Building a business takes more courage and mental wherewithal than working a full-time job. Some may enjoy performing a variety of tasks in their regular 9 to 5 jobs. However, taking on side projects adds increasing demands on someone’s overloaded schedule. The reason is that the well-ordered structure full-time jobs provide is removed from the equation. As an entrepreneur, you are thrusted instead in an unknown, amorphous work environment where you are responsible for developing rules and carving out your work conditions. Your syncopated movements and coordination are focused on maneuvering the administrative portion of the job because the journey always starts as a one-man show. Every entrepreneur understands this as they embark on building their brands.
Building a brand requires a concerted effort to meet people outside of your field, ask the right questions and be willing to adjust your own compass. In the first few months or years, leisure time is not highly prioritized because entrepreneurship involves many planting seasons. You are planting seeds by collecting information, heading to relevant conferences and events to acquire new knowledge, and filling in the trenches for pre-existing ideas you have identified for your business. When I was developing and refining the focus of my brand MESFAMI CARE Inc. I learned the true meaning of being devoted, consistent and committed to define my ministry.
Though the purpose of MESFAMI CARE Inc is to advance the healing process by creating a network of support services for families in vulnerable positions, I found myself always trying to refine the direction of the brand. When you are building a brand, you have to adapt to the changing needs of your audience. In the midst of crafting your ministry, you sometimes must ask yourself why there is not much coverage on the number of entrepreneurs who have not achieved their dreams. The lessons learned along the journey could serve as foundational work to impart knowledge on evidence-based practices to aspiring entrepreneurs.
According to Brand Identity, written by Gregory V. Diehl, he states that without a strong company narrative, people feel less emotionally engaged in their business, which will unconsciously limit the effort they put into making it as successful as it could be. Another factor is a lack of direction and long term goals for the business. As a result, people miss out on valuable networking and partnership opportunities by not appealing to complementary businesses.
During the initial phases, some questions a person can reflect on as highlighted in the book are:
- Define your idea:“Why should you exist?”
- Define your target: “Who needs this specifically?
- Define their needs: “Why should they care?”
- Define yourself: “Why should they buy it from me?”
I came to the painful truth that building a side project is never as glamorous as it seems to be. In fact, the experience is romanticized and toned down even further with illusions of seeing people on television amass exponential wealth. Essentially, you become enthralled with the outcome rather than consider the long sleepless nights these individuals endured to achieve these outcomes. Even when hard work ought to be celebrated in our communities, have people ever bothered to reflect on the emotions of those who bring these products or services to fruition?
One of the most important lessons I have learned is that those who endure tough times before piloting their business must grapple with the fact that the harvest due to them will not always reap instantaneously.
The lessons I am learning on building my passion project are the following:
1. Do not treat customers as data numbers; your target audience wants to feel valued and that their needs are taken into account in the fabric of your business.
2. Carve out time to connect to your fan base; when you interact with the people who follow your content or buy your services, they can put a human face to your brand.
3. The attention should be spent on figuring out how to better serve your clients. As Friedman once said, “It’s not about bringing attention to yourself by yelling the loudest, being annoying, hard selling, or marketing better than anyone else. And it’s not built overnight. Finding and building an audience takes time. It’s an organic, yet intentional, process and it’s different for everyone. Your platform depends on your unique story and message, your strengths and qualities, and your targeted readership.”
4. When you build your brand, or market yourself, do not use people as pawns because people eventually understand your true motives and will not want to purchase your products or follow your brand.
5. Remain authentic in your self-promotion. Power and influence are illusions. There are no proven methods that can teach you how to be your best self. Patience and humility are key elements to strengthening and affording you the space and time to revisit, amplify or modify the purpose of your brand.
6. As Gary Vee once stated in one of his podcasts, it is vital to take the time to appreciate the people who have been there for you since the beginning. If you have 2 followers, appreciate these two followers and treat them as if you had 10,000 followers. Even if you may not have as much exposure, the people who are already on your platform are the ones who care about your mission. In the end, people remember how much you cared and made them feel valued. They want to feel appreciated and not be taken for granted. Most importantly, do not expect someone who is obsessed with social media metrics to impart this knowledge to you.
7. Do not compare your beginnings with someone else’s end product. Everyone starts at different places with varying degrees of knowledge, wisdom and resources. Your best is yet to come, therefore continue to harness a curious mindset. In a world where instant gratification is heralded, the question you must always ask yourself is “What’s the rush?” By asking the question a couple of times, it will help you put things in perspective.
8. Do not wrap your self-esteem by the number of followers you have on social media. For example, Instagram followers tune in and out all the time, therefore, with the mercurial attitudes of different types of audiences, do not take anything personally. Their preferences will change and become as volatile as trends change. You cannot base your trust on something that is volatile. But, the people who are meant to be on your platform will stick around to support you. The key is to be yourself and push content out there based on the expertise you are gaining along the journey.
9. When the lights are turned off, an your audience has evacuated the sacred space you shared together, the question you might be asking is “what’s in it for me?” and the answer you receive will always pinpoint the next steps you need to take. It is crucial that you trust the process because when you allow the universe to unveil the experiences that are aligned with your goals and aspirations for your business, there is a cosmic shift that happens around you. The stillness in finding these answers within generates an entry point to allow other opportunities to come and serve as a springboard on your journey.
Entrepreneurs have a lot to gain from the experiences they accumulate in life. They go through moments of despair as they strive to redefine their brand, pondering over what could be added or extracted from the palette. There will also be moments when motivation and hope eludes us, but always trust that intuition will steer you to your true compass. You are the change and hope you have been waiting for.
1. Diehl, Gregory V. 2018. Brand Identity Breakthrough.
2. Steinem, Gloria. Human Beings are linked, not ranked. https://lesley.edu/news/gloria-steinem-says-human-beings-are-linked-not-ranked
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