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Building a $75m Empire from Scratch – The Story of Erik Huberman

Updated on August 23, 2019

5 Min Read
Erik Huberman

“Running a business is a constant fire drill – a job of the owner. If you want to be successful, get used to it.” 

Success comes in all shapes and sizes. It has many levels. Consider it like a never ending staircase. You strive to move one step up to become even more successful. Some call it the rat race, for some it is LIFE.

This interview is about Erik Huberman, the mastermind behind Hawke Media, a marketing consultancy company in the US. But that’s not the fun part. Many can become CEOs. What makes Erik different from the rest is that he started experimenting with business at the age of 15 in the streets of Santa Monica. There he used to sell lemonade to earn his pocket money.

Things went on, time passed, and hard work and clear focus made Erik’s company Hawke Media a $75 million entity in the industry.

Erik is not only a business manager, but a thought leader in the digital marketing world as well. He helps train entrepreneurs, sales experts, and business owners to get the focus they need to become even more successful in what they are already doing.

He has numerous honors and awards under his belt including the Forbes “30Under30”, Inc Magazine’s “Top 25 Marketing Influencers”, Influencive’s “Top Influencive Influencers of 2017” and many others. He is a regular contributor to major media publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Business Insider.

Let’s learn from this gem of wisdom.

Q. Cloudways: From selling lemonade for $14 to creating a digital company worth $75million… how would you define it all in one single word?

Erik: FUN! It began while I was advising for some large and small companies on how to drive revenue growth using marketing. I had built and sold two ecommerce companies and was now consulting. At that time the marketing ecosystem was still in its infancy, so we decided to fix it through Hawke Media.

Q. Cloudways: What problems does Hawke Media solve for the clients? How did it all begin? How do you market the brand?

Erik: Hawke Media makes top tier marketing more accessible to all brands. Prior to Hawke Media, when a company went to execute on marketing, they had two options, either hire in-house, or hire an agency. The problem is, hiring in-house is not cost effective. You can find and attract good talent, and even if you somehow accomplish to solve those problems, then you are operating in a vacuum. We have observed that this causes the collapse of many companies.  That is why agencies exist. But the problem is that 99% of the agencies have no idea what they are doing. The few agencies that are any good, tend to get expensive, want long contracts, high minimums, or something else that makes them hard to work with.

The end result is that if you are not a funded startup or a fortune 1000 company, you don’t get access to better marketing options, and that just doesn’t make sense. That’s what Hawke Media solves. It offers them services that other agencies are missing out on. We serve both small and big companies and try to target their problems at the core.

Q. Cloudways: What is your marketing toolkit? Can you describe the workflows your teams use to deliver services to the clients?

Erik: This could be a very long answer, but to try to keep it shorter, we use a combination of our own custom built ERP systems, a data platform we built for benchmarking Wrike, HubSpot, QuickBooks, and many other software that all speak to each other through our ERP system to help us manage our clients and the overall business.

Q. Cloudways: You said in one interview, ‘If you have to raise money to get your product to market, you have the wrong team, or you’re the wrong person.’ I assume you are in favor of bootstrapping. What is your preferred bootstrapping strategy?

Erik: Hah, not sure where that quote came from. In context, there are definitely certain companies that need money to scale.  My view is, if you need to raise a significant amount of money to get to market, you are probably the wrong person. I personally prefer bootstrapping, but totally understand the need for capital in certain businesses and actually do a lot of investing around this.

“If you need to raise a significant amount of money to get to market, you are probably the wrong person.”

Q. Cloudways: What’s Hawkefest all about? Could you share your thoughts on the conference and why it attracts so many attendees?

Erik: We started Hawkefest because we saw that all of the Direct to Customer (D2C) brand conferences weren’t very good. There wasn’t an environment for C-suites of successful brands to get together to network, learn from each other and have fun. We wanted to help build that community and it seemed to really resonate. We are initiating Hawkefest again for the third time on October 3rd.

Q. Cloudways: Can you describe a failure that taught you a valuable lesson? How did the lessons affect your workflows?

Erik: I had a really early employee completely flake on all of his clients and cause half of my clients to call me angry and really put us in a tough spot like a month into the business. I handled it. Then I called my dad to vent and ask for advice. I told him this crazy long story about how my employee had just met a girl over the weekend and decided to marry her in Hawaii and blew off.  After 10 minutes listening to my story, he goes like “Oh ya, that shit happens all the time, anyway I gotta go talk to you later.”

It was a HUGE lesson for me that running a business is a constant fire drill – job of the owner. Get used to it.

Q. Cloudways. What books would you recommend to beginners?

Erik: I actually don’t read tons of books, but I very much enjoyed:

  1. Top of Mind, Shoe Dog
  2. Hard thing about Hard Things
  3. Appetite for Self-Destruction

Q. Cloudways: Name five people who have inspired you the most?

Erik: My Dad, My Mom, My Wife, and My Business Partner Richard Branson. I mostly get my inspiration from the people around me, not the public figures.

Q. Cloudways: What’s your daily routine? How do you maintain the work-life balance?

Erik: I don’t have a daily routine, I actually prefer not to. I think work-life balance is a misnomer and work-life harmony and how it all plays together is a much happier way to live. I work constantly, but a lot of times that “work” are the things I love to do with the people I want to do them with.

Q. Cloudways: What advice will you give to youngsters starting their first business?

Erik: The best advice I got early on, “swing the bat” just go for it, try things, always learn and the most important thing, get shit done. Don’t get stuck in planning, thinking, talking, go execute.

Q. Cloudways: Now let’s have a quick rapid-fire round: (Just answer one.)

Travelling or Party? Travel
Dropshipping or Ecommerce? Ecommerce
Entrepreneur or Employment? Entrepreneur
Xbox or PlayStation? Playstation
Shopify or WooCommerce? Shopify

Q. Cloudways: Can you please send us a pic of your workspace?

Erik Huberman workspace

Interested in knowing more about Erik Huberman? Get in touch with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Sajjad Shahid

Sajjad is an Ecommerce Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves helping out Ecommerce store owners, merchants and marketers in establishing their businesses and startups. Sajjad enjoys playing table tennis and cricket over the weekend.


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