About this episode

As we put 2020 into our rearview mirror and head into 2021 with renewed passion and ambition, I thought it’d be fun to look back on 2020 and reflect on all the good that has happened this year. And there has been some good produced from this year. Regardless of what 2020 looked like for you, there are some things you can look back on with appreciation.

I started The Startup Story in 2019 because I wanted to give entrepreneurs a place where they could learn from other entrepreneurs. I knew that they understood the limits of their own understanding and the importance of seeking guidance from others.

However, when I began, I noticed how many founders hadn’t experienced disruption and crisis and therefore felt no need to get help from others. Well, 2020 changed all of that. Entrepreneurs found themselves in a crisis just as the country at large did. They were forced to find inventive ways to stay in business.

Through this innovation, startups became stronger than ever before. Similarly, many other good things we didn’t expect came from this year of supposed struggle. Tune in as I reflect on them.

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • Why even us entrepreneurs can look back and appreciate 2020.
  • The amazing 2-day live stream event where founders came together to talk about how they were navigating this crisis.
  • How the founder of Airbnb came to realize that he needed guidance from those outside of his usual circle.
  • The challenges in my own life that brought about Grindology.
  • A few of the mentoring minutes that have had the greatest impact on all of you.

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Episode transcript

2020 Wrap-Up

Hello everyone. My name is James McKinney, creator and host of The Startup Story and this is quite possibly the only yearend wrap up that will not use the words "unprecedented" or "new normal" so let's get started.

  • Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story. *


James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. As we put 2020 into our rearview mirror and head into 2021 with renewed passion and ambition I thought it would be fun to look back on 2020 to reflect on all the good that has come from this year, and yes there has been some good produced from this year. But before we get rolling into our episode I want to say thank you to the various sponsors of the show throughout the year.

In the beginning of the year we had sponsorship agreements with Brex, the credit card for startups. Destiny Rescue was a nonprofit that rescues children from the sex trafficking industry. And most recently Design Pickle, a month to month subscription graphic design services platform. Their individual partnerships helped to provide a means to produce the weekly episodes. And while the global shutdown created a tremendous amount of uncertainty, concern over cash flow, our collaborations with each of those brands resulted in tremendous success. In fact, Brex had mentioned that their sponsorship of The Startup Story was one of their most successful podcast sponsorships in their history. Now that is possible because of you, the listener. You are the engagement they're looking for and that is why I only partner with brands that I know will be of value to you, the entrepreneur, wantrepreneur, creator and maker.

You know, our collaboration with Design Pickle has been multifaceted and has created an ROI that exceeds previous podcast sponsorships where they've spent thousands of dollars. Again, this is because The Startup Story has a highly engaged audience. In fact, ,Design Pickle asked me what makes The Startup Story podcast audience so incredible, and while I don't have an exact answer I sense it's because all of you know how much I value you, your brands, your businesses, and your time. I show that appreciation by only bringing stories and sponsors that can help you in growing your businesses or brands. So again while there's no data that defines exactly what makes The Startup Story podcast audience so remarkable, I truly believe it's because there's a mutual respect between you and I for what it is that we're trying to do and trying to accomplish with our businesses.

That mutual respect is why Design Pickle was so gracious in partnering with us for our Grindology launch. They know how much I value your commitment to subscribing to the show and growing your business or brand that they offered to give one lucky Grindology member a full year of their Design Pickle pro service that is valued at nearly $12,000. Now, for my radio listeners you already know about Grindology because many of you have already secured your exclusive Q1 box. But for the new listeners who might just be picking up The Startup Story podcast for the first time, let me do a quick recap of what Grindology is because you don't want to miss this.

Grindology is an entrepreneurial subscription box that is created just for entrepreneurs, wantrepreneurs, founders, creators, makers, and those who might even have a side hustle. Grindology was created to help fuel your grind. Every shipment will include two bags of uniquely crafted coffee specifically roasted for you. Our first box will include our Crash Pad House Blend that was roasted to deliver a brew that is drinkable all day long. And our second bag in our Q1 box is our Afterburner Blend that's our high caffeine blend, crafted to deliver the extra jolt you need to get after those goals you have for your business. Again, these coffees are crafted and brewed for entrepreneurs, by an entrepreneur. In addition to the custom roasted coffees, each shipment will include an exclusive mug that is only available to Grindology members. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, every single Grindology shipment will include a copy of the Grindology tactical manual. Every single issue of Grindology will be chock full of real tactics from real business builders, not journalists. Within the pages of the Grindology tactical manual we will be delivering to you tactics and strategies you can integrate into your business immediately. Think about that, how great would it be to receive real marketing funnel strategies from those who are doing it? Wouldn't it be helpful if a successful founder laid out specific user acquisition strategies that they use to grow their business? Those are the types of tactics that will be found in each issue of Grindology. [05:00] Like I said, real tactics from real business builders.

Every quarter you will receive a new shipment with new coffees, a new mug, and a new issue of the Grindology tactical manual. Everything about Grindology is about helping to fuel your grind. That is why our friends at Design Pickle have partnered with us for our first shipment by hooking up one lucky subscriber with a full year of unlimited graphic design services, a $12,000 value, for free for one lucky subscriber. You know we ship our first box January 2021, which man it's coming fast, and it's going to be an exclusive shipment so make sure to secure your box today at Grindology.com. Imagine jumping into 2021 knowing that you have unlimited creative services from Design Pickle. Their pro service is what they're giving away to one lucky Grindology member, and you have the chance to win it for absolutely free. Everything you need to know can be learned by visiting Grindology.com. But like I said, we ship our first box January 2021 and it will be an exclusive shipment so make sure to secure your box today at Grindology.com. And now that you fully understand all that Grindology is about, you can see why we are so grateful to Design Pickle for coming alongside us with this incredibly generous giveaway valued at nearly $12,000. And that is a great example of one of the great things that has come out of this year.

Regardless of what 2020 has dealt to you, there are things that we can look back on with appreciation for. I started The Startup Story in 2019 because I knew that entrepreneurs wanted to learn from other entrepreneurs. I knew that entrepreneurs understood the limits to their understanding and that seeking the guidance of others was critical. And I personally got to that place of understanding because of my own journey of disruption and crisis. While building The Startup Story I was struck by how many founders were not in the same place as I was because their story was one without much challenge, without a whole lot of disruption or crisis. Well, 2020 changed that for everyone and it changed it immediately. When countries and industries were shut down earlier this year, every single founder was in a crisis moment because the world was in that crisis moment. Founders that until that moment thought they could navigate the entrepreneurial journey by themselves and that their success was solely predicated on their own grit and resilience, well they realized just how wrong their understanding was because they found themselves without answers and needing to find a resource for guidance and a solution.

In May of this year we gathered 14 incredible founders for a two-day live stream event. This event was completely free to attend because it was solely about bringing people together to hear from other founders that were in the same crisis moment as they were, and how they were navigating that season. The event was streamed in 77 countries and delivered some remarkable value for all those in attendance, so yes when trying to think through something good that came out of 2020 I'm reminded of that moment, the moment when even the most successful brands and founders were reminded of how we truly all need the community of other entrepreneurs. I'm reminded of the moment where the founder of Airbnb said that they were just months away from losing everything they spent 12 years to build, and now they've gone public and they're huge. But I remember that moment, that moment where even the companies that we look to with such esteem were put on the edge and they realized that they can't do this by themselves. Yes, Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, had to find guidance and mentorship outside of his usual circle to understand how to navigate this.

You know another good thing that came out of 2020 is that it forced many of us to address a flaw or weakness in our own business model. While not everyone was able to adapt quick enough, those that were able to adapt are now better off for it. For many of us, we knew we had to diversify our revenue streams and our customer acquisition strategies. For others, there might have been a technology solution that kept being tabled because things were, and I'm using air quotes, "working just fine." For many of us, including myself, it forced us to address matters immediately. There was no more waiting, there was no more putting something on the back burner. For me specifically, it exposed a flaw in our monetization strategies. Prior to the global shutdown, The Startup Story only made money from our episode sponsorships and our live events. Well, when live events were cancelled and are still cancelled, and brands across the globe pulled back on media advertising, I was left scrambling trying to figure out how to generate revenue because my only channels were completely locked up.

That obstacle and challenge is what forced me to look at leveraging streaming video content and delivering a tangible product beyond media, which became the catalyst for Grindology. For many that had to alter their business, they might never go back to the previous business because their pivot is far greater than they expected [10:00]. In fact, that is exactly the case for Kelsey Carroll of Stand Up Stations, and you can hear her full story in episode 99. But when her previous business was shut down because all live events were cancelled, she and her husband had to figure out what to do next so they pivoted to Stand Up sanitation stations and their business has exceeded all forecasts that they had for their previous business. I know with confidence that Kelsey and her husband look back on 2020 with appreciation. Again, if we look back and see the moments in which we have grown and are better for it, we can look back at 2020 with appreciation.

As I'm sitting here speaking these words to you I'm reminded of a moment from my episode with Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand. In his episode he shared about how important mentorship has been to him and it reminded me about how much the mentoring minutes of The Startup Story have meant to you. After an episode airs I hear from so many of you that share your thoughts and learnings from the episode, and many of you speak to the final words of our founder guests shared at the end of their episode. I've dubbed the end segment of The Startup Story as a mentoring minute. It's been done inadvertently but it's kind of caught on and so I constantly refer to it now as the mentoring minute. So with that in mind I thought I would share a few of my favorite mentoring minutes from 2020.

The reason they've become my favorite is because they sparked the most engagement with you, the listener. I say all the time share with me on LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram your thoughts, your feedback from the episode. And I respond to those personally because I want to know how the episodes are resonating with you. The founders that I find are not just there to encourage me along in my entrepreneur dreams because I'm in this with you. Just know that I too am learning from these founders. But I do, I find these specific founders with these stories to bring to you because I know they will help you as well. And so just know that if you do engage us on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook those responses are from me. And so these mentoring minutes are my favorite because they've prompted the most feedback from all of you. So here's a few of the mentoring minutes that have had the most impact to all of you.


Eric Bandholz: What's going on internet? Eric Bandholz here, founder of Beardbrand. This message is really specific to any entrepreneur, whether they be in the wantrepreneur space. I personally was in the wantrepreneur space. The big lesson in life is that life really just sucks. It sucks really bad and there is a lot of really terrible things that go on, whether it be cash flow issues, whether it be your business partner leaving you, whether it be your wife divorcing you or your husband divorcing you. It doesn't get easy and I'm here to tell you that everyone has their own adversity. I have my adversity. My business partner has her adversity and his adversity. Our customers, I have heard so many stories of people who have these challenges. But the reality is your life, the limited time you have on this planet, you are meant to do something. Everything that has led you up to this point has made a mark on what you're doing, and you're able to leverage the things that you've learned to pivot and turn it into something that is meant for you to be, and that could be just a better understanding of who you are or that could end up being the business of your dreams that affords you the life that you want to live. So I just want you to say is part of this journey is accepting the fact that life is going to suck and then once you come to terms with that suck you're able to really find a blueprint for how to overcome that suck and elevate your life.


Randi Zuckerberg: Randi Zuckerberg here. There's so many things that I want to say to that person, but first of all I would want to say that there's never a right age or a right time to have a dream or to start something. It doesn't matter if you're 15 or you're 85. We're lucky that we all live in a world where if you have a laptop and an internet connection you can start a business. Ten years ago that was not the case. It's pretty incredible that we live in a world where for such few resources any of us can do that. But I guess the thing that I always tell people is to really like look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're willing to put in the hard work. It's okay if the answer is no. you can have a very fulfilling career working for someone else's vision. There are a lot of people who feel very fulfilled by that. If it is your vision that you want to work in purpose of you have to be willing to put in the hard work. Not everyone is because there's no such thing as an overnight success. Every single thing that you think is an overnight success was like 18 years in the making. If you're not willing to buckle down and have that grit and that hard work, then that's the number one thing that determines your success in entrepreneurship.


Tucker Maxx: Hey everyone, this is Tucker Maxx. I'm the cofounder of Scribe Media. I hate the hustle porn, rah rah inspirational bull. Like I know Gary Vaynerchuk and Tom Bilyeu, they're my friends and I love them as people, but I hate that stuff. I think it is bubblegum, McDonald's bullshit and it does not help. If it helped then Gary Vaynerchuk would have all these billionaires listening to his show and he doesn't. everyone is still just as poor and broken, and whatever it was they were when they started listening to it. I would start asking them questions. First thing I would start, it depends on the person man. But all my questions would really direct back to why won't you let yourself succeed? I'm not sure if I'd ask the question directly. It depends on the person but I believe that most people that haven't succeeded don't believe they deserve to. People will only let themselves have what they believe they deserve, and so I would try to uncover the core belief that is underpinning why they don't believe they deserve success. Because once you unlock that, the rest is easy.


Christina Stembel: Hi, this is Christina Stembel. I'm the founder and CEO of Farm Girl Flowers. If you are the entrepreneur that is scared to start a business right now because of the uncertain economic conditions that we're in right now I would say go for it, do it. Do not be worried about that because all the statistics show that businesses that are started in a down economy are the ones that have the highest success rate of any business. Look at this as a great opportunity and a blessing. This is a huge blessing that you're going to be able to acquire talent that you would never, ever be able to get starting a company before, and you're going to be able to have rents that are far lower than you'd ever pay. Look at all of the positive side of what's going on right now as your opportunity, the perfect opportunity to start your company right now. And do it.


Ben Chestnut: Hi, I'm Ben Chestnut, cofounder of Mailchimp. If you're one of those entrepreneurs who is just struggling to get it off the ground and reach escape velocity, and you wanted to move faster but it feels like you're just stuck, and you just can't get out of it, then I'd say the best advice I ever got was these things take time. Nothing good happens fast. Only bad things happen fast. You always hear that about bad stuff, "It happened like that." Good things take lots of time and usually the question that I ask every entrepreneur that comes to me like this, I say, "What is working?" And they tell me one little thing that worked, and I say, "Why didn't you do that again? Go back and do that again." Then they come back and tell me it worked, and I say, "Well why don't you do that again?" And again, and again, and again until it stops working. The entrepreneurs usually come back and tell me, "Wow, that really took off. I should have done that a long time ago." So just find out what works and just keep doing it over and over again. Hire someone to do it.


Russ Perry: Hey there, this is Russ Perry. I'm the founder and CEO of Design Pickle. So I'm going to speak to all of them all at once, all of those personas. Here's the thing, entrepreneur or future entrepreneur, what you want right now and what you want in the future, the difference between those two people is your willingness to let go of something today. What is holding you back isn't your ideas, it isn't your motivation, it isn't your opportunity. It is you being unwilling to let go of an anchor in your life. For me in my journey, that was alcohol. It was holding me back. I was addicted to that. For you, it could be a paycheck, it could be a relationship, it could be a hurt, a heart break, a story that you've carried with yourself. So sit down, recognize, be brutally honest with yourself of what it is because if you are willing to take the challenge of eliminating that from your life, whatever it may be, that is the weight that has to drop off of this hot air balloon or whatever for you to get to that next point. And you'll have to do this at every phase in your life, over and over and over and over again. I do it all the time. What am I holding onto? What am I currently addicted to? And how can I let that go to achieve the next level?


James McKinney: So as we wrap up 2020 and move forward into 2021 I hope you will take a few moments to just jot down a few things that you have appreciated learning from the challenges of this year. I'm sure that during this episode you've thought of just a few things that may have come to mind, but when you write it down, when you take it from your brain through your hand, onto pen and paper, it becomes a bit more real. Look, I'm not a journal- er but there is tremendous value in doing so. Some of our greatest entrepreneurs utilize a journal. There's just something to be said about taking what is cognitive and engaging with it kinetically through writing. And when you do write those things down, send me a note on Instagram or Facebook letting me know what it is you wrote down. You can find me at The Startup Story on both of those platforms. In fact, you just want to text me, feel free to do so. In fact you can text me at 214-214-4933. Either way I want to hear from you. I want to know what it is that you look back on in 2020 with appreciation for the lessons that you learned.

Hearing what you learned during this year will help me in my entrepreneurial journey as well, and that is what community is all about, to accelerate our learning through shared experiences. I'm excited for what we have in store for 2021 so I hope you will continue to stay engaged with The Startup Story. I hope you will join Grindology so we can continue to deliver tactics to help you grow your business. I say it in every episode because I believe it with my very being, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, and I'm here to support you.

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December 29 2020
2020 Wrap-Up

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