Today on the More Cheese Less Whiskers podcast we're talking with Dillon Hill & Clay Stevens from Sacramento, California, and they have a really great story.
They started out doing something to support a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. They helped him complete as many ‘bucket list’ items as they could, they documented their journey, and that really got a lot of traction out in the world.
Now they are trying to help other people with cancer, knock things off their bucket lists.
We were trying to figure out how to model their first success, how to set something so that they can do it full time, and during the call we actually texted my friend Nick Nanton, who's an 11 times Emmy winning movie documentary producer, director, who jumped on the call with us to do some brainstorming.
So this is a little longer episode than we normally have, but I think that you'll get a lot out of the conversation that will guide how to really think about setting up something new, so that you get a context and a structure that’s sustainable.
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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 148
Dean: Dylan Hill.
Dillon: Hi Dean, how are you doing?
Dean: I'm so good. How are you?
Dillon: I'm doing pretty good.
Dean: Where are you calling in from?
Dillon: From Sacramento, California.
Dean: Sacramento. Early morning for you, I love it.
Dean: There we go. Well, I'm excited to chat here. I got a chance to look at some of the trailers and the videos that you guys are doing and I'm pretty excited to hear all about it.
Dillon: Awesome, and Clay should have just joined as well.
Dean: Oh, awesome.
Clay: Yeah, I'm on the call. Hey Dean.
Dean: Hey. How are you Clay?
Clay: Sorry to just pop in. Good, how are you?
Dean: Yeah, awesome. I want to hear the whole story. We've got a whole hour here to brainstorm so maybe we start and tell the story here so we can get up to where we are.
Dillon: Sure. Yeah well, I guess to start, long story short, we are making a crowdfunded video series, Clay and I, where it essentially follows our attempt to help cancer patients with their bucket lists using the idea of social media, and influencers, and viral, and all that fun stuff to try and help people in an interesting way. That's pretty much what we do.
I think the history of why we started is pretty significant. We actually started because our friend was rediagnosed with cancer. We've known him since elementary school and in 2017 the doctors told him that he had a year to live, which was really hard for us and we were thrust into this situation where we realized that we have limited time together. Clay and I, we both dropped what we were doing, college for myself and his job for Clay and we just made a quick little video and basically explained our experience with our friend, and what he meant to us, and what we meant to him.
We mentioned a couple of bucket list items and we threw together a Squarespace site and said, "Hey, we have this bucket list. We want to achieve it." We put that video out there and it went super duper viral. We had no following to start but within the first day it had 300,000 views and we were getting messages from tens of thousands of people saying, "Hey, I work here. I can make this bucket list item possible for you," or, "My brother does this. He can help you here."
We did incredible things and very quickly that initial video on YouTube had spawned out into all the affiliate, reposting, Facebook pages, and things like that. Very quickly we had reached over 50 million views and at this point that initial story has over 100 million views across a bunch of different channels, other pages, things like that.
Dillon: It was incredible and because of that we were able to do a lot of interesting things on our bucket list. We actually went on a tour of SpaceX. We met Danny DeVito. Just incredible things that we never would have imagined we could achieve, people made possible for us which was, as you can imagine, it was mindblowing. We had limited time with our friend
Dean: Yeah, right.
Dillon: ...and the internet made it incredible for us. We were doing all these really cool things. Obviously, things we're very proud of and saying that is an understatement, it was incredible, but one of the really important things to us was number four on our bucket list, which was to break a world record. And we set out to break the world record for the most bone marrow donor signups. Our friend has had leukemia and bone marrow was the organ he needed to overcome that, and so we decided it's genetically based, so basically the more people we get to join the more likely it is that he finds a match, and so we decided, "Okay, we're going to increase our chances."
We set out to break that world record. We came up with something called #lemonsforleukemia, the idea being when life hands you lemons, how do you make the lemonade, to encourage all of our viewers to make lemonade in the most creative way possible. Basically, that campaign was around us trying to get the most amount of bone marrow donor signups and we did. On one single day we had 3,400 people sign up for the registry. In total we had 11,000 people sign up throughout the entirety of our video series with our friend, and after we had done that world record attempt, number four on our bucket list, one of the people that had actually seen our videos and decided to sign up because we still don't know who it is actually, but someone from Europe, they were a match for our friend and they essentially saved his life.
Dean: Oh my goodness.
Dillon: It's weird for us to say but our YouTube subscribers saved our best friend's life.
Dillon: And all the implications of that and all of the other things that we were able to do, and essentially the internet made life-changing moments possible for us.
Dean: What a great outcome.
Dean: What a great outcome. He gets to do all his bucket list stuff and save his life. It's so great.
Dillon: Right. Yeah, and he's completed his treatment and he's doing as good as he possibly could be. Clay and myself, we were mindblown by that situation and we decided we wanted to continue doing this. We aren't filmmakers by any means, we're not producers, anything like that, we're just two guys that are really passionate about this because we've seen what it can do.
Dean: So how did you get up? Because you sure look like filmmakers to me. Did somebody help shoot these things?
Dillon: We have had some experience in that a lot of people our age just dabble with photography, and videos, and stuff.
Dean: Right. Yeah, just native.
Dillon: We grew up with it.
Dillon: Yeah, and we learned very quickly. A lot of bad videos that people didn't see, that sort of thing. Yeah, so we pretty much just got started. The problem that we're in now is our history supersedes what we're doing now.
A lot of people, when we tell them the story, obviously the fact that we started this with our friend, I dropped out of college, that hugely overshadows what we're doing now. And then even the fact that when we're talking to strangers they seem really motivated by the idea that we're helping cancer patients, and then really to us the important things is these YouTube videos and our videos. And they don't necessarily latch onto that, is another problem we have.
We're talking to people, whether that's through social media or in person, and they say, "Wow, that's really awesome that you're doing that," and those sort of sympathies and people that say they're really interested and some would act interested, but not in the central way that we need. And then the way that's really important for us to be able to keep doing this is we are crowdfunded.
Looking at this business model, the business model is monthly subscriptions. We just use Patreon for that, and now we have our own onsite subscriptions on our website, and then there's some perks associated with that. Yeah, so as far as our videos go, we would love to be in a situation where we can just go out and do bucket list items but really we're in a position where we're really scrappy right now so half of our series is doing things to be able to make them possible for cancer patients.
An example that we've been playing around with now, we're helping a young boy here in our town who has stage four cancer and he wants to meet Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. We had the idea, we haven't executed it yet but the idea of building a WWE ring in our backyard and making a video sketch around that and using that to bring awareness to the fact that he wants to meet The Rock, and that's some of the stuff that we've done in the past that worked with our friend. Now these sort of things, they aren't generally as successful because our audience is much smaller but that's still the general concept of what we want to do.
Dean: I got you. Part of this, I get it that you're in a situation where it's this intersection, right? Or is it a charity type of situation? Is it a business that you're running? Or is it crowdfunded? It's a little bit... there's a lot of gray in it, right? It's not so black and white that you're doing this as a business but I understand that you've got to have the money to continue to do it, but what's your priority in it? How do you look at it? Are you looking at it as a new business model or are you looking at it as a charity? Or a nonprofit? How do you look at it?
Dillon: Yeah, I think we look at it, and Clay might have a slightly different description, but I think we look at it as a crowdfunding production campaign, so people pay us on a monthly basis to be able to know that they're supporting our content, get physical perks because of that, and then they support us on an ongoing basis and with those funds we produce those videos. Say we make $1,000 a month. 70% of that is going to producing videos, 30% is for us to live or whatever it might be.
I think a really popular model that we've looked at a lot is the Rooster Teeth model. I don't know if you're familiar with that company.
Dean: The which model?
Dillon: Rooster Teeth.
Dean: No, tell me about it because I've heard that word before and now I don't know what it means. I don't know what they are so tell me about that.
Dillon: They're an internet production company. They started in the early 2000s. They actually used Halo the video game as their production, so they made a show out of the video game and the characters in the game were characters in the production. That's called Red vs. Blue, they started that in the early 2000s and very quickly, that was before YouTube and so their monetization wasn't ad revenue, their monetization was subscriptions.
They went extremely viral very quickly and then from that they established a whole company that does a huge amount of productions now, but the core of their model has always been their subscriptions. $5 a month, you support their content. Sort of like Netflix but specifically for these people to make this content, as opposed to having this huge, extensive catalog. I don't even know how many shows they've produced. They have hundreds of employees and the core model for them is the onsite subscriptions.
Dean: Okay. I get that now. There's a company here in Florida, a production company called Koncrete with a K, and they produce a show about this guy Ben Mallah here in Florida, who's a big real estate investor. The show is crazy but anyway, he's using a Patreon model for it where they've got different tiers of supporters to support it and they get about 300,000, 400,000 views per episode on the show right now.
The guy, the star, that Ben Mallah, it's really interesting thing, so I've just got my eye on what they're doing. He produces all kinds of different shows and long-form content like that so when I look at you guys, if we were to take a magic wand and wave it over the next five years, what would be the dream come true for you guys? Where do you see this going?
Dillon: I'd probably like to hear Clay's thought on this too because, again, I think it might be a little bit different, but for me, I want to be in a position where we know that we can put out a video where we do build that WWE ring and we know that we have a community the size necessary to share that video and leverage that to make the idea possible. So right now if we were to put out that video our community would not be big enough to turn our base, our foundation which is that video into getting the awareness we need.
My dream would be have a community big enough to where if we put something out saying, "Hey guys, we're trying to do this," our community would fill in the blanks and work with us to make that possible and-
Clay: Yeah, and I'll type in. Sorry. I agree with that and the size of the audience, and then also on the flip side of that, like Dillon was saying we have these ideas that are more awareness-based and so like with the lemons for leukemia thing and a couple of the other bigger things that we've done, a lot of those, they had a large platform. With lemons for leukemia we were on Good Morning America. We had, as Dillon was saying, millions of people that were seeing our content whenever we would share something.
Dean: That's the story and it's interesting. My take on it from looking there, that the first time something like that happens it's three school friends, one guy gets a cancer diagnosis, the other two drop everything and throw into helping the third guy reach all of his life dreams. That's a made for TV story, right? Too?
Dean: So there's a lot of built-in momentum that comes with that because you weren't a production company, right? The intentions were 100% pure for your friend, right?
Dean: And I'm not saying in any way that your intentions aren't pure in what you're doing but now, taking it forward, it also has to make money, right? So that's where the money starts to come from somewhere, right?
Dillon: Yeah, and I think connected to that note, we have always had a Patreon so I think the introduction of, "Hey guys, support us monthly," I don't know if that's necessarily a new thing because we've always had Patreon.
Dean: Okay, right.
Dillon: Nonetheless, it is still a change of story.
Dillon: But something kind of important to keep in mind, we have always been asking for that and it's always been really important. We made it very clear that even when this was about our friend and the world was giving us incredible opportunities, we still had to pay for flights and hotels.
Clay: Yeah, and that's what I was thinking as well is, in regards to the awareness, a large audience, but also the funds to be able to do a lot of these bucket list items because we have two people that we're working with now that both have it on their bucket list to visit Hawaii and do really cool stuff there, and that's just purely a money thing, you know?
Clay: And so having the ability to go, "Okay, well we're going to be able to do this in the near future and create that opportunity." because the hard part is it's a mix of there's a timeline with them or there's varying times where they're healthier and more able to travel than others, and being able to have more control over, "Okay, we'll do this in let's say two or three months," would be awesome. That's another dream come true aspect.
Dean: Yeah, yeah. If there's multiple people who Hawaii's on their list, that you could go once to Hawaii and do all these different stories at the same time. Is that what you mean?
Dean: Yeah, to be more efficient with it. Got it. So how much money do you need to make? How much if we say, "Okay, this is what we want to do. We want to help people's bucket list dreams come true. We want to film them, produce the videos for it. So how much money does it take to do that?
Dean: What's the target here?
Dillon: 2,500 to 3,000 would put us in a comfortable position. That would make it to where we would just feel better about being able to do things, like going to Hawaii, we could lay low for a month or two and then have resources to make a huge trip. Or we have a little bit of wiggle room in there to be able to hire someone to edit the videos, just make them a little bit better. Things like that.
I think, ideally, to make this in a position where it's our full-time job and we are comfortable with committing to it financially and time-wise over the next five or so years, probably around 6,000 with the expenses needed to actually continue to grow it and things like that would be 6,000 a month. Obviously more than that would be ideal but I think those two different thresholds would be big achievements right now, I think.
Dean: Right. So part of it is when you start breaking down what actually has to happen when you've got to get to that level. You guys are saying if you could just wave a magic wand right now and have 5 or 6,000 dollars a month for the two of you guys, that that would keep you guys afloat, be able to dedicate your time to doing this and then raise money also for the actual bucket list things.
Dean: Is that what you mean?
Dillon: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Dillon: And the tough part is right now this is our full-time. We're focusing on this all the time and we've yet to take any money from it so yeah, getting somewhere around 6,000 would put us in a position where we'd have to be less scrappy for our personal finances and can also still contribute a large amount to be able to help these people and do the things that they dream of doing.
Dean: Okay, so when you separate that out, this 6,000 a month, when you look at this, what are the economic engines here when we look at what's happening? When you get those, are you running these videos on YouTube? Are they monetized? Can you make money that way? Or what's happening?
Dillon: Yeah, in an ideal world we are pretty much set up to have multiple streams. We aren't monetized. Right now our views are low so we don't make any from that but we're family-friendly and all that sort of stuff so yeah, that will definitely be an opportunity. Obviously the crowdfunding, that's a huge revenue stream, and then we also have a couple of T-shirts and we have an entire system set up to where once we get a larger audience, we can onboard them into buying the merch as a revenue stream.
And then we've been trying, with no success yet, but trying to work with some sponsors in the typical fashion that you might see on a YouTube video where it says, "Hey, thanks for watching this video. Just so you know, it's sponsored by blank. Enjoy the video." Or whatever it might be. We're definitely open to that. And so I think those are probably our four revenue streams ideally, however right now the biggest bang for our effort and can make the biggest impact is truly focusing on the subscription because it requires less scale to achieve or at least we see the tangible returns from.
Dean: Mm-hmm. So I wonder, do you have anybody that you know who's in the sponsorship world who could help with something like that? It just seems like if you're doing something like that you should be able to have a corporate sponsor for airline tickets and hotels. You look into what it takes to pull these off, typically you've got to move somebody from somewhere, you've got an airline ticket and they have to stay somewhere. That might be a good sponsorship model, that way, but I don't know whether there's a standoffishness on bucket list type where it's literally they're really potentially sad endings, you know?
Dean: In that they're all terminal patients, you know?
Dean: I don't know.
Dillon: They aren't all necessarily terminal.
Dillon: Obviously with cancer, the two we're helping now are stage four. One of them is in remission though, and the other was in remission but he's actually unfortunately just recently been readmitted.
Dillon: But yeah, nonetheless, you're right. It's definitely a tricky situation for us because we've had that in the past, where we were talking to someone and beginning to help them, and then they passed. It's a really tough situation.
Dean: Oh man. Yeah.
Dillon: For a whole bunch of different reasons.
Dean: Yeah, and then no matter how great your heart is in these things, there will always be people who are turned off that you're just trying to profit from other people's suffering. You know what I mean? That kind of a wrong judgment of you.
Dean: You probably run into that now, right? Is that-
Dillon: Yeah. Yeah, lots of it.
Dean: Yeah, yeah. So how do you do that in a way that keeps that purity of the intention and the joy that you're actually bringing for people? In a way that allows you also to have some ramen noodles once in a while and stuff.
Dillon: Right. Yeah, I think to us, creatively, we always try to keep it really genuine and I think that helps. We explain to people, when we fail we tell them we've failed, and we tell them how that made us feel and what we're doing because of that failure. I think even if we had 20 billion dollars a month, it would still be very important to us to keep it casual, to keep it genuine.
And even if money wasn't a problem, we would never want to have a production crew. Obviously we'd want to have help but we would never want three cameras, and two audio guys, and seven lighting guys, and 25 producers, and I think that helps but I always want people to feel like...
I mean, the truth is Clay and I, we're average guys. If anything, we're below average and the people watching this are similar to us and they can be a part of this, and I think that we want to do that because it's the truth, that's how we feel. But also I think it communicates to people we're kind of all in this together and your money, you see it helping fly us to this place and we're going to try make this work but it might not work, and just watch it happen, be a part of it.
Dean: Yeah, it's amazing. I love the cause and if you think about this rather than one-off, I would maybe think about it as a season with ten episodes kind of thing or a series. That way you're not trying to reinvent the wheel on every one, you know?
Dean: Wrap it around and make it big enough that you could generate some money around that. Have you guys heard of Nick Nanton?
Dillon: I haven't, no.
Dean: So he owns DNA Films. He's a really good friend and they do documentaries, they've won 11 Emmys for these documentaries that they do. They just did one on Joe Polish, who I do the I Love Marketing podcast with. He did a movie in Haiti where it was about human trafficking and they really did an amazing job of it, but what he'll do often is he packages up the movie and he'll recruit producers for the show where he'll have business owners fund the movie, and he'll create an experience around it for them but they get a producer credit on the series and that covers both things.
I think if you look at it especially when you start thinking about the bigger context of who would, if this is done really well, like to be involved in stories about bucket list things, about maximizing your life, about those kinds of things, might be a financial advisor in a way, right? Because everybody watching it, thankfully and hopefully, is not going to be in a terminal or a situation that's forcing them into that, but it may bring them to a position where they are encouraged to really take a look at incorporating all their bucket list things into their life while they're healthy, and before they retire, and before it gets too late. All that general, the big picture of it, you know?
Dean: Yeah, I was just thinking out loud, that that might be-
Dillon: No, that makes sense.
Clay: Yeah, I like that a lot.
Dean: That that might be a model because then it's not just one-off videos, you're thinking about it as a season or a series and you can do all the funding for one thing rather than having to perpetually do it, you know?
Dillon: Sure, yeah. That makes sense and that's something we've sort of talked about and wanted to do. Even if we stopped and said, "Okay, we're only doing this from October to December, whatever it might be," that wouldn't necessarily change the resources we have. I think we'd have less time working on videos to reach out to people and try and do that but the truth is we still don't have many connections and things like that, and so I don't know if it would necessarily solve that. I think that would be an ideal situation to get to but yeah, I think it would still be pretty difficult.
Clay: Yeah, to me it seems like a unique packaging, just thinking about it in a sense like the producer credit stuff, like that partnering with the business owners, I don't know. I think that there's maybe a way to add the funding in there in the sense of new perks and a finite time period. Because that's one thing we've been talking about with sponsors, is with sponsors, do we want them to be annual? Do we want them to be on a month to month? What's the way we want to do sponsorships there and so that seems like maybe a good way to add that timeline on it and allow for, "Okay, we're starting the next season. We can reach out to previous people," or things along those lines.
Dean: I think when you look at it, you can stretch that out as long.it feels like that that might be a good way to give you some longevity, you know? Rather than trying to think about it as one. And especially with corporate sponsorships, at big levels like that it's going to be easier for them to write a $50,000 check than a couple of thousand a month of something, you know?
Dean: Because a lot of that stuff you might be thinking too small on for the right kind of sponsors to get onboard with, and that's why I wondered if there might be somebody that could help with that, who knows it. Who knows how to have a conversation with the sponsorship division of United Airlines, or Southwest, or whatever. Whoever could be doing something like that, or Holiday Inn, or Marriott, or whoever, you know? To get those.
There must be a division that does that because you see it all the time, you know? Air travel courtesy of Southwest Airlines or whatever, you know? All that way.
Clay: Yeah, that's good.
Dean: Because you're separating the money part of it. It's almost like you have your funding or that sponsorship handled is different than public support, but maybe that changes the whole dynamic of it too, you know? That maybe the thing is about building out the network of people, that you're not just about the crowdfunding. It's about getting the whole message out there.
I'm wondering about things like what is going to be the byproduct of the way people think about these things. What's this going to stimulate in people? When they watched your story, when they watched the video with your friend and thankfully had such a great outcome that he got a bone marrow donor and he's as good as can be right now, you got to do all the bucket list, you got a whole new perspective on life, and he's still alive, that's fantastic, right? That's the best possible outcome. What have people said to you how that affected them?
Dillon: Yeah, I think just broadly the biggest word would be inspirational. I think they're just inspired by it. More specifically, I think they saw us respond to one of the worst situations you could have dealt with and because we dealt with it in a way of, not necessarily positivity, but we didn't take no for an answer on micro and macro levels. If we saw a specific challenge we would give it a shot anyway and then the overarching thing is he was given a year to live but we, in a way, said no.
Obviously we can't solve cancer, nothing near that, but we just kept going and we kept trying just because we just needed to, and I think people were inspired by that because they realized that maybe they were going through a really crappy situation, and because of that maybe if they just keep going. Not because of some spiritual awakening or external motivation but just because we're all going through it. If they keep going through it maybe they'll get their dough, whatever that might be in their situation.
I think that's what people have gotten from it. They realize that there's really a real, genuine way to overcome challenges and I think they watch that through us. At least, that's what's coming to mind now. There's a lot of different responses.
Clay: Yeah, that's definitely one that we've seen. We did a survey yesterday of a very small audience, just people within our community and whoever would answer, but one thing that stood out to me was people, they would say in the inspiration sense the biggest thing was us overcoming obstacle. There was one video where we were invited for a TED Talk and then it got canceled, and we made a video because plane tickets were already booked and so forth, and so we flew out there and got involved with some charitable event going on. It's just like, "Well, since I'm out here I'm going to do this stuff."
Clay: And people really liked that, and we've had a couple of things like that where it's like, "Here's our plan, plan fell through and now we recover and do something else." We did another video, free hugs, where we were supposed to go to a children's hospital, they last minute stopped responding and so we went to San Jose State University and just gave out free hugs during finals week, and people loved that video. And so that seems like a consistent theme of people really caring about seeing despite the failures, how do we overcome it? Because we had one video where we didn't overcome it and people were like, "Oh, you guys are going to overcome it." There was a very different response.
Dillon: The end of our video was us just sitting talking about how disappointed we were because we genuinely were, we had no motivation to keep going in that case. A couple of comments, and emails, and stuff said, "You guys are messing with us, huh? You actually did it. When's it going to happen?" We were like, "We're tired."
Dean: It's almost a sad commentary though, right? That we're so used to the Hollywood ending of things. Well, we're talking about we want human drama and we crave these things but only if it wraps up with a nice bow at the end, you know?
Dean: And I remember Tony Robbins had a series on TV that was only on for a few shows before it got taken over by Dancing With the Stars or some crazy thing, but he would take people who had seemingly insurmountable challenges and things that were really bringing them down and helping them break through their challenges. Do you guys ever remember seeing that show or hearing about it?
Dean: Because it wasn't on very long so it would be a miracle if you did.
Clay: I don't remember it, no.
Dean: Right, but it was just such a meaningful show and yet America voted with its viewership that they'd rather watch Dancing With the Stars. It was something equally silly, I don't think it was Dancing With the Stars specifically but it was some silliness kind of thing, you know?
Dean: That this ended up being replaced by. I wonder about that as a moving sidewalk moving in the opposite direction kind of thing, right? There's all of these little things queuing up for it.
Yeah. And that's what I think, so I think that it feels like definitely the sponsor way is the way to go unless you can or in addition to making it sort of like a Make-A-Wish Foundation type of alignment, you know? Can you talk to them or be involved in any way with them?
Dillon: We've reached out. We don't have any mutual connections or anything so we've just done some local outreach and haven't gotten much back. We have looked at them and tried to get some contextual inspiration and ideas and whatnot, but yeah, no major conclusions.
Dean: I was just going to say, Joe Polish and I have done some work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the corporate level, helping them with some marketing things and that may be something that we could facilitate an introduction that way, but I'm just thinking out loud of how to align what you're doing. Because really, for you guys it's almost like what your passion is really about doing the stuff, and documenting the journeys, and making these bucket list dreams come true for people.
And I think what you're really struggling with is now the business of that, of trying to turn it into a business. Because it doesn't sound like you're trying to rich on this. You're not trying to turn it into a blockbuster money maker. You sound like you have very modest ambitions for it, for initially, that you want to do it as something that can sustain you and give you meaningful work, you know?
Dillon: Yeah, yeah.
Dean: That's my take on it. Does that sound right?
Clay: It does.
Dillon: Absolutely, yeah.
Dean: Yeah. So I'm just thinking now and my mind goes through my mental model of who to model this after. I think about Steve Sims. Do you know Steve Sims? He wrote Bluefishing. He owns the high-end concierge service that essentially, it's like bucket list stuff for rich people, you know? If you can think of it and afford it, he can make it happen. Like if you want to go to the space station or you want to go scuba diving with James Cameron at the Titanic.
He had clients who shut down the museum where the David is and had a private dinner at the feet of the David statue. Just anything you can think of like that, he makes happen. I would recommend his book, actually, Bluefishing, and I did a More Cheese Less Whiskers episode with him too.
Dean: But I was thinking about that, of starting to think like people like that as advisors for you to start and think what their take would be on it. I think I'm just looking and pulling from the way that these guys, they each have a piece of what could be a workable model for you, you know?
Dean: Yeah. If you take the big pieces of this, it's finding people who have the bucket list items, I guess, right? Do you have no shortage of those?
Clay: We've had some trouble I mean, we've found a couple of people. We have another gentleman that's in the works now but we've reached out to a couple of cancer societies and so forth that work with families and people that are either with terminal cancer or are currently going through it or so forth, and we've been having trouble. They seem really interested and then I don't know if it's just maybe not exactly what they're focusing on or their priority but they kind of fall off.
We've been able to find enough people to help and keep us a consistent flow of things to work on and help them achieve, but in regards to having a list of people that we would love to help, we haven't been able to compile that yet. It's just a matter of increasing in importance and urgency in the minds of some of these people at the local cancer societies and so forth that can connect us with those families.
Dean: Yeah. Yeah, it could be. And is that an important part of this for you? That it's this specific idea? Often one of those things I talk about is the mechanical outcome, that basically what you're looking is if we just take what you're actually doing as you're producing film content and that's inspiring, is it that idea particularly that is the most interesting to you or are there other ideas that you would like to do the same thing? Is it the actual doing of it or is it that idea?
Dillon: I think, for me at least, the important part is the idea of making stuff for YouTube. We both grew up where that was a huge thing for us, those sorts of personalities and stuff and we would like to be in a position where we're a genuine inspiration. I mean, there's a lot of people out there that it's just really fake and stuff. We'd like to be genuine and I think YouTube's a good place to do that.
And then the other side is I think that we both want to help people in a real way. We don't want to do any superficial like just taking a selfie at the food kitchen and then calling it a day, and we genuinely want to impact people, both our viewers and the people that we're spending time with. The specific situation of helping people with cancer isn't necessarily I mean, it's important to us because we want to help these people but not necessarily important in that we couldn't find other types of situations to help in the way that we do help.
Clay: And we've thought about that before.
Clay: We had another name for a business at one point called I think it was Third Frame Media or Third Frame Productions or something, but it was about us tackling other issues. It was that whole five year plan of as this gets bigger we'll move into other things and be able to you know, and it was things like bringing awareness to the victims. It was victims of school shootings and then another one was people in domestic violence, things like that. It's a little bit different than helping people with cancer do everything on their bucket list.
Dillon: It is important to say this, none of these things we're qualified to be talking about.
Clay: Yeah, we're not qualified to talk about any of them but we thought about telling their stories. To answer your question, I think that our true passion is using the resource that is the internet and its breadth that is so readily accessible for more social good. There's a lot of people on YouTube that are monetizing their channels and have 2 million subscribers and they don't really make meaningful content. It doesn't add to people's lives. There are people that do that also, it's not like we're the first one but we want to do something on that side.
Dean: Who's doing it right? If you could point to a model. If we take Jake and Logan Paul on one end of the spectrum.
Clay: Yeah, I would say what you were saying earlier, where there's a couple of different models mixed together that I can see of them doing aspects of it, right?
Clay: That you're pulling from, where it's like…
Dillon: There's a lot of people that are making genuinely good content. They care about it and it's impactful to them and it's impactful to their viewers. I can't necessarily think of people that are making content specifically about helping people, but I think Clay was about to go on, there's a lot of inspirations that we draw from and mix them together.
There's some channels that are just brutally honest with their emotions and we take some of that. So that would be called Sugar Pine 7, a subsidiary of Rooster Teeth. They are very genuine with their feelings. There's also a channel called Yes Theory where their tag is seek discomfort and they just try new things, and try to think outside the box, and just have fun with life. There's another channel called Mr. Beast.
Dean: I know about Mr. Beast.
Dillon: His model makes no sense but it's really interesting content.
Dean: Give away money, yeah.
Dillon: Right, yeah.
Dean: I saw something, they were thinking he doesn't know who's responsible for paying the taxes on the money that he's giving away.
Dillon: I saw that, yeah. I was kind of like, "He could be screwed right now."
Clay: Yeah. I saw that. That was on the H3H3 podcast or whatever it was.
Clay: That was funny to listen to, but yeah, he's another inspiration incentive. We wanted to work with him because he seems like he could really help create some awesome opportunities and somebody we would like to collaborate with. He's bought homeless people houses, you know? He's done some pretty charitable stuff. We have limited resources but we thought, "Okay, how do we get his attention?" And so we sent him 50,000 almonds because we were like, "What's the cheapest thing that we can buy that we can get a lot of?" Because he does that where he's like, "I put a million Orbeez in my backyard or whatever."
Dean: Right, right.
Clay: Anyway, we got his editor to tweet about it but he hasn't said anything back to us yet.
Dean: Oh, wow.
Clay: He and Yes Theory and Sugar Pine 7, they all have aspects of the things that we think they are doing right in some capacity, and we just want to mix those together and then funnel it.
Dillon: And more importantly, I think things that we don't feel like not that they're doing it bad but doesn't necessarily fit into our dream.
Clay: That we want to do different.
Dillon: Yeah, so Yes Theory, they'll do something where they'll blindfold themselves and they'll throw a dart at a map, and then go to wherever it lands. That's really interesting. They make great content but our thing is like, "Okay, how can we do something like that? Where it's this idea of trying something new and spontaneity but in a way that helps people, genuinely helps people, changes a cancer patient's life, really.
With Sugar Pine 7, they make really good content, they're really genuine with their feelings but it's kind of for no reason. They're just trying to make videos to make videos. It doesn't have an overarching message. And then Mr. Beast, he's in a whole world of his own just giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you know, it's like, "What if we took the idea of buying a homeless person a house but we spent a little bit more time on the emotional aspect of it? And we talked about how this homeless person now has a home base to get a job and do this, and then what if we check in with them in two weeks and just made it a little bit more personal for the people we're helping, as opposed to just the randomness of Mr. Beast."
Yeah, I think there's a bunch of different people and what's been hard for us is we can't really nail down a specific person so it's hard just follow in someone's footsteps and say, "They did this, let's do that too." It's been a lot of Frankensteining stuff together.
Dean: Are you guys both in Sacramento?
Dean: Part of the thing is because you're trying to just get by here right now, with this stuff, one of the thoughts that I might have is thinking about how could you make an impact in Sacramento in a way, as a model if you're going to document creating a culture of kindness, or a culture of giving, or support, or whatever in Sacramento over the course of a year and document looking for things that you actually have access to. Because right now traveling to Hawaii and traveling to doing things like that is you don't have the resources for it, you know?
Dillon: Yeah, yeah.
Dean: But what you do have the resources for is you've got you guys, right? And you're there and there's a lot of people in Sacramento. There's a lot of really those kinds of stories right there in Sacramento.
Dillon: Yeah, my initial thought there, and I'd love to get your thoughts, but with our current pace of subscribers I'd be nervous about changing the direct mission, if that makes sense.
Dean: How much is your Patreon up to now?
Dillon: We actually don't use Patreon. It's kind of like a hybrid of Patreon and our website right now, but 900 a month is where it's at.
Dean: Yeah. I mean listen, that’s really...
Dean: It's just kind of getting started, right? So I wouldn't be worried about that. I'm just thinking about that as a way to create some imprint. I would listen to, Joe Polish and I did an I Love Marketing episode with Daymond John on the power of broke. That's where you guys are at right now, the power of broke. You're in that situation where you've got all this ambition, you've got the skills, you've got an established initial track record, right? You're on the path. You're on that trajectory but it's about, now, biting off something that is able to further what you want to do but do it in a manageable way, you know? With a bigger eye. How old are you guys?
Dillon: I'm 20. Clay's 21.
Clay: 21, yeah.
Dean: Yeah, so you guys are literally so young it's ridiculous, you know? That this kind of thing, if you just think about this as a ramp up it expands your thinking when you can have expansive thinking within the borders of Sacramento. And I know it sounds limiting or it sounds like you're throttling back but I think you're going to have an amplified impact by artificially constraining one piece of it, you know?
Part of the thing we always talk about, profit activator number one is select a single target market and I think if you're thinking about if everything that you are about initially here, always with your eye to the big picture is more focused. And you're not doing it only for a local audience. You're not just doing it for just those people in Sacramento to watch it, you do it for a global audience, that everyone can watch in but you've selected Sacramento as the place to create a model of what contribution could look like, you know?
Dillon: Right, yeah.
Clay: Yeah, I like that.
Dean: Because that's really what it's about. Rather than it being about cancer stories or those types of thing, it's about rallying for contribution. The big story is what you were able to do to mobilize 11,000 people to become bone marrow donors. Think of how many lives that could ultimately save. When you're looking backwards on your bucket list, if we're fast forwarding 80 years from now and you guys are sitting at 99 and 100 looking back over your lives, if you could just trace back and see how many lives were saved by the 11,000 bone marrow donors that you were able to rally, not many people ever get that kind of impact in the world, you know? So it's admirable what you guys are really doing there.
Clay: Well thank you, yeah.
Dillon: Yeah, thank you.
Dean: But you look at it in the big picture. I started out my real estate career at 21, 1988 and I remember I was looking back, now it's been 30 years since I started my real estate career and I look back on this whole 30 years how it seems like it was just yesterday, you know? But I look back and I think for the first eight years of my career here, I was just a residential real estate agent in a suburb of Toronto. That was eight years of that. The first eight years and I started to realize when you're looking forward, eight years feels like a long, long time. You think that back, if you were from 12 to now for you guys it's like-
Clay: Yeah, it's like half our life.
Dean: Half of your life, exactly, so you don't even have a context for it, you know? But I think, "Man, you guys almost took the Beatles approach, you know?" If it's about this kind of thing, you're honing your craft. It's almost like the Hamburg years for The Beatles where they spent I don't know how many years in Germany just playing eight hours a day at a club, you know?
Dean: Just start thinking about, if you were to think about this in terms of one or two seasons of taking this kind of creativity and thinking and applying it with that contribution model to Sacramento. I think there's really something that you've got there. There's a company called Deluxe D-E-L-U-X-E, I think, and they do printing and supplies for businesses. They have a web series where they pick a small town and they spend a year, well each year is each season of the show, in one small town and they go in and they pick some of the small businesses there and they've got Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank come to see them. It's a web series but all they're doing is helping local business in the downtowns of small town America. That kind of vibe, I think might be a nice model here, you know?
Dillon: Yeah, probably.
Clay: Yeah, that makes sense.
Dean: For you, just to kind of watch that and see because that will get people rallied around you guys and build some hometown pride around that, you know? And if you're doing it for a global audience, maybe the crowd gets to nominate or submit their town to be the next town, you know?
Clay: Yeah, I like that. We've had a lot of news coverage in our local area as well, and so maybe it gives us the opportunity to leverage more of that and grow within the foundation that's been built to some extent.
Dean: Yeah. That's what I mean because you can definitely broadcast to the whole world but in Sacramento you can be a lighthouse, you know? Just beam the signal right from there and attract people to it by the intensity of it rather than taking your torch and trying to run from town to town. I think that's really the best thing. I think that's where we've come around because it sounds like that's the most useful thing for you guys, is trying to dial in on what the model is, you know?
Clay: Yeah, and in the context of the eight profit activators, we were looking at that and it seemed like on what you're saying, a lot of it seems as though it's within the first three that has been our problem. Having the target audience, we were discussing that. We've discussed it multiple times since we went through it and we're like, "All right, what is exactly our target audience?" And then also it's the whole, "What's a direct response offer to get them to raise their hand?" You know? And that's been kind of the thing that we've recognized going through once people get into our ecosystem it's very easy, but it's just getting people there.
Dean: And that's part of the thing. What makes all of those things easier is really being crystal clear on what the dream come true is. That's why I'll start with you guys. What's your dream come true? What is the actual product or service that people are going to be exchanging money for? That's really what has to drive it, and I think when you look at that kind of a model, I think that'll make the other things easier to figure out.
Dillon: Right, yeah.
Clay: Absolutely. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Dean: So what's your take of our conversation here?
Dillon: A lot of people have mentioned that, the idea of not closing ourselves off but kind of narrowing our focus a little bit. Not focus, but locale like you had mentioned. Not trying to go to Hawaii next month is probably a good idea.
Dillon: I think my initial thoughts and concerns there are some failures we've had locally in the past that make that scary. Fully committing to a place that hasn't shown us very much feedback, at least to the scale that our internet audience has. For example, we recently rented out an entire movie theater here in town so that cancer patients could watch Avengers: Endgame for free, and we were on two of the three biggest local news channels here in town. It was just free tickets to the highest grossing film of all time and we'd reach out to these cancer societies and we reached out to some people we knew. We put in a good effort into making it possible. We had booked all the tickets so we'd essentially sold out even though it was free.
Clay: We had it on Eventbrite and everyone registered.
Dillon: Everyone registered so all the seats were filled, but the day of, only about ten people showed up.
Dillon: So hearing the idea of, "Oh, just stay in Sacramento," it's like, "Okay yeah, we do have more resources and it does make sense that we need to lower our realm, but at the same time we just haven't seen a lot of success so it's sort of a big leap to do that.
Dean: I got it. Hang on one second. I heard Nick? Are you on?
Nick: I'm here.
Dean: There he is. Hey guys, while we were talking I was texting Nick Nanton to see if he could jump on the line here real quick.
Dean: Nick is the guy who may be able to add something to the conversation here so we'll go a little extra innings here.
Dillon: Awesome, thank you.
Dean: Thanks for jumping in and these guys are in Sacramento, California and they've done a really nice video. They did a whole little documentary about their friend, they had a childhood friend that they grew up with that ended up getting diagnosed with terminal cancer, and they dropped everything and they followed him around and did all the things on his bucket list, and it got really nice momentum. How many views did you guys say you ended up on the original story?
Dillon: Last I checked, it was just slightly over 100 million. Not on our documentary, but-
Clay: Total impressions, yeah.
Dean: Total views on the things. They want to make these documentaries about helping people live out their bucket list things and they've done some really nice work but we were talking about sponsorships and talking about how they may be able to get some of these things funded, and I was sharing a little bit about what you do. And I thought maybe you might be able to add some kind of advice for us.
Nick: You got it. So you did it once, obviously it got a ton of views. The people you're going to now and you're documenting their bucket lists if I'm getting it right, is it a way to document them achieving their goal? I assume you're not working with only people who have terminal illnesses, right? It's just people who are documenting-
Dillon: Our thing is helping people with cancer.
Dillon: I would say about 50% is our journey to do that, so what we do to make an item possible and then obviously the payoff is a huge part of seeing cancer patients experience something that they want to experience.
Nick: Okay, so you guys are making the experience happen too.
Nick: So you're doing Make-A-Wish sort of on your own, right?
Clay: Yeah, but it's more like a series in the sense of they cross off multiple of them over a period of time.
Nick: Okay, and so the series, give me an idea is it like an eight part series where five people are being helping but you cover it over eight parts? Or is it like three people per episode? Give me an idea there.
Dillon: Right now-
Clay: Each episode is- Sorry, go ahead Dillon.
Dillon: Oh, sorry. Right now we're helping two people with onboarding a third, basically. Essentially, we just make a video every period of time that gets us a little bit closer to doing a specific thing for them. So for example, sometimes we'll focus on raising awareness for a specific item and then two months down the line the payoff of that will happen, or they're micro level where we package the entire story together in one narrative and the payoff is within that video. The content is around us focusing on helping the specific people we're helping. Right now it happens to be two different people with 36 items on each of their bucket lists.
Dean: I did mention to them, Nick, about treating it like a series. One of the things that we did talk about was ramping it up, putting a boundary on it, really packaging it as we're going to do ten episodes of this and really think about that arc because right now the funding that they're doing is a Patreon-like model, like a donor/viewer supported thing and I mentioned that one of the things they may be able to do is find businesses or individuals who would be like a producer credit or fund it, kind of the way you fund things, or maybe even corporate sponsors, you know?
Nick: Yeah, for sure. The thing that I think is going to be harder than some of the things I did, I'd have to see how it's done but if you're focusing on yourself as part of the thing it's going to be a bit more of an argument on why you need someone else's money to do something. If you were focusing just on the other people, like, "Help me go tell their story," I think there's still a way to do it because it's like, "Hey, help me help these people achieve their bucket list item," but you've obviously got to address the situation of why it's focused on you.
Unless you're building a nonprofit where this is all you're going to do and so it's a nonprofit, here's how it works because we're 5123 and our mission is to go around the world and help all these people achieve their dreams. I think that would be the easiest way to get funds going, support by having people pay whether it would be to just support each film or you have people who...
I mean, ideally you follow the standard nonprofit model where you have people join a board and they're giving you X thousands of dollars a year to be on the board and they get certain perks and benefits but a lot of that money goes to fund all these different films and things they get to do.
And then of course, yes, if you're involving bigger brands then you perhaps will be able to get some product, or money, or experiences from there but just hearing the very initial cursory glance at it, I think the objection you'll have to overcome will be focusing on yourself as part of the video, and why you're doing that, and why you need someone else's money to do that.
Dean: Mm-hmm. That's wise. We had a whole big conversation about the model. They're trying to figure this out. They had the great outcome with their friend. They actually set a world record for getting bone marrow donors, they got over 11,000 bone marrow donors through their efforts and it ended up that their friend actually found a donor and is so far, so good, clear, and we were talking just literally before you dialed in now, looking back now when they're 100. I mean, these guys are 20 and 21 years old but looking back over how many lives will have been potentially saved from those 11,000 bone marrow donors over a lifetime that's a bucket list to look back on, you know?
Nick: Yeah, that's a good one.
Dean: In that bucket list of accomplishment, right?
Dean: And that's something that you feel. Even the work that you do, Nick. I was telling them about the human trafficking, and the orphanages, and the things, so much of your stuff is movement-based stuff so I thought of you immediately to maybe give them some advice.
Nick: Absolutely, and I don't mean to come at it from a wrong angle because perhaps I have, but you've really got to convince people of what you're doing and why, and saying, "Hey look, I'm trying to accomplish this goal and I can't do it on my own." Right? And that's where you've got to start so, "I'm looking for people to help and so here's what I'm trying to do. If it moves you, if it's something you want to get involved then here's what I will do for you in order to make it worth your while to support me in my mission."
It's sort of like whenever I talk to my friends who are raising money for anything. People raising money, a million dollars to open a restaurant or five million dollars to do whatever, typically if I can get to them early enough, I try to say, "Hey look, the smartest thing I think you can do is be very conservative on your returns," because look, here's the deal.
If you're trying to raise two million dollars and run a business, and do all this stuff, that's going to have to pay for you and your employees. You're taking huge risks and you want to make money, and you want me to donate 50 grand. Not donate, you want me to invest 50 grand. Okay, well if you're raising two million dollars, 50 grand is not a huge portion of it so the problem is most investors think, "I'm going to put in $50,000 and I'm going to get rich." You know? That's their dream, like, "I'm going to get five million back," and the chances of that ever happening are not good because again, this person who's raising the money from multiple investors, and again, then they have to build the business, do all the work, pay their employees, and try to make money too, the returns just aren't going to be great on my 50 grand.
If they would just say, "Here's the deal, Nick. We're trying to raise this money. If you'll put in 50 grand, here's all the benefits we're going to give you. If it's a restaurant it might be you can bring your family once a month, you can get a black card so when you come in you can bring clients. Here's your benefits you're going to get and here's the deal, if you help us now, if we make it, when it's your turn we'll help you too if you want to raise some money as well.
Instead of, "Hey, give us money. We're going to make these wild returns," it's just not going to happen. I'll be so much more likely to give them money if they just gave me value for the money I'm giving them and let me look past the return. Say, "Hey look, we're going to try to make your money back, of course. Are you going to get rich? Probably not. But here's what we're going to do for your 50 grand. Here's what we're going to do." So even if you didn't get your 50 grand in cash back and the business went bust after three years, you would feel like you got your money's worth.
And I always approach every time I'm trying to get money like that, like I'm going to make it so worth your while that even if you never got your money back out of this thing, you would be like, "I'd do that again." And in fact, I do that. I don't sell investments in any of my films, people just pay for the experience but I give them far more value than what they're paying and that's why I have people do it with me over and over again.
So I just think if you think of it that way, what's the value I can provide to the people coming in in order for them to give me what I need, which is cash for the project, how could I make it irresistible for these people to give me that money?
Clay: That's awesome, yeah.
Dillon: That makes sense.
Dean: Cool. That's great. Nick, thanks so much, man. I appreciate you waking up to this.
Clay: That's really good, yeah.
Nick: All good, I just woke up in Vegas. I'll talk to you soon, dude.
Dean: Okay, thanks man.
Nick: Take care, guys.
Dillon: Thank you very much.
Nick: My pleasure.
Dean: That's awesome. I'm glad that worked out. I texted him when we were halfway through, but for him to be able to jump in, that's great.
Dillon: Yeah, that's cool.
Clay: Yeah, and he's very aware and intellectual for how early it must be for him. He said he just woke up.
Clay: He was really giving a lot of value there.
Dean: Yeah. Well that was very exciting, I think you guys have a lot of potential. I think it really is about figuring out what the model's going to be and just being able to focus on making that impact, you know?
Dean: I think, too, I do think again, it's not when you think about the number of people that came for the Avengers thing, it's hard to not get discouraged with that but if you think about the people that are there, that there could potentially be ten episodes right there with those ten stories, you know?
Dean: And that's the kind of thing, is the magnitude thing, is that everything good that's happened to you so far has been because you were 100% focused on one thing, which was your friend and that bucket list. You weren't thinking about it as a business. And this is where as soon as you start thinking about it a bigger thing, the only reason that you're disappointed with the ten, that's ten times bigger impact than what you had with your one friend, is because your vision is thousands of people, right? Or millions of people?
Dean: And in the context of that, it's seemingly disappointing. But if you look at it from the other way it's ten times more impact than you had with just your friend, right?
Dean: And so I think that's the thing, is really going in and combing that storytelling ability, you know?
Dean: Well it's been awesome. We went a little longer than we expected.
Dillon: Thank you for your time.
Dean: You got eleven times Emmy-winning director/producer calling in on the line here on demand. That's pretty exciting.
Dillon: Yeah, that was awesome. And thank you for contacting him, that was good and an interesting take.
Clay: Yeah. A nice surprise.
Dean: Well, I'll connect you guys by email because I'm sure he'd love to see the stuff that you're up to and he'd be a good guy for you to know.
Clay: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you very much.
Dillon: Yeah, thank you.
Dean: Awesome, guys. Okay. I'll talk to you soon.
Clay: All right, sounds good.
Dillon: Thank you.
Dean: Thanks, bye.
Dean: And there we have it. Another great episode. Thanks for listening in. If you want to continue the conversation and go deeper in how the eight profit activators can apply to your business, two things you can do. Right now, you can go to MoreCheeseLessWhiskers.com and you can download a copy of the More Cheese Less Whiskers book and you can listen to the back episodes, of course, if you're just listening here on iTunes.
Secondly, the thing that we talk about in applying all of the eight profit activators are part of the Breakthrough DNA process, and you can download a book, and a score card, and watch a video all about the eight profit activators at BreakThroughDNA.com and that's a great place to start the journey in applying this scientific approach to growing your business. That's really the way we think about Breakthrough DNA, as an operating system that you can overlay on your existing business and immediately look for insights there.
So that's it for this week, have a great week and we'll be back next time with another episode of More Cheese Less Whiskers.