Koby Conrad with his business partner and girlfriend, Emily Eveland
You should meet Koby Conrad.
If you're older than him, he'll make you more optimistic about the future.
If you're his age, he might inspire you.
Conrad is a 20-year-old college student. Unlike most 20-year-old college students, he's also a business owner.
Conrad owns an online store called Hippie Hope Shop.
There, he sells goods like hookahs, incense, and hippie clothes made out of hemp. He gets traffic to his shop by running a Facebook page called "The Hippy Bloggers."
He also runs another Facebook page called Mother Hemp, which sends traffic to a store called Mother Hemp Products.
The business seems to be going well. In an email conversation, Conrad says it pays for his entire living. He also tells us he's about to sell 50% of the shop to two investors in two $30,000 chunks. He plans to use the money to buy "likes" on Facebook. "The Hippy Bloggers" currently has 75,000 likes. Conrad wants to get that number to a million. By his math, that many likes will put his revenues past $50,000 per month — $600,000 per year.
Obviously, Conrad might be wildly overestimating his ability to scale his small online retail business. But you've got to love the ambition and the hustle.
We met Conrad via email earlier this week when he cold-emailed Business Insider.
He had something to say about a series of posts we've written about changes Facebook recently made that have negatively impacted lots of people in several industries.
Early in December, Facebook changed the algorithm that determines which stories show up in your News Feed — that column of status updates, news stories, photos, and videos that you see when you open up a Facebook app or go to Facebook.com
Facebook said the point of the change was to make it so users see more "higher quality stories" and fewer joke photos and thin viral content.
The change may have had that effect, but it also had another one with wide-spread consequences: it made it so that when Facebook brand page owners posted a story, a much smaller percentage of the people who "like" their pages see that story. Some page owners said their "reach" decreased by as much as 90%.
The change to Facebook upset a lot of people, and we wrote a bunch of stories about it…
Then Conrad emailed me.
His message, paraphrased: All the people who are complaining about Faceobok's changes are just using Facebook the wrong way.
He sent along some advice for how these page-owners should actually be using Facebook. We turned this advice into a post. The story went nuts, with ~100,000 views. When a Facebook executive saw the post, he messaged us to say Conrad's suggestions are "surprisingly sane."
So who is this kid?
Conrad tells us he first got into online marketing way back when he was 19 and "knew absolutely nothing."
He started with a YouTube page. Then he came to Facebook and built The Hippy Bloggers, which sends traffic to HippiesHope.com. Then came Mother Hemp. Now he's running a small retail empire and taking on investors.
Conrad says the best thing he "ever did" was go into consulting.
"I never made any real money off of it. I had maybe 10 clients. But my 10 clients, they opened my eyes. CEOs I was consulting for hours — I made friends with lots of them, and they turned into mentors for me."
One of those mentors, CEO of Cromogen Biotechnology Michael Brubeck, says Conrad "is the most innovative individual that I have worked with in the marketing industry."
Besides his former consulting clients, Conrad also says he's found lots of support for his entrepreneurialism online – particularly in a sub-section of Reddit called "r/entrepreneur."
"Nobody tells you this, but there are actual communities of real entrepreneurs online," he says.
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Conrad is not the next Mark Zuckerberg or Kevin Systrom.
He's not a hacker building the next $1 billion or $100 billion social network.
He's something almost better.
He's a kid with limited technical expertise, who is using the Internet to build a fast-growing, small business.
He's the kind of hustling, hard-working person the experts say doesn't exist in his "millennial" generation.
"Everyone always tell you to be scared," he says.
"Be scared of things going wrong, be scared of things not working, be scared of the people you meet online, but no one ever tells you that it could all actually work."
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