The Apple Stand Empire

I see a very dangerous flaw in most people that are chasing success, and unless corrected they’ll forever struggle to have long term success.  


Stop doing things because it’s what people say to be doing, and start doing them because they’re why you should be doing them.

We touched on this in Entrepreneurial Quicksand, but it’s so important I wanted to dive further into this entrepreneurial death trap people are on.

The tendency is for people to listen to those having some results they’d like to have, and then follow whatever they’re doing. You’ll struggle significantly for as long as this habit remains. I’m going to demonstrate why with an example:

Let’s pretend someone sold apples. They were pretty much by themselves on a street with their apple stand, selling their apples. They were crushing it.

Well, they started talking about how much they were crushing it selling apples. So, more people started selling apples. They realized this was an opportunity, so started selling those people information about selling apples, increasing their “apple empire” even more.

Now people REALLY wanted to sell apples.

So more people set up on the same block to sell apples. It was basically apple seller after apple seller selling the same types of apples.

Many struggled to make any sales.

Johnny Appleseed continued to talk about how much he was crushing it.

“Dude, Johnny is making even MORE, we’ve got to keep trying.”

Johnny’s apple business growth slowed due to all the new competition but the info business about apples was now raking in loot for him. So, he kept the apple stand and people kept coming to see him because of how well known he was for his apple business. People saw all the attention he was getting and it confused them into thinking they should start an apple stand.

Here’s what they didn’t understand… Johnny did make money on apples. But, once everyone started selling apples his stand was no longer making money because he had apples, he was making his money from telling other people to sell apples. Selling apples wasn’t even a good opportunity anymore.

It should have been obvious to anyone thinking of starting a business that they should not be selling apples. I mean, shit, you could look down the road and see that literally EVERYONE was selling apples. The same f*$king apples.


Billy: Why are you starting an apple stand?

Sam: Dude, to make money. Johnny makes $20k/month from his stand.

Billy: How much are you making?

Sam: Nothing yet, but Johnny says I just got to keep at it and follow my dreams.

Billy: Do you agree with that?

Sam: Dude, Johnny makes $20k/month.

Billy: What does that have to do with whether you agree with it or not?

Sam: Well, he makes $20k/month. I want to make that!

Billy: And do you think following the path he’s suggesting will do that for you?

Sam: I sure hope so!

Billy: But, why not figure it out rather than relying on luck?

Sam: How do I do that?

Billy: Well, why don’t you begin by breaking down how Johnny has made his money, and how you’re attempting to make your money.

Sam: Okay, where do I start?

Billy: Well, you say that Johnny makes $20k/month, where does it come from?

Sam: From his apple stand! Look! Don’t you see all the people there.

Billy: Ya, seems like a lot of foot traffic. Very popular stand for sure. Have you thought to look at what they’re buying from him?

Sam: Dude, it’s all about apples can’t you see!?

Billy: So, why are they buying apple related things from him and not from you?

Sam: He’s known for selling apples, so people already know him, and they don’t know me.

Billy: Why don’t they know you?

Sam: Because I haven’t been around long enough, I just need to keep plugging away and get my name out there.

Billy: Plugging away at what?

Sam: Selling apples!

Billy: Why selling apples?

Sam: Dude! Aren’t you listening? I want to make money.

Billy: What does you wanting to make money have to do with selling apples?

Sam: If Johnny makes $20k/month why wouldn’t I start an apple business. Even if I can just get a piece of that market I’ll be so happy.

Billy: Is the only reason you started an apple business because you heard Johnny was making a lot of money from his?

Sam: Ya, I guess so.

Billy: So, let’s bring some logic into this… Take a look down the street



Billy: Everyone is doing the same thing as you. Some of their apples are slightly different, but for the most part it’s all the same. So, while the apple stand business was probably a great idea when Johnny started, it’s unlikely to be anymore since everyone else is doing it.

Sam: Ya, but Johnny…

Billy: Johnny what? Makes $20k/month, right? How much of that is from selling apples?

Sam: I don’t know.

Billy: Well, let’s go hang by his stand for a little while.


Billy: How much of his revenue is from apples?

Sam: A pretty small fraction.

Billy: What’s the rest from?

Sam: Mainly his information on how to set up your own apple stand.

Billy: So, what does that tell you?

Sam: That I should sell information about setting up a profitable apple stand!

Billy: But you don’t know HOW to start a profitable apple stand.

Sam: Ya but that’s where Johnny is making all of his money now! I get what you’re saying.

Billy: Umm… no you don’t. I didn’t say to copy what Johnny is currently doing to make money. That’s what got you into the position you’re in now. Blindly following what someone else is doing because they make money at it and you want to too.

Let me ask you this. Why do you think Johnny made money selling apples initially?

Sam: Why?

Billy: No one else was selling apples on this street.

People wanted apples, and no one was selling them here so he did, and profited for doing so.

Sam: So, should I go to another place to sell my apples instead?

Billy: Well, that’d be one idea. But, people have already started to figure that out. When I drove in I saw multiple people selling apples on streets where no one was there previously.

It used to just be ‘apples row’, now they’ve spread out all over the place.

Why would you want to sell the same things to the same market as everyone else? You’d do much better to sell to a different audience, and/or to sell a different kind of apple to the same audience.

Sam: You’re right! That’s what I’ll do.

Billy: Well, I didn’t say to do that. I just said you’d be much better off doing that. I didn’t say it’s optimal.

Sam: Well, what would be optimal? Selling info right?

Billy: I definitely didn’t say that. Don’t fall into the guru trap. If you’re going to sell information, that information should be significantly better than what already exists in the market. It should solve a need, not clutter up the world with another info seller because you want to make money. That’s what’s leading to your struggles. You’re trying to make money, instead of trying to offer value. This is leading to a blind following of what someone else is doing without understanding why that person is successful with it.

Often someone was successful because they offered value in a certain way that wasn’t being offered when they started offering it. So if you try to offer that same value after they did it, they already filled the gap that previously existed. It’s not there anymore, so expecting to replicate their results from buying a course from them is not likely to happen.

Sam: So what should I do?

Billy: I’d advise breaking down why they were successful in the first place.

Why was Johnny successful selling apples initially?

Sam: I’m not sure.

Billy: Because he was the only one selling them anywhere near this busy street. People wanted apples and no one was offering them so Johnny did. So, he profited from filling a need that people were willing to pay for.

Then he started talking about how much money he was making. So, people started asking Johnny how to do it. He’d created a demand for this information. So, he filled that need as well. This is why you and the other apple sellers are struggling. Johnny already filled those gaps. To do the same thing as Johnny and expect the same success in the same market is ludicrous, because the gaps no longer exist. Gaps temporarily existed in other markets in the same space, but they are often smaller gaps, and once it’s popularized they disappear very quickly.

A more optimal investment of your time would be to fully understand why Johnny has been successful. It has nothing to do with what Johnny is selling, it has to do with why he is selling it, and how he went about it.

Billy: You see, Johnny is not teaching others to think, he is just teaching them what to do. You must learn to think, or you will always be one step behind. That is where the all long term success is.

You should not be asking, “how can I do exactly what Johnny is doing to sell apples?”. That is making Johnny rich, and you poor.

You should be thinking, how can I replicate the success Johnny has had in a completely different market? How can I provide value in a place where a gap in the market currently exists, much like it did before Johnny started selling apples, and before he was teaching other people to sell apples.



It’s the difference between trying to make something from the leftover scraps off an industry that’s already been tapped, and filling a gap that has not yet been filled. That is where the gold is. You don’t dig for gold where everyone has already mined. The goldmine is where others have yet to stake their claim. 

That is yours for the taking if you spend your time evaluating where gaps like that may be, and then taking action to fill the existing gap in the market.

Your goal shouldn’t be to create another apple stand, it should be to create an empire outside of the apple market by filling gaps in a market the same way Johnny did with the apple empire, in the apple market.

Handing someone money to tell you what to do in a market where the gap does not even exist is nothing but a comedy show. The guru is the only one laughing. They roar loudest on the way to the bank, but all they’re doing if they have not taught you how to think is withdrawing from your account and depositing it in theirs.

Learning how to think is the only way to progress.

Learning what someone did is largely irrelevant unless you fully understand why and how they did what they did.

That is where thinking comes in, and is what no one is teaching how to do.


Blessed is he who has been able to win knowledge of the causes of things.  -Virgil


Ask yourself, have you been inadvertently following a Johnny Appleseed? How’s that route going so far?

The tips and tricks they’ve shared may in fact be good for your apple stand, but the more important question is, why do you even have an apple stand?

Once you learn to think for yourself, the view of the whole world will change, and the level of your potential success along with it.


44 Responses to “The Apple Stand Empire”

  1. Joel

    Guilty as charged! I used to follow a number of Johnny Appleseeds until I realized the hard and expensive way that I was going about it all wrong. Learning and applying the knowledge in a different industry is the best way. Awesome read Billy!

  2. Justin

    “Common sense” advice, but it’s something we all need to hear once in a while. A well done sales page will get us hyped up to get on the band wagon, and even if the questions in this article cross our minds, we’re very good at downplaying them.

    Now that you’ve got the question “Why are you touching me?” in people’s heads, it’s time to provide a $499 course: “Why are you touching me? The secret handshake of non-verbal communication, and how to use it for comfort and profit.”

  3. GrocerBob

    I actually sell apples and other veg and fruit too.
    Found the above to be true when II began to be successful other fruit vendors turned up. Soon everyone was doing it my sales went down.
    Currently looking for something no one else is doing or another way of doing what I’m doing that will set me apart in the market again.

  4. Richard

    Great post Billy as always, I struggle to find gaps in markets…I guess you have to be in heavy research mode to find them. This is what I will be looking into.

    • Billy

      I’ll have a number of posts coming up that get into this topic.

      Keep us posted.

      • Chris

        Great! Looking forward to those articles. I’m pretty tired of trying to do what everyone else does, need to learn to think!

  5. Philip Bonifonte

    Fantastic article as always, Billy!

    I have a hobby – I like to surf the ‘Net and see how many of those $499 courses there are, and what they’re really offering. 99 out of 100 times they’re following your plot exactly – just transferring funds from the suckers’ accounts to theirs.

    It’s amazing how the same tired old scam is dressed up in new, fine clothing, time after time.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • Billy

      And if you notice, most of the time a crazy amount of time is spent on all the things not related to the content dressing it up for sales(sexy design, vids, copy, sales letters, webinars, etc…)- those things are all great, but they’re getting a disproportionate amount of attention instead of the content/product because the focus is on selling people instead of helping people.

  6. Fiona

    I found a gap in the market with my business, mine was the first online Sewing Directory in the UK. But sadly I get many people who have seen my success and think they have to copy exactly – setting up other sewing directories when there really isn’t the market for more than 1.

    I wish they’d read your post and do a different variation – why no beading, knitting, crochet etc anything other than sewing!

    • Billy

      I would just focus on asking yourself, how can you deliver value to that market in a bigger/better way than they are? It can be hard and challenging for sure, but that’s the type of question that will allow you to think outside the box while everyone else thinks inside of it, staying behind you.

  7. a nitpicker

    A nitpick in an otherwise fine article: Ludacris is the rapper, ludicrous is selling apples.

  8. Sam

    Great article Billy,

    Reminds me of the stalls I saw in Cambodia where one person would start selling say…braclets, then hundreds of these stalls would pop up selling the same thing without any differentiation.

    Or even the Tuk-Tuk’s! Absolute abundance!


    • Billy

      Great example- if they just took 2-3x the time to fill an unsolved need instead, they’d make 20-30x as much, and maybe even supply all the copycatters.

  9. Matt

    Eye opening write Billy. Well written and really like the graphics implemented into it. Really brings it together. I myself have fallen into this trap in the online business space. I’m currently in the health/fitness space and I see this a lot. Its a very saturated market. Looking for different niches within in it is tricky, but it is possible. Like you said, it’s not so much about replicating what they are doing. I must truly understand and grasp why they are successful and model that in a different market/niche where I can offer value that is presently not tapped into.

  10. Timothy Durgin

    “You don’t dig for gold where everyone has already mined. The goldmine is where others have yet to stake their claim.” This quote hit the nail right on the head.

    I feel that while this article applies heavily to the information marketing industry, it applies even more so to the network marketing industry. No, I don’t want to hear about your “ground-floor” or “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to “own my own business” and “fire my boss.” Putting myself in a sales force with 100,000 other people all selling the same product to the same market is not a recipe for success.

    It really is all about the gaps in the market. They’re only there for a limited time and once they’re filled, the person who filled it will sell how-to guides to keep the money flowing. They don’t remain as lucrative opportunities forever, despite what certain “gurus” want you to believe. Only when an individual can think for himself/herself will they truly realize how unattractive most of these “business opportunities” really are.

    • Billy

      Similar to how when waiters and waitresses are talking about how good the stock market is, when everyone is buying and selling a specific niche online, it’s not the time to “buy” it’s more likely the time to “sell” if you’re in it.

  11. Aidan

    Another great article,

    So glad to have found your site from Neville over at the Kopywriting Kourse. Both the value you guys give is unmatched. Quick question do you outsource your drawings or is that your own work. Working on my website currently, hopefully be ready by the end of the month. Taking notes off you guys! Take care

    • Billy

      Neville is the man. Thanks Aidan!

      I can barely draw my name. My assistant Lesley does the drawings for me.

  12. Knut

    Solid article – thanks for sending!

  13. Ralph

    I had an uncle who sold rubbermaid mats at a flea market in the 70’s. At the flea market, another vendor came and was selling the same mats. So he went and bought the competitor out. He figured that with competition, neither one would make enough.

    I went to one of those free couple hour free training that became a sales pitch for another (expensive) course on making money in real estate. The vendor had made good profits in the past. Folks lined up for the $3000 course. Now in my opinion, the techniques they proposed were a bit risky. Probably alright for someone with nothing to lose (when it all goes bad) but anyone not so risk adverse was a bad bet. However, the seller of the course had presented it so many times, the market would be fierce with these newby’s trying to make a start that there would be minimal opportunities anyway. I realized the real profits were in selling the course.

    • Billy

      Bingo… the time to make money in a market is before everyone has discovered it and is selling info on it.

      The time info sellers come out from all corners is when the market is getting more and more efficient, or they would likely be quietly printing money.

  14. Evan


    Great article here bro! I laughed several times but it holds lots of truth.

    This is why I don’t want to be branded as a “make money online” guy, unless I’m teaching specific business models. I think TONS of the make money online gurus are the ones who are caking off of these courses, and not much else. The exception is when they teach people how to actually use a business model that’s working in any niche.

    That said, when you’re providing unique value and perspectives, like this site is, you prosper AND you valuably help people get what they want.

    It’s all in the execution, that’s the most important part. People get hung up trying to follow someone’s plan when they don’t even have their own long-term plan! Execute in your own way, when you find needs and fill them.

    Thanks for this one! Love your work

    – Evan

    • Billy


      There are literally almost zero “how to think” or “how to apply X business model to any market” courses.

      There are lots of “use this platform to be like me” courses, when anyone who has the ability to think realizes the wrong variables are being promoted, as those variables, and platform they’re selling on weren’t the causes of success, they were merely the platform where the success was engaged on.

      • Susan Jones

        You know why there are no ‘How to think’ courses? Because it’s a really really hard sell.

        You know they need it. I know they need it. But people don’t want to be taught how to think. They just want to a checklist to follow that will make them money.

        When people are not successful in business, it’s often because they don’t do the hard thinking up front – even though it’s the very thing that will make them successful. And that goes for 90% of wantrepreneurs in my experience.

        You can lead a horse to water…

        It is actually a pet beef of mine, because I hate seeing people try and fail when they could have actually been successful with a bit more strategic thinking up front.

  15. Nimai

    Another awesome post Billy. I need to train myself in identifying gaps in the market where I can offer a valuable service or product.

    Good information on thinking for yourself and not following the common trend.

    • Billy

      What are you trying at the moment to identify gaps?

      • Nims

        I try to read up on a lot of current and future trends – a lot of stuff by James Altucher and Peter Diamandis Abundance Insider – new technologies changing the world.

        I’m currently studying web design and development on the side while I finish my contract with the Navy.

        I’ll be interested to read your future posts on successful research tactics to identify a gap, and wether or not it’s worth perusing.

  16. Marius

    Another well written Post Billy. I heard recently about a Chinese woman, who saw an opportunity when the china boom began and bought tons of cheap paper from the US, imported it to China, made cardboard out of it and sold it back to the US. She is one of the richest woman on the world now. There are so many potentials in arbitraging markets if you know what you need to look for.

    There was also a well made documentary about a British business man, who made a world trip and bought stuff cheap locally and exported it to his next destination to sell it, for one year I think. He had a free trip and even made like I think 60k Profit. Sadly can’t remember the name, but worth watching.

  17. Jhon

    Hello Bill, do you know about the Blue Ocean Strategy? what is your input on it, do you recommend it? thank you.

  18. Billy

    Heard it about it never read it. Just googled it, looks interesting.

  19. Tim

    Hey Billy – I’m hoping you could help me clarify something. My take on this is if someone sets up an online store following a niche from a guru, they would be just another apple seller. However, if someone takes the time to research and find an opportunity within a niche to set up an online store, then they would become the initial apple seller. Do you agree, or is the online store the actual hot offering that should be avoided?

    Also – I had to chuckle at the “Why are you touching me” thought bubble.


    • Susan Jones

      An online store is just a mechanism to market. The real question is who are you selling to? What need are you meeting for them? And how will you fulfill that need?

  20. ilya

    Hi, great article. Thanks for sharing! How about poker playing industry specificaly training sites? People make money themselves and teach others to do it. Seems legit to me or do you think it is a scam also?

  21. Dave

    Excellent read as always. I’m liking the more frequent updates.

    I did have a question though. Is there a specific reason that the blog doesn’t have a link at the top? I may just be not seeing it. I know how to reach the older posts, but new visitors may not.

  22. Dennis

    Great article Billy!

    I am a teacher and I take away this line from the article:
    Teach others how to think instead of telling them what to do. That’s how you stay ahead of the pack.


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