Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Alex Nerney. My business partner Lauren McManus and I started an online blog, two of them actually, that we were able to make a full time income from. We started out with building a health and fitness blog Avocadu. It seemed like a reasonable first niche to start in as I was a personal trainer at the time. After growing that blog to six figures a year Lauren and I decided to start Create and Go to teach others exactly how we did it and share our journey as professional bloggers with them.
We have a lot of customers from all over the world, but they all have at least one thing in common: They dream of making some income through an online blog. Whether that’s to quit their soul sucking day jobs like we did, or to be a stay at home parent, or just to have more financial freedom. Our flagship product on Create and Go is our Pro Blogger bundle, and it aims to give every student exactly what they need to accomplish that dream. It contains all of our individual courses and is our start to finish blogging guide that teaches each student how to start a blog.
After growing Create and Go to have over 10,000+ students now and having an average income of around $130,000 a month combined from our blogs, we have been able to really reflect on how much we have accomplished. Lauren and I quit our jobs only a few years ago, but honestly, the life we have lived since doing so makes it seem like it was another lifetime ago.
The freedom we have experienced is indescribable, Lauren has been full time traveling for over a year, fulfilling her desires to travel the world. While I have been living my best life, marking things off my bucket list one by one. Including getting a motorcycle license, traveling to every state in the U S of A, and finally being able to eat strictly organic food and watch all the football games I can in a single weekend. We have had adventures and experiences we never imagined we would have.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Lauren and I met When I was around 25 years old and at the time I had been extremely unhappy with the direction my life was going. I was trading my time for money with no real plan for growth that excited me. I hardly ever got to socialize and worst of all, I still wasn’t making enough money to have the life I wanted. At the time Lauren was putting in some serious hours (like 80 hours a week during tax season) to still get paid pretty poorly considering she was a CPA with an MBA. This feeling of being trapped in this average life and never being able to do what we actually wanted just lingered over us. We didn’t want to wait until we were old and retired to start living our lives the way we wanted. So, I started my first blog.
[Our first] blog was called Health and Happy Hour and… it was a flop. We spent three months working our tails off just to fail.. miserably.
The idea really came to me after attending an entrepreneur conference. Being surrounded by all of that success and seeing what was possible just lit a fire under my butt. I started a blog in the health and fitness niche because of my background in personal training. Lauren saw me struggling on the website one day and asked if she could help. After she took a task that was driving me nuts and completed it relatively easy, I realized, Lauren’s strengths really played to my weaknesses and vice versa. This was Lauren’s first real step into the blogging world and we began working on the blog together from then on. The blog was called Health and Happy Hour and… * it was a flop.* We spent three months working our tails off just to fail.. miserably.
But, we decided we weren’t going to give up. We had already invested so much time and learned so much already that we figured we might as well use it. You see, our first blog failed because we thought we could make it all about us, get drunk and post healthy recipes, and just rake in some sweet cash. But, we learned quickly that wasn’t going to cut it. So, we gave it another go and created our second blog: “Avocadu”.
This time we knew we would focus on what our readers needed and wanted instead of on ourselves. We started to get visitors and build quite an audience, and so of course we quit our jobs and went all in. (This was risky, but at the time we knew in our gut it was what we needed to do) We sold everything we owned, quit our full time jobs, and even moved in with my dad ALL before we made a single dollar.. We went all in and it was the scariest thing we had ever done, but little did we know at the time, it was also the smartest.
After a couple of months of hard work we made our first bit of money. That $172.82 was all we needed to validate ourselves and know we were making the right choice. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to convince us that it was possible. After continued dedication to the blog we were eventually able to start making a six figure income from Avocadu. Along the way we realized most of our failures at the start were a result of the crappy courses we had taken and the lack of quality information out there about starting a blogging business.
Hence the creation of Create and Go.
We knew that we could take everything we had learned along our blogging journey and package it into our own course that would be so much more helpful than anything we had ever taken. We wanted to share every mistake we had learned and help others succeed without having to go through all the same things we did. Create and Go gave us the power to do exactly that.
Take us through the process of designing your product.
When we first began creating courses for Create and Go, we realized how much of a blessing in disguise all the money we wasted on bad courses was.
We knew exactly what to create because we just took everything we had learned as well as everything that we wish was in those courses and we put it into ours.
One of the most important things you can do when you’re just starting out to increase your odds of success is to only listen to one, two at most, resources. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the data that is available out there.
All of the missing pieces and all of the shortcuts and secrets we learned gave us an upper hand. We knew if we were able to take our blog and turn it into a successful business, then we could lay out the entire process we used so others could do the exact same with theirs.
The beautiful thing was that we had spent most of the money we needed to build the product, just from buying all the past courses and all the trial and error we already completed building our first blog. It was just a matter of getting it done, and that is exactly what we did.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Lauren and I had already seen so much success from Pinterest with Avocadu that we knew we had to start there.
We began making pins for our content and putting them out as well as using all the strategies we had developed, which included pin design, optimizing them for pinterest search, and using group boards for growth.
Examples of two of our most popular pins (78k+ and 119k+ shares) from our first site avocadu.
At the time our strategy was to keep our pins as simple as possible while also looking for attractive images to make them pop all while keeping them easy to read by not using readable fonts.
We began driving quite a bit of traffic in a short amount of time from posting pins like these. In just a short couple of months we were able to drive anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 pageviews per month JUST using Pinterest.
We were able to attract a lot of readers and build such an audience because we always aimed to be as transparent as possible and over deliver in all of our articles.
We didn’t want to keep anything from our students and we wanted them to know that we were once just like them, struggling to find success and build a blogging business.
Luckily the cost of starting a blog is relatively low. We already had most of the knowledge we needed and knew what products to use and not to use as well as had the funding to start the site from our revenue with Avocadu.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Along with being transparent, we put a lot of emphasis on building an email list. We knew the power of email marketing from our first blog and by collecting emails, we were able to really connect with our audience and build trust with them before ever promoting our products.
The biggest factor for growing our email list was finding the perfect email opt-in. By offering something to your audience, you’re able to entice them to sign up for your email list. We offered a blogging bootcamp and not only did it serve as an awesome list builder but it also gave people a taste of what it would be like to learn from us.
Alongside just promoting our content on Pinterest, we also began to put some serious effort into our Youtube channel. While there was no real strategy to producing on a schedule or anything, I did put as MUCH effort into every video as possible. I didn’t want to force myself to post at a specific time every week or a certain times per month. I wanted to wait until I had a great idea for a video and then make sure it was REALLY well done and executed as best as possible.
While Lauren and I are extremely grateful to have the success we do, we are always working to make sure that Create and Go is the best blogging resource in the world. We now have several students earning six figures per year and we hope to have many more, because that is why we love this job. We get to see amazing people quit their jobs, and follow their dreams just like we did! While Create and Go is mostly through with a lot of its growing pains, we still have plans to continuously update our content, as well as our courses and do whatever is in the best interest of our students.
Our income is relatively consistent and while we have no plans to grow our income by releasing new courses or new products at this time, we are always on the lookout for ways to bring more value to our readers and students.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have spent a lot of time this year building an amazing team and we hope that by utilizing their strengths along with ours we will be able to focus more on some areas that we really enjoy, like our youtube channel and exploring the possibility of starting a podcast. Lauren and I still spend 40 hours a week on our blog, but we do this because we honestly love what we do.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
During our time as professional bloggers and growing multiple businesses, Lauren and I have learned a lot. We have learned the importance of sharing your story and building a connection with your audience and most importantly (no matter how cliche it is) to never give up. The truth is, we have found, most bloggers quit only a short distance from finding success. By making the decision to not quit, you will set yourself apart almost immediately.
Your story is what sets you apart. There are probably hundreds of people out there trying to do exactly what you are doing. What will make you unique and stand out is your story.
Another important business lesson we learned early on was to invest in your business. If you want to see growth in your business, then sometimes you just have to spend the money! Whether that means investing in important software or functional themes, no matter what it is. If it benefits your business and your readers, or saves you some serious time, make the investment. It will be worth it in the long run.
Another thing that was advantageous for Lauren and I, was that we compliment each other well. If you can find someone that is strong in the areas you lack in, you will see much more growth than if you had to struggle through each thing alone. We also made the decision early on that our blog was the most important thing to both of us. We sacrificed nights out, we ate eggs and rice to limit time spent cooking and to save money, we wore the same style of clothes everyday to avoid figuring out what to wear everyday. I mean we truly went ALL in.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The most important tools for us currently are the social media platforms we use, specifically, YouTube and Pinterest. These two platforms drive tons of traffic to our site every single month and helps us to grow our email list exponentially.
Beyond these, we also use Facebook to house our support groups for the courses we offer, as well as Teachable to host our courses with. We also can not stress enough how much we recommend our email service with ConvertKit.
They are simply amazing! We also use keyword tools like Ahrefs for planning content as well as google analytics to keep track of our traffic stats.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am a huge fan of books.
I am a firm believer that the value you receive from a book depends a lot on WHERE you are at in your life when you read it. I have read many books throughout my time as a professional blogger and many have given me some aha moments. Although it’s not as relevant to my life now, reading the 4 hour work week by Tim Ferris was one of the major things that changed my belief on what was possible with my online business. This book really helps you to understand the importance of focusing on the most important business aspects and shows you how it can change your business and save you time.
I am also a huge fan of the book Steal Like an Artistby Austin Kleon as well. This book helps you to get in touch with your creativity and to really create the things you WANT to create. This book is one of my most recommended and one I still love and refer back to often.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
One of the most important things you can do when you’re just starting out to increase your odds of success is to only listen to one, two at most, resources. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the data that is available out there and to get information paralysis (having so much info you don’t know what to do next). By limiting yourself to learning from one to two resources you can make sure that you follow the steps laid out for you and don’t get overwhelmed. Keep in mind everyone is teaching from their experience, and no two people have the exact same success story.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that your story is what sets you apart. There are probably hundreds of people out there trying to do exactly what you are doing. What will make you unique and stand out is your story. So don’t be afraid to be transparent and to share your journey with your readers
The last thing I would say to any newbies out there is, you can do it. It’s easy to convince ourselves that other people just got lucky or that they had some special circumstances that allowed them to become successful. But the truth is, a lot of those people were just like you at one point. They made a conscious decision to be different and to choose a better route. You have to make the same decision. Accept that you can be great and that it is possible to have everything you want and more, because I’m living proof that it is possible.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not looking to hire any positions right now. But there will always be future opportunities as our businesses continue to grow.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can learn more about us at:
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If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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