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In the past, the entrepreneurship community would continuously tell founders to start a business they are "passionate" about. In fact, this credo has been thrown around so much it has become cliche and out of fashion.
We now have a new generation of founders who follow the money trail and dive head first into business ideas they have absolutely no real interest in.
For example, X dude starts a women's perfume company, or Y girl creates a company selling men's apparel.
The problem is, working in a business that you are not passionate about gets more difficult as the days go on. Whereas if the startup is based on something you are passionate about, it makes it much easier to wake up every day and keep going. As Simon Sinek taught us, you must start with "why".
But what if you could start a company that is both financially lucrative and something you are passionate about?
Daniella Pierson is one such founder. She started a business she is passionate about, but also managed to find a path that has led to tremendous financial success.
Daniella started The Newsette between her sophomore classes at Boston College. The daily newsletter includes a blend of branded marketing, curated links, and original content mostly in the form of interviews.
Today at 25-years old, she led the company to close the first quarter of 2021 with $13 million in booked sales with a projected end of year revenue at $40 million.
This was all done without venture capital backing. But it wasn't easy getting there.
She always wanted to work in the NYC publishing world but had zero connections and believed she lacked the grades to get internships. She also had little writing experience. That's when she got the idea to start something herself from the ground up.
She started with the premise that most people don't like their inboxes. Many view it as a massive to-do list. But she asked herself, "what if there was an email every day that was like your friend in your inbox. Wouldn’t that be so happy and delightful and an oasis in your morning?" she told USA Today.
Early in the newsletter's life, Daniella interviewed lesser-known influencers that still had a decent sized audience. She would then use that to springboard to interviewing people with a larger audience. Then the influencer would share the newsletter with their fans. Daniella would give the interviewee an actual script they could then pass on to their followers.
Eventually, she began to receive pitches from people who wanted to be interviewed and featured in The Newsette. In fact, she got pitched by Arianna Huffington who is a hero of Daniella's.
She also got the newseltter off the ground using a rudimentary referral campaign (see The Techniques section below for more).
Want to learn how Daniella did it? Study the techniques, mindsets, and frameworks she used to build a 8-figure newsletter, beloved by women around the world...
- On early stage growth: She got her first few hundred and eventually thousand subscribers from a rudimentary referral campaign. “So, I would go into Facebook and I would find all of the people that I went to high school with who I hadn’t talked to in years,” she says. “I would then click on their profile and see all of their new friends from their new colleges and I would message all of the girls being like, ‘Hey, I work for this really cool newsletter company. If you become an ambassador, you can put it on your resume.’” So each ambassador was responsible for recruiting 10 people to sign up for the newsletter.
- On "audience-borrowing" to grow subscribers: A key strategy Daniella used to grow was by "borrowing" other people's or company's audiences. Unlike cross-promotion that's being used today, with audience-borrowing, she would interview a person with a higher social media follower count and make it super easy for them to share the interview with their audience after the interview was published. She created custom visuals which made it more likely they would share the interview. "We would feature a blogger with 50,000 followers, create a beautiful asset for her to share on her social media, and then her followers would subscribe," said Pierson to Business Insider.
- On reimagining sponsorship ads: Instead of simple display ads on a newsletter, Daniella worked with Amazon featuring female-founded businesses.
- On keeping a routine: Daniella says she doesn't have a typical day which is typically why people like her become entrepreneurs in the first place. But this doesn't mean she doesn't stay focused every day. "I go into the office at least two hours before everyone. It’s not because I want to be annoying or try to prove a point, but because I like to do a lot of my work in silence. I go into the office, everything’s quiet, and I get to focus on the newsletter of the day."
- More on early stage growth: She would interview an inspiring woman for each newsletter that had a significant social media following, say 50,000. They would then be encouraged to share the interview with their followers. But Daniella would actually hand them the assets and tell them the actual language to use to tell their followers to subscribe.
- On generating revenue with ads: "Once advertisers began reading the newsletter and realizing how much engagement we had and how many eyeballs were actually on the newsletter, they realized, 'Wait a minute, I could be spending a lot less money and getting a lot more results,'" said Pierson.
- On handling quick and massive growth: Daniella soon needed serious help growing The Newsette. She hired a COO and VP of marketing who she considers her "right hand." They have been critical in helping her navigate every problem, hard decision and big win.
- On making a profit: She used affiliate marketing to bring in money early on, which is "when a brand comes and says, ‘Okay, we’re going to pay you if somebody buys one of our products with your link.’” She started with smaller brands and they helped her learn how to build the audience data needed to bring on bigger brand affiliates including Saks, Fidelity, Ulta Beauty, Bumble, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- On growing her first 100,000 subscribers: "In 2015, when Newsette was less than a year old, Pierson began reaching out to her friends and distant contacts on Facebook, offering them a resume line-item and some free merchandise in exchange for promotion." "I would message them, saying, 'Hey, I'm interning for this really cool company. Do you want to become an ambassador? You just have to get 10 people to subscribe,'"
- On sticking with your core product and not straying: Daniella says she has no plans to stray from the newsletter model. In fact, she will eventually phase out the website to focus exclusively on the newsletter. This allows her and her team to focus on what she does best, rather than split their time on things they do only somewhat well. "We are 100% focused and zeroed-in on being a daily email newsletter that is an intimate conversation between the woman reading it and her inbox," said Pierson.
- On audience building early on: "the way I built the audience is that I started featuring people who had really cool jobs but wouldn’t be in the media: for instance, the social media editor at Michael Kors or the intern at Teen Vogue. Those people have influence, and they’re working at influential companies, but they’re not necessarily the people whose doors were getting knocked on by reporters all the time. They were easy to get because they said, ‘yes, I’ll do the interview.’"
- On the sacrifices needed to be an entrepreneur: “It’s unhealthy, but if you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I will not have a life for the next at least two years,’ and be OK with that. Because in order for you to succeed in this volatile and crazy world of business, you need to dedicate every ounce of energy you have inside of you to growing your business.”
- On staying motivated: Daniella started the newsletter with a cause that drives her even to this day. "I love getting messages saying 'Oh my gosh, this woman that you featured inspired me to do X, Y, Z' because that’s really what we’re trying to do – provide a platform for women so that we can inspire women around the world with their stories, their tips and their knowledge."
- On success: “I think the reason why we’ve been so successful is because we’ve had such a dead-set focus on growing our audience via email and having an intimate conversation with our readers,” she says. “And I’m so glad that we focused so much on building that community and experience.”
- On motivating her clients and her team: She believes her team's mission is what will take the company into the next stages of growth: "Building the world's largest female empowerment company and working every single day to ensure that diverse and marginalized voices are heard." This gives not only her team a core reason to rally, but also the clients The Newsette partners with. “With this surge in revenue and hiring power I feel incredibly responsible to build a company heavy in values, including respect, authenticity and drive,” said Pierson.
- On making mistakes early on: "It was good that no one was reading [The Newsette] in the beginning because I made a lot of mistakes and I’ve learned. Through the process, I’ve learned how to pitch people (in between classes in college), I’ve learned how to tell a captivating story, I’ve learned how to copywrite in a way that was exciting and delightful for readers, and all without realizing it – all because I figured it out."
That's it for this issue! Subscribe below so you don't miss the next issue where I will break down a super simple business idea that can get you to $1M in revenue in less than 12 months!