#158: How to Launch a Successful Course Through Trial and Error

In this episode, we’re talking about how to launch a successful course through trial and error.

This is my Part 2 Blogger Genius Podcast interview with HollyAnne Knight from String & Story. If you haven’t listened to Part 1, I recommend you do that first.

In Part 2, HollyAnne shares how she honed in on free motion quilting as her quilting niche, then how she created her first course teaching it to quilters. And the course was a success.

But the story doesn’t end there. HollyAnne struggled launches her course for the second time. So she had to take a step back and figure out how to put all the pieces together for it work.

It was a lot of trial and error. But she ultimately figured out how to build out each piece, and her business exploded. Her last launch brought in $100k. And for HollyAnne, this is just the beginning.

You will definitely want to listen to this episode because HollyAnne shares her content strategy, social media strategy, email marketing strategy, and course launch strategy. If you want real takeaways, don’t miss this episode!

Show Notes:

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How to Launch a Successful Course Through Trial and Error | The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

Intro 0:04
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello, friend. Welcome back to The Blogger Genius. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. I’m also founder of the MiloTree pop-up app, founder of Catch My Party, business coach, and business translator.

I take what’s working in blogging today. Break it down, so you can use these strategies in your own business. Before I get started, I wanted to invite you to join my newsletter.

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For today’s episode, I have part two of my interview with HollyAnne Knight. And remember, she is the quilter behind String & Story. In part two HollyAnne talks about how she figured out how to build a business.

How to Launch a Successful Course through Trial and Error

And it wasn’t necessarily what she thought it was going to be. But all she did was she iterated and she learned, and she tried different things. And she found success. I think it’s a really great story.

I think you’ll see that we are very like minded, and how we think about emergent business building. So, without further delay, here is my part two with HollyAnne Knight.

So, let’s go back now in your journey. Okay, so you’ve got this library of posts, you’re starting to grow your email list, and you’re honing in on this is my niche within my niche. This is what I can teach this is what’s lighting me up.

And now when did you decide I’m going to put this in a course and I’m going to sell this?

How to Start Building a Successful Course

HollyAnne Knight 2:34
Yes. So of course, I’m continuing to listen to Amy and she keeps talking about this idea of digital courses. But I’m like, Amy, I’m still broke, still don’t have a lot of money to be investing in my business. And so, I begin to think how can I do this?

Like super scrappy, like super, super duper scrappy. I’m like, Okay, I have my website, which is where I live on the internet. I’ve got this email list so I can go knock on other people’s doors and do you want to come hang with me?

But I’m like, I need a delivery mechanism. And I need to know if this is really going to be viable? Do people actually want to take a class from me?

I knew that before IGTV, before all the things you can make a one-minute square video on Instagram. And I got real good at teaching techniques, real fast, real focus. And I knew that those videos performed best of everything that I made.

That content, people loved it particularly related to free motion quilting. I was like, but do they just like it because video is still novel on Instagram? Or do they really want to learn this from me, and I’m like, it’s time to test this.

Learn how to Launch a Successful Course Through Trial and Error on The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie. #businesspodcast #bloggertips #coursecreation

Start With a Free Mini Course to Grow Your Email List

So, before I even created it as a paid course, I created this free mini course that at the time was, Intro to Free Motion Quilting, and got together with a friend of mine in the industry who’s been around forever and ever. Bonnie Hunter, love her.

She has a huge audience. You talk about a gal that’s been blogging, forever, like Bonnie. And we got together and did a Christmas giveaway one year.

And as part of that, I asked her to help me promote this new free little baby class that I created that I was literally offering in a Facebook group. I was recording it on my iPhone 6 and posting videos in a Facebook group.

And that’s how we were going to do this course. And she did and it was it grew my list big time. And it grew my list particularly around this idea of like, I’m going to try teaching free motion quilting.

So, this was early 2018, maybe like very end of 2017 heading into early 2018. And it worked like gangbusters.

Jillian Leslie 4:36
So, you’re not monetizing this.

HollyAnne Knight 4:38
This was not monetized yet. This literally was just like; I’m going to test the theory of me doing this. Will people even show up if it’s free? And will they get results? That was the other thing I knew that I had gotten results for me.

And I knew that I had gotten little baby conversions of results for people on Instagram but I’m like, “Can I take them from like being terrified to actually quilting a thing.” So, I knew I needed to test out. Am I the teacher I think I am? Will this concept work?

So, I asked Bonnie, “Will you just promote this to your audience?” It’s a free thing yeah, I’m not asking you to help me make money out of the gate. We just see if this works with me.

So, I had 1,000 people join my email list, like virtually overnight. Who were like, that sounds super interesting. I had 400 people sign up for the first iteration of this little baby course. And I was like, Oh my gosh.

Jillian Leslie 5:34
How many people initially? How many people?

HollyAnne Knight 5:36

Jillian Leslie 5:37
Wow, that’s incredible.


HollyAnne Knight 5:39
Yeah. And my email list was like, maybe 100 people, the week before. And I had told my husband, I will be happy if 10 people sign up, I’ll consider that a success. And if like, 25 show up. This is like, earth shattering. And then all day, my phone was blowing up.

I was like, 400 people want in this Facebook group. 400 people are so curious about free motion quilt. And I knew that there were videos online. I knew there were free resources.

There are other teachers who have been doing this, longer than I’ve been quilting. So, it wasn’t that there weren’t resources. I think what it was is two factors. One, there were very few like organized resources.

There were isolated videos about a technique here or technique there. But nobody had offered an easily accessible system. That was one. And two, I think people were just so afraid that they wouldn’t be able to do it.

Even though the like more organized courses that were available. People were very hesitant to spend money, because maybe they’d spent money doing an in-person class before and didn’t get results with that.

So, why would they spend money to do an online class? Why would an online class be more successful than an in-person class, that’s so counterintuitive? But what happened is these 400 people showed up, and we got results. Like we were together.

It was like I was posting a new video, every hour on the hour for 10 hours straight. I was in this Facebook group all day answering questions, it was bananas. But it worked.

And at the end of the day, people who could not put their free motion foot on their machine at the beginning. We’re stitching out motifs at the end of the day.

Jillian Leslie 7:23
So, it was a one-day thing?

HollyAnne Knight 7:25
I just do a one-day thing.

Jillian Leslie 7:28
Recorded videos, and then answering questions?

HollyAnne Knight 7:31
And then answering questions in the comments. And then at the end of the day, I did one live Q&A. So, I got on for like an hour and was like okay, we’re here in real time now, even though I’ve been here in the group all day.

Jillian Leslie 7:42
And then how did you turn this into where you actually got people to open up their pocket books and buy this from you?

HollyAnne Knight 7:51
So, that journey was harder, I’ll be honest. So, I started strong, right out of the gate, because immediately people were like, we want more. And I was like, Okay, well, this was intro. So, now we’ll have beginner free motion quilting.

And it’ll be in two weeks, and I’ll teach you some more motifs. And it’s $25. And I had I think 35 people maybe sign up for that. So that was still, wildly successful for my businesses at this point.

The harder jump came from realizing it was exhausting for both me and my people. For me to be trying to sell something every week in order to do this, every Saturday. And the numbers quickly dwindled off over the next few months.

And so, I had this boon of people come in and taught them kind of what I knew. But I had not mastered the, how do I go out and continue finding new people? How do I keep this funnel flowing?

How Do you Refill to Fill Your Purchasing Funnel?

I got this big influx of people, they came down through this funnel, as it got narrower and narrower at the very bottom. Finally, a few months later, I was like, “Oh, I’ll offer a big all-inclusive course. And I’ll teach you everything I know for $150.”

And it worked. I had five people sign up for that. And I’m like yeah, this was like Amy’s concept of like a true digital course. At this point, though, I was still hosting it on Facebook.

Let’s be clear, there was still, not enough money to be investing in anything fancy. Still on my iPhone. I mean, I still record most of my stuff on my iPhone, like real talk. But it worked.

I got this big group of people in for free, they trickle down the funnel through some intermediate classes at intermediate price points, we got to the big offer a small number of them pass through the bottom of the funnel.

Okay. But now I have to figure out how to keep filling up the top of the funnel and how do I do that again and again and again. And I literally sat back for like a year after that and was continuing to blog each week.

At this point, I had begun doing weekly videos that cover the same content as my blog, but it’s just a different way of reaching people.

Jillian Leslie 9:42
And where are you putting those videos, YouTube’s?

HollyAnne Knight 9:44
That’s a great question.

Jillian Leslie 9:46

How to Create Content for Multiple Platforms

HollyAnne Knight 9:47
All over the place. So, here’s how my content strategy works. It’s madness but I love it. So, I get the new blog all polished up and finished by Monday night. It goes up Tuesday morning on my website with a little section that says, “Video coming soon.”

And then all the blog content. And it’s like a full blog post. It’s not show notes. It’s not an abbreviated version. It’s like a full on good information article. Then I go live on Tuesday mornings at 11 on Facebook, and I teach that information live.

Sometimes it’s face to camera just like this. Sometimes I actually have a slide deck. Again, it’s a different visual aid, that’s less texts in the blog post. But it’s not just my voice.

I then take that video from Facebook, I download it. And that afternoon, it goes up on YouTube and gets embedded back in the original blog post.

So, you’re recording it portrait?


Jillian Leslie 10:38

HollyAnne Knight 10:39
Or landscape.

Jillian Leslie 10:40
Sorry, not portrait. Landscape.

HollyAnne Knight 10:43
Yeah. So, this is all landscape.

Jillian Leslie 10:44

HollyAnne Knight 10:45
So, I record it landscape, it goes up on YouTube, the YouTube video then goes on my website. So, things that have kind of permalinks to them a little bit more, live there. And then I also have like a downloaded copy. So, I have a copy of all these.

From there, the next day, it goes up on IGTV, it’s still in landscape, whatever, people can turn their phones, it’s fine. And, and lives there. So, I trickle these things out. So, that one blog content multiplies itself.

Because I’ve got the images that I took for the blog content, I also have that slide deck that can be turned into a downloadable PDF, I now have this video that’s living across different platforms.

And it multiplies itself out and all of this is evergreen content that continues to be useful. So like right now, with all the uncertainty with COVID. I was like, I don’t know if my kids are going to be in school.

I don’t know how many work hours I’m going to have this fall. Praise God so far, we’re in school. It’s beautiful. But I didn’t know. And so, I sat down in July and was like, “Oh, I created all that evergreen content a few years ago, like what needs a facelift?”

How to Update Old Blog Content

And I’m literally pulling blog posts right now from 2017, 2018. And giving it new life. I’m like, “Alright, how do I add a little more free motion quilting into it? How do I add some new photos?”

How do I make a slide deck for an old blog post and republish that puppy and save myself some work?

But also, for people who have joined my audience in the last year or two. They’ve never seen this content before and probably don’t even know it’s there. Because no one’s scrolled all the way back in blogs anymore.

Jillian Leslie 12:13
And to be honest with you. One thing that I see over and over again, is we’re so weirdly afraid that people will say, “HollyAnne, you published that two years ago? What’s wrong with you? I see what you’re up to?” Nobody cares.

HollyAnne Knight 12:34
And also, I tell them, I’ll tell them if you were here in 2017. You’ve seen this before. But here’s the thing, I got more to say about it.

Jillian Leslie 12:39
But they don’t even remember, and they don’t hold it against you.

HollyAnne Knight 12:44
They’re like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot I wanted to do that project.”

Jillian Leslie 12:47

HollyAnne Knight 12:47
I put it in a bin, two years ago, I’m going to go pull it out and actually do it now.

Jillian Leslie 12:51
Nobody has a checklist of your content going, “HollyAnne I know when you publish this.” Promise you nobody cares.

HollyAnne Knight 13:01
Nobody does. Reuse that content. And doing it now, it has set me so free. In this season where everything feels so uncertain. It’s one less thing that I have to come up with from scratch and a time when executive function is at a premium in all of our lives right now.

And I feel like even with my audience, like I just mentioned, they’ll go pull out that project that maybe they set aside two years ago. I think sometimes for our audiences, it’s a gift for them, too.

Because people have to hear things over and over and over again, before it really sinks in. Maybe someone had a brand new quilter two years ago that didn’t have a lot of fabric.

So, when I wrote a blog post on how to tame your scraps, they’re like scraps what scraps. I don’t have any scraps. Well, two years later, if they’re still with me, I taught that same content this morning.

And now they’re like, “Thank God because they’ve been accumulating for two years, and I didn’t know what to do with them.”

Jillian Leslie 13:52
One thing you said that I think is super interesting is you worked this out, and you got your funnel and people ended up at the bottom of it buying your product.

HollyAnne Knight 14:01

Jillian Leslie 14:02
At your higher price point. And then you said you had to take a year to kind of work through this to figure out how to put all the pieces together. And I think that in any journey, it’s not linear. It’s not like every day, I move an inch forward.

It’s like sometimes I need to step back process this. And then when I come back, maybe I move five inches forward really quickly. And then sometimes I might move back.

So, when you are kind of noodling on stuff, it doesn’t mean you’re not growing your business as much. It’s percolating and then you get those aha moments to go, oh, I see it.

The Non-Linear Path to Growing an Online Business

HollyAnne Knight 14:49
It’s in the crock pot.

Jillian Leslie 14:50
Yes, it is. It’s like marinating and I always think that because a lot of times my aha moments in the shower. But it’s not like I can say today I’m going to have an aha moment. It’s like, I need to feel stuck.

Like I’ll say to David, my partner, my husband, let’s think about it. But also, let it marinate. And we will solve it. But we don’t have the solution today.

HollyAnne Knight 15:19
Yes, yes. And giving yourself that freedom like, I’m not a failure, because I haven’t figured it out yet. What I knew in May of 2018, is that I had a lot of pieces that worked. I can never remember the name of them.

Those machines, you see where it’s like dominoes, and then the marble goes down a slide.

Jillian Leslie 15:40
The Rube Goldberg type stuff.

HollyAnne Knight 15:42
Yes. So, I knew I had a lot of pieces of a Rube Goldberg machine. But I hadn’t figured out how to string them all that way together to get myself across this chasm of needing a real income. I had made a little bit here and a little bit there.

But the whole thing had to scale to get across a much bigger gap.

Jillian Leslie 16:01
I like that.

HollyAnne Knight 16:01
So, May 2015, I had my first cohort come through, I’d five students through at the time I called Rockstar Status. What an SEO not friendly name, it was all insider language. And that was one of the biggest puzzle pieces that took me a long time to solve.

So, I was very attached to this idea. I call my students, my rock stars. And we had arrived at this kind of community thing of like, you’re a rock star, when you make it through this class.

You’re earning a certain status in our community by going through this class. We can assume a certain level of knowledge and expertise from you, in this community if you’ve gone through this course.

When Your Course is a Flop

So, I’ve called it Rockstar status. But that’s useless to anyone who’s not already in my community. So, when I tried to launch the class the second time, literally no one showed up, it was a complete flop. Because those pieces weren’t together yet.

Jillian Leslie 16:55
Okay. So, how did you try to launch it the second time when it didn’t work? And then ultimately, what was the SEO term or terms you started using to attract your audience?

HollyAnne Knight 17:05
So, my course now is Free Motion Quilting Academy, which tells you a lot of information, I’m going to teach you how to free motion quilt, amazing, earth shattering. I know, google-able, incredible.

But when I tried to launch it the second time, in many ways, there were kind of two problems that happen. One, it was very much on the heels of my first cohort. And so, there had not been a lot of time for audience growth.

I’ve been completely consumed with delivering this course, for the first time, I had pre-sold the course. So, I had an outline of what I was going to teach them. But I didn’t have a single video when I took their money.

So, I had a lot of delivery to do and was very consumed with that. Keep in mind, like at this point, my kids are still two and three years old, like I still have baby babies in my house when this is happening.

Do the Prep Work Before Launching Your Course

And just kind of arrived at this place of like, I need more money, I’m going to launch it again. But I hadn’t done the pre-work, I hadn’t told my people it was coming. I hadn’t done a good job of really advertising the results.

And my students got incredible results, the thing worked super well. I told them; they go from being a baby beginner free motion quilt to a confident intermediate, free motion quilter. And they did, all of that was really good.

But again, got to fill up the top of this funnel, and got to encourage people to keep moving through it. And how do I move people through the funnel in a really streamlined way, rather than having them have to check all these boxes along the journey.

The thing was originally designed where you had to take all these prerequisite smaller classes with me. And the idea was like, every smaller, yes, builds trust with my audience.

And all of that’s great and everything, but they’re tired of walking down the stairs to go get their wallet. They’re like, take my money and teach me the thing already. Like, I don’t want to sign up 17 times.

So, the rest of 2018 was a lot of noodling around this. I released some quilting patterns and did some other things. But really not a lot of revenue.

A lot of noodling a lot of testing a lot of using my content on my blog, on my videos on my social media to figure out what are people responding to? What is going to work? What language do people respond to?

And a lot of learning I consume so much educational content that year, and still not a lot of money to be reinvesting. Still wasn’t taking Amy’s big course. There just wasn’t money for it.

But I became incredible at searching the podcast universe for all kinds of resources. Reading every business book that I could get my hands on. The amount of money I spent on audibles was actually astonishing.

Probably would have been more affordable to just buy this course. But that’s a whole other thing. But just building my business knowledge of, if this is going to scale, if this is going to become a real second income.

If this is going to become a real company, I’m going to be CEO of String & Story. That’s what I consider my title, is String & Story, but full disclosure, I’m still a one woman show, it’s still just me.

There is only the CEO so it’s more of a Chief Everything Officer at this time.

Jillian Leslie 20:01
I like that.

HollyAnne Knight 20:01
I do what I can. I’m looking forward to having a team but it hasn’t happened yet. So, how do I scale this? How do I do it as one woman? How do I do it with these two little kids at home?

This took close to a year and the following spring; I relaunch it again and for the first time ever called it Free Motion Quilting Academy.

And this whole year, most of this year, we had continued calling it Rockstar Status inside of my community, inside of my Facebook group, all of this. I finally had to get over my ego of the thing and my emotional attachment to the thing.

And realize, I could talk about gaining a rock star status, I could talk about being a rock star, but come up with a better name. And so that spring, I relaunch Free Motion Quilting Academy.

Ready to learn how to how to launch a Successful Course Through Trial and Error? Listen to the new episode of The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie to find out. #businesspodcast #bloggertips #coursecreation

Relaunching Your Course

And I believe it was about 30 or 35 students sign up, it was still $150. And it was like a $3,700 launch. So, crossed four figures on the digital courses.

Jillian Leslie 20:56
Where are you teaching it? Are you on Teachable? Are you still on Facebook how long is this course? How many weeks?

HollyAnne Knight 21:04
So, at this point, the course was six weeks. And I was on Thinkific. So, I had moved it over there. I kind of as I had taught it the first time, I had discovered Thinkific and began to move it over there. And so, we’re on Thinkific at this point.

And Amy had just relaunched Digital Course Academy, and I was like, I want to do the big fancy stuff. And I still couldn’t afford her class. But I had this fire under my bomb of we’re scaling this business. Like 2019, this thing is scaling.

And so, this was a huge first one, I was like, alright we hit the four-figure mark. And I began to be like, well, can I hit the five-figure mark, and my list was growing. My List at this point was probably maybe 2,500 people. So still not a very big list.

But I was getting better at talking about it, I developed a couple of lead magnets, a couple of PDFs. PDFs that were related to free motion quilting. Imagine that whole idea of staying in my niche. Phenomenal. Right?

Jillian Leslie 22:00
Yeah, yeah.

HollyAnne Knight 22:01
And just began to double down on that over those next six months. And fall 2019 was like the real big breakthrough. Now keep in mind at this point, I’ve been in the quilting and free motion quilting space for 2 1/2, maybe 3 1/2 years. Like several years.

This was not a quick journey. This was a long game journey to build this up in a way that’s been sustainable, and all of that.

Jillian Leslie 22:27
But here’s the thing, I’m going to say though, I don’t think it’s a long journey. From where you started, I think that we buy into this idea that I’m going to, spend a couple thousand dollars, buy a course. And all of a sudden, I’m a millionaire. And it is hard work.

Why Blogging Is a Long Game

HollyAnne Knight 22:49
Yeah, that’s exactly it. That’s exactly and I wish there had been more conversation around that as I was getting started. And I think there was enough, I had enough that I knew. I remember articulating it multiple points like I’m here for the long game.

If nothing else, I will outwait my competition, because I was in this very privileged position of John was supporting our family, John had a job. And he was supporting our family, we’d always made it as a single income family.

And we could figure that out. And as much as I wanted to be a two income family, the bills were paid, I had the luxury of time. And I understand there are circumstances where you may not have that luxury in the same way. And that’s a lot harder.

Regardless of circumstance, industry, anything, the idea of a journey of I’m going to start this journey today. And 90 days from now, I’m going to quit my day job and be a millionaire that doesn’t happen.

Jillian Leslie 23:45
It doesn’t. And I want to say this, and I feel like because we have this expectation that that’s going to work. And as long as I spend somehow,- I’m going to have this knowledge and I’m going to be able to put it all together.

I call it a long slog, which I want it to seem sexy.

HollyAnne Knight 24:06
It’s like Middle School for entrepreneurs.

Jillian Leslie 24:08
Totally. It’s awkward.

HollyAnne Knight 24:10
You’re like, my body’s growing things. And I smell and why is there hair there?

Jillian Leslie 24:16
Yeah, and I feel like an imposter. I think everybody hates me.

HollyAnne Knight 24:23
I hate me.

Jillian Leslie 24:24
Yes. Yes. And you think it’s never going to end. And then you start to come out like your boobs start growing, and they look pretty good.

HollyAnne Knight 24:33
And then you have that day where you look in the mirror and you’re like, today I look okay. And then the next day it shows up on your face. And you’re like—

Jillian Leslie 24:39
Let’s start all over. And I think that is true, too, which is as soon as you solve something in your business, there are many more problems to solve. You don’t know why. But this is why I always think we need to look backward to go, “Where did I start?”

HollyAnne Knight 24:54
Mm hmm.

Jillian Leslie 24:55
And holding that vision but also recognize the humbleness of while you had to learn this lesson of letting go of that title. So, that you could attract people to you, they knew what you were doing.

And then weirdly, not beating ourselves up for going. “Why didn’t I know this?”

HollyAnne Knight 25:15
In retrospect, I’m like, why did I call it Rockstar Status. It’s like, that’s the worst name ever. But it’s where we were. And just like everything in my business I pulled something out of my butt. Like, so much of this is just improvisation, day in and day out.

And sometimes it sticks to the wall. And sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes enough of it sticks to the wall, that we get to fight another day. And that’s worth celebrating.

And I think as entrepreneurs, it’s so important to take the wins where we can get them. We get so bogged down and the name was dreadful. What if I had named it better first, but like, lose track of the fact that like, look how much stuck to the wall.

I pulled this promise. And this outline, out of thin air threw a name on it, sold it and it worked. I delivered on my promise. And my people got results. Like more of that handful of pasta stuck to the wall than and fell off it.

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As an Entrepreneur You Are Mining for Gold

Jillian Leslie 27:08
I say that you are a miner mining for gold. And when you find that gold, you keep digging, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to find more gold immediately. And most of the time, you don’t find gold.

So, when you find gold and it connects, that’s when you do go, “Oh my God.” But you’ve got to be out there. And most days you’re coming home with no gold.

HollyAnne Knight 27:35

Jillian Leslie 27:35
But the more times I’m out in those hills with my pickaxe, looking for gold and sweating. And it’s uncomfortable, and my water bottle ran out and I’m hot but I’m still mining away. Those are the people who have success.

HollyAnne Knight 27:53
I’m going to live to dig another day. And constantly being investigative. That’s a hard word. Imagine if as I was sewing T-shirt quilts, and don’t get me wrong, my people will tell you I love me some good Harry Potter audiobooks.

I listened to the Harry Potter audiobooks all the time. But imagine if that’s the kind of audiobook I only was listening to, as I was sitting there making T-shirt quilts.

If I had never been like, let me just kind of go see what’s out in the world of maybe how I could sell more of these and discover this thing of like, I could teach online. And I don’t have to be the world’s best at this to teach online.

And that moment, I literally went to school to teach and I thought I was going to be in a middle school classroom. But what if I do this, like what if I teach this skill, and that kind of mind-blowing moment of like, all these pieces fit together in a way that I’d never seen.

And once I changed the name of Free Motion Quilting Academy and once I really honed in on that language, I did a much better job with that cohort. Really tracking their progress, paying attention to the words, they used.

Writing down the questions they asked. Writing down the language they used around their fears, all of those things. And the pieces really began to click. And that’s where I finally knew who am I talking to.

Pay Close Attention to Who Your Target Audience Is

Because that was the other thing when I’d first launched this, remember, I was trying to launch to people like me, and I work with almost no one like me. Almost all of my students are substantially older than I am. They’re very different walks of life.

They got grandbabies that are older than my babies. But figuring out okay, so this is who I’m talking to and who I’m selling to. This is how I talk to them. These are the problems they’re having and that’s what this year was all about.

This in between the years I got all of these pieces. And then the magic happened because I was able to put it all together and figure out a launch and how do I build up this anticipation? How do I get people excited about this thing that’s to come?

Because that was the first bet with these first couple of launches. It was a lot of just like and here it is. Want it or not, come and get it. Ring the dinner bell, instead of, here I am, chopping the garlic in the kitchen. And that smells good.

And then oh, here’s all these colorful veggies. And those are really pretty. And then let me add some more to the sauce and just let it simmer and let everyone kind of smell it cooking through the house all day.

Figuring out how to do that, with my product. Figuring out how to use my blog, use these weekly videos.

Use my social media to begin planting seeds far in advance of the cart opening and saying this thing is coming. Let me tell you why it’s going to be awesome. Let me get you excited.

Jillian Leslie 30:35
Is this when you took Amy’s course?

HollyAnne Knight 30:38
I hadn’t taken it yet at this point.

Jillian Leslie 30:39
Okay. Great.

HollyAnne Knight 30:40
I’m still listening to her podcast and watching her launch. That’s what I did a lot of was watching her launch.

Jillian Leslie 30:46

HollyAnne Knight 30:47
And it wasn’t until fall 2019 that was after the launch, I’m telling you about that I finally got to take her course. I finally earned enough money. Finally earned enough money up to that point to reinvest that money back into the business.

How to Get the Word Out About Your Course Launch

And so, add to the family. So, last fall, these pieces really finally clicked into place. And I reached back out to Bonnie and a couple other friends in the industry and said, “Will you help me promote this?” Like, “Will you talk about it to your people?”

And I’m like, if I can just create the effect of this girl is everywhere, then I can get this anticipation built up. People can just see it enough times. All those sales touches, we talked about.

People having to be touched like 11 or 17 times or wherever in that it is. I just need my face and my name and the name Free Motion Quilting Academy and pictures of my work everywhere. For weeks before this cart opens and especially while the cart is open.

Jillian Leslie 31:37
Did you have an affiliate program for these people?

HollyAnne Knight 31:39
I did it at this point.

Jillian Leslie 31:41

HollyAnne Knight 31:41
So, at this point, I had scraped up enough money over the summer. Tarzan Kay had done an interview with Amy. And something clicked with the whole email list thing that hadn’t quite clicked in the same way before of how to write a sales sequence.

And I had launched a quilt pattern like Quilt Along and made a surprising amount. It’s a $10 product. I made $1,000 in a week, and I was like, this is the money for my launch. And so, I was like, okay, we are moving from MailChimp to ConvertKit.

We are moving from Thinkific to Kajabi. Let me make some of these upgrades. And I know that Amy’s going to teach me about later anyway, and figure this out. I still hadn’t really figured out the webinar thing. But I knew how to talk on video to my people.

So, there weren’t slides or anything like that. But I could just get on and talk about it. This is why this course matters. These are the problems you’re having. This is how I can solve them.

These are why you’re telling me it won’t work. Here’s why it’s going to work anyway, please sign up. And all the pieces.

Jillian Leslie 32:37
And how much are you charging for this, this time?

HollyAnne Knight 32:39
This is still $150. So, I did an early bird sign up of 125. This is also now an eight-week course at this point. And it’s so much content, it’s kind of ridiculous. But I also am in a hobby space.

And I’m working with a lot of students who are on fixed incomes, I’m like, alright, let me go bear all that in mind. So, still a very affordable price point. And, the machine wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot better.

Like if we’re looking at this funnel, there still was plenty that fell out the sides, that the poor wasn’t quite right, whatever. But it worked a whole lot better. And I had set a goal for that launch of $10,000. I made $32,000 in September.

How to Set Up Your Online Course

Jillian Leslie 33:17
Oh, my gosh! Wow.

HollyAnne Knight 33:19
I know, right.

Jillian Leslie 33:23
Sorry, this is 12 weeks?

HollyAnne Knight 33:26
At this point, it was eight weeks.

Jillian Leslie 33:27
And you recorded all of these sessions. How are you doing this?

HollyAnne Knight 33:32
So, I was pre-selling again. So, it was in theory, the same class that I knew it was time to redo the video, because spoiler is a big gap between an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 10 or whatever I have now. Still on an iPhone, but it’s a lot better.

So, it was another pre-sale situation of like, I’m going to be videoing these things one step ahead of my people. But my teaching had improved, knowing like what questions they were going to ask for certain motifs and certain techniques had improved.

And so, I re-recorded the whole class that fall as I made this transition to Kajabi. I guess it was probably right around 300 students. And same thing phenomenal, phenomenal results. And the transformation that happened for my people.

I just was like how? I’m a girl with an internet connection and a passion for reaching other women and calling them into creativity and community and like my Georgia’s working,

Jillian Leslie 34:29
When you launch this are all of the videos live? Could I do the eight weeks in one sitting or you kind of releasing them?

HollyAnne Knight 34:38
No. I release them.

Jillian Leslie 34:40

HollyAnne Knight 34:40
I manage the overwhelm of my people.

Jillian Leslie 34:43
Okay, great.

HollyAnne Knight 34:44
I manage it for them.

Jillian Leslie 34:45
Where is everybody coming together on Kajabi for conversation for question?

HollyAnne Knight 34:51
The Facebook group that goes along with the class.

Jillian Leslie 34:53

HollyAnne Knight 34:53
So, I do weekly live Q&A as I release a module every other day. At this point, it was like there were a couple implementation weeks, but it was still mostly a module every week.

And then there were like a couple implementation weeks at the end that we called the catch-up weeks. And everything comes with lifetime access too.

Because I also recognize that there are people like, I’ve had multiple students, we get two weeks and they’re like, “I fell and broke my wrist or my daughter is having a baby, I need to go take care of the newborn for two weeks.” Life happens.

So, all of this comes with lifetime access. But there’s this rich community happening in this Facebook group. And then there’s like much more kind of polished video situation happening over on Kajabi. Still not perfect. Still on my iPhone.

None of this is perfect. All of this is scrappy, but getting better. That’s always my goal. Every time I record every time I launch, what is like the one thing I can improve?

Jillian Leslie 35:48
Like a week session, let’s say we are recording video, how long is it to consume? Is it a half an hour video per week? Because that’s a hard balance, you want to show that you’re giving enough content.

That it’s worth it, yet not overwhelm your audience where they’re like, I can’t watch a two-hour video.

HollyAnne Knight 36:07
Yeah. So, it’s usually several shorter videos. So, there’s maybe four to five, 10-minute videos. And each one is teaching a single technique. So, they can watch the single technique and go practice.

And the idea being that like, if they did one a day, they would very easily get through in the week, even if they missed a day here or there. So, it’s this little bite sized bit of practice.

All in all, if I’ve got a really committed student who’s very committed to finishing on time and seeing really huge results, she’s probably spending like two to four hours a week on this.

But that’s not necessarily average, it’s much more common that I get students who are with me for several cohorts. And they’re working, maybe 20,30 minutes a week. And they get there on their own timing and their own pace.

And I love that because progress is progress. And this is not a race, I’m just interested in moving them closer to this desired goal of being able to quilt their own quilts, and being able to do it beautifully. And to enjoy the journey along the way.

It’s so important that we come to quilting as a hobby, we’re here to have fun. And if it becomes a competition.

I always tell my people I said this, this morning, tell my rockstars I’m unavailable in my quilting journey to do anything that raises my blood pressure. Because literally the whole point of being here is to lower my blood pressure.

Jillian Leslie 37:25
I love that.

HollyAnne Knight 37:25
So, stressing me out, I’m like, “Bye I’m going to go over a glass of wine.” Like I’m done.

Jillian Leslie 37:29
I love that. Okay.

HollyAnne Knight 37:31
And it’s so, important to allow them to do that too.

Jillian Leslie 37:34
Okay, so you sell over $30,000 in this launch.

HollyAnne Knight 37:38
My life has changed.

Jillian Leslie 37:40

HollyAnne Knight 37:40
We’re now a double income family,

Jillian Leslie 37:43
What you totally are. So, now you have the money to now invest in her course.

HollyAnne Knight 37:49
Yes, I invest in Amy’s course. And I went on this blitz of investing in my business over the last year. So, this was literally exactly a year ago that this happened. And I remember we have this brewery that we go to all the time.

And I remember I was sitting there; my husband was actually out of town. Sitting there with the two kids refreshing my phone and my Kajabi account. And it hit the first $10,000 and I’m like holding a beer and just like sobbing, I’m like, it worked.

It finally worked. Were there ways I maybe could have streamlined to this journey, maybe so but my journey was my own. And my journey was like, intimate to me as an entrepreneur, but it also was like intimate to me. And those like early adopters.

Those first students who took that course are still with me. And we’ve been on this journey together. We’ve grown together as humans because we’re doing this community thing.

So, I go on this blitz of investing in my business. So, I took Amy Porterfield DCA I joined her momentum program. I took Heather Sager’s ‘Speak Up to Level Up’. I took Stu McLaren’s, ‘TRIBE’, Tarzan Kay’s, ‘Email Star’.

I have gone on this blitz of the last year. I’ve gotten all of the free beginner to intermediate level education. I’m ready for my degree, shall we say, let’s do this thing properly. And the growth over the last year has been absolutely insane.

So, I had been figured out this funnel. And I immediately turned around and relaunched again January, February, I had a $48,000 launch.

Jillian Leslie 39:18
Oh my gosh!

How to Put All the Business Building Pieces Together

HollyAnne Knight 39:18
So, 50% growth in like four months. Because once the machine works, the machine works. And you get all the big pieces together and then you’re making these little tweaks.

So, that first big slog up the hill as an entrepreneur is so hard. Like establishing your blog, getting people to learn your name, learn your face. Learn your business name, learn your URL.

Understand why they should go to their website and what they’re going to get there. Why they’re going to get value from you on your list. But once you get all those pieces in place, and you get that first big slog up the hill done.

The ride down from there is awesome. It just becomes this fun journey of multiplication and serving more people and seeing more lives change and getting to encourage more rockstars and becoming a better teacher.

Becoming a better entrepreneur, becoming a better business and a better website. And hopefully, in the near future becoming an employer. Creating jobs, all of this abundance, begins to just give and giving, give.

The willingness of all of my students to trust me with their money, and me being able to take that money, and transform my family and invest in my community.

Invest in my business, and then that business investing back in their community by bringing more of them in and hopefully getting to hire and affecting those lives like it becomes this flourishing.

That was the vision all along, but yet, it’s so much bigger and so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. Like the first time I was trying to cut up T-shirt quilts and took off the end of my finger with a rotary cutter.

It started in this very, messy middle schooly place and now it’s growing into this gorgeous, thriving thing like, here we are in the middle of COVID. And everything is so hard, and yet I was able to look through the screen to my audience.

Because the class is not $200. I know, $200 is a lot of money. But I also know that your mental health is invaluable. And if quilting is the place where you go, for your mental health, and for your emotional well-being.

This community is the place where you find solidarity and you got to jump in with me, because the flourishing of that is going to ripple out for all of us, we’re all going to be stronger and healthier.

And here in the middle of COVID as a solo entrepreneur, I had $100,000 launch last month, with the same course.

Jillian Leslie 41:23
Oh my gosh.

HollyAnne Knight 41:25
With this same course, basically the same content, but it’s just staying in the game. And believing in that vision. And zooming out from I’m going to be an entrepreneur that makes a bunch of money, but to realize what really is money?

Money is like our society’s symbol of flourishing, and like what are other symbols of flourishing? What are other ways that can make people flourish? And how can we spread that value around.

So, that business isn’t just something to make an income for my family, but a lot of people’s lives can be changed for the better as a result of that.

Jillian Leslie 41:55
I love that. And especially as women, I think that we all struggle with this idea of charging for stuff that’s weird, and people, not just giving it away for free. And the fact that you’ve been able to frame it in a way that I think is so beautiful.

You are providing for your family. Absolutely. You are becoming this bold woman who is like building. Think about what you’re doing in terms of modeling for your children, but also for others, you’re on my podcast.

And my hunch is people are going to listen to this and be so inspired, that there is this ripple effect. And that you are helping people lower their blood pressure and find their joy in a time when we’re all so nervous and feel so unsafe

And the bigger you get. The more joy, the more peace of mind, the more happiness you are spreading.

HollyAnne Knight 42:58

Jillian Leslie 42:59
I’m like you go, you grow.

HollyAnne Knight 43:01
Thank you.

Jillian Leslie 43:02
You spread that.

Helping Others When You Have Growing Business

HollyAnne Knight 43:04
COVID hit in March, I finished that $48,000 launch like in February, COVID hit in March. We live just outside of this little suburb of Atlanta called Duluth.

There’s a lot of really locally owned businesses in Duluth and to be in this position, as COVID happened that all our local restaurants either closed or they went to like takeout only.

And we were able to triple our spend, like we maybe would eat out once a week, all of a sudden, right now, we’re eating out half the time because these businesses need this revenue.

And we’ve just been blessed with this, and we’re going to help them feed their families, because we had these folks who were able to help us feed ours. But then like them feeding their families means that their family is safer.

And just that joy going out. And I think it’s just so important to realize that like, money and resources and value, none of these things are pies, these things are rivers, and we have the opportunity to build these new tributaries.

And that’s why building a business is important because not only are we spreading around like vague sense of knowledge. If we’re teaching something or the vague sense of a product.

But the way all these things of value and flourishing and growth are interconnected. And what that can do for our society. And just like you said, this is the power of being female entrepreneurs this is how women can change the world.

Jillian Leslie 44:19

HollyAnne Knight 44:20
Because we’re going to look at business so much more than just cash value, there’s a lot more value that can be spread around and how we choose to build a business and how we choose to bless the people around us.

Jillian Leslie 44:29
Absolutely. As women, we are so good at connecting at realizing and if you can then make money doing that you get to spread though that goodness, even more so. We care about people.

HollyAnne Knight 44:47

Jillian Leslie 44:49
You get to do that in a grander scale. So, let’s talk now about going forward. So, you just did $100,000 launch.

HollyAnne Knight 44:58
$100,000 gross revenue.

Goals for the Future

Jillian Leslie 45:00
Do you see yourself now moving? What is the vision for, let’s say, end of 2020, into 2021? And how often do you launch by the way?

HollyAnne Knight 45:13
So, I launch twice a year. And my launches are lopsided to the back half of the year, because people tend to quilt more in the cooler months. And I really like having the freedom to be online a little less in the summer.

So, I generally launch like August or September and then January or February. So, kind of when we’re heading into the cooler season. And then coming out of the cooler season.

The course has expanded to be a 12-week course, which I think is absurdly long, but it’s what my students wanted. So, it’s what my students get. And I do see better results with it. It’s just that’s a long time for a digital course.

So, it’s been three months here, but it means we’re like, tight by the time it’s done. So, right now, I have 550, beautiful souls that I’m taking care of and guiding on this quilting journey. And that, in its own regard is like a weight.

So, a lot of my energy is going to them spending time with them. And then beyond my course, I have a back-end membership called the ‘Guild’ for folks who have graduated from the course or who are finishing up the course.

So, those are my two top priorities in terms of people. But in terms of like the infrastructure of String & Story, September has been a lot of rest. My grandfather died in the midst of my last launch.

And so, as soon as the cart closed, I was like, I love you guys. I’ll be back in a week. And we booked it to the beach with my parents, just took some time took some space. Have gotten the kids settled in school. And now I’m really excited to finish this year strong.

And I always seek to lead by example, not only as a business owner to other business owners, but just like as a woman to the women that are in my community. And I’ve talked a big game about finishing 2020 strong and I really want that to be true.

So, much has been in a sense taken from us this year. But I don’t think that means we have to count this year, as a loss. We all went into 2020 saying this is our year, this is the year where we get it together and like big things are happening.

And some of us like me, I have been really blessed that my business has tripled in the last 12 months. And that’s just like tripling. In the single launch of it has tripled. My business honestly, the numbers are like so big that I haven’t even run them.

It’s like 300, 400 something percent of my business has grown this year. But that doesn’t change the challenge of the year either. I’ve been blessed financially, but still live through this weight.

And I think the gifts that 2020 has given all of us if we’re willing to accept it. And in some ways, it’s a bitter gift at times, but it’s that gift of clarity, and what really should stay in our businesses, what really should stay in our lives?

What should stay in our society, there’s a lot of conversations that could be had there about this clarity and like, what needs to get uprooted right this minute, and what seeds do we want to be planting?

So, a lot of things happen this summer, in my personal life, but in my business as well of like, okay, these things are going away. And so, right now, I’m kind of taking care of the earth, if you will to be able to grow bigger, in 2021.

How to Expand Your Business

So, my big, big goal for the next three months is to hire my first two employees. And they’ll probably be part time for the beginning. But I really need like a high-level executive assistant, high level VA.

Someone like that, and a community manager to help me take care of my people. So, that’s a big part of what will happen coming out of this launch is like, it’s time to scale String & Story bigger, I’ve seen, what I as one person can put out into the world.

But my kids are getting older. And ironically, they need more of me as they’re older than even they did when they were younger. And just like me mentally is really what it is. We get tired, it’s like the mental presence of being able to actually set the business down.

Because when you’re a solo entrepreneur, if something blows up in the Facebook group, there’s only one person who’s going to fix it. And, beginning to build in, like the ability to actually set the thing down.

And rest for real and get to, model that for my audience and model that for my students in a way I haven’t been able to do before. And also continuing that outgrowth of flourishing of actually creating jobs.

This season where we’re seeing a lot of job loss, and in particular jobs for women, that as moms are at home. I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics of the number of women that are having to step back from their careers.

Because of what’s going on with having kids at home for school and all of that. But to create some jobs that are very specifically designed that you could do this with your kids at home.

You could do this as a mom like continuing to seek to have this VA role. Or as a woman who’s maybe worked in community and other respects, let’s bring that digital and do that here. So that’s the big thing.

And then the class comes back in January. We start all over again. I was looking at the calendar this week, six weeks from now pre-launch starts again.

And we start that marble rolling through the machine all over again, for that January launch. It’s going to be amazing.

Jillian Leslie 50:00
Wow. HollyAnne, what an amazing story. Truly, it is hopefully so inspiring for everybody. And really my takeaway from this is how it evolved, you putting in the effort, putting in the energy at every stage.

But it was not a clear path, it became clear, when you look back on it now, you could go, oh, I put this together, and then this together, and then this together.

So, it’s a messy journey. And yet, you’ve been able to just keep moving forward, and now it’s clicking.

HollyAnne Knight 50:38
Oh, yeah.

Jillian Leslie 50:42
It’s amazing when the pieces start to fall into place, what magic can happen?

HollyAnne Knight 50:47
Yeah, that’s what I was going to say, that’s where the magic happens is like being willing to walk that messy journey. Being able to assess honestly, with yourself, what worked and what didn’t.

I made a decision. And whatever happened from that decision, is completely amoral. Like, it’s neither good nor bad. It’s just did it work, or did it not? And how do I pivot accordingly. And that’s always the journey of the entrepreneur.

And, beyond that, keeping that vision, this is another thing with 2020. It’s worth creating the margin to sit down with a journal and say, “What is the vision of this thing?”

String & Story really became to grow and become magical, when I realized that quilting was a vehicle for much bigger things. And there are two pieces of that, one; that it adds like a whole other level of dignity and beauty to what I’m doing.

But also, if you have a bigger vision for a population you’re wanting to serve, you can pick any niche that they’ve got problems with, that you can solve in order to reach them.

And you can make money doing anything. Like if I can make money teaching quilting on the internet, it’s almost hilarious when I say it like that.

Jillian Leslie 51:51
Not just quilting, not just quilting.

Serving Women as Your Mission

HollyAnne Knight 51:53
It’s very specific, free motion quilting primarily to baby boomers on the internet. And I’m 29, and you say that and you’re like, that’s nuts. But it’s this beautiful vehicle to serve women that are isolated, and lonely and craving community.

And they have so much to give and to be in community with each other and to love on each other and take care of each other. So, anyway, as an entrepreneur, take that time to create that bigger vision.

Give yourself the grace and the little gritty things, but also take time to pull out of the gritty things and be in that big picture and be like, where is this going? What are the big things that I want to accomplish? How do I want to be able to give back?

Who do I want to be able to love on? Who do I want to see thrive and flourish that’s far more than just me and my family. And that’s a valid thing in and of itself. And there was definitively for those T-shirt quilts.

There was a season of String & Story where it literally was, we’re trying to dig our way out of credit card debt. And I don’t know where the grocery money is coming from. So, I better go sell a quilt. And that’s beautiful and valuable in and of itself.

But as you gain that traction, zoom out and look at the impact that you can have because you have immeasurably more power to change lives around you than you think you do. And business is a gorgeous vehicle for that.

Jillian Leslie 53:13
Alright, HollyAnne. If people want to reach out to you learn more about you. What is the best way to do that?

HollyAnne Knight 53:20
Okay, so you can find my website at stringandstory.com. And if you go to stringandstory.com/entrepreneurresources, let me make sure it has an ‘S’ at the end. Because we want to have that correct. Yes, entrepreneur resources with an ‘S’ at the end.

I’ve got a few easy links there that link over to my social, there’s an easy link to my newsletter list. If you’re an aspiring quilter or already a quilter. I also have a link there to a Facebook group I’ve started called the Arts and Crafts online educators.

So, if you’re in a creative niche, and you’re looking to add education as part of your business, you want to be in a Facebook group with me where I’m like sharing resources. It’s all very casual.

But just to be in a space of like-minded people and people who are looking to do business in this really holistic, scalable, but profitable too kind of way. I’d love to have you join us.

Jillian Leslie 54:08
Awesome. Okay, you’ve just like, really inspired me for the day. Truly, I’m so glad that we got the chance to do this. So, thank you so much.

HollyAnne Knight 54:19
Thank you so much. I’m so glad to have been here. Thanks for listening to my long, messy, beautiful, fabulous story.

Jillian Leslie 54:26
Wow. What an episode I hope you enjoyed that. My biggest takeaway is that your job as an online entrepreneur is to show up, try new things, iterate, see what’s working, see where you get traction, start building off of that.

And definitely listen to your audience. Notice when they’ve got problems and see if you can figure out a way to solve them.

And if you want to stay up to date on what is happening in online business, please join my newsletter. Head to milotree.com/bloggergenius and I will send you a weekly email where I highlight my four biggest takeaways from every single episode.

Think of it as a Cheat Sheet, Cliff Notes, that kind of thing, but stay in the know head to milotree.com/bloggergenius, super easy to remember. And I will see you here again next week.

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