5 Big Businesses You Might Know That Started Off As Humble Blogs
It might seem like a blog only has the potential for something small, but here are five large companies that all started from a blog.
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We tend to lionize business leaders as fearless Elon Musk characters that leap wildly into the unknown, risking huge amounts of money and taking personal risk to start companies that may or may not survive.
But what if there was an easy way to start a business and make sure it’s successful before you throw yourself into the deep end?
Here’s the secret: start a blog first.
Sure, it might seem like a blog only has the potential to be something small, but a lot of businesses that started off as blogs eventually turned into massive companies.
If you don’t believe me, here are five large companies that all began as blogs.
First up, our Chief Sumo, Noah Kagan himself.
Through years of blogging at OkDork.com, Noah used the site to explore his interests and business ideas. He’s the first to tell you about all the ones that didn’t work out, but over time, he started to build tools that he wanted to exist.
Two of the things that he loved were discounts and software. So, he put together a deal with IMGUR and got a great response. He tried a few more and sure enough—they were a hit too.
Pretty soon, AppSumo was born, along with the Sumo cousins and the rest is history.
While it sounds easy, Noah’s relentless focus on validating his idea early and getting paid customers are key ingredients to start any business from scratch. It helps you see what people actually value and removes a lot of the guesswork about what should be a part of your entrepreneurial journey!
Scott’s Cheap Flights
Scott’s Cheap Flights started off as a daily newsletter by the founder, Scott Keyes.
At the time, Scott wasn’t making any money on the newsletter. It was just a fun project.
Back in 2013, word spread among my friends and coworkers after I found a flight from New York City to Milan for $130 nonstop roundtrip, and they all had the same request: “can you let me know next time you find a deal like that so I can get in on it, too?” Rather than trying to keep in my head everyone I was supposed to alert, a simple little email list was the easiest solution. And for the next 18 months, it was just a hobby, something I did entirely for fun—not at all something I was thinking about as a business or exploring monetizing. – Scott Keyes, Founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights
While a useful newsletter, it wasn’t yet a business even though it had a couple hundred paid subscribers. One of them happened to be Brian Kidwell.
Young and hungry and just out of college, Brian found the site and enjoyed the deals like everyone else, but he also saw the opportunity for growth. So, he offered to join up.
The transition from a pure newsletter company to a digital product company was gradual, organic, and based on the feedback from our members. An email newsletter allows you to share information, but has significant limitations when it comes to creating a wonderful experience like you can with a web app or mobile app. We realized a few years in that in order to provide the best experience to our members we’d have to create something that goes beyond our emails and we’ve been working towards that ever since. Deal emails are just the beginning for Scott’s Cheap Flights. – Brian Kidwell, CEO at Scotts Cheap Flights
With Brian joining the newsletter, they focused on optimizing the paid components. As the site took off with communities on Reddit and other places around the internet, they began to grow from just a newsletter to more technical components to a full-on business.
According to Brian, the 3 main changes they focused on were:
- Moved to annual subscriptions (The 30 cent per transaction fees on stripe are pretty significant when you charge $2/mo)
- Cold outreached to a journalist at Condé Nast, who published an article that took them from $2-$3k/mo to over $20k in feb 2016
- Built a website dedicated to the business (was previously on Scott’s ebook website)
Now, Scotts Cheap Flights is an eight-figure business with a team of 30. And all from a simple newsletter. Who would have thought?
Mark Sisson started a simple blog in 2006 called marksdailyapple.com. A retired endurance athlete, Mark started to focus on getting healthy and fit primarily through the basics: Clean food, heavy weights, primal movements, and lots of time outdoors. He billed this lifestyle as the “primal blueprint.”
While he sold digital products, Mark began to realize that what people really needed was better nutrition. At first, he began by selling nutritional supplements: simple, clean, ingredients, but nothing wildly different from what was already out there. He had a better brand than many others in the market but felt he could do more.
Then, Mark startedo notice that while the basics of all his meals were similar (meats, vegetables), what set his dishes apart were the sauces and marinades he used to finish them.
Unfortunately most sauces and dressings were packed with seed oils, sugar, and who knows what else. So Mark created his own line of Primal Kitchen sauces and dressings: No sugar or seed oils, just transparent labeling.
It was a hit. And Primal Kitchen was soon on the shelves at major grocery stores around the country.
Mark exited Primal Kitchen to Kraft Foods for $200M! And he owned the majority of it. All because he had an audience and owned it himself.
Worth noting: Mark Sisson’s paleo counterpart Robb Wolf is doing something very similar with LMNT Electrolytes and has also seen success!
Ultimate Meal Plans
I’m cheating a little, but this one is mine! We started ultimatemealplans.com after launching a guide on the paleo diet that became hugely popular.
The original version of UltimatePaleoGuide.com
The site quickly grew to over 100,000 email subscribers and instead of bombarding them with affiliate offers and spammy ads, we wanted to do something better.
We originally made each meal plan by hand (crazy, I know), and built a loyal subscriber base. But, over time, we built a minimum viable product of the software and then built a full-on custom meal planner.
This worked because we could use each level as a stepping stone to the next.
Sure, we could just pocket the cash, throw parties and sit on a boat somewhere. But by taking each level of success and reinvesting it into building something more substantial, we’re growing the business and improving its longevity.
We established this strategy after following a similar trajectory of building the impossible brand, grown out of my blogging things on my impossible list.
Katie Wells aka Wellness Mama runs one of the largest mommy blogs on the internet. Known for her deep-dive internet research and practical holistic advice, Katie’s become a trusted blogger and podcaster in her reader’s inbox every week.
Many of Katie’s tutorials and blogs were how to make DIY home care products. She found that the stuff in stores just wasn’t up to her standards.
People loved the DIY processes, but with so many busy moms, they didn’t always have time to make it themselves.
So Katie saw an opportunity.
On the back of this, she launched Wellnesse, a natural products company focused on helping provide clean, non-toxic products to families like hers.
She knew the demand existed already and it made it easy for her to know exactly what products to launch with.
Just over a year old, they’ve already had an incredible response and are well on their way to building a multi-seven-figure product company!
The Next Big Business? Your Blog
It can be intimidating to start your own business (it might even feel impossible), but you can de-risk a lot of it by starting small.
If you’re going to launch a business, you might as well spend a little bit of the planning period building an audience and gathering product feedback. The easiest way? Start a blog, grow it using AppSumo tools, and get started on your next big idea.