In this episode, Marc interviews Mike O’Krent. Mike O’Krent, Founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, specializes in making personal history videos for families that value their heritage. They create family heirlooms in video — digitally mastered records of life stories with personal accounts, photos, and mementos of family history. Marc has known Mike for about 10 years, and it has been fascinating, watching him grow his very unique business. Marc and Mike often hang out at the same coffee shop, so they see each other fairly frequently. Marc and Mike discuss several topics, including what Mike did in the first half of life, why he quit without a plan, the life-changing experience of interviewing Holocaust, or Shoah, survivors, and, the nudge from a business coach that set him on the second half of life. Listen in to get inspiration for your own career pivot.
[2:15] In the first half of life, Mike was in floor coverings, in his grandfather’s business. He started his own carpeting business, but sold it in ‘04, without an idea what to do next.
[3:06] In the early days, Mike and his grandfather went to markets in Chicago and Dallas, where 200 carpet mills vied for their business. By the time Mike sold his business, there were three carpet mills left. The competition, and the fun, had gone.
[4:39] In 1995, Mike was volunteering with the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, visiting schools and teaching about the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg was filming Schindler’s List, in Poland, and survivors were coming up and saying they have a story they want to tell.
[5:04] Spielberg started The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. He set a goal of capturing 50,000 survivors’ stories, and ended up with 52,000, in 39 languages.
[5:30] The foundation asked the Jewish Federation of San Antonio if they had someone to volunteer for training to interview local survivors. Mike jumped at the chance. He interviewed survivors from ‘96 to 2000 — one of the most fascinating periods of his life.
[6:14] So, Mike had the process, and he loved the interviews, but then they were over in 2000. When he sold his carpeting business, he went to Administaff and worked, until he realized the corporate world was not for him. He still had no plan.
[8:41] Through his wife, Mike found a good business coach, who gave him an exercise: make a list of everything you’ve done, that 1) you liked and 2) you thought you did well. Exclude activities that don’t meet both tests. The next week Mike read it to the coach.
[9:51] The coach picked up on Mike’s excitement over the Holocaust interviews, and asked him to talk about it. When Mike finished raving, the coach asked, can you make a business doing something like that? The lightbulb went on, and Mike was on his way.
[11:59] Mike got his first client, Bill, through his wife. Bill was a bank officer with a corporate background. Mike did his video for free, as a test. When he saw it, Bill called his connections; said, “You need to do business with Mike,” and gave him the phone!
[14:54] Besides personal life stories, Mike has done documentaries for businesses and nonprofits. These stories pull in customers, or donations, with their emotional appeal.
[18:43] Mike does only the interview. Videography, sound, editing are hired out to professionals, so Mike can listen solely to the interviewee, with no distractions.
[20:04] Marc wants solopreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to realize they don’t have to do it all. Let the experts make you look good. Marketing can be outsourced, too.
Mentioned in This Episode:
Contact Marc, and ask questions at: Careerpivot.com/contact-me
Website: Life Stories Alive
Phone (512) 431-8166
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