Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Kristin Larsen. I’m the founder of PVA Enterprises LLC, an online education brand that teaches people how to launch a side hustle or career by utilizing Pinterest.
Our flagship program, Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, teaches students how to start a side hustle managing Pinterest accounts for bloggers, businesses, and brands.
Since its founding in 2016, the brand has grown leaps and bounds. In 2020, our program grossed over $650,000. In 2021, we’re on track for our first seven-figure year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In January 2015, I was working a stressful 9-5 as an interior architect and designer when I got really sick and had upper respiratory failure. I was placed in a medically induced coma until my body could heal itself. I will never forget waking up and the ICU nurse telling me it was a miracle I was alive!
As I recovered at home, I had a new outlook on life. I wanted to work for myself, and I needed to make that happen ASAP so my health didn’t continue to suffer. I was no stranger to side hustles, so I thought: ‘Why not start a blog and see what happens?’
I started to Believe in a Budget, a personal finance blog based on my experiences with both saving and making money. To generate traffic, I started using Pinterest, which was only semi-popular back then and not well-known to the business community at large.
The biggest selling point of any online program is student success stories, and those only come from having a solid program that actually works.
I’m not really a social media person (Pinterest isn’t a social media platform; it’s a visual search engine), so Pinterest really spoke to me. I started generating a large amount of traffic very quickly from Pinterest, so I wrote a case study about it on my blog. That was the launch of my Pinterest management business - I started getting emails from fellow bloggers and online business owners, asking me to manage their Pinterest account.
I called myself a ‘Pinterest VA’ (Pinterest Virtual Assistant) and was able to quit my job in the summer of 2015. It quickly snowballed to the point where I had a full Pinterest management agency and worked for all kinds of bloggers, brands, and business owners. I also created a suite of small Pinterest-based digital products to sell as an additional source of income.
At the time, I was the only person I knew of who managed Pinterest accounts. I realized that, no matter how big I grew my agency, I’d never been able to meet the needs of the market. So, in late 2016, I decided to launch a program called Become a Pinterest VA TODAY! to teach others how to start their own Pinterest VA business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
You know the phrase ‘better done than perfect’? I definitely followed that for the first launch of Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!. I knew I could update and improve the program over time, so I didn’t stress it. I just wanted to put it out in the market and see what happened.
When the program first launched, it included five training videos and an accompanying workbook for each training section. It delivered a lot of value, but I didn’t go overboard with it.
I just wanted to get it out there and see what happened. I surprised my email list on Black Friday, which is a notoriously popular shopping day in the United States after Thanksgiving, and offered the new program for $49. The course was available for purchase through the end of Cyber Monday.
I don’t even think there was a true sales page at the time as all of the marketing was done via email. I include a couple of graphics of the course and then readers could purchase on a checkout page!
Describe the process of launching the business.
Because I already had a solid readership on my blog and a solid Pinterest traffic generation strategy, launching was simple. On my side, I wrote a blog post about it, I emailed my list about it, and (of course) put it all out on Pinterest.
I also had developed some friendships in the personal finance blog space, so a few of my good friends came on as affiliates. During the initial launch week, the program brought in over $10,000, which was so much more than I expected.
I consider myself really fortunate because it was a ‘risk-free’ launch. I spent around $200 to hire a workbook designer and I put the entire program together in less than 30 days. That launch taught me to not be afraid of trying things out and seeing if they stick. If they don’t, you can always get feedback and make improvements or try something else.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In my opinion, the biggest selling point of any online program is student success stories, and those only come from having a solid program that actually works. It has become ‘trendy’ to pump out online programs, and it’s really sad when those programs can’t deliver because they’re not based on quality information that works in the real world.
We invest a lot of time and effort into maintaining a database of student success stories because they’re worth their weight in gold. These success stories (including mine) are a big part of our marketing systems.
Anyone who wants to purchase our programs is exposed to student success stories repeatedly on our sales page and in our emails, workshops, and other promotional material.
As for our marketing efforts, we have two ‘open cart’ launches throughout the year, plus we run behind-the-scenes evergreen funnels. For the evergreen funnel, people can opt into a recorded workshop, and that’s followed up with a series of high-converting emails and a three-day open cart just for them using Deadline Funnels. Adding an evergreen funnel to our marketing plan was a complete game-changer.
To launch our new evergreen funnel and ‘open cart’, we ran a new marketing campaign with one simple Facebook ad.
I’m always talking about my dog, so we thought it would be fun to incorporate him into our graphics.
In a 60-day period, this silly Facebook ad received over 7,500 unique clicks from cold traffic and cost $0.85 per click. This definitely contributed towards an increase in ‘open cart’ and ‘evergreen’ sales during this period, which is exactly what we wanted!
It’s really important to level up and grow, and I have found that developing friendships and forming mastermind groups with my peers who offer similar services be the most valuable.
Alongside Facebook ads, we drive traffic to the sales page through my blog and a small-but-mighty group of affiliates. We definitely lean towards keeping things simple.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’ve been profitable since day 1, which is pretty common for digital products.
I have a small, part-time team consisting of 2-3 team members depending on the project, as well as utilize various sub-contractors for one-off projects.
I pay my team well because I want to retain top talent, and the higher profit margin of digital products enables me to do that. I teach my students to charge their worth and I make sure to practice what I preach when it comes to my team. Last year we invested roughly 18% of our gross profit on team members and sub-contractors.
Through my blog and our network of affiliates, we do really well with organic marketing because our program is so unique. Last year we invested around 5% of our gross revenue on Pinterest and Facebook ads. This year we plan to branch out and explore new ways to advertise, such as YouTube and Google ads.
I am excited to launch the Pinterest Expert Business Academy this year, which is a higher-level offering that helps students learn how to create a five-figure-a-month Pinterest-based business through Pinterest management services, coaching, and digital products. We’re putting a big focus on expanding this through 2021 and beyond, and I can’t wait to see where this takes the brand.
We also moved our subscription community (an optional add-on to our flagship program) off Facebook and onto our own platform via Circle at the beginning of the year. This really elevated the offering, made it seem much more exclusive, and provided an enhanced experience for our community. We’ve received great feedback from our students, which makes us even more confident in our decision!
Although this is an additional expense, it is well worth the investment. Facebook groups are just one long stream of disorganized content. We tried using ‘Units,’ but they didn’t help much. With our new platform, everything is organized into its own space.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Since starting this business, I’ve had a laser-sharp focus on it and making sure the programs we offer are the very best out there. Although we were the first Pinterest VA program out there, a few competing programs have popped up over time.
There will always be competitors and copycats, but it’s better to invest time and energy into growing your own business rather than focusing on knock-offs.
Our program is well respected in the online community, which has lead to a marketing partnership with Tailwind, the number one Pinterest-approved marketing and scheduling tool for Pinterest creators.
We’ve also received hundreds of exclusive client leads over the past few years from businesses looking to hire our students on a monthly, recurring basis or a one-time project. This is a free service we provide as it’s a win-win-win for our business, our students, and clients.
I’m constantly reinvesting in my business so it can be the best program available for students to get results as a Pinterest virtual assistant!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For our curriculum, we use Teachable, which is the best online course platform out there. For our online community, we use Circle. We used Facebook for years, but there were constant problems: endless glitches, an inability to organize the content, plus the risk that Facebook could shut our group down at any time for no reason. Circle is an online community platform that fixes all of those issues, plus it has a VIP feel.
I love automating as many areas in my business as possible. Having a ‘set it and forget its attitude really helps me move forward on new projects.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
It’s really important to level up and grow, and I have found that developing friendships and forming mastermind groups with my peers who offer similar services be the most valuable. I prefer small group settings where we can talk (mostly virtually these days!) and ask questions in a safe space where there are no dumb questions.
Finding the right mastermind group can be tricky. It’s ok to move around, too. As my business has grown, I have found myself leaving one group to join another. This way I can still reap the benefits from other members, but also provide more value to other like-minded business owners as well.
I highly recommend reaching out to a few peers in your niche, saying hi, and seeing where it takes you!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
I am very forward-thinking and am never afraid to try something new and different. I prefer to stay away from doing too much research on what is already out there and what others are doing in the online world. This can cause envy and even influence how you create your own product!
Instead, I focus on analyzing two areas of our business - our students and our audience (non-students). We look for recurring requests of their wants and needs and if that fits within our company’s values and goals.
If you are just getting started, it’s too easy to get caught up in the ‘research phase’. Just take action, don’t stress about things being perfect, put your product out there and learn from the results. I don’t view anything as a failure and look at it as data collecting.
Finally, being authentic and true to yourself is what really matters. In the past six years, I’ve grown tremendously from a fresh-faced blogger to a 7-figure business owner, and I’ve made sure to share what that journey has looked like with my audience the entire time. You will be amazed at how many people will be invested in what you do, what you offer, and how they can be a part of your journey!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m not looking to hire any help right now, but when I do hire, it’s often from someone who has taken one of my programs.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Hire a Pinterest VA from our Pinterest VA Lead Finder Service (this is the free service we offer to other business owners)
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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