James' Best Advice for New Creators After 10 Years of Fohr - Ep. 50
March 8, 2023
Updated Feb 09, 2024
Welcome to Negronis with Nord. In this episode of Negronis with Nord, we are celebrating our 50th episode! James shares some knowledge today by giving his best advice to new creators. He also reflects on his time as an entrepreneur and shares three helpful tips for those who are getting started or on their own business journey.
James: The lights Op, open the thing, here's the steeple, da da da. You know, I don't, this one I knew. Anyway, welcome to Negronis with Nord episode 50. Elementary school hand puppet edition.
Speaking of being a child, did I talk about my yo-yo? No. Well, I got one recently. My brother sent this to me. I used to love to. When was the last time you threw a yo-yo around? It's probably been a minute. Anyway, I've been walking around my office when I'm doing phone calls and throwing a yo-yo around. So, you know, maybe that's not your thing. You could get another like cat's cradle, right? Friendship bracelets. You could collect stickers if it's gonna bring you as much enjoyment as for me, like walking the dog with my yo-yo has brought me. Then lemme tell you, you're in for a treat in regressing to childhood.
Kelsey: Do we get a trick shot at the end?
First public service announcement. I spent a gratuitous amount of month. I felt I needed to get outta the city. I needed to get in the sun. Booking a trip from New York to anywhere warm within 24 hours turns out is financially irresponsible, but it was much needed. And it's a good reminder for, for everyone that you know, especially if you are running a business that you know, you have to take care of yourself. It's like a marathon, not a sprint. It was hugely regenerative to spend a few days doing football. Down in Florida. I am a Palm Beach person, not Miami. I actually don't really like Miami that much, you know, makes me feel young cuz everyone's like 85 and like, you know, has like some sort of health issue or something. And so at 38, 38, yeah, I feel incredibly young and, and, and full of life.
It was just lovely to completely unplug and hang out with my fiance and sit in the sun and float in the pool, drink Campari sodas and just be happy and important to remember to do that. But anyway, this is not an episode about Palm Beach necessarily.
Thank you for joining us for 50 episodes
James: We are at the 50th episode. Yay! Yeah. Exciting. We did it. Yay. Well, we didn't do it. It's not like we're at a finish line of any sort, but I started this saying that I hoped I would find some consistency. We had drink with James, which went for 200 and something episodes. We tried to do one called Foreground. I was like a little depressed and not into it. And so that lasted like two episodes and then we pulled the plug on that didn't do anything for maybe another year and then fired this up. So, you know, maybe we're two hundred and fifty, two hundred sixty episodes in total.
That is a lot of content. What is the average length of this, 20 minutes? As always, thank you for continuing to tune in. You know, for me this is yes, about hopefully educating y'all. Hopefully y'all are learning something and enjoying this. It also keeps me close to the space and to the industry and to the work. You know, as I've said many times with a hundred people now, my job is not really influencer marketing. It is like running this company. It's people, it's setting vision, it's, it's it's capital allocation and finance and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is a way for me to stay connected to something I love and every week force myself to, you know, try and impart some knowledge and, and context. There's been a theme recently where I've been like talking about some of the naivete on TikTok and part of that's just me getting older and, and being like a grumpy old man I think.
But part of it, and hopefully I'll feel this, is that there is a unique context to running a business as large as this is in this space. You know, that like the advice you hear on TikTok from creators or people who say that they're experts in this space. You know, I've paid influencers a hundred and something over a hundred million dollars was the first influencer marketing platform in the world. I used to be one of the most followed people in the world. Well, I'm not gonna say that's not to brag. I mean, I do kind of want to brag, but again, I hope that I, and I think there is like a unique context there that a lot of people don't have. You know, they don't see, they're not running companies this large. They haven't been in this space for as long as we have.
I have been putting onto the internet since 2007. And I've spent, you know, a good part of my adult life living on the internet, which is absolutely rotted my brain, shocking, like how online I am and you know, how much of like what we talk about and what feels really important. The vast majority of people in the world have no ******* idea what we're talking about. But these are like big, you know, a, a big deal to us who are very online.
Another milestone, which was the 10 year anniversary of Fohr. We had a lovely party, the team was very nice to me. Got to celebrate. I got to give a toast. It is natural to kind of look back after these milestones and think about what you've learned and, and I think part of the reason you would watch a show like this or watch me speak, is that hopefully I can help you see around some curves, you know, see some blind spots, avoid some mistakes that I had made to feel like it's gonna get better.
I just had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with an entrepreneur who you know, is like a few years ahead of me as far as like where his business is. And it's really inspiring to talk to people that are on the same road as you, but further ahead and to think like, 'okay, the things I'm dealing with, like I'm gonna get through those things or I or I at least have the ability to get through them and I'm on the right path and this is going to impact my life.'
Things James learned after 10 years of being an entrepreneur
James: We are pulling together what we could talk about today. You know, the team was asking is there, are there, are there things we can share? Things I've learned over the last 10 years that are applicable to you all as influencers to you all's running small businesses.
And you know, I think a lot of my life now is not, if you want to talk about management issues or people issues or optimize your revenue recognition for tax liability, feel free to ask those questions as well. I'm very happy to talk about all of that.
Risk vs. Reward
As I look back, I think there are a few big lessons and, and hopefully things that will give you comfort or inspiration. The first is something we've talked about before, which is risk. There is a direct correlation in your life. The size of the rewards that you might reap to the size of the risks that you take. It is almost impossible to achieve big things without taking big risks. Sometimes we don't give ourselves the credit when we've already taken those risks, right? That could be leaving your town and moving to New York. You know, that could be saying you want to be an influencer.
That's a scary thing to say and it's embarrassing if it doesn't work out. Maybe right? And maybe your friends will make fun of you. And like when you take that shift from like, I use my Instagram to stay in touch with my friends and family to like, all of a sudden you're talking about products and you're doing, you're creating content for people, but you only have 500 followers, right? And it is a risk, right?
It's important to give yourself that credit. Pat yourself on the back a little bit because I think risk is the first part of the recipe here.
You know, I always wanted to run a business. I had started a number of businesses before fourth, they weren't really businesses, they were more like projects or ideas. I had a, a photography, I had a record label, I had a tie company, I had a cycling apparel company with my little brother. I did web development. Anything else that failed miserably. I think those were about it. All of those were side projects. There were things that, you know, I saved my, what little money I was making to put into these other things. I was doing, you know, five grand to print a photography magazine, 10 grand to make a record for Nick Waterhouse. But then with Fohr, you know, the opportunity felt bigger and we went out and raised some money and I quit my job and that was like really scary. I was 27, 28 years old, you know, I felt like I was like getting off this like conveyor belt, right? I was like, I, I had a career. I was making money, I had insurance jumping off that to, to do my own thing that I had no idea how to do it. You know, that isn't the hardest part.
The ability to spot and sieze opportunity
That's doing disservice to how hard it is to be successful. Didn't like my life that much. I wasn't happy in my job. Well, if this crashes and burns, like I probably will end up in a better place than I am right now. I'm also privileged to know that I was never not gonna pay my rent. Not everybody has that.
For me it didn't feel like a big risk, but it was right before you take the risk, you also have to be able to spot an opportunity, right? I had a Tumblr following. I saw what my friends were doing on Tumblr. They were talking about brands. I felt like this could be a new type of advertising. I actually pulled an old email out from like 12 years ago. I emailed someone saying like, I think we may, we, my co-founder, Rich and I, we may have stumbled upon a new kind of advertising.
And I'm like, I think we're gonna start a company to try and do more of this. And I think brands are gonna want to work with people like myself and my friends who were putting stuff on the internet. And I was deeply entrenched in this, this niche community, which was people that published it to the internet, which was a much, much smaller community than it is today. And I felt and believed like that was going to get bigger.
And then so I think like being curious and being able to spot opportunities is a big part of that. It's something that makes the risk feel less risky. Another thing about all the side projects and the stupid little companies I did is that it helped me understand what I was good at, what I was bad at, but also started to give me confidence that like I was correct at spotting opportunities.
If you've ever had the, like that feeling where like you have an idea and then a couple years later a company comes out that does that thing and then you're like, oh, like yes, I was right. You know, and, and that happens a couple times and you start to think, well maybe I'm actually good at spotting opportunities and coming up with solutions for those opportunities. And so, you know, I'd had a few scenarios like that or businesses I wanted to start and, and couldn't, or businesses I did start that I was not good at running, but that, like the thing I was doing ended up being successful. I mean, the record label I had that kid, Nick Waterhouse, you know, he ended up going on to be pretty successful. He got signed to a major label. It made me feel like, okay, I heard this kid's song on the internet.
I reached out to him, asked him if I could help him put out more music. We did. I didn't have enough money and I was incompetent. I was like 24 years old, you know, when he was like on like Leno or something years later. And he had gotten, you know, quite successful. I felt like, okay, I was right about that. And that makes me feel more confident about taking the next risk because like I do have that ability to see opportunities.
As an influencer, it's saying, 'oh, this type of content doesn't exist. I wish it did, something new or different.' And again, the ability to spot that and feel confident enough to take the risk to go after it is really important. I'll keep this list fairly short.
Have a capacity for suffering
The last part is probably the most important, which is your capacity for suffering has to be huge.
I think no matter what your business is, if you're an influencer, you're, you're starting a clothing brand, you're whatever you're doing, it is going to take longer than you think to be successful. And it is going to be significantly harder than you think it's going to be. Even in the case where you look at other people's success. And it seems so easy. I think that's something we're seeing more of on TikTok, right? Where two, three months of creating content, you're at hundreds of thousands of followers, right? And it feels really easy getting to 300,000 followers in six months, not the goal, right? It's like building a actual sustainable business. Something that allows you to, you know, be challenged and continue to grow and live a fulfill, fulfilling, interesting life while making a living that like supports you and allows you to do the things that you want to do, right?
That's the goal. A hundred thousand followers, 300,000 followers, 50,000 followers doesn't necessarily help you reach that goal. So what you want to build is sustainable success that you can bank on for years, hopefully decades. It is going to be incredibly difficult. You can start part-time, you know, I mean, I worked on four for nine months, nights and weekends before I quit my job. Like absolutely you can have that side hustle, but at some point when you have spotted the opportunity, you have decided to take the risk. It is absolutely going to take more work than you anticipate. You know, my fiance is very supportive and understanding of the emotional and intellectual and physical toll the business takes on me. I mean, I get home at night and sometimes I'm just like incapable of speaking, right? And so like you have a partner who is understanding of that.
You then figure out ways to like, make that up to them and make sure you're being a good partner. I've talked about in the show before how I think for your mental health, it's important to make sure that you don't see other people's wins is your losses. It's competitive. It means that you're competing against people who are willing to sacrifice their mental health, their personal relationships, their time, their work life balance, all of those things to get what they want. You're competing with them. And if you're not willing to do that, I think it makes it really difficult to compete. Compete. And so a vast capacity for suffering is important, but the flip side of it that is so exciting, right? That you cannot grow without pain. Puberty is, is painful for many reasons. The big one is that you're growing and that like, that hurts and it's painful in your work life.
Creating growth means putting yourself into uncomfortable, difficult situations where failure is probably more likely than success. Getting comfortable with that is a ******* superpower. Ultimately, we don't get to do this over looking to run your own business. If you are looking to do something for yourself, the sooner you make that decision and, and it, it no longer becomes a decision and you just do it. I think the, the sooner you can get to a place where it's happening. I feel so blessed to wake up every day and love what I do to be able to look at, you know, the last 10 years and the next 10 years and see a lot of opportunity and growth. And I hope for any of you that want that that you are able to achieve it. And I hope if you don't get there, at least you try next week, we can go back to talking about influencer marketing and I can answer your questions. But thanks for sticking around for the first 50 and we're excited to see where the next 50 episodes take us.