How to Adapt Your Business Featuring Peter Nguyen


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hamyaw podcast title card for episode titled empathy and opportunism with Peter Nguyen.

A few weeks into quarantine, my husband Zach — Buffalo Bills football fan extraordinaire — came sliding into our living room, jittery with excitement.

“So, for the NFL Draft this year… since they can’t do it in person, they’re selecting fans from each team to cheer in the background on Zoom as the new picks are announced.

I applied…and we were selected!

(In non-NFL speak, new picks/the draft = the way new players are added to rosters of the various football teams.

Normally it’s done in person, and the most hardcore fans typically attend, dressed to the nines in their swag to scream a very sports-y welcome.)

Not to be outdone, especially after 7 years of initiation into the ridiculously intense, often tragic, love-able, table-smashing Bills fandom myself… I started excited-freaking-out out right alongside him.

Seriously, what were the odds, right?

HAMYAW in Roger Goodell’s Living Room!

When else were we gonna get a chance to “attend” the NFL Draft for free… let alone from the comfort of our couch!?

So for the next few evenings, for both rehearsals and the Draft itself, we squished together for the camera on our couch in full Bills gear, ready to cheer for our team’s new picks.

And then, like magic on Draft Day, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Bills’ selection of Defensive End A.J. Epenesa in the second round from his living room…

… Z and I were shown on a Hollywood Squares-style grid of fellow fans, going absolutely nuts in our living room.

Thousands of miles away — two happy, poorly-lit faces on Goodell’s big screen.

Image of HAMYAW podcast host Hillary Weiss and other NFL fans on a TV screen behind Rodger Goodell during NFL Draft in 2020.
Hillary and her husband on screen during the 2020 NFL draft.

See? There we are. :-D

Always Consider Your Fans/Clients

So here’s what I think is so great about this.

The NFL could have very easily just done the Draft this year with fans crying out with enthusiasm from Twitter, instead of in real time.

And, lord knows, there are plenty of sports commentators without a whole lot on their plates right now who could’ve done the celebrating via better-quality video feeds, and include more insights and analysis.

However the NFL, for all its flaws, knows which way its bread is buttered.

Without the fans, there’s no National Football League.

So they found a way to bring us in.

They saw the opportunity, and made it work.

And it was kind of a beautiful reminder for me about the nature of what we’re all going through right now.

Staying Connected Through “All This”

Despite all the complaining we do about each other, we want to be together.

We want to see each other.

And we’ll go to great lengths to feel like we’re side by side, even if we’re forced to be apart.

But look, I’m not here to wax poetic about my NFL debut.

I’m telling you this story because businesses all around the world are making shifts like this right now, not just to stay afloat, but also to stay connected.

A yoga teacher sold out her front-of-shop stock of mats, apparel, and spiritual goodies in 24 hours by creating “care packages” for clients.

The Mexican place down my block is offering to-go pitchers of margaritas for friends to take to the park. (#DANGEROUS)

The world’s most critically-acclaimed restaurants are even starting to do takeaway, and make that a beautiful experience too.

The How and Why of Pivoting a Business with Peter Nguyen

And, in the case of the celebrated personal stylist behind The Essential Man (and friend of #HAMYAW) Peter Nguyen, professionals from in-person industries are finding completely new ways to apply their sales and business skills, and help others in the process.

So, naturally, we had to invite Peter on the show to talk about his pivot away from high-end styling for men in tech, into…

… teaching Gumroad strategy via an entirely new brand called Gumroad Genius– where he helps creators use that platform to sell more of their stuff.

If you’re asking “Why that shift??”

Rest assured: so were we.

And the answer Peter revealed was this really wonderful combination of empathy and opportunism that wouldn’t just elevate his income stream, but also help fellow creatives master the online game, and continue to grow their businesses even in an era that’s largely shut down brick and mortar.

By creating opportunity for others… he’s creating opportunity for himself.

How to Make a Shift with Empathy and Integrity

So click here to catch today’s episode to find out:

  • Why Peter chose to shut down his personal styling practice early and offer clients refunds — and how he’s continuing to work with folks in that arena
  • Why Gumroad? And why now?
  • Why the “NO RULES!” vibe of Covid life tends to create fascinating and surprising opportunities
  • What Peter thinks brands worry about TOO much — and why now is the time to test those assumptions
  • Being opportunistic vs. being scummy and scammy
  • What empathy IS… and what it REALLY isn’t
  • Examples of some of our favorite businesses rocking pivots (including a genuinely amazing idea of Peter’s for making first dates less awkward)
  • … and MORE!

And while you’re over there, let us know in the comments:

What are some ways you’re seeing businesses make BIG shifts with empathy — or even just delight?

Have you been diving into switch-ups that have made all the difference for you?

We’d love to hear about it, so don’t be shy!

And remember: not all opportunity is purely a “money grab” you need to feel guilty about.

Some opportunities can make the world a genuinely better place.

So go get ’em.

And Go Bills!
H

Episode Transcript

So Peter, when we point at you, you just say I’m Peter. (laughs)  

Okay.  

Got it? I’m Margo Aaron.  

I’m Hillary Weiss. (laughs)  

I’m Peter, sorry, sorry. Start over, start over.  

One more time, one more time. It’s okay, this happens every time.  

We should probably have gone over that, sorry. (theme song music)  

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of HAMYAW, more specifically another episode of HAMYAW and Friends. Today we are so thrilled to be welcoming our dear friend of the show and long-time friend of our friend here, Margo, Peter Nguyen, who is the founder of Essential Man and now Gumroad Genius.

And today, what we wanna talk to you about is spotting opportunities when the world seems to have ground to a halt. Now Peter has this incredible story of what happened in his industry when the seas started to change with the coronavirus epidemic, but that’s all I’m gonna say about that, no spoilers. Peter, welcome to the show. How are you doin’?  

I am holding it together. (laughs)  

So say we all.  

So, for everyone who is unfamiliar, the four of you who haven’t heard of Essential Man yet, Peter is a personal stylist, he also is a designer, and brilliant. Just go follow him on Instagram right now, it will make your day better, I promise.

He had a growing, beautiful business where you had digital products and also IRL analog clients one-on-one where you were doing personal styling and then shelter-in-place sort of started, but it was kind of like that pre-NBA cancel where you’re like, do I go to the concert, do I go to the conference moment where Peter had a really big decision to make.

Will you talk to us about what was happening in that moment and what happened?  

So kind of, I think, catch everyone up on my business. In 2019, I focused mostly on one-on-one clients because that’s where a lot of my revenue came from. And earlier in 2020, I had my biggest month ever. I made more in January than I did the entire second half of 2019. So, it was perfect timing for a pandemic, right? (laughs)  

Similar thing happened to me, I feel ya. I was like oh look, it’s so close. Oh, it’s gone now.  

I know, I’m like if we do this every month it’s gonna be amazing. Yeah, that

I’ve already spent the money in my head.  

Exactly, exactly. (laughs) I know you had asked me how did I see this coming. I’m not gonna say I’m some sort of prophet, I think entrepreneurship in general kind of makes you see things or trains you to see things that most people don’t see.

And it makes you take action.

So, I think I just had a normal kind of response that I have for any problem or anything that I see coming. And so, I also have some friends in China and Italy who were telling me you should really take this seriously.

They’re closing stores, they’re telling us to stay in. I’m like okay, something’s gonna happen because I think by that time the first cases were happening in Upstate New York. And so, it went from China to Upstate New York.

Most likely it’s gonna come from Upstate New York to Brooklyn. So, I had to make the quick decision to be like, okay, at least I have some digital products where I can shift all my clients to digital. Let’s do that for a little bit and see how it goes.

And then literally the week after, Tom Hanks got infected and all that stuff and they started closing everything down. I think just the bias towards action kind of made it seem like I was ahead of the curve, but it’s just sort of the natural state that I think a lot of us operate on.  

I think you’re not giving yourself enough credit, but yes.  

I’m with Margo here.  

You guys, to give you some context. People were still going, what should we do? What’s happening? And Peter was like, across the board, I decided that it’s dangerous for my clients, it’s dangerous for me.

I think it’s also a brand decision. It’s not just the bias toward action, which I do think is a really important thing I wanna talk about.

But I think being able to make a brand decision that I wanna be the type of company that treats my customers like this. And we talked a lot about being fiduciaries to your tribe and I think that is a really amazing way that you are able to do that. I also imagine that it was a huge loss. I mean that had to have been a hit personally, as well, just in your heart.  

Yeah, I mean ’cause as much as I love working with clients all over the world. One-on-one, in-person, seeing their faces change when we go shopping and things like that and being able to walk them through the whole process of transforming themselves, you can’t compare it.

And so, and obviously, too the revenue, it’s a huge difference between my virtual clients and my in-person clients. That was really hard to kind of take when I hit send on that email.  

I was actually gonna ask you that question to hopefully, if we touched on this earlier in the episode forgive me, but you intentionally shut down all of your contracts, correct, for Essential Man?  

Yeah, so I moved all my in-person clients to online. So, I usually work with clients for a season and so I basically said, hey, I’ll work with you for the entire year, no extra charge, and that kind of continues for any clients that are signing on right now. And then anyone that didn’t want that, I offered to refund their money if they wanted to. Luckily, they all said I’m down to it to stay on, so.  

Nice, awesome. Yeah, I was actually wondering about that because you did it kind of earlier in the game, did you get pushback from clients being like, no, this isn’t real? Like this virus, like I’m gonna ignore it and push it off and having to hold strong in that situation, I can’t even imagine being like, no, take your money back.  

Yeah, yeah. I think one of the things that what I see a lot of companies doing wrong is they’re speaking to their customers as if they’re faceless. Whereas I’m like, hey, I don’t know what’s going on, if you want your money back, I’m cool with that. If you wanna hang out online, I can help you with that and if things change, we can just kinda roll with the punches.

And I think that’s a normal response that people want.  

Absolutely and in terms of the pivot that you made, you know when you brought everybody online, but also talk to me a little bit about the Gumroad thing. What made you decide to step into that role at all?  

Yeah, I was talking to Margo about this earlier. Fashion is on the very bottom of people’s priorities right now, I’m gonna be real. I mean this is my business.  

No, it’s true.  

You know I shop for a living and even I, I’m barely shopping right now just because it’s just not something that’s a huge priority to people. Even though I’m seeing a lot of fashion brands shifting to the work from home kind of marketing, which I think is fine.

But I knew that my business isn’t really super essential right now and so I had to sit down and take stock of what other skills do I have to offer people right now. And I know how to build a business, I know how to write awesome content that ranks up on SEO. I know how to help people market their knowledge and sell it.

And so, I’ve used Gumroad before. I don’t know if you know what Gumroad is.  

I’ve never even heard of it.  

I do, yeah.  

Yeah, it’s an amazing, it’s my favorite place to sell digital products. I used it before early in the Essential Man to sell PDFs. Super easy to use. It’s one of those things, I’m sure you buy URLs and domain names every time

Who me?  

You have a new idea. (laughs)  

What?  

Almost 50 domain names. (laughs) So, I was signing up again just to sell my own products and I was like, I should show people how to market their stuff better. And I just thought of Gumroad Genius and I immediately bought the URL and got the Twitter and everything in like 10 minutes.  

I love that story and I know Margo has a lot to say here, I can tell…

Go, go, go.  

I do wanna say that I respect the hell out of that because I think the thought process for a lot of people is if your industry’s no longer relevant, make it relevant. Which in a lot of ways is like trying to make something out of nothing. If your industry is personal style and nobody’s going out, you can’t really be like, you know what’s super important? Choosing exactly the right pajama bottoms.  

I gotta tell you, I spent maybe six months developing a dating product, like a style for dating and I can’t use it.

I had to scrap it. (laughs) I had to scrap it.  

Temporarily hopefully.  

Yeah, temporarily.  

The wheels will start turning again.  

But that’s just kind of the game right now. You have to kind of roll with it.  

I think also the fact that you realized that, you were able to look back and realize that you had bankable skills beyond just the Essential Man and even creating an entirely new business right now.

I think it’s obviously hugely daunting for people, but because it was stuff that you had already been doing for so long and presumably ways you’d already been helping people, it’s such a natural shift.

And I think there’s a lot of pivot, don’t pivot, change your message, don’t. Stay in your lane whatever it may be.

I just really admire that flexibility and that willingness to accept things as they are and jump forward to the opportunity. I think that’s hugely inspiring. So, thank you for sharing that.  

Yes, I also wanna talk a little bit here about your eyes.

We talk about opportunistic like it’s a bad thing,and we mean it when we say it like short-term, pushy, like that person’s being a jerk.

But what I hear in the way that you talk are truly those traits of an entrepreneur that are what give us lasting power. And it is what keeps us one of the longer players.

So, you said a few things I wanna call out and I want people who are watching to ask yourself these same kinds of questions.

There’s a self-awareness in you, Peter, that I think makes a better entrepreneur. You said let’s be real, my business wasn’t essential. And that is, first of all it’s so ironic because it’s literally titled Essential Man.

(laughs)

 But also, I do think we need that difficult, rugged honesty that also comes from some people call it mindfulness, that ability to separate what you believe and what you want from reality.

And looking at the truth of a situation and going, okay people aren’t buying, so this isn’t a moment of I need to push harder and make a sleazier pitch to your point, Hillary, of like this is really the time to get into pajama pants.

It’s an exercise in empathy.

You went okay, so what does the market need right now? What are they doing? So, obviously we can move to digital products, there’s gonna be demand there.

So, I think the ability to see where the market is going and obviously we can’t tell the future and you’ve said that a million times, but part of our job, I think especially as copywriters, especially as marketers, but most importantly as entrepreneurs is be able to read markets and pay attention to what’s happening in the zeitgeist. 

I’ll never forget, I had a boss once that got mad at me back when I worked in the agency world, I was a strategic planner.

And he was like, you can’t keep working weekends.

And I was like, are you dumb? Do you get that I make extra and we have to bill hours to the client and I’m like trying to get shit done?

And he was like, no, no, no. I need you out, going with your friends. I need you hearing what they’re talking about, I need to know what television shows they’re watching, I need to know what people are ordering when they go to brunch with their friends.

Is brunch even cool any more?

He was like, this is part of your job. Part of your job is being a human and paying attention to what’s happening around you. And I think, Peter, you’ve given us such a great example of how you were able to do that even from your living room. 

And sort of paying attention to what’s happening in the (mumbles) around zeitgeist around you and just being uncomfortably honest with yourself about where the market’s going and then also, you delivered that information without any emotion, it was like no, this is a practical decision even though I’m sure it was difficult for you emotionally.

Okay, so tell us now. So, you’ve made this choice to sort of shift your attention. Is it a shift in attention? Or how are you spending your time now ’cause you still have those one-on-one clients? Are you thinking of it as the ground up? Because you’re not really starting from zero. Talk to us about what’s happening.  

I’m looking at it as two different businesses. Essential Man sort of in, I don’t want to say autopilot, but I am focusing less on content

Client acquisition and yeah.  

Yeah, I’ve kinda doubled down on getting a few, really, really high-end, premium clients right now to buy myself some time.

And then really, really think about doubling down on digital products because I feel like we’re gonna be here for a while and even if things opened up, I don’t think people are gonna be comfortable being outside.

So, that’s just sort of my kind of prediction.

And then focusing also on growing my list.

You know Brian Dean from Backlinko? He wrote a great email saying when you don’t know what to do, build your list ’cause that’s always gonna be valuable.  

I love that, so true.  

What does that mean for Essential Man’s list? Does it pause?  

I’m building my list for Essential Man

Oh, for Essential Man, okay, gotcha.  

Yeah, it’s gonna be especially important when I start launching more digital products. But yeah, I’m basically focusing on that, less on current content. I think that a lot of people are trying to whip out corona-related content and I think, what’s gonna happen in six months from here?  

Who does that? (laughs)  

But you know it’s like they’re going on Instagram Live, and it’s like I don’t have time for that. It’s very mentally draining, okay I think that’s a short-term solution, but I’m thinking of okay, what’s it gonna be like in six months and what is it gonna be like in a year?

And knowing where to focus your time in, it’s really important right now.  

Yeah.  

I think it’s also seeing the market as it is in worst-case scenarios, I think maybe where businesses are running into problems right now it’s just like, well, it will be fine by June.

Oh, it’ll be fine by September. And we just don’t know and if you sort of prepare for everything to be changed for a while and you accept that reality, you can kind of move through that more easily.

And also maybe enjoy the process a little bit more ’cause you’re not just constantly checking your watch and hoping the next phase is gonna be done or that shift that you’re banking on is gonna happen.

I think the freedom that comes from doing something like you’re doing, which is essentially creating a totally new business for the market as it is and as exhausting as that is, I mean I have no doubt there’s a ton of potential there.

And it might be also fun, a great sort of creative outlet for this whole kind of era. So, you’re not sort of calculating at the end of every night how much money you have to last through the month. You’re creating something totally new.  

Yeah, I was telling Margo earlier that the Essential Man isn’t a place for me to talk about business, and I love talking about business.

And so, to create another outlet where it makes sense now. A lot of people in my industry, they’ll do income reports and blogging tips and my readers don’t care about that shit. You know? That’s not for them.

Understanding your audience, my readers wanna know how to look better for a date or whatever. And so, all that business stuff kind of flies over their head, but now it makes sense for me to talk about it because I’ve spent the last five years building this business that has been doing awesome, now it’s okay for me to talk about that.

And that’s what I was telling Margo, it’s like there are no rules right now. There are no rules.  

Energy (mumbles).  

One of my favorite restaurants, not my favorite, I wanna go, it’s on my list, called Alinea in Chicago. Do you know that place?  

No.  

It’s one of the hardest restaurants to get into, it’s a MICHELIN star, three star, it’s amazing. They started doing delivery. (gasps) They’ve been killing it. The owners were like, I never thought this would happen, but we’re doing delivery and they’re killing it right now.

So, the fact that Alinea’s doing delivery to me means there’s no rules on what you can do.  

I’m in Akimbo’s creatives workshop and there’s a whole section on genre, sort of defining what genre you’re in so you know how it works. And one of the things I think of when I think of a MICHELIN star restaurant you think of genre, you think of white glove service, you think of attentiveness, you think of personalization.

You think of all of the things you’ve ever heard those famous chefs talking about. And this sort of just puts them in a new genre and I feel like that’s actually what we mean when we say opportunism or being able to spot opportunities.

What gives you that lasting power is that ability to assess the market and go okay, what we’re doing doesn’t work right now. So, I wanna will it into the world, but now we’re gonna have to pivot or we’re gonna have to shift our strategy a little to get something to go.

So, Peter, tell us what Gumroad Genius is to that end. Is it takeout? (laughs)  

Yes.  

It could be kinda like Blue Apron, you know. I basically wanna show people how they can build their own Essential Man.

I feel like I have no competition when it comes to what I do in my business. And I’ve learned so many skills and I think going through Gumroad myself, just seeing what’s out there, I see amazing talent, but they don’t have the copywriting skills, they don’t have just the things that we all take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long.

If they supplied those simple things, they can get out of this mess that we find ourselves in. I think what I love about the Essential Man is helping people realize their potential or their style and I feel like this is another way to do that except in their careers and their financials.  

Awesome. Is it for small business? Is it for aspiring stylists?  

Anyone that has a digital product, I’m working with them to find their brand, understand copywriting sales pages, sales launches. All that fun stuff that we find, us nerds find fun, I want them to get excited about it, too.  

Yeah. I love that. I think, also, what’s so interesting about that restaurant you mentioned in Chicago, as well, and this is showing my cards a little bit here, but it’s almost a moment for restaurants like that to sort of bring down the walls among class divides.

I think that’s a good thing is it’s basically, I mean I don’t wanna like, communism. But I think the interesting thing about it is that a restaurant like that could have dug their heels in and be like, no, we are not the restaurant that does delivery, we’re not one of those restaurants.

You know, feeling like all the sudden we appear on scene list. They saw the opportunity and went for it.

There’s so much of a moment of reflection with aspirational brands right now, especially when it comes to aspirational brands that are focused on in-person experiences like high-end restaurants. I think this is a really interesting opportunity where people kind of adapt or die. 

It’s really amazing to see it in action and see these savvy business owners. ‘Cause a lot in the online business space is like, well if you wanna be high end, you can’t do a group program for $500 or you can’t sell something for $47 or you can’t do a free workshop.

All these can’ts, can’ts, can’ts, can’ts when you reach this aspirational level of business and with the current situation all that is suddenly out the window.

That ladder that previously existed has now essentially collapsed and caught coronavirus.

It’s almost being willing to, I think the word is humble yourself, but I’m not sure. I think it’s the ability to see opportunity whether it’s something you have been told is you are beyond now or not.

And I think that’s probably where a lot of people are having hesitations right now, especially if they’re higher end, if they have services similar to yours which are luxury services by and large.

I think it’s an interesting moment for people to be like one team saying I’m staying luxury, go to hell, and other people are like, look, we’ve gotta adapt with where we are, we’ve gotta see what is.

And I think obviously people like you and people in that camp are the ones who are gonna really thrive and make it through this.  

I experienced a lot of that in the design world, so before styling I was a high-end menswear designer.  

Oh, nice.  

And so, this idea of luxury and being aspirational, I’m all about that.  

Yeah, me too!  

(laughs)

And I think now people misunderstand when you think about a luxury brand like Hermes or Louboutin, people don’t assume that they suddenly stopped being luxurious once they launch a $50 cologne or perfume or a wallet.

You still think that they’re a luxury because of the other stuff that they do. So, you can still maintain your aspirational brand image even if you’re charging $47 for an ebook or even $19 or $9 for an email subscription thing.

As long as the overall brand image is staying consistent, I think people are worrying about it too much.

And I think this whole situation is helping people test that assumption. Like the same thing with Alinea.

I’m sure if you had pitched to them, oh, let’s do delivery, they probably would say no one would pay this much for delivery. But now they have a proven kind of business model that they can maybe continue after this.

When I think about being opportunistic versus being kind of scummy and scammy, I think a good way to think about it is is what I’m doing once this is over, would it still be a good idea?

Right?

For example, if I’m producing a lot of face masks and I’m selling ’em for $20, then that’s a good idea. It can still exist after the coronavirus.

But if I’m charging $50 for a roll of toilet paper, then you’re being scammy ’cause no one’s gonna buy that once this is all over, right?

So, I think that’s a good kind of framework to think about this whole idea of looking for opportunities in a time like this.  

Yes. Hillary, you said it beautifully, too, when you said adapt or die. The theme we’re sort of dancing around and I’ve been using the word opportunistic, but it’s adaptable.  

Being able to be adaptable is actually the trait that we need to deploy the most right now, especially if your sales are being affected.

I was talking with Michelle Warner, a friend of the show, you guys check her out, she’s awesome.

Bill and Michelle, but she’s seeing a boom in her digital product sales and she sort of had a pause in going, okay, so should I shift my business? What does this mean?

There’s an element of being reactive in a productive way where you do need to follow the demand. I think that that’s a really important insight for all of us, but I do think it’s the right question she’s asking herself, which is do I have the infrastructure in place?

Is this the company I want to be running in September and in two years from now? And what do I like? What do I not like? And I think thinking about product founder fit is also important. 

And I think, Peter, what you’ve been able to identify is this is something you’ve been itching to talk about for some time and you’re really good at it.

I mean for people who don’t know the back story a little bit with Peter, we met when we were both sort of studying digital products. As we were figuring out what we were doing we both had a limited online presence and we’re testing out different ideas and we were both studying copywriting at the time and sharpening our sword.

And I remember talking with Peter about how, sorry I’m gonna put words in your mouth here, but I remember how you discussed. I use him as examples, you guys, in webinars a lot. I don’t know if you know that, Peter.  

No, I don’t. (laughs)  

It’s true, I heard so much about you before I met you. (laughs)  

I have some of your emails because I think you’re the best example of, I use you for a slide specifically called Talk to your Customers, not your Colleagues.

And I think that was a lesson that you sort of internalized really early that a lot of creators didn’t and why I think it’s gonna be really great for you to do Gumroad because most creatives really cling to this idea of genre and who they’re supposed to be.

And in your genre especially, personal stylists. First, going from designer to personal stylist was a huge shift because it’s considered below you. So, you had to sort of figure out what you thought about that and

Also a fashion blogger, which is like the very last.  

That’s exactly what I was gonna say. (laughs) I was gonna say that.  

So then he had to go, oh shit, I’m a fashion blogger also, on top of it and what you see in a lot of blogs and why he’s able to say with confidence that he has no competition is that most styling blogs really secretly want to be designers and they wanna be taken seriously.

So they’re competing with their colleagues to go I went to Fashion Week this week, I’m wearing this thing. They’re making themselves inaccessible.

Peter literally did the opposite. He never stopped being himself, but he really understood that he was talking to men who feel intimidated by the style and who were struggling with confidence and what he could give them had a lot more to do with social skills and confidence and empathy.

And so, it wasn’t even about style, but he could still teach them. You know what makes this leather jacket worth it? 

One of the emails that I use that you were talking about an action movie, some guy who had terrible style and it had nothing to do with style. It was just a way to meet men where they are and say, I hear you, I see you, I understand you and then let me take you where we need to go here.

And it’s always done so seamlessly and so I love that example because I think that you took that and gave it to a whole bunch of stylists they’d be like, I don’t care about this topic and you don’t give a fuck because it’s not for them.

You have a very, very clear idea of who it’s for. And I think that’s what makes it so powerful and I think that’s why you’re the right person to teach this because you do understand that you can have creative integrity and you can care about your art and you can care about your products, but you understand how to have empathy for your market and really see them for who they are. 

And now is the time where you can teach people those skills of okay, you can still be this, I don’t know, you create bandanas.

What do we know about someone who buys bandanas? Why do they buy bandanas? Why do they care about bandanas? What is this really about and give them the skills that design school and art school and none of our schools really taught us when we were talking about the content knowledge that we have.

Anyway, I’m really excited to hear you talk more about this. Tell me how it’s percolating for you. What got exciting for you about teaching these things?  

I just want people to get their first sale or make their first big, big week ’cause I know how game-changing that is for your life.  

And confidence and everything.  

Yeah, ’cause then it’s like there’s possibility.  

That’s so on brand for you. (laughs)  

I think also you’re demonstrating with this product and with just the way you behave to your clients this is what actually empathy in action is, it’s not like hey, how are you doing today? I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. It’s like have you seen that meme where it’s like Toyota commercials before corona, buy

(laughs)

Toyota commercials after corona, these are trying and troubling times, we’re here for you. Buy a Toyota. (laughs)

It’s like that’s not empathy, that’s slapping a message on top of something. There was an attempt basically is what that says to me and I think you are such a fine example here of empathy running the show.

You’re telling your clients, look, this is how it is. We’re not gonna be able to do A, B, and C. Your health is way more important to me than trying to sneak into whatever designer’s store during all of this.

And then even to go on and realize that you were wildly inspired to help these people who are bringing their work online and providing resources for them and I think that’s in such a powerful way how empathy can be the best tool in our arsenal because it helps us see what is and create from there instead of sorry everything sucks, buy a Toyota.

Is that how you feel in terms of how empathy plays a part in your business?  

Yeah, I think it’s such a hard, ’cause I think like you were saying, too, when people think empathy they think they need to get touchy feely, which is totally not the case.

For me, it’s just understanding what someone else is thinking and feeling and what’s important to them right now.

And I think for a lot of my clients, clothes sort of has some sort of importance in their life, but most people are worried about money.

Most people are worried about their future, right?

And if you have those skills. If you have the skill that can help people right now, I think it’s almost your duty to bring that into life and offer it to them. And that sounds opportunistic or can sound kinda sleazy, like offer it to them. But I think you have to

Empathetic opportunity.  

Yeah, exactly. That’s a great phrase, I love that.  

There we go, empathetic opportunism, there we have our show.  

Title!  

We were struggling with that one, guys. That’s the way to let it lead the show, we talk a lot about what empathy is and isn’t here on the show because again, this was even reflected in the nature of the emails you were getting.

We talked about this in our HAMYAW Live where all of these brands are coming out of the woodwork being like, we care about you. It’s like, no you fucking don’t.  

Where have you been? Where have you been? How did you get my email address, fucker?  

Exactly.  

Who are you? We haven’t interacted since 2014, what is going on? There was such a rapid-fire revulsion among consumers of that kind of behavior. The mimicry and the pretending of it all is really overwhelming consumers and I think again, your approach is empathetic opportunism.

That’s what is not the need in the market, I think that’s equally as important as what is the need in the market and I think you’re just such an amazing example of that.

But I also wanna ask you since we’ve already yelled at some people by default, are there any brands you see doing it really wrong or really right? We don’t have to make enemies. (laughs) Is there anyone that you see that you’re like, ooh yes or oh no?  

Oh, Shake Shack offered a box where you can cook Shake Shack at home, which is pretty awesome.  

Yes!  

That was pretty awesome. Yeah, I haven’t honestly, I think people are still trying to figure it out. I think in my space I’m seeing a lot of really fun marketing with brands in terms of here’s your outfit for your Zoom call and things like that. I think that’s pretty fun.

And that’s kind of real and a lot of it’s like this is on top. I call it the Zoom mullet where it’s like business on top and like fun on the bottom.  

I’m not wearing leggings. (laughs)  

I’m wearing jeans right now, fancy. We did a whole, I had a pop-up podcast called That’s Quarentainment about quarantine and we did a whole episode dedicated to the business mullet. So, I hear you. (laughs)  

You know I’ve been seeing a lot of Zoom meetups and classes, which is awesome. I think a lot of brands where the product is physical or they have physical stores, it’s tough.

How do you pivot a car company? I don’t know. Or a travel company. I have friends that have amazing travel blogs, they don’t know what to do. So, it’s just a tough time for certain genres right now.  

Yeah, I think so, too. I actually heard an amazing story about a yoga teacher whose studio shut down, so much revenue kind of gone overnight, but what she did was she knew if she could sell out her stock, the front of the store stock, yoga mats and leggings and t-shirts and all the books and all the weird things you find in your friendly neighborhood yoga studio.

And what she did is she got on Instagram Live or Instagram stories and was like hey, I have all these supplies. I’m gonna put together a surprise box for you. Tell me your favorite color and your size and this amount of money and I will send you this care package.

And all of her supply was gone within 24 hours. All the stuff was gone, yeah. And that’s still thinking outside the box ’cause the number one move for yoga is to go to virtual classes obviously.

But I just love that little extra. I love that little wanting to make your customers feel cared for and your students and really maintaining that connection and that’s another example, I think, of empathetic opportunism there, for sure.  

I saw another one I just remembered, Alamo Drafthouse, do you know that movie theater?  

Uh, yes. I live in Brooklyn, too, I’m in Crown Heights so we’re at the (mumbles) all the time.  

Yeah, okay so Alamo Drafthouse, they’re doing virtual kind of screenings where you can rent movies on Vimeo. And it’s pretty awesome.  

I’m a huge Alamo Drafthouse freak, that is news to me. Awesome, okay.  

Yeah, that’s a pretty awesome pivot.  

Also, one pivot for the NFL and I don’t know if I can, they would have to edit this out, but the NFL draft is coming up and my husband is a huge Buffalo Bills fan and what they’re doing is for the draft, because people can’t be there they are gonna be livestreaming with fans.

They’re picking certain fans out of this roundup and Zack got picked but I don’t think I can tell that yet. (laughs) So, basically when drafts are announced, the fans get to announce it on Zoom.

Oh, that’s so fun.  

And they show them cheering and stuff. It’s really cool. I love how we’re all, it’s one video chat and we’re still creating those connections. Human beings, we just love each other, we just really wanna see each other and be around each other so it’s really amazing.  

You know what I want? I want a bar to do? I have this idea.

I’ve been trying to tell people that work in bars and bartenders, I want them to link up with some sort of dating service or a dating app and then send the couple on the date, like a background photo for their Zoom of the bar.

And then have a three-way call, one with the bartender (laughs) and just send them drinks and have the guy pay for it and deliver drinks to them and then have a date on Zoom. But then the bartender’s on mute, he can’t.  

Making drinks in the background.  

And then he can offer them dating advice through the private chat. I think that would be hilarious.  

When he gets dumped he just sits there and talks to the bartender.  

Exactly. That’d be hilarious. Or some sort of Zoom app where it’s like speed dating and then the bartender’s there, that’d be kind of fun. I have a lot of ideas.  

That’s genius.  

That’s exactly it, though, you have a lot of ideas.

That is the place that we should all be in, all these ideas that are percolating right now, I think we need to play with them, I think we need to chew on them, I think we need to share them and see what has legs.

So, in the interest of time, Peter, I wanna keep brainstorming business ideas with you, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Gumroad and specifically where people can find it.

Can they buy things yet? Can we sign up to hear from it?  

Yeah, yeah, it’s Gumroadgenius.com.

There’s a couple of blog posts up there right now, you can sign up for the newsletter.

Right now I’m just doing one-on-one calls with business owners and digital product makers and kind of tearing down their business and seeing where they can improve.

So, if you want to jump on a call you can always book one with me. Right now I’m in the early kind of seeing what people need help with phase.  

Yeah, absolutely. I’m excited for you!  

Me too! I’m gonna send people to get torn down.  

Yeah.  

Yes. I will make you money, I will make you more money. (laughs)  

I’ll make the best tagline ever.  

There you go.  

Okay, lots of things we can take away from this episode right now, I think number one first and foremost is learning to be adaptable.

So, understanding where the market is shifting, what opportunities you can jump on, what your people actually are looking for right now. Don’t give yourself that ethical dilemma of should I sell people pajama pants if they don’t really need them, ask yourself what do they want?

Where is their attention going? Where is their money going?

Because people are spending, so part of our job is to sort of follow them and let’s take Peter’s lead here and follow his lead and say, okay, what can we learn about what they’re doing?

How can we help them? How can we serve them?

And then be brave enough to do the thing that’s a little uncomfortable. 

So, Peter, there’s so much that we’ve been able to learn about spotting opportunities, about being adaptable, about pivoting in the time of a pandemic, about thinking long-term.

I want y’all to be thinking about where you’re at in September, October, November. Is this the business you wanna be running then?

But also not missing out on what your market is telling you right now, so if they’re spending money on courses, invest your time in courses.

If they’re asking you to show up for Live, HAMYAWs, do some live HAMYAWs. And also, check out Peter’s stuff. 

All right, Peter, you can find him at Essential Man, you can find him at Gumroadgenius.com. Instagram for sure. What’s your handle on Instagram?  

The Essential Man.  

The Essential Man, I stand by that, it will make your day better.  

We stand the Essential Man. (laughs)  

All right, I’m Margo Aaron.  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

And I’m Peter Nguyen.  

Yes.  

This was HAMYAW and Friends. If you like this episode, please like it below, share it with your friends, and subscribe to our channel. If you have thoughts we want to hear them. How are you adapting in this crazy climate? Send it in the comments and we will see you in two weeks. Thanks for watching.  

Bye for now guys.  

Bye! (booms) 

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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