This post is an interview transcript. Click here to listen to the full interview with Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs-Journey.com
Antonio: There is no such thing as an overnight success. What you see is someone that continuously puts in the effort and puts in the work, gets better, picks up – develops valuable skill-sets and then starts making this transition.
Female: Welcome to the Entrepreneur’s Journey Podcast where we delve into the stories of successful entrepreneurs, so you can discover what’s possible.
Today’s guest is Antonio Centeno.
Yaro: Hello, this is Yaro Starak and welcome to an Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast interview.
Today, I have a guest who I met at a conference recently. It was Chris Ducker's Youpreneur event in London. It was the first time it was run and I attended and I sat down next to a gentleman who was probably slightly better dressed than everyone else in the room wearing a suit, and we struck up a conversation, and it was fantastic to discover that this particular man, had been, well, reading my content at some point in time.
I love hearing that. And then, we proceeded to sort of follow each other around at the conference unintentionally we kept sitting next to each other at different places, which I would think was quite funny.
So, my guest today has a great story to share as well in terms of business success in particular with YouTube, which I think is a hot topic right now, so let me give you a rundown. So my guest today has a YouTube channel called Real Men Real Style. That's got approximately as I record this, 1.65 million subscribers. He's got a million dollar business this year, and he actually spent six months of the year traveling around the world with four kids in tow with his family, so that's not an easy task either.
As you can probably guess from the Real Men Real Style tag, it is a business regarding men's style and presentation and grooming and clothing and so on. So, we're going to dive in and find out how this business makes money, how the YouTube channel grew, and of course everything in the background story of my guest who I should probably introduce now.
So, Antonio, I didn't ask you how to pronounce your last name Antonio, but I'm assuming it's Santino is that right?
Antonio: Close. Close. It's Centeno like a single cent. And, Yaro, I have to say I have been a fan for a decade and you can't say that about too many people because I think a decade on Internet years is like you know seventy years normal stuff.
But, I remember back in 2007, 2008 finding your MP3s that you had uploaded and this is before iTunes, before, you know, there were all these stuff that, you know, podcasts didn't exist, we just simply, it was you that had recorded the audios, and I loved it.
And I remember just listening to your interview, I think it was you had interviewed with Andrew Warner over at Mixergy early on and that led me to what you were doing. And it was just opening my eyes, this is like blowing me away. I remember I was a big fan of Gideon as well – Gideon Shalwick. And I'm like, man, what are these – what’s in the water down in – down under, because apparently these guys — I know – I know Gideon is a Kiwi.
But, I was just like, man, these Australians they're kicking butt like I got to fo – and – and I just loved what you were doing and it was something that I definitely took a lot of value from your early interviews. And I encourage anyone to go back and read — I love your stuff because it's timeless and you have seen so much. I mean you've been doing online stuff for – what blew me away you said twenty years almost?
Yaro: Almost now, yeah. 2018 would be the 20-year anniversary, so that's a long time in Internet years like you said.
Antonio: Yeah. But, you've done such a great job of actually keeping your information in many ways timeless because what you talk about — I see some of your content you wrote ten years ago is still applicable today. And that's why I think I was drawn to it and why I still, you know, occasionally find it and check it out.
Yaro: I'm actually curious. What was your stage at that point in 2007 because I know you have an army background and you have a less-than-best-dress background. I've been doing a bit of research on you, Antonio before we started and I saw the flannel shirts period of your life as well.
Yaro: So, you've had quite an evolution. Where were you around 2007 what was…?
Antonio: I was starting my first company. I had a – so – so, one of those things you thought you start off thinking you know everything and then, you realize very quickly that you don't know jack. And it was 2007, I started my first company, A Tailored Suit which was an online clothier. But before that I'd gone to business school for two years which lucky for me I was able to get in for free. I was a combat vet, I, yes, I did serve in the United States Marine Corps. Got to take a few trips over to Afghanistan, Iraq all those fun places where they get to send you. And I got out, and I'm like you know, that’s — it was cool it was fun, but I really wanted to be able to spend more time with my at the time fiancée, now — then, she became my wife.
And it was something that I’d seen the power of the web running — I was in Ukraine running a nonprofit after I left the Marines. And, I remember just we went to orphanages and it was something that we worked with them and I remember taking the photo, I was I just had a nice camera, I took a lot of digital photos and I would upload them onto the web. And this wasn’t — not many people were doing this at the time. And I was putting the stuff up there and I saw that our donations just tripled whenever I put up these pictures of the children that we were helping and that opened my eyes to the power of the web.
Another interesting thing in Ukraine, I actually had a custom suit made by a traveling tailor. There was just a guy that was happened to be in Kiev for a couple weeks out of the year and he stopped in because I was going out to these fancy business schools you know, Harvard, Cornell and I knew I wanted to look good.
I ended up going to UT, kind of forgot about all that internet stuff. Almost got sold into going to Goldman Sachs or McKinsey & Company these high level where that you make a, well, what's viewed by them as a lot of money. And, yeah, in 2007, I got fired from my first job out of business school and I was like what better time to start a company. So, I started A Tailored Suit. Going back to that experience in Ukraine it was like I talked to this Indian guy and he said he was making $300,000 a year. And he had a fourth grade education, I'm like, well, I've got a fancy MBA. I should be able to become a millionaire within a year and I can just scale this and do this thing online.
So, the idea for that first business when I was listening to you in 2007 was that somebody could enter their measurements on a website and I would deliver a handmade suit to their door within four weeks based off just those measurements. Now, that business, I tried hard with it, but I wasn't able to make it a go. To this day, some of my early competitors companies like Indochino and A Suit That Fits, they have now grown into multimillion dollar companies, so it's pretty interesting to watch how that industry grew.
But one thing I think I learned from me your podcast and — or your, you know, website and some of the other ones out there like Mixergy and stuff is to look at what works and repeat that instead of stopping to focus in on these things that weren't working. And the one thing that did work with my company, it wasn't making money, it was actually getting a lot of traffic. We are getting one hundred thousand visitors unique a month and I was like, why are we getting all this traffic, because I had written thirty five articles on men's style that were really, really good. And it was basically a library that I put together and I did this to teach myself because I didn't know a whole lot about style I didn't know whole lot about fashion, but I figured that — and I was a big fan of self-learning.
And I'm like I can teach myself this and I can be the guy that brings the tailors together because I don't have to make it, I had a tailor I was working with in Thailand and over in Hong Kong. I can bring them the customers and I just need to with my website give that look that we are professional, so I created these thirty five articles. I spent a lot of time researching, learning, writing them. And, because they were the best, they were good, Google rewarded me. In 2007, 2008, 2009, there’s just wasn't a whole lot of good information about men's style out there and I started getting all this traffic.
And interestingly enough, it brought me to the attention of guy named Brett McKay over at The Art of Manliness when he was getting started. He said, hey, you know I've written one article on men's style and I don't know what I'm doing here. You obviously can write well. You want to write with me? I liked his mission and he ended up blowing up over the, you know, couple of years I was writing for him. And that then opened my eyes to what really I could create because it wasn’t really — I wasn't really making too much money with that clothing, but what I was good at was creating good information for men to basically be able to take style and make it applicable to what they do.
And I was like, you know I could — I could really turn this into the business. So, that was the seed for Real Men Real Style coming out of that. And in 2007, I was not at the point where I'd started this current company, but I was still learning and, again, your information so much of that free information online, it was so much more valuable than that – than that fancy MBA and all that other training I got.
Yaro: So, I'd love to continue that story to today's business, but before we do that, I am really curious about your background because it doesn't sound like you know men's style and even entrepreneurship was your plan growing up, you know, as a young man. So could you take us back in time, I know you were born or you lived and grew up in the States, right? So…
Antonio: That’s true.
Yaro: Can you, well, take us from that point? Born and raised?
Antonio: Okay. So, I was born in California, but I was raised primarily in West Texas. And, my dad – and my parents were divorced and my dad would come pick me up, drive all the way out from California. So, we would go out to California every summer and I think that had an impact on my view of the world. I wasn't really, you know, into everything that was there in West Texas. I knew there was something bigger because my dad would take us out to LA.
I remember we were just walking down Olvera St. and all these — I knew there was a bigger world than West Texas, but West Texas did a great job of giving me I think very down-to-earth type of, hey, this is hard work really matters, you've got to put in the time you've got to put in the effort. I was surrounded by, you know, basically cowboys and we call them kickers. But, these are guys that would, you know, put themselves in the position, I mean they raised animals.
And, when you raise animals it's, you know, you got a farm you've got a ranch. The thing is is there's never a day off. Your animals don't accept the fact that, you know, hey, you're not going to feed them today because you're sick or because you want to take a vacation. And I think being around that type of people really instilled in me, you know, you got to be persistent, you've got to put in the hard work, you've got to put forth the effort.
Coming out of that area it was something — I wanted to get out, so I went and I went up to college in Iowa, a liberal arts school. Again, gave me a bigger broader view. I was never though, really paying attention to how I dress or the style. I wanted to be a paleontologist of all things when I was younger.
Yaro: Hmm, wow.
Antonio: I loved the idea of dinosaurs, dinosaur bones. Then, you start to see the reality of it's not what the movies portray, it's not doing what Indiana Jones does.
Another idea, you know, I wanted to be a Texas Ranger. I thought that would just be awesome, but then you start talking to law enforcement you realize they're surrounding themselves every single day with people that, you know, they don't want to introduce to their friends. I mean, they're — they're arresting they're around usually people that are being deceptive around them all day, and I was like, oh man, that I don't want to be in that situation. I even looked at being a doctor simply because it seemed like a really safe path and you talk to doctors and you realize all the burn out, all the fact that — what I wanted to be was a general practitioner that these are disappearing here in the United States, everyone's becoming a specialist. And I'm just like, ah, like what do I want to do? I wasn't sure.
So, one thing I always try to do and I don’t remember who told me this, but put yourself in the company of great people if you don't know what to do and what you're going to find is the worst case, they're just going to rub off on you, and you're just going to become better and you're going to develop skills which you can use later on life.
So coming out of college, I joined the United States Marine Corps as an officer. And, being an officer of marines taught me a lot, you know, when it comes to leadership, marines eat last. And, I think Simon Sinek wrote about this in his latest book. And, he comes out of the Marine Corps, he spent time in the Marine Corps hanging out with some of the officers. And I loved the servant leadership approach, the idea that I'm there as an officer of the marines to make sure my marines do their job effectively and I serve them. It's not about me telling them what to do, it’s about if I’m going to — anything I tell them to do, I've done myself.
It’s just simply, you know, I now run a men — so I learned very quickly that I need to know how to do everything in my shop when I was in charge of my marines. I needed to make sure, you know, anything I asked them to do, I was willing to do myself. I just simply had too much to do when I needed them to execute on their mission and I needed to be able to do everything they did, except be able to do it at a higher level. So, it forced me — and you're around these other officers who are all living this and are all doing this and then, you realize like, wow, like this type of mentality you can apply to anything in life.
And so, guys would leave after four years, after eight years and go on to do great things. One of, you know, members was sitting down with a guy named, you know, Greg Jones and, you know, it's like we were talking and, you know, his father ended up becoming the commandant of the Marine Corps and then ended up being, you know, Obama's Secretary of Defense. And so, you put yourself in this room, I remember sitting down with a gentleman named, you know, General Bolton and he's an astronaut. This guy had been in space and I'm sitting there breaking bread with him.
And you realize that all these people have great potential or you're sitting with a lance corporal who, you know, you far out rank, but I realize this guy his father had been an investment banker. He understood Investments more than anyone in the room who had these fancy degrees and that young man's gone on to do great things in the finance world despite, you know, never really having gone to college.
And so, you see things like this and I think that's one of the best things anyone could do when you're not sure, put yourself in a situation that challenges you that forces — because I was uncomfortable being a marine. I did not — I was not physically fit in terms of like I didn't have a large, you know, muscular upper body. I was a good runner, but I was scared to death about some of the stuff I got put into, but at the end of the day, that really I think, transformed me into what I was going to become.
And, one thing in particular, I started wearing uniform and I had to take care of that uniform and I saw the power of a uniform. And then that I think in many ways, led me to creating Real Men Real Style when the time was right.
Yaro: What — what was your fashion like before the uniform in terms of like why did you get dressed or why did, you know, because I know as a young man myself, I certainly didn't care at all about fashion, but then as you start for example, you know, you're interested in meeting — meeting a woman you're thinking a bit more about your clothing. Was that your line of thinking as well because I really am curious?
Antonio: Very similar.
Yaro: Yeah, go ahead.
Antonio: Very similar. I didn’t, you know, the only time I would care about my appearance was when it was basically too late. I'm about to go, you know, talk to a girl, ask her to the prom and I'm wondering, okay, am I dressed well or I, you know, I don't have any stains on me and that was about the extent of it.
In the Marine Corps though, I learned that — we did a lot of uniform inspections. Why in the world – and I always ask questions, why, why, why? And it was like, why are we doing these uniform inspections? Who cares? Like what I care, I mean marines you want someone that's a storm trooper someone's going to go through knock down a wall is going to, you know, do what needs to be done in combat.
But, you realize that, okay, if the guy doesn't present himself well, if he doesn't take care of his uniform, you can pretty much bet it's not taking care of his rifle. If he doesn't care take care of his M-16, it develops rust on the inside, and if it develops rust on the inside, it's going to miss it's not going to fire correctly. And if his weapon doesn't fire correctly, then we got issues.
And then, you start to realize that it's not – so, it’s the discipline and it's the actions and it's the message that it sends to everyone around you. And that's when it started I think clicking for me and making a bit more sense. And that's what I try to apply in Real Men Real Style. I don’t — I'm not into fashion, I'm not into runways, and I'm not into trends. What I'm into is how men who really succeed in many other parts of life are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to how they present themselves because they don't understand how important it is.
And it's like a stool that has three legs. One of them is your education, you know, the other one is the experience and the actions you do, and then the other one is the way people perceive you and their — your presentation, your image, your soft skills. And I work on that leg because the other two, you know, they're pretty crowded, I think a lot of people do focus in on that, but they're missing that one leg. And like a three-legged stool you take one of those legs off, you're going to fall right over.
Yaro: So, while you're in the Marine Corps, did you get a — more of a sense of direction for the rest of your life? Like what was your growth in terms of your purpose and your goals from that point forward?
Antonio: I was able to coast quite a bit throughout college and high school. I mean, I'm not saying I'm super smart, but it's something I can pick up things I was well-read. I just read and consumed books. But one area I did really bad at were languages because it’s not something I was just reading up on languages and it wasn’t something you could naturally just pick up. And you can’t fool, you know, a language teacher that you could speak the language I mean to a degree I guess you could, but it was something that required work.
And, I think that's what the Marine Corps helped instill in me is that if you're going to get better at something, you've just simply have to put in the work and the effort. You can't just do what's comfortable. If you want to get better at pull ups, you need to practice pull ups and there's no way around that. You just simply have to learn to master your upper body, and I didn't like that. I don't — to this day, I really don't enjoy pull ups, but I realize if that's what you want, you want to get stronger, you've got to go into the gym and you've got to put in the time, you've got to put in the effort, and you got to be consistent.
And that was probably the biggest thing the Marine Corps taught me is that amazing people aren't born amazing. Yes, some have a more natural ability, but natural ability can be overcome with time, persistence, and effort. And I think that applies to business, I mean just everything I see in business is the people that really succeed, they put in, you know, that time, they put in – that they're persistent, that they put in the effort.
They are not – yes, it may be easy to dismiss that, you know, the Gary Veess, the, you know, the Andrew Warners, the Yaros of the world that, oh, they got that way because they got lucky. No. You know, like we started this interview, you put in 20 years to get to where you're at and people don't always see that.
And, I think the Marine Corps gave me that knowledge that that – gave me that knowledge that I built off of since then.
Yaro: But, you didn't see that as a career, you didn't want to stay there. So, what were you thinking like that must have been a point you said, this is enough, what's next?
Antonio: Yeah. The point was I was deployed multiple times and I mean – so, I was dating this girl in Ukraine now my wife, Lana, and I mean I would see her for two weeks, three weeks, maybe and then I would go a year without seeing her because I'd be deployed. And I mean that's not how you're going to have a stable relationship. So, if you look at people that are a decade ahead of you, two decades ahead of you, look at not only their successes, but their mistakes.
I had one guy that was a decade ahead of me and he had four kids. And he'd not been there for any of the births of his kids. He watched his kids on video all the time during the deployment. Now, he loved his kids, but he didn't – doesn’t have a relationship with his kids.
And I realized you know, my dad wasn't around, I didn’t – I don't really know my dad and I don't want to have that relationship with my kids. I don't know, truly I think I want to have a good rela – and I’m trying hard, but I know that I need to set the system up so that I can have a good relationship with my kids. And I didn't see the Marine Corps as providing — as being good for a family man long-term.
Yaro: So, you're looking for avenues to – to leave and then decide your new career path.
Yaro: What did you – what did you consider?
Antonio: Oh, you know it's like one of those things when you come out of the military you think, okay, what am I really good at? I can blow things up, I can fire weapons, and you know I had a little bit of training as an aviator. I'd started off as a naval aviator and ended up blowing out my sinuses, but that's for another story.
So I'm like, okay, I got these skills. I need to do the same skills going forward, but there's just not openings like if you have your wings and you flew for five years, yes, you can maybe get started in the airlines, but I didn't like that path. I didn't want to go with the law enforcement really, but I'm like, well, do I need to go FBI? Do I need to go CIA? Like those I mean they sound cool they sound sexy for a lot of people, but that wasn't me.
And so, I went to Ukraine and I just took some time off. I had saved up some money and I knew I just wanted to, you know, spend time with my current beautiful, you know, fiancée who I'd been dating on and off and you know I just wanted to see. And that's when you know the idea – see, I had, you know I saw the power of the web working with that nonprofit. And then, I said you know what if I learned a little bit more about business. So, I got that opportunity to go to Business School, I got my MBA, took me about two years. But, again, it was it was quite a sacrifice, I didn't get to see my wife and my son at the time did not accompany me to the United States.
And so, I knew that whatever I do, I want to be in control I want to be — I want to be making good money, so I can have freedom. And, that's when I took that first job and that didn't work out. But, again, this thing about starting an online business was always in the back of my mind and so, in 2007 late 2007, I took my savings and I'm like – so, I was moving my wife and my son to the United States, I'm like, we are going to start an online company and it's going to be this online custom clothier. I had that idea from when I saw these guys over in Ukraine and I'm like there's only two that I know of in the world doing this, I think that there's an opportunity to just go make it a go. So that's what we did.
And my wife, you know, she was right behind me and I jumped on a flight went over to — took a month. I traveled to Savile Row, went to Italy, I went over to Kowloon which is at Hong Kong, and then I went over to Bangkok and Chiang Mai and I met with all of these different tailors because I knew I couldn't become a tailor very quickly and that's takes a lifetime.
But, if I could have the backend taken care of and I was the front end, I would just simply manage the website bring in the business, and use the power of the web to bring in leads, that was a whole idea. And then I would be able to have a partner in another country who I could just feed the information to and they could send it to me. I could quality control, inspect, and then deliver it to the customer.
Yaro: Did you have tech skills at that point because I can't imagine, you know, maybe your MBA, you might have got a little bit of tech training. I doubt…
Yaro: The Marine Corps, you got any, you know, what HTML website building training.
Yaro: So, you know how were you planning on solving that problem?
Antonio: You know the whole idea is find someone that can do it and — and then pay them money to do it. And so that was — I took my first my $10,000 saved up and I gave it to a company and they — we outlined exactly what they were going to deliver and they failed. In fact, what they delivered me I mean this is a kind of a bad analogy, but it was basically, you know, that thing was dead on arrival.
And I mean it looked good and in fact, many of the same things I've got with the current – current site still kind of comes from that first design with — A Tailored Suit is still there by the way, it's now an information portal with the original articles there, but I was like this thing doesn't work, I can't build a suit with it. And they're like, well, sorry, you know, we put it all these hours and we have to keep your money, good luck you know. It’s like – so, it was – it was a tough position and you could argue, oh, I should have sued them, I didn't have time to fight backwards. I'm like I got to keep going forward. The ships are burned, I got to figure this out.
So, I found the guy I was able to raise up, you know, get – borrow from my brother another $3,000 to $4,000, and I got a guy who I really made sure was the right guy. He was able to build for me and I was able to piece together a somewhat working website and then, nothing happened because it's like, okay, we've got this up. So, I then had to figure out how to get traffic to the website which you know Google was pretty generous at that point. If you had good content and you started getting some incoming links, you could start to build it up. So that's what I did, I just went in the libraries and I read every single book I could about HTML, about SEO. And at the time like HTML is all the sites, you know, so and there's a little bit of, you know, other things you could do but, but HTML pretty much was it.
And, I — one of the better things I did before I left school, I bought an entire suite the whole — I had Dreamweaver and all these other things that I had bought with Adobe Creative Suite. I bought it on a single disc, I got the student discount, so I got this huge access, and I'm like I am simply going to teach myself how to do this stuff and that's what I did.
So the first few years of Real Men Real Style, I was staying up all night, wasn't sleeping much working eighty to hundred hours a week, weekends, Figuring out how to get traffic to my website. You start with getting ten visitors a day, then you get to a hundred then you get to a thousand. And then, you know it's like things start to really pick up after that. And — but that took me a long time.
And it was very, very painful going through and I'm sure you, you know, you remember the HTML days like you had to change each page like by itself, you couldn't make one change and then affect everything. You had to — It was, yeah, it was a lot a lot of work.
Yaro: So, this is the marine Soldier to the MBA student and now the — the tech grunt building a website. It's quite a transition of different roles you had here Antonio to get to, you know, entrepreneur. I am curious though and this is something I think a lot of people in their mind is also wondering at this phase that you're describing now. You're really in the trenches and not in a — an army point of way, but in a building a business building a website kind of way. How do you manage to support a, I'm assuming a growing family at the same time as you know having to have borrowed money from your brother after the first website didn't work.
Yaro: How did you — because I'm assuming there's not a, you know, a huge wave of cash coming from your business quickly.
Antonio: No. No, there’s none.
Yaro: How did you make it work?
Antonio: So, one of the first things is I live in a very small town in the middle of nowhere and we kept our expenses incredibly low. So, I was living off of like $1,500 a month. And you know that was everything and you know we did eat a whole lot of meats I kept things really tight. And so, there were a few month — also, I was living, you know, I was using credit cards. I was still — I asked, you know, I ended up taking the $10,000 loan from my brother which I've since paid back and then some to him. And it was also something, I had two other friends that were willing to come in and possibly loan me money for, you know, a percentage of the business as well.
At this point, you know, you're just talking with people, it was something — I did actually have you know one family member that did not loan me any money when I asked him and you know to their credit I could see why. You know it wasn't what I was thinking I wanted to use it to go buy a car and travel around the United States actually doing like measurements. And that was how I first — the first year was very, very, very tough. It was something that I depleted all of my savings.
I pulled out all of my retirement savings and I spent that on the business you know. And this is more than just like Investments I put into the stock market, I ended up pulling that out and using it to get the business going. And you know I was just really putting everything forward.
And then, like within a month in, I got my first sale. And that one was I remember — I remember this. It was like ten – it had to be like ten shirts at like $150 a shirt and he bought also like two pairs of trousers at $200 a pair of trousers. So, it was a $2,000 order and I was like, whoa, like — and I didn't know who the guy was. I don’t how he found me. And like I get on the phone and we do everything we deliver and I was just so excited until I get the e-mail back that everything I sent him was too small.
Antonio: Yeah. So, there was a couple things though; one, is that we took their money upfront. I learned this from being around Dell computers when I got my MBA down in Austin that one of the best things – best ways to finance a business is to get the money upfront. In the tailoring industry that's uncommon. Usually it's a 50-50 or I even know some people that will just simply do the work and then you pay them at the end. That is — I just would not recommend that. Get the money upfront because when you're your own bank, you're no longer at the mercy of the banks and it puts you in a position.
So, that first order what happened is I didn't make any money on it because so we had to rebuild everything, but I learned some valuable lessons. One, never make a big order all at once and, you know, make sure to, you know, double check those measurements and to talk — have one shirt made as a test. But the other thing was, okay, this — this can work. So we were able all of a sudden to start getting some orders in. We were, you know, it was one at a time, a shirt here a shirt there. All of a sudden, it was like three orders here, three orders there, and, boom, it started coming in. We were able to – I got — I started writing more for The Art of Manliness and they were sending me, you know, leads that were coming in. And it was something that business continued to grow. It was always…
Yaro: Before you keep going, one question, Antonio.
Yaro: I am curious about the mechanics of this business. So, you know when you get an order for a shirt like you said these first orders are coming in and you were saying you were sourcing from all around the world because you're not a tailor, so how does it work? So I buy from that your first website, then do you go and get in touch with your supplier over in Kowloon or Italy?
Antonio: Yeah. I tried to use one guy and he was — he was out of Bangkok, he was really good. Initially, he started off really good. And, it was one of those things that you would do the order and within — I had – I gave myself usually like we got back to you within like thirty minutes with a personal response no matter what time of the day it seem like, so I was getting, you know, sending e-mails out at 11:00 o’clock at night at, you know, 6:00 o’clock in the morning, it didn’t matter, I was getting back to customers.
So, I'm doing everything here, but, yes, once I had your measurements, I would then look over your measurements and make sure that they were correct. If something was out – and this was all me doing, there wasn't an algorithm or anything that helped. Nowadays, a lot of companies have a much better system for this. But what I would look at is, okay, does this look right to me and if it did, then I would pass — I would then take this put this into an Excel document. This is how all, you know, I would physically and this is — this opened up a lot of error too which we learned to fix slightly. But then I would send that final Excel document over to the tailor.
And then, what was good is that he would give me feedback on like are you sure like have them double check this measurement because he — they had — and that was one of the better things I did was I worked with someone that had a high level of skill. They were more expensive than other ones I could have gone with, but they wouldn't just make something. They would say you know this is good, but I would — are you sure about this measurement because it looks — based off my experience of working with thousands of people this one looks a little bit off. So then, we would get this double checked.
And then, we would get it — he would then ship it to me directly in the United States because I want — I didn't want anyone to know where it was coming from. I wanted to present it my way and so then we would repackage it usually within twenty four hours and get it re-shipped out to the customer and all of this within a four week period which then, you know, a lot of places.
And I could talk about why we couldn't compete and what happened, you know, ended up with the business, but it was something that, yeah, you know that was initially how we were doing it. And there was a lot of room for error there and that's I think what led me to like realize I got to shut this down because I just can't do this at a high enough quality level.
Yaro: Well, take us forward. So, your sales are coming through, you must be getting excited at least that this is working.
Antonio: I am.
Antonio: Getting excited and money's coming in, but the problem is that we had too high of a return, not returns, but redos. And what I discovered is that I never liked the feeling of sending out a suit because I always felt there was about a 20% chance that there was going to be some issues with it.
And then there was that of that 20%, half were big issues like the customer just was not happy like this does not look right this is way — and I remember like I just – I just got tired of like only being able to shoot at like 80%. And sometimes the customer would be happy and I would look at it and I'd be like, ah, I don't like the way that thing fits. He's happy, so what do you do there? You know the guy is happy, but I'm not happy. At the same time like, am I just going to rebuild this? It was like because the customer is happy and I'm not physically there.
So, I just I just ran into these issues long-term and I was like I just don't like this business. I also — my supplier, he – Thailand had a number of issues in 2008, 2009, 2010 with literally revolution going on. The airport is shut down for two weeks. I am calling all of my — my clients apologizing and they don't know it's coming from Thailand. All they know is that their suits are two weeks late and it's something that I was like I can't do this if I can't control my backend.
My competitors started buying factories, investing in factories and I'm like I just can't do this. I'm not in the position. And when it came down to, you know, money, we weren't charging enough for what we were doing actually and we just never had those cash reserves. In fact, it was something that, you know, slowly we were actually, you know, I was building up credit card debt, I was going into debt, you know, with certain ones like we would have, you know, in one month you'd have like almost $100,000 come in, but you had $110,000 go out. You know you don't make that up with volume and that's not the way to run a business.
And so, you know I think it was about 2010-2011, I saw the writing on the wall. I gave it, you know, a few years, but I just could not sustain that business and I basically made the decision to shut it down and look at what was working and it was at information. So, I started basically…
Yaro: Before you continue the story, I am curious emotionally, how did you feel when you had to make that choice to let's not say close it down, it sounds more like a pivot like a change in business direction. But how did you feel especially because it sounds like, you know, you were living kind of hand- to-mouth for a lot of years here, so that you must have been emotionally drained.
Yaro: All this energy being put into it and yet you're still not financially breaking free. And then, you’d make the decision to essentially change, you know, shut something down. How do you feel?
Antonio: 2009 was the worst year of my life. I mean looking back and there's a number of things that happened. But, yeah, 2009, I think that's when I hit the low with — and to me it was when you have a business that makes money — and it's funny, somebody had just asked me like, you know, asked me like what's more important for a business, to make money or to serve the customer? And my answer is easy, make money.
Now, I'm not saying they're mutually exclusive, but if your business is not making money, then you cannot make a life for yourself. Money is not anything bad, money is not anything evil. It's just simply a — it's a transit. It does the market, does the world value what you do and the value you bring enough that they're willing to pay for it. And it's a very hard realization that sometimes what we do and what we're loving and, you know, it isn't valued enough or that we're not doing it enough ways especially when you've had a lot of success and this is, you know, the market is just – is just clean.
So 2009, you know, I go through, you know, I went through a bankruptcy. 2009, my sister killed herself and I am the oldest son and I can't even grieve my sister properly because I'm carrying — I had to drive down to Texas and I've got to bury her. I've got to deal with the police, I've got to deal with all this stuff, and I'm taking business calls because I can't pay my mortgage. And you know it's horrible, you know, it's — and I realized — I think that year I was like you know I don't care what — I mean I need to run this business the right way and I'm not in business to just be a barter.
I’m not in – I mean I think you can do amazing things with business and I'm very proud that now we're able to donate every month more to this — I've got this orphan — Ukrainian charity we work with Orphans Hope right there actually in Chernobyl, pretty close to you over near – near [Lviv]. And I’m able to – I was able to double their yearly budget just, you know, because I found I love what they're doing and I can do that because I got a business that's thriving.
And I think that it was – so, I was, yeah, I was emotionally drained. I was you know, I'm lucky I got a great wife, I've got now four beautiful healthy children, and I also have a lot of friends that, you know, were there for me and rallied around me. But, you know it's just something that, yeah, you go through, you know, the life of an entrepreneur — not every entrepreneur goes through dark phases and for everyone it's different. But I think once you go through that, it kind of forges you or it breaks you And I hope that, you know, people listening to your podcast the ones out there, that they're able to – that they’re able to take this as it is and you know come out of it stronger versus coming out of it broken.
Yaro: Which does lead me to a question, you know, that's — a lot of bad stuff happening at once and it takes a certain mental fortitude to, you know, not even do a simple decision like throwing the towel let's get a job, you know, just so I can not have to worry about where money is coming from, I can pay the mortgage and, you know, maybe put this whole being an entrepreneur thing on the backburner for a while. Did you have that as a consideration, you know, talking to your wife about the situation especially after your bankruptcy?
Antonio: Yeah. In 2009, we’re in a — we’re in a pretty bad economy here in the United States, so jobs aren’t easy to find. It is something – I’d have to say one of the dangers of tasting a bit of success as an entrepreneur is that you realize that I truly am unemployable.
Antonio: I don't want to work for anybody. I think the hard part – and one thing that a lot of entrepreneurs have to swallow is that their dream is not necessarily something that's going to be something that makes money. It may be something that you could run as nonprofit something that you could actually run a great information website on, but sometimes some things just don't monetize in the way that you want. And you may have to suck it up and monetize in a way that you didn't expect, but could actually become your dream.
I think dreams and what we want to do that's great, but I think what we become passionate about is something that we become really good at what we become something, you know, good at is something that we do with repetition something that we do – every time we're doing it we're thinking about how could I do this better how can I learn?
So for me, what I found is that I was — and I didn't start off being passionate about this was creating information about men's style. And to this day, I'm really not even interested in men's style that much. What I'm interested in is helping men become better men and that's truly my passion.
Helping them become better fathers, husbands, brothers, sons because I think the world needs this. But, I use the vehicle right now is style because I know that that's my in and the way that we've created this. But I realize that I could go off and create other things and I've done this like in the veteran space in the language space. We've created these other businesses and I really like that because I think at the end of the day my mission is almost is pretty much still the same.
And I realize I enjoy doing this because my skill-set has become such that I've become pretty good on video. I've become pretty good with being able look at something and tell if it's good quality content that's going to grow and become shared.
Yaro: Which leads me to a question, a new video would come into this at some point. So bankruptcy hits you, you know, you've dealt with the family situation with your sister. You decide to make a pivot towards content. So how does that roll out into a money-making business that lasts too?
Antonio: Well, you see what other people are doing. So, Brett McKay over at the Art of Manliness was kind enough to talk to me quite a bit about how he was – how he was – how he basically was making money with this. Then, there was Pat Flynn over at Smart Passive Income. And, I remember following his stuff back in 2009, 2010 and I remember it was, wow, like, okay, so you packaged up your website and you sell it as an eBook. Who would buy simply a PDF eBook that they could read for free on the web? I didn't believe it. So, I first packaged it up and gave it away for free and just to collect e-mails and it was working.
And then, I said, well, what if I actually package it up and charged $17 just…
Yaro: Just to clarify when you say packaged it up, you mean the articles you wrote for your previous website?
Antonio: Yes, that was initially my first product was simply taking my website's articles, putting them into an eBook and putting a price on it. And it was like — and by the way, you could read it for free on the website or you could just buy it. And what I realized is the whole bottled water phenomena that sometimes people want something just for it to be convenient, they like to own things. And you know sometimes, yeah, they just don't have time maybe they don't have a good quality Internet connection, you know, again, this is 2009 and 2010. And, lo and behold people started buying it for $17.
Now, there are a couple things that interested in me about this. Not so much the money because, you know, I'd have to sell a hundred to make $1,700, which you know was — and that's not, you know, a crazy amount. But, if I did sell that hundred and made $1,700, interestingly enough, I kept $1,650 of that like even, you know, or $1,600, it was like — so my margin was huge versus on my clothier my margin was if I was lucky, 20%, 25%. And here, I had a 90-95% margin. Wait a minute. So, I could sell less and make more money?
Yaro: Yeah. We had a very similar experience to me selling collectible cards and then selling information products. You’d noticed the difference straight away the margins. It's all in the margins.
Antonio: Yeah. And I realized, wow, I could be really happy with an information product business doing a hundred grand a year. And sure enough we were able to get Real Men Real Style up to that very quickly. And then I realized A Tailored Suit, why in the world am I doing this? And, I did – I’m like — so I doubled all my prices at A Tailored Suit. I made it so you could only buy packages which cut off like 90%. I mean if I would have continued, that's probably how I should have done that business. I should have only sold packaged deals and I should have – and I doubled my prices.
And you know what's funny is people still bought, not as many, but they were so much better customers. I felt bad closing that thing down and — but it was one of those things I realized you know this is actually where I'm a lot more passionate. I can do this information thing and I just made the transition over.
Yaro: Well, take us through that. So you register RealMenRealStyle.com, right? And then what did you do next?
Antonio: Yeah. Well, the idea was, okay, so I needed to get more traffic to A Tailored Suit when I had that clothier and I created RealMenRealStyle.com because I wanted to talk about casual style because I knew my suit was only about custom clothing style and suit style that kind of stuff. And I realized, okay, based off what I see at the Art Of Manliness, people want me to talk about the entire wardrobe, so that's not going to fit on my commerce site, but it'll work if I own an information portal.
And the whole — I read a book called, The Search and it was a 2005 book that really talked about Sergey and Larry over at Google and what they’re — they got into the algorithm when they – when they went back and they wrote the algorithm. I think they got it published with a guy over at Cornell who would — who would really like pioneered search back in the 1970s and 80s.
And at the end of the day, I realized that Google dominates and that Google rewards quality. And their whole motto at the time you know was do not do evil or something like that. And I was like, okay, well, if I can create the best, there's very little competition for the best and I just need to make sure it’s able to be found. And that was my guiding force for Real Men Real Style, create the best, make it easy to be found, and repeat.
Yaro: Were you thinking articles or videos at this point?
Antonio: Articles — straight articles at this point.
Antonio: I even, you know, so videos play, you know, so the articles – so, I started writing over at Real Men Real Style, started redirecting some of my links from The Art of Manliness which, again, you know that early relationship because he had – he had been given a lot of, you know, a lot of love by Google because I was able to link directly to those two websites, they started getting trust, they started getting picked up found by other websites, other people. I picked up…
Yaro: I just want to clarify because people might be confused. So, you wrote on the Art of Manliness way back when you first started your first business as a guest author basically, right?
Antonio: Yeah. I was one of the – I was his first guest writer and to this day I still write for him.
Antonio: For free.
Yaro: And every single article you published there you get to put a link to your own website.
Antonio: Yeah. Just put some links down at the bottom, you know it’s just my signature.
Yaro: And now, you point them to your new website, Real Men Real Style, so instantly it’s got this incoming link page rank back in the day would have given it some boost?
Antonio: Oh, back in the day, you used to get like a couple of thousands, you know, visitors from one – one published.
Antonio: You know now — now that’s tailored, you know, it’s not as effective now that everyone does it and we’ve got a – we got new problems online. You know there’s just a – there is too much content you know.
Antonio: And – but – but, yeah, you know that that's what got it going and it was just something, again, you had to put in the time put in the effort because it's not like all of a sudden I started making a whole lot of money from this, but I did realize I was on the right path. And very quickly, I was able to get Real Men Real Style up to selling. You know, hey, I was able to sell, you know, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 in information products and because I already had that traffic. And I was just selling — I increased the price. And the other thing I figured out very quickly, the — test the price.
And again, I'm learning all of this because I'm just simply, every single day spending an hour improving my self-education. And they say – and – because I can’t — it's very difficult to double your traffic in one day, but you can you can increase your — you can double your price in one day. And assuming that you continue to have the same conversion rate because you haven't hit the point that people are price sensitive, you've just doubled your sales. And — oh go ahead.
Yaro: Okay. So, I’m very curious here, you know $30,000 and $40,000. We're talking big jumps and all I know that you've got is a $17 eBook that even if you double the price…
Antonio: Now it's $47.
Yaro: Okay, its $47 now as an eBook. You still got to sell a lot of eBooks at $47 each to start hitting those numbers.
Antonio: That’s true.
Yaro: I am curious what does the business look like, have you been following the, you know, the formula of growing a list creating an email sequence or funnel, you know, proper information marketing? Are you thinking backends?
Antonio: Good questions.
Yaro: How did it all come together?
Antonio: Good questions. So, following — going over to Pat Flynn, he's like created great free eBook that you can give away for trade for an email. So, I created my first eBook. The one that was – is still to this day out there, The Seven Deadly Sins Of Style and that thing just worked really well.
Now, I followed best practices, I kept it negative. I kept a list and I kept it relatively — it's was a great – it’s a great eBook. I mean it's everything I try to create. I try to go for good quality. And what I found is that, yeah, we started collecting you know, initially fifty e-mails a day based off the traffic we already had. Then all of a sudden, you know, I kept optimizing things try to make it easier make it better. I mean I would say at the height of that one – that was probably getting three hundred e-mails a day once our traffic really started building up at Real Men Real Style.
Yaro: Wow, that’s huge.
Antonio: Yes. So, you get three hundred e-mails a day, you just have to convert a small percentage and you start then running them to a drip sequence. I started off with AWeber. I heard great things about AWeber, buy into it, create my first automated sequence. And it's crazy, it worked, and I'm delivering value. It's working, sales are coming in while I'm sleeping and all of a sudden, yeah, I'm starting to make $200 a day you know which isn't life-changing, but maybe actually it was for me.
Yaro: It would be for me starting from nothing, yeah.
Antonio: Exactly. So, you get $6,000, I mean a month. It's like, wow, like this is crazy. And that $6,000, $72,000 a year, you know, if all things, you know, stay steady. And then, I realized that, okay, that's one way. Again, you're looking at what other people – and I love being in a slow industry. So, I say slow by the fact that people in my industry like the hardest industry to be in I think is to make money online or if you're trying to sell Viagra, or you know some of these like or the fitness industry because those, they're always…
Antonio: Yeah, apps. They're always cutting edge of doing the latest. But, what's cool is in the fashion and style industry, everyone is like they're ten years behind. So, I just look at what other people are doing and I'm like, I'm going to take that, I'll take that. Yeah, it’s — he says that's working for him in that industry, steal and bring it over. Similar to McDonalds, you know, the factory floor works. Oh, Ford has been doing this for, you know, a decade? Yeah, let's go ahead, let's – let’s do it.
Yaro: You want to grab – is something going on there?
Antonio: No, I turned it off. Sorry about that.
Yaro: No problem. Right. So, you — you said that you were taking ideas from other internet marketers. So can you think of anything that really made a difference back then was there, you know, one idea, one technique, one – one test you did that besides obviously doubling the price of the eBook that made a difference?
Antonio: Woo, besides doubling the price of the eBook I would say focusing on conversion. You know looking at where you've got errors in your funnel or where it's like you've got an – like, okay, so I convert, you know, let's say 45% of the people that see, you know, that go to the page from my, you know, go to the actual download page and download it, how can I get this higher? How can I get this to 55%? How can I get this to 60%? Okay, I'm getting their email. Then, how many — what percentage opened that first e-mail and actually engaged? Okay, we're at, you know, 70% opened that first e-mail, can we get that higher? Or is it better to look at the next e-mail that's only getting a 30% open rate and focus there?
And you realize that it's about examining that funnel or examining each step and then trying to fix those percentages and that is what's going to, okay, let's go to the sales page. How can I better — this sales page convert at 3%. Well, gosh, if I did this, this and this and — or just totally rebuilt it from scratch, all right, this one's doing 5%, oh, that one only did 1% you know. And so, split testing was huge. And, again, I'm not doing rocket – doing rocket science here.
This is, you know, and about this point, I — one of the earliest — instead of keeping a lot of money myself, I immediately found someone I could trust and I hired them to take off a lot of these things that I just I did not like doing that tech stuff. I found that I would spend — you probably remember this, Yaro, spending two hours trying to get something to look right on a website and you still don't get it. I'm like you know I can have my friend Yuri over in Ukraine do this. And you know he had just — his business though he was working with it just imploded, he was looking for work and I'm like, man, I'll pay you $200 a month, you know just part time just for ten hours. You know just $20 an hour, get this done for me. Can you do it?
And he was like sure. Actually, I think it was a lot less than that, it wasn't $20 an hour. It was like, you know, and when you can find someone that's willing to take over something and they're actually pretty, you know, are good at it, it's just so great. You know creating that do not do list and then systematically handing these things off to somebody else.
Yaro: It's a good feeling. I think the tech person and probably the e-mail support person or the two…
Antonio: Oh, yeah, that was…
Yaro: Two places where you go, oh, that feels better.
Antonio: Oh, yeah, Jamie, I know you haven't had to answer an e-mail for like twelve years.
Antonio: For me, it's been two years and I love it. And I do not – that’s been actually three years since the answering of my e-mail. I love it so much I have three people on my team who could do this job because I'm so scared of ever having to go back into it.
Yaro: [Laughs] So, take us forward because we haven't even talked about video yet. So, you had huge success with written content and an eBook and then a whole bunch of split testing and improving conversion rate, you start building a team. So, you must be like — and I know you have a million-dollar business, so there's a few steps to get there. So can you take us forward in the journey?
Antonio: Yeah. And, you know, just, you know, from business side, you know Real Men Real Style proper itself, yes, did over — well over a million this year. But, I've got — and this is, you know, I thought we could get into maybe later interviews because I love telling you stuff, but I've got this other business, you know, it's a media company, that one did over $4 million. And I've got a, you know, we got a conference and that one, you know, does very well and brings everyone together.
But, I — one thing I want to stress though, Yaro and to anyone listening is that there is no such thing as an overnight success. What you see is someone that continuously puts in the effort, puts in the work, gets better, picks up, develops valuable skill-sets and then, starts making this transition. So, because I had written hundreds of articles, I knew a lot about men's style. And then, I see this guy on YouTube named Aaron Marino and he's got like a million views and I'm like, you know, not a million subscribers, just a million views which was a lot. It's like man, it's a lot of views and he's, I don't… like this guy sucks.
Like now, he's one of my best friends. I run multiple businesses with him. He's my business partner, but at the time, I was like, I was jealous of that million views and its cumulative views. And that's what you — kind of many people don't pick up on. But I was like, man, like he doesn't know anything about suits, I could so much better do this. And you know lo and behold, in a year I didn't do anything and I watched him go from a million to four million total views and I'm like I need to jump on this I need to do something.
So my wife said, hey, go do it, quit complaining. Go make some, you know, make things happen. So, I made a commitment, I'm like you know, I'm going to shoot ten videos, put it up and see what happens. And then that commitment turned into a hundred videos in a hundred days and then that turned into two hundred videos in two hundred days. That sounds like a lot, but here's the way I filmed it. I just simply set up a camera in the basement of my house. I get up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning because I needed – there's still work at my – at my main job.
And I would just film and cut – cut, we did no editing. It was like ten minutes, sometimes six minutes, sometimes twelve minutes of just let me lay down the law on suits. Like I knew my information so well that I could — I'm just talking to the camera. It's black background. They don't — my first few videos, I look like I have jaundice. I'm like yellow colored. I mean the colorings off, but here's what's amazing is if you provide unique amazing content that is specific, people don't care what you look like. They don't care that you don't show videos.
Like the other day my furnace went out my water heater and I found a great video and it was to my specific – it was to the specific model number and I was able to actually fix my – fix my water heater and it was an amazing video and I don't care that the guy is not — that he's, you know, he’s not professionally dressed, I don't care. I don't care about any of that. What I care is it this was specific to solve my problem and that I was able to find him and that he made me just feel, you know, taught me something.
So, I realized that's where the power and I — I couldn't control getting a million views, but I can control doing a million videos. I’m like, you know, you could — anyone can get to a million views, you just do a million videos and you get one – you get your mom to watch them all, you know there you go. But that's not going to happen because what's going to happen is you're going to get better and my first two hundred videos sucked by the way.
I would — I batched process and I did like ten in a row and I would just like — I'd spent an hour just, you know, giving out the stuff, but I got better. My first videos I'm slow, I talk like this. I mean it was — it was bad, but you get better and you practice and you put it out there. And next thing you know, you start to develop this ability and you become a better storyteller, you become more specific, you get to the point faster. You actually pay attention to what people are writing in the comments.
At the time, you know, they're giving some good feedback and it was get to the point faster, get to the point faster. And then, again, you start making, you know, and all this translated by the way into more sales. I started selling another product. I had a course that we did, you know, online launches. Initially it was called The Style System which I'm actually funnily enough bringing it back here in 2018. But we would do product launches. I read Jeff, you know, Jeff Walker's, you know, Product, you know at the time he didn’t have –he just had a, you know, some information out there, but I knew what he was talking about was Product Launch Formula which is, you know, a great read as well and, you know, for anyone not familiar with this.
But, I’m like – and next thing you know we did a $20,000 launch. We were selling a product at $200 and we were able to sell a hundred of them. Wow, you know. And then, that was – blew me away, I made $20,000 in two days. And then, it was like what happened if we double the price? You know with the $500? I wouldn’t, you know, all of a sudden I only had to sell twenty five of those at, you know, or, you know, you guys you see how it works and I sell fifty at $500, you know all of a sudden, you know, that’s – that’s a big difference. And you’re able to start – start making these things happen. And that’s kind of, you know, I don’t know how, you know, ask me another question, I know I’m kind getting all over the place here.
Yaro: [Laughs] No, it’s awesome. There’s so much – I’m still curios also, you did drop hints about a $4 million publishing media company and obviously talked about a language business with — I know you teach children with your wife about how to become bilingual. And you've got the training program for ex-servicemen to get into business. I've seen you do that with John Lee Dumas and I think Tom Morkes?
Yaro: So you've got a lot of wheels spinning, Antonio. So, can we maybe like move towards the end of this discussion and maybe we do need you back for a second interview at some point, but could you just maybe do an overview of what first of all Real Men Real Style looks like today? So it's a YouTube channel, it's a website, you sell still digital products, I assume. And I believe is the live event the conference you run kind of an extension of Real Men Real Style, is that right?
Antonio: Yes. Yes. And so, that's — so my three main businesses right now are the Menfluential Conference and not to confuse you, but I also own Menfluential Media, and the other business — and the main business is Real Men Real Style.
Now, what you will notice with all three of those businesses is they're all tied together they're all focused in on the men's space. So, the conference is just basically it's a party that I throw in Atlanta, Georgia that I could write off. That is what it is. I got tired of traveling the world to see my friends and I'm like what if I just brought them all to me. And we have a — it's three hundred guys, it's 98% men.
Focuses on first day is business, second day is, you know, personal development. So we talk – second, you know first day we’re talking about, you know, how to, you know, conversions. I just bring in people that are smarter than me on particular areas and they get up on stage. They talk for twenty minutes and then, best part is they go sit down and hangout with everyone in the audience for two days.
And that, you know, that’s what I always – I felt like, Yaro, I mean you spent a lot of time in the halls talking like that’s where the magic happens at the conference, so I’m like, well, what if I just made a conference, so that’s all it’s about is actually like not – we have a whole lot of presentations, but it’s more of like I just want to introduce you to this person, so that when you see him you have something to talk about and you can ask him a lot of questions.
So, day one is business, day two is personal development. We talk about male depression we talk about getting into the best shape of your life and how to do it when you’re a busy entrepreneur. We talk about everything and what’s cool is all these guys are there and they’re there to help you. And that’s what I wanted, so I get a lot of speakers up there and then, I treat my speakers really well. I’m really proud about this, I threw out parties for them. I put them up in hotels and we – and I try – we – we did like masterminds come out of this thing, businesses come out of it.
And, again, it’s just a lot of fun. I keep it at a really low price. I’m kicking, you know, I need the – the prices I mean $250 for a business pass, $150 and I cover all your food. I mean it was just like – at some point I will increase the price because I know what the biggest expense is. It’s one, you making the commitment, spending that money on an airplane and getting a hotel. And, that’s the big thing is I find so many people just are willing to do it. But then, yeah, Menfluential Media that’s where I realized I was getting all these leads coming in because as you start to grow, you build up a video presence you build up an article presence, you’re getting this traffic, you get picked up PR, everyone wants you to advertise and talk about them.
So, initially I did this for free thinking, again, I’m making this mistake of being a nice guy which I love being a nice guy. But, understand these people like they’re making money off of this and it puts you in this very uncomfortable situation where I remember I have one company would send me shoes and it took me six months to do a review to do a video and it was a lot of work. It was something I was neglecting at a time my clothier. And I remember I put up this video or I put up this review, did really – and they sold a whole bunch of shoes. And you know what they did to thank me? They sent me another pair.
Antonio: To do another – I’m like, oh, my gosh. So, my friend, Aaron Marino who, again, initially I was very jealous of, but then became a great friend and a confidante said, you know you need to send them – ask them for $3,000. I’m like, are you kidding me $3,000 just to talk about these shoes? He’s like, man, you just sold him all these shoes, he will not – like do it. He’s like, you are my friend, do it. And I did it and it was paid within like I think ten minutes.
Antonio: And, it blew me away and ever since then I haven’t look back. And I – and nowadays, we don’t even take sponsorships at that level like – but here’s what we do because a lot of people come in and they’re like, hey, like I’d like to work with you, but I can’t afford our, you know, my rates are, you know, the $10,000 range and they go up.
Aaron Marino, you know, his is much higher, but we’ve got all these other influencers who have smaller audiences, they are very niche audiences and we realized that, hey, if you thought you want to work with us and you got a $2,000 budget, well, guess what? We’ve got this other guy, we can point you to him. Menfluential event is the – they’re the ones that help you find and I find that I can make money with this business by actually being the middle man and providing this great service. And so, that’s how that business has just done incredibly well.
Yaro: So, I assume that business came about because you just made so many connections in the men’s – men’s information world that, yeah, and you also start to experience sponsored content through – primarily through YouTube I assume, you thought why not bring together all these people under an umbrella media company where you can kind of represent their content and bring the sponsors to the right – the right influencers.
Yaro: And then, basically take a cut from – from that. But, the traditional media agency really, nothing – nothing new there, but it’s new format new media. And correct me if I’m wrong, but YouTube has been really cutting down on sort of their advertising income, so it’s not really a reliable source for most YouTube makers anymore. You really do have to look for alternative income streams and sponsored contents kind of like the main one at the moment, right? Is that kind of how you see it?
Antonio: Yeah. We’ll get, I mean I do pretty well. We’ll get like five to six million, you know, views a month and that only makes $10,000 which some people I know that’s a lot of money and they’re – but here’s the deal is to get that many views you’re putting a lot of effort. We’re putting out four, five videos a week and good quality ones. I’ve got a team.
Now, you know, I built up, we’ve got over fifteen people. I just hired someone today and I’m excited, you know, and it’s one of those things that you build off of your successes and you learn from your failures. So, don’t be afraid to – everyone sees, yeah, you’re making all these money with video now and it’s really it’s big – it’s a sponsorships that come in the big ones that work with us over the period of year they come in and want to work with, you know, want to pay. You know those are the – those are really where the business makes the majority of its money. You know 70%, 60%, 65% of our money comes out of advertising now.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t – and this is, you know, the good problem I have now is, oh, my information product sales have actually slipped because I haven’t focused on them if that makes sense. So, I’m actually looking for someone to hire to come in and help me revamp all of my information products because I know that that’s still so much of an opportunity especially now, now that’s everyone is like seeing the shakeup and it’s like, wow, eBooks aren’t selling as well as it used to. Well, that’s right because you got to continue to do better and give the best to your – give the best to your audience to your customers.
Yaro: So, maybe second last question here, Antonio. What's the day in the life for you like right now? What do you personally do?
Antonio: So, I wouldn’t say it's a typical — I don't have typical day, but I do have a typical week. And a typical week is I try to take about three days off a week now. I'm constantly I look at like my kids, my four young kids are my priority, my wife is my priority, and my friends are my priority. I traveled around for six months this last year and the best thing about that is spending good time with my friends.
You know getting to meet some of my heroes such as you at a conference in London you know. But, it's like when I went to that conference in London, Yaro, it was do I just go for two days or three days and be jetlagged, you know there, be jetlagged when I get back and not take my family? Or how about we go for over three weeks? And I just take everyone and we make it that — we just have an awesome time.
And I just take my daughter, my daughter Lana, she's 9. She's wanting to see Paris. Well guess what? We spent five days in an apartment right next to the Eiffel Tower. And, that is my why, that's what motivates me. I've been looking back at that and I'm like, it just puts a huge smile on my face that I was able to give my kids that. I gave my wife that. I was able to –. and I get to, you know, It's part of my business and I think that is for any entrepreneur out there going through tough — tough times, look at where you're headed. Don't look at it — don't look at tomorrow, I mean yeah, it's important, you got to pay the bills, you got to feed yourself, but also — but don't – it doesn’t necessarily look a month from now, but look at the twenty years from now.
And that, I think is — I'm sure, Yaro, you remember twenty years ago, it seemed like a blink in the eye. It was like where did it go? And you're going to be — and so, if you consistently look towards that big — you get that big hairy audacious goal and you're going towards it and you maintain your own standards and you — you realize that, hey, I can't control a lot of things, but I can control the effort I put in each and every day, I can control the people I surround myself with. You know, that's a lot that will get you really far in my opinion in life.
Yaro: Okay. I think we missed out in the day in the life there, but it sounds like you mixed it up as you go along is that right?
Antonio: Oh, I totally skipped that question, but you are good about bringing me back. So, here’s the deal. So, it’s a typical week. My week I get three days off. Then, I have one day a week that I spend in meetings. One day a month that I usually give – you’re a little bit special like I don’t – usually Thursdays or Fridays, but I usually do all my interviews in one day including my business meetings with my team.
I do have one team meeting that is usually on a Monday morning and then, I’ve got my manager meetings now that I’m back usually at 8:30. But, I try to keep it relatively pretty flexible. I try to focus in on I enjoy my sleep, sometimes I won’t come into the office until 8:30 and that’s a big change because I used to come in at 4:00 in the morning. But, I only try to work about thirty hours a week now. And, again, a lot of time spending time with my kids and that’s where – how it goes. But, Fridays I take a lot of Fridays off. I try to give a lot of Fridays off to my team as well.
My team, I – there’s a thirty five-hour work week at Real Men Real Style. And the reason I do that is I believe you should work hard and work – work when you’re here at work, but don’t work in your off time. And I want the – it’s about priorities, it’s about getting done the things that matter and that’s a hard part, but I do find that actually limiting yourself and I’ve got an office 800 meters from my house because nothing at my house allows me to do work.
When I come to the office, everything is set. I’ve got four computers, multiple screens, things are – I mean it’s like I can jump right into work. But, when I work, I work and when I’m home, I’m home.
Yaro: And you’re still creating content, you just created a BitCoin video like in the last couple of days, right?
Antonio: That’s true. So, a video for me is like of highest priority because when I create a video from that I create ten pieces of additional content. That video goes out, I never watch – I don’t edit my video, I’ve got two editors. They’ll slice and dice, create not only a YouTube video, but will create an Instagram video. They can take images from that video and use those. Then, we’ve got the article that my writer then creates from that video.
Then, you got the show notes or basically the bullet points from that video. Then, you’ve got a transcript from the video. And if I started talking about something in particular, we can even create images from the video like an infographic. And if we create an infographic, I’ll slice and dice that into like twenty other images. Then, we’ve got thumbnails like little banners that go over on Pinterest from that video.
So, from that one video, I just laid out nine. There’s other ones I don’t remember that we – but, it all starts with me creating that great video.
Yaro: Really good repurposing there. That sets — and so, I'm assuming it's working like all that content is bringing you in new audience?
Antonio: It works and you know for — it works in 2017. 2018, I think everyone is going to have to step up their game, so right now I'm focusing on how to increase the quality. And first step I'm doing that by increasing the quality of my team.
Yaro: Okay. All right. Well, last – last question, Antonio. So, there are no doubt more than any other person listening to this will be a beginner, a person who doesn't have successful business or a successful income stream, maybe in the trenches building something, maybe still looking for their first business. I think they would really appreciate what you've said in particular hearing the — the bankruptcy, you know, the down, the rough part of the journey and now the multiple companies, multiple million dollar companies all born from this sort of one passion you have for — for helping men.
If they are at the starting point, now that you've lived through so much and you kind of I think you have a pretty ideal lifestyle for an entrepreneur with a family, that's fantastic. What would you say to that person if they're feeling the self-doubt that it's ever going to work, they're, you know, the cash is just not there, that's usually the biggest first problem of not making enough money. So what would you say to that person?
Antonio: I would say, you know, we all go — surround yourself with — with people. I mean you got to have your cheerleaders you've got to have people. Find the community and have — it's oftentimes multiple communities. This online journey especially, you know, if you've got maybe an offline business, it's maybe a little bit better, but anytime you're an entrepreneur, you've got to surround yourself with the right type of people; people that can motivate you, people that can keep you going.
I love putting together masterminds. If you can't find a mastermind you like, create one, reach out to people. I find that many people that are in a just starting position could actually get a mastermind together with people at a higher level by just being the person that's the scribe, that's the note-taker that is the person that does the work and brings them together. But, I have — all the success I've had is not because of — yeah, I mean I put in the time and the effort, but it's because I built these relationships.
As you pointed out with everyone in my space, I try to be a go-giver. I try – I don't expect anything from anyone. I find that people naturally want to give back to you about 75% of the time. And when they do give back to you they want to double the amount they give you or that you gave them and people remember that and they come back.
And I don't know what the answer is going to be for this person and what their – but, I do feel that everyone can, you know, they can surround themselves with people. They can work to make others feel great about themselves. I've called up what people view as my competitors and just talked to them about how awesome of a job they're doing. And I remember, you know, one guy just randomly called up, you know, I just — as I was getting out of that industry, A Tailored Suit. And I just called him up for 20 minutes just to let him know that I wish him the best, you know it's like I'm shutting down my business. But, man, I think what he does is phenomenal is amazing and I wish him just all the best.
I don't know if he even remembers me, but I do know that not many people do that and to be able to build up your reputation is cool, but focus it on, you know, they say reputation is a reflection of your character and who you are, so make sure you never lose that. And for me I think my natural superpower is maybe being able to, you know, communicate and engage with people because I love it I practice it. But, I do believe that anyone can surround themselves with amazing people and that's going to help them get through the tough times help them get to a higher level.
Yaro: Yeah, that's great advice. I think probably the most important advice is that – that echo chamber you exist and make sure it's a positive one, otherwise you're just going to be stuck in your own head and that can be a dangerous place when things aren't going well, so, okay.
Antonio, where can we find you? There's so many different sites. Do you want to send just Real Men Real style as a starting point or?
Antonio: Yeah. Yeah. If they go there, they get to see my – my contact form which I was really proud that Cal Newport used in his book and they get to kind of see my insights in the way of like how I screen people and have fun with it, so I’ll leave it at that. Just use my contact form at Real Men Real Style.
Yaro: Okay. RealMenRealStyle.com. Fantastic. Good luck. I love everything you’re doing especially I love that you’re doing this in a non, you know, making money online niche or showing that that this stuff works and, you know, I guess, you know, clothing if you put it simply how to dress well, so that’s great to see. And good luck with the upcoming years. It sounds like it’s bigger and bigger things coming up.
Antonio: Yeah. I’m excited about 2018 is going to be great.
Yaro: All right. Awesome, Antonio. Thank you for listening in and you’ve been listening to the Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast. My name is Yaro and I'll talk to you very soon.
Yaro: I hope you enjoyed that episode of EJ Podcast. If you’re interested in following in the footsteps of myself and many others successful people who use blogs to grow a business, then I invite you to download a free copy of my Blog Profits Blueprint Report which has been downloaded over one hundred and fifty thousand times and is the starting point for many very successful bloggers today. It’s an A to Z guide on how to choose a topic, market you blogs, set all the technology up, and of course make money from blogging as well. 100% free in audio and written text. You can get it from BlogProfitsBlueprint.com. Just enter your e-mail address and I’ll send you a free download for the Blog Profits Blueprint.
Thanks again for listening.
[1:17:15] End of Audio
This post is an interview transcript. Click here to listen to the full interview with Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs-Journey.com