I was wearing my conference name badge, they thought I was a teacher or educators. Thomas approached me and starting giving me random facts. He opened the conversation by addressing me by my name. Him and Erik started telling me interesting stories and facts.

  • Do you know where the middle finger offense came from? It came from war times where archers were captured, and normally, their middle fingers would be cut off so they cannot draw their bow, therefore, the archers would stick their middle finger to their enemy before it got cut off.
  • Do you know why kings would tip their drinking cups to each other before consuming them? The reason behind this was to make sure the liquids from both cups dipped into the other cup, hence, if one king was trying to poison the other, it would be found out. In short, it’s to display honestly.
  • Do you know why Austin is known as the Violet Crown? It’s because Austin is situated in a valley and there are mineral deposits scattered around the valley, and when the sunsets, the minerals in the valley emits a violet hue.
  • Do you know why the 49ers are named the 49ers? Because San Francisco is 7 x 7 square miles.

(Whether all these statements are correct… Don’t hold me to it haha)


Growing up in San Francisco, homeless people are pretty common. Their normal pitch to get money or food would be to directly ask for it. However, for Erik and Thomas, they surprised me initially by striking up a conversation and by asking my rhetorical questions about interesting facts and stories. Initially, I was worried that they were going to jump me (fear probably caused by my stereotype of homeless people, etc) but luckily I was sitting right in front of the Austin Convention Center, so I knew I can ask for help if needed.

Anyhow, the story continues when they kept telling me interesting stories and facts and finally at the end they ask me if I can give money so they can buy food. At this point, I had a hard time saying no. I wanted to give them cash, but I decided to treat them to something so I can learn more about their stories and continue the conversation. I actually really appreciated their approach and was so impressed that I wanted to treat them to pretty decent food and tell their story.

Easy Tiger German Bakery treated them to 2 sandwiches for $30. Good trade for a blog story and life lesson.  


Thomas and Erik both have college degrees from Texas. Erik has been married for 10 years and had 2 kids prior to becoming homeless. Currently, he is trying to hustle and make a lost and found app to help with theft in the Austin downtown area for homeless people. He tried to create a YouTube account to generate a following and support group to help him and friends like Thomas to get out of the street, however, his equipment would get stolen at night during his sleep or robbed during street assaults and harassment.

Another example of creative hustle was Erik’s plan of creating an app that allows people to donate money via a QR code for those individuals whose objection or excuse is that they don’t have cash and only have card.

Regardless of this background, their goal is to fight the stigma or stereotype of the typical homeless person who just directly panhandles and begs for money or food. Instead, they wanted to go against the stereotype and provide value before asking for something in return. Ultimately, this way they can maintain their dignity (extremely important for any human being) and boost their own morale when asking people for money.


This encounter reminded me of my college days when I had a roommate who used to complain about how lazy homeless people are. His view was they should just stop being lazy and get a job. My counterargument was it’s hard for homeless people to get out of the streets because society ostracizes them and label them as worthless, dangerous, or other negative adjectives. In short, I told him that for a homeless person, getting off the street and re-integrating into society is a journey presented with arduous adversity and tremendous challenges.
The laziness label only is a aftermath of probably a crushed spirit that gave up the fight. Yet for these two homeless individuals I’ve met in Austin, Texas, their fighting spirit still lives on and I am deeply inspired by their determination to control what they can (positive attitude and strong work ethics) and proactively attempt to overcome their circumstances.

In conclusion, I learned a valuable lesson from these two hustling homeless on my business trip to Austin that really exemplifies the current sales technique, mentality, and approach.

Give Value, Build Relationship, and Then Ask For Something In Return


If this story was valuable to you and you want to learn more about these two individuals. Contact and support Erik Arp at

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