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INTRO Introducing myself, including what I've tried

slings-n-arrows

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Aug 26, 2019
3
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Hi everyone!

It's my first day on the forum. I'm 33, married with a baby coming any day now, and live in the US. This is long.

I've always been a little out of the mainstream. As a middle and high school student I was very into computers and learned a lot about programming (back then it was QBASIC [ouch] and HTML, then Perl and Java) and also theater. In college I studied cognitive science because it was interesting to me. I did a lot of theater and improv, interned at the Daily Show (back when it was Jon Stewart), then moved to NYC to study improv comedy performance. I thought my internship would somehow translate to a cool job in the TV business, but when you consider they take 25 interns three times per year and one job opening (at TDS) every few years, the odds aren't great.

I job hopped and did internships until landing a job at a tech start-up. I had options that had not vested before I was asked to leave -- spending too much energy on comedy stuff. Very expensive mistake, I don't recommend making it.

I took that chance (severance pay, no job, lease ending on apartment, no girlfriend) to move to Los Angeles to pursue entertainment, partly on the advice of a successful TV executive. I spent five years in LA, during which time I performed a lot of comedy, got a commercial agent, did commercials, web videos, and some TV. I also worked as a chess teacher and eventually basically ran the whole after-school chess company for the owner -- that business has a low ceiling for success. (I considered starting an improv version of the same company but reckoned I'd make very little money).

I started a web design company after making a few sites for fellow actor friends. I was able to sell a good amount of them, eventually bringing on a contractor to do the actual sites so I could stop selling my time. Unfortunately, part of the business model was not charging the actors a lot (they don't have much money), so the contractor couldn't cost a lot, and the quality was nowhere near as good as when I made them myself. I also started offering hosting service, as my hosting allowed me to host lots of other sites and this was easy, recurring income. As Wix and Squarespace ate up the market for really cheap websites I decided to stop spending time on this project -- old clients needed fixes and updates (I used a custom CMS so they could update content but I had to do photos myself). Competing with the big companies who had advertising budgets seemed like a losing proposition.

Meanwhile I worked as a pizza delivery driver for a Hollywood restaurant, took acting classes (requiring 15 hrs per week of rehearsal!), wrote, sent mailings to casting directors. I toyed with a few other business ideas around this time, like artisanal pickles (this was right before Brooklyn Brine Co!). I chickened out on the pickles because of the health inspection / food safety hoops I would have to jump through, though in retrospect I could have just pushed ahead.

After five years of grinding trying to "make it" as an actor I decided I needed a change. I sold all my stuff and left to backpack Europe for a while. Right as I was thinking I might never come back to the US, my sister got married. I came back for the wedding and couldn't afford to return to Europe. I lived with my parents, worked as a waiter, paid off all my debt and saved some money, and took the GMAT to go to business school. Trying to escape the slowlane for so long, I thought I guess I better at least increase my value before taking a "job job." All the top programs I applied to rejected me.

Around this time I tried launching a company to use my network of improviser friends to help people practice difficult conversations like job interviews, salary and raise negotiations, break-ups, etc. The idea was you'd fill out a form about the conversation you needed to practice and an improviser would review your file and then Skype you and practice it several times. You'd get to experience lots of different outcomes and know how to handle each of them (for example, your boss rejects your raise request, or says yes, or asks for more information, etc). I think it's still a good idea, but I wasn't getting any interest or leads at all and didn't have money to market it. Korn Ferry offers a service like this now, and for high-stakes interviews like consulting firms people pay a lot for this service.

I also started an online store selling merchandise to improvisers (that niche was too small and doesn't have any money). The thought came from how dancers all have sweatpants that say "dancer," license plate holders that say "dancer," etc. Maybe improvisers would want to rep their identity as well! I designed a lot of shirts, got feedback from college kids in improv groups, built the site in Shopify, found a dropshipper ($4 of profit per shirt for me, not really great). In the end the ads were costing too much and eating the profit margin. I sold one shirt to a stranger, one to myself, and sent a free one to a model friend in exchange for some photos I didn't end up using. Closed it down.

Right as the top B-schools were saying "no, thanks" to me, I got an audition (in Austin, TX) to perform in Amsterdam. I had just started dating someone, and she came with me to Texas for the audition. I booked the job, and we spent two years in Amsterdam while I performed in the show. It was super fun and I love the Netherlands. As part of the job I did a lot of improv workshops for businesses.

We came back to the US (I did not love how the theater was managed and there wasn't enough money in it to justify keeping it as my slowlane job) and got married. She is awesome and very supportive of entrepreneurship; friends of ours have started a successful cider company and we know the owners of several large breweries so it doesn't seem crazy or impossible to do something like that. She's going to read Millionaire Fastlane once I finish it.

We have been back for a year. Last summer I built an Android app that is in the Play store but only for testing at the moment. I may finish it and list it for sale (can you do subscriptions?). I didn't do it to make money but to learn how and see if I could, but if I sold some that would be nice. I don't want to spend a lot of time maintaining it and responding to customer service requests as the price couldn't be very high and it isn't really a "millions sold" type of app.

I have an LLC now so I can offer improv workshops to businesses in the area where we live. We've sent out a lot of cold call emails and had a few nibbles but not sold any yet. We have one main competitor in this space in the area who gets around 50 bookings per year. At that rate, it could be my one job (still selling my time, but only three to five hours per week) and free up a lot of time for other projects. Once it's getting some bookings I can hire a few facilitators and not be selling my time.

I am starting a part-time MBA in a few days and intend to focus on entrepreneurship. I've already met some folks in my program with the same bent, and I have a few good contacts for investors depending on the type of company we/I start (I'd rather bootstrap it but if it's a "start-up" start-up it could be useful). I will not be taking any debt to pursue school.

I currently work a day job in an office/remote and in an upscale restaurant at night (I actually wrote a Kindle book [in a day!] on getting a restaurant job and have sold exactly one copy). Twice a month I coach improvisers and make some money from that, but it's mostly for fun.

There it is: my whole life story, basically. Tried to break from the slowlane using the fame route, didn't work out. This whole journey I have read and learned things CONSTANTLY and absolutely love that.
 

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MHP368

the man, the myth, the Pseudo-Apollodorus
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2016
412
602
278
33
Sahuarita AZ
what are your strengths? because an app developer that has a side hustle doing conversational improv? working as an office lackey and...what bartender? server?

whos also getting an MBA.

So that reads to me as a lot of talent being squanderd in a wide berth of areas.

Can you hash out this improv business thing a little bit more, that was confusing.
 
OP
OP
slings-n-arrows

slings-n-arrows

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Aug 26, 2019
3
7
14
what are your strengths? because an app developer that has a side hustle doing conversational improv? working as an office lackey and...what bartender? server?

whos also getting an MBA.

So that reads to me as a lot of talent being squanderd in a wide berth of areas.

Can you hash out this improv business thing a little bit more, that was confusing.
First let me hash out the improv business more for you. The model already exists -- for example, Second City Works. When I did this as an employee, I did it for Boom Chicago for lots of big European clients.

A trainer (me, but if it were to take off in my area I would hire trainers) comes to their office and runs activities around communication and collaboration based off of improv comedy. Working on things like listening, being present, being open to others' ideas. There is another focus area around presentation skills which is sometimes sold too, but that is more like dedicated presentation skills training. I have done a lot of those as well.

My strengths:
According to the Gallup StrengthFinder assessment: Learner, Strategic, Input, Ideation, Command. Beyond my top 5 are also Communication and Activator. What does all that crap mean?

Learning and collecting information comes easily to me, as does coming up with ideas. That plus communication is how I was able to work professionally as an improviser. Command basically means speaking with authority and natural leadership. Activator means when you have an idea (from Ideation for example) you act on it.

So I have an idea for an app that I want to use and can't find exactly what I want. I learn how to make it (I learned some programming as a teenager so it's not foreign to me), and decided to not just drop the project after it worked on MY phone but finish it all the way to published on the store. I thought it could be a chance to learn about product-market fit and get some feedback from other people on a project I made.

The office job: needed a J.O.B. and health insurance for short-term family reasons and the opportunity came to me. It's low key and I work from home right now. The restaurant job -- needed more income and knew my background in that (pursued acting for a while so of course I have restaurant skillz) would get me a good serving position. I use it to develop sales skills. It's also easy enough to get the time back by dropping shifts or leaving the job.

I definitely agree there is a lack of clear focus; my goal is to have narrowed down the focus by the end of my MBA program (in 21 months).
 

Champion

Bronze Contributor
Apr 12, 2019
183
141
67
Hamburg, Germany
Hey man,

what an incredibly cool life you have lived up until today. Even if you do not have success in monetary terms, you have definitely reached more than many of us ever will in terms of life experience and actually living life!

If there is one thing which was going through my head the whole time while I was reading your post, which might help you to move forward (although I think you already know this):

Your Focus is all around the place. You need to pick one thing you want to work on (Seriously) and make that your one thing. Since you kinda have programming knowledge, it might be something in that direction. Maybe its also what you mentioned, about offering an "Improvisation" or "Interview preparation" service through your connections.

I wish you the best of luck and im sure you got everything you need to make it happen. The most important thing will be focus, discipline and patience!

Best
Champion
 

Kevin88660

Bronze Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Feb 8, 2019
460
414
191
Singapore
Hi everyone!

It's my first day on the forum. I'm 33, married with a baby coming any day now, and live in the US. This is long.

I've always been a little out of the mainstream. As a middle and high school student I was very into computers and learned a lot about programming (back then it was QBASIC [ouch] and HTML, then Perl and Java) and also theater. In college I studied cognitive science because it was interesting to me. I did a lot of theater and improv, interned at the Daily Show (back when it was Jon Stewart), then moved to NYC to study improv comedy performance. I thought my internship would somehow translate to a cool job in the TV business, but when you consider they take 25 interns three times per year and one job opening (at TDS) every few years, the odds aren't great.

I job hopped and did internships until landing a job at a tech start-up. I had options that had not vested before I was asked to leave -- spending too much energy on comedy stuff. Very expensive mistake, I don't recommend making it.

I took that chance (severance pay, no job, lease ending on apartment, no girlfriend) to move to Los Angeles to pursue entertainment, partly on the advice of a successful TV executive. I spent five years in LA, during which time I performed a lot of comedy, got a commercial agent, did commercials, web videos, and some TV. I also worked as a chess teacher and eventually basically ran the whole after-school chess company for the owner -- that business has a low ceiling for success. (I considered starting an improv version of the same company but reckoned I'd make very little money).

I started a web design company after making a few sites for fellow actor friends. I was able to sell a good amount of them, eventually bringing on a contractor to do the actual sites so I could stop selling my time. Unfortunately, part of the business model was not charging the actors a lot (they don't have much money), so the contractor couldn't cost a lot, and the quality was nowhere near as good as when I made them myself. I also started offering hosting service, as my hosting allowed me to host lots of other sites and this was easy, recurring income. As Wix and Squarespace ate up the market for really cheap websites I decided to stop spending time on this project -- old clients needed fixes and updates (I used a custom CMS so they could update content but I had to do photos myself). Competing with the big companies who had advertising budgets seemed like a losing proposition.

Meanwhile I worked as a pizza delivery driver for a Hollywood restaurant, took acting classes (requiring 15 hrs per week of rehearsal!), wrote, sent mailings to casting directors. I toyed with a few other business ideas around this time, like artisanal pickles (this was right before Brooklyn Brine Co!). I chickened out on the pickles because of the health inspection / food safety hoops I would have to jump through, though in retrospect I could have just pushed ahead.

After five years of grinding trying to "make it" as an actor I decided I needed a change. I sold all my stuff and left to backpack Europe for a while. Right as I was thinking I might never come back to the US, my sister got married. I came back for the wedding and couldn't afford to return to Europe. I lived with my parents, worked as a waiter, paid off all my debt and saved some money, and took the GMAT to go to business school. Trying to escape the slowlane for so long, I thought I guess I better at least increase my value before taking a "job job." All the top programs I applied to rejected me.

Around this time I tried launching a company to use my network of improviser friends to help people practice difficult conversations like job interviews, salary and raise negotiations, break-ups, etc. The idea was you'd fill out a form about the conversation you needed to practice and an improviser would review your file and then Skype you and practice it several times. You'd get to experience lots of different outcomes and know how to handle each of them (for example, your boss rejects your raise request, or says yes, or asks for more information, etc). I think it's still a good idea, but I wasn't getting any interest or leads at all and didn't have money to market it. Korn Ferry offers a service like this now, and for high-stakes interviews like consulting firms people pay a lot for this service.

I also started an online store selling merchandise to improvisers (that niche was too small and doesn't have any money). The thought came from how dancers all have sweatpants that say "dancer," license plate holders that say "dancer," etc. Maybe improvisers would want to rep their identity as well! I designed a lot of shirts, got feedback from college kids in improv groups, built the site in Shopify, found a dropshipper ($4 of profit per shirt for me, not really great). In the end the ads were costing too much and eating the profit margin. I sold one shirt to a stranger, one to myself, and sent a free one to a model friend in exchange for some photos I didn't end up using. Closed it down.

Right as the top B-schools were saying "no, thanks" to me, I got an audition (in Austin, TX) to perform in Amsterdam. I had just started dating someone, and she came with me to Texas for the audition. I booked the job, and we spent two years in Amsterdam while I performed in the show. It was super fun and I love the Netherlands. As part of the job I did a lot of improv workshops for businesses.

We came back to the US (I did not love how the theater was managed and there wasn't enough money in it to justify keeping it as my slowlane job) and got married. She is awesome and very supportive of entrepreneurship; friends of ours have started a successful cider company and we know the owners of several large breweries so it doesn't seem crazy or impossible to do something like that. She's going to read Millionaire Fastlane once I finish it.

We have been back for a year. Last summer I built an Android app that is in the Play store but only for testing at the moment. I may finish it and list it for sale (can you do subscriptions?). I didn't do it to make money but to learn how and see if I could, but if I sold some that would be nice. I don't want to spend a lot of time maintaining it and responding to customer service requests as the price couldn't be very high and it isn't really a "millions sold" type of app.

I have an LLC now so I can offer improv workshops to businesses in the area where we live. We've sent out a lot of cold call emails and had a few nibbles but not sold any yet. We have one main competitor in this space in the area who gets around 50 bookings per year. At that rate, it could be my one job (still selling my time, but only three to five hours per week) and free up a lot of time for other projects. Once it's getting some bookings I can hire a few facilitators and not be selling my time.

I am starting a part-time MBA in a few days and intend to focus on entrepreneurship. I've already met some folks in my program with the same bent, and I have a few good contacts for investors depending on the type of company we/I start (I'd rather bootstrap it but if it's a "start-up" start-up it could be useful). I will not be taking any debt to pursue school.

I currently work a day job in an office/remote and in an upscale restaurant at night (I actually wrote a Kindle book [in a day!] on getting a restaurant job and have sold exactly one copy). Twice a month I coach improvisers and make some money from that, but it's mostly for fun.

There it is: my whole life story, basically. Tried to break from the slowlane using the fame route, didn't work out. This whole journey I have read and learned things CONSTANTLY and absolutely love that.
I recommend you the book “the lean start-up”. Based on your life experience in entrepreneurship you will like it. Since failure is necessity in business and launching new product, the book teach you how fail quickly and cheaply so that you will eventually hit the jackpot.

I am a finance guy. I don't know much about coding or acting. Based on your profile what I will do is to do try a human capital business. Basically actors and actress need money on basic expense, training and networking before they “hit it big”. Basically each actor and actress is a start-up. They can get funding from investors and in return offer the investor’s a percentage cut in their future revenue from movie roles and advertising once they get famous. Then you can get a cut from it once a deal is done. There is already exiting business models on funding college kids to study certain degrees and in return for a portion of their salary in the future.

It is kind of business that has a social enterprise element in it. The investment amount required is so small that an engineer or programmer in silicon valley can invest in a deal. They could be saying “I like the diversification in human capital as I had too much tech exposure” or “I totally don't buy into this crap but I just want to help someone that has an ambition........and the female actress looks hot”.

Of cos I am not in your space and there is a lot of things I don't know. There is going to be a lot of research to be done on the legal and financing part, which is my strength and something I like but I am not sure if you like it.
 

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