Even if you haven't heard of Alex Tooby herself, chances are you've seen (or followed) one of her popular Instagram accounts. She runs Men and Coffee, Women and Coffee and Insta With Alex - collectively boasting around half a million followers.
While we've mostly featured people using Instagram as a method to promote an existing business, Alex created an entire busines around the platform, so yes, you can call her the master.
In three months, she grew the account to 10,000 followers. One year later, she sits at 360K.
Here's what she has to say...
Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I teach creative entrepreneurs how to use Instagram to promote their businesses in an effective and authentic way! (ha! I only needed one sentence!)
At what point did you decide the traditional 9-5 office job wasn’t for you?
When I came out of the womb? Haha! But really though, for as long as I can remember I have been looking for an “exit strategy” from all of my 9-5 jobs.
It became most important to me in 2013 when I planned a trip to Nepal to visit my father who moved there a few years prior.
I planned a month long trip knowing I was only "allowed" two weeks vacation. I decided that I would ask for the month off and if I didn’t get it, I would quit.
I couldn’t live with the idea of not being able to experience life the way I wanted to because of a job. So, I went in there, so unbelievably nervous, and asked for the time off. He tried to get me to shorten my trip and I stayed true to my word, either one month, or I quit, and in the end not only did he give me the time off, he also offered me a job in sales because I was so convincing!
What did you do next?
About 6 months after my Nepal trip I moved from Calgary, AB to Vancouver, BC.
Something about moving to the most expensive province in Canada put a fire under my butt to get my business off the ground. I started a social media management company and picked up a few clients.
Shortly after I realized I didn’t really like building the presence of other people while mine sat dormant, so I switched gears, I started focusing on one platform and positioning myself as the expert. I decided to educate rather than manage and that’s really when everything changed for me and led me to where I am now.
I’m dying to know - what inspired you to create Men and Coffee? Did you have any idea that it was going to blow up to what it is today?
Men and coffee was a pretty organic idea. My friend and I were having a glass of wine one night and we came across an image of a handsome guy outside of a coffee shop and we instantly agreed how appealing the combination was.
The next day I checked Instagram to see if anyone was doing something that involved the two and to my surprise, no one was! So of course, I quickly jumped on it and snagged the username @menandcoffee (and shortly after @womenandcoffee as well). I had no idea what the future of the account held, I just had a feeling people would like it. Now, over a year and a half later it has surpassed 367k followers!
What has been the best part of running your own business?
Being able to say "yes" to every opportunity. As most entrepreneurs know, when you run your own business sometimes you end up working 7 days a week and it can take precedence over other important things in your life.
While that does happen to me, it also gives me the opportunity to drop whatever I’m doing and go on a weekend vacation, or meet friends for a tee time on a Wednesday afternoon. I never have to say "no" and it truly is the greatest blessing.
You run several successful Instagram accounts and now have online courses helping others replicate your success. What drew you to online courses over other mediums like blogging or ebooks?
I was inspired by my older brother, Dylan Tooby, who teaches young athletes how to improve their soccer skills via youtube videos (he’s got over 150k subscribers!) and online courses.
Interested in taking Alex's free Instagram course? Jump on it now and sign up for Instagram Authority!
He encouraged me to create an info product as the return on investment is much higher and you’re able to teach far more students than you ever could offering services such as one-on-one coaching. I’m so thankful for his encouragement because courses have changed my life! (and those of my students!)
What did your course creation process look like?
Whenever I create something I like to work backwards. I start with what I want to the course to accomplish then break it down into the steps you need to take in order to reach that goal.
When you plan things this way it makes everything SO much easier! After you have the framework you need to decide in which way you want to present the course (pdfs, video, audio, etc). I prefer video for the bulk of my courses and use software like Quicktime to record (it’s free!) and Adobe Premiere Pro to edit.
Many people use Instagram to promote their businesses but they don’t realize that Instagram has the potential to be a business model in itself, when did it click for you and how did you get the gears into motion?
So true! That idea clicked for me once menandcoffee started gaining some popularity.
As the followers started increasing faster and faster I knew I needed to somehow monetize the traffic that was coming in. So, the first thing I did was team up with a company called The Printful to create some coffee related apparel.
The Printful is a fulfillment company and they handle all the printing and shipping of your products, you just have to design the apparel and make the sale. It’s the perfect way to bring in an income without having to invest anything upfront!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are looking to go full-time in their online business?
Be authentic, niche down and take risks! Being yourself is what attracts people to you, niching down and finding something specific you’re really good at is what makes you an expert, and taking risks is what sky rockets your business from one level to the next.
What are your plans for the future?
That’s a question that has always been hard for me to answer as I like to ride the wave I’m currently on and figure out things along the way.
I know I absolutely want to continue educating entrepreneurs so I plan to offer Instagram related courses for as long as it’s relevant then slowly transfer into teaching the other aspects of running an online business (think web design, research and analytics, monetization, blogging, etc!)
All I know for sure is that I’m going to keep saying YES to all those opportunities, keep taking risks, and keep being me, the rest will fall into place on it’s own ☺