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So I realized that when I shared how I started my first business (Three Elements) in episode 88, I kind of left you hanging because I told you that I closed that business because I missed working with a team and I was given this amazing opportunity to work at a SaaS startup, Snap Retail. And clearly, that didn’t take either because here I am running my own successful business!

So today I want to continue the story by sharing what happened at Snap Retail, how I ultimately started Crystal Media, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. 

If I can offer you some encouragement right now. If you have a pull towards something in your life, it might be to start a business, a hobby, a new career, travel, whatever – don’t ignore it! Journal on it and discover what it is you truly want and then go for it! You never know what might come from it. 

This week I share:

[01:37] Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a great holiday!

[03:10] What happened at Snap Retail?

[07:35] A huge lesson I learned in corporate – I want to be building something bigger.

[08:49] The idea for Crystal Media started on a cruise

[10:09] New Moon Journaling Ritual (this is really great way to vision cast your ideas!)

[12:19] As with the start of all great companies – It starts by getting laid off

[15:19] Launching Crystal Media 

[17:39] How I landed my first clients

[21:59] Launching A Membership Site

[25:31] How did I choose my first service offerings and how did they evolve?

[26:41] Burning Out and Bringing on a Team

Mentioned in this Episode:

Conference: EVOLVE

Read the transcript

Crystal Vilkaitis: I also learned a lot. Through all of that, right? And I just can’t have regrets because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I had to learn those lessons and walk through the fire. And I definitely learned a lot and I’m just really grateful that I got pushed off the cliff and started this business.

Are you ready to open up and talk about all things business? I’m Crystal Vilkaitis, a curious entrepreneur who loves talking about business, especially over a glass of wine. I started Crystal Uncorked to share open and honest conversations about my journey and talk to other entrepreneurs about their experiences. We pull back the curtain and talk about the highs and the lows. Wine isn’t required, but is recommended. This is Crystal Uncorked.

Hello and welcome back to Crystal Uncorked. I am Crystal Vilkaitis. I’m thrilled you are here. Now, in the last episode, I talked about your regret list. Did you do it? Did you make one? If you did, and you want to send that to somebody for accountability or just somebody to share, or just one thing on the list, I would love to hear what’s on your list. So you can, Instagram is the easiest way to do this, just DM on Instagram. It’s my first and last name. And I’d love to hear from you. 

And in this episode, last week we didn’t have an episode because it was Thanksgiving. So we just took a week off there and I hope that you had a really good Thanksgiving.

And in this episode, we’re going to continue a conversation that I have been having over past episodes. 

[00:01:37] Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a great time!

Crystal Vilkaitis: But before we dive into that. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. If you’re here in the United States, for me, we always either go to my dad’s house or my aunt’s house. When we lived in California, we always hosted because I love hosting and we have, like, in California we just had so many friends that didn’t have family that live by and we were the same way and so we would host but now that i’m back home in colorado We go to either my aunts or my dad’s and we have our tradition of we’ll eat obviously And then we play poker afterwards, which is always a fun tradition 

And i’m filming this before thanksgiving. So I don’t know what happened this thanksgiving. But every year when we play poker, I just die laughing because my grandma Always wins. Like she’s just, it’s so funny playing with her because she’ll like have the cheat sheet. She needs to see like what hand beats what she always has questions. She never sees that she has the winning hand. She’s like, Oh, I’ll play. And then she lays down like a full house and she wins and it’s just so funny. I’m sure you have some of your own family traditions that are fun. And I just hope you had a really great holiday. If you’re a small business owner. I hope you had a great small business Saturday, if you’re a retailer and if you participate in, that’s something I always look forward to as well as just going to the local stores on small business Saturday and supporting local and the energy of the community, and there’s always so much going on.

So I’m really excited to experience that here in Fort Collins. Hopefully the weather is not too terrible. 

[00:03:10] What happened at Snap Retail?

Crystal Vilkaitis: So in this episode, let’s, I want to talk about filling the gap a little bit between an episode 88. I talked about my origin story, how I got into the social media industry back in 2008. And then in my Drake story, which was episode 89. I fast forward and talked about this situation that we had at crystal media of a potential new client, which was Drake the rapper. and how that didn’t work out. but really that’s a story of perseverance, like being told yes, but then things don’t actually go through or they don’t go how you thought they would.

And so if you haven’t tuned into those, you should, and my podcast editor, Sarah was like, I’m left hanging. Like how did you start crystal media? You know, You told us how you got in the industry and then about Drake, but I never talked about starting a social media company. And so in this episode, I’m going to share a little behind the scenes of doing that.

As I discussed, I was working for a company called Snap Retail, and I was there from 2010 to 2012, and that was a startup technology company. And when you have that lovely word startup, that can often mean, you know, you’re raising money, tight budgets, you’re just trying to survive for those first 5 years.

And one of the things that I got the opportunity to do when I worked at Snap Retail was go to Silicon Valley and do some fundraising, which I loved. I loved doing this. Me and the CEO, Ted Teele would get on an airplane and we would go out to California and we would meet with these investors. And I think it’s called Sand Hill Road is like the famous road that all these companies are on.

And we met with several tech companies. Just trying to raise money for our platform. We were a SaaS company, a software as a service, and You have a high payroll with tech, you know, you’ve got your engineers and your coders and we were pretty aggressive. Like, we just really wanted to grow and building some really cool things.

So I got the opportunity to go around and do some fundraising, which was just really interesting and intimidating. I was like, I was 25, I think, and just young, like it was. But it was cool. Anyways, we didn’t raise enough money. Fast forward. I don’t know all the logistics, the back end. Maybe there was enough money raised, but in order to do so, there had to be cuts or I don’t know.

I don’t know the whole backstory, but I will tell you my story. And my perspective was We didn’t raise enough money. We were running out of money. We weren’t selling fast enough to keep up. And you really have to raise money for creating. Technology like for creating software. So, one of my jobs was at snap retail.

I went to all the markets. I taught social media. I was one of our top sales persons people because at the end of my social media seminars, I would make an offer to join snap retail and I’d say, go outside and you can talk to one of our sales team. And boom, I would just like hand them leads. It was really easy.

I made their job a little bit easier to close because I warmed them up. I gave them education. I made them an offer and they would often buy. In fact, just a couple of months ago, I was at the one coast showroom and there was a retailer there who I met all those years ago, who I sold her into snap retail, and she’s like, do you remember me?

Which I totally do. She’s so sweet. And she’s like, you sold me and I still use them. Like, it was really cool to see her and hear her story and catch up. But that was like a big part of my job. And and so I was doing that, but I was having this pull to start my own business again. I was loving being on a team.

Cause like in episode 88, I was mentioning, you know, I felt really alone with my first business, three elements. I just, I really needed. Other people. And so I loved being on a team and we just had the best team at snap retail. Like I made really great friends. I’m still friends with a lot of them today.

And that was all really great, but I wanted to have more power, like I wanted to have more ability to create and to grow. I had a great salary for my age, but I wanted to make more money and I wanted more creative freedoms. 

[00:07:35] A huge lesson I learned in corporate – I want to be building something like really creating something more.

Crystal Vilkaitis: I’ll never forget my first, it was like my first or second week in the office.

I moved to Pittsburgh and I’m in the office. And. because I’m an entrepreneur, like I’m coming from being a business owner, I noticed something and I had a question and then an idea. So I just sent it directly to the CEO, Ted Teele. And also our VP of marketing and our VP of marketing comes into my office and is like, Hey, let’s go for a walk.

And you’re like, Oh, okay, sure. That sounds great. Like, I love that we do walks around here. The VP of marketing, he did do a lot of walks, but I was in trouble. I wasn’t supposed to go to the CEO, like leave him out of it. And I get it now that I have a bigger team. He’s trying to protect his time. But it, it meant like I was doing things wrong and I really wanted to work with the CEO and we worked well together and he really liked my ideas.

He liked that. I was bringing these things to his attention and I would just see things where I’d have ideas and I wanted those things to be executed and I wanted to like, do more. I was doing so many webinars and those were great, but I just felt like majority what I do here is selling and I want to be building something like really creating something more.

[00:08:49] The Idea for Crystal Media

Crystal Vilkaitis: And so Dustin and I went on a Hawaiian cruise and it was just like a personal vacation. And on that cruise, I started journaling what my next company would do. What is the name? Who do we work with? What do we specialize in? And I came up with crystal clear media. And I think I bought the URL crystal clear media on that cruise or right when we got home.

Cause I don’t think we had wifi actually, so I couldn’t buy it, and I was still working for Snap Retail, but I was just like, you know, I’m just exploring. And this is something that I really recommend for anybody listening is if you’ve got this pull and this idea, start to explore it through journaling.

Journaling for me is just my, like my channel. I need, that’s my tool to figure out ideas and really grow as a person and as a business owner. And so, you know, map it out, start brainstorming, ask questions. What would it look like if I did blank? You know, I have this idea or I have this pull. Why, where do I see it going?

What would I do? How could it be better? Just like play, ask big questions. 

This morning. This morning, my God, I have my journal right in front of me, and I wonder if I can get this really fast. This morning I’m doing my journaling. Because we’re uncorked, I’ll give you a little behind the scenes.

[00:10:09] New Moon Journaling Ritual

Crystal Vilkaitis: So it’s the new moon as I’m filming this and one of the new moon rituals is to pretend like everything, all of your wildest intentions and manifestations happened. Write down how that feels. What what you smell, it’s like really visualizing and getting into your body and seeing that.

And so I just like, I went there, like where I live and how expansive that feels and smells like new construction. And I’m watching the dogs run in our bigger yard and I could smell the coffee brewing. And there, I’m hearing the music that I have playing and then I took all the way through like being on these stages.

Doing live podcast recordings, similar to the talk show and talking to people. And I hear sniffles of people in the audience who are tearing up and crying from my guest and what they’re saying. And then I hear laughing and I hear applause and I hear the creaking of the wood floor on the stage as I walk out to do all the testing, you know, before everybody gets there and I can hear that creaking and I can feel the openness of the big room.

Like. So I did all that this morning. So I share this because as I was saying, like, think big, nothing’s crazy. And in this morning I wrote down that I would have a million downloads a year, like if the big manifestation or intention happened. And what does that feel like? And what do I see? And what do I smell?

And what do I hear? And then I was like what if it was 20 million? And then I was like, An episode, what if it was 20 million downloads an episode, like screw the 1 million downloads a year? What if it was 20 million downloads an episode? And man, it’d be really cool if we can use this footage. Years from now and it’s happened, but I say this like, push yourself.

I feel like I’m pretty good at pushing myself, thinking bigger, go further. Okay. How does that feel? Where is that? Does it resonate with you and start doing that journaling? So that’s what I did. With my new crystal clear media idea. 

[00:12:19] As with all Great Companies – Its starts by getting laid off

Crystal Vilkaitis: And it’s so funny the power of the universe because not long after I get back from my vacation and there’s a phone call and the like 40 percent of the team got laid off or got moved into this new company.

So there were layoffs. Then there was a spinoff comp company that was doing some like tech services for some of our partners, and I got moved over to the tech service company as a VP of. Marketing or something. I don’t even know because then that company then got bought and then I got fired It was like a very creative or you know laid off very creative way of laying off a lot of people and I was so Surprised I was in that Bucket that I got laid off because I was, I knew I was doing a good job.

I was going to all these markets and I was selling to all these retailers and I was our top sales person. I was not in sales and I had a lot of great ideas, but it did feel held back. There’s only so much that you could do. And maybe from their end they wish I would’ve done more.

One challenge for me is that I was not in Pittsburgh anymore. That’s where they were based. I convinced the CEO to let me move back to California and work remotely. And how I did this is I worked my ass off for my first four months of Snap Retail worked my ass off and I sold, I showed up, I delivered, I had ideas. I was researching. I participated. Like I was, I cared a lot about our culture and just, I was connected to the team. And because I was like, I really miss California and I had just moved there.

And man, Pittsburgh’s hard to live in because of the weather. It’s so grey. They get 80 days of sunshine. So then. I asked to sit down with Ted and I made a PowerPoint, slides of my love language, of all the research of how sunshine makes you happy, stats about remote working just my commitment, how this all looks.

And I took a picture of me from the cruise and I was holding a pina colada, but I put a laptop over it and I put like a Twitter logo and a Instagram logo, a Facebook logo. It just, I was like, see, look how happy I am in the sun. Like, so he agreed to let me move back to California and I then would come to Pittsburgh every other week.

And that was a new expense on the company. I didn’t have to pay for that. But they paid for that. So, you know, I wasn’t in the office as often anymore and I was a bigger expense because of all the travel. So who knows, but everything works out.

It’s funny because I was being pulled to start my new business, but I was in a comfortable position.

I had a great team. I made good money, good benefits. And so I almost felt like I had to be pushed off the cliff in order to like take the jump, right? Like go for it and do it. And who knows how long I would have stayed at Snap Retail if I didn’t get laid off. 

[00:15:19] The start of Crystal Media Company

Crystal Vilkaitis: So when I got laid off in all transparency, it was devastated the 1st day, like, I was blindsided. I didn’t see that coming at all. And I remember Dustin and I went out to dinner and I had some beers and I just, I would, I was crying. I was just staring. I was heartbroken. Like, I was really sad. And we went back to our house and he went to bed and I stayed up and I played Robyn, Dancing On My Own.

And I’m just, I’m not. Oh, here, I’m going to sing to you now. Watching you kiss her. Whoa. That song, you know, um, I’m right over here now. Why didn’t you see me? Like, I just loved that song. I still do, but especially then. So I just put it in my earbuds so I wouldn’t wake up Dustin and our roommate at the time.

And I just danced. To this song over and over again, I was drunk and I danced to this song and I cried and I laughed and then I woke up the next day. It’s like, okay, let’s start a business. And I fucking started designing my logo. I registered, I ended up going to Crystal Media. I designed the logo.

I registered. I built the website. I had Dustin take a picture of me out by our shed. I used that as my branding. I created a speaker one sheet. I just jumped into action and it was helpful because I already started doing some of the brainstorming and some of the ideas and I’m just, I’m an executor.

I’m, it’s easy for me to just like jump in and get stuff started. I think a lot of people will wait and they won’t get things started. And so that was pretty easy for me. And I jumped into action and bought my URL and which was crystal media. co and I had that for many years and nobody could figure out the .co and I feel like we probably lost out on some business. We confused our customers. So finally one day on an airplane, I was like, we should be crystal media co .com, crystal media company. com, so we changed it. That was like one of the biggest pain points, but back then it was just crystal media spelt out.

It was blue and black. The same almost identical colors that I first designed. We still have to this day, we actually went through rebrand and went more back to our roots of the colors that I chose and figured out WordPress and have some friends that helped me out. 

[00:17:39] Getting the first clients

Crystal Vilkaitis: And then I just emailed my contacts from snap retail, and one of those people was a company called Beatriz Ball. They have a gorgeous home decor and table top line. They sell directly to retailers as well as online to consumers and Bea, of Beatriz Ball, like Beatriz Ball herself, her and I just always connected. She always thought I was really forward speaking.

She heard me speak on a panel and just really liked everything I was saying. And she would email me and be like, I’m your biggest cheerleader. So when this transition happened, I reached out to her and said, Hey, do you need any consulting? She’s like, yep, come to New Orleans. So I just created this package for one day consulting.

I went to New Orleans, I had this whole slide deck and really where I start my slides is doing a SWOT analysis and that stands for strengths. Weaknesses, opportunities and threats that is a really great tool to lead consulting or coaching calls. It allows me to, like, really do a lot of research and what are they strong at?

What are they weak at? What are those opportunities? And what are those threats? So we can really forward think. And so I presented that to her team and also did some training and then we went out to dinner. And then there were some follow up calls with this. Then they end up becoming a client and we’re doing some of their social media management for them.

And to this day, 12, how many years have I had this 11 years I’ve this company be and her team will still reach out when they need some consulting. I think we did a couple of audits for them this year. I love that we still work together after over a decade. And I’m just grateful for her support. Like she would just always tell me, like, I’m your biggest cheerleader. 

And again, I’ve talked about this on the show. When somebody believes in you, it helps you believe in yourself. And she was really one of those people for me and her entire team, Kelly and David, just, I love them all.

Then I reached out, you know, again, I had my contacts and one of those contacts was from Creative Co-op, which if you are in the gift and home space, this line if you are a shopper of anthropology, then you have seen, Creative Co-op, they just have really beautiful, creative items and like home decor and trinket, like just beautiful things.

And I reached out to them and they’re pretty big and they were launching a new project. And so they needed some help from a consulting perspective. And then after that they became a client where I did their social media for them for the new business. And their wholesale business. 

Not too long after that, Pauline joined my team. she has to do all the posting, all the done for you services. She had Beatriz Ball is her client creative Co-op is her client. And so that was such a huge relief bringing her onto my team because I was trying to do, I was trying to film because I had an insider membership group, and I wanted to create content for them and I’ll come back to that.

And then I was also doing weekly YouTube videos because it’s very inspired by Marie Forleo. She helped me so much in this transition. I found her and her YouTube channel, and she talked to entrepreneurs like me. We’re just trying to build their business and every topic she had made me feel like she was talking to just me, like she really understood where I was at.

And so I knew the power of me putting myself out there. I’ve been teaching social media for years. I’m going to create YouTube videos as well and send them out via email. And then I’m going to give to my list. I got to build my email list of retailers. I just stayed in the retail industry. When I left Snap Retail, because I was there for two years I made a name for myself.

I was a speaker. I got to go to all these conferences. People knew me. The wholesalers, the rep agencies knew me because I would also go to industry events and nonprofit events. And we also worked with them at Snap Retail through partnerships. So, you know, I just stayed in that industry and Gifted Home is my roots for Crystal Media.

But then. Since we have grown into pet and jewelers and craft and hobby and toy, we’re in all these other industries now, but it started somewhere one industry. Gifted home with 1 type of customer retailers. I also did reach out to those wholesalers to do some consulting and manage for them.

[00:21:59] Launching A Membership Site

Crystal Vilkaitis: So 1 of the 1st things I did when I started my company is I launched a membership website. I was 1 of the 1st people ever to create a membership website. This was back in 2012. The tech is so much easier now and so much more sophisticated. I use like WP member. I don’t even know if that’s around anymore.

My friend by helped me build some of that out. Really? He taught me what to do. I’m very much like a self starter and I teach myself tech as much as I can, but there’s areas where you get caught up and he would still help me. So appreciate his help. And I built a membership website where every week I would do a webinar and I would send out a newsletter and we would go live and I had a Facebook group.

And to this day, I have people who joined my membership in 2012. I started crystal media in September of 2012. And to this day, I still have members who joined. 11 years ago, over 11 years ago, which means the world to me, the fact that I still work with these same retailers from over a decade ago, the same manufacturers from over a decade ago, just shows you the power of relationships and maintaining relationships.

And. And having a certain standard and quality for your work. I think that is definitely something that makes me who I am and makes my relationships with our clients and our members and our ads our partners. Everybody is the standard that I have for the level of work that we are providing.

And I’ve been able to communicate that to my team because as of now, I don’t do any one to one anymore. I used to do the consulting. I used to manage the social. I used to create all the content. I would run all the ads and man, I was getting burned out quick, really quick. It was so much. I wanted to create the content.

Like I’m doing now. I wanted to create the YouTube videos. I want to do the teaching. I wanted to be on stages and speak. I didn’t want to do all the done for you stuff, but the done for you is reoccurring revenue. So it was profitable. So it really helped me make money. My very first year in business, I did over a hundred thousand dollars in revenue.

And so that was really exciting for me because I left a kind of a cushy job and I took a leap of faith, kind of shoved off the mountain though. Did 100, 000. And then I think year two was like 170, 000 and year three was 370. And we’ve been growing ever since. I think I’ve had a couple of years where we stayed the same, or maybe went slightly behind.

And those are all revenue numbers. Those are not net profit, but I’ve been profitable every single year of my business. Every year, which is really cool. I’m really proud of that. 

So anyways, I bring Pauline on and then I’m doing more gigs and then we bring another person on.

Somebody’s got to help us with our email marketing. Cause I’m the one that’s in there and in. MailChimp, and then I moved us to Ontraport. I’m sending out all of our email communications. When we have a launch, I’m writing, I’m sending, I’m tracking, I’m building all the courses. I’m speaking, doing all the things, but the membership site, a course, my first course was the retailers roadmap.

It was on a USB drive and had a notebook and a pen. 

There are retailers to this day. Marie Foley is one of them who is a client to this day. She was one of the first people, If not the number one, first person in January of 2013 at America’s Mart to buy the retailers roadmap. And she brought the USB and her notebook to evolve my conference this year.

[00:25:31] Let’s Talk About Service Offerings

Crystal Vilkaitis: Like again, talk about partnerships and relationships and she is one of our beloved clients and we just love working with Marie and I love that she kept it all those years, like really cool. For me, when I launched the business, it was all about education. Like, I was doing it snap retail and then consulting just led into done for you services. People are just asking for it and they ask for it today. That’s the hard stuff. People don’t want to do the done for you. And there’s so much growth and potential and done for you. It’s easier to grow a more like secure revenue company when you have done for you, because you have contracts and you know how much is coming in and you know what to expect where with education or membership it could be a little bit harder membership. You can have re occurring people monthly or yearly, but the done for you is going to be a higher ticket typically. And so that really provided comfort for me. And I’ll talk more about kind of building out the agency and things like that.

But that was just how I launched it as membership. Then consulting leads to done for you. And then the course and speaking. 

[00:26:41] Burning Out and Bringing on a Team

Crystal Vilkaitis: Bringing on Pauline, then bringing my second employee, Erica. And then I built the team really slow. That’s something I definitely regret. I think that because I got burned out really fast.

I was trying to do a lot. I didn’t necessarily get burned out fast, but like 2016, 2017 is really when it started happening for me, 2017, I’d say so, about five years in, and I only had two employees that whole time. And we were cranking, like we were doing a lot and I was producing a lot and I was traveling and my industry moves fast.

You have to stay on top of it. I wish I would’ve hired people sooner, so I didn’t burn out as bad, but I also learned a lot. Through all of that, right? And I just can’t have regrets in that sense because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I had to learn those lessons and walk through the fire.

So that is my story of crystal media. And I hope, I just think if you’re anything like me, when I hear stories of people’s like their origin story, their hero’s journey, their, how they got started, there’s often tips in there and things that you can relate to, or that gives you a good idea. If you’re just starting.

Or helps you think differently. Like, I really hope that you got something out of this value. It’s not, I don’t want to just sit here and like, tell you all about all my stories. Like the goal is that there’s education in these stories. And I definitely learned a lot and I’m just really grateful that I got pushed off the cliff and started this business.

And and just the people that I got connected to in the gifted home industry so many years ago, I’m so grateful for them. And one day I would like to have a seminar topic around niche marketing because I really do feel like one of the reasons I’ve been so successful in my business. Is that I have been so niche, I’m double niche.

I’m social media for independent retailers. And so often over the years, people are like, you should branch out. You should work with other people. You should work with people have more money because independent retailers don’t have, a ton of money where like a lawyer or doctors or dentists, they have a lot more money to spend on marketing.

But. I’m double niche and by doing that, it was easy for me to know who my customer is, what their pain point is and how to find them. And so I want to develop a topic around that and speak on all sorts of stages about niche marketing. I think it’s really powerful as well as relationship building. So I hope that you found this episode helpful.

So the final thought that I want to leave you with is there something that you’re pulled to do. Like I talked about when I was on the cruise ship and thinking about my new business, is there something, it doesn’t have to be a new business.

Maybe it is, but maybe it’s just a new addition to your business. Maybe it’s a, even a new hobby, a new place to live a new promotion in your company, depending on where you are. Is there something that’s been playing in the back of your mind? If there is, I really recommend that you look deeper into that, sit down with a journal and start journaling it out and think bigger.

And ask questions. What if it does work out? How would that look? What would, how, what would I feel? Like the new moon ritual. What would I feel? What would I see? What would I smell? Like, live into it. And that can really help you find a lot of clarity. I call this vision casting. And it might help you get a step closer to something that you’ve really wanted to do.

Which totally ties us back to not having regrets. And this is a great way To close that gap and move forward with something that you really want to do and you’re pulled to do. 

So as always, thank you so much for listening to this episode of CU. And next week, we’re going to be talking about the holidays, about what I do at crystal media every single year. I do something that’s pretty unique and pretty special, I think, and I’m going to tell you what it is and why I do it and how we get it done. And so I hope that you could tune in to that episode and I will see you on the next CU. Bye.