How macaroni and cheese nearly destroyed my online course business. Let’s get into it.
My name is Caitlin Bacher, founder and CEO of Scale with Success®. And I’m on a mission to help course creators all over the world grow their business in a way that is profitable and scalable.
We’re sharing revealing conversations about what it really takes to scale an online course business to millions of dollars per year. Join us here to discover the tough decisions we’ve had to make, the biggest failures we’ve had to bounce back from, and the learnings that emerged every step of the way.
We are so grateful that we have the chance to share it all with you right here on Scale with Success®: The Podcast Built for Course Creators™. Let’s get started.
So I remember when my daughter was in preschool. And every so often, probably once a quarter or so, the school would organize these potlucks, right?
And I could never really go to those potlucks because I was working, but parents were invited to attend. However, I always made sure that we brought something. And whenever we brought something to these potlucks, I would always put a lot of thought and consideration into it.
I spent a lot of time, to be perfectly honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about what bringing this dish was going to say about me as a mother and as a woman to all of the other preschool parents that were there.
And it’s funny because I distinctly remember there was one time that a potluck was scheduled. And so I decided that I was going to bring macaroni and cheese. And so that’s what I signed up for, mac and cheese. And I had these grand plans of getting some fresh rosemary and thyme and making this amazing, going to the local cheese shop and getting some cheeses.
I don’t know, I had big plans for this macaroni and cheese, okay? Really big plans. So what ended up happening is that I wasn’t in the middle of the launch, but I think I was gearing up for the next launch. And so I was in the process of creating a whole bunch of copy, tons and tons and tons of copy, emails, updating the sales page, looking at the webinar, all kinds of stuff. Right?
So I had a lot going on and I was stressed to the max. And even though I was really excited about the idea of making this really awesome, organic, gourmet, heirloom macaroni and cheese, I had to ask for help from my husband. Because I was, “You know what? I cannot do this. I literally cannot do it because I’m so busy with this.
And we signed up for it. So I want to make sure that we bring macaroni and cheese. Can you take care of it?” He was, “Yep. Sure, absolutely.” So I basically stayed. At the time, I had my little desk inside of our bedroom. So a lot of times, because we had a smaller apartment and so I did a lot of my work there.
So I went into the bedroom. I was just working, working while my husband was making the macaroni and cheese, putting our daughter to bed, all of that kind of thing. So cut to the next morning when I came out and I was getting dressed, getting my daughter dressed and went into the fridge. Opened the fridge and there was macaroni and cheese in there.
But it was not my vision of what the macaroni and cheese should have looked like. Okay. It was clear plain as day, this was straight up craft macaroni and cheese made from a box. You could tell by looking at it within one second, that’s what it was. And I remember I totally freaked out. Right? Totally overreacted.
And so I looked at him and said, “We cannot bring this.” And he said, “Why not?” And I said, “All of the moms are going to think I’m a terrible mother.” And I burst into tears. And it was really weird because I was just so, it was this literal bowl of… not bowl, casserole dish of macaroni and cheese.
And here I was so incredibly freaked out about it. I’m crying. It’s this whole big thing. And my husband turned to me and said, “But this is what Callie likes.” And you know what, he was right.
So my husband in that moment gave me a huge reality check and helped me move from this place of looking at what I thought other moms were going to be thinking about me and basing all of my decisions and actions in order to make sure that they were all in alignment with what they thought that I should be doing or should be bringing to this small little preschool potluck.
And the reason why I’m sharing this story with you today is because there were three things that happened early on in my business that were really fueled by that same type of comparison, of making decisions in my business based on my goal to influence what other people thought about me.
So here are three things that I did early on in my business that were really fueled by comparison. Number one, the first thing that I did in my business is that I was always creating new products. And I wish you could have seen me.
I wish. And some of you guys, listen, some of you guys have been there from the beginning. So I know some of you guys know. I remember that first year or two, I was just churning out products left and right. And truth be told, there was no strategy behind that.
All right. I’m just going to be honest. It was my first year or two of business. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was like, “I got to make something to sell.” And once some people bought it, I was like, “Well, now I got to make something new to sell.
Because those people already bought this.” So then I would move on to the next thing. And what was happening is that when I was growing my business in that first year or two, I subscribed to a ton of different email lists from online course creators who were doing the same thing as me.
They were helping other business owners with their social media, with their marketing, with their blogging, all that kind of thing. And I was on their email lists because at the time, in my first year or two of business, I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. Right?
And so I had to kind of learn by looking at what others were doing. And so in some ways, when you start a business, looking at what others are doing is actually really helpful, right? Because you’ll be, “Wow, this person is sending out an email to their list every single week. Maybe that’s something I should do. Oh, this person is talking about the product that they sell on their Instagram.
Maybe that’s something I should do.” Different things like that, it’s helpful to a point. But for me, what was happening is that my brain was starting to get cluttered up with a lot of noise from a lot of different people. Right? And so every time I received an email from someone that was, “Oh, I’m launching a new course.
Here’s my new thing.” And then someone else would send me another email and be, “Oh, I’m launching this new thing, launching this new course, this new ebook, this new that.” And so I always felt like I was behind. And I felt like I was behind because I was comparing myself to not just one person, but to 20 or 30 different people all at the same time. And I wasn’t thinking clearly.
And so I wasn’t stopping to notice, hey, wait a minute. These people are actually not launching 20 new products a month. It’s just that I’m on all these email lists, so it seems that way. And I’m actually not that behind. Right? I’m doing okay. And in hindsight, I wish that I could have grabbed myself by the shoulders and just said, “Hey, wait a minute.
This product that you just created and that you made some sales from, that is just the beginning for this product. You do not need to go out and create another product and another product and another product. You can take this one product, go all in with it and create a million dollar online course business just by getting really, really good at selling this one thing.
And by getting really good at delivering an amazing student experience for this one program.” But I didn’t have that clarity of thought. Right? And hindsight, of course, we have all the answers all the time. But that was definitely one thing that I did at the very beginning of my business that was fueled by comparison.
It was this idea that, “My gosh, it feels like everyone’s creating new things. And so if everyone else is doing it, I also have to do it.”
The second thing that I did early on in my business that was definitely fueled by comparison is that I was launching over and over.
And so it’s really funny because running an Evergreen business has always come very naturally to me. And so when I think about it, in the very early stages of my business, I was selling Evergreen without even knowing what Evergreen was or what that meant. I wasn’t launching, I would have a product, and I would just talk about that product all the time.
I would, and this was in the days of Periscope, right? So there was livestream video. Now of course, livestream is all over the place. But I would just hop on livestream a few times a day, give a little bit of value, help shift some perspectives and then direct people to purchase from my sales page.
What happened is that as I was starting to learn more and more about the online course industry, I was noticing that other people were doing this thing called launching – it was the same product, but they would launch the same product over and over again. So of course, in my unusual fashion, I was, “I have to know all about this.” So I subscribed to all these email lists about it, would watch all these YouTube videos and whatnot.
And so I was, “This is what I need to do. This is going to be the key to the growth of my business.” Right? And so I thought, “Okay, I need to stop using this method of making money 24/7, which makes no sense in hindsight, I need to stop that and I need to start doing this launch thing where I open the cart for a small amount of time.
Then I close it and it’s closed for months. And then I open it again and that’s what I’m going to do.” And so I did it and it was terrible. And it was terrible. Yes, I would make money during that time.
But then I wasn’t. There were these long periods where I was, “Well, geez, what am I going to do now? Do I need to create another product so then I can launch this other product in between this other one? This is starting to not really make sense to me.” And despite the fact that it didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t trust my gut.
I kept comparing myself to other people. I kept looking around. I’m, “Well, everyone else is launching. If everyone else is doing it, I guess, that means that I have to do it too.” So everyone around me was launching all the time and I thought that’s just what I had to do. I was in a mastermind, everyone else in the mastermind was launching.
And it’s funny because it wasn’t until I met this one guy and I was, “Man, I wish I could just use an automated webinar to sell this program because I’m getting really great results with my launches, but I just hate it. It’s bone crushing. It’s so stressful for me. It’s not letting me show up the way I want to, for my family. I hate the up and down revenue.
I want something consistent. I started out my business doing Evergreen. And somehow I got in this launch track blah, blah, blah.” And this guy was, “Let me show you what I’m doing.” He opens his computer, he’s selling this $300 home organization course. And he’s making hundreds of thousands of dollars per month with zero launching, zero launching.
And I was, “What?” That was way more money than I was making at the time. Right? And so I just thought, how is that even possible? I do not get it. And he wasn’t a business coach or anything, but he just shared a little bit about kind of what he did and what his journey was. And I was, “Oh my God.”
If only I had met that guy earlier on, or if only I had trusted my gut earlier on and really gone along with this Evergreen model, this method of selling where you’re able to generate revenue all day every day. And you’re able to market your program in a way that builds momentum over time so you’re not doing this start and then stop, start and then stop.
How can you build momentum by doing that. And launching felt so unnatural and so terrible to me. And if you’re listening now and you love launching, totally fine. Bless you and love it. But for those of you that are feeling, you know what? I really actually don’t like launching.
Let me be – just like that guy was for me – to be, hey, you know what? There’s this other way of doing things. Let me be the one to tell you, there’s this other way of doing things. And you actually don’t have to launch all the time. Even if it seems like everyone around you is doing it, I promise, there’s another way.
The third thing that I did in my business that was really fueled by comparison was constantly telling myself that I wasn’t growing fast enough. Okay. My first year of business, I was just, I was just throwing spaghetti at the wall. I’m going to be honest. I was just all over the place, up and down. And I was, what? This is working.
This is kind of working. Oh, this doesn’t work. You know? But then my second year is when I kind of started to, I kind of had somewhat of a foundation to work from. But it’s funny because even though I had just started to kind of have that foundation, I was also starting to realize how much I didn’t know.
And I was so incredibly frustrated because I would look all around me and see all of these people that from the surface looked very successful and they probably were very successful. I don’t know. But in my head I was constantly comparing what I was doing to what they were able to achieve superficially.
Right? Because nobody ever knows what’s really going on behind the closed doors of anyone’s business, for sure. It ended up putting me in a really dark place. Because when you’re motivated and when you’re excited and you’re able to recognize your achievements and use that in order to propel you forward onto the next thing.
And then you achieve that and then you move on to the next thing, it can feel really good. But what I was doing was incredibly negative. And it was like I had this voice in the back of my head that I remember over and over again, that second year it was over and over again, just telling me, “You’re not enough.
You’re not enough. You’re not enough. You’re not enough.” Right? And it was almost like I was trying to make myself go harder and go faster by being negative to myself. It’s like I was yelling at myself saying, “This isn’t good enough. Go more, go more, go more.” And it just left me in a place where I was tired.
I was working so hard and I didn’t have much to show for it. Right? My business hadn’t grown that much. And I just felt super, super frustrated. And it actually wasn’t until the next year. Right? So my third year, that was the year that I had my first million dollar year.
And I remember I claimed that million dollar year at the very beginning because I just decided this is going to be my million dollar year. This is happening. And I made a commitment to myself that I was going to stop beating myself up. And I remember I wrote on a little post-it note, “I am enough.” Those three little words, “I am enough.”
And I put it on my desk, the little desk that I had inside of my bedroom that I worked from and I put it on my desk and it’s I use that as a centering tool so that any time my brain would start to go off in that direction of, “Oh geez, Caitlin, again, another mistake, another failure. Da, da, da.
Gosh, it’s just not enough. You need to work harder.” Seeing that there would help remind me, nope, I’m not doing it that way anymore. I’m not on that track. And it was hard at first to retrain those neuro pathways.
I don’t know if that’s the right word and putting myself on a new track that the way hadn’t been paved yet. So I felt really uncomfortable and difficult and a little bit scary. Because yeah, it felt terrible to constantly tell myself that I wasn’t enough, but also it was what I was used to.
That’s how I was able to achieve goals in the past, by just yelling at myself. So it felt like a really big risk. And I felt very uncomfortable in this new way of thinking where I was like, I am enough. Now being enough did not mean that I was perfect.
It did not mean that I would never make a mistake. It did not mean that I would never fail, but it meant that I was enough, that I could do this, that I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet, but I was enough with the right support to get me to where I wanted to go.
It’s funny, but I remember that year two, I just, I unsubscribed to all of those newsletters that I was on. And I think I did stay on a very select few newsletters that I wanted to kind of stay on top of. But I just, I cut out all of the noise.
And by doing that, I was really able to kind of put blinders on and stop comparing myself to others. And I just had that one little post-it that, “I am enough,” to help kind of guide me in the right direction. And it’s funny because once I was able to do that, when I stopped comparing myself to others. And so I stopped having to create new product after new product, after new product. I stopped having to launch, launch, launch, launch. And I stopped having to tell myself, “You’re terrible. You got to work harder.”
When I stopped all of that, I found that I actually had a lot more energy to put into my business and to grow it. Because I started to feel better.
I started to feel like I had room to breathe because I wasn’t crowding myself with all of this negative energy.
And so what does this all have to do with macaroni and cheese? Well, it’s funny because, so as you know, open the fridge door, I’m looking at this craft macaroni and cheese, freaking out at my husband. My husband being, “You know what? This is what Callie likes.
So this is what we’re going to bring.” And me being, “Yeah. You’re totally right about that.” So I ended up bringing it to the potluck and it’s so funny because I remember when I picked up Callie at the end of the school day, it was the only dish that was completely scraped clean.
These kids had eaten every single, tiny macaroni and cheese noodle, every bit of that crack macaroni and cheese. And I even had moms come up to me afterwards and they were, “Thank you for bringing something that my kid would actually eat. My kid is such a picky eater.
They didn’t want all of these other fancier kind of dishes that people had brought.” Probably to impress the other parents there. Right? So they were, “Thank you for bringing that. My kid really, they loved it da, da, da.” And then I would tell them too. I was, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you said that, because I was actually really embarrassed.
I was really embarrassed and a little bit, I felt awkward bringing this craft macaroni and cheese, because everyone always brings these really nice, rustic homemade dishes.” And it’s funny because you know what? I have lost sight of who my target audience was. Right? My target audience was my daughter.
It was these little three and four year old kids in preschool who just wanted some craft macaroni and cheese.
And what I was doing is when I was trying to grow my business, I was losing sight of my customer. During those first two years, I wasn’t listening to what my customer wanted, I was comparing myself to what all the other people in my own industry were doing.
And that is a powerful lesson for everyone, for all of us. And it’s a lesson that I find myself coming back to year after year, after year, is that, what am I doing? Is this what my customer truly wants? Are the choices that I’m making serving my customer, or am I making these decisions or these choices because I see someone else doing it and so I feel like I need to do it?
Or because I’m telling myself that I’m not working hard enough, and so I need to make things more complicated to make things harder? And so having that North star of – in the case of macaroni and cheese, what does a four year old want – in the case of running a business, what does your customer want? What does your customer need?
So I would love to hear from you, let me know in the comments is this something that you relate to, does this resonate with you? And if you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you could leave a positive review. These reviews really increase our visibility and help us get in front of course creators who could really benefit from this message. So I really appreciate you and I’ll see you next time.
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