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This post was originally posted on Awesome Inc. 

Let me start off by saying Noah Kagan is a pimp. He recently published this article about how he made $1000 (in profit) in 24 hours selling beef jerky subscriptions. What a piiiiiimmmpppppp!

Startup Weekend

He titled the article The Results of the 24 Hour Challenge. Being the competitive entrepreneur that I am, I wanted to take the challenge. With a Startup Weekend Lexington event just a couple weeks away, I decided that would be my opportunity to try to start a $1000 business. My plan — attempt what Noah did in 24 hours in a full weekend. And when I say “what Noah did” I mean exactly what Noah did.  Beef Jerky Subscription Service.  Period.  I “iterated” on the idea exactly zero.  Just ‘stole it’ and executed like crazy for two days, along with the seven other people on my team. Here are the results:

Subscriptions needed to hit $1000 profit: 244
Subscriptions needed per hour: 9.4 (based on 26 hours of actual work)
Total Subscriptions Sold: 267
Total profit: $1095
Total revenue: $5340
Hours worked: 26
Beef Jerky Consumed: 100+ ounces

Since Noah already wrote about the process, I’ll focus on what I learned. I kept a log throughout the weekend, which you can find at end of this post.

So, what did I learn:

Sales are hard – Most entrepreneurs I know avoid doing sales for as long as they can. That’s because it’s usually the hardest part. Too bad it’s the most important part and avoiding it only delays answers to important questions about your business. No one likes asking people for money. You just have to suck it up and do it. Early Saturday, several members of our team were saying, “I’m not up for this. These people don’t want what we’re selling and I feel bad pushing it on them.” It was cool to see the transformation occur over time and by Sunday afternoon everyone was on their phone closing sales. Like anything – the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Get comfortable with being told no. Also, you have to believe in the product you’re selling. If you don’t, it’s going to be tough to push your product.

If you need a pump me up before doing some sales calls, watch this scene from Boiler Room. We watched this whenever we felt ourselves losing steam.

Above: our team closing the final sales about to hit the goal
Above: our team closing the final sales about to hit the goal

Acquiring customers is ALL that matters – nothing else; not the website, not a logo, not a fancy demo. Props to Anthony Bosschem for figuring this and writing a cool post about it here – How I got my first customers without having a product. Within the first hour, we had a landing page and paypal account setup.

Startup Weekend

 It wasn’t the prettiest system ever, but it was enough. Our domain name didn’t even work until about 5 hours in so we were directing people to a long ugly github link.  We found errors with our paypal buttons all the way into the 30th hour. Who cares.  What we had was enough to sell beef jerky delivery subscriptions. Everyone knows what beef jerky is, so all we were doing was finding people that wanted more of it and wanted it delivered to their door.

We had to resist the urge to do things like offer free samples, come up with a cooler domain name, make a promo video, add extra descriptions to our website, or offer other product lines.

One quick aside — before we started the weekend we weren’t certain if we wanted to sell beef jerky subscriptions or healthy snack box subscriptions (i.e., Naturebox). So, we decided that we’d focus on beef jerky, but also offer healthy snack boxes to people that don’t like beef jerky. We’re probably going to be kicking ourselves when we have to fulfill the snack box orders, but ultimately, it did help us reach the $1,000 mark.  We sold about 50 snack box subscriptions and the rest were beef jerky (out of our 262 total sales).

Your customer is not everyone – If they aren’t buying, move on. I spent over an hour on one potential customer. Granted it was on Facebook chat while working other leads, but he didn’t even buy. An entire hour and no sale! I spent another hour on a customer that did eventually buy a three month subscription, but I quickly realized the hour wasn’t worth it. Here’s the deal: if they aren’t interested, don’t waste your time. It’s not personal. Maybe they don’t like beef jerky, maybe they don’t have the money, maybe they just watched Home Alone 5 and thought it would be better than the previous 4 and now they’re taking it out on you. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. Move on to someone that is interested. Another note on this — if your potential customer is having serious hesitations before buying, this is a good sign that they are going to be a high maintenance and/or flaky customer that you don’t even want.  Also, if said potential customer is a friend, you are probably straining the relationship more than the sale is worth if they’re having serious hesitations about spending $20 on some meat.

Determine what works and focus on it… this takes discipline.
We started off with low hanging fruit — close friends and family. Then we went to Facebook messaging people that were online, then gchat, then texting/phone calls, then Twitter. It was hard to measure what was working and even harder to focus on it once we determined what was working. It’s so easy to get distracted by that new friend that just signed onto Facebook when what you need to be doing is calling up the business owner that might buy 6 months for his office. Our team would run 1-2 hour sales sprints and then we’d regroup to see what was working.  After each sprint we would track our sales and see where they were coming from. We kept a tight feedback loop. We found out that Noah was right — real time communication wins. 90% of our sales came from real time communication, things like phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, gchat.

The majority of our sales came from our own network. This is typical and can eventually become discouraging because you don’t think you can ever scale with this strategy. But just remember — Facebook started at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg’s closest classmates first. It then scaled after he proved and perfected the model with his early adopters. Everything works this way, so it’s okay if you aren’t closing lots of random people through Google Ad campaigns at first.

Our team in all out sales mode on Saturday afternoon.
Our team in all out sales mode on Saturday afternoon.

Success only happened because I had a rockstar Startup Weekend Team.

photo (9)

I might have already said this, but Noah is a huge pimp for doing this alone and in 24 hours. Our team was stacked with awesome members that knew how to get stuff done… and quickly. A team of 8 took 44 hours to do what Noah did by himself in 24.

If I were to pick out the one thing that I did best for this initiative – it was putting together a rockstar team. This is something that I’ve become really good at over the last few years — attracting a solid team and then getting the most out of them. As a business owner and soccer coach I’ve learned a lot over the last decade about recruiting and managing a team. I’ve created a whole course about it here – How to Recruit an Awesome Team. The team with the most best players always wins and thanks to my team, we succeeded this weekend.

Here is a log that I kept throughout the 44 hours (Friday 9 pm – Sunday 5 pm):

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laurensauser



  • Ethan Bagley

    Very cool. Did the final pitch actually play out that way? 🙂

    • brianraney

      Haha. Pretty much. We didn’t spend a lot of time preparing for the pitch…we just focused on sales all weekend.

  • Kyle Green

    Thanks for the support Ethan Bagley

  • Liz Martin

    That’s what’s up; proud of you, KG!

  • To get those initial sales, were you mainly cold calling your own personal networks?

    • brianraney

      Yes. 1st and 2nd degree connections were the main source of initial sales.

  • Majin Huu

    Awesome article. So just to be clear, did you ring up like your best friends and family and pretty much ask if they will buy? Cheers