Last year, I had the privilege of being a guest on Jason Calacanis’ Podcast and YouTube show, This Week in Startups. Jason Calacanis is a technology entrepreneur and angel investor who routinely interviews startup founders to discuss ideas and ways to expand their existing business.
For those of you who don’t know, I run my own business called Online Profile Pros. We work with our clients to set up all of their online profiles, whether it’s LinkedIn, Tinder, or Instagram. Even with fifteen years of experience in branding, I knew that getting an outsider’s perspective could help my business take off. As I mentioned in the interview, OPP has serviced over 2,000 entrepreneurs and influencers with profit margins at 30%. Not bad, but I felt that it lacks the hype it needs to propel forward.
Speaking with Jason Calacanis on This Week in Startups has been an eye-opener. We’ve learned to segment our target market with different sites and services to go up-market. Based on Jason’s feedback, I decided to expand our personal branding options through our new site Stratus Branding, where we offer bespoke personal branding solutions for individuals like CEOs, real estate agents, entrepreneurs and influencers.
So for any of my readers that are also looking for ways to dominate in their entrepreneurial endeavors, I’m going to bring you along on my new business venture so you can see how you can develop your brand and reach your goals even faster.
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Recap of This Week in Startups
I was really excited to get some insight from someone like Jason. I feel like I already have a pretty good grasp on management and branding, but if I ever want to attract investors, it’s important to consider how my elevator pitch comes off to others.
You can watch the entire episode of This Week in Startups right here (I’m on it from about 38:30-57:48). For now, here are the big takeaways I got from speaking with Jason.
The first thing he said that really stuck with me is that “life isn’t fair.” This is the general consensus for most people, but if you think this on a regular basis, it can really hurt your business. You can’t compare yourself to others who are successful or keep asking yourself why some people are getting millions in investments for silly ideas. If you focus too much on what others are doing, you’re taking away valuable time from your own company.
Instead of comparing yourself, Jason said that I have to prove that my business works. The reality is, not everyone is going to believe in your idea as much as you do. It’s one thing to sit there and pitch your ideas to investors to tell them why your idea will work, but when you can show them how your startup is going to be a success, they will be more willing to fund your business.
After explaining my current company and the basics of what we do at Online Profile Pros, Jason suggested that I try to grow my business by 10-20% every month. Even if these margins seem too minuscule for you (most entrepreneurs are quick to think “go big or go home”), it’s the most realistic. It will make it easier to gauge what marketing tactics are working and what specific sales are bringing in the most profit so that you can use those margins to grow.
The last thing that we discussed on This Week in Startups that really lit a fire under me was his concept of producing a product for “whales”. In other words, he suggested that I don’t limit myself to selling products or services at an affordable rate. There are more than enough “whales” out there who think nothing of dropping $20K on a trip to the Bahamas, so why not offer a high-end service for those who are willing to pay for it?
And with that idea in mind, I came up with a brand new business concept.
Starting a New Business
In 2017, I started Online Profile Pros as a way to help people create and maintain their online profiles. OPP primarily offers photography services because people really do judge a book by its cover. Anyone who needs help solidifying their profile is welcome to a few tier options. For example, our Basic Studio includes two outfits, a 30-minute photoshoot, and headshots. Over the years we added more and more of what I like to call profile enhancement services.
We now offer wardrobe styling, photography, profile writing, LinkedIn profile writing, and even dating and business coaching. Everything someone would need to build the fundaments of their personal brand through their online profiles on LinkedIn, dating, and social networks. We have our own team of photographers, wardrobe consultants, and even writers who can edit the text in our client’s profiles.
After going on This Week in Startups and attending Founder University (which I’ll get to next), my thoughts that OPP needed a few fixes were confirmed. Jason agreed that offering a subscription-based service was hindering my potential. Which is why we’re now diving into a subscription-based business. This simply gives us more room to up-sell or produce repeat clients. And the ability to do both of those gives my startup the opportunity to transition into a venture scale business.
After mulling Jason’s “whale” strategy around for a bit, I decided to start a completely new business— one that isn’t limited to strictly online profile branding… and that’s when Stratus Branding became a reality.
The idea of Stratus Branding is to help create influencers and professionals of authority. Like it or not, professionals and business gurus have to make a name for themselves online and the best way to do that is by creating authority which in turn builds trust and results in influence. Those who don’t are missing out of the bulk of today’s marketing strategies after all we’ve transitioned to a “reputation economy” so we better learn to deal with it.
However, not everyone is techy or social media savvy, which is what my new company sets out to do. We offer customized professional branding for CXOs, real estate agents, lawyers, and other trade professionals who want to be recognized as the best of the best in their field.
What I Learned From Founder University
Founder University teaches entrepreneurs the key to startup approaches. I attended Founder University in September with over 50 amazing founders. I learned to hone my pitch to investors, as well as other tips on funding and legal pitfalls to watch out for in the start-up world. This class was packed with basic, yet, need-to-know intel about startups that I’m forever grateful for. Here are just a few takeaways I got from Founder University.
How to Pitch to Investors
Before you even think about reaching out to the investors, you need to craft your presentation. There are plenty of obscure ideas out there on what to include in your investor pitch. However, Founder University explains what investors actually want to hear. I even had the chance to pitch my startup to Jason Calacanis. He worked with me on how to fine-tune my idea into a presentation that would pique the interest of an investor.
Legal Pitfalls for Startups
Another really important aspect you need to learn about before gearing up your business is the legal aspect. And more specifically, the legal pitfalls. The second day was pretty much a free-for-all Q&A with attorneys who answer your legal questions concerning startups.
I highly recommend doing this on your own. Talk to an attorney about what to watch out for on the legal side of your startup.
Tips on Funding for Startups
Apart from pitching your startup to investors, Founder University dives into marketing aspects with other ways to fund your business. Their speakers educated us on syndicates, negotiations, and the overall funding process. We were also introduced to the LAUNCH Accelerator which is essentially an exclusive opportunity for startups to pitch to top Silicon Valley investors.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of useful information I was introduced to during this time with Jason Calacanis. I am absolutely honored to have had the chance to share my entrepreneurial ideas with a group of like-minded individuals. Without it, I don’t know if I would have had the idea for my next startup. Who knows if Stratus Branding would have ever come to be? This new business is still in the beginning stages, but I am ecstatic about this prospect and can’t wait to share what I learn with you along the way.