Welcome to episode 43 of the Launch Yourself podcast.
In This Episode
In today’s episode, Mike Iskandar shares how he took a personal development project for himself and turned it into a program that he has been able to quickly scale into different iterations over the past year. And his market is super niched – his program is for tweens and teens. Learn all about how he has been able to scale it quickly while continuing to refine his process.
When he was completing his own project, someone suggested that a similar experience could be fun for tweens and teens, so Mike created a test pilot program, teaching the content live in a classroom. From there, his longer-term plans of creating an online experience with the program were put into high gear when COVID hit. In addition to selling his program for school delivery, his next version—an online option—was a direct to consumer opportunity for parents who wanted their kids to take the journey.
Once again, after examining the online program, he was able to create another version of his program, to scale. He took his proof of concept and created a train-the-trainer program for other teachers to teach in their own classrooms.
Tune in to hear more about what Mike experienced along the way and some great advice for those who are looking to scale quickly.
Learn More About Mike Iskandar
Mike Iskandar is on a mission to help tweens and teens turn self-doubt, anxiety, and isolation into self-love, confidence, and connection.
He is the founder of Time Travel Journeys, a breakthrough SEL program that guides kids on a fun, engaging exploration of the best of their past and future selves in order to discover their best self.
Leveraging his experience interviewing 40 people from ages 1 to 40, coaching middle school tennis, and creating emotionally-engaging experiences at Southwest Airlines, he created Time Travel Journeys as a way for tweens and teens to awaken a deep sense of gratitude and excitement for their whole self—past, present, and future.
He is currently guiding groups of kids on their own time travel journeys while working with schools on implementing his program into their curriculum.
Visit Mike’s website: Time Travel Journeys
Melissa Anzman (00:00): This is the launch yourself podcast episode number 43 with Mike Iskandar for more information and show notes, go to launch yourself.co/ 43. Welcome to the Launch Yourself podcast. My name is Melissa Anzman. I'm a bestselling author and the CEO of two businesses, an employee experience company, and launch yourself where I help entrepreneurs diversify and scale their business by launching digital products each week, you'll hear mindblowing interviews where we peek behind the curtain of other people's launches, as well as actual tips and strategies that you can implement in your daily work life to create launches that actually make you money. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now let's get started on today's episode. We have Mike Iskandar giant joining me, and he has a really interesting product and background that is unlike any interview that we've done. And I think you're really going to like it because we talk about how he created something out of an idea that he had for himself, a project that he did as he was approaching the age of 40.
Melissa Anzman (01:13): And it was someone else's idea that got him inspired to create a program around it. And in just a few months, just under about eight months or so, he's taken this idea and he has iterated it more than three times and he shares what he did to launch and scale at each step. So who is Mike? Mike is on a mission to help tweens and teens turn self doubt, anxiety and isolation in a self love, confidence and connection. He is the founder of time travel journeys, a breakthrough SEL program that guides kids on a fun, engaging exploration of the best of their past and future selves in order to discover their best self leveraging his experience, interviewing 40 people from ages one to 40 coaching, middle school tennis and creating emotionally engaging experiences at Southwest airlines. Mike created a time travel journeys as a way for tweens and teens to awaken a deep sense of gratitude and excitement for their whole self past present and future. I can't wait for you to hear all about what he offers. If you are a parent, I think you're going to love his offer, but also to know how he's been able to scale it from being just an idea to something much bigger dive right in. Thanks so much for coming on the show today. Mike, I'm so excited to hear.
Mike Iskandar (02:47): Thanks for having me on.
Melissa Anzman (02:48): Awesome. So if you could share a little bit about your business and your background.
Mike Iskandar (02:54): Yes. So I am the founder and a travel guide, I guess you would call it of time and travel journeys and time travel journeys is a social, emotional learning program for parents and educators to help their kids turn self doubt insecurity, anxiety into self-compassion and confidence and connection, and primarily dealing with tweens and teens.
Melissa Anzman (03:28): I love that. So how'd you get into that? That's, that's a pretty specific unique market. So how'd you fall into that?
Mike Iskandar (03:37): Yeah, it's been a very good path to get to this point. I definitely did not set out to create an educational program. This whole thing started with me looking ahead and seeing age 40 on the horizon. I was almost 39 and kind of doing those reflections on life of what have I done and who was I and who am I and who do I want to be? And I came up with this, just this very strong calling to reconnect with each of the ages that I had lived so far, almost like doing and wanting to do an audit of my life before I continued on to 40 and beyond. And so I kept just kind of riffing on this idea of what if I could travel back in time to every age that I've lived so far and just reconnect to that version of myself and, you know, what would I learn about who I was and all those different phases of life cause cause you forget over the years.
Mike Iskandar (04:47): And so I wanted to go back and remember who I was and what I was like at all those different phases and make peace with all those past versions of myself. And it was kind of inspired by this mantra or, or vision or idea of just like to go back and make peace with those younger versions of myself and just tell them like, we're going to do it all again. And this time I got your back. And so I was just riffing on this idea of what if I could travel back in time to all those younger ages and without an actual time machine, I came up with this idea of doing an interview project where what if I could sit down with one person from every age, from one to 40 and just do an interview about what is it like to be the age that you are, and you know, what better way to, to reconnect with each of those past ages than to sit down with someone experiencing that very age?
Mike Iskandar (05:47): So I went back to the the school community where I grew up in and went to middle school and high school in Durham, North Carolina the school's friends school and I this idea to them of doing this all within the school community and lining up 40, I guess you'd call it future current and former students and community members of the school. And, and just arranging these interviews where I could sit down and, and experience life, edit this. And so long story short, I did all these, these 40 interviews in the course of a year just over a year actually. By the time I got to the 40th, which was myself on my 40th birthday. And so I just sat down with each of these people starting with a one year old and a two year old, three year old, four year old, five year old, all the way up to 40 and just had a conversation about, just tell me about life at your age and what are your passions and what are your fears and what's your day to day life like and just take me back to what that was like.
Mike Iskandar (06:58): And so it brought back a lot of the memories of, of what that was like. And I experienced this really profound power of tapping back into the qualities of who I was at each of those younger ages. And it just brought so much clarity and peace and as to who I was and all these different phases of life and helping me understand who I am today and then who I want to be in the future
Melissa Anzman (07:28): Cool project.
Mike Iskandar (07:30): Yeah, it was, it was magic.
Melissa Anzman (07:32): So going in this project was more something for you as a passion project that you wanted to sort of use to propel you, propel you forward as you hit the 40 Mark and beyond. How did that turn into a business? Tell me like how that transformed into the next thing for you.
Mike Iskandar (07:53): Yeah, so they're actually on on my 40th birthday, I did an event where I, I brought all the people that I interviewed together and along with family members and teachers and community members. And I give a talk about this experience. And then I had the people that I interviewed interview me, and it was this great kind of closing of that. And inside, it was just beautiful to have like these kids come up and say like, what are your biggest fears and what are your biggest passions? And tell me about this. It was kind of like a payback, like all, all the questions,
Melissa Anzman (08:31): Questions now you get to answer them.
Mike Iskandar (08:33): Yeah, exactly. And at the end of that event one member of the community came up to me and just said, have you considered making this a class? And I had not thought about that at all, but it planted the seed, but I got really obsessed with this idea of like how could I take this experience and package it for others to go through instead of just saying like, Hey Melissa, go interview one person from every edge you've lived so far. It's really profound. Like,
Melissa Anzman (09:09): That'd be like, I mean, I've no idea what to do if you sell me that I'd be like no, thank you. Sounds cool. But definitely not going to know where to start with that.
Mike Iskandar (09:20): Yeah. So this was, the idea was to, to create a, a structure around it and create an experience for others to gain kind of the essence of what I went through. And so the, the target wanted to do this for was was middle schoolers tweens. And, and because I noticed in my own experience that when I was connecting with the younger years, like, you know, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven year olds, like there were some beautiful qualities that naturally came to light in these, in these kids that I interviewed. And then there's this transition that takes place around middle school, which we all kind of know about the anxiety and the self doubt and the insecurity and the stress. And sometimes depression picks up and, you know, I've seen it in kids. I coach tennis too. I saw it in myself.
Mike Iskandar (10:19): It's a lot of what drove this project in the first place. And so I wanted to go to the source of that and go back to that time and see, you know, what would I have wanted at that time and what could I do for kids at this phase of life? And so I created a, a middle school class that would take kids through each phase of their life, a chronological journey from the very start of their life up to the present time and into their future. And so it's reflecting on the best qualities of, of who they were in their younger years who they are today. They want to be in their future and how that can all come back and uplift their present sense of self. And so I came up with the name for it as as a time travel journey.
Mike Iskandar (11:14): It was really kind of resonated with that middle school age group of okay guys, or, you know, this is not like self-development class or therapy or anything like that is like, we're going to go on a journey. We're going to go on a time travel journey and that kind of sparked kids' imaginations. And so the first, the first launch of this was in November of last year, 2019, and it was a guest teaching gig at the school where I went to Carolina friends school, where I did this project, and it was a middle school class with eight kids twice a week. And I just designed this journey for them, where they started out designing their own time machine that would become kind of their, you know, creative exercise and their trigger to time travel and to, to revisit different times in their life.
Mike Iskandar (12:12): And then we would look at this, they pulled together photos of themselves kind of information or stories about who they were at these different times of their life. We would do activities like that, kind of reenacted what that time of life was like, like play with playdough to kind of relive what the still years. And we built a Fort to relive kind of those age five, six, seven years. And then I would have them view other people kind of like I did. So like I took them up to the preschool and they interviewed preschoolers. And so they got really into this process and it was just a very intuitive process to go chronologically through their life and to bring up these memories and to connect with themselves who they were and then to get to know each other in these different phases
Melissa Anzman (13:08): There, as you're doing that. So for the launch aspect of it, you were selling that quote unquote to the school. So you were a guest teacher for one school, one class, maybe you got paid, maybe not. I'm hoping you got paid for it. Probably not a ton.
Mike Iskandar (13:25): No, I did. I got the guest teaching fee and I, yeah. And it was about, you know, pitching this class idea. So that was the stage. One of the launch was taking this personal journey that I went through converting it into a, you know, into a class that class and then pitching it to the school and saying, getting their green light to say, okay, yes, we can have you as a guest teacher and come in and teach this. And so, yeah, it was one class, one school, eight kids,
Melissa Anzman (13:59): And I'm sure you got proof of concept with it, and you probably got a lot of lessons, everything learned and added some actual teaching into the journey, which it sounds like.
Mike Iskandar (14:11): Yeah, for sure. I and I'm very grateful for that opportunity that I had to, to bring it to life with real kids in a real classroom setting. And I'm learning these, you know, talking about like lessons along the way, I'm learning these principles along the way of like kids adore themselves, tweens and teens, who they were in those younger years.
Melissa Anzman (14:34): So we had the kids you learned, tell me how you then created that to something that could scale because you going in and swooping in as a guest teacher, forget Cobra, but swooping in as a guest teachers, obviously not scalable. So how did you transform that, you know, become something that you could build a business on that could be scalable for you?
Mike Iskandar (14:58): So the big shift for me was after COVID hit and obviously not having opportunities to teach in more classrooms but to convert this online, to, to zoom and to just start networking and working with smaller groups of kids on zoom. And this was when I was able to kind of take this on my own and, you know, create some communications, basic website, some basic you know, overviews of what I'm doing and why I'm doing it and how I'm doing it. And then just networking on my own and pulling together, you know, groups of four or six or doing some one on one work. And, you know, building that version of it in which it's not through a school, but me running it as, you know, my own program with the, with the kids and clients that I find.
Mike Iskandar (16:02): And so that was kind of stage two, was to take this out and not let you know COVID for this pandemic, slow things down, but actually speed it up. What I found as I went into the summer so, you know, spring semester is kids are at home. They were needing engagement and kind of were active zoom activity. And so there was a, an appeal to that of like having something on zoom that was not just a class, not just staring at the screen, but there, you know, building a time machine or playing with playdough or building a Fort or doing more hands on active stuff and then saw there were opportunities with summer camps that have, you know, lack camps that were no longer in play. So I was able to, I was ready to come in and offer a zoom version of of a summer camp that could be done in five days. There was a high school workshop I did in three days. So that was kind of a big stage two was this was this past summer and doing my own groups and finding camp opportunities. And then more recently.
Melissa Anzman (17:13): So, so before you move on, I just want to, I'm curious. So at that point you were selling this program to camps and parents directly, or just mostly camps and still okay.
Mike Iskandar (17:25): Just yeah, parents just within my own network of just really getting on Facebook and thing, do you have a tweener?
Melissa Anzman (17:32): Right. And the parents are dying for it. Right, right. They're like, well, it's for me. Yeah.
Mike Iskandar (17:38): Yeah. I, you know, I feel for all the parents still that have to a lot of places have their, everything going on inside the house and needs some space from that. So yeah, it was, it was me just, you know, putting messages out to my own network. And then just saying, you know, if your twin or teen could use an funding gauging structure program that builds self compassion and self confidence helps overcome insecurity and self doubt of this program, I started doing just a, a free intro where they just kind of get the concept and they design their own time machine. They explore, what age would they want to go back to? If they had the power on travel and what age would they want to go ahead to, and now we're gonna design our own time machine. And that became just a really good starting point to get people to say, to say, you know, come on. And just for this intro, have your kids come for a one hour intro, we'll do some of these activities. And it's really the first step of the journey. And, you know, it's from there. It's okay. Do you want to, do you want to keep going through the rest of the journey,
Melissa Anzman (18:46): The Scala at that right. High conversion rate, it's an easy sell because they're like, this is so fun. It's so different than everything else we have to do for Xoom school, especially back at that point. Right. Of no one really having it figured out. So that's awesome. That's such a good way in, yeah, that worked really well. Okay. So we have this working. It's a really great idea. I love the idea and I already am thinking of my nieces and nephews who are going to do it. So I'm forcing them. I don't know if that's the right way in. I think they'll love it. So anyway, that aside, so now, like, is that where the business is now? Or have you brought it to something different? Like where is it today?
Mike Iskandar (19:29): Yeah. So the, so the next evolution has been I'm about a month in, and I was able to go to more of a train the trainer model where in my first engagement of that, and that's where I'm now training five teachers on how to teach this to 150 middle-schoolers, which has every, every student in the Carolina friends school, middle school, and that's been a big scaling leap for me. And it's been a, another new challenge, which is going really well so far, but definitely is a different ball game to go from no more than, you know, six to eight kids to taking this at once with me leading it. And now it's 50 kids taking this all at the same time. Through five teachers that I'm training, who are me, exactly. It was very weird. The other day I went, went for a jog in the park nearby, and I was like, wow, while I'm on this job, like 150 taking this class,
Melissa Anzman (20:39): Right. It's crazy. Explain to the listeners like what train the trainer is. Cause that's really a big thing in schools and maybe in a few HR corporate things, but most entrepreneurs have no idea what that means. So this is an interesting way to scale when you teach something directly, it is basically you take, it's kind of like a Oh, licensing or franchising, your idea for just a different approach in that you have something that you sell and it's not scalable for you to go in and teach five different classrooms at the same time, it's just not feasible. And so what you do is you create a training system for people to either get certified in it, or just know their program enough and meet your standards, to be able to then take what you've created your program and deliver it under your company, name, your business, name, your product name, however you have it set up and do that on your behalf.
Melissa Anzman (21:29): And usually the point of that is from a scaling perspective so that you earn income without having to do the in-person delivery, which is cool. But the downside, if you're a control freak like me, is that you do lose a lot of the actual delivery control. Because even though those people are certified, they're still their own people and they still are going to have their own delivery. So to your point, I've taken a job and enjoying the fact that you're able to go for a run while people are teaching it. It probably has a few growing pains that go along with it. Right.
Mike Iskandar (22:06): For sure. I mean, and some of it is just emotional of like, not being you know, part of it is, is missing the moments, almost like a parent, like missing the school recital where I'm like,
Melissa Anzman (22:23): They're like, I want to see that time machine. Yeah,
Mike Iskandar (22:26): Exactly. And so that was a transition. And then, yeah, there's I think it was a pretty quick transition for me to adjust to others, teaching it because they've, they've made it better in a lot of ways too, where, you know, they interpret what I'm doing. And the suggestion is this is an amazing way to have a program is to share it with others and to have them interpret it with their own perspectives and much broader and deeper teaching experiences than I have for them to take it and say, Oh, you know, what, if we did this, or what if we did that? Like a one teacher came up with an amazing idea to not just have the make their time exchange, but to do video recordings of them on Flipgrid. And so now we've got a hundred, you know, over a hundred of these videos of these kids presenting the time machines that they've made and the creativity is just off the charts.
Mike Iskandar (23:26): So that was a welcome change, but yeah, there, there's definitely an adjustment to finding out, right. So I'm, I'm all about it. I mean this is the path that I want to be on because to be able to get this out to more kids and more places. So I want to run with this for sure. I want to kind of have these dual paths moving forward of pitching this packaging, this, this experience the results of this engagement with the school and pitching to more to more middle schools, high schools as well. I did a, a workshop for 44 high school seniors. It was a three day workshop. So packaging up those kinds of experiences and doing more of the filling more and more schools, but also at the same time, like continuing to, to run my own groups and then even trained instructors to run those that don't necessarily have to be through a school.
Melissa Anzman (24:30): This last transition, what did not work? What did you, what was something that you tried that you were like, Oh, that did not go as planned? I will not ever be revisiting that again.
Mike Iskandar (24:43): In this latest iteration, I think I think there's, there's a challenge, a tech challenge with managing all the slide decks and, you know, like every, every kid gets their own Google slide deck where they're creating essentially a time capsule or scrapbook of their life and each of the phases. And it's a logistical challenge to to have that many decks out there and to have like, you know, I'm passing a deck along to the teacher, the teachers are then making this many dozen copies passing along to the students. There's a, it's not that I wouldn't have done that, but S phase there's definitely a improved technology that I can do where it's not so manual and asking the teachers to do so much manual work. But there, so there's an evolution with that that I think will, and this has smoothed out to as as they've done that initial setup, but I think there's, there's little there's things like that where it's like, Oh, we could streamline this more. We could automate this more.
Melissa Anzman (25:56): You don't know that until you do it right? Like you truly don't know those things until you get into it. So. Awesome. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur? Who's looking to do something in the same market, like, like this is definitely a unique and specific market. How, like, what advice would you give to somebody? I know you didn't set out to do this, which makes it a little bit different, but if you were being intentional about it now, what advice would you give?
Mike Iskandar (26:24): Yeah, I think feeding off of the fact that I wasn't necessarily intentionally trying to create this based from that is the passion. When it's your vision, when it's personal, when it's driven by personal experience and personal journey is sparks an incredible amount of passion and drive to make it work. So I think when it comes to the design of the idea that you want to offer to in order to serve kids or a community in a school is, you know, to, to find that personal connection, like, what's your journey in this? How are you healing in this? Because that is such a fuel power to such fuel to make it work and to keep it going. Otherwise I think it's just like really thinking from the perspective of the kids. Like what's really going to be fun and interesting here
Melissa Anzman (27:29): Of that. And it's one of the only spaces that you can really do that. I mean, it is truly such a unique space where you can teach through, play, teach through fun and not that, you know, teaching entrepreneurs isn't fun, but a lot of entrepreneurs don't have CR have grown out of the thing that you were talking about. They've grown out of the, having fun and being, you know, in the moment and taking time to do that. And so that's a really interesting opportunity to bring more play and fun into what you teach.
Mike Iskandar (28:04): Yeah. I think a huge thing is for creating online courses, which is obviously huge now is to think of how can I, how can I get the participant to go off screen doing hands on activities and experiencing their full, all their five senses. One of the activities I do when we're looking at the baby years, as I have them do a, a baby walk or a baby crawl to kind of take on the perspective of a baby. And the point is to experience your five senses from the perspective of a baby and to like go take a walk around your house, crawl around your house and the kids crawl. And then I write down and write down what they're feeling and hearing and seeing. And then they have a snack and they're observing the taste and the smells. So I think that the principles of that can apply to, if you can pitch an online course in which there's off-screen hands on activity as, as part of integrated into the experience. I think that can really strengthen your position and differentiate you cause their fatigue is a real thing.
Melissa Anzman (29:21): I mean, honestly, like we did not need to be on camera all the time before a phone call works just fine. But okay, Mike, super interesting stuff. Where can people find you online? Because I know that we're going to have a bunch of people who are like that is so for my kid. So where can they find you online? Great. Yeah, you can go to
Mike Iskandar (29:42): Www dot time-travel journeys.com, love to connect with parents and educators about how to, to bring this experience to your, your tween and teen. And I love to do a, an, an adult version of this eventually, but I'm working really well right now.
Melissa Anzman (30:00): That's so cool. And we'll be sure to include the links directly in the show notes on the site. So please be sure to check it out so that you can get in touch with Mike. It has been such a pleasure having you on the show today. Thank you so much at like such good content and really unique business idea, which I love. So thank you.
Mike Iskandar (30:20): Thanks Melissa.
Melissa Anzman (30:21): Join the free launch yourself workshop, where you'll learn why your digital products aren't selling nearly as much as you planned for and how to diversify and scale your income by launching the right way. Text:, launchyourself, all one word to: 44222.
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