Building Something People Care About with Calming Manatee Founder Kurt Elster

Today’s guest, who came highly recommended by former guest Nick Loper, really put my robot dancing to shame. And, more importantly, he dropped some serious wisdom about how doing more awesome shit and putting it out into the world has shifted the way he leads and runs his business. Kurt Elster shares with me how one stupid auto-correction error in a text led to an overnight success we call “Calming Manatee.” Creative entrepreneurs…this episode is especially for you!

Watch the show (uncensored & unedited) 

Listen to the podcast


Step 1: Do awesome shit. Step 2: Tell people about it! – @kurtinc via @_TheShutUpShow #shutupshow (click to tweet)


  • Kurt has worked with a variety of clients including a Superbowl campaign, Verizon, small businesses and startups.
  • Kurt is the co-founder of Calming Manatee, a website reaching millions of visitors every month who are looking for peaceful ways to reduce overwhelm.
  • Kurt is a web designer, creative director, entrepreneur and now podcaster (what what!).
  • After we recorded Kurt’s episode, he took my advice and started his own podcast, The Unofficial Shopify Podcast.


One Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. while tying his Converse All-Stars before work, Kurt started full-on sobbing at the prospect of having to go to a job he hated. It was the job he had told everyone he loved. A job where he kept earning more responsibility but never any more money. A job where he was denied a raise due to budgetary limits; his boss was shopping for a Porsche.

In that moment, Kurt knew he was going to quit his job and start his own business. He didn’t know what he wanted it to do. What he did know was quitting would light a fire underneath him. In less than two weeks, he decided to start a SaaS business and partnered with a friend who had been recently laid of from a software engineering job. Today, Kurt is working on his own terms, helping small businesses impress the hell out of their customers through his digital agency and making a positive difference through his creative projects.


The first two years after I went out on my own, I realize I took all the experience I had learned up to that point to help me in the beginning. – @kurtinc

In your first entrepreneurial endeavor, you think you can’t fail. But you’ve got to pivot to survive. Most businesses do that. – @kurtinc

I wasn’t listening to our audience. I was trying to sell to people that didn’t know I existed. – @kurtinc

If you have a vendor and they don’t talk about how they can help you make money, fire them right away. – @kurtinc

Viral is an accident, it’s something you can’t force. – @kurtinc

If you want things to go viral, you have to do something that helps others. It has to be selfless. – @kurtinc

The less you think about idea, the better. If you can do it in an afternoon or week, don’t even think about it. Just do it. – @kurtinc

Me stealing your idea is the last thing you should worry about. You should worry about building something and nobody caring. If that happens, change it until people care or move on to something else. – @kurtinc

Everything that either made me money or made people feel better, I celebrate those wins when I’m feeling down. – @kurtinc

Celebrate wins, run your business from a position of strength. – @kurtinc

If you have a great idea but make excuses in your head about why you can’t do it, ask yourself if it’s legitimate or just an excuses. – @kurtinc

What am I afraid of? What’s the worst thing that can happen? – @kurtinc


E-commerce business owners, Kurt offers fixed fee consulting at

Find Kurt at