I have first hand experience with cooking, coaching & creativity as a business. But in each one of those endeavors I SUUUCKED at building a brand. And even though I knew nothing about brand positioning, I think I was okay in that regard. If I had it to do all over though, I would change how I started. What I knew about branding during those periods of my life could fit in a shot glass compared to what I know now. And seeing that hindsight is a bitch, I use it to guide other defiant solopreneurs in building a better brand.
Who knew anything about brand building or brand strategy back then? Certainly not me in 2008 when we set up our first farmers market stand in Watts. It was just me wanting to support my husband in his new found love of bbq. We did NOTHING to prepare for our first day. No marketing. No word of mouth. No nothing. The same was true when I became a business coach and when I wrote my first book.
Together, me and my husband, turned Bigmista's Barbecue into a multi-million dollar brand. He was the party in the front, I was the business in the back. We still get request to open a new restaurant. Our brand got juice from getting write ups, that turned into celebrity catering, then television and almost our own show on the Food Network. It wasn't until we decided to settle into a brick & mortar that we began to think about our brand.
Develop A Personal Brand First
Solopreneurs should start their brand building from their personal brand. I'm not talking about making a name for yourself. I'm talking about a personal brand that's part of the brand architecture. It's one of the few brand things we unknowingly did right when I went into business with my husband.
We capitalized on Neil being Bigmista. His Pitmaster career began on a message board learning how to bbq. From there he started doing bbq competitions and got his first taste of being in front of the camera. Yes, a media whore was born. Bigmista the man grew into a farmers market stand and Bigmista's Catering. The catering business grew to our brick & mortar establishment, Bigmista's Barbecue & Sammich Shop. The final move before I had enough was serving barbecue for breakfast at Bigmista's Morning Wood.
My husband was a solopreneur with a personal brand for about a year before I got mad about him spending my shoe money on bbq competitions. After catching the fever of his dream and selling lunches from our dining room table I quickly became known as Mrs. Mista. I began to suck up the bbq culture but I knew nothing about personal branding back then. I got an introduction into marketing when I took the Business Of BBQ in 2010. In 2022 I went to my first NBBQA conference. And so became the life of Mrs. Mista.
Such is the life of a three-fold brand. A personal brand not only endorses your business brand. It leads the brand architecture. And it sets the tone for the internal brand as you scale. If is built on the I am my brand kool-aid, you end up endorsing yourself. Endorsing yourself makes it slower and harder to scale your business.
Leverage Your Personal Brand
Leveraging your personal brand comes from what you do for others. Early I shared that the personal brand is part of the brand architecture. I guide my clients in using it as an endorser brand for their business. The beauty about it being an endorser brand is that it's not limited in its endorsements but it is selective.
I was recently reminded of the quote of "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I did a piss poor job of leveraging the Mrs. Mista brand and I had no brand at all when I went into coaching or wrote my first book. I've since learned the value of a personal brand and using it as an endorser brand. It can go far if its not limited to your business.
I have a client who is a shining example of using her personal brand as an endorser brand. She not only endorses her business, but the business of others. She is the founder of Authentic Distinction known as The Ratchet Sage™. Whatever platform she's on she pays homage to her network. It is not her style to write a review and never mention you again. If you go through her coach academy or provide her with value she will let folx know about it.
Being an endorser brand comes easy for The Ratchet Sage. The fact that she does it from first hand experience adds a greater degree of trust. That trust spills over into her business brand because her clients are thriving. Thriving clients increase the trust by returning the endorsement. This is increased brand equity that allows her to raise her prices.
Brand True To Your Business
It's easy to get caught up in the hype of a popular brand. Scaling the brand based on hype means you didn't plan for it. If you've ever been figuratively caught with your pants down in your business, then you got a taste of what I'm talking about. Brand strategy is more than brand building. It's taking the time to set goals and prepare for the growth of your business.
When Bigmista's got its first L. A. Times write up, we were not prepared. We were one of maybe a dozen food vendors at the Saturday Torrance Farmers Market. What we thought was a good thing turned into a line that seemed to never end. You may think this is a good thing. What it was, was an alienation of our regulars and bad reviews for running out of food.
When we opened our brick and mortar we chose small because we wanted to get acclimated to restaurant life. What we got after being open for a few months was a small article in the back of a Westway magazine (AAA). The line was long and the people were buying as we pulled meat off the smoker. We would open at 11 and be closed by 3. Before that we averaged about 30k/month. After the article are business more than tripled for a couple of months even though we sold out early. When the hype wore off we got crickets 🦗. The long lines turned into bad reviews of running out and closing early. Our regulars silently gave us the finger for serving these interlopers. It was a long struggle to recover.
Some people will look at this and see a business issue. Looking back, I see the brand issue. Our brand positioning was never solidified. And our brand messaging didn't convey the story of having a small shop and why. When we opened up Bigmista's Morning Wood we went small again but our brand message was a little clearer and on point. If it had not taken me so long to learn the little I did know we would have made millions more than we did.
Branding For The Future Solopreneur
Daring solopreneurs start businesses everyday for various reasons. They're full of great business ideas and leave their branding for the end. I'm telling you to reverse it. Start with a personal brand that will endorse the business you start. From there scale the brand architecture while cultivating and nurturing an internal brand.
If you know or even think you started your business without a personal brand, it's not to late. Schedule a Brand Ego® check so you can connect your life, brand and business for greater impact.
Ghetto Country Brandmother®
Certified as a 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 show entrevivalist™ how to connect the dots of their
life, brand & business one brandbaby® at a time.