Bonnie Mauldin was been hustling since she was a kid. At eight years old, she was knocking on doors offering to shovel driveways. After graduation, she entered the medical field, but quickly discovered it was not for her. Now, Bonnie owns two successful businesses, The Mauldin Group and Mauldin Production Company. Having learned a lot along the way, Bonnie shares her tips on changing careers, side hustles, and running multiple businesses.
Episode 13 – Bonnie Mauldin
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Bonnie Mauldin’s career evolved from healthcare to training, to marketing, to now — founding two different companies. She started the Mauldin Group, a marketing firm based in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015. And in 2022, Bonnie added to her repertoire when she founded the Mauldin Production Company. Here today to share more about her business story and what she's learned along the way is Bonnie Mauldin.
Bonnie, welcome to the show.
[00:01:20] Bonnie Mauldin: Hello.
[00:01:22] Sanjay Parekh: I'm excited to have you here because I think you've got the, especially the second company is interesting, given that we're here in Atlanta. But before we get there, tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now.
[00:01:34] Bonnie Mauldin: Sure. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a doctor. And I went to school taking up pre-med in clinical laboratory science. I got a full ride academic scholarship through an international science fair that I was in, in high school. And I was on that track to be a doctor. And when I got a chance to actually work in the hospital, a few traumatic things happened in the hospital that made me want to change career paths. One, I watched a woman lose twins and I had to take the babies to the morgue. And two, this obese woman had her leg cut off because of diabetes. And then I had to clean the leg, prop the leg up, watch the leg get cut off, wrap the leg up, and then take it to the morgue. And then at that point I said, you know what? Maybe this isn't for me.
[00:02:35] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:02:36] Bonnie Mauldin: I'm not cut out for this. This hasn't appealed to any of my creativity. I like to write. I like music. I like poetry, I like books. I like creativity and making things. And this has nothing to do with making things. This has to do with taking care of sick people. And even though I love helping people, I just need something that's going to appeal to that creative side of myself. So, resigned from the hospital, started working in my own biz, back when Google and Facebook were brand new. I was an early adopter, used the platforms to grow my wellness coaching business. Just love the idea of marketing and then said, you know what, I love doing this so much. I can do this for other people. I can just do this all day long. I just love it. And Mauldin Group was born. And here we are.
[00:03:29] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. So, first of all it's awesome that you got that experience early and realized like, this is not for me. You gave me the shivers while talking about that because, medical stuff I've known from a young age, that is not for me. So, I didn't even need that experience to know that I shouldn't go that way. But was this your first time ever doing something entrepreneurial or did you do something entrepreneurial when you were younger? Like when you were a kid? Like any kind of hustling stuff back then?
[00:03:59] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. It's funny you said hustling stuff. Like when I was a kid, eight years old, I was the only eight-year-old little girl out shoveling snow, like knocking on people's doors. Now that I think back at that I was probably not very safe for an 8-year-old girl to be knocking on doors. But I'm like, can I shovel your snow? And they're like, oh, little girl, you're so cute. And I’d get $5, $10 to shovel snow for all the people in the neighborhood. And I'd be running for the store to get all the candies I wanted.
[00:04:33] Sanjay Parekh: Where was this that you were doing this?
[00:04:36] Bonnie Mauldin: This was in Detroit, Michigan, where it's very cold in the wintertime. Snow racks up real quick and soon as the snow started falling down, I was knocking on doors and shoveling that snow. So, I had a hustler spirit way back then, and so it's never left me. Now, instead of shoveling snow, I'm picking up the phone, dialing, calling businesses, calling production companies, getting my name out there, getting new customers.
[00:05:04] Sanjay Parekh: I was going to say it had to be somewhere up north to be able to rack up that kind of money in an afternoon. Because I can imagine people in Detroit, nobody wants to shovel their snow. It's funny because I grew up in Kentucky and I could have done the same thing, but I never did that, hustling for snow. I don't know. I guess I just only did it for our house, and then playing in the snow and making igloos and snowball fights.
[00:05:29] Bonnie Mauldin: And that’s fun too.
[00:05:31] Sanjay Parekh: I went on the more fun side than making money myself. Okay, so when you started the Mauldin Group, what was the thing that drove you to realize, hey, I want to do this for myself and start a company? Was it purely like leaving the medical field or was there some other thing that kind of caused that switch for you to say, I can do this myself?
[00:05:55] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. So, I hired this guy to do Google ads for me. He came to my kitchen table at my house, and he explained this thing called Google to me, Google Ads, and he is like, yeah, you pay me 1500 bucks and then the Google Ads will appear when people search for your business. And then you know, you'll get new customers. I said, okay. Oh wow, that sounds like a cool idea. Let me do this thing called Google Ads. This is back when Google Ads was brand new. And I paid him the money and zero ads, zero leads, zero customers. I'm like, oh my gosh, I just paid this guy all this money, it took me six months to save this money from my job because I was in a transition. And zero.
So, I think that turned me into the Joker or something, I was like, dude, I can't lose this kind of money. I’ve got to learn how to do this myself. So, I got trained, got Google Ad certified, analytics certified, and just went at it, and business grew. Very successful. New customers. I'm like, this is the future. This is the, this internet thing, this social media thing, this Google Ads thing is the future. I need to dive in deep on this and do it for other people, because that's where the money is. And I was good at it, and I enjoyed doing it. So here we are.
[00:07:26] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, I guess in retrospect, it's good that guy took your 1500 bucks and gave you zero because otherwise you might not have been motivated to go figure this all out for yourself.
[00:07:36] Bonnie Mauldin: That's exactly it. It gave me the, what I call the joker moment, where I just lost it. Like, okay.
[00:07:44] Sanjay Parekh: So, when you were starting this was there anything that made you nervous about doing this on your own? Like, apprehensive, worried about, not making it work? What concerned you?
[00:07:58] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. The ebbs and flows of business make you nervous because the bills are consistent. However, the customer flow was not consistent. So, it was just like, when you're project based, then you get paid a one-time fee for a certain set of work. Then you're like, okay, you're chasing after that next customer in order to have the consistent cash flow. So that's the scary part.
[00:08:26] Sanjay Parekh: How did you how did you deal with that? Like how did you try to solve for that issue?
[00:08:31] Bonnie Mauldin: Subscription-based business, baby! Consistent cash flow every time. You know exactly how much you're going to make every month when you have your people set up on a subscription.
[00:08:45] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, you tried to switch over people to a subscription-based offering right? Early on, or did it take you some time to figure out like, this is a better way to go. What was the aha moment there?
[00:08:59] Bonnie Mauldin: Early on, because as I mentioned earlier, with project-based work, you're chasing down the next new customer right after the project’s done. But if I can keep them in my suite of services for a longer period of time with things that they need more consistently, then it's something that I can charge on a retainer basis.
[00:09:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, this market generally has not done subscription-based services, right? It has been project-based. So, how did you position this and sell it to your clients to make them understand that this would be better for them as well as better for you, obviously?
[00:09:45] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. So, simply put, when you do a one-and-done type of situation with any type of marketing program, it’s not going to work long term. For example, if you get graphic design and get a nice logo, and you get a nice email signature and you get a nice brochure, okay, what do you do with the brochure? What do you do with the logo? What do you do to make it work? There's no strategy behind all that, so I wanted to provide my clients with a strategy and a plan and a results-driven system that they can use, custom made for their business, that allowed that logo, that email signature, that brochure, that website to come to life, and actually produce new customers for them.
[00:10:36] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:10:57] Sanjay Parekh: So, from here, so you ran this for a few years, you're still running it. But you decided to add on. What was the thing that caused you to say hey, I want to start a production company now, right? I've already got this other thing, this marketing company. What was the aha moment that caused the thought that a production company makes sense?
[00:11:19] Bonnie Mauldin: Yes. I was working on a book called Work in Progress with my daughter's career coach. My daughter was in high school at the time. She was trying to figure out what to do with her life. I hired this career coach. The career coach gave her this really cool assessment to see what jobs line up with her skills and her aptitude and the assessment spit out all these results. You'll be good as a web designer, graphic designer, interior designer, she picked graphics and web design. Now she's in school, she's a sophomore in college for that profession. And if it weren't for this assessment that Lori gave Victoria, my daughter, I would not have a clue what we should do with her.
And so, Lori and I got together, we started working on a book, and the book is called Work In Progress. And I said I would like to have a TV show around this whole subject because so many kids are not happy with their education, they're not getting a good job after they graduate. Their education is obsolete sometimes after they graduate. They're not getting set up with foreknowledge about the professions that they're going to school for. Like me, when I went to school for being a doctor, when I really should have been in business. So, my personal experience really spearheaded this initiative through this book to have kids know what they're getting into before they jump into a major or minor in college. And so wanted to do a TV show that spun off from the book that I was doing with Lori. I started pitching the TV show and, as we speak now some television networks are interested in the concept. I'm working on some development deals as we speak, and I have a couple other show ideas that came after I had some success with that first idea with the Work In Progress book and TV show.
So, I was like, oh, I have some other ideas and started working on a food concept, an interior design concept, a home and garden concept. And so now I have all these concepts that I'm going to be pitching. One of my shows, Work In Progress, the first one, is a finalist at a national pitch competition that I'm going to do in June. So, all these cool things started happening and I was totally inspired by like Tyler Perry, what he's done with his business; Oprah Winfrey, the Queen of Media. Also, people like Tyra Banks and what she did with her television show and Shonda Rhimes, brilliant writer, came up with all these hit shows. I'm like, this is where it's at, man. I got to get in the game.
[00:14:12] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. So, you're pretty new in that business. So you've got two companies that you're running. You've got family, you've got all these things. How do you deal with juggling all of these things and the stress of running a couple of companies, family life, personal life, like all of those things? How do you handle that stress?
[00:14:34] Bonnie Mauldin: I am a stickler for writing things down and having a tight schedule and also having a very good team. If you don't have a good team behind you in your family, a good team behind you in your businesses, then you're going to fall apart. Everything's going to be terrible for you. So, you have to invest in team first, teamwork at home, teamwork in the business, and all of your initiatives. So, at home, I wake up at six o'clock in the morning. I work out, I have a protein smoothie. I go to my office. Eight to four, I'm working.
And then after I come home, then I have my dinner, and then I do some yoga or Tai chi, I read with my son, and then I go to bed. And that's my routine every single day on the personal front. And then on the business front, I have a column for the Mauldin Group initiatives, A, B, C, D. So and so is dedicated to A, this person dedicated to B, that person dedicated to C I'm dedicated to D and E. Each person has their own line item that they're dedicated to, and they do their task, and the work is done. Same thing with the secondary business. And just having a tight schedule, a list of everything that needs to be done and then delegation for each task is what allows me to keep it all together.
[00:16:07] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, is your work week Monday to Friday? Or do you also work on the weekends, or are the weekends, that's a boundary where you don't cross into?
[00:16:17] Bonnie Mauldin: I would say Monday to Saturday is my schedule. Because Saturday I just feel like there's so much to do. Maybe one day I can have Saturday to myself, but for now, I got to hustle on Saturday too.
[00:16:33] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. You mentioned an exercise routine where you're waking up at six and exercise. Does that go into Saturday as well, or is it seven days a week or is it five days a week? How do you fit it all in?
[00:16:44] Bonnie Mauldin: 6:00 AM I wake up every single day. Even on the weekends.
[00:16:49] Sanjay Parekh: Every single day? Sunday included.
[00:16:51] Bonnie Mauldin: Yes. I'm just on a schedule. I'm just, my body just wakes up at that time.
[00:16:55] Sanjay Parekh: Got it. So, seven days a week we're working out?
[00:16:58] Bonnie Mauldin: Yep.
[00:16:59] Sanjay Parekh: Oh, wow, okay. You're way better than I am. I don't always, every now and again, I can get to seven days a week, but man, seven days a week consistently is hard.
[00:17:08] Bonnie Mauldin: I'm totally motivated. I have some health things that makes it mandatory that I work out.
[00:17:15] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. And probably spending the time in the hospital that you talked about at the front end probably makes you a little bit more motivated too.
[00:17:25] Bonnie Mauldin: Exactly.
[00:17:26] Sanjay Parekh: How do you account for like other things around wellness for yourself too during the day, like sleep and taking time for yourself? Like how do you fit that in? And maybe it's not just during the day, but like over the year, like taking vacation and things like that. How do you work all of that in?
[00:17:42] Bonnie Mauldin: I'm still trying to perfect that because I'm in hustle mode still building the business. And when you when you're building the business, you have little to no time for yourself. But I try to do a hard stop at 7:00 PM for all of my work and emails. And then on Sundays I'm totally offline. I try to not to do anything. And then vacations, it's only once a year for now. But I'd like to build my way up to four times a year.
[00:18:12] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. That's nice.
[00:18:14] Bonnie Mauldin: Goals. Hashtag goals.
[00:18:17] Sanjay Parekh: Where was, if you don't mind me asking, where was the last vacation you took?
[00:18:21] Bonnie Mauldin: I went to, where did I go? Panama City Beach and relaxed on the beach.
[00:18:27] Sanjay Parekh: Relaxed on the beach. Hopefully you went there when it wasn't spring break for all the kids, so that it was a little bit more calm.
[00:18:34] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. I always go in May, before spring break hits.
[00:18:38] Sanjay Parekh: Nice. That's a good call right there. Okay, so let's talk about, so you mentioned a little bit about, how you've got these columns and how you organize the business so that you know who's doing what. Are there any other technologies or apps or systems that you use that help you manage all of the activities that you're involved with?
[00:19:01] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah, I use HubSpot for my CRM every time I meet someone new Boom in HubSpot, and then I connect with them on LinkedIn. Boom, LinkedIn, and then I connect with them on Instagram. Boom, Instagram. And Facebook and all the others. When I meet someone, I get them in my sphere of influence through the social channels and through my email newsletter. So, they hear from me on a frequent basis after we've connected somehow. And so, I've done that over the last 10 years. So, now I have thousands of people that I've met, that I've stayed in touch with virtually and built the relationship virtually with.
Which is really cool because I'll see someone out in the street and it's oh, Bonnie, and I'm like, “Who are you?” “I see you on social media!” Oh, okay. Yay.
[00:19:52] Sanjay Parekh: Are you good with names and faces or not?
[00:19:56] Bonnie Mauldin: Typically, yeah. So, I do a name association. So, for your name, Sanjay, I think of the sun, the beautiful sun, and a blue jay. Blue jay bird. So, when I see you, I think it's beautiful sun and blue jay bird, Sanjay.
[00:20:15] Sanjay Parekh: Yep. It's funny that you use that example because a lot of times I will use that exact same example to make sure people know how to pronounce my name because the a in the front when you spell it throws people off. Growing up in Kentucky I've been called all kinds of things. I pretty much respond to whatever. Any other like systems that you use, so you’re a big HubSpot user, anything else that you use? That man, if you didn't have it, it would be impossible to run these businesses?
[00:20:46] Bonnie Mauldin: I would definitely say Calendly, that tool is like life changing because I'm able to block off the times that I'm available. Boom, boom, boom. Monday this time. Tuesday that time. Yeah, Wednesday that time. And then when people see the calendar, they only see the times that are available for me, and they book the time, and it goes automatically to my calendar. I mean, brilliant.
[00:21:12] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I love it. Love it. Okay, so thinking back, you've been now hustling on this and being an entrepreneur for eight years, right? Since you started the Mauldin Group? Think back, like what is it that you've done in the past that if you could go back in time, that you would do differently?
[00:21:34] Bonnie Mauldin: Great question. What would I do differently?
[00:21:37] Sanjay Parekh: Not the $1,500 because that launched you, even though it was a bummer to lose the money, but it was an expensive education.
[00:21:46] Bonnie Mauldin: But there's some other things I lost money on that I think I would've liked to have my time back and my money back on. And on of the few things that I wasted money on was PR. Like, no.
[00:21:59] Sanjay Parekh: Was it that you wasted money on that because it was too early or wasn't the right fit of agency? What was the issue?
[00:22:09] Bonnie Mauldin: Not the right fit for agency. Not the right strategy.
[00:22:14] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. Got it.
[00:22:16] Bonnie Mauldin: Number two, magazines, print media, like advertising a thousand dollars for a one-page ad in a book. A local magazine, a local newspaper. Back in the day, newspapers were a thing.
[00:22:33] Sanjay Parekh: So, you spent money on ads in places like that and didn't convert anybody?
[00:22:39] Bonnie Mauldin: Zero leads. Postcard mailers. Did that a few times. Zero. Basically, the traditional advertising, I hate to just take a giant dump on all of that, but it just didn't work for me. And it's probably because I didn't spend enough money doing it long enough for it to work. Which is what you need — more consistency. And you frankly, when you're a small business, you don't have that budget to have the consistency you need in order to get results with traditional media. That's why bigger companies typically go down that route because they have that budget. But with digital, with the right strategy, you can get results immediately, which is what I like.
[00:23:26] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I see that as an issue time and again, where early-stage entrepreneurs are trying to act like big companies and do the same kind of marketing that they do, and you just, you don't have the capacity. You don't have the dollars to do that. And so, some of the things that you mentioned, obviously those work, but other things too of cultivating your own customers is obviously helpful. So, as you built up the business did you try to like, lean into word of mouth? Like how did you get your customers to talk about you to other customers or potential clients and refer people? Did you do anything, or did you just encourage it, or did you do nothing, and it just happened?
[00:24:12] Bonnie Mauldin: A little bit of all that you just said, but it was a concerted effort to get word of mouth going by asking people, clients to refer the business, making joint ventureships and joint collaborations with like-minded businesses, non-competing businesses with the same client base, making those partnerships happen. Referring business back and forth was a way to grow upward. Also, current clients being incentivized to give us referrals with a nice little discount off of their retainer monthly services. And then also people at networking events, for example, would just rant and rave about how great the services are, and then others would tune in and say, oh, really? Were you able to get that kind of result? I want that kind of result, then they follow us and come follow up with us for the services as well. So, a little bit of all that.
[00:25:11] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, you implemented something to give discount if somebody referred a new client to you, how did you figure it out? So, this is one of the challenges I see with a lot of entrepreneurs is they want to do this, but they can't figure out what is the right amount of incentive to give? And for the right length of time. So, how did you figure that out? Is it a permanent discount if you get a new client? Is it only for a certain amount of time? And how did you figure out the percentage or dollar amount to give?
[00:25:43] Bonnie Mauldin: I would say though a one-time discount would be sufficient if you try to give them a discount all together, you'll lose too much money on that. And just think about your cost per acquisition for your customers. If it costs you $50 to get a new customer, $500 to get a new customer, $5,000 to get a new customer, what would you feel comfortable paying out of your pocket for a new customer? Whatever that amount is, is the appropriate level of discount to give to your client for that new referral.
[00:26:17] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. I assume then by you saying that you've tracked your customer acquisition costs through all of your channels and so you know your blended cost of your customers coming in.
[00:26:31] Bonnie Mauldin: Absolutely.
[00:26:33] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, I think that's a little hidden piece of advice that you've given there, is that you should absolutely track your customer acquisition costs. Is there something that you do to track that, or is that within HubSpot, or is it some other way that you track those costs?
[00:26:47] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. So, each time you get a new client, what you want to do is ask, how did you find out about us? Put that in the contact form on your website, put that on your social media channels, put that in your questionnaires when you're talking to people over the phone. And once you have a nice database of customers and you run a report, a ‘how did you find out about us’ report. This many came from social media. This many came from word of mouth. This many came from the referral partner, and then whichever ones are at the top, that's the ones you double down on. This many came from Google ads. That's the one you spend the most money on, the most time on are the ones that are getting the biggest results.
[00:27:35] Sanjay Parekh: So, are you taking your cost on a monthly basis for marketing and then looking at the customers you've got that month, and then attributing that customer acquisition cost based on that? Or is it like a monthly that you're doing it or is it a quarterly, like how are you analyzing that?
[00:27:50] Bonnie Mauldin: Monthly, quarterly, and yearly.
[00:27:53] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. So, you've got a customer acquisition cost that's going throughout and you're seeing if you're going up or down or whatever, based on that.
[00:28:01] Bonnie Mauldin: Yeah. And it changes over time, and it changes as you have new things that you're adding to the marketing mix, like speaking engagements, conferences, expos, workshops, lunch-and-learns. As you aggregate all this data, you can see what is giving you the best return over time.
[00:28:18] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Interesting. Okay, I've got two last questions for you. First, if you were talking to somebody else, one of our listeners, that's thinking about taking that leap and starting a side hustle or turning their side hustle into a small business, what piece of advice would you give them?
[00:28:37] Bonnie Mauldin: Do not quit your day job. Keep your job. Pay your bills. Have a consistent way to earn a living first, and then start your site hustle. Dedicate an amount of your time. Block off an amount of your time on your calendar for that business every single week and stick to that schedule. And as the business grows over here and overtakes the job, overtakes the job in the amount of money, so you're making more on the side hustle than you are at the job, then you can quit the job and then go all in 100% on the side hustle.
[00:29:21] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. I like it. Okay, the last question for you then is, is there something based on your experience that a would-be client of yours should do before they hire a firm like yours to improve their marketing or things that they're doing inside of their business? What's that? What's that one secret thing? They should all know to do this, but they're not doing this, and you're going to tell us what that is right now.
[00:29:51] Bonnie Mauldin: Right now, I'm going to tell you, are you ready? Of course, you are. You just asked me.
[00:29:55] Sanjay Parekh: We're ready!
[00:29:57] Bonnie Mauldin: Okay, so this is going to sound so trite, but listen, it's so important. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Pick one or two things, maybe three, double down on that. Get super good at it. And then find one or two customer segments that service or product is for. And so that way you can have a laser focused approach in your marketing towards that customer base. And then you're going to speak so clearly to them. It's going to be in their voice, it's going to handle their objections, it's going to handle their goals, and they're going to be all over that product and service of yours because you are focused directly on them. If you try to go too far and too wide with too many things, then your marketing isn't laser focused. You're kind of all over the place and then you lose your message.
[00:30:53] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, that's great advice. This has been great. Bonnie, where can our listeners find and connect with you online?
[00:31:01] Bonnie Mauldin: You can connect with me at BonnieMauldin.com.
[00:31:07] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. There you go. That's the best place to go then for connecting with Bonnie. So, thanks so much for coming on the show with us.
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit www.hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter at @sanjay or on my website at www.sanjayparekh.com.