If he had to do it all over
again, Paul James wouldn’t change a thing —
even the part where he lived in a garage for
nearly two years.
James, 28, is the founder and
chief executive officer of www.pauljames.com, a company that
specializes in helping companies grow
through search engine optimization, or SEO.
“Every day I wake up, it’s mind-blowing,”
James originally grew up in
South Milwaukee and attended South Milwaukee
High School. He dropped out of high school
and pursued a career with a heating and air
“It ended up getting slow and
I was laid off,” James said.
So he enrolled in the nursing
program at Cardinal Stritch University.
“I went after nursing because
I liked to help people,” James said. “It was
in my nature. It was something I thought I’d
Soon after, he got into the
clinical work as part of the program. At the
same time, he began work on his own business
on the side.
The business was SEO.
“I was teaching myself,
learning about it and getting good at it,”
James said. “Once I started getting money
with it, I realized I had a passion.”
Then one day, it clicked.
“I remember thinking in
class, ‘If I can focus on (the business), I
could pursue it full time,’” James said.
That class was preventative
“I can remember bringing my
laptop to class that day and instead of
focusing on the lecture, I was learning more
about SEO,” James said. “That’s when It
dawned on me.”
He dropped out of school for
a second time. This time it was for good. He
admits he hasn’t forgotten what it once was
Shortly after losing his job
with the heating and air conditioning
company, he lived in his brother’s garage in
West Bend. It was about 12 feet by 20 feet
of space. At one time, a pool table sat
inside the garage. When James moved in, the
room was rid of the pool table and a bed was
put in its place, and he brought his laptop.
He was also $35,000 in debt.
The garage was detached from
the home so James and his future wife, Kari,
had to go outside and into the house to get
to the bathroom, sometimes doing so in
several inches of snow.
James and his future bride
lived in that garage for about 18 months.
In 2009, he started to get a
grasp of how SEO worked.
“I was in a band at the
time,” James said. “And part of being in a
band was promoting yourself.”
He did some homework,
studying the ins and outs on how to promote
whatever product one might have, whether
it’s a business or a band or something
“One thing led to another,”
He built a website that
helped students in his anatomy and
physiology class at Cardinal Stritch. Then
he started to make money off the website
because he developed flashcards and then
“I remember my first $20 that
I made off my website,” James said. “I
remember having my first $700 week. It
started snowballing so fast.”
In 2010, that’s when he made
his life-changing decision. Later that year,
he got married.
However, when he made his
decision to pursue the web business full
time, he got pushback.
“It was, ‘What the heck are
you doing?’” he remembered hearing from
several people close to him.
He was convinced he was onto
something. James also thought if it doesn’t
pan out, he could go back to school.
“I had big aspirations,”
Once he thought he knew
enough about SEO, he began a YouTube channel
where he posts educational seminars about
three or four times per week. He’ll go over
topics such as how to rank a product or
business within Google and offers other
business tips. He has more than 11,000
James is also working on a
book about how he overcame adversity and how
to take struggles to become a better person.
“I learned struggles are
something you can use as motivation,” James
said. “How can I use this to propel me
forward? Every bad experience has something
good that can come out of it.”
James could make a case to be
the poster child for that statement.
“Focus, realizing it’s not
how many times you fail,” he said when asked
what was the most important lesson he’s
learned. “It’s all about staying focused and
be willing to fail. I failed a lot, but it
only getting it right once.”
And he got it right.
“It’s very funny to look back
on it all,” James said. “I wouldn’t do it
any other way.”