First Class Founders by Yong-Soo Chung

“99% of this game is just staying in it long enough.”

Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters for indie creators.

👉 Every Sunday, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start, grow and monetize your own newsletter.


Yong-Soo Chung is the creator First Class Founders, which is a podcast & newsletter sharing proven strategies used by successful entrepreneurs to help you grow your business.

After bootstrapping multiple businesses from his one-bedroom apartment, Yong-Soo decided that it was time to share what he learned while building all these projects with the world. Why? We’ll come to that.

He started ‘First Class Founders’ newsletter in Jan’23, three months after the podcast and created a content flywheel.

In addition to how he grew his newsletter to over 9,600 subscribers, here are some interesting things to learn from our interview:

  • How he positions the podcast and the newsletter in his content flywheel

  • Why he didn’t monetize his newsletter until reaching 8,000 subscribers

  • Paid & free recommendations platforms he uses

  • Why he has an executive assistant to run his newsletter

Let’s dive in!


‘First Class Founders’ Newsletter Identity Card

🛠 Tool Stack


Welcome Yong-Soo. Let’s start with getting to know you.

Absolutely! My name is Yong-Soo Chung and I run a Personal Holding Company with four businesses: UrbanEDC, Spotted By Humphrey, GrowthJet, and PersonalHold.Co…. all bootstrapped from $0, launching from my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco 8 years ago.

“I also have a Podcast & Newsletter called First Class Founders, where I share everything I’ve learned.”

I’m a Serial Entrepreneur at heart.


After bootstrapping multiple businesses over the past 8 years, at which point you stopped and said to yourself: “Maybe it’s time to share what I’ve learned so far.“?

Why did you decide to join the creator world?

I never considered sharing any thoughts, really. At the end of the day, I wanted to be wealthy & anonymous. I had no intention of sharing anything because I was concerned that being public about my wealth might put a target on my back.

“But one day, I had a huge epiphany.

I realized that sharing my journey online would actually speed up my process and get me closer to my goals. The upside was way higher than the downside risk.”

I also realized that not many operators who are in the trenches of building an 8-figure business are online talking about building things. This put me at a huge advantage as someone who is an actual operator building companies.

So, I decided to give it a go!

First, you started First Class Founder podcast in Nov’22. Newsletter came into the picture after 3 months, in Jan’23.

What made you think you needed to add a newsletter to your creator flywheel?

Why and how did you decide to start First Class Founders newsletter in the first place?

A few reasons.

First, asking someone to listen to a podcast is a far bigger ask than asking someone to enter their email and subscribe to my newsletter. I decided to have my newsletter be my main driver of podcast growth by putting it above my podcast in my marketing funnel.

Second, a newsletter audience is a monetizable asset. A podcast is incredible for building trust with your audience but there is nothing that converts to sales more than a newsletter.

“The combination of both podcast + newsletter is ideal.”


How did you gain your first 1,000 subscribers?

I had a newsletter sign-up page early to collect emails. It’s a slow grind to get the first 1,000 subs, as most newsletter operators would attest.

“Swapping recommendations did help a lot but I needed to build those relationships one by one at the start! It takes time to build relationships.”

Which growth channels do you mainly use currently?

Right now, Beehiiv Boosts and Sparkloop are my biggest drivers of paid growth.

I’ve been getting a lot of traffic from organic content I’ve posted on X / Twitter lately as well, which helps!

Which growth channels are the most effective ones?

“I’d say you should try them all out and see for yourself. Each newsletter audience/market fit is different.”

For me, a combination of Boosts, Sparkloop, and organic content works well.

You use Beehiiv Boosts, Sparkloop and Beehiiv free recommendations. How does your recommendation system work?

I use Beehiiv for post-sign-up flow. I use Sparkloop to pay for other newsletters when they recommend me.

To be honest, when Beehiiv introduced Boosts, the effectiveness of the free recommendations was impacted. So, it almost became a paid game.

As for Sparkloop, I’ve been happy with my results so far on Sparkloop. Since it’s a completely different user flow and channel, it helps diversify my subscriber base a bit.

Let’s go back to the content flywheel you created.

How do you leverage your podcast to gain new subscribers? And how does the newsletter bring new listeners?

What is the role of social media in this picture?

To be honest, it’s very difficult to get podcast listeners to subscribe to your newsletter.

“A podcast is a great medium for building trust but a terrible medium for driving action.”

I have, however, a new lead magnet for each episode that I will start experimenting with. Hopefully, that drives more newsletter sign-ups!

Podcast & Newsletter Lead Magnet

The newsletter brings new listeners because I promote the latest episode each week to my newsletter subscribers. It’s definitely helped grow the podcast.

“Social media, for me, is top of the funnel. It’s the “discoverability” piece where folks who’ve never heard of me can find me.

I drive them to my newsletter; then I promote my podcast episode to my newsletter subs.

That’s my entire funnel.”

What didn’t work among the growth strategies that you tried? And why do you think it didn’t work?

I haven’t gone deep into paid X / Meta ads yet. I just don’t have the time to create the creatives and test them daily to see what works and what doesn’t.

“Whatever your strategy is, I think it’s important to diversify your subscriber base so it’s not just coming all from 1-2 sources.”

Regarding growth efforts, what would you do differently if you had a chance to start over?

If I got good at performance marketing (ads), I would have doubled down on that and honed in on it.


How do you monetize your newsletter currently?

Sponsorships mostly. I also sell my own services like my climate-neutral certified 3PL,

When and how did you start having sponsors?

Started selling sponsors for my newsletter, around 8k subs. We just started getting more inbound requests for sponsorships!

It is interesting to see you waited until reaching 8K subscribers to start accepting sponsors. Many creators start monetizing their newsletters with smaller list sizes.

Why didn’t you have sponsors earlier?

I wanted to be very picky about sponsors. I don't want to bring on any sponsors that pay me. It's all a deliberate practice of partnering up with brands that I personally enjoy and use.

Those brands take time to build relationships, etc., so that's why it's taken a bit of time!

How do you find sponsors?

Most of them came to me! As I said, I’m pretty picky about who I want to work with, so it’s been fun seeing some brands that I personally use come to me.

Also, I’m not afraid of asking brands I like whether or not they’re open to sponsorship. The worst they can say is “no.”

One more thing -

“I would urge folks to build relationships with decision-makers at these companies.

For example, I have a podcast and I can interview the founders - this is a great way to warm up the relationship for a few months before asking for a sponsorship.”


Why did you choose Beehiiv? Pros and cons?

I really love their team, especially Tyler Denk. I think he’s one of the best young entrepreneurs out there today.

“I love how Beehiiv team listens to feedback and release features so quickly. It’s been fun to see them grow so fast.”


What does your typical week look like when considering the whole process from creating to distributing a weekly newsletter issue? 

I have an Executive Assistant who helps me get each week’s newsletter “set up” so I can go in there and make edits.

I write the “Yong-Soo’s Journal Entry” section each week so that takes me some time. I typically write those on either Saturday or Sunday morning over a cup of green tea.

“I delegate everything whenever possible so my EA helps with everything that doesn’t need my input, like switching up the polls, inputting download/subscriber numbers, etc.”


How did building First Class Founders contribute to your life professionally and personally?

I’ve met so many incredible people through my podcast and newsletter.

Each conversation I have with an entrepreneur opens my mind to new ideas and concepts I deploy in my own life.

It’s definitely been an accelerant to my own growth and entrepreneurial journey.

What is the most challenging part of operating a newsletter and how do you handle it?

Honestly, I can’t think of any challenges.

“The biggest piece of advice I have for newsletter operators is to delegate everything on the back-end of your newsletter operations to a Virtual Assistant.

I think most creators think too much of themselves as solopreneurs and do all the work themselves, which is not the smartest move, in my opinion.”


What would it be if you had the right to give one piece of advice to aspiring newsletter creators?

“Your content is important, but distribution is more important.“

You can win with decent content if you have a robust distribution strategy. But you can’t win even if you have amazing content if you have a poor distribution strategy.

Figure out how you’ll be getting subscribers, then execute.

What are your favorite newsletters that you can’t wait for the next issue?

I enjoy reading Chenell’s Growth in Reverse newsletter.


Play the long-game and don’t give up!

Continue to get feedback from your readers and iterate.

“99% of this game is just staying in it long enough.”

Thank you so much, Yong-Soo. Keep up the great work and good luck with growing a sustainable media business!

🔗 Where to find Yong-Soo Chung and his work

3 Popular Issues from First Class Founders

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