Growing an Educational Newsletter As Busy Parents

Published: July 21st, 2023
Brian Perry
Founder, These 16 Things
2
Founders
2
Employees
These 16 Things
from Franklin, IN, USA
started January 2023
2
Founders
2
Employees
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My name is Brian Perry, founder of These 16 Things. I am a Christian, husband, and father to 7 kids. My oldest is currently 14, and my youngest is 4 months. We have 4 boys and 3 girls. Our kids are homeschooled.

Once I got this project off the ground, I brought it to a friend of mine to help. He and his wife have 8 kids and also homeschool.

Both of us place a high value on teaching our kids real-life skills, so we started sending out life-skills lessons by email. We send two lessons a week. One on Monday and one on Thursday. Both lessons each week are on the same topic but are two different lessons.

Our subscribers are parents that are also wanting to teach their kids life skills - anything from finance to self-defense.

We started out with 0 subscribers in mid-January 2023, and we are currently up to about 400 subscribers.

these-16-things

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

As I already mentioned, I have 7 kids. I have always tried to teach my kids life skills to help prepare them for life on their own. I listened to a podcast that talked about life skills to teach kids. I loved the idea so much that I decided to make a website and newsletter around the idea.

That list was not the same as my list, though. I changed and added some things that made it more my style. Specifically, I (and my business partner) added topics on our faith - Christianity. However, our site is set up so people of all faiths can find benefits.

When I heard the original podcast about life skills, I started doing research. Several other websites teach the same type of things. They are all different. And yes, I am biased, but I feel like my site has a more comprehensive list of topics to learn.

Other than raising all my kids, I had no experience in teaching life skills. I just loved the idea so much that I wanted to get some free content out to as many people as possible to help other parents teach their kids some of the same things (and more) that I am teaching my kids.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

It took me several months to even get started. As you can imagine, running another business, being married, raising 7 kids (although it was 6 when I started), and being very involved with them keep me busy.

I knew I wanted to do something right away, but it took me several months to start putting the content together. Once I began to that, It took me about a month to get enough information together to look at putting it all on a website.

I didn’t know the best way to go about it. I had someone contacting me about doing a website for my main business (painting and pressure washing), so I hired that company to start this website.

We are still in the beginning stages of this company. My advice, though, is to just start.

The start-up cost was about $400 the first month and about $350 a month after that. This covered my website creation and hosting along with managing my newsletter subscribers and everything that goes along with that. Both of these were done by Thryv.com. I may be overpaying, but the process worked for me.

Since writing the original content and getting everything on the website, I have changed several things. Some of the content was rewritten, some were deleted altogether, and some new content was added.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Creating the content for the website took me approximately two months. After I spoke with and agreed on everything with Thryv (the company that developed the website and runs my software), it took about another month for them to complete the site.

Then it took another couple of weeks for me to officially launch. Once I launched my website and newsletter, I sent it out to a few friends to see what they thought about it. That’s where Luke, my business partner, came in. He offered some helpful changes, and after talking about it, we decided to work together on the project.

We started out by telling some closer friends and family about our website and newsletter. That got us around 20 subscribers. I know, it's not a lot. Our next step was to start growing it. Neither of us is very involved in social media. We maybe got another five subscribers from a Facebook post. Then we started reaching out to podcasts, so we could be guests.

Financially, it was pretty easy to start. I didn’t have to come up with several thousand dollars - just $400 to start. I continue that $350 payment every month.

It’s tough for me to come up with “the biggest lesson” we have learned as we are still very early in this process, but one big thing we are learning is trying to figure out how to grow our newsletter.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Most of our subscribers have come from us being guests on other podcasts, including The Survival Podcast with Jack Spirlo. We focus on parenting and homeschool podcasts, but TSP covers a wide range of topics such as homesteading, homeschooling, permaculture, and Bitcoin.

While our newsletter isn’t geared just to homeschool families, homeschooling is something we can talk about because both of us homeschool our kids. Well, our wives do most of that. We just help where needed.

We have two main goals. To give as much value as we can in our newsletters and to grow our subscriber list as much as possible. We currently don’t even offer anything for sale. We are in the growing stage and look at this similar to a ministry.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We currently have about 400 subscribers. Since both of us have several kids (7 and 8 respectively) we tend to work on growing the subscriber list for a couple of weeks and then put that task off for a bit while we stay busy with life.

Our goal is to get the newsletters out to as many people as possible. We believe that if parents take the time to read the lessons and intentionally talk to their kids about what's in the lessons, the kids (and in turn the parents) will see immense benefits.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

My first mistake was hiring my first web design company. I received a phone call from my other business asking if I wanted to be listed on Google. I forget all the details of how it worked out, but that company eventually got me to pay them to design and build my website. IT WAS TERRIBLE!

Later on, I worked with another company that also contacted me for my other business. So far, everything has been going well with them.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that it is hard to grow an email list helping parents teach kids life skills. I’m sure others have figured out how to do it quicker than I have, though.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Thryv software. Thryv built my website, and they help me manage all of the subscribers. It is a pretty easy system to use. I can make a new “announcement” which is the newsletter. They have a basic design to start. I add my content and a picture, and it's done. The system also allows me to schedule each newsletter's delivery date and time.

We also have a YouTube channel, but we utilize very little social media. We have a Facebook page. Thryv writes and schedules all of my posts. I rarely even look at that page. Other than Thryv, Youtube, and Facebook, we don’t use any tools.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I love business and mindset books. Some of the most influential books for me are older books. One of those books is The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. The book talks about several things, mindset is one of them.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

To be honest, we are still in the beginning stages of this company. My advice, though, is to just start.

Too many entrepreneurs think and talk about what they want to do, but they never take steps to start. I don’t want to be the 65-year-old guy looking back and thinking “What would have happened if…”.

I will either pass or fail, but at least I am trying.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Currently, we aren’t looking to hire anyone. However, we want to collaborate with anyone who also wants to teach life skills. In particular, we are looking to team up with other people/businesses to write lessons. In return, we can link back to the writer's website, blog, etc. If anyone is interested in collaborating, you can email us at [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!