Mike Dillard is a serial entrepreneur who is creating a new technology that you’ll be able to put in your house and will supply all of the organic produce that you would want on a monthly basis. And Dillard’s entrepreneurial path prepared him to make a big impact with this audacious new venture.
Mike started first business over a decade ago in an unexpected industry — network marketing. That company turned into a multiple-eight-figure business as Mike mastered the art of internet marketing. He was young and did what a lot of young entrepreneurs do after an early success—he blew a bunch of money.
That’s what prompted Mike to dive into the world of finance and investing. He started a business in that world, and did $3 million in revenue in first 7 days. He did eight figures in the first year, and served over 50,000 customers in the first 3 years.
In this interview, Mike shares some insights and experiences that can help you make an incredible impact in the lives of others. We’ll talk about how he made his first millions in business during his twenties only to lose it all and fall into a depression. Mike’s comeback story is inspiring, but also includes actionable strategies to manage your psychology, leverage your strengths, and seize opportunity.
In 2015, Mike launched a company with the sole purpose to generate the funds to fuel his innovative ag-tech business that aims to completely disrupt the food and agriculture industry with hydroponics.
That company he started in 2015 is SelfMadeMan, which has become the #1 Self-Help podcast on iTunes. It has an enormous community that brings mentors into your world who can help you build a life of excellence in business, relationships, health, finance, and legacy. He’s interviewed people like Daymond John, Chris Sacca, and Chase Jarvis.
In this interview, Mike shares how he built his platform and how it’s enabled him to bring on business partners like Peter Diamandis, founder of XPRIZE and Singularity University who has teamed up with Dillard on his new ag-tech company.
In this conversation we talk about that new venture, as well as all of the ups and downs that led him to up to this pivotal moment.
I’m so grateful for Mike’s transparency and humility in sharing the stories in this interview. And I’m so inspired by his mindset and execution that has helped him excel.
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Coming from Verge headquarters in Indianapolis. I’m Matt Hunckler. With powderkeg igniting startups. And within the next hour, you’ll hear how one entrepreneur made his millions in his 20s lost it all, then made it all back so he can invest in the most audacious venture of his life.
You’re not going to change the world by growing basil and mint on your kitchen counter, right? So we need to figure out a way to actually replace someone’s trip to the produce section.
That’s Mike Dillard, a serial entrepreneur who’s creating a new technology that you’ll be able to put in your house, and it will supply all of the organic produce that you would want on a monthly basis. It sounds like a crazy, audacious goal. But Mike has an amazing track record and amazing business partner with Peter Diamandis, who’s the founder of X Prize and Singularity University. In this interview, Mike shares some insights and experiences that can help you make an incredible impact in the lives of others. We’ll talk about how he made his first millions in business during his 20s, only to lose it all and fall into a deep depression. Now, Mike’s comeback story is inspiring, but also include some actionable strategies to manage your psychology, leverage your strengths and really seize opportunity. That’s all coming up on powderkeg igniting startups where every week we share the untold stories of innovation, leadership and technology beyond Silicon Valley. This episode of powderkeg is brought to you by developer town and developer down helps entrepreneurs and enterprises turn great ideas into products with traction. bw CSI is an Illinois based systems integrator that focuses on water and wastewater solutions for government and utilities. They partner with developer town to improve an app they created to help with tracking and reporting data. Tim Forrester is a leader at PwC psi. And he knew he had a Legacy product that needed some work.
So we didn’t just want to reproduce the software as we had it, screen by screen we want to do is redesign it from the ground up,
developer town took VW CSI through a workshop where they collaborated on the business strategy of the product,
how do we empirically prove out what we need and what our clients want was to you know, spend some time away from the office focus on it and develop like a method that we actually went out and tested with our beta testers to get a better question answered,
after spending time researching building prototypes, and testing with the developer Town team. Tim was surprised that though clients agreed the product was extremely valuable. They saw the value in a way that wasn’t what he expected.
Like, you know, this can save you time, and they’re like, oh, okay, that’s great. I don’t really care. But what they what they cared about was the ease and the accuracy of producing the report, a guy, he said, Listen, I’m not very technically savvy, and he said, I’ve got this Excel spreadsheet that some guy built for me a couple years back, that it has some issues with it. I don’t know how to fix it, because I don’t know Excel. And moreover, I can’t ask the guy who built it to fix it for me because he died. And so he’s like, I don’t know what I’m gonna do. Like it’s the state starts changing regulations. And it’s just not good. I realized this is like, a ticking time bomb for when this spreadsheets no good, so I don’t know what I’m gonna do. And it’s like, okay, well, if we had an application that was essentially like the TurboTax of water reporting, where you just punch in the data, and it asks you very nicely for the data that it needs, and then produces exactly what the state requires. Man that would like solve a lot of problems for people, you know, both saving time and keeping up with regulations. giving them confidence that their reports or sending in are accurate.
Clients of developer town often find that their value propositions change after they really dig into research and talk to their customers. Building with the user in mind is how developer town creates products with incredible foundations that are scalable as the businesses grow. So, so important for innovative companies. Learn more about this story at developer town.com/powder keg Again, that’s www dot developer town.com/powder keg For more information, developer town, start something. Our guest today is Mike Dillard. He started his first business over a decade ago and an unexpected industry network marketing with that company turned into a multiple eight figure business as Mike mastered the art of Internet Marketing. Now, Mike was young and he did what a lot of young entrepreneurs do after an early success like that, he blew a bunch of money. So that’s actually what prompted Mike to dive into the world of finance and investing. He started a business in that world and did 3 million in revenue in just the first week. He did eight figures in the first year and serve over 50,000 companies in the first three years. In 2015, Mike launched a company with the sole purpose to generate the funds to fuel another innovative business that aims to completely disrupt the food and agriculture industry. That company he started in 2015 Lean is self made man, which has become the number one self help podcast on iTunes. It has an enormous community that brings mentors into your world who can help you build a life of excellence in business, relationships, health, finance, and legacy. He’s interviewed people like Daymond, John, Chris Sacca and Peter Diamandis. In this interview, Mike shares how he built his platform and how it’s enabled him to bring on business partners like Peter Diamandis, who’s the founder of X Prize and Singularity University, and has also teamed up with Dillard on his new ag tech company. In his conversation, we talk about that new venture, as well as all of the ups and downs that led him to this very pivotal moment in his career. You can follow Mike at Mike underscore Dillard on Twitter at at Mike dillard.com. He’s got an amazing community there as well as at his podcast website, which is just self made man.com. So I suggest joining his email list there. I’m so grateful for Mike’s transparency and humility and sharing the stories in this interview. And I’m so inspired by his mindset and execution that has really helped him Excel. Here’s Mike Dillard. Mike Dillard, it is a pleasure to have you here. You are tuning in from Austin. Is that correct?
I am. It’s a rare. It’s a rare day today. It’s about 27 degrees outside but coming coming to you from Austin, Texas. Yeah, well, I
think we’re single digits here in Indianapolis. So I would do anything for some double digits right now. What brought you to Austin
grew up and was raised in in San Antonio made the Texas Tour lived in Dallas for a while and if you’re gonna live in Texas, Austin is the place to be it’s it’s a young, smart, healthy city. A lot of just a lot going on. It’s growing like crazy. So yeah, this is it.
So a lot of people might have been to Austin for some of your popular conferences, obviously South by Southwest. Being a big one. What is Austin like when South by isn’t going on?
A lot of traffic. A lot of cranes, a lot of construction. You know, there’s I live downtown right on the water. And there’s three cranes around my building, building three new high rises. So the city is growing like crazy, but I think it’s awesome. You know, one of the biggest upsets, if you will, or disappointments over the last year is the fact that the Texas or Austin City Council booted out Uber, and Lyft. And so here we are one of the tech hubs of the country. And we don’t have Uber or Lyft, which is just blows my mind. But other than that it’s it’s a super active town. We’ve got the wakeboarding capital of the world, in the form of Lake Austin. Apparently there’s more wakeboarding boats on Lake Austin than any of the lake on the on the planet. Yeah, so it’s really cool city.
So you grew up in Texas, were both of your parents in the business world, were you always entrepreneurial.
You know, my dad had spent life in corporate America. And so I got to see what I didn’t want to do. Because of how hard he worked and for for, you know, a return that was, in my mind, nowhere equal to the contribution he was making. And then my mom was a school teacher for a little bit and then became an interior designer. So for me, my desire to become an entrepreneur was really born in high school, I used to mountain bike competitively, actually won a couple of Texas State Championships way back in the day. And so I train after school, I would wait tables in the evenings at the original Macaroni Grill, and Bernie, Texas before it was bought and turned into a chain. And, you know, on Fridays and Saturdays when my friends were out partying, I would come home at 12 o’clock, one o’clock smelling like food, absolutely exhausted. And I would turn on the television to decompress for a little bit. And, you know, one o’clock in the morning, you’re gonna find infomercials, which is, which is you know, I was very receptive to and the fact that I just came home from a job that, you know, I didn’t particularly care for so seeing Tony Robbins and Carlton sheets and you know, Don, the PRI and all those guys, right, it just opened my mind up to the opportunity or the fact that there were other opportunities and there were there were alternative paths that you could take and that’s really what sparked my interest in in becoming an entrepreneur in the in the fact that I hated that somebody else had control over my schedule, you know, assigning me to work a double on a day and there’s nothing I can do about it. Yeah, so yeah, that’s when that’s when the desire was born.
So did you pick up the phone and dial 800 number to get some of those courses?
I did. I bought one of them. And I rich Dale, Brad rich deals course. And ironically, it was kind of ahead of its time. You know, this has got to be around 96 or something like that. And it was on how to create essentially an end product or the physical, you know, a physical version of an ebook, if you will not not a book itself, but an information packet on your area of expertise. And, you know, thinking back to what I eventually ended up doing for the majority of my entrepreneurial career that seem to be pretty ironic. But yeah, that was that was the beginning of my journey.
So you found yourself on this quest? Was the the drive initially, mostly so that you weren’t beholden to someone else’s schedule?
Yeah, I just think I think most entrepreneurs have a stubborn streak, and we don’t like being told what to do.
I can relate to that. Yeah, I
think you have to, I mean, I think that’s, that’s one of the things that pushes us to start our own businesses, we just want to make our own decisions and be independent and, and do what we want to do. So you know, around around college is when I started to look really seriously what I was going to do, obviously, right, okay, about to enter the real world. So, at some point, in college, sophomore, junior year, I discovered the network marketing industry, and that tends to, I think, still to this day, and make its way through college campuses, you know, on a pretty regular basis. So I found prepaid legal, which most people have probably heard about, and, you know, here’s a way where I can start my own little business, you know, for two or 300 bucks, which I can afford. And I liked the idea of leverage and residual income. And so all that stuff started to really appeal to me, you know, executing on it, as I soon learned was a completely different story. And so I spent, gosh, at least five or six years attempting to build probably a dozen different network marketing companies, and just failed miserably time after time, went to all the conferences, you know, went door to door for some of them,
maybe for our listeners that have heard of network marketing, but don’t necessarily know what that means. Because they haven’t participated in or been approached by someone in network marketing. Could you maybe explain what that business model is?
Sure, you know, think Amway, Mary Kay, Avon, you know, Herbalife, those big companies. And essentially, they’ve got a product line, which you can buy at wholesale and retail to people that you know, a lot of chiropractors and doctors sell, you know, nutritional products from from network marketing companies. Or you can build a team on top of that. And if you know, some of the customers that you have, like the product, and they want to resell them to them great, they can essentially join your team, and you would make a residual income off of their volume or sales volume as well. And so you know, all the sudden, there’s this, there’s this kind of appeal to the sales pitch, where it’s like, Hey, if you build a team of, you know, 20, people who want to sell the products to and you’re making 5% of all of their volume, with all of a sudden you’re making a residual passive income. So that’s kind of the primary pitch or appeal, if you will, and I just absolutely sucked at it. And I didn’t realize why at the time, I finally did, you know, five or six years into it, but you know, at the time, this is like Google, or web 1.0 days, this is pre YouTube, this is pre MySpace, this is pre all of that. And if we saw a video online, it was like, Oh, my God, there’s a video online, it was a really big deal. So it really was, you know, building your business was really dependent upon old school networking, you know, cold calling people buying leads, you know, going into meetings, networking, trading, business cards, that whole deal, which, you know, I realized I’m a nine out of 10. Introvert. So trying to build a business that way was like pulling teeth, it was just the least pleasurable thing on the planet for me to do, which is probably why I was not great at it. So yeah, well, that was the one thing I did have was a desire to become an entrepreneur at any cost, it was literally either I’m going to make this work, or I’m going to die trying, but I’m not going to give up because the thought of going out and getting a corporate job and you know, for somebody else for 5060 grand a year, you know, after seeing the work that my dad went through is just not going to happen. So you know, I time after time, I’d watch these people walk across stage, they’ve got the same company, the same opportunity, the same products, and yet these people are making a ton of money, and I’m not. So what’s the deal here, right? And fortunately, at some point, a mentor of mine said, Mike, you know, my goal at the time was to make 50 grand a month because that’s what he was making. Like, man, if I can just make 50 grand a month, I don’t care if it takes me 10 years, I would be the richest person in my family tree and like I could do anything that I’d ever want to do. And it was possible because he was doing it right. He said, Mike, if you look if you want to make $50,000 a month, you have to become a person who’s capable of making $50,000 a month. And that to me, it was just like this nuke going off in my brain where it was like Holy smokes. This is not about the business. It’s not about the opportunities, not about the products. It’s about me and the fact that who I am today is not capable of achieving that result. And it really set me off in a different direction. And it made me realize that success was going to come not from something outside of myself, but it’s going to come from me. And that’s why all of these individuals, no matter what business they were part of, were achieving success while I wasn’t they had gone out and, and really mastered a skill set of some kind that allow them to successfully build a business. When he said that to you, Mike, did you instantly gain that self awareness? Or did it take time to cultivate?
No, I think so. Because I was at the bottom right, five or six years of, of nothing. I was like, like, teach me Tell me, tell me what I’m doing wrong here. Right. And, you know, I was at I was at the breaking point for sure. So, you know, what I realized is that, you know, all again, all those people who are achieving success, they were really good at something, maybe they were really good at speaking to a prospect over the phone, maybe they’re really good at holding a local event at their house, or maybe they were really great at speaking from stage, it didn’t matter what it was, they were had all mastered a skill set. I hadn’t, you know, I was waiting for the magical website to turn traffic into, you know, customers and money, which just wasn’t gonna happen. That’s around the time, I found Dan Kennedy. And, you know, kind of the godfather of direct response marketing. And I was just so miserable in the business. I was like, Man, if I have to go out and, and cold call 100 people a day, you know, or whatever it may be, even if I’m making money, I don’t want to do that. I don’t enjoy it. So is there a way for me to build this business that is aligned with how I want to build it and how I want to live my life on a daily basis, and what I would enjoy doing. And I realized that actually enjoy it, if you know, just five to 10 People called me every day, they were already informed, they were already sold. Maybe they had a question or two, but they were basically ready to either become a customer or or sign up as a distributor. I was like, if that were the case, and people were, were chasing me down instead of the other way. I was like, I think that’d be kind of fun. So how can you possibly do that? Well, that’s, you know, where Dan came in, he had a book called magnetic marketing. And it really is the first book before the term was even coined, that outlines attraction marketing, how do you become the hunted instead of the hunter. And that book, again, was another huge epiphany. And I was like, Oh, interesting. Well, this outlines a way that I can use to get people to contact me and fulfill my my little lifestyle mission here with a business.
And what was the biggest nugget that you got out of that book that was sort of the the aha moment,
you know, just at the core of attraction marketing in general, which is become a source of value for others. You know, that that’s pretty much it. And so instead of going out and chasing people down and trying to convince them on why this was something they should do, or product they should buy, I tried to become a source of value. And so I started putting out lessons that I learned and what didn’t work. And I started to teach myself skill sets, like Google AdWords and copywriting, you know, I realized, Hey, I could write a webpage or put up a webpage that sells the entire opportunity and sells the product line, enters their objections, tells them how much it costs, educates them on the entire process. And they could literally just call me at the end of that, saying, hey, how do I get started? So for me becoming a source of value was mastering those skill sets mastering copywriting mastering direct response mastering Google AdWords. And then I started to promote when my business using those tools and methodologies that started to work really, really well. I ended up writing an instruction manual for the first team at that point I had started to build because I was getting results now.
And what were you selling? Mike?
You know, I think it was a company called XANGO. It was a company that sold the nutrition supplement. And, you know, so I wrote this instruction manual, and I kind of swiped Dan’s title, and I called it magnetic sponsoring. And it was about 55 pages, wrote it and word, printed it out of Kinkos sent it to my new team members. And the word kind of got out into other companies and other distributors who really viewed my approach as you know, at a time, at the time, revolutionary, you know, here was a way here’s the way a guy was building this business online through direct response that nobody had really done before in that industry. And
26 At the time, right? Yeah. 26 Yep. And becoming kind of an influencer in this space, where there’s just a massive market.
Yeah, it was kind of my Tim Ferriss Four Hour Workweek moment. You know, as much of an impact as that book had on, you know, the entrepreneur space my book had on the network marketing space. And, you know, I had people calling me wanting to buy it for their team. And so I made a generic version of it. I started selling it online for $30 $39 a copy, I get them spiral bound at Kinkos. Once a week, you know, I’d buy a couple 100 at a time and haven’t printed up. And before I know it, I was selling 40 to 50 copies a day, which is you know, around two grand a day I go to the post office every day for an hour or two with buckets full of these envelopes that I, you know, addressed every morning taken to the post office and mail them off. And I do the same thing the next day. So, you know, before I knew, and I’m selling $60,000 worth of this freakin book a month. And in my life kind of changed at that point. So that’s how that’s how I got my start. As an entrepreneur, it sounds like maybe we’re due for a new edition of that to come out, given anyone that’s been on Facebook, in the last five years has probably experienced the ugly side of network marketing, which is a bunch of people that don’t know how to do it, right.
Unfortunately, that’s, that’s an uphill battle. You know, so here’s the thing about that industry, right, I left that world in 2010. So I haven’t, I haven’t participated in a while. The best thing about the network marketing industry is it is a crucible that will expose every single weakness you have as an entrepreneur, but it will also provide you with an opportunity for a really supportive environment, where education and training and help is more readily available than any other industry that there is. So it’s people are compensated to help each other and to mentor each other. And so for me, it’s it’s like kindergarten for entrepreneurs, where you’re going to be forced to face your fears and your shortcomings in a really transparent way. And you’re either going to do something about it or you’re not. And then I found, you know, like myself, once you do go through that, when you come out the other side, and you have some skill sets, you’ve learned how to sell the world is now your oyster, and they tend to leave the industry, you can go do whatever you want, you know, which is exactly what I did. So,
so let’s jump back into your story. Because I think we’re at the most pivotal point, right, you’re launching of your career, your solidification, if you will, of your expertise in network marketing, online marketing, what do you do with that success? What did that success look like, at age 26?
You know, all of a sudden, I was I was getting a lot of attention, I’d become a leader, if you will, in in that industry. And, you know, I started producing other courses on hey, here’s how I’m using Google Adwords, here’s what a capture pages, you know, here’s how to write an email series, here’s how to put together a sales presentation. So we ended up writing probably five or six different other courses over the next two to three years. And that turned into a full blown publishing company, I think we did in our second or third year, about $6 million in revenue just from you know, those courses.
That’s incredible. And how does that translate into profit? I mean, is all of that going back into advertising it? Or is the Information Industry something that has real profit, along with revenue?
Yeah, that company in particular, because of that industry, it was perfect for affiliate marketing. Right. So we offered an affiliate program for all of those products, and essentially, you know, gave affiliates 40 to 50% of their sales revenue. So, you know, company as a whole, it was probably around 30% of your in, in net. But, yeah, so I did that until 2010. And, you know, at that point, I really accomplished all the goals I had set out to make my, my goal of making $50,000 a month, one day went out the window. And you know, now I had a company that was making 500 a month, right? So, okay, that’s not that big of a deal anymore. I’d become the number one distributor in a network marketing company. So I checked that box off the list, I’d said everything that I had to say and shared all of the knowledge, I had to share through the courses that I had written. So you know, by 2010, I was just kind of like, I’m, I’m done here. There’s nothing else for me to do. So
how did that impact your non business life,
I got bored. And I stopped paying much attention to it. And things started to slowly drift downhill. And the big lesson I took from that was, is that, hey, even if you’ve got everything up and running, the moment you take your attention off of it, it will start to decline slowly. And it presented another problem, which is became the inspiration for my second business was the fact that, you know, here I was in my 20s, you know, was making millions of dollars a year. And I had come from a family and a background that, you know, that kind of money was unheard of. So I had zero education when it came to, you know, my financial education. What do I do with the money that my business is making? And I naturally did what every single guy in his 20s would do. Who’s in that position is I blew it on the giant house and boats and cars and traveled around the world and, you know, checked off every single item that had been on my dream board for the previous six years, which was a hell of a lot of fun. Yeah, pull the old Mark Cuban. Yeah, yeah. So So then, you know, my 30th birthday comes around. And I’m like, I’m being an idiot. I’m really being an idiot. I have an opportunity of a lifetime. And I have probably, you know, 100 grand in my bank account at any given time, despite the fact that I’m making at least a million dollars a year in that and I’m like, I’m being an idiot. This isn’t financial. or freedom or prosperity, or I’m not building wealth, I’m just spending it. You know, I realized that that had been a common theme in my peers as well in the fact that 99% of the conversation that anyone was having is on how to make money, but no one was talking about what to do with the money once you make it. And, you know, we had just gone through the crash of 2008. You know, watching my parents and their their friends and corporate America lose 50% of their, you know, savings and retirement fund, over the course of a year was really scary. And, and I was like, Well, I know what I’m not going to do. So what do you do? Right? What are the options? And and the logical question to ask for me was, well, if the goal here is to become wealthy, what are the rich doing with their money that you know, the middle class or not. And so I went to the bookstore, you know, book, people here in Austin went to the business and investing and finance sections, looked at all the books that were available, and all of them had been written for the previous paradigm pre crash by your house, right? balanced portfolio of stocks, whatever it may be, it was all just completely irrelevant. Now. There weren’t really any answers. And guys, like Mark Cuban and whatever, they’re not sitting there writing books on how they invest their money. It’s just not practical for the average person. So, you know, that really inspired my second company. And I was like, Well, I’m gonna go figure this out, I’m going to learn how to invest like the rich. And I’m going to turn it into a private diary that people can access online. And this is not my world, I’m not the expert, I don’t have anything to teach here. So I’m really gonna serve as the host. And I’m gonna go out and interview the smartest people that I can on how to invest and protect your money. And we’ll record those on video, we’ll put the videos in the members area, and I’ll charge 97 bucks a month, you know, to become a member there. So that was the idea. I had no idea if it was going to, if it was going to you know how I was going to do. But I launched it in, I think December of 2010. And in the first week, we had 8600 People join at $97 A month or 600 for the year, which was about 3.2 million in revenue in a week. So we had just like hit this is like Geist thing where it was the perfect message at the perfect time to the right market. And it was just it was a Grand Slam. So here, I was just wanting to do this little lifestyle business with a once a month video. And now I was stumbling into something that was just going crazy. Yeah, different scale. Yeah, yeah. I mean, most businesses will be, you know, thanking their stores, if they do 3 million in their first year, let alone the first week. So I was like, Okay, we’ve got a real opportunity to make a difference here and to change the conversation, when it comes to money and how people think of money. And we can get people out of this, you know, Wolf of Wall Street type trap, that is the retail financial services industry, that will just tax and fee their clients to death and then lose their money and you know, have no recourse when they do so. So that went really, really well. We did eight figures in our first 12 months, we built an office, we hired a team, and all of that good stuff. And then about 18 months in, we ended up interviewing a guy from Australia, who turned out to be a con man who, you know, basically conned us and all of our clients. And that was a massive, massive, massive debacle. Unfortunately, they’ve been prosecuted and found guilty and if not in jail yet. We’ll hopefully be there shortly. But that was essentially the end of the business as well. It just, it was it was a mess. It sounds
like a mess. Take me back to that moment when you realized your con or were coming to that realization and realizing, oh my gosh, I have this great business with recurring revenue, amazing people that I respect and want to serve. And I may have inadvertently just introduced them to a con man, what what were you feeling at that time?
Yeah, yeah. So you know, a part of the project was, you know, the fact that hey, if I invest with someone, I’m gonna document that, you know, for better or worse, it’ll be a lesson learned for everybody. And so, a lot of the people I interviewed were people that I invested with, and the vast majority of investments turned out really, really well and people were fantastic. And so you know, this guy bought his course I went through it course was great. We brought him down to Austin and promoted his course people loved it, the feedback was great. And I had a brokerage out of New Zealand in the forex market and presented us with their audited you know, performance docs buy from you know, from KPMG and they had these spectacular results and I was like, Okay, I’m gonna invest some money with them and and a lot of our customers did as well and then about six months later, we woke up and there was a 60% loss in our fund or account overnight, call them up what the hell’s going on Facebook page is blowing up and he’s like, Oh, it was you know, as a human error, or Trader accidentally entered, you know, the trade in With the decimal point in the wrong spot, so instead of a 6% loss, it was a 60% loss. And he’s like, just just tell everybody to invest more money, and we’ll, we’ll make it back even faster. And I was like, Oh, shit. And so we called our SEC attorney who promptly call the FBI, who promptly called the Australian authorities. And in before, you know, it discovered essentially a global, you know, fraud ring of these guys who’ve been doing this for 1015 years around the world. So yeah, so that was that was tough because the trolls who, you know, had been licking their chops to hang me on something finally got their excuse. So going through that publicly was horrific.
How did you get through that?
I don’t think I did. You know, the stress was unbelievably high. My business partner, you know, Robert, two to three months into this was diagnosed with leukemia on his wedding day, I was going through divorce at the time, and in our business, you know, had dropped from a million dollars a month in revenue to essentially 200 grand a month in revenue, which was less than our overhead. Yeah, legal bills were about 6070 grand a month. So I don’t you know, I didn’t my job. You know, there is I’m the figurehead. I’m the communication link between our customers and our mission and what we’re doing. I’m the guy, right. And I couldn’t talk I couldn’t talk from a legal perspective, the attorneys are like, can’t say anything, bro. Like, you can’t say anything. I’m like, okay, can’t talk awesome. I didn’t have any I didn’t know what to say. Anyway. So I literally didn’t write an email for probably a year and a half, when that was something I did almost every day, and so very, very deep depression, lost every penny I ever made. Thankfully, the cancer was was remedied through chemo for Robert. And that took about two and a half, three years to make it to make it through that. And the best advice that I ever received was from my friend at the time, someone I consider a mentor, Mark Ford, many of you might know him, through Michael Masterson in his pen name, ready, fire aim and his other books, you know, but Mark had gone through something similar early in his career 20 years ago, and I just said, Hey, what do I do? And he said, Be completely honest and transparent, and everything that you say. So I did when I finally got the, okay, from the attorneys to say something, I wrote a 30 page blog post. And the title of it was, you know, 2012 Urine review, you know, sued by the Feds and, you know, conned or whatever it was. And 30 pages of not me justifying what happened or anything like that. It was just, here’s what happened here are the affidavits, you know, from from my accounting, and if I’m lying, that I go to jail, so it’s true. And I didn’t try to justify or anything I just said, here’s what happened, I’m really, really sorry. And you guys can do with it, what you will. And I think, you know, the people who read that saw that, you know, we were, you know, if anything, the biggest victims out of out of anyone here because not only did we lose the money, we invested, but I lost, you know, a piece of my reputation became in question and my business, you know, was gone, my marriage was gone, Robert almost died, like, you know, there was a lot, a lot that we had gone through. So, the response was, I would say 95%, extremely, extremely positive, I think people left four or 500 comments, and the vast majority of them were extremely positive. And that was the single best thing I’ve ever done, was making that post. And we didn’t send it out to the people who were affected by this guy. We sent it out to the entire audience of 500,000 people on our newsletter list. And so many of the vast majority of them probably didn’t even know you know, what had gone on if they weren’t paying attention, or whatever it may be. So but that was it. Because what that did is, even though you know, this bad thing happened, people knew that they could still trust me, and that I would be upfront and honest with them, no matter what happens. So that was a big turning point and took about a year off to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. And then, in 2000, end of 2014, December of 2014, a friend dragged me to date with destiny for a Tony Robbins event in Boca about a week before it was going on. I was like, Okay, let me go. And that was the big pivotal event that pulled me out of that funk. And gave me got me got me back on my feet and, and inspired me to you know, get over it and move forward again. So
well, I’m I’m glad you found that event. And it’s actually on my my bucket list of things to do here in the next year or two. Especially after watching the documentary on Netflix about
you. That’s the one I was at. Oh, wow, that’s, that’s crazy. Yeah.
You get any FaceTime on the documentary?
I don’t think so. Yeah, maybe maybe maybe flashing in the crowd, but that was about it. And it’s funny. I just you know, they said they’re filming that but you don’t know what for and then two years later, hey, there’s a movie. Yeah.
That’s incredible. So what was it about that event? that pulled you out. I mean, we don’t have to necessarily go into all the details, because I want to get to what you’re doing now because it’s extremely exciting. But I’m, I’m curious what that experience was like for you?
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, Tony essentially has this down to a science where he breaks it down physically, over five days, basically through sleep deprivation. And, and, and that is what allows you to get to the core of what your story is. And so he pulls out your existing story. And this is, these are the thoughts you think and the emotions you have that determine the life you live today. So you’re like, wow, that’s why I’ve made these decisions. And you can finally see it for the first time, because all this is, is in your subconscious until then. And then once you have that out, you can then redefine it, and you can write a new story. And you can, you know, figure out, Hey, what is my life’s purpose? What is my mission? And you know, what’s the new story that I wanted to find for myself? So, through a five day process, that’s unbelievably difficult. You come out the other end with that kind of, of insight. And it’s, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. And I don’t know how many years Tony is going to do it. I know he’ll do it as long as he can. But I would go sooner rather than later. Because it’s it’s a life changing deal. Wow,
that’s, that’s a pretty great testimonial. So did you get the clarity on what you wanted to do next at that event? Or was it really more of a launchpad to get you to a space where you could make that decision?
I, you know, at that point, I had had two options that I was passionate about, I was passionate about, you know, helping men specifically become leaders. And, you know, the previous decade, I’ve just watched the United States, in my personal humble opinion, turn into a cesspool of people who have adopted a victim mentality, and who want, you know, someone else in the world to save them or pay for their lifestyle, or, you know, they want to point the finger at somebody, but, you know, you’ve got an entire generation of kids growing up without fathers, that there’s no difference, you know, between a respect for the difference between right and wrong anymore, you know, from Washington on down. There’s, I don’t see, I don’t see honor or integrity, a part of our culture at all anymore. And, and I just found that unbelievably concerning. And so that was a problem that I was like, Hey, this is going to get horrific if we don’t do something about this. So what can I do? Right, one dude? In the essence, essentially, the question is, how do you change a society? How do you change the value system of a society. And the conclusion that I came to was, really, there’s only two ways there’s through the barrel of a gun, which has been done throughout history many, many times, not not the best option. And through, you know, the next generation, teaching the upcoming generation, a different set of values. And so obviously, that was the best option. And so, you know, option one for me was to start a company that was focused on promoting, you know, values that lead to success to the next generation of young men specifically.
And, you know, at that point, women are the biggest beneficiary, essentially. But essentially, my job here is to produce better better sons, better husbands, better partners, you know, better fathers, etc. So that we can get back to a family society that’s, you know, is productive. So that was ID number one. And then Id number two is, you know, I have a six year old so I had a little one, you know, a couple of years ago, and his mom and I have always tried to feed him really wholesome, healthy organic food. I, you know, I live right across the street from the headquarters of Whole Foods here in Austin, literally on 100 yards away. So I would go there every day and find my groceries and buy my produce, did a lot of juicing. Juicing organic produce is really expensive, it probably came out to like 20 bucks glass by the time I made it. And I was just like, You know what, this is good that I have access to this. But I found it absolutely absurd that the vast majority of people in America today cannot afford to buy vegetables that are not covered in poison. And I just think that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life where you’ve got to pay a premium to get food that’s just not covered in poison. And, you know, I read Peter Diamandis is abundance, you know, book by that point, we’ve gone through, you know, his, his five ds of exponential, you know, technologies, you know, looked out and saw companies like Uber and Airbnb and oDesk and 99 designs and all of these companies that are decentralized their industries, and when you decentralize an end So you’re essentially turning your customer into your employee at the same time, and you’re getting rid of all of the middlemen and the the cost and the up mark in that supply chain. And I was like, Well, why hasn’t anyone done this to the ag industry? It just has been no innovation in that world and in 100 years, so it’s like, okay, well, let’s figure this out. And, you know, is there a way to put healthy clean food back on the dinner table at a price, you know, average person can afford. And the way to do that became clear, you had to decentralize that world, and you had to have the farming, process start and end in the house. And if you can do that, you can get rid of the farm and get rid of tractor, you can get rid of the 18 wheelers and the boats across the ocean, you can get rid of the distribution centers, and finally, the retail store. And if you can get rid of all of that waste, you can, you know, reduce water waste by 95%, you can reduce pollution by 100%, chemical use by 100%. And you can end up reducing the cost of the food by about 90%. So, okay, that’s the way to do it, how do we turn someone’s house into a farm in a practical way that the average person would actually enjoy and, and find practical, because if you don’t get adoption and penetration, you’re not really solving the problem. So I dove into that world, and it became pretty clear very quickly, that the way to go was through hydroponics, you know, can’t have people bringing in bags of soil into their living room, it’s not going to work. And there were a couple of hydroponic products out at the time, you know, Tower Garden being one of them. You know, here’s a proven company that’s been out for 10 years with a proven product, people are buying it, it grows, you know, a good amount of food that you know, grew 3457 little plants at a time, but you’re not going to change the world by growing basil and mint on your kitchen counter, right. So we need to figure out a way to actually replace someone’s trip to the produce section. Because if you’re just doing part of it, it’s still you’re not still you’re not solving the problem. You know, it became clear, we needed to create a system based on hydroponics, but it had to be completely automated so that anyone can grow and use it, then you don’t, you don’t have to have any expertise. It’s not like taking care of a fish tank, which the other systems were a lot of work. And it had to be pretty, you had to have to want to put it on display in your home as an art piece, if nothing else. And then third, it, it needed to grow enough food to replace you run to the grocery store. So that was kind of all the criteria on the wish list. And I just literally, you know, bought five books on hydroponics on Amazon. And that was the beginning of my journey down this, this road hired a company hired a company called whipsaw on Silicon Valley, an industrial design firm to help me come up and make the system. And that was about two years ago. And it’s been a hell of a learning experience. But literally, you know, 20 feet to my left, right now I have I have a prototype sitting in my living room that grows 36 plants, it’s completely automated. It looks like Apple built it. You know, people walk in the house are like, holy shit, what is that? And and it works. You know, it’s not perfect, we’re still we’re still working on it. It’s been unbelievably expensive. And it’s challenging to, to make much more than much more so than expected. You know, but we’re, we’re heading down that path. So, yeah, so that’s where we’re
at. So you mentioned that it’s expensive, did you have to go and raise venture capital in order to do some as r&d?
You know, no, and that, that that’s something that I mapped out, right. During the beginning of this process, when I started to try and do my best guesstimate on what it was going to cost to build something like this. You know, it came out at the time to about a million bucks. And I’ve learned through past business endeavors that if you’re dealing with hardware software, you can just use something we call the rule of three acts, which means take your best estimate, and then triple the amount of time you think it’s going to take and the cost. And that’s really what you’re going to end up at. And I found that to be the case and everything that I’ve ever venture I’ve ever taken on like that. So I realized I was going to need I was going to need about 3 million bucks. And I didn’t want to take on investors, I just don’t like the idea of I just don’t want that responsibility. I don’t want to take money from my friends and family member and have any risk whatsoever that I would disappoint them or lose their money. So that’s just not something I wanted to do. So the only option was to self fund it. And at the time, I’m like okay, I’m a Tony Robbins, I have no business anymore. I have no money. You know, I don’t I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do. So I essentially figured out and realized that I needed to start a business based on what I was really good at in order to fund this business. And so you know, I took the first mission which was how do we change the value set of young men in the world and I turned that into you know, business a and I’ve used the money from business a to fund development of business be so you know, The brand for the young men turn, it’s self made man and self made man, the podcast. And I’ve produced a course or two there. On some of the most valuable strategies that I’ve used over the last 10 years during my entrepreneurial career, you know how to build an email list and an audience how to build a or produce an effective sales presentation or webinar. And we’ve been selling those courses for the last year and a half or two. And they’ve done really well the feedbacks been phenomenal. We’ve We’ve sold two or $3 million worth of those a year. And about 40% of that or so is profit, which has what has gone into the hydro business and funded that entire project. Yeah, so it’s been interesting, I built I built one company with the sole purpose of funding the second company, and it’s so far it’s worked out.
So that’s great. And definitely a unique approach to funding a venture backed, quote, unquote, venture backed company, you know, getting your own capital from another business that you know how to grow and start from the ground up, to then invest your own money into something that eventually will probably either need venture capital or your business doing 10x on the self made man side by side of things, being able to raise that 3 million in capital yourself in just two years is pretty incredible. What have been your favorite moments of self made man and growing that brand?
You know, it’s interesting, um, all of that was designed around constraints. You know, most of the time you don’t build your business with constraints in mind, you’re like, I want this to go as big as I can. But I had some very specific constraints that I needed to build that around, because of the time that I would need to dedicate to the hydroponic business. And so one of those constraints is time, how do I spend the least amount of time possible building self made man, and one of the things you need to do if you’re gonna build a company is you’ve got to be in constant contact with your audience, you’ve always got to be delivering value, at least on a weekly basis, if not more often. And typically, in the past, I’ve done that by writing blog posts and emails, but that takes time I’m a really slower slow ride or blog posts will typically take me one to two days to write. Yeah, and then coming up with a new topic every week. You’re just like, holy smokes, this is a full time gig. And so I still, nonetheless, it didn’t change the need, and the requirement for that. So, you know, I realized that the most efficient way to deliver value to my audience, with the least amount of my time was through a podcast. So got on Google typed in how to how to start a podcast on YouTube found some good tutorial videos, you know, bought the the recommended mic that everybody said I should buy, and started the self made man podcast about a year and a half ago. And, you know, that has turned into just a really unexpected, awesome platform and project, the amount of feedback, positive feedback I get on that from a weekly basis has just been unbelievable. The amount of new people that it’s brought into my world has been just awesome. And the amount of people that it’s allowed me to meet in the form of my guests, has just been priceless. You know, here I am getting to, you know, get into interview guys like Daymond John and Chris soccer or Kevin Harrington or Peter Diamandis, or, you know, Aubrey, Marcus, or all of these guys, Tom, Bill, you there. It’s like my own little personal mentoring hour long session every week with some of the most successful people on the planet. And it’s led to extremely valuable, you know, relationships. Most people don’t know this. I haven’t talked about it really publicly. Yet. But, you know, Peter Diamandis is actually on the board for the hydro company. You know, building and meeting people like that, and building relationships through that podcast has just been awesome. And my time spent on it is literally two hours a week, you know, half hour before prepping an hour long interview a half hour, writing the blog post and getting it out. And that’s it. You know, so from an ROI perspective, that’s just been, it’s just been awesome.
Well, you mentioned names like Daymond, John and Chris Sacca, Peter Diamandis, from XPRIZE. I imagine that it didn’t start like that from scratch, right, like a year and a half ago, it was still a very crowded market in terms of the marketplace of podcasts, right? So how did you get to that level to where you’re now talking to these kinds of guests and getting the kinds of download numbers that you are that puts you as the number one self help podcast on iTunes?
The one asset that I did have left was my email list. So on the financial education company, I handed over my half of the of the business to Robert because I just couldn’t have anything to do with anymore. It was just the emotional toll had been too high. But I had my email list so you know, of a couple 100,000 people. And so you know, I had a huge advantage as far as having a built in audience when so when we launched the podcast, hey, it’s not to five people. It’s to a couple 100,000 So you know, that was it. definitely a huge advantage. But I didn’t start the podcast to build a podcast, I didn’t start the podcast to, you know, to turn that into my primary outlet. I started the podcast to do want one thing, which was to deliver value to my existing audience. So I’ve never once tried to grow the show, I’ve never really done anything, I’ve, I’ve emailed it out to my audience every week, I’ve put it out via my social media channels. And that’s been it. And it’s because that’s the way that I want to serve, to serve them. And sure people have have found it and come into the fold through the show as it’s kind of spread a little bit organically. But that’s been about it. You know, as far as getting guests go, obviously, it started with my warm market people that I looked up to, but I had some form of communication or connection with in the past. And all you’ve really got to do is get your one marquee guest in I call it the spiral of ascension, essentially, when it comes to credibility, and and guest. If you just get that one person, you know that one name like a Peter or like a Daymond. John, then all you got to do when you reach out to other people to say, hey, look, you know, we’ve had guests like Peter and Daymond, John, like, oh, cool, awesome. Yes. Right. So. So you’re just looking for that one person and do whatever you need to do to get them on, that will bring credibility to your show. And then, you know, when we reach out to guests, too, it’s it’s usually especially in the beginning, people that I look up to and want to talk and so I reached out personally, tell them why I want them on the show how they’ve, how they’ve impacted my life previously, you know, said thank you for their contribution that they’ve made to my career, and I just been really genuine, you know about it. So that’s, that’s been it.
I really appreciate you sharing that advice, Mike. And I’m really excited to follow the growth of your hydroponics company. And I love that that was rooted in solving a problem for your son, What’s your son’s name? Chase. So when Chase is a teenager, and is eating homegrown foods, talk to me about what the business is doing. At that time. Fast forward for me, how old is Chase? Now?
He’s six, So fast forward for me, you know, seven, eight years? What is this business doing? How is that impacting the world?
You know, that’s a really good question. And I don’t know the answer to it. Primarily, you know, primarily, this is something you could probably tell but I struggle with this. I struggle with this on a daily basis. I, I much I’m very similar to to Tim in the in this regard. Tim Ferriss, one of one of the things that I’ll never forget, I read or heard him talk about was the fact that Tim surrendered to who he is and what he’s good at, and what what he’ll essentially what he should not pursue. And I thought that was just really powerful. And then just a big, big deal on his end, but I’m starting to see the wisdom in it, which is, you know, my superpower, if you will, or stupid human trick is coming up with solutions to problems that I see and coming up with really good solutions that people like, and that can successfully make its way into the market and be sold. What I don’t enjoy is building a business, I don’t enjoy the infrastructure, I don’t enjoy the hiring, the firing the administrative, the overt, like editors don’t enjoy any part of that just sucks me dry. from an energy perspective. You know, my happy spot is where I’m at right now, which is in front of my desk overlooking the water, and in front of my computer writing eight hours a day. That’s it, that’s all they want to do. And when I had an office, I sit in my office and close the blinds, and I do the same thing there. So and try to avoid people, which is not, you know, not a good thing. So, you know, I’m really I’m really conflicted on on what the future of the business looks like. Because for me, my one goal is just to get it to launch and to get it out there. And and I don’t want to buy a warehouse and buy a company and hire 100 employees. And so I don’t I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t know if it’s hiring a CEO, I don’t know if it’s, it’s selling to a company that, you know, can do a better job of that than I can. You know, for me, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is he is getting poisoned off of food. And even if I have to help support other companies that are doing a better job at that than I am, then that’s what I would do.
Well, I’m very eager to follow your journey as you grow that business as well as grow self made, man. If people want to follow along on your journey, where can they find you and how can they follow you and your journey?
Yeah, thanks. You know, everything’s just over at Mike dillard.com. All of the stuff that I’ve been up to the newsletter, the blog, the podcast, all of that is just he’s just over there.
Great, well, I highly encourage people to check that out. I have been enjoying the self made man podcast. Some of the guests have just been incredible with some major breakthrough aha moments. So I want to thank you, Mike, for sharing what you do sharing your journey with us here on powderkeg. I’m interested to see how your quest continues to evolve. And I hope we have a chance to collaborate again. Awesome.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you, Mike. Matt, here again. That’s it for today’s episode of powderkeg. Igniting startups. Just a reminder to follow Mike at Mike underscore Dillard on Twitter, and Mike dillard.com. I just want to remind you and get all of the show notes and the full transcript on our website at powderkeg dot c o just a little reminder, powderkeg is presented by verge which is a network of local communities with global reach for tech entrepreneurs, investors and top talent growing companies beyond Silicon Valley, we have a ton of free resources for starting and growing your business at our website, which is just verge hq.com. We also host several events every month around the country. So check us out, see where we’re gonna be. Maybe we can link up in person would love to see you meet you have a conversation. And again, you can find all that information on our website at verge hq.com. And of course, you can always find me Matt Hunckler on Twitter, and I’m just at Hunckler. I appreciate the follow. I appreciate the conversation and all of the ideas that we’ve been sharing back and forth over the last several weeks since launching the podcast. Thanks to all of our powderkeg errs out there who already left us a review on iTunes. Just a little reminder that you can leave us your honest review on iTunes by going to this link powderkeg.co/itunes. Give us a subscribe while you’re at it and we’ll be forever indebted to you. It’s your reviews. It’s your subscriptions and your feedback that helps us get better and reach more people. We’ve got guests like Paul Singh from 500 startups and results junkies. We’ve got Jay Baer from convincing convert and an early investor in companies like buffer. And we’ve got Brian Clark from Copyblogger coming up soon on powderkeg igniting startups