#108 – Keeping It Simple to Build a Multimillion-Dollar Business with Sam Parr of The Hustle
The Indie Hackers Podcast

Full episode transcript -


Samp are welcome to the Andy Hackers podcast.


Thank you. Been listening to you guys for a long time.


You are the founder of The Hustle Hustle is a daily newsletter for tech and business news goes out every morning, takes five or six minutes to read it. It's always entertaining. It's very well written, and you've got into something like a 1,000,000 1/2 subscribers, which is a crazy high number for a newsletter. We're gonna talk about that later on, for sure, for us and purely selfish reasons. On my end, you also run Hustle Con, which I've heard nothing but great things about. It's a yearly started conference where some super successful founders get on stage and share their stories and their expertise. You've got a podcast now that you're producing, called my 1st 1,000,000 I know I'm probably leaving a few things out. You do a lot,


so we're a media company and we just it sounds like I, like, do All the stuff of my own were a media company, and so we have, like, loads of different products. So, yeah, you named a lot of them. But we also just released release trends. The trends dot co trans dot CEOs the Earl and that's our first paid subscription product.


I'm going there right now. What is trends that is work?


Yeah, So the idea here is I really m fascinated with Forrester and Gartner and those research companies. And so we're building a research arm at our company, and so users can pay $300 a year, and we have a team of researchers who go out and scour the Web and look at millions of data points as well. Well, let's do traditional journalistic stuff like talk to people and dig. And we find really interesting cos the profile and deconstruct and explained how they worked very in depth. But we also look at a whole bunch of, ah, growth signals like how often people are searching for something. And what's the growth velocity of something? And we, uh, we talk about that, so it's almost like a I don't know, Harvard Business Review are a more affordable gardener, but for throwing and starting companies.


I like how you introduced it by saying that you like Forrester that you like Gartner, that you like this stuff. What goes into deciding to launch another product like this when you've already got so many things going on, is it really driven by just things that you like?


It's not as much going on as you think it is. If maybe if it looks like that on the outside. And But we have close to 30 employees and I could see is growing toe hundreds and then thousands of people. And with a media company, a media company or an information company, which is what we are, it's pretty much just a series of projects that are all built around one brand. So the goal from Day One, when we launched in 2016 was we're gonna build a massive email list and we're gonna monetize it through advertising in the email, and we're gonna bootstrap our way to do it and all of the profits that we make from the email we're gonna pour into building ancillary products and we're gonna use our distribution on our email list. Teoh, make those popular. So the strategy was to do all this from the very beginning. But the specific products that we've launched, like trends that just is ah, combination of testing loads of stuff. So there's a lot of stuff that we product that we've tried that have failed, that most people don't know about. And then there is a combination of what are what could we be world class at what can make really great revenue and profit and what we're users love and most importantly, what do we find fun to work on?


It's interesting that you had this whole plan laid out from the very beginning, and it's little bit counterintuitive because most people wouldn't set out to say, Hey, I'm gonna start an email list and that's gonna bring in a ton of money and finance everything else because most people don't think that an email is could make


a lot of money. That's a total misconception. A lot of people think that, but if you talk to any well, you dio so you know if you talk to a lot of different commerce companies, a lot of their sales come from their email list. It's one of the highest R a Y marketing channels, so the idea early on was I had seen this interview with this woman who I started this company daily candy. It was a daily email with two million subscribers, and it sold for $125 million in revenue, or ah, $125 million it sold for. But this isn't like 2004 but I was like e mails, mostly the same since 2004 like it hasn't actually changed a lot. And so I just thought, Well, that strategy work for her.

It works for G e commerce companies. When I started email, which I could talk about later, it started as a conference and it worked for our conference. It was just a email list, and so we just thought, Let's just put that on steroids to make it work.


And how well is it working today? Like, how much money do you


make from your email list? Yeah, I mean, the email alone email advertising alone is eight figures in revenue. Um, Lew. Yeah, it can grow, I think email advertising on Lee Kah NBI ah, 30 or 40 or $50 million a year business and then add in our other things, our goals toe make hundreds of millions of dollars a year revenue.


Let's talk about your goals for a bit because you're working hard. What's motivating you to keep working hard to keep pushing $200 million in revenue and beyond? And what's stopping you from just retiring to a life of leisure on a beach somewhere?


Uh huh. Just adventure. Really. I just Ah, I'm kind of competitive with myself. I'm a former athlete and I always people ask me that sometimes I guess I could just kind of chill and I chill every once in a while. I'll take three or four weeks off a year. I don't know. Do you exercise? Yeah. Did you? OK, maybe if you lift weights, you're like, All right, I bench £200 this week Like I wonder if I could, like,

work really hard in three months. Bench to 50. It's like, Are you a different person between 202 50? No, but it's just like a really fun thing to push yourself into. Try more because some people have personalities were just It's never enough, and it's a really exciting toe to kind of keep going.


Yeah, I'm the kind of person were like, I get too sucked into that stuff. There's any sort of number associated with my progress. Weightlifting revenue. I start playing chess recently. I suck, but watching my reading go up is I get better, is just never want to stop. And it's kind of its own reward.


Yeah, I think it's just like a human instinct for a lot of people is you just wanna push the boundaries and so that's really what it is. I really like the people I work with. So why don't I retire? Because I enjoy what I dio. Yeah, I don't know. It's simple. I just like going after things and pushing forward, and I enjoy the people I work with.


Well, let's talk about your story a bit, cause I wanna understand kind of who you are and how you got here. You've called yourself in the past Midwestern small business owner who learned how to use the Internet, how that transition happened.


Yes, So I'm from ST Louis, Missouri. I went to college in Nashville, Tennessee. Originally, I went for two reasons. I had a track and field scholarship, but also the school I went to had a music business program, and this was right when I went to college was right when the TV show Entourage has ended and I was like, I want to be like Ari Gold so I'll study the music industry and be like the Ari Golden music. And while I was there in college, I met a guy named Mike Wolf and Mike Wolf. Is this guy who's on the TV show American pickers? Have you ever seen that? No, I've never seen it.

Well, at the time, I bet you've seen pawn stars, right? Yeah, we came on right after that. And it was kind of the same thing where Mike would go to Barnes and all over the country. And Mike would buy old motorcycles or gas pumps things like that and explain the history around them and then sell them. Well, anyway, I saw him on the street and I was a fan, and I was just trying to get his picture in an autograph and eventually kind of talked him into letting me run here. Helps set up his new store in Nashville, And in doing that, I learned about entrepreneurship, and I was like,

Well, I had always been selling stuff on eBay. I'd always been making money on my own on the Internet or just like selling stuff in real life. And I was like, Man, like this whole selling stuff, it could actually become like a really like this could be my life. It doesn't have to be just like a little thing I do because I want to make, like, $1000 next month. But anyway, I worked for him, and then I decided to open up a chain of hot dog stand. So I opened up one hot dog stand. It was like a hot dog car. It's really simple.

It was just like the only business that I could afford toe like Start and I did that and it started working and we grew it. We expanded it, and so that's kind of how I got that small business mentality. But I, uh, eventually started an online store when I was like a junior in college, and it started making really good money, and I was like, Oh, the Internet is totally 100% better than staying outside in 100 degree national weather and selling stuff. I'm going, I'm gonna pursue that. So I just kind of Googled like where in America do the Internet companies live and ah, this, said San Francisco. So I left school and a little bit early and eventually graduated.

But I left school, moved out to San Francisco and started a business that was eventually sold for a very small amount. And then after that, I started Hustle Con, which is our event now and originally. It was a very selfish reason. I just wanted to meet our speakers or meet other attendees and find so in a partner with. But the way that I made the conference popular was I just created an email newsletter where I would blawg or write newsletters about each speaker and that actually got more popular, probably in the conference. But the conference made like 60 grand in profit in like the 1st 6 weeks. It was like, Well, that's cool. Let's do that again. I launched the event on May 15th in The event took place on July 1st, so I did it about six weeks,

took six months off and I was like, Let's do that again And this time it made like 1/4 of a $1,000,000 in revenue or something like that, and the way in which I made it popular again was this email newsletter and at the end of it, I was like, Look okay, This state has made, like, 300 grand in revenue with not a lot of work. That's great. But I want to go bigger. And so that's when the idea of, like, we're using content to get people to come to an event. Can we use content, toe, build a huge company, build a media company? And so that's kind of move. When we went all in on the hustle so


personally from everything I've heard, I want absolutely nothing to do with the conference. People tell me all the time, Corland, you should start any hackers conference. I'm just like No, it sounds like an absolute nightmare to run, but I wonder if I'm wrong here. Maybe you're hearing different things, and I was what convinced you to start a conference, and should I start one.


It depends. Conferences can be very lucrative. Specifically, trade shows there's multiple companies out there that make billions of literally billions of dollars a year in revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars a year and profit from conferences specifically trade shows. But the majority of people I've met specifically, the majority of people I've met in the Internet world are horrible at handling the economics of a conference and are horrible at the logistics of it. And they spend way too much money and they don't know how to market their event successfully. Or their event is just like, just like every other event or yeah, they just stinking running it. So if you can run an event successfully, let's say you wanted to make half a $1,000,000 in revenue with, like, 40% profit margin 100% you could you could do that. It could be done. The problem with events is most people would do a few due a few mistakes one the hosts A like a hotel or something that has, like union labor or where they make you use a caterer.

And that adds up so much it costs so much money to do those things. And that's really hard for a first time conference. The second thing is, people don't realize that nor to get like the big sponsorship money for conferences, it usually takes a year or two of proving that you have a good event. And then finally, people spend way too much money on things that don't matter. Like name tags. If you have 1000 people, Matt, an event you could very easily spend 20 grand just for name tags and lows of things like that. And that is where people completely lose their shirt and lose a ton of money on events.


Is this all stuff that you knew going into Hustle Con or did you kind of learn this on the job as you ran the conference


when I started Hustle Kind, I was 24 I so I didn't know anything, so I kind of learned on the job. I've always been really good at seeking people out who are experts, and I just grill them. And I learned everything that they know. And I just say, What are your biggest mistakes? What were the biggest mistake? So I just tried my hardest not to repeat those mistakes, so I kind of knew this a little bit just cause I had read a time When I talk to people, I'm also naturally very frugal. So it was kind of in my DNA, but I've learned a lot along the way. So I had. I didn't have an experience, that's for sure.


Well, despite that, you decided to run a conference anyway. And your first time around you had. I think it's six weeks from idea to the date of the event, which is insane. How did you put something together so fast in what was going through your head?


Well, it's not that hard, really. I mean, it's hard work, but it's not, like intellectually challenging. I mean, my first event. If you actually Google Sam Par Hustle Con $40,000 or I forget the name of the Block post. I think it was like I smoke it House icon but saying made $40,000 or something like that, and this was in 2014 so you could see that block post. I actually list out what my PML statements were, but it was quite simple. I I spent maybe 10 or $15,000 it was like $5000 for a venue. I got people to donate loads and loads of free food. I didn't have name tags,

so, like Mike, hard costs were actually quite low. And in order to get speakers. I pretty much just cold email. I mean, I didn't have a network at the time. I just cold email. Ah, lot of speakers and I The truth is, I kind of lied to them. I said like, Hey, Joel, would you come and speak a hustle con? 400 people are gonna be there,

and these other speakers are gonna be speaking. And of course, those other speakers hadn't confirmed. But I did that same stick to all the other speakers and thankfully, nearly all of them said, Yeah, sure, I'll come. And so that's how I got the first speakers and then I knew how to do. I'm a self copywriter, and I always kind of knew that email marketing was really effective. And I always knew how to get traffic to come to websites. And I just said to myself, Well, if I get the product which is thes speakers, I think I could get the marketing and distribution by creating lots of block posts, collecting their emails of people who visit the website and then just constantly emailing them interesting stuff and eventually convincing them to come. And so that was that kind of the methodology.


This is like the Fire Festival gone right? You know what would happen if the fire Festival actually worked out? Let's break this down. I'm looking at this block post that you talked about her people listening. It's called Hustle Con 2014. I went, I spoke, but Sam made 40 K from it.


Yeah, and just I have to preface this. I say I was a lot younger and wilder when I wrote that. I don't write the same way or talk the same way as I did.


There's a list in here, and it's titled How did I sell 400 tickets and seven Weeks and a lot of it is what you just mentioned. Basically writing and finding block post WordPress brilliance creating a drip campaign. What would you say is the most important part here? We're gonna do this again, something from scratch with no connections, no audience


start blocking and getting traffic and collecting emails, emails, emails, emails. My 1st 200 emails were I just put like every person who had emailed on Gmail and, like, maybe like my 100 LinkedIn connections, I just put them on the email list without asking, and that kind of started it. And then I would post block posts and post those posts all over Reddit and Hacker news. And that's kind of how I got my first bit of traffic.


You talk a little bit about what your initial block poster about


you could probably you could actually see the block post in that. In that post, I only wrote, like, 10 block posts. You could actually see them on that post that you're you're referring to. Yeah, I would just write articles about each speaker, and I would explain how they do what they dio. It was pretty simple, I think. But my emails that talked about the block post I think we're kind of clever and interesting, and I kind of wrote in a way that not a lot of people at the time of writing, like


you've actually said in the past that cooperating is one of the most underrated skills, one of those important skill sets that anyone can develop, what really shines through in everything that you've worked on from starting this blog's starting an email newsletter starting a media company. Of course. How did copyrighting become such an important skill for you.


Well, I learned I read this book years and years and years ago about direct mail advertising. So, basically, like in the fifties sixties seventies eighties, before the Internet was around, these guys would just write these letters to people like saying like, Hey, would you like to buy this encyclopedia or vacuum? But they would say in very clever, interesting ways. And I was like, That's amazing. And when I was selling hot dogs, I realized that you had to have, like, a stick or a story to get people's attention because,

like hot dogs and pretty much all the same. And so I realized that copyrighting was so salesmanship on paper that could scale to infinity amount of people is what you write something forever. It could be seen by everyone. And so I just started studying copyrighting like crazy, and after I sold my last business, I pretty much locked myself in a bedroom for six months and I would get the best sales letters of all time, and I would write them out by hand to figure out exactly how they did what they did, and I just kind of learned about copyrighting and how to do it effectively. But what a lot of people don't realize is copyrighting isn't just sales copy. Writing is understanding what motivates people. It's understanding. Gaps in the market is understanding. Where opportunity is, it's understands, is about understanding what people want and how to solve problems for them, and then just communicating to them,

how your solution will solve their problems. And once you master that like it helps with with professional relationships, it helps with. When I was a single guy with meeting women, it helps with selling stuff for your business it helps with relating to people. I mean, it just helps in so many different ways.


You said that when you wrote this block post 24 it was a different era. You were younger. How would you say year copyrighting skills have involved since then,


less like cute or less like gimmicky. When I was first starting, there was basically like a handful of ah hooks that I knew work really well. Some of them could be a little gimmicky, and I am. I definitely pounced on that. So


you're running this conference. You are an expert copywriter or well on their way to becoming one your ableto.


I wouldn't say I was an expert, but I understand, like the principles


you understood the principles and you're using them to write these emails. These block post that I really like the idea behind because your just doing profiles, you said of the speakers and how they were able to accomplish things that they had accomplished. And obviously that aligns with white people are coming to the event. You're not writing one thing and then advertising another. Your writing is itself an advertisement for the conference, and I really have to imagine that that played a pretty strong role in why your ticket sales or so consistent while you're able to get someone who will show up in your first time around. Let's talk about the second time around. How did that go? Was it more or less stressful than the first time around? And were there any learnings you could apply from the first conference to the second?


I would say I wasn't sweating bullets the first time because I knew how to control my costs and basically I got to break even really, really, really quickly. So it was and I didn't actually intend to make money the first time. I just wanted to do it for fun, and it happened to make money. But my goal was just don't lose money. And so I got to that point of Don't lose money really quickly. And so I wasn't sweating bullets like I'm gonna lose everything. But it was nerve wracking, like, are people gonna like this? And I actually was able to pull this off. And the second time I did it, I realized I realized how to find, like, serenity and calmness inside of chaos.

Because events are chaos with events. A lot of times a lot of people make like the bulk of their revenue in the last two weeks. So, like the last two weeks leading up to an event, and it makes him sweat bullets. And I kind of saw that pattern in the first time. And I also understood how to, like, control a crowd. So that helped a lot.


What about your blogging and your email strategy that stay the same for a conference number two? Or did it evolve in some way?


No different. I just didn't say like, I'm probably like average intelligence. I wasn't, like smart, enoughto like figure out some clever way to get ticket sales. I just said to myself, Well, it worked the first time. If I just do it again, they'll hopefully build off itself and I'll just do it more and it'll double in size. So it was very unsophisticated in terms of the growth for the 1st 1 to the 2nd 1 it was just do the same thing but more.


At what point did you realize that the email list was perhaps a more promising business than the conference, which itself was making a lot of money?


I read this interview. I read like five or six different interviews of people who had email lists that turned out to be like huge companies. Like I read about the founding of Groupon and Groupon for the most part. Early on was an email list. That's all it waas and and so I kind of realized that with phones getting with phones on email, getting more popular and everything like e mails, not like something that's like secondary e mails, the Internet, it's like saying like it's like people are like man, I couldn't believe in email could be so big. I'm like That's like saying to me, I couldn't believe a website could be so big. Is that what you're talking about? Like, how could email not be big? It's just attention. It's just a,

ah, a platform. It's not as simple as as I mean. It is simple, but it doesn't have to be a tiny, as as a lot of people kind of write it off to be because more people probably spend. I bet you people spend as much time in Gmail as they do safari or chrome. And so very early on, after kind of reading about Groupon, Thrillist, daily candy and a handful of other companies, I realized like, Oh, man, like email. Ah,

lot of people are writing this off as a small thing, and all these huge media companies, like Vice and Business Insider are either multi 100 or multi $1,000,000,000. Business is multi $100.108 $100 million businesses, and they're losing traffic on because Facebook is kind of turning back the dial email like is really consistent. What if I just built try to build a multi $1,000,000,000 company using email instead of just like, ah, Facebook or a Web site. And so I don't know, it just kind of with a natural progression.


I like the strategy of reading about other successful companies and trying to figure out how they did it and using that to sort of inspire you and lead you down a particular direction because I don't really want to invent the wheel right. Other people have done it before. And what's cool about you in particular, is you aren't just reading about Internet businesses, but you're bringing your expertise from running these smaller, real world businesses from running your hot dog stand from working other jobs. And so you're sort of combining like all this cooperating expertise in this other sort of older business knowledge because businesses have


been around forever. Well, that's like a huge mistake that people make is they say, like, Oh, well, we're a startup. Therefore we're gonna operate this way. It's like men, businesses all the same, you by lows and you sell for a little bit higher, and then you make customers. You create customers and make sure that they're happy and you find talented people inspire them toe work with you. I mean, that's like as simple as it could get, right? And it doesn't matter if you're a business that makes $1000 a month or a business that makes a $1,000,000,000 a month,

that strategy is true. It just maybe you have 10,000 people working together to do it as opposed to just you. And I always felt that in Silicon Valley, which I'm definitely embedded in, that there was a huge mistake in thinking like we're gonna get all these video views or we're going to get all these users and nine out of 10 times. It's like, Ah, hey, so you got all these video views? How the hell are you supposed to be making money? And for us, it was never We just weren't gonna be that type of company where it was about, like, kind of vanity, Silicon Valley metrics. And so that's why I always say were almost run like a small business that is just trying to like, double or triple or quadruple each year.


So tell me about this process of how you approached running an email business when you determine that in the long run, it could be more profitable, more promising than just the conference.


Yeah, so we had just turned three years old last April. So a couple months ago or a few months ago, we've turned three years old. And so it seems like a relatively short amount of time, I think. But in the first few months of us, like launching the Hustle originally were just a blawg where we would blawg about cool stories. We describe yourself as business insider meets vice, but then after a while we're like, Wait a minute, What are we doing? We're getting away from our email roots. Let's, like, just not even really have a website on Lee Do email. So we started doing that,

and we're like, Well, what content do our people love the most? And we're blogging about evergreen stuff, but eventually be tried blogging about the news, and that's are taking off. And so in our first year we got maybe 120,000 email subscribers. They pretty much all came from We would blawg about lots of different things, get traffic, collect emails and then put them on our email list where we would send them the news. They need to know each morning. And that's how we got our 1st 100 or 100. Maybe that's how we got our 1st 200,000 users. Actually, it was like crazy, simple,

and we just used mail Chimp. At this point, we have a really sophisticated CMS and software deal that we kind of built out because we have engineers who work here. But at first it was just a email like a male chimp newsletter, and the conference kind of funded the whole project. And then once we hit 60 or 70,000 email subscribers, we started putting advertisements in the email, and then that's when things started taking off.


So who's we? Who else is working with you on this? How did you find them? And how do you convince him to work with you?


The So at first it was just me, and then I convinced John Havel, who was he actually had started the business that where I worked before, I I kind of convinced them to let me work for him, and then I'd be kind of became a co founder. Except so we kind of switched roles for the next one I was like, John, I've been working on this thing for six months or a year. Come and try this out with me. And so it was me and him for a little while. And then we convinced friends from our old company, or where we had worked previously to join us and then my head of sales. Now who's actually now the president of our company? I went to high school with him and I just kind of email them. They go, Hey, man were both young.

I think at the time were 25 like, we don't have a lot of responsibility. I have this business that makes it a little bit of profit, but I think we can blow it up. You want to give this a shot and I just kind of convince them to come. And once I did that, revenue start growing and I was able to adjust cold email like anyone I could find on linked in who worked in the industry. And I was just networking like crazy, and I would just convince trying to convince everyone to come join us, and our first maybe 10 employees were all really young people they were either 2021 22 like, I don't think in our first year I don't think we had anyone who worked at a company that was over 25. So everyone was young, which means affordable, a k a cheap. I paid myself 40 grand a year. Everyone else was probably paid 40 or $50,000 a year,

so it wasn't very expensive. And we just kind of like taught ourselves this business model and figured it out. And now we're able to hire a lot more basically talented and thus more expensive people because it worked out well. The first, like handful of hires. It was people who just cold emailed us with the resumes or it was friends.


Let's talk about what was going through your head at that time because now you're talking about building a media empire you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue is your target. But right after you switch from the conference and started hiring people, did you have your media empire plan already formulated?


Yeah, I had read the biography of Ted Turner, and I was like, I want to do that so very early on. That was the plan. Every once in a while, you're like, This sucks. I hate it's going horribly. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm in over my head and you're like, I'm gonna quit or I'm just gonna fire everyone and just pay myself a little bit like a nice salary and just make it a lifestyle thing. And then other times, I'm like, I want to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and just go his biggest possible. No, the goal early on was, Let's make this huge, but without raising venture capital, at least for a long time.


You were living in San Francisco at the time, right?


Yeah. I still way have offices here and in Austin. And I live in San Francisco. Yeah,


it's not a common thing to say. I'm not going to raise money from venture capitalists in San Francisco. If you're hiring here is rest of your hiring locally. It's pretty hard to afford people. If you're not raising VC, that's really hard. How did you make it happen? I know you live pretty frugally. You hired cheaply but overall, like what else went into you figuring out the economics of the business and making it work.


I didn't pay myself a lot. We had cheap offices. So our expenses were low, like maybe the first year at the end of the first year were averaging $30,000 a month in expenses. And with the conference revenue and profit, we kind of broke even the first the first year. And then when the email started, I was like, All right, I gotta hustle and get us to break even just to email advertising. And so I went out and sold All the first ads were I was, like, doing all the writing. Me and John were doing all the writing, and then I went out and sold the ads. And so, in doing that,

I was ableto finance a team of, like, six or seven people that kind of netted out to be 30 grand a month because we didn't have our a lot of money. We just got our We learned our numbers like crazy. So I knew very early on in our lifetime value of a customer was gonna be what are payback cycle from a client was gonna be like, how fast we can get the cash what we could charge customers. The business model that we have not a lot of people know how to do it, but some people dio and I just found those few people who who do, and they kind of taught me like the economics of it. And I just mastered it like, really early on, like our whole team did. So even to this day, like we track everything like a hawk because we just don't waste money. And so I just, like, learned my numbers like immediately.


That seems to be a pretty consistent theme and something that you're really good at, which is finding the people that you need to find and then convincing them to help you. For example, you met a TV celebrity on the street and then convinced him to employ you. You met the people who understood the business model behind an email list, convinced them to help you having other people do the same thing.


Yeah, a lot of people tell me that that that's kind of a theme in my life, and I agree. As of today, my network is really, really, really strong. I know a lot of people, which is interesting because I'm actually I prefer just to be at home alone. I don't actually like like going out and hanging out, so it's kind of like weird, But I was always really good at doing that and the reason why I was, I think that I didn't have a lot of pride around, like I was never nervous to ask questions. I know that a lot of people who are my friends, they I might do just go out and like, email this person and ask him how he does it or how she does it.

And people were always, like, nervous to do that. And I've never been like, shy about that. My mom and dad kind of taught me that early on, like just going Ask him. Cold called this person. Ask him So I think that it's you just can't be too proud because I think that I don't know. Maybe they're afraid to look silly. I think the second thing is I learned very early in life, like before I was 10 years old. Was that people who are more successful than you or who are experts at what they do and you're not an expert. They love seeing you succeed, and they love seeing a young person who will actually follow their advice. Most people do not follow through on stuff.

And from a very early age I learned that like, ah high, I q wasn't gonna be like my specialty. And so if I could just brute for something into, like a reality that that could kind of be like my stick. And so I was always really good at, like, emailing someone and being like, Hey, what's your advice on this? And they wouldn't reply to me and I would say I would email them four weeks later and go, Hey, since we last spoke, your here's the Here's the progress I've made. So I kind of overcame the question that I had for you. What about what I do now?

Can you tell me like how this thing works and they won't respond to me? And I would just do that literally for months, and eventually I would get hold of them. So like, for example, the guy who started business insider who started guilt and Mongo DB, his name's Kevin Ryan. He started like four or five multibillion dollar companies I like, emailed this guy for, like, months with that same stick, and eventually he kind of helped me. And so that kind of happened with dozens and dozens of people in my life. I would just say, like, I don't know what I'm in,

what I'm doing, I'm gonna go out and just get it done and trying to figure it out. Hopefully, you can kind of help me along the way. And if they said no, at first, I would just come back to him and say All right, here's the progress. What else? How do I do what I do now? Um, and that has always worked.


It's like there's so many nuggets in there. It's so true that if somebody's an expert of somebody's kind of in a position to help you and they see you making progress and actually listening to the advice, it's like way more fulfilling for them to keep helping you. Even just Yeah, I've taught some people have a code and like being a teacher, is annoying man, because half the time the people you're teaching just don't do the things you trying to teach them to do, like you just don't want to do it. But when they do, it feels amazing.


And you feel bought


into them. Yeah, exactly. Because it's like now you're invested. Now they're like, you kind of you kind of want them to succeed because they're following your advice and you don't want someone to go wrong after they took your


advice. Well, there's this famous story I learned about in sixth grade. I read this book called How To Win Friends and Influence People, and they said something like Like Ben Franklin would always ask someone to do him a really tiny favor. And if he if someone did them A did him a small favor, they're more likely to do big favors for him because they kind of felt bought into him. And I thought that was kind of funny. So I was like, I'm gonna commit these people to do just a tiny favor for me, like I would email someone to be like, Hey, Groupon founder, what was your first year revenue like? I want to try and beat that or something like that and they would say it was $1 million or something, and I would be like, I would've replied of them like,

months later and be like, Okay, I didn't beat you, but I'm pretty close. Thanks for the feedback. Well, now, how do I do this other thing? And they would, like, typically help me after hearing want are giving me one bit of faith, One bit of advice. Another thing. I think that if people want to learn how to come and talk to folks and get them to help them, they have to understand how to position it. Most people are like,

Hey, what do I dio And the persons like the person giving advice is like, I don't know how to advise you, man, like this is such an open ended question. And so what I learned early on was you have to ask these people really specific stuff and you have to be very direct with them. So it's like, Can I call you on this day? At this time? It will take 15 minutes. I'm gonna ask you these three questions because I'm struggling. If you want to do this, just say yes and put your phone number and I'll do all the work. You don't just just pick up your phone and that's it. And I think that helped a lot to


If you send somebody an email like that, you're pretty much directly communicating that you're an empathetic person that you're considering, how much time they're gonna have to spend, how much mental effort they're gonna have to expand, trying to figure out how to reply to you and that you're actively trying to make it as easy as possible. And if you're somebody on the receiving end, one of those emails like you really appreciate that because you, like everybody, is an unknown quantity. There's millions people on the Internet. You have no idea if you're gonna get like a one in a 1,000,000 like time wasting weirdo serial killer, right? And so if somebody is actually taking the time and demonstrating that they care about the interaction from your perspective and it really stands out like one of my best friends, his name is Julian. I've had him on the podcast twice. He was like one of hundreds of people who emailed me after I started in the hackers and his emails like, Way better than everybody else's and actually got me on the phone.

I hate talking on the phone. I barely even talk to my mom on the phone, but I talked him in the home for like an hour because he was, like, so good at doing exactly what you're saying. So I love this advice so people take it to heart.


It's like saying, if I emailed you and I said, How did you make your website? You'd be like, I don't want to answer that That is like such a nebulous question. But if I said like, I'm not technical, so I'm just kind of guessing here. If I said like, Hey, did you use WordPress or build a custom site? That's an easy. That's an easy question. You just say custom or something like that. And then the person will reply a few weeks later, like awesome. I followed your advice.

Check out the site. Thanks for the feedback and the conversation, but then you can e mail you like a week later. It's like, OK, the charts that you have on your website. That's amazing. Where's that plug in, or something like that? Like, you know, you kind of like go deeper. Yeah,


So the people email you for advice nowadays.


Yeah, and they asked me like huge questions. And I'm like, Man, I don't know Like like someone asked me like an example there. Like, what do startup sell for? I'm like, Dude, that's like asking me what is art cell for? Like, it's just like that's an impossible question to answer. But if they emailed me saying like, Hey, what platform did you start? The hustle on? I say Male chip.

But we use something custom now and they say, Oh, great, why and out then, Alex explain why, and that's a way easier question then, like, how did you start the hustle?


Well, I am about to ask you an open ended question. Just make it hard on you, Sam. The Hustle is now doing eight figures a year, you said, and advertising revenue at the back of your newsletter. You started off at $0 just a few years ago. What's it like to go from 0 to 8 figures so quickly? And what are some of the milestones along the way?


The first milestone was getting $30,000 a month in revenue, so when we did the conference, it was like really lumpy revenue you know you make, Let's say you we have a conference in May. We pretty much make all of our money in between, like March and May, and then you lose money the whole rest of the year. But you we ended up being profitable for the whole year because we made so much in that time. But it's really lumpy revenue. But anyway, the first milestone was making it that were consistently profitable each month through email. And that was when we hit $30,000 in revenue. And then the second milestone that happened 10 months after that was when we hit $100,000 in monthly revenue and that was a huge deal for us. And then the 1st 1,000,000 revenue per month is ah, was a pretty big milestone. I think that along the way, you said,

How does it feel? It doesn't feel that much different. Like, I remember starting my company and I was like, Man, if I get the 10 year in revenue like I think I'll be happy and then you get there and you're like, No, come on, how about 100? I'll be happy, then I'll be less stress than And of course, that won't be the case. So how does it feel if it was exactly the same? It doesn't feel any different.


Yeah, you're still the same person that you were, but with a more successful company.


Yeah, but it doesn't feel like a success, that's for sure. Why not? You know how it is, man. Like, let's go back to the bench. Press example. When you bench £200 you're like, all right, I feel good about myself. But damn that guy who's my same weight just that to 50. I bet I could. I could beat that. And then you get to 2 50 and you're like, Man 200 ZZ.

How the heck did I think that was like a like success That's not successful at all? Do you know what I mean? You're like, OK, it's like every step. It's like there is no, like, a rival moment, you know what I mean?


It's hard not to always be looking up. If you're running a $1,000,000 company, they're gonna be looking at people running $1,000,000,000 companies. If you're a middle class American, you're gonna be looking at Rich Americans, and you're probably going to step back to think about like all the people who were like aren't as far along as you are. And plus, when you improve so gradually you just adjust, or even if it's not gradual. Like if you get lump sum $10 million in breaking out right now, they're gonna be ecstatic. But after a year, year and 1/2 you just gonna be your normal self. It actually like researched people who've won the lottery, and that's exactly what happens. We will just live on the hedonic treadmill, and we have tomato anything over a long enough period of time.


But that's one of the like. That's one of the very few unilateral like truths about humans, which is no matter what you achieve or how much better you become after a couple months, that becomes the norm, and you are no longer thankful for it like you thought you Indeed, I mean, that is, that is the case whether you are have $100 million or $1,000,000,000. It always feels that way.


And that's the biggest argument, at least in my opinion, for that cliche that you have tow appreciate the journey, not just be in it for the destination, because the journey is the thing that's always their journeys. What sticks with you? The journey is the day to day. You don't want to be miserable for 10 years doing something just for like, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That's gonna make you happy for six months. And the tragedy is that it's really hard to believe this once before you've done it like you just don't really quite believe that story, even though everybody says that's what happens and that's what it feels like. But, yeah, like if you're a business owner, you gotta figure out a way to enjoy what you're doing. You gotta take the task that you don't like and cut them out of your day. You've got to focus on the things you like doing because that's pretty much the whole point.


Well, I think that's true. And then the other thing that I think a lot of people should do a lot better and I work really hard is like in one regard. I care a lot in another regard. I don't care at all if all this goes away tomorrow I'll go to sleep like a baby the next night. I don't care. You know what I mean? I'm really happy. But if everything goes away the business just on tomorrow, it will not like I just don't just don't care. And because of that, it kind of makes me, like, appreciate it a little bit more and it makes me happier with what I have.


It's a very Zen way to look at it. I think for my part, there's a lot of things I wanted to you. If I had 10 different lives, I would probably do 10 very different things in each of them. And so if any hackers were to go to zero tomorrow, I think I would still be sat. I wouldn't quite be as then as you are about it. But I would also be excited about one of these other things that I'm now totally free to explore.


Yeah, I think what What I'm trying to say, though, is like I can find happiness in any situation and I would have worked really hard to do that. So it's like when I was poor and when I was not poor. There were both really exciting and fun. Maybe maybe you have more fun when you're poor. Actually, to be honest, like when I was a poor shortly entrepreneur like that was always really exciting. It felt great, Kind of in some weird way.


Let's talk about the Sam of today. You're sitting on this eight figure business. It's a media company, so you can work on all sorts of projects and take them in a ton of different directions. And earlier, you alluded to the fact that you've tried a lot of things that didn't work. So let's let's dive into that a little bit. What? Some of the things you tried that didn't work, and why didn't they work


so that, like I said, the plan from Day One was to build up a huge audience using this email thing and then create more products that we could sell directly to the audience. And so we did a good job of building up that audience. But then, when we were thinking of ideas and products to launch, I tried a couple that didn't work out so well. So one of them they were just called like project names But let's say one of them was called Jobs and the idea what jobs was. Can we write editorial content about different companies and charge people who are looking for jobs, charge them money and kind of give them the inside scoop about different companies? And so the theory was like, Let's say, I wanted toe work at Let's say, Ah strike, for example. I could, like,

go and do a ton of investigative journalism and interview people and find out the truth of what what stripe is like. And maybe I'm just making this up so don't get angry. Strike. But let's say that, like which stripe, they said it's kind of overvalued, But so if you are trying to get rich off stock options, it's probably not the right for right person. For someone who's trying toe get wealthy quick. But the work life balance is really good, and they have really good benefits for parents. That's like a really, like, honest way of describing a company, and that would that makes that company more attractive to certain people. And so the idea was,

can I charge people monthly fees in order? Teoh, tell them the truth about certain companies and people didn't really want that. I thought it would be cool. And maybe they may be like someone could, like, figure out a better way to deliver that. But yeah, we launched that and not a lot of people signed up for it, that's for sure. What else I've made like loads and loads and loads of management and leadership mistakes. But are you looking for just product mistakes?


Let's talk about those two because those air pretty universal


man managing is like such a tricky thing, particularly for this audience, because, ah, lot of people, myself included, are people who just like building stuff like most entrepreneurs, are people who just like coming up with some crazy idea in like getting early customers and like getting it off the ground. But then, when you want when you have to scale, you really have, it's not about being a maker or being a contributor. It's about being a manager and a leader. And the skill sets for managing and leading are way different than starting something or getting users Or, you know, the early stuff like that. It's way different,

and frankly, I don't I'm not very good at the managing part. And so I was a horrible manager and I ultimately learned how to hire people. And so I ended up hiring a president. So we have, ah, company president, and he's the only one who reports directly to me. And, um, he manages everyone or he manages like the managers and they manage, you know, everyone else. And so that took me, like, up until recently to learn that. So three years of just being a horrible manager, I think that that was like the biggest thing I've learned that has been, ah, contributor to making me happy and making it our business bigger.


How do you find somebody good enough to run the people side of your business and manage everybody for you?


That's the hardest part of business. Is that the question that you answered, I think, is 100% the hardest part, coming up with products and services that people like. That's not really that hard, cause you could if you wanted to, you could just copy other people. So the question that you asked is like the hardest thing the way that I've done it is I don't know how do I do it? I interviewed loads of people. We talked to loads of people, and I just know that most all of them are gonna be a right, the good, a good fit. And I just constantly searched for that person. So just like it, just like a numbers game of talking to a lot of people.

The guy who's our president now he's one of my closest friends, and we kind of became close friends by working together. Adam. He is driven by managing people like he like he's like he's a teacher. He was a teacher when he first started his career, and he just loves growing people and he loves the interaction with people, and he's a very much an extroverted person. So he gets energy off that stuff. And so I kind of was vulnerable with him Early on is I said, Here's my weaknesses. What are your strengths? And they just so happen to be compatible. The question that you're asking it's really hard for me to answer, because that's like the hardest thing ever. It's so challenging.


Yeah, One of the things that's always been tough for me personally is that I've never been a full time employee. I mean, I guess I tactically image stripe, but not really, But as a founder, you're kind of a slightly different perspective than a full time employees. And so how do you convince somebody? How do you sell somebody in doing something that you're personally not that interested in doing one of my prettiest podcast? Guess you put it this way, he said. You kind of have to drink your own Kool Aid before you could sell anybody else on it.


Yeah, you definitely have to let go is well, like, ah, lot of people, me and I, I have imagined your just like this. You're probably really anal like things have to be a certain way. Uh, colors have to be a certain shade. If it's even slightly off, it's a huge deal, and you kind of just gotta let go of that. It's like, Would you rather I'll be really crude here? Would you rather be super rich, or would you rather have things your way?

And I would have preferred the 1st 1 and I realized that in order to build a cool company, you have to let go because it's just a lot better toe. Have people who are experts at one or two things and let them go on be experts that those one or two things than for you to sweat over every minor detail and go to bed at night angry and wake up angry and anxious. It just I just don't like living like that. And so I'm I'm willing, just make sacrifices toe like, Well, not everything is gonna be exactly how I want it. But as long as it's generally going in the right direction, I confined satisfaction


in that there's another saying it's kind of similar. It's. Do you want to be right all the time, or do you wanna have friends? Do you want a good


relationships? It's the same thing. Like Dude, you could build a really big like building big businesses like If you don't want to innovate too much, it's not that hard. You just gotta find people and motivate them effectively and get out of their way.


So explain to me this you said this a couple times that building a business is not really the hard part. It's not that hard to figure out what other people are doing and sort of copy them. What are your principles here? How do you look at this? And how can other people have the same mindset? Because the vast majority of early stage founders I talk to you find that part really hard. They don't know what to work on. They don't get their first users. They don't get their first dollar most of the time. How do you see this whole process?


Well, when I say hard, I don't mean that is not going to require a lot of effort. But I'm saying if your goal is just to build the business that makes a certain amount of money, it could be a $1,000,000 a year or it could be a $1,000,000,000 a year, like if you wanted to, you could just go out and start like a janitorial service and cold. Call every single school building in San Francisco, and you will get someone who will say, All right, fine. Your service could be the janitor service here, and then you got to go in hustle and find like three janitors and contract them out like that's not like intellectually challenging. It's fun, and it's hard work and that you have to put a lot of effort into it. It's pretty black and white. I think now some companies like Facebook and Amazon and they kind of like do where it's like,

Oh, man, you guys are like turning everything on its head. But if you just want to build ah, business that employs people and it's fun to work at, you can kind of just do some simple stuff and you could do it really well. And when I say things aren't that hard, that's what I'm referring Teoh. And so every once in a while, sometimes I'll talkto someone and they have this, like, crazy idea. And I'm like, What's your goal here and there like, I just want to quit my job or I just want to build a company. I'm like,

Why you making a more complicated than it is like like this is like a really simple business here, like don't give away this thing for free and make money off the data. It's like just triple your prices and make tons of coal calls and you'll find people who want to buy your service as long as it's the product matches their needs. And if it doesn't match their needs, ask them. Why doesn't and then just alter and start offering that? It's really not challenging. But the hard part is the emotional part. It's like, Well, I'm afraid of failing or I don't think I'm I'm not confident enough to actually talk to someone about this or I don't think I'm good enough or this person bothers me who I work with. I don't know how to deal with the confrontation or I'm being an micromanager, and I am not comfortable letting go. That's the hard part, all those emotional parts.


What's your advice for an early founder who's trying to get over these emotional parts, whose perhaps trying to start an Internet business and they're over complicating all the stuff instead of just starting a simple business model? How can they go about doing what you said kind with that janitorial service? But on the Internet, I


would say a couple things. The first thing I would say is things that appear quite huge and quite complicated, like huge companies started off very simple, and as you go deeper in the process, you find the way and you find new opportunities. So even if you want to build the next Facebook, just always remember that even Facebook started as a very simple, like Harvard yearbook. So go in tow. Most projects knowing that, like you may be driving from San Francisco to New York and you're driving at night, your headlights only need to shine 200 feet ahead of you in order. Get there successfully. So I always tell people like Don't over complicate things. Efforts. Just do the simple thing. Get your first customer and then do that same thing,

Ah, 100 times in a row. That's it's really simple. And as you grow bigger and see more opportunities, then you're gonna build something really complex, maybe in really lucrative and huge. The second thing I tell people is know that the majority of people who you view a successful have the exact same doubts is you dio So because we host hustle kind, I've met the founders of we work. I met the founders of away travel of Casper pretty much like most every company. You you start up that's like in the news right now. I've met the founders and they all have the same doubts that I had when I was starting my company. And once I understood that these big, successful people had this, it made me feel a lot more comfortable. And so I would tell people accept that your fears are normal and that everyone has them. But don't let them hold you back and it's OK to be afraid, but you have to just do it anyway.


Could not agree more. I've talked to so many founders on the podcast. Same exact story. It's OK to be afraid. It's okay to be insecure, those air, pretty universal feelings. But you can push through them anyway and get started. And also your first piece of advice to start small. Then go from there. I think you are the perfect example of that from Hot Dog Stand to Media Empire. So thank you so much for coming on the show, Sam. And sharing your story with us. You tell listeners where they can go to learn more about what you're up to with the hustle nowadays. Yeah, so if you just go to the


hustle dot CEO and sign up, you can sign up for the hustle. You go to trends dot CEO and sign up for trends. Or you can just search me on Twitter. Sam par. My handle is thus Sam par, and you could follow me or tweet at me there. And I'm pretty easy


to get a hold of. All right. Thanks so much, Sam. All right, Thank you. If you enjoyed listening to this conversation and you want a really easy way to support the podcast, why don't you head over to iTunes and leave us a quick rating or even a review? If you're looking for an easy way to get there, just goto nd hackers dot com slash review And that should open up iTunes on your computer. I read pretty much all the reviews that you guys leave over there, and it really helps other people to discover the show. So your support is very much appreciated. In addition, if you are running your own Internet business or if that's something you hope to do someday should join me and a whole bunch of other founders on the Andy hackers dot com website. It's a great place to get feedback on pretty much any problem or a question that you might have while running your business. If you listen to the show,

you know that I am a huge proponent of getting help from other founders rather than trying to build your business all by yourself so you'll see me on the form for sure as well as more than a handful of some of the guests that I found in the podcast. If you're looking for inspiration, we've also got a huge directory full of hundreds of products built by other Andy hackers, every one of which includes revenue numbers and some of the behind the scenes strategies for how they grew their products from nothing as always. Thanks so much for listening, and I'll see you next time.

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