This week marks the 200th episode of the Summit Host Hangout Podcast, and I honestly never dreamed I’d hit this milestone of 200 weekly episodes of this podcast!
I’m having a little moment of pride as I look back and think about all that has happened in the nearly 4 years of podcasting and documenting the Summit in a Box journey through these episodes. And this week, to celebrate, I want to do a deep dive into the wild ride I’ve been on over the past few years, and how we got to where we are now.
I remember back in 2018, before starting this podcast, I heard an influencer say that you haven’t found your thing until you could talk about it forever. At the time, I didn't think that was true or even possible, but here we are, 200 episodes into summit talk, and I feel like we’re just getting started!
If you’ve followed along with this podcast over the years, THANK YOU for being a part of this journey. I’ve got a lot to share this week, so let’s dive right in. In this episode we’ll be starting right back at the beginning and covering:
This deep dive into the journey of Summit in a Box is a little business, a little personal, and I hope it’s fun and interesting to you!
Prefer to listen to this post instead? Use the links below to listen on your preferred podcast player:
Download the episode transcript here.
The journey of this business started right after I ran my first summit. That first event made $16,000, which was huge for me and my business at the time, but I honestly didn’t trust that my results were good enough to start teaching other people. My $16k summit was completely life and business-changing, but for big businesses that were already making millions, it wouldn’t be that impressive. So I had a lot of imposter syndrome!
The thing that kept me going and pushed me to share how I planned, strategized, and launched that first summit was knowing how impactful it could be for people who were at the same place I was at in business. I had just hosted an event that worked well, I developed a great process that could be repeated, and I had so many templates and systems created that it just seemed silly to me that anyone would have to figure it all out again on their own.
I went in with low expectations and just a desire to make the resources, systems, and strategies that led to my successful summit available to others who wanted to host summits. I wanted to give people a good starting point with the information, templates, and processes I had, so they wouldn't have to start from scratch.
When I decided to launch this business, it was one of many things that I had going on at the time, and it was honestly very hard. I had another business that I was running full-time, another part-time business I co-owned, a different podcast, I was planning my next summit, and I had a newborn baby with no childcare!
I had a whole lot of self-doubt, but I also had a lot of excitement and a really strong feeling that I was supposed to keep going with this idea. I feel like when God has something he wants me to do, I am physically pulled toward that thing, and that's definitely what was happening with Summit in a Box at the time.
Despite that gut feeling that I needed to keep going, I honestly didn't think it would work. Up to that point, I had never done anything in business that just worked really well, so I was skeptical. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so I wrote a few blog posts, leveraged the audience I already have with my other business to kick off the Instagram account, and launched a super minimum viable product.
And it worked! It was fun to launch the initial Summit Hosting Process Map for $197 and have people actually want it. It was so weird for me to have people buying something that I’d created and it was a nice change of pace from the client work I’d been doing for years and years. So I just kept going!
Once I saw some initial success with that first digital product, I was ready to start working towards my big vision for the full Summit in a Box product that I had envisioned when I came up with the name for this business.
But first came the Summit Host Vault Membership. I knew I couldn't make the entire process and training manual and templates for a summit and launch it right away, so the membership came next. It’s nuts for me to look back on that time and see how unsure I was of what I was doing. I had so much doubt about the value of what I was selling that when I initially launched the membership, I charged $12 per month, and promised all of the people who joined in that first launch free access to what is now Summit in a Box.
Those initial members ended up paying maybe $100 total for the resources that I now sell for thousands of dollars inside of our Summit in a Box and Launch with a Summit Accelerator programs. I was so uncertain, but I'm also so freaking glad that I did it, and I am so grateful for those 22 people who were with me from the very beginning!
After launching the membership, I continued to add new resources each month, and each month it grew both in terms of the resources I added and the number of people in it. Every time someone joined, I was just in awe. I celebrated every single new person who joined the membership, and each time, I felt just a little more confident.
Eventually, I realized I was never going to finish the full Summit in a Box product at the current pace of adding three new resources per month. I wanted to move faster, so I spent several months going all in on that program and created as many resources as I could. I finally had it all created and ready to start selling in March 2020…
Remember what was going on in March 2020? The timing of the initial Summit in a Box was wild. I honestly think that launching right around the same time that everyone was trying to figure out how to pivot and bring their businesses online really helped this business take off the way it did. But I had no idea how it was all going to play out at the time.
That launch was honestly terrifying because I had put my heart and soul into creating this program. I knew that if I had to, I could always go back to the membership model, but I had really put my all into Summit in a Box and I really didn’t want to have to do that.
In the end, it all paid off with results that surpassed expectations.
I priced the program at $1,500 initially and considering everything that was in the program at that time, I think that was the perfect price point for everyone. But at the time I had never sold a digital product for more than $200 at the time, and I just had no idea of what to expect selling something at that price point.
I set a goal of $10-20,000, but instead, we brought in $60,000, and my life and business were literally changed by that first Summit in a Box® launch.
After that, I knew that people truly wanted this, and I felt like I could go all in on this and that it would work.
Things grew quickly after that first launch and included growing my team. Up until this point, I had been working with contract VAs, but for the amount of hours I needed, the costs just didn’t add up, and I decided to hire an employee.
In May 2020 I put out my first employee job posting and along came someone from close by with a teaching background named Kate. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve seen her in the Summit Host Hangout Facebook group and heard her join me on a podcast episode where we talked about her role in producing one of our recent summits. She is absolutely incredible, and hiring her was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for this company.
When she first came on, I was very afraid of the salary part of having an employee and promising to be able to pay someone a big chunk of what I was used to making in a year. So she started off part-time because of that. But during that time Summit in a Box® was growing so quickly that she came on full-time within a couple of months. I am so thankful to May 2020 Krista for making that call.
In addition to that genius hire, I’ve also made some terrible hires over the years.
I have hired expensive contract VAs that have come and gone in different fashions.
One thought I was mad at her when I wasn't and assigned all of her tasks to Kate and I right before Christmas break and just left without saying anything, causing me to have to work through the time I was going to take off for Christmas break. We had one VA come in through an agency who was the most impersonal person I've ever worked with in this online space and just paid no attention to detail. I had to pay a three-month commitment upfront to hire them, but I literally let her go after a week and just paid the balance anyway to be done with it. I've tried some VA from the Philippines, which sometimes worked out and sometimes didn't. Overall, it didn't feel good to me values-wise to pay someone less than I pay someone in the US, so I didn’t experiment with that for long.
There have definitely been ups and downs in my experience with hiring and building my team, but the core team is a dream to work with and they can’t get away from me.
Right now my team is made up of…
It's easy for people to look at Summit in a Box® and give me a lot of credit. But honestly, the credit does not go to me, the credit goes to God because I did not have any of these ideas on my own. And oh my goodness, I could not do what I do without this team. I'm so grateful for them and watching this team grow has been incredible.
I never thought I would have employees because the tech and legal stuff felt so intimidating, but I'm so glad I took the time to learn it. It has been the best move to have people who truly care and are all in for this company. They're all in with me, I support them, and they support me and it is just the best.
Many things have changed over the years since launching this business, but one thing that hasn’t changed at all: my family still has no idea what I do! At this point, I find it hilarious that they are so confused about it, but it hasn’t always been that way
When I started my first business as a website developer, I had a lot of anxiety about quitting my job and focusing on that business full-time, and my family definitely didn’t make it any easier.
I originally came from a software development background, I was making about 70k a year at that job at age 24. Where I'm from most jobs are paying 20 to 30k per year, so that salary was huge. When a couple of more outspoken family members caught wind that I was quitting that job to start my own business, it was not pretty. They were truly mad and confused and scared, and they were not afraid to tell me about it. They were calling and wondering what I was doing with my life, and of course, that made a terrifying situation of leaving that job even worse.
Over the years, I’ve gotten more than my fair share of comments from a couple of specific family members about my “little business” or the idea that I just sit around at home and don’t do anything. I was really starting to get sick of it, and after things with the business grew so much in 2020, I stopped trying to be humble.
I started letting it slip a few times how much money came in from different launches, or I complained about how much we had to pay in taxes, and did little things like that. They still don’t have a clue what I do, but the comments stopped after that.
There have definitely been challenges and anxiety caused by running this business without much support from my family, but I fully believe that I am not and was not in charge of the situation. I 100% believe that God has led me every step of the way, even before I knew how to pay attention to where he was leading. My husband has also been so supportive and never once wavered in his support of me either ever.
Those two things kept me pushing forward despite all those doubts.
I’ve already touched on the different things I offered before launching the full Summit in a Box® program. Now let’s dive into the changes that have happened since that point. For a full two years after launching Summit in a Box® in April of 2020, that program was our core offer, and everything we did was focused on selling that program. I continued to add new content and resources to the program each month, and after about a year, I realized that hundreds of poorly organized resources were not giving people the experience I wanted them to have.
The only complaint we ever got from our students in Summit in a Box® was that it was hard to find what they were looking for, or that the program was overwhelming. People loved the actual content, but I knew that we could organize it better and provide a better experience.
I decided to work with Emily Walker, a learning designer who specializes in online course design, and we totally revamped the entire course into what it is today.
We now have learning designers join the program and rave about the experience saying that it’s on par with what learning companies with big budgets are doing.
In addition to working with a learning designer, I have also done a round of updating almost every single video in Summit in a Box® as well. Our design templates have all gone through a round of overhauls, and as of recording this, we're making our way back through to update our copy templates. A lot can change in two years in this online space, so I make it a priority to continuously improve that program.
We also continue to increase the prices we do as we make updates to the program and see more and more people get incredible results from it.
At this point, I love where that program is at content-wise, quality-wise, and price-wise and I’m so proud of it.
Summit in a Box® has been a constant for our business for the past two years, but I’ve also played around with offering other things as well.
I’ve offered VIP Days and one-off strategy sessions, but honestly, I just don’t love them. It always turns into like a rapid-fire Q&A that someone else could get all the answers to by just going through Summit in a Box or the Accelerator.
I've also offered Day of Voxer Coaching here and there, but I find that I just can't get anything done with Voxer going off all day, so I've taken those down too. I might come back at a much higher price point someday, but who knows?
Overall, offering summit strategy or coaching services didn’t work for me for a long time, so I just stopped offering services for a while.
But now that our team is super solid, we’ve been experimenting with bringing back implementation services. Kate loves working on summits and has been wanting to be able to help our clients with things, so we've started offering speaker management and Kajabi website setup to our Accelerator clients. These services just feel fun to us, so they might end up staying during seasons when we’re not super busy with something else. Right now we’re not taking on any new clients because we’re focused on a big client project that I didn’t see coming…
This is something that I never imagined I’d offer because I thought that no one would pay the price I would need to charge, but right now we are in the process of producing a summit for a client!
Summits are a lot of work, so I’ve always thought that in the time it would take my team to produce someone else's summit at the level we do, we might as well do something big for ourselves that would also lead to ongoing growth for us.
But within the last two months, both of my coaches that I work with brought up summit production as something I should offer. I told both of them that no one would pay what I charge for that, and both of them gave me the same raised eyebrow look and said that absolutely was not the case. With their encouragement, I decided to throw up a package on the website with literally zero information and the largest price tag I've ever put on anything by a long shot.
Within two weeks, I had a serious inquiry from a big entrepreneur who I’ve followed for a long time. In my video response to her, I literally held up her physical products that were sitting on my desk. We got on a call, and everything that happened here just showed me again that God has my back and is guiding me whatever happens as long as I'm willing to listen to that guidance. On the call, this person, who admitted to being really slow to trust people, had full trust in me, because of how many of her students have used and gotten great results from Summit in a Box. She had no questions on the call. I sent her an invoice for above and beyond the price that was listed on the website with all the add-ons that she wanted, and she paid the entire thing in full with no questions. I am just still in awe at how all of this worked out.
So far, this project has been so fun to work on! Honestly, money and timewise, it still might not actually make sense for me to be working on it. If we were to take the hours we’re putting into it and put them into this business instead, we could probably make more than we're being paid. But for right now, it's fun, it's something new and refreshing for me and my team to work on, and it just feels right. It's also giving us the opportunity to get experience in a new B2C niche, and we're getting to go through our process from top to bottom and find where updates are needed.
We're going to create one heck of a summit, and make this client super happy. Based on who it is, I think it will lead to even more opportunities down the line. So we're going for it, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.
I don't know if we'll keep offering it moving forward, but right now, it’s a really fun experiment.
In the middle of all of that, the Launch with a Summit Accelerator™ came along in May of this year.
Looking back at the evolution of my offers over the years, this program was a long time coming. Last year, I started to realize that the VIP tier of Summit in a Box I'd been offering was way too much support for far too little pay.
For the first year of Summit in a Box®, people could upgrade to the VIP tier and get daily access to us in our Facebook group, critiques on their work, and two monthly copy reviews forever, for $500 total. Not a monthly fee, just one $500 payment and you got all that forever.
I started by adding a one-year cap on the VIP access, but then in mid-2021, I realized I was essentially running a high-ticket group coaching program for $2,500, so I put a stop to that.
We stopped offering the VIP tier, and also put a cap on the support for those who had joined before adding the one-year limit. We gave them an additional six months so they’d have plenty of time to host a summit with our support if they wanted to. That group is slowly getting smaller and next year it will be phased out completely once all of our students' access expires.
After getting rid of that VIP tier, I realized just how much of myself and my knowledge, and my team I was offering for so little. But I also really missed hearing from our students, so I decided it was time for me to create an actual group coaching program. I knew the value I could provide just by adding a coaching element to Summit in a Box® would have been enough to create a group program. But I also noticed that my very favorite Summit in a Box® students to work with were those who had either already launched summits before and wanted to keep growing those or they were people coming in who had established courses memberships or programs on their own. Instead of just turning the Summit in a Box® course into a group program, we created a more elevated program for established business owners.
Looking back, it was 1000% the right move to launch the Accelerator, but I was so nervous about it! This was before landing our summit production client, and at that point, I had never charged that much for anything. It was a big stairstep for us going from Summit in a Box® to the Accelerator, and it was also when I brought in Elli full-time to help, really before I was ready to pay another full-time salary, so I was really banking everything on it working. Even though the price point is on the lower end of what most group programs are, it was new to me, but thank goodness it worked.
I never thought I'd love hosting a group program as much as I do. After a while of offering the Summit in a Box® VIP tier, I got to a point where I dreaded going on Facebook to answer questions in that group. But I truly love opening Slack a couple of times per day to support our Accelerator clients. As much as I don’t like having a bunch of calls on my calendar, I love the weekly calls with our clients. I love celebrating their successes, I love supporting them, and helping them work through some things, and I'm so excited to see this program continue to grow.
After launching the Accelerator, we had to figure out how to balance the Accelerator and Summit in a Box offers. For a while, we actually took Summit in a Box® completely out of the picture, because I thought that no one would join the Accelerator if they could get Summit in a Box. Looking back, that was a scarcity-based decision, but for the first few months that we offered the Accelerator, Summit in a Box actually wasn't available at all.
After a while, we realized that wasn’t the right move and brought Summit in a Box® back. The Accelerator was created for established business owners who want to use their summit to launch and who see the value of having our eyes on what they do to improve conversion rates and make their results even better. Not everyone is in the place where the Accelerator makes sense. When I hosted my first summit, I was not in that place yet. By removing Summit in a Box®, I had essentially taken away the product I created to help people who were in that place and that could help them grow to a place where they were ready for the Accelerator
We ended up bringing Summit in a Box® back, and we're still working on ways for people to self-identify which program is best for them. Of course, there are going to be people who would be a great fit for the Accelerator who are only focused on price and who pick Summit in a Box® instead. That's going to continue to frustrate the heck out of me because I know we can get people such better results in the Accelerator. But if there's someone who's stuck looking at nothing but the price tag, I would rather help them with Summit in a Box® than not at all.
Balancing these two offers is still a work in progress, and we’ll keep adjusting and experimenting as we go.
Another thing I’ve been constantly juggling is finding the right balance between work and kids. I have gone through every possible combination of work-at-home mom and daycare in the last few years.
Before my second came along in June 2021, I had a pretty good system of having my oldest in daycare part-time, which gave me a good four hours of focused work time every day. There were ups and downs and changes to our daycare schedule during that time, but for the most part, it worked well, and I got to enjoy the short season of her being little while also giving myself plenty of time to work.
Since having my second, I’d say that this last year has been the hardest when it comes to finding a good balance between work and kids. After she was born, postpartum was tough for me, and having a baby and three-year-old at home going through that transition was really hard. I decided to put our oldest in daycare full-time, which wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the decision I needed to make at the time.
Since then, I’ve gone through several different childcare routines from having my oldest in daycare part-time with the baby at home, having both of the girls at home with me, to having a part-time babysitter watch both of them for a few hours/day.
Balancing the constant demands and changing schedules of little kids while trying to get work done has been tough. Throughout different seasons, I hustled during the little one's naps, I worked every night after they went to bed, and I worked all day on Saturdays, but I had zero time for me. And as someone who literally thrives on problem-solving and using my brain, not being able to dedicate any of that energy to Summit in a Box®, and only being able to do the bare minimum to keep us moving was really, really hard during that time.
Right now, my oldest is in 4k for 12 hours per week, and we have a friend from church and her two kids come 16 hours per week to babysit. That's working great, we just found out that she's going to be done starting in March, and that will be another big shift that we’ll have to figure out.
Balancing work and kids has been a constant, and I feel good about the place we're in right now, but I'm honestly starting to accept that it's never going to feel perfect. I'm always going to either want more work time or more time with the little girls that are growing up way too dang fast and I just need to be okay with that. I'm just going to do my best and I have the freedom to keep shifting and adjusting to get as close to perfect as I can.
The growth I’ve seen over the last few years has been incredible and there have been a lot of highs and exciting things happening, but it has also been tough at times. For me, the hardest part of growing this business to what it's become is the added pressure and expenses that have come along with it.
I never dreamed of running a business that's as successful revenue-wise as this one, but I also never dreamed of the expenses that would come with that, and how much pressure that would add. It is a lot to handle at times, especially now that I have a team. When it was just me, I’d worry in slower seasons of business about bringing in enough money for myself, or I'd worry about looking like I was failing.
But now I have other people to think about. I have a team to pay, and our team expenses, including my salary, plus the other things we need in the business mean that our “bare-minimum” monthly revenue number is high. We need launches to go well, we need evergreen sales, and we need new eyes to be finding us all the time.
If I’m being honest, that does take some of the enjoyment out of it and it makes it really really hard on me, especially in slower seasons. I don’t think people talk about this side of business enough, but the pressure is really a lot at times. I truly hope this success we found continues, so we continue making a large impact, and that can continue offering an awesome place to work.
On the other hand, there are a few things I’ve done continuously in this business that I think have played a big part in our success.
The best thing I’ve done for this business, hands down, is just loving other people and going hard for them. It's just part of my personality and how I'm wired and I love supporting other people. I don’t do it so that I can get something in return, I just want to shout about it from the rooftops when I see an awesome person doing something awesome. I've never done that out of a place of wanting to benefit, but it has served me so well. For the most part, when you go hard for other people, they're gonna go hard for you too. I’ve built some incredible, mutually-beneficial relationships along with the true friendships by showing up and supporting other people, and that has been my favorite part of running this business.
Another thing that I think has really contributed to our success and growth is keying in on what feels good to me and what I’m drawn to. For the most part, when I have an idea, I'm either totally overcome by it and can’t think about anything else, or it just feels kind of forced.
What I’ve come to realize recently is that the things I’m excited about and drawn to are the things God made me do and is leading me to do next. The few times that I've pushed through a more meh feeling type idea, it just didn't work.
Over the past few years, I've become much more in tune with the ideas I have that I meant to do, and I also recently learned that my human design really strongly supports that too, which is just so cool. So I'm gonna keep listening to those pulls because when I do, it serves me so well.
Episode 25: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Planning Your Summit with Kaitlyn Kessler
Episode 81: How to Use Learning Design to Increase the Impact of Your Virtual Summit with Emily Walker
Episode 164: The 4 Keys That Allowed Me to Host a Virtual Summit on Part-Time Hours
Episode 175: Behind the Summit #13: Summit Week (with Kate!)
Episode 181: 4 Reasons to Host a Virtual Summit as a Course Creator
Bonus Episode: From MVP to Membership to Epic Program: The Launch Method I Used to Create Summit in a Box!
Learn how much time to set aside for planning and launching your profitable, stress-free online summit and use my calculator to set the due dates for you.