Steve Chou: A Playbook for the Pandemic

Steve Chou loved his engineering job, but when his side business started making 8-10x his salary, he knew it was time to re-evaluate. 

Steve founded, a blog about starting your own business and e-commerce. It all started when his wife Jennifer was expecting their first child, and she decided to quit her job at a Fortune 500 company to pursue her goal of working for herself. 

So, they started Bumblebee Linens, which sells speciality linens and handkerchiefs for special occasions. There’s a pretty touching story behind the company’s origin. 

As the couple was preparing for their wedding, Steve said they spent an “ungodly” amount of money on getting all the details perfect — especially the photography. And one thing they knew they needed to get right was their tissues or hankie (Jennifer knew she would be quite emotional during the ceremony, and didn’t want any ratty tissues ruining their shot.) As she scoured the internet, she couldn’t find any she liked. Finally, she landed on one she loved, but there was one catch: they would have to buy in bulk from a manufacturer in China to even get one handkerchief. 

This turned out to be their first vendor for Bumblebee Linens. 

Today, Steve coaches us on how to kickstart our businesses during a pandemic, and create an amazing life where we have time for family and work.


Taking the Plunge

“I’m a very conservative person by nature. And I definitely wouldn’t have quit my job had my other businesses [not] been so lucrative.” 

Steve earned his engineering degree from Stanford, and he said going to such a prestigious institution actually hurts someone’s chances of being a successful entrepreneur, though it might not be for the reason you think. 

“I would argue that going to a good school and getting a good education, like an engineering degree, actually hurts your chances of becoming an entrepreneur, because you kind of get sucked into this salary, which is good but not amazing, and gets into this mindset of ‘Oh my god, if I start this business I could lose everything I have and it’s pretty cushy.’”  


Put in the Hours

So how does he advise entrepreneurs take the step to fully pursue their business? First off – don’t quit your day job. 

“A lot of people say ‘I work so hard, I don’t have time.’ I always say BS to that answer, because you’re always wasting time somehow.”

When he and his wife were working really hard to grow their business, they stopped watching TV, cut down on their outings with friends, and clocked in the hours on weekends: they found the time to make it happen. 

If you really are working 16-hours days and have no time? Steve said you should save up a nest egg, roughly a year’s worth of income, before taking the plunge. 


Family First

At the core of their desire to be their own bosses for Jennifer and Steve was spending time with family. And even as they added more tasks to their plate, because they controlled their own schedule they actually had more time to spend with their kids. 

“When I grew up, my parents worked full time. The only time I really saw them was at night for maybe an hour, hour and a half, before I went to bed.  I knew with my kids I didn’t want it to be like that. The businesses have allowed me to…spend all my time with them and make sure I’m an integral part of their lives. It’s been fantastic.”


A Playbook During Economic Crisis

Steve started all of his businesses during economic downturns, and he said it’s actually the best time to get your company off the ground.

As more and more users depend on e-commerce, Steve said you should double down in this area. It’s a great time to invest your efforts there.  


Follow Steve:

Steve recommends you read: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialidini 

Steve’s blog:

Bumblebee Linens:

Steve’s Youtube channel:

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