By Candida Brush, forbes.com
In my interactions with women entrepreneurs, I often get the question, how do I develop my personal brand when I’m just starting out and I don’t have any money? For women entrepreneurs, boldly putting themselves out in the marketplace can sometimes be overwhelming,and there is evidence that they sometimes feel like they are bragging. But developing your personal brand in your new enterprise or entrepreneurial initiative is essential. It is easier today because of the instant visibility an entrepreneur can get through social media, Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter TWTR -1.26%, Instagram and so forth. But it is also more difficult because you need to continually update, manage and strategically focus your communications on appropriate audiences.
Take for instance Niari Keverian and Kristina Tsipouras, founders of Zoos Greek Iced Tea. Two years ago they decided to launch a new Mediterranean flavored Iced Tea. The message is simple- a refreshing, natural herbal Greek tea that is healthier than other varieties. To build their fledgling brand, Niari and Kristina held home parties with possible groups of investors, many of whom had Greek affiliations, where they shared samples of the tea. Most important, they had a friend create a dynamic label- bright blue, bold print, and simple name. At these events they gave out a variety of marketing collateral, stickers, banners and tee shirts, all of which they had created on their small budget. Besides these in person events, the two founders launched their Facebook page that reinforced the image of a crystal clear sky, water and sunny day in the Mediterranean. They sent regular emails to friends and potential investors, kept their media pages new, fresh and updated and worked all channels of social media. Further, they sampled heavily- in other words, they get their tea to as many people as they could reach at fashion shows, grocery stores, and other events, once again building their brand.
Another example is Kelly Brush Davisson, founder of the Kelly Brush Foundation. Her story is quite different, in that her foundation was launched after she was injured in a ski accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Undaunted, in 2006 Kelly and her family launched a non-profit foundation dedicated to assisting individuals with spinal cord injuries and increasing ski racing safety. The foundation offers two types of grants – one for individuals and another for clubs. In the early stages, the goal was to create an image and attract participants to the Century bicycle ride held every year in Middlebury, VT.
Creating a brand image for a non-profit organization is just as hard for a fledgling start-up because of the reliance on donations. And so, Kelly went to a family member who designed an eye catching logo, a play on Kelly’s heart and desire to help others, her initials and skiing. A key strategy the Foundation used was to have blogs that provided tips on bike riding, as well as widespread press releases with photos and stories about the Century ride as well as testimonials from the athletes who benefitted from the grants allowing them to purchase adaptive equipment. Once again, she built the KBF brand based on consistent and authentic attention to media.
1. Be Authentic- it’s easy to easy to say, but what this requires is a clear understanding of your personal values and what this means for your business identity. In a few words, answer the question “what do I stand for?” In the case of Zoos, Niari and Kristina stayed true to their Mediterranean heritage, their commitment to natural flavors and a healthy beverage. Their webpage includes historical pictures and family ties, as well as an emphasis on health.
2. Be Difficult to Copy- Your identity needs to be differentiated in some way from others. In the case of Kelly Brush Davisson, there are more than 1.5 million non-profit foundations in the US, and a good number of them are competing for philanthropic dollars for health and wellness causes. KBF differentiated based on their mission, which is to solve a problem for spinal cord injury patients, and does so through an athletic event. Oh yes, and Kelly competes in all of these events by riding a hand cycle, further reinforcing the KBF brand image.
3. Be Present- This can be extremely time consuming if you are the sole founder. Emilee Bee is building her personal brand as a contestant on a new TV Show (America’s IT Girl, WE TV). Two months ago, when she entered the contest, she built her own web page, photo-shopped her own electronic photo banners, and set out create her brand, based on a combination of her experience as a yoga teacher, model and chef for a premium meal delivery service that creates nutritious foods for those trying to lose weight.>>>