How 2 Entrepreneurs Went From Living in a Car to Building a $10 Million Business
A Shark Tank deal with Mark Cuban certainly didn’t hurt… but neither has personally gaining knowledge that you can then provide to others.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
If you're a fan of Shark Tank, you saw Shaan Patel close an investment deal with Mark Cuban in Season 7 for his test-prep startup, Prep Expert SAT & ACT Preparation. (I wrote about how his test-prep courses went from $600,000 in pre-Shark Tank sales to over $7 million after airing on the show.)
Now Shaan has partnered with digital marketer Adam Lawrence to launch a new course company, ClearHat Marketing. ClearHat offers 10 HD-video courses on subjects like content marketing, Facebook ads, AdWords, SEO, and webinars. Their goal is simple: to teach entrepreneurs how to use digital marketing to grow their businesses. (For more tips from Shaan and Adam, check out their free online digital marketing class.)
Granted, it might seem odd that entrepreneurs focused on test prep would go into the digital marketing space, but then again, maybe not: Both were frustrated from working with party digital marketing agencies, and when they brought digital marketing in-house, revenues dramatically increased.
So in time-honored entrepreneurial tradition, they're leveraging the knowledge they gained. Like Prep Expert, which offers test-prep courses based on Shaan's experience going from an average score to a perfect score on the SAT, ClearHat offers marketing courses based on their experience going from 0 to $10 million in revenue.
But why call the company ClearHat?
"Obviously there are two types of search engine optimization," Adam says. "Blackhat and whitehat. Blackhat SEO techniques are the 'illegal' tactics that digital marketers use to quickly get businesses ranked high on search results, but then almost guarantee that your business will get banned from Google results altogether.
"Whitehat SEO techniques are the 'legal' tactics digital marketers use to get businesses ranked high on search results. We wanted to go one step further than whitehat, so we chose 'ClearHat.' Plus, digital marketing is black box that many entrepreneurs don't understand, and we're here to make it clear."
Shaan and Adam's knowledge doesn't come from a classic digital marketing background. Adam worked as a bartender in Los Angeles and spent nights sleeping in his car. Shaan's parents immigrated to the United States with $70; he grew up in their budget motel in Las Vegas.
And they built internet businesses to escape their humble beginnings. "Most great digital marketers wouldn't work for someone else," Shaan says. "They would just build their own multimillion-dollar company. That's us."
Adam feels that makes ClearHat a company for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs: They applied the teaching methods from the test-prep courses at Prep Expert to their marketing courses at ClearHat, and then spent almost a year creating courses alongside expert teachers.
Of course, the digital marketing industry is incredibly competitive, but Shaan doesn't see that as a problem. "Test-prep is also an uber-competitive industry," he says. "I had 100 literary agents and publishers tell me not to enter test-prep because it was too competitive. But if you can build a great product, you can have success in any industry. Too many people focus on what others are doing, rather than focusing on what they themselves should be doing, which only leads to distraction.
"As an entrepreneur," Shaan says, "competition should never scare you."
Speaking of competition, I asked Shaan and Adam to share one digital marketing strategy they feel is particularly effective:
- Implement automated webinars. "Webinars are the perfect way to sell to your potential customers," Shaan says, "because you get an hour of their undivided attention. And your webinar can be completely automated? We use a platform called Everwebinar: Our automated webinar for Prep Expert has generated over a $1 million in revenue alone."
- Use Facebook Ads to advertise your media articles. "If your business has been featured in a news outlet," Adam says, "then you should be advertising that article on Facebook. The reach will be much greater than when you share that media article organically. In addition, the cost-per-click on these articles will be very low because users are more likely to click on them than a sales ad -- it's interesting content! This is a great way to have new potential customers learn about your business. One article written about one of our clients has generated nearly $1 million in revenue for that business."