How I Built a Mildly Successful Six-Figure Business in 17 Years

The following is an interactive timeline of my "journey" as an "entrepreneur" and how I "built" a "six-figure business" from "scratch."

It only took me 17 years and 12 failures. But since this is the internet, it was an "overnight success."

And it all started with my first venture: starting a rock band!

Matt Giovanisci

Years 1 - 5

Gain Skills and Formulate Ideas

My First Website

I learn how to build a website for my indie rock band because we couldn't afford to pay a web developer.

Remember Tomorrow Website The original site I created for my band Remember Tomorrow. This was coded entirely in Adobe Flash. November 11th 2002

My First "Real" Business Idea

I have an idea for a new website that would teach people how to take care of their swimming pools and hot tubs.

I worked in the pool industry in New Jersey since I was 13 years old, so I knew the industry well. And no, I was not a "pool boy."

Pool Website Design This is the website I designed and coded for the pool store I worked at in New Jersey when I had the idea for Swim University. February 21st 2004

I Buy a Domain

I come up with the name, "Swim University" for my pool website idea.

I buy for $9.

Just a snapshot of in 2008 where I bought this domain name. October 16th 2005

The Breakup

The band breaks up, but I continue to just talk about my pool website idea.

Remember Tomorrow Band Photo This is press photo we used for the band. I have NO idea what I'm doing with my hands. April 17th 2005

My First Podcast

My friend (and former bass player) goes overseas for the Air Force. My former bandmates and I create a podcast called The Arctic Fox to keep him entertained and informed about local New Jersey news.

The Arctic Fox Podcast This is the original podcast artwork before podcasting was cool. August 5th 2005

I Lose a Domain Name

While I just talk about my website idea, I lose the domain name I bought the year before 😞

I buy it again for $150 because someone else scooped it up.

December 19th 2006

Lesson Learned

Procrastination costs money!

Tweet This

Years 6 - 8

Start a Business and Try to Make Money

Swim University

My First Online "Business"

I finally build Swim University after my friend (and former bass player) said, "shut up and build it already! I'm tired of hearing you talk about it."

Swim University Website The first design of March 30th 2007

My First Business Book

I purchase "The AdSense Code" book to help me make money with Adsense. I Immediately regret the purchase.

The Code Book Yes, this book was a thing. April 1st 2007

Learning to Code

I redesign Swim University and build my own custom content management system (CMS), even though WordPress is a thing that's free (but I didn't know it at the time).

In hindsight, I spent more time on this when I should have been spending more time writing content.

January 5th 2008
Ace Media

The Limited Liability Company

I form The Ace Media Group LLC under my parent's address to look more professional when people (eventually) write me checks.

LLC June 11th 2008

My First Online Community

I join an online forum to learn how to increase web traffic and make money.

Instead, I learn how to spin 300-word articles and submit them to link farms. With good intention though. That's just the way things were being done back then.

A screenshot of the first online business community I joined called The Keyword Academy. In hindsight, it was a mistake I'll never regret. April 14th 2009

Moving to WordPress

I move Swim University to WordPress. Something I should have done on March 30th 2007.

December 29th 2009

The First Signs of Revenue

Swim University makes less than $100/month in Adsense revenue. A total of $1,082.98 for the year.

Revenue Actual Adsense revenue from 2009. December 31st 2009

Lesson Learned

Tricking people to click Adsense links and spinning articles was a terrible way to make money. I regret nothing!

Tweet This

Years 9 - 11

Lose Interest and "Pivot"

Shiny Object Syndrome

Swim University isn't growing fast enough, so I create a bunch of "niche sites" to increase my chances of success.

Site topics include: snowboarding, home audio recording, and Crocs. Yes, the fucking rubber shoes!

A recreated parody site I made to illustrate how bad this site was. April 25th 2010

I Get Fired

I'm fired from the pool store because my boss found out about Swim University. Specifically, he found a guest post I had written on a site called

Just one reason I think guest posts are stupid.

The original homepage for from 2008 November 9th 2010

I Get Hired Again

I immediately start working as a marketing director for a fire and water restoration company.

Website Design The website I designed and coded for the company. November 16th 2010

My First Google Penalty

Swim University gets hit by the Google Panda update and drops by 67%. I deserved this because I spun articles and tricked people to click Adsense links.

Google Panda Update on Swim University May 16th 2011

A Little Distraction

Swim University still isn't growing fast enough, so I build a social network for dogs.

The original launch video for DogBarkz. I wrote the music and stole dog footage from other YouTube videos to make this. August 25th 2011

Giving Up

I give up on because I realize I don't care about people who want a social media account for their dogs.

The original photoshop mockup for from 2010 October 18th 2011

Lesson Learned

Crocs are stupid.

Tweet This

Years 9 - 11

Collect Unemployment and Start Making Money

My First YouTube Video

I start creating regular videos on YouTube for Swim University because I liked making videos more than writing articles.

May 30th 2012

I Finally Make Good Money!

I made $300 from a single sponsor. Plus, $806.54 with The Google Affiliate Network and $155.49 with Adsense this month.

September 10th, 2012

My First "Small Business Loan"

I'm laid off and collect unemployment, roughly $2,800 a month. I use it to bootstrap my business.

April 27th 2012

My Second Online Community

I join a much better community of online entrepreneurs called Fizzle and learn the value of writing epic shit over building backlinks. It's here I meet Andrew Fiebert.

Fizzle May 9th 2013

My First Partnership

I partner with Andrew Fiebert and help redesign his site, Listen Money Matters. In exchange, he helps me monetize Swim University.

Listen Money Matters Redesign This is my first attempt at a redesign for May 20th 2013

My First Rap Video

I create the "Pool Care Rap Video" which was the first thing that went "viral" on Swim University.

June 25th 2013

I'm On My Own

I stop collecting unemployment checks so now I'm forced to make money on my own.

September 15th 2013
Listen Money Matters

My Second Podcast

Andrew and I launch the Listen Money Matters podcast because his wife overheard us talking on Skype and said, "you guys are ridiculous, so you should start a podcast."

Original Listen Money Matters Podcast Art This is the original podcast artwork for Listen Money Matters. October 30th 2013

Leveling-Up Affiliate Marketing

I switch affiliate programs on Swim University, from LinkShare (Rakuten) to Amazon.

Also, I create a custom plugin that helps improve how Swim University is monetized.

March 3rd 2014

I Quit Podcasting

I quit Listen Money Matters because Andrew and I had different opinions on the future of the brand/podcast.

I focus back on improving Swim University.

November 10th 2014

My First Profitable Full-Time Year

After I finish my end-of-year report, I realize the business made a little over $40,000 in 2014. I get taxed on $28,899.

December 31st 2014

I Un-Quit Podcasting Temporarily

I launch a podcast called Driven that only lasts eight episodes.

Driven Podcast Website Design June 10th 2015
Roasty Coffee

Expanding The Media Company

I start to see if I can replicate the successful business model of Swim University in a different industry.

Original Roasty Coffee Homepage Design This is the original design of Roasty. March 1st 2015

I Move To Colorado

My girlfriend (Steph) and I decide to move to Boulder, Colorado and start a new life together. This was an extremely important step in my life and overall happiness.

Boulder Colorado August 25th 2015

Now I'm in Business!

After finishing another end-of-year report, I realize the business made $141,838 in 2015. I get taxed on $98,052.

December 31st 2015

Lesson Learned

An intense hyper-focus on making money works with enough time.

Tweet This

Years 14 - 16

Make Six Figures and Continue to Pivot

Money Lab

The Birth of Money Lab

I launch (this site).

Money Lab January 18th 2016

The First Money Lab Challenge

I team up with Jason Zook and relaunch his "How To Get Sponsorships For Anything Course" as

Get Sponsorships February 13th 2016

My First Online Course

I build and launch my first online course called Asana for Bloggers in just 7 days.

Asana for Bloggers May 9th 2016

30-Day Rap Album Challenge

I write, produce, and drop a rap album about being an entrepreneur in only 30 days. You can listen the album here.

August 2nd 2016
Spruce Metrics

My First SaaS Product

I team up with Jason Zook again to create Spruce Metrics: a simple analytics platform to help people grow their businesses.

Spruce Metrics Dashboard November 17th 2016
Brew Cabin

Launching Another Brand

I start (a website about homebrewing beer) to again replicate the successful business model of Swim University and Roasty Coffee.

This time I teamed up with JP, a local friend in Denver to build a content site along with homebrewing software.

Brew Cabin The original homepage from 2017. January 5th 2017

Hired My First Full-Time Team Member

I put together a complex hiring form and reached out to the Money Lab community in search for a editor-in-chief to run Swim University.

27 people applied and only one knocked it out of the park. She was hired the next day.

March 1st 2017

I Walk Away From Spruce

Working on Spruce was the biggest stress factor for all of 2017. Here are the things I should have avoided.

Matt Stressed October 23rd 2017

Launch Another Software Product

Since I didn't learn my lesson the first time around, I decided to team up with JP to work on another project. I developed a plugin to manage affiliate links and called it Earnist. You can read about that project here.

The first and only sales video for Earnist November 3rd 2017

Another Record Year

My business earned around $270,786. This is about $70,000 more than I made the year before.

Read the entire year recap here.

2017 Annual Review December 31st 2017

My Second Online Course

I launch my second and most popular online course to date. SEO For Bloggers has 578 students.

SEO For Bloggers February 14th 2018

My Third Podcast

I start the Money Lab podcast because I want to publish something on a consistent schedule and gain a bigger audience through a medium I feel like I excel in.

You can read about the launch of this podcast here.

Money Lab Podcast The original artwork for the Money Lab podcast. April 26th 2018

I Sell Roasty

I go into $40,000 of business debt because I still haven't figured out how to manage the finances in my seasonal business.

So I decide to sell for $55,000. You can read about it here.

How to Sell a Website May 30th 2018
Listen Money Matters

I Rejoin Listen Money Matters

Andrew and I reconnect and declare our ever-lasting love for each other. I come back as the co-host of Listen Money Matters and he joins me as a co-host on the Money Lab podcast.

Listen Money Matters Podcast The original cover artwork we launched when I rejoined the podcast. July 23rd 2018

Getting More Mildly Successful

I officially move the business from New Jersey to Colorado and change the name to just Ace Media, LLC. And I register the company as an S-corp with the IRS so I can start collecting payroll.

The business grosses $362,335 and it's taxed on $104,994.

December 31st 2018

Lesson Learned

Never stop building & creating! Mild success can take a while.

Tweet This

Year 17+

Grow And Let Go


Launching LASSO

I shut down Earnist and rolled the code into a new project called LASSO. Andrew and I turned a WordPress plugin into a SaaS product which is an affiliate link management and display tool.

Check it out here.

LASSO February 11th 2019

My Third Online Course

On possibly the worst day to announce a real product, I launch The Affiliate Marketing Video Course. I named it that because Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers was already taken.

If you're interested, check out the course!

April 1st 2019

Going Lean

I adopt the Profit First business financial model, slash tech expenses, build a lean team, and stop reading business books and blogs. The goal is to create a business that profits without overspending.

Read about my experience here.

lean business model April 29th 2019
Carbonate WordPress Theme

My First WordPress Theme

The last 17 years of website design has led me to this moment. I took years of design and development improvements across all my websites and packaged it into a WordPress theme called Carbonate.

Carbonate WordPress Theme November 11th 2019

Breaking $400k

The business is on track to earn a little over $400,000 in gross revenue in 2019.

That's Swim University, Money Lab, and Brew Cabin combined.

Will update at the end of 2019. December 2nd 2019

Lesson Learned

Keep your business lean and you'll see more green!

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Building a Business Sucks. But It's Worth It!

My goal from the beginning was to make at least $100,000 a year. Okay, that's not true – I wanted to be a rich and famous rock star.

Instead, I built a pool website. I still wish it didn't take over 10 fucking years though!

But it did. And every step was important. If I didn't go through them, I might have blown all my money on a mansion in Florida in 2008.

Instead, I bought a modest condo in New Jersey in 2008 and still got screwed.

I got fired, laid off, and collected unemployment. I'm glad it all happened. Without those moments, I wouldn't be where I am today – in my home office in Boulder writing about becoming mildly successful.

I have no regrets. I fucked up and fought my way through. And the best moment was when my mom stopped asking me when I was going to get a "real job."

I love you ❤️

This page was designed with some help from Cody House, Stephanie Halligan, and Jason Zook.