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#253: Jillian Leslie’s Entrepreneurial Journey (or How She Built This)

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Today, I’m sharing my entrepreneurial journey with my husband, David, that started in 2009.

If you are wondering how we built the businesses we have— Catch My Party, our MiloTree Pop-Up App, and now MiloTreeCart, our payment tool for bloggers, this is the episode for you.

I tell the whole story of how all the businesses fit together. I share the lessons we’ve learned along the way, and how we think about building products today.

I also share the patterns I see that hold bloggers back, and how we hope to support them growing their income by selling digital products in 2023.

Jillian Leslie's Entrepreneurial Journey (or How She Built This) | The Blogger Genius Podcast

Show Notes:

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Jillian Leslie’s Entrepreneurship Journey

Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. I’m your host, Jillian Leslie. I am a serial entrepreneur; I build businesses with my husband. And I’m just so grateful to be here with you right before Thanksgiving. And before I launch in, I just want to say thank you, you are the most wonderful community.

I’m honored that you listen to this show week after week. You guys are so inspiring, I find you to be so smart, so kind, so creative, such amazing problem solvers. So really, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you. And I thought I would do something a little different with this episode.

I thought I would share our origin story and how we got to where we are. And if you listen to my intros, and I’m talking about Catch My Party and our pop-up app, and all this stuff, how do those all fit together? So, this is what I wanted to share. I wanted to say that we, David and I, my husband and I started our online businesses on a whim.

Jillian’s and David’s Backgrounds

I have an MBA from Stanford, but then I became a writer in Hollywood for 10 years writing teen comedies. If you ever saw Freaky Friday, I worked on that movie. And my husband was a big wig at MySpace back in the day. And we’re in LA, and I’m saying, you know, we should do something together, we should build something.

How We Came Up With Catch My Party

And we came up with this idea for Catch My Party. And we thought about it because I’m writing movies for Teen Girls. He’s at MySpace, it’s all about teens, let’s create a photo sharing site around parties for Teen Girls. Well, it didn’t quite work out like we thought, because teen girls wanted nothing to do with Catch My Party.

And we had a chicken and egg problem, which is we needed people to add party photos for other little ones to come and see those party photos. And this was I would say, the first big lesson I got about building technology building solutions on the internet, which is you have to listen to your audience.

So, when they don’t show up for you, see if there are other audiences that might like your product. And in fact, it was moms, moms with Etsy shops were the first ones who started to add party photos to Catch My Party.

And initially, we thought, oh, no, we made a big mistake. The teen girls aren’t going to want to have party photos up on a site with kids’ parties. And then we step back and said, “Hey, maybe this is our site.” And we leaned into that.

So, a lot of times I talk about in business building, it can be messy. And it is about having expectations but holding them lightly because you do not know how things are going to change. So, this was the first example for us.

So, we leave our jobs is because we have a baby. And we decide we’re going to go full force on Catch My Party. And we’re getting a lot of traffic from Facebook. And then all of a sudden Facebook starts changing and our traffic is drying up. And we realized that we were getting traffic from Pinterest but we needed to double down on Pinterest.

Jillian Leslie's Entrepreneurial Journey (or How She Built This) | The Blogger Genius Podcast

Why We Built Our MiloTree Pop-Up App

Now David is also a programmer. He’s amazing at what he can build. And he built us our pop-up app, which was not called MiloTree at the time. And we installed it on Catch My Party. If you go to Catch My Party, you’ll see it and it was to grow our Pinterest followers, it popped up and asked people to follow us on Pinterest and it worked.

And that was shocking so that we were able to grow our followers and then our traffic on Pinterest started exploding in fact currently we have 1.7 million Pinterest followers and 165,000 Instagram followers, thanks to our pop-up app.

Then we said hey, wait a second. Maybe we could launch this as a product for other bloggers to grow their followings. And we did and we call it MiloTree, which is named after our favorite tree in Hawaii.

Anyway, just like how we built out Catch My Party with our users. We started talking to bloggers and they loved MiloTree, our pop-up app to grow Pinterest, but they said could we also grow Instagram with it? And we were like, “Yes.” And we created a pop up for Instagram.

And over time bloggers were reaching out to us saying , “We want to grow Pinterest but we also want to grow Instagram,” and we said, “Great.” And we made it so you could grow your Instagram followers. And then we rolled out YouTube and Facebook and now you can grow TikTok.

And people wanted to be able to grow their email list with that, and we rolled that out or add a custom link so that your pop-up can link to wherever you want it to. You can also link it to your Shopify store to your Etsy shop. And that’s how we built our pop-up that. And that’s been going great as well.

So, Catch My Party, we’ve grown into the largest party ideas site on the web. And now we have this app and we had a whole different orientation, working directly with bloggers. I find more it more gratifying to work with bloggers, because there are fewer of them. And I can make more personal relationships.

Jillian Leslie's Entrepreneurial Journey (or How She Built This) | The Blogger Genius Podcast

Building Our Coaching Groups During the Pandemic

So, cut to the pandemic. And all of a sudden, I’m feeling really isolated, kind of freaked out and alone. And I have been coaching other bloggers for a long time, one-on-one coaching. And I said to David, I want to create a group, because I want to have people that I can show up with and help them dig into their businesses. This is such an unusual time.

And to be honest with you, it was a way for me to get out of myself and focus on other people. And I will tell you, it worked. So, we started doing coaching groups, and I found some of my closest friends were in our coaching groups. And if you were in one hello to you, I hope you know how valuable and important that whole experience was.

Anyway, I’ve been doing my podcast for four years now. And I see lots of patterns. Plus, I’m working incredibly closely with the people in our coaching groups. And I’m starting to notice certain things. All of the people in my coaching groups, all the people I’ve coached personally, and most of my podcast guests are women.

Seeing Patterns in Female Creators

So, I’m dealing predominantly with female creators, mothers, people very much like me, I noticed some patterns. Women are amazing at growing communities; we really love to help and people are drawn to what we offer.

Two, we are freaked out by technology, it’s something we have to deal with. But nobody likes it. That was another theme that I saw. And therefore, most of the women that I’m talking to, were not selling things directly to these audiences that they’ve cultivated. I thought that was really interesting.

Just you know, on our whiteboard, we have the words that say, “Technology is hard.” And I think it’s been very helpful for me having David because I too personally go, “Oh, my God, I suck at technology.” And by the way, I hear this over and over again. Now to be honest with you, I probably don’t suck that much at it. But inside I feel like I do.

And David has been very good. Because he’s amazing at technology at explaining to me that most technology sucks. And it’s not me. It’s the people who are building that technology tend to be tech bros building it for other tech bros. They’re not thinking about the actual user experience.

And so, we started to step back and think, just off the top of our head, why does it have to be like this? Anyway, people in our coaching groups were reaching out to us for blogging help. And David who is an expert at many things, including WordPress, we were helping people and we were getting even closer to their businesses.

Bloggers With Communities Wanted to Start Memberships

And a couple women with big Facebook group, were saying, “Hey, I want to start a membership. But I don’t know how meaning I don’t know the logistics of doing this, and how do I get paid for this?” And I said, “You know what, I’ll help you. I will hack together a solution for you, so that you could get paid by your members as a new way to monetize.”

And I just want to take a step back and say in my four years of doing my podcast and interviewing over 250 guests, I will say that the bloggers who make the most money are not just monetizing via ads or working with sponsors or working, getting paid through creator funds.

They are selling their own products and services directly to their audiences. And I keep saying this, if you listen to my podcasts, I say this over and over again, “Hey, you need to be selling stuff to your audience.”

However, with my coaching groups, when I would say this to them, I got three responses I got, “The tech is too hard to figure out.” I got two, “I don’t have the time to set this up or invest because I’ve got so many other things I’m doing in my business.” And three, “I don’t know what to sell.”

And that just stuck in my head, like, hmm, it would be so beneficial if I could solve this for people for women, because again, they’ve already got what so many people want, which is audiences, they understand blogging, they understand how to solve problems. But these three things, were holding them back.

So, now back to women wanting to set up memberships, because again, during the pandemic, we all wanted to come together. I hacked together a complicated solution. And I said to David, if we could solve this, we could help so many women, creators, bloggers. And so, we set out to go, how could we do it?

Setting Up Payments but Needing to Help Creators Set Up Sales Pages

And we came up with this idea because setting up a PayPal Pay button is really complicated. We’re like, okay, we’re going to create something called the MiloTree Money Button. And it’s going to be a button that you can put anywhere and collect payments. And we’re like, done, okay, we’ll do that.

What we realized was a money button was good. But then creators, bloggers needed a sales page to put the money button on so they could talk about what they were offering. We said, okay, maybe we could create a sales page template and give it to these bloggers.

And we thought, hmm, should we do it in Elementor? And again, we know it’s not intuitive, it’s not easy. So we said, okay, what’s another solution? And we created an HTML template. Now, if you don’t even know what HTML is, that is going to have the language that your blog is written in.

And we’re like, great, we’re going to just offer this to people who want the button, we’re going to go, “Hey, go install this on a page on your blog.” Well, that was way too difficult, it ended up that I would be logging into their blogs, setting up their sales pages and going okay, all you have to do is just fill it out, and nobody was filling it out.

And we said, okay, that’s not going to work, then we said, we will do Canva templates for sales pages, because they offer them and that wasn’t easy either. The URLs, the web addresses look very weird. And so, we said to ourselves, we need to take it upon ourselves, to create easy sales pages for our customers.

So, they’ve got the buttons so that they can sell stuff, but they also have a sales page. And I think the thing that I have learned doing this, creating products is you got to get people at every step to test it to try it to get their feedback. And sometimes it makes perfect sense. And sometimes you think to yourself, oh my god, this should have worked. And it didn’t.

Recommendation: Get Constant Customer Feedback as You Build Solutions

So please, as you’re building and testing, get people close to you to try things out. Because I would say that is how we’ve been able to hone in on our product, we created sales page templates, and we said, these have to be so easy to fill out.

And if you look, there are boxes where you can fill out the details of your sales page. And lo and behold, we gave them to people. And it was still too complicated. They didn’t know how to do it, how to make it easy. And they were struggling.

We thought to ourselves, okay, let’s put sample tech in the sales pages, so they get an idea of what to do. And that worked. And people seem to really like that. People then were coming to us saying not just that they wanted to start memberships, but they wanted to sell digital downloads, like eBooks, templates, guides, printables.

And we said great, you can use MiloTreeCart for that. You just have to deliver it yourself in a Google Drive or in a Dropbox and people like their eyes glazed over.

And we said okay, we need to take that on ourselves now and enable people to upload their digital downloads and we deliver them directly to their customers. At each step I want you to know that David and I and our Head of Marketing and designer Clarita sit down and we say to ourselves, how can we make this as simple as possible?

And a lot of times our solution gets even more basic. There’s something called the “Curse of Knowledge.” And once you see this, you can’t unsee it. And that is everything I know I don’t think it’s that big a deal and I assume you know it as well.

It’s like we forget what it’s like to be a beginner chances are when you are creating products, you need to create them much simpler than you can ever imagine. And that is what we have found. So, we say hey tech bros, we get why you are adding all this complexity, because you don’t understand really where your audience is.

And we try it every stage to see where our audience is, and build from there, and then get tons and tons of feedback. So, this is how we built out our product, we now have easy sales page templates that you can set up in 10 minutes for different types of products. So, that’s the other thing we saw.

People were thinking, well, I want to do a workshop, or I want to do coaching, or I want to do a digital download, or I want to do a membership, and we chunked it into these different products. And that has been super helpful for our customers just to think this way.

Creating Resources to Help Bloggers Sell Their Digital Products

So, one other thing that people struggle with, especially women, and this is selling, yes, they’ve got all these ideas. So, people come to me and they say, I’ve got all these ideas for products. But yet push comes to shove creating the product and selling the product. And all this is too hard.

We said to ourselves, okay, let’s start helping these bloggers sell, what do we need? Well, we need email templates that they can fill in and use. We need social Canvas social media templates that they can use. And we gave these to our customers, and they loved them.

However, it got confusing, I send you a packet of seven email templates. And you’ve got to figure out when to send them and how to promote this.

So we said, okay, let’s step back again, let’s create launch calendars where literally you go day-by-day, and it says in the launch calendar, day three, you send this email and you send this social media post. And day four, you maybe do a TikTok and it’ll literally just step you through the entire process. And bingo, people loved it.

And in fact, I just got some feedback last night from Trixie. Trixie, if you’re listening, this is you saying I could never have launched my paid workshop without the launch calendar. Because it just laid everything out.

And I don’t know about you. But I’m always saying, please don’t make me think. Not that I can’t think. But if you can just tell me what to do. I am super happy. And that’s another thing that we realized our audience wants from us.

So, we want to take the lead. And we want to say, hey, you want to create an eBook, use our Canva eBook template, you want to create a workshop, we’ve got a workshop template for you and a launch calendar. So, everything is set up for you to have success.

One thing I always say is being an online entrepreneur is lonely. We feel there’s so much to do. And I don’t know about you, but people in my real life, like don’t understand what it takes. And so, we want to be that friend, supporting you. In fact, we have a motto.

And our motto is, “Friends don’t let friends ride the roller coaster alone.” And that’s exactly it.

I would never want to go on a roller coaster alone. And we want to not just give you tools, easy tools. We want to help with the entire process. So, we believe we have unbelievable technology and unbelievable customer service.

I wanted to just read a couple of these recent testimonials that I’ve gotten because it shows where our product is different. And so, I got this one yesterday and I thought this was great.

And this person Julie said, “I purchased the package at noon and have three products ready to go. They include a webinar, a PDF and coaching. I’ve been planning these activities and products for a long time today with MiloTreeCart. They are a reality.”

And then another woman said, “I got an idea for another workshop yesterday and got it set up in 20 minutes this morning. I love this.”

And one last one. This is from Ashley, “MiloTreeCart has helped to make my dreams of hosting online classes come true. Jillian and her team made setting up the workshop sales page so simple. In the past few months, I’ve made almost $3,000.”

And honestly when I hear this, my heart is so full.

When I Knew We Were Solving an Important Problem

You know I talk about we are all miners and we’re mining for gold. We’re looking for gold specs, which is like where we see success. For me with MiloTreeCart the first place I saw it was with Cristy Harfmann, who has been on my podcast, shared her story about losing her Instagram following and she hosted a paid workshop where she taught other bloggers how to work with brands.

And afterwards we got on a call and I felt an immediate shift in her. I felt this level of confidence, I felt this excitement and that there was so much possibility as she was coming up with other digital products to sell. And I said to David, if we can do this for other bloggers, we are onto something.

If we can help them come into their own, see their own power, understand what they are capable of. I can’t wait to roll this out. And now I’ve seen this transformation in so many other women.

This doesn’t mean that every digital product you create is going to be a home run. It’s a lot of trial and error. It’s a lot of testing. But eventually with a platform like MiloTree, where you can test stuff really fast you will find gold.

What We’re Offering in Our MiloTreeCart Black Friday Special

Now, I’m really excited to talk about our MiloTree Black Friday special, this is kind of our coming out party. We sell MiloTreeCart for $349 as a one-time lifetime deal, you only pay once, own it forever. And by the way, this was feedback from our customers, they did not want a monthly subscription, they wanted a one- time price.

So, for $349 you can own MiloTree forever, and we are offering over $1,000 in bonuses. This includes:

  • a lifetime subscription to our MiloTree pop-up app use this to grow your followers and email subscribers at the top of your funnel so you have people who will ultimately buy your products.
  • Our second bonus is unlimited access to all of our selling resources. These are things like digital product templates, email templates, social media templates, launch calendars, everything you need to create and sell your products.
  • And for our third bonus if you are one of the first 20 people to purchase MiloTreeCart, I will give you a personalized VIP onboarding where I will review your first product, your pricing strategy and your sales page and give you my feedback to set you up for success.
  • And finally, for everybody who purchases I am hosting a workshop just for you on January 10th to help you set up and launch your first product.

So, my recommendation to you is purchase MiloTreeCart now, lock in all these bonuses, go enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.

And then January 10th, we will be coming together to get that first product up launched and ready to sell. If you want early access to our Black Friday Special. Please join our waitlist go to milotree.com/blackfridayspecial. If you want to go to the sale it starts at midnight on Thanksgiving, just head to milotreecart.com.

One thing, there is really no risk, we offer a 30 day money back guarantee. We want you to love this. And if you don’t, we will happily give you your money back. So, if you’re thinking I’ve got product ideas, I’ve just never known how to set them up. This is for you. If you’re wanting to turn on a whole new income stream in 2023, this is for you.

And if you want to try something new, with a support system around you, this is for you. Our motto is, “Friends don’t let friends ride the roller coaster alone”, and that’s exactly how we feel we are here for you.

So, if you have any questions, please reach out to me at jillian@milotree.com I’d love to answer them. I love hearing from you. Happy Happy Thanksgiving and I will see you here again next week.

Other related Blogger Genius Podcast episodes you’ll enjoy:

Imagine a World Where You Could Sell Digital Products and Tap into a New Income Stream with Ease…

If you are interested in selling paid workshops, digital downloads, memberships, subscriptions, or coaching in under 10 minutes, get MiloTreeCart at our lifetime launch price of $349. Just a one-time payment.

MiloTreeCart is built for non-techies. No coding, design, or website needed. If you’re a female creator, this is for you!

You get fill-in-the-blank sales pages, checkout pages, and payment collection, plus, a dashboard to manage your sales. Also, MiloTreeCart integrates with all major email service providers.

And of course, there’s a 30-day no questions asked money back guarantee. We’re only happy when you are!

Find out more about MiloTreeCart here!

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