Audio

013: How My Student Sandy Donovan Created An Online Store Selling Personalized Kimono Robes

sandy Donovan

Today I’m happy to have one of the students in my Create A Profitable Online Store course on the podcast today. Sandy runs GetUnrobed.com which specializes in selling bridesmaid robes online.

Now this interview is unique in that it provides a very realistic, in the trenches account of someone who just started their online store. Sandy started less than a year ago and today, her shop is now on the front page of search and making consistent sales.

But her path was not smooth. In this podcast, she’ll tell us about all of her struggles and triumphs during her journey.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Sandy found her niche for her online store
  • Why Sandy switched shopping carts to Shopify early on
  • How Sandy sourced her products for sale
  • How Sandy gets customers to her store.
  • What worked for her and what did not
  • The hardest part about starting an online business
  • How much did she spend to start her business.

Other Resources

Transcript

Steve: You’re listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast episode number 13. A few weeks ago, I sent out a poll to my blog asking who they wanted to hear from the most on my podcast. And surprisingly, they didn’t want to hear from famous people. They simply want to hear from real people, who just started their businesses and basically people in the trenches. Now, since I run a course at e-commerce at www.profitableonlinestore.com I just happen to know many in the trenches. So today, I have a student of my Create A Profitable Online Store course with us on the podcast. Now, first things first, this isn’t gonna be one of those raw-raw type of episodes, it’s not going to be a, oh! I signed up for Steve’s class and after following the step by step tutorials, I managed to make tons of money. Quiet the contrary. It’s rarely smooth for any business owner and it would be a lie to say otherwise. So, in this interview, I give a very realistic, in the trenches account of a student who just started their online store. Now, if you are interested in learning how to start your own business, go to www.mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six-day mini course on how to start an online store. Also, I’m giving away free one on one consults on a monthly basis. For more info on that, go to mywifequitherjob.com/contest. Now, onto the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today, I’m really happy to have Sandy Donovan on the show and Sandy is actually a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store course. Now, last week when I sent out a poll to my readers, an overwhelming number of people responded that they wanted to hear from real people who just started out with their shops, people in the trenches, people starting from the very beginning. So, I decided to bring on different students of mine to the podcast. Now, incidentally if you want to learn more about my course, go to www.profitableonlinestore.com. Anyways, I’m gonna have different students on the show who kind of took different paths towards starting their own online stores.

Now, some students chose to go the free open source route, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about sign up for my free mini course at mywifequitherjob.com. I also have students who chose to go with a fully hosted chopping cart and I’ll also hopefully convince a few students to come on who are just absolutely killing it! Now, in a private poll I conducted with my students last week, there were at least two students doing over six figures per year, both of whom have been doing five figures per month consistently for the past several months.

Now, my goal with these set of podcasts is to give all the would-be shop owners some different perspectives on the whole process of starting an online store. Okay now, let’s talk about Sandy. Sandy is one of my favorite students in the class, because things haven’t exactly gone that smoothly for her, yet she has kept at it. Now, she’s currently doing four figures per month with her online store GetUnrobed.com, which sells Kimono robes for bridesmaids. Now, Sandy really is an amazing person and she’s done an incredible job thus far. So, Sandy, welcome to the show and thank you for coming on.

Sandy: Thanks Steve! That was such a great introduction, so thanks for having me; I’m really excited to be on the show today.

Steve: Yeah, really happy to have you. I know for a fact since we’ve interacted quite a bit through the course that, I know you’ve been trying a whole bunch of different things and you’ve had your ups and your downs so, that’s why I thought you’d be an ideal person to bring on the show.

Sandy: Yeah, well, l definitely had the ups and downs so [chuckles]-

Steve: [chuckles] And again you know, just for everyone who’s listening, we’re trying to give a realistic account for someone who’s just started relatively recently. So, Sandy, how did you come up with the niche for your online store?

Sandy: Well, most of it was mathematical, just walking through what you had shown in the course, which just to give a brief overview, is basically taking a look at what people are searching for and comparing that to what is out there in terms of competition. So, it really came down to that in the end, but just a little background on how I came up with it, I – you’d mention to look for something that isn’t being sold in the store. And one day I was with my family and one of my older cousins was turning something– I don’t even remember, 55, 60, something like that, and someone was looking for a happy coat, do you know what that is?

Steve: I do not, what is a happy coat?

Sandy: Okay, so, it is– I don’t know really where the name came from, but in Italian families, it’s basically this really long night gown, it’s kind of a mix between a robe and a nightgown and Idon’t know why they call it a happy coat, I think it comes from another language but the people now kind of tease the older generation because they wear it all the time because it just makes them happy. But, it’s…

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Something that the older Italian women would wear around the house. So, one of my cousins was searching for that since she couldn’t find it anywhere, so they used to be able to get them everywhere, and so that kind of just put me down the truck of robes. And as I was looking for different robes, I knew I didn’t really wanna sell the happy coat, but I was looking at different robes and what I was seeing was that, a lot of them were either really cheap, so cheaply made, I didn’t like the fabric or they were just really frumpy looking, so they were really big and just not flattering, and so, that kind of led me even further to find out that a lot of women were searching for robes for their bridal party and they were really hard to get. I’ve heard that from lots of different people and it has been confirmed after I opened the store a lot of my customers told me that they can’t find them anywhere in local stores. So, that was kind of the progression but, all along the way, I was checking for key words that were related. So, it all started from that happy coat but then it kind of you know, went a lot further based on the key words that were popular and low competition.

Steve: Okay, so, one mistake that I’ve seen a lot of students make is that they haven’t decided who their target customer base is, you know, when they’re starting on their niche. How did you actually decide to target your robes towards you know, the wedding party in particular?

Sandy: Well, I was definitely one of those people, who made that mistake and didn’thave a target audience right off the back, or at least I thought I did, and it ended up changing. So, if you look at the name of my store, its Get Unrobed, and that basically came from, like I was just saying, looking at the robes that were out there and either cheap or they were a little frumpy and I was looking for something that was a little more sexy and not lingerie like, but closer to that than what was, so I actually didn’t start targeting bridal parties or brides, as who I’m targeting you know, for the bridal parties, but I didn’t actually start targeting them until I made my first few sales, and my first few sales were all brides, and that was kind of when I decided, okay, this would be a much better option because, when people are buying for their bridal party you know they are buying– my average sale is about five, it’s four point something almost around five robes.

Steve: Nice!

Sandy: Per sale. Yeah, so that’s a lot better than the one robe [chuckles], that I would have been selling per sale if I just went the traditional like, hairspray gift or hairspray yourself or something like that. So, I didn’t decide right away and I wish I did because, if I had put more thought and done a little bit more research, then I probably would have come up with a different domain name and I also would have branded a little bit differently right off the back.

Steve: But I noticed that you know, I just went on your site actually just before this interview, I noticed that all the verbiage on your site is now geared towards weddings and the bridal party.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: And has that had a good effect on your conversion rate over all, once you started doing that?

Sandy: Yeah, I mean that, there’s been a lot that has I think, affected my conversion rates since the beginning. I’ve made a lot of changes, so, I definitely have noticed though that my customers over time have gone from you know, bridal party, bridal party, bridal party, individual, now to mostly just bridal parties.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, I don’t really– I guess I can’t say that it has definitely affected my conversion rate overall, but it has definitely affected my number of items per sale.

Steve: Okay, okay sure, that makes a lot of sense. So, you know, a lot of the people just kind of want to hear about the process and first of all, you wouldn’t describe yourself as a technical person, would you? Like a programmer, developer type?

Sandy: Absolutely not! No.

Steve: Okay, so, given that as your background, can you kind of discuss some of the most difficult parts that you had about getting started with your online store?

Sandy: Yeah, so, when I first got started I actually went with open cart because, I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to kind of put a store together which– I don’t know why I did that. And you know, after someone made this analogy after I was talking to them about what I had decided to do. They said, you don’t know anything about building a website. If you were going to open a retail shop down the street, you wouldn’t go out and buy some bricks and try to put it together yourself, you know, why are you doing this? So, that’s basically, I started that way, started with open cart I was trying to do it all myself and I’m kind of glad I did it only because I did learn a lot, and now I’m able to take what I learned as far as very simple code and apply that to where I am now which is Shopify, which is fully hosted.

And so, the most difficult part about that, I guess, since I’ve moved to Shopify – which I was only on open cart for two months. But since I moved to Shopify, I guess the most difficult part is, you do so need to code a little bit to get things exactly the way you want, and it is tough for me sometimes. But, what I’m learning is to let go of that, and to just get somebody who knows what they’re doing to do it right off the back because, I’ve learned that I’ve wasted more time and more money making a change that has affected other things such as, okay, now– I don’t know, now the track out process is not working quite right, or it looks a little funny, and my conversion rate plummeted and I have no idea why, you know, because it’s on some browser that I didn’t check, all these different things that can happen. So, definitely I’m letting go of that and letting other people do that for me and that’s been a huge help. So, yeah, most difficult part, just even those little changes just to make things exactly the way you want.

Steve: So, just to give a little background story with the listeners. As part of my course, I always urge everyone to actually just consider the open source route because, that’s the only way that you’ll have complete control over your online store. You have everything and no one could ever raise prices on you or put you out of business. But for some people, it makes sense to just go the fully hosted route because everything is just done for you. Ultimately, you’re there to sell your products and not have to deal with website stuff at all. But you know, there’s obviously pros and cons with both, and as Sandy pointed out, she did try the open source route and I commend her for doing that, but it just wasn’t for her so she moved over to Shopify, and some of her skills that she picked up while going the open source route, kind of translated over as well. Okay Sandy, so let’s talk about the next part of getting started with your store, how did you find the vendors?

Sandy: I found the vendors– well; I have two vendors that I started working with right in the beginning. I have a few more now, but right from the beginning I found one through Ali Baba or I think actually through Ali Express, because I wasn’t quite ready to order enough to go on Ali Baba. But Ali Express let me order just like a few hundred at a time, so, that was perfect. So, I did that and what I did was just contact a whole bunch of them and ask for samples. I didn’t have to pay for the samples and I ended up not liking a majority of them actually, but then once I did find what I liked, it was nice because it’s been a really smooth relationship with that vendor ever since.

So, definitely if anyone is listening, that was something that scared me a lot. I didn’t know how to do that, I mean, you showed us in the course but going into that, I had no idea how to contact people, I was afraid to contact people in another country because I didn’t really know if, you know, what would I do if they didn’t send the product? Or how would I talk to them? I just had a lot of questions but, it actually was pretty easy so, that was one. The other one, I decided to go with a US based company, someone who manufactured in the US. So, that was my second vendor, and I really just went with those two because I felt like they had enough diversity in their products to get started.

Steve: So, can you just talk about some of your experiences with the overseas vendors? What were some of the difficulties that you had in communication if there were any?

Sandy: You know, I really didn’t have any. The ones that I didn’t go with, I didn’t go with because I didn’t like the product but, I really didn’t have any trouble with just reaching out to them, communicating with them. Actually, the person that I deal with now, he’s my only over seas vendor and basically because, he can pretty much do whatever I ask. And then he could do whatever specifications, material. I mean, he’s very flexible with that and the cost is low and he doesn’t even take long, it takes about two weeks to get products to me.

Steve: Oh! That’s really fast actually.

Sandy: It’s really fast, I was really surprised. He ships DHL and it comes almost right away unless I have something that he doesn’t normally make, that I need made special or something. But it really doesn’t take that much longer. So, yeah, I didn’t have any problems and he’s very friendly, he’s easy to talk to, he’s English is, you know, fine so, [chuckles]-

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, so it works out.

Steve: So, did you have any difficulties or struggles at all? I mean, did you have any mental hurdles in the whole sourcing process?

Sandy: Yeah, well like I said, I was just afraid but, once I kind of got the samples, and I got over that fear. And I think what it was too, the person who I work with overseas– his name is Ray Ray actually, and I don’t think that’s his real name.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: But that’s what he goes by, and once I started talking to him about what I wanted, I just felt comfortable with him and like I said, I hadn’t had a problem since.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, maybe I just got lucky, but yeah, my biggest problem was myself, was just the fear of you know, mis-communicating, losing my money. I think common fears that everyone has, but just none of them panned out. And like I said, I’m probably just lucky that I found someone right away.

Steve: Yeah, that’s really good because you know, with our vendors at least, there was some back and forth, where– I mean I talk about this on the blog, but we had good product initially when they were sending us samples, but then when we placed the bulk order, he kind of mixed some bad ones in with the good ones so to speak. And we had some quality control issues earlier on, which we then actually just resolved once we met up with the guy face to face in China. So, have you spoken with any of your vendors you know, verbally at all or?

Sandy: No.

Steve: No, it’s all been e-mail right?

Sandy: Yeah, well, for the overseas ones, yeah.

Steve: Okay. And so, what made you decide to also get a domestic vendor?

Sandy: Well, that was something that I wanted to offer in the beginning. I just felt like it was important to offer something that was made in the USA. As time has gone on, I am re-thinking that because my prices are higher for those products, they have to be because it costs a lot more to get those than it does to get from overseas. And even though the product is outstanding, it’s awesome, I love it, they’re awesome robes, but I just really don’t sell a lot of those robes. So, I thought that it would be a good seller, I thought people would prefer to get something from the US, but I think when it just comes down to it, price is a factor and I don’t know, they just don’t go for it. So, it was important to me but, yeah, now I’m not viewing it as important and I feel bad saying that, but if no one’s buying it it’s like a…

Steve: Yeah, yeah. I mean, if it was selling well, obviously you’d still continue to carry them right?

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: I mean, you know a quick question for you though, in terms of– I’m just curious this for myself, the vendors in the US, are they actually making them in the U.S, or are they actually sourcing them from somewhere else?

Sandy: Yeah, who I use in San Francisco actually manufactures in California.

Steve: Okay, okay.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: Okay cool! Let’s talk about your first sale, how did you get your first sale?

Sandy: [chuckles] I have no idea. I…

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: I was actually getting really upset because I was on you know, open cart still, and I just didn’t like the way my website looked but at the same time, I was spending all day, everyday, like hours and hours a day trying to fix it, and it just kept on getting worse, it wasn’t getting better.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, it was awful and I was getting really upset and I was like, okay, maybe I need to hire someone, maybe, but that’s really expensive and I didn’t know what to do. And then I just got this e-mail that just said someone has ordered a robe and I was so excited then. So, that really made my day and it was just – that one was actually just, yeah; I don’t think that one was a bridal one actually; I think my first one was just a regular robe. But I was really excited and it kind of gave me the motivation to at least keep going and try some different things.

Steve: Yeah, I remember back then you weren’t targeting anyone I don’t think and then your website when I had critiqued it, wasn’t looking so hot if I [chuckles]-

Sandy: [chuckles]-

Steve: You don’t mind me saying. But you still managed to get your first sale, and were you doing any sort of advertising or anything to drive traffic to your site at that point? Or was it just a random sale?

Sandy: I, oh okay, I see what you are saying. Yeah, I was doing a little bit of advertising but I actually wasn’t doing it. I didn’t actually think any sales were going to come from it. I was really trying to test like, where are they going? How long are they staying on the site? Like, I was more doing it for information. Of course I was hoping for those sales, right, you know, but I was kind of just playing around with it I guess you can say, I mean, I only threw like– I don’t remember, 50 or 100 dollars, no more than a 100 dollars at iGoogle adds so, it wasn’t like I was running some major marketing campaign, you know.

Steve: So, how did you end up resolving all of your site design issues actually? I forgot to ask.

Sandy: I just went to Shopify, [chuckles]-

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Yeah, because I, you know, I did hire someone, I actually hired I think two people. One person was making progress but then he was kind of, I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. I went to someone else and I wasn’t happy with what he was doing, it was getting too expensive and I wasn’t getting the results. And one day, I just went to Shopify and I just said, forget it, this isn’t going to, it’s never going to make me any money because I’m spending way too much time and money on it and I just needed to…

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Re-think that.

Steve: And so, once you went on Shopify, you just chose a theme and did you have to customize it– you started to customize it yourself, so how did you get around that hurdle?

Sandy: Well, that’s been an ongoing process so yeah, I did select a theme and I liked it and then I started getting feedback from people– you were one of them.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: And they all kind of said the same thing about it so obviously you know, right, there was something wrong with it. So, a lot of the changes I could make just in the back end so, if anyone– I’m sure there are people listening who don’t actually have a store so, the difference really– and this is something I was really confused about in the beginning. The difference between open cart and Shopify was, Shopify just has more back end stuff and that’s I think really all comes down to. Like open cart still had back end stuff and I could still make some changes there, but Shopify, it aims to let you change everything back there but there are still some things that you need to change in the code.

So, I was able to get someone to work on Shopify, on the store to make some changes but, you know, it was actually a lot cheaper to have someone work on the Shopify design because it was really close to how I wanted it to be. So, the changes were small and I continue to make changes. I mean, every month basically I take a look at what’s going on and try to make some change. I have crazy eight now which has been really helpful. Yeah, so, I’m trying not to make too many changes, I’m trying not to go crazy with it because I don’t want to make a major change and then totally mess it up. So, it is– I do keep tweaking it and yeah, I have someone now who can do that and it’s really not that expensive and it doesn’t take him too long to make the changes that I want now.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: So, it’s not too bad.

Steve: Just so for the people who are listening, the reason it’s easier for someone to work on Shopify is because, at that point the person is mainly just dealing with the aesthetic portions of the site. The nuts and bolts of the shopping cart are pretty much obstructed away because Shopify handles all that, whereas in Open cart– open cart is a lot more flexible, the way you get more things as you buy plugins and you can kind of build your store that way but ultimately, you know, you need to be the one to go in and adjust some of the code and, it is separated out nicely, but for someone who is not technical, it will tend to be a little more difficult.

Sandy: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Okay, so, all right, so, what has worked for you in terms of just marketing your site?

Sandy: What has actually been really effective with paid advertisement, paid marketing, has been Facebook ads.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: And, I don’t know why Facebook ads just seem to work a lot better for me than Google adworks.

Steve: Well you can target brides or people who are engaged right? For one thing-

Sandy: Yeah, right. So on Google I am targeting the key words, but on Facebook right, I’m targeting the people. So, I actually thought that it would be reverse because I thought well, if I’m targeting just brides but then not necessarily searching for bridesmaid robes, you know, it’s like a cold call as opposed to a warm call if someone is searching for bridesmaid robes and my add pops up. So, I expected the opposite, but I don’t know, that’s not what happened and I think though, one of the reasons is just, Facebook ads is just cheaper too. So I pay a lot less for people to see the ad and you know, for them to click on it so, I can go through a few more clicks before I get the sale and it still works out and it don’t pay as much per sale you know.

Steve: So, how do you have your ad set up? What’s the landing page for your ad?

Sandy: It depends, what ads. I do have a few different ones but, mostly the one that converts the best goes from Facebook to the bridesmaid robe site so, it’s just…

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: GetUnrobed.com/ – I think it’s /collection/bridesmaid robes. So, they go to the collections page.

Steve: Interesting, okay. Yeah, so my experience with Facebook has been different from yours. When I was setting up Facebook ads to just point directly to products, it actually was not doing that well. But what I found was if I pointed it to a sign up page, got them into my e-mail list and then market it to them through my list, it worked out a lot better so, I’m kind of taking a more indirect route than you are. But, it sounds like what you are doing is working and that’s awesome.

Sandy: Yeah, you know, I considered actually doing– I haven’t tried it yet, to go to my e-mail list and I actually have something all set up for that to happen. I have a download for thank you cards for the bridal party, and I thought that would be a nice little lead in, and then, you know there is kind of book cards like a little pdf, and they’re cute, and I thought that would be a nice lead in. And I have people sign up for that and then I do have an auto responder that does market to them but, I haven’t paid any traffic to go there yet. So, you know, maybe I’ll try that and because I had intended to and then, I don’t know, I guess I just kind of thought, that was right, too indirect for paid marketing, so I think…

Steve: Yeah, it’s kind of counter intuitive, but it’s jus a matter of calculating the return on investment for that particular list that you’re driving to, like you separate it out obviously and you just get an idea of how much money you’re making there versus the amount you’re paying for the Facebook ad. So, yeah, it takes a little bit and you know, again, it’s just all about experimentation to see what works.

Sandy: Yeah. I’m going to try it, thanks.

Steve: So, let’s talk about your e-mail actually. So, have you marketed to your e-mail list at all, or?

Sandy: You know, I, okay, I do but I’m probably not doing as good as I should. So, here’s kind of what I have going on right now. I do have people signing up to get those thank you cards and a few other things. So within my blog posts I have little opt in– little lead magnets, so I have a wedding prep checklist, I have the thank you cards, and then I have a five percent discount so, they can sign up and then they go to their list or whatever. Then, I do have an auto responder sequence that will send out, depending on what list it is. So it will briefly send out a follow up to kind of see if they either like their thank you cards or checklist whatever, and they do get an offer at the end of that follow up which is, it’s actually not even two weeks long, and I think for all of the list, it’s no more than four e-mails depending on what list you’re on. And so, I’m really not doing a whole lot and my reason for not– and I know this is probably not going to sound like the right answer but…

Steve: There’s no right or wrong answer Sandy [chuckles]-

Sandy: Well-

Steve: Remember, this is the real trenches, this is the way it is. We’re trying to give a realistic account here so-

Sandy: Yeah, well, okay. So, when I look at Google analytics, it tells you how long until the average customer buys and it’s only one day for me like, it’s usually a second or third visit on the same day. So, generally when people come, they decide pretty much right away, and the only real sales that I’ve been getting from my e-mail list come from the five percent -or not five – I forget how much I’m giving off right now, may ten percent.

Steve: [chuckles]-

Sandy: I change it around all the time but the percentage off that you’re getting, enter names I do for shipping or whatever for signing up, and that’s really been the only thing that has been getting them to convert, but it’s still the same day.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: Which makes me think that, you know, they were going to buy anyway and then they saw they could get some money off and they signed up and you know, did it. So, I’ve tried doing little e-mail campaigns here and there, but I don’t think I’ve been consistent enough to actually see any benefit.

Steve: Okay. So, I can share some of my own experiences since we are kind of both in the wedding industry here. We do get a lot of – most of our customers are just like yours, because they’re shopping for weddings and for stuff like gifts, like for our handkerchiefs is for gifts right? A lot of times that’s last minute, so people are pretty much ready to buy. It’s not like you’re buying your wedding dress or setting your venue which is way in advance.

But one thing that we have attracted with our e-mail list are you know, wedding planners, event planners and we’ve also gotten people who just like our products; who aren’t brides, who aren’t you know, anything to do with weddings, and those guys are the people who tend to buy a lot. Every time we blast an e-mail we get a bunch of these people. Actually we attract crafters also so, you know, even though you might be targeting wedding people, you might be surprised at some of the other types of customers you might have on your list.

Sandy: Yeah. That’s a good idea for the event planners, so, I am going to look into maybe setting up a list of targets there, thanks.

Steve: Yeah, so, yeah, wedding planners you know, they often have to say shop for everything and they just present it back to their clients. So, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them would say, hey, I bet this kimono robes would be awesome as a bridesmaid gift, do you want to get a sample or take a look so-

Sandy: Yeah! Definitely, I’m going to do that.

Steve: I know for a fact– and this is just based on the survey that I did last week. There is a lot of people on the sidelines and these people are– deep down they’re ready to start their online stores but they kind of want to know how hard it was before you started making money. So, what I’m trying to ask is – I’m going to go through all the common risk factors that are going on through people’s minds and I think you know, we could just blast through this. How much money did you spend to start your business?

Sandy: After everything, I spent a little under 5000 dollars but remember that that included, [sigh] I want to say like, 600 robes so, and then plus some of the website design and things like that and oh! And a photo shoot.

Steve: Oh! Okay.

Sandy: And, there was a lot of stuff so, I definitely could have reduced that. I’d say I should have reduced that by at least by half because, if I knew what I was doing [chuckles] and I didn’t go through all that website trouble and also if I, well, I messed up somewhere else that I spent too much money – and I’m trying to think right now. Oh! Because the first photo shoot I did I kind of, I switched probably through to say, okay, here’s what I’m selling and then when I started to realize that I was getting more of those, the bridal parties, I switched products, I added a lot more products and had to do that shoot all over again. So and that actually was pretty expensive because I wasn’t able to do it myself. They just weren’t not coming out right and I think photos are a big part of– just because of who I’m targeting and what it is.

Steve: Right.

Sandy: So, I did spend a lot of money on that but, you could definitely do it a lot cheaper.

Steve: So if you were to do it all over again, how little do you think you could start the exact same store again?

Sandy: I would have run with drop shipping first until I tested all the products, so-

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: I would have cut that out. The photos I think would have been the only thing I would have kept honestly, and I would have went with Shopify which is– I could have that whole theme thing theme and everything exactly the way I wanted for less than 300 dollars I’m sure, even having someone do the tweaks.

Steve: Okay.

Sandy: And so, yeah, less than a 1000, definitely less than a 1000 if I re-did it.

Steve: Okay, and you know, how much of a struggle was it to find your actual niche?

Sandy: I did spend a lot of time on that. I actually ended up kind of going down a rabbit hole for over a month on another product that I was going to do and then it just didn’t pen out so – how much time did it take? Was that your question? I want to say like a month.

Steve: Yeah, not time necessarily, but how difficult was it? I mean, I guess so two months?

Sandy: Yeah, probably about that.

Steve: Okay. And a lot of it probably was just kind of getting used to the tools and that sought of thing too, I would imagine right? At least, that’s the feedback I get back from the students from time to time.

Sandy: Yeah, you know, I didn’t mind the tools. I got Market Samurai right away, and that was pretty easy to use. I’m just; I’m not good at the creative side of things, that’s not my thing. So, it was tough for me to even think of things and then if they didn’t work, to like move away from them, that was tough for me.

Steve: Okay. And in terms of marketing, what avenues do you use for marketing now? And has it been a real struggle to actually get traffic to your site?

Sandy: It’s not a struggle to get traffic to my sight, well, at least some traffic. I get – depending on the time of year and I haven’t been open a full year yet so I don’t even know this for sure, but so far we’re getting traffic. I get, around 100 clicks a day just organically which, I think is okay. So, I don’t run ads all the time. I kind of go– I found on Facebook actually that, if I run it for two weeks and then two weeks off, giving that break, I don’t know why, but seems to work. So, my ads mostly run on Facebook. I don’t spend more than 300 dollars a month on Facebook ads. Sometimes I also run Google ads when I feel like sales are you know, kind of hot and there’s been a lot of searches and like, those things are trending. Then I also run Google ads and I won’t spend more than 500 a month on Google ads but usually you don’t even spend that much.

Steve: Okay. I have the answer for you on the Facebook ads by the way. People tend to get blind to your ads so, the people who do Facebook ads effectively they tend to change out their ads quite frequently because of that blindness factor.

Sandy: Yeah.

Steve: I think what you are saying is normal, yeah. Cool, so, you know, surprisingly we’ve already been talking for a like 35 minutes and I didn’t want to take up too much of your time, but I do want to have your opinion. Like I said before there’s a lot of people on the sidelines and you know, what sort of advise would you give the people who are thinking about starting an online store?

Sandy: I would definitely– if it’s something that you really do want to do, I would definitely give it a try. I would say, for the risk, I mean, it’s worth it. I was working full time, I actually had two jobs and I’m also a single mom. So, I had a lot going on when I started, it’s not like I just was able to sit down and really work on this you know.

Steve: Yeah, I remember.

Sandy: So, yeah, it was a lot going on and that’s okay because I kind of feel like my goal was a little bit more long term. So, I was okay with that, but I would say try it if you want to try it. I would though– if I was doing it again, I would have definitely been a little more okay with letting go with some things in the beginning. And I also would have found a lot more people who had done it before that could have helped me find those resources. So, now that I have been doing it a while you know, I have people that I can go to, to do like a website tweak or to you know, a photographer that is going to do a good job and not rip me off and you know, I have all those things, but when I first started, I didn’t have anybody that could help me with that. I mean, even yeah I was in your course but I mean, you couldn’t have helped me find a photographer in Las Vegas, you know what I mean?

Steve: Right.

Sandy: It’s just like, you have to find people I think, to help you with that and that would have been really helpful and would have helped me save a ton of money, if I had the right vendors and the right team members in place right from the beginning.

Steve: Yeah, that’s a hard thing to actually overcome, but the good news is, if you were ever to start a different venture, you have all of that stuff at your disposal now, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you were to start another store.

Sandy: That is true, for sure.

Steve: Let’s see, there’s one other thing I want to ask you. I’m drawing a blanket; I didn’t actually make notes on this, but [chuckles]. So, Sandy, for all the people who are out there who actually might want to contact you and have questions for you, is there a place where they can get a hold of you, or contact you?

Sandy: All right, well, so you can find me, if you go to GetUnrobed.com, that’s the store. I definitely check that out especially if you have a wedding coming up, if you want to get in touch with me and just about that info@getunrobed.com but, also you if want to hear more from me, I also have this other side business going on right now called, clearly influential. So, that is where I talk all things communication. It covers marketing, branding, it covers public speaking– if you are basically if you are in the online world, that would definitely be a good place to get more information. So, ClearlyInfluential.com or GetUnrobed.com, that’s where you can find me.

Steve: Okay, I remember the question I was going to ask you now.

Sandy: Okay.

Steve: Okay, so you have two kids.

Sandy: One, one kid.

Steve: One kid, sorry one kid. You’re a single mom, how the heck do you find the time to do this and your side project? You know, describe me your productivity flow.

Sandy: Okay, well, I’m kind of lucky in a few aspects so, even though, yeah, when I started I had two jobs – I don’t anymore. When I started though, I did for the first six months or something so, I was a little lucky because one of my jobs was as a communication instructor/ professor, and then the second job was tutoring students that would come in and I was actually able to do a lot of things online while I was sitting at the tutoring desk which is really nice, I also though now…

Steve: Those poor kids.

Sandy: I know, [chuckles]-

Steve: They should have been to [chuckles]-

Sandy: Yeah, [chuckles]-

Steve: Sorry, go on.

Sandy: No, it’s okay. You know, well, we had down time you know but now though, what I’ve been doing– I do have a VA now and she’s great. She started about a month and a half ago and basically what I did was just document everything I did for you know what I did on a regular basis and turned that stuff over to her. So, I don’t work on Get Unrobed every single day but, I know that she’s working on Get Unrobed every single day. So, she’s doing at least social media posts and she’s also contacting bloggers that– she’s contacting other places too to try to get interviews and guest posts and things like that, just to build links. So, she’s doing that every single day so I know that there is promotion going on and that it you know, I’m slowly continuing to build links, climb up ranks, build my social media following and things like that. So, that’s what’s going on now, so, if I don’t have the time which some days I don’t, at least I know that, that’s taken care of.

Steve: Okay. And one thing that I just want to talk about to the listeners is that, Sandy has a really good attitude here. She’s looking at this in the long term, she’s doing everything little by little which kind of just builds up over time and will eventually make her business successful and that’s actually one of the reasons why I brought her on. She’s got a really good mindset and the right attitude so to a point where I know that her store is going to be huge someday.

Sandy: Oh! Thanks Steve!

Steve: And with that, I think our time is done. Thanks a lot for coming on the show Sandy.

Sandy: Thank you.

Steve: All right, take care.

Sandy: Bye!

Steve: As you could tell from that interview, there’s often a lot of trial and error involved in launching a successful business. Now, Sandy has what it takes because she’s always willing to try new things and quite frankly, she’s just a problem solver. Now, I can’t tell you how bad her first shop looked when I first critiqued it and she since improved it dramatically to the point where it is now generating regular sales. Go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode13 for the show notes for this episode and be sure to sign up for my free newsletter while you’re there, where I’ll give you a brief introduction on you know, how to start your own e-commerce store. Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

012: Billy Murphy On How To Start A Poker Training Course And Multiple Ecommerce Stores

billy murphy

Today, I have my good friend Billy Murphy on the show. Billy runs the popular blog ForeverJobless.com which I highly recommend that you check out and he runs an excellent podcast there as well.

Billy is well known for the many businesses that he’s launched over years. He started an online poker training site in his early years, owned as many as 13 ecommerce stores and now has his own mini incubator for small businesses.

Billy’s a smart guy and there’s lots to learn from this interview. Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn

  • How to start a poker membership site
  • How to create buzz for your business
  • How Billy got national coverage for his online poker site
  • How Billy tapped into existing communities to gain his early customers.
  • The right criteria to use when buying an ecommerce store
  • How to market an ecommerce store
  • How Billy got traffic to his stores early on
  • The multiples involved when buying an ecommerce business

Billy Recommends

Billy’s Sites

Transcript

You are listening to the My Wife Quitter Job podcast episode number 12. On this podcast I interview successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs, and have them reveal the secrets of their success.

Also as part of running this podcast, I’m constantly running contests and giveaways. Every single month you will have the chance to win a 30 minute one on one private consultation with me.

For more information go to mywifequitherjob.com/contest, and while you are on my site be sure to sign up for my free newsletter, where I will teach you the exact steps that my wife and I took to make over $100,000 in profits, in the first year of running our business with our online store. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit her Job’ podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: So today I have a very special guest, and his name is Billy Murphy. Billy and I met at the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. But actually that wasn’t the first time that we started chatting, before that I think he actually just randomly contacted me and emailed me on the blog and asked me to Skype chat essentially.

And usually when that happens, I actually don’t normally just randomly chat with strangers, but I noticed immediately that there was kind of something different about Billy. And so after stalking him online for little bit, and just kind of figure out what he is up to and that sort of thing. You know I stumbled upon an interview that he did for eventual millionaire, which is run by Jimmy Tardy, and you know I found out that he’s a pretty accomplished entrepreneur. And I said, ‘You know, what the heck’, let’s just have a quick Skype chat.

And ever since that first chat, I’ve learned that you know Billy is just an amazing person, and an amazing entrepreneur, and I was very lucky to have been able to connect with him. So, just a very brief introduction, of all the entrepreneurs that I know, Billy seems to be living the life. He has many profitable businesses, and he spends a lot of time travelling, going to conferences, and meeting other like-minded entrepreneurs. And so today we’ll get a chance to hear his story first-hand about how he started all of his various businesses, and what he is up to in the present day. So Billy welcome to the show, and thanks for coming on.

Billy: Definitely, thanks a lot for having me, awesome intro.

Steve: Yes, so you know for all those people who don’t know about you and your background, do want to just give a quick background story of what you’ve been up to, and just kind of give a brief overview about all of your businesses. I know you have a whole bunch, so…

Billy: Sure, I guess the quick background would be necessarily is a professional poker player, did that for about four years, and then you know noticed a need in the poker space for trainings. So basically started a poker training company which we taught people through video based membership site, how to play profitable poker.

And from there, I guess in 2011, I started buying and studying e-commerce stores, and ended up with maybe 15 or 20 of them. They were all very, very small, but the combination of them was a pretty cool business. And then I guess in the last six months or so, I’ve started investing and advising in kind of small niche businesses, and then I obviously talk about a lot of this stuff on ’Forever Jobless.’

Steve: So ’Forever Jobless’ is your blog, right?

Billy: Yes.

Steve: Okay, yeah so I kind of wanted to focus a little bit about kind of what started all of this for you and so I understand that ‘The Blue Fire poker’ site was your first money maker, is that accurate?

Billy: Yes, that was the first real business, I guess before poker I had done a ‘sports card company’, but it was more kind of less business and more just kind of a hustling side venture, I guess.

Steve: Okay, so it wasn’t like scale wall, and so ‘Blue Fire Poker’ was your first scale wall business that…

Billy: Yeah, it could have been scale wall but I didn’t know how to do it back then, I was like seventeen or something like that.

Steve: Oh wow, so you started really early, that’s pretty cool. So how did you come up with the idea for ‘Blue Fire Poker’ initially?

Billy: I was a player for years, I played full time for four years, but before that, I had been playing for years in college. And there was a lot of sites already doing what we were doing, but we felt that there were lower I guess higher quantity and lower quality than we thought the market needed. And so basically we started in January 2009, and just did very few videos, but very high quality videos and then focused exclusively on one specific game to start with which was ‘Cash Games’.

Steve: So were you recording these videos yourself or did you get other people to them?

Billy: No, yeah, it was all done by other people, and still up to this day I mean we have– I think right now we have a good dozen people doing the videos for us.

Steve: Okay, so are these big name people that you’ve been making videos with?

Billy: They were in the past, I guess you know some of them were pretty big names. Today, it depends, I mean online poker rides are big names.

Steve: Okay online poker I see, I see so this isn’t like World Series of poker, this is more focused on the online poker audience?

Billy: Yeah, 100% online.

Steve: Oh okay, okay I get that. So you know what were some of your motivations for starting your business? Was it to make a lot of money? Was it to live the lifestyle that you wanted to? Can you just give us an idea what, kind of what was going through your head when you first decided to start ‘Blue Fire Poker’?

Billy: Sure, yeah I mean as a poker player it was a good lifestyle, but it was still a job, and so my goal for starting a business was– you know I had the capital from poker built up then, you know I had a nice runway, so I could try and start a business. And you know if it didn’t work you know just go back to poker, but I really wanted something that could run without me having to work to make money. And you know something that could be automated and scaled up, so obviously as a poker player or in any job, it is a lot tougher to scale your job. I mean you really can only scale up by the hours you work, for the most part, or making a slightly higher hourly rate, but with a business you can scale up and leverage it in a lot of different ways. So that was the goal.

Steve: So everything is on the web, is that correct?

Billy: Yes, 100%.

Steve: So, you know what sort of experience did you have before hand in terms of designing websites and that sort of thing? And how did you, you know if you weren’t tech savvy, how did you overcome that?

Billy: So I didn’t have any experience to design or to develop, I still don’t. So any of the design and development stuff I have always outsourced. That project in particular was very, very difficult. I think we hired an Indian development company for like $16,000 to do the site, and it was a nightmare. I mean it was something that was supposed to take about maybe three months, and it ended up taking nine. They were just– You know I don’t know if you’ve worked with a lot of developers. It was just one of those situations where you get stuck with someone that you wish you hadn’t gotten stuck with.

They kind of, communication was really difficult because if you tell them you need one thing, you know they’ll give you word for word what you asked for, but it is completely different than if you communicated that on the same level. So if you say, “Hey, I need a button on this page to do this”, they’d give you a page with a huge, huge button over all of this page. So it was one of those things where it was just completely– the whole project was a nightmare, but finally it got done, about nine months later.

Steve: Interesting, so these people were in India, and so did you go on a website to find them, or how did you find them again?

Billy: Yeah, I used E-lets.com.

Steve: E-lets, okay. So if you were to do it all over again, how would you have proceeded differently in terms of the website design?

Billy: I would either have well– so I don’t know if you know Stu McLaren. So he runs ‘WishListMember’, and I probably would have gone with something like that, that’s more of an out of the box solution. At the time I didn’t even know there were things like that out there. Maybe it was not out there at the time, I’m not sure, and this was about five or six years ago.

I probably would have gone with something out of the box to make it a lot easier to start up. If not I probably would have gone in the US or Canada, or somebody that speaks the same language, because it was just so difficult to communicate, even when we thought they knew exactly what we were asking, lots of time they would give us something completely different back and so I think that added a lot to the times.

Steve: You know that’s actually very interesting because you read around and outsourcing to other countries was kind of all the rage. And what you don’t really hear about is yu know all the difficulties in dealing with time zones, cultural impacts, and that sort of thing. So it is really interesting to hear your experience and the fact that you would actually go within the US for your next project.

Billy: Yeah, I mean it’s one of those things that in theory, it sounds great right, I mean a lot of these the overseas companies charge a third or a fourth of what you pay in the US, but at the same time it’s just so much more hassle and frustration. For me at least, personally I would stay for the most part in the US and Canada now.

Steve: And Just for the benefit of the readers, Billy mentioned a plugin called ‘Wish List Member’. And it’s actually a plugin for WordPress, and WordPress is a very popular content management system, and in conjunction with WordPress and Wish List Member, you can easily create a membership site out of the box for a very small amount of money.

So, how did you get some of your early customers, a lot of times people launch– I know when I launched my store, it launched to no customers. So how did you guys get people in the door, in the beginning.

Billy: So the poker community is relatively small, when I say small I more mean, there’s only a number of forums and blogs, and new sites, and things like that. So it is a pretty rabid community. So when we launched, we got a lot of traction in the forums earlier on, from people who wanted to see our press videos. And then probably– I don’t know if it was a month in or two months in, we were able to get featured on’Fox News’. And so we did that by– we challenged Obama to a game of poker, and the reason was, so there was legislation in the news at the time where they wanted to try and you know ban poker. And one of the big arguments was, whether poker was a game of skill or a game of luck.

And so you know I made the challenge and offered a million dollars if he could beat one of our pros. And so ‘Fox news’ picked it up, they aired it, and obviously we didn’t get a lot of traction from or a lot of business from ‘Fox News’ itself, but what happened was that created a huge buzz in online. Poker was new because we’d just launched, and then we had just this little training site that a lot of people hadnt heard of yet, and we were on national news. And so it helped kind of jump start us in the poker media.

Steve: So walk me through that a little bit. So how does ‘Fox News’ find you? Where did you publish this information or this contest?

Billy: So I can’t remember, I think we put it on our home page, where we started putting it out there and I think I would literally stay up and email any and every media contact I could find. You know I didn’t really have a good research at the time to do– I had hired a PR guy to kind of help, and he had some contacts and so I would send him. This was like, I think this was like our second or third idea that I tried, other ones just flopped. Like I had an idea at the time– this was 2009, so you know the economy was horrible at the time, you know lots of people were losing their jobs and all that. And one other promotion that I thought was going to do really well, that if people like scanned us over or faxed us over or whatever or that their debit sheets from getting fired, we were going to train them to become professional poker players.

So that, things like that almost got picked up and then they just never did, and this one just happened to hit. So it was a lot of like trial and error, I think this was probably like our third one that we tried to get picked up.

Steve: So it is a lot of leg work that you guys did earlier on, right?

Billy: Yeah, it took a lot of time to try and get it on national news, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, so you know walk me through your interactions on the forums actually. So we actually did a lot of forum marketing with our online store early on. And I actually ended up getting banned multiple times from like, the wedding forums and that sort of thing, because I was a little too promotional. So I was just wondering if you could talk about your approach in regards to forum marketing.

Billy: So I think early on, I don’t think we made any initial post, but we had friends that mentioned our launch, and then it enabled us to have an opportunity that you know if somebody asked a question or made a comment like we keep that and go in, and answer questions and whatever. So we actually didn’t start the promotion, but you know we just launched and kind of put it out there to right people, and said– you know we asked other people like, “Hey, would you mention this.” And other people mentioned it, and once they mentioned it, it kind of took a life of its own, then everybody started buzzing about it. Then we would hop in and chat about it, and I think the moderators or the owners at one of the forums did that. We had you know threads going on– actually wanted us to do a sponsorship or something like that, to be able to talk in the threads because there was so much buzz about it that we were geting. They wanted to be, I think, paid for, compensated for the promotion that we were getting in there.

Steve: Wow! That’s really cool. So it was all free publicity in the beginning.

Billy: Yes, 100% free.

Steve: So that implies that you already had kind of contacts within this community, and this is probably from the fact that you used to play online poker, is that…

Billy: Yeah, I had been in the community for, in total, probably you know eight years or so at that point, so it was– you know becausse I started playing in college, and then started playing professionaly a little bit after college. So we knew a lot of guys in the community, so not only me, but other guys making videos for us, all knew guys in the community.

Steve: Okay, that’s cool. So you got a pretty big bump-up during your launch, and then ever since then how have you been promoting it? Do you use pay-per-click services? Do you do Facebook Ads, or anything along those lines?

Billy: No, we actually a lot of this is still word of mouth or referral. For poker stuff we actually can’t do Adwords, so they won’t let you do any advertizing on Google. I think you can on Facebook, we haven’t tried any I know. You know I’ve talked to some other guys who have, but for the most part word of mouth, referral, we do some promotions, and we have a huge email list at this point.

We do some promotions through our email list sometimes. We have some affiliates, but affiliates make up a very, very tiny part of our business. There is just not a lot of people with poker related sites that will promote training sites, because a lot of times the larger affiliate sites are people who kind of have their own deals, like poker rooms and things like that, who have their own training.

Steve: So is Google search a factor at all?

Billy: Yeah, we definitely get some from search. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’m sure, I mean, we’ve had blogs and forums and all that for over five years now. So we get a decent amount of search result, but it’s not– we don’t make a big focus on SEO. There’s not a lot terms you know people would search like, ‘how to play professional poker’ and things like that. It’s more of a– the people would know about us and would sign up for us, and more within the poker communities.

Steve: I see so it sounds like you are most valuable marketing channel, at least, is your huge list and then all the various content that you have on your site that’s for free, which in turn kind of influences people to want to sign up for the full blown course. Is that right?

Billy: Yeah, exactly. We have so we’ve got over a thousand videos on the site, and each video has like got two minute free trials. So, if you want to sign up, you can actually watch the video, and then it will stop at the two minute mark in the video, and a screen will pop up and ask you if you want to see the rest of it you just have to sign up.

Steve: That’s very clever, so you give them a little teaser, a little appetizer.

Billy: Yap, exactly.

Steve: So you know how long did it take before your business started gaining traction, and you started actually making profits with this business?

Billy: Right away, within 24 hours we were profitable.

Steve: Wow! That is amazing, and this is just straight from all the buzz that was generated from your ‘Fox News’ promotion and your forums.

Billy: Yeah, well at that point, I mean, a day in we hadn’t gotten on ‘Fox’ yet, but it was mainly just forums, blogs, news sites, and obviously we kind of take the golden news sites and try to get them to talk about it. But a lot of them that were just – again because the poker community is so small we’d pick it up from the forums. A lot of the poker news sites go to the forums for their news.

So they would pick it up and talk about it, and so it was one of those things where we brought a lot of money right away, and keep in mind it is not just for that day, it’s a lot of people signing up for one month memberships, or six months memberships. So you know I guess in theory we were profitable after one day, but we still had to earn the money over the memberships.

Steve: Oh yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So you know once you obviously spent a whole bunch of time getting the site up, and then getting all the initial content up. But once everything was up and running, can you kind of describe what the day to day was like, once everything was actually launched?

Billy: Most of the day to day for me was just more of marketing. I mean I was trying to talk to more news sites, talk to other poker sites, even our competitors. We’d try to join the joint ventures, or cross promotion, with you know trying to keep people active on other forums, they would find our site, trying to get videos in from pros, looking for more pros once we decided to expand, keeping the blogs and forums active, all that kind of things. So it was a lot of mostly marketing on my part, trying to expand it.

Steve: Okay and at what point– so how much time do you actually spend on the site today?

Billy: Today not a lot because I have someone kind of running, you know they handle all our support, video uploads and the pros make the videos. So I don’t really spend much time on a day to day basis these days.

Steve: And how long did it take you to get to that point where you could actually be really be hands off with your business?

Billy: It’s hard to say. You know we started over five years ago, and I think, at least the first year or two, I was doing a heavy marketing push. We had a support person in there to handle the emails and stuff, but for the most part most of my job was to make sure that we got more customers, and kind of the business strategy and things like that. So I would say this, at least for the last several years it hasn’t taken much time on a day to day basis, outside of obviously the marketing stuff.

Steve: And how many people does it take to run this operation.

Billy: So in terms of employees really just one.

Steve: That’s amazing.

Billy: Yeah, but we obviously have pros, probably like a dozen right now, maybe even more, making videos for us, but they make like two videos a month. And so it’s just you know whenever they are scheduled to make a video, they get their video in and then we have a support person who– he knows the emails and just making sure that the pros get their videos in and things like that.

Steve: Okay cool. Yeah, so that’s really interesting how you started that whole membership site with poker. I would like to kind of switch gears at this point, and kind of talk about some of your experiences in terms of e-commerce. So e-commerce is my main thing, so it is just interesting to hear some of your experiences with your stores. So do you want to just give a brief overview about some of your most successful stores that you’ve owned?

Billy: Sure, I guess I started I guess we’ll start with the first one I bought, was the organic baby furniture store, and it was our flipper. It was making, I think was like 900 or 1000 bucks a month and I ended buying it for like $4000 which [cross talking] [00:20:43] at the time.

Steve: That’s amazing.

Billy: Yeah, that was– even now I still don’t understand how I got it so cheap, but I think if I had to buy it now for like $6000, and so you know I was just learning, I had friends in e-commerce so I knew a little bit from them. But I would ask them, why is this so cheap, it doesn’t make sense, and they didn’t know why it was so cheap. And so I called the seller, found out she had to sell really quick, she wanted to buy something else, and we negotiated down to $4000.

And so everybody in the comments was trying to figure out what was wrong, there must be something wrong if she was listing so low. And so as soon as she bumped to buy down on to $4000, I just instantly bought it, and ended up getting a great deal. I just wired over the money right away, and it made its money back right away, I mean it was just you know it took four months or so, but made its money back. And so that was kind of the first store that I bought.

The second one, that was actually kind of started about the same time, but it was started from scratch. I had a French pastry store, and this was probably ended up being probably one of my better stores. This one I started just doing SEO, I would just buy links, buy link packages, hire someone to do SEO and basically slowly started making sales. I mean, a couple of months in, I get sporadic sales a couple of times a week. Slowly picked up and then probably six months to a year in, that was one of my best businesses. I mean we had months where we were making a few thousand dollars which isn’t a lot but I was playing more of the quantity game starting a lot of the stores.

So I ended up selling that store last year in a small package, I think there was maybe like three stores in that package, and started it like a couple of hundred dollars and we sold it for $68,000 last year. And so that was you know it was– that was probably the best– definitely the best in terms of I didn’t take much money to start and ended up selling for a pretty good amount of money but obviously I had flops as well. I mean I bought– you know I remember buying a store for $15,000 and literally like a week or two later, one of the big Google updates came and just lost all our traffic.

Steve: Oh, man!

Billy: So I mean there is the downside of it too that hurt. You know you buy that for $15,000 and then you are making 200 bucks a month, and you don’t know what happened. So that was definitely a wakeup call that, “Hey, it isn’t that easy to just buy a bunch of stuff and basically print money, which is what we thought we were going to do for a while.

But we scaled up pretty quick. I mean I bought and started fifteen to twenty, over like eight or nine month period. We went from like I think the first month we did like three K in revenue to yu know forty to forty-five K in revenue, probably eight or nine months later. But we were doing all drop ship and so the margins were pretty tight. So you know even if you’re doing forty to forty-five K in revenue, it’s like maybe you have a margin of like ten to twelve K something like that so it was… If I could go back in time, I would have definitely done what you did and basically you know giving product you’ve made yourself, make your own brand, get bigger margins, because we basically had a 100% rely on SEO, whereas we couldn’t make sales because we couldn’t buy media with you know we can’t buy Adwords with the small margins of drop ship.

Steve: That’s actually an interesting point. So from what you just said your margins were on the order of 20% – 25%, is that accurate?

Billy: Yeah, for the most part, I mean it would vary, but you know some stores like actually the French pastry one. Part of the reason we did pretty well was we had slightly bigger margins, so I think we were in the forties for that one, and so we actually could buy some advertising for that. And so all the other ones though we tried and you know we got to like break-evenish, and I’m sure if we’d spent a lot of time we could have gotten profitable, it was the type of thing that you are squeaking out an extra 5% margin after paying Adwords and stuff, it didn’t really interest us because we were in tiny niches.

Steve: Were there comparison shopping engines, and like Google matching center, I think they were around back then, did you guys give those a try or anything?

Billy: Yeah, we tried them we never got a ton of sales, I think we got a handful of sales, but we never got a lot of them from our products

Steve: Okay, so the macaroon site was just purely SEO, and then what about the organic furniture store, was that SEO as well?

Billy: Yap, 100% SEO.

Steve: Okay, amazing. So if you were to do it all over again, given that Google has made all these changes in the past two years, how would you do things differently in terms of customer acquisition and that sort of thing, based on what you’ve experienced in the past?

Billy: So if I was starting today I would definitely take more time and more money upfront to create a product. And not necessarily even create a product, I mean there are ways around it where you cannot be seen white label someone else’s product and just kind of stick a brand on there. But I would definitely do whatever it took to get the margins, you know at least 50%, obviously if you go overseas a lot of times you can get anywhere from 50% to 70%. Some people get even higher, but I would definitely spend the time and money to do that, and then I will spend all other time trying to acquire traffic, and then obviously through media buys, through Adwords, through Facebook advertising, all of that.

I mean there is a lot of untapped media channels, and I am not an expert on it because I have never done it, but I have talked to a lot of people who have. And a lot of people are killing it on buying advertising on sites that earn on Google because everyone knows about Google Adwords.
So everyone buying media is kind of you know they are reaching the point where it’s– I don’t want to say it’s efficient, because obviously people are making profit, But it’s as efficient as you could get because most of the people are trying to advertise there. So there are a lot of channels, like I know people who’ve done really well on Facebook and other forms of advertising that people are just getting used to buying a lot of advertising on, that I would probably spend a lot of time just figuring out where you can make a profit and just scale those media or buys up.

Steve: Interesting, you know what I like about your experience is that you’ve actually chosen to buy all of your stores, whereas I have always had the philosophy to just kind of building my own from scratch and just kind of very gradually building something up. Can you just kind of walk me through, what was on your mind on whether you should buy and how you made the decision to buy versus just start something from scratch?

Billy: Sure, part of that reason was that I was trying to– I had a bunch of money I wasn’t doing anything with, and part of it was two I wanted this to be a passive business. And so I didn’t want to actually do a lot of the scaling up and running the stores and all that stuff. So actually from, almost from day one I had someone who was handling customer service, handling orders, and a lot of dealing with the suppliers and all that.

And so basically, I figured if I bought more and more sites I’d give them more jobs to handle where if I had them started from scratch we couldn’t do a lot at one time. We could slowly start with one store and basically I would be paying them but not having an income from the site yet, because they wouldn’t be making the money yet.

So I almost treated it like in some sense less like a business and more kind like a fund, where I know I can buy a store, I just kind of place into a collection of other stores and it would keep running smoothly. So that was the idea, so obviously it was less of a hail out start-up, really big business and more like, “Hey, there is a bunch of stores you can buy at low multiples”.

Because most of the stuff, obviously we didn’t get as many good deals like the baby store, but there was plenty of deals where we got where we bought for one year income. So if we get to buy a store for $10,000 and makes 1000 bucks a month, and you just kind of plug it in and your goal is to have it obviously at least make a thousand bucks a month. You can make your money back in a year on those so that was the idea.

Steve: Just a side question about just buying sites in general, so what are some of the things you look for outside of just the regular stuff like revenue and profit. Do you actually look at how they acquire their customers? Can you just kind of walk me through some of the things that you look for in a good buy?

Billy: Sure, so I looked at yeah well you know I want to take it back– I look at their analytics, site go, through the analytics I get access, I do want to look at their back end of the store to make sure the owners came through. I do want to look at– obviously if it is a bigger store you try and get bank statements to make sure that you know everything’s legit and not just showing thick orders or anything like that.

But in terms of what you look for, you want it to be– I mean whether it’s on an uptrend or a down trend, you want to figure out why that is. Did something happen in the industry, you know why is it? Is the whole industry turning up or down or just their business? If it is their business, what did they do to create it, is that sustainable? So in other words, if they had some PR campaign and their traffic’s by choosing out of first sales, is it just going to drop off in a month?

And so you know where they may make it seem like, “Hey, look our business is growing.” And if you took a look and just really ask the right questions where, it is a huge traffic spike last year that caused a bigger income boost, and now they are selling based on that multiple, including that income in that multiple, so you want to make sure that you are not buying something that’s going to be obviously at a lower multiple, unless you put a ton more work in. So those type of things where, did they get a Google hit, did they– and I’m sure, you know I’m not really an SEO expert, so if there was anything related to SEO stuff in there, I would probably ask someone else to check it out for me and so…

Steve: So just curious, what are some of the common multiples for e-commerce stores, at least in terms of what you’ve experienced?

Billy: And this is really broad, but so at least for me it was– when sites are very small, let’s say $20,000 or less, lots of times they sell for very low multiples, like for the most part I’d say ten months to eighteen months. Obviously some sell higher, some sell lower, but for the most part that was the range. Then you look at, if sites are…

Steve: Is this self-revenue or profit?

Billy: Profit.

Steve: Profit, okay.

Billy: And then the bigger sites– it’s been a while since I looked at it, but I know the bigger, let’s say 50,000 plus you know 50,000 to 150,000 stores are selling more on the lines of like eighteen months to three years income. Three years is obviously on the higher end, but then even the higher and the higher you get, which seems like if you did the opposite, the higher you get will be low multiples. But it seems like the higher you get there are just more buyers, more people with money that can actually pay higher multiples. This is what it seems.

Steve: And it probably kind of makes sense, their sales and traffic are probably more stable I would guess, once you are larger as well.

Billy: Yeah.

Steve: So that’s actually a good lead into kind of your newest project which is from what you were telling me, like a little micro incubator for businesses.

Billy: Yeah, so I just started doing this probably about five or six months ago. I made the first deal with a couple of guys who wanted to start a design company. So basically the gist of what I am doing is, there is a lot of I guess younger entrepreneurs for the most part that have a good idea or have a current business that’s doing pretty well and they need either funding, and to advice to kind of help get it to the next level.

And so what I’m doing is basically finding businesses that I think have the potential to be really successful. And you know I don’t get involved in the operations very much unless they need help. But for the most part they run the business, they do all the operations, and then I fund them, give the money to scale the business, and then kind of help them to strategize, help them make connections that will help them grow, and just help give them a bigger network and any others. There’s two of them that I’m doing right now, looking in a couple of other ones, but there is just, there is a design company right now and an e-commerce store that I’m doing.

Steve: Cool that’s pretty exciting stuff. So by operating this way you kind of get a large variety of businesses that you get exposure to, and so I think that is pretty cool. And this is all funded from the money that you’ve been earning just kind of from ‘Blue Fire Poker’ possibly, is that kind of accurate.

Billy: Yeah, I mean from playing poker, and Blue Fire and e-commerce stuff, yeah, just had money to invest.

Steve: Cool, so given all of your experiences, what advice would give to some of the newer entrepreneur, some of the people who actually are just starting out or want to start a business?

Billy: I guess the biggest piece of advice that I always tell people is, “Listen to those you aspire to be like, and ignore everyone else.” It’s just one of those things that there is a lot of people, I guess, giving a business advice that are true in business and it is a lot easier, you know, someone who wants to start e-commerce stores obviously if they followed you, they’d probably end up doing pretty well.

But then there is a lot of people that you know a lot of new entrepreneurs don’t know who to follow and so they end up listening from advice from like a hundred people at the same time. And so it tends to be pretty difficult to know which direction to go. I would say, a lot of people don’t need a lot of capital to start. A lot of people think I’ve got to stay in a job or just do whatever it takes to make a lot of money, and then I can start my first business.

I think capital helps, but I think just having knowledge helps a lot more. So if they’re getting a mentorship or just actually trying to execute the business and learning from mistakes and then asking for advice once you hit those mistakes. I think that helps a lot more than just kind of waiting on the side for a long time to start a business.

Steve: So you mentioned a whole bunch of different sources there, so I imagine you read a lot of books, is there a particular book that kind of influenced you one way or the other?

Billy: I’m trying to think. There is a lot of good books, I read a lot of books, obviously most people read this one, so it is probably not a great recommendation, but obviously ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ is a good book for a lot of people, but it is more very, very, very passive. And the one thing people get confused over ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ is, you know they think you start with the ’Four 4-Hour Workweek’, which is a lot of people get into trouble doing that, a lot of times it takes up you know 40-hour work weeks or 80-hour work weeks to basically create a 4-hour work week. But I think that book is a good idea of the lifestyle you can have.

There are other books you know my buddy MJ wrote ’The Millionaire Fastlane’, I think that’s a really good book for people who want to learn how to make large amounts of money and hear what it takes to do so. There is a book called, ’How to Get Rich’ by Felix Dennis, and it’s really good. This guy is a, I think he is a billionaire, and just wrote a book on you know I know that the title sounds kind of scamy, ‘How to Get Rich’ but it’s actually a really, really good book, from a guy who is really rich. I like that book a lot, it’s just kind of he just gives a really broad and honest look at about what it took, and kind of what it’s like. Yeah, this is a couple off the top of my head.

Steve: So, you also mentioned finding a mentor, how do you go about finding a mentor?

Billy: For me, I guess I haven’t had mentors other than just reading a lot from people who’ve written books that are on forums. But for me, I didn’t know where to go at the time, so we just kind of stalk people on forums. And so if there was someone who seemed like they knew what they were doing, I would literally read every single post. So, I mean if someone wrote 2000 posts on a forum, I would read 2000 posts that they wrote. And then I would go to that person and I would say, “Hey, you know you wrote a post like two years ago, and you said this. Why would you do it that way instead of this way?” And I would ask like you know pretty in-depth questions so they knew that I wasn’t just wasting their time and kind of I wasn’t asking them like, “Hey, how do I get rich” type of questions, it was more very specific things and they could tell I’d done my homework, and so, a lot of those people would write me back. They’d give me really good answers.

Steve: And then you would ask to talk with them on Skype.

Billy: Yeah exactly.

Steve: I see a pattern here.

Billy: Exactly, and actually MJ was one of those guys. He used to post back, and this was a long time ago, probably a decade ago, but back on the rich dad forums. And so I would just read all of his posts, and there were probably five or six guys there and I read all of their posts. And then now these days I’m friends with them. We got to know each other through like meet-ups and going to the same conferences and things like where you know back in the day I would just– I didn’t know anything yet, and I would just ask a lot of questions.

Steve: Cool, yeah that’s really good to know. I think being really ingratiated within some sort of entrepreneurship community would greatly help out anyone who is interested in starting a business. Yeah, so I thought I’d just wraps up, we’ve been talking for quite a while. I just want to thank you Billy, do you want to just go ahead and talk about some of the sites and where people can find you online?

Billy: Yeah, definitely. My blog is ForeverJobless.com. I post a couple of times a month. I try and post a couple of times a month on Forever Jobless. I am actually launching a podcast, probably by the time this airs it might be up. I don’t know what it is going to be called, probably something forever jobless. So those are the main two places they can find me on.

Steve: Cool, sounds good. Hey thanks a lot Billy.

Billy: Awesome, thanks Steve.

Steve: All right, take care.

Here is what I like about Billy, the guy knows a ton of people, and he is an excellent networker. And every single time that I chat with him, I learn something new, and he has a ton of great insights and ideas, and in fact the idea of running a podcast contest was his idea, not mine. I just merely took it to improve the overall rankings for my podcast.

For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode12, and while you are on the site, be sure to sign up for my free newsletter, where I’ll teach you the exact steps that my wife and I took to make over a hundred K in profit in our first year of business with our online store. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

011: Mandy Rose On How To Start A 6 Figure Subscription Box Service For Moms

Happy Mommy Box

Today I’m happy to have my good friend Mandy Rose on the show. Now Mandy runs the popular mommy blog House Of Rose which is an incredibly engaging blog about her life as a mom of 3 kids.

One day, Mandy along with her friend Natalie, decided to create a subscription box service for moms. And within a matter of months, their subscription box service Happy Mommy Box exploded into a six figure business.

Her story is pretty incredible and you have to hear it to believe it. If you are interested in starting your own subscription box service, you must check out this interview. The best part is that both Mandy and Natalie achieved their success without spending a lot of money on marketing.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Mandy and Natalie came up with with the idea for Happy Mommy Box
  • How to come up with products for your subscription box
  • How to source goods for a subscription box
  • The economics behind a subscription box service
  • How they handle product fulfillment
  • How they created a community among moms to help them promote their box
  • How Mandy has differentiated their boxes from the competition
  • How they got their first sale
  • How they used Instagram to promote their boxes
  • How to build up an Instagram account
  • How they decide what to include in their boxes
  • Mandy’s best advice on how to start a blog or business

Other Resources

Transcript

You are listening to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast episode number 11. But before we begin I just want to announce that the winners of my podcast contest have already been chosen. But since the contest went so well, I’ve decided to make it an ongoing giveaway, so every single month you will have the chance to win a 30 minute one on one private consultation with me. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/contest. And while you are on the site be sure to sign up for my free newsletter, where I will teach you the exact steps that my wife and I took to make over a $100,000 in the first year of business with our e-commerce store. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit her Job’ podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the ‘My Wife Quit Her Job’ podcast. Today I am thrilled to have a good friend of mine on the show Mandy Rose, but I have to be straight up honest with you. I kind of have this love hate relationship with her. So, on one hand Mandy is super cool, fun to hang out with and she has incredibly entertaining quotes, but on the other hand this woman cost me a lot of money every year.

Now, Mandy blogs at houseofroseblog.com, and she often puts out incredibly detailed and visual articles about how she re-decorates her house. Now, my wife is actually an avid reader of her blog, and every time one of these posts comes out my wife goes out and buys something. So, one time Mandy posted a room model, and my wife dropped five figures on new furniture, then Mandy posted a kitchen project which could potentially cost me six figures in kitchen re-model cost this year.

And then there is the threats, so, one night we are hanging out at think-on, it’s like 8 p.m., really early, and she was like yawning like crazy. So I started making fun of her big time, because who gets tired at 8 p.m. during conference time. But instead of fighting back, here is how it went down.

So, after bursting on her repeatedly for being lame here is what she said, she said, “You do realize Steve that I have another basement re-model post in the queue, right?” and I was like, “Wh-wh-what did you say?”“And so I would suggest that you stop talking now, otherwise I’ll hit post from my phone right now.” And I said, “Yes mum”, and I shut up right away.

Anyways, the reason I brought Mandy on today was not to talk about her blog, but to talk about her subscription box service, ‘Happy Mommy Box’. Now, her subscription box business has grown extremely fast to the point where she can’t even keep up with demand, and so I invited her to talk about her box today, so welcome to the show Mandy, how are you doing?

Mandy: I am doing great, thanks for that intro, I don’t know if that was a complement or…

Steve: I don’t know what it was, I was just speaking from my mind, and you know…

Mandy: It’s a good thing you have a six figure online business.

Steve: Yeah, otherwise I would be hurting. This kitchen re-model is getting a little bit out of control, but…

Mandy: I take no credit.

Steve: It doesn’t help that your house looks beautiful, so…

Mandy: Hey, I have good budget friendly ideas.

Steve: Yes, you told me how much you actually spent on your kitchen re-model. I was like there is no way that would actually happen in Silicon Valley where prices are like four or five X higher, but…

Mandy: Yeah, see that’s the problem, you just need to move to the mid west.

Steve: Yes, yes, I would love to do that someday. Well, we are not here to talk about my spending and how you cause me to spend money. We are here to talk about ‘Happy Mommy Box’, so why don’t you just give us a quick highlight review about what you are offering and what you are selling.

Mandy: Yes, so ‘Happy Mommy Box’ was actually something that my business partner Natalie, it was all her idea. Basically it is a subscription service for mums, kind of like a batch box or searchers lane or there are so many out there right now, but they have them for every niche. And when we were looking into it, they really didn’t really have anything for mums, and so we are like, “Near”, you know like, we love– both of us have blogs that are geared towards mothers, and motherhood, and we were like, ‘What can we do to encourage other mums’, because really when you come down to it, it’s about the community and you know, lifting each other up.

And so, it was really her idea, but it is a care package service that we do monthly and we send like a surprise box of goodies to mums all over, and it’s about three to four products in the box, and one product is always for the children and the rest of the products are just for the mum, and it is just the way to encourage and inspire mums. Especially whenever you are, you know, you’ve got a new born or you’ve got young kids, just kind of like a happy melody. We call it, ‘Encouraged, Inspired Motherhood at Your Doorstep’.

Steve: So, walk me through, what’s in one of these boxes, for example, last month what did some of these mums get?

Mandy: So, we always have a print in the box, something that you could post on your refrigerator, on a bolten board. Last month there was a bigger print, so, something that you could frame and hang in the gallery wall, don’t tell your wife that.

Steve: Yeah, I have seen your gallery walls by the way, you should see it, I am going to take a picture of my wall downstairs after this and…

Mandy: If they have stuff on it, I don’t even think you mean you need to know.

Steve: It’s a bunch of blank picture frames with just the stack photos, our family photos aren’t even in them yet, but there all already posted on the wall, anyways.

Mandy: Hey! I’ve had that– I have kept that up for like a year, I had a stock for doing that, Phil would be like, “Who is this?” and I’m like oh I just have them.

Steve: Yeah, we’ve had those up for like three or four months now, but anyways.

Mandy: Anyway, so there is always a print, and then, so we always– we include that every month, we have a magazine that we do, and it is just a ‘Happy Mommy Box’ magazine. In that we feature other happy mums, other happy mums that we want to share with our community. We always have a recipe, we have, or just good idea that you can do with your kids, play aids, fun things, you know, to do with your children.

Then there is usually a necklace or some piece of jewelry, earrings, necklace. There is always a kid item, so like, you know, we had this, like, little crown holders or play doll or maybe it’s a kid’s snack, or like a makeup item. They are always just things, you know, things that women like.

Steve: I can’t relate but yeah, it sounds good. So in this magazine then you don’t happen to talk about home re-decorating or anything in there, right?

Mandy: Oh man, you know what, I think last time we did-

Steve: Ah, okay we are definitely not subscribing, that’s going to do damage.

Mandy: Usually it’s not about that though, usually it’s, I think last month it was the Easter issues, so we did, you know, some fun, DIY race projects in there, but most of the time it’s more things that are related to motherhood, not decor.

Steve: Okay, so there is jewelry and sounds like there is something for the kid to play with? Toys to keep him occupied, are they crafted.

Mandy: Yeah, like a book, a play doll, we always like to include something for the kids, because obviously this box is geared for the mums, so we wanted it to be mommy focused, but we always say, you know, when the kids are happy mum is happy. So we want them to feel included, and so, right now we aren’t able to kind of break it down to like sending age rims, like if you have, this box is really for zero to seven-year-olds.

Steve: Okay.

Mandy: Most of our mums have kids that are under the age of seven right now. In the future we will love to kind of be able to, you know, specify if your kid is between this age and this age, we just right now we don’t have that capability. So most of the items are for children under the age of seven, but it’s just a little something happy for the kids too so that they feel included.

Steve: So, do the parents know what they are getting in the box ahead of time, or is it just a complete surprise.

Mandy: No, it really is just a complete surprise.

Steve: Okay, so in that way, actually it makes it even more attractive, right? Because it’s like getting random gifts in the mail.

Mandy: Yeah, it is, it’s really just a surprise box, and you have no idea what’s coming in it, and so you kind of really have to be one of those people that like surprises, you know. If you don’t like surprises this box won’t be for you, but a lot of our mums love that aspect about it, that it is just a surprise box that’s coming to their door.

Steve: So, just for the benefit of our listeners, what has the demand been like for your box so far?

Mandy: You know, it’s been really crazy, we never thought it would be. There would be such a demand, and we knew that we had a lot of readers that wanted something like this, but we never knew how many. And so, currently like we started out just, we want to keep it small and we started by just doing– I think our first month we just did a hundred boxes. And between me and Natalie, my business partner, I’m kind of like the helper and she’s very much the big idea ‘wow’ person, and so she was ready to just blast it out with, you know, “Let’s start with 500”, and I was like, “My gosh, we can’t do that, we don’t even know what we are doing”.

So, we kind of brought it down and said, ‘let’s scale it down and just do a small start and see how it goes, and learn about what we are doing. We just did a hundred at the beginning. We started in, I think our first box was in November of last year.

Steve: Okay.

Mandy: We started sales in October, our first box went out in November, and then every month we’ve just been adding more, because we had no idea, like we started a wait list. So after we did those hundred boxes that sold out for like less than an hour, we started a wait list, because we were like, “Oh my gosh, okay, so people like this idea, we’ve got to find a way to get more boxes.”

And so, every month we’ve added and added and so right now we are doing 500 boxes. We have 500 subscribers every month, and we are trying to add to that even more, but we have over 3500 people on our wait list.

Steve: That is crazy, that is awesome.

Mandy: Yeah, it’s been great.

Steve: So, how much do these boxes go for?

Mandy: They are $29 plus free shipping.

Steve: Okay, and approximately, how much do you spend in shipping, on shipping one of these boxes?Just curious.

Mandy: Let’s see shipping, I don’t have my breakdown, but it’4s between six and seven dollars, a shipping.

Steve: Okay, so that makes sense. Wow, so did you have like a whole factory putting out these 500 boxes, or how does fulfillment work.

Mandy: Yeah, if you call it a factory, like, it was the basement of Natalie’s house, yeah, we’ve got a factory. That’s the part that was still working through. We obviously have different roles in the business, and Natalie lives in Shirley and I live in Illinois. So she’s in working on her end, that’s her part.

So she boxes everything, and ships everything, and I will tell you what, I went to Shirlety in April to help box the April boxes, and holy cow, it’s a lot of work. That was the first time that I had been involved in doing the shipping. But we don’t currently have, we don’t have anybody that we hire, we do it all ourselves.

We do have a great community of women who– Natalie lived in Pennsylvania, when she lived there she had like six other bloggers that were just willing to help, they wanted to come and box it up, and it was almost kind of like a fun girl’s night. And then now that she is in Shirley we have– there is just more bloggers that keep coming out of the woodwork and they are like, “We’d love to come help box your boxes.”

So, right now we’ve been really lucky that we’ve just had girls and women and mothers that are willing to help us, while we are kind of doing it on our own. Eventually we would like to have, you know, some type of a warehouse or-

Steve: You know, I think you guys are doing things completely the right way, like for example, when we started our online store initially, we shipped everything out of our bedroom and we put all of our goods in the garage and you just gradually scale up to the point where you are ready to start hiring people. And I think you guys are doing the right thing.

Mandy: Yeah, I think so too, she just recently, when she moved to Shirley, the place that they bought has like three levels, and so we are using the whole bottom level just for all of our boxes and so that helped. We have kind of a little bit of a space now, but we are still really just doing everything on our own at this point.

Steve: So, let’s talk about these bloggers that are helping you out. So, I know for a fact that they have some sort of incentive as well to help you out and so, can you just talk about how you’ve created this community of people that are willing to help you promote ‘Happy Mommy Box’.

Mandy: Well, ‘Happy Mommy Box’ is something that I think is very different from other box services, because it’s really focused on the community aspect of mums, and so Natalie and I both – like I said – had blogs that, and had readers from our blogs that are all mothers. One of the things that mums and women love is to connect with other mums and women.

And so we’ve really focused our marketing efforts on that rather than on our box and what’s inside it. It’s more like this community of women, they are like, “Oh we are all in this together, and we are getting a surprise box and we feel encouraged and inspired’, and you know, and sharing it on social media.

I think, you know, when you look at other boxes, and you look at searchers lane or whatever, ‘Brickyard Buffalo’ or ‘Batch Box’. I think about those boxes, and to me those boxes are all about the products, because, I don’t have any idea who runs those boxes, I don’t know the people behind who started those companies.

And so that’s how ‘Happy Mommy Box’ is different a little bit, because Natalie and I feel like, up until this point most of our subscribers are people that are buying our boxes because they either read our blog or they know us through our blog, and they love, you know, that we are mums and that we are kind of just putting it all out there and how we are doing it, our struggles. And so I feel like we are different from other boxes in that aspect.

Steve: So this is what I like about your business. You guys put yourselves out there, and your personality really shines through your blog and even all of your social media posts as well. So just knowing how you write and what your personality is like makes me want to buy your products even more. And that’s actually something that some of the other boxes don’t have.

Mandy: Yeah, and we feel like that too, so, we kind of want to capitalize on that, you know, we want to take a different approach and we want it to be about the stories that we can share with each other, you know. Not just about the products that you are going to get in the box.

Steve: Yeah, that’s a very good strategy; I don’t see very many other box services doing that actually. So in that you guys have a unique advantage.

Mandy: Yeah I think so too, thanks.

Steve: So let’s talk about the very beginning because, I know how it’s really scary to actually launch a new business. So when you guys first launched ‘Happy Mommy Box’, you know, how did you kind of get some of your early customers and generate buzz for your product.

Mandy: Well I will tell you this, when Natalie first approached me about doing the subscription box, I was like, I looked at Jeff and I was like, “Absolutely not!” I’d have no time, how would I ever do this, I don’t know what I’m doing; I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do something like this.

And the more I thought about it and the more that I prayed about it, I thought, ‘Man, all these people,” – you know, Jeff and I have a podcast and we interview people online, you know, successful online entrepreneurs, and I was falling into that, you know, the fear of failing. And I was like, “Man, all these advice that I give to other people about going for it and stepping out, and taking risks’, and I was like, I just pretty much contradicted myself, and he looked at me and he was like, you know, I really think that you just need to think about, ‘is this something that would pay out for you, is it something that you want to do?

And if it is, you don’t necessarily know how, you don’t have to know how to do it, you know, you can learn as you go. And so it was– I finally just ended up just saying, “You know what, I think wanna try it” and I knew that was going to mean for me putting back some of the stuff that I was currently doing. So, I was working for Jeff a lot on his blog, so he has a finance blog and I was doing a lot of work for him, I was doing a lot of work on ‘House of Rose’ which is my personal blog, and we have a blog together. I was doing all the groundwork, I was editing videos and podcasts, and I knew that it was gonna mean I was gonna not be able to do some of that stuff.

Steve: I hear Jeff is a lousy boss also. Anyway sorry, go on.

Mandy: Yeah really, you know, that man – just kidding, he is a pretty good guy. But yes so he actually hired help, he hired a virtual assistant to take over some of the stuff that I was doing, and I just kind of put my whole heart into, you know, trying to figure this out. And Natalie and I, neither one of us had any idea how to run a subscription service. So it was very scary.

Steve: So how did you get your first box sale?

Mandy: Well so we started by marketing on Instagram, so-

Steve: Instagram.

Mandy: Her and I both had a pretty decent following, I don’t remember at the time, I mean, it wasn’t huge by any means. I think maybe I had like 4000 Instagram followers, and she probably had like 5000. So not like something dramatic and huge, I mean, a good amount, and we just thought, Instagram to us is just a happy place of, you know, pictures and mums, and you know, just being happy.

And so we started with Instagram. We just kind of put it out there that we were going to start this ‘Happy Mommy Box’ thing and we created a buzz about it at the beginning because, we pretty much told everybody like it is the secret thing. Like sign up for our newsletter if you want more information, and so we kind of created a buzz about it on Instagram, and that was at the very beginning. And then…

Steve: So can we walk, can we go into more depth on that, so how do you– what does it mean to put it out there on Instagram, so did you have a strategy or how did it work exactly.

Mandy: So we just would post kind of, I’m trying to think in the beginning what we actually posted.

Steve: You know maybe we can just link up your Instagram account, all that stuff should still be there, right?

Mandy: Yeah it’s all on there from the very beginning, but we just put out there that we were gonna be doing a ‘Happy Mommy Box’. And it was going to be something that was going to be there to encourage and inspire mums and we were like, you know, if you are a mum and you wanna be encouraged and inspired sign up for our newsletter and you will get to be the first person to know what this is all about.

And so we posted really just stuff about that. And I think in the beginning it was really just pictures of Natalie and her kids, and me and my kids, just kind of how we shared on a personal Instagram, it’s really how we started it. And so It’s changed a little now, but that’s how it was at the beginning, and we just shared about our own lives and our own stories. And so yeah, we had people that were like, amazingly, people that were like signing up left and right for our newsletter. Yeah, so we started it just on Instagram.

Steve: Did you do any marketing on your blog, because you have a pretty big large audience there as well.

Mandy: That’s the funny thing, I can’t even remember when I first posted about it on ‘House of Rose’, but I do remember Jeff telling me like, “You haven’t even talked about this on your blog” and I was like, “You know what, you are right I haven’t”. It was almost like when we started it on our Instagrams, because you know, we promoted it on our personal Instagrams as well, that is how we got people to go to our ‘Happy Mommy Box’ Instagram and follow that.

I didn’t promote it much at the beginning on my personal blog; I think it might have been like a few weeks then, before I even posted anything about it on my personal blog. But I did post about it on my personal Instagram.

Steve: So why Instagram and not your blog versus Pinterest versus Facebook and that sort of thing? Just curious.

Mandy: That’s a good question. I think at the beginning it was just trial, it was one of these things that we were like, “Well, let’s try it on Instagram” and it worked.

Steve: That’s the understatement of the century, go on.

Mandy: So we just kind of stuck with it, I mean, we have a Facebook page for ‘Happy Mommy Box’, and it’s funny because it’s not near as engaging or we don’t have nearly as many followers. It’s just, I don’t know for some reason Instagram was just where it was up for that kind of community of women.

Steve: So how do you build up an Instagram account, just curious, so how did you build up to 5000 followers?

Mandy: I try to think about that and I’m like, ‘how did we get there?’

Steve: How long did it take you to get there?

Mandy: To get to 5000? Let’s see, I don’t know where we are at now, I’d have to look, but I mean it probably took us– let’s see, maybe like four months or so.

Steve: Okay so, four months to build that many followers, so you must have been doing something.

Mandy: Yeah well, one thing that we started doing is we started promoting other mums. So we would share some pictures, we would find other mums that were, who had pictures of them and their children doing fun things or just cuddling or whatever it was. And we would share those pictures on our Instagram and then we would tag them.

And so you know, it was just a way to get other people involved and for people to see like this wasn’t just about us and us being mums. This was about you, and you being a mum, and her and her being a mum and everybody who was a mum felt like, ‘Oh yeah that’s me’, you know, ‘I can relate to that’. And so we just really started sharing other people.

Steve: So, how did you tap into like, the ‘Mommy blogger network’ after that?

Mandy: Well, I think we are lucky in a sense that Natalie and I both had it in there already. I mean, and I wouldn’t say that either one of our blogs are huge by any means. I feel like we do have a good amount of followers and both of us have been blogging for you know at least five years, I think.

And so, we did have readers that are mums, and so that helped because we kind of already had that connection with mums. And so those few mums that saw what we are doing and felt inspired by it, you know, they shared it. So it was really just about word of mouth for us.

Steve: Wow, okay that’s amazing. Did you guys do anything else outside of Instagram and your blog?

Mandy: No, no, we watched a–Jeff and I were watching Shark Tank– this is a few months ago, and there was a subscription service that came on there, I can’t even remember the name of the box. It was like two women who were like, graduated from Harvard and they were on Shark Tank and they were like, “We have 200 subscribers”, and they were like all pumped about it, and they were talking about how much money they’ve spent on marketing. I can’t remember the exact number, but Jeff was like, “Wow babe, can you believe that, like you guys haven’t really spent a dime on marketing.”

And I was like, You know what, we haven’t, we really haven’t had to in the sense that, you know, just with our blog readership, the only thing that we have done is that at the beginning, every month we have given away a box. And because our boxes sell out so fast, everybody is like, “Oh, I want a free box” because you know, some people can’t get in as a subscriber because they are sold out. So I think just creating that buzz it’s helped us. But that’s– giving away a free box is really the only way we’ve spent any money on marketing, and even that is very little.

Steve: So I can tell you from a third party, why your stuff is selling, it largely is because of your personalities. You guys really put yourselves out there on your blogs, and you guys come across as real people, real mums. You don’t pretend to be like a super mum or anything like that, you talk about your trials, you talk about the good times, and you talk about the bad times. And that is just very endearing from someone who follows you. So there is your answer Mandy.

Mandy: All right, I like that. Actually that’s a huge complement, because when I think about other people that inspire me, and I was thinking about this actually before our interview. I was thinking, I am never inspired so much by like celebrities or these big people. I’m always inspired by people who are like down to earth people that I can relate to. You know, that are transparent and putting it all out there. So that’s a huge complement, so I appreciate that.

Steve: Yap, so let’s talk a little bit about the economics a little bit, so how do you get– first of all, how do you get products for your box?

Mandy: So, I’m kind of the brand person I guess you could say, and at the beginning Natalie and I had some relationships with brands that we had just worked with through our blogs. So we just did some brand outreach, and we basically said, you know, we kind of built up on Instagram a little bit first, then we are like, you know, we have the community of mothers, and we are going to be putting up this box. And, I don’t know, people were just like, brands were just all about it, we had ‘Ikea’ in our first box.

Steve: Really.

Mandy: Yeah, Natalie already had a relationship with ‘Ikea’, but they just saw value in what we were doing and they wanted to be a part of it. So at the beginning, most of everything that we put in the box was donated in exchange for a promotion of the brand.

And now that we are building up our capital and we have a little bit of money, now we are being a lot pickier about what we include in our box, and we’re also– we can pay wholesale prices for some things now. But I will tell you this, we have never paid over two dollars per item for anything that’s been in our box, ever. And most of the stuff still is being donated.

Steve: I would imagine there is huge incentives for companies to actually pay you to have their items in your box, right?

Mandy: Yeah, at first it was a little bit harder because we didn’t have any experience and we couldn’t show them how much value it would create for them. And so it’s hard to be, “Hey you know, can you donate this product”, but for some reason, I don’t know, people saw something in it and they were still doing it. Now it is a little bit easier because we have brands that have worked with us that are willing to, say, you know, I saw a huge increase, like we had a brand in one of our boxes a few months ago, that was like,“I had a 30% increase in sales that month from being in your box”. And just from the buzz that was on Instagram about it. So we do have–

Steve: That is crazy, 30%?

Mandy: Yeah, it was a necklace stuff that we included and yeah, so it is good to hear that. And that helps us get other brands and good products in our box.

Steve: So clearly your reach goes further than just the 500 boxes that you are selling a month.

Mandy: Yeah, I think so, I mean…

Steve: Okay, so that means that people are talking about these products and you are generating these buzz, and you have this huge waiting list and it just kind of feeds upon itself.

Mandy: Yeah, I think the buzz is key. One of the things that we feel like has helped us is that every month it does sell out. So it is always like this. It’s kind like when Pinterest started and you couldn’t get into Pinterest, you were on the wait list, and you are like, “Men, I really want in because I can’t get in” it’s like that. Looks like a logical thing. So I think a lot of people with our box are like that. They are like, you know like, “Oh, it’s going sell out, and I need to get in right now.” You know?

Steve: Yeah I know that’s great, that’s like the apple model right there. So let’s say I’m a brand and I want to get into your box, you know, what is your criteria.

Mandy: Really the stuff that we include in our boxes is just things that Natalie and I would both love as mothers. So we have tons of people now. At the beginning, you know, it was more brand outreach. So we were reaching out to brands, and now it is more about weeding out the brands that reach out to us, because we just have tons of brands every month. They are like, “how can I get in the box”.

And you know, that’s kind of the hard part, that’s– my part is weeding out those products that don’t really fit. So we are very picky now about what we include, but our criteria is mostly just, ‘is this something that as a mum I would love, I would wear or I would use’. And really I feel like we are the perfect people to know that because we are mums, and so a lot of the stuff in the boxes is stuff that Natalie and I just love.

Steve: So if there was something that you love, you actually go ahead and contact the manufacturer and get wholesale pricing, so how does that work? So obviously not all the brands that come to you are going to be providing products that you actually like, right?

Mandy: Oh right yeah, we have– actually this just happened last week. I was working with a brand and some of the stuff that they had online I was like, “this looks cute and I think this would be a good fit for our box.” But we always usually make brands send us a sample immediately before we would ever commit, because we want to have the product in our hands and we want to hold it and feel it and see, is this something, you know, does it look like the picture? Because you know how that can be online.

Steve: Yeah.

Mandy: And so we just had this happen last week where, you know, I was like, ‘Yeah this is great’ and then when they sent us the product and the sample was like much poor quality and I was like, ‘This is not what I thought it was.” You know, we had to go back and be like, you know, ‘I am really sorry, but it doesn’t really fit with what we are trying to do right now, and thank you so much.” And that’s the hard part because I like to say ‘yes’ to everything.

Steve: Right, right.

Mandy: But I finally had to learn how to say ‘No’.

Steve: So what is your– how many products are you getting pitched now from month to month?

Mandy: I would say probably each month now, we probably get fifteen to twenty brands that would contact us, yeah.

Steve: And they are competing for like three or four items in the box, right?

Mandy: Yeah, and the way that we have it set up now is, when we work with a brand we basically tell them, ‘You know you are going to be in the June box, or you are the July box, and we need your product by such and such day. And so we kind of curate the boxes based on the brand that we are working with, but the way that we would really love it to work – and this is going to be in the future hopefully – we want to be able to have a warehouse of products.

You know, we want to say if a brand wants to work with us, we want to say, “You know what, sure send us the products you will be in a box in the next three to four months. And we want to be able to curate the boxes with products that we can kind of pick from our wholesale or from our warehouse. But we are not to that point yet, and so right now it’s working.

Steve: Well, you have extra room in your house; I saw some of those bedrooms that were looking quite nice.

Mandy: I don’t know about that.

Steve: So okay, I still have a bunch of questions here. So let’s say you want to start out creating your own subscription box, so where would someone start?

Mandy: Where would someone start, by researching what other people are doing.

Steve: Like say I want to start a ‘man’ box, let’s say hypothetically speaking, well…

Mandy: A ‘Happy Daddy Box’,

Steve: A ‘Happy Daddy Box’.

Mandy: Don’t you do that now, Jeff Rosen is going to do that.

Steve: Oh really.

Mandy: No I am just kidding. We have talked about doing something for the men like on ‘Father’s day’ we might do a ‘Father’s day’ box, that’s in the works, but I’m just kidding, you can start a ‘Happy Daddy Box’ all day long.

Steve: I have no interest, but let’s say I want to start one or something from complete scratch, what would be your advice on where to begin?

Mandy: Well for me it was easier because I had Natalie and so we were able to kind of figure things out together. So I think if you are on your own it’s a little harder, you just have to research. You know, what we did at the beginning was, I know we even reached out to you, because you have an online store and we were just asking questions and kind of connecting with people that were already doing it. So we didn’t necessarily talk to anybody that was doing a subscription box, but we did reach out to people that were selling things online, and just got advice from people that were already doing it. Because I feel like, you know…

Steve: So what were some of these pieces of advice that you got that were helpful?

Mandy: Well, one of them was start out small. It’s helped me be like, “Okay Natalie, you know, we don’t need to go big so start out very small,” just do like a barter test, you know. Because you don’t want to put everything into it, you don’t even know how it is going to go, you don’t even know if you are going to like it, you know.

This is something that when we started, it’s like, ‘are we going to really want to do this every month? Is this something that is going be fun for us? Is it going to be encouraging for other people? So starting out small, I know, we had that advice from– it might have been you or I can’t remember, but we…

Steve: That’s something that I would probably say, yeah.

Mandy: Yeah, I know you gave us lots of good advice, but I’m trying to really remember the advice at the time. It’s such a blur because we literally knew nothing. I know we had– we were lucky in the fact that we had Natalie who knew a little bit of HTML so she was able to set up our site for us. But when we started out we were on burb.com which I had never even heard of, so we had a lot of issues with that.

So, at the beginning it was really all just about trial and error, we had months where we sealed the boxes, and ‘Oh my gosh,’ like we did it the wrong way and there was no way to fix it. So we had to back in and tell all the subscribers that had subscribed you know like, “Oops, you know, we messed up and we really need you to like– we’re going to cancel, we really need you to subscribe here”. And the thing about that is like, ‘that’s okay’ if you only have a hundred people. But if you would start out with five hundred people, you are going to take a lot of people off.

But we made it very clear to our audience like, “Hey, this is something that we’re just trying, and thank you for being patient with us as we learn”. We really had a good response in just the fact that being transparent about it, you know, not acting like we knew what we were doing. We were kind of like, “Hey, you know this is something that we have a passion for but we are not perfect”. And yeah, I just think that people can probably relate to that a little bit.

Steve: So, are there any website– what are you guys using now for your website, are there any packages that kind of handle the subscription model for boxes.

Mandy: Yeah, currently we are on WordPress now thank goodness. So we’ve moved to WordPress, but we are using Woo Commerce and PayPal. So I don’t think that’s probably the best option, but it’s working for us now. We are having– we’re getting to that point where we are having a problem figuring out tracking. You know, tracking our retention rate and that kind of stuff. We are still trying to figure that out and but…

Steve: But right now you have this huge waiting list anyways, right?

Mandy: Yeah.

Steve: So it’s probably not much of a factor right now, I would imagine.

Mandy: Yeah, that’s kind of how we feel about it, it’s like retention isn’t a huge issue to us because we can’t even reach the people that are like willing to buy.

Steve: Just curious though, what is your strategy for people to continue to get this ‘Happy Mommy Boxes’, so what is your retention strategy.

Mandy: Really, our goal from the beginning has just been, no matter what that just kill them with kindness. So we’ve had people who have unsubscribed or who have been disappointed with something that came in the box, and both Natalie and I decided that no matter what it is, whether they are disappointed or they are unsubscribing for whatever reason, we’ve just really been nice about it.

So we’ve never been like, we’ve had people that are like, “Oh you know, I didn’t really like this” you know blah blah blah, we are like, “Oh my gosh, we are so sorry we would happily give you a refund. And every single time that we’ve done that or said that, they have said, “Oh my gosh, no way, I so appreciate you offering me a refund and that’s really great”.

I think the key is just engaging with them and not making them feel left out, because I know sometimes when I order products or subscribe to things online, have you ever had a personal response from the owner of the store, and has it ever been like, “What can I do to make it better?” you know.

So we’ve done that and then another thing that we do is every month we give people an incentive to share their products on social media and on Instagram. So we send out happy– we call them happy mail days. And so we ask people to tag, like hash tag ‘Happy Mommy Box’ things. So then people are sharing what was their favorite product in the box. And we would pick usually three of those people from the hash tag and we’ll send them like star box gift card or a target gift card, or you know, just some kind of encouragement in the mail on top of the box.

Here is another little thing that I think is important, this is something that Natalie did in one of the first boxes, I think it was the second month. She had somebody who had commented on her Instagram it was like, “Couldn’t wait to get a box”, and she had mentioned like, “the only thing better about this box is that it included diet coke”, you know, kind of just joking around, and Natalie sent her that box and included a diet coke.

Steve: Ah nice.

Mandy: You know when she got that, she shared that all over Instagram. And just doing little things like that has really helped us keep the people that we have.

Steve: That is great advice and in fact that’s actually how we run customer service with our online store too. If there is anyone who is disappointed with anything we just give them a refund and often times, you know depending on the situation we just let them keep the product as well, then you don’t have to bother sending it back.

Mandy: Yeah, yap.

Steve: And just a word of mouth that that generates is just worth it in itself. So speaking of customer service, how do you guys handle customer service?

Mandy: I am customer service, I am everything right now, so yeah, I usually– well, we both tag team on the e-mails and the customer service part of it, but yeah I mean, we are kind of, I think that helps though because people feel like, they get to talk to us, the two people who are running the company, you know. And I think that goes a long way. So I just– customer service to me, is all about making sure people get a response.

Steve: So do you guys have a phone number or is it just e-mail?

Mandy: We don’t, we just have e-mail and so right now that’s been working for us. Eventually we would like to have obviously a number that they could call, but right now…

Steve: I’ll be sure to post your cell phone number in the show notes here.

Mandy: Yeah, go ahead and do that, I would really appreciate. If you could tell them to call me in the middle of the night that will be great too.

Steve: Well, you will be up anyway; I have seen how late your kids stay up.

Mandy: I’m actually sleepy now, well, just one of the reasons that I probably feel so pumped about this business. Don’t do that!

Steve: Okay, so let’s see, I’m trying to run through in my head all the things that we’ve covered. So okay, customer service, okay. So let’s say I am starting my box, how do I get brands to recognize me and send me their stuff?

Mandy: You’re starting a box, how do you get brands to recognize you and send you their stuff, well-

Steve: Or does it even matter, in the beginning?

Mandy: I mean, I guess it depends. For us it helps that we had our blogs and so we could– we didn’t have to just say, “Hey, we just started this website called happymommybox.com, you know, here we are”. We could say, “Hey, I’m Mandy from ‘House of Rose’ and I’m Natalie the busy burgee mama. And we’ve been blogging for five years and we have this passion to help mums and encourage mums”, and so for us it was a little easier, I will say that. I think we had an unfair advantage in the sense that we could send people to our blogs so that they could see the success that we had and the community that we had there.

And I think that they knew from that that, “Oh they have a community here, women that are following them and are supporting them, and are engaging with them, that can only carry over into the ‘happy mommy box’ and so, I think it is a little bit, you have to do little bit more ground work in the beginning. If you don’t have that, it’s harder to get brands to work with you.

Steve: Would you even just go out and just buy some stuff and throw together a box, just to see if it is going to sell even if you didn’t really make a profit in the beginning, I don’t know. Just curious.

Mandy: Yeah no, I absolutely think that’s a great idea, I think that if you don’t have that recognition already and you are having a hard time getting brands to work with you, I think absolutely, you know. I mean, you can always get brands to do wholesale you know if you tell them that you are doing a subscription box service and you want to see their wholesale prices and that you are going to buy a hundred products. Most brands are going to be willing to work with you on that. And so you don’t even have to spend a whole lot of money.

I would say too, one of the things that we did at the beginning as we worked with– so in our box we have like two to three main brands and then we always have a small business brand, like an Etsy shop or we always like to feature other mums in our community who are trying to do online business, and who make Etsy stuff, you know. And so I think that’s a great place to start too is look on Etsy at other women who are running Etsy shops, because those mums are really wanting to get their products in the hands of people, and they have a small, small audience, and so they are willing to work with you.

Steve: Okay, that’s really good advice, I not that I am going to be starting ‘Happy Men Box’ or whatever.

Mandy: Well, don’t worry because there is not a lot of men on Etsy, so you would have a profit.

Steve: What do I even put in the box, like razors, yeah turkey, razors, you know, actually I don’t even have to shave that often, I wouldn’t include a razor, I guess. I don’t know.

Mandy: Actually, you know, you can’t do that because there is dollar shave club, right?

Steve: That’s true.

Mandy: Jeff does that.

Steve: Oh does he.

Mandy: He does yeah.

Steve: Well okay, thanks Mandy we’ve already been talking about forty minutes, and I have learned a whole lot about your box business, so, you are very humble, I just want to say that. And deep inside of you, I see this marketing genius and I’m just wondering are there any books that you’ve read or, what’s your background that has allowed you to be such an effective marketer.

Mandy: I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I’m not. You know, I really do because I went to school for business, but I was more into management information systems, and I don’t really have– I am not–I don’t have a back ground in marketing and I wasn’t a marketer. And it’s really just been trial and error and I think the biggest thing for me is just– and a lot of people have a problem with this, but being transparent online and being who you are, and just putting yourself out there. It’s very hard for people to do, and that’s really been my only strategy, all I can do is stay, you know, here I am love me or hate me.

And I’m sure some people hate me, but hopefully more people love me. It is the same when it comes to anything in my life, like home decor. I am not, I don’t have any background in interior design, but it’s just something that I love to do as hobby, and so I get e-mails all the time from people that are like, “Oh my gosh, can you– I will send you a picture of my house, and can you tell me how to decorate this”, and I feel like, ‘I’m so not qualified for that, like I don’t know, I just try stuff and it works, you know, or sometimes it doesn’t work.

And I think that’s important for people to remember too is, I’ve done a lot of things that haven’t worked, and that’s okay. I think you have to do that. I think you have to get past the fear of failing, you know. I was just at the marathon this weekend, I was with one of my best friends, I remember her, I had somebody come up to me at the marathon and was like, “Oh my gosh you are ‘House of Rose’ can I take my picture with you”. And she just felt like, that is so cool, like, I wish I had something that I could like do online that was a like a niche. But her comment to me was, ‘I would have to quit my job to do something like that, and then, you know, I’d have to invest into it, and then I will have to be like, you know…

Steve: That’s a cup out right there.

Mandy: Right, that’s the mentality of so many people is that you know they are afraid to cross that line and to go for it and I think you kind of just have to get past that fear of, you know, this might not work or, you have to take risks to make things happen, and you have to do the work.

Steve: Send that woman my way, actually because you know, I still work full time and I have got three businesses and two kids. I mean you have three kids but yeah, send that woman my way, what a cup out.

Mandy: Exactly that’s– and I was thinking in my head like, “No, you have to work two full time jobs at the beginning, that’s how it works. You know I didn’t do this overnight, and I didn’t, you know, I don’t not work hard, you know, I’m constantly on my lap top, and I’m constantly working and it takes work.

Steve: I hear you. All right Mandy, so where can people find you if they want contact you, for home decorating advice or whatever. I will not be giving this e-mail to my wife.

Mandy: Hey, she already knows that so…

Steve: I know.

Mandy: Yeah, you could find me at houseofroseblog.com. I am at house of Rose on pretty much every form of social media that you can find. If you are interested on getting on our wait list for happy mommy box, we are just happymommybox.com and happymommybox on social media.

Steve: Awesome, well, thanks a lot for your time Mandy.

Mandy: Yeah, I appreciate it thank you so much for having me.

Steve: All right take care.

Mandy: Bye.

Steve: Here is what I like about Mandy, she really is a genuine person, and she really just wears her hat on her sleeve, and as a result she exudes passion for everything that she does. Now, I know that I asked her about tips and tricks with her business in the interview, but the reality is she was just being herself.

For more information about this episode go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode11. And while you are on the site be sure to sign up for my free newsletter where I will teach you the exact steps that my wife and I took to make over $100,000 in our first year of business with our e-commerce store. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

010: Farnoosh Torabi On How To Establish Your Own Personal Brand And Become Recession Proof

Farnoosh Torabi

Farnoosh Torabi has established herself as one of the prominent personal finance gurus out there. You’ve probably seen her on tv on popular shows like the Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, Larry King Live, Dr. Oz, The View etc…

Farnoosh is also an accomplished author with many bestselling books under her name.

In fact, she is releasing a book today and I’m happy to be giving away 3 copies of her brand new book “When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women”.

All you have to do is sign up for my podcast contest and you’ll automatically be entered.

To learn more about Farnoosh, you can find more info at Farnoosh.tv.

Note: Farnoosh and MyWifeQuitHerJob.com are not affiliated in any way. I used my own money to buy the books for the giveaway. Enjoy the interview!

What You’ll Learn

  • How Farnoosh laid the ground work for her own personal brand before she got laid off.
  • How to land a book deal
  • What publishers care about when making a decision to publish your book
  • How to get on television on the Today Show
  • The most important aspect of getting a book deal
  • An inside look at a book publisher
  • The one thing Farnoosh did to land her first book deal.
  • How Farnoosh gets support for her books despite not having a gigantic audience

Books By Farnoosh

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the mywifequitherjob.com podcast episode number 10. Now before we begin I just want you to know that my podcast give away is ending this week, so make sure you sign up soon. Now, I’m giving away a free lifetime membership to my create a profitable online store course as well as free consulting. Now, my course is the most comprehensive course out there on ecommerce that teaches you how to make money with online stores and unlike other courses I give live lectures and I’m constantly adding new content to the class. For more information about the giveaway go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. And while you are there be sure to sign up for my free newsletter, where I’ll teach you how I managed to made over a 100k in a single year with my own online store. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I have a different type of interview for you all. Unlike the other people that I’ve had on the show this particular guest does not own her business in the traditional sense. Instead she owns something much, much more valuable. Unlike a regular business which can go out of business at anytime Farnoosh Torabi of Farnoosh.TV has developed something far more valuable, her own personal brand. And in a way that’s what I have been trying to do with my blog and my podcast but Farnoosh has taken this to a whole another level. Now, Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, author, speaker and coach.

She’s a frequent financial contributor to Yahoo. She’s been on the Today Show, ABC; she’s written many books includingher latest book which is ‘When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women’, which we will talk about a little bit later. She’s also written ‘Psych yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to rebuild your Financial Life’ and ‘You’re So Money’. Now I’ve even seen her on TV with Jim Cramer of nerd money which pretty cool also. She has hosted her own web series which turn into the number one personal finance series online. She’s been on Remake America, TLC, she’s been on CBS, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, I mean could go on and that could actually probably take the entire interview and I actually want to talk to her today. So, you know, word on the street is that Farnoosh owns what is called the Noosh Empire, so welcome to show Farnoosh glad to have you here.

Farnoosh: Thank you so much Steve that is such an awesome introduction. The Noosh Empire I’m going to take that, I’m going to borrow that for sure.

Steve: You don’t have borrow it. It is already out there.

Farnoosh: I own it. Okay.

Steve: Yes for all those who do not know who you are, can you give us a quick background story, because you have a very interesting back story.

Farnoosh: Well, thanks I hope it’s interesting to your listeners, I mean, I started out, I went to college, I went to graduate school. I studied finance in college, and then I went and studied journalism in graduate school and I combined the two fields to then pursue personal finance, reporting and writing and all of that. Though I found quickly and this was I think my lucky break earlier on, is that I realized that if you want to be a journalist, if you want to be a communicator you don’t have to pigeon hole yourself, you don’t have to be just a writer or just a radio host or just a broadcaster you can do it all. And to implement a sense of entrepreneurship in your career, that is something I learned very early on in my career.

Steve: So let us take it back to the very beginning, particularly I’m interested in hearing you know how this all started. I’m interested in hearing about how you got laid off and that story, but how you got started with a need to establish your own personal brand.

Farnoosh: Sure, so I was working at TheStreet.com and for several years I was helping them with their online strategy, with their video strategy we were having a great time. But you know 2009 rolled around and of course everything was crashing, the sky was falling, the economy was on life support and what we found was people were just losing their jobs left and right. Companies were reducing, reducing, reducing and so, I was also part of that reduction. I lost my job in 2009 and I have to say though it came at a really important time in my career. Up until that point I had been you know working sort of this full time job at The Street but I was also, I published a book, I was freelance writing elsewhere, I was doing TV and I started to see you know that there were a lot of opportunities out there and that there were other people who were completely freelance doing those things. And you know well, I wanted kind of the best of both worlds.

I wanted the 401k that the job would give me, a full time job but I also wanted to experiment and dip my toes in other adventures and I had been doing that pretty well up until that point, and then you got point laid off. And now the question for me became, do I go back to find another full time job to provide me those securities that I thought were really important like 401k and health care, constant pay cheque, or do I just sort of incorporate myself and try to build the momentum that I had build in these other side projects that I had been doing.

And you know 2009 the job market was pretty slum and it wasn’t like I had all these choices. So I just decided and fortunately at that point too, I had some savings, right. That’s really important if you’re ever considering taking a leap into a risky business, or going on your own, venturing out on your own. Having the financial cushion was a peace of mind, and it also allowed me to explore things that I probably wouldn’t have, and to take time to really find my groove again and it wasn’t this knee jerk reaction that I had to find a paying job again right away. So, I thank myself I guess for that. I mean who can ever anticipate getting laid off? But fortunately I had some savings, so I dint have to feel pressure to just take whatever came my way.

Steve: So, it sounds like you had already kind of laid the ground work even before you got laid off. It sounded like you had your book before that happened is that correct?

Farnoosh: Yes, I had my book it came out in 2008 got laid off in 2009, and I guess I just, you know I was doing all these things because I was passionate about them as so many of us do we do these side gigs as sort of passion place. But truly if we want to be strategic about it, it could end up being our next kind of endeavor. Our next full time entrepreneurial endeavor if we really wanted them to be and I think for me what was holding me back was, I was comfortable frankly you know working full time gig. Getting that constant pay cheque and doubling in sort of extra curriculars like the book and what not.

And also I was a little scared frankly of what if I truly leave my job voluntarily and do this other stuff full time, and you know what would that look like, and would I be able to feed myself, and fortunately the decision was made for me getting laid off. I have written about this experience and looking back, obviously at the time you don’t feel this way but looking back was certainly all right this is a decision that I had no control over I couldn’t beg for my job back. Even if they you know really felt bad for me, but it worked out.

Steve: Yeah, so let’s take a step back and let’s talk about that first book, so had you been on TV at the time too before your book?

Farnoosh: Well, I had been on TV as a reporter. So, you know after I graduated from grad school I worked in Money Magazine where I did a little bit of TV as a correspondent for money. But then I went to work for a broadcasting station in New York where I became a producer, and then I ventured on camera reporter talking about money and business. So I was comfortable in front of a camera as a deliverer of information, but certainly to now be an author and be asked to come on TV to give advice was a whole other ball game and I definitely had to get media trained for that to speak in a way that you know with money it can be pretty obstruct and when you are on television your goal is to make it as simple and hopefully as visual as possible so that was the training for me that I had to take on that I wasn’t necessarily trained in before. Even though I was comfortable on TV the presentation had to be a little altered and I think I just went for it you know. I kind of threw myself in to the deep end and learn how swim my way up to the top. And it was, if you look at my very first TV head, I mean I’m embarrassed to even look at these days, it is just…

Steve: We will be sure to post that.

Farnoosh: Okay, great. I’m sure you can find it on YouTube. It was like my very first interview. I was on the Today Show, I am– we are talking about my book and I think Meredith Viera was interviewing me and I think I called her old. And it was just, I mean everything that I– it was like my worst nightmare come true. But actually I finished the interview and when it was over my producer said “good job we will have you back” and I was like “really? Were you there, did you just watch what happened?” I think in our heads things go a little bit more horribly than they actually do on camera. The key I found was just to continue smiling and hopefully that would defuse any of the like awkward energy that I was sending out from my conversation. But I don’t know, someone was looking out for me that day and it didn’t totally destroy my future career in television, but it definitely felt like a horrible experience in my head.

Steve: Sure, so I’m sure at least one of the questions I have in my mind is that, you know how do you actually find someone who is going to publish her first book and how do you actually get that opportunity to be on TV in the first place?

Farnoosh: Okay, really good questions. I’d say writing a book, now you can self publish and back then when I wrote my first book it was not something that was considered easy to do or successful to write your own book and who was going to publish it, you really needed like a traditional publisher in order to get the street credit that you wanted to get the interview. So I think that, you know these days publishers wanted to care about a couple of things. They care about, they care about obviously that you have a really, really enticing, compelling, interesting story to share whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, but also they want to know why you as the author? Why should you be the person who tells the story and especially with nonfiction obviously, you know what makes you the expert, what makes you the guru, what makes you, someone who is going then to be able to bring this story to market and sell it, right.

So it is not like just you know, Farnoosh has a really cool perspective on money, it’s that oh she also has relationships with people in the media or she has a blog and it gets x many millions of hits a year. Or she has this podcast that gets lots of downloads. They want to make sure that you are marketable. And that you can help them market the book because, and this is again going the traditional book publishing route because publishing houses are overwhelmed, understaffed. They really rely more and more these days on their authors to support the marketing and the promotion. So it’s not, I would say it is 50% of your proposal is how you are going to sell this book successfully, you know.

If you give speeches, if you go to conferences, if you have relationships with co-operations that might get bulk book buys, if you’ve got a huge online audience that’s conditioned by your goods, that is all important to mention because that’s ultimately what’s going to give you a good advance and really get you the book deal. And that’s so unfortunately I think what separates some other authors from getting published and others not, there are a lot of great authors out there with great stories. But if no one knows who you are, and you are kind of hiding in a hole, it’s very hard to just rely on word of mouth, these days to get a book sold. You really need to get out there and make efforts well in advance of the book coming out to get people aware and excited about your book.

Steve: So let’s talk about your first book then, so had you already had an established audience for yourself?

Farnoosh: Somewhat, I think, you know, certainly when I was pitching the book, the publishers were excited about the fact that I worked in the media that was a plus, they considered a plus. I think they were hoping that my savvy in the industry would get me you know would the book in the right hands. I knew producers, I knew writers, and when I sold the book ultimately I had just moved over to The Street.com, where Jim Cramer had generously offered to write the foreword to help endorse it so that was a huge, huge help.

I don’t think I could have gotten the book published in the manner that I did if it wasn’t for his vote of confidence and he really wrote letters to the publishers and they were like you know, we’ll help her market this in and I mean credit yeah Jim was really super instrumental in helping me launch my career, in a lot of ways and with that book. And the book later took on like a life of its own and it has since you know helped me with other things, but I owe him big time. So that was for me and that was something that my agent recommended, he said “you know you’ve started this company, have you met Jim Cramer yet?” I said “no I just started like two weeks ago, I know my editors, and you know Jim is the founder, but he is a busy guy I have not run in to him in the office”.

So I actually made the request through my editor in chief to see if Jim would read the proposal and tell me what he thinks and he if he would be willing to do something, maybe a foreword or a chapter. And he took time you know I was like oh gosh he hated it, it was taking weeks before I heard back and I remember it was around thanks giving, I got a– my editor was like he read it, he loved it, he said he will do whatever you want him to do for the book.

Steve: Wow that was awesome.

Farnoosh: I was like what, so that was the lesson, right, like ask the scary questions. I was scared to death to as Jim Cramer to help me. I hadn’t even met him you know. So it was like, I felt like it was really premature for me to do that, but you know I took a bold chance and I was prepared for no and I got another world, so it was such a…

Steve: That’s actually a great lesson, you got to ask the question otherwise you may never know whether you are going to get results or not.

Farnoosh:Yeah absolutely, taking the fear it’s just you know it can hold you back but sometimes I always say like the fear of the unknown is worse than just the fear of failing. You know like I’d rather just fail and have an answer than to never try and feel like I just you know I’m just stuck.

Steve: You know in a way this is just like me starting my podcast. I’ve asked actually asked a few bigger names and I have gotten denied, and you know I plan on asking them again once the podcast gets a little big larger. So let’s talk about TV, how did you get your first TV segment on the Today Show?

Farnoosh: Well that was thanks to the publisher, you know I just spent all this time talking how my publishers really depend on their writers, but I will say that even though they booked that for me, what ultimately got me their attention at the Today Show because you know Today Show gets a ton of book requests, author requests, interview requests. Every day they get like sacks and sacks and sacks of books. Well when I was 20 years old 21 years old I had an internship at Money Magazine and as part of that job I worked in conjunction with the Today Show because Money and Today had kind of editorial partnership.

So I was in constant communication with this one producer of Today Show and helping her with our content and our guests that were coming over to talk about Money and I remember we would talk– I mean I would work all nights sometimes for these assignments and she remembered me and we had met. And so fast forward you know seven years and my book lands on her desk, this producer of The Today Show. And she recognized my name, and she recognized me and called me and said “did you write this book I can’t believe it, it’s been so long you have come so far. I can’t believe it”. Now, so that was definitely helpful because had I been a really a crappy intern when I was back at Money, she would remember me as this like unreliable, you know silly person who you know, oh she wrote a book but I don’t have good memory of her so you know so well good luck to her.

But she actually, you know was excited to hear that I’d written this book, and had good memories of working with me. So that helped move the needle but it wasn’t a guarantee, I wasn’t going to get on the show just because she liked me. You know she needed to prove to her bosses that I was ready for TV. So she asked me for any kind of tape that I had that I could produce that showed me on camera looking comfortable and relaxed and articulating. So I just scrambled and put together whatever I could you know from my days as a reporter.

The one CNN hit that I did when I was 22 at Money Magazine and sent that to her, and I got the call that they wanted me on the date that, that book launches. I think I just– I think I fell back in my chair when I got that email because on the one hand I was so excited, I mean you really like you know there’re moments in your life you feel like this is my break.

Steve: Yeah.

Farnoosh: But you are also scared to death. And I had all these feelings at the same time.

Steve: So, there are some good lessons to be taken from what you just said. So one thing is you know should always do your best and never burn any bridges because you never know when someone you meet might be able to you know help you later on in life.

Farnoosh: Absolutely. I can speak from that; I can speak to that in so many ways, but that was probably the biggest example you know when you are, especially young kids today when they are out there working, internships, or in college you know there is so much more life ahead of you but the relationships that you establish, or even just people you interact with casually sometimes can be the people that will help you go from point A to point B in the future, and you should be prepared to do that for others as well.

Steve: Yeah, you know I know that I’m going to do my best to help you promote your book after this. No strings attached or anything you know after chatting with you a little bit I already like you and I very much respect you, and so I’m going to do whatever I can to help you out.

Farnoosh: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much and of course I want to help you out too. So let me know how I can ever return this huge favor.

Steve: So we have these listeners out there, you know a lot of them are just starting out, and so if you have any pieces of advice for people who want to follow your same path. You know what advice would you give them?

Farnoosh: Well, if you are interested in writing a book and I don’t know if up your audience wants to primarily do financial books or other books. I would say and I was just giving this advice to another hopefully future author, we had coffee the other day, she was struggling over her book proposal. My advice would be to obviously you know every book has it’s facts and it is important to make the book educational, or service driven if it is in the nonfiction world, but at the same time again it is about your voice right, why you? Why are you bringing this book to attention and why are you best the person to share this story.

And so, going to a pretty vulnerable place sometimes it is important to unearth some of the stories that in your life really influenced you that might relate to this topic that you are writing about. Readers really appreciate authors that are transparent, that are open, that show vulnerability, because people, I find out that, that is not something that you will often hear because people think like well you are the author you should be the expert, you should just be the authority and you know, not show that that you have weaknesses like. I totally disagree, I mean even with my new book you know I am helping women with their partners in the event that she makes more, and I’m in this situation and I’ll be first to say it has not been easy for me.

And you know I’ve gotten mixed advice in the process of people saying you know may be you shouldn’t like say that you have this insecurity because you know if you are supposed to tell people what to do, you are supposed to be the strong one and I disagree with that. I think you know certainly, we all have insecurities and I think I’m not a complete mess; I am not coming to market with this book like completely distraught. I have moved on, but it’s just that I think sharing that you are human, sharing that you have a connection with that audience is so important. So don’t lose that perspective and really cultivate that if you can in your book writing process.

Steve: That’s good advice, yeah. So for people just starting out from what I’ve gathered from what you said so far, it almost sounds like you need a following first before you even consider writing a book, is that accurate or?

Farnoosh: Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be huge following. You might have just a 1000 people on your blog and I know that sounds even– I just started the whole online process of getting people to join newsletters and stuff. So, I’m completely damp founded when people say like they have like 500,000 subscribers. It’s like I’ll never get there, I just have my you know, I’m starting at a much smaller number but, I think it is quality not quantity right. You could have half a million people coming to your site but how many of them are really engaged. So, but if you’ve got a really good core audience that you know is commenting and replying. You can tell by their engagement that they are really quality followers and readers, that goes a long way and that is something you want to present your book proposal.

If you’ve got a really active twitter handle, if you are on face book, if you are giving speeches, it doesn’t– you don’t have to be a traditional correspondent to get a book deal, you know that’s not what we are talking about. We are just saying that you have a loyal and dedicated audience and that you are engaged with that audience, then that could hopefully get you the attention of publishers. But even if not, you want to go the publishing route, you could to go the self publishing route. I don’t know a whole lot about that, but certainly people are doing it successfully. I just actually spoke to a woman who in her spare time she writes romance novels, really short romance novels, but did you know romance novels are one of the hottest book categories. I mean like no pun intended but like these books go really well.

Steve: You don’t have to tell me that, my wife reads them all the time.

Farnoosh: Really?

Steve: And then I keep telling her, “Look the romance is right next to you, why do you need to read these books.”

Farnoosh: Right? Like I know, I don’t know, I was totally schooled in this. And she’s like yeah so, I write; I’ve written a couple of books, I sell them for like 299 on Amazon and you know she makes a few thousand bucks. Every time she writes these books and they sell really well. And it is a complete side project, it takes her like you know a few months to put them together, she loves to write, it’s like her passion. So, I say you know that is another way to be a successful author. And she could be because she’s identified a niche market that people are always wanting to read you know the next great book and she prices it really low, and it comes easy to her, it’s not like she has to hire people to do this. And you know to the return is quite good for her. And who knows what it will all turn in to, may be like somebody will read her book and will be like I should turn this in to a movie.

Steve: Yeah, that’s how it happens right?

Farnoosh: Right.

Steve: So you mentioned that, you said your online presence is really small and which I find hard to believe, but who are the people actually buying your books in bulk right now?

Farnoosh: People who are reading the reviews right now that are going on as we speak you know between now and May 1st when the book comes out. There is already a tonnage of articles out there– not a tone some articles out there. But I’ve also been contacting people who have bigger online audiences than I do and saying “hey I’ve got this book coming out, how can we partner up, let’s get on the phone, and I’d like to help your business, you know if you will be willing to review my book or” what I’ve done is I created a promotional kit. I mean I’m going to do actually, I think probably when I go to Thinkon this Fall, I might actually give everyone the play by play of this latest book launch, because I have learned so much about the importance of online marketing, and for me in a while I work online I don’t have this like huge newsletter database.

It’s just not something that I have focused on but it is the new kind of direction for me. But, there are people who have been online for 10 years and they’ve got so many polarizing and really loyal fans. So, I find these people and through hopefully introduction or referral introduce them to the book, give them all the goods, give them the book, I give them you know images, I give them potential blog posts already written, I give them copies for newsletters and emails that they might want to sent out. I give them badges and all these stuff and so they kind of I arm them with everything. But then still I say you know, if there is anything else that I can provide you that would be a better fit for your audience maybe it’s a podcast interview, maybe it’s a Skype interview, or it’s I interview you and you give that to your audience.

Steve: I have to say you have handled this book launch very thoroughly and in a very organized fashion, I was very impressed by that.

Farnoosh: Thank you.

Steve: So let’s talk about your latest book now. It’s called ‘When She Makes More’ and it is a guide book targeting women that earn more in their relationships than their husbands. Now, technically the business that my wife and I started together you know makes more than I do, perhaps this is a plus to her but personally when I was younger, I often dreamed of meeting that sugar mama like yourself Farnoosh.

Farnoosh: Well, thanks.

Steve: So what’s the back story behind the book?

Farnoosh: The back story is that we know women are outstanding in the workforce, we know that women are making more in their relationships. I think we have seen the headlines by now. There have been some great books actually written about this trend, but as somebody who is living this reality, and as someone who works in the financial space, who see other relationships, struggle with money and particularly with this kind of new normal dynamic of she making more. I felt like we were not having the conversation of really how to make these relationships thrive. Certainly there are couples out there that do it effortlessly. We need to laugh, I know that was not easy to come.

Steve: That was very effortless.

Farnoosh: Yeah. When you look at the statistics Steve, you know. If you look at the divorce rates, if you look at the infidelity risks women who make more have a 50% higher chance of experiencing divorce, a higher chance of infidelity in their relationship. If she’s single and does well financially, she is less likely to get married. And she does more house work when she’s married and makes more. I mean there is all this, all these difficulties, all these complexities that are specific to women who are bread winners.

Steve: I would imagine that your target audience, a lot of them must be female entrepreneurs, right?

Farnoosh: Many are certainly, and I find that actually with female entrepreneurs who are running their households financially at some point the conversation in that relationship does turn to, may be my husband should join me in my business because it is the only we shall see each other.

Steve: Right, okay.

Farnoosh: And it’s one way to for them to kind of you know, it doesn’t work for everybody, but then I have interviewed a lot of female business owners who whether business has really taken off and in order for them to really maintain a relationship of intimacy but also like to have their schedule sync up is to have him kind of participate in the business somehow.

Steve: So here is an interesting fact and I’ve never revealed this to anyone thus far, but I run this class where I teach people how to start their own businesses and I usually wouldn’t announce this publically, but there has actually been a couple of divorces among the students, and I don’t know if it has anything to do with the business itself, but I would imagine that running a business since I run a business with my wife, we’ve actually had many fights. We never fight, but we have had fights over the business because we run it together. You know it’s just interesting that there is this other dynamic that you are talking about in your book can lead to a lot of conflict in a marriage as well, so? .

Farnoosh: It can I mean money, oh look I would like you to read the book and I don’t want to like you know bore your listeners ears to death with this.

Steve: Cool, I will definitely pick up the book when it comes out.

Farnoosh: Yeah.

Steve: So we’ve talked about a lot of different things, you know I usually like to let my interviews just kind of wander and go on different directions, but I think we’ve picked up a lot of good lessons today. From one thing, I think the most important lesson that I’ve learnt is that, while you are working you should be in the same process kind of establishing your own brand. And in my opinion for you Farnoosh, you’ve established such a large brand at this point that you are essentially recession proof. Let’s say you decide to go back in the work force, it doesn’t matter if anything, if you get laid off or whatever because you will be able to find other opportunities because of the name that you have established for yourself.

Farnoosh: Well thanks, I mean and I think that’s the goal for everybody right is to how to make yourself recession proof. No job is a guarantee, but if you have skills and other revenue generating projects from the side to fall back on, you are far more, you are going to be far more financially stable, far more confident too in yourself, in your abilities to get back out there and find something great. And so I encourage everybody to do that you know whether even if you are just selling craps on Etsy, you know not even think junks, I know that’s not an easy thing to do but you know something that is of minimal time but do it, you know because first Etsy could be a really fun outlet for you, but who knows what it could turn into.

Steve: So, just curious and you don’t necessarily have to answer this question, you are not working for anyone else at the moment is that correct?

Farnoosh: Oh well, I have clients; I mean I have I work with– I write for Money Magazine, I write for other online publications. For 3 years I was working with Yahoo doing videos as you mentioned in your intro, so I, you know I am in self, I am self incorporated, I do have these partnerships right, with other entities to bring financial advice to them and to their audiences.

Steve: Okay.

Farnoosh: So that’s how I run my business. I am sort of this, I guess financial media production company.

Steve: Okay.

Farnoosh: And whether your company needs a webinar, or a speech, or a video, or an article, I can provide that.

Steve: Okay. Great so if there is anyone out there who wants to get in contact with you, how can they find you?

Farnoosh: They can go to my website which is farnoosh.TV and you can learn about what I do, all the different work that I do with partnerships, and if you want to contact me directly email Farnoosh@farnoosh.tv. The new book is called ‘When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Bread Winning Women’. That site is when she makesmore.com and so we’re running a really fun promotion between now and the launch day on May 1st where if you order the book, pre-order the book, you will earn bunch of freebies and there are some really bonus prizes that we are giving out, a limited number but you could win. You know gift pads to taskscribeit, and Evernote and you could come to the Today Show with me, so there’s lots of fun stuff. So I encourage people to explore that site and see if they are interested to buy a book, and hopefully if you have any question about it, I just gave how you can reach me so hoping to hear from people.

Steve: Yeah, I will go ahead and link up actually all of your books and the show notes but I’ll particularly highlight that promotion that you’re doing for your latest book.

Farnoosh: Thank you, thank you so much.

Steve: So thanks a lot for taking the time to be on the podcast. It was a pleasure.

Farnoosh: I had so much fun Steve, thank you and hoping, wishing you continued success with your podcast you know it’s been extremely popular and hopefully greater things to come for you as well.

Steve: All right thanks a lot Farnoosh.

Farnoosh: Thanks Steve.

Steve: Isn’t Farnoosh cool? Now she’s established herself as an authority within a niche and as a result she gets television appearances on the Today Show very regularly. And she had the fore sight to pursue her passion and go launch a book before she got laid off, so she had a foundation to go out on her own. Now I’ve no doubt that her brand new book will do well. And speaking of which, I am going to be giving away three copies of her book to three lucky listeners who signed up for my podcast contest. So, not only do you get a chance to win a lifetime membership to my course and free consulting, but you could also win her book as well. For more information go to mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www. mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

009: Laura Roeder On The Right Way To Manage Social Media For Your Small Business

laura roeder

I’ve known Laura Roeder for quite some time and when it comes to social media marketing, she is my go to gal. In today’s podcast, Laura will teach you the proper way to run social media for your company and how she turned her virtual company into a social media powerhouse that makes over 7 figures per year.

Laura runs LKR Social Media where she sells various courses on how to become “business” famous. Check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • Laura’s most effective social media outlets
  • How Laura struggled early on with her business
  • How she turned things around to have customers come to her.
  • How she started out at ground zero and what she did to gain traction early on with her business.
  • How Laura grew her twitter following from nothing to tens of thousands of followers
  • The biggest mistake people are making when it comes to social media
  • How Laura makes new friends online
  • How to establish your social media accounts from ground zero.
  • How to get noticed on Twitter
  • How to use Facebook effectively

Websites Mentioned

Laura Recommends

Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less

Transcript

You are listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast episode number nine. Now before we begin I just wanted you to know that my podcast giveaway is ending this week, so make sure you sign up soon. Now I’m giving away a free life time membership to my ‘Create a Profitable Online Store’ course as well as free consulting. Now, my course is the most comprehensive course out there that teaches you how to make money within online store. And unlike other courses that are out there, I give live lectures, and I’m constantly adding new content to the course.

For more information about the giveaway go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch and while you are there be sure to sign up for my newsletter where I’ll teach you how I managed to make over 100 k in a single year with my own online store. Now, on to the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I am really happy to have Laura Roeder on the show. If you don’t know who Laura Roeder is, well you should. She runs ‘LKR Social Media’, where she creates training courses for small businesses that want to learn how to leverage social media and online marketing. So here’s what’s cool about Laura; she runs a virtual team, consisting of members that live all across the world and she has a really interesting story. She started out working in an Ad agency, got really fed up, and decided to start her own business where she absolutely struggled.

Now she started out as a web designer, having to scrap her way to get clients, she got fed up again, and decided to change her business model, and instead have the customers fight to come to her. O today her business earns 7 figures, is very flexible, scalable, and the best part is, she can work wherever she wants. And in fact she is so cool that she even got her husband to take on her last name instead of the other way around. I have no idea how she pulled that off. Anyways, I’ve known Laura for quite a while now, and it’s awesome for me to finally be able to interview her online. Welcome to the show Laura.

Laura: Thank you, thank you very much, that was a great intro except, he didn’t really change his name. He uses my name because his name is un-Google-able. So he sort of uses my name, which is good enough for me, I’m very happy with that.

Steve: Okay, but his online persona does take on your last name, right?

Laura:Yes, that is true.

Steve: Well played Laura. So can you give us the quick background story, and tell us how you make a living online.

Laura: Yes, so like you mentioned, my business LKR Social Media sells trainings to entrepreneurs about what I call ‘Creating Fame’ making yourself business famous using social media and online marketing. And it’s just something that I have built up, bootstrapped and slowly over time, moving from web design to social media consulting to now a totally scalable business.

Steve: So what’s cool about this is, you started out as a web designer, and you really had to scrap for your clients, right.

Laura: Yes, the story I always tell is, remembering standing in the snow in the street in Chicago. I used to live in Chicago where we have the most terrible winters, and I would have to wait for the bus to go meet with a client in person. To give them my proposal, and try to get them to sign up with me, and I was so broke I had to ride the bus, but I would try to wear my little heels and my little business outfits, which are not very snow storm friendly. So, it was not the most glamorous time of my life.

Steve: So how did you turn it around, and actually get people to start coming to you?

Laura: Well, I really saw that so much of what I was doing was starting from scratch. I think this is something a lot of business owners can identify with. I really had this big epiphany that no matter how hard I was working, every single client, every single prospect I was starting over. You know it didn’t matter how great a job I did convincing the last guy, I would meet someone new that I tried to pitch my services to, and I had to do the whole thing all over again. Which when you are selling a service can often take months and months, going through the proposal process, and trying to get them moving on the project if maybe they don’t care so much about getting it moving.

And I really started thinking about how can I make this smarter and more leverage, and even though I was a web designer, and I was talking to my clients a lot about online marketing, I really wasn’t doing of it for myself because I think I had this mental block like, I am a local business, and people have to meet me in person before they buy from me because that is how it always operated.

So I decided to quit doing web design and move to a new business model, and when I started doing social media, I really just drew a line in the sand like, ‘I’m not going to do this un-scalable marketing tactics, I’m going to find a better way.

I started going to networking events for my clients. And networking events are actually really great when you are starting out, especially when you are starting your first business, because you can meet people that will give you advice, and help you, and meet clients and stuff. But I was sick of going to them, and they are not scaled at all, so I am like, I am going to do a newsletter, I am going to do a blog, I am going to do a social media marketing, things that don’t involve me going out there meeting with people one on one.

Steve: So that’s interesting, you just mentioned that you don’t go to networking events, like conferences and that sort of thing or…

Laura: Well, I go to conferences now, so I’m talking about more when I started out I would do things like, do you know there is an organization called B&I, and there is one called ‘Bids Club’, where you meet at 6 a.m. every week. Any ideas that you find, the leads for other people in the group, like I am talking about really painful.

Steve: Right, yeah, that sounds very painful.

Laura: Yeah, painful networking. I like going to conferences that are fun and learning things, I like doing that.

Steve: Okay, so you are getting fed up trying to find clients. So let’s go back to the very beginning. So how did you start out building this business and making yourself well known?

Laura: So I started– so when I started the social media business, I did have a few hundred e-mail addresses that I’d collected over the past two years running my web design business. And these were people I mean, I had met all of these, all 200 of these people in person at networking events around Chicago. And I think that’s an important little tidbit is you have to start wherever you are with whatever you have. A lot to people feel so frustrated especially with social media.

It’s so frustrating tweeting when you have ten followers, you know even when you have a hundred followers, it’s really hard to get putting in the time and effort, feeling like no one is listening, but we all start with zero. We all start zero, then ten, then twenty, then a hundred, and you have to keep putting in the consistency that’s the only way that it can grow. So that’s what I did. Even though the people– the e-mail addresses I had, they had come to me for web design and not social media, I figured, you know what, close enough, they have businesses, they’ll probably be interested. So I started from there, I started a newsletter that was really high quality, and was at the time a little bit different than what a lot of people were doing with newsletters, and I asked them to spread the word and they did. People forwarded it around, people found it helpful, and that’s kind of how things started taking off.

Steve: So, was there any way that you kind of jump-started this list, or was it just totally slow and steady organic growth.

Laura:It was really more of steady organic growth. I actually I was just looking up at my kind of growth tracks for my social media accounts. I was looking at it for like marketing for myself, so I can put this little chart on the page showing how I’ve grown over the years, and I was actually kind of surprised looking at my Twitter account. I got on twitter in 2008, and when you look at it as line graph from 2008 till now, it’s actually a really, really steady upward line. It’s not like one day I had this huge spike and then it took off from there, and I think that’s good news. I think it’s really reassuring me, you don’t have to have some huge lucky break, obviously that helps if it happens to you, but for me it’s been, I’m so huge on consistency. You know beyond social media everyday, I blog every week, put a newsletter out every week, I’ve done that for five years and it’s paid off.

Steve: So you have your newsletter, so what did you– which social media avenue did you start using next?

Laura: It was Twitter, and at that time actually Facebook pages didn’t even exist yet. And so I got, I jumped on that bandwagon as soon as they were added like back when they were fan pages, and you became a fan and then you turned them into ‘likes’. So Twitter was the big think for me starting out. I started using Twitter just for fun and then after that I was kind of using it to connect with local businesses in Chicago, and then Los Angeles when I moved to L.A. So I started gathering I’d talk about small business, so it started to sort of gathering a following of entrepreneurs and people who are interested in small business on Twitter.

Steve: So you know, a lot of people actually are kind of confused by Twitter, so if you could just go into a little bit more depth in how you used Twitter to actually gather your following, that’ll be great.

Laura: So a few of them are kind of like basic things you need to know about Twitter. One, with any social media tool, you need to spend a lot of time interacting if you want to grow a following. A lot of people make the mistake of sending out their status updates, especially now that there are all these tools that make it really easy. You check out something like buffer where you put up your updates, send it out to all your networks at once.

Some people just think, okay, I have sent my updates and now I’m done and never even checking on Twitter itself and see what people are saying, and how people are replying, and replying to others. But for social media to be effective, especially when you are starting out, you really need to make friends on social media, you need to chat to people. I mean, you and I have been online friends for a few years now, I don’t really know…

Steve: I don’t remember actually exactly when I found you, but yeah, it’s been a while for sure.

Laura: Yeah and one of– I think I e-mailed you first. I think I just sent you ane-mail, and I was like, I like your website, I think that’s how we met.

Steve: I don’t know, maybe. I just remember exchanging guest posts at one point, but that was like many years ago actually.

Laura: Yeah, so like I do that all the time with people that I like their blog, I like their business or I like what they are up to. I’ve always done that, and I still do that. I just send them an e-mail and I’m like, “Hey, I think you are cool, hi.” And you know it’s nothing, sometimes they don’t respond, sometimes it develops into a friendship where we keep in touch every so often and hopefully get to meet in person at some point, but that’s really the simplest way to think about social media and that’s surely how it works. Just start chatting to people that you find interesting or people who seem interested in you and what you are up to, and making friends is how your audience starts growing.

Steve: So you have this– let’s say you have this brand new Twitter account, and you have zero followers, how would I go about going and making friends when I have like no clue whatsoever?

Laura: Yeah, so the most important thing first of is that you need to send people to your Twitter account. So some people are going to start following you within Twitter. And really the way that that happens, I mean the simplest way that it happens is the re-tweeting. When someone else re-tweets your tweet, your tweet goes to all of their followers. So re-tweets are just really cool, really powerful way to get in front of existing audiences. You know, someone can re-tweet you and they have 5000 followers, and those 5000 people have seen your tweet, awesome.

So on Twitter it builds up organically within twitter but also you need to send people to your Twitter account from your other sites and social media channels. So if you are on Facebook, if you are on You Tube, if you are on Pinterest, you need to be continuously linking back to your Twitter account on your website, on your e-mails, you need to link back to your Twitter account. And it sounds really simple without actually a huge place where a lot of people kind of slip up is, they link to their Twitter account, they are like, “I am on Twitter”, and they have one link somewhere, but it is way to buried. People aren’t going to try that hard to find you on Twitter. You need to make it really obvious and really easy for them.

Steve: So here is something I want to ask you. You know Twitter– everyone has this gigantic Twitter streams like it is hard for me to keep up with a whole bunch of people and often times these updates just fly by. So, in terms of the different social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, do you get a significant amount of traffic from Twitter, given the nature of the platform?

Laura: I personally get the most from Facebook, and second most from Twitter, it was different a few years ago, it used to be more from Twitter than Facebook. But of course it is going to depend on where you spend your time and energy. But I’m glad you brought that up because that’s a really important thing to understand about social media, because people get really frustrated about that. Especially for us on Facebook, there has been so much uproar about this. Stuff like, Facebook isn’t showing my updates to my fans, and it is just getting less and less. Like I have just been watching my own Facebook page, it is crazy how much it’s dropping lately. They are showing your updates to so many fewer people than they used to. But that really shouldn’t be a big shock, because it’s just the nature of social media that people pop on and they see what they see, and then they leave. You know on Twitter, it’s not like people see all of your tweets either. People sign on to Twitter for ten minutes, if you happen to send out an update while they are there, they are going to see it, if you don’t they are not going to see it.

And that is why you probably need to update more than you think you do, because you read all of your stuff, so this is something that’s always funny to me, like, you will always feel like you are promoting too much because you are like, I have talked about this podcast ten times over the last three days. Like I just keep relentlessly updating my social network sites. I’ve got my podcast, check out my podcast. But most of your followers you know, I read a stuff that, your Twitter follower will see on average ten percent of what you post to Twitter. That’s like a real active user, because they are not signed on at the right times. So to you it feels like you are being relentless, they might not even have heard of it once. So you need to post a lot more than you think you do, and post about the same things more than once.

Steve: Okay, so what you are basically trying to say is you don’t really have to be afraid that you are driving people away with the same updates over and over again because chances are that people are not even going to see a single one of your tweets.

Laura: Yes.

Steve: Okay, so that’s interesting. So how do you strike the balance between being kind of social and then promoting your own stuff?

Laura: You definitely have to do both, because no one’s really interested in following a Twitter account that’s just promos, unless they already have a really strong affinity for your brand. And we see that with big retailers, you know you sign for their Jay crew mailing list and they only send you promotions. There is no content in there for the most part, it’s coupons, it’s promotions, and if you are already a fan and you like their stuff, that works.

So, people do want to hear you promoting, and actually, I would guess that a lot of listeners to this podcast, everyone is afraid to you promote too much, most of the people that tend to check out my stuff actually are not promoting nearly enough, they are way too afraid of being too pushy. But, if someone has chosen to follow you on social media, clearly they are interested in your business. That’s if you are there talking about your business, that’s why they are following you on social.

So, I would say you don’t want to promote you know more than half of your updates, and even half of your updates being promotional will probably be a lot. But that’s also where the conversation comes in, the conversations that you are helping people back and forth probably isn’t going to be promotional. But to give you a number let’s say like 15% of your updates are going to be promotional.

Steve: How many updates do you put out a day on Twitter, on average?

Laura: This is something we are experimenting within my company; I know we’ve gone back and forth between doing like minimum three a day, and maximum six to eight a day.

Steve: So, you are actually not twitting a whole lot, right?

Laura: And then, I will also have replies to people, so those are the replies.

Steve: Okay yeah, those are the social ones right, yeah. Okay so yeah, I think that’s how I have mine set up. I still have a full time job, and I don’t have time to be on Twitter all the time, so, I have actually resorted to automation tools. Do you recommend automation tools in general?

Laura: Yes, it’s funny that you say, I have resorted to automation tools, because I know some people, oh no, you know don’t automate your social media. I think that’s such a bad advice for a business owner. I think it’s crazy to expect a business owner to have the time to check in on social media all day long. And there is just no reason for you to be there live at this random specific times, when there are tools like buffer, or like hootsuite that make it so easy to schedule an event. It’s still you writing it, you’re not– you don’t have to outsource the writing, it’s still going to sound natural, like you, it’s just you don’t have to be there sending, clicking send the moment you want it to go live.

Steve: That’s great advice, I often feel guilty that some robot is tweeting out my stuff. So, okay let’s go back to your business sorry. So you started out– you started gradually building up your Twitter following, and what would you say you focused on more? The e-mail list, or Twitter in the beginning or?

Laura: I’ve always focused on e-mail, which is probably a big secret to my success, I am definitely one of those people that’s a big believer in the e-mail list, and I had a newsletter for a few months before I even started with the blog, which now is very unusual. Then, it was sort of unusual too, but so I started with my e-mail newsletter, Twitter was really promoting the e-mail newsletter, and then I added on, Facebook, and blogging.

Steve: Okay, so what about Google, how does search come into play here?

Laura: Well search is sort of the foundation of it all I guess, I mean everything affects search, and Google has told us that social media will continue to affect search more and more. But even if Google didn’t consider what they call social signals, you know didn’t consider social media important in ranking your content, social media would still be incredibly important, because you are not going to share your content or get back links or anything like that, it’s going to be very hard to do that without social media. That’s how blog posts spread, you know that’s how most of us find blog posts to read, it’s something on our Twitter, our Facebook accounts. So it’s going to be very hard spreading your content out there so that anyone can link to it, and of course links help your search ranking, unless you are promoting it on social.

Steve: Okay, so let’s rank the social media sites now, in terms of what you perceive to be effective. So there is Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and G plus.

Laura: And maybe another one, Instagram, You Tube.

Steve: Instagram, LinkedIn also, Yeah.

Laura: How important are they in order?

Steve: Well, okay, so let’s rephrase the question a little bit. Let’s say I’m a brand new e-commerce store let’ say, what advice would you give to someone who wants to get active in social media?

Laura: So for e-commerce, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are your big ones. And depending on the type of items that you are selling, Pinterest might actually be the most important one for you right now. If you are selling anything that people might be penning, I know wedding items, I’m sure are huge on Pinterest. I mean, I am curious, is that a big traffic source for your…

Steve: Yes it is, yeah, yeah. Pinterest is actually– it’s not just traffic, it’s the conversions from Pinterest are much higher than the other platforms. And I am sure that’s what you probably would see with some of your e-commerce clients as well, just because a lot of times the picture is what sells the product.

Laura: Well, and Pinterest is so cool because I mean, I knew that I have a board on Pinterest on wish lists, that’s literally a list of products that I want to buy, you know that doesn’t really happen on other social media sites, and people are looking for things to buy, and keeping boards of things to buy.

Steve: Yeah, that’s totally true, and in fact I don’t get Pinterest. See if my wife is here interviewing you then she could chat with you about it, but my wife handles the Pinterest boards, and you know she has a ton of boards of stuff that she just likes, it’s addictive, I don’t get it, but for her it is very addictive.

Laura: Yeah, I am a huge Pinterest fan, myself just for fun. And we use it for my business, but it is not a huge traffic source for us. For a business like mine that’s selling trainings, it’s much less visual, and we could get creative, and we can drive more traffic there, but we definitely drive a lot more from Facebook and Twitter. But if you are in a retail business where people might pen the things that you sell, I would say focus on Pinterest first, honestly, because like you said those are going to be high converting customers.

And then for most businesses Facebook is the second biggest, and Facebook is going through a lot of changes right now, people are scared of building up a page on Facebook because the reach is declining. But I still think Facebook is very, very much worth the time of any entrepreneur, because Facebook has the mass that none of the other social networks have.

Steve: I’ve noticed my reach has fallen dramatically, and do you actually pay money to sponsor your post, because right now I just haven’t done that because it just pisses me off that they want to make me pay to actually have my stuff go out to the fans that I spend a lot of time trying to get.

Laura: Advertising on Facebook is a great idea, clicking sponsored you know boost this post, is an absolutely terrible idea. It’s like using Facebook advertising with none of the controls, none of the regular interface, none of the regular options on. It’s sort of bordering on sneaky, that they even put that in there, because it’s really crazy they are not giving any other targeting options. So, my company does spend money advertising on Facebook, we don’t boost posts in that way. Does that make sense?

Steve: Okay, so for your advertising for your business, do you just buy a traditional feed Ad and do you just send it to a landing page? Is that how you use it?

Laura: Yeah, we send people to landing pages to get their e-mail address, we usually use promoted posts because we found they convert better than a kind of side bar Ad, and they have some of the cool built-ins social stuff like people can see other people that are liking it, other people that are commenting, they can see if their friends like it. And people will share your Ads which is pretty amazing when you think about it, that you would pay to advertise something and people would just choose to share with their friends.

Steve: Yeah, I have started using that for our online store and my course, and it’s actually worked out really well. I think for me and you can confirm whether this has worked out for some of your clients, I found that promoting actual pieces of content with a sign up box works better than just sending them directly do some sort of product page.

Laura: Yeah, we almost never will send paid Facebook traffic right to a product page or sales page. We always do some sort of funnel, whether it’s like sending to a related blog post, that’s kind of related to what they are selling, getting them to opt from there, or sending them to a landing page where they get a free piece of content if they opt in.

Steve: Okay, okay so it sounds like I’m at least doing something that’s similar to what you recommend, which is good. Okay, so let’s talk about your business model. I know it’s evolved over the years. So you sell various courses like creating– is ‘creating fame’ your flagship one?

Laura: Yeah, Creating Fame, Social Brilliant, and Social Media Marketer.

Steve: So, I know that you used to sell these behind these gigantic launches where you get a whole bunch of people to sign up, and then you close off the course. Are you still signing it that way?

Laura: Yeah, we do a mix of both, so Creating Fame is sold that way, Social Brilliant and Social Media Marketer are available all year round.

Steve: okay and I remember at one point, not that long ago, you decided to do an ‘All in one monthly subscription’ is that also available?

Laura: That’s for social media marketers, yeah.

Steve: Okay, so can you just describe how all these different businesses models kind of mesh together?

Laura: Yeah, I’m just kind of realizing, I’m really am hitting every angle, now that we are talking about it. So yeah, Creating Fame is a higher priced program, that’s a $2000 program, and we’ve played with different models. In 2014 we’re opening now just once this year, so we’ll have you know a big exciting open and close.

And Social Brilliant is comparatively lower priced, that’s about $500, and that’s kind of smaller program that lays out a social media strategy for you, kind of how to, top to bottom, what to do every day on social, and that you can just go to my site and you can buy anytime. So that’s you know if you are not quite ready for Creating Fame maybe you’ll start with Social Brilliant.

And then Social Media Marketer is a collection of a lot of different social media trainings we’ve done over the years, that gets more specific than Social Brilliant. So Social Brilliant is kind of like the foundation, and Social Media Marketer is a bunch of in-depth classes about building your lists and selling on social media and connecting with influencers and all sorts of different things, and that we sell for $95 a month to get access to the library of courses.

Steve: So in determining which business model to use, subscription versus lump sum versus gigantic launch and close. Can you just go through some of the decision making processes that were involved in deciding what to do for each?

Laura: Yeah, I mean, I always say the model really it should depend on what best serves the content and the customer. So with Creating Fame, so that’s a longer program, that’s an eight week program, and because it is more in-depth, and we have groups that goes along with it, where you can ask questions and get advice. So with a program like that, it’s really ideal to have people going through in groups together. So you know that doesn’t mean it has to be only once a year, but it’s really nice to do some sort of open and close, so that people are like, okay, we are on week one, we are on week two, what is going on with you for week three. It’s just a bit easier to keep everyone together.

Steve: I see, okay.

Laura: So that works really well for that. And then Social Brilliant I mean that one does not have a group aspect, that one’s just training, you go through yourself, of course you can e-mail and ask us questions, but it doesn’t have a group that goes along with it, the way that it works with a program like Creating Fame does. And so that’s a good way for us to just have something available on our site all the time for people who are ready to dive in right now, and if they want help with their social media they can go there and then basically if they want more on-going help month to month they want to go in-depth and get more training they can do the subscription model.

Steve: Okay, and that is the Social Brilliance, sorry I got it?

Laura: Oh no, that means I inverted names. We are actually changing the name Social Media Marketer. Social Media Marketer is the subscription one, and Social Brilliant is the one-off.

Steve: Okay, and then the subscription one, so why was that one a subscription based? I’m just curious.

Laura: We actually used to have everything as different courses that you could buy one-off, that’s inside Social Media Marketer and we found that it was causing a lot of customer confusion and strife because they were like, you are the social media expert, how do I know which class I need? You know, like you pick for me, you tell me what to do.

And it was also from an internal perspective, just so you know of like, funnels, and opt-ins, and marketing sequences that we had was getting a little bit crazy, and a little bit convoluted, so we thought it would be easier for us, and easier for customers if we just put everything in one subscription.

Steve: Okay and everything is still downloadable, right?

Laura: Yeah.

Steve: So, do you ever have people that just log on for a month, grab everything and then just go?

Laura: Yeah, I don’t really worry about that, that’s just– I don’t want to punish customers who do want things to be downloadable, because I understand why. I often like to download materials instead of watching them online. So I don’t want to punish customers just because there are a few that will take everything, and also that’s how the model is. You know, you just can’t deny that that’s a part of it, that people are going to do that.

Steve: Yeah I mean, for my course the reason– so what I do is, I kind of promote the live office hours that I give, and the human interaction that you get with me, so that even if you were just to download all the materials and leave you will be missing out on a huge portion of the class.

Laura: Yeah, we have some features like that as well, but that hopefully you will find them compelling and they are going to keep you in month to month.

Steve: Okay, so a good question for you that I often get is, you know what mistakes do you find that most businesses are actually making with their social media efforts, and if there is anything that you could suggest that would improve the average business that would be great.

Laura: One of the biggest mistakes is not using scheduling and automation enough. This is something I have to plug the Social Brilliant course because it’s really in-depth on how to really treat your social media marketing like a piece of content that you need to create a content calendar for. Most people just do their social media super spritely one-off when they have something to say, they put something in, most of the time they can’t think of anything to say, so they don’t put anything in. And social media is a marketing channel that needs consistency like anything else.

And like we talked about it needs frequency too. If you want anyone to see your updates you are going to need to update a good amount, and I don’t want to be scary, it is better to update once a day than not at all. So it’s better to do something than nothing, and you need to start with what you can do. But if you sit down and put in a bunch of social updates at once, it’s actually not difficult to update. If you update three times a day, five days a week, that’s 15 updates a week, that’s about 60 updates a month for like four weeks a month. You can sit down and write 60 updates, especially if you batch them into categories, which is what we teach you how to do in Social Brilliant. So that’s a huge thing, it sounds a bit complicated when you are getting it set up, but it actually allows you to sit down and get your social media done like once a month, have it handled in one go and then you can just pop in and chat with people. And I promise you’ll see much better results from social if you do that.

Steve: So is that true with Facebook as well, you plan all of your updates kind of long in advance and just have them go out?

Laura: Yap, and you know you will put in live stuff too, so you can always add that on top of whatever you are doing. You know if you want to put a lot of updates about what you are doing, share photos from where you are, all that stuff is great, but you don’t want to have to rely on that, you don’t want to be like, oh men, I’m at the park with my kids, I better take a picture for my Facebook page, because I’ve got to update anything today, and I have to have something to come up with. You know, you want to have a nice foundation going out every day and then you can add in life stuff too.

Steve: That is really good advice, I have actually like I said remember when I said I resorted to automation tools, because I always felt guilty that I wasn’t posting things in real time versus what was happening to me at that exact moment. So it sounds like your method is so much more scalable. You get a piece of software you batch everything, and then you just let it go for the month correct, or a week or whatever?

Laura: Yes, it is a lot more scalable, and it is also much easier if you wanted to delegate or outsource some of your social media, it makes it a lot easier to do so with this method, because you can have someone write a bunch of updates for you and then you can review them.

So I know that it’s kind of scary, just like letting someone take over your social media accounts, and you do have to be really careful doing that, because that’s your business’s face to the world, you are doing customer service there when you are responding to people. So I would not recommend that you just hire like, a social media person and just say, ‘do my social media’ with no instruction or interaction. But if you have someone write sixty updates, you can go through them, you can tell them the ones you don’t like, you can make any little tweaks that you want, and then you can just load them up or have the person load them up.

Steve: So what piece of software do you use to do this?

Laura: We use buffer.

Steve: Okay, okay. So you literally schedule like sixty it is, at the beginning of the month and you just let– actually you probably have someone else do it now, is that…?

Laura: Yeah, I have someone at my company do it, and we generally do two weeks at a time.

Steve: Okay, that is very good advice. So, let’s talk about Facebook. So you mentioned that Facebook has now exceeded your Twitter, is that true even with the fact that they have kind of diminished the reach across Facebook fan pages?

Laura: It’s true for now, I won’t be surprised if Twitter surpasses Facebook’s traffic, but yeah even with the diminished rates right now, I’m still getting more from Facebook.

Steve: So is your strategy for Facebook different than Twitter versus LinkedIn, versus Pinterest, and that sort of thing.

Laura: It’s not deeply different, and I think you can always tweak for the different networks, the more time you really want to spend getting really optimized, but the truth is you really don’t really need to. I mean, I could probably attract more likes and more traffic from Facebook if I went in and had like a Facebook only strategy where we were doing let’s say a lot more images that people on Facebook tend to like. Obviously on Facebook you can do longer post that you can do on Twitter and those can perform quite well, but it is kind of a question of diminishing returns. You know if we were spending so many more hours a week on Facebook would we really get that much more traffic? Maybe at some point my company will do it as an experiment and see, because it might be true.

But I think that’s kind of a good lesson because a lot of people just won’t update something entirely because they are so stressed about getting it perfect, about being on there all the time. You know this is why you want to use automation so that you can just get it done, and then over time as you grow your business, and maybe you can hire more people to help you, then you can go and look at the specific networks. You know, what can we be doing on LinkedIn or on Pinterest to really grow our reach even more? But start out just building the foundation there.

Steve: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about you know what I really like about your business is you have employees from– they live in all different parts of the world. So what is it like managing a virtual team and how does it all come together?

Laura: I love it, I think it is really fun. I am in London right now and my team is across the US and one in South America. We actually recently just met up, we spent a week together in Portland, Oregon where we all hang out and worked together in person, which was really fun. And I got to meet three employees that I hadn’t met yet in person, that I’ve hired since we last met up. So, I love working from home, and I hire other people who love working from home which is not for everyone.

Steve: Yeah, see I’ve been actually torn between this, because if I was to quit my job, I would be just sitting at home alone in front of my computer and Skype I guess. So how many people are on your team now?

Laura: We have me and six other people and some interns.

Steve: So how do you manage the communication with that, do you guys just all get together on a Google hangout or?

Laura: We have a lot of different tools we use, if you go to my blog and you search for social media tools so we can link it in the podcast.

Steve: Yeah, I will link it in the show notes.

Laura: Yeah, you will find everything, but we use Google hang extensively, we do a team meeting every Monday where everyone’s on video on Google hangouts. We also do a phone meeting Tuesday through Friday, that’s like a five to ten meeting where everyone just reports what they are working on that day. We use Google docs very heavily for everything and we use confluence as our kind of wiki.

Steve: Was it always this large, did you always have six people or was it just kind of gradual.

Laura: No, it’s all bootstrapped, so it’s all super gradual.

Steve: okay, that is really cool. I mean, it’s really great to have seen your business grow over the years to the size it is now. So you are making like seven figures now from what I understand.

Laura: Yeah.

Steve: That is awesome. So, a couple of questions I always ask interviewers, do you have a particular business book that has greatly influenced the way you think about businesses?

Laura: Yes, I love to read business books actually. We recently added that as a little feature to my newsletter, but now we have the book that I’m reading right now, because I read an embarrassing amount of business books, and I thought other people might like to see what I’m reading.

Two that really standout in my mind; one of my favorites is ’Double Double’ by Cameron Herold. Cameron is someone who’s been a personal mentor to me, and he’s not that well known, and the book is not that well known, but that’s a shame, it really should be. And it has like just a lot of advice for a lot of different little things in business, everything from productivity and planning, organizing your time to public relations, and marketing, just a lot of really actionable advice. It’s called ‘Double Double’ because it’s like double your profits, and double your– something else, I don’t know, double your business.

Steve: I think of other things when I think of double double, but okay, go on.

Laura: Maybe the book needed a better name maybe that is why not so many people have read it. But that is really a favorite, I’ve learned a lot from him. And I learned a lot from him about managing a team, because I had a huge paradigm shift, something that Cameron taught me is that company culture is not just for Google sized companies. You know I never used to relate to that concept, as someone who works from home, as someone who has a small team. I always thought oh company culture means, you know, having a ping pong table, and having a happy hour, and having sushi lunch brought in. And you know we can’t do those things since we are a virtual company.

But my company has a very strong company culture, and even when you work for yourself and you have a few freelancers, you have a company culture too, and the more awesome that you are to work for, the more amazing the people are that you are going to be able to get to work for you. And that’s something I learned from that book.

Steve: I just noticed based on your passing Facebook post that it sounds like, it appears like you and your team have a great time, every time you guys get together, it just sounds like a really fun company to work for.

Laura: It is, it is really fun, like we all really like each other, there is no drama, there is no gulling in anyone, there is no craziness, it is a really, really great environment. And a great environment like that is the most attractive thing that you can give to a quality employee. More attractive than a giant paycheck even, so if you can create that kind of environment you can get some really, really great people on your team.

Steve: That’s awesome Laura. Actually you know what there is one question I forgot to ask you. Since you are so heavily involved in e-mail marketing earlier on, I just thought I would ask you a little bit about how you kind of structure your e-mails to get engagement. Do you structure your e-mails because a lot of us don’t have a whole lot of time, do you structure e-mails such that you just link back to existing content that you’ve written, or do you write your newsletters from complete scratch with all brand new content?

Laura: Our newsletters actually do have new content and unique content, but it’s very short content. And this is something I did different when I was first starting out. At the time and even now our newsletters were usually multiple long articles, if not just one really, really long article, and I knew that I never wrote those, and I never had time to read those.

So I thought okay for my newsletter I will just do one really actionable tip every week, it has to be something that you can actually do in ten minutes or so. So that really contains the scope, because they are short to write, they are obviously not too complicated. If it is just one little thing that you can do really quickly, and my little secret source for a newsletter and making that content is that, well we have unique content for the newsletter. It has not been unique every week for the past five years. We have basically about a year and a half’s worth of tips and we just re-cycle them.

Steve: Very interesting, okay so in a way that’s almost kind of automated as well.

Laura: Yeah, yeah so we put in like a little update about what I’m doing and where I’m travelling and stuff like that, but those are super quick and easy to write.

Steve: If only there was a tool which could contain a whole library of all of your social media things that you could refer to…

Laura: Steve’s dropping a hint here watch out follow me on Twitter watch out for what I’m coming out with.

Steve: I just dropped a hint about Laura’s product that’s coming out. So, anyways Laura I don’t want to take too much of your time, we’ve already been talking for forty minutes. Where can people find you and feel free to talk about all the courses that you offer online, I will go ahead and link these up in the show notes, but it’ll be great to hear from you what’s the difference between all these courses that you offer are.

Laura: We ended up talking about that a lot during the show actually so I won’t bore people with that again, but you can go to my website and you can check on my courses, and you can find me on Twitter as LKR, and face book LKR Social Media.

Steve: Okay, it sounds good. Well thanks a lot for joining me on the show Laura.

Laura: Thank you so much for having me, it was really fun.

Steve: All right, take care.

Laura: Bye.

Steve: Laura and I have known each other for quite a while now, and it’s always great to catch up. Her social media business has truly blown up since I’ve known her, and she is a total rock star in this department. Now one thing in particular that I got out of this episode is that I really need to be automating my social media efforts much more. Now I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to tweet or post that much, but after hearing Laura say that only 10% of your fans actually get any individual social media post, I have kind of had a change of heart. Now be sure to check out the show notes for this episode at mywifequitherjob.com/episode9. And don’t forget to sign up for my podcast contest where I’m giving away a lifetime membership to my profitable online store class and free consulting. For more information go to my mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

008: Jim Wang On How To Create A Popular Blog And Sell It For Millions

jim wang

Today, I’m thrilled to have my good friend Jim Wang on the show. For all of you who don’t know who he is, Jim started one of the most popular personal finance blogs at Bargaineering.com which he later sold for over 3 million dollars.

In this episode, he shares his wisdom on what it takes to create a popular website in this day and age. If you want to learn more about Jim, you can find him at Microblogger.com where he also runs an incredible podcast as well. Go check it out!

What You’ll Learn

  • Jim’s advice on how to start a popular blog today.
  • How Jim established traffic to his site early on
  • Why you need to be different
  • How Jim made his blog stand out in the early days
  • How to establish a connection with your readers
  • Jim system of pleasing regular readers while making money off of search traffic
  • How Jim’s SEO strategy has evolved over time
  • What page Jim links to for guest posts today
  • How Jim ranks the different traffic sources
  • The best way to network with other bloggers

Jim’s Sites

Jim Recommends

Transcript

You are listening to mywifequitherjob podcast episode number eight. Now before we begin, I just wanted to remind you that my podcast giveaway is still going on, in fact there aren’t that many entrants, so your chances of winning are actually quite high.

Now I am giving away a lifetime membership to my ‘Create a Profitable Online Store’ course as well as free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch, and while you are on my site you should also sign up for my free newsletter, where I will send you my free six day mini course on how to start an online store of your own. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more info. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle. You can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: All right, welcome to mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I have a very special guest on the show, Jim Wang. Now, Jim is also someone that I met at the financial blogging conference the first year that I went. And to be honest with you, had I known who he was at the time, I might have been a little bit more shy when I met and approached him, but you know, Jim is already a rock star online businessman. But it turns out that when it comes to think-on; Jim is actually somewhat of a celebrity, because he started one of the most popular personal finance blogs on the internet at bargaineering.com, which he later sold for many millions of dollars.

Anyways you know, we met in the elevator actually on the way up to one of the think-on mixers, you know, he was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, and then you know passing behind me…

Jim: Wow, wow, hold on, hold on. I think I was in a full suit, three piece suit; I was looking like an online businessman rock star celebrity.

Steve: Hey, you are not supposed to interrupt the intro man, all right?

Jim: I’m a rock– I’m a diva; I am allowed to do whatever I want, right?

Steve: That’s true, but this isn’t think-on anymore, it’s back to reality.

Jim: Sorry, all right.

Steve: Anyways, the person behind me goes, “Oh my God, that’s Jim Wang.” And I was like, “Wow okay, this guy must be pretty popular.” But it turns out there is a reason why Jim is so popular, it’s because he knows his stuff, he executes well and at any given point in time he’s actually got a bunch of projects going on. And what I really like about Jim is that he tells it like it is, so welcome to the show Jim.

Jim: Thank you, thank you; I also interrupt intros as well multi times.

Steve: Apparently, you took me by surprise.

Jim: I just wanted to see what, you know, how you would react.

Steve: Yes, so for those outside of think-on who actually don’t know who you are, can you just give us a quick background story and tell us about how bargaineering got started and how you came up with the idea, and what were some of the motivations for starting it?

Jim: Sure, so I started working in the defense industry. I was in software development. This was back in– I started in 2003. And ss you can probably imagine in defense, this is a little bit of downtime from time to time. And you know I would surf the internet, you know, you start a new job, they give the whole big booklet of, you know, the employee manual and whatever, and so you don’t really have that much work to do yet.

So I was surfing the internet, I found all these like deal sites, you know, ‘Ben’s bargains’, ‘Fat Wallet’, all these great sites where they’d show you, you know, this stuff’s on sale, get it, whatever.

So I was like, ‘I can do that’, so I tried to do it, and me and a friend were going to start off the site and it was called ‘Ease of Travel’. It was going to be about travel deals and all that good stuff. It never really got off the ground, but it sort of gave me the taste of ‘I can do this, I can make money on the internet somehow’, I’ll figure it out, plus it’s something fun to do on the side.

Eventually that becomes ‘bargaineering’, so ‘engineering baragains’, It’s a kind of– I thought it was a clever name. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that as I’m learning about personal finance and money, I started to shop for one K, Roth, all that good fun stuff that they never teach you in school. My parents introduced it to me a little bit, but you know, when you learn it for the first time yourself, it helps to put in your own words, so that’s what I wanted to do. Created a blog, ‘bargaineering’ talked about personal finance. It was back then in 2004, 2005, there were very few people doing it, there were maybe ten, twenty of us max, and we all became friends, you know, as you do in blogging. You network with people, you talk with them, and soon the niche grows, grows, and grows till you have events like think-on where last year there were like 500 people there, this year there might be 1000 people there. And the best part is everyone’s like a regular person, like you connect on a personal level, and it’s not like business and business and stuff like that. So that’s sort of how I got started.

Steve: So let me get this straight, so you got this job out of college, I would imagine at a government facility, and the first thing you did was start surfing the web and start finding…

Jim: It was a defense contractor, it’s Northup Grumman

Steve: Oh

Jim: So I wasn’t in a secure area, not yet, that wouldn’t add up.

Steve: And then you just decided right away that you wanted to double in the online arena, kind of right away?

Jim: Yeah, there was a lot of downtime, I was doing a lot of radar development, writing software, and so what happened unlike a typical development environment where you would write code and you could build and test it there, we actually had the goal to a development bench that was connected to a radar system that was pointed at BWY, so we had real data. You have some like fake data that you can use too, but in the time that you have to wait, you have to schedule your bench time, so during that time nothing to do. Like our code was written, like we have hours and so we could do like a test flight or go on the bench and so I surfed the internet.

Steve: Nice, I wish I had more time to do that at work. So let’s go back, you know, ‘ease of travel’ that was your first idea, so what didn’t work about it, like you said you kind of mufted over, so what were some of the hurdles that you encountered early on with that?

Jim: The biggest hurdle was that, it was going to be me and another guy partnering up. You know I was really that serious, I mean I was serious about doing it, but I didn’t approach as it was a business, I approached it as a hobby right, and so what happened was, he was going to develop the end where we did like the search.

We were going to build like a Kayak, and this is 2004 where Kayak existed, or it was so new that no one– like back then all the travels sites were like ‘expedia’ right now. You go in you tell it a specific time and it does an update, there was no one used ajax, it was not pretty, it was not useful, you know, it is not like ‘hit monk’ today, where you put in something and it updates in real time.We wanted to build that.

I wasn’t going to be in charge of the building part, he was, and it just sort of never got off the ground. So big chance is that we never built the product. During that time in trying to figure it out, I thought okay well, in the meanwhile while he’s building the software, I’m going to build something to manage, you know, finding hot deals and updating it and all that. Eventually that was put in place, migrated to ‘bargaineering.com’ and then I put the blog on top of it. Blog did well, the hot deal section just sort of fell off.

Steve: So, was WordPress around back then?

Jim: Yes, it had just started.

Steve: Okay, and so was that the platform that ‘bargaineering’ was on?

Jim: Yes, it was WordPress.

Steve: So how much did you invest in starting ‘bargaineering’?

Jim: Domain was like $8, posting was probably like $50 a year, something like that, it cost nothing.

Steve: Yes, so very little, right?

Jim: Oh, very, very little.

Steve: Yeah, so, I mean, it’s like that was an online store too. We invested $630, but that was mainly becausewe needed to get inventory. If it was just a pure site I think it would have been not it, that’s inexpensive as well.

Jim: The biggest expense is your time, your investment is that time that you go in and try to figure out how to make it work.

Steve: Yeah, and so you had some time and work as well as after work in order to work on this, right?

Jim: Yeah, so my wife and I, well, girlfriend at the time were living apart, and she was in New Jersey, and so we weren’t seeing each other during the weekdays, so at night I really had nothing to do. So I would surf the internet, watch TV, built the site then.

Steve: One of the biggest problems when people blog is they don’t really have a strategy to get traffic, so I know when I first started my blog, I launched and I wasn’t really sure what to do, and so this was a long time ago, but was kind of your early strategy to obtain traffic.

Jim: In the beginning– okay, so here is the nice thing about starting a blog and not really considering it a business is that, I didn’t really have a real strategy. But what I ended up doing haphazardly was interacting with other bloggers, leave comments, talk to them, and actually the comments did well because back then, you know, you’d have a post, there were only a handful of blogs, so everyone reading a blog was going to read one of these ten.

And then they were probably going to read the comments, the comments are going to be more engaging, people are going to reply, and then that’s how you build relationships. So initially we just went through each other’s blogs. I started guest posting, sort of sharing each other’s readerships, comments, and that was essentially the start, right? Because you get the readers, and then you get some links and then search and traffic would eventually start trickling in, because you know you have your post would be very specific about a very specific topic, and you are going after the long tail, and you will be okay if you only got like one or two visits a day.

You weren’t treating it as a business; you didn’t feel bad that you weren’t doing, you know, 100 or 1000 visitors a day. It was just a fun little hobby, and so you could slowly grow your traffic organically, without feeling like you are failing or not growing fast enough.

Steve: So in a way you kind of work together with some of the other bloggers, kind of to help bolster each other, early on?

Jim: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff like round-ups, and carnivals were really probably the back then, when there were fewer sites.

Steve: And so who were you kind of working with, any big names that you care to mention?

Jim: It was like ‘Consumers and Commentary’, ‘Five Cent Nickel’, ‘Garret Slowly’, ‘Wise Bread’, all the sites that are big today were usually from the beginning, there were a bunch other like, ‘Free Money Finance’.

Steve: Yeah, I know all those guys actually; actually they all go to think-on for the most part.

Jim: Yeah, yap.

Steve: Okay, so that’s really cool. It’s funny to see how blogging has evolved a little bit, that strategy of just commenting other people’s blogs because there are so many of them, that actually probably isn’t as effective today, would you say or…

Jim: It really depends, like you could still be effective if you come in early in the life of a post, like if it goes up and you are like one of the first five, or first ten or whatever. It’s one there like hundreds or there are fifty and you are sort of near the end. People, they get tired of reading comments, so maybe they will read the first few, see if there is anything interesting, if there isn’t some sort of discussion going on then they don’t read the rest.

So I find it still effective, but you have to find the sites that are popular, and either comment early or reply to a comment early, just start a discussion that engages people and pulls them in. It’s not just as simple as it used to be.

Steve: Okay, so along those same lines, you know, if you were to just start all over, let’s say you want to start ‘bargaineering’ all over again, how would you get that initial boost of traffic early on, would you still use that commenting strategy, carnivals and that sort of thing?

Jim: I would probably try to find a way to differentiate myself, and then network with the bigger blogs in my niche, and outside of it to get guest posts, just sort of show case my expertise in whatever it is. So it is a little harder with ‘bargaineering’ because I positioned it as a personal finance site for people that are young professionals, because I was at the time 23-24, no kids, buy my first house, sort of the typical young professional issues.

Nowadays I don’t think that that’s enough of a differentiator because there are a ton of people that are in that position, so you’ve got to find a differentiator, and then leverage that to go to publish sites and provide content that their readers are going to enjoy, and that they can’t get from the original blogger themselves.

Steve: Yeah interesting, you know, I am finding that, that’s a really important aspect of just opening e-commerce stores as well, or just any website for that matter, since there are just so many things out there you’ve got to stand out in some way these days.

Jim: Like you wouldn’t go and try to open up a bookstore e-commerce site, right? Like a random books, because there is Amazon.

Steve: Yeah, you know, a lot of people actually want to launch T-shirt shops, and that sort of thing, and those types of goods are just very generic, unless you really have something unique to offer.

Jim: Yeah, you have to be different so that people– it’s, Seth Gwen said this years and years and years ago way before it was popular, the idea of a purple cow, you have to be remarkable, you have to be worthy of someone making a remark. And a purple cow is surprising, a brown cow, a white and black cow; they are just, it’s a cow, who cares. I mean, no disrespect to the cow itself, but it is not interesting.

Steve: Yeah absolutely, so you know, ‘bargaineering’ early on, so you are– I actually went back and looked at some of the archives and I saw that you put a lot of personality in your post, so you did a lot of videos, it looks like you did a lot of very personal posts, and I think in one case you were featured in a newspaper right for posting your networth or your expenditures.

Jim: Yeah.

Steve: So I would imagine back then that was kind of unheard of, right?

Jim: Yeah, that was the New York Times in September which was maybe around seven or eight months after I started the site. It was uncommon, it was certainly uncommon like socially and the greater like world, it was not as uncommon with personal finance sites online then, because that was just something that people did, they put their goals in their side bar, some people talked about their net worth, some people went as far as to talk about their budgets every month. I mean, budgets are sexy chain money; he still talks about his net worth today, that’s 2014. So back then, it was different enough that the New York Times wanted to call me and talk to me about how I shared I spent X dollars on clothing, or how much on food, because the whole idea of talking about money was taboo.

And to go back to your earlier point of putting more personality into it, people don’t follow websites necessarily, they follow people. In order to have a connection with your readers, you have to share something about yourself that they can connect to. Like no one looks up back then, no one looked at ‘bargaineering’ and said, “I connect with the guy in the hard hat” – that is the logo.

Steve: I love that logo by the way.

Jim: And people would tell me like, “I love reading what you wrote”, “I love hearing your story”, they didn’t say, “I love reading ‘bargaineering’’ or the story on bargaineering, “I loved reading what you said about this, your insight on this. And that was because I put a lot of my personality into it, and that was something that I learned over time.

Some of the initial posts were a lot of like analysis, like the second, third or fourth post was about like photography. It was about online printing sites, because that is what I was researching at the time. And it’s analytical, people just don’t really connect with that, they may find it valuable, but it doesn’t elicit emotional response.

Now when I share my story about buying a house, and how anxious I was, and how nervous I was when I applied for a loan and tried to get a pre-approval note and all these whatever, people are like, “I get it, because I did that too, I felt the same way. I feel like we are on this journey together and I understand what Jim’s going through, it is helping me a little bit but also I’m part of this community like this. All the emotion sort of builds the loyalty and the following but you just can’t with like analytical posts and you know other strategies you might try.

Steve: That’s actually a very good point; I have actually noticed that on my own blog. Whenever I get a little bit more technical, and talk you know give a little bit more in-depth how-to’s, those posts tend not to do very well, than when I just kind of talk about some of the struggles that I have been facing with my business. So I totally see your point in kind of just humanizing your blogs, so to speak.

Jim: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s tricky because some of the things like you know, it really all depends on what metrics you are looking at. People looking at analytical posts are not going to leave as many comments, because chances are you are going to cover a lot of the things that they may comment about. They probably will only say something if you did something wrong. Which is also good. Alternatively like if you look at traffic wise, you may find that your more analytical post do better because it provides a lot of information, it just doesn’t get the same level of engagement.

So I always think of my blog post as having multiple roles. If I’m writing a– every Friday I would do a ‘your take world’ to elicit responses by asking a very specific question. I would generally try to find questions that I thought would elicit emotional responses and get people engaged. Anything about taxes, politics, to where they are going on vacation, stuff like that, people would engage with that a lot.

They won’t get a tremendous amount of traffic, but it was community building, people could share, we could interact, and it is just something fun to talk about after a week of writing about personal finance. Alternatively I would write something that was very referensive, very I felt was useful, something like tax brackets.You know the IRS and look up the tax brackets, but if you want to read about it like a human being could understand it, then you would read a post on bargaineering because it would explain in a way, people don’t really comment that much on it, because, I mean, what are you going to say about tax brackets, but it is still useful for other reasons.

There would be tools like calculators, again people are not going to comment on it, but you can tell that people will find it useful by seeing how many times they click on the calculate button, right. So each of these have different roles and purposes, and so you can’t use the same metrics on each to evaluate how good it did.

Steve: Yes, let’s talk about one metric that probably all the listeners are concerned about, and that’s money. So, which of these posts that you were just talking about actually generated you the most income? Actually let’s back up a bit and just talk about how bargaineering makes money in the first place.

Jim: Sure, so most of the money that bargaineering made was from affiliate deals. Affiliate deals are where you know I put an offer on the site, someone clicks on it, they apply for a credit card, a bank credit score or whatever. They perform some sort of action that the advertiser wants, and that was probably 60, 70% of the income. The rest of it came from direct advertising, companies paying me to put a banner on the site, or from AdSense, so they would, Cost-Per-Click. They would click on an Ad and I get paid that way.

Steve: Okay, so it would sound like a lot of those more personal posts would not generate you that much money, would that be accurate?

Jim: No they wouldn’t.

Steve: Okay, so how did you strike a balance then I guess, coz obviously making money was probably one of your goals as well with this site.

Jim: Yeah, I mean that was the number one goal, because it is a business and you know to the extent that the other, there were other goals, like learning personal finance, reading and writing and being able to support myself so that I could continue to read and write about it. That was important, but ultimate they all tie back into making money.

In terms of finding balance I felt like– so how I approached the site was, we had two distinct groups. We had people that were sort of like the community, they would read every day or every other day, and they would leave comments. This group was relatively small maybe about 20% of the recurring traffic or a day’s traffic. I wanted to make sure that I took care of them, and that we talked about interesting things and didn’t just always inundate them with traffic.

However, on the flip side the remaining 70%, 60% which would be search engine traffic, referrals and things like that, those are not the loyal following. I wanted my advertising, whatever to sort of earn money from them. So in terms of writing posts, I think I tried to keep it to only one affiliate sort of motivated post a week, and I was very intentional on how I did that, and there were many cases where I was able to do both like for example, one post I did well is ‘What’s a good credit score, right? It’s very informative, explains how the credit work, it’s very in-depth. It also did well at search and saw a droll of people to sign up for free credit scores on like myFico or whatever else I forget it, you know, I forget it now.

Steve: And you’d get a cut when someone asks for their credit, okay.

Jim: Yeah, so they would sign up, they would put in their credit card they’d sign up for some trial period, myFico is one of the more legitimate ones because you could cancel it all online and you get paid a commission.

Steve: So would say then that most of the affiliate conversions that you made were from search as opposed to your regular readers?

Jim: Yes, I would. I don’t remember the numbers today, but I would say the vast majority came from, search.

Steve: I see.

Jim: I made a concerted effort to have the experience of the site be different for people that were regular readers. I gave them the opportunity to register and sign in, and by doing so – well there was a point system which we can talk about if you want, butwe also heard like, I strip the site of Ads whenever a logged in user was using it. So I took the side bars off for AdSense, because I knew that, I’d looked up the numbers, someone that was a returning user almost never clicked on a side bar Ad. It was always people from search, a first time visitor.

So I said, okay, you signed in, you tell me that you want to identify yourself as a regular reader, I give you a point system where you can bid on things like books, and then I will also take Ads off. So it won’t annoy you, and you can find the content more easily, it’s a better layout, everything is better.

Steve: That is ingenious, I actually don’t know of anyone else who’s done that. So what are some of the perks that you got as member besides not having the Ads, you talked about the point system, how did that work?

Jim: So, every time you logged in each day you got a point, everytime you left a comment you got a point, and there was an auction. It tied into this auction system where you could win books. So publishers would send me books to review and then afterwards I’d have all these books, why don’t I just mail them back to our readers, so they would bid on books. There was also like ING referrals, well I guess now ‘Capital One 360’.

Also to these referrals systems where, let’s say I refer you to that bank, you get ten bucks I get five bucks however we sell. I would actually give readers the opportunity to send me their links and then they would go through. We would go through like 100 referral links a month.

Steve: Wow!

Jim: Yeah, and people were like– that surprisingly put money in people’s pockets, built up loyalty like crazy. I must have gone through like 2000 referrals, it was kind of a pain to manage, but in the end it all worked out for the best.

Steve: So let me just summarize what you just said, so you allowed your readers to post their own affiliate links essentially for like ING, and so one of your– when you actually got traffic you’ll send someone else clicked on that link, your reader would actually get the affiliate commission, is that how it worked?

Jim: Yeah, it wasn’t affiliate commissions, it was just a referral.

Steve: Referral, okay.

Jim: So like, you as a customer of ‘Capital One 360’ can refer up to like fifty people. So I had some pages that ranked well for those terms and so I used up my referrals, I used up all my friends referrals, so I was like, “Oh this is a good thing I could do.”

Steve: So, you are actually putting money into your readers pockets in a way, through this option, okay.

Jim: Yes.

Steve: So how many users, registered users did you actually have for ‘bargaineering’?

Jim: I think it was close to a thousand.

Steve: Wow.

Jim: The active users was probably close to like a couple of hundred, as is always the case with most membership things, I think.

Steve: I see, and so these people would naturally just come back and they be incentivized to comment and just participate, right?

Jim: Yeah, yap. I did the math and I think the average comments for a post was probably around eight before we implemented the system. I say we– before I implemented the system, and it was probably around twelve. It was a 50%, 40 – 50% increase in comments.

Steve: So actually how do you– is there a plugin that you would recommend for other bloggers to do this with their blogs.

Jim: The Queue points.

Steve: Queue points, okay.

Jim: Queue points is what I use, and then I use, I think it is called WP auctions for the auction system and I had to– I had to go and edit the plugins so that they work together. This WP auctions is just an auction plugin, that you can put on your site and people can bid money on things. And so I had to tie it into the user system and look at points to make sure people didn’t bid more points than they had.

Steve: So a lot of your you know monitory strategy involved getting search visitors, so is there anything special that you did with your site to actually increase your visibility in search?

Jim: I did all the typical on page stuff, make sure you title tags are good, your Meta data is good, inter-linked well, made sure– most of the gains came from off page stuff, writing guest post on other people’s sites and driving traffic. I’m not sure how effective that would be today. I think my, my approach today is different, and it is different because of the various Google algorithmic changes, back links and things like that. And now it’s just to drive people to the site, get them to sign up for the e-mail list and then talk to them via e-mail. And so it is a bit of a tweak to the approach.

Steve: Did you use this e-mail strategy back in bargaineering, or…

Jim: I built an e-mail list by having a pop-up and taking an old post that was doing well, ‘100 Money Saving Tips’ and offering as a giveaway incentive, and you know, I built the list. I just didn’t do anything with it, coz it was around the time that I stopped being as motivated with the site, to dance around that issue. But I just didn’t have a chance to investigate how to be more effective with e-mail.

It kind of stinks because, when I, when I stopped looking at it, it was probably around 16, 17,000 e-mail subscribers, all driven off this one little light box pop-up on Aweber. So kind of wish what I could have done with that.

Steve: So you mention that your strategy for search has kind of evolved. By the way Jim’s blog is called microblogger.com. It’s kind of this brand new site that he started to teach other bloggers how to get started with their own blogs.

So on microblogger, so how are you taking a different strategy in terms of search engine optimization as you did from bargaineering, so how has it evolved over time.

Jim: I’ve actually not really focused on Search Engine Optimization. I have tried more initially to try to figure out how to be more effective on social media, just because it’s more interesting to me, and searche is so much in flux that I don’t think my previous strategies would be as effective. And so now when I write guest posts, I have links back to the site, but they are all to microblogger.com/newsletter which is a landing page that entices people to sign up for the newsletter. So it is less links to individual posts.

So for example, five years ago, I’d write a post, and I would point them to a post for tax brackets, with the link ‘tax brackets’.And then that did well in search, and it would drive more search traffic, and I’ll be, “Ah, I will do more guest posts.” And they were super targeted very specific and now it is, I think, that would be flagged as manipulative. Even though I wasn’t paying anything for the post, these were all free other than my effort, but it’s considered manipulative, and the fact that I didn’t pay is irrelevant.

Steve: Interesting, so now you are actually trying to drive all traffic from these guest posts to a landing page where you collect e-mail addresses?

Jim: Correct.

Steve: As opposed to driving, trying to drive search traffic to that page?

Jim: Yap.

Steve: Interesting, and that’s just a function of the fact that search is kind of evolving and you are worried about getting penalized, or…

Jim: I just feel that’s a more effective thing. So the problem with search is that, you know, you could, if you look at ‘bargaineering’ today, it is not as popular in terms of traffic as it was three years ago. It avoided penguin and panda, it avoided most of the damage that a lot of personal finance sites saw from the algorithmic changes, but it got caught up in the last one, and so it maybe lost like 20 or 30 percent of the traffic, all of it to search.

And it just– it used to be much easier to control, and so now I just think, well, if I want something to control it’s an e-mail list, right. There are still issues with e-mail, like there is deliverability and people opening it and things like that, but it’s a lot more within your control than search, and that is why I have emphasized it.

Steve: Interesting, so if you are building links to the same landing page, you are not really concerned if that page gets penalized for example.

Jim: Yeah, it doesn’t get any search traffic right now.

Steve: Okay, okay interesting.

Jim: But it also means like I only want to go and write posts on sites that have traffic, and I don’t care if it is a no follow link, I don’t care, as long as it is a link in there, when someone clicks on it they make it to the landing page then I’m happy.

Steve: In a way that’s actually what Google wants you to do these days, right? Get links for the sake of exposure as opposed to ranking in search.

Jim: Yeah, what stinks is that, I mean, you know, you don’t want to behave differently in your business simply because a third party has their impressions like the reason why Google has all these talks about all this is like fear and certain doubt about algorithm changes and back links, and what’s manipulative and what isn’t, is that they don’t have an algorithmic way to detect it.

So right now they are just painting with a broad brush and you have a lot of– we see it a lot in personal finance these blogs just get decimated. They haven’t done anything truly manipulative like I have seen in other industries. Like they aren’t building tons of links on a massive scale that super directed that’s clearly paid for or whatever, but you get caught up in it. The best way to avoid it, is not to play in that world, at least now until things sort of shake out, and build another asset that you know for certain will have value and that you can control. And that’s the e-mail list.

Steve: That’s very good advice. So that’s actually a different approach than I have been taking with my online store, because we kind of got caught up in some of the search algorithm changes last year as well. So we’ve been completely transitioning over to building our list, and building up our social media presence as well. So it sounds like our strategies are kind in line with what I have been seeing evolving last couple of years at least.

Jim: Yeah definitely, I think that’s smart, I mean, you don’t want to ignore search, but you only have a limited amount of time each day, and so if there is an opportunity to your left in e-mail then you should try to focus and get as much of that as you can, and the search stuff like it’s still there you can still a little bit, you can do a little bit for it. I mean, the two are not mutually exclusive, and so you focus on the one with the greatest amount of opportunity.

Steve: Yeah definitely, that is definitely good advice. And speaking of advice, since you’ve kind of gone through this all before and you are trying to start another blog from scratch, what sort of advice would you give to some of the new people who are starting online businesses. To kind of give them that extra little boost to make them successful.

Jim: I think what’s been really important, and when I think about, you know, starting microblogger and when I started bargaineering, or any of my efforts, it’s important to network with people and talk with other entrepreneurs, other people in your industry, other people outside of your industry, because that support network is absolutely crucial.

And what’s funny is because, as I have talked to more and more entrepreneurs and learned sort of – not their secrets – but like things that they themselves credit for their success, often times it’s something they learned talking to someone else that they didn’t know. Like, Steve, we talk often, and we share ideas back and forth, and in the sharing of those ideas we have other ideas right there, we probably wouldn’t have thought of if we were all stuck in our own little offices thinking about our own problems all the time.

And I feel that if you want to succeed you have to get out there, network with people, you have to talk with people that you don’t necessarily feel like at this moment will help you in your business or otherwise, but if they can be there for emotional support or just someone to talk to then there is value there.

I know that in creating bargaineering, I talked a lot with ‘Five Cent Nickel’, fivecentnickel.com, and there were ideas back and forth that I think without him and me talking as often as we did, we probably wouldn’t have built our sites to the sizes that they were.

Steve: So actually, how do you meet people outside of going to conferences?

Jim: Well, that will take research, I think that social media, especially Twitter and Facebook are great for interacting with other entrepreneurs, but you could start very simply. Go on Google, search for other blogs in your niche. Eventually you’ll start seeing hallmarks of larger and larger communities that maybe you didn’t know existed before, right.

So for example, I am not a food blogger. I want to learn, I start to search for food bloggers. I talk to Lindsay and Bjork of ‘Pinch of Yum’. I find out that they have an entire membership site just for food bloggers, to teach them how to do it and whatever. I’m not going to create a food blog, but if I were, and I was just looking around at other food bloggers to talk to, and I saw their membership site, and I was serious about it and I thought that it had value for me, maybe I’d join.

That already is a built-in network of people that you can now become friends with, interact with. If it works out great, if it doesn’t cancel your membership. You could find forums that people talk in, Facebook groups, all these things. Like just go out and meet people.

Steve: Yeah, that is very good advice, for me at least, I find it very difficult to find the time to actually go out on these forums and become a regular. So, for me at least, I find that going to conferences works well for me because I dedicate a very focused four days to just go out and meet as many people as I can.

Jim: Yeah, that is– going to conferences is probably the best thing you can do for the shortest period of time in order to build connections or build relationships.

Steve: All right so, I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so I thought we’d wrap things up a little bit. Do you have a favorite business book or some sort of piece of writing, a blog that has really influenced you in any way to start your online business?

Jim: That is a good question. It’s funny because I ask this to people often, and I’m not really sure if I have an answer for that. I’ve constantly– so this is something that I have started recently is I have been trying to read a lot more, and the one thing we did was we took the television once we moved out of our other house into the new house. We took the TV out of the bedroom, and every night now I read before I fall asleep.

And I have just been reading so many good books, I think probably one of my favorite, and one that I see myself going back and reading over and over again is ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini. Just talking about how to influence people, and it sounds manipulative, but it’s not, but it is all scientifically based, some of it is a little outdated, I don’t know how effective it is, but, and how all of it, in terms of effective ness, but it is worth taking a look at. I learned a lot reading that, and it made a lot of sense to me.

Steve: I think I read that book many years ago, I haven’t opened it up recently, maybe I’ll fire up again.

Jim: Yeah, it is a fun read. I also like ‘Behavioral Finance’ books, ‘Behavioral Economics’ books. So like ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely, ‘Undercover Economist’ by– I forget the author, but its– yeah I forget the author.

Steve: I will look all these up and put them up in the show notes for sure. I have to go and check them out myself.

Jim: Yeah, they are fun.

Steve: Yeah, are there any online services that you use for any of your businesses that you just can’t leave without.

Jim: Google analytics, that very powerful, it sorts early even if you are not going to build, you know, use every last bit of it. I will say like Aweber. I’ve been playing around with other e-mail systems for the other businesses that I’m a part of. MailChimp is pretty good too, but I think for your initial beginning blogger, it’s tough to beat Aweber.

Steve: Nice, all right Jim, you know we are coming up to forty minutes here and just wanted to thank you for being a part of the show. If any of these listeners want to be able to contact you or find you, where can they find you online?

Jim: Sure, you can find me at microblogger.com, and if you are on Twitter, love to hear from you, let me know what you think of our chat, it’s at wangarific.

Steve: Wangarific, it attracts me up every time.

Jim: Glad no one took it before I did.

Steve: Yeah, I’m sure it was in high demand…

Jim: You say that, it doesn’t sound like you believe me, it is in high demand.

Steve: All right men, thank you for coming on the show, and I’m sure I will be talking with you very soon.

Jim: Yeah, this was fun, thanks again.

Steve: Thanks Jim, take care.

Jim: Bye.

Steve: What I like about Jim is that he is an avid learner, and he is always willing to try new things, and in fact, he’s got a whole bunch of other online businesses that we didn’t even really talk about today. And as a result he’s extremely knowledgeable across many different disciplines, plus he is just a really nice guy also and very personable as well. So how Jim and I met is actually one of the big reasons why all of you should be attending conferences. Now both Jim and I will be at think-on and I hope to see you all there.

Meanwhile don’t forget to sign up for my podcast giveaway, where I’m giving away a lifetime membership to my ‘create a profitable online store’ course, as well as free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

007: How Noah Kagan Started AppSumo A 7 Figure Business Selling Digital Goods Online

AppSumo

In today’s episode, I have the pleasure of interviewing Noah Kagan, a well known entrepreneur that has started many successful businesses. He’s also known for being employee number 30 at Facebook and a very early employee at Mint.com as well.

Recently, he has shifted his focus towards starting lifestyle businesses and that is why I wanted to have him on the show so badly. Right now, he runs AppSumo.com, a daily deals site selling digital goods for entrepreneurs.

And the nature of his business allows him to work wherever he wants and whenever he wants. You’re going to love this interview!

BTW, the picture below is how he looks in real life when he’s not sumo wrestling:)

What You’ll Learn

Noah Kagan

  • How Noah started AppSumo for 60 bucks
  • The biggest mistake that most new business owners make
  • How Noah got his early customers for Appsumo
  • Why collecting emails is key
  • What is the totem pole of business
  • How Noah lubricates the business process
  • Why he left Mint.com
  • What most people commonly neglect in business
  • The number one thing that Noah does to get email addresses
  • Noah’s philosophy on outsourcing
  • How to get better results with your business

Sites Mentioned

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the mywifequitherjob.com podcast episode number seven. Now before we begin, I just want to remind you that my podcast contest is still going on. I’m giving away a life time membership to my course as well as free consulting. So for more information go to www. mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Now I also want to give a quick shout out to my buddy Jim Wang who runs the Microblogger podcast. It’s an awesome podcast that you guys should all go check out after you listen to this one. Now on to the show.

Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.

Steve: Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I’m really happy to have Noah Kagan on the show. Now if you don’t know who Noah Kagan is, he was one the early people at Face book. Then he was like number 3 at Mint.com, which later got acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars. But then he decided to quit the work force all together and started a company called AppSumo.com, which started out as a daily deal site for digital goods that has kind of evolved into more of a store front for some of their own digital products recently. Now, AppSumo has something like 700,000 email subscribers, which is just about the largest email list that I’ve ever heard of anyone having.

Anyway Noah is a very busy man and extremely hard to get a hold of and in fact he blew me off the first time when I emailed him with the excuse that he had nothing really new to say. Now if you’ve ever heard this guy speak before the guy never has nothing to say. And in fact the only way I managed to get him on my podcast was I had to lie. I told him that I was doing a podcast about dating Asian women, and he took the bait and then I had to offer a little tacos as well. Sorry Noah those females couldn’t be here today so we are going to have to talk about AppSumo but really glad to have you on the show and welcome.

Noah: Thanks Steve, I just want to say for your audience, I didn’t blow you off. I didn’t respond to your email because it came through a trusted source but I think there so much interesting things that people can learn and I feel like it is talked about and read about and no one ever takes the heart to really spend the time thinking about how to write a damn good email. And number one you, got intro to me from a friend so that was a plus but then you just kind of, hey you should do my podcast because people do my podcast, and I was like no not my thing.

And then you actually came back really strong and I just wanted to you know share with your audience about what made it really successful for me to want to be on your show. I think number one, you reduced the time pressure and you addressed my issues which are like how effective is it going to be for me in this podcast. You said hey we’ve got a large launch about it, it would be really fun with the topless and Asian women which is kind of a joke and then you really showed me that is it’s worth my time, not necessarily just about making– having you have more content for your blog or for podcast. So I really want to commend you on that and encourage your listeners that spending more than a minute crafting their emails if they want to get responses from anyone that they email.

Steve: Yes it’s funny because I had a lot of success so far. No one has denied me or even pushed back at all so far and you were the first person to do that and I had to kind of come up with something to actually convince you to come on the show, so thanks for challenging me there in that respect.

Noah: Yeah man you even– I think you read one of my blogs first on OkDork.com about cold emails. So you kind of hid things that matter from me, because I told you here I kind of, I don’t really have much new things that I want to talk about, and I’m trying to limit my interviews or podcasts interviews to people with decent size audiences, no offence. And you said actually I have the emails from 8o to 10,000 visitors a month, I’ve 25,000 on my email list and I’m going to get you 5 virgins, I mean you could say all– no you didn’t say anything about that.

Steve: We didn’t say anything about virgins.

Noah: No, no we didn’t. But it was just you know you crafted it to the audience which was me and that’s why you know I took the time to do this so and plus thank you for having me, it’s good that people want to hear my story.

Steve: Yeah, awesome. You know I actually looked around and you actually haven’t really gone into too much depth about your back story. I mean there is a couple of sentences and paragraphs here and there, but I don’t know if anyone really knows the deep depth of you know how you got started and that sort of thing, so hopefully we will cover that today.

Noah: Sure man. I’m happy to do that.

Steve: Yeah, let’s start with the quick back ground story in case you know there are some people out there who don’t know who you are, tell us you know your background story and how you make a living online today.

Noah: So, I graduated back in 04. I went to In hell or some people know it’s called Intel. I was the supply chain optimization, that’s what I managed so I basically calculated like how many parts we needed to make on excel, so pretty much I worked about an hour a day. And I just messed around the rest of the time. And I actually got you know I got raises and people thought I did a good job. And I was always kind of starting businesses on the side so one of the things I always encourage people do is, I’m not a risk taker and I never quit my job. People do this I’m like damn you are risky, you got balls, or if you are woman I guess you have breasts I don’t know whatever you want to say.

I don’t quit my jobs or move on to do my own things until I know it’s working, and that’s something I always encourage everyone. So when I was in Intel you know I have all this free time and also at night and weekends so I started creating my own side businesses. So I started creating conferences and events which was a great way to meet people. I created college up data which is a pre college Craig’s list, then I did a student discount card called ninjacard.com which was a discount card for college campuses. It went to about 5 campuses did about 50,000 bucks. And so the point is not what I have done. The point is I was actively trying to create my businesses while I had that consistent income, so that I could eventually do my own thing. I was about to quit Intel because some of the stuff was starting to show promise and I submitted my resume and run over to Facebook because there was a project I loved, and I was using a lot of time, I was trying to get laid. And you know in 20 years and my listeners are like God no you are such an ass.

Steve: That’s how I got you on the show man go on.

Noah: Yeah. Well hopefully for my mum I will meet a nice Jewish girl we’ll see. And so anyway I got the interview and I ended up getting there really early on when it was just kind of like the show. I think we had 110,000,000 people. And you know I worked directly with Zack and Dustin and Shawn Packers and all these people not as much as Shawn and all the other guys who now are freaking multi, multi billionaires, and it was one of the most fun and educational times of my life.

I learned to build a website, I learned really how get into some minds of people using websites because I really you know for the most I was just turning around my own projects. I didn’t really have any training or really good understanding and so Mark and these guys were all like exceptional. There was not, it’s not just locked it. They are you know $170 billion company, they are amazingly talented and other people there they were all. I was definitely the damnest around, and I think a lot of times I’ve people say that they’re actually damn. I’m like yeah you are definitely a damn it. I think I’m mildly smart but I’m a little more aggressive and, but still there I got to be still around such gifted people.

And I think one of the things I have noticed about myself, I think the people with age I remember being at face book and being 23 or 24 and seeing these 30 and 40 years-olds and I was like holy shit these people are very informative and leave at 7:00 o’clock, these people suck man I’m working till 11. And a civil [convalley??] mentality which is where I’m from was all about oh work all the time work, work and we worked and then partied a lot. What I realize is that age is– I really should have focused more now on doing less things and not working as much for getting more results, and getting better results. And so it is kind of like your podcast when we talked about in the beginning which I don’t want to do 100 podcast in the beginning for marketing mass I do all the podcast to get you know App.Sumo.com feature our new product just SumoMe.com. But now I’m like all right let me just do five podcasts, and maybe they take a little bit longer to set up but they will actually give me a much more significant reach. And that’s something that you know I’ve changed and evolved as a person.

Steve: You know that’s exactly been my philosophy with my sites and my businesses. For me it all happened when you know my wife became pregnant and we started these businesses so that we could actually hangout with our kids. So, kind of similar but a little bit different than in your case. Sorry go on.

Noah: No, I think one of the other key things that your listeners and readers should really think about is how can you– and I love this is how can you add on limitations to increase your creativity. And so how can you box yourself in because then you will actually solve that problem like if you give yourself less time or with your story it’s like all right we have less income and we want to spend more time with our child so how do we make that situation work. And I think those are the kind of things you should self impose and try out to see what will make you better or get the business or lifestyle you want. I think a lot of the excuses we have this course on Monthly1k.com, and I can talk about the evolution of how we got that.

But you know we’ve helped thousands literally over 4000 people start businesses so what’s been fascinating for me is just understanding the psychology of how people start, why they are not starting. And one of the things is like I have a job and I’m tired at night and on weekends. I’m like wow this is– that means it is not a priority for what you really want. You really don’t want to have another job. You don’t really want to have a job that you can control and you can create the lifestyle that you want with it. Because if you want it after work even though you are tired you’ll do in the morning you would do it, on the weekends you would do it, but people want that result without actually putting in the input.

Steve: Yeah, let’s go over some of the other excuses. I get these all the time. So one is like it costs you too much to start a business, you need a technical background.

Noah: Yeah I don’t have a technical funders, I don’t have too many ideas, I have too many ideas, I’ve already bugged my friends a lot, I don’t know how to do marketing. I mean the list goes on you know and one of the big ones is I’m afraid of what other people are going to be thinking of me. And you know when it all comes down to it, a lot of that is just practice, all right. It’s practice overcoming like doing smaller things to overcome fears and then eventually, you know how do you build the business one at a time. A lot of people are like how do I scale and make this a $10,000 business in a month. And you know one of the things that I haven’t shared publicly too much but because you know you went to Stanford and I like you so much, you know when I started AppSumo my first year I made $12000.

Steve: That’s better than I made with my blog. I think I made a fraction of that my first year so.

Noah: Well I didn’t have a baby and a wife. You know I’ve learned some more over time and now my salary is about 120 and that is a little over 3 years later and so and obviously we have more profit than that but I created the business and the lifestyle that I want. Not necessarily, how much do I just make as much money as possible, it’s like what do I want my life to look like and how do I create that. Yeah so you know at Facebook I ended up getting fired and there is a long post at OkDort.com about what happened if anyone is interested.

Steve: I will link up to that if you give me the link after the podcast.

Noah: Yeah, it’s OkDorkfacebookpatterns and then, you know I think one of the key things that I have been thinking of lately and is– I didn’t really do anything after Facebook. I kind of like taught business and career, I worked at a start up called Scanad, did some consulting there, I kind of put on these conferences and made good money from that. You could actually, if you are interested in putting on events or conferences I have an article on OkDort.com and how I made over $100000 doing conferences. And then I finally you know someone introduced me to Mint.com and I drew just like oh my God this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

And so the take away that really dawned on me besides I didn’t get the job at first and I can share two stories that I think are really interesting. The first one I think about a lot now which is around six years later is that I really wanted to be a part of Mint.com. And what I think about today is when I’m doing a business, I make more money I get more satisfaction, I’m more willing to stick with it when times are tough, if it is something I really want to see exist in my world.

So I think most people are like why don’t I make a subscription business so that I’ve passive income, and how I do all these things, and ultimately I think that leaves you unsatisfied and more likely to quit or give up. But if you create a business you know selling baby related stuff because you have a baby or for me I’m selling a taco shop now as a funny kind of gag thing. And on tacos right, it’s on batter brand if anyone’s curious. And I think you know with Mint.com I was exactly that. I was like cool this business is going to change the world; I have to be a part of it. I think the more that people can kind of start looking and focusing on those kinds of things, they’ll probably going to get better results than if you are just going to look for an opportunity.

Steve: But here is the thing, you left Mint before it got acquired right?

Noah: Yeah I left Mint a little under a year before it got acquired.

Steve: Okay and so what was the reason, what was going through your head you know with that decision if you loved the product so much?

Noah: I loved Mint. I basically looked at it kind of analytically where– All right I met Mint and I loved Mint and I was kind of at a point which it was going to take off and go where I wanted to go but my ultimate goal is run my own business. And so that’s not what I did at Mint. So, a few things, one I was like I’d run my own business, two I looked at the math, and the math was well if Mint gets sold– this is my math I own 1%, Mint get sold for 200,000000 I make 2,000000 bucks, right? After taxes that is like a 1,000000. And then in San Francisco that gets you like half a toilet. Right, so you don’t get shit, then naturally I stay for years right, because you have to wait for the investing period.

Noah: Right.

Steve: So then I was like well if I want to start my own business which is like my number one goal and then looking at this math I basically ask myself could I make half a million to a million dollars post tax in that same time. And you know I kind of came to the conclusion that I could, and so with that being said I also had Facebook apps that I was building at night because I saw the Facebook platforms open up in those apps I think in the first two weeks had about two million installs.

Steve: Wow.

Noah: And so, I was kind of like all right and you know as I said earlier I’m risk averse, so I was like all right, this business is working, I can monetize it because I was doing apps related to sports and I did those apps because I could link, do up Amazon affiliate links, just you know sports things like sports jerseys and I did movies ones because I could sell the movies and I did TV shows ones so I could sell the TV shows. And that was working on, so I quit Mint said all right, let me see where I could take this.

Steve: Okay. And so how did that evolve into AppSumo then?

Noah: That actually evolved to its own seven figure business that’s still going today. So, that was court kicked – it’s a crazy story, I don’t know, how long is your podcast long? Like 45 minutes?

Steve: Yeah, 45 minutes to an hour, but we could probably go the full hour, talk fast.

Noah: Yeah, well I have a hair cut at 3:30, [chuckles] And that’s actually something I think we can talk about at the end which is taking care of yourself, which is not something I normally – I just used to cut my own hair and wear hoodies and ugly jeans all the time at George’s.

Steve: I think I saw a picture of you with a beard too [chuckles].

Noah: Yeah, my end year I didn’t know who I was trip. Well, so anyway with that basically we built these apps, they grew, I got funded by [Inaudible] [00:14:58] of the angel list, hired people, we were doing around 50 to 60 k a month, and then you know, I kind of went on this thing while the whole point was, I really wanted to run my own my business and I also wanted to travel abroad. So I took the company to Argentina, and I kind of just got you know like I said before I didn’t really give a fuck about games, this was just a straight opportunity. And as the game started dying, I was just like, well, I don’t give a shit. I’m just going to have fun in Argentina drink wine, and tango and eat meat and just explore. And the guys in my team were like, dude you got to get back to work or we’re going to quit. And I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I went back to work. I’m going to abbreviate and kind of jump a little forward. So, going back to work, we ended up becoming a payment platform for games, that business ended up doing like about 20 or 30 million dollars top line. So bottom line I think we ended up making like 2 or 3 million dollars, then you split it 3 ways, then in California it get stayed in income tax, so at the end you know, I think I ended up making about a half a million dollars.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: When it was all done in about 2 years. So, that was fine but I was working like literally 18 hour day but it was fun at the time. But when I came down to it like 2 years or 3 years without the staff I was like, are you sure? The partners I was with I really liked as people, I didn’t like working with them and I had no interest in what we were creating every day. I had no interest waking up, working on how to you know, make people more money with their credit card payments. I didn’t care for them – there are people out there who do and that just wasn’t me so, you know, as I have said time and time again in this interview, someone asked me to do consulting at speeddate.com and they would pay me 150 an hour to do product consulting like, how does the products on the website work.

So I did have that blind doubt as you know, I kind of tell you guys and ended up doing speed date and then I was trying to you know, look for my next thing and so, one of the ideas was a [fish full??] sold in restaurants, small businesses – and I still think this is an interesting business, they suck at getting people’s information, and so what that means is that like, they have 100 people come to their restaurant, they don’t get any of their information and then how do you get those people back to your restaurant? Well, I guess you have to hope they think about eating there again. And so I was like, well what if I can help them collect email addresses to come back to the restaurant and I will take care of everything. And I just thought this was a really neat business and I think there’s a few people who’ve tried it. But I just kind of realized that like small businesses, a lot of them are old school and they kind of suck, so that wouldn’t be as much fun and it’s not necessarily a business I wanted myself or what I want to exist in my world.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: Am I rumbling? Am not rumbling, am I going to fast?

Steve: No, no, no worry, its interesting keep going.

Noah: All right. Yeah. You can tell me to shut the hell up or direct it in any way, you’re the leader, orchestrator.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. So I mean, eventually I want to steer towards AppSumo.

Noah: So, I had that idea then I basically, the way I try to do my businesses and the ones that I have been successful with, is I try to just like; I don’t look ahead two years or ten years. I’m not ill on months; it’s just not my thing. And most things that are scale are changing the world start with changing one person, and they evolve to bigger things and I think that’s what’s missed a lot. If Facebook didn’t set out to be this big ass mass of thing, it set out to like Mark to hook up with Rose at Harvard and then you know he stuck with it, which most people don’t do. I take persistence slash patience is a competitive damage and I think that is the thing people should think about.

But it became slim baked so, I kind of looked out about six months and I said all right, well, here’s three things that are looking really interesting; Job apps is growing like crazy, Markhaistenwho.com are growing like crazy in terms of distribution, they’re selling things at a discount for a limited time, that’s working really well, and I’m really good at marketing and I like marketing, but there’s no great way to find web tools. So I kind of triangulated those things to create bundles of web tools, and so that is what the original version of AppSumo was.

And so, I was like, well, let me see if I can test this idea, if people will pay me. So I tried to work backwards to say all right, where can I find a large group of customers, and I have written about this on AppSumo which is how I started it for 60 bucks. So, work backwards from your customers’ front. Most people – this is the common promise into this for entrepreneurs. They work forward and the like, and especially engineers because they are smart, they are really smart, they create something and they are like, well, where can I fit this into? It’s like, they create the circle and then try to figure out where can they put their circle in, verses like they have a square and now I have to find a piece that fits.

Steve: You know, as an engineer myself, I can kind of relate to that, and It’s been actually a struggle for me to kind of work backwards like that or forwards in your way of thinking so-

Noah: You know why? Because it’s easier Steve. I mean, you know I’m not some master guru, like that happens to me and it’s happened to me in times, I have wasted hundreds of– well not hundreds of thousands but at least a hundred thousand in about a year on projects that I built solutions to no one’s problem. And instead, I just started thinking all right, well, how do I just solve people’s problems and give them solutions that they actually want. So, I went on to Reddit and I found out that they love this photo, and I’m a Redditor, and I found out that they loved injure so I went to injure and said, hey, can you give me your product at a discount I’ll see if the people on Reddit will buy it.

And I ended up promoting on Reddit, I ended up buying the guys at Reddit, the founders, breakfast and they gave me free advertising. Kind of like, you e-mailed me and I just emailed them and I said, hey, can I have a thing at around four? And I said, I’ll take you out for breakfast, and then at breakfast I said, you know, I really like you guys, I’m doing this product for read it do you think you can give me some free ads? And they did, and the irony in that story, I was like joking is that, a month later I was tried to get more free ads and they were like oh yeah that’s 10,000 dollars now because I connect to the world.

That cost me I think $26 and a breakfast and I you know, I still appreciate it, I mean this Christopher Slone, good dude and I appreciate what he did for me. And so we ended up selling, you know, I think with businesses you validate, my validation method, what I encourage people to do is, three paying customers, 48 hours. And so what that means is, with your service, or product or idea, anything even an app I don’t give a shit what it is, you have to get three paying customers within 48 hours and it kind of comes back to, do I have easy access to these customers? And will people be willing to pay me for what I think will help them?

Steve: So, you did this whole thing on Reddit and Bing, did you even have a website or a way to get payment at that time?

Noah: In retrospect, I wouldn’t have done it, but I did build a website. It took me about a week, maybe even less and I paid a guy in Pakistan 50 bucks, to add in PayPal, and I Google searched for PHP membership code and I built a crappy little website and then, I manually sent each customer who bought the code. And in retrospect, I probably could have used like tumbler or Webplus or just send my hey, Paypal here and I’ll send you the injure code. So, I did that and then we started doing in bundles. And I was like, all right, well, people want to buy it, now let me keep working backwards to see how can I get more traffic and create a bundle. So, then I went to Lifehacker. I emailed one of the writers and I said, you know, I’m going to put together a of your bundles top rated and top commented on posts and products, do you think you’d write about it, he’s like I can’t promise it but that sounds really interesting.

So I went, got their top products they had written about and commented on Lifehacker which was Evernote and RescueTime and a few other tools you remember The Milk and you know, I put it all together and I said hey guys I told you I would do it and they wrote this huge article and I think that drove the first few hundred sales of that 150 bucks.

Steve: So, I just want to kind of emphasis the couple of things that you’re saying. So sounds like a lot of the stuff that you did earlier on was leg work and a lot of people that actually come on my blog, they just think that they can create a website and magically get to rank in Google and you know the customers will just come out running, but it always takes a whole of leg work earlier on and it is your hustle really that gets something started in the beginning.

Noah: Yeah man dude it pisses me off, I’ll tell you like one of the things that I hate more than anything is that people buy a– they do create a landing page and they do all the stuff that engineers do because it’s easier to build things than try to make money out of things. It’s way easier to create a landing page and buy an ad and be like hey! I got 30 emails and a 20% conversion rate. What can I try to sell these people, which is like all right, you could have done that without spending any money and seeing a lot easier but that part is more fun? Like my friends like to put it is playing business not actually doing business.

And so you know you from that point on I was like all right, do these bundles of different kinds of create categories since I try to work backwards to think that I work towards appeal and so some of the different marketing methods that worked really well for us to grow the business in the beginning was doing like free bundles. So I get people’s products and I try to give it away for free. Secondly Heaton Shaw one of my good friends– he was like do you collect emails. And this is a key thing that I would say is that when you start; get on your blogging business versus just kind of copying someone else.

And I think it’s good to copy and involve another business but as you evolve and learning the wise of business, so I used to never collect emails. My buddy he was like hey dude collect emails because it makes it a lot easier to tell them about the next deal. And in retrospect now I was like oh yeah that makes sense, but people will just like, of course he gets emails, that’s obvious but at the time I never thought I would do that. And I would never have thought that unless I started it myself to kind of understood how hard it was.

Steve: Let me ask you this, how did you get people to give you their products for free that you are actually making money on?

Noah: The ones– it varies, sometimes if it is free– if it is a paid product and it’s free, it’s just, it’s a digital product that they are getting distribution that maybe people will subscribe in the future, or it is a new email address for their other products.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: Or if it’s a– let’s say it’s a bundle and there is like three, like everyone knows it’s a huge product or fresh books from Mailchimp, but there is a fourth product that is like a kind of a no name I think it is a great product, then I’ll promote it online. I’m not going to pay you when we sell the bundles, but you get kind of distribution for it at no cost. And I mean that’s like a holy grail. And that’s one of things I learned about gambling that previous business with payments versus AppSumo which is you know and I call the totem pole, which is how valuable are you to customers? So, how viable was the payments company? Not viable I got treated like shit. How valuable was distribution? Really valuable, if you have the right audience.

And also depending on who wants the distribution. And so it was just kind of really interesting the first year, we kind of we wanted to design our bundles. Other marketing things that worked really well was we did like bundles for conferences and they were promoted out. I asked the companies that we were promoting to promote it out and I would give them templates. I think that’s one of the things that’s really helped me is how do you lubricate things. So, if I email Steve and I say, hey Steve I want you to introduce me to you know– let me give you a clear example. I’m trying to go to Napo and have a tour of the winery and a buddy of mine I ask; hey do you know anybody who does wine? And he’s like yeah, I got a buddy Steve who owns the Winers. I think his actual name is Steve. So I email him back and I’m like hey man, here is the template, but I literally wrote the email and I’m like can you forward this to Steve? And he is like hey, here is my buddy Noah and it makes it easier for him to just hit forward and send that email verses make him do work.

So, AppSumo– I just gave him the templates and said hey, can you send this out to customers who haven’t bought your product; this is a great way to convert them. And that worked really well. One of the key things that was going on in our business at that time was looking for an– I don’t know how to phrase it, if I made it up or how it goes but I look for anomalies in success. And basically what that means is kind of like just are your listeners male or female?

Steve: Mostly female actually.

Noah: Oh shit, damn it, I was going to– well we do it in a female perspective then.

Steve: Okay.

Noah: So, if you are female and you’re kind of making out with the guy or hanging out with the guy and you do something he likes, that’s the kind of thing I’m starting to be more aware of and trying to do more of. So if you are you know making out with the guy and you touch his earlobe, and you are like man this guy has an ear fetish, you probably should touch his ears more often. But you touch his toes and he giggles and you know he, he, he doesn’t like it, you probably shouldn’t do that. And so what I would– and that’s one of the things I think people kind of neglect in businesses is; one is reverse engineering which is all right as I’ve said before work backwards to what’s already working. Lifehacker has traffic that works. Let me figure out a product that will work with that.

The second thing is like do more of what’s already working, and look for those anomalies of success, which is kind of like the same exact thing, which is I noticed that these bundles were hard man. Like it was– it took me like three years five months to put a bundle together and I promote it, and I make like 5,000 but it would take me so much time. And I realized like working to just take the products because I could get those and put those out one at a time, instead of bundling it probably make more money, and have more frequency of things I can promote verses like these three months 5000 things, I could have one day 5000 things, $5000 promotions.

Steve: Yeah, because I notice that I haven’t been getting as many emails from AppSumo. Before it was all about packaged deals and now it seems like it’s more about individual products that you guys own. Is that correct?

Noah: It’s been an interesting evolution man, and I think that’s the part that people miss in businesses. They are like give me the answers and give me a tactic which I’m a tactic guy, I love me. You know like I don’t want to hear your fluff, but there is some value to the fluff you know like in thinking about things differently in how people are running their businesses and stopping things. So like I think a lot of businesses will just keep doing bundles, and I think what we did really well was all like well these single deals are going to work or should work well. Let’s try it out. It worked really well for bundles and we just killed bundles completely, because it takes a lot of time and you don’t get as much of a return for the time that you’re using, for other time that it takes to put it together. And so for the first year I mean we did and then we turned everything into individual promotions. And then…

Steve: And so…

Noah: Excuse me?

Steve: No, I was just going to ask you, so each time you are getting more and more email subscribers based on the products that you are pushing is that correct?

Noah: Yeah, I mean one of– this is funny man. I swear to God like we had, we literally had a growth hacker, like I hired a guy three years ago just to do development around marketing and tactics and you know hacks and gimmicks. And I will say that the– I mean all of it because I spent a year with this guy developing stuff to get more emails. The number one thing that got us more emails, the number one thing was the best products. So when I promoted a product like sweetener which is last week, or picture chart which is in the past and other tools like that, we get a huge ton of emails, because it’s a great thing. People want to give you their email; they want to hear more about that.

When you try to just trick and be like hey give me your email because you should, or like share this for $10 referral like for us none of that really worked. Same thing with contests you know like I think people do shit contests like oh here is a giveaway, we– our first contest was drop box for life, which in the economics was great, because I only have to pay once a year 100 bucks and people want to live till 80, and you have to be 21, so it was only going to cost me 60 years times 100 so that’s $6,000. And so I was like well, if I could get more than 6000 that would be worth it. And our contest in the beginning you know work didn’t sync really well. Guess what, because people want drop box for life and we are still paying those people and it was very profitable and it worked out for everyone who is a part of it.

Steve: So, if we back up a little bit back when you didn’t have this gigantic list, how do you get these people to take part in your deals?

Noah: Well a lot of the times yeah. So with sales the number one thing that you’re trying to accomplish is the other person’s objectives and that’s what I really focused on. So let’s say I come to you Steve and you run a product, you know one of my key question is like what is your matrix of success for a promotion with us? And then if I– I make sure that, that’s what I say that I can I can do or not do. So I think when people are starting businesses, I’m an eagle scout and I relate it to starting a fire with taking a big log and trying to light it with a lighter. Right, obviously that’s not going to work. When you start a fire you start with kindle and then you build it up.

And that’s what I did, which was I started with you know smaller products that I knew I could promote, I didn’t have to have a major listing with so well. Then as I grew, then I would go out and try to get larger products that would, you know that those companies would require larger promotions for them to want to do it. Like same with your blog, like if you came to me and you said hi, I’ve 20 listeners, I would be like you know that’s awesome, kick my ass, I just don’t have time to do that with you right now, to do an interview. And so you know I go to the sites, I mean that’s what I didn’t say when you were trying to do guest postings. I know that’s a star, we can see you are such a diva, straighten your knee, build yourself up verses trying to– a lot of people just try to start with A’s who get all the attention. Go to the ugly guys, start with them and then eventually walk up to the hot guys.

Steve: Right on, that’s actually a pretty good analogy since we are talking about dating and that sort of thing.

Noah: Yeah man.

Steve: So you know I kind of want to talk a little bit about how you run the business too because I think very few people can appreciate some of the intricacies of kind of just maintaining such a large list and it’s huge distribution platforms, so what is the challenges of running a company like AppSumo?

Noah: Yeah man I mean it’s been such a relief every partner you know I feel for myself it has been such a crazy story like I was alone for the first 6 months a year and I did everything and I was talking to someone one of our customers on Monthly1k which is our how to start a business course and I love to share why we started that not only just sharing it you know how people buy it and that’s not what is important to me. It is important to me but it’s not like the most important. But he emailed me and was like hey man I want someone else to do all this work for me. And I was like I think that’s a huge mistake because I think understanding like how every piece of your business works in the beginning is critical.

So, I did the coding, I did the marketing, I did the sales, I did the support I did everything man. And then it was only over time that I realized I can’t grow this business and we are making money so I can’t grow the business if I’m getting all the deals. So I hired a versatile person and I can’t you know do all the customer support because like then I can’t do the market so I hired a customer support person.

Steve: We have the exact same philosophies, a lot of people sign up for my course and you know they immediately just want to start contracting staff out. So one of my point to emphasize is you have to learn how the website works and you know how everything is laid out so that you understand and when it comes time to outsource, you don’t get ripped off and you know exactly what you want in your product.

Noah: Exactly, and I think one of the key things as people are trying to start businesses and I would challenge everyone is not to spend any money. Like I’ve started– I showed examples of this. I did events business, then I put up soon AppSumo.com and I’ve done OkDork.com, and I started both of those businesses worth nearly over thousands of profits, thousands dollars of profits in 24 hours, and I think I spent less than a dollar.

Steve: Let’s talk about that now because that is actually a really interesting story.

Noah: You don’t want to hear more stuff or? I’m happy with whatever you think your listeners or readers will appreciate.

Steve: You know all of this stuff is interesting. I’m just worried that we are going to run out of time, so you know one thing that I really like about you Noah is that we kind of share the same philosophies and we are both trying to convince others that are making money doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be risky. And so one of the stories that I read on your blog was that you’ve actually gone out and physically demonstrated how a little bit of hustle can earn you some money you know on the side, and starting small then just gradually building up. So one of the stories that stood out to me was your Sumo junky story, so let’s talk a little bit about that.

Noah: Sure, so we created this course on Monthly1k.com, and the reason I created it was– let me give quick step back, because I think it is going to be really interesting to your listeners. So, in AppSumo’s beginning we grew to like, maybe I think 100,000 dollars in our first year. Then the second year we took off I think it was like a million or two million. And I think we’re in our fourth year I don’t even know. I think last year we did– or two years ago we did about five million on max, four point eight, and we had to meet all these employees and meet all these staff and the reality of it was that I never– you know I don’t want to build a billion dollar company.

I want to build a company where you know I can work here in Vegas for a weekend or last in February I worked from Thailand for two weeks and I don’t naturally always have to go travelling, but I have a business that’s creating the lifestyle that I want. And that’s not what I wanted is to have to come to an office, and have to manage all these people and all that shit. And so we scaled the company back to six people. We stopped doing all over and we started to A/B test every single price form. We used to test literally hundreds, if not thousands of things within the website and try to maximize profit.

And I think when you’re starting your business, it’s really saying, what do I want out of this? How do I want it to be? And really sticking with that. And things get hard when times are crazy. You know, we started spending millions of dollars on advertising, which we didn’t, you know we didn’t– we evolved that. I didn’t do it right away, but I said, oh shit, the ads are working, let’s spend as much as we can. That’s one of the things that I really encourage people, if you find something working, take advantage of it.

But when it came down to it, it’s like now we are a team of about six people. Last year we did I think, you know half of that revenue if not less, but we were way more profitable, because of how we run the business. And the second piece of that is, you know, the first year and a half we promoted other people’s products. And what I realized is that, holy shit, like, our business is very [sequickle??] it’s fickle. Like, we have a product like two weeks so let me give an example. Two weeks so we did a seminar and that was a five figure promotion in profit for us. And then last week did Wp101.com which we still think, we love that product and we think it’s an amazing product, but I think we made $5,000 total and you have to realize like, I have to pay $70,000 dollars a month in over head no matter what, so you can do the math and be like, holy shit! And that was-fuck! [Chuckles].

We have all these other business; I said all right well, how do we reduce that dependency? And I think that’s what people have to look at. It’s like, what’s holding you back? And how do I remove that? So we were like, well shit, if we’re not getting products that are always going to be hits, we need to create our own. And so that’s how we started. We tested it, that way we made like an email templates product and we made a– had a higher interest product and we just made a really get our own. We saw people would buy them, and then once we saw they would buy them, we‘re like holy shit, and I wasn’t actually spending money in making this better. And most people what they do is they spend tons of time and money making it great and then seeing if actually people will buy it. And so when we were bored we created that Monthly1k.com product, which shows people exactly– and I created it because I was tired of answering people‘s questions on how I’ve done that. I didn’t want to help people anymore; I wanted to put it all on this product so that it would just do the work for me.

Steve: Dude we have like parallel lives here. That’s exactly why I created my course as well [chuckles].

Noah: Come on, you just get– people kept on asking you?

Steve: People just kept asking the same questions, so I decided to just sit down, put it down on paper and then create a little video course teaching other people how to create e-commerce stores, you know go on, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to-

Noah: No, no, no do that together. You’re right, and I think one of the things that people should look at is like, what do I keep getting asked? And this is how people can– the easiest way to start a business and most people be like; oh I don’t want to turn my hobby in to money. It’s like, if you enjoy it, then keep enjoying it and make it fun for yourself. So like it could be cooking, it could be like one of the things that I love doing, is bringing people together and that’s what I’ve always done.

And I love showing off things that I love. What do you think AppSumo is? I show off things that I love; like find the products that I really love and I send it out to people. Our intern because he does things similar now, who does all that work – and so kind of reflecting on like what have you loved and done really well and doing more of that. And so, anyways we kind of started creating more of our own products and you know then we created the Monthly1k.com product, which is a whole year frankly, of hardship and of crying and it was successful for our customers and successful for us and that now provides a foundation so that we can experiment with crazier things which is like SumoMe.com, which is our latest product.

Steve: And what is SumoMe.com?

Noah: SumoMe.com is basically we’ve– I mean the guys in our team Chad, Eric and Damian are all insanely good developers, and so we built all these products and we showed people. So, we promote products with AppSumo, we built you know courses through all that. We started a business now it’s like, how do you grow your business? And so we are taking all the tools that we build over the past three years internally and making them public and most of them free. So it’s all the tools that we’ve used to grow [Inaudible] [00:37:51] to 700,000 and become a seven figure business.

Steve: Okay, I noticed this is part of the word press plugin right? You have a word press plugin?

Noah: Yes, SumoMe it’s just one line a job or if you have a word press plugin and sort of plug in like 30 seconds. It’s really quick to start getting more traffic and you know getting more emails or getting more shares on your blog.

Steve: Okay, and this make 1000 a month course – that’s what you were talking about, the make 1000 a month course?

Noah: Yeah.

Steve: So what are some of the principles that you teach in that class?

Noah: You know it’s funny actually. My instant thought is to start talking about how we developed it, because I think that is interesting as well for your listeners but, I think the co-principles that I focused on only from my own experiences of creating seven figure businesses, working at Facebook, working at Mint and putting it all together and what stuff that hasn’t worked. I mean I told you before I created onelevel.com and better arcade which both cost me about over 100,000 and over a year of time wasted. So I brought, I’ve done a success and I’ve done a failure stuff.

My core tenance is that we focus on our program; it’s probably about six things. So number one is fear. Most people have a lot of just different irrational fears and you know I’ve been afraid too about starting businesses like you know I was trying to start that jerky thing I was like, holy shit, this is going to definitely work and I only have 24 hours. And I woke up at midnight and I was like, I can’t go to sleep, I have to go work, because I was afraid of failing. And so when we work with people, we make them do different challenges and you can’t move forward in the course without doing it.

Number two is idea generation, so just different ways to get people’s idea brand just juicy then and going. Number two is then validation, so, how do you take any idea and see if people actually pay for it? So we get people sharpen that, so once they can validate anything they ever think of in the future, they can see if people will pay them for it.

Then third is how do you grow up? So, how do you take it from, all right, I have one or two customers to make 1000 dollars a month? And then, we don’t really focus on beyond. So, people are already making money online we can’t help them. That’s what SumoMe is doing is Sumo.Me.com is where you’re making money online, how do I take it to the next level. And then the two other kind of key tenents that we focus on and really helped us, I would say is accountability. So we have a coach who checks in with people so if you are struggling. That is one other thing that we are noticing is people just drop off because they have had one hick up and we’ll say yeah. And so the accountability couch was really critical for that.

And then number two was a live community. And so we have thousands of people and then we realized like at first man I’ll be real like at first there was only like let’s say a hundred and I was like oh my God, this is like stupid people helping other stupid people, I’m really worried about this. They are giving really bad advice and I was spending my whole time just helping each individual person and this is kind of I would say reflects how businesses evolve. And so I did it all in the beginning. I was– every single person I’ll respond to and as we grew you know we got more people so the crowd started helping, and then I actually hired people to then eventually do it, once we got large enough. But that group is in one– I would say probably the number one most valuable, because the live group– people buy from each other, people support each other, people get questions answered from each other. So I’d say those six things have kind of been the key things in what makes our course unique as well as made it successful for the people taking it.

Steve: Yeah, so it’s funny I actually asked you that question for selfish reasons because it sounds like we have kind of parallel tracks you know I have a forum as well where people support each other, and I was just curious how you’ve evolved the support and how you keep people motivated so.

Noah: I think, I mean you know it’s funny, one week we spent like literally 300,000 developing software, so it is all custom based software so no one can copy that. Well, what I think about because I mean dude, how many books in colleges and other products are there online teaching business? Like I don’t know tens of thousands? And there is always going to be someone else making something similar and you know it sounds like me and you have very similar ideas. And with that being the case so it’s like hosting similar restaurant. Like how many Japanese, like what’s your favorite food?

Steve: Yeah, it’s Japanese food.

Noah: Dude I love Japanese food and where are you based lastly?

Steve: I’m in Silicon Valley.

Noah: You actually grew up there?

Steve: No, no I’m actually from the East Coast.

Noah: Oh, cool.

Steve: But I came out to school at Stanford and then I stayed.

Noah: Nice man, so– Where were we? What I was trying to kind of say is like there is a ton of Japanese restaurants in the Bay area, right. There is one for every one and to think if customers had different preferences like you may go to one and think it’s awesome, I may think it’s bad and vice versa. So I just try to discourage people from sweating that there’re other competitors out there and they are like, oh Steve has it. I want more from me and I’m like it’s a large pie don’t sweat it.

Steve: I completely agree, I mean there is just so many excuses that I’ve heard over the years and so many people that are really excited when they start and then they kind of hit their first little obstacle and then they want to give up.

Noah: One thing for you is like what do you think and people ask me this and I’ve thought it’s a good question is like what do you think for you with your business was really part of the turning point in accelerating that growth to however much its making? So I would say for AppSumo advertising was our big kind of probably besides getting great products to promote. Once we started spending money on ads that kind of just really changed the trajectory of our business.

Steve: Yeah, so for our e-commerce store, so the blog came after the e-commerce store, but for our store at least the initial thing that kind of made us realize that we could make some money was; one we did adwords which kicked butt in the beginning, and then we started contacting people who could buy our products in bulk and once we found that you know, we could get these huge bulk purchases, we realized that you know, that was how we were going to make money as well.

Noah: That’s cool man! I like the stuff like that.

Steve: Yeah, that’s from my point of view. At least from my class you know I have tried to– I always look at things in a long time frame, like a five years out. I don’t know– I think you mentioned your time frame was like two or three years or something like that. I like taking a five year time frame, but it’s kind of hard to instill that in certain people who just want to make money really quickly. So, just wondering where your thoughts were on that.

Noah: You’re good for some luck. Seriously, like you know good luck. I don’t think– I think it’s possible go sell the credit cards, go to the mall and the airport and convince people to sign for credit cards. One of the things that I think about is like the destination verses the journey. So like a lot of people, oh man I hate my job, and you know one of the thing that’s always funny is that people hate their jobs but what do they want to do? Travel, I want to travel, and then after travelling is eventually over you’re like you want to go travel and work because you are like, what the hell I’m I going to do just sitting around all day, even if I’m super rich or super poor. And so I try to encourage people like you know, instead of just worrying about how to get so much money, you know, how do you work on something because you spend a lot of your life working on something, why not work on something you are interested in?

Steve: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, people just have this misconception that, they just want to sit and have you know money will just kind of possibly come in, but then you get bored. That’s actually one of the reasons why I haven’t quit my job. I’m a little bit worried since my businesses don’t take that many hours to maintain, that I’m going to be just sitting around at home, and I’m going to lose my tech background, and I won’t have anything really interesting to propel me forward.

Noah: How did you– does your boss know about your stuff?

Steve: Yeah, he does actually. And I’ve told them upfront actually relatively recently. I’m like, you know, this job is actually the least income earner in my household now. I really like the people and everything so, I’m here because I want to be here, is basically what I told them.

Noah: I was just going to ask you, why don’t you quit?

Steve: Yeah, because so that’s a different story all in itself. So I design micro processors for a living, you worked at Intel so you know what those are at least. I feel like [over talks] [0:45:13] that if I give that up and you know, tech moves really quickly so, if I give it up I may not be able to ever go back into it, that’s my fear. I actually enjoy the tech stuff. I actually like my job which is unlike some of the people that I encounter you know that I talk to on the blog.

Noah: I mean, and I think that’s what– you are the person I love and I respect and you know I want more people to be like, which is like it’s not that– I don’t think everyone being not like a substitute, like those days when like I’m not paying bills like Steve and I’m like, oh I’m kicking ass today, because there was someone like last week someone quit. And its not– I don’t think, it’s like people are spineless to be entrepreneurs. I just think people want to like the work they do and feel focused. And so it’s so cool, and you’re like yeah, I like a lot of what I’m doing, I enjoy my work and I want to stay relevant and educating and just chill, that’s cool.

Steve: Yeah, the thing is also, you know there is also this time aspect that you mentioned before, like I want to spend more time with my family as well so at some point I think something is going to have to give.

Noah: I don’t know if you’re going to have to put it on record, but yeah, eventually I assume it would.

Steve: [chuckles] Yeah, I don’t mind putting anything on record actually, everyone knows, everyone at work knows at least what I’m up to and that sort of thing so it’s all good. So you know– sorry?

Noah: What made you start sharing the revenue number?

Steve: Revenue number for the e-commerce store?

Noah: Yeah.

Steve: So, I actually started the blog as my retirement plan. And I felt like every sort of business or blog, whatever, kind of needs some kind of back story. And the fact that we were able to essentially supply my wife’s income in a year, just sounded like a really good back story to start the foundation for a blog.

Noah: So the blog was like your kind of like your 401k?

Steve: It was my retirement plan meaning my avenue in case I ever wanted to quit my job. It took a long time to get to the point where I was today.

Noah: How long did it take?

Steve: It took four years.

Noah: Only four years? That’s it man!

Steve: That’s a long time man.

Noah: That’s a hell of a long time. I was talking to this guy– this was really awesome. His name is Taylor, he runs sched.org. And two things were really, really fascinating about him. I met this kid on yeah I am, remember that shit?

Steve: Yeah.

Noah: Like six, seven years ago and he was just like you know a little runt just like me, and we are still runts. And I remember he did events websites and I was like that’s cute, that’s not– I don’t think that’ll be business or whatever and you know we’ve been in touch and we are friends, and I saw him a week ago in Austin. And he was like yeah I’m still doing it, I was like holy shit, man, that’s impressive! I was like, tell me what do you think is making you the most successful or why do you think why this is working? And he was like do you know my number one secret? I mentioned it earlier in the podcast interview, and he said, the number one reason why I’ve been successful is patience, is that everyone else who was doing it gave up.

And it was really respectful, I really appreciated that like he stuck with it, it took four years for him to get to that level or same with AppSumo. You know, I made $12000 personally the first year, and now I’m able to pay myself a good six figures. And you know that was his competitive advantage.

Steve: I completely agree with that. It’s all about being slow and steady for me at least, and you know now my blog makes more than my day job and it took a long time to get to that point. But it was just a very gradual, slow and steady pace that allowed me to do that.

Noah: And I think that’s a really interesting point, I’m just going to repeat it because I think what people expect is that, oh these blogs have gotten these email lists over night, and there is revenue overnight and you know, it is a progression not necessarily just a destination. It’s the whole process that’s the interesting and challenging part. And I think the fact that if you know it takes time, it makes it a lot easier to say all right, it’s not making me millions today, it’s making a 1000 or 500 but as long as I stick with it, you know I should be able to get to that point.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely and the best thing about like a blog or a web property is that really, there’s only one direction to go and that is kind of up if you continue to put out good content. That’s my opinion.

Noah: Yeah, that’s pretty– I mean I can talk about that actually. I don’t know how many of your listeners are blog owners or bloggers?

Steve: Not too many. Most people are aspiring e-commerce store owners I believe.

Noah: Oh, so let’s not talk about that then.

Steve: You know we’re actually, I have actually taken up a lot of your time already, I don’t know how much time you have but-

Noah: I’ve got two minutes to my hair cut.

Steve: Two minutes to your– all right, let’s sum it up so, advice, if you were to give one piece of advice to people who want to start their own business, what would it be?

Noah: Besides joining on Monthly1k.com…

Steve: We’ll plug it in the show notes.

Noah: I know. I don’t think, I don’t know. It’s hard sometimes I think to consolidate things to one piece of advice. I would say that the number one thing that I’ve always encouraged people is, what can you do today. And a lot of people starting businesses make excuses about more money or more time or more people. But I think if you truly want– if you have a problem that you want to solve or other people have problems you want to solve, what can you do today, tonight, right now stop the podcast. I know we’re at the end, but stop it and go do something about it versus– and this is the super common thing which is, I need one more thing, I need that next blog post, I need that other book, I need that other course to learn that one secret answer, and it doesn’t exist, it exists in yourself and that’s work. And so I want anyone who is listening to go– and this is where my satisfaction comes which is, go do some work and you can tweet me what your result is. I’d love to hear about it from just taking that action now. You don’t need to spend any money, you don’t need to spend more time, but when you get up, take out those ear plugs or put in some rap music and in ear plugs, get some hustle on and go try you know, solve some people problem, make the world better.

Steve: That’s great advice Noah. So, where can we find you? If people like reach out and contact you?

Noah: Don’t find me at all unless you are Steve.

Steve: Asian dating guys, that’s easy Asian dating.

Noah: Don’t make me seem like I’m that weird, creepy dude. You know so, I’m online, you know AppSumo.com is a free newsletter to help entrepreneurs kick ass. We have SumoMe.com which is a free tool if you want to learn the things that we do for marketing that’s helped us grow, totally free. My personal blog where I share you know all the marketing secrets and tactics that I use is OkDork.com and personally on twitter I post interesting links and quotes at Noah Kagan.com and then on twitter@ Noahkagan.

Steve: Okay and once again, I’ll put all that on the notes, so you guys don’t have to remember what he said, but you know, thanks a lot Noah for coming on the show, really appreciate it man.

Noah: Yeah man, for sure.

Steve: All right, take care.

Noah: You too brother.

Steve: Isn’t Noah great? Now, the guy talks really fast and he brought a lot of great points in the podcast so, I thought I would just take the time to summarize some of the key points that he brought up. So number one, you always want to work backwards from your problems. Don’t create a product or website first and then look for customers. Instead what you want to do is you want to find the customers first and then build the site or product, because if you do things that way your products are guaranteed to sell. So, to test your idea Noah brought up that you should always try to get at least three paying customers within 48 hours.

Now, in my course I follow the exact same philosophy as Noah. In addition, to the key word research things that I teach in my class, you should always try to throw up a website and just sell things even though you might not even have inventory. So, sell on eBay, sell on Amazon if you have to, to first test your idea and if you even have to you can even fulfill your products from your competitors if you have to. So, in other words, if you have a store up and you get an order and you don’t actually have the inventory in hand, just go ahead and buy that same product from a competitor to ship.

What you are looking for in the beginning is information on what sells and what does not. Okay, Noah also brought up the issue of always be collecting emails. E-mails is the best way to keep in touch and to gather a following for your blog or your business. Another important thing that Noah brought up was lubricating the relationship. So if you want people to help you, then it really helps to have all the materials written ahead of time.

And Noah used the example where he pre-wrote emails that his affiliates could use to help promote his product so that they don’t actually have to even use their brain. They can just simply cut and paste what he already wrote and send that out as is. Okay, and most importantly, Noah also said that you should do more of what is already working and don’t spread yourself too thin.

Often times as a business owner, it’s really easy to get caught up in expansion when sometimes all it takes is to improve your existing products, okay? And one other last point that Noah and I completely agree on, is this issue of outsourcing work from your business. In the beginning when your business just starts out, you should try to do everything yourself so that you have a full understanding of what is involved in running your business. And only with that knowledge can you eventually outsource your company effectively.

Okay, so a lot of great points in that podcast. I just want to remind you guys that my podcast contest is still going on and once again I’m giving away a free copy of my course and free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch, that’s mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.

Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast, where we are giving the courage where people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www. mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

006: How Polly Liu Created An 8 Figure Business Selling Wedding Favors Online

polly liu

I’m thrilled to have Polly Liu on the show today. Polly’s wedding favor store, Beau-Coup.com, started in her own bedroom and has since ballooned to an 8 figure business. In fact, Beau-Coup was the inspiration for my own online store.

Early on, I modeled our shop just like hers and I tracked and studied her every move. Don’t be fooled by Polly’s modesty on the podcast. She’s a super star and there’s a lot to be learned if you want to dominate in ecommerce like she has.

What You’ll Learn

  • Why Polly decided to start an online store selling wedding favors
  • Why Polly decided to dropship early on
  • Why she transitioned to carrying her own inventory
  • How she marketed her store early on
  • How she managed to get early PR coverage of her business
  • How Polly found unique items to sell in her shop
  • How to stalk popular magazine editors
  • What form of marketing works best for Beau-coup.com
  • What’s the traffic distribution for Beau-coup.com
  • Why Beau-coup uses a popup ad on their store.
  • How long did it take until Beau-coup started getting traction
  • How Polly has Google proofed her store over the years
  • What direction is Beau-coup is headed to remain competitive
  • Polly biggest mistake with her shop

Resources Mentioned On The Show

Book recommendations

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Transcript

Steve: You are listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast episode number six. Now before we begin, I just wanted to give a quick thank you shout out to Noah Kagan from AppSumo.com and OkDork.com. Now, I had a conversation with Noah yesterday, but for some reason I wasn’t in the best of moods when I was chatting with him and the funny thing is that everything was all good. I had a successful podcast launch and this podcast was actually ranked number two out of all business podcasts for two straight days and I owe that all to you, but for some reason I was still in a funk.

Now, normally I’m a very happy, go lucky Chinese boy, but I must have been kind of a downer that day. Anyway, long story short, Noah took some time out of his day to try and help me figure out what makes me happy and he actually shares some of his own experiences with me as well. Now, Noah didn’t have to do any of this, and this guy actually genuinely cares about people and for that, I just want to say thank you, it’s all good today. Now, onto the show.

Welcome to the mywifequiteherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host, Steve Chou!

Steve: Welcome to another edition of the mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I am honored to have Polly Liu with me on the podcast. Now, Polly is actually someone I met at Stanford but I never really got a chance to get to know, because at the time she was an upper class man and I was kind of this lowly freshman just trying to get used to the ropes. Anyways, Polly started her business Beau-Coup.com way back in 2001 selling wedding and party favors and it has since ballooned into an eight figure business, and in fact her site now totally dominates the wedding favor’s space and she has been expanding into baby and other party favors as well.

So, since I have Polly on the line, it’s confession time. When I first started Bumblebee Linens, I secretly modeled the design of our shop after Beau-Coup. I stocked her store, I found out where she was advertising, I found out her web posting, her shopping part platform, and just about the only thing that I didn’t do was that I didn’t stock Polly herself because that would have been kind of creepy. But, you know overall, I tried to follow the same strategies with our store as what she had done with Beau-Coup and, you know, as you can tell we’ve done pretty well as well just following the same thing as she has done. Anyways, I’m really happy to have gotten back in touch with Polly after all these years, she’s truly an inspiration for my business and we can all learn from her. So, welcome Polly to the show.

Polly: Thank you Steve I’m completely humbled by your introduction [chuckles], I’m really not that great. So, I’m happy to be here and share my experiences with your audience. So, yeah.

Steve: Yeah, so let’s just start with a quick background story. Tell us about Beau-Coup and how you started it and how you kind of came up with the idea.

Polly: Wow, that was a long time ago, 11 years ago, 11 years plus but, the idea originated actually when I wanted to kind of, you know, do something on my own, something entrepreneurial. I was about to get married and about you know, six months, had gotten engaged, and I was at a start up and actually got laid off in the fourth round of layoffs but I was you know, kind of debating whether I want to go and get another job or start something on my own which I’ve always wanted to.

So, you know, my husband and I were brainstorming at the time, my husband had a full time job and you know, as I was planning my own wedding I kind of you know, stumbled upon this idea of selling wedding favors online because we were having issues with our own experience. We were really into golf back then and we wanted to give out golf ball wedding favors as our favors to our guests and it was just a really hard experience finding you know, personalized golf footballs online, and getting it packaged nicely and we just thought it was an opportunity, because you know, we needed to buy hundreds of these little golf balls and there was just really nowhere online you know, all the sites kind of look the same, carry the same type of products.

So we just saw an opportunity and we liked the business model because you know, people buy in bulk and each order would be you know, sizeable and we didn’t have to stock a lot of inventory because we could just kind of turn around and get a dropship from you know, our wholesale vendors so, we kind of liked the low risk strategy, we thought it was an opportunity, I thought I could kind of carry more unique products so, we kind of just kind of you know on our way– I remember this, we were going home to Ed’s parents house in Missouri and we were kind of just jotting down kind of a business plan on a piece of napkin on the airplane and that’s how it kind of started, the idea, and then we went to some gift shows after that and just kind of cemented our idea of you know, selling wedding favors online back then.

Steve: So it was important that you did this online, is that correct, because were there catalogues that sold these personalized golf balls that you were looking for at the time?

Polly: No, offline, wedding favors is really not an offline business, again because you have to buy hundreds of an item…

Steve: Okay

Polly: And most stores don’t want to stock hundreds of you know, a key chain or a bottle stopper to sell as wedding favors so it’s really a good business model for online so we kind of saw that as an opportunity and we just didn’t like the selection that was available back then online. And you know, most of the weddings we’ve gone to it’s kind of all the similar type favors so we thought there was an opportunity to be more unique in this space.

Steve: Okay, so back in 2001 I don’t really think that dropshipping was actually really big just yet, so how did you – were all these vendors willing to dropship right away or did you have special arrangements?

Polly: So when I was at the gift show, most vendors had a minimum order size, so if you wanted to place an order, you had to place you know, a hundred dollars worth of merchandise and this is also why we liked the business model because, you know, if someone ordered 50 to 100 of something, it usually meets the minimum size and I did negotiate with some vendors back then. But, you know, a lot of the vendors that we did end up using were traditionally wedding favor vendors so you know, and we tried to carry more upscale selections so we did– we were able to meet the minimum threshold and when I set you know, minimum thresholds on my website, I made sure that it met you know, the minimum order.

Steve: Okay, so how does customer service work and so, someone places an order on your site for a whole bunch of wedding favors and then do you then just go ahead and place the order with your vendor?

Polly: Yeah, yeah so I would take the order whether it’s online or over the phone and I literally you know, we would have a lead time on our site depending on which vendor it came from and I would literally turn around and call the vendor or e-mail them with the order, with the details of the order and it wasn’t super automated back then. It was literally e-mail with the details of you know, what they ordered and then they would turn around and ship it directly to the customer.

Steve: So how did you handle customer support and returns and that sort of thing, because you never actually saw the merchandise right?

Polly: I never saw the merchandise and if someone wanted to return something they would come back to me and not the vendor because you know, I wanted them to know that I was the interface.

Steve: Okay

Polly: And you know, when I worked with a vendor I try to get them to blind dropship so meaning, it didn’t look like it came from you know, so and so, it came from Beau-Coup so they would actually change their UPS label to say Beau-Coup, so the customer wouldn’t be confused when they got the package.

Steve: I see, so these vendors that you are working with, they didn’t really have an online presence at all either right, so it was a win win on both ends?-

Polly: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Yeah, and it was a new channel for them because again wedding favors wasn’t like you know, their typical customer base so you know, they loved the fact that we were able to place larger orders every time.

Steve: Okay, so even today, do you still follow that same model or do you hold more inventory?

Polly: We hold a lot more inventory because it just makes sense in how you know, a lot of times customers order you know, three or four different types of products and it does make sense to try to consolidate and send them one package versus four different packages. So, the types of products that we do dropship now are mostly personalized products that we don’t personalize in-house, like personalized ribbon or personalized cookies that we don’t bake you know, we don’t bake the cookies in-house [laughter]. So everything else we have to inventory and we you know, now we have a third party dropship, I mean, actually third party warehouse in the mid-west that ships all of our products for us so.

Steve: So, how did you know that you needed to kind of transition over to that model? Or was it gradual or?

Polly: It was gradual, we just ended up you know, stocking a little, a little more, a little more and it’s usually the more popular items that we started stocking.

Steve: Okay

Polly: And then you know, as we grew, the needs became bigger and we actually run out of warehouse space just a year or two ago and we moved our fulfillment to the mid-west.

Steve: So, take me back to the beginning. How much did you invest in this business? And, do you have a technical background at all or?

Polly: Not really [chuckles].

Steve: Not really.

Polly: I was an economics and psychology major, but I have to give credit to my husband who actually helped me build the website, did a lot of technical, yeah [chuckles] work.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: In the beginning I was, well mostly on the marketing and merchandising side.

Steve: Okay, so let’s go back to the early days. So, what were some of the challenges? So you had your husband help with the website, what were some of all the other you know, start up related challenges and how did you overcome them?

Polly: I would say the biggest challenge was probably marketing, just getting the word out, letting people find out about us and I really got lucky with a feature in Instyle magazine. So what I did was, I would just cold call all you know, a bunch of editors…

Steve: You mean stock, kind of-

Interviewer: Stock yeah [laughter]

Steve: Kind of like what I do? Okay

Polly: So you know, I try to get the contacts and either you know, e-mail them or call them and I just got lucky with one editor at Instyle magazine which really helped us kind of you know, put us on the map and get more features after that and I still remember it was a pair of salt and pepper shakers made out of blown glass, that I found at a local shopping mall, Stanford shopping mall, and you know, it was more of a home decor item and I just thought that it would be a really cute wedding favor item.

So you know, I added that to my website and this editor thought it was a great idea, it was very high end. It was like over ten dollars a pair and she featured it, and after that I just started getting you know, traffic to the site and I was able to say, hey, I was featured in Instyle magazine and I got other you know, Martha Stewart weddings or brides magazines to become interested because they thought– oh, wow! If Instyle would feature you then maybe we should too. So that helped a lot and I definitely…

Steve: So-

Polly: Like plastered that all over my homepage and-

Steve: Yeah, we do the same thing.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: So, you said a lot of stuff in that last statement so let’s walk through some of that. So, you said you saw something at the mall that you liked.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: How did you get from that point to carrying something in your actual store?

Polly: Yes, that’s a great question because I did that a lot in the early days. I tried to be creative. So wherever I was you know, I’m always kind of keeping an eye out for unique items so. I remember this was a gift store in a local shopping mall and I just thought it would be a really cute item to have on our site. So what I did was, I you know, I looked on the bottom, found out who manufactured it or who they got it from, I do that a lot [laughter]. I’m a very sneaky shopper [chuckles].

Steve: [chuckles]

Polly: I’m always like taking pictures with my I-phone, yeah, just to try to find out where they sourced it from and then it was a place in Santa Rosa, I remember. And I called them up, I got a catalogue and you know, some vendors will drop ship, some vendors won’t. And sometimes I have to take a risk and kind of you know, place initial order to stock and if it works out then I’ll stock more. And this particular vendor didn’t drop ship. So I actually took the risk– I think I bought a $100 worth of products and it was nice because I got to see the products, take my own pictures and you know, just took some risk on inventory, which wasn’t a lot.

Steve: Yeah, a $100 dollars is nothing.

Polly: Yeah, and I really liked the product so I was confident I was able to sell it and I got some in the shop or in my apartment, I got some shipped to my apartment.

Steve: [chuckles]

Polly: And then I just you know, took pictures, wrote some creative copy and got it loaded onto our website and yeah, then the Instyle editor just really liked it.

Steve: So, what did you write in this letter, I’m just kind of curious, how do you approach someone just completely cold?

Polly: Oh! I actually called her [chuckles].

Steve: Oh! You called?

Polly: [chuckles] And I think I got lucky she just happened to pick up the phone and you get lucky sometimes, they’ll just pick up or you leave voicemails which usually doesn’t work well. And I just started talking to her and I still keep in touch with her.

Steve: Oh!

Polly: Throughout the years, yeah, now she’s got her own show online and yeah, so…

Steve: Wow! Okay, so, how did you get her phone number? Maybe I should be taking from you lessons about stocking instead.

Polly: There’s a directory at the library, you can just go to any local library, called the Bacon’s directory, and it has all the magazines that you can ever want to you know, write to and it’s categorized like you know, wedding or baby, or family or you know lifestyle and you can literary get contact information for any magazine there by fax, by e-mail, by phone. So, it’s just a directory of all the editors.

Steve: That is a very good tip.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: So, is that still up to date today, do you know? As far as you know?

Polly: I don’t know, I haven’t used it in a while.

Steve: You haven’t stocked anyone in a while, I see.

Polly: No, but it’s called Bacon’s directory yeah.

Steve: Okay, great! That’s awesome advice. So, okay, so you get in Instyle magazine and then did you actually get a ton of orders from the magazine ad itself?

Polly: I wouldn’t say that we got a ton of orders; we got a lot of kind of just publicity from it.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: And it was just great right, to know that someone was interested and then it kind of snowballed from there but, I would say what really helped me in the early days from a marketing stand point, I mean, that was really great, InStyle. But I also just kind of started learning about SEO.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Search engine marketing or optimization and I you know, started writing content, I started building links, I started just trying to you know, learn how to scroll up on Google, and I think in the very early days we also did some paid advertising through Google which brought in a lot of water back traffic.

Steve: Okay, so let’s go in a little more in-depth. So earlier on, so what are some of the SEO things that you did with your site? And this is just back when you were just by yourself pretty much right?

Polly: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, I mean back then it was so early for SEO so it’s pretty easy to you know, gain rankings but, I know I made sure all of my pages were re-titled, wedding favors or anything I wanted to rank for, I wrote content on wedding favors, bridal shower favors too and I exchanged a lot of links. So, I would you know go out to other wedding related sites and try to get them to link to me with anchor text that has wedding favors in it or something related and I would link back to them. So, I did a lot of that because I was just reading up on it and it was a lot of work.

Steve: Oh right, yeah.

Polly: And finding directories to you know, get my link in there. But I did a lot of that in the early days.

Steve: Okay, okay. So, just for the benefit of the listeners, the SEO game has changed tremendously…

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: In the last couple years, so some of these tactics that Polly is describing here, well, will no longer work, and in some cases they may penalize you but, in the early days all that stuff was actually very good strategy in terms of building up a search engine optimization.

Polly: Yes.

Steve: So, okay, so you have– SEO traffic start trickling in, how long did it take for that to happen?

Polly: Not too long. I would say like, within like a few months, I started seeing some results and I just did more and more of it and as you’ll see right now today I mean, we are not just ranking for wedding favors, it’s you know, baby shower favors, birthday party favors. So, we did more and more, and like Steve said, the game has completely changed so, you know, this was like ten years ago [chuckles].

Steve: Yeah, yeah. So, how has it evolved? I’m just curious, how do you guys get links now for your store?

Polly: Oh, we just try to get natural links now, we don’t build any links, we don’t submit anything to directories anymore. It’s really just building good content and doing a lot of social media. You know, we have a blog, so we just try to produce content that we think our readers or our audience will be interested in and then they will want to link to us so.

Steve: Okay, so, percentagewise you know what percentage of your business is direct traffic SEO, search engine marketing and that sort of thing just to give a very rough breakdown.

Polly: In the early days I would say almost 90 percent of it came from SEO, SEO yeah not even paid. Paid was probably like ten percent of it or something, and I think over the years paid has become a much bigger percentage of our business.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: And, today I don’t have the exact breakdown but I want to say that you know, paid is probably like 30 percent you know, SEO is probably another 30 percent and everything else is like you know, press, or social media and everything else so.

Steve: What about e-mail? Do you guys do anything special with e-mail at all?

Polly: Yeah, we have a huge e-mail base now so yeah, we do have a lot of people coming in whenever we send out an e-mail blast, but that’s not a huge percentage of our traffic source.

Steve: Oh, okay. So, do you gather e-mails from people that have purchased or do you gather in other ways with your content as well?

Polly: Both, so you know, you can come to our site and I think one of the first things you’ll see is a pop-up that asks you to join our newsletter and then you know, after every purchase or actually during the purchase process, they can opt in to receive our e-mail and then afterwards we see if they want to you know, sign up for our newsletter as well and there’s just a lot of opportunities along the funnel for them to sign up.

Steve: So this pop-up is often been controversial in terms of e-commerce stores, do you guys offer any special offers with this pop-up or is it an informational pop-up?

Polly: Yeah, they’ll see exclusive notifications on sales and I think you know, they’ll get it– and then once they agree to get newsletters we have a whole cycle of welcome e-mails and you know, so we try to give them bigger and bigger deals along the way every week to get them to buy. Even if they don’t buy on that visit, they’ll get e-mails to try to encourage them to come back.

Steve: Okay, so the pop-up actually hasn’t deterred people from shopping on your site right?

Polly: No.

Steve: Because sometimes it annoys people.

Polly: Yeah, I know [chuckles] we’ve tested it and actually it does work for us.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: Okay. So, you know if you were to go way back you just got laid off from your job, you’re just starting up your business, when did you kind of know that this is what you wanted to do? How much time did you give yourself?

Polly: Yeah. It was probably a year into it, I mean I remember in the early days it was just me you know, by myself in my apartment and I definitely had doubts you know, in the early months especially that this wasn’t going to work. And I remember you know having episodes where I would cry and be like, what am I doing here? [Chuckles] I’m all by myself trying to get links [chuckles] and then you know, in the early days I mean, fulfillment was you know, a challenge too. I had to like pack up my own packages and then like go to the local drug store to drop off the packages.

So it was just really manual too, and I definitely had doubts and it wasn’t until you know, I got that InStyle feature and you know, I started seeing traffic to our site start to increase and you know, started to get some orders and I realized, hey, this could really work and you know, some days I wouldn’t get any orders in the early days and then you know, I think maybe at the sixth month mark you know, I would get an order a day and then it would become like two or three a day and you know, once you see the growth pattern you just you know, start having more confidence in the business.

Steve: Okay. So, that Instyle thing happened within the first six months?

Polly: Yes.

Steve: Okay. Yeah, you know, one thing that I always tell the students in my class at least is to never underestimate the impact of leg work and it sounds like you did your share of leg work in the beginning by cold calling people as well as you know, just hustling work to get any sort of business that you could.

Polly: Yes, yes.

Steve: So-

Polly: And I did everything, I mean, I tried to partner with you know, wedding vendors and event planners and you know, just trying to get creative with marketing. I think that was the biggest challenge in the beginning, is just to get our name out there so.

Steve: What a coincidence! We have been doing the same thing.

Polly: Yeah, you can’t be shy [chuckles].

Steve: So, okay, so your business is gaining traction and you know if you can think back, I know it’s hard to think back that far, but I’m sure you made your share of mistakes as well. So I was just wondering if you could comment on some of these mistakes and perhaps you know in the hopes that other people who are starting wouldn’t make these same mistakes.

Polly: What are you talking about mistakes? [chuckles]

Steve: I know you are perfect Polly and you know, [chuckles]

Polly: I’m just kidding [chuckles] mistakes so you know I think I might have mentioned this to you at one point but thinking back, I think if I were to do it all over again, I would have invested more in infrastructure from the beginning. You know, in the beginning it’s just hard because you know, you’re not sure if this is going to work and you’re just trying to like get the cheapest like server or get the cheapest you know, any third party software you can get and as the company grew it was just hard you know, with all this legacy.

I remember you know, even our shopping cart, we tried to get you know, something off the shelf, really cheaply and even with you know, our operating system or our fulfillment software, we just tried to find the cheapest thing out there in the beginning and then as we grew, we had to switch it out, it was just a nightmare. And you know, in some cases where we had to spend a lot of time trying to, you know upgrade the system, upgrade the infrastructure and it just took a lot of bandwidth when we could have used that time and the resources to grow the business. So, you know, it’s really hard because you know, you want to save money, you want to be scrappy in the beginning, but I do think you know, for certain things you need to invest in scale.

Steve: Was open source around back then? I’m trying to think this was a long time ago so.

Polly: Yeah, but we didn’t really do that.

Steve: I don’t think it was actually that big.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: Certainly not in 2001.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: So, may I ask what you were on initially when you first started out?

Polly: Oh gosh, I can’t even remember, I’m sorry [chuckles].

Steve: Okay, oh, that’s okay. And then, what did you transition to then, is your shopping hut homegrown now or are you using anything kind of off the shelf altogether.

Polly: No, we were using Niva.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: For a long time, now it’s completely custom built, I mean, we built our own shopping cart, our own you know, operating…

Steve: Okay.

Polly: System, yeah.

Steve: Just between you and me, I already knew the answer to that question before I asked so, [chuckles]

Polly: Cheeky [chuckles]

Steve: Okay, so and you know, as your company has kind of grown, how has– so let’s talk about Google for a sec, So, within the last couple of years the Google rankings have been shifting around the algorithm to change so, how has the company kind of transitioned over the years to kind of Google proof yourself so to speak?

Polly: Yeah, yeah, we realized that we can’t just depend on Google traffic as much as we did in the past So we try to like you know, like I said, build a bigger social media presence, build better content and you know, get smatter with paid advertising you know, try to find other places where we can pay for traffic so that we are not so reliant on our rankings you know, we could drop tomorrow and not feel the pain so much because we have definitely experienced that I would say like five or six years ago or even the recent past. It was just really stressful to rely on that traffic. You know, today we are doing very well on Google but you know, that could go away tomorrow so.

Steve: So, what are some of the paper click services that you use and recommend?

Polly: Well, first of all we, you know, advertise on all the major search engines right.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: So Google, Yahoo, Bing. We do you know the shopping engines; I can’t remember the others [chuckles].

Steve: That’s okay, yeah, we know.

Polly: A comparison.

Steve: Google merchants centre.

Polly: Comparison shopping, yeah.

Steve: Right.

Polly: And then we do the product feed, product feed paid advertising, so you know, we just explore and then we you know, we pay for some blog advertising and…

Steve: How did that work out actually? I’m just curious, for the blog advertising.

Polly: Yeah. It actually, doesn’t work out as well as some of the other you know, channels but it’s good for kind of brand marketing. So we still do some but not a ton, it’s not a big channel for us by any means. So, in terms of you know, return on investment it’s definitely not one of our top channels. I would say e-mail, e-mail has the best return but it’s small and we also– let me try to think what else we do, affiliate is also another channel, affiliate marketing.

Steve: Oh! Okay.

Polly: Which actually has worked a lot better in the past too [chuckles].

Steve: Oh! Because the Google rankings affected the blogs?

Polly: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: That makes sense.

Polly: And now we are trying to figure out how to, you know, get on mobile and you know, advertise on mobile which is not you know, the best performing channel right now for anyone so.

Steve: Yeah, mobile for us isn’t performing that well. Recently we, well not recently, is a couple of years ago, we did a mobile implementation of our site which drastically boosted conversions. But they were still pretty low and I noticed you guys launched one, was it a year ago? Or couple of years ago as well?

Polly: A year ago, yeah.

Steve: A year ago yeah.

Polly: Yeah. I mean, it’s great but it just doesn’t convert you know, I think you get a lot of eye balls but people just don’t you know still buy on their phones as much as they do on you know, an iPad or the desktop so.

Steve: So do you still continue to buy ads for the mobile space then?

Polly: We’re experimenting, I think not a ton but you know, we’re starting with our brand and then you know some of the top terms but it’s just, the returns are just not there so, right now yeah.

Steve: So just curious, how do you measure like brand penetration? Is there a way that you guys can quantify that? Or how does it work?

Polly: Brand penetration, [chuckles] you know, we do look at how many people search for our brand over time, and the good news is that it’s more and more every year because as we you know, become more well known I think people are searching for our name Beau-Coup in all different forms and we do measure how well it converts and it’s by far the best converting returns for us.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: Okay, so if you were– so I noticed that you decided, I think all of your stuff is sourced domestically, is that correct for the most part?

Polly: Most part I would say 98 percent we did source some things from Europe yeah.

Steve: So, was that a conscious decision to just kind of keep everything domestic? Or just what were some of the thought processes that went into products that you wanted to carry?

Polly: I think part of it is just you know, starting out, we just didn’t have the volume to import and it was just really complicated and I just didn’t have the resources or the mind share back then to even think about learning how to import. And we did go to a gift show in Hong-Kong a few years ago and we do import a few things now from China. But it’s through a middle man and I think the thought processes as we get bigger we will be able to bring in containers and you know of items, but it is a lot more risky, so we didn’t want to kind of, you know, commit to a container full of anything.

Steve: Sure.

Polly: So, it’s just you know, and I think that the domestic market you know, there’s just so much that we want to do still so that we haven’t tapped into the whole importing. But it is an opportunity, we can definitely get the cost down by a lot but we also need the warehouse space to…

Steve: Right, right.

Polly: Store all these products and then we take on the inventory risk.

Steve: And there is quality control as well.

Polly: Yeah, it’s just a whole set of issues so.

Steve: Okay. So, do you have any– let’s say I was a complete nubby today who wants to start an online store. Any advice that you would give for people just starting out, who want to create a business set similar to yours but you know not within the same niche?

Polly: Not within the same niche, gosh, I think the game…

Steve: because you would just crash them you know, if they started in the same niche.

Polly: [laughter] Don’t even try! You know, I think the game’s changed a lot, like I said, I think it’s just a lot harder now with marketing. I think it’s just so much more expensive so, you know, I would just advice to just understand your product, your category, your competitive space because I think it’s just so much more competitive this days and even with bringing traffic, just know how much it will cost you [chuckles].

Steve: Right.

Polly: So, think about you know, your margins, I think that’s a big learning for us is just trying to– I think in the earlier days it was really easy because we didn’t have as much competition.

Steve: Right.

Polly: And we were more unique and as we grew there was just a lot more people came into our space and try you know, started carrying similar type items. So it’s just harder to differentiate ourselves on a product level and we are going back to that a lot more through designs, and through carrying exclusive products because you know, competing on price is just really hard.

Steve: Right.

Polly: And we’re trying to get away from that because you know, you are bidding against all these other guys on you know Google, Pay for click and it just gets really expensive and to have a descent margin, you’re going to have to really differentiate through product offering.

Steve: One thing I do notice is that you guys take your own shots, so even though it might be the same product…

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: Yeah.

Polly: Yeah, that helps a lot actually.

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Polly: We’ve done a lot of A/B testing on product images using the vendor’s image versus our own and using a nice image versus a not so nice image and it definitely pays off to have good photography. So, we do a lot of that and a lot of like you know our own content and we try to give people ideas on packaging and how to differentiate the product because it really helps us convert.

Steve: Any worries about Amazon kind of encroaching and taking away some of…

Polly: Yeah! We do worry about Amazon but like I said, if we continue down the path of you know, coming up with our own exclusive designs on the personalized products which is a huge part of our business now.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Inland, and working with manufacturers on producing exclusive product lines, that’s kind of the direction we are headed.

Steve: Okay.

Polly: I think that will help us stay competitive.

Steve: That makes a whole lot of sense because the whole personalization space in Amazon, it hasn’t quite jelled yet, yeah.

Polly: Right

Steve: Okay! So, is there a favorite business book that you could recommend to the listeners?

Polly: Favorite business book– gosh, I’m trying to think what are some of my best books?

Steve: Do you read anymore Polly? I mean, I know you have a couple of kids but, [chuckles].

Polly: I do read, I do read. Maybe not so many business books anymore, but I’m reading a book called ‘Quiet’, which I highly recommend, [chuckles] it’s about introverts verses extroverts and how to you know, and it actually applies in the workspace too, you know, how you can manage people better by knowing whether they are you know, an introvert or extrovert so, it’s quite interesting.

Steve: So are you yourself an introvert or extrovert?

Polly: [chuckle] I you know, I talk about this all the time with my husband, my friends, I think I’m somewhere in between-

Steve: Okay.

Polly: Yeah, I’m not truly one or the other but…

Steve: I would not call you an introvert; I just thought I would ask [chuckle].

Polly: Really? [Laughs]

Steve: Yeah, no, I mean, an introvert – at least when we first met, the conversation was kind of free flowing so I, you know, usually introverts, it’s a little harder to get them going so.

Polly: Oh, yeah.

Steve: But, any online services that you use for your business that you just can’t live without that you recommend? You guys would look at?

Polly: There’s a site – I can get back to you, but basically, you can basically see all your competitors and their traffic and where they are coming from. God, I can’t believe I’m blanking right now so.

Steve: Open [inaudible] [00:36:33] no-

Polly: No, no, no, something with competition in it [chuckles].

Steve: Competition [chuckles] Okay! Yeah, you know, once you get that to me I’ll go ahead and put it in the show notes.

Polly: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Chances are I’ve already used it on your site.

Polly: Oh! It’s Compete.com?

Steve: Compete! Okay, yes, Compete.com of course.

Polly: I love Compete.com because I’m always like spying on my competitors and-

Steve: Ah! So I’m not the only one? [chuckles] Okay.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: Well, I know you’ve got some stuff you need to get done Polly, and I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but just thank you so much for coming on the show.

Polly: No, I this is great and I hope you know I want to listen to all your other podcasts too, great series you’re doing.

Steve: Yeah, I hope it really takes off.

Polly: Yeah.

Steve: All right, well, thanks Polly!

Polly: All right, thanks Steve!

Steve: I really respect Polly a lot, and in fact I owe the success of my online store directly to her and Beau-Coup. Back then, I used her online store as a role model for my own and by stocking and tracking Beau-Coup’s every move, I was able to emulate her success or be it on a much smaller scale. Anyway, be sure to check out the show note for this episode, where you’ll find the sites and links mentioned in this episode and if you have a minute, it would really help if you could subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. And don’t forget to enter my free contest where I’m giving away a lifetime membership to my profitable online store course as well as free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. That’s mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening!

Thanks for listening to the mywifequiteherjob podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.

I Need Your Help

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, then please support me with a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easy and takes 1 minute! Just click here to head to Apple Podcasts and leave an honest rating and review of the podcast. Every review helps!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?


If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!