what video games can teach you about building a business

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what video games can teach you about building a business

GUEST POST BY MAGGIE GIELE

“What’s my thing? What can I build a memorable brand around if I don’t have a thing?” Common thoughts I had when I started my business, feeling invisible and unseen in the myriad of other marketing specialists.

Secretly, I geeked out on video games and fantasy.

I binge-watched the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings. I’ve consumed the audio, book and movie versions of the Harry Potter series many times. I have spent countless hours playing video games since I was four years old and commanding my father as he played Doom.

what video games can teach you about building a business with Maggie Giele as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for female entrepreneurs, bloggers, women in business, and creatives. 

Video games have always been a huge part of my life, but as I started my own business, I hid that aspect of myself. I was terrified people would think I was unprofessional and wouldn't take me seriously as a strategist.

People will think I’m childish. 

It’s unfeminine.

I won’t be taken seriously as a business owner.

Embracing the geek in me and putting that out there into my business world was one of the hardest things I've done for myself and my business, but also the most rewarding. It culminated in a re-brand and my creation of the Content Quest, an award-winning virtual (geek-themed!) co-working, content-batching event.

What changed for me? I had a burn-out that landed me in the Emergency Room. While recovering, I realized I was literally bored with my own marketing. It didn’t speak to me, I didn’t find it interesting and I didn’t enjoy creating it.

IF I FELT THAT WAY, HOW BORED MUST MY AUDIENCE HAVE BEEN?

I GET THE STRUGGLE. I'VE BEEN THERE. It took a burn-out to see how unhappy I was with my business and make a change. It’s time to stop looking at others doing creative, memorable, interesting things with their businesses, and start embracing who you are, with all its imperfections.

Here are some ways to help you stop feeling so disconnected in your business, level-up your brand, and feel more like you.  

build genuine connections /

People buy from people. Your audience wants to connect with you. In the online world especially, you have to build trust, credibility and most importantly, relationships, for genuine growth.

To do that? Your audience needs to see you for who you really are. Not the business owner, or the strategist… just you.

Try to start opening up to your audience about who you are as a human being. Pepper your marketing content with personal stories, or mention what you’re planning to do that evening. Find ways to insert more of your personality and interests into the conversations you’re having with your audience, and you’ll begin to see how people respond and relate to you.

You don’t have to come out of the gate with a fully edited YouTube channel. Start small by doing an Instagram Story. You’ll get used to opening up to your audience and speaking into the camera.

embrace your uniqueness /

Lara Croft doesn’t hide who she is either. What makes you unique? I know that’s an incredibly hard question to answer, so here’s a prompt.

One trick I love is thinking back to those deep conversations you’ve had with friends, in business or otherwise. What made those conversations so meaningful? What made you laugh so hard? Or spend the next few hours deep in thought?

What do you totally geek out over? (You don’t have to be a fantasy nerd like me to geek out!) Think about the things that occupy your mind and how you spend your free time. Do you spend hours at the yoga studio every week furthering your practice? Do you obsess over finding the perfect pairing? Do you spend your weekends thrifting and hunting for that exquisite vintage piece to add to your collection?

When you’re the boss you can take the parts of you that you usually hide at work and totally own them.

align your personality with your business vision /

“What do I do next to grow my business”?

Your purpose, your values and what you stand for are a crucial part of your business. Without a vision that aligns each of these pieces, you’ll end up losing interest in your business, or worse, burnt out and in the emergency room!

In fantasy, role-playing games, you can pick a character’s alignment - their approach to the world. Chaotic Evil characters make good thieves or assassins. Lawful Good characters are best as healers. If the character does something out of alignment (such as a Lawful Good character robbing someone while on a quest), there’s a penalty. The connection between a personality and actions is clear, so let’s make it a little clearer in business as well.

Map out your core values. What do you stand for, what do you want to be remembered as, and how do you want your audience to see you?

What can you do more of in your business that’s in line with these values? What do you actually enjoy doing, and how can you bring that into your business?

Think out-of-the-box. What can you do for a higher-impact? I did the Content Quest, because I thought it was a fun, useful idea, and it won an award. Ashley Beaudin felt that a sense of community disappeared under the shiny Instagram surface of perfection and neat desks, and started #TheImperfectBoss movement. Brooke Saxon-Spencer wanted women to feel like they belonged… and started Belong Magazine.

Bringing your values into your bigger picture vision is the first step in creating a business that feels totally and completely YOU.

choose your own adventure /

Playing it safe is no way to beat the game. If you make your business a clone of everyone else’s, how will anyone remember you?

You are allowed to do things your way. Put your own spin on it, whether it’s your marketing, your content, or even your core business.

Do what you feel like doing. A huge part of online marketing and business growth is simple trial-and-error. Those tactics we see regularly? They started by someone experimenting, seeing success, and repeating what works. Give yourself permission to try new things!.

When I started my business, my eight-week digital strategy package was creatively called “8-week Digital Strategy”. Intriguing, isn’t it?

Now, it’s “Slay Your Strategy”. My three-month action plan package (previously entitled “Action Plan”) has been renamed Biz Battle Plan. Numerous clients have since told me that the names of my packages were an added detail that led them to hire me.

My website favicon is a unicorn. I could have made it just an “M” in my brand colours, but I thought a unicorn would be on-brand and more fun. Including geeky little nods like this in my branding have allowed me to stand out and have way more fun running my business every day.

Add those details of your personality to what you do in interesting ways. Create copy that sounds like you. Have fun with the names of your packages and services. Give glimpses of your real life in your Instagram photos and stories. Be real about what you like and forget the term ‘guilty pleasure’. Own who you are and let it shine through every day.

It’s the big picture that people see, but the details that make you memorable.

BE THE HERO OF YOUR STORY. 

The Lara Croft of the adventure. Go out there, and conquer the world.


Maggie is an award-winning business and marketing strategist, helping fiercely dedicated business owners take strategic action and build sustainable, scalable businesses with a sprinkle of magic. 

Maggie is also the creator of the award-winning Content Quest, a geek-themed co-working virtual event, and is hosting an action-taking business retreat in Prague in 2017. 

Find her on her website.


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5 reasons your messy beginning may be the answer to your branding debacle

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5 reasons your messy beginning may be the answer to your branding debacle

GUEST POST BY AMINA TAYLOR

As business owners, we want the best for our businesses. When it comes to branding, this can often lead us to look outward at best-in-show examples of success stories or fall down the rabbit hole of DIY "must haves" and "should dos." 

But what if I told you that the key to uncovering a meaningful brand for your business isn't about playing a game of "catch up"or even dishing out thousands of dollars for a professional to do the heavy lifting for you?

5 reasons your messy beginning may be the answer to your branding debacle as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for the female entrepreneur, lady boss, woman in business or creative

The work starts first and foremost with you.

Frankly, all of the advice, courses and tools out there won't do much without a deep understanding of these three pillars:

  1. Who you serve

  2. Why you serve them

  3. What uniquely qualifies you to serve them well

Because the key to purposeful branding isn't about creating something you don't have, it's about amplifying the beauty of the unique gifts you already possess. No bells and whistles necessary.

YOUR STORY, YOUR JOURNEY IS ENOUGH.

And although it might be surprising, the very guidance you may be searching for exists in perhaps the most unlikely of places-- your humble beginnings. Yes, I know for many of us thinking about those start up days often warrants awkwardly cringing about our first logos or consistently praying that our Instagram audiences aren't scrolling all the way to the bottom of our feeds. 

The truth is that many of the experiences we first encountered as business owners were perhaps some of the most insightful.

Without the hustle and bustle that typically comes with the increase of clients and fueled by a bold departure from your previous professional life, you likely envisioned a business that unapologetically spoke to your dreams and core values, even if you did so unintentionally. In the absence of client reviews, you sold your services based on raw passion. In the absence of Instagram or blog stats, you created content that spoke directly to a world and community you hoped would come to fruition someday. 

And although now, yes, your taste and tactics have both matured, perhaps even your product might have changed, harnessing the pioneering spirit of your business is going to resonate with your audience (and with yourself) far greater than any fabricated emotion ever could.

So whether you're jumping into the branding process for the first time or have found yourself going through a 4th round of logo re-designs, my hope is that this article helps you find focus and peace in whichever direction you choose. Your business is too valuable to leave something as important as branding to chance. Take this time to reconnect with your story: the people, emotions and milestones that have all guided you to exactly where you are now.

1 / every customer was a BIG DEAL.

In the beginning, there was no such thing as a waitlist. There was one list and it was the list. The list of clients who were excited to work with you and, even better, pay you for your hard work. They were your first followers, and you cherished each and every one of them.

Sure, you might have had some run-ins with difficult personalities but I'm also sure that a large majority of your initial clients absolutely blew you away. You loved working with them. If you didn’t, you probably still wouldn’t be in business. And if you're a sentimental junkie like me, you might even revisit some of their initial "I'd love to work with you!" notes as a source of inspiration on particularly tough days.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

Who did I get into business to serve? Why were these clients so important to me then and how has my business benefited from their support over the years?

2 / You had space to be a little selfish.

While I whole-heartedly believe in running a business that serves my customers well, in the very beginning, there's room to be a little selfish without sacrificing your customer experience.

I remember spending hours each day tweaking my elevator speech-- a 5 minute spiel about who I was and the work I valued most. And with each new business pitch I made to potential clients, I could feel myself quickly growing into the vision I had set out for myself. Sound familiar?

Before our dreams were forced to share space with ROIs and financial bottom lines, there was a North Star for our business—a guiding force toward a larger life objective. It was all about inspiring other people to see the beauty in the world that we so admired.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What was the North Star of your business? In other words, what was the big unapologetic dream you set out to make a reality? How did you hope to help others see the beauty and/or value in the work that you loved so fully?

3 / innovation trumped hard habits.

Remember a moment in your business' history when you had the time and space to innovate freely? In the early days, my open schedule allowed me to test new ideas, tweak my offerings from week to week, and experiment with flexible definitions of professionalism without having to set everything in stone. However, as we grow, consistency becomes the name of the game. We may find ourselves sinking into habits that don't always allow us room for connecting new dots or thinking outside of the box.

As useful as habits can be in driving productivity and efficiency, how you innovate is exactly what sets you apart from others in your category or line of work. So let’s take a walk down memory lane!

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What environments (workspaces, activities, work partners etc.) defined the creation of your business? How did they challenge you to see the world differently?

4 / no one took your word for it.

...particularly if you jumped into a brand new career with no prior experience. Before testimonials or portfolio samples, you had to sell and you had to sell hard. Perhaps you offered free consultations, proposed trades of services or even offered to meet your clients in person to tell them just how big of a difference your products or services could make in their lives.

You had to describe the work you did with the intangibles. It was real, it was genuine and probably a little emotional but every sale felt like pure gold.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What factors did you sell people on earlier in your business-- before you had the background to back it up?

5 / it was all about the little wins.

Whether it was reaching your first 100 followers on Instagram or seeing your first blog post published in an online magazine, you celebrated every second of your wins because you worked so hard to make even the smallest of victories happen. Often times, it's easy to overlook these moments as inconsequential or silly, but understanding why those milestones meant so much to you can continue to help you dig more deeply into why you were able to build the incredible business that you have so far.

BRAND REFLECTION QUESTION:

What little win made a world of difference to you back then, that you may be taking for granted now? Why did it impact you so deeply?

What can this tell you about not only why your business has grown but how it has grown in recent months or years?

______________________

I hope you've found a new sense of comfort and guidance from your messy beginning! Everywhere we are going, everywhere we have been serves a purpose. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to understand just how. Best of luck on your new branding venture. I can';t wait to see your beautiful vision out in the world!


Amina Taylor is the founder and innovation consultant behind The Amber Orange.

When she’s not helping creative founders and CEOs drive innovation their own businesses you can find her sifting through someday-recipes on Pinterest or continuing her search for the best tea house in Chicago.

 Instagram @theamberorange | Website 


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4 writing tips to help you hit your sweet spot

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4 writing tips to help you hit your sweet spot

GUEST POST BY SHELBY DEERING

The day I opened my writing business over three years ago, I felt a spark.

My experiences, the inspiring people I’ve met, and the articles I’ve written have now fanned that spark into a glowing, warm bonfire, lit up by joyful moments, intentional living, and true authenticity.

It was only when I followed my dream of working as a full-time lifestyle writer that I achieved this authenticity, a devotion to real connection, interactions, and words that stir the soul. Although Insta-perfect photos and seamlessly-styled blog posts will continue to serve as shareable content, there is a movement, a perceived shift in the direction of authenticity. More than ever, customers, clients, readers, and followers are clamoring for genuine stories, interactions, and behind-the-curtain truths.

4 writing tips to help you hit your sweet spot by guest Shelby Deering as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for female entrepreneurs, bloggers, women in business, and creatives.

Peppered in between my assignments for national magazines and lifestyle websites, I’ve taken on a number of copywriting projects for fellow small business owners, brands, and non-profits. Although I have now shifted my entire focus to writing for publications, my experiences with my clients and with running my own business taught me one thing—people crave emotional connection.

THE WAY TO ACHIEVE THAT?

Letting your guard down and putting the spotlight on your entire business, not just the one that looks pretty on social media. The parts that prove you’re not an overnight success. That perhaps you prefer the slow, intentional approach to the hustle. Your quirks. Your hobby that isn’t exactly popular. Your you-ness.

What is the best place to let your genuineness shimmer? Your content. The words you share through blog posts, social media platforms, e-books, online courses, and your website. Even your emails to clients are opportunities to get real.

HOW DO YOU GET THERE? 

The following tips just might inspire that first step on the path toward creating authentic content around your business.

1. Create an authentic space.

As a décor writer, I have found that working in a space that feels completely me inspires authentic writing. Perhaps you’ve hung up all of those motivational quotes in your office: “Hustle.” “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” “Work hard.” If those feel aligned with you and your values, great! But if they don’t quite line up with your approach, gather wall art and words that resonate with you. I recently hung up a print in my office that says, “Do not worry. The universe is guiding you.” Every time I look at it, I feel calm and centered.

Wrap in colors, patterns, and sentimental pieces that encourage your truest self to emerge, to be soothed, and to think clearly. The words you write will feel true to you if your surroundings feel true.

2. Make a list of soul-centering words.

In the past, when I started a copywriting project, the very first thing I did was to make a list of buzzwords and phrases that represented the client. Those words typically weren’t everyday or generic. Think of highly-descriptive words like “luminous.” “Magical.” Or “courageous.”

I have my own list I refer to in my business, and I go back to it when I want to weave in my “power words” into my website copy or social media posts. It also bodes well for branding when you use words and phrases that make your business instantly recognizable.

So, sit down and make that list. Don’t just use ordinary words. Dig deep. What are the words that resonate with you? Move your soul? Perfectly encapsulate your values, talents, and approach in your business? These words are your jumping-off points as you create heartstring-tugging content.

3. Don’t publish something if it doesn’t hit your sweet spot.

Most social media articles I see recommend posting every day to stay in your customers’ consciousness. Yes, this is a valid point. But what about this approach instead? Don’t publish content for the sake of publishing content. If you’ve spun out a blog post just so people will have something to share that day and the words fall flat to you, don’t hit the “Publish” button. Make sure that every word you’re putting out feels good in your soul.

In fact, ask yourself these questions before going live with a post or copy:

  • Does this truly represent my brand values?

  • Does this feel like something I’d say in real life?

  • Will this go beyond simply converting people into customers? Will it make an emotional connection?
  • Will I be proud to read this 5 years from now?

4. Emulate the things you love to read.

For most business owners I know, on some level, the demographic they serve is strikingly similar to them: similar personalities, beliefs, tastes. Chances are, the things you like to read will be the things you’ll write well. And when you’ve connected with the copy you’ve written, your clients will sense it. They’ll connect with it, too.

If you can’t get enough of listicles, create some for your blog. Emotional magazine stories? Draw from that style when you write text for an Instagram post. A biography you can’t put down? Pinpoint your favorite aspects of the book and interlace them into your About Me page.

In conclusion, people want to hear your story. Audiences are very wise, and nowadays, they tend to spot the anything-but-sincere, just-out-to-make-a-sale brands. When you tell your authentic story, you make room for emotional connection. A stake in your goals. Relatability. And guess what? When the words you share feel just-right in your heart, you’ll attract the clients and opportunities that vibe perfectly with you. And when the vibe is right, the work simply shines.

Authenticity—it’s the spirit of your business and everything you do.


Shelby has been telling stories all her life. It started when she created her very own “magazines” as a child, binding together crayon-scrawled words and cut-out pictures with a few staples. Today, as a lifestyle writer, print + digital journalist, and soul-centered storyteller, she’s still writing for magazines through her business, Shelby Deering, LLC. You can find her work in Midwest Living, Flea Market Décor, Bella Grace, Vintage Beautiful, and more. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her hitting a trail in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin with her corgi, Ginger, or looking for the perfect turquoise bracelet at a flea market. Follow Shelby’s stories on Instagram at @shelbydeering.


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how to define success for yourself

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how to define success for yourself

GUEST POST WITH JAMIE TUGGLE

What Does Success Mean to You?

We live in a society that thrives on the race to the top. It seems as if everything is a competition, and if you are not in first place, then you are doing something wrong. I am here to disagree with that sentiment. The companies, people, or whomever you see in "first place" did not get there simply by luck. These people did not wake up one morning being number one. No, they had to work at it. You are not entitled to success, but you can define success for yourself. I think it is important for each and every person to develop his or her own definition of success, whether it is for your personal outlook on life or for your up and coming business. Defining success for yourself will help you narrow your focus. I want to use this post to discuss a few ways that have proved healthy for me as I began defining success for myself as well as my business.

Setting Goals

In the realm of business, you should always be moving toward a goal. Setting goals can also help keep you organized. If I have learned anything, it is that sometimes life happens, and you get caught up in the day-to- day activities, making it easy to let your business/hobby fall to the background. I have found it helpful to set daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals for my company as well as personal goals. A goal for your business could be as simple as releasing one new product a month or boosting your social media presence by making a Facebook page for your company. A goal for yourself could be choosing an area of your life that you want to grow in and then assigning yourself a task that will help you reach that goal.

For example, I have decided that I want to expand my reading realm and read some of the classic novels I have always heard about. I have decided that in my free time, rather than just laying around and watch Netflix (which is a relaxing, lazy habit of mine) maybe I will skip an episode and read a chapter of one of the books on my list. I am not making myself sit down and read an entire book in one afternoon, but I am choosing to set aside time to accomplish a goal of mine.

Making room for personal growth -- disconnected from your business growth -- is essential to maintaining your sanity as well.

As you are putting all of your efforts into your business, make sure you take time to refuel your passions.

Your Heart Behind The Operation

Switching back to the business side, it is essential to your business that you have your heart in check. What I mean by keeping your heart "in check" is that you need to constantly be reassessing why you are doing what you are doing. Remind yourself what made you want to start pursuing this venture in the first place. The passion that you had to kick-off your business should be your drive, and it should be apparent in every decision you make. This brings me back to the idea of "racing to the top" because in our competitive society, it is so easy to get dragged into the race to success rather than cultivating the passion you have for your business and using it to grow further.

Finding your avenue to creativity and reflection is a good place to begin! For you, it may be going for a run to clear your head before you start some serious brainstorming, but for me, my avenue is not running. My avenue is simply getting in my car on a pretty day, rolling the windows down, and driving around old country back roads. This routine has a way of allowing me to take a deep breath and refocus when moving forward into whatever is next on my to-do list. That original burst of inspiration I mentioned earlier came from you being your own catalyst - don’t sit around waiting for something to inspire you - go out, refresh your beautiful mind, and get to work!

Dangers of Constant Comparison

If you truly have a passion for your company, then it should be easy to only focus on your company. Social media and the Internet, as a whole, have created a place where we can instantly keep up to date with others, thus providing an arena for constant comparison at our fingertips. It is easy to look around and compare your progress to others. Don't.

Constant comparison will only discourage you and mess with your focus.

There is not a cookie cutter path to success. Each individual and company is unique and is going to encounter different bumps in the road. It may take one company six months to take off, and it may take another 6 years. Regardless of which category you fit into, your time will come if you are giving it all that you have.

Defining Success For Yourself

But... HOW do I avoid comparing myself or my company to others?? Well... it all starts with defining success for YOURSELF. Most of us start a company, hobby, career, or personal journey because we believe in our cause, and we believe that others will too.

For us entrepreneurs, remember how you felt when you sold your first item? That feeling of satisfaction that someone else saw the potential and worth in your product? That feeling is what it is all about. To define success for yourself you have to think about why you are doing what you are doing, whom you are doing it for, and ultimately the difference and/or impact you hope to make through your endeavor. Determining how to define success for yourself starts with setting goals, accepting that there are others in your field that will progress at different paces than you (and yes that is okay), and believing enough in your company and yourself that there is no need for comparison.

I hope that this article provides you with some encouragement as you look towards the bright future and the extraordinary successes you are striving towards.

Be your own catalyst, work hard, and enjoy the ride.


 

Jamie Tuggle is a college student entrepreneur whose inspiration for business started with an affinity for Southern culture, a comfy tee, and her hometown. Currently a third year at the University of Georgia, Jamie focuses on growth in all areas of her life, growing her academics, friendships, faith, and business, Homegrown Southern Apparel. Although she is from Carrollton, GA, while at UGA she is making Athens, GA her home away from home. She believes in the power of writing to encourage others and its ability to teach you something about yourself; that’s why seeking to work with other female entrepreneurs and cultivate a community around entrepreneurship brought her to writing for Belong Magazine.


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consumer immersion parties / a smart, fun way to build your business

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consumer immersion parties / a smart, fun way to build your business

GUEST POST BY REBECCA OF PINK IMPERFECTION

Today we are all hosts to the consumers we serve—via websites, social media, pop-up stores and events. But how often do you actually have lunch with them or use the product together to better understand their lives and how your product fits into it? Why have they chosen you? Would they recommend your product or service to their best friend and family?

consumer immersion parties - a smart, fun way for a female entrepreneur, lady boss or any women in business to build your biz as featured on the Belong Magazine blog

Getting to know your consumers on this level is what I call a consumer immersion -- where you go really deep with a small group to get insights about what is great, or not so great, about your brand.

WHY HOST A CONSUMER IMMERSION?

learn what you should never change / 

Deeply understand what consumers value most about your product or service so that you never give up what is most important to your core tribe of consumers as you grow.

When I was working on Snuggle Fabric softener, we updated packaging and moved away from a physical stuffed animal to a computer-generated teddy bear. Big mistake! We hadn’t realized just how important that fur look was to consumers until after we made the change and then had to go back and fix it.

generate ideas for what to change to keep the product fresh /

While this sounds contradictory to the first reason for having the immersion, it isn’t.

Consumer immersions give you ideas for what to improve as well as help you prioritizing what should be done first, second and so on.

When we were building the Rit Studio website for consumers to share their projects, we did not have an exhaustive list of all the tools folks used when they were dyeing. Thanks to consumer insight, we realized we needed to understand all things that our “Ritsters” were using and add them to the project posting process. Not a big deal to fix, but a gigantic improvement to community satisfaction.


THERE ARE FOUR BASIC STEPS TO CONSUMER IMMERSION: 

1. What do you want to learn?

The more specific you are about what you want to learn the better, but if this is your first one, just getting a personal connection for the “whole” consumer is fine too.

2. Where to have your immersion?

For general learning I recommend lunch or drinks at a local hang out where you can chat in a casual manner. An informal setting makes conversations easy and real so you get a holistic view of your consumers. If you want to go into more depth about how consumers use your product, set up an immersion where you use the product together like:

  • Kids snacking product / meet a group of moms at the playground with their children and host the play date with products for the kids and moms to taste.
  •  Crafting product / I hosted a party at Shapeways where consumers came to our offices and made jewelry on our website. It was unbelievably enlightening to see how consumers really used our website vs. how we thought they used it.

Always create an opportunity for consumers to use your product in as “real” a way as possible.

Once we hosted consumers in a laundromat and my consumer used SEVEN dryer sheets for a single load to make sure her sheets smelled amazing. I would never have guessed there was high consumption use on that level.

You can also go shopping together – from Walmart to Tiffany’s – to experience the store, and your product’s placement in it, through their eyes.

3. How to get consumers there?

Invite consumers to your immersion through your email list, social media, or meetup.com. Typically immersions work best with 3-8 consumers plus you and a few others in your company. Be sure the invite has a clear start and end time. This helps people know what they are committing to and it also helps end the event in case you have a straggler that just wants to keep talking. It happens more than you think!

On the day itself, get to your location early because consumers often show up early. Have name tags for everyone, and if you’re having lunch or drinks at a restaurant, let the host and waitstaff know what you are doing in advance. Prep some conversation starters to get the immersion going but then don’t be wed to them, because the best part of the immersion is seeing where the consumer conversation takes you.

Typically, consumers are happy to get together and give feedback for free. You just pay for the lunch, drinks or the samples you bring to the event. Use this as an opportunity to get their emails and send them a personal thank you after the event.

Appreciation is usually what folks value most.

This also gives you a way to follow up with additional questions as well as share when new things are coming to market.

4. Incorporate the consumer immersion into business plans.

- ORGANIZE THE FEEDBACK: The day after your immersion, set aside an hour to review your question going into the immersion and what you learned around this topic.

After you have assessed all the feedback to your original question, acknowledge anything else you learned. A simple way to organize consumer feedback is to group their comments a things to:

  • Stop doing
  • Start doing
  • Keep doing

- VALUE THE FEEDBACK:  What is the $ value to your business if you stop, start, or keep doing anything on these lists. For instance: “If I add more tools to the drop down menu for Rit Studio projects, more consumers will be successful at posting repeat projects. With more success, I could get 10% more sales.” You are often guessing, but your intuition is often pretty spot on. By giving each activity a value to the business, it will help you prioritize what you do next.

- TIMELINE THE FEEDBACK: How long and how many resources will it take to do the top five most valuable items on your list? Determine what you can do today, this week and what you will need to start now to have for the future. Having both short term and long term projects gives your product the best chance for a sustainable growth trajectory.

Keep these immersions simple and host them often. It will guarantee you never lose sight of who you’re serving and let your consumer’s voice lead the way.

Have questions or want help planning your next consumer immersion? Give me a shout at rebecca@pinkimperfection.com.


Rebecca is a marketing executive that has championed the consumer voice for over 20+ years in consumer package goods, services and even 3d printing businesses! She started her marketing career at Ogivly & Mather Advertising and Unilever Home and Personal Care where she championed consumers in a wide range of brands. From using Brut fragrances sold at Walmart for $5.00 and to launching Faberge fine fragrances sold in Neiman Marcus for $5000!

Regardless of the retail price, understanding her consumers has been the key to driving organic growth in each business. Rebecca has also used this process to help real estate firms, pet flea & tick treatments, laundry detergent and community engagement at her local YMCA. From billion dollar brands to tech startups aspiring to becoming a billion dollar brand, Rebecca is passionate to champion the consumer’s voice as the driving force leading the growth agenda. Currently residing in Greenwich, CT. Rebecca is now helping multiple businesses connect with consumers, build out their brand stories and innovation plans as well as helping build team cultures dedicated to rapid organic growth through her consulting firm, Pink Imperfection.


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centerfold contest

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centerfold contest

I never win. Ever. I'm the first person to opt out of contest entries because I never win and I'm afraid I'll just be annoyed by getting my hopes up. I know, I know...I can't win if I don't enter, right? 

HOSTING A CONTEST? WHAT AM I THINKING? I HATE CONTESTS!

Apparently, not all of YOU hate contests. In fact, some of you embrace challenges (you know who you are, but you're not competitive, right?!--wink wink)! Plus I might just need a little help on something for the next issue, so it a contest seems like a good idea, right?

But I wanted it to be more fun and interactive than just throwing my request out there. 

I AM TERRIBLE AT ASKING FOR HELP. I MEAN, THE WORST. 

So instead of just asking, I am making a contest out of it.

Are you ready to hear what it is?!?

it's a centerfold contest! 

NO, NOT THAT KIND OF CENTERFOLD, SILLY! Get your head out of the gutter! 

A contest to determine what words/phrase we put in the center of our next issue of the magazine, of course. 

There is so much creativity in you that I know you'll come up with something far better then what I've got. We're going to collect ideas until 07/13, and then we'll have a community vote in our facebook group (The Belong Collective--want to join? you can request here.) the best three 07/14-07/15. 

The best part? The winner will get a free copy of the next issue--the one with their centerfold.

ARE YOU READY? ARE YOUR CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING?

COUPLE OF THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

  • The new issue's theme is "JOURNEYS: entrepreneurship from any age, stage or place" so the idea should reflect that idea.
  • We can only fit a couple of words on the spread, so KISS (Keep It Short, Sweetheart).

***VOTING IS CLOSED!***

I am beyond excited to see what you come up with. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me! 


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go together quote / download + printable

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go together quote / download + printable

Our theme for ISSUE 07 was "care and collaboration" which seems so ideal for the creative entrepreneur, right? We wanted our quote to reflect that same vibe, so we were delighted when Juliana at Ink and Nibs offered to turn this African Proverb into a piece of art--just for our readers. 

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. - african proverb as featured in ISSUE 07 of Belong Magazine and hand lettered by @inkandnibs

But we know that it can be almost painful to consider tearing a page out of the magazine (am I right?!) which is why we are offering a digital download of the quote. You can use it as wallpaper, screen saver, print it, tack it, tape it--whatever inspires you. 

Or you can order a copy of ISSUE 07 and get it there!


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28 Days of Encouraging Others

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28 Days of Encouraging Others

GUEST POST BY MELANIE FRIEDERSDORF HUMPHREY

When my husband and I sold our small business, the creative me felt like a bird released from a cage. I threw a lot of figurative paint on the wall, hoping something astounding would stick. When I found myself flapping my wings without purpose, I set out on a focused journey to encourage others.

28 days of encouraging others with guest blog poster Melanie of @wheredofallingstarsgo on the Belong Magazine blog perfect for female entrepreneurs, women in business, creatives and more!

What I discovered was the open arms of a community of talented and inspiring women, and a part-time career that I hadn’t known existed.  

On the first of twenty-eight days, I posted the following:

Inspired by the book, 5 Habits Of A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz, I am committing myself to Habit #4--she gives others what she needs--for 28 days. I desire a creative career in this chapter in my life, and I am not exactly sure what that looks like. I dabble and throw my results out there to some extent. It is easy to get discouraged.  
But I resist discouragement with every fiber of my being because it is a waste of time. I hang on to every tiny bit of encouraging feedback and try to build on it and learn from it.
So today, I embark on a 28-day journey of encouraging others. There is so much talent out there! I don't know where I am going; I am stepping out in faith and with an expectancy of learning and of cheering. If you are a cheerleader, or if you need one, please join me.

For four weeks, I encouraged others publicly via blog, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook posts as well as in personal encounters. My audience was small, yet the first post immediately reconnected me with an old friend. Over emails, we caught up with each other and discovered similar pursuits which led to a continuing journey of sharing resources and supporting one another. She suggested I pick up a copy of a new magazine called Belong.

Some of the daily posts would shine a spotlight on a certain someone or her special business. Other posts were general in nature. An early post encouraged readers to step away from the mirror and move to the window.  

Rather than focusing on yourself and your perceived faults and problems, look out and around you. Beauty and inspiration are everywhere. Look for the beauty--in nature, in others, in you. The mirror can be cruel and misleading; the window is transparent. Look through it. It’s beautiful!

Windows and doors began to open for me.  

A friend placed a substantial order for notecards (drops of figurative paint I had splattered about) and books to give as gifts; two of my siblings steered me toward a podcast series for women starting their own businesses; and through Belong Magazine and the Etsy community (more metaphorical paint), my entrepreneurial network expanded. I began connecting with and following creative and faith-filled women entrepreneurs on Instagram. In the past few months, I have been inspired by these and other women countless times!

We are not alone as women seeking creative, fulfilling careers that fit our lifestyles.

AS IT TURNS OUT, WINDOWS WORK BOTH WAYS.

As I was looking out at others, people were looking at me. Perhaps, they saw something that I didn’t. My sister-in-law had been doing occasional social media research for a consulting firm for a couple of years. When she took on a large, long-term volunteer commitment, she needed to step back from the research. She reached out and asked if she could recommend me as someone to fill her role. And for some reason, they took a chance with me. In the past several months, I have had opportunities to learn and grow and also fail forward. I get to use everything I have ever learned, and learn even more. Freelance creative work is beyond what I dared to imagine for myself. The projects are singular and challenging. The research is done largely on my own schedule, which allows my husband and I to spend plenty of time together and to travel. I am able to continue working with children--a dream of mine to foster their dreams--via online classes I’ve developed.

In sports and competition, I believe definitive outcomes are healthy. In life and relationships, we can all be winners. The post from Day 17 was:

Never underestimate the power of cheering for someone else.

Are you feeling a need for encouragement in taking that first step toward a dream or goal? Look out the window for others who need the same thing. Let me know what you discover: doyouknow@wheredofallingstarsgo.com.

My Instagram community of female entrepreneurs includes: 

@belongmag / @_paigemeredith_ / @hnicholsillustration / @thelittlegirldesigns / @jamesandtheletters / @nickikoziarz / @sniequist / @doramaejewelry / @apenberrys / @iamdrcheryllanier / @laurakashner / @zzrios2 / @collabosaurus / @oliviasophiainc / @christybwright / @letsgetdecorative / @paperpoppiesco / @boomama205 / @shoptruly / @cwphillips00 / @lisaschusterart / @kbignon / @akrdesignstudio


Melanie Friedersdorf Humphrey partners with an innovation firm as a qualitative researcher, trend senser, and report writer. The self-published author of four picture books for children, she also helps children realize their writing and publishing dreams with personalized online classes.  Melanie is passionate about her faith and family, boating and stand up paddling. She loves stripes and sunglasses; and she believes dreams are in our hearts for a purpose. 
LinkedIn | Website | Instagram

 


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how to use your day job to fuel your creativity

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how to use your day job to fuel your creativity

GUEST POST BY NANCY INGERSOLL

Do you feel like you have too much on your plate? Do you tend to take on more than one project at a time?

Being pulled in multiple directions can actually feed your creative spirit.

how to use your day job to fuel your creativity by nancy ingersoll as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for the creative entrepreneur, working woman, female business owner, blogger and beyond.

I have multiple part-time jobs and that is how I get what I need to be my most creative self. Embracing the benefits of each and recognizing the components of each that lead to personal growth are paramount in my happiness.

I have some freelance clients, which give me the structure of recurring projects that I get to redesign each year. This works for me because I like to challenge myself to occasionally reinvent the look of my projects. The clients range from graphic design for non-profits to photography for small-batch artisans. The needs from each of these are pretty consistent - the artisans need photography of new products and for seasonal marketing, and the non-profits each have their annual events and set marketing needs. The problem with each of these is that much of it is seasonal, and I get swamped during certain months of the year. Therefore, instead of complaining, I simply embrace the busy season because it balances out with times when I am able to do other things (or nothing at all). I also embrace the redundancy of repeat events year after year because they allow me to challenge myself to think outside of the box and evaluate my past work so I can push myself to be different.

However, that is just one part of the three-part mixture that makes up my work.

The next component of my work-life involves a 28 minute train ride each way to a private college preparatory school where I teach two classes to high school students: Advanced Placement Studio Art for Photography and the Yearbook class. The AP Photo class allows me to bounce ideas back and forth with young artists as I coach them through the process of finding their artistic voice while they create a portfolio. A downside to that class is that I sometimes end up giving my ideas away to students who are stumped, but my reward is the creative banter that goes back and forth among us and we discuss ways to interpret a topic. The Yearbook class is frustrating and exciting all at the same time. Frustrating because each year starts from scratch, but exciting because each year starts from scratch. This is also a place where ideas bounce around the room.

I am a firm believer that creativity feeds creativity.

I thrive on the creative energy that my time at the school gives me, so I don’t mind the commute. I am able to endure the train ride with a smile because it is not everyday - the block schedule means that I only do that two or three times each week. But, I am also able to embrace the perks of sitting still for about a half hour each way because I can get caught up on social media, and it forces me to conquer the three-quarter mile walk each way between the train and the school. Self care is important, and I have learned to appreciate the walk to and from the train station so much, that sometimes I will even walk to a further station just to unwind.

That brings us to part three.

I also create what I want to create.

I produce artwork, from hand lettering to digital designs, that I get to dictate the direction of and people buy them. Total strangers have my artwork hanging in their homes and offices around the world. It is  frustrating when a design that I am particularly fond of does not sell - but I accept that as permission to enjoy it hanging in my home. But then, there are times when a design is really popular and reproductions sell over and over. Each of these sales fans my creative flame and inspires me to create even more. This creative fire of mine also spurs my curiosity, leading me to learn new creative outlets - most recently, how to create my own fonts.

Creating makes me happy.

We are all over committed and it causes a strain on one's well being, both mentally and physically, until you embrace the benefits of breadth. Attitude means everything, so look for the benefits from each of your commitments and celebrate them with a smile.

Let your gratitude fuel you through the other parts that might get you down.


Nancy Ingersoll calls herself a full-service creative resource because her range of abilities and services span across many creative platforms and she is involved with idea generation, content creation and production management. Nancy is a hand letterer, a photographer & a graphic designer. She believes that creativity is a muscle and the more you create, the more creative you become.
Instagram @thephotocottage | Website

 


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Journeys In Business / Podcast + Video

Every now and again, I think it's fun to pop in and show my face--and in this case, you can see a whole video convo between me and Jess of Jess Creatives! Or, you can just listen in to the podcast. We'd love to have you eavesdrop on our little chat and hope you feel like you're hanging out with us.


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Designed Perfectly Events | DPE ACADEMY

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Designed Perfectly Events | DPE ACADEMY

The DPE Academy is a new, women-run, community-focused workshop where experienced planners and creatives help shape and educate the next generation of wedding planners with real life examples and practices.

The mission is to empower aspiring planners to start their business on the right foot, be able to charge their worth, grow their community and network of vendors and thrive at their passion.

This hands-on workshop offers practical learning experience and a unique approach for today’s wedding planners.

DPE Academy - workshop for wedding and event professionals as featured on the Belong Magazine blog

The first Academy took place on February 19th 2017 at the International Country Club in Chantilly Virginia. The Academy was taught by Natalie and other wedding planners native to the greater DC Metro area as well as other creatives in the special events industry offering a wealth of knowledge to aspiring and seasoned planners alike who are looking to enhance their career and skills to grow their business.

The concept was dreamed up and created by Natalie Seng, owner of Designed Perfectly Events. The DPE Academy includes sections specifically geared towards planners who have had no formal training or experience as they entered the industry, while also providing those more seasoned with a refreshed approach. Because of her logistical background, Natalie felt that is was important to provide a “back to basics” type of experiences to ensure the next generation of wedding planners is equipped to run their own successful weddings and events, no matter that situations they may encounter. As a wedding planner, you are a “Jack of all trades” and as that you should have basic knowledge of each area and vendor service within your event.

The mentors include Sarah Pete Rizzie from Sincerely Pete Events, Nar Hovnanian and Sugar Taylor from Taylor and Hov Events, Shalyce Tyson of Sensational Soirees, Brittany Collier of Brittany Collier Studio and Natalie Seng of Designed Perfectly Events.

Speakers included other creatives from this incredible industry such as Marirosa Anderson of Photography by Marirosa, Janet Flowers of Natures of Design, Miriam Liggette from Soliloquy Bridal, Jeff Maszal by Wedding Ceremonies by Jeff, Liz Waylan of DC Rental and there were also a couple of presenters in a special hand-on feature: Areen of Classic Bakery and Graham of Lapel.

There was an unbelievable brunch spread catered by International Country Club as well as something pink and sparkling in their glasses. Attendees dined among their mentors and speakers at a copper and slate inspired table scape by Designed Perfectly Events. The details included copper chargers, copper and black flatware, black napkins the silver accents, black modern chairs, grey linen and of course beautiful florals from Nature of Design. It was a nice little break after a morning of learning and another opportunity to connect with other industry pros. Attendees were advised to sit with someone with which they had not previously talked.

The hands on section featured how to make a boutonniere from scratch, how to deconstruct and cut a wedding cake, how to tie a bowtie, and how to run a successful ceremony rehearsal. There was even a mentor panel discussion for the attendees who were able to ask any questions and were able to get up to six different answers on the topic. The sessions included topics such as work-life balance, workflow, client experiences and on-boarding, how to price yourself and charge your worth, how to construct a solid timeline, the true cost of flowers, branding and social media strategy and so much more.

Attendees were also provided with a one of a kind hand book that held key templates and tips from the experts as well as summaries of most of the sessions taught that day.The event concluded with a small graduation ceremony where each attendee was given their diploma.

Natalie’s vision for this workshop was to provide a hand on learning experience that aspiring planners would not otherwise have access to and fresh content for those more experienced. Experimental learning allows attendees the opportunity to gain valuable hands on experience while being taught by their peers. Most classes, seminars and conferences are now being held online to attract a larger audience or in large classroom settings where attendees might not be as likely to ask questions.

The intimate workshop setting allowed attendees a safe haven for questions, discussions and ideas as well as the opportunity to learn alongside other like-minded creatives. In addition it was important to Natalie that attendees would be able to form long lasting relationships with other creatives, fellow planners and individuals right in their backyard--connections they could continue to foster through coffee dates, mentoring, networking and even assisting each others with upcoming events.

Natalie hopes this workshop helps spread the knowledge and educates the next generation on the fundamentals so that this industry can help elevate the standards for aspiring wedding planners and continue the growth for their own businesses. If you are excited to see what 2018 has in store for you and you are ready to feed your creative and entrepreneurial spirit, you are invited to be part of this extraordinary workshop in early 2018. Details will be announced soon. To stay up to date, please follow us @dpeacademy

Photos via Katie Nesbitt Photography


Natalie Seng is the Owner of Designed Perfectly Events and the Creator and Founder of The DPE Academy. Natalie was born and raised near Düsseldorf, Germany and made her way to the United States at age 19. Captivated by the many opportunities the country had to offer she decided to make this her home.

Natalie Seng started her career in the Wedding and Special Events Industry shortly after her own wedding in 2004. She started as an intern for a local off premise catering company and worked her way up to senior event designer very quickly. Natalie loved the logistical and event design part of her work which essentially helped her to take a leap of faith and branch out on her own. Natalie started Designed Perfectly Events in 2014. While building her business and connecting with other planners she saw how very different everyone was running their business and events alike. Natalie felt that the logistical aspects of weddings and events was something wedding planners could benefit from most. With that in mind she created the DPE Academy in the fall of 2016 to empower esp. aspiring planners to start their business with a logistical and fundamental base. The first DPE Academy was incredibly successful and the second one is already in the works for early 2018.

Natalie’s work has been featured in the Washingtonian Bride & Groom, Bethesda Magazine, The Knot, Inspired by This, MOD Wedding to name a few. She received several vendor voted and couples voted awards for excellence. Natalie lives in Centreville VA with her husband and family.

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2 year insta-versary

TWO YEARS AGO TODAY...I posted the first instagram post for Belong Magazine.

It was an embarrassingly horrible photo--and of another magazine at that--but it was the first step in the journey of Belong. Thankfully, Belong's audience was (and continues to be) patient and my aesthetic improved.

I'm trying to be more conscientious of taking the time to celebrate (hence our current issue is a "celebration" issue), and this milestone seems like a perfect time for a little celebration in the way of a treat for all of you lovely friends who have been and continue on this journey with me. 

Two years, nearly 2,000 instagram posts, 9 issues, 2000% increase in distribution, on the shelves at Barnes & Noble nationwide, and tens of thousands of friends later, here we are.

we've come a long way, baby!

WE DON'T DO COUPONS OR DISCOUNTS VERY OFTEN, SO YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS OUT ON THIS!

are you ready?!?!!?

For the first time ever, we are offering a digital bundle of ALL of our issues--from our Pilot Issue through our current, special Weddings/Celebrations issue. That's NINE issues! One click will get you all nine issues at over 30% off the normal purchase price. (this week only--no coupon code necessary)

For those of you (like me) who like to hold the magazine in your hands, we are offering free shipping on our print bundles. Print bundles are nearly 20% off of the cover price already. Then you add free shipping and it's a total steal! Use code: TWOYEARS at checkout to get free shipping. We are offering three different print bundles, so be sure that you're stocked up on all of our past issues before they are gone! (ISSUE 03 is nearly sold out and has the prettiest floral cover--a great prop for flat lay photos. Total side note.)

I can't thank you enough, friends, for supporting and encouraging me for the last two years. I have connected with so many amazing women on this journey and am so crazy blessed. Thank you doesn't come close to expressing it, but it will have to do.


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i love you quote / download + printable

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i love you quote / download + printable

Our special Weddings/Celebrations issue called for a special quote. Sarah Barrett of Sarah B. Calligraphy came up with just the right one. 

IMG_1466.JPG

We are so delighted to offer you the chance to download this quote for free! You can print it out, tack it to your wall, put it on your inspiration board--even frame it and give it as a gift! 

Or, you can find it in our special Weddings/Celebrations where you can (gently) tear it out for yourself. 


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getting in business shape for summer and beyond

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getting in business shape for summer and beyond

So, I'm doing my darnedest to get Belong in a place where things are more automated. There are obvious reasons to do this--just getting things to run smoother and be less work for me. What business owner doesn't want this?!

Here are 3 things I'm doing to get Belong in shape for summer and beyond.

Get your business in shape for summer and beyond as featured on the Belong Magazine blog for the female entrepreneur, blogger, lady boss, social media maven, woman in business and more! 

Working ahead /

Call me old fashioned, but there is just something taking down time and using it to your advantage to get ahead. Every business has its natural ebbs and flows. And even if it doesn't have as many ebbs as you'd like, you can try to plan so that you create space to get ahead of the game--even if just for a bit. 

Here is what I'm working ahead on: 

- FUTURE ISSUES: We have to plan pretty far ahead for each issue, so I'm actively working on issues for 2018 already. BUT! there are so many details that have to be pulled together for the next issue (and the one after that) such as contracts and copy-editing and all of the behind the scenes business as you just don't want to have it hanging at the last minute--talk about stress!!!

- BLOGGING: We depend on guest posts from contributors and women LIKE YOU to keep the blog fresh and new and to supplement the post or two a week that I personally put together. Thankfully, I have a helper that collects info for me and loads it into the website for me. I just have to work a little formatting magic, create a pin-worthy image and schedule it. Luckily, we just had an influx of guest posts which puts me in a fantastic position to prepare a couple of months of blog posts. 

Once the posts are ready, I can schedule social media in conjunction with them and fill in around it. Which leads to....

Later / 

Do you use a social media scheduling tool? I am not super good about being originals on all social media fronts. I choose to focus on Instagram. And Later has been a really great tool for me for scheduling out my posts. There are loads of features that I love such as the search, the calendar, the preview, the saved captions, and...Later also offers a "link in bio" feature which is HUGE, and if you're not using a tool that offers this feature, you must.

I plug my blog in on the days that they are scheduled, I usually post an inspirational quote every other night, and then I fill in from there--trying to vary the perspectives (flay lay vs. lifestyle) and balancing the colors. 

Dubsado /

This is a new one for me. I just recently subscribed to Dubsado which is a client management system PLUS. I don't necessarily manage clients, but I do manage submissions and contributors and advertisers. With Dubsado's ability to manage new leads, automate workflows, send invoices and manage contracts--and so much more--this seemed like a good option for us. SO! I am getting things in shape by inputting canned emails, forms, and other information into this system so that it can take us into future issues and automate things in a way that they are not currently. It is a bit of a learning curve, but they have superb customer service which is so helpful.


I'd love to hear what you have done or are doing to automate and streamline your business. Tell me in the comments (please!).


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resource guide 07

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resource guide 07

Stop the crazy google searching--if you even know what to type into the search bar--and find all the resources that you need on one sweet spot--OUR RESOURCE GUIDE!

Whether you're just getting your ideas formed to a well-seasoned business owner, there is always something you need to help you take things to the next level. Find what you need in one of the following Resource Guide categories:

  • ATTEND / in-person conferences, workshops + events
  • BEHIND THE LENS / photography + videography
  • BLOG / blog related resources
  • COMMUNITY / business or creative groups (online or in-person)
  • DESIGN / graphic or design related services
  • DEVELOP / business development, coaching, strategy
  • LEARN / webinars + education
  • LISTEN / podcasts
  • MONEY + LEGAL / accounting + legal 
  • TOOLS +SUPPORT / technical support, virtual assistants, apps and other tools 
  • WEB / developers and designers

Ready to get busy taking your business to the next level while supporting other women who are working their way up too? We thought so!


Are you bummed you're not listed in this guide? Then don't miss your chance to get in the next one! It's a great way to get your company's name in front of thousands of women around the world. 


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