#70: Nick Huber [Getting Sweaty]
What online creators can learn from sweaty startups
Nick Huber started Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because he believed the Shark Tank and TechCrunch culture was ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.
Today, Nick has more than 140,000 followers on Twitter, two podcasts, a Real Estate Masterclass, and more than $20 million in self storage assets under management.
In this episode, we talk about Nick’s experience building a “sweaty startup,” Nick’s approach to building a following on Twitter, why Twitter has accelerated his career 20 years, and how you can make your creative business stand out by getting a little sweaty.
Nick Huber started Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because he believed the Shark Tank and TechCrunch culture was ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.
Today, Nick has more than 140,000 followers on Twitter, two podcasts, a Real Estate Masterclass, and more than $20 million in self storage assets under management.
He founded a pickup and delivery student storage company with a partner in 2011 as an undergrad in college. The company has grown to 34 major colleges in 9 states and we service over 10,000 customers each year with a team of 5 full-time employees and over 200 part-time employees.
click to view episode transcript
Nick Huber 0:00
If you're chasing something that's fun, it's probably fun for a lot of people, it's probably exciting for a lot of people. There's people who are doing it not for the money, but because they love it. And I would say the way to overcome those odds is to put on your sales hat and do the stuff within your business. That's not fun. Like go sell yourself in your ideas, right?
Jay Clouse 0:16
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. We're exploring some different territory today so I want to take a minute and set the stage. Before I thought of myself as a creator, I thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I got into the whole world of online business through startups when I was in college. Back in 2010, startups were hot, they were sexy. Companies like Uber, Facebook and Airbnb, were just starting to hit the mainstream and you saw headlines about companies raising millions of dollars and selling for millions more. How could an arrogant 20 something like me not get caught up in that? But as I've gotten older and experienced the highs and lows of startups myself, I've also experienced many different forms of entrepreneurship. I've done the startup thing, I've done the venture capital thing but I've also freelanced and my business today is all about content creation. I believe one of the biggest reasons that I've found some success as a podcaster and creator is due to my time spent learning the ropes of being a startup guy. And I believe one of the best ways that you can become an independent creator is by embracing the business side of your creative business. So today, I'm bringing on a creator with nearly 150,000 followers on Twitter, two podcasts, several courses, and more. His name is Nick Huber. And he's spreading the gospel of what he calls Sweaty Startups. He says all the richest people he knows got started in sweaty and gritty service based businesses and he is no different.
Nick Huber 2:11
I didn't really consider myself an entrepreneur until I got excited about a specific opportunity. I wasn't one of the kids and, you know, hanging out on the tech blogs and thinking about what business idea I wanted to start. I was an opportunist. So when something hit me in the face that I thought, hey, this might be a chance for me to make a little bit of money. I was excitable.
Jay Clouse 2:28
In 2011, Nick was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. At the same time that I was getting excited about these high tech startup companies. Nick was preoccupied with a problem.
Nick Huber 2:39
During junior year move out week, I was trying to lease my apartment on Craigslist for the summer. And so it was everybody else in my college town because everybody was leaving, right? So I was not getting any hits on anybody who wanted to live in the apartment. But I did get one person who called me up and said, Hey, I want to store my son's stuff in your room. And I was like, what? Do you want to store his stuff? Like boxes of literally physical things that like, yeah, he's got to go home for the summer. He's getting kicked out of the dorms. Can you go pick up his stuff and put in your dorm? And I said, sure, I'll do it. And I made a deal with the mother of this student. When picked up all his stuff, it was way more than she said, I basically filled my entire 1999 Cadillac DeVille, which I had bought off my grandma about seven years earlier. Yeah, the rest is history. Once the stuff was in the room, I could not actually have anybody live in there after that, right? So the options were to forget about it and make 150 bucks and just call it a loss all summer or go ahead and try to fill that room up. So I drove around college campus, fill filling up, anybody that I could to get their stuff to fill up my room was storage, charging by the box. And in the end of the week, I was out of space in my room, and I'd filled up not only the room next to mine, but my business partner now Dan Hagberg, he had a basement in his house, we filled up that entire basement. And a week later, we're sitting on our bed with about eight grand cash. And we're like, wow, that was kind of fun. And this could be an opportunity.
Jay Clouse 3:53
This was the beginning of next interest in Sweaty Startups. And for a guy going to an Ivy League school like Cornell University, he was already taking the road less traveled.
Nick Huber 4:02
We're among a very successful driven peer group with a lot of people who are really super successful in Corporate America right now. So for us to go after a little Sweaty Startup moving boxes up and down stairwells. You know, it was it was definitely a risk.
Jay Clouse 4:16
Fortunately for Nick, that risk paid off big time. And even though he didn't get that finance or consulting job, he was quickly making a pretty great living with his Sweaty Startup.
Nick Huber 4:26
So the first year we did, like I said, about $8,000 to $10,000 in revenue. The next year, it was our first year out of school, we set a goal of 250 customers, we hit that goal we did about $330,000 in revenue, year after that $750,000 in revenue, and that's when we, you know, made a couple 100 grand to put in the bank, Dan and I my partner, year after that 1.5 million, year after that 1.8, year after that 2.2 and then you know, 2.2 a year in revenue about until we sold the business in January 2020 operating on about a 20% margin so you know $150,000 to $400,000 a year profit throughout that time.
Jay Clouse 5:03
Nick's Sweaty Startup made him a millionaire before he turned 30. His student storage company has grown to 34 major colleges across nine different states. They service over 10,000 customers each year with a team of five full time employees and over 200 part time employees. And today he's managing more than $20 million worth of self storage assets. But here's why I'm bringing him on Creative Elements. Over just the last couple of years, he's built one heck of a following on Twitter through his podcast and his real estate masterclass. Of course, he sells for $2500. So in this episode, we talk about Nick's experience building a Sweaty Startup, Nick's approach to building a following on Twitter, why Twitter has accelerated his career 20 years and how you can make your own creative business stand out by getting a little sweaty yourself. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse just take a screenshot tag me and I'll be excited to share it on my own story as well. And now, let's talk with Nick.
Nick Huber 6:09
It was, frankly, a running joke among our friends on the track team, right? Oh, my God, look at this really creepy van that Dan and Nick bought on Craigslist for $1500. They're moving boxes around and I mean, these guys are going to get jobs in New York City for $100,000 a year, you know, right off the bat. So the opportunity cost was huge for us.
Jay Clouse 6:28
I'm trying to think back to where culturally we were with like the sharing economy in 2011 and how weird that felt in 2011? Did people feel weird thinking that they're going to store their stuff in just somebodies house?
Nick Huber 6:41
I think I didn't tell him that I was going to my room, right? I made myself look as professional as possible. And it was kind of like when Uber had just launched, everybody had an iPhone, I think around 2010-11 so right around that time when everybody got an iPhone and Uber was, I think just founded right and getting started. So pickup and delivery was starting to be a thing. And they would find me online fill out a little quote request form on a WordPress website that I built and I would go get it.
Jay Clouse 7:07
Why do you think that worked initially, because you know, Self Storage has been around for a long time. So why were they finding your website versus some other reputable storage facility with history?
Nick Huber 7:19
Yeah, so I had two options, I could pay for AdWords and try to get you know, paid digital marketing online, or I could grind and do basically free marketing in person. So I ran around and slipped flyers under dorm room doors, I went into, you know, Chapter Meetings at the sororities and announced what I was trying to do. And I would go on Facebook groups and post and I would send emails to the listservs friends, and just do anything that I possibly could to do some grassroot guerilla marketing.
Jay Clouse 7:43
I love that because, you know, a lot of people would try to automate this entire thing from the beginning and think like, what is the easiest way for me to get this foot and sometimes the easiest way is actually the most automated. They think it's the most automated way but it's not actually the easiest way.
Nick Huber 8:00
Some thoughts around that, I think people try to scale and think about scale too early and with entrepreneurship. And I'm going down the entrepreneurship rabbit hole, which I know you're not all into, but I think every creator is an entrepreneur in some way. Right? So, I mean, it's really fun and easy to think about, okay, how can this be giant? How can this business be really big? What do I need to put in place for this company to go, you know, berzerk? And if we would have done that, if I would have done that, I never would have done that guerilla marketing, I never would have chased some of those things that, you know, didn't scale. And I would have really kind of struggled to get momentum. So we bootstrapped, we did a lot of the work ourselves, we did things that did not scale. And we thought really small, early, like, hey, how can we make 10 grand this week or the next year? Okay, how we need 250 customers, that's all we need, we got to figure out how to do it because we're gonna learn a lot. If we tried to build systems that will survive 10 years where we can grow this business to $50 million a year. A we don't know how the heck to do that. We have no experience we're 20, 21, 22 years old, and B uhm that's pretty risky. If we put that kind of money in infrastructure before we've actually tested our concept and made some money.
Jay Clouse 9:03
Talk to me about that. First, let's even say that first summer, in your mindset around resilience, because a lot of people even if they wanted to go this route, and they said, you know what, I'm going to get myself out there, I'm going to go to these meetings, I'm going to put fliers under doors. If they didn't see success immediately, it would just like crush them if they didn't have any entrepreneurial experience before. So did you have any, like goals or thresholds to say it has to do this, or I'm calling it quits?
Nick Huber 9:28
I'd like to say that it all was just a really successful operation from the very beginning but that would be a lie. We had a third partner that owned 20% of our business that I really talked about that he ended up just saying, this is not worth it, like I'm gonna go to law school. And, I mean, there's a dip. I mean, Seth Godin has a great book called The Dip. And it's, you know, it's really fun early on. It's really fun when you're building the website and five days after working on the website, you see a functional website. When you're getting those first customers, when you're moving so fast at the beginning of a business idea, but six months in, a year in, and for us it was really two to three years. And we were like, wow, this is a lot of work. We're not growing as fast as we thought. We have to put our head down here and just grind. It's not entrepreneurs telling everybody what to do, we have to work and that was kind of hard. I guess what got us through that is that we were just energetic, we are still excited. We, we didn't try to conquer the world. On day one, we set small goals and we realized that, hey, this is a 10 year game, we don't need to win this game in in a a year and a half.
Jay Clouse 10:27
Well, I think what's so remarkable about it is, you know, we're talking about 2011, 2012. Today, there's a little bit more chatter around like, hey, the boomers are trying to get out of their businesses. There's all kinds of opportunities here. You see other people like, Brent Beshore very publicly doing these types of buyouts. But in 2011, who were you looking towards as a model? Or did you have a model at the time?
Nick Huber 10:52
Well, luckily, like I said, I didn't really have this, I'm an entrepreneur mindset. I didn't consider myself an entrepreneur, it wasn't a buzzword back then. I mean, TechCrunch was just getting big. I mean, it had already been bought by Yahoo or AOL, I mean, but yeah, tech Shark Tank was just getting started. I mean, the sexy new business ideas were just getting sexy in 2011. So but I didn't follow any of that and I think if I would have I would have gotten, you know, grass is greener, fear of missing out, I'm going to do something else. Because there were so many sexy ideas becoming that and San Francisco was the hub of Silicon Valley, and everybody moving there after college who wanted to start companies. I'm kind of glad I wasn't following all that, because I would have probably given up on my little Sweaty Startup.
Jay Clouse 11:34
Yeah and to follow that thread a little bit more, you know, what kinds of things were you reading about? Were you reading things? We listened to podcasts? Like, did you have any type of input around the entrepreneurship of those guys at the time?
Nick Huber 11:47
So I think, I think that was another one of my advantages. I think you can learn a lot by reading books and you can learn a lot by listening to podcasts and listening, you know, reading the Sweaty Startup website, or you know, studying entrepreneurs, you can learn a lot. But you can learn more in three weeks actually trying to hire some people to do some work and get paid for it, then you can for doing all that stuff. I mean, a book is only so valuable if you can't apply it to your life. The principles in these in these self help books and all this entrepreneurship material, it all is great to think about and it's you're just in LA, a lot of people I think are just in La La Land. They're sitting here listening to podcasts, they don't have any plans to be an entrepreneur. They're just thinkers, they're thinkers, they think all day. There's thinkers and there's doers, right? And they don't always collide at all, the doers often don't give a crap about these self help books. They're out there just trying to figure it out so I'm underselling it a little bit. I mean, I was I was very studious on hiring, training, managing how to do this stuff, the best way possible to try to grow our company and I was into the self help. I was reading the books, but I will say that you learn it by trying to do it. No, nobody's life is exactly the same as your life. So when you read these books on how Elon Musk or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg did it, how they succeeded trying to apply that to Nick Huber's life in Ithaca, New York without any of those resources is a fool's errand in my opinion.
Jay Clouse 13:06
Did you have mentors or people around you doing similar things?
Nick Huber 13:10
Yeah, I did. I had a professor at Cornell named Dan Cohen. And he had built and sold a Sweaty Startup, I think they were doing like foundation repairs, like a leaky foundation on a house or even a collapsing foundation. They had this technology are basically excavators, they dig out the foundation, they reinforce the walls, and they put dirt back. Wasn't the only one doing it, wasn't a new idea but he made a really good living doing that. And he learned a lot about building a sustainable company even in a tight labor market. 2011-12 was not the same as it is now as far as hiring labor employees. But um, once people knew that, hey, these guys are legit, they're hustlers. We're gonna go out and do some things. We kind of gravitated towards the people who weren't necessarily the thinkers or studies on entrepreneurship, but the people who had been in the trenches and done it. So yeah, my dad's boss built a construction management company that was awesome, started talking to service business entrepreneurs and about, you know, what works when you're hiring, training, marketing, those type of things.
Jay Clouse 14:00
After a quick break, Nick and I explored the advantages of building a Sweaty Startup and the challenges that come along with building any business no matter what kind. And a little later, we talked about Nick's approach to Twitter. So stick around, and we'll be right back.
Hey, welcome back. A lot of us get into this world of being a digital creator, because it seems like a great way to earn a living. It almost feels like the new American dream, getting paid for expressing yourself online. But it is hard to build a business that supports you as a creator. So I wanted to explore how challenging or not challenging it was to build a Sweaty Startup instead.
Nick Huber 14:37
I had an advantage because my business was not sexy. It was not fun. It was not exciting. Nobody did my business because they were passionate about it. So therefore, the competition was weak. And the companies that did it did it because it's a you know, a small business that they started, it's kind of a pain in the butt. They're done innovating. They're trying to milk the business for all it's worth and it technologies not advancing, they're not trying to be cutting edge any of those things, right? So, you know, the advice that I have for somebody, chasing a passion project might not be what they want to hear, you know, it's, it's, if you're chasing something that's fun, it's probably fun for a lot of people, it's probably exciting for a lot of people, there's people who are doing it not for the money, but because they love it. And I would say the way to overcome those odds is to put on your sales hat and do the stuff within your business that's not fun, like, go sell yourself in your ideas, right? And every entrepreneur is a salesman, in my opinion, so if you can master that, then it's not about the work. It's about how well you can sell it
Jay Clouse 15:34
In by virtue of doing something that is less sexy is less fun. Did that also give you the opportunity to not work 60 hour weeks? Or was it still like soul crushing beginning where you are putting in 60 hour weeks, 80 hour weeks?
Nick Huber 15:48
We were we were in a seasonal business. So every year when the when the college has moved out, we went from six full time employees to 300 part time employees, and it was the Super Bowl, and we worked 20 hours a day for three weeks, right? But yeah, in January, we did fishing trips in the Florida Keys. And then, you know, July go home to Indiana and you know, work on hiring for deliveries, but you know, maybe 20 hours a week, right? So I would say that average throughout the year, we worked 30 hours a week and and built a modestly successful company,
Jay Clouse 16:16
You bring up hiring and that's something I want to touch on too, because a lot of people myself included, who were drawn towards the internet content creation, media world, often don't want to be accountable to employees either. And I think that's probably a story I tell myself and a limitation that I have about how I hire and train. So can you talk a little bit a little bit about how to successfully hire somebody, as a business owner, so that it actually feels freeing and not like a new accountability?
Nick Huber 16:47
Yeah, so I think it all starts with the revenue streams, and how much you charge for your services. I think 80% of people out there don't charge enough. They don't, they do not charge enough money for what they produce, or what they do. They don't maybe they don't charge enough for their podcast ads, or maybe they don't charge enough for their consulting or their design or web design or whatever it might be. So step one is you have to charge enough to to make it worthwhile to hire somebody. Because if you're not making $100 an hour, we're doing what you're doing, it's gonna be really, really hard to pay somebody even $20 to $30 an hour after all the sunk costs, after all, this extra time, after all the setup, after all the overhead of running a business. So you got to get uncomfortable charging good money so that you can pay good talent. And I mean, another another common misconception is that hoping that person, that unicorn who cares about your business and your project, like you do, walks in the door and says, Jay, I really want to work for you like what do I have to do to work for you, your project is amazing, like I I just care so much about what you're doing. And literally business owners think that that's how it should work. And they just hope that that person walks in the door, that's gonna be perfect for their company. No, you have to get uncomfortable again, you have to put your sales hat on, and you have to go out and find that person and convince them and sell them on coming to work for you. And even then, even when they come in the door, they're not going to care about your company like you do. So you need to give them guidance, you need to talk to them about what exactly is expected you to hold them accountable and you need to give them structure Entrepreneurs, people like me, I love chaos. I love making decisions. I love the uncertainty of what's going on. But an employee, forget about it. They hate that, right? They want to be told what to do and they want to have clear structures on how to make decisions. They want to be set up for success. And yes, they can make decisions. Yes, they can innovate. Yes, they can add to the company and help them get more valuable. But they You can't expect them to be as self guided as you are as an entrepreneur.
Jay Clouse 18:35
This is a pattern I'm starting to see with people operating at a really high level that I don't think gets talked about enough, this idea of really going out and finding the employee you want and selling them on joining you as opposed to putting up an ad, socializing that ad, trying to pick the best candidate from that list. How do you think about finding somebody that is the right fit?
Nick Huber 18:56
Every big hire that's really supercharged my businesses over the years and I think about our COO and our students storage business, I think about the CFO that we have now at our real estate private equity company. And even the people who, you know, are integral parts of like our customer service management team, things like that. We almost always found them through a personal network and we almost always had to convince them to sell them on what we were doing. They had a job, they had opportunity, they were doing really well at their company, their go-getters, the people who produce in this world, the 20% of people in this world who produce 80% of the output. They are not hurting for work, they are not hurting for opportunity, they probably are pretty happy at their job so you got to sell them on your vision. And part of that is having a good opportunity. And part of that is getting uncomfortable and going out and making it happen.
Jay Clouse 19:45
How do you think about delegating? How did you learn how to delegate? How do you think about training these people even if they are go-getters like what is what is your process for getting somebody up to speed so that it really does take work off your plate?
Nick Huber 19:57
Yeah, it's really uncomfortable process. I mean, think about how while that is just if you if you zoom out to 1000 feet, and you told somebody, hey, I run this business where I am liable, it's my money. It's my business. It's my baby, it feeds my family, this business, feed my family, and I'm going to meet somebody for 30 minute interview in a coffee shop that I've never met. I'm going to run a background check on them and then I'm going to hand them the keys to my truck. And they're going to drive it around, and they're going to talk to my customers, and they're going to go to my warehouse. That is a phenomenal, unique experience, but that kind of trust in somebody else, and it is super uncomfortable. It's scary as hell. And the only way that we were able to do it well is just do a lot of it over the years, we got burned by employees, it's part of business, we got, you know, they quit on us, they robbed us, they did everything else, and putting that trust in them. Not easy, right? It takes practice, it takes practice on vetting the people it takes practice on communicating with the people, it takes practice on interviewing them, and in a way that you can try to get to that moral compass of whether or not they're gonna steal from you or you know whether or not they're going to care about your business in a way that allows you to, you know, offer consistent service to your customers.
Jay Clouse 21:01
You mentioned, you've been burned over over the years by employees. And this is another limiting fear that I have when it comes to hiring, which is I think about those potentials for things going wrong. And then I think to the details of like, what it looked like to clean that up. This sounds like a bad time. So I want you to convince me that that's worthwhile.
Nick Huber 21:21
I just think, you know, if we, if we go back again, to the concept of I mean, you get bad, you have bad luck, you have customer service problems. And as the owner of a business, you are going to deal with every major problem. The customers don't call you and say, Nick, this, you know, your company is awesome. I just can't believe how good they, no, you don't get those calls, you get to cause it when there's a problem. And the good customers, they don't hear you don't hear from them, they don't write a review. To bad customers, you do hear from them and they do read a review. Right? So, I mean, getting over that uncomfortability is one thing, but I think just starting with looking at, okay, early in the business days, me and Dan, were doing all the work, we were answering the phones, we were making the schedules, we were doing everything. And we finally said okay, what is what is the lowest value work that we do? Like, okay, yes, we obviously have this high value work, we were hiring, we're training, we're growing, we're investing, we're marketing, we're overseeing these things. What's the low value work that we do? I'm going to start with delegating that. I'm going to delegate some this low value work. And another big part of it is, especially in the creative world, is some people just let themselves get totally abused by customers. Scope creep happens, they don't stand up for themselves, they don't set reasonable expectations, they bid work and the work gets bigger, and they can't change the price, and they end up losing money. You know, having mutual respect and getting the right kind of customers, getting the right kind of customers is really, really huge because if you get the wrong kind of customers, you can never make money.
Jay Clouse 22:39
You have this like consummate entrepreneurial mindset where you have strength around these ideas, like standing up for yourself, negotiating well, hiring well, did that all come from practice? Or is is there another source?
Nick Huber 22:52
95% practice and I think the other I mean, when you when you finally get a little bit of, and I'm not successful to the means of most of the people out there, right? I'm just a guy that has, you know, building trying to build the life that he wants to live. But when you've seen it work for you, and you've seen your business grow, and you've seen the cash in the bank account at the end of the year, and you've done that for 10 years, you get a little bit more confident in your view. So I think part of it is practice and part of it is just the results that come with seeing how successful entrepreneurs make it. And you also, once you get there and you talk to entrepreneurs who have made it and they built big businesses and maybe even Sweaty Startups, and you realize that, hey, these people aren't spectacular people, they're just figuring it out as they went as well. It gives you a little bit more confidence to hold on tight to these ideas of hiring complete strangers to run to work with your new company, you know, standing up for yourself with customers that are not the kind of customers that are for you and the ones that you want if you're going to build a scalable company, and, you know implementing a lot of the other things that help you grow as a business owner.
Jay Clouse 23:55
Nick really came onto my radar through Twitter. Over the last several months, it seemed like I was constantly seeing a thread about real estate from this Sweaty Startup guy. But Nick's threads are a lot different than what I typically see on Twitter. His threads were dense, transparent and in depth. It's like he's documenting the nitty gritty of building a storage company business and sharing it all openly. And it seems to be working because nearly 142,000 people have started following Nick on Twitter. So I asked him when he began to take Twitter seriously as part of his process.
Nick Huber 24:27
I've been an anti-social media hands on entrepreneur for 10 years going on 11 and 2018 I started a podcast called the Sweaty Startup because I was really passionate about entrepreneurship. And I was you know talking about these concepts right here and hey, hey, these new ideas aren't all they're cracked up to be. Look at the look outside, close your computer, look at look out in the real world. There's opportunities everywhere to make money and I didn't know where to go to reach people to talk about that. Same time, we also started building our first self storage facility and bought another self storage facility, we needed to raise capital, networking became really big and my career what I was doing to grow and build in the next phase of life. 2019, late 2019, a friend of mine came on my podcast, this way start his name's Moses Kagan, and he's a Twitter personality as well and raises a bunch of money for multifamily deals out in Los Angeles. He came on and said, Nick, you know, you're raising, you're doing self. First, he was talking about the opportunities in a Sweaty Startup world, that's why he became friends with me. Then he said, Nick, I didn't even know you're in real estate. Why aren't you on Twitter? Like, there's a thriving community around what you're doing on Twitter. It's like a country club. It's networking. You can, you know, meet people. And I said, no, Moses, you know, social media is such a joke. It's not for me, there's no way I'm gonna make, you know, get anywhere with that. It just wasted time. He's like, okay, fine and six months later, he was he texts me again said, Nick, seriously, you need to get on Twitter, look at what just happened, you know, look at all these people on here. And I said, okay, fine. So I went on Twitter with a radical, different mindset of most real estate entrepreneurs, that I was gonna share everything. I'm gonna share my profit and loss statements, I'm gonna share how we do business, I'm gonna share every single thing, everything that people told me that I was crazy. They're like, Nick, all you're doing is breeding competitors. Like, why? What is there to gain by you going on social media, and being so open? And I said, you know what, I think that it'll open doors, networking, and I'll learn a lot. Those are my three goals. And I think within three months, we had raised $500,000 to close on a self storage facility from people that I met on Twitter, fast forward another three months, and I had almost 50,000 followers and I was selling a real estate course and scaling up my knowledge and scaling up my media company, and also meeting partners that are now exploding our real estate private equity company. So in about a year, we're about a year in from the first real benefits of Twitter, I started in April, so yep, 14 months. It has fast forward in my career, 20 years, we've raised $10 million dollars from outside investors to buy real estate, and building a media company, doing a ton of self storage consulting, and making great friends and meeting people like you, Jay.
Jay Clouse 26:56
Man, I love that. And you know, for a long time, this the Sweaty Startup mentality was kind of positioned at odds from like, the tech Silicon Valley type of entrepreneurship. What is its relation to like the creator economy and people who are trying to build media businesses today? Do you see it as antithetical? Or do you see it as complimentary the way that seems to be for your business?
Nick Huber 27:18
No, I think a creator is a is a service provider. When you dig deep down into the function of any business, whether it's an agency, or you're doing work for money of any kind, which in the media space, in the creative economy is a very significant part of what we're all trying to do. The fundamentals are the same. You're trying to sell your vision to help a client, you're trying to sell it at a rate that can allow you to hire and scale and build a small business first, and then a larger company, and then even bigger company after that. And the end goal for all of us is to spend our time doing what we want to be doing, which is doing a podcast with you, or going on a vacation, or picking up a hobby or continuing to build your business, whatever it might may be. So I think our goals are all the same. And the fundamentals of business are the same in the creative economy as they are with Sweaty Startups, right? The hiring, the training, the selling. The key skills that make you a good entrepreneur and a hit just to hit that the seals that make you a good entrepreneur are not at all what make you good at your craft. They're not the same.
Jay Clouse 28:20
When we come back, Nick, and I talk about why the skills that make you such a great entrepreneur are so different than the skills that make you great at your craft. Right after this.
Welcome back to my conversation with Nick Huber. Before the break, Nick and I were talking about the similarities and differences between Sweaty Startups and digital creator businesses, and he said that the skills needed to be a great entrepreneur are not the same skills needed to be a great creator, or great at your craft. This is a really important lesson so I asked him to elaborate on that.
Nick Huber 28:51
I may be the best lawn manicure specialists in the world, I'm really good on a lawn mower, I'm really good on a trimmer, I'm really good with with weed control and pest control and fertilization. That is not correlated at all with how well I can build a landscaping or lawn care company. I may be the best logo designer in the world and yes, maybe I can charge more per hour, but I would still be a freelancer, if I'm going to build a company, how good I am at logo design means nothing, nothing at all to how well I can hire, train, manage, delegate, sell myself. So the key concept that people forget all the time is oh, I need to get really, really good at my craft. And then the world will open up for me. Well, unfortunately, if you're doing anything at scale with entrepreneurship, you're not going to be doing it long. If the CEO of the logo design company is still designing logos, that's a problem. If the CEO of the media company is still building websites, that's a problem. Right? You can't grow beyond that. So it is all the same. Hiring, training, selling, delegating, and marketing, right? So those are the things that are important and none of that, nobody's passionate about that uncomfortable stuff. I mean, doing the uncomfortable things is what leads you to grow. And that is often interviewing, hiring, you know, having uncomfortable sales conversations, asking for more money, setting expectations with clients, taking all those really tough phone calls with angry customers. None of that stuff is the fun part.
Jay Clouse 30:17
This is another side of creative businesses that isn't talked about enough, either, because these big creators that do have, you know, personalities, they're not writing their emails most of the time, not if they have like a large media brand, where they're doing podcasts or doing YouTube channels, they have their email newsletter doing all these things, all these channels, chances are they are not behind the keys of that email announcing the podcast episode just went out, you start that way, everybody starts that way. And a lot of them may still be in that phase but while the people we look up to like, they're not doing all that, they have a team and that's okay, it's not bad that they have a team it's not problematic.
Nick Huber 30:52
I will say that the creative economy is much more scalable from a solopreneur perspective. If you want to be a freelancer, you can make really, really good money not working that much. You can do it. But if you want to build a business that runs without you, different story.
Jay Clouse 31:06
So you said Twitter has fast forward to your career 20 years and you said your approach was to share everything you're doing even if that quote unquote, breeds competitors. What other strategies or approaches have you put into play now? So that you're making sure that the things that are working continue to work like how do you approach Twitter on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?
Nick Huber 31:27
I'll start with a couple mistakes that I see that I think people make on Twitter. Number one, they tweet too much. They're tweeting too often. There's people like Gary Vee that are saying you need to be bang, bang, bang, bang, bang all the time. No, Twitter is for people who want to get smarter and if somebody is overloading my feed with dumb ass thoughts, they're gonna get unfollowed in a second. Every single tweet you make and it can be three tweets a week or three threads a week or one thread a week like Julian Shapiro, look at how Julian Shapiro does Twitter. He went from 2000 followers that just came because he had a handle to almost 200,000 followers now in less than a year. And he does one thread a week. He does not do one off tweets, none of them. Right?What does that tell you? Look at Sahil Bloom, look at I mean, I try to stay disciplined, but I'm so addicted to Twitter that I can't help but just spray the thoughts out there sometimes but I'm trying to get better. I'm getting really disciplined about if this tweet doesn't make somebody think hard about this new concept and a smart person go, hmm, that's an interesting thought. I haven't thought about that before. If the tweet doesn't accomplish any that I don't tweet it, it doesn't happen. And that that makes me a good follow for people who want an A not get overloaded and B want to get a bit smarter when it comes to entrepreneurship, making money or real estate, whatever it might be. Number two, I'm actually in the trenches doing something. There are far too many people on Twitter, who are out there tweeting about who knows what, when they're sitting there doing absolutely nothing but tweeting. My Twitter is a, I'm good follow on Twitter, because I'm actually buying. I bought $20 million worth of real estate in the last six months and I'm talking about it all, right? That makes me a little bit more unique than most of the followers on Twitter. I mean, there's some other simple things like good copywriting, right? The first line of a tweet needs to be, okay that sounds off, like that sounds, I disagree with that. Second line of a tweet, oh, actually, I totally agree with that. And then the rest of the tweet, the rest of the thread brings out the nuance it hammers down on that nuance and makes people be like, hmm, that's a really interesting way of thinking about that one concept or whatever it might be. Obviously, no politics ever on Twitter, you're alienating half the world, there are a couple little small things to write that really help.
Jay Clouse 33:34
How have you thought about? You know, that was that was the creative side? How have you thought about interacting with other people or consuming Twitter?
Nick Huber 33:42
Yeah, I mean, there's a dark side of Twitter as a mini influencer, I only have 130,000 followers but there's a dark side of being able to think something and put it on, put it on Twitter and instantly you have 20,000 people who have seen it, and they're going to tell you whether you're, I mean, it's it's a brilliant learning experience from my side. I mean, people think that I'm just on Twitter to teach and listen to myself talk. No, if I if I feel if I have kind of half baked idea that I think is, you know, oh, I'm not really sure how to think about this. I'd like to get some, like, I want to have a conversation with somebody smart. Generally, you pick up the phone, I'm going to call Jay and I'm gonna say, Jay, I'm having this thought, what do you think about this concept? Let's let's let's, you know, let's jam on this for a little while. Well, now, I can make a thread and I'm not going to make a thread being like, I'm not sure I'm not sure I'm going to pick a side. And I'm going to hammer it home and I'm going to be very, I'm going to seem like I'm very strongly held opinion, right? And then I'm going to let 20,000 really smart people or 100,000 really smart people tell me where my blind spots are and what I'm missing and what I'm thinking what I should be thinking differently. That is a phenomenal way to get a lot smarter a lot faster if you come at it was an open mind.
Jay Clouse 34:49
Do you spend much time looking at your own feed?
Nick Huber 34:51
Yeah, I probably spend most of my time interacting with comments. I get 30 DMs a day. I can't keep up with all the comments on on there. It's a little bit overwhelming, but I also spend time interacting with 20 plus awesome real estate private equity managers who are in the trenches doing it. And where else can you get that interaction? Right? Where else do you get a look into the mind of the smartest people in your field? You can, I literally get to see what they're thinking about and how they interact with questions. And, and they're helpful. I mean, it's it's literally a club, a community that is free, that gives you access to the best minds. It's literally a look into somebody's mind, which is just fascinating to me.
Jay Clouse 35:31
How do you think about the way you prioritize your time with the real estate business versus the growing digital platform that you have under the Sweaty Startup brand?
Nick Huber 35:41
It's a double-edged sword because I could easily see just being totally consumed and working 90 hours a week because the opportunities are growing like crazy. I mean, business is about momentum. We started out saying yes to everything back in 2011, 2012. We were gonna try anything, yes to anybody, we get lunch with anybody. As you get more successful, as you get more experience, as you get more influence, the opportunity start to really explode. So I say no, 99% of the time. I don't answer most of the DMs, I don't take random calls, I don't take meetups, I'm really careful about what podcasts, I mean, you just have to you have to if you're gonna if you're gonna enjoy your life, and you're going to be able to still I still spend 20 hours a week growing my real estate company spend about 20 hours a week on the on the media company. And I like to hang out with my kids and play golf. Right? So it's it's a it's a tough balance but I think I think the overarching theme is that as you get more successful, you have to say no more often.
Jay Clouse 36:37
How regimented is that balance? Like, do you have days that this is real estate day that versus this is podcast day, a Twitter day Or do you have times of day?
Nick Huber 36:45
I think, luckily, I've been I've been producing the podcast now for over two years, I'm 230 episodes in so I've gotten a lot better. I've gotten a lot better at giving short, punchy, concise. I mean, my style is different. Interviewing is hard. What I learned is like doing interviews like this on my podcast, getting other guests, getting other guests to provide value to my podcast was really tough, took a lot of work, a lot of prep, a lot of time. But instead I can think about things on Twitter or think about things in my real estate company, and then also make an episode about those things. So I mean, it helps that my media company is built around what I'm doing at work, because when I'm thinking on work, I can tweet about it, I can do an episode about it, I can share what I learned and I can get a lot better. It's it's the synergies between the two are massive but I would say it's not super regimented, no.
Jay Clouse 37:30
I want to circle back to something you said a little bit ago that I've been thinking about a lot lately, too, you know, you said, you're actually out there doing something and tweeting about that. I think there are a lot of people who are really early in their career, maybe they're still in college, who might be listening to this and they think I want to shortcut everything. Like I just want to be the person with a following now building products and sharing things and they're missing that experience. Like there, there is something to be said about just having spent time and continue to spend time doing the work on something and talking about that, as opposed to trying to conjure this following for almost something totally manufactured. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on, you know, if I'm early in my career, how should I be prioritizing, you know, today, what type of business I'm building, you know, should I? Does it even make sense to try to become a creator right out of the gates if I haven't had industry experience or something like that?
Nick Huber 38:28
That's what makes it so hard. I mean, it's so hard. Everybody wants to be have a following. Everybody wants to be an influencer. Everybody wants it all right now, right? It's really tough. I think the one thing that you can do is just try to add value to everybody else. It's a selfish economy. It's a selfish world, every interaction that you need to have with anybody needs to be a win win interaction. And if it's not, you're doing it wrong. People network too many people network with their handout. Jay, help me, Nick, help me, help me, me, me, me, me. How can you help me? Me? They go to network events. Help me, help me. I'm just I'm just a nobody, help me. That's not how you do it. People don't want people. I mean, yes, you will get people who want to give you a leg up, you'll get people who reached out to helping hand and I try to do that as well. But when you really your network really explodes when you can bring something to the table. Your network explodes when hey, Jay knows that Nick is really good at self storage. All these people know that Nick knows Self Storage because he talks it he's in the trenches, he's doing it. Also somebody is interested in I'm going to I'm going to help them get in touch with whoever, right? So I don't know too many people. It's really rare to get a big following on Twitter or on any platform without being somebody first. I mean, it sounds it's that sounds brutal. But you look at the list of the people who are top 50 followers on Twitter, on Instagram, on any social network and they're NBA players and they're, you know, celebrities and they're entrepreneurs like Keith Rabois and Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, I mean, it's really hard to get influenced if you if you don't have an expertise and you can't add value. So I think being able to add value to people's lives is just absolutely critical.
Jay Clouse 40:05
In researching this episode, I realized that actually, I listened to an interview of you years ago on the tropical MBA podcast, one of my favorite podcasts, and I remember loving that episode. I mean, like, this is awesome and then realizing, oh, this is the same guy.
Nick Huber 40:19
Actually, I just recorded with Dan and it's coming out next week so I'm excited.
Jay Clouse 40:22
Oh, that's amazing.
Nick Huber 40:23
I love those guys. Yeah, they supercharged my career and I love their work.
Jay Clouse 40:27
I had Dan on the podcast, and he referred to like, this circular economy of people talking about their experience trying to gain experience essentially, like as a self-licking ice cream cone.
Dan Andrews 40:40
Most of the podcasts that were the most successful at the time, were what I would call a self-licking ice cream cone. The lessons they were peddling on the show, would then inspire you to take action on the lessons which would then inspire you to buy their products, which then would give them more fuel to talk about more things on the show. So the whole ecosystem of influence and purchasing and success was happening almost like a pyramid scheme, where like, the more you believed in what they were saying on the show, the more money they would make, the more things they would have to talk about.
Jay Clouse 41:14
Because I sell you on the idea that I can do this. Now, I'm doing that and now I'm selling more of that.
Nick Huber 41:21
No, I love it. It's correct. I mean, I would recommend that people just get uncomfortable. If you get uncomfortable if you go out and try things that and I'm not talking about trying things that are fun, and try and sitting in your room doing what you care about. I'm talking about getting out in selling yourself trying to sell some work, trying to make some money, trying to build something that's uncomfortable. That's when that's when your world opens up as soon as you get uncomfortable. I mean, yeah, it's it's the momentum behind it. The momentum, the confidence, the learning the experience. And then yeah, it's a self licking ice cream feeling. Once those things start happening, it starts compounding and you start to get better and then you can actually can do it and you can deliver and you can build and you can become an influencer and all that stuff.
Jay Clouse 42:02
Do you think that there's more opportunity in Sweaty Startups than there were in 2011 when you started or do you think that opportunity is getting narrower?
Nick Huber 42:09
No, it's expanding. I mean, this is this is the bottom line. I mean, 20 years ago, 5% of people paid to have their lawn cut. Today, 40% of people pay to have their lawn cut, because people are doing less and less. I mean, I'm never gonna cut my lawn again because I'm not the best at it. I'm gonna get the best person for the job here to my house to do the lawn care. Our grand my grandfather, my father, something went wrong with the sink something went wrong with the toilet something went wrong with the drywall, guess what he fixed it. Me, I call my dad, I call my grandfather say oh, you know, my sinks not working or oh, my my truck some it's shaken in a weird way. My truck is messed up. I don't know how to do anything myself. The next generation knows nothing about repair so who are they going to call? They're going to call companies to do everything so the demand is skyrocketing for service businesses while the supply, the people interested in it, the people who make it their careers is diminishing. Everybody goes to school to study liberal arts and marketing. Nobody goes very few people nowadays, especially the competent people, I'll just say it like the people who have a lot of potential are not going after Sweaty Startups. So the competition is all you have to do is answer the phone and make a lot of money in my opinion.
Jay Clouse 43:20
It's so perverse that those competent people who have those skills are going 10s of 1000s of dollars in debt, to learn something that's way more competitive.
Nick Huber 43:29
And yes, that's that's my mission. That's my life's mission is to at least let people know that there's an option whether or not they whether or not they want to sweat. I mean, most people aren't most people aren't going to want to sweat. Nobody wants to do this work. I mean, what I'm saying right here sounds sexy until you get out there and it's 99 degrees and you have a power washer in your hand. That's not fun work, right? Not many people are willing to do it but my mission is to at least shine some light on some opportunities being there.
Jay Clouse 44:01
I know this episode is a little outside of the norm for this show. But I'm here to help you make a living from your art and creativity. And so I think it's my responsibility to help shed some light on the business side of your creative business too. Nick is the consummate entrepreneur, guys like him who are actively getting uncomfortable and doing the hard, sometimes sweaty work that others avoid our people we can learn a lot from. This conversation and last week's conversation with Jack Rhysider really inspired me to take Twitter more seriously and to push myself to put effort into Twitter, I created a free challenge called tweet 100 that you can join to with tweet 100 the goal is to write one good tweet or thread every day that you're proud of. One tweet a day, that's it. But think of this like a 100 day project similar to what Lalese Stamps did in episode number 47 with her ceramic mugs. This simple 100 day project could change your entire life. If you want to join me in this challenge and take part in our public leaderboard. Visit tweet100.com. The link is in the show notes. And if you wanna learn more about Nick, you can follow him @sweatystartup on Twitter, or visit his website at sweatystartup.com links to both of those are in the show notes. Thanks Nick for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clause for making it our work for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the show and to Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet @jayclouse, and let me know. If you really want to say thank you. Please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next week.