Andreea Ayers is the CEO and founder of Launch Grow Joy & Get Media Happy, the go-to source for top editors and bloggers seeking product-based news stories from media-ready entrepreneurs. Her mission? To make PR less intimidating for those entrepreneurs who can’t afford a monthly retainer fee for a professional PR firm. Andreea opened her first product-based business selling inspirational t-shirts in 2006. Despite knowing little about the industry, she went on to sell over 20,000 tees in over 300 stores in the United States and around the world. In more recent years, Andreea has focused on helping hundreds of entrepreneurs secure media coverage through one-on-one consulting and coaching over at her website Launch Grow Joy.
Zephan: Hey, everybody. Zephan Balxberg, here, back again on another round of the Year of Purpose podcast. And today, I’m joined by Andreea Ayers, and she is the CEO and founder of Launch Grow Joy and Get Media Happy, the go-to source for top editors and bloggers seeking product-based news stories from media ready entrepreneurs. Her mission? To make PR less intimidating for those entrepreneurs who can’t afford a monthly retainer fee for a professional PR firm.
Andreea opened her first product-based business selling inspirational t-shirts in 2006. Despite knowing little about the industry, she went on to sell over twenty thousand t-shirts in over three hundred stores in the US and around the world. In more recent years, she has focused on helping hundreds of entrepreneurs seek media coverage through one on one consulting and coaching over at her website, Launch Grow Joy.
And, you know, welcome to the show, because this is such an awesome thing to talk about. is building a business for yourself and building a brand for yourself that lets you live a life on your own terms, and that’s exactly what we’re all about!
Andreea: Yeah, thank so much for having me on. This should be fun.
Zephan: Yeah! So I saw that you started with t-shirts. And this is something that I think is so cool. I was just talking to Sarah Peterson and she was saying that she started just selling things on Etsy. And so I think so many people listening to this podcast like “Oh my gosh, I could never start a business, I could never get into this stuff. I don’t really know what I’m good at or where to get started.” so how did you find t-shirts? What was it? Were you just like “I’m just gonna go sell a bunch of t-shirts!”?
Andreea: Yeah, no, it wasn’t quite that clear to me when I first started. So I have a back ground in marketing, and I went to school for marketing. I’d had all of my jobs in marketing. And then I—this is when I was living in New York City and I got pregnant with my first baby and my husband and I decided that we wanted to get out of New York, not raise our kids in New York. So we picked Boulder, Colorado as our destination, and when I got to Boulder, I started looking for jobs, again, in marketing, basically doing what I knew, and I was having a really hard time finding a job, and the jobs that I was finding were really low paying, like ten dollars an hour, twelve dollars an hour, and I thought “Okay, I’m about to have a baby. There’s no way I can do a job that’s ten dollars an hour. So let me see if I should start my own business.”
And I have to say, I had been an entrepreneur before. It was never a full-time thing though. It was always something that I did on the side, whether it was designing websites for people or helping with marketing, consulting, or even selling stuff on eBay. I’ve always had something on the side pretty much as just an extra source of income. So when I thought about launching a business, I though “Okay, what kind of business can I launch? I can continue to do consulting and marketing. I can launch a product…” and then I got really excited about launching a product. And at the same time, as I was thinking of different ideas of products I could launch, I was in a yoga class. And someone was wearing a t-shirt that said “Be Present” on the t-shirt, and for some reason, it just really caught my eye and it made me stop and think about what I was doing—
Zephan: It made you be present.
Andreea: It made me be present, exactly. And it made me be really mindful. And I just remember thinking “That’s what I want to do. I want to launch a t-shirt company. I want to inspire people. And I want to make them stop in their tracks and think about what they’re doing and just take a quick break during the day. so I ran back home after my yoga class, and I started looking online about how to launch a t-shirt business and what it takes and what’s involved and before I knew it, I was ordering t-shirt lengths and learning about screen printing and all of the fun stuff that goes into starting a t-shirt business. So that’s how that got started.
So it was me no being able to get a job, then seeing someone wearing this t-shirt, and I was like “I think I’m onto something here.” So yeah, I kind of came out of nowhere because I wasn’t preparing to have a business idea, [inaudible]. I was just looking to yoga, and yeah, that’s how that happened.
Zephan: Very cool. So this—the best part about this is it’s not necessarily something you had experience in before. You didn’t know a whole lot about t-shirts before starting, so it’s great to be able to find this new skill or this newfound passion that you can go off of. And especially create a business around it, because the best part about t-shirts is you can sell them from anywhere. You don’t have to have a physical location. So that’s really great and I’m sure that probably helped you a lot when the baby came, because then you can work from home, you don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and that probably opened up a lot of free time for you.
Andreea: It did, totally. I mean, it was—everything was a learning experience, so I—I remember even looking at t-shirt blanks and buying them, but I couldn’t really try them on and really get the right fit. So it was like “I’m starting a business. This t-shirt looks like, but I can’t even try it on to see if it fits nice.” But I trusted my gut and went with a style of t-shirt that I thought other people who did yoga would really love and that I would really love too if I can actually wear it and not be pregnant.
So, yeah, a lot of it was learning as I go, and I was just so passionate about launching this idea into the world. And I think I’m the kind of person that if I get an idea, and I feel like it’s the right idea, I’ll just run with it. I don’t care if I’m not ready. Or if I don’t know anything about it, I’ll just really immerse myself in it and learn as much as I can and get it off the ground. So I think that really helps too, that I was dedicated.
Zephan: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And so I guess you had a little bit of background, though, in PR and marketing, so once you do have a t-shirt, obviously, you’ve got to figure out how to get it to sell. So what do you do to build and audience of people? So for everybody listening in who might be interested in a business, they’re thinking “Oh, well, I could sell this, but I have no one to sell it to…”
Andreea: Yeah, so that was an interesting dilemma for me too, because I had done marketing, but all of the marketing that I did was for companies that had big budgets and they could afford, you know, five thousand dollars for a copywriter and twenty thousand dollars to buy a listing and all of that stuff. So it was—I knew the importance of knowing your target customer, and marketing, and putting yourself out there, but it was such a different application of it launching online. Because I didn’t know about launching an online store, so I had to learn all of that.
but I think what really helped me was that because I had the idea in my yoga class, I knew that I wanted to sell my t-shirts to yoga studios. And I thought if I do yoga and I’m passionate about it, I’m in a yoga studio, I totally would buy this t-shirt if it was in the boutique that comes with almost every yoga store. So what I did after I got my t-shirts, screen printed, and put them up on the website, I started reaching out to yoga studios. So I spent an entire weekend making a list. It was over three thousand yoga studios that—I literally just googled “yoga studios in the USA”, made a list of them. I used the Yoga Journal magazine. They have an annual directory of yoga studios. And I built a list of over three thousand yoga studios for the weekend, and then Monday came and I started just emailing those yoga studios saying “Hey, we just launched. I think your yoga students would love this. Do you have a boutique, and if so, would you be interested in carrying our t-shirts?” and I was shocked at how many of them said yes, and I sold out of my first t-shirts. I made ninety-six t-shirts and sold out of them within my first month. And it all started from there.
So I think—just the fact at I took my time and I was really specific and I said “Okay, I want to start with yoga studios and it can expand to other people and other things later one. But this is. I have their email address. I can get it from their website. I can really out to them and send them an email.” And I think that gave me the confidence to know that this is the right business for me to be in. and I would just get so excited. But at the same time, there was still so much that I didn’t know, because one of the yoga studios said “Oh, we’re definitely ready to carry your t-shirts. Do you have hangtags?” and I was like “Uh…I don’t have hangtags.” But of course I said “Oh, yes! I have hangtags and I’ll make sure to send hangtags.” So then I googled how to do hangtags and printed some on a business card and attached them to my t-shirts, and then other yoga studios would say “Oh, I would love to do it but do you offer net terms?” and I was like “What are net terms?” So all of it was just me listening to the questions that they were asking and then googling what that meant and doing it and sending the t-shirts out.
So that’s how I really got my start.
Zephan: You brought up a really important skill there that I actually did a lot when I was getting things off the ground, is when someone asks you if you have something or can do something and you know that you can figure it out, just tell them that you have it. Because I did the same thing. I think I’ve told this story a couple times now, my first job in college was I applied to be a photographer for the school newspaper. And I—you know, up until that point, I’d only used a little point and shoot digital camera, I never used the nice big cameras that I use all the time now. And that—it got me in the door. They gave me the job and they were like “Alright, we’re gonna put you on this assignment to,” you know, shoot whatever. And I was like “Alright, well now I don’t have a camera…” So I asked—I somehow convinced them that mine wasn’t working right and I asked them if they had any extras lying around, and they did! They had an extra camera, and I took that camera out and so…it’s a really great thing to do.
It’s—know your boundaries with it first. But just tell them that you can do it and figure it out, because with the internet and with google, it’s so easy now to find out how to do these things.
Andreea: Yeah. Totally. I love that story!
Zephan: And it has served me so well. The first six months I was in business, I went to a networking event, and I told this guy what I did. I said I shoot videos and he said “Oh, do you ever do animations? Because I work with the Philadelphia Eagles and all these NFL football teams and they might be looking for some videos to go up inside of their studios.” And I’m like—in the back of my head, I had a split second moment of “NFL football could be a client. Just say yes!” and I don’t—I didn’t do animation at the time, I just “Yep!” And sure enough, like a month later, he emailed me and was like “So, we want to do these animations. They’re gonna go up and be seen by eighty thousand people in one night.” I’m like “Whew, alright… let’s figure this one out!” So I went to google and actually elance.com where you can outsource stuff. I found an animator.
So it’s a really great lesson and takeaway there. As long as you know it’s within your means and what you can accomplish, just say yes and figure it out later.
Andreea: Yeah. I love that. Yeah.
Zephan: Very cool so you were able to do a test run. You—it was ninety-six shirts on the first run?
Zephan: And now you’ve sold twenty thousand shirts all over the place, and I’m sure that number is growing every single day. How do you take something so small, where you’ve built this list of three thousand people and you’ve sold your first ninety-six and grow it to that big twenty thousand number and how long does that take?
Andreea: Yeah, so definitely. I actually ended up selling my t-shirt business four years later, so I no longer have it. But it was definitely a lot of ups and downs. So it was once I got the confidence I can reach out to yoga studios and sell it to them, then I started making a list of spas, and gift shops, and all of that. But then I was also focusing on selling online, and part of selling online was obviously getting traffic to my website. So what I did with that—because this was before Facebook, before Pinterest, before Instagram—it was back in like 2007/2008, and I don’t think I even got on Facebook until late 2009. So I definitely didn’t have those as my disposal, but what I knew enough about marketing is that if I can get in magazines and if I can get featured on some really popular blogs, then I could get traffic back to my website. And if it’s the right audience, then people will see the t-shirts and hopefully fall in love with them and buy them.
So I started seeking out PR, and at first I did it myself. I had a couple of success stories, but I—and then I had a couple of big nos. and I was like “Okay, I just don’t have the connections. I need to hire a PR firm.” So I ended up hiring a PR firm for three months and worked with them, and interestingly, they got me some placements and I learned a little bit about the PR industry. I learned from them, but I still felt like I was paying way too much money just for a couple of media mentions, and I wanted to do it on my own. So I fired my—or not fired. That’s the wrong word, but I ended my contract with the PR agency, and I started taking online courses, what little was available then. I’d read PR books, I’d subscribe to blogs for PR experts and really learned about PR, and then I thought I can do it on my own. And slowly, but surely, I figured it out. I subscribed to a media database. I started learning about editorial calendars and how magazine editors looks for certain things during certain months of the year.
And because my products were—they’re a bit on the higher end in terms of price, they were anywhere from twenty-eight to thirty-four dollars for the short sleeves and then fifty plus for the long sleeves. So it was definitely not like an average t-shirt for ten dollars. So I positioned my t-shirts as really great gifts that you can give someone. And because they have inspirational phrases on them, often people would buy them for their friends, for their mom, for their sister, you know, for their teacher and stuff like that. So I really ran with this idea of positioning my t-shirts as a great gift item. So I would pitch for Valentine’s Day gifts and Mother’s Day gifts and Father’s Day gifts and baby gifts and holiday gifts and all of that.
And I ended up getting just steady press throughout the year because every few months there’s some major national holiday that has to do with giving gifts. And I think that worked really well for me. Because a lot of people would be okay with spending thirty dollars on a t-shirt as a gift, and not everyone would be okay to spend that on themselves, even though a lot of people do spend that on themselves. But I found both of these markets and this PR thing, I really made a conscious effort to focus on PR and do it regularly and constantly reach out, and that just meant that my t-shirts are always featured and I always had a lot of traffic back to my website, which helped to increase my online sales, and at the same time, I was focusing on selling to more yoga studios, more gift shops, more spas and resorts. I even did a couple of catalogues and stuff like that.
So I had both the whole sale and the retail side going at the same time.
Zephan: Very cool! So—and that business got sold. So that was going on for four years, is that right?
Andreea: Yep. So 2011, early 2011, I sold that business, yeah.
Zephan: So this is something interesting too, is a lot of people don’t realize that you can sell a business after you build it. Maybe talk a little bit about how that works? How do you find somebody who just says “I want to buy what you’re doing and just do it”?
Andreea: Yeah, you know, there’s a lot of people that are interested in being entrepreneurs, but they don’t want to start all the way from the beginning because it does take a while. It took me four years to just get to the point where I was. And some people just want to have a business and have everything up and running and then run with it and take it to the next level. And that’s what happened to me.
But I read about how to sell your business. So I went to Google, I thought about the idea of possibly selling my business, and I picked up this book—I think it was called Built To Sell, and it talked all about how to set up your business so that it’s sellable when someone is interested in buying it. And one of the things that I kept seeing over and over in that book was make sure the business can run without you. And I really took that to heart. And I was like “Okay, what I can do so that this business runs without me so that when I do want to sell it, it’s sellable?”
So I ended up outsourcing my fulfillment, so I had a fulfillment house that did all of the packing, all of the shipping. Because by that point, it was just getting to be crazy. I would—literally, I got a huge order from Whole Foods, and I did nothing for a week but pack and ship t-shirts and put hangtags on them. And after that moment, it was one of those things where I realized “Okay, this isn’t really want I want. I’m more excited about marketing than I am about packing and shipping.” So I outsourced my packing and shipping. I got a virtual assistant to help with pretty much like the blogging and the newsletter and some of the other administrative tasks that I didn’t necessarily need to do, but I could pass on to someone else. And then I also had an accountant and I made sure all of my numbers were in place, my taxes were done right, all of that, so that if someone comes in and they say “Okay, show me your finances” that I have everything up to date.
So I think having those things helped me to sell my business. And the fact that I was constantly getting this PR and I had built a system where traffic was just coming, because the magazine mentions kept on being really steady. And that really made it for an appealing business to someone. And I ended up listing my business on a yoga—it was interesting. But it was a yoga website that had a list of yoga studios. It was actually one of the websites that I was researching when I first started. But they also had a list of yoga opportunities and it was different yoga business for sale and different yoga products.
So I thought well, I sell a lot to yoga studios, maybe someone in the yoga market might be interested. And interestingly enough, I found someone who was a yoga teacher and she wanted to start her own yoga related business, but she didn’t want to necessarily start a yoga studio. So she ended up buying that business from me, and yeah, it was a pretty smooth process. I don’t know if that’s the norm when it comes to selling a business, but yeah. It was really smooth for me because I had all of these things in place. And I interviewed—because I had a lot of people who emailed me that they were interested in buying it, and every single time I would interview someone or I would talk to them, they would say “How much do you work? Can this run without you?” and that was a question that I kept on getting asked over and over and over again.
So I was like “Okay, this book had some really great advice” because a lot of people—even though they want to run a business, they don’t want to constantly be in it and be working twenty-four seven. And so I think that really works to my advantage.
Zephan: And I think this is something that a lot of people don’t even know exists. You can find businesses that are already up and moving. And we actually—we interviewed Ace Chapman a little while back, and he talks all about buying a business that already exists. And it’s something that I didn’t even know existed. So when I started my business, I was like “Man, I could have done this a little bit differently,” but the best part about it is you don’t have to keep it forever. You can sell it. And so that’s a really good point for everyone listening in to look into that and maybe consider buying a business that’s already out there, and a lot of the work to set that up is done for you. They already have a website, they already have clients, they just want a new person to run the show there.
Andreea: Yeah, exactly. And I think too, I sold my business when it was going really, really well, so I think that’s another thing that was appealing to someone, because it was already like up here and not something that they had to struggle to get it back up and running. So I think that’s something—which might be counter intuitive, because I feel like often times you might think, “Well my business is not doing so well, maybe I should close it or sell it,” but maybe think about selling it when its’ doing really well. Because then you can sell it for more, you can hand someone off a much more successful business and everybody wins.
Zephan: And so once that’s sold, how do you find the next thing? It’s—you kind of found t-shirts at the yoga—so did you go back and take a yoga class and just saw something else and just started the next thing?
Andreea: Yeah, that’s a good question. So I—it’s interesting, because there were other t-shirt entrepreneurs that would find my website and—this is what I did to when I first started. I would go to other websites that were selling t-shirts and sort of follow what they were doing and sign up for their newsletter and see what media mentions and tradeshows they were doing and all of that. And about three years into my business, I started getting a lot of emails from people saying “I want to start a t-shirt business too. Where do you get your t-shirts? How do you get into magazines? Can you recommend a screen printer? Can you help me with this?” and at first I’d be like “Sure, here’s who I use. Here’s my screen printer.” And then other people started saying the same questions or asking me the same questions. So I thought “Maybe I can write an ebook on how to do this, and that way I don’t have to answer every single question. I can just send people to my ebook.”
So I wrote an ebook on how to start a t-shirt business, and I think I sold like two hundred and fifty-three hundred copies of it within that year before I sold my t-shirt business. And then I started having other people saying “okay, I read your ebook, I love it. And I want more. Can I hire you to consult with me one hour a month and I’d love to just jump on the phone with you and you can teach me even more than what’s in the ebook.” So I said “Sure, I’ll do that, I’ll try that.” if someone’s willing to say me, right, why not do it?
So I took on five clients. I emailed—as soon as I decided that I was going to take on clients, I emailed every single person that bought my t-shirt ebook and I said “Hey, I’m offering one on one consulting. I have five slots. Its five hundred dollars a month for three months. Here’s the PayPal link, if you want to sign up.” And I sold out of those spots within a day. And I was like “Oh my god, this is crazy! I think I’m onto something here!” So I—that kind of lead me to realize that I loved teaching other entrepreneurs and sharing what I had learned and helping other people sort of avoid the mistakes that I did when I first got started. Because I definitely did learn a lot in those four years.
So I sold out of my coaching spots and I—that’s when I was trying to decide if I should sell my t-shirt business or not. So I was like “Okay, I really love this coaching. And I have this passion for helping entrepreneurs so maybe… I can’t really do both.” I couldn’t really do both at all. So I decided to sell my t-shirt business and focus on the consulting. And then as I started working with clients, I realized that this can go for any product. It can apply to clothing. It can apply to beauty products and equal products and food and stationary and so on. So that’s when I was like “Okay, maybe I’ll start blogging and I’ll share my t-shirt tips. But I can also talk about how this applies to other products.” So then I slowly started building an email list and a readership from other people who would find my blog who were also looking to launch a product.
So a lot of it, I think, in my early days was so much about SEO and my content. So, for example, I would right a blog post titled “Do I need a barcode?” or things like that. Questions that I was constantly looking for the answers to. Or how to write t-shirt blanks really cheap. So I started blogging about that. And then people started finding my blog and signing up for my newsletter. And then I still kept doing one on one consulting with other entrepreneurs, and then I thought about launching a course. And I created my first course, it was forty-seven dollars, put it out there and sent an email to my list and I said “Here, I have this great course. This is something that a lot of you have been wanting to know” and I was about how to get their products in stores.
So I launched that course, had fifty people buy it. And I was like “Oh my god,” this is another thing where I followed that intuition of me really enjoying this and other people really needing the service and that’s how this sort of evolved. So what I’m doing now is I no longer to one on one because it’s just impossible. I’d probably be working all the time, but now I have courses that people can sign up for and they can learn how to get in stores, how to get in magazines, and how to market their product business online.
So that’s how that grew. It’s definitely not one of those things that I knew I wanted to do. I sort of just followed it and it’s worked out so far, yeah.
Zephan: And that’s really important, is to just kind of follow where it goes. So many people are so worried about “Where am I going to be one year, two years, five years from now?” and they don’t realize that, just like you, you might discover something out of the first thing that you try. I mean, you tried t-shirts and now you’re teaching people—or you were teaching people how to create their own businesses out of it, and that led to one on one coaching, and now it’s lead to online membership websites. So it’s really neat to see where that path has taken you and it was never something that you really planned out form the start of “Here’s what I’m going to do and where I’m going to go.”
What advice do you have to give you people who are considering starting a business to get out of their nine-to-five job or to not have to work forty hours a week full time? Or maybe they have a business now that they want to get out of and they want to try something different?
Andreea: Yeah, I would say test it out on the side and sort of see how you like it. Because there are other things that I started that I realized I absolutely didn’t like doing it. So if you—I know a lot of people really want that comfort of a paycheck or the steady income, and I kind of had no choice, so I had to go full force. I think if I had a job, I probably would have done this on the side at first just to test it out.
But even if you—let’s say you don’t have job and you were in the same situation, just go for it and try it out and see what happens. But also know that you have to be flexible enough to know what’s working for you want what’s not working for you. because I think, as an entrepreneur, we often start our business to have a certain lifestyle, to have a certain income, and to build this life around our business, but what happens often times is that we get so wrapped up in the day to day and so busy that we sort of forget the reason that we started it to begin with. And we want to do everything, we want everything to happen now, when it might take a little bit of a time to build your email list or to launch your online store or to put up your website or to have your first client. And that’s okay.
But constantly evaluate what’s working for you and what’s not working, and I would say if something it not working, thing about either changing it until it’s working or letting go of it.
And I would say my advice would be just be flexible and listen to your intuition. Because you know, right. You know. Even though you might not want to admit it to other people or even to yourself, you know if something’s working for you or not. And keep listening to yourself and tweak your business so that it fits the lifestyle that you want. And that’s not to say if you only want a four hour workweek that you can get there tomorrow. It might take you a few years to get there.
But just know—and also know why you’re doing it. What the big why? Why are you really doing this? Why is your product or your service something that everybody has to have? Or not everybody, but people who would be in your target market. Why should they do this or why should they buy this over someone else’s? and I think if you’re really clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing, when the times get rough—and at times they will—you’re gonna have that courage to keep going and the energy to keep going. So that would be my advice to other entrepreneurs, yeah.
Zephan: Yeah, and I know that over the course of a thirty minute podcast show—I mean, we just covered the t-shirt business starts in 2006—that was nine years ago. So in thirty minutes, we make it seem like it’s really easy and this happened overnight, but this definitely didn’t. So it’s good to just keep that in mind.
And I guess my thing I would add to that it, you know, when you wake up every morning, usually you go into the bathroom and you see yourself in the mirror and you take a shower, whatever. Look in the mirror and think “Is what I’m about to do today something that I really want to do?” And if the answer is no, then you got to figure out how to change it. Maybe you don’t have to figure out that day, but I think like that week you need to start to figure out a plan to change that, and that might mean quitting your job, that might mean starting a new business, that might mean reading a new book.
It doesn’t have to be such a radical change but starting somewhere and realizing that this is your life to live. And I think that the best way to live it is entrepreneurship. I know I’m a little bit one-sided, but—
Andreea: [laughs] Me too!
Zephan: —just for everybody listening in, you gotta figure out what’s best for you.
Andreea: Yeah, and I love how you said about looking at yourself in the mirror. Because I know for me, there’s—everyone’s liken “Ugh, Monday. I have to go back to work.” and it’s like, for me, I’m like “Oh my god, I can’t wait for Monday” to get back to work and get going and work again. Even though sometimes I work weekends too, but like I look forward to Mondays, and I get excited. And for me, that’s a good sign that I’m doing something—at least for right now—that excites me and that I’m passionate about.
Zephan: Great! Well, let’s leave the listeners and viewers with a couple websites and some places they can find out more about you and learn about how to start their own business if they’re interested in doing that, and to follow you online?
Andreea: Yeah, so the best place to follow me online is at launchgrowjoy.com, and there’s links to all of my social media profiles there as well.
Zephan: Perfect. And to find out about your online membership site is on there too?
Andreea: Yep. There’s also a different URL for that. It’s getmediahappy.com. So either launchgrowjoy.com or getmediahappy.com.
Zephan: Perfect. Well, Andreea, it was great to talk to you today, and I hope you get to enjoy the rest of your Monday, because I know this is the day that you look forward to the most. And we’ll be talking to you real soon!
Andreea: Alright, thank you so much, Zephan, for having me on.