If You Build It They Will Come: How I Lost Over $500,000

What is worst than making $500,000 from blogging? I’m sure you can name a million things but I think Sherry Comes of CoffeeCakes.com has the ultimate answer – she started her own Internet Cafe back in 1995 that took the concepts of Kinko’s and Starbucks and combined them together. By the time her five year lease was up, she had lost over half million bucks.

Sherry shared her story with us at the Performance Marketing Expo during her session: If you build it they will come: How I lost over $500,000. As you no doubt guessed, Sherry built it and they didn’t come. The lessons learned have helped Sherry to eventually build a successful business.

The main takeaway from Sherry’s presentation was to learn from others mistakes, so you don’t have to pay to learn from your own mistakes. Good advice instead. Most people learn from other people’s success (that’s why you come to this blog). However, learning what not to do can be just as important as learning what to do. Other key points to help you include:

  • Think big, start small, scale quickly.
  • Luck helps A LOT – Capitalize on it.
  • Keep making continuous improvement.
  • Set up strategic alliances, partnership with people or company that can help you.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Analyze everything.
  • Risk & mitigation planning is a must.
  • Time is precious – use it wisely.

All great advice for sure. However, the biggest takeaway I got from Sherry’s presentation was not to start an Internet cafe that combined Kinko’s and Starbucks. 🙂

If you blog it they will come

36 thoughts on “If You Build It They Will Come: How I Lost Over $500,000”

  1. Ramona says:

    Ouch, that was a hard lesson. As long as you get back on your feet, even after such a hard fall, it’s OK.

    1. Hard lesson for the internet cafe owner but easy lesson for those that listen to it if they pay attention.

      I’ve noticed a lot of internet cafes are disappearing. There was a time one could see them almost on every block.

      1. Well when you have AIM, Yahoo, Skype and these other instane messages which connect you to their internal cafes…internet cafes are no longer necessary.

      2. Abhik says:

        Now almost every house has a PC and Internet.
        Getting a internet connection is easy and those what are making the cafes die

        1. Alex Dumitru says:

          Man, John talking about 1995, not 2010 🙂

      3. Alex Dumitru says:

        I believe it’s been during the times were internet cafes were popular 🙂

        1. Yeah.. It should be on that time.. This is a good advice for those who think of opening an internet cafe now.

          1. d3so says:

            I don’t think internet cafes are worth opening.
            I don’t even know of any net cafes in my area.

  2. Harshad says:

    I really don’t understand this post

    1. John is relating what a speaker talked about at the event he’s attending. A lesson he learned from that.

      What is so hard to understand about it?

      1. Maybe you don’t understand the title “If you build it, they will come”?
        I think what Sherry means there was, how she build her Cybercafe which cost her half million but the they (target to customer) did not come.
        To be exact, it is much more to wrong strategies in her business.

  3. That is a VERY expensive lesson. I’ve had similar experiences, but nothing to that scale!

    1. Abhik says:

      Depends on the volume of your business..

    2. i think everyone had such experiences.. some lost more some lost less.

  4. Truely smart people learn from other people’s mistakes because different people become successful different ways. And those who see other people’s mistake know not to make those same mistakes.

  5. Zac Johnson says:

    This was a good sessions. Lots of info on the slides, good story and now a big established site!

  6. Tuyen says:

    I was restless to do so, but it probably should be a long time to learning

  7. Jia Bin says:

    I like the last picture! John, mayve you would like to teach us on point #4, Set up strategic alliances, partnership with people or company that can help you.

    This will probably be a great help to many of us here.


  8. Abhik says:

    Nice Post..
    Definitely more motivational than other promotional posts..

    just my two cents

  9. I actually wished I had learned this lesson when I wrote my first book. I wrote it thinking people would line up to read it: I wrote is, waited, tweeted, waited, facebooked, waited, emailed, waited…you can guess where that went.

    But I’m still glad for the lessons I learned

  10. fas says:

    That was a very costly lesson to learn.

  11. zakton says:

    I wouldn’t want to be in that situation. Starting a business is not an easy thing to do … to some people that is, including me. 🙁 . I tried it once and lost around $10K. Now, I still don’t have the guts to try again. I’m holding on to my job tightly.

  12. I think that most people, unless they have a clear plan, end up building their blog with the vein hope that someone will come and visit!

    1. Sam Denis says:

      Would you still not get visitors if you just built your blog and kept writing and writing? I think if you kept writing for a year or two, they will still come. I think that’s how long it takes on average. If the posts are quality, people would find them.

  13. I cannot even imagine losing $500K on any business deal. Then again you have to consider the following… Somehow you were able to gather the resources and actually loose that much. For your average person even that is a feat most people would never even be able to dream of.

    As for the tips mentioned at the end of the post… lets just say I am going to have to add them to my personal collection for reference.

  14. ouch.. 500k is something..

  15. This post shows us that things change fast and we have to be ready to change with it.

    When you can access the net from cell phones these days, who needs internet cafe’s?

    Good luck to her and thanks for sharing.


  16. Rahul says:

    I think thinking big and working quickly is most important. I divided my work in parts.

  17. She learned it the hard way. I have also had my fair share of losing money, but not anywhere near 500k!

    Thanks for the great tips anyway..

  18. Sounds like a great story, but more details would have been helpfull. Hard to compare a business like that to online enterprise.

  19. Ouch, I can’t even imagine losing that much. Those tips were helpful – I especially needed to be reminded of the last one. I’m starting a new blog right now and keep getting distracted by the little, ultimately unnecessary things when I need to remember to prioritize.

  20. That must’ve been a hard time to go through. But it’s good that she was able to use her experience and move on to achieve her success. The world is providing us with lots of opportunities and the decision on which path to choose is all up to us. This is what’s bothering me for a while. I’m thinking of enrolling for an online MBA program, but I don’t know how I could find out if the risk is worth it. I’ve been pondering about this for a while, hope I’ll reach a decision one of this days. Any suggestion would be appreciated too. Thank you for sharing this post. Sherry’s story inspires me to not lose hope on things and thoroughly think before we act. I’m glad I came across this article!

  21. Essays says:

    Think big start small means do a pilot launching at small scale. See the potential of business and then move forward.

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