Serial digital entrepreneur Yanik Silver shares how you can attract better customers, stand above the competition and position your business for massive success and growth by building an Evolved Enterprise… that is a business that’s strategic advantage is actually “giving back”!
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Transcript of: Evolved Enterprise – Grow Your Business By Giving Back
I’m really excited about today’s guest because he’s what I would consider to be one of the founding fathers, if you will, of internet marketing. He’s been around since the very early days of online business. His list of accomplishments as a digital entrepreneur … It’s really a mile long.
He’s the author of several best selling marketing books and tools, including Maverick Startup, Instant Sales Letters and 34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs. He’s most recently written Evolved Enterprise, and for almost a decade he ran one of the most popular conferences for digital entrepreneurs called The Underground Online Seminar. He’s also the founder of Maverick 1000, a huge network of online entrepreneurs.
Beyond all of his accomplishments I’ve gotten to know him over the years. I can say he’s an incredible strategic thinker, a visionary, and just genuinely a really good person. His most recent book venture is working on educating entrepreneurs on how to position your organizations to not only do better but be better – positioning yourself for what the future of business is going to be.
Without further ado, I’d love to welcome Yanik Silver to the show today.
I got started in 2000. Before that my history is my parents came over with me and my grandmother from Russia when I was about three years old. My dad had not much use of the English language and two hundred and fifty-six dollars in his pocket, a good immigrant success story.
He ended up starting a business in medical equipment sales and service and he basically got fired from his job working at the hospital because he was moonlighting on the side. He had that choice, he did the tough thing that all of us entrepreneurs do, just kind of walk out there without the net and I give him a lot of credit for that.
Growing up in a family business I did pretty much whatever was asked of me. At fourteen years old I was telemarketing for latex gloves and at sixteen, the deal was I got my own car but only if I cold called the doctors. It gave me a really early glimpse into marketing and sales. I realized pretty quickly that cold calling sucked. I think you would agree.
I got a lot of copywriting and marketing experience. In 2000, I looked at the internet, actually it was late ’99, I didn’t have an email address even. I thought it was pretty interesting. Before that I thought people were just selling get rich quick schemes or they were selling porn, and I didn’t want to be associated with either one. At that point, the internet really started to look like a commercial enterprise.
I remember waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning with this idea for instant sales letters. I literally jumped out of bed, registered the domain, got to work on it, and in three months I was on track to do six figures. People were like, “How did you do that? Maybe you could teach me how to do that.”
Then I got a speaking gig, an opportunity, from the guy who was building our websites, this guy Ken McCarthy, he had an event he was putting on, he asked me to speak. I was petrified. This was in 2001. I was super petrified. I thought I would just teach exactly what I’m doing and I thought maybe I should sell something.
I put out an order form for something called Instant Internet Profits, which is kind of a blueprint of what I had done. I think I sold 13,000 dollars, maybe even less, maybe 5,000 dollars. I thought, I guess that’s enough to make me motivated to go make this thing.
That started off this other career. Then Underground came about in 2003 I think or 2004 maybe. At the time there were a bunch of internet seminars going on, most of them had the exact same speakers, they’re all talking about how much money they are making online but they are really making money on selling how to make money online stuff.
My friends and I thought, that’s kind of weird and warped. One of my buddies, Dave D. said, “You know a lot of people. Why don’t you get some random people and have them come share what they’re doing?”
That, I think, is one of the big business lessons, if you’re taking notes or thinking about this, is to go the opposite direction.
The Underground is definitely the opposite direction. We even included a cool spy theme, as you know, you were a part of it for a bit there. We really ramp up the experience factor. The content was different because they’re real world people showing what they actually do. Then we actually use the spy theme. We did the James Bond, the Austin Powers, and other spy related stuff. Made it fun and a true experience for people.
We are doing what I think is kind of an evolution of events. We just started this camp Maverick, which is like a summer camp for entrepreneurs. That was really fun with this idea of really unique key note speakers, but they’re dressing everyone in shorts and t-shirts, so they are the camp counselors.
We go off and do fun stuff like slip and slide, kickball, or all sorts of crazy stuff, like silent disco. It’s just a lot of fun, you get to be a kid again. I’m into those things.
That’s kind of where the story, I guess, diverges. About eight years ago, I looked at my life and thought, I’m not really happy. It’s kind of weird because outside looking in, everything is great. Making money online, had a great family, a great reputation online which is not the easiest to uphold as you know, in that space, it’s something that I am really proud of. But I just wasn’t totally fulfilled.
I thought, there’s something else going on. I did a lot of journaling and I came up with this idea of these three pillars. The idea is, for short hand, it would a dollar sign, a happy face, and a heart. That was kind of the original idea. I spent some more time figuring this thing out. It’s called Maverick Business Adventures.
The initial idea was that I would put together cool entrepreneurs, and we would go off and do crazy trips, talk about business in the middle of nowhere, and then maybe some sort of charity component.
I’m a big fan, once again if you’re taking notes, I’m a big fan of putting the deadline stake in the ground and then figuring it out. Saying yes and then figuring out how the hell you’re going to do it. Going back to when I sold those first courses on Instant Internet Profits, we sold it first and then figured out how to do it.
This was a whole different animal, like a travel business. January 2008 was when I put the deadline out that we’re going to do this Baha dune buggy trip. Now that I’m thinking about it a little bit more the decision had a lot to do with Corey because maybe about a year before that, Corey had invited me to go Baha dune buggy racing with him. Did you ever get a chance to do that with him?
Corey and I had talked about flying the jets and all of this stuff together. That was the genesis of it. We did this event, I had no idea how I was going to put it on. I got Jesse James, a motorcycle mogul guy to come out and be the celebrity star.
Looking at the numbers afterwards we were down maybe 30 or 40 thousand dollars from that event. I thought, that’s a little bit of an investment, that’s fine. About 400 thousand dollars in, my wife Missy’s like, “What are you doing?” I said, I don’t know actually. I knew there was something there but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and figure it out.
That’s another lesson, I think, is that passion. To me, I went straight into my passion. Passion can be a double edged sword if there’s not a real solid business model, or real smart dollar amount … In 34 Rules for Maverick Entrepreneurs I talk about bootstrapping because it increases your creativity by not having money, but I had kind of an open checkbook.
I thought, we’ll do this and this, we hired people that we didn’t necessarily need at that moment, and did a lot of stuff that we didn’t necessarily need to do without the business model proving itself.
I’m actually really happy that it happened that way because it really forced me to go back and look at: What do I really want? Is my “why” big enough? When we get into Evolved Enterprise, the model starts with you, that evolution of you, then it expands out into cause, which is really your “why.” Your “why” really drives everything.
If you’re going to ask, did you really want to build this travel company. That wouldn’t be a big enough “why.” To go back and really retrench, like it would be easy to go back into the internet space and do what I was doing. There was something that kept pushing me along to try and do it differently.
That’s where this whole Eco-verse started being built and this entire idea of interconnecting companies that serve entrepreneurs with the big mission of changing the way business is played. Not just adventures and unique experiences.
Also at that moment, I went back and revamped what Maverick was, we called it Maverick 1000, because of the idea of 1000 entrepreneurs that could change the world in some way. It really just forced me to retool everything that we’re doing and get a lot smarter.
Also during this time, it was probably one of the toughest times as an entrepreneur, we’re so tightly connected to our self worth being attached to our net worth. We’re so attached to what we do is who we are.
It really forced me to look at all of these things, really step deep into who I was, who I really wanted to be and do a lot of work on myself. It forced me to do this, create an Evolved Enterprise vision.
It’s like you’ve really got to go deep within yourself. I look at an Evolved Enterprise as a business that comes from your heart that you were almost designed to do and go create with deep meaning behind it and it gets everyone into alignment. It gets your team around something bigger, it gets your customers wanting to buy from you, and it gets your product or service has this impact built into it.
Unknowingly I was forced to actually build up all of these little pieces of it, starting with a vision, and a mission of what we’re doing, working on the culture. I’m blessed to have people like Tony Shay, in my life, from Zappos. Guys like, former CEO of Harley Davidson, Rich Teerlink, who all they talk about is people, culture, and all these pieces. I was learning all of these pieces and really reworked what we’re doing. Now we’re very solidly in the black and things are turning out a whole lot better.
The main idea of this book is to move from being simply transactional, which is your commodity. People are basing what they buy on price. There’s nothing there really, so you switch from one to the other. There’s no reason, there’s no loyalty, there’s no whatever.
To be more of a transformational business, where the actual identity of the team, the identity of the customer, the identity of really anyone the business touches in any way, has changed.
From transactional to transformational to even transcending what business can be, so that it truly that can become something even more than what a business is typically looked at. That’s evolved enterprise.
Transcending, I’ll give you guys a couple of examples when we start digging in some impact models. Transcending is really exciting. It’s literally like a win across the board and it becomes an actual competitive advantage, doing things that wouldn’t necessarily look like one.
There’s a lot of new research coming out about consumers being willing to actually spend more for products or services that deliver and impact and to make a difference in some way. There’s a lot of research coming out, especially around millenials, who are willing to work for even less if the company they are working for is an evolved enterprise making an impact or has a greater mission.
There’s a lot of interesting things … It’s almost like this is going on from the inside out and the outside in, as well. The consumer buying criteria. There’s data from many years now. Ten plus years a book called Firms of Endearment, that looked at companies that were publicly traded, or bigger companies like Container Store, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, companies that have a really deep evolved enterprise culture, and do things that, on the surface might look like tremendous expenses for their people or how they do business.
They compare them against SMP 500. Then 1-3 years, and there’s a massive difference. You get to ten years, and there’s a 100 plus percent return on investment difference, which is pretty tremendous.
We look at something that might be construed as just an expense but really it drives bottom line. That’s one of the big premises too is you can actually put out your most meaningful work that has a tremendous difference in the world and it’s not just that we’re doing it because it feels right or it’s the right thing to do, or my heart tells me to do this. Evolved enterprise actually drives bottom line.
I get super excited when we start adding our marketing knowledge to it and it becomes a true marketing multiplier when we create these great stories of some of the ways these companies are making impact. It just increases everything you do tremendously. It’s really exciting that way.
I had that unique opportunity to interview Blake Makowski, the founder of Tom’s. What I love about what Tom’s does is they have, when I talk about Evolved Enterprise is that you can have an impact scoreboard. It’s a bi-product of your profitability. What Blake likes to talk about, at that moment, they had given away 35 million pairs of shoes. That’s a pretty incredible evolved enterprise.
Now, that’s a great number, but we know from 35 million pairs of shoes they had to also profitably sell 35 million pairs of shoes. They have expanded that evolved enterprise model out now to coffee, sunglasses, and other stuff. It has been really interesting to see their trajectory and how big they’ve grown. They’re actually a 300 plus million dollar company. Not many people know that.
A lot of people start thinking about this, and they’re like, “Oh, you know, it’s just giving back.” You and I are copywriters and words are so incredibly important. Giving back implies guilt to me, it implies that we’ve taken something.
Entrepreneurs, the only thing that we’ve ever done is actually create value. That’s the only way we are in business. I really don’t like the idea of giving back, I like the idea of creating impact or making a difference or whatever it is. All of this actually drives business. People, they want to get behind Tom’s mission, what they’re doing, and the customers get excited about it because of what they’re doing to make that difference.
Another evolved enterprise model is a direct impact, where one purchase equals a direct impact in some way. Then we’ll start putting on our marketing hats here. There’s a company called sevenly.org. They started off with this interesting limited edition t-shirt for one week and they’d sell the t-shirt and that was it. Seven dollars of that t-shirt would go to a particular charity. There were seven big buckets or categories that they would work with.
I don’t have the current stats but when I did the quick research on this recently, it’s probably more by now, they only started in 2011 and I think in 2015 they were at 3 plus million dollars just donated from this aspect. A) that’s a lot but B) the really interesting thing is I had one of the co-founders come talk to Maverick members, the guys name is Dale Partridge, and he talked about the fact that 80 or 85 percent of their new customers came from social shares.
Another interesting evolved enterprise model is called Source Matters, model number 6. We’re looking at the actual source of the material or how things go from pre production to production and what happens all the way through.
One example I talk about in here is a UK company called Elvis and Kresse. They’re two designers walking down the street one day and saw a bunch of fire hose on the street, that was laid out, ready to go to the landfill essentially.These two designers looked at it, and they thought, this is beautiful material and it’s going to be stuck in the landfill, maybe we should do something with it.
They turned them into these belts, dopp kits, or shower kits, key chains, all sorts of stuff with a fire hose. What was really cool about it was they integrated the cause and the impact straight into it. Not only are they saving material from a landfill, they donate 50% of their profits to fireman charities. There’s real nice authentic tie in all around. The more I think there is a real, authentic, integral, tie in, I think the story gets even better. I think the marketing hooks get even better.
Here’s another evolved enterprise for you, when you can start thinking about the marketing hooks that are pretty exciting. I call this model number 8, Empowered Employment. One of the companies I showcased, is called Giving Keys. It started off with a folk-rock singer, who found a cool key from a New York city apartment or something like, and she had it engraved with a message to herself. I don’t remember the original message, it might have been love or hope or something like that.
People thought it was pretty cool so she started messing around and selling them a little bit, didn’t know what she was going to do with them. Then she saw this couple, on Sunset Strip, somewhere in L.A. who were homeless with a big sign up. She actually took them in, brought them to a diner, and had dinner with them. The guy was a jewelry maker, or formerly a jewelry maker. She’s showed him this key and was like, “Can you make this thing?” And he said, “Yeah, it’s easy.”
That’s how the Giving Key started. Now they employ people who are transitioning from homelessness, to create these keys that will say Hope, Love, Faith, or different messages that are inspiring like that. The idea is if you meet a person who needs that message more than you, you’re supposed to hand them that giving key. It’s a pretty cool evolved enterprise.
Then they ask you to spread that message on the blog. The fact that they have this really amazing story, and that they’re working with people in homelessness, is enough to get them into super high end boutiques, like in Beverly Hills, like Fred Segal. They were able to get into spots that really most people are not, it’s not that easy to get into. Just another way that you’re able to increase your marketing reach and distribution, by having a great story.
Other one I really like is, same evolved enterprise model, Empowered Employment, is a company called Ultra Testing. You and I were just talking about this actually before we did the interview. Autism affects a lot of people now. This company will do cross browser platform testing, Q and A testing, and they hire people on the Autism spectrum scale because typically people with Autism, who are on that scale, are okay with more repetitive tasks, have more focus and attention to detail and pattern recognition and so forth. It actually becomes a competitive advantage here. To me, that’s total transcending. That’s so exciting to see.
That’s a couple of them. I could go through a couple more if you want.
The sharing value, people share stuff that they feel good about. The value, as Yanik was pointing out there, the value you will get as people see this and start sharing it through their social channels, that kind of marketing is … I mean you can’t even buy it.
The third evolved enterprise benefit that stands out to me is you’re no longer, even in a commoditized industry like shoes, you’re no longer having to compete on price because price comes secondary to the buying decision. I truly believe that these types of businesses are going to attract a better client. Somebody who is not the bargain shopper, you’re probably getting a higher value client as well. Did I miss anything in there? There’s so many business cases.
It’s so much more exciting for you too as the evolved enterprise founder, as the entrepreneur, to think about how do you play big. How do you do something really meaningful that is like this intersection of almost everything you’ve learned. What if everything you’ve learned up to now is R and D, then applying your network, your resources, your wherewithal, your business acumen.
It’s not even about turning off your marketing smarts. It’s literally like putting everything into it and that’s where it gets super exciting. You can and should be ethically, aggressively marketing. Even if you’re doing good, that doesn’t give you the excuse to say “people will find me.”
I almost found there’s two worlds here. You get the social entrepreneur who is really just in it for the cause and they don’t think they have to market, know how to market, don’t want to market. Then you got the person who is maybe much more of the marketer and doesn’t feel like they can bring their heart into what they’re doing. This gives you a way to really merge the two.
You can also do stuff like … I don’t know if you’ve seen these breakfast bars, I don’t think they’re everywhere but I saw them on Necker Island, which is This Bar Saves Lives, is literally the name of the bar. You can do fun stuff with the names where its marketing as well.
This bar, they’re cereal or breakfast bars, and so it’s called This Bar Saves Lives, because every bar you buy … They’re using the one for one model … is a certain amount of meals that is provided. I remember asking the manager of Necker, did you guys get these just for the social impact, and he was like, “Yeah.”
It opens up this new distribution. I know they have some celebrities on their board as well or that are associated with them. Trust me, they wouldn’t be associated with something unless there was a bigger reason behind it. There’s some interesting stuff that can be done.
What they did is they have a thousand plus agents down in Kenya, who they provide micro loans to get their initial bag or box of stuff. They are like the Avon model, where they are out there, calling on people in rural villages who don’t really have access to the things that they are bringing. It could be mosquito nets, pills to purify water, all sorts of life saving material they don’t really have access to.
It provides another way of enhancing the living for the sales agents. It’s almost like an ethical biz op. It’s really exciting because it’s a great model we know works but it works for everyone in this really unique way. A great example of another transcending evolved enterprise business.
One more transcending example is a company called G Adventures. You probably know them, they are a Canadian travel company.
What they did is funded a women’s co-op to provide them all of the materials they need for weaving and dyeing of clothing, alpaca wool, and all sorts of stuff. That wasn’t enough, they wanted to give them just a way to truly have almost their own businesses.
What they do is provide the customers. All of the travelers, they kind of side track them into this village, so the women can show their culture and actually do hands on demonstrations with all of the travelers. For the travelers they get a much better experience. It’s an evolved enterprise that works for everyone.
They also funded a company that does biodegradable soaps and shampoos and things like that, that their travelers will use and buy, so when they’re on the Inca trail, the trash that’s left is biodegradable. Another kind of transcending way of operating and thinking about your business.
Basically what she’s done is created an evolved enterprise business called Living Beads. What she does … I feel like I need to give her a little plug because it’s right in the vein of what we’re talking about. She’s created this business and what she’s now done is gone over and set up little shops to train these women, in Indonesia, who have no other way of earning income, how to make these paper beads, jewelry, purses, stuff like that. She takes all of the products made from recycled magazines.
What she’s done is taking magazines, recycling them, taking them over to Indonesia, working with these women, teaching them how to create all of these beads and jewelry.
She’s set up a whole infrastructure there which is now providing employment to these women. They can work from home, they can support their kids, they can make this stuff at home.
She’s built up a supply chain. It’s fascinating to watch this because it reflects everything you just said, because she has now able to take these … They’re very nice, I mean last time I was there I spent a whole bunch of money buying this stuff for my wife. It’s gorgeous stuff. She now takes this … The people that are buying this are people that could be shopping at Tiffany, at Gucci, wherever they want to buy their stuff, but they’re now forgoing their Prada purses to carry her purse because they feel better about it.
It’s a unique piece. There’s a story behind it. As you’ve been talking about this, I’ve been thinking about her. This is somebody that was able, I guess that would be what a very evolved enterprise. There is so many places this could be applied.
It’s just exciting to put it all together. You don’t have to be limited to what used to be sort of standard business practices.
His market is actually just older men. He’s got a really riveting story. A lot of it comes from typically your own story, many times. His story was at ten years old his dad dies of brain or lung cancer, very sad tale. He vowed that no other would have to go through that same agony.
When we were working on his next revamping of what his brand was, I forgot what he came to me with, but I’m like aren’t these really fathers that you’re concerned about? And he said, yeah. As a father there’s a certain demographic of age. I think his thing was fit over forty or something was what he came to me with.
So I said, well it’s really fathers, so it’s called the Fit Father Project. Then we created what the cause was. This mission and this story of not having another dad have to be ill and make sure they’re healthy.
The cause that we linked to was called Camp Kesem, which we worked with before. They help kids who are going through hard difficult medical illnesses in their family. If their parents are really sick like that they send them to summer camp. That was a really nice evolved enterprise tie in.
Then we said we’re not just going to do a one for one, let’s make it really integrated to what you’re doing. He did a challenge where every pound that you lost, and every inch, they would donate a dollar to Camp Kesem and then ten percent of their profits went to Camp Kesem.
It was really nicely tied in and related to everything. When you start making it work that way, like he said that the brand impact that he got after integrating all of those evolved enterprise pieces, was ten x what it was before.
If it was that reason probably went out the window at some point when you hit your first bump in the road. There is something else driving you, whether it’s personal freedom, there’s really something else. There’s a reason why. For me, ours is changing the way business is played. I pretty much only really care about entrepreneurs because I think they are the ones who are the catalyst of the world, the instigators, who bring tremendous value to the planet in so many ways.
For me, my whole role is to help them become evolved enterprises. For anyone, there’s somebody or group, there’s a reason you chose that group as a customer. This is also a good opportunity to reinvent what you’re doing too. You don’t have to keep doing what you’re doing. Especially if you feel burnt out or feel like there is something bigger.
David Bowie just recently passed away, he was a master of reinvention. I think there is something to be said about the continual reinvention. That you have these cosmic alarm clocks that go off when you’re not happy. It’s pretty easy to not listen to those or make an excuse that you need to be pragmatic, making money, or whatever it is. It’s not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to just go off and start a non profit to fulfill that part of it. You can use all of your business acumen here.
I go back to your story and I also go back to what did you love to do as a kid. What really turned you on, got you excited, and in that joy and passion you will find a lot of pieces you can add into your evolved enterprise. That is going to invigorate you and start creating some of this. Then figuring out who … For the cause it’s either about something significant to you personally or something that is significant to your customers, to the people you are serving.
One of our Maverick members has a massage school and helps other masseuses, she had actually just lost a finger in one of those Tough Mudder races. She’s kind of been dealing with this for a while.
You’re a masseuse yourself, and now you’ve lost a finger and a lot of identity tacked into it, right. Originally when, she loves Evolved Enterprise and all of the concepts of it. She was like, “I was thinking about working with athletes that have lost limbs or things like that. I really thought on this and it doesn’t totally make sense. It doesn’t serve my community of what I serve.”
Now what they are going to do, she’s still figuring it out and I’m helping her with it, is that every massage student, based on who comes in, they’ll have to do x amount of hours anyways to get certified, and x amount of hours are going to go to a group for people in hospice to provide therapeutic massage. That feels really good. A great evolved enterprise tie in.
I don’t know about you, and I would love to get your take on this, but I believe that a for profit business with the right intentions can create more change than a not for profit in many cases because of the ability to attract maybe better talent, to attract better players to the team, to position … It’s an interesting debate and I’m sure there are other people who are listening that would debate the other side of it, but where do you stand on that?
Most non profits really fall down because they are stuck in this donation cycle, they’re always looking for donors, and they don’t have sustainable revenue coming in typically. Maybe they have a grant but that will only last for one year or whatever it is. They don’t have a mechanism in place.
Businesses if they are doing good business, they are sustainable. That’s definitely why I think they can be more powerful than a non profit here. I think there is a great opportunity in working hand in hand, with non profits and letting them do what they do best.
Warren B. Parker is a good example of evolved enterprise, I don’t know if you’ve seen them, they’re the eyeglass company. It’s about ninety nine bucks. They use essentially the Tom’s model but they’ve gotten big, they’ve sold a million plus pairs of eyeglasses. Ninety nine bucks for eyeglasses they tried to make it as economical as possible. For every pair of eyeglasses they provide some sort of site for other people in need.
What they did is partner up with a company, it might be two companies they partnered up with, but one is called Vision Spring. They work by essentially providing micro enterprise opportunities for people to go out in their community and sell eyeglasses at a very reduced rate. They work with this company that is a non profit to go out and go deliver what they do best, instead of them trying to figure it out. I think it makes a lot of sense that way.
As far as you said, bringing in the right people and the right talented people, I think you’ll bring in a lot of great talented people with a great mission, as a non profit. If you want to pay them a little bit more, usually it’s going to be the for profit route that’s going to help there.
I feel good as seeds we can plant into the world with entrepreneurs and leaders who want to make a difference, so I’m giving away the book essentially at cost. You can see on the page, actually pretty transparent about what it cost for printing and postage and all of these different pieces. If there’s one of those ten thousand copies left, definitely grab that. Evolvedenterprise.com. That’s probably about it.
Check out the blog yaniksilver.com.
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Now it’s time to take the tips, the tools, the strategies that you’ve learned today to build your evolved enterprise, and apply that essential ingredient, and that ingredient is action.
If you don’t take action with this, it’s never going to make a difference. Sit down, set some time aside, figure out how can you add this element to your business to give you not only that competitive advantage, but to create something that is really valuable in your business. Something that you are proud of. Something that is going to give back.
Go forth, take action, apply what you learned today, and stay tuned for more info packed episodes of the Entrepreneur Ignited podcast. A podcast designed to simplify online business so you can grow your income online. This is your host Derek Gehl, signing off.