GE 177: How Ryan Blair Took ViSalus from $6M in Debt to $624M in Revenue by Using Challenge Marketing (podcast) With Ryan Blair

Ryan Blair

In this episode, Eric shares the mic with Ryan Blair, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, multi-millionaire, and CEO of ViSalus.

Listen as Ryan takes us on a journey through his days at rock bottom—poverty, an abusive father, and gang life—to his days as a rockstar living on his own terms. Learn how he started a venture fund called HashtagOne that invests in technologies that they want to learn about, how he bought ViSalus for $75,000 in 2005 and sold it in 2008 for $32 million, and why he says that being a better student than a teacher led to his success.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Ryan Blair Took ViSalus from $6M in Debt to $624M in Revenue by Using Challenge Marketing TRANSCRIPT

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:09 – Check out Ryan’s documentary on Nothing to Lose to get more information on him
  • 01:25 – Ryan’s background
    • 01:36 – In 2011, Ryan started HashtagOne
    • 01:42 – ViSalus was sold in 2008
    • 02:00 – Ryan wanted to invest in tech companies
    • 02:23 – He bought back ViSalus in 2014
    • 02:47 – EliteDaily was a HashtagOne investment
  • 03:13 – Story behind ViSalus
    • 03:19 – Ryan hates multi-level marketing
    • 03:25 – He started SkyPipeline in 2001 that was later on sold to Covad
    • 03:56 – Two sales people from SkyPipeline asked Ryan to look at ViSalus
    • 04:38 – Ryan bought ViSalus in 2005 with his two co-founders
    • 04:49 – They sold the company in 2008 for $32M
    • 05:24 – They had accumulated a $6M debt in 2009
    • 05:42 – Ryan and his co founders put their last money in to keep some promises
    • 06:34 – Turned it around in 2010
    • 06:51 – Total buyout was $792.4M
    • 07:04 – Ryan planned to take ViSalus publicly
    • 07:22 – Herbalife scandal hits and ViSalus’ valuation went up
    • 07:31 – Guaranteed buyout was more than the projected public offering
  • 08:33 – Ryan and his family moved from Detroit to Los Angeles
    • 09:03 – Ryan’s dad had a lot of mental traumas being a veteran from the Vietnam war
    • 09:26 – At 13, Ryan told his school principal about his dad’s abuse
    • 09:39 – The principal called the social services and Ryan’s dad fled
    • 09:44 – His mother was forced to get a job and the family lived in poverty
    • 10:27 – Ryan got caught up with a gang
    • 10:49 – He stole computers and learned to program, rebuild, and sold them
    • 12:17 – At 17, Ryan decided to follow his stepdad and started learning about personal growth
    • 12:44 – His stepdad taught Ryan real estate, shadow investing, and value systems
  • 13:13 – Ryan is passionate about teaching entrepreneurship because it isn’t being taught
  • 13:29 – Ryan’s career started without the technology we have today
  • 16:17 – When Ryan connects with a mentor, he tries to give them extreme value
  • 17:06 – “The secret to living is giving” – Tony Robins
  • 17:31 – Challenge Marketing
    • 19:01 – Ryan was the first to take the challenges to social media
    • 19:47 – Adjustments on marketing messaging and who to send the message to
    • 20:21 – More opportunity comes during bad times
  • 21:22 – How ViSalus make money
    • 21:30 – Selling meals, snacks and drinks
    • 22:12 – ViSalus became a house of brands
  • 22:41 – The process of buying companies
    • 23:05 – EliteDaily as an example
    • 23:40 – If you got cash, there’s a lot of ways to do it
    • 23:45 – Buy companies after meeting the entrepreneurs and using their products
    • 24:33 – Read Ryan’s book or reach out to people before buying a company
    • 24:51 – Eric shares about FE International
  • 25:18 – ViSalus’ first 1,000 customers
    • 25:29 – Ryan had a strong knowledge on sales
    • 25:50 – Marketing exists to create sales
    • 26:24 – Getting the first thousand customers the hard way
    • 27:47 – The hard work became $2B today
  • 28:23 – The most effective thing for customer acquisition
  • 28:59 – Rock Bottom to Rock Star
  • 29:19 – Values driven marketing initiatives
  • 31:05 – Ryan’s life on the streets
    • 31:08 – Ryan mentions Freakonomics’ documentary on gangs
    • 31:42 – In gangs, you learn things they don’t teach in business schools
    • 32:12 – Nothing to Lose
    • 32:42 – Ryan fought everyday to prove himself
    • 33:03 – Ryan didn’t show up one time and the guy came out and shot 5 of Ryan’s friends
    • 33:20 – It was a key decision in Ryan’s life to get out of a gang
  • 33:50 – The art of compartmentalization
    • 35:58 – It’s a coping strategy for trauma
    • 36:03 – A strategy for managing work-life balance
    • 36:25 – Learn to open and close compartments
    • 36:41 – Compartmentalizing gives you extreme focus
    • 37:35 – Ryan shares his White House experience
    • 38:18 – Don’t let bad news kill your business
  • 38:50 – What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your 25-year old self? Pay attention to your timeline
    • 40:24 – Play a long game. Look at the long term
  • 43:00 – What’s one must-read book that you recommend? The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
  • 44:07 – Rock Bottom to Rock Star
    • 44:22 – Ryan wants people understand that what weakens you, strengthens you
    • 44:52 – Create a whole new classification on Rock Star
    • 45:36 – The rock stars are not just the Mark Zuckerbergs out there

3 Key Points:

  1. Your past does not define your future.
  2. There’s always a new way to do business.
  3. More opportunities come during the bad times.

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