Knowing exactly where our ideal customer was struggling is what helped us expand.
Brenda’s years of experience as a corporate technology executive, and her success in the direct sales world has led her to where she is today. She was called to help small business owners achieve their goals through the methods she pioneered. In 2015, Brenda founded Sassy Suite – a social media marketing strategic platform for small business owners and direct sellers. Her offerings are vast and range from: video-based and live trainings, helping clients differentiate themselves, and building a loyal and supportive community. Brenda spends her days creating, strategizing and engaging with the Suite community. She thrives on the success of her community members and is shamelessly dedicated to fulfilling the Suite’s mission to #EmpowerSocial. Get her free workbook “Kickstart Your Social Marketing Strategy” at www.sassysuite.com/kickstartworkbook.
Where did the idea for Sassy Suite come from?
I never had any intention to be an entrepreneur. I was a senior vice president of a tech company and had more than 20 years of experience in the corporate world before I decided to try direct sales as a way to make my schedule more flexible. I tripped into the idea for Sassy Suite entirely by accident, because I discovered that nobody out there was helping direct sellers market their products well. Direct sales has such a bad reputation for being spammy – but I knew there was a better approach, so I set out to teach direct sellers how to market their businesses online, differentiate themselves from others who sell the same or similar products or services, lead with relationship and community building rather than spammy tactics, and build a loyal community.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I work on a very structured schedule, and I try to keep normal office hours so that I can spend time with my family every evening. To maximize my efficiency, I work in batches – meaning I’ll devote long blocks of time to doing one thing, and one thing only. For example, when I create videos or graphics, I’ll create 20 at a time and schedule them out. Working this way allows me to strategize with the long-term view in mind. Another thing that keeps me productive is knowing when to shut off my phone, Facebook notifications, email, etc. It’s so easy to get distracted by technology and social media – I like to call it being “lazy busy.” You feel busy because you’re scrolling, but hours could go by before you realize you haven’t actually gotten anything done. Knowing when to shut down those distractions allows me to power through my batch working and have extremely productive days.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My strength is focusing on the vision and the desired outcome. I bring my visions to life by surrounding myself with brilliant, tactical team members that can help me back into the execution plan.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love the traction that live video is getting on social media from a business standpoint. It’s more impactful than the big budget video content because it’s more fallible. The average small business person can’t compete with the marketing budget a massive company has for video, but live video levels the playing field.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am not good at separating from my phone. It’s not necessarily a good habit – but consistent access to what’s going on with my business does help me balance my work with my life. The work/life balance of the 90s isn’t really realistic anymore, with entrepreneurs working to grow their businesses across time zones in this age of social media. I personally believe in the evolution of work/life integration. The balance is how entrepreneurs make our work coexist with our lives. Being aware of what’s happening all the time makes me a better entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Other than “don’t date that guy, he’s bad for you?!” Just kidding. My younger self was so insecure, and so worried about what other people thought of me. My advice would be do what you love, follow your passion, make an impact, and leave a mark on this world. Because as Dr. Seuss said “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That direct sellers are spammy! People are surprised and a bit indignant when I say that, because I’m a coach in this business. So when I come out with the truth, people assume I’m giving fuel to the haters. But what I’m really doing is proving how my business provides value.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am a huge advocate for handwritten thank you notes – it’s a lost art.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
What’s helped me the most in growing my business is being able to accurately identify pain points so that I can speak directly to my target client. As soon as I’m able to speak to these specific pain points, they respond. Knowing exactly where our ideal customer was struggling is what helped us expand. Nobody was talking to direct sellers in this very specific way, so they appreciated being communicated with directly.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
About a year ago our revenue completely tanked – it fell by half. I debated shutting down entirely. The reason for our struggle was that we had been focusing so much on serving the membership coaching clients we had, that we had neglected to prioritize getting new clients. It took a whole year to bounce back, and we had to make a major investment in coaching and strategy to really get intentional about where to focus our efforts. We made a huge pivot – we shed a lot of things that were distracting us from the core purpose of what our ideal client needed. The turning point was a really successful launch that brought in 506 new membership coaching clients. I wish I’d had the proactivity initially, but now we can recognize the markers and identify them going forward. I’m not glad we went through it, but I’m glad we came out of it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The world of direct selling doesn’t have any companies that specializes in paper-based consumable products (pens, paper, stickers, planners, journals, notebooks, etc.). There’s a huge market opportunity there because these products are consumable – something that people would reorder.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Because I work at home, I don’t spend a lot of money on myself. The extent of my excitement is a new T-shirt from Target! After our big success where we brought in 500+ new clients, I bought myself a new pair of Rothys. They are pink, decadent, absolutely ridiculous, and fabulous.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I am a big fan of PicMonkey. It is the editing/graphic design tool that I’ve been using since I started in this industry. For someone like me who built my own business from the ground up, PicMonkey’s suite of tools are completely intuitive, incredibly user friendly, and easy-on-the-go, because everything is accessible and at your fingertips. I have most of my team using it as well – it’s been a game-changer for us.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am a big believer in capturing positive energy. If you don’t capture your idea, the magic of it will flow into someone else. I am also recommending Building a Brand Story by Donald Miller. It’s tactical, hands-on and immediately applicable. Everyone should be reading it!
What is your favorite quote?
“Alone we are a single drop, together we are an ocean.” In the direct sales industry, it can be incredibly isolating. In many cases, you’re one of many people selling the same thing. But if you shift your perspective, the collective power within this industry well can empower and bring success to so many people. My goal with the Sassy Suite community is to be the ocean of change. One person might stand alone and struggle, but together we’re an ocean that can change the perception of the industry.
1.) I bring my visions to life by surrounding myself with brilliant, tactical team members that can help me back into the execution plan.
2.) I am a big believer in capturing positive energy. If you don’t capture your idea, the magic of it will flow into someone else.
3.) For someone like me who built my own business from the ground up, PicMonkey’s suite of tools are completely intuitive, incredibly user friendly, and easy-on-the-go, because everything is accessible and at your fingertips.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.