This article is part of my Interesting Entrepreneur series, where I interview entrepreneurs who are doing something worth talking about. The goal is to give you the kick in the pants you need to start (or keep doing) your own business, while giving you some valuable insights to help you succeed.
My guest today is James Oliver, Jr. James is the founder WeMontage (WeMontage.com), a site that that lets you turn your digital images into a custom collage on removable wallpaper. James was successfully admitted to an accelerator, raised capital from investors, and received national press from a long list of notable TV shows and publications.
In addition to WeMontage, Jame also has written a book about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: balancing the roles of parent and entrepreneur.
As my clients know, I am the lead parent in my household. I take the kids to school, pick them up, drive them to all their activities, do most of the cooking, cleaning, dog walking, and so on. James’ book really strikes a nerve with me because when I listen to shows like The Pitch, I always wonder how many of these people are bound by the same constraints that I am. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one thinking about this.
JM: You created WeMontage, a product that got you on the today show, almost on shark tank, and tons of national publications. How did you manage to get noticed by those high profile platforms?
JO: It’s always a combination of hustle and luck, and every situation is different. Here’s the story of how I got on the TODAY Show the first time: https://optimal.marketing/blog/how-i-got-my-startup-on-today-show-npr/
I wrote in my book about how a cold email got me on CNET.com and generated thousands of dollars in sales.
JM: I have ideas for products all the time but I’m yet to follow through on any of them. What’s your secret?
JO: I am in the 99th percentile of persistent and resilient people on the planet.
JM: If someone was starting from scratch, would recommend a physical product or a digital product (like an app)? Why?
JO: That’s a tough one. I don’t know. They both have their challenges and rewards.
JM: How did you start a pretty tech-centric business without know how to code?
JO: I’m crazy! Here’s a nice MONEY Magazine video that tells that story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfsRA8P9pD8
JM: What was your experience at an accelerator like?
It was great-it gave me the credibility I needed to raise capital. It was also not easy because my twins were born the day before the accelerator started and they only weighed two pounds each.
JM: You are amazing at at the promotional aspect of your business. What tips can you give to me and others who operate within relatively small niches to get some exposure without paying for it.
- Build your community BEFORE you need it.
- Learn how to send cold emails.
- Use resources like Press Farm to find out who is writing about your topic, then contact them via email.
- The easiest way to get PR is to insert yourself into an ongoing conversation.
JM: What’s going on with WeMontage as of today? I see the site says a relaunch is coming soon.
JO: Yes, we are relaunching with more of a B2B focus because businesses spend 5x-10x more than consumers. Just got our largest order ever, $3,500, from our best customer (total sales with us of $15,000 so far).
The site is up on a test server and we are selectively taking orders from there. People can contact me for details, if they’d like to place an order.
JM: You have a new book out called The More You Hustle, The Luckier You Get (themoreyouhustle.com). If you had to assign a % to luck, intelligence, and hard work in terms of being a successful entrepreneur, what values would you assign to each?
Probably 50/50. The more efficiently and effectively you work, the more opportunities will present themselves. That’s luck and hustle, I think.
JM: What’s your message to parents who think they’ve missed their entrepreneurial window now that they have kids?
I think if they think that’s true, then it is. Conversely, if they don’t think that’s true, then it’s not.
JM: Do you have any other interesting projects that you are working on?
Focused on the book also. My intention is to inspire millions of parentpreneurs around the world to be the best parent and entrepreneur they can be. I also have another innovative photo-related product I will eventually bring to market.
Jason’s Parting Thoughts
James’ story is so cool because he did what most of us can only dream of: he got the attention of the national mainstream media. If you read his blog posts about it, it’s clear his efforts were not of the “one and done” variety. He attributes part of his success to luck (NPR was looking to speak with African-American tech founders), and part to persistence (he followed 50+ times with an NPR correspondent). But James’ view on success is clear: he’s more persistent than 99% of people out there, and it’s paid off for him.
As if those accomplishments were difficult enough, James did all this while dealing with the premature birth of his twins. My family had a similar situation, and I can tell you that dealing with that alone could easily be a full-time job. Seriously, if that didn’t know James off track, it’s hard to imagine what could.
If you are interested in James’ book, you can find it at themoreyouhustle.com.