The Experience
Teach at Jolt

What you can learn from mailchimp's million dollar growth strategy

Faye Graham
June 5, 2020

By stepping back from the more corporate world, web designers by trade Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius made it their mission to try and help their customers. They launched MailChimp back in 2001 as a side project, for people who needed email marketing tips. But adopting a growth mindset awakened them to their real passion. They gave up their design business altogether and in 2007 Mailchimp was fully born.

So how did a simple side project go on to become one of the world's most lovable and memorable brands?

Chestnut and Kurzius worked hard for many years to build a powerful service that actually made email marketing fun. By creating a distinctive tone of voice their branding grew out of the fun experiences they were already delivering to their customer base. But, they also had a secret weapon..."Freemium."

In September of 2009, MailChimp announced they were going freemium — meaning customers could sign up and use the services for free. This bold move was a big risk, yet wound up being the best strategy for driving growth they could have ever imagined. Popularity of the free model meant that Kurzius and Chestnut were in a position to experiment with monthly pricing plans. Rather than wasting time on acquisition targets, they were able to create a pricing structure tailored to small businesses — and increased usage grew Mailchimp’s profit by 650%.

Focussing on a unique audience gave them the freedom to be more creative and adapt quickly to their customers’ needs. As a company growing by more than $120 million every year, there’s a lot to be learned from their trajectory. Mailchimp’s sales model, coupled with their well-established and lovable brand, helped take the company’s growth to the next level, and to date over 246 billion emails have been sent using their platform. Driven by their enthusiasm for helping small businesses grow, Mailchimp’s story is a prime example of how adopting a start-up mindset and applying it to your passion is the true recipe for exponential growth and success.

Jolt. Teaching start-up business

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.

Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for 6 years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us have creative breaks?

I ask because I can often be found agonising over the "more". If only I posted on Instagram more, I'll think in the bath. I'd have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to post 2 more times a week, minimum. I could go on...

Between you and me, I've got frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I'm not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won't let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real, y'all.

But like Vitamin D, sleep and good food, it's not only ok to take a break, it's essential.

Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won't end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won't suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then and it will be again.

Your dreams don't have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being "busy" with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks.

And science backs it up, too. The brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The ideas you have while driving or in the shower aren't coincidental. They're a result of you taking a step back, whether you're aware of it or not.

Here's a challenge for you

Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored.

Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don't be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

When you leave your laptop behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.


"A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave."

Take proper breaks, often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

Taken by over 18,500 people; Calibrated by 100s of tech employees

By taking this 10-min test I can set myself up for success

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