No-Code Exits · Katt Risen

From Basement Cinemas to No-Code Success: The Unconventional Journey of Katt and Her $38,000 Revenue Triumph

January 9, 2024
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Table of contents

  • Founders - Katt Risen
  • Location - Leuven, Belgium
  • Started in 2022
  • $38000 annual revenue
  • 8800+ subscribers
  • SEO - 2300 visits per month
  • Bootstrapped

What's your backstory?

I'm Katrien aka Katt from Leuven, Belgium.

My dad is an entrepreneur so while growing up I spent a lot of my weekends and holidays working at his company. There were 2 big advantages to that.

Firstly, I worked a lot and saved a lot of money which gave me a great head start when I graduated.

Secondly, it brought me clarity. I admire my dad greatly but it became clear to me that I wanted to make my own path instead of following in his footsteps.

My brothers and I inherited some of his entrepreneurial spirit. While growing up we were always busy with silly side hustles.
- A little cinema in our basement where our neighbour friends had to pay to watch one of the movies we already watched a hundred times together (The Emperor's New Groove). We even made a snack machine out of cardboard... :)
- Learning Dreamweaver in our room together and building a website for my dad his company
- Managing a little e-commerce website where we sold mounts to fix your snowboard on the wall as decoration. We hired a WordPress dev for that and it made some decent money with customers all over the world. It was my first experience that showed how 'riches are in the niches'.

When we were at university my brothers and I lived together and had multiple attempts at launching our own 'startup'. It was always the same pattern:
1. Coming up with a wild 'unique' idea
2. Making very detailed mockups
3. Creating business plans and filling in business model canvasses
4. Spending hours on finding a good name
5. Paying for a badass logo
6. And then nothing

These attempts repeated itself a few times. Always me and my brother and later my (now) husband (who is a dev) and his (dev) friends.

The 2 main reasons that it never led to anything:
- Before my husband joined: we reached out to devs and realised we had to invest a lot of money to get this off the ground
- When my husband joined: we always started too big with an (unvalidated) idea with 1000 whistles and bells. Motivation always trickled away after a while because there was no light at the end of the tunnel because we wanted to launch a perfect product.

After graduating as a digital marketeer and starting my first job in digital project management at a big tourism corporation I still had that startup dream. I started reading some business books and discovered the Indie Hackers community and Product Hunt.

Like that, I learned about the right way to start a business:
- Start small
- Talk to users
- Iterate and improve
- Fancy logos, business plans, etc are all overrated

Still, I kept lurking... I had some resolutions to learn to code but oh boy, that led to nothing. My brain is not made for that :).

It all changed in 2021 when I was browsing Product Hunt and discovered Softr and the 'No-Code' movement. With these drag-and-drop tools, I could suddenly tinker on my ideas... I was so thrilled.

This discovery set a few things in motion:
- I started using these No-Code tools to build solutions at work
- I stepped out of the lurker shadows and became active on Twitter and in a few online communities (big step for an introvert like me :))
- I started doing some no-code freelance work
- I started to work on some tiny products with no code and earn money with it

Eventually, this led to me quitting my job in 2023 to go all in on No-Code.

What does No-Code Exits do and how did you land your first set of subscribers?

My first little product that I made (2022) was No-Code Guru.

It is a wise no-code tool advisor (this was pre-chatgpt so now it's not that special anymore;-)).

If you are starting in No-Code, the tool landscape is overwhelming. The most asked question I saw in the No-Code communities was: 'Which tool should I use to build x'? So I decided to build a little (free) solution for that.

After a few months, No-Code Guru was acquired for a small amount. Still, the fact that someone saw value in my little product made with No-Code was a huge motivation booster.

When I tweeted about this acquisition the tweet BLEW UP: lots of comments, likes and DM's with questions. On a whim, I decided it might make an interesting newsletter topic.

And finally, after all these years :), I did it right.
- Not starting an idea on assumptions but on the interest it received
- No fancy logo but a stock logo from
- No brainstorming on names for weeks but the first name that popped up in my mind
- No fancy landing page with a custom domain but a simple Substack publication

In 30 minutes No-Code Exits was born. I tweeted about it and 24 hours later I woke up to 500 subscribers. Idea validated. I published my own story about the acquisition of No-Code Guru and that is how it all started.

How have you monitised your newsletter?

At this moment we are at:
- 8800 subscribers
- 55+ published stories
- Not only no-code exit stories but all kinds of no-code 'success' stories

I was able to monetize the newsletter in different ways.

1. With sponsorships. I started sponsorships at 1000 subscribers for 50$ and found my first sponsors from just a tweet. Now I offer multiple packages and built a simple workflow with Airtable for it.

2. My own products that I now and then mention in the newsletter
- Info Products: No-Code Maker Workbook and Good Problems

- Accountability Service:

In total, I earned $38,000  by working part-time on it.

My first year of working for my own was one full of learning. I combined freelancing with working on side projects.

It was all really fun. But I was working all the time, never focused, doing everything 'half' because I was spread too thin, starting a lot of things but never finishing them and deprioritising my family and health. This is not how I was envisioning my 'solopreneur' life.

So no more excuses, I had to take personal responsibility and do better.
The first big changes that I made in September were:
- Setting clear boundaries for work and family time
- Starting every day with a morning walk
- Keep 8 PM-10 PM for workouts (4 times per week) and reading
- Set up systems for more focused work (Disabling email and Slack notifications, blocking social media and distracting websites until 2 PM, setting clear goals)

The next big change is that in the first 6 months of 2024 I will be focussing on one thing and that is No-Code Exits.

I have a lot of ideas to grow and monetize No-Code Exits but I never had the time to try them out because I was always chasing a new shiny object or saying yes to a lucrative freelance gig.

So let's change that in 2024 :-). I will be sharing everything very transparently on Twitter.

How did you reach and acquire your first 500 subscribers? Which platforms or methods did you use to connect with them and promote your product or service?

I tried a lot. What worked best:

- Repurposing content from my newsletter on LinkedIn, Twitter, IndieHackers (Newsletter function), and Medium (Partnership program, this also is a small extra stream of revenue)

- Being active in entrepreneurship and no-code communities (always add your URL in your user name)

- Finding companies, products, events or newsletters with a similar audience to cross promote our businesses. For example: I mention No-Code Summit Event in my newsletter if  No-Code summit mentions my newsletter to their email list.

But also here I lacked focus so when I was too busy I didn't spent a lot of time on distribution. So I would recommend to pick 1 or 2 channels and do them very well.

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

In the beginning, I also cross-posted to Facebook groups and LinkedIn newsletter but that didn't result in a lot of subscribers.

Reddit I'm not sure yet.
-  My interview posts with a CTA to my website get often banned.
- Answering No-Code questions with a link to relevant interviews has been fruitful but is time-consuming (comments with links don't get removed easily and if you are early and write a very thoughtful reply this can lead to a lot of views).
- Recycling my newsletter content into listicles had some success (For example: 10 profitable SaaS businesses made with No-Code) but I should invest more time in it.

What specific tools, software, or resources have been most helpful in growing your business?

Who are some recommended experts or entrepreneurs to follow for learning how to grow a business?

What drives you to do what you do?

The absolutely best thing about No-Code Exits is that with the stories I share, I can inspire people who are in 'lurker mode'. Just like me, a few years ago.  

The replies from readers that a story inspired them or a product they made thanks to reading a story is absolutely the best feeling in the world.

So I'm so lucky I found something I can earn money, that I love doing and that can have a tiny impact on people their lives.

I don't have million-dollar goals. The jackpot for me is to find something that I love doing (like No-Code Exits) and earn around $7000 per month with it while having a good work-life balance and room for sportive adventures, learning and professional experiments.

Any quotes you live by?

I have a post-it with "Resist the Shiny Objects" on my desk but I have been ignoring it too much ;-)

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