Podcast #13: Meet Kurt Elster - Jay Leno's Shopify Guy


Rewind sponsors of Milk Bottle Shopify Podcast

What's in episode 13?

Kurt Elster, the Shopify guy, is a Shopify expert based in Chicago and host of the most popular Shopify podcast - The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. 

He's an all-round good guy and has some interesting clients including Jay Leno. In this episode, Kurt shares his journey to ecommerce, how he found Shopify and of course his favourite customer - Jay Leno.

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Episode #13 Milk Bottle Shopify Ecommerce Podcast with Kurt Elster

Kurt: [00:00:00] I have met the man when I met him, he looked exactly like on TV. He's taller than you'd think, and he was wearing the denim, the Canadian tuxedo, and adjusting the timing on an old seventies Lincoln and an unassuming car that he was going to drive home that day. So I had like. And what I, I got there. They said, Oh, they said, it's good you came today he just got his haircut.

Intro: [00:00:23] Welcome to the Milk Bottle Shopify Ecommerce Podcast brought to you by Milk Bottle Labs, Ireland's top-rated Shopify experts, Milk Bottle Labs, build, upgrade, migrate and market Shopify and Shopify Plus stores all over the world. Milk Bottle will migrate you onto Shopify with zero interruption guaranteed, or optimise your Shopify store and maximise store sales. This podcast is kindly supported by our favourite Shopify app and the only app we install in every store. Rewind.io is the leading backup solution for your Shopify store. We'll talk more about Rewind later now over to your host, founder of Milk Bottle Labs Keith Matthews.

This podcast is kindly supported by our favourite Shopify app and the only app we instill in every store. Rewind. Set IO is the leading backup [00:01:00] solution for your Shopify store. We'll talk more about rewind later. Now over to your host, founder of milk bottle labs, Kate Mathis,

Keith: [00:01:11] Hey folks, welcome back to another episode of the Milk Bottle Shopify Ecommerce Podcast. Today, I talked to a good friend of ours, Kurt Elster. Kurt is a Shopify Experts based in Chicago on who owns Ethercycle. He is a very, very interesting history when it comes to eCommerce, and he also has some interesting clients on his books, one of which is none other than Jay Leno. And anybody knows Jay Leno, I want to talk to him. This one was fun. So here goes...

Kurt Elster great to finally talk to you. We've known each other for a while and we've met each other on a couple of occasions. Welcome to the Milk Bottle Ecommerce Podcast. How are you?

Kurt: [00:01:48] Oh, I'm well, my pleasure to be here. Yeah, I got one of your, your colleagues gave me a milk bottle filled with gummy milk bottles right in Toronto.

Keith: [00:01:58] Have you eaten them?

Kurt: [00:02:00] No, I don't dare eat them. I gotta think you guys were wearing gloves when you put these things together?

Keith: [00:02:07] That's a very good point.

Kurt: [00:02:08] Purely decorative.

Keith: [00:02:11] Kurt you are based in Chicago. What time is it over there?

Kurt: [00:02:14] It's 9:00 AM. Bright and early.

Keith: [00:02:17] Irish people are obsessed with the time and the weather, so I have to ask you at the time, I'm not going to ask you about the weather because I just checked. It's very similar to Dublin, it's 22 degrees.

What do you call an individual? If you're from Ireland, you're Irish. If you're from Chicago, what, what's the, what's the description.

Kurt: [00:02:32] We would be Chicagoans,

Keith: [00:02:34] Chicagoans. I've never heard of those. Very good. So you are officially in Chicagoans and listen thanks it's great to have you on. You have a reputation that precedes you. You are the founder of Ethercycle.

You're one of the most well-recognized Shopify experts. You run the unofficial Shopify e-commerce podcast, which I'll, which we'll refer to later. So it's an absolute pleasure to have you on the line. I'd love you to go back and share it with us, how you ended up finding [00:03:00] Shopify. I'm fascinated by how people actually originally found the platform and ultimately like ourselves, end up making a living off of a piece of software.

So how did that happen?

Kurt: [00:03:10] Well, 10 years ago I was. Well, 2009 I tried to build an ecommerce platform and it turns out it's really, really complicated and harder than we were able to achieve. And so a year to 24 months after that, we were trying to keep the lights on, so we started picking up local web design and development work.

And it turned out like there was a real, we were coming out of a recession and people were starting to spend money again and there was a real demand for it. And so among those, we had a friend who owned a local bike shop, and I'm a bike mechanic. I worked on and off in, in my friend's bike shop is fun.

And he said, Hey, you know, websites, we hate our website. Like you can't actually buy anything from it. We've got no control over it. It looks bad. I mean, it was, they hated it. And so I said, well. [00:04:00] You know, I, I keep reading in on Twitter and in web design blogs. I keep hearing about this thing called Shopify.

Shopify sounds pretty good. It sounds easy. Sounds manageable. Customizable. It sounds like what you want. So let's, let's try that. It's like a no-nonsense approach that gets what you want. And so not knowing what we didn't know, we went moonshot and our very first Shopify project was custom designing and developing a site for these guys.

And we did. And to date, it is still up the same site. It has been revised, but it's amblingcycle.com A, M, L, I, N, G, S, amylincycle.com so you can see how website ages, and it looks really much better than it has any right to

Keith: [00:04:44] what year was this?

Kurt: [00:04:46] I think that was 2011

Keith: [00:04:48] 2011. So the platform has probably gone through three or four, actually not that many upgrades, a couple of admin panel upgrades.

Obviously it's improving all the time, but to the end-users, I suppose there's been a couple of [00:05:00] major upgrades.

So when you built that store, did you instantly see that there was potential here, or did you think that it was, it was another WordPress or another Squarespace or another, you know. Just another platform.

Did you enjoy it that much that you looked a bit further into the partner channel or was the partner channel, was it even alive at that time? It would've been, wouldn't it?

Kurt: [00:05:20] It was in its infancy was the Shopify partners and experts program, and we felt it, and I just said, you know, I said, wow, that was really good.

It was easy. It was well documented. It wasn't like the hair-pulling experience we'd been having with WordPress and other, there were tons of these like bespoke goofball CMS platforms at that time. And having used it. We're like, okay, let's just, it's, it's great. It's a tool in our toolbox, but we were still generals we weren't ready to niche down. We were not, we had not yet realized the value, and then the father of the Shopify Experts program, Dan Eveleigh reached out to us and said, Hey, I saw you built a custom site on Shopify. [00:06:00] Would you want to join the Shopify experts program? I said, Oh yeah, why not? That was brilliant.

I was honored that they had taken notice, so we signed up for that. And the first lead we got through it was this huge golf course. It is a Scottish style golf course in Oregon called Bandon Dunes, and they were working with Chicago agency to build a brochure site, and they wanted a matching Shopify store attached to it to sell merch. And I said, okay, yeah, we could build that. So like immediately jumped into it, did our second project, was pretty good. So I like this and we start picking up more projects. And at the same time, we were still doing fulfillment work for large creative agencies in Chicago, purely on WordPress.

And we had this really big, beautiful nightmare of a project that everything that could go wrong went wrong. And at the end of it, I said. Well, why are we doing this? Why? Why don't instead of tearing our hair out with these low effective hourly rate WordPress projects. Why don't we move to Shopify [00:07:00] where we seem to just consistently do great work and then like it should've been obvious sooner it wasn't. It's how we said once I, I did that, I just declared myself the Shopify guy and the amazing part was even with an email list of maybe a thousand people at that time, probably not even that. Within 60 days, I was getting referrals from people I didn't know to people I didn't know saying, Hey, I know you're the Shopify guy can you help us?

And so part of my success was just was niching down early and also being there early. It really, I, I hitched my cart to the right horse.

Keith: [00:07:36] Did you at that particular time, like you mentioned Dan there, so I would have been in touch with Dan in 2012 and then we would've got accredited in 2013 but the Irish market is probably three or four years behind the US or the UK market in terms of growth. So it was early doors. Did you find yourself at that time having to sell the platform to the client or was that already done?

Kurt: [00:07:58] Early on. Yes, it [00:08:00] was more, they said, all right. It really came up as, okay, we've narrowed it down to these two or three platforms - help. And at that time, you know, I had experience with a lot of different platforms.

So before we narrowed down entirely on Shopify. I said, I built landing pages for a, essentially a conversion rate optimization package, but personalized it to a variety of platforms and then had a landing page for each send traffic to it. So in doing that, I got to do the identical project across a variety of platforms, which was very interesting and enlightening, and without a doubt, we said, you know what Shopify is the one to use.

Keith: [00:08:40] ]Yeah. Every single person that I know that has worked in other platforms says the same thing. I know it's interesting to listen to other agencies that are, are still grappling with other platforms. They just seem sometimes refuse to actually admit that the platform is just so user-friendly from a developer, a partner, experts and a merchant point of view that they're, I [00:09:00] think they're actually missing out and it's improving.

Your analysis there is, is identical to the experience that we would have had in the early days. I had Kier Whitaker on twice recently, and I know that you attended his debrief events. I, one of the questions that I had asked him initially occur was actually working for Shopify for about just under seven years.

[00:09:19] And I ask Keir, did he realize in the early days that it was going to be as big? And I'll ask you the same, did you realize. That you were probably ahead of most people but also did you think it was going to explode the way it did in light of Amazon's growth? Obviously Amazon is a marketplace and not a platform, but did you think it was going to be as big as it is now?

Kurt: [00:09:39] I would love to tell you that I knew that I absolutely, I said, you know what? I have total confidence. I am going to do nothing but Shopify. I'm going to invest entirely in Shopify because I know that ecommerce will be huge. Shopify will be huge and I will be driving an absurd car and a big house. [00:10:00] I knew none of that.

I was terrified. The whole thing was a gamble and I was like, all right, I think this is the safest bet cause really I'm very risk-averse. I don't think people realize that, but yeah, that's what, no, I, I was like, well, of my options, I think this is the least, the least risky. Let's do this. That's the dark truth.

Keith: [00:10:22] It is. Yeah. I took a different kind of approach. I run part-time for quite a while, so there was less of a risk. And then when milk bottle labs had enough business to actually go full time, then I, then I jumped ship,

Kurt: [00:10:33] I didn't have that. I one day just quit my job and said, I'm going to build an eCommerce platform. Quit my job with no plan the next day, said, I'm going to build any commerce platform. Grabbed a friend who had been laid off because of the recession and had unemployment, so he had nothing to lose. My expenses were super low and I had savings, so I'm like, let's just do this. And then that one that didn't work out, it's like, well, I've got to keep the lights on, so start selling WordPress sites, and then WordPress was [00:11:00] painful.

[00:11:00] So like, all right, we have the most success in ecommerce because it wasn't like. The advantage to ecommerce wasn't, was that when you do a  design for a brochure site it's like, well, my dog, the client's like, my dog doesn't like blue. It's very subjective, right? So you can't use blue. Versus ecommerce it's, Hey, if we put the headline here in the call to action here, and we phrase it this way, average order value conversion rates are going to go up and over 12 months, we could predict changing this layout in 15 minutes is worth $50,000. Should we do that? And it's very easy then for both the client, the designer to go, yes, I think we should.

And that was my big attraction to e-commerce was the, it took away the squishy subjective parts of the design and made it very quantifiably great. So we said, quit my job. I hated my job. I gave one week's notice and I didn't have a plan. So I said, I'm going to build, a day later. I said I'm going to build my own eCommerce platform.

[00:11:57] Oh my gosh. That I did not know when I was getting [00:12:00] into and there could be an advantage to that had I known what I didn't know, I would not have attempted it, but I tried it and I failed. And you know what? In the time we set up the infrastructure, we were working and we had people misunderstanding what we did and saying, can you help us with our own websites?

[00:12:16] Can you build us a brochure site? Can you fix our sites? Because people were spending starting to spend money again after the recession. And so not going to turn the work away. So yeah, we could do that. We'll figure it out. We started building these brochure sites and then these WordPress sites and the first site I sold, the first time I sold a site for like two grand.

[00:12:36] I thought it was criminal and I was like, how can you even charge this much for a website? And then. Little did I know within two years we've charged 50 grand for a website, which I also thought was flatly insane and quickly discovered was not.

Keith: [00:12:50] The first site that we ever built. I did it for free.

Kurt: [00:12:53] I'm sure I did too.

Keith: [00:12:55] I did. I picked up a newspaper and I found a business that was launching, I checked their web [00:13:00] domain, they'd know websites and like built them a Shopify store for free, and that was one of the stores that got us accredited as one of the Shopify experts in Ireland. So...

Kurt: [00:13:07] The first Shopify store we built, there is no way I charged more than $2,000

Keith: [00:13:12] it's funny you say at the time that you thought that that was insane to charge.

Kurt: [00:13:17] Now I don't have like I don't have a single service offering for $2,000.

Keith: [00:13:22] Very few successful exports actually would ever, I think to have that, you know, depending on where you go, where you're based, I guess, what was that original company, Kurt, was that called Ethercycle? Cause the next question is this, what you're describing obviously evolved into Ethercycle, but where did the name of Ethercycle come from?

Kurt: [00:13:38] So I said originally we were going to build an eCommerce platform and the target market for the eCommerce platform because we had experience because we had industry connections and because it was underserved was bike shops. So even then 10 years ago, trying to find a domain name was absurdly difficult.

So we, all, the [00:14:00] good ones were taken even a decade ago. So we said, all right, we got to make up a name. So it's a portman to have ethernet and bicycle Ethercycle. And once we had it, it. We kept it stuck. I know, truthfully, I don't love it, but the big advantage to it is when you have a 10 character made up name, then like you can register that everywhere on any platform, whether it all the handle always is available and works, and so it makes for an interesting talking point on occasion. No, I'm far enough along in my career. No one questions it anymore. Very rare like that. People ask, they just accept it.

Keith: [00:14:33] It's the only reason I questioned it was because I did hear you talk about it in the past. Is that an outrun logo style are text style as you're using it.

Kurt: Yes, the goal. I said,

Keith: I knew that when I saw it.

Kurt: [00:14:45] Two years ago I said, I'm like, look, I had designed the original logo and I am by no means a logo designer. So we got to, and I hated the brand name. Really? I did. And I said, you know what? What if changing the name is not ideal. What if I make the brand [00:15:00] name work.

And they started to get into that outrun style, which now has grown so large. It's, it's called Vaporwave aesthetic. We said, I went on, what's that site? 99 designs. And I said, I want an outrun style logo. I want a logo that is quote nineties rad, and I'm 36 so I grew up with that. So I, I know it when I see it.

[00:15:22] So we had, we went through several versions with 99 designs. We got the logo, and then I did the cool, like the, the current purple, purple, pink logo gradient color on it. And once I did that, and like I own the brand and reinvented it. Then I fell in love with it again. So like everything, my business cards are these bright, bright pink with like eight bit texts on them.

So we made it work.

Keith: [00:15:47] Let's take a short break and I'll share the one app we installed on every Shopify build. The team at Rewind.io have developed the leading backup solution for Shopify. Did you know there is no way of recovering lost data from the Shopify store? Rewind.io automatically backs up your store data in the event of a data loss, usually due to human error. Rewind enables you to rewind your store back to its previous state. It's so simple, and it's used by some of the world's leading Shopify agencies, such as Kurt Elster of Ethercycle and Kelly Vaughn at the Taproom. If your store is gaining traction, you may have multiple users making changes. Often store owners allow theme or app developers enter a store to add code. Sometimes mistakes happen and data gets deleted. You can reduce your business risk today and prevent a costly catastrophe by installing the Rewind.io app on your Shopify store. Get your first month of rewind for free by simply responding to any of the welcome messages or emails you receive after you begin your seven day trial and mentioned this podcast. Now. Back to the interview.

[00:16:50] So you've described the start and you've described how you found Shopify. You're currently running a particularly successful agency, and I mean, I've been following you guys for years. [00:17:00] Just one question in terms of one customer, how does a guy like you sitting in Chicago pickup a customer like Jay Leno.

Kurt: [00:17:07] All right, this is an excellent business lesson and think, I have been to Jay Leno's garage. I'm a car guy, so this is like car guy Mecca. I have met the man. When I met him, he looked exactly like on TV. He's taller than you think, and he was wearing the denim, the Canadian tuxedo, and adjusting the timing on an old seventies Lincoln and an unassuming car that he was going to drive home that day.

[00:17:29] So I had like. And when I got there, they said, Oh, they said, it's good you came today. He just got his hair cut. So like he's looking the most like a Jay Leno. Um, that was well after we'd built his site. So what, Oh, what I met at my completely panicked, I was so focused on not sounding stupid that I basically just went up it was like, hi, I like cars. Okay, bye. I mean, I'm embarrassed by it, but I did not ask him. The, I said, what's the one question everybody asks him that I shouldn't ask them? They said, I said, [00:18:00] don't ask him what his favorite car is cause he's just going to tell you he loves them all. That's why he owns them.

[00:18:05] And truthfully, the guy's actually, he's really has as many motorcycles as cars and is really into steam powered cars. Anyway, so focusing, I was in the Shopify Facebook plus group and someone posted and said, Hey, just wanna introduce myself. My name's Nick and I manage this brand and it was Leno's Garage.

[00:18:25] So I commented. I just said, Oh, this is super cool. I'm a car guy. I am so thrilled to see this on plus, and this looks amazing. I can't believe it. And so the guy messaged me, he's like, Hey, I really appreciate the kind words. Let me send you a detailed box. It's okay. I got it. I said, wow, this is really great.

[00:18:41] It looks great. It's a wonderful presentation. I love it. And he goes, okay, cool. Is there any way we could work together? I said, yeah, let me put together a screencast for you, and I'll show you, here's just like, you know, five to 10 minutes on, here's some ideas to improve the site, take it or leave it. And that turned into a phone call, turned into an engagement, and we [00:19:00] shored up the site, started doing maintenance for them within a year.

[00:19:03] We completely rebuilt the site, relaunched it on turbo, and went through rounds of maintenance with that. And now they're just, they're a scrappy team. And what's really interesting about it. They were literally the guys doing the detail work in Jay's garage. And they went to him after like doing it for, I don't know how long, and said, Hey, why?

[00:19:24] And they were doing custom formulations for products that they were like making. And they said, Hey, we would love to sell this stuff direct to consumer and we, we would like you to be a part of it. And what's interesting about Jay Leno is he roots for the underdog. And so he said, yeah, I would, I would love to be involved.

Keith: [00:19:40] So these guys are actually product experts, but I would have really knowing this.

Kurt: [00:19:43] Yeah, actually I, yeah, they came from, it was like the guy who started it had a construction background and then that turned into like, he was like, I could build, he had a knowledge of chemistry and he's like, I could make it a better car detailing product.

[00:19:57] And it started with a single product and [00:20:00] then they ended up providing detailing work for Jay Leno and the first task he gave them, he said it was on his first exotic cars this Lambo, I think it's, uh, an eighties, Countach. And what's cool about it is they have, this is one of the cars they've chosen intentionally not to restore.

[00:20:14] So when you get up close to it, you could see the really wide door panel when you're getting out of it and his butt has rubbed on it enough times that it's worn, and so it's like, I love what's more interesting than the cars they've perfectly restored are the cars that they have chosen to leave a little bit unrestored.

[00:20:33] He said, listen, I can never, we've never been able to get the wheels right on this car. If you can get these wheels right, you've got the job, and so they sat, they can polished wheels for like a week and that's how they got the job. That's really, that's how it started. It's like. Yeah. Everyone thinks, Oh, it's Jay Leno the celebrity so they just like make money no matter what they do. And it isn't the case. It's still a bit entrepreneurial story when you look for it.

Keith: [00:20:56] What you're referenced there, it's Jay supporting the guys and giving them a bit of support to [00:21:00] get it off the ground is just typical of a lot of, you know, a lot of successful sport stars and celebrities, where the truth is is that they help a lot of people.

It's great story. I watch his videos on the channel  They're  brilliant.

Kurt: [00:21:09] Oh, they're so when I was there, they were filming one, they were wrapping one up. It was so cool to watch.

Keith: [00:21:14] Oh, which car was it? Can you remember?

Kurt: [00:21:17] Was the Bugatti Eb 100 it's blue. It's really cool. It wasn't his, it was somebody else's.

Keith: [00:21:23] It's funny you mentioned the Lamborghini because I watched that episode recently and I think like that was his daily driver for a good while. Like he actually, one of the first that he bought. I think it was 1987 or 1988.

Kurt: [00:21:33] Yeah. That was like his first exotic car. He loved it. He drove it all the time. The guy's the real deal.

Keith: [00:21:38] That's great. For you as a, as a business person as well, it's great to have that on your portfolio, isn't it? Has it resulted, I'm assuming it's resulted in attention, but has it resulted in some, in some business for you?

Kurt: [00:21:48] Oh, 100% I mean, that's an immediate.

[00:21:50] It is an immediate social proof in itself. When you can put those, those big names out there, and the silly part is like, you know what's working with Jay Leno? Like that's different than working with, you [00:22:00] know, someone's selling watch bands out of their garage, like leather goods, handmade wallets. It's really, it's very much the same.

[00:22:07] You are doing the same work. So if you're thinking, if you're listening to it and you think to yourself like, well, I could never work with someone like that. You're doing the same damn work. No matter what. And once you realize that it, it is powerfully freeing. But now without a doubt, I mean, it's tremendous social proof, especially if you're in that space.

[00:22:24] Cause like we worked on that site and then we're able to work on that gave us enough credibility to work with Hoonigan, which is a huge, big automotive lifestyle brand with 20 million YouTube subscribers. You know, it's not a household name like Jay Leno, but they're still, they're huge. And they take it, take it seriously.

[00:22:40] And then another detailing, brand Adams Polishes, which is. A monster monster detailing brand. So yeah, it absolutely, the work you show is the work you'll attract. So by sharing our work with Jay Leno, okay we're able to attract similar. Or attract other automotive brands and by showing a lot of [00:23:00] like direct to consumer is huge right now.

[00:23:02] I love direct to consumer brands. They are, they are a lot of fun to work with CPG brands. So by sharing that work, that's, that's the work you attract.

Keith: [00:23:11] That's a good piece of advice.

Kurt: [00:23:12] To get the work you want, share the work that's most like it and don't share the other stuff. Yeah. I mean, if it's like early on, I consulted on a sex toy store and we're, you know, wife and I are entirely sex positive, so there's no shame in it, but I don't want to be the sex toy store guy, so I never shared that anywhere.

[00:23:34] Right. Yeah. And if you on your site, you share a bunch of unrelated things, maybe like you're proud of it, they're cool, but there's no common thread and you share that work well, you're not going to be known as having a specialty in anything. So like, yeah, there are projects I absolutely love that I did, but they don't fit into that core.

[00:23:52] Like, what are the core themes we're looking for in clients? So it breaks my heart, but I don't share them. Or we used to have all these fun [00:24:00] side projects that they were just distractions and I sold them all on a Flippa couple of years ago, and that was smart. You know, getting rid of those, those things that don't fit your core goals, that don't fit your focus. Several years ago internalize this idea that you have to look for. You have to ask yourself before you do something, does this help me get closer to my goals? And when you start doing that, you discover like, Oh, you get to your call your goals that much faster. Right? Like at the end of the month, if you look back, Oh wow, I wanted to do all these things.

[00:24:31] It feels like I moved an inch in every direction as opposed to. A mile forward that just means you're doing a lot, you're doing lots of stuff and you're busy and that's great and it feels good, but it's not necessarily getting you closer to your goals.

Keith: [00:24:44] Yeah, that makes perfect sense. It's funny you say that. I had to, I interviewed Jay Myers recently from Bold. I mean, you know, I know that, you know Jay.

Kurt: [00:24:51] He is the nicest man alive. He's nice by Canadian standards, and that's saying a lot.

Keith: [00:24:56] He just made the exact point that you made. Yeah. By that [00:25:00] we say over here, staying in your lane instead of doing, you know, they had, I think they had 30 apps one stage in development or on the app store.

[00:25:06] And there they stripped it down to I think 21 or 22 and ourselves in the Milk Bottle we're doing, you know, social media, AdWords, advertising, all sorts of different services. And the truth is, is that the Shopify platform is improving and changing so quickly. We have enough of a job to stay in touch with the platform and be experts in that.

[00:25:26] So you're your right. Other projects sometimes become a distraction. One thing that is certainly not a distraction is the unofficial Shopify podcast for the listeners as well. I'm on a, we're on a Slack channel, which you run and you own and you're extremely helpful. You're extremely open. If there's anything out there that you can share with me or a few of the other members, we all mutually benefit and you know, I'll thank you publicly for the assistance there on that, and hopefully we've been assisting as well on mutually assisting.

[00:25:55] But even before I started this podcast, you advise me on the equipment, [00:26:00] you're advising them what to do. So I'd love you to explain to the listeners what the unofficial Shopify podcast is because if there are Shopify merchants listening here and they're not tuned into the podcast, they're missing out. So just give us a low down on it.

Kurt: [00:26:12] Hello and welcome back to the unofficial Shopify podcast. I'm your host, Kurt Elster.

Keith: [00:26:18] You're waiting to do that weren't you?

Kurt: [00:26:19] Yes, my business partner and sometimes cohost makes fun of me. So that's your podcast voice. He does it. And like, he does it with this very exaggerated cadence, um, which has only made him like me doing it that much more, more exaggerated.

[00:26:31] Four and a half years ago I wanted to start, I'd been talking about thinking about starting a podcast and really it was like, podcasts seem cool. I was listening to a lot of NPRs podcasts are really great at that time. This is like a little bit before the podcasting boom, and I thought I want to start a podcast and like, I'm a gadget guy, I love gear.

[00:26:53] I'm like, man, I could, this will give me an excuse to buy a mic that would be cool. Right? And I had like even help worked part-time in a [00:27:00] studio once. So it was something I was interested in, but I knew from that experience that the editing is a nightmare. As you know, like if you're listening to a 30-minute podcast, it took 60 minimum 60 minutes to edit, if not more. And it depends on if the person says I'm a lot, how much, et cetera.

Keith: [00:27:18] Have you noticed? I've tried not to interrupt you and I'm on mute most of the time.

Kurt: [00:27:23] I, you know, when you, if you meet people at all, people hate or I'm sorry, interrupt guess at all as a host. Yeah.

[00:27:29] Listeners hate that.  I have a few one-star reviews and the like, he interrupts his guests like, well sometimes you just got to keep the thing on track. I want to start a podcast just so I could play with microphones and I thought, yeah, it might be good at it. And I had interviewed, I'd been a guest on several shows, and several of the interviewers said, Oh, the host said, Oh, you would make a good podcast host, you should start your own podcast.

[00:27:53] Well, after like three people tell you that, you've got to start believing it. So I did it. And my business [00:28:00] partner, I was like, I want to do it these people say you should do it. I think it's valuable, but I don't want to edit it. My business partner goes, you know, I used to edit The Onions podcast, right? I said I didn't know that.

[00:28:08] So now I had no excuse. I had to do it. So I did it. We put it out there, and first month we got 200 listeners. The second month we got 500 listeners and now almost five years later, I think it'd be five years in October, we're at a million downloads. I mean, that's incredible that someone has taken the time to listen to me that many times.

[00:28:29] It's very similar to your show. The audience is primarily Shopify merchants, merchants of all sizes. We've got our largest client was a podcast listener. There are other advanced marketers like ourselves and even Shopifolk, Shopify employees and support staff give it a listen. So no, I'm proud of it. It's been a tremendous resource and I view it as what I get out of it it's number, it's lead gen, but it's my continuing professional education. So like really what people are hearing is just me learning [00:29:00] something along with them. And that format, while initially not intentional, has become tremendously valuable.

Keith: [00:29:07] Yeah. But Kurt I don't think you're giving yourself credit. You're learning, but you're also sharing that learning. The other question is, I mean, we published the Milk Bottle Shopify Podcast once every three to four weeks. And you, how often do you publish? Is that every week or every two weeks?

Kurt: [00:29:22] Every week.

Keith: [00:29:23] In terms of time, are you publishing that often that you just automatically switch on record and you just, you're so experienced that you can do it?

[00:29:30] Or are you investing a lot of time into each episode?

Kurt: [00:29:33] No, it, it's streamlined. So the advantage to you do the same thing 200 times, you will get good at it. We've got 250 episodes and we streamlined it where I know what a, what a good guest potentially is like, and we've got an onboarding process that makes it very quick for the guest to get me all the relevant info I need to book the show.

[00:29:55] And then, you know, I'm comfortable showing up and doing the interview and really I say like we [00:30:00] agree on a topic. I asked them, give me three to four questions. That way they're prepared, I'm prepared, and then I fill it in with, all right. Like here's the main question. And then, well, that they know I'm going to ask, but then I'm going to build on that with like two follow-ups, two follow-ups.

[00:30:14] Then all right. To show that. That we understand the concept. I'm going to summarize what we just learned, and that's kind of the like, you'll just, when you listen to interviews like if you listen to Howard Stern interviews or Larry King interviews, you suddenly realize like there's a cadence to it and there is generally the same format. Like at both of those, it's, they're going to walk through a journey. And so with business stuff, it's really easy. Well, how'd you get started? Where the idea come from? Oh, what'd you do next? What'd you do next? What'd you do next? And then you could summarize those like key points along the way.

[00:30:47] Keith: [00:30:47] Has there ever been a situation where you've been out the other end of the lion and the other individual has just been very, very difficult to get information out of them? And I've had that on one occasion and it's absolutely painful.

Kurt: [00:30:57] Yes. And that's where you need [00:31:00] to. You need to self edit and throw podcasts out.

[00:31:03] I mean, we interviewed a guy recently, I don't want my show to be political, and so we interviewed a guy recently and unbenounced to me he had actually been on Fox news a whole bunch of times and was agitating for his very conservative point, and no matter what I did, kept working it back in the conversation.

[00:31:21] So this would have been a big guest, a good guest to get. And driven and helped it expand the show and been engaging. And I, it was so purely political I had to toss it and like as much as I tried to steer it away from that and back on course, it kept going back to it. Yeah. So it pains me, but it's like, okay, that's, you know, two, three hours gone. But I had to delete it and just give up on it.

Keith: [00:31:43] Interesting. Kurt, thank you so much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure and keep up the good work. We'll put the references to the, to the podcast onto Ethercycle in the show notes.

Kurt: [00:31:53] Oh yup, absolutely. If you send me an interesting question, I will absolutely send you back a response.

[00:32:00] Google me, Kurt Elster, go to kurtelster.com sign up for my newsletter. That comes from my actual email address, so that will get you on the newsletter for the podcast, but if you reply to any of those emails with a question, I will do my best to answer it. Major Keeler thanks very much. My pleasure.

Outro: [00:32:18] Thanks for listening to the Milk Bottles Shopify Ecommerce Podcast. All of our episodes are available on Spotify and iTunes. We really appreciate the support of our sponsor. Rewind.io, the leading backup solution for your Shopify store. Get your first month of Rewind for free. Just to respond to any of the welcome messages or emails after you begin your seven-day free trial and mention our podcast until the next time.

[00:32:43] Take care.