• SumoMe

You may have heard of Pinterest, and all the buzz that website gets with the ladies. Frankly, the idea is great–but the community is almost exclusively friendly to the fairer sex. That’s where Gentlemint comes in. Co-founder Brian McKinney spared some of his time to answer a few of my questions about his project.

Electrogent: For starters, introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know who you are or what Gentlemint is.

Brian: I’m Brian McKinney. I’m 33 years old. I’m a web designer/developer and a co-founder of Gentlemint.com. I’ve been designing and building websites for about 10 years now and recently collaborated with my good friend Glen Stansberry to create Gentlemint, which is a site for finding and sharing ‘manly’ content.

Brian answers a few questions about Gentlemint.

E: What inspired you to create Gentlemint?

B: Glen and I had been working on a different project called howdyapp.com and it was a great idea but painfully hard to implement. I spent most of my nights and weekends for the last two years working on developing that site, and despite getting it nearly ready to go, it still just wasn’t quite there. I think Glen and I were both very tired and frustrated with working on something that was so complex and it still falling short of where we wanted it to be by that particular point in time. So Glen approached me with the idea to do a ‘hack day’. The idea was to decide on something to build, work like crazy for 12 hours and then release the site to the public that night. That’s how Gentlemint came about.

E: Where do you see Gentlemint going in 5 years?

B: That’s a great question. We have no idea. Honestly, we started building the site 2 months ago. We never thought that it would get so much attention or grow so quickly. My focus right now is on tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. We really want to build a great community of like-minded individuals that share great content. I feel that if we do that and focus on building a great site for the users of Gentlemint everything else will take care of itself.

E: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your website?

B: I wish I knew how big we were going to get in such a short time. We honestly just built the site for fun and to make each other laugh. We wanted a place where we could go and trade links and post the kind of stuff we were interested in. It was all supposed to be for a laugh, and really just for ourselves and our buddies. But when a few outsiders got wind of it, it just absolutely blew up. The unfortunate thing about how quickly everything happened is that I was in the middle of working on some great new features for the site and I had to completely side track to get Gentlemint prepared for a huge rush of people. But, thankfully I’m back working on the new features now and I’m really excited about the things we’ll release in the next couple of weeks.

E: If you weren’t running Gentlemint, what would you be doing for a living?

B: Unfortunately, we’re not making enough money on Gentlemint to quit our day jobs. Glen and I are somewhat philosophically opposed to accepting venture capital and the like. We feel pretty strongly about creating great websites on a shoestring budget and doing things for the right reasons. If we were worried about making a ton of money on the site, Gentlemint would suck. So we focus on things we can control, like building a great experience for our users. That means keeping day jobs and paying out of pocket for the expenses of running the site, but it also means we can make every decision ourselves and not be pressured to make poor decisions in order to chase a bunch of cash for investors.

E: What is your other job?

B: I work as a web designer at a software company during the day and work on projects like Gentlemint at night. The great thing about what I do is that if you have an idea that you are passionate about, you can build it in your spare time, put it out there and see what shakes out.

E: What do you do to escape your work? Any hobbies?

B: Well, ever since Gentlemint started taking off, I’ve done nothing but work on that. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on anything in my life. I haven’t done a thing but go to my day job, then come home and work on Gentlemint for the last three weeks. But, I’m hopeful things will slow down a bit soon and I can get away from the site for a few days. My main hobby outside of web development is probably playing guitar. I started when I was 5 years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a great way to get away from things and clear my head.

E:  How has the public responded to your work at Gentlemint? What sort of feedback have you received, and what have you done with it?

B: We’ve had a tremendous response to Gentlemint, and it completely took us off guard. Once a few people found out about the site, one thing lead to another and we ended up getting a lot of press in major online publications like Mashable, Yahoo News, and Time.com just to name a few. Based on the response we’ve received, it appears we’ve really touched a nerve with people that were waiting for a site like Gentlemint. It’s been crazy.

We get a lot of requests for features and most of them are things that are already in the works. We get a lot of very positive “good job, I love the site” type responses. We also get a few people that dislike the site and us apparently. That’s been somewhat interesting, but I feel like I’m not doing anything worthwhile if I’m not pissing a few people off.

Gentlemint is like an internet repository for all things manly.

E: Do you ever have days where you doubt whether you are following the right path in life? If so, what gets you out of your rut? If not, what continues to give you confidence?

B: Absolutely. I’ve been building websites for a long, long time. Anyone that focuses so intently on a career choice has all kinds of self-doubts. Am I doing the right thing? Am I good enough? Maybe I should have become this or that? As time goes on you see people around you that are doing things that are very successful and you start
thinking to yourself “Why not me?”. I think it really comes down to a strong belief in yourself no matter what other people are doing or what they are saying about you. At my day job, I work with a lot of really smart, talented people and if you asked them who was the least likely to build a really successful website, they probably would have answered Brian McKinney. You’ve got to just trust yourself, work really hard, believe in your abilities and good things will happen.

E: What’s the best and worst part of running Gentlemint?

B: I think the worst part is the stress of being solely responsible for the programming and backend development of a site that is growing at such a tremendous pace. It has really taken over my life. Building Gentlemint was a lot of fun when it was just me and our buddies using it, but now there’s definitely a feeling of “Hey, this is for real, let’s do everything we can to make it work no matter what the cost”. That definitely takes a toll on me and the people that are close to me.

The best part of Gentemint is going to the site every morning. I love the fact that we built something that I can visit and see this great content every day. Every single day I learn something from the site or see something that cracks me up. That really makes all the hard work totally worth it.

E: What is the biggest achievement and failure of Gentlemint so far?

B: The biggest failure of Gentlemint has been our complete lack of preparation for allowing thousands of people into the site. We’ve got a waiting list now of thousands of people that want to start using Gentlemint, but we can’t let them in all at once. It’s very frustrating to keep so many people waiting to start contributing, but if we don’t take it slow and do things the right way, the people that are already using Gentlemint and contribuing will suffer. So, we’re just trying to do the best we can and keep moving through the list as quickly as possible.

The biggest achievement of the site has been how many people it has resonated with and the way those people have responded. We’ve received a lot of emails from people that really dig what we’re doing and that really means a lot to us. One of the things that’s been important to Glen and I since this started taking off was to really appreciate the people that support us and that’s really what has made Gentlemint successful—the community that has embraced and supported us.

E: How did you come up with the name “Gentlemint?”

B: Man, this was tough. We had the general idea for the theme and functionality of the site and for a couple of weeks we were kicking around names. It’s like trying to come up with a name for a rock band or something. It was way frustrating. We probably went through 25 names or so and just found one that seemed to be a bit quirky and would make people scratch their head a bit. It was mostly just a shot in the dark and getting tired of trying to come up with the name.

E: If someone wanted to do what you do, what would you tell them?

B: You have to be incredibly detail oriented, work hard and have a very high tolerance for frustration. There are many very humbling experiences when you start learning about web design and development. So, you can’t ever start to think “I just can’t do this”. You’ve got to keep challenging yourself and push through.

E: What’s your personal favorite aspect of the website?

B: Obviously, I’m a big fan of the community and the people that post great content, that’s what makes Gentlemint tick. But I also particularly appreciate having a place to build tools and new features for a huge community to use. It will be interesting to see how users will respond to some of the features that we’re working on or improvements we’re making. It’s a lot of fun to be so heavily involved in the evolution of the site, I just really appreciate the process of building, then releasing features and seeing what people with create with them. That’s been a blast.

E: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

B: I immediately check my phone to look at email. We get a lot of emails every day, but Glen and I read every single one. Everything from site errors, to feature requests, to people that forgot their password…etc., we try to be as hands on as possible when dealing with things related to Gentlemint. Often I’ll get a bug report from someone on the site and I’ll email them back 2 minutes later. I think having a direct line to the people responsible for the site is important, and we have a great respect and appreciation for everyone that takes a few minutes to post something on Gentlemint.

E: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

B: Australia. I lived in a town called Geelong in Victoria, Australia for about a year a while back and I absolutely love that place. They have such a great culture, Aussie Rules Football is awesome and the country as a whole is stunningly beautiful. If you’ve never been, I can’t recommend taking a trip there highly enough.

E: What is your favorite book?

B: It’s really tough to narrow it down to one book. But, definitely one of the better books I’ve read is When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi. I am a big Football fan, and have a great appreciation for biographies and non-fiction. It’s a really interesting, honest portrait of someone that was a great leader and an inspiration to a lot of people.

E: Ron Swanson or Theodore Roosevelt?

B: Teddy Roosevelt. Are you kidding me? Not even close.

E: Any guilty pleasures?

B: Just the usual vices. I have been really into bourbons for some reason lately. I took a weekend trip down to Louisville, Kentucky with my girlfriend (tip o’ the cap to Laura) a few months ago and man, they are dead serious about bourbons. Ever since I came back, I’ve been trying a bunch of different brands and it has definitely become my drink of choice. Particularly the Pappy Van Winkle’s. Good stuff that.


Thanks to Brian for his time in answering these questions. If you want to sign up for Gentlemint, you have to get on a waiting list at this point because their membership requests are enormous. It’s totally free, but you might have a wait a couple weeks, so get on it.

Now it’s your turn: have any questions for Brian about Gentlemint? Ask him in the comments below.