Scott Paley is the co-founder of Abstract Edge, a digital marketing agency for do-gooders. Scott had interest in technology from an early age. In college he taught himself HTML and created one of the first 500 websites in existence, a site for his college ACapella group. After school, he went into technology, but after seeing the success of others in the dot com boom, he joined with partners to start Abstract Edge.
One of their early projects was building an online presence for the Million Dollar March, which resulted in 750,000 people marching on Washington 9 months later. Since then, over half of their business has been with non-profits. Scott also co-founded the Nonprofit Leadership Lab with Joan Garry.
- What beliefs about money, concious or subconcious, did your family instill in you growing up?
- To be grateful. He felt very lucky. His parents were able to afford to buy him a computer in high school which is what inspired him to pursue a tech-related career.
- You’ve said your values include integrity, fairness, being a great dad, and abundance. Why does abundance make the list for you?
- We are wired to compete and get the edge on other people. But you need to collaborate and join with others to determine the best solution to problems. Everyone ends up better off.
- If you’re not sure what to do, think about what’s best for the mission and you’ll know what to do.
- Where did your career start and how did it evolve into founding Abstract Edge?
- Studied engineering in college and sang in an ACapella group. He taught himself HTML and built his group a website. One of the first 500 websites that there were.
- Worked at a large engineer software company. He was creating customer facing demos so he needed to learn marketing to be effective.
- Saw friends running companies and raising a lot of money in the dot com boom.
- Joined with friends to start a company building websites in 1999.
- What was your transition like from Engineering to marketing?
- At the beginning he thought of it as a web design and development company. Willing to take on almost any project at first.
- Took on a client that was organizing a march on Washington for more common sense gun laws called the “Million Mom March”. She expected a couple thousand people. Nine months later 750,000 people marched. They became experts on building online grassroots movements. Non-profits began to gravitate towards them. Today they are over half their business.
- Realized the biggest way they could add value was by helping them understand strategy and marketing.
- They wanted to be seen as strategist and not just as a production shop.
- What were the first few months like after leaving your job to start Abstract Edge?
- It was scary. There’s a certain comfort in the security of a paycheck. As a business owner, you are fully responsible for what is happening.
- He had lived frugally when he had his 9-5, so he had about a one year runway.
- In hindsight it wasn’t as big of a risk as it felt at the time. He could have gotten a job.
- Now is a great time to start a business with limited capital upfront.
- There’s never been a better time to start a business. He partnered with Joan Garry to build a membership site The Nonprofit Leadership Lab. Their investment was paid back within months of launching the site. Over 1000 signed up in the first week. It now has 96% monthly retention.
- Go to thrivingnonprofit.org if you work in a non-profit for a free workshop that will also tell you about the Nonprofit Leadership Lab.
- What advice would you give someone who is in a 9-5 and has entrepreneurial ambitions but doesn’t know where to start?
- Depends on what kind of entrepreneurial ambitions they have. Some ideas will require venture capital investment and a very different path, but that isn’t usually necessary in 2018. You can create a lifestyle-friendly business that will help a lot of people with very little investment.
- Online courses are plentiful to help you learn how to build an online business.
- Think about partnering with someone who has complementary skills. It’s very difficult to do everything yourself and do it well.
- Who has been the most impactful person in Scott’s journey to do well and achieve financial success?
- His brother, one of the partners who co-founded Abstract Edge. Brought a focus on integrity and the desire to work on projects that would have a positive impact on the world. Also maintained a business focus to ensure they’d be profitable.
- Who has been the most impactful person in Scott’s drive to do good?
- Donna Dees-Thomases who co-founded the Million Dollar March.
- When Scott is having a bad day, what does he do to get himself out of the funk?
- Uses the 10% Happier app for meditation.
- Do something for himself, sit down at the piano or read a book for example. Disconnect.
- Best piece of advice for our listeners.
- You can’t scale by yourself. You have to put people around you who are supporting what you do. Your most important long term skill is how to be a leader and build an effective team.
- Places to find Scott, Abstract Edge, and the Non-Profit Leadership Lab:
Do Well & Do Good Challenge Nomination:
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