How a wedding DJ used Groupon sales to fund his startup (Before he even built the product) – with Michael Tecku

How did a musician who used to collect food stamps build a million dollar business?

Mike Tecku is a co-founder of Strike a Pose Photo Booth which makes photo booths that are easy to assemble so guests can have fun at weddings and other events. The photo booths are sold to entrepreneurs who make money by renting them out.

Here’s the story of how he built that company using Groupon sales and how he designed it to run without him.

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About Michael Tecku

Mike Tecku is a co-founder of Strike a Pose Photo Booth which makes photo booths that are easy to assemble so guests can have fun at weddings and other events.

Raw transcript


Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Hey there freedom fighters. You know me, right? I’m Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of this here web site. Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. In this interview, we’re going to find out how a musician who used to collect food stamps built a million dollar business. Mike Tecku is the co-founder of StrikeAPosePhotoBooth, which makes photo booths that are easy to assemble so guests can have fun at weddings and other events by taking pictures of themselves. The photo booths are sold to entrepreneurs who make money by renting them out to event organizers. As always, I want to tell you that this interview is sponsored by my buddy, Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law. He is the startups’ lawyer. Later on I’ll tell you why, but for now I just want to thank him. Thank you, Scott. So Mike,

Mike: Hey.

Andrew: Thank you for doing this interview. I’m going to talk in a bit about food stamps and I’m honored that you’re willing to talk openly about that period in your life. But before you even were out on your own and going through that, when you were growing up, did you grow up wealthy?

Mike: No, my dad is an English teacher. My mother worked in a hospital in a laboratory. I would say, combined, maybe they were bringing in $75,000 a year. You don’t know any better when you’re a kid. You just, you have a nice house and everything seems to be taken care of. I think a lot of it was paid for by debt. I was never wanting or anything. We just didn’t talk about money. You just didn’t know any better because that’s what you’re surrounded by.

Andrew: What do you mean? You told me before we started that there was a lot of debt in your family. I was wondering what kind of debt.

Mike: Credit card debt. I think that’s the standard American thing you know. You want to keep up an appearance sort of thing. You’ve got to buy a car and it’s got to be new. Just spending beyond your means, I think. Or just spending money unwisely on things that may appear to be assets to some people, but they’re really liabilities.

Andrew: For example?

Mike: Probably, a house. I think my parents for a long time considered that to be their best investment and I think most entrepreneurs know that’s a liability.

Andrew: Why?

Mike: You spend a lot of money and a lot of time keeping things up. If that’s what you’re banking on for it to make money, it’s not going to work out too well, I don’t think. My parents ended up selling that house like months before the crash. When was that, 2007, 2008? Unfortunately, they bought another one right before the crash too. So, they made a little bit of money on it and then they proceeded to be upside down and crash the last five years.

Andrew: Wow. And so when you were growing up, did you say what I said which is, I’m going to make it one day so I don’t have to live like my parents?

Mike: No. I mean, I had no idea. I think I intuitively knew probably all throughout high school that my parents weren’t amazing with money, but I didn’t have any other model. You live in the suburbs and everyone around you is doing the same thing. So you just assume, this is what you do when you grow up. You get a job. You buy a house. You get all the things. It wasn’t until later in life that I attempted that and felt pretty unsatisfied, that just the idea of something else being available or another option came to light. And that’s when I started sort of looking for that.

Andrew: But Mike, $75,000 is not a little bit of money. That’s fairly middle class. That’s squarely in the middle class, isn’t it? You were doing OK.

Mike: Oh absolutely. I wouldn’t say that we were poor by any means. I’m not a huge fan of it. I guess as I’ve grown up a little bit, my idea of what wealth or being secure is has changed. And I remember just a few years ago the thought of making like $35,000 a year to me was like sort of like beyond my imagination.

Andrew: $35,000 was beyond your imagination.

Mike: Yeah, because I was a musician you know. I grew up and that’s what my parents made as adults, as like 50-year-olds. So when I saw that, I was like well, that’s what I’ll make when I’m an adult right? And that script changed.

Andrew: Did your parents support it? Because I know your Dad was a poet. It seems like they didn’t want you to necessarily, they didn’t push you to become a millionaire. Did they support the fact that you were going to be a musician and potentially starve? Be a starving artist as they say?

Mike: Oh my dad loved it.

Andrew: He did? Why?

Mike: They were just huge supporters. I think they kind of grew up pretty hippy-ish, which I’ve really appreciated. They really pushed creativity. I’ve always been supported in writing or any kind of artistic expression. Because of that, I was pretty fearless in pursuing that and I had their support behind it. I think you know, they had standard parental controls, like, will they be able to support themselves. They just always had a lot of confidence in me. I’ve always been able to do some pretty crazy things and work it out, but, yeah, they were alright with it.

Andrew: How did you end up on food stamps?

Mike: That was my creative way of trying to make music work. You graduate from college and you have a lot of debt and music just doesn’t make money. I approached it, I guess, with the intent that it wouldn’t make any money for several years. And I didn’t want to do what most people do which is get a job that you spend 50 hours a week on and then try to fit your dream or try to fit your hobby in in the off hours because you’re just too tired emotionally, creatively. It just wouldn’t happen so I refused to get a standard job and this was going to be my job. And I needed to deal with reality in a way.

So I got a lot of really random jobs. I was a singing waiter for a while. I painted lines in parking lots. I was a standardized patient, you know, like with med students. You go in and pretend that you had some disease and they would try to figure it out.

Andrew: You would pretend a disease. They would tell you ahead of time what your symptoms were so that you would pretend to have those symptoms so that the medical student can ask the right questions, find those symptoms, and give you a diagnosis. But what about when you were on food stamps? Did you feel humiliated by it? Did you feel okay with it? How did you feel?

Mike: You know, some people felt humiliated for me. I had friends who were starting their careers with companies, and they saw what I was doing. And obviously struggling. They were like, you have a college education. Mike. What are you doing? In my head the purpose of those programs was to help people who have potential who one day better themselves, to escape a rat race. And if that’s what I needed at the time to do that I felt it was like the government as a community supporting me and my potential. So I didn’t have to just survive, I could flourish. And I could focus on something that’s going to make me flourish.

Now music in the end didn’t work out that way, but because of that opportunity I got rid of that moment of regret. I gained the confidence to do wholeheartedly without the risk or fear of failure.

Andrew: I see. Was music as much fun as you imagined?

Mike: One of the reasons I stopped was because I met people who were successful at it. I met role models of people that I eventually wanted to become, and I analyzed their life and I just decided I didn’t want that. I had a brief stint at…

Andrew: Why?

Mike: …Columbia Records where I was interning there.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Mike: And I got to meet really great performers, and I saw their lifestyles. And they’re living in a van for 300 days a year and they’re playing shows, and these are the people that made it. They have records and they’re opening up for huge shows and they don’t make that much money. And they don’t see their families. They’re constantly traveling, and I sort of sat back and said, “Why am I doing this? Am I doing this because this is my definition of success or this is what I think my value is or significance. If it’s not going to make life better, I should probably stop doing this if I’m not really going to enjoy it. I figured out I was living for somebody else in the end.

Andrew: You know what? You don’t usually hear people say that about music, you hear them say it about business. That’s the stereotypical way of looking at business. I saw a guy who is in business. I saw a guy who’s working at a company that I was working in, and he was ten years older, and I projected myself ten years in the future and said, “Do I want to live like that?” That’s the standard stereotype, but I’m glad to hear it from your point of view, to see it expressed differently.

So I’m going to write a note here to come back later on in the interview and ask you what your lifestyle is like right now. Are you living the dream we imagined or frankly, let’s be honest, if you’re not, why not.

Mike: Sure.

Andrew: If you are, let’s celebrate and hear the details of that, too. I see where you were. I know the business that you started. I’m curious about where the idea for the business came from.

Mike: Sure. So when I started music I gave myself two years where I would be completely devoted to it. I would treat it like a full-time job. I would wake up; I would write. I would try to get gigs. I would practice with my band mates. Run it like a business even though I had no idea what I was doing in it. Obviously it wasn’t a profitable business.

So when that two years came up, I’m just real self-reflecting and decided not to move forward. And then I had this giant chasm of the future ahead of me. I had no idea what to do next, so I decided I would write out exactly the lifestyle I wanted because before I was trying to prove my significance by an accomplishment by having a big record or becoming famous or something like that. I switched it to my measure of success being the quality of life I could achieve.

So I wrote out exactly what I wanted. Then I tried to find work that would fill into that. The entrepreneur spirit really hadn’t fully bitten me then. So, I’d come up with things that just allowed me to one, be free. [??] I didn’t want to have a boss. I wanted to make my own schedule and I wanted to be able to choose my place. I wanted to be able to move. And this is before I’d ever heard of the Internet and I didn’t work on that. So, what I did was, I got involved in Real Estate. And I got involved in DJ’ing weddings. I know those seem like a strange combination. But, that’s what I did.

Andrew: Because both of those jobs allowed you to travel. Didn’t force you to have hours. It gave you the flexibility you were looking for. Interesting. okay. And so, what happened next?

Mike: I started doing that. I got my license, I sold a few houses, I started DJ’ing weddings, and about six months into it, I was working for a company that did DJ’ing. And I was at a wedding and I saw a photo booth there. And it was just so ridiculously popular. I did that at a few more events. And I was working with this other guy. I was delivering his photo booth – DJ’ing his stuff. It was still good, because could pick whenever I wanted to work. I could just say, no. I was just trading time. But, eventually, I started wondering, how much are these photo booths going for? And I figured it out. And was like, Oh my God, it’s a 1000 dollars for 3 hour event.

Andrew: That’s what they were renting it to the event for.

Mike: That’s what they still rent for. And it costs about 20 dollars or so to run it – for media, for ink and paper. And he was paying me 100 dollars to be there for that and then more money for the DJ’ing. And I started seeing the separation, or I started seeing systems come together. Whereas, being a DJ, I got paid more for that, because it requires skilled. It isn’t scalable. You have to have someone who is good. A photo booth – you don’t have to have any skill. You just need to deliver a product on time. And they were making about the same amount of money for a rental. So…

Andrew: So, a DJ would make 1000 bucks roughly?

Mike. Yes.

Andrew: Wow. And then the photo booth would make 1,000 bucks? You said I could make the same amount of money without having to work this hard.

Mike: And not only Not work this , but I could hire someone without skills to run it for me. And that’s where I started seeing scale come together. And I started seeing myself being removed and just running a business instead of working in it. I found a friend, my business partner, we’ve been friends for, gosh, almost 20 years. And we’re constantly trying to come up with ideas. He was an engineer – hated his job. We couldn’t come up with anything for a year. And we just decided, screw it, this is it. Let’s just do this. We looked look to shop and buy one. And we didn’t like anything. And we couldn’t afford it either. We literally had no money. So, I sold my guitars, I sold my amps, sold my microphones, and scrounged up enough cash to start buying the pieces of it and starting to get a website together. I sold all my stuff. It wasn’t that much money. But we built our own photo booth in my little apartment.

Andrew: The two of you?

Mike: Yes. Together. [SS]

Andrew: And he’s also named Mike, right?

Mike: Yes. It’s Mike and Mike.

Andrew: So Mike and Mike building is before you even have a customer?

Mike: Yes. Well, let me take that back. We looked into all the stuff, and we figured out how much it would cost to build it. Then we ran a Groupon. We put together a really basic website. We knew nothing about building websites. We just used one on those drag and drop kind of template builders. We took other peoples’ photos. We just put up not a fake website, but like a website just built off of everybody else stuff we could find. We then we ran a Groupon. And we sold I think 32 events in 3 days period. We had to give a chunk of that to Groupon, but because of that, Groupon would give you a lump sum of money. So, I think we made 15 grand. Which we were just like, oh…

Andrew. And they sent you 15 grand and said here’s a list of people whose events you have to take care of? [??]. And now you have the money and you have a little bit time before those events are booked with you.

Mike: Right. So, we had a three week period before the first event. [??] Okay, we should try to build one of these now. We had the money to do it. And we just knocked out a not great version of it. But we got it together, ran the event, made up a couple new versions of it, and a year went by, and we just slowly and slowly improved. We just kept rebuilding and rebuilding it and expanding.

Andrew: I want to slowly walk through this whole process. But, you said something that I need to spend a little bit of time on. You said, not so great. What made it bad? It feels like a photo booth, especially if you could just build it at home is pretty straight forward. Put up some wood and walls, right? I guess you said wood. So you put up some wood and walls. Put up a camera. We will talk about what kind of camera you put up. You are basically done right? What didn’t work out there? What was less than great.

Mike: So now that we manufacture them, you can see the differences in our own. The reason we didn’t buy one from somebody else is that most take an hour to set up. You come to an event and you have to assemble it piece by piece. It also takes photos that are not so great, just because of the equipment they use the lighting, the positioning of things, and the overall attractiveness of it. Someone is paying you a thousand dollars for an event and it looks like it is plywood and that you built it in your living room they are not going to be happy. It makes it harder to sell and people get angry.

So the first one we built, had some flaws as far as the design went. It looked like some people who did not know how to build things built it. Eventually we got to a concept where it took about three minutes to set up and fit in a four door car. Every other photo booth on the market had to be moved in a van. Our photo booth could fit in the back of my Nissan Sentra. So three minute set up, back of a four door car, and it took really fantastic photos.

Andrew: Why did setup matter at all, because you were thinking about hiring someone anyway? Why wouldn’t you let them spend a little bit of time and build it?

Mike: It doesn’t matter to the client, it matters to us. As the owner of the unit, it becomes two hours extra you are spending at an event. It is more work. If you are paying someone else to run the event it becomes incredibly complicated. When we were talking earlier about it requiring skill. If you have to give someone a 20 item checklist to assemble something, that is a lot of training time and opportunity for things to go wrong. If you mess something up it means the photo booth doesn’t work. You have 30 different cables running, and if they didn’t set it up exactly the event is ruined.

Andrew: My buddy, Shaun Malarkey, told me that I need to talk to you, and I think that is why we have this interview set up. One of the reasons he wanted us to talk is because you didn’t want to be present at your business. You wanted me to learn how you created a business that could work without you. What I’m wondering at this stage in the story is how did you even know that, that was a requirement. Most entrepreneurs say “I need to just do this thing.” The do not say I need to think in the future about how I can stop doing it.

Mike: I think it might have been instinctual kind of thing. Like I said, before I started, I wrote out what kind of lifestyle I wanted, and that just involved freedom. I inherently have never worked for someone. I’ve had jobs, but I’m not a fan of working for work’s sake. I’m more interested in results, and I think that’s a generational difference that is starting to develop.

If you look at our parents’ generation, they are really interested in, not necessarily the results, but you get your sense of pride, value, and significance from how hard you work. That kind of old school work ethic. I almost want to say martyrdom. I hear this from peers as well, that their significance comes from how hard they worked, how stressed out they are. “I have no free time. I’m so busy. I’m so important at work, they could never survive without me.” I have always really disliked that attitude.

Andrew: I’ve had that. Even if I didn’t say it to anyone else, I would say it to myself, and I didn’t recognize the flaw in that thinking. I would be proud that I can outwork anyone else. I could spend more time here, and get in earlier and stay later than anyone else. Anyway, clearly a flawed way of thinking, and I see now where this is coming from. You started out with the life that you wanted and this was going to create it. What about the computer inside of it or the device that would allow guests to take photos, and print out those photos. How did you do that for the first version.

Mike: When I first started, I thought we had to do everything, and I think that is a common mistake people do trying to figure out everything. That is where we ran into a problem. I stepped back and asked myself, “What is it exactly that we are providing?” We are providing the delivery of a service to somebody. I do not necessarily have to be a computer programmer. I didn’t even really have to build them to be honest. We did that because of financial and choice, but we found someone who made programs for photo booths. It already existed. That lesson made me realize that there is almost nothing that someone else isn’t already doing very well or is considered an expert in, so you need to utilize those resources and treat your time as priceless.

Andrew: Instead of trying to learn how to code or hiring a developer online, you said, “Does this software already exist and if it does I’m going to accept some of the flaws in it or some of the things that I wouldn’t ordinarily build into it myself for the freedom of having it already built without me having to do it.

Mike: Right.

Andrew: Okay. How much did it cost for that software?

Mike: I think we got it for free in the beginning, and I think it’s maybe like $100, maybe $150 now.

Andrew: Okay. And then the computer that you built it on.What was that?

Mike: It was a touch screen. It was an $800 touch screen computer.

Andrew: Okay. Just a PC.

Mike: Yeah. Just a PC. I hooked up the camera.I hooked it up to the computer. What I found out about systems is that when you sell something as a commodity it’s worth almost nothing. When you sell something as a complete package, people think there’s magic involved. You put it in a box and I don’t know what people think goes on in there if it’s like people with pulleys and midgets and squirrels running around. They just think there’s magic in it so we have a higher price point because of that because it…

This happens with everything. Look at Betty Crocker brownies. People think that it’s science and magic inside of Betty Crocker. It is cocoa, sugar, and flour. Anybody can mix those ingredients, but Betty Crocker charges you ten times the cost for the privilege and the secret sauce for putting those together for you.

Andrew: I see. And I get that. As a consumer I don’t want the risk of setting it up badly. I don’t want the headache of having to go and find the software and understand if it’s not the right one. I want you to do it for me.

Mike: Sure.

Andrew: I want to understand that evolution of the model because at first you were going to send people out and today you don’t do that. I also want to understand how you found the next group of customers because Groupon was not going to be your sugar daddy.

Mike: [laughs]

Andrew: But first, let me do a plug for Scott Edward Walker, the guy whose mug I’ve been holding up here. And, Mike, I’d love your feedback on this approach. I’ve been asking people what they think of my approach and this time in the audience, James Ashner, emailed me and he said, “You know what, Andrew? I don’t like the way you’re doing it. Excuse me, James Ashenhurst, “You know what, Andrew” I don’t like the way you’re doing these interviews.

I have a better suggestion and here’s what he says. He says, “I remember Eric Bond’s interview where he said he just formed an LLC because it was the easiest thing to do.” But then he sold his company and paid a lot more taxes than he needed because he didn’t know about QSBS, qualified small business stock. This is the kind of story that scares the crap out of me and it should scare the crap out of other entrepreneurs, too.

A good lawyer’s advice would have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to Eric. You could use this story to promote your interview and Scott’s services. So maybe even lead a discussion by asking tactical questions of the interviewee about incorporating, et cetera. So his suggestion is, “Andrew, instead of promoting Scott Edward Walker, tell the story of how Eric lost a lot of money because he didn’t set up his company properly. I think that’s a great idea, and I will and I did actually just read Eric’s story. I hope you guys will check out Eric’s interview. But more importantly whether it’s Scott of WalkerCorporateLaw.com or someone else, at least, call up a lawyer, at least, contact them and ask them some questions.

I think you’ll find if you’re starting a reasonable company, a company with any kind of prospects, lawyers are going to be happy to help you out and give you a discount rate in the early days because they’re taking an interest in you and starting a relationship with you that one day will be worth much more to both of you. So reach out to Scott or anyone else, if you do reach out to Scott, ask him about – I think it’s called – the all you can eat startup package. Check it out and he’ll give you a nice price to get you started.

Even if you don’t use him, I think you should, at least, consider using him. At least, check in with his firm because if you’re a startup, Walker Corporate Law is the law firm to work with. So, Mike, what do you think of that? As a guy who’s doing a little bit of marketing, what do you think of James’ suggestion?

Mike: James’ suggestion is great. I think stories are the best way to communicate anything. I think people identify with it. If you don’t really have a story, you don’t have anything. It just becomes a commodity. You can make any product a brand with a story. That’s pretty much all it is.

Andrew: Did you notice that I did two things there. First, I just read his things, and I tried to keep it interesting. And then I just went into telling the story myself. I think reading it wasn’t as good as telling the story. What do you think?

Mike: I agree.

Andrew: I think what I should do in the future is have a couple of bullet points and then tell the story in my own way even if it means it isn’t going to come out as cleanly.

Mike: Ooh. I didn’t mean to get you with that.

Andrew: No problem.

Mike: Not to disagree with his premise on that, I think a lot of people when they’re starting their first company – I mentor a lot of people – they get really caught up with getting an LLC, getting a lawyer, doing all these things before they’ve made a sale.

Andrew: Mm-hmm.

Mike: I think lawyers are important, but we’ve been in business for three years and we’re just sitting down to talk with a lawyer, just sitting down…

Andrew: You’ve never incorporated?

Mike: Hmm?

Andrew: You’re not incorporated, not LLC’d, not nothing.

Mike: No. We have an S-Corp now, but we didn’t talk to anybody about it. We just looked it up and did it.

Andrew: You went to one of those online services and signed up.

Mike: Yeah. We are going to be talking to a ta strategist and a lawyer getting Mike’s and I partnership worked out legitimately beyond like a napkin. I think that it’s important to do, but the very most important first thing to do is go out and see if anybody cares. Go make a sale, go prove that there’s a market before you really invest much money, before you invest any amount of time, just get out there and do it and sell it. And then if someone actually cares and you’re buying it, then go through with setting up your LLC and getting your contract worked out. All of that stuff can be changed later.

Andrew: I see. So if you had to do it over again, you would still go on Groupon, make some sales, and say, “Aha, this works. Now let’s go in and incorporate, not incorporate first then try and go get your first customers

Mike: Yeah. We’re keeping that model. Mike and I are trying to roll out a new business every month now.

Andrew: A new business every month.

Mike: That’s the goal with a new physical product of some kind. And basically we were getting products and samples from China, coming up with a story and a brand and testing it, doing a small amount of advertising and testing it, putting it up on Amazon, or making other… We have lots of business ideas, but I don’t want to spend more than a month on any of them because they’re not all going to be good but some of them will be.

Andrew: I see.

Mike: I want to spend as little time and as little money and go try it, and if it works then invest the rest of the time and the rest of the money to make it legitimate. You don’t need an LLC before you’re made any money. You don’t need a lawyer before you’ve made any money. They’re not going to help you make money. I don’t want to spend any time on anything unless I know it’s directly turn into dollars.

Andrew: If you guys are on Twitter, just tweet at Scott and see what he says about that. I don’t think he’d disagree with it but…

Mike: Those are important because this is a priority.

Andrew: I like that you didn’t say, Andrew, you are absolutely right. If this is your sponsor, I’m going to tell everyone that they have to talk to a lawyer and sign up quickly before they do anything else.

Mike: Sorry about that. [laughs]

Andrew: And I don’t think any lawyer in the startup space would disagree with that. Maybe we’ll talk them. We’ll find out. Alright. The next thing I want to find out from you is you started personally taking out your photo booth to weddings and setting it up and so on, right?

Mike: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: And you told April Dykeman in the pre-interview that by doing this you learned a lot, by doing it yourself and it shaped the product. You know, I always like to ask the question about what did you learn by talking to customers directly. So what did you learn?

Mike: Customers themselves don’t necessarily know how to qualify what they’re experiencing, but when you watch them and see their frustrations or what they’re really enjoying and what they’re moving towards, what I noticed in other photo booths that I used before I built my own is that people would… It’s the difference between MySpace and Facebook. People, when given an opportunity to look bad in a photo, will do it. Their natural inclination is to be as far away and in a corner down here. I don’t look good there, right? I look a little bit better, I think, when I’m close up and centered.

Andrew: I didn’t even notice that. For interviews people will get on camera and then they will do one of these. And then they look so small that no one can take them seriously or hear them or see them. Okay. By watching them – You saw that. Okay. What else?

Mike: I saw the way they would interact with the computer screen and the amount of time they were using and the amount of confusion, what they really found joy in seeing themselves. I swear to God, sometimes if I could just put up a mirror. What I derive from that, I’d get a huge screen in there. I need to get people in a seat where they can’t move so they’re set up in front of the camera at this spot, like you can’t take a bad photo because this is where it’s sitting. I don’t give them any option.

Andrew: I see. If you put a seat they could slide back. They will slide back in it.

Mike: They will do it. They will find a way to not look good. [laughs] It’s just like MySpace. You had total freedom with MySpace. You have total freedom with most PC computers. You can do whatever you want with them and what happens it looks bad, it works bad. You look at a MacIntosh or you look at Facebook, you can’t change anything. They have designed everything to influence you to go one way and that by default have the best user experience even though you don’t know any better.

Andrew: I see. So you’re watching to move the seat back or you lock the seat in place. You watch them love to look at themselves so much that a mirror would entertain them in that photo booth. You make the screen really big. Anything else?

Mike: Like colors in the back? I don’t know how helpful this is to your listeners.

Andrew: I just want to understand what you learned and it’s okay if it’s not a direct [inaudible].

Mike: So I was constantly looking at the competition, I’m looking at what they’re doing, what I don’t like about it. Everybody by default had a black backdrop, and everybody wears black to a wedding, which is like 80% of our events were weddings. So we made ours a bright red because nobody wears red to a wedding. And that just made people pop, it let light reflect, everybody else was using flashes in their photo booths, people take pictures and you get flashed. It really drove me nuts, I really disliked the end user experience, so we used studio lighting, constant light.

Andrew: I do this from time to time just to show the audience the difference that this light makes. Again, because it’s the holiday, I disconnected things, but this should still work, damn it. But I see what you mean. What about this? You started out making every decision based on you didn’t want an obligation, you didn’t want to go to work. Why didn’t you initially say “Hey, I’ve got this idea, it works, I will hire people to go set this up at weddings, I will hire them to bring it back, I will hire them to do it all for me”? Why did you decide to do it yourself?

Mike: I didn’t know at the time, this was, there’s a great quote, you should become a millionaire not for becoming a millionaire, not for having a million dollars, but for what it will make you become to get there. I knew nothing when I started. I had no mentors, nobody I knew even had a business, I had never done anything like that before. So all of this stuff, it was like oh, I should try that. So I’m doing things and not even necessarily understanding the benefits of it. I wanted a certain lifestyle, but I didn’t know necessarily that systemizing things, that it was possible, or that sailing was a real thing,

I had my why. It was very strong. So I just figured out how to get there. I didn’t realize that I could hire people out in the beginning because I didn’t know any better. And I just assumed no one could do it as well as I could. Then as I started making things better and better, because I wanted to work less, I realized I could have someone else do it. I wasn’t making the photo booth better and better and better because I was intending on scaling it, I guess I was doing instinctively because I didn’t want to do it. When I got to a certain point I was like why am I running this? Someone else can do it.

Andrew: I see. Three hundred weddings you did yourself, 25 major revisions while you’re out on the field, a million photos while you’re doing it yourself, all that helped you learn. It’s time now to get new customers. Beyond the Groupon. Where did you get the next batch of customers?

Mike: Google, just a Google Ad Words. I sat back, and this is like two months in, how would I find this company and my original thought was I would partner up with other DJ companies, other even companies, but it just didn’t work out. So the majority of our customers are brides who are young, usually they’re under 30. You would use the internet, that’s how you would find anything. So people searching for photo booth rental, Madison, Wisconsin, we eventually we were expanding to other cities at this point because it was successful. We didn’t know anything about Google Ad Words, I had only recently discovered it existed at the time, so I went out and got some education on it, I bought a course on how to do Google Ad Words and started implementing it, started testing it.

Andrew: I see. And that’s where you got the next batch of customers. You started by setting it up yourself, you eventually were going to move to hire other people who are going to set it up for your customers at their events. Today the model is different. Why did you shift models?

Mike: One more thing on the Google Ad Words. The old approach that I had been trying was time intensive, I was going around shaking hands, meeting everybody. We were going to expos trying to meet people. The first thing we did was a wedding expo and I thought I was super clever because I though how am I going to get people to come to my wedding expo? I brought puppies, I brought two German shepherd puppies because it was, you know, a thousand women and they just loved it. But it didn’t translate to that many sales, so I wanted to figure out how can I do this spending less time, less money because I hate chasing people and making sales, so that’s when I decided to use Google Ad Words.

Andrew: Makes sense.

Mike: It was like easier, but it actually turned out to be more profitable. Almost every time I’ve figured out a way to work less, it’s become more profitable.

Andrew: Okay. So Google’s helping you now get more customers. Why change? You found a model. You don’t have to go to expos anymore. You can just put a website up, buy Google ads, and have people come to you. Why move to a different model?

Michael: We moved to a different model because of scalability. We were in Madison and then in Milwaukee and then a little town called Lake Geneva. And then we moved out to Phoenix, and then we were renting at all these places. Instead of running events, we were managing people, and that was just as time intensive. We were trying to decide, “Well, can we just keep expanding to more and more cities?” And I looked at my why again, “Is this what I want to be doing, managing people and running weddings? This is not exciting for me at a certain point.”

Mike and I went on a motorcycle trip through Mexico. This was a year after we started, and I was just sort of at a point where I made it, I was kind of bored, I’m tired, I need some sort of excitement. So I had never ridden a motorcycle. I’d never been to Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. I just called Mike up like, “Hey, do you want that this winter? Okay” And then we flew out the next week, bought motorcycles in Phoenix, took one lesson, and then took off for parts unknown.

Andrew: You’ve got to tell people what people who care about you said when they heard that you were taking this trip and what they did.

Mike: People bought life insurance on us.

Andrew: [laughs]

Mike: People said good-bye. They wrote me letters and cried and just assumed that I was going to die. At the time Mexico was considered pretty dangerous. We went through Guatemala and Belize and at the time – it’s still there, I guess – a huge drug war and lots of murders and lots of kidnappings and things like that. I did a little research on it and I didn’t find the fear to be any more founded than like traveling to Detroit or downtown New York. It didn’t seem any more dangerous to me.

Now riding a motorcycle on the other hand is probably pretty dangerous in a Third World country. And having done that I would agree.

Andrew: Especially going through the jungles.

Mike: Yeah. It actually was dangerous but not so dangerous that I couldn’t make it. I think fear is the same if you’re starting a business or if you’re learning how to ride a motorcycle or if you’re doing anything. It inflates what you perceive to be real and distorts…

Andrew: Were there actually jungles in Central America?

Mike: Oh yeah.

Andrew: I just get that from my notes, there were. That you were actually cycling through.

Mike: Oh yeah. Oh absolutely.

Andrew: Wow.

Mike: We’d end up on these little back roads. When we were in Guatemala, we were just looking at Google Maps like on our phone, and what Google thinks is a road is no longer a road. We were going through mountains and jungles where it was just a dirt path and we were lost. There were wild horses and goats and just rock slide-outs. We were on inappropriate bikes. I don’t know we just saw it as adventure. We were like, “Well, we’ll probably survive. This will be fine. It’s making us tough. We’re really going to enjoy being home.”

I think a lot of people when they’re unhappy with their lives seek escape. They seek a vacation. I wasn’t unhappy with my life, I was just bored. I wanted adventure. I wanted to go the opposite direction. Most people want to escape stress. So I wanted to add stress because that’s where you feel like you grow. When you work out at a gym, you’re stretching your muscles and then they grow. If you don’t have a positive kind of stress, you’re not going to grow as a person.

Andrew: I was in Guatemala recently, great country. I don’t know why I didn’t think to go there before. It’s so much cheaper and more accessible than I imagined.

Mike: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: You just fly out there, and it was a really beautiful trip.

Mike: Where did you go?

Andrew: We went to Guatemala City and – where is it – Iguazu. Am I thinking right?

Mike: I don’t know. I skipped Guatemala City. I hear it’s quite dangerous [laughs].

Andrew: It was dangerous enough that – sorry. Iguazu is in Argentina. Why am I combining them? What can’t I think of the other place that we went to, but it was beautiful and that’s where we spent most of our time. Guatemala City actually didn’t feel dangerous at all, but the guy who we were going there to meet, our video editor, he actually told me, “Hey, it’s going to be a little dangerous. I’d rather walk you back to your hotel room. I’d rather walk you out to the restaurant that we’re going to.” But it was great. Alright.

Mike: I think most of the time things work out and then…

Andrew: They really do.

Mike: There’s always an element of fear and there’s always an element of risk, but it’s usually worth it.

Andrew: So then you said you had an epiphany on this trip. What was that?

Mike: If we wanted to keep doing things like that, we couldn’t maintain the model. We couldn’t constantly be answering the sales calls. We couldn’t constantly be managing events. They even had great cell phone reception out there. We didn’t have internet most of the time. We thought, this is kind of difficult. It was also kind of combining with a few things. We had been to events that people kept trying to buy the photo booth from us. The would say, “Can we do this, this is amazing.” The answer was “NO!” This was our cash cow, go away.

On the trip we just realized, why don’t we try selling these. When we got back we did the exact same thing we had done the year before. We put up a quick website. We threw a couple hundred dollars at advertising to see if anybody cared, to see if we could sell one. We didn’t go out and try to make a new company or get a lawyer, build a prototype or a factory. We didn’t do any of that, but we sold our first photo booth. We anticipated that maybe we would sell ten for the year. That would have been about $80,000 in revenue which would have doubled our company. We were ecstatic at that idea, but we sold ten in the first month, and so we were like, OK, now we can really get going.

But anyway, we sold our first one, and then we tried to hand build it, which did not work, and that’s when I was like, wait, I don’t want to be building these things. This is a terrible idea. Let’s go find someone else who is an expert at this. So we went out and found a factory and contracted them, and now they do everything. They build it, install it, ship it, handle returns. It’s great! It’s just an e-mail that my employee sends to them, and they keep track of these things.

Andrew: How did you get your first customer?

Mike: They found us on Google. We had put together some videos of what we were selling. I knew what people were looking for because I had been through it. I knew exactly what to offer. I think my formula for success is to figure out exactly what you want to be, figure out exactly where you are, and close the gap on that. Get to where you want to be. Once you are there, go back, and that are like who you were. You can identify with them. You know exactly what they went through, and then teach them how to make that trip. You cannot help people until you have made the trip yourself. You cannot offer anything of any real value until you have done that.

Once you where you want to be in life or at least on the path you want to be in life, help people get there. It can be a service. It can be a product. It can be information. As long as you are offering that kind of value from a really genuine place. I think a lot of people try to help others but they have no idea how to do it. They do not identify with the person, or walked in their shoes. If you have walked into the exact same kind of shoes as the person you are helping it is going to be infinitely better.

Andrew: I don’t know if people can hear the mouse clicks in the background as we are talking, but I’m clicking around because I had some quotes from your first site and I just can’t find them right now. However, it said things like, “Here is what you can make if you run this business, and you buy this, but I don’t want to over-promise. I want you to understand that it will be work. There will be weeks when you are not getting a wedding, and weeks when you cannot move this product, but it will work because…” and then you talk about that. Does that sound familiar?

Mike: Sure.

Andrew: So the idea was that you were going to sell them a business. Did you buy Google adds to get people to come over?

Mike: Yep, that’s the only thing we do.

Andrew: I see. And the reason you didn’t have to compete with the “opportunity seeker” is because you were targeting people who were specifically seeking to buy a photo booth.

Mike: Right.

Andrew: And there were enough people looking to buy a photo booth and start this business?

Mike: It blew my mind. I think there are enough people who are looking to start a business. There are so many people in this world that are looking for any kind of out, and kind of opportunity. That don’t necessarily know how. I think helping people make money is one of the best ways to make money. Health, wealth, or love, if you hit any of those three things you are going to do really well. It just blew me away. I didn’t think there were going to be that many people that wanted to start it, but they see it and they identify with themselves, “I can do that.” People say that all the time when I talk to them.

Andrew: This time it is a word press site, with what I think is a free theme. There is a phone number, really big. Why is a guy who doesn’t want to work have a phone number early on, on his website, and even to this day, on the upper right of your site there is a phone number, and a click to call button. Why?

Mike: When you are trying to sell something for eight to ten thousand dollars online, there is an automatic scam alert button that goes off in peoples heads. The do not believe it to be true. I think that you have to connect with people on a one-to-one basis. I don’t make any of those phone calls. I have an amazing employee who does this for me, and he is great at it. So I did those in the beginning for the first two months to kind of figure out what questions they were asking me. What was it that they really wanted, what was their fears, and then I have trained other people to do that. We put together a sales, and we adjusted our website for it too. So, yeah, we trained other people to do it.

Andrew: Eric is also the guy who pops up using your Zolpin thing. I was on the site earlier and Eric popped up, he asked me a question. I’m guessing that part’s automated, but if I wanted to I could chat back to him on real time.

Mike: Yeah, he’d be there.

Andrew: Where’s Eric?

Mike: He lives a couple miles away from me. We see him once every two weeks or so, we chat on the phone every couple of days and we just put him in charge, we really empowered him. He just graduated from college, little brother of a really great friend of mine and he’s incredibly smart and he knows what he’s doing. And he’s been learning a ton. He went and got his business degree from the University of Wisconsin and basically as he’s put it, he’s been unlearning for the last year. They taught him how to be a good employee in a Fortune 500 company, not necessarily how to bootstrap a company. We’ve been teaching him essentially how to be an entrepreneur, he runs our company, we give him a percentage so he’s motivated to sell each one, not to lose each one, to really be engaged with customers.

Andrew: And that’s why he’s going to sell me through that popup.

Mike: You got it. That’s why he’s going to do everything else too. He’s going to work on the ads, he’s going to make things better.

Andrew: Will he be there if I call right now?

Mike: I don’t know.

Andrew: My guess is he’s probably not because he was popping up earlier when he was online. Let’s see what happens. I also noticed that you and your competitors do not show pricing, even on your competitor’s sites, if I could find a link to pricing it takes me to a form. On your site it takes me to a long form like theirs, but you do say enter your email address for video and pricing. Or I think it’s enter your email address to understand how this business works. Why not just show the price? What’s your thinking there?

Mike: That’s something we started doing. And all the competitors, everyone in the industry has sort of been following what we’ve been doing as far as internet marketing goes. I think a lot of the competition in this area is older. So the internet is an unknown thing for them. Whereas it’s more of our thing. We don’t do it because it’s a long-term sales process, it’s not an impulse buy.

Eight to ten thousand dollars, so we have a very series of emails that goes out that educates our customers and gives them a lot of really good information, it’s about a 60 day cycle, so it’s got to be something that we can continue to follow up on. When we just put the prices up there, people go up there, they look, they see the price and then we’ve lost them forever. By getting their email address we develop a relationship and help them make that decision over a couple months.

Andrew: In 60 days. By the way, he’s not there like I said, too bad, I wanted to get him on.

Mike: He’ll probably call you back.

Andrew: I don’t want to bother him, I just wanted to see if we could get him on live while we’re doing this interview. What do you do to keep track of your potential customers? Do you have a CRM that you use? Do you have a path that you want to take people through?

Mike: Eric handles all that.

Andrew: You don’t even know?

Mike: No.

Andrew: What happens if Eric disappears? You don’t have a process that the next person-

Mike: Eric’s been, so when my business partner and I make decisions like this, we empowered Eric to do a lot of things that we hadn’t thought about. We wanted to be more efficient, he went out and found, I think he uses a sauna. Everything that he’s been doing, he makes a chart on how to do it. So when Eric decides to do his own thing, he can train someone else with the procedures that he’s been creating.

Andrew: And he has a chart? A chart on how to use the sauna to keep track of potential customers, a chart on how to change the email request form, et cetera? What are you guys hosting on now? I said earlier you were on Word Press, are you now using Unbalance?

Mike: No.

Andrew: No, Word Press, I see it. Word Press with Optimized Press, right?

Mike: Yeah. We’re going to be changing that I think in the future. We just developed a new landing page that just got finished and that should be out hopefully in a week or so.

Andrew: One of the big issues for you is learning how to pull yourself out of the day-to-day. So far it seems like everything you did just worked out. Where was the trouble in pulling yourself out of the day-to-day?

Mike: I mean, this is over about a year and a half now. In the beginning, we were physically building a website, we had no idea how to build websites, but we were spending time doing that and looking badly and trying to make it progressively better and better. We were answering all the phone calls, we were doing all the customer service, we were doing all the inventory management, all the ads, everything. And then we started slicing off one, we figured out how something worked, make a procedure for it and then hand it off.

Andrew: Give me an example of something you created early on that you created a procedure for. Let me understand it.

Mike: The sales would be an example of handing off that procedure. My partner and I took probably 200 phone calls, and sold maybe 40 or 50 of them. We figured out how to make that phone call, how to make it efficiently, how many times you should fallow up, what were the key emotional trigger points that got people to finally make that leap and the voice that we wanted to speak in. I’m not a huge fan of hard sales. I don’t appreciate when people do it to me.

The pitch that we have developed has really been giving people the information that they need, not necessarily the stuff that they want, and then getting people to believe in themselves. That is what I think sales is. Someone is connecting something that somebody wants, and then giving them the confidence to make the leap. We taught people how to make that sale and then we handed that off.

Andrew: People meaning just Eric at this point?

Mike: We had another young man, Joe, who first did that, and he was an experienced sales guy. He came in and did that for a month or so, and then Eric came in with zero sales experience and we taught him from the ground up, which was nerve-wracking. I think entrepreneurs like yourself and I believe nobody can do what we do better than us. It is an ego thing. I have a huge ego, and I want to work on it very hard to get it down. We think nobody can do it better than us, and that’s why we do everything. The more I hand stuff off and allow people to grow and give them the encouragement to believe that they can do it, they do so much better than me. Eric sells twice as much as I do now.

Andrew: What was the hardest thing to pass up.

Mike: That. That was hard.

Andrew: Sales?

Mike: Yeah.

Andrew: What about something that you said when we pre-interviewed you. Urgent and unimportant, that was the stuff you needed to pull yourself out of. The urgent and unimportant quadrant. What is urgent and unimportant that you needed to stop doing yourself?

Mike: Answering customer service e-mails.

Andrew: It’s urgent to the customer, but not important to the vision of the company that you do it every single day.

Mike: It is not making my company better when I’m constantly putting out fires. It is not allowing me time to to grow things, or making me more money. It is not a new sale. It is retaining a customer who may just be upset for no particular reason, or maybe they broke something on their own. It’s a fire. They didn’t plan something out, you know? In systemizing that, we found where problems were re-occurring over and over and designed them out so they wouldn’t happen again.

Andrew: For example?

Mike: We had problems with a program that we had. It was continually causing a problem. We eliminated the program and replaced it with something new, and now that problem doesn’t exist anymore. There was a certain way that the printer was being transported that was causing a certain percentage of printers to go bad. So we removed that in the building of the booth. I think a lot of people don’t do that. I think they figure out how to efficiently handle the problems rather than eliminate them.

Andrew: It’s also hard to identify problems that come up over and over again.

Mike: Yeah.

Andrew: I said at the top of the interview. A musician who used to collect food stamps built a million dollar business. Was that right? Was there a million dollars in sales in this business?

Mike: I think we are at 1.6 for the year.

Andrew: Congratulations. Was there a milestone along the way that was so big that you and Mike went out to celebrate?

Mike: Yeah! When we first started, we thought ten would be amazing, and we did that in the first month, and we thought that might have been a fluke. So we thought, if we can sell 100, that is life changing. That is almost a million dollars in revenue, and nothing would be the same oh my god, could you imagine that. That might take a couple of years. Then we did that in about ten months. Now I think we sold our 200th booth, maybe two months ago. We just sat down and went out to a really nice dinner and just laughed and really enjoyed our time.

Andrew: They guy who ate because of food stamps was out at a nice restaurant and really got to enjoy and celebrate.

Mike: Yeah, we had lobster and steak. We really reflected. I’m glad you brought that up. I think a lot of people continue to make improvement and we forever live in this little valley between where we want to be and where we are at. We reach a new goal and then a new goal pops up and we are just constantly chasing that. And we don’t look back enough to see where we’ve come from. So I try to do that on a daily basis. I have a gratitude journal. I have a vision board on my wall over here. And I wake up and I look at it and see where I am.

Andrew: What’s on the vision board?

Mike: The vision board has got three month, one year, and five year goals. It’s got my Why on the top of it, which is ‘Be awesome and live a great story.’ Every time I make a decision, I try to figure out, is this going to help me do that? And the actionables I have on that are, I’m going to pursue love and growth, I’m going to achieve freedom of place and time, and I’m going to try to experience more adventure and love and excitement.

So when the decisions that I am faced with, if they’re not helping me achieve those things that I think will help me have a greater quality of life, I don’t do them. Or I figure out another way to do them.

Andrew: We talked at the top of the interview about lifestyle and how you didn’t want the lifestyle that you saw. What’s the best part of your life right now?

Mike: Unlimited potential.

Andrew: I see. So the best part is still ahead of you. What about up until now? Did you get to buy something that you enjoy? Did you get to take a vacation that you enjoyed? Did you get to travel and work the way you initially envisioned?

Mike: The best part of the last year has been just the ability to think about these kind of things. I think most people, myself included, spend most of our time treading water, figuring out how to survive, how to manage and not be stressed out. For the last six to eight months, I guess almost a year now, I have been able to sit back and focus on why and how to make things happen in my life that I want to see happen. I have got to become part of entrepreneur groups that have introduced me to people that have just been amazing role models for me. I’ve been able to travel all over. I’ve had great adventures. I work four to ten hours a week, when I want, and the rest of it I spend reading and writing and learning to cook.

Andrew: Looking over your shoulder, I see that we’re in your bedroom. Your desk is in there too. Where are you? What part of the country, and what’s your place look like?

Mike: Right now I’m in Madison, Wisconsin. Right this way, the window I’m looking out is a view of the lake, of Lake Monona. I am right downtown. I am here probably eight months a year, because it’s a really beautiful place. I have a sister here. I’ve got some really fantastic friends. And then four months a year I travel. So January through April I’ll be gone, because it’s snowy and cold here. I’ll be traveling hopefully to Cuba, Southeast Asia, and Brazil is the goal. I’ll be checking in probably about once a week with Eric and some of our other employees. Just seeing how things are going and making some slight changes. The hope is to just not touch it for a couple months.

Andrew: I really would like to go to Cuba, especially now, before it changes.

Mike: There’s gonna be a bunch of McDonald’s there in, like, four years.

Andrew: A bunch of McDonald’s, everyone carrying iPhones, and the whole thing will become kind of like America. But I want to see what it’s like now. What else do I want to know about? You’ve got something called Renaissance Man. What is that?

Mike: I’m working on starting a podcast where I can connect with people that are living amazing lives. I don’t want to talk to just people who are financially successful. I want to talk to people who have a different definition of success altogether. For me, if I had had a role model to see what life could be like, what a person could be like, it would have accelerated my learning. It would have changed a lot of things I was concerned about.

I’d like to figure out what these people are doing that are really affecting their quality of life. I think people study happiness, or success, in a very how-to kind of way, and they try to dissect a flower and then it destroys it and you don’t get the essence. I think if you can find a role model and copy some of the things that maybe they’re not even intuitively doing, they’re just doing it and it’s working, you can have a lot of success. I’ve been interviewing a lot of really great people. The things that I’m finding out are it’s the functionality parts of things, like I did a business and it did this, are important, but a lot of people achieve great financial success or great businesses, and are miserable and bored and unhappy with themselves.

The people that I’m finding that are doing really great or even who eventually become successful in business have become successful in many other things first, primarily being great with their own emotions, becoming good at things you wouldn’t think are important like cooking or dancing, so they can develop a social network and can build confidence. They have really great relationships with people and then through that they go and become successful in business.

I think a lot of people have been approaching, they graduate from college and they try to answer what am I going to do when I grow up instead of who am I going to become. They figure out their career path and they think if I do this, this, this, this and this eventually I’ll be able to retire, eventually I’ll be able to work out myself and become a better person. I want to change that conversation to if I do this, this, this and this to grow as a person, I will probably have a great career.

Andrew: You learn anything from the way I do my interviews here?

Mike: Yes. I think you ask a lot of great questions. You’ve given me a lot of room to talk and I think we all have surface conceptions of what we think we know and then when we keep digging the truth will come out. So having the freedom that do that is appreciated because I’m just digging the stuff up and thank you.

Andrew: I want to ask you one final important question but first, let me suggest this. You know guys, I was looking to see what were the top interviews of 2013. I can’t believe it. Number 3, the third most popular interview of 2013 is an interview that I did four years ago, four years ago. The interview is with Lynda Wyman. She is the founder of Lynda.com.

Now, at the time, a lot of people were upset if anyone charged for anything online. And I don’t like to take up the pitchfork and start to say how dare you. I want to know how did you. And so I had Lynda on and here’s the headline from that. How does Lynda.com have so many paid subscribers if information wants to be free?

That’s the big question I came into the interview with and we spent about an hour just understanding it. This is before Lynda.com became the huge multi-million dollar, huge well know success that it is today, it was just getting started. Actually, it was already successful but not nearly as successful as it is today. It was already big but no one appreciated it.

Anyway, I asked her to break down her process and I just sat and I listened and I listened. If you’re Mixergy Premium member, listen to that interview. If you’re creating content like I am, if you are creating content like Mike is going to soon be publishing with RenaissanceMan, if you are creating content at all, if you’re thinking about doing it, if you’re just curious about how others do it, learn from her. Again, over four years old and that interview is one of the most popular interviews still on Mixergy today.

So if you’re a premium member, go ahead and listen to it. If you’re not a premium member, I’m looking out now at the post from back then. I broke down why her customers are happy to pay, why people actually pay her and I’ve got that list down. You don’t even have to listen to the whole interview. At least, read that checklist and then hopefully you’ll go on to listen to that interview and get your premium membership. And if you do, you’ll have over 900 other interviews with entrepreneurs who are successful in breaking down the process that they went through, that they used to become as successful as they are.

It’s all available for you at MixergyPremium.com. If you want to just start off, go to Mixergy and just do a search for Lynda, L-Y-N-D-A, and you’ll come across her interview. One of my best interviews and don’t take my word for it. Thousands of people this year have all agreed, they all keep going back.

All right. My final question is this. I used to, Mike, when I started, ask my interviewees for referrals. And then we got so many interviews in down that I stopped doing that. And I want to try doing it now again. So let me ask you this, what successful entrepreneur do you know that you are inspired by, that you think my audience who comes here to learn from successful entrepreneurs should hear from?

Mike: I have a few friends that I think should be great. Dustin [??]. He has Moms for Life, which become a huge boot camp, I don’t know if you’ve had him before.

Andrew: I did. I know Dustin very well. Yes.

Mike: He’s a great guy. He’s got an incredible mission. He get a lot of purpose out of his work. And he’s been very successful. It’s a business that other people could model or at least learn things from.

I have another friend, Darrin Eich. He has a PhD in innovation. He teaches people how to create ideas so I think that would be an amazing person to have on here and help because I’m sure a lot of your listeners that’s where they get stuck. It’s coming up with the idea, they think it has to be amazing, it has to be groundbreaking. That’s something that I have learned a lot from is there’s a whole generation of people out there trying to come up with the next great app, the next great Facebook or Instagram and you don’t have to do that.

You just need to create value and someone will pay you for it. And you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There were other photo booth companies out there doing what we do. There are other companies who sell tire or maps and they do very well. It doesn’t need to be an internet company, it doesn’t need to be a new invention. It just need to be something that you can relate to and you can help people with and Darrin is great at helping people figure out ideas.

Andrew: His name is Darrin, Mike?

Mike: Eich. E-I-C-H. I’ll give you his information.

Andrew: OK, let’s see. Darrin Eich, ideas, let me see. Is his Twitter handle DarrinEich?

Mike: Possibly, I don’t know.

Andrew: Why would you just know that off the top of your head?

I’d love to find out about him. I’ll follow up with you after this interview. And if you can think of anyone else who you think we should have on here, I want to try to get a diversity of ideas. They all still need to be successful entrepreneurs. I’m not going to be another one of these sites that does interviews with new startups. I think there are enough people doing that. I want to go back to people who made it and say how did you do it? Let’s spend an hour really breaking that up.

Mike: Are we still recording for the show?

Andrew: We are still recording. Is there something else you want to say?

Mike: We can talk after.

Andrew: Are you about to tell me I shouldn’t focus on that.

Mike: No, no, no. I think that’s perfect. I just had more people that you [??]

Andrew: Okay. I love it.

All right. I’ll end the interview right here by saying thank you for being a part of this. I hope that if anyone got anything of value out of this interview that they’ll find a way to connect with Mike and do what I’ about to do which is to say Mike, thanks for doing the interview.

Mike: Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye, guys.

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  • http://rosspublicrelations.com Ross PR

    Amazing interview Andrew. Mike is very compelling. I like how he defined what type of lifestyle he wanted and worked toward that lifestyle. Mike’s simple approach to getting his first customers then actually using Google ads to find customers. “Every time I figured out a way to work less it was more profitable.” was my favorite quote from this interview.

    Tons of value in this one. Adding positive stress is great advice as well. REally enjoyed this Andrew Thank You.

  • sonibvc

    This what I dont get! I have tried exactly the same strategy with Groupon way before this guy came up with the idea and they would not even bother to respond! I also tried other daily deal sites with the same result! A bit of digging reveals that they research your site and unless they can find some history like comments, reviews etc they will not even bother to respond!

  • Arie at Mixergy

    That’s great info–thanks sonibvc

  • sonibvc

    I read the interviews here and sometimes (not often) I see people have used exactly the same approach as I have and yet they get a completely different result! Do we live in different universes?!

  • http://rosspublicrelations.com Ross PR

    I think it all depends on your approach. If you have a clearly laid out business that you can use for a Deal site and the site with some history to back it up you should have an issue but you may have to keep trying until they respond. Also from dealing with GroupOn and Living Social for some of my local clients if they can’t get you on the phone or there’s not clear way to contact you they won’t bother.

    I talked to a GroupOn local sales person and that’s one of the things she said they look for is how easy is it to contact the business that wants to do business. If they can’t contact easy there’s no way the customer will be able to hence making refunds harder to issue etc. I hope that helps.

  • sonibvc

    Thank you. That was a good answer. But everything you mentioned was there. So that was not it. Also, the guy at the interview mentioned that his site was new so there was no history.
    I did eventually get a canned answer from them basicly saying they are not interested. Yet, months prior to that I had observed them sell products exactly like mine but from different providers and they were selling well .. in excess of 1K. So, it does not look like it was the product. I do think it comes to either luck or simply knowing someone there who can “get you in”. I took this a step further and tried to contact ex groupon employees via LinkedIn with a well crafted message but did not work out either. Now I am convinced you simply need to know someone there if you don’t want to rely on circumstance.

  • http://rosspublicrelations.com Ross PR

    There could be a bit of luck to it but I would wager that it just worked out. Getting to know your local sales reps for these companies has always worked for me, but even with successful clients they’ve gotten stonewalled when wanting to run ads on Living Social. So what I’ve done that’s been effective for a chiropractor client is offered a “groupon” like discount directly to their email list of about 500 clients. Their return was about 15% conversion but 100% profit since they didn’t have to pay the percentage to the “deal site”

    Keep plugging away my friend and something will stick. Try reaching out to people in the companies via LinkedIn to see if that helps.

  • http://www.joelalain.com/ Joel Alain

    Great great interview. I love the part where Michael says that there is always a market for anything if you package it nicely. I guess I used to come from a scarcity mentality where i thought only “other” could sell products and nobody would buy something I made. I wish I heard that interview 10 years ago! Why are we so afraid of building and selling stuff?

  • Arie at Mixergy

    I love this comment

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  • Kenny C

    This could have been a great interview but I couldn’t watch it past the food stamps story. No offense to people on food stamps who NEED IT but the purpose of food stamps is to “The government supporting me in living my dreams”. I’m sorry but that’s the exact reason why the country is in the shape it’s in. Work your 40 hour job and build your business in the off hours. All entrepreneurs are “tired”.