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What happens when you take a marketing and advertising background, add an English degree and then uncover a passion for entrepreneurship? Really cool stuff.
This is Kate, and she’s the implementer of awesome ideas over at EOFire.
How did this come to be? Well, when she realized after all those years in marketing and advertising and the banking industry she didn’t need Corporate America to determine her worth. Instead, Kate decided to determine her own worth by taking all of the knowledge and experience she’d gained and put it towards helping others recognize, create and build the business they’ve always dreamed of, but never thought possible.
To listen to the full interview on iTunes click here.
You can listen to the full interview on Stitcher click here.
To listen right here on the blog click here
To read the full transcript ….
Ingrid: Hello and here we are today with Kate Erickson. Such a pleasure to have Kate on our show. And it’s morning time here in Australia and it’s afternoon where Kate is. Hello Kate.
Kate: Hi Ingrid. Thank you so much for inviting me on the show. I’m super excited to be here.
Ingrid: You have a couple of terrific stories for us because you’ve ventured down this starting up a business path a couple of times. So let’s talk about what businesses … tell us your business story, please.
Kate: Okay. My background is very corporate. I was never really into entrepreneurship because I never really knew what entrepreneurship was. Growing up, both of my parents had the typical nine to five, or sometimes nine to nine, job and so I just kind of grew up thinking that you go to school and you get a degree and then you get a job and you climb the corporate ladder and hopefully you end up in management at some point in time.
So when I graduated college, I worked from the age of 15, I was very used to working, which was a great lesson from my parents. When I went to college and had my counsellors and people who were advising me to tell me that I needed to choose a major, that really freaked me out because to me, choosing a major meant that I was choosing my career … like what I was going to do for the rest of my life. It did not turn out that way. My major was English, but I worked in banking so that was a little bit off.
It was years and years into banking when I was working at an HR company that I finally became so fed up with corporate America and the fact that I felt it impossible to climb the corporate ladder. I felt that glass ceiling just getting closer and closer and closer. I never felt like I was reaching my full potential. I felt like I was being held back. I was never challenged. All of these frustrations just kept bubbling up for me, until finally one day at that job, I had been there for three and a half years, working the exact same position, literally at the bottom of the ladder in the department that I was in and I couldn’t figure it out. I was doing everything I was “supposed to be doing”, I was one of the best employees in the department, I worked my rear off, but nothing was happening for me.
So, my boss finally says to me one day, “We have a promotion for you,” I was so so so excited about this, and I thought, “Finally! My recognition. My success is coming,” because for me meant success … promotion then a raise. So I went through all these what they told me were formalities to get this position. They said the hiring manager wanted me, it was no question and all of the while I’m telling family and friends, I’m getting so excited about this and the hiring manager calls me up, I’m expecting my job offer, and wondering what type of compensation they’re going to offer me, and what my moving budget’s going to be, and all this kind of stuff. I get on the phone and she tells me that they’ve decided to hire outside the company for this position.
Ingrid: Oh my goodness.
Kate: That’s exactly how I felt. That is exactly how I felt. I was surprised, disappointed, embarrassed, angry. My range of emotions was whacked. While in that moment I was feeling very sorry for myself, and the best thing that came out of that moment when I was feeling very sorry for myself, was that I had a major mindset shift that nobody else was ever going to give me what I want. That whole experience and scenario and situation taught me that. It served it up to me on a silver platter. That day, I said, “I don’t know what it looks like to not be in corporate America, but there has to be something else. I am going to quit this job and I’m going to figure out what it is.”
That was the first time that I left corporate America. I left six months later, after I built a budget, paid off my debt, and built a runway for myself financially, and after a month I quit and I sort of had to figure out what the heck entrepreneurship is.
Ingrid: So, what business did start, Kate?
Kate: So I started a business called Kate’s Copy. So if we kind of go back to my major in English, I really loved writing and I loved reading. So I was a big lover of literacy in general. This online world had kind of sort of taken off, and I realised that there were a lot of businesses who were doing really great things, brick and mortar, small mom and pop shops, but they hadn’t really figured out the online thing. And so I thought, “What if I could convince these brick and mortar businesses that they could expand and grow if they went online and that I would help them do that.”
I would write websites for instance. I would help them gain a presence on social media, I did have an extensive banking background, but what I also had was experience in advertising and marketing from a side job I worked while I was getting my graduate degree. I thought if I can bring together my English degree and my marketing and advertising experience, maybe I could make this work. So I called the company Kate’s Copy and I spent every single day in a café down the street from my house and I struggled. Struggled, struggled, struggled.
I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know how to manage my time. Suddenly there wasn’t somebody telling me what to do, suddenly there wasn’t this perfect little wrapped up day where I’d go into an office and I punch my time card, and I go check in with the boss, and they give me a task list … It was like I was on my own, and that was really, really strange.
Ingrid: Goodness me. So, if we come back to our questions and sort of try now and fit around, because you’ve answered some of the questions in that. What did you want from that business? It sounds like you wanted to have some freedom, and be able to pursue your own potential, and make your own decisions, but was there anything else you wanted from that business from Day One.
Kate: I really wanted to start making an impact and feeling like I was helping people. In my previous job, working in HR at a bank, you don’t get that feeling. I would hear from employees that they would literally cringe when they heard that HR was coming, or that HR was on the phone. It’s not a department that you get excited about communicating with.
I had spent so much time feeling like the work that I was doing was just leading nowhere. So beyond freedom, beyond making my own choices, beyond stepping out there and doing something totally outside of my comfort zone, I really wanted to do work that was impacting people.
Ingrid: Did you actually in that business … did it ever feel like a business? Did it ever actually feel like you were in business, and what was that moment?
Kate: It didn’t. It never felt that way to me, because I was doing the networking thing, I was trying to build relationships so hard with the people who I thought wanted my services and needed my services, but I never got there. I never landed one client. I spent six months really in the grind, essentially you know, kind of begging people to hire me more or less. I was really bad at selling myself, because I wasn’t super comfortable about that. I didn’t really know how to talk about the business in the way to make it seem like a business. I feel like that’s why … that’s why I could never … That’s why it never felt that way. I didn’t know how to make it into a business.
Ingrid: Yeah. So you closed that down. What was that day like when you made that decision, Kate? To actually say, “Enough now.” How did you make that decision, and what was that like?
Kate: [hat was a really tough decision. I was so lucky that I had the support around me that I did. John was incredibly supportive of me either continuing to try and make that work, or going back to corporate America. Those were my two options at the time. So the day that I decided to go back to corporate America was kind of two fold, actually. On one end, I was really disappointed and again, embarrassed because I couldn’t make it work. I felt pretty bad about that. I felt like I had failed and I felt like maybe people were going to be disappointed or just kind of think, “Oh, she couldn’t do it.” And on the other end, feeling that I’m crawling back to this trap of corporate America where I did not want to be.
Not a great feeling, but the other end of this job offer was a job that I actually had really, really wanted for a long time before I ever became an entrepreneur. I was an account executive at a advertising and marketing agency. That whole world really interests me, it challenged me a lot. Marketing advertising is incredibly fast paced and demanding and I feel like I needed that to push me, because my job in HR at the bank was like the complete opposite of that; it never pushed me and it never challenged me and it was always quite boring.
I was excited that that was the position that I was going into, because I knew that it wasn’t going to be for the long term, and I knew that the skills and the information that I would gain; the knowledge that I would gain taking that position would 100% help me no matter what venture I went into after that.
Ingrid: Yeah, and that was such a smart move, Kate, to go into a business that was going to give you some of those skills that you would need for the future.
So let’s fast forward and you start to … you’re involved in another business. You’ve left the advertising account executive behind, and you’re involved in another business.
If we pick that business up, what is that business and if we now follow the thread of the questions with that, what is that business and how do you know what your customers want … what you’re offering? Because I think this is such an essential part of why this current business that you’re involved with is so successful.
Kate: No doubt. Okay, so the current business is Entrepreneurs On fire. This is actually a business started by my partner, John Lee Dumas and he started the business and brought me on board about six months after. It’s a daily online business podcast where John interviews today’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. Through the podcast, we’ve built an incredible community of entrepreneurs who are just starting out, and who are already very successful alike. We provide resources and online communities and trainings that help people along their entrepreneurial journey. Now, how we came to find that what we have to offer is what our ideal customer wants and needs or you know, the flip side, if you turn that around, how did we know in the first place what they wanted or needed. We created an avatar.
John created an avatar for the podcast when he first started and his avatar was his one ideal listener. The one person that he was creating that content for. Through intimately getting to understand who that person is. His name is Jimmy, he had a wife and two kids, he works a 9:00 to 5:00 job in a cubicle that he does not like, he spends a precise amount of time in the car in the morning in traffic going to work. He sits in a cubicle for eight hours, banging his head up against the wall, wishing he was doing anything but that, he spends 28 minutes in the car riding home, a little less traffic, but it’s still there, and then he spends 10% of his day doing what he actually wants to do: Spending time with his wife and his kids. Then he goes to bed and he wakes up and he does it all over again.
So we’re creating this avatar by intimately understanding who he was creating the content for at Entrepreneurs on Fire, John knew his struggles, biggest pain points, he knew where Jimmy really wanted to be. John was able to build that bridge for Jimmy. He built a bridge for Jimmy through providing a daily podcast where he interviews successful entrepreneurs; people who are already broken out of the 9:00 to 5:00, and who are sharing their struggles, their stories, their wins, their a-ha moments, resources … and through the inspiration that Jimmy gets from the podcast, he is going to learn how to do the same thing.
So, I do think that’s really, really important and this is why Kate’s Copy, my first entrepreneurial adventure, failed. It’s why I had to go back to corporate America … why I was never able to get a customer … because I never knew who my ideal customer was. Once you know who they are, that’s when you get to reach them.
Ingrid: Yeah. And Kate, thank you so much for that explanation, because I think this is the number one thing that when I speak to people thinking about getting started in a business or in that early stage, they’re fearful of choosing one person, because they want to do it for everyone.
When I say to people, “Who is your audience?”
“Well, there’s 25 million people in Australia …”
I mean, there’s 300 and something million people in America, you cannot, cannot service everyone. You have to choose a Jimmy, or a Jo Ann, if it’s a female avatar. So I thank you so much for that terrific explanation.
Okay, so if we think now about Entrepreneur On Fire, how did you go from … so you’re very much an integral part of the business, how did it go from having just those embryonic few listeners and the podcast, how did it expand? How did you know that there were more customers? How did you know to introduce new products? How did that growth come about?
Kate: Well, initially, the growth was … The early traction for the podcast was a big part due to the guests who we had on. They are all successful entrepreneurs and one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common is a big following. So when they were on the podcast and were able to share that with their audience, that was a big win for us, because it was getting the word out about the podcast in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own. That was huge traction and momentum for the podcast in the beginning.
When it comes to creating products and services and actually monetizing the business, that was in large part to just listening. Once John had those few followers; and it doesn’t have to be hundreds or thousands; it can be five or 10. He reached out to them and he asked what they were struggling with. Even the ones that he didn’t get to one on one, he listened to the email questions that he was receiving. He paid attention to the recurring themes and struggles that people were mentioning to him on social media. Through that, he started getting coaching clients.
He had a lot of people reaching out to him and saying, “Hey, you create a daily podcast, how on earth do you do that? Like how do you create a daily podcast?” So, one of the first ways that he ever monetised was through teaching people how he did it. He started coaching with no initial intention or ever the thought in his mind that that’s what he would be doing. He just listened to the people who were tuning in and gave them what they asked for. If you fast forward to today, everything that we’ve created through Entrepreneurs On Fire has been built in a similar way. We have come up with ideas for the communities in the products and services that we offer through listening to the recurring struggles of our audience.
Ingrid: That’s a very salient point for people listening, is to really listen to what it is, because when you think about your first venture, you had this idea that what you wanted to provide was what somebody else wanted, but in fact, it wasn’t, was it?
Ingrid: It’s actually the opposite, isn’t it?
Kate: Pure opposite.
Ingrid: Yeah. And that’s what happens to so many people. They have this fantastic idea and they think everybody is going to want this, but in fact it’s not the case, is it?
Kate: Not really.
Ingrid: So if we look at funding and pricing, how do you set pricing? We don’t need to talk in specific numbers; How do you set pricing, and how do you fund expansion, please?
Kate: So, settingpricing really goes back to understanding your audience. If you consider offering a coaching package or an online training programme, or whatever it might be that you’re trying to sell, you have to consider where your audience is at. If you’re trying to sell something to college students, nobody in college has money, or chances are they don’t have a lot of it.
So pricing kind of starts there with understanding who it is you’re selling to. I also believe in doing some amount of market research – your prices don’t have to match what other products are out there, but I do think that it’s a good way to get a feel for what’s out there. Like in real estate, you get comparison for the houses around you. If you’re going to sell your house, and I feel like that’s a[place to start if you’re feeling lost in terms of how much you should be charging.
You have to consider the value: How much do you think what you’ve created is worth? How much is it worth to your avatar? How big is that pain point? If you’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat tyre and you can’t change it, or you don’t have a spare, that’s going to be worth a lot of money to you to have someone come help you because you don’t have any other options. That’s a very strong pain point. You know, that’s to be considered too, I think.
In terms of funding expansion, you know, that of course depends on how big of a runway you have or what your personal savings looks like. And so, depending on that, you know, it might be a lot of bootstrapping and kind of doing a lot of work yourself that you would rather be paying somebody else to do, but you might not have the funds to do so. I’m a big believer also in doing value exchanges. So, if you’re in a position where you’re really looking for some advice or help in an area that you don’t have expertise in, perhaps you can find someone who does have expertise in that area and would be willing to exchange services with you.
Everybody has something that they’re great at. Everybody should find what that is. Sometimes it takes some reflection and you know, looking back at past experiences, what you’ve done in previous jobs, what people often come to you and ask for, these are all ways that you could get closer to what it is that you’re great at, and whatever that thing is, you could find somebody who you could do a swap or a value exchange with, so that they could offer up help in return.
It doesn’t always have to be a monetary exchange to fund expansion. I’m not sure if that’s what you were looking for in terms of funding expansion.
Ingrid: Thanks, when people are looking to how to fund a start up. What are the different ways we can do that, and there’s some terrific ideas there. Because not everybody has tonnes of money at the beginning, and even later-
Ingrid: -in the business. You know, there’s not always a lot of money to fund expansion.
I was just looking at different ways to raise that. I love the idea of the exchange of skills and that old idea of bartering and exchanging.
So, Kate, I know we’re on a time scale here as well, so I know you’ve talked about what didn’t work and how it felt and … But what was one thing that you really wished you had done differently when you set out that first business?
Kate: I would’ve done more research around how to start a business.
It’s really easy … you know, it’s tough because I know that there’s so much information out there, and if you just Google ‘how to start an online business’ you’re going to be so overwhelmed and you’re going to have no idea where to start. I didn’t’ even do that. That wasn’t on my level of understanding of how the online business world worked … I didn’t even think to go Google it. I would’ve done a lot more groundwork. I do think that there were … I failed fast and there were benefits to that.
Kate: Because I realised very quickly what was not working, and doing so, I was able to realise those lessons later on. If I would’ve known back then I would’ve done better groundwork for my business. I would’ve had a better understanding of the importance of having an avatar, and I would’ve done the research and the upfront work to understand how important it is to niche down.
Ingrid, like you said, when you’re trying to talk to everybody, you’re talking to nobody. I didn’t understand those concepts. I wish that I would’ve had a better understanding of that; just the very foundational business knowledge that I think everybody needs when they’re looking to start their own business.
Ingrid: Thank you. Is there anything in your fire that if you look back … and I know you and John, the Founder, you’ve been there since the very early days. If you look back on your fire, is there anything there that you wish you’d done differently, or do you from time to time reflect and say, “Wow, if we’d done that differently it might’ve turned out in a different way”?
Kate: There is I guess one thing that I would’ve done differently is maybe focus on my mindset earlier on than I did. Again, that was a huge learning curve for me, and it still continues to be today. I think it’s always … Mindset’s something that we can always be improving and learning and building upon. When I first started on the Entrepreneurs on Fire team, I dove right in and I was so excited about everything that we were working on that I kind of ignored my own personal development in some ways.
Luckily, I’ve discovered a lot of that up today, and I have had some amazing mind shifts and some really incredible realisations around that. Specifically around confidence and taking that leap and getting outside of your comfort zone and knowing that no matter what steps you take, as long as it ends up being a positive one, or ends up at a dead end or whatever it may end up at, at least you’re taking that step.
Those are a lot of the things that I wasn’t really familiar with when I first started. I wish I would’ve focused on that earlier than I did.
Ingrid: So, is confidence one of the characteristics? Just to wrap our conversation, I just wanted to ask you about the three key characteristics that you have that make you successful. So is that confidence one of them? And what are the others?
Kate: I definitely think confidence is one of them. I will admit that I don’t think that it’s ever something that I will conquer. Simply because I think there’s always something that you’re working towards and mindset. So, I still have a lot of fears and a lot of doubt, but I don’t let that hold me back. So confidence in that respect, yes. I think it’s very important.
Being resilient; not willing to give up, not willing to throw your hands up just because you’ve come up against a road block. Understanding that you need to be resourceful. That it’s not going to come easy.
I would also say patience. Entrepreneurship is such a journey and you hear it all over the place. There are no overnight successes. Everyone’s business and journey takes shape in a different form, and it requires a lot of patience.
Ingrid: That’s very insightful. In fact, I think you’ll probably out of all my interviews, you’re probably the first person to talk about patience. So thank you for that. Resilience does come up quite a lot, because it just is it just is the number one, isn’t it? In terms of that.
Ingrid: Kate, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else that you would say to our audience of aspiring entrepreneurs as we close today?
Kate: Yeah. Don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed by the process. Enjoy the journey. All it takes is that very first step, and once you take that first step, then you get to take the second, and a third, so don’t feel like it’s this huge mountain that you’re never going to be able to climb, and enjoy the journey, and just take that first step.
Ingrid: Well, thank you so much. Goodbye, Kate. Thank you.
Kate: Okay. Bye.