Ep 262: How to Build a Digital Media Empire with Nathan Chan

RV (00:02):
I am absolutely delighted to introduce you to Nathan Chan, who really I’ve known him for years. Very, very briefly. We’ve had very brief interactions, but we, we probably have like four or five pretty close mutual friends. And I’ve always heard the sweetest about this guy and the best things about him. And there, his, the brand that he has built is one that I have respected from afar. So he is the CEO and publisher of a magazine called founder magazine. So it is a digital magazine. It’s really like a digital media group that reaches well over 4 million people. Every single month they’ve got more than 3 million people on Instagram alone. And so they’re especially known for the magazine. I’m sure that you’ve seen them. It’s founder without the E F O U N D R. And so they’ve, they’ve had featured cover stories with people like Richard Branson and mark Cuban and Ariana Huffington.
RV (01:06):
And it just goes on and on. And so Nathan knows how to build a brand. He knows how to build a company. He spent a lot of time interviewing some of the best entrepreneurs on the planet. And then he’s also had quite a nice personal brand he’s developed, although is he would describe it. It would be sort of casual and not so strategic, I think. And so I wanted to hear a little bit of his philosophy of personal branding in relation to what he does as an entrepreneur, actually, as the, as the CEO founder, but also to understand a little bit about the business model of a digital magazine and what does that mean and how does it work and how do you make money? And and most of all, just to introduce you to this delightful lad and somebody that I’m hopeful will become a closer and closer friend. So Nathan, welcome to the show.
NC (02:02):
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me, Rory be here, appreciate the kind introduction and yeah. Really excited to share with you kind of how I’ve thought about personal brands. And yeah, as I said, I haven’t been that strategic around it.
RV (02:19):
Well, let’s talk about, let’s talk about founder first because you’ve been very strategic around that you’ve done phenomenally well, you’ve built a, a very large following, a lot of reach. I a very respectable brand. I mean, it’s very clear that you know how to build a, a great brand. So can you just tell us a little bit of like, tell us the story of how you started founder and how you built that brand?
NC (02:46):
Yeah, sure thing. So started about seven, eight years ago now started just as a magazine digital magazine on the app store, Google play store. First business knew nothing about business. So I thought, I thought I’d start a magazine around entrepreneurship so I could learn literally just started it to try and get a job in marketing. Cuz I just finished my masters of marketing. Couldn’t get a job. So launched the magazine just literally as a side hobby, passion project, no grand vision, no thoughts of raising capital or anything of that sort like, you know, how can people have a business idea for me, it was like literally a, a side hobby passion project. And then I launched March, 2013 and we made $5 and 50 cents with the magazine. The magazine didn’t even have a, a successful person on the front cover. I had no idea what I was doing. And when I launched, I was like, okay, well we got two subscribers now. Now I’ve gotta a commitment. I gotta, I gotta keep producing the next one. Yeah. And then so cuz I’m the kind of person that wouldn’t wanna let others down, especially first business paying customers. It’s like, wow, okay. Especially
RV (04:08):
Two people. I mean you could afford the risk to your reputation.
NC (04:12):
Yeah, exactly. So, so, and I was doing it on the side while I was still working my day job and, and then off I go and then so about, for a year I built it up the recurring revenue to, in the subscriber base so I could, could go full time on it. And then the rest was kind of history. So then as time went on, I was like, okay, I can do more than just the magazine. I can start producing content to build like out a media platform and, and start doing all of that. And, and then over time I, I looked at leverage around like if we do interviews with people for the magazine, then it could be a podcast. It could be a video interview, it could be an article, it could be all these other things could be social content and you know, the, the game, like you chop it up and you can really sweat that asset.
NC (05:00):
And then cuz that’s what, that’s what content is. It’s an asset, right? When you produce one piece of content, it’s an asset. So over time just started to build that out and, and really build the building blocks one brick at a time of each channel, whether it’s audio, whether it’s video, whether it’s written, whether it’s social, whatever social channel. And then started to get into the online education space felt that there was something special we could do there. There isn’t really a well known platform or a go-to platform where it’s like a masterclass, but particularly focus on entrepreneurship or business building or like a digital marketer.com. That’s purely focused on marketing. Yeah. So, so then that, that was the vision that we started to build out about four or five years ago and, and it’s been a journey, but, and so, so then found it became more of a kind of media company plus online education company.
NC (06:04):
We’ve got, I think like 23 courses in our platform and we’re looking to really scale that up. We’re looking to have at least a hundred plus in the next three to five years. Wow. with, with all sorts of different diverse founders teaching topics that our audience wants to know from founders that have actually done it, founders that have built real businesses like, like yourself, right. You’ve built a real business. And yeah, we’re, we’re gonna work on a membership product. We’re gonna launch that in the next three to four months and, and yeah, along the way have slowly built the brand and it’s been an incredible ride thus far.
RV (06:45):
How much, what just if you don’t mind me asking, how did you make the leap? So, so that, you know, that’s something that a lot of our members and our clients and the, you know, our, our listeners are going, okay, I’m starting this as a, that this, the passion project sort of side hustle. How much, like, how did you know when to make the leap or how much, how much recurring revenue did you have to have to where you felt like there was enough to go or, or like talk about that transition a bit.
NC (07:14):
Yeah. So look eight years ago, I wasn’t, I wasn’t on like a high salary. I wasn’t an executive, I wasn’t a manager. I was, I was working in it support. So I was earning about, I think 50,000 Australian dollars a year. That was my annual salary. So I think that worked out to be around after tax around 3000 Australian dollars a month. So I was living out of home and I was like in this kind, like with a housemate and I was in this kind of really old rundown house. So rent wasn’t much. And then you could work. I could just work out my cost of living pretty quickly then. So
RV (07:58):
Did you just wait till it was exactly equal? Like, did you go say it was fit, say it was 50,000? Did you wait until you had 50,000 or whatever, 3000 a month? Or was it kind of like 75% of that or 60% of that? Like how close did you have to get before you went for the leap?
NC (08:15):
So there was a couple of key things. One I made sure I had six months of living expenses saved. I used to love traveling. I always had like right. Living off my credit card. So I made sure I had no credit card debt. I had six months of savings and yeah, ITAC exactly that. I replaced the revenue from the business a little bit more in fact, a little bit more because obviously the business had expense, but it was fairly profitable and such a small business looking back compared to, you know, and then so yeah. How, how did I make around three and a half, $4,000 in MRI to then go, okay, I can safe constantly take two of that and then live. And then the rest I could just keep slowly multiplying capital very, very slowly. And, and I could work on it full time.
NC (09:13):
So, so that was the argue. The argument was if I was working on it nights and mornings, first thing all into the night, all into the morning that if I could work on it full time, I was actually losing money. It got to a point. And that was something that somebody taught me. It got to a point where being in my job was actually losing me money because if I had have been able to apply myself to it full time, I would’ve been able to make a lot more, which it that’s what ended up happening.
RV (09:44):
Yeah. Like the opportunity cost of that time on your business becomes greater than the actual pay for time in your, in your company. I think it was interesting part of, what’s always fascinated me a about you and you even kind of alluded it to it here was like, why a magazine? Like what, what, what, what an interesting choice. But but you know, like you said, there, there, there wasn’t, there, there there’s, there’s, you know, there wasn’t a lot totally in that space and, and the recurring revenue is a wonderful and so is, did the business model, it sounds like really started purely as a magazine. And it was, I want people to pay me a monthly fee to subscribe to this magazine and I’m gonna curate content and do these interviews and produce this beautiful digital thing. Correct. And, and, and support my subscribers. And then how did the BI model evolved to there that it then did it go to courses? And that was how you monetize next?
NC (10:43):
Correct. And what was really interesting was I didn’t need traffic for the app store or the traffic come from the app store. There were people searching for the magazine every day, organically through organic search. And I worked out how to, if somebody typed in Forbes, if somebody typed in entrepreneur, if some type body typed in success, magazine, founder would show up. And then I used, so in the first four months, I got an interview with me, Richard Branson. And we, I, I really capitalized on that. And I used that front cover as a way to build the authority of the magazine. And I made that magazine addition free. So I learned this concept by E pagan called moving the free line, giving your best stuff away for free. So yeah, the magazine piece was not strategic. Rory just fell into it. There was this software that I could per that I purchased that allowed me to produce the magazine and build the app.
NC (11:55):
And it just so happened that it was a smart move because you talk about like your, like part of your process or your unique me methodology working with clients is producing a book. Why do you produce a book? It’s because it build authority. It makes it builds, thought leadership. I believe a magazine is even a higher, a, a higher level of thought leadership people really want to be on that front cover. It actually says something. And then once you build it up around like the people that have been on that front cover, then you’ve built a really strong authority. And it, it is, it has a lot of weight and I didn’t know that at the time, but you know, you get, you get your clients on front covers versus publishing their own book. Even if it is, you know, they’re signed by penguin ran house or whatever, like if they’re on a front cover of a well known magazine and they can use that in their social media profile, like I know like board apes is the new flex for your social profile, but if you wanna build your own personal brand and your you’re on the front cover of entrepreneur magazine, success magazine for like rappers, they rap about how they want to be on the cover Forbes or, or like that’s aspirational like that, that, but then owning the magazine, owning the property, then that yields the, I believe even stronger authority and leverage.
RV (13:32):
Yeah. I remember to this, the new owner of success magazine is a, is a brand builders group, client, and a friend of ours. And I actually just recently finished a term as I, I was an inter I was the interim entrepreneurship editor just like an associate, a kind of stand in when, when they acquired the company. But I, I, you used to be close with Darren Hardy, who was the publisher of success magazine for years. And I remember Darren telling me one time, he said, Roy, the magic of the magazine is it opens the door to any interview in the world of just like, it’s the relationships going? You try to, you try to, you know, sell something to someone they’re not answering. You try to get an endorsement. They’re not answering even try to get ’em on your podcast or something.
RV (14:20):
But if you call and say, I would like to talk to so-and-so about being on the cover of the magazine. Every one of those calls pretty much gets returned and it’s probably not everyone, but I, it made a lot of sense to me. And you know, here you are edifying the same, the same commentary. So what I think is inter another thing that’s fascinating about this to me, Nathan is, okay, so you started with the magazine, which is kind of like, you know, people would go, oh, magazines are dead. You can’t make money with magazines. And yet you’ve built this amazing business from it. And then I actually feel like a lot of people talk about courses that way, like people kind of go, oh, you know, the courses have, have, have run their, have run their road. But you know, you’re doubling down on courses. We, we had an interview with a, a brand builders group client, a friend of ours, Darcy, Ben and Costa was on this podcast. She’s doing seven figures a year from a few courses and she’s just crushing it. And, and, you know, some courses are 40 bucks and other ones are 400 bucks and others are four, 4,000 bucks. But like, you know, so now you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re moving in into the course world heavy.
NC (15:28):
Yeah. So the idea is how can we get a lot of the people like the aspiration is how can we build a platform or an educational platform, like a masterclass.com for entrepreneurship, and how do we get a lot of the people that are on the covers of our magazine, or even not on the covers to actually teach. And really we kind of democratize entrepreneurial education. So you know, we sell our courses, but I think now we’re in a position where we have enough that we can charge a member. We can, we can create an all access pass and, and have a membership. And then also start to build an incredible learn earning platform that is much more than just a course, you know, like, and really take the market because there are you’re right. There are a lot of people selling courses, and it’s so hard to know who to trust, what to follow.
NC (16:28):
We wanna create a membership that effectively is, is the superior product in the marketplace, which is extremely cost affordable. And, and the stuff that you learn is incredible. And your learning experience is, is, is like off the chain. Like, you know, we, we’re gonna build a learning recommendation and engine, we ask you a series of questions and then you’ll have a customized learning journey to fully tailored to your learning needs around where your areas of development are. And then the teachers will be just really next level, legit teachers that have actually done what, you know, they like, they’re so focused on their business that they don’t really need to teach or want to teach. Yeah. So, so that’s kind of the next evolution for us. So, so yeah, that, that was, and then like, it’s, it’s kind of like a really nice natural extension, to be honest with you R because you know, a lot of media companies, they produce a lot of free content.
NC (17:33):
Like we do 99.9% of our content is free, but then they have premium content, like premium paid content. Right. that’s all we’re doing. We’re just creating a, a, you know, premium content. If you want to know about let’s just say social media growth, and you’re reading an article, but actually you wanna do an in-depth course on how to grow your to organically. Then you can, you can get the full program or so to the membership. So it’s like, you can read an article, you can watch a video, but it’s only skirting the surface. You wanna actually go deep and actually get an actionable framework that is unpacked step by step with templates and like, to get you the result faster then. Yeah. That’s what we’re thinking, that’s the vision
RV (18:24):
And, and the course is like, are these kinda like $2,000 Jeff Walker type courses? Or are they, you know, $50 kind of thing?
NC (18:34):
Yeah. So, so that’s two bucks.
NC (18:38):
So it, all our courses range anywhere from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand dollars. So that’s why the, the me, that’s why once we move to the membership model, it’s gonna be, you know, incredibly valuable product. And eventually we’ll work to the, the evolution will be, we’ll only have one product and it’ll be the membership for an annual or monthly fee. And when we launch it, we’ll start with an annual. And honestly, the, the cost of the annual will be an absolute, no brainer. Like the it’ll be a no brainer. Hmm. And then it’s, we move from this idea of people purchasing a course as a form of ownership, to a membership where they’re just renting, they’re renting and that product will get significantly better over time. And that is our number one focus to build the most superior, largest online business school in the world.
RV (19:38):
NC (19:39):
Interesting. But then, but then over time, cuz we’re building a platform, we can help founders in many other ways too. Well just be through education. It can be through events. It can be through tools in, can be through services. But one step at a time.
RV (19:59):
Yeah. Well so talk to us about your personal brand for a second, because you don’t have a personal brand website. You do have some personal social media, but this is another thing that’s really amazing. Like it’s not super easier. At least we haven’t found it super easy to grow on social. I mean to grow. Yes. But to, to get to where you have millions of followers is not an easy feat and you did it under a company name and a company profile, which is, I feel like even harder, like there’s fewer companies with millions of followers than there are people, but you’ve been able to do that. Meanwhile, you’ve kind of like not focused so much on the personal brand, which to me is a move that classic entrepreneurs would make classic entrepreneurs would go, no, I wanna, I want the business to operate independent of me or irrespective of me as the founder.
RV (20:49):
And that’s what building a company, a, a company that has equity value. Like we’ve had several we’ve had business valuation expert. We did an episode with Jim Comby, who’s one of our favorite business valuation experts is a Harvard, Harvard, JD MBA guy. And you know, the whole thing the business has to operate without you. So anyways, just talk to us about your personal philosophy for, you know, growing the company versus growing your personal brand and why you, you know, you actually haven’t, you know, gone all in on your personal brand. Like most of the people probably that we, we highlight and, and interview.
NC (21:26):
Yeah. So it’s really interesting R I, this time last year hired like a really experienced executive assistant. And she said to me, Nathan, what’s the plan for your personal brand? And I said, I don’t have one. We just gotta focus on growing founder first. And you talked about kind of the opportunity cost, right? You talked about the opportunity cost right. Of when I was in my day job and sacrificing that time to go all in on founder, I still see it as the same thing I could spend right now, I’m building my personal brand, but I think it would be an opportunity cost to not just double down on founder and still be the face. Right. So you were spot on, I found your study that you were talking about offline really fascinating because that’s, that’s correct more, more and more, the rise of personal brand is happening, right?
NC (22:34):
You look at the Logan, Logan, Paul, the Jake Paul, like it is incredible what those guys have done and, you know, they, they are spinning off businesses like you wouldn’t believe right. More and more people are much far interested in, in the who behind the brand or the person who from they are buying. So for me, in my particular situation and circumstance, I do have the ability to still build my personal brand without creating a Nathan Chan website without creating nation Nathan Chan’s social accounts, where I’m creating custom tailored content, because I can do all of that through founder. And also at the same time, I want to continue to build founder as an asset based business, not as a cashflow based business. So I’m aggressively reinvesting and slowly but surely building out founders. So it’s one for me, opportunity cost. But two, I do have the ability to, to, to build the, the Nathan Chan personal brand, somewhat strategically by still doing the interviews and by still producing content around topics that I believe I have the right to speak about like Instagram growth or social media growth, or building an online educator business.
NC (24:05):
I will strategically talk about those topics because I believe I’m qualified to share. So yeah, I will, I do plan to get myself off the interviews though. That is, that is a master plan. I haven’t quite got there yet. I’ve just rebuilt my whole leader ship team and hire some really, really experienced executives that, that are very familiar with scaling companies. And slowly I’m slowly, slowly getting off the tools. One of the last things is doing the interviews and also doing our, like when, when we sell our courses we, we use a model called a masterclass model, right, where it’s like an old automated webinar, but the way that we do it, because we have other talent that we work with to produces all of our courses we do it like an interview. I still do those. So those are those are those still like the two things that I’m on the tools, but eventually the master plan is to build a podcast network where we have quite a few shows in our podcast network that it will be total acceptable, fine, not even know a difference, who’s doing the interviews.
NC (25:28):
And then I will still create some other shows to have that Nathan Chan who’s behind the brand feel. Because one thing that I found very, very interesting, and this is not me pumping my own tires or anything, but people do like to follow the founder journey and they do, they are in interested to hear what we are doing. Like not everybody, but the people, there are people, there are people that notice, there are people that are interested and I’m not saying this to put my tires. So I have to keep like, like fueling that. I have to keep telling that story, that kind of, that heroes journey starting from nowhere. And then let’s see how far we can build it. It’s like how Gary V is like, I’m gonna buy the jets and people that’s part of his hero’s journey because people are following along. People wanna see how far people wanna champion the underdog, the person coming from nowhere. So there’s a little bit of that where people do follow the founder journey, what we’re up to, how far we’re taking this thing and how big we’re gonna build it. So I have to yeah. Keep, keep feeling that.
RV (26:38):
I think it’s kinda interesting though, cuz it’s like, you know, like the way that we, we would think about it or describe it as even I would say this is you have a great personal brand, you’re actually quite deliberate about building it because you do the interviews, you do speak at the conferences here, you are doing an interview. You’re also guest appearing in places and contributing both on your site. You just don’t have your own com. And I think people sometimes MIS misinterpret to go, oh, a personal brand means I must have a website in the way that brand builders would describe it is no, your personal brand means you have a reputation. And you know, we think of personal branding as simply the digitization of reputation, which you do have, you got a lot of digital assets and like you’re saying, cuz cuz Richard Branson does the same thing.
RV (27:28):
Richard Branson doesn’t have Richard branson.com, but he writes and [email protected] or what, whatever, you know, the, the URL is, but everybody knows Richard Branson. And you know, I, I think it’s really interesting almost even that evolution of what’s happening with personal brand and what that means. Cuz I think you have a great personal brand, even though you don’t have a website, but, but I would say, I mean the, the way that you guys have grown on social is amazing. You’ve really done a great job with that and you know, know where do you see that headed? Because right now I feel like it’s harder. It’s get it’s there is so much noise and it is, it is so difficult to get organic reach. And are you still, you know, optimistic about organic social media growth and still seeing big numbers real in and if so, why and if not, why not?
NC (28:29):
Yeah. So I love the way you think about it and you spot on like, I, I guess I am strategically building a personal brand, but maybe not a traditional way with the, you know, producing a bulk producing content. Nathan’s this guy, you know what I mean? Like, so yeah, you’re right. But no that I used, I’ve only done the interviews Rory because there was nobody else to do at the start and it just got outed that way. But yeah, no, it’s, it’s really cool. And I don’t really do podcast interviews. I, but I am starting to ramp it back up now. So yeah, I’ve gone in and now I don’t speak at, I don’t speak at conferences either. I, I cut that about three, four years ago. So yeah. It’s funny you say that cuz you can, you can go I’m I’m going up and back, but yeah, at the moment I’m, I’m, I’m wanting to double down again because I feel like it’s powerful and I’m finding more time, but yeah.
NC (29:28):
So coming back to answering your question around organic and social growth is it still powerful? Yes. I think there’s a couple of key things to take away there. It depends on the platform like right now I think Instagram is still a very, very powerful platform and we will continue to double down on it. I’m not happy with our creative. Yes. We still grow like 1000, 2000 new followers a day. But I think we can do a better job on the creative and that’s gonna be a focus for us this year, but then also there’s always emerging platforms, right? Like TikTok, TikTok will probably be the next big platform. And, and you see that there are people that grow really fast on there and it’s a different platform. It’s different kind of content and yeah, I think you can of doing incredible things.
NC (30:23):
It’s, it’s crazy some of the numbers and things that you can see, I can’t share them publicly, but you know, we, we know like a significant amount of customers that, that find us. They start with Instagram doesn’t mean they end with Instagram because you’ve only got a couple of ways to drive traffic through stories or that link in buyer. But we know that people ended up finding us via Instagram because when someone becomes a customer or a student and enrolls in one of our programs, we, we have a survey and we find out you can’t, it’s an onboarding survey. We, we find out and that that’s, that’s actually the largest way, most voted way that people find it. So it’s funny, you know, you look at that, but then also you look at you’re retargeting with paid advertising. You know, how much are you spent spending on retar
RV (31:23):
Use to be anyways, like pre that, that the apple iOS update last year was been, I mean, has that that’s gotta have affected you is feel like it’s affected everybody and you guys did a lot, a lot of paid. I mean, you’ve done a lot of paid advertising and I guess presumably you’re driving paid ads to your free masterclass and the free masterclass to, you know?
NC (31:45):
Yep, yep, yep. Correct. Yep. So everybody’s taken a hit on paid advertising. Does it still work for us? Yes. do we get the returns that we used to get? No. Do we have to spend more? Yes. Do we have to become better? Yes. It’s just a fact, right? It was whether it was iOS 14 or something else costs were always going to rise. It was always going to get more competitive. So yeah, I’m not sitting here from an ivory tower saying like, yeah, we’re killing it. Like we have had challenges, but we still sign frequently spend a lot of money on paid advertising because it works still. It still works. It’s just not as effective. So it’s your job as the founder owner CEO to, to, to find ways to make it work. Cuz it still can or diversify look, you know there, there, you know, it’s, it’s just classic business, right?
NC (32:47):
You can’t rely on one channel like anything, you know, you gotta diversify your channels, you gotta diversify your revenue. So yeah, but yeah, coming back. Yeah. So we find that yeah. Top of funnel social still works top of funnel. We still drive a significant revenue from our social channels, but at the same time we’re working on always new channels like SEO, like YouTube, YouTube, massive one massive, massive what you can do there. We still haven’t cracked it. It, it drives substantial revenue, but not, not to the, not to the, not to the size that I believe is the potential. So to answer your question, yes. Social organic still works. You have to look at it from not that being your only play though. I think you’ve got it’s, it’s a multi omnichannel approach. And we see, we, you know, from paid from retargeting, from customers ending up on our email list or, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a varied approach, but yeah, it still works. It’s more competitive than ever. But even when I started seven, eight years ago, it felt super competitive. To be honest, it didn’t feel like, oh wow, this is Greenfield. I like, there’s no one playing in this space. Like it was still the same. And it was still the same feeling that it’s like, all right, now, now we’ve gotta crack to few hundred thousand followers. Like you ain’t cutting it.
RV (34:27):
What is just like off the top of your head, when you think of like a cost per lead, like what you would pay for an email address, what do you kind of go? Yeah. If we’re in this range, we’re probably doing okay. If we’re not like we gotta shut it down and you know, come up with a, a new creative or something,
NC (34:43):
Look, to be honest with you you, you, we could, we can get leads for a dollar. Right. We can get leads for a dollar. Like we can go Facebook ads, Facebook lead ad form. And we get, we can get leads for a dollar, but doesn’t mean they’re buyers. So, so we don’t use that as a metric, but yeah, we, we, you know, anywhere between three, five, $10, $15 a lead. Yeah. It, it, but it depends. Right. Cause cuz for us, it’s not about leads. It’s about direct response. How, how much did we put in and then how much did we get back?
RV (35:22):
So you’re looking at more like a, see like a cost per acquisition, like number and metric is much more what you’re looking at.
NC (35:30):
RV (35:31):
Yep. And do you guys typically kind of ascend people like you go, Hey, let’s offer a masterclass and then a low dollar thing and we try to send them or do you have like sometimes we’re selling the $500 sometimes the a thousand dollars sometimes the two.
NC (35:44):
Yeah, no we, we don’t, we don’t we don’t have like a, a value ladder like that, to be honest with you from a business model standpoint we just have certain courses and we have you know, free trainings that can give you a taste tester of that instructor, their frameworks, their beliefs, their ideas. And then if you really like the instructor, you can roll on the full program. The next evolution for us is, is the membership product. So it’s like, you can buy one course or you can, and then you can go to the membership. And yeah, yeah. We’re, we’re probably not that good at that. If I’m being honest, I’m, I’m looking at it like quite honestly, how do we build a large, like I look at ed tech platforms for inspiration, like what is skill doing? I know creative live was sold to fiber and they kind of went backwards a bit, but like, you know, what is creative live doing?
NC (36:45):
What is skill share doing? What is masterclass doing? What is mine valley doing? What is, yeah. Like companies like that, how, how are they building out their brands? How are they building out their platforms? But still using and being inspired by online marketing or the Jeff walkers of the world. Jeff Walker, you know, launch PLF. We’ve done, we’ve done that before. Right. But you know, it’s interesting when you look at kind of like, you know, the, the, the PRLF stuff, like we’ve done that for, and it didn’t work as effective as just doing the model that we do. And it’s just like, you can do it with one course. Right? You can do it with one course or a second course, but how do you do something like that with 20 courses? How do you do something like that with 50 courses or a hundred courses?
NC (37:38):
And at the end of the day, you want to be able to, of the operations of these things as well. And so when you look to create a $5 product or a trip trip wire for 20 bucks, then you wanna upsell somebody to something to $300, then you wanna do 500. Then you wanna do a thousand. Like there’s a big operational cost when you wanna do out by 20 or hundred or 50. You know what I mean? So like, that’s why, yeah. We don’t, it’s, we’re not very good at that kind of classic online marketing, kind of some of that kind of value ladder stuff. And it, it is working for us now. Yes, we will. You know, I think there’s a great book that I love called ready fire aim had to go from zero to a hundred million flat and they talk about there’s two kinds of products. There’s the product with the sole purpose to acquire a customer. And then there’s a product with the sole purpose to generate profit. That all makes sense. And we are not there yet. Like we, we still have, we, we, there’s a, there’s a little bit of evolution and little bit of work for us to be done there, to be honest with you.
RV (38:52):
Yeah. I mean, that’s so great to have, I mean, that’s I’d say we very much feel that way. I mean, we’ve, we’ve been through this journey once before building from scratch and growing it and exiting the company. And now it’s like we’re three years into the new thing and very much like, oh my gosh, we have so much work to do. Like, we are still so far away from where we wanna be. But I mean, this has been awesome, Nathan, this is so into inspiring. Like I really appreciate you kind of just like sharing the story and opening up a little bit about like what the journey has been. Obviously people can follow founder on Instagram. I know that’s, you know, you got a big presence there. Where else would you direct people to? If they wanna like find out more about, you know, what founder is, is, is doing and you,
NC (39:36):
Yeah. Just go to founder.com founder without the E
RV (39:40):
Founder.Com without, without the E Nathan Chan friends. Buddy, this is so great to reconnect with you and wish you all the best, but look forward to following your journey and, and seeing you, how you, how you do this. So keep in touch.
NC (39:57):
Thanks so much, Roy. Appreciate your time.

RV (00:02):
Love love, love that chat with Nathan Chan and longtime friend. We’ve been colleagues and just seeing what they’ve done over there at founder is awesome. Just such a quality brand and obviously a great guy, right? Like super humble and really intelligent and and just really smart and service mind. So I, I, I love that there, there were, there were a couple big tape takeaways from me or for me from that interview, I mean, like always I learned so much from every, every single guest that we have, but, you know, so the first one is how to make the leap full time. Right. So his personal story about how did he actually do that was really inspiring to me. And, and hopefully something that you picked up too. And, you know, there were a couple, two, two things specifically, well, three, three things.
RV (00:51):
So first of all, he said, I had no debt. And that to me is really important, right? A lot of people believe in debt and using debt in different ways. We come from the school of, of not at having debt. I grew up, you know, financially speaking, being raised, so to speak by Dave Ramsey was where I learned about money. And we just don’t believe in debt. We don’t wanna have debt. We want to be free and clear of, of owing people stuff. And so you know, hearing Nathan talk about that was, was, I’m always into, to hear when other successful people, you know, say, yeah, I didn’t bring on investors. I didn’t go out and get bank loans. I didn’t leverage credit cards. I, I didn’t, you know, mortgage the house. Like you, you, you could, there is a way to do it.
RV (01:36):
Right. And, and that’s how AJ and I have done it. Like, we, we don’t have debt. So we have some lines of credit that are like for emergencies, but their emergencies to the emergencies, which is the second thing he said is he said I had six months of living expenses saved up. Right. And so if, cuz if you’re in that mode of going, okay, how do I make the leap full time? The question is, is typically like, how am I gonna survive in the first few months? Because that, that’s the reality of the being successful at anything. Like, even if you’re busting it hardcore, like when you’re doing something new, it takes a minute, like you can’t just automatically start a business and be successful or start a brand and be successful. Like it takes a while to even get your first revenue dollars in sometimes.
RV (02:21):
So being debt free gives you an opportunity that extends the runway. Why? Because you don’t owe money every month, right? Like if I have a bunch of car payments and a bunch of credit card bills and a bunch of student loans, and you know, now you might have a mortgage. Like that may be the one thing that you have, but like, you know, hopefully there’s not much more than that. And if there’s a way you cannot have a mortgage, then that’s even better. Right. And that’s why so many entrepreneur stories start of like, you know, Lewis, how tells the story of sleeping on his sister’s couch. And you know, people moving back in with their parents and just like, yeah. Two and whatever it takes for a minute, but you don’t, when you don’t have debt, it extends the runway. When you have debt, you’ve got monthly payments that are due and you’re chained to those, right?
RV (03:04):
Like that’s why the Bible says the borrower, the borrower is slave to the lender. You’re, you’re chained to those. You’re, you’re tied in, you’re committed. You can’t break free. And the only way to break free is to pay it off. And you know, there’s there’s to do that, but it’s almost like that’s a season in and of itself. You get debt free and then you gotta stay on that really like frugal fight where you’re, whatever you’re working extra hours at work, you’re making extra sales calls, you’re garage sailing, you’re pitching, you’re doing some side hustle. You’re, you’re taking a second job. And then you save up to where you have six months of limb expenses. Now you can make the leap, right? Like, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna be set and it’s gonna be easy, but it’s like, okay, you can survive. And you gotta give yourself some runway.
RV (03:51):
You be, and this is what it means to be an investor. I mean, when, when you’re a financial investor in a company, they use this term runway, they’re, they’re creating runway. They’re saying, we’ll give you this much money. Not because that’s the only amount of money we have, but that’s the amount of money we’re willing to put at risk for this idea. And when you, when you bootstrap a company, you are the investor. And, and the way that you’re investing is if you don’t have a lot of money, it is through sacrificing some luxuries in your life and, and selling off some stuff and downgrading your quality of life for a while and increasing your work ethic and your output so that you can, so you, you can create some runway. And that I think a lot of people stay trapped in a job.
RV (04:34):
They hate for the rest of their life because they can’t take that risk and they don’t know how to break free. And so I, that, that’s really an important function here about how do you, how do you start a business? And, and when do you make the leap? And then, and then, you know, so you, you know, get debt free, then stay frugal and save up six months of living expenses, which by the way, this is, this is, these are part of Dave, Ramsey’s seven baby steps, too. You know, so if you’re following on that plan, you’re, you’re doing this. And then the third thing that Nathan said is once you can replace the revenue, once you feel confident that you can generate enough revenue in your new thing, that to replace what you’ve got from your current thing, or if you can at least get, you know, like 60% of the way they, or 50 or 40% of the way they’re doing it as a side hustle.
RV (05:21):
And then you give yourself a six month runway and then you go, all right, I’m gonna take the leap. And I gotta get myself from 40% to a hundred. That’s how it happens. Like, if you don’t wanna lose your house and like do the thing, but it’s not easy. Like it’s not easy. Who told you it was gonna be easy? Like when did you think this was gonna be easy? Like, what guest have we ever had on this show who has made and, and built a huge business or a huge brand who was like, oh yeah, it was, it was easy. It’s never easy. It’s hard, it’s difficult. That’s why most people don’t do it. And you have to be prepared to make the sacrifice for at least a little while. It’s why, so that you can have your dream so that your dream can come true so that you can impact people, make a difference in the world, but there are tactical practical steps and strategies that can do it.
RV (06:07):
That, that just like we’re talking about here, like you gotta be willing to pay the price you gotta be. As, as my, one of my, my long time friends, Randy G always says, you have to be the number one investor in your own dream. You gotta bet on you. You gotta take the shot. You gotta take the chance. And why would anyone else give you money if you’re not willing to, to, to, to pay the price of saving up and doing yourself. So that was huge. I always, I love that story. I thought that was tactical. The second thing, which I have never heard be for at least not so clearly, which really hit me from this interview with Nathan. And this will stick with me, is there are two different types of products. There is the product that you create, where the sole purpose is to acquire a customer.
RV (06:52):
And then there is the product that you create to generate a profit. That, that was fascinating to me. And now he, he quoted the book ready, fire aim, which I had never heard of. So I guess apparently that that’s a big concept out of, out of that book, but that’s a really powerful idea. And, and when we have a, one of our, one of our stop on the brand builder journey, like one of our courses that’s called high traffic strategies and it’s about running paid traffic. And it’s more, it’s one of the more advanced courses that, that people get to once you’ve built your whole infrastructure. But one of the things that we talk about there is, you know, this concept of like a self-liquidating funnel or you know, a, a, a recovery or a break even where you’re able to pay money for ads to drive traffic.
RV (07:44):
And then you’re just trying to sell enough of those items to recover your ad spend. And you, wait, why would you do that? Like, why would I spend a bunch of money to only just barely get that money and, and have the risk? Well, the reason why is because in the process, you grow your brand awareness, you grow your email list, you grow your social following, you grow your presence, your street cred. There’s more people that hear about you. So there’s all of these other positive ancillary byproducts. If you can set that up, that’s what he’s talking about here is one product you create exists for the sole purpose to acquire a customer. That’s kind of that concept, right? At least in digital marketing world, that is, is that concept. Then the second type of product you create is to generate profit. So the other reason why you would do this sort of self-liquidating funnel concept is not just because of those, those things like, Hey, I would, I would get more impressions, more, reach, more awareness, more emails, but it’s because if you capture their contact information, that’s an actual asset that you can monetize directly in the future.
RV (08:53):
So just think about it as an email address. Let’s say I put $10 in the machine and I get, you know, $10 outta the machine. I made no money. I spent a bunch of time. I took risk. I made no money. Well, why would I do it still? Well, because the, the byproduct is an email address. And you say, well, what difference does it make you, you don’t get paid for addresses. Well, that’s true. You don’t get paid on the first sale, but you do on the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth, the 10th, the 50th that you go, oh, well, then I’m monetizing it later. And this is this little part right here is like, honestly, functionally. One of the biggest differences, like you think the biggest personal brands in the world are the biggest, because they’re the smartest or they’re, they’re the best, or they have the most original ideas.
RV (09:39):
They’re not, they understand this concept I’m talking about right here, and they’re willing to take risk. And they’re willing to bet on themselves. They’re willing to say not by followers, but by attention, by awareness, by reach by impact. And say, I will put in a ton of work to impact lives, even if I don’t make money from it, because I wanna impact a lot of people. And it’s, you know, there’s a lot of functionality to it, which is one of the reasons why brand builders group exists. Right? But that, that’s the concept here and Nathan’s telling the same story. And then the third thing, which again, is sort of this one’s more classic entrepreneurship is when he was just saying, find a way, find a way you gotta find a way, like, are you gonna take a hit on paid advertising? Yes. Did I, the iOS 14 updates, crush a bunch of us.
RV (10:28):
Yes. I say us, we weren’t actually running paid ads, but the, the, it has, it changed the landscape you yes. Does. Does every time a new social media come on, you know, TikTok comes out. Does that change things? Yes. Is the metaverse gonna affect the future? Yes. Are there new competitors coming in? Yes, it’s hard, but you gotta find a way you gotta make the decision to make the resolution, make the commitment that I’m gonna find a way. Like I have a goal. I have a destination in that I am pursuing, and I am currently on a path that path might get blocked. I am not committed to, to having to follow one path. I am committed to the destination. I am committed to finding a way to get there. The way that I get there might have to change. Right? It’s just like driving somewhere.
RV (11:16):
You have your destination. There might be a traffic jam. There might be road construction. There might be an accident, but you go, I’m going to do whatever I have to do. And it might take longer than I thought I might have to go different. I might have to go, you know, do something new, but I’m still committed to the destination. It’s exactly how it is. And yet most of us go, oh, I had, you know, I, I had destination and the path I was walking it down. It didn’t, it didn’t work out. And so it’s over. I mean, that’s not wrong. It’s not bad. It’s just not what successful people do. And so are you really somebody who’s willing to make that decision to find a way to commit to the destination, to, to go the entire journey, to do whatever it takes, because there is a way like there is a way to get there.
RV (12:01):
It just may not be the way, you know, and, and you gotta, you know, you need help. You need other people to guide you and show you the workarounds. And, and, but there is always a way. And, and what it matters is not so much that, you know, the way as what matters is that, you know, the destination, you don’t have to know the way, but you have to know the destination and you have to be committed to the destination. And if building your personal brand is a really important destination for you, we know a lot of ways to get there and we’ve run into a, out of the roadblock and we know where the construction is, and we know where the traffic jams are and we can help you. And, and we have a track record of figuring out for ourselves and for a whole host of hundreds of clients, figuring out ways around them, because things are always changing, but this is, you know, this is the game that we play.
RV (12:52):
And so if you’re serious about building a personal brand, you need to request a call with our team, right? You need to take advantage of, of the, you know, the, the opportunity to do that and, and request a call and talk to us, we’ll do the first call for free because all of us have had to have that journey. And you hear about ’em every single week, Nathan Chan was no different. They’ve built a really, really wonderful brand a founder magazine, 3.4 million followers. I mean, that gets the attention of the biggest people in the world. I mean, some of our, our very high profile clients are people that we’ve been connecting to, to Nathan Chan, because it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a legit reputation and it’s not easy, but it can be done and you can do it. So keep coming back, keep staying plugged in. We’re gonna keep bringing you hopefully valuable insights and inspiration and inspiring stories and guests right here on the influential personal brand podcast catch you next time.