Behind The Scenes of Building A Business

I am excited to share the news that my new company Spell Well LLC, has been born. The first stage of starting a company is to identify a problem and consider a solution to that problem. Research says that people support businesses that offer a solution to a problem that they are having.

Spell Well in a nutshell is a company that will offer educational courses and products in order to help them experience greater mental, physical, spiritual and emotional alignment in order to help them manifest their dreams and goals. Spell Well is the 2nd company that I am building. The first was Art of Culture Inc. (formerly called Donda’s House Inc.). Art of Culture is celebrating it’s 5th birthday this year and is continuing to support young artists and creatives in the Chicagoland Area. I am also pretty heavily involved in supporting my husband’s Rhymefest brand.

So what is it like to build a second company? How am I carrying the lessons from building the first company over to the 2nd one?

(1) Writing a business plan is essential as early as possible. There are so many decisions that have to be made when you start a new enterprise. You have to consider the products and services you will offer. You have to determine the strategic alliances and partnerships you will pursue. A business plan is one way to get all of your ideas out in one place. It is the opportunity for you to prioritize your activities. Contrary to popular belief it is also a super creative process. As you are meeting with partners and investors, a business plan will be your roadmap. It helps you to articulate who you are in the market and set a course for where you are headed. Here is the template that I am using for my business plan from Malta Enterprises. I like it because it is written in question format, and as you answer the questions you are crafting the plan. Right now I have completed sections 1 – 4 with a goal of finishing the entire business plan before December 1st.

We didn’t create the Art of Culture Business plan until Year 2 of operations and I was shocked at how much clarity and direction it brought once we did that. To this day, we refer to our business plan when making decisions about programming. It is also the place where we shelve future ideas. When the time is right we are able to move those ideas to the development and implementation phase.

(2) On developing a social media presence. 

Social Media is essential in developing brand awareness and connecting to potential supporters. Social Media gives you the opportunity to give your brand an identity and it allows you to communicate that message to the world unfiltered.

Art of Culture Inc. built a following organically on social media to over 30,000 followers. We are super proud of that and our social media continues to be the primary place that people meet our brand. Social Media is also an extension of our mission of providing access and information.

A Marketing Strategist shared a formula for me a couple of years ago. She said that social media should be 80% about the people following you and 20% about yourself. In other words, you have to figure out how your brand can connect to and support those who decide to click the “follow” button. You have to give them value. I have also learned the power of a good campaign on social media. Past campaigns included “Rewrite the Narrative” and “Deck the Halls of DH.”We generally do a campaign for Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving). We also do an end of the year campaign.

Invest in good photos and video content. These resources have been really helpful for me in developing content for Spell Well:

Free & High Resolution Stock Photos – Pexel –  https://www.pexels.com/

This site helps you avoid copyright infringement as the photographers determine the licensing agreements right there on the side of the image. Most of the photos are fine for personal and commercial use.

Design & Document Creator – Canva –  https://about.canva.com/

Canva has beautiful templates for social media, documents, presentations and more. There is a paid version of the App that I’ve been using for about 3 years now. It really helps take your visuals and aesthetics to the next level, which matters on social media.

Social Media Publisher – Hootsuite – https://hootsuite.com/

Consistency is one of the most important things for social media. It is time consuming. For Art of Culture, we actually hired people to assist with managing our social media accounts which lead to exponential growth. (Shout out to our first Social Media Manager – Kelsey, and our 2nd Social Media Manager – Hakim).

Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts. The only thing you can’t do is automatically post videos to Instagram. In those cases I just make a note in my calendar for Spell Well and do it first thing in the morning on those days. Hootsuite has a paid version that is totally worth the investment. It gives me peace of mind to know that something will be posted at least once a day on Instagram for Spell Well. Our audiences comes to expect things from us based on the rhythm that we set. Once a day is considered consistent enough but you may want to increase or decrease the frequency depending on the nature of your business. It is also important to diversify your content. People don’t want to see the different versions of the same content every day. For example, Spell Well has bracelets available. My audience would get bored if I only posted photos of our bracelets every day, but I try to be very strategic about showcasing photos of the bracelets periodically so that people know we have them!

As far as video content I am sharing other people’s stuff on Spell Well with plans on developing original content in 2019. Research suggests that content that includes video is more likely to be engaged with on social media.

I usually work on social media content every two weeks on Sundays. Right now, Spell Well is only on Instagram, with plans to start posting some stuff on Facebook soon. Here is the format I use for developing content:

Content Calendar

(3) Thought partners are key. There are a few people in my network… Shout out to ya’ll, who give me great advice and great ideas. Be prepared for people to push back… ask questions… poke holes. Those are all things that help you improve your products, services and strategy. I have also been spending a lot of time on the following this website.

(4) How I organize my paperwork and time.

I love binders as organizers. I am sure that I carried that over from my teaching days. Binders are durable, and they make it easy to keep everything on one place. Even with my students I always recommended carrying one large (zipper) binder for all of the classes to keep up with notes and remain organized.

Binder.jpg

Caption: I purchased this binder Staples. It has the capacity to hold 400 sheets of paper, which should carry me for a long time before I need to add a second binder. Most Office Supply stores have really beautiful options. I also like this binder because it has a lot of symbolism with the triangle. It is the elemental symbol for fire. When turned upside down it becomes the symbol for water.  The colors represent fire and the upside down triangles (the white space) represents water. Triangles are also the strongest shape. 

I have the following dividers in the binder:

Dividers

Here is the index of the dividers and also the structure of the business:

  1. Finance
  2. Human Resources
  3. Marketing
  4. Operations
  5. Strategy
  6. Tech & Equipment
  7. Events
  8. The blank tab is where I keep the Business Plan, just haven’t had time to add the label 😉

The final thing that I have that is important is my Social Media/Content Notebook:

Green Notebook

The Color Green symbolizes prosperity, abundance, money, physical & emotional healing, growth, luck. I also selected green because green is the color of nature. Post coming soon about sympathetic magic. 

Garden Plants

Caption: This is a page from inside my Garden Notebook. I consider these to be seeds or fruit, and use this notebook when I develop content for social media. It is helpful to keep it all in once place. 

I will continue to share this type of content. Click here to subscribe!

If you’re interested in staying informed about all things Spell Well, including a free download of recommended people to follow on Instagram & Twitter, click here to join that list & get the download.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Questions You Should Be Able To Answer About Your Business

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One of the most important elements of being an entrepreneur, is being able to articulate key areas of your business. Whether you are talking to a potential customer, trying to differentiate yourself from other businesses, or seeking investment or capital, these are standard questions you should be able to answer.

  1. What do you do? This is the most common question that not only business owners get, but adults of all ages get. Can you simplify what you do to one word? One sentence? One “elevator pitch.” Simplification is important, because you want people to remember what you told them AND you want them to be able to share with others they may come in contact with.  My one word for Donda’s House is “access.” My one sentence is “We provide artist development and youth development.” My elevator pitch goes into more detail about what artist development and youth development is, and I also mention Dr. Donda West’s history.
  2. Who is your competition and how are you different or better? It is important to do your due diligence on companies or organizations that do similar work to you. Number one, you will often hear “Have you ever heard of x?” People may have an affinity for the brand or organization and they are curious to know your thoughts about it. Also, people think in patterns. If you can connect what you do to something they are already familiar with, it will be easier for them to digest (and remember) you. For the longest, people were describing their business as the “Uber of X.” You can even say like “The Boys & Girls Club, we do X, but we also do Y.” In business plans, this is called the competitive analysis. Subscribe to industry publications. Join industry membership organizations. Keep your eye on those who are top performers in your sector, and think constantly about how you can separate yourself from the pack.
  3. Who are your partners? Partners are key. Often, your partners will help to legitimize your company! Especially when you are new. Your partners include your collaborators, as well as your clients or recognizable contracts. Bonus points if you can reference any governmental agencies or institutions as partners. The most important thing you have as a business is your reputation. Partnerships help potential clients and partners to mitigate or reduce risk in doing business with you.
  4. Where can I purchase your products or services? This is super important if you sale goods or services. Most businesses are expected to have an online presence like a website, or a portfolio of some kind. Also, try not to make the spelling of your products or services to difficult, so that when people “google” you, they can find you! It is helpful to have something physical that you can leave with people like a sticker, or something else. Sometimes I don’t like to rely on the memory of a potential participant, I like to also collect their contact information and follow up.
  5. What is your plan for growth? If you don’t have a business plan or strategic plan, you should create one, otherwise it is like running a marathon without a finish line. You have to create milestones and checkpoints for your business so that you can measure growth and make adjustments as needed as you pursue your goals. At Donda’s House we are working off of a 10 year strategic plan that we wrote in 2014, that we are constantly adding ideas to. This is also important for potential investors!
  6. How can I help you? You should have 3 – 5 actions that people can do to support you. Do you need people to follow or share content on social media? Do you need people to test a product? Are you looking for case studies? Do you need legal support. Whatever those key priorities are, you should have ready to go, so that when you come across a supporter, you can provide them with the information or tools they need to help you. People are generally very generous with their time and with their network, but can’t help you if you don’t know how to ask for help.
  7. Who is your customer? Your business or service should solve a problem for a very specific customer profile. Who is your customer? Break down as much information as you can about their preferences, their spending habits and their demographics. If everyone is your customer… then no one is your customer. Really focus on developing this, and go find your people!
  8. What or who could threaten your business? You have to be proactive about the challenges and threats your business faces. If you would have told me 20 years ago that music would become digital and there’d be few physical records, I may have laughed in your face. Be mindful of what is happening in the world and in your sector and be prepared to embrace technology, policy (laws) and other external forces that could negatively (or positively) impact your business.
  9. How are you integrating choice into your business model? Even if it is a choice between (a) or (b), people often want choices. Think about how you are integrated choice into your business model.
  10. What is your marketing and outreach plan? You can have the best product or service in the world, but it won’t matter if people don’t know about you. How are you getting the word out about your business? What are you willing to invest (dollar wise) to help get the word out? Could you connect to another brand or business to help amplify the awareness of your business.