July 31, 2022
Listen Here: Austin and Monica on the Inventive Journey Podcast
This episode was originally released February 25th, 2022.
Devin: Hey everyone. This is Devin Miller here with another episode of the inventive journey. I’m your host Devin Miller, the serial entrepreneur, this grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses, as well as the founder and CEO of Miller IP Law, where we helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks.
If you ever need help with yours, go to strategymeeting.com, grab some time with us to chat and we’re always here to help.
Now today, we’ve got a couple people as you can tell if you’re watching the video. So we’ve got both Monica and Austin Mangelson and we’re going to start out with Monica’s journey.
And then Austin will dive in as makes sense as the journeys merged together. But as a quick introduction to Monica, Monica had a job since she was 15. She hated working for other people. She went into college, got jobs Peace Corp, or were going to get jobs in the peace Corps, but COVID hit and got a job in a senior care facility instead, got burned out from working a lot of hours, which I’m sure that happened to plenty of people during COVID, and started to look at doing her own thing.
Also had Austin along board that was going to help do their own thing. Started doing virtual assistant positions, took notes on what they liked about virtual assistants and what they didn’t like and found that they loved doing web design. Pivoted to web design. And that brings us to where they’re at today.
So with that much as introduction, welcome on a podcast, Monica and Austin.
Monica: Thank you so much for having us. We’re really excited to be here.
Austin: Hey Devin. Yeah. Thank you. We we’re excited to share a little bit of our journey and hopefully can inspire and motivate some people. So thanks for having us on.
Devin: Absolutely. We’re excited to have you. Now we’ve done the 30 second 40 second version of a much longer journey let’s back it up a bit and we’ll start with Monica and her journey, but tell us how your journey got started at 15 and doing some other or doing jobs and figuring out you didn’t like to working for people.
Monica: Yeah, so I started working when I was 15 as a nanny. Not really out of necessity, mostly just cuz I wanted to get outta the house. I grew up in a rough environment. So I loved being outta the house. So I always had a job from the time I was 15 as a nanny all the way up until now, I guess.
There’s a time I worked as a nanny and then I went and I worked at a store and then I sold olive oils and vinegars, and then I worked as a one-on-one at a camp for kids with special needs. And then I also worked at a doctor’s office all at the same time.
So I was always really busy, but I hated not being able to call the shots. I really liked to be heard. And so I realized really quickly as a young kid that I didn’t want to have to report to anybody else. I wanted to be able to learn the whole picture, learn the whole business and to be able to call the shots.
So that’s how my journey really got started just as a kid. I don’t know, just wanting to be heard.
Devin: No, that makes sense. And I think that sometimes you get into it and you learn, “Hey, I like working with other people” or “I don’t like the stress of having to manage everything to myself and all the issues.”
And other times you get into say, “Hey, I like to be in charge. I like to captain my own ship and have my own direction.” And so it makes sense that you found that out as early on and probably was beneficial. So now, as you’re saying, okay, figured that out now you graduated from high school, went into college and I think you were heading towards or gearing towards doing a job in the peace Corps.
Monica: Yeah, Austin and I met in college and we actually had assignments to go to Mozambique Africa leaving April, 2020. And so we had literally prepared everything. We had sold our housing contract. We had a buyer lined up for our car. We had sold most of our possessions and were two weeks out.
So everything was packed in suitcases. We’re ready to go. Then the peace Corps called it quits for everything. So we ended up graduating college and then being jobless and homeless for a while. So it wasn’t ideal, I guess, to say the least.
Devin: Now you say, “okay, you know, we were gonna go join the Peace Corps” and just outta curiosity, what degrees did you guys get in college before you were going to join the Peace Corps?
Monica: So I got a degree in international studies.
Austin: I have mine in exercise physiology.
Devin: Alright. So you got those degrees. You’re saying, “okay, finish up the degree. We’re gonna go join the peace Corps. We’re getting ready. We’ve sold off all of our earthly possessions or come near or close to it and we’re ready to go.”
You couldn’t have foreseen, just like a lot of other people and a lot of other businesses that COVID was gonna hit. But out of your control, things get shut down and you’re saying “okay, well, that’s probably not an option. Guess first of all, we gotta figure out where we’re gonna live.” But then once you get that figured out, as that opportunity continues to go away or to be put on hold, how did you guys figure out what you’re gonna do from there?
Monica: That was a really hard year for us. So we ended up moving into Austin’s parents house and just getting dead end jobs, Austin for a while worked as a waiter. I worked at senior care. Eventually Austin joined me in senior care and we just kept hearing from the Peace Corps like “it’ll be two weeks” then “oh, it’ll be two months.”, “oh, it’ll be six months.”, you know? And so we kept constantly feeling like our lives were in limbo, waiting for someone else to tell us that we can move on with our lives. And I, I couldn’t handle that. My mental health took a really big turn. That was a really hard year and I know it was hard for everybody, so I’m not gonna like go really far into that, cuz that was just a hard year and we all know that but that’s when I started looking for other options. I was actually really nervous to pitch it to Austin because I knew that I had always wanted to be a business owner and I didn’t wanna steamroll over him as he was processing and grieving the peace Corps and stuff.
So I actually found a VA course on Pinterest and I created a secret Pinterest board so Austin couldn’t find it. And I was doing all this like secret, undercover research to figure out how we can work for ourselves and work online so that we didn’t have to keep waiting for our lives to start based on when someone else told us that we could.
Devin: Now makes sense. And you kinda say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. I think I know where I’m gonna take it, but I also don’t wanna tell Austin what’s going on. And he’s still in the grieving process, but we have to do something moving forward.” So as you’re having that all up in the air, how did you finally break it to Austin? “Hey, here’s what I think we should do.” Or “here’s my plan, do you like it?” Or “what should we do?” How did that conversation happen?
Monica: Yeah, so I definitely got to the point where I knew that we needed to work for ourselves. And I knew that we needed to work online because we love to travel.
And then this was the best option that we can just pick up and go. So I did all the research, I knew what class to take, I knew I have like bullet points of why this was gonna work. And then we went on a really long walk and I just broke it to him. I was like, “Hey. Here’s what I think we should do moving forward and this is why.” And then gave him some time to process it.
Austin: She came to me and shared a little bit and then let me think on it and came back and shared a little bit more, and let me think on it. Just like Monica was saying, it was really hard for me to accept the fact that the Peace Corps probably wasn’t gonna happen.
And that was the next two years of our lives planned out. And then all of a sudden, with no warning, it changed. And I knew when we got married that Monica had always wanted to be a business owner and wanted to work for herself. And we’ve had a couple different ideas of different humanitarian organizations we wanted to start.
But it was always decades in the future. And then all of a sudden this idea of starting and running our own business isn’t far away, it’s right now. And so that was a little bit tricky for me. Monica pitched these ideas to me and I’ll admit, it took me a little bit to be on board with it.
Monica: I’m very convincing.
Austin: Yeah, she’s persuasive.
Devin: She planted a seed, let it continue to grow, and eventually you said, “okay, you’ve convinced me. It’s a good idea.”
Austin: That’s right. And kudos to her, she was patient .
Devin: Now you guys get into it. So you say “virtual assistant kind of fits our lifestyle.” It allows you to travel. You can do it remotely. It opens up opportunities. It also probably provides a flexibility that if the peace Corps ever did open up or you wanted to pursue something, it makes it a reasonable option. So you’re doing that. And as you get into the doing virtual assistant being virtual assistants, I think you guys, if I remember our conversation before the podcast, you said there are areas that you found interesting and enjoyed and some that you hated.
So you’re weighing as to what were those areas that you should be focusing on or how you wanted to pivot or adjust that, is that right?
Austin: Yeah. We found out fairly quickly when we started doing virtual assistant work that we didn’t love it. We liked the kind of work as far as being able to work online, set our own schedule and everything, but it didn’t take very long to realize that we weren’t super passionate about the tasks that we were doing.
Just like you were saying, we both sat down and we wrote down a list of all the things out of all the tasks that we do or did for our other businesses, all the things that we enjoyed doing. I wrote my list, Monica wrote her list, and then we sat down and compared the two of them and there were a few things that were different, but there were also a couple things that were in line that we both enjoyed doing.
So we talked about those and one of them was graphic design. And so we’re like, “well, we both like graphic design. Let’s learn more about it.” So we started looking up stuff online, we researched it. We took a couple classes online to get our toes wet a little bit more than what we had already done. And then we found out that we both really liked that.
So we went ahead on that route and just went full steam ahead.
Devin: So now you say, “okay, we figured it out”. And virtual assisting can be a whole lot of things and that can be everything from data entry to email correspondence, to taking notes, to transcription, to website design, and you said “we don’t love all of that, but here’s what I do love.”
And so you say, “okay, it’s more on that website design. Let’s get a bit more skills, a bit more ability in that area.” And as you’re doing that now, how did you pivot or adjust? Were you still using the same clients or have you had to start up a separate business? How did you adjust or direct the work you were getting to be more on the web designing side and less on the overarching or more general?
Monica: Yeah, it was kind of funny when you were saying that I realized that becoming a virtual assistant was basically working for someone else again. And that’s why I didn’t love it. I don’t know. I just, I really like to be heard. I like to be boss you guys.
Pivoting was really hard because there’s two of us.And so making sure that our business was always in line with what we both wanted was a really big priority for us from the get go. The nice thing about starting out as virtual assistants was we learned all the back end of how to run an online business really quickly, because that’s what we were doing for people was their back end kind of stuff.
We also really learned the value of education from learning from people who’ve done it before. So we dropped down to just like two or three VA clients that could sustain us while we were learning, but weren’t taking a ton of time. And then we started taking classes from other web designers who had built their business from the ground up.
And we focused a lot on getting our systems in place and our operations and our SOPs and everything in place. So that from there we can springboard into just design. So we used that as a foundation to then build websites, if that makes sense.
Devin: Oh, definitely makes sense. And so now as you’ve pivoted, you’ve adjusted, you’re learning from other people. You’ve also got the additional skills and going through that. How has it been since then? Has it been one where you’ve enjoyed it? You’ve loved it, it’s taken off, it’s been awesome? Or it’s one where you’re still finding the right groove or the right clients, or how has that all gone as you’ve now gone from the Peace Corps to the VA, and now you’ve settled on more on the website design. Where’s that put you guys today?
Monica: Excellent question. So I feel like with every transition we hit a slump before we came out of it. You know? So for when we went to the peace Corps to becoming a virtual assistant, we had a couple months where we didn’t really have an income until we picked up clients.
And then from going to VA to web design, we hit a slump where we had a really low income while we were working on building the web design. And now we’re in that climb out of that slump from the transition.
Devin: I agree there’s always a bit, I don’t know whether it’s a slump, it’s getting things up and going. It’s transitioning, it’s getting a foundation, you’re always having to build clientele. So I think there’s always that building and adjusting phase, and you’re also figuring out what your niche is and how to do it and how to do client development. So there’s a whole bunch of things involved.
And now, as you’re doing all that, and you finally made that pivot and figuring that out as you’re at today, where do you see the next 6 to 12 months headed for you guys?
Monica: So we still have those few VA clients that are helping sustain us. And then our plan for the next few months is just to really focus on marketing and growth for our business.
We really want to get design reps in. We know where we want to go, as far as we want to focus on web design and we want to focus on branding. But we’re doing some other design pieces that are outside of those two things specifically.
And really just getting reps in and focusing on learning how to be business owners. Because we started the process when we were virtual assistant, but we really feel like it’s changed. We really embraced that now we’re a startup.
We’re not working for people, but we are our own company that helps other businesses.And so really that’s our focus is those few services that we offer and then just learning the marketing for ourselves, learning the business side of things. And so the next few months is really just focusing on that growth and focusing on that development.
Devin: Oh, it sounds like plenty, you know? So in other words, you get to continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to figure things out where you’re gonna position yourself, where you’re gonna find those clients and how you’re gonna continue to grow the business. So sounds like the story of every startup and everyone has to go through it.
And it’s always a fun journey along the way. That now brings us to the future or to present, and even looking a bit into the future as to where things are headed. Great time to transition to the two questions I always ask at the end of each podcast. So the first question I always ask is along your journey, what was the worst business decision you ever made, and what did you learn from it?
Monica: Yeah. So this is an interesting one. We just love learning. We’re always listening to the podcast. We’re always listening to like all the newest things, but along that process, we started trying to force our business to look exactly like other people’s business.
Instead of figuring out what fits best for us and for our clients specificall there’s a movement called VIP design, where basically you have eight hours with the clients really intensive and you bust out the design. And so that was what we were trying to force our business to be not realizing that that’s not really a great fit for us.
It’s not really a great fit for our ideal clients. And that was just like recently, like just a couple weeks ago. We stopped and realized “wait a second, why are we doing this again? Why are we trying to do what someone else told us that we needed to do instead of taking the lessons they teach us and then adapting it to our own lives?”
And so that’s the lesson we learned is that as you’re learning and as people tell you things and you have new ideas, you should definitely try them on, but with your eyes wide open, knowing that it might not be a good fit and that’s totally.
Devin: And I think it mirrors over with a lot of where the legal industry even is, at least for me, in the sense that there is certainly well established ways that they’re done within the legal industry and within an intellectual property.
And oftentimes you tend to get pushed in that direction or gravitate towards it. Cause that’s how everybody’s doing it. And yet I always like to step back and say, “Hey, am I doing it because that’s what everybody’s doing or am I doing it because it makes sense to me?” And if it makes sense to me, then I’ll keep doing it that way.
On the other hand say “I really don’t like it or doesn’t make sense, or I think there’s a better way to do it just because everybody else is doing it that way”. You can take it, then you shouldn’t get sucked in or, or do it that way just because it’s the conventional way of doing it. So I think that’s definitely a great takeaway and a great mistake to learn from.
Austin: And it’s easy to make because everybody always pushes you in that direction. And I think it takes a lot of creativity to take those ideas and adapt it to, to your own business and yourself. And I think it takes a lot of bravery, too. To to say, you know what, this is how someone else is doing it.
I’m gonna try and do it my own way, learning from them, but I’m gonna adapt it. And I think it takes a lot of courage to do that because you’re not sure how it’s gonna turn out, but you just have to trust yourself and If you have a business partner, trust your business partner and do your best with it.
Devin: No, I think that that’s absolutely correct. Second question I always ask is if you’re talking to somebody that’s just getting to a startup or a small business, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give them?
Austin: We each have a separate piece of advice that we think we would give to somebody starting. It’s hard because there’s a lot of pieces of advice we’d wanna give. Cause we have learned a lot in the past year.
Austin: But for me, I think my number one piece of advice would be to have a partner with you. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a business partner, although it can be. But I think you need to have somebody there that’s going to support you. Someone there that’s going to encourage you when you feel like you can’t do it, they’ll push you. They’ll give you support. They’ll give you aid. They’ll help you brainstorm ideas. For me, that person is obviously Monica and she happens to be my business partner, but I just think you really need to have someone there who believes in you because otherwise when it gets hard, you’re gonna give up.
Monica: Yeah, that’s really good. Mine, I’ve kind of already said it in a lot of different ways, but mine would be the education side of things that you really can never stop learning. There’s so many good resources out there. There’s so much good information.
And then specifically to learn about how to have the right mindset to be successful. Cause I really believe that mindset is 50% of the battle. And once you can believe in yourself and believe that you have the ability to make money and to be successful in your business, you’re halfway there.
Devin:I think those are both great pieces of advice. And definitely, you know, as you mentioned, there’s a lot of great pieces of advice you could give to startups and small business. And as a startup and small business, you’re always continually learning new piece of advice that you wish you’d known beforehand. So I think those are some great takeaways and I’m definitely things that for people to learn.
As we wrap up the, the podcast, if people want to get in touch you, they want to be a customer. They wanna be a client. They want to be an employee. They want to be an investor. They want be your next best friend, any or all of the above. What’s the best way to reach out to you, contact you, find out more?
Monica: The best story would probably be through our website. It’s https://austinandmonica.com/. We also love reaching out to people on Instagram. It’s @aandm.digitaldesign. Yeah. And honestly, like, if, if you just have a question, if you just wanna talk, please reach out to us. We love hearing from people.
Devin: Yeah. We’re open to all of those options that you said . Awesome. Well, I definitely encourage people to reach out connect and utilize the resources you guys offer with that. Thank you again, for both of you for coming on the podcast, it’s been a fun, it’s been a pleasure.
Austin: Great. Thank you, Devin.
Monica: Thank you so much.
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