EP 130: Crafting Communities–And Happier Businesses–Both Online And Offline With Happy Startup School Co-founder Carlos Saba

The Nitty Gritty

  • What prompted Carlos to shut down a thriving digital agency to start The Happy Startup School
  • What happiness as a business model looks like — and how Carlos teaches that model to others
  • Why Carlos includes an application process for his in-person events, plus the four main elements he always follows to produce a great event
  • How Carlos and his business partner Lawrence turned an idea for in-person conversations in unique places around the world into their retreat, Alptitude

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Carlos Saba is an agency owner turned community builder — and his focus? Happiness. Through his work with The Happy Startup School and his retreat, Alptitude, Carlos is sparking conversations around building a life and business rich in purpose.

In this episode of What Works, Carlos digs into why he left agency life behind, the importance of starting conversations with like-minded people, giving yourself space to think up new ideas, and how to turn a dream into reality.

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Making a case for the lazy approach to business

“Some people are built in a certain way that they can just chase that thing and they make a success out of it through brute force. What we’re much more about is the lazy approach to business: how can we do things a bit more effortlessly? How can we actually tune into what we want to do and what we get energy from, and where we find flow — and overlap that with a way of making money and a way of sustaining ourselves and making a business?” — Carlos Saba

In modern life, quick success is celebrated. We love overnight successes — even when we know, behind the scenes, they are anything but instant wins. No doubt you know of an entrepreneur who seemingly popped out of nowhere and are killing it.

While it may seem glamorous — and something that all entrepreneurs strive for — what if you don’t? What if you want to move more slowly towards your goals? What if you don’t want to hustle hard for 50 or 60 hours a week? What if you want more balance in work so you can more fully enjoy your life?

Those were some questions that Carlos asked himself as he created The Happy Startup School — and something he wanted to share with others.

Optimizing for happiness in life and work

“We were optimizing for happiness. It isn’t just about the money — what we’re all trying to do is find happiness. And happiness is a personal thing and it’s different for everyone, but that’s the thing… the startup school wasn’t just about starting a business: it was also about building a business that aligns with who you are.” — Carlos Saba

When Carlos and his business partner Lawrence started talking about The Happy Startup School, they knew they wanted to focus on educating clients. They thought the school would train entrepreneurs on how to build and grow lean startups in a happy way, that was based on two of their favorite books: Lean Startup and Delivering Happiness.

But they realized they could do so much more than that. That’s when they decided to focus entirely on happiness in life and business — and to share that with their community. Now, they provide resources, gatherings, and people to spark new ideas and conversations around infusing happiness into every aspect of life and business.

Creating space for event attendees

“The real key thing that we think is really important is space. Not filling it for the sake of filling it because you think that’s how you create value but actually creating the space for value to emerge from the attendees.” — Carlos Saba

Chances are, you’ve attended a conference or two. Usually, those conferences are filled with countless talks, workshops, and networking events. As Carlos calls it, it’s an information factory. But what if you could attend a conference that isn’t filled to the brim with content and events?

That’s exactly what Carlos and Lawrence created with Alptitude. Instead of a full schedule, they did the opposite: they intentionally left the schedule open so attendees can do what they want.

Above all, the retreats they lead are about initiating conversations in unique spaces. “If you’re stuck in a windowless room with artificial lighting, you’re going to think in a completely different way than if you are in a barn, on a farm, in the middle of the countryside with chickens and cows making noise in the background,” says Carlos.

“We believe being out in nature, being in a place that feels expansive will also lead to expansive thinking. Being out of your comfort zone, out of your day to day, you become more open to new things because everything’s a new stimulus,” he continues. “The other thing is creating space — it’s not just about physical space but also mental space.”

Because when you aren’t focused on filling your mind, instead you give the mind space — and that’s where the magic happens.

Hear more about how Carlos approaches life and business and how he plans and runs retreats from Oregon to India to the Swiss Alps to Goa in this episode of What Works.

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support