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.


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.

But great personal branding it is not primarily about selling your product or service. It’s meant to get people to know you first, and then your business.

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.

Google yourself

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.


Technology is wonderful. It has unlocked our imaginations and creativity in ways we never thought possible. However, while technology has helped society progress in many ways, it will soon reach a point of being less of an assistance resource and will become our own competition.

In 10 to 20 years, 40% of professional roles will gradually become irrelevant as technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) get increasingly smarter and more human-like. So how can you shift yourself and your career to remain relevant in the changing workforce?

In this article we shine light on how creating a personal brand separate from a company’s will be crucial in standing out against the encumbering technology shift. We take you through four key steps to future-proof yourself in the evolving technology and AI workforce.

Brand yourself

Human work will never be fully replaced by technology. Instead, it will force employees to work in different ways. Where humans once stood at the forefront, technological changes could see us working alongside or behind the technology instead; controlling and monitoring it. Since the introduction of drones and robots, there has been talk that they will soon be used for fast food delivery and even mail delivery. While this would replace the need for people to personally deliver food, it would create more jobs in programming technology. On a more professional level, AI is being used as receptionists to book appointments and answer calls. While the mistakably human voice will replace the need for secretaries to answer phones, it could mean they will be required to take on new skills and tasks that AI is not yet able to do. With these impeding changes, it will become even more crucial for individuals to stand out and create a personal brand.

Tip: Think of the qualities you can offer that technology cannot replace. Adding skills such as adaptable, creative thinker, problem solver, strong communicator and interpersonal skills to your resume will exert a strong personal brand worth a company’s time and investment.

Collaborate

While technology already consumes numerous hours of the day, do not forget the significance of face-to-face communication, networking and collaborating in the workforce. Technology has the ability to hold hundreds and thousands of contacts but it is just that. A phonebook that will never replace the power of personal connections. Engage in these types of interactions to upskill, build connections and create your own black book of contacts.

Tip: Attend industry events, conferences and workshops to network and learn new things happening in the industry. 

Comparatively, collaboration does not always need to be face-to-face.

Tip: Join a credible online business hub or group that provide tutorials, workshops and expert assistance in the areas of business, finance, career, health and marketing. This will allow you to learn, grow and share from the comfort of your own desk. Change your mindset from competition to collaboration and as technology becomes smarter, the age old saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ will be more important than ever.

Make your assets digital

Making yourself resilient to the technology advancements in the workforce does not mean becoming anti-technology. Instead, it’s imperative to be active and comfortable with technology platforms to increase your credibility and give you a competitive edge.

Tip: Complete credible short online courses to enhance your personal brand and professional portfolio.

This shows employers that you are proactive and willing to hone skills that may not be perfect or known as of yet. An employee that is willing to learn will be more valuable to a company than one that thinks they already know it all. A great way to showcase courses, skills and knowledge is to make your personal brand digital.

Tip: Use a website to showcase design, art or writing skills and make sure the homepage of the website tells employers exactly what you want them to know about you. It is also a great idea to have a tab with your resume to list courses and qualifications. Link your social media accounts to the website and carry the theme of your website through these mediums. Consistency makes a strong personal brand.

Create an impression through your appearance

The final step to creating a personal brand is to project it externally through a distinctive style and fashion. It is a known fact that people are more reactive to visual creative expressions. While technology such as robots and AI is extremely impressive, it does not generally get its ‘wow factor’ from its appearance.

Tip: Ensure your style strengthens your personal brand and exerts confidence and charisma. If you work in a corporate environment don’t opt for the classic black and white pant suit. Show that you are adaptable and creative by adding a colour that best represents you. Think of what you want to be remembered for in an interview. Will you be the person with red hair, the individual with exquisite glasses or will you be known for your statement jewellery? If you don’t yet know what your statement image is, undertake a personal styling session or look for inspiration from role models in your industry.


Scarlett Vespa, ‘The Brand Shifter’, is the Founder of the Mrs V personal brand transformation and the collaboration hub Mrs V Society. Scarlett’s passion is to empower executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners to ensure their career is successful and resilient in the workforce. She creates personal brands that reignite the passion and life that is lacking in an individual’s career.  For more information on Scarlett Vespa: www.mrsv.com.au.


Lindsay Shoemake is a Social Media & Digital Marketing Manager in the luxury space in Denver. When she’s not “working”, Lindsay is the founder of career site That Working Girl, which aims to empower women toward invigorating careers in the media industry. Lindsay has been featured for her expertise in PR, marketing and branding by notable media outlets like USA Today, JEZEBEL Magazine and The Huffington Post Live. In the future, Lindsay hopes to launch a successful branding and PR firm, with a focus on serving lifestyle and creative brands.

Leaders in Heels spoke to Lindsay to get her top tips for growing your personal brand.

The Importance of having a personal brand

By now, most of us have heard the term “personal brand.” Whether you first heard about the importance of building your brand in a college classroom or in a boardroom at work, all of this branding talk isn’t just for naught – having a strong personal brand is a valid way to create a cohesive, expressive identity for yourself.

Having grown my own personal brand and a strong brand for That Working Girl over the last few years, below are my top 10 tips for growing a stellar personal brand that will set you apart from others in your industry.

1. Make authenticity #1

I’ve quickly learned that people are drawn to authenticity. When curating your personal brand, be you – not the fake, veneer version of you. Take pride in your quirks and uniqueness, and lend those qualities to your overall brand. After all, who would Coco Chanel have been without her signature oversized pearls, or Lady Gaga without her outlandish stage outfits?

2. Choose your voice

This can just as likely apply to bloggers as it can to professionals – hone your “voice”, or your communication style, and keep it consistent. This will lend itself to your personal brand in a major way.

3. Commit to a branding scheme

I know – commitment can be scary. That’s why I think it’s smart to take a reasonable chunk of time to decide on your branding scheme, and stick to one that you love! Whether this means employing a talented graphic designer or a creative friend or help you, it’s totally worth it. This branding scheme will translate onto your business cards, email signature, personal website and more. Invest in it.

4. Get feedback on your brand

It might seem awkward asking for feedback on your overall personal branding scheme, but meeting with a close friend or colleague who understands your work style and what you stand for might be a great way to ensure that you’re being 100% authentic while building your brand. You can never get enough insight or useful feedback!

5. Stay social on social media

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant chatter on social media, but an important component of maintaining your personal brand is making an effort to actively participate in social media. Is being an avid traveller a component of your personal brand? Participate in a weekly Twitter chat regarding travel and represent yourself as an expert in your field. Connecting with others in your industry and areas of interest is a great way to boost your overall brand.

6. Seek out opportunities to educate

In the same vein of participating in social media online in regard to topics that best represent you, take things offline and seek out opportunities to educate others. Whether this means speaking at seminars or hosting monthly workshops, taking your great persona offline is a great way to grow and hone your personal brand.

7. Mind the little online details

When it comes to branding, the little details matter. Make sure that your social media profiles are all registered under the same handle, your profile pictures are consistent, and that the design and colours used within your profiles are similar.

8. Network, ladies!

Networking can be daunting, I get it. But what’s the point in building an awesome personal brand if you aren’t willing to show it off every now and then? Research local networking events in your area and make a point to go to one or two each month. You will be amazed at how many interesting people you’ll meet, and how many will walk away remembering your personal brand.

9. Sell yourself

Especially for entrepreneurs, having a polished personal brand is a great way to land new clients. If you’re a business owner, hone in on your strengths while branding yourself, and drive home those key attributes in your overall personal brand. Are you an expert communicator? Tie a blog component onto your personal brand!

10. Perfect your elevator pitch

One thing that I love about elevator pitches is the fact that they really force you to get to know yourself – in 30 concise seconds or less. As the cherry on top of your personal brand, polish your elevator pitch to really convey who you are. Be selective with your adjectives and make sure that they’re reflective of the authentic you. You’ll be ready to shine in no time!

Want to learn more about a few ladies I admire with impressive, strong personal brands? Check out Lara Casey, Emily Ley and Mandy Kellogg Rye!

Featured Photo Credit: Stefano Principato via Flickr