AJ Kumar is the founder of Limitless Publishing. He helps entrepreneurial artists design great customer experiences and build infinitely scalable brands. AJ has over 10 years of digital marketing experience, and has helped companies such as Salesforce, Mint, Intuit, and world-class industry thought leaders including Neil Patel, Timothy Sykes, Josh Flagg and Kimberly Snyder. AJ is also a serial entrepreneur and has built and sold several companies, including 2 that were generating millions of dollars in revenue.
My American Dream: Who Is AJ?
My story, has essentially been a hero’s journey to redefine what the elusive American Dream really is. On my journey, I’ve found that having real influence is about having the capability to make your world a better place, and hopefully, help as many people along the way as you can.
My Grandpa moved to Oakland, California from India back in the 70’s. For his family this was an incredibly scary time. With no education, and little knowledge of American life, he did whatever he could to bring in income.
From Oakland, he eventually made his way down to Southern California, in a city named Cypress, (where I grew up) in search of a safe place to raise his family. Here, he worked as a janitor, a gas station attendant, and a golf ball retriever at a driving range. Grandpa literally had to do anything he could just to survive.
Growing up, my mom and dad went to work and I was raised by my grandparents (mainly my Grandma), who only spoke punjabi.
So, I learned English as a second language. I would learn it by watching shows like The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, and any other Saturday morning cartoons or sitcoms I could find.
Because I wasn’t fluent in English it was hard for me to express myself as a child. Being naturally shy—I had trouble finding a way to relate to others. It also probably didn’t help one my favorite shows was an overtly religious program based on Indian religions.
Somehow, karma doesn’t translate on the playground when you want to make fun of someone for falling off of the slide at recess. (Not to mention, that I might have had better luck learning how to speak English from watching a Charlie Chaplin movie.)
I eventually outgrew my shyness and did what every good Indian son does: I went to college. My interest in school lasted about as long as one of Tim Ferris’s workweeks. Well, maybe a little longer. I ended up dropping out after my first year.
Now WTF Do I Do?
I had just jumped out of a moving helicopter with no beach to land on, and two disgruntled parents. So I took a sales job with the Mike Ferry Organization, the nation’s leading Real Estate sales and training company, at the ripe age of eighteen. I was trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), psychology, body language, facial expressions, and sales strategy in order to get Realtors 20-30 years older than me to spend tens of thousands of dollars over the phone. It was a really fascinating job, and I quickly grew to be very successful within the company. I climbed to number 6 in sales, out of 40 sales reps, in less than 2 years.
I was motivated by the success of my cousin who was in his early 20’s and driving a Ferrari. He was the epitome of everything I wanted to be—rich, successful, and he never set foot inside a college classroom—which was a big deal in our Indian culture.
As a telemarketer, I excelled at two things that are central to being influential: generating energy, and enthusiasm. It takes a lot of practice to get people motivated and excited over the phone, but this is where I learned how to adapt to their style and how to have versatility as an influencer. Eventually, I was promoted to a traveling salesman and flew all around the US, with powerful speakers. I was hanging out with million dollar salesman and closing deals at the back table of seminars, applying the same techniques I used over the phone.
“I’ll Take Two Ferraris, Please.”
After a couple of years, I was looking for a change. My cousin was starting a new company, so I made (what I thought would be) a good career move.
I moved to Las Vegas—the shitty part, not the part with all of the lights and tall buildings—and began selling high-end sales training to loan officers.
I invested in his company, and helped him create NLP workshops and seminars. We worked with a variety of eccentric professionals ranging from world class poker players, Vegas stage hypnotists, and corporate sales trainers. I came aboard with no set hours and a ton of ambition. However, things weren’t as glamorous as I thought they would be.
After a few years, towards the end of 2009, business just wasn’t picking up, and people were hesitant to invest money after the recession. While it seemed like a great idea at the time, the company’s numbers were plummeting, and I had to cut my losses.
With little money, no job, and no sense of direction, I began to feel like a failure. A friend of mine turned me onto a book that immediately captured my interest: it was called The 4 Hour Work Week.
Coincidentally, after reading Tim Ferriss’s book, I had an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend from high school.
You may have heard of him–his name is Neil Patel.
Old Friend, New Journey
Neil and I, competed a lot in high school. As two Indian kids, we would challenge the other to do better on exams in our business class. We became friends and started a small business, selling black boxes (gives you cable tv channels free) on ebay. Since the business was very “gray” my dad made me stop, but I still ended up making a few hundred bucks in profit.
It was basically just me sharing my thoughts about everything I had learned while working with Mike Ferry and my cousin. But still, it was a start into a new world.
Neil, continued to help and he got me some SEO and Copywriting gigs freelancing and helping him with his blog, QuickSprout. He also landed me a huge client, who incidentally was one of my first paying customers. The client was penny stock millionaire, Timothy Sykes. Leveraging my work with him, Neil, got me some jobs working with San Francisco tech startups, as well.
After a few months, Neil flew me to Seattle to hang out. He picked me up at the airport, and informed me that he had set up a full day of impromptu meetings for me—with multimillionaire investors!
During the meetings, I told the investors about how I had been building a blog, making affiliate sites, and earning passive income. I explained to them that affiliate sites are a lot like having rental “properties.” They sit there generating thousands of dollars a month for you, and the more “online property” you have, the more money you make.
The amazing part about my trip to Seattle was that the investors wanted to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a company I hadn’t even started yet!
Single Grain… What’s the Deal With this Whole Internet Thing?
After consulting with Neil, I decided to respectfully declined their offers. Shortly after, Neil introduced me to his cousin in 2011, Sujan Patel, and we co-founded Single Grain, an internet marketing agency, where I became the VP of Sales and Marketing.
This taught me that partnerships are a lot like marriages. It’s all about give and take.
Next, I moved to San Francisco across from AT&T park where the Giants play. Here, I started learning and becoming really good at Pay-Per-Click advertising, Conversion Optimization, Advanced SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing. Our company was one of the biggest Internet Marketing providers—at a time when the internet was just becoming a thing.
I helped grow our revenue from a few hundred thousand dollars a year, to over $2 million in revenue and over 70 clients a year. I felt like I was living my dream, helping fast growing tech startups and fortune 500 companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and a few publicly traded companies we signed confidentiality agreements with.
Business was expanding and I began to work with authors Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi. Helping them with the internet marketing aspect of their businesses was an honor, and spending time with them allowed me to learn so much. From automating marketing and building sales funnels, to learning about the world of book publishing, these two guys inspired me more than I could have imagined.
Beauty Detox, The New Frontier For Creating An Influencer
In 2013, Sujan and I, started noticing that the digital landscape was changing and our vision was diverging.
We mutually agreed to go our separate ways, and I started giving attention to a passion project I was doing on the side.
I was helping author and nutrition blogger, Kimberly Snyder, grow her online presence. Kimberly and I, became business partners and started really focusing on digital marketing. I coordinated and executed digital marketing strategies and built backend infastructure that took Kimberly’s blog from 30,000 visitors a month, to over 500,000 visitors/month (over 60% organic traffic) within our first year of business.
Even though Kimberly didn’t invent the “green smoothie,” we leveraged the internet and had pictures of her celebrity clients drinking green smoothies pop up all over various websites.
Celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Ben Stiller, and many other A-list celebrities all had green mustaches and a glowing green smoothie in their hands. We turned her recipe into an “infographic” which got 1.6 million views. In addition to the viral green smoothie pictures, we created all sorts of articles, videos, and infographics that also went viral. We had a infographic on “poop and pee” that generated over 1.8 million views.
We also put her success to work for us by generating revenue by becoming affiliates (virtual salesman) for companies like Vitamix. We even helped give a mild “Oprah effect” to up and coming companies like, Sally B’s Skin Yummies.
Our push to get to the top also included working with one of the top PR firms in New York to get Kimberly featured in some of the largest magazine publications in the country. This created a 3-dimensional effect. Our audience got to see Kimberly in magazines, on the internet, on tv guest spots, and they could even read her books. Our email list became a revenue creating button. It literally felt like we were pressing the Staples “Easy Button” 24/7, whenever we wanted more money!
As a result, we became an international authority almost overnight.
The first product we created was a video course, based on her book, called the Glowing Lean System. We sold each course for $147 and made $100K in 24 hours using a simple email list. We went on to generate another $100,000 in a 7-week span. To date, that digital product has generated over $1.5 million in revenue.
I also helped orchestrate two of Kim’s best sellers with Harlequin Headquarters (now Harper Collins) in New York. Borrowing from some of the tactics of Tim Ferriss, I pre-launched her second book to Kimberly’s existing audience, which landed the #2 spot on the NYT’s bestseller list. For her third book, we did the exact same thing—with equally impressive results.
I also created a Virtual Book Club on a Facebook Group which grew to over 20,000 people. We sold them a lot of digital products prior to the book coming out—which launched the campaign. This group became responsible for a core part of recurring revenue—people buying from us consistently—which helped facilitate the group’s development to empower women around the world.
We expanded our brand and began to reposition Kimberly beyond nutrition. We entered into several other verticals including: yoga, spirituality, meditation and many other aspects of creating beauty from the inside out. As Kimberly’s awareness grew, she teamed up with influencer, Deepak Chopra, for their 4th book Radical Beauty.
We even added physical products to our growing list of moneymakers. We created a subscription model for her supplements with over 1,000 members, and sold thousands of yoga dvds, high end saunas, yoga workshops, and many other products.
We installed a robust and powerful marketing platform and worked with expert copywriters to formulate content that evoked emotions, gentle, kind, and persuasive sales. We talked about her world travels and her adventures–turning them into entertaining, educational stories. Retelling her life’s experiences through story format helped people connect with her on a deeper level, and understand who she really was.
While we had a spectrum of topics to talk about, in 2015, we found our sales dropping and our community disbanding. Too many products, lack of focus, and not enough content to market. We we needed to figure out a way for our audience to develop a better connection with Kim. The solution was podcasting!
After learning about media programming and getting coached by podcasting legend John Lee Dumas, we produced Beauty Inside Out, which quickly grew over 100,000 downloads a month, allowing us to market our products and services from a whole other dimension. We formatted the show to include interviews with industry experts and positioned her as the “authority” on nutrition for the mind, body, and soul, for women around the globe.
There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle of running Beauty Detox, and a lot of careful prep work went into coordinating her brand and strategy. It was like being the orchestra conductor, where I would empower our virtual team, to effectively play (engage) each instrument (tactics), in a specific order (music score), in order to create a wonderful listening experience (fully integrated brand strategy). This required mastery in being able to utilize our minds, hearts, and hands.
We shaped Kimberly and her brand into a world wide influencer. Her credibility and visibility helped land her a deal as an influencer, and brand ambassador, for companies like Burt’s Bees and New Balance.
Today, Beauty Detox has made millions of dollars in revenue, brand endorsements, and partnerships. Her website has received over 16 million unique visitors, and 45 million pageviews from 240 countries in 4 years—all built off of the blog.
Beginner’s Mind and Learning From The Best
The thing with Internet companies is that there are all these moving parts to them. It’s kind of like flying a spaceship in zero gravity—everything that you are doing is on the Internet, but it is also with real people. Whether they are right there with you, or they are still connected with you in real time. You can get caught up in the disillusionment of being in a new world—but you are still flying the ship.
In order to manage a team of about ten remote employees and keep my life on track, I began hiring coaches. Lots of coaches. I hired a world class business coach, a spiritual coach, a fashion coach, a personal trainer, a meditation instructor, even a chef who would teach me the science behind her, healthy recipes. I did all of this because I knew that being an entrepreneur was a well-rounded quality. It isn’t just strictly business. In essence, you are your business!
Learning all of this helped me to gain a better understanding of what influencers do and what makes things stick. I learned how styles come and go in the fashion world, why taste is the only thing that really matters when creating masterful recipes, how professional athletes visualize themselves winning, and how love is the only universal truth–and the meaning behind the magic of our lives.
I also became intensely aware of my ability to adapt and empathize to different, powerful artists and see the world through their eyes. Essentially, that’s all a great influencer is—someone who can speak the truth in a way that is creative enough to get people intrigued, and honest enough to get people to take action.
All of these lessons culminated into me starting my current company, Limitless Publishing.
My focus is on helping entrepreneurial artists create their mission and monetize their business online through: membership sites, book deals, physical products, launch campaigns, blogs, and online course creation to name a few
Through one of my former client relationships, I was introduced to the star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Josh Flagg. We became business partners and co-found the Flagg Leadership Group in Beverly Hills and are currently working to grow his online following and presence.
Being masterful at the art of influence is about finding a creative way to give people a new means for solving old problems. Working with so many experts and thought leaders in various industries has allowed me to gain a greater perspective on the world, and realize the true extent of our influence. The clients that I’ve worked with touch millions of lives each year.
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