This Veteran Knows a Thing or Two About Grit

As a Grit Daily News journalist, professionalism and non-bias are essential. That said, this week’s Like a Boss podcast guest takes awe to a whole new level of inspiration – and be prepared for a fan-girl moment with next week’s guest, Espree Devora. But, back to this week’s podcast guest star. Make no mistake, veteran Nick Palmisciano is a star.

Meet Veteran Nick Palmisciano

The accolades, almost too numerous to mention, each earned and much deserved, serve as an embodiment of his character. Before we get into the podcast, let’s begin by thanking Mr. Palmisciano for his service in the military. He served in the Army as an infantry officer and range instructor. Palmisciano returned home from his deployment only to learn that he and his family were named on the ISIS Kill List. Shaken, but not stirred, he indulged his need for creative enterprise when he left a Fortune 100 job to found RangerUp, a t-shirt business, back in 2006. However, the apparel business is not an easy one to succeed in.

When I started, I was very confident, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’ve had tons of failures; the overall businesses haven’t failed, but I’ve been up against the ropes a number of times.

Nick Palmisciano

With only $1,300 in his bank account at the time, and more than $50,000 charged on his credit cards, Palmisciano knew that he had succeed – he just didn’t know how. He vowed to find a way because he had to. As a newly divorced single Dad with a 1- and 3-year old by his side, they spent their days in a warehouse stacked with t-shirts that weren’t selling. And he did.

Then he sold the business and went on to write the script for the film, Range15. The movie is the only independent film to hit #1 on Amazon and boasts the highest donations of any crowdfunded creative effort. When asked why his film didn’t also hit #1 on iTunes, he had this to say, “Angry Birds. I’ll never forgive those birds for that.”

Advice in the Bonus Edition of the Like a Boss podcast

His new venture is in media, Diesel Jack Media. The brand embraces the edge. Perhaps it even goes beyond it. Empowered with a tagline, “Because we don’t suck,” the media company hit seven figures in its first year. Now in year two, its growth continues to explode. Eager to learn more, Grit Daily News interviewed Palmisciano and featured him on our Like a Boss podcast. It’s all about the combination of storytelling and grit.

Grit Daily: You made a huge leap from the military to civilian life. What was that like? And what would you do over?

Nick Palmisciano: It’s a tough transition. Arguably, I had the easiest one possible going from the military to Duke University. Veterans lose two things when we leave the military: purpose and tribe. You go from living a life with the mission to protect the nation and the people around you, surrounded by like-minded people with the same belief system, to a comparatively lower amount of responsibility with people much more focused on their own lives. For me personally, I also felt a lot of guilt. I lost several friends to the war just after I got out.

When I was young and working at a Fortune 100 company, I was making a lot of money. Society told me that I should be happy. But it took me a while to figure out why I wasn’t. Ranger Up, my first company, was born out of my unhappiness. I needed purpose and I needed to rebuild a tribe and would have done anything differently. Both the good and the bad led to the person I am today. The bad times often create the good times. Wait…actually, I would have bought bitcoin super early. Other than that, I feel pretty good about life.

Keep reading below for the full interview and tune into the podcast.

Grit Daily: Diesel Jack skyrocketed with a slogan, “We don’t suck.” Tell us about how you made the decision to go out like that?

Nick Palmisciano: Have you ever hired an agency? I have. Our other founders have. They all sucked.  All of them. Allow me to explain. Agencies have an amazing way of selling, but not delivering. It’s wild. They build you amazing decks and presentations that make you feel like they have the answer. Then you find out that none of the things you thought you were paying for are included in the price. Only that happens after you sign the contract. Suddenly, everything is extra. Everything requires scope. The back and forth is endless. As a customer, you feel like you are actually writing all of the content and providing so much input that you wonder what you’re paying for. It’s just a shitty experience. I shared some details about this on your podcast.

So we wanted to transform that philosophy and say, hey, we don’t have answers. We don’t even know if this will work. But we’re going to do some bold stuff if you’re willing, and if it works, awesome, and if it doesn’t, we’ll keep trying. And for our customers, we’ve been able to deliver pretty extraordinary results. Why? Because we’re committed to finding it, not because we always have the right answer, but b. When you realize the industry you’re about to enter is full of charlatans, it’s easy to be a business that people appreciate.

Lessons on Crowdfunding

GD: You’ve had extensive experience crowdfunding. Today, there are more than a dozen different platforms. When does it make sense for a company to crowdfund?

NP: Crowdfunding is hard work just like everything else. It’s not about just throwing up a campaign; it takes planning and effort. The approach makes the most sense when you are attempting to either A) Presale an existing production order; or B) Get enough capital to produce the goods. If you can make the product on your own and it doesn’t require a substantial capital investment to get a minimum number of sellable pieces, just go ahead and go to market. That situation doesn’t need crowdfunding.

When we made Range15, we didn’t have investors nor access to capital required to make a featured motion picture, so crowdfunding was the best option. But for our clients that have pieces available right now, there’s not really a need to crowdfund. You’re better off focusing your efforts on your permanent home  – your website and audience. It’s best to get products and services into the hands of customers and let them guide you on product improvements and innovations.

GD: Your movie had enormous success on a crowdfunding platform. Why do you think that was?

NP: Two things. To start, we had a pre-existing community and a lot of respect in that community. At the time we raised money for Range15, I was already running Ranger Up which had a loyal following. Article 15 was just emerging as a prime player, but they had a very passionate following as well.  Separately, a lot of us had individual personal followings. Both companies had a content first strategy: making funny videos, being personalities, building small followings. It’s a lot easier to sell to people that already like you.

Second, we built a quality piece of entertaining content for our crowdfunding video. Almost every movie on Indiegogo or Kickstarter uses the same formula: a micro-trailer showing what the film is about with a message from the people raising. Our team utilized this nice and boring formula crafted as a mini-production about the idea of making a veteran movie. We entertained the audience without even telling them what the movie was going to be about. All that we did was promise that it would be nuts. The end results was different and it was entertaining. We thought, ‘Hey someone should probably start a marketing company that focuses on those things.’

Advice for Entrepreneurs: Listen to the full Podcast

GD: Give us a few “best tips” on how to have a successful crowdfunding campaign.

NP: You either need a great product or a great story. Put another way, if you don’t already have a community to sell into, you either need a product that very obviously solves a problem people need solved, or you need to tell a story that motivates people to invest in you. They need to believe in you or your product – preferably both – or it isn’t going to work. Once you have those things, then constant updates and communication is vital. People want to see their investment deliver a result. When we started Range 15’s crowdfund, we wanted $350 K. We raised almost $1.4 M on and off the platform and were able to make a much bigger movie than we ever would have dreamed of making by constantly telling our fans what the next investment amount would translate to in the film.

GD: What message do you want to communicate to entrepreneurs reading this?

NP: Life is short and time isn’t guaranteed. Take risks. Go for it. Ignore your friends, peers, and family that are telling you to take the safe path. They mean well, but they don’t know what the $%&(@ they are talking about, because they’ve never made the leap and they don’t know what it feels like to forge your own path. You’ll never be satisfied if you don’t get after it. Nothing is worse than regret. 

Spoiler: this is the critical insight from the podcast. Everything that Palmisciano knows can be summed up in one sentence, “If you don’t suffer, you don’t learn. That builds grit.”

To hear more, tune into the podcast to get his rich advice on entrepreneurship and his thoughts on what Generation Z needs to do differently. Also featured on the podcast, his request for Grit Daily readers to take a look at Warrior Rising, a veteran-owned business focused on training veterans to become entrepreneurs. If you can serve as a mentor, sign up!

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Dr. Loralyn Mears is a content marketer, founder of an edtech startup and a freelance columnist at Grit Daily covering women in tech, startups, founders,  investors, events - and even wine! She spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us."  Check out her LIKE A BOSS podcast which features fascinating guests with snappy insights. In her consultancy practice, she helps companies with their go-to-market strategies, content and more.

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