Gent’s Gournal: 7 Things I Learned from Failing Websites and Growing This One

If you’re reading this, it’s because Alex, Gentry, and I (I’m Chris, hi) started a website / blog that wound up doing pretty well in an area where we have a decent amount of knowledge.

We came up with this idea one night when we were hanging out with each other and our wives.

I don’t remember how we came up with the idea — we were drinking — but I do remember that we started talking about how cool Gentry’s name is.

Then we started talking about sophistication. Whiskey. Homeownership. Shoes. Beard. Musicals.

Dude stuff.

Eventually, we started talking about writing it down, and someone suggested “Gents of Lancaster” as the domain name.

So we bought it.

It’s probably the weirdest alcohol-fueled purchase we’ve ever made. It was also kind of dumb because we basically paid someone else so that we could start working on things.

But we had it, so we started working.

Then, Gents o’ Lancaster started growing.

And then it took off like I’ve never seen before.

At the time of publication, this blog is about two months old. We own it for the next 10 years, which is two and a half presidents.

Also, while I’m not sure how many websites Alex and Gentry have started, I do know that this is the eighth website I’ve either started or helped start.

What happened to the other seven?

They’re all dead.

This is why I think this blog is succeeding when the past seven websites haven’t.

#1. It’s Better to Work in Groups

This is kind of a no-duh statement, but it seriously helps.

Starting a website, running it, and promoting it is a huge drag when you’re doing it alone.

Unless you’re super into the subject matter, there’s the chance you’ll just lose the passion for your website and let $50 go to waste.

So that’s the big difference between this and the last few websites I’ve started.

With this one, Gentry, Alex, and I can segment the workload. We have different talents. We think about promotion differently.

We have different boundaries (I refuse to use Facebook). We have different day jobs. We have different schedules.

In fact, we’ve only seen each other all together once or twice since we started GoL.

That’s a big reason why it works.

Everything is so varied that there’s one of us to pick up what someone else might drop. (To date, nobody’s dropped anything, but still.)

It’s a good system.

But it wouldn’t work at all without a little extra somethin’ somethin’.

#2. You Have to Be Passionate

If you’re not passionate about a blog, you’re probably not going to go very far.

I remember discovering this when my first website — gingerextraordinaire.com — went all of nowhere after I started it.

So I thought I’d make a website about a topic that makes me feel passionate: Books I’ve written.

And then kelceris.com didn’t go anywhere.

Marketing Solution Toolbox, Fury Marketing, and Comedy Theorist all fell flat on their faces.

It’s because I had days where I just wasn’t feeling it.

Then I had weeks where I wasn’t feeling it.

Eventually, I just stopped caring. No one held me accountable, I lost my passion, and no one was reading anyway.

So, feh, scrap it.

Onto the next one.

With Gentry, Alex, and I, we actually care about the stuff we decide to write.

We also only commit to writing one new blog / page every week, which makes it a hell of a lot easier to manage than building a whole website on your own.

With an accommodating production schedule and a literal spreadsheet of future ideas, I think we’ll be riding the GoL wave for a long, long time.

But passion is just the start.

You also have to know what everyone does well.

It takes time. But after six weeks of working with Alex and Gentry, I feel confident in the next two points.

#3. Someone Has to Do Promo (Alex)

If you’re on our website, it’s because of Alex.

He has an inborn knack for social media that most marketers would kill to have.

(I know that for a fact — I’m in marketing.)

So whether you got here from Reddit or our Facebook page or Instagram or Grindr or whatever — it’s because he was like “Oh cool, I’ll do this” and then did it.

It’s good follow-through for sure. It’s always a relief to do a project with someone who does what they say they’re going to do.

This is all wrapped up in the fact that Alex knows men’s style stuff like watches and razors like a champ.

All in all, he’s a solid hype man.

#4. Someone Has to Know Stuff (Gentry)

Gentry is more or less an encyclopedia. If you have a question, ask him. He’ll know the answer.

It’s pretty awesome knowing someone like that because Gentry’s knowledge base is more or less endless.

He either knows something about everything, and in several niche areas — like scotch— he knows just about everything.

Having a living, breathing knowledge base is ultra-helpful because there’s never a shortage of ideas.

One idea springs seven, we add them to our spreadsheet, and then Gentry has seven more.

If we stopped generating new ideas today, we’d be fine for the next six or seven months — literally.

All in all, you need someone with ideas because you can always research what they’re talking about if you don’t know it off the top of your head.

Couple that with the fact that Gentry knows a lot about his own ideas anyway, and you have a winning formula for non-stop work.

(Although I wouldn’t call it work.)

#5. Someone Has to Have Done It Before

Since 2012, I think I’ve spent about $800 on domain registration, hosting, and promotion on my personal projects.

They’ve never once panned out, and every time I tried, I did something different.

So this time, for GoL, I took notes from everything that broke the first time around.

I lost passion for all of my ideas. For me, I knew I had to partner with people who would hold me accountable.

I never knew how to promote my stuff, despite the fact that I work in marketing. I had to work with someone who knew how to leverage stuff like social media.

I don’t know much about cool stuff. I knew I had to work with someone who had a breadth of knowledge that’s borderline staggering.

To double-down on those opportunities, I knew we had to have a schedule.

We also had to have a revenue option.

That’s why we started serving ads on our website (sorry about that) and using the Amazon Affiliate program.

One day, it’d be incredible to turn GoL from a blog into a full-blown media outlet that we can use to help promote Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the people, places, and businesses that call it home.

Now, we just have to keep at it.

And that’s actually a good thing.

#6. Doing It Well Means Having Fun

I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun working on a website.

Gentry, Alex, and I have a reason to talk on a daily basis. We have a continual text thread about ideas we have and just stuff we enjoy in general.

Just last Saturday, we had a whiskey tasting (courtesy of Alex and Gentry) where they were totally fine with me taking my tasting notes in iambic pentameter.

It’s been a blast, and it’s not stopping any time soon.

#7. You Have to Plan Ahead

I was going to put a picture of a spreadsheet here, but that sounds more boring than an actual spreadsheet.

Depending on who you ask, the most crucial part of success is looking ahead.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Alex, Gentry, and I are definitely planning what we write and publish every week.

But right now, we’re learning that the sky is the limit here.

We found a modest following on an affordable website that lets us talk about what we want while giving us an excuse to hang out.

Someday, maybe we’ll even make some money from it.

But that day is far away. So we’re scaling up what we do.

We want to publish more than text. We want to publish in more places than just a website.

So we have some ideas. They’ll take time to do, and they’ll take even longer to do well.

But you better believe we’re gonna give ’em a shot.

I Don’t Know How to End This, So Here’s a Picture of a Capybara with Lettuce on Its Head

Lookit.

If you want to support Gents of Lancaster as an outlet, just keep checking out the website every week.

If you want to do more, you can always order stuff through Amazon using our affiliate link.

It doesn’t cost anything more on your end — Amazon just gives us a small cut of the order profit as a thank-you.

Thanks for reading — we’ll let you know when the next big thing ins coming!

Advertisements