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We’ve been back from our trip to Colorado for a week and it took me that long to try to figure out how to share our experience! To keep it from becoming a novel, I decided to break it up into parts. It was definitely a “series” worthy event and a number of people have asked me to share more about it!
Here in Part 1, I’ll share our experiences in Week 1 of the PopUp Business School which was held in the newly opened Mr. Money Mustache Headquarters in Longmont, Colorado. In Parts 2, 3, and 4 – I’ll share our Week 2 experiences, our expenses for the 16-day trip, and how Stashmont will impact my business and future.
For any of you who have ever thought about starting a blog or a small business, this series will hopefully show you that anyone with determination and a little “out-of-the-box” thinking can be a successful entrepreneur! And it doesn’t take a lot of money (it can even be free) or a fancy business plan!
We left upstate NY on Labor Day (9/4) and flew to Denver. It was really hot and hazy when we landed and you couldn’t even tell you were near the mountains. We got our rental mini-van, stopped for supplies, and headed to LaVern Johnson Park in Lyons to find a campsite. This park was totally washed out in floods in 2013 but was re-opened in 2016. It was beautiful – surrounded on three sides by the North St. Vrain River and sandstone cliffs. Our tent site was right next to the creek and it was our home for the first week of the trip.
We got up REALLY early on Tuesday, (9/5). At 5:30 a.m. we were ready for a walk because of the time change. It worked out great because we ended up at The Barking Dog Café for some great coffee. We visited this café every morning we were in Lyons! (A group of regulars greeted us after the first few days and asked about our trip and what we were learning in Longmont. It was a terrific small town and we even got a few hugs and good wishes on the last day of our trip. Some super friendly folks for sure!)
Then we headed to Longmont (about a 7-mile drive) to head to meet Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) and the PopUp Business School team at the new “MMM Headquarters” (better known as #Stashmont now!) We really didn’t know what to expect. We knew there would be a group of local folks, but how many other people made this trip? We were excited to find out.
We walked in and were greeted by other participants and by Jack from the PopUp team. He had us sign in electronically (and we soon learned that Jack is all things tech/social media for the PopUp team!) The room was filled with seats – we estimated about 60, and they were packed in pretty tight. So we found a spot and soon the room was full. REALLY full. And a few people were sitting on the patio out back facing into the conference room.
There were over 80 people in attendance at the first day of the PopUp Business School.
Alan, Simon, and Henry jumped right in to Day 1 of the PopUp Business School lessons by having us discuss what holds people back from starting businesses and by teaching us 5 Ways to Start a Business for Free. They focused on not starting a business in debt and shared some really easy ways for most people to get started for little or nothing! This is incredibly important because you can try out business ideas without taking on a bunch of debt or using much of your own money! The team also created a YouTube Channel where they share a few minutes about each day. You also get to see the MMM HQ and all of us up close! Here’s the link to #Stashmont – Day 1. The Day # will serve as the link after this 😊
Our assignment for lunch time on the first day was to write down 15 things that excited us. Not one or two. They wanted us to have an abundance mentality and they reminded us that the first or second business idea might not work. But as long as you were excited about what you were working on, one business idea would work if we kept trying. We then took our lists and learned how to decide which idea to start with. This was easy for some people and really hard for others! I loved this part because deciding how to choose closely aligned with the decision-matrix I use too!
I used my blog and decision coaching as my business idea to work on. But I also had two other ideas I was excited about! It was a terrific first day! And we met people from Dallas, Boston, Miami, California, Canada – and a bunch from Longmont and other areas in Colorado. We were right. People had come from all over. And yes, we did meet Pete. Mr. Money Mustache was a very welcoming guy and we felt right at home in his new place.
We went home to the tent after a quick dinner because the energy of the day and the 5:30 am start had wiped us out. It was warm with no rain in sight for days. Perfect camping weather!
Website Wednesday was the theme for Day 2! The PopUp team showed us how to build a website for free on Weebly. I have a WordPress site on the paid host Siteground. If I was to start another site, I would use Weebly for free and then if the business worked out, I would shift it over to a paid host (they shared that the move is pretty seamless most times!) That’s another way to save money when you are trying to see if your business idea will stick!
A fancy website isn’t needed to get customers, but a functional one is!
Bluehost was also one of the sponsors of these two weeks of learning! We got some nice T-shirts and a year of free web hosting from them for attending! I am not going to switch my current site to them at this point, but I have another website I am considering starting and I will definitely use that free year of hosting if I get it off the ground soon! The other two sponsors for the week were Betterment and Treehouse Learning.
The PopUp team taught us how to focus on key parts of our website and they talked about how video is becoming more important than ever to keep people engaged. They also suggested a “call to action” on your site and letting visitors have real clarity as to why your site exists. This was something my site was totally lacking. I thought people would “get it” – but why not just put it out there? I just added some key questions and directions near my blog logo on the home page. It’s not perfect, but it gives people a much better idea of what my site is about and how I can help them!
We drove to Estes Park for dinner after class because it was only about a half hour from the campsite. The views were incredible! Be careful if you get car sick at all though! Focus on the scenery and not your phone while driving (which you should be doing anyway!) Another clear evening with no rain – which was great for all of the Mustachian campers in the group! We weren’t the only people camping (which probably doesn’t surprise you!)
Day 3 didn’t disappoint! Thursday morning featured Greg Ellis of Ellis Bottom Line Bookkeeping. Greg is a friend of Pete’s and his business is across the street from the MMM HQ. He talked about keeping records and addressed some tax situations small businesses encounter. This is definitely an area I want to learn more about. And I have it on my calendar to give Greg a call for a consultation after we move next week! The afternoon focused on marketing, selling and finding customers. And don’t think we just sat in those chairs all day! We were up and engaged with each other – sharing ideas and trying out different ideas all the time. These guys are TOP NOTCH teachers – they don’t just present! (And I know what good teaching looks like!)
We learned things like how to search out customers on Twitter by using key word search terms. Even though I don’t charge for coaching, I reached out to a young woman on Twitter who had tweeted “what job should I take.” She ended up emailing me her dilemma and I gave her some of my resources and offered help. She emailed me back that she had made the decision and that what I shared was incredibly helpful to her! I would never have known to search out “customers” or clients that way! It took very little time and effort too!
By the end of Day 3, we were all pretty comfortable with one another! Pete had arranged for a great indie band to play that night on the patio and we enjoyed a cook-out too. The duo, Ms. Fridrich’s Messy Ann Band, played for about two hours and we enjoyed their great music, drank some Wibby craft beer from Pete’s keg, and chatted with all of our new friends. It was an awesome night!
Friday (Day 4) was the last day of Week 1 of the PopUp Business School. The focus of the day was determining value, pricing and making sales. We talked about how to find the right people to do business with and the importance of asking your customers what they need and want. It’s important to understand and not assume what people are interested in. One really interesting point was the difference between selling the features of something vs. the benefits that come from it! The PopUp team also shared with us who they sell to, how they do it, and what has helped them to become so successful!
I was really interested in the pricing discussion since this is something I have struggled with. I could charge a flat fee, a per-hour fee, or a “per-decision” fee for the coaching work I do. But I don’t want to do that right now either. I’ve coached nine clients in the last year for free (and remember, I was working full-time with 3 side gigs too last year!) I don’t mind helping people but I also don’t want this to cost me money.
I talked to Pete about this for a while and he suggested trying a “donate button” to see if that would work. I loved that idea – and had never thought of something like that. I am going to experiment with it for now. And you can see the PayPal button on the bottom of my home page.
If I work with someone and they feel I added value to their decision, they can make a donation if they want. If they can afford it – that’s great, but it won’t limit who I can help! I am also going to look into site sponsors too. I would think one or two “static” ads in the sidebar wouldn’t turn too many people off – especially if they know that I am coaching people for free. Sponsored posts could work too if I could work them in and not have it totally spam my readers. And affiliate links for services like Fiverr (where I got my new logo!) can help a little too.
So that’s a wrap for Week 1 of our Longmont (#Stashmont) PopUp Business School Adventure! We took our tent down Friday morning knowing we were planning a weekend trip away from Longmont. I’ll share our Weekend 1 adventures in the next post! Scorching hot sand, sledding, and one-lane winding mountain roads certainly made for some excitement!
Let me know if you have any questions about what I shared in this first post! The PopUp Business School has a lot of free information online and on their YouTube Channel. They even have a free step-by-step Start-Up Guide! These guys are full of energy and great ideas. I highly recommend you checking out their work! Mr. 1500 was also at PopUp! Here’s a link to his review too!