I bring ideas to life by planning strategically, clearly picturing what I want the end result to look like, and then collaborating with partners who can help me make it happen.

 

Sheila Estaniel founded Dilatation Agency after spending more than a decade helping brands tell their story and connect with their community. It specializes in marketing and public relations services for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

A city girl (think foodie, art galleries, and launch events) who loves the great outdoors (hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, and the smell of campfire!), Sheila became a first time mom in 2019.

Where did the idea for Dilatation Agency come from?

Throughout the years, my career trajectory put me front and center in the community, collaborating on projects and meeting different kinds of people, including small business owners. Speaking with many of them, I heard over and over about the challenge of marketing (especially on social media) and difficulty raising visibility for the products or services they offered because they either lacked the time, resources, or know-how.

I wanted entrepreneurs and small business owners to be able to access marketing and PR help with the same ease as bigger companies, but without breaking the bank, especially since many of them did not have the same kind of budget. I saw how much a simple press release distribution could’ve helped an event. I learned about amazing products and services that could’ve been received well by a wider audience if only the owner had better website traffic or more buzz on social media or been able to land a press mention by pitching the right editor.

I also noticed countless Instagram and Facebook accounts that did not speak the right message to the right audience. Social media can be such a powerful marketing and communication tool for businesses because it not only helps you reach anyone and everyone with an internet connection, but it can also help you target and retarget customers. Sometimes, I would analyze social media channels, and it really wasn’t clear to me what the strategy was for paid and organic posts. I kept seeing promotions without call to actions or feeds lacking relevant content for people they wanted to do business with. I finally decided to give birth to Dilatation Agency so we could help.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Every day is different. Some days I’m glued to my laptop reading emails, pitching, strategic planning, and creating content. Other days, it’s all about phone meetings and networking.

The one constant is starting the day with a cup of coffee and ending it with a kiss to my son’s forehead when I say good night.

To stay productive, I use the pomodoro technique. I set my alarm for 20 minutes and focus on only one thing until the alarm goes off. Then, I take a 5 minute break and repeat the process until I’ve crossed off the major items on my list.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by planning strategically, clearly picturing what I want the end result to look like, and then collaborating with partners who can help me make it happen.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The trend towards “let’s build a community” instead of “let’s make it go viral” excites me. The rise of miniature social media where people’s online communications are becoming more private. They’re moving from feeds into messaging, into groups, into other kinds of more controlled and much smaller spaces. There’s an interesting article on Hootsuite about it. People are craving community, and I’m curious to see how brands will evolve their communication to support this.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I write action items down and set reminders on my calendar, spending Sunday nights looking at the week ahead and then starting each morning with the biggest action item first.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t worry so much because it will all work out. You don’t need to rush rush rush all the time. Stop and celebrate small wins.

I wish I learned the power of taking a deep breath much sooner in life. 20 minutes of sitting in silence and just breathing to clear the mental clutter and not burn out.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Hamburger bun dipped in chocolate milk is pretty darn delicious.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Join professional associations and never stop learning about your craft.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Face time, and I’m not talking about the Apple kind, is important in building relationships. I support local programs. I participate in events. I stay involved in my community. I try to add value to people’s lives online and IRL.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I tried to do everything myself, including waste precious time designing complex graphics for a promotional material. That’s not my forte. I didn’t go to graphic design school, so I will always be slower at it than someone who did. I learned to outsource to those who are much faster and better at it than me so I could focus on what I did best and be more effective.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Help people design their booths for local festivals and other public functions. I’ve seen companies show up with a bunch of fliers and a tablecloth, with not much else. I think this is a missed opportunity. You are participating in this event because you want to market your business. The visuals need to make a strong statement and offer a great experience. Maybe create a theme around their business offerings and help them get creative with it? Maybe even make it Instagrammable?

Your social media game might be strong, and your website may be amazing, but if someone’s first impression of you in real life is a wrinkled tablecloth and a poster, they will move on without ever learning more about who you are and what you offer.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I used the money to sign up for a couple of webinars so I could update my skills and learn more about what’s trending in my industry.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use textoptimizer.com to help me figure out what questions people are asking around certain key words on brand websites. I use this to help me create blog post strategies and content calendars.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Five Stars: Communication Secrets From Good to Great by Carmine Gallo. Everything is storytelling. To quote from the book, “Your ability to communicate persuasively is the single greatest skill that will set you apart in the next decade… In the 21st century knowledge economy, no machine, no software, no robot can replicate your ideas. But if you cannot sell your ideas persuasively, it doesn’t matter.”

What is your favorite quote?

“I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have.” I once had someone tell me this.

Key Learnings:

  • Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, but a recent survey showed 50% do not have a marketing plan. Many owners are stressed, overwhelmed, strapped for time, and have limited budget. I started Dilatation Agency to make marketing and PR help just as accessible to small businesses as they are to bigger companies.
  • Join professional organizations. Read about your craft. Never stop learning.
  • Know your story and learn how to tell it. Your content should add value to people’s lives.

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