How desperate are you to make it?
Today’s guest is a Mixergy fan who had a failed company and was living on his friend’s couch. He says that’s when desperation led him to his first successful business idea. It wasn’t a direct path but it led him there.
Dwight Peters is the founder of BackersHub. They negotiate flash sales on popular Kickstarter projects just for backers. Basically they take Kickstarter projects that have been extremely successful give people deep discounts on them. Here’s the story behind how he did it.
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Dwight Peters, BackersHub
Dwight Peters is the founder of BackersHub.com, a reward fulfillment tool for crowd-funding campaigns.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters! My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of — look at this — I’m putting my arms out like it’s a big site. Not the founder, the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How desperate are you to make it? I mean to finally make it big.
Today’s guest is a Mixergy fan who had a failed company and was living on his friend’s couch. He says that’s when desperation led him to his first successful business idea. It wasn’t a direct path but it led him there. We’re going to find out how.
His name is Dwight Peters. He is the founder of Backers Hub. They negotiate flash sales on popular Kickstarter projects just for backers. Basically they take Kickstarter projects that have been extremely successful and for a short period of time they give people deep discounts on them. That’s the way they work.
This is part of my 10K series where I interview entrepreneurs on how they generated the first $10,000 in sales. It is all sponsored by Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. If you’re an entrepreneur and need a lawyer, of course you’ve got to talk to Scott. Or just check out his website, walkercorporatelaw.com.
Dwight, welcome bud.
Dwight: Thanks, it’s great to be here. I’m trying not to smile too much, but yeah, this is awesome.
Andrew: Smile a lot, it’s good. What’s the worst part of sleeping on your friend’s couch?
Dwight: Man, the worst part. The couch was real rough. Shout out to David and Daniel. Thank you, I appreciate it but the worst part is —
Andrew: Is [??] humiliation, you came to San Francisco thinking, “I’m going to make it. I have this idea.” And here you are on a couch. Did you feel any of that?
Dwight: Yeah, after a while, after a month. I went out there with very ambitious goals. I just won a business plan competition at my school. I took the winnings and say, “Hey, I’m going out to San Fran to make something happen.”
After about a month noticing that things weren’t going according to plan, that feeling started to sink in, like, “S***, I can’t go back home a failure. Matter of fact, I don’t even know how I’m going to get home. I don’t have any money.”
Andrew: The idea that landed you on his couch was the second idea, the second business idea.
Andrew: What was the first?
Dwight: The first one was a company called “Slate and Stylus”. When I started that, or before I started that I was a big Mixergy fan, still am. I started a blog that was copied off of Mixergy, where I was interviewing social entrepreneurs.
They would come on my program to talk about the issues they were tackling, the impact they were making, and share business tips.
I was doing it for probably about a year. The founder of a non-profit called “The Supply” came on my program. He was talking about how he was building schools in Kenya. That reminded me of childhood. I grew up in Jamaica, another Third World country. The incredible work they were doing out there. That’s when I made my decision. I wanted to stop interviewing entrepreneurs and I wanted to jump in. I wanted to figure out a way I could help them.
Long story short, I was working at Apple retail at the time. This is when the iPad first came out. They had the Smart Cover. The Smart Cover didn’t have the back. I heard customers complaining about that or bringing that up.
Somehow we found an iPad case, through probably, online somewhere, somewhere in China, right? Awesome case. I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. We raised our goal, we passed our goal and we tried to bring it to market. The mission behind that business was for every iPad case we sold, we would donate school supplies to the non-profit we were working with.
Andrew: What’s the problem with that? Frankly, I do an interview with entrepreneur. I did an interview with the founder of Do-Do Case.
Andrew: Patrick Buckley made it sound so easy. The iPad was coming out. People needed cases. It’s a growing market without any entrenched competitors. I felt, after that interview, that any idea at that market would have done well.
I shouldn’t knock off everything. Knock over my cup. That’s how animated I am. It felt so easy. You have a good idea, why didn’t it work?
Dwight: It’s funny that you brought up that interview because I probably watched that interview three or four times. The reason why it didn’t work for us is it was really competitive. The market was becoming saturated. A lot of tech accessory brands started popping up.
We just didn’t have the cash capital to compete. Not only that, I had no experience. I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s probably the truth of the matter. I knew nothing about marketing.
Andrew: What’s, Patrick, by the way, also, he did have experience there. That wasn’t his first company. One of the reasons why Do-Do Case, his business, did so well was I think he had a failed business experience with Y Combinator that was founded by Y Combinator.
Looking back, now you’re smarter, more successful. What was it about that, that didn’t work?
Dwight: Two things. I don’t think I gave it enough time. That’s probably one. I think we could have gotten, I had learned how to market it better. Use social media better. I think it would have taken off because we had a great mission. It was very, very inspiring. We were getting a lot of great feedback. We just needed to keep pushing. I don’t think I really gave it enough time, honestly.
Andrew: All right. Fair enough. Also, you got in to it after Patrick. The fact that you were listening to him means that he was out there, already successful. I see.
Andrew: One of the things he did was he jumped in as soon as the iPad came out.
Dwight: As soon as it got out. His marketing strategy was great. He hired kids in different states through Craigslist. He got them to pass out discount codes to order the Do-Do Case. They would go out to the launch day and stand outside saying, “Hey you can get a discount on a case.”
Like that’s [??]
Andrew: I’d be like [??] you —
Dwight: Yeah, that was genius.
Andrew: Today, back then you might not have had that hustle. One of the things that we’re going to find as we continue is that today you do have that hustle with Backers Hub. You’ve got it more, in fact I think Jeremy made sure to tell me, Jeremy’s the guy who pre-interviewed you, said, “Ask him about that. He’s open.” We’re going to get to that in a moment.
You mentioned that you were in Jamaica, one of the reasons why you ended up in Jamaica is because your mom wanted you out of the U.S. You were in the Bronx. You grew up in New York like me. What did you do there that was so bad that your mom said, “Go to Jamaica for a bit.”
Dwight: I think it was several things. I joke and I tell people that I suffer from MCS, Middle Child Syndrome. My older brother, he was always the golden child. Honor role, perfect student.
My younger brother, he was born with, my mom had complications during birth so he needed more attention growing up. I was just there. Just, “Hey, what about me?” I was mischievous. Acting up in school. Getting into fights. Making teachers’ days living hell. Just always —
Andrew: You feel you did that because you wanted attention?
Dwight: Yeah, that’s what it came down to.
Andrew: I see.
Dwight: I just wanted attention and I was always questioning authority. “Why? Why are you telling me to do this?” Yeah it comes down to attention. I just needed some way to express my, all this built up energy. You were going through some personal things within the household at the time.
Andrew: What was going on?
Dwight: Screw it, this is Mixergy, right? I’ll never forget. I remember the time when I started to act up. Around the age of seven or eight. I found out my stepfather wasn’t my father. I grew up always thinking of, it was obvious but to a little kid… I’ll never forget, my cousins told me. They were joking, I don’t know if they knew I knew.
I felt like the world lied to me at that point. “Whoa, he’s not my dad? He’s not my real dad?” That just shook up a lot of things for me. A few years later, a couple years later after that, my parents had gotten a divorce, my mom and my stepfather. Then right about that time my mom decided it’d be best for me to go to high school in Jamaica. If I would have stayed here, I would have probably been on a different track.
Andrew: I see. Meanwhile though, your dad was a role model.
Dwight: Yeah. Yeah, he was.
Andrew: Your stepfather, I should say, was the role model. What was he like that now you’re carrying through today?
Dwight: It’s funny. I picked up a lot of his hustle. He was always hustling. He always had something going. He would always embed that in me to try to be self-made. Don’t rely on people. Create a job if you can. Always hustle. Always connect with people. He was always selling something. He wasn’t always successful. I’ve seen him fail a lot of times but I always saw him try. On that, that was always a part of me.
Andrew: I’ve got a couple of examples here. He was a manager of a club. He ran a taxi route. Sold life insurance.
Andrew: He just kept hustling and that’s what you saw growing up from him.
Dwight: He used to take me with him to work, very frequently because me and my brothers, we used to get into fights. Just wrestling or fist fights and he didn’t want us to be home together by ourselves while our parents were working so he’d take me to work with him to the club. Not during the club, like on a Sunday when the service was low.
He showed me how to be a manager and operate things. He had another job where he had to go to supermarkets, and he had to take old magazines off the stands. I’d be there helping him. It was always a hustle.
Andrew: I grew up in New York, like you. I would see some of my friends kind of disappear down south. That’s the way it was for me. What’s down south, if I was acting up and my parents sent me down south to be with strangers who are my family I would be so rebellious. I would want to knock everyone in, I’m not that angry. I wasn’t angry growing up at all. Not that angry. This would make me angry.
Andrew: To you the opposite happened. It actually was a good thing. You became the person you are today, partially because of that.
Andrew: What happened? Why was your experience so positive? And for the audience, I promise we’re going to get into the current business. It’s a clever business and we’re going to hear how he got there. We’re going to hear about his hustle. But I need to know the man behind the business.
Dwight: Yeah. The experience at first wasn’t so positive, right? I’ll never forget. I came home one day. I think I was, like, 12 or 13, and my mom and my uncle there in the living room. My mom’s sad, and they have to break the news to me that I’m going to Jamaica in the morning. Right?
Andrew: The next day. They didn’t even give you room to escape.
Dwight: Like, I didn’t have time to run away or nothing, right? So I was hurt. I always felt like I was alone. I always wanted attention. So going to Jamaica just kind of threw that on me again. It’s just me again, by myself. You have to survive, right? But when I went down there, man. I guess it was a good thing because I opened up to a totally different culture. I didn’t get to live with my family.
I have Jamaican roots. They sent me to live with a teacher and his family that taught at the high school I went to. And just had to adapt. That’s it. Hey, I’m here. I can’t get back. I’m thousands of miles away across an ocean. There’s no swimming back, right? Yeah.
So the reason why I became so positive, as I matured down there, I saw a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff that we take for granted up here: electricity, water, food. Down there, these are things that people, it’s really rough to get. There are a lot of things that they don’t take for granted down there.
Andrew: For example?
Dwight: Plenty of things. Wake up, there’s no running water, right? I mean, we have to go get water. You have to go carry water. We either have a drum where we collected rainwater from days before, or we have to go down to a pond and collect water. Electricity, there’s a lot of nights where electricity will go out for days. I’m doing homework by kerosene oil, right?
Dwight: This is real. This is still real for a lot of people that are down there and in other parts of the world. So it just made me appreciate stuff. It’s funny because I didn’t realize that I’m a first-born generation American for my family, me and my brothers. It just hit us like, oh, we’re Americans. Like, we’re here. All of our family are in Jamaica. Let’s take advantage of this while we can.
Andrew: Take advantage of that fact that you’re in the U.S. where you have all this gotcha.
Dwight: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: You also became a bit of an activist.
Dwight: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: What happened with the board of trustees?
Dwight: Back in college I was president of student government association, I’m studying political science. A couple of years ago, 2011, 2012, here in New York, every year we go through tuition hikes. And this time myself and my colleagues, and other student peers, we decided to do something about it. We had a lawsuit against the board of trustees. We stopped them from raising tuition one year. That was a pretty cool success for us. But that’s what inspired me to move forward in this direction.
One of the board of trustees, she pulled me to the side. She liked me. And she said, “Dwight, there’s a difference between being loud and being effective. You’re doing a kick-ass job at being loud, but how are you going to be effective?” And I’m looking at her like she’s crazy. Hey, we just had a lawsuit against you guys. You guys aren’t raising our tuition. But she broke it down. She said, “Dwight, there’s always next year, right?” She wasn’t saying that to be this nasty witch. But it’s a business that they’re running. There’s always next year.
Andrew: Meaning you guys won this battle, but you’re not effective enough to keep me from raising the pricing next year. You need to think about being effective.
Dwight: Yeah. And that opened my eyes. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what? I didn’t get nearly as far in high school, but I do remember just admiring the ’60s protest movement and thinking success in anything means doing a sit-in, doing a protest. And I remember there was a fight that I had with Mrs.Timothy in my school. I forget what it was I was arguing about. I said, “All right. I’m going to sit right here until I get my way.” You now? Until I’m heard.
She was like, “Well, you can sit there all day long.” And I realized, oh, I just could see in her eyes that she was not going to listen to me anymore and I lost the battle. It looked like I was winning. It looked like I was a fighter. But you have to think . . .
Dwight: It’s funny. Before we had that lawsuit, I did a sit-in at one of the board of trustee meetings and I got arrested. And you know that’s, yeah. [??].
Andrew: You look like such a badass, like you’re doing something, and it’s so photogenic, but no. So I see. The interesting thing to me is having just having read a little bit about your background and hearing it here is this fighter became a political scientist. You went into political science partially because of this. But this fighter who would fight in school would suddenly fight for something that mattered.
Dwight. That’s the crazy part. I never thought it would turn out to be like that. I just had all this extra energy and I just wanted to use it and focus it and really see how can I make a change. That’s what it came down to. It’s always questioning authority, it came back to that. Why must we follow these rules? These rules don’t feel like they’re right. There’s a lot of things that we see that we don’t feel are correct. Why can’t we change it?
Andrew: And then you won a business plan competition.
Dwight: Yeah. So I ended going to — I was president of student government at Bronx Community College. It’s a two-year college. After there, I went to the four-year college, Baruch. And I only went there for a year. They specialize in business, didn’t take a business class, great school. But I knew was going there. I wanted to win the business [??] competition. That was my only goal, just go there, I paid my tuition out of pocket. I’m going to make my money back by winning this competition. But I won the business [??] competition last year and I took my winnings and decided to by a one- way ticket to Cali.
Andrew: Okay. And you came here to San Francisco. Do you remember what part of town you were living in?
Dwight: Yeah, Fremont.
Andrew: Okay. I imagined when I was in New York starting a business there that as soon as I hit San Francisco, boom. All the top celebrities would be just walking down the street to get coffee. People would want to invest in my business if I just sat at the hot, new burger joint. Did you find any of that? Did you have those expectations?
Dwight: Yes and no. I understood what it was. Everybody’s working on their own project out in San Francisco just like anywhere else in the world, right? But it’s all about connections and that’s probably the one thing I was good at. I tell people that’s my only talent. I suck at everything else. But I know how to network. I know how to meet people if I want to people. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of buddies that connected me with some other entrepreneurs out here.
So when I came out here, I just tried to connect with as many people as possible letting people know about what I was working on which was the Tech accessory company at the time. And it’s funny but I had a conversation with a lady, I was telling her about the Tech accessory company I was working on, telling her what I was trying to do, the whole social mission behind it.
And then she asked me am I trying to raise money. I was like, “No.” I’m just bootstrapping this, right? Because I don’t know anything about raising funds, I just know bootstrap. But then it hit me to the possibilities. Maybe I need to work on something that’s a little bit bigger, something that could possibly get people’s interest. So it just sent me back to the drawing board.
Andrew: And you did manage to find friends who were close enough that they’d let you sleep on their couch.
Dwight: Yeah. It’s funny because I went to high school with David and Daniel. Shout out to them again. We went to high school together in Jamaica.
Andrew: Oh, okay. And you reconnected with them here?
Dwight: Yeah. David, he works for JP Morgan, he does their iOS development. Daniel’s a graphic designer and yes, it’s just perfect timing, fate.
Andrew: Did your Kickstarter campaign succeed?
Dwight: Yes. And it was hell.
Andrew: What was hellish about it?
Dwight: It was, once again, first time experience. We applied to Kickstarter three times in all, first two times got denied. So when the third one came in, for the iPad case company, I celebrated like a won the lotto, holly shit, yeah.
Andrew: Getting in is like getting into college or into a [??] accelerator. I see.
Dwight: We got in, didn’t know anything, we launched a campaign. Had to figure out, okay, how do we market, how do we get people to even find out about our campaign, right? Learning email marketing and getting it out. We wanted to raise five grand. We raised close to eight grand, nine grand, nothing crazy. Logistics screwed us up a lot. Anything that could go wrong after we raised our money went wrong.
Andrew: Give me an example.
Dwight: Oh, definite, right? So we were working with a manufacturer in China. And this is the power of the Internet and AliBaba, right? Never met the manufacturer, never met the guy face to face, turns out to be a great guy, still talk to him today. Were actually close friends now. Sent him the money from the Kickstarter campaign. Okay, I’m buying the inventory, I’m buying the product. Didn’t hear back from him for probably a month, month and a half, losing my mind.
Like, Holy crap, this guy just ran off with the money. What do I tell the backers? Come to find out there was a small fire in the factory they were working at. So that set them back, lack of communication, got things rolling. Communication with the backers, backers, they think Kickstarter was a store or our backers. They were treating us like we were Walmart, right? They want their product now, and it should be done.
It just taught us a lot about customer service, how to keep people happy. Even the people that are irate, even the people that are really upset. How to just communicate and articulate that we’re here for you guys. We’re not here to screw you over. But, yeah, that was one of the challenges. When we finally got the inventory, shipping it out, logistics. Welcome to my apartment ten boxes, 100 iPad cases in each that I’ve got to ship out. Going to the post office the first day was great. Then the second day —
Andrew: The first time must have been really fun. Look at all of this.
Dwight: Yeah. I’m doing something.
Andrew: It wasn’t a huge financial success which is why you were on your friend’s couch.
Andrew: On the other hand, the desperation of being on that couch, as I said, pushed you to discover what? Your eyes were open to something.
Dwight: So I launched that Kickstarter campaign back in 2012.
Dwight: That was two years ago. So I was probably familiar with it, right? When I was on my friend’s couch, I was selling regular cases, but we had the power to customize them. Make them — customize the cases for whatever design you wanted on them.
And I just had some cases that I needed to sell. If I could sell these cases, I can make some money back and probably get back home. And I just wanted a unique way to sell them. Everybody that I was working with or trying to work with, they just weren’t interested. We were trying to work with non-profits, creating custom cases for their causes so they could sell it. They just weren’t biting.
So I reached out to some Kickstarter campaign creators, comics, people that were doing comics specifically and say, “Hey, would you like to offer custom iPhone and Samsung Galaxy cases as rewards?” And I got their ear. You know, a lot of them gave me a lukewarm response, but it got the conversation going. They were like, “What else do you offer?” And I was like, “What do you need, t-shirts, posters, whatever, right? We could find it.”
I’ll never forget at the time I was watching Pat Flynn. He interviewed Carl, Carl from Clinic Metrics — shout out to Carl — and Carl, he’s sort of with Maxwell’s group, the foundation is. I did mine and find out what do they need help with? What’s really keeping them up at night?
Andrew: So once you got them on the phone, you were able to understand what issues they had. And what problem did they have then?
Dwight: Market it. They wanted a campaign to be a success. That’s what kept them up. The iPhone cases I was pitching, the t-shirts. That sounded nice. That was cool. They could worry about that after they reached their goal. What they wanted was, “I need to reach my goal, Dwight. Can you help me do that?”
Andrew: And so that’s a pretty big goal.
Andrew: What did you do to help them with that?
Dwight: Brainstorm. Thought about it. What can you do differently? So we looked at what was currently out there, Google, Kickstarter market, and what everybody else was popping up with. A lot of people were focused on press. We could get cheap press. We could get you press, but then I remembered what I did for my Kickstarter campaign.
I tried to find people I knew who would have a good shot at backing it before we launched. And then even though we didn’t do a lot of money on our campaign, that was the tactic that worked. Most of our backing came from repeat backers.
So I asked one of the clients — I’ll never forget, it was October 16th back on Pat Flynn’s podcast. Noah Kagan was on, and in that podcast he said, “Just take action. Just do it.” October 16th I just reached out to one of the clients and say, “Hey, if I can get you in front of a list of backers, would you pay x amount for it?” He said, “Yeah. PayPal can’t do it.”
And I told him, “Look, we have a queue. You don’t have to wait two weeks.” You have a couple of campaigns —
Andrew: Ooh. Wait. So you didn’t have a queue. You didn’t have a list. You said, “I have a queue. And the reason you said I have a queue is so that you would have two weeks to go figure out how to hustle and get the list.
Dwight: Yeah, I crapped out. And we all put a money back guarantee, right? So it was cool just to get the money. The money was nice, but it was more just validating it. Somebody actually took out their credit card and paid for it. Holy shit! I think we ended up refunding that guy. Of course, we did.
Andrew: Because you couldn’t get it in time.
Dwight: We couldn’t get it in time, but we realized, “Hey, more and more people were actually willing to pay for this, to help with the marketing.” So we ended up coming up with some creative solutions. Yeah.
Andrew: All right. This is the part where I want you to push yourself a little bit to be open, where I know in private you’re open —
Andrew: And I wouldn’t let you say it if it was a bad thing, if it was going to cause you damage. I want you to be open with it. I’m going to give you a moment here to think about it because I have to do a sponsor plug.
And the sponsor — do you know the sponsor?
Dwight: Of course, man, Scott Walker.
Andrew: Scott Walker.
Andrew: Scott Edward Walker is the founder — I like to say his middle name. Apparently, there’s a politician named Scott Walker who got into trouble, and as soon as that happened, my guess is maybe that’s why Scott decided to start using his middle name.
Dwight: Wait a minute.
Andrew: If there’s ever an Andrew Warner who commits a crime or a politician who does something that, I don’t know what. I will have to find a middle name.
Anyway, back to Scott, forget about me. Scott Edward Walker, he is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. The reason I say you need a lawyer who understands entrepreneurs is, I remember having an issue, walking over to a top firm, addressing the issue. Actually the issue was that I needed an assertion order. I just needed an assertion order so that when people bought ads from me, I could give them a contract. They would fill out the contract and then I would be able to take it and know that I was going to get money.
Andrew: The problem was this top firm gave me this page, after page, after page contract for the insertion order that required all kinds of junk that needed to go in there. Junk as far as I was concerned. There was no way anyone in a [??] interview was going to sign it. There’s no way that any other entrepreneur who I was selling to was going to sign it. They were great as a firm but they were out of touch with the startup community.
That’s the problem with talking with a lawyer who doesn’t understand the community. Even the contracts that they put together, while absolutely accurate and great are out of touch with the way that we work.
If you need a lawyer and you’re an entrepreneur, you need one who is experienced with entrepreneurs, and my recommendation is you check out Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. His website is walkercorporatelaw.com.
All right. So, Dwight, where did you get the backers?
Dwight: I’ll be open. We used several tactics to figure this out. Screwed up a lot. The first group of backers I used were from my personal campaign. I tried to get them to opt-in to a list. Just tried to find backers any way possible. We ran Facebook ads. They didn’t really work too well.
We wanted to take the pressure off of that. Meaning, instead of trying to create something for campaign creators and build around it, how about we create something for backers? Get them in to that instead of trying to build up a list to promote stuff to the market promoting campaigns.
We wanted to take a different approach. We said, “How about we create value for backers?” Talking to backers, I found out they’ll be interested in some deals. There’s a lot of Kickstarter campaigns that they miss out on. Just because by the time they find out, it’s just too late.
We said, “How about if we take this flash sale approach?” We partnered up with successful kick-starter campaigns that succeeded and we offer a limited amount of time deal just for a group of backers. Once we started doing that it just started to grow.
Andrew: I see. So, to get backers you were thinking, “Let’s forget about the campaign organizers for a minute and their interests. Let’s think about the backers interests.” They’re interested in these campaigns. They are interested in deals. They’re interested in supporting of like.
Andrew: Let’s give them deals on campaigns that are over. That they missed out on. That they can’t get access to anymore.
Dwight: Yeah. Can’t get a deal on anymore. I’d have put myself in that position. Me, myself, I’ve backed over 30 campaigns. I had to take of my campaign creator hat off and put on my backer hat. Like, “Hey, what would I like?” I talked to some other backers and when we took that approach of giving value to the backers mainly, that’s when the list started to grow.
Andrew: First day you had a big day, I’ve heard. How did you do that? Actually no, was it the first day? No big launch, simple landing page is what it was, right?
Andrew: That’s it. Landing page by — is it the same company that gave you your aligning page today?
Dwight: Yeah, One Track. We, you sign up with One Track for free. We’ve been real, real lean in everything that we do. We focus heavily on our newsletter marketing, Mail Chimp. Yeah, real lean.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m on the page right now. I’m on backershub.com. It says at the top, “Weekly Deals for Kickstarter Backers Only”. Backers Hub, save 20 to 50% on products from successfully funded Kickstarter projects. That’s it.
Dwight: Yeah and that’s what we are, right? We’re a community of backers. That’s exactly what we are. Helping new campaigns promote through our weekly newsletter is just a by-product. But our focus, what we are, is a beautiful thing. We created a community where we have a private Facebook group page where over a 1,000 backers are there.
You should see what they talk about. They talk about new campaigns that are coming out. What they like in a campaign. What they look for when a campaign is launched. They also share some of the things that are things that don’t get talked about a lot. Some campaigns creators screw a lot of backers over.
Dwight: A lot of people get successful, and the campaign creators run off.
Andrew: I think they delete the — can a campaign creator delete comments by people who are complaining that the campaign is gone?
Dwight: No, so that’s one good thing a Kickstarter does. Once it’s up, it’s up forever. We see our backers making these grievances. This allows us to really have this type of community, and there’s nothing like it.
Andrew: What’s the Facebook page? Can I sign up for that now?
Dwight: Yeah, if you sign up through backershub.com.
Andrew: Oh, so I have to join Backers Hub in order to get access to the Facebook page.
Dwight: Because it’s for backers only. We’re very big on that. You have to be a Kickstarter backer.
Andrew: All right. Let me see what else I want to know. You showed me a page, just earlier today, sale, actually I won’t even say what it is. Is this the upcoming home page? Is this the upcoming sales page?
Dwight: Yes and no. The page that I sent you is for our newsletter sponsorship. Besides flash sales for previously successful Kickstarter campaigns we also partner out with new campaigns. Kind of like what we were doing in the beginning. Now we give new campaign creators a chance to get in front of backers. That’s where we send them so they can check out our marketing packages.
Andrew: How much do I have to pay if I have a new campaign that I want to promote to people who backed past campaigns?
Dwight: We have three different packages. One is for $147. Another one is for $297. Our premium package is for $497. Each of them comes with different elements.
Andrew: Wow. How many do you have per email?
Dwight: How many campaigns? It depends —
Andrew: I guess it’s one. What I’m paying as a campaign organizer to reach your audience, I’d pay to get the whole mailing?
Andrew: Oh. Got you. All right.
Andrew: Do you remember when you knew this was going to be a hit?
Dwight: When did I know it was going to be a hit? I didn’t know. All right? We’re pushing. Every day we wake up, and we put the scoreboard back to zero. It starts all over again the next day.
I began to say, I need to put my time in to this. First, was my first startup when I said, “I don’t think I put enough time into it.” I knew I had to put my focus in to this after the first sale. Honestly, on October 16th when we got the first transaction. I knew that email marketing was something I heavily wanted to get in to.
Andrew: Email marketing meaning you marketing in email for other people? [??]
Andrew: What about Danny? I don’t understand this in the notes. It says, “I remember I reached out to Danny and got 300 sign ups on the first day.”
Dwight: Yeah. I shot out to Danny from — the name of this company is slipping my mind. The name of this Kickstarter campaign is slipping my mind.
Andrew: That’s what stinks about being on camera. That’s why I do an interview that, I sometimes forget the most basic things, like what street did I grow up on.
Andrew: Anyway, Danny, who ran a campaign?
Dwight: We partnered up with Danny to do something creative. We were able to promote him. He was able to promote us as well with a give-away that we were doing at the time. We were able to get some sign ups off of that.
Andrew: Got you. So he helped you out. Is this Danny Fields, Danny Seyz (sp), or Danny Malone?
Dwight: No, none of those.
Andrew: Danny Turkin (sp)? Danny Rick?
Dwight: No. Oh, man.
Andrew: Oh, well. We’ll add it to the comments. It’ll give people a reason to go in to the comments.
Andrew: I see. What you’re saying is you found that in this situation now there’s a reason for them to help you and for you to help them. It’s a nice relationship.
Do the campaign’s that, do the Kickstarter campaign’s give you a discount offer in the flash sales? Do they pay you?
Dwight: Yes. That’s part of our business model. We take a cut. I’m not allowed to say how much of a cut. We’re allowed to take, well what we do take, but yes. That’s primarily what we do.
Andrew: Oh wow. All right. How long, I don’t know if I said it at the top of the interview, this is part of the 10K series of entrepreneurs, did I say that?
Andrew: I forget to say that. I’ll say it right now. This is part of the 10K series. How long did it take you to get to 10K?
Dwight: Two months.
Andrew: Two months?
Dwight: Yeah. Probably a month and a half, yeah.
Andrew: Wow. Why did this work out so quickly?
Dwight: Simple. Creating value. I don’t want to steal from Dean Maxwell, but it’s true, all of my ideas sucked. When I started asking people, “How can I help you? How can I make your day better? How can I make you get, reach your goal quicker?” It just started to flow.
I put myself to the side. I put what I thought was going to be great to the side and just asked them, “What do you want?” That’s why I want anybody that’s watching this interview to get. How do you create value for people? That’s it.
Andrew: Creating value means asking them the right questions.
Andrew: How do you get from calling them up and saying, “Will you buy my case, where I will put your logo and I will even do the shipping.” To understanding that they have a problem that you can solve?
Dwight: That was me approaching them so far disconnected from being a campaign creator. If I had my campaign creator hat on at the time, I could’ve probably seen this quicker. I’m glad I started out that way because it got the conversation going.
To really help them to figure out what they needed help with the most by asking them, “Hey do you want this?” “No.” “Do you want that?” “No.” “Okay. What do you really want?” Giving them a chance to really think. This is what I need help with. I need help with marketing. Because truth of the matter is over half of the Kickstarter campaigns fail. What we believe is: They don’t fail because they suck. We believe a lot of campaigns fail because they’re not getting in front of the right people.
Andrew: What else, what else? Why don’t I do a quick plug here about what you just said, because I was obviously Googling while you were talking. I wanted to give people a way to follow up. I wanted to give people a way to follow up, and the way to follow up is — I’m always curious about the kinds of questions that you have to ask to understand people’s problems.
And so, I ask two people who I have tremendous respect for to show me how they do it. And the two of them are Jason Abersoch and Cindy Alvarez. They both work for KISSmetrics, which was founded by Neil Patel and Hiten Shah. And the reason I tell you about the two founders, as you know, they know their stuff. They’re hustlers. They understand the importance of asking people for feedback, and building products based on people’s needs. And these are the two people they work with. Jason, they hired him. They hired Cindy. Those two helped create KISSmetrics.
I invited them here as a personal favor to me. I said, “Jason, can you break down your process?” I said, “Cindy, can you please tell us the kinds of questions you ask? In fact, show us where you even find people to ask questions.” They broke down the whole process. And if you listen to their courses on MixergyPremium.com, you’re going to see the way to do it.
And if you have any doubt about the importance of it, Hiten Shah did an interview with me where he talked about his personal failure. You know, he launched a hosting company. You figure everybody that has a website needs hosting, right?
Andrew: And once you pay for a hosting company, there’s recurring revenue until forever, because it’s so hard to move your site to another company. Great logic. The company failed, and he had to stop and say, “What did I do wrong?” If you listen to that interview with Hiten, you’ll see what he did wrong, and how he understood the importance, same thing that Dwight and I have been talking about here, of talking to customers.
And then, again, you’ll go to see Jason’s course and Cindy’s course, and you’ll see the mechanics of how to ask what to ask, and how to organize it properly. It’s all available at MixergyPremium.com. I used to really, Dwight, emphasize the fact that I offer a refund if you’re not happy. And a member, I can’t remember his name, said, “What are you doing? Are there that many people who doubt that you’re going to give a refund?”
Dwight: Nice. Can I be honest with you?
Dwight: I think I owe you an apology, right? Yeah. Two years ago, when I first started watching Mixergy, right? I was broke. Like, really, really broke. And you offered a refund. [laughing] So I would pay for the course, or, you know, access to the premium account. It was 25 bucks. And I would download the interviews as much as possible. And I would ask for the 25 bucks back. Because, if I don’t have that $25 in my account, my account would get an overdraft. So yeah, dude. I’m sorry, man. [laughs] But those lessons were so valuable. You know, watching [??] Entrepreneur. I had to get access to it.
Andrew: I believe that the people in my audience are good people.
Andrew: And I believe that my mission is to help. And I believe that I want to help them, and I don’t think that they’re here to harm me. And, I think, I’m proud that you learned, and I’m proud that you got as much as you could from it.
Dwight: I paid you back that $25.
Andrew: You paid me back the $25?
Dwight: We signed up plenty of times.
Andrew: Oh, you re-signed up. Right, right. You know what, the only issue we had with that was people used to sign up to monthly and then cancel, and sign up to monthly and cancel. And it was killing the Amazon bill, because I would have to keep going in, and basically they were downloading everything, even stuff they didn’t need.
So we changed it. Annual now allows you to download, monthly does not allow you to download. Andrew still loves all his customers and all of his fans, and all the people who are learning, regardless. Anyone who wants to be a part of it, go to MixergyPremium.com. I stand by my word for refunds, and you also should know that no one even doubts it. I’m going to stop actually emphasizing the refunds.
Dwight: It’s gold, man. It’s gold.
Andrew: Right? Well, I used to say, “I’m not running away with your money. If you’re not happy with it, I’ll give you your money back because all the people I interview wouldn’t let me get. . .” And this guy, of course, who, he woke me up, and said, “What are you talking about? Who’s even worrying about this? Why are you suddenly distracting from the pitch which is real entrepreneurs, real business people, teaching what they really do.” Whoo. Pre-selling. Pre-selling is something we talk a lot about on Mixergy.
Andrew: And Dwight, I can’t keep acting like it’s an easy thing to do. You’re basically calling and selling, which is tough. Right?
Andrew: And selling something you have and believe in is tough. Selling something you don’t have yet and aren’t even sure what looks like is tougher.
Dwight: I didn’t have a choice. I was on the couch, right? I did not have a choice. I had to get back home. I had to get back to New York somehow. And also I’m happy that we did it this way that we didn’t put time into developing something that the market wouldn’t have wanted. Pre-selling something that you don’t have, though risky, you have to be careful about doing it.
We make sure that we offer the money back guarantee. We honored anybody that wanted their money in the beginning. We still do now for whatever reason people aren’t happy. But it kept motivating us and showing us, okay, we need to dedicate our time to this. You asked me that earlier, when did I know that this was going to win? Well we kept getting the pre-orders when kept getting people to pay for it. It gave us time to work on it and say, Okay, we need to put all our energy into this.
Andrew: What’s the most aggressive way that you got backers on the mailing list? Put a pin in it. Come back. I never want my guest to hurt themselves with answers that they gave. I don’t think what you’re about to say is going to hurt you. But one of my problems with the 10K series is you don’t want to talk about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. You want to come back a few years later, a few months later and say, “This is what worked.”
Dwight: One thing I can say that’s been working recently and I know we talked about this off camera. But word of mouth really from our current backers, the backers that are–
Andrew: I never believed word of mouth.
Dwight: No. But listen to this though. The backers that are in our community, they have been spreading the words because it’s just an awesome community of our backers, man.
Andrew: Maybe but it’s never significant. I don’t believe it unless there’s some built in process within the product that gets you to do it. Like Skype, there’s built in virility in there because I have to tell you, Dwight, will you install it? I’ve actually installed Skype on people’s computers so I can talk to them, right? But when it comes to something great, yeah, I might tell you to go sign up to a newsletter but I have no incentive to push you to do it.
Dwight: I’ll put a pin in it.
Andrew: Okay. We’ll come back. What about this Starbucks giveaway $25 card? What did you do there?
Dwight: Yes. So that’s part of the community. We’re very giving. I wish we could’ve talked about that a little bit more. But once you sign up and you’re part of our community, we give a lot. We do weekly giveaways. That Starbucks gift card, we do it once a week or once every other week where we just throw $100 on a Starbucks gift card and while our backers says, Hey if you’re passing by a Starbucks, get a free cup of coffee on us. We got that from Shopify actually. Shopify had did that last year or the year before, they just put it out on Twitter, and I thought it was so cool. I used it, I said, Hey, this is nice, right?
Andrew: What is it? You just put out on Twitter, here’s my Starbucks card, use it if you want it.
Dwight: Yeah, just scan it at Starbucks. Yeah.
Andrew: Oh, what a great idea.
Dwight: It was just nice, right? It made me smile. And that’s why I say our backers really do word of mouth. They talk about the stuff that goes on in our community. We do a lot of giveaways, we make people happy.
Andrew: Interesting. Here’s something that I want to make sure to talk about and I haven’t been sure where to bring it up, I think now is a good point. You’re happy with Mixergy, you love it so much that you want to download it as much as you could except for one issue. And I want you to talk about it again openly – African American guest. That’s what you told Jeremy that we don’t have enough of them.
Dwight: It’s funny and it’s a reflection of society. I don’t know if guys– or if you’ve seen Tanning of America, this new documentary that just came out a couple of weeks. That’s something that me and my peers we talk about — the lack of our black entrepreneurs, the lack of other minority entrepreneurs. We just in San Francisco for lunch and I don’t know if you know this great event, love the event but I was probably one of a handful of African Americans in there, right?
But you go outside and you look at the community right across the street and any other intercity it happens, but the disparity, the disconnect between capital and then you just have these broken down communities around. So this is something that I want to participate in. And this is why it’s so important for me to succeed, right? So that we could just prove to other people that there’s another way out. Technology is open source. It’s an open field out here, right?
Andrew: I agree with you. I want Mixergy to be as representative as possible. I just don’t know how to do it. It’s just not black entrepreneurs that I’d like on here and I’m saying black entrepreneurs because I don’t even think it should be limited to Americans. I’d like it to be international. It’s not just men but also women. I don’t know how to do it.
I used to put out a call– I remember once putting out a call for women entrepreneurs specifically and one of the entrepreneurs who I interviewed said, “I don’t want you to identify me as a woman entrepreneur in this interview. Don’t make it part of the series because I want to be known as an entrepreneur, not as a woman entrepreneur. So I’m not sure how to find a woman entrepreneur. I’m not sure how to find it. I’m not sure how —
Dwight: I love that she said that. That’s noble, but at the same time she should embrace that, right? There are other little girls that will probably be looking up to her and saying, “Hey, I want to become an entrepreneur. I see another female doing it, right? I see somebody that looks like me. I see somebody I can relate to that is doing it.” You know not every entrepreneur is a white male. Not every tech entrepreneur is a white male, you know. We are out here. I —
Andrew: Who did you admire growing up as an entrepreneur?
Dwight: Who did I admire growing up as an entrepreneur? It’s funny, but a lot of rappers, Jay-Z, Puffy, Rick Ross, because hip-hop is so entrepreneurial within the lyrics that are recited. So, entrepreneur genre if you really listen to it.
Andrew: But it’s not enough.
Dwight: It’s not, you know—
Andrew: It’s not because, it’s very hyped up. It’s very dramatic. It’s not the reality of business.
Dwight: It’s not, but—
Andrew: But, for that sense it’s good because it does hype it up.
Dwight: There are other entrepreneurs coming across Mixergy. That is probably one thing I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Dude, I reached out to probably so many of your interviewees. You know, I can name a list of established relationships.
Andrew: How did that work out when you emailed them or talked to them?
Dwight: Great, “Hey, I just saw your interview on Mixergy. Loved it. Do you have five minutes? Can we talk?” I’m about to meet one of them again on Monday. I have been in touch with one of them for years.
Andrew: Which one?
Dwight: Jay Shapiro. He has been awesome.
Andrew: He is the one who told me to interview you.
Dwight: Yeah, you know–
Andrew: And I told him I’m sorry it’s not — Actually we took it back to the team and decided it wasn’t going to work, and so I told him no, and I told you no. Then, you saw me at the conference. You assumed [??]. I was a little dizzy from being on stage and I said, “Yes. Of course. It will be good to have you on” Or something like that. Then I said, “Why isn’t he on”, and Ann Marie worked with you and we got you on within days. Talk about the hustler attitude. It wasn’t rude. It wasn’t a lie. I don’t even know if it came from you, but it just kind of happened. It was a nice process.
Dwight: I spent the year with [SP] Melvin, [??]. In touch with him. He ended up becoming a great find. A lot of the interviews that you interview, I reach out to so that I can continue to learn and get better.
Andrew: I’m glad you do that. I always say that this isn’t a passive show. Frankly there are so many better passive shows than this. There are shows where the host actually looks good. Look at this, this beard and this hair. I refuse to go and get a haircut more than I am right now. I have too many things to do.
I looked at myself the other day on camera. I look disheveled. I want you guys to know in the audience, I know I look disheveled like this. I look like a homeless man who came out in his pajamas to come on camera. I don’t frickin’ care. I am here for one thing only, the content. I will not sweat my hair. I will not sweat the way I look on camera. I will sweat the interview, the research, the notes, the process for one reason only, because this isn’t a passive show for you in the audience to watch and sit back and go, “This is so much fun”. No.
This is a show that is designed to get you to go and do what Dwight did which is use it to build a company, to do something significant, and yes I do believe you need to do something significant with your life. I do not believe that we are meant, not we as the Mixergy community, we as the people who have listened this far into the interview, are meant to just be another set of legs on the planet. To just say I want to live a comfortable life. That is fine for most people, but we are not meant for that, you know?
Andrew: Some people are meant for something else. Some people have a drive to do something else. For them, I will not give you good hair, but I will give you good interviews. What were you going to say Dwight?
Dwight: I think that’s great. I hope that I can be back in a little bit, a few years probably, and just show that I am a student of Mixergy. This has been awesome. This is a dream come true.
Andrew: I’m glad to have had you on here. I know that the revenue continues to grow, but I will not push you to give more revenue, more revenue numbers. What do you feel comfortable saying?
Andrew: I’m not pushing you beyond your comfort zone. I want you to be comfortable. I will say this, actually here let me put it on Skype chat to make sure that this is right. Are you doing more than this [typing sounds] per month?
Dwight: About that.
Andrew: About that? All right. That’s very respectable, very strong. Your expenses? You kept saying we. Are there other people in the company? Co- founders?
Dwight: Yes, yes. I totally forgot. Well, I didn’t forget, I was waiting for the right moment. My cousin, Colin [SP]. He works with me. He is in Jamaica. It has been a real great run so far working with him—
Andrew: You told us that was one of the proudest things about running this business, but is he a co-founder?
Dwight: He pretty much is. At the beginning it was the both of us. So yeah, he is a co-founder. I started this from nothing. Allowing him or giving him opportunities to work on something that’s bigger than us. You know, he’s in Jamaica where there are not too many opportunities. It’s a great feeling, man. It’s awesome.
Andrew: And the expenses are low. LaunchRock, it’s free or costs very little. You’re using the free version?
Andrew: The website, I can see the one that you showed me for sales, you are using a template? You didn’t hire a developer?
Dwight: It’s HTML.
Andrew: Standard HTML template.
Dwight: We built it real lean.
Andrew: Really lean, the website domain cost’s you 11 bucks. Email through Mail Chimp. Are you on their free plan for 1000 people? No, you’ve blown through that.
Dwight: Yeah, so we passed that. That’s the main expense.
Andrew: How much is the main expense?
Dwight: I can’t remember.
Andrew: Under a hundred bucks?
Dwight: Yeah. Under a hundred bucks. We also use this thing called Tout App. I recommend that to anybody. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Tout App.
Dwight: You send out emails and you get to see if somebody clicked it. We use that for our sales emails just to do follow ups and make sure people open up the email. We probably spend 30 bucks on that a month as well.
Andrew: So we’re talking about the whole business being run with the revenue that I just sent you which is [??], for under five hundred bucks a month?
Andrew: Except for whatever you guys take out of it. Congratulations on the success! Alright, as always guys, thank you for being a part of this. If you’ve got anything of value, Dwight reached out to other people. What a great opportunity for you to reach out to Dwight and say, “Hey, I agree with you that Andrew needs to have more black entrepreneurs.”
Boom, you’ve got an opening. “Dwight, congratulations on being on Mixergy.” Boom, you’ve got an opening. “Dwight, whatever, thank you for being on Mixergy.” Boom, you’ve got an opening. Find a way to connect with him. So many other people have including Jay Shapiro. I’m glad that you and I have gotten to know each other. Thank you, Dwight.
Dwight: Thank you, Andrew. This was an honor.
Andrew: Thank you. And thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone.
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