From Hot Dogs to HubSpot, Why It’s Always Been About The Hustle

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This is a podcast episode titled, From Hot Dogs to HubSpot, Why It’s Always Been About The Hustle. The summary for this episode is: Sam Parr (Founder, The Hustle & Host, ‘My First Million’) knows how to build a business. Whether it’s Sam’s Southern Hot Dogs carts or a media company like The Hustle, he approaches traditional industries in untraditional ways. Sam sits down to talk about how he created a newsletter read by XX people, viral marketed his way to early social success, and why you (likely) shouldn’t bother with college. Don’t worry: There’s plenty of hot takes to go around. Learn more: The Shake Up HubSpot Podcast Network Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Sam's first entrepreneur experience
01:22 MIN
How Sam was introduced to startups
01:28 MIN
Who Sam looks up to
00:38 MIN
The beginning of Hustle Con
01:56 MIN
The voice of The Hustle
01:19 MIN
Do all companies need to be media companies?
01:34 MIN
What's next for Sam?
00:33 MIN

Alexis Gay: Where do you think that came from, him saying that to you?

Sam Parr: Media is a hard business. It's a pain in the ass to run and it's very challenging, and so the odds that you're going to make good money are hard, and it's very, very challenging. I also think that he's just a smug prick.

Speaker 3: Time, weather, and inaudible.(singing).

Alexis Gay: Welcome to The Shake Up. I'm Alexis Gay.

Brianne Kimmel: And I'm Brianne Kimmel.

Alexis Gay: And each week, we explore the business decisions that dare to be different and the leaders who are shaking up their industries.

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Alexis Gay: Oh boy, Brianne, big episode of The Shake Up today. Are you ready?

Brianne Kimmel: I'm so excited. This is going to be one of the most fun episodes.

Alexis Gay: Today on the show, we're talking with Sam Parr, the founder of The Hustle and the host of the My First Million Podcast. Sam, welcome to The Shake Up.

Sam Parr: What's going on? We had Bri on our show recently and we're reciprocating, so I'm happy to be here.

Alexis Gay: We're happy to have you. It feels like a little bit of a crossover episode since we're both a part of the HubSpot Podcast Network.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it's been cool, right?

Brianne Kimmel: Sam, what's awesome is, you've already recorded 209 episodes on your podcast, My First Million, is that right?

Sam Parr: Yeah. Shaan, my cohost, it was his idea, and him and I would do these things every Tuesday where we would meet and just brainstorm ideas back and forth, and we would do it really quickly. And we did it for years and he was like," Hey, you just want to do this on air?" And I said," Oh yeah, all right, sure," and it's done okay. People seem to dig it.

Alexis Gay: And you have a super engaged audience, and I know that you've been able to put a lot of really amazing content out there, both, obviously, the newsletter and the podcast, and so much more. I guess my first question is, going back to when you went to school in Nashville for music business... Do I have that right?

Sam Parr: Yeah.

Alexis Gay: Definitely, it's an unexpected career trajectory, going from music business into what you do now, or is it expected to you?

Sam Parr: Well, not really, right, media, no. So I was like every 16- year- old bro, and I saw like Ari Gold on Entourage and I was like," Ari Gold is awesome. The Entourage show is so cool," and I wanted to be like Ari Gold. But I didn't do so good in school, and so I couldn't get into UCLA or Michigan. It's a bullshit degree though. I think you should only go into debt or pay 50 or 60 or$70, 000 a year if you go to a top 20 university. If you don't, just bail. Go to state school or community school or don't go to school.

Alexis Gay: Wow, Sam, I think you're the first person in tech to ever recommend that kids don't go to college. That's hot tea.

Sam Parr: No, I didn't say that. I didn't say that. My kids, I want them to go to Harvard.

Alexis Gay: So Sam, going back to you and your music business degree in Nashville, I'm curious, Nashville, big music city, who were you listening to? Give us the soundtrack to you at that time in your life?

Sam Parr: Avett Brothers. I liked them a lot. Who else did I like? I don't know. I liked a little bit of everyone. You know what band is a guilty pleasure, is The Killers. I liked The Killers a lot.

Alexis Gay: Yeah, The Killers are great.

Brianne Kimmel: Oh, The Killers are so good.

Alexis Gay: Is that a guilty pleasure? Should we be feeling guilty about that?

Sam Parr: No, maybe OneRepublic is a little bit guiltier, but I like some of the pop- rock stuff. So anyway, I didn't end up studying music business. When I was there, I worked for this guy. Have you seen that TV show, American Pickers?

Alexis Gay: Yeah.

Brianne Kimmel: Yeah.

Sam Parr: So I met him on the street, Mike, the main guy, in the street, and I became friends with him. And eventually, I worked for him and I opened up a store in Nashville, so the TV show where they buy stuff and they bring it to the store and they appraise it, I helped run the store in Nashville.

Alexis Gay: That's right. That's so cool.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it was really bad- ass. And so, we would have all types of musicians come in because Mike was famous amongst musicians, and we would sell stuff to Jack White, Keith Urban, and I lived right next to Third Man Records.

Alexis Gay: Oh, sick.

Sam Parr: Yeah, I lived a few blocks away from it. And so, when I was there, I worked for Mike, and then from there, I started my first hot dog stand and that was my first entrepreneur endeavor.

Brianne Kimmel: So you were working on American Pickers. How did you decide to start a hot dog truck?

Sam Parr: Not a truck.

Alexis Gay: A stand. Do you love hot dogs?

Sam Parr: I mean, I like meat. No, I don't like it anymore-

Alexis Gay: Is that where it came from, you were like,"All-

Sam Parr: No, it didn't.

Alexis Gay: ...right, I love meat"?

Sam Parr: No. So the reason why it has to be important that it's not a truck is because there's different laws, and so the barrier to entry for a stand is very low, so I was able to get one for 500 bucks because I don't actually care about... I don't know how to cook, I still don't, but I just lucked into it. And I had a funny shtick where it was called Southern Sam's: Wieners as Big as a Baby's Arm. And if you put your baby's arm in a bun and put mustard on the bun and we could take a picture of it, then you got a free hot dog, and it was kind of funny.

Alexis Gay: Oh, that's brilliant. I was listening to your show earlier today and something that really stuck out to me that I do feel sets you apart in terms of how you talk about business is that you have a lot of true hands- on real- world experience with operating a business and businesses of all kinds. It's not like you're someone who maybe went into entertainment business right out of school and then they just sat behind a computer and ran a media company. But you really ran a hot dog stand, that's where you started. And I feel like it's that real world experience that informs, at least as a listener, a lot of your perspective on how to run a profitable business.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it was great. On a slow day, you make 200 bucks. On a really good day, I walk home with$2, 000 of cash in my pocket, and when you're 21 years old, you're rich. It was a lot of fun. It's so hard though. When I was doing it, I was like," I need to make money on the internet. This is so hard." It's just physically demanding.

Alexis Gay: Yeah, and it's hot out there.

Sam Parr: Have you seen my skin? I'm very white and I would get the worst sunburn. It was so hot. And I started an online store, and I would be in class and my phone would be going ker- ching, ker- ching, and that was a sale. And I would walk out of class with a thousand dollars in my PayPal account, and I'm like," Oh, man, this is way better."

Alexis Gay: What was that business?

Sam Parr: So it was an online liquor store, but eventually, I got rid of that and I got rid of the hot dog stand and I moved out to San Francisco because I cold emailed this guy named Brian. And he had a company called AirBed& Breakfast and I was like," Hey, this sounds like a cool thing. I want to interview. I think I can help make it better by doing X, Y, and Z," and they were like, are you in the Bay Area?" And I was like," Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm there," and he goes," All right, great, come to the office on Monday." And so, of course, I wasn't there, so I booked a flight and I flew out there. And I got an interview there, and that's how I got introduced to startups, and then eventually, got rid of all my stuff and moved to San Francisco.

Alexis Gay: Wow. Sam, that's a big difference, selling hot dogs, selling moonshine, to then going to work at what, of course, became Airbnb. How did you identify that that was a startup you really saw potential in to the point that you were willing to move your entire life, every hot dog you had to your name, out to California?

Sam Parr: Every hot dog, that's funny. I don't know. I don't really think too far ahead of what was going to happen. When I was talking and telling my parents about it, they were like,"This sounds like a Ponzi scheme." inaudible. And then-

Alexis Gay: I love how many times my parents have said something like that when I describe a tech company to them.

Sam Parr: So anyway, how did I know that it was Airbnb, that they were going to be interesting? I didn't. I had no idea. It was a total guess. It sounded cool. One of their fifth or eighth employees, something like that, was a guy named Chris Lukezic, and he was a famous runner, and I was a runner. I went to school on an athletic scholarship for track and field. And he quit his professional career as a runner, which isn't exactly lucrative, but he quit it, to work as the eighth employee or something at... It was, at the time, AirBed& Breakfast. And I was like," Damn, if this guy went to Georgetown, he's probably smart, and he quit his running career. I'm in," and so that's how I got looped in.

Alexis Gay: And would you say you're a competitive person? You mentioned you were an athlete for a time.

Sam Parr: Yeah, I want to crush people. Yes, I enjoy competing. Right after this, I'm going to my boxing lesson. I enjoy one- on- one competition. It's very fun.

Alexis Gay: Has there ever been a time when being that competitive didn't work in your favor?

Sam Parr: Yeah, it's super unhealthy, yes. It's mentally exhausting. I pick my battles now. I remember when people make fun of me from my high school and college years, and I'm like," That's why I'm going to start a company." I'm 100% fueled by rude things people said to me, and I probably deserved it, when I was 14.

Alexis Gay: I don't know. Brianne, what do you think about that?

Brianne Kimmel: I'm laughing over here because I box a few days a week, so had I had known that were into boxing, Sam, this could have been a very different experience. I'm down to spar sometime.

Sam Parr: Let's do it. You see all my teeth are all chipped? It's because I got punched in the face a few weeks ago. I'm not joking. Let's go.

Alexis Gay: You also said that you don't think it's healthy, but do you think it's sustainable? Do you think that the way that you're motivated right now and fueled right now can take you through the rest of your career?

Sam Parr: Well, it depends all on my careers, but yeah, I do. I think that a lot of men who I look up to are pretty nutty, and then in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, when they start calming down or when they have kids... I mean, my dad was a wild guy. Yeah, I think that once I have kids who are a little bit more grown, yeah, I think I'll calm down a little bit. But yeah, I think it's sustainable for a while.

Alexis Gay: When you say those men you look up to who are wild, who are you thinking of?

Sam Parr: I like to read a lot of history books. I'm inspired by a lot of people from the 1880s to the 1930s. Post- Civil War, like 1870, we were kind of the Wild West. Anything went. There was very little regulation, a lot of rules that we take for granted now. You could do anything. So people like John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, folks like that, I love reading about. I find them to be very fascinating, Cornelius Vanderbilt. These are basically the people who shaped America, what it is now. I enjoy reading about people like that. I enjoy reading about Lewis and Clark, basically people who faced massive amounts of uncertainty, but who did it anyway. And I don't care if they made it or not, to be honest. Even if they failed, it's cool to me.

Alexis Gay: Well, that's very tech and it's very 2010, 2015 tech culture, right?

Sam Parr: I thought that period in San Francisco was fricking awesome. Did you guys live there in 2010 to 2015? I thought it was fun. It was a little bit more innocent, a little bit...

Alexis Gay: I was in New York at the time. I moved out to San Francisco in 2016, but I was working in the tech startup world in New York. It was chaotic in a lot of ways, but a lot of free t- shirts though.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it was more nerdy. It was more nerdy.

Alexis Gay: It was so nerdy.

Brianne Kimmel: It was a-

Alexis Gay: I loved it.

Brianne Kimmel: ...simpler time. It was a simpler time.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it was a lot different, and the scandals were way less and it was fun. I had a great time in San Francisco in that time.

Alexis Gay: I think the scandals were just less public. I believe the scandals were still happening to the same degree, but I think we didn't hear about them as often.

Sam Parr: Yeah, yeah. But if a tree falls in the woods and no one hear it, did it make a sound? So that's how it is, I guess.

Brianne Kimmel: This is a great segue, looking at tech and startup culture. I'd love to spend some time and learn about, what was that initial inflection point or that initial idea that led to The Hustle?

Sam Parr: So I basically launched this thing called Hustle Con. I created the website and I announced it. I mean, I didn't have many people to announce it to, but I announced it on June 1st, and I think it happened on July 15th. There was a six- week period. And it made 60 grand in profit, and I thought it totally wasn't going to work. I thought maybe I would just kill some time and meet someone to start something with, and it worked. And then I did it again, and this time, it made a quarter of a million dollars in profit.

Alexis Gay: Whoa, wait. I'm sorry, just timeline- wise, so are you saying this predates the newsletter and the show?

Sam Parr: Yeah, I started that in 2015, and basically, I would, or maybe'14 and'15, I would host an event, get money, and ride my motorcycle around the country, host an event, make money, and ride my... I would travel.

Alexis Gay: That's so interesting. But was it just you building it? It's just you and a computer and a motorcycle at this point?

Sam Parr: With Hustle Con, yeah, I was the only-

Alexis Gay: Yeah, wow.

Sam Parr: ...employee. Yeah, then I had a team of volunteers.

Alexis Gay: Oh, really? What were they doing?

Sam Parr: When people showed up to the event, they would hand them a bottle of water, things like that.

Brianne Kimmel: It's interesting because to have volunteers means that there was a community and there were people that were really rallying behind what you were doing. What types of people were these and what got them so excited about The Hustle?

Sam Parr: It wasn't called The Hustle back then. It was this event called Hustle Con. The idea was, it was non- technical founders. We had Katrina Lake. She started Stitch-

Alexis Gay: Oh, from Stitch Fix?

Sam Parr: Yeah, and we had her right when she had raised her seed round, I believe, and then we had Jess Lee, the woman who started Polyvore, and then we had... Who else did we have back then? I forget everyone who it was, but a lot of companies that are quite big now, we would have them come and speak at our event. And Jess wasn't technical. Katrina talked about how she built Stitch Fix using an Excel model. Stitch Fix is, what, a$ 3 billion company. And so, it was all about people who founded companies that were tech companies, but they didn't know how to code, and so that was the original niche at first.

Alexis Gay: Why was that the original niche that you picked?

Sam Parr: I didn't pick it. I knew someone who had hosted this event as a meetup before, and I met these guys and I was like," Hey, I don't have anything to do. Can I take this over?" And their thing was pretty small, but they'd let me take it over, and I just gave them a small cut of the profit. The way that I got the people to buy tickets was, I created a newsletter and I would write about the speakers in a fun way. And I read the biography of Ted Turner and I was like," Well, this guy sounds fascinating. I think I could create a media company." And so, in April 19th of 2016, The Hustle, we launched as an email. And I had this blog prior to that, where I was able to get millions of people to come to the website, and 3% or 3000 people would give me their email. Or is that 30,000? Whatever it was, it was a fair amount of people. And I would get their email, then I would write more and send my articles to them, and then they would share some more and I would get all this traffic. And then eventually, I read about this company called DailyCandy, which... They were a newsletter company crosstalk-

Alexis Gay: Oh, yeah. Of course.

Sam Parr: Yeah. And I was like," Instead of blogging, I should just only do an email." I wanted to create this daily email that reached millions of people for the business and tech world, and then I wanted to make profits through advertising, and I wanted to use those profits to invest in cool companies and then tell my audience the cool companies that we invested in. And I thought that it would create this interesting cycle, and so that was the original idea. And we ended up selling before we got to the third part of investing in companies, but we made a lot of profit through ads and we built a big audience.

Alexis Gay: Nice. So then, as you started building out the newsletter, and then even if that wasn't your intention, as you started building the media company itself, who starts getting involved? How did you bring the right team together?

Sam Parr: I've messed up a lot. I hired a lot of the wrong people. But basically, the event made something like 200 to$300, 000 in the first year of business, and it was mostly profit. I think I could spend, I forget the exact numbers, 20 grand on a$ 250, 000 event, so that would be almost all profit.

Alexis Gay: So that means the speakers weren't charging serious fees at that point?

Sam Parr: No, because we would have the founder of Bonobos or OkCupid, or like I said, Katrina, or all these people, and they're like," I'm not a professional speaker, but I would love to come and I'll tell my story." Eventually, Hustle Con had two or 3000 people in the audience, and it was like, look, the value is that you're going to be able to recruit from here. We're going to talk about you in the daily email, we're going to talk about you here, so it was a very fair exchange. Sometimes, if they asked for flights to be covered or a hotel, we would cover that.

Alexis Gay: Moving away from just the in- person events, I want to hear a little bit more about the media company itself. Was there a moment when you realized," Oh, I'm building a media company"?

Sam Parr: I don't remember. Look, I'm a content producer, so I'm a writer. I wouldn't call myself a journalist. I would call myself a blogger. But I had always done it, and eventually, we got a hundred thousand or 200, 000 email subscribers in our first year, and we were able to get there through blogging. So we did 300 in the first half of the year in conference revenue and then another 200 in ad revenue, so it took nine months to get ad revenue. The second year, I think we did 2.2 million, the third year, maybe five, and then maybe seven and then 13, and then this year, we could have done 20, I think. And so, it probably wasn't until year two where we were making two million dollars where I'm like," Oh, wow. All right, this could maybe actually become a legitimate thing."

Alexis Gay: Totally. Do you think that email subscribers are as valuable today as a metric as they were when you first started building The Hustle?

Sam Parr: No, I think our timing was perfect.

Alexis Gay: Yeah, I agree, because I was thinking about it, especially when you mentioned DailyCandy. This reminds me of the specific moment in time where building that email list was everything. That was currency. But now, with so many other streams of content, I don't think it has the same value.

Sam Parr: It's so much harder now, although, check this out, though. When we got acquired, we had 1. 8 or close to two million subscribers, I forget the exact number, and our open rate was 48% every day.

Alexis Gay: Oh, shit. Yeah, and that's the other thing too, right? Without the context of the open rate, your subscriber count basically means nothing.

Sam Parr: Yeah, so we would actually measure on opens. And to build that now, it would be way more expensive. Substack wasn't a thing. Substack is cool, but now, everyone's in the email. When we started, I remember the founder and CEO of a huge media company in New York, you definitely know who they are, I told him what we were doing and he was an asshole to me. He dismissed me. He was like," This businesses won't ever make more than two million dollars a year."

Alexis Gay: Where do you think that came from, him saying that to you?

Sam Parr: Media is a hard business. It's a pain in the ass to run and it's very challenging, and so the odds that you're going to make good money are hard and it's very, very challenging. I also think that he's just a smug prick. I think that's a New York thing. The New York people are assholes. Where I'm from in the Midwest, people are way... Brianne, aren't you from the Midwest? People are way nicer.

Brianne Kimmel: I am. I'm from the Midwest. Yeah, I'm from Ohio.

Alexis Gay: Okay, well, let me tell you, everybody from the East Coast thinks you're soft, so I'm just letting you know that, as an East Coaster.

Sam Parr: Maybe it would have made me soft.

Alexis Gay: Sorry that you can't hang. I understand. Sam, you seem like someone who needs to be coddled, so I'll be extra sensitive for the rest of the interview.

Sam Parr: Yeah, the New Yorkers are just assholes.

Brianne Kimmel: And I'm going to put you on the hot seat for a little bit, but one thing that's interesting is that from the transition from Hustle Con, which had Katrina Lake and a lot of female founders, when I looked up a lot of the mentions of The Hustle, is, publications like Digiday have called The Hustle decidedly bro, which I think is a really interesting position because when I look at when The Hustle was getting started on... it seemed like that was around the same time as peak girl boss movement, where there were a lot of new publications and newsletters that were getting started, specifically for women in business. I like the angle and the direction that you took with The Hustle because it had a very clear tone of voice and had a very clear audience. Was that something that was intentional?

Sam Parr: Yes, so when we started, we, very purposely, were like," Who do we want to love us? But then also, we're okay pissing off a certain type of person." I was the original writer. Eventually, we actually had only women writing. Our first hires were only women, and people would call us bro and I'm like," Well, I mean, I don't think that's accurate, but whatever, that's fine." I think they called us that was... When I started the company, I was 24 or 25 and I probably was a bro. I would think I was a little bit more nerdy than bro, but I understood why people would call me that. And I was the main writer and we had a very distinct voice and we would insult people, but it was always in a have fun with them, not make fun of people. We tried our hardest never to put people down, but if we did make fun of people, it was... For example, do you remember when Apple first came out with a thumbprint on the iPhone?

Alexis Gay: Oh, yeah.

Sam Parr: We wrote this article and we were like," Do you remember in The Big Lebowski where he's like,'If you need a toe, dude, I'll get you a toe,' or like,'I'll get you a toe'"? And we're like," Well, inaudible what you do." And there was a story about someone dying or something like that, and they couldn't unlock their phone, and I'm like," Dude, if you need a toe or a finger, I'll get you a finger." And so, that was the humor, so is that bro- ey? I guess, maybe, but...

Alexis Gay: Well, I want to ask you one more question on that topic, and then I do want to dig in a little bit more to what we're seeing right now around media and business and how many companies are actually media companies and things like that. But as The Hustle continues to evolve, how much are you actively thinking about what kind of tone and culture you're putting out there versus, hey, I'm just staying true to myself, this is me, and so I'm going to let it fly?

Sam Parr: I pay attention a lot to it. I mean, both answers are how I feel. With our podcast, I often have to ask myself... I'll do shit that I regret where I'll say something. I'm like," Oh my God, that's not how I feel. Why did I say that?" And I'm sure you guys are beginning to experience this now, particularly because you both have... I mean, you already have Twitter followings, so you know the game, but when people are listening to your voice for a long time, you say stuff that you don't always feel, and so I think constantly about what I'm saying and making sure what I say is... I don't care about if it's appropriate or not, but if it's how I truly feel.

Alexis Gay: What do you do when you realize you said something that doesn't align with how you feel anymore?

Sam Parr: I talk to my wife. I'm like," Hey, what's your opinion of this?" And then also, when I started my company, I was 24 or 25, I think, and the values that I stood for then are not what I stand for now. I was like," You got to fire people," and I'm sorry, this isn't what I'm about anymore. You've just got to grow publicly a little bit, and I think if you just say you're sorry... Or this is a very easy thing to say, you'll be like," Yeah, I know. I said that then. I don't feel that way though. My opinion has evolved. I gathered new information, I grew, and so I don't regret what I..." I mean, we're not talking about anything crazy here, by the way.

Alexis Gay: I really like, Sam, what you said about being willing to grow publicly. That is one of the things about being somebody who is putting themselves out there in public. You also do have to be willing to then hold yourself accountable and grow, and it sounds like maybe you'll be someone that we can come and have a whiskey with the first time someone gets really upset about something we say on the show.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it's going to happen. Yeah, it's not if, it's when. If you do 200 episodes, that's 200 hours of talking. You're going to say something dumb and you're going to get criticized. I think it's a blessing. At least that means that you're doing something important enough that people give a shit to make fun of you.

Alexis Gay: Yeah, it does seem like a necessary by- product of impact. Let's take a quick break because when we come back, we'll continue to talk with Sam Parr. And I don't want to spoil anything, but this man has some hot takes on everything we've been talking about, coming up after this quick break. Today's episode is sponsored by those fine folks over at HubSpot. Managing conversations with prospects and customers and creating remarkable experience can be tough. HubSpot wants to change that. That's why they created a CRM platform that makes it easy to align across teams.

Brianne Kimmel: Oh, it's so much easier. With HubSpot's unified system of record, all teams can create a better customer experience without missing a beat.

Alexis Gay: We love a unified system of record. We always say that. You can install live chat on your website and allow sales or support to get in touch with prospects directly.

Brianne Kimmel: Or send marketing emails on behalf of sales reps or customer success managers.

Alexis Gay: Not to mention, it allows prospects to book meetings with reps without wasting time.

Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, and best of all, teams can get access to all of the contacts history so they can have more informed conversations with prospects and customers and design a better overall experience.

Alexis Gay: The result, all your customer people can align around the same goals, consistently great customer journeys that drive growth and lifetime loyalty. Learn more about how you can scale your company without scaling complexity at hubspot. com. And we're back with Sam Parr, the founder of The Hustle and the host of the My First Million Podcast. Sam, I have to ask you about this because I'm so curious on your opinion, but do you subscribe to the thought that all businesses will need to also be media companies, moving forward?

Sam Parr: No, I think that's bullshit, circle jerk, Silicon Valley stuff. Absolutely not, no.

Alexis Gay: Tell me more about why not.

Sam Parr: Because my dad owns a produce brokerage company, and he makes great money. Is he a media company? No. You don't have to be that. Not every business needs to become a media company. I hate when people say that.

Alexis Gay: Yeah, so where does it come from? Why are people saying that?

Sam Parr: Because it sounds good in a quote on Twitter. I'm looking at this fucking big apartment building right across from here. Are they going to have a media company? No, they don't care. What? No, not every company needs to become a media company. If you want to do it and you want to get more customers, I think it's a great tactic. HubSpot did it by buying The Hustle. They're going to make so much money from doing that. I'm in media. I love media. Does every company need to do that? Absolutely not. 100% no. I think that's a ridiculous... No.

Brianne Kimmel: And companies have to, what, zig when others zag, or whatever that saying is, because if you're a new, up- and- coming competitor that wants to compete with HubSpot, you're not going to beat HubSpot on content. And this is something that we see over and over again, where if there's a company that's already gone to market and they're very strong and they're building that media company, maybe it's best for you to implement a different strategy where you're not going head to head from a content standpoint, which requires bigger team, more resources.

Sam Parr: Yeah, I think, eventually, for a lot of companies, it makes sense, but definitely not all. I think that's just such a Silicon Valley thing where they take this grant like this is this grand rule. I cannot stand when people getting this... they make these grand rules. There's a thousand ways to get the same thing done.

Alexis Gay: I totally agree. It can be very myopic. So then, for companies that are not getting acquired by the HubSpots of the world, how do you see media companies making money, moving forward? We talked about how email subscribers are less important now. You, of course, started with an in- person event structure, which may or may not be something that people can really do, moving forward.

Sam Parr: I think the subscription business is wonderful, so The Hustle, when we got acquired, we were doing a lot of revenue and advertising, and advertising can make you a lot of money. I don't like it, but there's a lot of things I don't like, but that doesn't mean it's not good. And then we had millions of dollars in subscription revenue, and that was awesome. I love subscription revenue. I think a lot of people don't do it because they're too fearful. Typically, if you have an ad business, that is the opposite of what's necessary for a subscription business, so your writers, are they going to be incentivized to go for reach or to go for keep? And that's actually really hard to have both, but I think more should have subscriptions. I think there's a lot of companies that don't have B2B plays and I think they could. But in general, media is hard, man. Once HubSpot bought us and I started seeing some of the numbers and I started learning about enterprise software, I'm like," This is way better."

Brianne Kimmel: Which independent media company do you admire the most today?

Sam Parr: Reddit isn't a media company exactly, but I think that what Reddit is doing is just the greatest thing on earth. I think the nerd culture is amazing. There's a niche community for everything. So my wife is black and she couldn't get her... something about her hair. There was an issue with her hair. I don't understand it entirely and I couldn't help her, but I went on to Reddit and I'm like," Hey, look, there's 50, 000 people who are part of this subreddit. I think it's called black curly hair or something like that. There's your answer. We just found it." And so now, she's an active part of this community and she got the answer, and I think that's amazing. You can't find that anywhere else. I think the Financial Times are amazing. I don't love what The New York Times does all the time, but I think The New York times is like the Louis Vuitton of media. They've been around for 150 years and they're probably going to be around for another 150 years. I'm very fascinated with how they've completely pivoted their business to be this juggernaut. I had this New York Times journalist interview me and she was like," What's it feel like... You're this tech bro," and I'm like," Dog, you're a tech bro. New York Times is a tech company, and that's a compliment. What you guys have done is amazing. I can't believe you've pulled this off."

Brianne Kimmel: What do you think about media companies selling merch? We've talked about subscription. It seems like a lot of media companies are building their own brand and selling their own branded apparel.

Sam Parr: I think it will only work for a few people. If you're Barstool, that will work. If you're theCHIVE, that will work. Who also has that worked for? It's very hard to make a lot of money that way, I think. Who else do you think has that worked for?

Alexis Gay: Well, I think as a monetization strategy, it's not necessarily going to be a pillar of your business, but I think there are added benefits to doing something like merchandise, especially if it's like, you need a way to collect emails. It can be good for announcing certain projects. I think there can be a lot of ancillary benefits to it, but I agree with you entirely that there are very few businesses that are going to be able to keep afloat by selling hats.

Sam Parr: Yeah, it's hard. I mean, we tried to sell this candle one time called Elon's Musk and we got shut down, but we would've crushed that, we would've crushed that.

Alexis Gay: That's so funny, wait, I can't believe that they shut that down. You got a cease and desist or something?

Sam Parr: Our lawyer was like," You can't do this. You cannot sell Elon's Musk."

Alexis Gay: Sam, I am surprised that you listened. I think of you as someone that would maybe have been like," Fuck it, we're making this candle."

Sam Parr: I should have. It's one of the biggest regrets I have, to be honest with you.

Alexis Gay: You know what? Tomorrow's another day. Sam, we have to wrap up, but one thing that has stuck out to me after learning more about your background is that you're definitely a builder, whether that's the hot dog stand, media companies, podcasts, et cetera. It seems like, especially after the acquisition, you're in a moment where you're looking at the next thing sometime, maybe in the next few years. And I'm curious, what to you, stands out as the most exciting, next thing that you could really sink your teeth into?

Sam Parr: This will be a little bit of a weird one, but trucking in America. The American trucker, I think, has been shit on for the past couple decades. Wages are at an all- time low. It's incredibly hard job. But without trucks, we don't get the food that we want. You don't get that microphone. You don't get this. You don't get that. You have to have trucks. And I've always been fascinated about these problems that middle America," normal people," which I identify as, and I think that's my roots, how do we make their lives a little bit better? The trucking union is one of the most powerful unions. I think I might explore that.

Alexis Gay: Awesome. Well, I'm excited to see where that road leads you. And with that, where can people find more about you? And tell our listeners a little bit more about the pod.

Sam Parr: It's called My First Million. @ theSamParr is my Twitter handle.

Alexis Gay: Very cool. Sam, this has been truly such a pleasure. It's been so fun to talk with you and we'll see you again soon.

Sam Parr: All right, thank you.

Alexis Gay: Hey, Brianne, are you ready to do that thing we practiced?

Brianne Kimmel: Oh my gosh. Is it time? I'm ready.

Alexis Gay: Okay, three, two, one. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review.

Brianne Kimmel: Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review.

Alexis Gay: Pretty good. Today's episode was written and produced by Matthew Brown. Production support comes from Lauren Shield. Our engineer is William Lowe. With research from Corey Braccialini, and special thanks to Kyle Denhoff and Lisa Toner.

Brianne Kimmel: We have some amazing guests coming up this season that you won't want to miss.

Alexis Gay: See you next time.


Sam Parr (Founder, The Hustle & Host, ‘My First Million’) knows how to build a business. Whether it’s Sam’s Southern Hot Dogs carts or a media company like The Hustle, he approaches traditional industries in untraditional ways.

Sam sits down to talk about how he created a newsletter read by 1.5 million people, viral marketed his way to early social success, and why you (likely) shouldn’t bother with college. Don’t worry: There’s plenty of hot takes to go around.

Today's Host

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Alexis Gay

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Brianne Kimmel


Today's Guests

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Sam Parr

|Founder, The Hustle