Cover image of Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan
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Business
Marketing
Entrepreneurship

Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Updated 2 days ago

Rank #64 in Marketing category

Business
Marketing
Entrepreneurship
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We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.

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We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.

iTunes Ratings

517 Ratings
Average Ratings
491
16
5
3
2

Great Content!

By MrRbnsn - Oct 09 2019
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I enjoy listening to the depth of brands, companies and founders that are discussed on this show!

Love it!

By Chargers538 - Sep 22 2019
Read more
Thank you Nate and the foundr team! Love the podcast!

iTunes Ratings

517 Ratings
Average Ratings
491
16
5
3
2

Great Content!

By MrRbnsn - Oct 09 2019
Read more
I enjoy listening to the depth of brands, companies and founders that are discussed on this show!

Love it!

By Chargers538 - Sep 22 2019
Read more
Thank you Nate and the foundr team! Love the podcast!

Listen to:

Cover image of Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Updated 2 days ago

Read more

We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.

60: How to Become Financially Free with Tony Robbins

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Tony Robbins talks fast. Conversing with him is like riding Space Mountain: You get in, you hang on, and before you know it, it’s over and you’re left feeling bewildered, slightly euphoric, and wanting to smooth your hair.

Robbins has become a household name as the man who popularized life coaching. Imagine your client list including Oprah, Princess Diana, and Bill Clinton—all before you hit your mid- 30s. He’s spoken to more than 50 million people in 100 countries. To call Tony Robbins just a self-help guru would be like calling Muhammad Ali just a boxer. It doesn’t quite cut it. He is a force of nature, an industry, and a global brand. His advice is still sought by the likes of professional athletes, CEOs, movie stars, rappers and world leaders.

When Foundr interrupted Robbins’ schedule for an interview, he was 40 miles from the Arctic Circle, racing Lamborghinis across a frozen ice lake. As you do. “I was eaten up by my crazy schedule, going to 15 countries a year, so I decided, ‘I’m going to find a little time to play,’ and this was on my list. So it’s nice to be able to experience it.”

It’s a fitting vacation. Robbins is best known for his high-intensity seminars. To say he’s bursting with enthusiasm is an understatement. It seems as though he’s sitting atop an erupting volcano of energy and optimism. His voice is booming, with its trademark rasp. He makes each point with the force of an artillery bombardment.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How to deduce your market to the metrics that matter
  • The steps you need to take in order to be financially free
  • Turning past pain into pure motivation and a hunger for success
  • Tony's ethos in living for impact, and how the money will follow
  • How to serve your client in the best possible way
  • & more more!

Sep 30 2015

44mins

Play

26: The Eventbrite Story - Building a $1 Billion Startup with Julia Hartz

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Meet Kevin and Julia Hartz.

In 2003, Kevin and Julia were sat next to each other at the Santa Barbara wedding of mutual friends. They hit it off, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2006, they celebrated their own wedding, and in 2008, they welcomed the first children.

You would be forgiven if you think this story sounds familiar, like the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. But rest assured: this story is anything but familiar.

Along the way, the duo also founded Eventbrite, a self service ticketing platform for event organizers valued at $1 billion as reported by The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.

But let's start at the beginning.

When Kevin and Julia first met, Kevin was a serial entrepreneur working on his second startup, the Silicon Valley-based money transfer company XOOM, which he had cofounded in 2001. Julia, meanwhile, was working in television development for FX Networks in Los Angeles.

Their chance encounter at the wedding of mutual friends brought them together, but for a few years at least, their respective careers kept them geographically apart, navigating the murky waters of a long-distance relationship.

Eventually, that had to change, so Julia decided to "make the leap and move to the Bay Area."

In this interview you will learn:

-Growth secrets to eventbrites success

-The birth of eventbrite

-Sticking points and how they leveraged them

-How to understand your DNA as a founder

-How and why you need to seek great advisors

-Building a great culture in your workplace

 

I Need Your Help!
If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below. It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!
 
Leave a review for the Foundr Podcast!

Jan 16 2015

48mins

Play

192: Best of Foundr: Gary Vee, Tony Robbins, and More Talk Hustle, Mindset, and GSD (Foundr 5th Birthday Special Episode)

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Welcome back to our “Best of Foundr” podcast series!

To celebrate Foundr’s 5th birthday, we put together a series of special edition podcast episodes that feature the best snippets from our most popular episodes. We pulled out the gems from each of your favorite interviews and compiled them into a three-week series of pure content gold.

This week we are focusing on hustle, motivation, mindset, and getting things done! In this episode, we have one of my heroes and the king of hustle, Gary Vee. We also have memory and productivity wizard Jim Kwik, morning routine master Hal Elrod, and the mindset king himself, Tony Robbins!

While I have loved the releases in this special birthday series so far, I have to say, we saved some of the best for last. In this episode, you will be challenged and motivated to seriously move to the next level!

Mar 28 2018

1hr 30mins

Play

258: The Story Behind Game-Changing Travel Brand Away, With Founder Steph Korey

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Selling Luggage and a Lifestyle How Steph Korey and Jen Rubio co-founded a luggage company for the modern adventurer that is taking the world by storm.

Jen Rubio called her friend Steph Korey to vent about an irritating, expensive problem that just about any frequent flyer has endured at some point. She had a busted carry-on.

Rubio was suffering from suitcase-demolition blues, and Korey wasn’t sure what brands to recommend. So Rubio texted a dozen of their trendiest, travel-savvy friends—the kind of people who would know all the best hotels in Bangkok—but they had no clue where to direct her to buy the perfect suitcase. They were quick to tell her which brands to avoid—sharing similarly frustrating stories of failure—but no one had the answer she was searching for.

The search seemed hopeless.

A single, action-packed year later, Korey and Rubio shipped the very first piece of Away carry-on luggage.

Today, the luggage company that is so much more than a luggage company has sold over a million bags to customers across the world and captured the imagination of a generation known for its desire to chase down experiences instead of possessions.

“This business isn’t really about luggage or suitcases at all,” Korey says. “What we’re really creating is a travel brand, and travel has the ability to really impact someone’s life.”

With an eye on revolutionizing the luggage industry while leaving the world better than they’d found it, Korey and Rubio designed a bag that is durable, practical, and looks dang good in an Instagram photo.

And that was only the beginning.

Charting the Course

In the beginning, Korey wasn’t sure she even wanted to start a business. She just wanted to learn more about the way other people traveled.

She and Rubio had become friends while working together at Warby Parker, the online store that home delivers hip eyeglasses at affordable prices, so they knew firsthand the challenges that come with life at a startup.

Rather than cannonballing into the deep end, the pair chose to start small and simply follow their curiosity. They decided to create a survey and send it to 50 people in a vast array of demographics, including male and female students, young professionals, established professionals, and retirees, who lived both in the US and abroad.

After sharing information about how they traveled, how they packed, and what travel products they used, each person taking the survey was asked to forward it to five of their friends who also came from varied backgrounds.

When the survey finished making its rounds, Korey and Rubio had over 800 responses to sift through. The pair was quickly able to start noticing themes, particularly when it came to how the existing luggage industry wasn’t meeting travelers’ needs.

The survey results showed that travelers wanted a light piece of carry-on luggage that maximized packing space and still fit in the overhead compartments of airplanes. They also dreamed of a bag that could take a baggage handler’s beating if they decided to check it, including wheels and zippers that wouldn’t fail.

Respondents also expressed the need for a place to put dirty, sweaty laundry after trips to the gym, summer walking tours through cities, or perilous mountain climbs. Oh, and they hated traveling with dead cell phones.

With these results in mind, Korey and Rubio moved into the next stage of development.

Korey says they were still unsure whether they wanted to start a business when they sat down with a group of designers from the fashion, luggage, and industrial design industries. They weren’t even sure when they decided to partner with two industrial designers to transform their findings into a product design.

The team had plans for their new carry-on bag in one hand, and plane tickets to Asia—where they planned to meet with dozens of luggage manufacturers—in the other, but were still unsure where this journey would land them.

It was only when a family in the manufacturing business told them their radical design could be actualized that it all clicked together. And just like that, the family agreed to manufacture the first 3,000 Away carry-on bags.

Well, not quite.

“I’m glamorizing this story a little bit,” Korey says. “It’s, in reality, probably a little more along the lines of we begged them to work with us.”

Korey and Rubio spent days with the family, attempting to convince them to manufacture the bags. With every new pitch she used to convince the family—that they were about to revolutionize the luggage industry, and their business model was totally unique, and this was a chance to get in on day one with a company that was going to be huge one day—she felt herself becoming more convinced that this was it. It was finally time to start this business.

Their manufacturers came around, too.

“I’m entirely certain that they didn’t believe any of that,” she says. “Actually, they’ve told us that they didn’t believe any of that, but that we were so sincere and passionate about what we were doing that they just couldn’t turn us down.”

Now that the ball was officially rolling, and Away was on the verge of becoming a reality, they had to jump a final, daunting hurdle. They had to find the money.

Gathering Supplies

“Raising any kind of capital is difficult, but raising seed capital is particularly difficult, because you can’t really tell the story of your business metrics at all, because they don’t exist,” Korey says. “You just have to tell the story of your vision and what you’re trying to create, and it really takes a leap of faith from investors.”

But she adds that the knowledge she had gathered from her time leading the supply chain at Warby Parker, and Rubio’s experience in the marketing team there, gave them a definite advantage.

“That is for sure the only reason that we were able to convince investors to take that leap of faith,” she says. “We knew what we were doing, and we would create something that resonated and that was successful.”

In fact, she recommends that all aspiring entrepreneurs invest some time working at a startup.

“I think it’s essential that you spend at least a couple years working at a startup first, for two reasons,” she says. “One, find out if you like it! Some people don’t like that chaos. … And then the second reason is it really gives you a sense of context of all the different pieces that go into creating something from nothing.”

In the summer of 2015, Korey and Rubio were ready to create something, so they met with more than 20 different investors across the United States over the course of a week.

After many failed pitches, and several uncomfortable red-eye flights, the pair met with Forerunner Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that invests primarily in early-stage ecommerce brands.

While most of the firms they met with simply didn’t understand what they were trying to do with Away, Korey says that Forerunner was captivated by their vision.

“We’re really creating a broader brand and business around inspiring people to live a life of new experiences, and equipping them with all the products they need to make those travel experiences more seamless,” she recalls saying in her pitch.

Within the first meeting, Forerunner was on board as a partner. With over $2.5 million raised, it was finally time to make some suitcases.

Excited by the prospect of holiday sales, Korey says they set their launch date for November 2015. But as the date drew closer and the production of the first 3,000 suitcases was delayed until February of the following year, they had to get creative.

Instead of selling the suitcases during the holiday season, they published a coffee table book called, The Places We Return To and paired it with a gift card for the February release of the first round of suitcases.

“It was really one of the first moves we did as a brand really establishing ourselves as first and foremost about travel and not about travel products,” Korey says.

In the book, they featured stories and photos of successful chefs, writers, photographers, and other talented professionals. Each person was asked about their favorite place in the entire world, why they loved it, and what they did during their visits.

“We ended up with this collection of short stories that were very intimate because it was about people who were so knowledgeable about their favorite place in the world,” Korey says.

Those featured in the book helped spread the word about the exciting new travel company, its mission, and the revolutionary new suitcase that was on the way. And the word traveled like a millennial with a break between jobs.

Korey says they prepared 2,000 books and gift cards. By Christmas, every one had sold.

Embarking on the Journey

In February 2016, the first ever Away customer (his name is Adam) received his carry-on bag. Three years later, over a million bags in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes have made it across the world in shipping boxes, overhead bins, and car trunks.

The ribbed, hard-shelled luggage is becoming more recognizable by the day. By offering their luggage at direct-to-consumer prices, what was once reserved for only the chicest of travelers could now make it to the general public.

They take their social impact seriously, as well. Away works with manufacturing companies that have, as they say on their website, “exemplary and thoughtful work environments we would want for our own employees.” The company has also partnered with several charitable organizations, including Peace Direct, Charity: Water, and Kode with Klossy.

So what’s next for Away?

Korey says the company is currently working to expand across Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of North America. Taking a page from Warby Parker and other disruptive ecommerce startups, they’ve also launched a brick-and-mortar component to their business with six American storefronts and one in London.

And as Away continues to expand, they’ll continue to release new products that support the modern traveler.

Korey is excited to see where the company goes next, not merely because she wants the business to flourish, but because she genuinely cares about the needs of Away customers. From the moment Korey and Rubio sent their first survey, they knew that the “why” behind their brand lay directly at the feet of their customers.

“You should never start a business because you want to start a business. It’s a terrible reason to do it. It’s going to be a long slog if you’re not really focused on a particular insight or a problem that you’re trying to solve,” she says. “Whether you’re just getting started and you don’t know where to start, or you’ve already gotten started, and you’re trying to figure out the next step, it really starts with deeply understanding the customer.”

It starts the way Away did: with a need, an idea, and a customer survey.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • How one phone conversation between Korey and Rubio inspired the idea for Away
  • The role data played in cementing the need for better luggage
  • How the data insights were transformed into a product design
  • Why one investor and one manufacturer decided to take a chance on Away
  • How Korey and Rubio made the best of a worst-case scenario during their launch
  • The journey from producing an initial batch of 3,000 units to selling millions
  • Why Korey believes every entrepreneur should work for a startup first
  • What the future expansion of Away looks like
  • Korey’s words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs

Jul 09 2019

33mins

Play

214: Nailing Product-Market Fit and Building a Successful Startup, With Legendary VC and Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff

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Andy Rachleff is not just a product expert; he literally coined the term “product-market fit.”

Wealthfront CEO, former VC backing companies such as eBay, Uber, and Twitter, and technology entrepreneurship instructor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Rachleff has a wealth of knowledge on creating and scaling powerful companies. I was excited to have the chance to pick his brain on everything from product-market fit, to how he started his company Wealthfront, to how he hires the best of the best to join his team.

In this interview, you will gain access to a true master, who has enjoyed a long career of investing in legendary companies and now gives back to today’s entrepreneurs and investors. Rachleff started his company Wealthfront, an automated investment service that manages $11 billion in assets, as a way to perform a social good by democratizing sophisticated financial advice. In our discussion, he was kind enough to divulge some of his wins and losses and top lessons learned in his storied entrepreneurial career. Enjoy!

Key Takeaways
  • How to know when you’ve reached product-market fit
  • The process Rachleff follows every time he builds a new product
  • How to know when it’s the right time to launch a new product (or let go of a failing one)
  • How to maintain a close-knit startup culture as the company grows
  • Why perseverance does not lead to success in technology (and what does)
  • What type of people he looks for and the three biggest things that make people to want to join his team
Key Resources From Our Interview With Andy Rachleff
  • Follow Andy on Twitter
  • Learn more about Wealthfront here

Aug 30 2018

45mins

Play

35: Cold Hard Business Advice & How to Dominate Your Goals with Multi-Millionaire Steve Mehr

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This is not your typical interview where I interview someone well known in the entrepreneurial space.

Steve Mehr is an entrepreneur, businessman, all round hustler and the founder of an Ad Agency called Webshark 360 in Southern California. I met Steve through Instagram via his extremely popular account (@agentsteven) and we have been great friends since. Overtime Steve has actually taught me a lot about life and business, so I thought why not get him on the show to share with everyone how he has built a multi-million dollar empire.

In this interview you are going to learn:

-How Steve built his empire and fortune from the ground up

-How to achieve scale with businesses and grow them at a rapid pace

-Key mindsets required to not stay successful in business and life once you have attained "success" in the eyes of society

-Hiring and Recruitment 101

-Managing a team

-Setting goals and why it's Steve's secret to success

-Instagram and the Importance of it

-The importance of measuring

If you want to learn how to dominate your goals, make sure you check out Steve's book here, fantastic read and I highly recommend it! - http://stevemehr.com/

 

I Need Your Help!

 

 
If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below. It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!
 
Leave a review for the Foundr Podcast!

Mar 21 2015

57mins

Play

120: The Master of Systems (Michael Gerber) Shares How to Scale Your Business

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Thirty years ago, Michael Gerber released a book called The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About it.

It carried within it lessons on what it means to be an entrepreneur, the importance of systems in building a scalable business, even the different types of people who start their own businesses. It laid out the common pitfalls that happen to most novice entrepreneurs and gave practical advice on how to avoid them.

The best-selling book has since inspired millions of people to start their own businesses, and is still considered to be a must-read for entrepreneurs everywhere. Startup thought leaders like Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin have heaped praise on the lessons outlined in this book.

But before Gerber began changing the lives of a whole generation of business owners, he explains, he never intended to become an entrepreneur. It was only through a chance meeting with a distraught business owner that Gerber found himself with his first client and in the position to help someone grow a business.

"I discovered something I'd never known before, and that is the conclusion I've come to over the years—that despite the obvious differences between industries, between vertical markets, between kinds of companies, what I began to discover was that from a business development perspective, they're not different at all."

Despite all the technological changes that have happened since that first client, Gerber asserts that the key principles behind building a business have remained the same.

In this episode you will learn:

  • What exactly it is that makes an entrepreneur different from everyone else
  • How to be a dreamer, a thinker, a storyteller, and a leader
  • The difference between strategic and tactical thinking, and which one you should be doing
  • Why everyone should start thinking about building a business
  • How to make your business unique, even if your product isn't
  • & much more!

Dec 01 2016

1hr

Play

17: The Science of Success & How to Become a Super Successful Entrepreneur Before It's Too Late with Matthew Michalewicz

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Where do you see yourself in ten years? And more importantly, is that where you want to be? Without a doubt, you've spent an unproductive afternoon at your desk staring listlessly out the window, listening to the chatter of co-workers, staring at piles of reports, puzzled on how you ended up there. What happened to the life you dreamed about when you were in high-school? If you’re feeling a little unfulfilled, the good news is, you're not the only one. According to Harvard studies, a whopping 74% of people are unhappy in their work. Job satisfaction in the USA recently fell to its lowest level in 22 years and continues to show a consistent downward trend. There's a reason why three-quarters of employees don’t walk away and cash in their chips, and instead opt to stay unfulfilled. To find out why, we spoke with Matthew Michalewicz. 

Michalewicz is an international expert in entrepreneurship, innovation, and success psychology. He has established boards that include former heads of state, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and Fortune 500 CEOs, and has a track record of starting businesses from scratch and selling them for tens of millions of dollars. His work has been featured in numerous television shows and publications, including Time Magazine, Newsweek, and Forbes. 

In this interview you will learn:

- How to pitch Rockstars like Bill Gates

- Learn the science behind what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur

- The secret sauce on the most successful entrepreneurs in the world

- How Matthew Has built 4 extremely successful businesses

- Key mindsets for becomming a super successful entrepreneur

 

I Need Your Help!
If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below. It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!
 
Leave a review for the Foundr Podcast!

Dec 21 2014

45mins

Play

102: How to Get up Early and Overcome Extreme Adversity with Hal Elrod

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When Hal Elrod was 19 he was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver that left him with brain damage, 11 broken bones, and doctors telling him that he'd never walk again. While many people would understandably give into grief or anger or any other whirlwind of emotions that come after such a traumatic event, Elrod instead made the conscious choice to be at peace with himself.

He knew there was nothing he could control about his situation, but he could control how the situation affected him. While he accepted the fact that he might never be able to use his legs again and was at peace with it, he was also determined to find a way to walk again.

“I’m going accept the worst-case scenario, while I focus on the best case scenario.”

Three weeks later, defying all odds and expectations, he began to walk again.

Since then, he's called upon his life story and lessons he's learned along the way to become a highly sought-after motivational speaker and bestselling author of the book The Miracle Morning. Through his book, Elrod has touched the lives of millions of people with his simple philosophy and has guided them to become more productive, happier, less stressed, and at peace with themselves.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How you too can start becoming a better entrepreneur, and a better person overall, every single morning
  • Why the most successful people in the world take their mornings very seriously
  • When to accept the worst and how to turn that into a weapon
  • What your potential is and how to reach it
  • What it truly means to put mind over matter and how to do it
  • & much more!

Jul 27 2016

55mins

Play

79: How to use Instagram to Generate Millions of Dollars in Your Niche with Deonna Monique

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One common trait among successful entrepreneurs is a sense of urgency—spotting a need and responding without hesitation in order to address and capitalize on it, even when that means taking a risk.

Deonna Monique is a prime example. As a consumer of hair extensions, she had long struggled with finding the right product, and what she saw as a lack of authenticity in the market. But when she realized through social media that the problem was much bigger than her own, she started a company.

“I thought I was on to something,” Monique tells Foundr. “So a week after I opened my business, I quit my job. I just went for it.”

Despite some serious tests of faith along the way, Monique stuck with her company Boho Exotic Studio, and ended up earning seven figures in that first year, she says. Now approaching three years in business, and she has a strong foothold, all with her chief channel of marketing being social media platforms like Instagram.

Monique’s lack of hesitation, no-nonsense approach to connecting with her customers, and faith in the quality of her product and service, have added up to a stunningly fast ascent, all in the face of serious business and personal hurdles.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How to let your customer be the face of your company
  • What to do when it feels like you've hit rock bottom as an entrepreneur
  • The best ways to hack social media marketing to further your brand and grow your audience
  • The perils and benefits of diving straight into building a business as a new entrepreneur
  • The importance of looking past all the doubters and believing in yourself and your dreams
  • & much more!

Feb 16 2016

50mins

Play

111: Why You Should Never Give up on Your Dreams as an Entrepreneur with Eugene Woo of Venngage

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For most entrepreneurs, the real test isn't whether or not you can grow a successful business, but how well you can bounce back from failure. For some, this will prove to be too much and they'll hang up the gloves and never try again. For the true entrepreneurs, though, they'll find a way to jump back into the ring no matter what.

That is exactly what Eugene Woo, co-founder of Venngage, did.

“I had like a taste of failure, but I still went ahead anyway and did it again,” Woo says.

After his first startup went under, Woo found himself back in the corporate world feeling like a failure. Despite it all though, he dusted himself off, took it all as a learning experience and refused to give up.

Armed with nothing but a nagging idea about helping job applicants by turning their resumes into beautiful infographics, Woo went ahead and pitched his idea at Startup Weekend in Toronto and, to his surprise, he won. One thing led to another and he found himself quitting his job once again to work on his startup full time.

The startup known as Visiualize.me blew up, getting featured in places like Mashable and Tech Crunch and gaining more than 200,000 signups before the product was even properly released.

But, once again, it was anything but smooth sailing for Woo.

“I made a lot of the classic mistakes. One of the main ones was I started a company with people I didn’t know very well.”

Within a few months, founders started leaving the company, with one even refusing to turn up to an interview with Y Combinator and leaving shortly after. Stung by failure again, Woo didn't know what to do and ended up selling his company. Despite it all, he knew he had a good idea on his hands. He charged right back into the startup world, this time with Venngage, a tool that allows you to easily make your own infographics, and armed with lessons he learned from his previous failures, he was determined to make Venngage a success.

Today, Venngage has tripled in size with over a thousand new leads to their site every day, and over half a million users per month.

We talk with Woo about the invaluable lessons he learned on his journey to success and ask him to share his best advice on how entrepreneurs can overcome their fear of failure, and the best marketing tactics to quickly grow your startup.

In this episode you will learn:

  • How to know when to give up or keep on going with your startup
  • Why so many startups are doing content marketing wrong
  • The secret to getting your company to start ranking high in SEO as soon as possible
  • How and why you should do blogger outreach
  • What the most important metrics are for growing your brand's exposure and visibility
  • & much more!

Sep 29 2016

55mins

Play

169: Billionaire Business Lessons with Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban

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Mark Cuban is a very busy man. As one of the star judges of the hit show Shark Tank, Cuban has invested in nearly a hundred different startups that have appeared on the program. That's not even mentioning the investments he makes outside of the show, and the dozens of other businesses he's founded or manages himself.

So how does a single person manage to keep so many plates spinning at the same time?

His secret: Hiring the right people.

Cuban is always making sure he has the best people staffing the hundred-plus businesses he's involved in. And while hiring seems like a pretty basic business practice, finding the right talent is a true art, and one that Cuban has mastered.

It's a process of finding the right person, putting them in the right environment, and then continuing to build their personal growth and passion about the job they're doing. And in Cuban's case, multiplying the process for a thousand-plus employees.

That may sound hard, but Cuban says the one skill every founder and entrepreneur needs to master if they want to become a billionaire businessman, is knowing how to be a leader. If you don't know how to recruit and manage people, you're just not going to make it very far.

It can take decades of trial and error to figure out how to deal with the thousands of different personalities out there, and knowing what to prioritize at any given time. But Cuban has figured it out, and he's sharing his secrets with us here.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • The art of finding and nurturing the talent in your team
  • How to deal with problem employees, without just firing them
  • Whether mentors really matter—when you need them, and when you don't
  • How Mark Cuban manages a thousand-plus employees
  • The surprising reason you shouldn't be looking for invesment
  • & so much more!

Oct 11 2017

27mins

Play

229: Mastering Copywriting and Finding Your Flow With Arman Assadi of Project EVO

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NEW COURSE ALERT: Entrepreneur, we wanted you to be the first to know that we’ve collaborated with Arman Assadi to bring you our brand new copywriting course. Learn the copywriting secrets behind 11 seven-figure product launches, taught by Arman himself.

Arman’s broken it down into a 10-step framework that he’s proven with his clients time and time again. He’s even going to give you templates, formulas, and how-to guides so you can start converting customers like crazy.

If you’re tired of seeing ZERO sales for all the hard work you’ve put into your amazing product—then you NEED to learn the power of copywriting. We’re opening the doors to this course soon for a limited time only, and we want to see you there. Be sure to get on the FREE waitlist so you don’t miss it!

Key Takeaways
  • The “crisis of meaning” that drove Assadi to leave his job at Google, book a trip to Cuba, and pursue freedom as a solopreneur
  • How Assadi became a self-taught copywriter and began working with the likes of Neil Patel, Lewis Howes, Jason Silva, and Lori Harder
  • What you should (and shouldn’t) do if you want to find your unique voice as a copywriter
  • The key to writing high-converting copy and why every entrepreneur should learn the basics
  • The story behind Assadi’s latest business and how it created the most-funded planner in crowdfunding history: EVO Planner
  • What’s next for Project EVO and how it’s helping entrepreneurs and creatives find fulfillment in their work

Dec 11 2018

1hr 4mins

Play

92: A Mastery Lesson on the Process of Selling ANYTHING! with Ben Chaib

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One of the greatest misconceptions you'll encounter in the startup world is the one about age. You'll hear would-be entrepreneurs constantly telling themselves that they're too young, or that they're too old, or that they're just waiting for that right moment to finally become an entrepreneur.

That's ridiculous.

There is no perfect moment waiting around the corner for you, because the perfect moment only comes to those who actually go out there and create it.

Ben Chaib, founder of Sell and Succeed, is the perfect example of that. After working in the corporate world for 25 years, he decided that enough was enough. He had the skills and ability to generate millions in revenue, but he wasn't getting the return that we wanted. So he set out and created his own business, and today he's consulting hundreds of other aspiring entrepreneurs on how to market for success.

"We are great at doing things for others, but we are not great at doing it for ourselves. But we deserve it more than others," he says.

While relatively new to entrepreneurship, Ben is no slouch when it comes to knowing how to make a business work.

In our interview with Ben, we get invaluable insight from one of the top business coaches in the world as he breaks down his sales process and shows us what it means to be a great marketer.

In this interview you will learn:

  • Ben's 8-step process of marketing and making sales
  • The advantages of having a business coach and good mentors to help you start your own business
  • Tips on how to make a sales process that is authentically you
  • How to find clients and target audiences through Facebook marketing
  • Why you need to get your customers to connect and feel comfortable talking about their business with you
  • & much more!

May 18 2016

54mins

Play

150: Becoming Masterful with Money with Tony Robbins

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Tony Robbins advises billion-dollar CEOs, celebrities, even heads of state, but today, he's going to show you how to become a master of money.

The New York Times-bestselling author has once again topped the charts with his latest book Unshakeable, and to date, the world-renowned speaker has inspired tens of millions of people all over the globe. Successful people from Bill Clinton to Oprah have sung his praises, and he's had sit downs with the likes of Nelson Mandela.

What you might not know, however, is that before it all, Tony was a penniless kid growing up in Azusa, California. After leaving home at 17, Robbins decided to skip college so he could start working, which at first meant sweeping the floors as a janitor. But he constantly strove to continue learning and feed his voracious curiosity.

Every millionaire finds their start somewhere, and for Robbins it was in the pages of endless books that he found himself glued to. He was determined to be a millionaire, and he wasn't going to let a lack of formal education be a barrier, eventually working his way to the top.

Today, he's the one writing the books, sharing all the wisdom he's collected over all those years. And his latest topic of obsession is finance—how to master money and become truly free from worries about wealth.

Robbins has decades of experience in business and investing himself, but in recent years, he's been questioning the world's greatest financial minds to get to the bottom of that question. Many of the answers are in his new book, but fortunately for Foundr fans, Tony Robbins joins us today to share some of his most important lessons.

In this episode you will learn:

  • The secret to living well, no matter how much money you have
  • How to spot a million-dollar opportunity
  • The simple strategy that has led Robbins, and millions of his followers, to financial freedom
  • Financial advice specifically targeted at startup founders
  • Hidden principles of finance Robbins has discovered in his research
  • & much more!

May 31 2017

41mins

Play

41: How to Hack Time with Tim Ferriss (not to be missed)

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We’ve all been curious about the best way to get better at languages, sports, cooking, fitness, and of course, how to start a business. Using a grand total of four hours per week, Tim Ferriss showed us how. Ferriss needs no introduction. Multiple New York Times best-selling author. Entrepreneur. Self-help guru. Investor. Celebrity. And now star of his own television show.

Even if you know nothing of entrepreneurialism, you probably know the work of Tim Ferriss. The 4-hour Workweek ring any bells? Chances are, it’s that book your roommate is always gushing about. A #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, it has seeped into the zeitgeist and changed more lives than its detractors would like to admit. The 4-Hour Workweek was on the New York Times best-seller list for four-and-a-half years straight and stayed on other lists for seven consecutive years. Released in 2007, this seductive and seminal book was about escaping the workaholic lifestyle to “find your muse.” For the uninitiated, that means a business that takes up little time, yet turns over enough revenue for you to enjoy a sort of freedom from the office bullpen.

If it weren’t for Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Workweek, a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are today. I know I wouldn't! So it's with great pleasure I bring you the man, the myth and the legend Tim Ferriss.

P.S. If you would like to check out Tim's new TV show, 'The Tim Ferriss Experiment' which we highly recommend! You can visit - www.itunes.com/timferriss

In this interview you will learn:

- Tim's strategies on how he exploded the 4-hour work week brand (the early days)

- How he builds solid relationships with influencers and doesn't use the hard sell

- The no.1 marketing strategy he uses for approaching any project and making it explode

- The top 5 productivity tools that are changing the game for Tim right now that allow him to hack the hell out his time and get insane amounts of work done (gamechanger)

- Tim's new epic TV show and the secret to learning any skill FAST

- An extremely humbling story of how Tim got his first customers for his first business, and what it's like for every single person when they first start out on their entrepreneurial journey

- & So much more of course :)

May 03 2015

34mins

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134: A Blueprint on How to Become a Sales Master with Matthew Kimberley

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At his very core, Matthew Kimberley is a salesman.

Whether it's something he was born with, or a trait he picked up while growing up, Kimberley understands the art of the sale. Starting at the young age of 13, Kimberley took to the street as a young street performer. Juggling his way into his first few dollars, and finding within himself that perfect combination of charm, drive, and ambition that make up the best salespeople.

Fast forward to his 20s, Kimberley had built himself an highly lucrative company earning a cool 7-figures a year, and yet, he was unhappy. He just didn't believe in what he was doing, and couldn't find the passion to keep on going. Taking a step back as a founder, he went back to what he knew best: selling.

“I realized what I liked to do is sell and teach people how to sell. So what I did was become a self-employed sales trainer, and I haven’t looked back since.”

To Kimberley, there is no other skill that is as important as knowing how to sell.

“Here’s why sales are important. When you can sell, you don’t need any other skills. When you can sell, you don’t need to be a creator. When you can sell, you don’t need to be a manager. When you can sell, you don’t need to be a writer, you don’t need to be a speaker, you don’t need to be a talker, you don’t have to have a business idea. You don’t have to be a particularly good executor. You don’t have to be good at doing anything, other than asking, persuading, convincing,” Kimberley says.

Today, Kimberley has honed his skills to the point of being one of the go-to gurus when it comes to the art of selling. He's taught hundreds of people and businesses how to not only grow, but double and even triple their profit margins by teaching them his practical system on how to sell hard, and sell fast.

In this week's episode you will learn:

  • Kimberley's 16 principles of professional persuasion
  • The best place to learn and hone your skills as a salesperson
  • Why learning how to sell is the most important skill for an entrepreneur
  • How to follow your passion while maximizing your profits
  • The importance of having a mentor and where to find one
  • & much more!

Mar 02 2017

49mins

Play

03: Marianne Cantwell Shares with us Step by Step How to Escape the 9-5 and Build a Business and Life You Love Online

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Ever wondered how you ended up working the job you’re doing? Ever felt like you sort of just, fell in to it? Ever wondered how to escape ‘the corporate cage’? Finding out what you are good at, what drives you as a person, and then finding suitable work based upon that should be a keystone of our society, but unfortunately, it is not.

Entrepreneur Marianne Cantwell aims to change all that.

Marianne Cantwell works in helping people find their driving passion, breaking free from the corporate cage and creating “free-range” careers. She runs a successful business called free-range-humans and explains that your interests should be a key driver behind your actions, not the blind pursuit of riches.

Marianne Cantwell explains that living a dream is simple, it’s possible, and takes guts.  As a woman who has thrown away the security of the 9 to 5 quite early in her career to chase down projects she loves, she is an authority on the subject. Put simply, she broke away from the corporate life and has succeeded doing what the rest of us dream about, which is running her online business from anywhere on the planet.  

 

I Need Your Help!
If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below. It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!
 
Leave a review for the Foundr Podcast!

Nov 22 2014

50mins

Play

244: Viral Growth and Influencer Marketing in Ecommerce, with Ben Francis of Gymshark

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At 16, he began building websites.

At 18, he became a regular at the gym.

At 20, he started sewing and screen-printing workout apparel in his garage.

By 26, when most adults are only on the cusps of their careers, Ben Francis had already launched a viral gym clothing line, served as its CEO, and stepped down in favor of a more creative role in the wildly successful company.

Today, the Gymshark founder works alongside 190 staff, including the high school buddies who partnered with him to launch the brand, bringing this unmistakable apparel line to customers in more than 130 countries.

And while it seems like this former pizza delivery boy magically rocketed to entrepreneurial stardom overnight (OK, he sort of did), his success can be traced back to a dedication to community building and an innate understanding of social media influencer marketing, long before it was a thing.

But it all started with amateur website building, a love for fitness, and a whole lot of YouTube.

Years before he was a CEO, Francis longed to make a name for himself in the fitness space. But the closest thing he had to investors were people calling to order a pizza, so establishing a clothing brand couldn’t have seemed less attainable.

Not to be discouraged by limited funds, Francis and his high school friends began a workout supplement drop-shipping business and quickly realized that there was an opening in the workout apparel market.

Dressing a bodybuilder and a skinny, weight-lifting newbie are two totally different jobs, especially when you’re going for form-hugging designs fit for a workout. Francis and friends, however, believed they could create a line that would be sleek, modern, and appealing to gymgoers of any body type.

“And so,” Francis says, “I bought a screen printer and a sewing machine and started to make the clothes by hand.”

The designs were an overnight sensation.

“People were seeing the clothes, and they were so iconic and unique, that it sort of started to spread like wildfire,” Francis says.

But the real secret sauce was the passion he and his friends had for YouTube.

Influencing Influencers

In the early 2010s, YouTube was rising fast. People passionate about everything from movies to knitting, gaming to, yes, fitness, were creating video content and building communities around shared interests.

Francis and his friends were among the millions who joined online followings based on their hobbies, but stuck around for the personalities in the videos. One such fitness YouTuber who held their attention was Lex Griffin of Lex Fitness, whose channel now has over 440,000 followers. Another was Chris Lavado, whose channel has 65,000 subscribers today.

Realizing they could leverage the followings of others, Francis and his friends pursued a business strategy that put them on the map, and that they still use today.

They sent samples to Griffin, Lavado and other fitness YouTubers they admired, and hoped for a stamp of approval—and a video to prove it.

While the term “influencer marketing” has only recently entered into the pop consciousness, the principle has been around as long as marketing. Attracting the favor of a wealthy or influential person by showering them in gifts that define a brand is as a classic move, a point Francis illustrated by sharing some history of his hometown of Birmingham, UK.

For hundreds of years, the Jewellery Quarter in central Birmingham has been a hub for opulent accessories. Many jewelers open businesses in the Quarter, and the competition is fierce. But historically, there was one way to ensure that a brand’s name would be on everyone’s lips: become the first choice of royalty.

Frances explained that this principle of vying for favor worked then and still works now.

“They would provide a bunch of free jewelry to royalty so that people would associate that jewelry with the royalty and then hopefully back to the brand and go buy it,” he says. “It’s no different to what influencer marketing is nowadays.”

“I think it’s worked forever, and as far as I’m aware, I think it’ll always work.”

And so, like an ambitious jeweler in the 1700s, Francis sent off his product to curry favor with those who had the power to make his brand catch fire. And it worked.

“They absolutely loved it, and they’re still with us today,” he says. “That started, I guess, what you’d now call an influencer market for us.”

Today, Francis continues to leverage the audiences of athletes through an ambassador program that now includes such personalities as bodybuilder Matt Ogus, lifestyle and fitness vlogger Nikki Blackketter, and weightlifter Whitney Simmons.

Because of Francis’s early success in harnessing an influencer-generated market, Gymshark has never relied on investors for capital.

“We never needed investment,” he says. “So why complicate things?”

Francis recognizes, though, that there was also a component of luck at work. He entered the world of social media influencer marketing when it was still a young idea, and those with followings weren’t inundated daily with products in search of a boost.

“I do think it’s a hell of a lot more difficult than when we first started,” he admits. “It’s a completely different place now.”

But if he were to launch a new business today, a venture he says would be a fun challenge with the vastly changed online landscape, he knows exactly where he would focus his attention.

“Product is king at the end of the day,” he says. “I would focus on creating an absolutely brilliant and a gorgeous product because I think from that, it’s like a snowball effect.”

He believes that by designing a remarkable, unique, and stunning product, anyone can rise above the cacophony online.

“If you get someone’s attention with a genuinely brilliant product, people will wear it, people will use it, and people will talk about it.”

But for now, Francis is focused on the current community he has built.

Fostering Community

Growing up, Francis loved attending events and expos in his hometown and dreamed of the day he would not only participate, but host his own. His belief in the power of person-to-person advertising was instilled in him as a young expo attendee and has continued to stick with him into his mid-20s.

“Even though the world is becoming ever more online, and 99.9 percent of what we do is online, there is always space for that human connection, and I think that’s really, really important, and it’s a real important thing to Gymshark.”

So in Gymshark’s very early days, when an opportunity to participate in an expo presented itself, Francis says that nothing could have stopped him from finding a way to join.

When he reached out to one of the coordinators to find out how much it would cost to get Gymshark a spot, he was quoted a price far more than they were able to afford at the time. But as Francis likes to emphasize, he plans hyper long-term and hyper short-term and lets the rest in between work itself out.

“This was 12 months in advance of the show, and I was like, ‘Right, yeah. We’ll have it. We’ll get that, and we’ll just sort of make it work,’” he says. “It was our dream to go to an event like that.”

And go they did, beginning a successful string of expo appearances that were initially in the UK, but rapidly branched out internationally until, eventually, they stopped going to expos and started hosting them.

“I literally think, ‘Let’s make the product that I love,’ and by default, I think other people would love, and let’s create the event that I would love to go to, and by default, I think that other people would really enjoy to go,” he says.

He also says that when it comes to events, making a profit is not the immediate goal. Just like the early days spent working a screen printer in a garage, Francis’s motivation is simply a desire to create something awesome. Something he loves.

“We just sort of think, ‘Right, what would we really, really love to go to? Let’s go make it happen. Let’s forget about the profit and loss at that point for that event. Let’s just go make something really, really cool.’”

But rapidly gaining a dedicated following, especially when selling a physical product, has its challenges. Francis says that Gymshark’s biggest challenge at the moment is keeping up with demand, especially when YouTube influencers or expo attendees are hyping them.

“We definitely made massive improvements in the last six to 12 months, but there’s still a long, long way to go,” he says.

Part of the Gymshark’s effort to keep up with growth meant Francis himself coming to terms with his right role within the company. As CEO, he quickly came to realize that he was in a position that he was not suited to fill.

“We were growing so fast, and the role of the CEO is very people oriented,” he says. “I’m very much an introverted person. I’m much more suited, and work better, in either a very small team or on my own where I can really dive into a project, focus on that thing and make it really special.

“As we were growing bigger, it became more and more evident to me that the CEO really needs to be a lot more of a strategist and a lot more of a people person than what I am.”

So Francis made the difficult decision that it would be best for him to step into the role of Chief Brand Officer instead. But the transfer of CEO power didn’t just happen overnight, which he feels helped build trust among himself and the staff. It happened over a period of about a year as Steve Hewitt, the current CEO, slowly took on more and more until he finally stepped fully into the role.

Of course, passing leadership on to someone else is always a humbling and challenging process, but it’s one that Francis has come to embrace as an opportunity to become more fully himself.

“I think it’s very important to be self-aware and to understand what you are good at what you’re not good at,” he says. “I’m a massive, massive believer of that.”

Today, Francis has the freedom to focus on product and vision, gathering small teams together to pursue new designs and strategies for the future.

So what’s next for Gymshark?

Francis says that they are always pursuing innovation and are currently in the process of designing new fabrics, as well as looking to branch out of the strictly apparel space.

And in an effort to keep avid followers and fans of the brand up to date, Francis has recently launched a vlog series of his own, giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Gymshark and into his world.

In the 10 years since Francis started creating amateur websites from home, his world has utterly transformed. But many things remain the same: a love of fitness, a passion for social media, and an unbreakable bond with his high school friends turned business partners.

The Gymshark brand invites each customer and avid follower to “Be a visionary.” And Francis is asking nothing of his followers that he hasn’t done himself. After all, where would Gymshark be without an enthusiastic pizza delivery boy who had the vision to buy a screen printer, and the boldness to show the world what he could create?

Ben Francis’s Tips for Success

Launching a brand new product on your own or starting your own business is never easy. No matter how large or small the venture, it requires vision, courage, and determination. But Ben Francis believes that there are three things any beginning entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.

  1. Surround Yourself With Support

Francis says he was once asked to share a story about a time when he was told that he couldn’t do something. He paused to think, but his mind came up blank. “That never happened, because I never surrounded myself with those people,” he says. Starting a business is a challenge, but with the support of people who inspire and motivate you, Francis believes that mountains are reduced back into molehills.

  1. Embrace Self-Awareness

Being honest with yourself and clear about who you truly are is one of Francis’s crucial steps to success. “Self-awareness is key,” he says. “I think it’s massive. You can only kid yourself for so long.” Without the ability to identify which skills you have in abundance and which you lack, you’ll be unable to build a team around you that complements your abilities and improves upon them.

  1. Play to Your Strengths

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, Francis insists on the importance of allowing them to guide your decisions. “Could I do an operational…role for a little bit? Absolutely. I’m reasonably intelligent. I could manage,” he says. “But would I be able to do it for a sustained period really, really well? Absolutely not.”

Rather than forcing yourself to be something you’re not, Francis encourages all entrepreneurs to be honest about their strengths and find ways to play to them, even if that means relinquishing, as he did, the title of CEO.

Key Takeaways
  • How interests in building websites, going to the gym, and sewing and screen printing combined to help him launch a wildly successful business
  • How connecting with YouTube influencers helped Gymshark take off
  • On using events to build community
  • The biggest challenge Gymshark faces right now
  • Why Ben traded the role of CEO for Chief Brand Officer
  • On separating personal brand from company brand
  • Why Gymshark has never taken investments
  • What he would do if he were to start a totally new ecommerce brand today
  • What his personal life is like now that he’s a successful business owner
  • What’s next for Gymshark

Apr 03 2019

34mins

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181: Running a 7-Figure Business On 5.5 Hours a Day, With Ari Meisel of Less Doing

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Entrepreneurs find inspiration in all sorts of places. But for Ari Meisel, founder, bestselling author, and productivity expert, desperation was the driving force behind the launch of his successful company, Less Doing. That same desperation led him to breakthroughs in productivity that changed his life.

At just 23 years old, Meisel was enjoying a thriving real estate career, but after suffering some major business blows and landing $3 million in debt, the stress overwhelmed him and he was diagnosed with debilitating Crohn’s disease. Managing the disease crippled Meisel’s ability to work regularly. Some days he was unable to work longer than an hour.

During this difficult experience, Meisel realized he needed to devise a way to accomplish more work in the limited time he had. Through a long process of experimentation, Ari developed his Less Doing, More Living productivity system, which allowed him the time he needed both to build a new business and improve his health.

A devoted husband, father of five, and dedicated businessman, Meisel now helps individuals and businesses around the world become more effective—all while working only 5 ½ hours a day. He's also recently teamed up with Foundr to teach his Less Doing, More Living system to our awesome community.

In this inspiring interview, learn the secrets behind Meisel’s airtight productivity system and discover how you can also become a productivity master and optimize, automate, and outsource your life and business.

Key Takeaways
  • Ari’s 15-minute outsourcing rule that frees you up to focus on growing your business
  • How saying no to new opportunities can grow your business more than saying yes
  • The power of using machine learning to slash your work time and automate systems
  • Why working more hours does not always translate into getting more work done

Jan 11 2018

52mins

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280: From Online Poker Affiliate to Referral Marketing Mogul: Ambassador’s Jeff Epstein Shares His Journey

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Jeff Epstein paid off his law school student loans in an unconventional way.

When he and a couple of friends noticed the booming online poker sites in the mid 2000s, they created an affiliate company to refer traffic to them and get paid in return. The business did well enough that Epstein was able to sell his stake to his partners for a nice profit that helped him pay off his debt.

Epstein ultimately decided not to pursue law, but his entrepreneurial experience stuck with him. In particular, he recognized the power of referrals to help businesses gain more customers. As a result, Epstein eventually founded Ambassador, a referral marketing software that enables brands to build and scale referral, affiliate, partner, and influencer programs.

While the journey to growing Ambassador was far from a smooth ride, Epstein picked up many valuable lessons along the way that helped him grow as both a person and an entrepreneur. Eventually, Ambassador became successful enough that it was acquired by a large corporation.

Check out this interview to learn more about Epstein’s journey and hear him open up about his biggest mistakes, regrets, and lessons learned.

Key Takeaways
  • How Epstein used his poker affiliate business to pay off law school debt
  • What he learned about the power of referrals in the process
  • Why Epstein regrets acquiring his first SEO company, and what ultimately led to its demise
  • How this failure informed the idea for referral marketing software, Ambassador
  • Why it took six months for Ambassador to get a repeat paying customer
  • What it was like to run a “fat” startup
  • How Ambassador’s acceptance into Techstars helped the company take off
  • The growth of Ambassador and its stressful acquisition by West Corporation

Dec 10 2019

43mins

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279: How Crowberry Capital’s Founding Team is Backing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

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Investing in the Future How three women from Iceland launched Crowberry Capital, a Nordic venture capital fund seeking to support the next generation of creative entrepreneurs.

To be boldly creative, you often have to strike out on your own adventure. So that’s exactly what Hekla Arnardottir, Helga Valfells, and Jenny Ruth Hrafnsdottir did.

While working together at an investment capital fund, the three women noticed a pressing need for more early-stage funding in their region. The trio wondered if they could not only meet that need, but also create something exciting and visionary by launching a private fund of their own.

In 2017, they took the leap, and set out to launch Crowberry Capital, a Nordic venture capital fund with its sights set on supporting creative technological advancements in spaces ranging from gaming to health.

No matter the field, their goal was to help young and promising Nordic companies (in Iceland and Sweden) grow into global brands. And just two years later, they already have 10 startups under their wing.

There were, of course, many steps in between the launch and the fund’s present day success. For one, before a fund can start scouting new talent to back, it needs a whole lot of cash to invest in the first place.

Cold Calls

As you might imagine, launching a venture capital fund isn’t cheap. But you might be surprised to learn that venture capitalists don’t necessarily need to have their own personal wealth to get started (although it certainly helps). VC firms offer financial and other forms of support to early stage companies with high potential for growth, often deploying assets from other sources—wealthy individuals, banks, other investment funds, etc.

Although Arnardottir, Valfells, and Hrafnsdottir knew many of the institutional investors in Iceland and had impeccable reputations, they still found themselves cold calling smaller investors. They even spread word through the media that they were launching the fund.

“We went out early in the process to the local media and said we were going raise this fund,” Hrafnsdottir says. “So we sort of got it out in the open. Of course, that increases the risk that if you fail, you fail publicly, but we took that risk.”

Although they acknowledged the risk, for them, failure was never an option.

“That’s why it’s great to be three,” Valfells says. “There was always at least one optimist.”

That process of raising capital also gave the team a fresh perspective on life as an entrepreneur.

“It made us more empathetic toward entrepreneurs, because you realize you just have to cold call rich people you’ve never met and say, ‘Would you like to invest in my fund?’” Valfells recounts with a laugh.

Being on the “selling side,” as she puts it, helped them to recognize more clearly what it takes to pitch effectively and reemphasized the importance of passionate energy, lessons they carried forward into choosing where to invest once the fund was up and running.

But despite the daily strain of cold calling for investments, Valfells says that living in Iceland took away much of the stress others might experience in their position.

“There’s a great safety net,” Valfells says. “Everybody has access to childcare and school and healthcare, so I think you’re willing to take a risk with your professional life because you know there’s a safety net that catches you.”

She says that this safety net makes walking away from stability much easier and, because of that, creativity is free to flourish. And by extension, people are more liberated to do what they love.

“I think we’ve all made sacrifices in the sense that we’ve turned down higher paying jobs and jobs with more security, but it hasn’t been a sacrifice because this is what we love doing,” Valfells says.

After six months of phone calls and meetings, they had raised $40 million, and Crowberry Capital was ready to take flight.

Comfort in the Chaos

When the time came for the trio to begin investing in up-and-coming companies, they weren’t just focused on the products coming across their desks. Instead, they took the time to learn as much, if not more, about the minds behind the products.

“Everybody wishes to invest in bold, creative, and hardworking entrepreneurs,” Valfells says, “but I think that one part of the process with us is we get to know the entrepreneurs really well and really see the ones that can kind of do things to move the needle.”

By taking everything into account, from the passion behind the pitch to the willingness of the entrepreneurs to leave jobs behind and throw themselves entirely into their projects, the three founders of Crowberry Capital single out investments with staying power.

“It’s about finding the comfort in the chaos,” Hrafnsdottir says. “I think the ones that really go with the flow and are determined with their mission manage to prosper at this early stage.”

They also consider how the entrepreneurs plan to enter the market, draw attention to their product, and brand themselves. Essentially, they have an eye on the creative spirit that exists within a team.

“It’s becoming more important than anything, because in this age of artificial intelligence it’s really important that we as people build up our and social intelligence,” Hrafnsdottir says. “These are the things AI is never going to bring to the table.”

Arnardottir also says that they pay particular attention to what kind of team the entrepreneurs surround themselves with, citing gaming companies as being particularly talented at building stellar teams. Do they communicate well? Do they represent a diversity of skillsets? These are the questions the trio talks over before choosing to invest.

Valfells even noted that she’s seen particular success when it comes to going global when a team is international from day one.

“Having a diverse, international background helps build an international company,” she says.

But, while they try to find teams and companies that can thrive and grow internationally, they aren’t just on the hunt for the next unicorn.

“I think there’s a risk in the world today that unicorns overshadow a lot of good businesses that can give investors great returns,” Valfells says.

She explains that, while unicorns are great, they also keep their eyes peeled for racehorses: companies that won’t make a massive splash but will never fail as they faithfully speed forward into the future.

And the future is where all three women have fixed their sights.

Planning for a Digital Future

In an increasingly digital world, Crowberry Capital has chosen to focus on businesses that are focused on building a better future within that reality.

“We invest in technology that we believe is changing the world for the better,” Valfells says, “and that makes you feel really happy and good about your job.”

For example, Travelade provides online travel guides curated from the recommendations of locals, and Aldin is an immersive VR company. They’ve also welcomed Monerium, an e-currency supported by blockchain technology, and Kind, a virtual communication tool for the healthcare industry, into the fold.

They are also very mindful to choose companies they will want to work with for years, because Crowberry doesn’t just offer seed money to startups. They also plan to support businesses through B and even C round funding, with up to $6 million set aside for each company as it grows over the 10-year lifespan of the fund.

So, Arnardottir explains, if one of the three founders is more passionate about a company than the others, she takes point on guiding that business while the others serve more of a support role.

But no matter how passionate they are about a business, they are very careful to let the entrepreneurs make the big decisions.

“I think it’s very important that we are hands on and not hands in,” Valfells says. “For us, it’s very important that we’re backing teams that are really good at execution and are in the operations, and we’re more like sounding boards and mentors.”

So, as the trio behind Crowberry Capital presses forward into the future, searching for the final five investments they plan to make, they are excited to lead another generation of Nordic entrepreneurs onto the international stage as creative innovators who will change the world.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • The pressing need Arnardottir, Valfells, and Hrafnsdottir noticed that inspired the idea for their Nordic venture capital fund, Crowberry Capital
  • Why the trio relied on cold calling and local media to launch their venture capital fund
  • How raising $40 million in capital made the founding partners more empathetic towards entrepreneurs
  • How living in Iceland relieved some of the pressure of taking a professional risk
  • Why Arnardottir, Valfells, and Hrafnsdottir keep their eyes peeled for “racehorses” in addition to unicorns
  • The reason the founding partners take so much time to get to know the entrepreneurs they invest in
  • The difference between hands on versus hands in
  • Why Crowberry Capital chooses to focus on businesses that are building a better digital future

Nov 29 2019

50mins

Play

278: Konrad Bergström’s 20-Year Journey to Creating Electric Boat Company X Shore

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Konrad Bergström and X Shore have set out to change the boating industry, one electric motor at a time. 

Timing is everything for Konrad Bergström.

So when he first got the idea for X Shore in 1996, he trademarked the name immediately, but didn’t launch the company he had in mind just yet. It wasn’t the right time.

Bergström wanted to build safer boats, but he realized that the boating world was lagging behind the automobile industry when it came to details and design. Instead of forcing his dream, he chose to wait.

Over a decade later, inspiration to launch his boat company struck once again, but this time the dream had become bigger. With the world beginning to fully embrace electric vehicles, he wanted to build and sell a sleek, top-of-the-line, 100% electric marine craft.

“This makes actually more sense on the water,” Bergström says. “Because it’s an open area where you are getting fumes, and you are getting noise disturbance, and it’s actually taking more energy to drive in the water.”

Twenty years later, in 2016, X Shore developed its first working prototype. Today, Bergström and his team are ready to change the world’s view on how boats are powered. Not only do they hope to reduce pollution and the impact on wildlife with their electric engines, but they also hope to improve the overall boating experience for the consumer.

But long before Bergström would design his first boat, he started with headphones.

One Journey Ends, Another Begins

If you ask Bergström, he’ll say that he’s never experienced what a real job is like. He’s just experienced different ideas.

From an early age, Bergström has had an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for creativity. At just 16, he moved to New Zealand, launching a distribution company for windsurfing gear called Thule Roofracks, among other projects. However, his greatest achievement was founding Zound Industries in 2008, where he served as its president until April of 2019.

While at the skateboarding fashion company WeSC, Bergström helped the brand to create a line of fashionable headphones. Wanting to take the concept one step further, Bergström founded Zound and turned it into an electronics giant, specializing in headphones and speakers. The company created many popular headphone brands such as Urbanears, and held licensing deals with audio behemoths like Marshall.

During his 10 years as president of the company, they would go on to sell over 20 million products in 135 countries. Despite the strong sales, Zound and Bergström parted ways over differences on the direction of the company.

“I always think that things happen for a reason,” Bergström says. “So I have moved on and I wish them all the luck. And I did build a fantastic company, so that’s never gonna go away, even if I don’t have any ownership anymore.”

The separation from Zound allowed Bergström to give all of his attention to X Shore, which had gained new life in 2012 after Bergström saw the rise of Tesla and its technological advances. With the electric revolution for automobiles well underway, he felt that concept of the electric boat would also take off.

“We started the electric product in 2012, and basically, I thought it was going to be easy,” Bergström says. “Looking at the internet at some lithium batteries and some engine, like, how hard can it be?”

Very hard, as it turned out.

Over the next four years, the team would work on the concept before completing their first working prototype in 2016. And although it took years longer than he anticipated, Bergström was glad that they went through the growing pains.

“That one, by the way, looked like crap,” Bergstorm says about the initial prototype. “Sometimes, an idea on paper is very far from getting it industrialized. So it takes time, especially with such a big product, to go through all the details and find solutions that economical, so you can have the margins and survive as a company.”

Let the Other Guy Build the Tech

Bergström and X Shore don’t want to recreate the wheel. Rather, they just want to right the ship.

With Tesla and other companies openly releasing their electric technology, Bergström didn’t feel the need to develop his own tech for boats. Sure, he’d have to develop some things on his own, but for the most part, why not use what’s already out there, he figured.

“X Shore, of course, has some of its own technology,” Bergström says. “But basically, we are piggybacking on the automotive industry.”

With armies of engineers grinding away on this type of technology, which is changing all the time, it made more sense to have others advance the technology and for X Shore to translate it into a marine environment. Not to mention, this approach helped their bottom line.

“Instead of having like 100% of the development cost, say that we are paying like 3%,” Bergström says. “But it’s still a lot of money. … We have the first mover advantage of building a new segment, but we are not driving the technology.”

The approach has also allowed X Shore to keep its staff smaller, which includes not having an in-house engineering team. That’s basically unheard of for an innovative company such as this. X Shore has partnered with automotive giants such as BMW and Rolls Royce to help find the best solutions for maximizing speed and driving range.

Despite not having an engineering team in house, it doesn’t mean that X Shore is done innovating. They still have a lot of work to do in order to become a leader in the marine industry.

“We spent around 50,000 engineering hours so far,” Bergström says. “And I think that we are going to have to spend another 50,000, so it’s a total of 100,000 engineering hours.”

Next Up

Bergström is excited to start selling boats and shipping them, starting sometime next year. More importantly, he’s ready to bring more awareness to X Shore, which includes unveiling the third generation of its product in January.

When he first started to openly share the idea of an electric boat, the reception wasn’t warm. Now he feels, the timing is finally right. Proof lies in the company’s recent investment campaign, which raised €1.5 million.

“With a product like this, I needed the car electric revolution to go first,” Bergström says. “When I talked to people in 2012 and said that I’m going to do an electric boat, they are like, you are crazy. But now when we are at the tradeshow, everybody is like, oh that makes sense why didn’t anyone do it earlier.”

Even if people are still skeptical about the concept, however, all they’ll need to do to become convinced is take a ride.

“Once you experience the power of silence, you never go back,” Bergström says. “It’s truly amazing.

Tips for Inspiring Creativity

Konrad Bergström has built a career around opportunity and creativity. A founder of multiple businesses, he’s always kept his eyes open for new concepts and has kept his ideas free flowing. Since 1980, he’s created businesses that ranged from snowboarding contests to stereo headphones. Bergström now is onto his next adventure, X Shore, where he hopes to change the world of boating by making it greener and quieter.

If you’re in a creative funk, here are three tips from Bergström for inspiring creativity:

Be Patient

Bergström initially wanted to start the boat company in 1996, so much so, that he trademarked the name X Shore before actually creating the company. Unsure of the direction he wanted to take, he waited until 2012, when after witnessing Tesla’s new technology with electric cars, he was inspired. It only was then that he knew wanted to build boats that were fully powered by batteries.

If at first you don’t find the right concept you feel comfortable with, especially when it comes to creating a business, be patient. Pursue other interests, and along the way, you may get the inspiration you were looking for in the beginning. Even if it takes 16 years.

But Also Be Persistent

“It took me a long time on different things,” Bergström says, “But sometimes, time is what you need because when you can think things over and over again, it does make you come to better conclusions, especially when you work in design.“

X Shore launched its first working prototype in 2016, nearly four years after officially moving forward on building an electric boat. However, just as Bergström was patient in coming up with the initial concept for the company, he was also very persistent when it came to the design and functionality of the boat. He wanted everything to be just right before releasing it to market.

Look Around You

Bergström was raised in a home of creative individuals. His mother was a theater director, his father was an engineer, his grandmother exposed him to nature, and his grandfather was an innovator in medicine with over 200 patents. Wherever he looked, he saw a creative role model.

However, according to Bergström, you can be inspired anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to be from a family full of creative individuals. It’s more about exposing yourself to different environments, people, and settings. You just have to “change rootings” as Bergström puts it. You can draw inspiration from playing with children, products you’re buying, or even the food that you’re eating.

“You just have to open your senses to make the right choices when it comes to creativity,” Bergström says.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • The series of unconventional jobs Bergström held from a young age
  • Why Bergström trademarked the name X Shore in 1996 but didn’t launch it for two decades
  • How Zound Industries took over Bergström’s life for 10 years, and what ultimately led him to walk away from the company
  • Why Bergström decided to let the electric car revolution play out first
  • The growing pains that came with creating a working prototype for electric boats
  • How X Shore piggybacks on the automotive industry
  • Bergström’s plans to start selling and shipping X Shore boats in 2020

Nov 27 2019

42mins

Play

277: Flashstock’s Rapid Rise From Launch to Acquisition, With Founder Grant Munro

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Content in a Flash How Grant Munro and Flashstock created an agile solution for on-brand, custom photo and video—and reaped a big windfall.

For Grant Munro, nothing felt right.

He had always aspired to start his own business, but never knew what to pursue. He went on to work for larger companies as a software developer and product manager, but those paths didn’t feel quite right either.

Despite not having an explicitly creative background (what with coming from tech and software development), Munro finally found a pursuit that excited him—helping brands express themselves creatively.

He first came upon the opportunity after major clients he was working with at a creative boutique kept asking for help with creating custom visual content. As photo and video on social media were taking off, and major brands were seeking solutions for creating unique content, Munro realized it was time to start his own thing.

“It got to the point, I was like well, if I’m gonna to start a company, this seems like a pretty good one,” Munro says.

Good turned out to be great. In 2014, Flashstock was born, and it was perfectly timed to the rise of Instagram as an advertising platform.

As a leading custom content creation company with a global network of freelancers and contributors, Flashstock’s proprietary platform allowed hundreds of brands across the Fortune 500 to streamline on-demand visual content (think photos, videos, GIFs, and so on). With its steady growth, unique software, and a list of high-profile clients, Shutterstock acquired the Toronto-based company in 2017, after it had been in business just four years, for $50 million in cash. Flashstock was subsequently rebranded as Shutterstock Custom.

However, had it not been for a former employer making a change to its business model, Flashstock may never have come into existence.

This Seems Like a Good Company to Start

After those early stints at major companies and acquiring his MBA, Munro took his first steps into the startup world, joining a boutique social media agency in Toronto. That’s when he really started to find some joy in his work.

With his experience in product development and software engineering, he joined the company’s product team with the hopes of coming up with new ideas to increase their SaaS revenue. Along the way, he learned that he enjoyed the customer development process, and understanding clients’ pain points and problems.

As the company’s product business grew and it became established as an early player in social media management, the team realized that they no longer wanted to focus on traditional creative agency services, such as content creation.

“They viewed that as something that wasn’t a good type of revenue that they wanted to continue, so they discontinued offering it,” Munro says. “And because we were providing content mostly for social at the time, and some digital stuff, the clients were very unhappy about this.”

Munro was surprised by his clients’ reactions. Although this shutdown may have provided a temporary inconvenience, he assumed that someone else would simply take over their content production, maybe another agency.

That wasn’t the case.

The agency had created a formula for creating low-cost, quick-turnaround content for social media, and clients loved it. They didn’t want to see it go away, and they kept asking Munro for different solutions around content, despite the agency no longer providing the service.

Realizing that these questions would never go away, and that companies were not finding a solution for their content production, Munro got creative and took a risk.

“I ended my role there and then sort of rolled over and started Flashstock pretty much the next week,” Munro says. “And went to some of the early clients from the previous company that had requested help on the content side and offered up a solution that would basically connect them, through some software that I wrote, directly to freelancers all around the world.”

By acquiring early customers and refining the product, it provided Flashstock with some growth and sustainability early on, but not without some changes.

Visual Identity Calibration

When Munro initially started Flashstock, the positioning for the company was that it was an alternative to stock photos and videos. The messaging was working with marketing agencies, but brands were not as interested. Munro knew he had to change it up.

As Instagram was making some changes and starting to take off, Flashstock’s positioning went in a new direction. It was no longer just an alternative resource for stock imagery—it was now a place where brands could go for help in telling their stories in unique ways, using differentiated content, but at a much lower cost.

More brands started to buy into this concept, recognizing that creating custom content on a large scale posed a great challenge. Major corporations didn’t have the time to find freelancers and manage the creative process, so they need needed a service to do that for them. They needed Flashstock to do this.

Munro first and foremost needed to come up with a way for a brand to communicate in a non-ambiguous way what it stood for and their target audience. And most importantly, all of this needed to be presented in a way that a freelancer could understand, despite never meeting the client.

“If you’re a big organization, it’s usually okay , because when you’re creating content, you’re usually with the people that are creating it,” Munro says. “But when you’re in this networked world where you’re communicating through software and you’re never talking to people, that level of ambiguity breaks the system. So we needed to come up with a way to solve that, frankly, for our own survival.”

The solution?

Something Munro calls visual identity calibration.

This phrase describes a system in which a brand enters its information and describes its identity to Flashstock, and then the Flashstock team puts the brand through an exercise to pin them down on the right details. The end product is a well defined set of creative variables, which Flashstock then provides to their freelancers to create new, on-brand content.

The system garnered great feedback and has been praised for its innovation in solving this communication pain point. So much so, that some companies have even used a lot of these tools internally to communicate with each other, according to Munro.

Power of the ‘Gram

Around 2014, Instagram really began to open up its platform for anyone to be able to post and create company pages, and major brands wanted to get in on the action. In order to fully take advantage of it, brands would have to post often, but on the cheap for it to make sense for them financially.

This was right up Flashstock’s alley.

“Every organization wanted to be on the platform, but because there was no paid promotion behind it, they wanted the cost of the content to be as close to zero as possible,” Munro says.

This demand allowed Flashstock to be able to acquire new clients regularly, as many brands wanted to create content for Instagram, but not many agencies were offering this custom service at an affordable price. With Flashstock, brands could log in to the platform, find contributors around the globe, and receive on-brand content in a timely fashion.

“I was really able to complement what a traditional creative agency was doing and not really be a competitive threat because they didn’t want to create that type of content,” Munro says, referring to custom content at low cost.

Soon thereafter, Instagram turned on its ad platform, allowing brands to really promote their content that they made native for the platform. Once Instagram flipped this switch, it really took off as an effective place for brands to advertise, and Flashstock’s growth took off with it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The company grew extremely quickly, and within just four years of operating, was acquired by leading stock photography company Shutterstock.

Today, Munro is the senior vice president of Shutterstock Custom, where he has been since Shutterstock acquired Flashstock back in 2017. The division operates as its own unit, where it continues to provide major brands with quick, authentic branded content.

As for Munro’s future, and whether he’ll ever return to entrepreneurship, he’ll never say never.

“Right now, I’m still with Shutterstock and I plan to be with Shutterstock for some time,” Munro says. “When you’re a startup, you’re out there doing it alone and sort of fighting for your life, and then when someone takes you into the fold like Shutterstock has, they provide you with a ton of resources. So, we’ve got a bunch of unfinished business that we have left to take care of.”

3 Tips For Scaling A Creative Company

When Grant Munro decided to start Flashstock, he was learning everything in real-time. Building a company culture and fostering creative talent were all new to him. Fortunately, Munro was a quick learner. He found the right formula for success and company growth, and in just four years, sold Flashstock to Shutterstock for $50 million.

Here are three of Munro’s tips for scaling a creative company.

Know Your Customer

During a stint at a startup, Munro learned how much he enjoyed the process of customer development and understanding what a company’s pain points were. By really diving in deep and talking with his clients about their problems, or even understanding your own company’s problem, it becomes easier to think of novel solutions, or to have “aha” moments.

When you’ve invested the time into knowing the problem and understanding the ecosystem of that problem, you open yourself up more to those flashpoints of creativity and resolution. If you don’t spend the effort doing customer development, you’re making it harder on yourself, maybe not now, but later.

“I feel like a lot of that gets overlooked at companies of all sizes,” Munro says. “Where they almost have to reinvent the wheel every time they want to launch a new campaign because they haven’t created that discipline around customer development.”

Go Chat With Someone Who’s Done It

When a person sets out to create a product or scale a business, they tend to focus first on what they’re good at and what interests them. And if there is a challenging task ahead that may be intimidating, it is quite natural for them to put it off and go back to working on something they’re good at. This can stunt the growth of your business and make it hard to scale.

Munro suggests that if you’re struggling with a component of your business, or need some guidance, go talk with someone who’s done that task before.

“When you talk through your current priorities with people who have sort of done it and been there, they can help you recalibrate those ,” Munro says. “And they can help you say, ‘No, no, you don’t need to write another line of code, or you know, you don’t need to tweak your designs anymore. What you need to do it is set up your accounting software.’”

Define Your Core Values and Mission

Flashpoint’s growth was very, very fast.

Within the company’s first few years, they had grown to around 80 people, so they had little time to set up any processes, let alone establish values or have a clear company mission.

It was when he was repeatedly asked questions about the company’s future, and he realized he didn’t have a hand in the interview process with some key employees, that he felt it was time to create a company mission and values.

With the help of a third party to facilitate a retreat, Munro and key members of the team came up with Flashstock’s mission and values. And immediately, he saw results across the company. It would help them formulate an employee handbook, and to use these values in the hiring process.

“It simplified everything,” Munro says. “We would reference them all the time. From a creativity perspective, people feel really comfortable, people feel really consistent, people feel really welcomed their ideas based on the culture and that sort of frees up their thinking.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • Why the creative boutique Munro worked at stopped offering custom social media content creation
  • How this decision left his clients with an unmet need and led him to launch Flashstock
  • Why Munro pivoted the focus of Flashstock
  • The problem Flashstock solved for brands looking to tell their unique stories
  • How Flashstock’s “visual identity calibration” works
  • The impact that Instagram’s growth had on Flashstock’s business
  • Flashstock’s rapid growth and acquisition by Shutterstock
  • Why Munro doesn’t plan to return to entrepreneurship any time soon

Nov 19 2019

49mins

Play

276: Using Content to Build a Community, With Beardbrand Founder Eric Bandholz

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Rise of the Urban Beardsman How Eric Bandholz challenged the stereotypes of bearded men and built a booming community with Beardbrand.

Eric Bandholz didn’t like being put into a box.

In his former life as a financial advisor at a big bank, for example, he was expected to fit the stereotypical facade of a banker—suit, tie, clean-shaven.

He didn’t like it, so he quit.

With his newfound freedom, Bandholz embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, all while sporting a fresh, full beard. While he loved his rugged new look, he noticed it was happening yet again. This time, he found himself stuffed in a box with the likes of ZZ Top and the guys on Duck Dynasty.

Of course, Bandholz didn’t identify with any of these well-known bearded figures either. And he began to realize that other full-bearded men from all walks of life didn’t fit this mold either.

“I ended up going to this event where I sort of meet other guys like me, like stay-at-home dads and ministers, salespeople, doctors, lawyers, who are all rocking beards and they didn’t really fit the traditional stereotype,” Bandholz says. “So I was thinking about it. … Who are these people? How do I describe them?”

Seeing there was a broad community of bearded men without a home to call their own, Bandholz founded Beardbrand in 2012. Along with co-founders Lindsey Reinders and Jeremy McGee, Bandholz created a community where bearded men could unite, evolving later into a full-fledged lifestyle brand complete with their own beard care and styling products.

With an army of loyal followers on social media, which includes a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers, Beardbrand has grown into an “upper seven-figure business” with ambitions to reach eight in the near future.

Bandholz has come a long way from his suit-and-tie-wearing days.

In the Beginning

In 2011, Bandholz was working for Merrill Lynch in Spokane, Washington, as a financial advisor. It was a respectable career that had a bright future and potential for growth, however, it wasn’t a future he saw for himself once he was in it full time.

Although he loved the work of financial advising and investing, it was stuffy atmosphere and the overall “bank life” that Bandholz knew was not for him. Not wanting to spend another moment in a job that wasn’t a good fit, Bandholz packed up his portfolio and moved on.

The next move?

With a background in marketing prior to his career in finance, Bandholz founded Sovrnty, a startup with a mission to help companies set up marketing automation. Although he had great plans for the business, it never took off.

“I was like one of those gurus. I’d never done it, right?” Bandholz says. “So I’m telling people to do something that I had never really done.”

Unable to sell businesses on his idea, he shifted Sovrnty’s focus to something that he was good at, which was designing and building WordPress sites. Although he was getting some business, it still wasn’t enough. He was pulling together around $2,000 a month at Sovrnty, but he was mainly relying upon his wife and her full-time job to keep the lights on.

Always searching for new clients and ideas, Bandholz was a regular at networking events. And at whichever event he attended, he was always getting called out as one of those cliched bearded figures.

The light bulb went off.

If he didn’t like to be lumped into the stereotypes about bearded men, there had to be others who felt the same. These guys weren’t lumberjacks, roadies, hillbillies, or hipsters, but how exactly would he characterize them? What would he call them?

He settled on “urban beardsmen.”

And in 2012, Beardbrand was born.

The first thing to launch was the blog, Urban Beardsman, which would become a place where Bandholz could help foster a community and connect with other men who didn’t fit the Grizzly Adams stereotype. Beardbrand would soon follow, an organization that united that community of urban beardsmen. There they could also find the tools they needed to feel confident about their beards and personal styles.

But getting from simple blog to full-fledged business proved to be a difficult task.

Startup Weekend

Although Bandholz was still working at Sovrnty to help make ends meet, he had high hopes for Beardbrand. However, a clear vision on how to grow this new community was nowhere in sight.

“Aw man, it was terrible. It was just terrible,” Bandholz says. “There was just no strategy at all in those early days.”

The community was growing, but it was hardly going viral. He was posting regularly to Urban Beardsman, had a Tumblr page, and posted some videos to YouTube, but nothing was really taking off.

Despite its middling traffic, the blog was the only one of its kind back then, which by default made Bandholz an expert on the topic of beards. Because of its uniqueness, the Urban Beardsman would catch the eye of a reporter at The New York Times who was writing an article and wanted to quote Bandholz.

As Bandholz waited for the Times article to be published, he convinced friends Reinders and McGee to join him and collaborate at a Startup Weekend, where they could share their ideas on potential projects. They originally came together to work on a different startup idea that Reinders had, but it soon became clear that they didn’t have the capabilities to create her software product in house.

Needing a new business to work on, Bandholz proposed his side project.

“I was like, hey, I got this Beardbrand thing and this New York Times reporter is going to quote me in an article,” Bandholz says. “Why don’t we turn that into something?”

And turn it into something they did.

Reinders and McGee were on board, and in 2013 the business arm of the company was born. Without much capital to start making their own products—they only put $30 into the business at first—the team opted to become an ecommerce company that sold beard oils from a vendor with standard retail markups.

“When the New York Times article posted, we were able to get a couple sales,” Bandholz says. “And I think the first month we did like 900 bucks in sales. And then it was kind of like 900 bucks, 1,000 bucks, 600 bucks … 2,000 bucks, 3,000 bucks, 7,000 bucks. And then it just seemed like we got a lot of momentum into that fall season and holiday season.”

After almost seven years in business, which included an appearance on Shark Tank (spoiler alert: they didn’t get a deal), the momentum is still going strong. Beardbrand continues to grow in community, employees, and revenue, and is now located primarily in Austin, Texas with about 15 team members and 120 products sold through their website.

Bandholz, whose main focus is on the creative direction of the company, still has major plans for the future of Beardbrand. They intend to try their hands at branching out to create their own custom barbershops, where they can create the same experience a customer may see in a Beardbrand YouTube video. They do this by not only creating an amazing barbershop environment, but also by hiring the right barbers and stylists and coaching them on the information a customer is looking for when they sit in the chair.

“[Customers] can to go Great Clips or they can go to their local barbershop and get a really good haircut,” Bandholz says. “But what we want to deliver is that education similar to how we deliver it on our YouTube Channel.” 

Whether it is through their popular YouTube videos, blog, or even future barbershops, Beardbrand will always work towards its core mission.

“We’re not just here trying to sell products for vanity,” Bandholz says. “We believe that when you invest in yourself, you become a better person and you make the world a better place. You live longer. … I feel this responsibility that I’ve got to get that message out there as much as possible so that we can make the world a better place.”

3 Content Marketing Tips for Bootstrapped Startups

When Eric Bandholz first started Beardbrand, cash was minimal. He was still working at his first company, Sovrnty, and was building Beardbrand on the side. They knew that they didn’t have the money to pay for marketing, but what they did have was their time to invest in content marketing. Bandholz knew that with the right content and strategy, they could reach millions of people.

“Content marketing was essentially our only option in those early days,” Bandholz says. “We didn’t have cash to put into the business. So it started with sharing our story on Reddit. It started with, you know, reaching out to people on Twitter and sharing our product with influencers and not paying them for it.”

Being proactive with their content marketing strategy in the beginning was a key component of Beardbrand’s success. Here are three tips to help your startup bootstrap using content marketing.

Get Started, But Be Patient

Without a marketing budget, Bandholz turned to content marketing to help draw eyes to Beardbrand. It was cost-effective, with the bulk of the investment being his own time to create the content.

The trick was not only to post content and to post it often, but to also know that in the beginning, you won’t get much of a return on your investment. Content marketing is a long-term play. The first step is to just create something. Anything.

“While it does build up over time, it also doesn’t do anything in the beginning,” Bandholz says. “And you really have to like… stoke that fire and get it going. And you get it going by creating, you know, 20 or 40 or 50 pieces of content that start to build that foundation.”

Do What You Like To Do

With so many different funnels and channels to produce content for, it can be intimidating on deciding where to start. According to Bandholz, the type of content you should produce first should be for the channel you’re most interested and passionate about.

“I think you look at yourself and what you like to do,” Bandholz says. “Are you more of an audio person? Then maybe podcasting’s the way to go. Are you more of a writer, you know, introvert? Do you like to express yourself through words? Then blogging is a great way to go. Then, of course, if you’re narcissistic like me…then video is a great source for you.”

The more passion you have for a certain medium, the more likely you’ll churn out content and stick to the long-term plan.

Understanding Expectations

Not all content is created equal, and it’s important to understand the goal for each piece of content you create. At Beardbrand, they use the sales funnel model, where their “content at the top” is there to bring awareness to the brand, the “middle” is used to introduce the products, and the “bottom” hopefully helps to turn the reader into a buying customer.

“Sometimes we have content that is there to inspire people,” Bandholz says. “You know, it’s not going to drive any sales. It’s just there to help build awareness to the brand. And then other good content is stuff that drives sales and gets engagement, or gets people talking and spreading the word.”

By diversifying the types of content you create, you enhance your chances of attracting different types of readers and content consumers on different platforms. As Bandholz says, as a creator, you don’t know exactly what part of the funnel really “helped them become a customer.” For instance, the customer may have first learned about your company through a YouTube video, but it was perhaps the blog or an email newsletter that really got them to trust you and that turned them into a paying customer.

Whichever type of content strategy you decide to implement, one thing is for certain—just get started. You never know who is reading.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • What drove Bandholz from his career as a financial advisor
  • Why his first startup Sovrnty failed to take off
  • The lightbulb moment that inspired Bandholz to launch Beardbrand
  • How Bandholz leveraged content marketing to grow his business on a tight budget
  • The struggle to grow the community into a full-fledged business
  • How Beardbrand eventually caught the attention of The New York Times
  • The partnerships that helped Bandholz start selling beard grooming and styling products
  • From investing $30 into an ecommerce business to making 7 figures
  • What Bandholz envisions for the future of the company

Nov 12 2019

56mins

Play

275: Riot Games Co-Founder Marc Merrill Shares the Story Behind League of Legends

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The dramatic tale of how Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck set out to make a better video game, and changed the industry with League of Legends.

Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck were typical college roommates. They went to class. They studied. They played video games. OK, a lot of video games.

But they also shared an avid interest in business, including the business of their favorite hobby. So while other gamers helplessly yelled at their screens when a glitch popped up or they felt burned by an expensive new sequel, Merrill and Beck thought up ways they could fix these shortcomings—ways they could make the industry and the gaming world better.

Today, the duo co-chair Riot Games, a video game company that places a unique focus on the needs and experiences of gamers. As their signature game League of Legends approaches its 10th anniversary, it operates in 19 languages worldwide, has inspired a line of Marvel comics, and holds competitive tournaments, with the latest championship drawing nearly 100 million viewers.

How does a free game that can only make money through selling virtual goods become such an enormous business? The answer is in the radical vision for gaming that Merrill and Beck strongly believed in, and were determined to realize—even if it meant challenging game publishers, investors, developers, and themselves.

As Merrill tells it, the story of how they pulled it off is legendary.

From Passion to Plan

“We had two shared passions,” Merrill says. “One being gaming—we were both incredibly hardcore gamers, and we loved playing games with each other—and the other being business.”

Merrill and Beck were studying business at USC and, although they spent every spare second gaming, they never imagined it would lead to a career. Even as they worked toward their “responsible, adult jobs,” they constantly bounced ideas off of each other, dreaming up ways to solve the problems that irritated them most as gamers.

After they graduated, and Merrill moved into a career in banking and Beck went into consulting, they continued the conversation in their West Hollywood apartment.

They, and many other gamers like them, found the current model of game development frustrating. The industry ran on new releases, sending gamers to retailers to buy endless $60 sequels to beloved games. Meanwhile, those who played the games didn’t actually want a brand new game or a sequel to what they were playing. Instead, they would have preferred updates, new features, and new adventures to appear in the game they already loved.

Was there, Merrill and Beck wondered, a way to create a game that first and foremost served the wishes of gamers, rather than the needs of retailers? One that could grow over time with the players?

They sensed that the video game industry was headed toward a significant disruption, and as the days passed, they began to realize they might be the disruptors.

“We, as passionate players of games, had identified that we felt really underserved at the time,” Merrill says, “and so had a whole thesis about how to go create a company that solved a problem that we deeply felt.”

So, when the twentysomethings weren’t working diligently away at their respective day jobs, they drafted a business plan for a new kind of game. But they were nervous about taking the plunge, and they wanted to be sure this was something they could see all the way through before moving forward. So they asked themselves three crucial questions.

Was there a demand for what they wanted to build?

Could they build it?

Would they be able to find the necessary capital to turn their dream into a reality?

The moment they felt comfortable answering yes to each of these questions, they charged forward and, in 2006, Riot Games was formed.

Establishing Credibility

The creation of something revolutionary is never easy.

“We’ve had many catastrophic circumstances that should have torpedoed the company,” Merrill says.

From day one, they knew that overcoming their lack of credibility was going to be the biggest challenge in creating the game they were imagining.

“Knowing what we know now, we literally wouldn’t have invested in ourselves back in the day,” Merrill says. “We ironically believe that our naïve optimism was one of the incredibly important ingredients for success.”

Experienced developers were hesitant to join the team because of Merrill and Beck’s inexperience and lack of funding. Meanwhile, shrewd investors were skeptical about hopping on board due to their inexperience and lack of experienced developers. But Merrill and Beck moved forward anyway with the best they could recruit, and they strove to build credibility.

At one point, they tried to bring someone on board as CTO and executive producer who had thrived in the industry for years and even had a publishing background. But as the three of them worked to recruit talent for the business, Merrill and Beck soon realized that they didn’t quite gel with their new teammate.

They felt more drawn to interns who lacked experience, but understood the vision of the game and had great potential. Meanwhile, the senior staffer tended toward experienced developers the co-founders would not have chosen themselves.

Because they didn’t want to come off as overpowering, micromanaging founders, Merrill says they let the developers work freely. But this soon created a serious problem. Merrill says they discovered that the lead developer had plans to steal the company and had been secretly pitching his own version of the game to other publishers.

The cultural divide Merrill saw growing within the young company, punctuated by this betrayal, inspired the co-founders to become far more hands on with their business.

“That was a really galvanizing event that helped teach Brandon and I that when experienced individuals say, ‘Trust me, because my 20 years experience in this particular industry or this field means that I know what I’m talking about,’ it’s really important to say, ‘Well, enlighten us,’” Merrill says. “If somebody can’t articulate a good rationale for whatever it is they’re doing, even if it’s a deeply technical concept, that’s a red flag.”

Merrill and Beck righted the ship, took a more active role, and set out toward building a game demo that would illustrate their idea to investors and publishers. But after constructing the demo, they realized they didn’t have the internal talent yet to fully realize the game they envisioned.

So they established an advisory board, through which very experienced, talented developers could gain free shares in the company by mentoring Riot Games’ young developers, without leaving their full-time jobs.

Over time, the relationships with those on the advisory board grew. While initially, those developers would have said no when invited to join the the team, things began to change. “As that equation changed, those eventually turned into yeses,” Merrill says.

With each new, experienced addition to the team, the game development leaped forward with new input and inspiration for the junior talent, pushing the limits of what was possible for the company.

While the game slowly took shape, they started approaching publishers with the idea. Unfortunately, Merrill says, every publisher they spoke with believed the concept of a free battle arena game that generates revenue through in-game purchases was insane.

“Our whole business model was very unproven at the time,” Merrill says, “because our game was planning to be free, and we were literally selling virtual goods.”

Because of this, they realized they were going to have to publish the game on their own. And that was going to require some serious cash—$20 million, in fact.

“We had no idea if we were going to be successful until spending about $17 million of other people’s money and bringing the product to market and then starting to get validation,” he says.

This made investors nervous, and Merrill says that 50 VCs turned them down before Benchmark and FirstMark Capital decided to come on board at $7 million. Riot Games was given the first half of the investment up front, with the second half to come after they had conducted a 1,000-user beta test.

The only problem was that in 2008—before widespread smartphone adoption or cloud computing—the technology was not yet in a place to support the user base they anticipated for their game, meaning they had to build that, too.

After briefly partnering with a startup in an attempt to outsource the creation of the necessary backend, they were $1 million poorer and no closer to what they needed. So, in the second half of 2008, they worked to build the platform internally from scratch.

With only three months of funding left in their account, Merrill says they hired 1,100 people in the Philippines to beta test the game in internet cafes. The test was successful, and Riot Games lived on.

Charging Toward Launch Day

But Riot Games’ potentially catastrophic struggles were not in the rearview just yet. With launch day rapidly approaching, Merrill, Beck, and the 55-person team prepared to self-publish in North America and to publish in Europe through a licensing deal with GOA, a division of Orange Telecom. They even had a set “ship date” despite the downloadable nature of the game, to try to build credibility with media outlets skeptical of the level of quality found in most free games.

Everything was ready to go. At least it seemed like it was.

Rather than building the store feature of the game themselves, Merrill says they had hired an online store provider to handle the construction and management of the in-game shop. But as the beta tests progressed, the store struggled to keep up with growing demand. They tried removing unneeded features, but it made little difference.

The store was the hinge on which the door swung. It was the only way for the free game to generate revenue, and it housed the players’ in-game wallets and account systems, meaning that without the store, players wouldn’t have any content.

Because of this, Merrill was eventually forced to conclude that, once again, it would be better for them to build something of their own from scratch that could meet their needs. He reached this decision two weeks before Oct. 27, 2009, the set launch date for League of Legends.

It was time to get creative.

To buy themselves the time necessary to build the store, the game started with a “launch party,” during which all players could access all of the game’s content for free. The strategy worked well, attracting tens of thousands of players to the game, and once the shop was introduced, the paid content began immediately generating revenue.

But Merrill says that the main reason League of Legends succeeded wasn’t their ability to attract new customers. It was their ability to retain them. So when the game continued to grow steadily in North America but remained stagnant in the European market, they had to take a closer look at what was happening underneath the hood.

In North America, Riot Games made players feel heard, addressing their concerns with regular two-week patches. The European publishing partner, however, was unable to meet this same level of service, and Merrill says this is what caused the stagnation.

So they immediately set to work unwinding the deal they had made with GOA, and then had 45 days to create a European entity, build an office, hire staff, create servers, and get the whole operation rolling so that gameplay in Europe would go uninterrupted.

Despite the hassle, the change made all the difference.

“We were able to operate differently and demonstrate why quality service matters because the second we took it over, we started growing,” he says. “Then, Europe started growing faster than North America.”

Slowly but surely, month over month, League of Legends gained an avid fan base until it became the worldwide sensation it is today.

But there was one more dream Merrill and Beck wanted to try to bring to life.

A New Kind of Sport

Both Merrill and Beck grew up loving and playing sports in the same way they loved and played video games.

“We always believed that competitive online games of a certain type had all of the same dynamics that ‘real sports’ did,” he says.

They knew that someday, a game would become an arena sport just like basketball or football. So why not theirs?

In July 2010, they introduced the first significant update to League of Legends called Season One. With this update came the concept of singles and team rankings. This enabled them to launch a tournament system that would end in a final tournament in Sweden for a $100,000 cash prize.

Interest in the tournament exploded as gamers battled for the crown. But Merrill says the realization that this could actually become something big came not from the competitors, but from the fans.

During their first end-of-season tournament, over a million viewers tuned in to watch.

“For us, that was validation of, like, ‘Wow, a lot of people are like us and really do want to watch games played at a competitive level.’”

From that moment, the esports aspect of Riot Games grew rapidly. They established leagues worldwide and a world cup system similar to soccer.

Today, they operate 13 leagues across the globe and hold their World Championship in the Staples Center, home of the LA Lakers. Merrill says there is even a player in China sponsored by Nike and that their most recent World Cup had more than 99.6 million live viewers, besting the viewership ratings for the Super Bowl.

“As a League player, there’s always something to watch,” he says. “There’s always something to talk about. There’s interesting drama between teams. There’s players and pros to aspire to or to become fans of. There’s events that are happening all around the world.”

Podcasts have sprung up analyzing players and teams, and fans cheer on players from their country the way they would with any other sport.

Merrill says that about half of League players will never spend a cent in game, but that’s OK with him.

“Our business is fundamentally about keeping players entertained and engaged over the long term,” he says, “and our view is that the only way to really do that is by delivering incredible value to them.”

And if they don’t buy in-game items, they might buy one of the ancillary products, like the comic line currently running through Marvel. Or they may simply tune in for big events to cheer on their favorite players.

While they work to further establish esports leagues, Riot Games is also striving to improve every aspect of the game itself. Merrill says that, since launch, they’ve redone every aspect of the game multiple times, improved their tools pipeline, overhauled their engine, and expanded their team to 3,000 globally.

They are also looking into the creation of new games.

“Riot is Riot Game right now, we’re not Riot Games,” he says. “The ‘s’ is still aspirational.”

But Merrill knows that there is so much more to come for the video game company he and his college roommate founded to solve the woes of gamers like them.

“We really feel like we’re just getting started.”

Marc Merrill’s Tips for Building a Successful Business

When founders set to work on their first companies, they are faced with a whirlwind of concerns, needs, and potential goals. But Marc Merrill believes these four items should be at the top of every early-stage founder’s to-do list:

Set a Clear Mission

“Having a deep sense of purpose and mission can really carry you through the darkest days, and also carry you and your team to great heights.”

Build the Ideal Team

“In our view—and I think in many businesses—the team is by far and away the most valuable asset. So getting the right people, building the right culture, being thoughtful about mission and purpose…those are all really important things to evaluate when building a team.”

Establish a High Level of Trust

“I think Riot’s success has largely been fueled by incredible people who are very committed to our mission and are willing to acknowledge mistakes and learn rapidly through failure because there’s a lot of trust.”

Don’t Get Discouraged

“You’re going to have days where you feel like you can take over the world, and there are so many possibilities, and then other days where you’re like, ‘Oh my god, how are we possibly going to solve this problem. We’re so in trouble.’”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • How Merrill and his roommate Brandon Beck mixed their love of business and video games
  • The frustrations the duo had with game development industry
  • How the co-founders overcame their lack of credibility in the industry
  • A betrayal that changed the way Riot Games was run
  • How a strategic advisory board solved their talent acquisition challenges
  • Why game publishers and VCs alike weren’t on board with Riot Games’ business model
  • The creative problem-solving that made the launch of League of Legends a success
  • How Riot Games exploded the world of esports, leading to 13 leagues around the world
  • The hunt for the next big video game

Nov 05 2019

55mins

Play

274: Real Estate Mogul Grant Cardone Talks Tenacity, the 10X Rule, And More

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Turning Obsession Into Success Real estate mogul Grant Cardone explains his obsessive approach to business, and his 10X Rule for goal-setting.

Grant Cardone, a self-made real estate mogul, sales and marketing trainer, and bestselling author, credits his success in life to persistence and an obsession with being the best. That, and his time working at a car dealership.

“The first real job I had was my sixth job,” he says of the gig. “I was fired from my first five. Fired from my sixth job. I was fired six times, but I wouldn’t leave the last job. I just would not leave.”

Part of the reason Cardone’s bosses kept getting so fed up with him was that he was a terrible driver. Not a great quality when working in the car business, as he kept smashing up the merchandise. But his relentlessness made up for it.

“I would wreck their cars and they would fire me,” he says. “And then before I would leave, I would go sell something and they would keep me on. Selling something was always forgiveness.”

By the time Cardone finally did leave, he was the highest-grossing salesman at the dealership. He was the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night, his goal always being to make himself indispensable to the company. And to make a lot of money.

So yeah, Cardone is, well, obsessive. Coming up from nothing, financially speaking, he quickly learned that was the way to rise to the top. It’s helped him achieve his lifelong goals to make money, have a successful career, and help people along the way. Now, Cardone’s exploring that approach to life and business with his new book, appropriately titled Be Obsessed or Be Average.

The Origins of Obsession

In his book, Cardone writes, “I didn’t have a father who could lead me to the land of the rich, lend me a million dollars for my first real estate deal, assist with political connections through introductions at country clubs, or show me the ways of business.”

His fate was forged, instead, by the tragic death of his father when Cardone was just 10 years old. Until that day, he had watched his father work hard to provide for his wife and his five children, starting a variety of businesses, from opening a grocery store to starting a life insurance company, and finally becoming a licensed stock broker.

His father’s “drive and his obsession,” as Cardone puts it, were inspiring. And when he died, leaving the family behind to get by on their own, Cardone became obsessed himself—with the idea of creating enough wealth so he would never worry about money again.

But his was a winding path to success. He carried around a lot of anger about his difficult situation, and fell into the wrong crowd in high school. He started smoking and drinking. He got into a lot of fights and a lot of trouble. By the time Cardone graduated, he writes in his book, “I had a massive daily drug problem.”

He did go to college, however, fulfilling a promise his mother had made to his father. He graduated with an accounting degree after what he called “five long, miserable years.”

At 23, he was broke and still doing drugs every day, just barely getting by at his car dealership jbo. “I was 20 pounds underweight and had a gray complexion, thanks to the drugs,” he writes.

At 25, his mother gave him an ultimatum: get clean or never come back. Cardone checked himself into rehab, and although he says it didn’t address the underlying problem, he discovered he could get by without drugs. He vowed to never touch them again and to use his “addictive personality” to his advantage.

Turning It Around

After rehab, his boss gave him his job at the dealership back, a move that Cardone says probably saved his life. He worked harder than any other associate, and doubled his earnings in the process.

“It wasn’t until I figured out how to make somebody else rich that I could be rich,” he says.

Cardone finally left his sales job at the car dealership and moved to a sales consulting firm. “I treated my little department as, ‘This is my company within a company.’ And I wanted to make that company as a strong as possible,” he says.

When he left the firm to go out on his own, it was because he felt there was no more opportunity to grow. So at 29 he started his first company, Cardone Automotive, a sales consulting business for the automotive industry. By 30, he’d already made his first million, but it didn’t come easy.

“That was a company where I was cold-calling other businesses across the U.S. and Canada.”

Cardone was working hard, doing what most entrepreneurs do and devoting all of his time to his business.

“I was just hustling. Everything was a transaction...to get money and pay the taxes and have a little bit of money left over.”

And even though his company was making money, year after year, Cardone knew he had to do more to become a true entrepreneur.

‘You’re Not a Business’

Cardone had never stopped to think about what an entrepreneur really is. Sure, he’d started a business and it was running smoothly, but he wasn’t reinvesting in it. He wasn’t thinking about marketing or expanding. Instead, he was following the old adage, hard work pays off.

“All I was doing was knocking on doors. It was pure effort. I wasn’t spending money. I wouldn’t spend real money until I was 50 years old, about 10 years ago, when a guy said, ‘Bro, you’re not a business.’”

Cardone knew it was time for a change if he wanted to achieve the kind of success he’d set his sights on. He had to rethink how to do business, how to expand, and how to get the word out.

“The first thing I did was flipped everything. I could no longer be sales first. I had to be marketing first. Marketing and branding. Because to me, a business is, I can walk away from it and it will still operate. I was a guy. I was no different than when I was 30, just pounding doors.”

That’s when he came up with the 10X Rule.

The 10X Rule

In 2011, Cardone published his personal business philosophy in his first book, called The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure.

The 10X Rule challenges readers to estimate the amount of time and effort it will take to achieve a goal and then multiply that estimate by 10. It also trains readers to think differently about what they can achieve in the first place.

Cardone writes that most people underestimate themselves and what they can achieve. If they identify a goal, say making $100,000 in a fiscal year, they should multiply that by 10.

“10X woke me up. 10X was not for the public. 10X was for me,” he says.

He created it because he was trying to figure out why, despite his success as an entrepreneur, he wasn’t growing the way he had expected.

“I work hard, I’ve got great products, I’ve got a great reputation, great reviews. People like me. They like my content. They like my content actually better than they like me. That might have been an exaggeration.”

Is 10X totally achievable? Not necessarily, but that’s not really the point of the rule. It’s to shake up the way you perceive what’s possible.

“It’s not achievable, but it’s worth it. You have four, five million dollars sitting in an account today. What if you had $50 million? It’s not achievable, but it’s worth going for it. It’s fun shit, man.”

Even if you can’t achieve 10X, anything you hit will surpass your original goal.

Investing in His Brand

Cardone started toward his own 10X goal by spending the money he made, reinvesting in his business, starting or acquiring new businesses, and making himself known across industries.

“People knew me in a particular industry. They didn’t know me in every industry. So the first thing that I took on was that I need to get people know me in every industry while I continue to knock on doors and pay my bills.”

He began by writing books and business programs, which got his brand out there while generating their own money. His next two businesses were sales education platforms, Cardone Education and Cardone On-Demand, online training seminars that established him as a subject matter expert and drew in revenue from large and small businesses alike.

He also started to grow his influence on social media.

“I started with one follower, just like everybody else, and I was the follower. My second follower was my wife because I created an account for her on YouTube and said you’re going to follow me.”

Currently, he has 6.1 million followers on Facebook, almost 395,000 followers on Twitter, 2 million followers on Instagram, and almost 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube.

“I’ve grinded for every one of those followers. And delivered content to them so I could scale out.”

His goal was to expand his reach beyond the U.S., and bring in a global audience for his 10x message. He now holds speaking engagements that attract thousands across the globe. He consults for major brands, and his videos on Grant Cardone TV get thousands of views.

Investing in Himself

The best business advice Cardone has ever received came not from someone in business, but from his mother, he once told CNBC. “She said, ‘The best investment you will ever make is in yourself. It’s a no-lose deal. It will always give you a return. Nobody can take it from you. It’s yours.’”

Cardone looks for every opportunity to improve himself, whether that’s a charity event that helps him build new relationships or a seminar that will help him acquire new skills or refine old ones.

“People should be invested in the beginning, just in themselves. Every chance you can get to go to something that could possibly help you. If it has a 1% chance of even adding to the value. Spend the money. Don’t sit on the money. Money’s useless.”

He eschews saving money or even spending it on something most people wouldn’t think twice about—buying a house.

“That’s the dumbest thing anybody could do. That’s the dumbest thing I ever did was buy a house. I bought a house and I didn’t improve myself. I spent more time picking furniture out than I did , “Hey, how do I fix me?”

What’s 10x for Cardone, Now?

So what’s the next big move for Cardone? Turning those millions into billions, of course.

“10x is how do I do a billion dollars a year in income? And then how do I do $10 billion in real estate? How do I have a $10 billion real estate portfolio? How do I start competing with these banks so they’re like, you know what? We really don’t like all this noise you’re making. You’re a noisy guy. And we’re kind of getting tired of it.”

Cardone’s ability to disrupt industries and make noise has landed him where he is today, as an influential sales trainer and real estate mogul.

He turned an obsession into a reality and used a quirk in his personality to create a global empire.

Advice for Budding Entrepreneurs

Cardone now runs five privately held companies, including Cardone Capital, an $800 million real estate company. His 30-year success as an entrepreneur has given him the unique opportunity to share insights with other budding business moguls. He shared with us some of his best bits of advice.

‘Make money your battle cry.’

“Make money. Make money. Make money your battle cry. Go collect money. Don’t make money, just go collect money. Have a great product. Have a great service. Over-deliver. Collect money. Charge for it.”

Put your team in the spotlight.

“If you notice, I show off my people a lot. I don’t keep them behind the scenes. I’m like here, let’s have more than the Cardone show. Why do I do that? Where did I learn that? Great companies.”

Don’t cling to your money—reinvest it.

“The first sheet of paper I get every day is how much cash I have. That’s not for bragging rights. It’s because I want to get rid of it. It’s like trash. I want to get rid of this money. Money is being devalued worldwide right now. I didn’t say I have no reserves, but I don’t need $167 million.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Laurie Mega

Key Takeaways
  • How the death of Cardone’s father shaped him from a young age
  • The winding road to overcoming drug addiction
  • Why Cardone was fired from his car dealership job six times—and why he kept getting rehired
  • How Cardone channeled his addictive personality into his work
  • The launch of Cardone Automotive, and how it got him his first $1 million in a year
  • Why Cardone decided to rethink the way he ran his business
  • What the 10X rule means, and how it can be applied to any aspect of your life
  • How Cardone leveled up his personal branding and became an influencer
  • Why Cardone is passionate about the idea of investing in yourself
  • A sneak peek into his latest book Be Obsessed or Be Average

Oct 28 2019

38mins

Play

273: The Making of a Fintech Unicorn, with Airwallex Founder Jack Zhang

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How Jack Zhang and the Airwallex team built a billion-dollar company in just three years. By the time he was 30, Jack Zhang had already launched more than 10 businesses, with interests ranging from coffee to real estate.

While many of them were successful, Zhang never got to the point where he left his full-time job.

“I just tried to do different things to see if I could achieve something or feel happy about what I was doing,” he says, “but I hadn’t really found anything I was passionate about.”

He certainly wasn’t afraid of the hard work and long hours that came from starting and sustaining businesses, saying that “work was never a torture.” Despite all that time and effort he invested in each startup, he ultimately felt that none of these businesses ever amounted to much more than a new way to make some extra money. Nothing ever became a greater purpose.

With a passion for technology and a love for writing code, Zhang longed to do something within the tech sphere that would have a real impact. Like so many serial entrepreneurs, he finally found a business he was passionate about by looking at his own personal pain points.

Zhang would become the co-founder and CEO of financial tech company Airwallex, which eliminates foreign transaction fees in an increasingly globalized world. In doing so, he’s created a company that, in just three years, entered the $1 billion club.

While the creation of a fabled “unicorn” company was far more nitty-gritty and far less magical than one might imagine, he still owes a little bit of his success to that almighty and mystical force: luck.

The Magic of the Perfect Team

The idea for Airwallex came from the difficulties Zhang and one of the co-founders ran into while running import businesses between Asia and Australia. Sending international payments through a payment service provider (such as PayPal) not only slowed the process but piled on an unpleasant foreign transaction fee.

So, with his background in tech and foreign exchange trading, Zhang and friend decided to tackle the problem themselves. They soon invited three other friends on board as co-founders, forming the Airwallex quintet: Jack Zhang, Jacob Dai, Ki-Lok Wong, Lucy Yueting Liu, and Max Li.

With $1 million invested between Zhang and his first co-founder, along with an additional $2 million from outside investors, they began creating the first version of their product, geared toward the SME (small-to-medium-sized enterprise) market.

“ believed in the team we had at the time, and believed in the company’s vision, and believed we were solving something quite important in the global scale,” Zhang says.

And as the business grew, so did the team. But Zhang says that as they hired new people, they presented an intentional hurdle to ensure that new additions were passionate about their vision. Every new hire was required to take a pay cut to work at Airwallex.

Zhang says that, for ambitious, passionate, top-tier talent, the money isn’t the deciding factor in where they choose to work. He believes they pay far more attention to whether the work aligns with their passions and if the scope of the work presents an exciting challenge. And these were the kinds of people Zhang wanted to hire.

“I still think that the people willing to take a massive pay cut to join you are the most fundamental people who really believe in the vision,” he says. Even with that condition, Airwallex was able to scale from 80 to 320 employees in just 12 months.

While hiring was going well and the business continued to grow, because the creation of Airwallex cost so much, they flew through the initial $3 million investment and needed another round of financing to go to market. Turns out, building an expansive, global financial network isn’t easy.

Hard Work and a Little Luck

“My personal experience is full of luck, really,” Zhang says, “but also we put an incredible amount of effort into the business in the first 12 months. Me and my co-founders slept in the office every day.”

They put in long days, but that gave them a familiarity with the product that only comes from an all-in, hands-on approach. And the challenges didn’t stop Zhang and the rest of the Airwallex crew. It only made their belief in the product grow.

“When you talk to investors, they can feel your genuine passion,” he says. “That honesty—that genuine transparency—about how you want to solve , and you can describe it in detail.”

Investors ended up putting in another $13 million raised, but they were still only able to cover further development of the product. So they decided to begin pursuing other opportunities that could bring in revenue, rather than focusing solely on the SME market. They created a suite of APIs (application program interfaces) that would appeal to much larger corporations, positioning themselves as more of an infrastructure company. But they were still living on borrowed time.

Zhang says that, for the first two-and-a-half years, they didn’t bring in any revenue, with only three to six months of survival guaranteed at any given time.

And that’s where Lady Luck collided with crazy hard work, and the first signs of the unicorn-to-be showed its face.

“We just went from almost no transactions to processing billions of transactions a month,” Zhang says.

While long hours and business savvy played a major role in his company’s success, Zhang is also quick to credit forces beyond his control. He says plain ’ol luck is one of the reasons that his business took off, which perhaps accounts for Airwallex’s good timing and sudden influx of users.

Gazing Into the Future

Because Zhang and the rest of the Airwallex team focused on building a strong foundation and infrastructure, they were able to attract high-profile clients like MasterCard, and retain them when they came on board.

These important connections then put Zhang in the room with other top executives who were excited to try out Airwallex in their own businesses. And as the infrastructure grew through these strategic investments, it only added value to the business.

Today, Airwallex has built connectivity with more than 50 banks across the world, is equipped for international banking through accounts unhindered by borders, and grants access to competitive exchange rates and international payments, with more features on the horizon.

Zhang says he is always looking at least five years out, planning for the future of the company. He also invests time in learning from others who have been in his shoes by attending conferences and interviewing other CEOs.

“I spend a lot of time interviewing people to learn from people,” he says. “Whether they are good or bad, there are things I can learn.”

After three years of explosive growth, and now with the added pressure of leading a billion-dollar company, Zhang isn’t ready to slow down.

With his “get shit done and grow” mentality, he plans to continue taking Airwallex to new heights.

“Not everyone can do it. You have to sacrifice a lot of things," Zhang says. “Are you willing to sacrifice your house, your time with family, everything to do that? If the answer is yes, then maybe you are born to be an entrepreneur.”

To learn more about Airwallex, check out airwallex.com

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • Why Zhang didn’t leave his full-time job, even after launching 10 side businesses
  • The problem Zhang encountered that inspired the idea for fintech company Airwallex
  • Why every new Airwallex hire was required to take a pay cut
  • How a pinch of luck and tons of hard work eventually paid off
  • What Zhang believes inspired investors to put another $13 million into Airwallex
  • From no revenue at all to showing signs of unicorn status
  • How Airwallex started to attract high-profile customers like MasterCard
  • The journey to securing a $1 billion valuation in three years
  • Why Zhang believes in planning at least five years out

Oct 22 2019

45mins

Play

272: The Sweet Smell of Success: From Bankrupt to $100 Million, With Poo-Pourri’s Suzy Batiz

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Suzy Batiz’s journey from bankruptcy to founding Poo-Pourri, a $100 million business that’s become a household name.

For many consumers, the initial reaction to Suzy Batiz’s product is laughter.

I know it was for me. I remember back in 2008, my mother waving me over to the checkout register of our favorite boutique soap shop, giggling uncontrollably. I saw the tiny bottle and laughed out loud myself. Then handed one to the cashier.

After all, you just can’t walk away from a product called Poo-Pourri.

But it’s Batiz who has had the last laugh. A little over a decade since it launched, Poo-Pourri has become a household name and a $100 million business. The all-natural air freshening spray, once a boutique-only brand, is now sold by major retailers like Target, Costco, Walgreens, and more. Poo-Pourri has taken the world by sweet-smelling storm.

Given her success, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that Batiz had previously gone bankrupt (twice!) and once swore never to launch another company ever again. With a list of former businesses so long she can’t even name them all, Batiz had always come up short in pursuit of her big break.

It wasn’t until she failed hardest and stepped away from the world of entrepreneurship entirely that she had her life-changing epiphany.

The journey from broke to multi-millionaire wasn’t an easy one for Batiz. But her commitment to creativity, willingness to remain flexible, and her indomitable spirit helped her to shake the stink of failure and bring lovely aromas to bathrooms around the world.

Sh*t Happens

For years, Batiz was the kind of person who always had a full-time job and a side hustle, with another side-hustle in mind should the current one fail.

“I had a lot of businesses, and nothing seemed to really work long term. Nothing stuck,” she says. “But I was desperately trying.”

She’d owned a clothing store, a beauty salon, and a tanning salon to name a few, and she grew accustomed to taking big risks in the process. She learned early on how to bounce back from failure.

For example, Batiz went bankrupt for the first time before she was even old enough to drink. At 19, she took on a bridal salon, and at 20, the salon had gone under. But that didn’t slow her down.

“I was in this frantic race,” she says. “I was doing everything that you’re supposed to do, you know, pushing through.”

She continued trying new business ideas until, in 1999, she experienced her second bankruptcy. This one hurt far more than the first.

Batiz had sunk much of her own money into building Greener Grass, a recruiting platform designed to match employees with the right company cultures. If views were dollars, she would have been swimming in cash, but when the stock market crashed in 2001, so did her fledgling business. Batiz lost everything.

“They took away the big house, the two cars, and I had to face myself,” she says.

Batiz realized that all her life, she’d been chasing success—which really meant an overflowing bank account—without taking the time to find out what she was actually interested in.

“What’s worse than losing everything is losing everything and realizing you didn’t even have fun to begin with,” she says.

So, Batiz called it quits on the business world and decided to take some time away from it all for herself. During those years of self-discovery, she found the world of essential oils.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Ordinarily, if dinner party conversation trended toward discussing bathroom odor, it would be bad news for everyone involved. But when Batiz’s brother-in-law began to wonder over dinner if that unpleasant smell could be trapped and eradicated, sparks fired in Batiz’s mind.

After the time she’d spent working with essential oils, she realized she might be able to create something that would do exactly that. Off she rushed to her kitchen to spend nine months concocting the perfect blend of oils that would one day become Poo-Pourri.

In January 2007, she sold her first bottle.

“I really wasn’t interested in owning another business,” Batiz says. “I had sworn off business, but the product was so good, I had to bring it to market.”

She started with a website, and before long the wholesale requests came flooding in. Within a year, she’d brought in a million dollars in revenue. And it all happened through word of mouth.

“When you have an idea that is great, people tell other people about it,” she says. “I see a lot of people in founder stages stop at a good idea. And if you just have a good idea, it’s like pushing a train uphill. But when you have a great idea, people will stand on the rooftops and tell other people about it.”

Boutiques everywhere began selling little spray bottles of the cleverly named product, and before long, larger chains followed suit.

Seven years after launching, Poo-Pourri was bringing in $8 million in revenue, Batiz spent 12 weeks a year in Maui, and she truly felt like she was living the dream. But she believed her product could truly breakthrough and become the premier bathroom air freshener if she just made a big enough splash.

So, she decided to partner with the Harmon Brothers, the well-known creators of viral advertising videos, to create one of her own. You may recognize the Harmon Brothers’ name from their hit ad for Squatty Potty (yes the one with the unicorn you-know-what), or the Purple Mattresses “egg test” video.

In September 2013, the now-iconic video of a sassy-yet-classy socialite in a turquoise dress proclaiming that “our business is to make it smell like your business never even happened,” burst onto the scene.

In just four days, Batiz’s entire inventory had sold out, with $4 million in backorders waiting their turn to be fulfilled.

With the explosion in sales, Batiz knew it was time to invest all of her attention in creating a stable structure for her business, while still maintaining her company culture.

But how?

Fear of Being Number Two

There are three words that define everything done at Poo-Pourri: defy, liberate, and transform.

“We don’t do things status quo, and we don’t ever want to,” Batiz says. “We’re over here shakin’ shit up.”

Batiz strongly believes in hiring employees who can become experts in their areas without micromanaging, and can make big decisions. Of course, with that freedom comes the responsibility of owning up when those decisions don’t pan out. But Batiz believes the best idea can come from anyone or anywhere, so she wants to make sure every employee feels comfortable taking initiative.

But above all, Batiz believes the thing that sets Poo-Pourri above the big air freshener companies is their ability to shift direction at a moment's notice. She calls that agility their “superpower.”

So when the time came to build structure into the business, she knew it couldn’t come with the rigidity some organizations hold to.

“We are this young, rebel kind of company,” Batiz says, “and how do you put some procedures in place, yet keep this rebel nature?”

She tried bringing in a string of leaders, but with each attempt to establish a more defined system, the company’s culture died a little. So, Batiz had to find a way to balance shift-on-a-dime agility with much-needed stability.

She realized that much of her stability could come from within her supply line. By keeping six months worth of sprayers (a part of the product that can take up to 16 weeks to arrive) in stock, she’d be ready for the next boom when it came.

While the company’s edginess has provided a competitive advantage, that need to be the fastest or the hippest has also been a liability at times.

As a rule, Batiz tries not to worry about the competition, but she once became aware that a product similar to hers was going to hit the market, using an automatic dispenser. In a fit of competitive panic, her company tried to release its own version, pushing through timelines and moving far quicker than they should have to keep up.

As a result, they sold 500,000 faulty units to major retailers and had to take them all back, losing millions of dollars and three-quarters of a year in creative energy.

“It was a really good lesson for us to keep our blinders on and stop worrying about what other people are doing,” Batiz says. “Sometimes the best lessons cost us a lot of money or time or energy. The key is to learn.”

The Future Smells Sweet

As Batiz heads into the future, she’s not that focused on expanding the Poo-Pourri line, although they have branched out here and there, including a shoe freshener line, and some clever bathroom art.

“I’m not worried about the dollars as much as remaining king of the hill of what I’ve created,” she says.

The focus on the core product is clear, as Poo-Pourri somehow manages to create a bathroom air freshener that is irreverent but not crass, all while avoiding the grandma’s house aesthetic of most bathroom products. The smells are creative, the names are funny, the packaging sharp and sometimes even beautiful. Some could even be mistaken for luxury items. There’s an obvious level of care here placed on something we may not like to think about, but we all have to deal with.

Batiz hopes to achieve and maintain the level of awareness brands like Kleenex and Band-Aid have, becoming totally synonymous with the product they sell.

“What I want is when you have a “before you go” spray—knowing other people will enter the market—that they go, ‘Oh, do you have a Poo-Pourri,’” she says. “We are that iconic brand.”

To achieve such iconic status without a cent from investors is nothing to sniff at. Batiz says that when times get tough, she sees many entrepreneurs race to investors for help. She, on the other hand, prefers to keep total control of her business and figure things out on her own.

“If you have a problem with the problems, that’s a problem!” she says, laughing. “As an entrepreneur, all you do every day is solve problems, and they’re only going to get bigger.”

But despite the big problems she’s faced both in her current role and past businesses, Batiz has emerged triumphant. This year, Poo-Pourri is on track to bring in $100 million in revenue.

The boutique essential oil concoction with a cheeky name now sits on bathroom counters around the globe. And she’s hoping the scent will continue to spread.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • The many side hustles of Batiz, and the lessons in failure they taught her
  • How Batiz went bankrupt in her teens
  • The frantic race to find success
  • How a second bankruptcy forced Batiz to take a step back and self reflect
  • The question that sparked the idea for Poo-Pourri
  • The power of word-of-mouth, and how it brought in $1 million in revenue in the first year
  • How a partnership with the Harmon Brothers took Poo-Pourri to the next level
  • Lessons learned on balancing structure with innovative company culture
  • Why Batiz believes it’s important to not worry about the competition
  • How Poo-Pourri got on track to $100 million in revenue this year
  • A peek into Supernatural, Batiz’s newest company that sells home-cleaning products

Oct 16 2019

51mins

Play

271: Fighting Food Waste and Growing Fast, With Ben Chesler of Imperfect Foods

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Ben Simon showed up at his college classmate Ben Chesler’s door with a giant, ugly sweet potato, plopped it down in front of him, and declared, “This is the future.” Chesler believed him.

Simon had visited multiple farms in California, and discovered that 20% of the state’s produce was being thrown out, which amounted to around 3 billion pounds of unnecessary waste. Together, with their friend Ron Clark, the trio launched a service in 2015 that would save ugly, unwanted fruits and vegetables and deliver them to consumers at low prices. They called it Imperfect Foods.

Thanks to an admirable mission and relatively untouched market, Imperfect Foods took off. Four years after the launch, the company now boasts six fulfillment centers in over 20 cities and more than 1,000 employees. The team is also expanding their offerings in order to fight food waste across the entire system, now offering dairy, dry goods, and canned foods to their customers as well.

Learn more about food waste, the power of customer interactions, and the importance of giving employees a stake in a company in this interview with Chesler.

Key Takeaways
  • How Chesler and Simon got their start tackling food waste in the nonprofit world
  • The giant, ugly sweet potato that became the catalyst for Imperfect Foods
  • The hilarious story of how Reddit brought in more customers for Imperfect Foods than The New York Times
  • Why the original founding team’s first hires were a bunch of teenagers
  • A look into Imperfect Foods’ massive growth over just four years
  • Why product-market fit wasn’t on the team’s mind until six months after the company’s launch
  • The brilliant marketing strategy that helped Imperfect Foods take off
  • The power of customer interactions
  • Why Chesler and the founding team make sure every single employee works in the warehouse at least once—and has access to stock options
  • The biggest challenges Imperfect Foods faces
  • Chesler’s reasoning for hiring people you have no business hiring, early on

Oct 09 2019

38mins

Play

270: Using Licensing To Make Billions in Sales, With Beanstalk Co-Founder Michael Stone

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If you’ve ever bought a bottle of Jack Daniels BBQ sauce or Febreze kitty litter, you’ve seen Michael Stone’s powerful approach to brand licensing in action. This attorney-turned-entrepreneur pioneered the form of corporate licensing that makes such products possible and wildly successful.

Stone made his first foray into the world of licensing with the launch of his company, Beanstalk, in the mid-1990s. The firm quickly became the go-to resource for prominent brands like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and AT&T—all corporations that were eager to expand their reach into different product categories and strengthen their relationships with consumers.

In 2018, Stone and his company were responsible for generating over $7 billion in retail sales of licensed product. While he stepped down as the CEO a few years ago, Stone still serves as the chairman of Beanstalk and is committed to innovation in this industry.

Check out this interview to learn more about the ins and outs of licensing and to hear about Stone’s experience writing his book The Power of Licensing: Harnessing Brand Equity.

Key Takeaways
  • Why Stone switched lanes from practicing law to pioneering brand licensing
  • The uncharted territory Stone noticed, and how it led to the launch of Beanstalk
  • The necessary components for successful corporate brand licensing
  • How Beanstalk became the go-to resource for prominent brands
  • An explanation of why Febreeze is a better candidate for expansion via licensing than Citibank
  • Handing over the reins of a business that was responsible for over $7 billion in sales in 2018
  • Why Stone decided to stick with his existing niche instead of starting multiple new businesses
  • Stone’s honest warning for aspiring entrepreneurs

Oct 01 2019

53mins

Play

269: The Rise of a Cannabis Mogul, with Reef and OneQor Founder Matthew Morgan

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Cannabis King How Matt Morgan, a misfit from Montana, took the booming marijuana industry by storm.

A typical life was not in the cards for Matt Morgan. Fortunately, he found an atypical career.

Growing up, he was fired from every traditional job he ever had, and when he tried college, he lasted just 10 days before dropping out. Next, Morgan became an electrician apprentice at the age of 19, still hoping to find a career path that he might enjoy. But like his previous ventures, this too was short-lived and he resigned after a year.

Having always possessed an entrepreneurial flair, Morgan did find quick success as a realtor, which would lead him in a roundabout way to the world of legalized marijuana. Finally, it was in the Wild West of the cannabis boom where Morgan found his home.

Within a three-and-a-half year period, Morgan would become one of the most recognizable leaders in the cannabis industry. He is the founder of multiple cannabis companies, such as Bloom Dispensaries and Reef Dispensaries, with the latter becoming the first in the world to hit a $100 million revenue run rate. In 2018, Morgan was named one of the most influential people in cannabis by High Times.

But as we all know, the highs are so often preceded by lows, and had there not been an financial crisis in 2008, he may have never entered the business in the first place.

Taste of Entrepreneurship

Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Morgan had a hard time finding his niche in the working world, but he did find one thing that he was quite good at, which ended up being a gateway drug to starting his own business—real estate.

“ really opened up my eyes to entrepreneurship,” Morgan says. “Running your own business. You know, basically, eat what you kill. It’s totally up to you, whether you’re going to survive or not. That’s the type of environment that I thrive in.”

And thrive he did. By the time he hit 22, Morgan became the managing partner of his own real estate company.

By early 2008, he had begun to take notice that prospective homebuyers were reaching out to him with very specific guidelines on the type of home they wanted to purchase. Not only were they asking for roughly the same amount of land, they were all specifically requesting that each home have a shop out back — a detached garage or external structure that could be used as a hobby space.

And if it didn’t have a shop, he didn’t have a deal.

This left Morgan perplexed. He had met most of their demands, and more times than not a deal fell through because of this one caveat. This finally left him to ask himself, “what’s so important about these shops?”

At the time, Montana’s legal cannabis industry had just started to boom, and people wanted in with a place to grow. This was an industry that Morgan was not in tune with at the time, but he started to pay attention to.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 hit and Morgan’s real estate business was dead in its tracks. He needed a new play.

Despite his youth, Morgan was old enough to have seen one tech boom and one housing boom, and had an itch that he may be in the presence of the next gold rush.

“All these crazy people talking about this marijuana stuff, there must be something to it,” Morgan says. “So I started digging into it.”

One day, after months of research, it became clear to him that marijuana was going to be the next big boom.

“That day I went and found a light and a warehouse and I was damned if I wasn’t going to grow some marijuana, “ Morgan says.

Growing Pains

With the exception of spending some time on his grandparent’s farm, Morgan wasn’t that experienced in horticulture. He knew the basics of how to grow some crops, but after looking around at the competition, he felt he could succeed in marijuana.

“How hard could this be?” Morgan says. “There’s a bunch of hippies in tie-dye with hoop houses out in the wilderness growing, you know, grade-A cannabis. I’m sure I can figure it out.”

He didn’t. At least not at first.

Morgan set up a small operation in his garage, and after about 15 failed attempts, he finally found a grow system that worked. Then in 2009, he teamed up with another grower in Montana and they opened a state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot cultivation facility, one of the largest in the state at the time.

This new abundance of space gave them a controlled environment to grow a significant harvest of plants. Within Montana’s medicinal marijuana caregiver program, as long as you had a patient card, you were legally allowed to grow six plants per patient that you were a caregiver for. With Morgan’s patient list growing to over 500, he was legally growing over 15,000 plants. Not bad for a guy who didn’t know much about the business just one year prior.

But just as quickly as he had struck gold, a new law would bring things grinding to a halt.

Next Stop: Arizona

Per Morgan, in 2009 Missoula’s population was over 65,000 people and the city was home to over 60 dispensaries. That equates to around one dispensary for every thousand people.

In short, that’s a lot of dispensaries.

The state began to worry that the new industry was growing too quickly. So to help slow it down, Montana had an emergency legislative session and reversed its laws so that a caregiver could now only have three patients total. Instead of having 15,000 plants, Morgan was suddenly only allowed to have 18 plants total.

Once again, Morgan was stopped dead in his tracks. Feeling the cons outweighed the pros of running the facility in violation of the new laws, he shut down his operation in 2010.

Having tasted the fruits of his labor, he turned his focus elsewhere. He immediately began to look around the country for states with more favorable marijuana laws so he could scale a business.

“I knew I had the skills sets at that point, I just needed the right vehicle and platform to do so,” Morgan says.

Arizona ended up offering that platform.

The Grand Canyon State was about to roll out an extremely favorable and innovative program that was to be the first of its kind, and Morgan wanted to be a part of it. Morgan says the state’s population was also substantially larger than Montana’s, and it was going to allow a permit holder to have unlimited plants, unlimited square footage to grow, and unlimited weight in product. He felt like it was a “dream” and couldn’t wait to head south.

“I literally packed up all my stuff into my Chevy Silverado and I drove down to Arizona within that week,” Morgan says. “And literally, probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I was 25 years old.”

Upon his arrival, Morgan opened up a chain of hydroponics stores to help gain a foothold in the area and to network with the locals as he waited for the new laws to roll out. While doing so, he befriended the son of a senator who would become key in helping him land one of the state’s limited marijuana licenses. (Morgan chooses not to divulge the senator’s name during our interview.)

“These licenses were looked at as a valuable asset,” Morgan says. “There’s no way these guys are giving some kid from Montana one of these licenses that could end up being worth, you know, millions of dollars.”

His chances may have been slim, but a senator’s chances were very good.

After agreeing to terms, Morgan says he and the senator’s son partnered up and convinced the senator to put his name on the application. Soon thereafter, the two won a Sedona license through a lottery system and within four weeks after that, they purchased a Phoenix license on terms from its winner for $450,000. With two licenses under their belt, Bloom Dispensaries was well underway.

Like Morgan’s real estate business, Bloom took off, and in under a year grew to 100 employees and was generating $1 million in revenue a month.

Everyone came calling.

By 2013, Bloom was drawing national attention and was destroying its competition. This led to private equity firms and wealthy families to reach out to Morgan for advice and potential opportunities.

“People were starting to look at marijuana,” Morgan says. “It was still kind of in the shadows, but it was starting to come to the light.”

Due to Morgan’s knowledge in the space and Bloom’s exponential growth, companies wanted to replicate his success and learn his secrets. However, Morgan says one such wealthy family, worth billions, wanted to do more than talk. They wanted Morgan and offered to purchase Bloom in order to get him. However, after negotiations between the family and Bloom’s investors fell through, the family extended a proposal to only Morgan for him to come and launch their new venture.

Realizing a good opportunity when he saw it, Morgan accepted their offer. As for Bloom, he divested his shares and gave the company to his partner in order to remain on good terms. Now armed with over $100 million in capital from his new partners, Reef Dispensaries was born. And its growth was on a whole other level.

“I came out of the cannon like a cannonball,” Morgan says.

Reef quickly expanded to 200,000 square feet of cultivation, had two extraction laboratories, and six retail dispensaries, with one of them becoming the busiest dispensary in the world. And to top it off, Reef became the first cannabis company in the world to hit a $100 million run rate.

Despite the success Morgan was able to create at Reef, he says tensions began to grow between him and his partners. After months of disagreements, Morgan resigned as CEO of the company in November 2017, forcing a buyout and shocking the cannabis industry.

The Next Frontier

Morgan’s next major move took some time to develop.

Much like the beginnings of Bloom, an entrepreneur reached out to Morgan about a potential partnership. However this time, the individual challenged Morgan to look at the other chemical compounds in the cannabis plant other than THC, and to research how they were being used in the healthcare space. After spending close to a year discussing healthcare and the science on how to use cannabinoids, the two of them founded Oneqor Technologies.

“It’s really a hybrid of a biotech pharma company that’s leaning heavily on cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, excluding THC, the psychoactive one,” Morgan says.

After spending 10 years in the THC business, Morgan says he was becoming bored with the industry. Oneqor presents something new and exciting for him, plus he’s able to operate it almost like any other typical business. Working in a business that doesn’t deal with THC is a whole new frontier, and one with barely any restrictions.

And without the restrictions, Morgan’s ambitions grew.

On top of helping brands such as GNC create private label CBD products, Morgan wants Oneqor to revolutionize the market. He hopes to dominate the cannabinoid industry in the same way Intel did with computers by becoming the secondary brand.

“If you see a product and you know it has cannabinoids in it, I don’t want it to say CBD inside,” Morgan says. “I want it to say Oneqor inside.”

Matt Morgan’s Playbook for Building a Business

In a span of less than 10 years, Matt Morgan became a leader in the cannabis industry by creating Bloom Dispensaries and Reef Dispensaries, along with his new venture Oneqor Technologies. After some early growing pains, Morgan came up with his own playbook on how to grow a successful business.

Believe In Something

Many founders, especially first-time entrepreneurs, tend to look at only the financial aspect of creating a business, rather than if it’s something they actually want to do. Other times, people may start a company because they feel that the idea might be a fun thing to do.

Morgan believes, that although the financial upside is something to consider, you must also believe in the product and have passion for it if you’re looking to build a company. Otherwise, you may lose interest and not do the things needed to succeed.

“You shouldn’t pick something you want to do because you think it’s cool,” Morgan says. “You should pick something you do because you believe in it and you see a lot of upside potential. Or else, what are you doing it for?”

Look at the CEO

Morgan credits much of his early success to the teams he’s built. From building a C-suite team to hiring the employees for his stores, he believes that everyone is important. And to find those right employees, it starts at the top with the CEO. That means either looking within yourself if you’re the CEO, or by sitting down with your leader and asking them what their core values are. Skill sets are important, but if your employees don’t share the same values, the culture won’t work.

“You want to hire people that have the same core values as you, because you can’t teach people core values,” Morgan says. “They’re born with that…or their environment, whatever it may be. You can teach people anything, but you can’t teach them that.”

Be Uncomfortable

Another trait that Morgan says led to his success is the ability to go outside his comfort zone. He used to be a nervous wreck, he says, but wanted to rid himself of that anxiety. So beginning from the age of 20 until he was 28, he put himself in uncomfortable situations daily in order to grow as a person. This not only helped in his everyday life, but also as a professional and leader. It helped him with everything from speaking in front of 10,000 people to raising capital for his businesses. In order to succeed, you must be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and get to the point where you’re calm and collected in every situation.

“Human beings have a defense mechanism and they don’t like getting out of their comfort zone,” Morgan says. “You don’t know what to say, what to do, how to operate. But that’s really your biggest growth potential as a human being, is outside of your comfort zone.”

Maintain Focus Among the Chaos

Founding your own startup can come with lots of unexpected surprises. Especially within an emerging field such as the cannabis industry, things can become chaotic as the rules are still being established. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of chaos around you, a lot of drama, and a lot of arguing. But the only thing you can do is figure out how to control your reaction to it and always remain focused on your goals. Find what makes you relaxed and focused, and master it.

“One thing that has really helped me with that is meditating,” Morgan says. “It’s really helped me, you know, keep my concentration, collect my thoughts. … There’s not really anything that can rock me mentally.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • A look into Morgan’s struggles to fit into the traditional working world
  • How real estate became the gateway drug to entrepreneurship
  • The impact of the financial crisis of 2008, and how it led Morgan into the cannabis industry
  • From 15 failed attempts at growing marijuana to a patient list of over 500
  • How a change in Montana’s laws sent Morgan’s business to Arizona
  • The political relationships that helped the launch of Bloom Dispensaries
  • How Bloom Dispensaries reached $1 million in revenue and dominated the cannabis industry
  • Why Morgan decided to sell Bloom and launch Reef Dispensaries with new partners
  • Growing Reef Dispensaries to become the first cannabis company to hit a $100 million run rate
  • Behind Morgan’s decision to quit as Reef Dispensaries’ CEO and his next step with OneQor

Sep 25 2019

1hr 6mins

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268: How Life Coach Marie Forleo Figured Out Her Life, and Empowers Others to Do the Same

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Figuring It Out Why Marie Forleo walked away from Wall Street to help people build lives they love.

Marie Forleo was on the brink of the American dream.

After graduating as valedictorian from Seton Hall University, making her the first in her family to graduate from college, she’d landed her first post-grad job on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Her peers were millionaires, and she was on track to become one, too.

But that dream came crashing down after a panic attack halfway through a workday left her sobbing in the pews of the nearest church. Just six months into her job, the little voice in her head was telling her that she was on the wrong path, and she knew she had to make a change.

Of course, she was petrified by the idea of leaving her job behind (especially with the mountain of debt that came with the pursuit of the American dream), and she didn’t know if she’d ever find something that would truly fulfill her.

Determined to figure it out, Forleo eventually made her way to a new career path that would not only bring her happiness, but would also enrich the lives of many others experiencing their own difficulties.

Today, Forleo inspires millions through her work as a life coach. She has over 578,000 YouTube subscribers on her award-winning channel, MarieTV, with over 49 million views spanning 195 countries. She’s also ushered 55,000 students through her eight-week marketing school for business owners called B-School. She’s even been interviewed by Oprah herself. And now, Forleo’s got a new book coming out, Everything Is Figureoutable, in which she unpacks the life lessons that she considers to be the secrets to her own success.

While coaching wasn’t her next, or even her next-next career choice after leaving Wall Street in the dust, by trusting her gut, advice from her parents, and the tiny voice of truth in her head, she found her way there eventually and built a life she loved.

Struggling to Start

When she was younger, Forleo dreamed of becoming a Disney animator or a fashion designer. But amid her disillusion with the job on Wall Street, all she could think was, “What else am I going to do?”

With her head spinning and stomach performing an intricate gymnastics routine, she called her dad. She was horrified by the idea of disappointing him, but didn’t know what else to do.

“I was quite broken,” she says.

She told her dad about how unfulfilled her coworkers seemed, her growing fear that she would end up like them, and her unmet desire to do something that brought joy to herself and others.  After baring her soul, Forleo nervously waited for her dad’s response.

What he said would shape the course of her entire life. He reminded her that she would be working for the next 40 years or more of her life, and she needed to spend that valuable time doing something she loved.

She quit her job two weeks later.

But as little voices in our heads often do, Forleo’s told her just enough to get her out the door, but didn’t offer much insight on what she should do next.

She loved design, but was also fascinated by business, so she decided to give the world of magazine publishing a go. Through a temp agency, she got an ad sales assistant position at Gourmet magazine. Forleo loved her boss and publisher, and, with a desk conveniently located right next to the test kitchen, she believed she had finally found her niche.

But six months in, the voices of doubt took up their chorus once again. “I couldn’t deny the fact that I didn’t want to be there,” she says.

Forleo wondered whether a more creative role in the magazine industry would quiet the voices, so she snagged a job on the editorial team of Mademoiselle. Sure enough, when she reached that six-month hurdle, the voices told her that, once again, it was time to move on.

Discouraged, frustrated, and afraid for her future, Forleo wondered if there was just something wrong with her. Why couldn’t she find any work that made her truly happy?

A Calling for Coaching

The profession of life coaching wasn’t something most college graduates in the 1990s considered or even knew existed. In fact, Thomas Leonard, who is commonly called the father of the profession, only began his work in the 1980s.

So when Forleo stumbled across an article about life coaching in the early 2000s, it was as if she was uncovering a buried treasure.

“When I read this article, I swear to you, it was like the clouds parted and cherubs came out and they were shooting little sunbeams into my chest,” she says.

At just 23, Forleo questioned whether she had anything to offer as a coach, but she says something about it just felt right. So she enrolled immediately in a three-year, part-time training program. When the six-month wall that had diverted her path so many times arrived, she pushed through it like tissue paper.

And for the last two decades, Forleo’s “move along” voices have been silent.

In 2001, she launched her first weekly newsletter, called Magical Moments, which attracted a modest following. Slowly, but steadily, her reach grew. Forleo attributes much of her success to her tremendous patience, calling herself “a worker bee.”

Her skills and audience grew, and she launched new, ever-evolving platforms. As the 2000s rolled into the 2010s, Forleo launched B-School, her online course on marketing for business owners, as well as her wildly successful YouTube channel, MarieTV.

But her journey wasn’t all unicorns and balloons. She encountered moments of failure (like the time she tried to build a custom coaching platform without a lick of relevant tech expertise), but each one taught her a valuable lesson.

“I realized the power of positive quitting,” she says. “I think there’s a big distinction between giving up and moving on.”

She also learned the principal of, as she puts it, “simplifying to amplify.”

As Forleo began to draw international attention for the work she was doing, she felt the pressure to create more, attend more, and give more. Pulled in so many directions, the beginnings of burnout set in and she felt she wasn’t giving her best to her flourishing business.

“Having a really successful, thriving business is not just about the money,” she says, emphasizing each word. “How does your team operate? How do they feel showing up to work every day? How do you, as the founder, feel? Are you so stressed out that you want to run away and hate that you even started this thing?”

So in 2013, she decided to scale back and focus instead on the things that enabled her to make the most impact. She says she killed over a million dollars in revenue with a snap of her fingers.

But the flood of creativity and renewed sense of direction that followed laid the groundwork for her to rapidly recuperate that amount and much more. So when others tell her that she should be investing more time in a particular platform or conference or trend that she feels will take her off track, she has no problem saying no.

“I’m not out there to chase things,” she says. “I’m not going after vanity metrics. I give no shits about any of that. The metrics that matter to me are the lives I can impact, the profitability of the company, the difference I can make through our philanthropic endeavors, and am I actually enjoying my life.”

She also knows who to listen to when considering what to add to her business—her customers.

“The feedback, the iteration, the constantly making it better is how you get to something that’s legendary,” she says. “And I think folks don’t have the patience or the ability to focus over time and the desire to make something extraordinary, and that’s why we have so much mediocre.”

Forleo says that the Customer Happiness department is the largest chunk of her 30-member team because they are committed to responding to every single email received. So, for example, when she noticed an influx of emails from MarieTV viewers lamenting that they most enjoyed listening to her show in the car as they drove but hated running up their data, she created a podcast to solve the problem.

And if anything is clearly evident, it’s that Forleo is, to her core, a committed problem solver, a trait she attributes to her enterprising mother.

Sharing Her Secret to Success

Forleo’s mom, the child of two alcoholic parents from the projects of north New Jersey, “learned by necessity how to stretch a dollar bill around the block like five times.”

She was always looking for ways to save money, so if something was broken and the price for a professional to fix it was too steep, she would fix it herself. From a leaky roof to cracked bathroom tiles, lack of experience or a college degree didn’t keep Forleo’s mother from tackling even the most complicated projects.

One day, Forleo found her mom hard at work fixing her favorite radio, a Tropicana orange with a red and white straw for an antenna. Staring at the fully disassembled radio, amazed, Forleo asked her mom how she planned to put it back together again.

Her mom told her that nothing is too complicated if you just jump in and get to work, because “everything is figureoutable.”

That conviction lodged itself deep in Forleo’s heart, and it carried her through everything life threw at her, from difficult relationships to launching her own business. So when the time came to write her second book, she knew she had to share this principle with the world.

In Everything Is Figureoutable, which comes out this month, Forleo builds on three simple rules:

  1.     All problems (or dreams) are figureoutable.
  2.     If a problem isn’t figureoutable, it’s not a problem. It’s a fact of life.
  3.     You may not care enough to solve this particular problem or reach this particular dream, and that’s OK. Find something you really do care about, and go back to Rule #1.

While these principles can be used in every aspect of life, Forleo feels they are particularly applicable to entrepreneurship, a career path she feels is often “over-glammed.”

She says that being an entrepreneur is a lot harder than it looks because it’s all about suffering in the short term to reach long-term goals, and sometimes that period of suffering can feel neverending.

“I think we all really feel stuck in our lives from time to time, but if you do embed this belief that everything really is figureoutable, it gives you this energy to get up and go again,” she says.

Forleo also insists that the ability to change direction is essential for a business owner.

“To survive as an entrepreneur, you have to be incredibly nimble and flexible and to keep evolving yourself,” she says. “Otherwise, you’ll get left in the dust.”

And she advises any founders who are living in fear or doubt about their business or career path to pull out a trusty journal and write it all down.

“We, just as humans, underestimate the value of writing things out and writing things down,” she says. “When it comes to feeling stuck—when it comes to feeling fear, which can stop many of us—we allow it to stay amorphous and kind of shapeless like a boogeyman in our head, rather than being concrete and specific about it on the page.”

Forleo’s particular brand of down-to-earth optimism has inspired millions, and, through her new book, she is excited by a new opportunity to share a piece of how she achieved her dreams.

As Forleo’s business continues to grow, expand and evolve, one thing has remained ever constant: the belief that her audience can fashion a life they love, just like she did. Because, after all, everything is figureoutable.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • Why Forleo was miserable living the American dream
  • The advice Forleo received from her dad that empowered her to walk away from her job on Wall Street
  • Her brief stint in magazine ad sales and editorial work
  • How Forleo discovered the world of life coaching
  • The journey of scaling a newsletter, online course, and YouTube channel to an international level
  • Forleo’s thoughts on positive quitting and the motto “simplify to amplify”
  • Why Forleo decided to scale back on her business and kill over a million dollars in revenue in the process
  • Who Forleo turned to when deciding the new direction for her business
  • The valuable lesson Forleo learned from her mom, which inspired the premise for her new book Everything is Figureoutable
  • Forleo’s survival tips for entrepreneurs

Sep 16 2019

56mins

Play

267: How TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie Blazed a Trail for Social Entrepreneurs

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Blake Mycoskie had a number of hits and misses as a young entrepreneur, but it was a trip to Argentina that inspired the idea that would become his mission—and end up having a huge impact on the business world.

Mycoskie wanted to find a way to help the children he encountered who didn’t have proper footwear, but he wanted to do it in a for-profit, self-sustaining way. That’s how TOMS came to life.

From there, Mycoskie blazed a trail in the way companies think about social good, by popularizing the one-for-one giving model and building the beloved brand that still exists today. TOMS generates hundreds of millions in sales and still stays true to its mission of giving back to communities around the world.

Check out this episode to learn more about Mycoskie’s advice for those who want to pursue social entrepreneurship, the business model that led to his success, and the expansion of TOMS into other types of products.

Key Takeaways
  • Why the idea of a “job” was foreign to Mycoskie growing up
  • How Mycoskie’s entrepreneurial spirit led to him founding everything from a laundry service to a reality cable television channel
  • The trip to Latin America that inspired the idea for TOMS Shoes
  • How Mycoskie changed the social entrepreneurship game with his one-for-one model
  • Why social good isn’t necessarily the right path for every business
  • Mycoskie’s personal reasons for selling half of TOMS to Bain Capital
  • How TOMS was able to grow completely organically through social media when it launched in 2006
  • The journey to achieving millions in revenue and donations
  • The reasons behind TOMS’ expansion into eyewear, coffee shops, and more
  • How Mycoskie continues to innovate despite a lack of background in apparel design
  • Mycoskie’s best advice on choosing the right partners and building a sustainable business

Sep 10 2019

26mins

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266: How Warby Parker Changed the Way We Shop for Glasses, With Founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa

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Why are glasses so expensive?

Dave Gilboa could not stop asking himself that question. After leaving his $700 pair of eyeglasses on an airplane while returning from Southeast Asia, he could not wrap his head around why a technology that was so archaic could cost him more than his iPhone.

Within his first weeks as an MBA student at the Wharton School of Business, he repeatedly brought this question up among some of his new peers. Gilboa, along with fellow students Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, and Jeff Raider, had all shared in the pain of losing or breaking glasses and had all agreed: the high markup made no sense.

Inspired by Gilboa’s pricey misfortune, the four of them founded Warby Parker. Now led by co-CEOs Gilboa and Blumenthal, the billion-dollar empire with 2,000 employees is revolutionizing the prescription glasses industry by selling stylish eyewear online at affordable prices.

The New York City-based company is also on a mission to combat the global problem of impaired vision through its charitable Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Since the company’s start, the program has distributed over 5 million pairs of glasses to those in need by donating a pair of glasses for every one sold.

But long before they could build an ecommerce giant, the team would first have to learn how to even build a website.

A Moment of Clarity

Prior to going to Wharton, all four co-founders had already spent some considerable time in the workforce. This allowed for each of them to gain valuable real-world experience, and it helped guide them to understanding if they had an actual problem to solve and a business to move forward with.

However, it was Blumenthal’s experience while running the nonprofit VisionSpring that would become crucial to the early concept of Warby Parker. During his time with the company, they trained low-income women in the developing world to start their own businesses. Participants were to take their new skillsets back to their rural communities and administer vision screenings and sell glasses. But it was something else Blumenthal had witnessed that would have a lasting impression on him.

“I had been to the factories,” Blumenthal says. “Here I was producing glasses for people who were making less than four dollars a day, but 10 feet away were factories that were producing…the $700 pair of glasses Dave had. So we knew something was awry.”

A light bulb went off and the classmates soon pulled together $120,000 and went to work on developing Warby Parker in 2008. The problem they wanted to solve: How can we make glasses we want, but at a low cost?

Eager to launch, but more focused on preparation and planning, the founders began sketching out all the main aspects of the company. With limited funding, they knew they’d have to really refine and plan each facet of their business before revealing it to the public. Their first steps were to design glasses that they’d want to wear and then find a manufacturer who could produce them for less, starting with Blumenthal’s connections.

The next step would be trying to figure out how to sell their glasses directly to the consumer. The answer was simple.

“This magical thing called the internet,” Blumenthal says.

The founders all knew that ecommerce was an innovation they wanted to take advantage of for their direct-to-consumer brand. Had they come up with this idea 10 years prior, the company may not have gone any further than an idea. With a brick-and-mortar store requiring a lease, utilities, and other costs, they knew it would be hard to make their new dream a reality with limited capital.

“If we did , we would have one location that we might be able to attract some local customers, but with the power of the internet, we were able to all of a sudden, launch a store to the entire US,” Gilboa says.

But there was a small problem. None of them knew how to build an online store, nor did they understand the many other details that came with creating an online shopping experience.

“We started talking to friends on how you build a website,” Blumenthal says. “And then we started visiting a bunch of websites that we would normally already go to. But now with a critical eye, we were understanding, okay, what’s the shopping flow?”

Over the next year and a half, the four of them kept chipping away at all the details of Warby Parker. Nothing got overlooked. They spent countless hours going over the vision and mission of the company, and worked on all the brand architecture of what they wanted their company to be.

In addition, the group constantly sought out feedback from friends and professors. Could something like this work?

One glaring concern that kept surfacing was whether or not a person would actually buy a pair of glasses online. With fit being so important, it would be hard for a person to gauge on a computer screen if a pair of glasses would fit their face and feel comfortable.

This forced them to reconsider their business model, and ever the problem solvers, the home try-on program was born. Breaking new ground, Warby Parker would allow a customer to select five pairs of glasses from the website and then ship them free of charge, allowing five days to test out the frames.

This was a major ecommerce innovation that would get them past the biggest challenge facing the business’s core premise. But there was one other challenge that would prove nearly impossible to overcome—agreeing on a name.

Thank You, Jack

Prior to Warby Parker’s launch, brands had already started to emerge that were selling glasses online. Customers were able to purchase glasses from sites such as 39DollarGlasses.com and FramesDirect.com, but they were sacrificing other elements, such as quality and customer service, for their lower prices.

The founders wanted to take a different approach with their company. They wanted to launch a fashion brand that not only offered great quality, prices, and service, but also one that made the world a better place. The company vision was clear and ambitious. But they could not come up with a name.

“We wanted kind of a proper name and didn’t think Gilboa-Blumenthal, our last names, really rolled off the tongue,” Gilboa says.

They sought out inspiration and ideas from historical authors and artists. People who represented the brand ideals that they were trying to carry out. One author that stood out to them was Jack Kerouac, the novelist and poet who was a pioneer of the beat generation.

Coincidentally, the New York Public Library was holding an exhibit one afternoon with some of Kerouac’s private diaries and journals. Seeking inspiration, Gilboa made a visit to the exhibit and stumbled upon some of Kerouac’s unpublished works, finding some interesting character names.

Two jumped off the page: Warby Pepper and Zagg Parker.

“So I took those back and the four of us were discussing,” Gilboa says. “We all loved those names and were debating, do we pick one of those, and we decided to combine the two and make it our own. And the URL happened to be available for nine bucks.”

After six months of debating and with over 2,000 names rejected, Warby Parker came to life.

Getting Noticed

The challenge for any new brand is figuring out how to gain exposure. With a small marketing budget, the co-founders had to be strategic about finding a cost-effective way to maximize their exposure in such a competitive industry. Realizing glasses are an accessory and that the fashion industry was an insider’s game, the team hired a fashion publicist to help set up meetings with editors and writers at major publications.

In February of 2010, WarbyParker.com officially went live. Within days of launching the website, they were featured in GQ, where they were dubbed “the Netflix of eyewear.” Soon after, another profile appeared in Vogue. From there, things went viral.

“We ended up hitting our first year’s sales targets in three weeks,” Blumenthal says. “Sold out of our top 15 styles in four weeks and it was just complete mayhem.”

Soon, they found themselves sold out of all their inventory with a waitlist of over 20,000 new customers. Warby Parker was an overnight success, a year and a half in the making.

Onward & Upward

Today, Warby Parker is valued at over $1 billion and has cemented its place among the top glasses retailers in the world. Even after they made it to the big time, however, the team kept innovating.

In 2013, Gilboa and Blumenthal began to expand their brand with more storefronts, having now opened close to 100 stores in the US and Canada. And within some of those stores, they’ve begun to employ their own optometrists where states allow it.

On the technology side, they’ve found new ways to cater to the customer. Within the Warby Parker app, any customer with an iPhone X can now virtually try on any one of their frames. In addition, they’ve made a move into telemedicine by allowing eligible customers to take eye exams from their phones, allowing a licensed doctor to write them a prescription remotely.

But no matter how large the company becomes, the team’s underlying values remain the same: they do whatever it takes to make customers happy.

3 Tips for Standing Out From the Crowd

When Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, and Jeff Raider founded Warby Parker in 2010, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. But with the right planning, execution, and maybe some good luck, they felt they could make the world a little better, one pair of glasses at a time. The founding team knew that in order to get any attention in the noisy fashion industry, they had to be different and they had to stand out.

Here are Blumenthal and Gilboa’s tips for helping your new startup gain exposure.

  1. Be Novel

From the beginning, the founders knew that it would be hard to get any immediate attention in the fashion industry without the help of insiders. They knew their service and product would be different from any other retailer before them, but if no one knew who they were, it wouldn’t matter.

So the team hired a fashion publicist to get them meetings with top fashion publications. By being able to tell their story directly to their target audience, and through a medium that their audience trusted, it was a giant step in the right direction. And since Warby Parker was so different from its competitors, once it got on the insider crowd’s radar, it wasn’t hard for them to draw media attention.

“There was a bunch of things that we were doing that were novel,” Blumenthal says. “Selling glasses online, in 2010, was pretty novel. Having this home try-on program was really novel. Providing a pair of glasses for every pair we sell, was really novel. Charging $95 instead of $500 was really novel. So they really wanted to write about us.”

In today’s startup world, it’s never been more crowded and harder to stand out. Be different with your concept and separate yourself from the fray.

  1. Don’t Get Distracted 

Although WarbyParker.com went live in February of 2010, the four co-founders spent over a year and a half focusing on their company’s mission, product, and business model. And after they found success, staying focused became an even more important priority.

“We got some advice early on that if you’re walking down a path towards a giant pot of gold, you shouldn’t stop to get distracted by any shiny little coin that you see along the way,” Gilboa says.

It would have been easy for Warby Parker to launch dozens of different products or to expand into new markets for monetary gain. However, that would’ve brought about great distractions that could have pulled them from their main goal, which is to solve their customers’ problems by offering them quality products and experiences.

“We’ve just seen so many businesses that have failed due to lack of focus,” Gilboa says. “But it’s rare that you’ll see a business that fails for being too focused.”

Remember the problems your business is trying to solve and stay focused on it. By always learning and iterating, you’re working towards providing the best service possible for your customers.

  1. Above All Else, Make the Customer Happy

From the very beginning, the Warby Parker team knew they had to keep their customers happy. They understood that they had to not only provide a great product, but also provide superb customer service.

In the beginning, all four co-founders were directly in touch with their customers. They each replied to customer emails and even set up an 800 number that would be sent to their personal cell phones until someone picked up. They were willing to do anything to make sure the customer was always satisfied.

“Do whatever it takes to make customers happy and make them feel good,” Blumenthal says. “Smile, personal notes, whatever it takes.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • How losing a pair of $700 glasses led Blumenthal and Gilboa, along with fellow MBA students Andrew Hunt and Jeff Raider, to identify a major business problem
  • How Blumenthal’s experience of running a nonprofit informed the early stages of Warby Parker
  • A look into the 1.5 year process of bringing the co-founders’ business idea to life
  • Why the team decided to merge eyewear and ecommerce
  • The process of familiarizing themselves with the world of online shopping and websites
  • How the name Warby Parker came to be, and why it took brainstorming over 2,000 names to get there
  • The team’s cost-effective approach to marketing and launching the website
  • How powerful press placement led to a sold-out inventory and a waitlist of over 20,000 new customers within weeks
  • What’s in store (literally) for the future of Warby Parker
  • The single piece of advice Gilboa and Blumenthal received that helped them be successful, and how other entrepreneurs can apply it to their own business

Sep 03 2019

41mins

Play

265: Battle-Tested Lessons on Scaling a Fast-Growing Global Company, With Printful CEO Davis Siksnans

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Success On Demand  How Printful co-founder Davis Siksnans rose to the top by helping entrepreneurs custom print and ship products with greater speed and ease.  

Davis Siksnans’ motto as an entrepreneur has always been, “If you can’t find it, build it.” It’s led him to some fascinating and quirky pursuits, from building a business that sells customized friendship bracelets to launching an ecommerce store that creates motivational posters for startups. 

Having spent much of his career working at a startup incubator, coming up with ideas and helping to bring them into reality, much of Siksnans’ expertise has involved smoothing out and speeding up that business-building experience. He’s especially excelled at improving the fulfillment process, allowing businesses to whip up clever ecommerce product ideas and then ship them out to eager customers in a heartbeat. 

While not all of his ventures took off, they were critical stepping stones to Siksnans building his most successful business yet—Printful. This leading drop-shipping, fulfillment, and printing business has mastered the process of creating on-demand ecommerce products. As a result, Printful has grown exponentially since its launch six years ago and now has a 500-person team across the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. 

Survival of the Fittest

Long before his days as Printful’s CEO and co-founder, Siksnans always knew he would end up doing something in tech. Fascinated by technology from a young age, he taught himself to code, saved up his allowance to purchase his first computer, and built custom websites for his friends and neighbors. In the process, he realized he had a knack for turning ideas into businesses. 

So it came as no surprise when Siksnans secured his first job as an IT administrator with Draugiem Group, a startup incubator and one of the most exciting technology companies to work for in his home country of Latvia. 

Over the course of 15 years, Draugiem Group funded over 100 business ideas. Today, only 12 of these businesses remain, which is the nature of entrepreneurship, Siksnans says. What makes Draugiem’s model unique is that it doesn’t source ideas from outsiders—only from its own founders and employees. This means that everyone at the company has the opportunity to come up with the next big idea.

“At Draugiem, if you do good work and gather trust, you’re given more opportunities to step up in your career,” Siksnans says. “I was given the chance to work on business ideas based on the fact that the founders thought I was doing a good job.”

Timing was also on Siksnans’ side, as Draugiem Group was just starting to focus on the US market for the first time. He had previously completed an exchange program in the United States for one year and was familiar with the market, so Siksnans officially began his career as an entrepreneur.

Take Your Vitamins

After experimenting with a variety of ideas under the banner of Draugiem Group, Siksnans hit gold with Startup Vitamins, a company that sells, no not vitamins, but motivational posters. 

Siksnans and his team initially came up with the concept when they moved into a new office space that had ample wall space and wanted to put up some posters. But they couldn’t find any designs they liked. That’s when his motto of, “If we can’t find it, let’s build it” came into play, and Siksnans decided to launch a Shopify store to meet this need. 

Initially, the Shopify store sold posters with motivational sayings such as “Life is short. Don’t be lazy.” He and his team started off with one printer in the Los Angeles home of one of the founders, which made it convenient to produce posters on-demand and was also low-cost. 

After seeing promising growth, Siksnans decided to expand by taking on the biggest category in ecommerce—apparel. He liked selling posters because they could be easily printed on demand and didn’t require inventory. He wanted to replicate that model with apparel, so Startup Vitamins started working with a fulfillment partner that could produce on-demand products. 

This turned out to be a horrible experience. The fulfillment partner’s website was clunky; it took one-to-two weeks to fulfill orders; the quality of products was subpar; and there was no public API—no way to automate the orders that were coming into Startup Vitamins. 

That got Siksnans thinking.

Testing Theories

Siksnans realized that there was a significant gap when it came to services that could produce on-demand and high-quality products at a reasonable speed. He also recognized the lack of a powerful API that could integrate with ecommerce platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and Storenvy. He decided to test this theory, and that’s how the idea for Printful came to life.

The key difference was that, with such an API, his company could allow clients to automatically receive and process orders for their online business instead of serving as the middleman.

“When we launched Printful in 2013, we didn’t even own the domain printful.com because we didn’t know if this idea was going to work or not," Siksnans says. "Maybe it would fail and we would have to refocus. We used Startup Vitamins’ mailing list as our first marketing channel to push out Printful’s services because our customers overlapped—startups that were likely to be open to using print-on-demand in their respective niches."

Printful found product-market fit immediately. Its combination of drop shipping (when an ecommerce store purchases inventory from a third party and has it shipped directly to the consumer) with a custom print API and other services made it easy for anybody to sell posters, t-shirts, canvases, and other merchandise, seamlessly. As a result, Printful made around $800 in revenue in its first month, then $1,600 the next, and the business only kept growing from there. In under six months, Printful had become larger than Startup Vitamins. 

Lessons on Scaling

Since its launch, Printful has seen impressive growth. The company now has a team of more than 500, locations in four geographies, 6.83 million orders fulfilled to date, and $540 million in products sold by its customers. 

Of course, with growth comes growing pains, which Siksnans says has been one of the toughest aspects of his job. He has turned to certain resources to help him navigate the challenges around scaling.

“I recommend the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish," Siksnans says. "Whenever I see a person in management struggling with growing pains, I give them this book and discuss it with them. It contains so many great practices and tactics, and it shows that this is a normal process that many companies have dealt with." 

Siksnans also emphasizes the importance of collaborating across cultures. At Printful, they make a point of educating team members about cultural differences. The company also invests in resources to make sure its employees have the opportunity to travel between Latvia and the United States to conduct knowledge and culture transfers. 

While it’s important to acknowledge the differences among Printful’s various locations, Siksnans believes it’s critical to maintain a thread of consistency throughout every employee’s experience. 

He once sat in on an onboarding process for an employee in Riga, Latvia and noticed it lacked many of the helpful components found in the US process, so he connected both HR departments to make sure they were added. That’s why Siksnans stays involved in all of Printful’s HR processes—from running new hire trainings for employees once a month to being involved in the recruiting process.

Looking Forward

Siksnans has several thoughtful predictions for the future of the print-on-demand and drop-shipping industry. 

For starters, he envisions decreased reliance on advertising. As Facebook ads become more expensive over time, Siksnans believes it will become increasingly important to build microbrands. This means becoming less reliant on advertisements and turning more to influencers, who have powerful audiences on social media and promote products organically to their user bases. 

Siksnans also anticipates potential policy changes around shipping. Consumers are already demanding faster shipping speeds as companies like Amazon set a new standard. He’s keeping an eye on what happens with the Universal Postal Union, the UN agency that coordinates postal policies among different nations. They’re experiencing many issues, for example, the fact that it’s cheaper to ship a mug from China to New York than it is to ship a mug within New York. As a result, some countries are already taking steps to limit the influx of cheap drop-shipped goods coming from other countries. 

Finally, Siksnans is focused on understanding ecommerce algorithms. A growing base of users is leaning into newer marketplaces such as Etsy, which have less advanced ranking algorithms to figure out than sources like Amazon or Facebook advertisements. As a result, Siksnans is noticing a lot of people finding success by learning the ins and outs of various internet marketplaces.

Regardless of which direction the market goes, Siksnans believes Printful is well positioned to continue growing. All of this success came as a result of him identifying a need and deciding to go for it—a mindset he believes all founders should emulate. 

“I have a lot of people asking me when is the right time to start,” Siksnans says. “There’s no right time when someone is ready to start anything new. You will never feel ready, so just start now.” 

Davis Siksnans’ 4 Tips on Scaling Company Culture
  1. Hire people who love to learn. Siksnans picked up this concept from the book How to Castrate a Bull by Dave Hitz. The basic premise is that your business won’t scale if your team won’t scale with it. That’s why it’s critical to look for employees who are eager to learn because they’ll be more willing to grow with the company and embrace the changes that come with it. 
  2. Stay aligned with your values. Initiative, integrity, and experimentation. These are Printful’s company values, and Siksnans ensures they’re embedded into the DNA of the organization. He does this by weaving the values into the onboarding process, making sure they’re conveyed across every location, and working with managers to help them embody the company culture. 
  3. Prioritize culture fit. While it may be tempting to hire the most qualified candidate, Siksnans recommends putting culture fit first. “Don’t hire people who don’t embody your culture. I’ve had interviews with managers who met the professional criteria but weren’t a culture fit. It almost hurts to pass on those candidates, but I believe it’s more important to find someone who fits on a cultural level than on a professional level,” Siksnans says.
  4. Encourage cross-team collaboration. It’s easy for holes to emerge in cross-team communication as a company scales. That’s why Printful has a process of having new hires meet with people outside of their own department to ask questions about their roles. For instance, a new marketer might meet with the finance department to learn more about their day-to-day functions. This is a helpful practice to break down barriers and improve intra-team collaboration. 

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Sophia Lee

Key Takeaways
  • How his first job as an IT administrator at startup incubator Draugiem Group nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit
  • How the motto of “if you can’t find, build it” led to Siksnans’ first successful business idea, Startup Vitamins
  • Why ecommerce and the on-demand model were appealing to Siksnans
  • How a bad experience with a fulfillment partner led to the launch of Printful
  • The savvy marketing tactics used to test product-market fit for Printful
  • The six-year journey to becoming a 500+ person team across four global locations
  • Which books Siksnans recommend for startups experience growing pains
  • The top lessons learned on scaling company culture
  • Why it’s important to collaborate across multiple cultures and offices
  • Siksnans’ thoughts on the future of the print-on-demand and drop shipping industry

Aug 27 2019

49mins

Play

264: How Revolve’s Founders Went from Finance and Engineering to Running a Billion-Dollar Fashion Brand

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Where Data Meets Denim How Revolve founders Michael Mente and Mike Karanikolas, a duo with backgrounds in finance and engineering, used data to take the fashion world by storm.

You would think that finance, computer engineering, and fashion have nothing in common.

But Michael Mente and Mike Karanikolas, the founders of the wildly popular online clothing company Revolve, would beg to differ. It’s true that when they first met each other at a software startup, they never thought fashion was in their cards. After all, Mente was a finance guy and Karanikolas was a computer engineer. They weren’t exactly cozying up to the catwalk.

And yet, a series of unfortunate events led Mente and Karanikolas to the retail business, which ended up yielding quite the fortunate outcome—together, they built a billion-dollar business that serves as inspiration for any entrepreneur looking to get into the online apparel game.

Using their respective strengths in analytics and number crunching, they developed a hunch that there was a gap in the market when it came to places young, millennial women could buy fashion brands online. Their hunch proved to be correct.

From there, it was Revolve's famously prescient marketing strategy — in particular, the company's influencer marketing — that set them apart from other online clothing brands coming onto the market.

"We had first-mover advantage and recognized power of social early on. We’re been working with influencers before they were even called influencers — before instagram even existed," Karanikolas says.

With their near-perfect product-market fit and the love of influencers like Chrissy Teigen, Chanel Iman, and Jessica Alba, the California-based company has grown from being a small online store to an iconic billion-dollar business.

Challenging the Mainstream

Mente and Karanikolas were both working at the software startup NextStrat when the dotcom bubble burst, kicking off a recession that eventually led to the company’s collapse. That’s when the duo started to brainstorm ideas for a new venture. They knew they made a great team and had a feeling they could achieve big things together, it was simply a matter of finding the right opportunity.

Given their math and engineering backgrounds, they approached the research process of finding that new endeavor in a very methodical way. Ecommerce was on the rise, and after digging into keyword search data, they noticed there was growing interest around online apparel. There were other attractive aspects of the apparel business too, such as the fact that it promised high gross margins and was a relatively untouched market in the late 90s and early 2000s.

“There were a lot of questions about whether apparel made sense online at that time,” Karanikolas says. “But any time there’s a new space, that means there’s room for innovation. We recognized that online represented a wealth of opportunities, and it was just a matter of figuring how this new medium worked for apparel and how to make it appealing for consumers.”

It didn’t take them long.

From Denim to Dominance

Mente and Karanikolas launched Revolve in 2003 with $50,000 of their own savings. That meant carefully watching cash flow was extremely important, which forced the duo to be highly disciplined about how they made decisions. Even early on, they leaned heavily on data to inform what products to sell. The core of their business model was to sell clothing from other brands, start with existing numbers, and then test and iterate as they identified what worked and what didn’t.

For instance, they initially assumed denim would be one of the hardest types of clothing to sell online, since fit is so important and there are lots of size variations. Through data analysis, however, they discovered that people actually did shop for jeans online and even returned them less frequently than other clothing categories. So for the first year or two of running Revolve, denim made up a majority of their business, which led to their first wave of success with the company.

They also weren’t afraid to go against the grain in how they ran an online store. When they realized the inherent risk that came with buying online due to fit issues, they instituted a policy of free shipping and returns. Mente and Karanikolas also quickly recognized the importance of having big, high-quality photos of their apparel—so they kicked standard web guidelines to the curb and covered their site with beautiful images, even if it meant it took a little longer to load.

“There were all sorts of different ways we approached retail and online fashion that ended up working out really well for us,” Mente says.

“Eventually, we came to understand the creative and aesthetic side of things more and become expert in areas we weren’t before. That piece took us many years to develop, and it wasn’t easy because it didn’t leverage our initial core strengths. But building that expertise on top of our existing strengths helped us become really powerful.”

Struggling to Survive

Mente and Karanikolas’ journey wasn’t without difficult times. They were still self funded when the Great Recession hit in 2008. Demand plummeted, and they saw that competitors were responding with extreme discounts, which made it challenging to make money.

Despite the fact that they were fighting for their lives, Mente and Karanikolas agree that this period actually led to incredible personal and professional growth. It also showed them they had the right company culture and people to get them through these challenging times.

The duo recalls one particular memory with fondness. Since Revolve also had to offer discounts to make sales during the recession, they had to ship a massive volume of product to remain profitable. During this time, every single employee voluntarily came out to the warehouse on weekends to help get all the products out on time. That’s when Karanikolas and Mente knew they would survive and come out on the other side as a stronger company.

Standing Out

Revolve is now a major player in an incredibly competitive online apparel market. But Mente and Karanikolas aren’t worried because they’ve come to deeply understand one of the most important lessons in marketing: You’ve got to stand out from the noise.

The way they do this is by leaning into the authenticity of their brand. Everything, from the events they host to the people they work with, is saturated with a genuine desire to grow relationships with consumers. It has never been about trying to outspend their competitors.

This type of commitment to their consumers is also what led the founders to start Revolve’s own line of clothing back in 2010.

Through data and conversations with their audience, they knew that there were products they either didn’t have a big enough selection of, or weren’t stocking fast enough. They realized they had the ability to provide a better product and have since launched an array of new clothing lines to meet the different needs of their customers.

Next Level of Growth

Karanikolas and Mente are optimistic about the future of Revolve.

“There are more opportunities today than ever, and we’re the best positioned we’ve ever been in the history of our company. We’re trying to build one of the biggest fashion and apparel companies out there,” Karanikolas says.

The duo plan to continue focusing on their core business of building a better experience for their target consumers, youthful women in 20s-30s looking for premium fashion. They’re passionate about getting better at everything they do, from improving their data to creating better products. Thoughts of further international expansion are top of mind for the founders as well, given that more than 40% of their social media following is international.

When it comes to the secret of success, the duo say there isn’t one—it’s simply about putting in the hard work, grit, and perseverance.

“There’s so much chance involved in the short term, but if you keep making the right steps, over the long run you’ll go in the direction you want, even though there are periods of time where it feels like things aren’t working for you,” Karanikolas says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be more rewarding than anything you’ve ever done.”

Mente agrees and leaves aspiring entrepreneurs with an additional piece of wisdom.

“Hard work and dedication are 100% important, but another aspect is to take care of yourself and your life,” he says.

“Your physical, mental, friendships, and relationships are all important as well. When you’re living well, you’re thinking clearly, healthier, and more productive over the long run. You need to recharge and have some balance in your life. It’s something I’m still trying to learn.”

3 Tips to Build a Powerful Consumer Brand, From Michael Mente & Mike Karanikolas

  1. Define core principles. It’s important to clearly identify which principles drive your brand—make sure those values are authentic to your organization and aren’t just an imitation of other organizations. From there, all decisions should map back to these principles to ensure the brand is consistent.
  2. Understand the landscape. You have to know who you’re competing against so you can figure out how to spread your message more broadly in the market. This also means figuring out who your primary consumers are and where they’re spending their time, as well as discovering your own message that’s positioned well and unique enough to mean something, but not so niche that your target audience is too small.
  3. Be consistent, but don’t be afraid to be flexible. “Know what you stand for and make sure you’re consistent in communicating that message. What you stand for has to make sense for the consumer segment you’re targeting in comparison to the competitive space,” Karanikolas says. However, he also says that it’s okay to refine your brand message. “We actually have consistently used data to refine our brand message. In other words, what are consumers responding to? There are things we knew from the start but also evolved as we learned from data.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Sophia Lee

Key Takeaways
  • How Mente and Karanikolas’ paths crossed while working at a software startup
  • How the dotcom bubble led the duo to start brainstorming new ventures
  • How their backgrounds in finance and engineering helped them decide on an online apparel business
  • The launch of Revolve, with $14,000 out of pocket
  • Why every business decision was driven by data
  • The duo’s breakthrough with denim
  • How Revolve survived (and thrived) through the Great Recession in 2008
  • Mente and Karanikolas’ recommendations on standing out in a crowded market
  • How Revolve changed the game of influencer marketing
  • The importance of knowing your consumers, not outspending your competitors
  • The future of Revolve’s global presence

Aug 19 2019

40mins

Play

263: From Food Writer to Digital Entrepreneur: Ed Levine’s Journey to Launching an Award-Winning Culinary Website

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In business, everyone wants to win.

But sometimes it’s the people who refuse to lose who end up finding success. This is the mindset that food writer, author, and founder of the website Serious Eats carried with him throughout the ups and downs of his career. This tumultuous journey is also the primary focus of his latest book Serious Eater: A Food Lover’s Perilous Quest for Pizza and Redemption.

In this interview, Levine shares the details of how he got into food writing, experimented with media platforms to diversify the way he told stories about food, and ultimately bootstrapped the money needed to launch Serious Eats. From struggling with being profitable to testing his tolerance for risk, Levine shares the sacrifices he had to make to keep his company alive for the eight years leading up to its sale.

If you want an unflinching look at the challenges of entrepreneurship, this is your chance. Levine speaks with candor about the toughest aspects of launching a startup and dispels the most common myths around starting a business.

Key Takeaways
  • Why Levine published his first book, New York Eats, while working his day job at an ad agency
  • How the book kickstarted Levine’s career as a food writer
  • The various media platforms, from TV to radio, he experimented with to expand the way he told stories about food
  • How Levine’s desire to control his own fate creatively and financially inspired him to launch his first blog in 2005
  • The journey to bootstrapping enough money to launch Serious Eats
  • Levine’s struggles with making Serious Eats consistently profitable
  • Why knowing the limits of your (and your partner’s) tolerance for risk is critical
  • The financial and emotional costs associated with bootstrapping a business
  • How Levine’s childhood experiences contributed to his “refuse-to-lose” mentality with Serious Eats
  • How Serious Eats organically attracted up to 8 million unique visitors per month and was eventually sold in 2015
  • Why the startup mantra of “fail early and often” didn’t apply to this 52-year-old digital entrepreneur
  • A sneak peek into Levine’s book Serious Eater: A Food Lover’s Perilous Quest for Pizza and Redemption, which captures the unspoken side of starting a business
  • Why Levine believes the most important business lessons can’t be learned without starting a business
  • How Levine defines success
  • Final thoughts on what it took to build a tribe of people who are passionate about food

Aug 14 2019

55mins

Play

262: A Deep Dive Into What Makes or Breaks Habits, With Nir Eyal

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When Nir Eyal has a burning question (which he frequently does), he goes on the hunt for an insightful answer.

That curiosity is what led Eyal to publish his first and wildly popular book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. He was inspired to delve into this topic after launching a startup in the advertising and gaming industry, where he observed that product design had the powerful ability to change human behavior. Eyal wondered why some companies were so good at it while others failed.

In this fascinating interview, we chat with Eyal about his early days as an entrepreneur, the behavioral model behind forming habits and get a sneak peek into Eyal’s upcoming book Indistractable: Mastering the Skill of the Century.

Plus, Eyal uses Nathan as a live case study and shares his best tips for breaking bad habits!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who wants to better understand the link between product design and human behavior, or you’re an individual looking for tangible ways to build better habits, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.

Key Takeaways
  • The story behind Eyal’s successful startups in the solar power, advertising, and gaming industries
  • How observing the behavior change through product design led to a burning question in Eyal’s mind
  • Eyal’s journey to understanding the deeper psychology behind how products are designed to be habit forming
  • The principles behind the Hook Model, and how the Bible is a perfect example
  • How Eyal’s own book inadvertently helped him improve his physical fitness
  • How his desire to control his attention inspired Eyal’s upcoming book Indistractable: Mastering the Skill of the Century
  • A sneak peek into techniques from Eyal’s new book to help people overcome internal triggers
  • A live case study with Nathan to help him address the habits he wants to break
  • Why high levels of distraction at a company are usually symptoms of a bigger problem

Aug 06 2019

43mins

Play

261: How Raegan Moya-Jones Built a $100M Baby Blanket Business Using Common Sense and Hard Work

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Against the Odds How Raegan Moya-Jones built a $100 million business from the ground up—no fancy MBA required.

Raegan Moya-Jones was an Aussie in New York City, pregnant with her first daughter, and she couldn’t find the right baby blanket.

Every Australian mother from time immemorial had swaddled her baby in a cotton muslin blanket, and Moya-Jones wanted to do the same. But no matter where she looked, she couldn’t find one.

Rather than simply becoming frustrated by the futile search, she had an idea.

“I figured that all Aussie parents couldn’t have it wrong, and if I introduced it to American parents, they’d feel the same way,” she says. “Luckily for me, my hunch was right!”

Moya-Jones went on to found the successful baby product company aden + anais (partly named for her first daughter), publish a book about her journey, and launch a second business all while raising four daughters.

Even when success turned sour, as it so often can in the entrepreneurial world, she didn’t let that stop her. Moya-Jones has weathered the heartbreaking end of a partnership and gut-wrenching business betrayals, becoming stronger, wiser, and more successful for it.

A Rocky Start

In 1997, Moya-Jones moved from Australia to New York, after her Chilean boyfriend landed a new job. She was partway through an MBA, but put it on hold to be with the man who is now her husband.

Without a visa, she struggled to find work, but eventually managed to land a position at the Australian consulate. Through connections she built there, she moved into a job at a conference company and then into a position as a sales executive with The Economist, where she worked for over a decade.

It was when she learned she was expecting her first child in 2003 that she began that fateful search for the perfect swaddle.

For three years, she toyed with the idea of starting that business. As a first-time entrepreneur, she had to learn everything from product design to manufacturing, but in 2006, she set out to launch her brand.

While she may not have had a completed MBA under her belt, she had years of experience in sales, a degree of common sense she felt she could truly rely on and, above all else, the drive to work as hard as it took.

“I really am a huge believer that common sense and work ethic are the two keys to building a successful business. They’re the two most important things,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s how much work you’re prepared to put in to be successful. I could never, ever have estimated how much work had to go into building a business from scratch.”

For the next three years, Moya-Jones would work her day job, then return home to spend quality time with her family (which now included three daughters). But once the bedtime rituals were complete, she burned the midnight oil building her business, from 8:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m.

“It was pretty brutal,” she says.

But the odd hours she kept weren't the only tough part from the early stages of aden + anais.

Moya-Jones launched her business with her friend Claudia Schwartz, and for the first few years, they worked together flawlessly. They initially invested $15,000 each into the company to build a basic Yahoo website, design a logo, and make their first manufacturing order. They anticipated the investment would last them six to 12 months.

The money ran out after eight weeks.

They each invested another $30,000, but at this point, Moya-Jones had run through her savings. Timing is everything, and it wasn’t on their side.

“We were starting out during the worst recession since the Great Depression, so it wasn’t really good timing in terms of having access to capital and people wanting to loan us money,” she says.

So Claudia made an additional investment that Moya-Jones was unable to match, and once they asked Claudia’s father-in-law to grant them a $200,000 loan, Moya-Jones says she noticed a bubble of resentment growing.

“I think the disparity in what I could contribute financially to what Claudia could was one of the biggest catalysts for the partnership dissolving,” she says.

Moya-Jones says she found three other women to buy out Claudia’s 49% share in the business, and in 2008, the partnership ended.

Off Like a Rocket

Although Moya-Jones was struggling through the personal blow of saying goodbye to a friend, aden + anais was steadily growing into a healthy, flourishing business.

“It was a rocketship in the early stages, for sure,” she says.

The muslin blankets were an instant hit, and thanks to 20 years of sales experience, she was well equipped to get the products to those who wanted them most. Moya-Jones loaded up taxis with samples of her product and went door to door sharing it with every store that might be interested.

“That’s where definitely my sales experience came in handy because I was extremely comfortable with that part of the business,” she says.

In the early 2000s, brick-and-mortar stores still reigned supreme, so she wasn't yet focused on the ecommerce side of the business. She also chose to build relationships with existing retailers, rather than launching into fraught competition with them.

“We didn’t want to piss off the retailers by competing against them with our own website and sales and everything,” she says. “Then, Amazon entered the picture, and of course, all bets were off at that point.”

Meanwhile, Moya-Jones was still balancing her company with her day job. She didn’t want to cause financial strain on her family, which would eventually grow to four daughters, and she didn’t want to put added pressure on her business to perform.

“It was my conscious decision to choose sleep deprivation over any kind of financial pressure on my family and on the business in the early stages,” she says. But the years of toil took their toll.

“There were definitely times when my hair was falling out,” she admits.

She still believed in her business, though, so she powered through the strain, set a goal for when she would leave her day job, and waited for the right moment to arrive.

“Statistically, only 2% of all women-owned businesses ever break a million dollars in revenue,” she says. “I knew it was a pretty stretch goal, and so I sort of said, ‘Well, if I can get to a million in revenue, then I’m prepared to dive fully into aden + anais and quit my day job and give it a really good go,’ which is what I did.”

In 2009, Moya-Jones went full time with the company.

But even though her business was a success, she still needed additional investments to keep the business alive. She borrowed money from just about anyone who would lend it to her for nearly a year and a half after the dissolution of her partnership.

“Initially, it was friends and family, and then it was friends of friends, and then once we got to the point where it was just obvious that we were never going to be able to scale doing it that way, that’s when I went out and looked for investment money,” she says.

Although the business had traction, Moya-Jones says that she struggled to find investors. But in 2010, her first investor came aboard. That investment led to aden + anais’ first year of $10 million in revenue.

A Dark Day and a New Dawn

With the acquisition of another business in 2016, aden + anais pushed past the $100 million mark. But even as Moya-Jones’ success continued to blossom, disaster loomed on the horizon.

In 2013, the first investors in the business departed, and their parting piece of advice to Moya-Jones was to bring in another private equity firm to share the load. They could never have known what this would mean for the company’s future. The new firm bought the majority share of aden + anais, which would lead to an internal struggle for the future of the business.

“That’s when the whole thing started to go downhill for me,” she says. “We did not agree on the way forward. I don’t think they really understood me. This is the whole Stanford, Harvard, Yale backgrounds coming up against the crazy, opinionated Australian girl who has no education on a piece of paper to show. We just didn’t see eye-to-eye on very much at all. It was sort of the beginning of the end to tell you the truth.”

Outspoken about her disagreements as she saw her beloved company moving in a direction she didn’t support, Moya-Jones was informed in 2016 that she was being moved from the position of CEO.

“My story is actually way more common than I think people realize,” she says.

After a string of failed replacements, a new CEO finally stuck, and in 2018, Moya-Jones was fired from her own company.

“It was a pretty awful time,” she says.

But the new firm had the controlling interest in the company, so they were well within their rights to show her the door. And it wasn’t as though Moya-Jones had planned to run the company forever. The luster of serving as CEO of a massive business had already started to fade for her, and she missed the rush of innovation.

“Once you get up to the $60, $70, $80 million dollar mark, you just become the person that all you’re dealing with is shit every day,” she says. “The fun stuff everybody else is handling. The only time you’re really needed is when it’s too hard for somebody else or they don’t want to make the decision and deal with it.”

But she still wishes she would never have sold the majority share, at least until she was prepared to exit on her own terms instead of being forced out as CEO.

“I’m grateful in that I ended up making a very nice amount of money from aden + anais, but it’s definitely bittersweet. If I could do it all over again, I would do it differently.”

To this day, she is still the single largest individual shareowner in aden + anais.

But her story wasn’t over. In fact, a publisher soon approached Moya-Jones and asked her to share, well, what it takes.

While she was initially hesitant because, as she says, until the business reached about $50 million in revenue, she was operating largely on common sense, she decided to move forward with the book when the publisher said they didn’t want a conventional outline of what it took to become successful. They just wanted her story.

“To say I’m the antithesis of the MBA-educated business mind is an understatement,” she says.

And in her book, What It Takes: How I Built a $100 Million Business Against the Odds, she shares just how she did it and hopes she inspires others to do the same. She believes that anyone could follow in her footsteps without any kind of training or prior experience, as long as they are willing to put in the work.

And being asked to leave aden + anais didn’t keep the tenacious Moya-Jones down for long. Today, she is elbow-deep in a brand new business that has taken her “from babies to booze.” In June 2018, she co-founded the moonshine company Saint Luna Spirits.

“We wanted to create a high-end moonshine that was served in five-star restaurants and the best cocktail bars out there,” she says.

The business has already won gold and silver medals at spirit competitions, and after only a few weeks on the market, the label already appears in renowned establishments across New York, such as Jean-Georges and Employees Only.

“It’s super fun to be back in the trenches building something and creating,” Moya-Jones says.

And no matter what she does or where she goes next, by weathering the storms of her first business, Moya-Jones has proven unequivocally that she has what it takes.

Raegan Moya-Jones Tips for Entrepreneurs

Through successes and trials, Raegan Moya-Jones has build up an extensive bank of knowledge when it comes to launching and shepherding businesses, and these are some of the tips she shares with every entrepreneur she meets.

  1. Use Common Sense

“Not all people have common sense, but what I’m trying to say is you don’t need to be an expert in really anything, I believe, to start and build a successful business.”

  1. Think Twice Before Selling

“Never, ever sell the controlling interest of your company if you’re still passionately involved in it and dedicated to it.” Unless you are looking to exit a company for good, Moya-Jones recommends that founders think twice before relinquishing control, even for a nice payout.

  1. Stay True to Yourself

“Everyone’s going to have an opinion. There will always be the people who want to come in once you’re successful to change the way you do things.” Moya-Jones reminds founders to trust their instincts and remain true to the things that help them launch and grow their business, even if others disagree.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • How Moya-Jones’ first child inspired the idea for aden + anais
  • A peek into her journey from Australia to the US, and the struggle to find a job
  • An entrepreneur’s juggling act with a full-time job, family, and building a business
  • Why Moya-Jones was committed to staying at her full-time job until she broke $1 million in revenue
  • How finances eventually turned a partnership sour
  • Moya-Jones’ philosophy of running a business on common sense and work ethic
  • How she got aden + anais off the ground by using old-school sales tactics
  • The journey to $100 million in revenue
  • The one business decision Moya-Jones regrets to this day, and how it led to her being forced out of her company
  • What motivated Moya-Jones to write What It Takes: How I Built a $100 Million Business Against the Odds
  • How Moya-Jones made the transition from babies to booze and is now finding success with moonshine company St. Luna Spirits

Jul 29 2019

48mins

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