Angel Santos landed what she thought was her dream job working in television. However, she soon discovered that her true love was stories, not news, and she felt like her creative side was dying. She started a nonprofit to produce Christan films and introduce kids to media production, but earned only $535 in three years.
She took a day job as a marketer and began learning about business, and soon had a revelatory experience at a conference. She was told she had an “expensive hobby” – not a business – and set out to make big changes.
Now, at Course Creation Academy, Angel combines her unique combination of interests into a membership that helps others build their dream business. She empowers people to structure their unique expertise and experience into online courses or programs, live with purpose, and achieve success with less hustle and more peace.
Today, Angel joins the podcast to share the hard lessons she learned from three years of struggle, how she turned something supposedly impractical into a thriving business, and how others can use their own skills to do the same.
- Why Angel’s side business struggled – and how she learned that her business was broken.
- The difference between a business and an “expensive hobby” – and the key components of any successful business that many companies simply don’t have.
- How Angel turned her talents into a membership and revamped her offerings to help others succeed.
- The most valuable feedback Angel received from any of her members.
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- “In 2020, and in even beyond, it is 100% possible to monetize through a business or a membership any passion or idea you have. And it’s so wonderful because it’s so much easier and affordable to do it with all of the technology and resources that we have today.” – Angel Santos
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli Varela: Angel Santos, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. How are you?
Angel Santos: Thank you. I am well, and so excited to be here. Thank you so much.
Shelli Varela: We’re so blessed and privileged to have you. So, I love story and I love marketing. And I was particularly intrigued by your vast amount of experience in both of those things. So, your membership site is called Course Creation Academy. But before we get to that, can you give us the insight about your story, your backstory, your origin story, where you started and how you got to be the person who’s delivering this amazing membership site for your members?
Angel Santos: Sure. It’s an interesting story, I think. I started fresh out of college. I was a fifth-year senior, proud of it, and I had finally landed my dream job. It was part-time and it was for ABC13 and I thought it would take this is the channel, the station that I wanted to retire from. So, it was my dream job to land even though it was my first one coming out of an unpaid internship from PBS working 30 hours a week for six months. So, landing a paid part-time job in television was epic for me. I was so excited to be there because I love TV and my goal was to be a journalist in life. That’s what I went to school for. I was working part-time 2 AM to 1:30 PM shift, super excited. And after a couple of weeks, after the initial excitement wore off, of seeing all the people I grew up on TV like in front of my face writing scripts for them, after that wore off, I realized something. I didn’t enjoy news. I had never watched news. I’ve always been big on like stories and movies and TV. Never watched news. I just like TV but I thought that being a journalist was more practical than being an actress.
So, each week, I would take an idea to my boss, “Hey, in our free time, can we use the cameras to make this show? Or can we do this?” And they literally would say to me, “If the wheel isn’t broken, like why fix it?” I got it but I wasn’t fulfilled there because my creative side was like die. It was like…
Shelli Varela: Yeah, I get it.
Angel Santos: Like, if it bleeds, it leads that it wasn’t feeding my creative side. But I was still happy with the job and it had some fun elements. So, I decided I create a nonprofit on the side. And I would make basically like Christian films and like short TV shows with kids to give kids an introduction into Media Production since I don’t exactly live in California where they have a lot of opportunities to do that. I printed the business cards, I made like a little Wix website, and I felt like I was in business, and I was volunteering basically, in my business on nights and weekends. I did this for three years. I had so much fun. I’m creating some really fun content, but in three years, I had only made $535. And clearly, I had invested more because just feeding the children the pizza and the sandwiches alone costs more than $108 a year.
So, I was spending money but I was trying to scrimp because, again, I wasn’t making anything, but I was having so much fun and I realized something was wrong. What I really wanted to do was like do what I enjoyed full-time but there was no way to do that since, again, I didn’t make any money but I didn’t want to stop it and just do news because news didn’t fulfill me like it didn’t make me happy. And so, I sought help. I was like, “Well, let me find out what I’m doing wrong.” And during one of the jobs that I had picked up on the site to pay my bills, I actually started doing marketing for like a few different companies. That was like my day job. For one of the companies I was doing marketing for, they had me go to a business conference. And it’s so funny, Shelli, because, at the time, I was like, “You want me to spend my Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in a hotel learning about business? Are you serious?” Like, that did not sound fun to me. Of course, now I’ll fly anywhere. I’m such a learning junkie now.
Shelli Varela: Let me jump in for just a quick second because you were saying like you were making $500 a year and you were still calling it a business. What was that transition like for you when you went to the business conference and started getting a handle on, “Huh, maybe it wasn’t actually a business I had before, but maybe perhaps a hobby given that I’ve spent more than I’ve made?”
Angel Santos: Sure. And let me just clarify. So, $500 total in three years.
Shelli Varela: Oh, in three years.
Angel Santos: Yes, of a legit business. So, I was at the conference, it was day one, and I tell people it felt like sitting in a service on a Sunday morning because I had revelation after revelation. She was like, first of all, and she just said that it. She said, “You are a business owner when you have a product, you have a customer, and you are making sales.” And I was like, “Oh, wait, I’m not doing any of those three things.”
Shelli Varela: Wait a minute.
Angel Santos: It’s like something’s wrong. I was like I have a business card. I don’t have a product. And she was like saying words that at the time were foreign like you need a customer avatar and, of course, I did not have that. And then she was talking about the number of sales you’re making. And once again, Shelli, I was at the time, I kid you not, I was delivering six large cupcakes to a food truck and they would pay me $9 a week and I was so excited to use that to invest in my so-called business at the time because it was my passion. So, when she said everything that she said and she like laid out how you create a brand and how you position it, and I like, literally, realized and she said everything she said and then they would have like a break and you could talk to people. And I was telling a lady everything about my nonprofit and she was like, “Oh, you’re not a business owner.” She said, “You’re a…” and she literally said the word H. O. And I was like, “What?”
I was like, “What are you talking about?” She was like, “You are a hobby owner.” And she said, “And it sounds like you’re not just a hobby owner,” but she used the initials. She said, “You’re an expensive hobby owner.” And I was like, “You’re right. I am an expensive hobby owner,” because I had spent not even just the money that I had spent feeding the children and renting the spaces and buying the equipment. It wasn’t even the money but it was the time. These were nice. I could have been with my husband or my family or friends. These are weekends. I could have been resting having preexisting health conditions. So, I have literally paid in sweat, tears, and money into this what I realized was an expensive hobby. It wasn’t a business.
Shelli Varela: So, when you went to the conference, what was the main takeaway that you took from it that you said, “Okay. This is how I’m going to switch it up and this is how I’m going to change the paradigm on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it?”
Angel Santos: Sure. It’s fine to have a passion. I believe, personally, God gives us passions and desires for use. It’s fine to have a passion, but you have to have a structure with it. You can’t just say, “I have a business, I have an idea, and I’m going to go with it,” because that’s what I did and that’s why I had what I had in three years. I had to create a structure around my passion. I had to build it from the ground up. And so, that’s when like, literally, I revamped my entire business into an actual business with a customer in mind, with products in mind, with how I would actually sell because I didn’t sell before then. I just gave and thought people would donate.
Shelli Varela: I love what you said earlier about your initial reaction was. I want to be an actress, but an actress isn’t practical. And I love the pivot word, practical, because as you were telling your story and as it’s unfolding, I’m listening to you talk about how you have this passion and you’re making these things that you love, but it clearly is not a business hence not making any money, not having any customers. But I love that once you had the structure and once you had the know-how and the how-to, what you did was applied a practical structure to the passion. What advice would you give other people who perhaps have a passion that they don’t think is practical, but maybe want to have a business or membership site and put that out into the world? What advice would you give those people?
Angel Santos: It’s 100% possible. There are businesses and memberships on everything on making quilts, on making websites, on octopuses, like just the love of octopuses. So, it’s 100% possible. I think as children, unfortunately, we don’t always get the best information and we don’t always know of all the professions and possibilities. But in 2020, and in even beyond, it is 100% possible to monetize through a business or a membership any passion or idea you have and it’s so wonderful because it’s so much easier and affordable to do it with all of the technology and resources that we have today.
Shelli Varela: Perfect. So, what you transitioned into and we said this at the top of this chat was your membership site is called Course Creation Academy. How did you segue from that day at the conference into what you’re doing now? And who do you help and in what way?
Angel Santos: Yes. I realized my new passion was to combine everything I had learned. See, I could help the companies grow and get bigger but I didn’t want to sell to people. I felt like I had all these hang-ups on all that’s wrong. You give and I had to learn that it’s okay to give someone something in exchange for value. You’re giving them value and they’re showing they value it with their money. So, once I accepted that, I learned it’s okay to add a price tag to the service you’re going to give someone and what I wanted to do was combine all of my interests. I wanted to combine my need to be creative. I wanted to combine my love of technology and I wanted to combine my passion for marketing and teaching. And I was able to do that through creating a business and a membership where now I get to help specifically other women turn what they enjoy, what they’re good at into courses and programs that they can sell.
Shelli Varela: I absolutely love that because not only are you giving other people an opportunity to design their life and figure out what their business gets to look like but I love that you said you figured out how to combine your interests. And what I often hear from people is, again, they’ll say, “I have this passion or I have this thing that I love to do, but it’s not practical,” much like you said at the top of the conversation. And the other thing that you touched on as well that kind of ties into that, you were talking about the news and you said, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and how you completely flip the switch on but that’s not actually where my heart is. That’s not actually what I want to create. And I remember somebody else saying something very similar to that statement, if it bleeds, it leads, and it not feeling congruent with that person either. And that person happened to be Oprah Winfrey.
Angel Santos: Oh, wow.
Shelli Varela: And so, she made a conscious decision that much like yourself, she was going to take her combined interests and what was true for her and how she wanted to be and then apply a practical structure to it and she completely revolutionized and changed the paradigm on what TV gets to look like and how people feel when they watch TV. So I, first of all, wanted to acknowledge you for that and also just point that out for anybody who’s listening because so many times people will, again, they’ll think that they have something that it’s not practical to make a business out of it. And so, I just want to drive home to people that if you train yourself to pay attention to what you’re interested in and what you’re curious about, and what you’re passionate about and if you train yourself to notice the gifts, more often than not, if we just give that a quarter turn, there’s a way to fit all of that together and turn it into something beautiful and amazing and a gift to others that like you said, you can benefit from financially in terms of having a viable business like you do.
Angel Santos: Right. Absolutely.
Shelli Varela: What’s the best piece of feedback that you’ve received from one of the people that participates in your membership site?
Angel Santos: The best feedback? When you say feedback, what do you mean?
Shelli Varela: So, you have a member who is participating in your membership site, and they’re learning about course creation, and they get to learn from all of the facets that you and your life of experience have brought to you. They get to cut the corners and not have to go through all of the things that you went through to learn that. What is the gift that you’re giving to people and what is the feedback you’ve received from them having been participating in your membership and then putting that into practical use out into the world?
Angel Santos: Oh, okay. Some of the feedback that means the most to me because, obviously, I’ve learned if you’re in a business, the goal is to actually make money. But the feedback is it feeds that heart part of us, that it’s so fulfilling. And when I see women even just one of some recent members who did the challenge and then enrolled in our academy, she was like, “I love this.” I didn’t realize that it was possible to create a life like this. She didn’t realize like me like I was back then, she didn’t realize that she could have her nonprofit, but do it in a profitable way. I love when women say, “Before I found Angel, I didn’t have the confidence to do videos. I didn’t think I could create a course. And I just finished my…” I love to see that transformation because I so believe in all that women are capable of like I believe in the gifts that God has planted in them. And when they see that gift, and when they realize that I don’t have to go the norm, I don’t have to just be all practical, I can be practical and passionate, I love to see like that light flicker. I’m honored to be a part of that.
Shelli Varela: I always love it when we have the privilege of seeing possibility through the filter of somebody who has gone before us like yourself. You talk about how you have all these different diverse experiences but once you piece them together, you’re able to come up with almost a formula of how to make that possible for other people. And it’s so great to be able to pass that gift on for others so they can be seen, feel seen by somebody who already knows the path. I love that you said at the top of the interview, the quote used was “you thought that” when you were saying you thought that it wasn’t practical and you thought that you weren’t able to make a business out of your passion but I also love that now the quote that I just pulled from you was what you’re hearing from your people was “I didn’t realize” and what a gift that is to be able to take advantage of somebody else’s navigation through various experience and knowledge and learnings to be able to shortcut something and create a ripple effect in the world based on your passion.
So, I just wanted to like say thank you so much for the work that you’re doing because it’s allowing so many others to follow in your footsteps and create something magical in the world. If you were to have some advice that you were to give to somebody who right now is listening to this conversation and is wondering to themselves like, “I wonder if a membership site would be possible for me,” what advice would you give that person?
Angel Santos: I would give that person the advice: start today. You can always make changes. You can always change the name. You can change the direction. You can pivot. But if you are listening to this, I believe this is for a divine reason, right? And just start. I know it feels scary. If you don’t tell anyone, just start today. There is, literally, there’s not a lack of education that can stop you. There’s not a lack of money that can stop you. There’s not a lack of time. Maybe you have less time, you have more money. Maybe you have less money, but you have more time. And for me, like I mentioned kind of really briefly earlier, the health guidelines that I had on my life, it was really why I couldn’t continue to like work full-time, work part-time jobs, and then also like work nights and weekends in a nonprofit that wasn’t making money. And if I who with all of the help guidelines that I have can have a membership that has allowed me to help and serve so many women travel around the world even when I don’t feel the best and have to do it in a scooter like if I, Shelli, can do it then they can and all they have to do is start today and as Stu says, and then just what’s the next step?
Shelli Varela: I love it. If people are looking for you online and if they’re looking to be able to learn from you and be part of your community, where’s the best place they can find you?
Angel Santos: Sure. They can go to GreaterIsCalling.com and they’ll have a few resources to get connected and get some free tools that they can get started if they have an interest in creating online programs or just want to be involved with the community of women working toward living and monetizing their passion and purpose.
Shelli Varela: Brilliant. Angel, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for your inspiration and thank you for making things possible for other people in the world who are looking to follow in your footsteps. We appreciate you.
Angel Santos: Sure. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
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