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03 Feel the fear and do it anyway, with Kelsey Petrich Episode 3

03 Feel the fear and do it anyway, with Kelsey Petrich

· 01:04:42


[00:00:00] Christian: Hello and welcome to What's Stopping You, episode number three with Kelsey. Kelsey is a data scientist for a financial services company, and she's working on two different projects. Kelsey, could you tell me a little bit about Tansy?

[00:00:12] Kelsey: Sure. So Tansy is a personal financial cash flow forecaster. So instead of maybe budgeting or tracking the amount of money you spend on certain areas like groceries, how much you're getting paid, et cetera, it forecasts into the future how much cash you'll have in, say, your checking account. Each day you can go in and log your current checking account balance, and it will automatically update based on what you've defined as upcoming events.

And then you can see, say in 45 days when car insurance is due, once every six months, will I have enough money to cover my car insurance without having to worry about what did I spend the past six months or categorizing all of that. so it's a easy way to keep yourself between the ditches on your personal cash flow.

[00:01:01] Christian: Between the ditches. I like that phrase. I also love the space of personal finance. That's something I've been really interested in and seen a lot of benefit from in my own life. So I'm excited to dig into that one. The second project you're working on is the environmental database. Is that right?

[00:01:15] Kelsey: Yes, that's correct. For about seven to eight years, I worked as an environmental consultant primarily in the air quality space. And in doing that, you have to do a lot of research over air permits. And air permits are spread across all different types of regulatory agency websites. Sometimes you can't find them and you have to do a FOIA request.

And so one of the projects we always wanted to do was have a compilation of all air permits across the US. That we could go into and search across them to find things that were comparable to the project we were working on. so my goal with the environmental database was to build the compilation of air equality permits so that environmental consultants could come to it.

They could search, they wouldn't have to go to say Iowa or Minnesota's individual website or do a FOIA request for a permit they're interested in. They could just come to the website, search, find it and move along in their project.

[00:02:11] Christian: Two very different projects. Tansy sounds like it's for individuals interested in personal finance and getting a better control of their budget. More of a b2c and then the environmental database sounds like something that came out of your work for environmental consultants. This is a problem I never would've imagined is a problem.

What's your what's your goal in pursuing each of these projects? Are you scratching your own itch and working on getting experience in software development? Do you want eventually one of these to become your full-time income and be able to quit your job? What's the plan?

[00:02:45] Kelsey: Yeah, so Tansy started as scratching my own itch. About five years ago. I wanted to pay off all of the debt that I had, and so I really wanted to optimize my cash flow and know exactly how much extra I had each month. So I built out a spreadsheet, tracking what I now do in Tansy automatically. I didn't know how to program, I didn't even know what a database was at the time.

And so that's been my pet project to learn how to code, how to build a SaaS. But I recognize there's going to be a lot of challenges with a financial product and doing B2C . This past year, then I came up with the idea of the environmental database. Something that is more B2B focused, probably a little more stable, and that's probably the one that if I could get it to the point of going full-time or at least a significant part of my time while maybe I freelance and do other things like that would be the goal.

[00:03:44] Christian: What's the core metric that would make this either of these projects successful? Are you looking to help a certain number of people? Are you looking to make a certain amount that would be offsetting expenses in your life? What, what does success look like?

[00:03:58] Kelsey: Yeah. My initial success would be enough income replacement so that I could have a bigger impact. And then from that point it would be something around how many people I'm helping making more efficient in their job. What have you? like me pay off my debt faster. Or now it's invest more while keeping my cash flow in check.

The first step is I do have to replace a certain amount of my current full-time income. And that would be the first success.

[00:04:30] Christian: What would be a meaningful amount of income to be replacing if these are making like, a hundred dollars a month or a thousand? Or does it need to make 10,000,

[00:04:38] Kelsey: let me do the math backwards here. They need to make about seven to $8,000 a month.

[00:04:44] Christian: seven, $8,000 a month to, to have a meaningful impact or to,

[00:04:48] Kelsey: that would allow me to go full-time on them.

[00:04:52] Christian: okay. Seven to eight k per month. Cool. Okay. I have a series of questions to dig into the next level, but I'm gonna pause there and Shai, what do you have anything you'd like to ask?

[00:05:04] Shai: I only have one. And then I'm excited to hear your questions. And the only thing I wanna ask is, which one are you enjoying working on more? Which one do you like care more about in the end?

[00:05:17] Kelsey: a good question. Right now I probably care most about Tansy because I'm the furthest along. And so that's, yeah, that's probably the one right now. Although I think if I dedicated enough time and got the environmental data database to a place where it was launched, the balance may change there.

I think I'm just. favoring Tansy because I'm further along.

[00:05:44] Shai: Okay.

[00:05:45] Christian: from how from what I'm hearing about your goals in these projects. If your goal was like, , I, really struggled with debt and it was so impactful for my life, for understanding how to get out of it. And I, if I could help everyone in that position to get outta debt as quickly as possible, that would just bring me the most life fulfillment, I would say absolutely.

Tansy, it's the way to go. That's the one optimizing for impact. But it sounds and these are motivations that I share sounds like money is the main thing to to handle right now that if money was in a better place, like that's gonna give you the freedom and expansiveness to, to be able to work on projects that have more of a, oh, altruistic component.

I'm not sure if that's the right word. So for the school of getting to seven to eight K per. From the information that I have right now, an app that's B2B for environmental consultants, that is this industry expertise that, that you have, that you're uniquely positioned in. I see that as the absolute fastest way to, to get to seven or eight K per month.

How does that feel?

[00:06:46] Kelsey: Yeah, I'm in Tansy is maybe why I haven't launched it with, as a paid product yet is because. , like I'm competing against free with other budgeting tools or I have to be super low. And so yeah, I totally agree. The environmental database is probably the faster track to reaching the seven to eight k.

[00:07:09] Christian: Okay. You also just said that's not the one you're excited about. But that might just be that it's the one that you're further along, and that's an important part of this like managing energy. Especially as a solo founder, if you're the primary resource, you're the engine that's moving this along.

If there's one of these projects that you're way more excited about it's gonna be a lot easier to push that one forward. There's a quote about enthusiasm being worth 20 IQ points. I think that's Paul Graham, that's something I find in my life. Frustratingly I know rationally this is the thing to work on, but it's difficult to push it forward.

That I would like to dig into the environmental database more. . I do think that's the way to get you to this goal faster. You said that you're not as far along in the environmental database. It sounds like you, you already have a product for Tansy. What's the current state of the environmental database?

Is this just an idea? Do you have a landing page?

[00:07:58] Kelsey: I did have a landing page. I turned off the server just because I hadn't made any progress. But so my plan of attack was to start with a couple of state agency websites where I know they have the permits. And I started with Minnesota. So I had scraped all of the permits off of their website and I have them in my app and in my database and s3, I was starting to go back through and pull out pertinent information from the PDFs.

And that's where I got stuck because, I didn't know. I'm trying to avoid touching the PDFs more than one time, if at all possible, because I'm gonna be downloading a lot of them. And I didn't know how much information I should be pulling out. And then I also had the thought, okay, do I need to make them all, like OCR readable so that a person could search over the whole document. So I have all the Minnesota permits downloaded. I have some of them, the metadata that I wanted pulled out into database fields that are searchable. And that's where I stopped because I didn't know like how much I should be pulling out and I didn't wanna have to go back and redo a bunch of the permits.

[00:09:15] Christian: I see. Okay. So it sounds like a logistic question of exactly how much data needs to be pulled out of the PDFs. Can we iron that out right now? Can we figure out what, what needs to be, what needs to be pulled out? PDFs are a pain to work with. I I feel you are these tables or these lists that then you have to retype?

Could you just take the pdf, do OCR in the entire thing, and now it's a text document? And then can you get the information that you need from that text document?

[00:09:45] Kelsey: I, yes. The one thing I don't know, and maybe I'm not technically like. Savvy enough yet with PDFs is, I don't know if I know how to go from the ocr, take it to te, I know how to get to the text document, but then how do I make that available to be searched in my app? The documents from state to state, they all vary in format.

They all vary in length. So in Minnesota they could be 30 pages long, 2000 pages long, and they're a mix of just regular text paragraphs and also tables with bullet points. Usually not very many graphics, if any images or what have you.

[00:10:27] Christian: Okay. Okay. Okay. Yeah. I know what which databases are you familiar with? MySQL or Postgres or something else?

[00:10:36] Kelsey: Yeah, I have been using Postgres for this project. In my day-to-day work, I've used, I use Snowflake.

[00:10:44] Christian: Okay. Something that you can do that's probably not a great idea is to just take make each pdf a row in a table. That, and the table's called PDFs, and then one of the fields in the table can be the entire text content of the pdf. And then there's ways to search that, but that's probably not what you wanna do.

You probably want something a little more structured than that. What's an example of something that someone might be searching for in the environmental database? What's the question that they're trying to get answered? And what steps would your application go through to, to answer that question?

[00:11:16] Kelsey: Yeah, so one example would be if I'm an environmental consultant and I'm helping a petroleum refinery expand a piece of their process, would be a specific. , type of equipment that you would only find at a refinery, and I would want to go look for that, the name of the equipment across all other permits and see how they have been permitted.

So in my most often it would be like by equipment type that they're searching for. In some cases they may be looking for the actual regulatory rule, so like subpart K but that probably is the less frequent intent, I would say.

[00:12:00] Christian: Okay, so the PDFs that you're downloading per state and per county are examples of how previous permitting has happened. And then I'm going to, I want to ask your application, I'm thinking of bringing a bobcat onto my job site. Can you show me all the examples of how bobcats have been permit.

[00:12:21] Kelsey: Yep. Yep. Yep.

[00:12:22] Christian: in the past. And then you sped out a list coming from multiple different PDFs of, okay this bobcat for this job site pretty close to you in 2020 had this permitting. Okay. Okay. That makes sense. That's a really good problem. I love how niche I wouldn't have imagined that this is a thing that needs to be done.

This makes a lot of sense to me as a thing that could be really valuable. Do you have any numbers on the total number of environmental consultants that would be using this, maybe like in a state and how do you know that this is a valuable problem for them?

[00:12:54] Kelsey: So the company I worked at there was about 130 of us in one consultancy firm. I haven't calculated the numbers. So that was it. I was located in a company based in Minnesota and our, we probably had five or six major competitors. In just that area. That's probably like 700 state. So I'm really bad at mental math.

Maybe 3,500 across the us, right? 700 times 50 is that, or I offer zero there?

[00:13:29] Christian: How big of a problem do you think this is for them? Is this, does this, in, in researching this, is this just annoying and it takes a minute per thing, or is this something that would take you half a day for a job that with a tool like this you could save a whole bunch of time? How what's the pain that people are feeling here?

[00:13:47] Kelsey: It is a significant part of their job to research. So it's at least half a day. If you are not familiar with say, other petroleum refineries to go look up if you don't know like. There is a Conoco Phillips in Louisiana, you wouldn't even know where to start looking for other permits to find what you're looking for.

In my experience, it could be four to 40 hours of research you're doing on other permits to see how they're being permitted. You might not have taken into consideration.

[00:14:21] Christian: Okay. For four, four to five hours per day per permit?

[00:14:27] Kelsey: No, the whole pr like research aspect of your project, so you may search 20 permits in that timeframe. So any one permit is probably an hour. But you may have to go look at 20 different permits to get the whole picture of how they've been permitted in the past.

[00:14:48] Christian: Okay. Okay. So for each environmental consultant, probably half of their time is spent on this task of looking at the different, okay. Do you know roughly what environmental consultants get paid?

[00:14:58] Kelsey: Like someone with five years is probably in the range of 70 to $90,000 a year. They're probably like, their billing rate out to clients is somewhere in the range of and I would say $80 to maybe $130 an hour.

[00:15:18] Christian: Okay. Okay. Interesting. So let's do a little math. If there if the average one is getting paid 80,000 a year and this task that, that you'll be helping to expedite of looking up previous examples of ways that it's been contracted, takes about half of their time. It's about $40,000 a year per per environmental consultant.

If one consultancy has 130 environmental consultants, that's $40,000 times 130. I'm also not great at math, which is why I use calculators. That's 5,200 thousand or 5.2 million per consultancy per year is the problem that you're helping them with holy cow, . That's that's really good. And if there's.

30, 35,000 of these total in the us that's 35,000 times $40,000 a year that you are helping them save. That's one, that's a $1.4 billion problem. Yeah this is good. The, whatever we need to do to solve this PDF problem, I think is I think would be good. Sounds like it's a very technical problem though, holding you back that you taught yourself databases and how to code from this Tansy project.

You this technical hurdle is something that you would need to either like brute force your way through yourself or hire outside help for I'm not sure what question to ask Shai. You look like you have something to say.

[00:16:54] Shai: I can step in. Okay, so the technical problem sounds like it's solvable, and I'm not concerned on that side. We've, could name products that do similar things and they've solved it, and I'm not concerned there. So what I'm interested in is, assuming you solved the PDF searching issue, what's stopping you then? Where would you go Assuming you had this technical problem solved? What are the next steps then in terms of getting this to people, to the people who could benefit from it?

[00:17:30] Kelsey: Yeah, so my plan was if I got one to three states cataloged and searchable that I could then show like some of my past coworkers what I've been building. Cuz otherwise they're doing it like on their Windows Network or File Explorer is how they're searching the PDFs right now. So was waiting to have somewhat something demoable for them and go talk to them and get feedback before I progressed on say, all 50 states.

And then agencies within the states. And so that's, I think that would be. next step after I got past this technical hurdle.

[00:18:15] Christian: Do you feel like the technical hurdle is solvable or it sounds like how long have you been stuck on that step?

[00:18:21] Kelsey: So I probably stopped cataloging the PDFs in August, September timeframe. And cuz I was okay, do I spend a bunch of time figuring out how to search the entire PDF or do I just pull out the metadata? And then I was thinking like, okay, maybe the permits isn't the right step. Maybe I, there was other easier problems to solve for them.

Like we had a really hard time training new air quality consultants to be self serving to clients. So like I could start a blog and dump all of my air quality knowledge there. . And that would be an easier problem to solve for them. So yeah, September, August I stopped cataloging cuz I didn't know what to do, if I should do the full text search or do the metadata.

And so I just stopped. I probably should have went and asked my potential users do you need to be able to search a whole document off the get go or

What have you. But I didn't.

[00:19:29] Christian: I love the intermediate type of starting a blog because that has no technical hurdles. That's just writing words for a page. And that's something that would be building the audience for the environmental database. That have a blog of readers and a newsletter and they know and trust you and you're sending out something once a week to them and then you say, Hey, also I'm working on this thing that I know is a problem that you have cuz I wrote this thing about it and , there's so many engagement in that.

And. You know that now that's a launchpad that any product you have for someone in this space, you'll be able to launch it to them. What does your audience currently look like in this space? It sounds like you have coworkers, do you have any other sort of watering hole where they hang out or their Facebook groups or Reddit threads or something like that?

[00:20:17] Kelsey: Probably the most concentrated place is LinkedIn,

[00:20:22] Christian: Okay.

[00:20:22] Kelsey: Where there's some environmental consulting, air quality consulting groups. I'm connected personally with quite a few that I worked with in my career. But I haven't any. Social media or channels that they're hanging out in? Outside of LinkedIn?


[00:20:42] Christian: Okay. Okay. If you started a blog or started a launch list for this, if posting it on LinkedIn there's enough people in your network that, that wouldn't be a good place to start getting start collecting an audience. Okay.

[00:20:54] Kelsey: I think so. Yeah.

[00:20:55] Christian: man, I am, I'm feeling really excited for you. Like this

Sounds like I, I don't know anything about this space other than what you've told me, but this sounds like a really big deal. This sounds like a huge problem. This sounds like something that you have a lot of industry expertise in. Like I'm really excited for you to get something out there. If there is this current technical challenge of exactly how you're gonna do the OCR on exactly how the data's gonna be formatted in the pdf, is there some sort of intermediate product?

I love the blog cuz the blog is something we could get at right away. Could you have a service where you say, Hey, I know this is gonna take whatever per machinery you're gonna do. How about you pay me $10 and I'll do it for you? And now you can be dog fooding your tool you're using your tool behind the scenes, but you're just doing it a little bit more scrappy where you're doing the work for other people.

Is there something like that, that you could get started with much sooner.

[00:21:52] Kelsey: Yeah, there might be. So one of the other things that air quality clients and the actual people at the facilities struggle with is, agencies will issue issue them a draft permit. and then we wanna be able to compare that to the previous version permit. And so we need to see a side by side of changes.

if the agency says, I only change these three things, we never trust them. And so for the Minnesota permits, I would extract each line item in the tables. I put it into Excel, and then a coworker had written a macro to compare what had changed. So that is something I thought about. That would be something I could do.

I could compare old and new versions of permits more quickly than like the comp, the compiling of all the permits into one database. Yeah.

[00:22:52] Christian: Yeah. Sounds like technically that's already been solved. You can already extract the table from the pdf. Your coworker already made the macro for Excel. Do you feel like you have enough technical knowledge to be able to make that a self-service thing, or would this be like someone buys the thing from you and they just email you the PDFs and then you send 'em back The.

[00:23:10] Kelsey: Doing some initial researching, it looks like there are programs out there that will do PDF comparisons for you and highlight the differences. So if I could connect into their APIs, I probably could figure out how to do it self-service. But the easier step would definitely be you send me the two PDFs, I, manually go through the changes, highlight them or share 'em back in whatever format they want send them back.

[00:23:40] Christian: And that's something that I imagine you could start doing today, right? You could post this in LinkedIn and say, Hey, I'm working on a thing and email me the PDFs and send me, whatever amount of money on PayPal. Yeah. Okay. The here's the picture that I'm drawing for this.

First of all, oh my gosh, this is financially, A much higher impact, much lower hanging fruit than Tansy. Tansy. Sounds really cool. I'd love to dig into that more. It's interesting that you're doing like financial forecasting, but for this, for the goal of wanting to make seven, $8,000 a month that, that wouldn't be a potential replacement for your full-time income man.

If you're talking about a 1.4 billion per year market in this area, that you have a lot of professional expertise in that the problems here sound really low hanging fruit. This is your scraping PDFs, this is your comparing PDFs. Like technically it sounds like you have built up yourself just teaching yourself enough technical knowledge to, to be able to be addressing these problems.

It's excel macros and pe Like my mouth is a water. This is perfect. This is it's so nice. So I think the way to get there, I, I hear that there's this technical hurdle of not knowing quite how to format the PDFs and not knowing quite how to do ocr, but I think the game that you sounds like you could start doing today is start a blog, write interesting things for the blog related to these two problems.

Talk about how you solved it, and then have them all tying back to the services that you're offering and start with. Email me the thing and I'll do it for you. And, send me some money on PayPal and start posting stuff like that on LinkedIn that, every blog post you post gets put on LinkedIn.

Every new service you offer gets posted on LinkedIn. And then take money from that and take your own internal processes of how you're handling those jobs and slowly iterate on those, make those more efficient. And then eventually have something entirely self-service where they can log in online and exactly like you've built for Tansy.

Something where they can log in online and then eventually just pay you entirely from the website. And I see that as a really smooth ramp going up where every, like the first step you could do today, just start a blog and write a blog post for it and post it on LinkedIn. And then each iteration, that feels like a pretty small step that, that's my picture of how I'm seeing this play out.

How does that all feel to you?

[00:25:58] Kelsey: Yeah, I. I think that progression is more achievable and I'll actually be able to take action on it versus facing that really large technical problem. Yeah, I can, I started spinning out the blog about a month ago. So I just signed up for a zip blog static, I think really easy u user interface.

But I hadn't, I haven't shared it yet, like imposter syndrome creeping in. But yeah, I think that is plan of attack.

[00:26:29] Christian: To be clear, like your first blog post is gonna be bad. Your first 10 are gonna be bad, and that's just the game. Make a good 50th blog post. And the hardest part of that is just getting to 50 blog posts. Yeah, no, it sounds like you're aligned in wanting to help people, that this is a problem that you've had for yourself.

And there's not that many people who go through this second order thought process of ah this task I'm doing at my job really sucks. Maybe I could help make it better. Maybe I could invest in some tools to make an Excel macro to, to automate this. Most people just accept that and complain about it and don't do anything about it.

So you can come in as their savior, you can say, Hey, that thing you do that takes up half of your time at your job here, you can use this thing. And now what used to take up half of your day is gonna take a couple of minutes. I'm gonna make the part of your job that is one of the worst parts of your job.

I'm gonna completely take that away from you. So now you can be twice as effective in doing the things that you actually like and your solution to that's gonna be imperfect at first. Your solution to that's gonna, it's gonna be mailing stuff back and forth, and you're gonna make mistakes in doing it.

And it's gonna be a long road to get to a place where we have this magical solution of someone can just, type in the name of their, have a machinery, and it's gonna be able to spit out this beautiful formatted list of all these perfectly cited PDFs. We're a ways away from that, but you can start helping people with that problem today.

And I think they'd be incredibly grateful. And it's gonna start you early on this road to making seven, $8,000 a month.

[00:27:59] Kelsey: Yeah. No, I like the plan and yeah I'm in agreement with you.

[00:28:04] Christian: All right, cool. Oh, Shai, are you in agreement with with Kelsey and me?

[00:28:12] Shai: I am I'm excited for this. I can see that you, Kelsey, seem a bit more excited about this project than you did minutes ago, which is cool to see. I have a few questions. And I'm gonna, I'm gonna start, I'm gonna start with the more surface level stuff and then we're gonna get a bit deeper.

So firstly, I just wanted to clarify something. When you were talking about, the ways that you could dog food this product, instead of building a full self-service thing, the ways that you could have your MVP for this, your minimum viable product, be you doing some stuff for them behind the scenes, the, if I'm understanding right, the conversation kind of shifted there from talking about how could you dog food, the environmental database thing towards and we shifted towards this conversation about the comparison tool.

Am I right that's a different thing? And if, so I wanted to understand like, could you dog food, the environmental database thing itself so that you didn't have to build the entire self-serve and Yeah.

[00:29:12] Kelsey: Yes, I could dog food, the searching of permits, I could do that manually. Instead of them spending the half their time doing it, it would essentially fall on me doing that manual searching until I ha would have it all cataloged. So that is a viable option. It is probably more time intensive than like the permit comparison thing, and I agree with you.

The permit comparison thing does not solve the same problem as the searching of permits.

[00:29:47] Shai: Okay. And potentially there could even be an in between step where maybe if you've solved a bit of the PDF searching thing, but you haven't yet built an entire user interface for it, you could then have that's quite a nice stage the way you can dog food as well, where like they have, you do it, you just do the search using your automated system, so it takes you two minutes.

[00:30:11] Kelsey: Yeah. Yeah, that's true. I didn't think about it like that. I was thinking I would be going to all these websites looking, but yes, that probably is the better , step if I got everything into a text file and could just search it without the user interface. Yes.

[00:30:27] Shai: Okay. And you could probably get there. Fair. You still have the challenge of getting the text outta the PDFs, but once you've done that, you maybe don't have so much of the database searching issues cuz you can, you know how to work around that. You can just search in this big text document, you can, the edge

[00:30:43] Kelsey: Yeah. Yep.

[00:30:45] Shai: Okay. So that could be a cool, yeah, that could be a cool way in without spending a long time building everything before you let people use it.

[00:30:52] Kelsey: Yep.

[00:30:53] Shai: okay. Next up. You touched on it. So we're talking about how you could save these people all this time. You mentioned briefly earlier that these consultants end up rebilling their time, right?

They, the client pays. Is it like they pay hourly to have this environmental consultant do their thing? And so if so is, if you save them that half, that four hours per day, not just making them less money? Like what's the company gonna feel about that?

[00:31:35] Kelsey: yeah, that's a good point. I haven't thought through that completely. But, there are some consultancies that are just doing like the cookie cutter work and not adding value because they don't have time within the client budgets to do more. So they're spending all the time searching for the permits where if they had the permits at hand, they could potentially be more creative in how the permit they're trying to get for the client is structured.

So I think my hope would be that the consultants take the reduction in time to add more value for the. necessarily just build them less. But it, that is a valid concern. Yeah, consultants will be able to work faster, but hopefully in their billing structure, that they then find ways to add more value to the client to make up for that efficiency. Maybe I market it to the clients instead.

It's just it's and it throws up that's that's not a flaw in what you are doing. It's much more a flaw in hourly billing. It just it shows how , like you could make these people, if you have a situation where the consultants are incentivized to spend longer doing the job, like that's, I don't think anyone is really winning.

[00:32:51] Shai: But if that's how this industry currently operates, it's something to maybe be aware of. When you're figuring out to people to wanna use this,

[00:33:02] Kelsey: Yeah, I agree.

[00:33:05] Shai: Okay. And then I want to talk about, now we get a little bit deeper. You mentioned that you started this blog, which sounds like a really great way to start, spreading the word about this.

And then you didn't, you haven't shared it with people yet. And I'm curious to know, what stopped you from doing that? What's, I'm understanding you've written, don't know how much you've written on this blog static site, and then maybe have you just kept that to yourself? Has it gone anywhere?

What's, where are you at with that and why?

[00:33:39] Kelsey: Yeah, I have kept it to myself. I think in my mind I wanted to have I don't know if it's 10 ish articles, blog posts, like available before I start sending people there. I think right now I have two and a half or three and a half articles ready. And they were more focused for like entry level air quality consultants.

So I think I'm scared to share it with only a couple there. I wanted to have something more there so people would take me more seriously that this was gonna be something that I would continue to progress on and not just I wrote a few blog posts on a whim type of thing.

[00:34:23] Shai: Okay. Is there, if you. Could you take one of those ones that you've written and share it on LinkedIn? Does it have to be part of I get the idea that you you want the blog to be this place that has lots of stuff on it. Could you just share the one off article?

[00:34:43] Kelsey: I could, yes, I could do that. I hadn't thought about that, but else I could.

[00:34:50] Shai: What's, what what are you feeling right now? When I describe the idea of maybe doing that?

[00:34:55] Kelsey: It feels like the right thing to do. I'm probably less scared of just sharing it there cause I'm scared of sharing the website URL and they go back and see there's only two or three there. So yes, I could share the article just on LinkedIn. As a LinkedIn post. Is that what you're

[00:35:15] Shai: Yeah. Yeah. That would be one option. Could you do that today?

[00:35:20] Kelsey: I, yes, I probably could.

[00:35:23] Christian: All right.

[00:35:26] Kelsey: Yep. I could, but it feels scary to put myself out there. But yes I could. And I, yeah.

[00:35:37] Shai: yeah it's scary. It's, what are you, when you play that through, what are you scared might happen after you post it?

[00:35:49] Kelsey: I I left the environmental consultant, the industry about two years ago. So I don't know if they still view me as I don't know that I'm an expert, but like to senior level person in that industry. they don't take me seriously because I'm not intimately in that type of work today. and then I think maybe I'm a little scared of what my co current coworkers think cuz it, they'll be like, why is Kelsey talking about environmental stuff? Like now she's doing financial stuff now. Why is she even thinking about that stuff? So I think those are the two main things I'm scared of.

[00:36:37] Shai: Yeah, that's, I, those resonate. I feel that. Have a response to that? If one of your current coworkers came up to you and said, Hey, Kelsey, why are you writing about environmental stuff? You don't work in that space anymore. Could you answer that question?

[00:36:50] Kelsey: Yeah.


Replayed this in my head of I worked in the industry for seven to eight years and I have a lot of knowledge in my head. I just feel like I should not take to the grave and that I should share it with people cuz I think other folks will learn from it. And probably leave it at that and not go into a about the whole environmental database vision.

Probably leave that for another day cuz I'd probably be worried be leaving my job.

[00:37:21] Shai: I, I think that's, I think that's a very reasonable answer. I wrote this post because I it's something I'm interested in and I have some knowledge that I think could help some people. And so I'd like to share that with them. I think that's a very sound answer.

[00:37:35] Kelsey: Okay, good.

[00:37:36] Shai: And I think the, to your first point about worrying whether you are the expert, my experience, it's the other way round the ex. It's not that, that the when you see all these experts posting all these blog posts, it's not that they were qualified to write the blog post because they were enough of an expert.

It's everyone sees them as an expert because they're the one that wrote all the blog posts.

[00:38:01] Kelsey: Yeah.

[00:38:02] Shai: Like you build your authority by doing that work, by taking those steps, not the other way around, but it's still scary. But if you,

[00:38:12] Kelsey: It

[00:38:13] Shai: I think the big thing is if there are people, can you think of a person who doesn't know the thing that you do know that you're writing about? Can you think of an individual maybe who at your old company, is at an earlier stage than you, and this would help them then

[00:38:28] Kelsey: I can.

[00:38:29] Shai: more do you need? Then you are an expert to them. There might be people who know more than you, but that's okay. You're not writing for them.

[00:38:37] Kelsey: Yeah. No, I like that frame in mind. Yeah. I think if I can keep that frame in mind, like I will be less scared. Yeah.

[00:38:49] Shai: And I'm saying all this sounding like the expert. I've, I struggle with all these exact same things. It's much easier for me to say this, like from the outside. And also if you, I can assure you, me and Christian know less about this environmental stuff than you do. So if you ever need, just pretend you're writing for us.

There are people in the world who do not know the things that you know and that sometimes that's enough.

[00:39:11] Kelsey: Yeah, I appreciate that frame of mind.

[00:39:15] Christian: You said something that really resonated with me, that you have something like a decade of industry knowledge that you don't want to take to the grave with you. This is something I think about all the time when thinking about my grandparents. There's this quote, I think it's between Kurt Vonโ€”.

It's a literary exchange between Kurt Vonnegut and a different author. And the exchange goes the rich aren't like you and me, and then Kurt Vonnegut responds, no, they have more money than I do. And that's the difference, right? Rich people are people that have more money. And in the same respect, writers don't know more than other people.

They haven't. Had some deep experience that, that other people haven't had. They don't have something more interesting to share. They just write and non-writers don't write. And how I wish that, like if I could have known more about my great-grandfather, Salvator Vitali Genko, he immigrated to the US in the early 19 hundreds as a, I think four year old boy from Roccapalumba, Sicily.

And one of the only things I have from him is this video that my mom recorded of him making cheese. He and that's what a tiny snapshot of a person, right? I wish that he had been writing about his experiences in his view on life. And I wish I had more recipes from him than just this recipe on cheese.

He lived to be over a hundred years old. I'd like to know how he did that. Like what were his techniques? What was his mentality? What exercises was he doing? He didn't write any of it down. I've got this one video and I think other people in the family have different videos that they've recorded.

So I've been working on piecing that together. But yeah, you've got 10 years of experience in this industry. You got a lot of stuff that would help people. And if you don't write it down, if you don't systematize it into these processes, the industry's just gonna lose that. And they could go through work to piece it together.

It's, I'm sure you've had innovations and realizations in yourself, but probably, someone else going through the same amount of work could figure it out. But you're in the best position to be sharing this information with people. So yeah that, that resonates with me strongly.

Like I think when I'm working on sharing things, I have this resistance in me of , like you said this imposter syndrome of who am I to be sharing these things? I'm me, that's lived my life and I have my own experience, and if I'm not writing this stuff down, it's just gonna get lost.

And I don't think this helps no people. I think it helps some people. So yes it's my moral duty to, to be writing this stuff down and trying to help other humans as, as best as I can. And there's gonna be times where I'm wrong and I hope people call me out on that. And I work to be as open as possible to, to accepting criticism and be able to change in that dimension.

But yeah, this. Like 10 years, man let's get it out there. Let's help some people. There's what poor environmental consultants are out there just starting their job, that just struggling, that are just thinking man I wish I had some kind of a mentor. Is this really this difficult to find these things in these PDFs?

And oh my gosh, to compare two P dfs, how do I even do that? How could you, this is gonna take so much time. You can be the person to step in and help them be working much more effectively. That then they can go to these higher levels. They can surpass then where you got, because you can pave the way of all the struggles that you went through.

Yeah. That that, that comment really struck a chord with me.

[00:42:30] Kelsey: Yeah how you characterize let's get it written down. I think I feel more motivated right now than I did before the call. I feel connected to that like purpose align. So yeah.

[00:42:46] Christian: That's great to hear. Yeah. You you being motivated means that there's gonna be a lot of people who are gonna be benefiting from the work that you're doing ah, that, that makes me happy to hear. I had two just logistical questions just about this project. We're talking about these PDFs of these records, of the different permits.

Now how many PDFs are we talking about? Is this thousands or millions or billions of PDFs? What's the scale of the data?

[00:43:10] Kelsey: It's probably in the hundred of thousands, maybe eventually millions. Definitely not billions, unless this project would go on for long time. But in its current state, if I had everything right now, it's probably in the hundreds of thousands.

[00:43:31] Christian: Okay. Okay. So the technique is probably gonna be with a handful of PDFs, figure out some systematized way of doing OCR on them and sticking 'em in the database. And then once, once you've figured that out, run a script on all the PDFs and then get them all in the database. Okay. Okay. The workflow we're imagining then is get all the PDFs first, get them all in one place, have a giant hard drive on your computer that's storing them all, and then, , you can be making incremental improvements on your script that does OCR on them and then puts them in the database.

So the first pass might just be go through for each pdf, insert them in the database with some unique ID so that we can update them later. And then one of the columns in the database is just the full text of the pdf. And then do that for every single pdf. And then in the future, if you figure out, oh shoot, actually it, it'd be nice if I had also a list of all the machinery for each pdf.

And here's my complicated way of figuring that out. Okay, let me go back through that entire folder of PDFs and update each of those columns to have a field that is a list of all that machinery. So you can be doing that incrementally based on that giant folder of PDFs. And then as you get new PDFs, you just put 'em back in the folder.

Does that make sense?

[00:44:38] Kelsey: Yes. Yeah, that does. Yeah. And that sounds more straightforward than I think what I was thinking I would have to do. So yeah, I like that. Yeah.

[00:44:49] Christian: And then it doesn't have to be perfect the first time you go through it. You can keep updating the script and yeah. Okay. that's something we forget a lot with software is how easily it can be changed later. I think we're all, we all sometimes get stuck in this mindset of build the thing and what if this isn't the optimal way to do it? And that might be the case with hardware, with physical products, but with something like, Yeah if when you're stuck with multiple ways to do something, I find that the best question to ask is, if I pick the wrong option, can I change it later? And if the answer is yes, there is it's rarely worth spending any more time deciding which one to do, especially with so early on in a project, like just run with something, move forward, fix it later if you need.

[00:45:36] Kelsey: Yeah, that makes sense.

[00:45:38] Christian: I've heard that framed as trap door decisions. Just notice if a decision is a trap door decision, if it's something , you're gonna fall through the trap door and not be able to get back up. And yeah the way that you're parsing PDFs is not a trap door decision. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Who would you rather have as a customer, the consultant or the consultancy do you see this as a tool where you're selling it to each individual consultant and the sales pitch to them is this is gonna make you personally more effective, or would you prefer to sell it to the consultancy, which is gonna be a lot more money, but has its own challenges? That's probably gonna be a longer sales cycle.

And then there's this existential question of, for the consultancy, it's for the consultant, it's a very straightforward value proposition of Hey, this annoying task that you hate to do, here's this tool to help you go faster. But for the consultancy billing per hour, there's this more complicated strategic question that you went into with Shai of, okay, now you'll have more human resources.

either to be able to tackle a bigger workload with a smaller workforce, or to take your workforce and be delivering higher value things on it. They both have pros and cons, but I'm just curious who in, in thinking about selling to a consultant versus a consultancy how do you feel about each of those?

[00:46:48] Kelsey: Yeah, so based on how we worked as consultants, like if I wanted access to some external program, we would have to get approval more at that consultancy level. We would have to pay for it out of pocket. so there was one environmental program we use that is all about visualizing regulations in a better way than the Federal Register does.

And like we had 15 seats available. So that's kind, I, it would be easier to sell to the individual consultant, but they would likely have to go get approval for a budget number to use to pay for it, or they would have to pay for it out of pocket. I don't know that they would pay for it out of their own personal money. So I think I'm probably gonna be stuck selling more to the consultancy, but I probably need, like I've listened to Ben Orenstein's podcast with Tuple he talks about how like they'll get a couple of users within the company and then they'll expand from there into a l maybe a larger contractor, more people using that.

So I think that probably has to be my strategy but I have to find a way for those first couple of users to have a way to pay for it from the consultancy

[00:48:20] Shai: Yeah, I see that. I was gonna give Ben Orenstein as an example of the same kind of thing of when you have a product that benefits the people in the company, but you need a way to help them to sell your offering to their seniors. So it's cool, that you've already been listening to him.

When you asked that question Christian about who it would be selling to, I realize that's an even better reason to look at how you could dog food this, how you could make this very minimal viable product. Because of those challenges, if there are challenges in persuading whichever entity to pay for it, gonna be much, it's gonna be much easier if you can learn about those earlier versus after you've spent a very long time building the product and making everything a bit more rigid.

And then you go and find out that there are these why they can't pay for it in the ways that you hoped. So if you. Make some kind of service where you do it for them, then you're gonna learn all these objections right up front and be able to figure out your way around them without getting deep into all the technical challenges.

So I think that's a smart move.

[00:49:32] Kelsey: Yeah. Yeah. I think you're right.

[00:49:36] Shai: Could you do that as a, like that first blog post that you post, can you a thing saying and if you want to save a lot of time doing this, here is the service. Just you can send, your requirements to this email address and I will send back the thing,

[00:49:54] Kelsey: yeah. No I could I definitely could. It's scary, but I could, yes. And I think I will.

[00:50:01] Shai: Okay. Christian, did you wanna, were you about to.

I wanna get this into like very concrete next steps. Is that the wrapping up that you were talking about doing?

[00:50:08] Christian: Yes. So for the very next step, it sounds like today you have this blog post written on this blog, and you feel scared, but feels attainable to, to take one of those blog posts and just copy and paste that into LinkedIn or just post the url. I'm, oh I do wanna dig into this one more thing. So I heard you say that you, before you publish anything on your blog, you wanna have 10 blog posts.

I would love to dig into that. What's what's bad about publishing a blog post on a blog that only has two and a half posts?

[00:50:47] Kelsey: think it goes back to thinking that I'm not the authority and if I had 10 blog posts, they would maybe see me more as an authority.

[00:51:00] Christian: Okay.

[00:51:00] Kelsey: So yeah, I think I'm just like scared that if they only saw I had two or three blog posts, they're gonna be like is she really serious? Should we see her as an authority?

I think that's where I'm scared of sharing the url,

[00:51:15] Christian: Okay.

[00:51:15] Kelsey: but I

[00:51:16] Christian: if you were on LinkedIn and you clicked on a blog post and it helped you, you were interested in the things it was saying, and then you clicked on few more blog posts and there were one and a half other blog posts how would you feel about that blog?

[00:51:32] Kelsey: I think if I didn't know the person, I may be more skeptical than if I knew the person. Knew the person, I think I would be like, oh yeah, they're just getting started. But if I didn't know the person, I'd be like, oh, interesting. Did they just start this? Or did they have this big vision? And then they just stopped doing it.

Probably just because I have followed the software, blog, blog spectrum, and I'm asking the same questions other people are, but people not in that space, it probably never crosses their mind.

Like someone who's never started a side project would probably not think about it.

[00:52:11] Shai: At that point, if you read that blog post that, that blog, and you saw there were only a couple of posts, and you said, okay, I'm skeptical about whether this person is credible. Would you, presumably at that point would just carry on browsing internet. Like you wouldn't add them to your blacklist of people to never trust if you came back across them in future, you'd probably forget who they were, you'd move on and, it's, it doesn't leave that author any worse off than if they had never posted to begin with. Would that be reasonable?

[00:52:40] Kelsey: you are right. Yes. Yes. Yeah.

[00:52:45] Christian: Okay That would be an even easier next step then, instead of copying the blog post into LinkedIn, you could just post the link in. And that would be even easier. That'd be something you'd do like in the next five minutes. Yeah.

[00:52:57] Kelsey: Yeah. Yeah, it could. Yep. I probably will read through the blog post just like one more time, but you guys have convinced me that I shouldn't be scared to post the link.

[00:53:09] Christian: Ah, that's great.

[00:53:09] Shai: Oh, we think you should be scared. We think you should do it anyway.

[00:53:13] Christian: Yeah,

[00:53:15] Kelsey: I probably still will be scared when I click post.

[00:53:20] Shai: Scared is good. Scared is scared means you care about it. Like you, you care about your how you come across in this industry. You care about the work you're doing. I think scared is good. It doesn't have to mean that you don't do the thing.

[00:53:33] Kelsey: Yes Yeah, you're right.

[00:53:38] Christian: I'm excited to read this post later today on and do you know which one you're gonna post, what it's gonna be about?

[00:53:44] Kelsey: I had drafted one that explains the difference between actual and potential emissions and let so a fifth grader could understand it. That's probably the one. I would start with I hadn't written one about the struggles of catalog or like searching for permits or comparing permits yet, but for the sake of posting, I'm gonna post the one that I already have drafted.

And then I do want to curate content that relates more directly back to the environmental database vision.

[00:54:20] Christian: Okay.

[00:54:21] Kelsey: but

[00:54:21] Christian: Okay, great. So right after this call, sounds like it's gonna be scary, but you can take, read over one time your post on actual versus potential emissions, and then post that on LinkedIn and then send it to us so we can include it in the show notes so that any listener who would like to learn about the difference between actual, I just woke up this morning and I was thinking, I really don't feel like I understand the difference between actual potential emissions

So this is incredibly opportune for me. , anyone who is listening now, you can check out the description of the show notes and read Kelsey's post on actual versus potential emissions. If you've had similar questions. And then sounds like from there it's gonna be this stair step of writing more blog posts writing blog posts.

These two potential problems that you wanna build products around of comparing the PDFs and looking up the equipment permitting, and then within those blog posts and along with the blog posts when you post them to LinkedIn offering service where people can just email you and you'll do the work for them.

And then in the process of doing that, as you're doing that, improving your own internal tools until you get to the point where you have a product that people can sign up for. And then, oh my gosh, you're gonna be addressing a 1.4 billion market. This is exciting stuff. How does that whole plan feel to you from the next five minutes after this call to sitting at top, your 1.4 billion empire.

[00:55:45] Kelsey: It sounds awesome. I'm really excited. This call has been extremely valuable and yeah, I feel like I can take action now. So really excited.

[00:55:55] Christian: there's the sound bite. That's great to hear. Kelsey, where can people find out more about you? Where can people read your blog? Maybe if they're environmental engineers or environment environmental consultants and want to hear more about this?

[00:56:05] Kelsey: Yeah, you can find me on Twitter @krpetrich, P e t r i c h, and then the blog will likely be I have it right now at theairqualityconsultant.com.

[00:56:20] Christian: Wonderful. Kelsey, thank you so much for joining us on What's Stopping You. If you are listening to this podcast and you would like a similar mastermindy helpful conversation like this, you can head to whatsstoppingyou.fm or you can direct message me or Shai on Twitter and links to all those will be in the show notes.

And we have options available. If you don't want it to be on a public podcast you can pay us money instead and we won't publish it. I think that's it. Thank you everybody. Goodbye.

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Creators and Guests

Christian Genco
Christian Genco
Founder of fileinbox.com. Working on thevideoclipper.com. Other projects at gen.co. Weekly updates at makers.dev. "Infuriatingly equanimous."
Shai Schechter
Shai Schechter
Building SaaS, calmly ๐ŸŒ…๐ŸŒฟ Coder, speaker, founder: http://rightmessage.com, http://smartsubscriber.app


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