Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of real entrepreneurs, and get this, today’s guest is a turbulent freaking life. How’s he still smiling right now? Listen to this. The guy gets into real estate, does well, boom, loses it all. Am I right? Lose it all? And then you’ve got to start over again by living . . . Well, we’ll talk about what happened. Then he gets into weed, becomes what did Mother Jones call you? Ganjapreneur?
Dhar: Yeah, ganjapreneur.
Andrew: Ganjapreneuer. San Jose Mercury News decides to echo that, it becomes a thing. He gets into legal trouble, and all I know is my producers, someone on my team saying, “Andrew makes sure to understand, this guy had a federal felony conviction. Do not miss that.” I go, “This is what happened to him.” Again, has to go back and start from scratch. He gets into, and we’ll know by looking at him today. He gets into makeup, makeup of all things, and today he’s back on top with a company that does subscription makeup being sold online.
His name is Dhar Mann. He is the founder of LiveGlam. They offer subscription makeup club. I get freaking lost in his world. There are people out there on Instagram and on other platforms too. All they do is they just like show you how they put makeup on, and I get freaking lost in their world. I never put makeup on. I don’t even brush my hair. And I still get lost in their world and part of them are influencers who promote his product. I invited him here to figure out how he’s using and working with influencers to build this product, but I also want to get some of this backstory to see how we got here.
And we can do this whole thing, thanks to two phenomenal companies. The first will help you do email marketing and more. It’s called ActiveCampaign and the second will help you find a phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal. I will you about them later.
Dhar, while we’re still friends here, I’m going to hit you with the revenue question. How much money are you guys producing? 2017, what’s the revenue going to be? 2018.
Dhar: Yeah. For sure. 2018, right? Yeah. So we’re at 15 million by the end of this year.
Andrew: Fifteen million dollar?
Andrew: Are you able to take any of this money put in the bank and actually give yourself a little bit of a cushion, in case?
Dhar: Yes. You know, we’ve been profitable since our very first month. We started with only $600. That was the only amount of money that I had in the bank. That was less than three years.
Andrew: What about right now? Personal bank account? You have any cash?
Dhar: Yeah, I keep a good amount of cash.
Andrew: More than a million dollars in the bank?
Andrew: Personal cash. Got it. Because you’ve hit such freaking lows. What was your lowest where you said, “I am not the man I thought I was. I grew up even at age eight thinking I was an entrepreneur. I was going to make it. I actually might be a fraud and I’ve let myself down”? What was the worst time for you?
Dhar: That was probably my 30th birthday. I went into a bar where just the year before I had my Lambo parked outside and I was buying out the club with like, you know, tons of friends and celebrities there, and then on my 30th birthday, I entered the club and when I got my bar bill just for buying drinks at the bar, I didn’t even know if my credit card was going to go through or not, on my 30th birthday.
Andrew: And you had to do it because you already said you were going to do this before you knew that things were falling apart for you?
Dhar: You know, I actually . . . there was many times where I thought I was going to give up. I mean, as like in like South Asian, Indian immigrant, the very worst thing that you can do is to move back in with your parents after you’ve left. And I had moved to LA, you know, I was doing well and then once I hit sort of rock bottom, I thought I was going to have to move back in with my parents at 30 years old. So, it was super embarrassing. But yeah, I definitely had thoughts as to, “Is this it? Am I finished? Am I ever going to be able to climb back from this?” But I think when it’s just in your blood, it’s like your animal instinct. It just doesn’t let you give up.
Andrew: And it’s in your blood because like, let’s go back to age eight. I mentioned that even at age eight, you express this entrepreneurial desire. What’s the thing that you saw that you said I’m going to get into business creating?
Dhar: Yeah, definitely. So when I was growing up, my like parents were just immigrants. They came with $40 in their pocket from India. My dad started by driving a taxi cab at night and working in the bank during the day. And so, I just saw him go from driving a taxi cab to ultimately owning the largest taxi cab business in Oakland. And I pretty much grew up at my parents’ office, because they were working 16 hours a day. They’d have taxis pick me up and drop me off to school.
Andrew: I would love that. Yeah.
Dhar: [inaudible 00:04:29] office. So yeah, I was just always surrounded by that entrepreneurial spirit.
Andrew: What do you think it was about your dad that got him to be so successful? He could have stopped at one cab. He could’ve stopped at like two people driving his cabs. He had to build it up. Why do you think he needed it?
Dhar: It is interesting because I actually just got back from India and when I was there, I was going around his village. Seeing where he grew up, they were so poor that literally they could only finish . . . they could only put one brick down like at a time for their floor in their house. It was 12 siblings sharing one room ,and it was really a competition as to who could even get food. They used to have to use the street light, one street light outside that everybody would sit under in order to be able to get their homework done.
And the school in which he was educated in was a tiny room that, and that was the only education that he got like throughout his whole life. And so for him, like he wasn’t organized, he doesn’t, you know, he barely speaks English. Like he doesn’t understand like a lot of technical aspects of running a business, but the one thing that he . . . the two things that he has is one, he’s a great negotiator, so he buys everything super cheap. He pays way less than most people do for things and number two, he’s just got more drive than anyone else I’ve ever met. And for them, for him I think it was really a matter of survival, but even though he has so much today, he hasn’t lost that instinct as if like, if I don’t make this 100 bucks today, I am going to go to bed hungry even though, you know, he’s so successful.
Andrew: He’s still that. Even like this next 100 bucks is . . . got it. If I don’t make it, I’m going to be hungry. What did he used to take you into, like Macy’s growing up and negotiate with the store people?
Dhar: Nothing was off limits.
Andrew: What’s the craziest negotiation? And I imagine you must have been embarrassed when he was doing that. What’s a crazy negotiation?
Dhar: Crazy negotiation. God. I mean, I’ve literally seen him, I mean, my school tuition, I’ve seen him negotiate.
Andrew: And did you feel embarrassed? You said, “Dad, I got friends here. They’re already like looking at me as a weirdo because I’m from India.”
Dhar: You know, I never saw it as embarrassing but I picked all those things up and I remember going on dates when I was in college and girls would be super embarrassed because I would always negotiate. But I thought that that was normal. I thought that was . . .
Andrew: Wait. You’d negotiate on a date?
Dhar: I would negotiate, yeah. I mean, not with the girl to go on a date, but we’ll maybe. But when I’m at, like, when I’m shopping or something, I would negotiate with the store on my first date. I wouldn’t be embarrassed because I never saw it as something [to be shy over that 00:06:59].
Andrew: What kind of store would you negotiate in?
Dhar: It was embarrassing being picked up in a taxi once I got to high school and [inaudible 00:07:05] embarrassing. But, yeah. So, like . . .
Andrew: You’re saying you’d go to a restaurant with someone and then when the bill came you negotiate or what?
Dhar: Not really a restaurant. But yeah, I mean, I would definitely be ordering like on the cheaper side of the menu, but yeah, I remember like if we even walked into like a shoe store or something like I would just negotiate so hard, and even now it’s just like a part of my DNA where it’s more so just the thrill of like knowing that you can get the best price possible. It’s not so much about [inaudible 00:07:36].
Andrew: Okay. All right. I see college sophomore year, you get yourself a sweet two bedroom apartment. What made it so desirable? What was it that made it so good? [inaudible 00:07:45] something.
Dhar: So when I was in college, I started off, well, I started creating my first mortgage brokerage. By the time before my 21st birthday, I had a Lambo. I had a penthouse apartment. I was living next door to the governor of the state.
Andrew: Wait, wait, was this before Davis Marketing Services or after?
Dhar: So I basically, I was . . . how much of this do you want me to go into?
Andrew: Let’s go into the whole thing. I got time.
Dhar: Okay. So, been like, throughout my whole life just been entrepreneurial. When I was 10 years old, I would sell things like other elementary school students and then in high school I was the first person with a CD burner, so I would actually make like copying CDs and sell it to all my classmates and then in college after my freshman year I was looking for a roommate and I couldn’t figure out how to reach students. This is like pre-Craigslist, pre-all these services that exist today, so I figured out go around and just put flyers on all the school buildings that existed looking for a roommate, and it was a hit. I got all these calls. I found a roommate within 24 hours, but I realized it was a ton of work to try to put all those flyers up. So many brands trying to reach students. What if I created whole business around this?
So I had zero money in the bank. What I did is I hired a commission-based salesperson to go around. I came up with all the designs myself. I negotiated with the local copy shop so I could make money like on all the prints, and then I hired a sorority company, a sorority who would have all of their like freshmen entrants as part of their hazing or whatever. They’d have to go and put all these flyers up in all these buildings. So I had all these setups in place, so I didn’t actually have to come out of pocket with any money. And then I just had like a booming business at 19, getting all this money from businesses wanting to post flyers in student buildings.
Andrew: I heard you were up to like $5,000 a month, eventually $10 actually?
Dhar: Yeah, $5,000 to $10,000. And to me that was making it big. But my brother was really killing it in a real estate. This is like 2006, 2007 when real estate was just on fire, especially the home mortgage company. And he kept telling me like, you know, I was seeing his lifestyle go up. All of a sudden, you know, we’re at the bar, we’re no longer ordering beers, we were doing bottles of Dom Perignon or whatever. And he’s telling me, “Real estate’s on fire. Why don’t you use your marketing company to help recruit students who could, you know, dial for dollars and basically get people to re-finance?” So at 19 years old, that’s when I started my first real estate mortgage brokerage.
Andrew: And when you say you started your first real estate mortgage brokerage, basically the way it works is, there are these companies that will offer the mortgages, they’re going to give you a commission for getting somebody to get a mortgage through them. And it’s on you to hustle to get clients, to get homeowners.
Dhar: So we . . . I actually set up like a classic boiler room of what you can imagine, like you’d walk in and there was literally 40 students dialing for dollars on the phone non-stop. And they would try to get loan applications by telling people they could help them re-finance, take cash out or lower their mortgage payment. As soon as they got the loan application, those applications would come to me. And then I’d set up those appointments and close those deals.
Andrew: Okay. And the people who they’d call, where to get those people? Where’d you get that?
Dhar: So that comes from the title company. All of mortgage information is actually public info. So title companies would give us the leads and so we know like which bank they work with, what their interest rate was, like we had certain info going into it.
Andrew: And you used to go in and get a phone company to give you a bunch of lines. Tell your friends come on in here, I’ll pay you money and you just up and running?
Dhar: Yeah. I think by the time I was 20, I had 40 employees working for me. And we’re all just like a bunch of 18, 19-year-olds really with, you know, no idea what to do. But yeah, it was a pretty big operation. Looking back at it.
Andrew: How much money?
Dhar: At that time, I mean, I was funding like, God, I think my biggest month I did like $7 million in loan funding. So, I probably made, you know, at that point I was probably making like $40,000, $50,000 a month profit.
Andrew: Wow. All right. That’s really nice. And then the real estate market crashed? We are talking about in 2006 when you got into this, 2008 was the worst of it. What happened to you?
Dhar: Yeah, so I’ve always been a guy who just spends way more than like, I need to spend and I’m caught up in like . . .
Andrew: Let me pause and ask you why? Why is that? Who are you trying to impress? What are you trying to do?
Dhar: You know, it’s funny is like as I get older I look back and I think about things that I’ve picked up from childhood, that just spilled over into my adulthood and what I realize is because my parents were so busy all the time, they were never around. And so, I always just sort of associated money with love, because even though they didn’t have time, they would just give me money and say, “Hey, just go buy some new baseball cards.” I had all this money when I was like in high school, it was given to my parents but they were never around.
Andrew: And so, you know what? I’m sorry, Dhar, sorry to interrupt you, but I got to tell you, that makes sense, then why would you then have to take it a step further and let everybody else know that you had money? You were trying to do something there?
Dhar: Because how I saw it was, they gave me money and how I saw it is like, in exchange I gave love. And so for me to get love and acceptance, I had to have money. And that’s why I just sort of lead with money with all of my relationships and that became my way of saying, “Hey, I’m worth building a relationship with. I’m worth having a friendship with [inaudible 00:13:15]. Yeah, I associated money with like trying to build relationships with people.
Andrew: Are you past that now?
Dhar: Yeah. Now that I have an understanding, it really took me three big successes and failures, like three complete loops to be able to understand. Look, it’s, you know, I’m the common denominator in all of these things and I’ve got to take responsibility for all these big losses and big failures that have happened to me, and that’s when I was able to analyze as to like, why have I been operating this way? What’s causing . . . what’s in my wiring that’s causing me to keep going through this like path where I make money, I’d spend it all, I lose everything and then I’m starting rock bottom again. And then after the third time, right before starting this cosmetics company, that’s when I was able to break that pattern.
Andrew: And the reason that you needed to go back to your parents’ house after this is, because you spent so much. Because frankly if the market would have dried up, as a mortgage broker, you just lose customers. You have no new customers coming in. You tell all your friends, “Hey, sorry guys, I can’t afford to hire you anymore, to keep paying you.” And you keep the money that you banked. But you couldn’t do that because you bought what? Three houses, a Lamborghini. What else?
Dhar: Exactly. So, I had by the time . . . by the time I was 21, I had three houses. I had a Lamborghini. Shortly thereafter a bought a Rolls Royce. I had a BMW M5, so I just had all these exotic cars and my lifestyle was essentially rented, because I was doing minimum down payments and I was spending like I had all this credit card debt because I always liked this big time partier who was out every night, so my burn rate was so high that had I just been smart with my money when it was coming in so quickly, I would have been at a great place and it wouldn’t have gotten to the lows that it gotten to. But simply because I packed on all this debt, that’s why it couldn’t like sustain when things hit rock bottom.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment to talk about my first sponsor and then we’re going to go into the rest of the story. For anyone who’s listening to you, Dhar, right now, who says, “Oh, I dig these energy. I dig his style.” The idea of running through Davis, UC Davis and putting up posters everywhere and flyers and getting customers and the whole thing. If that’s exciting to them, then this next sponsor is going to make sense. If it’s not, they should just go with something easy email system. Because look, the thing about ActiveCampaign is, they are for these marketing hustlers, the people who say there’s got to be a smarter way to market than to just send out the same email to everybody.
There’s got to be something smarter. And what ActiveCampaign will do is say, “If people are clicking on a certain part of your website more and more, just send them a message that’s geared to that.” So for, you can imagine if somebody was . . . actually, what . . . you guys have a couple of different lines of makeup, right? What are two different types? So you have something for men? And so, no, you don’t have anything for men. Do you?
Dhar: Not yet. Next year. We have skincare coming.
Andrew: Perfect. Imagine next year you come out with this, you’ve got an email list of women who are interested in makeup for women. Imagine if you add this extra thing for men. Sure, you can have two different email lists and it makes sense. Absolutely. You say, “Look, we’re going to give you tips for men about how to use cosmetics to make ourselves look better and feel healthier,” but you don’t always want to have people explicitly say, “I’m a man and I want this.”
Sometimes you could notice that there’s someone who is watching a lot of videos of women putting on makeup and you just intelligently have to have your software say, this person needs to be tagged as someone who’s interested in our female makeup and start sending them makeup for women. If they buy, you need to intelligently tag them as a buyer and then start marketing to them differently. These are simple little things that if you have the right software, anyone could do. Anyone can do it.
And if I recommend, ActiveCampaign is a software to do it is because I know that not only can this be done in ActiveCampaign, but if you sign up, you will actually take advantage of it because they make it super easy to use. If you go to activecampaign.com/mixergy right now, you can try it for free and actually get to see how this works and how it can change your life. And if you decide to work with them, they’ll give you your second month for free.
They’ll do two free consultation calls. That means on the first one you say, “Listen, Andrew is telling me about all this stuff. I understand I got this hustler mentality. What can I do that works today?” They’ll show you, they’ll walk you through it. And then you come back after you use it and you say, “Here’s what worked, here’s what didn’t. Let’s come up with the next plan.” And they’ll do it. They’ll help you out, so you get that too.
And finally, if you’re with a crappy email provider and you’re not happy with them and you shouldn’t be, they will even migrate you for free. Here’s the URL where you get all of that. Get to be part of this like marketing revolution. It’s activecampaign.com/mixergy, activecampaign.com/mixergy. So, coming back into the story, you’re now at your parents’ house. Are you able to date when you’re at your parents’ house? You can’t bring a woman home to [inaudible 00:17:48]
Dhar: I still can’t date now, according to my parents. They are still those super old school Indian. They’re barely wrapping their heads around what dating is.
Andrew: They did . . . who was it in the family who had a property management company?
Dhar: So I started a property management company. My parents have just always owned a lot of real estate, and so, after I graduated from college, the mortgage crisis hit. I had all these cars that I was, you know, that I was paying these high, high payments on that I couldn’t afford anymore, so what I did, instead of losing my cars, I ended up starting an exotic car rental company, so I turned like these depreciating assets into actually income producers, and then afterwards I was just like, okay, the mortgage crisis is happening. I can’t do mortgages anymore. I got into property management and then started managing my family’s real estate.
Andrew: Property management is somebody’s toilet, is on the fritz, Dhar gets a call and Dhar got to figure it out how to deal with it?
Dhar: That’s more maintenance, but that’s one aspect. That’s one of the most annoying aspects of property management. Yeah.
Andrew: And this dude says that there was a break-in in his property, you go in to check it out, you tell them, “Let’s just call the police and let them know,” and he says no. Why did he say now?
Dhar: Yeah, for sure. So, well, let me just backtrack one sec. And so, when I was rehabbing my parents’ property, I found out about this loan program, this grant program, where for every dollar that I would spend in construction on rehabbing my parents’ property, I would get a $1 grant back and, you know, I’m this super ambitious like young entrepreneur looking to make a name for myself and take on like all these different real estate projects in Oakland. I was 22 years old. And so I started taking on all of these projects and what I didn’t anticipate is, in order for me to get the grant money from the government, it would take over a year.
So I ended up in this cash bind once again and I ended up taking some shortcuts on my paperwork that will later plug in to the story. So that’s why I set that. And then so one day, I’m just, you know, in my office attendant comes in who’s running a professional catering company and he comes to my office and says, you know, he had a break-in. So right away I pick up the phone and I say, okay, let me call the police. Like we got to get them over right away. And he goes, “No, no, please don’t call the cops. I’m not actually running a catering business, I’m running a medical marijuana grow operation.”
I was like, “You’re growing weed. Oh my God, that’s even worse than I thought.” Like I filed a lawsuit to like get him out as a tenant. And I thought I was going to get into all this trouble and then my lawyer comes to me right before he met the judge and he goes, “Dhar, I looked at all their paperwork and they’re growing weed legally. You’re going to lose this case if you proceed.” And I’m like, “You mean growing weed is legal in California?” This is back in 2008, 2009. So weed had been legal for a few years, but most people didn’t know that, and that’s when my eyes just opened like, holy crap, not only is it legal, but there’s this whole major industry that exists and it’s all like the epicenter of all is right here in my backyard in Oakland. So that was one of the first light bulb went off.
Andrew: And you decided to do what with that?
Dhar: So at that time, the city of Oakland, one dispensary had just revealed that they did $70 million dollars in revenue in one year. And so I was like, just like everyone else, I got to sell weed. I got open up a dispensary. But at that time there was a limit as to how many permits were given. The city was getting ready to open more permits, but you had to prove that you have a lot of experience in order to get one of those permits, like in the marijuana industry. So I decided to become like the go-to guy when it came to teaching people how to grow marijuana. So, I started the first ever honest hydroponic store that openly taught people how to grow weed in a 15,000 square foot warehouse right across the street from the Oakland airport. And we even had an onsite doctor to issue cannabis cards and we even had our own university to teach people how to grow.
Andrew: Wow. And how big did that get? This is before WeGrow then.
Dhar: So that was iGrow because it was one . . . it was a single location and I got . . . so my very first interview that I ever did was on CNN Live and so I had all this media attention. I’d never experienced it. Like I went into like literally you go outside and you think Donald Trump had just arrived or something. There’s so many news vans all over the place and it’s my first time ever giving an interview. And so I’m all over the world. Like in China, Brazil, like every country that you can imagine. And I’m having so, you know, which is such a big rush and I’m having all these emails pouring in from people that are just saying, “I want to franchise this concept. I want to scale this, let’s take this all over.”
And I hadn’t even figured out how to make it successful in Oakland yet. It was literally my first day opening the store, but then I just got so hung up and I was like, “Yeah, we’re going to franchise this all over the country.” And so I started opening up locations. I was one . . . I started one of the first franchises for any medical marijuana businesses, and we opened several locations across the country.
Andrew: But as I understand it, you guys when it became WeGrow, you weren’t training, you were actually selling hydroponic equipment, am I right?
Dhar: Right. So we weren’t actually selling any weed. I had set up WeGrow as basically just a resume builder for myself, that’s how it started, in order for me to get to my ultimate goal, which was being licensed to be able to grow and sell for the whole state of California.
Andrew: And that was your goal. You eventually wanted to be someone selling the stuff?
Dhar: Exactly. That’s where I saw the biggest money [crosstalk 00:23:18].
Andrew: Sorry, go ahead.
Dhar: I was selling all the pigs pans and shovels, sort of like the gold rush in order to get some gold.
Andrew: And you think that because you are in the marijuana space, that’s why a prosecutor came after you?
Dhar: So what happened was I won the permit that I was originally interested in, and so I was just getting all this media attention and part of that permitting process is that, you know, it was like a deep dive into my background. And so, I had a prosecutor just looking at every single thing, all the paperwork I had submitted to the city of Oakland. And then on one of my, on some of the paperwork, they found those errors or those shortcuts that I had taken earlier on in my career.
So literally I had just made headlines that, you know, Dhar Mann, ganjapreneur, wins one of four licenses to grow weed for the entire state of California. And then days later a prosecutor filed 13 felony charges against me right as I was on this high of winning this permit, so it was like that week was like the highest of the high and the lowest of lows that you can imagine all within a really short time frame.
Andrew: And when they’re coming after you, it’s really hard to win. Right? Their win rate is . . . I forget what it was. I remember taking a law class in high school and when I heard the win percentage, it was just devastating. You feel like once they get you, you really have to just be done with it. Did you win the first round?
Andrew: Is that what it was, and then you did?
Dhar: So sad that I know about this, but that’s federal prosecution that you’re talking about. So their win rates like 98% plus. For the local like district attorney is not as high, but yeah, so basically, my reputation was tarnished like just as I was making all these headlines as this ganjapreneur who was, you know, launching this major massive marijuana company that was like growing, you know, all over the country and making these international headlines. All of a sudden I became this tainted and dieted, you know, ganjapreneur who rose and who fell, like, you know, everybody knew about me because of this fame, and then just many new people knew about me because of this whole indictment.
And so, in the beginning I ended up, I spent two years of, you know, attorney fees and my time and I ended up winning this lawsuit. But within the district court you can refile criminal charges. So, after the district attorney lost, two years later, they ended up refiling those 13 charges against me.
Andrew: And you weren’t able to settle for anything less than a mark on your record?
Dhar: I had to take the stain on my reputation. I got in front of a judge who was just like, “You know what? This isn’t . . . ” They were saying that I took $40,000. That’s what the city had taken. Even though there was no actual financial loss, a judge looked at that and said, “Look, this isn’t like a jail time case. You can either keep fighting it or if you want, just get on probation for five years, you’ll be stuck with five felonies. As soon as you complete your probation, you can go ahead and get those expunged from your record.” So I eventually accepted that deal and I applied no contest to those charges.
Andrew: What happened to WeGrow? The site now I think is redirecting to a different domain. What happened to the business?
Dhar: Yeah. So, at that time, I mean, it’s very difficult to make it in the marijuana industry as it is. I know as of right now I was just reading the news and like stock . . . marijuana stocks are exploding. The whole industry is on fire. But, you know, very few people actually succeed, especially to the level that I had gotten to, but trying to make it in a controversial industry with a tainted reputation is so difficult. And because I was the face of the brand, it just became like a very uphill battle to try to do business with anybody and especially a lot of what we were doing. A lot of my goals in the marijuana industry were to actually get licenses by the state, and so what I realize is I probably just have to switch industries and I just have to cut my losses and move on. So I ended up selling WeGrow for a fraction of whatever I would have gotten, obviously, if I’d waited until today.
Andrew: I see a picture of the WeGrow store. This was a big box store. Did you own that or it was just someone paying you a licensing fee so they could open it up?
Dhar: So I owned the first location that opened. I don’t know which one you’re looking at. So the first location I owned and then other ones franchise. So that was a franchise.
Andrew: That was a franchise. Somebody else’s. And this is in a CNN article, first sentence is, “It’s called the Walmart of weed.” Who called it the Walmart of weed? Was that you?
Dhar: Well, CNN. But I mean I was definitely behind a lot of the marketing terms that were used.
Andrew: Okay. You got out of the business. How well did you do with that one?
Dhar: No. I mean, you know, at that time it was enough for me to cover my legal expenses, but it was less than seven figures, so I made a few hundred thousand dollars from it and then basically was just enough to start over with my life with nothing.
Andrew: The new thing . . . well, again man, most people would just say, “Maybe I just don’t have it.” But not explicitly wake up and say maybe I just don’t have it. But they lose a little bit of confidence, that little edge that gets you to take a risk that gets you to tell someone that you could do something just because you believe in it. Most people would lose it. Why didn’t you lose it?
Dhar: I did lose it. I think, you know, I’d be lying if I was to say that I never lost it, but I guess I would just never let myself stay down. I think that was a big part is I just knew that I was like, I had to make something happen and I wasn’t about to go apply for a job at The Gap or at Macy’s and, you know, I just . . . I was never going to work for someone. The only job I ever had was at 16 years old when I worked for Macy’s, and even during my downtime, like I took a little bit of a break, but my brain was always just like functioning. Like what’s next? What new product can I create? What’s the next big, you know, industry, like how can I get in?
So I guess if everyone goes through rough patches, sort of like Tiger woods or some other notable person who goes through difficult times, but when that’s just like the programming of your brain, you know, that you might temporarily fall, but you’re never going to stay down.
Andrew: All right. That brings me up to my second sponsor and I’m going to continue with this affiliate dude that you met and how you ended up in a four story mansion. Nine exotic car.
Dhar: Didn’t know you knew about that one. Wow.
Andrew: Second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Guys, if you’re listening to Dhar Mann talk about how he gets really psyched up about entrepreneurship, coming up with creative ideas. I feel like before you go to sleep, you come up with an idea. When you’re to someone, you come up with five ideas, it just keeps running through your head. Even when you want to turn it off, it goes through. The reason I bring it up is because good developers can do that same thing around development. They can’t stop thinking about this. They can’t stop coming up with new ideas, new solutions, and so if you’re out there and you’re listening to me and you’re looking for a developer who can think like that, who lives this stuff, I hate the cliché like lives and breathes it, so I’ll go with . . .
In the middle of the night they think about this, while they’re eating they think about this, while they’re looking at their kids, while they’re kissing their wives, while they’re going out with their boyfriends, they think about this because they can’t help it. Think about your problems. Think about solving. Think about good code.
If that’s what you’re looking for, well, you can go to Google and try to hire people away from them or Facebook or many of these big companies or you can recognize that lot of a people who just don’t want to work for them. They don’t want to work in an office here in South Bay. Instead, they’d rather work in whatever part of the world they live in and just work on incredible products, incredible projects and that’s what Toptal’s about. They have amassed a collection of developers were that good, do not want to be shoved into a Google bus and bussed down to Google every day and instead would rather stay in eastern Europe if that’s where they are.
Rather stay in South America. I know I lived in Argentina. I totally get it and work on interesting projects. If you’re looking to hire, you owe it to yourself to talk to them. If you go to toptal.com/mixergy, you’ll get to hit that big button. Schedule a call with one of their matchers, it’s called. The matcher will understand you in like a matchmaker, like [Yenta 00:31:00] from the movie will go into their database of developers. Find the one or two people who they think you’d be perfect for you. You get to have a conversation with them, test them, check them, make sure it’s right, and if you liked them, you can often get started within a day or two. You can get started that fast. Think about your hiring issue right now. It could be solved within a week.
All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy. When you’re there, make sure to check out how they’ll give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period. I want you to read the details at toptal.com/mixergy. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy.
And the model on that website is no LiveGlam model, but really, really good looking model on toptal.com/mixergy. Super hot. Let’s go back into . . . I want to quickly talk a little bit about this affiliate person and jump into LiveGlam because what you’re doing in LiveGlam is really fascinating to me. What was the affiliate person telling you that drew you in?
Dhar: Yeah, so I had just sold, WeGrow and I was looking for a brand new start. I meet this young guy, he’s like half Indian and half German, and he’s super smart and he’s like out every night driving fancy cars, popping bottles at the club. I’m like, “What is it that you’re doing? It doesn’t even seem like you have a job. You’re making all this money.” He didn’t even drink and he told me he was running this really successful affiliate marketing program and the day we met and even shows me his bank account, he’s got $4 million bucks in the bank, and he must be 25 years old at that time.
And so I was like, “How do I get in? I’m looking for my next opportunity. I got some capital,” and he’s like, “You know, if you want ,you can go ahead and just invest through me, I’ll give you a return on the money, you know, just as a favor, as a friendship, but otherwise I wouldn’t do this for anybody else.”
Start with investing a little bit of money, making this awesome return, invest a little bit more money, a little bit more money and then, you know, I’m getting all these interest payments coming in every month, and I don’t have to work. So I’m like, “Why am I living in San Francisco when I could go be living in Los Angeles and having like this L.A. bachelor life?” So I ended up moving to L.A. probably about like five years ago. And as soon as I get here, you know, at that time I started ramping up my investments with him. I started convincing my family to put in some money. I get this four-story mansion in Hollywood Hills. I’m going out like four nights a week. I’ve got at this stage of my high, I had nine exotic cars in my garage. I literally had to block off part of the street just with all these exotic cars.
Andrew: Once again, back to cars?
Dhar: Yeah, except on steroids now. Now it’s like, I don’t have the 2002 model. I’ve got the 2017 . . .
Andrew: And all you’re doing is investing in him and he’s then kicking cash to you?
Dhar: He’s kicking cash back.
Andrew: And what was he saying that he was doing?
Dhar: He was looking at marketing. So basically, he was buying real estate on websites and then just directing that traffic and making commissions for all the sales.
Andrew: What’s the stuff? Everyone always says just offers like Netflix? What’s the most disgusting thing that worked well?
Dhar: It was like wart cream, like hair loss, like those kinds of products.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Okay.
Dhar: And so, yeah, so I’ve got this like once again, I’ve got this house, I’ve got these cars. I started dating this reality TV star, I bought a 15 carat diamond ring. I got engaged.
Andrew: How much does a 15 carat diamond ring cost?
Dhar: It’s about a million bucks. Well, it just depends on the clarity. And then I gifted her like a Rolls-Royce for her birthday. And then right after I got engaged, probably within a couple of months or so. I just stopped hearing from this guy after and he was like my best friend. He was like my family member. He just stopped returning phone calls and things started to unravel very quickly where I had all these other people calling me saying, “Hey, I invested with, his name was Nik, I invested with Nik, like, have you heard from him?” And I was like, “No, I thought I was the only [inaudible 00:34:47].”
Andrew: What’s Nik’s last name?
Dhar: Nik Jassawalla, Nikhil Jassawalla. So yeah, he’s facing sentencing. I’m skipping ahead. But yeah, so basically, all these people started coming to me and saying, “You know, I invested through me, like I haven’t heard from him.”
And I was like, “Whoa. I thought I was the only one.” Next thing I know the FBI is calling like people that I know. And what I didn’t realize is Nik was going around because I was this Instagram baller. I was flashing my whole lifestyle on Instagram.
Andrew: Your girlfriend, by the way, was this a reality star from the “Shahs of Sunset”?
Andrew: I’ve actually seen that show. I don’t watch a lot of reality TV show. This is high profile.
Dhar: Yeah. So, you know, I’m like, I’m putting on advertising everything like a billboard on Instagram, putting myself out there.
Andrew: Like what? What did you put on Instagram that was so . . . oh, I see. I see. Sorry, you go ahead.
Dhar: Yeah, I showed like how I use my black card to buy a white Rolls Royce Phantom. So I was like at the dealership using the black card to buy the white Phantom, like, you know, just obnoxious stuff like obnoxious lifestyle. I got to almost a million followers when no one else had any followers on Instagram. And, you know, so I was as high profile baller and I didn’t realize that Nik was basically, he was behind the scenes, he didn’t have social media and he was going around to investors saying look at Dhar Mann, look at his Instagram. He’s like making all this money through me.
And so, if you want to invest also, I will give you this return. So he was making . . . he was bringing in all of this money using me as the poster child. So when everyone’s stopped getting paid, all of a sudden the feds came to them and they were just like, “Oh yeah, Dhar Mann is the one running this whole thing,” and I already had a criminal record. I was on probation. And so they’re like, “Yeah, it makes sense. He’s got all this money, there’s no known business and he’s got a criminal record.”
And so at that time all my money stopped coming in. I had the FBI investigating me, calling everybody in our circles. My ex-fiancée decided to like just ditch me and kicked me while I was down and put me on blast publicly.
Andrew: Why? Why do you think? Do you think that she was more interested in reputation than in you?
Dhar: You know, I definitely take my own responsibility because when I met her I just made it seem like I could walk on water and like money wasn’t a thing, because that was really my perception at that time. I didn’t realize that all my money was going to stop. So it kind of started with these superficial pretenses. So I don’t blame her for not sticking around when shit hit the fan for me, because it wasn’t real to begin with in that way. So, I’m losing.
And I’m like, you know, I think I’m about to have every night I would go to bed thinking the feds were about to break down the door, arrest me. I was going to be gone for 20 years. I stopped posting on Instagram because I was this Instagram baller with no money that everybody was calling out. I was being blasted all over, like Twitter, on Instagram. All these articles. I was lost all my cars. I lost my house. I’m now living in a 300 square foot apartment, sharing it with the roommates, sleeping on the couch. I preferred moving in with my parents because I had $600 left to my name, and I owed my family money because they all invested into Nik, as well. So literally every relationship I had, including my family members was tarnished because everybody lost money and I was at rock bottom with nothing.
Andrew: Lily, your ex fiancée, she is . . . I’ve seen some articles here where she said that you were basically, that she was charmed by you and you were kind of a scammer who didn’t really give her many gifts, like a lot of people said. It was just one Chanel bag. The car that you gave her was actually leased. It was taken away from her after she did a couple drives in it. It was just, the headline of this is, getting candid about being scammed by ex-fiancé. You must’ve felt like garbage.
Dhar: I thought I was done and, you know, that what hurt me is that like, I knew that it was true because I had lost everything and it was, you know, it was just like, wow, I am that person. But I had no . . . I didn’t know all that was going to happen. It wasn’t my intention to hurt anyone. I just didn’t realize that basically Nik was running a Ponzi scheme.
That’s what I eventually ended up finding out. Thankfully the feds ended up figuring it out really quick as well. So now if he was indicted, they got a big victim fund. Everybody who lost their money is now getting their money back, and so yeah. It was just . . . I talked about like a dark place to be in your life. Everybody hates you. You have no money. Your reputation is tarnished. Nobody wants to touch you with a 10 foot pole and now all of a sudden you’re sharing the couch where the roommate is in his tiny studio, so I thought I was finished and I wasn’t ever going to be able to bounce back.
Andrew: Well, you’re here because you did bounce back. Let’s talk about what happened that got you back. You met this beauty influencer.
Dhar: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: This is Laura, right?
Dhar: So, no, she was the second influencer I met. The first influencer I met was just over lunch and I was literally a week away from moving back to . . . back in with my parents in Northern California and this beauty influencer is telling me how she’s traveling all over the world, giving these masterclasses, they’re selling out with hundreds of students showing up, paying 500 bucks a pop just to learn about makeup. And so, I asked her, I said, “Well, why not just take that whole concept online, you know, instead of traveling all over the world, you could probably reach more students.” And she’s like, “That sounds great, but I don’t know how.” And I’m like, “I know how.” Even though I had no idea how. I’d never run an . . . Like I’d never run any commerce site. I knew nothing about makeup.
Andrew: How did you meet her? How do you get in with this influencer who must be so hard to reach?
Dhar: It was more just like coincidence, sort of right place, right time . . .
Andrew: What’s right place?
Dhar: It was actually a hookah lounge in West Hollywood called Shy.
Andrew: And you still hang out with people, you still dress like a baller, you still have that attitude.
Dhar: People at that point . . . people were just kind of confused because they didn’t know what to believe. I still like . . . they didn’t know if it was all rumors or if it was true and people had known me for this baller for so long where people kind of thought that I was still this successful guy. So, my reputation was severely tarnished, but in a weird way people still knew of me and thought that I was successful.
Andrew: So it wouldn’t be like you’re just some nobody coming up to someone who has a big audience saying, please let me have an internship. It was a guy who had something and had some potential. Your deal with her was what?
Dhar: So my deal with her was basically, I would launch the whole online school. I would create the platform, you know, I would do like a lot of the email blasts. I would do all the production, record the videos, broadcast it to her audience and then she would basically teach the content and promoted on her Instagram.
Andrew: What’s her name? I couldn’t find it.
Dhar: Yeah, no worries. Her name is DressYourFace, is her Instagram.
Andrew: DressYourFace. And so, you hired somebody off Craigslist to build a website. Why don’t you want to build a website yourself?
Dhar: I don’t know how to code. I still don’t know how to code.
Andrew: And you could figure out like how to make money, but you have no interest in figuring out how to do like a WordPress or Shopify store. That’s just not you. I see you even blow that question off as I ask it.
Dhar: I didn’t know about Toptal basically at that time.
Andrew: I think what you were building was even simpler than Toptal. And so, some dude built it for you, you told him exactly what to put together. He puts the whole thing together. You go to sleep one day, the site is up the next day and you know the site is up because you get a bunch of email and these emails say what?
Dhar: So we weren’t supposed to launch until 10:00 a.m. the next day. And when I woke up, I woke up like at 6:00 a.m. I looked at my inbox and there’s just hundreds of emails from PayPal saying new payment, new payment, new payment, new registered user, new registered user. So I freaked out because I looked at her Instagram, no one had promoted this. And so I thought something was wrong and it turned . . . so I asked my developer and I say, “Hey, there’s some bug. PayPal is collecting all these payments, like something’s wrong, please fix this.”
He looks into all these payments and finds out that they’re legit. So it turns out because of the main hero of our website, I wanted to have a video talking about the what website would have, publish that video on YouTube to host it. And just because I titled it the influencer’s name, it ended up as one of the top trending videos on YouTube because so many people looked up her name, and it brought in like, I think over $100,000 before we even launched. So, like overnight, my life was just changed. I literally went from like, I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent and I’m going to be moving in with my parents, to now having a six figure a month business within 24 hours.
Andrew: In 24 hours? Unreal.
Dhar: Ten days from the time that I had met her, to the point of us launching. Like she was just like, “What’s the rush?” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m just excited.” But in reality I had bills to pay.
Andrew: And this was 50/50 partnership on the site, or you own the site?
Dhar: Yeah. So it was 50/50 on that website. Right.
Andrew: I like the headline as I see it. I’m looking at an old version of it. It says LiveGlam . . . live makeup tutorials from your favorite artists. The idea was people were paying and getting what?
Dhar: Online classes taught by their favorite [inaudible 00:44:04].
Andrew: Just access to watch the live classes?
Andrew: That’s it.
Dhar: Because at that time like YouTube, it wasn’t very . . . it was more so like fun entertainment. It wasn’t more so instructional. So this was like for people that were serious about entering, like the makeup artistry business.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. All right. I do see that . . . by the way, this was just a WordPress site, anyone who’s listening and thinking you’ve got some great developer to build some . . . No, it’s just a basic WordPress site. I’m looking at the source code, super simple. But I think that’s very effective. I do see in like a 2015 version of the site, it says, “Meet the team and it’s DressYourFace live, Angel Merino live, Makeup by Lilit live.” Who are these people?
Dhar: So these are different beauty influencers.
Andrew: Sorry, I meant in relation to this business, do they own the business with you?
Dhar: No. So at that point, once I figured out a successful model, what I realized is I couldn’t create a platform to have all these various teachers because that initial website was just a partnership, but it was all branded after DressYourFace, my first beauty influencer. So later my next pivot became, okay, I should start a platform where people will come onto my site and be able to choose which instructor they want to be taught . . .
Andrew: So LiveGlam is all you? The previous site was the two of you doing it together?
Andrew: What was the previous site called?
Dhar: DressYourFace Live.
Dhar: It’s all branded after her. Exactly.
Andrew: Got it. Okay. Wow. And do you have any makeup experience before?
Dhar: No. I still don’t, even though I’ve actually done productions of probably thousands of makeup tutorials, I have no idea how to contour.
Andrew: I’ve seen your pictures though. Like your beard is like perfectly manicured. You’re wearing makeup foundation or something in some of those photos?
Dhar: No. I’m not. I never wore makeup.
Andrew: Did you pluck your eyebrows before that?
Dhar: Yeah, my eyebrows. But that’s my girlfriend’s fantasy is for me to put on makeup one day. I don’t know why girls fantasize about that kind of stuff.
Andrew: But you plucked your eyebrows before you got into this business?
Dhar: Yeah. I recommend [inaudible 00:46:09]
Andrew: You cared about look but not to that.
Dhar: I didn’t pluck [inaudible 00:46:12]
Andrew: Well, no. You know what, I take it back. What am I even asking you? I’ve seen it, in the old articles about like your previous relationship. You look good. You’re dress nicely. You knew how to . . . yeah, you had style. Okay, I got it. So it’s not like you’re coming in as a boob like me coming into the makeup business going, “I don’t know. I heard there’s money in here.” You had a look. You just didn’t know the details. You figured out the business. They figured out the details of the look. Got the partnership. You then say, “I’m going to create my own brand.”
You told our producer that one of the big frustrations with this business was that you were starting to become too dependent on influencers. That if one influencer goes away, it could be just dangerous for your business. What did the business look like before you realize that? And then what did you do once you realized that danger? So let’s talk about before.
Dhar: So, yeah, you know, things were taking off. So after I got my first beauty influencer, then I went around and used that as basically a successful case study. Went to a lot of beauty influencers on Instagram and said, “Hey, look at how incredible this one site is doing. If you’d want, you can be an instructor on our platform, teach classes, you know, and make amazing amount of money,” kind of a thing.
And so I started recruiting a lot of these big heavy hitters in makeup and they were all teaching classes and our business was exploding because basically all the like, you know, it wouldn’t require a lot of marketing, if they just posted on Instagram, we’d reaching a million plus people, and since the influencer themselves was teaching the content and they’re advertising to all their fans, like sales were astronomical in the very beginning, and it became very easy for us to get our subscriber base up.
Andrew: And then with each . . . when someone was subscribing, were they subscribing to all of these influencers or each one individually?
Dhar: Each one individually. Correct.
Andrew: Got it. So you had a platform, anyone who partnered up with you would split the revenue with you. Got it. And then once you realized, “Hey, wait a minute, these two people disappear and they decide they’re going to get their own WordPress guy from Craigslist. They build their own thing. I’m lost.” What did you do to combat that?
Dhar: Yeah, so, there were people that tried it on their own, but a lot of artists just like to focus on the artistry. And so, I think that’s why the partnership with DressYourFace made so much sense because on one hand, like I handled all the operation side. The development part is like the powering of the whole technology and she would just handling . . . handled the promotion and the advertising. And so I think that skill set works, people did try it on their own, but it didn’t work out for very long.
Andrew: I see it. I see it. Boy, I’m now lost in dressyourfacelive.com. It’s interesting that so many of us are thinking about these other businesses for membership, for online content creation. Meanwhile these influencers are a goldmine that you discovered. The fan base is just so passionate and the stuff they teach is super practical, and they know how to teach it because they’ve been doing it anyway for awhile. All right. And so, I’m on dressyourfacelive.com. This is still a $20, $19 a month membership to learn how to do all these different makeup techniques, but that’s not what your business is today. What point did you shift to what it is today? Which is makeup by subscription?
Dhar: Yeah. Great question. So one of the most common requests that we got from our students was, “How do I get those products that are, you know, being shown in all the classes that you guys are teaching?” And so that’s when I realized like, okay, I should reach out to the different makeup brands, see if they’d be willing to donate product in exchange for being promoted inside of our classes, and then we’d basically be able to create a makeup box that we give for free for anyone who signed up for an annual membership. So I basically use like tapped into the influencers’ influence to get these free makeup products, put together this box and then use it as an annual upsell. And once we launched our first makeup box, like it just took us to that next level of revenue. You know, it just took us to another like 30%, 40% growth. And then I just realized like, wow, everybody, people care way more about products than they do content. And I saw products as sort of more of the long-term growth strategy than content. So that’s when I decided to pivot it.
Andrew: And then you stuck with the membership part though?
Dhar: Exactly. So the great part about what I learned through the whole content is, now I learned content, now I learned about the whole social media influencer space for beauty, and then I also learned subscription, so basically I had to take those three pieces and figure out how to apply it to makeup products next.
Andrew: Look at this, and I’m looking . . . I’m lost in your freaking world. I’m now looking at a transition period there where you were going with certification, get certified by a pro-makeup artist. That was one of the angles, and I could see it was doing well. But once you got into product, you said the whole thing had to shift into products.
Andrew: And now it’s the influencers selling a membership, keeping . . . and is it lifelong commission on all the memberships?
Dhar: No. It’s just a one-time payout.
Andrew: One-time payout. So if I’m an influencer and I’ve got and I say I’m going to be using this makeup, see my video and if you want to go buy the makeup, go follow the link in my bio. How much would I get, if someone signed up for a membership?
Dhar: Ten bucks.
Andrew: Ten bucks?
Dhar: Ten bucks per person.
Andrew: That’s it. And you charge how much per month?
Dhar: Nineteen ninety nine. So it’s actually a 50% commission based on the first month. So . . .
Andrew: But not lifelong beyond that?
Dhar: Not lifelong. But we are adding retention metrics, so the longer their subscribers stay, the more that they earn. So there’s incentives for having a high lifetime value for their referrals.
Andrew: What do you do to go after these influencers and make a case for working with you as opposed to all these other brands that are out there?
Dhar: Yeah. That’s a great question. So my whole concept . . . in the beginning, we tried to just spend a lot of money and hire all these, you know, influencers to promote our products. The problem with that is people can see right through when the relationship isn’t authentic. If they know that, okay, this is clearly some sort of a paid endorsement, then they don’t really believe it or want to buy.
And so, in the beginning, we spent all this money. We didn’t have like any positive ROI. We had a lot of failed activations, and then I was thinking, okay, like let’s look at the whole Disney model. When you look at Disney stars, they don’t start by hiring stars, they hire ordinary people and then turn them into stars. And I was thinking we need to find our stars that are just sort of homegrown and rise up through our own affiliate program.
So we basically created an affiliate program for our existing members that wanted to refer their friends, and one of those members happen to be somebody who ended up experimenting with Facebook Live. And had so much personality that she exploded overnight and literally her very first month of going of doing Facebook Live, she brought in about 2,000 new members. So when started with us, she was just referring her friends and family and had zero influence. But then when she figured out the power of Facebook Live, she became this influencer sensation, was already promoting our products when nobody followed her. So it was like this authentic relationship. And then we realized those have been the strongest relationships that we’ve had. People that just, we haven’t even pursued. They have more just organically have happened coming to us, or subscribing to our clubs.
Andrew: And it’s more of you now looking for those types of people. I think you told our producer, the people who really do well are the ones who will randomly have a dog in the background, might have pimples on their faces and don’t look perfect, but they’re doing . . . they’re using makeup, they’re becoming influencers and through that they’re selling for you.
Dhar: Exactly. I think the influencer content dynamic is shifting so much, before people wanted a lot of heavily scripted, heavily edited content, but now especially with live content becoming so popular, they want the rawness, they want the real illness, and if you look at people with the most influence, there are mispronouncing things. They’re stuttering. They have accents, like they’re picking their nose or they’ve got sweaty armpits or whatever it is, and people can relate to that.
Andrew: What part of your business is coming from these smaller influencers or smaller users versus the bigger influencers?
Dhar: We, you know, it’s hard to say what changes between a small influencer and a bigger . . . Do you mean just like a member versus an influencer?
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s call it that. A member or someone I wouldn’t know their name, doesn’t have a huge following on Instagram or anything. What percentage comes from them versus the . . . ?
Dhar: So now it’s all pretty much people that you wouldn’t know their name, but now they’re becoming so powerful that definitely in the industry is starting to know who they are. So I would say pretty much like a 100% up until now is people that you wouldn’t have heard of or even a lot of people on Instagram wouldn’t have heard of, because they operate in these small niches, but they’re starting to become mainstream.
Andrew: And so then how do you get them? What do you do? I see that you have an affiliate link on your site, but I can’t imagine that they’re hunting you down and looking for that affiliate link signing up. What do you do to recruit them?
Dhar: That’s the benefit of influencer marketing. A lot of people just look at it from a sales standpoint, but if done correctly, it can be the best thing to build your brand because what do influencers . . . who are influencers influenced by? They’re influenced by other influencers. And so if you are able to get the right person to support your brand, it’s not just about the customers that that person that that affiliate or influence or can bring, but it’s about the word that will spread amongst other influencers, and so once people . . . once influencers see enough other influencers talking about something, their curiosity piques and they automatically want to be a part of that too. And so, now we’re at the point where at least with all the Facebook influencers they’ve seen that we’re working with the most talented influential people that they are now coming to us.
Andrew: And anyone could become an affiliate essentially. It looks like once 50 of their friends sign up, then they start to get $7 to $10 per recommendation, right?
Dhar: Within a month you have . . .
Andrew: Fifty friends join within a month?
Dhar: So, in the beginning we had very low threshold and we would have hundreds and hundreds of affiliates. But then what we came to realize is that 95 . . . it’s like, you know, the 80/20 Pareto principle. Ninety five percent of our referrals were coming from 5% of people, so instead of focusing on the 95% of people, we were just like, let’s make the threshold really high to be able to qualify. And now that we’ve just been focusing on that small percentage, everything has changed. Everything has grown tremendously since then.
Andrew: Look at this. So this whole freaking site is still on WordPress? This is a WordPress site.
Andrew: Unreal. With this whole like membership and the continuity and the works, that’s all . . . it’s all WordPress? But you’ve got developers now that don’t come from Craigslist.
Dhar: We get them from Toptal. No, I’m just kidding. Yeah, we’ve got developers now that mainly come through referrals, but we started on Upwork. A lot of people that we find was through Elance or Upwork.
Andrew: You know what? Don’t laugh off Toptal. I am telling you at some point you’re going to come up with a crazy idea that your guys are not going to be able to build and you’ll say, “Andrew told me this Toptal people can do it.” [inaudible 00:57:30]
Dhar: I wrote it down. I’m going to actually check it out after the taping.
Andrew: So now you’re putting your money away, but you’re still enjoying life. What’s one fun thing that you’re getting do now and you feel like I’ve earned the right to do this. I’m not just putting on airs, but boy, the younger me would have loved this?
Dhar: Yeah. You know, the younger me I think was still chasing the cars and the partying and the cribs, and now that I’ve done all that, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of traveling like I’ve seen like all over the world. Honestly, what fulfills me most is just sort of creating content, being home and giving back. And so, about five months ago . . . so after the whole Instagram baller situation and everything came crashing down, I never got back on Instagram after that.
Andrew: Your Instagram has half a million people following you and one post.
Dhar: And one post. Yeah, exact post. Half a million. I’ve literally just been watching it go down from 900,000 to 500,000, but that’s how patient I’ve become. Because even though I could easily get the cars, I’ve got sort of that jet set lifestyle again, I’m purposely not doing that now because I’ve learned from my mistakes. And so, even though five months ago, I finally decided to get back out there and I created my first Facebook video, so I decided to start creating content on Facebook and now within five months I think I’m at 600,000 followers on Facebook now. So, yeah.
Andrew: What’d you do to get so many followers so fast?
Dhar: So I just created like viral videos. Everything just has like an important lesson. So it’s like when you’re scrolling through Facebook . . .
Andrew: It’s like business tips.
Dhar: Yeah, business. You know, business is so controversial because like your podcast for instance, it caters to a specific niche of people that, you know, gained so much from this, but it wouldn’t really cater to the mainstream like to those non-entrepreneurs. And a lot of people when they hear financial advice, they just sort of automatically think, “Oh, what are you trying to sell me? You know, this is like some sort of scam or whatever it is.” So what works on Facebook for its audience is more so just like the feel good, the inspirational, the motivational family, life, relationships, not really money topics.
Andrew: Like these videos where there’s a text below . . . No, this is you posting someone else’s . . . Oh it is. It’s you with the “watch this most important video you see today” and then see you in the center under . . . Got it. I think I see what we’re talking about.
Dhar: So that one’s got three and a half million views. My highest viewed videos got 90 million views.
Andrew: You see now I am such a . . . I can’t let you get away with saying it’s still got 3 million views without stopping and looking to see. Yeah, it does, 3.3 million views. And that’s just like you shooting it yourself on camera. Who are these people? I can’t even see the pain and suffering. Is that stock photography or you send a videographer out to see these people?
Dhar: That’s in my studio. So everything is shot inside of my studio where I work.
Andrew: With the car and everything?
Dhar: Oh, that’s in my parking garage. Everything’s done in the tower that I live in. I live, work, go to the gym, like all in the same tower. I hardly ever leave.
Andrew: All right. Well, congratulations on finally really making it. As far as we can tell you feel like you’re ever going to have to go back to your parent’s house?
Dhar: Yeah, I feel like I’m definitely going to hit lows again, but I’m smart enough to know not to over leverage myself, so I don’t think I’d ever let myself get to that low again. But I’m definitely going to go through lots of highs and lows. That’s just any entrepreneur’s journey.
Andrew: But you still feel like the same as your dad felt that he could always go back to poverty, had to get the extra $100 just in case you’re in that situation. I can always go back to my parents’ house?
Dhar: I don’t know if I’d go back to their house, but I’d definitely go back to the 300 square foot room, sleeping on the couch. Yeah. And sometimes I even will sleep on the floor just to remind myself of what that was like.
Andrew: Genuinely, on the floor of your place?
Dhar: Yeah, like just, it excites me. Just thinking back like even college days when I didn’t even have a bed and I had to sell, like one time my living room, kitchen or my living room couch just to pay rent one month. Like yeah, that kind of stuff that like when you’re so, you know, when you’re so broken down, you just have to do whatever it is to succeed because you have no choice. Your back against the wall. That’s like an exciting, exhilarating place for me.
Andrew: What’s all that noise? What app do you have that has to keep dinging all day?
Dhar: I know.
Andrew: What is it? Is it email? I know we went a little bit over, but I’m curious what do you keep on in the background?
Dhar: Yeah, it was messages. Even though it’s shut down for whatever reason though it’s . . .
Andrew: From iMessage?
Dhar: Yeah, from iMessage.
Andrew: And you still keep the ding on all day? I can’t operate that way.
Andrew: I’m at a point where . . . I’ve read Jason Fried’s post about how noisy and office could be, a lot of distractions. Basecamp offers simplicity. I said, of course, I could totally use that. No dinging, no nothing. I shifted to it, but I noticed when I interview entrepreneurs, they still need the dings. They still can work with all those distractions. You could do that?
Dhar: I’m not at my desk right now. I’m at my laptop in my living room and so, yeah, at my desk I’ve got all notifications off.
Andrew: The website for anyone wants to check you out. I’m actually going to suggest that it’s not your work site. It’s your personal site, right? What’s the URL? Is it . . . ? I forget. I have too many freaking tabs by the end of these interviews. It’s like liveglam.com, people can go and check out. They could shop on it. They could see what you’re up to. I think it’s worth checking out because I think the site just looks beautiful. But I think to really get to know you. It’s these videos, it’s your personal site. What’s your URL?
Dhar: dharmann.com, D-H-A-R-M-A-N-N.com.
Andrew: There it is. There’s mentorship, mindset, the whole thing. All right. Thanks so much for being on here, and I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview . . . Hey, look at this. Look at you with the photo shoots, dude.
Dhar: I’m launching my new website tomorrow, but yeah, it’s going to look even better.
Andrew: I like it. I feel like an every freaking hair is in place. You must go get a haircut before. Who brushes your hair before that?
Dhar: Well, I go to this place in West Hollywood. Yeah.
Andrew: And then when you drive back out to these photo shoots, your hair will stay in place?
Dhar: I just sleep like this. Like [inaudible 01:03:28].
Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for doing it. Thank you too for the two sponsors, the first is a company will help anyone hire their next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal. Check them out of toptal.com/mixergy. The second is if you’re really digging this type of entrepreneurship marketing attitude, you’re really going to love ActiveCampaign. Check them out at activecampaign.com/mixergy. Boy, I really loved doing this interview. Dhar, good to meet you.
Dhar: Yeah. Great talking to you.
Andrew: Thanks. Bye, everyone. Go kill it.