[quote style=”boxed”]I’d have worked with more discipline in the beginning, and with more focus which projects to take on, so as to have developed better momentum. And I’d have certainly worried less about things that weren’t going to matter ultimately![/quote]
Boston native Brad Hines is the president of the domain name brokerage YumDomains and the founder of Hungrykids.org, a non-profit that has partnered with the United Nations World Food Program to raise world hunger awareness.
Hines is also a business writer, social media and Internet analyst. He primarily teaches digital marketing and how to make money on the Internet, which he has been doing for over a decade.
He has been entrepreneurial ever since he was a kid, always doing his own summer jobs—everything from a paper route, buying and selling cars, landscaping, vending and selling things from his local landfill swap post on eBay. He was always particularly interested in the marketing and branding aspects of these endeavors, such as how to design the perfect flyer for his hedge-cutting business. Never selfish with his methods, he has always been quick to teach others what he does— whether it be the time he gave his teenage friend his entire contact list for the bush-cutting business and the formulas for things like dealing with customers, clean up, etc. or how he explains patiently to someone how to put up a website about what they love and how they can profit from it.
Hines sold his first web startup, Megaflow Beer Funnels, at age 22.
Artistically, he is an amateur fine artist and poet, as well a professional comic artist and the creator of Dimwitz Comics. In a mashup of his interests, he especially likes to teach artists how to make money on the Web and runs a forum for artists in Montréal at McgillArt.com.
Very interested in health and education, Hines’ long-term goal is to be able to make an impact in those fields.
He enjoys cooking for family and friends, reading, painting, ice hockey, snowboarding, photography, traveling and humor. He is a big follower of design, health and business trends.
His last name is like the cake mix company, he would tell you (not the ketchup company), although he’s unrelated to either of them.
What are you working on right now?
Building a personal brand as an expert in digital marketing and online business, hopefully as springboard for an eventual book. Separately, there is building a web portfolio, Dimwitz Comics, my humor page, art, HungryKids.org and countless miscellaneous things like designing apps or writing. I chronically turn things I come across into something to do for work.
Where did the idea for HungryKids.org come from?
HungryKids.org was born from the stewardship principal. I learned in college that when a person or business has resources to spare, the natural move should be to use them philanthropically.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at no particular time, eat very healthy and check email and news. I do boring and repetitive work that needs to be done by day, and creative and more social work like networking at night. Before bed, I make my list of what to do the next day. I try and stop all work at least two hours before bed and switch to things like educational, travel or humorous videos on Khan Academy or You Tube.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I see them in my head first, sometimes from a seemingly useless angle like just a name, a part or an end result, but not the rest. I see it again with a bit more there the next time, which could be minutes or months later. I’m visual, so usually I think best when I have something to look at. So I write or draw something—anything—down about it, as it feels more real that way.
The next stage is that I talk about the idea(s) to others or even just myself if I feel compelled. If it is relevant, I build a prototype. Rather than outline, I usually begin to develop and then add the outline afterwards for the sake of not losing the “creative flash” energy. Then I perfect as best I can. Repeat!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Digital backlash, something I think we should embrace. As we get deeper in this age, I think folks will actually put a kind of premium on the substance of the technology and ways of yore. Think analog photos, actually sitting down together to play board games, doing pen and paper thank you notes, etc. Recently, I have looked into getting a vinyl player for its inimitable “warm” audio, perfect for an old jazz LP.
The point is about not throwing away what we’ve had for so long just because there’s a new way of doing things.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
My first (and last) nine-to-five job was as a leasing agent at a housing project in Boston. I liked the tenants, but not the management I was part of. I was encouraged to lie and mislead clients—advice I never listened to once. I had very few sales, and I was told it was because I didn’t push the apartments on people enough. I just wasn’t like that. Other times, I’d be finished with the work for the day, and then I’d be reprimanded that I “didn’t look busy if the big boss comes by.” So I learned how awful some aspects of having an employer can be and knew for certain finally that I’m better off employing myself.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d have worked with more discipline in the beginning, and with more focus which projects to take on, so as to have developed better momentum. And I’d have certainly worried less about things that weren’t going to matter ultimately!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never stop asking questions and wanting to learn, especially about things that on the surface you don’t think you are interested in or have use for, for that type of disjointed knowledge is the heart of creativity. Steve Jobs was one of many who famously observed the link between creative genius and dabbling in many non-related fields.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Forgive me for speaking broadly, but I have had countless failures, both in life and business. When I have these failures, I perpetually look for what is there to salvage—or to simply morph into something else.
The most genuinely moving compliment I ever got in my life was from my brother (who doesn’t exactly dish ’em out). He said on me, “I have never seen anyone who can take absolutely nothing and make it into something like you do.” Now, he could have rightly added after that I make a lot of crap, too. That would be okay. The bigger the bucket of rocks, the more chance for a gem.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Everyone is both a student and teacher throughout their whole lives. I think we all have something to share. I recommend asking yourself what you can teach people and looking into selling it through Udemy or Skillshare. The work you do building the course/materials will happen once and will take hard work. Afterwards, you will have it indefinitely and can hopefully profit with it on the side as passive income and reuse it another way in the future, shaped into something else.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would take away poverty, a common root of things like famine and crime. I am afraid to even speculate how we go about achieving that on a world level. My extremely broad guess is that education would be a part of it. Education across many disciplines could be the beginning to solving it and a likely pièce de résistance to a clearly very convoluted economical puzzle. Look at what Question Box is doing as one example.
Tell us a secret.
You know the whole singing in the shower thing? Yeah, I sometimes do car sound effects. [Laughs.] Does that undermine my last answer?
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
1. KhanAcademy.org – I wish Sal Khan could get a Nobel Prize for what he’s done for education. I truly adore his video education site that brings subjects from calculus through art history to people of any age, anywhere there is Internet access.
2. Twellow – I love using it to find and connect with interesting people on Twitter (and then real life, even).
3. Gmail – Seemingly boring and overlooked, it’s the root of all I do in business. It also serves as an outside-my-brain and for-free-in-the-cloud file cabinet for everything I can’t remember. If I need to have a file anywhere I go, I just upload it in an email draft to no one. Try it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker. A math and cosmology book. Seriously. The first time I read it, I was terrified, and it’s simply about existence, but especially pertaining to the concept of infinity. Written mostly in plain English (thank god), it gives a mind-blowing vantage point of life and a kind of instant altered state from start to finish.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. @boobsradley (a.k.a. Julieanne Smolinski) – Witty, witty, witty. This lady’s cleverly styled humor is so different; she makes me laugh more than anyone out there.
2. @BrainPicker (a.k.a. Maria Popova) – A curator of all things interesting, cerebral and quirky.
3. @ElonMusk – He is badass. An actual RT of his (regarding first-ever private space launch): “The President just called to say congrats. Caller ID was blocked, so at first I thought it was a telemarketer :)”
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Being as smart as I am, earlier this year during the summer, on the hottest day we had, I chose that day to walk around Boston with a tiny dark chocolate bar in the back pocket of my khaki pants. I forget I put it there, and it melted. I laughed hard when I realized I’d been walking around the city for an hour with a giant, suspiciously poo-looking stain on my butt.
Who is your hero?
My hero is the late Steve Jobs for everything but the “being mean to people” part, and my heroine is Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook for how good she is with not-being-to people-like-Steve-Jobs-was. [Laughs.] She’s an incredible leader.
Really, though, I find heroes in everyone—and that includes my own friends and family. One might be a hero for discipline, while someone else will be a hero for their ability to be relaxed, or funny and so forth. It’s like when I find myself thinking “What would so-and-so do?” I think that right there is a hero.
What do you think businesses need to do in order to succeed in the time we are in?
I’m a big proponent of whole-minded thinking—literally thinking about a problem or an idea from both a “left-brain” and “right-brain” approach, if you are familiar with those concepts. It’s the kind of approach where you really develop a concept with attention to the creative “right-brain details” and big-picture-style thinking associated with it. How the tiny contributes to the overall. That kind of attention is becoming more sought after from a consumer standpoint.
Failed example: A trend right now in digital marketing is to use these “infographics,” images hastily thrown together to convey a list or article of information in picture form. More often then not, nothing about these images actually adds any value to the information being served. They are about as hip as Power Point, which is an equally poor marketing tool.
Winning example: Look at how Apple understands this full-brained approach with their acclaimed packaging, the design of the box and components that products like the iPod come in. They know it’s not just a mere vessel, but also a kind of experience. Chipotle is another company who gets it—everything about their fast casual dining experience is totally in balance, a kind of playful harmony with all the details contributing to something larger, right down to their story. You feel it. That whole-minded approach is where that comes from.
You are so interested in creativity; we understand it’s the impetus behind a website you are developing. Give us an example of creative problem solving you have done.
The time I dropped my cell phone six feet down into the sewer like a dope. I grabbed one of those long, yellow plastic packaging bands from an alley dumpster. I then threaded it down a long PVC pipe in the shape of a loop, making like a dogcatcher-style grasping device. It was a homemade cell phone retriever. It fished it out beautifully; it worked so crisply I almost wanted to do it again. [Laughs.] I sold the device on eBay afterwards, with the story behind it.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.