020. Do Well & Do Good with Dorothy Illson.
This week on the show I’m joined by Dorothy Illson. After discovering personal development and diving in, she shifted from a career path as an accountant, which is traditionally a stable career path. And instead became an employee, the third employee at an early stage startup, which is not at all a stable path. So after helping scale the business to 6 million in revenue in three and a half years, Dorothy actually left and founded a full-service digital marketing agency called Needles Media. She is now the premier media buying partner for large personal brands and other digital product businesses. She’s also the host of “Doing Well and Do Good.”
00:11 What’s going on everybody? My name is Ben Trela and vis is taste for tenacity. This week on the show I’m joined by Dorothy Ilsan. After discovering personal development and diving in, she shifted from a career path as an accountant, which is traditionally a stable career path. And instead became an employee, the third employee at an early stage startup, which is not at all a stable path. So after helping scale the business to 6 million in revenue, after about three and a half years, Dorothy actually left and founded a full service digital marketing agency called needles, [inaudible] media. She is now the premier media buying partner for large personal brands and other digital product businesses. She’s also the host of do well and do good. A podcast for purpose driven entrepreneurs. Love that phrase which tells the story of people who have not only created professional success, but I’ve chosen to leverage that to increase and create a positive impact on the world. Dorothy, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for having me, Ben. I’m excited. We too. That was a hell of an intro. You are all over the place here. I’m deep. Thank you. So let’s dive into it. What did you get into after high school? Did you do, did you complete high school? Did you go the college route? Did you jai dive right into the real world? What does your path look like?
01:36 Yeah, so I mean I had a pretty traditional upbringing. I did finish high school and it was really, it was never kind of a question of whether or not I would go to college. That was just kind of assumed and I was so you know, really just kind of stuck in that very, you know, sort of traditional mindset where, you know, not going to college never really occurred to me either. It was kind of just, you know, what I was supposed to do. And so as I was going into school, I went to Miami University in Ohio and I knew that I wanted to do business. You know, my parents are, are both entrepreneurs, but weirdly enough, even though even though my parents were business owners, I that didn’t really occur to me that, you know, that I would go into entrepreneurship.
02:23 I was really looking at, you know, OK. I, you know, I believe that I have, you know, certain skills. I’m very analytical, I’m good with numbers, but I’m also good with people. I like working with people. You know, and I knew that I wanted to achieve a, a large degree of financial success in my life. That was something that, you know, has always been important to me. You know, I’m, I’m definitely driven by money, which I think is something that a lot of us are afraid to admit. Because, you know, it sounds selfish or like, you know, we don’t want to help people. We don’t want to do all these things. And we know what I, what I later kind of came to understand is that the opposite is actually true. You know, money allows us to help us way larger number of people and, and to really have the kind of impact that we want to have on the world, because that’s something that’s very important to me too.
03:15 Which is really, you know, why my show is, is all about that you purpose-driven entrepreneurs. And so when I was going into college, it was really you know, very traditional thought process of, you know, what is going to be a stable, you know, secure career that will, you know, give me this sort of lifestyle that I thought that I wanted. So I landed on while I sort of landed between finance and accounting and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do. So I did both a double majored and, you know, ended up, ended up having the goal of getting a job with one of the big four accounting firms. And so going into my junior year, I took an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers here in Chicago completed that internship. You know, never really liked accounting. But I liked, you know, I liked the, the future that I thought I saw in that career path.
04:10 And then WIC. So you said your parents were both entrepreneurs but you never really thought or had that, that realization that you could do something similar and launch your own business when you were starting in school. Do you have any thoughts on what might have caused that, that disconnect there? Yeah, so I think it was, you know, I think becoming a business owner, it, it was certainly not something that I ever ruled out, but it was definitely not something that I saw happening in my twenties. You know, I think just by virtue of, you know, my parents, you know, they, they were really a large influence on me. My Dad had a, you know, very successful career you know, before he started his business. And so, you know, he really drilled into my head, you know, you need hard skills, right? So math, accounting, you know, engineering, you know, that was really kind of where, where they were trying to, to guide me first and then break off and do your own thing. Exactly. But I kind of hadn’t really thought that far down the road. Like I was still pretty much focused in like, OK, you know, what, what, what career path do I want? And then as I did my internship at PWC, I was kind of thinking along the lines of, you know, I’m going to work here for 40 years and become a partner. And you know, that that sounded, I guess exciting and in some ways,
05:38 Well world of personal development kind of blown open and I, I started to consider larger possibilities. So, you know, I, I did my internship at PWC accepted a full time job offer with them going into my senior year. So I was Kinda in this, in this place of all I had to do is graduate, you know, I had the cushy job in the big, I was like ready, ready to go. And then the whole experience of kind of diving into personal development that really just turned my world upside down. The catalyst for that was I actually joined a, a network marketing company which, you know, I was very naive about that entire industry, but it did open me up to this, this idea of a line of work where my income wasn’t capped. You know, it was purely dependent on how hard I was willing to work.
06:30 And how good I could be at what I was doing versus, you know, working at a company like pwc, it’s very prescribed, right? You know, you, you’re gonna make $55,000 a year as a first year auditor, then you’ll get promoted to a, you know, associate and then managing director, you know, whatever it is, it’s, it’s very step by step and you pretty much know how much money you’re gonna make at each part of that process. And so I started to question, you know, did I want to cap myself in that way or did I believe that I had the potential to do more? And then also it was really the very first time that I asked myself if the lifestyle of this career that I was choosing, if that was even something that was going to make me happy. Cause at the end of the day, that’s really what we all want, right?
07:18 Like the, the money, the, you know, it’s all just a, it’s all just a, a byproduct, you know, it’s it’s a tool that we can use actually for happiness. It’s what gets us there. It’s certainly not what, what causes happiness, you know, that that is that is for sure. And so as I started asking myself these questions about just what I, what my priorities were in life, what I wanted my life to look like, what I wanted my time to look like, I started to realize that this path of, you know, being an accountant, you know, becoming partner at, at a, at a big firm, it started to go from, you know, an obviously attractive, you know, successful career to something that I was just dreading and thinking like, this is not, this is not going to be what, what I want it to be.
08:07 And so that was when I, yeah, it was just a, you know, and this is absolutely no thing against accountants or, you know, I know you and I come from a similar background, you know, there are certainly people who enjoy that work. I did not enjoy the work. The work was a means to an end. And I started to look at that and, and really just question the, the foundation of, of that assumption, you know, did I want to look at my career as a means to an end? I mean, we spend, you know, 40 to 80 hours a week, you know, like a busy season as an accountant and, and it’s like, that’s, that’s your life. It’s like he’s, this is, we get one shot at this. Right. And so I started looking at, you know, what that was going to look like, what my nights were going to look like, and you know, what my days were going to look like, and asking myself like, would I do this if it wasn’t, you know, for the paycheck? And the answer was certainly no. Yeah. So I think it was really that it was just a reframing of you know, looking at my life from a, you know, a, a larger perspective and, you know, deciding that it’s actually possible to, to have it all to make great money and to have a lifestyle that you enjoy. And once I kind of opened up that as a possibility, I really wasn’t willing to accept anything less.
09:35 Yeah. This, this switch flipped for you and you started to realize that you could take things your own direction.
09:41 [Inaudible] Exactly.
09:43 Oh, okay. So you’re a junior, you finish this internship, you accept a job offer for your senior year. Life looks smooth and breezy. You got it all laid out and then you started to dive into personal development. What type of stuff did you come across that was shifting your mindset?
10:01 You know, it was, it was kind of like all the classic cliche stuff that people read and watch when they first get into it. I, I read, think and grow rich Napoleon Hill. You know, I read a lot of, a lot of Dale Carnegie you know, Les Brown Eric Thomas you know, just, just, you know, I started, I started reading books, listening to, you know, watching youtube videos and really just like feeding my mind with this kind of positive content that was really all around the idea that we can create our lives exactly as we want it to be. Hmm. And that had never, ever occurred to me before. So once it actually occurred to me that I can create my life exactly as I want it, then you start to think, bury, realizing, well why would I create anything less than everything that I want.
10:55 Interesting. Okay. So you, you dive down this personal development rabbit hole, you start to learn more and more. You shift your entire perspective.
11:05 Did you just one day wake up and decide, oh, pwc is not for me? Or what did that kind of thought process look like as someone who is struggling with what they wanted to do?
11:16 Yeah, so it was, it was winter break of my senior year when I kind of stumbled upon this, this whole world and started diving into these books in this kind of content. And then over the course of the spring semester as I was getting towards graduation you know, this feeling just started getting stronger and stronger. You know, it was just, it was gaining momentum. I was gaining confidence, I would say at that point, very naive, frankly, pretty ignorant confidence. And so, to be totally honest with you, when I decided that I wasn’t going to follow through on, you know, going to pwc at the time, I mean I thought I was going to hit it big in this network marketing company. And you know, that, and that’s when I say I was very ignorant. Like that’s the way that I thought I was going to get to kind of, you know, where I am now and, and where, where I’m continuing to head ended up being very different from what I thought it was going to be.
12:13 But it was sort of a situation where it was like, okay, you know, maybe maybe this opportunity is going to work out, maybe it won’t. But what I do know is what I don’t want and what I don’t want is to be working 60 to 80 hour weeks at pwc doing something that I frankly do not enjoy doing at all. And so it was kind of this thing of, you know, I, I don’t really know what I’m saying yes to, but I, I know what I want to say no to. And it was, it was going down that path. I was going to have to study for the CPA. Like I knew that there was just, you know, it was, it was going to be difficult to kind of get off that road once I got on it. And so to the Chagrin of my parents and pretty much everyone in my life who was telling me that I was crazy I just called up, PWC was about two weeks after graduation, called them up, told, you know, told it was, I think it was my recruiter who I spoke to who had you kind of been with me through the process and I told them, you know, I’m not coming.
13:14 You know, I’ve changed my mind and I gave up that job offer. They also told me that I was crazy. Are you sure you want to? And my mind was really made up. And so I think what was great was that I, I kind of backed myself into a corner. Right. I mean, you, you, there’s no going back, there’s no crawling back to pwc and begging for that job. Like, please, you burn the boats down too. Interesting. And so, so you pull the plug, this is it, this is done. How long did you stay on with the network marketing company? What does that look like into your next step after graduation? Yeah, so it kind of, it’s pretty wild. Looking back the way story, the way the story goes, kind of my mantra now is just everything works out. And I’ve really come to believe that like every time that I’ve been faced with what feels like an insurmountable problem you know, we’re just kind of like one of those end of the world scenarios.
14:14 It’s like, call me to get through this. It always works out. We always find a way. We always make it work and we get through to the other side, maybe, you know, battered and bruised and with some hard lessons, but we figure it out. And so that was really what happened for me. I already had a roommate and, or a couple of roommates and an apartment in Chicago, so I was like, all right, well, I’m gonna follow that plan. I moved here and it was probably September of that year that this was 2013 when I realized like, okay, I don’t think this network is like in the direction that I thought it was going. Like I need money now. Like I gotta pay rent. Right. And so I think a lot of the time ego is something that really gets in our way a lot.
15:04 And so this is something that I actually, I’ve never talked about this on a podcast specifically, I don’t think. But I think it’s an important story and an important piece of it because what I, what I ended up doing was I just, I, I needed to pay my rent. I needed money now. And so I literally went on care.com, like the babysitter matching site and I was like, I’m just going to find like a, a babysitting gig too. While I like figuring out what I’m going to do. And that was something that like, you know, kind of, you’ve got like the ego screaming at you. Like you’re completely gave up this, you gave up this incredible bubble. Like, what people think of is like an incredible job. And like now here you are like, you know, a few months after graduation and you’re applying for babysitting gigs, you know, like, it’s kind of hard to head around, but it’s, well this is it.
15:54 So it’s a beautiful example of just the way that the way that the universe kind of delivers to us what, what we need. So I went to interview for a Nannying Kig and I show up at this interview and this baby is for fresh, like, you know, she was like a few weeks old and I had never even maybe this small, like I’m holding, I’m holding her just like clearly so uncomfortable. And I’m talking to this woman about, you know, she’s asking me questions, I’m telling her kind of my story. And and at the end of the, you know, interview, she basically said, she’s like, hey, you know you might want to talk to my husband. You know, my husband is the founder of, of this startup, and she didn’t really give me much details and we kind of just wrapped up the conversation and, and it ended.
16:43 And I got an email a couple of days later from her husband and like, Hey you know, do you want to talk? Because basically I told her, you know, that I had a, you know, finance and accounting background, I had, you know, a lot of data on analytics and like excel skills, that kind of thing. And so it’s funny now in hindsight when, when he tells the story, he got home, her husband, he got home and asked, you know, how the nanny interviews go? And she said, well, there’s this one girl, she certainly shouldn’t watch our child, but I think you should have a conversation. So anyway, let’s get her [inaudible]. I went and met with him you know, we, we got along great. He said, you know, okay, we can hire you for, you know, we need some help. We’d love to hire you for, you know, 10 hours a week.
17:31 Just a little, a little part time Gig. I said, great. We started and three weeks later you know, they said, okay, you know, we need you full time. And so that was how I got the job at the, this startup that frankly was even earlier in the game that I realized when I was interviewing. I, you know, I didn’t realize that it was a food company. It was like they had the chef, they had the cofounders, they had one other guy, and then they hired me. And and so that was really the start of of my journey in the, the startup world. Okay. So you started this startup, which is a very, very different track than the traditional accounting role where accounting is very much laid out. It’s a simple progression, it’s straightforward and you have some wiggle room within it to go your own direction.
18:18 How did that compare with the startup world that you ultimately found yourself in? Gosh, I just got addicted to it so quickly because it was, it was so different from, from that path I was on where, you know, just like you said, like you kind of knew how it was going to go. You knew what you were going to be doing every day at a startup. You don’t, you have no idea what the day is gonna throw at you. I mean, half the day is just spent putting out fires. And so I kind of grew addicted to just the fast pace, the, you know, the problem solving aspect. There’s really a lot of a lot of comradery and excitement that comes along with a startup at that stage, you know, where you’re all kind of working together towards this common goal, overcoming challenges. And so I really liked that.
19:00 I also liked that, you know, I, I got to, I got to do a lot of different things. I was learning a ton and you know, again, going back to kind of the ego thing, it certainly wasn’t glamorous. I mean, the first thing, the first responsibility I had on on day one was okay, go down into the warehouse warehouse and stuff, these orders sheets into the right bags and boxes and you know, for the first year I had literally customer support calls got forwarded to my cell phone. Oh, even when I was home at night, like my cell phone would ring and I’m picking up the phone to know. So, you know, it wasn’t glamorous, but I learned a ton and you know, over the course of three years there, it really gave me, you know, the tools that I needed, kind of this, this crash course and what it looks like to scale a business that I’ve then, you know, then I then was able to take and apply to to running paid traffic for clients.
19:57 Wow. And that’s, that’s a very stark contrast compared to where you started. So you started, you were essentially putting out fires again, stuffing on envelopes and stuffing order sheets is something near and dear to my heart too. So you started this startup, you spend three years there. How were you involved in scaling that business? How, how did that ultimately point you in the direction of what you wanted to take up next? Yeah, so my role was never like very defined. You know, I was kind of the, the, the right hand woman to the, the cofounder who had hired me. And and so really all of my responsibilities, I, I soon got out of the stuffing of order sheets and everything. And so, oh my were, you know, pretty much entirely in the marketing and and growing of our revenue.
20:53 And so, you know, because this company was completely bootstrapped we had to be very smart about the way we were acquiring customers. You know, competitors to this business like blue apron played at hello fresh. Like those would be you know, kind of competitors. In, in a certain sense, these were actually prepared meals. But if you look at those companies, their strategy has been to just acquire customers at whatever costs to just become the biggest that would eventually win. So they were able to go out and, you know, spend money to acquire a customer knowing that, you know, they’re not gonna make that money back and turn it into a profit until month four, month five or, you know, whenever we couldn’t really do that, you know, we, we had to acquire customers profitably. You know, and we had to you know, we, we had to just be more savvy about, about the way we were doing things.
21:46 And so we built the business almost entirely off the back of Facebook ads. That was the primary driver of growth. There were a lot of things that we’re doing, different partnerships, affiliate programs, you know, that kind of thing. Yeah. That was heavy into email marketing. But it was, it was paid traffic that I really witnessed being the, the catalyst of, of real growth and sustainable growth of the business. And so when I, when I ended up you know, leaving, I really didn’t know what I was going to do and it was, it was kind of you know, another one of, of those same stories where, you know, I, I burned the bridges and I put myself in a position where I just had to figure it out. And so, you know, we can kinda dive into whichever part of this you want. But I ended up basically hiring a mentor to teach me how to, you know, get incredible results for clients and to, to build an agency. And then that’s what I went out and did.
22:46 Huh. Interesting. Okay. So you kind of witnessed this insatiable growth within, within that startup. What did it look like? What was your thought process as your time at that startups started to wind down what really made you want to strike out on your own? Or was it something with, with the company itself?
23:04 Yeah, so this really, well the reason I left the company was because you know, I had a very close relationship with that co founder who had hired me. And I really stayed there for, for as long as I did because I was just learning so much from him. And you know, really getting opportunities that I didn’t know that I would find elsewhere. And so the, I ended up leaving when he actually left, so he decided to sell his stake in the business and, you know, go do something else. And so when he was gone, there was really no real reason for me to, to stay. And so I knew that I didn’t want to go somewhere really corporate. Like I said, I loved that, that startup kind of world. And so I started talking to other startup founders and looking for my next role and I had some conversations and what I started to realize was that it was going to be very difficult for me to find an opportunity that would allow me to maintain some of the things that I really enjoyed about the job that I had been been working in.
24:11 And what I mean by that specifically is, you know, our company that startup, it was based in Chicago, but we had remote employees. So we all had a ton of flexibility. I could work from home whenever I wanted. I could travel as much as I wanted at work from the road, you know, really. I had a lot of autonomy and a lot of flexibility. And so going back to what I said earlier about, you know, this, this journey into personal development, it really got me to this place w that I’m still in of, I don’t compromise. You know, it’s never a question of, you know, would I rather have this or this? It’s a question of, all right, what do I got to do here so that I can have both? How do I have it all? How do I have it all? How do I create my life in, in the image of, of really, you know, what I truly want, not just what I think I can get.
25:05 And so as I was talking to these other startups, I realized I’m not willing to take a job that’s going to force me to be in an office in Chicago five days a week, even if it is for a really cool company. You know, I just didn’t, I’d gotten kind of spoiled, right? Like I, I’d gotten the taste of what that kind of freedom feels like at 20, you know, at 22 years old. I didn’t want to go the other direction. And so that was when I kind of got this idea in my head of, well, what if I tried to do something on my own? And my, my thought process there went a little bit something like this. I think everyone in my life when I sort of started questioning that s you can’t start a business at 25. I need more experience.
25:53 Which is all valid concerns. And they, you know, the refrain I was hearing from people was, it’s so risky. It’s so risky and what I did. And I think a process that’s really valuable for people to go through when they’re considering big decisions is to consider what is your actual worst case scenario. There is an incredible book so people talk all the time about think and grow rich by Napoleon Hill. Another one of Napoleon Hill’s books is how to stop worrying and start living and basically the, the, the idea that he poses in that book is to figure out your worst case scenario. Get comfortable with that worst case scenario, accept it and then figure out how you can improve on it. And you can apply that to any problem in your life. But the way that I applied it here, and actually without even knowing at the time, I hadn’t read that book yet, I was doing, I realized, okay, the worst case scenario, if I go out and try to do something on my own, the worst thing that could happen is I can’t make any money.
26:59 I run out of the very limited savings that I had a, I can’t pay my rent and I’ve got to go get a job. I’ve got like, I’ve got to go on care.com. You know what I mean? And so I was in this position where I felt very confident based on the conversations that I’d had. You know, I felt confident that I could get a job very quickly if I needed one. And so I really, you know, I think a lot of that, and maybe that was ignorant confidence, I don’t know. But I really just got to this place where I realized that, you know, okay, if I do this and if it doesn’t work out, then I’m gonna run out of again, my very limited savings and I’m gonna have to go get a job and I’m gonna have to go get a job quickly.
27:42 And if I’m confident in my ability to do that, then what is the risk? Here I am right now looking for a job. Maybe it’ll just be, you know, three months from now and I have to go look for a job. But at least I took the shot. Right? And so that was really where my mind went. And when I started thinking about it in that way, then it switched around from, oh, this is so risky to, well there really isn’t any risk. And one thing, one kind of caveat that I want to make to this is that I recognize that, that my story in a lot of ways and, and even that line of thinking, it’s, it’s very privileged line of thinking, right? I mean, I, you know, there are plenty of people listening to this show I’m sure, who can’t look at it in that way.
28:30 Maybe they have kids, maybe they have a lot of debt, maybe they have, you know, different situations in their life where, you know, that that thought process isn’t so clean. But, but for me it was, you know, I didn’t, I, I don’t have kids. I didn’t really have a lot of bills or a lot of responsibility. It was really just, you know, how am I going to pay the rent this month? And the rest was, the rest was pretty negligible. So so I wanna I want to make sure and recognize that that that exact story is not going to be true for everyone, but I think for a lot of your listeners, the risks that they are projecting, the risks that they are kind of building up in their head, it might not be as aligned with reality as they think it is. So three things I’ve, I’ve had kind of a list piling up because this has been awesome. Oh, first you took a very analytical approach to what’s my best way forward, which definitely fits with your background too. If you understood how you think and said, all right, look, I gotta I gotta analyze the situation to decide whether or not I’m comfortable with this risk and what the risk truly is. Another thing is this is a very, very different than you were at
29:42 When you were mulling over the pwc conversation because then it was, oh, I don’t want to do this forever. But you spend three years at a startup plus the year or half a year in between doing the network marketing Gig and you’ve gotten to a point where like you said, you’re unwavering, you’re not compromising. You’re saying, oh, this is what I want. How do I create everything to, to fit what I want and what I want my lifestyle to look like. It’s not what I don’t want to do. It’s here’s what I definitely want to do.
30:13 Exactly. And I think that’s the biggest shift that that tends to come when people dive into personal development and kind of self-growth work is you stop looking at, you know, kind of avoiding the worst case scenario and getting to somewhere good and you, you shift your thinking to where now it’s all about getting to the best case scenario a and, and really stretching what you believe is possible. And then going for that, I think you know this, this is kind of a common quote that, that people throw around, but it is so true. The biggest risk is not that we set our goals too high and miss them. The biggest risk is that we set our goals too low and we hit them. Yeah. So I think that’s really kind of a shift that a lot of young people especially you need to make.
31:00 Hmm. And, and there was one other thing that you hit on throughout the conversation and it’s eventually you get to a point where you’ve reasoned as much as you can, but then it’s time to do and you kind of have to pull that, that pin and say, it’s go time. This is what I want. Let’s try and find a way to make it happen. Versus like you said, let’s avoid the worst case scenario. It’s now create the best case scenario.
31:25 Exactly. Yeah. I mean I think that there are, there’s a s there’s a certain point where you just have to be confident in yourself. You know, you just, like I said before, you know, you, you continuously throughout life are going to get knocked down. You’re going to find these situations that feel impossible, that feel insurmountable, and then you’re going to get to the other side one way or another. And you might be, you might be bruised, you might be, you know, really knocked down. But you’re going to learn from that. And so I think it’s not necessarily your confidence in your ability to always get it right or even get it, get it right the first time. It’s confidence in your ability to learn from your mistakes and just keep moving and not give up. And as long as you have that confidence, then it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day that I quit my job at PWC thinking I was gonna make it big in network marketing. You know, it doesn’t matter. I was, I was betting on myself fundamentally in a way that I didn’t really understand that the time and betting on the fact that, you know, even if that didn’t work out or you know, x, Y, Z didn’t work out that, that I would be able to figure out the next step forward.
32:41 Yeah. And throughout the entire process. And this is the last thing I want to hit on. You kind of realize that the storyline you are creating in your head for that worst case scenario, like you were just playing the record on repeat and every time it seemed more and more palpable, but then you actually took a step back and approached and said, what’s the actual chance that this happens and how do I prevent it from happening? So, so you decide, all right, it’s time to leave this, this start startup. What, what was that final thing you needed that final push to get you to launch your own agency? And why did you double down on creating a media agency at that point? Of
33:18 Course. Yeah. So again, this is kind of one of those stories where, you know, if you keep moving forward, the, the universe is gonna is gonna figure out a path. I left, I left that company and for the first three, four months I made basically $0 million. I started, I wanted to buy myself some time, so I started renting out my apartment on airbnb. So that I could again pay my rent. And and that, that bought me some time, but I was, I was building debt. I was using credit cards, you know, for a lot of things. And, and after three or four months, I realized, oh, I need some help here. You know, I don’t, I don’t really know what to do in the way that I had kinda thought that I maybe knew what to do. And so the way things worked out my old boss who was really instill is a, an incredible mentor to me.
34:16 Yeah. He had a ticket for a Facebook advertising workshop that he couldn’t go to. And so he asked if I wanted the ticket. I said, sure. I went up to Madison, Wisconsin for three days and you know, sat through this, this workshop that by the end of that third day, it was, it was just like I could see all of the pieces coming together and I recognized, wow, my skillset, both, you know, kind of my natural born skillset and, you know, being analytical, being data minded as well as everything that I learned about direct response marketing, working at that startup, those two things, you know, really came together as this perfect storm of what it takes to be a successful media buyer. And so what I knew was that I had the raw materials to, to make that work too, to be able to run paid traffic for clients and do it at a very high level and do it well.
35:14 What I didn’t have was experience or really the tactical knowledge of how to do that. I believe that I could, but I didn’t, I didn’t really have the how. And so at the end of that workshop the person putting it on was basically pitching his highest level mentorship and coaching program, which was $30,000 for one year of, you know, handholding you know, help and support. And so I was again, faced with this situation of you know, at first glance it looked like, well, I can’t do this. I don’t have $30,000 dollars. I ain’t going into debts. I’m clearly renting my apartment, airbnb stay afloat. I did not have $30,000. What I did have, again, was this blind confidence in my ability to, to make it happen when I was, when I was backed into a corner. And so I ended up signing up for that program, put the first $6,000 payment on a credit card, and, and put myself in a position where I really had to make it work now because I’m on the hook for 30 grand.
36:24 And so when you have that much skin in the game you are, you’re going to take it seriously. You’re going to put in the work, you’re going to take advantage of that, that kind of coaching. And and you know, the, the person that I was doing that work with, his really, his name’s Jason Hornung. And he, he is, you know, truly one of the, one of the brightest minds in paid traffic and specifically in Facebook advertising. So because I had him to really learn from step-by-step, I was able to get my first couple of clients and then I was able to really, you know, have him guide me through this process of putting my knowledge to work to get them great results. I was able to do that. And you know, from there, my business was really built on referrals of, of my clients who I was performing very well for, you know, telling other people about me.
37:18 And, and so I’ve built you know, what, what in what in five months became a six figure business and has continued to grow from there. I’ve actually never spent a dollar on, you know, paid advertising to track my own clients. It’s been purely based on referrals and networking. And and so I’ve been able to build this successful business. You know, by putting, you know, putting myself in that corner, getting skin in the game and then getting the resources around me that would allow me to thrive. I wanted to build a highly successful paid traffic agency. So what did I do? I invested in being able to learn from someone who had done that at a very, very high level and did help me both avoid the mistakes that I was bound to make and also just accelerate that process of learning and growth.
38:14 Wow. So you launched this company and immediately things start taking, well, not immediately, but very quickly things started to take off. Yeah. I, I got my first client there. Look, there were moments there where I was just, you know, crying on my bedroom floor saying how, like what am I doing? I’m in so over my head, I don’t know what to do. This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be. So it would certainly be fiction to paint it like you know, I hired this mentor and things just took off. You know, there was still there was still a period of, you know, a few months where you know, where I thought that I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to make it, make it happen. And then even when the business was, you know, I had, I had my first $10,000 a month then, you know, I got to this six figure run rate.
39:02 You know, pretty quickly I was still paying off this 30 grand and all the debt that I’d accumulated, you know, in the four months prior to starting this. So, so it wasn’t like I was swimming in cash by any means. But I started to, to get confidence of Oh, you know, I can, I can really help people cause at the end of the day, that’s what you need to do. If you want to be successful. You need to learn how to help people and how to add so much value that your going to get that value in return. You know, in the form of dollars. And so I got confident in my skillset as a media buyer and my ability to help clients get the results that they were looking for. Nice. And that’s a perfect spot. To kind of pivot into another project that you launched from all of this.
39:49 Could you tell us a bit about what gave you the idea to launch your podcast, what the podcast is focused on, and really start to paint a picture of how that fit into to your development. Thank you so much. Yes. So the podcast really started as a concept in in early 2018 where I was really kind of kind of wrestling with these bigger picture questions. So I mentioned at the beginning of this show that I’ve always been driven by money. I’ve had a desire to, you know, create a, you create financial freedom, you know, whatever, whatever that kind of meant to me at the time and certainly means something different now. But you know, I, I wanted to be very successful in that way, but I also, you know, it’s, it’s very important to me to feel like I am making a difference, to feel like I’m, you know, doing good for other people and you know, that I am, you know, being a part of the solution you know, to, to so many of these problems that plague our world.
40:52 And I think that, you know, we as humans, we have this fundamental need for contribution and to feel like we are, you know, doing something meaningful. And so I was sort of wrestling with this question of, you know, does the way that I make money also have to be the way that I contribute and give back and help other people? Or could it just be, you know, the, the one hand that feeds the other and you know, and, and what does that look like? What does it look like to find more purpose in my life? And to, you know, to really feel like I am achieving success holistically. Because success is not just how much money you make, it is your relationships. It is, you know, your health. It is, you know, how you’re giving back and you know, contributing to causes that are important to you or you know, supporting other people.
41:46 Yeah. Your net worth has no value unless you do something valuable with it. Oh, I love that. That’s great. I’m going to steal that from you. Okay.
41:53 Yeah. Just like John Lee Dumas as I’ll give you credit, but then it’s nine. But yeah, so, so that was really kind of the, the birth of the podcast was, you know, I, I had this name kind of come to me. You know, I was actually such a classic story. I was literally like laying in bed and this name just like zoomed into my head and I couldn’t let it go. This idea of do well and do good. And so I got this idea in my head of, you know, well, what if I shared these stories, the stories of people who have not only created incredible financial success for themselves, but who are leveraging that success to help other people and to make a, a great positive impact in the world, because that’s really what I aim to do. And so you know, it started as kind of half passion project half, you know, longterm personal brand play, if you will.
42:48 But, you know, it was really, these were the kinds of conversations that I wanted to have. And so if I could have them record them just like you and I are doing now and share that with other people who might find value or might be, you know, asking these same kind of same kind of questions you know, that was a big positive. And then of course, you know, we incorporated getting back into the show. So I I give a give away 10% of my income. And that I think has just fueled me in such a different way to grow the business. Because I know that the more I grow the business, the more I grow my income, the more I’m going to be able to give. And it’s so exciting to, you know, to see that happening, to see the growth and my business impacting the, the level of impact that I can have for things that are important to me.
43:35 Definitely. And so one of the cool things about podcasting and being the host is that a lot of times you learn as much as your guests do solely by having the conversations. So throughout your time hosting, do well and do good. What are one or two of the, the takeaways that you’ve picked up on that you weren’t anticipating?
43:54 [Inaudible] That is such a good question.
44:00 Hello. Hi.
44:04 You know, I would say that similar to this mindset that I’ve been talking about of, you know, creating our life exactly as we want it to be. I actually think that, you know, through all of the conversations that I’ve had on the podcast, one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had is that we as a species, we as humans and even more specifically we as entrepreneurs, we have the opportunity. And I would also argue the responsibility to create the world exactly as we want to see it. I mean, no one would argue that we live in a world that is plagued with many, many challenges. Poverty, climate change, Yo hunger, traffic, child trafficking. Like you know, there’s an endless list of, of, of issues and of, of problems that need solution. We’re running out of fresh water in our world, you know, all of these things and it is going to, you know, it’s going to take determination and dedication by a lot of very, you know, driven people to solve these problems.
45:16 We can’t just sit back and, you know, kind of wait for someone else to do it. And I think that’s been the biggest takeaway that I’ve had from, from my guests is that, you know, if there is something that we see that we don’t like, we cannot just sit and wait for someone else to take care of it. And in fact, you know, we can’t just, you know, give, give $1,000 and expect it to be solved. You know, if we want to solve big problems, we need to approach them with big thinking. And I truly believe after the, you know, over 100 episodes of the podcast, we actually just celebrated our hundredth episode last week. The biggest takeaway that I’ve had out of it, we need to take personal responsibility and go after these, you know, big solutions to big problems and to, you know, not rely on someone else to do it, to take that responsibility and really be the change that we want to see and and lead others in that way.
46:15 So that has certainly been my, my biggest takeaway from my guess, the, the Elon Musk approach to being an entrepreneur. It’s so I see that we need to shift to electric cars, then I’m just going to build the company because why not? Exactly. So a hands on approach to, to impacting the things you need, you see that need to be changed. And so from there, I think that’s a really good point to shift to the second portion of our show, which really focuses on what you’ve learned in what you would do differently. So what are some of the key takeaways from your career in your project so far?
46:56 You know, I think it’s kind of everything that I’ve sort of littered through the conversation so far. I mean, first it is working equally hard, if not harder on your mindset as you are on, you know, your business. If you’re a business owner or at your job, if, if you’re, you know, you’re working for our company you know, there is, there, there’s no real growth or real change that’s gonna happen unless you are putting in the work. So if I were to look at, for example, just a, a chart of the revenue of my business over the last few years you know, it’s, it correlates pretty exactly to the times when I was really taking my own mindset practice seriously and doing the things that allowed me to get to you know, that, that initial success that I saw. So what I’m talking about is the waking up in the morning and exercising and then meditating and then journaling and getting crystal clear on what I was trying to create.
47:58 And then taking the action to, to do that. Filling my mind with positive content, listening to podcasts, listening to, you know, you know, watching youtube videos, really just flooding out any negativity by putting so much positivity into my world that there was no room for any doubt or anything else. And so I think that’s really the biggest thing is just putting in the work and doing these things that, that everyone talks about. And we know we should be doing, we should be meditating, we should be journaling about our goals and you know, but, but actually doing those things is, is very different and much harder. So I would say that is the biggest thing. You know, in terms of, in terms of other lessons, again, it really just comes down to to figuring out how you can be the best you can possibly be at whatever it is that you’re doing.
48:57 So if I had gone into, you know, starting my agency with this mindset of, you know, I just wanna I just wanna have my first $10,000 a month as quickly as possible. You know, I just wanna, you know, make money, whatever. I don’t think it would’ve worked out. Yes, I was absolutely journaling every single day about how it would feel to hit that first $10,000 month. But at the same time, what I was really spending a lot of time on was becoming the best media buyer that I could be. You know, figuring out how I could deliver real value for my clients. Because at the end of the day you can get good at sales and you go out and get you know, now like my clients, I just took on a new client the other day that that single client will be paying $10,000 a month and I could just go sell that client on working with me and you know, Kinda, you know, ride that ride for two or three months until they finally figure out that they’re not getting the results they promised.
49:55 Or instead of focusing on getting that client, I can focus on being so good at what I do that I know that once I get that client, they are going to stay with me for two, three, four years because I’m delivering that value. And that is the way that you really find success in your business is when you stop focusing on just what you can get and start focusing on what you can give to your ideal target customer. And then the money’s just a byproduct of that. It’s just a result. It’s a matter of time. [inaudible]. So then that also spins into the next question, which is a little bit more targeted. What is the piece of advice that you would give to your 20 year old self?
50:45 You know, so I feel very fortunate that I was exposed to this whole world of, of self-growth
51:01 And personal development. At the time that I was, I was yeah, I had just turned 21 you know, when that had happened. And you know, I just feel very grateful that I got exposed to that at 21 instead of that 41 or never. And so, you know, I think for, for any 20 year olds right now who are listening to this who, you know, aren’t really, you know, really exposing themselves to a lot of that content. If you’re listening to this podcast, you probably are. But but you know, go deep into that, work on your mindset. You know, work on developing the mental fortitude that’s going to allow you to push through the difficult times and you know, and keep moving towards your goal. You know, for me at at 20, you know, just prior to having, you know, started on this journey.
51:52 I think what I would say to myself is just, you know, don’t compromise. Think about, think about what you really want, what’s really important to you. You know, what do you want to spend your days doing and don’t limit yourself to what you believe is possible. Because at 20 years old, I was basing all of my decisions off of what I thought was realistic. And when you focus on what is realistic, you will only end up with, with average. You know, you’ll, you’ll end up with a life that looks like everyone else’s life, which you know, maybe that’s what you want, but if you’re really being honest with yourself, you know, we as humans we are designed to grow, to expand, to, to create. And I think a really full fulfilled life is when we are doing that at the level of our highest potential.
52:46 And you’re only going to get to that level of highest potential if you open up your mind to what is possible for you. Love it. You mentioned a couple of Napoleon Hill books throughout, but what are a couple different books or resources that have helped you in your journey? There are so many. I am a huge, huge reader. So, you know, I think if you’re just starting out like those, those classic personal development books like thinking grow rich are a great place to start. Secrets of the millionaire mind is really the one that made all of that stuff click for me in a way that thinking grow rich didn’t quite as much. If you’re a business owner, and I’m going to be listing off a lot here, but if you’re a business owner, profit first a book by I believe Mike McCalla, it’s and that book I so desperately wish I had read on day one.
53:39 Instead of, you know, two years in. So profit first is a huge one in terms of just mindset. And this one’s, this one’s a little bit less on the business side, more on the spiritual side. But when I think about the book that has really had the deepest impact on me I mentioned to you kind of one of my mantras is everything works out. The book Zen and the art of happiness by Chris Prentice. That book has had the most dramatic impact on just my mindset. And you know, my ability to stay positive even when things feel you know, feel like they’re in a really bad place. So there’s, there’s many, many more. But I would say that that Kinda hits on a few different categories for people. Those are the all stars. Awesome. Well, Dorothy, it has been an absolute pleasure chatting with you.
54:27 Where can people learn more about you? Yes, please. So if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re obviously a, a podcast consumer. So anyone who wants to check out the show can search for, do well and do good. Anywhere that you listen to podcasts. If you want to find a find me, you can find me on Facebook or on Instagram at Dorothy Ilsan. And then my agency is at needles. I, media.com awesome. Dorothy Wilson again, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you, Ben. It was a lot of fun.
55:01 Does it for our show with Dorothy Ellison now. It was really interesting to hear Dorothy’s story because her in mind really line up in a lot of different ways and so it was interesting to hear her perspective and her thought processes as she transitioned out of accounting in into a totally different realm through a startup and so that was how she was able to move from accounting to the marketing side, was leveraging the experience at a startup to get a really broad array of skills and exposures so that she could then determine what she was good at and what she wanted to move into next. Another important aspect of her story is the idea of purpose driven in purpose led entrepreneurship. If you see a problem in the world, Dorothy really showed that it’s your responsibility to start to tackle it rather than just bringing attention to it. She advocates for stepping in and being a part of the solution rather than just raising the fact that there is a problem. To begin was an absolute pleasure chatting with Dorothy and make sure you check out her podcast. Do well and do good for more stories similar to hers in that shed even more light on the idea of purpose led entrepreneurship from tastes for tenacity. Show number 20 this has been Trela. Thanks for listening.