy company to come lay new carpet
  • Carpet layers rip out old carpet, plus old padding (below carpet)
  • You listening?
  • Then carpet layers install new padding & new carpet
  • Layers then leave, throw away old carpet, but roll up carpet *padding* & bring it to us
  • We pay between $0.10 – $0.15 /lb to layers who bring that trash to our warehouse. Cash money.
  • We collect it, bale it all up into an 800# block, and then broker/sell that stank to carpet companies like Shaw, Leggett & Platt, etal. Upon receipt, they’ll chop it up, clean it, treat it, and ‘re-bond’ it all into new carpet padding & re-sell to new consumers. It looks like this when they’re done: Rebond carpet padding

Congratulations. All things considered, with that level of knowledge, I’d say you’re an ‘up-and-comer’ in this industry.

When I first joined, and helped expand this business, I was surprised at how straightforward, and dare I say ~ easy ~ it was to open one of these operations.

You essentially need an empty warehouse, a baler, a scale, and cash money. Then you’d canvas the metro area, identifying carpet companies, then spray their dumpsters with flyers promoting your recycling outfit, essentially persuading folks to bring that stank to you instead of hurling pad into said trash receptacle.

At first, we’d overpay for padding – sometimes paying $0.20/lb (when we were selling for same price). Loss leader, we thought. A marketing expense, basically.

And it worked. Word would spread fast that the gringos were overpaying for pad. And the carpet layers would begin showing up.

On busy days, they’re bringing thousands upon thousands of pounds. All that stuff you’re manually picking up, weighing on a floor scale, scribbling down the amount, & then and pushing into a baler (like the one below).

Ignore the fact they’re using a forklift to push shit in there. That’s fantasy. You wanna know what happens when you use forklift to push pad into the baler? The forklift pushes the entire baler over on its backside. No bueno. The method of baling carpet padding is 100% manual, by hand. Sometimes you’re stuffing so much in there, you’re pushing your mitts against the pad as the compaction sled is slowly moving downwards. I don’t recommend that, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. But, seriously, don’t get your hand gnawed off by a carpet baling machine.

How did I get here? Good question. I’m here ’cause my brother runs the business. I was lost after college and needed a job. You seem like a high flyer, though. I could see you owning your own carpet pad recycling center one day.

That guy? Who is he? That’s Chuck. He’s part owner of this operation with my brother. And he’s from Texas. Old Texas. Shit kicking Texas. ‘I’ll cuss you in your face’ Texas. Aside from that, he’s a nice guy. You prob don’t wanna go talk to him right now, though. We took him to his first sushi restaurant last night, and after we warned him to go easy on the wasabi, he took that as a challenge & dolloped a spoonful of it, and downed it in one gulp. Three seconds following, he stands up, procures a samurai sword decoration on the wall, unsheathes it, and begins to wave it around the restaurant, showcasing the immense pain in his esophagus and digestive tract. So, point being, he’s a little salty right now. (a 100% true story, btw)

Let’s get back to business, though.

Something worth noting – some carpet layers – they can be shifty. Keep your eyes out.

Because we pay by the pound, they’ll pull every stunt to add weight to the pad they bring in. Dousing it with water is the simplest, most effective route, but easy to identify. So if you see pad dripping when it’s slung onto the scale, you need to jump into action.

Other items they’ll dump into the rolls to add weight:

  • hardwood
  • scrap metal
  • trash

I’ve even seen live mice scurry from the pad when it’s propelled onto the scale. Feces have even fallen out, no joke. Ah, livin’ the life.

So, next steps. We’ve weighed the pad, and owe the carpet layer cash money. Time for the cross-sell. Since they’re carpet layers, they’re gonna need staples, tack strip, and seaming tape for their next gig. WHY yes! You’re quite bright – we do sell those items. This is your sales opportunity. Easier for them to simply buy from us, than make an extra stop, right? Bingo.

So those are our two revenue streams. Pad recycling, and carpet supplies.

Actually, there’s a third stream. I’m gonna tell you about it, but keep this between us.


Some preface: when homeowners call carpet installers, 9 times out of 10, the installers will over-quote the amount of new carpet padding needed for the installation. If there are leftover rolls, they’ll bring those to us & we’ll buy for .10-.20 cents on the dollar. So basically, a $100 roll we’ll buy for $10-$20 bucks. We’ll then re-sell those for around $40 to any layer looking for extra installation rolls on a new job. That shit’s hush hush, so keep it in-house.

You get all that? It may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty straight-forward. And yes, we have a loaded register full of cash, prob over $2,000 – so watch your back. That’s why there’s a shotgun on the wall behind you. It’s got two live rounds in it, fyi.

I like you. I think you’re gonna do great.

What’s that? You need to run an errand? Uh, ok. The last time someone said that, they never returned. Are you coming back? You better. Looking forward to growing this business with you.

See you soon.

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Building things [ that do just one thing ]

Neon Red PigThere’s no need to make this complicated. People want to make it complicated.

My brain isn’t that smart – I need to dumb things down. And it ends up, dumbing things down can usually elevate your chances of success.

When I consider a project, I like to compare it to a washing machine.

Washing machines do one thing.

Set a cycle, mash a button, and the receptacle goes to work.

It doesn’t dry clothes. It doesn’t fold clothes. It doesn’t warn you when you throw a red shirt in with all your whites.

It just washes.

Here in the United States, consumers purchase one metal box to clean, plus one metal box to dry. You’d think we’d have combined them by now, like Europe has, but no – – separate. And we sorta prefer it that way.

I admire that simplicity. Simplicity can be an unfair advantage, if you think about it.

One of my projects involves selling sweet Vidalia onions. A lot of my customers ask: “What else does your farm sell online, Peter?”

My answer: “Nothing, just onions.”

At the beginning of that project, my monkey brain kept insisting we expand into other categories.

“SELL  GEORGIA PEACHES!    it’d say.


I allowed it to chirp over the course of two shipping seasons, but by the third, I’d duct taped its mouth.

Where my internal monologue wound up, was here: Why downshift into another category when our primary continues to grow 25%-50% every year? Why water down my attention when our principal has clearly struck a nerve? And hell, we’re still tweaking logistics, customer support, quality control, etal on Vidalia anyway. It’s nowhere near perfected.

Growth for growth’s sake doesn’t make sense to me. We’re not Amazon. We don’t want to be Amazon. We’re privately owned & family operated – we don’t have to listen to that diatribe.

What does make sense is controlled growth, with a strong connection to our product & customers. Correction, an intense connection with our product & customers.

Penny gumball machineOne product, though. It doesn’t have to be any fancier than that.

Drop a penny in a gumball machine, slide the lever, and a gumball rolls out.

Happy customer. Problem solved.

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Let go, then go

Loosen your grip; just a little will help. You can release it all if you want. I promise you won’t notice once you leave it behind, cause you’re moving forward.

It’s so freeing, to disrobe, and discard that identity. and start again.

We’re allowed to do that.

Take a new first step. You don’t even have to think.

Just lean forward.

No one teaches a bird how to build a nest. It just starts building. And when it’s done, it has a home.

Taoism calls this ‘the way’. Inner nature.

Do that. Just start building.

When you’re done, you’ll either have a nest, or a nest of experiences to push you forward.

I’m tired of running round looking for answers to questions that I already know;

I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go ”

– Blaze Foley

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Must ride mule (to & from) work location

“David, this one, tell me about it …”

He’d let me look at his domain name portfolio. Not names he owned and parked, but domains he owned & developed. This was another early project of his – a job board solely focused on the ranching industry. All aspects – cattle, outfitters, dude/guest, hunting, and even associated businesses like horseback riding. He’d launched it in 1998, and done an admirable job developing the brand and building an audience. But other projects had hijacked his attention, and the site had become a bit stale. Its revenue had evaporated.

I knew David from a partnership between DudeRanch.com (mine, at the time) & GuestRanches.com (his). We had grouped them together to sell advertising. A handshake deal. Stronger together, we assumed. And we were right. Over the years, we were able to (more than) double revenue by leveraging the authority of our sites as one entity, versus two.

The more we worked together, the more we shared business opportunities with one another. At one point he shared his portfolio with me, and that’s when I discovered RanchWork.com .

At that time, I’d been poking around for a second project to develop, and came up empty after a year or so of searching. My usual avenue for acquisition, the expiring domain name market, hadn’t yielded anything of value, so my wandering mind lead me to David.

When I uncovered RanchWork, it reminded me of a friend – Shane Pike – who’d built, developed, and successfully sold a nursing job board several years before. And from what I remember, he did it solo. The straightforward nature of job boards was attractive – direct, simple, & sans-fluff.

The niche was compelling, so after I slept on it, I pinged David. To see if he’d let me test a project on it. I was already deeply entrenched in the dude ranching industry, so it seemed like a natural extension. The rough idea was this:

  1. Point the RanchWork.com nameservers to me, and I’ll cover the costs of re-development, plus oversight & maintenance.
  2. Once developed, I’d allow free job listings for ranchers to encourage a regular stream of postings.
  3. I’d also allow paid listings (which would post at a faster clip, and remain active for a longer period.
  4. To ensure simplicity, I’d avoid any type of login or account creation. If a rancher was hiring, they’d simply fill out a form, enter credit card info (if needed), and submit. Done deal.
  5. David would receive 25% of all job board revenue the site collected; the remaining 75% would fall into my pocket. Ad publisher revenue was also under my wing.
  6. David would continue to own the domain, 100%, outright.

What makes it easy (& fun) to work with David is his ‘screw it, let’s do it‘ attitude. I very much admire that about him, as I tend to follow the same outlook on life. And he brought that spirit into this project as well.

So he agreed. And I got to work.

David McCollough & Peter Askew
David McCollough & Peter Askew (the tall idiot)

Now, sure, from the outset, I could have viewed this idea from a defeatist attitude, that being, “What? I’m gonna try to compete with Indeed, SimplyHired, Monster, and the like? They’re VC backed heavyweights… I have no chance.”

I rarely approach projects from this mindset. I tend to approach them from the perspective, “what do I have to lose”. And usually, the answer is “not much”. And then that thought morphs into “let’s see what kinda shit I can stir up”.

So to start, I purchased a $60 (wordpress) job board theme, and took a full week to properly architect the site for mobile devices and seo. I researched competitors. $25 seemed like the average rate for paid job postings, so that became my base price. Another close friend, Brian Clapp, suggested I add a ‘Job Wanted’ listing for folks searching for ranch employment. I was skeptical that need existed, but added it anyway. And then I happily overpaid for the fastest, most reliable WordPress host I could find.

Essentially, the site changed from this:

early RanchWork.com website

to this:

RanchWork.com 2014

An improvement, I thought. Not perfect, but better. Simpler in a way.

I re-launched the site in October of 2013.

At first, I seeded all the jobs myself. Then ranchers started submitting their own. Then I shifted into curation & verification.

Then, over the next 7 years, site traffic did this:

From virtually zero traffic, the site ramped up to roughly 40k-50k visitors a month. Typically 200,000 pageviews every 30 days. I had to start managing overage fees with my hosting provider.

Jobs of all types started pouring in.

As the sole curator, I made sure they followed the singular track I defined. And overall, they did.

Jobs like this, where you had to ride a mule to & from your work location at the Grand Canyon.

Or this one, for a Mountain Permit Rider, responsible for all for all aspects of yearling cattle care & management in private ranch pastures and mountain forest grazing allotments near Cody, Wyoming.

Or this Job Wanted from 2017, an individual looking for work in the Cave Creek / Scottsdale, Arizona area.

Job posting pictures were equally as endearing. All user submitted. Pics like this:

and this:

and all these:

And even that one at the beginning of the essay. (nyeh, no need to scroll back up, here it is again).

The more jobs (and job wanted) postings we listed, the more positive feedback we’d receive. That we were a great help for a remote ranch with limited hiring resources. That they were in financial straits, and our Free offering allowed them to hire the right Manager to turn their operation around. And the avenue I was most skeptical about – Job Wanted postings – wound up assisting individuals who craved an escape from the city into life on a working ranch (as well as contributing 30% of our overall revenue). >> gracias, Mr. Clapp

The feeling was familiar. It felt like my Vidalia project. That I was making a positive impact. Satisfying a unique pain point, subtly, as a solo operator.

This project – originally a passing glance – became my mini workhorse. And such a proud production that I wound up buying the whole project from David in 2017. I doubled down in 2019 by investing $10k into a fancier backend and refreshed design. The site deserved that – a proper identity.

New RanchWork.com

I tend to approach online businesses this way. Not intentionally – I just found myself on this path. Find a good domain name; build a product/service; see if it solves a problem & makes people happy; *and only then* attempt to make it profitable. Purpose always comes first. As does contentment. Revenue always comes second. Sure, this approach has bitten me in the ass before, but I don’t care. When it’s worked, the results are wondrous. And this project checked those boxes.

And while RanchWork.com isn’t a flashy VC funded endeavor, or even some high flying 6-figure revenue generator, it’s not that I don’t care. The site doesn’t care. Cause it’s too busy. Working. Quietly.

My Twitter friend Ian Nuttall identifies these types of projects aptly; as nice, humble internet businesses.

I like humble internet businesses …

… and I’m quite proud to be this job board’s proprietor.

post script

I knew I was in a pickle.

While I owned and operated RanchWork.com, I didn’t own the .com name of this niche industry. That being RanchJobs.com. It was owned by a 3rd party, and undeveloped.

That didn’t sit well with me.

So in 2018, I reached out to the owner. I got lucky, in that – – he responded. We had mutual friends, so that helped. The email:

He was aware of my RanchWork project, and the price point reflected that. And he wouldn’t go lower. I couldn’t wrap my head around the price, so I shelved it.

Until 2020, two years later. When COVID-19 hit. The financial world went sideways. I was a bit frazzled as well. This domain name bubbled up into my brain, though. That this might be an opportunity.

So I leveraged a 3rd party domain marketplace platform where I could remain somewhat anonymous. I submitted an offer of $2,500.

They countered at $9,999.

I didn’t respond.

A broker from the marketplace called. Nice guy. He probed like a domain broker should do. He asked if they got down to $5k, if it’d be a range we’d consider. I wasn’t sure.

They brought the $5k offer to the table.

I understood I was in a halo of time where this price could disappear as quickly as it appeared, so I went ahead & accepted it.

I wanted that chess piece off the board, essentially. Another barrier to entry.

It’s fun to see how many times this domain is typed into a browser, though (238 times per month, tracked via re-direct). If I look at it from an advertising perspective, & apply a $0.50 CPC to each visit, this domain should pay for itself by 2023. 🤠

I’m so fortunate the internet exists.

Follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey there. Or get an email when I post new stuff (below):

Benevolent, uplifting cuss words

This website inspired me yesterday. We need more sites like this.

Direct, blunt. No apologies. And lots of cuss words.

There aren’t many places online where you can soak in free-flowing, un-edited, casual-speech cursing. Not anger based. Just honest, wholesome profanity. Creative profanity. Uplifting profanity. Positive profanity.

Saying shit like this. Or reflecting on something and typing, ‘that fuckin’ thing was crazy‘, while smiling & shaking your head as you relive the remarkable memory.

What a wonderful way to release positive enthusiasm. Cursing is too closely associated with hate & anger. Maybe we can change that.

Few publications online print this type of stuff. I wonder if the web would be a better place if there were more casual cussing. More relaxed maybe.

My alma mater uses several swear words in our fight song. This is deemed ok. The lyrics:

Are You Ready?


Hotty Toddy, Gosh A’mighty,

– – Who the Hell are We? Hey! – –

Flim Flam, Bim Bam,

– – Ole Miss, By Damn! —

That’s a fair amount of cursing. We’ve sung it so much, they don’t seem like bad words anymore. Funny how you say something over and over again, it starts to lose its strength.

I wonder if there’s a record online for most curse words per post? I remember at some point, the movie Glengarry Glen Ross broke a record for most profanity in one movie. Reservoir Dogs premiered around that time, and may have taken the crown. I don’t know.

But back to my thought – does a record exist for the most curse words per post? I wonder if I could break it.


There’s one.

Fuck Shit.


Fuck Shit Damn.

Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn. Fuck Shit Damn.

That’s a lot of profanity. Sortof like a fuck shit stack.

Sure, I coulda gone the obscene, sordid route, but George Carlin already covered those, and I can’t compete with him. And I’m Southern. We have manners.

Why does cussing have such a negative connotation? It should really have a cathartic connotation. Releasing energy. Verbally exercising.

It’s weird, because I don’t tend to cuss much in real life. I’ll admit, when I get excited about a project, my mind tends to race, and several expletives will seep out. But overall, I try to tame my tongue.

David Goggins doesn’t tame his tongue. And I admire him because of that. I’ve found I trust him more due to his candid choice of words. If he threw in a southern accent, he’d get my vote for President.

You know who I find hard to trust? Someone who doesn’t cuss.

Where is this post going? What am I trying to say? Shit … who knows.

These types of posts don’t have to go anywhere. I guess that’s what makes the internet so wonderful.

It allows some schmuck like me to post diatribes like this. A poor version of Faulkner stream of consciousness. Upchucked on the internet.

Fuck yeah.

And to my dear daughter, Sloane. >> NO <<. This does not give you carte blanche privileges to cussing at home, at school, at anywhere. Why? Because I said so. Been waiting years to say that. (Do note, allowances will be given during Ole Miss football games)

Follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey there. Or get an email when I post new stuff (below):

Give me grunt work

It’s slowly become my secret weapon; my strongest talent.

The binary tasks // The cut-and-paste projects // The mundane metrics collection.

💩 work

The dregs.

It may sound strange to admit, but I enjoy this type of endeavor. As a solo builder, I feel it’s necessary. Not easy, but necessary … and [oddly] satisfying.

Peter … I don’t think you realize, though … you can outsource this to Mechanical Turk … to an overseas VA … to an intern. Really. To anyone …

🤫 sssshhh, shhh, shh …

To me, those routes are overkill for my type of scenarios – ie. a proof of concept; identifying product/market fit; or simply knocking out small projects. Why waste time on vetting VA’s or verifying other’s work when I can simply bang it out myself.

And over the years, the more I did this 💩 work, the more I got used to it. And the more I got used to it, the more I incorporated it into my daily activity.

And then

      it slowly

            seeped into my identity.

It doesn’t consume all my time. Just a fraction of my day. And I feel an inch of pride each day when my monkey work is complete.

Nowadays, when I’m in gritty gutter mode, the idea of outsourcing reeks of an insult.

That frame of mind … the binary robot mode … I can get so much accomplished. In those times, here’s a common conversation my brain has with my awareness:

🧠 Hmm, it looks like I need to perform some data entry on this spreadsheet of information I collected.

👌 Sweet, gimme that garbage, I’ll verify its accuracy first, and then input into the database. One by one, if necessary.

🧠 Agh, I forgot I have 500 raw images we need to edit …

👍 Give them to me, I’ll re-size every single one, and compress so they load well on a mobile phone with junk internet connection.

🧠 Hmmm, I need to append 225 unique utm parameters to these URLs for proper tracking & attribution …

🙋‍♂️ 🙋‍♂️ 🙋‍♂️

🧠 I’d be really nice if this data point was reflected on the site – but prob is, we’d have to manually collect – there is no normalized data set available

✌️ Hand it over – I’ll go line by line & collect it all …

Call me Charlie if you want. This is the kind of work that stomps out delays and launches projects.

Grunt work makes the world go round.

~ ~ click, highlight, cmd+c; cmd+v ~ ~

~ ~ click, highlight, cmd+c; cmd+v ~ ~

Add some [music] in the background, and hours will melt away.

🧘 It’s meditation, is what it really is. Serene meditation. 🧘

Once a project proves itself, paying customers help me balance the load of 💩 work, allowing me time to vet a VA, or a freelancer, or consider MTurk.

I’m not there yet, on this project specifically.

So …

back to basics.

I’ll be in the slop if you need me.

and Jordan’s right:

Follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey there. Or get an email when I post new stuff (below):

I sell onions on the Internet

Vidalia Onions in the fieldVidalia Onions to be exact.

They’re classified as a sweet onion, and because of their mild flavor (they don’t make your eyes tear up), some folks can eat them like an apple. Most of my customers do.

During a phone order one season – 2018 I believe – a customer shared this story where he smuggled some Vidalias onto his vacation cruise ship, and during each meal, would instruct the server to ‘take this onion to the back, chop it up, and add it onto my salad ‘. That story made me smile.

Folks who love Vidalias, love Vidalias.

Let me stop, though. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

How did all this start? I’m a web guy. I’m not a farmer.


Oddly enough, it didn’t start with an idea.

Back in 2014, the domain name VidaliaOnions.com expired, and went up for auction. For some reason the original owner abandoned it, and being a GA native, I recognized it ’cause I was familiar with the industry. I’ve been buying expired or abandoned domain names for a while, and enjoy developing them into niche businesses. This one was different though – I backordered the domain as a spectator, but for kicks & giggles, I dropped in a bid around $2,200 ’cause I was confident I’d be outbid.

5 minutes later, I was the proud owner of VidaliaOnions.com. I had no idea what to do with it. Ready, fire, aim.

After the domain landed in my account, I attempted to re-focus my attention on other projects, but the name kept clawing me. Like it was saying:

… yoo-hoo… over here… 😘

William faulkner statue on bench

William Faulkner had an interesting perspective on writing his characters – on how they essentially wrote themselves, and how he (Faulkner) served as a sortof mechanical in-between. His quote:

I would say to get the character in your mind. Once he is in your mind, and he is right, and he’s true, then he does the work himself. All you need to do then is to trot along behind him and put down what he does and what he says… You’ve got to know the character. You’ve got to believe in him. You’ve got to feel that he is alive… After that, the business of putting him down on paper is mechanical. [source]

The way Faulkner treats his characters, I treat domain name projects. I buy them with an intention to develop. And I let them take the lead. They’re the inspiration for the business itself. They guide me towards what they need to become. I’m just the dude behind the keyboard (sorta).

Sometimes I buy them at auction, sometimes I buy them from original-owners. But universally, the domain name always comes first, the business idea comes second.

I don’t usually rush into development. The path of some domains is apparent before I acquire. Others, the path reveals itself down the road. Vidalia was the latter. And after I acquired it, it kept nudging me.

Build me… build me… you know how. And you know what I should be…

After a month, I began to understand what it was telling me. That I buy pears from Harry & David every year, and I should mimic that same service for Vidalia Onions. Instead of farm-to-door pears, farm-to-door Vidalia Onions.

An interesting idea, but daunting to approach. I’m not a farmer, I don’t have employees, I don’t have a packing shed. And I have no logistics or distribution system setup.

But the domain name kept staring at me. ಠ~ಠ ////whispering////

… just start …

“take the path to Nothing, and go Nowhere until you reach it.”

-the tao of pooh

And so I did. I’m just dumb enough to try a project of this complexity. The market size justified an online venture. Google Trends showed strong search volume for the phrase. And chefs around the world had already belted their praise over the ‘caviar of sweet onions’.

So I just started down a path, with no end goal or milestone set. I just started going. No angel investor. No VC backer. I just used some modest profit from my other domain name developments to fund the endeavor. This was Feb of 2015.

Once I began, I discovered there was a Vidalia Onion committee which represents all the Vidalia farmers. So I reached out to them.

They were kind enough to listen to me.

They introduced me to several farmers in the Vidalia region.

I got along quite well with the 3rd farmer I met (Aries Haygood), so we decided to partner & give this a shot. His farm had been around for 25 years; they hadn’t focused on direct-to-consumer; but they understood its value. They operated a packing shed as well. And most importantly, they grew an award winning Vidalia.

And so we went.

We conservatively estimated fifty (50) orders for our 2015 season. We ended up with over six hundred (600).

While the farm concentrated on the Vidalia, I concentrated on customer service, marketing, branding, web development, & logistics. I didn’t have other projects that were this front-facing, customer wise. And I discovered I immensely enjoyed it.

The more we both focused on these efforts, the more we grew. So much so, that other Vidalia operations began shutting down their mail order efforts and simply directed folks our way.

We began testing alternate marketing avenues – a billboard on I-95 just south of Savannah, GA facing northbound traffic; sponsoring a bike rider headed cross country for charity; sponsoring a high school basketball team, as well as a grade school auction fundraiser.

We added a phone order hotline, which – from time to time – generates more sales than online.

We also made a few colossal mistakes, which were entirely of my doing, like blowing $10,000 on faulty shipping boxes from an ill-informed & misleading box manufacturer in Dalton, GA. (it happened early in our journey, and nearly forced me to shut down)

Ultimately, I refused to let something like that kill this. Honestly, my customers would be quite upset if we disappeared. Last season, while I called a gentleman back regarding a phone order, his wife answered. While I introduced myself, she interrupted me mid-sentence and hollered in exaltation to her husband: ” THE VIDALIA MAN! THE VIDALIA MAN! PICK UP THE PHONE! ”

At that moment, I realized we were doing something right. Something helpful. Something that was making a positive impact.

I sometimes say I prefer projects that focus on purpose over profit. And as we enter our 5th season, this one continues to do just that.

And it’s immensely gratifying. I feel so fortunate to be associated with this industry.

I’m Peter Askew, and I sell onions on the internet.

** below – from the field during harvest – these have been dug & are ready for clipping
( click & drag )

Follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey there. Or get an email when I post new stuff (below):

Window shopping for expired Domain Names

[ 🆕 updated Sept 2023; added GName.com domain backordering ]

aka. Part 2 – Want to Build a Side Business? Just Buy a Great Domain Name

Previously, we suggested the idea of acquiring an expired domain name as the impetus for building a side business. No idea required. The domain will be your inspiration. And you’ll leverage the unique advantage a keyword descriptive domain provides as you build a legit product or service. All while holding down a full-time job.

As we finished that article, we decided to pause before covering how to identify & acquire an expired domain, as the topic is quite lengthy. Well, we paused & we’re now ready to dive in.

So – expired domain names – they can be finicky, fair warning. But not so daunting that you can’t grasp the process (don’t forget, I’m a mental moron, and I figured it out). You just gotta understand the shortcuts.

Before we truly dive in, just remember two things – The Drop & Exclusive Inventory.

We’re ready Sweet Pete! Let’s get it on!

K’ugh.. you’re back.. ok. Wasn’t sure if you were returning from the last article. Apparently you are.


Glad to have you.. Let’s get back on topic.

The domains we’re targeting have just completed the expiration process – meaning, someone abandoned them, and they’re headed back to the general registration pool. As they head through this process, lots of folks (like me) are inspecting ’em, proddin’ ’em, researching to determine whether they might possess any inherent value. And if they do, we utilize software services to increase our chances of sniping a domain the milli-second it becomes available. The moment when large blocks of previously registered domains become available for general registration is more commonly known as ‘The Drop’.

The Drop

When an expired domain name truly drops (ie. enters general registration from an expired status), there are a multitude of events occurring behind the scenes, mainly involving hordes of custom-built software systems submitting registration requests for domains of value (typically keyword descriptive or short in length, etc.). And not just a few registration requests – a tidal wave of registration requests. So many that it’s near impossible for a human being to manually beat them to names that are dropping into general registration. Like zombie fans at a sporting event clawing each other for t-shirts propelled from plastic cannons, these software systems are clawing each other with the hope of wrapping their digital fingers around a coveted domain name. And only one ‘drop-catching’ software system will succeed in that effort.

So who are these domain grabby-snatchy
companies? And are these services that I can use?

Ahh, perfect segue…

First, let’s cover how to view lists of domains headed to the Drop, and then we’ll cover the companies that provide drop-catching services.

Expiring Domains

So, everyday, roughly 100,000 domain names expire. If you’re curious to see what a list looks like, click here and view any txt file under the ‘Pending Delete’ heading.

About 99.9% of those domains are garbage. Probably more, actually.

But every now and then, nested within a daily drop, are diamonds in the rough. Great domains to cherry-pick and use as the foundation of a side business.

But how the do I sift through 100k domain names to find interesting ones, Pete ‘n Repete?

The easiest way is, you don’t.

Most drop-catching companies will show you the most popular expired domains that are dropping each day/week. No need to sift. No need to go cross-eyed. Just shop out of someone else’s shopping cart.

To start, you’ll need to know the drop-catching companies. Then I’ll give you a few pointers to get you on your way.

Drop Catching Companies

These are the ‘grabby-snatchy’ companies. They’re the ones with the sophisticated software you can leverage. They’re where you go to place your backorders. All these providers are competing in the attempt to grab a ‘dropping’ domain. [these providers are up-to-date as of 2023, and will be updated continually in the future should a new provider arise]

Using the providers above will give you the best statistical chance of successfully entering an auction for an expiring domain name. (And yes, for the experienced domainers out there, we realize that unique providers like Dropcatch don’t require a backorder to participate in an auction, and that NameJet/Snapnames have a partnership, but for the sake of simplicity, we’re gonna recommend a backorder on all providers, to keep things simple.)

You said I could view popular expiring domain names – where do I do that, SweetnSalty Pete?

Two places are an easy start: NameJet & Snapnames.

NameJet will show you on their homepage. Look here:

NameJet Dropping Domain Names

Those suckers are headed for the Drop. And those domains already have backorders placed against them, indicating their popularity.

And here at Snapnames..

Snapnames Dropping Domain Names

Same deal. A curated list of domains for you to peruse.

Find a domain you like on one of those lists, place a minimum $ backorder for it on all those providers above.

But Peetey, what happens after I backorder, and the auction begins?

Then you truly get your ducks in a row and really determine if this is a business you wanna enter. Run the numbers, guesstimate how much profit you could generate after your first or second year. Use that framework to identify a comfortable bid price for your domain.. Cause if you win, they’ll ping your credit card and push the domain under your control. (Most places require a wire transfer for bids over $5k, fyi). The auction period usually runs 3 days so you have some time for analysis.

Here – I’ll provide the methodology & napkin math I used before acquiring DudeRanch.com (which dropped & was caught by Snapnames):

Prior to acquisition, I looked at the competitive landscape online. There seemed to be opportunity within the directory/marketplace niche, and since that model is somewhat straightforward, I could develop the website in-house and save a bundle on development costs. So in this business model, my customer would be the dude rancher, and I would effectively charge them a flat yearly rate for inclusion, and it’d be my responsibility to drive them bookings throughout the year. From a numbers standpoint, if I charged them $300/year, and was able to sign up 100 dude ranchers, that’d equate to $30,000 a year in gross revenue.

So that’s what I used as my rough ceiling when that auction began. I ended up winning the domain for roughly $18k (although I woulda bid up to $50-75k cause I adore adventure travel). I used credit cards to cover that cost, and paid it off in 6 months from the salary of my 9-5 job.

Got it, although I might start with a little lower budget than that, NeatPete

Totally fine – whatever is most comfortable. By the time I bought DudeRanch.com, I had been buying/selling expired domains for 3 years, so that type of investment was easier for me to justify.

Now, remember at the beginning of this article, I told you to remember two things? The Drop, and Exclusive Inventory? Well, we’ve covered The Drop.. time for Exclusive Inventory.

Exclusive Inventory, aka. Pre-Release

So the drop is the drop – a free-for-all of systems fighting for a soon-to-be-available name. Sometimes, though, prior to the drop, a registrar partner will attempt to auction off soon-to-expire names as ‘Exclusive Inventory’, potentially skipping the entire drop process.

Sorta like when Target releases their own custom Shopkin toy. Sure, there are Shopkins for sale at most toy stores, but if you want this specific Shopkin with the *purple* briefcase, you’re gonna have to hit Target, and only Target, to buy it.

Registrar partners operate in a similar fashion – they’ll attempt pre-auction names they have exclusive access to through their relationship with the originating registrar. If they don’t receive any nibbles (ie backorders), they’ll release the name into true expiration where it heads to the Drop.

So, in many ways, Exclusive Inventory is as important as The Drop. And the good thing for you? Most drop catching services will showcase the most popular ‘Exclusive Inventory’ domains as well.

Like NameJet here:

Namejet Exclusive Expiring Domain Names

And Snapnames here:

Snapnames Exclusive Expiring Domain Names

If you find a domain you like, place a backorder on that sole provider. No need to place one anywhere else – again – they’re exclusive inventory only available on that platform.

The lone wolf nested within Exclusive inventory is GoDaddy Auctions. They’re unique, in that, instead of leveraging a 3rd party to auction their exclusive inventory, they simply built their own auction platform to perform this precise function. And it’s a marketplace you can’t ignore, cause they’re the largest registrar and control the most inventory headed into expiry status.

To see their exclusive expiring domains, just visit the link above, click ‘Advanced Search > Type > Expiring Auctions’.

New GoDaddy Auction layout

(The ‘traffic’ column is unique to GoDaddy auctions. This extra data point is helpful, but don’t treat it as gospel. The numbers have been known to be inflated, so proceed with caution there.)

Ok, ReetiePete, so this is where I start to browse, right? Start scanning these names looking for one that strikes my fancy and might have a baked-in business model? Sí ?

You got it dear reader. Just scan these list looking names that strike an interest and represent an interesting niche/category. And yes, you’ll see some smut names here and there, so wear your PG-13 hat and you’ll be fine.

Keep an open mind as you browse. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. If you woulda asked me 10 years ago if I was interested in starting a Dude Ranch vacation marketplace and Vidalia Onion eCommerce business, I’d have asked you to repeat the question, and when you did, I’d have asked you to repeat it again. But when DudeRanch.com & VidaliaOnions.com expired, the opportunity to acquire them, leverage their tailwind, and build services that address pain points in their industries was too great. And most importantly, sounded like a lot of fun.

This is your sandbox. Take your time. I’m usually drawn to domains that represent niche categories (like CharterYachts.com and BirthdayParties.com), but that’s just me. Ftr, both of those names were won at auction as well – within GoDaddy Auctions to be specific.

My personal tips:

  • Buy only .COM domains
  • Try your best to stick with 1 or 2 words. 3 word domains tend to get a bit clunky
  • No dashes in your domains, ie. sweet-pete.com
  • Don’t mix numbers with words, ie. sweet-pete4prez.com

This is your entry point. The more you monkey around in these platforms, the more ways you’ll find to slice & dice the inventory. This rabbit hole runs deep. Buckle up. Thanks for reading. This is the second longest article I’ve ever written.

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Want to build a side business? Just buy a great Domain Name

[updated April, 2022]

So you wanna start a side business while holding down a full-time job. Kool. Dang smart move – that’s the same route I took – ten years ago now.

Self-funded, no VC to appease, no angel investor to update. Just you, and your sandbox of ambition.

Hmm, but where to start? Which idea to pick?


Now, before you go off and attempt to create the next Uber (and fail spectacularly), would you allow me a moment to introduce a friendly alternative? A shortcut towards a market you might not be familiar with. A market that’s dern amicable to aspiring entrepreneurs and can help remedy ideation roadblocks. A market that’s been around for years and most folks utilize without a thought. A market where you, as a solo founder, can instantly create an unfair advantage.

The reveal (or not, cause it’s in the title):


Well Peter, you idiot, I know about domain names – they’re those things you buy after you devise a concept or idea in order to build a website. Big whoop dude. This article sucks.

Eeeassy. I get it. I’m not talking about domain names in reference to the idea you came up with (Fwackoo, right?).
I’m talking about viewing domain names as an asset.
As your inspiration.

Let me take a step back & paint a picture for you.

Here’s the scene: you’re planning a neat bike tour vacation across Spain. It’s your first time considering this type of trip, so you’re interested in gathering a little info on the industry before ultimately booking a vacation.

Cool. Now, let me present a choice to you. A binary option where you determine which website you’ll visit to research, plan, and book your trip. But you’ll base your initial decision solely off the domain name itself.

Two options. Both sites provide similar information and booking options. One choice, take your pick:




You chose BikeTours.com didn’t you? You better have. If you didn’t, you can close this browser tab and go back to scrolling Facebook.

But honestly, look at those options again. Those are both legit bike tour vacation providers. For me, it’s almost instinctual. I immediately gravitate towards the keyword descriptive dotCOM. It instantly exudes trust & authority (even though we haven’t even visited the site yet). It seems to self-select itself.

These types of thoughts & feelings also impact whether a link is clicked within search engine results as well. But furthermore, those same thoughts & feelings are triggered when a cold-call is made and the founder is juggling whether to answer or not. Those thoughts and feelings are impacted when someone decides whether to approach a new vendor booth at a conference. Do you seem like an authority? Do they trust you at first glance?

[[We trust descriptive dotCOMs.. especially dotCOMs that represent a niche or category.]]


That’s what I’m trying to introduce – that domains can be viewed as a trustworthy asset. A resource you can harness to develop a side-business as you hold down a full-time job.

I’m trying to introduce that domain names aren’t impossible to acquire – and that they provide built-in business opportunities.

By thinking of them this way, you put the cart before the horse. Acquire the domain name first, then create a business around it. Then utilize the tailwind that descriptive dotCOM domains provide.

And not harness it for nefarious reasons, but to wedge yourself into an industry, absorb its nuances, identify its pain points, and develop a remedy that’s baked within your cute little wittle dotCOM baby.

These types of domains aren’t impossible to acquire. You don’t have to have a business idea first. You can start with a domain, and then craft a hyper-specific product or service within your little piece of property.

Ok Peter – I’m intrigued. Here’s the prob: all the good domain names were snatched up years ago by these scumbag squatters.

Shhhhh shhhh. It’s ok. Sure, some domains were. And the buyers aren’t scumbags. If someone buys real estate dirt and won’t sell to you for pennies 10 years later, do you suck thumb and whine? Nah. Same deal here. While you were binge watching Walker, Texas Ranger in 1995, these folks were spending hours faxing through domain name orders & risking their own cash on a new thing called the Internet. They’re just investors, and smart ones at that.

And yes, you can approach them to purchase names they grabbed years ago, but that can get pricey.

Wanna know another place to get premium descriptive domain names, for a whole lot less?

During expiration.



Yeah, so, every day, roughly 100,000 domain names expire. Those 100k were bought years ago, and folks either did something, or did nothing with them, then ultimately decided not to renew ’em another year. In these cases, domain name registrars (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc) will place them up for auction. (If no one bids, they simply get released into the general registration ‘pool’)

If this industry is somewhat appealing to you, that’s where your sniping arse can park – in the domain name auction universe.

You can sit there and study names that come across the board. You can run mini-business models in your mind. You can run instant gut-checks to see if a niche is one you’re interested in entering. And you’re simply gonna concentrate on generic word dotCOM domains that don’t infringe ANY trademark.

It’s a wonderfully fun position to be in – sorta like real-world Monopoly. Buying up online assets before someone else does. It hooked me 10 years ago, and I still haven’t shaken it.

Here – let me give you a few example domain auctions that I’ve participated in over the years (since 2006), just to show you the possibilities that pop-up when you’re paying attention. I’ll also throw in the business ideas that flew through my head. (note: I own none of these – although I did buy one – Ziplines.com – and subsequently sold it)

  • ComputerCamp.com – Sold at auction for $15,500
    (Start a computer camp; create a directory/marketplace of computer camps)
  • ShippingSupply.com – Sold at auction for $7,155
    (Sell shipping supplies [that’s exactly what this buyer did])
  • KobeBeef.com – Sold at auction for $5,725
    (Become the leading kobe beef seller on the internet. Find the best supplier & partner with them)
  • CameraBag.com – Sold at auction for $15,300
    (Curate & sell the absolute best camera bags in the industry. When you generate enough revenue, re-invest in the biz and design the best dang camera bag the world’s ever seen.)
  • Pacifiers.com – Sold at auction for $5,600
    (Amazon-style site for hard-to-find pacifiers. Baby boutique website. Forum for new Moms. And on and on.)
  • ZoysiaGrass.com – Sold at auction for $2,395
    (Same as above – partner with Zoysia grass distributor and sell a ton of Zoysia on the web)
  • SouthernCookbook.com – Sold at auction for $354
    (Make a southern cookbook & sell it, c’mon. Fried okra. Grits. Vidalia onions)
  • Ziplines.com – Sold at auction for $3,433
    (Sell a zipline kit for backyards; create a directory of zipline courses across world)
  • CannedHam.com – Sold at auction for $129
    (Sell the heck out of some canned ham on the web. Sell your own or others)
  • SexyBastard.com – Sold at auction for $61
    (This one wasn’t for business. My wife always calls me this. That isn’t true. She doesn’t. But I coulda bought this and forced her to send emails to me at [email protected]. That’s worth $61 in my book)

Those are just a few. Some of those names have clearly larger markets than others, which’ll impact your overall revenue. So that’s something to keep in mind as you window shop.

Your first name doesn’t have to be a homerun, either – a solid single or double generating $10k-$25k/yr in revenue is a killer start. And the fact that you don’t have to come up with ‘an idea’ removes a lot of pressure, as the domain typically guides you towards several avenues.

Ok, I’m following you now, Sweet Pete. But here’s another problem – I have no experience in these niches.

Please don’t call me Sweet Pete. Actually, you can if you want. I don’t care.

Secondly, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU HAVE NO EXPERIENCE. Just become – or partner with – a subject matter expert after you purchase.

Read this story about Warren Royal of Bobbleheads.com:


From the article: “Royal bought the domain name for Bobbleheads.com at an auction, though his previous experience with the iconic toys consisted of him owning a few and thinking they were ‘cool’.”

In other words, he had zero experience producing and/or selling bobbleheads. Wasn’t born into bobblehead royalty. He didn’t wake up one morning with a bobblehead business epiphany. He was simply aware of the domain auction process. He also had a heavy dose of curiosity, was willing to learn a new industry, and he firmly understood the value of an exact match dotCOM. (And before you think there’s no money in Bobbleheads, he employs around 13 people at his headquarters near Atlanta these days, and continues to grow every year)

And what about coding? I’m a novice or have limited exposure …

You really don’t need coding experience – we can thank Matt Mullenweg for that. Push a button (literally) and a fully functioning WordPress-backed website is functional in a span of 10 seconds or so. Sure, basic coding skills are helpful – mainly HTML & CSS. Knowledge of search engine optimization is handy as well. If you aren’t exposed to those, get exposed to them. It ain’t that hard. I taught myself, and I’m a moron. Educational sites I’ve used before are Treehouse and/or Udemy. (not affiliate links, ftr).

If there’s one thing you’ve got, it’s TIME. You ain’t racing against someone else. There’s no deadline. Go as fast or slow as you want. Just make sure you’re moving, learning. Baby steps are all you need.


So, we’ve covered a lot – let’s recap some stuff:

  1. You wanna start a side business while holding down a full-time job.
  2. Building a niche operation on a generic dotCOM is an amazing option to consider.
  3. You can cherry-pick an interesting (& relatively affordable) domain name through the expiration process.
  4. You don’t need to be an expert on a topic – you can learn to become one.
  5. You really don’t need coding skills, but they’re helpful. HTML + CSS and SEO would be beneficial starting points.

Good stuff. All caught up.

If this is an avenue you’d like to consider, awesome, cause I love exposing folks to this trade.

But please understand, this’ll take some time & effort. Don’t pressure yourself to find one immediately. And like any business, it’ll require an upfront investment in order to acquire the domain. You can determine your own limits. The good thing is you’re holding down a job, so cut out some vices and divert that cash to a domain name. Try $5k as a starting number. Or less. Your call.

The next big step is combing through the 100k domains that expire every day. And creating a process to scan and filter so you don’t go cross-eyed.

I know. That’s a lot of domains. There are shortcuts, don’t worry. I’ll share my favorites in the next post [live now]. Until then, go sign up for a free domain auction account here, here, here, and here. (Namejet, Snapnames, Dropcatch, and Dynadot respectively). You can also sign up for GoDaddy Domain Auctions, but it ain’t free – costs around $5/year. Pheenix is another, but I can’t recommend them due to issues rewarding won domains.

This is the longest article I’ve ever written.

I’ve now written the follow-up.. link below:

And for the record, no outbound links on this site will ever be affiliate. I ain’t doing this for profit. I’m doing this cause other folks helped me along the way, and I simply wanna pay it forward. Sounds boring & cliche, but it’s true. Thanks again for reading.

You’ll either step forward into growth, or step back into safety – Abraham Maslow

Preach, Mike, Preach!

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