About three-and-a-half years ago, I walked away from a business it had taken me nearly fifteen years to build.
I was running a boutique branding agency—serving corporations in the financial and automotive sector. Neither of these were industries that set my soul on fire; in fact they rarely even sparked my interest.
But I was making money. And I’d achieved what so many women my age had set out to achieve: a business where I could work just a few hours each day and still earn a stellar income. I’d mastered the art of the “skate.”
I’d created for myself the opportunity to do only that work which I loved the most: strategy.
And so with each and every campaign, I worked with the client to extract the juiciest goodness—to get to the heart of the message that most clearly expressed their essence and was most relevant to the needs of their clients. And then I translated this message to a team of powerhouse creative talents, so they could translate it visually onto a page, a screen, a tradeshow booth, a new sales process, or anywhere else the client needed to walk the talk.
Something interesting happened when I got my way and delegated all of the tasks that hounded me or aggravated me…
When I elevated myself to one-trick pony…
When I found that free time I’d so desperately longed for.
The less I had to do… the less I did.
The slower my day became… the slower I became.
And as my challenges dwindled, so did I.
And when one of my agency’s anchor clients went through a massive shift in business strategy—and I could see the writing on the wall that our services would no long be needed within a few months’ time—I found that I absolutely LOATHED the idea of putting on a navy blue suit and marching into a board room to hawk my wares to a new corporate client.
And I told my husband, Jan, that I didn’t want to do it anymore. That I wasn’t going to replace the account. That, at 47, I was going to start something new.
To which he replied, “What will you do?”
And I said, “I’m going to become an overnight, global, internet sensation.”
“How long will that take?” He asked.
“About five years,” I replied.
Like a gazillion other “internet entrepreneurs,” I decided to take my talent on the virtual road.
And in that moment, I commenced on a journey of what Jan has lovingly dubbed, “turning chicken shit into chicken soup.”
In the earliest days of this new venture, I did exactly what I knew how to do best: I built a brand big enough to house my dreams. I sat down and mapped out a strategy for how to share my heart and soul—to create real connection with real humans over real emotion—through a veritable soulless medium. I showed myself completely, and reached out a hand to help others.
And people started to respond.
I got a glimpse of what it felt like to speak my truth (rather than the truth about individual retirement accounts or all-wheel drive sports vehicles), and to hear other people say:
“Yeaaaah… what she said.”
Or, “Oh my God, that’s exactly how I feel!”
And before I knew it, I’d built a following of nearly 50,000 people.
But like so MANY entrepreneurs, I suffered from “this isn’t happening fast enough” syndrome.
And as I watched a thousand ads that filled my social media newsfeeds from hotshots who’d lived in their moms’ basements only yesterday and were driving Lamborghinis and sipping mai tais on the beach in French Polynesia today… I lost touch with the value of branding from my ESSENCE.
And I started to focus on what the Internet gurus told me to seek:
-Copy that truly “sold”
-Sales funnels that convinced and persuaded
-Webinars that would allow me to shift from serving one to serving many
-Facebook ads and social media systems and messenger bots and automated email sequences
I joined expensive mastermind groups that focused intensely on money and “return” and sat in conferences where I filled reams of paper with notes about how to get to “seven figures.”
I chased tactics and abandoned strategy.
I began to rate my success on the numbers.
And my success felt like failure.
And as I sat alone in a room with my spreadsheets and my ClickFunnels account, a webinar about the highest-converting headlines open in one tab and Thesaurus.com open in another, things felt awfully dark inside my head. And cold and dead inside my heart.
Until a beautiful friend and coach mercilessly told me something I desperately needed to hear:
“Juju, you’re running a heart-based business from your head. You can’t get the connection that you crave from your head. You need to get back into your body. Back into your soul. None of this is working for you… because it’s not you.”
Imagine that. A performance coach telling a brand strategist she was miserable… because she was off-brand.
It didn’t take me long to see the light. And to go and lie in it… like my Golden Retriever basking in a ray of early morning sunshine streaming through the window.
When I connected back to source—to my ESSENCE—everything started to shift.
I became crystal clear on who I wanted to serve:
Midlife women “on the verge.”
What I wanted for them set my soul on fire:
Brands large enough to house their own dreams.
Everything clicked when I got in touch with what I truly longed for:
A small community of brilliant, powerhouse women who were launching themselves to next-level visibility. Women on the verge… and willing to take the leap.
And I leaned in to create JUST THAT.
I began to connect with these women.
I started to TALK to them, COACH them, STRATEGIZE with them, LOVE them, LIFT them up, and CHEER them on.
And the dark night of the soul gave way to the dawn of daily activities that filled me up completely.
When I returned to my ESSENCE, and found a way to communicate it (a skill I’d mastered long ago, but tossed aside in a misguided belief that shiny-and-new would lead to flush-and-fulfilled), my business became what it had needed to be all along: a calling.
My heart cracked open.
And so did everything else.
For three-and-a-half years since I started this venture, I’ve been talking—nearly non-stop on the Internet—about how to build brands. And along the way, I learned the most valuable lesson of all:
Over the long haul, success in business isn’t about the tactics you employ.
It’s about what you’re MADE OF.
It takes guts and self-confidence and practice and humility to show the world what you’re MADE OF and believe that it’s ENOUGH to set you apart.
But in the moments when you’re not sure which road to take, what to spend money on, which guru to turn to for advice, which products to sell or courses to build or ad platforms to invest in…
Whether to hang in or walk away…
It’s your BRAND that shines the light on the answer.
Because your brand is an expression of your ESSENCE. And your essence is NEVER wrong. It’s ALWAYS enough. It’s what people WANT.
And tapping into it is the only way to move from being on the verge… to out in front.
What are you made of? And what are you on the verge of?
Hit reply and share with me.