Last weekend, I posted a public challenge to stop dreaming about one of your big ideas and take action — to “potty-train” your passion in 48 hours. I chose something I had been thinking of doing for years.
Hundreds of people responded with all kinds of crazy projects, including mastering the art of calligraphy, learning how to edit video, and even writing a book. So of course, I had to get into the game.
My challenge was to apply what I teach in the Art of Work course and to take a passion and go pro with it. So I decided to learn how to roast coffee and try to sell a bag before Monday afternoon.
The rules (which were suggested by my friend Bryan Harris who had completed a similar challenge and talked me into it in the first place) were:
- You can’t use your existing platform. “You have to do it like a regular Joe,” he said.
- Bootstrap the whole thing. Everything had to be free or really cheap so anyone could easily replicate the process.
- You have to make a sale. “Can’t I just give it away?” I asked. “You’re teaching people to go pro, right? Pros get paid.” Fine, I said.
So I posted on this blog, announcing the challenge, and that’s when I got really nervous. But since I teach this sort of thing in my new course, I figured I had to give it a shot.
Step 1: Learn a new skill
The first thing I did was message my friend Marissa who had moved to Raleigh and gotten involved with a coffee company to tell her what I was doing.
“You have to connect with Joe!” she told me.
Ten minutes later, I was texting with Joe, the owner of Raleigh Coffee Company, asking him about how I could sell coffee online in 48 hours. I thought he’d laugh at me, but instead, he said, “I love this idea.”
Joe wasn’t shy to tell me my beans weren’t very good and offered to send me some better ones. He also recommended getting a good story and a “hipster” brand.
I was eating some goat cheese at the time and looked at the label.
“How about Tipsy Goat?” I said.
That’s how Tipsy Goat Coffee Roasters was born (before I even had roasted a single bean of coffee).
Step 2: Practice the skill
I had never roasted coffee before. So I began Googling. A few sources popped up, and I clicked one. After watching a five-minute video on YouTube, I thought, “That looks pretty easy. I could probably do that.”
I made plans to roast the green coffee beans that had been sitting in my cupboard for over a year. I had bought them 15 months ago during a trip to Africa and had been waiting for the perfect moment to roast them, which never came.
That night, I followed step-by-step online instructions to roast the beans, using a skillet. The end result was what looked like a medium roast.
The next morning, my wife came downstairs and said, “Why does it smell like pee down here?”
After brewing a cup of coffee made from my freshly-roasted beans, I had to admit she had a point. You win some, you lose some. But at least I had a product.
Step 3: Create a brand
Somewhere around midnight, after the beans were roasted, I realized something. Why was I, a writer, trying to launch a coffee company? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start a coffee blog?
So I did just that, using Bluehost to register and host the domain for $11 total. And just like that, CoffeeSnobber.com was born.
In minutes, I had a WordPress blog online. I created a logo using WordSwag, wrote a post for the blog, set up Twitter and Facebook handles, and called it a night.
Step 4: Find early adopters
I had my beans roasted, some social media accounts set up, and a new website. Now, I just needed people to show up.
The next morning, I texted a few friends, telling them about my new hobby and asked if they were interested in hearing more about it. Those that said yes were added to a new email list on Mailchimp.
Then, I searched #coffee on Twitter and followed and engaged with several people who came up. Then I messaged a few Facebook friends, sending them a link to the blog, telling them I was working on a new project.
By the afternoon, I had an email list of about 10 people.
Step 5: Build a community
Now, I needed to grow. So how would I, a new coffee roaster, attract the attention I needed to make a sale in the next 24 hours? I put myself in the shoes of my audience: What would I want?
Free coffee, of course.
That evening, I texted my new friend Joe and asked if he’d be willing to donate some coffee for a giveaway I was doing. He was all in. I couldn’t believe this guy.
And thus, the Win a Year’s Worth of Free Coffee contest was born.
I sent the link to my small list of friends, posted it to my small but surprisingly growing social media accounts (both were in the two digits), and went to bed.
Step 6: Make the sale
That next morning, I checked Mailchimp to see I had over 70 email subscribers on my list. Apparently, people like contests. 😉
So I set up an online store using Square (they have a free 30-day trial period), created a product for my one bag of coffee, and poured the beans into a bag I got for free from the local coffee shop. I now had a packaged product.
Then I sent an email to my list, telling people about the new blog and what I hoped to do with it and told them if they wanted to support me, they could buy a bag of coffee.
And here’s the crazy part: one of them actually did.
I met a local friend for lunch and hand-delivered the bag myself, thanking him for helping make this crazy experiment a success.
So what did I learn from all this? Several lessons:
- Starting is hard, but not impossible. I was surprised at how challenging it was to start from scratch. Without using any of my existing resources, I had to get creative.
- You have more resources available than you realize. The green beans in my cupboard. The free bag at the local coffee shop. The phone call with Joe. All free.
- Don’t underestimate the power of local connections. Sometimes with the Internet, we overlook the importance of people we interact with on a regular basis. But if you want to launch a passion project, why wouldn’t you include your closest friends and family?
Like I said, I limited myself to pretty much what was already available to me and what I could drum up:
- Green coffee beans from Africa (Free — I bought them for $5 over a year ago)
- Logo design via WordSwag (Free)
- Web hosting and WordPress install via Bluehost ($11)
- Twenty-fifteen WordPress theme (Free)
- Old frying pan in our house (Free, worth less than $20)
- Email marketing by Mailchimp (Free)
- Coffee for a giveaway from Raleigh Coffee Company (Free)
- Bag for coffee from a local coffee shop (Free)
- Online store via Square (Free 30-day trial)
Winners of the contest
As I mentioned in the original post, I would be awarding three winners to the highest level of my new Art of Work course. They are:
- Justin Dye who wrote a 4500-word outline for his new book and rolled out a social media campaign for his new business.
- Pamela Hodges who put off yard work to create a series of watercolor prints to sell online. These were so amazing I bought one myself.
- Ashley Espinoza who learned how to shoot and edit a video over the weekend and used it to grow her ministry’s email list.
The bottom line is this: When you put your mind to something, you can accomplish a lot more than you realize.
Recently, I recorded a podcast sharing more of the lessons I learned from this experiment. Listen in here: Get Paid to Pursue Your Passion in 48 Hours.
When was the last time you did something you didn't think you could do?