Ready to GROW your business? In this week’s episode we speak with Nate Ishe Lappegaard owner of Kite + Dart Group. We dive into the reasons your small business might be stagnant and how to grow. Quit comparing your business to other businesses like yours and what worked for them.
Great tips on how to refocus your business and make the important changes to really grow and scale.
Nate’s website: www.kitedart.com
Katie Brinkley 0:02
Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado bass small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is Nate Ishee. Lap guard. Nate is the founder of chitin dark a group of business strategist supporting non traditional entrepreneurs. self described as the most reluctant entrepreneur in the room, Nate started chitin dark to create a curated community of entrepreneurial activists committed to using their businesses to affect change. He’d always had a head for business, but the traditional model of entrepreneurship really didn’t appeal to him. Finding himself entrenched in the business world, Nate use the opportunity to break the old system and build a new one. As a business strategist. He supports entrepreneurs interested in leading with their values, inclusivity and transformation. Nate, thank you so much for coming on to the show today.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 1:02
Thanks for having me.
Katie Brinkley 1:04
So let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what life was like growing up for you.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 1:09
So I grew up in the East Bay area of California, a very diverse place called Union City, California. And we lived there until I was in fifth or sixth grade and moved to Aurora, Colorado in the early 80s. And I’ve been in Colorado ever since. I was a musician, and I was super into music and art my whole time growing up.
Katie Brinkley 1:33
So what what instruments did you play?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 1:35
I was a I was a tenor saxophone player, already of my early career. Well,
Katie Brinkley 1:41
I played the saxophone too. I played the alto saxophone. But
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 1:45
I started on Alto, and I moved to tenor when I was in high school. Yeah, yeah. And then the band department had a bass guitar. And I started taking it all and I learned how to play bass. And so then I started playing in metal bands. And then in the 90s, I went to a rave. Wow, I started DJing and making electronic music. And so I’ve been a professional electronic music producer and DJ for over 25 years now.
Katie Brinkley 2:11
Awesome. Yeah, I also play the bass guitar. But if not, I know, but I have not made the move into dance music or DJing. Yeah.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 2:21
Nor should you it’s a, it’s a veritable rabbit hole of nerdiness. Now, I don’t recommend to anyone. And so I learned, we joke a lot in chitin dark that I learned everything I learned about branding and marketing and business development I learned from from DJing. But don’t tell people wait.
Katie Brinkley 2:41
So I was gonna say let’s, let’s talk a little bit about that. Like, how do you think that your your upbringing impacted your eventual career and professional journey, I mean, you’ve got a lot of different interests and hobbies to where you are. Now
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 2:54
I didn’t, I didn’t come to the entrepreneurial space through traditional channels. So I don’t have a big degree. I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. I just like noticed early on that I got excited about Well, first, I mean, we started doing shows because I want to play more. Right. And it’s hard to as a musician, get gigs unless you’re throwing them. So that’s where it started. And then, um, but I mean, early on, early on, like, when I was four or five, I would get all my cousins together in the back room, my grandma’s house, and they would like I get them to draw pictures, and I haven’t put a price on it. And then I would go sell the pictures to the people in the front room. And then I’d come back and give the money to my cousin’s. And just keep a little bit for myself, which. So I was when we when we were writing the bio for this. That was a discovery for me, too. So there’s been this kind of like, entrepreneurial streak that’s permeated my whole life. And it was more like a discovery of something I made later on in life. I also had a business about 10 years ago, where we did natural food product demonstrations in natural food stores, like Whole Foods and natural grocers in, you know, the region. It was called soapbox demo services.
Katie Brinkley 4:09
Yeah, so So take us through your career journey a little bit what different professional stops Have you had along the way to starting this?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 4:18
I mean, tons right. In my 20s. I worked in, I worked at Best Buy and Car Toys and for in the wireless industry. And in my early mid 20s All day myself was the time when cell phones started being digital. And so I worked in that industry for a long time and I got trained by some of the best people in the industry. I got trained by Scott shooty, who was the vice president of sales or the Director of Sales for Best Buy when I was 19. I was trained by a gentleman by the name of Paul Evans, and he was a national director of training for Starbucks, who came to work for Car Toys for a while is trained to be a sales trainer there. And so in my 20s I was involved a lot in retail Sales, retail sales, training, Business Development for, you know, wireless companies. So I had it, you know, and then I had like a big break down in my late 20s. And I started working for in the service industry, and I started really pursuing my music career. I did that for a while. And then I went to work for Whole Foods in my late No, my early 30s was about 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and I got to work in that organization prior to the Wild Oats merger. So I, I worked at Whole Foods, when every single person at Whole Foods was full time and had full benefits. And that was really where I started to understand or have an experience of that there could be a different way to run businesses that worked. And I was treated, I cleaned the floors into meat department when I worked at Whole Foods, and I ended up being the regional demo coordinator there. And I was treated the same the whole time. And there was just a profound experience of that of that culture. That really was like the beginning of my interest in this kind of philosophy we have called entrepreneurial activism, and John Mackey is nothing but an on if he’s not an entrepreneurial activist.
Katie Brinkley 6:12
Yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit more about some of the things that you kind of try to preach to new entrepreneurs.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 6:19
So first and foremost, like, what I’d say is, is, you’re probably right, you’re probably right about, you’re probably more right when you first thought of the business that you are now. And that your initial intuitions as beginning entrepreneurs are generally correct. What happens I think, to entrepreneurs over time, is they start to get really interested in what other people think about their ideas. And I think one of the fundamental problems that we have in our culture, is that the understanding that we have of entrepreneurship isn’t through the lens of understanding what works for a small entrepreneur that’s not running with a ton of capital, kind of like your story, Katie, right. A lot of us are entrepreneurs by this combination of choice and necessity. Right? And the way that we have understanding business in our culture, the businesses, we see the ones we do most business with, they’re not running on these budgets we have, they’re not like trying to break into markets that aren’t are that are difficult. They’ve just been there forever. And I haven’t like what applies to large publicly held businesses run by conservative people isn’t necessarily applicable to a startup entrepreneur. I also think there’s a big difference between business advice that sells and business advice that works. Well. And
Katie Brinkley 7:45
that leads me into my next question, if someone is listening right now, who is an aspiring or new business owner? What is the single biggest piece of advice that you’d want to give him or her as they as they start their journey,
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 7:56
they have to optimize your initial revenue stream. Okay, so. So there’s a lot of temptation in early business to start getting invested in a lot of things that, that don’t make any sense. And the first one is a website, right? So let’s talk about this. So every entrepreneur, they start a business and they’re like, I need to have a website, like, Oh, my God, right? Okay, great. So they’ll go and spend four or five 6k on a website, or hours and hours and hours, themselves. Now, I’m not saying like, we don’t need a website when we start to establish viability. But unless you have an accompany 1500 to $2,000, in case, you know, this SEO budget, nothing’s going to happen. Right? So the biggest thing I see in the beginning, is entrepreneurs focus more on the development of the business and less on the transaction of the business. Businesses, the information for how a business works lives inside of the relationship with clients. Right? Like, like a discovery. So if you’re just getting started, go sell some stuff. Right? That’s the first thing, let the information about what to do next, in your business come from the market. Don’t let it come from your brother or your sister, or your uncle or some weirdo on the internet or whatever. Like, gather data, based on what so because every business is
Katie Brinkley 9:20
different, you know, every business is different. And every business, you know, has different clients, different customers and different needs that go along with it. And having a website is very, very important. But if you’ve already spent four or $5,000 on the website, and you still have your first client, then you’ve just wasted a bunch of money for nothing.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 9:42
I mean, we say interaction is different than conversion. And I think because we live in a culture where folks in KTM I’m going to speak your language you can clap for me, if I nail it. So first of all, interact, interaction is not conversion. And we live in a world where most folks are in the digital space interacting Right. And like what it is to get someone to like a quote, post on Facebook is a lot different than what it is to get them to become a client. And we say, you know, we never use computers where people will work. And we never use people where computers will work. And when it comes to what we call the phenomena of conversion, there’s no substitute for human interaction. All the information is there there in the people and relationships and the conversations around our business. And the more we can be in conversation and communication with clients and prospective clients, the better off we are. Yeah, I
Katie Brinkley 10:34
think that you bring up a really good point. And that brings up two different ways of doing social media and digital marketing, a lot of people I can’t stand it, when I see business page, just it’s being there being like that person in the room, when you go to a party, and you’re talking to the person and actually, they’re just talking to you, all they’re doing is talking about you talking about themselves talk about us talking about themselves. And then they get up and leave the party. And you’re like, my name is Katie, by the way. And I feel like so many social media business pages, that’s all they do is just talk at you. It’s not an actual conversation. It’s not not social, you can’t say you’re on social media, if you’re not going to be social.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 11:17
Well, there’s this tendency, I think we so we I love that, by the way, I think it’s great. And what I hear you say is, is that nobody wants to hear anybody talk about themselves all the time. So we distinguish this this way, we say that how we’ve been taught to market, old school marketing is transactional. And human beings. Human beings are not transactional. By nature, they’re relational. So when you come home, and you see your wife, or your husband or your partner after work, you don’t break out the spreadsheet, and calculate how many hours they spent with you, and how many hours that you spent with them, and what that look like and then use that data to determine the next course of action in your relationship. Now, we’re going to have for dinner tonight, the data shows data from right, we don’t do that. We’re relational creatures and all businesses are about relationships. I mean, anybody ever sold anything was one person selling some to another person. That’s it. It’s always human beings. So we’ve had to distinguish this relational marketing bit. And one of the things we talk a lot about is consent. And we say that, like, when you are out there in the marketplace, and you’re saying something to someone, you ought to think about what they’ve consented to, in the conversation back to your your, your example, when you’re at a party and you’re talking to someone, you’re consenting to have a conversation, you’re not consenting to a lecture. And I look at all this marketing, and it’s horrible, and it’s bad. And it’s rife with tacit accusations. And it’s totally transactional. And it’s not relational. And I think that every human being wants to know about the human being on the other side, before they start making a choice of whether or not to work with them. And this is another big missing. I think it’s because when we first started, our businesses were super insecure. And we feel like we need to qualify ourselves all the time. And here’s another thing, I’ll tell you new business people ready, anyone who’s in a conversation with you about your business, already accepted you as an expert, because if they didn’t, they would have been in the conversation. Unless, of course, they’re an MLM person who makes up a meeting with you from a networking group to pretend they’re buying from you, but then tries to sell you something that doesn’t count. But other than that anyone who’s expressing interest in your business already accepts you as an authority, otherwise, he would have wasted time.
Katie Brinkley 13:39
Very valid point. And I think that a lot of small businesses might actually be second guessing themselves, like oh, well, you know, I am just a mechanic. No, I mean, you’re you’re one of the bastard, you’re so good that you’re able to open up your own shop. Tell us tell us why we should bring our car to you. That leads me into my next question here. What do you think the biggest mistake business owners make when they’re trying to grow and sustain a successful businesses?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 14:05
Oh, this is a good one. So it’s something I call false equivalence. The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is assuming that will work for other people. You’ve got to work for them. If you look at the factors that influence whether a business is going to be successful or not. It’s too huge to comprehend. There’s and when you’re looking at a business from the outside, and you can’t see all the way back to the beginning. And even if you could, it would be irrelevant, because the market has shifted tremendously since then. I mean, we’re in Coburn, post COVID market. This market right now, things I was doing that was bringing 50 people to a webinar four weeks ago, ready for now. So markets are always shifting. So even if you could look into a business and see what they did, the market would still be different. It’s an infinitely complex series of factors that influence a business’s success. It’s not understandable, you can’t look at another business and know what worked and what didn’t, because you can’t see the whole thing. We have to have a different place to come from, which is just like copying, or if that’s okay. I mean, you have to have some frame of reference, when you start a business, in this wholesale assumption that like what work for someone else is going to work for you is just crazy. It’s just not true.
Katie Brinkley 15:27
Well, and that there would be no leaders then if everyone was able to do things the exact same way. And I think that a lot of small businesses, and entrepreneurs always need to be ready to try something new. You know, like you said, you had a webinar a few weeks ago that had 50 People now now you’re lucky to get four. Let’s not just stop all the webinars, what else can we add to it? What What else can we do to try and be ahead of that next shift that next change?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 15:54
And one of the things we do is we teach entrepreneurs to get a different way of making choices in their business, we call it inside out instead of outside it. So instead of looking at competitors in the market, what we say is this, if you’re trying to say you’re different than your competitors, the same way your competitors are trying to say they’re different than you. You’re all the same.
Katie Brinkley 16:16
It’s it makes me think of that blind in the The Incredibles movie,
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 16:20
everyone is special dash that just I love that Katie, I say oh, it’s so good that you know that I like you. I was gonna say so the best we think and what we teach people to do is instead of like emulating other businesses to really look at themselves, what they care about, what they’re great at, and make decisions based on that. That would be weird. It would be radically empowering. And it would be completely different than what we’ve been taught about business. Because you know, you go to school, and you get a D in a class or in an A in a class, which one you study harder. The D one the day, yes, yeah. So you’re trained your whole life to put energy into what you suck at. And I got news for you, folks, if you’re out there, like I was, when you started your business, and you don’t have a lot of business acumen, and you don’t have a lot of extra cash on hand, you don’t have time to get good at anything, you’ve got to figure out a way to do business right now. That is what you’re good at and what you care about right now. Because you’re always going to be better at what you’re good at now, than something you have to learn. And you’re always going to be better at doing things you care about the things you hate.
Katie Brinkley 17:26
Exactly, exactly. I think it’s best said that you always want to try and hire people that do your job better than you and hire people to do the things that you don’t want to do. So you can still continue doing the stuff that you’re the most passionate about.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 17:42
Right. And when it comes to business development strategies, we need to grow our businesses in ways that are consistent with what we are already good at. So you know, when you grow a podcast audience, you don’t do it through blogging, you do it through podcasting, right. And it’s the same thing all across the board. The people are obsessed with this idea that they have to be different, that they have to be different than who they are, and better and, and better and things they’re not good at in order for their businesses to work. And if we took all that energy of trying to be better at what we’re not good at, and copying other people and just thought authentic to ourselves, we’d have a much better chance, a much better chance of succeeding, because we would automatically be distinct in the marketplace. And so this drives me crazy. Like businesses. Now every business owner is different. I’ve worked with a lot of them work with 175 of them in the last four years. They’re all different. They don’t have to do anything to appear different other than that, just be authentic to themselves. I only not doing that.
Katie Brinkley 18:39
And that’s what people are. What’s going to make someone want to do business with you is that they like you. They like your business and what you bring to that business,
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 18:50
right? What social media has done to the buying choices that consumers are demand to know more about who they’re buying from, because our brains are now used to knowing a lot more about a lot more people than we’ve ever known.
Katie Brinkley 19:01
Exactly. It’s so much more than just a logo. Now you you get to know the employees, when it’s their birthday is how long they’ve been at the company and you feel like you have that key to the back room when you
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 19:12
take a little deeper like what what drives them? What do they care about? What matters to them? What kind of people are they? Why are they in this? That’s what I wanted? Exactly. If you’re out there, your prospective clients, business owners, listen to me. Your prospective clients want to know that stuff. Before they know about your qualifications, and when you lead with your qualifications and not why you’re there. All you’re doing is transaction analyzing a relational conversation and it’s not going to work and it’s going to hurt your conversion and and all those small business has to do is make more money from a client that it spends getting one or time because that’s it. So all you have to do you have to get clients in less time. or with less money than you make from them. That’s it. That’s all it is capitalist, it’s easy. It’s easy, we manage to be in the marketplace, express self expressed.
Katie Brinkley 20:08
So tell us a little bit about your model, what’s your model look like for finding and engaging and selling to your ideal clients and customers.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 20:16
So we talk a lot about marketing based and empathy and consent. So the first thing we try to do is we try to be empathetic to the folks that are out there. So we know that every business owner that owns a business is getting completely inundated in just basically barrage by a plethora of folks who are in the same space, we are the consulting coaching space, they claim they know everything. So the first thing we do is we understand that we cannot approach prospective clients to build a relationship before coming from this place that we know more than you we don’t, which is also not true. By the way, nobody knows more about your business than you do. Anyone who tells you they know more about their business than you do is totally full of it. Anybody who says that they know more about your business than you do is full of it. That’s not just not the king. So when we show up in the space, what we try to do is make a contribution to folks, whether they buy from us or not. What we want to do is give people an opportunity to discover for themselves what matters to us, by not the words we say but the actions that we take. So what we do is we do a lot of work in the diversity, equity and inclusivity space. We do a lot of content and webinars that are free, we do a lot of free coaching, we do a lot of work with folks upfront inside of the relationship building space, so that they can be informed and empowered to make a choice for themselves. We also don’t believe that you can convince anyone of anything. And so our whole business development strategy lives inside of empowering people to be free to choose. What
Katie Brinkley 21:46
type of marketing Have you found works best for your business.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 21:49
I mean, all you have to do is just post about your business on Facebook, and everyone buys stuff. We do a lot of we do event based marketing. So we’re big on community, we have products that are what we call group coaching cohorts. So our our and I live in the community, I run the business inside of a community, I have a trusted community of advisors and a business partner and consultants and I don’t, that’s how we run KKR is like a lot of people have, I pay a lot of people to tell me what to do. So that being said, we try to we try to expose people and give an opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not we’re their kind of people first. And we do that a lot through events. Prior to COVID. We were doing a lot of in person events at the comments on Champa, which is where we’re officing. And now we’re doing a lot of webinars. And we’re in that digital space with everyone else that everyone’s come into the digital space. So we’re working now to just provide a unique experience that has a lot of value. And then that’s fun. And that’s reassuring, kind of like what you’re doing, Katie, we’re out there in the marketplace right now just really trying to support entrepreneurs, whether they pay us or not.
Katie Brinkley 22:55
And I think that that is the the best way to try and get a lot of new clients by if you stablished yourself as a thought leader and giving something to them for free. They’re gonna realize I could just pay you to do it for me, because you guys know what you’re doing.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 23:11
Yeah, totally. And it’s about people. You got to respect people. Nobody’s stupid out there. That mean that’s another fundamental problem, I think that we have with marketing in general is like we’re running from this point. Transactional marketing just assumes that a PT Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. And that’s not in our space. I don’t want to work with suckers. I want to work with discerning clients who are super committed to using their businesses as tools for transformation. And those kinds of people aren’t going to react very well. If I show up in the space saying, Hey, I know more than you do. And if you don’t buy for me, you’re an idiot. They don’t like that. I don’t like that. They don’t like that weird.
Katie Brinkley 23:52
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received? And how has that impacted your business or your life?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 23:58
What a great question. I had a guy mentor early on in this he said, just stick to what you’re good at. I was trying to grow out and add some products and services to our our offerings that weren’t what I was great at. There was stuff I was interested in. But it wasn’t what I was great at. He said, just stick to what you’re great at. And we’ve taken that bolt on.
Katie Brinkley 24:21
I think that’s a really valuable piece of advice. One that I had to come to myself even with with my business, because I was doing everything I was I was trying to build all of the websites and I was trying to do SEO. And then I had to kind of sit back and be like, Look, I’m spending more time on doing some of these projects that are my least favorite thing to do. I had to discuss acne like these are the things I’m most passionate about. The whole reason that I started this business was to do more of that. I don’t need to be a Jill of all trades. I can focus on what I’m best at and build a team to do some of these other aspects that I just don’t have the time for and it’s taking too much time away from the things that I am most passionate about.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 25:04
Yeah, we see scale up, not out. And we want we want people to be elevating the value by by getting really we want entrepreneurs to become connoisseurs of what they’re great at. And don’t we don’t want them looking at the competition and trying to emulate something and just that’s just I get it. Like, that’s how you’ve been trained. But that’s not what we want people doing. We want them really getting acquainted, like familiar with what they’re really good at, and then getting rid of all the stuff that they’re not good at. And just like, first of all, saying, Do we even need to do that in this business? And then secondly, saying, Okay, if we say, Yes, get someone else to do it. And we want them doing that over and over again, because that’s how we think businesses optimally scale, they scale wide, by getting better and better and better at what they’re good at, not by getting, it’s not like turning a D into an A. It’s like turning an A into what’s after. That’s what we want people to do. And that’s how they stay out of competition because they become unique, authentically unique. And isn’t that what a business is, is a tool to serve others anyway. So why don’t we want to have businesses that just teach us how to help people better? Love it? Yeah, that works, too. Thanks. I got it. I love it, too. I love what I do. Before we
Katie Brinkley 26:13
finish up. Is there anything that I didn’t ask about today, during today’s discussion that you think is important to share?
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 26:18
I think we covered it. I mean, what you didn’t ask me is like, how can folks learn more about our business? Or how can they buy something right now? Well, that’s
Katie Brinkley 26:26
Nate, that that was it. That was my next question.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 26:32
Our websites WWW dot kite. dart.com. Kite like you fly and Dart, like you throw, folks can go on there. And they can click a link to go to bed right, or they can just google type in Dart, Eventbrite and come to one of our webinars. Awesome. A bunch of cool stuff. Yeah, there’s contact form on a website. So what we recommend is for people to come in and do something with us in that observational space and decide for themselves whether or not they think we’re there kind of people. Once they decide that we’re there kind of people, then they talk to us. And then we decide if, if there are kinds of people and we figured that out that we talked about, maybe we could do something.
Katie Brinkley 27:10
That’s great. And I do think this a very valuable tip too. Because sometimes, as a business owner, you need to make sure that the client is as much of a fit for you as you are for them.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 27:20
Are you mean, we don’t have to the key to success in business, Katie is in bending over backwards for a bunch of jerks.
Katie Brinkley 27:25
And that just takes taking any client that comes your way? You mean
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 27:29
what my wife says is no. You mean no is access to a more powerful? Yes,
Katie Brinkley 27:34
exactly. Exactly. Well, Nick, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Today. It’s been a great discussion.
Nate Ishe Lappegaard 27:42
Thanks, Katie for having me. It’s been really great to get to know you. And thank you for the difference that you are out to make in the world. And thank you for providing this resource for entrepreneurs, just from the kindness of your own heart and out of your commitment to make a difference for people. I see that and I acknowledge
Katie Brinkley 27:59
Awesome, thanks again, mate. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at www.nextstepsocialcommunications.com or connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.