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How having a frugal mindset helped one entrepreneur find financial peace and inspiration for her entrepreneurial identity

Show Notes

There’s more to being a frugal entrepreneur than how you spend your money.

In this podcast episode, you'll hear from founder, Sarah St John, who has created several startups throughout her entrepreneurial career of over a decade.

Sarah St John on Starting Advantage

We discuss in this episode with entrepreneur, Sarah:

  • How Sarah (with the benefit of hindsight) knows that she has always been an entrepreneur at heart. (5:03)

  • The internal struggle of finding an entrepreneurial identity. (8:09)

  • The main reason why Sarah believes some of her earlier businesses failed. (10:46)

  • How Sarah found financial peace and inspiration for her brand Frugalpreneur. (13:46)

  • How to get started with an online business affordably on a budget. (14:40)

  • The most common mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to their financial mindset. (18:20)

  • How much time you'll likely need to spend on your online business per week when starting out. (19:20)

  • Why Sarah predicts that most businesses will soon have a podcast. (21:05)

  • About Sarah's Preneur Series ebooks for online entrepreneurs and how you can get access to it for free. (24:02)

  • How to be frugal with your time. (25:02)

  • How to build relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs online. (26:20)

Resources mentioned:

Disclosure: The link(s) to the resource(s) mentioned in this podcast and its blog, Starting Advantage with Tania De Ridder, are not endorsements or affiliated links, meaning that neither the podcast nor its host earns a commission or compensation if you decide to purchase or use the mentioned service(s) on this page.

Starting Advantage welcomes voices from many spheres with different perspectives and opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. The show does not endorse, promote, or is in association with guests' business interests. 

Tania De Ridder and Starting Advantage owns the copyright of the content in and transcripts of pages on this site, all rights reserved. Read our Copyright Notice here.


Episode 31: How A Frugal Mindset Can Lead To Online Business Success with Sarah St John


Please enjoy this transcript of Sarah St John's interview with Tania on the Startup Advantage Podcast. This transcript is lightly edited for readability.

[00:04:31] Tania De Ridder: Hi, Sarah, welcome to Startup Advantage. You've created several startups throughout your entrepreneurial career of over a decade. And your goal is to teach others what you've learned over the years by showing people how to launch and manage an online business on a budget. In the current environment that we find ourselves in and it being the beginning of a new year,  it really is an excellent time for us to talk to you and to learn from you.  Thank you so much for being here today. 

[00:05:01] Sarah St John: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. 

How Sarah (with the benefit of hindsight) knows that she has always been an entrepreneur at heart.


[00:05:03] Tania De Ridder: Sarah, it is clear to anybody that looks at your website or who talks to you or meets you that you are openly passionate about entrepreneurship. I saw in your first book, you mentioned that you've learned over time   that you're  an entrepreneur at heart. Tell me about that time in your life when you first realized that you wanted to be an entrepreneur  and then how it became to feel like second nature to you?

[00:05:28] Sarah St John: Sure. When I was a kid, I would collect candy and   pencils that I got for free and then I would sell them to my friends and  like anytime a friend would come over, I'd have a tabletop set up with  all these things I'm like, you want to buy anything? So I think that was probably my first kind of inkling .   In America anyway, they really tell you, you know, you need to go to college and have a nine to five; that's kind of like ingrained in you from the get go when you're in school. So I kind of did all that and did what I was supposed to do. But in 2008, I had had six different jobs that year;  not at the same time, but throughout the course of the year   and realize that working for someone else just really wasn't my cup of tea. So I started my own business, it was a photography business,  and I realized that while I liked taking photos of animals and architecture and landscapes, I didn't like taking photos of people, but that's where the money is.

I was doing weddings and portraits but the bigger issue even than that was  the expense to maintain  equipment and lighting and software and all of that. So I decided that I wanted to switch to an online business model to save money basically. So I tried a bunch of different things like drop shipping, affiliate marketing, blogging, all these different things.  And it was through that process that I discovered all these free or really affordable tools and resources and software  that you could use to run a business on a budget. So then I got the idea to write a book 'Frugalpreneur'  about  the different types of online business models and how to run them affordably.  

Then I got the idea to launch a podcast, also called Frugalpreneur to coincide with the book and it was just going to be 10 episodes or something. But I was getting more leverage and traction from the podcast than the book  and I was enjoying the connections I was making and   so I kept that up and I was editing and producing my own podcast and people were  complimenting me on it and how it sounded professional.  So I was like why don't I get paid to do this for other people? So then I launched a podcast production agency. I'm all in and all focused on podcasting now, but it took over a decade  of trying a bunch of different things  to get to that point.  

I think I've always been an entrepreneur at heart and I could see that as a child, but it's almost like it's kind of squashed.   You're supposed to go to college and get a nine to five job and so I did that.   Entrepreneurship was  on the back burner, but it was through having all these different jobs that I was like, yeah, this isn't really, for me, I don't really like working for someone else. Yeah. 

The internal struggle of finding an entrepreneurial identity.


[00:08:09] Tania De Ridder: Sarah it sounds like you had a little bit of an internal struggle throughout the journey,   trusting your gut and going for what is pulling you and what feels right, that's something that you want to explore versus what you think you should be doing.   

[00:08:23] Sarah St John: I definitely had that internal struggle and I think it definitely became more pronounced  in 2008 when I was having  several different jobs that weren't working out, or I just didn't like working for someone else and having to adhere by their rules.  Plus , there's only so much money you can make working for someone else , whether it's hourly or salary, it's basically trading time for money.   With running your own business, I guess it depends on what business you're in, but generally speaking, sky's the limit, you know?   From an income perspective working for someone else just didn't make sense at a certain point , but I think beyond that the bigger issue was just that it wasn't  satisfying or it wasn't   fulfilling. I kept working full time and various jobs while I was trying these different business models because I wasn't sure what direction I was going to go and what I was going to do. I just knew it was going to be some sort of entrepreneurial journey. 

[00:09:21] Tania De Ridder: I find there's a lot of first time entrepreneurs  they don't realize that for some, or even most of entrepreneurs, it is a process. So that's so helpful. Thank you for sharing a little bit about your own journey.  You did mention when you started your first business in 2008, you started part-time and you continued to work for a regular full-time job to pay your bills.  Now that you have the benefit of hindsight,  would you recommend this to somebody else who wants to start an online business specifically, to do it on the side first, before they go in fully into it, what would you say? 

[00:09:55]  Sarah St John: I definitely recommend at least starting out continuing with your regular job and just  being a side hustle at first,   because like with me, I wasn't even sure what direction I was going to go.   I tried several different types of online businesses.  It gives you the opportunity to test different things out, especially if you're not sure what you want to do  and see what you're most passionate about. While you have a full-time job, it gives you the freedom to try different types of business models and, so that's the route I went, but  I guess it depends on the person's individual situation.

The main reason why Sarah believes some of her earlier businesses failed.


[00:10:30] Tania De Ridder: That's good advice.  Go back to your own circumstances.  But I love that you mentioned that if you are in the situation where you are working full-time,  and you're not sure exactly what to do, it does give you that opportunity   to try different things.  You've started close to 20 different businesses  while having ideas for at least another 20.  So you're super creative. And you also mentioned that some were successful and still are, some of these businesses, and then some bombed. The businesses that failed, why do you think they didn't succeed?

[00:11:03]  Sarah St John: I think part of the problem with a lot of entrepreneurs is we have that shiny object syndrome where we're constantly thinking of new ideas. And we might be working on something, but then we think of something else and we want to chase that and try that and we get bored with what we're doing. 

So I think a lot of the businesses, the ones that failed , the reason is because it was  a thought that popped into my head,  and it's probably not wise to go with every thought that pops in your head, not try every, not try every little thing that you can think of. So that's one thing that I  regret in a way, because I feel like I wasted a lot of time. But at the same time for me, maybe I needed to experience all these different things to get where I am, or to know what I want to do. The ones that failed that's why is because  it was just an idea and I launched it and then I got tired of it as quickly as the idea came to me. 

[00:12:00]Tania De Ridder: So how did you know, Sarah, when you needed to let go of an idea? 

[00:12:04] Sarah St John: Usually as soon as I got bored of it. If you're already bored of something, then it doesn't make sense to keep doing it. And there were some things I wasn't maybe bored of yet, but I could tell that it wasn't going to be sustainable or profitable.  A couple of businesses I had that were successful  that lasted quite a while was the photography business. 

I did that for seven years while I worked also full time.   I realized that I like taking photos, but not really of people and unless you get hired to work for a magazine or something, you're going to have to take photos of people. Plus, the expense of it. Another successful  business I had was actually an online travel agency.  I did that for  five years . I closed up, I think it was like April of 2020, or somewhere around there because of COVID. A lot of my businesses I did simultaneously and that's probably also part of the problem. Well, two reasons.

One, I was becoming so focused and loving podcasting, so I was already  questioning, whether the travel agency was going to be my longterm business, even though prior to starting podcasting, that was the plan.  But then when COVID hit and I had to cancel all my bookings and then with being a travel agent, you don't get paid on any of it until they take the trip. Who knows when travel will return to normal. So it was just too risky at that point and I was just losing interest so I closed that up and have been focused just on all things podcasting since that point.   

How Sarah found financial peace and inspiration for her brand Frugalpreneur.


[00:13:36] Tania De Ridder: That really connects to something I've heard you say before that  it's important that an entrepreneur enjoys what they're doing because that keeps you  going and keeps the fuel running. Sarah, I'd love to learn a little bit more about this term that you've coined and that you use for your podcast and your first book as well:  frugalpreneur. What does it mean to you to be a frugalpreneur and why did you create this term? 

[00:14:01]  Sarah St John: The word came to me.  I don't know if you're familiar with Dave Ramsey.   I was in his financial peace class and he's talking about all these different ways to save money and pay down debt.  I was sitting there thinking, , all these ideas are great, but what about making more money?  For some reason, the word frugalpreneur came to my mind and I was like, you know what? That would be a good book and I could write about all the different ways I've made money online and things like that. Basically, it just means building a business on a bootstrap budget.  That's what frugalpreneur means to me and that's why I like online business so much because there's not much overhead. I basically bootstrap everything. 

How to get started with an online business affordably on a budget.


[00:14:40]  Tania De Ridder: What is your advice for entrepreneurs that want to start an online business , but they're not sure what type of business to start, because there are so many options out there? 

[00:14:49] Sarah St John: One recommendation would be to read my book because it has  like 10 different types of online business models and of course there's even more than that. If there's a few that you're interested in you could do like I did and try different things out.  But at a certain point you do need to pick that one thing and focus on that one thing, because I learned that  when your hand is in a bunch of different things, it gets overwhelming. If you're  putting 20% of your energy and focus into five different things  instead of a 100% into one thing, none of them are going to be that successful and I think that was part of my problem.  

[00:15:27]  Tania De Ridder: What is your advice for entrepreneurs that want to start an online business specifically? 

[00:15:33]  Sarah St John:  Regardless of what kind of online business you go with, I  definitely recommend having a website.  A lot of people think that having a social media presence is all they need, and I think you should have a social media presence, but   just like Myspace went under in a day, practically overnight,  who knows what could happen with other social media platforms and  their algorithms are always changing and when you post something only like 1% to 2% of your followers see it anyway, and without having to pay to boost it.

So having your own website, it's like  you're owning land versus renting land basically.  And start your email marketing right away and for that, I actually recommend SendFox.  That's who I use. It's free   up to, I think, a thousand subscribers.  What I like about it is for any kind of content creator, like a blogger, podcaster  or YouTuber, you can put in your YouTube link or your RSS feed, and it'll automatically generate a weekly newsletter with your latest podcast episodes or whatever  so it saves time in that regard. If you have a website and an email marketing platform, you can start marketing to people right away, communicating with them.    Having a lead magnet is a good way to start capturing email addresses. You have to exchange something like a value exchange,  give them something for free in exchange for their email address so you can market to them.  

On my website, for example,  there's a bar at the top that says,   enter your email for my book 'Podcastpreneur' so there's just different ways you can collect that information. You could create a landing page and run ads to that.  Sumo.com is another free resource.  I also run giveaways as well through KingSumo. SendFox, Sumo and KingSumo they're all the same company actually in they're all free.   I give away a book every month and that's another good way to capture leads.  No matter what you're doing, definitely have a website and an email marketing platform, a way to capture leads and be able to email people and stay in contact.

You have to get a domain and  one-on-one one-dot-com is where I get my domains because they're like a dollar for the first year. The website could be free if you're using WordPress; you do have to pay for hosting that's as little as like $3 a month.  You could create a logo for free in Canva or pay someone $5 in Fiverr. So now your website is already to go for hardly anything and then email marketing platform is free up to a certain amount, so you can get started very affordably. 

The most common mistake entrepreneurs make when it comes to their financial mindset.


[00:18:12]  Tania De Ridder: Thank you for sharing all of those mostly free resources, Sarah.   It's so great   that there are a lot of free resources out there,  especially as you start out.  Sarah, what do you believe is the biggest mistake made by  entrepreneurs when it comes to their financial mindset.   

[00:18:28] Sarah St John: At a certain point, and I've struggled with this and still kind of do,   with being frugal-minded, is that I don't really like to pay anybody for anything.  I like to do everything myself. But I'm getting to the point now where  I'm going to start looking into getting a virtual assistant to take on some of the work, but I think , it's good and okay to start out doing everything yourself, but at a certain point, when you start making money, it's probably wise to  outsource some of those tasks so that you can focus more on the business and not like the administrative type of tasks. From a financial perspective that's probably one issue that I deal with cause, I like to save as much money as I can and so it's a struggle sometimes knowing when to pay someone to do something. 

How much time you'll likely need to spend on your online business per week when starting out.


[00:19:16] Tania De Ridder: Yes, and getting to that point where you allow yourself to get some help. Sarah, how much time do you roughly spend on each of your online businesses per week,   if you had to estimate?  And then how much time do you think a new entrepreneur need to spend on a new online business to manage it successfully?

[00:19:36] Sarah St John: I'm probably spending, I would say at least 20 hours a week, each week maybe differs a little bit depending on what I have going on that week,  but it's probably 20 to 40 hours. And I would say starting out, I just was doing it evenings and weekends. I would say you could get 20 hours a weekend doing that. 10 to 20 hours would be a good starting point for someone starting out. 

[00:20:00]  Tania De Ridder: Cause there are so many different types of things you can do. So I know it's hard to estimate, so thank you for letting me put you on the spot, but I think it's good  coming from you: budget for about 20 hours if you want to start off strong. So thank you for that. You did mention about that delicate balance of knowing when to get help. I'd love to learn a little bit more about your journey to work-life balance. What do you do to maintain that sense of balance?

[00:20:29] Sarah St John: Having a schedule that you try to stick to every week . Of course things can change and  there's different things that come up each week. But for the most part, trying to have a schedule. For example, I spend  the first hour per day checking email or responding to email, social media, all that stuff, get all that out of the way.  And then I move on to the more creative stuff, and everyone is different as far as what order they like to do things.  I would say having things scheduled and only allowing a certain amount of time per thing, and if you need to set a timer, then do that.

Why Sarah predicts that most businesses will soon have a podcast.


[00:21:05]  Tania De Ridder: Sarah, you currently own a podcast production agency called PodSeam, and you recommend using podcasting for business.   What are the benefits of a business or organization or an entrepreneur using podcasting? I know it's so popular right now. There's lots of people advocating for it, especially telling entrepreneurs to do it. But why do you believe it's a good idea? 

[00:21:28] Sarah St John:  There's a couple of different ways you can use podcasting. You can have your own podcast and/ or be a guest on other podcasts.   And so even if you don't start your own podcast, I definitely recommend at least guesting on other podcasts. And that's because, you're leveraging the other person's audience. You're getting in front of people that you maybe wouldn't be able to otherwise and it doesn't hardly cost anything if anything,  other than your time, basically, and podcasting is becoming such a popular  medium.  It's existed since 2004 and it got up to, I think, 800,000 podcasts by 2019, but then between 2019 and 2020, it doubled to 1.6 million. 

It's gaining popularity really quickly. And I think it could be in part because people can multitask while they listened to a podcast, they can listen to while they're driving or doing the laundry  all of those types of things.  Whereas reading a book or a blog or a YouTube video requires your eyes. I think the audio based platform of podcasting and even audio books is just going to continue to increase in popularity.  It's  getting to the point where people almost expect you to have a podcast at least if you're a business. I think like even  Wendy's has their own podcast.

Like just businesses you wouldn't even, you wouldn't even think would need one. Kind of like every business needs a website, I think every business at a certain point is going to need a podcast as well, but if that seems too daunting or overwhelming, maybe at least start with being a guest on other podcasts. 

[00:23:07] Tania De Ridder: So it's just about helping to get the word out about your own business.  

[00:23:11] Sarah St John:  Right. Just the exposure and the search-ability because in Google or in the various podcast directories, people can search by keywords and things like that. You might get found that way that you maybe wouldn't have gotten found any other way.  

[00:23:27] Tania De Ridder: Sarah, what type of personality traits do you think will give someone an advantage as an online entrepreneur?

[00:23:34] Sarah St John: Determination would be a big one and patience as well, and I think that's true for any kind of entrepreneur because it's unlikely that the first thing you try is going to take off.  Even people we think are overnight successes, there's usually a story there.  It usually took a decade or who knows how long. We  just assume that it was an overnight thing, but we don't know all the  years and hours and late nights and different business models, they tried.

About Sarah's Preneur Series ebooks for online entrepreneurs and how you can get access to it for free.


[00:24:03] Tania De Ridder: You're  offering  a free resource for Startup Advantage listeners.  Thank you so much for that. You are sharing your complete Preneur Series in which you share information on which online businesses to try, but also how to manage and market them.    Do you have any tips on  using them? 

[00:24:22] Sarah St John: They can get all three of my books,  the PDF version at 'the- Sarah-St-john-dot-com-forward-slash-free, and that's Sarah with an H. Read straight through and then maybe go back and read a second time,  seeing what it is that sparks your interest in what you want to try. It's good to read through once to get an overview and to know what all the options are. But then to go back because I mentioned a lot of resources in the books and so I would recommend maybe not even visiting those resources until the second time around, or at least until you finish the first time around.

How to be frugal with your time


[00:25:02] Tania De Ridder: That's good advice.  Reflecting on your entrepreneurial journey, which strategy, habit, or mindset, if I forced you to pick one, because I know it's hard,  there are many that I've worked for you, but if you had to choose one strategy, habit, or mindset that you have personally found to have helped you the most to achieve success that others can learn from, what would you say? 

[00:25:23] Sarah St John: When I was starting out I was spending so much time learning through books and podcasts and courses and  all of these different things. And I think that's important and you should do that initially. But at a certain point, if you're not implementing what you're learning, then it's basically pointless. What I do now is for every hour I spend learning, I try to spend another hour implementing what I learned. I would encourage people to start out maybe learning more than implementing, but at a certain point, especially once you know what you want to do, then try to implement what you're learning as a one for one; like for every hour you learn, spend another hour implementing what you learned. 

[00:26:05] Tania De Ridder: Do you schedule that into your planning for your day? 

[00:26:10] Sarah St John: Usually, I do the social media and the email first, then usually about an hour or so of learning and then I work on all my business related things. 

How to build relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs online.


[00:26:20] Tania De Ridder: Sarah, at Startup Advantage we believe entrepreneurship should be approached collaboratively as a team sport, even if you're a solopreneur, because relationships just help us move forward. Based on your experience, what advice do you have for first time entrepreneurs on which relationships they should prioritize   and how to build strong relationships, especially within the online environment. 

[00:26:45] Sarah St John: Getting involved in whether it be different entrepreneurial Facebook groups, or even there's some different paid  membership platforms , maybe $50 a month type of thing, where you can join and get access to a community and people being on the same page and level as you and communicating and  learning from each other and things like that. That's what I would recommend is maybe start out just learning through free Facebook groups and then at a certain point, if there's a very specific area that you're focusing on maybe even join some sort of paid membership and get some mentoring that way as well. 

[00:27:27] Tania De Ridder: Sarah, do you have in your schedule, your plan for your day or week, do you have specific time blocks that you set aside just to do this, just to go engage in Facebook groups or just to connect with others in your industry? Or do you approach it in a different way?

[00:27:46] Sarah St John: During  my social media time is where I do most of that and then of course, obviously whenever I'm doing a podcast as a guest or as a host, I feel like I'm always learning something that way and making new connections  but as far as scheduled in my day,  usually it's just during my social media time, in the beginning of the day.

[00:28:05]  Tania De Ridder: So it sounds like you're very intentional. You have it planned out, you include it as part of your strategy.  Thank you for sharing that and thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah. Where can people connect with you if they want to reach out to you? 

[00:28:20] Sarah St John: My website is 'the-Sarah-St-john-dot-com and those free resources is just forward-slash-free. And then I'm everywhere on social media at the-Sarah-St-john. If anyone has a podcast or thinking about starting a podcast and needs help with that  my agency is Podseam. That's P-O-D-S-E-A-M-dot-com.

[00:28:43] Tania De Ridder: I'll be sure to share those links and resources in the show notes for this episode. Thank you so much, Sarah. 

[00:28:50] Sarah St John: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. 

[END] Tania De Ridder owns the copyright of content in and transcripts of the Startup Advantage podcast, all rights reserved.

Sarah St John Profile Photo

Sarah St John

Entrepreneur, Online course creator, Author, Podcaster

Sarah St John has created several startups throughout her entrepreneurial career of over a decade. She currently owns a podcast production agency called PodSeam. She is also the podcast host of “Frugalpreneur: Building a Business on a Bootstrapped Budget” which aims to show people how to launch and manage an online business on a budget.

Through her books, blog, and podcast, her goal is to show people how to launch and manage an online business on a budget.