Develop a thick skin and be confident within it. Working in an online space, I quickly realized how many trolls there are on the internet. It took a while, but I finally learned the more nasty comments I had, the more successful I was becoming. I shifted focus away from the hate and on to the positive and let the beautiful and kind words fuel my confidence.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing…Collin Morgan is a mom of three and proud wife to a former enlisted Marine. She began blogging at Hip2Save.com in the summer of 2008 as a way to help herself, and family and friends save money. Little did she know her hobby would turn into a full-time endeavor and that Hip2Save would become the nationally-recognized coupon and savings blog that it is today. Collin and her family currently live in the beautiful and scenic city of Reno, NV.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up with a learning disability requiring me to attend a private school specifically for children who were academically challenged. I’ll admit, this took a toll on my mental well-being and sparked a tiny voice inside my head that spoke hurtful comments like “you’re dumb” or “you don’t know how to learn.” School became such a struggle and my confidence was incredibly low.
On top of having a hard time in my education, my parents divorced when I was 11, so our family moved from Houston, TX to Boise, ID. I started at a public school after the move but the learning issues and my tendency to be hyper-critical of myself continued. My lack of confidence deterred me from playing sports, which I believe set me back socially, as team sports are a great way for students to make friends.
I wound up involved in the wrong crowd, experimenting with a variety of drugs, and got pregnant right after high school. Looking back now, I realize the true blessing that pregnancy was because I don’t know where I would have ended up if I didn’t have a solid reason to turn my life around. But also because of my new responsibilities, I never ended up attending college.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I had kids really young and like many parents know, caring for your family costs a lot of money. I cared way too much about what other people thought and felt the need to keep up with the Joneses, worrying about what kind of car I drove to what clothes I dressed my kids in.
When my family’s debt was spiraling out of control, so was my eating disorder. I was bulimic and the guilt and shame created a vicious cycle, which only made financial matters worse, so I knew we needed a way to get back on track. I dove into Google to learn all I could about couponing and ways to save while shopping.
Not only did couponing pull me and my family out of debt, but finally understanding a concept heavily dependent upon math and problem solving shot my confidence through the roof. My past with a learning disability no longer had a say in my ability to succeed, and I was ready to share this success with the world, thus launching my blog Hip2Save.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Interestingly enough, Hip2Save was started as a passion project rather than as a business to make money. I’ve found with passion comes an inspired and dedicated work ethic, so even if no one ended up reading the site, I was still excited to write the blog posts on how I scored these deals regardless.
I think when someone starts out just by focusing on monetization rather than passion, it’s less likely to develop into a worthwhile business. I credit so much of the site’s success to its formation from a true love for saving money and the excitement to pass along those savings tips. The business side of it just fell into place after that.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Again, if you’re passionate about something enough to make it a hobby, why not dream big and go for it? I wake up in the morning excited because I love what I do, so I say ignore the reluctance and reach for the stars when you can turn what you love into a business.
Luckily in the case of Hip2Save, our start up costs were practically $0 so I can understand the hesitation when initial capital plays a big role in launching into a business. I would advise to take baby steps, come up with a solid plan to put as little capital forward as possible, and access your risk.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I’m so lucky to be in this industry because it’s ever changing, never boring, and each day is always different for me! It’s key to have fresh challenges and a reason to continually learn each facet of your business.
Never stop learning and improving, no matter what your business is, and you’ll never tire of the work.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I enjoy the amount of freedom I have in owning my own business. It allows me to do anything and everything I want to do, both personally and professionally. I get to decide the vibe of our company culture and direction in which we move forward, which is extremely rewarding.
The downside is how scary all of that can be. When you’re the one at the top making the decisions, any issue is traced back to you. Having the final say is exciting, but it can definitely come with a side of stress.
The most fulfilling part of running Hip2Save (which again, was intended to be a passion project rather than a full-blown business) is knowing I have a staff of 30+ employees who support themselves and their families through their dedication and hard-working efforts toward the site. Even better, each employee can work from home adding a bit more convenience to their lifestyle.
With this, I put quite a bit of effort towards curating a team just as passionate as I am about the mission of Hip2Save. So when pivotal moments requiring major decisions arise, I feel confident in the support and guidance I receive from my team.
I love, LOVE our Hip2Save family and strive to create an environment where everyone’s opinion is valued, so knowing their feedback is available for each and every decision takes a bit of the stress out of making the final call.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I never look at Hip2Save as a job because, again, it’s my passion. However as the years have gone by and the business has grown, the nitty gritty side of what keeps the website running and updated has never been a strong suit of mine.
I hired out our accounting, employee benefits, and other major administrative aspects of our business because I’m just not great at managing those important job functions. I never anticipated we’d grow so much when I started Hip2Save so I completely overlooked having those roles come into play.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
In the beginning, I never really got discouraged since I was excited right out of the gate but as we’ve grown, I’ve encountered some difficult days and have definitely experienced the wanting to “throw in the towel” feeling. That said, I’ve been able to overcome those low points fairly easily thanks to having a supportive and trustworthy team. Their passion towards our Hip2Save goals which directly reflect mine takes away any of my doubts.
It’s also a huge blessing to be able to work alongside my older sister. Oddly enough, we’re extremely different but I think it’s what makes our working style so effective. She’s my biggest support system and constantly keeps me moving forward instead of looking back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started the blog, I knew no one was reading the posts, but regardless, I decided I was going to host a giveaway. I checked for the entries each day only to find that [obviously] no one was entering. I didn’t want to feel defeated so I made my own giveaway submissions to drive up the entry count.
Yes, it was a little ridiculous but I like sharing that story because everyone starts somewhere and growth may not happen right away. For me, it required taking baby steps, persistence, and if entering my own giveaway was going to help the site gain traction, so be it.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
This is such an easy answer — my older sister. Bryn is one of a kind, passionate, hard-working, honest, and loyal. So fiercely loyal that she was my first “hire” and I truly don’t know where Hip2Save would be today without her. Day in and day out, I get to learn from her and the way she motivates our team which is what inspires and drives my own management style.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I think what Hip2Save does every day for our readers adds so much value to the lives in our community. The number of emails and comments sharing life-changing gratitude never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s from someone who’s been able to pay off their mortgage sooner than expected or someone who’s relationship has improved from getting their financial situation in check, I will never tire of reading about the effect Hip2Save has had on someone’s life.
In addition, we make it a priority to give back as much as possible. A few years ago, we launched our Hip2Help tour by visiting various states affected by natural disasters to help pick up the pieces after devastating tragedies. We brought fun family activities to brighten spirits within the community and donated thousands of dollars worth of personal goods to local residents.
The most inspiring part of the Hip2Help tour came from our community of readers who volunteered to host the various events and paid it forward through their own donations.
Even when we don’t have a specific helping campaign running, we receive messages from our community throughout the year when someone is down on their luck. We’re quick to offer words of encouragement and even financial support in certain cases.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Business is hard. The accounting side of things, taxes, and the job functions I don’t excel in really aren’t exciting. I wish I had a bit more guidance in the beginning to be more organized and hire out those roles sooner because we probably could have grown the site at a faster rate with the proper administration in place.
- Slow down. I have a personality that wants to get things done as quickly as possible, which can lead to missed opportunities for strategizing or thoughtfulness. This has happened in our hiring process where I’ll want to hire someone immediately without a more thorough interview or vetting process, only to turn around and realize they aren’t the right fit for our team, ending up wasting the time of everyone involved.
- Don’t forget balance. Hip2Save started as my hobby, so having my career and passion merge into one became the center of my life. Meanwhile, I had my loving husband and wonderful kids who weren’t receiving the same attention as the site even though they deserved every bit of it. When we started, I would be on my computer from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. at night, even bringing my laptop to family holiday gatherings. I’ve since found a happy balance but wish I would have embraced it sooner.
- Develop a thick skin and be confident within it. Working in an online space, I quickly realized how many trolls there are on the internet. It took a while, but I finally learned the more nasty comments I had, the more successful I was becoming. I shifted focus away from the hate and on to the positive and let the beautiful and kind words fuel my confidence.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone and you find unexpected strengths. When I first started Hip2Save, I was a terrible writer! Seriously, I could not write well at all, but I was so excited to share the deals I was discovering that I pushed past it! I taught myself how to blog, how to write, how to deal with all the logistics that come with starting a website, and in turn, how to create a thriving business.
And none of that would have happened if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone and take risks. Whether they worked or not, I knew I’d be learning something from the experience and isn’t that what life’s about?! Trying, failing, succeeding, learning, and creating memories in the process.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’m so lucky to do what I do as Hip2Save is creating a movement to inspire people to commit to their finances and accept how it really is “hip to save”. When I was young, I was embarrassed about frugality and using coupons so my mission for the site was to empower our readers to promote their saving abilities, whether it’s scoring a great deal at the grocery store or showing off a $2 thrift store shirt.
We want to inspire people to feel good about saving money, so much so that they share their excitement with friends and family and keep the movement going.
With that, we’ve received countless emails from readers who pay it forward with their savings by giving back to their local communities or contributing to organizations they care about. It’s beyond humbling to learn the success our Hip2Save community has enriching their own lives, but also spreading the wealth to deserving entities.
I’ve also been transparent with readers about my struggles with addiction and an eating disorder, which lead to me sharing the conscious decision to enter into a rehabilitation program. I hope that being open and honest about my experience encourages others to know they’re not alone, help and treatment is available, and I am here for support.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they make the best of everything.”
This quote is just so incredibly true. Money does not buy happiness, and there’s proof in the population who has so much and continually wants more vs. the population who has nothing yet still has a zest for life.”
Another quote that resonates so much with me is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” It’s a reminder that I need to think about every day because it focuses on being present in the moment, abolishing the worries of tomorrow, and not letting the unforeseen take away any current joy.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If I’m being honest, I think it’s important to surround yourself with people (actual people, not celebrities) who are the ones you’d love to sit down with because they inspire you that much. In my world, those people would be my dad, my mom, my sisters, and my team members, all because I know them, their work ethic, and just how incredible they are to be around.
For the sake of this interview and to choose a name from the vast list of people I see who are doing good in this world, I’d love to be able to chat with Drew Barrymore. To me, she’s such a unique individual and owns who she is, which is a trait I always strive for as well.
Being “you”, regardless of what that looks like, requires confidence, something I’ve spent my whole life working towards. And from what I can tell, Drew exudes passion, and without that, Hip2Save simply wouldn’t exist.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.