9 min 21 sec

Pathetic Triathlete Creates $30,000 Facebook Group

Frustrated with snobby and overly-serious triathletes, a man creates a Facebook group for more casual and fun discussion. It then transforms into a $30,000 side hustle with tens of thousands of members.
Community Manufacturing Social Media Sports

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What It's About

A man builds a safe space for Oreo consuming triathletes!

Business Model
Skills Required
Design & Experimentation
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Zach describes his marketing approach as guerrilla marketing. He joined every single relevant group—triathlons, marathons, cycling races, swimming meets, you name it—and browsed for goofy for fun posts. When he found one, he would comment saying: “Nice! This post belongs in the Pathetic Triathletes Group!”

Fun Fact

To nearly eliminate financial risk, Zach created his first shirt using a Teespring campaign, set up a free Etsy store instead of Shopify and dropships most of his products. Sales and fulfillment are mostly hands-off and free!

Notes from Chris

Episode 458

Swimming. Cycling. Running. The three sequences of a triathlon. They’re difficult, strenuous, and people train for years to prepare for them. And, according to Zachary Rose, “For some reason, many people turn into total jerks once they learn how to swim, bike, and run long distances.”

Zach, a triathlete himself, was fed up with seeing those jerks dominating the triathlon Facebook groups. He thought they were condescending, way too serious, and just generally sucked all the fun out of the community. Surely he wasn’t the only person to think so.

There needed to be a place where goofy, fun, and newcomer posts could be celebrated and enjoyed—not shot down by elitists. On a bit of a whim, Zach decided to create his own Facebook group.

He called it The Pathetic Triathletes Group.

He created a quick logo, wrote a description that outlined the restrictions on elitism, and shared his group in other triathlon groups. Just a couple hours later, over 100 people had joined.

Fun posts started showing up organically. As Zach had suspected, people were holding back in the other groups, afraid to ask fun or basic questions. But here they could thrive, they could be silly, and even better, they could be honest.

In the group’s second week of existence, it hit 500 members—and it didn’t show any signs of stalling anytime soon. More and more people were posting and declaring how great it was to finally have a judgment-free zone.

Zach, a side hustler at heart, started to explore ways to monetize this group. He came to the conclusion that since the group was a source of fun and silliness, his products should be too.

And then the idea for his first product arrived. It was simple, easy, and vanilla: a t-shirt.

Not wanting to risk any of his own money on printing shirts (and not really sure how well the idea would go over), Zach created a Teespring campaign. This would allow him to effectively take pre-orders and drop ship his shirt without ever having to lay hands on one. He knew his profits would be a lot lower this way, but it was also virtually risk-free.

He set up his account and started designing his shirt. On the front, he simply wrote “PATHETIC” in big bold letters. On the back, he attached the logo for the Facebook group. Looking back, it was, according to Zach… “really bad!”

But despite the poor design, the shirt sold—30 shirts, actually. When the campaign ended, Teespring fulfilled the orders and Zach was sent a check. It was a small amount of money, less than $150, but it proved that he didn’t just have a growing group, but a group filled with at least a few people that were committed financially to the idea.

Then, like any celebrating triathlete, Zach ate a package of Oreos.

Over the last couple years, The Pathetic Triathletes Group has grown rapidly. When I looked on March 20th, the group had 45,999 members. With the exception of a few targeted Facebook ads here and there and Zach’s initial guerrilla marketing, growth’s been pretty organic. He has a good team of volunteer moderators, an automated sales and fulfillment funnel, and he’s constantly making new designs.

And all those members? They’ve made just over 3,000 purchases, all of which were somewhere between $5 and $25 each. Zach didn’t want to give away the exact number, but that likely puts The Pathetic Triathletes Group in the $30,000 lifetime sales club.


  • Etsy | Pathetic Triathlete: Gear up for your first triathlon with some of Zach's gear
  • The Pathetic Triathletes Group: Do you celebrate most physical feats of strength and endurance with a package of Oreos? Zach's Facebook community might just be a good fit for you!
  • Teespring: Zach used Teespring to upload his designs and sell shirts although he was still responsible for driving prospective buyers to his shirts
  • Shopify: Jesse used Shopify to set up his store for Kindness & Co., and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"I try to keep things laid back because I started this not as a primary source of income but as something that is FUN. The second it stops being fun is when I know I need to reconsider the strategy."
—Zachary Rose #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau