Very exciting opportunity to add to your portfolio of mobile apps. This educational platform is live on both Android and iOS platforms and generating over $1,000 each month in net profit. It helps users learn English and currently runs in 4 languages with room for an incredible amount of growth.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? How did you start with The Buttonwood Tree?
I’m currently in consulting at a public accounting firm and was interested in high finance while in college; private equity, investment banking, venture capital etc. Going through news sites in order to prepare for interviews on recent mergers and acquisitions I noticed that B2B publications charge thousands annually for their subscription. When I went through what they offered, it didn’t seem like it deserved $2,100 – $5,100 a year to me. I always had a strong entrepreneurial desire and did my research in terms of market and competition. It was clear to me that there was an unmet need in the B2B finance publishing space. Middle market and smaller private equity firms don’t want to pay thousands to keep up with industry news, some can’t. However, by poaching editors directly from competitors and other publications we were able to benchmark everything they did, and do some better.
You reference a rather comprehensive team. Are these salaried employees or do they work on a consulting basis? You also mention a marketing team that is currently unpaid? How does that work?
Great Question! – I love this question. It’s a corporation in Delaware headquartered in California, as the only director on the board, majority shareholder and officer of the corporation, paperwork moves pretty easily. I compensate them in shares. Many of them are a few years out of college wanting to get good publicity and experience, while others are looking to switch from sports journalism to finance, we provide in-house digital training through docs. Others like in data science are being offered college credit as we are a corporation, some are from Ivy League/Ivy level schools such as Columbia, Cornell, and Georgetown to name a few.
As everyone is an independent contractor, with appropriate contracts hedging against liability and equity incentive plans matching Silicon Valley VC standards – 4 years vesting, 1 year cliff. (After 1st year 25% shares are vested(earned) and equally 1/48 every month thereafter. Nobody’s shares but mine have vested yet.
There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of what is possible upon the buyers needs. We can change it to an LLC, remove contractors, basically anything especially if it’s a larger buyer with their own team they want to inject or a smaller buyer who wants to keep the team.
What does your own day to day look like? How much time are you spending managing this business? What skills or knowledge does a new owner need to run this business?
Taking interviews to make up for any turn over, especially given COVID-19. A lot of people want to switch careers, get into something new or just expand their knowledge on finance as a writer. Another thing I’d spend time on is improving all the controls and procedures for the business processes of the different departments. Luckily, software like WordPress plugins handles a lot of that for me. If there isn’t an editor covering a vertical, then I will be a temporary editor until I get the position filled.
A day in the life can look like this: Email out new orientation and training docs to new journalist hires for them to go through during their first week. Then review and approve article pitches from a vertical that you’re filling in for. (so far i-banking has been tough to keep filled as the others have had the same editor now for at least 5 months each) Then take three or however many interviews for new hires that I have scheduled that day. Lastly, look at marketing planning and strategy.
Now that there is a strong foundation for rapid growth, most of my focus is on hiring and marketing activities.
How have you marketed your product? What’s working? What isn’t?
What’s worked a lot has been commenting on forums with links back.
LinkedIn advertising has been done a little but did not get the results I thought I would from LinkedIn. I feel it’s overpriced for what you get but perhaps I need to become a better marketer.
A tactic I intend on rolling out soon and implementing with the editors is having our writers guest post on other publications and blogs to bring in more traffic.
I haven’t marketed too much until recently because it’s a small world and once you put yourself (the company) out there it’s very hard to change perception. Finance and professional services firms (our target audience) are extra small. Can’t burn bridges, so we needed to make sure everything was on par or better than our competitors for our subscription pricing at the time before a hard launch, and actually trying to get people in.
What are your ongoing costs?
To be quite honest, they are rather minimal at the time being, but I could imagine those growing if you were to start a more involved advertising program or if you were paying high rates for content.
Primarily I’m just paying some hosting fees and for a few WordPress plugins.
This is a young business, why are you selling now?
It is a young business. I am at a crossroads in my life where I have been accepted into grad school at Johns Hopkins, while also getting my new role at a public accounting firm. These events make me feel that I can’t devote the time this business, it’s team or even myself deserves for what it is and can easily be. I understand anyone can say anything has “potential” but it’s clear from the strong foundation and strategic positioning in the B2B finance publishing that The Buttonwood tree has the high potential to grow rapidly. It is at a pinnacle place in it’s growth for marketing and brand awareness. I think it can certainly be achieved, if someone can just allocate the time.