Jake Voelker is the driving force behind Voodoo Brewery’s expansion into Pittsburgh and opening of the Homestead location. Following the purchase and extensive renovation of the oldest fire and police building in Allegheny County, Jake has continued expanding Voodoo’s visibility, market share, and profitability in the Pittsburgh area market while providing oversight of Voelker Contracting’s operations. Voelker Contracting is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Company that maintains contracts with the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies and various other private companies.
Following his college graduation Jake was commissioned as an officer in the US Army and subsequently deployed in support of combat operations in Afghanistan. Jake separated from the US Army in 2010 at the rank of Captain. Directly following his time in the US Army Jake moved to Pittsburgh, got married, and obtained his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.
Jake mentors many veterans returning from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in personal and professional life. He can also be seen as a regular cast member of the podcast “Veterans on Fire”.
Jake’s Challenge; Take the opportunity to go outside and do a new physical activity or challenge.
Connect with Jake
If you liked this interview, check out episode 68 with Wes Shonk where we discuss whiskey and digital brand building.
Dennis is the CEO and Founder of x.ai, whose artificial intelligence driven personal assistant lets people schedule meetings using plain English and nothing more than a CC to email@example.com. Founded in 2014, x.ai is backed by blue chip investors, including IA Ventures, Firstmark, and Two Sigma Ventures, and located in New York City.
Dennis is a pioneer and expert in the analytics, optimization and big data space and has been since its inception – he is also a fully-fledged entrepreneur and successfully delivered a number of company exits. He’s an accredited Associate Analytics Instructor at the University of British Columbia, the Author of Data Driven Insights from Wiley and a frequent speaker on the subject of Analytics and Data. A native of Denmark, Mortensen currently calls New York City his home.
Dennis’s Challenge; Take public transportation far away from home and walk back. Leave your phone at home so you can be alone with your mind.
Connect with Dennis
If you liked this interview, check out episode 85 with Sean Ammirati where we discuss startups, exponential growth, and being LinkedIn’s first acquisition.
When I explain to people what I do, this is always one of the first questions out of their mouth. It’s not hard, you just have to start looking in new places.
Aaron’s Challenge; Make yourself an AngelList profile.
Check out AngelList.
As an entrepreneur, Phil Laboon started his first company in my parent’s basement back in 2001. Back then, no one was thinking about SEO. 15 years later, SEO is one of the most sought after inbound marketing services, and his basement company is one of the leading digital marketing agencies in the country. His company, Eyeflow Internet Marketing provides clients with consulting and digital marketing services that help their business stand up and be heard by audiences both on and off the web.
Additionally, Phil hosts Pittsburgh Tech Talk, an online show that brings attention to some of the city’s biggest names and companies in tech. He speak publicly and offers consulting services to help show startups how to be successful in the fast-paced world of technology. Phil also invests in several startups as a way to help them hit the ground running and build their business.
Phil’s Challenge; Reach out to five high-status individuals in a creative way. Do something other than just sending an email or a tweet.
Connect with Phil
If you liked this interview, check out episode 12 with Scott Rogerson where we discuss twisting career arcs, entrepreneurship, and investing.
Brad Kriel wants construction firms and Do-it-yourselfers to get projects done more efficiently. His company is dedicated to leveraging modern technology to help save builders time.
At Velocity Robotics he used lean startup methods, developed a MVP application, hired graphic designers to optimize UI and UX of mobile apps and website, and managed legal and accounting team to handle company formation and complexities of bringing in initial startup capital.
In this episode we discuss finding product-market fit and Brad’s core values.
Brad’s Challenge; Set a date and finish one of your incomplete projects.
Connect with Brad
If you liked this interview, check out episode 8 with Jason Miller where we discuss developing a website as his side hustle.
Aaron Martinez is Snapchat storyteller, YouTube personality, and professional voice actor. A lot of people know him as "AaronFPS" or "That Snapchat Guy from YouTube" and he has been blowing up recently.
He has been on YouTube scene for almost 5 years now and focuses on keeping his audience up to date with everything in the technology world! Be it social media like Snapchat, unboxings/reviews on technology, or different giveaways, Aaron brings it.
He has recently risen to prominence as Snapchat influencer and you need to be following him if you are serious about learning this social media platform.
Aaron’s Challenge; Experiment with Snapchat. Watch “How to Use Snapchat” on Aaron’s channel.
Connect with Aaron
If you liked this interview, check out episode 88 with Sunny Lenarduzzi where we discuss why she loves Snapchat, how she built a YouTube audience, and social media development.
Sunny works with entrepreneurs, personal brands and corporations to help them bring their business online through social media and video marketing. After reporting at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, she had an ‘a-ha’ moment and followed her heart into starting a business that serves people who desperately want to live life on their own terms.
She has a decade of experience as a video, social media, and brand strategist. She has created video campaigns for Hootsuite and made history with Applebee’s – earning over 1 billion impressions in 1 day. She has been featured on national radio, television and online platforms like Entrepreneur.com and The Huffington Post.
Sunny’s Challenge; Write down 5 things in a journal every night that your are grateful for.
Connect with Sunny
If you liked this interview, check out episode 84 with Todd Tresidder where we discuss building an online brand and reinventing your business.
Watson: So sunny, thank you so much for coming on my show. I'm really excited.
Lenarduzzi: I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
Watson: This is really cool. It seems like we've had a stretch here on the show of people that I've got interesting stories of where we met and we met at South by South West. You were hosting the Comcast lounge and I just approached you and thought that you'd make a great guest for the show. So it's cool When something like this comes full circle and we’re able to get you on here.
Lenarduzzi: Yes. I love random meetings like that. And then they turn into long-term relationships. So I'm super happy that we reconnected.
Watson: Absolutely. Absolutely. And even just preparing for this interview and trying to figure out the best way to introduce you to the audience.
It seems like you wear so many hats. You do public speaking, you educate online, you have a YouTube channel, you're a social media star and branding specialist. You kind of fill all these different roles. And so I really just wanted to give you the opportunity to kind of start off by explaining to us how you describe what you do, whether it's to family at the holidays, or people you meet at a party and maybe how that changes depending on the audience that you're talking to.
Lenarduzzi: Yeah. I mean, I try and keep it pretty consistent, but it's just, I generally forewarn people that it's a bit of a long story, so I've, uh, I've got it somewhat down to, uh, down to a science, but the quick version of it is, um, I call myself a social broadcaster, um, and that's kind of merging my two passions, which are really overarching its communication, but it's social media and broadcasting and my career started in traditional media, I was a reporter in radio and television, and I was able to report it's 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, and absolutely loved it. But I did notice a need for more of a dialogue as opposed to a monologue that traditional media was presenting at the time.
And I started to see the rise of social media. And at the same time, I was feeling a sense of major claustrophobia in my career and feeling like there was a ceiling and I was going to hit it pretty fast and I wanted that ceiling to kind of to disappear. And so the moment I came home from the Olympics, the day after I started my first business, which was an online magazine and it did pretty well.
And it was the best learning experience I ever could have had. It taught me a lot more than actually going to school. And I was going door to door, selling advertising space. In this magazine, I was doing all the SEO, all the backend, all the marketing. I learned marketing, social media, the digital media side of things.
And I just fell in love with it. And I sort of started attracting all of these clients from different industries and different-sized businesses. And I started working with them and for about four and a half years, I did that without ever telling anyone what I did. Every single client I got was through word of mouth.
I never cold-called anybody. I never had a sales call. It was all word-of-mouth marketing based on the fact that I was doing good work, which was really nice. And then, in 2015, on March 31st, 2015, I decided to create my first YouTube tutorial on a total whim. I was trying to figure out how to use Periscope, which is a live streaming app. And I needed to use it for a few of my clients. And I figured there's not anything out there that's educating people on this and there's a need for it. So I'm going to create a video around it for my clients and also from. So I did that thought I'd get maybe a couple of hundred views ended up getting I'm now at 60,000.
Growing every day and realizing I was onto something. And then I just started making YouTube tutorials every single week. And my channel grew from 500 subscribers to 30,000 in one year. And, 15,000 views 2-3 million in one year. So it's been quite the, yeah, it's been quite, quite the rise and quite the year.
Um, and that comes with other opportunities as well, like speaking engagements and being able to travel all over the world. And yeah, it's been, it's been one of the best years of my life and, and definitely one of the best years of my career.
Watson: I love that. I think there's a lot of wisdom. Something we talk about on this show is being able to teach something right after you've learned it and how that's so different than trying to teach something that you learned 5, 10, 15 years ago.
And having just learned something there's a freshness and a perspective that is really, really valuable. I wanna kind of unpack that a little bit because one of the things that I thought would be a great conversation that I found really interesting when I was researching for this interview was building a YouTube following, building a YouTube channel, and determining the content that you are creating and sharing with the world in terms of building something or creating something like this Periscope tutorial or your Snapchat tutorial, or other videos to that end. What does your research process look like?
Obviously, sometimes I'd imagine fiddling on the app itself, but how do you put together a video like that? I think there's sometimes a perception that YouTube videos are just kind of like thrown together or rushed together very quickly. And one thing I really noticed with your channel was that there is a lot of preparation it's professionally done, and that's something I really admire.
Lenarduzzi: Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah. I think one of the keys to my success on YouTube is that I naively and maybe ignorantly approached it just from a standpoint of creating valuable videos for people who were in my industry because the reality was I had a successful consultancy. I had a business, I didn't really understand that there was an opportunity in the online space to be creating courses and creating video content that you actually could be monetizing. And that kind of stuff. I really just did it because I want to tell myself I wanted to learn, but I also wanted to help other people, and the way that I've done that is I've approached every single video that I do from the perspective of it being professional and is as educational as possible. And so my research process starts, and I always tell people this, when they ask me how, how I grew my channel, there's a few different things, but one of the biggest things.
Before I ever hit record on any video, I do a ton of research upfront, so, and I also figure out what people want to know. And that comes down to checking frequently, asking questions in your space, going to different blogs or forums within your space and checking the comments section, and seeing what people are wanting to know or wanting to get answered.
Those are really great clues as to what kind of content you should be creating. Um, and then using tools like Google AdSense, keyword planner, and checking the actual search volume for those topics, which keywords perform best and then cross-referencing it with the topics that are coming up a lot and then seeing based on data, which topics are going to perform well.
So I did that a lot upfront. Once I started to gain momentum and my community started growing by doing these highly optimized videos, then I got a little more creative with the topics and I started doing Q and A's through Snapchat and posting them on YouTube, and now it's my major thing that I focus on with my channel.
And it has been the focus from day one is community. And I think that that's something that does definitely differentiates me is that I try to answer every single comment I can and I try to pay attention to feedback and I just try and really harvest a healthy community. And I've been very lucky that there hasn't been a lot of negativity.
There definitely are haters every once in a while, but for the most part, I find that my community on YouTube and generally online is so incredibly, incredibly positive. And I do feel like that comes from my own standpoint and what I stand for. And I stand for helping other people. I stand for creating a positive environment and I stand for fun.
And I think that's what my YouTube content is all about.
Watson: That is fantastic. And it wouldn't be the internet if there weren't a few haters for sure.
Lenarduzzi: Exactly. Gotta love and hate ‘em.
Watson: Absolutely, and you did mention Snapchat in there, which is interesting because that's another, we ran to each other a couple of times at South by South West. And one of the times you were sitting on a Snapchat panel and, you told me a little interesting story about how that kind of came to be. But if you, I would love it if you'd share that story with the audience of kind of how, um, Caught the Snapchat wave, so to speak. This is Snapchat week on the podcast. So that's one thing we definitely want to be talking about.
Lenarduzzi: Awesome. Well, you can, first of all, follow me on Snapchat, it's SunnyWinterDZ. But yeah, the way that I caught the Snapchat bug was very odd because I actually hated it.
Lenarduzzi: But I hated it from a place of ignorance. And I can say that it was a huge lesson for me in any social platform and also just a life lesson that, you know, you hate things you don't understand. And I didn't understand it. I didn't see the value in it. I thought it was strictly just for tweens and I just didn't get it.
So I hated it. And I had a really strong standpoint on that. When people ask me about it, or clients would ask me if they should be on it, and I was like, no, it's stupid. And man, oh man, have I eaten my words, so I, but wanting to learn about it and then seeing this trend of people being like, what about Snapchat? What about Snapchat?
Lenarduzzi And people kept talking about it. And I was like, okay, maybe I got to open my mind on this. So I got it. And I was like, I'm going to make a tutorial on how to use this. So I can one, teach myself, educate myself, but also teach others. And so I made this tutorial and it's really in-depth and it ended up ranking number one on YouTube.
So it's the number one ranked Snapchat tutorial on YouTube. So I think it has about 500,000 views or close to 500,000 views now. And then I've made a few more tutorials on Snapchat, out of that, and truly educating myself on the platform from a business perspective has proven to be so beneficial because now it's one of my number one platforms.
Lenarduzzi: I absolutely love it. It's growing at such a rapid pace. And what I find on Snapchat is so different from every other social platform out there is that your engagement rates are so much higher. On Facebook, your engagement rates are like one to 2% on Instagram is 3 to 5% is a good engagement rate on Snapchat.
You're getting like 10 to 15% engagement rates. And one example of that is I shared a link a couple of weeks ago for this little clicker that you can use with Snapchat. So you don't have to actually use your hands and hold your phone, and you can like control your filming from somewhere else. So I shared the link to the clicker.
And I had a 17% conversion rate on sale on selling it. So. That for me was a huge wake-up call. Cause it was like, oh no, this is definitely a tool for businesses and there's a lot of creative ways that people can be using it. And there's a lot of companies out there right now that are using the native storytelling features, the native AR features, and or AI features.
And it's just incredible. It's an incredible tool. It's so exciting to see how it's growing. And also it's really exciting to see how people are adopting it.
Watson: Absolutely. It’s you definitely talk to the fact that people were calling this rise of Snapchat, and we are really kind of in the midst of that crescendo, where it's aging up and more and more people are jumping on the platform, seeing what it's all about, which is why those, why those tutorials are so valuable.
With these different people kind of calling the ride. I’m curious if you have some thoughts about why that is the case. There's some degree of, you know, it's different, it's not as clouded with advertisements as a Facebook, as a Twitter, as some of these other platforms, but do you have any thoughts having, you know, kind of experience this growth on it?
Why people are flocking to it and why it's offering this experience on social media that’s different than so many other platforms
Lenarduzzi: Well, I think the biggest thing is we, we hear so much and I just was speaking about this the other day. We hear so much about the noise online and there is so much now compared to five years ago, six years ago, when people were really just using Facebook and Twitter, you wouldn't have so many options and everybody's on social media, as opposed to it being something that was like adopted by younger people.
Now, your parents are on social media. Your grandparents are on social media. Things that are coming at you all day, every day, that are both personal and professional. And the thing about Snapchat that differentiates it and I think why it's really struck a nerve with people is that you're not being influenced by anybody else, like the process to go on there and have to find somebody you want to follow is not easy, It's not intuitive.
Lenarduzzi: The user experience of the app is not that great at the end of the day, that discovery of the app is not that great. So, you have to actually work to find the people you want to follow, and then you don't even see what they're posting. And you're also not seeing if your friends are liking it.
There's none of that, like peer pressure or pure liking that you see on Instagram or a Facebook where you're seeing a feed of all these things that your friends are liking. So you actually have to consciously seek out the kind of content that you have to watch. The people that are watching your content on Snapchat are there for a reason. And they're so engaged and they're way more committed to your content than people are on other platforms.
Watson: Absolutely and I know when I make a post on Facebook or Twitter, I'm more concerned. I'm not really concerned about, I don't want to say not concerned about quality, but it's so noisy that there isn't, that kind of pressure that you're already standing in a room with all these other posts that are happening. Whereas if someone's clicking on your story, they're having a pretty exclusive experience with you. So there does seem to be a higher responsibility for quality and entertainment and the things that were annoying or that you tried to ignore in other platforms, I just straight up have blocked from my feed.
So like, I think the classic example is, Facebook feed full of baby photos, and there's some Snapchat accounts of friends that I, you know, I started following and their snap stories every single day is the same picture of their baby. And, you know, no offense, it's a beautiful baby, but it's like the same picture every day.
And there's no reason to come back to that, it's funny those habits are kind of like continuing on to these other platforms.
Lenarduzzi: It's so funny. And like, I think that's the really interesting thing to consider when it comes to Snapchat and every single social platform. Because now the thing is like, now that people realize Snapchat is like the new hotness, everyone's like, well, how do I grow my following?
And It's the same as every other platform, tell a good story, put out good content, give people a reason to follow you, and the only reason people want to follow you is if they're getting some sort of value from your content, whether that's entertainment, education, inspiration. So figure out how you can actually add value back to people's lives.
If you're strictly doing it for your own selfish reasons, no, you're not going to grow your following very fast. And I think that's something that's so often is missed on social.
Watson: So speaking of that, you mentioned that discovery is not great there. Is the platform ghost codes where people can find other big Snapchat accounts, but to help in that pursuit, discovery, what are some who are some of your favorite people on Snapchat that make you entertained or make you think, or make you laugh?
Lenarduzzi: Um, oh my gosh. So Ginny Can Breathe is one of my absolute favorites. She's incredible, and she just started a movement yesterday. I think it's called the, “I trust you movement.” Um, and she's an artist, a filmmaker, she does these social experiments. She’s incredibly intelligent and inspiring, so I love her. Rafael Casell, he does the show called the rapid ticks and he's one of my favorite human beings I've ever met in my life. We had a very similar story to you and me, where we kind of crossed paths very randomly, but we've stayed in touch and he's a poet, he's an artist, and overall one of the most talented people I know. And so his show that he does on Snapchat is breaking news and it's a lot of political news in the states, but he does it in a way that's super approachable and funny and entertaining. So those two for sure are two of my absolute favorites in this phase.
Watson: Fantastic. We will link to those in the show notes for people who don't have a place to write that down. But, I want to start wrapping up here. Uh, Sunny you've dropped so much knowledge. I was just thinking about how densely packed all your answers have been with value for the listeners. I really appreciate that.
Uh, before we tell people how to connect with you in the digital world, and you issue a personal challenge to the audience. Is there anything I just didn't give you a chance to say,
Lenarduzzi: uh, no, I don't think so. I think we kind of covered a lot of ground in a very short period of time. It was very efficient, which I appreciate.
Watson: Cool. So, as always, we want to make sure that people can connect with you in the digital world. So along with the Snapchat account, where's the best place for people to find you if they want to learn more?
Lenarduzzi: YouTube, I upload new YouTube videos every Tuesday. You can find me on YouTube about Sunny Lenarduzzi. Usually, you can find me on any social platform at Sunny Lenarduzzi And my website is where you can get in touch with me, which is just Sunnylennarduzzi.com.
Watson: Cool as always, that will be linked to in the show notes @goingdeepwithaaron.com slash podcast, the place to find the show notes for this and every episode of the show. But I'm going to give the mic to Sunny one last time so that she can issue a personal challenge to the audience.
Lenarduzzi: Yes, so my personal challenge to the audience might seem weird because it has nothing to do with social media. Um, but it has everything to do with being a little happier and your day-to-day life and, something that I started doing about two years ago and it truly changed everything. So my personal challenge to the audience is to write a gratitude journal every night, write down at least five things that you're grateful for and they can be little tiny things, or they can be big things and notice how it changes your mindset, and your outlook on your life and starts to bring in a lot more abundance and goodness and positivity.
Watson: I love that. And I can, I think it's coming through the earbuds of anyone listening, the positive energy that is radiating from your voice. I think that everyone should jump on that challenge and follow Sunny’s lead. Thank you again so much Sunny for coming on the show.
Lenarduzzi: Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it.
Watson: We just went deep with Sunny Lenarduzzi. Hope everyone out there has a great day.
Have you noticed that Snapchat is popping? I suggest you ask you closest (and youngest) friends what their favorite social media apps are. Snapchat is probably in the top 3.
I've got two big guests coming on this week to tell you why and how to take advantage of it.
The Next Big Thing Will Look Like a Toy by Chris Dixon