I read an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. It's about black professionals finding balance with work and being black. One of the interviewees said that being black was her OTHER job. I have to admit this disturbed me. I understand all to well where they are coming from which is why I choose solopreneurship. Brand strategy is what got me to embrace my ghetto country.
After closing down our restaurants and moving to a new state, my family and I took a few months to catch our breath while I began to build my business as a business coach and speaker. I knew I didn't want to deplete our savings while doing this so I decided to get a job. I didn't want anything that required too much of a commitment because I still had speaking engagements that required me to travel to Los Angeles at least once per month.
I decided to take a job as a receptionist with H&R Block during tax season. Looking back, I'm surprised at the almost imperceptible second nature of how quickly I fell into a persona of not showing my authentic self. I was back to not wanting to be seen as the loud black woman. It meant using my inside laugh, not being as "friendly" as I usually am and not calling everyone sweetheart.
I immediately fell in line with the okie doke and I didn't like it. As badly as I wanted to quit, I am not that person. I try to the best of my ability to finish what I start, even bad books and movies. Besides, it was only four months. I promise you, I should have quit. It wasn't that my co-workers weren't nice or anything of that nature. I just no longer fit the mold of an employee. I wore it as if it was something my mother picked out from the polyester collection. Taking a high paying job with more responsibility would have made it worse.
That same inauthenticity is also what stagnated my coaching business. I was trying to be like every other business coach, which is a mostly white dominated field. I was not allowing myself the space to be myself like previous business. I had worked out in my mind that people wouldn't want a business coach with a loud voice who cursed on occasion and called them sweetheart.
First level of authentic branding
It wasn't until I changed my thinking that I realized it wasn't about the audience wanting me but about me not wanting them. I want clients who give me joy and the space to be comfortable in my own skin. I want clients who ask what I mean when I say I'm 'ghetto country' instead of taking offense to the self proclamation. For me it's about acceptance, not inclusion and not tolerance. Inclusion means I have to go along to get along. Tolerance means putting up with me to get at my greatness. Both are about choosing assimilation over individuality.
Branding like a solopreneur is based on brandividuality. It's an opportunity to build a brand, not be a brand, where you can be your best self in service to others. You can't be your best self when you're uncomfortable or worried what others will think of you.
A great example of this is my client who has confidence that's borderline arrogant. My branding advice to him is not to be less arrogant because it might offend the audience. No! It's about finding the best way to use his borderline arrogance to attract the right audience.
Second level of authentic branding
The reason I'm okay with giving this advice is because I recognize this man is very giving with a big heart. His strong character trait is signature to his personal brand, not his business brand. Signature traits of a personal brand make you memorable. When everyone else is trying to stick out an eighth of an inch, you stand out a whole fucking foot. Being out of character with industry and market expectations while being true to self is next level authentic branding.
Authentic branding is a luxury afforded to solopreneurs who are branding from the inside out. It's a respectful rebellion of not going along with the okie doke. It's the ultimate opportunity to showcase not only the human factor of your business, but the brandividuality of the personal brand.
Flexing on a branded level doesn't require putting your life on display. You're a multi-faceted person, yet there are parts of your character that are always on. Being selective about which ones work best in your brand and business makes a life connection that doesn't require code-switching. Even introverts can be party animals on occasion.
Final level of authentic brand
What is the norm can also be brought into the business brand. There are certain things you want to keep just for the personal brand and others you want baked into the company culture. As the business brand amplifies through various partnerships and hiring, the once solopreneur stays connected to the brand, but detaches in a way that allows the business brand too mature.
If done the right way the baked in brand won't be based on hollow mission and vision statements that mean nothing to no one. That is something that happens because the focus becomes more about profits and shareholders. People come and go for the money. They don't give a rats ass about mission or vision statements because the focus as shifted to the bottom line.
To clarify, I'm not too saying you should be a broke solopreneur or shouldn't take pride in your financial success. I'm saying grow and develop an authentic brand that people believe in enough to help you amplify.
We're in an era that if folx think you are fakin' and shakin' you may find yourself blasted on social media without enough revenue to buy a box of tissue to dry your tears. You will also have a business full of folx ready to abandon ship as soon as the check clears.
Just like there's somebody for everybody, there's an ATM for every brand. Allow the brand architecture to grow from authenticity. When it's time to separate yourself from it, you will know because you both will have matured.
That's all for now brandbabies. Smooches 💋
P.S. I'm always here for a chat.
Ghetto Country Brandmother®
author - speaker - HBIC
Certified Brand Strategist, Business & Life Coach with a degree in Business. She is also a former bbq restaurant owner & certified bbq judge.
She is making it her personal mission to connect the dots of life, brand & business one brandbaby™ at a time.