Trends Community Highlights Issue #8: 📝 Talking newsletters with employee #2 at theSkimm 📦 A consumer packaged goods directory 💪Building a $1m business…after getting rid of everything you own
Hey Trends Squad,
Since we published ”
How Newsletters Make Money
” two weeks ago, there have been a number of interesting conversations around the topic, including
and Trends member
On a recent episode of the My First Million podcast, Sam called theSkimm newsletter “a joke.” As it turns out, Ryan was employee No. 2 at theSkimm and wanted to get more specifics on Sam’s comments considering how much The Hustle was inspired by theSkimm.
Sam clarified that he didn’t actually think theSkimm was a joke (“bad word choice”), but more so that the company “had blown something great” by: 1) launching stuff too slow; 2) launching low-value items (e.g., $2.99 ebooks); and 3) going deeper into media (e.g., video) [instead of using the platform to launch non-media products like e-comm].”
In response, Ryan writes:
“I don’t disagree, though I appreciate the clarification. I do think the story is still misunderstood (huge audience, strong economics, lots of untapped opps, tradeoffs made to warrant venture exit), while the scale and engagement are still vastly under-appreciated (i.e., larger in audience and revenue vs. The Hustle, Morning Brew, etc). The opportunity to take advantage of that/reinvent itself is still pretty meaningful.”
is a great reminder of how much there is to be learned from fellow Trends community members.
Other community highlights this week:
A Trendster saw a cool consumer goods website in the FB group…then bought it
Building a 7-figure business…after getting rid of everything he owns
Shaking up the review sites industry
Business ideas for tasks to be automated
The posture-improving industry
Using Quora to drive 7 figures in GMV
How to build backlinks for a new site
Should you pay a superstar copywriter with equity or commission?
Amristead — who works in real estate/private equity (and angel invests on the side) — reached out to the site’s owner and recently closed a 5-figure deal to buy the directory.
We spoke with him to find out more:
“I am an investor in a
based in San Fran as well as a member of an early stage
that is focused on angel investments in the CPG space. I love going through the Trends Facebook group and finding new products from the posts and comments. When I saw CPGD, I knew I wanted to reach out. The site is beautiful — and, while I don’t have much experience in the internet space, I figured there had to be something I could do with it. The directory has over 300 CPG companies and the newsletter has ~2k subscribers. The site receives many submissions from CPG companies and, at a minimum, I figured it could be a source of deal flow on up-and-coming brands.”
How the deal came together:
“I contacted the website’s owner to find out if he was interested in partnering or taking on an investor. It turned out that he wanted to sell CPGD. I asked him for his price, which was based on some consideration of newsletter subscribers (~2k), open rates (40%) and unique website visits (~1k a week). He gave me a number and I agreed to it. He announced the closing of the deal on Twitter.”
wrote in the Facebook group
, I’m looking for any suggestions as to how to grow this business. All of the web’s traffic is organic and there has been zero promotion or advertising to date. If anyone has experience in the CPG space or growth ideas, definitely let me know as I want to bring some partners into the business!”
Submit a CPG company:
If you have a CPG company, submit it
2. Trying to build a 7-Figure business… after getting rid of everything and starting with $0
is about to embark on a
. He plans on building a business to $1m revenue, but with a catch. He is not allowed to leverage any of his previous expertise or network and is starting with only a cell phone, one pair of clothes and $0 in the bank account.
Why do this project?:
“When the pandemic hit, I saw a number of my friends’ businesses get hit hard. One saw revenue go from $10m to $2m. Another one may have lost a business forever. Other friends had negative outlooks on their future prospects. Instead of just giving advice on how to start a business, I want to put myself in their shoes and start from scratch. I want to show that even during these tough times, it’s possible to hustle up opportunities and build a business even if you have nothing. I’ll be documenting the journey and want to share my lessons as well as inspire people as I go through the process.”
How will you build the business?:
“One of the main rules for the project [
see all 10 rules at the website
] is that I can not have an unfair advantage. What this means is that I have to start with zero dollars and can not have help from my old network (anyone I know prior to this project). Also, I can’t try to build a business related to any of my previous experience, like a dev agency. But I could pursue something like e-comm, which I’ve never done before. I will maintain an alias for the new business and — even if the more general story of my journey becomes well known — I will hide everything related to the actual business I am starting. As outlined in the rules, if I suspect someone is engaging in business with me based on knowledge of my background, I will cut it off.”
What has the reception been to your idea?:
“It’s been very positive. A number of Trends members have helped me. Before this project, I knew very little of PR or content marketing and have received amazing advice on that. Other people have said, ‘You’re crazy’ — and, of course, there have been some critical people saying stuff like, ‘Well, you have a safety net of your existing business.’ Although it is true that I still have my other business, I’ve been in worse positions than starting with $0. I’ve gone over $50k in debt from a failed venture. I know what the mindset is for someone that doesn’t have a safety net and that’s what I’ll be bringing to this project.”
Ask for the community:
“I would love Trends members to join me along for the journey by going to
. You can also follow on all social channels (
). I’d also love advice on the content and PR of the project itself (not the business I’m building).”
0 to 100
Business brainstorms and product/service announcements
3. Shaking Up Review Sites
Ok, this one is a real doozy. If you have any interest in the review sites industry, read the entire
. In it,
went down the comically random “dehumidifier reviews” rabbit hole.
He uncovered a website called Best Reviews that spends $32k a month on ads for its
, “which means they’re making money… a lot of it.” Further digging showed that the site’s estimated monthly ad budget is $2m with ~2.3m clicks a month. To top it off, the company was acquired by Tribune Publishing for $110m (2018).
Luck asked the group for ideas around shaping up the “boring” review sites industry and received some great responses:
“I do marketing in the consumer goods space and so much of our marketing efforts are negotiating with these scammy looking review sites… Some of them will charge to get bumped up on the list or won’t include you so you have to buy display/banner ads to eventually get included. The only one with integrity is Wirecutter. They drive the most qualified/converting traffic as well so I am happy they got acquired by
The New York Times
Here’s my ideas: 1) Start doing reviews of emerging CPG categories — fancy air filters, CBD Gummies, Matcha, comforters, etc. Start with stuff not on Amazon like Brooklinen and Parachute; and 2) Focus on site design — all of the designs suck!! Eventually build an app!”
has become the holy grail of B2B reviews for certain types of companies (mostly agencies). They don’t let anyone leave a review on their own. Their employees go and interview your clients (which is a very rigorous process) and run all the due diligence needed to prove the legitimacy of a review. Maybe something like this but with a spin for consumer goods, where you actually proactively contact the users of the product.”
Unsurprisingly, some Trends members are involved in the review sites space:
Bryan J. Harris:
“Moving my car for street cleaning.”
“Why is commissions tracking not automatically a part of ALL accounting platforms??? I’d pay for commission tracking and payouts, plus analysis.”
And my favorite:
would love a solution to “[like] my partner’s social posts”;
Patrick M. Ahler
writes: “I set up a Phantom Buster for that.” (I don’t know if this is a joke or not haha.)
5. The Business Of Improving Your Posture
Uplift desk (left) and Better Back belt (right)
Sam dropped another of his patented quick industry reports (he really should patent these) in the Facebook group. This one was for
products and services that improve your posture
(“It’s almost like meditation in 2012… not pop culture yet, but could be”).
— a kinesiologist — knows the space well and is “not very excited” by the aforementioned products: “I know it is counterintuitive but posture and lifting technique is not correlated to back pain. [The] 2 best interventions for back pain are cardio and muscular training along with Pilates type training.”
Where we curate the most interesting discussion threads
6. Tips For Using Quora To Bring In New Business
Aleksandr Akiva Volodarsky
— who runs a marketplace of vetted developers (
) — wrote an
with 16 lessons on how he used Quora to generate >$1m in GMV. Here are a few:
Optimize Profile Page:
Your profile is a landing page. Optimize copy, images, the pinned answer for the action you want your readers to take.
Use Good Sources:
Link to reputable resources in your answer. Not only your website. (In general, don’t put a link to your website in every answer. Quora may detect this as spam.)
Keep Answers Up-to-Date:
It’s better to update answers that are important for you from time to time, as Quora wants to deliver relevant information to its users.
Target Competitor Questions
: If you have well-known competitors, you want to answer the questions, where users look for their reviews or alternatives. They are highly convertible.
Check which questions are ranked at the top of Google search. For example, if you search ‘Upwork alternative’, one of Quora’s questions is in the top-5 results. Users trust Quora and will check it out for answers.
Boost Your Best Answers:
If you see that some answers are performing well, try boosting them through the Quora ad network. It’s still cheap and they have great targeting tools.
For more, Volodarsky drops knowledge about building Lemon.io at this
7. What Are the Best Ways to Build Backlinks for a New Site?
is currently building a free product called
, which is a printable paper schedule maker. He
asked the group
for advice on building backlinks for his website, specifically whether he should DIY or outsource it.
Josh Blackburn on outsourcing it:
“it’s easier to hire an agency imo vs building a team. I do affiliate seo, I prefer to outsource link building… will range from $1k+ a month.”
Bryce York on DIY:
“Can definitely DIY. Being free really helps with backlinks.
Big thing is being something worth talking about and linking to. Facts and stats (from your own research or surveys) are great. Interactive tools and calculators too. The MOZ beginners guide is well worth a read if you care about SEO.”
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