“I used to equate things as failing and not failing, But really, everything is growing” – Ash Kumra
We all know what it feels like to be hungry for success, to have a great idea or product we’re so excited to sell. It’s what keeps us entrepreneurs going, what gives us the drive to power through all the challenges.
Ash Kumra is award winning entrepreneur and has had his work twice recognized by the White House for it’s impact. He is also a public speaker, talk show host, and the author “Confessions from an Entrepreneur.” Ash’s talking with me about how he became an entrepreneur, and his new project, Youngry, a media company focused on inspiring and elevating young & hungry minded entrepreneurs to thrive.
We’re getting into how to be transparent, the three things all sales require, and the importance of not letting your failures get into your head. Ash says all sales requires the same mentality, so no matter what you’re trying to market, this episode is a must-listen!
“Anyone who’s good in sales doesn’t differentiate what they sell.”
- Crowdfunding is just like traditional sales in that you have to show people the value of your product and get them to want to be a part of what you’re doing.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake. Think of it as a learning experience and move forward, otherwise it will become a limiting belief.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people who can encourage your vision and challenge you in the right ways.
- Focus on the project, not the product. Don’t get trapped in the minutiae of what you’re trying to do, but keep a strong hold on your vision.
- Work on strong communications and strong content. The best content will keep people coming back to your site and raise shares.
- No one is a self-made millionaire. Collaborations and meeting the right people are crucial to building your business and network.
- Find ways to build your brand through events, socials, media partnerships, and building connections.
- Give a lot of value before you sell. People need to know who you are what you do before they’re going to be willing to buy from you.
3 Things You Need to Show Your Customers to Make a Sale:
- Your Company’s Vision
- Benefits to the Customer of Purchasing
- Social proof factor
Ash’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Orlesky: Welcome back. Today’s guest is Ash Kumra. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and talk show host recognized twice by the White House as an entrepreneur making an impact. He’s also an [authority?] on entrepreneurship, social media, and branding by authoring his book series Confessions from an Entrepreneur. He’s spoken to over 10,000 people and has been cited in hundreds of articles including Forbes Magazine, Huffington Post, American Express Forum, Entrepreneur Magazine, Startup America, L.A. Times, OC Registry, TEDx, and the White House. Ash has hosted over 100 interviews with business, [inaudible], authors, entrepreneurs, and celebrities who have achieved their dreams and goals. He’s currently helping to run Youngry–a media company informing, inspiring, and elevating young and hungry-minded entrepreneurs to thrive. I’m so excited to have our guest here today, welcome, Ash.
Ash Kumra: Hey, how are you? It’s so happy to be here, Kim.
Kim Orlesky: Thank you. So let’s get started. I mean, you and I first connected several months ago–I get those kind of random LinkedIn requests or maybe I sent it off to you. I’m not really sure how this all worked. For those of you that listen, I know you guys understand that LinkedIn is my favorite social media tool. But one of the things that really caught my interest was your digital magazine, Youngry. Tell me a little bit about that. Where are you at at the process of developing that?
Ash Kumra: Sure. Youngry is a media brand that’s here to help early stage entrepreneurs get the best content so that they could achieve their journey. What we’re doing is we’re creating a platform which is going to have original content, offline events which is what we’re already doing, and just this kind of way of connecting all these early stage entrepreneurs–the Youngry audience–to feel like they can achieve their dreams and goals.
Kim Orlesky: That’s fantastic. Now, I know behind that, like the premise when you started Youngry, you wanted to do a lot of crowdfunding. Why did you decide crowdfunding over the typical bootstrapping or trying to sell ad space or something else?
Ash Kumra: Yeah. So you kind of answered the question a little bit for me. With crowdfunding, we decided to do a version of equity crowdfunding where people can invest in your company–get perks and stuff, but also get some type of form of ownership of some sort based on whatever amount you put in off the valuation in terms. We were just like, “You know what? Why don’t have the same community who’s backing us be a part of our journey from Day 1?” Because if Youngry [inaudible] helped spur this entrepreneur movement or accelerate it, why don’t have people be a part of the moment as an owner? We just thought it was good business, good marketing, good PR. From a sales standpoint down the road, these will be your best loyal customers because they’re a part of your journey. They have no choice but to see you rise.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And that’s actually a good point. Now that you have these investors/you official community, your starting tribe getting started. But how does selling a crowdfunding kind of differ from if you were to actually sell something else whether that was a product or anything. Does it differ, or is it pretty much the same pitch, the same story?
Ash Kumra: Honestly, anyone who’s good in sales doesn’t differentiate what they sell. It’s the same thing. You have to sell the vision, you have to sell the benefit as to why you should buy this or purchase this, and you also benefit from the social proof factor. I think those are the three things needed for any kind of sales. It doesn’t matter if it’s crowdfunding or if you’re selling a product or if you’re selling a service.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And you really did have to kind of create the story and the vision for a lot of the investors ahead of time as well. How does kind of storytelling and integrating a little bit of story–how does that kind of fit in to your Youngry motto?
Ash Kumra: Sure. So what I would say to that is you really need to create a feeling that they’re part of something. I’m a really big fan of movements and causes and stuff like that. When you can apply that cause or movement in a sales form whether it’s, “Hey, be a part of this journey together,” or “Let’s make the change together. But hey, it doesn’t come free because we need to get the funds to accelerate the movement and inspire others.” That’s a non-obtrusive, more authentic way of sales vs. “Hey, this is the best deal you’ll ever get. [inaudible].” But there’s people who do both. And I’m not hating on the other version, but for me you have to find what’s the most authentic to you. So that’s the way I like to do selling, that connective type selling.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. Right around that heart center, right?
Ash Kumra: Yep.
Kim Orlesky: Oh, wonderful. And that’s kind of where Youngry kind of was inspired. Is that right? Just around that social enterprise or that social entrepreneurship.
Ash Kumra: Yeah. You can definitely say that. It was inspired because–again, we wanted to create a movement to unite early stage entrepreneurs to thrive and succeed.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. It’s wonderful to think that–I mean, you create this brand around this heart center, around the movement. Were you always this way or was there some point and a trigger in your career that made you realize that this is something you wanted to focus more on?
Ash Kumra: Yeah. I think for me, I really just wanted to–I think I learned a lot of things. Meaning, I really wanted to see experiences that I’d lived out not happen to other people. Like a lot of people, in your earlier heydays, I’ve had some situations where it didn’t always work out. What you call learning experiences, I used to call it failure. So I think one of the biggest things that was a setback for me is that I used to equate things as failing and not failing. But really, everything is just growing. When you get rid of the failure quotient, I feel you can have unlimited abundance and success. Because then you can see everything from a learning and growing experience. And everything just benefits you.
Kim Orlesky: So is it that you don’t believe in failure or you’re willing to move past it–have you become so fearless around failure that it doesn’t even matter anymore?
Ash Kumra: To a certain degree, yeah. I think I’m at a point where I’m very just fearless. At the same time, though, you have to have a certain level of vulnerability. I’ll give you a totally great example, actually. I’m a very just transparent guy. Oh my God, and I’m so [inaudible]. This conversation is on Monday, November 21st. I’ll tell you a situation that could normally perceive as a failure but now it’s a growing experience. I was on a call and I made a mistake. This person is a really just amazing content person. I really just was on the phone with her and I was trying to work out a deal with her. She was just so amazing and taking her time to work out something. I, at the same time, was multitasking and I was getting an e-mail.
I have this conference that–we’ve been asked to speak in a lot of conferences, but this one conference, for some reason, this person is so rude and demanding and I had to beg, borrow, and steal to be featured in this conference. Literally, around the same time, I got an e-mail back because I sent this big request. Imagine asking someone for–imagine you know your self-worth is $1M but they give you back $1,000 back. I’m getting like breadcrumbs back. So after this call with the content person, I’m reading the e-mail between my call, and midway of during the call I’m reading the e-mail and I’m talking to her and the moment I get that e-mail, I just said, “Okay, cool. I got to get off the phone, it was so nice talking to you. We’re going to be good. Hang up.” In a good way. Then I was going to call one of my team members bitching about this e-mail I got. I called one of my team members talking about the e-mail. I’m starting to say all these [inaudible] profane words, but insulting words. The person who’s on the phone was that content person I just spoke to.
Kim Orlesky: Oh, no.
Ash Kumra: I’m talking about her. I’m like, “Oh my God.” And I just said, “I got to get off the phone.” I just kind of froze for a second. I cleared my head for two minutes–and I’m really mindful person, this never happens to me. My spiritual game is usually on. But I totally slipped. And she wrote back this comment saying, “Hey, if you’re writing about me, I’m sorry.” I’m like, “Oh my God, no,” and I wrote that to her, “No.” Literally. And I wrote out this long e-mail. I don’t even know if that person believes me or not, but I could see if she doesn’t. But it’s all good now because it was a learning experience. I mean, I apologized and I said, “It wasn’t about you, it was about this PR thing.”
But I guess what I’m trying to say is that the old me would’ve been like, “Darn it, I failed. I need to call and beg and say I’m so sorry and all this crap.” I just wrote, “Hey, listen. I slipped, I should not have mismanaged my time. I shouldn’t have been multitasking and I should’ve been criticizing the other person because karma just bit me in the dust.” She just wrote back saying, “Hey, cool. No worries, good luck with the situation.” I have no idea if she’s going to work with us. I want her to, of course. She’s really amazing, rock star, and someone I actually really respect. I courted her to be a part of our team so I’m really hoping. But the same time, [inaudible] from it so I’m all good.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And that’s a great point. I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, small business owners–I mean, sales professionals listen to this podcast all the time. I mean, we’ve talked to a lot of people about failure. The biggest thing that often comes up is kind of moving past it, not letting it dwell too much upon us. Because those are the things that limit us and inhibit us from growing. Did you ever have an experience where you felt like you had limited yourself in terms of how much you were capable of?
Ash Kumra: Absolutely. It’s just a part of it. You know what? I really think limiting beliefs come when you label yourself as good or bad. Instead, you need to just see things as learning and growing and moving on.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, absolutely. Personally in your history, Youngry itself is not a widely known brand at this point. I mean, it’s still quite young, it’s in its infancy, at the beginning. But even during the process, in order to get to that point, you had spent a lot of roles and advisory roles working for a few different organizations. How did your journey kind of lead you to kind of starting a media empire, essentially?
Ash Kumra: Appreciate that. I think what I would say is it’s–you know what’s so trippy? I’m sorry, today is like a total coincidental sign [inaudible].
Kim Orlesky: I do believe in this stuff.
Ash Kumra: Today, I’m telling you, something is shifting in me. You’re literally going to get the most [inaudible] you have ever given. Because I think when you do sales and when you try to be abundant, you have to be very transparent and vulnerable. I’m being very just transparent and vulnerable. You literally asked me something that I’ve been thinking about earlier today. And I was asked by one of my other business partners–who I actually had a good meeting with so no worries there–he asked me the same question. So I’ll give you the same answer but in a different way. Basically, I’m a big believer in vision boards and love attraction and manifestation and stuff like that. One of the things on my own vision board was this idea of building a content company that can elevate and inspire people.
So I think partly when I looked at the vision board and I focused on it, that came about. But the same time, I was focused on–I surrounded myself with like-minded people. Around that time–and I just started thinking and believing that I need to be with the right people that can be in my journey of elevating entrepreneurship, I met my cofounder. I met him by accident. I wasn’t even supposed to meet him. I met him because I was supposed to interview his business partner because they’re partners in this huge fitness brand. I’m supposed to interview the CEO. The PR guy said last minute, “Hey, he can’t come. But his Chief Strategy Officer can come.” And I’m like, “Okay, cool. I don’t know anything about this guy.”
And I met him and we ended up talking for 4 hours afterwards. And he’s like, “You want to do this with me? You seem like a guy who wants to change the world. I have this idea, you seem like you want to do it.” So these all came partly from my own vision board and from opening my mind up. Those are the reasons why I think Youngry came to be and why it’s moving so fast. You did say something, it’s interesting. Yes, we’re not a household name by any means, but we’ve created a huge movement across the country with early stage entrepreneurs. We launched our crowdfunding campaign sometimes in July, August. From then to this interview which is November 20th, we’ve got them combining our own e-mails and Yougry’s emails and just partners have since [inaudible] it’s over 6 figures of emails then 20 events. We’ve made more money than outside of our campaigns. So we’ve just been really on this momentum growth. So it’s all because we’re just focused on making an impact. We don’t think about minutiae details. We focus on doing things.
Kim Orlesky: That’s such a good point. When we go ahead and we’re focused on the big “why.” The reason and the purpose behind it more so than the product. It really can speak volumes and you can hear passion in somebody’s voice when they’re telling the story about their product or service, or on your case, your media. And that kind of really starts to elevate the conversation and the people that you attract. So where do you see Youngry going from now? I mean, you [inaudible] a lot of events. I mean, you’re continuing to build content–what’s kind of the plan for the next several months, a year down the road?
Ash Kumra: Well, I think you’re going to like this part. It’s really turning on the monetization engine. I’ll tell you why. One of the things we want to do is–we’ve proven that there’s a need for Youngry. We’ve built a brand awareness. But with a strong brand, in order to keep it growing and to build this momentum and create a movement to inspire entrepreneurs–meaning to scale the business. And there’s two ways to scale. One is just raise lots of venture capital or [inaudible] investments or do it through a robust commerce way. So we’re going to do [inaudible] combination of both or one of them, but we’re definitely going to be making monetization a priority. So what’s cool about the Youngry model is the ecommerce kind of model where you provide free, compelling, amazing, inspiring content that’s authentic and mentorship-driven from successful entrepreneurs whether it’s at our events or in our online content. And then you suggest helpful books, products, services, and other types of commerce that’s tied to that.
Kim Orlesky: That’s wonderful. I mean, it really continues to fuel the personal development side–the young entrepreneur–and really that [inaudible] driven in a way that they’re continuing to get that content in different forms and different means.
Ash Kumra: Yep.
Kim Orlesky: Oh, wonderful. Let’s shift gears kind of a little bit back, though. Because I mean, I started talking about where the future of Youngry is, but I don’t think we continued finishing on the kind of past journey of where Ash came from. So kind of on a high level, how did you get your start in this? Were you always an entrepreneur? Did you ever work in corporate, sales, or anything else? Where did you get your starting from?
Ash Kumra: I really got into entrepreneurship right after college. I just was always into it. I just loved the idea of being a creator and making things happen. That’s one thing. The other thing I did too is I really focused on communications–content creation and stuff like that. So Youngry is really a combination of my own passion for creating, sharing, and elevating great content. And then my team members are passionate about creating this great content, too. So I’ve just been involved in different aspects from being a book author to cofounding a social network on achieving dreams and goals to doing a lot of public speaking. I run a radio show. I’ve done a lot of broadcasting. So a lot of what I do now content-wise were things that I did on the side, and now I’m doing it as a calling and a mission that I’m trying to do.
Kim Orlesky: Wow, very cool. Yeah, I know you did. You authored part of your book, your Confessions of an Entrepreneur. What was that kind of process like? I mean, being a first time author and kind of continuing on. Was that difficult for you?
Ash Kumra: No, it was very fun, actually. I look at entrepreneurship as different facets of being a creator. As long as I’m doing something that’s creating and helping people, I’m always open to different experiences and stories.
Kim Orlesky: Obviously, one of the things that we talk about as well is this fallacy of the self-made millionaire. The whole idea that you have to do it all on your own. How has collaborations and meeting the right people really helped elevate you and your company and basically the whole game for you?
Ash Kumra: Well, like I mentioned earlier, meeting my partner and the other great people that are with the Youngry team literally without the team and without the people, nothing would happen. I think Youngry’s one of those times where I really appreciated the idea that it’s a team sport. It’s not an individual sport. For a while, I’ve a lot of self brand stuff. It was great and all, but the whole team sporting goal where you have the equivalent of a basketball team. We have a running joke in our team: “My cofounder is like Lebron James. He can do anything.” It’s kind of like this captain figure which is like, “You need to make money? Cool. You need to build a website? Cool. You need to do e-mail marketing? Cool.”
He just [inaudible]. It’s really [inaudible]. And my editor is like the–he’s just really on it with content. He’s very competitive and making sure that the content of Youngry will be the best quality as a unique niche. So he’s very hyper-driven for that. He’s like a Kobe Bryant–similar to that personality. We’re a different hatch but my forte–I’m the best at presenting content whether it’s emceeing or broadcasting and those kind of things. Like when I’m on on those situations, I’m in my flow. So I’m all like Kevin Durant who’s like a point guard. He just keeps scoring. So it’s just like I look at the team like that. So that is something that I’ve learned more this time than ever. I’m really embracing it.
Kim Orlesky: Oh yeah, very core. I mean, it really is about what you can create with people as opposed to what you can create by yourself. At the–yeah, what’s wonderful. What’s kind of the plan in terms of promoting and continuing to build the momentum for Youngry? Are you using social media? I mean, you talked a lot about combining all your e-mail lists and everything. Is that kind of your main way of being able to market it?
Ash Kumra: I mean, there’s different ways. One is we’re really just about building the brand. So finding ways to build the brand–through social, through partnerships. Like these events were really helpful for us. We did this thing called Tech Week the other day. It’s really just helpful on that end. The other thing that we do is–in the next few weeks, we’re going to be creating really compelling content. So it’s going to be once Youngry goes live or even just some of the stuff we’re working on–and that’s going to be representing us. So we’re really just into all that.
Kim Orlesky: But it doesn’t replace quite that one-on-one kind of face-to-face communication, does it?
Ash Kumra: No, it doesn’t. Relationship-building brand building is the best. But the same time, if that’s not something you’re doing, you’re not able to talk to everyone–at least not your brand’s content and mission represent you.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. Did you have to invest into Tech Week or was that something that was kind of honored to you?
Ash Kumra: I’m not sure what you mean by that.
Kim Orlesky: Oh. No, just I know you guys were emceeing for Tech Week. Kind of where we’re going with this is the idea that oftentimes companies have to–especially for events–we have to go ahead and put something forward whether we’re paying in order to be a part of it or something else.
Ash Kumra: Yeah. We’re a media partner. One thing I’ve been doing now because–if Youngry’s being promoted in a big way, in one way that help promote Youngry and at the same time inspire the crowd is I just do what I do best which is the content stuff. I actually somewhat–it was kind of asked, at the same time I wanted to do the emceeing. It was such a blast. I’m actually emceeing one of our next big events. This huge crowdfunding conference in North America. It’s the largest one of its kind. It’s going to be on December 7th and 8th. We’re pretty busy with that.
Kim Orlesky: Oh, fantastic. Where is that one being held?
Ash Kumra: That one is in LA. It’s the Crowd Invest Summit. If you want to take it or discount it or free, send me a note. I can actually help anyone with that. I’m one of the partners. I really like what they’re trying to do.
Kim Orlesky: Oh, perfect. And we’ll include all the links at the end of the podcast and everything as well. So you might end up getting a couple of requests from some of the listeners. We’re kind of wrapping up here a little bit. I know you talked about one of your failures earlier. I’d love to have just one more example of a time that you failed. Perhaps maybe it was your massive or your most epic fail. But what you could have learned from that one.
Ash Kumra: I think I failed when–there was a time when I was not doing really well financially. It’s like 5, 7 years ago. I think the failure behind that at the time–again, I look at everything as a growing experience–at the time, it’s that I was in denial. I thought I was being a victim when really, I was in control. The moment I realized I’m in control, everything just changed.
Kim Orlesky: I think that’s a great point is that it’s not so much the things that are happening to us, but it’s happening kind of for us. It’s helping to open up doors and opportunities. At the end of the day, we are masters of our domain. We do have the choices and the options available.
Ash Kumra: Yeah.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, very cool. A shoutout to all the entrepreneurs, small business owners, sales professionals that are listening. What kind of tip would you give them when it comes to kind of getting their first revenue or even putting kind of the customer or the client first?
Ash Kumra: Got to give a lot of value before you sell. Meaning you can’t just sell them a book or you can’t sell them a product and service unless they know who you are. So one thing I can say about Youngry is that we’ve been making money already even though we’re not live yet. And technically, crowdfunding is a source of revenue if you do a donation-based or if you’re doing some type of events around it, that’s a revenue, too. But the way we’re able to build trust and we’re building a brand equity. And that’s really important.
Kim Orlesky: Very core. Yeah, and your investors are going to be able to see that and continue to follow on the journey whereas–you guys aren’t hidden, right? You’re front and center and you’re constantly promoting yourselves.
Ash Kumra: Yep. I’m with you.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, very cool. Ash, if people want to learn a little bit more about you, about Youngry, kind of where’s the best places for them to reach out?
Ash Kumra: I would really love it if people signed up for our launch list at youngry.com. If anyone wants to reach me, I like making myself pretty accessible via e-mail. It’s one thing I learned from Mark Cuban, actually. Yeah, no matter how successful you are, you can’t let it rest in your head. You got to connect with the right people at the same time. I’m going totally [come on?] to the Mark Cuban example and try to [inaudible] as possible. Ash@youngry.com.
Kim Orlesky: Awesome. And I hope a lot of people do reach out to you. I’m just kind of–we’ve been going forward. I hope they continue to follow Youngry like myself. I think you guys are creating some phenomenal things in terms of the social enterprise, the social entrepreneurship movement, I think that’s something that’s really going to take off even more so over the next few years.
Ash Kumra: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being a guest. I had a great time interviewing you.