Angela Giovine 0:00
That is truly what gives me the passion around this project because to work with people, advertisers, customers who have the choice to do something that isn’t so difficult mentally, that they choose to do this, that that means that I believe what they believe in terms of passion and I am fueled by that.
Angela Giovine 0:29
Pop cultures become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. After almost two seasons of this show, maybe you’re wondering a little bit about who I am. The host of the show, and why I care so much about small business. This week’s episode, I turn the mic on myself to share my small business journey. This week’s episode format is a little bit different as well. I am joined by Jessica Kartalija, who is an evening news anchor for CBS Philadelphia. I talk to Jess about my journey from corporate America, to small business ownership. After my interview with Jess, I’m joined by longtime friend and also employee KC Shaffer. The idea for the extra ordinary small business podcast was born out of a love and respect for all of the amazing small businesses that I’ve been working with for over a decade, I wanted to share raw real stories about what it really takes to be a successful small business owner. After you listen, come find the podcast on social media. Shout us out or ask me more questions. I hope you enjoy hearing my story.
So my name is Angela Giovine, and I am the co founder and owner of Happenings Media. We started our company back in 2008 with our first brand which was Bucks Happening. We grew that to regional lifestyle magazines across the Philadelphia area. And more recently, we launched a community online for small business owners, which is extraordinary small business.
Jess Kartalija 2:49
And at a time like this, that has to be incredibly helpful to these small businesses just to get their name out there.
Angela Giovine 2:54
It is, especially doing COVID. It’s been so interesting to talk about the way they’re making it through. The thing about small business owners is they are scrappy. It has a hard time. And there’s no getting around that, but the bottom line is people are resilient. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from telling these stories is that resilience is what makes people successful in small business.
Jess Kartalija 3:18
Tell me about your background too, because I think that this is so interesting, and that you’ve created this space where people can get to know these businesses. How did you get into this?
Angela Giovine 3:28
Oh, it’s a long and winding story. So I actually started my career in corporate America. I had no sights for small business early on in my life. I’m actually the daughter of a small business owner. And I used to see how hard he worked and I went to business school, I went to Fordham University in New York City. I went on to a corporate career. I was an IT consultant for KPMG, got my MBA in finance, and then went on to biotech finance at Johnson and Johnson. All along the way, something itched at me like this entrepreneurial bug inside me. And it stemmed from back in college at Fordham. I actually founded the dance company at the university. And it’s not starting a business, but it’s sort of is. It gave me that little taste of starting something from nothing. And it grew so big and it’s still around today. And I just kept looking for that kind of satisfaction out of my career when I got out of college and I wasn’t getting it. And I just realized after my second jump from KPMG, to J&J that I had to do it. It was something that was inside me. And so I left Johnson and Johnson in 2008, and I originally left to start an event planning company. I had been tasked inside finance at J&J to run these events for our finance team and turns out dancer, producing shows, producing events, very similar. Fell in love with that and started Bucks Happening for fun on the side. I had moved home from New York City back to Bucks County, where I grew up. And I have an IT degree, and it was my answer to my friends who are like You what? You moved where? And there’s nothing going on there. And actually, Yes, there was. And so Bucks Happening started on the side and very quickly it took center stage. At the same time my sister was finishing her MBA and she was working at a hedge fund at the time. And we partnered up, we both left her corporate careers in the middle of a recession. We had a third business called Beamy, which was focused on girl empowerment also. But very quickly, Bucks Happening became our main focus. And we just started to find our place and when small businesses started to reach out to us, about how can you help us and how can you help us find our community online? We thought this is it. There was like a moment one day where we were sitting with one of our first clients where we felt that satisfaction that we had been looking for and we never really looked back.
Jess Kartalija 5:55
It was interesting when I moved here and I started at channel three, I started following you guys because I think it was so helpful just to know the community and know what is happening. And not having lived in Pennsylvania for years. That’s how you connect.
Angela Giovine 6:12
Yep, yep, yeah. And back in 08 09. It’s like, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago, but back then, Facebook wasn’t a thing, there was no Instagram. There was no video on your iPhone, we were walking around with like actual video cameras. It was a different world and blogging was more of the thing. So we really branded ourselves the digital magazine to differentiate from blogging, so to speak, but the world has really changed. The whole thing has really changed with the dawn of influencers in social media. You know, we’re a media company and we have continued to grow and change as media grows and changes.
Jess Kartalija 6:50
Do you think that small businesses are really recognizing the importance of their digital footprint?
Angela Giovine 6:57
Some. What I find from working for the last 12 years with small businesses is that there’s a long tail. From wherever the center of excellence is, what whoever that is, whether it’s Madison Avenue for agencies and marketing or big business, it takes years for it to trickle down into small businesses. And back in 09, we were here talking about sponsored content, and people looked at us like we had five heads. We spent a lot of time, a lot of our time working with our clients explaining what that meant, what sponsored content meant, and now that’s a given. Everybody knows what that is. So yes, it eventually gets there. And there’s such a wide range in small businesses between people who get it and people who are offline. But the challenge for small businesses is that I kind of always liken it to being a car mechanic, right? You take your car in, and you pray that the person you picked is not only knowledgeable but honest. And that’s the same thing with finding help as a small business owner, whether it’s you’re the person you look to for your marketing advice, or the person you look to for your accounting advice, you’re crossing your fingers and hoping you pick the right person. And so we look to be that and we we really spend a lot of time educating our small business audience to make sure that they don’t have to spend all of that time figuring out where they need to be online. There’s so many different options really.
Jess Kartalija 8:28
What have you found to be most interesting, or what have you learned in doing this podcast from these small business owners?
Angela Giovine 8:36
Oh, it feels so lucky because it selfishly I have learned so much from doing this podcast already. We’re in the middle of our second season. And I’ve already started to see through lines. And I have been very deliberate in my selection for the seasons, to try to really get a range of all different kinds of demographics of small business owners. Geography, Industry, years in business, background, we have some people who had been out of high school small business owners, others it was their second or third career and it’s so interesting to find those through lines across all of those different diverse backgrounds. And one of those things is just hard work. How much work it is. And there is no shortcutting that. Every single person I talked to who has been successful as a small business owner, they did every job in their business at one point in time. There was no shortcut. And coming into my second decade of small business ownership, I can really start to get an appreciation for that. Another thing I’ve learned from all of these small business owners is just the importance of finding a team that you can trust and being able to delegate to people who believe what you believe. People is such a big portion of the equation, and just really with small business owners, no ones here for the big venture fund cash out, we’re all here because we want to love what we do every day. And we want to live our passion.
Jess Kartalija 10:10
So going back to leaving J&J, so you take this leap of faith, right? All of a sudden, it’s recession and you go, This is the perfect time to start something new. So that had to be incredibly stressful?
Angela Giovine 10:24
It was. I was one year married, and we had just bought a home. And prior to leaving J&J, I had some fits and starts with maybe I’ll start a business, and I had actually written a business plan with my husband. He was my boyfriend at the time back then, and I never pulled the trigger. And I looked at my husband, I was 26. And I said, I have to do this now, before we have children or I think I’m going to regret it. I know that what I’m going to need to give, to get this thing going is going to take all of me and if I don’t do it now, and I know the timing is terrible, and I notice a recession, but I have to do it. I can’t wonder. I can’t I’d rather not regret and wonder what if. My boss, I remember walking in to his office, my knees knocking and being like, I am leaving, and he was so generous, and he said, you can always come back, you will always have a job here and the relief that just that gave me and the freedom then to just go run for my goal was a gift.
Jess Kartalija 11:38
Yeah, that’s incredible. Just knowing that you have that to, quote unquote, fall back on.
Angela Giovine 11:43
Jess Kartalija 11:44
I feel like we always build things up in our heads so much and then once we go in there and we confront the situation, it’s a lot better.
Angela Giovine 11:51
Jess Kartalija 11:52
So you ended up leaving and then how long did it take you to really get ramped up?
Angela Giovine 11:57
I would say the first year maybe two years, it was a lot of finding our footing. So I left my job, maybe six months before my sister did. She was waiting for that last bonus check to clear before she, she left the business. And that I remember those first couple months, it’s I think the most startling thing was the loneliness. Your mind, starts to really play games with you, when you’re not in an office environment. And there’s nobody to tamper your down days, to bring you up when you’re down, to motivate you so, those first couple months, it’s just finding that footing of what’s my day going to look like? Are you getting out of your pajamas? All of those things. And because there’s you don’t have clients right away, It’s how am I filling my time? How am I forcing myself to be uncomfortable? How am I forcing myself to grow my business each and every day? And like I said in the beginning, we were running in a few different directions with a couple of different startup ideas. So we were a little bit projects everywhere. So it was really a year and a half, two years in where we were like, people are calling us about Bucks Happening mostly. Like, we were being asked all the time for coffee, and come meet us. And so we said, we need to devote our time to this, and we need to make a business. So it was about a year and I think a year and a half in where we started to take our first clients and our first advertisers and, and from there, we were able to start forming our business from 2009 te- and ten . We really just focused on Bucks County Bucks Happening. And then in 2011, is when we launched Happenings Media, which became the parent company. And that happened because we getting When you coming to Montco? When you coming to Philly? When you coming to Princeton? When you coming all these places? And we thought to ourselves, we’re successful with Bucks Happening because we’re here. And so we actually in 2011, launched a licensing company. We licensed Happening Mag out, and at one point we had over 15 Happening Mags across the country. And we ran the company with that model for about four or five years as an experiment. And there were successes with that, and there were learnings from that as well. We were doing really well with viewership with all of those licensees. But ultimately, I think if we were going to continue down that path, we were going to need to seek funding and become a venture backed company that’d be able to really support that number of people. And in the end, it wasn’t where we wanted to be. So we shed the licensee model a few years ago, and we’ve decided instead of being wide, to go deep. And so we really focused in on the Philadelphia area and we started to go deeper with our events, deeper with the kind of client services that we offer and less of a focus right now on the on the national geography.
Jess Kartalija 14:57
How do you cater to two different audiences? So the audience that is following you on Instagram and social versus somebody who’s picking up a magazine and flipping through it?
Angela Giovine 15:06
We our readers are reading us on our website or on our social media. And that is a really ever changing question because I have this conversation with my editorial staff all the time. That mix between and I’m sure you see it as well, that mix between people who are seeing you in your native form versus who just want to read you on social media, that percentage is changing constantly. And which story belongs living on social media, and which story belongs on our website, which story belongs in video form is a constant conversation that we are having, because ultimately, we need to live where our readers want to be or where our followers want to be, where they want to consume. So we are constantly having that conversation internally. And it does mean that media is ever evolving and it means that we’re ever evolving.
Jess Kartalija 16:00
It’s incredible how much work goes into a social media post understanding your audience, figuring out what resonates with them. And so I think for a lot of these small businesses, something like what you’re doing has to be incredibly helpful.
Angela Giovine 16:14
Yeah, figuring out which images work, which images get reach organically, what type of video gets reach organically, there are so many nuances. And the hard part is they are constantly changing. And they don’t tell you, Facebook doesn’t announce like here’s a list of things you can do to make your posts go viral. You just have to figure it out. So it’s exceedingly overwhelming for small businesses to keep up with that. So we try to be that that light in the ocean, the the watchtower to be able to teach people and, and so we can lighten their load a little bit.
Jess Kartalija 16:52
So I have to ask you because we were talking about this before we started the pod, you have two boys, so you’re doing all of this, so many people are working from home right now. How are you finding the balance between running a business, running a family and keeping your head on your shoulders?
Angela Giovine 17:12
Absolutely. And I’ll go back even a little further. I had my first child, my older son, Peter in 2014. So that was the year we also decided to pitch venture funds. It was a transition for sure. And I just like my first year in business, there was this transition year of identity and the mom guilt and the balance and all of that, and I guess Peter was about two years old, and we had a babysitter, we I would drop him off at the babysitters every day, and my babysitter got cancer. And so she was out of commission and immediately we had no childcare. And so for a month, he was about ho- he was home with me. And it was such an eye opener because I realized here I was, feeling guilty all the time that he was going to a babysitter’s house and I was working, and I was trying to finish up my work, so I could go get him. And when he was home with me? He, was not happy. He wanted to be with other children. He was miserable, I was miserable. I wasn’t getting any work done. And it was this moment where I said, Why am I putting this guilt on myself?
Jess Kartalija 18:19
Angela Giovine 18:20
He doesn’t feel bad that he’s with other children. And from there on out, I really never looked back. My kids go to daycare, and they thrive there. I’m proud to be a business owner. And we talked about the fact that mommy is a boss. At Happenings Media, we run something called the Happening List, which is a big competition that crosses all four counties. We had hundreds of thou- 165,000 votes in 2020. Businesses put those signs up all over the stores and we will walk by a store and my sons will go Mommy, there’s your sign. So I feel proud, that they know their mom is a boss and that their mom works hard. As far as the quarantine goes, and COVID,
Jess Kartalija 19:07
All bets are off
Angela Giovine 19:09
Little bit of a struggle. Yeah, we’re in a two income household, my husband has a typical job, a quote unquote typical job where he’s on conference calls every day. I’m very blessed, my job is flexible. So for the beginning of quarantine, my work was existing in between my husband’s conference calls. When things lightened up a little, we were able to get a babysitter in here. Thank you, Jesus, we were able to get a babysitter in here. And that has helped a lot. The blessing of designing the business and the life that I wanted as a small business owner is that if my work has to happen at 11 o’clock at night, it can. And in fact, my entire team is women. And most of them are mothers and we don’t have work hours. Most of my staff clocks on at eight, nine o’clock at night and I start getting texts, and we have a private Facebook group and I’m very results oriented. For me, I don’t care about the time of the day that you work. So for us this, it has been a struggle, of course, but we were prepared as a business since we were fully remote already. And equipped to handle this.
Jess Kartalija 20:19
Yeah. What is the biggest challenge for you, running this business?
Angela Giovine 20:24
Oh, there’s so many big challenges but I think my biggest challenge is to continually try to keep that 40,000 foot view, that strategic view, but then not getting dragged back down into the weeds. It’s a constant balance because I feel so close to my clients. I know I see them all the time. They want to see me I go in I and we I also want to bring my staff in and be able to give a certain amount of the workload to them. So it’s that balance of having that personal touch and being in my business, but then also working on my business and being the leader and having that strategic vision and that long term view. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge.
Jess Kartalija 21:09
What are your next steps? Do you want to keep expanding to other counties? Or are you good where you are? How do you balance that?
Angela Giovine 21:17
That has been an evolution over the last couple of years. So my sister was my business partner, as I mentioned, for the first eight years of my business. After we decided to pivot away from venture funding, we went through a period where I said we thought about taking venture funding and quite frankly, we were really turned off by the whole experience. And at that point, my sister was interested in she had, I had spent more time in corporate America than her and some of her personal situations with her where her husband worked, and all of that, led her out of the area. And ultimately, it just made sense for her to go back to corporate America. And there was this moment in 2018, where I became the sole owner of my business and I had to really think, What do I want? What not what do we want? But what do I want. And I thought back to having that conversation with my husband at 26. And talking about wanting to start my own business and I just it rang in my head that I wanted to, I didn’t want to live for many weekends and I wanted to live from my every day. And so I really brought that back into the center of my strategy that wasn’t about selling a business. It wasn’t about growing a business as big as it could be. It was about building something that I loved and something that I was passionate about. So, it took me a little bit of time after I lost my business partner to sort of get that footing again and figure out what that looked like for me and ultimately my goal now? I really look at the the Richard Branson model as something that I strive for, meaning I have a lot of interest and I believe that I have different business ideas that could be very synergetic to each other, and having a stable of different companies is what I strive to do. So as you can see, we branched out we have Happening Mag, which is local lifestyle, we have extra ordinary small business for small business owners. And I have other ideas for the future that I believe would all work together synergetically synergistically to just own a company that is centered around small business.
Jess Kartalija 23:25
What do you say to women, or men who are in a similar position and say, You know what? I just, I’m living this corporate life, and I’m over it, and I really want to do what I’m passionate about. What advice would you give them?
Angela Giovine 23:41
My first advice would be to not quit your day job right away. I think that a lot of especially today, I think 15 years ago, 20 years ago, entrepreneurship wasn’t as romanticized as it is today. I think a lot of people think it’s for them, I would say, make sure it’s for you. First, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re willing to work on something on your nights and weekends, then you should have, you know, be able to start that way, get some traction and find a way then to move on. When you quit your job, and you don’t give yourself a lifeline in terms of being able to pay your bills. You put a lot of undue pressure on a small business and small businesses are extremely fragile for a very long time. And I always think about that metric. They say I forget what the exact percentages but they always say the scary number of small businesses fail. The nuance there is that they don’t fail it’s that they’re not given enough time to succeed. So set yourself up for success by making sure that your business doesn’t have to generate enough revenue to pay your bills for a while. I have heard stories all over the gamut from I didn’t pay myself for a year, five years. I think I heard Maker’s Mark the big whiskey brand, they didn’t pay themselves for multiple decades. So, be realistic about how long it takes for a small business to be able to be a business and find ways to really work that hustle and pay your bills and hedge the downside before you just take the leap.
Jess Kartalija 25:18
Are you finding that most people who branch out or want to start their own business is at a certain age range? We see these interns will come into the TV station and I say, what do you want to do? And they say we want to anchor the five o’clock news and the 10 o’clock News or 11 o’clock and I go, Sure, so did I. And it took me 20 years to get here.
Angela Giovine 25:40
Jess Kartalija 25:40
And it’s this idea of how important is it for you to get there and do you understand the need to pay your dues? Do you think that small business owners get that?
Angela Giovine 25:52
So the first question I see people of all ages starting small businesses, especially today. Again, we’re only a 12 year old business, but God it has changed so much in those 12 years. When we started our first website, you had to code HTML. Then today, you squarespace.com 10 bucks, you have a beautiful website. E commerce, to start an e commerce business 15 years ago, merchant accounts and it was insane. And now you have Shopify, even just social media, being able to immediately have a platform to speak. If you’re, if you have quality and you’re able to draw an audience, you can do it. If a landscape has just changed so much. And it really pulls in people, everyone from college kids, to people with new moms who maybe left the workforce and every small business has a different size and shape, the the Etsy shops that are a side hustle to the people who are doing it in their retirement and that’s the beauty of a small business is you make it, you you design it the way it works for you and in your life. As far as paying your dues, the second question, no, I don’t think everybody gets it. I think everybody learns it eventually. But and this is really, part of the reason why I started this podcast is we hear about Mark Zuckerberg and everybody talks about Silicon Valley and how easy it is to get venture funding and I’m going to be the next unicorn and I’m going to get on Shark Tank and it’s very romanticized. That is one way, that is one way but small businesses is a different thing. And it really takes- both take a ton of hustle, but they are very different things. And I believe in designing something that works for your life and not just, it’s beautiful for someone who could start a business and sell it, cash out for millions or billions of dollars. I believe that there’s something beautiful about small businesses who contribute to the community and bring something unique and just, they’re doing it for the love of it. And so I do think that sometimes it takes a little while for people to really differentiate between those two. The ones who make themselves part of the fabric of the community, beyond Instagram, they’re making those real connections. Those are the ones who last because there’s reciprocity there. The community wants to help a business who has helped the community. And there’s just so many fantastic examples of that also in nonprofit, tons of amazing small charities in the area that just do that really well.
Jess Kartalija 28:43
The rule of reciprocity goes a long way. And people really like to support people in their community or support like minded people as we’ve seen. When you are running your business. Do you feel tethered to your phone? I would wonder that one of the big challenges here would be, like we said, talking about balance, right? And trying to fit in work when you can. And I always find that it’s almost more difficult to work from home because I am constantly looking at my phone or checking my email. Whereas going into work that time is specifically delegated to that.
Angela Giovine 29:20
I look at some of my friends who are doctors, and sometimes I’m so jealous, because what is that, like you just walk out of the hospital and you don’t think about it until you come back? What is that? Absolutely. There are times where I wish my business wasn’t centered around social media, it can eat you alive if you’re not careful. I set timers, I set my Instagram to 20 minutes a day. And so it notifies me when I’ve spent my 20 minutes and if it’s towards the end of the day, I hit the 20 minute mark. I feel good about that. But on the flip side, I try to remember to feel grateful for the fact that we have these tools because if I wasn’t able to to quickly answer an email on my phone, I would have to spend more time away from my family. So it’s a double edge sword, but it’s up to each and every one of us to find that line. I think what’s become very obvious over the past couple years is balance looks different for everybody. And I feel that I’m able to pop on and look at something quickly on my phone and it gives me another hour with my kids. I feel good about that.
Jess Kartalija 30:26
Looking back at the last few years, what would you tell your younger self about making this leap of faith?
Angela Giovine 30:32
Yes, I asked that question to every single one of my guest. If I were to talk to my 18 year old self. I think I would tell her to listen to your heart. I, as I mentioned, went to business school and I majored in Information Systems and I minored in accounting and then I got an MBA in finance, all of which are fine. Not something I was super passionate about. I think I sought advice from people who had the best intentions for me. And those intentions were get the best paying job possible for you. They weren’t necessarily thinking about my satisfaction or, or happiness, not that they wanted me to be unhappy. But I think that there was not such a focus back then on living your passion and doing something that you love. And I think I knew that all along. If I really were to think about it, that I should have spent more time on stuff that really lit my soul on fire. I wouldn’t have waited so long to do that. I would have listened to my heart and said, I’ll take the lower paying internship in college because this experience is something that I can’t trade in . So I think if I were to go back, talk to my 18 year old self, I’d say, make sure you’re doing what you absolutely love.
Jess Kartalija 31:54
Great advice. What is your typical day look like? Tomorrow morning when your alarm goes off, what happens?
Angela Giovine 32:01
So I am a night owl and my husband is an early bird. So typically, I take care of getting the kids ready for the day in the morning because he’s usually up and at his desk by 5 or 6 am. So I know it’s crazy. Meanwhile, I could literally work till four o’clock in the morning if someone didn’t stop me. So we’re very opposite that way. But so I’ll take care of the kids, get them ready, get them breakfast in the morning, and then pre COVID, I would then drop them off at the daycare and then I would start my work. I call myself a high maintenance coffee drinker, I use my favorite coffee shops and I would go spend my mornings working in one of my favorite coffee shops. These days, I don’t do that, I just get to work in our office here. And pre COVID, It would be just like any sort of working mom, I would pick my kids up at the end of the day, but every day is really different. If I’m seeing a client, I’m going to my client, so I’m going to the salon client, I’m going to the spa client. I’m going to the gym. Client all of these different people that I work with, if I’m doing a podcast, actually, that’s been a blessing. I did season one all in person. And I actually really enjoy this format of interviewing online. So I would be schlepping my microphones and my equipment to this place in that place. Different times of the year, events are a big part of our business in a non COVID environment. So working with vendors and doing event planning, so every day is a little different, and that’s what makes it really exciting. I pick my kids up 536 o’clock we come home, we have dinner, I usually do start working after they go to bed again. That’s just how that’s how I make up that time. I lose. It’s just a balance. I feel very fortunate that I can spend time in the morning with my kids. It’s not 6am I have to be on a conference call and I can make it up at eight o’clock nine o’clock at night. It’s It’s on me. So every day is a little different.
Jess Kartalija 33:54
So how do you unwind?
Angela Giovine 33:55
I work out. I like to do, I like to do some cardio but that’s more necessity I guess than like love. And that’s something that I think I do struggle with because I was a dancer and it’s it’s not something dancing is not a hobby that you typically bring into like your adult life. So after I left college I lost that. And never really filled that hole so to speak in terms of passionate side, like hobby. When you have a business when you have a startup like your business is your hobby, it is your child and up until them like I said, up until the moment I had children I would work well into the night every night there was no like unwinding. These days with children. I’ve been much more dedicated to cutting it off in the evening and making sure that I have a more well rounded day but I think that is something that I do struggle with. I should have more hobbies, but I find when I have some free time, I love what I do. And so I check in on work and what else can I build and what other thing can I do to make my my business successful.
Jess Kartalija 35:02
Well, that’s when you know you’re on the right track right? When you love what you do.
Angela Giovine 35:10
Angela Giovine 35:10
I first stumbled across clickfunnels, probably four or five years ago. And at first I thought, cool, cool software, but I don’t think I need this for my company. But the founder Russell Brunson, he is relentless when it comes to serving entrepreneurs. I eventually found his podcast and I found the clickfunnels online community, which was the gateway to all things Click Funnels; Funnel flix, funnel university, his books, marketing secrets, expert secrets, and now traffic secrets, and of course, funnel hacking live- his amazing thousand person plus live event. I realized that I could really use this funnel methodology for my local business with some of my existing products and services. And so a few years ago, I started to try it out. I experimented with a number of different funnels, and, to my surprise, money started flying in. A couple super important things about online sales. One, it’s powerful because it’s scalable, your revenue potential goes way up. And it’s really only limited by your audience size. And number two, it works for traditional brick and mortar businesses. I work with many, many traditional businesses and I’ve been counseling them for years that every traditional business can benefit from additional revenue streams online. And now more than ever, that has become not only obvious, but necessary. That’s where Click Funnels comes in. The team at Click Funnels has built this amazing drag and drop software for creating sales funnels. That’s literally easy enough for anyone. If you have a business. If you have bricks and mortar. If you have an online store. If you have a service based business. if you have a side hustle. If you are thinking about any of those things, then you should go try Click Funnels and right now I have a ridiculous offer for you. If you go to extraordinary small business dot com, backslash Click Funnels, and sign up for the one funnel away challenge, you’ll receive literally everything you need to start supercharging your business online. This introductory offer is valued at $3,126 but you get it for $100. That’s extra ordinary small business dot com backslash Click Funnels to receive 30 days of training, coaching, a customized toolkit, a workbook and actual interviews with people who have made over a million dollars each on sales funnels through Click Funnels. So head to extraordinary small business dot com backslash Click Funnels and sign up today. That’s extra ordinary small business dot com backslash Click Funnels.
Angela Giovine 38:06
As you know, with extraordinary small business, it is my mission to tell the gritty, truthful side of what it means to be a small business owner. And I want to hold myself accountable to that same standard. And with that, I’m going to introduce you to my friend, KC. Now, KC, not only has known me for the better part of my life and is one of my closest friends, but is actually an employee as well. So she has a really interesting perspective on the history of my company. And she’s just going to, you know, hold me a little accountable and push me a little bit further on my story.
Hi, I’m KC and I had the pleasure of working with Angela since 2014.
Angela Giovine 38:58
I know that because I was on maternity leave quote unquote, when it happened.
Yeah, that’s true. And I was bouncing her baby who is not a baby anymore, I would come over and visit and listen to her, talk about her small business. I’ve seen you do, and sacrifice, and give and build and build other people up and be taken down and get up and do it all over again.
Angela Giovine 39:23
So I guess like, we’re gonna just go point by point through the interview so that she can push me a little farther. So the startup so I mentioned that I came from corporate America, I left my corporate job to become a small business owner and K, you were right there when it happened,
And everybody thought she was nuts.
Angela Giovine 39:46
It’s true. It’s true, though. I am and was very lucky to have a very supportive husband who understood that I was passionate. But beyond that, I definitely had a lot of friends and family members who did not think that I should make the jump, certainly not in a recession. And now as I look back on it, I know that came from a place of love and, and really a place of fear.
Right, because the safe thing to do was to stay at your 6 figure job that was going to continue to grow and you were going to continue to be promoted and have security in a company that’s been around for for- one of the most recognizable names, brand names in the world. And you were going to leave that to go start your own brand and everyone was like
Angela Giovine 40:32
Right, like you did it. You got there what are you doing? And it was I talked a little bit about the loneliness I felt on those first couple of month but beyond just trying to find my way in the dark about how to start a business, you’re also sort of put in this position where you have to combat some negativity. And of the way I did that, I really had to out blinders on. I couldn’t let the people who were going to make me feel a certain way about my choice into my decision and the way I handled that was, just shutting it down and keeping my eye on the price and I mean look in the end, it’s not that it’s the end, but as time went on, those fears that came from my loved ones, did dissipate You know, 12 years into a business, we’ve proven ourselves but it took time, it took a lot of time for people to take you seriously and you think that your friends and your family, the people closest to you are going to be be the people who’d take you the most seriously and they’re going to be the people who are most supportive, Hey my my friend, my family member has started a business, check them out. But it’s actually not always the case.
Back when your big, your first big event, you know you, it was all hands on deck. You had your husband there, your sister there, your sister’s husband or sister’s fiancee at that time, me just whoever could pitch in, neighbors, we were like helping you behind the scene and your your parents showed up and your dad’s like What are all these people doing here?
Angela Giovine 42:08
Right, like because specially because my business was online, you know my parents, right. My parents are of an older generation so like I didn’t have a brick and mortar and a shingle to put out. So he could have-
And that was, how many years into it?
Angela Giovine 42:25
It was a couple of years, it was 3 or 4 years into the business where we had a pretty solid internet following at that point in viewership and yeah, until you start to like see those people in front of you, yeah that was like an AHA moment.
The first time you could measure it. Yeah.
Angela Giovine 42:40
Yeah, for sure. Honestly like, now with being quarantined and everybody being at home it really does like make everybody realize that it was always the same but it was it’s been a slow evolution that like something remote and something digital is as
Angela Giovine 42:56
real as any other business under the sun, for sure.
Right, and so that is really hard thing to do, to leave a job that was really secure and really promising and had a really long future with you in it to just strike out on your own and you have somebody like your dad who for intent and purposes it’s like the man behind the woman, he made you be as regimented and as you know, detail oriented in everything that you are, you got that from him, when growing up, been watching him and then he was like No don’t leave your job.
Angela Giovine 43:39
Again, when you’re going through it it’s a lot more emotional but having hindsight and and perepective now, you know My father is the son of an immigrant who came to this country with nothing more than a essentially a duffel bag, and the clothes on their back and you know, my father actually work for himself ironically but he the mentality in that environment is, get the education that’s going to give you the best, the safest career path with the most amount of money and this passion thing, like I remember, I specifically remember my dad being like Why does everybody keep talking about passion? Passion, why do we care about passion? But it’s just a different mindset, right? And and for a long time, for 8 years, my sister was my business partner, so thankfully I wasn’t going at it alone. It wasn’t like I was alone, I had- no, I had my husband who believed in me but my sister was my business partner so there was a lot of strength there that we could rely on each other. But we both struggled with that. My sister left the hedge fund job, to come start this company. So let’s talk about that moment that I decided to delve into digital media. It wasn’t like something that I studied in school, or
I mean nobody in the market that you’re going into knew what it was. Like you’re you’re dealing with small business owners, they didn’t know what it was. You knew what it was. I mean you could go out to you know, Silicon Valley, they knew what it was but you knew what this was and you knew what was on the horizon, and trying to communicate it to people who were like You are nuts.
Angela Giovine 45:02
Well, so to that point, so we we started Bucks Happening, without a business plan in mind. And so revenue wasn’t the first thing we thought of. We were talking about where we live from a life but fail perspective for the love of it. And then we backed into the revenue, and I remember very clearly having this conversation with Tina, about banner ads, and display and and like literally back then that it sounds so crazy because now, you open instagram and every influencer has a content deal. I taught so many seminars to small businesses all around the tri state region where we be for a local chamber of commerce or networking group, where we will just hold them and invite people and 20 people would show up. Just giving people examples of what’s sponsored content was. and how it’s gone back through the decades and it’s not new. And I remember using examples back to like old school radio and we we always used to love the example of like, I’m a big Friends person but the Friends Pottery Barn episode we would always talk about that. It wasn’t new but it was new in digital and it wasn’t something that small business had ever certainly heard of. And so for the 1st atleast 5 years of business like it was so much education but it was just, we were following our instinct like I said I didn’t study journalism in college, I didn’t ever work for a newspaper or a magazine, we just instictually felt this is effective. And I think that always give us an edge because we weren’t we weren’t chained to the way things were supposed to be or the way things had always been done.
And now, therapy works.
Angela Giovine 46:40
You were talking about it in 2008 when nobody was had an iphone so like-
Angela Giovine 46:44
Well, we had an advisor to our business. I had met him at a industry conference, and he had a very solid background. He had been the CEO of some major companies and worked in some major media companies and.. he was great. He gave us so much of his time, he was so generous with his time, and gave us a lot of insight. But I remember we would go to these conferences with him or without him, and o, you know everybody in media because the ground is always shifting underneath us, everyone’s just so quick to jump on trends and I remember having so many debates with him, he kept telling us this was back when Groupon came on the seen, and like, everybody there was 85 Groupons been out and every media companyhad a group by and I remember having so many debates with him, telling him we can’t do this, it doesn’t work with our brand, it’s it’s not the right revenue stream, and we gave him a million reasons why we didn’t think it worked, and it didn’t create long term customers for small businesses and he just wanted us to do it because that’s what everybody else was doing. And then I remember a few years into it and Groupon went kind that whole bubble burst. And I remember him telling us, You were right, you were right.
I mean on both sides of it you’re getting it from from this guy who’s your mentor but then you’re trying to explain to people, or your sales people are trying to explain to people after you’ve educated them that you know this is why it doesn’t work. Time after time what ended up happening was they didn’t get them back. They only got them
Angela Giovine 48:18
Right, people were just Groupon surfing.
Right, they were like whoever is going to be the cheapest.
Angela Giovine 48:22
Right. They were looking for the best deal
Right, that was it. They weren’t coming back again.
Angela Giovine 48:26
Right. So ma- I saw so many small businesses gave away so many free products and services because the carrot that was being dangled was, if you get them in the door they’ll become lifelong, they’ll fall inlove with you and then become lifelong clients. And that just wasn’t the case, maybe it was the case one in every ten or twenty people, but most people were just on Groupon looking for the best deal and then they we on. They’re moving on. So it was just an example of knowing when you see something on the horizon that works for you and when something doesn’t.
Right, and just cause it works for everyone else,
Angela Giovine 49:01
The appearance, that it works for everybody else.
Angela Giovine 49:04
Let’s talk a little bit more abot the licensing. So, as I mentioned in the interview, we decided to take a a licensing approach. I think we started that in 2011 and we ended it in 2017ish. We started that model because we saw it as a path to scaling. And if we were going to have that strategy of becoming a huge media company, it would have worked. And if we have gotten them investment in to support all those people, because like I said at one point we had a 15 licencees and literally it was Tina and I, not only supporting our local websites that we were still running in house, supporting our literally hundreds of advertisers locally, we’re also supporting 15 licensees accross the country, training them. We were literally putting together webinars every other week for them on how exactly how to do what we do. In the end, it was a lot for 2 people. Like I said, scaling was going to take money. Scaling at that speed required more money than we could bare by just financing it within the company. So that’s what led us to the 2014 moment where we said We have to try. We have to try to get some funding. That was like a real moment in time like like I said K was holding my couple week old baby, sitting in my house and I was complaining and we needed help.
Angela Giovine 50:52
Right, and you were my first salaried employee. Actually we were having trouble with one of our commission only reps. And I remember I was in the hospital right after I had my baby and my sister is sitting next to me in the hospital room talking business and my mom’s going Tina, leave her alone, she just had a baby. And I’m going No ma mama I want to hear this. I want to talk about it.
Angela Giovine 51:16
And we didn’t- we’re making we made the decision to let her go like as I am like attempting to learn how to breastfeed. So that’s real talk That’s that’s how it is when you’re a small business owner.
Because it’s your baby.
Angela Giovine 51:29
Yeah, because it it is my baby.
Angela Giovine 51:31
The company is ha- that’s why I waited to have babies because I needed this baby to grow up a little bit before I could handle more babies.
It’s a lot though.
Angela Giovine 51:40
It’s a lot. And that’s why that is truly what gives me the passion around this project because to work with people, advertisers, customers who have the choice to do something that isn’t so difficult mentally that they choose to do this. That that means that I believe what they believe in terms of passion and I am fueled by that. So, back to the licensees, you know some of them were so successful in their own right. At one point some of our sites were really really well viewed, where we really struggled was helping them to have the marketing expertise that we had to help the customers. And again I do believe if we had received the funding that we needed, the cash infusion that we needed, it would have a different story.
Without the funding, then it was your time. It was you and Tina, holding hands with these people and helping them.
Angela Giovine 52:38
Some of them were really really strong with content but it was like a bunch of employees that you had. If you had the funding you could have had them trained properly but you had to put so much time.
Angela Giovine 52:46
It was the training.
It was like 10 o’clock at night and you’re like they’re texting you like having breakdowns about-
Angela Giovine 52:51
And it’s it wasn’t just the training exactly. It was it was the coaching aspect of it. I wasn’t prepared to be life coaches to all of these people and lead my business.
And like be inspirational to them like You can do it. You were like a therapist almost, like you’re
Angela Giovine 53:09
Right. I think our business being in the community and running a magazine sound super sexy, right? People think Oh that’s fun. Like I’ll get to go to all the restaurant openings, and everyone in the community will know me, it’ll be so fun, but the joke I always make is it is so much work for something to look so effort less. And once the rubber met the road, like you said like so many of them are great at contacting community outreach, but when it came to asking for money for their services that was a struggle for many of them. That year 2014, like I said I had an infinite home, I was adjusting to life as a mother, what what that means in all of it’s forms from mom guilt to lack of sleep, but yeah it was an adjustment year and here we were seaking venture funding and you can read the headlines, it’s not the best place for women trying to pitch to venture capitalists and I feel lot of times we were being prejudged before we ever were able to get on the phone with anybody. But more so, media had become like a little bit radio active in terms of funding which was completely out of our control. Newspapers were dying but also this thing called patch that
Angela Giovine 54:25
this web was a website that AOL had purchased and had some very- I don’t I don’t think they failed but the a lot of publick opinion was that they were failing. It was a really rough go for them at AOL, they were trying to essentially run a start up in a publicly traded company and because people were drawing comparisons between what we did and what patch did, it became really difficult to get people to want to invest in in media. The other thing, the 3rd thing that I think was just really difficult during that year was, venture capitalists and the angel investors want to see hockey stick growth. They don’t care about your steady safe growth over a long period of time. On one hand, they’re telling you Oh we raised these checks and we expect 9 out of 10 to flat out fail and lose our money. But on the other side they’re telling you We expect the documents the sales charts that you show us to be such exponential growth that we’re going to 10X 20X 30X our investment. And that just I don’t know if we were just too honest or
Angela Giovine 55:36
You know what that was but we we weren’t inventing the cure for cancer or designing the newest social media platform and so our growth looked different. And all in all that whole experience in trying to find venture funding like really left a bad taste in my mouth Okay so, next topic. I think a really pivotal moment was the moment where I went from having a business partner to being the sole owner of this company. So that happened not too long after the whole year or year and a half of of of pitching and continuing to grow and then making the decision to change the scale of our business from wide to deep and part of that was you know, Tina I think had that vision for the business all along and when that that was no longer the goal we were going after, it wasn’t what she wanted for her future and I respected that. And also, you know her husband had job that took her out of the region and it just made sense at that point in time for her to go pursue her her job what she has now in corporate America. But
But that had to be and that was
Angela Giovine 56:55
It was a real
totally scary that like you partner is is gone. Like your partner’s leaving.
Angela Giovine 57:00
Well there was a moment there where she said I’m going to go. Are we going to shut this company down completely? Are we going to try to sell it? Or or what? Or you staying? And I took some time to think about it. And I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I’d actually been pursued by a couple of other companies a little bit actually during that time. And yeah, it was like 2014 2015, it was 2014 and 2017 which I had my first son in 2014 my second son in 2017 and Tina left the company at the end of 2017. So it was like a more prolonged period of time. Things can dance in your head when you look back in them. But it was a it was pretty long period of time there. And I just, my gut was, I don’t want to do anything else. And I remembered, I just kept thinking about the reason I left my job to begin with and that was to love what I do every day and I I just felt that I had more to give and but that was really, I think it took me 2 years to grow into that. I really feel like it was the end of 2019 where I felt really like I had my footing back in the vision that I saw for my future and what I really really wanted. And you really can’t achieve a goal until you know what the goal is.
So I was I was struggling there for a little bit. Not, I was never struggling with the success of the business, I was never struggling with my clients, I was never struggling with our readership. None of that. I was struggling with the long term vision. It’s like when you’re in a marriage and then there’s a divorce and you you saw your future in one way and then the carpet gets pulled out from under you and you have to figure out what’s that vision looks like for you, for your future. And it it took a long time and it really wasn’t until really recently that I saw it very clearly for myself. 2018 was legit like keep my head above water. Like Tina pulled so much weight as a business partner. It was like.
Right, it was like when she was gone, you didn’t even- there’s so much the 2 of you did that you don’t like you didn’t know what she was doing until she was gone. And then you were like what?
Angela Giovine 59:15
I knew intellectually
Angela Giovine 59:17
I didn’t know physically. And to your credit like being the good friend that you are I was like So, going to need you to do this that and the other and you were like doing it, on it. And you know filled in those gaps during that time while I was figuring it out. But it is like, it was hazy for me for a while like.
Yea, and 3 that’s 3 years of you floating without a clear vision, like what what went on? How did you get through it?
Angela Giovine 59:42
I don’t know that I could have done it any faster. I I knew and I had so many conversations with my husband like I know I need to figure out exactly what I want. And like you said, I’m an ideas person, I have like 55 ideas in that timeframe but I just kept
Well, you knew what you, also know what you didn’t want.
Angela Giovine 1:00:00
That shift had occured before about a year or 2 before Tina left, and it was very freeing, but then, to then also be the sole visionary of the company and think like I’m like you said this is opportunity cost. I could do something else. I want to design this and I want to be intentional about where were going because I don’t want to wake up 5 years from now and be like How did I get here? I what road did I take? When did we end up down this path? So I knew that I I needed to be intentional with that. And it’s you got to do the work. Like it was a lot of self discovery and listening to podcast and reading books and going to conferences and and exploring and
And figuring out what you didn’t like and didn’t wanted to do.
Angela Giovine 1:00:52
There was this point where I did this analysis on our clientelle and anyone who I mean I learned it from Tim Ferriss on 4 hour work week, that famous book but the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule and it was crazy I dumped all of our revenues and do a massive spreadsheet and it turned out, over 80% of our revenue came from less than 20% of our clients. And it was, that was an eye opening moment for us. that was the moment where we were like Oh let’s stop spinning our wheels on the little stuff and because we’re too small of a company to if we had more people maybe we could focus on all those areas but as of today our five people in house. So that means you know you have to be really conscientious about where you spend your time and your resources.
Maybe part of what happened in that 3 years was you streamlining while that visioning was developing for you but you’re you’re it was becoming really clear to you what you didn’t want to do with you business
Angela Giovine 1:01:50
Right. And who I wanted to work with and and
Angela Giovine 1:01:50
That mattered. Once I knew that we were shifting the focus of the business. It mattered to me who I partnered with who, It always mattered. It mattered more who I collaborated with. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone who I thought was like evil, or thought you know or malicious but just people who treat you right. People who treat you like real partners, who treat you with real respect. That became a factor in my decision making and man, I can’t tell you the amount of satisfaction I’ve gained from that. And when I walk out of a meeting with a client who truly values me as a partner or values my company, it’s payment in and of of itself.
You knew your value and to have to like explain yourself to somebody all the time like that’s not what you’re bringing to the table. You you wanted someone to understand your value and not for you to always be on the defensive.
Angela Giovine 1:02:50
Yes. There were some clients where I just felt like I always have my dukes up like to defend myself and it’s life giving when you work with people who it’s it feel good. It’s all about hustle. Like I’m a big Gary Vee fan. For for those of you that don’t know he this is his jam, he’s always talking about how hard it is. And and that’s really the whole point of this podcas series in general. I try to really underscore how much work goes into success. I don’t care if you’re the quote unquote overnight sensation in Hollywood or the biggest new start up like it’s never as easy as it you make it sound.
I just saw and continue to see alot of sacrifice that you make, alot of hardwork. It’s a lot of har- and you you’re relentless. You never give up any free second you have. That you’re working on this other baby of yours. And and I think that that is part of what makes it work.
Angela Giovine 1:03:48
Well, and I think one thing as I reflect on it just now, like there have been times over these, this past decade plus where I have felt burned out, and like I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to do this anymore. But since I’ve become more intentional and the vision has become more clear, I don’t get that sense of burn out as often, or and I just think that goes to just like you choose how your day goes. You choose who you work with. You choose who’s going to make you feel and it really has helped me in so many ways.
Right, right. Because one person can ruin your day.
Angela Giovine 1:04:34
Yeah, it not like you work in an office where you know, you can just shake it off, move on to the next meeting and
And so that’s why I think an important part of your process was when you’re saying you know, getting out of the weeds, getting rid of some of the weeds, like the like who was going to make your day easier.
Angela Giovine 1:04:51
Simplifying my life.
Angela Giovine 1:04:52
For sure simplifying my business.
Because it’s hard enough as it is.
Angela Giovine 1:04:55
Mmm Hmm.. Yeah. Well, thank you,
Angela Giovine 1:04:58
thank you for holding me accountable.
Angela Giovine 1:05:01
And one more time, thank you and shout out to Click Funnels. Make sure you go get yourself that offer, it is amazing. Head to extraordinary small business dot com, backslash Click Funnels.
Angela Giovine 1:05:17
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!