How making $200 in one hour at 17 years old changed my view on business

Imran Esmail Build Your Business, Stories Leave a Comment

I made more in those 60 minutes then I've ever made in an hour since

That'll be $2.50 please as I loaded the girls plate with a big heap of lasagna.

Lasagna was flying out of the oven in our school's home economics room – we couldn't keep up with all the hungry students.

Here's the thing – at that age, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but let me tell you, I made more in those 60 minutes then I've ever made in an hour since.

This is my story of making $200 in one hour:

Three days before my friend, Alphonso, and I had yet to come up with an idea for our entrepreneurship class.

As a final class project we had to start a real business at our high school.

The simplicity of this, by the way, is lost on business schools – find something people like and sell it. We've convoluted the idea of business just like we have done with our foods. But I digress.

We came up with all sorts of hair brain ideas – sell university review books, exam study guides, you name it we thought of it.

But one day we were sitting down for dinner with his family and his mom makes this fantastic lasagna with home made tomato┬ásauce and fresh pasta. You know – only the real Italian food real Italian moms can make.


It was f*cking amazing. It hit me immediately like all good ideas do and I knew we had to sell them for our class project.

So we churned them out over the next two days – grate the cheese, make the pasta, throw the dish together, pop it in the oven, rinse repeat for 20 trays.

We thought we had enough. If fact, I laugh about it now, we even worried people wouldn't finish them.

Here's the thing though – good things – the kind you can't find anywhere else and you know that person has put their heart and soul into making – those things…people can't get enough of.

So we killed it – sold out in 45 minutes. Even raising our price towards the end. It didn't matter they kept coming. Like wolves around a dying buffalo – they fought for those last scraps.

Here's what I learned:

Go where the fish are


The lasagna sold itself because we were in the right place (cafeteria) at the right time (lunch) with the right product (everyone loves lasagna). If you are selling over the internet, you MUST find the right audience and sell to them when they are in the buying mood.

Everyone needs to eat

You've seen Maslow's hierarchy of needs but probably gloss over its meaning. Most people are stuck on rung one – basic human needs – health, food, sleep, etc.

Think of it like this if there are 6 billion people in the world, 5 billion or more are on that rung. Focus here to make money – health is still a huge issue both psychologically and physiologically. They may not have the money – but you only need small slices of everyone's pie.

Ideas are usually right in front of you

Alphonso probably took his mothers cooking for granted. Over the years growing accustomed to it – we do this with our own skill set – we believe that since we find it easy, everyone else must not value it either.

You're dead wrong.

I don't care if your skill is milking a cow – I don't know how to do that – I probably wouldn't pay to learn but you can come up with something better.

No clue, no problem

I was clueless. I mean I think we used premium grade cheese that destroyed our profit and we didn't even make enough to feed everyone. Moreover, we probably underpriced it and lost out on a few hundred more.

It didn't matter. Your first runs will suck. It'll be embarrassing. But everyone forgets after you are a success. And you will be, if people are still buying.

More Food – Pies This Time

Business doesn't need to be more complicated just because you are older now. We often think we need to work with larger sums of money on larger problems to make the type of living we need to sustain our lifestyles.

But the internet has changed the game.

You no longer need to work with large sums of money to get a small slice of the pie. You now need to help/work with a large sum of people and get 100s and 1000s of tiny slices to carve out a life.

So signup below and let's together find you lots of pie.