In 2010, 30-year-old Kyle Taylor was a college dropout with $50,000 in debt. Tired of carrying that load on his shoulders, Taylor started a blog to document his journey out of debt and the lessons he learned along the way. Today, the Penny Hoarder can boast more than 15 million unique visitors each month and recently became a two-time Inc. 5000 honoree, with more than 9,000 percent revenue growth between 2013 and 2016.
I started the Penny Hoarder when I was in between working for human interest groups. I had originally thought I was going to end up in politics. I went back to school a couple of times and found myself racking up $50,000 in debt. I grew up with a single mom who was always forthright about our finances. We knew exactly how much money was coming in and exactly how much money was in every category of the budget. I made the blog to bring some of those lessons back and to get honest with myself that I needed to get out of debt.
In the beginning, I was writing mostly for myself; it was essentially an online journal. My name wasn't even attached to it. Six months after I started the blog, I bought the domain for the Penny Hoarder and started writing under my name. It started to receive traffic and get more viewers, and I started networking with other personal finance bloggers who would read my blog and was able to build my network.
Early in the blog's life, I noticed that many publishers were failing to find a business model that worked for them. Advertisers weren't interested in purchasing display ads; they wanted something more. Since 2011, thePenny Hoarder has worked directly with clients to take their marketing beyond display ads. We learned that performance marketing--partnering with clients to share their story in our voice--was the way to go. Clients pay us only when we're successful. For example, we work with Uber and Lyft to help recruit new drivers. When a new driver signs up through our site and then gets his or her first paycheck, we get a paycheck as well. We've used this type of advertising to generate revenue since the beginning, and it's helped the business grow exponentially.
Two and a half years after starting the blog, I was able to pay off my debts. That was exciting for me, because not only was the debt crushing me personally but also because readers were telling me how much my story was actually helping them.
In 2015, I hired someone to take over the editorial side of the blog and started focusing on the business side of things. I built a branded content team in 2016, and they focus on creating branded content in the voice of the Penny Hoarder. The branded content team is part of our editorial team, because we want that content to be as close to the Penny Hoarder's voice as possible. Sponsored content takes up about 5 percent of the content of the site, but it's the reason we've been able to grow at such a rapid pace.
For now, we want to grow our subscriber base, and do it on a medium that can reach the most people. That means video. We're hoping to grow to 100 employees by the end of 2017--a lot of those people will be for video.