In today's online course case study, we meet Dave Sweney, CEO, Soaring Eagle LLC, creators of the SMART Tools for Business and SMART Affiliate Program. As one of our Bright Sparks success stories, Dave shared with us how he has used brandable courses to quickly build several curriculums in a fraction of the time it would normally take him. As one example, Dave shared how he's helping one of his audience's to pivot to an entirely new direction in their business. Read on to learn more and get inspiration for your own online course business…
Tell us a little about yourself:
I grew up on the border of Canada, in International Falls, MN. After high school, I joined the US Army. Over 25 years of service, I had a colorful and eventful career, traveling to many places in the world, having been involved in many conflicts and various operations, and retired at the ripe old age of 42 after serving the last 8 years as a Sergeant Major.
While in the service, I also completed 4 college and university degrees plus taught for 10 years as an adjunct professor for various higher-education institutions. That dovetailed nicely with some of the training I conducted while on active duty, and it provided some extra cash for vacations and savings for my children's education later on…
Once I retired, I stayed in Germany (where I had been stationed for much of my career and where my wife is from) and immediately began my civilian career. I was hired as a senior manager for logistics supporting the Bosnia-Herzegovina peace-keeping efforts (and other areas)… I took a week off after retirement and deployed. Shortly thereafter, I went out on my own as an independent consultant based out of Germany and provided on-site client support for 12 major food corporations selling products to the military in Europe and MENA (The Middle East and Northern Africa). Over a 4 1/2 year span I sold over $100 million in groceries and found I liked sales (and the commissions!)… After that stint, I started a company and we developed our own line of energy drinks, coffee and coffee dispensing systems, and other specialty drinks and flavorings. Our main customers were the military clients in Europe and the Middle East, but we also experienced growth in the USA market.
About that time, the crisis of 2007 hit, and we, as many companies did, experienced a drastic downturn in business. I had also enrolled in a Doctoral program and completed 4 years to that point, but I gave up finishing my dissertation to try saving the company (unsuccessfully as it turned out). I lost a great deal of money from that period but did have the foresight to know that my retirement and social security and assets that remained would enable me to survive no matter what happened. That has been the case, and now we are at the cusp of once again having new success with our tools, training, and programs.
Let's bring this tale to the present, and weave the Content Sparks link into it! This is indeed where Content Sparks comes into the picture.
In the days when I was teaching, I used a textbook and prepared my lessons, exercises. and assignments around them. This is exactly how I am using the courses I have purchased to now from Content Sparks and how I will use the ones I purchase in the future. At the moment, I am almost 63 years old, and the company (Soaring Eagle LLC) and brands (SMART Tools for Business and the SMART Affiliate Program) plus the systems and resources we have cobbled together are just what a lot of people need. The COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster for the world but with every disaster, new opportunities are realized. This is the case for our company and our products and services.
The current situation takes me back to some of the operations I was involved with while in the military. There are millions of people that could use exactly what we have, and with our passion, effort, and the Content Sparks courses, we will be helping many get a new perspective on how to earn a living these days. There had been a shift in the paradigm already, but the pandemic has exacerbated the phenomenon and made our programs more important and relevant than ever.
This is not a new business model, but we are taking it further and higher than the competition. Once I have the business set up completely, we will scale it up to handle the many thousands of people that are hurting right now. Using sensible pricing (i.e. lower than the nearest and best competition), and keeping our training up to date and new training added as needed, I will regain much of what was lost all those years ago and provide a needed service to many people and families. At some point I will retire likely, but not sure when…Perhaps when I get old?
Who is your target audience that you serve?
The target audience is very broad, but initially, we will target areas of the USA (regions) where the unemployment rates are highest. We will tailor paid ads to the niches that we decide to focus on and market to, but literally our programs and training are designed to help anyone that is looking to develop an additional or replacement stream of income for any purpose (i.e. paying the house mortgage, replacing the day job(s), stay at home mothers, etc.)…
We offer digital tools, downloadable resources, training, and business systems, all related to online business. From a single tool to a complete platform with all the bells and whistles, we have it. The idea is to save our members a great deal of money as they will not have to go outside to buy tools, they get all they need with their membership. They have access to a single training platform, a community support platform, many tools that have their own websites, etc. They also will be participants in our gamification efforts. The more active they are, the more they help others, the more training they complete, the more they “earn.” The points (we call them SMART Credits) they earn can be redeemed for various business tools that we have in our SMART Rewards Program. These tools cost real money on the outside and for non-members, but they will use the credits they work for within the platforms.
We have put together a series of lessons, courses, modules, and complete curriculum offers for members, and cover basic to advanced subjects. Using our platform and training, members can build their own business from start to the scaling phase. The idea is to provide them an in-depth set of courses and even curriculum options so they can decide on a niche, decide whether to get involved with other means of developing online streams of income, etc.
Having the courses has made the development of the platform so much easier. Developing courses of the quality that is offered with the Content Sparks courses takes a great deal of time. I am a believer in automation and outsourcing whenever possible, and having access to the courses that Content Sparks offers has been a blessing!
What other solutions did you look at or try?
I also have developed my own training courses, and use some other PLR (Private Label Rights) training for the different curriculum offers we have, and I have purchased a top-level training platform and a premium WordPress membership theme to offer as professional a service as possible for members.
What made you choose to buy your course(s) from Content Sparks?
The quality, the ease of adaptation, the logical flow of the information provided, the professional look of the courses both on the front end (student materials) and the back-end (teacher and marketing materials) makes using Content Sparks courses an easy and best choice!
I have a total of 25 courses so far, and they range from content to reputation management, to marketing, and other essential business skill courses that I know our members will need. They are all good individually, and when grouped together by subject area, they are very powerful for presenting a professional program like I have not seen in the market.
What did you love most about the course(s) you purchased?
I love the ease of use and the quick process to get them ready for deployment in our curriculum offers. I can also use them for more than one curriculum, as some are general subjects that apply to many kinds of online business models.
You have to have the proper resources and certainly the Content Sparks' material has been just critical for me and being able to make it happen a lot faster and more professionally. So I would say that for anybody who's considering going into the training business online, they should definitely look at the Content Sparks' material. It's professional. It's, you know, once you understand what's there, it's very, very easy to go through it and quickly adapt it for whatever it is that you happen to be doing.
I just recently got the one on setting up training online and also how to create a course, and that's generated the most interest to now from some of my friends.
And I'll give you a case study example real fast. I have a lot of musical friends. And right now, all over the world, musicians are out of work. Musos are musicians. They play in bands. They play and maybe play for like a famous rock band, or they may be out here in one of the little bars and playing music for the guests.
That whole business, that whole genre has been shut down and it's been catastrophic for the people. So since I do have the background in teaching and I do have this program that I'm putting together, and the main focus initially was on helping people become affiliates, promoters. I also saw a need to help the Musos out. So actually there's been a huge interest from musicians in working with me and they're paying a pretty good bit of change, you know, to learn how to put their courses together, how to publish them online and how to charge for the courses. And we have the recorded sessions and then you have the live sessions.
So it's been a process of helping them, you know, plan for everything and get it together and then put it to put on a website. And then what to charge and how to take money. I mean, so those courses have been very, very valuable, but. I have a total of 25 courses now from you. Yeah. Twenty five courses. I just counted them up. It's a lot of courses. So and without even knowing it, what was happening is that I was able to put together a set of curriculums as opposed to just one.
And some of the courses will fit in more than one curriculum. So that's why I say it's so hard to pick one or the over the other. But in this particular case, for the Musos, the teaching and how to create a course online has been most immediately valuable. But I will say that over the next coming months. All of the rest of them are going to come to the fore.
As you can read from above, they form an essential core element of our platform so that members will have a solid base from which to start their online businesses. Using the training, and our resources and tools, they can quickly begin to understand how to plan for and implement that plan.
We have only begun to offer the training packages to clients, and just in the Beta stage, the response has been tremendous.
People are waiting for me to open the doors to the public, and once I feel we are close enough (we will never be there completely, continuous evaluation and improvement is a part of our corporate identity)… The teaching and creating online course packages have already been selling at $199 for the two. These were created using mainly materials from Content Sparks, plus some tools and materials from our side. The package works well.
On that alone, I would expect to make quite a few thousands of dollars (the goal is to break $10k with that package) in sales before the year is out (and yes I know that the year is half over already!)… The buyers have created and set up their courses, are selling them online, and earning income from their efforts already. Many people in many niches need this type of service, and the students I have had are spreading the word around the globe that Dave and the SMART Tools for Business is the place to come to for help!
With our other programs, we will package the training into various membership options, and we are keeping the price considerably lower than our competition to generate interest. I know that this is a market that has legs and is evergreen, but especially in these days of the pandemic, we will have huge success. I would expect that the company will break $400,000 in sales before the year is out. That is very possible using the business model and strategies we have. The nearest competition to use has had over 2 million students through their platform over the last 15 years.
We will be around 15 years from now discussing our 2 million students if I have anything to do with it. Overconfident? Nope, I know the market, I know what we have, now we just have to get out there and sell our products and services (and support them too)…
I love teaching, always have. So this is sort of a return to what I was doing in the '80s as a young lad (okay early twenties was my age so I was not SO young!) who was trying to earn while learning (I also was in two Master's Programs while teaching and playing Army, so as you might imagine, it was a hectic time!). There is no doubt that with the help of Content Sparks, this latest journey into the past (teaching again) will be one that I enjoy likely more than the first time around. It will be my last, so I will make the most of it.
Our business will grow from a start-up to a multi-million dollar company.
The growth will be exponential for quite a period, as we offer a lot (more than the competition) for a little (we cost less). We will flesh out all the training, tools, and resources currently in hand and added to the road map, and will add more as we find them. We will open a support center likely in The Philippines, another in Florida, and we will keep our office in International Falls, MN. From these three main locations (and from Germany, Thailand, Canada, and anywhere else, I will continue to help grow the business as long as I am around. No retirement for me from where I am looking now, rather I will groom the next leaders from the grandchildren to take over the operation when I am finished…This portends good things for your business as well because I will continue to tap into the courses over time to offer fresh and pertinent training for members of my programs.
I have learned to trust your work, to value your offers, and know that the cost is well worth the investment. You get what you pay for with Content Sparks, and as long as that is the case, you have a happy and active (buying) customer!
Read the excerpt from the Teddy Roosevelt speech in France so long ago that called “The Man In The Arena.” It has been my mantra since first hearing it way back in 1977, and I have used it for award ceremonies and as a guideline for my own life. Essentially, it is better to be in the arena of life as opposed to watching from the sidelines the brave souls that get back up again even after being knocked down again and again. Live life to its fullest, and do not be afraid to love. Give more than you receive, be kind to others, and forgive yourself. If anyone can use these principles (and a few others) they can live a purposeful life and make a difference. I have been fortunate enough to be able to influence a lot of people over the years in a positive manner, and I will continue to help many more. They should do the same, and likely they will climb higher, do more, and be more recognized than I ever was or will be. It does not matter, if that is the case, I have done my job!
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I appreciate the chance to tell the story of our company, brand, and a bit of my personal side in your venue. I do hope that this case study will let your readers know that in spite of hardships and adversity, life can be fun and exciting. Having a plan and executing that plan is essential. Using automation and DFY materials is the smart thing to do in many situations. Your content is the perfect example of that. They would do well to stick with you and offer a consistent set of courses with accompanying material to the students (if they are teachers)
How can people learn more about you? Where should we send them?
Our SMART Community Support Center is located at smartcommunity.center
We have many other websites that relate to our program (such as the training platform) but this will do for a start.
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