Cynthia Pong is a successful career strategist, helping BIWOCs earn more money, power, and respect in their careers. Here’s how we co-created her ebook course, Jumpstart Your Business.
How it started
In fall 2020, she taught a live course called Start Your Small Business (SYSB). SYSB was popular and delivered great results, which is no surprise given how good of a coach Cynthia is. Several participants got their first clients or sales before the course even finished. Everyone was asking when the course would be offered again.
Between coaching clients 1:1, winning a spot in a crowdfunding accelerator, and marketing her new book, however, Cynthia didn’t have the time or energy to run a live course again. She considered turning it into a self-paced course, but was hesitant because some of her previous self-paced courses hadn’t gotten a lot of traction. She was also worried about investing a lot of money into creating a course that might not sell.
But she was determined to bring SYSB back for her clients. The course was effective, and the 1:many model made it more accessible to women who needed help starting their own businesses without a lot of capital.
“I really had to [find a way to run SYSB again]. Promises had been made, either to myself or others.”
Coincidentally, while Cynthia was thinking about all of this, I happened to shout on Twitter about going through another client’s self-described (digital) dump truck of knowledge to create an online course.
“Once I saw that tweet about going through your other client’s ‘dump truck’ of information to create a course, I was an immediate yes because we already had a professional relationship and I really did need someone to process and synthesize all this information for me.”
Layered curriculum & offer tiers
We got to talking about how we could turn the materials from SYSB into a digital product that was a lighter lift for Cynthia. During my preliminary review of the course materials and student feedback, I realized that the interaction with Cynthia and other cohort members was a major reason the live course was so effective. (No surprises detected, I feel and act braver every time I talk to her!) To make it more scalable and accessible, I proposed three tiers of support:
- Course only
- Course + live office hours
- Course + office hours + personalized review of course materials (delivered via Loom)
I think she liked the idea:
“UM I LOVE THIS IDEA. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. I could even have the course be $89 who cares bc I bet ppl will want these upsells.”
Preselling and validating the course
I also wanted her to feel as confident in the saleability of the course as I did. So we decided to do a true presale: we would move forward with production if and only if at least 20 people put their money where their mouth was and preordered the course. (After all, it’s easy to ask someone to offer something, it’s quite different to actually give them money!)
Though I don’t usually deal with marketing courses, in this case I wanted to test my theory about validating courses. After threshing out pricing and the offer tiers, I wrote and built a sales page for the forthcoming course.
From video to ebook
The final concern I wanted to take care of was Cynthia’s bandwidth for getting the course made. I could sense her enthusiasm flagging at the thought of recording hours of video. She had recordings from the live cohort but we both wanted to reorganize the content, so those recordings would either have to be redone or extensively edited.
At some point in this discussion, she posted on Instagram that she had hit $10,000 in individual sales of her book, Don’t Stay In Your Lane. Given how well her self-published book sold, I began to wonder: what if we did a workbook format with written lessons and fillable fields that could replace the face to face time in the live course?
Here’s what Cynthia said when I floated the idea by her:
“WOW, you seriously know so much about this stuff! I’m definitely super impressed by your depth of knowledge. I’m KINDA into your last idea of making this thing like a mini book. And I super appreciate you thinking about how to make this thing not a ton of work. Ugh, this is why you’re the best!”
And with that, we were off and running.
How it’s going
The 20 preorder slots sold out within two weeks, and Cynthia sent me a play-by-play (which I completely love):
(typical footage of us shouting at each other over email all day)
With a successful preorder campaign in the books, it was time to, ya know, make the damn thing. From previous projects, I knew I wanted to create more than just a fill-in-the-blanks workbook. I wanted to be able to walk students through exercises and then tie all the concepts together at the end of each section and the entire workbook.
We decided to trim off a module on social media marketing that was in the original SYSB and focus on crafting a simple business canvas. There are three sections that help students define the work they want to do, the market they want to serve, and the offer they want to present.
Each section has instructional content interspersed with guided exercises. This format allows students to read and work in the same file. They can write a draft niche statement or pitch, and then the PDF will automatically transfer that draft onto another page where they can go through prompts to refine and revise the draft. This reduces the need to copy and paste or scroll back to a previous page to review, which is especially important in a self-paced course that is likely to be worked on little by little.
I also included annotated examples as a way for clients to coach themselves in the absence of face-to-face guidance from Cynthia. We created three sample personas that students can follow through the entire ebook course, taking care to choose names, identities, and artwork that reflect the diversity of Cynthia’s clients.
There are also two printable summary sheets at the end of sections 2 and 3. One is the Even Leaner Business Canvas from the original SYSB, and the other is a new Get Your Next Client Action Plan. I organized the content so that students can print just these two pages as a reminder and motivator as they grow their business.
The first cohort
We delivered the ebook course to the preorder customers within three weeks. (This pace admittedly melted my face a little but it was totally worth it!) The office hours have been well attended, and Cynthia now has a way to reach more aspiring entrepreneurs without burning herself out.
“It was so valuable to have you organize all my source material into a concise, pedagogically-sound ebook course that I would say packs a punch! I am SO excited to share it with people, I think it’ll blow them away! AND also allow us to support many more BIPOCs to start their own successful businesses.”
Looking forward to the next cohort of Jumpstart Your Business, Cynthia!