Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart.
Hey, check this out. A few weeks ago I was sitting at lunch with my buddy, Dan Martell and a few other entrepreneurs, many of them really well-funded entrepreneurs who are doing great here. Dan told us about this company. He says, “I have this friend, Alex, who’s selling hair extensions online.” And I just kept eating my food.
I looked around and no one else cared about Alex selling hair extensions or hair extensions at all. Like, who cares? We’re tech guys. And then he goes, “This guy Alex is doing really well.” He started giving us a sense of the revenues behind the business. Suddenly we all looked up from our food and paid attention. He said, “He has these videos on YouTube,” where the videos teach women about hair products and beauty and the videos are so well done that my buddy Dan actually has been learning a lot from Alex.
We all really stopped and paid attention. I started taking notes. I said, “Dan, could you please introduce me to this guy, Alex? I’ve got to have him on Mixergy to do an interview, partially because I want to learn about the company and partially because shame on me and shame on all of us for thinking that the only revenue in online businesses are in software. We should really just break free of that misconception.”
In this interview, I’ve got the famous Alex. We are going to break free of the misconception. We’re going to hear how he built up his company. We’re going to find out about a different way of doing business than seems to be popular in San Francisco.
Alex is Alex Ikonn. He is the cofounder of Luxy Hair, which offers affordable hair extensions. This interview with Alex is sponsored by two companies, Toptal–you already know them. Later on I’ll tell you why if you need a developer you should go to them. But here’s a new sponsor called BrandBucket. Later on I’ll tell you why if you need a new company and a brand and a logo and everything else, just go to brand bucket and they’ll give you the whole thing. It sounds new. I’ll tell you more about them later.
First, I’ve got to welcome Alex. Good to have you here.
Alex: Good to be here.
Andrew: Alex, what kind of revenues are you doing with Luxy Hair?
Alex: Well, it’s Luxy hair, L-U-X-Y.
Andrew: Luxy, oh my god.
Alex: No, it’s great. That’s the whole meaning of the brand, right? Luxy hair is there to provide luxurious hair extensions and luxurious hair. So, it’s totally there. So, as you have already been communicating, that’s what the brand does. It’s luxurious hair.
Andrew: By the way, I’ve been recording so many interviews this week back to back. This is the problem with doing so many. Usually before an interview I have my set of questions. I ask you, “What’s a win for you?” because I want to make sure this a good experience for you. I ask you how to pronounce your name and I ask you about the company name, which I did, right? I asked the company name and I always do that even when the company name seems easy. I just dropped the ball on that and that shows that I’ve got to get back on it.
Alex: No, it’s all good.
Andrew: By the way, here’s another thing I would have said. The microphone on your headset is brushing against your collar and making some noise. You want to put the other earphone in?
Andrew: Let’s try that. Let’s see if that helps.
Alex: Okay. Cool. Does that help?
Andrew: A little bit. That keeps it from dangling on the collar. So, I was asking you about revenues. What do you feel comfortable saying?
Alex: I know. You were like shooting right for the gutter right away. As I tell everybody–you can read up a case study on us on Shopify as well–we do very healthy seven-figure profits and we do seven-figure revenues as well in the great range. So, that’s as comfortable as I can tell you about our revenues.
But overall, the reason I came out talking about those a few years ago is because like you at dinner, nobody really takes YouTube businesses seriously. They’re like, “There’s a bunch of these kids on YouTube. Is there actual business there?” As we’ve proven over the years, there is. And now more and more brands on YouTube are now shifting and going to YouTube.
Andrew: And you consider YouTube to be your platform, not your website?
Alex: I think and I believe Gary Vaynerchuk says well and it’s what believe in from the start, how we started is that all businesses need to be media businesses now. So, YouTube is just our media platform where we distribute content. The reason we go to YouTube is just as big a platform there is. So, if you want to get exposure, you want to get to the biggest marketplace to get exposure. You’re not going to go somewhere small. So, that’s why we use it as a platform.
Andrew: So, it’s a video that someone will watch that leads back to the website and then they become a customer.
Alex: Exactly. The process that we have is very organic. If you watch any of our videos, whether it would be hair tutorials or other content we create, like many people who watch our videos, they don’t even know we have a business. A lot of times in the comments they’ll be like, “What do you do for a living? How do you make money?”
We believe we’re in this new age of marketing and selling where people hate being sold to. That’s why they’re choosing to go on platforms like YouTube. They’re trying to get away from advertisers. Now more and more, of course, advertisers are there as well. We may evolve into a different platform. However, at the moment, a majority of people are choosing to go there because there is more authentic content to be found on that platform.
Andrew: On YouTube?
Alex: On YouTube, yes.
Andrew: Yeah. I do feel like when I want a recipe I go to YouTube for recipes, for example. Lately I’ve gotten into cooking. It’s much more interesting to see some random dude or some random woman from some random part of the world teach me how to cook than to go to the cooking channel. I don’t know why. I guess maybe like you said, it feels more authentic. I feel like I could do it if they’re doing it.
Alex: Exactly. What I tell everybody when they’re starting their own channel, one of the biggest advice that I give to people is you want to create content as if you’re creating it for your best friend. That’s the same thing. When you watch some random guy from Omaha making whatever he’s making, you feel like it’s one of your friends or acquaintances or whatever it is telling you and you have a lot more trust than a Kraft making a video or a cooking channel.
Andrew: And this whole thing started when Mimi came home–Mimi, your cofounder, right? More than a cofounder.
Alex: And my wife, partner in every way.
Andrew: Came home and complained about crappy hair extensions. This is kind of a dorky question for me to ask, but what are hair extensions and what makes them crappy?
Alex: That’s great. That’s the same question I had. At that moment, I was an unemployed wantrepreneur. I read “The 4-Hour Workweek” in 2009 and I was so inspired. I was like, “I want to have this lifestyle business. I want to design my life.”
Andrew: Because you were working at a bank and what was so bad about working at a bank?
Alex: I thought it was great. That’s how I met Mimi originally and I loved working at a bank. I actually wanted to become an investment banker. I was really excited until I got fired. So, I loved working at a bank and suddenly I got fired and I realized–
Alex: Because the entrepreneur gene, I guess, was somewhere in there and I had a side business shipping cars from the US to Russia. It was something me and my buddy got into. It’s all legal, nothing against the bank. There was no conflict of interest. But my mistake was I was using company time.
So, even though I was meeting company targets and doing well in my job, I did the wrong thing. For anyone listening to it, never use your corporate email address or phone for any outside business dealings at all, even if it’s non-related because they are going through your emails. They are listening to you. I learned the hard way.
Andrew: And they fired you.
Alex: And they fired me.
Andrew: And when they fired you, how’d you feel?
Alex: I felt betrayed because I thought–I was very loyal. I think many of us are. I think back in the day, I’m like, “I’m going to climb the corporate ladder. I’ll become a director, whatever.” But all that came crashing down and I realized that in order to survive, you really need to look after yourself.
When you work for a big corporation, you’re just a number. That’s the reality of it. Unlike working for a small business where maybe they’ll realize, “Hey, there’s this kid. Super young, 19 years old. He has a side business. He’s doing this on the side. He’s in school full-time studying business and he’s working here full-time and he’s meeting all his targets. How can we better utilize your time? Where can we put your or promote you?” But instead, because it’s just by the book, they say, “Hey, we’ve got to get rid of you. You broke the code. Bye.”
There was a very important lesson for me overall just to be more confident in myself and understand that in life it’s nothing personal. It was purely business and it was purely just a decision making process and just to realize that if you want to succeed, you are the only one that will be able to help you do that.
Andrew: So, you said, “I’m the only one. I’m not going to find another investment banking job and keep doing this thing on the side. It’s time for me to do this full-time.” So, your mind was primed for entrepreneurship. That’s when Mimi came in and told you about hair extensions and a problem and you were saying, “What are hair extensions?”
Alex: Exactly. Sorry to side track there. But when she came in, hair extensions are just things you–there are different ways. You could go to a salon as a woman and say you want to enhance your hair. You want to make your hair more voluminous, more beautiful, longer.
The reality it is for some women, hair will only grow to a certain point or they could only have a certain volume of hair. Me, as you, as guys, I had no clue about any of this. I was just a person that wanted to create a business. The way to create a business is to really find a problem that you can find a solution for.
When she came in with that problem, being frustrated and wanting to have beautiful hair extensions for our wedding day, I realized I had the same question you had, “What are hair extensions?” And then she explained to me and she showed me a couple of hair tutorials on YouTube of these other girls using these products, putting them in, before and after, styling them, doing all these things.
But the most important thing that I saw was the emotion that these women got from putting on this product. All of a sudden it was like–for men it would be like wearing a Superman cape and you have these superpowers. For women, in a way it’s a very personal emotional thing that they have. When they have this enhancement, they feel a lot more confident. So, I saw there was a problem. I could find a solution. We kind of married it and created the business.
Andrew: How did you know that there would be money in it?
Alex: I don’t know. I think…It’s not like I looked into the market research or anything. At that time, I was really just following just minimum viable product and like, “What do I really need to make to start a lifestyle business?” At that time, me and my wife were both unemployed, living at home with my mom. We’re like on unemployment insurance, which gives you like $1,200 a month. I’m like, “If I make $1,500 a month and Mimi makes $1,500 a month, $3,000 together,” That was really our goal. I’m like, “That’s it. That’s all we need.”
Of course, we went way above and beyond that. But that was our initial goal. We didn’t have this goal to make millions of dollars or to become uber-popular on YouTube. It was just a simple goal of trying to make or replace your minimal income for your to survive.
Andrew: Was it at first video to website? Was that whole model already thought out before you launched?
Alex: Yeah. So, we thought of it right away. Previously to the whole business–in between me getting fired, I discovered social media. I got fired around 2008. I was still in school. I had two more years of school left from 2008 to 2010. I thought social media, this thing–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube–is blowing up. I really believed in the power of what it will do for business.
So, I became a social media consultant. It was a huge learning experience of trying to pitch businesses in ’08, ’09 on these kinds of services. I realized that I was seen as this snake oil salesman. I think it was a lot of social media consultants back in the day were.
Andrew: Everyone seemed to be calling themselves that.
Alex: Exactly. Everyone was calling themselves that. I was one of those guys. But the difference was I’m like, “Yes, it’s true. I may not have fully figured out and I don’t have proper case studies, but I believe this works.” Nobody bought into me. Hence, I decided to make a business and use these strategies ourselves.
Andrew: You didn’t get a single customer? I see it on your LinkedIn profile. From 2009 to 2010 you’re listed as digital marketing consultant.
Alex: I did get clients, but they were very small. We wouldn’t replace even my income. Maybe I just wasn’t a good sales person in that sense. However, I just realized right away when the idea came, we knew right away what to do. I said, “We’re going to plan out this content strategy,” because back then, a huge inspiration to me back then was Seth Godin, which you had on the show, and also Gary Vaynerchuk. What Gary did with wine, I believed this is exactly what we can do with hair extensions.
Andrew: I see.
Alex: And hair. But it was in a way of even less kind of product base and more just about providing value. So, as soon as we got the idea that night, the next day I’m like YouTube–it was Mimi and her sister, Layla, which also cofounded the business with us at the beginning–we said, “You guys will begin making videos once a week until we have the business.”
We had no product. We had an idea of the product we wanted to make. We had no business, no product. But I told them right away start making content right away and start building an audience. This is 2010, April.
Andrew: So, Alex, is the very first video the one I see when I look you up on YouTube, which says, “Best Hair Straightener Ever?”
Andrew: That’s it? That’s the first one you published?
Andrew: It’s got nothing to do with hair extensions. It’s just a hair straightener that you can get from eBay and what you should be doing with it and that kind of thing.
Alex: Exactly. Back then my wife started thinking, “What video can I make that would draw an audience?” When you create content, you have to understand nobody cares about you. Just because you want to put out content on YouTube, that doesn’t say anything. When you start creating content, you have to think of what are people searching for. Mimi right away she’s like, “This is a very popular hair straightener. A lot of people want to find out what it’s all about.” So, she made this video.
And then we proceeded with making other hair tutorial videos or hair-related videos that will help women with their hair. So, anything from if Kim Kardashian is popular, a lot of people are searching for Kim Kardashian curls, we would make a hair tutorial talking about how you can Kim Kardashian curls.
Andrew: Here’s what I see from some of the earlier ones. “Gossip Girl Inspired Easy Prom Hairdo.”
Alex: That was really popular back then.
Andrew: Yeah, 184,000. The first one that I mentioned about the hair straightener, 675,000 people or views, I should say.
Alex: That was filmed on a laptop, like no professional camera or anything.
Andrew: It looks really good.
Alex: The Mac.
Andrew: She looks really good. The background too, I was trying to get a sense of how are you guys living back then. It’s shot at home. Because you were fired, was it some kind of rundown place? No, the place looks really nice.
Alex: That’s my mom’s place.
Alex: That was my mom’s place, my room in my mom’s place.
Andrew: “Eva Longoria Flip-out Waves.” All right. I’ve got a sense of how you were doing it. The actual product was on you to find. You went to Alibaba to buy it.
Alex: Exactly. When you’re, I guess, wantrepreneur in the stage where you just want to become an entrepreneur, you try different things. One of the things that in between social media consulting, I also worked for one of my friends and helped him with their social media strategy. There, I actually got to understand all about Alibaba and sourcing product. I’m like, “This is curious.” I just started asking question.
I knew of Alibaba and I knew you could source products there. That was my curiosity because what happened was, the reason I knew going back to your question of if there was a business there, I said, “How much is this product in a salon where you typically buy it?” She would say, “If I go to the salon, this product I want is going to cost $300-$500 or more.” I went to Alibaba, checked it out, saw the actual cost is around $50-$70.
So, then I thought, “Hey, why don’t we just cut the margins and just sell it at wholesale price pretty much. So, we started selling it at $100. So, kind of where you see the Everlanes of the world doing now, that’s what we did back then. We just didn’t brag about it. We’re just like, “We’re going to give you a really good price for a really good product.” Now everybody does it in the industry and everybody follows that one line, especially hair extensions. However, at that time, it was pretty revolutionary and there were not a lot of people doing it.
Andrew: I’m going to do a quick sponsorship message for a brand new company. Have you ever heard of BrandBucket?
Alex: No. I’ve never heard of BrandBucket.
Andrew: I’ve heard about them once years ago. I did this interview with a guy named Collis. This is back in 2013. I asked him how he came up with the company name, Envato. Envato now is just blowing up. They run ThemeForest and a whole bunch of other properties. I said, “How did you come up with this company name?” He said, “What I did was I went to this site called BrandBucket.”
He goes, “The whole thing was built for me. I got the name. I got the logo that goes along with it, the whole thing, like that.” You don’t have to be a designer. You don’t have to be creative. You don’t have to hire a creative agency. You go to BrandBucket.com and they give it all to you. These guys vet the brands that they’re selling you so you have something that makes sense and it’s not just a bunch of junk on their site.
And if you go to BrandBucket.com/Mixergy you can start just scrolling through a collection of brands. If you’re starting a company, if you’re starting a new project for your current company and you can think of the right domain name and you want to just go over to a company that can sell you the whole thing for less than the price than you pay for a really hot domain name, you could end up with a name that fits your company and a brand that fits the name and this whole thing packaged for you.
And I’m seeing that they’ve sold a bunch of different ones, but the one that I keep remembering is Envato. Let me see what they have. Oh, here, this is my brand new sponsor. So, I’m going to read directly from that. Envato is probably the best known company that has found their name on BrandBucket, but they’re going to be giving customers a $75–oh, they’re giving customers a $75 Envato market gift card with the purchase of a name.
All you need to do is go to BrandBucket.com/Mixergy. Other companies have gotten their name from BrandBucket, including Visual IQ and Zomato. Let’s see what Zomato looks like right now. But it’s more than just the name–name, domain, logo. When you scroll through their properties, you’re going to get a sense of what this feels like as a finished product on your website.
I don’t know any other company that’s doing this. It’s really innovative. They’ve been doing this for years. If you just are curious and want to browse around, go check out BrandBucket.com/Mixergy, scroll through, you’ll be inspired. Who knows? You might find your brand right there. Cool.
There. That’s BrandBucket–who knew that was a business? These guys must be doing well because I know we’re charging a ton for our advertising, so the fact that they can afford to pay for these ads means they’re doing killer work right now.
Was it hard to go on Alibaba and find what you’re looking for? I’ve had mixed results.
Alex: I’ll be honest. We got super lucky. What I mean by that is what my strategy was and what I recommend for everybody to do is whatever the product you want to source, go out there. When I started sourcing the product, I didn’t know anything about hair extensions, just like you were clueless, I was the same thing. So, when I went on there, I used going to Alibaba and talking to manufacturers as my education. Meaning, there are hundreds of suppliers there.
What I would do is back then there was MSN Messenger. I think now they have their own messenger platform. I would go on there and the way to vet the suppliers, I would go and talk to them through chat, just to get to know the field, ask about products, how it is. Then if I like the person and I like the factory, I would narrow them down on an Excel sheet.
Overall, I had a list from 100, I got it back to like 10 people I enjoyed conversing over chat. Then from there, I ordered samples. When the samples arrived, then from samples I don’t know anything about hair. I would get Mimi to test it out, see what’s good.
The craziest thing–the first sample we ever got was our supplier. When we go it, we were like, “This is so good. We have more coming. It’s okay.” As we got more samples, we realized, “This supplier is really good.” We followed up and ordered a second sample just to prove the concept and then after that we went all in and blew kind not even out own money. It was like line of credit and credit card stuff.
Andrew: You got the bank to give you a line of credit?
Alex: We used to work at a bank. So, we knew how to get that.
Andrew: How do you get a line of credit?
Alex: Well, to get a line of credit, you go to the bank and say, “I want a line of credit.” Then they will ask for your income or how much debt you have and then by calculating the debt to earnings ratio and to see if you qualify, you can cover the payments to repay the line of credit, you then may qualify to get a line of credit. Sometimes it can hard. Sometimes it can be easy.
Andrew: What happens if you don’t have a job, like you?
Alex: That’s why the number one rule for business, get money when it’s possible and when it’s cheap, meaning when you have a job and you have money and you’re like, “I don’t need a line of credit.” Get a line of credit because that’s the easiest time to get money.
Andrew: And they don’t take it away when you lose your job. They don’t even know you lost your job as far as I know.
Alex: Exactly. I guess one of the biggest tips already here is if you had the possibility to get a line of credit, get it now, meaning you never have to use it. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it.
Andrew: You’re right. Why am I not getting it for Mixergy? First of all, a line of credit gives you a much lower interest rate than credit card debt. Secondly, you don’t get charged anything unless you use it. Then when you do need it, it’s available.
Alex: It’s like a last resort savings account. So, that’s how we used it and that’s what happened. And then the craziest story as well–we got one of those checks in the mail, like six months, like zero percent interest rate. So, we got one of those checks. I said, “We have six months to make money.”
My mom gave me $5,000 from her line of credit. We used Mimi’s line of credit, my line of credit. All together we scrapped around $28,000. But that check, it was such an interesting story with that. When I got that check I told Mimi, “In six months, we need to make everything so we can pay everything back. Otherwise the interest really will hurt us bad.”
So, that’s how the business started. The same thing with the sample–we got the sample. We ordered it and then we kind of–you still have to sometimes pull the trigger and place an order. You never know. It was nerve-wracking sending all this money to China and being like, “Will we ever get anything?” But everything was fortunate. We still work with the same supplier and our business has been growing ever since.
Andrew: How much did you invest?
Andrew: $28,000? Why didn’t you do less? Why didn’t you do a third of that?
Alex: The actual product cost was pretty expensive. So, it’s around $50 to $80 a unit. Our first batch was around, I think, 400 plus units. So, you’re already $20,000+ in there. I believed we still needed this inventory for the beginning. If things start taking off–I know it was like testing a minimum viable product. We just kind of went all in. We were foolish, but we had a really good gut feel. So, we bet it all on the line.
Andrew: And the website, you told our producer the setup was really easy. It was just two pieces of code that anyone could get. What did you use to launch your website?
Alex: To launch the website–the resources that people have no is way more than I had back in the day. So, we started the business with a WordPress theme and a PayPal buy it now button. You can get the code off PayPal and paste it into your WordPress theme. The reason we had free shipping worldwide in 2010 for our website was because I didn’t know how to code or put in shipping things. So, we just said, “Let’s make shipping for free.”
Andrew: Because you couldn’t figure out how to charge people based on where they were.
Alex: Exactly. It turned out we were one of the only companies to do that back then.
Andrew: It was free shipping worldwide. Did that ever come back to bite you? Did you have to ship to someplace where it was too expensive and you lost money?
Alex: The way we calculated it is predominately our customers are from the US. We thought on international orders, we’re still make margin, but we won’t make that much margin. So, we just kind of priced it in. Sometimes you do lose money on it, but it’s fine. It’s still in the single digits so it doesn’t hurt us.
Andrew: I’m looking at the first version of your site.
Alex: You actually pulled it in on Wayback Machine?
Andrew: Kind of. Yeah, Wayback, but I think what I’m seeing is the very first version is you guys setting up your system with Netfirms. That must be where you bought your domain, right?
Andrew: And then after that, it’s WordPress but it does look good.
Alex: There are good themes out there.
Andrew: But it is just a theme and just a PayPal button.
Alex: Yeah. Of course, I remember, like I said, having no money, we went to a photo store and bought all the equipment to take photos of this hair and do everything. I had to return all the equipment the same day. The photos you still see on our website are the same photos I took in 2010 of hair by myself.
Andrew: Wait. You bought the cameras, you used them and then you returned them because you couldn’t afford to keep them.
Alex: Not the camera. The camera we had to buy. But for example, the white background, the lighting and all that stuff, we had to return the same day.
Andrew: Wow. That’s terrific. I love hearing that stuff. How did you even learn how to build a WordPress website. You don’t have a background in that.
Alex: I didn’t build it, right? It’s the theme. I think anybody looking to start now, especially now, there are so many resources online. If you don’t know, you just go to YouTube and search for it and learn. Back then it was a lot of Googling and looking around. I think that’s what a lot of people are missing nowadays. A lot of people are very lazy to understand that. It’s very easy to figure out. All you have to do is put your perspiration in there and work and learn.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s much easier than people think. Why did you shift to Shopify then?
Alex: Well, Shopify, we were one of the early customers for Shopify as well. The business really took off right away, even with my makeshift PayPal button WordPress theme. As we said, within six months, we were already profitable and we were able to already repay all of our existing loans back, which is pretty incredible.
And we shifted to Shopify because at that moment, I realized we needed something more put together than my thing. So, we actually got a designer and a web developer because we had money now. I already believe in investing back into your business and creating something more.
Andrew: The next version of the site up looks stunning. It looks like it fits beautifully. It looks like you guys have investors.
Alex: This is still actually my designed. So, I design, they develop.
Andrew: You designed the logo?
Alex: Yeah, everything. So, the logo and the whole website that you see is still me. I really love that part. Like I said, I’m not a designer by trade, but all the products we create, I really love getting scrappy and just putting things together.
Andrew: I love how it turns out a year ago we tried to get Mimi an interview. The response came from you to Anne Marie who was booking. You said, “Mimi is the on-air person. I’m the business person. If you want to talk business, I’m here. I’m doing it. I’m building it.” It’s true. I can see how you get off on this stuff.
So far it seems like everything was really simple, but when our producer talked to you before we started about challenges. You said, “We had a challenge early on. One of the biggest challenges was believing in ourselves. It was really hard. We were using my mom’s line of credit. We were using credit cards. It was really hard to take the plunge.” Can you talk a little bit about that? I don’t want to give the impression that everything was super simple for you. What was the inner conflict and the challenge in believing in yourself?
Alex: Yeah. I believe this is really the conflict that most people have when they jump into entrepreneurship. Like I said, I’m not here to say I’m naturally gifted or some people have the entrepreneur gene or something like that. The reality is we’re all entrepreneurs. All this worker mentality thing that we currently have in our society, this is new and recent. Up until a few hundred years ago, everyone was an entrepreneur. So, you had to be scrappy, whether it be you’re working for your uncle and you’re an apprentice. But everyone is trading and working within each other. That’s why I believe entrepreneurship is within all of us.
However, in a society, we’re made to believe that it’s such a risky thing to do. Now, of course, it’s becoming more comfortable and it’s a cool thing to do. The hardest part when starting, like I said, for us was really about thinking, “Let’s do this. We can make it happen,” and taking the plunge. You really have to make it happen.
You can’t have one foot–that’s how I talk to a lot of people now. I was lucky that I got fired. Honestly, that’s the craziest thing. I can say here I’m so grateful that I got fired because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have the guts to actually take the plunge and somebody else did it for me. So, for Mimi it was the opposite. She decided to quit because she was so tired of just being in corporate. However, even then–
Andrew: Was there one day when you guys sat down maybe on the couch at home and said, “Do we really do this? Are we really going to go and take this big risk and spend $28,000 on hair extensions? Are we really going to go fully into this? Was there that one day?”
Alex: Mimi [inaudible 00:32:41], so Mimi is also really scrappy. She’s also an entrepreneur. So, she was all in. You have to get to a point where going back, let’s say to your job, is so much more painful–it was really, the whole business was born out of desperation of not wanting to go back to a regular 9:00 to 5:00.
For you, you really have to create that pain in a way. You have to see it. How would you feel if you, for example, keep going to that job you hate or how will you feel if you have to take that going back to work, whatever it is. But it has to be a big enough pain point that you’re like, “I’m willing to do anything to make it through.”
Andrew: So, you created that pain point for yourself–no, you had that created for you. Mimi created it for yourself. Once you guys were out of work, you had to make this happen.
Alex: Exactly. But I think really for me, I’ll be honest. I was having the questions you were saying. I was doubting myself because I’m like, “Am I crazy enough to do this?” I was lucky enough to get invited to an Art Of conference here in Toronto. I believe it was called the Art of Marketing. Seth Godin was presenting. Like I said, he was a huge inspiration to me.
He was talking about his new book that he just came out with then, “Linchpin,” and just how you really have to rely on yourself in today’s world. Especially seeing Seth speak live, he’s really good. To me, I was like, “If not now, then when? I’m young. If I lose all this money, I’ll figure it out.” But you have to risk it. So, I just did it.
Andrew: We did a great program here with Seth about “Linchpin.” Anyone who’s interested in the ideas behind “Linchpin”–the ideas are that we sometimes screw ourselves up. We have this lizard brain that will distract us from what we want and we need to get back to focus on what we want to do. I talked to him about it. It was a great freaking interview. Anyone who’s listening should go and check out that interview, Seth Godin, “Linchpin,” just type it into the search box on Mixergy.
I’m looking at some of the first videos. In the beginning, you weren’t selling your own stuff. You were linking over to BeautyChoice with a bit.ly link that redirected to a Pepperjam affiliate program, right?
Andrew: It took a while before you sold. Did the affiliate programs work for you?
Alex: Not really. I’ll be honest. Most other YouTubers right now use a lot of sponsored content or they do some affiliate work. We still really don’t do any sponsored content. Probably for us, especially when building out on YouTube, the community overall there has a really high bullshit detector, meaning unless you’re pitching products that you actually use and enjoy, people will turn away from you very quickly, especially through video. So, after learning through that, we said it’s very important to just focus on our product and not try to pitch other people’s stuff.
Andrew: I see. It seems like at first it was, “Let’s just build an audience on YouTube.” Then you moved to, “Let’s also let them know that we have Twitter,” which never blew up as much as YouTube did for you. Then it was, “Let’s try affiliate programs.” Then it was finally, it looks like somewhere around–what’s the date on this? I can’t find the date. Oh, there it is. July 15th, 2010, you guys posted a video called, “How to Clip-In Luxy Hair Extensions,” 2.5 million views on that. That’s when you finally link over to your own website, LuxyHair.com where anyone could buy it.
Alex: Exactly. So, that’s when we introduced the product.
Andrew: Do you remember how many sales you got from that in the first day or the first week?
Alex: Well, the 2.5 million views is what we have over these years.
Andrew: Right, with some time promoting that video and so on.
Alex: Exactly. We never used–by the way, all our views are all organic. There’s nothing paid.
Andrew: Oh, you haven’t bought ads?
Alex: We have never bought ads for our videos or anything. We only started recently experimenting with ads for our business and we’re still not good at it. I can honestly tell you it doesn’t contribute anything to our business. If you know anybody who’s really good at ads, please contact me, I’d love to hear from them. However, I haven’t really figured out ads yet.
So, all of our business, even these numbers that we do, we’ve all pulled organically through YouTube. When we launched, we probably had about 300 subscribers. Our videos were averaging maybe like 150 views, nothing crazy. But when we launched, we sold three products, three or five a day.
Andrew: Three? With this video where you’re linking over to your site, about three or five?
Alex: Yeah. But it was pretty incredible already. That’s how we began–one, two, three sales a day, slowly, slowly…
Andrew: You sell for roughly $200 per package, right? Maybe $150 is it to $200?
Alex: Our average sale is around $170, $160.
Andrew: That’s under $1,000 and you still felt, “All right. We’re on track here?”
Alex: Yeah. It really picked up. So, we probably did in our first month about $20,000. And then the next month we did probably a little higher, like $50,000. In our first year, we did $1 million in revenue.
Alex: And the most important thing is we were always focused on the channel and always providing organic content that is not pitchy or salesy. We personally never wanted–we don’t like those kinds of marketing tactics, in a way. We want to create content that would add value to your life, whether you buy the product or you don’t.
Andrew: Tell me more about your process for this because Dan Martell said at that lunch that you taught him how to create videos and because of his videos, he’s growing his audience and he’s growing his customers. Teach me a little bit here in this interview.
Alex: For sure. I think you already having a popular show or podcast or whatever it way be, you already have a certain formula. The same thing applies through videos. So, the formula that I kind of tell everybody, Dan–I highly encourage everybody to be on YouTube. It’s funny. I just saw an episode with Tim Ferriss, where he actually talked to this guy Casey from YouTube and Tim, from the sounds of it, wants to get on YouTube and wants to become a YouTuber. YouTube is about to blow up.
But how do you actually do it? How do you make it successful whether it be for your business or for yourself or for your personal brand? It can work in various ways. If you want to be a content creator, whether it be for your own brand or business, you have to consider these four letters. The formula I call this is called QVCA. The reason I called it QVCA is what’s the biggest shopping network in the world?
Alex: QVC makes millions of dollars. The thing with QVC, I believe they’re on a dying trend. Meaning they’re not going to survive into the future because all their sales tactics about, “Get this for two easy payments. There are 10 minutes remaining.”
Andrew: It’s a really high sale. They sell within ten minutes, like you said, and then you move onto the next product.
Alex: It works. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. But it doesn’t work on people like me. I believe more and more people will be more resistant to a massive sale.
Andrew: So, you’re saying we need a new approach, but you’re taking over their name and repurposing it for this new approach.
Andrew: Let me do this. I’m sorry to interrupt, but before we fully get into it, I want to make sure that I talk about my sponsor, Toptal. Before we started, you said you don’t know about Toptal either, right?
Andrew: Toptal.com–here’s what they do. Let’s suppose that you needed developers to build out a new feature for your site and your time didn’t have enough time. Well, what do you do? What most companies do is they start to place help wanted ads or they go out and they look for a recruiter. Help wanted ads take forever and cost some money. It’s a drag to have to wait and go and spend time on talking to people when you should be talking to your own customers.
So, what many companies are doing now is going to Toptal. They’re telling Toptal exactly what they need. Toptal will find the right developer, make the introduction. If it works, they can hire them and start working within a couple of days. Toptal can do that so fast because they have a network of developers that they reach out to, top 3 percent developers. In fact, 97 percent they reject. As I’m saying this, Alex, I’m thinking of you. This sounds a little QVC. How would you talk about Toptal? How would you adjust the way that I’m talking about Toptal?
Alex: Well, that’s hard. I’m really focused on like product business.
Andrew: Physical products.
Alex: However, you can definitely use it in a service-based business as well, whether it be a SaaS business or just even a personal service. So, for us, what is QVCA and how do you look at it?
Andrew: Before you go into that, let me close out this ad.
Alex: Go ahead, of course, yeah.
Andrew: If you need a developer–and they even have designers now too–you want to get started right away, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. When you go there, they will give you 80 free developer hours when you pay for 80. They’re going to introduce you to the right person. I guarantee it. In fact, they guarantee it. If after two weeks of working with the person or within two weeks you’re not happy, just let Toptal know. They won’t charge you. You will not be billed and the developer will still get paid.
So, if you need a developer, just talk to Toptal. You don’t even have to sign up. Just go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. They have the start your trial button. Just click on that. They’ll get on the phone with you after you tell them what you’re looking for. You can chat and see, “Is this the right fit?” Will they be able to solve your problems? If they can, you can get started with a developer within a couple of days and if you’re not happy, as I said, you do not have to pay.
It’s an unbelievable offer. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. Write it down. It looks like we’ve got new advertisers coming in. So, I don’t know when I’ll get to Toptal again. Write them down for when you or someone else needs a developer. They will thank you. I’m thankful to them for sponsoring.
All right. So, QVCA is what?
Alex: QVCA–so, it’s a new way of selling.
Andrew: Okay. I like to sell.
Alex: Yeah. But in a way it’s like selling without selling. Me personally, like I said, I suck at selling. First, most importantly, when you create content on YouTube, you’ve got to consider Q, quality. This is actually something that I’ve been shifting my mind on. A lot of people when they enter YouTube, they believe, “I need to be really talented. I need to have these high quality content videos that are shot really well with two or three camera angles,” you don’t.
The reality is why I put quality and talk about quality first, your quality doesn’t have to be high, but the most important thing, you can be also too low. People still have to see you and hear you and everything else goes. But you actually don’t want your quality to be super high.
So, this is for all the companies right now, whether it be big or small, listening who want to make this huge investment into making videos. If you create content that’s too high, it’s not going to be relatable to the audience. People go on YouTube, especially on YouTube, because they want to have more of a personal feel. When you consume content on YouTube, it’s very personal.
Andrew: So, what you’re saying is somewhere between just having a messy bedroom and talking into a phone that’s shaking and trying to be a Bravo-channel level quality production, that’s where we try to be. We don’t want to try to compete with Bravo. People can’t relate to us. We don’t want to have a backdrop that looks like a messy bedroom. People won’t respect us, somewhere in between.
Alex: Yeah, somewhere in between where you’re still relatable and where you still come off, the image you want to also think about the image you want to present.
Andrew: What’s the image that you guys wanted to present when I’m seeing a video of your mom’s bedroom? I know you were thinking of something there.
Alex: That was our bedroom. The bedrooms got better as we go throughout the years as well, with of course more resources. But as you said right away with the first videos, the bed is made up neatly, everything is organized, everything is neat. The image that we want to portray is that–people are like, “Why in the bedroom? Why not like a backdrop?”
Alex: Part of the reason is you want it to feel like you got invited into your girlfriend’s house and she’s showing you how to do your hair. She’s there, your friend, helping you out with how to do your hair. The same thing you’re talking about with these cooking recipe videos, you want to feel like you’re at a house in Omaha and she’s teaching you how to cook. You have that very personal feel that makes you feel authentic that you’re in that experience.
But overall, with the quality piece, keep in mind, of course, why I say don’t overdo on quality is because so many people don’t start because they’re too worried about quality. But the reality is our cell phones, your iPhone, you can film with this thing and make pretty good video. If we started in 2010 with our webcam on our laptop computer, you could start with your cell phone right now and start shooting videos.
Andrew: Okay. So, that’s the Q. What’s the V part of this.
Alex: The last part of this is you have to have quality content. You still have to deliver something that people, which goes into the next point, value. So, Q is for quality. V is for value. You always have to be thinking about what you’re going to bring to the community.
Once again, a lot of people when they start, they only start thinking about themselves. You’re starting a business because you want money. The reality is no one cares that you want money. People are looking after themselves. Hence, you have to use that and say, “How can I deliver value to other people?” So, whenever we created content for our channel, we were thinking, “What do people want to watch? What do people want to learn? How do people want to be entertained? What do they want to see?”
Andrew: How do you know that? How do you know what they want to watch, what they want to learn, what they want to see?
Alex: You have to look at yourself. I think anything we really create is for ourselves, meaning when my and my wife create content, whether it be before or now, we think of, “What do we want to watch? What do we want to see?” I believe this is a very personal thing, but I think the best person who will be able to tell you is yourself. If you’re creating content for yourself, there are 7 billion people in the world. There will be a market just like you.
Andrew: I see. So, when you were thinking of the bohemian side French braid did really well as one of the first videos. Were you guys trying to figure out how to give Mimi a bohemian French braid?
Alex: No. In the business, one of the main inspirations for it is Mimi was curious, let’s say, to learn how to do a fishtail braid. She’s not a hair expert. She’s not a professional. Previously they had this misconception like, “I need to be an expert. I need to be a pro.” In order to succeed on YouTube, you just need to be a person who’s honest enough to tell others, “I’m learning,” or, “I just learned this. Let me teach you this as well.”
I think that’s a very important thing, which I’ll get to at a later point. The value aspect, you’re deliver value, the same value the you want to receive. If you’re curious, Mimi always learns what she wants to learn. She’s not creating content for people, she’s still creating content for herself first.
Andrew: I see. Let me ask you a question about that. So, Dan Martell has got a video about “To Raise or Not to Raise: When to Raise Money, When Not to Raise Money.” If he were trying to first understand it for himself and then shoot a video with what he learned, would he really have as much of an understanding as someone who’s actually raised money?
Alex: I think that’s a great point you bring in.
Andrew: Aren’t there some things you have to know by doing before you can teach as opposed to going and doing some research?
Alex: I think you bring up an excellent point. I think some things like hair can be taught. Meaning you can do a hairstyle. You can teach yourself how to do it and you can show others. However, she still had to learn it first in order to teach others, the same way that Dan had to first learn how to raise money and learn from that and then teach others.
Andrew: Maybe it’s more than just learn. Maybe he had to learn how to raise money and raise money and then he has the credibility. So, that’s it–learn it, do it, teach it, kind of like they do in medical school where they learn one, do one and then teach it to someone else to make sure that when you’ve done all three you’ve really grasped the topic. Does that make sense?
Alex: It totally makes sense. I thank you for raising that point. Like I told you with the hairstyles for Mimi, she still had to learn, do and then teach, as you say, in order to kind of put out that video. However, with certain things, learning how to raise money, the timeline for that is a lot harder that when you just learn how to do your hair. But the quality and the value point are very important.
The last two points of QVC are the most important. So, where most people fail is that they don’t create consistent content. They will start doing stuff. They’ll do three to five videos, maybe ten videos and then they’ll quit like, “This is not working.” Well, of course it’s not working because you put in five seeds and you just left them. As you know for yourself when you started doing the show, you didn’t just quit right away. How often were you doing Mixergy shows at the beginning?
Andrew: I was really trying to get five a week and it was tough. And then I finally hit five a week and it was good. And then I was not paying enough attention to the rest of the people on my team. So, we said, “Let’s go for three a week. That’s enough for everyone out there to absorb and for me to spend some time with my team and help the and not just be an absentee landlord.”
Alex: But you were still doing them–
Andrew: Consistently. That’s why I’m exhausted today. I’m going to take next week off and I need to record enough so I hit my three a week. I will not back down.
Alex: Exactly. That’s part of anybody who’s really successful, that’s part of the formula. You have to be consistent and you have you create consistent content. You can’t just create and just disappear.
Andrew: How do you know what the right number is? Is there a right number for what consistency is?
Alex: I would recommend to people to just do one a week. I think to start, you just need one a week. Even if you keep going–even our Luxy Hair channel right now, we will do–
Andrew: You do how many a week?
Alex: One. Just one video a week on Luxy Hair. Mimi on her channel, she does two a week. I recently just started vlogging. So, you can check out my channel, meaning I produce a video blog, vlog.
Andrew: What is your channel?
Alex: It’s Alex Ikonn. So, you can just search my name on YouTube.
Andrew: It’s I-K-O-N-N.
Alex: Yes, Alex Ikonn. In that instance–this is something that before I was telling people don’t do too much content. However, when you’re creating a specific type of content, like vlogging, you can really create every day if you want to because what happens then is you need a quantity of content to actually get good.
Even like when I just–I’ve been making videos for the last lots of years. However, I understand now if you want to create different kinds of content, like vlogging content, that’s where you can actually go like five a week, seven a week, as long as you don’t burn yourself out.
Andrew: What’s the difference between vlogging and the how-to videos that you guys do on Luxy Hair’s YouTube channel?
Alex: So, this is a huge shift that’s happening right now, massive. We just had a conversation with Mimi about this today. I recently started this vlogging thing. Mimi, at first, she was giving me a hard time. She was like, “Why are you doing this vlogging thing? You’re putting too much out there. You’re sharing too much.” We already do that, but not to this extent. I should have probably had my camera right now and I should vlog this.
Andrew: Do it.
Alex: So, I can do my phone. I’ll do like this. “Hey guys, I’m just filming this interview with Mixergy right now. Check him out. Check out Mixergy.com.”
Andrew: What are you going to do with that?
Alex: What I’m going to do is I’ll put that on my vlog and sort of, “This is what I did during the day.” A vlog, it’s a different way to look at it, but it’s really like a video diary of your day.
Alex: You may say, “I live a boring life.” Well, hey, that will encourage you to make it more exciting or it will encourage you to reassess what you do in a day. However, for people like even yourself or Dan Martell, especially Dan Martell, I know he does a lot of cool stuff. I would love to get a personal insight into how Dan Martell live his life, meaning the dinners he has with his friends, the meetings he has and kind of as you do with these conversations, you allow another person to witness or be part of this conversation or you allow them to be part of your life. That’s what vlogging is all about. Vlogging is about making people part of your journey.
Andrew: Okay. Vlogging is not going to lead to as many sales as the how-to content that you’re talking about on YouTube.
Alex: You know what? Like I said, this is a very recent shift. I can tell you this is a space to look out for. I personally believe it can. If you still include your business or your product as part of that experience. Meaning, our audience and viewers will know that, for example, we have an ecommerce business and we share hair extensions. And they’ll be like, “Oh, that’s cool. That’s interesting. I’d love to check it out.”
So, there are always opportunities and ways to plug your products and what you do.” But the most important thing is not to make it too sales pitchy or whatever. But consistency at this point is really about, to anybody, don’t overwhelm yourself. If you can do one thing a week, that’s already incredible.
Andrew: So, come up with whatever your schedule is. Stick to that schedule even when it feels like it’s not going to work out. I remember when I started Mixergy, there were so many days where I thought, “No one is watching this. It’s not going to work out.” But you have to stick with it because you’re going to make it better. People will eventually discover it. People are now discovering interviews I did back in 2008. Even if they weren’t watching that back then, they’re watching now.
Alex: To that point, that’s what I told Dan exactly. I said, “Hey, Dan, I challenge you.” That’s what I did. I challenged him to make videos for the next month. I’m like, “Just make one video a week for the next month and see what happens.” Now he’s not even stopping. He keeps going because he likes it.
Andrew: What do you think of the fact that he’s doing it with a backdrop, a big wall behind him?
Alex: I personally recommended for him to do it in the setting that is more closer to his home office environment, he just didn’t have good lighting. He switched over to a backdrop. The backdrop is totally cool. However, I personally think, going back to even the quality piece, I personally believe it’s better to have backdrops that better represent the lifestyle that you want to create or recreate, so whether that be an office or home office or whatever environment.
If you don’t have a nice environment, it’s safe to put a regular backdrop. However, you want to understand and look at YouTube and a video as a more immersive experience. I want to feel like I’m there with you. For example, right now, I’m just on a background, but if you really look, I’m in office setting.
Andrew: You’re right. I do prefer to see what’s going on. You’re making rethink my setup over here. We’re about to add more backdrops behind me. But maybe it would be interesting if I could put a camera there that poked here and that’s the way I would do the interviews.
Alex: But I think you really have to look at YouTube and video content creation as creating an experience and for people to be part of that experience. The more real and believable that experience is, which I now go to my last point and this is the most important thing–
Andrew: This is the A.
Alex: This is the A, yeah.
Andrew: We’ve gone through quality, value, consistency in the production and now we’re on A, which is…?
Alex: Authenticity. This is the most important thing. If you are not able to bring authenticity into your content, whether it be your podcast, your YouTube videos, then you’re going to use. The people who are winning nowadays are people who are real and authentic. That also means if you’re Dan Martell, you actually have to have experience with investing, buying or selling companies.
If you’re trying to talk yourself to be this tech entrepreneur and you’re not, then you’re not going to succeed. However, if you’re authentic to say, “I’m just a wantrepreneur and I’m just beginning my journey,” and you’re going to film your journey to become an entrepreneur, that’s cool. That’s interesting.
Andrew: What did Mimi do to show authenticity in the beginning?
Alex: I’d say for her to be herself. In those how-to kind of videos, I think another part of authenticity is really letting your personality shine. A lot of people will ask me, “Oh, Alex, do I have a script?” No, you don’t have a script. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to leave bloopers in. As people, we’re so sick and tired of polished stuff that we see on TV and that’s why there are people by the droves going to YouTube. This is why you as a regular person can win now by being you and being a real, authentic you.
Andrew: What’s a mistake that you guys left in a video that you would have wanted to edit out but you forced yourself to keep in?
Alex: What happened to us, actually, throughout the years, as we started getting more money and better equipment, we started to become more polished. You will see some era in our videos that are like very polished, very to the point, there are no mistakes, everything is perfect. That’s when we actually started losing our momentum.
What we learned is people like having bloopers. So, for example, Mimi will be doing her hair and her curler would fall and she’d be like, “Ow,” and it fell on her foot. We’d leave that in because that’s what people wanted to see. They wanted to see that she’s actually real and she’s not just this perfect person.
That would be my tip–authenticity, authenticity, authenticity. And going back to that quantity piece, even for me now, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, even for yourself, it will take time for you to actually get to that authentic voice because for so many years, we’ve been taught to just be like everybody else and to just follow the script. One of my favorite movies is “The Lego Movie.” Have you seen it?
Alex: Incredible. Honestly, one of the greatest movies of all time. I didn’t even expect it, “The Lego Movie.” They talked about how everything is awesome. They’re all just doing the same things. But it’s the people that bring uniqueness and authenticity, these are the people we follow. Why? Because a lot of us don’t have the guts to show our true selves and put ourselves out there. To leave it off with, you can have amazing quality. You can give incredible value to people. You can be consistent. But if you’re not authentic, especially on YouTube, you just won’t succeed.
Andrew: Why did Mimi depressed? Considering how well things were going from the start. You guys were making money.
Alex: That’s a great question. I was there as well.
Andrew: You were also depressed?
Alex: Yeah. For sure. As we started this interview, I talked about me wanting to live “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and have this lifestyle business because like so many, I bought into this idea thinking once I have money, once I have time, once I have this beautiful girl and a beautiful relationship, that’s when I’ll be happy. That’s what society makes it seem. However, once I had money, once I had time, once I had a beautiful relationship, once everything is wicked and now I’m on the beach in the South of France, the true reality kicks in.
Andrew: What’s the true reality? Life is good.
Alex: Well, it’s good to a point if that’s your purpose is to live your life that way. However, up until that point, you’re driven by that purpose, which is to make and to create that life that you want. But once you’ve gained that life that you’re living, all of a sudden you’ve lost your purpose. This is when depression kicks in.
For us in our experience, depression is really a symptom of our society when we lose the true meaning of life. What are we here to do? We’re not really here to consume and create business for money’s sake just for yourself. You then have to start thinking in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s really that last self-actualization piece. What is your life all about? What is your journey about? What’s the meaning of your life?
Andrew: You were depressed because you weren’t expressing your meaning. You weren’t expressing your meaning partially because you didn’t know what that was and now you have to confront it.
Alex: Exactly. Before you think your meaning was just to succeed in this rat race. That’s what I thought it was. But once I realized that, you have to be honest with yourself. I’m really grateful that I didn’t get caught up in the cycle. What happens with so many people is like, “Okay, I’m feeling this way, maybe I need a bigger business. Maybe I need a bigger car. I have a BMW. I need a Ferrari. Maybe I need a jet.”
Yes, you can go in that cycle forever. You can. However, you have to be honest with yourself and say, “Will those things actually make me happy?” When we confront those realities as we did, we realized no, I know that just by me having a Bentley, I’m not going to feel better. Just by me being in Fiji instead of the South of France, it’s not going to make it difference.
Andrew: What does make it better for you?
Alex: It’s reassessing and starting to notice the meaning and impact and propose that you already maybe are creating in your business. So, whether it be in our own existing business, you have to start seeing, “How are we changing people’s lives? How are we making it for the better? How else can we improve to make it for the better?”
And then you started seeing for our business for the females that write us and see how they were able to improve their self-confidence. They had thinning hair because of some diseases or things that were going on. With the product, they were able to help them improve that problem. So, they don’t have those bald spots. But it also is, “How can I improve the environment?” Whatever problem that you see in the world, use yourself as a catalyst.
Andrew: What is a problem that you see in the world that needs help?
Alex: We’ve currently been working on the business now for the last two or three years. It has to do with sustainability and clothing and more about changing the way we look at clothing and how it’s made and what we do and just about our relationship with clothes. That’s kind of what we’re working on. It’s a lot more difficult.
Andrew: The next business or the next part?
Alex: The next business that we’re working on right now. We’ve always been working on stuff on the side. However, I think going back for us, what we realized is assessing what’s my purpose in life.
For us, it was really about starting to rethink our business and how we do business and also rethinking other businesses that we will create for the future and also seeing the influence you have as a person and the difference you can make. I know a lot of stuff sounds very cliché and whatever, but the reality is for most people, until you come to that point and you have to confront that truth about yourself, only you will know what your true purpose is, I can’t tell you what it is.
All I know is it’s very important to question yourself and your reality and not just be sold by the dream that someone else sold you, whether it be me, whether it be Tim Ferriss with “The 4-Hour Workweek,” whether it be Vogue with their ads. But it’s just very important to question yourself and get to that solution by looking at your own reality.
Andrew: Let me ask one last question. I see we’re already over time. But I’ve got to ask this. Five Minute Journal–on your latest video, I think the one where you’re taking people for a ride with you as you’re going to get a haircut in your vlog on YouTube.
Alex: It was a new vlog. Did you just bring this up right now?
Andrew: Yeah, I was watching it. It is interesting to see you get a haircut and live your life. I’ll tell you why. You and your wife are very good looking people. Just seeing you hang out makes me realize, “All right, you’re not putting that much effort into it.” Even you and I were on video Skype last week when we were scheduled to do the interview but it didn’t make seen for either of us so we rescheduled for today.
I saw you. You were just having dinner. You just popped in on Skype. You were well-dressed. The room that you were in, you were no idea you were going to record in. You didn’t clean it up. But it just seems really perfect and well done. Just seeing you walk around, get a haircut, drive makes me realize, “You’re just being yourself and you happen to look this way.”
Here’s what I want to ask. I want to close with this. I see that Mimi is on the Five Minute Journal. You vlogged and talked about the Five Minute Journal. You told our producer the Five Minute Journal has tremendous impact on your life. What’s the connection for you with the Five Minute Journal.
Alex: I guess Five Minute Journal is one of those businesses that we created.
Andrew: Is it you or UJ Ramdas that created it?
Alex: We both created it.
Alex: This is another funny story about that business as well and how that came about. So, UJ came to me because he heard of this guy who was living “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and he wanted to create a lifestyle business.
Andrew: And that was you.
Alex: That was me.
Andrew: So, he saw you. He said, “I want to learn from you.”
Alex: Exactly. We kind of met at a party and whatever. I’m like, “This guy is kind of weird.” He’s very eccentric, especially back then. We started talking. We became friends. We’d go for these long walks. He was trying to figure out how to build his own business.
Then one time we went for a really long walk and we talked about self-growth and improvement. UJ had this really long journaling technique that he would do in the morning and at night. It would take an hour. I would say, “UJ, it’s great you do that for your self-improvement, but most people like myself, I’m not going to journal for an hour. Let’s just be real.”
I have this simple thing that I’ve trained myself to do, which is as soon as I wake up in the morning, I think of one thing that I’m grateful for. That’s it. I’m like, “That’s simple. However, we have to make that bigger. It’s too simple.” We can use this product idea of a journal that is small as a way to test it and for me to showcase to you how to create a business.
So, then me and him created the Five Minute Journal as a muse to create a lifestyle business, but also as a way for us to create a product that will help and change people’s lives. Five Minute Journal is a product that I wanted to have in my life because I knew that everything that I’ve built up until that point in my life was all because of the mindset that I have. The mindset that I’ve cultivated over the ages is through more or less positive optimistic thinking and creating certain vision in my life.
Andrew: I see. So, you both sat down. You helped make his process simpler. He did what, then?
Alex: We still do it together. We still run Five Minute Journal.
Andrew: So, what was his part in the beginning?
Alex: He’s the writing. He does the writing piece. I create the design and interface because I love design, even though I’ve never studied it.
Andrew: Yeah, even the cover just look beautiful. It has nice texture to it.
Alex: Exactly. I’m very geeky when it comes to that stuff. I’ll go to places. I’ll go to bookstores. I’ll look at books. I’ll touch them. I love putting physical stuff together. I create that. I told him, “UJ, here’s our concept, now you have to prove it. Put it together, do the research so that it’s all scientifically based and that we’re not just bullshitting people here. This is actually real.”
I know this works, however, people want some proof. So, he does that part. Then I say, “You do the operations piece.” So, UJ does the operations of the business. I’m more like the idea product creation guy.
Andrew: Like on the website and the about page, it says that you’re the big idea guy. “I keep coming up with ideas.”
Alex: Our new product that we just launched, the Productivity Planner is the same thing. It’s just a process I created to really–hacks that UJ introduced me, like the Pomodoro Technique and some other things and marrying them together and then designing it. Now, for example, UJ does the follow through, he executes to make sure everything is running and beautiful.
Andrew: Cool. He did a course here on Mixergy about journaling, which was fantastic. His Five Minute Journal, your combined Five Minute Journal process is doing really well. I can see a lot of people talking about it. Even Tim Ferriss started talking about it years ago. Has he moved passed it? No, he talked about it recently. He’s still into it.
Alex: We’re really grateful to Tim. He really also did put us on the map with that product. But the most important thing, I think another thing to consider for a lot of entrepreneurs is like, “How do you get it into Tim Ferriss’ hands? How do you get people to use the product?” It’s not about marketing. This is what it all goes back down to.
Your product has to, at the end of the day, be good and sell itself. This is a very important element just in everything we do. After everything, at the core of everything, it’s about the product. All that hard work will suck if your product doesn’t deliver. I’m truly fortunate enough to also say–the hair extensions, when girls wear the hair extensions, they talk about it. That’s why we have business, because it actually makes a difference in their lives.
With the Five Minute Journal, people use it. They love it. They buy like 20 and give it to their friends. The same thing now with the Productivity Planner–we just launched it and had a successful Kickstarter campaign, raised over $100,000 in like two weeks. People gravitate and they can see that there’s, once again, value for them to be gained by using these products and tools because what I do in my videos as well, even with my wife, we demonstrate, “Here, yes, here we are living a certain life, but here are the tools that we use and we honestly use that you can use as well in your life to help you come to this level as well.”
Andrew: All right. I was looking at the Kickstarter Productivity Planner. Everything you do, I keep searching and searching and searching. I heard that Terry Gross could not do interviews with people in person because it’s too distracting. She’s constantly going through her research as she’s talking to me. I get it.
If you were sitting right next to me, the conversation would flow a lot more naturally, but I couldn’t do this research in the background and see everything and be able to bring it up. I’m obsessive about constantly checking what people are saying. If you said the Kickstarter did a certain amount of money. I want to go see it. Actually it did… It’s almost $100,000 with 12 days to go.
Alex: Sweet. I was talking Canadian dollars.
Andrew: Oh, I thought you said $20,000, actually.
Alex: I think we were $127,000.
Andrew: $127,000 Canadian dollars, almost $128,000. You guys are doing fantastic with that. Congratulations. Thank you so much for coming on here and doing this interview. Frankly, you could have said, “We’re not going to sell any hair extensions on Mixergy. What are we going to say yes? I’ll just thank Dan for introducing me to Andrew and we’re going to go away.”
But I’m glad that you didn’t, that you came on here, you told your story, compete with the depression and talked about your process and that you’re aware enough to tell us how you put together your videos and your thoughts on content creation, QVCA–quality, good value, consistency and A is authenticity, even if it means you’re an asshole. I see a lot of assholes doing well online.
Alex: But if you’re honest about an asshole, you still win.
Andrew: All right. Congratulations. Thank you so much for being here. The website–what is a good website. I think we should just tell people to search for your name on YouTube and watch your vlog.
Alex: I think that’s the best way, Alex Ikonn and you’ll find me or my wife as well. Search Ikonn and you’ll figure it out.
Andrew: I-K-O-N-N. My two sponsors are BrandBucket–if you need a full brand to get your business started, go to BrandBucket.com/Mixergy and if you need a developer or designer, go to the best of the best–this might be the last time I talk to you about them–go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. Write it down so you don’t forget, Toptal.com/Mixergy.
Alex: Thank you.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for watching.