How This Woman’s Missing Prototype Turned Into a 7-Figure Consumer Product Company

How This Woman’s Missing Prototype Turned Into a 7-Figure Consumer Product Company

Leila fell into entrepreneurship from a young age.

When I was a young girl, I asked my dad if I could get a job.

He said, “You’re too young; you need to be thirteen to have a permit.”

To, at least, go to work, there was a bikini shop near my house and I kept talking to the owner.

I said, “One day you will give me a job.”

She replied, “Sure when you’re 13.”

“I can try bathing suits on for you and that can be my job to see how they fit.”

She caved and Leila started at her first job

She remembers thinking, ‘‘This is great. I’m only 13 and I got my first paycheck.’

Her mind wouldn’t stop.

While she was in the bikini shop, she kept finding flaws in the processes.

“You should put this on the mannequin.”

“Your entryway is too dark.”

There was always something.

Then when she was in high school, she would take clothes that she’d bought and change the pieces on it. Her friends would ask me where I got it.

Instead of telling them where she got it, she’d say, “You can buy it from me.”

That spark of entrepreneurship turned into a clothing store she’d eventually sell.

It was then when she learned how to operate a business.

Then a pivotal moment happened in her early entrepreneurial career.

When she came back from college, the camp that she went to as a kid was going under and she was devastated. So she started a program to keep the camp alive.

The kids would get picked up by a school bus and go on a field trip every day. And that way they kept the older kids coming to the camp and the younger kids in the camp. The camp survived. It was the first time she’d helped a business not fail and didn’t have equity in it.

That was the beginning of her saying, “Wait a minute.”

It was at this time, Leila knew the next venture would be entirely in her hands.

All it took was patience for the right idea.

How did you come up with Sphynx?

Like many successful companies, Sphynx was founded on a problem that wouldn’t go away. In fact, Leila would experience the problem for years before she had enough of it.

When I was younger, I was on the dance and cheerleading team. I would constantly realize I had missed spots shaving. When you’re younger, you’re just learning how to shave so I’d go to the gym carrying a razor around with me.

The problem resurfaced when I got older.

I used to do marketing for Nike, Microsoft, and Red Bull. I would travel the world for them. I’d be at snowboarding competitions where you don’t think you need to shave, but then you go out afterward.

You’re taking off all these layers of clothes because they make it 110 degrees in the bar so you’re profusely sweating. Now all your ski clothes are on a chair somewhere. And then I was like, “oh I didn’t think to shave.”

Then when I was working at a toy company, I was presenting to Target in a meeting. I remember mid-meeting, I realized the buyers were staring at my underarms instead of at me. I was like, “oh my gosh,” I don’t remember the last time I shaved.

It went from being in high school learning how to shave to missing spots because I was traveling, then forgot because I had a demanding professional career.

This problem kept following me.

I had to solve it.

What hurdles did you face early in your journey?

With consumer products, there’s extra difficulty in making it successful. It’s not just about building an e-commerce store. You need fulfillment, distributors, and much more. Leila realized she came into battle with less than what she needed but used her tenacity and resourcefulness to make it through.

“It took me a year and a half in development to create Sphynx, an on-the-go razor set. I was still working full-time. So I would come home at night and work on it until 3:00 am, especially since China is in a different time zone. I had just gotten married, too, and my husband would say, ‘You need to come to bed.’ I’d reply, ‘No, China just woke up.’

I had never worked with China. I had so many bumps in the road because I had so many middlemen since I didn’t learn Chinese. I was plugging away for six months after I quit my job. Then it took another year because I didn’t find any good factories. Then I found the one.

When I finally got the prototypes, I gave 30 out to 30 of my top friends. The prototypes cost anywhere between 100 to 300 dollars.

I’d send emails asking for feedback every week as I was reiterating the product. One friend calls me, ‘Leila, I’m so sorry, but I don’t have your prototype anymore and I can’t give you feedback.’

‘What what do you mean? You know my prototype costs 300 bucks’

‘I just started at my new job, my boss took it off my desk and I don’t have the heart to ask for it back.’

How did you first gain traction?

The success of Sphynx might’ve been the best April Fool’s prank. Sometimes the unexpected happens and at that moment, Leila had two choose between fight or flight.

“On April first, I get an email from the company, Ulta:

‘Hey, we’d love to meet you. We got a hold of your product.’

I thought ‘Who is this genius who found someone who works there and told them to email me. It’s an April Fool’s prank.’

But it wasn’t.

Turns out her boss fell in love with it and gave it to the buyer and said, “You have to get this thing. It’s the best, hot new product coming out soon.”

That’s when it hit me –

I still had to get the prototype stage done. They wanted it in three months and it takes six months to manufacture in China. I looked at my husband, ‘Listen, I need your help. You do operations. I will do design and product development. Let’s make this happen.’ I quit my job, then went full-time into entrepreneurship.

At the time, I was at a toy company. Dolls were a dying breed because technology is advancing so fast. I took what I learned from the camp because we were scrappy. I tell the kids to go home and bring a water bottle back to camp tomorrow. Then we’d put water, olive oil, and food coloring in the water bottle and it would turn into a lava lamp.

I did the same thing with toys. My job was to come up with concepts for toys and how to market them. So we launched it. We were supposed to be in the Impulse section. It’s the section when you’re at CVS and you see at the front there’s nuts, candy, and chapstick.

I also attended a lot of trade shows. I also did something that you can’t do anymore which is run Facebook ads to influencers if they listed themselves as a Public Figure.

So they would find me instead of me finding them. I started getting a lot of press and influencers talking about us. Then I went to a trade show where I won the Beauty innovation of the Year award.

All these brands came to meet with me and order the product. It blew up overnight and I was not ready for it. I ran out of inventory. Packaging wasn’t closing correctly and there were so many struggles along the way, We only had an intern at the time. And we were in a thousand stores by the end of that show. Good problems.”

What major hurdles did you face in building a lifestyle brand?

Leila learned the hard way that if you don’t define your brand, then someone else will do it for you. Today, she puts her foot down when it comes to distribution and marketing so people know Sphynx is a lifestyle product.

“We ended up in the razor aisle, which was my worst nightmare. I didn’t want to be in the razor aisle because I didn’t want people to position this product in that category.

It’s not a replacement for your home razor because the whole point is it’s for your purse. It’s for the touch-ups on the go. It has the water and the razor so you can do the whole process.

Another obstacle appeared when I got booked for QVC in Christmas. They called me a week before and said, “Hey, we’d love to have you earlier. So I went on to QVC. Unfortunately. There was a terrorist attack in Turkey that day and it was hard to go on air.  

Then they told me, ‘Okay your product will be for grandmothers who are in wheelchairs and can’t shave in the shower.’ I thought, ‘My product is not built for that skin type. It has nothing with that demographic because they don’t even care to shave on the go.’

After that, I decided not to go back to QVC.

I got a lot of orders that day, but it wasn’t the right market. All the stores that contacted me afterward wouldn’t be selling where I wanted. And I didn’t want to dilute the brand.

After that, I was really particular about the stores I went into. I was thoughtful about anyone who wants to sell our product. I wanted to be a lifestyle brand.

Now we’re in about three thousand retailers. It’s on my vision board to get into Target. It’s huge but it’s also scary as hell because you have to be prepared to get into Target.”

What internal problems did you need to solve to scale?

Leila is super mom, super businesswoman, and a super wife all at the same time. No one said it would be easy – and it wasn’t. She’s worked hard to optimize her time while still finding room for creative expression to delight her customers.

“The team is ten people as of today. We had three new hires this morning. Since I don’t have time to work out, there is now a treadmill in my office. 

I also just had a baby so it’s been really crazy.

In the beginning, we were fast to hire and then when they weren’t culture fits or the skillset wasn’t quite there. We taking more steps backward than forward. Today, we have a strict hiring process where everyone has a chance to interview the person who’s coming in.

We want to do our own distribution in-house because our product is only $15. It’s costing us way too much. I also wanted to experience the touch and feel of whatever was going out so I could see what consumers are getting.

Sometimes we throw confetti in there as a little treat. We try to keep it fun around here. We’re really focusing on making sure everything that we develop next is disruptive in design and product. Whatever it may be, so when you see it on shelves, we want it to wow you and make you wonder what it is.”

What’s next for you guys?

Leila is expanding by focusing on company culture and innovating in the lifestyle space.

“My favorite part is building within. I love when I get the chance to promote someone from the team; it’s really the best feeling. And our team is growing. We moved into our own warehouse in Los Angeles. Regarding Sphynx, we have three to six new products coming out by the end of the year. So we’re doing a lot of product development and expanding our website.

These big companies use a Band-Aid approach to solve the problem of women on-the-go. So we’re scaling the product but we’re also looking into developing more products. I don’t envision the brand as a razor company. I envision it as a brand for the woman on the go with portable and convenient products for our lifestyle.”

Today, Sphynx is one piece of the on-the-go lifestyle market for women.

Leila has the passion and drive to take the rest of it. With larger companies snoozing, her goal is to ensure women are more empowered than yesterday to experience freedom.

With all the graphs pointing in the right direction, it’s exciting to see where she’ll go.

 

9 Steps to Use Vlogging for B2B Marketing

9 Steps to Use Vlogging for B2B Marketing

I was a skeptic about using vlogging for B2B marketing.

The reason is vlogging is notoriously known for YouTube influencers who have almost no association with the B2B space. Yet, everyone is screaming to use video content in your B2B marketing.

Rather than hold back, I jumped right in and created my first vlog.

It wasn’t the best vlog, but I’d taken that first critical step in shooting the first episode.

And that mattered more than anything.

Because now I had momentum even if only a little.

When vlogging for the B2B space, I learned fast what I needed to improve on. There was an entire list, to say the least. To help you skip over all my mistakes, here are the nine steps you need to start B2B vlogging like a pro:

1. Use Your iPhone

You don’t need fancy equipment.

For the first video I made, I used my iPhone and it turned out great. At first glance, I couldn’t tell the difference between my video and the quality the pros use. I figured if I couldn’t tell the difference, then most of my audience wouldn’t mind. It turns out I was right.

Wait until you’ve shot many vlogs before you buy equipment such as lights and a stabilizer. Because if you can’t be consistent, then even the best equipment won’t solve that issue.

2. Provide Context

You’re telling a story.

If you jump from setting to setting without a clear picture of why then the audience will get lost.

For example, in the first scene you’re at your office and say, “Hey, I’m off to visit Jessica to drop off her birthday present.” Then the next scene shows you at her doorstep with the present. Without that sentence referencing what you’re about to do, the audience won’t understand why you’re at someone’s doorstep with a present.

3. Add More B-Roll in Your Clips

Storytelling is about capturing the smaller moments. If you’re vlogging a scene where you’re doing work, then zoom in on the laptop so the viewers can see what project you’re working on. You can even do this if you’re vlogging a scene of you reading a book. Zoom in on the couple of sentences that really struck you.

If you’re attending an event, then capture the road when you’re driving over to the event. Here’s an example below.

Here’s another example from an airport.

In both scenes, you get an idea that there’s a transition happening. This is where B-roll can have a very positive effect in tying the bits and pieces of your story together.

4. More Perspectives

If you’re in selfie mode the entire vlog, then your audience will get bored fast. They want different perspectives. In one of the Casey Neistat’s vlogs, he has many different perspectives.

Places the camera down and looks directly into it:

Shoots a couple while on the go:

Introduces an object and a person while standing in front of a stabilized camera:

Shows the handlebars of a moving bike:

Each perspective has a seamless transition into the next. By using the different viewpoints, he captures more of the viewer’s attention because almost every scene is different, yet crucial to the story.

5. Follow the Soundtrack

Easier said than done. You may be using several different soundtracks for your videos and that’s okay. The idea here is to sync the sound with emotion you’re aiming to portray. This requires you to have a strong music database in the back of your mind or stored and categorized on your laptop.

It doesn’t have to be anything special. Here’s a clip from this Casey Neistat video where the background music is subtle and helps make the revealing more intimate while providing suspense.

The light sound in the background leads up to the moment the package is opened, then it drops.

6. Walk With the Camera

To keep the story feeling like it’s moving forward, ensure to have scenes where you walk with the camera. Gary Vaynerchuk does this more than anyone I know. He opens up this video with a scene of him walking which grabs the viewer’s attention.

Walking with the video provides momentum, but like any good storyline, you need balance. It’s important that’s there’s walking, then a drop in momentum. By pulling the viewers’ emotions in different directions, they become more entrenched in the story.

7. Look Straight into the Camera

I always mess this up.

When you’re filming yourself, there’s a strong tendency to look at the video rather than the camera. If you don’t look at the camera, then the vlog loses a sense of intimacy with the viewer. It’s a similar effect to a conversation in which you’re looking into people’s eyes.

For some vloggers like Casey Neistat, they always wear sunglasses which makes it easier. This way people can’t tell if you’re looking at the screen or the camera. Still, it’s better to not wear sunglasses and show people your eyes to provide that sense of intimacy.

8. Company Content that Sells

When you’re in the B2B space, take advantage of all the things that make you unique. This means recording pieces of company meetings, moments where you celebrate wins, and diving into the backgrounds of the people you work with. Gary Vaynerchuk is the leading example of B2B execution in the vlogging world. Take a look here at how he documents a company meeting in the intro to this video.

In fact, this entire video is about company meetings and has over 500,000 views. If you thought your business life was boring, well Gary proves there’s a large audience hungry for this material.

9. Overall B2B Content that Works

If you’re not at the office, then as an entrepreneur, you’re probably traveling to events, jumping on planes, and speaking at conferences. Here’s a piece from my first vlog where I interview a couple of entrepreneurs from a conference I spoke at.

It’s a short clip, but gets the point across that I’m meeting high-level entrepreneurs.

Start with a Couple of Minutes

The first vlog I shot, I pieced together from four minutes of video. There were only four minutes of video because of how afraid I was to shoot in public. As a result, the final video was only around two minutes.

Even though I felt self-conscious, I did it anyway. Today, I’m much less afraid to shoot because the hardest step is the first. It’s seeing that even with a little bit of effort you can get results. In the B2B space, there are few taking vlogging seriously making it one of the easiest channels to build your brand on.

It’s time you hit record.

6 Ways to Stay Creative as a Founder

6 Ways to Stay Creative as a Founder

Do you ever wonder how some founders can come up with endless ideas?

Yet, other founders can only come up with a couple.

I did.

I wanted to learn how to become creative.

I never had the right idea to help my company grow.

Or, at least, enough ideas to choose among.

I had worked for five startups that had failed and had zero to show for it.

If I could figure out how to overcome the creative hurdle, then I could break this pattern. Motivated, I studied the creative process by reading countless books on psychology and then practicing.

The result is I’ve come up with hundreds of original ideas to help companies grow. I’m even the CEO and co-founder of one of the fastest growing companies in Los Angeles. All because I can rely on the most important intangible skill, creativity.

During the process of figuring out what makes a founder creative, I learned six ways you can add fuel to your creative spark:

1. Develop Your Deep Ts

Creativity doesn’t happen on the surface level. It happens deep beneath the ground. It’s where your expertise lies. It’s the T in the T-Shaped model.

But there’s a catch – unless you’re in the top .01 percent of your field, then you need two deep Ts. Yes, two skills you’re highly proficient in to be creative.

The reason is creativity happens when you combine ideas. If you can combine them from deep expertise in two verticals, then the chances the idea is original increases exponentially. For example, if you combine your knowledge of programming with content creation, then you might come up with a brilliant software idea.

If you had surface level knowledge of both areas, then you might come up with what you think is an original idea. Then you share the idea with an expert and they’ll probably say, “Yeah, that’s an old idea. It doesn’t work.” That result is fine because it shows you that you have much more room to learn.

2. Become an Expert

If you’re not an expert, then you need to know the steps to become one. The good news is this is the easy part. The hard part is the execution.

To become an expert, follow this four-step model:

1. Find an expert to mentor you

Use LinkedIn, Facebook, and email to reach out. Mentorship is a big time commitment on their part so asking right away will deter them. Start by giving them value no matter how small, then ask for coffee. Get them to become your friend before you ask for them to become a mentor.

2. Deconstruct the skills that will deliver 80 percent of results

Ask experts, then research on Google and YouTube what those few core important skills are to get results.

3. Stop multitasking

You’re learning one skill, not a hundred of them.

4. Practice until you can recognize your mistakes

Did someone say practice?

Yes, you have to show up every day if you want to be good at anything.

World-recognized learning expert, Josh Kaufman, explains that all you need is enough information to self-correct. That means you need the ability to recognize your own mistakes, and then make adjustments when this inevitably occurs. Over time, you become mistake free.

Rinse and repeat, and you’ll eventually get to your desired level of proficiency.

3. Don’t Be Hard on Yourself

Most people quit soon after they start.

The major barrier to skill acquisition isn’t intellectual; it’s emotional.

Whenever you start learning something new, you get frustrated because you feel inadequate. It’s easy to lose hope. And nobody wants to feel like they’re no good at doing something. They key is to recognize that feeling, then do it anyway.

That’s what the best leaders do.

They feel the fear, then still take action.

It’s not that they’re more confident, it’s that they internally process the idea of fear better.

4. Get it out of Your Head

In 2013, Science published a study by economist Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University and psychologist Eldar Shafir of Princeton University describing how reminding people with a low income of their financial trouble reduced their capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations.

A subsequent study found that Indian sugarcane farmers performed much better on the same cognitive performance test after receiving the once-a-year payment for their produce, temporarily resolving their monetary concerns.

The learning lesson?

If one’s mind is constantly occupied with urgent problems, such as paying bills, there will not be much capacity left to come up with long-term solutions or creative ideas.

In other words, your mind only has a certain amount of capacity to carry thoughts. Your job is to constantly open up this capacity by externalizing your thoughts whether through writing, video, or audio. As long as you’re not distracted by thoughts at the forefront of your mind, then you’ll own your creativity.

5. Store it in a Compartment

If you’re externalizing your thoughts, it’s best to organize them to the best of your ability. That means writing books, using your Google Drive or Dropbox storage, and even creating how-to lessons and uploading them to YouTube. Here’s a peek into my Google Drive. There are over a 100 guides in here about marketing. That’s 100 tutorials I no longer have to keep in my mind. And that’s exactly why I can keep coming up with new ones.

If you’re not a writer, then record yourself on video documenting your creative ideas. This only helps to an extent when removing the idea from your head. The next step is executing it to see if it works. If it does, you’ll now have room to come up with more creative ideas to improve it. If it doesn’t, then come up with new ideas to chase.

6. Find a Partner

Not all of us have time to learn a new skill or document all our processes. Sometimes we need a little help. When I co-founded my company, BAMF Media, I partnered with Houston Golden, the former director of growth for an agency. Here’s a picture below when we opened up business for the first time.

I didn’t understand much about founding and scaling an agency. I knew a lot more about marketing, writing, and building an audience. So I found someone who’d already helped build an agency. This way, when we founded the company, we had two deep Ts that we could rely on for creative ideas.

Take a Leap of Faith

Chasing creativity requires an abundance mindset. You need to get all your bad ideas out to come up with good ones. It doesn’t always work out in your favor, but if you try enough times, then it will.

The secret: trust in the process.

Know that creativity only comes once you’ve documented and executed on your already existing ideas and problems. If you can stand on the plate and keep batting, then you’ll hit that home run.

Take your swing.

Why This Entrepreneur Quit Microsoft to Found an On-Demand Marketplace for Photographers

Why This Entrepreneur Quit Microsoft to Found an On-Demand Marketplace for Photographers

Nicole didn’t intend to be an entrepreneur. She was working day and night and took a break in Paris with her best friend of three years. They were on the cobblestones with no husbands, no kids, and wanting to take a photo because “this will never happen again.”

They did what everybody does. They took selfies, but the photos weren’t perfect to represent this magical moment. So they connected with a local friend of hers. She gave the friend her iPhone and said: “can you take some candid shots of us from a distance?”

She didn’t want a posing and cheesy photo in front of the Eiffel Tower. She wanted something that captured the spirit of the moment like walking down the cobblestones, drinking coffee.

Twenty minutes later, when she looked at her phone, she had goosebumps. The photographer had captured the spirit of her trip. It was the best souvenir. In this small moment, the idea for Flytographer was born.

When did you realize you could turn your idea into a business?

The first step in starting a company is finding an idea that won’t go away. Nicole had that idea. She just needed the courage to take the jump. That would start with one small test to prove out her idea.

“I thought ‘When I travel again, how do I do this?’ I went back to Canada after that trip to my job at Microsoft and could not stop thinking about this idea. I would think about it 20 times a day. But the thought of jumping into a startup was overwhelming. Still, the idea wouldn’t go away for nine months.

I realized I had to do something about this because I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. I’d regret it the for the rest of my life if I didn’t do something. So I was turning forty in September and I gave myself that artificial deadline.

The next step is I went on Craigslist Photographers and found one who seemed legit. I had a friend traveling to Paris and I said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I have photographer hang out with you for half an hour to take candid photos?’

‘Sure no problem.’

That was the first test.

Were there any obstacles when founding your company?

When Nicole stepped into entrepreneurship, there wasn’t a roadmap. She’d have to invent it along the way. To help, she kept her job which gave her time to prepare before she made the jump.

“One of the pieces that is important in our team values is what we call candor. It’s important to be honest and direct. If you don’t get straight to the point, then all the passive-aggressive craziness can distract everybody.

You socialize with people whether it’s your friends, your family, and co-workers. So you get a lot of mixed feedback like ‘yeah, that’s a great idea.’

Then there are people who think you’re crazy.

‘Why would you quit your safe, awesome job for something risky?’

The first struggle was just clearing all that conversation clutter to go with my gut. The second thing was I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not a photographer. I don’t know a lot about photography either. I didn’t know how to build a website. I didn’t know how to do accounting. There are so many things that I needed to figure out.

It’s hard because you’re trying to figure out everything while you’re working full-time.”

How did you start getting traction for Flytographer?

Sometimes it takes pure hustle to get that first green light. For Nicole, that meant participating on relevant blogs for months. She did that until it earned her the credibility and traffic to turn her corporate office dream into a reality.

“For early marketing, I spent two hours a day dropping comments on relevant blog posts. Then one of my comments was read by a writer at NBC.

She wanted to interview me. The next day, I’m on the homepage of NBC. It was funny because I’m right next to the photos and articles of Prince Harry and Angelina Jolie.

This was only two months into my business.

That gave me a huge boost in confidence which led to social proof and photographers applying.

The problem – the business is seasonal. It was only after six months, did I start seeing customers come back and hearing from them either personally or through referrals.

‘Hey, I heard about it from my friend in Paris last month.’

At that moment, I had the sense that I had picked the right market.

The third thing was feedback from testimonial forms. That was something that I engineered from the start. Just the words they were saying – that’s when I knew we had product-market fit because people were overjoyed with the value that they got from the service.”

How did you build out your team?

For early-stage startups, you have many problems that need to be solved. Nicole realized this and it meant she needed people who could come in and wear multiple hats with an execution mindset.

“I am marketing and product person. Those are the areas that I am passionate about. I don’t have the technical chops. I knew I needed to bring on a director of engineering to drive the technical side.

I also don’t have the financial chops. I needed someone to help in that capacity. Those are the two key parts. We just started bringing on marketing talent because we realized that we want to scale the business.

I know I’m the product manager that drives the roadmap, but I need to step back and allow other people to drive forward marketing.

The biggest thing about hiring people is finding people who are doers and problem solvers. You don’t have a roadmap on how this works and how their role works. It drives me crazy when someone doesn’t have that as part of their DNA.

That’s why our first five hires were people who could wear many hats. Now that we’re 20 people, we’re focused on getting those seasoned experts on board.

One of the pieces that is most important in our team values is what we call candor. It’s important to be honest and direct. If you don’t get straight to the point, then all the passive-aggressive craziness can distract everybody.

I’m a big fan of being direct.

Everyone’s got each other’s back, but we need to get through the hard conversations.

When building out the team, the hardest step was the first year and a half of my business. I didn’t have a team. I had no developers. The business was on Squarespace. The site was hooked up to a CRM database and some webhooks.

I was this wizard behind the curtain. It helped me understand exactly what I needed to develop in order to service the market. Then I hired a developer and the business took off.”

What marketing strategies worked best?

For Nicole’s business, she found that the idea of finding one growth hack to build your business on wasn’t a realistic expectation. She needed to put in the time and sweat equity with the right mindset.

“There’s no a silver bullet. What I realized is that constant steady growth is testing different channels to see what works. For us, the biggest source of traffic has been organic search. We’ve had a lot of focus on content generation from the start and SEO optimizing content keywords and communicating with the right partners so that we get a lot of deep links to our content.

30% of our business comes every month through organic search. One of the things that a lot of companies don’t do is invest in content marketing early on because they’re short-sighted.

Evergreen content is a low-cost acquisition channel. You’re not interrupting people. They’re coming to you because you’re being helpful. We started creating content early on, making sure all the keywords were in there, and that our content connected to each other.

We’d ask these questions:

‘Do these rank well?’

‘How do we get links to these different content partners?’

Then constantly serve them up.

We have more than a million beautiful photos all over the world of travelers.

There’s nobody else that has anything close to what we have.

We’re across every continent, age, and race. It’s real people with their stories attached to it. Attaching that content to our customer has been a huge part of our growth strategy.

Our North Star metric is the number of shots per day. Every morning we look at traffic, repeat customers, but at the top of the pile is average shoots a month.”

Did you hit any inflection points in your business?

Even if your business has traction, it doesn’t mean it will survive. There are many thousands of problems that can arise. They almost always do when you least expect them. Great founders persevere through these moments.

“We had challenges with people because we were paying photographers via Paypal initially. Then at one point, PayPal shut our account down. We got flagged because we needed the birthday for the customers. It was a weird situation.

I wasn’t going to give them the birthday of our customers. Luckily, I built up enough trust with the photographers over prior years that it gave us time to find another payment provider. It took us three and a half weeks.

I thought this would end my business if I couldn’t figure it out.

I couldn’t contact a customer from a month ago and say,

Hey, I need your birthday.’

I was transparent with my community and said,

‘Hey guys, this is happening. It means you don’t get paid until we figure this out and I hope you’re with me.’

What’s your advice for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Nicole has some real, down-to-earth advice. There’s no sugarcoating here.

“No one knows exactly what they’re doing. Just try to test things, have conversations with your potential target audience, and start to understand the problem that you can solve for them.

The third thing is only doing it if you really love what you’re building because if you don’t really love what you’re building, then there are so many highs and lows of entrepreneurial journey that you won’t make. It’s hard. And I’ve had kids – that’s really hard. This is harder.”

What’s your favorite part about your business?

At the base of any great business is a community. Without community, there’s no momentum, true fans, or people who will have your back when your business takes a bad turn. That’s why Nicole made a community the centerpiece of her business.

Flytographer supports artists around the world. In December, we saw the top 25% of our photographers make over $1,500 a month shooting a couple times a week. Because of our service, they can pay their mortgage and live a better life.

It’s repeatable business for them, too. The community is big, so we’ve been investing in that from the start. We have annual meetups once a year, everyone flies in and hangs out for a week in Paris. We spend time together doing workshops, lecturers, photo ops, and drinking.

During these events, we get a lot of product feedback. It’s also incredible to foster these friendships in person. It’s created this place where we have a friend in every city all around the world. 

Today, we’re working with over 450 photographers. Fun fact, we’ve had over 10,000 apply. We only hire a photographer with a great portfolio and a fantastic personality.

Where’s the next take-off point?

As a bootstrapped entrepreneur, Nicole has put in the years of effort required to build something great from scratch. She’s put herself through countless learnings all because she found a problem worth solving.

She noted that they are trying a couple of innovative next steps to grow their business (soon-to-be-released). To help, she is hiring more of the right people for her team.

Keep in mind, the Flytographer team is still in their early stages.

You could say they haven’t even left the airport in terms of potential.

Stay tuned to see where they fly next.

12 Tips to Become a Keynote Speaker as a Founder

12 Tips to Become a Keynote Speaker as a Founder

In the last several years, I’ve hosted over one hundred events for entrepreneurs.

I’ve spoken at another twenty startup and tech events often as a keynote speaker.

I still remember my first talk.

I was shaking.

I sped through the entire presentation that what was supposed to be forty minutes and turned it into fifteen. By the end, I could barely breathe.

I said the words and phrases “like,” “um,” “you know” a hundred times.

Yet, in the end I didn’t feel embarrassed.

I felt relieved.

I had done it, given my first talk and made it out alive.

Once I realized the downside of giving a bad talk wasn’t as awful as I’d thought, I made a choice to get better fast.

Along the way to becoming a keynote speaker, I learned these twelve valuable tips:

1. Host Events Before You Speak at Them

Without any speaking experience, no one wanted me on their stage. Not wanting to have the lack of experience hold me back, I created my own events. I founded a Meetup Group and a Facebook Group that supported local talks for founders. I then self-appointed myself as the host.

At the time, it felt like a risky move because I had zero hosting experience. Still, I knew just getting on stage even as a host would help me become a better speaker. After hosting many speakers, it not only improved my speaking ability but gave me insight into crowd reactions from each person that spoke on stage. By the time I had finished hosting one hundred events, I wasn’t even comparable to the young man who’d shaken uncontrollably in his first talk.

I was comfortable in front of audiences with hundreds of people, could make them laugh, and entertain them for a couple of hours.

2. Think About the Audience

One of the first pieces of feedback I got on speaking was from keynote speaker and Facebook marketer, Dennis Yu. He told me that if you think about yourself, you lose. Because the only thoughts that happen when you’re focused on yourself are self-conscious ones. You become worried about what you’re saying, what the crowd thinks about you, and how you look. Instead, if you focus purely on getting the audience their desired result, you’ll get yours, a brilliant presentation.

That’s why when I speak, I think about how I can get the crowd involved whether through questions, transferring energy, excitement, and laughter.

3. Own the Stage

Don’t be the person who stands behind the podium their entire talk. It makes you look self-conscious. Standing behind a podium is like putting your hands in your pockets. It says, “I’m too nervous to own the stage.” Often people who stand behind the podium read directly from their laptops as well. That’s a double-negative because it shows you didn’t take the time to memorize your presentation.

The idea behind presenting is not to have the audience focus on the screen, but on you. The screen is there to support you, not the other way around.

Rather than stand behind the podium, use the entire stage to your advantage. That means walking across the stage with enthusiasm while looking at different sections in the crowd. Feel free to be animated by moving your hands as you speak.

Josh Fechter

This shows your passion for everything you’re saying. If you feel hesitant, then remember that there’s a reason they give you a stage to walk on and not a chair to sit on.

4. Tell a Story

By the end of most presentations, you’re often asking, “What did I just learn?” The reason is speakers tend to cover many different points that don’t tie together well. There’s no storyline. There’s no beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes zero climax.

If you want your talk to be memorable, then you need a story that explains your points in a way that makes sense. Each one should be related to the one before. Keep in mind, even though you may want to include a hundred different stats and “cool” ideas on the presentation slides, the audience will only remember one. Don’t be the person with more than ten words on any slide like the guy who created this slide.

If you tell a story, it’s far easier to get one main idea across without having the audience forget what they learned every twenty seconds.

That brings me to my next point.

5. Stick to One Main Idea

Each slide of your presentation is not meant to impress the audience with a new idea. Think of a presentation as a journey to help better explain ONE idea. Don’t spread yourself wide; dive deep. Think about how many speakers a conference attendee often listens to – sometimes fifteen or even thirty if it’s a two-day event. They won’t remember what you said unless you dive deep.

6. Be respectful of Your Time Slot

The fastest way to not get invited back to a conference is to go past your time slot. If they have you booked for twenty minutes, don’t think twenty-two minutes is fine. It pushes the entire agenda they worked on for – possibly – an entire year out-of-place all thanks to you wanting a little more light on your ego.

7. Make Friends With the Organizers

Event organizers put in countless hours to make their event possible. Their work is often not appreciated as much as it should be. Their hours are completely irregular, they get little sleep, and are so tired that when they get to the main event day, they need to down several Red Bulls to push through.

The best thing you can do is send several notes of appreciation to a few people on the staff and the main organizers before and after the event. In fact, I open every talk appreciating the work they put in to making it all possible. It’s a couple easy steps to getting invited back next year.

8. Let Your Excitement Guide You

When you feel the nervousness of jumping up on stage, don’t try to cool yourself. Roll with it. Let it guide you. After all, the audience doesn’t want to hear someone with a monotone voice. They want to hear someone with excitement in every word. And you’re going to need a whole lot of it if you want to transfer it to the audience.

9. Take Comedy Classes

If you want to be comfortable on stage practice by putting yourself in the most uncomfortable position, performing comedy. One of the main differences between an experienced speaker and a novice is their ability to swing the emotions of the audience. That means everything from excitement to laughter. If you can throw a couple of jokes into your presentation, people will think you’re a pro.

10. Get the Audience Involved

You’re often not the first speaker. The audience has heard several. This means they’re tired and need to get energized to pay attention. An easy way to do this is to get them involved with low-barrier questions. An example would be saying a phrase like this, “How many of you are founders? If you’re one, then raise your hand.”

It’s low-barrier because it’s easy to raise your hand. Depending on the audience, you might need to do this several times. To take it to the next level, you can call out people based on whether they raised their hand. If someone identifies themselves as a founder, then ask them what type of startup they have. This can give you material for your talk and shows your willingness to speak off the cuff making you look like a pro.

11. Roll With the Punches

Not every audience will laugh at your jokes or understand your ideas. I often get completely different reactions in European countries than I do in the United States. That’s okay. It happens. Don’t let it get you down. There’s only one thing you can do – that’s improve, adjust, and stay nimble. Whatever you do, don’t lose an ounce of confidence.

12. End on a Powerful Note

I’ve heard incredible presentations all the way through to the last sentence. Then it falls flat. They say something like this, “Well, that’s everything.” Don’t be this person. Be the person who ends on a sentence that vibrates through the audience with power and energy. Rule of thumb is if the audience can’t remember the last sentence you said, then it’s not the right one.

If you apply all these tips, you’re on your way to becoming a keynote speaker. Keep in mind, it takes time to develop the confidence. There’s only one way to do it, repetition. It’s time to start executing.

 

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