Kary Oberbruner began his entrepreneurial journey as an author, which evolved into creating and running his own publishing company. Passionate about Web3 and turning books into “18 streams of income,” Kary’s approach to the book business is far from conventional. Read on to learn about his “Jimmy Dean Sausage Strategy” of marketing and how confronting his deepest wound transformed his career.

Kary Oberbrunner of Igniting Souls Publishing Agency in Columbus, Ohio

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Give me a summary of your business in 200 words or less.

Igniting Souls is the full-service writing, publishing, and marketing agency that helps you turn books into 18 streams of income.

We serve authors, entrepreneurs, and influencers. Our right-fit clients share our core values for making a difference in the world. Together, we help you increase your influence, impact, and income.  We also publish and protect intellectual property.

What do you mean by “18 streams of income”? 

We say, let’s take that book, and instead of it being a message, let’s turn it into a movement. The way we do that is we create other products and services based on the book, like turning it into a conference or course. As a result of all the products and services tied to the book, it increases people’s influence, impact, and income. A book is a very passive experience. Now with courses and workshops, it’s very transformational.

For example, one of my books, Day Job to Dream Job, was about how you can go pro with your passion. We took our readers to Shawshank Prison in Ohio and had an experience called Dream Job Boot Camp.

How did the idea for your business come about?

I was in Powell, Ohio as a pastor for 12 years. While I was a pastor, I started writing books. That was the creativity that was trying to ooze out of me. None of these books made it so big that I could leave my day job. So I decided to start being an entrepreneurial author. I personally started experimenting with the 18 streams of income. With one book, I turned it into a course, the other a workshop, an immersive experience, a podcast, a blog, a vlog, etc.

People began to see this and say, “How the heck are you doing this taking a book and turning it into a transformational experience?” We started to create conferences called Igniting Souls Conference, and we’ve had those now for 12 years. This year it’s going to be in Dublin.

What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?

As a young person, I was a cutter. The way I made it through life was through self-injury, as a secret. I hid that story, until the fourth book. All of a sudden, I felt like God was telling me to write the “scary story.” I felt that if I didn’t write it, I’d miss out on a big blessing.

I began to draw people who had their own painful journeys. One of our author’s sons at 12 was killed in a hunting accident. She took that book and that message called After the Flowers Die, and like we say, took her pain into a platform. Your deepest wound is often the source of your greatest impact. Her name is Melanie Delorme.

What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner? 

The word entrepreneur means “one who bears risk.” I believe that I was hard-wired to be an entrepreneur. For me, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, working in a church felt like a prison. Because it was too structured. It was rules. It was “don’t go off script.”

I love entrepreneurship. It’s making it up every day. Will the public buy your product? Will you get this deal? Will you speak at that event? Will people like you? Will they hate you? It’s like a poker game. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s tough. And I absolutely love it.

Kary Oberbrunner of Igniting Souls - Entrepreneur in Columbus, Ohio

What does the city of Columbus mean to your business? 

I believe it’s about the people. The midwest ethics, work ethic, and hospitality. I have traveled because of being an author and speaker. I’ve gone to the west coast, east coast, north, south, and out of the country. In Columbus, I call it the spirit of synergy and collaboration. Every good person and connection I’ve met has happened here.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business? 

Start it as a side hustle first. There’s this romantic dream that says you go in and tell the man you’re done. And then go out and hustle and crush it. Here’s the problem when you do that: you have no accountability, no deadlines, no schedule, no routine, and no connections.

And on top of that, you now have the pressure of replacing your income. They’ve done research that shows people who are successful usually start as a side hustle. Because they have to prioritize their business and maximize their time. I started as a side hustle, and I really encourage others to do the same.

What’s the most challenging part of your business? What keeps you up at night?

What keeps me up at night is, how do you maintain great quality of your product and service but package it in a relevant way?

I saw a trend happening about 2 years ago with Covid, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I began to see that the internet was shifting. In other words, you run ads, you send emails, you run a webinar, but you don’t get the same results. Over the last 24 months, I went very deep in studying what was going on beyond the surface. People want an immersive internet, they want it to be experiential. So I blended Web3 with my publishing company.

This year’s Igniting Souls Conference is about turning books into non-fungible tokens (NFTs). If you think of an NFT as the new container, it’s what unlocks all these other products and services we’ve been teaching all along. I think there are a lot of businesses that aren’t willing to look in the mirror, look dumb, and fail. So in a weird way, I try to seek out failing every day.

Every business owner has a flaw. What would you say yours is? 

I don’t rest enough. It’s because I love my work, and my mind is often active.

Have you developed practices to get better at this? 

Yes, I wear an Oura Ring that tracks my sleep.

What was the single worst decision you made regarding your business and how’d you recover?

I pre-paid $80,000 for a conference venue right before Covid. I’d thought, oh, we had a great year, so I’ll pre-pay this year to use it as a tax write-off. And then literally Covid hit a few weeks later.

As far as recovery, I decided to have a free Igniting Souls virtual conference right as Covid was killing it in March of 2020. I could’ve fired all these people we no longer had money and tasks for. But instead, we created a virtual event. I brought on Clark Kellogg, a basketball legend, Kyle Snyder, and Tom Ryan, Ohio State Coach. I gave away free tickets but I also had a VIP upgrade. I’d have a live session and say, “If you want additional access to these speakers, upgrade to VIP now.”

Group Photo at Unhackable Book Event - Kary Oberbrunner

What tool has helped you the most for your business?

Livestreaming – in the power of our hands is a smartphone. It has more technology than what helped people land on the moon. Entrepreneurs don’t even understand the power of a smartphone.

You can go live to the world, you have your own global TV station. Your own press release on Twitter. Your own publishing house in WordPress. All mobile. My point is, I don’t think you need all the tools, bells, and whistles. Apply what you have.

What’s something that you did that was a game-changer for your business?

I hired coaches that were smarter and further along than me. It short-cut my path to success. Chet Scott, Dan Sullivan, John Maxwell – these are people you can pay for wisdom from.

If someone is limited on funds, should they wait and save up for a coach or make that investment early on and take the financial risk?

There’s a lot of free coaching out there to start. By that, I mean, podcasts and books. If you can’t even apply lessons from podcasts and books, don’t spend the money on a coach, because you’re not ready to apply their wisdom yet. If you can, you’re on the path — now go hire a coach.

What are some books that have been helpful to you? 

  1. Switch on Your Brain
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  3. Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman

What is something your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth every penny?

Our team. Like most companies, one of the biggest expenses is people, and our team is incredible.

What’s something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?

Blockchain Life, it’s my podcast and my new book. One of my passions is onboarding entrepreneurs and the public into Web3 by demystifying it.

What form of marketing is most valuable for you?

Content marketing – I call it the Jimmy Dean Sausage Strategy. This is like when you go to Costco and you pass by where they’re cooking up Jimmy Dean sausage. You’re not even hungry, but it smells great and they offer you one. And then tell you if you buy two, you get one free. So you put it in your cart. What did they do? They didn’t talk to you about the product, they didn’t explain the sausage, they simply let you consume it.

I’ve noticed with entrepreneurs, they’re scared to give away some of their stuff. In the intellectual property world with publishing, what is giving away your stuff? It’s saying, I’m going to teach today on concepts from my book, and if you like it, there’s more. It’s not talking about your book, it’s talking your book. 

Who is your best Columbus resource?

When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?

Journaling, prayer, exercise, specifically cycling in Columbus.

What’s your end goal with the business? 

Our 2030 vision is to ignite 100 million souls. We believe we are going to accomplish that not through our own products, services, and books, but by investing in influencers and their tribe, products, and services. We really exist to maximize other influencers.

Group Photo of Igniting Souls Authors - Columbus, Ohio

Who’s an entrepreneur you look up to?

Dan Sullivan out of Toronto, Canada. He’s one of my coaches, a strategic coach. He is the entrepreneur’s coach.

If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do, see, or eat in Columbus, what would it be?

Visit Shawshank Prison, Ohio State Reformatory.