7 days ago · 64 minute read
Cameron Olthuis is in the Opt Out Life ‘Hall of Fame’. That’s obvious from the moment we begin this episode. He alternates living between Park City, Utah and Echo Lake, Montana . . . with a few stops each year in his old stomping grounds, San Diego. Not bad, Cameron, not bad.
But how does he pull it off? We spent a leisurely afternoon, sipping High West whiskey and peppering Cameron to get the details. Kick back and listen in to his story of going from a 20-something father of two working in a customer service, to a successful entrepreneur and executive with CBS Interactive.
Highlights from Episode 11 with Cameron . . .
On being raised to have balance between work and play . . . “I was actually raised with that balance and with that mentality. I learned it all from my dad. I remember growing up and always looking up to the other, so called, wealthier people in the neighborhood and asking my parents, “Why don’t we have a house that’s as nice as them.” My dad would always say, “Those people don’t have a summer home in Montana that they go and spend three months at every year. They don’t have a dad that pulls them out of school every time it snows a foot so they can go ski together all day on the fresh powder,” and things like that. Really, it just kind of passed on to me, I guess, from my dad.”
Telling us about how his kids’ clothing line Sawyer is fighting back against the trends of kids not spending enough time outside . . .“It’s becoming a bit of an epidemic in my mind, but in fact, there’s actually a lot of studies and things that support that. One of the statistics that I tell people often that kind of shocks them is that prison inmates nowadays spend twice as much time outside as kids do. Our generation growing up also spent twice as much time outside as kids do nowadays and I just feel like kids are losing out on a lot of life skills that are gained by spending time outside connecting with nature, falling down, learning to pick oneself up again, skinning your knee and brushing it off. I think that those are really important life skills that are kind of being lost in some of the new generations.“
Explaining to us the typical advice he gives someone who says they want to start making money online . . . “I still recommend when people come to me and like, “Hey, how do I start a business and how can I do something on the internet like what you’ve done,” one of the things I actually always recommend for them is to get involved in online forums. That’s partially because I know how much I learn from just anytime you get hung up on something, you can go on there and ask people and get a plethora of questions back and then decipher which ones make sense, and that’ll make sense to you. As well as, I don’t want to spoonfeed these people as well, because I think if you can’t figure out how to make something work largely on your own, then you’re probably not going to be successful in that area.”
Recalling how he started a side gig called TeeHunter.com, by buying it on Flippa because he was interested in the t-shirt space . . . “This is actually really what inspired us to start Sawyer. One of the reasons why I made the acquisition was not necessarily because it was a great business in itself that I was passionate about or wanted to continue running, it’s because I was still interested in doing something in the t-shirt space and I thought that this would be great avenue to start something in the t-shirt space. It would give me a great kickstart.”
Listen to Cameron’s Story Now
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Speaker 2: 00:00:14 Welcome to the Opt Out Life Podcast, the no B.S. guide to living a modern, good life. Hosted by subversive millionaires Dana Robinson and Nate Broughton, the Opt Out Life Podcast explains exactly how creative hustlers are turning side gigs into real income, and taking back control of their time.
Speaker 2: 00:00:31 From their studio in sunny San Diego, the Opt Out Life welcomes guests who are sole-preneurs, entrepreneurs, travelers, and creatives who are proof that you can choose a lifestyle over money, but still make money too. If you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, running the riot race, or stuck in a system that’s rigged against you, we’d like to offer you an alternative here, on the Opt Out Life Podcast.
Nate Broughton: 00:00:56 Do you know those people on Instagram or Facebook that always seem to post manicured photos from a mountaintop or a beautiful beach? If you’re like us, it all seems a little suspicious. Do they ever work? Do they cash out? What am I doing wrong with my life? Today’s guest is actually living that life and frankly, we’re a little envious. If he posted more on Insta, you’d think he was one of those Instagram whores, but he lives it IRL. His name is Cameron Olthuis and he’s a hall of famer when it comes to living the Opt Out life. His lifestyle allows for complete freedom over time and money, but he didn’t sell a company for millions of dollars or cash out in an IPO.
Dana Robinson: 00:01:30 Today, Cameron is a founder of a kid’s only apparel company that encourages kids to get outside, hike, and explore. It’s a company that he launched on the back of running a mix of successful side gigs and businesses that all made their money online. His accomplishments are many, but his story begins as a 20-something, working as a customer service rep, making minimum wage. At the time with two young kids to support, he worked nights exploring online forums and teaching himself the basics of how to code. This led to his first business venture: a BMW enthusiast website that he eventually sold for a nice profit. That exit allowed him to break out of his job and find a new career as an entrepreneur and a consultant.
Nate Broughton: 00:02:11 For over 15 years now, Cameron has alternated living at the beach in southern California, to the mountains in Park City, Utah, to lakefront over the summer in Montana. You’ll find him hitting the slopes on a Tuesday in between conference calls, which is made embarrassingly easy, given that his office is in a hotel at the base of his home mountain. It’s a way of life Cameron was raised to appreciate by a family that prioritized being active, being outdoors, and choosing to take a day off together, especially if it meant trading time away from the rat race.
Dana Robinson: 00:02:40 And would you believe that our mountain man, hall of famer spent several years in a leading corporate role at CBS Interactive? Of course, his approach to his corporate job took a queue from what’s always worked for him, that is working hard and working smart, but not placing priority on punching the clock or drudging to an office for the nine to five.
Nate Broughton: 00:03:00 On a recent Friday, we grabbed three glasses of Park City’s own High West whiskey and circled up with our boy Cameron to hear about how the hell he pulls this all off. Let’s listen to the playbook of the modern mountain man.
Nate Broughton: 00:03:14 Friday afternoon in San Diego here on the Opt Out Live, we have a guest I am very excited about, our good friend Cameron. Hello.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:03:23 What’s up guys?
Dana Robinson: 00:03:25 Welcome.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:03:25 What’s up?
Nate Broughton: 00:03:25 Here from, well back in his rightful land of San Diego, from Park City.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:03:31 I don’t know if it’s my rightful land. It was, once upon a time, my stomping grounds for about 12 years. Originally born in Canada, raised in Utah. Moved out here, fell in love with surfing. Stayed here and then kind of just missed the mountains, and skiing, and things. Five years ago, packed up the family and moved back to Park City, Utah.
Nate Broughton: 00:03:48 All good places. I’ve had enough of this surfing, I’m moving back to the mountains. Load the family up-
Dana Robinson: 00:03:56 Most people are either a beach person or a mountain person. It sounds like you’ve got them both.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:04:00 We like both. It’s a bit of a struggle in the household. The lady definitely prefers the beach over the mountains, but I think the rest of us like the mountains. We kind of go back and forth with that and right now, the mountains are winning out. Both great places, you can’t go wrong. The lifestyle of both are very similar. We often refer to Park City being like the San Diego in the mountains. People there are focused on living the outdoor lifestyle, they’re all active, very similar to the way people are here. A lot of people into surfing or just being outside, working out, doing yoga on the beach, whatever. So, very similar.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:33 And let’s not forget that he also has the lake lifestyle down too. He spends his summers up in Montana on a beautiful lake with a boat doing- what’s it called? Wake surfing.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:04:46 Yeah, wake surfing.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:47 Oh my God.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:04:48 You’ve had the pleasure of spending a few days up there.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:48 I have.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:04:51 Dana, you still have not come. I’ve heard rumors that you’re gonna come up this summer?
Dana Robinson: 00:04:55 I hope so, I hope so.
Nate Broughton: 00:04:56 Hopefully, we can figure that out. I think a lot of people want to get in on this trip, by the way. I feel honored to have been able to do it actually, because I can sit here and tell everybody how great it is. It was the best trip that we went on last year with my family by far. It was so unexpected and so much fun.
Dana Robinson: 00:05:13 That’s a big statement too. The best trip from somebody that’s been all over in that year.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:17 True, true.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:05:19 Very cool to hear. Montana’s always had a special place in my heart. It’s one of my favorite places. I think I’ve told you, I’ve been spending my summers there since the year I was born, so it’s kind of tradition for me. Montana, it’s hard to beat as just a place.
Nate Broughton: 00:05:34 The water is so blue in that lake. You’ve got the mountains surrounding you. I know the locals were kind of complaining, “There’s a lot of people from California here,” but to me, it felt like there was no one around. Still very easy to get around, not overbuilt. It’s kind of like a hidden gem. I may be a little late to the party, but it’s such a beautiful, serene place. Being out on that lake, I think it was like 80 degrees or so that week. It was perfect weather.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:05:58 Water’s about 80 degrees.
Nate Broughton: 00:06:00 Yeah.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:06:00 You know, it’s warm. Just hanging out on the docks, swim all day. Go in and take a nap for a couple hours. Wake up, go do it again.
Nate Broughton: 00:06:07 And you’re doing this, by the way, while you work. One conference call maybe, back to the laptop, go wake surf. That is definitely the Cameron approach, right? If Opt Out life was in the dictionary, it would be a picture of Cameron, actually. We both are just aspiring to be Cameron this whole time.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:06:23 It’s funny that you say that. When you came out to Park City and you were telling me that you were gonna do a podcast and you wanted me to be on it or whatever, I was like, “Dude, I don’t know if I have anything interesting to say. I’m not that great at articulating my thoughts about work type of stuff.” You’re like, “It’s an Opt Out podcast.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I can talk about that all day.
Nate Broughton: 00:06:39 Lifestyle over money, but money still. That is exactly what you do.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:06:45 That’s exactly what I do, is I work just hard enough to maintain the lifestyle that me and my family desire to live and no more than that. The rest is just play time.
Nate Broughton: 00:06:54 Has that always been the plan because, I mean, we’ve known each other for a long time and I knew of you in and around the internet marketing industry. Even for years before we met, I know you had an agency, you were doing your own projects of and on as well. Did you always have that kind of balance?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:07:08 Yeah, I think so. I was actually raised with that balance and with that mentality. I learned it all from my dad. I remember growing up and always looking up to the other, so called, wealthier people in the neighborhood and asking my parents, “Why don’t we have a house that’s as nice as them.” My dad would always say, “Those people don’t have a summer home in Montana that they go and spend three months at every year. They don’t have a dad that pulls them out of school every time it snows a foot so they can go ski together all day on the fresh powder,” and things like that. Really, it just kind of passed on to me, I guess, from my dad.
Nate Broughton: 00:07:40 That’s cool to hear.
Dana Robinson: 00:07:40 It is because we have a recurring theme of my parents wanting me to be a banker and they now think I’m crazy and want to know when I’m gonna grow up and get a real job. Here you’ve got a parent that actually raised you with a mentality that most of us are now preachy.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:07:57 Yeah, I was lucky that my parents never really pushed me hard in really any one direction. They just pushed me just being happy and finding a direction that fit for me and going with it, and being there to support whatever that was.
Dana Robinson: 00:08:10 What was the thing that you gravitated toward? Were you in sports, business?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:08:15 It was definitely business. I’ve always liked sports, but I’ve never been a team sport player? I’ve been more of the individual sport, so skateboarding, skiing, surfing, wake boarding, things like that. Those have always been my leisure activities of choice, but I always feel like I’ve been very entrepreneurial as well and very business-minded. That’s really what interested me and what I aspired to do was be able to work for myself so that I could have that lifestyle where I could do the things that I want to do.
Nate Broughton: 00:08:45 Tell us a story about an early entrepreneurial endeavor, perhaps one even before you were 18 or something like that. What’s one that sticks out in your mind as that was a seminal moment where it was like, “This is something that I not only want to do, but I can do and have done.”
Cameron Olthuis: 00:08:59 Yeah, before I was 18 I tried to start a skateboarding clothing line when I was in my senior year of high school. That’s one very entrepreneurial endeavor-
Nate Broughton: 00:09:09 Is that one of the shirts right there?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:09:10 That’s not. This is a more recent one. That never really went anywhere. We got a few designs, printed up a few t-shirts, found a few local kids that we sponsored as skaters or sponsored as people on our team, maybe sold a few hundred t-shirts all together.
Nate Broughton: 00:09:26 That’s pretty good.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:09:26 It was definitely not successful, but maybe there was something there because I feel like I’m kind of circling back around to that now with what I’m doing with some of my new ventures.
Nate Broughton: 00:09:34 Cool, cool.
Dana Robinson: 00:09:34 Talk about that. What are you up to now?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:09:36 I’ve got a clothing line called Sawyer. It’s an outdoor clothing line for kids. We’re very big on the mission of pushing kids to spend more time outdoors, kind of be kids again. Our generation growing up was very different than the generation nowadays. I don’t know what it was like for you guys, but when I would come home from school, I would drop my backpack off, run back out the back door, and I would either come home at dinner or come home when it was dark, and just all sorts of adventures here, there, and everywhere in between. Nowadays, I feel like kids come home and instead of going back out and playing with other kids, they pop open the iPad, or jump onto Minecraft, or watch T.V., or whatever it is.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:10:18 It’s becoming a bit of an epidemic in my mind, but in fact, there’s actually a lot of studies and things that support that. One of the statistics that I tell people often that kind of shocks them is that prison inmates nowadays spend twice as much time outside as kids do. Our generation growing up also spent twice as much time outside as kids do nowadays and I just feel like kids are losing out on a lot of life skills that are gained by spending time outside connecting with nature, falling down, learning to pick oneself up again, skinning your knee and brushing it off. I think that those are really important life skills that are kind of being lost in some of the new generations.
Nate Broughton: 00:10:57 I think that’s a really cool story. I’m curious how a clothing line and a lifestyle brand can further that story through selling t-shirts and hats. What else can you do to promote that? How does it all work?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:11:10 There’s other way that we can promote that. Through content namely, but even just the designs and the styles of our clothing, we feel like we inspire kids just through that. We get a lot of really positive feedback about the nature inspired designs that we have on our t-shirts, with kids being more curious about what they, so wanting to learn more. Parents have even said that they inspire the kids to actually go outside and spend more time outdoors.
Dana Robinson: 00:11:36 Cool. I think that’s pretty cool, I mean you’re actually doing the same thing that surf and skate brands did back when you started your surf and skate brand, which is giving someone something that they might do or aspire to do. You’re like identifying with surf whether you surf or not. In some ways, if you identify that way style-wise, then you’re sort of buying into what that speaks to, right?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:11:58 Yeah, so it’s like the branding, right? The branding helps promote that lifestyle as well. One of my mentors who’s my old boss at CBSI, I had a good conversation with him last week and he broke down some of the branding concepts to me in a way that really just hit home and made sense to me. He said, “Imagine just drawing a diagram with three circles. There’s an inner circle, which is really small, and this in 10 percent of your audience and that’s the core audience.” He’s like, “This is the audience that you wanna be building your products for. These are the audience that you wanna have your ambassadors promoting your products, whatever that might be. The second one is the people that are more like the weekend warriors, or they want to identify with themselves as being one of the people who are too young to [inaudible 00:12:41] in our case, but they’re not necessarily that, you know, they work all week or whatnot, and on the weekends or a couple times a year, they get outside, but they want to be identified with that lifestyle. Then, there’s a circle beyond that that is influenced by the middle circle.” He was kind of breaking that down as a branding concept for us. That kind of makes sense.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:13:03 To me, when I think about Sawyer and the branding that we’re trying to accomplish in the products that we create for that inner core of customers. They’re the really hardcore adventure moms that are taking their kids out camping every week or taking their kids out to climb mountains or hike every weekend. We have a family that are ambassadors for us, that their kids had an 100 hike challenge year. The kids did 100 different hikes throughout the year last year. That’s two hikes a week, which is pretty significant for little five, six, seven, eight year olds to go out there and do those kind of activities a few times a week.
Nate Broughton: 00:13:41 Alright Dana, let’s do out first patented break on this episode with our boy, Cam. Cameron’s a cool guy. He’s got a pretty cool lifestyle. I think people are already picking up on that. He’s living in Park City, he’s skiing at will, he’s got an office in the parking lot of the ski resort, and he’s doing cool stuff like launching Sawyer, a clothing line, a lifestyle brand for kids. So yes, I think we’ve established that this guy does cool stuff and he’s working on cool stuff too. We haven’t totally heard a lot about how he pulls this all off yet, but he’s gonna get into that a little bit for us in the coming discussions.
Dana Robinson: 00:14:14 I think it’s cool, a lot of times we have these guests that come in and we start right off with the business; what are they doing, how they make, how did they go from sidekick to big, what their secrets are. I think it’s kind of fun to have rapped with Cameron and kind of giving people a snapshot of where they might be in 10 years, fifteen years because 15 years ago, he was a sales rep for Overstock. Not even a sales rep, a customer service rep, minimum wage. It’s kind of cool to reflect on here’s where this guy’s at and whether you want his life or not, I think it’s great to see this is achievable and it doesn’t require that you have the seven figure exits that a lot of people in Silicon Valley fantasize about. They’re not gonna get that life until they can buy that house in Aspen and park a G- Wagon in the garage. He’s living that life without having had to pay what people think you really have to pay.
Dana Robinson: 00:15:06 We’ll learn a little bit about how he got to where he’s at, but it’s cool to just see a snapshot of it’s a cool fucking lifestyle.
Nate Broughton: 00:15:12 And he’s about to tell us how he started Sawyer and we’ve kind of talked to other guests in the past who have had success, but are still out there hustling and starting a new venture. There’s never a guarantee that your next venture is going to pay off. Cameron may have had some successes that we’ll hear about, but he’s knee deep in launching a clothing line that has boot straps, and he’s about to tell us that you just have to do it. We’ve heard that from [inaudible 00:15:34] and other people too. There’s no magic to someone who has 20 years experience in business and is about to start something new. The mantra is always just do it.
Nate Broughton: 00:15:45 I know a lot of people that, potentially people that listen to this, have aspirations to start a business that’s not unlike Sawyer. Probably not at that scale, but a lot of people with Etsy stores and ideas for t-shirt and hats that are cool and valid, how do you do this? How do you get started, because your background is in internet marketing and I think that that benefits you somewhat. You can kind of talk about that, but how do you get started?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:16:07 You get started by just doing. You can white board it out or you can think of all the concepts you want, but nothing really happens until you start doing it. I don’t think I can say that there’s one specific place where a person starts, other than just doing that. If you’ve got a design for a t-shirt, jump on Google and figure out how to get that printed on a t-shirt. Print it on a t-shirt and start wearing it. Before you know it, if it’s a good enough design, people are gonna start asking about it, “Hey, where’d you get that t-shirt?” “Well, I made it myself. I’d be happy to sell you one if you want to buy it,” or whatever it is.
Nate Broughton: 00:16:43 Would you like this one, sir?
Dana Robinson: 00:16:44 Yeah, I’ll take the shirt off your back.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:16:46 There you go.
Nate Broughton: 00:16:46 Is that what you’re trying to do with this? You want me to buy that shirt?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:16:48 There you go. Hopefully we got some pictures of it.
Dana Robinson: 00:16:51 We’ll post a picture of the shirt that Cameron’s wearing today because it’s really cool.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:16:57 Like I told you, it’s a one off t-shirt that I made myself and I’ve actually got four or five of these that I’ve made myself. One of the things you asked me when I first walked in like, “Hey, cool t-shirt. Where’d you get that?” The designs that I’ve made for myself, I’ve actually had that a lot randomly. When I just wear them, I’ll just … One guy that literally offered to trade me the shirt off his back. He’s like, “I’ll give you the t-shirt and the flannel I’m wearing right now for that t-shirt.” “Nah, it’s okay.”
Nate Broughton: 00:17:21 That’s good advice. You have to just do. Get on Google and figure it out. I think that a lot of people are too scared to even try to do that and maybe they’re using the excuse as validation for not breaking through that fear. More practically from there, other than just wearing the shirt around town and hoping someone asks you about it or waiting for someone to do it, what did you guys do? Did you to a local farmer’s market? Did you start posting them on a website? Did you try to use Instagram? What was your path for initial growth?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:17:47 The path for initial growth was a combination of Instagram/Facebook. I’ve got a background in Facebook ads and Facebook arbitrage. You guys had Chris Hedgecock on the podcast a few weeks ago and I think that you guys kind of scratched the surface on the fact that we had a pretty successful Facebook arbitrage business. I’ve got a pretty decent playbook from that that we were able to launch these products and hit the ground running with.
Nate Broughton: 00:18:14 On Instagram, were you doing paid advertising where you’re reaching out to influencers or did you just start your own channel and grow it?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:18:20 We did all three. We started our own channel where we just started posting really high quality photos, both of kids wearing our product, as well as just scenic type photos or lifestyle photos where our product’s not necessarily front and center, but you can see two little kids out in the background hiking a mountain or sitting on a cliff with the scenery behind them, or whatnot. We’ve really put a lot of focus on making sure that each and every photo that goes to out Instagram is a really high quality photo that people are actually gonna be interested in seeing, whether or not they … Or moms who are in the moment shopping for new products for their kids.
Nate Broughton: 00:18:57 How do you get those photos done? We interviewed some girls who have a jewelry line and we talked about this as well. We did a photo shoot, we’ve had our logo on there. We paid a professional photographer to a day with us and take photos. You guys live in a beautiful place, which is cool. We kind of took advantage of that as well, right? But you’ve got Park City, and/or Montana, and/or San Diego. You guys are just going out, and using your iPhones, and taking pictures of your kids or you’re getting a friend? What do you do?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:19:21 Yeah, so we have done all that as well. We’ve gone out and done our own photo shoots. I had a bunch of camera equipment that I had from a previous venture, so we used some of that to set up some initial photo shoots where we just invited a bunch of families with kids of all different ages to come hang out and have a barbecue, camp fire, get s’mores with the kids and kind of just let the kids run wild, outfitted them all in our gear and just snapped pictures. From there, what we’ve done is we have actually focused on getting quite a few Instagram ambassadors, that their photos are extremely high quality, that you can tell that they’re either semi-professional or amateur photographers with a lot of talent. We’ll make a trade with them where we’ll give their kids a bunch of products in exchange for them going out with their kids wearing our product, doing some kind of outdoor activity, getting a bunch of pictures, and then sending it back to us that we then have the rights to use however we see fit. We can use those for our advertising.
Nate Broughton: 00:20:19 You’re just fooling around on Instagram, looking at people with similar profiles or popular profiles with good photos, and you’re hitting them up with a direct message or whatever the kids call it on Instagram these days?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:20:30 Slide up into those DM’s.
Nate Broughton: 00:20:33 I like it, I like it.
Nate Broughton: 00:20:36 Alright, Cameron’s just given us a little line of slide up into those DM’s, which was kind of funny, but I love this point of the interview because he’s telling us about how he’s building Sawyer and giving us more tactical advice on how it’s being done. We hinted at earlier that he’s still having to hustle and his past success doesn’t guarantee future success, but I like this because I think it’s practical advice that people can apply to launching their own business, and it’s also approachable because we’re talking about selling clothes via Instagram. Cameron’s telling us that he is giving away product to friends and family to come over, and then they’ll do a photo shoot. We’ve talked about how photos are important for selling products online and that’s his hack to make it work. His hack for promoting Sawyer on Instagram is to reach out to influencers and work out a deal where they’re giving them products in exchange for them talking about Sawyer, if they like it. Or, he’s exchanging products with similar brands on the up and up, and doing cross promotions.
Nate Broughton: 00:21:31 He also is going to give us some tips on where he’s finding designers for some of his line. It’s stuff that other people can do. It’s going to freelance websites and finding artists whose art that you identify with, or it’s finding some guy at a local meetup, or just some artist around Park City that he likes and working on a deal. It’s pulling all these things together that I think when you hear them, sound a little more approachable than, “Oh, I’m gonna go launch an online kid’s clothing company.” That sounds hard, but what Cameron’s telling us, step by step, easy.
Dana Robinson: 00:22:05 Yeah. It’s the same story over and over as well. Boot strap company, start with your own resources. Learn what you need to learn, do whatever you can yourself. Tradsies, right? In fact, one of the principles of the Opt Out Life is non-monetary currencies. What do you have that you can gift somebody other than money? If the shirt cost him 12 bucks, let the retail list 30. He’s got a 30 dollar commodity that he can trade for something. 10 of those is 300 bucks, but his actual cost is just over 100 dollars. He’s got something that he can use to leverage when he needs something from somebody else. To be honest, people like that swag. Maybe there’s no tax consequence and you just got a t-shirt, or it’s something you can hand to somebody else. There’s something kind of fun about that. Models are perfectly happy, in many cases, to just take some free swag. We learned with [inaudible 00:22:58] the same thing, you just reach out to influencers, you give your stuff to some people, and then they post it if they like it.
Dana Robinson: 00:23:05 If you look at Cameron’s website actually, it’s besawyer, B-E Sawyer, S-A-W-Y-E-R.com, it looks completely professional. I guarantee, he did it himself. Although he’s got some programming knowledge, he’s not a programmer by trade.
Nate Broughton: 00:23:20 It’s a Shopify store.
Dana Robinson: 00:23:22 And if you look at these pictures, you go to the website, you’ll see what we’re talking about. The website is impeccable, it sells the lifestyle. They didn’t have to hire a stylist, they didn’t have to hire a photographer, they didn’t have to hire a web designer, didn’t have to pay models. If you just have those things holding you up, then you’re never gonna get launched.
Dana Robinson: 00:23:40 Where are you in New York, then. One of you, your girl an artist?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:23:44 We’ve got the art done quite a few different places. We’ve hired a few freelancers offline. There’s a site called Dribbble, it’s D-R-I-B-B-B-L-E, so Dribbble with the extra ‘b’ in there. That’s a place where designers post their portfolios and things like that. We spent a lot of time going through and finding the portfolios that we thought matched the type of artwork and styles that we wanted to have on our shirts and ended up hiring a few people off there to commission one off designs.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:24:17 We also worked early on with a local artist who does these really cool water color paintings, and we worked with him to be able to commission those paintings, digitize that work, and transfer it over to t-shirts. Some of them are totally original pieces of artwork like that.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:24:36 We’ve done other things where we’ve just come up with concepts in house in the office. I’ve got a talented girl who works in the office with us. She’s very well versed in Photoshop, so I can just tell her a concept and she’ll start whipping things out, and we can spend anywhere from a couple hours honing in on the design to several weeks sometimes it takes us from concept to final version of that design.
Dana Robinson: 00:24:58 You mentioned the web size, actually, will look different than your expertise. You have a web expertise? Let’s talk a little bit about that and what really is the difference between taking what you know about how to drive traffic and do marketing online, and how that is or isn’t translating into selling products to consumers.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:25:16 One of the biggest differences has been email marketing. I’ve always known that email was a very important channel and dabbled in email, but being an e-commerce store, I’m really seeing how valuable an email address for us is, as well as really just dialing in a strategy on how to effectively use email marketing. That, for us, is a number of different things. One is setting up different segments of email flows. For example, a customer goes on to our website, they shop around, add a few things to their cart, go to checkout, and for whatever reason, they abandon their cart. From there, we hit them with an email a couple hours later, “Hey, you abandoned your cart, you forgot some stuff behind. Here are the items you buy, you can click through here to buy them.” If they don’t take action with that email, another 24 hours later, we’ll send them another follow up email reminding them again that they have products in their cart and encouraging them to finish the checkout process.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:26:18 There’s gonna be a series of emails thereafter for that customer segment, and each and every other customer segment that we can for our email list. It may just be somebody that signs up for our email newsletter. From there, we’ll send them out a series of emails as well. That’s more like warming them up to the brand type of emails and things like that. There’s just a lot of different email flows and email segments that we’re really trying to dial in and figure out that whole process.
Nate Broughton: 00:26:46 Do you specifically try to market to grab an email address right now? Is that a flow you’ve got running or it’s like, “I just want to capture the email address because I know that I can turn them into a customer”?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:26:56 We’ve dabbled in that a bit with some giveaways and some things that we’ve partnered with other brands. When I get back into town next week, we’re actually kicking off a big viral email giveaway campaign, which is gonna be what I would consider our first real [inaudible 00:27:11] into that part of it. What we’re doing there is we have a couple of different prize packages that we’re giving away. I think it’s a total of about 1,000 dollars worth of prizes and that’s things from a little kid’s kick bike to some different back packs from some other brands, combined with a bunch of Sawyer credits and things like that. The way that’s gonna work is a person that signs up for our email newsletter is gonna get an entry in to win that, but for every person that they refer to sign up for our email newsletter, they’re gonna get like three entries for that. We’re really making a push with that moving forward.
Nate Broughton: 00:27:48 And the other products you mentioned throwing in that package, are you getting those for free or for trade from other people, or did you have to go buy them?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:27:55 We’re just going and buying them this time around. We’ve got connections with quite a few different brands that we’ve collaborated with in different areas or just met along the way from when we started Sawyer, but just in terms of being able to kick this off very quickly and easily, we decided just to come out of pocket and pay for those ourselves this time.
Nate Broughton: 00:28:14 Okay. I want to shift gears a little bit. We talked about it at the beginning, you’ve got this pretty idyllic lifestyle in Park City. You were in San Diego, you spent your summers in Montana and you very much live the Opt Out Life. I said Opt Out Live, so cheers, we’ve got some Park City Based High West whiskey.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:28:33 Is that the rule? Every time you say the magic word, we get to do a shot of whiskey?
Dana Robinson: 00:28:37 Until it’s out.
Nate Broughton: 00:28:38 Exactly, exactly. But, I want you to tell us about some of the challenges that you faced and you’ve had to overcome to still live that Opt Out Life. It wasn’t just easy for you to do this. You had kids at a very young age, which we haven’t talked about. In your early 20’s, you were a dad. There’s been other things that have come along too. You worked a corporate job, basically, with CBS. There’s like a dude who had kids in his early 20’s and who has, at certain times, had a corporate job, a very big corporate job. These are things that would hold back many people from doing the things that you’ve done, living the lifestyle that you live at different points. We’re talking about the last 15 years of your life, you’ve been able to kind of maintain this while still doing those things. How have you done that? Let’s talk about the kids side first. How did that effect you and the decisions you made on the business side and what you were gonna do to make money.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:29:28 When you’re in your early 20’s and you find out you’re about to have a kid that you weren’t expecting and you weren’t financially prepared for, that’s a big weight that’s put on your shoulders. For me, it was like, “Oh shit, this is about to happen? This is real?” Just like all things in my life, I want to do this the best way that I can possibly do it if I’m gonna do it. So, I need to figure out how to step up and do something with my life so I can support my family. That’s really what drove me into the career path that I’ve been on for the last 15 plus years.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:30:09 I had a bit of experience prior to that like building a website, things like that. I learned HTML CSS on my own, so I knew how to throw up a basic website. I was very naïve at the time like I think most people probably are when they first get into the internet side of things. That naivety was just the thought of if I can build a website and put it online, people are gonna come to it, and I’m gonna start making money, and I’m gonna be successful. It’s gonna be great. Let me tell you, when you build a website and you put it up, it’s crickets. People absolutely do not just come and find you and you do not start making money.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:30:43 From there, I really just took it upon myself to learn the different way, strategies, tactics, that sort of thing to figure out how to get people to come the website. From there, I fell into SEO and since evolved to several different things. I ended up building a website which was a BMW enthusiast forum that became one of the bigger ones at the time. After a couple years of doing that, I had a small success in selling that and that’s really what pushed me into this career path and helped start me on that path of where I ended up now.
Nate Broughton: 00:31:21 Yeah, I think that’s a great answer and great insight into where this all started and how the kids have effected you and gave you new motivation. Tell us specifically, did you have a job at the time and you were like, “I’m gonna do this internet stuff on the side because I think it can scale.” Did you have a little buffer there where you were able to figure the BMW website or another one and start making money? Or was this kind of like something you had to balance with something that you knew could make income right away, and then you figured out the internet thing and eventually moved over?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:31:49 I had a job at the time. It was a very entry level job. I was actually doing customer service for Overstock.com.
Nate Broughton: 00:31:57 Alright Dana, I have to break in here because this was unbeknownst to me before we did our conversation that Cameron was a customer service rep in a call center for Overstock.com.
Dana Robinson: 00:32:09 Only a few years before you met him. I think I met him maybe the same year and he seemed like a guru at the time. We didn’t know that only a few years earlier, he was slinging phone calls with a headset on.
Nate Broughton: 00:32:20 Right, well I have to say that is very Utah to work in a call center for Overstock.com. I’ll let that comment go, but yes. I found him and when he was speaking at the conferences that we end up talking about later, he’s in his mid 20’s and he is an SEO marketing savant who’s speaking at these conferences. It’s crazy to think that that’s where he was not long before. That is one of the most important stories that we’ve had on the Opt Out Life I think. It’s one of the most instructive and can be one of the most inspirational because Cameron, at that time, was in his early 20’s. He had a family already. There’s these obstacles for him that we do talk about in our conversation that are very real. He was in a much different place, working in a job that I’m sure he hated, that paid shit and was not going to teach him anything about online marketing or anything else that he could leverage for his career.
Nate Broughton: 00:33:14 We do talk about how first jobs can be a great place to develop basic skill. Maybe the only one he was developing there was how to operate some call center software and how to talk to customers, but he drudged through it and he ended up working nights and weekend, exploring curiosity about coding and how to drive traffic to websites and make money off them. That becomes the classic tale of, “I knew I had to make money for my family. I kept doing what I was doing. I didn’t make a leap right away. I went home and I figured out a side gig in my extra time,” and it grows into this whole thing of who he is today, which is a pretty impressive person.
Dana Robinson: 00:33:49 Yeah, I think it’s encouraging for people if you think your job sucks that you can see somebody whose got a base level job at minimum wage that hangs in there for a couple years while they hustle evenings and weekends to develop a side gig and sell that side gig, exit that job, and use all the skills that the side gig taught them to become an expert in their field and end up pivoting into cool jobs, cool gigs, making money all over the place and now living the Opt Out Life.
Nate Broughton: 00:34:20 Yeah. He then worked for an entrepreneur that taught him the way. We’ve had that as a story too. I almost feel like I had it too easy because I took a job making 10 bucks an hour, but I was working for someone who had figured all this stuff out. He figured this all out on his own and that’s a lesson that I think anyone listening to this should not forget.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:34:38 Making 10 bucks an hour, something very minimal that’s definitely not enough to support a family and definitely not enough to support a family living the lifestyle that my family want to live. Early on, it was the balance of okay, I’ve got to maintain my job because I’ve actually got to still put a roof over the house, I’ve got to feed the kids. There’s no way around that. That has to absolutely happen, but while I’m doing this, I would come home every night after working and spend three, four hours starting up that website that I just spoke about on the side, doing that for a couple of years before it really took off and saw some success.
Nate Broughton: 00:35:16 That’s cool. I actually did not know that story, which it’s almost unbelievable for me to think that you were doing customer service work probably only a few years before I met you.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:35:25 Yeah, probably three to five years before I met you.
Nate Broughton: 00:35:28 Yeah.
Dana Robinson: 00:35:29 What came after that? You were able to take a small exit. We love base hit stories, by the way, because I think a lot of people have the misperception that the way to the Opt Out Life is through big exits, and it’s not. It’s small exits, base hits, and doubles. So, you had a base hit. What was next?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:35:47 What was next was really consulting. Along that way, I had really fell into and figured out SEO as a marketing channel. I was pretty good at it and I also saw the light at the end of tunnel, meaning that I could tell that this was going to be a space that was going to grow very quickly and grow to be very big. I focused really, after that, on getting into SEO and doing consulting work for different brands and companies.
Dana Robinson: 00:36:22 How did you get your first client?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:36:25 That’s a great client. I got my first client from a referral, actually. I think I got my first handful of clients from referrals, people that I either knew personally that knew what I was doing and knew somebody that was trying to do something on the internet and could use my services, or people that I had met through the online forums and other online communities that I had become active around SEO and online marketing, and things like that.
Nate Broughton: 00:36:53 I like when you mention that you were hanging out on online forums and meeting people because you are the outdoor surfer guy, right? You started a skate brand when you were 17 and a few years later, you’ve got a kid and a kid on the way, and you’re hanging out on online forums meeting people. I like that because I feel like most people who do that be like, “I would never fuck around with that. That shit’s lame,” but you definitely stumbled into it and have taken full advantage of it, and use it as a means to an end to continue to be who you are, do the things you like to do.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:37:21 I’m very nerdy as well.
Nate Broughton: 00:37:23 Hedgecock is too. You guys are both nerds.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:37:26 Yeah, in fact actually one of the t-shirts that I made myself, since we were talking about that, it literally just says ‘Nerd’ right across the chest. I wear that one all the time.
Nate Broughton: 00:37:34 Nice. You don’t have the outward persona of it, but it’s buried deep in there somewhere.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:37:39 It’s definitely very deep.
Dana Robinson: 00:37:40 There’s a perception that California surfer guys are all kind of cool, but I think a lot of them are reclusive and a little nerdy.
Nate Broughton: 00:37:48 As long as the result’s in the money that allows you to continue to be cool, I’m down with it. Call me a nerd. I’ll cash out the bank.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:37:54 Yeah. I actually, I still recommend when people come to me and like, “Hey, how do I start a business and how can I do something on the internet like what you’ve done,” one of the things I actually always recommend for them is to get involved in online forums. That’s partially because I know how much I learn from just anytime you get hung up on something, you can go on there and ask people and get a plethora of questions back and then decipher which ones make sense, and that’ll make sense to you. As well as, I don’t want to spoonfeed these people as well, because I think if you can’t figure out how to make something work largely on your own, then you’re probably not going to be successful in that area.
Nate Broughton: 00:38:32 Yeah, because you won’t be well equipped to handle all the other adversity and things that come along.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:38:36 You gotta learn how to use Google. Get on there and like, “How do I build a website?” Okay, learn how to build a website and join some of the online forums that talk about building websites so that when you have questions or you get hung up on things, you can go on there and ask other experienced people for their feedback and their answers, as well as just following all the different conversations that take place in there, and just learning from that along the way.
Nate Broughton: 00:38:59 I also think it’s interesting because I’m starting to see with the podcast thing too, but if you do a few of those basic things, and you hang around one of those online forums, and you’ve built your own website, it doesn’t take that long to start to be perceived as an expert and also to pretty much have the chops to do that. You’ve mentioned you went into consulting. I mean, it wasn’t that long after you were just screwing around, figuring this stuff out on your own. Now you’re a professional that can charge a fee to do this for someone. People are now being like, “Well, you know how to do podcasting.” I’ve been doing this for like fucking eight weeks, so it’s cool to see it again, but it’s also the same story you’re telling here. It doesn’t take that much to, I don’t want this to sound the wrong way, to become an expert in our society, basically, by doing something.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:39:42 Totally. That’s expert in air quotes. Like you said, you’ve been doing it for a couple of months and you become quote on quote an expert. I get a lot of the same feedback with Sawyer and stuff. People are coming to me all the time now and asking advice on, “How do I start a clothing company? How do I make clothes? How do I do all this stuff?” I’m like, ” Well, I don’t necessarily think I’m the guy with the most experience in it,” but I’ve been able to figure out a lot of things very quickly and that have worked for us, so I’m happy to pass on whatever knowledge I have to you from that.
Nate Broughton: 00:40:12 So, you’re hanging out in these online forums back in the day. You’re doing some of your own websites, you’re consulting. At some point you make the decision to go to some events in the industry and you start going to like a PubCon or an SCS?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:40:24 Yeah, so I started speaking at events.
Nate Broughton: 00:40:26 How did you get to speak? I think that’s an important question.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:40:28 If we take a step back, as I was doing the consulting, another thing that I was doing to both drone up business and just further my expertise was I was doing a lot of local meet ups where I would go to these nightly SEO events where a speaker would come in. It would be like 25 people, or whatever. They’d give an impromptu speech, everybody would hang out for a couple hours, have drinks, talk about what’s working, share stories, strategies, things like that. I ended up meeting a couple of guys from L.A. that we all had similar philosophies in terms of SEO and just business in general, and we decided to form an actual agency, so moving from consulting to agency. Once we did that, it was okay, how do we skill this client acquisition part of it?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:41:16 A couple of the things that we fell into from there were writing for major publication in the space, as well as speaking at the conferences. Started writing a few articles on search engine journals, search engine land, whatever the big, relevant sites were at the time. Once we had a few articles under our belt, started pitching speaking engagements of the different conferences, got accepted, started giving speeches and instantly saw that that was gonna be a very successful way for us to acquire clients. Everytime we would give a speech to an audience of three to five hundred, we would have 30, 40 people come up after asking how they could hire us to the SEO for their site or the online marketing for their site. It became a very successful channel for us for customer acquisition and that’s why I did the public speaking at the time. I hate public speaking, I think I’m terrible at it. My nerves are out of control, couldn’t handle them, but at the time, it was what we needed to do to make our business successful. I sucked it up and I did it.
Dana Robinson: 00:42:19 Alright Nate, let’s break in here because one of the cool things about living the Opt Out Life that I like is not doing things I don’t want to do, but there’s a time in your business development and in your life development that you just have to do some things that you don’t want to do. Here, we’ve got Cameron talking about doing something that was pivotal for him in a career sense. Speaking, he didn’t like public speaking, but he had all this knowledge and the best way to exhibit that knowledge and to get around more people that respect the knowledge that you have is to showcase it. When you’re invited to speak, you don’t say no.
Nate Broughton: 00:42:58 It really is the point where that launched everything he’s kind of had in this career of online marketing. It’s where I met him and he realizes the instant credibility that it can create, and I love what he says where it was like, “It’s just what we had to do for the business at the time, and I sucked it up and did it.” The same thing with these stories of going to local meetups and playing around on online forums. I kind of almost kid him about the online forum thing is I think it’s so nerdy that playing on online forums is this outdoor surfer guy, but I’m not saying he necessarily hated that, but I doubt he really enjoyed going to local meetups.
Nate Broughton: 00:43:29 We’ve all been to those events with sponsors and name tags, and those things suck. They’re not fun. It’s hard to filter out the crowd of people that are there to find someone that you want to talk to and can identify with. There’s a lot of wasted time and I can imagine I’m there coming home from his gig at Overstock, and it’s six o’clock, and he’s exhausted, and he’s got a baby in the place, and he’s got to suck it up and go to a shitty meetup event. But it’s there where he ends up connecting with some people that really set him off on this whole trajectory. It’s cool to hear him acknowledge that, but say that’s kind of what you have to do because that’s what everyone listening to this has to do sometimes.
Dana Robinson: 00:44:05 Absolutely. There’s probably fewer of those instances now. I bet when he goes to events now, they’re cool events, like SoCal, one of our events. He goes to the conventions and probably doesn’t speak unless it’s a cool, little breakout. If it’s something that’s out of his comfort zone, then at this point, he’s got some freedom of choice, but it’s great advice for people that are trying to figure out how to grow their network to get out of your comfort zone. Take those speaking gigs and put those name badges on.
Nate Broughton: 00:44:32 Right, exactly.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:44:33 You and I, I actually, I believe I remember the time that we met. I want to say that you called me up and said that you owned a domain like ski.com or skiing.com, or something like that and you were like, “Hey dude, I know you’re a big skier guy, and you’re also in the industry, and you’ve head some success. Is there an opportunity for us to partner on this domain?” We never ended up doing anything with it, but I think that’s really what was kind of the foundation of our relationship.
Nate Broughton: 00:45:00 Yeah, it was actually. I was thinking about that before we can in here earlier today because it’s an example of what we’re calling the audacity to reach out, which you’ve already kind of shown in some of your story. We were saying if you have that audacity to just kind of send a message out to someone with an idea, every so often, you’re gonna get lucky and it’s gonna lead to something, whether it’s a business opportunity of a relationship. I remember I knew of you because you were speaking at these conferences, so further proof that what you were doing was good for awareness and things like that. I think I just looked you up and saw that you had that background in action sports, you had a site that was tied to that. I’m into that stuff, so I came across the site and kind of worked on a deal to buy it. I thought it’d be fun to partner with someone who was also in that space, so that’s why I reached out.
Nate Broughton: 00:45:44 I think, though, it turned out the guys was making all the money from ads from different small hotels around ski resorts and the business model around it didn’t seem very good, so it was like [inaudible 00:45:53] what he wanted to get for it and we just kind of bailed on it, but it was the first time we chatted. I was surprised at how open you were to talking about it. It was pretty cool. I remember sitting in my office in Missouri like talking to you and like we should do this ski site. I’ve never even met this guy in person.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:46:06 Don’t worry, I was sitting in my house at the same time in the same way.
Nate Broughton: 00:46:11 Then we started seeing each other in person at other conferences and like we mentioned with Hedgecock at ThinkTech, that was kind of a seminal one where a lot of us met or furthered our relationship, especially because it was here in San Diego with so many good people at it. That’s kind of why I wanted to hear that story because I think really for you, it was going to the local meetups. I think that’s what really did it, so I think you were just curious enough as entrepreneurs typically are and should be to be like I want to go and be around other people who do this stuff just to hear about what they’re doing, and that was an outlet for that. That’s what really led to almost all this stuff was the local meetup.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:46:46 Absolutely. You gotta be willing to turn over each an every stone until you find a trajectory where you can find that success. We’ve talked about the online forum, we’ve talked about the meetups. It was just my willingness to do whatever it took to make it successful and that was one of the things I wanted to try, and it ended up, like you said, working out fantastically for me.
Nate Broughton: 00:47:09 Well, I mentioned that you’ve fought back against adversity, as far as things that could challenge you to be able to live the life that you want to live with family and kids, and also with a corporate gig. Let’s talk a little bit about how you ended up as an executive at CBS Interactive, which is definitely a lofty title. Talk about how that happened and also how you were able to still kind of maintain being Cameron, but also be a corporate guy.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:47:34 Absolutely. How that all happened is one day I was coming back from a surf trip in Mexico and I had just crossed the border and turned on my phone. When I turned on my phone, loaded all the emails, one of the emails in there was from a guy that was doing a startup. I instantly recognized his name from being in the search industry. He used to be the CEO of Ask.com and he was now doing a startup called Clicker.com. In his email, he was like, “Hey, I’m looking for somebody to come on and be my Director of Marketing for my new startup. Maybe you’ve heard of my name before, I used to run Ask. I’ve been asking people around for who to hire and your name keeps coming up, so I’d love to talk to you.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:48:17 At first, I brushed it off. I was just like, “Yeah, I don’t really think I want to go work at a startup. I don’t really want to go work for somebody that doesn’t really fit in with what I’m trying to do with my life and the lifestyle that I’m trying to live,” so I really just brushed it off at first. Then he followed up again, and I was like, “Maybe I should at least just hear this guy out and hear what he has to say, and learn about his business before I brush him off again. From there, I can make a decision.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:48:44 I ended up going up to L.A. to meet with him. He was speaking at a conference at the time. While he was there, he did a great job of articulating on the startup that he was trying to do at the time and all the reasons why I should come and join him and whatnot.
Nate Broughton: 00:49:04 Did he offer you a salary or what was the situation that you had to jump in to?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:49:06 Overall, it just became an offer that, to me, just sounded like something I couldn’t refuse. There was a pretty decent salary, there was stock options, as well as just the more research I did on him, it seemed like somebody that I would want to have a relationship with, and for whatever reason that was, to learn from him, to have that working business relationship, whatever it was. I ultimately decided that you know what, this is probably something I should at least try.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:49:36 It’s very appealing, not only the financial benefits from it, but also the fact that he was willing to let me still live in San Diego. Some of the things that he talked about with me at the time, in terms of recruiting, was I’m not gonna expect this to be a punch the clock job, you’re gonna be purely measured on your performance. I don’t care if you go on surf trips for three months to Costa Rica. I don’t care what hours of the day you work. I care that you’re gonna come in and you’re gonna get my startup results. I don’t expect you to punch the clock nine to five every single day. It was a combination of those, especially that thing really just being what was ultimately appealing to me, and decided it was something I couldn’t say no to and I had to at least give it a try and if it didn’t work out, then I could go back and continue to do what I was doing at the time.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:50:22 I ended up joining that startup, which was Clicker.com. A year later, CBS came along and made a very healthy offer for the company, so we ended up being acquired by CBS Interactive. Part of what they wanted to acquire was the talent, along with the technology and the startup. Basically, the team from Clicker then became the management team of CBS Interactive, which is all of CBS’s digital internet properties.
Nate Broughton: 00:50:54 That had to be fun. Maybe you can talk about was it difficult to go along with the acquisition and then take a role at CBS? Or did you kind of just feel like you had to do it? Did you want to do it?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:51:02 I though it was gonna be difficult, but it wasn’t difficult at all. There was a couple of reasons why I did feel like I to do it, part of that being financial. Because I had only been there just over a year, all my stock options hadn’t been exercised at that point. If I wanted to reap the financial windfall from that, I needed to stick around for at least a couple of years. But I remember thinking at the time, “Oh wow, I’m going to work for this huge corporation. This is definitely not what I had set out to do when I first jumped into this. We’ll see, we’ll see how long it lasts.” I didn’t think it was gonna last very long. I thought it was gonna last until my stock options exercised and then I was gonna be out of there as fast as I possible could, but I continued to live the Opt Out Life there, working at CBS. Again, I was still managed in that same way.
Nate Broughton: 00:51:49 And you were working on some of the biggest websites on the internet.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:51:51 Exactly. I was working on some of the biggest websites on the internet, which was actually a lot of fun, especially at first. There was so much that I learned from it.
Nate Broughton: 00:51:59 You mentioned side hustles there and that’s one of the tenants of the Opt Out Life. Dana mentions them a lot in his book because being something he’s always done as an arrangement of side hustles, side gigs. It allowed him to spend a year living in Bali. When you hear that word ‘side gigs’, does Cameron have a side gig? Does Cameron have a lot of side gigs? What does he do?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:52:17 I don’t know how you would define some of the gigs that I have. We’ve talked a bit about Sawyer and to me, that’s the project that I’m the most interested in at the moment. It’s the one that has meaning in my life. It’s the one that I see five, 10, even longer than that me continuing to work on. I do have a few other websites and small internet businesses aside form that, so whether you want to call those side hustles or not, I don’t know.
Nate Broughton: 00:52:42 If they produce income and they just take a little bit of time a month, they don’t take too much mind share, but they’re profitable, I think that qualifies as side hustle, side gig.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:52:49 Sure, okay.
Dana Robinson: 00:52:51 The probing question is can you talk about any of them that you have, even if vaguely to help our listeners understand what a great side gig is? If not, then maybe reflect on something you’re not doing that was a side gig because these are really instructive for everyone.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:53:04 Sure. I can talk about them. I don’t know how interesting they are to be honest.
Dana Robinson: 00:53:06 Let’s hear about them.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:53:07 One of the side hustles, it’s called T-Hunter, and it’s a discovery engine for t-shirts. The way that we monetize is we work with several different t-shirt brands around the internet. We sell them brand packages where they’re able to create a presence on our site, a brand page, they’re able to list their coupons, they are able to list t-shirts on our site. Along with that, they get certain advertising and marketing benefits as one of their brand packages, where they’re included in certain pieces of content or certain newsletters and whatnot. That’s one part of the business.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:53:43 Another is that we still recoup affiliate commission for each sale that we refer to these brands.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:53:49 And then the third piece of that is that we sell individual one off advertising packages to t-shirt brands, so people that are looking to get more traffic in sales to their t-shirt sites or people that are looking to build up their email list because we have a big email list there at T-Hunter that we market to. We’re able to use that to facilitate email growth for these brands, which they find highly valuable as well. There’s a few different pieces to the business model there.
Nate Broughton: 00:54:17 Is this a website that you started from scratch or that you bought?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:54:20 This is a website that I bought. This is actually really what inspired us to start Sawyer. One of the reasons why I made the acquisition was not necessarily because it was a great business in itself that I was passionate about or wanted to continue running, it’s because I was still interested in doing something in the t-shirt space and I thought that this would be great avenue to start something in the t-shirt space. It would give me a great kickstart.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:54:49 Initially, I was just thinking that I would start just a normal t-shirt brand and I would use T-Hunter to kick that off and facilitate the growth of that. But once we bought it, we started to think of different ideas and things that we could do in terms of t-shirt businesses and look for gaps in the marketplace and difference niches that we could play, and maybe that it wasn’t so competitive. One of the ones that stuck out was kid’s t-shirts. We started to look into that, and then Sawyer was born from that and evolved out of that. It’s taken a life of its own and becoming much more than just a t-shirt site at this point. That’s partially where the roots of Sawyer were.
Nate Broughton: 00:55:28 Tell us where you found that website because I don’t think a lot of people know this. They hear that you bought a website. Did you just go out looking around and say, “Oh, I like that website,” and try to hit up the owner? Did you find it somewhere on a listing website? Where did you find T-Hunter?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:55:42 This particular site, I found on Flippa.com. I think it was one of their private listings that they had, but there’s quite a few different places where you can find websites for sale. There’s a number of different brokerages out there, and there’s also, like you mentioned, just figuring out if there’s a vertical that you want to play in. Maybe figuring out the second, third tier businesses in that space, approaching them, and seeing if they’re interested in a sale. Sometimes you get lucky and there are people that are willing to sell for whatever reason.
Nate Broughton: 00:56:11 Some of that you seem to do pretty often. I’d do it too, maybe not quite as often as you, but you seem to always be watching those auctions, and what’s going on on [inaudible 00:56:17], and looking for opportunity, right?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:56:19 Yeah. There was a few years there where I was watching it extremely close, literally daily. It would be one of the routine websites that I would check in the morning. Lately, as my passion for Sawyer has grown, I’ve become less interested in acquiring new websites, so I don’t check it as often anymore. But like I said, for a while there, I was pretty active on Flipit or other brokerages.
Nate Broughton: 00:56:43 So T-Hunter, how much time a month do you spend on it personally?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:56:47 Very little. I would say five to 10 hours tops per month. I have team member in my office in Park City that is dedicated to that project. He facilitates the content roadmap, does all the brand sales, the outreach, coordinating with them to set up their advertising campaigns and whatnot, so I’m pretty hands off with it at this point.
Nate Broughton: 00:57:09 Yeah, that’s a side gig in that it’s a five to 10 hours a month that you put into it, but it produces enough income to afford not only an employee to manage it, but also some left over for you at the end.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:57:20 Absolutely.
Dana Robinson: 00:57:21 Any other cool side gigs that you can share?
Cameron Olthuis: 00:57:24 Not really anything that I think is super interesting or worth talking about at this point.
Nate Broughton: 00:57:28 You just can’t talk about it.
Cameron Olthuis: 00:57:29 I just can’t talk about it. We’ve talked a bit about the arbitrage business that I have with Chris Hedgecock. There’s maybe still some potential areas for us to continue doing things together there. That’s actually part of the reason why I’m out in San Diego this week is being able to have some face time with Chris and figure out what we want to do with the remaining pieces of the business. If we want to continue to work on any of those or spawn new projects from those, or whatnot. I think it’s yet to be determined on exactly what we’ll do, but there’s still a few other things.
Dana Robinson: 00:58:02 There’s a lot of people that talk about scaling a business up, but sometimes there’s an opportunity to scale down, which is probably what you’re facing with that business, right?
Nate Broughton: 00:58:11 Alright Dana, this is a great side gig story. One of our pillars of the Opt Out Life is having side gigs and we also are very, you, I guess, are very strict in what you define as a side gig and what is not a side gig. This one is teed up very nice because it’s become something that doesn’t take a lot of his time and it’s something that is also not very capital intensive. It’s also something that ended up leading to a bigger opportunity with Sawyer. A round about way to say, “Dear Dana, why is this a good side gig for Cameron,” and I won’t take it from there.
Dana Robinson: 00:58:45 I like how you call me strict. It’s very paternal. With side gigs and businesses, I think it’s not a matter of strictness, it’s a matter of clarity. I think it’s important that people understand there is a difference and if you don’t understand that, you’ll end up working your ass off at a side gig because you’re in the Twilight Zone someplace and there is a key difference. We break them down with Opt Out into six different things: the amount of money you put up to get the thing started, how much money it’s gonna need once it gets going, the amount of time it requires, the amount of stress involved. Essentially, if you’ve got a business, then you choose those things. If you don’t, do you want a side gig, you want almost no money upfront, not a lot of ongoing capital requirements, not a lot of time or stress. If you don’t make that clear upfront, then your life’s gonna kind of suck. You’ll be like, “Why am I working so hard on this side gig. It should just be a side gig.”
Dana Robinson: 00:59:38 That’s sort of why we have the side gig matrix and what’s really cool about this, we talk about this a lot in the Opt Out Life podcast, I talk about it in the book, side gigs teach a lot. They’re a great opportunity for people to learn business and to learn something else besides the business principles, to actually learn something tangible. We’ve talked a lot about how do people get into a side gig, how do they gain a skill. Sometimes, it’s a matter of getting into the side gig and that becomes the thing that teaches you the skill.
Dana Robinson: 01:00:08 Here, we have Cameron as a great example. Someone who is a seasoned entrepreneur at the point where he acquires T-Hunter. It shows how he gets a side gig, he’s watching the forums. He’s just kind of keeping an eye out for good deals and once he sees them, he looks at those and says, “What are they doing? What are they doing right? Can I do that better? Can I do it without buying this?” In this case, he decided this was a cool site, that he could do something with his talent to make it better, but he also learned a lot about the t-shirt business he didn’t know about at all. By the time he’s through that project, and making money, and proving that he’s actually decided he’s gonna launch his own brand, and I think that’s cool.
Dana Robinson: 01:00:44 Now that isn’t the side gig. For him, his main gig now is Sawyer, so he’s got the side gig actually helping fund that. It’s taught him about the apparel business and it’s given him an in into the apparel business. As he launched Sawyer, he’s got this underlying product that markets and sells t-shirts that he already owns. He can just fold his own business into that and boom, he’s up and running.
Dana Robinson: 01:01:09 I want to ask about maybe a bad day and that sounds like one of them, but maybe more fun, a great day. Tell us about a day where you felt like you were on top of the world. I mean, I know there’s when the kids are born and there’s the life experiences, but in the cycle of entrepreneurship, there’s those times where you’re just making a base hit sometimes will put you on the top of the world the same as if you just IPO’d a company.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:01:33 Speaking of base hits, I think that that’s kind of the things that would jump out in my mind when you ask that question. Starting with that first one that I had many years ago with the online BMW community. How big or small the success is today in today’s terms when I look back at it is irrelevant, but at the time, I remember having that feeling that I was on top of the world and I had really figured this out.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:01:57 Another one would be the day that CBS Interactive acquired Clicker. I’d like to think that I played a very integral part of growing Clicker to where it was at and became an attractive acquisition to them, so just having that feeling of being part of something on that scale that is that big was pretty cool as well, and I remember having that invincible feeling and like wow, I’m really at the top of my industry for being able to figure out to scale a site to this level that it’s now worth nine figures that one of the biggest companies in the world wants to come along and acquire us.
Dana Robinson: 01:02:32 That’s amazing.
Nate Broughton: 01:02:33 The question is kind of rhetorical though, Dana, because everyday is a great day in the life of Cameron. I was gonna say the Tuesday I came up to ski in Park City, he met me on the mountain. I had offices then in Salt Lake when this project came up. I told him I was coming up, met me on the mountain, in his gear, snowing, powder, we do a couple of runs, he’s like, “I’ve gotta go do a conference call.” He pops off walks across the parking lot to his office, does a call, we ski a little bit more, I come out, hang out in his office. He’s got this cool little salon in this hotel in the parking lot in the base of Park City with a couple of employees, and ping pong table, and like a living room set up, and maybe a dog running around. It’s definitely that kind of atmosphere. To be able to just be like, “Yeah I can come do a few runs,” and then go hop down and have a call.
Dana Robinson: 01:03:19 So your office is literally on the slopes?
Cameron Olthuis: 01:03:22 Literally on the slopes, ski in, ski out. Thanks Nate for answering it that way, that’s actually when he first asked the question, that’s how I wanted to answer it. I know you guys are looking for a bit more specific, so it took me a minute there to really hone in on those specifics, but I try really hard to make every day a great day. Obviously, not every day is a great day, but you know what? You only live once and you’re never gonna have that day again, so you’ve really got to figure out how to try and enjoy each and every one of them as much as possible.
Nate Broughton: 01:03:56 I think you do a really good job of that because I could’ve also told him Montana day, where we woke up in a condo in Big Fork and had a little coffee, and then we hopped in the truck, and drove out to the lake, and got on his boat, and he’s got a Spotify Playlist playing, and we hop out, and he’s like, “Start surfing, man.” It’s like, “How long can I go for?” “As long as you want. We’ll just do circles.” He’s got the sun shining on him, I got my wife with me, he’s got Amy there, we got the kids. It’s perfect.
Dana Robinson: 01:04:22 If your kids ever ask you why you don’t have a bigger house, you’re gonna say, “Do all those other people get to take the time off to take their kids and their business partner and go skiing or go hang out for three months in the summer?”
Cameron Olthuis: 01:04:35 Absolutely. I’ve actually already been asked that question several times. Park City is very affluential and my kids go to a private school there. Some of the families and things that are in that school are quite wealthy, so I’ve had to feel the few of those questions like, “Hey, my friend’s gotta go on a private jet this week for spring break to so-and-so place. Why don’t we get to do stuff like that?” That’s not my aspiration in life. A lot of people are driven by money and become a slave more or less their entire life, in terms of trying to make as much of it as possible.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:05:11 For me, it’s all about having as many great days as I possibly can, while making just enough to be able to support that lifestyle. I try to pass that message on to my kids the same way that it was passed on to me. I’ll let them know that they actually are pretty privileged to have a second home up in Montana that they get to up the day that their school ends and spend their entire summer there. They get to ski with their day all the time and so all sorts of other activities, and things like that. While they don’t live the most privileged life in the world, in terms of the lifestyle that we do want to live, I think that nobody does it better than us.
Nate Broughton: 01:05:49 It’s a very enviable lifestyle, for sure. Coming from two guys who don’t have it too bad either.
Dana Robinson: 01:05:54 I mean, you don’t have it too bad at all. My wife looks at your wife’s Instagram all the time and trust me, I get the, “Have you seen where Nate and Christie are this week? They’re always traveling somewhere. Why aren’t we traveling right now?”
Cameron Olthuis: 01:06:07 That app called EnvyGram?
Dana Robinson: 01:06:09 That’s the one.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:12 Is that real?
Dana Robinson: 01:06:12 No.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:13 It should be.
Dana Robinson: 01:06:18 I know.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:18 That’s what it basically is.
Dana Robinson: 01:06:18 That’s exactly what it is.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:18 I see, I’ve come around.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:06:20 I figured it out. I’ve had too much whiskey.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:24 Or not enough.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:06:25 Or not enough. We’re gonna solve that. Opt Out. I’m getting texts here that my Teowana thing may be delayed, so who knows.
Nate Broughton: 01:06:33 We never talked about crypto on this podcast. I feel like it’s an appropriate time to talk about it because we were talking about side gigs and actually, I ran into Cameron at a lovely event in Las Vegas in January where all the old Dennison’s of the internet from the old days and affiliates were hanging out at a car auction place of Ferrari’s and Maserati’s. It was a crypto meetup and everybody was there with their fat watches and their … Just like back here, going to the club right after. But yeah, I know that you’ve dabbled in the crypto. You can call that a side gig of sorts. I guess you can really call it a gig, but it’s something that produces money, sometimes sort of.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:07:12 Sometimes sort of, depending-
Nate Broughton: 01:07:16 Depending on the day.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:07:17 Yeah, depending on the mood that day. I’m very long-term bowl-ish on the cryptocurrency space and the technologies behind that, for sure. It was something that I was fortunate enough to, definitely not as early as some people get into, but early enough that I made a bit of coin from it.
Nate Broughton: 01:07:34 Nice.
Dana Robinson: 01:07:35 What do you think about all the thousands of coins that are being offered. Do you have any opinion as to viability of innumerable coins?
Cameron Olthuis: 01:07:44 I mean there’s too much, and I don’t want to throw around the word ‘scam’ because I don’t believe that a lot of them are scams. I do believe that a lot of these businesses in coins are started with good intentions of actually building out a business, versus just scamming people, but out of the thousands of coins, I think that there is really only gonna be a handful of winner when we look back at this 10 years down the road. Call that 10, 20, 50 out of the current thousand. I don’t know exactly what number that is, but there’s way too much of it right now. Too many people doing the exact same thing for all of them to end up being a success.
Dana Robinson: 01:08:23 Do you think this strategy is to look at the fundamental plan of the business itself, or is it just gonna be speculation and see where the dust settles?
Cameron Olthuis: 01:08:30 I think the fundamental plans of the business, I think the team behind the business is very important. I believe the network effects of the different cryptocurrencies and technologies are important as well. There’s a couple that have really come out of the gate a lot stronger than others in terms of that, and that’s largely because they’ve been around longer than others. Bitcoin, Atherium, those are really two that have the network effect that I don’t think a lot of these other alt-coins are gonna be able to replicate.
Nate Broughton: 01:09:02 Should I hold on to my crypto?
Dana Robinson: 01:09:04 Yes.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:09:04 Did you hold on to it?
Nate Broughton: 01:09:06 I have some. I lost some.
Dana Robinson: 01:09:10 Here’s my advice with crypto. If you believe in the technology long-term like I do, yes. I believe that you should hold on to your crypto and not try to trade it day in and day out. If you don’t know much about the technology, you hear about other people getting rich and you want to get rich, I think the best advice is to stay away because there’s violent swings and it’s a really quick way to get wrecked if you’re trying to trade in, trade and make a quick buck.
Nate Broughton: 01:09:34 Yeah, it was such an interesting experience being obsessed with it for a couple months and riding the emotional waves. It’s so truncated, where you’re taking years of a traditional investors emotions and experience, and then putting them into like a week. As basically an amateur in stock trading or anything like that outside of private companies, it was … I don’t know. It was like a blur. I probably made some bad decisions. I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t think of anything else.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:10:03 It moves at light speed compared to normal markets. It’s funny because if you watch CNBC or other financial news stations, you’ll hear, “The markets were down at a half percent today. The Dow’s down 200 points,” whatever it is and pure panic. They’ll show pictures of the traders on the floor, their hands over their face in total despair and I’m just like, man these guys have got nothing on crypto. It’s 20, 30 percent swings on a single day are very frequent.
Nate Broughton: 01:10:32 Alright Dana, we hung around with our boy Cameron for a while. this is probably our longest recording and we started talking about all kinds of stuff. He actually turned the table and started interviewing us it felt like.
Dana Robinson: 01:10:32 Yeah.
Nate Broughton: 01:10:42 He’s like, “Well, what are you guys’ thoughts on it?” Well, no one’s ever asked me that before. This is harder than being the guy asking the questions, but I think he was genuinely interested because we started talking about long-term plans for investing and how ours pretty much involve real estate. It’s not something that he’s done, which is a cool example of someone who is very successful and put together, who has no idea about something that we do, that we can be always learning from each other. We start to talk about real estate and both you and I’s belief that it is a good long-term investment. It’s a place where we’re kind of banking on having a lot of passive income in 10, 20, 30 years. It’s something that we talk about a lot on the Opt Out Life and in your book Opt Out about the tax advantages of real estate and all these other reasons why it just makes sense for someone like us or someone who just has a little bit of capital to look to real estate as a single investor, versus the generic advice of a 401k, or something like that.
Dana Robinson: 01:11:38 A lot of people don’t realize how important real estate is in terms of tax loopholes. You get this certain passive loss that you get to write off against your other income. There’s a limit to that and that’s 25,000 a year, but that still means that somebody can save say six or seven thousand dollars a year from passive losses, without actually losing that six or seven thousand dollars. They’re getting this phantom expense that they get to offset with other income.
Dana Robinson: 01:12:04 The other thing that people don’t realize is that real estate, we think it goes up in value. It doesn’t matter if it goes up in value. It matters if it beats inflation or keeps a pace with inflation. As the buying value of your dollar is diminishing with inflation, the real estate’s holding its value. For us, the apparent view of that is that it’s going up in value over time. One of the third pieces of magic that you get from real estate that you don’t get from traditional stocks is someone else is paying your mortgage. You have to buy this with leverage. If you were to go buy stock with leverage, you buy stock with a loan. You have to pay that loan off with other sources. You can’t just make the payment from the company you’re paying. They’re not renting your stock. With a rental property, you actually have someone else that’s living in it, but if you’ve got a great property and you take good care of it, they’re thankful, and they pay on time, and they’re paying your mortgage for you. At the end of 15, 25, or 30 years, whatever your mortgage is, you’ve got the thing paid off completely. Now, it’s thrown off cash that you get to live on.
Nate Broughton: 01:13:03 It makes me think of, this is just off the cuff, but with the Opt Out Life, we’re often saying there’s kind of a line drawn in the sand where it’s like you’re either opted out, or you’re opted in. You’re opted in to the nine to five or you’re opted out to a different way to create your income, and approach a bunch of different expenses, and how you value your time, and all those things that we talk about a lot here. But real estate is a nice place to draw a line in the sand too. Are you a tenant only or are you an owner who’s getting rent checks? That’s a very clear delineation to me, where it’s like what side of the fence do you want to be on? We’re not saying it’s bad to rent. Dana and I have rented our homes a bunch of different times. I’d be happy to rent my place, but own three other places that other people are paying rent on.
Nate Broughton: 01:13:47 I think most people can come around to the idea pretty quick that’s it’s like I’d rather be the guy getting the checks than the guy who’s only sending checks to the guy who owns the property. This is just an inspirational effort to try to get you to look at this as we try to expect Cameron to believing in this as an opportunity for him in the long-term that real estate is an important key to making a lot of passive income when you’re older.
Nate Broughton: 01:14:12 I had a question for you, Cameron. I’ve wondered about this at different points in my life and we’ve maybe have talked about it once on the podcast too. People like us, we’re never going to get a pension. A lot of the stuff that we talk about with the Opt Out Life that I think does fit most of our philosophies means that we’re probably not gonna have a 10 million dollar exit among us. It’s highly unlikely. How do you think about 55 or 65 Cameron and like setting up the financial situation so you can hopefully work a little bit less when you get to that age? What’s your strategy for that? Do you really think about it? You’re gonna deal with it later or are you planning for it?
Cameron Olthuis: 01:14:12 Crypto.
Nate Broughton: 01:14:48 Crypto, yeah. Simple answer.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:14:51 In general, I’m not a great long-term planner, especially that far out. I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into what 55, 65 looks like in terms of what kind of passive income I’m gonna have at that time to be able to sustain my life. I used to kind of joke around that once my kids were out of school, that I was actually just gonna kind of quit everything I was doing at the time. I was gonna move into a shack and I was gonna become a ski patroller or something like that where money is just completely out of the equation. You don’t make enough that it’s a part of it. It’s all about the lifestyle. Like I said, that was partially joking and now, my life has taken a turn for the better, I suppose, in the fact that I’m about to start over and have another child, so I can no longer think about completely opting out of life.
Nate Broughton: 01:15:43 Right.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:15:44 I’ve done a couple of angel investments in the last handful of years, I’ve got a small portfolio of stocks and bonds. I’ve got some crypto and some other things, so I like to think that somewhere in there that there’s gonna be enough passive income that when I decide to retire, it’ll be able to support me. But again, I’m not entirely sure that I even want to retire. Early on in life, I used to look at retirement as a goal, but now I think retirement, to me, has a different meaning. It’s more about being able to do what I want to do in terms of work, but not fully getting out of work. I like to think that maybe around 55, 65, I’ll be a full time angel investor or something like that where I don’t have to work as hard as I even work today, which honestly isn’t that hard compared to how hard a lot of people work, but maybe even less so by that age.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:16:41 What does 55, 60 year old Nate and Dana look like?
Nate Broughton: 01:16:46 I think I share a lot of the sentiments that you have, especially if I’m working on shit that I enjoy working on like this, then I don’t mind doing work, but I guess it’s two things. One, I’m not living anywhere. I want to live in hotels or in a shack. I want to own almost nothing and to be wherever I want to be, but not be rooted in one place. But how do I pay for that? I think it’s real estate. I think it’s passive income from owning four-plexes, and apartment buildings, and things like that. I joked on one podcast that I feel like a lot of us are making our incomes in different ways slightly right now, but we’re all hopefully fast forwarding to becoming faceless landlords in retirement. Dana is much further along, I think, in the path of setting that up for himself, but that’s definitely where I would like to be parking a lot of assets and hopefully generating some income down the line because I’ve still got 20 years or so to kind of buy stuff and pay it down, and to kind of build a bit of a portfolio.
Dana Robinson: 01:17:40 Yeah. For me, it’s business, side gigs, and real estate now and forever. In theory, the time it takes to run your business diminishes or you sell what you’ve got and use that to create passive income. I’m accumulating real estate that hopefully will be paid down and off sometime around the time I’m 65. Regardless of the success of business ventures, or whether my side gigs flatten, or that my royalty streams die off, I’ll have some income from that. I’m not relying on this Wall Street approach to retirement.
Nate Broughton: 01:18:16 I definitely have zero faith … Actually, they might listen to this. I don’t know. Everyone’s listening, but yeah. The money that I have parked in investment shit, I kind of just forget that it’s there.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:18:30 The real estate stuff is fascinating to me. I don’t really know that world like you guys do, maybe that’s something I can learn from you guys. I’ve always shied away from it, more or less, because it just seemed like it was a bucket I could kick down the road because it wasn’t gonna make me money in the short term like a lot of other places where I could put my money. Maybe I need to rethink that-
Nate Broughton: 01:18:52 We’ll come up with a course in the next six months. Don’t you worry. I came around at the tax advantages of it, for sure. I probably can’t even articulate them all to you perfectly, but I think there are some tax advantages that play with … Being around Brandon, I think we had a lot more approachable for me too, where it was like I have a partner who is interested in this enough to do the things that I don’t want to do, where it’s like he helped me get some of our early houses.
Nate Broughton: 01:19:14 It is certainly a pain in the ass. He’s got some stories in his book or books about this is what it is like to own investment real estate. The worst time possible, you’re sitting down to a dinner and you get a phone call from someone who’s managing a property and the basement’s flooded or whatever. It’s your problem. Think about how you are if you’re renting a house. It’s like, “Call the fucking landlord.” That’s the beauty of renting. It’s not glorious, it’s not fun, and it’s not fast. I think it’s a smart place where you can park even not a ton of money and have it pay off long term. We’ll see, but history of the American housing market, at least, has proven that true, decade to decade.
Dana Robinson: 01:19:54 Yeah, at least beats inflation.
Nate Broughton: 01:19:56 Right.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:19:56 You talked about some of the pitfalls of being a landlord. Is that how … Do you guys manage your properties yourselves? Do you guys use agencies or management companies for that? How does that work?
Nate Broughton: 01:20:08 Mostly self management.
Dana Robinson: 01:20:09 Yeah, I manage myself. Although, when I had 90 units across three buildings, they were all in downtown Phoenix. I tried a management company, they stole from me. I tried a manager, he stole people’s medicine from their medical cabinets. When I finally self-managed, I hired a manager directly, tried him directly, his girlfriend borrowed his keys and was drinking the vodka from peoples’ freezers.
Nate Broughton: 01:20:34 That’s a good story. I love that one.
Dana Robinson: 01:20:35 This is the … Even self-managed is challenging. My policy now is to own where I live and self-manage so I can drive to it myself, fix it myself if I need to.
Nate Broughton: 01:20:47 I self-manage this stuff in Missouri both by having just a family member there and a business partner to kind of help out. There is a lot more that you can do these days with self managing. I think 15 or 20 years ago with technology and not just like … I mean all my leases and things like that are managed through an app where they can also make service requests and they can pop through. I can even have a bank of people that I use for service and contact them. When I was in Spain last summer, I was getting texts and phone calls about a house and I was out to dinner there, but I was able to … It’s annoying, but I was able to deal with it pretty easily.
Nate Broughton: 01:21:20 Having boots on the ground with someone you can trust. I would never have a property in a city where I didn’t at least know someone that could go by and check it out because we’ve actually even neglected some properties in Missouri and later found out someone was parking their boat in the back and the grass was three feet tall. It’s funny, I have a lot of these stories that are akin to his. He’s got better ones, but how quickly you accumulate them when you’re a real estate investor, all that shit happens. We had a property manager for ours that stole from us and lied to us about pricings of things, selling us used appliances that were supposed to be new. It’s gonna happen, but I think it’s all about the 20 years from now sort of thing.
Nate Broughton: 01:21:58 We’ll break in for the final time here. We can continue to talk to Cameron at length about real estate and telling him some of our war stories. I think we left a few good ones in there, the other tenants stealing the vodka in Dana’s apartment complex. I don’t even know if I want to bring up anymore of my other ones, but it certainly is a funny thing when you do own investment real estate, how quickly you gain these notches on your belt of tough times. Not necessarily tough times, but momentary annoyances and just things that are unbelievable that happen to you. It was fun to go through those with Cameron and talk to him more about it.
Dana Robinson: 01:22:30 Sometimes, there’s positive things that happen from the crazy experiences that you’d still think are crazy experiences. I had a tenant who was a Native American and was short on funds. I learned that he was an expert at carving kachina dolls. One of the visit to one of the apartment complexes I owned, I visited with him and I was fascinated. I ended up trading him some rent, I think it was at least a month’s worth of rent, for two kachina dolls for my partner and I. Sometimes, there’s these crazy stories where you’re like cool stuff happens, but then there’s the stories where you find out that your manager is stealing from you.
Nate Broughton: 01:23:07 Dealing drugs from the office at the apartment complex, or something like that.
Dana Robinson: 01:23:10 Dealing drugs from the apartment complex, collecting rent from people and then not paying you the rent, and then claiming that the tenant hasn’t paid. Sometimes, those are actually hustles between the tenant and the manager. You definitely have reasons to keep a tighter control than a lot of people realize when it comes to real estate.
Nate Broughton: 01:23:29 Yeah, and I think that’s why we’ve both come around to an approach that means we have boots on the ground and we’re close to it. You invest here in San Diego because you can go drive over there in an emergency and you can see it with your own eyes. All the stuff I own is in Kansas City, where I have family members and a partner who can help, so I can’t imagine dealing with some of these things completely remotely.
Nate Broughton: 01:23:50 Although, I think we do talk a little bit with Cameron about how it is probably a lot easier these days and it should get easier to be a semi-absentee landlord, like collecting rent checks. All I have is just auto deposits on Cozy. I know you have something similar. Actually, my whole lease and tenant experience is managed through this software, so if they want to contact me, they can put in a ticket through there that pings my phone and I can deal with it. I’ve got preloaded contractors that I’ve worked with in the past that I can direct them to. A lot of it does come down to just communication on the day to day. I’ve been out of the country and just texting with the tenant and able to solve an issue. That’s nice that that’s there. I think there are some ways more effectively manage real estate when you’re not there in person, but it doesn’t mean you’re not gonna have any of those crazy stories.
Dana Robinson: 01:24:35 Okay, name one great thing to when somebody is coming to Utah for the first time.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:24:40 Ski, obviously. Utah is known for skiing so, go skiing if you’re in Utah. Utah, in general, is a fantastic state for outdoor lifestyle. There’s really so much diversity and so much that state offers from the Red Rock train down south with the Zions and Bryce, there’s the Rocky Mountains all through the northern-central part. There’s wide open deserts where you can go out and ride your dirt bike, or shoot guns, or whatever it is. It’s a really cool place for people that enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
Nate Broughton: 01:25:13 Yeah, Utah and Montana are, at least to me, somewhat undiscovered country for too many people. There are pretty places, great skiing, and then around Salt Lake and Montana, as well. I think a lot of people just don’t get up there. Most importantly, what days can we come to Montana?
Cameron Olthuis: 01:25:32 I’m really looking forward to all the text messages and Twitter responses I get to this like, “Hey, I want to come to Montana too.”
Nate Broughton: 01:25:39 I’m looking at July, I’ve got it pulled up.
Dana Robinson: 01:25:41 We don’t want to put this on the podcast, though?
Nate Broughton: 01:25:44 No, no I want to. I want this recorded. July-
Cameron Olthuis: 01:25:50 I don’t know that we can book a specific day right now, like I don’t even know when I’m gonna be there this summer.
Nate Broughton: 01:25:55 Okay, okay. I don’t totally like that answer, but-
Cameron Olthuis: 01:25:57 I know that you like to plan your trips out-
Nate Broughton: 01:25:59 I do, I do. This is making me nervous that I don’t have it planned.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:26:03 I could be like, “Hey, let’s go tomorrow,” and I’d be like, “Yes. Let’s go tomorrow.” If you say, “Let’s go in six months,” I don’t know what I’m gonna be doing in six months. I don’t know if I’m gonna feel like I wanna go up there in six months.
Nate Broughton: 01:26:12 You know how I am. I wanna … Christie’s already booking stuff in July and I don’t wanna miss this window. Maybe in the last two and a half weeks of July.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:26:22 That’s a great time to go. You’re almost always gonna have good weather then.
Nate Broughton: 01:26:28 I wanna get that condo in Big Fort.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:26:29 Let’s do it.
Nate Broughton: 01:26:30 Okay, so if you’re listening Chris Hedgecock and other people who want to join in on this, last two weeks in July. We’ll figure it out. The Opt Out Life will visit Montana. Cameron, Dana, Nate and our friends. Thanks for being here, buddy.
Dana Robinson: 01:26:43 Thanks Cameron.
Cameron Olthuis: 01:26:45 Awesome. Thanks for having me guys.
Nate Broughton: 01:26:47 Alright. Thanks again for listening to the Opt Out Life podcast. If you life this episode or any of our episodes, we’d love to have you as a subscriber. Click the subscribe button on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. Then, head of over to optoutlife. com. There, you can enter your email address to get on our email list, so you’ll be the first to know about new podcast episodes as they come out, including hand picked highlights, links to resources we mentioned, and top quotes from each episode. Dana and I are also publishing new articles on the site, including how-to guides and blueprints for you to use to find your next side gig or find a creative idea to help you live the Opt Out Life. Opt Out Life email subscribers also will be the first to get access to upcoming video content, which includes a short documentary we shot recently here in San Diego, as well as opportunities to interact with us in our growing community through the Opt Out Life premium membership. All that and more starts by heading to optoutlife.com and entering your email.
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