Build Your Business and Brand: Translating Your Passion Into a Plan | Rebecca Minkoff | Skillshare

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Build Your Business and Brand: Translating Your Passion Into a Plan

teacher avatar Rebecca Minkoff, Designer, Founder, Author

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (58m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. A New Way to Work

    • 3. Setting Your Goals

    • 4. Defining Your Distinction

    • 5. Creating a Unified Brand

    • 6. Expanding Your Network

    • 7. Growing and Scaling

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Want to build a creative business that fulfills you personally and professionally–and stands the test of time? Join fashion industry icon Rebecca Minkoff to discover the secrets every creative entrepreneur needs to thrive!

Spreadsheets and sales are important, but they’re not what makes a business truly successful. Take it from Rebecca Minkoff, author, podcaster, trailblazer, and force behind the Female Founder Collective. After 20 years of navigating the ups and downs of the fashion industry, Rebecca is sharing what she knows about growing, pivoting, and running a creative business—so you can do the same. 

With help from real-world examples and exercises, you'll learn what it takes to:

  • Enjoy every step of building your business
  • Manage your time by getting granular with your goals
  • Establish a brand aesthetic that shows up everywhere you do
  • Find people you can confide in and learn from
  • Stay inspired as you grow and scale

Plus, Rebecca shares hard-won insights (and a handy workbook) you can use to reimagine the one-size-fits-all idea of success, instead translating your passion into a plan that works for your goals and your brand. 

This class will speak to you whether you're an entrepreneur who’s just starting out, a founder on the verge of your first big breakthrough, or a freelance creative who’s feeling stuck. By the end, you’ll have a clear vision of where you’re headed and why, plus an arsenal of tools to help you and your business thrive over the long haul!

This class is designed for anyone launching or growing a business. While Rebecca's examples focus on the fashion industry, the same principles and exercises will translate to any creative field. Download the class workbook or grab a pen and paper to follow along.

Meet Your Teacher

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Rebecca Minkoff

Designer, Founder, Author


An industry leader in accessible luxury handbags, accessories, and apparel, Rebecca Minkoff’s playful and subtly edgy designs integrate the elements of bohemian femininity with a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll. Rich leathers and suedes, bohemian-inspired prints, effortless silhouettes, and signature hardware details embody a woman is who is both carefree and edgy. Effortlessness is perfectly blended with sophistication for an aesthetic that combines West Coast mentality with a Downtown sensibility.

After developing an affinity for design while in the costume department in high school, Rebecca Minkoff moved to New York City at only 18 years old to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer. In 2001, Rebecca designed a version of the “I Love New York&... See full profile

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1. Introduction: The best part of my job is hearing how I've touched women's lives and knowing that one successful woman will change her community. [MUSIC] I'm Rebecca Minkoff, designer, bestselling author and co-founder of The Female Founder Collective. You might know me for my bestselling bag, clothing, accessories, but what you might not know is that I have a deep passion for female founders. I made it my mission to impact as many women-owned businesses as I can through my community, through other founders helping each other, and through education. Today's class is going to cover everything from how to really stand out in a sea of millions of companies, growing your brand sustainably and successfully, and how to expand your network and make the most out of all of your relationships. Along the way, I'm going to be sharing hard-learned lessons I've learned, as well as giving you exercises to do on your own. You should take this class if you've just started a company, if you're on the edge of giving up or you think that you are at that critical breaking point where if you just push along a little bit further and get that magic ingredient, you might taste success. Persistence is going to get you to where you want to go. It's coming back when you've been knocked down. I want you to be the most stubborn, most tenacious person you've ever met. I hope you leave this class creatively inspired, having a new view and a way to approach your brand, your company, your path, with just a different viewpoint and a shifting perspective. I am so glad you're here. Let's dive in. [MUSIC] 2. A New Way to Work: [MUSIC] Welcome to my class. I am so excited to be with you today. It was really important for me to always pass on any hard-won knowledge that I've learned. I want to share with you the tools that I've used to become successful so that you can be successful. When I started out in my 5th floor walk-up on the lower east side, everything was exciting to me. Every challenge was exhilarating. My life consisted of daily packed back-to-back of going to the garments that are buying leather for my bags, sourcing zippers, shipping things out to some degree because it was before e-commerce even existed. There was a little bit of simplicity when I started out. Then you grow, and you think that simplicity will stay the same. But this is what happens, and it happens very fast. You need new systems. You have to interface with stores, you have to collect on invoices, and it begins to rapidly expand, and you say, I didn't know, I had to know that. Hopefully through this course now that you've joined me, you'll learn some of the things that you're going to know you need to know before you reach that roadblock. What I want you to do in this class is taking a bird's-eye view, slowing down, extending your time horizon for goals and success. Not to say that something can't happen sooner, and that's incredible if it does. But becoming more realistic, less instant gratification about how we're going to get you from where you are today to where you want to be, and truly enjoying every step along the way. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, this is annoying. Of course, I have an end goal. Of course, I have this unicorn status, sell my company for a billion $. But this is what I've found, and it sounds a little cheesy. It is really not about the end goal, it is about the journey. When I set out recently to write my book and to publish it and become a best-selling author. Of course, I had all these things in my head about it's going to be this, it's going to be that then I'm going to be here and publish and whatever. Guess what, six months before my publish date I said, Rebecca, slow down, enjoy the journey you're about to go on because it's going to transform you. You're going to learn things you never knew. Then, when I got to the end, it didn't just feel like I blinked, and it was over because I so changed how I looked at going through each step. This class is not for women only. This class is not for those who aspire to be designers or who are designers. This is for anyone who's creative that started a business and wants to help navigate and ensure long-lasting success. During this class, we're not going to get into the sales, the spreadsheets, the forecasting and projections. We're going to step back and take a look at the big picture things you need to be successful. The first subject we're going to cover is about setting goals. We're going to discuss some techniques on how to actually keep and achieve those goals. The next is about defining your brand distinction and customer so that you can ultimately market exactly to the person that you have in mind. The next topic we're going to discuss is having a unified brand aesthetic, something that traverses all the places you show up from your website to your social media, to how you personally show up in real life. Next, growing your team and your network. This isn't something that you check off a list is an ever-expanding, almost concentric circle of growth, of connection of people that are in your world that are going to help you almost like an ecosystem. Finally, scaling your business. For some, that means growth in sales. For some, that means growth personally and more freedom to do everything else you desire. How is this going to go? You're going to learn from me, my lessons, my experiences, more importantly, my failures. But also you'll be able to download an extensive class workbook from class resources or use an old-fashioned pen and paper and come along for the ride. I want to give you actionable steps you can take, a workbook that you can always go back and refer to, to refresh, to reset, to revive yourself after a hard knock, and it's something that's important to me that we can all have a vision board, but unless we actually take action, it will never ever happen. Go ahead and download the class workbook now, and let's get started. 3. Setting Your Goals: [MUSIC] Our first lesson is all about goal setting. But before we dive into what your goal is, I want you to re-evaluate and re-examine what does success truly mean to you? I meet so many people and I'm guilty of this too. I want to be rich, I want to be famous, I want to have a lot of followers on Instagram, but that isn't a product you're going to exchange daily with other people for your survival. Why are you doing this? What gets you out of bed every day? What is the product you actually want to exchange with someone else that brings you life, that brings you joy? How do we take a deeper look at our lives and say, my business is not going to be the end goal of everything for me, but what I want out of my whole life, what does success look like? Is it more time? Is it the ability to work a nine to five and actually see your children or take your pets for a walk? Is it a sleeping more? Let's look at all those things across the spectrum because if you can check off more of those boxes, you'll be a lot happier and a lot more fulfilled. You won't be on the hamster wheel that so many people, including myself have been stuck on that make us think we're doing it for the money or we're doing it for the fame. As we go into this lesson today, I want you to write down and look at all the facets of your life that you want your career to be able to provide for, so that every day while you're working, you're achieving goals on multiple fronts. For instance, I'm a designer for a living, but every day I also get to ensure that other female founded companies are achieving success. That's a way of aligning my mission to my brand. Every day I can get up and look in the mirror and know that I'm checking off many of those boxes. Most people living in New York, I was on a treadmill and it was a treadmill I never felt I could get off of. It was go the most success, the most money, as many people as I could meet, as much recognition as possible and when the pandemic hit it really put everything into perspective. As a mom, I thought I was, really involved with my children. When I was suddenly at home with them 24/ 7, I actually said, Oh my gosh, I have missed most of their lives. It began to be a shift of perspective. How do I reorient my work-life to also be something that is able to provide and give me personal fulfillment in my personal life. While those shifts were scary, and COVID was the hardest time for us as accompany and still is, my personal satisfaction, my personal life is thriving. The first thing with goal setting is you need to lay out your ideal scenario. I want you to get really granular. What time do you want to wake up? What time do you want to get into the office? What is the life that you want to have that makes what you do a definite important and key component of your life but that isn't just your life? How do you make the work that you do in the passions you have all dovetail? Because that is truly what it's going to make this journey worth it, especially during the hard times. In this scenario, I'm going to be talking about me specifically as a designer. First, I start off with my goal. Again, fame and money are not goals. What I really want to do when I'm looking for a goal is, what is my end product, what is the achievement? That's women globally wearing my products. That's handbags, shoes, everything, sunglasses, whatever it is that I have. Making them feel confident, powerful, and fearless. That is the goal that I have as a designer. It also now informs the products that I have. But this crystalize will help me be so clear when I go about my daily battle plans, when I go about my long-term goals, my short-term goals. But this would be the biggest goal that everything dovetails into. Now I want to move into the daily and monthly and actionable steps that can take your goal and make sure that everything you're doing is aligned to that. I think for me I developed this quadrant system as a way to stay focused, to stay on task, and to make sure that with each area I approached it like this. First, I start with daily/urgent. What is this? This is a thing that you have to do every day that are part and parcel of whatever it is you do. That's what you would attack most. If all else fails, you hit these things, you check these things off your list. Then I have nice to have. What is a nice to have? Nice to haves, if I've done everything in my daily and I have all this extra time on my hands or something canceled that I suddenly got two hours of time. These are the nice to haves, the things that will still help you in your business. But it's the lunch with a potential client that maybe won't be something that isn't developed for a year from now. It's all the things that our future that are just things to do when you have crossed off everything else that is on fire or your daily list. The next thing I have pending. What is pending? Pending is all the things that you have to follow up with, that's in process. You're waiting to hear back from a client, you're waiting to hear back about a proposal. I like to keep a long list of everything pending that I'm working on because it forces me to go back to things either I'm mid or when I need to hear back from someone. Then I have my 3-6 months goals. Not just goals, but it's to-dos. If I want to have a business six months from now, what's really important? Is it a new website? Is it revising my graphics? Maybe it's things I've been saving money for that I know in three months time is going to be incredibly important. I do this for my podcast. Just to break it down for you and give you an example. On the daily I might be recording a podcast, on the nice to have for my podcast, I might have a list of guests that I'm going to reach out to that are so well-known and never check their DMs or answer emails that spending time on that might be fruitless, but it's a nice thing to have if I have extra time. Pending, where are my recorded episodes at? Where are the show notes at? Who do I need to talk to about getting ads so that I can keep recording my podcasts. Then what's my 3-6 month goal with my podcasts? Do I want to have an increase in traffic? Do I want to get more ads? What are the steps I have to do to do that? Some of these are very granular, like your daily activities and then some of them are bigger, but it lets you focus your attention on all of these things at a glance. When to revisit your larger, bigger goal. What I usually do is I take my daily activities and I put them in here, and I make myself a to-do list. Then sometimes that to do list grows and then you find yourself not checking anything off and then you're wondering what you did that day. Then you're like, why did I have that call? Why did I take this meeting that was such a waste of time? Every time I feel like I'm getting back on this hamster wheel of all the things I think I have to do, I go, what's my goal again? Does this achieve it? Does this achieve it? Does this achieve it? Does this achieve it? What you're going to find is you're going to start saying no to a lot of stuff. All the things I was so busy doing before COVID didn't necessarily contribute to the growth and goals I had for my business. When all that went away and I only put back everything we needed to be successful, that's when you could see what worked and what didn't. Go back to your goal as often as you need to reset, clear out the junk, as I say, unsubscribe from all those things that you think, if I just do this, maybe it'll help me. I revisit my to-do list about every week, and I love crossing things off, so I really like to keep it analog. It's so satisfying. Then I'll revisit my goals about every three months just to make sure that I'm staying on track and as I plan the next fashion week or the next big launch for us, which is usually about every three months. That everything I'm doing is still consistent with where the goal is and where I'm heading. These are just some of the to-do lists that I have segmented by different areas of my life. Rebecca Minkowski, personal, female founder collective. I clearly have way more to fill in. But next I'll take podcast because I'm going to do another book and I just start writing down everything that's daily and urgent, making sure that it cross-references with where this is headed. Then always go back to your pending because it's all the stuff that you're in the middle of doing that you never want to forget about and make sure you're following up on. Now you've seen me do this for just one aspect of what I do. I want to see you do this. I want you to take it into account for any aspect of your life. It could be a personal goal with fitness, it could be a professional goal with your company and I can't wait to see what you come up with. One last piece of parting advice before we transition into the next lesson is this. For me, it's always been a numbers game, even when I first started out and I was handing out postcards in Union Square telling people to go to a local consignment store to buy my products. I began to look at things as a ratio. I said, 500 postcards equals one sale. That means if I want two sales it's 1,000. I was a nerd and I kept graphs, but I guarantee you whether it's people you've reached out to, investors, customers, you'll begin to see a ratio, so don't get disheartened if you're met with challenges on your goal. It's going to happen. But the more that you can outflow what you do to an audience, to what you need, to the people you're talking to, the greater your chances of an ingoing in inbound a sale, a reply will be. Get your nerd graph up, start keeping it and you'll begin to track these ratios and you will begin to see a shift. Next step, we'll talk about defining your brand distinction. [MUSIC] 4. Defining Your Distinction: [MUSIC] What I want to talk to you about today is your brand plan. What are your brand values and what is your brand distinction? Let's get clear on what brand values are. What do you stand for as a brand? For me as a woman talking to other women, I want my values to be that my customer feels fearless, confident, optimistic. I want to make sure that we're not just supporting the way a woman looks, but if she has a company or she is an executive that she actually feels supported with things for my podcast, tips from my book. If she's a founder she can go to my collective, and get resources, and help from other founders. That's brand values. As you begin to think about that, again, go back to your personal goals. Do you have other goals? Maybe it's climate-related, maybe it's sustainability, maybe it's giving back in some other way, but if I were going to launch any brand today it's definitely one of the first steps I'd take. About seven years ago when I just peeked outside of my industry and realized all things are not equal, and we're still making 80 cents on a dollar to male-founded companies or as employees. What I'm I going to do to change that? For me I decided, "Well, if I'm going to address a woman to make her feel confident, optimistic, and fearless, what do I do to support her behind the scenes, to make our company more successful, to give her access and resources and education, to make her a better provider; someone who can impact your community more?" My two missions dovetailed really easily. It was very clear and concise that we could tell this story again across multiple platforms, whether it was the book, the podcast, and through the Female Founder Collective. Your vision might not be as crystal clear and I think you're exercising. Your takeaway from this is going to be, well, how do I make these two things intersect? Let's just say you are a business, you've already started, you already have a product, you're already out there in the marketplace. Ask yourself, what matters to me? What impact beyond your business do you want to have? What gives you that satisfaction? Is it rock climbing? Is it paragliding? Whatever it is, is it volunteering? How do you take anything that brings you that type of satisfaction and build it cohesively into part of your business strategy? You've seen many companies successfully do this, whether it's Patagonia and their recycled wear program. To Bombas, to even Toms which is one of the first companies that aligned mission with brand. Whatever your goal is, the other things outside of the products that make you happy, that make you feel fulfilled, that enhance your greater life and dovetail that into your company mission, that'll be the beginning of how you really look at your brand and its values. Let's just say pencils. You are the extraordinary pencil creator and you sell tons of pencils and your goal is satisfy customers who are happy and loving drawing with your pencils. Well, is there a greater goal? Is it children's education? Is it providing writing instruments for people in low-income communities? How does that everyday feed back into this? Your product and your success metric isn't just going to be we did a million dollar in pencil sales. It's going to be not only did we do a million dollar in pencil sales, but we also were able to give back 100,000 pencils into low-income communities. You can begin to extend your reach over the cash in your bank account and into the change you're making into areas that you deem will actually help round out what you view as success. Now, let's talk about brand distinction. I want you to become crystal clear on what your brand looks and feels like, but not only that, who your customer is? I want you to know how she styles her hair, what her perfume is, her shampoo, the music she listens to. You have to almost bring your customer to life because that's exactly who you're going to talk to, and are her brand values at the end of the day going to align with yours. For instance, I could come out and say I have a $5,000 bag when in reality my customer is someone who has her master's degree. She's a teacher, she's a nurse. She's a woman who just started her company. Can she afford that? No, I certainly couldn't when I started out, and so I have to also know that the products I'm creating need to fit into the archetype; who my fantasy person is but that has some basis in reality. I think where you can run into trouble is when you say, well, if I build it, they will come. Well, Who is they? Some people say, if I just I'm general, and I appeal to so many people, and then generalize it, then I'll have tons of customers. There have been so many expert marketers that said it is more valuable to have 10,000 dedicated loyal customers than 100,000 one. Now we're going to hone in on an exercise where I'm going to go through a mythical brand, and a mythical customer, and how granular I would get so you can get an example of how focused you need to be. Let's take a fake brand. We're going to [NOISE] call it the White tea co. I'm sorry if you exist White tea co., I'm going to steal your name. You know you make white T-shirts, so who's your girl? My imaginary customer is going to be 25-30. That means you have to be realistic with what? A 25-30-year-old can actually pay for a white T-shirt. Well, what would that look like? How much could you pay for a T-shirt when you were 25? Me, I'm going to go with $25. That was a stretch, at 25. What [NOISE] jeans does she wear? Not just what jeans, but what brands? You know your customer is going to hopefully pair this shirt with Levi's, with Re/done, etc. Shoes. That's incredibly important because usually if you're wearing a plain white T-shirt, your shoes are going to stand out. Is it Nike? Is it Reebok? Is it heels? If it's heels, is this a fancy white shirt? Is it the shirt to wear when you're going out to the club or is the white shirt to wear on the weekends? Where does she go on the weekends? Does she go to Brunch? What does she eat? Where does she go on vacation? You'll begin to create this customer that as you're starting a brand, you're going to build. If you have a brand that you already started, you have a lot of data. Whether you want to believe the data or not, you actually can find out a lot of these things and you can also supplement with surveys for the rest. Guess what's going to happen? You might have a customer that you've been talking incorrectly to this whole time. There was a time period within my company where we thought we had one customer and we had an entirely different customer. I was elated to hear that my customer most of them have master's degrees, I never would have thought that. How do you begin to put in those things that keep her reaching for what you really stand for as a brand? Here's some of the things you're going think with if you're just starting a brand: age, income, education, where she consumes her data, music she likes, drinks, restaurants she frequence. Now again, if she's making $35,000 a year, you better be real that she's not going to a very expensive restaurant. All of these things actually need to be real, it can't be fantastical. Where she vacations? What she does on the weekends? You could keep adding to this list and making sure that as you write it and fill in the blanks with who this woman is; hair products, etc, that everything matches up. If you already have a brand, you're going to fill in all of this with what you know. Ask a bunch of questions to your existing demo to fill in the blanks, and you will again see that you have this customer that's sitting there, that's waiting there, that's buying you, that you want to make as loyal as possible. Let's just say you're coming up with this mythical customer and you don't know the answer. Do some exploring, get some focus groups. You can easily get an impromptu informal focus group by going to the local mall or asking your friends and their friends what they like and do. Once you have this to make sure that your brand values tie into this. For instance, let's just say I bait a 25-year-old who makes $35,000 a year, who likes to vacation in tropical locations, and her favorite drink is a matcha latte; I'm going to be very stereotypical here, what are her brand values? Well, does she care about sustainability? Does she care about climate? What is she most likely to feel is important as what informs her purchase. Again, you might have to go asking questions, you might have to go do surveys to figure this out. Luckily, social media can tell you a lot about what people care about today. You can go deep into people's accounts to see what they're passionate about and does that align with yours? As we close this out I want you to take a big piece of paper. I want you to write this out. If you have an existing customer base, I want you to actually go and get this information and see if it matches up with everything you've been doing, saying, talking about. What I did was pretty simple. I went onto Pinterest and I created the world of Rebecca Minkoff. What does she look like? Where do she travel? What does she eat? What does my store look like? What other stores does she shop in? Who are the other brands that she buys? I created this entire thing out of the data that I had, and added the things that I wanted her to aspire to be. From there you're going to have a very crystal clear image of who your customer is, and then you'll be able to start talking to her. [MUSIC] How you talk to her is what's coming up next and how to create a unified brand [MUSIC]. 5. Creating a Unified Brand: [MUSIC] We've talked about your brand values and we've talked about your brand's distinction. Now it's time to get into the look and feel of what does it look like when you bring this brand to life? For my brand, it's all about this Bohemian rock and roll aesthetic. Everything is looked at through that lens. Does it have statuses? Does it has zippers? What does the woman look like? She always has a little bit of an edge that changes how we photograph, what filters we use, what lighting, and it's not just what they look like, it's what you sound like and it's how you show up and where you show up. For instance, we launched on TikTok. I was dancing because that's what everyone else was doing, but that's not actually valuable for my customers or for my brand. What is valuable? Is it style tips? Is it how to wear things together? Is it what to match with what? That is far more valuable for my customer than just showing up somewhere just for the sake of it. We'll get deeper into this as we start this lesson. Let's talk about how you go about finding your distinct lens. Now that you have your values, now that you have your brand distinction, I would encourage you to build a mood board about what that person or what your product might look like. What is the lighting that you're going to use? Are there certain angles? Is there a tone of voice, whether it's happy, sad, cheeky, what does that look and feel when you close your eyes and you say, I want to be known for these things? You want to know that when your customer walks up and a sea, let's just say bags in a department store. Why are they going to go for you? What sets you apart? Here's a good example. We did a brand deep dive many years ago, and what we decided was our brand colors were going to be black and white with a touch of blush, 10 percent to be exact. How does that play itself? For the most part, my website is black and white. The touches of blush come in when it's skin color on the model or other pops of pink that you're going to see very carefully woven in. But it also comes down to the idea of my perfume. It's always been about masculine and feminine, which is black and white and so you're going to have a masculine scent and then we just launched the feminine sent. The packaging was black and white, but this time because we were leaning more in the feminine direction and we over-indexed on the blush. Then this might be different for you if your brand is not necessarily about color, but it could again be about the photography lighting style. How does that play into how that showcases and shows up on the website? Or if you have a very harsh aesthetic, does it really makes sense for you to be a comedian in your copy, the answer is probably no. I think when it comes to deciding which levers you're going to go with, you're going to have to be very selective and be a great editor, which I am not one. It's very hard and that's what outside people are very handy for. Just to give you a sense, there is a lot to me as a human and as the brand that I might want to turn on. But when you close your eyes and think of Rebecca Minkoff, do you want to see her kid's dirty diaper? Probably not. Again, back to TikTok. Do you want to see me doing weird dances? Probably not. Those are things about my personal life which might be great for my intimate close friends and family, but not necessarily the things that evoke the Bohemian rock and roll lifestyle. Again, you don't have to show everything. You also don't have to be the face if that doesn't make sense for your brand. Sometimes I myself experience a brand that I just want to see their products and I see their founder on a boat or at a concert and I'm like, you know what? I don't care, it doesn't fit into the story they're telling as a company. It's really hard to talk about visuals, so why don't we look at some? The first example I'm going to give you is of course me. Let's go to my website. We talked about the black and white and the ratios of that. You're going to notice a consistent black and white with touches of blush that comes in in the skin color and a lot of the lighter colored bags. Sometimes it comes in as graphics. This plays into the types of models we use, the makeup we have on them, the poses they have, the age range of the models. We have video. If you look at the lighting, it has a definite harshness to it in terms of being more rock and roll. Everything is built-in and backended into what we know about our customer, what she likes, who she aspires to be like, and all the other things we spoke about. Now if you take this and you go to my Instagram, and you'll notice that whether it's images of me, images of models, or images of product, we keep the lighting very similar, very consistent. You know what to expect, we know what works, and we keep giving it to you over and over. That's just two examples of how your website and your social media can talk to each other. But how your social media can be an extension and almost an expansion of your greater brand values and brand proposition. You're the founder of a brand and you're probably asking yourself, do I need to be front and center? The answer isn't always going to be yes. For me and my brand, I've always been in front of the consumer. I was with her when social media didn't even exist, and so for us, it was a very natural extension that as I was the same age and sex as my customer, and I was going on very similar journeys to her, whether it was your first marriage, babies, etc., that I was going to be talking to her. You might say, and I'll show you in the next example, a brand where the founder doesn't matter and the founder shouldn't be front and center. You have to ask yourself, do you like being in front of the camera? Do you think you're good at it? Does your customer want a genuine connection from you, or they just there to buy a great product that you can stand behind proudly? Let's take a brand, Our Place. They make one of my favorite pans of all time and their branding and brand values and messaging are extraordinarily consistent. If you go on their site or in this case on their Instagram, they have much more variety. They're showing a lot more of user-generated content, but they've united it with color and filter, and they also have great things that they do whether it's helping feed hungry people and talking about Americans and becoming citizens, and how food is really uniter of many cultures. They've been able to take something that was very important to them, maybe personally to the brand and the founder, and integrated into the lifestyle of what food does, how it brings communities together, and what the ultimate pan that you should have on your table looks like. Now if we go to their website, I'm going to bet it is also just as consistent. The way they light everything, the way they showcase product, the way they talk about their brand. Everything on here matches back perfectly to their Instagram. Their Instagram takes it, as I said, as an extension of this. There's more depth that they can share again with their user-generated content and their community. But it's all still existing in one world. The steps that I would recommend you to figure this out if you're just incubating the idea of a brand or you're just getting started, is look at your competitors. You don't want to do what they're already doing. Look at what you like, what you're drawn naturally to. You have now this mythical customer or your existing customer. When you put all that data on any number of visual platforms, you're going to get back a really good picture of what she likes. You can also beta test this. I have a friend that throws up images, sees what works. If it doesn't work, they try something else. The customer will begin to vote and you'll begin to see what's working and what's not working. Then once you've locked and loaded on what that looks like, as much as you want to be creative, it's always great to stay within those lanes. I'll give you a great example. We used to showcase tons and tons of founders on our Female Founder Collective Instagram. But every single woman would take a very different head shot from a very different angle, and it was really hard to make these consistent. We decided to have everyone either do a photo in black and white or we put a filter that was consistent with our brand messaging and filter across every image. Right away the feed was unified and it played into our color story and our graphics. It's a very easy and simple thing to do, but it makes a world of difference. What I'd recommend to you is go out and experiment to make sure that by the time you hone in on it, you're ready to go. Go ahead and download the class workbook. Next step, we're going to talk about expanding your network and your team. [MUSIC] 6. Expanding Your Network: [MUSIC] You might be a superwoman, you might be a solo entrepreneur but that doesn't mean you can work alone in a silo 100 percent of the time. As you scale, as you begin to work with outside contractors or freelancers, you're going to have to know how to work with people, how to expand your network, and how to make the most out of all of your relationships. Being a founder can be incredibly lonely. The last thing you want to do is at the water cooler, vomit to your employee or your contractor or you're a freelancer about how you don't know how you're going to make payroll. You need to find a circle of people that have been through this, have survived or have failed. I would also say that as much as you want to talk to your best friend about what you're going through, if they're not a founder and have no familiarity with your business, you are going to get all bad advice. Keep a couple of people in your back pocket and develop those relationships whether it be joining women's group, joining the Female Founder Collective or other arenas where you can reach out and talk to people that have had the experience and can speak intelligently to the answers you need. I'll never forget when I had the opportunity to be on a very short-lived TV show with a fellow female founder, and hearing her talk with her Harvard MBA made me realize I have so much more to learn. Immediately, I began pestering her with questions about all the things that I've always been too embarrassed to ask as someone who was the founder of her own company. I began to learn so much from her and I turned to her during the worst parts of my businesses cycles and also the best and she's always been someone that I could share with and it began to be symbiotic. I was able to help her when she needed it as well. It's okay to be vulnerable. There's been so much marketing in our society that it always has to be the, "I'm the best contest." But when you find those two people that you can confide in and learn from, those are going to be your most valuable assets, especially when the going gets tough. If you're not living in a major city and you feel like you're not sure where to turn to, COVID has given us lots of virtual communities. I'm sure you can seek out, buy the Better Business Bureau or your local community, other founders walking into their stores, if you have to and just striking up a conversation. There is no harm that can come from it. If at the end of the day, all you get is something from that store, then that's all you get. But I think reaching out and branching outside of your zone of expertise is always going to be valuable because the things I've learned about shipping, about logistics, about finance, about restructuring deals, all things I never would have even known had I not reached outside and beyond my comfort zone. Let's talk about mentorship. It is a highly used word in our society and I think it sets up people to fail miserably. Everyone wants to go to the busiest person, the CEO of Fortune 500 company and say, ''Can I ask you for some advice?'' One of the lessons I talk about in my book is ask for what you need. Don't ask for help. I want you to get laser specific on the exact issue you're facing so that if you do get to meet with the CEO of that Fortune 500 company, they can give you a really clear answer. Sometimes people come up to me and meet me and they go, ''How did you get started?'' My answer is not going to help them in any way whatsoever. It's such a vastly different landscape than it was when I got started. But if they ask me where they can get a factory, who's a good supplier, how did they get in front of an editor? Those are all questions that I can answer that will be remarkably helpful for someone just starting out. Let's talk about another word most often feel like is dirty and it's called networking. Here's what you don't want to do. I'm at my friend's birthday party and a gentleman comes up to me immediately opens the conversation about his health supplement, forces a sample off on me and ask me to try it in front of him and then asks for immediate feedback. That is the wrong thing to do and that would say that's what gives networking it's dirty name. This is what you should do. If you're going to be in any social scenario and assessing who you're meeting, be interested in the person genuinely. Ask what they do, ask what they like about their work, then I would say build on that relationship in a genuine way. What can you do for them? Then it's the easiest thing in the world to ask them for something. Many people will say, ''Well, I just started out, there's nothing that I could possibly give.'' But if you're here and you're watching, you've done something and there is something you can do for someone else. It might be hosting that person's kid for an internship. It might be making an introduction of someone they didn't know they needed to know. I think if you reframe your mindset of what you could do for them when you need something in return, that process will be much less cringy. Next time you think about networking, think about it as like-minded people connecting and helping each other, each with a give and a get. You've asked for someone for some advice and they've helped you, whether they were a good friend or an associate or a colleague or a perfect stranger, always send a thank you note. If someone does something big for you, send something really personal to them, send them flowers, a bottle of wine, whatever it is but always show your gratitude. It goes a long way. When hiring and building a team, I always like to take a look in the mirror and say, '''What I'm I the worst at?'' I knew I was weak in finance, in production, in graphic design, and I was also starting to spend so much time on sketching, designing my samples that I had little time for anything else. My first four hires were, you guessed it, production, a fractional CFO, someone to help me design everything, and someone to help with all the graphics that come with designing a website and sending out emails. That freed me enough to be creative, to be PR, and to oversee marketing, so rather than focus on someone who went to the right school, who got the right MBA, who went to the right kindergarten. For me after I had my hires of my weakest points, the next people that I hired were people who were like, "I don't know it but I'll show you I can do it." Early on in your career, you're not going to have a lot of money for salaries. When you find these people that can get stuff done and almost be an execution arm to what you're doing, are extraordinarily valuable. Once you begin to grow and you actually take on staff, then I like to go back and get specific with the high-ranking generals, as I call it, that can actually take and grow each area on their own. That's my methodology of how to grow your team. I would say that for me, it's a look in the eye. It's a firm handshake. It's someone that comes in and looks and acts and talks and walks like the brand. For instance, if you have a store, what should your salespeople look like? Should they look like the brand? Of course, they should. You want the customer to walk in and immediately see your salesperson and know, "I love how they dress, I love how they put that look together, that makes sense." You might be a little confused if you walked into what you thought was a Bohemian rock and roll to someone that was wearing a very conservative outfit that looked like they should be on Wall Street, then you have your brand values. We want all of our staff at Rebecca Mankoff or at Female Founder Collective to align and be excited about what you stand for as a brand. Because if you can get more people behind your mission, it only propels it more faster. Let's talk about money. Almost every founder I have come in contact with has this dream of getting an investment from a VC and becoming the billion dollar unicorn. But what many founders don't realize and why some of their hopes and dreams are completely squashed is, they were never meant to get venture capital. Venture capital is there to fuel high-growth, mostly technology-oriented brands that can replicate a service and grow almost like a hockey stick. Private equity exists in a very similar capacity but to companies that can grow and be sold, not necessarily technology-based. People have forgotten that businesses first and foremost, what they call Mainstreet, are businesses that are just supposed to exist on making a good profit and having a good EBITDA. If you don't know what that means, I highly advise you look it up. There's nothing wrong with a small, profitable business that provides for your lifestyle. When I say small, keep in mind, a small business in America is under $20 million. If you have a $20 million business, you should be jumping up and down. That is something to be incredibly excited about. If you have $100,000 business, that is incredible too, but you might not need the capital you think you need to grow. We need to get away from all the sexing, glossy marketing that we should all be billion dollar brands, that we should all be on our yachts and just focus on again, go back to your goal. What do you want to have in your life? If it is a small, profitable business that provides for your lifestyle and feeds the families of the people that you employ, that's great. You might not ever need to raise capital and if you do, there's things like friends and family. There's things like crowdfunding. There's your local bank, which are excited and eager to help small businesses. Then if you get into the big leagues and you have something that can have the hockey stick like growth or you have a technology that can be deployed, whether it's similar to an Uber, an Airbnb, speak to private equity but do not sell a majority of your company for almost nothing to now have new bosses that are going to tell you what to do and re-prioritize you for their eventual resale. Many years ago, we sold a piece of our company to private equity and everything was built around the idea of explosive growth and a resale value in seven years. What did we spend our time doing? Preparing for board meetings when we should've been focused on everything that was right for our customer, for our design, and for our brand. If they had had majority power, my company wouldn't be around because everything was so mis-prioritized. Be very careful when you enter into these relationships and be sure they are the right fit. There are also some ancillary benefits to some alternative forms of financing. Let's take crowdfunding for instance. There's a crowdfunding platform that a company used, not because they needed to raise money, but it was a way for them to get membership for a community they were launching. They got two things. They got marketing and exposure to a community of people. They got members and they raised money. Here's what I want you to do for this exercise. I want you to make a list of the people you know immediately that could help you with very specific advice. Then I want you to make a list of people that you don't know but you know, someone that knows them. I firmly believe in six degrees of separation. Then I want you to figure out what is the specific thing you need from that person. Before you do that, do your research. Have they set it on a podcast? Have they set it in a magazine or TV interview so that you might already get the answer to your question before you reach out to them. Lastly, I want you to make a list of the far reaches, the people that might never email you back but you know what? You got to try. Make sure that you've asked for exactly what you need, don't ask for help. [MUSIC] Go ahead and do that now. Next step we're going to talk about growing and scaling your brand. 7. Growing and Scaling: [MUSIC] Now that we've covered a lot of the tools that I use to succeed, let's look ahead to the future to prepare you for what you're going to inevitably encounter when you grow your brand. How do you know when you're successful? Early on, our goals were really simple. I had, and this is not turning out to be true, but we had a lender of our say, "If you just hit five million in sales, things will get easier and you'll be profitable as accompany." All I did that very moment was I went to the wall in my two room office and I painted a huge thermostat and I said, "Guys, all we have to do is hit the five million and life will be great." Guess what? I was really wrong. But what it did is it oriented myself and my very tiny team of three around the goal that we immediately wanted to achieve. Once we hit that goal and we quickly realized all was not easy. We were able to say, "All right, what is actually real? Let's get some other perspective and advice here about what we want as accompany and how we want to grow this." It became about getting more boutiques to order our products. Again, this was before e-commerce even was a word. Then it became about how many customers can we touch. As we grew, we kept adding and expanding to our goal. That's what I'd like you to think about as we proceed into this lesson. As your company grows or as society shifts and changes, you're going to have to constantly go back to your original goal and see if it needs to be augmented or change. I think a great example is the explosion of social media, and how rapidly it's shifted companies. The companies that didn't adopt that into their strategies, you never hear about anymore. Or even during a recession when we had to slash our prices by over 50 percent to stay alive, it clearly wasn't a strategy of ours, but in doing that and in pivoting at that time, we were able to grow 548 percent over the next three years during a recession. You cannot always know when the roadblock or the twister turn will come, revisiting your goal, augmenting it, or pivoting some time, is a must for you to stay in business. How do you know if you should pivot or change course? Are they liking your product? Is it selling at what you need it to sell at in order to make your goals financially and to be stable as accompany? I have met so many people who think they have the greatest product in the world that no one needs. You really have to make sure that before you start anything there is a customer for what you are providing, and there is a desire for what you are making. When you have that you will find a customer, and then if you don't see traction right away, you might have to pivot. There are so many great examples of huge companies that have had to pivot. Whether it was Instagram or Airbnb, even how now car companies are pivoting to battery powered cars. Pivoting is not always easy and the emotional toll that can take on you can sometimes be really hard. Let's go back to the idea I gave you in earlier lessons about ratios. Whenever I think I have a product that's awesome and perfect and everyone should have, I ask myself, how many times did I talk about it? How many emails did we send about it? How many times was it on the front of our homepage? Did I talk about it in a magazine? Did I do an extra shoot? If I've tried all that and no one wants that bag, I've got to be resigned to the fact that I gave it as much output as I can, and guess what? They didn't want the **** bag. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize that what you're offering or selling someone might not want. But I would be sure to explore and exhaust every avenue to make sure that it wasn't just that you were talking to the wrong demographic, you were talking to your customer at 8:00 PM when she's ready to talk to you at 8:00 AM, all those things can be factors that actually hurt your product. Then when you pivot, I wouldn't do anything unless you've surveyed it. You can ask people almost anything because everyone wants to give you an opinion. Go to your ideal customer, meet her on the street, talk to her in social media and ask her, what does she need and want from you and how can you provide that service? It might be completely unexpected. We launched these Janine Sweatshirts during the pandemic because it was cold. But really what did it do? It served a woman on Zoom, and she was able to collect them all. Then we started selling jewelry when we weren't a jewelry company because she wanted things that she could change out easily from the waist up. We immediately identified a need and pivoted to things that we could service because she wasn't going outside her house, and didn't need the bag during that time. Then when things started opening up again, we poured the coals on our handbag business. Sometimes these pivots can be short-term or long-term, and it's really important to understand the difference and when to pull that lever. Let's talk about creative blocks. If you're a creator like me, having all this data always, thinking about your customer, reviewing the numbers can suck the life out of you creatively 100 percent. A couple of things I do to revive myself is I take away any and all devices and I go for a walk. I see nature or I see the beautiful buildings in New York City, and I'm able to clear my head. Or I'll go disconnect from work completely and do something that inspires me. See a music show, go to a movie, catch a concert. I think anything I can do to get out of the headspace of business and numbers and ratios and goals and into the things that for me breed my creative juices. I would make sure that that time you take it's not selfish, it's not not working, it's what you need as a creative to refuel yourself so you can come back to work and keep being creative and keep showing up with the great ideas that are going to transform your brand. This brings me to the topic of burnout. So many creatives or founders or anyone frankly, can be experiencing burnout. I talk about this in my book that no scented candle in the world or any face masks or massage is actually going to cure your burnout. I keep always going back to the example, when I first started out, I was working nights, weekends. I had no money, I had no friends, all I did was work and I was excited and elated by my life. My work was what was giving the energy to continue. The word burnout didn't even occur to me. It's only when I began to work with a toxic individual at the workplace or work within a toxic environment, for me personally that I began to experience burnout. I always talk about self-reflection. What is happening? Is there a toxic person you work with? Is it a toxic work environment or culture? How do you begin to change that? While these changes won't take place immediately, you identifying the source of this will be the thing that makes you excited again. Let's talk about creative blocks. We're going to take the words if and then. This is our contingency plan. If I experience creative blocks. You just can't move, you don't know what the next design is, you don't know how to finish the paragraph of your book, whatever it is. First, I want you to ask yourself what energizes or fuels you? Could be exercise, could be taking a walk. Social media is not allowed, nor is this part of the exercise, so you need to do things. You got to see a concert, go to museum, get a massage. Anything to disconnect from what you're blocked on and take your attention off it, go do something else, I guarantee you're going to come back more refreshed, more excited, and probably having that aha moment. That's creative blocks. Let's say you're burnt out. If you're burnt out, then what I want you to do is self reflect. Who's around you? Take a deep look at everyone you work with, is there someone that works for you, that is helping you with your business or is in some area of your life, literally sucking your life energy out of you? If you find that person, eliminate them and bam, you might feel like you have the headspace to be excited and creative, and want to go back to an environment. I would also say if you're burned out, if it's not about self-reflection or a toxic person in your workplace, what do you spending your time doing, that isn't actually what you should be doing. There have been many times where my role as a founder and as a creative was spent preparing for a board meeting or looking at spreadsheets, and that's when I felt the most burnt out. How do I retroactively refit as a founder and get back into the areas that I'm most creative? How do I reshape my week so that the beginning of the week when I have the most energy, I do everything creative, and the end of my week is that things that are hardest for me to focus on are the tasks I feel like I'm the worst at? You have a couple of tools in your tool belt. If you have creative blocks, figure out what fuels you. If you're burnt out, who's in your toxic environment, where do you need to re-prioritize and spend your time and how do you build back for that? Go back to your goals and put it there and make it part of your daily activity to take steps to get there, you will change this habit and the burn out will subside. Now it's your turn. Try this, you might even want to add to your list. You might want to take a look at what all your fears are and the things that will help you feel more brave and taking those risks. I encourage you to go beyond this and expand as much as you need in order for you to have a really safe contingency plan if you run into any of these troubles. There's always going to be something that happens in your business that you can't plan for. The best advice I can give you is sometimes success is purely based on being able to keep going, getting backup, and putting one foot in front of the other and facing the issue head-on versus running from it, or crawling under a desk or hiding in your bed. Get back up, face the problem head-on and be prepared to be flexible, pivot and keep going. [MUSIC] 8. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] You made it through the course, congratulations. We've talked about so much, whether it's your brand value, what you stand for, what your brand should look and feel like, to contingency plans. My wish for you is that you keep going in the face of adversity, in the face of hardship. Just know that it's not about it being the bumpy road, it is the road. If you can keep going and keep your eye on the goal, and take it there step-by-step, I promise you, you will look back and be an awe of what you accomplished. I'm excited to see everything you're going to do. Share your exercises, post them in the project gallery, send them to me on Instagram. I can't wait to see how you're utilizing everything I've talked to you about today. Thank you again, and I hope to see your thriving businesses everywhere. [MUSIC]