My First Biz Was a Disaster 

By  Cartess Ross


This post is a few years old now, but I still think the points made here are very relevant… I’ve disabled the comments because of the age of the post.

My cousin ‘Dennis’ was murdered a little over a week ago and we just buried him over the weekend (Jun 16, 2012). I bring this story up because it was his death that triggered memories I had all forgotten — funny stories of how he and I got our butts kicked attempting to become entrepreneurs.

These stories are true and will have you on the floor laughing — so enjoy!

My cousin came and lived with us while growing up in Georgia. He and I grew up learning and failing at lots of things. We’ve done our fair share of dumb and stupid stuff, and when I look back on those things, I realize how much God really looked out for us.

Of course the older you get, the wiser you become.

At 18, I  joined the Air Force for 4 years and when I got back home, my cousin Dennis was there waiting for me!

He was working at a supermarket and I was delivering pizzas for Pizza Hutt  (i was 22 at the time). We both worked long and hard hours, and after getting our weekly paychecks, we were still broke.

It was during this time we figured that in order to get ahead, we had to drastically change what we were doing…

With that thought in mind, we started our first legitimate business together… I say ‘legitimate’ because I’ve dabbled in other stuff prior to this, like mail order, selling candies and wholesale stuff at flea markets, but this was our first ‘real business’.

We went out and got our business license, sales tax id numbers, business cards and everything — we were the real deal. It still amazes me how the blind and naive ones go out there all fearless and all — but as soon as we get a little knowledge, we get all scared and wouldn’t dare do some of the things we used to do…

Anyhow, I can’t remember the name of our business, but it was a carpet cleaning business — I wanna say we named it DC Enterprises. His legal name was ‘Deans’ and of course, mine was Cartess, so DC Enterprises sounded like a winner.  Everything we got into had DC in front of it — thus the carpet cleaning biz was DC Carpet Cleaning Services (if I remember correctly).

We didn’t know what the heck we were doing, when we decided to get into that business, but we figured we’d learn as we go (plus I had a couple weeks experience cleaning carpets at a job I held for about 3 weeks).

Anyhow, we went out and purchased a carpet cleaning machine along with all of the chemicals and supplies.

We paid someone to come to our apartment to clean it so we could see how they used their machine and we wanted to see their routine and sales pitch.

We asked that guy all kinds of stuff — this is how you get intelligence (by calling up and ordering from your competitors. This allows you to see the back-end. It allows you to see their sales and marketing processes — I’d encourage you to order from your competitors so you can see what’s going on too). I still do this to this day — it’s very valuable ‘Intel’.

If I recall correctly, we called 2-3 different carpet cleaning companies to come out so we could figure out their system.

After we felt like we knew what was going on, we made up some flyers and passed them out at a bunch of apartment complexes and waited for the phone to ring.

Would you believe our first call came in a few hours later?

Well it did. And we were so excited.

Imagine that — starting a business and landing your first client within hours.

We knew we were onto something at that point. And not only did we get just one phone call, we received several that day…

But, just as quickly as we got ‘into business’, we got out even faster…

Here’s why!

When we went to the first person’s house to give a quote, we lost our mind.

Let me preference this with the following — we were YOUNG, DUMB and full of testosterone!

I’m not saying it was an excuse — but it’s just what really happened.

When that woman opened the door, my cousin and I just stood there looking.

Put it this way… That woman was so FINE, you’d probably offer her FREE carpet cleaning for the next 30 years… And essentially, that’s what we attempted to do.

As she showed us the rooms she wanted cleaned, it came time for us to give her a price.

So my cousin and I stepped out to discuss how to charge her.

Keep in Mind — we didn’t have a lick of sense. All we wanted to do was just look at her all day, so to ensure we got the job, we told her we’d clean her carpet for FREE.

I’m for real… That’s what we did.

Now, it wasn’t half-way into the job that we realized we made a terrible mistake.

The work was much harder than we anticipated, and we didn’t know what we were doing.

We made a total of 5 mistakes…

Mistake #1

Doing her carpet for free.

Mistake #2

Messing up her carpet was mistake number 2

Mistake #3

Not having insurance to replace the carpet was the third mistake. In the original version of this story, I made the indication we paid for it — we didn’t. We gave her a business card to ‘the company’ and told them someone would be out to get an estimate to replace it. We left and changed our phone number. I know, I know, I know… That was wrong and dirty. I was young and STUPID. I didn’t have any sense.

Mistake #4

Still none the wiser, we took on a 2nd carpet cleaning job. It was all white and it was high-end. We screwed that up too — it was after this tragedy that we realized the carpet cleaning business wasn’t for us.

Doing her carpet for free was our 1st mistake… Halfway through the job, we realized we were messing up her carpet (2nd mistake). We didn’t have insurance (3rd mistake), and had to pay for the damage.

Still none the wiser, we took a 2nd job (4th mistake)… All white carpet — it was high-end, I can’t remember the name of the carpet type. But, we screwed that up too… It was at that point we realized the carpet cleaning business wasn’t for us.

Mistake #5

After the last fiasco, we decided to take all of our equipment to a pawn shot and sold it for pennies on the dollar.

Now … I’m the first one to admit how stupid we were. Yes, we made some dumb and stupid decisions — but in my own opinion, we were smart enough to take action…

While everything didn’t go the way we planned, this action alone set everything else in motion for our future successes (and failures).

It was this initial taste of entrepreneurship that set us on course to working for ourselves.

We were free — we were working on our own terms. After getting a small taste of what was possible, it was hard to go back to the old way of making a living.

We later started a pager company reselling pagers and collecting a percentage of the monthly billing from those pagers… We later expanded into cell phones too.

While we didn’t make a fortune, it was our hustle and it kept us from having to work traditional jobs. I will admit though, we eventually had to go back and start working for employers again, but it was to build up cash-flow to fund our new ventures and ideas.

I bring this up because so often, I hear people ask for money. And when they don’t get it, they get all mad. Don’t get mad. If you have to get another job or two, in order to fund your business venture, then do it.

No one owes you anything — you gotta get out there and believe enough in yourself. If you don’t believe in your own ideas, how can you ask someone else to put up their hard earned money.

Don’t wait for handouts — prove your model first and then if you need some investors, seek out the money… But you better have your act together (such as having your business plan together, marketing plan, etc…) If you don’t have the basics together, you shouldn’t be asking anyone for anything.

When our ventures didn’t work out well, we went to work… Made some money, saved it up and tried again. That’s how we did it … nobody gave us anything and we certainly didn’t wait around for it either.

Our hunger for success was enough to motivate and drive us.

We had a few hits, and many misses — but I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences at all.

After my mom turned me on to the t-shirt biz, I later left and started my own t-shirt biz (we had a difference of opinion on how to grow the business).

As the new t-shirt business started to get traction, It was my cousin Dennis who I later brought on-board to help me run the company…


You might have heard a portion of this story before —  but as our t-shirt biz grew, my cousin Dennis and I flew in another cousin to help us with the growth spurt we were experiencing.

Bringing that cousin into the biz would later prove devastating; it later turned out he was stealing from us and basically sabotaged and destroyed the company we both worked so hard to create…

But we never gave up — we went back to work, saved up some money and started over again.

I bring all this up because I believe nothing happens by accident, and every action we take in life is for a reason or purpose.

Never in a million years did I think the actions I took back then would be the same things that allowed me to become successful. It was my many failures that allowed me to become a better person and a better businessman.

I am a husband. My wife and I have 5 children. We support them with the revenues generated from the businesses we’ve started… Some of it’s passive income.  And some of it is earned from the time we spend working the business.

If you want to have your own business — and it doesn’t have to be t-shirts, you must take some type of action. You can’t sit by hoping, wishing and daydreaming.

You gotta take some calculated risks. You gotta be willing to put yourself out there.

I’m not saying be irresponsible — because honestly, some of the stuff I did was just plain stupid. I was fearless. I didn’t have enough sense to think of the consequences. Obviously, I’m much older and wiser now. Many of those things I back then are things I wouldn’t even think about doing now. My methods and decisions would be much different today.

My cousin was fearless, and together, we were unstoppable…

Whenever I had some crazy way to make money, the only thing he asked was… “Cartess, will you have my money back to me back in 2 weeks so I can pay rent”.

If my answer was something like, “I think I’ll have it back to you by then…”

He would give it too me… He didn’t hesitate. And even though I rarely had the money back to him in a timely manner, he’d always do it again the next time I asked. We both went on to have our own successful businesses, and like any biz, you’ll have some ups and downs.

When he was  up, he was always there to bail me out… When I was up, I was always there to bail him out of financial trouble too…

We didn’t have much growing up, but my God — he and I enjoyed some of the finest things in life… There were times when money was coming in so fast we couldn’t spend it all… Whatever we spent during the day was often being deposited into our bank accounts the following morning (that’s the power of the Internet — having customers all over the world).

BUT…. there were many times where we didn’t know how we were going to pay the rent/mortgage… It came in waves.

We were young and only knew what we knew then. We didn’t know about investments. We didn’t know about diversifying money/assets. We didn’t know about saving for a rainy day.

We blew it all on foolish stuff — absolutely nothing to show for it when it was all said and done!

Put a kid in a candy store and he’s going to eat as much candy as he can … and that’s essentially what we did.

My cousin and I lived and took chances. Some were calculated, and many were just downright foolish. But it was those foolish ones that seemed to give us the greater return … and they also cost us the most in terms of loss.

My cousin Dennis was my best friend. My brother. My cousin.

I miss my cousin.


Don’t live another day hating your job, or hating your life or circumstances. Change it, and change it now — you have absolutely nothing to lose.

Looking at him in that casket made me realize how important it is to be living the life you want to live RIGHT NOW… Tomorrow ain’t promised and I never saw this coming.

Plan like you’re going to live forever … and live like you’re going to die tomorrow. You never know when your last day will come.

Fortunately, the older he and I got, the more responsible we became.

He had a life insurance policy that took care of his burial expenses without having to be a burden on his family. After he was killed, I immediately contacted an insurance friend of mine to upgrade my life insurance policy because I hadn’t done it in a long time. I wanted to make sure everything was square for my family.

If you don’t have a life insurance policy, call a life insurance agent RIGHT NOW!

Don’t leave your family members holding out cups to collect money to bury you… It happens more often than you think.

As much as I’d like to sell you my t-shirt course, I’d rather you put that money into getting a life insurance policy. So that right now before you even think about buying my course. At a MINIMUM, get enough to cover your burial expenses at least. This was the first funeral I went to where monies didn’t have to be collected — we were able to mourn without the added stress!

You Can Change Your Life… And You Can Do It Now!

Whether it’s starting a t-shirt business, or starting a home daycare business, do whatever makes you happy. Whatever actions you take today towards reaching your goals will set in motion the life you’ll have 5, 10, 15 or 20 years from now.

It’s starts today — but you gotta take action towards achieving whatever goals you’d like. It may require you moving in with a family member across the country — or it may require you getting a part-time job.

Whatever it is — you gotta make the tough decision to do it. You might now want to move across the country, but if you stay where you’re at, doing what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get, what you always got.

If t-shirts is your thing….. Take a look at our course – my experiences will help you move along faster!

Click the graphic below – or click here!

Start T-shirt Training Class

Cartess Ross

I will guide you through this process and provide you with proven strategies to help you build a t-shirt company. As one of the original pioneers to start selling t-shirts online 20 years ago, I've sold millions of dollars in t shirts to people all over the world. I founded TshirtRiches in 2007 to teach others how to turn their t-shirt ideas into a business. So if you're ready, hop onboard and let's make this money!

Cartess Ross

  • am so sorry to heard about your bro man,God’s grace to be with him and the entire family…

  • Richard shire says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your cousin. Unfortunately some of us don’t relise what we have until we lose something or someone close to us. You have to enjoy everyday of your life!

  • Your message was presented very well. You are experiencing a tru tragity, but yet have enough strength in your time of need to share your experiences with others. A true testiment. I pray for you and your family.

    • Thanks for the kind words… I enjoyed writing this piece — brought back lots of memories from the ‘good ole days’.

  • Hi Mr. Ross I want to leave my condolences to you and your family. And thanks for all the help and info you give us. God Bless You.

  • Wow I am sorry to hear about your loss Cartess but happy to know that you two shared a great life together! That story about the first carpet cleaning customer being FINE had me cracking up at my computer. It was so REAL! Helped me to know your cousin was a real dude! Thanks fro sharing all this information with us I really appreciate you for that brotha!

    • Thanks Dawud… We had lots of fun together. And yes, that was one fine woman — still get goose bumps thinking back 😉

      (some memories are better left in the past 😉

  • Sorry to hear of your cousins death, very powerful story. You have inspired me

  • Shuntay Burts says:

    At work with tears in my eyes! this is a life changing article. I agree with everything you’ve said! Your family is in my prayers! Thanks for sharing..you just may have saved me!

    • Glad you found it helpful… Him dying has changed my life for the BETTER. I know do things differently and starting to spend even more time doing the things I enjoy and that includes much more time with the family.

  • I am so sorry to hear about your Cousin. It is devasting when someone passes young. I just lost my sister in March. She was living with me for almost 4 years and had liver failure. It was heartbreaking watching her deteriorate. All the while I was pursuing my t-shirt business but it was extremely hard for me because I really could not focus on it. I was still in the start up stages, basically getting all of my designs done, hangtags, sourcing tees and that sort of thing. When she passed away, it was really a shock only because she finally decided to have the liver transplant and was doing very well according to the doctors. She was recovering better than normal when a week later she had a massive brain hemmorhage. She had absolutely no life insurance, no money put aside at all. She could not get a policy because of her health conditions that she had. Anyway, my Mom and I were stuck with the funeral costs and my mother has a foundation that she started about 4 years back, ironically to help families bury a child that they lost.Well now we were faced with this situation and had to try to raise the funds. It was awful. I had money put aside to start my t-shirt business that I have been trying to do for almost 4 years now, I know, sounds ubsurd, but I was helping my sister and her children who were living with me. But anyway, I had to use the money that I put aside for the business to help pay for the funeral costs and to attend her funeral in Pennsylvania. We live in Florida so I had to travel and stay for a few days. I am still mourning the loss of my Sister, but I now have no money to start my business either. This has been such a stinky 4 years for me and I hope it gets better soon. I have some awesome designs for infant tees and I am dying to print them. I hope something changes soon. Well, I am very happy that things have finally worked out for you, and hang in there, they are in a better place now. If you would like to see my sister’s memorial and my moms site her address is; http://www.buriedwithdignity.org
    Sorry for the rant, I just needed to get it out.

    • Thanks for the kind words and I’m sorry to hear about your sister. We have a few organizations we donate too and yours serves a good cause. Please follow-up with me at the end of the year so i can get your organization on our list for next year 2013.

      Regarding your biz, keep on pushing through. I know it’s hard, but it’ll turnaround. Don’t feel like you can only start once you get all of your designs made — if you can only afford to start out with one or two designs, start there.

      Don’t delay — just get started now. It’s important to get activity out into the market place. Nothing happens with out actions/activity. So start now — don’t delay!

      We’re rooting for you over here at Tshirt Riches!

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin. I pray you and your family are comforted in this time of sorrow. Thanks for sharing

  • Thanks I needed that.

  • AndyEdson says:

    Sorry for your loss, Cartess. Still, in God we trust

  • Sorry to hear about your Cousin , what great memories you have to look back on though. *hugs*

    • Thanks for the hug — I have many great memories — as time go by, I’ll share more stories. God knows I have a bunch of them with this character 🙂

  • Mr. Hood Politics says:

    It’s amazing to me reading that story. Because believe it or not, thats me. The only difference is, im living it right now. Ive made so many mistakes in my life. It dont make no kind of sense.
    I recently enrolled in school a few weeks ago. Sadly to say, I was denied because of my past convictions dealing with drugs. Now, I havent been in prison for at least 11 years now. I committed those crimes,, almost 20 years ago. But still, im viewed as a criminal. So, at this moment of my life. I take real serious. It might look like im a bad person on paper. But I’m nothing like that. But I wrote this just to say that. It doesnt matter what you have done in life. No one is perfect. You can be anything that you want to be as long as you at least try. I just started my tshirt company not too long ago. And thank god its going great. I do everything in my power to encourage people all over the world. Promoting peace through fashion(Hood Politics) The Authentic Truth. So god bless you man. You most definitely keep me going.

    • It’ll get better… I don’t think people realize how it could have been themselves locked up. God knows I’ve done some stupid things when I was younger. And I think many of us adults now can think back to the many stupid things done as a young teenager or young 21 year old. At that age, we think we’re invisible and just young and foolish to realize we’re not.

      I wasn’t a bad kid — raised up in the church from the time I was walking and I think we rebel a little when we become ‘grown’.

      Sorry to hear you couldn’t get into school… That should motivate you to make your biz pop even more because now you have that motivation/drive to get out there and make this thing work.

      Keep your head up — you will see light if you keep on keeping on 🙂

  • Sorry about your lost knowing that he is in a better place is awesome and I was reading your memories there is always one in the family that you can relate too and be closer as if you where brothers. My prayers are with you and your family and Happy Belated Fathers Day.

    • Thanks for the kind words… They’re appreciated Mon’Jae.

  • sorry for your loss

  • Wow man! I get your emails and read pretty much every one too but I wasnt prepaired to read this about your cousin. My condolences to your fam. I love what you do with the web site and Im trying to be like you when I grow up meaning Ive been trying to get my t shirt thing going but just recently moved into a new house and its tough getting this thing in order but im going to get where I know I need to be. You motivate me a great deal so thanks C. Stay up bru!

    • Thanks for the kind words Duane… Much appreciated it. Now that you got the new house — perhaps that’ll motivate you to get that biz up and going quicker 🙂

  • So sorry to hear about your lost, stay strong Mr. Ross my thoughts and prays are with your family

  • Felicia Rodrigues says:

    God Bless you and your family. This email really touch my husband and I, because we have been in a struggle for many years now…we are tired. I told my husband that it is time for us to get it in gear we will be signing up for your course this Friday when we get paid. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • Glad to hear my story motivated you to take action… Whether it’s a t-shirt biz or some other type of hobby — sometimes we just need to force ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to live the life we’re really meant to live.

      Keep us posted on your progress as you navigate your way through this new journey.

  • Sorry for your loss. What you have said is so true we should take a chance and do what we enjoy instead of being in a job that makes us miserable and still cant make ends meet. Dare to dream comes to mind. I think we are afraid to do that sometimes.

    • Hi Paula… You’re soo right. They never really taught us in school to dream. And oftentimes, our parents without even thinking about it, generally ‘bring us back to earth’ when we dream/fantasize.

      I think I over compensate now because I now encourage my kids to Think BIG.

      The more outrageous, the better.

      Imagine what they thought when JFK said we were flying to the moon.

      I mean really… Think about the guy who made air travel possible.

      Dream BIG… It works!

  • Thoughts & prayers to you and your family.

  • Thank you for sharing

  • Very sorry for what happened to your cousin, my condolences to you. RIP. Yes, life is only one and we have to live it to the fullest. I’m in!!

  • term life insurance is best

  • Hey brother Ross First I like to say, sorry for your loss. Everything you talked
    in this was so true. Everyone needs to wake
    up and realize what is truly important and make
    a move on the present b/c you our future in most
    cases is depended on today. I always say, “You
    can’t expect to continue to do the same thing and
    expect different results”. It won’t happen.
    Again, many prayers for you and the family and
    may God continue to bless and enrich your family.

    • Thanks for the kind words Jimmie.

      A favorite quote of mine is ‘in order to have the things that others don’t have, you must be willing to do the things that others won’t do…”


  • Brenda Biesterfeld says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I guess we never know when something like this will strike in our lives. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope justice is served toward the person or persons that harmed your cousin. GOD BLESS!

    • Well they finally caught the guy… Actually on the day of the funeral. We’re now just waiting for the details surrounding the murder.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Accept my sympathy and may Yahweh console you and your family.

  • eDrivenLevar says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal story with us…. very inspirational! Its good to hear about failures as well as successes. We learn more from failures than successes.

    • Agreed… If I’m on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, I definitely want the guy whose been through some wild and crazy boat rides…

      The guy or lady who hasn’t had to ever navigate rough and tumultuous waters will never be able to get us out of harms way…

      Failures are GREAT and needed.

  • Shirley Looper says:

    Dearest Cartess,

    I wanted to share something with you…

    Today is my birthday and (my niece who I have always called my SISTER and who is actually just a few years younger than me) always calls me. Well, the phone rang early this morning and it was her husband, calling to tell me that she had just passed away from an accidental over-dose of medication that was prescribed yesterday in the emergency room. Needless to say, I am devastated!

    This morning while standing outside crying and talking to God, I kept asking Him to talk to me and please give me a sign of some sort that He hears me. (I know we should not ask for signs but I am just devastated.) I also decided that I have to change my stressful life and I told my 22 year old son that I no longer want to have “fear” of change or anything else. I was going to move forward and change our lives! Well, I have been numb all day, so just a while ago, I decided to check my emails. I saw this new post from you ( I just recently purchased your training videos and my son and I just finished watching all of them)

    I could not believe what I was reading! The story of you and your cousin (brother) is almost exactly the same story of me and my niece (sister)! Cartess, I am so, so sorry about your cousin and your loss! I know you must be devastated as well! I then read what you said about when you looked at your cousin in that casket how it made you realize about living the life you want to live RIGHT NOW and don’t live another day hating your job! I couldn’t believe it! God had heard me this morning when I asked Him for a sign and you confirmed the exact words I spoke to my son this morning about; no more fear of starting this T-shirt business or anything else! My son read it again with me and we both knew God sent you to talk to us; both, in our tragic loss and changing our lives. (I have been to the emergency room several times, (last time not quite 2 weeks ago; because of my stressful sales job. The doctors keep warning me to find another job or else!)

    Cartess, when we found you by accident a few weeks ago, we knew that God had led us to you. And as they say…with God, there are NO accidents! Both my son and I both love you and really enjoy all the videos (the one with your son was also inspiring) and we both have prayed for you and your family ever since! Please know that you are in our prayers regarding the loss of your cousin (brother) and May God bring you comfort and peace during this time and May God Bless You and Your Family with health, happiness and prosperity!

    I am sorry for the long post but I just wanted you to know how God keeps bringing you into our lives! For all that you do to help people, I know He must have something very special and wonderful in mind for you!
    Shirley and Nicholas Looper

    • Shirley and Nicholas,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. Your niece (sister) sounded like someone you loved very much. I’m truly sorry for your loss. Like you, I’m still numb and shocked. I find myself thinking about him quite often throughout the day.

      I called his cell phone so I could try to capture and save his voice on the recording but they already turned his phone off — I missed it.

      I found myself working a little longer than I should have, but even your story reminds me the importance of living in the now and not putting things off.

      One thing I’ve always wanted to do was hop from and live in different countries a few months out of the year — with 5 kids in school, we discussed and decided we’d spend future summers in other countries while the kids are out for the summer break… We thought about doing it when we retired but have sense decided “Why wait, when we can do it now”.

      So Shirley… I’d encourage you to move forward on your plans and start living now without fear.

      It’ll be a little nerve racking at times, but a little bit of independence will be empowering.

      You and your family are in our prayers and please keep us posted on your progress… Would love to hear from you!

  • Wow you guys have some stories on here, My deepest sympathy for your loss. Thank you also for turning your pain into yet another useful lesson in life.

    • Not a problem…. Thanks for the kind words. We learned a lot during those young start-up years. I’d do it all again to know what I know now. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Thanks for the kind words… Dennis was a GREAT guy. I’m glad the story inspired you.

    Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you get stuck on anything!

  • Sorry to hear that Sharon… We’ll be praying for your recovery. Check your e-mail, I just sent you a follow-up note!

    • Fantastic cartess………u inspire me…

  • Fantastic cartess………u inspire me…..my story would be a best seller…in process now…god bless you and yours….may your cousin rest in peace and fly with the angels..z

  • michael marshall says:

    love one that cannot be replace I understand mr cartess funny how u live to tell the story many time in your head u say that could have been me life let just hope our love one are in a better place I want to order ur program an I will got to do a little more saving like the way u took something from nothing an made it work I be in touch

    • Thanks… Life is funny like that 🙂

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