Full Transcript - Priscila Martinez - Wild Business Growth Podcast #295

Full Transcript – Andy Hunter – Wild Business Growth Podcast #277

This is the full transcript for Episode #277 of the Wild Business Growth Podcast featuring Andy Hunter – Bookshop Bodyguard, Founder of Bookshop.org. You can listen to the interview and learn more here. Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Andy Hunter 0:00
Be aware. Like, be conscious.

Max Branstetter 0:17
Be the ball. Welcome back to the Wild Business Growth Podcast. This is your place to hear from a new entrepreneur every single Wednesday morning who’s turning Wild ideas into Wild growth. I’m your host, Max Branstetter, Founder and Podcast Producer at MaxPodcasting. And you can email me at to save time with your high-quality podcast. And if you are tuning into this, on the day that it is released, then it is my birthday. And if you’re tuning in on a different day, it is not my birthday, you win some you lose some. This is episode 277. And today’s guest is Andy Hunter. Andy is the Founder and CEO of Bookshop.org. The super cool, super positive online book marketplace, who has raised at the time of this recording over $30 million for local bookstores. They are a certified B Corporation. They are of course, direct competitors with Amazon and probably haven’t heard of them. And in this episode, we talk all those things, how your approach to running your business needs to change in year one versus year four versus year beyond Andy’s family project to find the best flavors of ice cream, and everything from telepathy to why people honk their horns way too damn much. It is Mr. Prompt. Or maybe I’m Mr. Prompt. Enjoyyyyyyy the showwwwww! Aaaaaalrightyyyyyyy we are here with Andy Hunter, the Founder and CEO of Bookshop.org company doing really, really, really really really cool things. I’m gonna set a record for really already for local bookshops, and beyond. Andy, thank you so much for joining How you doing today?

Andy Hunter 2:17
Oh, thanks for having me. I’m doing great. Thanks. Of course,

Max Branstetter 2:20
of course, we’re going to get into the world of book shops, but more specifically with books. I just want to start off, you know, coming out hot right away, I heard a quote from you where you said that book saved your life? Can you shed some light on that?

Andy Hunter 2:38
You know, I was always a reader growing up. But I also had kind of a rough childhood at a certain point, my mom became extremely mentally ill and my dad left and moved across the country. And so it was me and my brothers living with a mentally ill mom that we basically had to care for. And the time I was like 11 years old, even before that it hadn’t been perfect, you know. And so I was like, extremely socially awkward, you know, I didn’t have decent clothes, I didn’t have great hygiene, I hate to say it, but I wasn’t a big fan of showers and there was nobody there to tell me to take one, I couldn’t really connect with my peers very well, you know, I was bullied and kind of an outcast. And what I found in books during that time period, which lasted to to my teens, was you know, soulless company, and also a real greater understanding of myself and my place in the world. What was possible, you know, and it gave me hope, and it built my empathy and understanding and really just kind of kept me alive and kept me wanting to get up in the morning and kept me excited about what life could be. And so when I say the book saved my life, I really do mean it like there was a time for at least five or six years in my childhood where, without books, I don’t know what I would have done in some ways books, like taught me how to get out of it, too. Like they taught me how to cope. And they still do like even after that. Books broaden my perspective, all the time. And they helped me understand humanity and my place and humanity and like what I want to do and why I want to do it, and they give you wisdom, and they make like a lot life a lot more interesting, you know, and I think that they’re good for human society. Like I think that if you look at the printing press, and you look at what happened like pre books, versus post books, like books have been instrumental and just kind of pushing human evolution forward. Yeah, I’m

Max Branstetter 4:46
right there with you. And I appreciate you sharing all that. You know, it’s never fun when you’re in a situation growing up where you have, you know, you’re going through those emotions and in a tough environment where you feel like there’s no out there. And it’s really uplifting that books became such a an influential part of your life. And I’m sure there’s no way back then you would have seen, you know, flash forward and be like, I’m going to start a company and website that helps out lots of book shops around the US and world. But there is something so powerful about just sitting down with a really, really good book to this day, like, what is it about discovering a new book, having it in your hands? That just kind of leaves an impact on

Andy Hunter 5:32
you? Well, I think it’s like the closest thing that we have to I don’t know like telepathy. You can immerse yourself in the mind of another person, you can immerse yourself in a world that is completely fabricated. Or in a world that is just hundreds of years ago in history. Like if you read flow bear, or ball sack, you can go back hundreds of years and learn so much about what people were like and all that and, or if you’re interested in, like relativity, I mean, I learned so much from reading the business, Brian Greene’s books and I learned so much about neuroscience by reading books, like the brain that changes itself, like every everything. Because if you listen, like if you’re just reading short thing on the internet, or if you just watch a YouTube video or whatever, you can’t get the kind of sustained logical building upon one piece building upon another building upon another. And it’s all happening completely in your mind. So like you’re shaping it to you’re creating it. And the fact that you’re creating it based on these like tiny little symbols on a piece on a piece of paper is like completely insane that you can, that we have this way to transfer thought personality and knowledge across time, across different people’s minds is truly extraordinary. And there’s nothing like it anywhere else. So

Max Branstetter 7:05
we started talking about books, and we’re already on to telepathy. So appreciate the ingenuity there. Let’s get to bookshop.org. So obviously, from an early age, you found a home really in books and you found a passion for books, maybe telepathy as well, that’s a story for another episode. But what was the turning point for you when you first thought that, hey, I could start some sort of a business or mission or like something out there to support local bookstores.

Andy Hunter 7:42
Yeah, it happened really gradually. I mean, going back to when I was a kid, I wanted to own a bookstore, like my dream life was to have a dog and a bookstore and sleep in the back room. Like that’s all I wanted to do. My my ambitions expanded since then, I had done work like in it. I had done business systems, I learned accounting, I learned how to write software. I was also interested in writing, I got an MFA in creative writing. I wasn’t just an editorial, I became editor in chief of a magazine. And then I started working in books, I eventually was independent book publisher. So I’ve done all of these different things. And I was really interested in books. And when I started working in the book world around 2009, I started watching as Amazon was growing and growing and growing. And in the beginning, you know, it’s 5%, than it was 15% of the market. And like this is going to be something really powerful. And there needs to I thought at the time, there needs to be something independent, that counteracts its weight that actually like has more of the values of the book community at heart. So I tried in 2011 to get a bunch of charitable foundations to create like a non profit. I’ll alternative book ecosystem because at the time, I think Amazon just bought good reads in between Amazon and Goodreads and like these guys are gonna like control everything around books, if we don’t watch out. Nobody was interested in 2011. Nobody was worried. Nobody cared, like that idea completely died. And then, eight years later, Amazon had been growing six to 8% year over year, ecommerce was growing like 15% year over year, Amazon had over 50% of the book market, it was 2019. And at that point, like, okay, nobody has done this, and nobody’s gonna do it. So I’ll try to do it. And I put together a plan and started the long and difficult road of like fundraising and building alliances and trying to get people to back it, which was not easy. If you tell people that your business is competing directly with Amazon. Most people are like, oh, yeah, good luck with that.

Max Branstetter 9:51
Yeah, I think that’s something that I imagine most people wonder about when they first hear about your business is like, oh my god, like the DSP Before going right at the, as you’ve said before at the Deathstar at Amazon. So what? What were some of those reactions from potential investors when you said that, yeah, we’re, you know, we’re gonna go at this company that’s taking over the world.

Andy Hunter 10:16
It was almost all knows, it was like the loneliest and most isolating time that I’ve had in my professional career, because I would just go to meeting after meeting, and I’m probably not that good at pitching. So that maybe that’s part of it. But it’s also part of it is that, even if it succeeds, its purpose is to help strengthen independent bookstores. So it’s not a 10x or 100x scenario. Like if we, if we’re usually successful, and have tons of profits, those profits are supposed to go to support local businesses, not support the investors. So that was tricky. But the real tricky part was that people were just like, the American consumer only cares about speed and price. And if you can’t beat Amazon on speed, you can’t beat them on price, then you’re dead in the water. And I had several investors bow out basically that kind of rationale. In the end, I was able to convince some people in book publishing that it was worth taking a flyer, and then a few kind of high net worth individuals who loved books had either written books, or were deeply, deeply connected. And I raised about half of the money I wanted to raise, I only wanted to raise 1.2 million, and I only raised 700,700 $1,000, to try to create an E commerce marketplace that beats Amazon and selling books is not a lot of money. But eventually, I was like, we just want to build this thing. So even though I don’t have as much raised as I want, and we’re not gonna have the runway I wanted, we’re just gonna start start building.

Max Branstetter 11:46
Yeah, I mean, 700k is nothing to scoff at. But when you’re considered the rather large competitor in the space, among other competitors, I could see how it feels pretty dwarfed by that. You know, you have this strong mission there, like you have that passion of wanting to support local bookstores. How did you start to put the pieces together of like, what this would actually look like to the point of like, people are going through us to find books and find bookstores but like, how do we make sure everybody gets you know, their share, and that this mission comes to life, you

Andy Hunter 12:19
kind of bring the stakeholders on board from the beginning, that was kind of my plan for both like how we actually make an impact in these people’s businesses, but also how we grow, because we didn’t have money to spend on big direct consumer marketing campaigns and buy Facebook ads, and Google ads and that kind of thing. So we needed all everybody to be behind it. So we went to conferences, we went to individual bookstores, we tried to get influential booksellers, on our board of directors, we had to prove to them that we had their interest at heart, and we put in our bylaws that we weren’t going to sell to Amazon. And so it’s in our shareholder agreement. So even if Amazon tries to bite us out, it can’t happen. And once we had the booksellers on board, we expanded to other kinds of types of affiliates in groups like literary magazines, nonprofits, librarians, like everybody that’s in the book world, we wanted them to have pages on bookshop and the way bookshop works is like it’s sort of like social ecommerce, like any individual or organization can create their own page and curate books and promote books and receive a portion of the of the money from their sale. It was really building the all that network. And that’s what really helped us launch because instead of just having us saying, Hey, pay attention to us, we’re trying to do this thing. We we launched with over 250 partners that were all on books up and they were all promoting their pages to

Max Branstetter 13:45
what were those early days like of you know, starting to see the I guess, I don’t know if you consider it revenue or contributions, but like the money, the money raised towards the local bookstores like how, what did that look like in the early days? And like, how long did it take till it felt like it really started to pick up?

Andy Hunter 14:05
Yeah, well, luckily, like our trough of despair, or whatever they call that, like if you see that that’s a popular like startup graph that shows like a launch and they’re excited then then it sinks. And through this trough of despair, usually

Max Branstetter 14:17
very short lived and a very long trough. Yeah, we are

Andy Hunter 14:22
trough of despair was not very long. We did sort of have one main we launched, I didn’t have huge expectations, because I was going with the launch with an MVP. If you’re not embarrassed by what you launch with, you’ve launched too late kind of idea. So when we launched we didn’t have shipping notifications, even we there was so much that we still needed to build. And then, you know, we had some people who were skeptical, we made the decision to put the amount of money that we had earned for bookstores, on our homepage and in a top banner across all the pages of our site. So I was inspired by places like GoFundMe because I think that that’s motivating and it’s amazing to see See that your purchase makes a contribution, you actually made a difference when you buy something. And I think that’s great positive feedback. But it also meant that anybody who wanted to check exactly how we were doing could come and see exactly how many books we sold and exactly how much money we earned. And in the beginning, those numbers were not very big. So we did have some people on podcast saying like, Oh, this isn’t working out, like after a month after we launched, it’s like,

Max Branstetter 15:24
yeah, sorry about that. I just couldn’t wait to you know, trash your company. Yeah,

Andy Hunter 15:29
exactly. Two weeks after that COVID hit. And once COVID hit, all these bookstores had to literally go on lockdown. They couldn’t even have their employees come in to fill in online orders because they couldn’t put their employees at risk. Everybody was sheltering at home. They couldn’t do curbside pickup in the beginning, all the only way they could sell books is by selling online. And we went from having 250 stores to having 1200 stores. And we went from selling $50,000 worth of books in February of 2020. To selling $150,000 worth of books a day by May. In July, we sold $12 million worth of books. We in February, we had four employees, including me, and I had a day job. And by July, we were doing $12 million in a month and fulfilling 1000s and 1000s of orders. And it was it was the craziest experience of growth like speeding up Max growth. That was a lot Oh, growth very fast.

Max Branstetter 16:35
Oh my god. Yeah, that is, you know, as if there wasn’t enough going on in the world, that’s a wild ride and change of, I guess change of scenery there and change of how podcasters can talk about your company in the early days there. But that’s just an incredible growth.

Andy Hunter 16:51
There was actually a guy that said he was going to eat his shoe, if it succeeded. And I haven’t seen him take actually asked him to eat his shoe. I left I let it go. Let’s

Max Branstetter 17:00
hope there’s no footage of that. From from day one, did you set it up as a B Corp? Yeah,

Andy Hunter 17:09
well, I mean, you have to go through a rigorous audit to become a B Corp. So we set up as a benefit corporation, which is basically saying the purpose of this company is for the social for social good. And then we went through B Labs, which is the organization that WSB corpse. We started their process of validating, that we were ethical, that we had good internal practices that we were making a positive impact on the world that we had low environmental footprint and all of that, and that took about a year and a half. But not only did we get certified, but we got certified as one of the best for the world B corpse, which meant we scored in the top 5% of all B corpse nationwide. So we were super proud of that. Wow.

Max Branstetter 17:50
Yeah. And you should be and congrats on that. And it’s so funny that a company whose mission is to support local bookstores, is being questioned on its ethics, you think that would be a no a no brainer.

Andy Hunter 18:06
The industry has been burned before and honestly, like a lot of I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to be skeptical. There’s a lot of brands trying to sell that they’re socially conscious or eco friendly. Where if you peel back a few layers, it’s more of a marketing gimmick. And for bookstores, they had seen like, most people don’t know this, but Borders books, which used to be this huge chain made an agreement that Amazon was going to do all their online ordering fulfillment. And Amazon was like, oh, yeah, we understand the Internet. We’re gonna help you sell books on the internet. And then like five years later, Amazon had driven borders completely out of business. So independent bookstores had seen things like that happen before and they’re like, is this going to be a rug poll? And I think that they’re they’re right to be wary like restaurants have seen rug polls like sites like Grub Hub that used to be very, very good for for restaurants now are like, at best, a love hate relationship, because the costs once you have full buy in, then the costs go up. The reason that we’ve got booksellers, on our board of directors and the reason that we are a B Corp and all that is because we we really want to make sure that that never happens, that we’re always fulfilling our mission. That

Max Branstetter 19:20
border story hits close to home, I think growing up in my hometown, our like bigger bookstore, I guess was borders. And I had never thought about it too much. But looking back like it was like pretty popular and then it just seemed like it closed overnight one time and that was it. And I think you’ve revealed you know, what was going on there in the greater business and Amazon world but it’s can be such a cutthroat industry, when you have competitors like that, even though it is something that is like all focused on books, which is such a positive and like optimistic and stress relieving thing, like it’s a really interesting industry dynamic there. You know, like so you So you had that we’ll call it you know, you were talking about the trough of despair, then you had the like, the opposite. You had like the hot streak in 2020. And you know, where your your your monthly revenue is now what you’re doing and like, you know, from breakfast to lunch, what has been the biggest driver in growing that to the level now where like, you have, I think, recently, at the time of this recording passed the mark of $30 million. You’ve created and raised and given back to local bookstores. So congrats on that, like, that’s an incredible milestone. What do you think has driven the continued growth of this and, and supporting your mission that way?

Andy Hunter 20:37
Thank you. Yeah, like, it’s really omni channel, where there’s not one things, I mean, obviously, COVID kickstarted everything. But since we become a more mature business, it’s more like you can look at the different revenue streams. First of all, we’ve made a real effort to become linked in all different major publications. So it used to be that Amazon’s affiliate program was like the only game in town, and they would pay four and a half percent off of any book sale. So we created an affiliate program where we like, Okay, if you link to us, we’re gonna pay you 10%. And we give a matching 10% independent bookstores. So you’re, you’re helping you’re helping your local businesses, and you’re helping your publication at the same time. And then we got those links everywhere. So now by now we have links on like Time Magazine, Buzzfeed, NPR, like the Atlantic, all of these great, trusted media brands are linking to us, when they cover books, sometimes they only link to us, sometimes they link to us and Amazon, but they link to us. So that’s, that’s a big driver. We have now 1900 stores, bookstores, on our platform in the US and 500 in the UK. That means that’s like 80% of the the American Booksellers Association members are on our platform. So those stores are bringing customers to us everyday to and we still rely on a ton of word of mouth, because about 80% of our profit margin goes to the stores, we still don’t have a lot of money for digital advertising, we spent about 1% of our annual revenue on digital ads. And most ecommerce companies, that’s it’s closer to five to 10%. So we’re still like big word of mouth community building, trying to get authentic people to believe in what we’re doing and be loyal to us because they’re, they’re happy about their impact. Impact

Max Branstetter 22:34
is a very relevant and accurate word. Yeah, those are, those are wonderful things that you’re doing. And it’s awesome when you see people come together. And and I think that you have a mission that people just can latch on to and really get behind. On that note. What have you heard, what kind of feedback have you heard from local bookstore owners about the company and community and possibilities that you’ve created with bookshop dog.org, if I could pronounce your URL correctly, I’d

Andy Hunter 23:02
say 95% of the booksellers are very grateful. There are many, many stores that actively try to grow sales using bookshop. And then there are also just as many that don’t do anything, but just get checks from us. A lot of them are resource constrained, you know, and I think the most important thing for us is to change their mindset about online. Because if you look at online as a threat, and you don’t have a presence there, you don’t have time, you don’t understand how it works. And you just think of it as a place where it’s competing for your customers and as a danger, then you’re never going to be able to like succeed in the next 10, 20, 30 years. I mean, e commerce is growing 15% year over year, more and more people are shopping online, even local businesses have to have an online strategy. So for us getting the stores on board with that and telling them like, we’re going to make a lot of it a lot simpler for you. We’re going to do everything we can to make it easy. So even though you have no resources, and you know, you’re not trained in this stuff, we’re going to be able to create online sales as an important part of your profitability every year. So that has been great. And you know, I’m about to go to a bookseller conference next week. And we’re going to have a huge roundtable about how people are using it successfully. The same time. There’s a lot more we can do. We have about, you know, a little over 1% of the book market right now. Amazon has over 50% They’re probably about 60%. So we need to get more than one out of 60 customers to say like, Hey, I need to buy this book. I’m gonna do it in a way that supports my local businesses and keeps like these businesses in our downtown’s. You know, a lot of people who love books, love bookstores. And this is just about closing that circle.

Max Branstetter 24:57
Real quick on that because I could talk about it but wouldn’t be nearly as exciting coming from me. What does a bookstore mean to you? Like what’s sort of like the vibes? Like there’s some sort of magic in bookstores, but I’d love to hear your perspective on it. They’re like

Andy Hunter 25:12
sanctuaries, but they’re also like gates. I mean, I’m using fantastic language. But

Max Branstetter 25:20
that is fantastic. Let’s get to telepathy, telepathy to.

Andy Hunter 25:24
Exactly. You know, I used to read a lot of fantasy, I don’t want to know that kind of older, I don’t read a lot of like fantasy. But if you take that back, read a lot. You’re just wiser. I would, you know, when I was a kid, I would anytime went to a store. I mean, when I went to a new town, or went on vacation somewhere, I would find a bookstore. And I would just hunker down and read a ton, find new things. And then even as a teenager, like I was exposed to like the kind of counterculture that I was into, like this was pre internet, like our the internet existed, but it wasn’t what it is today. bookstores were just incredible portals of discovery for me. And they, and also they’re staffed by people who love books as much as I do. That’s what bookshop is all about is like countering the algorithm approach to books because human beings are what matter when it comes to books, like people who are inspired by books and decide to dedicate their lives to them, like people who run the unknown bookstores are like the salt of the earth, and they’re not doing it for money. And there’s not very much money in running a bookstore, right. But if you go to a bookstore, you can meet people who who understand and are inspired by the power of books, and they can transfer that power over to you and it’s awesome. And no algorithm will ever be able to do that. And if you think about why you bought a book, like usually buy it to somebody you respect, tells you that you should read it like whether it’s a friend, or a parent, or Oprah or whoever, like you’re buying a book because somebody says like, Oh, you gotta read this book. It’s a person.

Max Branstetter 26:58
Yeah, that would be a real tragedy. If people who worked at bookstores hated books, that feels like an SNL skit or something. Just books everywhere. It’s a beautiful mission and just way you have of looking at books and bookstores, and you were kind of tongue in cheek making fun of your language, but thinking of them is gates or portals, I think is just an awesome way to think about it because it really unlocks something. And sometimes you read a book that was just at the right time that you need to go on a mental vacation to somewhere around the world or out of this entire universe, a different universe, so you never know what it can turn into. You truly never know. But one thing I do definitely know and I am super excited to announce is that Max podcasting. My podcast production business is a media partner for see. It would help if I could pronounce the name right. CEX the Content Entrepreneur Expo. It is the premier event for content entrepreneurs. And this event is super close to my heart. One it is created by Joe Pulizzi. And team if that name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the Godfather of Content Marketing, and he also is Wild Business Growth Podcast guest back in episode number 15. And came back on for episode 100. So lots of history with the podcast in Cleveland and Go Browns everything there. Also, the event is taking place May 5-7 in my favorite city of Cleveland, Ohio. So that’s May 5-7, 2024. If you’re interested in going you will absolutely love it. In addition to featuring some of the best content entrepreneur speakers, who will share their tips and how to become the best content entrepreneur you can be. It also is featuring the super exciting headliner this year BJ Novak who you might recognize from The Office, among many other cool things, but just one of the coolest people in the world. If you’re interested in attending in person, you can go and save $100 off the ticket price by signing up at CEX.Events and using the promo code MAX100. Thanks for considering and hoping you have the best time in the world hanging out with Ryan Howard at CEX. Now let’s move on from Dunder Mifflin a little bit and switch back to the beautiful world of Bookshop.org. I’d love to switch gears a little bit and dive more into you on the personal side. So you’re someone who has spent, you know, a lifetime being interested in books being interested in writing. But then as entrepreneurship Then comes along and it’s it’s a bit different to know what you know the word entrepreneur is, and know what entrepreneurship is versus actually doing it yourself. And so you’ve had some experience in kind of multiple stops your career there, but what was the adjustment like and going from, you know, having a job being a writer of sorts, to being like the the person, like the business owner, or the entrepreneur trying to get something rolling. I

Andy Hunter 30:26
always like making things. So, you know, in college, I lived in a house that had an independent record label. And when I got out of college, I started my own little magazine. So I had this kind of entrepreneurial vibe, which was a really DIY, like, do it yourself thing. And honestly, all of my opportunities came out of out of these things that I built on my own. Like, I wasn’t asking for permission, I wasn’t trying to get an internship at a big magazine and worked my way up the ranks. I was like, I’m gonna make my own magazine. And I think that is the entrepreneurial mindset. And it’s extremely liberating. And it’s really exciting. There’s nothing like the excitement of especially when you’re starting something when you’re pulling ideas together, and inspiring other people and building something that didn’t exist before and getting critical mass for it. It’s a great feeling. At the same time, it’s like, really nerve wracking and harrowing, and a lot of entrepreneurs alike will talk about how incredibly stressful it is, you have to be ready to fail. Failure, you know, happens all the time. And things go wrong all the time. It doesn’t have like a support network. And it’s very experimental, you really have to have sleepless nights and you have to be good at managing your stress and all that. And I’m pretty even keeled. But even then, it’s like been torture sometimes. But it’s got highs and lows. And what are you going to do? Like, that’s what life’s all about. Like I’m, I’m much rather have highs and lows than the board. I was a file clerk for a year at a law firm when I was 23. And I was bored stiff, I would never want to live like that. Again,

Max Branstetter 32:06
I’m bored hearing you just describe that role. Torture is is an interesting, but I think accurate way of looking at it as well as an entrepreneur. It’s like it’s a torture of love. Like, if you’re starting, you know, if you’re running a business, if you’re building a business that you’re passionate about, well, you don’t think of it as like, oh my god, I have to spend so many hours a week working on it, like you just do it like it’s it’s part of the gig. But also like, there are lots and lots of sleepless nights, I’m sure as you know, of taking much longer to fall asleep than otherwise, because you’re thinking of so many different aspects of the business or like maybe you’re working more on weekends than you would otherwise. Like there’s a lot of sacrifices, a lot of torture, there’s you said, How have you been able to reduce your stress levels as part of your entrepreneurial journey? Good

Andy Hunter 32:54
exercise, and like good sleep hygiene is really important. And I think it’s often neglected and it was neglected by me. But if back, you know, before I became good at it, I would like end a stressful day with a couple of beers and then get six hours or five hours asleep. And then you know, you’re running ragged all the time. Like just having better habits has been a game changer for me. I also think just bringing in people you trust, like people, I used to read advice that says like hiring is the most important thing you can do. Like in getting the right hires, and like I kind of was like, Yeah, that sounds right, whatever. But I didn’t think much about it. But now that I’ve been through this a few times, like who you have at your side is everything and like understanding that you have people that you trust, who are competent, that you can share the load with is huge. So I’d say like good habits, a good support network, and, you know, trustworthy comrades in arms, trying to do it with you. That’s what I think is the most important. That’s

Max Branstetter 34:02
a great rundown. How do you personally seek or qualified talent, like people that are going to, you know, join you join your mission there,

Andy Hunter 34:12
you have to identify people who are really passionate about what you’re passionate about who are like minded, but also who are ambitious in the startup world. You can’t just be like, I just want to decent life and work life balance, I want to clock out at five and in the beginning, you really got to go all in. When you’re a little bit more mature. You’ve actually like hit product market fit, you can start worrying about balance and when you bring in new employees, you can allow them to have that balance and all that. But in the beginning, you got to find some people who are ride or die and also you know, who have diverse skill sets. One of the most important things that you can do is hire people who are better than you at whatever they’re spies so it’s good supposed to be do Doing a lot of entrepreneurs are generalists. I’m a generalist. So I’m pretty good at writing copy. And I’m pretty good at advising people on like UI UX design, I’m pretty good at project management, I’m pretty good at Google Analytics, I’m pretty good at a lot of things. And in the beginning, when I’m doing everything, it’s enough. But ideally, I’m gonna have people who are better at all those things, once I grow, and I’ve got like a staff of 40 people, I shouldn’t be doing all those things. And every person I hired to do those things, needs to be better than me at it. And I think for ego reasons, sometimes it’s hard for people to get around. But it’s really critical. Yeah,

Max Branstetter 35:35
I’m totally with you. It’s incredibly important to like know, from the gecko, that there’s just like, a good fit with the people that you’re going to work with, because you’re going to spend so much time with them. And also, like people, I think, have to have a little bit of, you know, wild and crazy in them. And that entrepreneurial spirit, spirit spirit, in order to join a startup, especially in the early days like that. So you attract a really passionate breed there, as well. I’m also curious on, you know, because we keep going back to like, so much of your company goes back to its mission and everything with like the B Corp, and you being even so transparent on your website about like, how much money you raise for local bookstores? What advice would you have for any aspiring entrepreneur out there who wants to start a business around some sort of cause or mission that they’re really passionate about, and they want to be, you know, like, transparent with like, Alright, we’re gonna, we’re gonna set aside this much amount of profit or revenue, or revenue, even if the voicecrack there, to give back to, you know, X group, whatever,

Andy Hunter 36:47
the most important thing is, you connect with the people you’re trying to help, you know, you need to there needs to be a pain point, there needs to be something that’s wrong, that you’re trying to fix, and the fix is needed. People want what you have to offer, and there’s a real need for it. A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of doing something that’s kind of cool or sounds interesting. But nobody is like dying for it to happen. So if you’re sure that there’s a need, then you talk to the people who have that need, and you learn from them, how you can best solve their problems and work with them. And that, first of all, is invaluable market research that you can use to build a great product. But it’s also aligning internal support in whatever industry or world that you’re trying to enter into, whether you’re working with healthcare workers, or you’re working, you know, with school teachers, or you’re working with like, after school athletic programs, it doesn’t matter what the vertical is, it’s like you got to talk to the people who’ve been doing it for 20 years, they’re going to tell you a lot about what they need, and whether your solution is going to fit. And also, if you give them what they want, then they’re gonna be your biggest supporters. And they’re gonna help you build a grassroots enthusiastic user base that you can grow from. So I just think identifying the key stakeholders and the people who have been in that world for a while, learning from them, and then helping them getting them on board and getting them on your side.

Max Branstetter 38:21
Let’s switch it up a bit more to a section I call The Unusual. So pet peeves, quirks, weird talents, this goes beyond just like through the mindset of a business owner. This is just you personally, it’s always fascinating to hear. So first there, what is a, I call it a weird talent, you have like a party trick or just something it doesn’t have to do with your business at all, but just something you’re really good at, but has no impact on your business?

Andy Hunter 38:46
Wow. That’s a really good question. If I have one talent, it’s like figuring out how different things fit together that other people think are unrelated or wouldn’t think to put together that really helps with problem problem solving. But it also helps when you like, are conceiving of a business or trying to innovate because innovation, a lot of people think it’s like invention, and it’s coming out of nowhere. So you have inspiration and you create something that never existed before. But that’s not really what it is. What it is, is putting existing things together together in a new way in a way that is slightly different. That is what innovation is all about. Nothing comes from out of nowhere. Everything is built upon a history of human effort and human knowledge. And it’s about how you combine the things that is what is unique about it and that is what’s going to bring it life and get traction and so I understand this isn’t like an unusual it’s not too far afield. I wish I could think like I’m I think I use everything I’m good at in my business. Honestly, like I’m bad at a lot of stuff like I’m terrible at sports. You know, I naturally would stay up late. Eat and like eat bad foods eat I’ll eat a pint of ice cream even in front of me like, I don’t feel great impulse control like I’m not good a lot of things the things that I’m good at I tried to put into my business

Max Branstetter 40:11
well, you’re gonna have a lot of fun going down the ice cream and late night sports rabbit hole, but Well, I guess late night food rabbit hole, your your point on putting things together like that is really a hell of a skill to have as an entrepreneur. And I remember going back to, you know, say studying business in college, like one of the things in an entrepreneurship course, one of the things they talked about was that like, it is extremely hard, almost impossible to come up with just like a brand new, totally novel, pun intended books. idea, it’s much more feasible to take existing ideas and then combine them or put them in a new light and like add your spin on it, it’s the same thing of how it works in the in the music world, like some of the biggest hits always that you hear on whatever you listen to, are remixed or sampled from, you know, previous hits, or previous under the radar songs like same thing applies in the business world music and beyond. So that’s, that’s an awesome point there. How about quirks? What’s something a little quirky about your personality that there’s no shame here, that maybe your family team, somebody calls you out for it, but it’s, it’s who you are, you’ve always been that way, there’s no shame,

Andy Hunter 41:21
because I didn’t grow up with any structure. I’m not like normally, like Mr. structure or Mr. Consistency, like, I’m more like, I have an idea of do something differently. That is something that like, I really think is great. And it’s helped me a lot. But also, sometimes it throws people off. Because a lot of times in the day to day people want consistency. Really being a parent has made me realize it because like when you have a kid, and you’re walking them home from school, and they’re like, Can I have some m&ms? And you’re like, Yeah, that sounds like it sounds like super fun, right? We’re gonna be inconsistent. We’re gonna randomly get you some m&ms on the walk home from school today. So fun for five minutes. Yeah. And then the next day, it’s time for m&ms. And you’re like, No, that was a special time. And then every day, they’re gonna ask you for m&ms, or, you know, and when you have when you are kind of random and inconsistent, it can throw people off. And it can create problems, that can also be a great opportunity for wonderful moments of spontaneity and happiness. Like learning how to be consistent when it’s required has been a big effort. For me, as I get older and try to run a company, it’s a lot different. also running a company that’s four years old, then starting a company, and four years old, still isn’t old. But you need different skills, you have to become a little bit more, like reliable and consistent. And you have to understand that if you have a crazy new idea, you can’t just throw it out there because it’ll destabilize people, if the boss comes and says, Hey, we’re gonna do this new thing. People can sometimes be like, what, that’s crazy. We don’t know how to do that. And that’s, it sounds like a lot of work and is that gonna work out? So you gotta be careful about throwing out your your ideas, just in the same way you wouldn’t sit down at your dinner table and be like, what if we move to Minnesota, like, it’s gonna throw your family off even if you just think it’s fun to think about. So like learning how to let ideas like mature and not throw people off and use your spontaneity carefully and provide people with the consistency that they need unstructured they need has been a big period of growth for me.

Max Branstetter 43:41
Right now our audience in Minnesota is you know, pounding their fists, you know, I love that there and then pet peeves What is something that is in the grand scheme of life very miniscule, which I can never pronounce, right? Very, like no big impact at all. Maybe it’s something around the house or just in everyday life, but it just grinds your gears a little bit.

Andy Hunter 44:03
Recently, I’ve been driven crazy by the way that people stand in the doorway of the subway in New York City. There will be this huge empty subway car and then there were these be like two people with backpacks on that just walk one step into the car and then stay there and you can’t get on or off the subway because they’re just standing there. It that drives me crazy. And I think in general, everything that kind of is like where somebody chooses to not honor the social contract because they’re like, lazy or obstinate, like all that kind of stuff bothers me. Because I live in New York City. It’s it’s a lot of my pet peeves are urban. Like I wish people didn’t honk their horns so freakin’ much.

Max Branstetter 44:46
I was literally I had just interviewed an entrepreneur. His name’s Bryce at a North Dakota. And we talked about horn honking he like he said in North Dakota. Everyone’s so nice and friendly there that no When honks their horn ever, and I’m like, in the New York area and I said like, I want to ban horns like except for emergency situations, it is the most annoying.

Andy Hunter 45:11
That’s that would be my legislation that would make me deeply unpopular if I became president

Max Branstetter 45:16
or was, especially in Minnesota, you want to get the Minnesota vote.

Andy Hunter 45:19
I think everybody should be allowed to use their horn like five times a month. And then after that, there should be like a $20. Charge.

Max Branstetter 45:28
That’s awesome to hear the horn feet. Well, Mr. Structure, Mr. Consistency, let’s wrap up with some rapid fire q&a. You’re ready for it? Sure. All right, let’s get wild. Don’t get too excited there. I know you studied creative writing, or what was the most fun creative writing exercise that came to that comes to mind?

Andy Hunter 45:48
The most fun I’ve ever had, right? It was was to write like a long personal ad. I don’t really I’m not like Mr. prompt or, or creative writing exercises. I am trying to write a book but writing a personal ad in a fictional voice that was fun. And it allows you to, you know, you can layer a lot of things in there. And I like writing things that are funny. So there’s a lot of room for making jokes in fake personal ads, where

Max Branstetter 46:19
I already called you Mr. Structure and Mr. Consistency. Now you’re making me throw Mr. prompt in there as well. So this is like, yeah, I don’t know. Mr. Mrs. Smith, your

Andy Hunter 46:27
I don’t know. You prompted me. I think you’re missing.

Max Branstetter 46:31
Appreciate it, Mr. Prom. Oh, boy. That’s quite the nickname. I know. Also, earlier in your career, you worked on Lollapalooza magazine. So really, really cool stuff. But Lollapalooza, just to confirm, is that tied to the concert? Was that totally separate?

Andy Hunter 46:48
Oh, yeah. That was tore publication, I worked with Perry Farrell, who created the Lollapalooza towards addiction work out of his house. Yeah. Oh, no way, which he lived in this converted airplane hangar. And he had a koi pond and a stream running through its entire length. So it was like a basically a babbling brook, and a koi pond in his house. It was really cool. And working with him was great.

Max Branstetter 47:16
What’s the most memorable moment or quick story you have from working with them?

Andy Hunter 47:22
If I can talk about them, I mean, I was like, I was friends with a lot of musicians. What I loved about that, like, in LA, in my 20s, was just really allowed to, like interact with all of these legendary people meeting and hanging out with people who like had inspired me when I was a teenager listening to their records. Those were the greatest moments. And that’s really why I was interested in that job. But things would get pretty, pretty wild in that world. I think that probably everybody is like sober now. But back in the day, things were pretty crazy.

Max Branstetter 48:05
I was fortunate to see Jane’s Addiction at Gravity Games in Cleveland, back in the early 2000s, which was like the bizarro X Games. And it just blew my mind and style of Jane’s Addiction to this day and everything there is I mean, allow her obviously now in Chicago is like taken on a life of its own. But that’s really, really cool. You got to step into that world there, I’m sure. Yeah, we can talk for hours and hours, maybe offline about more stories from that. But all right, what is the just most intriguing book cover that you’ve ever seen? I know you can’t pick your favorite children. But just in part, you know, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But what’s a cover that you think is really clever and creative?

Andy Hunter 48:51
I needed that question in advance.

Max Branstetter 48:57
Well, they don’t call me mister prompt for nothing. Yeah.

Andy Hunter 48:59
I think McSweeney’s, which is a magazine and the press coming out of San Francisco, generally are the most innovative in their designs, and they do all kinds of like super interesting stuff with their covers.

Max Branstetter 49:12
And then last one, what is the most mouthwatering delicious bingeable ice cream flavor that you have ever tasted?

Andy Hunter 49:23
Oh, wow. That’s a good question. That’s something that me and my 12 year old daughter are on a constant quest to discover that’s

Max Branstetter 49:30
a fun research project. Family Project. Yeah.

Andy Hunter 49:32
I mean, right now I’m liking Van Leeuwen, which is a local New York brand. I think it’s getting more and more popular. Currently, I guess I’m a fan of their honeycomb. From my childhood, I love malted vanilla, which is almost impossible to find as an ice cream but I used to get multivalent on milkshakes when I was a kid, and I love them like that. And the grilled cheese is like my favorite thing. And so since then, I’ve always been on the quest for like the is multiple vanilla ice cream milkshakes, and they’re kind of rare. And I think Tila muck is the only ice cream manufacturer that still makes multiple vanilla you can buy in stores but I can’t find it in New York. Oh,

Max Branstetter 50:12
that’s a wonderful throwback. I think that growing up my dad like his one of his guilty pleasures was you know if you go to like a diner or like you know, steak and shake type style place Johnny Rockets like that was to get like a giant malt. And yeah, I didn’t know what it was at first. And that taste I was like, it was pretty damn good. I see why like this. Well, the the anti Mr. Prompt, and I’m just getting Andy, thank you so much. This has been an absolute blast. Just love everything you’re doing and so inspiring to see and hear your growth story. Thank you so much for coming on, obviously. bookshop.org. It’s pretty, you know, intuitive how to find bookshop.org. But is there a place that if people wanted to connect with you online, or just anything else you want to shout out?

Andy Hunter 50:58
Yeah, well, I mean, I’m on LinkedIn. My email is . So just Yeah, people can feel free to reach out to me. I love hearing from people I love collaborating.

Max Branstetter 51:09
Perfect. And then, you know, maybe if you’re lucky, Andy, someone will send you the best malt in the world. I don’t even know where to find it that maybe will hold up to him. Now, but last thing, final thoughts. It could be just a quote, words to live by whatever you want, send us home here. Be

Andy Hunter 51:26
aware, like be conscious. So much of people’s day to day lives. They’re not really they’re like in a half slumber. I think it’s really important to kind of wake up almost as if you had amnesia, and you’re like, where am I? What am I doing here? Like, it’s really important to go through an exercise like that, at least once a month is like, what am I feeling? What’s my environment, really be there. It’s kind of like mindfulness, but not just mindfulness, because it’s also like putting your life in perspective, and making sure that you’re like doing the right things breaking out of the day to day. And like trying to view things from a little bit of perspective. So if you’ve got like that point of view camera, just taking the point of view camera and making it a little bit above you so you can see yourself in your perspective and figure out like, what am I doing here? That’s my worst words of wisdom is to do that regularly.

Max Branstetter 52:25
Great insight from the wonderful Bookshop.org Man. Thank you so much, Andy, for all you do for local bookstores for all you do in general, and for coming on the podcast and sharing your story with us today. And thank you, Wild listeners, for tuning in to another episode. If you want to hear more Wild stories like this one, make sure to Subscribe or Follow the Wild Business Growth Podcast on your favorite podcast platform. If you’re interested in the video option, we are launching more and more videos on YouTube as well. That’s YouTube @MaxBranstetter. And you can also find us on Goodpods where there are good podcast recommendations. Also for any help with podcast production, you can learn more at MaxPodcasting.com and to sign up for the Podcasting to the Max newsletter where podcasting meets entrepreneurship and the worst puns on Earth and maybe even in outer space as well, you can sign up at MaxPodcasting.com/Newsletter. Until next time, Let your business Run Wild…Bring on the Bongos!!