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How I Saved $100,000 With Craigslist And Coffee: Lessons From Starting A TV Show

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by David Garland in David's Blog

Enjoy the blooper reel above. 🙂

I learned a couple of valuable lessons last week when I posted 5 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned From Proposing To My Girlfriend.

1. You guys like interesting out-of-the-box analogies that apply to your business.
2. You liked the personal touch.

First of all, thanks so much for the feedback. It means a lot. I somewhat avoided personal stories because I didn’t want the blog to be “too much David”, but now I’ve realized (and correct me if I’m wrong) that the stories help build parallels to your business.

Anyway, enough chit-chat, lets get down to business.

This past Sunday marked the end of the second season of The Rise To The Top and one full year of us being on the air on the online. Oh man, what a year at his been with every kind of mistake, success, failure, right move, and great moments. This blog series is going to a highlight a few major takeaways I believe you can use in your business right away as you grow it like a weed.

Now lets turn back the clock alllll the wayyyyy to November 2008: (Close your eyes….now open them)

The Sticky Situation:

I had just invested my first batch of my own savings into The Rise To The Top and really had no idea what I was doing. Realize we were doing everything from production, promotion, marketing, advertising and everything in-between including cleaning bathrooms. I used a production studio to shoot our first episode. Nothing against this particular production studio, but after the first episode, I was called into their offices for a meeting.

“David,” they said, “We made a mistake. We realize we told you production would be one price for the season, but it is now going to be 2.5x times that price and we have to shoot the next episode in one week.”

Holy crap.

They almost tripled my price and this was coming out of my own pocket. Of course, I had planned my budget and how I was going to make money. Now it was all shattered after one week. Even worse is I had ONE WEEK to figure this out because we were shooting DURING the season.

I did the calculations and realized this was going to cost me over $100,000. Money I did not have. And, let me repeat, I had ONE WEEK to figure it out.

What would you have done?

The Game Plan:

I had to think of my feet. I had no choice. I decided to turn my efforts towards Craigslist and hire my own video production team. I figured if I got lucky, I could find some talented young entrepreneurs who would help me produce the show.

Instead of using a production studio, perhaps we could turn our condo into the production studio (sorry Marcie…having a production studio in your condo is not ideal for your fiancee…fun fact).

So, I posted a simple post on Craigslist asking for video editors in St. Louis looking for a unique freelance opportunity.

I figured maybe I would get one or two replies.

I got 96.


Coffee, Contest And Savings:

Amongst the 96 resumes, I realized some would be excellent while others not so good. By sending a weed out email, I narrowed it down to about 25 people.

Remember I had only one week to get this done so I decided to interview all 25 people in 48 hours in coffee shops across the street from one another.

They showed up and we schmoozed.

At the end of I chose 5 I liked and told them I had raw footage we shot at the expensive production studio and I’ve chosen 5 people.

I paid all five a nominal amount and told them the best episode is going on the air on ABC in one week.

My guess was a few would be really good and some not as strong; however, the total cost was 1/10th (Yes, 1/10th) of using the studio.

The Result:

The results were awesome. As expected, a couple from the five really stuck out and I ended up exclusively contracting one in the future.

The next week’s show went off without a hitch.

More importantly, she then helped put together a camera team for me and I invested the money I was going to into the next episode at the production house into purchasing my own cameras, lights and equipment and moving the whole kit-and-caboodle to my condo.

It ended up a classic win-win situation. I got to contract and help out some amazing video entrepreneurs who are young and hungry and in the process I saved last year over $100,000 (no joke).

All because of one Craigslist idea that I had no idea would work and a few coffees.

The Takeaways For Your Business:

1. Business can always be done smarter. Just because it has always been done one way, doesn’t mean you need to adhere to that at all. 20 people told me I was crazy for trying to move a production studio into my condo. I did it anyway.

2. Business can always be done cheaper, but don’t negate quality. The Internet has created an amazing place to save money, but not sacrifice quality if you dig around enough. Cheaper doesn’t have to mean poorly done or that someone is getting “screwed.”

3. Tap into creativity. It’s not cliche. If one plan doesn’t work, try another. Ask for help. Try something different. Kick the status quo in the butt.

4. Business can always be done quicker. You are an entrepreneur for a reason. Smaller organizations can innovate faster and be more experimental without going to a 250-person board of directors or 32 lawyers.

5. If you can’t adapt, you will go out of business. The world isn’t set in its ways and neither should your business. You can do the all the planning in the world, but things WILL and DO pop up that will force you to change. Make the right changes or at least be in the mindset to allow for change and you will be more successful.

What are your thoughts? What would you have done? Have you faced challenges like this? What did you do?

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