Josh Rosenberg – Chief Marketing Officer at Influence Tree
Josh Rosenberg is the chief marketing officer at Influence Tree and his work has accounted for around $100 million in revenue for businesses in over 20 industries. Josh lives in New York city and when he’s not writing some of the best sales copy in the game, you can usually find him at rock concerts, comedy clubs or attending boxing matches. So now, I’m going to let Josh tell you about the incredible journey that brings him to us here today:
Hello my name is Josh Rosenberg. When I grew up, it was just me and my mom in the city of New York. I had one grandmother, but she was certifiable so she wasn’t really in the picture. My father was horribly abusive and would beat both my mother and I. One time, he beat my mom so bad that she was flat lined and brought back to life.
My mom and I grew up well under the poverty line. We would make decisions nightly of whether or not to get dinner or to keep the lights on, that’s just how poor we were. And if we were fortunate enough to eat dinner that night, it would just be something to fill us up, like an egg salad sandwich or a bowl of noodles just so we wouldn’t go to bed hungry.
My father left when I was six; his parting gift was he blinded me. He scorched my retinas and I had 13 surgeries in my eyes just so that I could see again. After my father left, when I was able to see again, I started doing after school karate because I wanted to be big and strong so I could protect my mom. Then years later, I picked up boxing and I was nationally ranked while in competitions. Then I got really good at sparring and self-defense drills.
When it came to the competitions, I wish there was a story where I felt I needed to prove myself, but the truth of the matter is that there was no driving factor for me to participate in them, aside from the fact that they were fun. It was more of a social thing that I did with friends that fueled a lot of the pent up adrenaline I had as a child. After a few years of participating in these events, I knew that if I ever saw my dad again, who lied to the courts and fled to not pay child support, that I would be able to beat him down in a heartbeat. But mostly it was an out of sight, out of mind type relationship.
My entire childhood, I had to do whatever I could to try to help my mom and pay the bills so we wouldn’t end up losing our home. We were so poor that my entire childhood growing up, I would get things I already had gifted back to me on my birthday and Christmas. For example, my mom would find some t-shirts that I hadn’t worn in a while and put that in gift wrap.
Just because of the environment I grew up in, by the time I was eight years old, when I saw someone passed out outside, depending on how someone was sleeping, I could tell whether or not they were a sleeping homeless person or somebody that overdosed on drugs. A few months back, there was a guy who passed out while standing up on the corner of the street. I put up a picture of him online and wrote that this person had a heroin overdose from freebasing, not from injection. Someone asked how I could know, so I got into the science of how drugs interact differently, depending on how you take them and how your body responds. By freebasing the drug, the extra oxygen would give off a burst of energy that lasts for a minute and the person fell asleep while still in that energy burst.
I collected comic books my entire life growing up. One day, I came home and realized that my mom had sold them all in order to pay rent. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize that keeping them in mint condition was very important. She threw them into a big garbage bag and walked them to the comic book shop a few blocks away. The owner of the store said he knew me and knew that I kept my comics in good shape — had my mom brought them in proper condition, they could’ve been sold for a lot more.
Because we were always so far behind on paying the bills, when I was 15, I explored other ways to make money, just so that our family could put food on the table and we could live in our home. Back before there was a ton of cyber security and when AOL was still new, I started making fake IDs for the Turkish mob. I met someone online who said he worked for a DMV in Michigan. I had some software I never used that I traded him with to create driver’s license templates that came up legit.
I didn’t really understand what was happening at this point, but I started to get to know a lot of people and the head shop owners in the area down on eighth street by New York University. The neighborhood was known for where you could get bongs, marijuana, butterfly knives and other paraphernalia. I became quite handy at doing John Moose style tricks with my own butterfly and talked to the owners around the area, then they would tell me that if I needed a fake ID, they could print them for me.
After they showed me their setup, I knew that there was no way they would ever work and explained to them why they wouldn’t. I showed them why what I had discovered would work better and by the end of the day, I had this template sold to six or seven stores. At first, I thought the stores were competing businesses. Later, I found out they were all run by the same Turkish mobsters.
It became a lucrative business that helped my mom and I keep the lights on at home, because each time they would advertise their fake IDs, the cops would come in and seize over $5,000 in equipment from these shops, which held onto the templates I provided. So I would just get more sales each and every single time they advertised.
After a handful of raids, the person who was clearly in charge of all the operations decided it was time to shut it all down. I came up to him and told him that if he did, there would be no way for me to keep paying rent so my mom and I could survive, so I asked him for what else I could do to help my mom pay the rent. He asked me to work in one of his cell phone stores in the ghettos on the far end of the Bronx, 90 minutes from where I lived. It wasn’t a typical Sprint or T-Mobile store either, but a generic third party store that sold every carrier.
There were people coming in with wads of cash wrapped in those huge rubber bands, the same kind that you see at the grocery store on broccoli. People were paying for phones in the thousands in cash like it was nothing. It suddenly dawned upon me that these were drug dealers purchasing the phones. There was a store in Chinatown where you could buy weird electronics like spy cameras. One thing that they sold there was this sticker that you put inside of the battery in your phone for about $10. They claimed that they got better reception because of the gold plating, which made it a better receiver, so I bought a handful of them, went up to a jewelry shop up the block and bought a box, then placed them all in there and brought them back to my shop.
The next day, someone came in with a huge wad of cash and said he needed a new phone. I said, “Hey I’m guessing you want security and privacy with that phone too.”
At the time, the Nextel StarTAC phone had a software flaw that was never deactivated before the phones were released to the public, where if you entered a certain code into it, you could listen to anyone’s call within a two block radius. So I typed in the code on my phone and showed him that anyone could listen into the calls that were all around.
He couldn’t believe what was happening and was blown away. I told him that if I’m able to be able to do this in just two seconds, just imagine what the feds could do. Instantaneously, he was so nervous that he had no idea what to do. I pulled out my jewelry box that I bought the other day and asked him if he knew about the X 11 chip.
He had absolutely no idea what it was, so I told him about how when the chip gets installed into the circuit board, it blocks the signal and I talk about technology that goes straight over his head. He asks how much the chip is to install. I tell him $600 and it’ll take an hour to get it setup and installed. He gives me the cash upfront, then I go into the back room for an hour. All I did was peel off the sticker, install this one into the back of his battery and read a comic while drinking a Coca-Cola for the next hour. When he came back in to pick up his phone, he was stoked and began referring his friends to me.
Now most people might think what I was doing was illegitimate, but the truth of the matter is that this was the only way for our family to continue to pay for rent each month. 100% of the earnings I made off this venture went to paying the bills at home and paying for college. Not a single dime was spent on anything else.
At this point, you may have a certain image of me painted in your head, but the reality of the matter was that I was a nerdy kid, scrawny with a lot of pimples, a big Jewish fro and thick Coke bottle glasses. I began working with a company called Dance Safe, a nonprofit organization that validated whether drugs were pure or laced with something else. The business was perfectly legal and was protected by amnesty laws, so anyone who worked with the organization couldn’t get arrested by the police.
We would set up tables in front of nightclubs and people would give us their drugs, then we could test out its purity to make sure that they didn’t end up with something fatal. These were just local kids who were out partying trying to have a good time, and we would just test the drugs for them and let them know if they were clean or not. If they weren’t, we’d put it into a safe disposable jug, kind of like the ones that doctors put syringes in. At times, some people would get nervous when I tested a drug to be pure and asked if I could dispose of it for them.
My coworkers and I would just hold onto the pure drugs instead. They never made their way into the disposal boxes. At the end of the night, people knew that any of the drugs we had that were leftover were legitimate, so they would buy them from us. Our client base loved us because they knew that they could get pure and clean drugs from us as opposed to other sources who may lace drugs with PCP or angel dust.
I spent the days working at the cell phone store, then at nights on Friday and Saturdays, I was doing this. For me, I felt that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that I was doing. It was something that people were going to do anyways; they just needed the education on where to get stuff that wouldn’t be harmful to them.
I feel that DARE should’ve educated and taught people what would happen when they took drugs instead of telling people that they were bad. At school, a DARE teacher went through a week-long program with us. On the last day, he brought in another officer with him, one who’s massive and built like a Sherman tank. He’s standing at the door because the other officer passes around two dime bags of marijuana, letting the classroom smell and see what it looks like. He put one at each side of the classroom and told the class that no one was leaving until they got both of the bags back, completely full. By the time the officer received the bags back, there were three. Until this day, I have no idea who put their bag in with the others, but that person was paranoid.
My X11 hustle nearly came to an end, when my boss at the cell phone store started inquiring about it. I knew that if I told him the truth of what I was doing, he would cut me out of the mix, so I made up an elaborate story about how there was a store that sold hacking equipment in Chinatown, but only sold to the Chinese. But they would provide them for me, only because I was good friends with the owner’s son since the first grade and an honorary member of their family. He dropped my profits from $600 and decided to take $400 of the sales for himself, leaving me with only $200 per sale.
After a few more weeks, that hustle was over because it was time for me to start college. And thinking back upon things, there would have been no way that I would’ve even thought of doing such a business if it weren’t for my mother needing money for rent and for me needing a college education.
I had a normal dorm room experience in college. I majored in graphic design, so I naturally gravitated towards others who were in film and creative industries. By my sophomore year, I had a roommate that I was going to live with, but he never came back to school. Instead, I was put in a room with a couple of guys I didn’t know who were all film majors. They started a film guild where we could do our own projects as a group, and I naturally gravitated towards it.
The guild members graduated a year before I did, then asked me if I could take it over. I decided to do so. At that time, the school only gave $1,000 for the first year of all the activities a club would perform. Everything else would need to be earned. But with fraternities and sororities, they would give you $10,000 with the caveat that you need to try and generate money with fundraisers and events and donate the money to philanthropic needs in order to do good for the community.
I changed the film guild to an educational, all inclusive fraternity for both men and women, called Fi Pi Sigma, FPS which is a film term meaning frames per second. At the time, Netflix just became a thing and DVD duplicators were brand new and just became slightly affordable.
In my senior year of college, I set up an entire assembly line of eight or 10 members and each one of them learned a specific part of how to duplicate a DVD. With the 10 Netflix accounts we had set up, we were making eight DVDs at a time and I had 80 movies coming to me at any given time. And the school was supplying us with 1000s of blank DVDs. We probably ripped 40,000 DVDs that first year and sold them back to students at $5 a piece. The students loved us.
I was about ready to graduate from school, then all of the sudden the head of the student government association told the disciplinary board of what I was doing and had set up a meeting with the Dean of students, the student aid office and others about what I was doing. A few days before everything happened, a friend had told me what had occurred.
A plan had been developed for them to kick me out of school, not allow me to graduate and I would’ve had to pay back all of the money. Then on top of that, I could have had charges brought against me. Talk about a way to shame someone who just wanted to bring joy to the community.
I knew that I needed to donate a portion of the money as agreed upon from raising the initial funds for the fraternity. The good thing is that I didn’t spend a single penny of what was earned. Luckily, the year prior, my roommate who started the film guild did his senior thesis in the form of a documentary on a local homeless shelter. During that time, I became pretty friendly with the owner.
I told the owner of the shelter that I wanted to donate a very large sum of money to him, but it needed to be on four separate receipts. I also asked if he could backdate the receipts for me. All I told him was that the fraternity did very well with our philanthropic charity raising and I thought that I needed to donate the money within a year, but that I needed to get receipts for each month and that I didn’t want to get into trouble. He was so happy that he was getting a large sum of money, a little over $100,000, the biggest donation he ever received, that he saw no problem in backdating the receipts.
I knew that in that disciplinary meeting at college, I would be ambushed on all ends by the higher ups. They brought in big folders with my transcripts and were ready to release everything to me. They brought up the DVD business and brought out a huge stack of DVDs. I asked how they knew it was mine, if my name wasn’t on them.
They asked me what the fraternity did and where the charitable donations were. I showed them the donation receipts to the homeless shelter amounting to over $100,000 and apologized to them for forgetting to turn them in. Every other fraternity and sorority turned their $10,000 into an extra $10,000, so the $100,000 that I ended up donating was the most amount of charitable funds in the college’s history.
The head of the student government association looked like a jerk for reporting me and now all of the higher ups at the 100+ year old college are just giving so much love to me. One woman was in tears because she just couldn’t believe how much good we did for the community. It was such a beautiful moment, for me to be able to make such an impact and for the student government head to be chewed out so much. Shortly after, I graduated.
After graduation, I was living outside of New York and starting my life while working at a software startup. My mom found out she was sick with cancer and only had six months to live.
I dropped everything I was doing, broke up with my girlfriend at the time and moved back to New York to live with my mom. I was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room and taking care of her. I couldn’t even hold down a stable job because my mom may call me in the middle of the day when she needed me for something.
The treatments, surgeries, chemo and radiation; they all made my mom incredibly weak. There were times where my mom would call me because she needed help to go to the bathroom and she didn’t even have the strength to get up. I would leave work to go help her and as a result, I lost several jobs. When I was 24, she passed away and I had no real relatives anymore.
Two weeks after my mother passed away, my father’s sister who I never spoke with, called me up and gave my father my phone number and address and told him to get in contact with me. I couldn’t believe how she felt she had the authority to do such a thing.
My father called, then we began to slowly start having a relationship. We mostly talk about the news and work and things like that, but he doesn’t know anything about me personally. On the first day we started talking again while we were reacquainting ourselves on my rooftop over a glass of scotch, he got out of line and said something he shouldn’t have about my mother. I held him by the throat over the edge of the roof and said, “I would have no problem dropping you and no police officer would ever convict me of anything. I could do it and I would sleep better tonight.”
He broke out in tears, because he knew it was true. Now our relationship is mostly small talk, about politics or the stock market.
After my mom passed away, I realized working at IT and computer jobs wasn’t going to cut it. If something happened, I wasn’t going to be able to support myself. So I took a look at every single industry to see which ones had the highest percentage of millionaires. My research led me down the path of commercial real estate, so I got licensed and worked for the third largest commercial real estate firm in the country with over 151 offices around the world and traded on the New York stock exchange.
I worked on commission and I worked 14 months straight to land one client. When I closed the deal, they told me that they were going to hand my commissions off to this guy Richard who worked down the hall. I asked how they could even consider doing such a thing, and they told me that Richard was paid $4 million to come over here two years ago and didn’t produce a single amount of business. The corporate headquarters in California would have a fit about it and they didn’t want to be on the hook for it, so they were going to give him my money and I could just blow off if I didn’t like it.
I couldn’t believe that this reputable company was full of criminals. So I ripped the door off the hinges (it was barely hanging on to begin with), threw his computer tower against the brick wall and walked out. They told me I’d never work in the industry again and I said good. That morning, I woke up at 4:30am in the morning and took a shot of whiskey that was on my nightstand and thought about how I spent the past 14 months working 16 hour days, six days a week. I decided I was going to live on unemployment for a month or two and take a break to relax.
While taking my break, I had an idea for an app called Got to Go. If you were in a situation you didn’t want to be in, you could set up the app to send you a voicemail, a text or a calendar reminder that there was an emergency you would need to attend. It became the 122nd best selling app in the app store. Even though it had thousands of downloads, I didn’t see a single penny of it because I spent too much money on outsourcing the wrong developers. Chelsea Handler came up with the exact same app with the same name, spelled slightly differently and with a slightly better design than mine. I spoke to an attorney about it, but they couldn’t do anything since neither of us owned the apps, Apple did.
My old college roommate started to work in TV and film. He asked me to stand behind a camera for an interview with Askmen.com. They were going to all 50 states to interview women on what they thought was and wasn’t attractive. All I had to do was stand behind the camera and get paid.
The woman I filmed in the interview was a Penthouse Pet, a licensed sex instructor and she was a playmate or hosted Playboy radio, I forget exactly. But she was basically a 15 year old nerdy boy who loved comics like me, but living in a hot girl’s body. She was telling me how she was doing sex education, but the going rates for the business was $20 an hour, unless you were someone extremely famous. She was charging $35 an hour because that’s where the market was at the time.
I had a spark of inspiration and asked if she would be interested in doing the same thing in front of an audience, for $1,000 a ticket. She loved the idea, but didn’t think there would be an audience for it. I felt that if this was packaged up the right way, then people wouldn’t have to settle for Chevy Cavaliers when they wanted the Maybach experience.
She was interested. I didn’t know what WordPress or copywriting or affiliates were at the time, but I knew I needed to create a name that draws a line in the sand. I bought a domain and put a site together, but we didn’t get any traffic. So I thought that maybe PR could work if this was talked about in newspapers and on the radio, even though I didn’t have a lick of experience in the field.
People began to pay attention to what we were doing. We partnered up with a lounge to host the seminars, then started to see some sales come in. I called the talent and told her I was hoping to sell out for the first even, but we only sold 15 to 16 tickets. She said she was interested in it because it was still good money. I told her that the other 85 tickets, I couldn’t sell because they would be occupied by members of the press, from the New York Times, the Post, Wired Magazine, Time Out New York, Penthouse Magazine, Playboy, MTV, VH1 and more. She flipped out and did the live event. I had my film crew buddies record the entire thing.
We had writeups everywhere, but the talent became extremely difficult to work with. Her ego inflated and she started acting like an A list celebrity from this singular event. I tried my best to get the videos put together, but I didn’t have any money to my name anymore. It took me months to get the videos and everything put together. The talent wanted money to go away, but she didn’t put a single dime in. So I spent everything I had to dissolve our partnership and buy her out. I was dry and dead broke and had no money coming in. After a year of unemployment and with the checks about to stop, I was completely terrified about what I was going to do.
I put the page up with the worst copywriting you’ve ever seen. The product sold for $50. I thought I’d give it a shot just to see how things were going, but I was so far under that I started to fill out my resume and start sending it out on Monster.com. Within 36 hours, the product brought in over $75,000 from just this one $50 product. People started promoting it and within five days, we did $140,000 in sales.
I had my lifeline. And I had an operating business. I began learning everything I could about copywriting and marketing and from that point forward, the business grew into the number one adult sex education company in the country five years in a row. In ClickBank, I had the number one sales letter too. For a number of years, life was one giant party, but I was still working 12 to 14 hour days. But the industry began to change, advertising became an issue as places began to block the work I was doing, so I began working twice as hard to earn a fifth of the money. I was going to walk off and let the company die, but ended up selling the company in a dirty sale where the terms were switched up at the last minute for nearly next to nothing.
Before selling the company off, I approached someone who was known as a Rockstar. He toured the world, opened for AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Kiss, Alice Cooper and played for 2 million people with live concerts in German. He had TV shows and was just an amazing musician. Because I have such a huge affinity for music and the love of Gibson and Fender guitars, I asked him if he wanted to teach people how to play music and become a rock star. So we started Rock Guitar Mastery.
Rock Guitar Mastery ended up being called the best learning guitar program ever created. Things were fantastic, except everything was costing us an astronomical amount of money to create. My partner lost the motivation to work because he saw how much debt I was going into and he knew that I would need to be paid back first before he could earn anything, so he walked away.
I knew I needed to shift gears and by this time, I knew that I was one of the best copywriters out there. So I changed my focus. I had an epiphany and realized that throughout my entire life, from childhood to now, I was basically a business owner the entire time. I assumed all of the risks and the downsides. I realized how much of an idiot I was because I assumed all of the downsides of the businesses, from selling fake IDs to more. And just for $400 bucks for a template, if one person had mentioned that I was the supplier, I would’ve been in jail.
I realized that instead of taking on all of the risk, I could just use what I was good at and leverage other people’s businesses, just like I did in the cell phone store. I began writing sales letters for businesses and helping them build out their funnels and marketing campaigns. Nowadays, my work has accounted for around $100 million in revenue for businesses.
It’s been a tough journey to get to where I am and while I’m not proud of many of the things I did while growing up, they were mostly down out of pure necessity. There were no ill intentions in any of the projects I worked on. I just needed to help my mom pay the bills and keep the lights on. I couldn’t believe that after my mom passed, the first thing an employer would do is steal my money and give it to somebody else. However, they did give me the foundation to become one of the best marketers that could help companies across various industries go out and succeed.
If you want to learn more about how we can build a successful marketing campaign for you or if you’re in New York and want to chat over a glass of Yamazaki 12 or 15 year or El Dorado rum, feel free to reach out to me at Josh@InfluenceTree.com and let’s chat further.