Lessons in entrepreneurship from a beauty industry mogul, business mentors, and marketing experts

Top 7 takeaways from Self-Made Summit

What does it take to start and grow a profitable business? Thousands of business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs gathered virtually on June 16, 2020 at Self-Made Summit to find out. 

Our stellar lineup of experts let us into their world, revealing their keys to success and most memorable moments. Here’s a quick roundup of the top lessons in entrepreneurship from Kajabi’s first-ever virtual summit.

1. Listen to your gut, especially when facing rejection

Rejection hurts. Being underestimated hurts. When you’re at your lowest moments, listen to what your gut is telling you and trust it. Jamie Kern Lima spent a decade building IT Cosmetics from the ground up. In the early years, her business was barely surviving on 2-3 orders a day. Pitches to QVC, Sephora, and other retailers were getting turned down, one after the other. With every rejection, Jamie wondered if she’d be able to stay in business.

“Every time I got a ‘no,’ I did a gut check,” she said. Jamie would get still and listen, and her intuition would tell her, “You're supposed to be on this path.”

In a painfully unforgettable moment with a private equity investor, her inner voice came through loud and clear. The investor had decided not to invest after a rigorous due diligence process. His decision had nothing to do with the financials or actual data. His explanation, as she remembers it: “I’m just not sure women will buy makeup from someone who looks like you — you know, with your body and your weight.”

Stunned, Jamie held her composure and trusted what her gut was telling her. She was absolutely certain that he was wrong. “I knew it and I felt it,” she said.

Ultimately, she proved him wrong when she sold IT Cosmetics to L’Oréal for $1.2 billion. Had he invested in her company, it would’ve been the most successful investment in his firm’s history.

2. Let your “why” guide your decisions

When you’re agonizing over a big decision, think about why you started your business in the first place. Every decision should support your mission and vision — no matter what the experts say. That’s what Jamie discovered when she landed her first QVC spot and hired consultants who specialized in selling on TV.

From Day 1, her mission had always been to make all women feel beautiful, no matter their age or skin challenges. She didn’t want to be like the other beauty brands with Photoshopped ads setting impossible standards. But according to her consultants, the only way to succeed was to follow the same formula: young models with perfect skin.

Jamie deliberated for a week before the live show, torn between taking expert advice and following her instincts to do the opposite. At that point, she hadn’t succeeded following her gut instincts. But when she focused on her mission and the women she wanted to serve, she knew what she had to do.

In Jamie’s first QVC appearance, her product sold out in 10 minutes. And since then, Jamie has personally appeared on over 1,000 live shows on QVC.

3. Spend money on what matters most

In the early days of building a business, every dollar counts. Don’t deplete your cash flow with expenses like fancy photo shoots, luxury car rentals, or first class flights if you can’t afford them. In our social media-obsessed culture, entrepreneurs often get caught up in creating facades online. That’s all ego, according to Jamie.

Spend your money on the critical parts of your business, and be extremely disciplined on expenses that don’t impact the quality of your product or operations. In the early days of IT Cosmetics, Jamie would often travel to pitch retailers. She remembers scouring online for the cheapest economy flights and car rentals, and sharing hotel rooms at Motel 6.

“It’s the little things that allow you to be cash flow positive,” Jamie said. “Nobody talks about them. They’re not glamorous. But they’re so important.”

4. “Just in time” learning beats “just in case” learning

Entrepreneurs are naturally curious people who love to learn. The problem is when you get stuck in a holding pattern, believing you can’t launch a business until you do one more thing (e.g., take course, buy software, attend a conference, read a book, etc.). The common tendency is to learn new skills just in case you might need them in the future.

This unsatiated appetite for more information — albeit well-intentioned — leads to overwhelm and confusion, according to Mel Abraham, founder Thoughtpreneur Academy and Business Breakthrough Academy.

“We become consumers of all this content but we never become doers of our own destiny,” Mel said.

He encourages people to shift their approach from “just in case” learning to “just in time” learning. Focus on what you need to make the biggest impact right now. “What do you need now? Learn it. Go do it,” he said.

Wondering what areas to prioritize in your online business?

Here are the “bare bones” that Mel identified:

  • a traffic source
  • a problem you’re solving
  • a means of converting prospects to customers (e.g., a webinar)
  • a way to deliver your product or service

5. Get laser focused on your own path

With the daily barrage of information and ads online, entrepreneurs can easily get distracted. Maybe you’re monitoring your competitors and trying to imitate them. Maybe you’re constantly experimenting with new business models, offers, and tech tools. Keep in mind that all those distractions can be detrimental to your business.

Jamie often told her IT Cosmetics team, “Our greatest threat is not our competition. It’s if we ever get distracted by it and risk diluting our own secret sauce.”

Tyler McCall, an Instagram business mentor, stayed focused on building his membership program despite all the hype over about premium-priced products. A common misconception in the online business space is that you can’t reach $1 million in revenue unless you sell a high-ticket offer.

Tyler ignored that and focused on building his membership, Follower to Fan Society, priced at $75 per month. So far, his business has earned over $1.5 million in two years.

“You can’t be successful and build your own path when you’re looking at all the paths other people are on,” he said.

Highlighting Oprah’s massive success in daytime TV, Tyler pointed out that Oprah never monitored her competitors like Phil Donahue, Maury Povich, or Ricki Lake. While the other shows reveled in scandalous trash TV, Oprah stayed with the “live your best life” theme and remains one of the highest-rated daytime talk shows in American TV history. As Oprah once said, “You can only run your own race.”

6. Amplify what makes you different

Keep in mind that people are looking for someone who look like you and have your specific background. According to Danielle Leslie, founder of Culture Add Labs and creator of Course from Scratch, “What makes you different is what makes you valuable.

Danielle has grown her business to $10 million in revenue in less than four years. She’s a big proponent of differentiating yourself in the market by leading with your story and everything that makes you unique.

“Your cultural advantage, all the things you’ve overcome in your life, share it all — the obstacles, the downsides, the upsides, the everything. We need to hear it all,” Danielle said. Because nobody else has your story, nobody can offer exactly what you offer. And because of that, your product is not a commodity.

7. Get unstuck by thinking about the individual you’re serving

When business owners create their own marketing collateral like sales pages, they often get stuck obsessing over how to close the sale. Brittany Darrington, a business strategist and founder of the Corporate Misfit Club, broke down a simple strategy for getting unstuck:

  • Take a step back, close your eyes, and think, “Who am I serving? What would our conversation be like if we were having coffee together?”
  • Imagine your ideal customer sharing her pain points.
  • Consider how you’d respond to that person and start positioning your message from there.

She also recommends tackling the sales page piece by piece, rather than one big project. Consider each component like a building block: your headline, video, pain points, social proof, solution, etc.

 

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