Twenty-one years ago today, I walked into my c-suite office to find an incredibly handsome German man with beautiful long blonde hair and an amazing suntan, dressed to the nines in a Hugo Boss suit, sitting at my desk. I’d just come off a horrible bout with depression. One that had kept me out of work for nearly thirty days—following a divorce that had left me shattered. It was a time in my life when my confidence was shaky, at best.
But this guy in the chair? He woke me right up.
I was absolutely love-struck. It remains the most game-changing day of my life.
What happened next was also game-changing… but in a different kind of way.
Over the next couple of months, while in hot pursuit of the man of my dreams, I threw caution to the wind. Specifically, the caution around my rather stuffy employer’s human resources policies. More specifically… the policies around the executives gettin’ jiggy with the employees.
And before I knew it, I was up a new boyfriend, and down a six-figure job.
For the folks in my little corner of the financial industry who liked to talk trash, it was an absolute scandal. And for me, coming off of a divorce and some very dark days, it was nothing short of brutal. So much so that I left the industry completely… and laid low for a time. And my absence left LOTS of empty space for those trash-talking folks to fill in the blanks with rumors. (Some of which, I heard, were nothing short of outrageous.)
During my time out of sight, I was considering what it felt like to NOT be a corporate executive. (I LOVED it.) To try my hand at consulting work. (I LOVED it.) And to marry Jan–the man of my dreams in the Hugo Boss suit–and have his baby. (I LOVED it.)
And when the time felt right, I decided to open my own branding agency: The Hook.
As I began to plot my launch campaign, Jan looked me in the eye and said out loud what I knew to be true, but was loath to admit:
“Juju, you’re going to have to go pitch all of those marketing execs from the financial industry. They’re your best bet for new clients. They know you personally. They know what you’re capable of. You have to walk right into their offices, with your head held high, and tell them how glad you are that you left corporate America, how on fire you are now, and why they should hire your new firm.”
And as the memories of those dark days came flooding back, the relentlessly critical voice inside my head reminded me of why I’d chosen to lay low in the first place:
Juju, people are judging you. They’re talking about you. They will laugh if you pitch them. They will laugh if you fail. You’re not good enough for this. You should just pack it in…
But as I honed my messages and prepared my packages for delivery, something started to shift inside me. With Jan in one ear telling me how amazing I was (he was always my #1 fan) and my mentor in the other telling me I’d be foolish not to shoot the gun, I started to want the visibility more than I wanted to hide.
I started to practice what it would feel like to be seen by the very people I assumed were talking smack about me.
I stepped right through the fear and panic I had around being rejected and laughed at, into an entirely new understanding: that branding was my true purpose in the world… and that my new clients would be LUCKY to have me in their corners, fighting with all my heart for their success.
With the voice in my head screaming at me to stop, I forged ahead.
And I pitched like a mofo.
I chose 50 executives. Half of them “knew me when.” The other half were seriously big fish—the kinda folks you put on your vision board. I sent themed baskets to each and every one of them to announce my new website and the launch of my new agency—and to give them a very clear, very specific message:
Sometimes, all you need is the right Hook.
Can you guess what happened?
Every single one of them took my call.
Every. Single. One.
I quit worrying about what folks were saying about me. And started focusing on how I could serve them.
And from those first 50 pitches, I got my first five clients.
What I learned through this process—and I’ve seen time and time again with my coaching clients—is that it’s one thing to create a great brand with a tight message, a well-defined audience, and a clear call to action.
It’s another thing to have the nerve to GO BIG. The willingness to risk the rejection on a new scale. The confidence to believe that you’re worth it all and that the clients you’re DYING to serve would be LUCKY to have you in their corner.
The courage to listen to the still small voice inside, rather than the nasty one that lives rent-free in your head, is a requirement for next-level success.
Branding, my friend, is an act of bravery.
If you’re looking for a shot of courage—a dose of exactly the mindset it takes to PROMOTE yourself to the very people who you’re worried might judge or reject you—then meet me in San Diego at my first ever live event.
BRAND YOUR HEART AND SOUL
Meet me–and 50 remarkable PrimeTime women—for three days of mindset, messaging, and platform building. Three days of discovery, adventure, and fun in the sun. Three days that will change your mind about everything related to what you offer, why the world needs it, and exactly what you should say to people when you sell it.
There’s never been an immersion branding experience quite like this one. There may never be one again.
There are exactly 50 seats. And they’re going fast.
Whatever you’re afraid of, you can conquer it with heart.
It’s been 21 years since the day I chose to follow my heart. I’m still madly in love with Jan. That baby turned 18 last week. And I still work–every single day–on the mindset required for a brand to GO BIG.
I see you.
P.S. The PrimeTime Essence Experience is a one-of-a-kind, 3-day, immersion branding experience for women entrepreneurs who want to increase their level of visibility, income, influence, or impact. It’s on the bay in sunny San Diego, and it’s gonna be absolutely LIT.