Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey everyone, my name is Iman Gadzhi! I am the founder of two core businesses: IAG Media and Grow Your Agency. The former is my B2B social media marketing agency (SMMA) where I deploy strategic marketing campaigns for global clients. The latter is my education company where I teach entrepreneurs how to start and scale a profitable SMMA with the course Agency Incubator.
My primary product is my online course. It’s an industry-leading and comprehensive course on how to create an SMMA business from scratch. So far, it has been my life’s work because so much has gone into it. I have a team that helps me do this, and I really enjoy helping my students become financially independent. My typical customers are self-starters fed up with the college route. They want to experiment with a proven online business model. In only two years, I’ve made over $1.2M in profit. Over 45 of my students make over six figures with their SMMA, and over 300 students have quit their regular jobs.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was born in a small Russian village, much like the one depicted in the movie Borat! Growing up, I really took in a lot of the sociological factors of wealth. When my family moved to London--so I could get a better education--my perspective changed.
The U.K. is full of opportunities for entrepreneurs. I was never a fan of what was taught in schools, but I was grateful to have a seat at the table. In response to this, I became self-educated in business, personal development, and leadership. When I was seventeen, I tried out various online businesses. I was not successful at first. But as soon as SMMA came along, I knew it was the right business for me. I could see how it was disrupting the marketing and advertising industry. I had to be a part of it.
You can quickly scale a company if you have the right resources and you provide a service that businesses genuinely need.
I learned to be good at sales and found myself acquiring several clients. SMMA changed my life because the income potential was so high. Client retainers ranged from $2,000 to $15,000 a month. Since the costs of a completely digital SMMA are incredibly low, most of that was profit. I learned how to outsource certain roles and do other tasks myself.
In the field, I learned that clients needed to improve several aspects of marketing campaigns. Some needed funnel work and others had no idea how to run Facebook ads. I had to learn things the hard way regarding Facebook’s strict ad policies, ill-performing ad sets, and creative copywriting. I documented everything, so I could learn and adapt quickly.
After streamlining the process and consistently getting great client results, I knew I was on to something. I not only mastered Facebook ads, but I learned everything I could about personal branding.
When I started making YouTube videos about my SMMA success and teaching others useful tactics, that became my second calling. I was making an impact, and others really wanted to learn from me. From there, my personal brand took off and I decided to create an SMMA course.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When I launched my first course, I was a bit overwhelmed. I had amassed a lot of followers, but I wasn’t sure how big of an impact it would have. I worked everything I had: my YouTube subscribers, email list, and inner circle.
Sales came on rapidly. This was because I had put out so much free content before the launch. People were already hooked on what I was teaching. A lot of it was pure value and no sales pitch at all. I built up my personal brand slowly. However, people quickly bought my first products when I actually launched something. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful all at once. Since I was only seventeen years old with zero credit, I boot-strapped everything. Creating an SMMA can be done very cheaply which is why it appeals to so many people. You don’t even need a website! My costs were around creating professional presentation materials, traveling to prospective clients, and subscriptions to a few common eCommerce services: that’s it.
The biggest lesson I learned is that you can quickly scale a company if you have the right resources and you provide service businesses genuinely need. If you solve major pain points in the market, you don’t need much if you can get results. In my case, businesses really need leads coming in. Since I focused on how I could do this for them, few people ever asked me about case studies or a fancy website.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
What works in what I do is quite simple. I create a system for clients to continually get more leads, and then I teach these insights to my students. And what works well is Facebook Ads, sales funnels, and retargeting.
Most people know about ClickFunnels, but it’s a key part of customer success. Everything is just simple and ready to go for landing pages, sales funnels, and lead generation. I use it every day to sell my courses as well.
What businesses need to know is how these funnels integrate with well-done ads. They need to know what kinds of ads work for their service or product. Me, I have a team now so a lot of this is done by them. They are excellent at testing and modifying ads. However, personally I love writing the actual copy on ads. Words are powerful and I enjoy putting the right words together in an ad that makes people want to take the next step in the sales funnel.
I’ve tried a lot of forms of marketing. And what still works best for me and my clients are Facebook ads, YouTube pre-roll ads, content marketing, and social media. I like to tell brand narratives and business stories on Instagram that make people think. If they align with that, they align with my philosophy of business. Every time I connect in that manner, I’m building a better relationship that’s honest and value-packed. I detest hard sales. I genuinely care about my clients and students, and wouldn’t treat them like a commodity.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I’m happy to say that my company is profitable and very lean. I can run it from anywhere in the world. Costs do vary, but in most cases, they’re less than 20% of my revenue for IAG. My education program is different. At one point, I was spending more money on it than I was making because I hired a team of specialists to serve my students. Today we’re profitable and scaling that course to reach a wider audience. Combined, my businesses grow over 30% YoY, and the number of students in my online course just doubled.
To date, I have over 107,000 YouTube subscribers. I also have over 25,000 people on my Facebook page, 10,000 email list subscribers, and 62,000 Instagram followers.
All these metrics matter in an online business, of course. However, they’re not everything. As mentioned earlier, I’m a huge fan of the right kind of education. My courses were made for people in developed countries. But what about people who don’t have a seat at the table? What about impoverished countries where getting even a basic education is a challenge?
That’s why I donated $150,000 of my own money to build three schools in Nepal last December. This is something I’m very proud of and I plan on doubling that donation to create even more schools this year. My overall goal is to make $5M this year focusing only on my core businesses (and that might be low given this first-quarter growth). However, it’s also a goal to give more to people in need.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the most useful things I’ve learned is to establish routines and habits. I created a small clothing line last year, and I have shirts that say things like “Private Victories”. I’m into doing the hard work no one sees or even cares about because it’s intrinsically valuable and fulfilling. It’s a private victory you can be proud of. It’s not dependent on other people’s approval.
Many people run off to college only to postpone commercial value they can already be producing. And they get into massive debt doing so. You don’t need a piece of paper to validate your worth.
So early on in my career as an entrepreneur, I made a habit of meditating, reading, and planning. I turn off all distractions and focus on the tasks that ground me and make me better--every single day. I even have a course that teaches these things. I cover everything from sleep and nutrition to time management and relationships. It’s called Kaizen Cure because every day we can improve if we make it a priority.
I also believe in having good mentors and colleagues. I’ve been blessed to be mentored by some of the best people in the business. And because of that, I’ve learned to understand people and I have the ability to spot great talent a mile away. My team now is one of my greatest assets.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
As mentioned earlier, I’m a huge fan of ClickFunnels. It’s my go-to automation tool for funnels. I use Canva for on-the-fly graphic designs. But I’m always on the lookout for the best tools for the job, so I experiment with the latest and greatest MarTech.
If I can find something that can improve my own business or my client’s business, I’m going to try it out. For talent, I use sites like Upwork. However, lately, because I’ve created a big community I can send out an email and find someone great almost instantly.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m a huge fan of copywriting and advertising in general. So I have to say, Ogilvy’s books and Claude C Hopkins’ book Scientific Advertising are my favorites. For personal development, as a teenager, I was really influenced by a lesser-known book by Vadim Zeland called Reality Transurfing. That book had a unique spin on how to master your mind and create abundance in your life.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Start. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Many people run off to college only to postpone commercial value they can already be producing. And they get into massive debt doing so.
You don’t need a piece of paper to validate your worth. If there is something out there you want to do and it’s feasible to do without a formal education, get out there and do it! You’ll quickly learn if it’s the right thing for you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re currently hiring sales reps for my online course. “We’ll be filling your schedule with people who have gone through the webinar, follow me on social media, and know everything about the product - just want to speak to a human to solidify their decision to invest in Agency Incubator.”
Where can we go to learn more?
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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