ET45- Making Passive Income from Your Expertise
How to Take What You Know, Educate Online and Profit
Sometimes the path to being an entrepreneur is smooth but most of the time it has ups and downs and some pretty scary failures along the way. Stephanie Nickolich knows how that goes.
She went into big debt in trying to start her first venture but bailed herself out by finding a great mentor and learning how to do it the right way. But she didn’t stop there- she took what she learned and leveraged it into a way to help others turn their passion and expertise into valuable educational products they could then sell online to the benefit of all. She’s got a great story and it a perfect demonstration of how persistence is one of the most important qualities in any entrepreneur. That, and finding a great mentor!
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Matt: Welcome to the Entrepreneur Talk Podcast. Today, I have the pleasure of chatting with
Stephanie Nickolich. You can find here at stephanienickolich.com and of course, I’ll put the links on the show notes. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on and chat with me. Why don’t we kinda just start by giving me a little bit of your background, how you got started and how you got into what you are doing now?
Stephanie: Wow! How much time do you have here today?
Matt: 3 or 4 hours.
Stephanie: Okay. Perfect! This is gonna take a couple of days. So, I kind of fell into this industry, actually. I didn’t really wake up one day and think that I wanted to build businesses for a living. But, I’m happy to be here. I was in corporate America for 9 years as Sales Manager for wholesale, home accessory, home furnishing company. I really work with establishing relationships with national retail chains and producing privately available good for them. I kind of managed it all. My fellow friend, a designer, had branched off, started this company and within the first year, we had created $1.2 million in sales which I though is a huge win considering our self-goal for the year. It was like $250,000 and I was like “Yeah. We got this.” But then after that year, when I stepped down for my yearly review, the owner of my company looked at me and asks me why they were paying me so much. So, that was a little bit of a different outcome that I had expected. At that moment, I didn’t know what I was gonna do. But, I did make a vow to myself that I was never gonna let anybody control my time, freedom or my level of success again. So, I resigned. I did some consulting in the space and it just really wasn’t gratifying. So, I thought, “Hey! I’m gonna go out there and start a business because I’ve done this for somebody else and I did a successful business. I can totally do this for myself.” So, I started fashion jewelry and accessory company. And it was hugely successful, right? No. it was not at all. I don’t necessarily believe in failure but if I did I was pretty darn close to it. I acquired a lot of debt with this company because I was trying to do it all. I thought I was a small business. You’re just supposed to figure out ways to make it work and how can you validate bringing people on your team to support you when you’re really not even making the money that you need to? So, with that mentality, I say, doing it all will keep you small because that was exactly what happened in my case and it actually ended me up in over a hundred thousand dollars worth of debt. I wasn’t pretty good with money so that was a big Oh-my-god moment. So, what I do, I finally took responsibility for where I was and I realized I can’t do this alone anymore. I hired a mentor. I don’t even know how I did it. I believed I paid at that time multiple credit cards but I was just at least willing to take responsibility for what I was. I knew that I was capable of success. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I hired a mentor, most of the business aspect. But, what happened was, when we started working together, I realized that he’s thought a lot differently than I did. So, I started following him. I started reading the books he told me to read and taking the training he told me to take and utilizing the tools and techniques for my business. Then, my business started to shift. I felt like “You know what, I really thought I have a bigger purpose in life because I’ve overcame myself in many levels and I feel that there’s probably a lot of online entrepreneurs out in the world that are struggling behind the scenes, that have this beautiful shiny brands, like I did at that time, but are really struggling.” I was like, “If I can overcome myself, if I can help 1 person in sharing my story, I’m gonna start talking about it.” And I did. When I did, everybody was raising their hand and showing up and saying “Oh my god! Thank you so much. I really needed to hear this. I’m exactly where you were.” I sort of offering free help and advice. From there, people wanted to pay me. It’s literally mind blowing almost at this point. So, I created this community online for entrepreneurs and it just really took off. My mentor literally thought I was crazy. He was like “What are you doing? You are completely jumping the ship.” I was like “No, you don’t understand. I’m being called to do this.” It was the best moved I made. The business just really evolved from there.
Matt: Wow! That is quite a journey. I think a lot of people, I hear a lot of people on a very similar path where they jump in to something with high hopes and it totally craters and we don’t have to call it failure. We call it a very expensive learning. I mean. There’s a lot more to it than most people realize and when they are trying to do it all themselves, it just feels like you’re getting deeper and deeper in. for you, it kinda sounds like that the turning point was getting somebody in who could help you see the light and reposition. What were some of those moves that you made that made you think differently?
Stephanie: So, I actually started hiring a team. I didn’t have them coming. I didn’t have the money but I knew that I had to put people in place to support the vision. So, I get. I mean, I took out unsecured loans. I did whatever I had to do because I did believe in innovation. First of all, I had to learn how to believe in myself because it’s a paralyzing feeling to look at your current circumstances and be like “holy crap! I can’t even pay my rent this month.” But I was willing to do whatever it took at that time. I never stopped believing in myself. I was like “I can do this. I just can’t do this alone.” So, that was the first thing. How did I get out of that paralyzing state of all of that debt? I had to remove the guilt from the feeling. I have to look at it as if this is not just money spent. These are business investments made. That crazy enough, that debt changed me. It changed my perception around money, my respect for money, everything. And I did actually just this past month, I paid it all off. It’s all paid off now. So, it’s pretty cool. So, I just had to change my belief system and I also had to start operating like a successful CEO – having daily rituals, having time for myself, not working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s not what successful CEO is doing. That is not what breeds success. Going out and finding people to believe in my vision as much as I did and helping them help me build it. I did pay. I hired and paid a team before I even paid myself.
Matt: What did that growth looked like? What were your marketing strategies to get the word out and what were you doing that kinda turned the corner from not producing enough revenue to even pay yourself to get into the point where you can support a team and have a real thriving business as oppose to a big money pet?
Stephanie: Right. So, I don’t know if I had any sort of marketing strategies. But I was highly visible. I was committed to showing up consistently on a regular basis. I had a lot of luck growing my business through Facebook, specifically. I started showing up in a really big way. I knew that I had something to offer. I started sharing authentically and transparently my journey and my story. I look at everything that I had done to. I’m offering a lot of help and a lot of value before I ever ask anyone for money. So, I think that’s really important because when [inaudible 0:10:11.4] I feel like they go into this state of desperation. I’m also like “I got to make money. I got to make money right now!” Actually, if that’s the only thing you’re concerned about, then you’re probably always be broke but if you go into it with a purpose that’s bigger than money, the money will come. That’s exactly what happened for me. I just started showing up regularly, consistently, letting people know who I was, what made me an expert in this space, and I wasn’t teaching people at the time how to make money in business because I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I would’ve been dishonest. What I was teaching people at that time is how to overcome themselves. If they could overcome themselves, those flood gates will open where they would then in return be able to make more money in business. So, that’s where it started. It’s in the first 45 days of launching my company, I had my made my first $20,000 a month.
Matt: Wow! That’s a fast ramp up for sure.
Stephanie: Yeah. That was after having a company that was that big F word that we also say failure. So, I had learned a lot in that big expensive lesson. I had what not to do in a lot of cases which actually can be hugely beneficial when moving into a new space as well.
Matt: Well, once you’ve been down the road a few times, it definitely shortened your learning curve and you can hit the ground running a lot better on the 3rd or 4th try than you ever will on your first try.
Matt: So, now, you’ve got a business where you’re helping other people, I guess, probably start by understanding themselves first. And then, once they got a hand along that, then, they can start looking at what business opportunities might be a good fit? Is that kind of the approach you take?
Stephanie: Well, that’s where I started. As I grew and as I evolved, something for me that really changed the game is that I started paying really close attention to my numbers. I’m a numbers junkie, actually. In my previous business, that was to my demise because I did hire a bookkeeper. That was one of the first people I hired but I never looked at a profit and loss statement. That really didn’t serve me. [Inaudible 0:12:32.1] even when they are bad, you still have to look at them. But I didn’t. That’s what led me being in a big pile of debt. So, now, I look at everything – the rate of conversion, how people respond to different things and it’s really important in building a structurally found business and a foundation vs. sustainable success. While I have a lot of luck, I got a lot of changes in my life throughout this journey but I recently became a new mom. I have almost 3 months old. About 8 months before she was born, I was still working quite a bit. Majority of my money was made through high-end private mentoring programs but it wasn’t sustainable. I had great clients. We had an amazing time working together but I was always on my phone. I was always tied to my laptop and that is not conducive to becoming a new mommy. So, I had to learn how to shift and again, grow, and evolve in many ways. So, I took a step back after my x month in business. I literally was like “I’m retiring.” People were like, “What are you? Crazy?” and I was like, “Yeah. But this life that I created is not really a reflection of life that I want to live because I’m maxed out in so many ways.” Time is the most important thing that you can never get back. So, I started creating passive revenue streams. That’s really what I help people create now through the use of Evergreen Self-Panels. I help them package up their greatest strengths and their greatest skill set in a way that their voice and their talent can be heard and be shared and be taught to thousands and tens of thousands of people around the world that need them. Its packagable. Its leveragable. So that they can build six or seven figure empires without sacrifice because that’s what’s more important to me than any amount of money in the world.
Matt: Yeah. Definitely. I’m with you on a couple interesting points there. One, I’m definitely a number’s person too. Obviously, with our business, small business bookkeeping, numbers are near and dear to us. I always tell all my clients every business is a number’s business. I don’t care if you’re an artist or somebody who feels like they are all right brain and all. Every business has numbers. You don’t have to do all the data entry and all the work but you surely should be looking at them and understand what they are trying to tell you and if you want help, I’m always happy to tell the client and say “Let’s run through your balance sheet. I’ll tell you what it’s trying to tell you because its numbers, yes, but it’s got a message for you and you need to understand that if you want to really be able to optimize your business. Some people take it. Some people don’t. But to me, if you’re not looking at the numbers of your business, you’re really missing the boat on a lot of opportunity. To your second point, I totally agree. Consulting is a great way to start and figure out what the market wants and what it will pay for and where people’s paying points are but it’s a very hard model to sustain because it is a 100% your time. It just doesn’t scale past whatever time you’re willing to put in. there’s only so many hours in a day. I’m a dad. I’ve got 2 young kids. I know exactly what you mean. Things change. Priority changes. You want your time much more than you want the money.
Stephanie: My lifelong goal is to just [inaudible 0:16:00.1] for my baby and that’s what I felt like before she was never in the world. I was like, “this is the life that I want to create.” I think there’s so much to be said than that because when you are building a business I feel like so many people that I talk to – I’ve spoken to a thousand of entrepreneurs last year alone – the thing is they all want to make massive shifts in the revenue. But what end up happening is they create their businesses and they become slaves to their own businesses and they miss out all the reasons I started this business in the first place.
Matt: Definitely. Even if you’re not gonna create an entirely passive income business like you’re working on, still, you need to have systems in place and processes so that everything doesn’t fall on the owner’s shoulders. If every decision has to run through the owner, then you’ve changed yourself to the business. I don’t see the appeal on that at all. You might as well get yourself a job because at lease there you got a few days off.
Stephanie: Exactly. Your time definitely is the most valuable resource that you have. So, you have to stick to certain things. Typically, with the exception of doing this interview, but typically I work 10am to 3pm, Monday to Thursday. That’s it. I set everything that I need to do in that time. So, I respect my time. I’m thinking of vacation next week. People have been asking me “Will you do this interview?” and I said, “No. I’ve committed to my family that I’m gonna be fully present.” I’m not gonna involve my laptop or my cellphone unapologetically sitting on a beach with my daughter and we’re gonna build sand castles together.” It’s so important to do that. I see so many people that are missing out on life. You can create all the money in the world but memories you can make them being tied to your laptop or cellphone all day long. You know? That’s what I teach people how to deal. I teach people how to build businesses that can be successful and sustainable without sacrifice.
Matt: I think if you can get to that, then I think you’ve really hit the pinnacle of success because like you said, if you’re stuck on your business and you can’t get away, even “vacation” is spending all the time in the phone or the laptop while you’re on the beach shore, you’re not looking at your kids, you’re not talking to your spouse, you’re completely absorbed in the business still, then you’re not really in vacation.
Stephanie: No. and you need that. Everybody needs that. They need to take a break. You need to take care of yourself. You need to rest and refill not only so you can be the best business owner so you can be the best husband or wife or parent, everything, friend, family member, whatever it is. If you’re not at your best, you can’t be the best for everybody else.
Matt: Definitely. So, if somebody comes to you and says “I’m this. I’m an interior designer. I have a great strength in real estate. I can sell high-end homes.” Or whatever they are coming to you with. Then, you kinda sit down and figure out how you can turn that into a passive income stream or is there only certain people that will really fit? How does it work?
Stephanie: Everybody has leveragable strength. Just to give you an idea, because again, I’m a number’s person. So, the e-learning industry is about a $106 billion a year industry. That was their reported number for 2015. It’s been said that its likely to double to 2016. So, the way that people consume information is a lot different than they ever had before which is great for people that have online businesses or that have any kind of leveragable skill which everyone has. Even someone that sits at home and knits blankets, there are a bunch of other people in the world that would love to know their top knitting techniques. Whatever you do really well, you can package it up in a way it becomes leveragable. There is a certain process to it, obviously. It’s about really establishing relationships and giving a lot of value upfront because when people build the trust factor in you and they start trusting you and they start relating to you, they’re gonna start buying from you. So, you’re forming that relationship in advance. And then, it becomes a number of themes honestly. You can start with lower price point products and you can lead people through. People are gonna follow up along the way that just aren’t necessary every level of the port but that’s okay. We know that’s gonna happen. So, we plan for that accordingly. So, yeah. It’s a high-end interior design or it’s a real-estate agent that sells high dollar homes can be a leveragable skill that someone else in the world is gonna want to know? Yeah. Totally. And the more specific you become, the better this is for you. Because if you can connect with your ideal client on the other side and they are reading your website or your copy or your program or whatever it is, as if you’re speaking to just them, that’s where you need to be.
Matt: You’re helping people through a course that walks them through the process and shows them what tools to use and what steps to create for their funnel and how to create products at different price points. Is that kind of the whole process that you take them through?
Stephanie: Yeah. I have different levels of support depending on where people are. I absolutely have digital products that show people how to build themselves for start to finish, from the point of just being visible, getting to know your client, getting to know how to answer, how to relate to the biggest pin point, how to answer their biggest desires in your opt-in and in your paid products and service and teach them all of that. I also teach them how to look at their numbers, how to understand their conversion, how to test things appropriately in advance so that you don’t just burn money and put [inaudible 0:22:11.9] when you’re running some kind of ads or marketing. All of these pieces are equally important in creating a self-funnel. I find that there’s a lot of people with really big goals which I admire. I love big goals. But most of them come to me and have no idea how they’re gonna get there. I’m like “I’m sorry to break it to you but if you don’t know how you’re going to get there, you’re never going to get there.” That’s not to say that they can’t get there. It’s just that they need a structure or a plan, and set point, goals and milestones along the way to see their progress. What that requires is having a structure – a foundation built in your business that makes sense from start to finish.
Matt: Yeah. Definitely. It’s very hard to achieve your goals if you don’t have any plans for getting there. It applies to anything, right? If you want to lose 30 pounds or you want to get down to 10% body fat or whatever, but I’m just gonna keep eating because I don’t know what else to do. That’s probably not gonna work. You gotta have the education and the background and the understanding. If that’s not your strong suit then you gotta either recruit mentors or buy the education or whatever the case may be to find out how to get there. That’s the big missing piece and that’s what most people don’t know. You are not born knowing how to put this stuff together so you gotta find somebody that can help you do it.
Matt: So, what are your plans for the future from here? Do you work half as many hours again and double the business?
Stephanie: We have pretty incredible goals for 2016. Just to give you guys an idea and understanding. My business celebrated one year, December 15, 2015. This is all possible. It’s like a fast moving train. But yeah, the goal for this year is to move in to multiple seven figure business and to really leverage passive revenue streams. So, we have multiple self-funnels go out from start to finish and the point above the income is about to be able to serve thousands of online entrepreneurs because you don’t have to struggle and they are actually ways that they can be supported wherever they are right now. So, I have one course particular to the mindset. It’s called Mindset Mastery. That’s the exact journey that I had to go through with my own life to overcome myself on many levels. It has a guided module. It’s an implementation guide. It will really help you but you have to do the work. In any instance, you have to do the work. There is different various level of support depending on where people are. So, that’s where we are going. There are some really cool things that we have going on. I’m actually creating a membership group called The Legendary Entrepreneur. That is a dollar to join because I’m absolutely out of my mind, crazy. My goal is really just to serve thousands of entrepreneurs, to teach them what they don’t know so that they can put into place these techniques to leverage their own success because I believe truly that everyone can have a seven figure business without sacrifice. I’m definitely not an exception to the rule. It’s just that you have to do things differently.
Matt: Yeah. I definitely agree. I tell people the same thing. Anybody can have a successful business of almost any size but you have to do the work to get there. It’s not just gonna get handed to you. You’re not gonna buy a lottery ticket and come out of 7-11 with a seven figure business. That doesn’t happen that way. You got to put the work in. but that said, the great thing about this time and day, age and this country in particular is that there are no limits. You don’t have to be from a certain groups. You don’t have to have a certain set of parents or connections or have gone to a certain school. Literally, anybody can be successful if they follow the steps that take them there. Those steps are available to anyone. If you are not sure what they are, there are people like you in the world that will lay them out for people. Really, there is no excuse. If you want, its available. You just have to make the effort.
Stephanie: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. There was so much support to help people. The main ingredient is being able to take action. It’s not that building a business isn’t scary or like as you grow, it becomes less scary because it doesn’t. I definitely commit to making decision that scare the crap out of me on a regular basis. That’s just what you have to do. But if you commit to taking action every single day and stretching your comfort zone and do things that you know that you need to do but really scare you, you will become successful.
Matt: Yeah. I completely agree. Well, it sounds like we’re definitely on the same page. So, with that said, let me ask you this. For people who are interested in learning more about what you can do, your story and what are you offering, all your courses that you mentioned, where should they go to find you?
Stephanie: Absolutely. They can check me out on my website. Its stephanienickolich.com. Sorry for the men, but we do have a Facebook group for female entrepreneurs called Female Entrepreneurs Collaborate. That’s about 10,000 women worldwide who are on the group. It’s not to say I don’t work with men because I’m starting to work with men but the group is reserved for women. So, I’m sorry for all the men out there.
Matt: We’ll have to get by somehow. But okay.
Stephanie: You can still download obviously. I have business building swag for free – a lot of really awesome tools that you can use to build your business online available on my website. That’s not specific for women. Anybody can use it.
Matt: Awesome! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. That was some really good information and inspiring too! I’m always inspired by the idea that we can help somebody – kinda a hand up – in their entrepreneurial journey by hearing other people’s story. Don’t believe the overnight success myth because there are just aren’t any overnight success. It always involves work and struggle and challenge and the effort. But, sooner or later if you keep at it and you are truly following your passion, you’re not just chasing dollars; I think anybody can be successful. There’s just no limits on that.
Stephanie: That’s for sure. And it’s the most amazing thing when you can see like something that you poured and heart and soul and a lot of dollars and you can just see it coming to life because you step to your purpose. If there’s anybody that’s listening to us here today, I would just say like “Stick with it!” It’s definitely not easy but its kinda become the most gratifying thing you’ll ever do with your life especially when now or to the point that we do sell a lot of products regularly and I get a lot of nice messages from people that are completely unexpected on how these products had absolutely changed their lives or their businesses. It’s like “Oh my god! This is why I do what I’m doing.” It’s incredible. If you feel the call to do something, stick with it!
Matt: A hundred percent! Persistence is the most important trait in every entrepreneur. I’ve always said that and I hundred percent believe it. Sticking with it will overcome anything else. Any other deficiency or shortage or thing you don’t know, just sticking with it eventually you’ll get there. Giving up? Then, I guarantee you’re not gonna get there. But stick with it, eventually you will.