PopUp Business School – The Right Way to Start a Business

PopUp Business School - The Right Way to Start a Business

I just returned from a fantastic week at the annual Chautauqua event in Ecuador.

This was my second Chautauqua and just like last year, it exceeded all expectations.

It’s amazing what can happen when you put a bunch of interesting, intelligent people in a gorgeous 17th century hacienda (located at the foot of an extinct volcano) for a week.

At this year’s event, an attendee named Alan gave an impromptu presentation about why and how you should start a business and since it fit perfectly with the week’s other discussions about financial independence and happiness, I knew I had to get him on the podcast.

Since leaving my job in August, I’ve realized how important it is to have something meaningful to work on to fill the void after leaving your career so I think creating your own business is something everyone should consider.

A side business can not only help ease the transition to early retirement, it can reduce the pressure on your portfolio after you quit and it can even help you reach FI sooner so listen to today’s episode to find out the right way to get started!

Listen Now

  • Listen on iTunes
  • Stream audio file here
  • Download MP3 by right-clicking here


  • Takeaways and surprises from the Chautauqua in Ecuador
  • Why you should do work you love
  • How NOT to start a business
  • Why entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be risky
  • How to start a business for free
  • The importance of selling your value before you create it
  • Why you need to just get started

Show Links

Full Transcript

Mad Fientist: Hey, welcome, everybody, to the Financial Independence Podcast, the podcast that’s all about financial independence and early retirement.

On today’s show, I’m excited to introduce Alan from PopupBusinessSchool.co.uk. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Alan just a couple of weeks ago in Ecuador, for the annual Chautauqua event. Alan was an attendee, but he offered to give a presentation on how to start a business. And it was fantastic!

It fit perfectly in with all the other presentations of the week. It helped answer one of the biggest questions people have about financial independence and early retirement, and that is, “What do I do next?”

And that’s an incredibly important question to ask and answer. And that’s something that I found over the last three months, since I quit my job, how important that is, and how important it is to have something that you’re working towards and that you’re working on.

So, I’m really excited to get him on the show, to talk about, not only why you should start a business, but how, and how you should do so in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your pursuit of financial independence, and actually could help speed up your journey getting there.

So, without further delay, Alan, thanks a lot for being here. I appreciate it.

Alan Donegan: It’s my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Mad Fientist: Just a week ago, we just got back from a ridiculously incredible week we had in Ecuador for the Chautauqua. How did you find the experience?

Alan Donegan: It was an incredible experience. Katie, my wife, and I came. And just to be sat in a 16th century hacienda, talking to MMM, you, Jim Collins, and discussing our future, financial independence and all that stuff, was just an amazing week.

Mad Fientist: It was. It exceeded all my expectations as well. Was it what you expected or was it quite different?

Alan Donegan: I think the biggest difference from what I expected was that there was less of a focus on the pure mechanics, math and strategies of how to get to financial independence. I think because a large part of the participants were actually well on the journey. And there was more of a focus on happiness, purpose and what to do after you’ve reached financial independence.

That was the biggest thing that surprised me.

Mad Fientist: It was great for me because, yes, I think about the mechanics so much, but being there and hearing all the different perspectives on—exactly what you said, the happiness part of it, just made it incredibly useful for me as well (just hearing everyone’s stories and struggles. So yeah, I completely agree.

It surprised me as well. It was a fantastic difference from what I expected the Chautauqua to be.
So, that’s great. You had a good time, and I’m assuming Katie had just as good of a time.

Alan Donegan: Oh, yes. And I think we’ll come again. It was brilliant.

Mad Fientist: Oh, wow! Nice. Any major lessons learned, or any big changes in your personal journey from it or are you still processing it? It’s only been a week since we’ve been back and I’m sure you’ve been ridiculously busy with normal life.

Alan Donegan: Katie and I are some of the most organized and geeky people around. So we had a tab for each of the one-to-one sessions we had with different questions that we have wanted to ask yourself, Jim Collins and MMM. We’ve written down those lessons which we then turned into an action plan of what we’re going to do now we’re back.

That’s been taking us quite some time this week to make sure that we work out what all the actions are from the workshops.

We’ve got six or seven major ones that have come out of it such as more of a focus on tax advantage accounts, as opposed to just putting it outside tax advantage accounts.

Then obviously, we need to translate the American advice into an English platform, so that we can actually implement it.

Mad Fientist: That’s right. So yes, maybe people have picked on this, but you are not from America. Where exactly are you from?

Alan Donegan: I am not American. Yes, I’m Alan. I’m from England. I’m from South of England, a place called Basingstoke—or Amazingstoke as I like to call it.

Mad Fientist: That’s a little inside joke from the Chautauqua. We’ve got a lot of laughs when he introduced himself, and he was quite offended by it because even though Jill was not from America, nobody laughed when she said she was from Scotland.

But everybody seemed to laugh when he said that, “I’m Alan, and I’m from England.” Yes, a little inside joke.

So you’re from Basingstoke. It is quite a different journey, I’m assuming, when you’re pursuing FI in the U.K. We’ll get to that as well. But yes, maybe just give a little background about how you got on this journey and where you guys are at.

Alan Donegan: So how we got on the journey, we’ve read some Robert Kiyosaki books, I don’t know if you’ve ever read Rich Dad, Poor Dad many years ago. And he spoke about the difference between an asset and a liability. And up until that point, I’d never owned an asset, which quite shocked me.

So, we spent some time working to buy assets (which we own a couple of small flats that we rent out) which led us onto all sorts of study and learning, which, eventually, a friend sent us to Mr. Money Moustache’s website, which that led to your blog (which we devoured), which led to one called The Escape Artist, which is a U.K.-specific one, which we also devoured.

And eventually, Katie and I were both from the same page that this was something we wanted to achieve. So we set the goal of getting it all done by my 40th birthday which is September 2018.

We spent the last 18 months (it’s been two years since we made that decision, and we’ve got about two years left). It’s about two years until we make the jump to being financially independent.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic! You mentioned The Escape Artist. Are there any other good U.K. or European blogs that you would recommend because I know a lot of people ask me? There are a lot of people in the audience that are from the U.K., and they just want some U.K.-specific things. Are there any other ones that you found useful?

Alan Donegan: No. The short answer is I’ve not found a lot. One of the first books we read on this was actually Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins. And it must have taken Katie and I three months to translate that from American to English. And I know we speak the same language, which is quite shocking.

But since then, it’s got a lot easier. For any of the English people listening out there, there is some very easy stuff. The 401K is a pension. A Roth 401 is an ISA. Those are the main translations. You can Google your way from there.

But The Escape Artist is pretty much the only one in England that I found so far that gives you some good advice.

Mad Fientist: I’ll link to that in the show notes. People can check that out.

So you’re about two years away, which is very exciting. But I want to talk more about what you’re doing for your job, and the fact that you actually love it. So I want to touch on that.

But then, I also want to ask what you’re going to plan to do afterwards because if you’re already having such a good time doing your normal work, what’s in store for you after FI?

So yes, first, tell people about what you actually do.

Alan Donegan: So, about six years ago, I set up something called PopUp Business School. And we travel around the U.K., helping people to start small businesses and make money doing what they love.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic! And the whole reason you’re on the show right now is because you offered to give a presentation at the Chautauqua which was amazing. And I still don’t know how you were able to do it so quickly, and get it out there.

It was fantastic! And it was a perfect addition to the other talks of the week. It fit in perfectly. Everybody loved it. So that’s why I wanted to get you on the show to talk about that.

So, before we dive into that, I still want to stay on your personal story for a bit. What do you plan to do after FI? And if you’ve created this business that you love, and you love what you do, how is FI going to be different than normal life?

Alan Donegan: I think this is the really interesting part, a lot of people we’ve spoken to have jobs that they don’t necessarily like. Their purpose to getting to FI is to be able to quit the job they dislike, and then do something completely different.

I’m quite fortunate in that I’ve set up my own business, and I focused it in a way where I get to spend my time doing what I enjoy. And that’s been one of the biggest revelations I have at Chautauqua is—why do I want to retire if I’m having fun?

Mad Fientist: So what is the answer?

Alan Donegan: The answer is I’m going to keep some of the stuff that I’m doing. I don’t necessarily like the hardcore travel every week, but I do love helping people. And I found one of the things that makes me happiest in life is helping other people.

So, if I can continue to help people build businesses—and actually, we’re just about to launch next year our own business school, which will have a permanent venue, our own permanent business school. And I probably will keep doing that for a year or so after getting to FI.

But there are obviously some cool stuff that my job doesn’t allow me to do at the moment.

I’d love to move to LA and write a movie script, and spend a year getting into the movie business. I’d love to go to New Orleans and learn jazz, and spend a year doing that. And I’d love to go to Naples. There’s a course to become a professional Neapolitan pizza chef which I would love to do that.

So, there are some amazing stuff that I really do want to do. I think that FI just gives you the flexibility to fleet between purposeful work and more frivolous things that you’re doing just for your own enjoyment.

Mad Fientist: I couldn’t agree more. That was a huge focus, purposeful work. And that was the core focus of my talk, and that’s something that I’ve realized since leaving my job. Having something important that you’re working towards and getting better at is, at least for me, one of the key sources of happiness.

So, if you’re able to build a business before you even hit FI that satisfies some of those desires to build something, help people, get better at things, then that’s just a perfect scenario.

So yes, congratulations on working your way into that and coming to that realization.

So, how did the PopUp Business School come about?

Alan Donegan: About nine years ago, I went for support to set up my own business. I got the traditional start-up support that everyone seems to get if they go for help, which is people teach you how to write a business plan, and the sole purpose of the business plan is to work out how much money you need to borrow to get going.

Then you set up a business, then you borrow a load of money, then you do some marketing, some advertising, get the premises. And maybe you make money in year two.

And the people that I went for support from, which was a government organization in England called Business Link, they did more to scare me off ever starting a business than they did to actually help me.

And after a couple of years of running my own business, I realized there’s a much better way of doing it. So I set up PopUp Business School to share a whole new alternative guide, an alternative way to starting a business that people can get going quickly, make money from day one, and make money doing what they love.

Mad Fientist: Awesome! So let’s dive into that. First thing, business plan, people spend days, weeks, months writing this massive document that is instantly out of date as soon as the first bit of feedback from a customer comes in or something changes. And it’s never looked at again.

So, that’s the first thing you would recommend is to pretty much ditch the business plan?

Alan Donegan: I spent two weeks writing a business plan for my business. It was beautiful, Brandon. It had colors, it had graphs, and it had data. It had everything. It was beautiful.

I then put that business plan in a drawer, and I went to see a real life customer. And in that moment, when I saw that customer, everything changed because the customer said, “All that planning you’ve done, we don’t want any of that. What I really want is this other thing.”

So, I changed my entire business into the other thing for him. And that business, I can’t bring myself to throw away the business plan. I spent two weeks on it. But it was a complete waste of time.

But here’s the thing. Here’s the mistake everyone makes. When they come up with an idea, first thing everyone does is they go and see their friends. And they say to their friends, “I’ve come up with this new idea.”

Let’s imagine it’s a phone case cover, a new design.

They go to their friends and say, “Look at this. I’ve come up with this idea. What do you think?”
And what do most of the friends say?

Mad Fientist: It’s great! It looks amazing. I love it.

Alan Donegan: Yes, that’s exactly what they say. “It’s great. Go for it. You should do it.” Is that good feedback?

Mad Fientist: No, because they won’t buy one.

Alan Donegan: Well, that’s you should do at exactly that point. Once they said it’s great, lean in, stare them in the eyes, and say, “It’s only $20. Will you buy it?”

Mad Fientist: Give me your $20 right now.

Alan Donegan: Exactly! And then watch them shift uncomfortably. That is the only moment you know whether your business idea will be successful or not, the only moment when you actually ask someone to take their wallet out of their pocket, and part with their dollars or pounds.

Up to that point, they’ll be nice to you.

So, if you go out and do a load of research, if you go and interview a load of people, that’s all good, but they’ll be nice to you. They don’t want to hurt your feelings.

And at some point, when you actually ask for money, they’ll have to give you the real feedback. So what my suggestion is, skip the business plans, skip everything, skip creating the product, skip creating the service, and go out and actually ask someone if they will buy your idea.

And if you skip straight to the end, if they say yes and they’re willing to buy it, you’ve got a customer, and you can start your business.

If they say no, well, there’s no risk. You haven’t wasted anything, and you need to come up with a new idea or change your idea until you come up with a yes.

Mad Fientist: So yes, that’s the other big mistake people make. They don’t do that and then they invest a bunch of money to create the product or service or infrastructure to sustain the business. They sink a ton of money into it, and then they find out that customers don’t actually want it. And that’s a recipe for personal financial disaster.

So, you suggest no money, or as little money upfront as possible to invest in the business. So how would you go about creating a business with no to very little money?

Alan Donegan: I love that. And you’re exactly right. This is the sole reason why people think entrepreneurship is risky. They think entrepreneurship is risky because you have to borrow a load of money to get going—which, that is risky. I would never ever recommend going into debt to start your business. Having a business is about having money, not owing money.

So, let’s get straight to it. How do you start a business for free?

The first thing is, you can get stuff for free. So you can build a free website with things like Weebly or Wix. There’s a whole host of platforms out there that you can build a free website on.

You can get offices for free. You can borrow space. Pretty much anything you want, you can get for free.
Let me give you a real life example of this. We had a couple of guys we met that wanted to start a minibus rental business.

So, you can imagine you’ve got your sports teams or your groups of people are going out the weekends, you want to hire a minibus to be able to take them to their game or take them to their night out.
These two wanted to start a business to be able to rent out the minibuses.

So, they had written a business plan. They had worked out that they needed to borrow £33,000. And most of that money was going to be spent on two minibuses.

Now, they came to us. The money they were going to borrow was—they’d organized to get a bank loan for it. They had saved up about £2000 themselves, they were going to get a bank loan for the rest.

But the really scary bit was that the bank wouldn’t have lent the money directly to them, so they were going to have to get a guarantor. And the guarantor was their parents who were going to have to put up some collateral

And you can guess what the parents were going to put up, won’t you?

Mad Fientist: The family house.

Alan Donegan: Oh, yes.

Now, that would scare me. That would scare me. These two had never run a business before. One of them didn’t even have a driving license. And they’re going to start a business renting out minibuses based on a loan that was skewered against the family home.

So we sat them down and said, “This is crazy. Let’s see if we can work out what we can do.”

So, we went through their list here: websites, well, you can get that for free here; business cards (there are actually websites online where you can get free business cards, plus postage and packing); you need a computer (well, how can we get around that? Can we find a laptop somewhere? Can we do something else?)

We managed to strike off nearly everything on their list until we got to the vans. And then the vans, we said, “Do you know anyone who has a minibus or a van?”

And actually, they said, “Well, the whole reason we’ve got this idea is that one of our friends does this during the week. He’s got a van, and he’s inspired us.”

And so we said, “Well, does he use it the weekends? Could you borrow it?”

And they looked a bit confused for a second, and then got straight on the phone, and said, “Could we borrow it?”

The guy only used it during the weekdays, so they were able to borrow it at the weekend, and give him a share of the profits.

So we actually were able to borrow a van to get them going. We managed to get the list down to £300. So instead of borrowing 33 grand, they needed £300. And that £300 was only for the driving license for one of them.

Mad Fientist: That’s amazing.

Alan Donegan: We could not find a way around the driving license.
So, you can get stuff for free. You can borrow stuff. One of the ones for us is always bartering what can you swap.

When I started my business, I was not very good at marketing. I found a marketing company that wanted its staff trained, which is what I was doing. I trained their staff in presentations, and they did their marketing for me.

The PopUp Business School, we don’t have an office. We all worked from cafes or at home—except for Henry, who works for us, who does have an office. And he found someone at his local park actually that had an office.

He asked if he could borrow the office, and the guy looked a bit confused, and said, “Why would I lend you my office?” And he said, “Well, I can do something in return for you. I’m good at building websites.”
And the other guy said, “Well, that’s great. I need a website.”

So, Henry built him a free website using Weebly, and swapped it for use of his office which came with free coffee and free Wi-Fi.

So, you can barter the skills you’ve got for what you need to get.

Mad Fientist: And especially in this day and age, it seems easier than ever to start without a lot of capital even if you’re not borrowing or bartering a lot. It seems like with technology, it’s easier than ever to start a business.

You don’t have to buy a building like you used to in the past. You don’t have to rent a big storefront. The internet has opened up so many doors to start businesses for next to nothing as well.

Have you seen that as well?

Alan Donegan: It’s been a complete game-changer, Brandon, because we could not have run the courses we run, 8, 9, 10 years ago. The tools of the internet that allow you to start for free just weren’t available.

But now, if we were to sit down together and come up with a new business idea, first question I ask would be, “What do you enjoy doing?” And then we build a business around that.

And within an hour, we could have built a free website, we could have it online, and we could use tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, to be finding customers for you immediately.

The internet has changed the game.

And to give you one example of that, we had a young guy called Andrew came on our course about three years ago. He was 16. And he came up to us afterwards and said, “I’ve got a little YouTube channel. How do I make money out of it?”

So, I’ve been coaching him for about three years now. His YouTube channel is called TechTeamGB. He creates videos reviewing technology. He reviews them on YouTube, puts the videos up, there’s a link below to where people can buy the products that he’s reviewing, and he gets his videos sponsored.

I think the really fascinating thing—he’s now 19, he’s built a channel, he’s earning his full-time money online. He has a higher clout online and more reach than Microsoft in the U.K. And he’s a 19-year-old.

Mad Fientist: No kidding!

Alan Donegan: It’s just a leveler. With technology, you can compete with the biggest firms in the world from your bedroom. It’s just changed the game.

Mad Fientist: It’s amazing. And you mentioned figuring out something that you’re passionate about. What I found amazing over my last 5 or 10 years of just trying things out online is that you really can earn money from things you’re passionate about that don’t even seem like they would be good business ideas.

The Mad Fientist is a perfect example. The goal wasn’t to make money. And if it was, I would have quit three years into it because I wasn’t putting in so many hours and not getting any return.

But even something like the Mad Fientist where it seems like there’s no chance of making money because it’s like, “Well, what are you going to sell to people that you’re telling not to spend any money and save all their money?”, it’s the worst business idea ever as far as a business is concerned because you’re just telling your customers not to open their wallets ever.

But still, The Mad Fientist, there are certain services that I recommend that are free for the users like Personal Capital, or some of the credit cards for travel hacking that I recommend and stuff. Even those give a kickback, so then The Mad Fientist is actually earning money, which is crazy, because that’s just a passion project.

So, even if your business idea seems like it won’t be that lucrative, if it’s something you’re really passionate about and interested in, then eventually, you’re going to build something that’s so great that people are going to want to use it, see it, and read it, and the income opportunities will come from that in ways you didn’t even expect.

Alan Donegan: Absolutely! And quite often, people wonder how the PopUp Business School makes money because no one ever pays to come on our events. And to share with your listeners our way of doing business, we have what we call a Robin Hood business model where we take money from the people who’ve got it, and then we give our service away for free to the people who need it the most.

So, for us, big business sponsors us, councils pay us or the government or housing associations pay us. And then we run the courses in the community for the people who need it the most, and we give it away for free.

Even the people you’re trying to serve don’t have to have any money. There’s got to be someone in the equation with cash.

I’ll give you another example of that.

There was a speaker that wanted to do talks and workshops to help people overcome cancer, but he didn’t want to charge the patients. So what he did was he found someone who had cash that wanted to pay to help that group.

And the reason they wanted to pay to help that group was they wanted to change their image. And the people he found were pharmaceutical companies.

Now, they don’t necessarily have good image, and they would have paid money to do good, to change their image. So what he was able to do was take money off the people who had it, big pharma, and then do good with that money helping the people who need it the most.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic.

Alan Donegan: So, there’s always a way to build a business.
I have a challenge. I don’t care what it is you like, there is a way to make money doing it. And I’m sure with that challenge, we’ll get a few messages afterwards. Send me some messages, challenge me, and we’ll come up with a way for you to make money doing what you love.

Mad Fientist: Yes, that’s fantastic actually. I recommend everyone does that in the comments below this episode because after Alan’s talk at Chautauqua, my wife was talking about a business idea that she has had for a while, and she just kept coming up with more and more things like why it probably wouldn’t work.

Alan shut down every single one of them very quickly. And then, it just left us both thinking, “Well, I guess there’s nothing left to do but just give it a shot.”

So, it was fantastic. I’m excited about that because Jill is going to go back to Scotland and give it a try with absolutely no money down because Alan showed us all the ways we could get what we needed to get for free and just give it a try.

So yes, anybody with a business idea or something that they think they would want to do with their lives, definitely write in the comments below. And if you have any doubts, I’m sure Alan will talk you out of them really quickly.

Alan Donegan: Absolutely! I’m looking forward to seeing all the ideas.

Mad Fientist: So, find something you want to do because there’s no point in creating another job for yourself that’s going to make you miserable. So obviously, find something that you’re interested in, really passionate about, and figure out where the money is in that equation.

Forget the business plan, and try to borrow, and start with as little upfront capital as possible. And then just get started. Try to find your first paying customers.

What’s the next after that?

Alan Donegan: Find the first paying customers, sell what you’ve got, and then see if you actually like running the business because there are lots of times and lots of people who started things, and they find out later actually, “I much prefer this as a hobby, and I don’t want to do it as a job.”

And so what we always recommend is starting for free and getting going to work out if you actually enjoy doing it or not. Because quite often, what people do is they jump in with two feet, borrow a load of money, start up before they’ve even realized if they enjoy it or not.

One of the sayings that I have, if you like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, how do you know which flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream you like the most?

Mad Fientist: Try them all, if possible.

Alan Donegan: Yes. If you’re anything like me, you go to the supermarket, you buy every flavor, and you try the lot. And you realize you don’t like Cherry Garcia, but you do like Half-baked.

The only way to know if you’re going to love doing something as a business is to have a go at it—the only way to know. So do it without risk, which is, sell it first, see if it works, or even do a couple of times for free for people you know and trust to see if you actually enjoy doing it.

And you’ll find that if you start and make it happen and you enjoy it, it very quickly turns into a business because people will sense that you enjoy doing it, and they want to do business with you rather than a faceless corporation.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic advice. And that’s great advice for even non-business things.

I know talking to a lot of people at events like the Chautauqua and Camp Mustache, and things like that, people think, for example, their dream is to sail around the world.

So they buy a big sailboat, and they sell, all their belongings, and sell their house. And then a few weeks into the trip, they hit some really rough seas, and totally put them off.

And then they’re stuck at a dock, and the waves are crashing against the side of the boat, and the China, their dishes are banging into each other all night long, they can’t sleep.

They’re fighting lots of time because they’re stuck in this 200-square-foot space constantly.

This dream that they had of this amazing life of sipping cocktails on the deck of their sailboat while they travel around the world is actually much different in reality. But rather than trying it out first, they’ve sunk a lot of money into all these things that now, they can’t really unwind as easily, and they’re not happy.

So I think, yes, trying even non-business things before you actually dive in is a huge thing to keep in mind, so you don’t end up even more miserable than when you were working after you’ve achieved financial independence.

Alan Donegan: Absolutely. And if you try a few of these things, some of them might make you some extra money.

One of the things we spoke about at the Chautauqua was the main ways to get to financial independence were to reduce your spending, to increase your earning, and to invest more wisely.

There’s only so far you can reduce your spending. You can get a smaller and smaller, and older and older car, but at some point, you can’t reduce it much more.

But there is no ceiling to the amount of money you could earn extra.

And I think that’s really exciting for me is that you can earn extra money doing what you love and enjoy the journey. And it gets you to financial independence sooner.

Mad Fientist: Absolutely. And it gives you something to occupy your time after you leave your job because that was another huge topic of discussion. Because yes, what are you going to do after that’s going to keep you fulfilled and happy?

So yes, building something while you’re still working that you enjoy will make the transition so much easier, just like it has for me.

As I said during my talk at Chautauqua, I would have freaked out that first day of freedom had I not had The Mad Fientist stuff to work on because it’s this huge void just opens up in your life. Work has occupied so much space, and then all of a sudden, it’s just gone like that.

Well, you have to fill that void with something.

So had I had not The Mad Fientist stuff to work on, I think I would have freaked out a lot. And the fact that switching over from saving so much all your life to then withdrawing from those accounts, that would have freaked me out as well.

But luckily, Mad Fientist was bringing in money, so I didn’t have to. And that was hugely calming for a very potentially rocky transition.

So that’s why I was so excited to get you on because for me, it’s perfect timing. All of the stuff that you talked about in your talk at Chautauqua, it was perfect timing for what I was going through and experiencing, and realizing that, “Hey, this Mad Fientist thing that was just a hobby on the side turned out to be the best thing for me in this transition.”

And if more people focused on building that during their careers, they would be more fulfilled during their careers obviously, but then they would have something to fall back on once they hit FI.

So yes, I’m so excited that you agreed to come on and talk about all this stuff because I think it’s incredibly important, even more important than I thought it was six months ago when I was still working.

Alan Donegan: Absolutely. One of the keys to happiness is having a purpose, having something to do. There is only so long you can sit on a beach and sip cocktails before getting bored.

For some of us, it’s longer than others. For me, it’s about two days. For other people, they might be able to last a month. But at some stage, you need something to do to give you that happiness, and creating that purposeful meaning work, whether it’s pre-FI or post-FI, it doesn’t really matter. But if you can do it, it will keep you happy long term.

Mad Fientist: Absolutely. So if we follow your advice, then pretty much, hopefully, by the time you have your first paying customers, the only thing you’ve invested is time and effort.

Do you find that the people that you coach, do they try out a lot of different things before they fall on a successful idea, or are the most ideas turn out to be somewhat successful the longer that you work with them?

Alan Donegan: I would say that not all ideas are great ideas. And the only real way to know if your idea is a good idea or not is to try and sell it. If you get rejected, then you probably know after a while that it’s not going to fly.

But there is an essence of keeping going and making it happen. But you’ve got to take that idea, have a go, and go and speak to customers, and listen to what customers want and what they need, and start creating that.

And the more you get out there, the more you speak to people, the more you try and sell it, the more you’ll understand exactly what you need to provide to help people make progress.

Your product or idea might change, and it might move, and that’s okay. That’s absolutely okay.

We had a guy that came to us at the Redding PopUp Business School that wants to start a drone-flying school. So he’d teach people how to fly drones. And actually, in the short-term, he’s found he’s making more money from taking photographs of buildings with his drone for estate agents or realtors.

So he’s actually found an income stream that he wasn’t expecting by getting out there and speaking to people.

And we find that happens quite a lot. You start doing one thing, and someone comes along and says, “Can you do this other thing?” And there’s a whole new income stream that you weren’t even expecting waiting for you.

Mad Fientist: I think that’s the case for a lot of things where you’re just like, all the good ideas come off of the other work that you’ve done, and that other work may not be good and useful, and you may not profit from it or be able to use it, but it all serves the bill to that eventual thing that you settle on, which you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Alan Donegan: Exactly.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome.

Alan Donegan: Absolutely. It reminds me of a quote I heard many years ago which said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

It hit me that if you start, if you put your energy out there, if you do something, then all sorts of avenues you weren’t expecting open up in front of you.

So if I was going to say one thing to your audience, if you ever had a thought of doing something, if you ever had a thought of starting a blog, doing a service, creating a product, have a go. Have a go. Start for free. You’ve got nothing to lose, and you have no idea what magic might come from it.

Mad Fientist: I couldn’t agree more. That’s fantastic advice. I think I mentioned this at the Chautauqua, but my little quarter-life crisis when I turned 30, I think I may have talked about that.

I had this breakdown. We were actually skiing for the weekend for my birthday. It was my 30th birthday. And we had a great skiing, and then we had a great night out having dinner and having drinks at the bar and things like that.

I had this breakdown of like, “What have I done with my life? I haven’t accomplished any of the things that I had planned to do by the time I hit 30.”

It was analysis/paralysis. I would think about an idea for so long and plan out every single eventuality, and plan what I would do here, and all these things, and just think about it until I hated the idea, and I would do nothing.

So yes, it was that 30-year-old birthday meltdown that resulted in The Mad Fientist actually because I started it the next month. I was like, “You know what? All of the things that I was worried about” because I knew I wanted to write about all this stuff, and I thought I had some really good stuff to say, but I was doing the same thing I always did where I was thinking, “I need to figure out if I need to talk to a lawyer about what I can say, and what disclaimers I have on my site.”

All these things that really don’t matter and that you can figure out along the way, but I was doing the same thing that I always did where I was trying to plan all these things out before I even wrote a single word.

And then after that 30-year-old birthday meltdown, I was like, “You know what? Forget it. I’m just going to start it, and I’ll deal with anything that comes when I do.”

And yes, obviously, it’s turned into something that I never would have expected, and it lets me meet with people like you in Ecuador, which was crazy. And yes, it would have never happened if I hadn’t just started.

I think that’s fantastic advice. Everybody should keep that in mind whenever they’re thinking of starting something.

If you follow your advice of not investing a lot of money, then the only thing you invest in is time, and I’m sure even if it fails, you’ll learn something from that time invested. There’s really nothing to lose.

So yes, just get started.

That’s amazing advice. Is there anything we haven’t really talked about that you think people should know? Are there any resources that you would recommend people go to?

Alan Donegan: There’s so much we haven’t talked about, but I know we have a time limit. Resources—I have a YouTube channel that has daily YouTube videos with advice and inspiration for how to start up a business.

So if you want to check that out on YouTube, it’s called PopUp Business School, and we’ve got a whole host of videos on there on different topics about how to start a business.

The one specifically on the legal structures won’t be that much use to an American audience, but the general philosophy and ideas works worldwide.

Mad Fientist: Perfect. I’ll link to that in the show notes as well.

Obviously, we can’t cover everything that goes into creating a successful business, but if there are any core topics that we missed, feel free to chime in.

Alan Donegan: I guess the one core topic I just put in near the end, we say this regularly in the PopUp Business School, is sell your value before you create it. And I think this is the opposite of what most people do.

Most people spend years creating a product. They spend years writing a book. They spend years designing the course before they sell it.

And while that is very risky, because you’ve spent years of your life writing a book that no one wants to buy, you’ve wasted your time. If you spend years of your life creating a product that no one wants, you’ve wasted your time.

So what we always recommend is to sell it before you create it.

Business has been doing this for years. But for some reason, new startups don’t think to do this.
So for example, there was a business in the U.K. called The Cotton Traders. They used to have adverts in the back of the newspaper that said, “Order your tee shirt or polo shirt here.”

It had a little form that you could fill out, and send in with a check saying, “I want two medium polo shirts.”

And in the small print underneath, it would say, “Delivery is six to eight weeks.”

You might be thinking, “Why are they taking so long to deliver it? Amazon will deliver things in two hours.”

Well, the reason it was six to eight weeks delivery was that the items you were buying weren’t even made yet.

So they would collect all the orders, they would collect all the checks, they have your money in their account. They would then put the order into the factory to create the polo shirts and create the tee shirts that then they would sell afterwards.

Then now, actually, there are so many different platforms online that you can virtually create tee shirts, you can virtually create all sorts of things, and then sell them from the virtual image. And when you have sold it, then you make it.

It takes all the risks out of entrepreneurship.

Let’s say, you were going to create a music album, for wanting a better idea, why don’t you create one track, have a sample, and then sell the whole album based on the sample? Then you’re not wasting any time, and then you’ll get a load of people that say, “This one track is great. I will pay for the whole album.”

Then you go away and create the album based on that.

So there’s no reason. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a service, a product, anything, you can sell it before you’ve started.

And actually, that was how we started the PopUp Business School. About six years ago, I had the idea for this thing called the PopUp Business School, and that’s about all I had.

I went to see a guy down in Weston Super Mare called Michael, who works for a housing association. And I told him all about my idea and asked him if he was interested in buying it.

I had not written the course, I had not created the website, I hadn’t built anything. I just sold him the idea.

Thankfully, he said yes, he was interested. And he actually bought the first ever two-week PopUp Business School. And I then had to actually do some work and write the course.

But he paid for that course before I’d run it. So everything we did was funded by his cash.
I don’t care what it is you’re going to do, there is a way to sell it first, and build it second. And that takes all the risks out of entrepreneurship. There was zero risk.

If you’ve sold first and collected the money upfront, there’s no risk in entrepreneurship.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic. And yes, especially nowadays with things like Kickstarter, and things where you can, like you said, write all about the idea, and maybe create a digital representation of that idea, and then sell it.

And then yes, if you don’t even hit the target that you need to build it, then you just don’t even make it, and everybody gets their money back, which seems like a fantastic way of going about it.

Alan Donegan: Which is some great feedback about your idea.

Mad Fientist: Right, exactly.

Alan Donegan: They’ll tell you very quickly whether it’s going to work or not when you ask for the cash.

Mad Fientist: Absolutely. Are there any other resources like Kickstarter out there, or is that the primary one if you wanted to do something like that really easily?

Alan Donegan: There are loads of different services just like Kickstarter. There are some specifically for certain niches.

The one piece of advice I would give people about Kickstarter is that you can’t just throw a page up from Kickstarter and hope that people will buy it. It doesn’t work like that.

Have you heard the expression, if you build it, they will come?

Mad Fientist: Yes.

Alan Donegan: It’s the biggest load of rubbish ever. It does not work. If you build it, no one will come until you tell them about it.

So if you’re going to put a Kickstarter page up, if you’re going to start a blog, if you’re going to put a website up selling a product, you have to get out there and tell the world it exists, and get them to look at it.

And that’s the step that most new entrepreneurs forget. They think, “This is great, Alan.”
They put up a Kickstarter page, and then they don’t do anything else.

Nothing is going to happen until you tell people it’s there.

If you started a podcast and told no one about it, it would be suicide for your podcast. You have to tell people about it.

So yes, my biggest piece of advice on that is that your work starts by getting people to look at your offer.

Mad Fientist: That’s great advice, and I had the assumption that if I built it, they would come. I built a web app way back in 2010 or 2011 or something. And I was like, “This is the most fantastic thing ever. It’s the best. It’s great.”

And then yes, I was very shocked when people weren’t flooding in.

Looking back on it, yes, it’s ridiculous that I thought that was going to happen. But yes, I was like, “I guess people are going to find this. They’re going to love it. They’re going to tell everybody, and it’s going to be fine.”

And it just didn’t happen. That web app just died a slow death.

That was a big lesson to learn, but yes, I completely agree. You need to find the audience. If you build it, they will not come. That is definitely not going to happen.

So yes, good advice.

Alan Donegan: If you’re going to build another one, Brandon, then come and talk to me, and I’ll help you to just get it out there. Let’s get it out there.

Mad Fientist: I would definitely do that. Alan, I usually end all of my podcasts with asking people if you had one piece of advice for someone hoping to achieve financial independence, what would it be?

Alan Donegan: The one piece of advice that I would have is that if you got a partner, someone that you’re doing this stuff with, do it with him. Get him involved early. Do it as a team.

I think Katie and I have separately gone on training courses. I go off and do a training course. You come back really excited. The other person is in a completely different place. And it doesn’t work.

My biggest piece of advice on this journey is do it together. If you’ve got a girlfriend, if you’ve got a boyfriend, if you’ve got a husband, if you’ve got a wife, do it together. Get on the journey together. Get excited together.

Together, you will make so much more progress.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. That’s great advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. This has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, I’ll see you again soon over in the U.K. when I get back there.

And yes, if anyone wants to get in touch, the PopUp Business School, is that the best way? Do you have an e-mail address there that people can have, so I could put it in the show notes?

Alan Donegan: Yes, just PopUp Business School, or you can find me on Twitter @AlanDonegan, A-L-A-N-D-O-N-E-G-A-N.

And I did just have one thought as we talked, Brandon, one request for your audience if that’s all right.

Mad Fientist: Absolutely.

Alan Donegan: I’ve always wanted to come and run a PopUp Business School in America. So if any of your audience thinks this would be a good idea to bring this to the States, I’d love to have a chat with them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

I’m a big admirer of the American psyche and the way you guys do business. And I’ve love to do more with you.

Mad Fientist: That would be fantastic. I think that would be an amazing idea. So yes, anybody out there, Alan’s e-mail address will be in the show notes, so definitely send him an e-mail. And after hanging out with him for a week, I fully endorse him, and would say that he would make a fantastic business school lecturer.

That would be awesome if you could come over to the States and give a little bit of English civility to the cutthroat American business world.

So yes, thanks, Alan. I really appreciate it. And hopefully, I’ll speak to you again soon.

Alan Donegan: Good going! Thanks, Brandon. Bye.

Mad Fientist: Bye.

Alan Donegan: Bye!

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66 comments for “PopUp Business School – The Right Way to Start a Business

  1. Aussie Firebug
    November 22, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Ok Nick!

    How would you make money from underwater basket weaving?

    LOL but seriously loved the podcast. I have not started a business but wouldn’t mind doing so in the future. The biggest take away from this episode I got was sell first, create later.

    Seems so counter intuitive.

    How would you test the best version of your end product without creating and testing it first?

    • Ryan
      November 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Hey Aussie,
      I am no expert, but the idea is that you just get something in the hands of your audience (customers) and they will provide real time feedback about if your product is valuable, how it can be improved, etc. You sell it first to see if there is any demand for it, and then create it after you see the demand. Otherwise, you could have a terrible idea that no one will pay for but deceive yourself into thinking it is a good idea.

      • George
        November 22, 2016 at 12:11 pm

        So the challenge sounds like I give you an area of interest and you tell me how you could make money from it? That’s interesting. But when pre-sales suggest that the idea isn’t marketable, doesn’t that mean that area of interest is excluded from profit?

        I’ll pose a personal case study that did not quickly succeed and you can give me your thoughts on additional efforts.

        I have methods for graduating college early. I started with a blog. The only traffic I got was that which I paid for and the search volume is admittedly low (~1500 ppl/mo.). I later posted a couple of videos (which are more fun to make), but once again, organic search is low. I posted on social and content discovery channels. I did not yet attempt guest posting.

        Online business guru suggestions tend to encourage to look for an area highly searched/wanted and supply what is wanted, rather than what I feel I’m doing here which is providing what I think would be appreciated if only they found out it existed.

        Do you think this is evidence that the market wouldn’t reward content in this arena? Does that mean it is unlikely to make a profit from that content?

        • Alan Donegan
          November 26, 2016 at 4:48 pm

          George, thanks for the message. Some interesting points and probably more thoughts and questions than solid ideas for you at this point.

          1. you say “when pre-sales suggest that the idea isn’t marketable, doesn’t that mean that area of interest is excluded from profit?” If you have tried to sell the item already and it has not sold then that is interesting feedback from the market about the idea. They are saying 1 of three things. 1. the price is wrong (this doesn’t mean too high it might mean to low) 2. the marketing isn’t working and selling the value or 3. the idea sucks.

          Sales is the best way to test an idea and there is a lot of other data you need to then work out if the sales test has failed; why it failed.

          There are also many different ways to monetize any particular idea:

          Affiliate sales
          Education and many more.

          So if you have tried one way it doesn’t mean the idea is dead, it means we have to change, develop and pivot to find something that does work and makes you the money doing what you love.

          As my Granny always said to me “stick at it”

          So you had a blog about graduating college early? And this did not pick up? Some questions:

          1. of the paid traffic you got did you collect email address or build a mailing list?
          2. of the paid traffic you got did anyone visit the site for a second time? What was your retention rate? This will tell a story about how people found the content?
          3. how did you develop your distribution of the blog postings personally? Distribution is really important to create the channel. Are you writing the article and then waiting for people to visit or are you out there for hours a day engaging the audience you want to build?

          Our business doesn’t provide what is wanted (funding to start businesses) but we provide what is needed (education on how to do it without cash) and we have still found a market by educating people.

          You have to put your ideas out there, share them, build and audience and work hard to get people excited!

          I am not sure paid traffic is the best way to go and I would not take that as a sign that the idea won’t work. I would make friends with influencers who already have the audience I want and then get my content in front of that audience and see how many of the people that read your articles, like your material, comment and leave you their email addresses. You need to drive traffic and see what the reaction is. If there is no reaction then it could be for a number of reasons (content style, content itself, images, call to actions)

          We need to do some work and dive deep into the google analytics data to really find out what is going on.

          It sounds to me that you have had a good go but not persisted. I would push further and do it without spending money by really explore the data to find out if I am actually making progress or not.

          Is that helpful George? Give you some ideas?

          I can’t say if the business will be successful or not without the data surrounding your first attempt.

          Good luck and have another go measuring everything!

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:08 am

      Hey Aussie Firebug. Love underwater basket weaving. We would have to work hard on that one together but first thought is YouTube Channel!

      So your question “How would you test the best version of your end product without creating and testing it first?”

      1. I want all my tests to be paid for tests if I can then I know that the customer has some skin in the game and wants it to work too. People undervalue what they get for free. If they won’t pay for the product it doesn’t inspire me with confidence that they will pay later
      2. Test in private as much as you can before you get it out there with friends and family. Iron out the kinks by testing it on people you know and trust
      3. People support what they co-create so if you give them a reduced price for an early version and ask for their help and support building the product or service they will be bought in to working with you

      I am not sure there is a real short cut to creating and testing through sales as this is the best way to learn and if you short circuit this process you will miss out on some really powerful learning along the way.

      When you come up with an idea let us know!

      PopUp Business School

  2. Carl
    November 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Chatting up Alan and listening to his presentation were highlights of my week in Ecuador. And this means something special because the entire week was one, long highlight reel.

    Alan’s approach makes loads of sense. Burn the old-school business plan. Start small and cheap.

    • jlcollinsnh
      November 22, 2016 at 9:01 pm


      Visiting with Alan and MF (as well as you, Carl) made for a great Chautauqua. These events always attract interesting people.

      Of note, Chautauqua itself was started using many of Alan’s principles.

      Great podcast, guys!

      • Alan Donegan
        November 23, 2016 at 3:20 am

        Jim I loved Chautauqua and had so much fun thank you! Loved that you used these ideas to make it real too! Alan

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:09 am

      LOVE that Carl! Burn the business plan. Sounds like a video I need to do! lol. I really enjoyed working with you and loved chatting about business. Thank you for your sage investing advice!


  3. Lane
    November 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Love the show. I am interested in alternative energy especially in residential applications. I am thinking about starting a blog in this space. What other business ideas do you have? Thanks.

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:12 am

      Hi Lane,

      Alternative energy is such a hot topic at the moment with all sorts of products and ideas coming out. I am working with a young lad in the UK that is building a battery to store solar energy for homes in the UK and is launching that here. I think there are three main ways to go:

      1. build a product for the market that is (in your opinion) needed. Or at least come up with the idea and try and sell it before you build it!
      2. create a service around the innovative products that are coming out that helps people to optimise, install, improve how they use them
      3. commentate on the space through a blog, youtube chanel, podcast

      There are many more but here are my initial ideas!

      Go get em! Alan

  4. Rachael
    November 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Here’s a challenging one for you – I love, love, love old (historic) houses. If money were no object, I would spend my life fixing up old houses. But the problem is, they are money pits. Often the costs of repairs often exceed the market value of the house once restored. Any thoughts? :)

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:16 am

      Rachel I love a challenge and if this is what you love then we should work to find a way to make money doing it. Some initial thoughts for you:

      1. There are lots of people doing this right now (not because of the money, because they love it and want to live in the house) so you could do something for them. A service to do it for them and you become the specialist around historic houses, a guide for them on how to do it (youtube channel, blog, book),
      2. be the access portal to the specialists they need to do these projects finding the right trusted people
      3. Find people that want to do this (the people where money is no object) and project manage it for them from purchase to completion. You can find these buyers through realtors

      There are so many ways to be involved in this space and make your living doing what you love.

      Has that given you some ideas?


      • Rachael
        November 23, 2016 at 11:03 am

        Definitely! Thanks!

  5. FrugalFox
    November 22, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I agree with a lot of the stuff that Alan said especially not starting out in debt with your business.

    However I have to say I disagree about the lack of decent UK sites. Two I can think of off hand are:-

    Both of them provide a wealth of information regarding finance and investing.

    Hope they help if anybody else asks for recommendations of sites to look at.

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:16 am

      Thanks FrugalFox. I didn’t know about those two. I will check them out. Alan

  6. sarah
    November 22, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Great podcast, I’m from Maidstone, so know that Basingstoke is far from amazing . After listening to you, ive just booked into to your pop up at Sittingbourne (not exactly Ecuador). Among other things i was I’m wanting to provide a befriending service for the elderly, I thought £10 an hour to spend time with an older person who might be lonely or need a little help around the house or to go to the shop. Not to be a carer but a friend (a paid friend), so the council might buy the device and old people with money. Anyway, all ideas and advice welcome.

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:19 am

      Hi Sarah, How can you disagree that Basingstoke is Amazing!? lol

      Some great ideas and it would be very interesting to try them and find out how to launch it with you. We are in Reading for the next two weeks http://www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/reading. Pop in and find me if you are in the area! Love to help.

      If not then see you in Sittingbourne and we will help you get going and build your business.

      The only way tot know if this will work (and I think it might) is to go and try and sell it to the right people!


    • Walter Neff
      December 10, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Someone in Edinburgh has already implemented your idea, http://vintagevibes.org.uk/

      The visitors are volunteers but the service is charged for so not sure where any profit is going, back in to the service maybe.

  7. Mr Zombie
    November 22, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Awesome work, Alan. Loving the attitude.

    I know what you mean about the US system. There’s so much more on the US system (in terms of FI strategies) and it can be a pretty hectic read.

    If you’re in the South West of England doing an event I’ll head on over.

    Mr Z

    (Come on….there’s a few of us writing blogs in the UK :) )

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:21 am

      lol Mr Zombie what is your blog about. Would love to check it out! I am in the South West coming up. We will be in Bristol soon http://www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/bristol and hanging out there. Where are you?

      Took me a while to translate the American blogs into our tax system and our investment system but enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment! Alan

  8. Brett
    November 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Really enjoyed this one. Alan’s approach is what I’ve been doing with my new handyman business. I’m good and problem solving so I take on jobs that are new to me and figure it out as I go. Yesterday I built a fence for the first time and even made a little money. Time to increase my rates.

    Alan, if you ever do PopUp Business School in the states, I would definitely attend one in Colorado. I have several ideas, but I’m like Brandon and struggle with the follow through thinking about everything that could go wrong.

    • Alan Donegan
      November 23, 2016 at 3:24 am

      Brett, I love that you are out there making it happen! Amazing. That just makes me want to help more!

      Love that you sold the fence without know how to do it and then found a way! Sir Richard Branson talks about selling an idea first and them finding a way to deliver it afterwards!

      I would love to come and run one in Colorado that would be amazing. My wife and I love the states and visiting. Is there a housing association in Colorado? Do you happen to know the Major?

      Thanks for the message and good luck with the handy man business! Go get em!


      • Brett
        November 23, 2016 at 12:08 pm

        Hey Alan, thanks for your response, suggestions and encouragement!

        We might need some translation to American here. What type of housing association are you thinking of? There are tons of Home Owners Associations for various communities. Getting the know the presidents (Major?) of these HOAs is a very good idea. Also, getting connected with some local realtors and landlords would be a good idea.

        Another project I’m working on – I, unfortunately, took the opposite approach to what you suggest and am now sitting on 45 units. I designed and built a wooden wall mount for Sonicare toothbrushes. It works great and has really freed up space in our bathroom, but I haven’t had success selling them. I kinda thought if “I build it they will come” but it turns out that is not the case! They’re on Etsy now and I’m learning how to use Pinterest. Yesterday I reached out to some eBay sellers of Sonicare toothbrushes to see of they’d be interested in putting together a combo package. Do you have any suggestions on how to sell these?

        If you do some to Colorado (or the States) check out the Small Business Development Center. I’ve worked with them in Denver and they have been quite useful. They do tend to go down the “traditional” path of getting financing to start a business. Maybe they could help you find venues or something like that or speak at one of their events.

        I’ve been checking out your youtube channel, good stuff!

        • Alan Donegan
          November 27, 2016 at 2:31 pm

          Hi Bret, we do need some translation. lol

          In the UK a Housing Association is a organisation (normally a charity or community business) that runs affordable homes and provides homes for people on benefits. They are community based organisations that own 5000 – 120,000 homes plus and rent them out to the people that need it the most.

          I am not sure if you have the same thing in the US? Do you have organisations that run the affordable community homes and living in towns?

          I think the organisations you are referencing are the asociations that look after the private property?

          For the Sonicare project some ideas to get you going: (PS love reaching out to the ebay sellers to put packages together brilliant)

          1. Get it listed on Amazon and work out how to get it put down as “frequently bought together”
          2. are their local stores that sell the sonicare toothbrushes that would put it next to it on the shelf near you?
          3. How else can we find Sonicare owners? twitter? facebook groups? not sure if people are that passionate about their toothbrushes?

          I think you are right it sounds like a point of purchase joint sale or “bundle”. So if we can find the people that sell these toothbrushes and partner with them to do an upsell I think we will do well.

          Who sells the most sonicare brushes? Will phillips tell you? Have you called and asked who their biggest distributors are?

          Thanks for the compliments on the youtube chanel!

          Have a brilliant Sunday and let me know how you get on.


  9. Jeremy Strozer
    November 23, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Hi Alan,

    I am an author and speaker focused on writing and sharing stories about personal experience in war. Whether on the battlefield or home-front, and anywhere in between, my passion is to show how war is a human experience.

    I’ve written three books on this, and am in the process of writing two more. I would love to bring these stories into the classroom at junior highschools and highschools, but as yet, cannot figure out how to make money off of this. I welcome any thoughts you have on how best to do this.

    Thank you,

    Jeremy Strozer

    • Alan Donegan
      November 27, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Hi Jeremy, Thanks for the message.

      Sounds intriguing what you are up to and working on.

      I don’t know if it is different in the USA so my experience is based on selling to schools in England. My worst year financially in business was when I tried to sell “entrepreneurship programmes” to schools. Two things caused me to fail that year. 1. schools in the UK don’t have a lot of money and it is tough to make a sale when there isn’t much money floating about. 2. they thought they did what I did and they didn’t see the value.

      Now to your idea and some ways forward for you:

      1. build a blog sharing your message and then monetise the blog
      2. Do schools in the US hire in speakers? is there a speakers bureau
      3. who would pay you to go into schools to do this? Foundations? Charities? Who would fund you. I heard of a speaker funded by big pharmaceutical companies to run workshops for cancer victims. They funded him to improve their image and he got paid to do what he loved
      4. how are you selling the books? Are they generating any income?
      5. Can you build up a following in school teachers who would share your message and work with you?

      I think I need to know a little bit more about the value you bring to teachers, schools and students to know who would pay for it.

      In any business equation there has to be someone with cash who will pay for it. We just need to find that person or organisation.

      Let me know what thoughts this sparks for you. Alan

      • Caleb Perry
        November 16, 2018 at 11:42 am

        Schools usually don’t pay for speakers, but many schools would jump at the opportunity to have an author come speak. I would suggest planning on doing speaking events in schools for free, but then use the opportunity to really sell the books. Get students interested in buying the books, maybe sending flyers home with students to share with their parents.

  10. JP in MT
    November 23, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    MF and Alan,
    Great show. I am currently trying to build a side hustle that could become full time. I help small businesses (very small) gain control of their finances through budgeting. I have one client now and am trying to add more. I think this is something that I am passionate about and could consider it a calling.

    Alan, what do you say to those types that know they want to pursue something else but when they think about those things that fulfilled them as children nothing comes to mind. I day dream about every new idea that comes along and have a hard time settling. Is there something out there for the guy who likes to do whatever someone else needs done? :)

    Thanks again and +1 to pop up in the US. Not many people to draw from in Montana though.

    • Alan Donegan
      November 28, 2016 at 3:36 am

      Hi JP, Thanks for the message and glad you enjoyed the podcast. It was fun doing it with the MF!

      Great idea about helping small businesses budgeting. Brilliant, they need it. in the UK the biggest killer of small businesses is cash flow which is down to bad financial planning. My only thought is that small small small companies don’t always have much money to spend on external services, but you will only know this by selling. Get along to some networking meetings like BNI and see what business you can get!

      So you like helping people fix things? Interesting. Businesses pay a fortune for those kind of services. Fixers that can go into any business and help straighten it out. There would be many ways to build a business around helping people get what they want. Coaching, business consultancy, business turnaround, life turn around. This sounds like what I do! People come to me and ask how they can get something and I help them make it true! it is massively varied and so rewarding helping people achieve things.

      The only danger of constantly changing is that you don’t build a business in one area and allow it to grow. I have to pin myself down to one thing and work hard to make that grow!

      Thanks for the comment JP. I will have to pop into Montana. Never been but would love to explore!


  11. Simon
    November 24, 2016 at 6:22 am
    • Alan Donegan
      November 28, 2016 at 3:36 am

      Simon, thanks for the list! Looks like I have my homework cut out for me. Will get reading. Alan

  12. Jian
    November 26, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Hi Brandon,

    Great meeting you and your lovely wife at the SF meetup yesterday! I preached the virtual of bicycle touring to Jill (hope I got the name right) and the wonderfulness of merino clothing for minimalist travel – expensive sure but good long-term value :). You latest podcast with Alan is my favourite yet, with both great high-level concept as well as details on how to get things rolling. So thank you both!

    For some context (and a bit more details) on bicycle touring, CGOAB website is a great repository of resources and I did a little trip journal there on my cycling down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to SF:

    My next cycling trip would be, hopefully, if the strong dollar holds up, a slow tour of Europe next year around 3-6 (maybe more?) months. Ireland and Scotland are high on my agenda, and hope to see you guys again then!

  13. Jian
    November 26, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    BTW, Alan, I was thrilled to listen to you on the podcast and to find some validation to my own opinion given to a dear friend of mine just a week ago. So my friend wants to start her own small business (like all of us :D), and she was considering joining a franchise. I won’t bore you with specifics, but the franchises she’s interested in all require an initial investment of $50,000!!! That’s just the membership fee to buy in, we haven’t even started counting on actual expenses needed to start the business.

    So instead of the supportive, encouraging friend, I played wet blanket. Not really fun and much less endearing, but I couldn’t in all honesty encourage anyone, much less a good friend, to get into this much debt in order to start a business. I asked her to start with something small with minimal cash needed, like offering a service on Reddit or Craigslist and test it out there first. If successful that way, she can go and raise more money to expand; but for God’s sake, do not get into debt to just start something! (I didn’t actually say that out loud, fortunately, but definitely was screaming it in my head while we were discussing it).

    From your podcast, I think you’d agree with me there. But what’s your general opinion/thought on franchising? I have to admit I’m no big fan myself. Thanks!

    • Alan Donegan
      November 28, 2016 at 3:46 am


      Thanks for your message! Why isn’t England on your list of places to cycle? Drop by if you do come and say hi!

      As for Franchising I nearly bought a couple in the past and then pulled out towards then end. For many reasons.

      I think what you are buying when you are buying a franchise is Confidence. You are buying what is meant to be a proven system for building a business and making money. You are buying a set of instructions which if you follow should lead to income. The reason you buy the instructions is because you are not confident doing it on your own.

      You know my opinion on debt (AVOID AT ALL COSTS) which is a big enough reason on its own to avoid franchising to start with.

      If you were confident you could build xxxxx business and grow it on your own then you would not need the franchise. There is so much free education out there about how to grow businesses and so much great advice for people to read and take about how to build businesses and there are so many generous people who will help and give you advice.

      Does having a franchise increase your chances of success? It should do. It should given you a proven system, marketing support and easy to follow instructions.

      Is it worth the money? debateable. Someone who would successfully build a franchise could probably do it on their own anyway. Although as a counter argument McDonalds franchises back in the day seemed to churn out millionaires and were worth the investment then.

      There are pros and cons to the argument for Franchises. If it gives you confidence and helps you get going and you have the money to fund it then it might be a good thing. If you are leveraging the house and getting into massive debt to do it then that might be a bad thing.

      I always look at the value the franchise is bringing for the investment you are putting in with potential franchisees and then help them to make an educated choice as to whether it is worth the money put in.

      Final thought: There is ALWAYS a way to start with very little yourself.

      Good luck Jian and enjoy the cycling

      • Jian
        November 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm

        Hi Alan,

        Oh, English is still part of Europe, no? So yeah it’s in my “grand tour” somewhere, perhaps a bit after Scotland :). J/K, will definitely pay a visit to the Queen’s house etc. etc., although I’m deathly afraid of tour buses and crowds, as most touring cyclists are. Small country roads are my favourite.

        Thanks very much for your thoughtful response. Will forward to my friend and encourage her to listen to your entire podcast. I live in San Francisco Bay Area and would absolutely love it if you make a trip out this way! So please keep us posted if any news on that front. There’s a strong following of MMM, the MF, and the general idea of pursuing FI here, with the high concentration of engineering and science jobs. So I think you’d find a enthusiastic crowd in the area. Hope to see you soon.

        On franchising, you are absolutely right about it being a confidence thing, and I’m too “full of it”:) to pay someone else for their business model. I also basically dislike following some prescribed rules of games. Besides, where’s the fun in that anyways! Part of the fun of starting one’s own business is to improvise and figure out a way to do it my way, just like traveling on a bicycle.

        • Alan Donegan
          December 4, 2016 at 6:26 am


          We are still part of Europe at the moment! lol. You are right it is all about the small country roads. We have a network in England that keeps you off most of the main roads. This is what my wife and I use when we go cycling: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/national-cycle-network

          We were in SF earlier this year. Love it there! The food, people and place is amazing. Will drop you a line next time I am out and come and say hi for coffee.

          Improvising does keep it fun and keeps the energy going. Have a brilliant Sunday

  14. chris r
    November 27, 2016 at 12:17 am

    What’s your thought on leaving a stable job that’s getting me toward financial independence (but is no longer fulfilling work) to pursue a personal business?

    I would like to be a furniture designer/maker but all the advice I get from others is to not quit your day job as it’s hard to make a living from it. Any thoughts on how to make it work or should I stick to doing it on the side until I’ve hit FI

    • Alan Donegan
      November 28, 2016 at 3:55 am

      Hi Chris, great question and something I think a lot of people wrestle with.

      Do I quit the job and do something that makes me happy but with smaller returns and might not get me to FI, or do I stick with something that I don’t enjoy as much but I am making good FI progress?

      1. Furniture design and making can be a difficult business to make money in. We always get a few upcyclers and furniture people at every popup event we run and they struggle with the sales and getting enough business in. It is possible to make money in this business but you need to turn it into a business and focus more on sales and marketing than you do on actual furniture production. It is all about the sales and marketing
      2. businesses like Ikea have changed the market and lowered people’s price points on furniture and what they are expecting to pay
      3. There are other ways to make money in this industry other than direct sales: design and then licensing the designs to other people, creating a blog about what you do and spreading the message. Pat Flyn had a great episode on that http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/podcasts/spi-180-two-woodworkers-make-full-time-income-craft-david-picciuto-bob-clagett/ Worth listening to. There are so many different ways to make money in this industry
      4. run courses training other people to do it and make money that way
      5. Something that really hit me from the recent Chautauqua with MMM was optimising life for happiness. he says your goal in life is to be happy and we should work to create happy lives. So is there a way you can optimise your current job to give you more time to do what makes you happy? flexible hours? mobile working? building teams? Tim Ferriss’s book the 4 Hour Work Week has a great chapter on liberation from jobs you don’t like.

      If you have got only a year to go to FI then you might well be “crazy” to quit your job and startup and then struggle. If you had 15 years of work left then are you willing to pay the price for 15 years or can you get out now and make progress doing what you love.

      There is always a way to make money doing what you love you just have to find it. We need to do what we love, share the ideas, get out there and start finding the opportunities to earn a living from it.

      The other consideration is family and kids and how this impacts them. On both sides. 1. you doing a job you don’t enjoy and they aren’t getting the best out of you & 2. not earning as much money to support them

      A few thoughts to get you going. Did any of that help? Love to know what you think. Alan

  15. Kenny Drobnack
    November 28, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    I can’t resist responding to the challenge from this podcast – figure out what you’re passionate about and figure out how to make it business.

    I absolutely love discovering obscure off-the-wall indie games and sharing them with people. My latest find for example: http://www.sparsevector.com/wagon-adventure/ It’s Oregon Trail redone as a shooter.

    Oddly enough I also like budgeting and try to help people with budgets, which is kind of why I’m here. Such a diverse batch of interests.

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:31 am

      Kenny, awesome. Love the find. Some ideas for you! You could have massive fun with this.

      1. create a games channel (blog, youtube, facebook) with a hugely strong following interested in games and generate income from affiliate links, sponsorship or similar. You could spend all day talking about games. One of my friends did that here about gaming tech. His business is : https://www.youtube.com/user/TechteamGB

      For more on this model read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. Fascinating book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crush-Time-Cash-Your-Passion/dp/0062295020/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480850996&sr=8-1&keywords=crush+it+gary+vaynerchuk

      2. lots of people hate budgeting and finance. There is so much scope here! Setting up something to help small business doing it, personal finance support for non-geeks? So many people could do with this support. There is big pain here which means there is big opportunity and there are so many businesses springing up around this area! It is a game to get into!

      You would have a lot of fun doing this.

      Let me know what you get up to! Alan

  16. Ingrid
    November 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Just left my job as a nonprofit executive director after 11 years, and will travel for a while before deciding what’s next. Everyone keeps asking me what I am going to do, and many times I said that I would love to be a consultant to small and start up nonprofits, but they just don’t have any money. You’ve already given me lots to think about! I know the need is there, now I just have to figure out who would pay for it. Thanks for a great episode.

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:34 am

      Ingrid, have fun travelling and exploring. The best time to think and reflect and have fun! You are right about the audience with the money. My worst year in business in the UK was selling to Schools. In the UK Schools just don’t have much money and it was really tough. You have got to sell to someone who has money. Or find someone with cash to pay for what you want to do.

      Our courses are always free at the point of use. We knew the customers in the most disadvantaged communities wouldn’t have the cash to pay for it so we found people with money (Councils, Housing Associations (social housing landlords), corporate sponsors, property developers) who would pay for us to do it for a variety of reasons.

      You just need to find someone with money in the equation. Hope this gives you some ideas!

      Have fun travelling. Alan

  17. Andrew
    November 30, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Hi Alan,

    LOVED this podcast! Thanks to Mad FIentist for having you on! I am passionate about helping people be smarter with their money. Hence the reason I follow this blog. I’m a nurse and have watched new younger nurses begin their jobs and immediately start adding to their debt with new cars, houses, clothes, etc as soon as they get out of college. And I also have family members who are constantly struggling financially. I really want to help people make smarter financial decisions. I love making budgets and helping people figure out ways to cut their costs and get out of debt. My wife and I have overcome $120,000+ in student loan debt in 5 years together. I hate debt and want to help others get out of it. Everything I’ve read online says I need to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and go work for a financial firm to have any success in this kind of field. They say most people go build up a clientele at a firm then leave and start their own business later, taking their clients with them. I would just like to start doing this on the side and see if it grows into anything from there. What do you suggest on how to get started? The license to become a CFP is expensive. I was thinking I could take your advice and just start out helping people to see how I like this first. Then if I’m truly serious about it, get the CFP later to really establish myself. I don’t know how to get customers though? And I have no idea how to charge people for this service. People don’t just come out and ask you to help them with their finances. And many people don’t know there is a better way than being in debt. I would love your feedback if you have time!

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Andrew, Glad the episode inspired you! Loved hearing your thoughts.

      I HATE DEBT too and that is why we do “how to start a business for free” courses for Free!

      Some ideas for you:

      1. do it for free for a couple of influential people to get experience and testimony. Experiencing a proper relationship coaching someone will be amazing and will help you learn so much. Make sure it is an exchange though. I help you and you give me testimonies and feedback if it goes well. Exchange the value
      2. MF, MMM and JLCollins are all offering financial advice and budgeting advice with out qualifications (at least I don’t think they are CFPs?) and have disclaimers and are just trying to help people. You don’t need a qualification to get going. I landed Microsoft as a client running workshops with out a degree or specific certificate. I run workshops for the most famous University in England and I don’t have a degree or certificate. Start and get going. Your skills are more important that the certificate (I would say that you have to be a little bit careful in highly regulate industries. Make sure you check the legal requirements; I have to say this) Get started helping people
      3. make nureses your niche. That is probably a big enough niche to create a blog, business, coaching, guidance for nurses to become financially successful and budget properly. Use your industry knowledge and become the person that stands up for and helps nureses globally
      4. do it locally for small businesses
      5. do it locally for friends and use word of mouth slowly on the side to build up the side hustle

      I think if you have passion and energy the best way is to start and make things happen and then build a website and write about your experience and start marketing yourself.

      Sell your value first and get going quickly!

      Let me know how you get on Andrew. Did the ideas help?


      • Drew W.
        December 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm

        This has been super helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, Alan! I am genuinely grateful to you for this advice! I’ve been so inspired since listening to your podcast on here. I’ll probably listen to it again just to keep myself going and not overanalyzing why I can’t make this work. Thank you again! I hope it’s ok if I send you a message someday in the future when this all works out.


      • Andrew
        December 8, 2016 at 12:15 am


        Thank you so much for getting back to me! You’ve really inspired me to just get going and do this thing! I was thinking about starting up in a year or something, but now I’m going to try and find one client and go from there. Your feedback has been incredibly valuable! I can’t tell you how grateful I am!



        • Andrew
          December 8, 2016 at 12:19 am

          Sorry I responded twice to this post. I didn’t realize my first comment was awaiting moderation. I thought maybe it got deleted. I’m guessing there is confusion over calling myself Drew in the 2nd post and Andrew in the 1st. I go by either. Doesn’t matter to me. Not sure if that’s why my first reply didn’t get posted or not? Either way, thank you Alan for your help! I’m going to use your advice and see what happens!

  18. Geoff
    November 30, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Hey Alan,

    It might sound silly to some, but I really enjoy fantasy football. I love researching players, stats, teams, etc and I’m really good at it. Football is just so fun to me. I have friends who text or call me for advice or to run possible trade scenarios by me. I wrote a weekly blog for a few weeks this season just to see how I enjoyed doing that. It was fun! The problem is the market is oversaturated with fantasy football “gurus”. I want to provide something a little different or that stands out somehow, but don’t know what or how. Would you advise just starting a website and tweeting out weekly posts next season? I was thinking I might need to start out as a free site, then if I get any traction have people pay for the service the next year? There are tons of guys who make money from this and I’d love to be one of them since it’s something I enjoy. It never feels like work to me when I’m reading and researching information. Any advice you can offer would be awesome!

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:53 am


      Quick question. Football soccer? Football American Football?

      Some ideas from me to help you:

      1. START. boldness has power in it and making a start and sharing it will create momentum
      2. Offer to guest write for other successful blogs to see how you like that and enjoy working with them
      3. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left hand side write down what every other Fantasy Football Guru does and has to offer. Then on the right write the opposite or how you are different. If you do want to make a success then you need to position yourself differently to what is already available.

      Our example is that everyone else tells people to write business plans, we are the complete opposite as we don’t ever write business plans.

      Show how you are different or the opposite.

      4. start running fantasy football leagues locally in bars or pubs. There is several businesses in the UK that have build national leagues one pub at a time in different sports such as darts. Copy them and do it for your sport
      5. become a commentator or stats guy on youtube or facebook and make money from sponsorship.
      6. If you are into stats for sports then there are amazing jobs in that area that might be your dream job. My wife is an Actuary and has been looking at sports stats roles recently and is loving them!

      Let me know if that has given you some ways to start or ideas………….. Alan

      • Geoff
        December 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm

        I should have clarified…American Football! Although I do also love the original Football/Soccer. I’m a Liverpool guy. Hope that’s ok! I like the youtube idea. I think I could do a weekly video with advice or under the radar guys to use in your lineup that week. I did dabble in writing this year and enjoyed it. It really helped me get an idea of the time requirements and research I will need to do. I plan on doing a full season after this year instead of starting midway. I also LOVE the idea of trying to write some guest posts somewhere. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You are the best!


        • Alan Donegan
          December 7, 2016 at 6:05 pm


          A Liverpool fan in America! cool. I have always wanted to see an American Football match. I am going to come over to watch on in the states soon! Love your sport.

          One last thought. I did a talk on using social media to find customers a while back at a social media summit. It has some tips and hints that you can use to find interested people to watch your videos/read your blog


          Stay in touch and let me know how it goes!

          Happy Wednesday. Alan

          • Geoff
            December 8, 2016 at 4:24 pm

            I will definitely watch that! Thank you!


  19. Andrea
    November 30, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Loved the Podcast! Thank you for your work Alan and thank you MadFientist for sharing all this knowledge and resources. My husband is from London and I am from Guatemala but we currently live in the US so this information was very helpful!

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:56 am

      Andrea, Enjoy the USA. One day I would love to travel to Guatemala! Good luck. Alan

  20. Olga
    December 1, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Loved the Podcast (as always, thank you Mad Fientist!). I live in Leeds so was gutted to see that I have JUST missed a PopUp in Bardford! Are you coming to Yorkshire again, any time soon, Alan? I so agree with this approach! Watching some friends and family members loosing huge amounts of (borrowed) money ‘playing’ business I always thought that it is not a way forward. But then again, I thought, maybe I am just too risk averse?

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 6:57 am

      Thanks for the email Olga. We are coming to Leeds this year! Keep watching the Events page on our website for the latest dates for events. We are just sorting out venues and dates! Alan

  21. Mrs. Hazlenut
    December 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Hello Alan,
    Loved the podcast!
    I love knitting, crafting, reading blogs, and playing video games.
    I’ve thought about selling things I make (actually I’ve done it before for short periods), but the pay rate is depressingly low.
    And I have no idea how to make money reading blogs or playing video games.
    Any ideas?

    • Alan Donegan
      December 4, 2016 at 7:03 am

      Mrs Hazelnut,

      Thanks for the message. Loads of ideas for you:

      1. we have a friend who is sponsored to play games each month on Twitch and different platforms
      2. another friend made an amazing business reviewing tech for gamers https://www.youtube.com/user/TechteamGB and makes his living doing that. Check Andrew out. Say hi from me if you contact him
      3. Become a games tester for people
      4. run games competitions
      5. run a fantasy gamer league
      6. become the gamming authority on a specific game and write a blog/youtube channel/podcast about games
      7. setup a video game cafe and create a gamer community localy
      8. follow Gary Vaynerchuks model in Crush it to build a gamming business: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crush-Time-Cash-Your-Passion/dp/0062295020/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480852863&sr=8-1&keywords=crush+it+gary+vaynerchuk
      9. make money writing content or creating video content for other gamer blogs
      10. create the magazine or blog you want to read and build it online. Pat Flyn has a brilliant podcast about building online magazine: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/podcasts/spi-169-nathan-chan-built-6-figure-digital-magazine-marketing-strategies-can-use/

      A few ideas on how to get you going. The USA is an amazing market for bloggers and gamers and there is so much opportunity. Gamming is growing so much.

      My thought for you is get of the side lines and get in the game (the business of the games) and start taking action. The only way to truly figure this out and start making money doing what you love is to get in the game

      Let me know how you get on…………………….. Alan

  22. Marc
    January 19, 2017 at 2:37 am

    It annoys me that in Australia we manufacture less and less and that in general we seem to be pushed towards buying cheap junk that breaks, can’t economically be fixed and needs replacement. This makes me think about the viability of all kinds of manufacturing businesses from washing machines to hand tools to leather goods. I can’t think how to start a manufacturing business for free without developing the skills (and buying whatever tools I don’t already have) to do all of the work myself in the garage.

  23. Maile
    January 19, 2017 at 3:19 am

    Hello Mad Fientist and Alan,
    I’m a bit late to the game, but you are so brilliant and informative, I thought I’d just give it a try.
    Things I love to do:
    1. Wrap presents. Yes, seriously. Mostly with reusable items as I hate waste.
    2. Help friends sleep train their babies. We have a 10 month old that (finally!) sleeps like a dream
    3. I’m good at processes. I like looking at how businesses run and making them more efficient/fool proof/easy. I like researching different methods and being creative. I own a small business, so I have experience there.
    4. I’m not very good at writing, but I’m good at editing. I’ve professionally edited my father’s two books.
    Yes, it’s quite eclectic. A few notes: I live in Hawaii on a small outer island so we are pretty limited and (per MMM, I hate driving).
    Cheers! You’ve been so entertaining and stimulating already!

    • Johan
      March 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Hey Maile.

      I’d sayt a low hanging fruit here is the sleep training. Find out if other people are having this problem (research parenting forums etc) and try to help them out in the way Alan suggests – coaching them for no cost in return for review and recommendation. If you solve their problem, then maybe you have found things you can put it into a system that anyone can follow and apply? If so, try to sell that!
      To establish authority (if you need more of it), you could try to find parents locally (i’m sure there are organizations where parents with newborns congregate, though i’m not a parent myself so i can’t advice in specifics) and hold a short lecture/class on this. Offer to do it for free but with the agreement that you can market your product afterwards. Then you give them value, get reactions and if all goes well – can sell your solution to them. Take pre-orders, or tell them that you are doing a “revised, extended version” of the product (or be straight up honest that you’re thinking of putting your wisdom and experience it into a written product that will be even more extensive and useful) and they can book it or even pre-purchase it. If they buy it (your soon-to-be product) you have a reason to create it ASAP. You could also check with people who sells related products (baby stores, both online and locally, and blogs on baby-topics, for example?) and talk to a few of them – ask if they would be interested in selling such a product and at what price point they think they could sell it. It’s not a 100% “sell before you make it”-solution but you’d see if 1) you can make a system that works in many cases, not requiring your personal hands-on handling every time and 2) if stores would be at all be interested to try and sell this stuff and then you could put your hard work and sweat with a much better chance of seeing it pay off.

  24. Sam
    February 16, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Great interview Brandon!

    I recently started a UK personal finance blog – whilst we’re not 100% Financial Independence orientated we are currently running an interview series with under 35’s in the UK who have become financially free. I will be sure to drop Alan a line.

    Hope you’re keeping well,


  25. Ed
    November 16, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    I really liked this podcast. For me starting a business, apart from the simple mechanics of registering a company, has always been a vague thing and the idea of making a business out of something you like is inspiring. Thanks.

  26. Miguel
    April 11, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Alan and mad fientist! This was an awesome podcast, very inspiring. Looks like I’m late for the party, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I’m a software developer and I don’t really like my job very much; but I have a lot of freedom and it pays great, so I’m kind of on the verge here. I will use your system to test some ideas I have, but anyway here’s my reply for the challenge. I actually have many interests and I become obsessed with them, after a while as time goes by, I let go of one and get obsessed with the next! In the past these have been: windsurfing (although I’m an amateur still); thermal proofing houses, (improving insulation to keep the warmth in); internet of things: controlling stuff around the house electronically/automatically; percussion bands and ensembles; and finally at the moment, of course, financial independence!
    Any advice? I think I need to choose first even before I try to start a business on any of them LOL

  27. Ryan Crowley
    April 15, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Hey guys, just listened to this episode. Absolutely loved it!! I’ve been wanting to do an online life coaching business. What ideas do you have for me to make this a reality? Thanks so much

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