This is a follow up story for SWAGGER Magazine. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hey, my name is Drew Williams. I am the CEO and Founder of SWAGGER Magazine, an online magazine owned by the parent company SWAGGER Publications Inc. We are the definitive men’s’ magazine for the male individual who aspires to live their best life.
SWAGGER has been defined many times across many generations and has set a tone with everyone it touches. Our vision for SWAGGER is that it is not just about the 10K man purse or obtaining the most expensive luxury products, it’s the mental theory behind the man that gives the average guy the ability to obtain these things. It’s everything that goes into being a confident male and the success that follows. The journey, the tools, and the process of being a great man at all stages of life.
We hope to equip the next generation of men with the tools required for the success they deserve - the path to riches combined with a healthy lifestyle that allows them to enjoy that success just a bit longer than the average joe.
We started as a blog and have evolved into a publication making 100K a year by building engaging and superior content compared to competitors. We’ve taken that model and elevated the vision slightly to really take the business to the next level - 1M in a single year by implementing the right strategy and people.
Our 13-year journey has taken us through some bumps in the road and we’ve collected bruises and battle scars that have only made us better understand our business and our readers. Our goal is to provide content people actually care about and ultimately build a product that is valuable to the men we are trying to inspire as well as the clients we work with.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we last spoke, we have implemented a strategy that we believe was brought on by taking a hard look at the business. We had a valuable product but we were not producing the revenue that we knew we COULD produce. We gathered the earnings we had produced and decided to finally put in the final piece of our puzzle - we partnered with a seasoned sales executive who has sold millions of dollars for his previous employers. Stephen Foster, who is now our VP of business development, began to bring in revenue we needed to really push the limits of what we could produce for our clients.
The revenue he brought in allowed us to hire editors, a sales team which he trained, and gave the tools necessary to be successful - Linkedin, Rocketreach.co, Zapier - which fueled the sales pursuits. We hired an offshore team of employees to handle admin. To further grow the business, we also pursued some of the most talented photographers, like Amanda Peixoto-Elkins and Benjo Arwas, whom we coupled with the most visionary videographers in the industry. We’ve built the machine, placed the right cogs, put in some premium fuel, and we now have a media publishing business that is humming. In the last month, we have added 13 people alone.
You have to surround yourself with talented people that are aligned with you on all levels - ambition, drive, vision, and ability.
We are proactively searching for and lining up great content and celebrity features, where we differentiate based on our greatest skill - exceptionally beautiful and engaging content. This has been key to our rapid growth.
We also invested and partnered with an SEO company, which funny enough was found during our outreach for features in the magazine. This was done to help maximize the visibility of our existing articles which simply were not ranking on Google, although being exceptional pieces of reading material. Their guidance helps us decide what our next articles should be based on market demand. Producing content that we wanted to publish became secondary. Publishing what our readers and the world wanted to become a priority, and that for us was the turning point.
The riddle we figured out was simple. We were caught in the norm, doing what every other blog was doing - focusing on SEO clients and trying to build a business around recurring revenue that was automated. This did not help us garner the clients we have today, it only brought us into an overly saturated market. The reality is, by producing great content we obtained the clients we wanted to work with. Our partners naturally wanted to create more content with us - it has been very organic. Content truly is king.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
In a small organization, one person can grind the entire machine to a halt. Once I hired my seasoned sales associate, he immediately defined me as the lynchpin - a single point of failure. Too much was riding on my time and my abilities.
I’ve learned I needed to delegate, delegate, delegate. You have to surround yourself with talented people that are aligned with you on all levels - ambition, drive, vision, and ability.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We want to grow our audience by 10% a month consistently - this would get us to over 1M subscribers by next August.
We plan to grow at this rate by providing an all-new experience to reading our content, and by adding a modern edge to how we would traditionally read online magazines. We have found that the transition to online has proven difficult for magazines. We plan to give that experience back - I look forward to releasing that.
Something worth sharing. That’s the standard we hold ourselves to. If we share our content with our friends and they don’t want to share it with others, then we don’t produce it. Period.
Numbers are everything and we now look closely at what works and what doesn’t. We plan to change and reinvent content every month until August. We should be a 2-3M a year in revenue company by then.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Never Split The Difference “Negotiating like your life depended on it” by Chris Voss is one that has taught me how to really control very uncomfortable situations. Definitely worth the read.
Also, Growth Hacker Marketing has driven my perception of the way a business should be guided to success through new ways of marketing. Some really great nuggets of wisdom in there.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Start with your excuses and then solve them. Everything becomes clearer. I suffered 10 years before seeing real revenue. This is a race against yourself, and it is not a sprint.
Your competitors are your blueprint. Find the holes, fill them, and do it better. Success can be duplicated and magnified exponentially.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Always. We need talented writers, photographers, videographers, web designers, admins, you name it. You can’t grow without great people.
I am a proud black entrepreneur and I’ll be launching an online magazine as my own personal project to empower the black community called BlackIncorporated.com which celebrates black executives and entrepreneurs. Look for it in early 2021.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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