BTU #89 - Drew Sanocki: Navy to bootstrapping from $0 to 7-figures in 1 year


“I’m so passionate about entrepreneurship, I think everyone should have their own business on the side. If you’re a career person and you like your day job, I would still encourage you to start a business on the side. It’s really liberating, you learn a lot about customers and about marketing and I think the same rule applies to those who are still in the military." – Drew Sanocki

Drew is a Founding Partner at Empire Growth Group, a hybrid consulting agency, services provider, and investment vehicle. He started out Harvard, after which he served in the Navy as an intelligence Officer for four years. After his transition from the Navy, Drew attended Stanford Business School. After a role at Commerce.TV in Business Development, Drew co-founded Design Public, an 'inventoryless' ecommerce company focused on the home furnishings market, which Drew bootstrapped from $0 to 7 figures in under one year, eventually selling the company after eight profitable years. Drew also runs the site, where he writes about marketing automation and customer segmentation rules that have driven over $100 million in transactions in 2015.

The top reason to listen to this episode is:

  1. Everyone is an entrepreneur - Drew's advice for veterans is very practical and tactical. He talks about how he got an MBA and took his first job to boost his confidence, but neither of these are necessary for a veteran to start their own company
  2. Lifestyle - Drew has an awesome perspective on lifestyle (and a blog post about it here). He also talks about how e-commerce is great for vets, as they can start these companies without a technical co-founder. He talks about looking at the skill set you have that people would pay for, and how to productize as much as possible
  3. Functional Skill - Drew has really grown his expertise in eCommerce of over a decade. He's a great example of one potential route for veterans, and it echoes what Steve Reinemund advised about a Hip Pocket Skill for veterans

Our Sponsor:

  • Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at

Selected Links

  • Another great interviews that talk about starting a company while on active duty:
  • Drew wrote an EXCEPTIONAL blog post that I speak about in the interview. You can read it here:
  • Drew’s site:
  • Drew recommends Ramit Sethi - . It’s really solid training that spans from getting started to make $1k on the side all the way to building, sourcing, and delivering your own product online

Show Notes

  • 3:55 - Drew’s background
  • 4:55 - The point at which Drew knew he was going to leave the military and how he approached this decision
  • 5:33 - How a lack of confidence lead Drew to graduate school, and advice he has for other vets about how to consider graduate school
  • 7:18 - Advice for steps veterans may take while on active duty to better identify their next move
  • 9:40 - Drew’s experience at CommerceTV in Business Development and Drew’s thoughts on gaining experience prior to starting one’s own company
  • 12:40 - The Genesis of Drew’s company, Design Public
  • 15:09 - One of the most difficult points of growing Design Public
  • 19:33 - “I don’t want to be a billion dollar company, here’s what I want instead” - an exceptional article Drew wrote, and how his thoughts on running his own company has evolved over the years
  • 23:30 - Advice for veterans of thinking of starting their own company
  • 25:58 - Resources that Drew would recommend to aspiring veteran entrepreneurs
  • 28:46 - What lead Drew to start NerdMarketing and what his life looks like on a day-to-day basis
  • 32:20 - Drew’s other venture, the Empire Growth Group
  • 33:30 - How Drew determines how and where to spend his time while he is working on multiple projects simultaneously
  • 36:16 - How Drew has built up Career Capital around e-commerce marketing, and his advice to veterans on doing the same
  • 41:36 - Drew’s final words of wisdom