Leslie Kuster remembers this experience all too well. After traveling for seven months throughout Bali and Southeast Asia, the time came for her to return to her New York City apartment. Time to get serious about job-hunting. She opened the New York Times, hoping to find employment, but none of the job listings caught her attention. Not a single one.
Life gets real in your 30s. Even if you try to live your best life, you might still end up sitting on the bed in your lackluster apartment, thumbing through the classified ads for a job. After all, bills don't pay themselves.
Flashbacks of her previous jobs flooded Leslie's mind. The mere notion of taking the subway to the office, riding an elevator to the 36th floor, and spending all day trapped working for someone else sounded horrible. That set of recollections didn't even include the anxiety-ridden weekends spent dreading Sunday nights and Monday mornings.
Leslie couldn't fathom returning to the rat race after so many months enjoying her freedom. Then, out of the blue, she had a lightbulb moment—one that would put her on a multi-million dollar trajectory.
Eat, Pray, Love: Entrepreneur Edition
Street markets are the norm in Indonesia. Leslie fondly remembered the brightly colored children's clothing she saw while in Bali. While brainstorming ways to make money without working for the man, Leslie wondered if there was a market for Balinese clothing in the States. She could travel back, buy pieces off the street, and bring them back to New York City. All she would have to do was register for a few local street fairs and rent a booth.
Leslie pulled out her calculator to run some numbers. Back then, you could purchase really cheap airline tickets if you'd fly as a courier. International flights typically sold that way for $100, give or take. Clothing in Bali was also inexpensive. There was no way she wouldn't turn a profit!
Ready to put her plan into action, Leslie purchased a courier flight ticket, armed with only a huge duffle bag. She walked the unbelievably hot streets of Bali, mingled with locals, and bought all the children's clothing she could fit into her luggage.
As soon as she returned to NYC, Leslie registered for a street fair and filled her table with all the clothing she purchased. Tons of eager mothers stormed her booth. The colorful pieces were like nothing they had ever seen before, and it blew them away. By the end of her first day, Leslie had practically sold everything and had about $800 cash in her hand.
Excited by the response, Leslie didn't waste any time. She needed to restock her booth. So she was back on a plane to Bali about two weeks later. Her business, Back From Bali, was officially in full swing.
“My Business Started Because I Didn't Want To Get A Job”
Leslie continued to work street fairs and holiday markets in NYC for a long time—years upon years, to be more precise. Back From Bali provided her with two things she desired: freedom and money. And while Leslie enjoyed the freedom aspect, the business didn't bring her a ton of money.
She wanted to expand Back From Bali and tried entering the wholesale market. It was a disaster. Leslie quickly learned that wholesaling was a bad idea—you basically lose your profit. As she quips, "Truthfully, I'd rather stand in the freezing cold in New York City and sell it myself."
Leslie felt that wholesale isolated her from the customer. Instead of selling to customers genuinely excited about the product, you end up negotiating with buyers who only care about their bottom line. Plus, the trade shows were just horrible.
“It's just dead,” Leslie says.
So, she decided it was time to go back to school and get her master's in clinical social work. This move was about to add yet another limb to her entrepreneurial tree.
One Business Is Never Enough
We entrepreneurs are a funny breed. The average person would be ecstatic about running a single business. Entrepreneurs tend to crave multiple ventures. Leslie was no exception.
Although Back From Bali was making a profit, it didn't fully satisfy Leslie's entrepreneurial bent. After obtaining her master's degree, she moved to Switzerland to be with the man who would eventually become her husband. It is also where she embarked on her second entrepreneurial journey—Girl Power.
Girl Power offered empowerment groups to young girls in Switzerland. The company served girls ages 7-13 and provided workshops to mothers and daughters throughout the region. Leslie describes Girl Power as very "mind, body, and spirit."
Of course, she didn't stop Back From Bali, and she kept looking for ways to scale the business. Leslie's father was a man wise beyond his years. He told his daughter that the future was online. With his guidance, she turned Back From Bali into an e-commerce site. Eventually, Amazon grandfathered Leslie onto its site as one of the first clothing sellers (this was even before FBA was a thing!).
Sales were not great on Amazon at first. Leslie had limited inventory, and children's clothing just wasn't selling on the site. However, Amazon saw potential. They invited her to join FBA when the program first started. Her first year in FBA, Back From Bali earned about $50,000 on Amazon alone.
Balancing Girl Power and Back From Bali became a non-stop seesaw for Leslie. She would teeter-totter between both companies, working on whichever has more in demand at the time. Leslie worked her face off. However, both businesses only earned her about $68,000 a year.
Epiphany at an IKEA Desk
Some people may feel satisfied with a 5-figure income, but Leslie wanted more. Although she was a long-term entrepreneur with decades of experience, she just wasn't where she wanted to be in business. Sure, she was her own boss, could work from anywhere, and could go on vacations whenever she wanted, but Leslie didn't have enough money.
When she was in her early 50s (she's currently 63), Leslie had a dark night of the soul moment. It hit her like a ton of bricks while sitting at her IKEA desk in her quaint Swiss apartment.
“There is no way I'm waking up on my next birthday, making the same amount of money I'm making now. No way!
This epiphany, although difficult to stomach, unleashed a passionate roar inside Leslie. She felt disappointed in herself—like a failure. To the outside world, her life was picture-perfect. She had two businesses, a great marriage, and a lot of beautiful things going for her. But Leslie knew there was more, and she was eager to create it.
Her Mindset Needed a Reset
Growing up, Leslie had this feeling that a guy should take care of her. "They're the ones who make the big bucks," she inferred. She subconsciously built her mindset around that outdated theory.
Leslie also worried that stepping outside her comfort zone would limit her freedom. Would she need to work more? What if she had to become more visible? Would she still be able to watch Oprah at 4 pm?
However, the pains of not earning more money and staying where she was in life were greater than the comfort of not doing anything. Leslie knew that people only make changes when life gets super uncomfortable. That's the beauty of life! Losing the job or the relationship may feel uneasy, but that's when internal awareness kicks in, and the magic truly happens.
That moment at her IKEA desk was when Leslie made a very clear decision to dedicate herself to making more money to be able to buy her dream apartment—which she sits in as you read this.
“I'm going to create wealth in my life, and that's all there is to it.”
Focus Is the Key to Success
Although Leslie saw the potential in both Back From Bali and Girl Power, she knew it was time to let one of the businesses go. Seesawing back and forth between the two wasn't sustainable. She needed to prioritize her time and focus on just one venture. Girl Power was helpful and positive, while Back From Bali was more materialistic and egotistical. But her gut kept telling her to scale Back From Bali—she felt the calling in every cell of her being.
Leslie immediately dropped Girl Power and focused 100% on Back From Bali. When she did, it was like the angels started singing above her. That single decision catapulted her into multiple 7-figures.
Today, Leslie has time to devote to even more entrepreneurial paths. That's because she made a few key hires. A select few subcontractors handle all the day-to-day work in her e-commerce business. She sits in the owner's box now, guiding and serving as a resource for her team. She also spearheads the annual photoshoot showing off the new season's fashions.
Hard Work Is the Path to Freedom
There are too many rumors out there that entrepreneurs only work a few hours each week. While that reality is possible after someone makes it big, they still have to put in the work to climb to the top.
Even though freedom is her number one value, Leslie doesn't shy away from hard work. She worked her ass off to get to where she is today. It was a tremendous amount of effort. Leslie remembers the long hours and weekends she spent trying to build her brand into what it is today.
As a "ferocious learner," Leslie also realizes the importance of education. While building Back From Bali, she attended every seminar and workshop possible. She even hired a consultant, who she still uses today.
Over the years, Leslie has been able to enjoy the fruits of her labor. However, she realizes how easy it is for entrepreneurs to service their businesses as they grow. Leslie noticed how much harder she started working with every new milestone, and it interfered with her freedom.
Leslie attended an Ali Brown workshop, where she met several 7-figure entrepreneurs who only put in 5-10 hours a week. She wanted that for herself. Instead of doing everything herself, she had to change her mindset. Leslie took an in-depth look at who was doing what for her business and how she could do less.
A Business that Serves Leslie
Back From Bali has a full-time operations manager in Indonesia who handles the money, deals with vendors, places the orders, meets the people, and does a bit of sourcing. Since he used to work for UPS, he also handles the shipments to Amazon.
Leslie also has a virtual assistant in the United States. She communicates with the guy in Bali, handles the barcodes, creates stickers, and manages some of the shipments. Leslie also counts on her VA to do all the feeds and product page updates.
Perhaps the main reason Leslie is now able to work so little is because of her consultant, who she also considers her mentor. She first met her mentor, Lisa, at an Amazon conference in Seattle. Lisa wanted to help Leslie build her brand, and it was the first time Leslie realized Back From Bali was really a brand. Lisa writes and optimizes all product pages, does keyword research, writes the titles, all bullet points, and advises on the order of photographs.
Without this dedicated team, Leslie would have to spend every waking hour working on Back From Bali. But with these systems in place, she finally has the freedom to enjoy her life fully.
This freedom made way for her to pursue an even deeper calling. In this new venture, her target audience is herself. Leslie's writing a book and creating video content for women between 40 and 65 who already have a business but are still working too hard for too little reward.
What problem will she solve for them? As she candidly puts it, she'll show them "how to make a fuckload of money."
From Bali to Capitalism.com
Leslie first became aware of Capitalism.com through Ryan's "You Are Enough" podcast. Hearing a 10-figure entrepreneur talking about what everyone experiences touched her. That vulnerability led her to follow Ryan more. She was also blown away by the "build a business, invest the profits" teachings. Leslie has a goal of being financially free—and she's getting pretty darn close!
Last January, Leslie joined The One Percent because she wanted to learn more about exiting. And she's glad she did. Leslie loves the training lessons, looks forward to the Lives on Sundays and Thursdays, and is just happy to be part of Ryan's world. She also loves being part of the group and had the chance to speak with more than 20 women there. Everyone is so open, engaging, and entrepreneurial - and the idea of wanting to build wealth and make money isn't a taboo subject.
One of my missions is helping women be able to stand up and shout, "I love money! I want money!" When I finally got honest with myself and said those words, that's when everything changed.
If you love money as much as Leslie and aren't afraid of putting in a bit of hard work, don't be shy. Feel free to reach out for a bit of honest advice. Perhaps, she'll be able to give you the push you need to finally build a 7-figure (or bigger) business of your own.
Learn More and Connect with Leslie Kuster
Get her "7 Common Mistakes most entrepreneurs make and what to do instead" report.