We did it! Our first podcast. Our guest was Lara Eastburn, founder of SuperHooper.org. If you ever thought “I’m just not the type to set up my own business”, have a look at this interview. She shares her very cool story of how she started SuperHooper.org, one of the first online hoola hoop stores in the US. She now works with her husband full time on her business. And just when things started to get a little routine, she started up a new business: Moonshine Marketeer. Check it out.
On Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmZRS6w9zGc
THE JOHN AND JANI SHOW: 30:11
John: Hey, welcome to the John and Jani Show, this is our first show ever and I’m your host John Khoury, I’m the founder of liquic.com and online therapist directory and I’m the author of a new book called “Quanology: Evolution and You” which hopefully will be coming out one of these days and with me is the lovely Jani Moon from New York City.
Jani: Hi, I’m a media coach in New York City, making people their loveable, star selves, including you John Khoury. Thanks for having me.
John: Thanks for being on the show Jani.
Jani: We’ll see.So…..
John: We’ll know after this show, what is this show all about? This show was inspired by that wonderful process of people going from one spot in their lives to another spot in their lives and we’re here to share that with you. We’ll take a look at some people who have gone from one place in their lives to this really cool place. We’re going to have cool people on the show talking about doing cool things, and why do we want to do that? Two reasons, we know that you guys want to do that sort of thing too, we know that you guys want to take your lives to the next level. And so that is what this is all about, part of that is looking at the step by step mechanics of how people did it and the other part is of course, developing that belief in yourself that hey, if they did it, I can do it too. And so we’ve got a really cool first guest, it is Lara Eastburn. Lara, is an entrepreneur, a “funpreneur” I think we call her and she started one of the first hula hoop businesses in the US called superhooper.org and she’s starting now a second business to help people deal with social media, trying to make social media more human, it’s called Moonshine Marketeer. We’re going to roll a clip now of Lara hula hooping.
John: There she goes.
Jani: I think Lara is the coolest person I know.
John: And I hope she’s on here with us, we’ve got her on here. Can you un-mute yourself Lara? Are you there? There we are, first guest. So welcome to the show Lara, from East Texas, is that right?
Lara: You got it John. Thank you, I’m excited, it’s pretty fantastic to be your first guest on what is clearly going to be one of the funniest show on the planet.
John: A shining beacon for people, that’s what we expect.
Jani: Yes, mission unstoppable.
John: Mission unstoppable, that’s the word.
Jani: From zero to hero in 20 minutes.
John: And was that you Lara? Going from zero to hero? Tell us about superhooper.org.
Lara: Well it’s got to start with a legend right?
Lara: I was actually getting my PhD in French Literature and fronting a blues band and we were down doing a gig in South Louisiana at a little bitty festival called the Ivanhome in 2002 and the very same day I met my husband and the hula hoop. And the hula hoop was this massive big, black circle just laying on the grass, just sort of mocking me because I’m not a dancer at all you know. I’d go to these music festivals and just kind of do the white girl bop you know? I mean it’s safe, it keeps me from hurting myself but I also couldn’t really enjoy the music like everyone else did. So I said, you know what? I’m gonna go get that hula hoop over there and then I won’t be dancing, I’ll be hooping and I picked that thing up and I swear to you, I hooped for 12 hours solid that first day. I was in love.
John: 12 hours of hula hooping, you were able to do that? You were able to just pick it up and go?
Lara: Ya, but you got to imagine the exhilaration. I’ve never been able to move in any sort of coordinated fashion ever. I’m somebody who bumped into walls and tables and now….
John: And that was the inspiration for this store?
Lara: Right, well I went home and I had to have it. So, I had to figure out how to make it and at the time there just wasn’t a lot online and there was one guy Jason Strause who put up instructions for making them. So the little kids’ hoops right, that you get at Wal-Mart, for an adult to try to step into one of those and make it go, it’s like …..It would be like me trying to put on a 3 year olds swim suit.
John: I’ve done that before, I’ve actually tried to hula hoop before and I thought, this thing is broken it doesn’t work because it had moments when it did work and then I had a really thin one I guess, with something wrong with it and it just didn’t work at all.
Jani: It wasn’t you John, it was the hoop.
John: Yeah, that’s what I told them.
Lara: It’s never you, it’s always the size of the hoop. So you make these things out of irrigation tubing, that’s actually what we use.
John: You’re basically saying that you had to make a bigger hula hoop than was available at local stores?
Lara: Yep. All the grown up hoops are still handcrafted.
Jani: So how do you guys….John knows French? We can’t not have you guys speak a little French. You were teaching French at a university right?
Lara: Yes, while I was a grad student, its part of the gig.
Jani: And you ended up leaving that right? How did you end up going from teaching French to hooping? Like full on business.
Lara: Once I figured out how to make these things and I was having so much fun, literally hooping four hours a day, I’d get up in the morning, turn on my turntable and I would just jam all day long. And so then what did I need? I needed people to hoop with. So I had to teach other people how to make hoops and sell them hoops and get them the hoops, so we could all hoop together. That turned into classes and then I was getting gigs at night, so I needed a hoop that would light up. I don’t know if you remember Jani…………….
John: Getting gigs, so for this blues band getting gigs or getting gigs for hula hooping?
Lara: Ya, I was a hula hoop performer because you know when you’re the only chick in town that hoops; this is way back in the day.
John: You were a hula hoop performer, where are you hula hooping and people are coming to see you?
Lara: Oh yeah, just picking up little gigs here and there and then I got paid pretty good for fire.
Jani: Yes tell us; let’s talk about that, fire hooping.
Lara: Well that comes after the light hoop right but first I just wanted to hoop at night and I don’t know if you remember but I was strapping glow sticks to the outside of my hoop. Then I’d have to crack it, snap it on, and so I started looking around online and sure enough there was a thing that existed called an LED hoop and it was four hundred dollars. It was the only one on the market, and I wanted one so bad but it was not in my college grad school budget.
John: Am I missing something? Does this connect with the blues band? Where do you get a gig performing hula hooping?
Lara: Just people that needed entertainment, clubs, bands, that kind of thing.
Jani: Hula hooping was something she did separate, she is a Janice Joplin singer, she was doing the blues that was separate from everything.
John: Got it, but then you decided I like hula hooping and then you just decided I’m going to try and do this for money, hula hoop for money?
Lara: Not yet, first I’m just hanging out, this is what I’m doing in my spare time at night.
Jani: Hanging out, yeah, you’re doing what you love.
Lara: Other than my dissertation I had for six years, it’s not like I had a whole lot to do, I’d teach a couple classes and had the rest of the day.
John: You needed a way to unwind a little bit and hula hooping became that way.
Lara: Exactly, it took me out of my head right, studying is no fun, so I really wanted this LED hoop, I didn’t have four hundred dollars but I did have three Georgia Tech roommates, Georgia Tech student roommates. So they put their brains together and we came up with a prototype and we realized that we could probably sell it for less than a hundred dollars, which is obviously different from four hundred. So I thought, I bet there’s other people that want these and so we threw them up online and that was the beginning, it was a total accident. It was a hobby, it was literally the reason it’s dot org and not dot com, I didn’t ever see it going that way.
Jani: There are a couple things Lara that I heard you did to make it successful, it was a hobby, something you loved and you had a creative team, you had friends that helped to support you and you saw a need from four hundred to a hundred.
John: Well you had that need yourself, you wanted a hula hoop but you couldn’t afford it.
Lara: It was all about me. I was just making what I needed. So then you stick fire on them.
John: Four hundred dollars is excessive and so you set that up and all of a sudden you have a…?
Lara: Now they cost that much again because the LED hoop has evolved to have little tiny computer brains that flashes to the music, you can program them, they’re crazy cool, they’ve just become amazing. Today, there’s, I don’t even know, certainly more than 25 LED hula hoop makers.
John: And you’re still one of them?
Lara: I’m still one of them and I train them on the business side because loving the hula hoop and running the business aren’t the same thing. I mean, I wasn’t a business major, I had to learn it all the hard way, it sucks.
John: And what were the things you learned? Can you tell us about that before we get into that fire thing because we do want to hear about that?
Lara: Well I had to learn how to make a website.
John: So who made the website?
Lara: I’ve made every one of them, I still make it.
John: Ok, because this was in 2002, you didn’t really have Magento, whatever, that online store that you can just click and you’ve got a store in like 20 minutes or something like that, right?
Lara: No, it was like a WYSIWYG, it’s not like coding or anything.
John: So you just threw up or took some pictures of some LED hula hoops, sold them for a hundred bucks and you said come and get them.
Lara: Mmmhm, then you had to figure out how to ship hula hoops, which is a whole lot of fun, rocket science.
John: Because you set them just the way they were, you don’t have to put them together like IKEA where you have to put them together, there’s like 2 halves of a circle and there is a guy saying click.
Lara: No, all these things they did now, but we didn’t have the time. Now we ship in boxes, before we’d have to wrap them all up in bubble wrap at the post office. I mean we were a serious joke across the nation, all the hula hoops we were trying to ship. We’d have these giant bubble wrap monsters. Ya, so everything, I had to figure out, I had to put PayPal, and the storage, this is way back in the day.
John: You had to get PayPal on there, they had to pay for it and they send you there stuff and I guess it’s almost like email, it sounded kind of like a little bit archaic right? You just kinda click I want to order this and then you get the order in and what was your first order, do you remember that at all?
Lara: It was an LED hoop, I want to say it was blue. Which I remember it, I was like holy shit! Somebody has bought a hoop. What? And so every year it just grew and grew and grew. Not just because the company was growing because I had gotten at the very beginning of a dance sort of revolution, you know. And hooping grows in popularity every year. It’s exponential. It became clear that the fastest way to sell more hoops was to make more hoopers, right?
John: Make more hoopers? And hoopers are people, is that what you’re telling me?
Lara: That’s right. You’ve got to convert them. These people, they either pick up the hoop and the spectrum of love is like extreme, they either pick it up and go eh! Whatever. Or they pick it up and just like oh my God, I have found my life’s calling.
John: They’re like olives in that respect.
Lara: Well just like I was, I was never able to move before, it was like being gifted the ability and permission to dance, it was the same.
Jani: Or you’re like me and you have to take Lara’s tubing class three times just to learn how to do it.
John: And so in a sense your marketing tactic is to just put in people’s hands and that just kind of spreads and people become totally into it and next thing they want a LED hoop.
Lara: Exactly, now they’re all kinds of different hoops.
Jani: You guys made it cool too, on your website you put pictures up of your family, you made it intimate, you made it cool, you were doing awesome classes. You were bringing a whole family feel to it as well.
Lara: Right, so like I said, I knew nothing about marketing but I knew a whole shit ton about shopping. So I went online and I looked at all the stores that I loved. Was it easy to buy things? Did they answer my questions? Mainly, I made the site that I would like to buy from. I guess I just approached it from the customer’s end. And I wanted to know, the only other site that was up there was just black, just a black site with pictures of the LED hoops because they light up, why wouldn’t you do that? And I said, you know, I kind of want to know who I’m buying this from. We were a small community at the time. So that’s when I decided, let’s start putting the family up there and people loved it, I realized that they were just as interested in us as they were the hoops. And that’s how we grew the whole “we are family, we are Super Hooper”.
John: Cool and how did you start to develop these hoopers? How did you start to get people into hula hooping?
Lara: Oh, I was just doing it in my little corner in Atlanta.
John: In your what now?
Lara: In my little corner in Atlanta, Georgia, there was me and then there were ten, and now there’s…..
John: You would go to the park and stuff?
Lara: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s where I met the people.
John: You’d go to the park and just start hula hooping yourself and people would come check it out and come watch. You have a couple laying around and say hey, give it a try.
Lara: A couple, twenty, because everybody, they’d never seen anything like it. And it is this amazing way to enjoy the music, I don’t know, it’s like an excuse. I’m not going to dance, I’m going to hoop. And there’s also something really deeper for older adults, they remember it from their childhood. They remember it from the fads of the 60s and they’re like, ooh I bet I can get some of that.
John: It kind of went away for a while and then it comes back and people are happy to see it again, is that it?
Lara: Exactly, I think there’s just something about the memory of it.
John: Nostalgic, yeah. Am I being sexist in saying that this is a woman’s thing? I honestly am very androgynous guy, I think its fun to hula hoop but I’ll get self conscious and I’ll look around and it’s like, I’m not supposed to be doing this. So it’s probably mostly women doing this?
Lara: There are more women hoopers than men but I’ll tell you the most famous hoopers are men.
John: The most famous hoopers are men? Throw a few names at me, see if I know them.
Lara: Think about the audience, most of the audience are women, so why wouldn’t they be men?
Jani: Makes sense.
Lara: Incredibly, I mean damn, there is nothing like a man hooper. This is not kid stuff, this is a pretty sensual dance, you know. Especially for our culture where we are just stiff unless you take a couple salsa classes but the guys come up and say, I can’t do that. And I say, really? Are you sure? ‘Cause hula hooping is just like making love, you’re sure you can’t do it?
John: It takes some balls to hula hoop.
Lara: And they’re like, oh now hold on, you know now, let me give that thing a whirl. That’s my trick to get them in it.
John: So the business has grown, it’s time Jani.
Lara: Oh no worries.
John: The business grows and you start with a few customers and it’s growing every year and to the point where you’re still in grad school and then what? You make a shift to doing that full time or is it something that supports you full time? Or was that ever the intention?
Lara: Yeah, it was a darn good part time job you know. Part time income and then one day, it was literally like six months after the recession started, I looked at Drew my husband and said, I think we can make a go at this. I think you can quit your job. [He said]“Are you crazy? Like quit my health insurance? You’re out of your mind, the recession just started, there’s no way”.
John: Were you too busy that he couldn’t keep it? I imagine that would be a pull.
Lara: I realized that the more time I spent on the business, the faster it grew. So I felt that if I could spend all of my time on it, then it could support us but I knew that it was going to mean taking that leap. It required it and I still think that’s true.
Jani: Was that scary?
Lara: Moving from a part time business, making it a full time business, that transition is just….. I mean you can keep waiting for it to be big enough but….
John: But your husband, did he have to quit too at that moment? Did he have to quit his job and help out? Were you already doing it full time? Did you kind of go and what do they call it? Chop?
Lara: No, I depended upon his labor a lot. You know, we shipped far away.
John: Were you already full time and then he was still working at his job, or did you both quit at the same time?
Lara: We both quit at the same time, I was teaching French in college, so I had a pretty easy work load but he had a full time job. So we quit, we got on that bus right back there, I don’t know if you can see it really well.
John: I can see it.
Lara: We renovated that school bus, we painted that, and we had a three year old and a Labrador and we went around the country, nineteen cities, doing free classes and free fire instruction just to help make more hoopers. I knew it was gonna require that too.
John: And how did you plan for that? Did you just take off? Did you have to take a couple months to set that whole thing up or you just took off?
Lara: We just took off because to find someone to teach hooping at the time was really rare, it was only in the big cities, so our objective was to go to the more rural areas where there were hoopers that would put us up if we would help build their hooping community. So if you could take somebody that everybody knew, like us, and come into an area, that would bring all the other people from the rural areas from right around there and they’d create a community. So that’s what we were trying to do during that year.
John: Got it.
Jani: That’s awesome. So John we have time, we need a cheers [raises wine glass] We’re cheering now because Lara’s starting a new business and we want to make sure you have time to talk about that because you’re a freaking rock star. I’m drinking Saki by the way.
John: I’m drinking whiskey.
Lara: Cheers to both of you.
John: So, the Moonshine Marketeer. When did this come into the picture?
Lara: This came into the picture because as Super Hooper grew, when you’re the only one doing it, you have to do everything. You’re the bookkeeper, you’re the P.R person, you’re the marketer, you’re the producer, you’re running customer service, operations and good grief! And then it gets more and more time consuming and at some point not all of it is fun anymore. So I started reevaluating, I didn’t want to do all of it. So I started thinking, which is my favorite part? Which is the part that I love? It was clearly the marketing part because I mean, dude I could sell hula hoops. If I could sell hula hoops, I could sell anything. So that’s what I liked, I liked communicating something that was really a niche product or niche community, it was hard to describe and hard to communicate. And then I realized that I really liked doing that on social media and because we had built a brand that was so focused around our family, I realized that on social media, we were doing things a lot differently than other companies. We weren’t stiff; there were pictures of our naked baby in piles of hoop tubing. We loved it. It became obvious to me that the more fun I had on social media, the bigger we got and as time passed, I started having more fun. So that’s where we are now. This is what I wanna do all the time.
Jani: So what is your business now, The Moonshine Marketeer? What specifically do you help people with?
Lara: Well switching it from thinking of social marketing as a strategy, something that people find so confusing, so hard. It’s a different kind of platform, a community to get involved in and the idea that we have to have a strategy, that we need experts, that people can actually call themselves a social media guru, it makes me laugh, it makes me chuckle. Because in my experience with small businesses, the more personal, the more human, the less polished I am, the more fun I have, the more of myself and family we show, the better we do.
John: I’m going to raise a flag here because I am one of these people who is not really into social media. I’m not the most fluid, shall we say, social person in the world. When I get on certain things I am worried if I’m saying the right thing, is this ok for me to say or not? Because I will say all kinds of crazy shit but you have something in the back of your head that says that’s probably not a good idea. I’ve been burned by that before.
Lara: Yeah it’s true and it’s why I have a job because I remember that really well, especially when starting out and I didn’t know anything about business. There is this big list of “shoulds” that we’re supposed to do. We should get business cards, which now I consider an expensive land fire, I mean seriously, have you ever kept a business card?
John: I think they’re silly too.
Jani: I like mine.
Lara: I say turn those into a magnet, as someone with kids, I know I keep magnets. So it’s hard, it really is hard the first time, it’s uncomfortable. It’s a whole world out there and if you show your ass it’s tough but people love it when you show your ass. They love it.
John: A whole new level.
Jani: The people that you want. Yes John, this could take the show to a next level.
Lara: That’s a metaphor John, keep your pants on. So everybody wants to look so polished and perfect and that they’ve got it all straight, and I’ve found that the more I show of myself and how hard it is and that I don’t know everything, it makes me trustworthy. Which, in this day and age, is a very difficult thing to find?
John: I can imagine and I’m going to raise that flag again because, is this not also something a little bit inherent in your business because you do hula hoops? You could say whatever you want and I’m still going to buy a hula hoop from you. Does it not go with the territory a little bit; hula hoop and being loose and fun? Where as an insurance sales man on social media can’t sell….
Jani: That’s what would make you stand out John, if you were a loose and fun insurance salesman.
Lara: Look at the most recent State Farm campaign, it’s hilarious.
John: I haven’t seen them.
Lara: Yes you can be fun, you can be funny, we all need a little bit of levity right? Everything is so serious.
John: I can agree with that but I haven’t seen State Farm, sometimes you see good commercials from these very stiff companies but I know for a fact that there is a huge budget behind that and it’s going through like a hundred people before it’s on TV.
Jani: Excuses, excuses.
Lara: And their social media still sucks, they still do social media like big business, because it’s hard. That’s one thing that we, a small and micro business always beat big corp at. Right? We have the ability to be human and respond directly to our customers, speak to them, have relationships, build relationships. That is the advantage that we have and to not leverage that, to not realize that, to not get the most out of it as you can, especially because it’s so much freaking fun, right? Why would you not do that?
John: Why would you not?
Jani: That’s great. Lara, I know we have to end here soon, let’s get one epic, Olympic piece of advice that you would have for people out there who are starting a business. What could you tell them?
John: Give it to us, Lara.
Jani: Come on, we’re ready!
Lara: Show your ass, does that count?
John: Thanks everybody for joining us today, you’ve got it right from Lara Eastburn.
Jani: Show you ass, that’s great.
Lara: This is so much fun.
Jani: We love you so much.
Lara: You’ve got to have me back for the first anniversary show okay.
John: That would be fun. That would be nice. Thanks so much for joining us today Lara.
Jani: Thanks so much.
John: I’ve learned a lot, thanks Lara, we’ll stay in touch and everybody, that website is superhooper.org and the new one for Moonshine Marketeering is laraeastburn.com, have I got that right? It is laraeastburn.com?
Lara: You got it.
John: Ok, we’re going to post it on the website anyway. Alright Lara, thanks, take care.
Lara: I love you guys.
Jani: Thank you, bye.
John: I think she’s gone. Ok Jani, it’s just you and me now. What did you think of that?
Jani: Wow! Oh my gosh, what an inspiration.
John: It was very inspirational.
Jani: Let’s talk about what could people learn from what she did. Like, there were a couple of thing right? Like, be yourself, show your ass
John: Show your ass. I’ve got another one too. I think the first thing I’m going to say as a guy who lives in the corporate world for most of my life, she does not look like an executive to me. She’s sitting there in something in East Texas or whatever and I would not think, oh business woman when I see her but there she is banging it out.
Jani: Severe business woman.
John: I am going through these little phases where I think to myself, yeah that’s not for me or this is not for me, and I can imagine some people, not everybody is an entrepreneur they say but there she is doing it.
Jani: What’s great about it is that it started as a hobby, started as fun, she got creative people around her, she was solving problems as she met bumps in the road. She asked herself important questions like what would I want? She said it was all selfish. That was great.
John: Totally, it also sounded so organic; it just kind of went very naturally and very effortlessly. That’s kind of looking very effortless I must say, which annoys me at some point but it shows a lesson.
Jani: Me too.
John: But maybe when things are going too hard it’s not the right thing, you know what I mean? There’s something broken there, when things go very effortless like that it seems that the path is laid out for you and you just have to be yourself.
Jani: I don’t think it was totally effortless. This is a really philosophical question John, how much was it a struggle? I mean I’m sure she thought, like when she was trying to figure out how to mail the hoops right, that was a struggle, right? She figured it out but it was effortless in just the love for it. Huh? What do you think?
John: It felt like that yeah. I mean, just to go to the park and start hooping, that’s what she would do. Yeah I could see her in the park hula hooping but you wouldn’t realize because it flows so naturally that a business is behind that and there she goes making this money and getting these orders and making this life for herself now.
Jani: And even the second business came organically because here’s another one now, she asked herself really great questions. What do I love doing? What do I not love doing? And then taking what she loved and started the other business. I mean, how amazing.
John: Yep, definitely.
Jani: So great John.
John: This is fun; I enjoyed our first show Jani. I drank a little too much, next time we’re not going to drink this much.
Jani: I did too. We can be Hoda and Kathy, this was only for Moonshine Marketeer here, I think we should toast to Lara one last time and to you and I.
John: To you and I.
Jani: To mission unstoppable.
John: That was our show, great; I’m excited for the next one. We’re not sure when the next one is but it’s going to be soon I’m sure and we’ll get all the stuff up on YouTube and transcribe it and all that stuff. Great, Jani thanks.
Jani: Talk to you soon.
John: Thanks everybody for watching, talk to you soon. Take care, bye-bye.