Leadership, motivation, and entrepreneur are three of the biggest buzzwords in today’s business environment. Chris Thomson, business owner and partner for Canada’s Student Works Painting, has built a company that brings in over $17 million in annual revenue, has raised over $1.3 million for various charities, and plugs highly-skilled undergraduate students into a working business model. Khierstyn herself is an alumnus of the program and on this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut she and Chris discuss the most important leadership strategies for young entrepreneurs and why identifying your “why” is so critical. You don’t want to miss this inspiring episode, so be sure to give it your full attention.
Student Works Painting operates by giving undergraduate college students the opportunity to create a business plan, market, and sell a company. Participants can elect to work as a minimum wage painter for a single academic year or apply to be a part of the prestigious Summer Management Program. The summer program teaches students leadership and business skills that are transferable to any career path. By focusing on the mentorship and student development portions of the business model, not just the final painted product, Chris and his team are able to enable promising students to flourish in their personal development. Chris is “developing the next great generation of Canadian business leaders” and his insights are sure to inspire, be sure to check out this episode.
Just as Student Works Painting is so much more than a house painting business, your business needs to be about more than just the final product. Identifying the true reasons behind why you’re doing the work you’re doing will pay off in dividends. Chris stays motivated and passionate about his work because it’s really about impacting young people and giving them the tools to succeed later in life. He explains to Khierstyn on this episode that you have to connect your business idea, your future life goals, and the needs/wants of your employees and customers for your entrepreneurial venture to really succeed. Identifying the “why” will motivate you to complete the business tasks that are necessary but aren’t that exciting. To hear how Chris discovered his “why” be sure to listen to this podcast.
Servant leadership is a huge part of what Chris does at Student Works Painting, and he encourages listeners of this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut to always take care of people first - tasks and objectives can wait. If your employees aren’t being taken care of and don’t feel valued the important work won’t be done at a high-caliber level. Your conversations shouldn’t revolve around money. Focusing solely on the transactions of business cheapens the relationships you should be trying to develop. When there’s real alignment between vision, value, employees, and customers, that’s when your company and brand are going to be launched into success. Chris also mentions that you can attract high-quality people with a vision, but you have to keep them through mentoring.
The first step in becoming a successful entrepreneur is passionately seeking out your own strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles. After you determine your authentic self, fill your team with people who will encourage your strengths and support your weaknesses. Chris explains to Khierstyn that people work better in teams because no one is great at every task or leadership style. However, incredible things can happen when passionate, dynamic people tackle a common goal. By always learning and being willing to take the first step into a new project, you’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish. “The world bends to those who are in action,” exclaims Chris, and you definitely need to hear the rest of his advice for aspiring business leaders. Don’t let this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut go unlistened.
With nearly 50% of all e-commerce sales occurring on Amazon, many crowdfunders are asking the question, “how can I take my product and sell on Amazon?” On this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut, Khierstyn has a conversation with Ben Arneberg, founder of Product Fuel and creator of crowdfunding giants Willow & Everett and Terra Mat. Ben shares his top tips for crowdfunders looking to move into the e-commerce space after a successful campaign, how to rank highly within Amazon’s categories, and many more trade secrets that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to listen to this episode - your product will thank you.
Turning a successful crowdfunding campaign into an equally successful brand online is hard work. That’s why Ben created Product Fuel - to help entrepreneurs move their products from crowdsourcing platforms into digital marketplaces. While it may be easy to list products on Amazon, it’s extremely difficult to allow that product hit its full potential. Product Fuel has successfully taken campaigns such as Wilcox Boots that earned over $140,000 through Kickstarter and helped them bring in over $80,000 monthly Amazon sales. When a campaign is nearly complete, Ben and his team will begin conversations with the client to determine product flows and shipping methods. This allows both parties to fully understand the desired outcome for the product and make a game plan that is tailored to each product, target audience, and sales goals. To hear how to get your product on Ben and Product Fuel’s radar, be sure to listen to this episode.
Product Fuel attracts clients who already have a successful crowdfunding campaign in progress. Ben encourages aspiring creators to go to a crowdsourcing platform first, rather than trying to launch solely on a website or directly to Amazon. There’s a trifecta that leads to the most success: a successful crowdfunding campaign, an interactive website, and ranking highly on Amazon (leading to more sales.) The campaign is the first integral piece in the process - aside from having an innovative product that fills a market gap. Campaigns create “an amazing halo effect” as Ben explained, and when harnessed properly the momentum drives organic traffic to Amazon and pushes your rankings higher. Without all three of these pieces, your efforts will be much more difficult. For Ben’s full explanation on this cohesive approach, be sure to listen to this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut.
To explain the importance of great keywords and appropriate pricing, Ben uses a hypothetical coffee mug scenario. Even if you have a stellar coffee mug that sells well for $50 on your website, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will sell well on Amazon. When compared to $7 competitor mugs, if your $50 mug only has a 5% conversion rate on Amazon, it will be pushed down in the rankings and be seen by very few customers. This is the point of critical balance - your product needs to be priced accordingly to not be immediately written off by the client, and it needs to be matched with the right keywords and categories. Product Fuel can help you with this process. For all of the insights on Amazon success, don’t miss this conversation with Khierstyn and Ben.
In addition to all of the selling strategies Ben discusses on this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut, he encourages crowdfunders to always communicate with a campaign’s backers. You want to avoid launching on your website or on Amazon before your most loyal supporters receive their product. You can also use this window of time for feedback - see what your backers like and dislike about the physical product and then make slight adjustments before releasing it to the general public. He and Khierstyn also discuss the importance of always fulfilling sales through Amazon and why you should stay away from Amazon Launchpad. To hear more of Ben’s expert advice don’t miss this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut.
If there’s one area of business all entrepreneurs and crowdfunders need to understand, it’s the art and science of investing in relationships. On this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut, Khierstyn interviews Jayson Gaignard, founder of Mastermind Talks, about the story behind the Talks, how he maintains influential relationships with his network, and the best questions to ask to spark great conversations. You don’t want to miss Jayson’s passionate insights, and your network will greatly benefit from hearing his advice.
After spending the early part of his career building Tickets Canada, traveling the world, and netting $6-7 million per year, Jayson realized that he wasn’t happy with the direction his career was headed. He avoided talking to his clients, started having stress-induced health issues, and wanted to start over and go in a new direction. Rather than sell the company, he decided to downsized and unfortunately was met with debt upwards of a quarter million dollars. That’s when the idea for Mastermind Talks was born. He tapped into a niche market for high-ticket networking and entrepreneur launch events and began working within his passion for connecting people. Mastermind Talks was immediately thrust into success when Jayson purchased a book and speaking engagement package from Tim Ferriss, and Ferriss was in the audience for the first Mastermind Talks event. But how did Jayson manage to purchase this package? He simply made three phone calls. The first two looked promising, but it was the third call to a personal contact that changed the game for Jayson. To hear about how this phone call turned out, and why this contact “invested in Jayson, not the business idea,” be sure to listen to this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut.
When Jayson switched gears from e-commerce into the art of connecting people, he knew he wanted to be selective in deciding who would be invited to the Mastermind Talks events. The invite-only events that cost upwards of $10,000 per ticket allow Jayson to personally screen interested parties. He explains to Khierstyn that he wants to surround himself with people of integrity that he would personally be friends with - not just any business person who can afford the ticket price. Jayson is so committed to these high standards that for the first event, Mastermind Talks refunded over $40,000 in ticket sales because the fit between the event and the participant just wasn’t right. Mastermind Talks isn’t about event size or revenue, it’s about creating a space where stellar people can share great ideas and make connections that could change the course of their careers. Jayson is passionate about his story, and you don’t want to miss hearing him tell it on this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut.
Jayson tells Khierstyn that “it’s noisy at the top, and amazing people become increasingly amazing over time.” This is why he stresses the importance of connecting with people as they’re rising in their careers. You never know when someone might need a connection that you can make for them. Crowdfunding and relationships are deeply intertwined, and even the most successful Kickstarter campaigns with 60,000-70,000 backers only have around 100 exceptionally influential backers. This Kickstarter data proves the mantra Jayson lives by, which is “It doesn’t matter how many friends you can count, it matters how many friends you can count on.” The most influential and memorable moments in your life occur because of other people. You can’t afford to miss Jayson’s lessons on the art of investing in relationships, so be sure to listen to this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut.
There are a few key pieces of advice that Jayson shares in this conversation with Khierstyn. He explains that “You never know the value of your network until you need it,” and “You’re only ever left with two things, the integrity of your word and your relationships.” To continue to invest in your relationships after the initial meeting, Khierstyn and Jayson explain that connecting with them in unexpected ways is key. For example, how many times do people receive a video update email rather than the standard email asking “what’s new with you and how can I help?” You can’t be afraid to be the one initiating contact, and you also have to ask the right questions in order to draw out the right responses from your network. They list many great conversation starters on this episode of Crowdfunding Uncut that will dramatically improve your ability to connect to your network, and you don’t want to miss it.