Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Keenya Kelly @keenyakelly.
Keenya is the CEO of Keenyakelly.com and ifyoubrandit.com where she strategically helps individuals determine who they are at the core of their being. Her company then creates products and services from those gifts and builds profitable brands online.
SmallBizLady: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Keenya Kelly: I’ve always had a creative mind with a natural tendency to create and sell. When I realized that my jobs were going to not only limit my creativity but also the amount of income I could generate from it, I decided it was time to create something for myself.
SmallBizLady: You started out as an entrepreneur in Network Marketing, what made you shift to creating your own company?
Keenya Kelly: Network Marketing is an amazing place to start your journey as an entrepreneur, but it’s not where you need to end up. After earning hundreds of thousands of dollars at my side hustle, I had the ultimate desire to build my own company teaching entrepreneurs what I have learned over the years, vs. continuously teaching how to build network marketing businesses.
SmallBizLady: So how did you actually start your business?
Keenya Kelly: After 6 months of teaching building and branding on livestream for free, my audience started demanding actual services from me. They wanted me to build their websites, create their logos and spend time chatting with me about how to actually create what they wanted to create. The holy spirit gave me the name If You Brand It. I got it registered, told my audience we were launching September 1st and to prepare to work with us. September 1st we launched and have been rocking and rolling ever since.
SmallBizLady: Tell us what are some of the major lessons you learned while you were in the process of starting your business If You Brand It.
Keenya Kelly: The biggest lesson I learned was how much I did NOT know about the business I was starting. I had an amazing gift that I cultivated in network marketing and working my corporate jobs, but when we began taking clients and they started asking questions that I could not answer, or desire services that I was completely unaware of, I realized oh no, I’m not as equipped as I thought I was. I was forced to learn VERY quickly different lingo, products and services and the technical aspects of brand design that I never thought I would have had to learn.
SmallBizLady: Did you find yourself wanting to quit?
Keenya Kelly: I quit at least once a month every month my first year in business. When my team wasn’t delivering the quality my clients desired, or in the proper time frame and when we began dropping major balls, I realized I was either going to have to refund everything to everyone, or figure out how to actually run my business.
SmallBizLady: How did you recover as a business owner without closing your doors?
Keenya Kelly: I took 4 weeks off from social media, and taking on new clients to find out what the holes were in my business and find the way to not only plug the hole but remove it permanently. I also learned how to how to reassure my clients and team members that we could not only fulfill what we promised, but overserve them on what they paid for.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the lessons you’ve had to learn by experience that no one taught you?
Keenya Kelly: Entrepreneurship is hard and requires a level of faith that you probably didn’t know that you needed. When you are a solopreneur, your income becomes solely based on YOUR efforts. You are relying on people to believe in you and your new endeavor, to spend money with you, to allow you to grow and “get better.” It takes a great deal of faith on every level.
SmallBizLady: Tell us about any expectations you had as an entrepreneur that had to be relearned.
Keenya Kelly: I learned that my family and friends were NOT the target audience for my business. I learned that they would NEVER be willing to pay full price, and I learned not to expect them to understand or respect my new business without a track record of success. I had to relearn how to operate with my friends and family, to respect their lack of understanding for what I knew and learn to create healthy boundaries if they needed my business help.
SmallBizLady: What 3 things would you tell a person considering starting a business today?
Keenya Kelly: 1) Don’t focus on quitting your job. Decide on a timeframe of when leaving your job would be ideal and begin to LEARN all that you can learn from your job and company. 2) Don’t compare yourself to other entrepreneurs on social media or to those that have been in business longer than you. 3) Invest in a mentor or coach. Mentors help you skip steps and avoid different pitfalls. Now they won’t do the work for you, but they have the potential to help you move along FASTER.
SmallBizLady: What is the #1 thing you wish you would have done differently?
Keenya Kelly: Pray and wait. I know it sounds cliché, but its true. I’ve made so many business and personal mistakes in my life out of fear, because I lacked wisdom. I’m a big faith girl and I’ve learned over the years that God really does care about all aspects of my life. When I have prayed about a business decision, hiring a coach/mentor, taking a speaking event or even hiring a person to work for me, He has talked to me about it.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz
For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.