How to bring an old tech (like journals) online

Today’s guests have had a runaway success with a journal, a freaking journal! Technology that has existed forever.

Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer are the cofounders of BestSelf, which develops physical products for high achievers and entrepreneurs.

I’ll let them tell you how much revenue they’ve made. They’ve expanded and expanded, and today they even have software, a Chrome extension that’s coming out. It’s called Win the Day. When you open up a new tab on your Chrome browser, imagine seeing a clear goal you have for the day and the three things you need to do to achieve that goal.

Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer

Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer

BestSelf

Cathryn Lavery and Allen Brouwer are the cofounders of BestSelf, which develops physical products for high achievers and entrepreneurs.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I’ve been waiting to do this interview for a very long time. I’m actually not quite sure why we couldn’t do this sooner. I’m going to ask in a moment.

Joining me is an entrepreneur who I’ve known for a long time. I actually didn’t even know she was an entrepreneur. Then I just kept watching her become one and sell stuff and then win a Shopify competition and then kick ass. I started asking her to do an interview here and for some reason, I couldn’t make it happen. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s me or maybe she was feeling a little uncomfortable about doing an interview or maybe something.

So she agreed to do it. Then she brought on her cofounder. I thought this was just going to be the two of us, Cathryn. So we’re going to find out about her business, why she has a cofounder —

Allen: Call me the third wheel.

Andrew: Why her founder is here and frankly how they built up this business into such a phenomenal success. I’ve just been in awe from the sidelines. Her name is Cathryn Lavery. She is the cofounder of BestSelf, along with her other cofounder, who you’ll see on camera if you’re watching. His name is Allen Brouwer. They built a business, BestSelf, which develops physical products for high achievers and entrepreneurs.

The thing that I saw that they had a runaway success with was a journal, a freaking journal. Technology that existed since forever, they sold it online. I’ll let them tell you how much revenue they made from it. They expanded and expanded, and today they even have software, a Chrome extension that’s coming out. It’s called Win the Day. When you open up a new tab on your Chrome browser, imagine seeing a clear goal you have for the day and the three things you need to do to achieve that goal. That is what they’ve produced.

I’m excited to have them both on here. This interview is sponsored by two companies that by now you should know because I keep talking about them over and over. The first is a software I use to close sales when I need to do one on one personal sales. It keeps me organized. It’s called Pipedrive. The second is software that will help you sell more when you’re doing email marketing. Cathryn and Allen were telling me they used them. It’s called ActiveCampaign. I’ll tell you more about those companies later. Cathryn, welcome.

Cathryn: Hey, how’s it going.

Andrew: Allen, good to have you here.

Cathryn: I’m finally here with Allen.

Andrew: Let’s talk about revenue, Cathryn. Allen, I’m going to bring you in, in a moment, because none of this is going to insult you. What’s the revenue, Cat? How much money are you guys producing with this business?

Cathryn: So we’re projected — it’s funny how Andrew just jumped right into it. That’s why I didn’t come on the podcast for so long.

Andrew: Is that it? Let’s hold off the revenue numbers. I sense that you wanted to be on here for a long time and I sense some hesitation once we started inviting you. True?

Cathryn: I think I wanted to achieve what I felt was success to the degree that I would deserve to be on Mixergy in that weird way, where I’ve been on other podcasts and Mixergy, I felt like after the Shopify thing, then I’m like, “I can probably be on Mixergy now.”

Andrew: I felt like you were ready even before then. What’s the revenue now with the journal? Actually, with the whole business and we’ll break it down in the interview. How much is BestSelf doing?

Cathryn: So, by the end of 2017, we hope to do $7 million this year.

Andrew: Okay. Last year, 2016 what did you do?

Cathryn: $2.4 million.

Andrew: $2.4 million. Allen, what are you guys selling on BestSelf.co that you’re producing this much revenue?

Allen: So our flagship product is called the SELF Journal. That has ancillary products along with it — calendars, other notebooks that we call sidekicks that are just little scratchpads, manifestos, leather covers for the journals, pens. That’s what we sell on our site.

Andrew: Am I the only one who’s shocked that paper journals, stuff that existed before the internet can produce so well for you that you didn’t have to get into a software company, that you didn’t have to get into SaaS? Allen, were you surprised by that?

Allen: Yes. I’m surprised at the growth that we’ve had, but I’m not surprised how many people use it because me personally, even though we sell online, I still use journals, notebooks. I still put pen to paper. I’m not shocked about the amount of people that use it. I’m shocked about our growth and how big our business has grown because of it.

Andrew: Cathryn, I forget where, but you and I had a conversation about the imposter syndrome. You didn’t so much say that you had that, but you did say you felt like it is just journals. Talk about selling paper in a world of software and apps. It seems like that had an effect on you and maybe you thought that it wasn’t big enough because of that. Am I right?

Cathryn: Yeah. I think for a while even though we were selling a lot, whenever I talked to other entrepreneurs that were doing an app or created something more, it was like, “Oh, you just created another notebook?” sort of thing. So even though we created a lot more than that, it was like that feeling of it’s not cool enough yet. That might have been I’m realizing one of the reasons why I’m not ready for Mixergy because I’m like, “Oh no, I need the cool factor.” The revenue is pretty sweet, but the actual thing for people that don’t know about it might be like I don’t understand how this is a thing.

Andrew: What about profits? Did you guys make more than $1 million in profits last year?

Cathryn: No.

Andrew: Wow, so the margins are pretty small even though the journals sell for like $30, right?

Cathryn: The margins are pretty good. The problem was last year, it was our first year in business, so we were trying to set up — we have a warehouse in Australia and one in the UK. There was a lot of stuff setting up that we put way more money into last year. We don’t have to have that upfront cost this year. We made some mistakes also.

Andrew: I want to get into that in this interview too.

Cathryn: Some expensive mistakes.

Andrew: I guess what I’m wondering is producing this much revenue, do you get to take out $1 million from the business yet overall?

Cathryn: Well, at this point, we want to grow as big as possible. For us, we don’t want to stunt our growth by taking money out. We want to grow it as big as possible so that we can if we ever want to sell it, sell it for as much as possible. So we’re both willing to give up the short term of having some cash now to get more later.

Allen: Totally.

Andrew: You too, Allen, huh?

Allen: It just doesn’t make sense. We have a controlled unit that we can put cash into and we know what that return would be. So why would we take it out to go on vacation, one, or two, invest in real estate or stocks or something like that? It just doesn’t make sense when we have this thing that we have 100% control over. We are pulling the strings and the levers.

Andrew: Okay. I get it. I think it makes absolute sense. You take the money out, you’re taxed at a high rate, you put the money back in and you actually increase the asset, which is taxed at a lower rate if you decide to sell it and gets a nice buildable.

So let’s go back and understand how you guys got here. Cathryn, I knew you for a long time because first you started dating a friend of mine and then you got married to him. I knew you as an artist. I saw you create projects like what was that, the Batman poster, didn’t you do that?

Cathryn: Yeah. I was always a product person, not a business person, that I would say.

Andrew: So what was this Batman poster you created?

Cathryn: So I created a bunch of graphic posters. The one that took off was the history of the Batman logo that I did, which wasn’t meant for sales. It was just like a fun project and it just kind of exploded. So, for me, it was always product first and maybe I’ll make money, but that wasn’t my — I was totally the artist first.

Andrew: Yeah. And you were putting out lots of different art, some you were selling, but it was never this high sales environment. It was just you putting creative stuff into the world.

Cathryn: Right.

Andrew: At one point did you say, “I could be an entrepreneur, this thing exists for me?”

Cathryn: I used to be an architect, so I would be working at my job. When we met, I remember we had dinner and that’s when I learned what Mixergy was. So that’s when I started listening to it during the day at work. I was entrepreneurial when I was younger, but I didn’t know you could do that as a real thing. I started listening to it during the day and was getting ideas. That’s why I decided to launch the graphic stuff on the side. Then I think over time, I learned how to do things better. I also learned what type of thing I’d be into and what I wasn’t into.

Andrew: Like what? Give me an example of something you were definitely not into and you discovered it by doing and something you realized you were gravitating towards and you only discovered because you were doing it?

Cathryn: Before we had BestSelf, Allen and I did an Amazon type of white labeling thing, where we would import stuff from China, sell it on Amazon and I would just brand it. I realized that I didn’t — sorry if there’s traffic noises, I’m in New York so it’s hard to stop that. So it was just white labeling stuff. I realized that when there’s no passion in the products for me, I just don’t care about it at all, and I have a hard time being motivated. Whereas if I love — it’s always like don’t fall in love with the product, but I love creating really nice products that tell a story and make people feel a certain way and I wasn’t — so I can’t just brand like shitty products, essentially.

Andrew: I see. This Amazon thing was just a business to make money. You heard that if you buy stuff from China on the cheap and you sell it with your own brand on Amazon, it could produce revenue. I’ve interviewed entrepreneurs that have done well there, revenue well, but they don’t really make much of a profit and build a sustainable business. Allen, how did you guys meet up?

Allen: Cathryn and I met through an online entrepreneur program, actually. That program was —

Cathryn: The Foundation?

Andrew: You were both in The Foundation?

Allen: Yeah. We were both in The Foundation.

Cathryn: That I learned about through Mixergy.

Andrew: Oh, cool.

Allen: Actually, I think I learned about it through Mixergy also. That is crazy.

Andrew: Yeah. The Foundation was essentially launched here because Dane Maxwell was going to do an interview and he said, “Andrew, I have this idea. I want to get people in software roundtable or something.” I said, “Why don’t you create a website for it?” He said, “What do I do for that?” We talked about how he could take one of his domains and he kicked it off here. So, Allen, you signed up for it because you wanted to build a software company.

One of the things I discovered with The Foundation is a lot of entrepreneurs don’t end up creating a software company. They end up creating something different like you guys did. You’re smiling at that because that’s the opposite of what — well, it’s different from what they’re trying to get people to do. It’s still a success, but it’s completely different. What was the software company you tried to create in The Foundation?

Allen: I tried to create and I started to and I had paying customers for a car wash software that helped mom and pop car wash owners and operators run their entire car wash system via a web app.

Andrew: I see. You were starting to get sales for that. And then you and Cathryn, as I understand it, got together because you were going to be accountability partners, right? You’re on this new path. You want to make sure you’re actually following through on what you signed up to do. At what point did you start kicking around other ideas you would do together like this Amazon project?

Allen: It was about a year after we were accountability partners? We were accountability partners for a year, and then Cathryn started talking about Amazon and going into more physical products, branching outside of her print that she was creating and said, “Why don’t we try something in the physical product world? You like marketing. I like products and branding. I think it would be cool to do it with somebody rather than operate in your little entrepreneur silo that you’re used to.”

Andrew: One of the things I admire, maybe even envy, about The Foundation, is that they were able to create a tight knit community of entrepreneurs that you don’t see too many Mixergy listeners getting together and creating a business the way you guys do. But in The Foundation, it’s pretty common for people to become so bonded that now I was just invited to something in Colorado that graduates of The Foundation from like three, four, five years ago, I don’t know how long ago, are putting together to stay in touch. I see the value of that.

You guys were trying a couple of different things. The Amazon thing, what were you marketing? What was your marketing twist on it is what I mean, Allen? Sorry, Cathryn, you were going to answer, you talk then.

Cathryn: It was just home goods, like kitchen products. So we were just selling the same stuff as many other people. I just made it look good and created some nice branded images and stuff. But essentially, it was the same product.

Andrew: Do you have an example of something?

Cathryn: Like salt and pepper shakers was our first product.

Andrew: Okay.

Cathryn: Then like wine chillers. There was a bunch of different stuff.

Allen: There was like ice bowl molds that were silicone.

Andrew: You would buy from Alibaba. You would give them the logo, and they would put it on the product for you?

Allen: Sometimes.

Cathryn: Sometimes, or we just put it on the packaging.

Andrew: It would come to your houses?

Allen: Yes.

Cathryn: We would send it right to Amazon. Allen did, actually —

Allen: It would come to my house.

Andrew: You would put the package on?

Allen: Cathryn’s apartment in New York was too small. So it would come to my house and in my garage, I’d put the little labels on all the packaging and then I would send it off to Amazon.

Andrew: And Cathryn created the design for the logos for the packaging that you guys wanted to use. I see. Okay. I see Cathryn has this phenomenal style. I feel like it’s been developing over the years and expressing herself more and more over the years. Look over her shoulder versus your shoulder and my shoulder, Allen. We’ve got nothing over our shoulders, functional but not that interesting. Look over her shoulder. She doesn’t have a picture frame up. There’s an interesting way she’s got it up on her wall. I see something that holds her iPhone, but it’s not a standard iPhone holder like I got from this little Wish.com $2 thing. It’s a wooden holder, right?

So I get how she does it. Hers is obviously visible. I can see it. For you, the marketing side of Amazon, do you have an example of something that you did that helped market, that helped sell a product better?

Allen: That would have to do with the copy that was on the page, the way that people search for products, the way that the algorithm for Amazon works. So they want conversions. So the more conversions that you can increase on your listing, Amazon rewards that.

Andrew: I get that, but do you remember one thing you did that worked for you, one marketing technique, one headline, one something that you did that stands out in your mind?

Allen: There wasn’t anything really that special or that your listeners probably don’t know. But it’s loading it up with keywords, creating listings that are benefit-rich and not feature-rich really is what it came down to.

Andrew: I see. It’s the doing that was your part of it, not just that you can write it, but that it doesn’t seem like Cathryn’s going to get off uploading all this stuff into Amazon — she’s shaking her head — making sure it’s all in there.

Cathryn: One of the reasons I asked Allen to do this thing with me is because I know what I’m not good at and what I dislike doing. It’s pretty much what I hate doing Allen likes to do and vice versa or is good at. He’s also really execution first. So we don’t talk a lot about what we’re going to do. We’re like maybe we’re talking about something and then all of a sudden, one of us is online, “It’s already done.” We tend to not talk about things too much and just implement. I think I wanted a partner that was all about implementation because I’ve worked with people that are all talk and no action and I knew that Allen wouldn’t be like that.

Andrew: So you’re doing this stuff. It actually doesn’t feel like it’s that exciting. It’s probably not going to grow to be a huge business. You say it’s time for us to create our own products. Why, out of all the different things you could do, why go for a journal? You’re both smiling.

Allen: Out of necessity. It was out of necessity. Cathryn was running her business. We were running the Amazon business together. I had a digital marketing consultancy. We were just spread extremely thin. There was no one else helping us. So we needed to structure our day in a way that would help us leverage the same 24 hours that everyone else has.

Through mapping out your day very concisely on what needs to get done, the most important task in each business, that’s how this started. Cathryn and I, we did a lot of work in self-improvement as far as how can we make ourselves better, who can we learn from, what techniques are successful people doing that we’re not doing, what can we implement ourselves? By doing that, we found what works, what didn’t and started doing it ourselves. That came out to be a blank moleskin that we would write in every day. We said, “I’m tired of writing in this blank moleskin every day.”

Cathryn: I was like, “This is so ugly. I need to make something that looks good.”

Andrew: Okay. I imagine you didn’t spend much time going online and seeing if anyone made it look good. It was just, “I think I can make it look good. Let’s just do that.”

Cathryn: Yeah. And creating something that looked good, worked with a framework that we kind of set out. It started as a PDF version we just printed out. This was probably one of the first things I’ve ever done where it’s gone everywhere, but it’s not when it started with the Amazon thing, we were like, “Okay, cash,” that’s what we saw on Amazon, it was like, “This is going to be the real moneymaker even though we don’t love it.”

Whereas the SELF Journal, BestSelf started with kind of like a passion project and wanting this product to exist and not really thinking of it as a business until after the Kickstarter launched and we were like, “We should just forget about this Amazon stuff and do this instead.” I think that’s why it worked really well is because we didn’t have any of these big expectations of what we were going to do with it.

Andrew: I’m actually typing if you hear the clicking sound. That’s me typing a bunch of follow-up questions. I’ve learned not to interrupt guests and actually take notes and come back with follow-up questions. I’m going to ask you about how you had it made and I know because we have mutual friends, including my brother, that you were really hustlers when it came to Kickstarter, which is why this thing worked for you. But let me take a moment to talk about one of my sponsors and then we’re going to come back and follow up with those questions.

The sponsor that I’m going to talk about is a company called Pipedrive. Has either of you used Pipedrive?

Allen: I have, actually.

Cathryn: Yes.

Allen: In my consultancy business to funnel sales and leads and know where they are in each stage of the pipeline, really.

Cathryn: We also used it for the Amazon business for the different products, remember that? When a product was ready, we would move it to the next stage.

Andrew: It helps a lot to have that visual, to know specifically what are the steps I need to take to complete a sale or complete a process and where is everyone in this process. It’s funny you should say consulting, Allen. There’s someone in my audience who’s starting a consulting business and he’s really struggling. So, I’ve been going back and forth with him by text.

I specifically asked him two days ago, “How many offers are you putting out there?” He said, “I could send out 50.” I said, “Okay, why don’t you do 50 today and let’s talk. In fact, even if you get one done, zero done, it’s totally fine. I just want to check in.” He says, “Okay, I’ve got five hours. I’m going to do it.” I check in the next day and I say, “How’d you do?” He says, “I sent out three, but don’t worry. I have a process to send out more.”

I think this is the problem. We all think we can do a lot. We all think we do a lot, but we really are not. We’re spending a lot of time thinking we are, worrying about it, planning and setting up. He has me now on text for the last couple of days checking in with him. Most people don’t have Andrew on text for every day to check in on them.

That’s the beauty of Pipedrive. It gives you this clear visual. Every step of your sales process is laid out on one screen. Every step. Everyone who’s at every one of those steps has a card underneath each one of those steps so that you really see how many people did you add to your system this week? How many people did you follow up with in the last two days? How many people are actually having their cards turn red because you’re getting lazy and you’re not following up.

That’s what it does for you. Imagine if you start hiring people and you look at their boards and you see this guy talks all day, but he’s only sending out five. Here’s another guy who’s quiet who looks like a lazy schlump, but look, I can see exactly how many sales he’s closing. You really get a sense of it.

Allen: That’s how you scale a business.

Andrew: Right.

Allen: When you go through that process, you can set the baseline and you know here’s the baseline, how can I increase this or if it decreases a little bit, you can figure out where you’re dropping off and where those holes are.

Andrew: That’s exactly right. You see where are we dropping off? Is it that we’re not getting responses from people? That means we should change the emails that we’re sending. Is that we’re getting responses? We’re getting on a call with them, but they’re actually not buying. That means our calls really suck. I had this one person who is so good that I was going to compliment her and I said, “Let me pull up her records because look at how many people she’s adding to the system. Look at the names of the people she’s adding to the system, really well-known people.”

Then I said let’s see how many people. I pulled up one quick report to see how many people she’s actually closing for us when we first started using Pipedrive, a close meant getting them on Mixergy for an interview. It was zero, maybe one. But she’s doing a whole lot of outreach, a whole lot of people are talking to her. Not a single person is coming here on Mixergy to do an interview. Maybe I’m off by one.

So I need a whole other conversation with her. I did have that conversation with her and then when she wasn’t able to improve, I saw it in my stats and I said, “You can do other things here, but I don’t need you reaching out to people. If you’re just going to talk to them and not close them, you’re wasting their time.”

So that’s what Pipedrive is about, help you organize your sales and then help you bring other people into your sales team and make sure they’re organized, accountable and productive. If you want to try it, I urge you to go check out this special URL I’m about to give you, where they’re going to give you 14 days to try Pipedrive for free. Frankly, do it with a glass of wine or a whiskey or frankly, even an iced tea if that’s what you want.

Just sit back and play with this, imagine what it would be like to use it using the free account. Don’t worry, you can always create another account later on with a different email address so you’re not wasting your once in a lifetime opportunity to try for free for 14 days, but do try it so that you get smarter and you see the tools that can help grow your business. If you like it, they’re going to take 25% off for the first three months. Here’s the URL where you get all that — Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.

All right. I’m wondering how you had this journal made. Cathryn has high standards for design, a good eye. Where do you find someone who can produce something that matches what you’re looking for?

Cathryn: So the first time we went on Alibaba, we actually had samples. I had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for as far as the design went. I described it and had the drawings and everything sent off to different manufacturers in China. We paid for samples for each one, maybe $180 or so per sample. They also sent us samples of other stuff they’d done.

When they’d sent us the samples of other stuff, which they’re only going to send us their best stuff, so if there’s like one crappy version of something, I was like, “No.” That was like level one. We had maybe eight people send us everything, their best work. Then we had the top three people from that make a sample and then we picked the best sample for the manufacturer.

Andrew: You know what? This seems to all go back to Alibaba. I’m trying it now myself as we’re talking. I went to Alibaba.com. I typed in the word journal, came up with some really interesting designs. A lot of them look just like moleskins, but like cheap knockoffs of it. But here’s one that looks really good. It’s a wholesale leather travel journal. I can get it for as little as $0.16 apiece, as high as $0.86 depending on how many I get. You would have found something like this and if you liked it, you contact the seller and say, “I want to buy some samples from you,” and then you get it in your hands and see if it feels right? Is that the process, Allen?

Allen: Yeah. You would reach out and say, “I’m interested in a first run of a thousand units. What would this cost us if we were to purchase a thousand units?” That one, let’s them know that you’re interested and two, that they should spend time with you and also send you the sample that you’re requesting. Now, sometimes, it will be like send me your catalogue and I can pick one or two or three different variations of what you guys manufacturer.

Andrew: So sometimes I feel like this whole process is so tough and so dissonant because you’re dealing with factories overseas and so on. Other times, like when we’re having this conversation right now, I think I can have an idea tomorrow and just go to Alibaba and just have someone make it for me. When I’m in this mindset of it’s too simple, what am I missing here? When I hear your process, if I’m going to do this, what are some of the pitfalls that I’m going to encounter?

Allen: Communication is tough with China, number one. That’s the biggest thing. The sooner you can get them off of Alibaba and on to something like we’re using now, Skype, the easier it is to communicate with them via the Skype chat or whatever. That’s number one. Number two would just be the time zone difference. You’d ask them for information and they will start replying back to you at 2:00 a.m.

Andrew: So your phone will, if you’re like me and you keep notifications for Skype on, your phone will just vibrate at 2:00 in the morning?

Cathryn: Yeah.

Allen: Yeah.

Cathryn: For a while, it was like I’m working from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. or whatever so I can be there in case they respond back.

Andrew: I see, because you want to have some back and forth. You want to respond to something they ask with a follow up question and so on. That’s the big one, get them off of Alibaba’s chat system. I know they’ve got their own internal email-based system, I think. They also have a live chat system too, right? Am I right?

Allen: Yeah. It’s too clunky. Everything is clunky.

Cathryn: They do have it.

Andrew: It’s not very good. Get them off of that and be ready for a lot of late night chat sessions or slow back and forth. All right. You then take your design — Cathryn, you’re going to say something?

Cathryn: One other thing is when you’re reaching out to suppliers, I would also not ask what price right away, mainly because you just come off as cheap and price-sensitive and if you want a really good quality product, obviously price is going to come up, but if it’s the first thing like you’re saying to them, like everybody else is, “How much is this? Can I get it for this price?” they’re like, “We’ll just give them the crappiest quality paper, and we can make this as cheap as they want it because it’s going to feel like crap.”

So whenever we were going, I was like I knew what paper I wanted and I didn’t talk about price until they knew exactly what sort of specs I was looking at and then you can start negotiating on price because they know that you appreciate quality.

Andrew: Okay. Cathryn, it just occurred to me. You are now so much richer than your husband. Is it awkward with Keith that you’re now doing this much better than him and all of his friends?

Cathryn: That’s one awkward thing.

Andrew: What else is awkward? Go ahead. He’d be open.

Cathryn: No. It’s just that we’re not together anymore.

Andrew: Oh, I had no idea.

Cathryn: Yeah. Well, we just told people.

Andrew: When did you tell people?

Cathryn: Over the last couple weeks. I just told Michael that.

Andrew: Oh, I had no idea. I am so sorry to hear that.

Cathryn: It’s okay.

Andrew: Are you guys not living together now?

Cathryn: No.

Andrew: Wow. Okay. Was the business part of the reason?

Cathryn: I mean, it wasn’t part of the reason. It was more we just grew apart. I was a totally different person eight years ago than I am now.

Andrew: Is it inappropriate to ask if he gets half of this business or a quarter?

Cathryn: No, he doesn’t.

Andrew: He doesn’t?

Cathryn: No. We had signed stuff that separates all that out.

Andrew: You mean early on you did that?

Cathryn: Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. Cathryn, you’re like a real entrepreneur, like a baller business woman. You guys have talked about this in private?

Allen: Yes, we have.

Andrew: How far away do you —

Cathryn: That’s why I was like, “Do I say it or brush it over it?” But then you were like kind of prying, I’m like, “I’m just going to say it.”

Andrew: I’m glad you did. How does it feel to have said that knowing that I don’t edit?

Cathryn: It’s fine. I haven’t really told anyone. My good friends know, but I haven’t made it public, so I don’t have to. I’ll just be like, “Hey, listen to this Mixergy interview and if you ask me how I’m feeling, I know you that you cared enough to listen to the whole thing.”

Andrew: Right. It’s kind of weird to go back into business, but why Kickstarter — actually, here’s where my mind is going, and again, I told you before we start back me off if this is inappropriate, but what do you do after you get married and you have a business, what kind of agreement do you sign that allows you to retain control of your company in case you guys break up?

Cathryn: It was basically an agreement that — so Allen and I both have private companies that own our interest in BestSelf. It was an agreement that we would retain ownership of that, complete ownership regardless.

Andrew: I see. Why do you guys structure it as two different companies owning a third business?

Allen: Save on taxes. So if we were individuals owning a large LLC that’s making a lot of income, we would have to pay income tax and payroll tax because we are the owners of that business. Now we have two separate companies owning that that are classed as S-corps. Those S-corps can then hire us as employees, and then we only pay payroll tax on our salary that we get.

Andrew: I see.

Allen: Now, I’m not a lawyer or a CPA.

Andrew: Now, we’re not recommending to this other people.

Allen: Exactly.

Andrew: I had no idea this would be even an option. Is your company, Cat, a U.S. company?

Cathryn: Yeah, it’s an LLC.

Andrew: All right. Let’s go back then on track to the list of questions I made. I’ve got so much to talk to you guys about. Kickstarter, why Kickstarter? I think a lot of people would have gone straight to Shopify and missed the Kickstarter huge hit you guys had. Why did you guys go in that direction?

Cathryn: Mainly because we didn’t have the cash flow to make the book without Kickstarter. That was a big thing. Another big thing was we’d only created it and shown it to our friends. So it wasn’t actually validated. So the thought of going into that and creating this thing I’m hoping for the best wasn’t really what we were looking for. Kind of The Foundation talks about pre-selling your idea before you create it. That’s what Kickstarter was for us. I also had some experience with Kickstarter, so I knew the basics of how to do it.

Andrew: I wonder how. Tell me a little bit more about what you did right with it. I heard from my brother who works with you that you guys were just phenomenal at your Kickstarter promotion, but he never gives me details because I think he’s afraid of revealing something that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with. Give me some details. What did you do that worked out so well for you? Just to put it in context — your Kickstarter campaign, tell me if I’ve got it right, $322,000, a little over that, right?

Allen: Yes.

Cathryn: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s unreal for a journal, unreal for Kickstarter campaigns. What did you do, Cathryn?

Cathryn: So the three months leading up to the campaign, we created a — sort of used a framework for the journal for the three-month goal. Our three-month goal was $200,000 on Kickstarter, which we didn’t tell to many people because they were just like, “All right.”

Allen: Cathryn told her dad and I told my father-in-law that was our goal we wanted to hit, and they both thought we were crazy.

Cathryn: Yeah. My dad’s like, “Maybe someday.” I’m like, “No, it’s going to happen.” So the first thing was like building an email list, which we did a lot of research into how are we going to grow essentially like a brand new business email list based around productivity and use it to launch the Kickstarter.

So our goal was to get 2,000 people on the email list before we launched. We pretty much broke down what the big goal was, figured out how do we do the pre-launch strategy right by getting the email list creating content around what it is we were going to launch. And then the actual campaign itself, what are we going to do to make this a no-brainer for people. So it was kind of three points. It was the pre-launch, the launch, and then getting people to share it with their friends.

Andrew: So the pre-launch was about growing your mailing list. Some of the things you did to grow your mailing list was you created a lead magnet, from what I remember. Again, Kickstarter campaigns don’t tend to think like direct marketers and you did.

I remember you emailed me and said, “Andrew, I have a list of questions. Would you mind filling it out?” I filled it out. It was a list of questions about my morning habit. You took my answers, a bunch of other people’s answers that you knew and also people like Tony Robbins who you didn’t know but you researched and you put it all into this book and now you had this lead magnet that was top performers talk about how they start their day. Do I remember that right?

Cathryn: Yeah. So we basically made a timeline of their mornings to give people an idea of — we can write a content piece about how important morning routine is or how to create one, but people love to see exact examples of what it is people do. So we got a ton of people through that and through Medium.

So posting on Medium where we didn’t have a lot of traffic at that time because we were brand new. So we would use Medium, and I would put the content up and Allen would syndicate it out everywhere to get as much traffic on it as possible and then the lead gens or content upgrades on there would get a bunch of email subscribers.

Andrew: So, on Medium, you would do a blog post and then you would say, “If you want this list of habits of successful people, click here.” People would click. Then they’d get on a landing page where they needed to give you their email address, right?

Allen: Yeah.

Andrew: Allen, that was you doing it. What was one thing that especially worked about — a lot of people syndicate and it comes across as like you’re trashing every network. What did you that made it work well for you, that didn’t feel that way with you?

Allen: When you trash all the networks simultaneously, people can pick up on that. What you have to do is be very unique with one, the platform that you’re using and two, the audience that you’re speaking to with that platform. So say Cathryn wrote a blog article. I went to go syndicate it out.

I would go to all the Facebook groups that I would think would benefit from that article, but rather than copying and pasting that snippet of, “Here’s a great article for you guys to check out,” I would craft that message specifically for that audience, whether it’s digital nomads traveling the world, The Foundation group or whatever. I would make it so I was speaking to them and not just spamming them. Then going on other channels like Reddit — you can’t just jump on Reddit and be like, “Here’s an article,” because that won’t work at all. There’s a unique language that happens on Reddit. You need to know that language.

Andrew: Okay. So you’re doing it, customizing it for each medium, bringing it all back to your lead page. You also did some contests that worked for growing your mailing list. From what I remember in my research, you guys got close to 10,000 email addresses, am I right?

Allen: 3,700.

Andrew: Okay. Maybe this is afterwards that you got closer to 10,000. So 3,700 before the Kickstarter campaign.

Cathryn: Yeah.

Andrew: The reason that was important — I watched a video on YouTube with Cathryn explaining this — she said, “The first day of Kickstarter we realized is really important. The more sales we can get in that first day, the higher we appear in Kickstarter’s rankings and then Kickstarter starts to kick in and help promote.” So that was one of the things that you did. What did you do afterwards, after you got that initial bump?

Cathryn: So the first couple days is getting the initial bump, then when we hit our goal, we set a stretch goal, which was if we get to this amount of money, we’re going to add this bonus in. So the purpose of that is to get people to share it with their friends and get more people interested in it so they get some extra stuff. Then after that, we used the email list a lot. So we hit our goal within 28 hours and then the stretch goal and then every time we hit the stretch goal, we would add another one. So the next one that we did which was pretty successful was we partnered with Blinkist, which is a software that takes books and sort of —

Andrew: Summarizes them into audio and text summaries.

Cathryn: So it’s very appropriate for our market and who we were going after. So rather than try to throw some physical product together to add, which we just increased the complexity for us fulfilling it, we were like, “What companies would actually be really good for the people that are interested in this product that don’t add any cost for us and add a huge bonus for them?”

So we reached out to the person in charge of Blinkist, and I actually had heard them on Mixergy, which is funny because I sort of opened up and I’m like, “I heard you on Mixergy,” and then I mentioned something specific that they had said that I had taken away from it. And then I just mentioned we had this Kickstarter and I thought our audiences, there was a lot of overlap.

We basically got a deal where we got something like six months or a year of their top premium service for free for our backers. So it went from paying $26 for a journal, but then you get the journal and the calendar and then the service that costs $70 or something, and all you’re paying is $26. So it goes from, “Okay, maybe I’ll buy this,” to, “That’s a no-brainer for me.”

Andrew: Yeah. What’s in it for Blinkist for giving you six months of premium service on their account? What’s in it for them?

Allen: 6,000 customers immediately overnight.

Andrew: Because everyone needs to give their credit card number?

Cathryn: No, but they’re hoping that somebody —

Andrew: That percentage of them will stick around afterwards. I see. Let me take a moment to talk about my sponsor, a company you guys have used and then I want to come back and find out what happened afterwards because this thing kept growing and growing and growing. The company is ActiveCampaign. You guys used ActiveCampaign. What do you remember about what drew you to ActiveCampaign?

Allen: Segmentation and automation.

Andrew: Right. I always think of ActiveCampaign as the way they were in the old days. You add your email list to ActiveCampaign and you get to send out one type of email to everyone and you’re talking about segmentation and automation?

Allen: Correct.

Andrew: Do you remember how you used it in the beginning when you guys were just getting started?

Allen: Yeah. It people signed up for our giveaway, they would be tagged as giveaway contestants and then if people signed up or if we captured a lead through that lead magnet, we would tag them with that lead magnet or if they signed up with our product launch formula that we did into the Kickstarter campaign, we knew where they were in each segment of that product launch, so they watched this one video. They didn’t watch the second video. So, let’s remind them to watch the second video and so on and so forth.

Andrew: Right, because beyond automating emails based on what people have done in the email, if somebody clicks on something, you can tag them and then send them a following up email based on that, you can also tag people based on what they’re doing on your website, watched a video all the way through, seeing a certain page on your site and so on.

Well, guys, I’ll be open with you that there are a lot of email options out there to do this kind of automation and tagging and so on. So, the big question is what sets ActiveCampaign apart from all those other guys? To me, what makes them better than most other options, probably other options in general is the simplicity.

There’s so many other email platforms out there that let you do this but they’re so complicated that either you don’t know how to do it and you need to hire a consultant to do it or you do know how to do it, but then when you hire an assistant or you bring in other people to help manage your email list, they can’t figure it out. They can’t figure it out because the software is tough and they can’t figure it out because you made it even tougher because you started to add your tags and all that and they can’t go through and understand what you did.

So you’re either a slave to a consultant who runs it for you or the company is a salve to you and your ability to run it and you can’t ever get beyond that. The beauty of ActiveCampaign is you get all this marketing automation power in a simple, easy to use package that anyone on your team should be able to use. If you want to get a sense of what it’s like, I’m going to give you a URL where you get to look at the screenshots and get to see how this works, how you tag, how you think through each customer interaction.

And by the way, if you happen to buy from this URL, you’re also going to get your second month free, you’re going to get two free one on one sessions with a consultant who will teach you how to actually use marketing automation right in your business and they’ll migrate you. If you’re with a crappy other service, you can shift and upgrade to ActiveCampaign. That URL is ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy, ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy. Go get it and you can even try it for free to see how effective this is.

All right. Kickstarter goes off well. Now you guys have to actually fulfill on this thing that you thought was going to be huge and then it ended up being bigger. Talk about the fulfillment. What was that like to sell and service that many customers.

Cathryn: So, luckily, I had a little experience with fulfillment, not at that scale. So we had promised — first of all, don’t ever promise people on Kickstarter a delivery date that’s before Christmas if it seems a little tight. We were dealing with a freight forwarder because once you’re sending container loads from China, there’s a lot of paperwork and things like that.

When we first started working with a freight forwarder, they had been very clear we need to get this for Christmas, this needs to go on. So I kept pressing and finally it’s getting sent from the factory and the containers arrive and they send me this bill of lading telling me it’s going to take a month to arrive from China to — was it L.A. it was going to?

Allen: L.A.

Cathryn: Yeah. I’m just like — the container delivered and so they were coming to pick it up in about six hours or something. I’m like, “This is not going to work.” I start Googling container ships coming from China to see if this was crazy. I’m seeing all of these much shorter routes that are taking 10 days to 14 days. I’m like, “Why are we on the slowest boat in the world for a start?”

I’m freaking out because I’m sort of dealing with all of the product stuff and I’ve been trying to keep Allen out of it, but I’m distressed. It’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m like, “Allen, our stuff is not going to get here in time because they’re putting the container on this ship that’s taking forever.” This is one of the moments when it’s really good to have a partner because I was just like, “Oh, this is already booked,” whereas Allen was like, “It’s a container. We’ll just put it on another ship.” I was like, “I guess we could do that.”

We ended up in the middle of the night telling them, “We’re not using this ship.” We worked with a manufacturer to get another boat, which managed to get there in about 12 days and then we did get it out to all of the U.S. people before Christmas time. But it was touch and go, for sure.

Andrew: The U.S. people you did get it to in time. Europe?

Allen: No.

Cathryn: Europe, it was maybe the week of January 1st.

Andrew: So a little bit after.

Cathryn: Also in the UK they close for two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s. So even though the ship did get there, there was nobody there to ship stuff out.

Andrew: I’m going through your old campaign to see what people were complaining about. Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see that many complaints about missing Christmas. Am I missing it?

Cathryn: We did get some complaints, but we were pretty open with people about our process. Some stuff was out of our control. I think we were too optimistic.

Allen: That’s a big thing with Kickstarter is keeping people informed with what’s happening, keep them a part of the process, not just, “Hey, I’m building this and I’m going to sell it and collect your money,” but there were three months from the time our Kickstarter ended to the time they received their goods. So, during that entire process, we kept in touch with them. We showed them pictures of the factory actually making the stacks, stacks and stacks of journals. We’re like, “They’re coming.”

Andrew: That was you going to the factory via Skype to the person who you’re talking to there saying, “Can you take some photos we can post on social media?” I do see some responses here, like you’re telling people — here’s one to Edwin Ho, who was one of your backers —

Allen: He’s going to get —

Andrew: This was back in early December. “Due to the weekend, we’re waiting for customs clearance. We’re hoping to ship this out to you this week.” I didn’t see a lot of complaints because as you said, because of delay. I saw a lot of confusion around BackerKit. BackerKit is a way to collect some information about the people who bought from you on Kickstarter and maybe even give them a chance to — upsell them a little bit, right? What was the experience that you had with BackerKit?

Cathryn: So BackerKit are great for the spreadsheets. They’re good for the creator, I think, where it makes it much easier than Kickstarter’s method. The issue is it doesn’t have a very intuitive UI for backers. So you just kind of try and teach people, recording videos of how to do the stuff.

That is kind of a real pain because in some cases, people are just telling us over email what they’re looking for and I’m going into BackerKit as them to fill in the information because they don’t know how to do it. I think it was made for the creators, but not taking into account the backers that have to actually go in and use the system.

Andrew: Even the fact that you have to enter your email address, but it needs to be the exact same email address that you entered in Kickstarter is a bit of a pain. There’s no connection to Kickstarter. I’m not blaming BackerKit. I don’t know what kind of data Kickstarter would make available to them, but I do see that it’s a frustration.

I think Eric Ries, author of “Lean Startup” used them for his second book. I’ll be honest. I got a little confused. I bought the book. I filled out his survey, and I wasn’t sure if that’s why I wasn’t getting the book and I felt like I was stupid for not doing it right. It wasn’t until I saw him person that he said, “It’s taking me a little longer to write the book,” and was talking about this process. I said, “I did it right. I filled out the form right. It’s just that the book is going to take longer than expected.”

Allen: Sure.

Andrew: That’s one of the challenges there. But Kickstarter went well for you, raised your profile, showed you that this thing had enough demand that you should build a business around it. For many people, frankly, Kickstarter is where it ends. You guys then built even beyond that. You entered the Shopify competition for what was it called?

Cathryn: Build a Business.

Allen: Shopify Build a Business.

Andrew: The Build a Business contest. I remember when Shopify was getting started and they were thinking through this Build a Business contest. I think me for an intro to Seth Godin. They asked me how to interview Tim Ferriss. This thing has grown into this big thing. What did you do to sell through Shopify?

The challenge with Shopify is they don’t bring you customers. They don’t have a marketplace the way Kickstarter and Amazon does. It’s on you to bring people in. People now are used to buying on Amazon, buying on Kickstarter and being suspicious of new sites that they don’t know. What did you do to win that contest, to bring people in?

Allen: To win that contest, we knew we had to do a couple things. One, drive traffic and make sales. Now, it’s a little tough to figure out who’s on the leaderboard. They do send updates and stuff like that, but we weren’t really focused on the leaderboards. We were just focused on growing this new business that we had. By this time, we had sold the Amazon business and this was the only thing we were focused on.

So, to answer your question, how do we sell and drive traffic to Shopify? Easy. We took the list and the backers and the customers that we got from Kickstarter and we knew the people that we wanted to target in addition to those Kickstarter backers. We targeted them on Facebook and created ads and drove traffic to our site.

Now, during the entire process from the time our Kickstarter ended to the time we fulfilled, so middle of September to January 1st, we were working on building a custom site, something that was beautiful, that people could trust, that wasn’t just a template that we custom developed for ourselves. So the traffic that we ended up driving to the site, it built trust. It provided information. It looked beautiful. It didn’t look like someone tried piecing this together overnight or over a weekend. We spent a lot of time and effort on it.

Andrew: The site looked gorgeous from the start. You guys always had a really nice sense of design for your products. You’re saying to me you emailed the people who bought from Kickstarter and you sold them.

Allen: Yeah.

Andrew: And you targeted them on Facebook.

Allen: We would take that audience list, upload it to Facebook, create lookalike audiences. Then we would also target people who are not a part of that list. So people who like specific interests, Tony Robbins, self-improvement, Tim Ferriss, everyone that we just talked about and target them and drive traffic back to Shopify. Then there’s a retargeting strategy that happens after they land on the page and not purchase.

Andrew: Who ran that? Was that you?

Allen: That was me in the beginning.

Andrew: Okay. Then you hired an agency?

Allen: Then we hired just one person to help run that, which then evolved into two people and then they started an agency. I guess we were their first client.

Andrew: Who are they?

Allen: That was Josh Gatewood.

Cathryn: Mass Conversions.

Allen: And Joey Alter of Mass Conversions.

Andrew: Mass Conversions? That’s a good name for a Facebook ad agency. So it was Facebook that delivered the majority of your sales for the contest?

Allen: Yes.

Cathryn: In the beginning, for sure, until we grew more organic sort of people coming to it. We started a Facebook group after the Kickstarter for people that bought the journal and wanted help with their goals and that’s kind of turned into a whole thing in itself. So, at the beginning, we were just a journal company, now we have 15,000 in this group at least, last time I checked. They are super engaged, like sharing pictures of what their journals look like. If someone has a health goal, there’s a bunch of people piping in.

So a lot of people are saying, “I came in, I bought this $30 journal and now I have this whole community of people that . . .” If people are in the middle of nowhere — I live in New York, so I can meet people, but there’s people that don’t get this same sort of exposure to people that are trying to become their best self or personal development because it’s not like we learn it at school. So it’s kind of opened a lot of people’s eyes to what’s possible.

Andrew: This is BestSelf Alliance?

Allen: Yes.

Andrew: That is something that I’ve noticed you guys did. You really went bigger than a product to a bigger message, self-improvement, that there’s an audience of people that went on your Kickstarter page. You put a list of books. It was a stack of books full of notes and full of little stickies in there. There are people who relate to that who are on their own doing that, reading those books, trying to implement, wondering whether it works, not having anyone to hold them accountable and you guys became more than just the physical product. You became a place to work on this together.

Allen: Sure. I think that’s what drew us to this product, to this business that we created, more so than just selling shit on Amazon. No one cares about that. I didn’t have any connection to the customer, to the end user. Salt and pepper shakers, great, but I really don’t care. What I do care about is helping people. What Cathryn cares about is creating beautiful products that people love to use on a daily basis. We just had that connection to this community through the products that we make. I think that was the differentiating factor between those two companies.

Andrew: We should end this interview soon because we’re already running late. Daymond John, the guy from — I was going to say “Dragon’s Den,” but that’s the UK version, from —

Allen: “Shark Tank.”

Andrew: “Shark Tank,” thank you. He started promoting your site. There’s a freaking page on your site. What’s the URL for that? BestSelf.co . . .

Cathryn: BestSelf.co/pages/daymondjohn or it could be just /daymond.

Andrew: Let me see it. There it is, /daymond. His photo, he looks boss in this photo. He’s offering this guide. He was promoting it, this journal. What’s the deal? How did you get him to start promoting this?

Allen: So, when we won the Shopify Build a Business competition, he was one of the mentors that we met at that competition and he was launching a new book. While he was launching the new book — it hasn’t even been launched yet, but he was writing it. He was interested in possibly making a journal for himself. He was talking with his team, “What should I do?”

But then he came across ours, we gifted him one while we were there and we started a dialogue with him and his team and he was like, “You know what, guys? I like you. You guys are doing something really solid here. I like what you’ve done. Why don’t we collab and see if this works. I can see if it works with my audience. Number one, you set me up as an affiliate. That way I should see if I should even invest any time or energy into this to see if my audience likes this.”

Andrew: He told you right from the start, “I’m going to use you guys as a test and if it works, I’m going to create a competing product,” and you guys were okay with it. Did he deliver thousands of orders? How many orders?

Allen: I would say a handful of thousands. I don’t know hard numbers.

Cathryn: Low thousands, I would say.

Allen: It wasn’t monumental.

Cathryn: I will say just the partnership with him validates us over other companies that are doing something similar. So just having endorsement by Daymond John. He might have not delivered it, but if someone goes to our site and another site, they might say, “Daymond John endorsed this one, so I’ll go here.”

Allen: Totally.

Andrew: Yeah. I had no idea how impressive he was until I researched him for an interview that I did here on Mixergy. Damn, he’s impressive. You get a sense of it on the show, but not really. It’s not until I started reading up on him that I realized, “This guy really had done a lot.” Then I started wondering, “What the hell does he care about a few thousand dollars in affiliate commission from you?”

And now this helps clear it up. He probably cares. He cares about every little point on every little scoreboard, I imagine, because he seems like that kind of a person. But I get it. He wanted a way to track to see how effective this was and whether he should do it or not. Did he create something like this?

Allen: No, he didn’t. He still promotes us. The whole reason he was a little standoffish at first, but Cathryn ended up playing a six-hour Monopoly game that lasted until 2:00 in the morning.

Andrew: Where’d you do that?

Cathryn: At the Gatsby Mansion. So he travels with a Monopoly board. It’s not just a normal one. It’s like a couple thousand dollars he got at Barneys like 10 years ago or something. So he said that whenever he wants to work with a company or maybe he likes them, he will actually play Monopoly a lot of times with people because then he gets to know how they are with decisions and negotiating and strategy. He didn’t tell us that until near the end of the game, but I think about eight of us played.

Andrew: That’s a long game. Do you remember what he was like when he played it — by the way, I should say Daymond John also was, beyond being in “Shark Tank,” he created FUBU, which I don’t know how many people know if they’re just like frankly white dotcommers who are millennials, but man, growing up, my dad used to have this store on Myrtle Avenue and we would how see how FUBU clothes took over the whole street.

It wasn’t just the people who wore it who were wearing the FUBU message, but the people who wished they could afford it, the people who had a t-shirt with FUBU, For Us By Us, who had this swagger to them. I remember watching from the sidelines going there’s no way my dad from Iran is going to understand this, let alone compete with that. He didn’t. He ended up having to go to the cheaper brand, not the one that is more expensive and is aspirational.

So what was he like, Daymond John, when he was playing Monopoly with you?

Cathryn: He was a shark. He almost went out — I remember once where he just mortgaged everything and I was like, “Wow.” He came back and it ended up being the two of us at like 2:00 a.m. because everyone else was out. I ended up losing. I learned so much from that game, how to play Monopoly right. I didn’t know you could create housing shortages. There was a lot of stuff that was like, “I have not been playing Monopoly right for years.” But it was fun. Then after that, his business manager gave us his business card.

Andrew: So then they knew, “We’re ready to do business with her.”

Cathryn: Yeah.

Andrew: Of all of the things you got from having won that competition, I feel like that was the pinnacle. That’s when you guys could actually say, “Look, we made it not only sales-wise, but look, we’re better than the competition here. Look who we’re hanging out with. Daymond John and I are playing Monopoly together.” You got to meet Tony Robbins, right?

Cathryn: Yeah.

Andrew: Of all of those things, what’s the one that made you feel like you were entering the world you were reading about in the books that you photographed for your Kickstarter campaign? What’s the one thing that made you feel like, “I am in this world, not reading about it from a distance?” Is it doing a Mixergy interview?

Cathryn: I mean, I was going to say that, but I’ll say something else now.

Andrew: What is it?

Cathryn: It was probably ringing the Wall Street bell. I feel like that was the first time my parents were like, “Oh wow, she’s doing something.” Like my dad hasn’t asked how I’m paying rent since. He knows I’m doing something online.

Andrew: Was it the NASDAQ bell? Does NASDAQ have a bell?

Allen: New York Stock Exchange.

Cathryn: They do have a bell, but it was the Stock Exchange.

Andrew: The New York Stock Exchange.

Allen: It was the opening bell.

Andrew: Yeah. That’s the one you really want to ring the bell for, I think.

Allen: I do think it was that, but for me personally it was the night before they rung the bell, they walked us down to Wall Street and we came around the corner of the building and our logo was on the side of the New York Stock Exchange. It was like, “Oh my gosh.” That was it for me, but then similar to Cathryn, the next morning after we rung, I had so many text messages from family and friends and they were like, “Glad to see you’re doing something.” People understand that. It’s not like, “How’s that little journal company working for you?”

Andrew: Yeah. I feel like it’s more than a journal company, it’s a brand. It’s a brand and stands for something, so much so that I think you guys sell a poster with what you stand for. Am I right or is my memory a little bit off?

Cathryn: Yeah, we do.

Allen: It’s right behind Cathryn’s shoulder.

Andrew: It’s an expensive poster. This is all from memory. It’s like $30 for the poster?

Cathryn: Yeah, $37.

Andrew: $37. So, so much so that people will buy — most people can’t give away their stickers, can’t get people to take their poster and put it on the wall, you guys are selling it for $37. It stands for something. It stands for a certain aesthetic. It stands for a certain self-improvement book, Tony Robbins, Daymond John-type of aspiration, not aspiration that expresses itself in a Lamborghini but one that expresses itself in reading another book and taking notes on it. It’s a real brand.

And unlike so many of these software people whose software is going to become obsolete in a year and maybe their businesses will be overtaken in a while, I can see this kind of brand outlasting you, being something that you could sell, being something that you can start to see in the world expressed beyond journals, obviously beyond journals, but beyond the kind of things that you’re even envisioning today.

Allen: Keep going, Andrew.

Andrew: I’m telling you, I’m watching this from the outside. I’ve tried to get you guys in an interview. I watched you guys as you did it. There was a link when you were trying to hustle to get some sales to a Google Hangout and I came to check out the Google Hangout because I like to see how these businesses are doing it. There were two other people on the Hangout, but it was the two of you, “All right, everyone, we’re on this Shopify competition. We’re trying to get sales. We’re glad that you’re here. We’re going to talk to you about what we’re doing here. If you could, please go and vote for us on the Shopify.” You maybe got two votes. I don’t know.

Cathryn: We did have to — we won the people’s choice, so they took the top and then there was a vote off. We were like, “This is our job for the next week.” When we went to the party at the end, they had like a Gatsby party and Harley from Shopify was like, “Guys, we didn’t tell you this, but you guys crushed it with your votes,” and they never gave away — we didn’t know how many votes.

Andrew: They didn’t tell you how far ahead you were until you were done and then he said you guys crushed it.

Cathryn: Yeah. We didn’t even know we were ahead, which was good because we were like, “We have to hustle for the next week and we can’t let it slide.” Harley was like, “Wow, you guys got so many more opt-ins than anyone else. What did you do?” And it was from just doing everything that we could, including you posted on Facebook for us because I emailed you about it and just kind of asking people we knew.

Andrew: You feel no embarrassment asking for that. I think you might have sent me a link to the journal and I jumped in and bought it. I like to be one of the early buyers of things. I’m very proud. I think I got — there were a bunch of books and a bunch of software that I’m the first customer of. I like to be that. But if I didn’t, I would feel a little awkward since we know each other, “I better go buy it because she’s going to know whether I bought it or not,” and you felt no guilt about that, no sense of, “Well, I’m little embarrassed to ask Andrew to go buy because I’m putting him on the spot?”

Cathryn: You must have been on our email list at that point. I also don’t check up if people buy or not. I didn’t know you bought until you actually told me you bought. But no. We give people the opportunity to buy, but we’re not spammy with our friends or anything like that. It’s just here’s a link if you want to buy it, go ahead.

Andrew: It is pretty awkward of a request to make. I feel a little embarrassed to do it. I shouldn’t. I should do what you did, just send them an email one on one, right? Allen, did you do the same thing? Did you message your friends?

Cathryn: Allen probably sent that email?

Andrew: Did he?

Allen: I probably sent the email, actually. In this type of circumstance, for what we worked so hard for, for that goal that we set for ourselves to win the Shopify Build a Business competition, if that’s the only thing that’s on the line is getting votes, you better believe — here’s the thing, Andrew. It’s not like I just went out and said hey, please do this for me. We spent months putting deposits into the bank. So we would just go above and beyond to help people out, to provide value —

Andrew: You mean deposits in the friendship bank.

Allen: Correct. To help people out to provide value as much as possible. That one week, we withdrew everything. So that’s the best way that I can describe it.

Andrew: Here it is. I see an email. So it wasn’t a hangout, it was a Blab, “Andrew, thanks for stopping by the Blab the other day.” This is a follow-up email from Cathryn, and now I can see that you probably wrote it, Allen. “Thanks for stopping by the Blab the other day. It turns out a bunch of people had a hard time getting on. I guess recently they changed their rules.”

The subject line on this is “Quick Favor?” and the quick favor is, “Could you please tweet this out and of course go and vote.” So you guys are just asking, asking, asking and I could see the value of that. Here’s another email from Cathryn asking for a testimonial and I wonder if this is actually you or not.

Cathryn: No, I think that was me. I think that was for my blog.

Andrew: I see. I like it. I admire when people can do it. I feel like I need to be comfortable doing that too, that that really is the thing that you need to just go and keep feeling comfortable asking. Then frankly, at the end of it, they get to brag and say, “I bought the first one. I bought the first Kickstarter campaign” right? That’s a really big point of pride for me. I’m glad that I was one of the first customers and I’m glad to see how far you guys have come and I’m actually glad that I didn’t know that you had broken up, Cathryn, because it made for a very real moment there.

Cathryn: Yeah. I can’t wait to see how you use this in your marketing.

Andrew: It’s going to be the headline, “Look at the woman who got divorced just so she could succeed in business.” “I dumped my husband so I can keep 100% of my share of the business.” What else could we use?

Cathryn: Oh lord.

Andrew: “I regret doing a Mixergy interview.”

Cathryn: I have to warn Keith about this.

Andrew: I just interviewed someone and at the end of the interview I said, “So tell me, what did you think?” He goes, “I thought you were a little. . .” I said, “Don’t hold back.” He goes, “I think you were a dick.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I never called myself a NASA scientist. I don’t know how you found all these quotes of all these people calling me a NASA scientist and you’re calling me out on it like my reputation is on the line based on how I answer.” I said, “I ask the hard questions. I thought you handled it really well.” He said, “I think so too.” Then we’re fine. Do you guys regret any of it? Are you going to be upset you did this interview?

Allen: None.

Andrew: No.

Cathryn: No.

Andrew: Maybe Cathryn.

Cathryn: No, I don’t. I was like, “I could easily lie about this right now,” but then you dug in a little more. I was like, “I’m going to say it.”

Andrew: I’m glad you did. I feel like it’s awkward, I’m going to feel a little awkward about it later on. I think this openness is what it’s about. There’s this comic, I can’t even remember his name to make this point, but he was one of the leaders of the comedic community in LA back in the early days of The Comedy Store. He was on Letterman like seven, ten times, more than most other comics. Actually, if you went to his website, you see clips of him on the Letterman show over the years and you can’t remember a single fucking thing about the guy.

The reason you can’t is he gets on Letterman time after time and he tells his jokes, his stand-up jokes in a conversational way. You never get a sense of who he is. Of course, he could be on Letterman every freaking night, but no one is going to remember his name. No one is going to care about him. Nobody’s going to go see his show unless he happens to appear somewhere where you happen to be because you don’t get to know who he is.

When you talk a little bit about your background, about how you struggled about how you went through this program, about how you guys needed accountability buddies, about how you broke up, this is what people connect on. This is what it’s about. This is the reality of it. I’m not saying, “Hey, look, Cathryn, go open up your journal and go open up your sock drawer and everything else and show me what your life is,” but I’m saying the little bit of vulnerability, the little of realness is what people care about.

Anyone who watched this interview or listened to this interview all the way through to the end will care a lot about you Cathryn and say she’s lucky to have found Allen, but probably not get to know much about Allen, unfortunately because Allen, I do feel like I short-shafted you. I didn’t get to know you as much as I would have liked to in this interview because I was focusing on the person who I knew best. I hope you’ll come back Allen at some point and we’ll do another interview.

Cathryn: Allen is still married, so he’s good.

Allen: Yeah.

Andrew: I didn’t even get to find out about that. How long have you been married, Allen?

Allen: Two years.

Andrew: Okay. Is this business kind of putting a wedge between the two of you?

Allen: It was in the beginning. It’s not now. We’ve grown to a place where we have a team that can’t handle a lot of what I used to handle.

Andrew: So now you don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night.

Allen: I’m taking nights and weekends off now.

Andrew: You do. All right. The website is BestSelf.co. They’ve got a brand new plugin. I am in the beta community for the plugin, but I just realized that I haven’t even installed the plugin. If you install it on your computer every time you open up Chrome, that blank tab that just shows you the last six websites that you went to, which is kind of a waste of space or nine or whatever it is, is actually going to be useful. It will keep you focused on your goal and tell you exactly what you need to achieve it. where’s the URL for people to check out that plugin?

Allen: BestSelf.co/app.

Andrew: You could bet your ass the thing is going to look gorgeous. Thank you so much for doing this interview and thank you for my two sponsors, ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy and Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. If you’re out there listening to this interview and you got a lot out of it, please use it and eventually come back here and do an interview. I’d love to have you on here. Thank you both so much for being on here.

Cathryn: Thanks, Andrew.

Allen: Thanks, Andrew.

Andrew: Thanks. Bye.


  • Mitch Bowler

    Been following this story forever – thanks for the latest update Andrew, Cat and Allen!

  • Luke Callier

    Wow – I think that was one of the most awkward moments I’ve ever heard on Mixergy, but a credit to you Andrew and Cathryn for letting it all hang out there. So raw. So uneasy. Such good listening. The real world of being an entrepreneur isn’t all bells and whistles for everyone is it…

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