You probably still know him as Dwight Schrute from The Office.
But by the time Rainn Wilson had gained notoriety as an actor, he already had his eye on another, unexpected role.
"I saw an opportunity to do something different and special and, dare I say beautiful, online," he told an audience of several hundred at Inc.'s GrowCo conference in Las Vegas Wednesday.
"Different," because, he says, when he looked online at the time, as 2008 was turning into 2009, he says "the Internet was the worst. It was all Kardashian butts," he said.
Wilson envisioned his just-about-to-launch Web company as a social community that would help members chew on life's big questions. It would publish content focusing on spirituality and philosophical topics. He'd call it SoulPancake.
One day when Wilson was talking about SoulPancake on a radio show, a woman named Shabnam Mogharabi was listening. Mogharabi was a journalist by training, who'd worked at People magazine and who did her master's thesis at Northwestern University on covering spiritual and philosophical topics in a more intelligent way. "He's my business soul mate!" she says she thought.
She told her friends about it--and, finally, got in touch with SoulPancake and Wilson.
She came on board with the Los Angeles-based website just as it was about to launch. Turns out, her input was crucial to the company's success. She cautioned Wilson not to launch before he had content ready to publish--and, once it did, to steer away from being a sort of social network, and more toward creating the kinds of positive, earnest videos the team was good at.
"We weren't going to draw the numbers of people we thought we were going to draw," Wilson said. "We realized we were much better at creating videos than building a website."
So, SoulPancake switched up its entire business model to become a platform-agnostic, new-wave video-production studio. And Mogharabi stepped up her role within the company. Today, she is SoulPancake's chief executive.
"We started quadrupling in size," Wilson says.
Today, SoulPancake is a video-production company with a YouTube channel that has 1.7 million subscribers, a brand-agency to monetize its work, as well as licensing and merchandising. It works with brands such as Coca-Cola and has appeared on Oprah Winfrey's radio show. Its video series include Kid President. SoulPancake also made the Inc. 500 list this past year with $3.9 million in revenue--the company grew 3,044 percent over the previous three years.
On stage at GrowCo, Wilson spent many minutes gushing about the talents of his chief executive--from her management skills, to storytelling ability, to spreadsheet prowess.
"I should take him everywhere to introduce me!" Mogharabi said.
"Like on dates!" Wilson deadpanned.
"Well," Mogharabi said.
They clearly still get along.