The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Ep 7: Bootstrapping to 8-figures feat Helen Rankin

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Ep 7: Bootstrapping to 8-figures feat Helen Rankin

Toi Otoee ee to Tetello everyone andwelcome to the revenue collective podcast. I am your launch host JustinWelsh member of the Los Angeles Chapter of revenue, collective and inside ofthese episodes, we're going to feature ideas and conversations that areinspired by ongoing discussions within the revenue collective community acrossthe globe. In inside of the R C slack channel, there has been a lot of talkrecently around venture capital and one of our members shared an incrediblyunique story about bootstrapping her business to eight figures. In just twoyears. We are going to cover that and the unique background of our guest SMOand partner at Swagup, Hellen rankton and before we dive in with Helen, a fewnotes today, if you're out there listening and you want to join revenue,collective visit revenue, collective dcom and Click applie. Now. The secondnote is that our sponsor for June is out reach the number one salesengagement platform, outreach, revolutionizes customer engagement bymoving away from silent conversations to a streamlined in customer centricjourney leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence. Theplatform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant and responsiblecommunication for each prospect, every time enabling personalization thatscale. That was previously unthinkable all right. Everyone, let's kick offtoday's episode with our Guest Hellen Rankon. Our guests today is Helen. RANCON HELENIS THE CMO in partner at swagup. The Swag Management Platform prior to swagup Helen worked with top brands generating leads for companies likeTime Warner, comcast, Humana, Hih, Oscar Home Depot in more nine monthsafter building swag up, she and her partner grew the team from threeemployees to fifty eight in counting and have been able to increase revenueto eight figures in less than two years.

Helen has a story that proves successcan come in the most unconventional ways. Helen, so excited tey have Yan.How are you thanks for having me now? I'm excited to be on your BUDCASSawesome. You know I was reading through the the bio that you you sent over thismorning. Helen, and you have this really amazing story- tell the audiencea little bit about your journey to becoming the CMO in partner at SwagupYeahso. As you mentioned, I really have your unconventional like background. Ididn't Finish College. I didn't come from like rich parents, I very muchself made, so I started my career in marketing. Basically just teachingmyself page searchods when I was seventeen and I would offer thoseservices to local businesses- and I I knew I I loved marketing, but Icouldn't afford college so I just donet right into digital marketing and thenstarted to work at o Mary US different start ups, since I knew you know, Iwouldn't get accepted to these big corporate brands. They wouldn't hire mesince I didn't have college background, so that's kind of where I started. Istarted working at different startups and working on their brands and it justkind of escalated from there awesome. You know that is an unconventionalbackground right. You one that most emo's Likewe don't have you don't lookat a lot of the CMOS across companies in N C folks, you know candidly thatdon't have a college degree Ar companies missing on opportunities tohire people with nontraditional backgrounds and if so, how do theystart? Finding more people like you like, like a Hellen yeah, I mean Ithink they are missing out, especially with marketing. I don't think it'ssomething that necessarily requires. Like a college degree, you know you're,not yuring cancer or anything crazy and the best marketers I feel like are justpeople that understand, branding and understand positioning and if you justlook at the world just today, your top...

...rands and topmarketers didn't finish:College Yav, Kimcardashian, Ellen degenerez. You Have Anna Wintor, whomanages Vogue magazine. These are people that never finished college, soI think it's just the matter of when you're hiring just not be so strict onhaving that requirement, and we do that ourselves. Here I mean everyone. Wehire. Kinda comes from a very non traditional background and we feel thatpeople like that tend to have a lot more grit and are willing to kind ofput a lot more skin in the game because they were never really givenopportunities to begin with. Yeah, I've seen that you know there there's a guy,a good friend of mine and a guy who I I do some business with named kileJohnson Hes, the VP marketing over at next health and used to work with me atmy former business patient pop. He was, you know, didn't didn't, go to schoolengineer by trade and then turned that engineering into like what you wouldconsider tinkering and tinkering became marketing. So it's really neat to seefolks with untraditional backgrounds, just smashing successs, so so congrets,you know I. I think this conversation really started when I was in therevenue, collective slack room and I was going through some of the resourcesthat people were sharing and you released the swag up guide to boot,strapping to eight figures in under three years and that that caught myattention, I thought that was really cool. I was a great read and in it yousay I'm a firm believer that most startups do not need to, nor shouldthey bring on outside capital in the early stages. Can you talk to me aboutthat in the context of a company like swagup N, I'm a huge, huge proponent of thatI've? You know, especially after working with different start ups. In mypast, I've seen companies that have been selffunded and the culture and thetake that that that has on a company verses, one that are you know, venturebacks the Koyabag, all of that fancy...

...stuff and it completely changes thecompany and as an entrepreneur. I think when you're just starting and youhaven't really developed your client personas, you haven't really developedyour product, fully understanding what it is and even haven'tg really definedwhat you want a culture like a company culture to be like to compliment that.You really lose out on that, and I see so many people that they're like. Ihave a this great idea. I want to go, raise money and like you're, literallygoing in there with nothing put a piece of paper and an yeah, and you knowyou're, going to end up sacrificing equity, sacrificing defining yourculture definng. What your product is, because you're now having to consultwith someone else and your incentives are not alligned when you're firststarting, like you're, excited to develop HA product you're a lot moreadopt to like change it too, very quickly, whereas an investor, if youhave them involved now you're kind of having to pivot, towards whatever ideasthey have, because they're n incentivise to get everyone that youknow is invested in it get paid, whereas as an entrepreneur as a partner,Hurin sentivized by just creating something, and when you end up havingyou know, venture capitalists too early, I feel like you, Kindof lose out onthat yeah know. I I can appreciate that I've. You know I've worked for both thereally big VC backed startups. I've worked for smaller start ups that werewere bootstrapped. I I've built my own business, so I know the the pros andthe cons, and I think you know it's it's challenging when you got when youget a lot of really, of course, folks that that fun businesses are highlyintelligent. A lot of times, they've been there and done that. But there area lot of powerful personalities in one room and it becomes challenging to takeyour baby, our brand, your business and and put it down the right path. Youknow, if there's a lot of different strong opinions, so one thing thatreally caught my eye in the article an...

I can very much appreciate this. Havingbeen a subten employee at about three different businesses, you talk aboutfinding people who truly believe in the mission. Not Those who are you knowlaser focused on things like KOMP and benefits, and I've often referred to ssome of those early hires in my life as like the Purple Squirrel, becausethey're so difficult to find for those companies out there bootsdrapping inlooking for those mission driven early hires. What's some advice that you havethat's worked really well, for you I mean we hire base off of personality.To be honest with you, I really don't even look at resumes a lot of times Ilike to kind of go off of my instinct of what is this person like? How arethey talking to me? You know what are they passionate about? I also like tosee like if they have any outside, you know influences. Are they starting abook club? Are they starting a podcast? Do they are they self starters in somecamality and we turn to hire people that have have other interests outsideof our business that are really strong, such as starting Apot, gass or bookclub or their athletes, and you know we're captains of teams, because Ithink that just shows that they're willing to start something from scratchand aren't afraid of that yeah. That makes sense. Do you thinkthat do you think that you can bring hires early on into your business,especially of bootstrapped business like swag up? If they, you know, aren'tnecessarily, I I don't want to say misaligned with with division orOrmission, but don't really care about the mission and they're and they'relooking for just a place to work, or is that, like a nonstarker for you in theearly stage, O have to be mission driven that' since a non starter? I I wnt it it's just a waste of timeand and we've we've tried that we've hired people that were necessarily likevery focused on Swaga, and it just...

...doesn't work long run like in the longrun you end up and as as a start up every person you bring in you're,probably training them and I'm also running the business and I'm also doingtwenty other things. So, if I'm going to hire someone, I I want to make surethat they're going to stay a little bit longer than a year or six months,because it's going to take me so much time to find the next person so you're,better off, waiting and and hiring the right person versus just you know,getting inpatient and hiring whoever's available. Yep. I tend to agree with you right. II think that you know I've definitely hired people in my past, where theydidn't necessarily live sleep and breathe the mission, but they at leastappreciated the mission and I think cause you get a little bit deeper inthe company. I don't want to say it becomes less important, but obviouslythose those first five. Ten employees, I gotta Kinda, just live and breathethat that mission so really interesting, that you're you're, seeing the samething as you look back, you know at this incredible ride your boots,trapping to eat figures, I'm going to assume that there have been some likehoops moments writ some some mistakes where you wish, you could go back intime and change. What are those for you swagup as you've been bootstrappingthis business. I would say that one of the things thatwe probably should have done earlier on is just being a lot more transparentwith our team and that's something that we now adopt currently is we share ourrevenue numbers? We share our cost. We share a lot of information and I thinkthat's been super helpful because everyone just knows what their missionis. Everyone knows what they have to do every day when they come in, they knowtheir goals. They know we're all working along each other. They can seethat other teams are struggling where certain things can sympathize them withthem a little bit better and Tnot, something that I wish we would havedone. I wish someone would have told me, like hey, be more transparent and tellyour team, like especially when you're...

...early, like you, don't really know whatyour culture is like. I think company culture is huge, is a big part of ofgrowth, and you know: We've been really lucky that we've been doing that fornow the past year that now things like what's happening in the world todaywith the pendemic Arsho, totally fine, like they're, just like cool colas, acucumber like they're like not phased by any of it, because they already knowwhere we were financially. They know what our plans were. They know howscrappy and how like thin or you know thin. We can go oi they to. I thinkthat being transparent. I think that's something we should have done a lotearlier into the culture got it so so that's you know, that's amistake right. So that's something that you turned around you've fixed it. Youknow I've I've been at companies who are both non transparent and hypertransparent. I can say that the latter is is absolutely better and so greatgreat to see that that was a change that you made. You know on the flipsideof a mistake like, as you look back on this journey and you think wow. Therearen't a lot of companies that BOOTSTRAPP to aid figures. What'ssomething that swag up did that you're like wow? That was a huge point innailing this journey. What was what was something? That's stuck out to you asbeing a huge wind for you guys. I mean, I think we just like. I think we justsurrounded ourselves with really great people, everyone we brought on board, Imean Michael founded the company, and then he brought me on to do themarketing and and figure out the technology, and when we brought on ourCitio da Khu, I've worked in with various different start. UPS In my past,I think that really changed the company. I think you know it's it's really aboutfinding where your weaknesses are and bringing in the right people the rightplayers in place as as quickly as possible. A we've we've been reallylucky in in being able to to identify that. I think that's definitely. One ofmy one of my strong suits is just likerecruiting the right people when we...

...need them like just having the rightpuls on that you can afford to get a lot of thingswrong if you get great people so that that's sort of always been my Montrasas long as I can find strong employees like, I can screw up a bunch of stuffand as long as I have really smart people in my business, then I'm withyou it'd be interesting to learn. How are you guys changing to brace for thecobed nineteen impact? Has that had a major impact on on your business?Absolutely I mean every, I think everyone has you know whatever playbookyou had thirty days ago, two months ago, like that, just completely went out thewindow. It's allowed us to kind of think differently about our product andhonestly, like I think, as a marketer like this is the most exciting time forme, because it now pushes me to think outside of the box. Think a lot morecreatively, so we've really changed the way we position our product to kind offigure out like what are some solves, that our product does for our clients,we're also seeing that were now attracting different type of clientsthat we weren't before so we're we're. Shifting with you know what is going onaround us, I mean now everyone's more into this virtual world, it's kind oftrends that were already happening. I think this situation kind ofascelerated that Ou know people were already doing virtual, even since I've,but now we're kindo like forced to so we've kind of positioned ourselves. Soline with that, and you know, create, have swag kind of be part of thatvirtual experience and not just have it. Have people just stare at theircomputer like it would be so much nicer if everyone's sharing the same coffeethe same you know I tems, you know, there's ways to kind of humanize thatusing swag and we've been building the technology that couldn't integrate withthose type of platforms. To do that, it's great. Do you think that thatswagup is is able to be Nimble? You know situations like this because ofthe fact that your bootsdrap do you think, there's like a nnimble miss, Iguess, for lack of a better term. That...

...comes with that. Yes, absolutely I meanwhen you're in a STARTUB, you Y, you just change things all the time and ourteams used to that I mean. Sometimes we just like all right we're going to testthis today and you can you know we don't have to go through all thesethings like it, and if anyone from our team has an idea like oh can we testlike this type of Campain d? It's like all right, write it up. Let's put thisemail through this. You know email list and let's send it out as see what itperforms like. So we're we're just able to move so much faster whereas like ifyou have a company that has all these you know, departments and and things itjust it's just a lot slower. You have to go through so many people, it's great y. You heard it here ifyou're in New York, New Jersey, swag up is, is a place to go. If you're nimbleand you have good culture and you by ind the missions, so you're heardingfrom Hol Helen- we're we're kind of nearing the end of our time heretogether today, which means there's time for this one more segment that welove to do, and it's called quickfire five and it's just simply fivequestions where we get these top of mind: real answers from executiverevenue leaders like yourself, you're ready. Yes, let's do it awesome. Whatis a book that Changed Your Life? I love the giving tree and I knowbaslic whenever people ask meTheys like the giving tree. Unlike honestly, yes like there are so manylife lessons from that, not just personally but like even in business. Ithink that it teaches you to be selfless in that book, and that issomething as a leader you have to one thousand percent be selfless and as amarketer, it just teaches you to constantly listen to your customer andfigure out solutions for them and you know adopt your product to what peopleactually need. So I think that books- just like it's so simple, but ithonestly has a lot of trait that you can apply to business love it marketers and leaders runningout grabbing the giving tree love it. I...

...think I like to think that that all ofus are world class and something regardless of how small or Nice, thatthing is. What is something t at that Helen is world classom Eah I mean Iside from marketing. I guess I would say that I'm I've developed a a reallygreat talent of recruiting, and I think that is super supervaluable isunderstanding the type of people you need and the talent you need to bringon to scale a company. Everyone has a controversial perspective on businesstoday. What's yours, you don't need a v C to start your idea id we s say: they're like I need to go,run out and raise money. I'm like why go test your products come back. That's great! That's great! What itwhahas been the most besides this amazing time that you've had with metoday what has been the most valuable part or experience of the revenuecollective community for you so far, I I absolutely I just love the entirecommunity, but I really love that I've now become the monorator for the thewomen of R C and have been creating some happy hours for the ladies of URCto be able to just openly communicate. I think that's something that for womenwe just don't really prioritize networking with each other, so I'mreally excited to kind of take that initiative and and create theseexperiences. We just had one last week and it was great it so anything that'sgreat if you're, if you're a woman in th in the revenue collective reach outto Hellen, if you're not a part of that yet and getting born. Lastly, what isyour guiding principle in life? What is what is your life's motto? I would say: People Love People thatlove themselves and I'm a big big proponent of of that. What you put outin the world is what you're going to get, and you know if you can't love whoyou are people aren't going to really...

...believe your story. Love it love it Helen. It is. It hasbeen a wonderful time having you on the show, tell everyone how they can get incontact with you. I mean they can find me on on SLA,Helen Ranken and Y C, where they can email me at Helenet, swag up docomGreat Helen. It has been wonderful. Have you on the show, really appreciateyour time and best of luck with Swagup, as you continue to boottrap, tohopefully nine figures, we're on our way, ont think so much tor.

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