How does a new mother build a successful online business from home?
In 1991, Kim Garst built a company that did everything from web design, to dial up service to advertising. In 2007 she sold it.
I invited her to talk about how she did it, and about her current company, Boom! Social, a social media and corporate branding company. It provides services and helps people learn how to do it themselves.
Kim Garst, Boom! Social
Kim Garst is the CEO of Boom! Social, a social media and corporate branding company.
Andrew: Coming up, babies and their impact on business. You’ll see what I’m talking about very quickly in this interview. Also delegation. Apparently I gave the best answer on delegation. I jumped in, I talked about how we do it, and if you’re struggling with your work and you need to pass on some of it to other people listen to that section before you start passing it on so you don’t make the mistake that I used to make. And finally numbers that Nathan Latka didn’t think I was supposed to reveal. Well, we reveal them, that and so much more coming up.
A few messages before we get started. If you’re a tech entrepreneur don’t you have unique legal needs that the average lawyer can’t help you with? That’s why you need Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. If you read his articles on VentureBeat you know that he can help you with issues like raising money or issuing stock options or even deciding whether to form a corporation. Scott Edward Walker is the entrepreneur’s lawyer. See him at WalkerCorporateLaw.com.
And do you remember when I interviewed Sarah Sutton Fell about how thousands of people pay for her job site? Look at the biggest point that she made. She said that she has her phone number on every page of her site because, and here’s a stat, 95% of the people who call end up buying. Most people though don’t call her. But seeing a real number increases their confidence in her and they buy. So try this. Go to Grasshopper.com and get a phone number that will make your company sound professional. Add it to your site and see what happens. Grasshopper.com.
And remember Patrick Buckley who I interviewed? He came up with an idea for an iPad case. He built the store to sell it and within a few months he generated about a million dollars in sales. Well the platform he used is Shopify. If you have an idea to sell anything, set up your store on Shopify.com because Shopify stores are designed to increase sales. Plus Shopify makes it easy to set up a beautiful store and manage it. Shopify.com. Here’s the program.
Andrew Warner: Hey there Freedom Fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and the place where over 800 proven entrepreneurs have come to tell you their stories. In this interview I want to find out how a new mother built a successful online business from home. In 1991 Kim Garst built a company that did everything from web design to dial up internet service to advertising and so many other things that I haven’t even been able to include in that sentence. In 2007 she sold the company. I invited her here to talk about how she did it and to talk about her current company, Boom Social, a social media and corporate branding business. It provides services and helps people learn how to do it for themselves, it provides services that does it for their clients and Boom Social also helps people with social media and corporate branding who want to do it themselves. Kim, I kind of goofed upon that intro but I’m glad that you’re here and we have plenty of time to explain Boom Social. Thank you for doing this interview.
Kim: Oh thank you for having me, I’m so excited.
Andrew: Thanks. And we’ll talk in a moment about why I had such a challenge with that intro. But it all started for you when your doctor handed you your baby and at that point you made an important work decision which was?
Kim: I was on a very different path at the time. Actually I’d planned to go to law school and had already been accepted to law school. But the moment they laid him in my arms, and all the mothers out there you’ll probably get this, your world does shift. You think that, I don’t know, those of you who are Mom’s know this, but basically I stopped pursuing the path I was on, went down a whole different avenue. I became a stay at home Mom and we as a young couple thought nothing of it. We went from two incomes to one and thereon became a huge problem. We realized that oh my goodness we were living on one income and it was a struggle, so that spawned my efforts to find something to do from home and I turned to the internet at the time.
Andrew: I asked you before the interview started how long it took you to earn your first dollar. And you said.
Kim: And I said it took me five years to earn my first dollar. You know back in 1991 literally the internet was, I call it the Wild West in comparison to what it is today. There were no resources, I spent hours on B to B boards, AOL chatrooms that were business related trying to connect to my Ideal Client, didn’t even know that’s what it was called at the time. So many things, I couldn’t even cut and paste when I started. To say it was a struggle, the learning curve was very steep for me. I’m totally self-taught. Everything I know I basically learned on my own. There are so many more resources now to tap into than there were then. The learning curve if you want to learn something new today is much shorter than it was at the time.
Andrew: What do you do in those five years when you’re not bringing in your first dollar?
Kim: I look back on it and I’m just thankful my husband didn’t give up on me because I know he had to have thought, “Honey come on it’s been five years,” but I would literally spend hours with postcards and writing down e-mail addresses. At the time if you got an e-mail from AOL that said, “You’ve got mail,” it was a big deal. It didn’t matter what it was. Today it would be spam. Then it was I was just trying to connect with people that would be interested in my services.
Andrew: Why would you write email addresses on a postcard?
Kim: Because I couldn’t cut and paste.
Andrew: Oh just to save it.
Andrew: I see so it’s not because you were going to mail out the postcard. You just needed to write it down on something like an index card.
Kim: Correct hours in back-to-back boards writing people’s e-mail addresses down and then I would go to AOL or I had a couple of e-mail accounts prior to that and then I would e-mail people individually.
Andrew: What were you trying to sell that didn’t work out? You must have been trying to make money somehow.
Kim: Yes I found that I was spending a lot of time on the phone with people. They’d connect with me online, they’d ask me questions and lo and behold I actually knew more than some. Anybody that knew anything about business and marketing online at the time was in high demand but I was giving away my limited knowledge at the time. When I was e-mailing people early on my intent was to try to see if I could do a web design for them and that was ultimately my goal. I was trying to market a service that I wasn’t even very good at at the time honestly. Andrew: How’d you get your first customer?
Kim: I got my first customer, that was my first $60 that’s what I charged and I thought the person would never…You know how it is you’re like, “Oh they’ll never pay that,” and it was based off of an e-mail conversation I’d had a year-and-a-half before that. That’s how old it was I guess for some reason they kept it and when they were ready to do their website they contacted me. That was my first job $60.
Andrew: You were building a website for them?
Kim: I built a website for them yes.
Andrew: What kind of website?
Kim: They had a brick and mortar business and they just wanted a placeholder essentially for their business. So I didn’t charge them much and they were pleased. I don’t even know if they’re still in business but yeah that’s where it started.
Andrew: I have actual color copies of some of the biggest checks in my career, including the first one that I thought was so much money from Sony $7500 the first big one. I have a color copy of it and I’m so proud of it. Do you have a copy of that original check?
Kim: I don’t have a copy of the original check. I do have a dollar framed. I framed the dollar from that.
Andrew: I heard you had something like this. Where’s this dollar from?
Kim: It’s from the first 60 dollar check and I keep it to this day.
Andrew: I think that caused your Skype video to do something funny. Try putting your hand in front of the camera and out sometimes that fixes it.
Kim: I see what you’re saying. Okay hang on let’s see.
Andrew: Let’s try something darker. It sometimes overcompensates for light.
Kim: For the movement?
Andrew: Yeah weird.
Kim: How’s that any better?
Andrew: Oh there we go all right that fixed it.
Kim: Perfect I do have copies of checks that you were mentioning. The first time I got a 30,000 dollar check it seemed so surreal and even looking back at it now I’m like wow. You know but I do have copies of several 30,000 dollar checks that I got.
Andrew: So where’d you get that first dollar?
Kim: The first dollar I cashed the $60 check.
Andrew: Oh I see. You cashed it and then you took the first dollar out of it and you framed it and you said if I can’t frame the copy of the check I’m going to frame the dollar that was in that check.
Andrew: Wow, I see.
Kim: At that first, actually that first check was I think a validation for me and my husband that, wow, maybe this really will work. I mean it was only $60 but yeah I think it was. He’s like, well, maybe she’s not wasted five years of her life.
Andrew: All right. So now it’s time to get more customers. How do you get the next customers?
Kim: Well it continued along some of the same, because again I was so inexperienced but I had a connection that I’d formed in a B to B board and I was given a lot of free information like I said over the phone. People were calling me and this particular connection was a business owner that was in partnership with two other gentlemen. And they requested to come spend the day with me basically just to get some more information. They did so and at the end of the day, I mean we spent all day, they picked my brain and at the end of the day they asked me, what do we owe you? And I threw out something that I thought was outlandish. I said, how about $100 an hour? And done, they wrote me a check and I thought both my husband and I were going to fall on the floor. That’s really when the light bulb went off that my knowledge base was worth more then the services that I could offer. So it just continued to kind of build out around that. I started, instead of giving away my knowledge, I started charging for it. I charged a consulting fee or I charged a per hour type of thing. None of my business, all of my business came to me word of mouth. I still have that huge customer care mentality.
Andrew: How do they come word of mouth? Jeremy who pre-interviewed you said that at the time that you built that first website, the one that you showed us, the dollar that you earned from, you didn’t even have your own website even.
Kim: I didn’t have my own website.
Andrew: So how were people finding you then?
Kim: Well, for example, the three gentlemen that I mentioned they owned a business in North Dakota. They referred like five clients to me. So and then it spawned, same thing, they would refer people to me. And you know you can only take on so many clients anyway. That was one of my biggest struggles was time constraints. I just didn’t have enough time to handle all of the work that I was getting. So it just, I hate to say it just morphed but it did. I didn’t really have a structured plan. It just kept, and the lessons I’ve learned I have of course incorporated into the business I own today.
Andrew: Okay, so you’re getting these clients. Actually I understand that, well you said you couldn’t copy paste but you needed to do some web design. I heard that you had to make a tough decision to raise money so to speak to be able to afford the software to build it. Can you tell us about that?
Kim: I sure can. And it’s interesting that I, until probably six months or so ago my husband didn’t even know this story. But my husband is retired military. At the time that all of this was happening he was obviously still in the military. He had a travel card that’s issued to him through the military. But by this time we had borrowed from Peter to pay Paul so many times that all of our credit cards were totally maxed out. The only credit card that we had access to was his travel business card that was of course his military travel card. And I had promised that I would never use it for anything because it was tied to his work, his security clearance, it was a big thing. I had promised, we literally didn’t have even $20 on a credit card at the time and we were just totally maxed out. I knew I needed a piece of software to really do quality work for my clients and it was $299 and I knew that I had basically 30 days to pay that off so that he wouldn’t find out. And sometimes desperation breeds interesting things in people, but I was at the desperation stand, I was desperate. I knew I didn’t have any options. I had to make it work or I was going to have to leave my child and go back to work, that was really where we were. It wasn’t that we weren’t without food or anything else but we were in dire financial straits at that time. And so I made the decision I basically violated a promise, I spent the $299 and I busted my tush to make it back in 30 days. And I did and he never found out about it until just recently.
Andrew: Oh wow. So I said at the top of the interview that you did web design, dial up service, advertising, banner ads on Yahoo. Maybe we could take it one step at a time. After web design and then some consulting where you taught people about the internet and they paid you, what was the next thing that you did?
Kim: Well one of the things I noticed is that one people obviously if they needed web design they needed hosting. So I was at the time I was using other people’s services, hosting, basically I had a reseller account with a hosting service. And I thought, well, hey there’s an opportunity right? So I started my own hosting company and then all my client’s of course we were just using my account, I would charge them monthly and then they would have….
Andrew: So you had a hosting account that allowed you to run multiple websites and you sold people hosting services that was basically run off of your hosting account, the one that you were paying for?
Kim: Well actually I started with a re-seller account on somebody’s else’s hosting. And then when I noticed I was like, well why should I do that? I’m paying them and basically there’s no profit margin there. So I started my own hosting company and then I would be, I was the, there was no middleman anywhere.
Andrew: You mean you got the server and everything. Put a server in a cold room and you were up and running.
Kim: Correct, correct.
Kim: And then that went very well. Not only did I have my own clients on it but then I would, I did basically what the hosting company that I had used prior to that. We had reseller accounts and things of that nature. So I basically pulled in that piece of it. The dial up, of course there were no dial up, you had AOL.
Andrew: So a little bit of dial up. So hosting, how does someone who couldn’t copy paste properly, who had to write down on paper people’s e-mail addresses, how do you figure out how to host a website?
Kim: Well when I first started, you know it took me forever to go from the process of learning how to do all of this stuff. And then I went, I started, I’m a fanatic about learning things. So if I want to know something I just dig in and I do that even today. I just dig in and I’ll research and research until I figure it out. Or at the time there wasn’t a lot of research out there or resources for you to pull and tap into. So what I did then was if I wanted to have a knowledge, and I learned this the hard way, I was like, okay, who out there is doing this and how can I get them to tell me how they’re doing it. So with the website the hosting account that’s basically what I did. I got somebody to teach me the system. You know, what I needed.
Andrew: Teach you how to host a website.
Kim: Correct. I basically found somebody, at the time I don’t even remember who it was, I found somebody that had the knowledge that I needed and they were free, I mean I didn’t even end up paying for it. It was freely given to me, the info. And then I turned that info into a monetization plan.
Andrew: What kind of software would you need to even host the website back then?
Kim: Well most websites back then were, I mean you know going back to.
Andrew: front page?
Kim: Yeah, they were front page or oh there was another one, cold fusion I believe. Yes. So you know basically once you identified that that’s what you were going to do you could hire somebody to set it up and that’s exactly what I did. I hired somebody to set it up and I even had as we built out and we had more clients on I had somebody that actually managed it all and made sure that there was tech support and all of that. So I ultimately didn’t end up doing that piece of it. I just set it up and owned it and knew enough about it to talk about it intelligently.
Andrew: And if there was a problem, if the site went down, if someone was using too many resources, who would handle that in the beginning before hired someone?
Kim: We had a tech guy almost, well we did right from the very beginning I had a tech guy that was part time out the gate. And then ultimately he came onboard full time. But yeah we had a tech person that handled that. We didn’t really have any problems on the, I’d say for the first six to eight months because we just had our own clients on there. As we started to get more and more people on the server, I think we ended up when we sold it we had 5 servers total. So you know it just continued to build. It’s so hard to go back and say, “Wow how’d you do that?” When I didn’t really know what I was doing I just did it. I know it sounds ridiculous but literally that’s the way it went.
Andrew: All right and then you said dialup. This is pre-broadband internet, you need…
Kim: Yes this was when you still heard the little noise. It was a very small dialup too we ended up with almost no clients by the time we ended up selling it. It really wasn’t even a factor in the overall picture. You’re talking AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy era. Being competitive with the big boys was very tough in that marketplace.
Kim: So it was never a huge profit center for us even out the gate but it was something we offered and we did sell some dialups.
Kim: Hard to believe. It seems so foreign looking back. Oh my goodness.
Andrew: I’ve got AOL’s page on Wikipedia. I didn’t realize that it started in 1983 but of course it evolved a lot since that launch.
Kim: I actually still have my AOL account.
Andrew: You do? You’ve been paying 20 bucks a month?
Kim: Actually it’s free now. It’s been free for years.
Andrew: I guess there are still people who pay AOL for dialup service and AOL’s making hundreds of millions of dollars off of dialup to this day. I don’t understand why.
Kim: Can you believe that? The only thing that makes sense to me is these people are in rural areas and they don’t have access to…I don’t know.
Andrew: Let me see I’m starting to look to see what it is but that’s research for another time. So now you’re doing consulting services, you’re hosting people’s sites, doing a little bit of dialup service. What’s the next step?
Kim: The next step really was ultimately I continued to sell and consult with clients but the big money that ultimately launched me came off the back of Banner Advertising with Yahoo. I would do similar things as what I’m doing now except the medians are different basic structure from a standpoint of setting up the webpage, getting them going, okay now you’re out there. How are you going to market yourself? that led to at the time literally that was it.
Kim: Yahoo was pretty much the only marketplace for businesses at the time. Banner Advertising was huge and I leveraged that and sold a lot. I made connections at Yahoo. We had lots of stuff…
Andrew: You’re saying that you would buy Banner Ads on Yahoo for your clients and send traffic to their sites?
Kim: Yes, that’s exactly what we did.
Andrew: How do you get your customers at that point?
Kim: At my height I probably had a total of maybe 18 clients at one time. Pretty much every client that I had was a high-dollar client. I really got to the point where I wasn’t dealing with the 60 dollar thing anymore. I was getting the 30,000 dollar checks in the mail and at the time that was the way people paid you. There wasn’t PayPal or some of the other options today.
Andrew: 30,000 dollars for what? What was someone paying you 30 for?
Kim: For 30 it would depend on the level of traffic they wanted. It depended if they were getting the results like a Mortgage Company we’d get a lot of lead generation for Mortgage Companies and as long as they were getting the leads they were paying and had no problems paying because they were converting them.
Andrew: They would pay CPM cost per impression. Then, sorry they would back it out in a cost per lead?
Kim: With them we had a deal that was a cost per lead and it depended on the client and the number of leads and all of that type of thing. Some clients were just a flat fee. This is the service we offer and this is the traffic we could drive and that kind of thing so it depended. Any client that was getting results and being able to convert and knew that they were making a profit off of it, they just continued to pay me, no problems whatsoever.
Andrew: So we’re talking dozens of customers. How much revenue were you generating at your height annual revenue.
Kim: At my height I was at about 1.5, was my high.
Andrew: 1.5 total, for multiple years or for one year?
Kim: One year.
Andrew: One year 1.5 million sales. Doing?
Kim: Yes, from services.
Andrew: How much of that was from banner ads?
Kim: Almost all of it. I would say, because I’d gotten to the point where the services piece of it just wasn’t making the money. And in all honesty I wasn’t doing that work any longer. I was farming that piece out, you know, outsourcing that part. And that was one of my biggest struggles because I’m a perfectionist. And if work came back in that wasn’t up to my standards you know I’m like, okay now I’ve got to do this. And I did that frequently and ultimately I was like, okay this is driving me insane, which led to literally I was working 18 hour days and killing myself. So but if you’re going to hire and outsource work it has to be to the quality that you would want to pass off to your client as your own. And that’s a struggle sometimes to find the people, good people to do exactly what you would want for somebody’s business. I’m always been like, if somebody hires me to do something I want to do it to the level that I would do for my business. I treat them like their business is my business in other words.
Andrew: I want to ask you about that in delegation in a moment but first I’ve got to ask you about. You just said 1.5 million. Have you ever revealed this before?
Kim: No, nobody’s ever asked me.
Andrew: Oh really, you’ve never said how much, okay?
Kim: Well I told people that I went on to build out a seven figure business from my dining room table, total truth.
Andrew: But the actual number you haven’t revealed.
Kim: Yes, I never had said, nobody has ever asked me that. In fact this is another true story. I didn’t even know, my husband has always monitored the money. When he comes into my office one day and says, honey, do you know what your total for this year was? And I’m like, no, what was it? When he told me it was over a million dollars I was like, ahhh no, you’ve got to be kidding me. Because that just seems, again, it goes back to that feeling of surrealness of, really I did that? It’s almost, I don’t know it’s this bizarre thing.
Andrew: You know with my first business I knew every minute, but at Mixergy I don’t know. I have to go back in now and file my taxes and make sure that I see what it is. I guess I get it, if not for Mixergy I wouldn’t ever believe that every entrepreneur wouldn’t know exactly how much revenue they’re making day to day.
Kim: I know, right?
Andrew: My brother had this counter up on our internal site that told us per minute how much money we were making. It was fantastic. But the reason I ask is because we were introduced to you from Nathan Latka, the found of Heyo, and he told us confidentially she earned over 1 million dollars. But he goes it’s confidential keep it private, very few people know how successful she’s been. But then you just say it, I wanted to see what was going on. Now I understand that you’ve revealed that it’s over a million in the past, that’s how he knew it. He wanted to keep things private and he asked me not to say anything.
Andrew: This happens to us a lot where founders introduce us to other founders and they say, look I know that you want to make sure that their story is big enough to be on Mixergy so I’ll tell you, but you also need to know that they’re not talking, so.
Kim: Right, well there’s a lot of silent success stories out there where people just don’t tell their successes. In my case I mean literally I didn’t even have a webpage. So, I mean we had a webpage for the (?) and yeah things like that, but not a come by for me website. Almost every, well every one of my clients came to me, after that first initial burst into the business world, has come to me literally word of mouth.
Andrew: All word of mouth. Alright that’s frustrating for me as an interviewer to hear word of mouth because what do I do with that? Unless there’s a specific word of mouth process how do I, how do I…
Kim: Now at the time, now today is a different thing. I do a lot of things now to market. But at the time I didn’t have that marketing knowledge and I was, in all honesty, afraid to market because I had more work than I could handle anyway.
Andrew: How much of the 1.5 would you have kept considering that this was buying ads on, it was an arbitraged play basically.
Kim: Yes and most of the, most all of it, was pretty much. I can’t say it’s all profit but there was a wide margin of profit because really the banner advertising piece of it was just a, you set it up, you tell them what you want They did the work part of it by sending and directing the traffic. That piece of it wasn’t that labor intensive so there was a pretty good profit margin on the banner advertising. The phone time, I did spend a lot of time on the phone with clients. That was probably my most time spent was actually communicating.
Andrew: What kind of profits are we talking about? Is it over a million that year?
Andrew: Over a million in profits?
Kim: Well I would say in that year no. I would doubt that it was over a million in profits that year. I would say we’re probably looking at a 40-50% split.
Andrew: Okay so we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars for a woman who had to go to her husband’s travel credit card and pay for three hundred dollar software, 299 excuse me. How does your life change when this money comes in?
Kim: Well we bought a new home and I think actually we bought my husband a truck. We owned our dream home in Tennessee at the time. We weren’t extravagant. We didn’t go out and you know buy a bunch of stuff but we did buy a new home. We did have a couple of nice vehicles and that kind of thing. When I say nice vehicles my husband had the truck, I got the van you know, nothing over-the-top.
Kim: The neat part I think about and the biggest advantage to having disposable income is what you can do for others with it. We did a lot of things for our families and if we wanted to go somewhere we could do it. It wasn’t the challenge that we’d always had before. Our boys have played hockey since they were five. You know how expensive that sport is. That was always a drain on us financially.
Andrew: Did I hear you also played hockey by the way?
Andrew: Do you also play hockey?
Kim: Somebody told you that right?
Andrew: He knows all.
Kim: I do love to play, I’m not a powerhouse player but I do love to play. Love the game, yeah.
Andrew: So I was mentioning earlier about delegation it has been a challenge for you. Have you gotten over it yet?
Kim: Yes and no. It’s still a struggle for me to let go of the mindset that good enough is sometimes good enough you know?
Andrew: Excuse me I’m going to fix the light here. It will take me a second.
Kim: Okay. Oh that made a difference. I can’t hear you. Oh there you go. Okay.
Andrew: Sorry, anyway I’ve got three lights that are all running right now and it’s still a new setup but it looks like it’s working now. So you were saying you had trouble delegating. Give me an example of where you would struggle.
Kim: For example in my first business in particular I outsourced a lot of the web-design and if it came back and it was not to my standard I would spend the time to redo it. Or it got to the point where I wouldn’t even send it out simply because I knew that I didn’t have the resources to do the quality of work I knew I wanted to pass off.
Kim: That piece of it I was spending the time to do as well. While it wasn’t a ton of work it still took time from other things that I was doing. So that piece of it was difficult and I always thought, “Well I could do it better than so and so.” Letting go of that and knowing that there are other people out there who can do quality work and it doesn’t have to be me doing it has been a process for me.
Kim: If I didn’t let go of that though I would have never been able to do what I’ve done in Boom Social. Simply because there’s just not enough time in the day and it’s even more time restrictive in today’s marketplace than it was then.
Andrew: I learned how to give people better instructions and then I can get better results and delegate it. First what I would do is if I had to get someone to edit this video. I’d go “Editing video is so easy even I a guy who doesn’t know how to edit video could do it.” I’d pass it on to someone else say “Just edit this down,” and they wouldn’t get it right, they wouldn’t know what to do, it would take them forever so they’d charge me more money. The results would be not what I was looking for and it’d be a painful experience so I’d take that work back. Then through a series of interviews here on systemizing I learned how to illustrate my process step by step, take screen shots, give clear instructions and then pass that to someone else, they can do it within minutes and then after they understand my first process and we’ve got a good working relationship they can start adding things to it like maybe a better intro, maybe adjusting the audio and so on. What about you? What did you learn about how to delegate properly considering that you had all this challenge.
Kim: Well, that’s actually the best tip. I mean I agree with that 100%. I think that’s the best, for me too personally, was literally passing on my expectations out the gate so that they knew what I expected and not only the expectation piece of it but the process of how they did it. Because so many people don’t know how you would do something.
Andrew: You’re saying tell them what you expect as an end result and tell them the process that they should take to get there?
Andrew: Just to get them started.
Kim: Just to get them started. And once you show somebody your process then they can do it so much easier the next time around. So I think that one, giving them the steps to do the work and then stepping back from that and just slightly and saying, you know this is what I expect as an end result too. So they know what the expectation is. It’s very hard to deliver something that you don’t know what somebody’s looking for. I think that is a . . . I mean I’ve even done that where I’m not quite sure what the person’s looking for. From a web design perspective that’s always a bear because sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking for and if you don’t deliver and don’t know, if you don’t ask the right questions then you’re not going to be able to deliver what they’re actually looking for. So reverse it a little bit.
Andrew: Why did you sell the business? What happened?
Kim: I was working crazy ridiculous hours. My youngest son I barely remember him being little. I mean I was home, he had a boo-boo, if he needed me to sit on the floor with him and play blocks, whatever, I was physically there. But I was always on the phone. It got to where they would say, the phone would ring and they’d say, Mommy no phone, no phone. So they knew that my attention was not on them. My husband would wake up in the middle of the night and I would be downstairs working. I mean, I’d go to bed with him, I mean I was fooling him, you go to sleep really quick and I’m going back to work. And so it was just ridiculous. I had gotten to a point where, I mean thankfully I didn’t work myself into being ill or something of that nature. But the time spent was over the top and my family was suffering because of it, and that’s ultimately why I sold it.
Andrew: How much did you get for the company?
Kim: I got, at the time I got about 1.2 for it. And that was all four companies, like I said before, the Dollop was pretty worthless, it really wasn’t even a factor. And then I went back to being a stay at home Mom.
Andrew: Wow. Do you know what? I always ask about the personal questions so I need to ask here. What happens in the relationship when the wife earns more than the husband? Especially a more traditional relationship?
Kim: Well my husband loved it. He tells this story all the time. We went to get our, what we consider our dream home in Tennessee. We went to the bank to get the financing for it and he’s a Captain in the Army at the time. So the bank manager basically dismisses him from the conversation and he just is talking to me. And he had no problems with it. He said, honey, anytime you want to make more money then me I have no problems with it. But I think for some it is a struggle to have that but for us it has never been an issue, thankfully.
Andrew: I don’t think it would be an issue for me and I can say that because Olivia’s a faster runner than me. I introduced her to marathon running and I’m, great, I can see how slow I am now, she way beats me. I’m (inaudible).
Kim: You’re okay. You’re just like, honey I’ll cheer you on from back here, right?
Andrew: Or actually she’ll cheer me on. She one time crossed the finish line, went back to our hotel because this was a destination marathon, a place away from home, got our dog from the hotel, packed our stuff, cheered me on at the finish line and then put me in the car where I was comfortable driving because I guess I didn’t beat my body up that much.
Kim: That’s an amazing story, I love it.
Andrew: So how does beyond now being able to be a stay at home Mom? How has life changed? You can buy your own house, but are there are things that happen day to day that are now different because of this in your background?
Kim: Well, you know, once you’ve been an entrepreneur . . . my Mom is, she laughs and says I’ve always been an entrepreneur. But I think once that you are, one I couldn’t land, I couldn’t settle. What was next kind of thing? So I worked on, started and finished my Masters degree, I did that online. I was home schooling my boys at the time so it was a constant, I didn’t just sit down and say, okay, it was, okay what’s next, and I filled my time pretty much to the same level that I had before except I went to bed and didn’t get up in the middle of the night. And then getting back into it, I mean I was still online, I was still active, I was still paying attention to what was going on from the marketing end of things. I still did a little bit of consulting for a couple of clients that I had. So I wasn’t totally out of the mix. But I really, really made a concentrated effort to step back for a minute just so that I could focus on my family and not be so distant, and even though I was there I wasn’t there.
Andrew: What made you decide to start the new business?
Kim: I had a friend that got involved in a network marketing company and she, it was a novel, at the time I thought it was a novel concept. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the company called Shop to Earn. Well basically it’s what everybody has in place today. They have, you know how banks have shopping reward systems? It was essentially that type of thing where you had a website, you got a website you shopped from it, you got so much cash back and that kind of thing.
Andrew: Gotcha. eBay.com works that way.
Andrew: When you go to buy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble I think, those kinds of stores, they give you a kick back of a percent or two in cash. And that’s the way this program worked
Kim: Correct. And so I thought, well that’s a brilliant concept, we all shop, right? So got involved with that company with her and immediately the same thing, my marketing brain kicked in and I’m all about how can we market this? And before I knew it I was knee deep in it again, but I made the same mistake I made the first time. I was spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone helping other people and not charging them for it. So I’m like, okay, this is ridiculous, I should have learned this lesson the first time around and ultimately I did. I started, I’m like man this social media stuff, I’m one of those people who said they’d never have a Facebook page? Yeah, or a Facebook account, because I likened it to MySpace. But yeah, look at me now.
Andrew: And now what are you doing?
Kim: Now I am basically I took the concepts. I mean I laugh and tell people I was doing social media before it was technically called social media. You know, connecting with people online that you don’t really know in person, in real life, forming relationships to ultimately generate business. I did it through B to B boards back in the day, today it’s much easier to do this, much easier, and on a much larger scale through the social media platforms.
Andrew: You’re helping companies with their social media process and you’re teaching individuals or smaller businesses how they can do it for themselves.
Andrew: and what’s an end result of either learning how to do it for myself or having you guys do it for me? What do I get, more customers, more likes, or?
Kim: Well basically social media’s just a marketing tool just like any other marketing tool. It is where people are today, but it’s also not traditional media. It’s not push marketing, you can’t do that anymore. It’s very much relationship based. And most people when they start with social media they want to see the end result immediately. They want to say, okay I’m out there I’m on social media now where’s all the people? I know they’re out here. You know everybody gets their head wrapped up in the ROI and social media when really social media is about a much bigger picture. I don’t know, you know Gary Vaynerchuk, he says that he loves social media because it sells stuff. I’ll use a gentler word then he does. But it’s true, it does sell stuff. But the reality is that most people won’t spend the time to build out the value, the real value of social media which is much bigger then. It’s trust, it’s brand awareness, it’s loyalty. You’re not looking at a one time hit in social media anymore. I mean you could have put up a website 15 years ago, sold a widget and people would find you on Google or Yahoo or wherever and they would have bought your product or your service. Today it’s not so much like that. Today people are looking for a referral. They’re looking for a word of mouth. They don’t have to know you, they just have to know that somebody said you were good or bad. Amazon has all the testimonials, essentially, of products that people buy. We don’t know those people, but we pay attention. If somebody gives a review and they say it’s a great product, we’re like, OK. Let’s buy it. It’s OK.
We’re seeing that in social media, too. I do it. If I’m getting ready to make a purchase, I’m, hey, you guys have any experience with this company or have you bought this product? We want some validation today that we’re not wasting our money.
Andrew: How do I get that? Now that I understand that I’m not going to get a quick hit and get orders right away and people are looking to get to know me or get to know what others think of me before they decide to buy from me, how do I operate? What do I do?
Kim: Well, in social media, you have to show your humanity. I so totally believe this is true. I had this conversation earlier today. So many people get stuck on the fact that they’re a business, so it’s multifaceted, I think. You definitely want to weave in a marketing message because you’re still there to sell stuff. That’s the ultimate goal.
But people aren’t interested in connecting with your product or service usually out the gate. You have to spend time to show them who you are, build relationships and connections and sometimes they’re very superficial. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re building a relationship. That’s what’s so interesting about social media. The lurkers, and that’s what I call them. People that are actually watching that are connected to you in some way are paying attention because something you’re doing or saying is resonating with them, but they’ve never interacted with you, ever. Yet, they do feel like they know you and you do have to let people get that sense of who you are as a person or the people behind the company.
If you are a big company, for example, like Twitter. If you’re on Twitter and you have a press conference on there, we’re finding that even when we manage our clients’ engagements there, the people want to know who they’re talking to. They want a name. They don’t want the name of the company, they want to know who they’re physically talking to. That’s where we are today, so you have to spend that time. I know that was a long answer for a short question, but it is a time and investment and a personal connection piece with your community. You’re building a community and you’re in it for the long haul. If you can create a client that comes back to you time after time, it’s invaluable. Huge.
Andrew: All right.
Kim: Can you tell I’m a little passionate about that?
Andrew: It’s OK if somebody walks in in the background.
Kim: Go away!
Andrew: Let me do a quick plug for Mixergy Premium and then I want to ask you about what Jeremy asked you: what’s the most important question that he didn’t ask you in preparation for this interview? I want to talk about your answer to that.
But first I’ll say that if you guys like what we’re talking about here, you like this kind of interview where you hear an entrepreneur break down how they built their business and understand some things that maybe they’ve never revealed before like we’ve heard here in this interview, you should know that we have over 800 interviews with proven entrepreneurs at Mixergy Premium. In addition to it, I’ve got about, at this point, 80 courses taught by proven entrepreneurs also available at Mixergypremium.com.
Well, let me ask you this. You’re a Mixergy Premium member. What do you think about online education considering that you’ve figured everything out?
Kim: Well, it’s interesting you ask that question because my master’s degree is in distance education.
Andrew: [??] distance education to learn about distance education?
Kim: Exactly. I think it is invaluable because it provides a resource that I didn’t have and I would’ve died for at the time.
Andrew: But then you figured stuff out. What do you say to that entrepreneur that goes, I don’t need to learn anything. I keep listening to people who are entrepreneurs who’ve figured stuff out for themselves. I just saw this woman, Kim, on Mixergy and she didn’t even know how to copy and paste, but she just figured stuff out. You get a customer and then you figure out what to do for them. I don’t need to learn. I don’t anyone to teach me any courses or other interviews. I’m done.
Kim: I would actually say that that’s absolutely not true. If I had the resources that I have today, it wouldn’t have taken me five years to make my first $60. The resources that we have today are huge, but the problem that we face as entrepreneurs is it’s information overload today. There’s so many choices to tune into. There’s so many rabbit trails and this and that. If you can find somebody who has great value, which Mixergy does, I just want to point that out, then tune in and pay attention. Because they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to put people in front of you that have proven track records. You know, you definitely can shorten your learning curve and you should. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend on your own education and your own growth, your own self-growth it’s never a wasted moment. I totally believe that.
Andrew: Thank you. Go to MixergyPremium.com. I guarantee results. If you watch this interview, I’m trying to think of one course that I recommend as a follow up to this. You know what one that actually has made a big difference for me is one of the first ones we did. The audio wasn’t exactly right and we were still struggling with the software to try and figure out how to do all this. But it has done huge for me. It is the one with Baras Chopra on landing page optimization. If you look at the top bar of Mixergy right now, the one that we use to get new orders, that was based on what I learned from him.
If you just go to Mixergy.com from an incognito browser window on Chrome. You know basically see it as a first time visitor would see it, that page that asks for an email address which is doing roughly 20% conversion rate, which people who do interviews with me end up copying. Which I wish they wouldn’t copy so much. I don’t want to look like an imitator. I learned how to make that work through the course that Baras Chopra taught. I urge you guys to check out Mixergy Premium. But that’s a course that if you haven’t listened to, and if you can deal with a little bit of audio issues, I highly recommend it. We polished it so that it’s not as bad as it was when we were recording it live. Anyway, go to MixergyPremium.com and catch that.
All right, so the question was what did we not ask you? It was basically what you learned from the process. There were a few things that you said that you learned from the process. One of them is the, well, actually do you remember what you said to him?
Kim: No, can you refresh my, I was actually coming up with something, yeah go ahead. Refresh my memory.
Andrew: Actually, what were you going to answer?
Kim: Well, you had said what was the one question that I thought you didn’t ask. Ultimately I was thinking well what’s the one thing I would want to say to a young entrepreneur, somebody who’s just getting started. I would say if I had to just say one thing, actually two things. Invest in yourself and your education. You can’t go wrong there. And two, know the value of the possible that you have. I mean I didn’t know, I didn’t know how possible I was. I think most people don’t know that piece about themselves. I think we all have so much in us that we don’t even scratch the surface of. Believe in yourself and know that you can do it.
Don’t give up because there’s a lot of people out there who are much smarter and sharper than me. The only reason I think that I have been successful is tenacity. I won’t quit. Don’t quit. The only time you fail is if you quit. I think those are pretty much just a few things I would want to say to somebody who’s just getting started.
Andrew: That’s what you told him too. It was structured differently in his notes…
Andrew: …but that’s it. The possibilities we have are immense.
Kim: Yes. Immense.
Andrew: You’re absolutely right. Sometimes it’s painful to realize how much we’re able to do because we just think well, I can do all that why am I still stuck here? A little at a time to get there.
Kim: Yes, yes. Agreed. We have so much possible in us and literally we, I mean even now I know I can do more. Once you’ve done it you can do it again. That’s what’s so beautiful about it. Just know you can do it the first time and then just watch what happens. Andrew: There we go. If people want to follow up the best, should we send them to KimGarst.com?
Kim: That’s correct.
Andrew: I love that you got your own name as your domain name. It’s a lot of street cred here.
Andrew: KimGarst.com. If you learned anything here that you can use I always urge you to find a way to say thank you to Kim. My suggestion is that you send it to her on Twitter because if you do, I guess I’m going to save this. I was going to copy this but it’s going to look weird now if I tell them to do this and then copy it. Check out the symbol that she has after her name. I love those little personal touches. A touch of personality that you have in everything that you do. Check her out at KimGarst.com where you’ll find her Twitter name. I suggest you look at what she does right after her name. Hopefully you’ll do it quickly because she might change it soon.
Kim: Thank you.
Andrew: Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it.
Kim: Thank you. OK, thank you so much.
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