Serving & Selling To Bigger Businesses with Bonova Advisory Founder Breana Patel

Serving & Selling To Bigger Businesses with Bonova Advisory Founder Breana Patel

The Nitty Gritty:

  • What specific services and offerings entice large companies and organizations to hire boutique firms, like Bonova, instead of doing it in-house.
  • Why Breana’s always up-to-date on what her competitors are doing, what she and her team do to win proposals, and what the sales process looks like at Bonova.
  • How travel influences Breana’s perspective and positively impacts her business.
  • What systems Breana put in place at Bonova to make it easier for single moms to balance raising their children and working at the firm.

Today, my guest on Profit. Power. Pursuit. is Breana Patel, Founder and CEO of Bonova Advisory, a minority woman-owned consulting firm based out of New York City. She shares what working with large banking institutions and state/federal agencies with net assets of at least $10 billion looks like — and how the firm’s methodology and systems relate to owning, and growing, a small business.

Breana boasts over 17 years of leadership experience in addition to holding a Masters in Finance. Besides leading Bonova, she’s an Executive Fellow at MIT, non-profit board member, and angel investor. Listen to the full episode to hear Bonova’s sales process, how Breana wins proposals, and where she’s traveling to next.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On why large organizations choose small, nimble boutique businesses

Large organizations have large teams. When a change is introduced, it becomes too cumbersome for large teams to manage the change. We are boutique and we offer personalized services to our clients. This allows us to be nimble and agile in our approach.

— Breana Patel

As a small business owner, you might think it’s difficult to land a corporate client. Maybe you haven’t worked with one yet — or you just haven’t seen how what you do can meet their needs.

Let me give you an example. While some large organizations and corporations have an in-house graphic design team, they don’t have a branding specialist. Or maybe they have a content writing team but they don’t have an on-site SEO strategist.

This is where running a small, nimble business works well. You can jump right in and fill the gap between where the client is and where they need to go (without working the 9-5 yourself.) In our interview, Breana adds that most team members on these large teams have daily responsibilities so they simply don’t have the time to contribute to a new project or big change happening at the company.

Think about what you do best, whether that’s personal branding, content strategy, or team building. What’s different and unique about what you do — and how does hiring you or your team fill the gap for a larger organization?

On winning proposals (and being the best at what you do)

It’s always good to know what’s going on in the market and what others are doing, but you have to be best at what you do. When we put in our proposal, we win because of the type of the in-house methodologies and frameworks we’ve developed, the type of the resources we have, and the experience that we bring on board.

— Breana Patel

Breana shares her process on winning proposals — and it’s not just down to price. It’s because of everything else that she and her team bring to the table. This is a good reminder for small business owners: that you can grow your business not just on the experience you bring to the table (also important!) but also based on the service that you provide clients.

For potential Bonova clients, it’s not just about price: they’re attracted to the realm of opportunities from working with Breana’s team that goes further than their collective experience: strategy, additional training, and post-implementation training.

What ways can you level up your services? How can you differentiate what you do from the competition? How can you provide value to your clients and potential clients right now? All good questions to ponder.

On travel’s positive impact on business and life

Travel’s played a major role in my life. Travel leads to open-mindedness and understanding of various cultures. And since I understand so many cultures, I’m able to understand the thought process behind certain actions taken by individuals and the psychology behind it.

I’m in a business which is heavily reliant on people. Because of travel, I’m able to break the ice and start talking to any person from anywhere in the world. It’s helped me connect with different people from different backgrounds.

Plus, innovation and creativity is fostered when a variety of people from different cultures, experience, personality, etc. work together. So this helps us creatively solve challenges and understand global markets.

— Breana Patel

Have you ever heard a more compelling reason to travel more that would benefit your business?

While not everyone enjoys traveling, for Breana, there’s a bridge between travel and her ability to connect with anyone. And when you work within a global marketplace, it’s even more important to understand different perspectives and motivations.

Think about your clients: what are some ways that you can expand your understanding and beliefs to benefit your relationship with them? While you may not be able to travel, watching movies and documentaries or reading books can provide a window into different cultures and perspectives to help you bridge the gap.

Listen to the full episode with Breana Patel, Founder and CEO of Bonova Advisory, to hear more on winning proposals, working with large-scale clients, and empowering women.

Growing a Business For Good with SheNative founder Devon Fiddler

Growing a Business For Good with SheNative founder Devon Fidler

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why Devon’s personal experience as an Indigenous woman, plus her political science background, moved her to start a fashion-focused brand with a social good mission.
  • How Devon bakes SheNative’s social good mission into everything from social media content to employee management to big business decisions.
  • Why and how Devon reached the media to cover SheNative’s story, including global news stations, NBC radio, Shaw TV, and local radio stations before she had a single product.
  • How Devon raised almost $23,000 on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to fund product development and SheNative’s first production run.

Today on Profit. Power. Pursuit, I chat with Devon Fiddler, the Chief Changemaker of SheNative Goods, a brand of handbags and accessories that helps to empower and change perceptions of Indigenous women and girls.

We cover how she first got the idea for SheNative, how her company’s social impact mission affects both her strategic thinking and her daily activities, and why she chose fashion as a conduit for change making.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On baking a social mission into your brand

We feel that our designs and what we’re doing as a company are really a catalyst to transform public perceptions of indigenous women by sharing positive stories and conveying our cultural teachings embedded within our designs. It’s in everything we put out. It’s about empathy and accentuating hope for positive change to the public.

— Devon Fiddler

At SheNative, Devon’s approach is based on a social good mission: to empower Indigenous women and girls. That mission is baked into everything she does from posting content on social media, managing employees, and making important business decisions.

As Devon shares, one of those big decisions was closing her retail store. She struggled with the choice, knowing it would cut jobs, “but I knew that in the longer term that there will be more jobs later on,” she says. “I’ve had to just think about it in a big picture level — because the day to day stuff like that can really bog you down.”

What’s your business mission? Even if it’s not a social good one, your mission gives you direction no matter if you’re mapping out your content strategy for the month, reviewing potential partners, or hiring new employees.

Define your business mission — and see it through everything you do.

On launching a fashion brand without a fashion or business background

There’s a million ways I could have started a company that helped empower women, but I knew that I wanted to be in fashion. I had no design experience whatsoever when I first started. I just jumped into it. I hired out designers and creative people to work with and that’s where I’ve seen the connection as to how we can help Indigenous women: by working with them and by sourcing out all of the creatives that I can, as well as putting my vision and touch into it.

— Devon Fiddler

What I love about Devon’s story is that she believed in what she was doing, she jumped in, and she didn’t ask for permission. She didn’t wait for the perfect timing. She didn’t go to fashion school to prove she could do it. Instead, she worked with creative people who could do what she couldn’t.

Through that process, she also found that she didn’t need to be the maker: she could serve as the visionary and still add her personal touch while providing jobs to Indigenous women in her community.

If you’re a business owner without formal training in business, you probably resonate with the quote above. As an entrepreneur, you don’t need to know everything because you can find people who compliment your strengths and weaknesses as Devon did.

On reaching out to the media

The first time I reached out the media, I had no idea what I was doing. I created a media list first, then I wrote a personal email about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I really focused on the why. I basically told them: you know what, I don’t even have product yet but please cover me because we really need your help in order to raise money so that I can start this project. That’s what really interested a lot of the media outlets that covered me.

— Devon Fiddler

Sometimes you don’t need to wait to perfect your pitch or learn how to write a press release. Sometimes you just do it. Armed with a social good focused business and a positive story, Devon reached out to the media in an honest and authentic way — and it worked for her.

If media outreach and coverage is a struggle for you — or if you haven’t even considered it yet — remember that your pitch doesn’t need to be perfect. Start with where you are, with your unique perspective, and just dive in. Like Devon showed, you don’t even need to have product yet. Instead, use your business’ mission and story strategically to get media coverage and build momentum around your cause.

Listen to the full episode with Devon Fiddler to hear more about how she bakes her social mission into everything she does, how she created SheNative around her personal experience and beliefs, and much more.

Scaling a High-Touch Service-Based Business with Author Accelerator Founder Jennie Nash

Scaling a High-Touch Service-Based Business with Author Accelerator Founder Jennie Nash

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How Jennie scaled her high-touch, human-centered service business (and what mistakes she learned along the way.)
  • How she made a seemingly unreplicable service like book coaching… replicable.
  • What encouraged her to adjust the Author Accelerator’s initial pricing model from affordable and accessible to high-price and high-touch.
  • What Author Accelerator’s hiring process for book coaches looks like.
  • How Jennie moved from being a writer to a book coach and, now, an entrepreneur.
  • Why it’s 100% OK to say no to a creative idea (even if it’s a really good one.)

Today on Power. Profit. Pursuit., I jam with Jennie Nash, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator, a book coaching program that provides feedback, accountability, and support to writers so they can finish their books—and finish strong.

Jennie believes that people have a story to tell, whether or not they’re a writer. This belief is what transformed her career as a writer to book coach: to help people finally write that book. That excitement and passion eventually turned into a business. Despite being high-touch, human-centered work at its core, Jennie figured out how to scale the book coaching process and grow her team at Author Accelerator to over 25 employees.

Listen to this episode to hear exactly how Jennie scaled Author Accelerator, what mistakes she ran into, and her four requirements for all new employees.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On scaling a high-touch, human-centered service business

I really resisted it because I thought you can’t scale a high-touch, super human-centered system. Book coaching is so inefficient. It’s about the human touch. It’s about people’s hearts. It’s about their souls. I had this really deep aversion that the two things couldn’t connect. And he (Matt Sand, her business partner) kept insisting they could — and that I’d already done it.

Jennie Nash

It took years for Jennie to accept her now-business partner’s offer to scale her book coaching process into a full-scale business. Why so long? Because she didn’t see a way for someone else, like an employee, to learn her high-touch, human-centered process — and do it right.

But what Jennie found, once she said ‘yes’, was that it was possible: she could teach others her book coaching process. Scaling this business model wasn’t an instant success, as she uncovers, but more of a test-and-tweak-along-the-way to find the right model and pricing.

On how to hire, and retain, top-notch employees

This was the roadblock: I kept saying there is no way that we can get the level of talent that we need to scale this. We can’t get them at the price that will work. That’s what I thought.

Jennie Nash

Finding and hiring the right people was Jennie’s biggest roadblock to scale her book coaching business. But once she found a formula that worked, Jennie was able to grow her team to over 25 employees around the world. In the last 4 years, only 3 employees left Author Accelerator to start families, leave for their dream job, or start their own business.

So how do you craft a team that’s in it for the long run? Process. Process. Process.

Jennie determined what skills and personality type would thrive in the position — and she didn’t make exceptions. Everyone needed mechanical editing and narrative design skills as well as the ability to think strategically. They also needed to be nice and compassionate. This was a requirement. Even if someone had all the skills, if they weren’t kind, they didn’t make the cut.

This hiring process is so successful that Author Accelerator is launching a book coach certification program in 2018.

We’re really proud of the retention of our coaches and how we train them, the ongoing masterclasses, and oversight. In fact, we have become so sure of our process that in 2018 we’re going to launch a book coach certification program which is a whole other arm of our business. We had so many people who we didn’t hire ask how they could learn what they needed to know that we decided to do this.

Jennie Nash

On pricing a high-touch service

We made a lot of missteps, as every business does. We just completed year four and at the beginning of this year, we finally hit on the right combination of how to do it, how to price it, how to make it work, and we very quickly started to see a lot of growth. It was clear that this was the right way, the right system, strategy, and process. It was so exciting. Now we’re really starting to see that scaling happen.

Jennie Nash

Most business owners struggle with properly pricing their products and services. It’s not easy! After 4 years, Jennie found the right pricing for Author Accelerator — but it took many changes along the way. At first, Jennie wanted to offer an affordable program despite being a high-touch book coaching program. That pricing method didn’t work so they tried something else: high touch and high price and — it worked. Since then, they’ve seen a lot of growth.

If pricing comes as a struggle to you, consider this: sometimes it takes a few years to get it right. Focus on what you do well and how you do it — and don’t always look to competitors for your pricing inspiration.

Then, as Jennie says, ask yourself: “What is that I do that’s so different and special and good? And how can I take that and sell that?”

Listen to the full episode to hear even more from Jennie Nash, founder and Chief Creative Officer of Author Accelerator, on scaling a high-touch, high-price service.

Taking On Technology Education for Women with Skillcrush Founder Adda Birnir

Taking On Technology Education for Women with Skillcrush Founder Adda Birnir

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why, after working 4 years in media, Adda taught herself to code — and founded Skillcrush shortly thereafter.
  • How customer interviews inspired Adda to repackage Skillcrush’s tutorial-style learning to classroom-based online learning with dedicated instructors.
  • How Adda approached customer research to take the guesswork out and really get inside her ideal customers’ head to create just what they needed.
  • Why the Skillcrush team is fully distributed and how a remote team forces you to deal with structural issues — quickly.  

Today on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I talk with Adda Birnir, founder of Skillcrush, an interactive learning community that teaches (mostly) women to code. Only a few years ago, Adda left her media job, learned how to code, and launched Skillcrush. Impressive!

She used her newfound coding skills to change her career path — and knew that other women could use those same skills to transform their lives, too. In this episode, we talk about how Adda uses customer research and feedback to design a service that her ideal customers love — and what the realities are of growing a business with a fully distributed team.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On customer research

When all else fails, just going out and taking the time to talk to your customers, it will always send you in the right direction. And I will also say, we’re almost always wrong about what we think going into it. Every time we want to skip that step, we’re always so glad that we did it.

Adda Birnir

Customer research is at the heart of everything Adda and the Skillcrush team does. When Skillcrush first launched with two tutorials, they followed up with customers. Were they interested in buying more? It turns out that most said no.

Adda wanted to understand the why behind their disinterest. So using advice from the book Running Lean by Ash Maurya, she scheduled in-person customer interviews to find out more. Not only did she call up everyone who fit her ideal customer — Adda also asked friends to introduce her to their friends who fit the bill.

By sitting down with her ideal customers, face-to-face, Adda gleaned information that transformed the way Skillcrush operates today.

On taking risks in business

There’s no way to guarantee success ahead of time. You just have to, at the end of the day, risk to the extent that you can. Then balance the risking it with the fact that when you launch something you’re going to learn a lot. Even if something flops, that’s good learning which is still excruciatingly painful for me every time.

— Adda Birnir

Having a new program campaign underperform, new platform messaging not resonate at all, or having zero people sign up for your new course. No one likes to see their idea fail — but, at the very least, you’ve learned something new about what works and what doesn’t.

Adda brings this very approach to everything she launches in Skillcrush — and, even years later, having an idea flop is not a good time, no matter how much she learns. Running — and growing — your business requires you to adapt, change, reiterate, and try, try again…

And when it comes to product development? “What you try not to do is do it based on what you like,” says Adda. “Just assume that you have no idea what you’re doing and operate from that place, because, in my experience, it’s the healthiest place to work from.”

On growing a distributed team

I think that problems that growing companies face (at least structurally) — you hit them earlier with a remote team. Or, let’s put it this way, there’s no way of getting around them.

– Adda Birnir

Wouldn’t it be nice to figure out organizational issues while your team is still small? That’s exactly what Adda thinks, too. From her experience, she’s found that having a small, yet distributed team helped her identify organizational issues that needed smoothing out before growing more.

Sometimes even hiring a single contractor highlights where tasks or project assignments fall through the cracks — but it’s a good way to test the structure of your business.

Listen to the full episode with Adda Birnir, founder of Skillcrush, to hear more about how to use customer research to repackage your offerings and how to take risks, even if they flop.

A Fresh Take On Cosmetics With Mented Cosmetics Co-founders KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson

A Fresh Take On Cosmetics With Mented Cosmetics Co-founders KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson

The Nitty Gritty:

  • How Amanda and KJ turned their passion for beauty — and their frustration with a lack of diverse color palettes — into a brand-new business in a saturated market.
  • Why they were part of the product formulation process every step of the way.
  • How they established Mented as a trusted brand — even before launching products — by building relationships with YouTube and Instagram influencers.
  • Why talking with customers pushed Amanda and KJ to not only offer Mented cosmetics online, but in person, too.
  • How Mented grows organically today by celebrating and prioritizing women of color.

Today on Profit. Power. Pursuit., I chat with Amanda E. Johnson and KJ Miller of Mented Cosmetics, an everyday beauty brand for women of color. What started it all? Searching for the perfect shade of nude lipstick. Disappointed by palette options, KJ and Amanda took matters into their own hands — mixing and pouring — in their own kitchen.

While KJ and Amanda no longer hand pour Mented lipsticks, they’re still a part of product development every step of the way. Hear how their journey started when the two attended Harvard Business School, where they’re at now, and where Mented is heading in 2018.

We release new episodes of Profit. Power. Pursuit every week. Subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode.

On standing out in a saturated market

We’re creating an everyday beauty brand for women of color. That truly is unique. If you look at some of our peers, so many of those brands are trend focused — the glitter, the unicorn, the galaxy. What was missing in the market — and what we would argue is still missing — is a brand that’s focused on the everyday, foundational, basic beauty needs of women of color. And that’s where we think Mented will continue to win.

— KJ Miller

The marketplace is crowded — so how do you stand out? Amanda and KJ decided, early on, that focusing exclusively on everyday beauty for women of color was how they’d claim their space in a crowded market.

Their own frustrations and disappointment with trying to find beauty products that worked for them started it all. For years, Amanda searched for a nude lip color — and she just couldn’t find the right shade. Her search uncovered an untapped market — and the pair decided to solve their own problem.

On product development

Once we found a great manufacturer who was willing to work with us on a smaller scale, the process began of creating the stable formula. We probably spent 3 or 4 full days in the lab, not only working to shade match but working to create a formula that both of us loved.

— KJ Miller

A clear mission leads the way to a powerful product. Although KJ and Amanda tested different colors in their own kitchen, they knew they needed to work with a manufacturer to create a stable product that they — and their customers — would love.

On word-of-mouth marketing

We’ve said from the very beginning that Mented is about prioritizing and celebrating women of color — and because that’s been our message from the very beginning, it’s resonated and women have felt celebrated and prioritized. As a result of that, they’ve been excited to share with their friends and family.

— KJ Miller

Working with YouTube and Instagram influencers naturally drummed up talk about Mented — and now, word-of-mouth marketing is a large aspect of Mented’s marketing success. But you can’t pay for word-of-mouth marketing — so how do you get people to share your product or service with their networks and communities?

For KJ and Amanda, it ties back to their mission of celebrating — and prioritizing — women of color. No other beauty brand has done that — until now. And that commitment shines through everything they do — from the way they communicate their brand values to how they treat their customers.

Listen to the full episode with Mented founders Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller to hear more about how to use your own dissatisfaction to start your own company, how to break into a saturated industry, and how to celebrate (and listen to) your customers to give them a product they want to share with others.

Taking Your Message to A Bigger Stage with Tanya Geisler

Taking Your Message to A Bigger Stage with Tanya Geisler

The Nitty Gritty:

  • Why speaking could become an integral part to your business
  • Where to pitch your speaking services and get speaking gigs
  • Why the Imposter Complex is a good sign

My guest this week on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast is Tanya Geisler who is a leadership coach, TEDxWomen speaker and writer that teaches women how to step into their starring roles, own their authority and overcome the Imposter Complex in their lives and in their work.

We talk about how Tanya has actively grown the speaking segment of her business, how she and her team pitches her speaking services and why experiencing the Imposter Complex is a good sign.  

Reach a Larger Audience Through Speaking

Speaking and sharing her message to a larger audience was a natural fit for Tanya. It was something she knew needed to have as an element of her business because she always loved the stage even from a young age. It was always her favorite responsibility even in jobs she didn’t like. Today, Tanya mostly does keynotes that are 45 minutes long with a 15-minute Q&A. Since the Imposter Complex is her body of work, she primarily speaks on that subject but collaborates with the event host to co-create the talk based on their learning objectives. It takes time to experiment and refine the message you want to deliver, even if you are gifted at speaking.

How to Pitch your Speaking Services

I can trace back every last speaking gig that I’ve had to a podcast interview that I’ve done.

–Tanya Geisler

Tanya and her team actively pitch associations and conferences as well as certain companies if she has a contact there. She rarely cold calls an organization. Being a guest on podcasts is a very effective way that Tanya gets speaking engagements; in fact, she can trace every speaking gig that she has had to a podcast interview she has done. Since Tanya is a coach she is able to find a moment in each interview where she can “coach” the interviewee, and that’s a really important moment of resonance. Ultimately, when that happens people lean in and listen more closely, and it’s in those moments that they realize they might want to book Tanya to speak to their organization.

The Imposter Complex: It’s a Good Sign

Nobody is ever fully ready for anything, but you’re ready enough.

–Tanya Geisler

There are 12 lies the Imposter Complex really wants us to believe. If you aren’t feeling the Imposter Complex you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. When something really, really matters to you, that’s when the Imposter Complex is going to show up and you don’t really want it to go away. When you don’t want to feel like an imposter you go to one of six coping mechanisms. You must always remember if you know more than the audience you are speaking to, it makes you expert.

Learn more about why the “pencil can never be sharp enough,” the process Tanya has developed to determine the goals of the audience she’s speaking to, Tanya’s Starring Role Academy and ways to overcome the Imposter Complex when you listen to the full episode.

I invite you to subscribe to the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast on iTunes so that you can tune in each week to learn from today’s savviest entrepreneurs.

Want to know the 3 things every woman with unshakeable confidence has in common? Join Tanya for her Unshakable Confidence Masterclass on November 30th. Click here for more information.