In every sense of the phrase, Lisa Mandy Seskin is a true leader in heels. Quite quickly after founding her own shoe brand (worn by Bella Hadid!), she realised there was a highly committed market for vegan shoes. Not wanting to alienate customers, especially those who loved her brand, she developed her first entirely vegan collection. However, like many businesswomen, Lisa knew that having a great product simply wasn’t enough and thus she developed a strategy working with influencers, to raise awareness and sales. Read all about Lisa’s journey below.Continue reading →
Social media consumption is up, meaning more people are online and more content is being created! It’s the perfect time to be using your imagination and creative side to share your story, business or to touch base with your community. However, finding content marketing inspiration can become a struggle after a few posts, so here’s a little inspo from content strategy expert, Carrie Watkins.Continue reading →
The glass ceiling might be shattered in places, but plenty of shards are still there. According to research from Carta, despite women founding roughly 13 percent of companies, they hold less than half that percentage in equity. It’s a gap just begging to be addressed.
Perhaps the best way to attack this equality disparity is for female entrepreneurs to take charge of their own destinies with personal branding. Women are in a unique position to brand themselves and the companies they start. It all boils down to firmly knowing who you are and forging ahead without fear of barriers.
Earning a Place in Any Field
Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew all about pushing the boundaries and creating her own brand.
As a female lawyer in a man’s world, she rose through the ranks by ignoring the status quo and doing her job on behalf of everyone she served, including minorities. We all know what happened as a result: She received a coveted spot on the U.S. Supreme Court.
While I could only hope for Ginsburg’s recognition, I’m devoted to being just as stubbornly tenacious, and I encourage other women to do likewise.
My world is venture capital (VC), which is also traditionally male-dominated. Except it’s changing by quantum leaps — the industry has been shaken up by public sexual harassment claims. Add to those accusations the fact that 74 percent of VC firms don’t have a woman partner, and it’s plain to see the field is ripe for disruption.
This is an exciting opportunity for anyone willing to flood the venture capital realm with gender diversity. Forty-three percent of people think female corporate leaders create safer environments for everyone, according to Pew Research. It’s an awakening of massive proportions, and it’s fueling great innovations.
Of course, you don’t have to be in venture capital to make waves of your own or develop a strong personal brand. Almost every field is trending toward diversity. If you can create your own story and path, you can own a piece of your industry’s real estate.
If you’re ready to wake up and leverage your unique perspective as a woman in the business world, solidify your story (and your brand) by following these four tips:
Be consistent and persistent
Your company’s brand and your personal brand must work together to effectively support your messaging. This is especially important when you’re recruiting and bringing other people into your business.
Instead of hoping for confluence, construct a plan to ensure your business becomes an extension of you as a leader. Neelima Jain is a great example of a powerful leader who understands this point: As the regional head of Energy Efficiency Services Limited, Jain believes a woman’s personal brand is enhanced by unwavering persistence.
“Doubling the effort to achieve the organization’s objectives has enabled me to neutralize the gender divide in a technical field that is still predominantly male-dominated, even in mature markets,” she said in a recent Entrepreneur article. “Commitment to this belief has enabled me to grow as an individual and a professional, today leading the establishment of my company’s operations in the UK toward making this organization a formidable force for change in international energy efficiency markets.”
Make a memorable first and lasting impression
Many professionals — especially women — often mistake pride for cockiness. However, if you don’t sing your own praises and share your expertise, no one will realize your value. To avoid getting left in the dust, solidify your personal brand and highlight your strengths.
Creating content, for example, can boost your reputation as a thought leader by strengthening people’s overall impression of you and establishing your mettle. Case in point: I’ve written a guide to help other business owners take initiatives and avoid pitfalls, which allows me to help others while also putting my name out there.
Another method to establish your personal brand involves speaking at prestigious, cutting-edge events. To cement my role as a VC player, I’ve talked at events like Slush, Collision, APEC CEO Summit, and Davos World Economic Forum.
I have built my overall reputation and track record from the ground up, and holding these talks is just an added bonus. But securing these coveted speech spots did land me a place on Forbes 30 Under 30 and the 2018 Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum. People recognize my work, my name, and, above all, my brand. And it’s because I’m deliberate in making impressions about what I’ve done and can do.
Achieve results that matter
You can’t talk your way into street cred; it comes directly from the outcomes you and your business generate. Your personal brand affects collaboration with your team and what your team can accomplish, which in turn spurs innovation. But how do you get closer to innovating?
Several studies suggest diversity can be a key. No wonder organizations across the country are adding people of all backgrounds to their teams. Perhaps they’ve read the North Carolina State University research, which reveals that diverse workforces have higher productivity averages and ingrained cultures of resiliency.
When recruiting, hire people who offer differing perspectives while supporting the company’s core brand. That way, your culture will become richer without losing the principles it’s grounded in.
Execute and deliver
From a client perspective, what could be better than working with a firm that offers consistent branding and predictable results? At Fusion Fund, our team works hand-in-hand to raise the bar and collaborate. For instance, we don’t babysit founders. We look for founders with clear solutions and wait for them to ask for resources when they need assistance.
Having this kind of reliable energy and operational foundation means a great deal to our clients. Even founders we’ve rejected have referred us to their friends — that’s the power of the credible brand, both corporate and personal, that Fusion Fund and I bring to the table.
Women are continuing to make the tech and VC industries their homes as rulemakers, not rule breakers. Those that find, explore, and embrace their individual brands early will no doubt shine brightly as they rise through the ranks.
Lu Zhang is the founder and managing partner of Fusion Fund, a company dedicated to promoting early-stage venture capital for entrepreneurs. She is also a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and was nominated as World Economic Forum (Davos)’s 2018 Young Global Leader.
Globalization and the power of social media have changed how we do business in a single generation. Getting—and keeping—our customer’s attention can seem tougher than ever. So how can you and your business be seen and remembered among the digital noise? You become a trusted brand when you earn your customer’s respect.
The Values Institute has studied the most trusted brands to see what they are doing well to earn the trustworthy label. Across a variety of brands, they found that the five C’s are key—Competence, Consistency, Candor, Concern and Connection. Successful businesses demonstrate become pillars of a community by providing jobs, stimulating the economy, and lifting others up by supporting charitable organizations. They earn their community’s respect by being an active, generous part of it.
Even though the boundaries of community have expanded, there are more opportunities than ever before to connect and get involved. I’ve put together this list of six ways you can use your business to give back to your community—whether that’s in a small town, a booming metropolis, or the global marketplace. For each, I’ve included examples of how three amazing female leaders have used their own creativity to connect and give back in an authentic, personal way.
Practice philantrophy through professional organisations
Professional organizations exist for almost any vocation and group you can imagine. Find the best fit for your profession or interests. Many companies will cover the annual dues for their employees so check with Human Resources to see if that’s a benefit at your office.
Once you’re in, get involved. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many groups have established charity programs and committees or support students or young professionals with mentoring programs. They will usually welcome your involvement.
For example, Nancy Leavitt of American Family Insurance has served as the Charity Committee Chair with Whatcom Women in Business (WWIB). That group awards more than $20,000 in academic scholarships to local high school students each year.
Award-winning floral designer, Natalie Ransom of Pozie by Natalie, mentors fellow business owners in the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and WWIB. “There are so many incredible things we can learn from each other,” Ransom says. “My parents instilled in me that I can do almost anything. But I know that not everyone grew up with that or has that confidence, so it’s important to me to share that message. If you work hard, anything is possible.”
Donate your skills
There are probably a number of events, galas and fundraisers you’ve already attended or heard about because you care about an organization’s mission. Offering your skills to support their existing events saves them money and allows your work—and concern for community—to shine. Not only will you expand your network, they may also recognize you and your business during the event, on social media, and in program materials, meetings and more.
Sarah Rorvig of Vivaluxx School of Makeup Art donates her makeup skills and those of her students to an annual fundraising runway show, Handbags for Housing. The event benefits Lydia Place, whose mission is to disrupt the cycle of homelessness and promote sustained independence. “I love giving back as much as I can as an artist. It feels good that our team helped them raise more than $90,000 at their most recent event,” Rorvig says. “And my students expanded their experience and built new professional connections too.”
Get on board
Once you’ve spent some time getting to know a charity or professional organization, you can make a bigger impact by joining their Board of Directors or Trustees. Positions may be elected or appointed and usually come with a one or two-year commitment. At regular board meetings, you can get in deeper behind the scenes and help make decisions that guide and improve the future of the organization. Most of the world’s nonprofits wouldn’t exist without the donated time and genius of their Board.
Leavitt has held board positions with a number of charities, including Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County and Women Sharing Hope. Ransom has been on the Board of Blue Skies for Children and WWIB.
“Supporting local charity is near and dear to my heart. It’s just part of who I am so I am honored to have served these organizations and the local charities they support,” explains Leavitt.
Cultivate business partnerships
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” –Helen Keller
Partnering with other businesses means you can tackle bigger projects and reach a larger audience than you might alone by spreading out the workload and sharing your customer base. Choose businesses with appropriate, established customers that you are not yet accessing. But be sure to vet any new partners in advance to protect the competence and consistency of your brand. Then brainstorm events or promotions that are mutually beneficial, creative and fun for you and your customers.
Ransom rewards and connects with her devoted social media followers while introducing them to new local businesses with floral Treasure Hunts. “I put left over flowers and plants to use in an arrangement or terrarium then take it to a local business. We snap a photo and post it to Facebook and Instagram,” explains Ransom. “The first follower to guess the business and pick up the item gets to take it home for free. It’s a generous way to introduce people to my favourite businesses (and their owners) while also making someone so happy!”
Rorvig and Ransom have also partnered with local photographers to make their own passion project styled shoots come to life. Photos from these shoots have appeared in some of the most influential publications in their industry.
Don’t forget the match
Larger companies will often encourage their employee’s charitable giving by offering to match a donation up to a maximum dollar amount. Some paperwork may be required, but it will be well worth it to double or even triple your donation. Don’t be afraid to ask your Human Resources rep. Your inquiry may just spark a new company policy.
Leavitt discovered that the corporate offices of American Family Insurance would match the charitable donations she raised in her annual June and December ‘Quotes for Community’ campaigns where she donates $1 to a local charity for every insurance quote requested throughout the month.
Go slow – every little bit helps!
Life and work probably feel pretty full already so how are you supposed to add something new? The answer is by starting slow and being selective. In order to be candid and feel generous, we must be coming from a place of abundance. Sometimes that means taking a look at what you’re already doing to see if change is needed.
My favourite mantra is by Professional Coach Cheryl Richardson: “If it’s not an absolute YES, it’s a NO.” Take time to learn how to say no gracefully—with candor—then let the guilt go, and only give your YES to what’s really important.
Though leaders like Ransom, Rorvig and Leavitt only raised modest amounts or donated just a few hours of their time, their efforts have introduced and endeared them to their communities. That’s real connection. They have made a tangible, memorable difference to those they’ve touched and laid the foundation for others to follow in their path. By earning the respect of their communities, they’ve given back and made many new, life-long customers and friends. You can take that first step today, too!
Founder of the public relations company Wilde World Communications, Lorraine Wilde has published more than 200 articles, blog posts and essays since 1998. She writes about what inspires her. That includes the arts, music, film, science, motherhood and the amazing female business owners in her corner of the beautiful Pacific Northwest United States. Like other Leaders in Heels, she uses her business to support local charities and fellow business owners in her community and beyond.
People don’t do business with companies; people do business with people. In fact, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people over brands.
As difficult as it might be for the introverts and behind-the-scenes folks out there, if you are a solopreneur, you are the face of your company. In order to build trust with your company, people need to resonate with you and who you. Creating a strong personal brand is especially important for business owners like you.
But what is personal branding? Does it mean you have to post on social media about what you’re wearing and eating every hour of the day? Not unless you’re a diet or fashion blogger! Personal branding involves creating a reputation for yourself (through clear messaging in social media, networking, press, and/or published content) that makes your audience trust you and see the value you and your business provide.
If you’re just beginning to develop your personal brand, the process can be a bit overwhelming. Here are 6 personal branding tips for solopreneurs:
Establish your core values
Start off by making a list of what’s important to you. Do you want to be warm and gentle, or up-front and straight to the point? Is your tone more serious and straight-laced, or do you like to use a little more humor? Define your traits, values, and voice. Then dedicate yourself to letting those values bleed through every decision you make or action you take.
Quick tip: Write down your core values on post it notes and stick them all around your office so you’re always reminded to remain on-brand.
Have a compelling story
There’s a great story behind how you got to where you are today. Did you always used to watch your mother put on makeup in the morning—and now you own a beauty empire (like Kylie Jenner)? Did you notice a discomfort in your own life and seek to create a revolutionary product to fix it? Discover the compelling core of your story, and proudly tell it in a memorable way. Aim to make it relatable, but most importantly, keep it honest. Your audience will be able to tell whether or not you’re being genuine. [Editor’s note: Need help telling your story? Our Write Your Own Story Journal was designed to help you discover your story and get it down!]
Quick tip: All good stories have a protagonist, conflict, and resolution. Make sure whenever you tell your story (through your content, website, resources, etc.) you establish yourself as the protagonist, the conflict as the gap in the market you intended to correct, and the resolution as how and why your product or service is revolutionary.
Find your niche
When it comes to marketing messages, focus is key to success. If you try to speak to everyone, you’ll end up speaking to no one. You’ll resonate more and have to talk less if you focus in on one specific group of people you want to be heard by—you’ll have less competition and more results. Then do your research. Search your product or service and your competition. See what kinds of people would need your help. Would your product or service most benefit a stay at home mom on a budget? A large organization with a lot of resources? The more specific you can be the better.
Quick tip: Describe your ideal client in depth (including demographics such as age and gender, and personality traits and struggles) and let that guide your description of an audience.
Join a community
Find people who care about the things you care about! Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to interact with people in your industry and target market online. Networking is extremely important in order to get your name and face out in front of people who care about your mission and need the value you bring. Attend workshops, seminars, speaking engagements, networking events—any group that is likely to have like-minded people in it. Meeting people in person is the best way to show off your own unique personality and style, which is great for proving the authenticity of your personal brand.
Quick tip: Eventbrite is a great way to find local networking and industry specific events in your area. (There’s a bunch of free events on there as well!)
Leverage social media
Social media is both the easiest and most difficult way to build awareness for your personal brand. If you’re careful not to get sucked into the social media vortex, you can test different strategies for sharing your brand on social media and slowly make it an easy and natural part of your engagement with specific groups of people. Just make sure that whatever you post, it’s true to your values and personality. If part of your brand is being a community advocate, post a photo of you supporting local businesses at a festival. If part of your brand is being funny and quirky, post a meme once in a while.
Quick tip: Utilize industry-specific hashtags to interact with people in your niche and reach your target market.
With any new experiment you undergo regarding your business, it’s important to measure your efforts in order to stay focused—or find out whether something isn’t working and should be abandoned!
An easy way to check on your online presence is to Google yourself to see what comes up on the first two pages, including photos, social media accounts, press, etc. What you’re seeing is what your audience is seeing! If you see something that doesn’t adhere to your personal brand (such as a questionable photo of you at a party ten years ago…), try to correct it. Googling yourself is also a good way to see where you should step up your personal brand. If you’re seeing a lot of Twitter posts pop up, but your audience is mostly on Instagram, make a note to start posting more on Instagram. Do this assessment every once in a while to make sure you’re appearing how you want to to your online audience.
Quick tip: A good way to rank high on Google search results is to start a blog that practices proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO). An easy way to start practicing SEO in your blog posts is to research and use popular industry-specific keywords that will get your audience to find you and your content.
Bottom line: Define what values mean the most to you, so you can be conscious of them both on and off line. Make your story relatable and engaging, but make it honest! Focus in on your niche so you know exactly who you’re trying to reach. Interact and network with like-minded people on social media groups and at events nearby. Use social media to spread awareness about your personal brand, but don’t post something that doesn’t adhere to your brand. Google yourself every once in a while to make sure what your audience sees is what you want them to see, and to see all your personal brand efforts in action.
Alicia Galan is a certified Content Marketing expert by Hubspot Academy and the Content Manager at Sunbird Creative. We are a boutique branding agency based in Harlem, NY that helps solopreneurs and small business owners carve their niche in the world.