DON’T SELL. ENGAGE!
Cynthia Jamin is the founder, designer, and CEO of TwirlyGirl. We asked her for a little Expert Advice:
What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by the competition? It’s very natural to play the comparison game, but we never win when doing that. So to avoid even engaging in those types of thoughts, I literally put on my blinders. I know that what I do, NO ONE can do it exactly the way I do it, so I just need to stay focused and be the best I can possibly be. You do have to know what else is out there, but try to look at it like you’re a scientist, doing research and gathering facts. Look at pricing, marketing, messaging, but don’t get hung up on the details that won’t help you. Take what you think you can use to make your business stronger and leave the rest. It also helps if you have a separate marketing person who isn’t emotionally invested in what the competition is selling but rather HOW they are selling it. That’s pretty much the only reason to be looking outside of yourself, in my opinion. Learn from others, but don’t use it to beat yourself up.
What top three tips would you like to pass along for those who have just started to use social media? Don’t sell. Just engage in interesting ways. Social media is about building relationships, so provide information that is helpful and pertains to your customer base and what you are promoting. Be the expert in your area and the go-to person for everything related to what you are about. It’s not about offering daily specials. You can do that on certain occasions, but it’s better to stay focused on giving your core audience something of value every day.
When you think of the best people to work with, what traits do they share? Open-minded, creative, passionate people who have a positive attitude and are fun to work with and who are willing to listen and contribute their own ideas.
Give a budding entrepreneur your best hiring and firing business practices. Hiring: Make sure you talk to them honestly about what the position is all about and what you expect. Ask them what you will find out about them after working with them for three months, something they aren’t telling you now. Firing: I think that when it’s time to let someone go, it’s usually pretty obvious to them as well. We haven’t had to fire anyone. But I have been fired, and coming from that point of view, I can honestly say that I saw it coming. So with that in mind. I would approach it like this: “This situation isn’t working out for either of us.”
Entrepreneurs often say that “you can’t do it all.” What three things do you always outsource?That’s very true, but in the beginning you have to do it all. And there are advantages to this. It’s very valuable to be able know how to do everything the the way you want it done. The only way to oversee everything is to be knowledgeable. I’ve found that the best things to outsource are processes that can automate and integrate bookkeeping and orders so we don’t have to deal with inputting and tracking inventory in more than one place. Getting on a website platform that can grow with you is crucial, otherwise you are spending too much time doing things that can done in seconds.
What business book would you recommend to someone who is either about to launch or in the early growth stage? I loved Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh.
What are your thoughts on raising capital? It’s not something we have needed to do so I wouldn’t be able to speak about that. We did turn down a chance to be on Shark Tank because in the end, we didn’t want to be working for someone else, which is essentially what happens when you take that kind of deal.
What piece of invaluable advice did you receive that you would like to pass on to women pursuing their dream? I don’t think I heard this from any one person but it’s all about doing what you do best and sticking to it. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
My best advice to a woman launching a venture is… Start SMALL. Price your items in a way that will allow for growth even if you are still in your dining room. Don’t invest a ton of money on a fancy website at first; sell on Amazon or other marketplaces so you can learn about the business with little skin in the game. Branding and graphic design are the most important things to spend money on. That’s going to be the first thing that people see and they need to understand what you are about in one second, so make that second speak volumes for you.
What would your advice to your younger self be? You will be doing something that you never thought you would do in a million years. It’s going to give you everything you love…freedom, being creative, and learning new things. So don’t stress at all about your future. It’s all going to be great.
Finally, please share your top five tips that would benefit an entrepreneurial woman launching or growing her business:
- Make sure you are filling a need in a way that is different and unique.
- Invest in branding and graphic design.
- Make sure you are pricing your items for growth. Make sure you have all your important line items accounted for in your cost sheets.
- Choose a website platform that can grow with you. Don’t invest in anything too extravagant at first but make sure you don’t have to move – that’s costly and time consuming.
- Learn all about the market you are in and the people you are selling to. Do your research. Know your competition.
Image: [Teness Herman]