“Don’t be good, don’t be great, be irreplaceable.”
What do any of the following have in common?
- Television show, The Apprentice
- Donald Trump
- The Hobbit, Minecraft, and The Walking Dead
- Janes Addiction
- and stickers
The answer, of course, is our newest guest on the Art of Hustle® podcast series: Andrea Lake! Listen to the recording to find out how all these seemingly unrelated items piece together in Andrea’s life and business experiences. She has a ton of fun stories to share — a wealth of inspiration and information — including:
- How to get started in the apparel industry
- How licensing deals work
- How to find a mentor
- Maybe more important, how to be a qualified mentee
- How to hire the best team
- And fittingly, how to keep your work and business an ass****-free zone
There are a bunch of tools, services, and e-learning platforms she suggests. Especially check out the ones she’s created:
This interview is gold. Please download to your podcast playlist and enjoy!
Your support ensures we remain a top-ranked program.
Please rate the series and leave a review at iTunes. Thank you!!!
Anthem: Hello everyone, this is business coach Anthem Salgado, and I’m glad to have you back on the show as a listener because I have yet another super awesome, fantastic gem of auditory greatness to share with you.
I had the good fortune to be contacted recently by Miss Andrea Lake’s special operations coordinator who wondered whether it would be interested in having Andrea on the show. Naturally I obliged, and I am very fortunate to have done so. She is an amazing entrepreneur with a very rich background, and an equally rich present day slew of activities, running up to five companies at a time, and also mentoring folks through an array of channels to be able to succeed in business as she has. Let me read you her bio.
Andrea Lake is the founder and CEO of Lessons.biz, and co-founder of mentormojo.com. Both are e-Learning platforms to help hyper-accelerate entrepreneurs on their journey to success. She has founded 14 companies since she was 18 years old including stickerjunkie.com, yogajunkie.com, and Delinquent Distribution which owned the merchandise sales rights on massive brands including Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Walking Dead, and the Hobbit. She has recently lectured at Harvard and is passionate about teaching business to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Ladies and gentlemen, without further delay, I present to you my conversation with Andrea Lake. Bust out your pens and notepads.
Anthem: Thank you so much Andrea for joining us on The Art of Hustle podcast. How are you doing today?
Andrea: I’m so great. Thank you so much for having me.
Anthem: Well, we’re glad to have you. As I understand it, you have founded 14 or more companies since 18 years old. Is that about right?
Andrea: That is right, 14.
Anthem: So the part that kind of blows my mind away is 18 years old. Because when I was 18, if I could just craft you a little picture, I was working part time as a dishwasher, I was working part time as a gas station attendant, I was attending all night parties, I wore clothes that were way too baggy for my skinny frame, I had dreadlocks, and piercings. That’s my life at 18. So if you would for us, can you give us a portrait of who you were at 18, and what was it about your life at 18 years old that led you to start a business?
Andrea: So, I was delivering pizzas. So, I was right in that vein. But I was obsessed with playing with these toys. So, they were called, “Rhythm Sticks”. There are three sticks, and you would hold one in each hand, and you’d throw a third stick around. And I was really, really good at them. And I deconstructed the pairs that I had seen exercised, and made way better pairs because I liked me so much. I made them way prettier and way more aerodynamic. So, all of my friends that would see them just wanted to buy them. They were like, “I’ll give you 20 bucks if you’ll make me a set.” So it started really organically. So, I made like four friends for four friends, and made like $80.00, and took that money, and made like 12 pairs, and then took that money, and made 24 pairs, and 48.
So, I didn’t even really actually think of myself as a business owner except that I had ended up clearing like $40,000.00 that year because I just started taking them to stores and selling them — $40,000.00 in profit, which was all the money in the world. And I think I actually was 17 because that’s why I didn’t go to college. Because I was like, whatever, I can make more money than any college professor. I didn’t understand actually how much college professors made. I was really arrogant. And also, I was really distracted, and I grew up in Southern California, so I liked to go to concerts and festivals and all kinds of stuff. And I just couldn’t sort of wrap my head around taking four years of required classes. If I could have just gone, and taken only specifically my area of interest, then I would have gone. But I couldn’t – I’m like, I cannot sit through chemistry, I can’t do it.
Anthem: And so, given what you know now, for folks who are thinking about college, young folks, what would you recommend for them given what you know about your success, and what you would have taken if you went?
Andrea: Well, I would have taken is I would have taken MBA, and I would have wanted to be able to hyper-accelerate, and not take the required courses, and just take business classes. That is actually why I created lessons.biz is to give kids that want to entrepreneurs a different option than going to college. So I think that you should 100% go to college if you want to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, or something that requires really specialized training that you’re not going to get any other way.
However, just be real with what you want to do in that moment instead of just blindly going, and accruing $80,000.00 worth of debt which is going to compound with interest that is going to be potentially putting you in a situation where you’re not likely every to pay it off. And really hone in on getting – like if you want to be an architect, then you’re to want to go very specifically and get mentored by amazing architects, and then ask them the route that you should take. If you want to be an artist, like you probably don’t need to go to college for that. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you 100% for sure don’t need to go to college for that. There’s so many incubators that you can get in with. There’s so many mentorship programs that you can get in with that college just isn’t the best route for that. It’s just not.
Anthem: Thank you for sharing that. I am in full agreement. Let’s get back to these rhythm sticks for a second. Are these the sort of toys you might commonly see at a Phish concert or like a Grateful Dead concert?
Andrea: Yes, yes.
Andrea: I used to sell them in the parking lot of those. And actually I also became – mine were like way cooler, and more chic because I was more into like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Nirvana, and stuff when I was that age. This is pre-internet for commerce. And so I actually threw them on fire, I was a professional fire dancer, and the biggest gig I ever got to do was during with Jane’s Addiction which was awesome. That just completely dated me. But it is true. And so they were just like a cooler version of the ones that you would see at like a Dead show. Like way cooler. I actually, I still sell them, because they are so rad, and people who are addicted to them, they are the best ones out there. So I have a little Etsy store that I keep. And if type in Rhythm Styx, you can see what they are because they really are better than anything else that’s out there. But I don’t do it as an actual business. I sell them, but it’s not, I sell like a few hundred pairs a year or something.
Anthem: So at 18 years old, how did you get around to manufacturing $40,000.00 or more dollars’ worth? I mean, you started out I imagine in your house just doing it by hand, and then when the demand started to pour in, how did you scale that, or even know how to do that at 18 years old?
Andrea: So since it was so organic it wasn’t like some very big coordinated organized effort. Like I was 18 when they started to sell really well, and I think I sold like maybe $100,000.00 worth because I made $40 grand in profit. And so I just talked to my friends – like a couple of my friends were engineering majors at UCSD, and I showed them, I had them come to – I got like this little shop. I kid you not, I was paying $100.00 a month rent in my friend’s shop because they had a shop that cost like $400.00. And I was like, “I only need this much space, and I’ll give you $100.00 a month.”
And then I hired other people that I knew for like $6.00 an hour, which was completely fair wages back then. It was just ridiculous. And I had my little friends make like a little turning lathe type of a tool to apply the tape, and like a little cutting tool to like be able to cut the fabric. But it was not like – Google didn’t exist, I didn’t understand sourcing, or like getting things manufactured overseas. There wasn’t even like places in like ‘94 or something, there wasn’t even a place to go figure that out at. You know, I started the company in ‘92.
Anthem: That’s crazy. Crazy interesting. Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about Delinquent Distribution. Is that still active at the moment?
Andrea: It is. It is.
Anthem: Okay. And so please share a little bit about exactly what it is, and some of the brands that you’ve represented.
Andrea: Sure. So here’s the quick progression. So I had Rhythm Styx, I realized I was never really going to get rich off of these, and I really, really wanted to be rich. And I heard about this guy that was making $10,000.00 a month profit selling t-shirts. And I was like, “That is all of the money in the world, I’m going to go do that.” So I started this clothing company, Anti-Establishment, very offensive t-shirts, we sold to like tattoo shops and head shops and stuff. And my whole goal was to get into Hot Topic. And like Blink 182 was wearing our stuff, and System of a Down, and Live, and all these huge bands in the 90’s. And we were not like sponsoring them, there was no competition, because I launched that company in ‘98, so they were just literally buying our products and wearing them, which was awesome. So I finally get into Hot Topic, and the stuff just doesn’t sell. It’s like too hard core for their audience. So they – it’s a long story short. But they advised me to just create different stuff that’s not as hard core. Like we really like you, and we like dealing with you, but you need to bring us something that our audience is going to buy. And I’m like okay.
So I immediately engaged a couple of designers to do original designs for Delinquent Distribution, but then I also called my biggest competitors, and starting licensing their, I didn’t even know how to do it, I just was making it up completely as I was going along. Google did exist. I was like Googling licensing agreements, and then making – and I was like, this is so complicated. And I would just write like a three paragraph licensing agreement. And I ended up getting the licensing rights on every single one of my competitors because their perception, their misperception was that it was very, very hard to sell to a chain store, which I did not find to be the case. I’m like, these people are buyers, that’s their whole job is to buy stuff. They want to see what you have to sell.
And so yeah, so once I started getting the licensing rights, I had the licensing rights on dozens of companies, and then a couple of them ended up getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. And one of them ended up becoming the biggest distributor of video game merchandise in the world. And they came to me, they were like, “How are you doing this licensing thing?” and I told them, so they started acquiring licenses, and then they’re like, “We’re too big for you to have our licensing rights anymore.” And I said, “Well how about if I just retain your sales rights?” So I ended up getting by proxy the sales rights on Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Calling of Duty, Walking Dead, The Hobbit, League of Legends, DotA, any big Star Wars video game, any big game or geek property you can think of, I had the exclusive rights to sell them to boutique chain stores.
Anthem: Okay. So let’s go over some basic vocabulary for some folks who might not be familiar.
Anthem: Would you mind quickly explaining licensing rights, and why anyone would want to do that? I mean, I could see the benefit to you obviously because you know. But then after the video game companies started to get big, what would be the advantage of them continuing sales rights with you? And so what would be the difference in those kinds of rights, and why would they interested in keeping that relationship at that time?
Andrea: Sure. So let me break it down really simply. There are many companies that it would be outside of their area of expertise to actually go create products, and merchandising. So a licensing right just means that you have purchased the right to produce merchandise for a brand. So let’s take some massive movie for example like Twilight. Their area of expertise is not going to be creating merchandise. So they might license out their posters to one company that just is really great at making posters. Their t-shirts, patches, pins, hats to another company. Maybe if they’re doing like bedding, that’ll go to a third company. So it’s by category for the license. And even no matter how massive they are, they get like a really good percentage of the profit just to license it out, and they don’t have any of the headache of dealing with merchandising, and returns, and contracts with chain stores, and stuff that’s like very outside of their wheelhouse. So it’s a really good strategic partnership.
There are other companies like Delinquent Distribution where we did do some licensing but we also just acted as outsourced sales reps. So we owned the sales rights on that merchandise. And the reason that you would have a different company owning the sales rights is then you have, you’re a step removed from the store itself so that you can negotiate a higher price.
Because I will just say no. I will just be like, no, we can’t sell it to you for anything less. Whereas the company that actually owns the licensing right, it’s harder, it’s a bit harder for them to say no.
Anthem: I get it, I get it. So you’re the, you become sort of their negotiator person?
Andrea: Exactly. Exactly. And then with them, it’s – to retain somebody that’s a really, really high quality sales rep that will sell like millions and millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise a year, like we’re used to getting paid really well. And so it works better for them, to be outsourced. So everybody wins. But they actually, they actually just changed over January 1st of this year the way that they did their sales. Because eventually you do get so big that you would take even if you’re licensing something, you would take your sales in house, and that is what happened.
Anthem: I get it.
Andrea: So I don’t have the Minecraft contract anymore. *Tear* It was a good ride while that lasted. I was exclusive for years. It was really good.
Anthem: Let me share some of the companies that you’ve worked with. Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Walking Dead, which is a personal favorite, and The Hobbit. I mean, all huge ones. So congratulations on that former success, very cool. So let’s talk t-shirts. Lessons.biz. Tell us more about it.
Andrea: Lessons.biz is, of all of the companies that I’ve ever done, it’s completely 100% my favorite. It’s teaching really, in really great detail different verticals of entrepreneurship. Lessons.biz, right now it’s just a t-shirts offering, but it will go down multiple different verticals. But it’s my business partner Dan Caldwell, who started Tapout Clothing, which is obviously a huge brand. And then I started – I owned the sales rights like on Minecraft. So we wanted to have like a really carefully crafted course that would tell you legit, no joke, straight down the line if you wanted to start your company, this is what you do, this is how you get your exposure, this is how your clothes on celebrities, this is how you get your brand to be well known, this is how you reduce your costs, this is how you increase your sales. But in massive detail. And so it’s a six-week online course, and it comes with this 130-page book that teaches you exactly how to do it, gives you sourcing information, and it’s awesome. I’m super excited about it.
Anthem: And are you and Dan — I guess how active are you in the course or is it primarily digital content at Lessons.biz?
Andrea: Oh, no, no, no. It’s super interactive. So it is digital content that we created in advance for like the actual coursework so that you can go at your own pace, and like re-watch and stuff. But then there’s live Q & A every week so you can submit tons of questions, and we answer the questions on a 90 minute call every week. And then we have a really interactive Facebook wall where we answer tons, and tons of questions on there. It’s because — Seeing as it is such a passion project for us of like every single thing that we personally wished that we had when we were like 20 years old starting our first clothing companies. Like we cannot get enough. We actually – it’s more interactive even than most of our people realize. Like we go to the websites from the people who sign up, and like check out what their clothing is like to get a better idea of where they’re at so that we can teach them better. Because really, this course would be amazing for someone that’s doing like a half a million dollars a year already. They would get to two million probably if they did everything that we told them to do in that next year. But it’s also really great for somebody that’s got like $300.00 worth of sales because they will for sure like tighten up their website, and clean up their funnels, and get their design work better, and stuff. Yeah. It’s great, it’s a really great course.
Anthem: Let me ask you about design. Because in the t-shirt realm it seems that like all fashion actually, trends change so rapidly –
Andrea: Yes, they do.
Anthem: — so how much of a serious design game as far as being readily edgy, or hip, or on the pulse does someone have to be to really stay on top, and successes in t-shirt business?
Andrea: Well you know what, there was so many different clients. Like there’s so many different verticals, or so many different types of target demographics that you can hit. So it really just depends on what your demographic is. Like if you’re selling to like the Walmart audience then you do not need to be as design savvy as you do if you’re selling to Urban Outfitters.
And Walmart buys a lot of shirts. So it just depends on where you’re hitting. But there’s these really, really great services now like Threadmeup, and Teespring, and all of these super awesome, and Artist Shops by Threadless where you can just throw your designs online, and see if they sell without spending any money. So that you can really tighten up what people are buying, and those types of – and there’s a million of them, and those types of like CottonBureau, and all those websites, they’re awesome. Didn’t used to be that way. It’s way easier than it used to be to see what’s actually going to be on point, what’s going to trend, what’s going to sell, and they control your merchandising for you. So you don’t need to – like you used to need to print a couple hundred shirts to get a good deal on the shirts, and to get a good deal on the printing prices. You don’t have to do that anymore. You can literally just let Threadmeup, or TeeSpring handle all of that, and you’re good to go, it’s really easy.
Anthem: No overhead.
Andrea: No overhead. And we teach people exactly how to do that in the course.
Anthem: How do you and Dan know each other?
Andrea: Do you know what, I was on the Apprentice years ago, and he loved that show. And he did not realize actually that I was a big MMA fan. I used to train jiu jitsu. And so we were walking at this huge trade show called, Magic, and it was when the Apprentice was on the air. And he’s like, he comes up to me, and he goes, “I know you.” I’m like, “Okay.” And he’s got like neck down tattoos, and my other business partner has neck down tattoos. So I thought that he knew me through my, through a different business partner that I have. And I’m like, “Oh, do you know Shea?” And he’s like, “No.” But he clearly had just been on my website. He’s like, “I know you, I know what kind of car you drive, I know where you like to go on vacation.” I’m like, “That’s creepy.” But he realized right after he said it, he was being very charming about it.
But he’s wearing, it looks like the Tapout store threw up all over him. He’s got like the Tapout hat, and the Tapout big shirt, and the Tapout belt buckle, and the Tapout shoes. And I go, “Oh, is Tapout here?” And it was when they just were quite a small company. Like you really had to be into MMA to know who they were because it was ten years ago or so. And he goes, “I own Tapout.” And I was like, “What? I’ve been wanting to talk to you guys because I want to get your licensing rights.” And he’s like, “Oh okay.” So then we just became really, really good friends.
And I started this kind of like – I read Jack Canfield’s book, “Success Principles.” And they’re like, “Start a mastermind group.” So I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to start to this baller mastermind group.” So I called Dan right after I met him, and he said, he would be in it. And I called Jay Allard, who invented the Xbox, and he said he would be in it. And I called Tina Wells from Buzz Marketing and she said she would be in it. And I’m like, this is like the best group ever. So and we became really good friends. And Cameron Johnson was in it too. We became really good friends through that.
Anthem: How long did that mastermind group run for?
Andrea: A year and a half.
Anthem: That’s awesome.
Andrea: Yeah, it was really great. We were very dedicated about it. I actually asked years ago because Tim Ferris and I used to be good email buddies. And I asked Tim to be in it. And he’s like, “I’ll try and make the calls.” And I’m like, “We don’t try here. You can’t be in our group.”
Anthem: Yeah, yeah, you got to have a standard.
Andrea: It didn’t hurt him any.
Anthem: Yeah, yeah.
Andrea: I doubt he remembers that, but he might actually.
Anthem: That’s hilarious. Do you still train in jiu jitsu?
Andrea: I do not. I only trained for a short period of time, and then I accidentally got punched in the face, and that was the end of that story. I had full mats in my Sticker Junkie offices when we were located in New Mexico. One of our guys is a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and he trained all of us.
Anthem: Oh very cool.
Andrea: And then one of my employees accidentally, he really elbowed me in the eye, and that was it. She felt really bad, and I was like, okay, I’m not doing this anymore, I’m going to go do yoga.
Anthem: A little bit more gentle on the body I imagine.
Anthem: So you mentioned the Apprentice, Season 5. A lot of reality shows I guess try to show us what business would be like. How realistic was that show as far as any kind of training or any reflection of real business life, or was it just mostly for fun – the kind of activities you guys were made to do?
Andrea: Well when I was on the Apprentice, it was super interesting because the tasks themselves were pretty cool, but there’s a lot of parameters about what you can actually do. So no matter what, my first originally thought was of how we could go about it, it almost invariably, there were restrictions against doing it at the way that would be the best way to do it because of filming restrictions. And then as far as like actual real life training on the Apprentice, you know just not so much because most of the people that they get on that show – like I literally expected to meet 18 people like me. And that just wasn’t the case. They just weren’t very experienced business people in general. Like they usually had something that sounded good in three sentences, but no actual experience. So it was just weird. It was really – and then of course they have to have really big personalities. So they’re – so it was like a lot of people that I would just never hire or do business with ever.
Anthem: Right. Because they’re casting for drama.
Andrea: Exactly, exactly. But it was a super fun life experience, and the rewards were awesome. They were so much fun. But it was a really long time ago.
Anthem: Yeah, so speaking of drama, the show’s host, former host, got into some hot water over some political comments recently. And so I guess my question to you related to that is there was a time, I guess, where people were more private with their politics. And now with the age of social media, a lot more people feel really vocal about a lot of things especially hot button issues, and what would be your advice to most business owners related to how privately or publicly they share those opinions with the public, given that it might not even be related to their brand. Or if anything, it might harm the brand, in some vases it might help your brand. So what would be your advice in that arena?
Andrea: Well do it if it’s going to help your brand. In general, I’m a pretty private person. But like most entrepreneurs, I would identify most closely with being libertarian. However, like one of my companies, Sticker Junkie, our whole entire platform is freedom of speech. So we – regardless of what my political views are, we print for everybody. We print for everybody that loves everyone, we print for everybody that hates everyone. You can have something that is so personally offensive to me as a person, and I’ll still print it. So we just don’t ever come down on the side of anything. Because we’re like, we want to hit the pro side, and the con side on everything. In general, I personally am a really private person so I don’t really disclose tons of that, but I fall pretty much exactly where you would think any Ayn Rand Capitalist would fall on those issues. It’s just pretty straight down the line. Yeah, so it is interesting to me. You know and like Donald running. I like him a lot as a person, but the guy’s got no filter. So it’s really hard to run a candidate that just has no discernment of when to stop talking, and is really heavily edited to you know in general in life. And so when he’s not, he gets himself into hot water a lot because he has very strong opinions on everything. Yeah. I did think this would be the best year though for an entrepreneurial, like, buttoned up, super ethical, super ethical business person to run. Someone like Elon Musk, or like Nick Hanauer, or like some amazing, amazing entrepreneur.
Anthem: Just to kind of shake things up, or do you think they would actually have a chance or –
Andrea: No, I think that they, I think that if it ends up running Clinton/Bush again, I think that they could have a legitimate shot. And especially because it’s not understandable to me when people are like attacking an entrepreneur that’s running, and are like, “Well they don’t have any political experience.” I’m like that’s a really good thing. That is a really good thing. I just think that if it was – I don’t know how much actual change that they would have be able to effect because of all of the systems that are in place, and all of the corruption that goes on there. But it would be great if somebody like Elon Musk for example could get in, and legitimately just cut out a lot of the unnecessary expenditures, and like really be focused on reducing the deficit, and getting America onto the gold standard instead of having the fluctuation of the economic system the way that it currently is. So, so much for me not talking about my political views. I’m not private at all.
Anthem: Well, it would be interesting, it would be interesting to have an outside perspective, and a different kind of approach, and see what that does.
Andrea: Logic, it would be interesting to have logic.
Anthem: Yeah. I mean –
Andrea: In place.
Anthem: Good business logic. Yeah.
Andrea: And an actual business plan that actually reduces the deficit, and creates a cash positive economy. Yes, I think that, I do think that somebody that logically said exactly what I just said, and then had a plan, a system to put that into place is exactly who should be running this country. Because it is crazy pants to have an economic system that can collapse, and is like trillions of dollars in debt, and that’s just like okay. You can’t run a business that way. And especially a country is a really big business.
Andrea: And we would be out of business. We would be out of business.
Anthem: Everybody would. Yeah.
Andrea: Yeah, the whole country would be out of business.
Anthem: Certainly. Yeah, you are not a political at all.
Andrea: I know, I know, I’m not. I –
Anthem: No, thank you for sharing that though. I mean, it’s a really unique perspective, and I feel like a lot of times when people think about their candidates, they think about again the hot button issues, but people don’t think about like the practical skills needed –
Andrea: They think about stuff that is not important. They think about stuff that is not important. And all of these little issues that shouldn’t probably in the hands of government anyway. And they forget about what is really important which is to having a sound economic system.
Andrea: That is truly the only thing that is important because without that everything fails. Everything else fails.
Anthem: Yeah, you’re hiring a manager. I mean, that’s the way I look at it.
Andrea: You’re hiring a CEO.
Anthem: Yeah, yeah, totally. And that person needs to have a vision, they have to have the background to pull it off. So I’m in agreement with that.
So let’s go back to Sticker Junkie, and first amendment rights representation. Stickers seems like, if I were to Google sticker printing, it seems like it would be a very crowded space. How does Sticker Junkie fare given all the competition, and how do you feel like you stand out in that crowd? That’s basically it because I’m just curious about how that works. Is it a good thing that it’s a crowded space because at least it means it’s a healthy economy or what?
Andrea: Well, no, I wish I had no competition. Actually, so we were the first sticker website on the internet in 1999. There was another one, sticker guy, we both think that we were first. I don’t know who actually was first. I’m sure I could go look this up. But it’s neither one of us have big claims on it. But we’re both so early that it counts. And so I didn’t have any competition for years, and years, and years. And then a couple of competitors came along that were really, really great, they run really great companies. And it keeps me on my toes. Like we’re actually redesigning Sticker Junkie right now because our web design is not current by comparison to the rest of the internet. Although our stickers are way better because we’ve been in it for so long that we have all of like the best machinery instead of just like the best looking website. But there’s so many different applications and uses for stickers that it’s a really big space, it’s a really big market. I think all of us is doing well. I have like two or three pretty serious legit competitors, and I think that we all do fine.
We go down very specific verticals of stickers that our competitors don’t. So one of my competitors goes really hard after tech, we go really hard after bands and tattoo shops. And so I actually want to sell Sticker Junkie in a year. And so I’m guessing that one of my competitors that isn’t running down my same verticals quite as hard as I am will end up acquiring me so that they can expand into my space really easily.
Anthem: That’s fantastic.
Andrea: Fingers crossed.
Anthem: What – yes, I have my fingers crossed for you too. You mentioned web design. The internet moves so rapidly. How often do you think a website should be updated to reflect what’s current, taste-wise? Because it seems like it could move so fast if you don’t touch your website for a few years, potentially, all of a sudden you look out of date, and you bought the damn web, you know, design, and spent all this money on having it developed. So how often do you think that should happen to stay current?
Andrea: Honestly, constantly. Because we’re redoing Sticker Junkie right now, and that is a massive project because we have to rebuild all of our backend technology. But it’s almost finished, and we’re just using Optimizly – anybody that’s not using Optimizly should be. Optimizly.com. So we’re doing – or any similar service. We’re doing constant AB variation testings on all of the websites now because it really should be just a consistent things where you’re just testing, testing, testing, testing, testing. AB testing. What converts slightly better, what funnel works slightly better for you, and really honing it in.
Anthem: And how much do you feel like you need to know personally about that AB testing technology to be able to manage it?
Andrea: I don’t really manage that. I kind of do. I manage some of the tests themselves of what I think is going to work better. But I’m not super tech savvy. I have really, really great technical staff, and I understand it as much as I need to to understand what they’re talking about.
Anthem: I guess that leads to my next question that you may have answered. How tech savvy should a person be given where we are in the world in business? So much business is happening online. I heard some statistic, that’s probably true, some 80% or more of business is also now happening mobile. So how caught up does an entrepreneur have to be to stay current in that sense?
Andrea: Well I mean, I think it doesn’t hurt no matter what, like to have a lot of technical understanding, and I certainly have more technical understanding than the average person, but certainly less than the average Silicon Valley entrepreneur. And so I think it, it can’t hurt, but you don’t have to have an insanely high degree in most areas of business. But it’s – the more you have, the more helpful it is. So if I had a kid, I would for sure put them into coding camp, and all that kind of stuff because it is super important. It’s astonishing to me that like coding that is not taught in school as a class instead some other class of antiquated learning that we don’t need anymore.
Anthem: Agreed. Totally agreed. How hands on do you have to be with – so far we’ve mentioned three or four, you might have more companies that are active right now. How hands on do you have to be to make sure that –
Andrea: I have five companies right now.
Anthem: Yeah. So how do you make sure that they don’t fall on the ground, and how active are you with I guess just keeping an eye on them, and touching them, and just seeing your staff, communicating with them, etc., etc.?
Andrea: So I have five active companies right now. And mostly I’m very hands off of them. Like Sticker Junkie I went into the offices two times last year. So mostly, I have an overarching team that techs in and out of all my companies with me. But mostly I’m only active on like one to two projects at a time, and then my time goes into them, and then there’s a constant system of figuring out how to delegate out anything that I’m actually spending time on. So right now, almost all of my time is going to lessons.biz, and then a little bit of time to the Sticker Junkie rebrand, and then a bit of time to mentormojo.com.
Anthem: I see. And how have you been able to build that trust where you don’t have to be so hands on? Because a lot of business owners in the early stages especially, or the ones who never got out of that early stage, have such a hard time developing that trust with their team that they think, “If I’m not there, the whole thing will fall apart.” And how have you been able to build that trust for yourself, and with your team so that you know it runs really smoothly even when you’re not there as far as systems or protocols, or anything else related to that?
Andrea: Well if you think that your company is going to fall apart when you’re not with your team, you have the wrong team. You do. And so I think there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve learned over the years that I’ve really honed in on with expectation setting. And so when I first hire anybody into any of my companies, I give everyone the exact same speech on the same day, which is, “Don’t be good, don’t be great, be irreplaceable to me. That is your job. If you do not find a way to be irreplaceable to me I promise you that I will replace you. I just will. I am too busy, and have too many projects going on, and it will not be personal, and you will know that it’s coming. But you’re not going to last with me.” And then as a result, people have this expectation of like offering excellence, and they do. And also it’s a really big weeding process because if somebody doesn’t sort of live into that, they’re not going to want to work with me anyways. That’s really working, and then also I give them a ton of freedom, and let them know, that if you have ideas, you can bring them to me. And the more that you are creating this position for yourself, and offering like your best of fulfillment of your own creativity, or expression, then we’re going to work great together. And then in tracking that I use my friend David Hassel’s company “15Five”. 15Five.com, if you’re an entrepreneur you for sure should be using this with your staff, it’s amazing. It’s one of my favorite, favorite, favorite tools. And so it gives the opportunity for every single employee that works with me to offer me things that we could be doing better in the company, and to tell me what their big wins were for the week. And it’s really, really cool. And it really helps with team engagement when I’m not physically present.
Anthem: And let’s talk about not being physically present. How important is geography to succeeding in business?
Andrea: Yeah, well it does depend on what type of industry you’re in, and if you have something that’s like a necessary geo location. I don’t, I travel a lot, and I live part time in my vacation home in Sedona, Arizona, which is in the middle of nowhere. When I was doing really, really, a lot of stuff with video games, I was in LA, and it did make it easier. But I still traveled a ton. And so I don’t personally find it to be very necessary. Like I have offices in San Diego, and I have offices in Venice Beach, and I am in Boulder, and I have an office there. So it’s just kind of all over the place. I actually had just, just moved into Boulder, and hooking up with a co-work space, which I love co-work spaces, they’re awesome. So wherever I go, like if I’m in New York for a week or wherever, I’ll just go check into like a We Work type of as co-work space.
Anthem: Awesome. Going back quickly to employees, and partnerships. What can you tell us about your “no asshole” rule?
Andrea: I have a strict “no asshole” rule. So it’s straight across the board. It doesn’t matter if it’s a client, or a vendor, or an employee or whatever. I started this company, one company that was quite successful, and I did not like my clients, and I thought they were assholes. And they thought I was an asshole, and it wasn’t fun. And we were both really, really great people. For some reason we didn’t get along. And I was like, I just don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you have to bring to the table, I don’t care what kind of contract you’re offering me. Life is just too short, it’s too short to deal with people that you don’t like. And there’s enough business, and there’s enough clients, and it’s just not necessary. You don’t have to do business with everybody. And at first it was just employees because that’s easy. But then I’m like, no it’s everyone. I don’t – it is too short.
Anthem: Yeah. Totally agree with that. I feel that relates a little bit to the teachings of Jerry and Esther Hicks. A book of which you recommend to folks who want to learn more about being successful. What can you share about their teachings that you feel like have been really beneficial to you?
Andrea: I love them. I’m actually good friends with them. Jerry passed away, but I’m good friends with Esther. So she wrote a book called “Ask and It Given.” It was New York Times Bestseller. And the whole philosophy is life is supposed to be good for you, and it’s supposed to be fun, and you’re supposed to be having a really, really good time. And so just keep structuring your life to be filled with more and more of that because you really do get to. And the more fun that you’re having, the more fun people come to play with you. And if you’re sort of an angry and complaining person, then those are kind of the people that are going to come around you. So just – you can really tell what type of a life you’re living by the people who are around you.
Anthem: Absolutely. Very cool. Very cool. Have you been to a lot of their talks and seminars?
Andrea: I have. I have. So one of my companies was doing subscription based websites for bestselling spiritual authors. It’s called, Zoco Inc. So we did like Don Miguel Ruiz’s website, and Gary Zukav, and we were on Oprah, and we worked with a lot of the spiritual authors. And so I ended up meeting Jerry and Esther Hicks, and they are – like everybody has great stuff, but they are for sure my favorite. For sure. So I’ve been to a ton of their cruises and a ton of their workshops. And they’re just so great. Really good feeling.
Anthem: Yeah, indeed. Well, that’s what it’s about right, good feeling?
Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. If you’re going to live a life, you might as well live the very best one.
Anthem: Indeed, indeed. Now, let’s close out here by circling back to something you mentioned at the very beginning. You didn’t go to college. How do you go about finding your mentors? I guess is the question. And I feel like that’s something a lot of people would want to have, but maybe they’re shy to ask, or maybe they don’t know who to ask. How do you qualify a mentor, and how do you make yourself worthy for a mentor?
Andrea: I think that mentorship is the most important thing. And usually people want like Richard Branson or Elon Musk to mentor them. But that would be a really inappropriate fit usually. What I recommend people look for is someone that has done exactly what they want to do, and is three or four rungs higher on the ladder. So if you have a company that’s doing say $100,000.00 a year in sales, you’re really looking for a mentor that’s doing like a million dollars a year in sales. And then once you surpass them, you’re looking for a mentor that’s doing like five million dollars. And then once you surpass them, you’re looking for a mentor that’s doing ten million dollars. So let’s say for example that you are starting a restaurant. Maybe go to a town that’s the next town over and find somebody that has two or three restaurants that’s done really well, or like a couple towns over. So it’s not somebody that’s usually your direct competitor, but somebody that’s just further along the trail than you are in your same niche vertical. And people are shocking willing to help. It’s just flattering to be asked. And most of the time as entrepreneurs we don’t get to really share our knowledge all that much, it’s a super relatable experience. So it can be really fun to give advice to the up and comers.
Anthem: How do you make yourself worthy as a mentee? Because I imagine people who are highly qualified mentors are asked all the time. So how do you make yourself more worthy for that type of instruction?
Andrea: I have a couple of tips for people who are being mentored for the first time, and they’re a mentee. Just be quiet and listen. Like a lot of times especially when someone’s being mentored for the first time, they’re really trying to prove themselves, and they will cut off the mentor to explain that they already know what they’re doing. Just don’t do that. Just listen. And then when you get a really great valuable nugget of advice from your mentor, go implement that into your business, and then report back to them how it worked. Because just that appreciation of “Oh my gosh I did this thing that I had never thought of that you suggested, and I closed two new clients that way, or I resolved this issue with an employee that I had an exact way that you said, and I’m so thankful for your help.” Like really, that’s enough. Just that thoughtfulness or writing them a note that says that, or a card that says that, it really is enough because they really are doing it just to get that good feeling of being helpful. So if you express to them how helpful they’ve been to you, it feels really nice.
Anthem: Going back to a nugget that a mentor of yours gave you — this is something I heard from one of your previous interviews. Can you help us understand what this quote means, “Everyone pays tuition”?
Andrea: That’s one of my favorite quotes in all of business. “Everyone pays tuition.” So when you’ve hit a stumbling point or you made a really massive error for you. Let’s say you did something that cost your company like $10,000.00, or something, and you’re getting maybe like a little bit beating yourself up for it, or wishing that you hadn’t done that or whatever. My mentor would come in and say, “You know what Andrea, everyone pays tuition, that’s just your tuition.” And it’s just a much easier way of thinking about it, it’s really no big deal, you’re going to figure it out. So it would just be any costly mistake is your tuition.
Anthem: That’s a good piece of advice. Where can folks find out more about you and your many companies?
Andrea: You can go to Andrealake.com. And if you want more direct access, join one of classes at Lessons.biz and we’ll mentor you, and mentormojo.com also.
Anthem: Yes. Fantastic. Andrea, thank you so much. This has been an awesome conversation. Everyone I think is going to really enjoy themselves and learn a lot.
Andrea: Thank you so much for having me. I hope you have a really, really great day.
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