The Trials & Tribulations of the Budding Entrepreneur

There are many mistakes that new brands make when they are first starting out. There are obvious errors like failing to lock down intellectual property, wearing all the hats, micromanaging for too long or failing to understand the importance of cash flow vs. just making a profit. 

We all have made mistakes and some of those mistakes are costly. They block your success for years if you don't uncover their detriment. New business owners are so excited about the launch that they focus on getting a logo, a website and business cards. Yet, they don't do a deep dive to make sure they are indeed in the right form of business. 

Many newbies fail to establish a solid foundation with marketing research, a business plan, financing plan, and a buyer persona. Many often overprice their products and grossly underprice their services. If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone.'re not.

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Influencers, you know I’m all about being transparent and being authentic to my story- so I am going to share some things that I did in the past that almost wasted my time and energy.

By sharing these mistakes, I hope to help you avoid the same mishaps I made. There were many, but here are the top four mistakes that produced the greatest lessons:

Mistake #1

The greatest mistake I made when launching my business was starting without a plan, only  starry-eyed in hopes and dreams...and no business model. 😩 All I knew is that I wanted to help women pursue their dreams, be authentic and lived a balanced life. Now, I had the mission, purpose, vision and energy! But I did not have a plan to earn revenue. 

My first business launch was Ten Faces of She, a women empowerment company. What does that even mean? 

Anyway, I held women empowerment events, seminars, training and I guess some "coaching." I did very well attracting female entrepreneurs, dreamers and go-getters. Most of the women were starting new ventures or had existing businesses that were mediocre at best. Everyone of them was attracted to me because I gave them hope. I understood their plight. After all I was white-knuckling it too (or rather brown-knuckling.) Lame joke, I know.

Thinking back to those days is a trigger for me because I was so green. I was filled with enthusiasm and hope. I was just diagnosed with Lupus and a couple months later found my mother dead in her home. My physical and mental health forced a  much needed a break from corporate America. After a long bout of depression, grieving and longing to replace that pain with something meaningful with my life I came up with an idea. Thinking about the number of faces women, like me must put on to make it through the day - caring for everyone else. My dream was launched.

 Ten Faces of She mantra was telling women to claim their power. Stand in their greatness. Be bold. Love their authentic brilliance. 

I am Brave. I am Evolving. I am Empowered. I am Extraordinary. I am REVOLUTIONARY. ~ Ten Faces of She

I just wanted to share with women how I made it through to the other side - self-care, meditation, mindfulness, discovering your purpose, unleashing your power, following your dreams. All sounds amazing right...keep reading. 

Unfortunately, I could not translate my passion to profit. I didn't see the path to move all the women attending my events to signing a contract with me. I was good at inspiring, teaching, cheerleading and supporting but not conveying how paying me would add more value to their life, and business. 

Over the next few years, my vision evolved. I did an asset assessment and realized I was sitting on much of my expertise. I was tapping into my social work education and experience along with my gender studies focus. Yet, I had not scratched the service into my sixteen years of management experience. I wasn't using my leadership skills or my marketing knowledge. Soon, I realized most of those clients in the early years were lacking the same things I was missing - direction, strategy, a plan, focus - the business side of passion and purpose. 

Dreamers are often good at that thing that they love but not necessarily the business and marketing skills necessary to earn revenue to support the dream. ~ ME

Overtime, my business evolved to becoming a marketing agency. The next two mistakes happened after I finally got a business plan and a more formalized business. In hindsight, too formal.

Mistake #2

A vague corporate brand identity that didn't differentiate my agency in the marketplace was one of my greatest errors. I used general language and standardize content that didn't wow anyone enough to sign a contract.

I thought the more "professional" I presented, it would translate into proving competence. Being super professional and using common 'corporate language" in my copy would demonstrate knowledge. I figured it would prove my value and legitimacy. 

In reality, most people care more about your ability to understand them and meet their needs. Buyers EXPECT you to be professional. They EXPECT you to conduct yourself in a professional manner so, therefore, presenting like a professional IS NOT A SELLING POINT.

Mistake #3

There was a time when I used generic language and images to widen my target market. I was diligent to capture as many prospects as possible. My marketing campaigns targeted anyone and everyone who would stop to observe. LOL my target market, was everybody! I couldn't afford to turn away any business opportunities so my copy was broad and generic.

Back then, I believed that I should go after all business owners who needed marketing services and I didn't realize that if you talk to everyone, it's hard to breakthrough directly to the clients for whom you can best serve. It took several clients from hell for me to realize that I am not meant to serve and work with any and everyone. I learned it was important for me to target those clients who I best serve. Those who are excited about working with me and equally as important, those who I would be excited about working with too. 

Again, after doing a self-assessment, I learned I am still excited about working with women, specifically women who have followed their career paths but finally came to the point of venturing out on their own. I admire brave women who risk it all to follow their passion. I honor women who evolve and grow into their greatness. I serve women well who are empowered to stand in their authenticity. I love extraordinary women who want to build a brand while earning revenue, to do whatever they want. It takes a special kind of woman who allows herself to be vulnerable in order to launch her passion and purpose-driven brand, she is revolutionary. I thought I had it, until...

Mistake #4

It took me some time to really understand the value of a marketing calendar. I am generally pretty good at compartmentalizing ideas. I am also generally an organized person. As a marketing manager, I understood the necessity to plan and be strategic, but not to the extent necessary to have consistent, fluid brand messages.

Once social media exploded it became apparent how important an integrated marketing strategy would be for brand awareness. I had to go back to study marketing psychology to understand how to implement social strategies into my marketing campaigns. I had to learn how to connect with my Ideal Buyer on various platforms. It became necessary to customize my messages because the behavior on each social platform varied.

I studied, I implemented, I tested, I made adjustments...then rinsed and repeated. I did this until I learned how to craft a comprehensive marketing plan that included targeted copy and images to attract my target market, specifically my Ideal Buyer.

Well, it turns out that it wasn't a total waste of time because narrowing down to find the customer who is more likely to be excited about working with me would actually attract the people who I am thrilled to serve with excellence.

I focus on my Ideal Buyer's problem. I let her know that I understand her need. I position myself as her problem solver. I differentiate myself in the marketplace by keeping my focus on her. I only aim to solve HER problem, not everyone else's. She appreciates the attention, the dedicated team, and the proven results designed just for her. What an amazing concept. A win-win for both sides! Her reward, she is the star. She gets her needs met. She is valued. My reward, she refers my agency to other women who are just like her! 🙂

Whew! I did it. I shared the mistakes most people would rather keep under wraps. I am not ashamed of my journey because that is how I have developed into the businesswoman I am today.

I am Brave. I am Evolving. I am Empowered. I am Extraordinary. I am REVOLUTIONARY. ~ Me

This is my story.

Now, it's your turn! What are some mistakes that have helped you to evolve and develop to this moment? Your story may help to shape someone else so take a deep breath and open up. We are with you, we support you. We do not judge. We love you.

Share in the comments below!


Andrea Callahan inspires passionate & purpose-driven brands to maximize their strengths to craft an image that represents their WHY, and then use that WHY to position themselves as Industry Influencers; who share experiences that attract their Ideal Buyers. Callahan is a speaker, seminar leader, and the author of, "It's Your Brand ~ Make Your Identity Clear." Callahan is also the principal brand manager @ACIagency, a high-end boutique, integrated-marketing agency, specializing in helping locally-owned brands share their WHY.

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