In 2007, when Leo Sgovio was working for a travel company in Toronto, he asked a cousin who worked there, “What is the highest paying job in this company?” When he learned that it was in SEO, he started Read it and get certified as an SEO expert with expertise in Google and Bing advertising. By 2010, he had achieved another certification, this time Adobe Analytics. His work has given him a lot of practice helping sites rank on Google and using Google AdSense.
Knowing his ways in the world of internet advertising paid off. Sgovio started his career in the fashion industry in southern Italy, where he received sponsorship from his employer to stay in Canada. He eventually started selling supplements on Amazon in 2015 under a brand called Lovetica; he still owns 50% of the company and has sold it to partners. Lovetica earns about $700,000 a year, he said.
“I needed to do something myself,” he recalls. “If I have to stay away from my family, it must be worth it.”
His business took off, thanks in part to a creative approach to pay-per-click advertising. For example, when selling products for problem skin, he advertised to women who were buying diapers because he realized that many women developed skin problems after pregnancy.
“Amazon is still in its infancy,” he said. “Building a brand on Amazon is easy. Then I started speaking at conferences. I was able to bring all the knowledge in the world of digital marketing. The Amazon space turned into gold all at once.”
From 2017 to 2017, he was the head of innovation at Viral Launch, a software for Amazon sellers that lets companies track their competitors online. Then, in 2017, he started Convomat, a tool that helps Amazon sellers automate promotions on Facebook, Instagram, and Google.
“What really helped me build this business is that I’ve worked with big companies before,” he said. “Especially when dealing with people behind big desks and closing big accounts, it’s a lot easier to close deals if you know what directors and managers think and what they want.”
Convomat makes more than $2 million a year in revenue, he said. He runs the business with a contractor.
It’s one of the latest examples of the growth of a million-dollar one-person business. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, 43,012 businesses had no employees other than owners with incomes between $1 million and $2.49 million, up from 41,666 in 2018. Another 2,553 brought in between $25,000 and $4.99 million, and 388 earned $5 million or more. (I didn’t find data tracking these businesses by Canadian revenue).
“When you invest in passion, the money will eventually come,” he said. “I do a lot of work for free, helping brands launch products. Eventually it will come back to you.”
Sgovio’s latest business is an affiliate marketing and e-commerce platform for internet sellers. It is built around a card game featuring kids and parents.
Sgovio’s advice to other entrepreneurs looking to build high-income micro businesses? “A lot of entrepreneurs want a one-person business,” he said. “Their problem is they get distracted. They immediately start outsourcing some things. They never really learn the business. They lose focus on what they really need to do.”
He advises entrepreneurs to master the operation of their business as soon as possible. “Before they start hiring and outsourcing, they should spend more time understanding exactly what it takes to get there,” he said. “If you want to make $1 million, break it down by day. If you’re really struggling to get something done, that’s the only time you’re going to hire someone.”
Once he understands the process for a given business, he creates a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailing how he wants it done. He uses the Loom tool to record video.
“Then I have a video library,” he said. “I can show it to the next person who joins. It’s a lot easier.” As he’s discovered, getting the most out of technology can take a business farther.