This is part two of our fascinating talk with illustrator, children’s book author and creative entrepreneur, Arree Chung. In this second episode, Arree talks us through his business plan and the unique opportunity he had to teach kids (and their parents) how to be creative.
This is part two of our fascinating talk with illustrator, children’s book author and creative entrepreneur, Arree Chung.
If you haven’t listened to part one yet, go do that first.
In this second episode, Arree talks us through his business plan and the unique opportunity he had to teach kids (and their parents) how to be creative. And how doing that earned him over $400K in 36 hours.
Greg: Hey, I'm Greg Gunn and welcome to The Futur podcast. This is part two of a two-part series where we talk with illustrator, author, and entrepreneur, Arree [Chung]. Like many of us, COVID-19 has put a strain on life and especially business, but Arree found a silver lining, and though he didn't plan to, he's built a new and thriving business.
If you missed part one, go back and listen to it, because you're going to want to hear the whole story. Okay, let's pick up where we left off.
Chris: I want to get a little bit technical with you, okay? You said a couple things. One is that you ran a contest, but you didn't really describe what that contest was all about, you just improved your conversion massively.
Arree: Oh, crazy. Yeah, that's been huge. So definitely I'd love to talk about that. The contest also, by the way, is highly dependent on the software, and the software I was using isn't working as well as it used to. They changed it. I'm like, "Why'd you guys fuck it up?" But anyways. So that was a game changer though, because it literally gave me double the amount of leads.
Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). But what was the contest?
Arree: The contest is, we were giving out an iPad every single day during this promotion. And the way that you can win the iPad is that you share, and you share organically on your social, and you earn points. And the more points you get, the better chance you get at winning. And we ran a free class every single day for seven days, so we gave out seven iPads. The ironic part is, only three out of the seven actually emailed us and filled out the form. So I only actually really bought three, even though I was on the hook to buy seven.
Arree: I know. Some people never check their email. They won this iPad, and they didn't even redeem it.
Chris: Oh, you know what? Probably it went to their junk mail or they just deleted it. Didn't think that they could actually win.
Arree: Right. No, definitely the junk mail is a big problem, which I'm not sure on how to solve that, but it still ends up being worthwhile. But yeah, that's what works like a charm. And previous to this promotion, I did the contest two other times and it worked just as well. So it was consistent. It's just my last promotion, UpViral, they changed the way the software works with the front end form and the back end form, and those little tweaks... it just devastated the results, I was so pissed off.
Chris: Oh, I see.
Arree: Yeah. The opt-in form doesn't look as nice. I was able to embed the opt-in form into my own design form, which is simpler and a lot more urgent in terms of signing up, and then the back end, it was so much easier to share. And they just screwed it up, I don't know why.
Chris: Okay. So what inspired you to use UpViral and run a contest like this? Where does that idea come from?
Arree: It came from, I think a few years ago... it came from a podcast, and [Wilco], who's the entrepreneur behind this software... he builds lots of different marketing software tools. So this contest idea isn't new, he just built a newer version of it, and he did a pretty good job marketing it, and he had a lifetime deal. I'm a sucker for those lifetime deals. So I bought this thing, I think two years ago, with it in mind to test out and use. To me, it's like $600 or $700, and if it works, then great, if not, then I wasted $700 and I gave it a try.
But I've been sitting on this software for basically a year, and then I tested it out on a Black Friday a couple years ago, and it worked reasonably well. I think like 20 to 30% extra leads for free. So it definitely paid for itself right there. And then I just had it in mind, because it worked before, let's try it again. So yeah, that's where it came from.
Chris: Beautiful. Okay. Let's see here. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about how you're running ads on Facebook, because when we had this conversation in part of the pro group, you were saying something, and I'm like, "I need to talk to you to see what the heck you're doing." So, for people who are relatively new, maybe they've taken out a few ads on Facebook to promote a product or something, what do you think you're doing different, or what has been very effective for you?
Arree: Yeah. So, I think Facebook ads can seem confusing, and it certainly was for me for about a year, year and a half, until you really understand actually how you can simplify, to make it really simple. Facebook's actually simplified it. I think sometimes when things are new, we overcomplicate things. And so, with Facebook, there's kind of just two things that they're asking you to do in the very beginning. Do you want traffic, or do you want conversions, right?
So, and then they also tell you... Facebook actually is really good at telling you exactly what to do, you just need to follow what they do instead of overcomplicating, which I think most of us do, including myself. So, what you need to do is just have something catchy, and have something that is less than 30 seconds. 15 to 30 seconds if it's a video. If it's a billboard, it needs to be something that says "Yes, I want that."
So, our ads are simply, hey, do you want a free class? Do you want a free art class? That stops people. And just imagine it as you're on the internet highway, people are in their cars, and you need to make that billboard, or that little commercial, you need to be that guy on the side of the road with a sign that says, hey, do you want this for free? And you'll just know by the click through rate, if you're over one percent, then you've got ad copy that's working and ad creative that's working.
And then the second part is you need to give them the sample. So I like to explain it like this. When you go to the mall, or you go to Costco, they have those folks that have their little sample tables, and they're giving their little sample, right? And obviously they do that because they want to have you try it out risk-free before you consider purchasing it. And I think that this has been the most important part of the process in buying ads and converting ads, is that sample has to be amazing. It has to be really, really good.
Because that way there's no risk in them purchasing. So the first ad is just to get their email to deliver that sample. I've found the best samples that work are a live interaction, whether it be a lesson, or something live that proves, hey, I'm a real person. I'm not some scam on the internet, I'm a real person, and I'm teaching you, and I care about you. And I think you said this to me when we first met, is give freely. You told me the best thing you can do is just give freely. And it's true with the samples, just don't hold anything back. Teach your heart out, really help them with their pains and problems. And then it's simple from there, it's like, did you like that? Well, join us. This is what we're doing.
And just know that 96, 97% of the people are not going to take you up on it, and that's fine. Hopefully you still help them, and then the two to three percent that are going to take you up on your offer are going to get a great deal, they're going to be with you a long time. And those are your customers, those are your fans.
Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay, so let me get this straight. You're running ads on Facebook. You're taking all the money you had made previously and pretty much just dumping it into this and seeing if you can go from 40,000 in your email list to something like 100,000 in email, knowing that you'll convert some of those people.
Arree: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris: So you're running ads, and these are images... what are these images? Because I don't have access to your campaign. Maybe you can send them to me later and I can describe it to people. I'd love to break down the ads.
Arree: Sure, yeah. Absolutely. I can describe it, and I'll send it to you as well. So, the image usually is a piece of art from one of my children's books. You want to call out your ideal avatar, so in our ads we say, "Parents and educators: Free art classes for kids." And then it's like drawing, painting. So basically they have to read it in three seconds or less and know if that's for them or not. They have to say, "Oh, that's cool."
So usually the image grabs their attention. Usually, design-wise, it's bright colors. And on the actual ad, you want to have less copy because if there's too much to read it takes more time to read. It's sort of like the five-second rule, right? You have to know what's the title... Free art classes for kids, painting drawing. And then, sign up here. It's that simple. And that's where if you're doing a video ad, you've got 30 seconds, and you just want to lead with what it is up front.
So when I see a lot of ads that are mistakes, and I used to do this too, is people will say, "Hey, I'm Chris Doe," or "Hey, I'm Arree Chung," and explain. People don't really care who you are if they don't know who you are, right? So you have to say up front what is in it for them. Do you want to XYZ, or are you stuck with this? What is it that you're offering that they say yes or no. Or you can hook them with curiosity, and then you agitate the problem or you tell them how they can find out, and then you give them the call to action. It's that simple.
Chris: Okay, very good. So the ad, for the people who clicked on it, takes them to a sales landing page, right?
Arree: To an opt-in page, not a sales page.
Chris: An opt-in page.
Arree: Yeah, we're not trying to sell them at all. A sale is a psychological commitment, even if it's five dollars, someone has to pull out their wallet and trust you enough to give you five bucks on the internet. So we don't try to sell at all in the beginning. Our rule is that we have to give value first, and then sell. I think what's amazing with what you do, Chris, is that you have given so much on the YouTube channel, that when someone buys from you, they're 100% comfortable because they feel like they've known you for a long time.
Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So the opt-in page tells them like, hey, if you give us your email, we're going to give you that sample that you described about in whatever time, right?
Arree: Exactly, yeah.
Chris: Okay, so is it a long opt-in page, or is it just enough details... just enough to get their email, right?
Arree: No. Simple, simple, simple. Yeah. You don't want people to overthink it. It's basically the ad. The one thing that we put on here that did help is if you're doing a live event, you put down a countdown timer to that live event. And that way, it does two things. One, there's a little bit of urgency. Oh, I better sign up for this now, it's happening soon. And then two, it actually reminds them, because now there's people from all over the world... time zones are confusing for most people. I don't know, even though it's only a Google search away, that's hard for a lot of people. But that countdown timer says, okay, it's in two days. Or it's 24 hours, or five hours from now.
Chris: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Okay, so they sign in, and then an email pops in their inbox that says "Hey, the class is here, here's your link." And is this you teaching on Zoom?
Chris: Okay. And did you have to set up passwords and things like that so that people didn't crash your Zoom party?
Arree: No, we actually don't set up passwords. Passwords and other authentication options... they do both things, they keep unwanted people out, they also keep wanted people out, which is really frustrating. So what we do is you just strip out all the controls, so basically when someone shows up the only thing they can do is watch. There's no chat, there's no screen sharing, there's no annotation, there's none of that stuff. So yeah, they just come and sometimes... the worst thing they could do is change their name to something foul or inappropriate, but that's all they can do, so it's not that bad.
Chris: Okay. Makes sense. So this first webinar demo that you put on, how many people showed up?
Arree: Are you talking about for the summer, or for which one...
Chris: For the big one. When you went from 40,000 to 100,000. Did 100,000 people show up?
Arree: So we ran a whole free week of classes, and basically it's the whole idea of, let's give you the sample. So we ran a free sample for a whole week. Our summer camp was five days. So every single day of the week we ran a free class, which was the free sample of that camp that they would purchase. And so day one, I think we had about 70 or 80,000 people on our email list, and there were about 25,000 people that showed up.
Chris: That is a lot of people. That's an overwhelming amount of people. And your Zoom plan must be crazy.
Arree: We got a good deal. It's pretty expensive. I think I spend like $8,000 a month on Zoom now. It's crazy.
Chris: So is it the same class every single day, or a different class?
Arree: No, different class. This is all the nitty-gritty to the promotion, but it's pretty cool because day one, you announce who the iPad winner is, and then all the kids are like, "I want to get an iPad, I want to get an iPad." And you say, "Parents, if you want to get an iPad, help us share about this free week." And it's a win-win, because they're sharing a whole free week of lessons. If you're really uncomfortable doing that then obviously you're not going to share. And you also have a chance to win an iPad, so it's a win-win.
And so you're reminding them on that. You teach the day for free, and at the end, you give the kids homework, which parent love because now the kid is doing something outside of watching TV or video games, and they're busy making their thing. And then we have them post on our Facebook and social, so then it becomes a little bit more awareness around what this thing is.
And then, the next day we actually have two announcements. We have who the iPad winner is, and we also have what we call the artist's spotlight. And so the artist's spotlight is somebody who posted their homework, and then we select it, and we actually give them a signed picture book. And then all this whole week we're still buying ads, so by the end of the week, I actually have about 110,000. Engagement does drop off, it's not 25,000 the whole time. It goes from 25 to about 15, to by the end of the week, it's about 10. But when you think about our conversion, we had 4,700 customers. Of that 10,000, half bought.
Which is pretty incredible. And for them, they came every single day for the whole week and there was no risk in the purchase for them, which is why I really like this kind of launch model for a week, is because you built this relationship over a whole week and you're not hard-selling somebody off of one presentation.
Chris: Right. Okay, so the ad brought them to an opt-in page, which had a countdown to when that week began. So on Tuesday, after that week began, what does the countdown look like? Is it flashing red already missed, or...
Arree: No, you just say "Starting now." It's already started, you have the dates on there. I didn't tell you that if you join late or if you miss the class, we have a very simple replay page, and it's just arree.com/replay, so it's really easy to remember as well. And you just have the daily videos there. So day one, here's the video, here's the slides. Day two, here's the video, here's the slides.
Chris: I see. They can get caught up.
Arree: Yeah. And it's on demand any time. There's no login, there's no nothing. It's just there.
Chris: Okay. Is it you teaching all week long?
Arree: So for the summer camp, this is when I opened up to my friends and I asked them, "Hey, I've been teaching this creativity camp for the past few months, would you like to come teach? I can pay you really well, and you get to teach a bunch of kids, and it's fun." And so I had four other friends join in. And it was a great value, because now the kids can learn from more than one mentor.
Chris: Right. So did you kick it off on the week?
Arree: I did. I started with beginning drawing, and then I think week two was painting. And then we had design, so Maria taught design. And then, what were the last... oh, out of the five weeks I taught twice. I taught animation, and then there was one more. I can't think off the top of my head, it's been a while.
Chris: So did the students and the parents get an email with supplies, and a lesson plan, and all that stuff in advance?
Arree: Yes. You actually have to have that ready to go. Your syllabus and a tight materials list is one of your best sales assets. It just shows people that you're serious, you know what you're doing, you're prepared. And it's one of those things where if I feel uneasy, I don't trust you, I'm not going to buy. And then if they see this detailed list, you're like, "Oh, this guy knows what he's doing." I'm good.
Chris: Right. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. So the time in between registering and getting the opt-in email and all that stuff, and then your syllabus and the supplies, it's not a lot of time. The parents, what are they doing, ordering this on Amazon or something?
Arree: Yeah, they're just ordering on Amazon.
Chris: Yeah? And you provide links for them?
Arree: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It's all in the supply list. We link it up... this is where having a team helps a lot. Having a virtual assistant that can put together your lists and docs and publish them. Helps a lot.
Chris: Yeah. So there's a lot of planning going on, from securing the other teachers, designing the curriculum, getting their supply lists, and then building all this stuff up. I imagine this is quite a bit of work prior to you even running your first ad, right?
Arree: Absolutely. It's a lot work. But you can take it in bits and pieces. The very first part of the work is, let's get the ad ready, let's get the contest going. While you're building your list, you're finalizing material lists, and to be honest, sometimes you just have to fill in the blanks. Like you're asking the instructors, "Hey, what is your syllabus?" And they're not getting back to you. Guess who's doing the syllabus at 2:00 AM? You are, right? So that's what I did. I just said, "Okay, I'm just going to write this thing right now and get it done in the next hour." And that's what you got to do, you just do what you got to do.
Chris: How long was the live sessions for?
Arree: Just an hour.
Chris: Okay. How'd you arrive at the number one hour instead of two hours, or 30 minutes, or whatever?
Arree: Well, the first part is the audience. So, we're teaching pretty young kids, some of who are even in kindergarten, and honestly an hour is a stretch for those kindergarten kids. I think half an hour is perfect. 45 minutes is okay. An hour is probably too long for a kindergartner to be on Zoom and paying attention. So we started actually with classes that are 30 to 45 minutes, but we got into some crafts like painting that just took longer than that. And so it was actually a challenge even to get those classes done in an hour. I'm teaching a painting class right now, it goes an hour and a half. Which is fine, because they're mixing, they're painting, and they're having fun. But we got to that time from A, the audience age, and then B, what is they're trying to do in that live class.
Greg: Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back with more from Arree Chung.
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Welcome back to our conversation with Arree Chung.
Chris: Two quick logistical questions. One is, what kind of camera equipment setup are you using so that you can teach painting? I imagine this is all analog. Are these overhead cameras that you're setting up? And then, does each instructor have to have the same setup?
Arree: So, each instructor does not have to have the same setup, but this is something that I'm working on to make it more consistent. Some are using webcams, which I need to experiment and buy a few of those. Others, including myself, are using iPads and iPhones. And this actually works surprisingly well, it's really simple. You get one of those extenders that hold your iPhone or iPad, and you call into the Zoom, and we just spotlight your camera. And you just have to set the lighting right, so that way it looks good. And make sure that your notifications are off and whatnot.
But that's what we do now, it's actually pretty simple. It's just about getting the lighting and having it set up.
Chris: Right. So then, there's probably multiple computers on your end. One is so that you can speak to them, and then you spotlight the other one. Say, okay, I'm going to spotlight this one, and now everybody can see that. And you're using your iPhone as a secondary camera on like one of those gooseneck arms, right, so you position it exactly so it's an overhead thing, and then you can draw and demo in front of them.
So, for the part in which you're demoing, they're hearing your voice, but mostly they're seeing your hands and the tools, correct?
Arree: That's right.
Chris: Okay. And you're doing the editing live yourself, or your virtual assistant is helping you to flip back and forth?
Arree: Oh, no. So we have a moderator. So I like to think of these live classes as live performances. They're sort of like a sports event or a daytime TV show. You can watch those things on recordings but they're just not as fun. There's something about being together live, right? And so we treat it the same way. There's a moderator who's sort of like your color commentary. That moderator currently right now is also the camera person, so they're the ones that's switching back and forth.
They're also the ones that select kids. So our classes, we have a specific format and formula, and it's all about engagement. So it's making sure that every single kid is engaged the whole way through, and the way you do that is you give them opportunities to participate. And so the teacher's been trained to lead with questions, and say "Hey, I need one volunteer to help me do this." And people raise their blue hands. You can see the kids when they get picked, it seems like they're on TV, they're so excited.
And the moderator, part of their job is to scan the room and see who's engaged, and write down that list. And so when we go to select somebody, we're selecting someone who's been attentive, knows what's going on, is excited to join. So the moderator does all those things, camera, selecting kids, filling white space, giving color commentary, and also keeping the vibe and the rhythm of the class going.
So in a presentation, the tone of the presenter sets the tone of the mood of the room. So, a moderator, if someone's slower, you want to pair them with someone who's more upbeat, and peppy, and fast. So there's a little bit of art there in having the perfect team. But that's what makes a good class.
Chris: Okay. So you're running a Zoom webinar, right? So the number of attendees is huge, so you're not seeing all their faces, you're just seeing their names in a participant list, right? How do you know they're engaged? Are they commenting and chatting?
Arree: Oh, so for the promotion we do webinars, and for the class we do just a normal Zoom room. But we have the highest plan where you have 1,000 people join. In webinars you can have participants, so you can see those people. And what we do is, our most loyal customers, we make them participants. So we register them in advance.
Chris: They're like co-hosts, right? They're on the screen.
Arree: Well, they're not co-hosts in the sense that they don't have any controls. You want to be careful here, especially with kids, they inadvertently press buttons and they'll unintentionally hijack your lesson. They were just pressing buttons, they didn't know. They don't have much that they can do, but they can turn on and off their video, they can unmute themselves when you unmute them. They also have a button they have to press, okay, I want to be unmuted.
Chris: Okay, so I was mostly referring to the webinar part where you're still doing the sales pre-class. Because the webinar is very close to the actual class, so I'm just trying to map it here. So you have a mod who's managing energy, who's cutting cameras, and also filling in maybe some of the dead space, because you're drawing, they're like, "So, what are doing there, Arree?" And then you could explain, right? It's like, wait, [inaudible]
And then, okay, so Jimmy or Mary has a question about, what's your favorite animal or something. And Arree, what is your favorite? So they're keeping it lively, right?
Arree: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: Okay. And then at the end you say, "Okay, all right, so we're almost done here, I want to make sure you guys have your homework, here's what you do. And then you want to make sure you post on Facebook, and we'll send you the link." And then they do that, and then that's the day. And then you just rinse and repeat for five days, right?
Arree: That's exactly it.
Chris: Okay. This is wonderful. Okay.
Arree: So I'll mention one last thing, is there's also a sequence to the week when you're doing the sales promotion. So day one, you don't sell at all. Because you want people just to learn, trust you.
Chris: Right, no pitching.
Arree: No pitching. Day two, you mention enrollment is open. And a bunch of people sign up because they loved day one already. It's a soft thing, right? You mention it's open, and you mention that we're giving out these awesome bonuses. Day three, this is where... so I'm going to lead you up to that 36 hours, okay? So day three is when you say, "Oh, I just want to remind you that these are these bonuses, and that the early bird ends tomorrow."
Chris: Right. That's the trigger.
Arree: So now it's like, oh... and the discount is 20 bucks. So if you miss it and you still want it, you're still going to sign up. Right? But you'll be surprised what motivates people to save 20 bucks.
Chris: Well, it's relative. It's relative to the cost of the class, right? Because how much is the class, full price?
Arree: It's 147, which is still incredibly affordable.
Chris: Yeah, 147. So $20 from 147, that's not nothing.
Arree: It's not nothing. It's not nothing, for sure.
Chris: But that triggers them to take action. Okay.
Arree: Yeah, so it's a really good way to win both ways. I mean, $20... I'd still be happy to make that sale at 127 versus 147. And many people sign up for that 147 later, too. But that Wednesday is you put that anchor in, this is the deadline. And then on Thursday, you mention it at the end of class. You email them in the morning at 6:00 AM. Hey, just a quick reminder, today is the last day of the early bird. Instead of paying 147, pay 127, I hope you're having fun this whole week.
And then, at 5:00 PM or 6:00 PM Pacific time, you send them one last reminder. And that's what made that 36 hours huge, we made 400 grand in 36 hours.
Arree: Yeah, it was awesome.
Chris: Okay, so you kicked it off on the class on Wednesday, and an email notification 6:00 AM the following Thursday, here's your last chance, it expires within hours, right?
Chris: Then they have to go in for...
Arree: For the early bird.
Chris: And that's the trigger. And then you start to see the sales come in. And this is your holy cow moment, right? Because you're seeing orders come in. Are you notified in your email of every purchase?
Arree: No, we turn that off because there's so many. This was really fun, Chris, is we have the team, we're like, oh my gosh... we hit our sales goal in that 36 hours. And so everyone just hopped on, and we were just watching the sales come in, refreshing the stream every two seconds. And it was a lot of fun. And then we actually went from this moment of, oh my gosh, I don't believe that much sales has come in, can you believe this? To, can we serve all these people?
Can we do this? And we actually closed down the cart because we sold out. We actually oversold, and we had to scramble the next day. I had to go back to all the instructors and say "Hey, will you teach another session? I'll pay you five grand more." It's a nice problem to have. And everyone said yes.
Chris: Okay. So we want to talk about this a little bit. Because there is actually some kind of limitation to how many people can participate on these live video calls, right?
Chris: And what is that amount? Is it 1,000?
Arree: 1,000. Because Zoom can only have 1,000 people at a time.
Chris: Okay. I just want to clarify because people are like, "Oh, this is some fake scarcity nonsense." No, it's a technology limitation. Unless you're Tony Robbins and you call the CEO, basically the cap is 1,000. And that's as many as you can have, so then you have to run multiple sessions. And so I think in the full-blown five-week camp... how many different sessions are you running per day?
Arree: We were planning for two, then when we had this huge enrollment, we added one more. So we had three for all the classes. And then there were hiccups along the way, so one of the problems that we didn't know in advance was people are going to share the link. So we had a bunch of people crashing, which is terrible because then all these people who paid couldn't get in, and all these people [crosstalk]
Chris: Oh my gosh.
Arree: Yeah, it was terrible. So what we had to do to just make it right for everyone, is we added a fourth time.
Chris: Wow. So now you're just spending even more money, because this is your problem, not the instructor's problem.
Arree: Yes. We're paying instructors extra to run that fourth time. The instructors may not like it then but they did really well. I paid them really, really well. But it's all good. We're still figuring out how to limit that problem, but we spent the next two weeks... the first week, we had to remake all the links, add that fourth time slot, and then basically we had to work on the tech part to then pre-register people into Zoom. So we had to build an API and link it from our email into Zoom, and then pass it back into a custom email and send it to them.
So there's a bunch of gymnastics that had to happen to make that work. And email is also not the bast way of delivering the link, because for whatever reason, half the people are not going to get your email even if you sent it to them. So then you have to have a huge customer service staff. So I'm kind of getting used to some of the pains we had. So half the people, we had 1,000 people every day that would email us. "Hey, where's my link? Where's my link?" Even though is automatically sent to them every day.
Chris: Wow. Okay. I'm looking at the time, I'm getting nervous again, Arree. So it must have been a little bit rewarding, overwhelming, and then you go through the range of emotions, right? And then you actually run the class, and people are crashing... I can feel the pain. What are you guys doing? It's like the legitimate people who need to get in this class can't get in, and you have panic, anxiety. Customer service issues. But obviously you got through it.
Arree: We did.
Chris: You got 4,700 people to enroll in your camp, and they signed up for different parts of... I guess now four sessions per day, which is a lot.
Arree: It is. It's a lot to manage.
Chris: Yeah. So I was just thinking about the one week curriculum, and then to roll this out for four sessions a day times however many weeks... was it five weeks?
Arree: Five weeks.
Chris: Yeah, times five weeks. Did you get any sleep at all?
Arree: You know, I had a lot of help, so I did. I was also teaching, so... after the first week, the first week was the hardest, because we had to fix the link sharing problem. And then the second week was actually pretty hard too, because we were sending new links and new registrations, and half the people aren't getting it. There was one day in particular that we had 3,000 emails in one hour. In one hour. It was like, oh my gosh. But we got through it, and what made us get through it is kind of two things. One is I was able to build a team along the way. There were two hires, Becky King... shout out, Becky, if you ever hear this, thank you. She was the first person that manned customer service, and did a great job.
And then we hired the most amazing person, her name is Katherine, and she lives in the Philippines. That day we got the 3,000 emails, I was like, "Katherine, you got to go out and hire like five people like right now." And she did. She hired and trained five people to help us crank through, and it was all hands, it was like 10 of us, myself included, answering emails, getting people their custom link via email. It was just manpower. We got through it. And so the two things that gets you through it is having a good team, and then just being resilient, not freaking out. When you see this huge number, it's 3,000, you're like oh my gosh, we're done. Right?
But when you actually looked through and said, "What are the different kinds of problems here? Oh, it's all the same problem." So, I knew that we can get through it. It's just, all right, we got to train everyone to answer this one problem, and then we got to fix this problem. Right? And we got through that. That was the hardest part in delivering.
Chris: I'm just like, the hurdles you had to jump over. I'm like, oh, I got to go talk to Ben about this later. Like how would we deal with that? That's ridiculous. Okay. Look, we have four minutes left. I have to ask you this question, okay?
Arree: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris: I was sharing your story with my wife, and I was just telling her when we were going on our hike about your father and the last words he said to you. And we were laughing about it because she already knew you were successful, right? But in that moment, your dad didn't know that. So he's telling you...
Arree: My dad knew that I had a job. I had a $100,000 art job, but he didn't know the rest of the story.
Chris: Okay. So I know you had a strong relationship with your dad, I see him inside your books and things like that. You and I can share this story and laugh a little tear of joy, but people on the outside listening to this, like, "What kind of parenting skill is that?" So I want to ask you this question really quickly. If you could have this conversation with your dad, you're back on the bedside, but fast forward, you made it before he passed. How would that conversation have gone? What would you have told him in his last moments there?
Arree: Wow. This is a really good question, Chris. And it gets me a little choked up, because my dad... I didn't tell you this, but he was an alcoholic. And the reason why he was an alcoholic was because... my dad had so much creative potential inside of him. He was a writer, he used to write for a newspaper in Thailand. He's intellectual, he reads a lot. I'm a lot like him in some ways. And when he moved to the states, he was a blue collar worker. He worked in a factory, had to go do the same crappy job every day, and he was not intellectually stimulated. He was so empty inside, and he became an alcoholic.
And for me, I knew, watching his life, that I didn't want the same thing. And I think I would've just told dad that I'm doing something I really love and enjoy, and it's interesting and fun every day, and now we're making really good money. Like we made it. And I would say it's like we... because he always had had these drunken episodes and just lament about his life. And so I would just tell him that I was able to overcome that. That's what I would tell him.
Chris: I just think that his words to you were maybe just his own sadness, right? That he couldn't live his life, and he thought maybe you were heading in that same direction, and he didn't want that life for you. That a lot of times people who aren't from our culture don't understand that these sometimes very harsh words really come from a deep sense of love, and it's just like they want to take care of their boy.
Arree: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's it, and usually when people say harmful things to you it's coming from them. It's their hurt that they're expressing.
Chris: Yeah. So I guess it was such a just heartbreaking moment that you had... here's how my dad thinks, right, just on his dying breath he says this to you, but I think you knew how to hear it. And if your dad were alive today, I think he would rest easy knowing that, you know what, my boy did it. He got his moment, and he did it his way, and in a way that makes an impact on the world even sweeter. And I love that about your story.
Arree: Yeah. Thanks, Chris.
Chris: Arree, thank you very much for doing this with me. I love how open you are, how completely transparent you are. And I don't know if you guys listening to this can hear his character in his voice, but I'm feeling it, and if you just look him up... where do people go and find you? When might the next camp be, and what are your plans for the future?
Arree: Oh, we have a whole school, it's called Creativity School, and you can find us at Arree.com, A R R E E dot com. And we are enrolling right now. So if your kids want to take our classes, and take live art classes, you can join for under $200 for the whole year, you get a whole year of education for less than 200 bucks.
Chris: The value that you provide is just a little bit too much, it's too much, Arree. We need to talk about that later, but okay. Tell you what. At the end of the year, you and I are going to connect again, and we're going to see what has happened. This is an ongoing story, ladies and gentlemen, and I'm so excited for you and for the people who are lucky enough to be a part of your program, because you and I know this. We want to live a creative, artistic life, our lives are too short to do anything but that. So I'm rooting for you all the way, shouting from the bleachers, 100%. Thank you, Arree.
Arree: Thanks, Chris. It's been awesome being part of The Futur. My name is Arree Chung, and you're listening to The Futur.
Greg: Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new, insightful episode from us every week. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Doe and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony [Barro] for editing and mixing this episode, and thank you to Adam [Sambor] for our intro music.
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