Soul & Science
Soul & Science

Season 1, Episode · 3 months ago

S1 Episode 14: The Hustle Founder Sam Parr | How to Hustle


Is success as seemingly simple as putting one foot in front of the other? Sam Parr, founder of The Hustle, one of the fastest-growing media companies, focusing on millennials, tech and culture, fueled his rise by curiosity, action and googling. Segueing from helping “American Pickers” Mike Wolfe set up a Nashville store to running a hot dog stand to feed the fans, Sam googled how to start an internet business and then did. He moved to Silicon Valley, started and sold a few ventures, then the self-proclaimed nobody started a blog which evolved into The Hustle. Sam’s career proves that hustle manifests success, more than degrees, connections and money.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Building a business is like writing a hit song
  • About the benefits of a PhD in the school of life: Poor, hungry and driven.
  • Throwing money at a new business can give an artificial sense of success
  • How to hustle to bring your goals to life 

Thank you, Sam, for joining me. Give it a listen, and fast forward your marketing mind in about 20 minutes.

Brought to you by Mekanism.

I'm Jason Harris. You're listening to soul and science. Fast Forward Your Marketing Mind and about twenty minutes. If you like our show, please take a moment to subscribe, rate, review and share on apple, spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us across social platforms at mechanism. Welcome to the PODCAST. Today I'm joined by Sam Parr, founder of the Hustle, among many other things, one of America's fastest growing media companies with a focus on millennials, tech and culture. Their signature product is a daily email that's changing how young professionals consume news. Each morning they send users a daily dose of a reverend off feed informative takes on the headlines and trends across business at tech. Sam also runs hustle con I youth do yes, okay, this is going to be that. I like the interactive the interactive bio is really fun. So let me do it. I it's my life. I could do it for you. It'll be really easy. So the hustle. It's a daily email. It was acquired by hut spot like a year ago and we reached like over, maybe it's for sure over two million about two point five million people a day and Hustle Cohn. I launched. That was our conference and actually launched that first, before the news letter even existed, and we would have thousands of people come, but once the pandemic hit we had a shut it down. Sam is also the founder and host of my first million podcast, a weekly entrepreneurial podcast where he does a deep dive into different business opportunities and helps explain how to pounce on them. Sam Today's episode theme is about how to Hustle with Sampar. We're going to dive right in. What is the SAM par origin story? How did you get into the business that you are now in? I'm from Missouri, St Louis Missouri. I went to school in College and Nashville, Tennessee, and while I was there I met this guy, you know, Mike Wall. I've you heard of American pickers, the TV show. I met Mike on the street and I became friends with them and he asked me to help create one of his stores. So you know, like on the show, they buy old junk and they sell it in the stores. Well, I ran the store Nashville, or helped run, and I learned about entrepreneurship with him because he was a pretty baller entrepreneur. And eventually I opened up a hotdog stand to like service like all the tourists coming to the area. And after doing that I realize selling stuff outside is really hard when it's a hundred degrees. So I started some Internet businesses and kind of googled and figured out and just googled, like where do Internet companies start? Or like where where do they live? And someone online said Silicon Valley, and so I just dropped out of school and moved to Silicon Valley and I started a couple Internet companies, one or two that were eventually a quiet hired and when I was looking for something new to do, a new company a start, I created that event called Hustle con just as a way to kill time kind of, and unexpectedly it worked out, and the reason it worked out was I was really good at content marketing and so I kind of thought content is kind of fun. What's what's a media company all about? When I just kind of studied it and launched a media company, what was it like when you went to Silicon Valley by yourself, like we you just showed up there and you're like, there's a lot happening here, let me in. I just showed up. You know, it was pretty easy. It was really easy. I just showed up. But it was cool because everyone else was also just showing up and everyone was open minded to strangers. But it was easy. I mean it was hard because I was so poor. I used to like joke to myself and say I was on the whole food scholarship because in reality I would just steal from the buffet and' like I because I like didn't have any money. I used to get like, you know, like the old trick where you like get two slices of pizza in the one container and you only pay for... slice of pizza. That was my move. So I used to do things like that all the time because I was so poor. So it was hard like to pay for stuff, but it worked out. And how did you have the KAHONE's to start hustle con and expect people would show up like you? Did you have any connections, background network? No, I was a nobody and I just I I knew I could write because I kind of was teach I was teaching myself and I was convinces that I could use copywriting to get people to become excited, and so I just created a blog where I would write really cool articles about each speaker and then I would post it on hacker news and read it and it would get kind of popular, and I would collect the emails of the people who came to the website because they would enter their email learn more and I would email them and I just convinced them to come. And the first time I did it it wasn't that big. I think I made sixtyzero dollars and in six weeks and three hundred people showed up. The next time we did it it was like two hundred fifty thousand dollars and like six hundred people showed up. So it wasn't like huge, but it wasn't small, I guess. But I just did it through blogging. And how did you tract speakers that people would want to show up and see? I kind of lied so, like I would, I had these like eleven or twelve people who I wanted to speak, and I did like the thing where you like ask your mom for something and you say like well, Dad said it was okay, and then you do the same thing to your you know, your dad, you say. Well, mom said it was okay. So I just invited like ten people and I said by worded it in such a way that I was actually not lying, but in reality it felt like I was lying, because I would say like hey, these are the nine other speakers who are going to attend amazing or who are going to speak. Do you want to be do you want to be part of that, you know, like something like that, and I got lucky and like most all of them said yes, that's incredible. I love what you have to do at the beginning to make something happen, because you're like you've got nothing to lose and you need you need to manifest it or you've got nothing or you're still stealing pizza. I think people like I'm kind of working on new products right now and I'm so I'm starting stuff from scratch and I'm trying not to talk about it publicly too much because I don't want I'm trying not to use my brand, my personal brand, until like I know it works and then I'll talk about it. But Anyway, and so I'm in like this early stage and I'm like, Oh my God, I can't believe I did this. I can't believe I was in this like scrappy mode for like two years when I was younger. This was really hard. It's very challenging. You might have a scrappy mindset, but you're you're not approaching it in a scrappy way. You're not bag barring and stealing to launch these things. No, not, not anymore. No, but I'm trying not to throw money at the problem because I think that that can actually make it bad. So I kind of like assume in my head that, like, all right, I'm poor, broke and like hungry, like I got my PhD, you know, Poor, hungry and driven and like I have to make this work and it's very challenging and it's very stressful. It's kind of good to go back to that mentality, though, because you could always throw money at something to make it happen, but there's a different reward when you don't or throwing money at stuff, I actually think ruins it. Like it's like you get a false sent it's like it's, for example, a lot of people who create deep, cool DDC products or create cool media products like a newsletter. They're always like, I'm going to advertise right away I'm gonna, like, buy ads on a certain platform in order to get new customers. But I'm like dog, this is like up. You're giving yourself a false sense of hope because you are able to throw money at this and getting customers, but you might have a leaky ship. You don't know if people are going to come back and buy this again. You don't know if it's actually good enough that people going to talk about organically. And so I'm actually a fan of only throwing money at it when, like, you have a machine that turns a dollar into two dollars and you know that this is working, as opposed to throwing money at something early on and you get a little bit of artificial boost. You know, like it has to be fuel to the fire, it can't create the fire. I love that, because you can always buy an audience or followers or whatever, but it's not. It's...

...not a core audience, right, it's just numbers. Yeah, you just buy numbers. So how did you go from Hustle Khan to get Hustle Khan off the ground? How did you decide you were going to turn that into one of the first email newsletter successes? How did you how did you have that Idd you remember when you had that idea? Yeah, so basically what I would do is I would like host this event and I would make like hundreds of thousands of dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, and I was like twenty three, so I was like hood rich. So like I put that money in the bank and then I would go and travel for like on my motorcycle for six months and like live like a dream twenty three year old whatever lifestyle. And while I was doing that, one of the so I would host the event travel, host the event, travel, and I did that a couple times and then while I was traveling, I read the biography of Ted Turner. That's the guy who started CNN, sure, and I was really inspired by it because I I'm not entirely from the south. I'm from Missouri, but people in New York sometimes called me southern, and he was southern. He was from Georgia and he had this big old building in New York and in the you know, in Midtown Manhattan, called the Time Warner Center. That's, you know, that was his building, one of his buildings, and he created CNN and I was really inspired that this outsider can create this huge culturally relevant media business, and so I was really inspired by it. And so at this point we had made probably five hundred. I think we had five hundred thousand dollars in the bank from just doing these conferences. And the conferences started with zero dollars. So like I think that the only money I ever put into the company was like a male chimp subscription, which is twenty a mon, like it was like maybe five hundred. Like it was like close to nothing. And so anyway, we made all these profits from this event and I was like, well, events suck, like running events really stinks, like if it rains, you're screwed. It's very stressful, like things can really screw it up. I don't Wantt to be the event person. What else can we do? And I'd read this guy, Ted Turner. I read his biography and I was like, let's do media. That sounds cool. And I researched all the different ways that media companies were built and it seems like the newsletter strategy was something that fit what I was good at and a lot of people weren't doing it at the time, and so I was like, I think there's an opportunity to do the newsletter thing, and I think I'm talented at that. So it might be like a perfect a perfect combination. So when you started the hustle, were you doing all the writing? Yeah, and how did you determine every week what you were going to research and write about? It was that stressful? Yeah, it was hard. So when we started, we weren't really doing news. I was just writing like five articles a day. I mean I was just writing a ton of articles and I would do a bunch of different things in order to come up with content. The first thing is I had multiple personalities. So like they're Sam par there SID Finch, they're Steph Whitfield. Who else did I have? Steve Garcia, that's Steve Jobs and Jerry Garcia. He's the guy who likes to take LSD and like I would write these articles from Steve Garcia it he we wrote about microdosing, and then Steph wouldfield wrote about like what it was like to be a woman in tech and then, like I had like all these like personas and I would just like have fun with it and write these like opinion pieces. But then also what I would do is I would go to read it and I would go to hacker news and I would look at what the top articles of the week were and I would look at what the comments were and the critique and the analysis and the feedback on that like a particular news story or article, and I would like write about it in a different and unique way. For example, do you remember when Steve Harvey was like the CAP, or what was the the presenter for Miss America and he read the second place winner as the first place winner? Yeah, I remember that. Yeah, well, when he did that, he showed the card kind of really quick and some people were like joking about this on read it, but I kind of like really ledg closely at it, at the card and it was like horribly desig mind.

The card was actually quite confusing, like it had the it had the second place winner. Her name was actually bigger than the first place winner. It was very confusing. So I understand why he made that mistake. I don't remember exactly what we wrote, but I was like, Steve Harvey wasn't wrong, the designer of this card was wrong. Right, and like I wrote that article and that got viewed like a million times. Amazing. So like we would do like little things like that like consistently, and then we realized that the news is actually better because there's news every hour, every day, versus just like evergreen articles I would write. And so that's how we's kind of switch to news. So Steve Harvey's mistake helped the hustle take off. How did you have it make revenue? So for the longest time it was just ads and like I always thought. I was like, I think this could make like twenty or thirty or forty million dollars a year and revenue. But then now, like today, I realized it could actually make like a hundred or more in revenue. Like, yeah, we sold our company, but some of our friends and betters who didn't sell or knocking on the door of a hundred million dollars in revenue. So I didn't actually I was I didn't realize how big that could get. But then we also made money through subscriptions, and subscriptions also could be way bigger than I thought. So we had this thing called trends, which was like a weekly email that went out and it was only three hundred dollars a year and you also got access to a community. Yeah, we launched that kind of incorrectly looking back. We should have charged way more money and done a few things a little bit differently, but that was still making many millions of dollars a year and subscription revenue. So we made money through advertising, we made money through subscription revenue and for a whole we made money through conferences. That's amazing. And then at will point where you like, I want to sell, still kind of be connected to it but not deal with all the hardships running it, my goal throughout life, like or like starting at age nineteen, I was like, I want to be like financially independent at age thirty and I want to work backwards from there. And so my goal when I started the business was to sell. And like around the age of thirty and when the pandemic hit, I got freaked out a little bit. I was freaked out about like everything, just like everyone else was, and a couple companies hollered at us to sell and they were always talking to us. People were always messaging us to bias. But their pandemic hit and I also had gotten really sick. I got well lines lines disease and my face was all paralyzed and I was like freaked out. I was like man, I'm scared, like I don't my yea as like I don't know my face is ever going to get better. I don't feel good. The pandemic is here, like I'm pouncing on this opportunity, I'm selling this sucker, and so I decided to do that and we sold in February of two thousand and twenty one. Do you ever regret selling, or are you glad you did it? I don't regret selling. I'm glad I did it. I regret so I acknowledge that we could have sold for like, way, way more and it could have been a way, way bigger business, but I had a number, a personal number, in mind, and I hit it and I'm happy to have hit that. I regret that I was in the situation that I had to sell. So, for example, I owned the vast majority of the business, but I didn't own one hundred percent of the business right and if I owned one hundred percent of the business, I would have just like paid myself like a huge salary every year and been like, it's good, let's just run this forever and I would have helped hire, I would hired more. Instead, I ran it like I didn't pay myself a lot of money as we were going. So like I didn't make like a substantial sum until we sold. I wish I had done it the other way, though, and so I wouldn't ever have had two sold sell, but no, I don't regret selling. It's awesome. Do you think that part of your hustle and being successful was your lack of responsibility and your youthful, naivete? Well, that's like saying, like, is it luck or not? And Yeah, yeah, I acknowledge that. Like there's a ton of luck involved and a ton of like privilege here. Like when I graduated college, I got a I got a little bit of I got like an athletic scholarship, and also my parents helped support me until I they're like, you either have to play a sport and get a scholarship or if you quit, which I did, you've got to...

...go get a job, but we'll like help you, it will help you regardless, but you have to contribute. So I didn't have any debt when I graduate. Graduated had I had to make with a debt payment like a six hundred or five hundred to two thousand and some in that huge Ballpark, depending on your interest rate. If I had to make that debt payment every month, it would have been incredibly challenging. I didn't have any children. I'm married now, but I don't have any kids. So like the fact that made a huge difference, not having any kids. Yeah, I was naive. That made a huge difference. I actually think I would have done it regardless of I was now, even not because I'm not naive anymore. I'm still doing it, but the youth, the health, the born to a good family that I'll helped. You're now going back to your PhD acting like you're poor, hungry and driven. It's part of your hustle. What are you really great at and what are blind spots or deficiencies that you now know? You have to hire four because you tried it and you you sucked at it. I'm crazy good at starting and like getting early customers and not letting fear hold me back. I'm very good at that. So, like, I can have an idea on a Monday and by Wednesday I can have a website live and by Thursday I can get a customer. I've done that dozens of times and it's very easy for me. Not Easy, it's very straightforward for me. Like I just I'm pretty good at executing that. I'm very good at hiring, I'm good at spotting interesting people and convincing to come join me. I'm incredibly bad at organization and I would say I'm not that good of a CEO because I'm pretty emotional and I can get angry at people or I can get really happy with people, when sometimes it's a little bit better to be even Keel. Yeah, the thing that I'm doing now is I'm going to try and get it to six hundred thousand dollars in revenue and then hire a CEO. I actually don't think that we should opt we should try to fix our weakness, because the things that make a person organized often or the thing like organization requires perfectionism. It requires patients, it requires them like being like incredibly thoughtful. Starting something usually requires recklessness. It requires like, I don't know, but we're just going to figure it out. Let's just go like it requires the option of perfectionism, and so my opinion is like that's exactly right. Embrace it, don't try to change yourself. Instead, just go harder on that one thing and and and specialize and then beyond that you just hire people and just say this is your job, your jobs to do this. My job will be due to this and we're going to we'll both kick ass at our jobs. But Yeah, I'm not organized. Like I'm terribly unorganized. For people that are starting businesses or pivoting, do you have any advice about how to make things work? Yeah, like I think most people just like overthink things too much. And I'm like, well, have you gotten on the phone and just cold called someone and try to get them just and just like try to sell them on the phone? Like no, I but I'm in like blogging and like writing on twitter, or I'm like, dude, like just get on the phone like literally in the next ten minutes and start calling people and try to get the sale done and if they don't buy, figure out why and then alter the product and then like just do that literally every day for a hundred days. So I and like it's very simple. It's hard, but it's simple, and so I think people overthink things. I also think they think too long about it. So I'm a big fan of momentum. So it's you can spend a lot of time, I think, deciding if what you want to work on is actually what you want to work on. But then, once you make that decision, I try to get traction and and results, even if they're small and unorganized. I try to get them immediately, as fast as possible, because the momentum encourages me and I keep going and becomes the reality. That's great advice right there a lot of what we talked about. We talked to a lot of CMOS, a big brands and we talked about marketing and soul and science and is you know, soul is leading with your heart and science is leading with your head, and it sounds like you know from the don't overthink things and get the momentum. That's a lot of going with your gut. But to build businesses like you have, it's also results and subscribers and...

...listeners and numbers and to get advertisers and etc. Are you into like looking through the data and what point are people dropping off and why? And how do you how do you measure the like the the analytical, with with the gut? As as as you run businesses, you're a big music guy, so like to me, building a business it's kind of like running a hit song. Like, on one hand there's a lot of commonalities behind the hit songs, like they're in this range of beat per minutes and like they have the hook here and they've got like and they're there's like eighteen or twenty different chord structures that they're potentially fall in, and so that's like the science. But then the art is like, you know, like no computer model ever said that this guy named David Bowie could dress like a woman who wear paint on his face and be considered like a sex symbol and be considered like amazing and cool. Like that's just like he's just a freak, he just artistic, he's just he just cool. It's hard to explain. That's just innate talent. And so I think early on I rely on art and then later on I'm I can definitely go way more into the science, but I don't let the science hold me back because I think that a lot of the best shit it's not going to be created in an excel sheet. The excel sheet will help with a lot of the decisions, but not all the cool decisions. Like I think Jeff Bezos was like yeah, they Amazon, like our data repeatedly showed that we could raise prices and people would continue buying for us at the same conversion rate. But like our whole stick is that we're low cost, were low price, so we're just going to keep him low right. So, like that's an example we shouldn't listen to data. But then there's other ways where it's like Oh, this copy works better, let's do that. So I can do both. But when we remember I was trying to get a loan for the business and someone was the banker was like yeah, send me a cohort analysis and I was like the fuck is a cohort analysis? What does a cohort and he was like so I like acted sillied. I told someone at my company. I was like what's a cohort analysis and they explained it to me and I was like, you know, we can do that and my employee was like yeah, Dude, I've been doing it and it's so anyway. Like I've gotten pretty good at hiring and letting him do their job, but I didn't know anything. That's amazing. I love the building a business is like writing a hit song. I think that's a really good analogy and it's also, you know, part of a business. It's a collection of people and how they hang together. You know, there's a science to how you hire and who you hire, but then there's a chemical thing that happens that you can't predict of how they're going to be when they're together. Yeah, that's that's the art. Well, that's the art. Are You doing now that you've sold and you're starting new things? How do you determine what you're going to put your you know, just money into, what you're going to put your time into? Yeah, have you heard of ekey Guy? Do you know what that is? No, it's like this Japanese concept or way of life, I guess, and it looks kind of like a ven diagram with four circles, and it's basically like what the world needs, what you're talented at, what you enjoy doing and what can make money. And I like trying to like think use those kind of four things and find something right in the middle. I but when I'm working, right when I sold, I started doing some stuff, like I angel invest at a ton and angel invested in like sixty companies and then I was like this is so fucking lame. I just give these guys like a check and I don't hear from them for five years. is so boring, like like yes, it will make money, but it is like just so boring. I'd like I don't do anything, I just give money and I hopefully hear back from the then five years, I might as well go buy a bunch of lottery tickets and so like. Lately I've been like I changed my opinion. A few months ago I was like I'm just going to do stuff that's dope. I'm just I just going to work on stuff that's amazing and I have a feeling that whatever I work on, it can make a lot of money. So I kind of have been overoptimizing, just for like what's sick, what's awesome, like just what it's exciting. So I anyway,...

I'm like doing things that give me energy, because I found that anything it gives me energy, it's more likely to succeed. So tell me about your big investment property that you just built. I have been buying places to do air BNB. I've always wanted to do it, but I never had enough money to do it. I've always wanted to create a hotel, and it's that creating hotel is pretty expensive. So instead I got into AIRBNB's and so I bought my first property. I've got three properties now, but the main one you're talking about is a ranch. It's called Marathon ranch. So I bought a twenty Acre ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, which is like two hours outside Austin. It's beautiful and it's like a fitness airbnb type of thing, and so I've got like a gym there and you can hunt. It's pretty neat, and so that's like my airbnb. It's been a really fun project. It's making thirteenzero a month in sales, so it's paying for itself and make it a good profit. But I needed to get to like Fifteenzero or Twentyzero a month to make like really good money. What motivates you now? That is different than what motivated you in the early days before. What motivated me was like not necessarily wanting to retire, but not wanting to be like destitute and pour I'd been poured before and I was like this is horrible. I want to have a family and like I remember one time my parents and have a lot of money growing up, but I remember one time I got braces and when I got older I was like hey, mom, there when you gave me braces. She was like yeah, that was twozoars and I paid for it on my debit card and I had five thousand dollars in my checking account and I was like that is wild. I can't believe you did that for me. Thank you. And I was like I want to get it really rich. So like well, my kids want braces or whatever, like it ain't no thing, like you know, we can just swipe the card and it's no big deals. That was the motivation early on. Now the motivation is just live a meaningful life. I think that it's pretty crazy that, like a lot of people, I don't think whether they just don't want to or because they're not fortunate or lucky enough, which I understand it. Can like kind of reflect and be like all right, like am I spending my time how I think, like makes me feel good in my heart? Am I able to spend time with my family? If I am able to contribute positively to the world? And I'm kind of just thinking it like I'm just want to live a really well balanced and healthy life and I want to live for a long ass time. Well, I love the ekey Guy. I'm going to definitely look that up. I love the build a business is like writing a hit song. PhD, I'll never forget. I like that you were inspired by Ted Turner. You like that. Turner Your big CNN guy. Right, I am so, I am a CNN guys. CNN plus did last very long, though. Yeah, but I know that you and Biden are boys. You were your homes with buying before he was president. That's true. And then I think the Steve Harvey Mistake help build the Hustle is great and I love you, the Sam par schizophrenic. All Right, who are? Who are some of your Le Models that, either now current or when you were younger, they used sort of emulated or looked up to? I always love like people who have like a punk rock attitude and beat to their own live their life like was like march to the beat of their own drum. I've really enjoyed reading about Laird Hamilton lately. You know who that is, of course. Yeah, big wave surfer. He's like that goodlookins big wave surfer guy, and I love like how like focus and driven he is on like something that it's kind of easy to dismissh it's like, Dude, this is just surfing, this is a game. Like why you care so much about this and he's but he like kind of like is so focused on it and dedicated his life to it. So I'm actually incredibly fascinated by him. Do you know who Felix Dennis has? He wrote this book called how to get rich, and it's horribly tidled, but it's all about how to get rich. But his business he created. He was kind of like Richard Branson, but a more vulgar and more drug addict, the version of Richard Branson. He was like he got popular because He created all these magazines and he like loved to smoke crack. Like he loved crack.

That was his drug voice, crack and cocaine, and he like wrote this book. So when he died he was worth seven hundred million dollars and he invented a bunch of magazines, including Maxim magazine, and he was like I lived life to the fullest, but I wish I use like there was like five years, but I did cocaine and crack and I just love drugs. But his full eye. But he was like, if I could do it all over again, I would have gotten rich and then spent all my time writing poetry and like planting trees and and he's got this book called how to get rich that like kind of changed my life and my life perspective because he did a really good job of balancing having fun, not the crack part, but the other fun, like having fun and making money. Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that drives you? If you think you can or if you think you can't, you're probably right. I love that. That's a good one. Thanks for being on the PODCAST, Sam. You are fascinating individual. I've always been so impressed with how hardcore you go after thanks. Likewise, thanks so much for listening to soul in science and we'll see you next week. Soul in science is a mechanism podcast produced by the amazing Frank Riscool, Ran Tillotson, Tyler Nielsen, Emma Swanson and we'll lead you blonsky. The show is edited by Daniel Ferrara, the theme music by Kyle Mary, and I'm your host, Jason Harris.

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