You hear about those amazing 20-somethings that have achieved amazing career, and more importantly, financial and emotional freedom. You know those attractive young accomplished people who seem to have figure it all out? Mark Zuckenberg and the likes come to mind, yet, there are so many others.
I had a chance to pick the brain of the Editor-In-Chief of Foundr Magazine, Nathan Chan. He was able to build the business and life he loves by helping other aspiring entrepreneurs on their own paths by interviewing some of the brightest minds of our time. The list includes Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins, Neil Patel, Tim Ferriss and many others.
As you can guess, Nathan has an inconceivable talent and passion for all things entrepreneurship and hustle. Being a seriously awesome dude, Nathan shares with all of us how he’s build an empire of his own in two years. He is super candid about how he achieved success and what young entrepreneurs have to do in order to reach their aspirations. Trust me, you’ll want to do something right after you’re done reading this interview.
Tell me your own success story. How did you go from being a regular guy in his mid-20s to being a founder and editor-in-chief of a 6-figure online magazine? How did the idea come about?
Pretty much just fell into it. Got sick and tired of my nine-to-five job, and built up Foundr from just cold, hard hustle. The idea came because I identified that there wasn’t really any magazines in the marketplace that served young, aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage start-up founders. All business magazines generally go off the fact, or the assumption, that you’ve already got a business.
For a lot of people delving head first into the world of self-employment and entrepreneurship is exciting, yet scary decision to make. How did you decide it was time to give it your all?
I started Foundr when I was working my nine-to five-job. From doing that, I only left my day job when I’d built it up to be making enough money and until then, I didn’t leave my job. For me, it still was pretty scary, but at the same time, you know, we had money coming in. I could just scrape by to cover my operating costs. We were doing fine, so it wasn’t that much of a big deal to let it go, and just give it my all. There’s something that developed over time, too, to give Foundr my all. When I first started, I didn’t work as hard as I work now. I just fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the business.
While Foundr is obviously a success story, you’ve probably had your fair share of mistakes and failures. How do you define failure and how do you recover from it?
Yes. I have had a fair share of mistakes and failures. I consider failure an experience. The only way to recover from it is just to work out what you need to do. Learn from your mistake and keep moving, you know? That’s how I go about it.
How were you able to grow Foundr’s audience so fast? What do you think were the best, most effective channels in building that kind of following? How did Foundr become the Instagram powerhouse?
I think it’s funny how you say, “How were we able to grow an audience so fast?” We’ve been doing this stuff for two and a half years. For me, it’s like we’re not growing fast enough. I think we’re growing pretty slow. (laughs) We could have grown even faster.
I think we’ve done it just from influence of marketing. Having amazing entrepreneurs on the front covers of our magazines, building that social proof, also having great design, using social media, like Instagram. We started crushing on Instagram purely from just getting very, very good and just finding out what’s working and just consistently providing an amazing content.
Interviews with Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and many other heroes have graced Foundr’s pages. How do you approach these people for an interview?
Pretty much just started from scratch. Worked our way up. We wrote a blog post. If you go to foundrmag.com/getinterviews, we wrote an in-depth blog post that reveals how we get in touch with these people; but for the most part, it all started with Richard Branson. We worked our way up and then it wasn’t really a problem.
A lot of young entrepreneurs struggle with building authority. How do you create and show your credibility with a limited number of success stories and experiences history?
I think you can only build your authority when you do great work. That’s something I’ve noticed. It’s funny. Some people, when I first started Foundr, didn’t even want to know me when I reached out to them to try and connect. Now, they’ve forgotten that at one point in time I tried to connect with them, and then they want to connect with me.
How does that happen? That happens from just doing great work. Just beating on your craft and just being really fucking good at what you do. I think when you do great work, people are going to be naturally attracted to you. You’re going to build that authority. That’s how you build your credibility. You just become an expert. I can safely say we’re an expert on Instagram. We’re an expert on getting interviews with hard-to-reach entrepreneurs. Not many people can do that stuff as well as us. That’s how you become an authority. You just become an expert at something.
Why do you think storytelling became such an important part of business?
I don’t know why. I think stories have been around since the test of time; and stories, as humans, it’s what we can connect with. Even the Egyptians told stories with their hieroglyphs and stuff. Stories have been around since the test of time. I don’t know what it is about storytelling, but people will really connect to a story. And what you can do, from a marketing standpoint, is you can embed your marketing in your story, which can be very, very powerful if you do it right.
The business world is changing rapidly and often time millennials lead this revolution. How do you think this generation differs its predecessors?
The internet has changed the game; and I think a lot of people, especially Gen X and Baby Boomers, they’re not tech savvy. I think they don’t understand it, and that definitely makes a difference.
One of my mentors, for example, he’s amazed at the stuff we’re doing with Instagram. He’s a lot older than me. He’s like a Baby Boomer. He’s like “I totally missed that one.” That was something I jumped on and was like, “Yeah. Instagram’s the shit. That’s where everyone’s hanging.” It’s where Gary Vaynerchuk would say, “It’s where the attention grab is.”
There’s a lot of emerging technologies that I guess older people are a little bit intimidated by, but us, Millennials, are quite savvy around it, and can understand it.
What skills, abilities and mindsets does a young entrepreneur have to have in order to succeed?
I think you’ve got to be extremely focused. You’ve got to have a lot of patience. You’ve got to be extremely resourceful. You’ve got to have good communication skills and you’ve got to want it bad enough. You’ve just got to be so hungry.
Looking back, what advices would you give yourself in 2013, when Foundr just launched?
Think bigger. Start the blog sooner. Build the email list sooner. Start pitching for big interviews sooner. Yes, things are going okay for us. We’re doing quite well. So, you know, no regrets from my end.
How do you turn your dreams into reality?
Ah, that’s a tough one. I guess it comes down to really, really, really finding out people that have done it, and start hanging out with those people that have done it, and start learning. And then just shipping, putting it out there and beating on your craft.