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. Joining me is a friend whose business I have grown to appreciate so much more over the years because When I started doing interviews, I would interview people who are, who are funded, who are building software companies, who are growing.
And I think that now more and more that type of entrepreneur is raising a ton of money. It’s more of an on, it’s less entrepreneurial and more enterprisey and less exciting and less like the kind of thing you want to do. But Steve too. He and his wife started a company called bumblebee linens. Basically they were getting handkerchiefs and selling them online.
And they started the business with, if I remember from your book, it was what? 650 bucks,
Steve: 630 bucks.
Andrew: 630 bucks and built it up to, you say in your book, seven figures in sales, give me a sense of profit. How much are you making with that business a year?
Steve: Yeah. Uh, so profit probably is around 30% ish. So, uh, good, a solid six figure profit from that alone.
Andrew: So we’re talking easily more than 3 million a year from that business alone.
Steve: Uh, no, I would say less than that. I love how I read your book, Andrew. I know what you’re trying to do with your questions, by the way. Let’s just call it like low millions.
Andrew: Okay, every year from that business alone, and then you have another business, which I sometimes feel is a bigger business, sometimes less. It’s my wife quit her job, where you talk about how you’re, how you’re going about entrepreneurship, you do a little bit of teaching, that kind of thing, right?
Steve: Yeah, so just, I know you’re probably going to ask, so both businesses do about the same revenue, except obviously my wife quit her job is a lot more profitable since there’s no physical product to give. On the flip side, Bumble Bee Linens is a sellable asset, and we just recently purchased a warehouse, so I feel like there’s pros and cons to each business model.
Andrew: I remember over the years going to, to the linens business and just feeling like, Must be so great for Steve to just have something tangible in this world where everyone is making something up You don’t know if it’s real or not and here he’s got a thing, you know what to do with it You know what to do with a handkerchief, you know what to do with linens.
Anyway, um, I keep referring to the book The book is that he He’s coming out with right now is called the family first entrepreneur. And like a smart entrepreneur, he’s not telling you to go to Amazon. He’s telling you, go to his website, which is the family first entrepreneur. com. His vision, what he’s articulating in this book is you don’t have to be like the mixer G interviews.
You have to be somebody whose life. Or you could choose to be somebody who enjoys their life, who gets to spend time with their kids. Less Elon Musk, more like Steve Chu, who spends time at home with his family. And so I, uh, I’ve got the book, I read it, I want to talk to him about it. We could do it thanks to two phenomenal sponsors.
The first… If you’re hiring developers, go to lemon. io slash Mixergy. You’ll get great developers at a phenomenal price. And second, there’s a new way of organizing companies that I’m excited about. I’m exploring them through a new podcast and it’s DAOs and you can find them through a company that creates DAOs.
Their website is joinorigami. com slash Mixergy to see the podcast. I got a sense now of where it is. where the business is revenue wise and profit wise. Talk to me about what your life is like. What is it like on a daily basis to live the way that you described in this book?
Steve: Yeah, so basically I work about 20 hours a week. It’s probably not true right now since I’m promoting this book, but once this is over with in a typical week, about 20 hours, I work until about noon or 1230. And then the afternoon, actually, I don’t, I don’t know, are our kids about the same age? Like,
Andrew: Mine are eight and six.
So I have, my kids are older, so I have teenagers and literally the afternoon I spend shuttling them around to their activities. My daughter’s playing club volleyball right now and I work with her on that. In fact, I just got back from Reno. So my, my weekends are literally shot. So I don’t actually have as much time to work as some other people.
Maybe you’ve had on your show, Andrew. Ha
Andrew: I’m feeling that crunch right now. I decided after listening to some of my interviews recently to
get up at 5, 5. 30, do a bunch of work before anyone is up, and then end my day a little bit earlier to spend more time with them. Um, but sometimes I feel like that’s self indulgent. I don’t know how much they’ll appreciate it later on. I don’t know if I’m setting them up for success later on because I’m there.
Um, but I also know that it’s distracting because I’m working from home now. It’s distracting for me to have them here. It’s also painful to hear somebody say, I want to spend time with you. Can you help me do this or that? And so I make myself available and I’m not being super intentional about it. I’m not teaching them how to read better.
I’m not teaching them math. I’m not teaching them business. We’re not doing any of it. So I, I wonder if the time is useful.
Steve: ha. So maybe you didn’t have the same childhood as I did, but my parents came here. They were first generation immigrants. They came here with no money and they worked very hard to put me through school to make sure I didn’t come out of College with any debt and I appreciate in fact my dad took a second job on when I went to college Just to help pay it off The downside of that is that I didn’t get to see them as much as I would have liked So I remember as a kid I used to play club volleyball also kind of one of the reasons why my kids were playing volleyball and we used to travel around And I would look over on the sidelines whenever I made an awesome play, and I just noticed that they weren’t there a lot of the times.
And I wish they were there. And it’s just the fact that I didn’t see… Like, my parents are very accomplished. So, my mom just discovered a cure for a rare disease, and she’s undergoing clinical trials. I’m very proud of them. My dad, he started all these community centers, and, you know, worked his butt off and everything.
But, you know, growing up, I just wish I saw them more. So I do think it matters. And again, for me, you can’t really hang out with your kids all the, like, you know, you can’t hang out with your kids all the time, but I think it’s just important to be present so that if they need something, they know that you’re there.
And I think that’s very meaningful.
Andrew: But you seem to have turned out okay with parents like that. I think you’ve talked about the tiger parent in your book, too Isn’t it better not to be there for them? And I ask that because I think about when I was growing up Actually forget about when I was growing up when I saw my kid at one year old lift up a folding step stool He lifted it the wrong way, he had his fingers pinched, and I kept recording the video of him doing it instead of getting up and helping him, because I wanted him to figure out how to un pinch his fingers and how to not do it again.
If I was much more present there, I would’ve stopped it, stopped it from happening and kept him from, from experiencing life, and I feel like maybe we’re doing the same thing, as our kids are getting older, we are more present for them, and they long for us less, and they have less It’s independence because of it.
Like what? Don’t you find that?
Steve: Yeah, so what you’re talking about is a struggle that I think every parent has. Uh, my philosophy is to have them do whatever they can by themselves, but I’m just there to motivate them in the beginning and just get them going. Here’s what I’ve discovered with my kids, and maybe yours are different. I need to give my kids a little push until they cross a certain threshold where they get a little bit good at something.
And then they take it from there. If I’m not there for that initial push, sometimes they don’t do anything. It’s all about getting them over that hump and then just letting them ride. And I think every kid is different. Maybe your kids don’t need that, and that’s fine.
Andrew: You know what? Truthfully though, I don’t think it matters in your case anyway, since we’re talking about your story. If you’re making that much money and you have no hunger to like 10 X that, and you’ve talked in your book about how you and your wife will sit down and say, what do we, what, why are we fighting for more.
Then you have the opportunity to indulge it It’s not causing damage for them as far as you can see and if if it was you’d be backing away So if my biggest, um concern about it is self indulgent then what the heck, you know, we’re living life You might as well be self indulgent and this is a good thing to indulge in the thing.
I wonder then is who’s running the business How is the business able to function without you being there?
Steve: So first of all, my wife is my business partner, and so there’s technically two people running things. So my wife does the day to day. For bumblebee linens. And we have employees that do most of the heavy lifting. And then for my wife, quit her job. It’s really a content business first and foremost. And I literally just have one VA in the Philippines that helps me handle all the content.
And I was a former engineer, so I believe in automation. I believe in writing code when possible. And hiring is kind of like my last resort.
Andrew: You’ve talked in your book about how About the breakdown. Do you spend any time on the linen business?
Steve: I do. So I manage all of the PPC, all the marketing, uh, email marketing, SMS. Here’s the way I operate my businesses in a way that both of them are kind of synergistic. So Bumblebee linens is my e commerce store and I treat it like a laboratory. Meanwhile, because I talk about e commerce on my blog, I have all these companies approaching me with new tools, new products, and everything, and I say, okay, tell you what, I will install your tool on my store, and then I’ll just report on the results.
And so I literally just treat the store like a lab. And the reason this came about was because once upon a time, I was all about growth, growth, growth for the e commerce store. And it drove my wife crazy because like you said, we were making way more than we spend and we were setting these ridiculous goals and we’d hit them.
And then every year we’d move the goalposts. And then finally my wife just broke down and she said, Hey, I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s not fun. And so that’s why we kind of shifted over to, Hey, no more revenue goals for bumblebee linens. I can scale my content stuff because it doesn’t require the delivery of physical products.
And then I run it synergistically like a laboratory now.
Andrew: I always appreciated that about you You weren’t someone who was just talking about how to grow a business You were talking about it based on what you were doing yourself and you had experience with it I’m on bumblebee linens calm right now Of course, as soon as I move my mouse away, I get the spinning wheel, uh, with the 20% off, 5% off, um, does that work by the way?
You’ve tested it. Give me some insight into how effective that is for collecting email addresses.
Steve: I’ve been trying so many different things. We tried quizzes, we tried content. So, so we’re in the wedding industry in case anyone’s listening. And at first we were doing ebooks on how to do arts and crafts or DIY. I had napkin folding tutorials. But for some reason this spin to win, which comes across as spammy, works the best out of anything that I’ve tried.
Andrew: I have to admit, I, I don’t. Believe in it. I don’t like it. And still I I put my email out Actually, I put in a fake email address to be honest with you just to see what the thing was five percent off. Nice Yeah, how would you describe this for someone who’s not on the site? How would you describe what you’re all selling here?
Steve: So we sell handkerchiefs and linens for special occasions. And, uh, I’ll just give you the quick 60 second backstory on that. When my wife and I got married, my wife’s a crier. Right. She had a happiness, just to be clear, Andrew, in case you were going to ask that question. Uh, so we were at the altar and she knew she was going to cry.
We spent a lot of money for photography, looked all over the place for hankies, couldn’t find any except for these factories in China. So we imported a bunch, used a handful, sold the rest on eBay and they sold like hotcakes. So when it came time, when my wife became pregnant, she wanted to quit her job, we decided to run a linens business.
Andrew: And the reason that you sold it on ebay was you were selling electronics and from what I read in the book Electronics were doing well, but linen somehow outsold or Did better financially than electronics.
Steve: It did. Plus the electronics business was a little dangerous cause I’d have to go to these seedy places to, uh, to buy these electronics and then I’d sell them off for parts. So this was much easier. You know, you have a factory steady supply, all good.
Andrew: What about this? Do you have a burning love for linens? Did you or your wife ever have a burning love for linen?
Steve: I do not. In fact, You know, I used to think that you have to be really into what you sell online, but I’ve just come to learn after starting several businesses. Now, the day to day, this is the same, no matter what you sell, you’re doing customer service, you’re selling a product, you’re fulfilling it and keeping the customer happy.
We could be selling computers. It’d be the same thing.
Andrew: Okay I always got that and I always felt that as an entrepreneur you enjoy the game of entrepreneurship More than what it is that you’re selling and that is kind of fun You say in your book. Look, you don’t even need to have a passion for what you’re selling if anything passion actually Hurts. You talk about your wife really being passionate about, um, what is it called?
Where you, uh, were
Andrew: embroidery? And then the more she did it, the more burned out she got. And then again, you have stories about someone in your book, about people like this person who wrote, who created a website called, uh, wet pixel because he liked underwater photography. That little hobby became a passion and you say, explore what you’re into.
Explore your inner. Like child’s enthusiasm and don’t think about money. So which way should we be? What are you recommending?
Steve: I think it all just depends on your time frame to when you want to make money. If you’re kind of in this place where you have a steady job and you’re just in the exploratory phase, then just go after what you’re interested in. That’s exactly what my friend did with wet pixel. I would say though, that if you want to actively make money. Within let’s say a year or something take advantage of something you’re knowledgeable about like most of us have jobs that we do Day in and day out just leverage one of your skills for your job and see if you can put together a service or product Around that.
Andrew: I see. So if somebody is creating videos on the side for their job, you know, like editing for their instagram or just editing for their site That could be a skill that they create an agency where they create videos for other people or some kind of online education program, that kind of a thing. And you’re saying, if you’re looking to make some money, go with that passion, see if there’s a way to make money or your, or your skill. But ultimately, don’t do it, don’t do the, if you want to make money, don’t do the thing that you’re passionate about thinking that the world is going to love it and you’re going to be better than everyone else because you’re so passionate about it. Be prepared for the passion to dissipate.
Steve: Yeah, here’s the way I think about it You know when you get into a brand new relationship with somebody and you’re just so passionate but then you know over the course of a year it fades and What’s underneath is the strength of the relationship? So the same thing, like my wife was really passionate about embroidery.
She used to embroider initials on all the stuff we had in the house. As soon as we started doing it for the money, she started hating it.
Andrew: I get that. So then what do you do if you’re doing the same thing over and over, and to some degree you have been over the years, what do you do to keep yourself from hating it, from burning out on it?
Steve: I mean, my philosophy, although in theory we’re doing the same thing every year, and you can speak to this as well. I pick up a new skill every single year. When I do things, and that’s how I stay interested. So just to give you an example, this year is the year of the book. I’m launching a book. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the book industry in general and how to launch a book.
Last year, it was all about YouTube. I focused on my YouTube channel, grew it to 200k subs. The year before that, I was all about TikTok. The year before that, it was about Google Performance Max ads. I’m guessing that the latter half of this year is going to be all about AI, since I’m really into that right now, just as long as I’m learning something, I just focus on it for at least a year and that keeps me going.
And incidentally, this is also how I keep my ego in check as well, because I, you mentioned earlier, like I am a member of all these mastermind groups where all these members are doing really well with their businesses. And. You know, deep down inside, I’m a competitive guy. I want to do those things as well.
So just the fact that I’m learning something, doing something really well for a year has managed to keep both my ego in check as well as keep my interest interests peaked as well.
Andrew: I get that. I feel that way too. That essentially the business becomes. a bigger opportunity to get into whatever it is that you’re interested in like if you just decided you’re going to get interested in TikTok or youtube videos and you were starting from scratch because you’d been burned out on the business and you moved on It would be a lot harder a lot harder to Uh get an audience a lot harder to find somebody who’s going to give you feedback and improve here You get to build on it and maybe tap into some old relationships tap into your audience, etc But it’s still the same topic, right?
You’re still in a world where You’re teaching people about e commerce and you’re doing it using new tools, but essentially they’re similar. How do you not feel like, all right, I’m done with e commerce. I’d like to just go try something different.
Steve: E commerce is constantly changing and, uh, just to keep up with it, it’s very interesting. But, let me just rephrase that question. If you think about it, Andrew, everything today is a commodity. Every product being sold is a commodity. What there’s apparel, there’s maybe some new gadgets. It’s really on how to frame it.
So what actually interests me about selling in general is the psychology of it all. And I find like the human mind is very fascinating.
Andrew: What are you learning about the human mind now?
Steve: About the human mind right now,
Steve: with e commerce in particular.
Andrew: or anything at all that’s business related.
Steve: Yeah. Well, with e commerce I’ve, uh, so what I’ve been into lately is storytelling. So I have this friend who sells girls dresses. Right. Girls dresses. And I was thinking to myself when he told me this, I was like, you can just go to the mall and get girls dresses.
How many apparel companies are there? And then he showed me this video, which incidentally is a video that I now use in my presentations about storytelling where he describes how his wife, who’s his partner in this business, had this childhood trauma where, um, basically she was, uh, she was molested as a child.
And just the story behind, I’m not doing it justice, by the way. Uh, and the only thing that was keeping her happy were these dresses, this one dress that she had, where she would just twirl, and it just brought back all these memories of the positive aspects of her childhood. This is all in like this three minute video, and once you watch this video, maybe we can link it up in the show notes, because I’m not doing it justice right now.
You really want to buy from this company. You really want to support this person. And all it is is a girl’s dress that you can get in any mall. Granted, there are value props to their particular dress in terms of design, but it’s all about how you frame the product. It’s all about the emotions that you can evoke.
And that’s what I find fascinating about selling.
Andrew: And truthfully, when they don’t have it, when I buy from somebody or try to buy some from someone that doesn’t have that story, I feel like they’ve taken out some of the romance and the passion that I should have for this experience. You know, like going to a restaurant, frankly, a lot of restaurants here in Austin where you feel the food is going to be phenomenal, but you sit down and you’re sitting at like a picnic table and there’s no romance, there’s no story, there’s nothing that beyond just the food.
And it feels a little barbaric and So I miss the story when it’s not there
Steve: It’s the whole experience when you’re talking about dining, right? It’s the service. It’s the way things are presented. I learned this, the hardware early on. It has to do with our linens business. I remember, uh, making a meal for my wife early on and I used paper napkins. And to this day, she gets on my case for that because she was like, if you’re going to make this a romantic dinner, at least use fabric napkins.
I’m like, okay, all right, yeah.
Andrew: All right, I should say this interview is sponsored by origami Um, so this is part of what i’ve been doing lately I’ve been looking for new structures new things that excite me and i’d never been into crypto Because i’m not into buying and selling assets. I I got into that in college and I found that I didn’t enjoy it You know where I got into options and stock trading commodities and it’s like this is not really for me So I avoided all the crypto thing and then I saw this pocket Of interest for me these organizations that were getting together where every member in the organization had a stake in the success of it They they had tokens and the tokens allowed them to vote on where the organization should go and then they could propose How about if I do this and if they and if the community says yes, they get Some funding to go do this thing and then they basically get to run their own little startup within the organization and uh and produce for it, um, I thought this is really fascinating a way for a community to not just be a community but to have a A say in how the community is run and also have an upside if the community does well and that’s what these tokens can do.
And so to study it more, I created a podcast with Origami. Origami creates DAOs for big organizations and, um, it’s just big communities actually. And what I’ve been doing is just putting up all these stories that I discover on, uh, joinorigami. com slash podcast. My favorite one lately is this entrepreneur.
Who is the guy who put all these? Uh converted all the phone booths in manhattan into wi fi hot spots I remember when that was done and it was such a cool use of the land And what he did after that was just travel the country in a van, you know doing the van life thing And he said well i’m alone here I don’t want to be alone and he created these communities where people can connect online and then Meet up in person and now they’re forming.
Actually, they are a Dow, and this Dow is now looking at big swaths of land in this country that are beautiful but lonely. And if they buy them as a Dow, they could then all meet up with their vans and hang out and have a place to have community, and then they could move to another one of their properties.
And they’re all doing it together, all voting on it together, all promoting it together. Uh, and so on, and that’s kiffed and that’s one of the episodes at the podcast. So if you’re interested, go to join origami. com slash podcast. What’s the quirkiest thing that you’ve gotten into lately?
Steve: wouldn’t call this quirky, but I’ve just been playing around with AI. Uh, so I’ll just tell you one thing I’m working on right now. I have this course with probably over 450 videos. I have a blog with over a thousand posts, a podcast with 450 episodes, and this YouTube channel. I’m having all that transcribed right now, and I’m going to create SteveBot.
Uh, because what I found is, uh, operating my classes, I answer a lot of the same questions, and it would just be nice to have a clone of me. That could just leverage all the things that I’ve ever put out and answer questions and who knows that might lead to another business in itself where people can pay monthly for access to Steve, but I do need a better name, though, I don’t think anyone will sign up for Steve, but
Andrew: Um, I do think for you that makes sense. And yes, I do think in general, um, that’s a great idea. Um, what tool are you using to build it?
Steve: I am digging through the APIs right now. I’m a engineer at heart. So I’m going to code this thing myself.
Andrew: Oh, wow. I have found that it is amazing. Um, AI for uncovering answers in a database of information is phenomenal. Uh, there’s a listener of mine who created site GPT. It basically, I think it works with notion, but it basically takes all of your help content and, and serves up answers in a bot using it. And he’s been trying a bunch of different ideas and this one seems to have really hit well and it works well.
I’ve been testing it out and so I can see how something like that would work too.
Steve: So I think the hard part for me. Getting it to just answer questions is, I think, pretty straightforward since, you know, chat BT or open AI is doing most of the heavy lifting, what’s gonna be harder is to instill my personality into it, where like, I might be sarcastic or I might give like, or, or asked this follow up questions, right?
Oftentimes, I’ll give you an example. Here’s a question I often. What’s the best way to make money right now? Well, you can’t really answer that question. You have to ask follow up questions. And then programming that into the bot is probably going to be the most interesting and hardest part of it.
Andrew: That does make sense. And then also getting that personality does make sense. Does, does OpenAI have some way of, of describing the personality you want?
Steve: You have to kind of train it. You have to train it. I’m not fully into this yet since I’m doing this book launch right now, but once I dig deeper into it, there is a way to train it so that it talks like you. I think the terminology is you have to create a voice passage. I think that’s the terminology that’s used so you can train it to respond in a certain way in a certain tone that sounds like you.
Andrew: And when you take on a project like the book or take on a project like this AI Does that count towards your 20 hours of work a week or is that your extra stuff afterwards?
Steve: Uh, so here’s how I operate. I usually have one day out of the week, and it’s usually Friday, where I don’t do anything except for plan what I’m doing or think about the future. And so this is what I would classify as a Friday project.
Andrew: I, I tried that. I struggle with that because if I get into something I want to obsess. I want it to be a Friday through Thursday thing where I just go all out on it and push everything out of the way. Can you actually build something on Friday and then leave it in the middle and come back a week later?
Steve: Well, I’m like you also. I just don’t have the luxury of being able to work all the weekends. As I mentioned before, my kids, they have sports, and literally every single weekend is filled. And I try to be present at all their games and whatnot. So, Like, I had a lot of work, I have a lot of work to do right now because of this book launch.
But we were just in Reno for a three day tournament. I just got back yesterday. I took my laptop with me on the trip, but during the game, like I didn’t bring it to the volleyball stadium. I got my work done at the hotel once they, you know, were tired or falling asleep and whatnot. So yes, I, I agree with you.
That is something that I, is in my personality too. And if I’m really into it. Then, uh, I tried to fit in and, and in this particular project that we’re talking about right now is actually going to be part of the businesses. So that can be classified under the normal look in that 20 hours a week. Also,
Andrew: I’m so excited about what’s going on with AI and I also just in general love these types of projects like what you’re talking about With tick tock is kind of fun to experiment with editing and get feedback The book is interesting to Talk to me about I want to come back into the linens business, but I’m curious about how you basically create a mini business within a business.
The family first entrepreneur is basically a business, right? Where I’ve seen you, you’re, you created the product, you’re promoting it very intentionally. You’ve stayed on top of me with text messages, even though I’ve been a little bit distracted. You’re always bringing me back and doing it in a way that I never feel like, man, this guy is pushy, but more like.
I like what he’s up to and I want to be on board with this. Talk to me about how you do that. What’s, how did you start thinking about the book and, and mark, the marketing part of the book from the point of writing it to the point of like lining up interviews like this and what else that I’m not seeing?
Steve: let me just talk about the purpose of the book first, uh, because I’m in all these mastermind groups with other entrepreneurs. One thing that I’ve just kind of noticed is that the people in my mastermind group are not like me. They’re all a bunch of single guys who have. Unlimited time to do whatever they want.
And that just was not the case for me. I have a family. I want to stay with them. That was my priority for starting these businesses. So that was the purpose of the book. Now, did you want me to answer the questions about the marketing and how? How
Andrew: Yeah, so with that, with the limitation there, with the fact that you’ve got two businesses that, that are the pillars of everything else that you do, how do you go about it? I imagine what you did is, based on our previous conversation, um, you talked to a few people who’d published books whose approach you admired.
You collected notes. You added some of what they said into the book and the book writing process. You started some of the marketing, uh, uh, ahead of time. This is all me just imagining it. Walk me through this whole marketing plan for the book
Steve: okay. So the marketing plan really is. I don’t have that much time for marketing. So I’ve talked to people that say, Hey, go on as many podcasts as you can. But if you think about it this way, a podcast takes at least an hour or two out of your day and you have to plan them. You have to be. It has to be based on someone else’s schedule.
So podcasts actually aren’t a huge part of my plan. I’ve been very selective on the podcasts that, uh, that are run by friends who have large audiences or podcasts who I really think that the audiences will resonate with the book. And I only approach those people. Uh, I think by the person who helped me edit my book, he was like, hey, you gotta go on at least 150 podcasts.
I’m like, I don’t have 200 hours for that, right? So, uh, and this is kind of like the way I operate all my businesses also. I try to choose avenues that are the biggest bang for the buck. So, let’s talk about the book promotion. What I’ve learned from marketing this book, Is that people are lazy and they don’t actually want to read the book.
What they want is something that they can act upon now. So part of my strategy for marketing the book is really. Not to actually market the book, but to market the bonuses. So let me just give you an example. Instead of talking about the book, I’m giving away a three day workshop on how to get started with e commerce.
I’m also giving away a two day workshop on how to make money with content, whether that be through podcasting, blogging, or YouTube. And I’m also doing this six week, what I call a family first challenge, where I’m going into a group and interacting with everybody and helping you guys start your side hustle.
And the book is kind of like a side piece. Because people want the gains that they can have now. Also, since I’ve run an event for the last 7 years, and I’ve run this podcast that I have since 2014, I have a lot of partners. I use a lot of services for my e commerce store. So I approached them and I said, Hey, tell you what, Um, I’ll do some podcast reads, maybe a YouTube video on your company.
You buy a bunch of books from me. Instead of paying the sponsorship fee and then just give them out free to your audience for anyone who wants them. I’ll handle all the book delivery. You don’t have to touch a book. And so those are the three strategies that I’m employing right now.
Andrew: and you do have a goal for number of books sold. You’re trying to get to the best seller list, right?
Steve: Correct. And that is purely an ego driven goal. Uh, this whole book, like what people don’t understand is the book doesn’t really make any money. I got an advance for it, but I’m just using it to, uh, on marketing really. I’m going into this. Thinking that I’m not going to make any money. Uh, part of the reason I wrote this book also is because I want to take my kids through a bookstore.
There’s like one Barnes and Nobles left in my area. I hope it stays in business for the next three weeks. Just want to take them there, show them, Hey, your dad published a book and you know. This is what you can do if you apply yourself and whatnot. Uh, the other thing also, again, these are all ego reasons is my mom has never read a single blog post, watch a single video, listen to a single podcast ever in her life.
And what’s funny is I told her that I was doing a traditionally published book published by HarperCollins and she flipped out. She’s like, how can I get a copy? How can I read it? So there’s clearly some childhood trauma in there somewhere. Uh, but it’s the first time my mom’s actually been really excited about a piece of content that I’ve produced.
Andrew: had a similar situation with my book. My mom doesn’t read or even listen to my podcast, but for some reason she read the book cover to cover and she would text me at times when she came across things that were interesting. And I found that having a book was helpful in that way that it made for many people.
The idea is more real, but it also did that for me. It forced me to sit with my ideas and organize them. I always wanted to be a writer. I, after going through that, I said, I’m never going to know. I said, I want to do it again, but I couldn’t continue. It was very painful, but it makes me happy to know that my years of work at Mixergy and the interview process, it’s all like documented, it’s all organized.
It’s all put out there and out of my head. Would you write another book after this?
Steve: I’ve been asked that question, uh, right now I’m in the thick of it, and it’s a lot more, I vastly underestimated the work for promotion. So if you ask me right now, the answer is probably no, but it’s like having kids I would imagine. You have your first kid, it’s tough for the first couple months, you’re like, I’m never doing this again.
But then they grow up and they’re cute, you hit maybe like age two or three and they’re fun, you’re like, hey, let’s do another, let’s have another one. And I think that’s the same process as a book. So who knows? You ask me in a couple years, maybe the answer will be yes.
Andrew: I think. If the tools for writing get better, I think we’re all in on it. I want to do more writing. There’s nothing better for organizing my thought for getting clear. I have been using a notion AI a lot because it’s built into notion. And when I’m stuck, instead of being stuck or Googling or spinning my wheels, I end up with a bad next paragraph or an okay next paragraph.
And it does allow me to continue. And that is incredibly helpful. And as it gets more and more in touch with what I’m looking for, and I get more and more aware of how I can ask and what I can ask, think that it’ll bring about more, more from me. I’ll want to write more books or at least more for myself to organize my thoughts.
And. That’s a huge win that I’m, I’m excited about.
Steve: I will say this. So the process that I took to create the book, I mean, I had like a thousand blog posts, but what I did is I hired, uh, Jeff Goins. I don’t know if you probably know
Andrew: He’s phenomenal.
Steve: phenomenal. He’s a phenomenal writer. And so the way we did it was I kind of dumped a bunch of stuff on him and then we organized the chapters together and then to fill them out, what I did is I just turned on audio.
And just free float it like we’re both podcasters. And what I found for me at least was it was much easier to get my ideas off by voice as opposed to writing everything down in the very beginning. And that’s what made, that’s what actually made the book creation process a little less painful for me.
And maybe that’s something you can try to,
Andrew: I don’t do well that way. I mean, I do well when it comes to thinking things through, I have to see them and I have to write them out. And that’s the only way that I can really feel like I’m hanging on to them. I do though, use voice dictation a lot, not for anything that really needs me to think it through.
I’ll tell you where it comes up in my mind. I’ve been audio journaling for years, you know, day one has a button where you could press and just record and it’s dictation features have gotten better and better. And so for just dictating what’s going on with my life, it’s really been incredibly helpful.
And I’m looking forward to the day where that becomes more accessible through AI, where I can say. What was I going through last year? What was the big problem that I had last year? Or, analyze this year and tell me where I spend most of my thoughts and that kind of a thing I think could be super helpful.
You know as I was reading this I wondered why are you doing this? I like, I do feel the conversational style in your book I do like how you bounce back and forth between your story and stories of people I guess in your life or entrepreneurs But what are you trying to do? Are you trying to get more people to my wife quit her job?
To that part of your business.
Steve: I mean, I think it’s going to be a good lead gen vehicle for that part of the business, just to be straight up. Um, on the other side of that also, I feel like this is where the world’s going to, towards, right? I think AI is really going to disrupt a lot of jobs. A lot of people gonna be out of a job and the really the only way to not get disrupted by A.
I. Is if you have a business and you’re deploying A. I. So this is where I think the world’s going. And so it’s important to highlight that.
Andrew: you’re saying they’re going to be more entrepreneurs and they’re going to be more like the people that you’ve been catering to than the ones that I have been, frankly, with Mixergy, where it’s more about the funded entrepreneurs, the ones who are trying to, uh, Be the next Elon Musk or at least the, the hundred million dollar valuation and, and above and you’re saying most people don’t want that.
They want to spend time with their families. If they’re pursuing being the next Elon Musk, they’re being untrue to themselves. And I’m giving them permission to do it and I’m giving them a road map. If I’m reading it right, that’s where your,
Steve: I think permission is a lot of it. Most people think that you have to start the next big thing. But I believe that if you just want to make a couple million dollars every year, you can do that on your own or with very little staff, especially with we’re in this golden age right now with A. I. Where you.
You can get by with like, I didn’t have it when I was starting my businesses. If I were to do it all over again, it’d be a lot easier today because of AI.
Andrew: I think that too. You know what? I used to ride these, um, electric bikes in Washington DC. You know, the stuff that you see everywhere here. Um, and what I felt about it was, it wasn’t like riding a motorcycle. You still had to pedal, but when you needed a little bit of a boost, when you needed to get up that hill, when you were pushing and it wasn’t, it wasn’t really your legs that could continue to push the bike forward.
The bike would push you forward. It was like a hand on your back, like your dad going behind you when you were a kid and making sure that you were steady and continuing right. And I feel like that’s what AI is. It’s like the electric bike. You still have to do the work, but it’s, it’s pushing you forward in a really nice way.
I should say for anyone who’s interested in adding AI to their company or anything else, and you need to hire a developer to do it. Maybe you don’t have the capacity. Maybe you don’t have the experience. Hire a developer with experience to do this. Steve, you too. If you get stuck and you want to bring somebody on, go check out.
Excuse me, go check out Lemon. You’ll like it, because you’re cheap like me. Lemon is a company built by a guy who’s also cheap, who said, you know what, it turns out there are really inexpensive developers in Ukraine who are just as good as the developers in the U. S. They just don’t want to move out of Ukraine, or maybe they don’t have the opportunity to.
And so he matched them up with American companies, with other Western European companies. And he ended up having this phenomenal business of getting low priced Ukrainian developers to the rest of the world. Um, and then the war happened and he had to flee. And what he did to expand his business was go beyond Ukraine.
And so now he’s got people in other parts of the world who are. Great developers, easy to work with work remotely, but at a great price. And if anyone wants to go sign up with them, frankly, just test them out, give them a shot, see if they could please you, see if they can make you happy. If not, no harm, no foul.
Um, but they will match you up with somebody good. And I know it from experience, having talked to people in my audience who’ve gone through their process. If you use my URL, it’ll be even cheaper. Go to lemon. io slash mixer G. Um, let me see if I got your story right. Your wife’s a big crier. Not necessarily for sad things, you keep saying that. You knew that at your wedding she would be crying, you didn’t want to have a Kleenex. And you thought, well if I’m getting… Oh, she’s the one who didn’t have a Kleenex, okay. She didn’t want to have a Kleenex, she’s got more, more class than that. So, you go online, you get linens… Linen napkins for her and then for the wedding party as a whole.
Why for the wedding party, by the way?
Steve: Uh, so it wasn’t napkins. It was handkerchiefs
Andrew: Handkerchiefs. Sorry. I
Steve: uh, she just wanted everyone to be carrying a handkerchief. So the guys had men’s handkerchiefs and the women’s had women’s handkerchiefs. Just it was, it was all for the photography. Really, I think is what it came down to.
Andrew: Was it also like how Jews will have a yarmulke with Like on the inside the date and the name of the wedding is was it like that too? So they had a keepsake
Steve: That was the goal. Um, so we ended up embroidering them and the goal was for everyone to have a keepsake, but I mean, to be straight up, I think that, uh, most people didn’t care about the keepsake as much as we did. It was just something we did for ourselves, really.
Andrew: surprised. I tend to keep those things. All right. So then you have that. You have extras. You decide, well, I’ve been selling all these electronics online anyway. I might as well sell this too. You go online, you sell it and you say, well, that’s sold really fast. Meanwhile, you’re at a point in your life where you’re looking around for different ideas and you talked about some of them in the book and you say, well, this idea seems like the best of all of them.
Let’s start doing it. You take 630. You go where to buy handkerchiefs. Sorry. Yeah. Handkerchiefs,
Steve: Yeah, we actually just got back in touch with that same supplier that sold us that first batch. And we said, Hey, we just want more. And then we started, let me tell you, Andrew, real quick. I actually resisted selling handkerchiefs cause it’s not exactly the manliest thing to do. And I remember, and this all goes back to ego.
I remember my friends would come up to me and say, Hey, how’s the, how’s the hanky business going? I don’t want to say in a derogatory tone, but it just wasn’t a sexy business. Uh, but what I’ve just come to learn over time is it doesn’t really matter what you sell. And so, yeah, to your, to your point, we got back in touch with that factory and once the money started coming in.
It actually became validating for my friends, and they no longer took that tone anymore. In fact, they asked me how we did it, and that’s instantly how the blog was started. My wife quit her job. It was really just to document everything. But of course, my friends never ended up reading that, and I just attracted a bunch of random people.
It all worked out.
Andrew: How did you get your first customers?
Steve: Ah, yes, the first customer was Google AdWords. And there’s a story behind that, too. My brother in law, he was working at Google. He just happened to be heading up the Google AdWords department. And I was like, Hey, how are we going to get business? And he’s like, Hey, let me just give you a tour of AdWords.
And this is back in the day when it was like, you know, we were paying like five or 10 cents a click or something crazy like that.
Andrew: What year was this?
Steve: This was two thousand seven
Steve: and so we got a bunch of business that way. Another one of my friends was ranking in Google at the time. He’s like, all you got to do is just pump out some content.
You’ll rank for these keywords. So I was like, okay. So we started writing wedding related content or crafts for people in weddings. And that took a while, but that started generating traffic after I would say six months or so. And then we kind of just stumbled upon our third prong of business, which was, uh, repeat customers.
We, we, we noticed someone bought like an abnormally large number of handkerchiefs, something like a couple hundred or 300. Most people don’t do that. So call them up on the phone. I was like, Hey, you know, we, we noticed you ordered a lot. Uh, may I ask what you’re using them for? Cause I was just curious. And then she was like, Hey, I’m a wedding planner.
I’m like, Oh, well, great. Here’s a coupon code. If you ever need anything, just. Call me and I’ll make sure it gets there. And those are the three pillars by which we run our business today. For the most part, uh, we do more than Google AdWords, but the other two prongs are still similar content and repeat business focusing on the whales.
Andrew: What about, um, I think you said in the book, you went on the Today Show, and I think it was like seven X your business immediately, just from seven seconds or so of being on the show. How did you get in that, on that show? How did you get in the magazines that I see on your site?
Steve: That’s all from the content. It’s all from ranking and search. I’ve asked, they said, Hey, we, we saw your, your products online via Google, or they came across a piece of content. That we wrote on the subject or something similar, we we’ve never done any sort of paid outreach. It’s all been inbound.
Andrew: Oh, I kind of assumed that that was one of your personal campaigns that you personally said, I’m gonna master this, and just kept reaching out to them. First year. Do you remember how much you made in profit?
Steve: Yeah, about 102, 000 and some
Andrew: That’s amazing. That’s amazing Um,
Steve: here’s what’s funny. And I just want to mention this to everyone listening. You mentioned seven X and that sounds like a great number, it sucked. That whole experience in retrospect was one of the most miserable times of operating the business, because at the time it was just me, my wife and one employee, and all of a sudden we got seven X the amount of orders, and this was sustained for maybe a period of almost two weeks.
I was just sitting there sewing and packing orders every single minute of the day, and I think what most people don’t realize is any time you grow suddenly or fast. It’s actually not fun. Um, and I know you and I we’ve, you’ve interviewed a lot more people than I have. I’ve interviewed people that have grown really fast in a short period of time.
And on the podcast, it’s been great. We talk about how they did it, their strategies and everything. And then I hit the stop button and then they tell me like how miserable it was, how stressed out they were, how burnt out they feel. And in retrospect, I kind of wish I hit record during those periods because I think it’s important for people to know that too.
About running a business.
Andrew: i’ve noticed the same thing and I don’t think that people are lying in the podcast when they don’t say that I used to think that it was that they were putting on Some kind of a show about how great success was and how great they were for achieving it and then in private they were They were in pain over aspects of it what i’ve come to realize is They’re lying to themselves, not to the audience, that they forget the difficulty of, of that period and they’re telling the story the way they want it to be told.
They’re telling the thing that, that feels like the right way and the, the right thing to say. You find that?
Steve: I mean, I don’t think they’re being dishonest, but it always sounds better to talk about the great things that happened as opposed to how much it sucked. Right. And I mean, it’s a, I run an entrepreneurship based podcast and maybe they think that this is what the audience wants to hear. I don’t know.
Andrew: I, I think so. I think that that’s what it is. Alright, you also mentioned all the different tools that you’ve tried, what are some of the ones that have worked well for you on the site?
Steve: Oh, tools. Okay. So if I were to just highlight a couple of them. I think email and SMS is the most important part of any business. Uh, SMS is just relatively recent, I would say within the last three years. Uh, I think in order to start any sort of brand, you have to build a solid foundation of customers. In e commerce especially, sometimes you don’t make money on that first sale, but it’s the repeat purchases that someone makes.
Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, hey, I’m in the wedding industry, people don’t get married more than once. And for our business, it’s only about 12% of our businesses are repeat. But I mentioned the whales, right? The people who are event and wedding planners. But there’s also another subset of people that I just kind of discovered by accident.
And these are people who collect handkerchiefs. And they actually make up a They don’t spend a lot each time, but they’re very consistent customers. And it just goes to show that There’s all sorts of people out there. And those are the ones that provide foundations, the solid foundation of revenue for our business, because that 12% makes up 36% of our annual revenue.
And almost all of it is generated through email and SMS, getting people back to the site. Incidentally, that’s the way you start a brand also. I mean, what’s a brand, a brand really is just repeat, repeated exposure to your company and your content. And the only way to do that is to bring them back somehow.
Andrew: I do see that all over your site now that, now that you mentioned it, I see, uh, text the word BBL to, and then you have phone number there. And you’re also really good about being just open to conversations from people. I loved how in your book, you said in the early days, you used to just watch what people were doing on your site.
I forget what tools there were, but there were tools at the time that were, uh, they were gaining popularity. And then we stopped talking about them, but what did you learn by watching people go through your site?
Steve: I did more than that actually. So we’ll just throw out some names. I actually, uh, so hot jar was what we used to use and I would just watch and see where people left. And then oftentimes what I would do is if I had their information. Especially during a new product launch, and I still do this actually, if we’ve invested a lot of money in a product and we’re launching.
If they ban their cart, I’ll call them up, because I have their phone number. And you might think that’s awkward, and it actually is quite awkward. But I have it down now where I’ll just call him up and say, Hey, I noticed you started checkout, but you didn’t quite finish the transaction. Tell you what, we’re going to give you the product for free.
I just want to ask you a couple of questions. So what about the product? Did you not describe well, so, so I’ll give you an example. So we were selling aprons when we launched and I called up this person. She was like, Oh, I love the aprons. I really wanted them, but I wasn’t sure if this was going to fit my child.
And I was like, Oh, well, we have sizing on there. And she’s like, well, it’s by age. And I wanted to give like my child’s exact height and how I wanted to know how long the straps were to see how it would adjust. And I was like, Oh, and then we fixed that. But I never would have gotten that unless I actually called someone on the phone. And it’s scary to do it.
Andrew: calls. I love the customer calls. I find that people don’t even pick up though. They picked up your call.
Steve: They did. And again, okay. So I think this is based on the clientele. Also, most of our customers are women, I would say over the age of 40. And this is back. I think the younger generation probably wouldn’t have picked up, but I think the older generation still does because our customers are on
Steve: too, you know?
Andrew: I do see that. You know what I find though that does help with my audience? I text them. I say, it’s Andrew from the site. I’m about to call you, I know it’s kind of awkward, but I need to follow up on something. And if they were just on the site, and they see my name, and they see a text, they’re much more likely to pick up the phone afterwards.
Alright, one of the things that I really, I told you, I enjoy your writing, I enjoy… Hearing your story and sometimes interrupting you and telling you your own story from your own book, because I’d gone through it. But, um, I also like how you tell other people’s stories. How about if we close this out with a story from the book, the family first entrepreneur about somebody else, who’s, who’s building an interesting business that we can learn from.
Steve: Yeah. All right. Let’s talk about Amanda Wittenborn. So she’s a student in my class and she’s, she’s very creative. She’s an artist. And one thing that I found over the years teaching my class is that a lot of artists, they’re super talented, but they, they’re just not good at making money in the beginning because they have a set of principles that they hear by and maybe you can relate to this.
I don’t know, like, I want to do things based on my art and I don’t really care what other people want per se, I want to do it my way and have it sell right. But what’s interesting about Amanda. Is she just did so she, I think she started out with print on demand where she was putting her designs and she did printables and she found that a lot of people liked her designs.
And so she just started creating what were called, she sells party supplies. She started creating these party supplies based on what other people liked, which was kind of goes against the whole artist ethos. And it started making money and then she started expanding into other marketplaces like Amazon in addition to her own site.
And today she makes multiple seven figures and, uh, she just got her own office space, got a printer. What I admire about her also is she employs her children, which is ingenious. Uh, my kids don’t really have that much interest in working for our business, but it’s just a really good feel good story about someone with a lot of talent.
Artistically can actually make money doing what she loves. And I guess this would be like a rare story of passion working.
Andrew: Uh with a willingness to bend to the audience’s needs i’m on her site right now amanda creation It’s all kinds of party supplies And she makes a hundred and seventy thousand a month from selling this from invitations, etc Who knew I would have thought that that business had all been wrapped up already, but No, there’s always room for another competitor with an interesting angle. All right So there are a few different places where people can go and get the book Uh the family first entrepreneur it will be if it’s not already on amazon and it will be at your local barnes and noble Which we hope will stay open and long enough for your kids to walk in and see it Um, you also have the familyfirstentrepreneur.
com but I think and you you’ve given me others I think the best way to get to it is MyWifeQuitHerJob. com and then it’s right in the middle of the page where people can press a button and click to order and then they get all the bonuses if they get it that way too.
Steve: Yep, absolutely. Either URL works.
Andrew: Alright. Or Google him. He’s still good at SEO or any number of different ways to do this. Thanks. Congratulations on the
Steve: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Andrew. I really appreciate it.
Andrew: Hell yeah, I always like talking to you. One of the things I noticed about you is you’re always like the calmest, least anxious person in the room. We’ve been to conferences where you see people who have a lot of deep anxiety and you’re almost a little too chill, like it, it doesn’t it doesn’t bother you for some reason.
Alright, we’ll get into all those later on. Thank you all for listening and remember my two sponsors if you’re hiring a developer for AI or anything else, you should go to lemon. io slash Mixergy. And now that this podcast is over, go search for my second podcast. It’s all about DAOs. In fact, it’s called how to launch a DAO.
You can find it in the, in the podcast app that you’re using right now. Thanks. Bye everyone.