About this episode

Everyone gets hyped up about a software as a service startup. However, what’s incredibly unique is a service as a service design solution. Imagine a service model with no contracts and a graphic designer who will create anything you need. This is just what Design Pickle is.

Russ Perry is the founder of Design Pickle. Much like their name, they set themselves apart and provide unlimited graphic design work for a flat monthly fee. I use this service myself and it has been amazing. In this episode, Russ answers direct business questions from a live audience. Tune in to hear his highs, lows, successes, and failures.

In this episode, you'll hear.

  • How Russ grew up.
  • The steps that led him into entrepreneurship and founding Design Pickle.
  • Where he lands in the spectrum between pessimism and optimism.
  • What made him finally decide things had to change in regards to his drinking.
  • How he grew Design Pickle to where it is today.
  • Why establishing trust is critical.
  • Who he looks to for a business model.
  • Where he wants to see Design Pickle go in the next 5 years.

Resources from this episode

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The Startup Story Inner Circle: https://www.thestartupstory.co/vip

The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

Get Design Pickle’s free creative bundle + 30% DISCOUNT: https://designpickle.com/startupstory/

Russ on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/russperry/

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Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Russ Perry

Russ Perry: Hey there. This is Russ Perry. I'm the founder and CEO of Design Pickle, and this is MY startup story.

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 episode 94 of The Startup Story. I want to start off with a key data point for everyone listening. At the time of this episode release, we are just 80 days away from 2021. How incredible is it that in just 80 days we get to flip the page and turn away from 2020? For entrepreneurs everywhere, this year has been unbelievably challenging and I have said it for months that any business that can scratch and claw their way through 2020 and make it into 2021 will be setting themselves up for tremendous opportunity in 2021. With that in mind, keep pushing your business forward. 2021 is almost here! In fact, I want to help set you up for a great 2021 by telling my entire audience about your brand. I'm serious. I want to plug your brand within an episode of The Startup Story for absolutely free because I want to see you succeed.

That said, I hate email so please don't send me an email with your ad copy. The best way for you to send me your brand to plug is for you to leave a written review for the show in Apple Podcast. If you do that I will read your review in an upcoming episode for my entire audience to hear. Every time there's a new review I include it in an episode and these episodes live on for years to come. This is a long term exposure for your brand. But here's the key, and I'm amazed at how many brands miss this important step. When you write your review, make sure to plug your brand, URL, or social media account in the review. We have so many reviews that are incredibly complimentary to The Startup Story but they don't seize the branding opportunity by including a brand name or URL within the review. Again, these episodes live on forever and so will your ad. Let me plug your brand in an episode and help bring exposure to what you're working on. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs and this is my way of supporting you.

Another way I want to help you is by giving you 30 days free access to The Startup Story Inner Circle. Just visit Grindology.com, sign up for launch notification, and we will email you a link for free access to our entire video interview catalog with amazing founders like Christina Stembel of Farm Girl Flowers, Ben Chestnut of Mailchimp, and so many more. This usually costs $99 a quarter but I want to give you 30 days of free access because I want to help set you up for an amazing 2021. Again, just visit Grindology.com and enter your email to be notified when Grindology launches, and I will send you a link immediately for your free 30 day access.

And in case you're wondering what Grindology is all about, well you're going to have to visit Grindology.com to see, but I'm not going to lie it is super dope. Now let's jump into this week's episode.

Our guest this week is Russ Perry, founder of Design Pickle. For those who don't know, Design Pickle is a service as a service graphic design solution. You heard me correctly. Everyone gets all hyped up about a software as a service startup, but Design Pickle, much like their name, is setting themselves apart as a service as a service solution. For a flat monthly fee you can have unlimited graphic design work done, no contracts. It's month to month and you get a designated graphic designer that works with you for everything you need. I'm talking about brochures, flyers, even digital assets for all the various social media platforms. Do you need a GIF created for Instagram? Well, as a Design Pickle member your designer will create anything you need. You want an entire magazine laid out? Done. If it sounds too good to be true I get it. I had to understand the model a bit myself but have been using it for a little over a month now and it's amazing.

And oh yeah, before I forget Russ and the Design Pickle team also want to help set you up for an amazing 2021. Just visit designpickle.com/startupstory and you can get 30% any of the plans, as well as various other free downloads like design templates for ads and social posts. They are hooking all of us up because they want to help entrepreneurs, freelancers, creators, and makers everywhere. This is not some obscure affiliate link arrangement. I get nothing when you sign up. I just asked that they hook you up in a big way because 2020 has been brutal, and I want to make sure you have all the support you need to finish strong. Well, Russ and the team came through big time and again, just visit designpickle.com/startupstory to check it all out. Now let's jump into my interview with Russ Perry.

This episode is actually recorded in front of a live, well, more of a virtual audience where once we finished recording those in attendance were able to ask their business questions directly to Russ. It's just another perk of joining The Startup Story Inner Circle. What you are hearing is the actual recording. Just like all Startup Story episodes, we cover everything. The highs, the lows, the successes and the failures. But also, just like every Startup Story episode, we need to start at the very beginning.

James McKinney: let's go back to your way back machine. What is your origin story? How did Spiderman become Spiderman if you are Spiderman, or whatever Avenger you may relate to, but what is your origin story? When did it all begin? Were your raised by entrepreneurs? Were you surrounded by small business owners? What was it for you?

Russ Perry: So basically go back to when I was a cucumber, not a pickle-

James McKinney: Yes!

Russ Perry: … before the brining process.

James McKinney: Exactly, perfect.

Russ Perry: My story started in Arizona. I'm a native here, fourth generation Arizona native, and was not surrounded by entrepreneurs. In fact, a lot of my journey has been driven because my upbringing was very much your average, middle to low middle class American upbringing. My mom still is a school teacher, has been a school teacher pretty much my entire memory, since I can even have a memory. Her and me and my sister, we were on our own when I was two. So she got divorced right when my sister, right before she was born, and more or less that was the first 18 years of my life was growing up, single mom, single income household in Tucson Arizona. And the conversations while by no means were ever hurtful or stressful or anything, they always had this very subtle layer of scarcity. There was always tradeoffs in the conversations in my home. We could either do this trip or this trip. You could either have this or do this. You can't go here because of these financial considerations.

And don't get me wrong, my mom is amazing. She worked her butt off to provide as many… all of our moms, many of our moms try to do. But that was something that was a narrative that got kind of welded into my subconscious. It wasn't until much later which we can get to later on that I identified that, and it really helped me unlock my own growth both as an individual and as an entrepreneur. But that to me was so, it was a driving force. Like I wanted more and I found that I was frustrated always that we… why can't we do that? All we need to do is X, Y, and Z. so I was always, I worked… my first job I had when I was like 13. I was always pushing and trying to create and produce, because I was like okay if it isn't come for me from my parent then screw it, I'm going to figure out a way to go it.

My mom actually has a really funny story and I can't, I'm not 100% certain on the age but I think I was about six or seven, and she received a phone call, you know before cell phones on the landline, and it was like a grown man she says asking for me. She's like, "What is this about?" Clearly this is a weird conversation, and he replied, "Well, it's about the job application Russ has sent in." And I actually had gotten a call back from a job. I can't remember what it was, I think it was retail at the time. So I was like at a young age wanting to create and wanting to do more. For me, back then that kind of became dormant when I got into college. For me, there was a lot of the journey, I went to Arizona State University and the journey of what do I want to be, I thought it was engineering. I did that for a year, computer science engineering. That was not what I thought it was going to be, and doing a year of job coding I was like I am out of here.

James McKinney: And, I'm done.

Russ Perry: Yeah. And then I discovered industrial design and industrial design was a breath of fresh air because it was a lot of the problem solving of engineering, but it was in a very creative environment. You're thinking about design thinking, you're thinking about visuals, you're thinking about aesthetics. So I pursued that. I got actually a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies which was in design and then it was in also human communications. Up until this point, I would say my childhood was awesome. My experiences growing up were great. I never felt that there was any sort of challenges from that part of my life. It was really as I got into young adulthood I was met with one of my first huge curveballs of life that was me finding out at the age of 22, when I was a senior at Arizona State, that I was going to be a dad.

Now my daughter, she's 15, she's a sophomore in high school so it's crazy to think about, but that moment was I think an awakening for me that unlocked a lot of the things that I had maybe pushed aside because I was not willing to face the challenges of my upbringing of my life, of the scarcity mindset. All the sudden, within two months I found out I was going to be a dad and then my daughter was born two months later, so I didn't have much of a ramp up time. Never married, it was just a casual relationship but like I had to like reevaluate so many things on my own life plan. I was going to go to Australia, I was going to work for this agency, I'd already paid thousands of dollars for the work visas and the program. And that was like I think the fork in the road that I can really trace back to then to say okay, that started then the next chapter for me was that.

James McKinney: Let's actually step back even farther because one decision point that you had talked about, again I too being raised from a single mother for many years, went back and forth between parents but for my high school years single mom, there is a decision point as well when you are raised with this idea of scarcity, we have to create our own if we want to have something. You didn't have to go to college. Why did you think that was the decision point for you?

Russ Perry: Oh, get me out of my damn house. I need to go. I need to be free. For me, it was a path of liberation and I grew up in a very educated family. My grandfather was a professor at the University of Arizona. My mother, she got her master's degree. Even my dad who grew up kind of in a blue collar environment and pursued, continued that lifestyle, he got a degree. So I don't think it was a choice really for me. It was just sort of the next step.

I ended up luckily getting a full scholarship to Arizona State University, so that kind of made it a little bit easier too. It was a leadership scholarship that I got, not necessarily an academic one. But that in hindsight was I was hell-bent on it. I was like this is how I then transition into as an adult. It was less about the degree and more about the freedom, the experience, the mindset and even going through it like I did everything. Again, my mom she'll tell stories about how I was getting acceptance letters and all the forms, I was just like, "Here mom, sign these things," and it was like a notary where you show up and they have the tabs and the highlights of where to sign. I would prep documents for my mom and just be like, "Okay, you need to sign this, now sign here, no here, this is what we're going to do." So I was just like driven.

I think that is something that I've had my whole life and continues to this day is clarity of what I want ends up being the secret sauce for me to create and to build. And it started when I was six and I tried to get a job. It continued through many different iterations of my teens, and then as I became an adult and I went to college, it was about me wanting that experience not necessarily me thinking that this degree is somehow going to change my life. Let's be honest, I've never actually done industrial design professionally ever. I've never done human communications professionally ever.

James McKinney: I feel like you and I could have an entire podcast discussion centered around the necessity of a degree or not, and this is not the place for that. But you did have this idea that you wanted to be in computer engineering. At the time, what did you think that was going to parlay into, before you got tired of Java script? What did you think that was going to parlay into? Were you going to be at Google somewhere or what was your ambition?

Russ Perry: It was to work at Apple, which I ended up doing twice after, once in college and once after college. But I was always a tech computer guy. I leaned on the Apple side and I loved computers, and I loved technology, and I still do. So I just was like you know you're filling out a piece of paper and there's all these check boxes like what are you going to choose? Like computer engineering, cool, I'll do that. And I had no idea what really I was selecting. I just liked computers as an interest so that's what I chose, and I ended up just getting crushed. I was miserable, I was unhappy, the courses were just so demanding not in a fun way. I took AP classes, I took all the honors stuff in high school. I loved challenging classes but this was like brutal, like brutal classes, like demoralizing. I finally was just like, actually a roommate, his name was Eric, or a dorm mate named Eric, was already in industrial design and he's like, "Russ, you're a creative guy. You should check this degree out."

And it was like the wool was lifted over my eyes like oh my gosh. I didn't think about design and creativity that I could do that, but that's truthfully what I loved about technology. I didn't love the software engineering or the hardware pieces, I loved the creative parts of using technology. And so then that's when I discovered industrial design and I went down that path. So it was more trial and error, and thankfully I was able to find something relatively quickly. I was also on a time meter. I only had four years of scholarship so I had to pick something and make sure I got a degree. At the end of the day, that was something that I in hindsight will pass onto my daughters if they choose college is try to keep that as open as possible, as long as you can. Because I could have done a whole year of just general education classes and then chose a degree and gone down that path.

James McKinney: There's breadcrumbs we can see now that just kind of lead us to where we get to Design Pickle and I can see things happening, but right now in your story we find ourselves at the end of college. You are about to be a dad or maybe your daughter was born at this time of graduating. You had this idea of traveling to Australia to work for an agency and whatever else was going to come from what you thought the next five years would be. But what was that initial step as you had to make a decision to live now in the moment, be present? What was that process for you?

Russ Perry: So my college last year kind of leading up to and having my daughter, I had to get an internship. The ship had sailed with Australia. At the time I remember losing like $3,000 and it was like the most amount of money I could ever imagine losing, because there were deposits and all this stuff I couldn't get back. But my whole mission from when I was a kid to growing up was like I'm going to do things differently than my dad. I don't have any animosity for my dad. I just saw him this past weekend. We had a good lunch coming back from a road trip, but he was dealt a really hard hand in his life. Like his dad died of a heart attack on a Wednesday afternoon when he was 16 years old. Crazy story. He showed up to get his dad's stuff from work and they're like, "Here's his wallet. Here's his keys to drive his car back. Sorry your dad died." This is in like the late sixties, and there's no therapy, there's no counseling you know. It was just hard-ass parenting from his mom.

James McKinney: The school of "suck it up."

Russ Perry: Yeah, don't cry, suck it up. So I never… it took me a while. I wouldn't say that I was always without frustration and anger, but now today I have empathy for him. But even when I was younger, I was like look I'm going to do things differently. I'm going to be there, I'm going to be present. And so when I was going to have a child, not married, not at all romantically involved with the mom, cool, bring it on. Now is the time to be tested. Got 50/50 custody out of the gates, did all these things. I got my own apartment, I got all ready to have her. Then I was like okay, got to get a job, I need benefits, I need to be able to do this. So I got a job pretty much right out of college working for a brand, LG, the big Korean brand. And I was working in graphic design.

It was a funny turn of events because I was, I had her part of the time, I was working, she was in childcare, doing all these things. But that like childhood piece of me started to come out where I was like working in this company, man this is so inefficient let's do this differently. I was doing a lot of print collateral for their countertop division which was headquartered out of Peoria, Arizona so we were doing big jobs for Lowes Home Goods stores and trade show work. I was always trying to tinker and improve and do things. Well, I ended up getting fired from this job but I got rehired the next day as a contractor because what I learned later on, because my friend was actually the one who fired me, was like I was rocking the boat too much. I was like coming up with ideas and improvement processes, and like pushing, and pushing, and pushing. They just needed a graphic designer.

James McKinney: Just a steady Eddie, just to come in-

Russ Perry: Exactly.

James McKinney: … do the design work, yeah.

Russ Perry: And so I got fired and then the next day I got rehired, and it was just like just do this work. You can do it from home, we just need these files, you don't need to worry about it. But here was the crazy part is that I was getting paid just as much as I was getting paid now with the freelancer rates, and I didn't have to go to work and I had all this extra time on my hands. So that then kicked off, that was like whoa I wonder what it would be to kind of do this. Which I didn't do immediately. I was still thinking about working and thinking that was the right path for me.

James McKinney: So how long did that, if you did think career was still your path but you had a taste of the freelance entrepreneurial side of things where you kind of control your own schedule, your own destiny if you will, the thought process wasn't let me see how many clients I can get, it was I still want to figure out what a career looks like in this?

Russ Perry: Right.

James McKinney: So what were those next steps, and ultimately how do we get to Design Pickle?

Russ Perry: So there were two or three next steps. I worked for another agency which was a disaster. Worked for this crazy woman who just was a toxic person. I went back to Apple after that and I worked for Apple. So in college I was the Apple campus representative, so I worked with the higher education sales team and really cool experience. I worked there when they launched the first iPod, which was like a pretty revolutionary moment. Then when I came back to Apple I worked in the retail store here at the Biltmore, Arizona store. It was the only Apple store in Arizona at the time and again caught a good wave. I worked there when they launched the very first iPhone.

James McKinney: Oh, that must have been crazy.

Russ Perry: Oh, dude, it was nuts and it was just… I was learning from, it was like a master class every day in marketing and training, and back office operations. So I had, and then I had just tinkered around with freelancing this whole time. But eventually the Apple job had the stark realization, and I was talking to like my managers, I was like, "Oh, what did you do before this?" It was like, "I worked at Mervyn's, I worked at Target, I did this," and I was just like crap, this is a retail job. Even though it's cool Apple, this is retail, this is my path. And I had a fork in the road that I could have gone down where I went the corporate route but I would have had to relocate at the time to Cupertino, California. That was a no-go for me because then I would lose custody with my daughter and I would have had to be something where I see her occasionally, like once a month or whenever I travel.

So then, we're going to weave in another plotline here which is my drinking at some point, but I suffered a drunk injury where I had fallen and I like hurt my wrist. I still have the scar on my right wrist and I had to get this surgery to fix it. I took medical leave and had the surgery, but then I was like you know what, I could still, I'm on some painkillers, I can't be working but I think I can make a go at this freelance thing. Let me see, I had two weeks off, I was like let me see what I can do in two weeks to drum up new business and really start to build my business as a freelancer, as a creative, beyond the just random inbound things that come my way that I'm doing for small dollars here and there. Best case scenario it takes off and I can go down this path, freedom, spend more time with my daughter, flexible schedule so I thought. And then… or I just come off medical leave and go back to Apple.

So I did it, and it was kind of this transitional moment for me that I've carried through my whole life is where I'll take risks and I'm a huge risk taker, but I only take risks where either outcome is acceptable. Like I'm never going to take a risk to the point where I'm going to just be devastated if the outcome doesn't happen.

James McKinney: Just about that idea, right, that idea of taking risks when either outcome is acceptable. Part of that has to then ask well how far can you think through the worst case scenario? Because I think some people either are overly pessimistic as in I can't start this venture because I will die, or they're overly optimistic like this thing is not going to fail and they can't see the other side. Where do you land in that ability to think through to the end?

Russ Perry: So that's a great range. I'm in a weird spot. I believe most people imagine the worst case scenario to be far worse than it really is, and it prevents them from even trying. So I'm very good at being a realist in the downside. I'm not going to die, I'm not going to go bankrupt. Even yesterday I was doing some financial work, just kind of personal working, looking at things, and I had this thought. If Design Pickle closes tomorrow, I have this much cash flow, cash in my bank accounts, this is what I could do burn, okay I have about four or five months that I could really we could be fine, I could definitely build something in that amount of time. And I'm like there's no chance Design Pickle is going under right now. It's a freight train that's running, but I'm still like playing the downside in a really crazy situation.

But I think most people overplay the downside. They think it's irreparable and the reality is if you could be watching this or listening to this podcast, you have a computer, you have the time to listen to it. You could erase exactly what you're doing right now and my bet is in two to three months you could figure out something and be just fine. You have the capabilities, you have the resources, you have the time. Not everyone does. Not everyone has that opportunity. Be realistic about the downside and then on the upside be cautiously optimistic. I have a good friend of mine, Nick, I love him to death. He is incautiously optimistic and so he'll project the most rosy, amazing scenario and then it falls short. I like to say look this is going to be really nice if we get here. Let's just get to here, and then if we get to here I'm satisfied and I'm not hyping it up. But then if we get to here, crap, that's just icing on the cake.

James McKinney: I had Julie Bornstein with The YES on a couple weeks ago and one of the things that she said is she tends to be on the overly optimistic side, but in her years of working under Bezos and working with Sephora, and with Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix, in working with all of them she understood I'm going to take my overly optimistic but I'm going to realize that I'm going to hit that 10% mark of my overly optimistic. So if I can sustain life in that 10% mark then we're okay, but she tends to shoot the high side.

Russ Perry: And my MO too is I like to do the work more than I like to do the talk. I'm just going to put my head down and I'm going to make it happen. The results are going to come, and oh by the way if you see the results ha-ha, that's awesome. I'm not going to be the person who, you know I'm not going to Elon Musk it where I'm talking about all these big ass results that we're going to have but struggling in the day to day. I'd rather just be focused on the day to day, and then bam out of nowhere you're like holy shit where did that come from, like the sleeper agent.

So I think that also helps me manage my own emotions because I'm not riding this rollercoaster of high, high, high only to have to come back down. It's more my friends would say for me I'm the tortoise, you know I'm just going, going, going, going. Now I've been on this part of my journey for five years. It feels like 15 years, but because I've just been focused and going after it. And I think we want to go back to the life story, that was then my big decision with the freelancing was like if I think I can do it better, if I've had all these ideas of what I can improve, why don't I have my own little creative shop? So I went after it, did it for two versions of that for almost nine years. The hard part was I was completely unprepared to be an entrepreneur. Completely.

James McKinney: How so?

Russ Perry: Like emotionally, business acumen, hiring. If you put any axis of a business - finance, marketing, sales, product delivery - the only thing I was really good at was sales. Other than that, I was horrible. I overcome the challenges because of the sales side. I could bring in new accounts and we can pitch ideas, and we can get after it. But it was something that really then was the catalyst with my struggles with alcohol was as I was a young dad, which I ended up getting engaged and married during this time, and then I had these clients and we were growing but then we were not growing because there was the stress of the agency world… the key for agency growth is retaining your clients. If you don't retain clients and it's a revolving door, you're never going to be able to scale because all of that money and time is being spent just trying to find new people and you can't bring on more staff to support your team and all that.

So I then at that point, being unprepared I didn't grow up in an entrepreneurial household, didn't study business, didn't know how to read a P&L, I just started like how am I going to manage all this stress? How am I going to manage this frustration? And that's where my recreational drinking started to turn into like medicine drinking, where I'm drinking to manage stress, I'm drinking to kind of dull things. Spoiler alert for everyone out there, if you're already not good at something, drinking doesn't make you better. It actually has the opposite effect. If you're trying to be more on top of things and you're trying to grow, and you're trying to learn, any abuse of any substance is going to set you back a few on that. And so that was a huge struggle of mine really throughout.

I had my daughter when I was 22 and I quit drinking when I was 30, and those eight years were the hardest years I could ever imagine because I was just faced with challenge after challenge after challenge. Ended up being why I wrote my book The Sober Entrepreneur is because I felt so isolated during that time, only to discover so many people struggle with these things, so many people feel the same way. Had I just raised my hand or thrown a stone I would have hit 20 people that I could have connected with but I just felt like I was in this isolation chamber during that time. It took me to finally quit drinking almost losing my marriage, all of that, to finally have the clarity to say wow there's another chapter here, but I have to get this out of my life because I'm never going to become good at any of the things I want to become good if I have this huge anger that's just kind of keeping me down.

James McKinney: So that realization that you just mentioned a few seconds ago about this idea that you thought you were alone in this, yet you're a stone's throw away from 20 other people, that's why I started The Startup Story because there's this idea of what entrepreneurship is and everyone thinks their challenge is unique to them. It's unique to you, but it's not unique. There are, like you said, 20 people around you that are going through what you went through so my hope in sharing more of these stories is that they start getting outside themselves, realizing wait I'm experiencing that too a different way, so let me connect with James, The Startup Story, other entrepreneurs to just continue to perpetuate this narrative so that one, more people are more encouraged and strengthened to try and pursue entrepreneurship as opposed to this isolating narrative that's out there.

And two just to, for those that are about to call it quits, for those that find themselves in a pattern of medicating, they can just come back into the community of entrepreneurship. But I want to ask something specific about your story because two months ago we had MJ Gottlieb, founder of LOOSID a sober curious lifestyle app, that he got to because he bombed three startups all over $20 million each because of his addiction problem. And it's in that last one that he realized I've got to stop doing this, but sobriety wasn't interesting to him which is where he came to LOOSID. So my question to you is what caused you to finally say this has to change?

Russ Perry: There were two things. One with my relationship with my wife. I knew there would be a ceiling on our trust as long as alcohol was in the picture and that wasn't something I really wanted to have. I didn't want to have a governor on our relationship because of that trust deficiency, because a lot of the mistakes I made, so many of the mistakes I made were just in a drunken haze, it impedes your judgement period. So that was one, and I wish that would have been enough because that, I feel like that should be enough for someone to say look I want to save my marriage, I want to have this, let's go down that path.

But what moment I remember was my father, who also has struggled with alcohol his whole life, his mother before she passed created this beautiful genealogy book of our family history from German immigrants coming through to southeastern Arizona mining towns, all of this. And I had read this thing so many times and it's cool. It's a true treasure in my family and she's been passed away for some time now. But I had pulled it out unknowingly, just kind of like I'm going to look through this. I realized as I was reading this that most of the men that were in this, she did not pull any punches in terms of their outcomes. Drug addict and alcoholic, lost all of his money through gambling, bet this and couldn't, died of blah, blah, blah. Like it was like here are probably the only written record of these men in existence and it's sad. If someone's going to write my life story, I don't want this to be my ending. I want a different family tree path for my kids, and when they're writing their family genealogy, whatever chapter, wherever I land as Russ Perry, it's like creative, builder, connector, and they don't even know that I had ever drank because it was so long ago with it.

By the way, I since had two other daughters who are now eight and four, so they don't even, the don't know me from drinking and neither really did my oldest but it was involved during that time. So that moment of I want a different story for my family tree was the catalyst for it. Then, my math mind and my practicality I was just like… so it's like there's all this life destruction with drinking but then I was like well what's just the most practical reason to quit? And it was time. It came down to time. It was like look, when I'm drinking before, during and after there's time invested in it. There's time in the activity, preparing for it, even going to the gas station to buy drinks or whatever. And then after, you get old, you've got to have a lot more recovery t6ime than when you did at Arizona State University. I was like why would I, if I'm wanting to build a business and create this, why would I be squandering it on this activity? Don't I want every advantage that I could have? And so I started to run through the real practical things.

And then the final piece that sort of like wrapped it all up because I love video games and I love gaming, was and it's also kind of a waste of time but I kind of defend that a little bit differently than drinking, is like drinking is kind of like going to the settings of life and putting it on hard mode. And you're just like you and I are going to have the same life with the same amount of time, same amount of challenge, but I'm just going to level up the difficultly level. And maybe we can both accomplish great things, but one is going to be a lot less stress than the other. I was like you know what, I do not want to increase life's difficultly willingly; life is hard enough already.

James McKinney: That is a great visual for this. That is fantastic. I'm going to use that so many times. I love it. That is a great visual for it.

Russ Perry: So there was a confluence of a lot of things and then at that point I had about a year on that agency journey, that I was still doing the agency thing but I was so clear from 29 to 30, wow this business that I have tolerated for almost a decade so does not serve me in any way. Let's clear the slate, we closed it. In my thirties, I'm sober, I'm repairing a marriage, I have two kids and then it's like crap I'm also now unemployed. Because the business was closed and I had no plan. There was no Design Pickle when I closed the business.

James McKinney: So you find sobriety. You continue on in this journey. You find yourself unemployed. How do we get from there to Design Pickle?

Russ Perry: So it all starts with me accidentally going to a women's personal development conference.

James McKinney: how do you accidently go to a women's personal development conference?

Russ Perry: I'll tell you. So a friend of mine inside of entrepreneur circles here, she's like kind of new in a point of transition. Her name is Vanessa Shaw, and she's like, "Hey," you know she's a business coach, and she's like, "Hey you should come to this event I'm having." And I'm like, "Awesome." Because I didn't know where I wanted to go. I was just consulting, and consulting for me was my vacation. Consulting was awesome. I joked that consultants are unemployed entrepreneurs. They do this thing, and I was getting paid just as much as I was at the agency with a fraction of the responsibility. No overhead, no employees, total freedom of time. But I knew that wasn't going to be my endgame so I was like you know what, I've never really invested in personal development. Let me see what's out there.

And so Vanessa invited me to her event, and it was like a personal coaching development event. Well, I show up and I'm the only guy there aside from Vanessa's husband, who's a really cool guy. And so I don't think it was explicitly a women's conference, but it was a women's conference because I was the token guy. But I went all in and I did the exercises. And one of the speakers I ended up hiring as like a personal… I thought it was going to be a business coach but it turns out she was a life coach, a spiritual coach. She was so, she dove into it. But I found to be very, very receptive and I loved, I've always enjoyed coaching and I've been involved in sports, and I've been kind of an athlete growing up. But like the professional side of coaching I had never done, or the personal side, and I loved it. I loved it and it's crazy. For anyone that's never done it, the best coaches give you zero answers. They just basically ask you questions and you answer them yourself and you thank them, and you pay them to answer your own questions.

But this I started to see momentum and I had a couple other coaches that I'd hired. I was just like collecting them. I was like I'm going to hire this person, I'm going to hire this person. One of my other coaches, a guy named Taylor Pearson, really prolific blogger, he had adopted some content from Ray Dalio whose book Principles came out a few years ago, really great book. Inside of that, prior to that book being published we're talking 2013 I think, 2014, there was this concept of getting really clear on what are the things you value, what are the things in your life that you want and listing those out, and getting really clear about that.

So I remember going to Press Coffee in Scottsdale, Arizona and I sat down to do this exercise, and it's like another one of those pivotal moments in my life where I was like you know what I don't know what I want to do professionally, but here's what I want in my life. I want to be able to travel. I want another kid with my wife. I want a nice car. I want to buy a house. If I want to be able to travel I need to be able to do my work remotely. And I created this super ambiguous list, but it was very... the list was ambiguous in how I was going to get there but it was very specific in the things. There was nothing in this list that was like solve world hunger or like start a nonprofit to help immigrant goats find their new homes being rescued from countries that eat goats, or whatever. The point was that I just kept it open but the things were specific.

And then what I discovered was my mind had this whole time been going of maybe I could do this business, maybe I could do this business, I could do this. I even tried to start like a kids product and try to build these things. But once I had this list, it kind of became like a filter for my ideas. Because I could start the lineup ideas. Another item on the list was do something I'm actually an expert at which eliminated the kid's product business idea.

So I started to use this and it kind of became a cool filter system for all this FOMO opportunity that's coming my way, and finally when I was consulting I started to realize again problem solver Russ mind, hey you know a lot of my clients just need every day design work kind of done. They don't need big brand strategies, they don't need big advertising campaigns. And when I'm at client A in office working with them all day, client B is kind of stuck, they can't get these things done if they need them quickly. So I created an inbox system for all my consulting clients that effectively between the inbox system and a couple contractors would produce designs autonomously, and if I could review them great, if I couldn't… but the day that all came together, and I'll bring it back to the list, was a client of mine, Josh Rosen, was like, "Hey man, thanks for those business cards, those were great. Thanks for getting those done quickly." And I was like, "Dude, you've got it man, no problem." And in the back of my mind I'm like I have no idea what he's talking about, I didn't even see the business cards.

So like everything from the request, to the design, to the delivery was successful and I was like not involved at all. So I was like wow, I love consulting but really it's not a business. I wonder if there's a need just to like do this and for people to just kind of get designs done when they need, there's no hassle. And then I busted out the list from Press Coffee, and I was like would this be able to be done remotely? Great. Could I buy these things? Yeah, if the business is successful sure. Am I an expert? Yeah. Everything checked off on this list, and so then that's kind of when it all came together to say you know what, I have a business idea, it's right in my lane in the sense of what I've done before, let's build this thing. That was late 2014.

So then at that point it was like what kind of business I'm going to build? I was listening to a lot of startup podcasts. I was like I'm going to definitely have subscription revenue. I don't even know what that really means, but I'm going to have subscription revenue in this. But that ended up being a game changing choice for me because I wanted that recurring revenue model, but I also wanted to do it in a way that was super disruptive where people are like, and even to this day people hear our pricing, either $400 or $1000 a month, you get a part time designer and they're like, "What? Really? How does that work?" But it all just kind of… it's never, probably a lot of your stories nothing ever is just one big a-ha moment. It was just like this clicked, and this clicked, and this clicked.

And I'll pause here for a second but I'll go back to getting sober. That kind of connection of seeing the ideas and the building off of it and coming back to something I worked on, that would have never been possible had I still been drinking because I would have had much more of a narrower vision of life. And a lot of the bones of DP just came organically because I was willing to be patient. I was willing to create and invest in myself and challenge the way I was thinking, and that's what resulted inside of the business I have today. And no way would I have done any of that with a Southern Comfort and Diet Coke Lime in my hand.

James McKinney: One of the things that you also said too about the origin story of Design Pickle, it resonated with me from my interview with Ben Chestnut of Mailchimp. They developed an email delivery platform to just help their exiting web design clients because at the time, back in the late nineties early 2000, email delivery clients were these big cumbersome onsite installations for the enterprise clients, not the small business. They just did something to solve a solution for their web design clients and they started having more and more success with that, and they're like we should probably do this more. That sounds like very much the Design Pickle thing where you were getting a lot of success with this inbox system you put in place that you were now becoming a little out of touch with, because it was like wait, this is really working.

Russ Perry: Yeah, and I'll tell you beyond success, people had gratitude and were thankful for what I was doing. Like I never got a big warm thank you from a branding strategy. It would be like cold ass executives who would just pick it apart. And yet we were designing things and people would be like, "Cool dude, that was helpful, thanks," onward. And so I was like why am I struggling to do this big complex work, which I know in hindsight was fueled by my ego because when you're able to do big fancy things you feel important. Maybe I'll just do something simple, and maybe I'll just focus on the boring side of graphic design, the side of graphic design you ask an especially US based graphic designer, "Hey man do you want to have a career resizing Facebook ads all day, 40 hours a week?" And they're going to be like, "No way!" But yet my creatives, the creatives that work at Design Pickle, you know it's not about the design in terms of the ego, it's about I have a great job and it doesn't matter if I'm doing Facebook ads or logos or brochures, I like where I work. I get paid well.

Eliminating the ego in the graphic design profession, I had to do that for myself first and I had to be okay with doing everyday things, with every day companies. I worked for LG, Apple, Ikea, Morgan Stanley. We pitched Coca Cola, didn't win the account. And then I'm going for Evolution Physical Therapy in Chandler, Arizona that then is now my client. I had to really take that away. But I look at people who you mentioned a few, Ray Dalio, a lot of super successful people, they're okay just staying in their lane and just being super practical about it.

I wish I could say that I consciously knew that at the time, but that has been key to our success is we're not trying to be more than we are. We've removed the ego from it and it allows us to just be very consistent and focused on what do people actually need, but I'm not going to try to sell you on that. I'm going to listen to you and try to deliver something that you're asking for. Whereas for many years and even today, creativity often is well let me tell you what's wrong with what you're doing, and let me tell you what you need versus listening from the client.

James McKinney: So we're at the Design Pickle stage of your life and there's just so many questions that I have. You said 2015 I think is the origin date?

Russ Perry: Yeah, January 2015.

James McKinney: January 2015 right and it is disruptive if we're going to go back to 2015. I'm assuming if in the design space, 2015 or 2014 we're looking at solutions like Fiverr and Elance before it became UpWork, and those are some incredibly suspect quality productions that I've utilized myself in those things. And so at the time of a SAS solution, which is really what you built or more of the software as a service, this is a service as a service from what you're doing. But again subscription revenue, not common. What was your stage one from your inbox process to then start to scale it? How did you grow that to the point where now it's all self-onboarding online, like how did you grow that to where it is today?

Russ Perry: Well I'll start even maybe right before that was like okay, I have this self-service inbox system that's kind of cobbled together with the Gmail account and a couple other things, how do I go to a business? How do I migrate that to a business? So one advantage I had was a lot of the data, both anecdotally as well as actually, of what my clients for the last eight and a half years were requesting. Like what was the volume, how much did they request on an average basis, on a weekly basis.

So I first built the financial model and I said look, does this even pan out? What do I think an average client is going to request, how much can a designer support per day, what's the cost of a designer, what's the cost of the business, and then what should I charge? Truthfully, my model came out with a much lower number than we're at today. We started at $195 which was my model was incorrect. There was no way that we were going to make money on that and we were only at that price point for like two and a half months, to the point where my clients were telling me you need to raise your prices, this is too cheap. But overall, adjusting the pricing and having the model and all of that, that gave me a firm foundation in hey this business can work.

And as long as I'm tracking those numbers, updating them, and getting the real data in there, I can have confidence in this thing and I'm not just guessing or hoping. I do think we had a huge advantage that I was entering into a proven space. Businesses need design. I'm not trying to sell you on something you've never done before. Even though our service and our process is new in a sense, it's online, it's software driven, you know you've used online tools so you can kind of figure it out. So we were immediately profitable from day one and I just tracked those metrics around it. How we grew and how we called was a lot of trial and error, but it was initially through our willingness and our investment to market ourselves. Which people like it's like "no duh", but we were at events, a legendary event in 2015 where I dressed up as the pickle for the first time. I bought a pickle costume. I had an ice cream cart.

James McKinney: Where did the name come from? Let's just pause for a second there because you mention the pickle costume. Like where did the name even come from?

Russ Perry: So we skipped an important, important thing. Mind you I had done half million dollar branding projects. I've named products that are global, but at the end of the day my companies leading up to this point were horribly named. My first company, Keane Creative, Keane is my middle name, and my second company was NSB/Keane. These were the biggest mouthfuls of consonants you could ever imagine, that no one could ever understand, write correctly. If I'm doing outbound sails, no one ever could get it back correctly. So I was like screw it, I just want the simplest name. I just want something like so simple people can remember it. I love pickled foods like Reuben sandwiches, sauerkraut, pickles in general, and DesignPickle.com was available. So there's the naming.

James McKinney: That's incredible.

Russ Perry: It was like I completely went against every single rule I had ever had as a branding guy. Like zero research, zero anything, just what the heck is available on Go Daddy, and there you go. But it worked out and I think it was reflective to who we are kind of at our core is we're not trying to be something… we're not trying to be Madison Avenue, you're going to win the highest level design award from Design Pickle. It's like we're going to do the poster that's behind you. We can turn all your quotes from all the podcasters you've ever had into cool posters and design them for you, and you could have social media content for the next year and a half. And we'll do it for $400 a month. So it's like super down to earth, and I think our name and our brand reflects that. Sometimes, I don't really care anymore but early days people would knock it like what does that even mean, but it's that friendliness that's one of our core values. It's that approachability. Everyone has a pickle story, even good or bad. No one doesn't connect with pickles.

James McKinney: That is going to be a quote card for the promotion of your episode - "Nobody doesn't connect with pickles."

Russ Perry: Yeah, everybody has a pickle story. What's yours?

James McKinney: I love it. So now you're at this trade show and the Design Pickle costume comes out. And the marketing side of things, how you grew, again I think it's so important that people understand you were at conventions. I think today's day and age, user acquisition for any business, they just think of Facebook ads. They just think online. They don't think of these grass roots movements and so I love that you were at events and in a pickle costume makes it even better.

Russ Perry: Yeah. We don't need a million clients. If we have 10,000 clients we're a nine figure business. It's not the number. The numbers are not like a company who's selling something for $14 a month. They're significant numbers and so why don't I just go talk to people and meet people? Because it's kind of a hard to believe value proposition at times, so if I can show a face, shake a hand, that's going to be something that people can try us out.

That's our biggest form of a hurdle of acquisition. Our service works amazing. I'm 100% confident it's going to deliver what you need. People are just skeptical because it's like so disruptive in the model and the price and how it works. So the in person stuff, which we'll definitely get back to eventually, has always been part of our blueprint. The pickle and the costume and all of that was me just being like man, I think people just had so many tough experiences with creatives over the years, whether they're from a marketplace like you've mentioned or their brother-in-law who peace's out and they get their files because he moved to Thailand or something. Why don't we just make sure that every interaction with us is just friendly? And what's more friendly than a mascot? There's nothing more friendly than a mascot.

James McKinney: I love it.

Russ Perry: So yeah, I website the first pickle. For a while my Amazon recommendation engine was so off kilter because it was like cartoon hands and costumes, and tights and all of this stuff. But we did it and we've passed it on. In a lot of our current advertising we use the persona, the pickle guy, to kind of break the ice. But it's by design. We want again to create that warmth and that connection because what we're doing requires trust. We're selling a relationship. And the design files may not be great, but if you trust us we can get there. If you don't trust us and we come out of the gates with the project and it's off, then you're going to cancel. So we're always thinking about how do we build trust so that someone is willing to go through the creative process with us and not just peace out the second there's a misspelling or some typographical error.

James McKinney: That's brings up an interesting question about the business model. So we've established that it's a monthly fee, no contract, correct?

Russ Perry: Correct.

James McKinney: For design services. You talk about trust is that initial thing you have to establish. Is that critical because your churn is impacted significantly by it?

Russ Perry: It's critical because of what we do. Creativity is an emotionally charged, very personal experience for most of our clients. The truth is you and I could have the same graphic designer and you love him and I hate him, and it has nothing to do with the skill of the designer. It has everything to do with my skill and history as a client of purchasing creative services. So if I've done it a lot, I know how to communicate, I know how to organize my thoughts, I know how to give feedback, I'm not afraid to give feedback because I know I'm not going to hurt their feelings. And so my creative experience is going to output something very different than if you've never hired a designer, you're sweating bullets at $400 a month. You're like, "Man, that is just, I don't know if I can afford that. Okay, I'm going to try it." Meanwhile, I've spent $40,000 a month so I'm like, "Yeah, this is so cheap!"

This is the problem that we face unlike a pure software business is you sign up for Mailchimp, Mailchimp works the same for you and I. very occasionally there's a bug, but there's a bug for everyone and they fix the bug. We're not like that. We have very radically different experiences that are client driven. So to have trust means you're willing to get through whatever bumps in the road might happen, and also we're delivering a human driven service. So if your designer forgets a page of your layout because they're human, if you trust them you're like, "Hey man, fix that." If that trust isn't there, then you're just like well I can't rely on this service, peace out. So we're doing everything we can to build it. It drives our software strategy. So our product is designed to accumulate and compile the best, most clear request for our designers so that they're able to deliver what you need, knowing that our clients sometimes aren't great at communicating. So you're trying to figure out how do we use software and tech and tools to tease out what's really going on up here so that your creative understands and can deliver that for you.

James McKinney: What are some existing not business models, but existing brands that you look to, to help you figure out the things that are unknown to you? Because as you're talking I'm thinking to myself like what brand out there is online driven and helps create a human relationship? And I just I can't think because that's what you're doing, and I just can't think of a brand that does this. So who do you look to as a model?

Russ Perry: So there's really, we're the leading model. There's a lot of copycat competitors that are out there kind of doing their thing, but there really isn't… I haven' seen one. So when I look for inspiration I'm looking outside of SAS. I'm looking at retail, I'm looking at consumer brands. We're looking at how do we improve this relationship with our client, which is much more of a consumer brand mindset that's emotional and all of that. It's why our advertising is comical and fun and lighthearted. Design is expected. If you sign up, you're going to expect we're going to do a decent job designing but how do we get you to that point? We have to emotionally bring you in, and we have to build that layer of trust.

So we're looking at brands like Peloton, we're looking at brands like the Harman Brothers and the work that they've done. We're looking at for me personally, I'm always scouring anything magazines… like my wife's magazines, mine, I'm always just trying to see what people are doing to create that connection and create that relationship. Because if we can do that, you're a client for a longtime. I know your retention is there, it's just getting you through that hump with it. Going to the brands that I would say are in our ecosystem world but not necessarily direct competitors, Fiber is a brand I really respect and love, and I know them personally. I've met the CEO and I know the team there. I think they're doing a really great job to do this also. They're a completely different business model than what we do.

James McKinney: Completely different.

Russ Perry: And we actually get a lot of graduates from Fiber that are like, "I don't want to mess with this anymore, I want to go to Design Pickle." But if I'm going to put any brand out there who's doing their part to create trust and build the human side of this, they're one that I'll definitely give a shout out to.

James McKinney: In your business, Russ, I have to believe one of the… especially because now you're just talking about the human side of design and your process. I have to believe finding designers has got to be one of your top three greatest challenges, if not number one. How hard is it to find the designers that fit within the culture you're trying to build for the solution you're trying to build?

Russ Perry: It's not hard because what we've created, people want to be a part of. And let me take you a step back and it's actually a very important part of what we do. If you're a designer in what we call an emerging market, which is where we hire our designers, Latin America, Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, and in Asia in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, being a designer is not an easy choice. There's not a lot of jobs. The jobs that exist pay dirt. Often, you're working for international clients so if you're in the Philippines you're often working for American brands, meaning you're working the graveyard shift. It removes any sort of normalcy of your life. You're commuting two or three hours away to these headquarters that are located in major metropolitan areas, but you can't afford to live there so you have to be travelling two to three hours a day. And it's a brutal existence.

There are some jobs that are the exception to this rule, so we've… one of our visions for the company is to change lives through creativity, but that actually start with our creatives and our creative team. So we've created a work environment that pays two to three times the starting rate. It's a career. You can grow, you can get promotions, you can get jobs. You work from home, you work your normal daytime hours or whatever hours you choose, and it's a culture and it's a team. You know we have a huge Slack instance, over 500 people in it. We have virtual company events. We've done live events around the world. So it's not hard to find people who want to be a part of it.

What's hard is to find people who align with our core values and who can represent our brand appropriately. That's the filtering process. And we probably have a 6%, I was looking, it depends on the country, I just saw this data this week, around a 6% acceptance rate for applications. So out of 100 people that apply, we'll only take on 6. Not because of the design portfolio, but because of who they are and the core values that we represent, and how we operate by that. But I'm not worried about it because there's such a, again if I just say, "Hey, I need 10,000 clients," I can find enough creatives in the Philippines alone to support that, but we're in seven different countries right now. We'll be in about 15 by the end of next year. We're trying to be the best job in town in all of these countries so that we can get people to come. We end up having a similar challenge like with clients signing up for Design Pickle that they don't believe it. A lot of our international designers see the job posts and they think it's too good to be true, so they don't apply. So we have a lot of strategies on how we are going to get around that, but it's a weird problem to have.

James McKinney: No kidding. If we were to have this same recording five years from now, where is Design Pickle?

Russ Perry: If I'm very honest it's rolled up into some other entity or company. We're on track to grow and my vision is to have a global company that can join a larger global company, and supply and support what we're doing in a way that I can't even imagine right now. I've built this business to be a business that doesn't need Russ Perry. I don't tinker around. I could check out tomorrow for a year and it would be just fine, and so that's an asset and a business that I want to build. I have bigger visions for my life and my team's life and everything, and we're a corporation so we have stockholders and we have people that I'm responsible for increasing that value and building that value inside of the company. I'm hoping we're onto something else in five years to be completely honest. Design Pickle will live on in some form, but I'll be on a different chapter for sure.

James McKinney: That's awesome. I love that. You know we're down to our final three questions that I ask every founder of The Startup Story. The first one has to do with just perspective. So when you think of entrepreneurship and you think of what the culture considers entrepreneur, what the headlines talk about when it comes to the persona of an entrepreneur, for you personally do you think anybody can be an entrepreneur? Not wants to be, because not everyone wants to be, but for those that want to be do you think anyone can be an entrepreneur?

Russ Perry: No, I do not. I think it takes a unique person who's willing to go outside their comfort zone, and willingly invite conflict, willingly invite challenges, willingly be uncomfortable for years at times. And I think that could crush a lot of people. They fundamentally don't have the skillsets to do that, nor do they have the drive to improve it. If I want to create the skillsets to be able to handle that, I also have to have the initiative and the drive, and I'm not going to get into reasons why but I think a lot of people just it's not in their DNA to be able to do that.

James McKinney: I love that. The next question is about gratitude, and when we think of… the reason I ask this question in particular is because I believe that we are, collectively, where we are today because of those shoulders that we're standing upon. The people that have contributed into our life to get us to where we are today. So when you think about your own personal journey, who are the people that you point to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to where you stand today?

Russ Perry: Yeah. I mean we've talked about her a few times, but definitely my mom. She's shouldered a ton and grew up in, similar with my dad, grew up in a challenging environment. The post World War II type of families and how you were raised is much different than now. I'm really grateful actually for my clients when I was consulting. There would be no Design Pickle today if they weren't willing to take a chance on me, so I mentioned Josh Rosen, a couple other people. Coming out of this, two other folks would be all my daughters. They've had very important impact for me in different ways and different transitions of my life. My oldest, we've talked a lot about. My middle one was when I was kind of in the pit, at the bottom of my addictions and challenges, and then my youngest Paige is someone who is very kind of on the rise and she symbolizes a lot of that.

Then I've had a coach and mentor for the last five years I've worked with, a guy named Garett J. White who is a bit of a wild man, a bit of a wild cannon, but he helped build a program that really worked for me around certainty and personal development. I joined like my first year when I had Design Pickle, I joined that first year in 2015 and it's been a transformation for me around who I am, and so really thankful for the work and opportunity inside of that.

James McKinney: Oh, I love it, I love it. And our last question as our time does come to an end, we've been talking about your entrepreneurial journey at a high level to tens of thousands of listeners. So I want to bring this conversation down to the one. I would love to be able to connect founders and my listeners on a one on one basis for mentorship, but it's just not feasible in a lot of ways. But I want to provide this opportunity for mentorship. So whether that entrepreneur that you want to speak to is the frustrated entrepreneur, the one who has got a business but can't figure out how to strengthen cash flow, maybe COVID has just run amuck on their business and they're not quite sure they're going to make it out.

Maybe it's the wantrepreneur, the one who's got a 9 to 5 and a book full of dreams and ideas, and wants to move on something but they have some narrative that they can't. maybe it's because they have a mortgage and kids and they just can't take that risk, or maybe their idea of what the worst case scenario is catastrophic, or maybe they think they're 60 and they're like I'm just too old for this. Whatever it is, they think they can't do something. Whatever of those personas, or maybe it's a different persona, maybe it's the recovering entrepreneur that you want to, whatever that persona is who would you like to speak to for this mentoring minute if you will?

Russ Perry: So I'm going to speak to all of them 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 and 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 can be a hurt, a heartbreak, 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 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: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Russ Perry brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And lastly, if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. I mentioned it at the top of the episode but I'm going to say it again here. Russ and the Design Pickle team want to help set you up for an amazing 2021, so visit Designpickle.com/startupstory to get 30% off any of their plans as well as various other free downloads like design templates for ads and social posts. I say it in every episode because I believe it with my very being, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs and Russ showed up big time with this incredible offer for you. So let's show up for Russ and visit designpickle.com/startupstory as a thank you to Russ for all the value he brought us today. All right, now for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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October 13 2020
Russ Perry, founder of Design Pickle

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