I Created A $1M/Year Subscription-Based Toolkit For Real Estate Professionals
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Haley Ingram and I created Coffee and Contracts, the go-to marketing toolkit for real estate professionals.
Coffee and Contracts is a digital marketing subscription service for real estate professionals. We provide social media marketing templates such as an Instagram content calendar, story templates, captions, blog posts, video scripts, reel templates, and more. We offer training and support to help our members utilize the tools and grow their social media presence.
In just two years, we’ve helped over 7,000 real estate professionals build an impactful real estate brand with our jam-packed marketing toolkit.
I’m originally from Ocala, Florida; a small town in Central Florida. In 2018, I graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando with a degree in communications and conflict, a broad-enough field of study that I could apply to many career options. At the time, I was considering going into education or fundraising.
As a child, I loved art and selling things! I held art shows in my bedroom and made my family purchase my work (only for their pocket change). I once sold a painted rock to a passerby at a yard sale. In high school, I sold graphic design t-shirts as a fundraiser. They weren’t good, but my friends showed their support anyway!
What is your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
While in college, I got a job as a marketing intern at a real estate brokerage. After getting a glimpse at what real estate agents did and how they got to build their businesses, I was sold on becoming a real estate agent. I got my license while in college, and by the time I graduated I had planned to do real estate full time. I ended up moving to Saint Petersburg, Florida from Orlando and was ready to jump into the real estate world.
I struggled in my first two years as a new agent. My business was growing, but not as fast as I would have liked. I was bartending at the same time to make ends meet. I spent all my free time creating marketing materials in Canva, and that process inspired new ways to promote my business on social media. Soon, all of my best leads were coming from Instagram. Other real estate agents in my area saw my Instagram posts and began asking me for advice. I started managing social media accounts for a few other local agents to help my budget.
Around this time, I knew I had to quit bartending; the hours were killing me. I took a regular day job doing marketing for a medical clinic. While I was at my new position, I was still helping other agents with their social media here and there, and I started an Etsy shop where I sold Canva templates for real estate agents. It was at this time that I met a personal trainer who trained clients one-on-one until she created a subscription service where people paid a lower price and received a weekly workout plan. She had a Facebook group for their community to build rapport, and it was going very well. That’s when it clicked for me: I could do the same thing with my clients!
I began to build Coffee and Contracts, sitting in coffee shops in between work appointments, and every moment of my free time. I didn’t have any idea how to start a membership-based business but found some good mentor groups on Facebook and via Google. After about 3 months of planning, I went live with Coffee and Contracts in September 2019 and by November I was able to quit my other jobs and concentrate on my business full-time.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When I launched Coffee & Contracts I truly had no idea if anyone would be interested in it. I started by creating an Instagram promoting my Etsy listings to see if there was any interest. That started to organically grow and get engagements, which encouraged me to keep going in this direction.
If I had waited for everything to be perfect we would have never launched. That’s the biggest thing I learned from the process of starting - just do what you can with what you have at the moment, and then figure out the rest along the way.
Initially, I started with three membership tiers: $9/month, $14/month, and $19/month. The first few people to sign up went straight to $19/month so I quickly pivoted and made the whole membership one level: $19/month for everything. The membership started to grow, I started receiving feedback from members which started to shape what we provided each month.
In the beginning, I was offering random templates and marketing materials each month but quickly realized the members loved content calendars with captions. So, this became our main offering each month.
The amount of content included in the membership continued to grow, and the value was quickly going up, so, in February of 2020, I raised the price to $34/month. Anyone who signed up before February 2020 was considered a Founding Member and was grandfathered in at the previous price. Then, prices went up again in January 2021 to $54/month. Again, whatever rate you signed up at is locked in unless you are to cancel.
Describe the process of launching the business.
While I was working on the website, I started an Instagram page for Coffee and Contracts. I was slowly putting the brand out there, and our following started to build on this page. I would put out potential offers and see what the community was engaging with. I began signing people up on September 17th, 2019. By October 1st, we had 14 sign-ups. October was our first full month, and we had an additional 88 sign-ups. In November, we had an additional 170 new sign-ups!
As someone who had never created a website, getting this setup took a lot of Googling, and trial and error. If I could go back and do it again, there are a lot of things I would have done differently. But if I had waited for everything to be perfect we would have never launched. That’s the biggest thing I learned from the process of starting - just do what you can with what you have at the moment, and then figure out the rest along the way.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our membership has continued to grow at an average of about 5% each month. Most of our traffic comes from Instagram and word of mouth or affiliates.
Since the beginning, I put most of my energy into Instagram since the templates we are selling are for agents to use on their Instagram. Part of the reason Coffee & Contracts started in the first place is that I found how easy it was to get discovered by potential real estate clients organically on Instagram. Unlike paid ads or pay per clicks, you don’t have to compete with the larger companies on Instagram. It also allows you to display your brand visually and connect with your audience, which builds trust a lot quicker than paid ads.
I’ve run paid advertisements here and there, but I enjoy the results of organic reach instead. When people get to know us and what we offer by following along on Instagram, they stay around a lot longer than people who find us through ads. I can attribute our growth on Instagram too using the right hashtags, engaging with potential customers, and putting out valuable content.
One great thing about the real estate industry is that agents love to help each other out. Agents love to network and share how they find success in their business. They have teams they want good agents to join, and agents can send each other referrals so it’s great for them to network and build relationships. So, word of mouth has been a huge organic source of business for us.
When I started, I reached out to several real estate agents who had a great presence on Instagram. I gave them free accounts and coupon codes to receive a commission when they promote Coffee & Contracts. Not only has this brought us a ton of traffic and sign-ups, but it helped to get our name out there in the beginning as well.
REEL AN AFFILIATE POSTED PROMOTING US;
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Since we only do digital products, we don’t have as many expenses as a product-based business would have. Our gross margins are about 95% on average. This is after paying out affiliates. Our average monthly revenue is around $165,00 per month.
Right now, we’re focusing on improving the member’s experience and experimenting with new product ideas. We also spend a lot of time on our Instagram content.
Our goal is to be the go-to resource for real estate marketing ideas, tools, and templates. If you check out our Instagram, you’ll see that we are consistently sharing content that our audience finds very valuable. We give them ideas to use in their marketing every week. Our Instagram following has grown 17.4% in the past 90 days. The key to our success on Instagram is that we rarely, if ever, just directly promote our product. Instead, we just provide value. This hooks people and gets them to stay around and hit the follow button. Eventually, they sign up because they wonder, “if they give out all of this free, there must be such great content in the membership!” (And they are right about that!).
The photo below is an example of a recent post we did of caption ideas for real estate agents. 718 people saved it for later!
Other post examples:
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of my biggest struggles has been setting up systems and operations. My style has always been a little more spontaneous, especially when I’m creating something and getting excited about it. Since we release a ton of new content each month, having systems and deadlines in place is super important for a successful launch each time. In the beginning, it was mostly just me and I would be working 12 hours in one day to get all of the content done right before the deadline. Now that we have a team of contractors working on the content, we have schedules and deadlines in place to make this a smoother process.
One mistake I made in the beginning on our social media was hiding behind the brand. I’ve also seen a lot more engagements on our Instagram since I started showing up on camera. Connecting with our audience through Instagram has not only helped us to grow by building our “know, like, and trust” factor, but I think it has helped humanize us, and people no longer just see us as a company or brand. Our members now recognize me, and trust me as their marketing coach and content provider. I think this helps with member retention as well.
Don’t worry so much about making mistakes that you avoid doing things. It’s never going to be perfect, and even the big companies who have been around for years make mistakes every day. Embrace your mistakes as lessons learned.
Networking with other businesses in the real estate industry (even some that were potential competitors) was one of the better decisions I’ve made. Working with our partners has been great for getting our name out there and building trust with our potential customers, especially in the beginning. When they saw our name with a name of a business they already know, it worked wonders for us as the new guy on the block. We did this through partnerships on products, Instagram giveaways, and just shouting each other out.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
It took me SO LONG to find something for managing all of the content we have. Airtable is such a huge lifesaver for this. We were able to set up a system that allows us to work on the content directly in AirTable, then switch it over to live and it immediately populates on the website. It is amazing for content management and so much more.
Since all of the templates we create are through Canva, of course, we have to shout them out! Canva’s platform is amazing. We can create beautiful templates to distribute to our members, and it is so simple to use. Our members LOVE it.
We use HelpScout for our support tickets and love it. It has all of the features we need and is so simplistic.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love listening to books on Audible and podcasts. When I was starting Coffee & Contracts, I listened to a lot of Gary Vee podcasts for inspiration and to get a good kick in the butt. I love the podcast Being Boss with Emily Thompson, she gives a ton of great advice for running your business. I also listen to Jay Shetty’s podcast pretty much every day.
My two all-time favorite books are You are a Badass by Jen Sincero and 101 Essays to Change the Way you Think by Brianna Wiest.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Three things I would say to other entrepreneurs or anyone just starting out:
- Don’t worry so much about making mistakes that you avoid doing things. It’s never going to be perfect, and even the big companies who have been around for years make mistakes every day. Embrace your mistakes as lessons learned.
- Establish your values and goals for the company from the start. One thing I struggle with every day is decision fatigue. It has helped to make the decisions for the company in advance, so I can look at a question and ask, “does this align?” and it’s as simple as that.
- Figure out what you enjoy doing the most, and then figure out how to outsource the rest. I’m still working on this!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not looking to hire for certain positions right now, but we do have open applications for our Partner Program soon. This is a great opportunity for anyone who provides any type of service (social media management, virtual assistance, etc.) to real estate professionals. Apply at coffeecontracts.com/partners.
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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