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7 min 57 sec

Walmart Manager Cleans Aquariums for Fun and Profit

Stumbling onto a fishy side hustle, a former retail manager discovers a way to earn $70,000 a year while working just 15 hours a week.
Niche Ideas Power of Observation

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What It's About

A former Walmart manager dives into a new venture servicing aquariums.​

Business Model
Service
Skills Required
Organization & Marketing
Complexity
Low
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

It’s often said that in the world of business, you have to quickly learn to swim or you’ll sink. But as Larry has shown, you can slowly turn your hobby into a business without any risk, although admittedly he never had to deal with any undercurrents with his aquariums.

Fun Fact

Larry’s largest tank was a 4,000 gallon tunnel aquarium that you could walkthrough. This is the nature of luxury and bespoke service: clients often have unique tastes and will come back to you if you can give them what they want.

Notes from Chris

Episode 1038
When Larry McGee bought his first fish tank, he never imagined that one day his whole career would be focused on them. As a manager at Walmart, he was busy. But when a friend with a service business asked if he wanted to make a little extra cash helping to maintain commercial aquariums, he agreed.

Most of their clients had aquariums in medical offices, waiting rooms, restaurants, and the occasional residence. Larry would spend his lunch breaks assisting with tank maintenance, learning on the job.

A year later, Larry’s friend had to move, so Larry and his wife scraped together $2,500 to take over the business, which they renamed Aquatic Designs. At that time, Larry thought that this would allow him to generate a small extra income. He’d always been good with his hands, having grown up around woodworking and cabinetry, and by now he had some experience with aquariums.

This arrangement would continue for the next several years. Larry would service the few accounts that he had acquired when he bought the business. It wasn’t a lot, but those accounts were dependable and loyal.

He tried advertising to gain new clients, but his efforts floundered. When new customers didn’t come running, Larry assumed that there was no interest and decided not to pursue aquarium maintenance as his core business … at least for the time being.

Over time, he learned from his existing customers that the best way to market to them was through direct mail in an envelope. The office managers he spoke to told him not to send postcards, since those almost always automatically goes in the trash.

With this advice in mind, Larry switched to a more personal approach: he hand-writes letters and mails them to potential clients along with a picture of him and his wife. As Larry says, this lets people know who he is, and what he’s offering. It allows him to stand out amidst all the advertising noise that’s bombarding these office managers.

This new strategy worked wonders. It led to a stable, recurring clientele, giving him a predictable source of monthly income. Through slow and steady growth and those personal interactions, Larry is now making $70,000 in annual income while working just 15 hours a week. One of his accounts has worked with him for over 15 years and given him almost $50,000 in business during that time … and all told, cleaning aquariums has brought in more than a million dollars.

Moving forward, Larry is looking to share the skills and knowledge he’s gained, and hopefully make some passive income. He’s started a blog, and put together his first course on how to maintain an aquarium (something he says anyone can learn!).

He shared the course in a Facebook group in exchange for constructive feedback and reviews, and recently launched it to the world. The new course will allow others to glean insight into the art of aquarium maintenance—almost with the same clarity as he leaves his clients’ aquariums.

 
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Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"I’m doing a personal approach with direct mail...it gets past the advertising noise and lets them (clients) know that we are real, local people providing a proven service that can help their business."
—Larry McGee #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau