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MediaTech Ventures’ Community Spotlight Ep.02 – Lani Rosales

Meet Lani “The Overlord” Rosales.

A veteran in the world of publishing and marcom, Lani and her team at the American Genius, have arguably done more for the central Texas entrepreneurship community than any other organization. Whether that’s,

All of these Facebook groups and pages, are designed to help educate, connect, and provide opportunities for professionals. If you’re looking for an incredible community that has the perfect amount of tough love, empathy, and resources, look no further than the important work The American Genius does everyday.

Can you talk about the evolution of American Genius and how it spawned into so many things?

Lani: That’s a good question, I’ll try and be concise which is not my specialty. The American Genius actually started off as a one-person blog and Ben was blogging. This was back in 2005 when blogging barely had a name it wasn’t really called blogging, it was just kind of live journaling still and it became blogging. But he was doing it anonymously and he was doing it as a way to talk about national real estate issues, entrepreneurialism, just kind of everything he was going through and wasn’t finding a good source for so he just built it himself. So initially the only thing that was really out there that was like that would be like inc magazine for example, but at the time the content that was being produced digitally was so low level it was offensive. It was like how to set up an LLC, like are you fucking kidding? We’re so far past that like that’s like okay thanks really helpful! So at first it was just him anonymously, because he didn’t want to affiliate the brokerage brand that we were working really hard to refine and polish here with these opinions. Very quickly we got a cease and desist from the national association of realtors because you cannot use the word realtor in a url even if you’re a board member, even if you’re a paying member of the national association of realtors they own that word.

So at first he was realtor genius he used that, he was very public with what was happening and you know the big guy is like shitting on the little guy and he comes from like the world of pr and like Apple and Kroger, so he knew what he was doing. So he decided well i’m going to pivot to agent genius and i’m going to talk about the big guy versus little guy and immediately, and remember this all happened in 2006 which by the way like the irony of all of this is the national association of realtors is one of our ad supporters now and they’re an incredible organization, it went from this anonymous one person blog was getting like 30,000 uniques a month. For this niche like real estate, nobody knew who this person was because he wasn’t using his name and so he realized okay there’s obviously a demand for this, and so he uh started using his name he opened it up to other writers.

How do you decide on what you’re going to do versus not going to do for your online communities?

Lani: yeah that’s a good question. So we learned the hard way, that any community that we launched specifically facebook groups, I think is the best example of where we shine. It has to start with a staunch list of rules and usually have to stick by those rules. For example, in all of our groups no self-promotion and that sucks because that’s what most of us are on line for. You have to give people other opportunities to do it in an organic and natural way, and a lot of the things you’ve mentioned were very programmatic with our facebook groups. Our brand is kind of counter culture, kind of like not polished, and when things are like overly professional or overly polished it doesn’t align with what people expect from us. So it’s really hard for us because we have to be programmatic because I have to know what’s going on each week, but we can’t do it such that it appears that we’re a corporation right? because that’s not what people want from us that’s not what’s expected.

A lot of times these features come from one of three ways,

  1. Internal ideas just like you know we really need to be able to feature people so let’s do like a monthly member, let people enter and they will showcase them with a q&a. Others come from having to delete certain posts over and over again, which means there’s a demand for certain types of things. So we have a weekly intro thread in all of our groups, tell us who you are. So far it would be job seekers and other groups, it would be you know like business related so it’s more like, tell us what your challenge with this, or there’s like a weekly thread that gives people a way to kind of promote themselves!
  2. People breaking the rules to do something, and if that’s happening regularly you have to give them a way to break the rules because obviously there’s demand.
  3. Community asking for it – one of them we do the Friendy McFriendship typically on Fridays, a lot of people were like hey I would really like to network better I want to be able to like make friends. I was like ooh no at first, I was like no go make friends somewhere else, like this is not a friendy place. I realize that so many friendships and relationships have come from these communities, that we needed to harbor that or else we would lose that opportunity to help them to connect.

What are some things that you would tell somebody that’s thinking about starting a blog and pursuing it aggressively?

Lani: first I would say do you have the proper financial support in the event that it doesn’t succeed? Do you have a day job, or do you have a partner that can support you if it doesn’t make money? Because it doesn’t make money at first it is definitely like one of those lines of work where it’s a side gig that grows into your full time, in my opinion. Yeah really thinking of sponsorship first and having something that’s a unique offering that you can wow somebody with a pdf in 10 seconds and make them want to give you money. which is like so much easier said than done which is near impossible, and people like me that aren’t natural sales people and don’t want to sell anything it’s kind of like being a painter. I just want to paint my paintings, I know I need to blog and I need to like instagram and all that stuff and I just want to paint my paintings. So i’m going to let all this stuff not be done properly, which is like your p&l your social media all that stuff because you just want to paint the damn paintings! That’s what you’re there for right? But sales have to come first or else you don’t get to do all this other stuff, so i’d say just from day one thinking like a marketer and thinking like a sales person of you know? If I meet somebody in a networking event can I send them a link while i’m standing there that gives them the opportunity to give me money? That’s not something I really do because I hide it networking events. Theoretically if you really were like a solo person and we’re gonna hustle into it, that would be the best, thinking sales first. Because what a lot of people do is they build it out and they put all this effort in, and they build out hundreds of posts and they’re like okay now I have something to show right to charge for! It’s like oh my god think about how much you cost per hour and you just invested that in the business so you think you invested zero dollars but your time is worth something you’re now $50,000 in the hole even though you don’t see it.

When people think about the American Genius and Lani Rosales, what do you hope comes to mind for them?

Lani: That’s a good one, I watched Moby’s episode number one and my answer should be something really cool about money, I want to give him my money because he told me I want to give him my money. But that’s why I’m not a millionaire, is because we’ll always do the right thing first we’ll always do what helps our community first, that doesn’t pay the bills as well as some of the other ways we could focus. We’ve had health scares in this house such that you know i’ve been in ICU with my husband, and seen him in a capacity where I didn’t know if he was waking up again. So because we’ve had those experiences and we’ve had so many losses in our life in the past couple of years we just think through things, is this going to matter in 10 years? Is this money grab gonna matter in 20 years? is this going to be on my headstone? For that reason we always try to do the right thing first, and make sure that people are benefited, and that we’re empathetic and that we’re always doing things to build people up around us. So I would like for that if I had a headstone today I think something way more concise than that but I would like for that to be what we’re remembered for.

What are some good resources podcasts/books/etc. for someone looking to build an online community and/or blog?

Lani: It’s really easy to fall into an echo chamber and so I really like to look outside of the marketing industry and outside of my space, see what people are doing and kind of tap those brains. I’m not shy when it comes to just finding people if I like what somebody’s doing. For example, there’s a mommy blog that I really love. I just think their marketing is spot on and our youngest is in college, so I obviously don’t need a mommy blog at this point, but it’s everything she talks about like natural parenting, like take your kids out in the woods kind of shit right I’m like yeah that sounds good. I connected with her kind of asking her like what’s your thought behind like she started creating ebooks and like what are your thoughts behind that. But just doing that and like reading books outside. A podcast that I really love that gets like my creative juices flowing is stuff you should know, it’s just about like the most random stuff and every time I’m like you know what, that has nothing to do with my business but I bet I can incorporate like that line of thinking into what i’m doing. So I recommend people actually having a really healthy balance of like internal stuff like marketing blogs things like that there’s so many the American Genius things like that, but also looking outside still reading books which is really hard. There’s one that I read, hold on I’ll show you, this is a copy that my great grandmother gave to my great grandfather it’s a book called The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It’s just an amazing 12 life lessons, it’s about this prophet which is not religious at all, I mean I guess you could read religion into it but it incorporates a little bit of every religion. But the universal life things and it’s so easy to read, it’s so fast look how big the font is you can read this in like an hour! Oh my god yeah! Then I feel accomplished because I read a book in an hour. If you ever need to make yourself feel smart and have some life lessons just pick up the profit and you’ll be like, I’m basically a profit now.

What’s a quote that really stood out for you?

Lani: Today’s done, you never have to do today again.

Check out the wonderful world of The American Genius here.

John Zozzaro

Thinker, Tinkerer, Problem Solver, Entrepreneur, Musician, Husband, Dad.

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  1. I’m kept up nights trying to figure out how to be Lani Rosales so I can put more people in Texas into jobs than anyone else or any company, just by sharing Muppet gifs

    She is the American Genius

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