Marko and I are in a very fun place with The Youth Cartel.
Our start-up, in many ways our baby, is exceeding our expectations in growth. We’re further along in development than we could have imagined we would be 14-16 months ago.
I’ve done a start-up before. In 2005, with $72 and a small group of friends we created an online community which took off and did really well. So I know that getting an idea/product out there and getting it popular is actually not that hard.
But, in business-development-land, there’s a big difference between creating a product people are really excited about and creating a sustainable company with a number of products. In my first start-up, YMX, we really had a product that had a shelf life. Fortunately, we sold it at the products peak value so we didn’t have to worry about what the company’s next product might be. Well, we worried about it a lot, but never had to do anything about it.
The Youth Cartel, from its genesis, is different than that. YMX always had an out-plan… to sell… the goal for the Cartel is not to sell, but build something that can change the very ecosystem we exist in. (This explains our byline: To instigate a revolution in youth ministry.)
So it’s a different start-up mentality altogether.
Signs of Growth
Just like with a real baby, when Marko and I look at the Cartel it’s easy for us to see a baby when in fact there are signs of growth all over the place. Here’s what I mean:
Publishing - My life has been consumed with books lately. Our first publishing projects, the Extended Adolescence Symposium ebook and Good News in the Neighborhood were both primarily digital products. But starting this fall we’ve got 3 books in both print and digital formats.
- The Youth Cartel’s Unauthorized Dictionary of Youth Ministry by Steve Case. Reviews are starting to fly in on this one, it’s a total blast.
- (Coming in November) Masterpiece: The Art of Discipling Youth by Paul Martin. This book is very, very good. So excited to see its impact on ministries.
- (Coming in November) Leading Up: Finding Influence in the Church Beyond Role and Experience by Joel Mayward. Boom. Seriously, this book is so needed among church leaders.
Events & Training - It’s hard to say my life isn’t dominated by this, too. We are hosting 3 events in 6 weeks this Fall. When you add on top of that some of the training I’m doing with churches and other conferences, it’s a big piece of who we are and what we do.
- Open - I’ve written a fair amount about the success of Open Seattle. Momentum for this little grass roots style of event is building. Based on feedback from Seattle and the speaker submissions and requests to sponsor at Open Boston… we are definitely onto something.
- Middle School Ministry Campference – It’s fun to see this growing in its second year. I’m really looking forward to being a part of the weekend.
- The Summit – We’re quickly approaching our first-ever Summit. And anticipation is killing us! We couldn’t be more thrilled with the lead-up though.
Marketing Services - I’ve quietly served about 25 organizations in the past year. Everything from consulting to building websites to launching products… this has really been one of our powerhouse places and it’s been mostly below the radar. (By design, of course) I had one client meeting where a prospective person said, “Everywhere I look you guys are there.” Yeah baby, welcome to the revolution.
Coaching program – Marko is starting his third year of the coaching program. It’s been really cool to see it grow, morph, and really change people’s lives. It’s not big and mass media, in fact it’s really slow and has deep impact on people. I’m really excited to see some of the places YMCP is headed in the next 3-6 months, too.
Becoming a Thing
As we’re growing we are starting to see more and more clearly how all the stuff we are doing is working together and the Cartel is becoming more than just Marko & Adam’s start-up… it’s becoming a thing. Over the past 3-4 months we’ve noticed how people are talking differently about us. For the first year we heard lots of folks saying, “We love what you are doing.” Now we’re hearing more, “I love where this thing is taking us.” That’s a not-so-subtle and very important thing. The Cartel is lame if its just about Marko and I– but it’s really quite exciting to see that God is taking our dreams, initiatives, aspirations, and hard work and we are starting to see how it is kicking off a revolution within the youth ministry world.
Where We Go From Here
In short, we’ve got many more ideas, some of which we’re starting to do and other which we’re waiting for the right time. For now our biggest challenge isn’t opportunity… it’s continuing to execute on the things that have helped grow this thing while we build capacity to go to the next level. We’re building our team, we’re seeing the financial stuff get stronger and more predictable, and both will allow us to build things for the next stage of development.
In business development terms, we’re making an initial transformation from a bootstrap enterprise with two friends working together to make it happen and towards our long-term goal of becoming a family run small business.
So, that’s where we are.
Most importantly for us, we’re having a crazy amount of fun!