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Courtney Brand is an Entrepreneur and Founder of Lighthouse Who Quit her Day Job, Started Her Own Company and Raised Money for It. Learn How She did it.

Courtney Brand is an Entrepreneur and Founder of Lighthouse Who Quit her Day Job, Started Her Own Company and Raised Money for It. Learn How She did it. | Ep. 53

Courtney Brand is an Entrepreneur and Founder of Lighthouse Who Quit her Day Job, Started Her Own Company and Raised Money for It. Learn How She did it. | Ep. 53

Courtney Brand is an Entrepreneur and Founder of Lighthouse Who Quit her Day Job, Started Her Own Company and Raised Money for It. Learn How She did it. | Ep. 53

Summary

Learn how to quit your job and start your own business with Courtney Brand Founder of Lighthouse

Ever wonder how to leave your corporate career and make the leap to entrepreneurship and run your own business?

Wonder if it’s even the right thing to do if you’re killing it in your corporate career but you’re just not happy?

Courtney opens up and tells all about how she thought about it, what she did to prepare and how she’s never had a more satisfying feeling then owning and running her own business.

Find Courtney at Lighthouse

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More Information onBuild a BusinessSuccess Secrets

 Brandon: 

Hello, friends. Welcome to another episode of Build a Business success Secrets. I’m your host, Brandon. See, White. And today I’m bringing back a conversation I had with Courtney Brand, the founder and CEO of Lighthouse. And I’m bringing it back because I think as we approach the end of the year, we all take a look back and want to be inspired to make a change. 

Brandon: 

And Courtney is an example who was having an incredible career in the corporate world and made the choice to take the leap and become an entrepreneur. 

Brandon: 

You’re gonna love this episode. 

Courtney: 

I’m not gonna waste another second. 

Brandon: 

Let’s get to it. 

Brandon: 

Everybody Welcome. 

Brandon: 

We have Kourtney brand from the lighthouse. On this morning, Kourtney and I met through a mutual friend who actually was on the podcast. 

Brandon: 

Zhou Tian Oh, what do we call him? Attorney extraordinaire turned entrepreneur extraordinaire. And he knew Courtney. He knows Courtney. He’s actually investor in Courtney’s business and an advisor. He was so impressed with her that he did that and he called me after we did the podcast. He’s like, Hey, I have this lady in New York that you have got to talk Thio So Kourtney I talked the other day. She’s got an incredible story. And the interesting part about her story is is that she left the job that she actually loves. So, Courtney, thank you so much for being here this morning. I know we had a few technical difficulties, probably by me not following my checklist. But we are good to go now, Fran in. 

Brandon: 

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be here, so let’s take the viewers back. 

Courtney: 

One of the things that I like to do for everyone is actually tell the real story of how you got Thio, even where you are today with the lighthouse and we’ll talk about what? 

Brandon: 

The lighthouses later on. But can you walk everybody back through your career because you had a really incredible career doing things around the world and then will walk up to where we are today, Which is you in New York with a very professional mike because of your tech person that I don’t even have Yeah, so All right. Yeah, take us back from where you started in your career and how you got here. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, After graduating from college I started off my career working in management consulting, so I was with PWC for five years. I started with them in New York, worked there for two years. But honestly, that entire time was just trying to get my way to China. And the China connection is in college. I was a Chinese major. I speak Mandarin. I’m very interested in the culture and the history. Everything about China fascinates me, and so I really wanted to get the experience of working there full time. And so, after about a year and a half of kind of networking internally within the firm, I got the opportunity to move to China with PWC. I was there for three years in total, and like you touched on, it was I fell in tow, My dream job and a lot of ways. It was this incredible experience where a lot of the consulting firms have started to introduce these two practices that are all around focusing on helping Fortune 500 companies stay relevant and not be disrupted by new technologies and new startups, and really stay relevant and start disrupting themselves. And so for Peter, you see the name of that team is called Experience Center, and we hadn’t yet launched Experience Center in China. And so I was part of a small kind of five person team in mainland China in charge of of launching that. And it was this incredible experience where, over the course of three years, got to work with dream clients ranging from Alibaba, toe Apple to Mercedes to Porsche. It and really just had amazing experience there. 

Courtney: 

So what were you doing with those brands? If you can talk about it specifically, I mean, obviously the China market is huge and I want to step back. What was your draw? You sort of glossed over it in a way like, Hey, I just wanted to get the China like, Why do you want to get the China and how did you even figure that out? 

Brandon: 

Because as a a fellow American who was brought up in American culture and as we talked about the other day, I studied in China for my MBA and in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Quite frankly, I was completely shocked when I showed up to Shanghai and in my mind was one of the most modern cities. But it is not as if Americans are necessarily taught like, Hey, let’s learn Mandarin, probably one of the hardest languages in the world. And then let’s get to China. Like, How did that happen for you? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, I’ve reflected a lot on this because, honestly, my family still confused by why I’m so fascinated in it with it. But honestly, I think so. My mom came from a pretty small town in New Hampshire and kind of in adulthood. 

Courtney: 

She moved abroad and she learned German and she worked in Germany, and she kind of opened up the world for herself and one of the priorities of when she had us, meaning me and my sisters. What she wanted to make sure that we were exposed to that world, too. So she actually we were sent to a French school. We grew up speaking French, and we’re not French, so that’s a very random thing to Dio. And I think in a lot of ways that kind of planted the seed of there’s this bigger world out there and also planted the seed of through a language. You can connect with an entire different group of people, and that’s a really fascinating thing and when I was in high school because I had this background in French, I kind of advanced out of the French classes pretty quickly and my forget it was my junior senior high school. They introduced Mandarin as, Ah as an option for the first time and I immediately signed up. So did a few of my friends, and we didn’t learn that much in those in that year. I think we mostly watch Mulan, but it was right around the time of the 2000 Olympics and it kind of planted the seed of Hey, there’s this whole other world is part of the world that I’ve never explored, never been to which is Asia and this language is completely different from any language. I’ve been exposed Thio, and it was really when I got to college that I kind of dove like headfirst into it. After my freshman year, I had to declare a major and I just looked at all the classes I was in that year and was like one of my most interested in what are my most excited about. And Chinese class was always the class, so I really I fell in love with it through the language and kind of seeing how that opened up so many other doors to learning about a new culture, learning about an incredible and overwhelmingly long history and also this very quickly changing market as well. 

Courtney: 

So do you think that you went to Georgetown, right? Yeah, in Washington, D. C. Do you think that that helped? I mean, obviously your mom and all the you know, just being exposed, I think, is the key here. Like once that door opens, we all think, Oh, my God, Well, maybe it’s just not the East Coast. 

Brandon: 

Or maybe it’s not just my local town, but certainly I’m wondering the Georgetown Connection and just the international community. There definitely helped at some level, 100% and it’s interesting. 

Brandon: 

Georgetown’s Chinese program is particularly strong, and that wasn’t a decision factor in deciding from where I wanted to go, because I didn’t know yet. I want to be a Chinese major, but I really lucked out and the fact that Mandarin and Chinese programs all over the country or kind of in their nascent stage, or at least they were when I was in college, yet I landed at a school that had an incredibly strong program. And there were scholarships. I got a scholarship to study in Taiwan. There were Chinese language competitions in D. C. Like it would definitely being in D. C. And being at such an international school helped to kind of accelerate my learning of this language and and so on. 

Courtney: 

So I’m gonna go back even one step back. 

Brandon: 

So you don’t know that you even are interested in Chinese specifically until you get to college. So when you’re in high school, you picked Georgetown. Why do you What do you think you’re gonna dio? 

Brandon: 

Um, in high school? I really thought I’ve always been very career focused. Weirdly, that makes sense. Now, in high school, I really thought I wanted to be a news anchor, but I and this might come out on this podcast. Have this. I don’t speak like sometimes I’ll just make up words or, um, completely fudge a word. And I blame, like learning multiple languages. I blame that part of it. So I quickly realized that that wasn’t necessarily going to be the path for me. I don’t think I had a clear career objective going into Georgetown. I didn’t know that I wasn’t. A lot of people in Georgia. I want to be the next president that actually, when I started, I thought I want to be more on the policy side, but pretty quickly realized I was more interested in the international business side of things. But I wouldn’t say I had a clear career objective going into college. 

Courtney: 

Well, I appreciate that honesty. And I think for our listeners that the thing is is that we we see people who are doing these businesses and their successful on are on their way to success. And we think that that was sort of the straight line. Oh, well, Courtney just decided she was going to do a business in high school. She went Georgetown. Then this happens. But that’s really not the case, right? I mean, you didn’t even know you were gonna go into Chinese. And I bet you that you didn’t probably think that you’re going to start a business at some point, either, right? 

Brandon: 

Definitely not. Entrepreneurship was not something that was necessarily in my path. I really in one of those people who experienced a problem, started solving it and they realized that that was, could could be a company. And that was kind of my path in. Rather than saying I want to be a founder, I want to be my own boss. Let’s figure out a problem to solve. 

Courtney: 

I I got us a little off track there, but thanks for that is you’re in high school. You get the Georgetown, you discover Chinese. You, at that point decide that you’re going to get to China. Somehow you worked at PWC. They have this new group. You somehow navigate your way through the corporate culture. Let’s say into that Can you talk a little bit of how you actually did that for our listeners? Because I think that’s I mean, that’s a challenge unto itself at a place. A big company. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, 100%. So one of my really good friends from PVC still jokes that when you’re part of one of these big classes of consultants, there’s probably hundreds across the U. S that get on board in one swoop and they fly all of you to Florida for a two week training. And then after two weeks, you start your client work, and I remember in that two week training, one of my friends will still makes fun of me because he’s like, I remember meeting you, and in that training you said that you wanted to get to China and he was like, We haven’t even started our jobs yet. Like why you already tried transition when and like go into the China market when you haven’t even start your full time job. But I was pretty laser focused on it. And the way I went about it was just like that, telling anyone within the company at either my level more senior levels and so on, and I was very transparent about it. Ah, lot of the conversations led nowhere. A lot of the conversations ended with Hey, cool, that’s interesting that you speak the language, but you’re 21 22. I’m a director and I’m still trying to get international work experience like, Why should you get it? Wait, your turn and a lot of those conversations happen. And then ultimately it took persistence, and then the right person opening the right door, which was Brad Denning, who was the partner I was working for at the time, was friends and had worked with another partner. Scott likens. Who’s the partner who founded this practice in Hong Kong. And so Brad knew Scott introduced me. And then we had a couple interviews, and it still was another six months before I actually got the offer and then another six months before actually moved. 

Courtney: 

So you clearly have it in your genes that you will not take no for an answer. Well, that’s awesome. So you finally get there, and I think for our listeners just to hear that again, it did not happen overnight. Courtney basically has all these roadblocks and still continues. And I would argue good training for what entrepreneurship will bring you, which is 10,000 knows, and having to keep a smile on your face like you have for those on YouTube. You can see it. Um uh, the, uh But you gotta keep smiling so you find yourself in China and now you land in China and you’re working with effectively, like Fortune 50 or Fortune 100 Fortune 500 companies. 

Brandon: 

What type of work were you doing with those for those companies there? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, To be honest, it’s really hard toe speak in broad strokes because we’re starting this new practice. We didn’t really know what kind of work we’d be doing there, and it was very project by project and we also because we were new to the market. We’re doing smaller projects. So a project, my shortest project. There was a months long project, so every single project was different. I can talk about So I did a couple projects in the auto sector and and that I can talk about because it was cross clients. But ultimately what we were doing there is China is now, I think, the largest, if not the second large. 

Courtney: 

I think it’s the largest car buyers market in the world, and so all of the international brands. 

Brandon: 

Obviously, we’re figuring out how they can sell cars in China. But the Chinese market is also really complicated, one that’s also highly regulated. So in cities like Beijing, there’s license plate laws where Onley certain license plates could be on the road on certain days, and the goals of those laws are great. They’re to reduce, you know, pollution and emissions and so on. But it’s just a very complex landscape, and also the Chinese consumers behavior is different than other markets. And so one of the kind of key projects that we were working on consistently was figuring out that there was this need amongst this desire amongst the Chinese consumer toe have, um, or online digital sales process when buying a luxury car. Yet these very traditional European brands wanted to protect the like feeling of luxury around their brand. And so how do you balance that customer journey in terms of protecting your brand, but also meeting the customer where they wanna be met? That was really interesting. The other one That’s actually it’s public information. And that was my final project with Peter. BC iwas a project with Alibaba and it was all about How do you leverage Blockchain technology? Thio increase transparency in the supply chain from especially sensitive goods that air coming from abroad into China. So things like milk powder, things like vitamins, things looks like meats. And that was that was a great that was kind of a mike drop moment toe. Leave my consulting career on. There is no way I was going to get better than that. 

Courtney: 

So that’s a soft pitch to your in your you get to China, you’re working with Fortune 500 customers. This is your dream job ultimately, right? I mean, I don’t know how much better it gets and then something happens and you freakin decide toe leave your dream job. 

Brandon: 

So, yeah, How does that happen? 

Brandon: 

How does that happen? 

Brandon: 

So the way that it happened, Waas, like you said, I was super happy, and I really I saw very clear career path for myself there, but ultimately kind of the There were two things that happened the course of a couple of months, but then they reflecting on them. 

Courtney: 

I realized that they happened every couple of months. 

Brandon: 

Throughout my entire five year career of that point, which one was over? 

Courtney: 

This summer, I was applying for this opportunity. 

Brandon: 

That is, um it’s called global shapers and it’s through the World Economic Forum. 

Courtney: 

And basically it’s this community of rising leaders who helped inform where the World Economic Forum should focus their energies and you do it outside of work. 

Brandon: 

It’s a great network of individuals. Ultimately would have been a great if I had been accepted and gone through with it. It would’ve been a great thing for PWC because obviously we’re now networking with potential clients and then you’re getting the PWC name into this organization. And in applying for that, I was still sending my mom and my sister my resume. I was like, What is going on? And they have no idea what I was applying for. And then a couple months later, I was going up for promotion and to be a manager, and I was definitely on the junior side, especially in terms of my age. But I had just sold my first piece of work, which in most consulting firms, you don’t do until you’re like director level. 

Courtney: 

And so I felt like I had a pretty strong case. 

Brandon: 

But I also knew I really had to prepare and be really strategic in the conversations that I was having. And again in that moment, I remember sitting on my bed on a Sunday on the phone with my mom and then my sister, and being like this is not I’m not getting the right advice that I need right now. My mom always will think I deserve the promotion no matter what. So there’s a gap in objectivity, and my sister a smarter she is and luckily is I’m lucky to have her because she’s also working professional, isn’t in my industry and has no idea the context of management consulting and what that career path looks like. And that’s really like was incredibly frustrating for something that was so important in kind of my long term career in my life. And that’s really what planted the seed for what if you had this platform where you could connect to the right person at the right time to get the insight that you need to move one step further in your career and I was starting to see that behavior kind of happened in a hack ish way on LinkedIn like we’re always stalking on LinkedIn and trying to reach out and get a 30 minute informational or get a 30 minute coffee. But it’s ultimately, you know, it’s dependent on your personal network, not ever. In response, there’s like we have this saying it’s a slow to no response rate on, Even if you do get the coffee or the phone call, and I’ve been on both sides of these conversations, it’s very limited and impact. It’s this high level formal conversation where you’re just kind of like telling your story. And then the person might ask one or two questions at the end, and then it’s over and you say thank you and that’s it. And so that was really the seed that was planted. But what it took. 

Courtney: 

There was still another six months between that seed being planted in me quitting my job, which I’m happy to share. 

Brandon: 

But so let’s hold that thought, because I want to say two things that I think are really important that you touched on, which is I call these things in life pivotal moments, and you’ve effectively had a pivotal moment, and I can’t tell people how to manufacture that because it’s never been manufactured for me. 

Courtney: 

But what I do teach people is how to recognize that, and you recognize that at that moment, and when you recognize it at that moment, you’ve gotta lean into it. 

Brandon: 

So and I think people have pivotal moments more than they think, but they don’t they haven’t They’re not recognizing it or they’re ignoring it because they’re scared, which were all scared, right? 

Brandon: 

I mean, tell me what you are probably pretty scared right? 

Brandon: 

I’m giving. 

Brandon: 

I’m still scared. 

Courtney: 

So their Ugo. So that’s the other myth. But I want to touch on. 

Brandon: 

The pivotal moment is important. 

Courtney: 

The second thing is context. So we have these people in our lives. And I’ll say you had your mom and your sister who, like you, said they’re always going to think your mom’s always gonna think you need your promotion. 

Brandon: 

That’s just right, your your mom, your dad, your family, right? Like, of course, you dio but the and you recognizing that is really important. And your sister, who is really smart and successful but understanding the context. And I think that’s what we as entrepreneurs, or even if you’re not an entrepreneur just in life. Mentors and people we look up to are going to give you advice if you ask for it. But it’s important to understand the lens of which they’re giving you that advice for you to whether decide whether to take it or not. And I think sometimes entrepreneurs say, Well, that person is this successful person and they did it and that’s what they said to do. So I’m going to do it, and I think you absolutely should value that past experience. Having said that, I think it’s on us as individuals to do the diligence toe, understand the context. And that’s exactly what you did. Because if you had taken those two people in your life who you probably trust more than anyone e don’t know if you have a partner saw not beating up on them. I just don’t know that. But let’s just, you know, you trust them more than anyone. You were taking their advice. You’re still being pwc in China. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, and you seem very happy here. I’ve talked. I mean, funny here. Of course you’re happy, right? Like you. Who knows what would have happened? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, well, in other ways, I also would argue that potentially if I had in a lot of ways, I did take their advice, and I actually is what led me to leave because what happened was I didn’t get the promotion and it was a ton of back and forth where they said you didn’t get it, and they said you did get it, and they said actually didn’t get it. 

Courtney: 

So there was a lot of back and forth, but that’s really now in us working with companies were like, Hey, empower your people because when they feel empowered and they feel they have the resources to be so for in that next step that’s what’s going to drive loyalty And that’s what’s going to drive them, feeling great at work. And honestly, if I had gone the promotion, I probably would still be a P. Did you see? And you know, T v D. If that was the right choice or not, I think in this case I’m very happy with what I’m building today and what we’ve accomplished so far. But I think that that’s a point that we now touch on is my story comes up in a lot of the conversations we’re having cos about How can you actually empower your top talent that are the people who are thinking very thoughtfully about that next step and who are also preparing and putting in the work to make sure that they’re that they’re accurately you know, that they’re putting their best foot forward and how do you invest in those people? 

Courtney: 

So basically, in the six months that you alluded to earlier, they went back and forth with you so they say, Hey, Courtney, you got the promotion and now you’re on top of the world and then the next day or the next day, obviously it’s over six months. 

Brandon: 

They say no. Is that how, like, how? 

Brandon: 

Not quite so. It’s I mean, there’s a lot of politics to consulting, but first it was on the kind of team wine call they announced about the promotions. I was on the list. So then I was like, OK, I didn’t get it actually called okay? Because I knew I was early and I was like, Next year. Then I think my my mentor, the company had a one on one with me, and I was like to be Frank, I’m disappointed I had sold piecework so and so and so And and then I guess that got back to the partner. And the partner said, Actually, we’re looking into this. It might have been a mistake. Let me. You might have gotten it and I was like, What is going on? And then he said, Actually, it didn’t happen this year. Let’s wait till next year and so it was a ton of and it was really it was it was that night that seed had been planted. But it was the night that I found out. Actually, in the end, I didn’t get it. And after all this back and forth that I remember, I left work on the earlier side. I think it was 6 p.m. I went home and I was like, I’m just gonna I think I had wind with my roommate. And then I tried to go to sleep early, and then I didn’t I didn’t sleep a wink that night. Instead, I have this, like note pad next to my bed, and I literally sketched out I would love to open it now. Like what? I would call the pitch deck for the White House. 

Courtney: 

So you build your business plan on a piece of paper next year? Night stand? 

Brandon: 

Yeah. I wish I kept that piece of favorite. I don’t think I did. 

Courtney: 

You didn’t keep it? That’s like the That’s the thing you have to frame. Well, I’m sure, Consultant, I immediately put into Power point the next day. 

Brandon: 

Well, you got that original power point, so that’s awesome. 

Courtney: 

And you basically stay upon all night. You you sketch out this plan business plan effectively, right? 

Brandon: 

And do you walk in the next day and quit? 

Brandon: 

No, definitely not. 

Courtney: 

So I think that this is one of advice I give to a lot of people’s. 

Courtney: 

Just when you have the idea is not the time to quit like you. 

Brandon: 

There’s a ton more work that needs to happen before you quit a validation of, you know, at this point, it was a use case of one, and I had I had a pretty strong include, like I had seen the way my friends were operating, and I had seen the way people reaching out to me on LinkedIn. So I’ve been noticing behaviors that were shared beyond myself. But I needed to validate that. And so, basically, for and I also I was still working on that incredible Alibaba project that it was very much excited by. So what I did was I definitely. Before this, I was 150% in PVC mode. After this, I worked, um, or appropriate amount on P. D. B C, and then my lunch breaks. After hours. My weekends were spent on the lighthouse, and what I did is a lot of conversations with friends with peers of How do you handle your career right now? What are the solutions you’re using? Are you also like me going to your mom, your sister and your boyfriend and your those the people you’re going to and validated that? Yes, that is the number one answer for who people are going to for career advice or Google and then also validated, like started to see this from a more of a macro trend perspective of Lincoln had just launched this thing called Career Connect, which was like They’re trying to connect people that can give advice, but it hasn’t really taken off. The Muse, which is another career platform, had just launched this coaching platform. You could book time with the traditional career coach, and then I was reading reports on Okay, the world of work is changing. We’re navigating a lot more change. There needs to be new solutions to help drive your career forward. That meets the again the consumer, like our millennials where we wanna be met and also that meets the new face of work, which is working across industries across roles across companies and across geography ease. So that’s what went on for a couple of months of a lot of research and conversations and insights gathering and then over. I had a bunch of vacation days that I hadn’t used, and over the kind of December holidays, I took them all in one. I think it took three weeks off. It was it was a lot, and but luckily I worked with some European, so that was fine. They understood they like, Oh, you just want to go home with your family like yeah, And then I went home to the US and I lead a proof of concept where I put up a week’s landing page posted on my Instagram like, Hey, who wants to be part of this? And through that got our first paying customers, and that to me, is what validated. Okay, there’s something here. There’s something people will pay for. I think like our revenue there was small. It was like not much, not nothing to write home about, but people had paid and that’s that was enough for me. And then I went back to China. I wrapped up that project and put in my notice and then founded the lighthouse in April of 2018. 

Courtney: 

No, that’s awesome. So I’m gonna step back just to recap you get in idea. Well, you don’t get the promotion, You go home, you drink a bunch of wine, which in theory should really put you to sleep. 

Brandon: 

But it doesn’t because you’re excited or you’re angry or a lot of things. Probably disappointed, too, but probably angry at some level. You sketch out this business plan and you don’t quit your job right away, which is key because I mean a lot of entrepreneurs who I got the idea. I’m going to quit. And there’s this somewhat. I mean, Courtney, you can tell me, Don’t you think there is some sort of thing like in online World where it’s this badge of honor toe Go all in and quit your job? I think that’s just stupid, E. 

Brandon: 

I mean, it’s a like, Yeah, I think it’s I also think it’s really difficult for a lot of people who don’t have the finances to support that of, like, how do you just quit your job? 

Brandon: 

I don’t know. There’s a lot of families had to go into it. 

Courtney: 

I just think there’s this online thing going around like, Hey, if you really do it, get an idea and do that. And I think your your story is really an example that people should follow, which is Yeah, You stay up all night. 

Brandon: 

You’ve got a pad of paper. Next, your bed, you build this business plan and then effectively, What I say is you did not have a business. You had a project that was a side hustle. Would that be fair to say Yeah, and actually, you have been saying that makes me remember something I’d for gotten, which is at this point, I One of the other things I was thinking about after not getting the promotion was business school. 

Brandon: 

But I was I had taken a pretty significant pay cut to move to China. In China, the salaries are nowhere near what they are in the U. S. For consultants. And so I was really worried about, like, how am I going to finance this? Is this gonna be worth it So on? And when I first thought of the lighthouse at this project phase, I was like, Oh, this will be a side project that helps to fund part of business school, or at least my lifestyle. 

Courtney: 

And then actually, I completely forgot about this over the Chris that three weeks break. Another thing I did was I flew to California and I sat in on a class at Stanford Business School and you could choose between four options, and I chose entrepreneurship class, and I sat in the class, and the next day I had a meeting scheduled for the lighthouse. It was some, like, informational with it. Someone at U C L I I don’t even know what it was. But in the class, I found myself completely disengaged, which is not normal. I love I love school. I love reading. I look so the fact that my whole energy was on preparing for the meeting next day rather than learning from this incredible professor, I immediately was like, Okay, there’s something here like my energy is on building right now. 

Courtney: 

Not on like sitting in a classroom. 

Brandon: 

Well, I think that’s takes a lot of self awareness, and you’ve you’ve shown that, and I think people have toe listen to that voice inside, and I don’t think enough people do Listen to that voice. 

Courtney: 

Quite frankly, I think they are scared by it, and you and I are both always, I mean people who say they’re not scared. I think they’re psychos, like I’ve been scared every single one of my company that I have always been scared. I’ve been scared when it’s been going really bad, of course, and I’ve been scared when it’s been going really good, too. So that’s awesome, and that that was really the reinforcing thing for you. I think the other thing I just want to emphasize the people is Is that you and you tell me if I’m wrong, But you have the idea you do a business plan that is effectively your your straw man or your original business plan and your value. 

Brandon: 

You start a free website on Wickes. Is that right? 

Brandon: 

It might have e think wicks its cheap. I think you might feel like 15 bucks a month. It’s something very good. 

Courtney: 

It’s just Yeah, I mean, like, three coffees at Starbucks, right? I mean, you don’t have a business you don’t have even a way to fulfill, and you put up the idea. You use your own list. I’m a big email, like, I think everybody should have email list. I think it’ll eventually go to text. But you use your instagram friends. Which how, Maney? Just on a I don’t have a following. 

Brandon: 

I think, like hopefully I have more friends than like Well, I just think it’s important. 

Courtney: 

Like I’m guessing that if you’re like normal person, it’s not like you have one million followers. 

Brandon: 

I have 482 followers, and you probably didn’t have that many back then. 

Courtney: 

Or you think that that was around 400 only like a few last. 

Brandon: 

But yeah, I actually I deleted Instagram. So I had to access it from my year old just now. Okay. So distracting. 

Courtney: 

Yeah, that’s for sure. I think we’ll all admit that. So you have 482 followers. 

Brandon: 

You advertise basically, by putting I assume a post or a story or something like that out there, a post. You drive them to your one page, $15 website and you test the idea and you get customers. Yeah, And at that point, I would argue, as long as you have. How many do you think you had at that point? I mean, was it one it wasn’t one. It was obviously a handful. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, so it was actually interesting. The Instagram post was we started off. Is this two sided market place of? We have people on the platform giving advice and getting advice, and I had to prove two things. I had to prove that people would pay for this kind of one on one like high touch, kind of like coaching, but from someone who’s actually been through it rather than a traditional career coach. And then I had to prove that really incredible people with great backgrounds would be interested in being part of this. And so, with Instagram Post, I was at that point recruiting for what we used to call insiders, the people giving advice. And I think we had, like, 50 applications in and I post on Facebook, which I probably have some more friends on Facebook. We have 50 applications in, like three days to be on the giving side of things on. These were people who work at Google who were like getting MBAs at work like really incredible high, and so that that’s what proved in our paying customers honestly came through. Those were completely word of mouth at the beginning of like, Hey, you have a friend flying to something or like, Hey, you have someone navigating something or hey, you’re applying to get your MBA and you’ve never like you have no one, your family you got there MBA like use the lighthouse. 

Courtney: 

So that’s awesome. So now you’ve got validation and you don’t have product market fit, which we were going to talk to about your story in a minute of of how that evolved. But at that point, that’s when I tell people. And I would argue that your project just turned into a potentially, ah, potential business. It’s not the business. I think that’s what some entrepreneurs. But I want to say that getting someone to pay like you did and you said this several times I think it’s important, is is that if you go to your friends and you’re like, Hey, hey, Courtney, I got this this new mug and it it keeps your stuff cold or hot forever, right? 

Brandon: 

Will you buy it? And you say Yeah, and I get 20 friends. That doesn’t count until I tell people, get it down a deposit or charge them up front like, Hey, I’m gonna order it. Give me 1995 Would you? Would you agree? I mean, your your consultant. So you’ve worked with these businesses that I mean, that’s the true test. 

Brandon: 

And I think even beyond the people that you know that was cool is also seeing people that don’t know you personally because some people I think it’s really easy for founders to get. 

Courtney: 

You can get pretty far with your direct network of like, you know, if you’re selling mugs, you can definitely get your best, your closest 50 friends to buy it. But how do you validate the market beyond that? And so I’m a big believer in, like, as early as possible, getting strangers to buy it, or people that have no personal connection to you and your success, who are just acting based on the value of what you’ve created. 

Courtney: 

I think that’s important because your friends, as as we talked about earlier in the story with your mom and your sister, always gonna say that I think my network of friends is a bunch of Taipei maniacs from business school. What? Not that. Basically tell me, Brandon, you’re absolutely insane. I would never pay for that sometimes, but, uh but I think the stranger thing is the real test. So let’s let’s you make this instagram and Facebook post you get people to pay you. You did three week vacation that your European friends thought was normal. But you’re busting your rear. 

Brandon: 

We should all learn from them because e think they dio the well, I think I’d say I want to say absolutely. 

Courtney: 

I think it’s an interesting model A. So long as you’re working during the time that you are working, right? 

Brandon: 

Yeah. Actually, I think Australia’s really nailed it. 

Courtney: 

I did it. 

Brandon: 

I took to business trips Australia, and I feel when you were in the office, they were there from, I don’t know, 8 to 6 or whatever the hours were and you could totally It was the same energy and dynamic that you feel in New York City of like, incredible focus, incredible devotion, kind of Taipei craziness. But then at lunch, people took their lunch or they went for a run outside and then at six or 6 30 people really left. And it wasn’t the mindset in New York of like, oh, I have Thio get to this thing or pick up my kids was like, I’m going to go now to spend time with people that you know don’t send in this room. 

Courtney: 

That’s awesome. I think that’s a I think we all need to aspire to do that. And I tell entrepreneurs, if you think that you’re going to catch up and you think zero inbox is a real thing and you think you’re absolutely delusional and I get to say this after 21 years, you have to be willing to basically just get up in the middle of anything. 

Brandon: 

And I learned that and and you probably obviously have started learned that is, You know, sometimes I catch myself. 

Brandon: 

I’m down here right here and it’s 7 45 and my wife walks in. I’m like I realized like, Oh, crap, I really have not talked to my wife today and you know, I can’t comment on other people’s relationships, but I love my wife. So I want to spend time with her, and I have trained myself that even unless it is like Oh my God, I’m not gonna get paid and it’s some invoice that’s, you know $100,000 or something just absolutely the world’s going to end even if I’m in an email in the middle of email. 

Brandon: 

Someone, I just stand up and walk away, and that sounds like, you know, almost with Australia, and it sounds like something that you’ve adopted here. 

Brandon: 

I’ve tried. 

Brandon: 

I think it’s really tough, and it’s something that’s always e think it’s honestly hardest when you work within someone else’s company culture. I think that the very cool thing about starting your own companies, you get to create a culture and create what you think is productivity, what productivity looks like and what success looks like. And all of that. I think it’s much harder when you’re working within another company culture, especially if you’re on the junior at the junior level. If that’s not respect, it’s really hard for you to leave at seven and go get dinner with your friends or family. And there’s also this weird element of that when you tag the wife or husband labeled, it seems more serious than the boyfriend girlfriend, but I know there’s, I think it’s it’s a lot tougher for people that are working in companies that have a culture that’s already been assigned Thio that might not align with their personal values. 

Courtney: 

Yeah, I think you’re right for sure. I think you and I probably could talk about all of this forever. But I want to come back. Teoh is You go in, you give your notice and you start lighthouse. And you start with the idea that it sounds like to me that you’re going to do a B two c play and and so let’s start. There’s that is that was that really the original idea and then take us through that story because you and I talked a little bit before, but the listeners haven’t been ableto understand this sort of all these pivotal moments. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, So you’re exactly right. We started thinking it would be a direct to consumer brand, and that’s what it waas for almost a year, which is the concept was really okay. People are willing to invest in their career growth. We will be that resource for them to go thio whenever they’re looking for insight or support. And so because it was B two c Ah, lot of our ah lot of our market. A lot of our members were people that were navigating career transitions, so they were working in consulting and wanted to transition to something entirely different. Or they were applying to business school and didn’t wanna pay the crazy fees that most MBA consultants charge. Or they were really curious about us. But they had no idea what you X actually meant. And so it was a lot of those types of people who were choosing to invest in making that transition in a strategic and thoughtful and a really smart way. And they were booking sessions around anything from what we called industry Q and A learning about a new industry to resume REVIEW. THIO INTERVIEW Practice Sometimes we started to see people use it around skill building. So members saying like, Hey, I think I want to get my project management professional certificate and then booking sessions around that So that business, ultimately the BTC business, did a couple of things for us. It we used all of that data on how people were using the product, what their pain points were, what kind of people they want to book sessions with to really start to product eyes. A lot of what we had built so early. The entry point for all of our members is what we call the career quiz, and that’s where they specify what their goal is, what their challenges and what kind of person they want to work with. So they might say, like, Hey, I’m asking for a raise at work. I am struggling with creating, like a strong business case around it, and I work in a management consulting at a big company. And so I want to be matched with someone who has that context and then, based on that, our algorithm that matches them with their top 3/5. And they get to review their profiles and decide who they want to work with and then book a one on 1 45 minute video session with that person. And after the session they can book again. Or if their needs change, they could book with someone else. And so that career quiz in the early days was completely free, for people were just like writing in what they needed. And now, over time, we know what those drop downs looked like, because we’ve collected it from Real data s O. That was one thing that the BBC business is great for it. The other thing is it validated that what we had built people loved and it worked. So we collected. We have incredibly high net promoter score. We collected great data around how impactful the actual sessions were and how it offered something completely different than other solutions like online learning or like talking your mom or like going on LinkedIn. And so we kind of created something that people loved. And in that we started realizing that two things one is that I’m a big believer that we’re moving in a direction where people are going to be owning and managing their own careers where, you know, everyone talks about the future of work, and we have no idea what that looks like. 

Courtney: 

But ultimately, if you’re working on a project basis or you’re working across company cross industry across role, you’re gonna have to be in charge of that development. And that development is not gonna line to specific career path in one role at one company. Yet where we are today is e think people still expect that kind of professional development to be sponsored by their companies. So that was like one learning for us. And then second learning was that there was actually a huge, like an increasing need amongst companies to find new ways to invest in their millennial talent. And they were reacting to the fact that career growth and career development was now one of the top reasons that drives where millennials choose toe work and when millennials choose to leave a company. And so that’s when we started actually talking about businesses about offering this as an employee benefit to their team. 

Courtney: 

So it’s important. I think that’s interesting. So with the millennial generation, it’s important that when they come to the job that an employer would articulate, Hey, Courtney, you’re going to come in here. And here’s what the process of career development looks like. And here’s some of the milestones and goals that I think some of the companies already have this right? I mean, when I was in the venture business, it’s you understand that you start as analysts mean depending all these titles, right? But analysts senior analyst, associate senior associate, principal and then partner, and in the consulting world that you worked, it’s it’s defined and And as you know, I heard you earlier when you went and talked to the partner like, Hey, I landed business That was probably articulated to you that if you land business, you can it can go further. So I think anybody who has a business, even at fellow entrepreneurs that listen to this podcast, it’s a lesson that they could take from what you’ve learned, which is you’ve gotta are articulate that. But having said that, that’s easy to say. But if service, like they need a service like you have, are offering because you otherwise you have to build the whole infrastructure. But before I sort of go there with you, you’re in the B two c. 

Brandon: 

Can I just been going really quickly? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, The other, like a big message that we try to hone in on, is the fact that career growth is more than getting to the next level, getting that promotion or getting a raise or getting a new job. 

Brandon: 

And that’s how it’s often thought of thes days. But ultimately, the way the highest performers, most kind of the people that are most devoted to their growth are thinking about career growth, an entirely new way, which is not just getting to the next level. It’s learning a new skill. It’s developing a new. It’s learning about a new industry or learning about a new role. And so it’s actually a lot more flexible and a lot more driven by the individual. And that’s really where we are kind of uniquely positioned to support that kind of career growth. And it’s good for for the individual to be like Okay, I’m growing, even though I’m not necessarily getting promoted this year that there’s other ways to grow and there’s other ways to kind of seize this opportunity beyond, like getting a new label on my Lincoln. 

Courtney: 

I think that’s important. I’m glad you interrupted me because I probably I’m not that much older. But I probably just showed my age that yeah, and I’m just thinking what you’re saying that have a lot of millennials who have worked for me and that really is it. Like if you can teach people and I don’t really you know, I think this whole millennial thing everybody talks about millions. 

Brandon: 

I just think people in general probably I mean, would you agree? 

Courtney: 

Coordinate he like 100%. 

Brandon: 

It’s the new way of working, I think millennials. I honestly I don’t love that term either. Like when we’re talking to her members, we talk about them into them is like rising and rising future leaders or mid career professionals. But millennials, the term that I think resonates most most just with kind of investors because that’s they hear millennial. They hear market on DSO. That’s it, depending on the conversation, to use a different term. But you’re right, it’s it’s cross generation, and we’ve already I just pitched potential investors who are kind of in their sixties, and they’re like, Listen, I want this because I’m starting my my new career, which might be a completely different from what I did my entire career. And so, yeah, I really see this group. We’re starting with millennial demographic because that’s where the biggest need is in the biggest demand is. But I completely agree with you that as work changes, this is gonna be something that’s needed across all generations. 

Courtney: 

So I want to point out one thing that you’ve said here that I think is important. You know, we use this millennial word because of what you just said, and is that your investors? If you’re going to pitch, they want to hear the millennial because it’s the magic word. But and I think that’s important for entrepreneurs to understand that your pitching a different audience, you have to you have? Do you know what vernacular used? I think the reason it sort of hit me a little bit is is I’m thinking like they were just human. This is a human. All humans want to feel they want to feel appreciated and they wanna learn new things. And not just, I don’t know, being this cube or box and hamster. Well, whatever you wanna call it and not have a t least have the ability to learn new things. And I would argue that companies like Google who you know, some people Google sort of knew. But Google’s been around forever. I mean, you know, it is a long time Google has been around and they recognize that from the early days, with their 15% or whatever it is so and that wasn’t a millennial thing because the Montiel’s, I think we’re potentially still in diapers when Google came around. But e point that out. I think it’s also important point to recognize that when you talk to different audiences in your business, you need to understand the manak Euler that’s going to resonate with them, and that comes from understanding their world, not just thinking that you’re going to show your idea, but also talking about it. So So let’s pick up your learning all this stuff. You’re still in the B two c world. What happens? 

Brandon: 

So we’re still in the B two C world. 

Courtney: 

We kind of recognize these two insights of people expect this kind of growth to be sponsored by their companies and companies. This is a need for companies, and I remember 11 potential investor said to me, she was like, You need to figure out how you can be an ongoing painkiller. So the story behind that is, when you have a headache, you pay for for Advil because you’re solving a pain in the moment, and you need that when you we all know we should take vitamins. I personally bought vitamin D for the first time yesterday. I’d never take vitamins, and it’s more preventative, right? And the people people pay for problem solving So when she framed it that way of like, you know, for your BTC customers, you are You’re a pain medication in the moment, but that means that you need to catch them at the right time, and that’s really difficult. 

Courtney: 

So figure out who you could be an ongoing painkiller for. 

Brandon: 

And that was again a comment that was said in a meeting right around the time that we were starting toe to kind of think about these two new insights, And that’s when you realize that for the companies, you know, for one person you might need. You always need the lighthouse as a preventative measure. But in those pain killing moments, it might happen, you know, between six and eight times a year. But for a company that has 100,000 employees, you know, different people are having that at different points. 

Courtney: 

And so for them, this is an ongoing pain point, and also just investing your people and being proactive about that and showing them that you care and that you’re giving them the resource is to grow. 

Brandon: 

It is a constant challenge for that, and so all of those three things kind of clicked at once. And that’s when we started going out to companies and really framed it as very informational, like it was a lot of Hey, do you guys know anyone in HR? Can I can I talk to the person in a chart? Your company and some of those earliest conversations that were purely informational turn into our early be to be partners, which was really cool to see that happen. 

Courtney: 

Well, I want to tell the listeners that I did not pay Courtney for this or set this up. But Kourtney, I teach all the time In the early part of building your business plan, you have to understand if you’re a vitamin or an aspirin, and that’s what you just described. 

Brandon: 

And if you it’s not because one is good or bad, right? I mean, you just bought, right? I mean, you just took be you just bought B 12 as a preventative. Not because it was You know, you didn’t take Advil for that, but so I think that’s a new important lesson. So this this one comment that an investor gives you sparks this idea, and then you just floated the idea through your network of corporate colleagues. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, not even like one of our now corporate partners. I had a friend who is also a founder of a company that he was working on this side who is a lead software engineer, that company. And so when I was floating around like, Hey, can I talk to anyone who works in this world? He had been kind of friendly with the person who was on their HR team, and so he connected us over email. I went to their office. We talked for an hour. I mean, people are really interested when they feel like they can kind of shape where a young company is going. That’s super fascinating. And also people love talking about interesting new ideas and and we fell into that bucket. And so we found that people are incredibly supportive and giving us their time and their insight. And yeah, a lot of the conversations happen that way of like, can I just talk to anyone in HR? 

Courtney: 

Because at that point we thought that that was going to be the group that we really need to validate this with. And then we started like I am an avid note taker I also, when they allowed it would record some of the conversations and then started Thio. One question I always asked was, Hey, I’ve told you the story. I told you what we think this is. Can you re pitch it to me? And then I would see, hear the words that they used in that pitch. And then I immediately started adding that to my pitch in the next conversation, and I still that sometimes, like in our sales conversation, I still will do that to this day because it’s constantly involving to hear what’s resonating. And even if we’re not using it for our pitch, we’re hearing what to them is the most valuable part of what we’re solving for which we can then use in the follow up sales conversation. Or it’s just good like insight for us to know. 

Courtney: 

Yeah, I think that technique is an amazing technique, and I don’t think you should ever stop using it. And I think everybody should do that. And for our listeners, if you were paying attention till the podcast, I run. I do that all the time. I’ve done that with you and we’re here. We’re here and here and then you say instantly know Brandon, you forgot this or that. And now you get that other party to talk. So the other part of that which I think people mrs, they get excited that they’ve actually done that. But they forget the right, the freaking words down. 

Brandon: 

But yeah, those words are that is the magic, isn’t it? 

Brandon: 

Courtney? Yeah, Messaging. I have such an appreciation now for writing, positioning all of that. That’s it’s so hard speaking and writing is hard, but it’s so important. Yeah, and it’s constantly changing. I think I have a whole, like, six page document of different ways to describe the lighthouse. 

Courtney: 

So do you think it’s important to describe that light the lighthouse two different audiences and using different words? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, 100%. Whether we’re targeting on the phone with someone from HR, whether sometimes start lead into companies is the head of diversity inclusion, and obviously that’s a very different conversation. But they care about different things, which for them, what they’re really interested in is how the lighthouse is a way for people to level the playing field. So when you think about the fact that people are going to their direct network for this kind of career insight. That means that your employees air not on the same level, like a level playing field. So the person who’s going home, Teoh, a partner who also is working in the field and maybe is one step ahead of them, is getting much better advice and insight than the person who’s going home and maybe has a partner who’s a stay at home parent or a partner who works in the medical field and has nothing to do with what you’re working on. So that conversation is very different with when we’re kind of selling to that part of the offering and then, as we touched on earlier. 

Courtney: 

Talking to investors is completely different than talking to our customers, like the actual lighthouse members. 

Brandon: 

Then, when we’re talking to the companies that are actually sponsoring this, so we’re still in the B two c take us through. 

Courtney: 

When? When do you decide? Because there’s some time when you say be to see you and I have talked before and, you know, be to see isn’t gonna work, we’re gonna go B two B. That’s a big jump and probably well, not probably pretty stinking Skerry because almost effectively, you have to fire people that our customers, that air giving you revenue. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, and we didn’t actually do that. We still have B two C customers because our tech evolved and they actually can now basically self service on the platform. So luckily, we didn’t have Thio reject anyone What we do now, which I wish we could do everything at once. I, like is when B two c members come to our page. We do kind of put them on a wait list and, well, look at the companies that they’re coming from and see if we can actually have introduced the lighthouse into that company so that they’re getting it sponsored by their company, which is an incredible thing. 

Courtney: 

But we didn’t have to fire any customers because they were already on board on the platform and could kind of just book sessions when they needed. But it was a really scary thing, and there’s no like, specific date that had happened. It was kind of an ongoing process where we started to make that decision in January of 2019, and that’s when we started to validate it and had a lot of conversations that happened over the course of a couple of months. And then I would say we officially launched the offering at the beginning of this summer, which isn’t always the best time to launch an offering because summer slow. But we despite that kind of summer slowdown, we were able to get our first B to be partners and now are really focused on how do we now replicate that sales process to bring on more partners? 

Courtney: 

So tell us about the lighthouse. Now. You’ve raised some angel money because I know my friend Joe won’t mind me saying that Hey, invested. He has encouraged me to do the same which you and I talked about. 

Brandon: 

We’re going to follow up. I want to make sure that we had a podcast and then I was completely I am not an investor. I have no interest yet, but I I love the model of what you’re doing. And I think that people need that in her direction within a big companies. 

Brandon: 

I think they need them in smaller entrepreneur or startups or, you know, I hate that word startup sometimes, but just early stage companies that are growing or expanding. Even mid sized companies need that. I think that in the smaller teams, you actually get that because you’re interacting and, you know, under 100 people, you know those 100 people and certainly under 50. 

Brandon: 

I know that when I worked at America Online, something like this would have been would been an incredible but how you raise some money, would you? 

Brandon: 

It’s really seed or friends and family money. Would you say Yeah, just really quick thing on the small company versus Big were, like even are really partners. 

Brandon: 

It’s interesting, interesting to see the different buckets they fall into the at the smaller company. What’s interesting is that you’re the resource is you can tap into are kind of limited to that direct group, and and no company, no matter how big or small, has every every insight, every experience or background that’s needed, depending on where people want to drive the career. And also when companies are introducing new offerings, especially its startup stage, then you definitely don’t have that expertise internally. So that’s an area where we service complement and also the fact that the objectivity is something that you can never replace and often a smaller company. You have even lost of that because, like you said, you do know everyone by name, but on the fundraising side. So, yeah, like you said, we’ve raised 180 k so far. Um, and that kind of fell into two separate rounds. One was a friends and family around that we did last September. And then the one that we’re kind of in the middle of right now is a pre seed round. We’re focused entirely on angel investors. Like you said. So, yeah, that’s our fundraising story. 

Courtney: 

And one thing I wanna you and I talked about this the other day won’t when we talked. Because my first question toe entrepreneurs that I always help is what your burn rate and they always say, Well, what does that have to do with anything? Brand? I came here for advice and I wanna build my company and I said, Well, burn rates going to turn tournament, actually, when you conjunction And I had asked you the other day when you said, Hey, I raised 280 Haiti grand, which is a huge accomplishment. I mean, raising money from other people is his heart. Regardless of how much it is hard, you’re convincing someone that before you have a ton of revenue that you’re going to be able to turn this into, Ah, Bible company. Is it fair to say or maybe tell us how you thought about it when back going back? You took those you six months prior to leaving. When you drink the wine and build your business plan, you have an idea that you’re gonna leave at some point. So were you just a naturally good saver? Or at that point, did you start socking away some money knowing that you wanted to build? At least I tell people if you don’t have a your buffer, you’re you’re in big trouble. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, great question. So, again, something that’s unique about me is the fact that I thought the investment so being a founder in a lot of ways is an investment in your career, right? You’re taking a huge bet on yourself, and these were years spent clearly, like I see the opportunity for the lighthouse being bigger than any salary. I could be making a PVC right now, and that’s a bet that you’re making on yourself and on your career. I never I didn’t think that this was going to be in my path. I would have approached my career a little bit differently if I had to be honest, differently. Well, I say that, but I don’t really mean it. I’ll kind of, like, go about a roundabout way. But I mean, is that so, You know, working for Peter B. C. In New York, you make a good amount of money and your expenses air pretty low because you’re on the road Monday through Thursday. Honestly, no consultant should have an apartment. I wish. I just Airbnb it every weekend, but that’s a separate story, but so, you know, you’re you’re saving at that point. But then when I went to China, that was to me the big invest and I was making my career, which I took like it was over 50%. 

Courtney: 

Holy e. I would think they pay you mawr as an expat going away. But I understand the revenue is less so. They don’t really justify it that way, which is expat days. 

Brandon: 

They’re kind of gone in China. There is just and this is fair like it’s incredibly competitive talent pool of local Chinese, that air amazing like and that speak truly fluently, both languages that have been educated abroad or an incredible universities in China. It’s just very competitive and also keep in mind. I wasn’t a partner going over there. I was a senior associate, so I was, and still pretty junior my career. Eso I took a pretty big pay cut and I was a thing that I thought a lot about. But ultimately I knew that because it was this new market, because even consulting was kind of the nascent in China that I would be given a ton of opportunity and then that would be worth it for when the salary I’d be making when it came back to America, whether with PWC or something else. The experience that I have gone there and also my personal goal of working and living there was gonna be worth it. Obviously I didn’t. That’s not the path I took of going to China, taking this pay cut and then coming back to us with the high salary. That’s not what happened in my case, but it is something toe factor in and from April of 2018, toe to September of 2018. That runway was all, you know, my savings and the way that I made that last a long as I did is by moving. When I moved back to the U. S, I moved out of my dad, which is when you’re 27. Like I’m so lucky that that was an option on the table. And also, I’m lucky that my dad happened to live close to New York City. So you know, you have to be in the market. I think it’s really hard if you’re if you’re from the Midwest and you’re trying to build a company in New York, it’s really difficult. So that’s complete, like luck and privilege that he has, you know, lives in the area. And I was able to live with him for free. And, yeah, just like really cutting back and saying no to friends and keep in mind, I’ve been gone. And then I was back. But I wasn’t available because I didn’t have any money to spend, and I was living outside of the city and I was working a lot, and so it becomes this combination of like seeing the options you have available to us, seeing how longer Runway is and saying No, a lot of things. 

Courtney: 

I think that’s important. I think that, you know, I have these slides when I give talks is you know, they think the entrepreneur lifestyles, this party lifestyle. And they got all this stuff on social media with uneven half these people must pay by the hour to rent the jet, take their picture. But, uh, I would consider myself generally pretty successful. And, you know, I’m not doing that sort of stuff. So, you know, it’s important to say to know that when you’re doing this, you are going to sacrifice. I mean, you’re taking probably not one step. You’re taking two steps backwards, toe. Ultimately get five or 10 ahead at some point, right? That’s the bet. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, I heard on an interviewer read an article somewhere that there’s like, a psychology like game. Or basically, you can decide they gave it to kids and that you can decide if you want a candy bar now or two candy bars in an hour. And I think the conclusion was that the kids that take the candy bars in and out to candy bars in an hour or more likely to become entrepreneurs because they’re in it for like the long raw run. 

Courtney: 

I saw that, too. It was assault with a marshmallow and I watched the video. We’ll hear. Probably it’s been redone so that the candy bar. But the interesting part was when you watch, I don’t know if you watch it. If you watch the video, these kids, all the kids, they’re just they’re just like suffering and they’ll I don’t wanna pick up my phone, but like, I have this remote for my, uh, pretend my remote for my video for my Camas Ah, marshmallow and they’ll pick it up. 

Brandon: 

Then they’ll look at it and you could just see I’m just dying. 

Brandon: 

So I think that’s really that’s really what we’re doing. And I think revealing that. And I’m really grateful for you doing that because you’ve been really vulnerable here to share. You know, it takes a lot of courage to be able to do that, because a lot of people don’t want to put on that face, and I got pictures even after I sold my first company. I’ve got pictures of me sleeping in a sleeping bag on her friend’s floor in San Francisco like that. 

Brandon: 

Xyz what? You dio e. 

Courtney: 

I mean, that it’s not glamorous, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t have some money that I couldn’t get an air B and B. It meant that I every night that I didn’t do that. Like when you moved in with your dad was to me one more day that I had bought myself. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, 100%. 

Courtney: 

And it’s not going to go is planned. 

Courtney: 

I mean, we didn’t cover, and I’m gonna ask you back at some point, getting updating, maybe we could go back and talk about every bump, you know, some more bumps in the road. But I mean, would you agree it does not go is planned? I mean, no. And it costs more than you thought it would, and it takes a lot more time. 

Brandon: 

I think one of the things that’s frustrating about this process is you see, you see the headlines and you listen to podcasts that aren’t is like raw is this one and you think it just happened overnight, But then you actually, even if you like a little trick. I don’t know if the company will say it’s founded in 2019, but then when you look at the founders linked in, you notice that they left their job in 2017. So that means that like many of us from 2017 to 2019, they were just figuring it out. And then they pivoted enough that they could say their new launch date was 2019. But there was a ton of work and a ton of like anxiety and like pivoting and reflecting and changing that went into those years. And I feel like that is not talked about enough that, like you don’t have it figured out right away. And it’s a evolving process. Someone said to me like product market fit is a moving target and I thought that that was really well said that if you’re constantly growing the business, it’s that constantly is moving away from you and you keep moving towards it. 

Courtney: 

I think I agree and you find it for that product which generates revenue for you and then you’re growing and you gotta hit another one. So I think that’s a really interesting way of putting a Courtney because I think sometimes and I’ll include myself. Sometimes I say, Well, you’ve got to get product market fit and we don’t articulate it in that way that you just said, which is you’ve got to get product market fit for your product. But if you’re growing your business and scaling it, you got to go find product market fit again. Yeah, so that’s awesome. So you’re you raise some money. Another point that I thought was really good when we talked the other day was is that you are actually paying yourself now, out of some of that money, right? You’re obviously not going toe sushi Rama there in New York, whatever. Or one of those big fancy sushi places that some expensive place that my friend for American Express when he was consulting there, took me to. It’s like this and you’re not gonna sushi. I think it’s called sushi Rama. It’s like this insane sushi party restaurant on he took me. Oh, fun. It was super fun. But super fun is also in New York City is super expensive. As I found out on the bill came so Yeah, Half Moon base, Main Street sushi was expensive. 

Brandon: 

Holy cow. Well, next time you’re in New York, yeah, we’ll go to sushi Rama on me because I’ve got a little bit of market fit. 

Courtney: 

Although I’ll tell, you know, everyone knows the company myself. For a company that started again, it’s still finding market fit. And we pivoted and change the name and done six things. That’s a story for another day. So you’ve raised the money you’re paying yourself. You have. How big are you now? 

Brandon: 

So many ways to answer that question. People, people. Yeah, sorry. Eso It’s Dmitry and I on full time. And Dimitris, our tech lead. 

Courtney: 

Who offered this great that Mike is? 

Brandon: 

Yeah, you’re You’re way ahead. 

Courtney: 

I like it. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, he’s incredible on Ben. We also have two other team members that work on the White House part time. So one is Dara who helps with social media and marketing. A big part of that is we have ah, Tuesday career newsletter that goes out every Tuesday at, like, 7. 30 I think, and then we also Skylar, who is really I mean, Rolls air so tough at this like stage because you’re kind of everyone’s kind of doing everything. But he was employee number one at a company called Thrive Past and did a ton on their kind of product positioning and then ended up building and leading their sales team. And so he’s helping us a lot with product positioning, go to market and in kind of the growth side of the business. 

Courtney: 

Well, that’s awesome. 

Courtney: 

And I know that you’re growing and I’m going to say this, You can correct me, and I’m probably projecting because I want you to believe this like we talked the other day. I think the entrepreneurs always have this thing, like the badge of honor is to raise the money. The badge of honor is Thio. Build your business on a customer base and grow it, and there’s a time and place for all types of capital, not just venture capital. There’s a time so borrow money, and there’s reasons why you would do that is your goal to try to bootstrap this into the revenue and grow it that way and then take expansion capital when you need it, and not necessarily. 

Brandon: 

Some of the approaches entrepreneurs are taking is they find a little bit of traction. 

Brandon: 

Then they want to go raise this big round. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, our approach is something that I think is constantly being defined. And honestly, there’s been a couple of conversations, even the one with you recently that have made me rethink what that broader strategy looks like. What I will say is that I’m very, very cautious of the fact that, like, as you put it, accepting VC money means you’re on the rocket and you are taking what you’ve built and you are pouring money on it and hoping that it grows. And I’ve seen Founders that I’m pretty close to accept that money and grow something that shouldn’t have been grown because it wasn’t it wasn’t ready yet, and they actually needed more time to, like you said, Reflect and iterating and collect feedback. 

Courtney: 

And it’s really hard and especially in a small team to be focused on both of those things at once. And so our whole focus right now is to close this pre seed amount of 300 K all through Angel Investors and these air strategic investors that either have built companies successfully in the past, have a long standing history in HR, have interesting relationships and kind of the future workspace and use that capital to really deliver incredibly successfully on these early B two b partnerships that we have and then really see, like Okay, we now have something that we want to scale and whether that means we scale through the revenues we’ve collected or whether it means that we accept. You see funding? I’m not sure yet, but that’s our goal right now. 

Courtney: 

I think that’s the right way. Thio definitely to approach it, I think. Entrepreneurs. I was giving a talk recently and I told the whole room it was like 100 and 50 people. I said none of you should and they were in earlier stage of their business. So when I say that, like they didn’t have a, you know, didn’t have a quarter million dollars in revenue yet, which is like it’s a big accomplishment, but if you haven’t gotten there, you’re you’re still early. Let’s just argue. I would argue at a million dollars your early you could mistakenly earn a million dollars on doing wrong thing right? I’m sure you’ve seen that the I said absolutely none of you should raise any money because they all want to raise money. 

Brandon: 

I said, because when you don’t have the money is when you will be creative because you have no choice. What do you think about that 100% ad? 

Brandon: 

The things we’ve done like because we don’t have the money like a really a good kind of example of this is in the early days we didn’t have money, and we also didn’t have. 

Courtney: 

I didn’t have Dmitry. I didn’t have a tech partner. And so I while I done kind of some kind of product management type roles, I didn’t know how to code myself what that meant. But I never let that be a blocker to building what we knew we had to build. And also I knew that we were gonna build was going to change so many times that, like investing upfront in outsourced agency or something, would be a complete waste of money. And the other thing is that there is just incredible tools out there now that allow you to build really high functioning products. 

Courtney: 

So the first iteration of the Lighthouse waas a week’s landing page with a type form booking tool that led Thio a calendar invite that was sent via Xabier integrations. 

Courtney: 

That then led to a zoom video conference that then prompted through Z a p er, another type form that went out to collect feedback. And then we use slack as like, the kind of base of like if you need to message with your insider before or after the session and exchange documents and so on so that but it worked like and that was and it costs very like it was. So it worked and it was, and it allowed us the flexibility to the minute something was wrong or the minute we want to test something, we just had to go to type form to change it like it was so low effort and now we actually have an algorithm and we have custom built tech, and it’s incredible because it we can see how this will scale over time. But things are still constantly changing, and now there’s a little more effort to change it because there’s implications to our databases and turned back end. And so I think that that, like having had we had funding, we would have hired an amazing CTO or would hire a depth shop and we would have built something that shouldn’t have been built. And so I completely agree with that. You do have to have a certain amount of money, though, that you could devote the time to get to have that creativity. And I also think you do need I’ve definitely been in moments where I felt like so poor that I, like, didn’t that was a stressor that didn’t allow me to have that, like space to be creative. And so that’s actually when you raise the friends and family round of like, Okay, we can’t even build this because right now I’m so worried about, like how we’re gonna fund like even, you know, these little things. So I think it’s a balance, but I completely agree with you. 

Courtney: 

Yeah, and I and I that that’s an important point. I think those moments that you just described when the stress comes over to not having enough money are good scars to build for the future, because there will be those moments again. But I would agree with you that when you realize that that tipping point, if you will going backwards, is that you’re more worried about doing being ableto put gas in your car, quite frankly, literally, which I had been there before, right? 

Brandon: 

You know, one of the one of my things of success was Was that when I didn’t have to worry about how much it was a gallon of gas? Because I remember those days, and even now you know, there’ll be times when I’ll go through like Okay, well, maybe it’s worth, you know, driving a little bit further. But I think that that’s important is that when you when you do that, recognize that tipping point of you’ve got to get a little bit of cash to make that happen. But I appreciate you sharing that because people don’t always believe me. But you absolutely, and especially if you had raised venture capital, they would have expected you to get the CTO toe to get the VPs sales before you even have a sales process and do all that. So I’m really impressed with the way that you’ve built it, and quite frankly, I’ll say it. I think it would be hard for someone like you and because you come from a consulting world where there used to spending a lot of money like for Apple or any of the Fortune five hundreds Thio to throw a million or two or three or $4 million that’s something to do. A test is just, you know, it’s a rounding error for them. 

Brandon: 

Uh, not that it’s not important. So the White House to people full time and tell me just real quick about your office You’re in. I see you’re somewhere today. I think I talked to you from your house yesterday. Did you? Do you? Are you renting space? I hope that God, you’re not paying for an office yet. But what’s the story, York there, Ugo, I I actually I’m a huge so I know we were extending a lot of flak. 

Brandon: 

Right now, we work has actually played a pretty big role in a lot of our growth in a lot of weird ways. Um, early days, like we only joined officially, probably a couple months ago, so it took a while to get here. But early days events were a really big way that we kind of built are following in our email newsletter and our legitimacy and got to meet customers face to face but renting event space in New York is really expensive. And so we work had, like, recently acquired meet up dot com and they were doing this. 

Courtney: 

This pilot were basically if you had to meet up dot com group, you could host events at we work for free on DSO. I immediately created two groups on DWI. Hosted a lot of our events in the early days completely free of charge at we works. And that again it was it was how we got in front of complete strangers and tying the lighthouse brand to the we work brand. It was incredibly helpful. And also is this trusted place where people were fine going toe. We work even though they didn’t know the company hosting the event. So that is one way that, like we’ve benefited and then a kind of hack that people might know about it. I don’t know how much longer this will last, but when new we works open, they offer free floating desk space for a few months because they just want to get people in the doors and where they really make their money with the offices. And so Dmitry and I benefit from that for a few months and then ultimately, when we felt like it was the right time, we got a membership through, were accepted to there we Work labs program, which is? They offered this kind of working space for early stage founders in their teams. And it’s this. It’s kind of like a half working space, half a like an incubator. And so but there’s no equity. You know, you’re paying for the desks and it’s discounted, but you’re surrounded by other early stage teams and we work out of the Dumbo location. And it’s this really incredible community of some companies that are pre launch. And one company in our space just got acquired by mind body. So it zone amazing environment. And then Mina, who is the director for the space, brings in incredible people to speak about sales or they’ll bring investors. And so it’s this E. I mean, it’s kind of like introductions and and in training kind of at your door. All you have to do is turn your table, desk chair around and, like, join whatever is being offered in the space. So, yeah, we do work out of a we work and we have had a great experience. 

Courtney: 

And do you come every day, both of you? Or do you sometimes work from home? 

Brandon: 

I don’t work from home because I don’t have a great set up at home. Then I’m not one of those people can, like, work on a couch on a bed. If I had a desk, I might, but I Yeah, I come in every day. 

Courtney: 

You know, You still living at your dad’s? 

Brandon: 

No. I got an apartment right on your moving up in the world. 

Courtney: 

You know, baby steps. 

Brandon: 

Yeah, I live. I have a roommate I live in Clinton Hill, found on Craigslist. It’s a great spot. 

Courtney: 

Cool. One thing before we go, you’ve been awesome today. I think we could talk all day about it, but at some point, we got to wrap it up because I know you got a bunch of work to Dio and but going back to when you started it up, I was just doing the math in my head between the wicks and all the things that you stuck together. 

Brandon: 

And I think that it would be fair to say that that m v p or minimum Viable products early version of what you built was probably built for less than 250 bucks, not taking your time into it. And I’m being generous here because because no one would probably believe you and I if you said I did it for less than 100 or less than I mean that sounds right. 

Brandon: 

Like type form is $30 their pricing change recently, but $30 a month zoom. We have the recording future, so it’s $50 a month. Wicks is like between 15 and 20. And then what else did I miss in their Xabier? It depends on the number of zap, so that’s like a that changes depending on how how often your sites used. But, yeah, there’s so many great tools out there where you could build something that’s really looks great. It’s so polished. And also the cool thing is, now you see like I don’t know if you know, Wag the Dog Walking company. I was at one point studying different on boarding processes for different companies to kind of like think about how we could do your own and I went through their on boarding process because it’s like, how are they vetting for, you know, trusting people to come into people’s home together dogs, and you start to look as a founder. I think you start to look at the U. R. L S. And I realized that they’re using type form, so, like it’s also just crazy. You see this company that’s raised, I don’t know how much money and that it’s big sizeable, and they’re still using the same tools that you’re using as an early stage founder. 

Courtney: 

Yeah, I think that’s true. And the other thing I’ll say is, Is that all those things do cost that monthly fee, but a lot of them have the 1st 30 days or 15 days free. So you little test your idea for free if you leverage that, and then you just cancel your membership if you don’t e just wanted to mention that because, like I said, there’s this whole perception that you you got to spend $100,000 on a nap and whatever else, but I think it takes confidence and, you know, congratulate you on doing that, which is selling something before you even have it. 

Brandon: 

I’ve become the master of that, but it sure does say a lot of time. Yeah. So listen, Courtney, thank you so much how people confined you at the lighthouse dot Us. Whether you’re someone who wants to become a mentor or ultimately want some advice, right, they can bring their company to you. You’ve got a ton of top name people who are at the lighthouse like pwc Mackenzie, NBC, Amazon already linked in right Saletan, which is ah, heck of, ah, list there again. You confined Courtney brand at the lighthouse dot Us. There is a contact us form, right? Yep. On the website. 

Brandon: 

Or you can email me directly. I’m very accessible. I’m Courtney at the lighthouse dot Us, Courtney at the lighthouse dot Us. 

Courtney: 

Well, Courtney, thank you so much for your vulnerability. Being honest and telling people how it really happened. I think you and I are gonna look back on this podcast and I’m going to say, Well, I knew that lady when she had just moved out of her dad’s house. So thank you so much. 

Brandon: 

Thank you so much, Fran. And it was really it was a lot of fun. 

Courtney: 

I hope that episode inspired you. 

Brandon: 

If you are thinking about taking the leap and becoming an entrepreneur to make it happen in 2021. Courtney, thanks so much for coming on and sharing and opening up about all your feelings and things you went through. Really appreciate it. And we’re going to check in with you in the first quarter of 2021 see how lighthouse is doing. Because I got word from a good friend who is an investor in your company that you are doing really well and we’re excited here about it. 

Brandon: 

Thanks again. 

Brandon: 

And thank you, friends, for tuning into the show. 

Brandon: 

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