Tien is a weaver, and in particular a color specialist. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what that means — I really didn’t understand myself until Tien came along and made me aware of her world of people who love to work with yarn.
Here’s an example of some of the topics she teaches, taken from her Warp And Weave website –
Over the last few years Tien has risen to become one of the most well known experts online in the weaving niche. She’s definitely one of the hardest workers as well, creating content, running free ‘weave-along’ challenges and teaching classes to her paying members. She’s been rewarded for this hard work with a thriving business (you can hear the backstory behind her business in this podcast interview I did with her).
Tien also happens to be by far the most active member of my Laptop Lifestyle Academy. Way back in July 2016 she started an accountability thread in the member forums, which is a way to keep track of your progress growing your business.
Still today, almost five years later, Tien comes in every week to the forums and posts updates of what she is working on with her business. It’s incredible to read over her journey just in her accountability posts as you can see her business grow from setting basic goals to making over $100,000 in sales from one campaign.
You Just Need To Grow A Small Audience
Tien made a simple but insightful comment recently in reply to a post from one of our newest members, Charles. Here is what Tien wrote:
The key is to find a small audience – you don’t want a large audience who doesn’t care about what you do, you want to find a small audience who is passionately in love with what you have to offer, and serve them superbly. You want to form a tribe around your offerings.
This is not a new idea if you’ve spent time studying business, but it’s important to reiterate it again because it’s easy to work against this idea by believing you need a massive audience to succeed online.
Because so much media attention is focused on billion dollar companies, often companies with hundreds of millions of users (think social media platforms) or subscribers (streaming media networks), or big e-commerce platforms, thus you too need millions of people to succeed. The idea can spread because big-name celebrity influencers get so much attention, who of course have incredibly large audiences too, so you default to believing that going big is the only way to succeed.
The truth is that the economy is made up of mostly small businesses who focus on very niche problems and serve very small audiences. Tien and this blog you are reading now are prime examples. Only a few thousand people will read this blog post – maybe even less than 1,000. Thus only a very small amount of people will ever learn about Tien’s success story, yet both Tien and myself make a living from having a small but passionate audience.
It’s also counterintuitive to focus on small. So much entrepreneurship advice, especially in the venture-backed startup world is about going big, going after billion dollar TAMs (total addressable markets), disrupting industries or creating new ones, it’s hard not to default to this style of thinking. It’s fun too, who doesn’t get motivated by thinking big and dreaming about having a unicorn startup (I know I have many times!).
The irony is that many companies who do become what we call a ‘unicorn’ (billion dollar valuation) often start by going small first. It’s about getting that first customer, then the second, doing what doesn’t scale so you can gain traction and then figure out how to scale. Of course in the venture-backed world, you do have to go big, that’s why you take on investors, but there are way more non-venture backed companies out there that you never hear about, which make their owners wealthy by serving small audiences.
Becoming Part Of The 1% Rich By Serving 1% Of A Market
I’m not a fan of the concept of being part of the one percent of wealthy people out there because that means the rest of the 99% are struggling – or at least that is the common inference made. The haves and the have-nots, which to me just sounds like a recipe for social-upheaval, and if history has taught us anything, that’s exactly what happens, which means everyone eventually loses.
I like to think that enlightened entrepreneurship can raise standards for everyone — all stakeholders, including founders, shareholders, employees, contractors, society as a whole and the environment — but only if there is a conscious effort to distribute resources to support all these benefactors. It’s not easy or clear-cut, but it is possible.
Of course, we have to work within the conditions we face today. We can and should have the hope and the intention to participate in making things better for everyone, knowing full well that the arc of history does bend towards better outcomes for all, but progress is measured in lifetimes. Meaningful change takes generations.
What we do know today is that if you want a better life, having money helps. It’s good to be rich because you have control over resources.
The path to becoming rich is also pretty clear. Most people who have money are not employees, they are the business owners.
Thus if you too want to gain wealth, starting a business is most likely your best choice. To succeed with that business, serving a small group of people, is the smart strategy.
The Power Of Small
When I look over all the student success stories from the past almost 15 years I have been teaching online business, and I review my own history of 20 years of entrepreneurship, it’s incredible how small everything really is.
All my companies have succeeded by serving very small niches and very small groups of people. I’ve had fewer than 5,000 paying customers over the course of the last 20 years — and I’m combining the customer base of every business I’ve had, not just one.
Graduates of Blog Mastermind (both 1.0 and 2.0 versions) have served markets like helping people with multiple personality disorders, treating acne, making shampoo and conditioner, speed reading, children’s drama classes, sports gambling and writing books. All small niche markets, all serving small customer bases numbering in the hundreds to maybe a few thousand people.
All of these entrepreneurs are outliers when it comes to their income and lifestyle. They’re making several hundred thousand to several million dollars a year and they do so from their homes, or while traveling the world. They get to decide what they work on and enjoy the satisfaction of helping other people do things or recover from things that they too are passionate about.
Build Your Small Audience
I share Tien’s story with you and focus on this idea of small audiences because I want to inspire you to believe this outcome is possible for you too — even within the next couple of years.
When you believe you need to create something big to succeed, that just makes it seem harder and further away. Going after small is more reasonable, and in truth, that’s how all big outcomes start. Even if you want the big result, starting small is often the best path forward.
Bear in mind, when I say small I really just mean focussed. That is what small is, the power of focusing on something with such targeted force that you derive big changes. Those changes are big for you as the founder of the company and big for your customers.
Small doesn’t mean you hold back or don’t dream big. You can live a huge life thanks to a widely profitable, small business.
My life was utterly changed when I went from making about $30,000 a year working two part time jobs, to earning $150,000 a year from my online business. I went on to make much more than that, but to be honest, it was this first upgrade from barely surviving to having extra cash that had the most profound impact on my quality of life.
If all of this sounds great, but you don’t understand how to even grow a small audience and attract a small customer base, then I recommend you start with my free workshop –
This training will give you the basic understanding you need to get started and also highlight a strategy and specific techniques you can apply to grow your audience. I also talk about what kind of products you could sell to this audience towards the end of the presentation.
After taking the workshop you can get out there and start building your life-changing small business.