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Cassandra Smith, the visionary behind Blanks Galore Academy, teaches people the art of mastering multiple crafts and launching successful businesses. She does so through in-person and online courses. “When I found Thinkific, my life did a complete 360 from where I started,” shares Smith. 

Her journey began with sublimation, a technique where designs are transferred onto various items such as clothing, tumblers, and mugs. Starting out in 2017 with a desire to create custom hoodies for her children’s basketball team, she stumbled into the world of crafting without any prior experience.

However, she had to learn this technique on her own; when she asked sublimation business owners to teach her, they saw her as their competition—and refused to help.  “I vowed that once I learned, I would teach others, too,” she says. “Gatekeeping is never something that I would do.” 

She learned by herself and began making custom sublimation orders for people on the side of her full-time job. When demand soared and she made her first $1,000 in one week, she quit her 9-5. “When I quit, I didn’t know that my business was going to slow down—and it slowed all the way down,” Smith laments. 

Falling on tough financial times, she remained determined to make her crafting business successful. She began selling ‘blanks,’ meaning blank t-shirts, tumblers, mugs, and other items to crafters alongside her custom orders. When the pandemic hit, she received thousands of orders for her blank and custom-designed masks.

“I went from getting evicted and making zero dollars to months later making $86,000,”in one month she shares. “I’d never seen that kind of money before.”

With her blank sales booming, she created a Facebook group for aspiring crafters, which now boasts over 106,000 members. There, she went live in the group to teach people how to sublimate on the blanks she sold. People increasingly began showing up for her live classes, and soon they were asking her for online classes. She signed up with Thinkific and offered her first paid program—followed by several more programs to see what stuck. That year, she made just under $1M in online course revenue. In 2021, she made $2M, and since then she’s been “hitting millions on Thinkific” after developing her now signature membership program.

Here’s how Smith went from having no crafting or online course creation experience to becoming a multi-millionaire:

Skip ahead:

  1. She experimented with different types of online programs

Smith didn’t create her best-selling membership program right off the bat. In fact, she created 20 online programs before she found what really stuck. 

Before her membership, she would create a new program every time her audience asked her to teach something specific. But she was ready for a change; instead of creating new courses all of the time, she wanted to make one great membership where people were taught everything they needed to know.

In 2023, she created the Crafters Mastermind 2.0 program, which now has 1,200 members. “When I launched it, I instantly had 1,000 people join,” she shares. “For a year straight, we had a minimum of 1,000 people in there, paying that membership fee every single month and learning new crafts.”

Now, on top of her Thinkific membership she sells branded sublimation paper and ink, blanks, as well as runs an in-person school in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches hands-on classes every weekend. “We have students from all over the world fly down here just to attend our classes,” says Smith. 

  1. She provided consistent value

In her membership, she offers a mix of pre-recorded and live content. She also hosts a private community via Facebook—and this is where she goes live every week to teach the course material. “Some people don’t learn just by logging in and watching videos,” Smith explains. “They want to see a live class and ask questions. This helps keep people engaged.”

Within the membership, she’s continually adding new classes; since the crafting industry is always changing, adding new educational content to the dashboard keeps people interested. “As long as you give people value, they’ll stay inside of your membership,” she says. 

When she first started this program, her goal was to make at least $300,000 per month. To do so, she charges $159 USD per month.  “Now, I don’t really care to try to get more people inside of the program. My goal is to make sure that I’m providing as much value as I can to the people that are currently in there. I want people to say that because they joined my program, they’re now successful in their businesses.”

The attitude of giving value versus just trying to make a sale has been pivotal in her business.

“Give value and the sale will come,” she reiterates.

  1. She leaned on the power of community

Creating community has been the biggest key to her success. “If I would have never started that Facebook group, I would have never found my people,” shares Smith.

Now, she says that her community is so strong that they would buy almost any program she created. “Once people see that you give value, they’re willing to support you in anything.”

“My community has changed my life dramatically,” she continues. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”

  1. She created strategic Instagram reels to market her courses

Smith’s audience is made up of beginner crafters. They’re mostly African American women between the ages of 35 and 44 located in Illinois, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and New York. Many of them are single parents and are trying to find something that they can do from home while they look after their kids. The rest are simply looking for a new hobby.

To reach her audience, she leans heavily on her main Facebook group, which she runs ads to. She also uses YouTube, TikTok, email marketing, and Instagram—which is her favourite platform to show up on. Here, she shares reels that demonstrate the different crafts that she makes. 

For those also wanting to use Instagram reels to market themselves, she has some tips: she recommends that folks create reels that are only 5-7 seconds long using trending audio that has less than 5,000 usages. She also suggests that they use trending hooks to get people to stop in their tracks and listen. 

Her other advice is to stay consistent. “It can be discouraging at first,” she says. “Even if you take my previous advice, you’re not going to see progress overnight. You might not even see it in a week or month.”

“Stay learning and evolving. What was working in 2020 isn’t working now. Social media is constantly changing, and you have to come out with new things to stay relevant.”

  1. She used a personalized approach to her email newsletter

Aside from bringing people to her course via social media, she offers a lead magnet to help get people into her membership program. 

The free offering is a sublimation ebook, which essentially gives people a supply list and lets them know where to get material and how to price their custom items, convert their printers, and what kind of items you can make with sublimation. This ebook not only helps to give her audience value, it also helps get more people on her email list. 

Over the past couple of years, she’s changed the way she uses her email list. While she used to use it only to talk about what she was selling, her email engagement slowed down and she was forced to find a different strategy. Now, she uses it in a more personal way, being transparent about her story and her personal life as a business owner in addition to sharing what she offers at Blanks Galore Academy. “I like to show my life on email so that people can feel part of the family,” she shares. 

  1. She chose Thinkific over other elearning platforms

When Smith was first researching LMS’, she considered platforms like Kajabi and Teachable. However, she felt that Thinkific was more user-friendly. “I was able to set up my course within minutes,” she says. 

Plus, one of the things she loves most about Thinkific is that it has an integrated payment provider; she says running the backend became much simpler once she switched over to using  Thinkific Payments. “I love Thinkific because it’s so streamlined,” she shares. “I also love that the funds are instantly deposited into my bank accounts.”

“All I have to do is bring people to Thinkific and Thinkific does the rest,” she continues. “This platform overall has made my life a lot easier.”

To run her business, she integrates Shopify, Afterpay, Active Campaign, and Clickfunnels—which she integrates into Thinkific with Zapier. “I wish I found Thinkific a lot earlier,” shares Smith. 

  1. She hired a team

At first, it was just Smith running her business—but she became overwhelmed quickly. She eventually hired an admin team of six for the online course side of her business. Their duties are to stay active in Facebook groups and answer customer emails. She also has a warehouse team to manage orders, shipping, and packing. 

Hiring a team has allowed her to dream bigger. With the money she’s making from online courses, her goal is to invest it into her stock, warehouse, hiring, and eventually franchise her in-person academy in other states with the hope of teaching as many people as possible how to make customizations. “If we have more academies spread out, then more people are able to walk in and learn exactly what it is that we do,” she states.

  1. She held an unwavering belief in herself

Prior to her business, Smith didn’t have an art or design background. She learned everything herself—shifting, pivoting, and growing along the way. 

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great,” explains Smith. “A lot of times when we start things, we want it to be perfect before we launch or promote it. I would say just start and perfect it as you go. That’s how I came up with 20 programs before I found the one membership that really worked.”

But starting anything requires self-belief—something that Smith never ran out of, even when times were hard. “I started with a dream that nobody else believed but me,” she says. “People would say, why do you want to make t-shirts? Nobody’s buying t-shirts. But I just took it and ran with it.”

“It seems that the more that I share what I do and learn, the more people keep finding me and buying what I’m selling,” she adds.

Smith’s journey from crafting novice to multi-millionaire educator highlights the importance of determination, community-building, and adaptability. Through experimentation with online programs and consistently providing value to her community, she transformed her business into a thriving empire. Her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs in the online course industry, showcasing the potential for success with the right mindset and tools.

If you’re inspired by Smith’s journey and also want to begin an online course business, you have nothing to lose. Sign up for Thinkific for free.