Creating a Business That Frees People: Pacha Soap

Episode 18 with Andrew & Abi Vrbas

Andrew and Abi Vrbas are cofounders of Pacha Soap Co., a social business that creates delightful bath goods that do good. Together, their company and its customers are putting the solution in the hands of those most affected by WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) issues and the cycle of poverty. Give-away bar soaps are made in the very communities that they help, using local ingredients and local talent. Nationals are trained to manually drill clean water wells, creating jobs for those in-country and providing much-needed clean water to hundreds of people per well.

Andrew is CEO and passionately drives the mission and vision of the company. Abi is Pacha’s former head designer and marketing/brand manager. Together, they take on the co-founder role to help spread the mission and build relationships with customers, retail partners and mission partners. In their free time they like to rollerblade and bike ride to the local snow cone shop, fix up their 1890 home, and watch The Office together.

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Transcript

Hey, hey!  It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.  Today, I’m excited to share with you Abi and Andrew Vrbas who are the owners and cofounders of Pacha Soap out of Hastings, Nebraska.  They have quite a story.  This is a business with a purpose.  And so Abi is with us right now and Andrew is going to jump on in a little while.

Andrea:  So Abi, it’s so good to have you here on the Voice of Influence podcast.

Abi:  Thank you so much, Andrea, it’s an honor to be asked and have this conversation with you.

Andrea:  Now, Abi, you and I met when you were back in college at Hastings College and we lived there and I remember having a couple of conversations in particular with you.  So it’s been really fun for me to watch you and Andrew from afar and see this company go from zero to hero, truthfully in a few years.  And so I would love for you to share with the person listening what exactly is Pacha Soap?  What do you do?

Abi:  Well, in a nugget, we create engaging bath products that change the world.  So we create organic handcrafted bar soaps.  We have froth bombs which are similar to a bath bomb that you use on your tub and it fizzes but it also creates a nice frothy latte like foam in your bath.  We have some other Willy Wonka just really fun, engaging, and delightful products that we’ll be launching later this year.  So our products are super fun and super clean ingredients.

We use organic ingredients, well-sourced ingredients, and we have a lot of fun with what we do.  And then the part that changes the world is we have a mission to help with the WASH sector which is (water, sanitation, and hygiene).  So that’s a part of our mission, but really the root of our why for our company is we believe that business can free people.  So what we do is we help to create opportunities for people in developing countries through soap making and clean water well drilling.

So like I said, we’re helping with the WASH sector, but really it’s a vehicle which we can help others help themselves.  So water sanitation and hygiene is a huge issue in developing countries and the best way to help people with those issues is to allow them to be the heroes in their own countries.  Through the sale of our products, we’re able to help startup small scale soap shops in places like Burundi, Africa and hopefully some other places in Africa soon.

And we have a heart for South America as well, wherever the partnership leads us and then also providing jobs for clean water well drillers.  So these are well drillers who are natives in the country.  The team that we help start is called Intwari Drillers, which means brave drillers.  Yeah, they are local Africans who are helping other Africans have access to clean water.  So soap and our mission with the WASH sector is the vehicle in which we’re able to further our mission of helping others help themselves.

Andrea:  Wow that’s amazing! So how did you guys get going?  What’s the origin story of Pacha Soap?

Abi:  Yes, so Andrew was in Peru, South America in 2010 for a semester, he was going to Hastings College at the time and wanted to study abroad.  And during this time there in Peru, or I should say, he was a construction management and Spanish major obviously very helpful in starting a soap company.

Andrea:  Really?  That’s awesome!

Abi:  Yeah, so he was down there in Peru to further his Spanish and also he was volunteering with some construction projects.  But what really transformed him in his thought process was, he’s this Kansas boy, who you know hardly get any rain fall where we are but he goes down to Peru and then they get the worst flooding that they never got in like a hundred years or something.  So Kansas boy brought the rain with them to Peru.

Anyway, it was really terrible flooding and it closed off the train that went into Machu Piccu, which is the biggest tourists destination in Peru.  He just saw how fragile the economic system is in Peru that it was very dependent on Americans and Europeans and without things like Machu Piccu and other touristy places, their economy was just super fragile.

So he had this idea of starting a company that would employ local people for the local good, so it wasn’t again, not depending on other people for economic stability but being able to provide that within itself.  So then he was thinking and it sounds like it’s from a movie, but he was riding on a bus on his way to work.  There was a couple of hours bus ride to where he works for the day.  He was on this bus and he was reading a certain book at this time and was just really influenced by the philosophy and thoughts behind it and just thought “Oh, I could create a business that does good.”

And he said like there were tons of people on this bus, really hot and sweaty, there’s no air conditioning on it, bumpy road and he just gone through Peru and he got to this place that he’s going to be working for the day and just had this light bulb moment that he went into and create a business that could free people so then he got to thinking like how he could do that and soap was the vehicle in which he could do that.

So the great thing about soap is the ingredients are found in many places where there’s extreme poverty.  So things like palm oil and coconut oil and then even plants that can be distilled into essential oils are found in a lot of the places where there’s extreme poverty and then soap making also is a very simple process.  It’s been made for thousands of years.

You don’t need special equipment or lots of education in order to do it.  It doesn’t take any electricity or lot of funding to start a soap shop.  So he was thinking that soap would be a great way to bring jobs to people and country without saying “Okay, you need all these equipments to do it – very, very simple so that is the answer to why soap?

Andrea:  Did the soap thing just kind of come to him as well or did he did some research, do you know that?

Abi:  His very, very first thought was tea but then got to thinking of all the complexities of like bringing in tea to another country and then his very next thought was soap.  He has always been interested in fragrances.  And actually, he is able to join now so here he is.  This is Andrea of the Voice of Influence.

Andrew:  Hi, Andrea!

Andrea:  Hi there Andrew!  It’s good to have you.

Andrew:  Yeah, thanks for having us.

Andrea:  I was just asking Abi about your origin story for Pacha Soap and she kind of took us through the ‘why’ of soap.  But maybe you could share with us how you moved from your idea to actually turning it into a business, would you mind just jumping in like that?

Andrew:  Yeah.  Well, I think you kind of answered it in your question.  I’m just jumping in because, you know, there’s obviously people just talk about how difficult to start a business but I think, especially when you’re younger and you’re passionate about an idea that could change the way things are done, you just jump in and figure things out.

So we started really small scale with just Abi and myself just dreaming what the future could be, so just experimenting and learning and busying with people and spreading our idea around and I guess you just quickly learn how to do what you need to do, I guess.  So yeah, the specific recipe for us was definitely just jumping in and being passionate about what we’re doing and loving to create, yeah I guess that’s it.

Andrea:  Yeah.  The youthful naïvite was certainly playing in your favor.  I mean, why not just jump in and go for it.  It seems like the older people get the harder it is for us to start things.

Andrew:  Yeah, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know and ignorance is bliss and all those things that you don’t know how to do, so you just kind of do it.  And I think the more that we can keep that as a part of our mentality sometimes, it’d be better off to be and so yeah.

Andrea:  I remember seeing pictures of you guys selling at Farmers Market or things like that, is that where you kind of started out?

Andrew:  Yeah that’s exactly right.  One of our most favorite memories from when we first started was when we’re in the garage in the house that I used to live in where the first soap shop was, we’re just preparing for Farmers Market for the next day and it was like the first time we ever sell our product and telling our story.  And it was just funny to think that that was while we’re both in college and it was so much fun.  I remember at the end of the night, we just ended up just dancing the music, so it was fun.

Andrea:  Oh that’s so fun.  We’re you guys dating at the time or what was your situation together?

Andrew:  Yeah, we were dating at that time but we didn’t start out dating.  We’re friends initially in school and started dating while we’re still in school.  I think it was like our interests were aligned and both loving to create things, be creative, and be innovative.  And we’re still learning about each other and we feel like we have each other peg down but then we’re learning something new about each other.  It seems like every day, like yesterday, we learned something that we both share similar traits and we always thought that we’re innovative but really like in taking that test that you sent over especially was kind of interesting to see how closely we did align.

Andrea:  Yeah, yeah.  Now, he’s talking about the Fascinate Assessment that I invite guest to take if their interested.  They both took it and they both came out with innovation on their top #2.  So yeah, that was really, really fun to see that I could see how that just really makes it easy even for you guys to take risks probably.

Abi:  Yeah, and it makes it a lot of fun to create together because like I was saying with our products, it’s really fun to innovate and think outside the box.  But also it’s our mission to think forward and have innovative ideas with our mission, it’s also super fun.  So we can kind feed off with each other in that way and I think that’s what kind of hold us move forward and starting a business is that you just don’t get down when you think about “Okay, we hit a roadblock.”  It doesn’t mean no, it means no for that but there’s another way around that.  You can make it work.

Andrea:  Yeah you can work around it.

Abi:  Yeah, exactly.  You got to figure it out someway and having a partner on obviously helps a lot.  It helps to be together because if you had to do that by yourself, I can see how terribly difficult that would be to approach those roadblocks with confidence.

Andrea:  For context, did you guys start the business, graduate, get married that sort of thing?

Andrew:  Well, it’s funny like when we actually first started the business, we used several start dates but really the idea came in 2010 but we officially started beyond just like Farmers Market and really got serious and hired our first employee in 2012 it would have been, but we used kind of like 2013 as our first or like our official starting of our company.  We got married actually in 2013 as well.  We bought our first house in 2013 so that was a big year.

Andrea:  I was reading in your website today too, was it 2013 that you guys got into Whole Foods?

Abi:  Yeah, it was.

Andrea:  That’s just huge first of all but it’s also just really so much has happened so quickly.  Even though I’m sure it felt like a long time from 2010 to 1013 that happened pretty quickly.  Did it feel like it took forever or were you feeling like it was clip in along at a pretty good pace?

Andrew:  Oh man, I guess both of us like we’ve lived a lot of life being 27 and 26, so it doesn’t seem like it was really quick.  But you know from the outside when people talk to us, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago but for us, sometimes like we show like we’re on our 50’s.

Andrea:  Old souls.

Abi:  Yeah, like the day-to-day maybe seems like a little slower, you aren’t moving so fast.  But then when you look at it as a whole, when you look back it does go pretty quickly.  I don’t want to take things for granted because you know we were really blessed to be doing as well as we’re doing.  So I don’t want to take that for granted because I know it is just really difficult to start things and put yourself out there and be vulnerable in that way.  So yeah, it does seem like it has happened pretty quickly but it’s definitely not all because we have an awesome team like both here in Hastings working with Pacha and also in the field working in commenting our mission.  It is way beyond Andrew and me.  We cannot be where we are without our team.

Andrea:  I have so many questions written down and floating in my head because you’ve got a really substantial thing going and there’s so many things I think that we could cover.  So one of the first questions that I want to ask at this point is how many employees do you have in Hastings?  What’s the team look like in Hastings?

Andrew:  We’re like around 40 people.

Andrea:  That’s crazy!  No, that’s wonderful.  It’s so great.  I mean, that’s a lot of employees.  That’s a big team.

Andrew:  Yeah.  It is.  We’re so blessed to have the team that we have.  They make the culture what it is and it’s just so much fun to work with the team that you respect and love to work with every day.

Andrea:  How did you manage going from just the two of you to starting to add people into your team who I assumed for the most part older than you as well.  Is that true?

Andrew:  Yeah, we’re some of the younger ones for sure especially in leadership.  I think the main thing when you’re looking to grow or bring people on is making sure that your core values are set and that your hiring based on those core values.  You’re living everything through this core values and so that’s something that we learned along the way just recognizing how important that is and making sure that everybody is onboard with those core values.

Andrea:  Do you feel like your core values were pretty set when you started or did they really develop as you kept going and growing?

Abi:  Yeah, I think like the fundamental purpose of our company has remained the same.  It’s just kind fine tuning how that’s played out on a day-to-day like how you write those core values out.  So I would say like nothing has drastically changed from when we first started but you know, it’s fine tuning it.  And one of the greatest things that we got to do with defining our core values is looking at all around and saying “Yeah, I really like about this person.  I really like that about this person.”  And then integrating those things that we are inspired by our team members and using those as guidelines in which we created our core values, so using our actual team as our guide for creating those core values or fine tuning those core values.

Andrea:  That’s really cool.  So you took a look at who was here and how they’re functioning and what you really appreciated about them and said “Okay, yes that’s something we wanna keep.”

Abi:  Yeah, exactly!

Andrea:  Wow!  There’s a lot of wisdom in that.  I wonder if you being younger when you got started might have had an impact on the way that you respected the people that were working with and for you.

Andrew:  Yeah that probably is true because we had a lot to learn.  I feel like when you’re not as full of what you already know and you’re more just like trying to learn and maybe it’s just more of a humble way of being a leader because you’re forced to be humble.  You don’t really know a lot and I think that’s something that every human probably struggles with and we all will struggle with to remain humble and have a learning attitude and learning mind all your life.  And that’s a hard thing I think probably for all of us because we get to a place where you know we feel like we know what we’re doing.

Truth is like there’s not one person that knows and has all the answers as much as our cultures kind of push towards and are looking towards that you know like “I wanna find the answer.  Just tell me the answer.”  Although, there’s lots of answers in solving everyday problems especially when you’re growing a business like there’s not one person that can tell you every move you make to grow that business.  Yeah, that’s probably a good point.  I never had really followed with that.

Andrea:  Well, I want to qualify my statement by saying that not every person who’s younger would have had that attitude though.  So while it may have helped in some ways you’re willing to learn like you said, it’s a quality that we should all be striving for life, for willing to learn from other people.  I love the respect that you guys have for your team and for the people of the world that you’re trying to serve and I think that that respect comes somewhat from that humbleness too.  I don’t know, it’s just seems really grounded.

Andrew:  Well, sometimes.

Andrea:  OK that’s good.  I love that.  Let’s keep it real, right?  So you also have the partnerships carrying out your mission.  So what are those relationships like with the people around the world, what do you mean by a partnership that’s helping you carry out a mission in Africa for instance.

Andrew:  Yeah, so like in East Africa, we have a couple partners that we work with both on the soap side and in the water side.  Those partnerships start with organization here in the US that we work with and then the mission enacted in the developing world and namely in East Africa, we work in Burundi.  But we also work in other countries through water nonprofit that we partnered with waterfall.org.  So yeah, we break our mission down into two basically like two ways of impact and there’s presale impact and post sale impact.

So presale is like before any product is ever purchased, how is our company having an impact.  And then post sale, once the sale is made then how’s our company having an impact to our customers having an impact with their purchase after the sale was made.  Largely, in East Africa, where folks come is after the sale of our products, we are helping to start businesses in both soap production and clean water well drilling.

And so it’s essentially soap and water – two very critical elements for development and for health sanitation and hygiene but it’s done in a way that is actually creating, self-sustaining enterprise.  That’s the piece of it that is really, I would say, it’s not necessarily the most important element because saving people’s lives with clean water like people have access of clean water obviously that has a huge impact.  If people are able to wash their hands and children namely in schools; you can see that that would a huge impact.

But I guess the reason why I mentioned the aspect of our mission to be considered really important and maybe most important is that the people themselves are able to provide the answers for themselves and we’re just the catalyst somewhat of an injection and not an IV you know.  And truly that business through clean water and business through soap production is the way that people are employed and that their business are able to flourish and grow on their own overtime, whereas, we just act as catalysts.  Anyway, that’s kind of how we partner right now and I guess it all comes back to our why in our purpose for being which is that business can free people.

So we look at a lot of issues that are related to poverty, the way we can help with extreme poverty that people are able to have their own economic freedom or economic independence because these people are able to provide for themselves then issues can overtime be diminished.  Like the people can afford to pay for education.  If they can afford to buy soap, if they can afford to buy clean water, you know lots of issues can be reduced overtime if people are able to escape poverty.   And really the only way that’s done in there in a long term basis is if they’re able to opportunities to do it themselves through business, through the Wealth Creation process.  So anything we do comes back to the fact that business can free people.

Andrea:  It sounds like when someone is talking about social justice, there’s one-on-one charity kind of like “Let me help you with this thing.”  Or there’s the systemic change that happens and it sounds like what you’re talking about is wanting to provide not only that bar soap to save somebody’s life but the systemic change by giving them that opportunity to be empowered to have their own income and everything that’s really, really exciting.

Andrew:  Yeah, they’re both okay you know.  Sometimes, there are people who maybe would be really staunch and say “No,” like there’s no place to give anything because you’re creating dependence.  I understand that because I’ve seen it, we all have it.  We’ve travelled in the developing world and that’s not good.  That is not empowering.  But at the same time, sometimes I want to say like “You know there is a place to give things and that’s okay.”  It just has to be very limited and it has to be in a way that is not creating habit-forming dependence.  It’s something that it can be done in a good way and it’s not like always a bad thing to help.

And we see it firsthand with like the World Food Program for instance like children coming to school and for some of them that could be their only meal that day.  So in that way, children are able to receive education and come to school because they are being subsidized a free lunch.  I would say that’s not a bad thing.  Obviously, the better thing would be how can we have, you know that food is coming from the outside, how can more acres be converted into small farms for the parents that overtime maybe our food can be purchase locally like obviously that would be better.  It’s process and a transition so there’s a place and time.  We definitely like to focus on both of those things but if it’s not creating self-sustaining jobs then it’s probably not a long-term solution and could be creating more harm than good, maybe.

Andrea:  Interesting.  So what is exactly is your role as Pacha Soap, what is Pacha Soap’s role in Africa?  What do you actually provide?  Are you providing the funds?  Are you providing the training?  What all are you providing?

Andrew:  Well, we provide funds so we kind of act you could say as an initial customer for well drilling team, for soap shops, say help to set up soap shops.  We provide some advice in how to do that but then we’ll be that initial customer so we’ll buy soaps from those teams initially and that soap is then given to schools in the surrounding area for children for hand washing.  All the while, those teams are growing their own sales with different soap products so that overtime, those giveaway bars could be transferred to another soap shop that could be set up and the process can start over as established team sales increase.  So that’s the goal and same with clean water.  So Pacha as a company funds those operations and it’s essentially the first customer through subsidizing bars of soap and clean water wells that overtime will leave in a established teams that can sell products on their own and be self-sustaining.

Andrea:  It seems like there’s so many different plates spinning, how do you guys manage your time?  What percentage of time are you working on soap and sales and stuff overseas, and your mission, your message?  How do you guys decide what your roles are and how to divide up your time?

Andrew:  We go by the system called Traction.  It’s a book and it’s really been helpful process with our time up, but honestly, I think that the main thing that helped us is having an awesome team.  We can’t really stress out enough because as much as somebody might say they’re so awesome like it’s a team to do anything.  So I think the real answer to that is the fact that we just have a team that handles so many things and does it so well and has extreme ownership over of what they do and so that’s probably it.

Abi:  Yeah, it’s hard to balance your time because you want to do everything but you know, you can’t do everything and that they’re actually people who can do that thing better than you.  So knowing what to let go and what to still maintain for yourself is a hard thing to kind of figure that out.  But like Andrew said it’s just the team that we have that it’s a well-oiled machine.  There’s always new things to try and things that we’re currently doing that could be better or different but we just have such a great team that’s willing to jump in there and may use the word ‘scrappy’ a lot.  We’re just part of that sort of mentality and we never want to lose that no matter how big our company gets or how many years its life is, just having that scrappy mentality of saying “It’s just a road blocks” but yes we can get pass those barriers and do that together.

Andrea:  So as cofounders then since you guys started and everything, I would imagine that quite a few people that are listening to this podcast or people that are dreaming about starting something or they feel like they want to live a purpose-driven life.  They want to feel like their message is a part of what they do.  So I’m kind of curious about how you guys work together as a couple?  Was it hard when you first got certain and kind of got going to figure out who was in charge of what or was that pretty clear from the get-go or did you have any road bumps?

Andrew:  I think we worked pretty seriously like at the beginning and on.  I think as we grow and things got more complex in some ways that was a little bit more challenging because you had more people to the equation then you have to split up tasks way more.  So there’s always some more roadblocks or road bumps there but I think it’s just a constant learning thing.

Abi:  Yeah, it is hard as life partners and business partners finding the balance between how you spend your time.  When you’re at home, it’s impossible to not talk about work because you’re passionate about it and it’s a big part of your life.  And then at work, it’s hard not to talk about your personal life because it’s your life so there’s that overlapping.  We really tried to keep those two things as separate as possible because it’s too different mind frames.

When we first started out like that things showed we’re both innovative, so I think that was really good to help kick-start something new.  But individually, I graduated with a degree in advertising and public relation so kind of marketing and had some experience with graphic design.  So from my tactical standpoint, I was able to help with the marketing side of things and help create the graphics and different visual elements.

And as we progressed, I started understanding what it means to build a brand which that’s a monster in and of itself so that’s kind of like where I had my focus.  And Andrew had such a passion for the vision of the company and just always reaching for how can our mission be better and just dreaming of those ways in which it can happen.  It’s cool to be able to look at each other’s strengths and appreciate how each of those strengths helped build the company.

Currently, I have stepped out of my marketing role and I’ve taken on more of just a cofounder role and that has been a big transition for Andrew and me personally.  It’s just the decision that we made together that we’re both just thriving so hard in the day-to-day in the company so it was easier to continue that.  If someone is in the boat and the other one is drowning, it’s a lot easier than both of you drowning together.  So yeah, it’s a partnership and it’s give and take and it’s having grace for one another and don’t know within the next few years are going to look like so just being willing to hold life with open hands is really important.

Andrea:  You know that’s funny because I was going to ask you what’s in the future for Pacha Soap?  Do you have a vision for the next few years or is it something that you are truly just going day-by-day or what’s that like for you guys?

Andrew:  We have lots of visions of what it could look like but the main thing is how can our mission be amplified, so how can we framework people?  How can that be the heart of every decision we make?  So whether it’s new products that we launch or new categories that we’re in and new channels of trade like the way in which we’re bringing products to people, it will all lead back to how our mission can be amplified and how people can be a big part of that.

I guess it’s not really a specific vision but that’s such kind of the way it’s looking.  A lot of ideas of how to get there but it will definitely just take time and the right people who are also believing in the overall mission and message that care about, not only a business doing well and having an awesome product that people love, but also caring about what that product represents.

Andrea:  Yeah.  So when you look to make those decisions, do you knock on doors and just see which one opens or how do you know what next step that you’re going to take in the moment?

Andrew:  Usually that, yeah.  Usually just researching things and trying things out, asking a lot of questions, and talking to people you know that’s kind of how and like big decisions are met is trying some things out and asking a lot of questions before we move on something.

Andrea:  What advice do you have for someone who is kind of in that dream stage where maybe they feel like there’s something on their heart or maybe they’re in that position where Andrew you were on that bus thinking “There’s got to be a way to help.  There’s going to be something that I can do.”  Do you have any parting words of wisdom for these influencers who are listening?

Andrew:  Yeah, I think just have fun.  Ultimately, it’s just got to be something that you like.  It’s not every element you’re not going to like and that’s maybe why a lot of business fails because there are these things in starting a business that aren’t as much fun.  But if overall what you are passionate about or what you’re doing you like it too, you like the people you’re with; I think that’s the biggest piece is of just being real to yourself about what you like or what you love to do.  I think it’s also about why you’re doing it, so just asking yourself these questions.

It’s different for every person but the advice for somebody like myself is just to try it out.  There’s nothing stopping anyone from really accomplishing whatever they want to accomplish but you just have to be willing to stick with it and push forward.  And I would say the other biggest piece is don’t be afraid to learn along the way.

I don’t feel like you have to figure it out all in its entirety right away because you probably won’t and your idea might shift for the better.  Your initial vision might be one thing but maybe you’ll figure out a way that could be even enhanced and just don’t be afraid to learn.  That’s probably the biggest piece that prevents people, they feel like they need to have it all figured out right away.  But you can figure it out as you go along, as you’re able to learn all the way.

Andrea:  That’s a great point.  Abi, do you have anything you want to add to that?

Abi:  If you’re going into business with your life partner, just try to communicate and have grace with one another.  If you’re doing it on your own, look for people to support you through it and be vulnerable with them and don’t lose heart.

Andrea:  Well, this has been a very short 45 minutes but I am so thrilled that I could share you with my audience that we could learn more about what it meant for you guys to start something.  And you’ve taken it so far and I know that it’s just going to keep skyrocketing because just the humility that you bring to it and the willingness to take risks to listen like you mentioned and to not lose heart like you mentioned, and to communicate like you mentioned are so important.  And so cheering you on from over here and looking forward to seeing what Pacha Soap does to change the world in the future.  Thank you so much for your voice of influence in the world!

Andrew:  Yes, thank you for having us!

Abi:  Thank you so much Andrea!

 

DOWNLOAD Develop Your Voice of Influence, Volume 1 here.

Embracing Social Media for Your Multi-Passionate Voice

Episode 17 with Tammy Cannon of Cannon Social Media

Tammy Cannon is a social media marketer and staff writer for Social Media Examiner. She helps busy creative professionals leverage Facebook Ads, Pinterest, Instagram and SEO for more traffic, more sales, and more time to do what they love.

Mentioned in this episode:

 

FOR YOU!

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Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast.   Today, I have Tammy Cannon with me of Cannon Social Media. And Tammy is somebody that I’ve known for a few months. I’ve been paying attention to her, watching what she’s doing with her social media Facebook if I’m inside of that and learning more from Tammy. She has helped me some with my own Facebook ads and things that just consulting along the lines of Facebook and social media. She’s also really creative and deep, so I’m really thrilled to be introducing you to Tammy Cannon.

Andrea: Tammy, it’s great to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast!

Tammy Cannon: Thank you, Andrea what a really nice intro. I appreciate that. It’s been fun getting to know you better as well and I’m just happy to talk with you today.

Andrea: Well, Tammy you have more than one business or brand, so I would love for you to explain to us just a little bit or maybe give us a summary of what you do.

Tammy Cannon: Yes, it’s kind of funny, I’ve been calling myself a multi-passionate-preneur (MPP), you know a lot of us that have businesses and maybe yourself have a lot other interests as well. And so for the past five years, I have been managing social media for businesses in my community here in Seattle and it got to be so hectic and stressful because social media takes up a lot of time. And so when you’ve got 10 or 20 customers at a time, and all of my clients were on a monthly kind of like consulting schedule, and so that’s a lot of work for one person. I never really contracted out. I never hired anybody. I didn’t want be an employer, so how to make a decision on what I wanted to do?

So two years ago now already, I can’t believe it, I made a decision to stop managing and just create online courses for people that I was managing for. I wanted them to have skills to go on and manage their own and so it worked out really well. So now, I create online course, teaching social media to the creative professionals that I kind of ended up working with, so that’s kind of where I’m at now.

Now my creative side…if you have other interest, it’s really hard to keep them under wraps. And so now that I know kind of more about the online world, it’s like “Oh you can really do so much with your hobbies as well.” And so now that I have system and strategy for Cannon Social Media, I’m applying that to some of my creative stuff that I love to do.

So I’m doing printables for social media, for professionals that they can do on Etsy and download just templates and all kinds of different things. And I also have a creative market shop for style stock photos because that was a need in my industry as well, finding images and people just struggling to figure out “Oh no, what am I gonna post today,” and struggling to find an image for something and so now, I’ve got a style stock membership you can go in, it’s all themed.

So if you are a social media manager yourself, you could go in and say, “Oh I have a garden clients,” and you could click on the gardening bundle and download images for Royalty-free for your clients. It was a need that I was like “Oh, I love photography and taking pictures so I can actually do this and serve my community as well.” So that’s what I’m doing now.

Andrea: What kind of need is there at this point in time for people that are doing what you were doing before you started this two years ago, so that the managing of the social media, what do you see is the need there? Is that something worth going into?

Tammy Cannon: Oh my goodness! It’s a huge need for sure because with the clients that I had, had a lot of small businesses but they were like restaurants and you know, multimillion dollar businesses but they were run by the owner who’s at work every day, you know, managing and doing things. They just don’t have time to promote their businesses on social medial because it can take 20 minutes to craft a really thoughtful Instagram post.

Andrea: Yeah, don’t I know it?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, you got to research the hashtags, you got to get the just images right. You need to figure out what you want people to do if they click to read your comments, the call-to-action all that stuff. And a lot of business owners just don’t have that strategy to know what to do. So it’s very scattered and very fragmented, it’s not a branded Instagram feed and so there really is a need for professionals to go in and clean things up and make everything _____ consistent.

Andrea: I’m usually waiting till the end to ask people more about their offering and things, but this just really comes to mind. It makes me wonder if some of the courses that you offer, the classes and things like that would be really good for small business owners to have somebody in there company even to do or to take and learn how to do social media part of the time that they’re at work.

Tammy Cannon: I know and that’s one of the courses that I’m thinking about for 2018 is a course for social media managers because there is a lot to learn. But if people want to jump into the free resources that I have and just kind of dig around; I have a lot of things like profitability calculators for Facebook ads if people are managing ads for businesses. I’ve got an ideal client worksheets and all kinds of stuff in there that I think people could get some value for. And easiest way to access that is to text the number 44222 with the phrase all one word freeresource and they’ll just get right in.

Andrea: So what exactly got you going into social media marketing in the first place? What other kinds of things have you done in the past? I remember that you had a food blog in the past.

Tammy Cannon: Oh yes! I feel like it’s been so long. So way, way back I graduated from Washington State University with a marketing degree. So I’ve always been sort of in that realm, you know, sales and marketing and traveling around the globe. So when social media came out, this new kind of marketing and this just obviously intriguing to me as just like that next step that you are learning in school and college at the time.

So I just kind of immersed myself in Twitter. That was my very first kind of…well, I did have a Facebook page, a Facebook personal profile, you know, everybody was doing anything much with that at the time. But then Twitter was really coming on strong and I just love the access, how easy it was to use, how quick it was, how clever you had to be because you only had 140 characters at the time. So I actually jumped on there and at the same time I was taking pictures and doing some food photography and decided I would I start a blog.

So I did that in 2010 and what I found was a really neat community in the Seattle area of food bloggers. It’s too tight-knit down there and I’m about 30 minutes north of Seattle but it was just such a cool time to meet all these people. Well, after a white, a few of us decided to meet in person and back then, it was called tweetup, meetup and so we actually meet…the person I was talking with, we met at her house and then I think it ended up being like 10 of us. And we laugh about it now because it was such a new thing. I’m like “Oh my gosh, I’m gonna go and meet these people in person. This is gonna be so crazy.”

It ended up being so neat and I’m still friends with these people now. It’s such a neat thing. And so what I decided to do after food blogging was in my community, I live in a small town called Snohomish, Washington and it’s the Antique Capital of Northwest and we have a lot of boutiques, a lot of little restaurants sits along the river. It’s such a clean little small town USA place.

And one day, I was walking and noticed that one of the stores in my community had closed. And then I thought, “Oh my goodness, I wonder if I could help businesses in my community use social media,” not that I was going to save the business but it was like I just put them into together and I thought, “I wonder if I can do this for small businesses and be of value.” And so I just kind of stepped out into my community and at that time, there was an organization called the 360Projects. I think it was called 360 or something like that.

Basically, you go and you pick three bricks and mortar shops in your town and you spend like 50 bucks a month at each place and that would help support them. If everybody did that, that would ensure your small business community stayed healthy, the taxes stayed in your community and all that and it just really resonated with me. So there was an event and the founder of that organization came to speak to the community and I happen to be there and so did the executive director for economics in our city.

And I just so happen to start talking to her and she said “We need to start blogging as a city,” and that was my first customer. So it was just how it worked out and just kind of fall into my lap and then there, I round up getting a lot of clients throughout my time. I’ve served over a 100 in the last five years helping manage social media. So it was a lot of fun.

Andrea: So when you were the food blog, was there any income involved with that for you because I know some food bloggers and that could be a struggle.

Tammy Cannon: No, I was not monetizing at the time. I didn’t know how. I just knew that I loved writing. I loved cooking so very much and I just had a blast doing it. I did get hired to do a couple of blog post for other people and also having people pay for my photos, so just little side stuff that comes about when you’re consistent. But I just didn’t really follow through with it and then I have the idea of just going into business for social media and managing for businesses. So I didn’t really did anything with that long term. I wish I had but I can always go back to that but that will be something next.

Andrea: So what is it like to being a multi-passionate-preneur? I think that most of the people listening are really interested in many different things and it’s hard to choose. Do you recommend that people pick one thing for a while or do you say just go for it all or what are some of the struggles you face as multi-passsionate-preneur and how do you make it work?

Tammy Cannon: It’s really interesting. I mean, you do have to pick one thing you know. I feel like the social media marketing that was something that I was already making money at. I was already doing it. I already had leverage there and so I think once you get to that point then you can kind of start creating on the side. Now, before I was earning money with the creative stuff, I really just kind of put stuff together, got an Etsy shop didn’t really know about Etsy SEO at the time. And so you know, I think most people kind of do that sort of thing, they don’t really know how to put the passion behind what you’re excited to do and so it didn’t really go anywhere then they’re so excited.

I think the struggle is you get so excited about all these different things and once I learned something in my social media business that I see I can apply to my creative business, and I get so excited and gung-ho but then you burn out so quickly. Then I have to go “Alright, I’ll just put that aside for now.” So for instance, two years ago, I started a third business. It’s still on the back burner. It’s still there kind of _____. I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it because I’ve been so busy with the social medial, but I love gardening and so I have theflirtyherb Instagram.

And so yeah, I was starting all of these. I had three things going and I was gung-ho, so excited. My creative business was kind of ticking off. I had Sue B. Zimmerman mentioned me in her Instagram. She did a whole Instagram series on CreativeLive. So she mentioned my business and shared about it and so that was really fun but then it was like I have to fall back on what I was doing at the time, which was managing. So I think it’s really difficult…you can’t do everything but if you’re OK with being patient and seeing things for the long term, if you can appreciate that then it’s easier.

So theflirtyherb really I post very inconsistently. I’m not really too worried about it and in 2018 or even ’19, I’m thinking so far ahead that I’ll be in a position to really get back where we have a whole 30-day healthy eating challenge, I’ve got it all on add-ons. People do sign up and I’ve got figure out how to turn that into master class. As much as I’m learning with Cannon Social Media, I know that I’ll just be able to apply that but it will just be awhile and I’m OK with that.

Andrea: Yeah. It sounds like a lot of spinning plates. If you could just get one plate to spin on its own then you could go to the next one.

Tammy Cannon: Definitely.

Andrea: And keep moving and adding. OK, so here’s a really weird question maybe, I do a lot of work with people trying to figure out their personal brands, trying to figure out what their main thing is, how to tie it all together and keep everything aligned. So this is interesting to me because you have all these different things going and you can’t do it all at the same time, which I understand too. Have you ever thought about turning any of it into just a personal like a personal brand that would somehow align these things, or do you feel like they’re just two separate to ever bring it all together and under Tammy Cannon for example?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah it’s a good question because I’ve seen the trend of people doing that. So someone that comes to mind is Melyssa Griffin, but she started out as the Nectar Collective and that’s kind of how I found here and then she decided to brand everything under her name. I didn’t see value in doing that moving ahead. I think for me, I think in segments so I have to divide everything out myself.

So Cannon Social Media, I have Emma Fox Creative and then I have The Flirty Herb and so when I’m focusing to any of those, in my mind I can keep track of like “OK, I need to stay focus, this is the garden business. This is the cooking business.” And so whatever that ends being, I know that_____ and I’m focused. If I put it all under my name, I don’t know if that would make sense. I could definitely do Cannon Social Media and Emma Fox but I don’t know. For now, I just feel like for all I can do to manage everything is to _____ in a compartment.

Andrea: Yes I’m sure, it’s an interesting idea. So that’s the reason why I’m curious if you’ve ever considered it and I really love finding those connections. It’s like a game for me or something but I also like the idea that we are a whole person. Yes, we do have different sides to ourselves and gifts and interest but somehow, they are aligned in us. So whether they are aligned under your name in marketing or not, it doesn’t really probably matter because we are still _____.

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, yeah!

Andrea: Have you always been really creative and did you always feel free to be able to just go after these creative endeavors or was there ever anything that was sort of making you feel like you couldn’t do that or shouldn’t do that? Have you always just been creative like that?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, I remember in sixth grade, I was always pretty good at writing. I wish I could find it now. In sixth grade, I remember those so well. We had an assignment and we had to write about a crayon color and so I wrote this whole thing about the color blue and just went on and on and so my teacher liked it so much. She gave it to the principal and they read it to, you know, we had an assembly. So I was really proud of myself and that little written piece of work but that was kind of when I knew I can really describe things and really have empathy for a story.

And so I’ve always been just curious about people and curious about things and feelings. So I’ve always been able to kind of explore that and also not be afraid to fail. I also paint with acrylic paints. Yesterday, I was painting something and I was “Oh my goodness, what is wrong with me.” Some days are good and some days aren’t good. It’s like taking photographs. I mean, you take a hundred and maybe five turn out, but you have to be willing to fail and just jump on whatever it is because you’ll never know. You’ll really spend time doing it and make the effort. People get worried it’s not perfect so then you don’t get anything done. I’m definitely willing to just get it out there and make progress and not worry about things being perfect.

Andrea: OK, so Tammy, I know that you have three teenagers at home, is that right?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah, three.

Andrea: That’s amazing! First of all I wanted to ask, do you do what you do like fulltime? Do you find that your job in your business comes in conflict with your schedule with your kids or how does that work for you?

Tammy Cannon: Now, my kids are 13, 14, and 15. I have two in high school and one left in middle school next year and so they’re gone during the day. And so from September to June basically, I really work fulltime at this business and get everything done what I need to do while they’re gone. They get home between 2:30 and 3 o’ clock in the afternoon and so my work day ends then as soon as they get home. But not every time, if I’m creating a courses or something like that, I’ll say you know, “I’m just recording another video.”

So they know the deal and they know in my office that I’m working so they know those boundaries are there and I try to respect our schedules. So when they’re home, I try as much as possible just to be off the phone. I try my business to be automated so that from the time they get out of school in June, like this is their first week out for the summer, I don’t really do a lot until they go back in September.

I have everything set up on automatic. I have my teachable school and so all of my courses are there. So I continue to, you know, every week, I blog if not through. I’m supposed to blog every week. I’ve been off my schedule without, but my goal is to blog every week and release that on Thursday and then I’ve been really consistent with my podcast that comes out every Thursday as well, and so I can batch that stuff ahead a time.

Andrea: What do you mean by batch?

Tammy Cannon: For instance, we’re talking in the summer of 2017, I have an Instagram challenge coming up for the month of July. And so what I’m going to do is to record all four weeks of my podcast that’s going to be part of the challenge. So even if you’re not literally in the challenge and opted in to, you’ll get the emails that I’m going to send out and still be able to listen to the podcast. So I’ll record all four of those probably this week and then I’ll just batch them into my host and schedule them for release in the future.

So they’ll automatically go out and that’s something that I did for myself that I really had to learn to do. As much as I can, put things on auto batch things so that their schedule and then I don’t have to really babysit anything. We’re going to be going to Europe this summer but I’ll know that my business is kind of going on its own and I don’t have to deal much for the summer. So I just have a set up that way for my schedule so that I can enjoy my kids and you know all the fun stuff that happens when the sun is out in Seattle. We take it out because we haven’t seen it for nine months so it’s really, really hard to get myself set up so that I can do that.

Andrea: That’s great! I am definitely working towards that being able to batch and everything but that was one of my goals for the summer too is just be able to focus more on my kids and things but there’s still these little things that come up. So when your kids are home then at night, are you on social media?

Tammy Cannon: Oh good question, so you mean like posting to Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff?

Andrea: Yeah

Tammy Cannon: So yes, throughout the day what I have discovered is that there are little pocket of time where I always have my phone because I do manage Facebook ads and so I’ll take one or two clients a month and manage. And so once I get everything set up, I do have to check in on ads, make sure they’re within the parameters that I’ve set, you know per lead, price per lead. I want to make sure all that’s good to go. But I do have pockets of time where I’ll grab my phone and post on Instagram and I really had to plan both ahead of time as well so I’ll know what my next line Instagram post going to be.

And so I schedule those in grum.co management scheduler that you can use for Instagram. I’m not very good at this all the time but my goal is to have at least the next nine I know what theme is going to be. I’ll know what the call to action is and so that my Instagram is more branded. So it makes it easy when they are home. All I have to do is just post it and have all the hashtags in my notes app so I’ll just copy those and paste them over and the comments. And I’ve gotten better just to be able to do that in a few minutes other than 20 minutes. It works out but yeah and then I try to spend time with my husband too and not have any work in.

So this summer as an example, I will work in the morning from 6:00 to 10:00 because they’re sleeping pretty much and just kind of starting the day rolling around at 8:00 or 9:00 and they’re not really ready to do much until 10:00 or 11:00 on lazy summer days. So I’m going to use that time but it’s just going to be my time to get as much done in the morning so that I can be with them in the afternoon and use those pockets of time to tweet and do Instagram and stuff like that.

Andrea: Alright, so this is what I’m really interested in right now, the fact that you are so knowledgeable about social media has to be helpful as a parent of teens.

Tammy Cannon: Oh my goodness! I can’t tell you how glad I am to have the knowledge but it’s like a double edge sore because I know too much almost. The fine line that I have to walk where I’m not invading their privacy too much as a teen, I mean I can’t even imagine of that stuff that my parents could have found out about you know you don’t want. You don’t want your kid doing those things but you also know that they are going to make bad decisions and then some of them are natural consequence types of things where they learn on their own.

But then there are other things where your parents need to step in and so sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to draw that line. I have an example and this was years ago. I’ll just say one of them fifth or sixth grade and we were our way to school. At the time, I had to drive them to their elementary school and I noticed that one of my old phones was missing. So long story short, I said something about “Well, you know, I guess I can just put the GPS on and figure out where the phone is and then I’ll know where it is.” Well that scared sad child so then throw the phone in the back seat and so therefore didn’t get in trouble for anything.

But stuff like that you know then they’re like “Oh they can track this phone.” “Oh no, I better not follow through with this bad decision.” And so we laugh about it now but it’s like “OK, there’s a lot to know.” Another one of my kids, I found out they had posted on Instagram after I had taken their phone away and so I’m thinking to myself “How are they doing it. They have to have a device.” So I go and asked and the child says “Oh I just used the computer.” And I’m like “No, you can’t upload photos direct from my computer.

So just little things like that that most parents maybe wouldn’t have known a few years ago, I was able to be like “No, that’s not true.” Then they’re like “Oh, I’m _____.” So in that regard, it’s dead but you just got train them to hope they make better decisions and not be dishonest and move forward. But yeah, there is a fine line especially as they get older and they way the use social media is so very different from the way we use it. I don’t even know all the ins and outs. It really bothers me how they do it differently. I try to ask them questions like “What is streaking? What’s being left unread?” There are so many little things in their world that we just have no idea about. It’s pretty insane.

Andrea: Right. Do you have any insights into why or how kids use it differently than adults?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah. So for Instagram as an example, most teenagers are going to have main Instagram account but they also have what they call as spam account. The spam account is a secondary account which only has their good friends, or friends of friends and they compose anything they want to any type of image whatever it might be and it’s only going to those people.

And by the way, all the teens have private accounts but yet they’ve get thousands of followers because it’s just a word of mouth, oh it’s my friend’s, cousin’s, brother and their friends and friends Instagram but everybody’s private. So it’s so different than how we use it as adults and how we use it for business.

Andrea: I know that you have an episode on your podcast recently where you talk about teens and what it means that streaking on Snapchat and things like this, so I will definitely include that in the show notes because I think that any parent would be really appreciate understanding some of those things a little bit better.

OK, so Tammy, now there are some people listening, the Influencers that’s listening might be somebody that has a speaking business for a while or they’re considering breaking out on their own to do counseling or something along these lines and have this business but they don’t really love the idea of social media and aren’t exactly sure about to do with social media. Maybe they’re even starting a blog but they’re not sure what to do with social media, do you have any suggestions for somebody in that situation or maybe it depends on the person but where they should get started. What are the first steps?

Tammy Cannon: I think for anyone that’s looking into social media or maybe even blogging or doing a video blog, I think the first step is to figure out why you want to do it. I remember when I first started managing and social media was new, everyone was just like “OK, we got to jump on and get on there,” but there’s no strategy and there’s no consistency a lot of the time and that’s because there isn’t a good reason why. They haven’t figured it out so for instance if you’re a restaurant, you do want people coming to spend money at your restaurant and so that’s kind of the end goal. And then working backwards from there, you know what kind of things, what entice people to come in to the restaurant.

And so for any business, I think you need to really figure out, do you want to get paid to be a speaker so therefore you got to go on social media and maybe you get advice on speaking or do behind the scenes of how you prepare for a speech. And all those can be done on a website with a blog post, with Instagram images even through Twitter. So I think if you have a strategy, know what you want people to do then it makes it a lot easier to get started.

And to get started, I think it’s important to think in terms of traffic to your website because your website is the hub of everything. That’s where people can get to know you a little bit more, connect with you, work with you, and definitely have a work with your page. And then a weekly content whether that’s a blog or video or tutorial that can post on your website and share it via social media that’s going to drive traffic back to your website because I think the end goals is always to make some form of money. If you’re in business to make money and so if you think how am I making money with this business and then work backwards in giving people what they want, giving them value so that they will want to purchase something from you in the end.

Andrea: When I first started blogging it was basically three years ago and the thing to do with that time was to get on Facebook and create a Facebook page. And so that’s what I did, I created a Facebook page and invited people to like it and it was pretty simple for me to spend maybe $5 every time I posted something on my blog to get it to reach thousands of people, a couple of thousands of people maybe which was awesome. And I’ve certainly noticed that now to get the same amount of people to see that post, it would take maybe $30.

So when it’s worth it and when it’s not worth it to spend money? How do you make that decision? Do you have any suggestions about that on whether or not to just post or create ads or something like that for somebody that maybe just have some information for their friends to share? Or how do you figure out whether or not it’s worth it based on the product that you’re selling and things like that? Do you have my any facts on that?

Tammy Cannon: Yeah. It’s a whole big process and so my strategy with the whole thing is to come up with a logical sequence or like a path to purchase or a lot of people call them _____. What’s the _____, what’s the strategy, or what’s the path to purchase? And certainly one of them is if you’re writing blog post to value, you can boost that post. You know, they always want you to send money advertising on Facebook, Facebook loves our money so there’s always a chance to do that and now with boosted post, you can actually tag what type of person, you know what their interest are.

So it’s gotten a lot better. It had a bad rap for a while just posting a post but if you want to do that just to create brand awareness, just to get people over to your website, or to read your content, the best way to go about that is use that as a lead generation opportunity. So have a call-to-action inside your blog post whether that’s a free worksheet that helps bring more value to the blog post or maybe it’s a tutorial video that they can sign up to watch, or maybe you have a direct to sales inside of your blog post that sends them to a online course or something. Have something that you want them to do once they get there that is on the path to purchase.

And so the very first thing that you will get is an email. That’s definitely where to begin, start building your email list because not everyone is ready to purchase from you but if your articles are helpful and they’ll find themselves going back to your website like “Oh that’s a really great content. I wonder what they’ve got going on this week.” And so then you’ve got a situation where you’ve done such a good job with your content that people are seeking you out and you don’t have to pay for that and you’re getting leads for zero dollars. That’s certainly I think; boosting a post, running a conversion ad, figuring out, or branding pages there are so much to it. They’re very basics if you are blogging and do have a lot about of value to share and you’re really thinking about your ideal customer then certainly get them over to your website, drive the traffic with a boosted post if you want but have something for them to do when they get there.

Andrea: That’s great! OK, so I know that that’s pretty complicated for people that have maybe just started, but you need to understand at the same time that it is a little complicated and that getting your message out there, there’s many different ways to a message out into the world. And if you are thinking that you would like to do it online which is a really wise move in my opinion then it does require learning new things and Tammy is a great person to learn those things from when it comes to your social media strategy and things like that.

So I definitely want to encourage you to check out Tammy and the things that she has to offer, which I asked her about just a minute and then also if you’re really looking for that why, your why and your purpose and you’re trying to figure out what is the direction that I want with this message of mine then I can help you with that. You will find links to both what I offer and what Tammy offers in the show notes and I hope that you’ll check that out because I think we both have some freebies too. So Tammy why don’t you tell us about where people can find you and what you have to offer.

Tammy Cannon: Sure! So I’ve got the Free Resource Library and the easiest way to access that is the number that I gave earlier, so texting the number 44222 and then just type in all one word freeresource and then you have an opportunity to opt in and get inside the library. I have lots of goodies and fun stuff. You can also access, if you want to check out my classes, I’ve got some fun summer time challenges coming up that people can take a look out at Pinterest and Instagram and so you can access that. I have a bit.ly/cannoncourses and they can check everything out there too.

Andrea:   Awesome!   Well, Tammy, thank you so much for taking time to share with us your expertise and your story and I did like the extra a little bit about teenagers that was helpful.

Tammy Cannon: Oh thank you for having me. I appreciate it, Andrea, this has been fun.

Andrea: Definitely check out her stuff and I look forward to seeing you more on Facebook and Instagram. We do have a Facebook group for the Voice of Influence at this time, so go to Voice of Influence community. It’s a Facebook group so you go ahead and you just ask to join and we’ll have a chat. So thank you so much and use social media to your benefit and go make your voice matter more.

 

END

The Four Elements of Your Voice of Influence

Voice Studio Episode 12

I am so excited to share this episode with you today because this is the introduction to the hearty nourishment I hope to provide through this podcast. If you’re wanting to develop your impact, today I’m revealing the four elements I believe make up a Voice of Influence.

Not mentioned in the episode is the fact that there is an inward awareness and development and then there is an outward awareness and development. The inward elements are Identity and Core Message. The outward elements are Creative Contribution and Strategy.

We’re getting down with the good stuff of purpose and calling here today. Enjoy!

Join the Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group

…where I will be doing a Facebook Live going into more depth on these elements on Saturday, June 3rd. If you’re reading this in the future, check into the group. There will likely be a number of posts about these elements in the future!

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher.

How to Dress Your Identity & Message

Episode 11 with Author & Stylist Toi Sweeney

If you think you know what fashion is, Toi Sweeney is going to blow your mind in this interview. This interview isn’t about superficial tips to be sure other people like how you look, oh no! In fact, this is what I said in the middle of the interview:

“People are going to you for fashion tips, but what you’re giving them is identity.”

In the first few minutes you get to hear us discuss our experience of working with each other when I went to Philadelphia to get styling assistance from Toi. It was a blast and I am sure you’re going to love this interview with author and stylist Toi Sweeney.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen here, on Stitcher or iTunes

Thank you for rating, reviewing and subscribing!

 

If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my one to one offerings here.

Andrea: Toi Sweeney, welcome to the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Toi: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be speaking with you today.

Andrea: I don’t think we’ve talked since we did shop, since you shopped for me in Philadelphia.

Toi: It was so much fun. It was so much fun.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Well, we’re going to tell everybody about that but first, let’s tell the Influencer listening where we met, shall we? Do you want to do the honors?

Toi: Oh my goodness, sure. So we met in the Fascinate Advantage advisors’ group. We were two of what maybe like 14 exceptional leaders that are in that advisory group and it was really, really, really fantastic…fascinating I might say.

Andrea: Indeed, always. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ll know that sometimes I talk about this Fascinate Assessment because it is something that I use to help me understand people’s voices, to understand what they’re communicating and how they’re communicating that to the world and how other people perceive them. It just seems like a really powerful tool. Have you used it a lot with your clients and other people since we took the class, Toi?

Toi: Honestly, since I’m finishing my book, I hadn’t use it that much as I would like. So I was really excited about meeting you and then being able to communicate that because you were kind of helping to test drive my big idea about how I would use it on my clients. And so as you’ve been probably talking about on your podcast with all of the different archetypes you know if you are Maverick Leader and I’m the kind of or whatever then what is that look like when it comes to your real identities. So I really wanted to play around with that a little bit more and you gave me the opportunity to do that so that’s why I have to make sure I thank you wholeheartedly for that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. Yeah, it was a real privilege. So after we met in this Fascinate course which was a virtual thing, we actually got on the phone and talked about business and Toi’s book that is out now. And we were talking about these things and then she started talking about branding and possibility of using me as an example. So I was all about that because I’m somebody who, I so want…you know, Toi, I really want to express who I am on inside and let that come out but at the same time, I’ve been hiding it for a long time.

So when I found out that my archetype for the Fascinate Assessment was the Maverick Leader and that’s innovation plus power which means the language of creativity plus the language of leadership, that wasn’t was I was expecting. And I think I have been softening my voice and my self-expression for long because I don’t want to appear too bossy, you know, powerful I guess. So when I took the assessment and that’s what came out, and I was like “Oh my goodness, I…”

And I started looking at myself and my clothing, and I already knew that I wasn’t very trendy but fashionable. But I mean, you know, I walked in to this shop with you, you had already….anyway, when I walked in, I had on very blend clothing. I had tennis shoes, jeans and this very plain like navy blue shirt.

Toi: And that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, it was okay.

Toi: You haven’t had the Toi Sweeney experience yet.

Andrea: No.

Toi: So that was okay.

Andrea: Yeah, but when you looked at that, it communicates a different message than probably what my voice really communicates which is that creativity and leadership and it wasn’t very powerful image, my clothing. So anyway, Toi ended up going through process with me ahead of time that helped her identify some things about how she wanted to help me convey who I am. So Toi, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you did?

Toi: Well, the first thing that we talked about was I wanted to talk to you about your mission. We talked about your vision. We talked about your values, you core values, your perceived value and all of those things and then what’s more important to me was just a little a little talk about your image where you are versus where you want to be. And isn’t just the way every aspect of our lives are so we want to be here but we’re actually over here.

And so once we kind of talked about those things, I think and pictures. So as you were talking to me, I was listening and kind of formulate in my head what I think you should look like. Then as per the usual with my clients, I give them my style test which is just kind of tell me to pick the right items off the rack, which is going to tell me that you like separates over dresses.

It’s going to tell me you know your level of comfort if you prefer sneakers or strappy sandals that when you walk into the room, do you care more about being powerful? Do you care more about being innovative? Do you care more about being comfortable at the end of the day, because if you’re not comfortable then if you’re speaking in front of a crowd obviously, right then you’re not going to be your best self. And my greatest intention is to always lead you better than I found you. And not knowing necessarily in a negative way but just like, you know, I want to do my part to encourage and inspire you as well.

And so we just talked about all of those things, and so we did your style test and it just revealed that you really love feeling in being effortless. There’s a level of comfort there but at the end of the day, you want to be powerful but you also really want to be very comfortable. So we decided that we’re going to give you a very effortless style but that speaks to the Fascinate, you are an innovative leader and that you are very creative. If anyone has ever had the opportunity and the privilege to speak with you regarding your business, you have ideas. I tell you, you’re doing this all the time.

And so I wanted to take all of those things and just really incorporate it into your look and so that’s what we did. So after that when we hang up the phone, I looked at your skin color, your eye color, and your current hair color and I looked at the colors that were going suit you best. I think I reached back out to you and said the most important question “What do you wanna say, what do you want to say?” You know, because you can do all those things and what’s a normal image consultant would do.

So all of those things are as for normal, but for me I took that all information and I felt through it through your brand and I felt through your Fascinate Advantage and then I helped you kind of create this unicorn if you will that looks so… I mean, if anybody have seen the after pictures that was so effortless and it looked like it took no time. But honestly, it was a lot of work, right?

Andrea: For you… I thought it was pretty effortless myself.

Toi: Which is should be for my client. Yeah, it was effortless. You show up and everything is done for you. You just tried things on and when we’re kind of we’re through what we’re going to purchase and why we’re going to purchase it. And then we grouped it all together and then you were pretty much finished unless the next step is that you’re travelling and have a big event and then I’ll come over and you know how to get packed and put some different outfits and stuff together.

So that’s the main thing that kind of sets me apart from other fashion stylist and other image consultants is that I care so deeply about your voice and the message that you’re conveying. And you know, you really, really walk into a room and before you say one word, people want to get to know you. You are so fascinating in the sense that they come over to you. So you don’t have a message that you go over to them, because it is the conversation piece like “Oh, I like that jacket. Oh I like…you know whatever.” It’s just that I really want you to be able to walk into the room, feel your absolute best and crush it and I think you did that.

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes. So I’ll share my perspective as somebody coming in. I travelled a long way to get to Philadelphia, which was amazing and I walked in and you brought me into this dressing room that was huge and there’s clothes, like so many clothes lining the walls already. She’d done all this work previous to me coming. So all she had me in the nerve. She was on the floor, so she started having me tries things on and I think it was maybe the second thing I tried on. I was just like my whole being in countenance and everything sort of lifted because I was like “What?”

Toi: And I was nervous because you were saying anything at last. I was thinking “Oh man, I might have messed this one up.” And you looked in so cute and you were looking at the mirror and you were smiling and you started giggling. You have my favorite laugh in the world and you started laughing and you like “Yeah.” And I was like “You like it?” And you like “Yeah, I like it a lot.”

Andrea: Oh my goodness. I could not believe what I was looking at the mirror.

Toi: It was great!

Andrea: It was. People have asked me since then you know, “Would you have picked these clothes off the rack?” And I said “No, I wouldn’t have because first of all I don’t know anything about fashion. But second of all, even if you told me there was this big line up of things that were fashionable; I wouldn’t have the guts to pick up stuff off the rack because I just don’t feel confident in my ability, first of all. But also just understanding the fashion, understanding what fits me like I wouldn’t have known, you know. I just wouldn’t have known.

And so when I put it on, it was so different than anything else that I owned and then you put shoes on me and different pair of pants and what not, and I just about fell over. Because I was like “Oh my gosh.” And there was this one girl that I had in mind but she’s in her 20s and she’s the cutest little thing and I saw myself in the mirror and I’m like “I’m just like her. I look like her,” and I’ve been admiring her and her style for so long and I’m like “Oh my gosh.” You just said to me, years have fallen off of you.

Toi: Yeah, I mean there are so many A-ha moments in that fitting room, you know. I think that we walked away with you looking a lot younger. The most important thing that I do for my clients and then I stressed in my book is that “You wanna look relevant.” So it’s not about the trends. When we were picking items, we don’t mean a $5,000 dress or a $2,000 shirt or anything crazy like that. It wasn’t this like costume made pieces. It was really, really about at the end of the day making you look longer, you know less essentially the parts of our bodies that we love until we can work on the other stuff. We might want to talk some stuff a week for now.

Andrea: Yeah exactly.

Toi: You know, we talked about…and we did that. And so I was saying you know, “See the difference if you put this top on?” And then you took it here and we tied it there. If you’re like me that tend to gain weight in your belly, you know, I know how to make myself look long and lean because I’m only 5’3”. And so it was just manipulating basic, classic, beautiful clothing just to make you look your best and then adding the right accessories.

And so you showed up and looked like you came to shut it down. I have to tell you what blown me away the most about the shop, it wasn’t what we did in the fitting room but I have to tell you like the next day, we shoot some pictures and we did all that stuff but it was after everything was completely finished.

And you could have put back on your clothing that you travelled in and you didn’t. And you put on this gorgeous denim top, which was a basic denim top and I was like “We’re not doing the button-down.” We ended up doing like more of a pull over because button-downs for anybody is they’re very difficult to wear. And you saw that because they tend to open, if you have to put it down and if you don’t have the fattest belly then it folds there.

So you put that on, you put your new jeans on and you had your new fashionable sneakers on, because again, it was your style about effortless and it was very polished and it was powerful in the sense. And you looked a million dollar and all you were wearing was like denim on denim look. You know what I mean, like were sitting in a restaurant and having brunch and I’m looking around and I was like “Does she owns this restaurant?” You looked like you belong there.

Andrea: Yeah, my confidence level just walking into that nice little restaurant that we went to, I mean, it was just so different. Even the shoes that I was wearing, I always wear tennis shoes because my feet hurt all the time. But you got me shoes, you found me shoes that didn’t hurt my feet but was cute and that’s what… So anyway, walking in this different kind of shoes and let alone the hair and makeup and the clothing, I felt so much more…I just felt like I was standing in my power.

Toi: You looked fabulous. I mean, it was so obvious. And I just kept saying like “Look at her, look at her confidence.” I mean the way you sat or everything. You spoke differently.

Andrea: I did.

Toi: I mean everything about you completely blown me away and I mean it wholeheartedly. I was in awe of what we accomplished. I really, really was and then you went to read your post afterwards and I just like you know, I got to see this like 5-year-old giddy little girl giggling in the fitting room and you walked out this fabulous woman that looked like she was so ready to take on the world. It was awesome. It was so awesome.

Andrea: Yeah and it was wild. I got a speaking gig like the next week at a conference and I was “Oh my gosh, I have my weeks’ worth of clothing and I’m gonna rock it.” I just felt so amazing just knowing that I was prepared in that way so that I could bring my best. I honestly, I think I have always felt really uncomfortable. I feel very comfortable in front of a crowd but as far as my appearance goes, I’ve sort have done it besides the fact that I don’t feel comfortable in my appearance, like I’ve sort of reason above the fact that I don’t feel that great about my body or that I don’t feel that great. But when you put clothes on me, it was like “I felt great in this body too, like I don’t even care.”

Toi: Absolutely. Right, I mean because at the end of the day, you know like I have in seven days, I have to go on television, and you know I got on the scale this morning and I was like “Oh so, the last 45 days, you have been finishing your book and doing this different tours speaking engagement and all those these things and you’re not taking care of yourself because you decided that it was going to be okay that you went all on your book, right?

Andrea: Yeah.

Toi: And so right now I have to be honest and say “Well, can I lose 25 pounds in seven days, probably not.” And so what do we do, we show up and rock it out where you are. And so the difference is in what I talked about in the book is that not only are you going to the biggest things are, so now you’re able to dress your message, right? But what you’re saying, right here you say is that it’s easy like you can focus on preparing for the main things and you don’t have to worry and fret about how are you going to look. The worst thing is showing up and not looking the part.

Andrea: Yes.

Toi: You know because we talked about this in Fascinate Advantage group. And in those 8 seconds, they’ve already decided if you have deserved or earned the right to be on that stage. You know, we all know that we have, right? But isn’t it so magical standing there knowing that you do so that you feel that way also, right? And so that really is what is about and so the continued process would be that we’re going to work on is just getting your closet to the point where you can wake up in the morning and you can have 15 minutes to get somewhere and everything that you grab is magnificent.

And that everyday even if you just dropping the kids off of the bus and it’s a tunic and leggings and a fashion sneaker and shirt, and wear your sunglasses on and grabbed that gorgeous handbag that you bought, and you’re still rocking it out where you are like “Okay, so I have my coffee, and I have 15 minutes to get dressed and still look amazing.” That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: And I looked amazing and I don’t know, there’s something about that putting on clothing that matches who I am on the inside and sort of draws out the best of me. And I think that’s what so powerful about what you’re offering people in general is that we don’t have to master it up on our own. Like there is a way to sort of put these things on that are going to call out of us and release it out of us. Whereas, if I’m just dressed in my sweats and a t-shirt to take my kids to school, what are my kids seeing up me? You know, what am I feeling about who I am and how I’m going to attack the next thing on my list of things to do today. All those sorts of things, I’m like “This is so transformational.”

Toi: It is. You know, I always say, when you look and you feel good, when you’re feeling good, you’re confident and when you’re confident the world is yours. But I will take it one step further and since we’re talking about the kids was I sight this in the book that there was an article that was written about the headmaster in the UK, and she sends out letters to all the parents that basically said “Hey, when you drop your kids off in the morning or you pick them up in the afternoon, can you please not wear your pajamas.” What kind of message are we sending are we sending to the kids,” you know, and that just blew my mind.

Andrea: Wow! Shoot!

Toi: You know, I’m like “If you saw the way I drop my kids…” and I’m guilty of it too. You know, but I’ve got my closet to the point where it is a ____ somebody is like “Oh that was amazing.” I’m like “Really?”

Andrea: Oh my goodness, yes.

Toi: You know what I mean, and so that’s what I’m really talking about is that if you put together a brand, you know, dress-the-message type of closet right then anything that you grab and so can you imagine that being at home and receiving that email of like “You did not show up today and we need you to not only show up for yourself but to show up for the kids.” And what are you saying to them and then you think about the fact that in our Fascination group, one of the guys released an article about the fact that everybody was hiring freelancers and personal branding was so important. What are we teaching our children about dressing the message? What are we teaching them about being able to sell themselves, because we’re all selling something rather yourself or a product, right?

Andrea: And when you’re saying selling, you’re saying compelling communication which is exactly what this podcast is about, compelling communication. So even if you’re oppose to the word selling, dear Influencers, understand that compelling communication is sort of that same thing. So that’s exactly what you’re talking about.

Toi: Yes, so you know, it’s so important and I think that at the end of the day, I’m talking about simple things. You know, I want you to show up as your best self. I want you to be able to give a 100% to all of the things that are so important to you and I’m saying “Hey, do you need some help with dressing your message, then let me help you with that part so that you can be the best writer. You can be the best podcaster; you could be the best leader. You can be the best mom. You can be the best entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about these things. If you can’t hear some simple steps that you can take, you know, if you’re saying, “You’re in Philadelphia. I can’t afford to fly there,” here are some steps that you can take to at least start the process.

I’m really excited about your journey and what you have coming and all the things that you’ve been able to accomplish and just how gorgeous you looked now. Now listen, your headshots look great but when we took your picture that day you looked amazing and we just kicked it up a knot, that’s all we did. If you look your headshot and the images that we took side by side, you looks great. You look fine, but I don’t allow my customers to dwell on the possibility of fine or okay. Why would you settle for being great when you can be exceptional, when you can be amazing?

Andrea: Yeah. Okay, so last week I had some friends get together, they said, we want to see these clothes. So this is the best and I want to tell this story because I think it’s so important to copying up this part of your message. But what happened was they all sort of just sat down and I told the story about how we met and why I went out there and all that sort of thing. When I went back into this bedroom and I put on my first outfit and I walked out and they were like…first of all, before anybody saw me, I was in the hallway grinning from ear to ear, almost like trying to hide my grin, you know, like “Oh my gosh, I don’t wanna look like a little kid right now,” but I feel like that little girl who’s in her brand new dress running out to spin in front of her dad. You know like “I know, I’m beautiful and just enjoying the way that I am.”

You know, that is what’s going on inside of me and then I walked out there and they all just like gushed. They were just like “Huh, oh my goodness.” And this is just the clothing, you know and the shoes and the look that you gave me then I went back and I went back and forth, and went back and forth. And you know even the most casual things were like, I sort of progressed in I guess dressiness as I went through in the most casual things, they were like “Oh my gosh, I can totally see you speaking in that.” And I thought, “Oh gosh you haven’t even seen me the good stuff.”

So anyway, it was working and they’re saying this is the image that you should be in front of people you know. And then this is the really funny part, the next day, I got I snap from my one of my friends and she was like “Okay, I just want you to know that I was looking through my closet and I’m trying to figure out what to put on and I kept thinking to myself, “I wonder what Toi would think of this.”

Toi: I hear that.

Andrea: It was so great.

Toi: It’s so humbling. I think that that is just “Hey that’s awesome, that’s so fantastic.” You know, just message me next time and attach images.

Andrea: Well, I think they all came away wanting to buy your book.

Toi: Oh that’s nice.

Andrea: You know because they want to know…they saw the transformation in me, in one of their dear friends, and they saw how you had been able to make inside come out on me and they were so inspired and they were…these are the things that they were saying. So I see all that too because I think that people should know that there are so much more potential that we don’t have to stay where you are. I felt stuck in that, in my brand of clothing because I didn’t know what to do. And so I really, I’m excited for your book. Now this book, let’s talk about your book for a little while. So tell us about your book and the format that you chose.

Toi: So the book is titled Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand, because we are all while we choose to believe it or not, everybody is a brand because you’re already putting something out into the world. People are already perceiving that brand; good, better and different. So if you are a brand, you might be a well-dressed brand. And so it’s really funny because when I was meeting my book designer, he showed me the typical kind of eBook layout and I hated it to completely being honest. I hated it so much. I was like “This is horrible. I hate everything about this.”

Andrea: Because it was just words?

Toi: It was just normal, you know, and I don’t do normal. I think you’ve got to spend a weekend with me so you know, I don’t do boring and I don’t do normal. So I was really bored and I was just too typical. And so what I asked him to do was to lay out the same way you would lay out a fashion magazine. And he said “We’re gonna need a lot more images.” I was like “Oh boy!” So leaving Corporate America just seven months ago and having a bunch of gorgeous talented friends, I reached out to a couple of people and say “Can I ask some pictures?”

And so I’m really, really excited to bring you guys something that’s more like a fashion magazine and also you know video. It’s an eBook that features video and images. I’m so proud of this. It is so exceptional and I just can’t even believe that it’s here. I can’t even believe that it’s done. So I’m so excited for everybody to kind of dive into it and really it’s a quick read and like I said, it’s really engaging. It’s kind of like part television, part fashion magazine if you will.

Andrea: Yeah. So what do think the results are for the person who buys your book and reads it and watches the videos, what are they going to leave with?

Toi: It’s funny that you asked that question, or I find that interesting that you asked that question, because when I was talking to my copywriter, she said “I have to be honest…” You know what I’m thinking, “oh boy.” And she said, you know, and I heard this before, I haven’t thought much the way that I looked like. I put myself together and I feel like I was doing just fine but you really make look at it from a different perspective.

And so if you walk away and you’re thinking about your clothing the same thing that was happening with your friends when they saw you, if you just have that moment of “Wow, what I wear really does matter, number 1.” Number 2, it’s so important for me to not only create a look for myself, but also to create a signature style for myself. Have that set things that you’re known for would be my second thing that I want people to kind of walk away with.

And the third thing is what you can do. It’s actually really simple to kind of create a signature look, and I just kind of give you some things like if you wear glasses and you can’t leave without wearing your glasses then make that part of your look. It’s really is about embracing who you are and just exploding that out into the world in a way that they cannot ignore you. That really is what it’s about.

Andrea: So what are some other examples of signature style? You said glasses or just to give me a couple of tangibles.

Toi: Yes, so if you’re someone like I have a client who loves…I have two clients actually, who are both completely obsessed of stripes so then don’t wear them because right now, stripes are very relevant in the industries. So don’t wear them the same way that somebody else wears them. Right now, it’s trendy to wear stripes with floral, so you buy stripes shirt and you have a floral design on top that’s different than the traditional nautical what everybody else is doing. Don’t do that. Don’t do what everybody else is doing.

Maybe you wear it this way and instead of you wearing maybe a stripes shirt, again that’s everybody else is doing, maybe you got a cute sundress and you wear stripe wedges or stripe flats or get a stripe handbag. You just incorporate your signature whatever it is into your lives and you should wear it everybody. It should be a reflection of something that you’re going to do every day, and so that’s it. It can be pop of color on your lips, you know, regardless if you wear all black or if you wear whatever color.

Regardless, I can expect that when I see you, there’s going to be red or pink or whatever on your lips. So think about Victoria Beckham, you know, she does wear a ton of color if any on her lips, regardless of whatever they’re wearing. Kim Kardashian, regardless of whatever they’re wearing, it’s always a smoky eyes and a nude lips that’s their signature style. Just think about those things in your life.

I always say for busy moms and busy mom-preneurs if it’s your kids then maybe you have a necklace that has a meaning to you or something that signifies when you started your business, whatever it is that’s important to you that should be your anchor and build out from there. Like a lot of men, collect watches, cufflinks and things like that. Those are things that you can build around and start to build your personal brand image around the things that you love.

Andrea: I can imagine at this point, but I’d like to hear from you what is the benefit of having that thing that signature thing?

Toi: That’s a very good question. I’ve never been asked that before and I’m so excited to answer it.

Andrea: Yay!

Toi: Well, I just think that it anchors you, right? Because every time I ask someone what they want to say, everyone wants to feel most, and out of all my clients, I have one that give me a different style. Everyone wants to be approachable; no one wants to be seen as someone that doesn’t get along with others and all those type of things. Approachable, it is probably the number one answer, right?

Andrea: Interesting.

Toi: And I think that we all seek or should seek in all of our greatness to be humble because it’s never, it’s about us right? We never really got to anywhere by ourselves and I think that that’s just an important message for me and that’s just kind of me projecting them on to my clients like you need a place to call home. You need a home base, because when you’re that nervous and when you’re that excited and you’re really up and against and it’s stressful to do all the things that we all accomplish in a day. It’s stressful to try to working out at a fulltime job, your business is a fulltime job, working a fulltime job and taking care of your family, and so you just need a place that’s home base.

So we just kind of need that something that we can touch or look at that reminds you that somebody loves you, somebody has your back that you got this that you didn’t get there alone. Like I wear a lot of crosses because of my faith, I wear a little M sometimes for my son that passed away, you know, that just reminds me that like I’m okay, you’re okay. We can do this. It’s like a quiet way of screaming, I got this, and then you build all the other stuff on top of that so that at night when you strip the lashes off and you remove the lipstick, you’re back at home base.

Andrea: Okay, first of all I’m tearing up here. No, I mean for anybody that has ever said that fashion and your appearance is superficial, if they just hear what you just said, they’ve just totally taken back everything they ever said about that because that was so beautiful. What you just said was so beautiful and deep and meaningful. That’s speaks to me personally in a way that being trendy or just looking your best for other people and that sort of thing, that doesn’t speak to me. But when you just said what you just said, that is just so convicting and it opens my mind to “Oh wow, there’s something really meaningful in my appearance.” Wow that was so powerful.

Toi: Because it should be, and I think that again that would kind of sets me apart because I really do when I think about the sounds like not humble but it’s true. When I sign into social media and I say to you that I love you then when you get to know me, you know that it really is coming from a genuine place. And so it’s important to me that you have a home base, because life gets tough. It gets tough for all of us and so if it’s just about the stuff, you lose that stuff.

You know all the stuff will come and go but if you’re anchoring yourself in your home whether that’s your faith or your family or whatever that’s for you then you have a better chance of being unshakable. You know what I mean? And so at the end of the day when I’m saying dress for message that’s what it is about. That’s why I’m saying that it’s important for you. I want to know what’s your vision is because I want to know where you’re going. That’s all about stuff. I want to know what you’re values are because that’s the piece that we’re going to choose that represents something to you.

Andrea: This is like therapy. I mean, yeah retail therapy exactly. No, you know, it’s not. It’s so different in that. It’s so good. So many important things for us to really consider and I can only imagine the kind of impact that your book have on the hearts of the people that read it because they might be going to you expecting fashion tips. But what you’re giving them is identity and that hope that anchoring themselves in who they are and expressing self-expression and those really deep things that I love so much.

Toi: You know, I kind of like see some fashion in there and that I feel like…

Andrea: Oh yeah, I’m sure you did, yes.

Toi: You know, It’s a fashion book, but thank you for what you just said because…and now I’m going to try not to tear up because it’s so much more to me than that. I feel like my purpose is about so much more than that and I think that God has given me the life that he has given me and all the trials because I have something bigger to say than just the clothing.

Anybody can go out there and put an outfit together and that’s not what I do. You can go to Nordstrom, you can go to anybody. There are a thousand fashion stylists. Everybody is an image consultant and that’s not really…at the end of the day, I hope that I deliver so much more than that and that when you look in the mirror like you did, you see your own story for all of the glory that it is and for the all the things that made you use of that when you stepped up on the stage and you’re talking to people about their voice, it’s authentic. But not in the way that we’re all tossing that word around and it just gets on my system. It truly really is authentic, for real.

Andrea: For real.

Toi: For real, authentic.

Andrea: Yes, yes. Oh gosh, yeah. That’s a good stuff. So Toi then can I ask you where does your fashion for this come from? What is in your story? Where you’ve been? What sort of things has happened that has motivated you to be so passionate about this?

Toi: Oh my goodness, so many things like all of us. I mean, the short answer is…I’ll give you the quick notes, you know, it’s just like everybody. You come into this world and you have natural loves, right? I’ve always love art, music and fashion. I grew up thinking that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She still is. She has such a great sense of style and I was left to my own so I really learned to depend on myself a lot and just not allowing all the negative things, learning in my 20s to love myself because I didn’t love the negative stuff in, right?

And so my goal in my 20s was really learning and to made a conscious effort to really learn on how to love myself. I did it because I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I was funny, you know, and I always had a great sense of style. But I didn’t really love myself. So once I realized that, I kind of put that as a priority so that when I finally did met my husband, “you have to accept me and all of me, for who I am. I love myself too much to settle for anything less than what I deserve.”

So when we got married, you know, he travelled a lot. He would be gone 14 weeks at a time and I really wanted to start this business. I really wanted to start a family so when we comes home, we tried for three years to have a baby and nothing was happening. And then after all of the infertilities in six months and I have a uterine eruption. I lost our first son, Myles, and it ripped my heart out and it just drawn me to nothing, to ground zero. By the way, I was still working in Corporate America just really trying to dive into this career that I had of time to make it a different aspect of the fashion industry and dealing with just the tough stuff there as well.

And so before that, we talking about divorce and all these hard things that you kind go through and just really, really standing that ground zero and decided to still look up. And fashion and putting on my power was such a great part of that for me. It’s always been my saving grace as far as like “Okay, Lord, I’m gonna anchor myself,” and you still have to get out of bed and I need a look. If I dressed how I feel, there’s going to be a problem. So let me go one better and I take it until I made it and then it really just it.

And so now, when I see women who don’t stand in their power, and I see women not dressing and living up to their full potential, I take it on us like personal vendetta like “Oh, you can do this.” This is not okay. This is not just okay and so you got to get up and I take my own advice. You have to get up, put your big girl panties on and go seize the day. I’d stopped and nobody cares, work harder like nobody cares about your personal problems. I care about that big thing and for me it was just being stuck in my career, losing my son and almost losing my husband and almost losing my life. It was all of those things.

You know, I also was told I was stupid that I wasn’t pretty. I was told all of those things and so if I don’t know how to do anything else by the grace of God and because of my love for Christ, I know how to survive. I know how to do that so when I’m telling you, it does kind of matter if you have messy hair and red lipstick on because it might just change you in that moment. One moment leads to another moment because now you’re talking to a stranger at son’s doctor appointment or on your daughter’s recital, right?

And it turns out that she is the blah, blah, blah, of blah blah and you’re like “Oh my gosh, thank God, I showed up that day. Oh thank God, at least even though I was wearing the leggings or the jeggings but at least I had on a good shoe and a handbag, you know what I mean? Because what you’re doing is telling the world that you care enough. You care enough to be treated a certain way. You care enough to show up for them and for yourself because that’s always saying at the end of the day, you say, I love me enough to do this and I love you enough that I’ll do it for you too.

Andrea:  I’m so inspired and I can’t believe that I teared up so much on this podcast today. But obviously, I mean I know personally what you’re talking about now. I get it. You know, it’s not just the longing inside of me anymore like you’ve given that gift to me and what I think, I think that your message is so desperately needed amongst women of all ages. Men too for sure, men definitely applies but hey, you’re going to gain a stronger voice with women as you have the opportunity to speak in colleges like you have in various settings where you get a chance to really speak to the heart and address that. I mean that’s really powerful stuff right there.

Toi: Yeah, that means everything. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Andrea: So Toi, why don’t you share how we can now, now that we’re so inspired, how do we go find your book?

Toi: So you can log on to iTunes into your account and purchase a Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand. My name is a funny name. And my social media under that name except for Twitter, it’s sweeneytoi. But yeah, if you have an Android, we loaded it up on Cobo so you can still be able to get it that way. I’m really, really excited to spy it and let me know your thoughts. Please reach out to me on social media and say hi because I love that. I hate the term fashion profession. So hopefully, it’s much more, more than that but I have a passion for people for sure and just helping you to dress the message.

Andrea: Yes, and we will definitely link your book into the show notes. So if you’re listening on iTunes, as soon as you’re done with this, go poke the link to the book and your already on iTunes or Apple podcast is what they’re calling it now, you’re going to be taken right to the book. Just go ahead and get that thing because this is pretty exciting stuff and I know that you’re going to appreciate the things that Toi has to share with you. And if nothing else to say thank you for everything that she just gave us today. So thank you so much Toi from the bottom of my heart, from myself personally and for the audience who I know this Influencer that’s listening is really touched. So thank you so much!

Toi: Thank you so much for having me!

 

If you are interested in learning more about your own identity, message and business, check out my 1 to 1 offerings here.

The Terrifying First Step Is Usually the Best One to Take

Voice Studio 09

In this 7 minute Voice Studio episode I talk about the interview with Chad R. Allen in episode 09. He encourages all writers, makers and creators to take the first step and then take it again. In this episode I share about how I got started writing in 2014…taking the first step over and over again until I had a blog, then a book and now a podcast.

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode 09 with Chad R. Allen
Frozen Top Ten (blog post)
UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You (book)

Listen on iTunes (Apple Podcasts) here.

You Can’t Succeed as a Writer Until You Take the First Step

Episode 09 with Chad Allen

Chad R. Allen (@chadrallen) blogs about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at www.chadrallen.com. He is an editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, and works with such authors as Mark Batterson, Larry Crabb, Kyle Idleman, Chip Ingram, Kyle Idleman, and N. T. Wright. Allen was featured in Christian Retailing’s “Forty under 40” report and has written articles for Conversations, Radix, Relevant, and PRISM. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife, Alyssa, live with their two children in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Chad R. Allen’s website

Book Proposal Acadamy

Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

Transcript

Andrea: Chad it’s great to have you on the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Chad: Ah I love this! Thanks so much, Andrea, for having me. I appreciate it!

Andrea: Okay, so I can’t go any further without asking you about Nebraska. Did you grow up in Nebraska or did you just go to school here?

Chad: Well, I was an Air Force brat, so I move around quite a bit in my childhood. But I did both high school and undergrad college in Nebraska.

Andrea: Aha, and so I’m from Nebraska so that was definitely something that I wanted to ask you about. So how did you get from Nebraska? You’ve been all over and now you’re doing so many amazing things with Baker Books but then also on your own. So did you get from there to here?

Chad: Well, so I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers in the spring of ’96, and from there, I wandered around a little bit trying to find my way. I ended up volunteering for Douglas Gresham in Ireland of all places. Doug is the general consultant for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, C.S. Lewis PTE Limited. He’s also the stepson of the late C.S. Lewis. And so some of your listeners might know C.S. Lewis, he wrote The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and the whole Narnia chronicle series as well as many other books.

So I flew out there in ’97, and I volunteered at his ministry there in Ireland. But part of that was just assisting him with his C.S. Lewis work. With that ministry, I got to see anything related to C.S. Lewis. New books would come across his desk for review and approval. And so I was exposed to the world of publishing through that volunteer opportunity and was just blown away. Because what I saw was that there was this whole back end to publishing and that people had actually an influence on the final product, and I was really captivated with that.

So that led to an interesting publishing and eventually working at Baker in Grand Rapids. I started out as a copy editor or project editor and then eventually made my way to acquisitions and now have been editorial director for six years.

Andrea: I know that you write as well, but not just write your own books but have an influence on other people that are writing books. You and I share very similar interests in that. That’s really interesting. So how did you decide that that was something that you wanted to pursue instead of going right after writing or something else like that right away?

Chad: Yeah, so you know, I was immediately intrigued with the ability to make a book better than when I received it and to really help an author craft their manuscript in a way that would make it as compelling as possible. So that was what initially brought me into publishing and I continue to do that work today.

About six years ago, I did start to feel this kind of pull toward doing my own writing, and so I started my blog to write about writing and publishing and creativity. So I do both now. I write my own stuff. And by the way, my wife is a great editor who helps me refine my own content and then I also continue to do the editorial work.

For me, it’s all about bringing what’s inside out. It’s about helping people do their art and get their content into the world. There’s just nothing that brings me more joy than that work.

Andrea: Why do you feel like it’s that important that people are able to bring that inside out?

Chad: Well, I think that we each have a unique voice. I was just talking to a coaching client earlier this morning and she was really struggling with…I think a lot of people struggle with this. You know, what I have to offer unique and to other people who talk about these things.

And I said, there’s nobody who’s going to do it the way that you do it. What you have to offer is unique. What comes easy to you does not come easy to others. The expertise you have in your particular area, you know, other people don’t have that and they need you to the extent you’d feel called to offer it. They need you to do that.

So, so much of work, Andrea, and probably this is why you have your podcast is to encourage people that their voice is valuable and it’s not going to happen unless they take the risk of getting it out there.

Andrea: With me, when it comes to this podcast and the passion that sort of drives it, it does have a lot to do with my own struggle in that area and then finding my voice and overcoming and that sort of thing. I’m curious if that is a similar thing that you found for yourself. Do you think that’s part of the reason why you’re so interested in helping other people find their voice in writing and creativity and drawing that inside out? Is that something that you struggle with personally?

Chad: Absolutely. I remember reading Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger, not because I wanted to become a millionaire but because my friend, Andy Traub recommended it to me. He was the first person I heard say, “People really want what you have to offer if you just have the guts to offer it.” You know, there’s something here about trust and taking a risk and maybe a little bit of faith. And I just sort of trusted him and I went for it and that was six years ago when I launched the blog and I’ve been pleased to help a lot of people.

So I think that’s the other thing about this Andrea, as you do it, you know, we’ll make the road by walking it, right? As you do it, you get more and more confidence because you do see people reading your stuff and interacting with it. Yeah, sometimes I’ve seen a blog post in the world that doesn’t get much activity. That happens but then the next one I write does get some activity.

And so a little bit of success can be a big encouragement. You don’t have the opportunity for that success if you don’t get the first blog post out there, you know what I mean? Or the first article or the first podcast or whatever it is.

Andrea: Or the first 10 to see that all of them sort of matter and not everyone of them like you said will end up being that important or that popular. Yeah, I’ve certainly struggled with that in trying to figure out with what is the thing that resonates with the audience, who is the audience and that sort of thing. Is this something that you help people figure out?

Chad: Yeah. So I created this course called Book Proposal Academy. And again, this comes out of just putting myself out there and seeing what might happened. I was in a little Mastermind group when we’re talking about whatever we’re up to. And one of the people in the group said “You know, Chad, if you could show me how to write a book proposal that would be awesome.” I was like “Well, I’ve reviewed a few thousands in my career. I think I could help with that.”

So I created this course called, Book Proposal Academy. And what it’s specifically helps non-fiction writers do is write their book proposals and book proposals are how you eventually get published in the traditional publishing world. But what I found is that book proposals are also just a great way to develop your concept, to build out the structure of your book, to learn how to talk about your book, to make your concepts stronger, to think about the marketing of your book, and to begin actually writing your book because any book proposal that’s worth it. So includes a writing sample of the actual book.

So it’s been this great sort of tool for helping writers break through the barrier of getting started on their book projects. So that’s one way that I’ve helped people do that. The course is called Book Proposal Academy. Your listeners can find it at bookproposalacademy.com and that’s been a wonderful tool to help people. A lot of people have these scattered thoughts about a book they want to write. They struggle with getting started and I found that writing a book proposal is great way to break through that barrier and actually get your book into the world.

Andrea: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and I can only imagine how valuable that is to people who are longing to write a book but they’re not sure where to begin and to develop their concepts. This idea of developing a concept I think is really interesting. What kind of things do you suggest when people are thinking about that maybe they have a book in their mind that they’d like to write? How do they turn that idea into a concept that’s really, really powerful and could get the attention of an editor or publisher but also would actually sell?

Chad: Yeah that’s such a great question. So the first thing to know is that the formula for publishing success is platform, big platform, plus great concepts, plus great writing equals publishing success. So you wouldn’t want to leverage a platform and service to a concept that’s weak because it’s just a waste of influence. You don’t have to spend all the time and energy into writing a great book if it’s not in service to a great concept because then you just invested a lot of time and energy that’s not going to go anywhere and that sort of wasteful.

So a great concept is really important. What I encourage writers to do is to first think about the need that their book is addressing, the itch that their book is scratching, and to really brainstorm what that is. What is the need that your book is responding to? And then even talk to people, would you buy a book that helps you do so and so, and even go to your Facebook tribe or just friends and family and ask that questions to get really clear your mind what’s the pinpoint that my book is going to relieve.

Once you have that firmly in place then I encouraged writers to brainstorm possible book titles and subtitles. When we talk about concept that can sound really amorphous and hard to get your mind around but titles are concept labels, they make concepts concrete. So as you play with different titles, you’re playing with different concepts. So with the need that your book is addressing in mind, you brainstorm working titles and subtitles for your book.

What I encourage people do, and I have folks who have actually done this through a pizza party, they’ll invite over all their most creative friends. You describe the need that your book is addressing and then you get them brainstorming titles and subtitles.

Andrea: What a great idea!

Chad: Yeah, so you just keep doing that until you have three or four strong titles, subtitles combinations and then you go to your Facebook tribe wherever you go for feedback and you say “Here are my top three or four titles, subtitle ideas, which of these would you been most likely to purchase?” And that’s the process that I encourage writers to use to develop a great concept.

Andrea: Yeah, those are great tips and great suggestions so one thing that you mentioned that you start with the need. And I think that a lot of times as somebody who really cares about making a difference and wants to get a message out into the world, sometimes we start with our own desire to share something instead of starting where other people are at, which sounds like you’re suggesting. Start where people actually feel the need.

So yeah, I just find that really interesting. How do you bridge that gap? How do you go from having an idea that’s inside of you and a passion that’s inside of you and turning it into something that’s actually going to meet a need?

Chad: Yeah, that’s the kind of million dollar question because we have these passions. We have these desires, this internal pull to write about something or to get some sort of message into the world and that’s really, really important. It’s important to know what that passion is to have a sense of that, but the real magic is when you can find the intersection between your passion and the world’s need.

You know, Buechner has this great quote about the place you’re called to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world deep need. And so I think both are really important, but definitely making a priority of determining what the need is and using your passion to meet that specific need. That’s the place where you are going to find the hearing and you’re going to be able to have increasingly more influence.

Andrea: There are a lot of people I think who might say “Well, I don’t need other people to read what I write.” I hear this a lot. “I’m just doing it even if it’s just for one person,” and that sort of thing. I can see why they would say that and I can say why I may have said that in the past at the same time I think that’s almost like cut out to finding this intersection that you’re talking about and it’s really hard work to find that.

Chad: Yeah. I mean, I do write just for myself sometimes. That’s called my journal.

Andrea: Right.

Chad: That’s really valuable, you know, there’s definitely a place for that. And there are things that I share my journal. I certainly wouldn’t share with the world. But I’m doing my blog, I want to serve people and yes that’s good for me. It helps me kind of untangle my thoughts and help me figure out what I wanted to say.

There’s a great quote about “How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” So am I getting something out of it? Absolutely, I’m getting something out of it, but I also want to help people and I just find that I get more readers when I’m speaking to issues that they’re really facing, that they’re really struggling with. And so I get a much better response when I’m zeroed in on serving people that I do when I’m focused on, you know, what do I have to say?

So it’s finding the intersection. And it’s a dance and it is difficult work. It’s also really energizing work when things go well. And like you said, sometimes you got to do this for 10 posts. Sometimes you got to do this for five years before you really see the results of your efforts, but the journey is worthwhile. So I hope that’s helpful.

Andrea: Yeah. Well, what’s the journey been like for you? So you already have a job, a really good job and doing something that’s really important and that’s your calling then you started to blog and what not. Did you immediately find a readership or has it taken a while to kind of get going?

Chad: It has taken a while for sure. Yeah, I mean what I did and what I encourage beginning bloggers to do is to get your first 10 articles written, and you know save on your hard drive before you even publish the first one, just so that you start getting into the rhythm of writing and sending your work into the world. So that you have 10 posts in the queue and then you can tweak them before you actually hit publish. That was how I started.

And you know, Andrea, those are some very fun memories for me of waking up early in the morning. Like you said, I have a fulltime job, but I would wake up and still wake up early in the morning most days of the week, and I often go to a coffee shop. And those are some of my best moments, right? Just me and my keyboard making something happen. I still love it. I get goose bumps even thinking about it now.

But yeah, it does take a while and it takes savvy you know. You learn ways of getting more and more eyeballs on your contents. I think a lot of it begins with learning that it’s really okay for you to ask people to read your stuff. You know, “Hey, I just wrote this. You might find it interesting, check it out.” You know, getting past the initial hurdle of asking people to check out what you’ve done is an important stuff to take. So it does take time.

And definitely if you’re going to do this, it’s important to have the long view in mind. I mean, there are stories that people who have sort of overnight success, but they’re the exceptions that make the rule. So definitely, you have to be content with the journey and the satisfaction of just giving your stuff into the world. But recognize that as you do it overtime and as you learn more and more techniques for attracting readers to what you’re doing or listeners to the podcast that you’re broadcasting. The longer you’re out it, the more people will learn about you that’s been my experience.

Andrea: Hmm, so when people are going through this process of trying to find that voice in writing, whether it’d be through using a book proposal or blogging, do you have anything in particular that you suggest people do in terms of taking care of themselves or how that relates to finding their voice?

Chad: Ah, I think that is so important. I’ve always been fascinated with the interplay between sort of caring for ourselves and serving others. I travelled quite a bit for work and we’ve all heard…anybody has been in an airplane has heard the flight attendant talked about, you know, if the pressure in the cabin goes down and the oxygen masks fall off and you have a small child with you, please place the oxygen mask of yourself before helping others. And I think that’s a metaphor for how we should approach creative work. We have to be taking care of ourselves if we’re going to help people to the best extent possible.

So when I talk about self care, I think about things like getting enough sleep. I think about eating well. I think about being connected relationally with people who are supporting me. You know, who’s your team? Who’s helping you do your creative work and how are you interacting with them on a regular basis? I think about the stimuli that I put in front of my cerebral cortex. What books am I reading? What shows am I watching? What podcast am I listening to that are going to help me do my most creative work? What’s my calendar like?

What kind of time am I committing to my art and how do I do that in a way that honors the work that I’m doing but also the person I am and my need for sleep and taking care of myself. So I encourage people to think about, how are you going to take care of you as you do this creative work? Because it’s when you’re living a full healthy life that you’re going to be able to produce the best content and help the most people possible.

Andrea: That’s some great advice. I self published a book recently and in that time of me writing, everything was so focused on getting this message out of my body and my head. Like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I didn’t even attempt to be published because I didn’t have that platform yet, and I just have this message inside of me that I had to get out somehow.

So I think I got so focused on just getting it out that it was easy to let other things slide, and yet I think if I were to look back and talk to myself back then, I would say something along the lines of “You have time. Take a breath. Make sure that you are doing these self-care things that you just suggested.”

One thing that really stood out to me was this idea of having a team around you that you connect with relationally and talk about. Is it easy to find that or how do you develop? How do you know who belongs in that position in your life when you’re trying to develop a message?

Chad: Yeah, I think there are at least three ways you can go about that. One is to enlist a mentor, and just think about somebody who’s farther along than you in the journey that you want to be mentored in and whether it’s creativity, health, blogging, or podcasting. Think of somebody in your current circles who may have more experience than you do and it could be somebody who lives near you, or it could be somebody that you’re just connected to via the internet and ask them.

You know, “Could we get together once a quarter?” Say, once a month or once a quarter, whatever works. “And you don’t have to do anything but show up and I’m going to ask you questions. I would just like to spend that time with you.” If you’re going out to lunch, make sure that you pick up a tab for lunch. I’ve done that to really great effects.

Another way is just a 1 on 1 meeting, so maybe somebody who is a peer of yours. It may not make sense for them to be your mentor but they’re somebody who’s also on the journey. So you have a rhythm of going out with them for coffee or lunch once a month again, once a quarter, or once a week whatever makes sense and you commit showing up with say 15 minutes of content that you’ve picked and they commit to the same thing. And you take notes when they’re talking or at least mental notes so that you are learning from them and they’re learning from you and you’re on the journey together.

And the third way would be developing what Todd Henry calls a ‘creativity circle’ where a group of people get together and they talk about, you know, “What are we working on right now?” Why do we need some accountability? What do we want to have accomplished by the next time we get together? And I’ve done those once a month, and again, they’ve been extremely helpful to me and supportive to me as I move forward. There are of course paid opportunities out there; coach, different mastermind, coaching groups that you can pay to enter and those are also worth checking out.

Andrea: What do you think is the value difference or why would somebody choose to seek out somebody like you to be their coach, their writing coach instead of finding a friend to talk to? What’s the difference there do you think?

Chad: Well, I think it’s just a different kind of help and somebody maybe the help they need is the help that only a friend can offer. I think the value of a coach is that a coach has walked this path before and they’re going to help you save time and energy so that you can just be more efficient and see progress more quickly. A coach can also help you with the accountability piece.

A friend maybe able to help you with that but if you’re paying a coach to keep you accountable then it tends to… You know, what I’ve noticed, Andrea, I guess when I pay for something, I’m much more likely to be invested in it with my own time and energy than if I’m getting a service for free. So that’s just the reality of human nature but I think both are important. I would hate to pick one against the other, but coaching does offer some things that other relationships don’t tend to offer.

Andrea: Yeah, that’s a good point. What else do you think you would like to cover, anything else that we haven’t really talked about?

Chad: I think this had been a really good dialogue. Sometimes an interviewer will ask me, you know, they’ll think about the audience they have in mind and they’ll say the people who are listening this podcast are tat tada tada tada. If you could only offer one piece of advice, what would it be? Maybe, we could end like that if you wanted to.

Andrea: Yes, absolutely! And also I’ll ask you where to find you, where people can find you and that sort of thing too. But I want to make sure that we didn’t have anything else that we need to cover. So Chad for the Influencers that’s out there listening, thinking that maybe they have a book inside of them that they’re not really sure where to begin. We know that they can come to your Book Proposal Academy and potentially take that course from you, but what was be the first step that you would suggest that they do in order to get that book out there to explore that idea?

Chad: That’s so great and it brings to mind a story, Andrea, if’ you’ll indulge me.

Andrea: Of course!

Chad: I remember when my son was about 4 years old; we went to Chuck E. Cheese. And this is not something I recommend usually to anybody because it just a lot of noise and a bunch of consumerism. But one thing that he came away with from the trip was slinky. And I think slinkies are pretty awesome toys. And it wasn’t long before we got home and he was trying to do what they do in the commercials.

He was trying to get the slinky to walk down our stairs. He just kept trying and took the top front of the slinky and slams it down to the next step, and to be honest, it was not just going off. And I thought “Oh boy!” You know, I’m going to have to break it for him. He was 4 years old and I’m going to break it to him that what they’re doing in the commercials isn’t possible in real life.

But little Lucas, he just kept trying. He kept trying to put that top of the slinky on the next step. And all of a sudden, I don’t know what he did, but he did something just right because he did the same thing again. He put it down on the next step and off it went 17 steps all by itself and it was like an incredible moment.

I remember, he was at the top of the stairs and I was at the bottom of the stairs and we both looked at each “Well, it’s happening.” And I looked at his mouth, it was wide open and it jumps up in the air and his hair was all over the place.

Now, what I want your listeners to do is post that image in their minds that image of a little boy jumping into the air with his eyes wide open with his hair flying everywhere because that’s what is possible for them if they keep trying the first step. So the first step could be writing a blog post once a week. It could be writing 250 words every week. It could be writing that chapter every month. It could be posting their podcast once a week or once a day or whatever it is.

Whatever it is to take the first step and the key to taking it over and over again until something hits, until something happens that goes just right, that’s what they need to do. Focus in on that that first step. They need to take over and over again, and if they do that and they do it faithfully, they can’t go wrong.

Andrea: Wow that’s a great advice. Thank you so much for all of this advice about writing and publishing. So Chad, where can people find you if they’re wanting to learn more about you?

Chad: Yeah, I’m at chadrallen.com and the same both on Facebook and Twitter, chadrallen, and you can find me on those various places.

Andrea: I’ll be sure to link to your website and that show notes. And I would also mention to the Influencers listening that there are a lot of great resources there. So please go ahead and check them out and the things that are free. I love some of the things that I’ve seen on your website. So thank you for all of the things that you’re doing to help us, to help people like me and the Influencers out there to be able to develop their own Voice of Influence as you’re using yours.

Chad: Thanks, Andrea. It has been a lot of fun!

 

 

Dare to Live Outside the Fences

Episode 06 with Terry Weaver

Terry Weaver is a speaker, author, event producer, podcaster, and ideapreneur whose passion is to see others live life alive; whether through helping others see their dreams become reality, traveling around the world challenging students to change the world, leading teams of people to do more together than they could alone, or hanging out with Mickey Mouse.
With a background in the music business, Terry has helped creatives navigate the journey from the garage to the biggest stages in the world. Whether it’s getting to the stage of Grammys®, helping entrepreneurs with a six-figure product launch, or leading conversations with key thought leaders his mission is always the same to help leaders take what they are doing to the next level. Terry and his wife Leslie live outside Nashville, Tennessee with their miniature schnauzer.

Mentioned in this episode:

 

I don’t have a transcript for this interview today, but grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair and listen in by pushing play above or in iTunes (here).

 

How to Give Students a Voice Through Video

Episode 04 with Michael Tringe

Michael Tringe co-founded CreatorUp to empower anyone to have the opportunity to tell their story through video and all forms of digital media. He loves helping people learn, and watching the impactful stories and videos they’ve created after learning with us has been incredibly rewarding.

As a teacher in Morocco, he started a film program, and was inspired by his students’ stories. For the first time, Mike could see the world through their eyes. That changed him, and inspired him to go to film school at USC. For Mike, films and videos are not just entertainment. They are a means to get to know each other and ourselves. A way to communicate new ideas in a powerful and exciting way.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen, subscribe, rate and review on iTunes!

Transcript

(this is an approximate transcript)

Mike Tringe co-founded CreatorUp to empower anyone to have the opportunity to tell their story through video and all forms of digital media. He loves helping people learn and watching the impactful stories and videos they’ve created after learning with CreatorUp has been incredibly rewarding.

As a teacher in Morocco, Michael started a film program and was inspired by his students’ stories. For the first time, he could see the world through their eyes. That changed him and inspired him to go to film school at USC. For him, films and videos are not just entertainment. They are means to get to know each other and ourselves, a way to communicate new ideas in a powerful and exciting way.

I am truly excited to have Michael Tringe on the podcast with us today. He’s a dear friend going all the way back to elementary school. We participated in a number of activities together throughout our school years and graduated together in stayed in contact since then.

 

Andrea: Mike, it is an honor to have you here with us.

Mike: Well, it is an honor to be joining this. So thank you so much for the opportunity.

Andrea:   Now, before we get to CreatorUp and the work that you’re doing to empower people’s voices through video, I’d like to go back to where it sounds like this part of your story begin. How did you get from Harvard to teaching school in Morocco?

Mike: Well, I really wanted to travel and I knew that I was a little burned out from college, so I applied to a lot of different international schools. Harvard had something called, the Harvard overseas teaching program, and so many of those schools had relationships with the university. That meant that it just a little easier to apply, that didn’t mean that it’s easier to be a teacher.

So I applied to schools all over the world and the one that seemed most interested in me was the school in Morocco. And I think you can appreciate the story, but the last time that I had been to Morocco was on our band trip to Epcot Center and that’s where we had, I think, our first O’Doul’s.

So my memory of Morocco was like you know this little Moroccan hat or whatever who was in the Epcot Center. I was thinking “That sounds like a fun adventure.” But in all seriousness, I really was excited about the chance to try something completely new and different. And that’s why I really was gravitating towards Morocco, even more so than some of the programs that I applied to.

Andrea: You didn’t go to school for teaching right?

Mike: Well, I didn’t and I did. I always knew that I enjoyed teaching and I did take some classes in educational psychology and behavioral science, and so in some ways like it was in the back of my mind. But you’re right, I was premed and I thought I was definitely going to be a doctor and this was, you know, I’d taken [unclear 03:09], so this was my break year where I was going to go teach for a year and that turned into three years and the rest is history.

Andrea: So you went to teach English is that right?

Mike: I did.

Andrea: And I remember you told us a story about somebody that you’ve helped find their voice through writing.

Mike: Yeah I know, I could name; his name is Karim, and I’m really among all of the students remember him because he’s a very quiet student and someone who I knew was intelligent and knew had something important to say but he never spoke up.   You know, it’s intimidating, you’re in high school and my classes weren’t huge and most of the students really did know each other quite well since it’s a small school. But for whatever reason, he seemed too uncomfortable talking in front of the class.

So we worked on his writing and I could see that he was starting to get better at articulating his thoughts and then I noticed when I opened up the film class that he was the first one to join. And I thought “Oh this is interesting.” He wasn’t my first thought of a candidate. And man, when he picked up the camera it was just like he was singing.

He was really just like in his element and I think that taught me that this is a medium for, you know, sometimes people who don’t know what to say or how to say it but they want to share their vision in a visual way. So it was just really revelatory for me as a teacher to discover that this is a different form of communication that really works better for some types of students.

Andrea: That’s really powerful. Do you tend to notice these people that have something to say but they just don’t seem to be saying it?

Mike: Yeah.   I think every filmmaker I ever met has this kind of sort of background where even YouTube creators. I could say just like maybe they’re not so good at communicating in traditional ways but this [unclear 05:21] thought or vision or idea that they have has to come out on the screen, somehow. That’s the journey that a lot of filmmakers and visual creators I think are on. This is one of “Okay, this is in my head, how do I get it out?”

Andrea: I’m curious. Did you always know that you were going to start a film course in Morocco, or it that something that developed overtime?

Mike: No. No, totally overtime. I had brought my own camera to Morocco and had been filming my own stories. That was really enjoyable for me and it was very natural extension as I was asked to teach a photography class or to coach track or whatever to say “Hey, you know, I have this camera, why don’t we start a film class, you know.” It seems like a natural thing I want to do.

The headmaster was very supportive. And he was a very special person because he started working at the school 40 years into his time there and I came in after he’d already been there for 40 years. He had done a theater program and he had this very famous plays produced. He had people like Tennessee Williams and Oliver Stone coming to this place [unclear 06:43]. And I was like “Who is this person?”

But he was from the Deep South and very connected to literature and plays, and so he was very supportive of the film program when it started even when we were getting this max with 4 gigabytes and one camera that cost $4,000 or whatever.

Andrea: Just for context, approximately how long ago was this?

Mike: 2001, so it’s 16 years ago.

Andrea: So video and using video anywhere outside of your home videos, I think was still really a new idea, right?

Mike: Yeah for sure. It wasn’t really even until, I would say platforms like YouTube came along later when it really became a thing because if you’re going to do more with other than like send it off to festival or share with your family like a slide show.

Andrea: Yeah and the barrier to entry who’s just starting something like that is so much [crosstalk]. You said that you had this sort of revelation in Morocco that film was a big deal, when did that translate into your own personal like “I want to learn how to do this better?”

Mike: I think it’s a very deep question but I think that most of what I realized when I was there was there was I was pretty frustrated with my ability to communicate. I spoke English. I never know how to speak Arabic and so part of it was like “Wow!” And for three years I’m not able to express myself outside of the classroom, and so I have gone better with my Spanish. They spoke Spanish there and I studied French and studied some Arabic.

So I really worked very hard at my capabilities for any language. And I still felt really limited and I was like “Hmm, there’s something about video which is very universal.” I mean you can watch it and see it and experience it, and sometimes there are subtitles and sometimes there are not. But to me, I really saw it as a universal communication tool and one which allowed me to access through the eyes of my students. They’re used of their culture and for my own perspective; I was able to share how I saw the world. And so, I think for me, it was like that desire to really learn another language or visual language.

So I started going to festivals more and sort of experiencing the world of film festivals and people telling stories. And I really feel, they just fell in love with that because I think [unclear 09:39] you than anyone. I feel the same sort of need than I do to kind of deeply communicate with people. And really we are most vulnerable when we’re making films or telling stories for others to see. So for me, I was just really attracted to that as a communication medium and a tool and experience.

Andrea: I’m curious about what you said, “I’m most vulnerable when making something for somebody else to see.” What do you mean by that? Vulnerable because why?

Mike: Well, it’s the artists’ dilemma, right? Which is you’re sharing ideas that you might not normally be able to share in conversation or think about when you’re writing down your deepest thoughts and then you translate those into stories. And then you have a team of people that comes in and helps you tell that story because filmmaking involves other people. And then it goes on to spreading somewhere or out into the world.

So I can see how it’s scary. You know, it’s very scary especially in today’s day and age where media is pervasive and things [unclear 10:55] and I was like “Oh my God, can I really do this? What’s gonna happen? Where it’s gonna go? What are people gonna think?” And all these thoughts and I remember going in festivals and hearing people talked about my films afterwards. And being both like on the edge of seat wanting to know what they said and so being like “Don’t say anything bad about it,” you know, which inevitably happens, some people like it and some people don’t.

Andrea: You know, I haven’t thought quite like this before but I haven’t really done a lot with video myself yet. I think someday I’d like to, but I’ve just been trying my voice in writing and audio. And what I have not done is other than my editor for a book, I have not really submitted myself to somebody else’s win as far as, not their win but maybe their artistic expression of what I’m trying to create.

So I can imagine what it’s like to pull a team together around your own story, around the idea that you’ve developed and then somehow trusting. I mean, I know that you’ve done directing but is that part of the vulnerability too, also just like putting other people and giving them that power?

Mike: Oh for sure, absolutely! And I love being in film’s school because it was very supportive and I think that’s why people go because you really do feel like you’re on the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s like everyone’s there to do something and say something and you want to help them to that because they want to help you do that. So in a lot of ways that’s what you’re paying for to be a part of this community of supporters where’s there’s no judgment and there’s really an openness, yet finding people who are going to get it is hard or it can be.

Andrea: So we’ve kind of moved on to film school then you went to USC, and do you want to share anything about your experience there?

Mike: From an academic perspective, I was all in. I mean, I loved every class and learned so much and I was excited about learning about the entertainment industry, meeting new people, and met some really incredibly talented people. It was like a challenging period though because, on the hand, I was going to school. And on the other hand, I was making films with friends on my own for homework on nights and weekends. And then I was working two or three jobs, so all in student’s paycheck.

So for three or four years, I was really sort of subsisting and I know that’s kind of like whatever grad student says but I was surprised by how hard it was. And I think a lot of people were like “Oh film school that sounds so funny, sounds so easy.” It’s like “No, you’re driving and unloading 2-ton [unclear] trucks and there’s a lot of like physical-ness to it and emotional-ness to it.” And probably one of the most exhausting things I’ve ever done you know and it just last a long time.

But having said all of that, it was cathartic in a lot of ways because I was able to write stories that I’d never been able to write and have some success with what I was doing. I had films start to get into the festivals and people started to recognize my talent as a writer, as a director, as a producer, and all of that was really made it all worth it. You really don’t think about the long hours with a low pay. It was more about “Wow, this is really exciting!” The shocking part came at the end when it was like “Okay now, we’re moving into this exciting industry.” And then the industry all changed and all the rules have changed and it’s just kind of like starting all over again but not in a bad way.

Andrea: So when you say the industry changed, was that something that was happening from your experience going from grad school to the industry or was that in general a big change that was happening in the industry?

Mike: It was in general, it wasn’t just my experience. I mean, the digital revolution has happened. This is a sort of the reason I started this company. But in general, the business models were changing; who they hired to do things was changing because the business models were changing. So it used to be okay, well you “break into Hollywood and you get discovered and hired in the other group.” That make it sounds a little easy but at least it was kind of like a system for 30 years you know.

Andrea: And you go into film school thinking that’s their system that you’re going in to.

Mike: That’s a system, yeah that’s the system. I think every industries kind of been disrupted in one way or the other, so that system have changed. Basically, the rules forced you to move into [unclear 16:03] models a little faster. So in order to get funding to do anything, and in that we’re talking about crowdfunding more than getting a production company, to invest in you because original stories are not what studios were looking for. I mean, the big realization for me was like “Wow, what of superhero movies going on?”

Yeah, because the studios were like “Yeah, we’re not just taking risk anymore.” They fired all of the studio heads and they replaced them with marketing directors and that was just a thing because all the studios were required by conglomerates. So no longer was art as important as it once was to the system. Luckily, YouTube happens, Instagram, and Facebook so people have these other outlets, right and crowdfunding happened.

Andrea: Yeah!

Mike: But in that netherworld from 2008 to 2012, which is when I was working. After I graduated, all these shifts were happening. And I think all of us were really like grasping for what’s the pathway here. You know, one student asked “What what do I do with that?” “I don’t want to take that and make it a thing,” so…

Andrea: It’s so amazing that you were in it right in that time and those things were changing, you were trying to figure out what to do then that eventually led to the new steps that you were going to take. So what was it about industry then that led you to move towards starting CreatorUp?

Mike: Well, it was hindsight. I think looking back at what I saw and experienced in wanting to change things. I didn’t like a lot of things that I saw. And I think you know me well and you know that I’m very principled person when it comes to making things feel right. I saw a lot of privileged in the system in terms of who was given access and why, and I thought back to my personal story, a gay person who had come out and was making and telling gay stories and realizing “Well, that’s not really marketable.”

I mean, it was in some ways starting to break out with things like Brokeback Mountain. And then I think with Moonlight winning an Oscar, it has come to kind of full circle. But at that time, I just realized that for me and other minorities or other voices of people who don’t have as much money or access, what happens to them? And always, those were the stories that need to be heard.

So for me, it was a mission about how can I take the knowledge that I have learned in four years in film school as I was interning and working? Or maybe closer to 10 years in the industry, how do I take that and give it away and make it accessible and give people tools? And so for me that became more important even in telling my own story was “How do I help other people tell their stories?” Because I feel like I have told my story, you know, I have said what I wanted to say and will continue to do that but how do I help other people do that.

Andrea: When you think about the minorities’ story that ideally you were just sharing that does the story that you really need to hear, why is it so important to make sure that those stories are told?

Mike: It’s so, so important. It’s about representation. We go up in Nebraska and we knew what we could see that was that, right? Whatever was in front of or you could read about, but I think especially at this time in our nation, in our society, we need to see more. And if we’re not able to see and hear those other stories then out of sight, out of mind. It’s almost like those other people don’t exist because we’ve never heard about them. We don’t know about them and maybe the reason we don’t know about them is because they’ve never been given that opportunity to share who they are.

Andrea: You know, I also think that empathy…that’s one of the things that were given when we can really experience somebody else’s story through video, especially…

Mike: Oh for sure.

Andrea: I’m more able to really understand somebody else and their perspective and what they’re experiencing and I’m seeing their facial expressions and I’m hearing the tone of their voice. And seeing their perspective I guess to film in a way that even writing doesn’t really quite allow.

Mike: Absolutely! I mean that was like Directing 101 for me in the first semester of film school was that like this emotional element. And this empathetic element is the thing that sort of makes this medium different.

Andrea: You know, respectful dialogue is one of my core principles that I’m longing to promote and get people behind, because obviously there’s demonization of other people all the time. And it’s very difficult to move forward in any kind of way when we can even be respectful to one another.

So empathy and being able to understand other people what’s going on with them, what’s going inside of them and they’re real people. The other people are real people and not just…I think it seems to help me when I think of myself and my experience of film, it helps me get in touch with my own humanity in a lot of ways and what I feel and what I’m thinking. It makes me think more about that.

Mike: On that note, I have to just mention because a friend of mine was involved in this project. There’s a project called Project Empathy, and it’s actually uses virtual reality to help you experience…I mean their tagline is Help us see the world through the eyes of another. So it might just be, you know, I know virtual reality as well is starting to be an extension of filming video in terms of what we’re able to experience in terms of other people’s perspectives.

Andrea: Yeah. So let’s move on to how CreatorUp got started?

Mike: Okay. Well, I think I can give you the idea side of it and I can tell you the people side of it. So from an idea perspective, it was about…I mean, looking back at my time as a teacher and knowing I enjoyed that and knowing I enjoyed film school and wanting to continue that and have that be something anyone could do. I think I mentioned this before but I worked in the admission office at USC. And I remember this, they were rejecting everybody maybe because there were such a limited number of slots or you know…

Andrea: That’s interesting.

Mike: I was like “Hmm, okay…well, a lot of people wanna go to film school, not everyone can get in and it’s so expensive because we all owed over $100,000.” So how can we change that a little bit? And at that time, other interesting shift that was happening was that education models were changing, right? So these massive open online courses were becoming popular. Salman Khan has started the Khan Academy and so our reaction in making things accessible was to start filming ourselves.

So we gather our friends together and said “Hi, you know about cinematography and you know about editing and started making courses and putting money in the internet, 25 bucks a month, all [unclear 24:45].” And that’s literally how it started. So we started as a consumer-focused website that had online courses around storytelling production, marketing, or crowdfunding.

And then as we were going along, we realized “Well, how we can make this even more impactful and more meaningful?” And so we expanded our online offerings to live classes and that soon became something companies wanted as well. So right now, we’ve gone from one, two, three people to 11 or 12 people working here. And we serve primarily schools and companies, but we also serve individuals. And we help people tell their story and use media to reach people with their ideas. That’s what we do.

Andrea: So when you’re doing you have companies, are you doing production work for them or are you teaching them how to produce?

Mike: Both. So I think you know, the people inside of those companies who need a lot of their staff who are working and most of them in the marketing department. So oftentimes, we are working directly with marketing departments to train them around best practices for next generation communication. The big industry trend that I just shared with you is that people are not watching as much TV and they refused to watch commercials.

So what do you do with that? Well, you actually have to make a change. You have to create content that people want to watch and that is the new method by which you reach people, you create value. You create education and you create entertainment. You create inspiration, so those three tenants or some of the tenants behind. But types of content happen to work well on YouTube, which by the way, is now being watched with a rate of 1 billion hours every day. So it’s a thing. It’s a real thing.

Andrea: Wow! How does one even bother getting started? How do you get over the hump of thinking, how do I do that?

Mike: Here’s a dirty little secret, everybody started somewhere and there is so much opportunity around who you are and what you know. And it’s the same thing your grandma told you, “You’re special.” You are, you’re a special person and other people will appreciate that specialness about you because you’re unique and that’s like an easy way of saying that every voice has an audience, every voice has a niche that they’re feeling.

So that’s the beauty of the diverse stories out in the world. We have been living in a broadcast world for a hundred years where it was really like a few channels and one distribution pathway and that has been revolutionaries and that’s great. That’s good for us.

Andrea: One of my mantras is your voice matters, but you can make it matter more.

Mike: Right. I see where you’re going. So the medium allows to amplify that and platforms across social media are one distribution mechanisms. They’re not the only ones, but technically it gets started because this is a technical medium and a lot of people are afraid of that technical element. I think that…yes, it has a small investment whether that’s educating yourself and some equipment or borrowing equipment.

So to get practical about it, you need to identify basically your process and your tools. So from the process perspective, it’s just about mapping out your ideas. I can recommend Evernote for doing that and not necessarily writing all the scripts down or thinking what’s going to be in every video. It’s some of the bullets around you know “What do you wanna say from a big picture perspective? What’s the mission behind your message?”

And then bullet out, what are the topics underneath that that you would want to talk about for let say 10 videos? Once you have those things then it’s about “Okay, well let’s get a camera that works.” DSLR camera or an iPhone could work with a road microphone or something that put into it so that your audio quality is good as well, and editing software which is really just kind of your visual storytelling tool.

You don’t want to do that directly through Instagram stories or Facebook Live with live audience just stream directly which is another medium. But if you want to kind of have that editing element into it, Adobe Premiere is a good tool.

Andrea: Adobe Premiere for both Mac and PC?

Mike: I think it’s probably the best one, the easiest one.

Andrea: Okay.

Mike: Yeah, the other element that I want to talk about in getting started this is just more about making time, finding a way signing a way that kick start what you’re doing. And what I found with anything new they’ve ever done is that requires help that requires other people. You know, they say when you go diving, you need a dive buddy?

Andrea: Right.

Mike: I think need a buddy to keep you accountable and maybe to help in areas where you might not make it so good. Maybe there’s some compliment or skills that’s there around and somebody is good at organization and the other person is good at ideas. I don’t know but I think that’s helpful and I think getting involve in your local filmmaking community. That might not so far as you think.

I mean, a lot of towns and schools and cities will have film festivals and film organizations and you’ll be surprised really how accessible they are if you just walk in. In Nebraska, I know the Omaha Film Festival has a really great community, and I think there are festivals all over the state at this point.

Andrea: It seems like I’ve read some place or saw some place that you were doing some work with helping schools get into film a little bit or start a film program in their own schools. I mean, is that something that CreatorUp is involved to it?

Mike: Yeah, we do. That’s one of my favorite parts of what we do. So our course library can be made accessible, video textbooks about everything from cinematography to editing and writing. A lot of schools work with us to provide our curriculum in those materials to their schools.

And so at a base level, schools that don’t even have a program can literally plug in CreatorUp and we can have their instructors, their teachers whether they’re be English teachers or enthusiast teaching this as an extracurricular program, very similar to the type of program that I would have thought when I started high school when I was teaching.

So for that, we are literally plug-in-play solution for any school that does not have a program to have a program and that is one of the things that I want to emphasize is like “This is why we started the company to make this more accessible.”

Andrea: What is that someone needs to do to get started if they’re interested in using CreatorUp in their schools? And who would it be for? I mean, surely anybody could participate but it seems like this is really ideal for students, who, like you mentioned before might have something to say but aren’t sure how to express it. They might be in accelerated learning program but they might not. They might be somebody who just doesn’t know how to express themselves.

Mike: To answer your second question around, who is it for? Is it for teachers; is it for students and what type of students? I mean, it’s for both so we actually offer professional development training for teachers as well. And I really do believe that it’s critical for teachers to teach themselves how to use these mediums because they need to be creating more dynamic materials for the classroom. They need to be empowering their students to create video essays to get into college as an alternative method to turn in homework, whether it’s history or English or math or you name it. It’s another engagement tool for teachers to take their classroom to the next level.

And then on the student’s side, video and media making should be viewed in the same way that other critical skills are. Some people might say that coding is now a critical skill that students must have. But in addition to start learning a language or learning math, to me video should be right in the next. And I think it really just kind of gets either overlooked or people think it’s too artsy or this or that. But I think you and I both know the importance of this type of program, I mean with music or art that it has an emotional development of a student which is so important of that stage of your life.

Andrea: Absolutely! I know and another one as you go through life and just that ability to be able to express yourself in various ways. It seems like film is just a video or is just becoming more and more important culture in our social media [unclear].

Mike: Yeah, yeah and I think a lot of times people look at they’re like “Oh it somebody’s obsessed with the camera,” or something like that. But they don’t see that media and storytelling is also a community-building opportunity, because you’re starting to bring people together in ways that they’ve not been brought together before to think and talk about things that are uncomfortable sometimes. Or if not uncomfortable that are celebratory you know. So it’s just a really, really lovely nice medium to be able to bring people together as well.

Andrea: Great! Thank you for what you’re offering. I think it’s really powerful. And so if somebody wanted to get in touch with you or somehow use CreatorUp, do you just suggest they just go to your website? What’s the best…

Mike: Yeah, go to our website or you can have them email me directly. I’m in charge of a lot of these partnerships, and so just mike@creatorup.com and we’ll be happy to start talking.

Andrea: Awesome! Alright, one last question, the aspiring filmmakers out there, somebody who might be a little bit more interested in actually utilizing film or video as their job, what would you recommend? Do you recommend going to some place like film school or where do you suggest they start?

Mike: You know, I think classes are good. I think classes are helpful to create structures and timeline and deadlines and get you to create projects. So whether that’s school or whether that’s something we’re doing or whether that’s filmmaking buddy, you really just have to start making things and showing them to people and getting feedback.

I think the best part about having a small community whether it’s in a school or outside the school is that you can improve. You can get better in a safe place because no one starts out perfect. You’re always going to make mistakes and you kind of have to be open to overcoming some of those challenges if you’re going to get started.

But once you have some videos whether those are promotional for a business or just your ideas, you can put them on Vimeo and then put your Vimeo links on your website and show people you’re real. And that’s when they’re going to hire you and pay you to do the work. So it’s as easy as that if that’s your video or resume but you have something to show.

Andrea: Thank you so much for sharing your story and your passion for video and giving people voice through video. Mike, I really appreciate the time you spent with us today and I’m looking forward to seeing more videos popped up because of CreatorUp. This is fun!

Mike: Thank you so much Andrea! I’m loving what you’re doing and thanks so much for having me be part of it.

 

END

About the Voice of Influence Podcast

00 Episode & Transcript

In this episode you’ll learn about the premise of the Voice of Influence podcast and what you can expect.

  • Do you want to know that you belong somewhere and your voice can make an impact?
  • Maybe you know your voice matters, but you want to make it matter more.
  • Why my creativity, sensitivity and intensity is both a blessing and a struggle.
  • Andrea connects her experience as a vocal student at Belmont University and the University of Nebraska – Kearney with the idea of developing a Voice of Influence.

Mentioned in the podcast:

Please listen via iTunes or Stitcher.

It would mean a lot to have you subscribe, rate and review on these platforms!

Transcript

Hey, hey! It’s Andrea Joy Wenburg and you’re listening to the first episode – the About episode of the Voice of Influence podcast. In this episode I’m going to share with you just a little bit about myself and the premise of the podcast and what you can expect.

So I am Andrea Joy Wenburg, author of UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the Real You. I grew up in Holdrege, Nebraska. I loved my experience there. I had lots of great friendships, amazing teachers and opportunities to learn and grow. And what I found out there was that I could sing. Now, this podcast isn’t about the singing voice, but it relates so give me just a minute to tie it all together for you.

I found out that I could sing and it was something that I really loved to do. I would get up in front of an audience and sing and I felt like I could really connect with the audience. I felt like they were hearing my message and when I was particularly in the zone – feeling the message in the song, I felt like I was really connecting. And I thought, “you know what? I want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to connect with an audience like that.”

So I ended up going to school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN because I thought I wanted to be a recording artist. I wanted to stand up on stage and connect with an audience.

Well, it didn’t take me too long to realize that I actually don’t have the drive to do what it takes to pursue that dream and that though I wanted to be the next Sandi Patty (a gospel singer at the time), I realized when I got down there that there were a lot of other girls wanting to be the next Sandi Patty, as well. So it became evident that I didn’t have that start quality or the drive to pursue that dream.

I redirected my focus to helping other people find and use their voices. I went back to school in Nebraska to become a music teacher. Now, what was interesting is that I refused to even apply to this school when I was in high school because I thought, “I’m never going to be able to stretch my wings in Nebraska.”

Well, when I got back to UNK, my experience with a vocal instructor there went above and beyond any music experience I had in Nashville, which was surprising to me. When I stepped into Dr. Foradori’s office, she asked me “So, Andrea, do you know about this or that” and I said, “Ya, I get all this!”

But as we got going in lessons she realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. And at one point she said to me, “You know, Andrea, once you really understand what it means to connect your breath, you’re going to carry with you a foundation for singing that’s going to carry with you no matter what you sing. Once you understand this one concept and it really clicks inside of you and you get that, it’s going to totally transform the way you sing everything else.”

Eventually I did get that concept and it did totally transform the way that I sang everything else. I did have that support underneath of me with breath and what it took for me to sing like I wanted to sing.

Now, I say all of this because since then I have focused more on what it means to find and develop a voice of influence in the world, because there is something else that I really care about.

I’m somebody who cares a lot about – and I think maybe everybody does – that we want to know that we have a seat at the table. And when I say seat at the table, I’m thinking like when you walk into a cafeteria and there’s a bunch of people sitting and you wonder, “where do I fit?”

And when I say seat at the table when talking about is when you walk into a room and there’s a bunch of people sitting around maybe it’s like a cafeteria and you’re wondering, which table do I fit at? Where do I fit?” This is something that I really struggled with in my life. I wondered “where do I really fit?”

Well, it’s nice to have somebody turn around and say, “Well Andrea, why don’t you sit down at our table. We want you to sit here.” That feels great because then you feel like you belong and are excepted and you connect. With other people. The thing that I really realized, though, was that’s not the only thing I want. I also want to know that when I say something, it matters. That my voice makes a difference. So, if you’re sitting at that table and you’re thinking, “I don’t really feel like these people are listening to what I have to say.” Or you start to speak up and they say, oh that’s stupid.” Or they write you off. Or they say it doesn’t matter, or whatever. They don’t have a respect for what you have to say for your vioce.

That’s a little harder place to be in. Because then it feels like you are being used, not like I belong and I making a difference, “they invited me to sit here, but I’m not actually getting to have an impact on the dialogue.” Which is different than saying, I want to have all of my ideas taken for everybody to believe everything that I say, and that the buck stops here, kind of thing. I’m not saying that.

I’m saying that we want to have our voice matter in the dialogue of life.

So, when I think about that, and I think about the voice of influence and what that means how that relates to what it means to have a voice, I realized that there is something really special about this idea of the connecting of breath on the one side, and how that applies to the way that we connect with other people with our voice of influence. When we have certain things, When we change certain things about the way that we speak that or message or the way that we are communicating, when we change those certain things, or we get those certain things, then our voice, no matter where we go, in our relationships, at home, at work, or in the world. Whatever audience you’re trying to speak to, when you really carry with you that voice of influence, it will matter more with everybody, everywhere you go. And your voice and message has a better shot of actually making a transformational difference in the life of the person you are speaking with.

Because, when we really do have that voice of influence, it’s not just about saying, “this is what you should do, this is what I want.” That sort of thing. It’s not necessarily that, because we can always try to shame people into doing what we want them to do. But that’s not the kind of person I think you are. You are the kind of person who really once to make a difference in the heart of a person. Because you know that when somebody changes on the inside, it’s going to come out in so many different ways on the outside. And that is way more powerful than just changing and outward thing.

So, this podcast is about developing a voice of influence, understanding where it comes from, why we are the way that we are. Who we are. What we really want to say, and how we can say it in a way that is truly a transformational kind of message.

That is the basic premise of this podcast.

I want to mention that last year I published a book called UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back and Release the real you. And that book is actually my story about me and my voice. So, if you are ever interested in reading or listening to that book – I am currently working on the audio version and it will hopefully be out very soon. So, if you are listening to this in the near future, it’s probably out. You can look it up on Amazon or find it here.

It’s my story about me, and trying to understand what my voice is like. Coming to grips with the fact that I am super creative, but also really sensitive and that being creative, sensitive and having a lot of intensity – that those things altogether became both a great power, and a great struggle. And something that could actually get in the way of me using my voice and connecting with other people.

That is what the book is about, and I would encourage you to check it out if you’re interested. And now I want to tell you what you can expect from this podcast.

We are going to be on a regular rhythm of 1, 45 minute interview and one short after show kind of episode where I will be speaking for maybe five minutes, reflecting on something that came up in the episode before that. The interviews will be interviews with experts, leaders, Thought leaders – people who really have well-developed voice of influence or something they can really speak to that would be helpful or interesting to you.

It’s really important to me that you don’t just listen to the interviews and forget them. So I want to offer these little episodes that you could listen to on the way to work or whatever, and be something you could chew on that would really make your voice matter more.

That’s the basic rhythm, that we will have an interview and then a short segment. And for April we will be doing an interview and a short segment, two times each week. We will be doing a lot of those episodes in here in April 2017 and after that we will settle into a rhythm of an interview on Monday and a short segment on Thursday each week.

That is the basic premise and what you can expect from this podcast. I also want to let you know that I’ve opened up a Voice of Influence Community Facebook group for message-driven leaders. So if you are interested in communicating with other people who want to develop their voice of influence, and discuss different things that come up on the podcast, then that would be a great place for you. I would love to have you.

And the final thing I want to mention to you is that in every beginning and ending of the podcast, we say, “Your voice matters, but you can make it matter more.” And what I mean by that, is that inherently, because you are a human being created by God, your voice – your thoughts and feelings and how you express them, that matters. And no matter what anyone tells you, I believe that you matter, and your voice matters.

However, I do think that there are some people who are able to develop that voice in such a way, that we can make it matter more. Meaning, we can make a bigger difference. So although you really cannot matter anymore or less in one sense, in another sense, in the sense of how much impact you have on the world, and relationships and things like that, you can make your voice matter more. You do that, by developing it. You do that by using it.

It’s just like when I was in Dr. Foradori’s voice studio and she would have me sing, and if it didn’t come out right, she would have me mimic her, or she would give me the tools that I needed, or she would suggest that I try something new and feel something different in my mouth or that sort of thing. And she would also help me find the right music for my voice. Which, I think is like finding the right message for your voice of influence.

There are many different correlations that I will be making or referencing here on the podcast, but my point in the end is that I really hope you will take the time to develop your voice of influence. And rather than just be somebody who sings every once in a while in the car so that nobody else can hear them, if you are listening to this podcast, it is because you don’t just want to sing in the car. It’s because you want your voice to matter beyond the immediate where you are at right now. You wanted to matter in your relationships, in your home, in your work, and in the world.

So, that’s what we’re here for. I am so glad that you are here. And I hope that you will join me in the voice of influence community Facebook group. You can find a link to that here or search for it in Facebook.

Thank you so much for being here in this about me episode. I am truly honored that you have given me a few minutes of your time today and anytime that you come back, man! I am really honored that you would take the time to be with us. So thank you.

Your voice matters. Now let’s make it matter more.

Join the Voice of Influence Community Facebook Group here.

How to Stop Holding Back and Achieve Your Potential

Using the Fascinate Advantage®

It was a rainy evening and I had a few hours to work, so I settled myself in at a local restaurant with wifi. I love restaurants with wifi. There was this personality assessment I’d been wanting to take for a while, but I avoided taking it, sure that I could look at their graph and figure out where I fit. I had my Fascinate® archetype all-but-framed when I finally bit the bullet and shelled out the money to get the report. I sure hoped it would be worth it.

The assessment was surprisingly short, so I knocked out the 23 questions in a few minutes and then clicked, “submit.” In just a few seconds the report came back and I did a double take. It couldn’t be right!

How the World Sees You

Bare with me for a moment as I explain the Fascinate® concept (or skip this paragraph and watch the 1 min. video at the bottom of the page). It was developed by Sally Hogshead, an internationally award winning copywriter and hall of fame speaker. She’s really good at coming up with words for marketing. She wanted a way to make it easier for small businesses who can’t afford big ad agencies to identify the best words to use and tone to take when marketing their products and services, so she created a little quiz. Well, that quiz turned into a researched assessment that has now been taken by over 1,000,000 people and is used with huge companies and individuals, to help them identify the voice of their brand. (And if you haven’t heard me say it before, every person has a personal brand. It’s what people think of you when you aren’t around.)

There are 7 Advantages. The assessment pairs your top two Advantages to create your archetype, as displayed in this graph.

Well, before taking the assessment, I was sure of my spot on the matrix. I knew I had to be a Catalyst: #1 – Passion (the language of relationship) and #2 – Innovation (the language of creativity). But when I clicked “submit” and my assessment came back, Passion wasn’t my number 1 advantage. It was number 4! I was shocked and a little taken aback, because though Innovation was #1, my #2 came out as Power.

“Power?!” I thought. My stomach rolled a little. I shrank back and took note of my response. Power is the language of confidence. Power is something I’ve never wanted to convey. I’ve seen Power play out before, and it’s not always pretty. “Surely the assessment is wrong!” I demanded.

But then I read the name and description of my archetype, The Maverick Leader:

You lead with a bold and unconventional vision

You are unafraid to take the lead and happy to propose a new direction for a product or market strategy

You’re always full of new ideas, and almost a little restless. You definitely make sure there’s no dull moments in your meetings

If something starts to feel familiar, you’ll probably start experimenting to see whether higher goals can be achieved

“Oh. Well, maybe they’re onto something here. Because all of those bullet points fit me like a glove.”

Your Greatest Potential Lies BEYOND What You Already Know About Yourself

Upon further reflection, I had a huge revelation: “I’ve been calling my ‘Power’, ‘Passion’ and trying to hide it all my life!”

Let’s just take a moment and read that again.

“I’ve been calling my ‘Power’, ‘Passion’ and trying to hide it all my life!”

That’s right. All my life I heard things like, “you’re so passionate” or “you’re so deep.” But no one ever said to me, “you’re so powerful.” So I never associated power or confidence with my intensely passionate responses. When I read the full description of my archetype, I knew that the assessment was right and I’d been so afraid of displaying my intensity and confidence that I hid it. Why? Because I didn’t want to alienate myself from other people. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want them to be annoyed with me or think I didn’t care about them when I shared my opinions or insights. I worked to develop my relational advantage so I could speak that language with people instead of just shooting off my opinions whenever they came up in me.

It sure seemed to me that “powerful” people got what they wanted sometimes, but if they achieved their objectives by using shame, judgment and sheer force, they didn’t get to people’s hearts and souls where change really happens. I knew. I’d found myself in that very position before – on both sides of the exertion of power. I didn’t want to be like that. I didn’t want to be compelling in an aggressive way. I wanted to be compelling in an invitational way.

But seeing power as an Advantage, I realized that maybe it wasn’t not all bad. Maybe power was just like any other trait or gift. It’s most helpful when fueled by love, and truly dangerous when fueled by fear and stress.

Since that rainy night in October, I’ve determined to step into my own “Power Advantage” and explore it. Maybe I was created this way for a reason. Maybe I’m supposed to be more bold.

And so I’m trying this power thing on for size. I’m leveling up my game and doing bold things like asking big-time entrepreneurs and leaders to be on my podcast. And they’re saying yes. The crazy thing is that I fully expect them to say yes when I ask.

I’m realizing more and more that all I’m doing is stepping into who I’ve been created to be. I’m not trying to become more “powerful” or “successful.” I’m trying to figure out how to best steward the gifts I’ve been given.

What about you? Do you wonder if there are untapped resources inside of you, just waiting to be explored and used for the good of others?

Subscribe to the Voice of Influence podcast in iTunes or Stitcher! Whatever you do, I encourage you to keep growing in self-awareness. Because the greatest potential for your voice lies beyond what you already know about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh – and if you would like to find out your own Fascinate Advantages®, [ CLICK HERE ]