Our debut podcast, “Cover Charge,” features in-depth interviews and profiles of the people and entrepreneurs who are shaping Austin business subculture. Hosted by 3rd & Lamar co-founder and CEO Nick Schenck, “Cover Charge” is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, or Stitcher.
Scroll down to listen to Episode 1, where the founders discuss how they came together, their background stories, what it’s been like to build a company, and their vision for this new enterprise. The full transcript is available to subscribers below.
Cover Charge: Episode 1 Transcript
[00:00:00] Nick Schenck: I’m your host, Nick Schenck, and I’m here with Tony Stolfa and Heather Grass, the other cofounders of 3rd & Lamar. Welcome guys.
[00:00:07] Heather Grass: Hey.
[00:00:09] Tony Stolfa: Glad to be here.
[00:00:10] Nick Schenck: This is the debut podcast for “Cover Charge” and during this podcast, the first one, we’re just going to take a little time to explain what 3rd & Lamar is all about, what you can expect from this podcast, and a little bit of our backgrounds so you can get to know why we’re doing this, how we came together, what paths led us to 3rd & Lamar. So anything I’m missing, guys, anything you want to add? No?[restrict]
[00:00:41] Heather Grass: It’s early in the morning.
[00:00:43] Nick Schenck: We’ve had some coffee, but maybe not enough.
[00:00:47] So 3rd & Lamar, what’s 3rd & Lamar? There’s actually two parts to 3rd & Lamar. 3rd & Lamar Media is an ad agency and production house. So we produce films, documentaries, hype videos, sizzle reels for businesses, brands, corporate clients. And on the ad agency side, we run ad campaigns, lead gen/demand gen campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, etc. for clients. So that’s our professional services side of the business.
[00:01:24] And then 3rd & Lamar is our subscription site covering Austin business subculture, which we’ll be launching sometime in March. And the reason why we have both those sides of the business together is because it’s expensive to launch a direct-to-consumer subscription company, and we needed to keep the lights on. And we also thought it’d be fun to use the skills that we have for other businesses as well as for our own subscription site.
[00:01:56] So this podcast is for 3rd & Lamar, and [00:02:00] we will be speaking to different businesses and entrepreneurs in Austin that we feel like are contributing to the culture of Austin.
[00:02:08] So people who are making money in ways that maybe didn’t exist five, 10, 15 years ago. I think that’s really interesting. We think that’s really interesting. Stories of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, listicles on how they found success – honestly, never really felt relatable to me.
[00:02:30] I’m pretty bored by those types of stories. I’m more interested in everyday people who are making it work in unique and creative ways and keeping the lights on by doing what they’re really interested in – whether it’s, you know, it could be sneaker resales, it could be Etsy stores, it could be fashion brands, it could be any bootstrapped business.
[00:02:54] To me, that’s way more accessible. So that’s kind of what we’re going to focus on, but specifically in Austin, and those people are going to be on our podcast. So I’m excited about that. Heather, Tony, anything to add to that?
[00:03:10] Heather Grass: The answer’s no.
[00:03:11] Nick Schenck: I’m so glad I brought you guys on this opening podcast. What you guys have contributed so far has been so meaningful. I’m out here on a fucking island.
[00:03:24] Tony Stolfa: Happy to be here, Nick. Great to be here for you.
[00:03:27] Nick Schenck: Oh, all right. Let’s just go straight into how we came together to form 3rd & Lamar, because it’s kind of serendipitous.
[00:03:33] I’ve always been told in my life never to start a business with friends or family, because if the business doesn’t go the right way, you could lose those relationships. And for the three of us, I think what’s unique is that we were like right on the edge of becoming friends, but not quite friends yet.
[00:03:55] But we had enough background on each other that we had [00:04:00] established enough trust that we could get into this together and have some semblance of, you know, mutual respect and friendship. That’s been really, I think, has helped us in the first, whatever, six months since we’ve launched. Tony, why don’t you talk about how we sort of met and what your impressions were.
[00:04:20] Tony Stolfa: Yeah. So our relationship goes back to FloSports. It’s a sports media company here in Austin, if you’re not familiar. But Nick, you were in a completely different department than I was. I was out, you know, shooting their documentaries and traveling, and kind of rarely in the office. But we would cross paths every now and again and kind of catch up. But, yeah, we didn’t really work closely together, so our working relationship was distant. But we knew of each other and heard about each other’s works in the office.
[00:04:57] I guess we didn’t really start, you know, having actual conversations on anything other than Flo-related topics until, you know, I had already left the company. You were on your way out and you had reached out to me to get coffee and talk about this endeavor.
[00:05:19] Our relationship kind of got started there, but we vaguely worked together and around each other before that point.
[00:05:29] Nick Schenck: I always thought your work was top-notch. There’s a lot of people who shot for FloSports. Your work distinguished itself. I don’t know if it was the shots you took, the detail that went into it. But it stood out to me. It was hard to put my finger on what it was, and when I found out that you were leaving Flo, I was like, “Wow.” You know, from the outside looking in, you had a great job traveling around the [00:06:00] world, shooting amazing stories in exotic locations. And for you to leave, I was like, he either has something amazing that he’s about to work on, or he doesn’t, but he’s got so much confidence in his own abilities that…whatever he’s going to do, I got to keep tabs on what he’s doing. I remember you coming into the office, because you were still doing some freelancing for Flo, and just asking you what you were up to, and you’d started your own production company, and you said, “Hey, I might be looking to partner with someone who has a bit different background than me, maybe a bigger business background than me.”
[00:06:43] I stored that away. And when I left Flo, I was like, “OK, let me grab coffee with Tony and tell Tony what I’m thinking.” And kind of one thing led to another. I explained the concept for 3rd & Lamar. And fortunately you were like, “OK, I can get into that.” But there’s definitely some times where – and we’ll get to this, our working relationship in a little bit – but there’s some times where I remember hearing from Heather that you’re like, “I don’t know. We might have some artistic differences.” And that’s fine. I’m sure we’ll have tons of artistic differences. But it wasn’t a sure thing that you would give up your awesome production house to join 3rd & Lamar and to form it together. But I’m glad you did. So it’s been good.
[00:07:35] Tony Stolfa: Yeah, I am as well. It’s tough, especially without like a great wealth of business knowledge, leaping into that yourself. It’s kind of clunky. So having an organization and people to back you up is important. And, yeah, I think it was a better move for me. And so [00:08:00] thank you for having me.
[00:08:03] And I think the artistic differences, I think that’s inherent with any partnership or group. I think it’s healthy, and you should have differences there. It’s, you know, how you go about coming to terms with the differences, I think, is what makes a strong team.
[00:08:24] Nick Schenck: So, yeah, for those of you listening, the way we talk about ideas at 3rd & Lamar now, is if somebody offers up an idea that’s like half-baked or just kind of off-the-cuff, we always preface it by saying, “Ah, just spitballing.” And that way everyone else knows like, okay, I don’t have to take this seriously, per se.
[00:08:44] And like, you know, this isn’t Nick or this isn’t Heather, this isn’t Tony saying like, we have to do this. It’s just like throwing it out there for everyone to dissect. So that’s like one shorthand we’ve developed here.
[00:08:55] But, OK. Heather, I knew Heather because you worked at an ad agency that I used when I was at Flo, and again, we sort of knew each other. You weren’t like our direct rep on the account, but because you worked at that agency and our kids go to the same school, we would pass each other by. And around the time I left, you had just had your third kid and I needed some help on a client I had just acquired.
[00:09:27] And I was just like, “Hey Heather, are you able to help?” And you jumped on, and then one thing led to another and now you’re part of 3rd & Lamar. Talk about how that went.
[00:09:37] Heather Grass: Yeah, I think you called or you sent me a message. I think you texted me, and you’re like, “Hey, give me a call when you have a chance.”
[00:09:46] And I was at a park with my kid and my newborn baby, and I think I called you back right away. And you said you needed some help with running some campaigns for a client you were [00:10:00] working with. And it’s kind of how we started talking about it. And so we started working together on that. And then I learned about your idea for 3rd & Lamar. And one thing led to another and we started working together.
[00:10:13] Nick Schenck: I’m not going to name this person, but there’s a person who told you that, “I don’t know about Nick. Like Nick, I don’t know if he’s the best person to partner with.” What was actually said and what – because you didn’t know me that well at that point…
[00:10:33] Heather Grass: That’s true. I mean, it wasn’t a sure thing. I knew of you. I thought highly of you and your work from FloSports, but we weren’t friends. I didn’t know you that well. And I told somebody I might partner with Nick Schenck, what do you think about that? And that person said, “I don’t know if Nick is a good person.”
[00:11:00] And so I was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” And yeah, turns out Nick is a good person for all of those listening.
[00:11:12] Nick Schenck: That’s cold, man. That is cold.
[00:11:16] Heather Grass: Yeah. I’m not sure if that person who said that is a good person, you know.
[00:11:21] Nick Schenck: It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’m just glad that you kept the faith.
[00:11:24] Heather Grass: Yeah. I can make my own decisions.
[00:11:26] Nick Schenck: Yeah, definitely.
[00:11:28] So you took a risk. I think you took a risk in your life at a time when most people wouldn’t be taking risks. You just had your third child and what made you feel like this was the right time and decision for you?
[00:11:48] Heather Grass: I think a small amount of that decision was the child itself. You know, being a new mom again, and being very sleep deprived. I tried to go back to work two or three weeks after the baby was born part-time, kind of remotely. And I was just feeling really ran down and I was like, you know, this isn’t supposed to be like this. I’m just going to stop working and take a couple of months to regroup and decide what’s next for me.
[00:12:21] So that kind of is what pushed me to make the decision. But the truth is, I’d been thinking about that for years, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. Going home in the evenings or on the weekends – if it’s their side hustle or whatever – thinking how can I get out of this so I don’t have to go back to my 9-to-5 ever again.
[00:12:42] Nick Schenck: Yup. So your cup was not being filled and you were looking for something to fill your cup, to put words in your mouth.
[00:12:51] Heather Grass: Yes.
[00:12:52] Nick Schenck: I’m looking at her coffee cup right now, which is why I was thinking of that.
[00:12:56] Heather Grass: It’s getting pretty low. Coffee’s kicking in.
[00:12:58] Nick Schenck: We’ll refill it in a bit. So at the time I spoke to you, Tony and I had already kind of agreed to move forward with a partnership.
[00:13:10] You didn’t know Tony at all. I kind of connected y’all. What were your first impressions of Tony?
[00:13:18] Heather Grass: Tony is great.
[00:13:22] Nick Schenck: I’m gonna force this out of you then. Your first comments to me were like, “I don’t know, Tony. I don’t know what his business business acumen is.”
[00:13:31] Tony Stolfa: Nick’s really good at remembering quotes.
[00:13:33] Heather Grass: He is really good. Be careful what you say around Nick. He’ll remember it forever.
[00:13:38] I think it takes some time to get to know anybody, you know? Now that we’ve worked together, you know, I see how talented Tony is, but at first I wasn’t really sure about him. I think the kind of clips that I saw of his work [00:14:00] initially wasn’t indicative of what his best work is like. And so I think I got a false impression, like a bad first impression. But it wasn’t truly what his capabilities were. So I think I saw that clip. It was that video that you produced and there was a lot of stuffing and there was some really poor voiceover, and Nick was like, “Hey, check out this video that Tony did. This is so dope.” And I didn’t respond because I hated it.
[00:14:39] Tony Stolfa: It turns out Heather’s not a Jocko Willink fan.
[00:14:44] Nick Schenck: Yeah, I need to do a better job of just realizing that my taste isn’t always everyone else’s taste. Anyways, but hey, I’m glad you got over that.
[00:14:56] Tony Stolfa: Yeah, prime example of, you know, creative differences.
[00:15:00] Nick Schenck: I want to get into your y’alls backgrounds even more, but I’ll just say this about working with two other people. I think one thing I underestimated about going into a business is how helpful it is to have co-founders that you can shoulder everything with. So if there’s a big win, calling Tony or Heather, Slacking them, it’s great to share in the glory. If it was just me, I could tell my wife or my brother about a big win, but they’re not in it. So they’d be like, “Oh, that’s, that’s nice.” My wife would be like, “Oh yeah!” It’s great to be able to celebrate those victories with someone else who’s just as invested.
[00:15:55] And then on the flip side, disappointments, we’ve had our share of disappointments, like any other startup business owner. And being able to like deflect and – not deflect, but like divert it and talk to Heather and Tony about it and getting encouragement and being like, “Oh, you know, on the agency side, this thing happened that was bad.” And then Tony’s like, “Oh, but actually I got this awesome project on the production side.” And vice versa. That’s awesome. That’s been something I underestimated. That’s been a huge win. And actually, I admire people who are doing their businesses by themselves, because you don’t have that. And psychologically, that’s gotta be so difficult. So anyways, that’s my way of saying thank God we’re together and I got you guys. And vice versa, because it makes it much more fulfilling. OK Tony, I think you have a really interesting background. Talk to me about growing up outside of Beaumont, a small town, your upbringing and how you made it to Austin.
[00:17:11] Tony Stolfa: Yeah, so I was born in a town called Tyler, Texas. My parents moved to a smaller town called Orange, Texas, on the Gulf Coast near Louisiana. I guess I was four or so. So I kind of lived there all my life. Not a very opportunity-rich part of Texas. It’s very industrialized and most of the careers there are focused around petrochemicals and oil refineries and whatnot. And hospitals, because they need those. Those were not my goals. I grew up there, graduated in [00:18:00] 2004. It’s hard to remember now. Yeah, 2004. And to keep it brief, I dropped out of college. I went for a couple of years, decided that I was paying for my own school, working two jobs, going to school, to no real end. I didn’t know what the end-all would be. I was also playing in some punk bands at the time. We did a little bit like small tours here and there.
[00:18:36] Nick Schenck: What’s the name? I love the name.
[00:18:38] Tony Stolfa: At the time, I was in a band called “The A Game.” You like my first band’s name, which was Element OP, which is elementary. We were just just above elementary.
[00:18:51] Nick Schenck: Get it? Element. OP. Like L, M, N, O, P. That’s my humor, when you tell a joke that’s obvious and you’re like, “Get it? Get it?”
[00:18:59] Heather Grass: Dad joke.
[00:19:00] Nick Schenck: I don’t know. I’ve always thought that was funny.
[00:19:02] Tony Stolfa: We even had the periodic table thing. It was, yeah, it was genius.
[00:19:08] So I was just at a weird point in life. I dropped out of school. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was working part-time as a production assistant for Nexstar Broadcasting, for a local FOX affiliate.
[00:19:24] And they offered me a full-time position there. So I dropped out of school immediately, did the full-time thing not really knowing that that was where I was going to head. But I just knew I liked that at the moment. And school was not something I was interested in doing until I figured out what my career path was.
[00:19:41] So I took about two years doing that job to determine that that also was not the place for me. I liked the video aspect. I grew in that. I bought my own camera, started kind of [00:20:00] shooting my own stuff on the side. But working for Nexstar broadcasting was kind of eye-opening to see how the media landscape worked in the small markets.
[00:20:13] And soon after that, Sinclair, which is another big conglomerate media company, was coming in to buy our company. And I knew my time was kind of coming up there. So Austin was always a place I looked at as a place I wanted to be. I knew that there were a lot of like-minded folks and a lot of opportunity for people that were doing the same things I was doing. So I wanted to get there as quickly as possible, and my ticket was finding my way into South by Southwest so I could meet some people. So I signed myself up for a platinum badge through Nexstar. I took a trip to Austin. I met some people. I worked out an interview for a job at a production company that was local. I did the interview. Got a call back the following day. They wanted me to start working the next week. So I was very fortunate in that aspect. So I sent a letter of resignation the next day to Nextstar, and just told them what happened.
[00:21:16] They were all excited. They were happy. They were like, “Great, you’re going to miss the Sinclair buyout.” So I got to avoid that and moved to Austin the next week. And yeah, all the while, I think one of the parts you’re alluding at, which was kind of an interesting part of the background, is that all the while I was training and fighting in mixed martial arts.
[00:21:40] That kind of came about at the point where I dropped out of school, when I dropped out of college. I was at kind of a low point in life and I was out of shape. I had always played football in high school and kind of kept in shape, and due to a back injury my senior year, wasn’t able to play and just kind of lost that drive for a little while.
[00:22:04] Nick Schenck: Low point as in like – self-worth was low? Or low point is in like, you felt like you got a bunch of bad breaks. So you kind of felt like the victim? Talk about the low point.
[00:22:16] Tony Stolfa: Yeah, not so much the victim role, more so I felt like the place that I thought I would have in life like just didn’t exist.
[00:22:27] It was like, well, “The opportunities that I have here are not the things that I want to be doing.” I’d kind of just gotten to a place where I didn’t know what was right for me. I don’t know really how else to say that, but I just did some soul-searching.
[00:22:48] I don’t like to throw pity parties for too long for myself, you know, maybe sob for a couple hours and then: Okay let’s figure this out, what are we going to do? And there was no sobbing in this case. Let’s be real. I was just trying to figure stuff out.
[00:23:03] So, yeah, I did a little soul searching, and then I decided that – as a kid, I always wanted to do martial arts. I always wanted to try karate or Taekwondo. I thought it was cool to be able to throw flying kicks and stuff. And Ninja Turtles and superheroes where my heroes.
[00:23:24] So I signed up for a gym membership at a kickboxing academy in town called Texas Karate Academy. But they started a kickboxing and MMA program. So I signed up there, found a new kind of family in that. So I was there constantly. I was there twice a day if I could be. And working at the same time.
[00:23:50] So I then just got crazy and decided to take a fight. My coaches – after about 2.5-3 years of training were adamant about me bucking up and getting in the cage and having that life experience. After I’ve talked about this a few times now, it kind of comes back full circle.
[00:24:13] I think that was kind of my moment where I was like, “If you don’t do this now and try this, you’re never gonna do it.” And I think that doing that act like put a fire in me to say like, don’t ever limit yourself. You telling yourself you can’t do it is one thing, but you have the physical ability. You’re young. You have this opportunity. Take advantage.
[00:24:43] I had a friend at the time. I was working on a nonfiction piece about hyperbaric oxygen treatment. And I had a friend with cerebral palsy who was kind of an inspiration to me, because physically he couldn’t do it. But he wanted to so bad and he was watching me do it. He was a big fan of mine. And so he kind of inspired me to just keep on that path. And if you’re physically able, why not do it.
[00:25:14] Nick Schenck: So your record in MMA was 3-1?
[00:25:18] Tony Stolfa: Yeah. I did an unofficial smoker and then I had three other fights. And combined, I was 3-1.
[00:25:27] Nick Schenck: What’s an unofficial smoker?
[00:25:28] Tony Stolfa: So a smoker is like an in-house fight. So you have it in your school. Usually, they’ll bring in other local schools. There’s no sanctioning governing body that sanctions it. So they don’t put it on your official record. That’s usually what everybody does as their first kind of invite into the fighting world.
[00:25:48] And if you’re going to do that, you do it as an in-house smoker so that you don’t get the big nerves of doing it in public and in front of a lot of people. You do it in front of your teammates and other schools. [00:26:00] So I ended up losing that last fight by triangle. I had already decided that MMA was no longer something I wanted to do because I didn’t want to take the head trauma, and I was not going to make a profession out of it. So what’s the point?
[00:26:16] Nick Schenck: You’d proven to yourself that you could do it.
[00:26:17] Tony Stolfa: Well, I gained the life experience I wanted, which was putting yourself through that and locking yourself in a cage where someone wants to hurt you. So that was done, and it was time to kind of like move on to something with a little more longevity.
[00:26:32] Nick Schenck: There’s some people in life I meet, and I feel like within 5-10 minutes, I have a pretty good grasp on their story. With you, there’s a lot of layers, lot of layers. For instance, I never would have guessed – knowing you [previously] – that you would’ve done MMA. Extremely violent sport, but you’re extremely low-key. I think that’s interesting. One thing on your bio, we have like a little Q&A on our [3rd & Lamar Media] site. You said you don’t enjoy pampering yourself much. So like on vacations, you’re not going to go to like a beach resort and just chill on the beach for five days. You like to really challenge yourself. Why don’t you like to pamper yourself?
[00:27:13] Tony Stolfa: I think I get uncomfortable. When I grew up, my mom was single. I had an older brother, so she raised two young boys and we were not really given a lot. We earned a lot. So that’s just been kind my upbringing, so I don’t like when people give me things.
[00:27:35] I get awkward with compliments as well when people compliment. And it’s just always been my personality. And I’m not sure why that is, but I don’t like talking about myself, either. So this is an exercise in that. If I go too long without doing something productive, I get antsy and I can’t get comfortable. So if I was on a vacation, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it as much. I can be happy on the beach. Trust me. I can certainly be happy, but it’s usually after I’m celebrating something, you know, celebrating a win or a goal that I achieved, a milestone.
[00:28:15] But just to take a vacation once a year, I’ve never really done that. I mean, I’ve gone with my girlfriend to appease her wishes and desires, but I’ll be trying to sneak in work while I’m there. You know, it’s just always been my [mindset].
[00:28:33] Nick Schenck: Since we’ve started 3rd & Lamar, I’ve sort of had that – any indulgence since we’ve started 3rd & Lamar in my personal life, I feel like, “OK, I didn’t earn this.” Like, 3rd & Lamar is not, you know – I’m happy with the progress we’ve made – but I’m not satisfied, and I want it to continue to grow and do great work and grow our clients. But it’s hard for me to indulge and like take a break and relax. So I can relate to that aspect of your story for sure.
[00:29:06] Tony Stolfa: We haven’t really talked about your background at all. Before you were at Flo, you were with the NFL and then before that…
[00:29:18] Nick Schenck: Yeah, I’m happy to tell my story. I grew up in Minnesota, and I was actually a terrible kid. Talked back a lot, had a real big problem with authority. I’ve always, throughout my life, if I really think about it, I’ve never done well with people who approach me with like a father-knows-best mentality. Always rejected that. So my parents sent me to an all-boys, military, Catholic school when I was in 7th grade through 12th grade. Partly because I had such an attitude. And by the time I graduated, my senior classmates voted me the best military student in the whole class. But it was a joke. They did it because I was the worst military student. Because again, I just had an issue with authority.
[00:30:12] We had inspections where your gig line had to be straight. So your zipper, belt buckle, buttons, tie all had to line up straight. My gig line was all over the place probably. Not probably. It was. And then I remember distinctly, we had to wear dress shoes, black dress shoes with our military uniforms. And I would get patent leather shoes, because I didn’t need to shine those. They’d always be shiny.
[00:30:39] I would say the best thing about going to military school was it honed my competitive spirit. It is like, as you might imagine, in that environment, everyone’s trying to be the alpha. I was competitive before then, but I got even more competitive then. Left school after I graduated and went to school in California at USC.
[00:31:12] A lot of my friends had grown up in Minnesota, going to school in Minnesota, will probably never leave Minnesota, which is fine. I love Minnesota. But I just wanted to experience something brand new.
[00:31:23] And I totally drank the Koolaid that a lot of people say, which is if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
[00:31:30] And at the time, I loved sports, so I was like, “Oh, if I just, you know, find a way to work in sports, it won’t feel like work.” Which led me to working in the NFL, where I spent the first 10 years of my career, which I had tons of amazing exeriences, and I was working in digital marketing roles, e-commerce, broadcasting, those types of things for NFL Europe, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans.
[00:31:53] But I realized after a while when I was starting to get burned out that I wasn’t happy. So I struggled with this internal conflict. Like this is what you wanted for so, so long, but you’re in it and you’re miserable. And I left the NFL. Part of it is because if you work in the NFL, and you leave, there’s going to be 100 resumes the next day for that job. So in that environment, you’re not going to get paid what you think you deserve. You’re going to be working long hours. And that’s just the way it is. So in 2013, I moved to Austin with my wife and worked in renewable energy – something I’m extremely passionate about.
[00:32:41] And I was there for two years before I got placed at FloSports, which was sports, but it was kind of different than the NFL. It was a venture-backed, direct-to-consumer, subscription-based sports media company. And you know, at that time, 4 years ago, if you think about it, there weren’t that many subscription sports media companies at the time.
[00:33:07] The cable bundle still was strong. People were cord-cutting, but it wasn’t as big as it is [now]. It’s a huge trend now. Every media company has their own direct-to-consumer subscription package. But at the time, you know, FloSports was way ahead of the curve.
[00:33:22] Tony Stolfa: This was 2014?
[00:33:24] Nick Schenck: March of 2015 is when I started.
[00:33:27] And that was a great experience, but I always thought, “Hey, I’m going to work here because I’ve never worked at a quintessential startup before.” And I wanted to start my own company. Always aspired to do that because, and I’ll get to the reason why. But I was like, “Why don’t I learn on somebody else’s dime? Take what I learn from this experience and apply it to whatever I start.”
[00:33:49] I didn’t know what I wanted to start. I just knew that was something I wanted to do. It ended up working out that way with 3rd & Lamar. And I think about sometimes, why did I have this [00:34:00] burning desire to start a company? It partially goes back to, I don’t like it when people tell me what to do and come at me with that father-knows-best mentality or mother-knows-best mentality.
[00:34:15] Also, if I think about my life the best, the times of my life where I’ve grown the most have been when I’ve gotten far outside of my comfort zone. So leaving Minnesota to go to school in California. I know a lot of people listening to this are probably like, “Oh, that’s a big move. Whoa, okay.” Yeah, it’s not like I moved to a third-world country, but it’s still a culture shock. Still leaving the nest and leaving my family and network of friends. I studied abroad in Spain. Again, not a third-world country, but it was still a different culture, a different language. Amazing growth experience there. And then I can think of several other instances where I sort of got outside of my comfort zone, and that’s where I got better as a person. And I could think of no better experience in terms of getting outside of your comfort zone, than starting your own company. And so that was kind of my motivation and sort of my story in a nutshell.
[00:35:22] Let’s get to Heather, though. Heather, you grew up in Plano right?
[00:35:28] Heather Grass: I went to high school in Plano. I grew up kind of all over in North Texas, Louisiana.
[00:35:35] Nick Schenck: Why did you decide to go to UT?
[00:35:38] Heather Grass: So, UT was kind of the biggest thing that I could do. I mean, I always kind of wanted to go to UT. I actually had to go to community college for a couple of years to get into UT.
[00:35:54] When I finally got into UT, my mom actually said to me, “Maybe you should just go to cosmetology school.”
[00:36:01] Nick Schenck: Why do you think she said that?
[00:36:04] Heather Grass: I think just because my parents didn’t go to college, and I’m really not sure. I wasn’t really groomed for going to college, and so I was kind of going against the grain by trying to get into UT.
[00:36:21] And then, you know, I finally left and I came to Austin and I never went back to Dallas.
[00:36:27] Nick Schenck: But you’ve always had big ambitions. I mean, you launched a media company in high school, right?
[00:36:33] Heather Grass: Yeah. I started a magazine in high school called “Making U Think,” where we interviewed musicians and published little articles from other students in the high school.
[00:36:47] Nick Schenck: Okay, did your mom realize how ambitious you were?
[00:36:53] Heather Grass: Yeah. Yeah. I think so. Yeah. I mean, in retrospect, my mom is very proud of me. She’s probably gonna listen to this podcast and be like, “I can’t believe you said that. That’s not what I said.” I’m probably going to hear it.
[00:37:07] Nick Schenck: I know your mom. I’ve never met your mom, but every time we post anything on social media, she’s the first person to like the posts.
[00:37:13] Heather Grass: She’s very proud of me.
[00:37:14] Nick Schenck: So I love that. Her name’s Missy, right? Missy, thank you so much for liking all of our stuff.
[00:37:23] OK, so you go to UT. You’re studying literature, right?
[00:37:28] Heather Grass: Yeah. I studied classical literature. I learned Greek and Latin. I changed my major like three or four times. I actually started majoring in biology. I felt a little bit lost in college. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, you know? But Classics was something that was really challenging. And I’ve always tried to do the hardest thing that I could possibly do because I’m stubborn like [00:38:00] that. And so I did that. I graduated. I taught Latin for one semester for high school students, and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Made a career change into digital marketing, and that kind of stuck. So yeah.
[00:38:22] Nick Schenck: Why do you love Austin?
[00:38:24] Heather Grass: I feel like Austin’s kind of my hometown, because I’ve been here for I think about 15 years now. And my grandparents actually lived here when I was younger. So I kind of always wanted to move to Austin after high school and being in Dallas.
[00:38:44] A lot of people say like, “Oh, austin’s changed, or Austin is dead. Austin is the new Dallas or California,” or whatever people say about it, but I think Austin’s grown up a lot. And so the old Austin is kind of like hometown Austin, and the new Austin is just growing up into a city. I kind of like that, too. And it’s fun to grow up with the town.
[00:39:12] Nick Schenck: Yeah. I love Austin because people here are down to earth. People here, I think, are relatively modest. And they want to be helpful. Since I’ve been public about wanting to start 3rd & Lamar, starting 3rd & Lamar, and sharing things and setting up coffee meetings with people in my network, everyone I’ve met with has been genuinely helpful, and they want to be helpful.
[00:39:40] And it’s not like when I’m meeting them for coffee, they’re like,” Okay, I have an agenda. How can I spin this so that it’s beneficial to me?” No, people are genuinely like, “Okay, I get what you’re trying to do. You should talk to this person or that person. Have you thought of this?”
[00:39:57] And, man, that’s felt so good, because I’ve heard stories. Like my brother went out to to L.A. and he met with a lot of people in L.A., and didn’t always have the same experience. So you can’t take that for granted that people you meet are going to genuinely try to be helpful to you.
[00:40:16] So, to me, that’s the Austin vibe. And there’s not a level level of – I don’t know if this is a word – judgementallness here. Some people may think, “Oh, you guys have an agency and production house, and you’re going to try to cover local business news. That sounds so boring. Like what are you guys thinking? That sucks?” People aren’t like that. They’re like, “Dude, I can totally see why this is a need.” Or even if they don’t see why there’s a need, they’re like, “Oh, dude, get after it. Cool. Looking forward to seinge whatever it is.” So that’s encouraging. Has that been your experience, Tony?
[00:41:01] Tony Stolfa: Yeah, I think I’ve had both experiences, but majority of the time, yeah. Like when I’m trying to meet with someone to learn about what they’re doing, or they want to learn about what we’re doing, yeah, it’s genuinely helpful. Although I have had a few people that are skeptical about our subscription idea. But it’s hard to see from a bird’s eye view what we’re trying to do if you’re doing your own thing. So I get that. So there’s doubt. There’s some doubt. I have gotten a little bit of that, but for the most part, whenever I bring up the idea, yeah, everyone’s at least supportive, and they’re like, I think it’s great that someone is trying to do this, because it’s lacking. And there’s opportunity for it, I think.
[00:41:54] Nick Schenck: On our 3rd & Lamar Media blog last week, I interviewed this guy named Eddie, who’s the person behind Riffstrum, which is one of the biggest Instagram accounts with photos of ocean waves using a drone. I’m sorry if that wasn’t that articulate. But anyways, in my conversation with Eddie from Australia, he said, “Hey, my advice to anyone who wants to do this is just post stuff that you like. Don’t worry about what other people are posting. If you like it, no matter what, if no one else likes it or comments or shares it, whatever, you’re not going to care because you like it. And that’s all that matters.” Well, fortunately for Eddie, the stuff that he posts and likes, other people tend to like it, too.
[00:42:48] And that’s kind of my thought on 3rd & Lamar. No matter what happens, as long as what we publish, the stories we cover, the way we cover them, as long as we’re really excited and really satisfied with the final product, that’s going to matter more to me than than anything else. It’s when you make compromises and you make tradeoffs and sacrifices, or try to posture and produce something that you think somebody else will like, even if you don’t truly like it, is when I would feel like a fraud. So Eddie, thank you for those pearls of wisdom from Australia.
[00:43:25] Okay, we’re going to wrap up this debut episode. I just want to tease a little bit of the content that we have coming not only on the Cover Charge podcast, but also with the launch of 3rd & Lamar coming in March.
[00:43:41] Tony, Heather, do you guys want to talk about some of the stuff we have coming down the pike?
[00:43:46] Tony Stolfa: Yeah. I’m excited about all of it. But we have found some very unique entrepreneurs in town that I’m sure a lot of people just are unaware of. And we’re telling their stories in a way that I think people are going to find interesting.
[00:44:07] Yeah, I’m really excited about it. A lot of the people we’re following right now have a unique journey they’re on. And I think a lot of people will gain a lot of value out of what they have to say. I think that’s our main motivation in our content is kind of providing value to our audience.
[00:44:31] So I can’t say enough about how excited I am about it. It doesn’t sound very enthusiastic coming from me right now. I need another cup of coffee.
[00:44:44] Heather Grass: Yeah, so we’re going to be talking to – are we supposed to say the brands directly?
[00:44:49] Nick Schenck: Yeah. We can talk about the actual companies that are coming. So we’ve got the National Bureau is one company we’re covering, which is the brainchild of Ryan Brittain. It’s a fashion label. Imagine if NASA had a streetwear brand. That’s how I’d describe The National Bureau. And we get really in detail on his story and the story of his brand and why it exists and the challenges of trying to get a fashion label off the ground.
[00:45:14] We also talk to Beardbrand, the No. 1 male grooming products company in the country. World, perhaps? They’re based here in Austin, totally bootstrapped, really fascinating story. And they give some really practical advice that we’re excited to talk about. We’ve got some content coming up with one of the top graffiti muralists in Austin, who’s also a DJ. Mez Data. I spoke on a subsequent podcast episode you’ll be able to listen to with Scott McElroy, who is an entrepreneur and started to become an executive coach, which has a stigma attached to it, which he openly acknowledges, but he has a really fascinating story of [00:46:00] overcoming a ton of adversity to get to where he is today. And I think that gives him a ton of credibility as he tries to become – he already has some clients – but tries to grow his executive coach business. And we address the elephant in the room, which is that there’s a lot of people trying to become executive or life coaches now. And a lot of people just kind of like have an initial negative reaction toward it. But we get into depth on that.
[00:46:27] And then we’re doing some other stuff on one of the biggest CBD shops in Austin,Restart CBD. They actually have marijuana flowers that were cultivated with 0.3% THC.
[00:46:43] Tony Stolfa: Cannabis flower.
[00:46:45] Nick Schenck: Did I say marijuana flowers? Cannabis flowers. Sorry. Not as good with the terminology, but it’s like walking into a Colorado dispensary there. But it’s all legal. And so Shayda, we’re going to talk to her about Restart CBD. So we have some interesting stuff going on and we have a long list of companies, entrepreneurs that we want to speak to that their stories have never been told, and if they have been told, that they’ve never been told in a way that we’re going to tell them.
[00:47:15] So we hope you guys like it. Check it out. Thank you for the support. This is the end of Episode 1 of the Cover Charge podcast. Thank you for tuning in.