Pete Sveen found himself in a conference room alone with one of the area's most well known entrepreneurs the first day he clocked in as a podcaster in 2008.

He had read Greg Gianforte's book “Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company with Almost No Money” and found some contact information in the back of the book. The fresh-faced college graduate who had just moved to Bozeman from Lincoln, Neb. decided to send Gianforte an email asking whether he'd be interested in doing an interview for Sveen's fledgling website.

Five minutes later he got a reply.

“It was really neat and he spent a ton of time with me,” Sveen said. “After that, I just kind of realized how willing other entrepreneurs are to help each other.”

It wasn't until later that Sveen got a greater understanding of how willing entrepreneurs are to help each other.

Gianforte asked toward the end of the interviewed whether Sveen had other jobs beyond the website, and was told that he also ran a small screen-printing shirt business. The next week Gianforte's secretary called and ordered about 1,500 shirts for RightNow, which helped get the screen printing business of the ground, Sveen said.

Since then, that business has fallen by the wayside with, real estate and two other websites taking its place. The Think Entrepreneurship podcast, however, may be the venture for which Sveen is most well known. It ranks among the top rated business podcasts on iTunes, intermittently holding the number one spot, and has been downloaded more than 38,000 times in about 135 countries.

“I've always been really, really passionate about entrepreneurship. That's what I studied in college. My dad's an entrepreneur, so I think that's kind of rubbed off on me,” Sveen said.

Sveen takes that passion and applies it to questions for various entrepreneurs — including Fran Tarkenton, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer. That podcast stands out a favorite for Sveen, who's an avid Vikings fan.

He plans to build up the podcast and until it's making enough money that it can serve as a full-time job. Sveen is working toward that goal through affiliate advertising, an increasingly popular Internet-based business model.

“To me, it's one of the best forms of marketing out there,” said Deacon Hayes, founder of, a personal finance blog.

Affiliate marketing is where a blogger, like Sveen, contacts a business, like Amazon, and asks to be an affiliate. Once approved by the business, the blogger can create links to put on his or her site that redirects readers to recommended books for sale at Amazon. The blogger then gets a commission every time someone buys something after clicking through the link.

Those looking to become an affiliate can also go through websites that aggregate businesses looking for affiliates, and then control what ads show up on the blog once approved. Using affiliate advertising gives the blogger greater flexibility in determining how the ad appears on the site, and allows him or her to work the ad into the site in a less jarring way than a large banner ad or a bright, blinking strip down the site's side.

“Really the idea behind affiliate marketing is being able to promote a product or service that you think is valuable to your audience,” said Hayes, who's used affiliate marketing on his site for at least a year.

Affiliate advertising works in a similar way on podcasts. The host will take a break from speaking on a given topic and rattle off about a sponsor company, capping off the schtick by giving the listeners a version of the company's URL that cites the podcast. The podcaster gets a commission if a listener follows the link and buys something.

It can become a lucrative way to run a business, said John Lee Dumas, founder of Entrepreneur on Fire, a website and podcast launched in September. He interviews an entrepreneur every day and releases it as a podcast. A following quickly built up and five months in, Dumas said he had six full-time sponsors and was earning $12,000 each month through affiliate advertising. The daily podcast got more than 300,000 downloads in July.

Dumas met Sveen at a podcasters conference in Las Vegas earlier this year and came away impressed. He believes that Sveen can meet his goal to build a self-sustaining podcast and website.

“He's incredibly active and what he does baffles even me,” Dumas said. “He has some great things going on over at Think Entrepreneurship.”

Jason Bacaj may be reached at or 582-2635.