Photo of pigeons on a lamp post against NY skyline taken by Joana Miranda

Week 31 in the Empire Building Kit just wrapped up today, which means that there are only 21 more weeks to go.  That is a sobering thought when you consider that my aim is to emerge at the helm of successful lifestyle business earning at least 55k per year by the end of this year-long course.   Ironically, I received a nice blog post comment from a reader named Brian today who, among other things asked –

When evaluating the idea of trying the program for ourselves, can you say if it’s allowed you to accomplish something you could not do before? What real results would you say you are receiving?

To be honest, that question hasn’t been far from my mind all along.  The foremost nagging thought for me has been –

Aack!  I’m nowhere near to making 55k with my business.  How am I supposed to make that kind of money when there are only about X (now 5) months left in this course?

Do I blame the Empire Building Kit or its author Chris Guillebeau for my failure to see the big money coming in?  Is this just a big scam – another one of those “get rich quick…buck the system…have your dream life and work only 1 day a week” in a downturn economy schemes – and is it worth continuing with until the end?

In answer to those questions, here’s what I’ve found.

The definite direct benefits I’ve received in doing this course and having an association with Chris are:

  • About $500 earned from being an affiliate of Chris (no cost to be an affiliate – you just need a blog or website)
  • Direct jewelry sales which have paid the annual fee (and beyond) to belong to Aweber’s email program (Chris uses Aweber, and I learned of their services through him)
  • Free monthly and weekly freelance workweek planners from Charlie Gilkey’s website Productive Flourishing, which have helped me to better prioritize my time and understand where and why I tend to waste my time (I “met” Charlie through the EBK)
  • A featured spotlight in the EBK as an “emperor-in-training,” which has led to spikes in my blog views
  • Silver Circle Finalist status in the 2010 Halstead Bead, Inc. Jewelry Business Development Grant along with subsequent media coverage and finalist perks (writing a compelling business plan for this competition was a lot easier as a result of learning some great marketing and business building tips from the EBK.)

Along with these direct results, there have been the intangible ones as well:

  • I’ve revamped my business almost entirely to focus on design – both jewelry and whimsical illustrations – since I’ve realized that my jewelry business was not built on a sustainable model both in terms of earnings and my long-term happiness and satisfaction.  (Perhaps a good thing, too, since our move to New York City has made having a workshop in our living space an impossibility!)
  • I’ve sold a lot of equipment and furniture (generating income), and have embraced a life of less which feels infinitely richer to me
  • I’ve felt my horizons broaden by being exposed to people doing things I really admire (Chris Guillebeau, Charlie Gilkey and Nate St. Pierre, to name a few)
  • I have a clearer vision of who I am, who I want to be and what really motivates me want to get out of bed each day

So, why am I not earning 55K yet?

  • Namely because I have switched the focus of my business and now need to get the word out to as many people as possible


  • Because I battle my own demons about worth and pricing

Do the daily tasks in the EBK really amount to much?  Couldn’t I just figure this stuff out on my own?

The daily tasks in the EBK amount to what you put into them.  I currently have 82 pages of notes I’ve typed for myself – notes of people, websites, and “things to do” that I have gleaned from the EBK.  Not all of the websites or people have “rocked my world,” but almost all have given me pause for thought (at the very least, I’ve learned who or what I don’t admire), and many have genuinely inspired or taught me something.  The “things to do” list continues to get longer and longer, but I’m chipping away at it as fast as I can.  Lastly, while I am smart enough to pick through the internet for information when I need it, Chris has done much of the “picking” for me, which has saved me time.

Is the EBK for everyone?


Why it works for me…

I admire Chris’ intelligence, experience and knowledge, and appreciate that he delivers his information in a generous, humble and respectful way.  I’ve been at this (business building) long enough to know that it won’t happen overnight, or even in a year.  Perhaps my overall “ah hah” moment in this course (one that I don’t always remember, though) is, as Charlie Gilkey wisely put…

Every moment counts for something. What it counts for is largely up to us.


  1. Brian says:

    Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for that very nice blog reply. I do appreciate your thoughts.
    Congratulations, too, on what you have accomplished since your involvement in the program. Hopefully you won’t mind the presumption from one who is aquatinted with you only from your blog: I suspect you would have accomplished these things on your own. The skill and thoughtfulness seem to be present already.
    I’ve participated in workshops and programs and have a fair library of business how-to’s and motivational books. It seems to me that the most help they bring is focus to their theme, and a sense that there are others who are experiencing the same challenges. Company is comforting, especially for lone designers like us!
    Endles examples of how business X made business decision Y have lost their appeal to me. Exactly how do I make my designs/story/marketing so compelling that retailers desire to put my designs in their store? It’s a tall order to expect, but I feel more in need with every program and book that misses the mark.
    Frankly, I have become convinced that no one really knows the answer to that question. You probably know (as I do) designers whose pieces are so beautiful, so sublime, that they should be heralded everywhere and entirely successful. The fact that they are not, and why they are not, probably holds more clues about what really works in our world. I’d have to say that celebrity, “me too”ism, trendiness and success are more sure elements than core values, uniqueness and selling propositions. It sounds cynical, and we can debate if it must it be so!
    This isn’t meant to be a rant (or please not a comment to your blog, forgive me, it’s just the way it’s possible to reply to you) If you feel like discussing what you see out there, I’d truly enjoy hearing it.

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