Ruth Soukup is living example that being afraid shouldn’t derail anyone’s business dreams. She has a $5 million business to prove it.
Self-help media entrepreneur Ruth Soukup — her credentials include 2 million podcast downloads, 1 million email subscribers, 11,000 blogging students and six books — got her start in the business by arguing with her spouse.
“My husband and I were always fighting about money — and I needed something to do that wasn’t going to Target,” Soukup says.
That led to blogging, back in 2010. Most of the people in her life, including her husband, Chuck, an aerospace engineer, doubted Soukup could make much money off blogging, much less a career. Then 32, Soukup had been through several rough patches, including a long bout with depression, a divorce from her first husband and an attempted suicide. But she was undaunted — telling herself “if other people can make money online, then I can do it too.”
“Right away I set a goal,” she adds. “I wanted to make enough money for my husband to quit his job.”
Three years in, Soukup accomplished that goal, blogging about lifestyle topics and, in writing what she knows, about being a mom to two young daughters. The business, Ruth Soukup Omnimedia, hit six figures in revenue in 2014 and surpassed seven figures in 2015. Based out of converted house in downtown Punta Gorda — the Soukups live in Babcock Ranch, in Lee County — the company now has eight employees and does some $5 million a year in revenue. The business includes the podcasts; a blogging school, the Elite Blogging Academy; a series of branded planners under the Living Well brand; merchandise; and personalized coaching sessions, currently on a waiting list. (A company official says revenue dropped a bit in 2019, when the company began to shift its focus from growth to raising profitability margins.)
Up next? Soukup seeks to grow its presence in four distinct areas, using a handful of communication mediums that combine to form one cohesive company. The areas are lifestyle, blogging, productivity and motivation. “Our mission,” says Soukup, now 42, “is to provide practical tools and the motivation to use them for people to live the life they love.”
Soukup’s most recent project, a movement two years in the making, is a book, Ted Talk and online survey designed around a theory she’s used most of her adult life: Do it Scared. It’s her method of moving past fear on whatever obstacles are in her way. In addition to the book, under the same title, the online assessment helps users find their Fear Archetype — so they could address their specific issues.
Do it Scared has been one of the company’s biggest hits, helping not only businesses, Soukup says, but teachers, students and couples as well.
“It’s been such a great way for people to have a better understating of themselves in whichever realm of life they are trying to improve,” Soukup says. “We are really focused on helping people create a life they love and the thing that holds us back most often from creating a life we love is fear.”
Soukup recently spoke with the Business Observer about her business, career and the story behind Do it Scared.
What was the tipping point for Ruth Soukup Omnimedia, when you thought this could be a sustainable business?
As soon as my husband quit his job, and we made it official, all of a sudden the tipping point for me was, "Oh crap, I’m now actually responsible for my family’s livelihood on this thing that I don’t even know is a real thing, so I better figure it out real fast." That lit a fire under me like never before.
What are some common mistakes bloggers make?
The biggest struggle I see people dealing with is they don’t know who they are supposed to be talking to. So they are not clear about their avatar, they are not clear about who their audience is, and so their message is all over the place. They are trying to talk to everyone and being everything to everyone instead of going: "This is who I am, and this what I have to offer. This is the area I will focus on, and I will go all-in on this one thing and know who my market is."
What are some obstacles bloggers face once they find an audience?
With online entrepreneurs especially, they really struggle to sell and realize the most important thing you are doing in your business is selling. You have to know what your product is, and you have to know how to sell it. So often I hear people say: "Do I really have to focus on selling? I just want to help people." But the reality is, you do have to sell. If you are not all in, all committed to what your are selling, you are going to run into trouble.
What was a mistake you made early on with the business, and how did you overcome it?
I wish I would have had a mentor earlier. That would have been really helpful. I spent a lot of time when I was first growing my business figuring it all out on my own. I think there could have been a much faster path to success and earning a sustainable income. Even now I’m constantly investing into business training and meeting with other people who are further along the path than me and smarter than me. I want to learn as much as I can from people who have been there because I find the further you get in business, you always feel like you are making it up as you go along. So having someone who walked that road ahead of you is really helpful.
Where does the phrase “do it scared” come from?
Do it scared is a motto I’ve had my whole life — something I told myself every time I was doing something hard. In my early 20s, I went through a very serious depression. I completely went off the deep end. It was my senior year of college, and I ended up attempting suicide, and that spiraled into a two-and-a-half year dark hole of depression where at the end of two years I was bankrupt and divorced. I had to literally start over. I had nothing. I had dropped out of college. My arms and legs were covered with scars, and at that point I found a therapist — I had been in and out of hospitals and had every kind of therapy you could ever imagine, spending all this time talking about all the trauma and all bad things I went through.
I asked this therapist: "Look, I’ve spent two years talking about every bad thing that’s ever happened to me, and it hasn’t worked. I need to know, what do I do now? How do I live?" That’s the first moment where I started to use the Do it Scared mantra. Because everything she had me do felt terrifying. Going to the grocery store was terrifying. Getting my own apartment was terrifying. Then every little step got better and better.
‘I want to learn as much as I can from people who have been there because I find the further you get in business, you always feel like you are making it up as you go along.’ Ruth Soukup
How did you turn Do it Scared into a concept others can utilize?
I was noticing there was so much fear among my audience. Whenever I would say you have to have big goals for yourself, you have to dream big, people would come back and say "I feel like I don’t know what I want," or "I’m so afraid to make a mistake.” That theme was coming back over and over. It got me really curious. I put out a survey — and we got a huge response, over 4,000 people. Through that is where the Fear Archetype started to emerge. It was clear fear was showing up in distinct ways. That inspired the whole Do it Scare movement.
What’s your Fear Archetype, and what do you do to address it?
I’m an outcast. I’ve really been focusing on that a lot lately. Actually, the fact you are here is proof of that. Because in previous iterations of my business, I would never do any pitching; I would never reach out to people. It was always: "I’m going to do this on my own. I don’t need you. I will figure it out." My instinct is always to close in and not want to be rejected and not put things out there, not put myself out there — which I have to be conscious of all the time. But I’ve decided to not be my typical outcast self and refuse to ask for help from anyone. It’s kind of amazing when you are willing to do that.