What was the original seed of the idea that led you to launch your company?
BrandBoss ANSWER: BrandBoss started directly after the completion of my MBA with a Marketing concentration while working as the Director of Marketing for a non-profit. Passionate about the impact this nonprofit had on the community, I was challenged with a desperate need for the distribution of a clear message with a virtually non-existent marketing budget. My approach was to return to the foundation, to focus on why we were doing what we were doing, and that was to help children in need. People needed to hear the stories, learn about the children in our own backyard who are without homes or medical care. The story ideally ends with an increase in funding to fuel a new future for the youth. I then had a few small businesses approach me to do the same for them, tell their story. SheWolf Answer: see question #2
What inspired you to go “all in” on making this vision a reality?
I have always been a risk taker. Like most risk takers know, this doesn’t always turn out as planned. There are ups and downs, successes and failures. I rarely start anything with one toe in the water. I am a jump right in kind of gal, so when it came to starting BrandBoss, something that was mine, with no one telling me how or when no one looking over my shoulder, I happily dove in and began to do things my way. When I decided to start SheWolf, a good friend and mentor of mine, Laura Holloway, were discussing the challenges of working by yourself and the catty competitiveness of women in our industry. We worked well together and referred each other business quite often. We discussed our own personal values and how they impacted our business, and how we wish there was a safe space for us to have that voice. SheWolf was born. We were at a ladies poker night, where Laura and I had stepped outside after losing all of our money and were talking about how much stronger all of us would be if we could join forces, each contributing our specialty. We could offer BIG agency services while each of us still does what works best for us individually. Oh, and the extra perks of having women get real, work together, and create a circle of trust and a network? No brainer. So we went “all-in” one week after that poker night.
What were some early challenges you faced?
I don’t think challenges ever end, you just learn how to deal with them differently. Early challenges included falling on my face quite often, humbling myself, learning the consequences of offering the world to clients for little pay, setting healthy boundaries, learning how to say no with grace and only taking on projects that fit with our long-term mission. Additional challenges included moving across the country and back all in the first year of business. We had to relocate because of my husband’s transition out of the military and his first post-Army job. He supported me for quite some time, so we took the leap and I supported him. Here I was with two new companies, in a place where I knew no one. I had to make it work. Now I am so thankful for that little Montana adventure. SheWolf has 6 Montana pack members now and we learned a LOT in the process. Testing different software, billing processes, and workflows was also a challenge. We now have an accountant who is 10x smarter than us and handles all things billing. Entrepreneur Lesson #1: Delegate the things you aren’t good at!
Name one person or resource that really made a difference in your early growth.
This is a little too much on the mushy side for me – but the truth is, my spouse. I worked a full-time job while finishing my MBA and less than one month later, I started this business. I walked in the door at 6 pm and sat right down at my home office desk and kept on working. He brought be dinner at my computer every night for two years and included a full glass of Cabernet when I looked extra burnt out. He is definitely the optimist of the two of us and has always cheered me on and reassured me that it would all be okay, even on the hardest of days.
Who is your most significant client/customer & why are they important to your company?
I have a lot of amazing, grateful clients but if I have to pick one, I am really lucky to have one client who trusts my vision and experience. He often calls me with larger projects or proposals with other companies just to get my two cents. He refers me to like minded companies often, and he is honest and unafraid of confrontation. This has taught me a great deal about my own approach and process.
For SheWolf, I would say our most significant client is Sola Café + Market, located in Bozeman, MT. This project was the first to utilize more than 4 pack members at a time and it has been an absolute blast getting to know each creative and what they do best! We all learn from each other and I am super proud of the cohesiveness and final product.
What do you feel makes the Triangle a great place to grow a company?
I grew up here, but I have been gone for a number of years. My first professional jobs were here, one of which allowed me to deal with local business owners, restaurants, and bars. These people became my friends. I saw firsthand the hard work that went into each venture and how important relationships are. Now that we have moved back after experiencing communities in Florida and Montana, I am more excited than ever to reconnect with old colleagues and see how they have grown. I am proud of this city. To see the growth, diversity, support for local businesses, and community involvement has been really encouraging. I also bring a different perspective from other thriving communities and the demand and need for a boutique experience.
I am also thrilled to grow another SheWolf Den right here in North Carolina. Once we find our people, I can’t wait to have a localized collaborative of female creatives ready to conquer large local projects.
Tell us a favorite client/customer success story.
My husband was 7th Special Forces group. His teammate, Andrew Weathers, was killed in action on their last deployment. In SF, your team is like family. They are your brothers. The loss was hard for everyone. Andrew was the strongest, fastest, most daring, and he died trying to save his team. Andy’s sister, brother, and parents started a foundation in his name raising money for Gold Star families. They were my second client ever. The fact that they trust me enough to honor Andrew and help fundraise for this cause is an honor. I get to tell the story of a hero and they’ve been able to help more families each year. That’s what this is all about.
What is one piece of advice would you give to emerging entrepreneurs?
Emerging entrepreneurs – ask yourself, “Am I willing to work four times as much as I am now?” I think the misconception is that starting a new business is fun, exciting, and the way to make money. So many people have great ideas but aren’t willing to put in the unpaid hourly work to build it, research it, bring it to fruition. Start with a business plan. If you can’t dedicate the time and energy to hashing that out, reevaluate.
Oh – and be sure to test just how thick your skin is. Gary Vee likes to say “It’s hard. It’s lonely. You have to love it…. This is a hard game…I would say be prepared for some punches in the stomach, the mouth, and some other places, and if that sounds great, then proceed.”
What is your favorite thing to do to help blow off steam?
I have a policy that I have to give myself Saturdays (unless there is a scheduled client event, of course.) I typically leave my phone at home or in another room and hang out with my husband, our three rescue pups, and now that we are back in NC, I get to see my family. Some Saturdays we splash around Belews Lake, other Saturdays we cook out, some Saturdays we just sleep in and enjoy coffee and conversation. I need one full day to disconnect to be most productive.
Any memorable [funny or otherwise] stories from your early fundraising or sales activities?
I feel like I am still in my early fundraising days, but I look back on my first contract which offered the world for less than 25% of how my retainer contracts are currently priced. I answered the phone at all hours of the night and day, yeah, we are talkin’ like 1 am on a Tuesday. I laugh at my early entrepreneur self and how I felt like I was barely above water. I still feel like that, but now I know where all of the flotation devices are.