Start An Online Business
Sarah St John
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Start An Online Business
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
Get New Episodes
Get 2 brand-new podcast episodes sent to you every week!
ai generated transcription
i guess it depends on what type of small business or startup they're wanting to start if they're not sure what they want to do i personally recommend starting an online business just because it's so much cheaper than you know a brick and mortar or retail type of store um i mean even if they're selling products where they think they might need a store i still would recommend starting online because the overhead is just hardly anything i mean i run all my businesses for under 100 i think it's actually under 60 now a month [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast sarah john and sarah is a quick introduction went to school and majored in journalism teachers told her she was a good writer she decided to be a journalist got married at a young age she just got i think an associate's degree and she can correct me from wrong and i needed to start working and paying rent and whatnot and had a variety of jobs including retail and banking and credit repair and others i think by 2008 over a matter of just a couple years two or three years she'd had six different jobs and then decided to do a photography business but it was a bit too expensive to maintain and keep going then decided to go online and tried a few different things drop shipping affiliate marketing and others before writing a book called the frugalpreneur and launched a podcast with the helper with the book as well and has been doing that for a while and also started a podcast production company so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast sarah oh well thanks so much for having me i appreciate it absolutely so i just uh took a much longer journey if you tried to condense it down into just uh 30 seconds so why don't you unpack that a bit and tell us as college got started how your journey got started from there sure yeah so i i went to a community college um at first and so i got a two-year degree in journalism the plan was to go on um to get a four-year degree but i ended up getting married instead and you know moving out of my parents house and having to pay bills so anyway uh so i started working right away like you said like in retail and banking and just these different um jobs but there was one year in particular 2008 where i had six different jobs within that year um throughout the course of the year things just weren't working out and i realized that i wanted to work for myself at least at some point because i've always kind of had an entrepreneurial drive i guess but it you know i kind of did what everyone says to do the whole go to college thing and so um so yeah so i started the photography business because i like taking photos but i realized that now one one quick question just out of curiosity so six jobs over a year that's quite a few jobs and so just out of a little bit off or off off the main topic but what was the favorite job of those six jobs if there is a favorite or which one was the best one um probably well i would say probably being a receptionist at a vet hospital the reason i got let go from there well most some of these jobs i quit some i was like go from this particular one was because anytime someone came in with a dog that was going to get euthanized i would start crying oh i was only there for six weeks so i i can't understand a little bit if but if that's the case it might make it a bit awkward for the people that are getting their dog euthanized to have you as a receptionist if you're crying each time so that makes sense yeah um this was curious so that was that that answers enough for the question now with that isn't my second question so you went to school for journalism and uh i think it was an associate degree got married decided hey you need to help to get some income to afford expenses which definitely is understandable but what made you decide to go into photography as opposed to using or doing something in journalism because unless i'm wrong which is certainly possible journalism is writing photo or photography's pictures so how did you what made you decide to go that direction yeah so i mean what i learned about the whole journalism thing is that in order to get in you know to a radio station or a tv station or a newspaper or something like that you you have to either know someone or have maybe a masters or something like it's a very difficult um position to get into basically and so i i learned that while i was getting my associates my teachers i took journalism classes and they were like yeah just so you know this is not going to be easy but um so i didn't even [Music] um but i liked taking photos so i was like well that's easy enough just throw up a website and some pictures and start advertising for free on craigslist back then and was able to get quite a few like weddings is mainly what i was doing but it is expensive to maintain the equipment and everything so plus i liked i realized i like taking photos of animals landscapes and architecture more so than people so but at least you didn't cry when you took pictures that's true sometimes i probably wanted to though at some of those weddings for a different reason but yeah so now so you do photography for a period of time and you say okay you know one is i i found that maybe i don't like to take pictures in these kind of you know environments type of thing not that they're bad environments but just not the type of pictures you want and so then you decided to go into doing a few things online so kind of what made you go in that direction and how did it work out tried a bunch of different things like drop shipping affiliate marketing blogging i did have a online travel agency for a while which actually was fairly successful probably along with the photography business both of those i had for five to seven years but um and because i love to travel and everything like that and i love planning trips but with the when covet hit all my bookings got canceled and because people couldn't travel and the thing about being a travel agent is you don't get paid until after the person completes their travel so it's a bunch of work on the front end and then if something happens or they cancel or whatever and so i had already been kind of thinking about um because i was kind of towards the tail end of me doing the travel agency is when the podcast was picking up and all that stuff and i started becoming more interested in that um so i was kind of thinking about ending the travel agency at some point because it was a lot to kind of balance but um but then yeah with covet i pretty much had to we wasn't left with a a lot of choice but you know and definitely i think that the travel industry in general is you know been hit pretty hard with cobit and it's still probably a bit in flux with it seems like it you know every week is something different but but you know you before you hit covenant as you're because i think you started the podcast and did the book and that kind of prior to fully shutting everything down if unless and correct me if i'm wrong but with that you know what kind of prompted to kind of go to the frugalpreneur writing the book doing the you know the podcasts and doing other things and kind of going in that direction was a passion project creative outlet did you think hey i'm gonna get rich off a podcast or kind of what made you decide to go in that direction yeah so it's interesting um because because i had tried a bunch of different online business models i decided that i should write a book about it because well it was kind of funny because there was one day i was just like man i've learned so much i could just write a book about it and i was like actually i think i will take my journalism to your degree and you do something with it anyway um so the book is about like the different types of online business models and how to do it on a budget or affordably and the the word for gopreneur came to me i was in a dave ramsey financial peace class and he's talking about all these ways to pay off debt and save money and i'm thinking okay all of these are great but what about ways to make more money well and and that's kind of also how i got the idea for the book to help and then i was like free opener that like the word just came to me and so i wrote the book and while i was writing it i decided i should launch a podcast also called frugalpreneur to coincide with the book as an extra way to kind of market the book and whatnot well and it was only going to be you know 10 episodes or something like that and i was getting more leverage and traction with the podcast than the book and i loved the connections i was making the networking and all of that and so i decided to keep the podcast going i actually just hit over 100 episodes in a couple years and um actually i interviewed you that episode should be coming out well maybe by the time people hear this one maybe it is already out at um but yeah either to come soon to come or just launched what are they right yeah exactly so but and it was in the process of you know podcasting that i just fell in love with it and because i was already listening to podcasts for about a year or so prior to starting my own and fell in love with it almost obsessed or addicted to it i've got i subscribed to over 30 podcasts and um and i was doing all the editing and production and all that stuff of my own show and i decided well why not get paid to do it for other people if i enjoy it so much so then i launched the podcast production agency and i think that's going to be my it took me over a decade of trying to spend the other thing to finally find that thing you know [Music] because you know one of the things i in doing this podcast and being on other people's podcasts and just loving i i said i'd probably i don't know how many but probably a similar note subscribe to him and there you know i don't know if i listen to all of the podcasts that i'm subscribed to as frequently as every episode some of them i love and listen to more frequently when i walk or drive into work and you know go home from work now there's just more on out on a run and occasionally but the thing that i think is difficult with a lot of podcasts is you know be and same thing to with you know a cell phone book or those type of things is how you monetize them in other words you know i found it interesting frugalpreneur and i think that they are great avenues if you have a plan for a lot of times people struggle is you know able to you put out a podcast it's hard to gain an audience unless you do advertising if you do advertising on you know facebook ads or something of that nature then you can maybe get enough audience that you get you know someone that sponsors a podcast but it's still difficult and you know you have to be able to promote it and i think people just think oh if i put it out there people will listen to it so is that you know how do you did you build or did you figure out a way to monetize it did you figure out how to do it or is you know how are you still figuring that out or kind of where is that at the process yeah so i recently uh i have a few sponsorships now i just reached out to different companies that i actually used their products um and asked if they'd be interested it was like i mean of course there were obviously a lot of no responses and no's and things but i still got over a handful of yeses and wanting to sponsor anywhere from one to four episodes each so um so i'm kind of starting that process getting started with that that's one way um uh how i started monetizing was through affiliate marketing which i still do is like say i have a guest on who has a book coming out all in the show notes i'll link to the amazon link um the affiliate link or say someone comes on they have a software program or they have a course or whatever it might be if they have any kind of affiliate or referral program i'll sign up for that or maybe i already am signed up for it and then link to that in the show notes or sometimes i'm able to work it out to where the person will provide a discount code just for my listeners and so and then that gives people extra incentive to actually go through my link basically um so that's also a way to monetize some people create you know t-shirts and stuff like that i have done that but i've got no sales at all from that so i don't know how profitable it is to to do merch but uh and i mean maybe if you had a really big popular website then yeah maybe um let's see what else so affiliate marketing sponsorships merch also you're having your own products and services um so i'm hoping that you know through the podcast i occasionally reference the fact that i have a podcast production agency or whatever so you hope that maybe people will eventually go that route or offer you know a free lead magnet to at least get them into your email and you can keep them up to date with things like that so i would say those are the at least the main ways i'm monetizing um all right well we won't make you give away two are too many more of your secrets but no i just find that interesting because on the one hand i love podcasts and on the other hand you know a lot of times you'll see people get really excited and they release really good content but then you kind of notice that it slowly tapers off and then it completely goes away and my guess and it's always been my guest because i've never asked them was it you know it's hard to mod if if the only thing you're doing is a podcast now i think that to your point there's other ways to monetize it i think if you're doing it as to support your business and you're you know it's a constant contact with your clientele or potential clientele and it's generating it for your other business which is you know sounds like a little bit of on the even the podcast production it helps to offset some of that then it seems to make sense but just seems like it was just an interesting question a little bit of a side note what i just found interesting because i love podcasting myself but i'm always interested as you know as others are doing it kind of how that works out now one one other question your topic you just kind of hit on is so now you've you know you've done the you did the podcast you've done the book and you're saying okay learned a lot of the tricks of the trade so to speak i learned of what to do what not to do and how to do it well and you start your podcast you know production agency you know is how is that going is it you know taking off too early to tell still figuring things out or kind of you know where is that out in the process so the thing with that is besides mentioning it a couple times on the podcast just recently and occasionally in a podcast interview like this i haven't done any marketing or ads or anything like that which i do plan to do at some point um i'm like really slowly gradually kind of getting there uh but i have had some people contact me out of the blue by finding me through like a google search so i'm like oh i must have some i must be doing well with my seo then um so i do have actually some people i'm talking with right now that i've submitted proposals for and we're talking and whatnot so um yeah i guess i'm kind of going at it slowly or easing in because i not that i would get some big rush of like 10 clients or something and then not know what to do with myself but i guess i i like to take it you know maybe one at a time or kind of slowly um get into that but yeah so i guess i could say it's too early to tell but i think um i mean the fact that i haven't even started advertising and marketing really besides just the occasional mention but people are still finding me and and you know interested i i think that's a good sign i always hey if you're having people coming to you with a minimal to know marketing and uh knowing you know without uh absorbing an outreach and they're wanting to use your services that's always a good sign you're doing something right and it's a wanted service and so kind of piggy or piggybacking off of that so now you're kind of that brings a bit of to where you're at today on your journey but looking into the future you know is the is the goal of the aspiration to build a big podcast production company and help other businesses and that's kind of the focus is there another direction you're going there other services you're offering you're kind of you know forecasting out kind of the next six to 12 months for the business where do you see things headed and what's the plan yeah so definitely be to grow the podcast production agency um now i haven't decided if i want to keep it so small that it's just me and maybe one or two other people like virtual assistants basically or if i want it to be a bigger one that i haven't i mean i guess we'll just see how it goes um but yeah i definitely 4c or in the next six to 12 months that being obviously the primary income generator for sure awesome well it sounds like it'll be a fun six months as you continue to the business continues to all figure out where or where or how big you want it where you want to focus about who's going to be the clientele how to reach them and that's always you know in the one sense it's the scariest part of the business because it's the most unknown but for me it's always kind of the fun part of figuring out the business because it also kind of is one where it's a new territory that you have you get a work to figure out and it is a bit of the unknown it can be both frightening and exciting at the same time so now with that you know so as we've kind of gone towards you know gone through your journey a bit looked into a little bit of the future always have two questions i asked at the end of each podcast so i'm going to jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it well i would say in general i feel like i wasted a lot of time [Music] trying a bunch of different things like i i had um what would you call it shiny object syndrome where you hear about a new type of way to make money online you're like oh i gotta try that or i gotta try that so i would say just i mean i can't think of a specific business i've had that was necessarily oh probably several actually because i've had probably over like 30 businesses over the course of time but you know some of them went only went so far as like making a website for it and then i was like i don't think this is gonna work and moved on to the next thing now i'm finally over all of that but i i feel like i probably wasted a lot of time but you know i've told people that before and they're like well but it was because of those experiences that you wrote the book which then launched the podcast which then launched the podcast production agency so it's kind of like well maybe it was for a reason or um supposed to happen that way but still part of me is like oh man i wish i had served my podcast a decade ago um but i didn't even know what a podcast was a decade ago so i think they were probably around but they definitely have gotten increased popularity i think uh over the last few years as there's been more content there's been a there are more accessibility bigger platforms and otherwise so i think that that definitely makes sense i think on the the shiny you know shiny object object is a bit of i think a lot of entrepreneurs in the sense that you have a lot of ideas a lot of things that you think would be good and could work and would be worthwhile and successful and you know for most of the time 95 of those are all bad ideas it will never work that won't be successful but a lot of times it takes a bit of weeding through several of those ideas that you know might have been the shiny object or might have been the ones that weren't going to be successful before you land on those and so i think that as one that's a little bit kind of part of the journey that entrepreneurs often have as opposed to the movies in the television show where it just seems like they wake up one day and they build a multi-million dollar company and in a matter of a week in reality there's a lot more journey to that so i definitely think that that's a good lesson to learn so second question i always ask is you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what'd be the one piece of advice you'd give them well i mean i guess it depends on what type of small business or startup they're wanting to start if they're not sure what they want to do i personally recommend starting an online business just because it's so much cheaper than you know a brick and mortar or retail type of store um i mean even if they're selling products where they think they might need a store i still would recommend starting online because the overhead is just hardly anything i mean i run all my businesses for under 100 i think it's actually under 60 now a month and so but if they're set on opening up let's say a brick and mortar or retail oh well i don't have any experience with that so i guess i don't have advice on that no i like but i but i think that if i were to expand out just a little bit what you said i think the applicable takeaway is that looking for the ways that you can test out the idea before you go and invest a lot of money in a brick and mortar and you know that can sometimes be hey i want to do a restaurant why don't you go try a pop-up tent at the local farmer's market or a a food truck or you do hey i want to start a brick and mortar well yeah but why don't you try selling it online and why can't sell online how old people know about it well people aren't just going to come to your store just because you have a brick and mortar you still have to be able to figure out how to market and sell and reach your audience and so i think a lot of times we want to jump to the shiny objects or the cool ones and oh it'll be great to have a big you know big presence or big store and yet it oftentimes will kill the business because you don't have the other experience and things set up and thought through that if you give it more time keep your expenses low at least in that initial point then it allows you to figure out the business and have it grow so i think that there's there's a lot of a lot of wisdom to that and i think it is applicable for those that are even looking to someday start the the bigger the bigger store or something of that nature with that now we've kind of gone through your journey you've answered the questions i turned the mic a bit over to you if people want to reach out to you if they want to be in a customer they want to be a client of the podcast production they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more let's see so if people want to check out my podcast it's frugalpreneur it's in all the podcast directories as far as my podcast production agency that's podseem.com p-o-d-s-e-a-m and as far as just reaching out to me in general my website is the sarahstjohn.com that's t-h-e-s-r-a-h-s-t-j-o-h-n and i actually give away i have three books actually now but i give away the free um pdf version at the sarahstjohn.com forward slash free and then if people are they know they want to start a business but they're not sure like what tools and how to do it for practically free or very close to it if you go to my website there's a tab that says 27 tools if you click that it has basically the 27 things i use and recommend that and probably i would say at least half of them are free so well i like it and i think that that's uh definitely a lot of good ways to connect up go get more information check out your services and definitely encourage everybody to do so so well as we wrap up thank you again for coming on the podcast sir it's been fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the show just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things make sure to click make sure to click or subscribe and make sure to share so that's three things to get an extra one for free and last but not least if you ever need help with your uh patents trademarks or anything else with the business feel free to go to inventive errors to go to strategymeeting.com i was going to say inventive guest but strategymeeting.com got some time with us chat and we're always happy to make sure to help you out make sure you're taken care of well thank you again sarah and wish the next lady of your journey even better than the last [Music]